Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some Good Quotes

Some good quotes from the Church Fathers that I recently read:

From Cyprian: "The Ancient Church Fathers had an acutely honed sacramental sense. Wherever Scripture intimated anything related to the sacramental elements or practice, they read the text sacramentally. Their lives were arranged around pulpit, font, and altar. These were sources of life for them, because from them flowed the Word of God. These means, then, were seen everywhere in that Word. We would be blessed to learn this from them."

(Do we have trouble reading and interpreting the Scriptures this way today because our lives are not "arranged around pulpit, font, and altar" but around other things?)

From Ambrose: "Christians should never fear the trial of repentance. We should never seek to plead to a lesser charge than our full guilt. We are not trying to avoid punishment, because the punishment for our sins has been laid on the back of the only Son of God. To delay or avoid repentance is tantamount to denying the completeness and perfection of Christ's work. He is rushing toward us, offering us the pledge of His mercy; why should we be reluctant? He offered Himself into death, even for enemies."

("He is rushing toward us." Picture that! And so is avoiding repentance to dodge Christ "rushing at us" with His forgiveness like dodging a dodge ball? Do we see Christ rushing at us as good news [to be received repenting of our sins] or bad news [to be dodged by professions of innocence]?)

Both quotations from: A Year with the Church Fathers by CPH, a companion book to the Treasury of Daily Prayer. I highly recommend this book!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Semester Put to Bed

Yes, yesterday I completed another semester of school. Submitted my last paper and now can relax a bit. I would like to have one more class with my Directed Research professor (kind of like an independent study research class but one-on-one with a professor) but that may not be possible. We'll see how our schedules jive before Christmas. Overall it was a good semester. Difficult, but good. Seemed like my church responsibilities increased a little and pushed me. I always try to put my church duties first and so felt like I was often playing catch-up with school, but it worked out. So today I will drive into school and return a couple bags of books that I had checked out of the library!

I now have three classes left. Two in the Spring and then one more next Fall. Over those two semesters I'll finish up my language requirements, and then its onto comps and the dissertation. So still a lot of work to go! But for right now, the focus turns to Christmas sermons, bulletins, hymns, and finishing up family things. I think I am going to enjoy the next week or so . . . reading, writing, and soaking in the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Warms a Pastor's Heart II . . .

. . . an annual congregational voters meeting that is a joy to attend. Run by a good and dedicated board of laymen, with a good mix of seriousness and humor, respect for everyone, and with all on the same page. The only blip we had was an incorrect budget included in the annual report. But you know what happened? Humor! No upset or suspicion, just one member calling out: "We have to pass the budget to know what's in the budget!" (No, it wasn't MR. Pelosi!) I thank God for this congregation, and for the honor and privilege of being their pastor.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What Warms a Pastor's Heart . . .

. . . is when you receive a phone call from a catechumen from your previous church whom you confirmed 13 years ago (and haven't heard from since, since we now live a distance away) who tells you she is getting married and was thinking about you and all that you did for her, who still remembers her catechism, how much effort was put into her, how much you cared, what a rough stretch in her life that was, and how she would not be the person she is today without that. Makes it all worth it. That one will get me through a lot. :-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Preaching


Two items about preaching:

First, Issues, Etc chose my sermon from this past Sunday (Advent 1) for their "Sermon critique" segment on Monday. Happily, they did not equate it to something from Joel Osteen! Besides being quite humbled and honored at their selection, I think even more it shows that it must have been a slow weekend for sermons being posted . . .  :-)

Second, check out this post by Pastor Hans Fiene. He addresses the topic of predictability in preaching. Is predictability good or bad? His take is quite interesting. Take a look and post a comment.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving

Well, back from our usual whirlwind thanksgiving! After the Divine Service on Wednesday night, we drive up to my-laws in NJ - arriving very late - and spend Thanksgiving Day with them. Then Friday morning, down to my Father in Philadelphia, and then Saturday home again. As I said, it's always a bit of a whirlwind, but a good one. Good to see all the parents again. And, in honor of Pastor Weedon, I will communicate the fact that my wife was undefeated in cards! She had several different partners, but always ended up on the winning side.

Now we plunge into the season of Advent - a season I absolutely love. Dr. Gene Veith asked about the ending of one church year and the beginning of another, and why there isn't more of a definitive break marking the official last day of the church year. I think one reason is that the origin and development of the church year, and of the season of Advent in particular, was very fluid and very regional. There was no one way to do Advent for a long time. But I also think this is helpful in this way: Advent continues the focus of the end of the church year even as we transition to the beginning of a new one. And so the fact that it just kind of flows together I think it good, actually. It helps us remember that Advent is much more and much bigger than just "getting ready for Christmas."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Feeding the Birds

I thought that while we're feasting on bird for Thanksgiving, I would give the birds we feed at our backyard feeder their due! I am pleased that though I just put it back up on Friday, already many of our birds have returned! Here are the birds we typically get:




Carolina Wren










Tufted Titmouse



Chickadee








Common Sparrow








Cardinal










Junco








Downy Woodpecker








Golden Finch
(though in winter not
as bright as colorful as
this one!)








House Finch






These guys haven't made an appearance yet, but I'm sure they will!




Blue Jay










Red-headed Woodpecker






And these guys I wish would not come around! (But I know they will!) They can clean out my feeder in no time!




Grackle (yes, he's as mean as he looks!)







Starling





And, of course, this guy keeps coming to steal our seed, too! But most of the time we can keep him off the feeder . . . it's not easy though!













If we get any other visitors, I'll make sure to update!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Learning to Think Differently

"And there was evening and there was morning, the first day."

Thus begins the creation account in Genesis. The day begins with the evening and ends with the daylight. This is quite the opposite of how we usually think. Typically, morning begins the day, we work (or go to school) all day, and then rest and recover at night. But in the biblical way of thinking, the night comes first. Thinking this way, it is not we who work first (and then recover at night) - rather, God works first, preparing us for the work of the day which follows.

This is the pattern of all our relationship with God. God first, then me. He works, then I work. He speaks, then I speak. He gives, I receive. And so, too, with the day. There is evening and then morning. God's work, then my work. I rather like thinking this way. It seems to put things in their right place.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

All Saints Day

Did I ever say how much I love All Saints Day (which my church will observe today)? One of the absolute high points in the Church Year for me.


Somewhere in that great crowd of saints around the altar (on the unseen side!) is my dear mother, cancer having taken her physical life, my brother who died at 2 weeks old, and all the saints from my churches whose bodies I had the honor of laying to rest in this world. I think of them all on this day, and rejoice that they are not dead, but alive in the Lord.

I also visited a man with a brain injury yesterday, soon to be a member of my congregation, for we will receive him when we receive his family into membership. He needs 24 hour care, but he, too, is a saint! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, though struggling mightily here on earth. How good to know. How great a Saviour!

Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Great TDP Writing Today!

“There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.” (Luther, in TDP p. 867)


This will make it into this coming Sunday's sermon!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Presentation Response

Below is the response I wrote to the presentation at my district pastoral conference which I referenced in my prior post.

---------------


A Pastoral Response to “Spiritual Warfare”
Presentation of Pastor *****
General Pastoral Conference, October 18, 2011
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dr. Martin Luther, Chicago, IL
On Tuesday afternoon of our recent General Pastoral Conference, Pastor ***** gave a challenging presentation on his ministry and theology of healing. I call this presentation “challenging” because he seems to be challenging the classic Lutheran understanding of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, acknowledging several times during his presentation that “this isn’t what they taught me at the seminary.” For Pastor *****, something new has happened to him, and he desires to share this with others.
The purpose of this paper is not to attack Pastor *****, nor to question his motives (which I am sure are honorable and Christian), nor to argue with his experiences. This would be foolish, since I was not there when Pastor ***** was healed and I have not witnessed any part of his healing ministry. I cannot say what has happened. Also, let me say that I rejoice with Pastor ***** that he was healed from his very serious affliction. The purpose of this paper is also not to provide a theology of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit - that is too big a topic for a short response paper. My goal is simply to provide a corrective to what seems to me to be some possibly inaccurate and misleading assertions made by Pastor ***** in his presentation - again, not to attack him, but because I am concerned for my brothers in the ministry who heard his presentation and may have questions about the presentation in general and about their own pastoral ministry.
My goal is to be scholarly and sober in discussing these issues. To be otherwise would be of no help to anyone. If I am mistaken in any of my assertions, I am open to correction, especially since I am only relying on my memory and notes from his presentation. 
(1.) “Jesus did it, so we should do it.”
This was Pastor *****’s rationale for why there should be a healing ministry in the church today. Several times in the course of his talk, he asked the question why, if Jesus was preaching, teaching, and healing, do we only do the first two? We should do as Jesus did. Along this same line of argumentation, he also talked about the apostles and quoted Mark 16:20: “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” His conclusion being: Jesus healed, he confirmed the message of the apostles through signs (healing), and so it is today as well.
Quite simply, I question the soundness of this hermeneutic. Just because Jesus did something does not, in fact, mean that we should do it. In his Genesis lectures, Luther talks at length that not every word of God is for every person (Luther’s Works, Volume 2, p 271). Certainly, all the Scriptures are God’s Word and all are for our learning, but not all are for us to do and imitate. Two examples Luther gives are God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and Jesus’ command to the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor (Mark 10). Luther takes the monks of his day to task for applying this latter statement to the entire church, when, he says, it is a command only to the rich young man. Since I do not expect Pastor ***** to do this, nor do I expect of him to sacrifice his children, there seems to be a bit of an inconsistency in his argumentation here.
Further, there are many other things Jesus did that we do not do, including walking on the water, cursing a fig tree, feeding the five thousand, and pulling a coin from a fish’s mouth. Therefore, Pastor *****’s rationale here simply will not do. Not all of Jesus’ words and commands are directed at us today. It would be a legitimate debate and a perhaps helpful discussion to talk about which are and which are not, but to simply issue a blanket statement that “because Jesus did it, we should do it” is simplistic and misleading.
Further, Pastor *****’s choice of Mark 16:20 is interesting. His assertion is that this text shows us that Jesus continued to do signs and wonders (including healing) through the apostles after His ascension. But that is begging the question. That fact clearly cannot be disputed, as is clear from many other texts in the Acts of the Apostles. Nothing is proven by this verse. The questions are, rather: Can this statement be extended beyond the apostles? Did the apostles have a unique place in the church? Again, that is a legitimate question for debate and discussion, but simply asserting this verse proves nothing.
In fact, to return to the initial statement of Pastor ***** referred to here, that Jesus was “preaching, teaching, and healing,” and so we should do the same and not just the first two, one could point to the Great Commission, where preaching and teaching are mentioned, but healing is not. An interesting omission, yes? Could this verse not be used as a counter assertion, that these are exactly the two things we should be doing? Perhaps that is the reason this verse is used in the rites of ordination and installation of a pastor.
(2.) Cessationism as a product of John Calvin
During his presentation, Pastor ***** asked the question: “Do you know why we believe these gifts stopped? Because John Calvin said so.” I believe the meaning of such a point is to say that cessationism is a new teaching in the church, one that is un-Lutheran and perhaps also unknown in the church before the time of John Calvin. But history shows that this is simply not true.
St. John Chrysostom, in a sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 (concerning spiritual gifts) says:
This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more? (NPNF, First Series, Volume 12, p 168)
And then also in a sermon on Romans 8:
But the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” This statement is not clear, owing to the cessation of many of the wonders which then used to take place. (NPNF, First Series, Volume 11, p 447)
A little later, St. Augustine would write:
For the Holy Spirit is not only given by the laying on of hands amid the testimony of temporal sensible miracles, as He was given in former days to be the credentials of a rudimentary faith, and for the extension of the first beginnings of the Church.  For who expects in these days that those on whom hands are laid that they may receive the Holy Spirit should forthwith begin to speak with tongues? (NPNF, First Series, Volume 4, p 443)
Although not as clearly stated as St. Chrysostom, Augustine seems to be saying here that the “temporal sensible miracles” that were given in the past are no longer seen or expected in his day. The reason for them was to “credential the rudimentary faith.”
I quote these church fathers not to be definitive statements upon which we should base the teaching and doctrine of our church. In no way! Yet they do clearly show that the teaching of cessationism has a very long history and was in existence in the church long before John Calvin. Already at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth centuries, it seems as if this is a given in Constantinople and Hippo (Carthage).
Now, it could be that Chrysostom and Augustine are wrong (and again, this could be a topic for discussion and debate), but except for making for a good sound bite, pointing to John Calvin as the basis of this teaching is not something we could point to and say, “This is most certainly true!”
(3.) The presence of sin “blocks” Jesus’ ability to bless.
In relating stories that have happened in his travels, Pastor ***** made several assertions of this nature - that the presence of sin in our lives, for example, the sins of anger or unforgiveness, prevent Jesus from healing and blessing. Now, certainly, it should be the desire of every Christian to root out of our hearts and lives anger, bitterness, and a lack of forgiveness towards our neighbors. This is most certainly true! But to assert that this is the basis for healing or not, for blessing or not, is troublesome and could be damaging to faith.
For even though Pastor ***** (and others that day) repeatedly said that “this is all about Jesus,” in actuality he made it all about us, by focusing on what we have to do in order to receive healing and blessing. This is the message he conveyed when saying that we have to get rid of our sin first. This is, in reality, the preaching of the Law, the solution to which is not to tell us to do more or do better, but to direct our eyes to the cross of Christ. For there is the solution to our spiritual sickness, the forgiveness He won for us not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Without this teaching, we are left in our sin and despair. 
Now, perhaps Pastor ***** assumed that because he was speaking to a room full of pastors this did not need to be said. But it does need to be said! Pastors are sinners just like everyone else, and also need the assurance of the Gospel. We need not only direct our parishioner’s eyes to the cross, we need to be directed there as well. Pastor’s conferences are the perfect time to do this, an opportunity that in this case, was missed.
But there is another, bigger problem here as well: with this teaching, levels of Christians and faith are set up. This is the problem in all churches (charismatic and otherwise) that direct us to our faith and works as the basis of receiving the blessings of God. There are those who are blessed and those who are not. There are those who can and those who can’t. There are those who have gifts and those who do not. Or, to put it in a way some churches do, there are those who are real Christians, real disciples, and those who are aspiring to be but haven’t made it yet.
Again, I do not believe Pastor ***** was purposefully putting himself above others; he himself recognizes the need for humility. But as I add it up, the result of his theology is to do this very thing. This teaching, along with his teaching already addressed, that “if Jesus did it, we should do it,” carries with it the implication that if you’re not doing these things, if you are a pastor doing “only” Word and Sacrament ministry, you are not being all you can be, or should be, to your people. There is more for them that you are not doing. Just like those who need to put away their sin in order to be healed or blessed, you, too, need to raise yourself up and be this kind of pastor.
This is a damaging teaching. We have many fine and faithful pastors who are laboring hard for their flocks in teaching and preaching and giving the Sacraments of our Lord, visiting the sick, forgiving sins, reaching the lost, caring for young and old alike, and for them to be implicitly (or explicitly) told: you are not being the pastor you should be for your people, is crushing.
For I believe that every pastor knows he is not the pastor he should be. No matter how much we do, there is always more we could and should be doing. The needs of our flock are never ending. The pastors of our district and synod need uplifting and encouragement, not simply be told to do more.
Unfortunately, while this encouragement was given the first day - especially in Pastor McMiller’s excellent sermon! - it was not in Pastor *****’s presentation. To this sinner’s ears, there was only Law that left the hearer questioning and in doubt. Now, perhaps this feeling was mine alone and was not shared by the brothers; perhaps I am overly sensitive. But in speaking with many afterwards, I found that I was not alone.
Finally, the biblical witness does not confirm that the sin in us prevents Jesus from blessing us. If that were true, we all would be lost. One need only think of the many sinners Jesus dealt with in His public ministry. Sinners who were unworthy but were not told to believe more or clean out their hearts before Jesus could do anything for them! He came to them and gave them the faith, forgiveness, blessing, and sometimes yes, the healing, they needed. Sadly, this presentation did not direct us to this assurance, the assurance of the cross, but to the doubt and uncertainly of our own hearts and lives.
Conclusion
It is no secret that there is disagreement in our synod these days over a number of issues. Yes, there is much we agree on, but also things that we do not. It is helpful to recognize these difference and to discuss them, not ignore them. Pastor *****’s presentation at our General Pastoral Conference revealed one of these areas of disagreement. To respond is not something that I gladly or even willingly take upon myself, nor am I the most qualified to do so. But I felt such a response was needed for the sake of my brothers - especially those younger and newer pastors and vicars - who may have had questions and concerns arise from this presentation.
As I said, it is not my desire to attack Pastor *****. He is a brother in Christ and is and remains in my prayers. But a public presentation such as this needs a public response. I hope that my paper addressed some areas of concern in a Christian and helpful manner. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pastoral Conference, Day 2

Well, Day 2 did not live up to the promise of Day 1. Some of the presentations and discussion were not bad, but whereas the Gospel was so evident on Day 1, it was church growthism and modern day charismaticism that soured Day 2. We heard of church starts that really aren't churches, but coffee houses, and an hour and a half on one pastor's healing ministry. (What does that mean? Think a "Lutheran" Benny Hinn.) So whereas I left Day 1 filled with the Gospel of forgiveness and hope, and I left Day 2 filled with the Law and sadness.

Now, why is that? Because what was communicated through these presentations (usually implicitly) is that if you're not doing these things, you are failing people in your ministry, you are not being the pastor God wants you to be, you need to be what we are. Really? And so I worry about the new pastors and the younger pastors in the district who hear these words, and the burden that they must feel. And I am saddened. Many of them are in challenges places, doing their very best, faithfully proclaiming God's Word and giving His Sacraments. But then they are told: That's not good enough. You're not good enough.

You know what? We know that. I think all pastors know that. We're not good enough. There's always more we can and should be doing. Why can't we build up our pastors at these conferences?

Perhaps (to put the best construction on this), the district thought they were. Perhaps they thought these presentations were uplifting and edifying. If so, I must tell them: No, they aren't.

I have the outline of a response that I will be writing on one of these presentations and sending to the District President, my Circuit Counselor, and (I hope) will be sent to all the pastors in the district, to challenge some of what was asserted. It will not be an attack, but rather (I hope) a scholarly critique of what was said, a correction of some of the assertions, and a questioning of the assumptions. I will post it here when I am finished, too.

Finally, my presentation, you ask? Well, I thought it just okay. Thinking back, I could have presented some things better, and the projector didn't work as I had hoped, so that interfered a bit. But, I had several guys come up to me afterwards who appreciated it, so hopefully God will bring some good out of it. :-)

So, that's it. I'm glad I went, though I had to miss the last half-day because I had to return late Tuesday night for my class on Wednesday. It was good to reconnect with many guys, meet the new pastors, and even to hear the not-so-good-stuff so that I can respond and hopefully provide some small bit of correction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pastoral Conference, Day 1

A good day yesterday. The major presenter was Dr. Joel Elowsky, a good friend, who talked about the Church Fathers and early African Christianity. Then there was a presentation from the South Wisconsin District Mission developer on "Bridging Cultural Barriers" since a lot of our conference is about cross-cultural outreach. He was engaging and, I must say, not your typical mission developer! I say that because - sad to say - most mission folks beat people up with the Law. They simply stand up there and say "You have to reach more people! You have to go! You must . . ." and we all know that. We all know that, no matter how much we are doing, there is more we could be doing, and so just wind up feeling like crap. But this man was - thankfully! - different. In fact, one of his greatest lines was: "BEWARE of those who come to you and say: "You must change or die."" YES! He emphasized not losing who you are and what you are about for the sake of mission, and using the Small Catechism for your outreach. THAT is what people need and are longing for. I hope people were listening. I couldn't agree more.

This man then also preached for the Divine Service after dinner. And He preached the Gospel! Again, sadly, I can't tell you how many times at these kinds of gathering, people think they have to preach such a wonderful sermon and have to be so mission oriented that it winds up as all Law. Last night, we received the Gospel - in a wonderful and well done liturgy, good preaching, and the Lord's Supper. So my thanks to Rev. Dan McMiller and, if you ever need a mission person for a presentation, I would recommend him.

We had some fellowship time after the service, and it was good to sit around with the brothers and talk, and to catch up with some old friends. Met lots of new guys to the district as well. We'll see what today holds. My presentation is in the coveted right-after-lunch-slot (!), so hopefully I can keep people awake! :-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pastoral Conference

I'm in Chicago for a pastoral conference for a few days. I haven't traveled much the last few years, since I started back in school, but it felt like the airlines had pushed their seats closer together since the last time I flew. When at looked at the little space they wanted me to squeeze into . . .  :-)  But I made it, though it wasn't the most comfortable.

Went to Giordano's for dinner with a friend and had some deep dish pizza. Good, but (I have to say) not as good as Lou Malnati's! Then, we got a few beverages and spent a while talking over lots of stuff until late. Which is good . . . except for having to get up early this morning. I forgot about the time change to Central time here, and so had to get up and ready for Morning Prayer at 6! Ohhh, that was tough this morning! But all went well. The hotel was extremely nice and let me use another room for it so I wouldn't have to bother my roommate, who had gotten in well after midnight. I think they'll let me do the same tomorrow.

I'm now on my second cup of coffee, and my head is still a bit foggy. Might just be one of those days. The conference starts at noon. My friend is presenting today, so that should be good. I'll have to try to think up some tough questions for him! I don't present until tomorrow. Tonight after dinner is the Divine Service. I'm looking forward to some time to just sit and listen and visit with the brothers.

Finally, the Eagles won yesterday! Before my flight I sat in the airport and watched some of the game and was pleased to be able to cheer the Eagles in the midst of a bunch of forlorn Redskins fans! Hopefully they can build on this and salvage the season before its too late.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Morning Coffee

Some reading and thoughts for you:

(1.) A good editorial about the death of Steve Jobs by Pastor William Cwirla. He's a great writer. Go read this because it's not really about Steve Jobs.

(2.) I have great sadness over the sale of University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) at the University of Minnesota by the Minnesota South district. I have never been to ULC, but know its current pastor, its previous pastor, and many pastors who were students and members there. The loss of this building will not stop the ministry there, but will make it much harder. (I know - we are trying to do campus ministry without a building!) What a prime location they had! I hope it can still be saved, but am not optimistic.

But what bothers me most of all is this line in the notification of the sale: "The Mission Committee's strategy also provides opportunities for additional LCMS congregations to conduct campus ministry on the U of M campus . . ." That - it seems to me - gives some insight into the motive for the sale. I know motives are hard to judge, and it is dangerous to do so, but it is difficult for me to put a good construction on that sentence. Read the whole document here, which includes Pastor Kind's commentary.

(3.) The Supreme Court case that involves an LCMS congregation was heard on Wednesday. I read the transcript and it seemed to me that the lawyers on both sides of the issue were having trouble explaining and defining their positions. I think the justices were too, and were searching for a place to stand for their decision! Then I read this summary of the case, which seems to agree with my observations! At this point, it seems to me unlikely that the court would rule against the church, but I'm no lawyer! We'll see.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Customer Service?

So I'm on the phone with WebEx this morning . . . all morning, or so it seemed. Actually, it was only 2.5 hours. (Isn't that long enough?) I tried to help them understand that their service was having a problem, since neither me, nor those who were attending Morning Prayer on the Web this morning could connect the audio-video feeds.

Now, since I am in Springfield, VA, and the others were in West Virginia and about 30 minutes south of me, AND since I had this problem last week (which was a service problem with them), AND since I've been using WebEx for about 6 months now with this computer and operating system and browser, AND since nothing has changed . . . you'd think WebEx might realize that the problem was NOT with MY computer!! But noooooo, I had to endure hours of less than well-trained support people (who I'm sure were named "Peggy") go through their manual and make me jump through all kinds of hoops that I KNEW weren't going to work! Grrrrrrr.

So 2.5 hours later, still not working, they tell me to call Verizon and see if they're the problem. Right. Really? That's the best you can do? So I call Verizon. Guess what? They're not the problem! Well, I do a few other things (including checking out GoToMeeting as a possible replacement), but since I've wasted enough time and will now not be prepared for Bible Study (which is happening soon!), I depart.

Well, about an hour later I get an e-mail from them . . . and guess what it contains? The words (and I quote): YOU WERE RIGHT. One of their servers was down, which is why me and the folks out here couldn't connect. Gee, go figure. Someone knew what they were talkin' about!

Please WebEx, next time, listen. And if you work in customer service and support, listen. Sometimes the guy on the other end isn't a complete moron and might even know what he's talking about.

Rant off.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is Sacramental Millennialism an Oxymoron?

Is it possible to be a millennialist and still hold to the sacraments?
This thought occurred to me today. If you are a millennialist, you are looking for Christ to come and establish His supposed 1,000 year reign on earth. If that’s the eschatology you’re waiting for, then the eternal is not (and cannot be?) something that breaks into the here and now. For a millennialist, there is no now and not yet - there is only not yet.
But doesn’t that militate against a proper understanding of the sacraments? For in the sacraments, the not yet, the eternal, is breaking into the now through water, words, and bread and wine. We don’t have to wait for Christ to come and establish His kingdom on earth, He is doing so already!
Luther said this in the explanation to the Second Petition: How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
And so God gives us His Spirit here and now through Holy Baptism. We hear the judgment of the last day in the words of Holy Absolution. We receive a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Supper. In all these ways, the not yet is now, the end is breaking into the present, and the kingdom of God is coming to us.
To me, that seems diametrically opposed to any kind of millennial understanding. Is this why it’s often so hard to talk to evangelicals of this mindset? 
More to come as I have time to think . . . but I think this is important and there is a great need for us to think about this: How to speak Lutheran to an Evangelical?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Washington Monument in the Earthquake

You must watch this. This is video footage from inside the top of the Washington Monument when the earthquake struck last month. Yikes! There is footage from two different cameras, so about halfway through it starts again. Watch the shaking intensify and stuff begin to fall. It also gives you an idea how long the quake lasted. What a scary place to be when it hit!

Update: I updated the link to watch the video on YouTube since our local TV station took the original video down - or at least made it hard to find! The first camera shot isn't a part of this video, but the second (and better) still is, and you still see how intense it was.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Satellite Images of Bible Events

In doing searches for pictures, I recently found these . . . renderings of what certain biblical events might have looked like from a satellite. Pretty cool.

The parting of the Red Sea

Noah's Ark

Here's the link to the site where I found them, for proper attribution and such. There are some other images there, but these were to ones I thought the coolest. Also some interesting comments, though I don't have time to read through them all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Best Humor Contains a Kernel of Truth

I think I like this so much because driving often brings out the worst in me! (Especially in DC traffic!)

HT: Fr. Z

-------------------


The Light turned yellow
The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.
The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.
As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up..
He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.
After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door.  She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, “I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday-School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally….I assumed you had stolen the car.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More on the Rain Last Week


See the little white area to the north and west of the big white area? That's where I live! According to these measurements, over 15 inches of rain fell last week. Oh my. Oh, and at the army base near my home, they measured 7.03 inches in just 3 hours on Thursday night. Hence the video I posted before. Incredible. But again, we are fortunate and thankful not to have been flooded out and that all our drainage systems worked as planned. Many were not as fortunate. They are in our prayers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What Does 12 Inches of Rain Look Like?

The remnants of tropical storm Lee created a river behind our house where there wasn't one before. All that rain in so short a time was simply amazing. I'm just glad we didn't get flooded like some other towns and neighborhoods.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

6:03

Yup, 6:03. Nope, that's not a typo. I complained yesterday (just here, not to the school) about the time my kids had to get on the bus, so guess what? Now, its even earlier! 6:03. AM! My kids have to get on the bus then for school that starts around 7:25. Unbelievable. If I believed in karma . . .

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marks of the Church

Today's TDP writing from the Apology spoke of the Marks of the Church. I have found that there is often some confusion about these - not what they are (that's easy enough: the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments), but why they are the "marks" of the church.

If you think in these terms: "I can know where the church is because she is doing these things," then you will inevitably have questions. Namely, is that church doing them right? Is the preaching pure, or pure enough? And what is pure enough? With thinking like this, the marks really aren't marks at all, but question marks. For whenever you try to base your confidence and faith on what man does, you can never be sure.

However, the Marks of the Church are the Marks of the Church not because the Church does these things, but because these things do the Church! Or in other words, the Church is where the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments are administered precisely because Christ has promised to work through these means to create and sustain His Church. Thinking like this, then, gives us not questions, but confidence, because it is all based on Christ and His promises, not on what man does. Therefore we know where the Church is because of what Christ is doing; because He has promised to be there and to build His Church through these means. Thanks be to God!

Yesterday and Today

Well, yesterday our Labor Day picnic went off without a hitch. The rains held off and a good time was had by all. A big thank you to the Evangelism Committee for sponsoring and hosting it - they are such hard workers! And to Roy and Jay for letting me win at horseshoes.  :-)

Today is reading day. After my e-mails and blog postings and stuff, I will read, read, and read some more. All for school tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have enough time to get it all done. Been a busy 7 days and I haven't been able to do much yet. But with the kids all back at school today, the house should be calm and quiet.

Which leads me to my next comment: no child should have to leave for the bus stop before 6:30 am. Our bus coming so early makes mornings tough.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Just Braggin' . . .


One day, Mrs. Peasant will realize how totally awesome she is!

Last week, she was chosen to help design the oncology unit of the new children's hospital that is in the planning stages. What works, what doesn't, what is good and helpful to the nurses - that kind of thing. So, on Wednesday, she will board a private jet (perhaps not unlike the one on the left) and fly to Grand Rapids to begin the process. She will return Wednesday night, tired, I'm sure!

And no, she didn't back into this because no one else wanted to go! She was their top choice!

Now, this presented some problems for us, as it is a school day for all the rest of us. But how could we not let her go and do this? So, I told my professor last week that I would get in as fast as I could, but would be late for class. But in His usual mega-God-awesome way (Is that a word? I guess it is now!), turns out the professor is returning from a trip to Brazil that very morning, and would like to go home and shower before coming in to teach. So we are starting class an hour later. Just too cool. Now, as long as traffic isn't too bad and I get home in time to pick up my youngest from kindergarten later in the afternoon (after my second class), all will be well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today's TDP

In today's treasury reading, we heard of how Obadiah hid 100 of the Lord's prophets during the tyrannical reign of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. What makes this even more amazing is that it occurred during the 3.5 years in which Israel had no rain and therefore a severe famine. Obadiah not only hid the prophets, but then, we are told, supplied them with food and water the whole time! That could not have been an easy task - first of all to find bread and water for so many, and then provide it without being found out. That took no small amount of courage and faith on Obadiah's part.

In other news, a new school year started for me yesterday. I am excited about my Directed Research class, which is a one-on-one class with a professor. I am doing it with an adjunct from the history department who wrote on "Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation." So we're going to get to talk a lot about what Luther inherited and what he then did. The goal is that during the course of this semester, I'll be able to figure out more closely what I want to write on and really get a better picture of things. I'll keep you posted.

Yesterday I also got a chance to meet and speak to Dr. Michael Root a bit. Dr. Root is a new faculty member. He just recently left the Lutheran church for the Roman church, and left his position on a Lutheran college faculty and is now at CUA. (Some of you may remember him as a man who presented quite a controversial paper at the Ft. Wayne Symposia a few years ago!) Anyhow, I am looking forward to talking more with him. For even though he is no longer Lutheran, he will be a good reference for me and will be able to help me with his knowledge of things Lutheran. No, we don't agree on everything, but at least he knows (better than most at CUA) where I'm coming from. As I said, I'm looking forward to talking with him some more.

Now got to go and get some work done!  :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Interesting Week

Any week that begins with an earthquake and ends with a hurricane must qualify as an interesting week! The hurricane actually wasn't as bad as many expected here, as it stayed far enough east that it really only skirted us, just like many of the snow storms last winter. We got a bunch of rain and some hard winds, but not enough to cause any real damage. Some downed trees and branches, some folks without power. No flooding (to my knowledge) in the area. As for me and my family, we only lost power for approximately 1.5 seconds around midnight, just long enough to . . . yes, you guessed it . . . reset all the clocks in the house! A few more branches down around the church, but an easy clean up. We even had pretty good attendance today! More than I expected. I have good folks.

Next week will have trouble living up this this past week! One of the guys on the radio said that after an earthquake and a hurricane, the locusts should be on the way! :-) Next week, however, I do start school on Wednesday, and we kick off another year of campus ministry on Tuesday - hopefully we'll be able to qualify for RSO status this year. So lots of good stuff going on. AND football season is almost here! Yes! Go Eagles.

That's all for now. Have a great week, y'all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

More on Matthew 16:27

(Note: This is a continuation of my "thinking out loud" in the last post. Read that one first if you don't understand this one!)

In the Greek Testament, the end of Matthew 16:27 ("he will repay each person according to what he has done") is shown to be a quotation from Psalm 62:13 (that's verse 12 in your English Bible.) That Psalm is a psalm of trusting in the Lord, who is our refuge and strength - not a psalm about "works" at all. Sadly, the Lutheran Study Bible does not show these words from Matthew to be a quotation, nor do they include Ps 62 as a cross reference for this verse in the footnote. Hmmm. But I think this helps support my thought that the "his work" here could be a reference to Christ and His work for us, and not what we do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud

The Holy Gospel for this Sunday in my church is Matthew 16:21-28, wherein is this verse:

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Normally, when this verse is heard, we begin thinking of what we have done, how many sins, how many good works, and the repayment we deserve for them. In such an understand, the "he" in "according to what he has done" is "each person."

But what if we understand the "he" the same as all the rest of the pronouns in this verse? Then it would sound quite different! It would be:

For the Son of Man is going to come with [the Son of Man's] angels in the glory of [the Son of Man's] Father, and then [the Son of Man] will repay each person according to what [the Son of Man] has done.

In such an understanding, we are then not looking at ourselves, but at Christ. This also seems to fit the context. For these verses come right after Peter's great confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," and follow Jesus' statement that He must suffer and die and rise again. And this is what makes all the difference in the world - not what we do. And so the difference then becomes Christ's for you and His cross for you. Whether or not you have received Christ for you, by grace through faith, is how you will be repaid.

Now, this interpretation can also accommodate the first, for as Christians we "do" Christ as He lives in us. But then the focus is still off of us and on Christ. Or, as St. Paul said to the Galatians:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

What we do are the fruits of the faith, but it is the grace of God in Christ and His cross that saves us.

Just thinkin' out loud . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Funny Stuff Found on the Web

Just for a smile today . . .

#1: August 10 was the Commemoration of St. Lawrence, Martyr, who was put to death by being roasted over fire. So . . .

What did Jesus say to St. Lawrence when he got to heaven?
Well done, good and faithful servant."

I know, ugh!

HT: Dr. Larry Rast

#2: A picture of the earthquake devastation in Washington, DC. (Make sure you read the comments here, too. There are some pretty good ones!)

HT: Dr. Gene Veith

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake

No, our earthquake today wasn't as bad as this picture! But you'd think it was by the frenzied the media coverage. Good grief.

I was in a local Starbucks doing catechesis when it hit. (Yes, I often do catechesis in Starbucks and locations like it. Part of the fun of not having your own church building!) I was discussing the First Commandment with a young lady when the shaking started. Things did shake quite a bit for about 30 seconds. At first, since we were on a street corner, I thought it was just a truck going past. But when it kept going and got more and more intense, we knew it was an earthquake. My catechumen was a little startled. I thought it was cool. The place emptied out pretty quick, but after a minute or so, we just started back in with our discussion. My catechumen noted how interesting it was that it hit while we were talking about the First Commandment.

I was interested to hear how big it was and where the epicenter was after we finished, but I was not really prepared for the media overkill - though I guess I should have been. A magnitude 5.8 quake isn't a big deal in California, but it is here. The news reports said that the recent Japanese quake was 50,000 times stronger than ours - wow! That would be scary.

Bottom line: there was some minor damage scattered about, but nothing major. The biggest problem was everybody leaving work early and so clogging up all the roads.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Face of Jesus

My family and I spent some time in Philadelphia visiting my father last week. While there, we went to the Philadelphia Art Museum and saw the current special exhibition called "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus." It was quite interesting. The focus of the exhibition was that Rembrandt painted Christ in more human motifs than had been done before. Up until this time (17th century), it was permitted only to paint the face of Christ in iconic and more god-like styles - but Rembrandt broke with this tradition. It was interesting to see what he did, especially with his two favorites subjects: the Raising of Lazarus and the Road to Emmaus. My favorite, though, was Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

But I wish there had been a bit more exploration of why Rembrandt broke with tradition as he did. As a Dutch Protestant, did that play a part? The only reference to Rembrandt's religious belief was in discussing a picture he painted of Christ preaching, which spoke of the importance of preaching and the Word in the Reformation. But I wonder if Luther's Theology of the Cross had any influence? What about Cranach? Durer? I really know next to nothing about art (except that I like to look at pictures!) so any of you out there who stumble across this blog know anything about this?

In other news, it's good to be home. No more travels for a while. Have a busy week as we prepare for school to start and try to squeeze in all we can the last week of summer! But I have found that once school starts, things get more manageable. Summer is so busy and hectic; but the routine and schedule of school settles things down a bit. So September and October are actually (usually) good months for me. I am looking forward to them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back from Vacation

Well, we're back from vacation. It was a good two weeks. Shut my brain down. Saw and heard very little news - world, national, or sports. Had no idea what was going on with the debt ceiling debate in Washington, no news of the NFL lockout, no knowledge of how my Phillies were doing - nothun'! Just times with my family sightseeing, playing, going to the beach, swimming, and relaxing. It was very, very nice.

What is hard, then, is getting my brain to turn back on when I get home! The first Sunday back is always a struggle. That, and it always seems like my voice isn't as strong after a couple of weeks off. I'm not sure that's really so, but it seems that way. But it always good to be back with my flock and see them again, even though I know they were in good hands while I was away.

I am feeling pretty good now, though, and ready to dive back into things and get some things accomplished . . . which is good, for I have a LOT that needs to get done! I'll post some pictures from the vacation soon, when I get them on my computer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vacation (with a little Hebrew thrown in!)

Been meaning to post here for a while . . . but have been busy getting ready for vacation! Leaving in the morning - I can't wait! I need the break. Still have a few more things to finish up, though.

One thing that has intrigued me of late, that y'all can think about while I'm gone. We were going through Genesis 18 in Sunday morning Bible Class, and after Sarah laughs at the news of her having a child, verse 14 has the Lord's response: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" And then there's a little, tiny footnote - easy to miss - which says that the word "hard" may also be "wonderful." That's quite a difference! One of my eagle-eyed members caught it, and asked: Well, which is it?

Turns out that the word in Hebrew there can be translated either way, but it seems that "wonderful" may indeed be the primary meaning. My member then pointed out the Messianic promise in Isaiah 9, where the child to be born will be called Wonderful . . . hmmm . . . same word. Then, in the Treasury reading for today, from Judge 13, it came up again! After the angel of the Lord tells Samson parents that they are going to have a child, he says (v. 18): "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?" Same Hebrew root. Hmmm. When I get back from vacation, I think I would like to do some digging into this . . .

So, let me go finish things up. See you in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July

Ah, a complete, 100% day off! :-) Didn't even turn on the computer. No e-mail, nuthin'! Very nice.

Went to a 4th of July parade with my girls in the morning. We didn't go into DC for the big one; instead, we went to a smaller one in a town close by. Not bad, not too hot, and we enjoyed ourselves very much. A couple of pictures . . .

Waiting for the parade to start.

My youngest in front of one of the giant balloons.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

VBS

A tradition unlike any other.

No, not the Masters . . .

This is our VBS week. We do not have as many children this year as past years. Not sure why. This year will be the first year our own children actually outnumber our guests. That will make for a new dynamic.

We're using the CPH materials this year - Big Jungle Adventure.

It's not bad, but honestly, not up to par with their regular Sunday School materials. We keep hoping that the VBS programs will be improved to match the Sunday School materials, but so far, not yet. Perhaps this could be a suggestion for CPH - if you want to compete with the big VBS programs from other publishers, that's fine. And these materials probably do a good job of that. But perhaps also include some materials that have a bit more meat for those that want them.

For example, we don't do all the decorating and making the place look like a jungle. First of all because we don't own our building and would have to put it up and take it down every day - much too big a task! Our teachers instead do a great job in their classrooms with props and telling the story and even some decorations. We also don't use the DVD skits and a lot of the other extras, But my teachers (especially of the small ones) would like more ideas of how to teach the children the stories. They come up with their own great ideas, but its not always easy.

And yes, our children have fun. It is vacation, not school. Yet at the same time, to quote from another pastor friend of mine: when we work we work, when we play we play, and when we worship we worship.

Well, its been a pretty good week so far. Enjoying the kids. Always glad when it's done, though, because that means my vacation isn't too far away . . . :-)