Thursday, March 31, 2011


One of the joys of living in the Washington, DC area is that our airwaves are filled with lobbying commercials. When funding decision are being made (as are many these days) we get ads trying to sway either the politicians, public opinion, or both. (Maybe these are all over the country now, I don’t know. But I don’t remember them being as ubiquitous as they are here.)

Which air-refueling tanker to buy? There’s a commercial for that. Should they cancel the new strike fighter contract? There's a commercial for that. Should Planned Parenthood be funded? Yup, now there's a commercial for that.

And I must say that with all these commercials - that are by their very nature one-sided - I have never heard an ad so blatantly deceptive as the Planned Parenthood one. I looked briefly for a link so you could listen for yourself, but haven’t found one as yet. But here’s the gist of how it goes:

A young lady is speaking. She went to a Planned Parenthood clinic while in college and had no health insurance. There they found she had cervical cancer and saw that she got the care that she needed. She would not have been here without Planned Parenthood!

Announcer: Call your legislator and tell them to stop playing politics and provide vital health services for so many people who cannot afford them through funding Planned Parenthood!

I am sure this is a true story. I am glad that she got the help she needed. But it is equally true that 98% of the “vital health services” that Planned Parenthood provides fall into one category: abortion. This is the unspoken reason why this young college student went to Planned Parenthood in the first place, why they were poking around her cervix, and how they found her cancer.

So here’s an alternate idea: take the 2% of the funds normally given to Planned Parenthood that are used for non-abortion health services, and use that to help fund Obamacare. That way, young ladies like these will be able to get the help they need, and babies (who so inconveniently can’t vote yet) will live long enough to get some of the help they need, too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

There's Always Another . . .

One of the good things about preaching, I think, is that there's always another sermon to write and preach. If I preach a sermon that I was unhappy with, that I just couldn't seem to get right, that didn't seem to connect and communicate, I cannot dwell on it (and get down on myself) - there's the next sermon to begin studying for and preparing. In the same way, if I preach a sermon that I was very happy with, that seemed to resonate with my people, I cannot dwell on it (and become prideful) - there's the next sermon to draw my attention. I think this is a great gift of preaching once or twice a week. Can it become a grind? Sure. Preaching is hard work. But the Word of God that comes each week keeps me focused on the future, not the past; on what God is doing, not what I have done. And that's good for me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

TDP Reminder

If you are a daily reader of the Treasury of Daily Prayer, please take note that there is a error tomorrow, the Saturday of Lent 1. The Old Testament reading is listed as from Genesis 15, but the text included is actually from Genesis 14. So to read the proper verses, you'll need to get your Bible out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth
lust of power
and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity,
and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King
grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;
for Thou are blessed unto the ages of ages.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Great Litany Sung

As you are praying the Great Litany each day of this Lenten season, here is a video of it being sung that you can pray along with.

In or Out?

In or out? That's the question being asked by many college basketball teams right now, as the selection for the tournament approaches. My team, Villanova, has not ended the season well: 5 straight losses, and 5-10 after starting out the season 16-1. One local sports radio guy says they should be out of the tournament. Sadly, I agree. They played themselves out. Give another team a chance. And if they make it, I will not pick them to get out of the first round. They just haven't shown me anything for a while. Both offense and defense look terrible. They peaked too early.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

Monday, March 7, 2011

Litany Stories

A story about praying the litany . . .

In the late winter of my second year at seminary, a fourth year seminarian was killed in a horrible car accident right at the entrance to the seminary. The campus was stunned. Those of us who lived in the dorms with this man who was about to receive his call into the Holy Ministry were at a loss for words. We didn't know what to do.

The chapel bell began ringing, calling us to the chapel. We went and gathered in our stunned silence. The Dean of the Chapel came out and didn't try to console us or explain anything to us; he simply said we were going to pray the Litany. We did, and it was just what this sinner needed. It took our focus off ourselves and what had happened, and directed our eyes to the God of all grace and mercy as we prayed not just for ourselves, but for all people in every need.

When we didn't have the words to pray, the Litany gave us the words to pray. We concluded with the Lord's Prayer, strengthened by the Word and promise of God. From that day on, I have loved the Litany.

Do any of you have stories about the Litany?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Daily Litany

Several folks have pointed out in their blogs that our synodical president has suggested that we pray the Litany every day during Lent. I think that is a splendid idea! It is on pages 288-289 of the Lutheran Service Book. I'd post it here, but am afraid I'd get reprimanded by the copyright police of the synod. So if you need a copy, tell me in the comments with your e-mail address and I'll send you one to use.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Birdfeeder Edition

We like to feed the birds at my house. In my backyard, we get the usual Sparrows, Chickadees, and Juncos, but also Titmice, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens, Golden Finches, House and Purple Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Morning Doves. It is great fun to watch them all and the different ways they eat.

Yet we also get what we call the "pig birds" - Starlings and Grackles. When they come, they can clean out our feeder in a day! We try to chase them away in favor of the birds we like to watch, but it is a losing battle. It's not that I don't want to feed them, but it would be nice if they would leave some seed for the other birds! Seed isn't cheap. I don't have a solution to this problem, so we just do our best.

Today I am working in our dining room and having just refilled our feeders, am watching the birds as I think and work. What a great variety our Lord has given us to enjoy - even the "pig birds."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Good Reminder

Dr. Gene Veith points out a good article to read here, which uses the Oscar winning move "The King's Speech" to talk about what pastors do when they, "in their stammering way, preach God's Word, the true "King's speech.""

Here's the quote from that article that I want to highlight:

For a pastor’s difficulties in communication, relief does not come so much from practicing speaking exercises (though practicing certainly cannot hurt). Instead, relief comes by remembering that God speaks through the pastor not because he is worthy but because God is merciful. “The Holy Spirit is the one who gets the message across to the people, not the pastor,” Rev. Giese concludes. “Whatever personal fears or idiosyncrasies a pastor might have, the successful communication of the Gospel depends in the end not on him, but upon God.”

Preaching is hard. I can tell you from first-hand experience that I often struggle saying what I want to say. And there are times when stepping down from the pulpit, I feel like an utter failure. That what I said didn't matter, didn't penetrate, that I didn't communicate at all.

Sometimes that has happened when some visitors have come to our church for the first time. And I think to myself: "Well, they'll never be back!" But then the next week, they are. And I am reminded (whacked over the head, actually) that IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. The Word and Spirit of God is strong, despite my many shortcomings.

Now, that's not an excuse to not try my best, prepare, wrestle with the text, and struggle. All those I must still do. But it is, as the quote above says, a relief to know that it is not up to me. That God has promised to work through His Word even when it is spoken by fallible, sinful men. I need to remember that.

And sometimes, God let's me see that. At times my folks will mention sermons from the past that stuck with them, and I'll think: "That sermon?" But it was what they needed to hear, and the Spirit fed and strengthened them through His Word.

The same things could also be said about the liturgy of the church - the liturgy filled with the Word of God. The solid, steady liturgy is exactly what people need to speak and hear after a week of struggle. I a poor, miserable sinner . . . I forgive you all your sins . . . Lord, have mercy! . . . Glory be to God on high! . . . This is the Word of the Lord . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God . . . This is my Body, this is my Blood . . . Lord, now let your servant depart in peace . . . The Lord bless you and keep you.

Thanks be to God for His powerful, Spirit-filled Word! And for His promise that His Word will not return void, but accomplish that for which He sends it (Isaiah 55:11).