Saturday, December 27, 2014

Liturgical Schizophrenia

In my area (and I suspect in many areas of the country) people are working longer hours, which makes attending midweek services and Bible studies difficult. The traffic in my area around DC compounds the problem. So the question is: what to do with those festivals of the church year that fall during the week? If they are important festivals I want my people to commemorate, is it better to observe them on the nearest Sunday or stick to my liturgical guns and keep them on a weeknight?

Hi, my name is Pastor Peasant, and I am a "liturgical schizophrenic."

What I mean is that I do both. Some festivals (like Epiphany) I observe on the nearest Sunday, but some (like Ascension) I thus far have resisted moving and continue to celebrate on either Wednesday or Thursday night. As I think about it, I have no set of criteria I use to determine this - just some I do and some I don't. I know churches and pastors of many denominations wrestle with this also. So if you are reading this, what do you think? What should be done? And why? What criteria should be used?

I have spoken to some pastors who will stick to their guns - no. matter. what. A festival is a festival that is to be celebrated on. that. day. and will be - even if no one comes. I am sympathetic to them, but also ask why? Yes, we are teaching our people the importance of the church year and liturgical celebrations and the proper rhythm of Sundays and festivals, but if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it . . .

I am also sympathetic to those who observe festivals on the nearest Sundays. The people are then there to celebrations these, though it does displace the Sunday, which robs the people of those part of the church year.

So what to do? I don't have a good answer and will probably continue in my schizophrenic state. But it is on my mind . . .

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Nativity of Our Lord

A blessed Christmas to you all!

What Does Pastor Do on Christmas Eve?

Well . . . paint the bathroom, of course! Really, I did. Since we moved into our house last year (which needed some work and painting) we've managed to paint and fix many things - all except the master bath. It was painted a really bad orange color and had gaudy and ugly fixtures. So, I've been trying to get it done for Christmas - kind of a gift for my wife. We had the shower re-done, finally got someone to install the new shower door (long story), and now I've been trying to replace the vanity, mirror, light, fixtures, and repair and paint the walls.

Been making slow progress, working around everything else that needs to get done this season. But yesterday, I really wanted to get the new vanity installed and working. So had to finish painting where it goes. Done. But then when I went to install it, the drain on the new sink does not match up with the drain coming out of the wall! UGH! I really don't know why - we bought a very similar vanity and sink combo (shape and size-wise) to the one we're replacing, but the drain's far enough off that I couldn't get it done yesterday. :-(  So I need to wait until tomorrow to go to Home Depot and see if I can get what I need to fix it.

But - good news! - larger than expected attendance at church last night! As I've written here before, my congregation gets smaller at Christmas, not larger. In DC, everyone is from somewhere else, so many of my congregants travel over the holidays. Add to that some nasty illnesses going around, and my expectations were pretty low. But I was wrong! :-)  Still not as high as a usual Sunday, but nice to have as many as we did. Now looking forward to the Divine Service this morning . . . but first, to cook breakfast for my family! Started a new tradition last year of doing this - cooking a really big breakfast for everyone.

So a merry and blessed Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stupid Quote of the Day

From the Associated Press:
The Shahada translates as "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger." It is considered the first of Islam's five pillars of faith, and is similar to the Lord's Prayer in Christianity.
First, get the translation right. "No god but God" - really?
Second, similar to the Lord's Prayer? You're kidding me, right?

No.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What Happens at Pastor's . . .

What happens at your pastor's open house? You never know . . .  Here are pictures of one of my confirmands:


Before


After!


Symphony Selfie

Here is a picture of the symphony my daughter plays in - they took a group selfie after their concert a week or so ago.  :-)




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Abortion as Moral Good

There is a well known dictum that states that error first seeks only to be tolerated, then to be accepted and given equal footing with the truth, and then to dominate the truth and become the "new normal." Think about the rapid progress that homosexuality has made following this path. Abortion has been much slower but, make no mistake about it, is following the same path.

In case you doubt, there is a new book out, reviewed quite glowingly in the Washington Post this week, which contains the following quote from the book:
It is long past time, [the author] argues, for abortion to be cast as a social good. "We need to see abortion as an urgent practical decision that is just as moral as the decision to have a child - indeed, sometimes more moral," she writes. "Abortion is part of being a mother and of caring for children, because part of caring for children is knowing when it's not a good idea to bring them into the world." (Emphases mine)
Huh? So now the long held pro-choice mantra that we want abortion that is safe, legal, and rare is out the window. Now, abortion is good - in fact, it is sometimes more moral than having a child. Killing your baby is part of mothering and caring. Really? Someone tell the Oxford people because that definition of mothering is not in my dictionary!

So, the evil of abortion is now cast as good, and the good of life is now cast as evil. Does that sound familiar to any of you Lutherans out there? Luther talked this way when defining the theology of the cross versus the theology of glory, saying: A theology of glory calls good evil and evil good; the theology of the cross calls a thing what it is. The theology of glory is you trying to save yourself; you as decider of good and evil; you as your own god. And you'll always get it wrong; you'll think good is evil and evil is good. The theology of cross is to be saved by Christ crucified; He is the decider of good and evil; He is the only true God. And He always gets it right.

Now, having said all that, the author does bring up one good point:
If you really think abortion is murder, how can you carve out exceptions?
Yes! The default political escape clause: "I'm personally against abortion but don't want to impose my beliefs on others," or "I'm against abortion except in cases of rape and incest" are arguments that may sound good, but are correctly seen as weak and capitulating by those who support abortion as a right. If we really believe what we say, we need to stand firm.

Now, I have not read the book - only the review. But from the review, the arguments seem largely anecdotal, from "abortion is 4,000 years old and we didn't always condemn women who sought one" [who's "we"?], to the story of one woman who had to go to Sweden to kill her baby [how inconvenient], to the horror stories of botched abortions [those are sad but hardly justifications], to some religious organizations supporting abortion is some circumstances [sad again, capitulating to the culture], to abortion opponents as political hacks seeking to oppress women. Ah, this last one seems to ring true as the real purpose and agenda for the book.

I feel badly for women who have been deceived to think of abortion as an answer or as a moral good. I feel even worse for those who have had to endure hacks who botched their abortions or have been the victims of rape or incest. These things certainly should not be. But cut through all this clutter and the issue is quite clear: it is not good, moral, or mothering to kill your child, inside the womb or outside of it. Children are precious gifts and the longer we go on thinking they are ours to do with whatever we want, our world and society will continue to slouch toward greater and greater evil all the while whistling a joyful song thinking that we are becoming more and more advanced and great. This book is but the first salvo in that direction. I expect more will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day, Dad!
Almost 91 years old and still tickin'!

Monday, November 3, 2014

N3CN

N3CN is my amateur radio call sign. I've been a "ham" for a long time. It started when I was in Junior High School - back when there were Junior High Schools and not Middle Schools! They had a program called the "Learning Enrichment Program" and one of the things we could do was get an amateur radio license and use the radio station at the school. So I did. I learned morse code and some radio theory and got what was then called my "novice" license with the call sign WB3EXE (which is you know morse code is a really cool call sign to tap out). That must've been back around 1981.

Of course, Junior Highers are very competitive, so once we got our first licenses, we wanted to advance. At that time there were 5 classes of licenses you could get, so we tried to move up - and did! I went to General (level 3), to Advanced, and then got the top license, Extra. When you get that, you can get a special, shortened call sign as a perk, and I did: N3CN. I was active for a while and bought a nice radio for my home. But once I went to college, I was less and less active. Then I moved into an apartment and couldn't have an antenna up. Then I sent to seminary, then to New York and my first church, and then in Virginia the Home Owner Association where I lived didn't allow it. And so many years went by without being back on the air.

Now, however, I am starting back in. There is much I have forgotten, of course, but am re-familiarizing myself with it all. What got me going again was being trained in Disaster Relief Response and Ham radio operators are very useful at such times. So I got my old radio out, but since I haven't used it in so long, its not going to work without fixing up. Not too many folks do that anymore, and it has old parts, too - vacuum tubes even! So instead of trying to invest in fixing that up, I decided to save up and try to buy a new radio that would be both more reliable and easier to use.

Then I found someone in Warrenton selling the radio I had identified as a good and not too expensive fit for me. It was in very good condition and he was no longer using it since he had upgraded and was willing to give me a good price. Then I found out that he was selling an antenna also! So now I have the equipment I need to get back on the air. All I need to the time to erect the antenna and hook everything up. That will probably be in another week or so.

So if you're a fellow ham and reading this, let me know and we'll see if we can make contact. Hopefully the antenna will work well where I am going to put it and I don't blow anything up . . . :-)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Do We Still Need the Reformation?

You be the judge. This was taken off a Roman Catholic blog I sometimes read:

----------

From the Handbook of Indulgences
Visiting a Church or an Oratory on All Souls Day
A plenary (“full”) indulgence, which is applicable only to the souls in Purgatory is granted to the Christian faithful who devoutly visit a church or an oratory on (November 2nd,) All Souls Day.
Will you not, for love, try to gain these indulgences?  Make a plan.
Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)
  • Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
  • Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
  • Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
  • Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
  • For a plenary indulgence be  free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).
You can acquire one plenary indulgence a day.
A partial indulgence can be obtained by visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed.  You can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between 1 November and 8 November. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.
A plenary indulgence, applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when you visit a church or a public oratory on 2 November. While visiting the church or oratory say one Our Father and the Apostles Creed.
A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained when saying the “Eternal rest … Requiem aeternam…” prayer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Way Home

The last day of our little trip . . .

Sunday morning we packed up and drove up to Springfield, MA for a brief visit with my son at college. We went to church with him (Trinity Lutheran) and then to lunch before giving him the supplies we had brought with us and saying farewell until Thanksgiving. The church has a familiar story: a beautiful old little church in a declining part of town with now small membership. It was nice to be able to go and not carry everything up from our closet in the basement and just sit and receive. We also looked at their beautiful stained glass windows. Sadly they are in need of a very expensive repair that the congregation cannot afford. I hope they do not break and fall apart.

After that we began the long trek home. We decided that even though it would be dark and again take a little longer, we would go back through the mountains of Pennsylvania again - less traffic and a more pleasant drive. However, if I had to do it again, I might have taken the shorter route. No problems - just got home really late.

One good thing, however, was that we found a great little restaurant to stop in for dinner . . .


It is in Port Jervis - a little town off I-84 and right at the junction of PA, NJ, and NY. It was a warm and friendly place and not expensive. It was very homey and relaxing. So if you're passing through those parts, I would highly recommend it.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful . . . just long. Good to be back, but it'll be hard doing a lot today (except maybe a nap!). Overall, though, a good weekend.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wedding

The wedding here at Immanuel Lutheran in Bristol went off without a hitch. Well, actually one hitch, as we "hitched" the happy couple! :-)

The old church is beautiful. It was my first time preaching from an elevated pulpit. The organist was amazing. And I didn't get lost driving! (Okay, my wife drove to the reception . . .) But all in all a good day. We spent the morning relaxing and visiting with my sister who drove up from Stamford for the morning. Today we leave for Springfield, MA to visit my son at college and go to church with him. Then we'll drive home. So looking forward to another good day!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Road Trip

My wife, youngest daughter, and I are in Connecticut this weekend for a wedding. Two of my member are being married up here at his home congregation, a beautiful old church in Bristol. We left early yesterday morning to get here for the rehearsal and purposely went a little out of our way to make the drive nicer. Our choice was: (1.) I-95 and the NJ Turnpike - mostly cities, industrial, and lots of traffic, or (2.) up through the mountains in PA - country, scenic, and less traffic. We went for . . .


The only traffic we really hit was for the last 15 miles in Connecticut, which took us about an hour! But, I was to find out, driving around here was going to be like that. Well, actually, like this:


Yeah, the roads here are tough. I got a little lost going to the church for the rehearsal, coming back to the hotel to pick up my family for the rehearsal dinner, going to the rehearsal dinner place, AND coming back to the hotel! Maybe it's just my age, but I used to be good at driving and finding things! But we got everywhere we needed to be and relatively on time - thanks to my smartphone and its navigation app. Without that, I'd still be out there driving around somewhere!

Here's an interesting tidbit for you all: in New York, they don't just have Rest Stops off the highway anymore - they have:


A sign of the times, I guess.

The hotel we're staying in - Homewood Suites - is very, very nice! Not too far from the sprawling ESPN campuses. (I don't think I've ever seen more satellite dishes in one place before!) 

So, takin' it easy this morning. I'll rehearse my sermon a few times, my sister is driving up to hang out with us a little (she lives about an hour from here), and then off to the church. Should be a good day . . . as long as I can get back to the church! :-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Two Things

Two rather eyebrow raising things for you this morning . . .

#1: The front page, front and center, above the fold, prime location, lead story of the Washington Post Sunday paper yesterday: "When No Gender Fits." Really? With all that's going on in our country and world, that's the story you lead with? C'mon!

#2: In our study of the book of Romans (chapter 1) last week, we came across this passage:
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

What surprised us in that right in the midst of that lengthy list of sins was "disobedient to parents!" How lightly we take that in our day and age. It's almost seen as natural. Teenage angst. Part of growing up. No it's not! God includes it here as part of this list of serious sins. Maybe we should think about that a little more . . .

Friday, September 19, 2014

An Early Description of Christian Life

In reading for my exams I came across this quote, an early description of Christians living in this world in "an amazing and unexpected" character and paradox (a kind of "being in the world but not of the world"):
"They are at home in their own countries, but as sojourners. They participate in all things as citizens and they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign country is their homeland and every homeland is a foreign country."  (Epistle to Diognetus 5:4-5)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

For You

Jesus died. That's history.
Jesus died for our sins. That's doctrine.
Jesus died for ME. That's the Gospel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Favorites

I received a very good piece of advice from the recently retired Kantor Resch when I was at seminary. He said, "do not talk about or take into account favorites." Favorite hymns, favorite liturgies, favorite anything. Do everything in the Church based on the Word and the Word alone.

This avoids a lot of potential problems. Whenever anyone asks "why don't we sing my favorite hymn?" I simply respond: I do not pick hymns because of likes or dislikes, but because of the Word. The hymns that best fit the readings and theme of the day is what we sing. (Note: Sometimes there are hymns that fit well and sometimes not, but that is the goal! To have all that is spoken and sung unite in a common confession of the Word that day.)

This is also true for our liturgy. I have some folks whose favorite liturgy is Divine Service 3, some like Divine Service 4, and my organists absolutely hate Divine Service 2! (They tell me it is the most difficult to play.) Fine. We do them all over the course of a year, rotating seasonally. Why? Well, I recognize there is benefit in using only one liturgy and getting to know it well, but I also want my people exposed to as much of the hymnal and liturgies as possible. That way, when they travel or move to another place and attend another church, they will feel at home with whatever liturgy the church is using that day. They've done it and know it. That is a great benefit.

Do I have favorite hymns? Sure I do! But I won't tell you what they are. (I have too many anyway!) But I do not pick my favorites, or anyone else's, just because they are favorites. All in service of the Word and the Word alone.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Best Laid Plans . . .

We're back from vacation and back from dropping my son off at college. He is attending Western New England University in Springfield, MA.


We had everything planned out. Since I would be in Florida for my Board of Trustees meetings, my wife would drive him up to Hartford, CT on Thursday and stay over for the night there. I would fly up from FL first thing Friday morning. They would then pick me up at the airport and we would drive up to the school and settle my son in - maybe even returning on Friday night. Easy, right?

Well . . . except that our van broke down. About 30 minutes south of the Hartford airport. So around dinner time on Thursday, I am on the phone with my wife trying to figure out what to do. But here's the good news: they broke down in Southington, CT which is where the parents of one of my members lives! So AAA towed the van and my family was able to stay with my member's parents for the night. Good so far.

In the morning (while I was in the air) my wife found out that the water pump had failed. (Which it shouldn't have, since it was not all that old, but that's another story.) That's a big, labor-intensive repair, so my wife rented a van, loaded my son's stuff from our van, then drove to the airport to pick me up. That delayed us a bit, but we made it to the University around noon - just enough time to move my son into his room and then for my wife and I to dash off to a parents' meeting.

My son's dorm, Windham Hall.

After our meeting, my son had a meeting and a bunch of other things to attend to, so we went off to get him a cell phone. (Yes, he still didn't have one of his own!) I had found one with a very customizable plan at WalMart, so we went there. Got back to campus after purchasing the phone but it wouldn't activate. Spent a bunch of time on my phone with their less-than-helpful customer service, who then finally told me I should take the phone back and get another. Sigh. So back off to WalMart, return, get an exchange, but this phone wouldn't activate either! Different reason, but same problem. So back on the phone with their less-than-helpful customer service, who after a bunch of time told me to take the phone back and get another! Really? Okay, I've learned. So back to WalMart, return, but NO exchange this time for this piece of junk! Found another phone, a little more expensive plan, but they activated it for me so at least I got a phone for my son!

Now it getting close to 9 pm. Say our good-byes and head back to CT so we return the rental van in the morning and get our car. Not cheap. But now the van is running well with a new water pump and timing belt (since you always replace them together, there's so much labor involved). Got home about 6 pm Saturday.

Youngest Peasant child, with the Golden Bear, mascot of WNE.

All-in-all, a very tiring and frustrating few days! But our son is there and settled in. I really think this school was a good fit for him, so I look forward to hearing from him how things work out.

Oh, and by the way, do NOT purchase the LG Pulse Virgin Mobile Custom phone from WalMart. They are junk. You will just wind up returning them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some VBS Pictures

My daughter Sarah is our official VBS photog, and she took some pretty goods pictures! Here are a few . . .



Singing together.



I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him CRUCIFIED.



A little outdoor fun.



A little indoor fun.



Pastor and his "brother" Creed the Awesome!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life and Death

This is VBS week for us. I don't have any pictures to post yet, but the week has been going well. A couple of hiccups - I won't get into them here. But while it is always a busy and tiring week for me, it is also always a good week. I enjoy teaching the kids and they soak it up and are always disappointed when the week ends. We are using the Higher Things VBS curriculum "Crucified." I highly recommend it to you. It isn't filled with lots of flashy stuff - just the Word. Jesus' death to give us life. Nothing better than that.

Last night I was on my way out to Bible Study and our street was filled with police cars. Not sure what was going on, but they were at our neighbor's house across the street and diagonal from us. I stood a watched for a moment and heard my neighbor cry out a few things. My guess from what he said: I think his wife committed suicide yesterday. I hadn't met this neighbor yet, but my heart went out to him, he was in such agony. If I am right, his wife died and he felt like he had died. His wife died, I don't know why. Maybe this life was too painful or hopeless for her. The police were still there when I got home from the study, still taking pictures and investigating. Procedure, I guess. But today in VBS I get to teach the kids about the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of life. I get to teach our hope and victory over death. Boy do we need it.

Finally, my vacation is coming up! About a week and a half away now. We are going up to Michigan for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. It will be a little shorter than usual, but it will still be good to get away and leave the computer and internet and schedule behind, and just relax a bit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Calvinistic View of Prayer?

Have you ever heard someone say: "Why pray? God doesn't change, so we can't change His mind, so why pray for things? God already knows what He's going to do."

Bummer. Wonder why people don't pray more?

But it seems to me this is kind of a "calvinistic" way of looking at prayer in that it is quite like the doctrine of double predestination: God elected some to salvation and some to damnation. There's nothing you can do about it.

The problem with both of these things is that they begin with God in eternity. They start with the hidden God that we do not know and can only speculate about. And that's always going to lead us down the wrong path and into wrong and destructive teaching, as shown above.

The Lutheran way of things is to start with God as He has revealed Himself to us. We do not start by trying to figure out God in eternity, but with God in His Word, God as He has given Himself to us, God in Christ Jesus. And with that starting point, we find quite a different picture of God! For example, Moses prays for the people of Israel. A LOT. They're constantly grumbling and complaining against Moses and against God. But Moses prays for them and we read: "And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people" (Exodus 32:14).

How do we understand this? If we start with the calvinistic precondition, we will say: Well, God knew He wouldn't do it - He just wanted Moses to pray. Really? How about instead: Moses' prayer made a difference! But, how can an unchangeable God change His mind? I don't know. He hasn't told us that. But how He has revealed Himself to us is as a God who listens to and answers our prayers, and that our prayers make a difference. So I will pray!

Jesus prays, too. If it is pointless to pray, why does Jesus do so? Or how about the story in Mark 9 when Jesus comes down from His transfiguration and there is a demon the disciples could not drive out. What does Jesus say? When the disciples ask Him afterward: "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (Mark 9:28-29). Or how about the passage in James (5:16-18) which reads:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
So let's stop the "crypto-calvinistic" view of prayer that has crept in among us, and stick to the Lutheran view. This is how God has revealed Himself to us. I will not try to figure out how it can be so, but will trust and believe . . . and pray.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Very Cool Story

File this in the "Don't underestimate what you can do" department.  :-)


This story is confirmed in Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of Fortresses.
Sometimes, it’s not really just luck.
Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany , and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks. “Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit.
Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. “On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck.
The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought.
Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.
“He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. “Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless.
Empty? Not all of them!
One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling.
Translated, the note read: “This is all we can do for you now…”
HT: Fr. Z

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seminary Ad


Above is the new ad that Concordia Seminary, St. Louis is placing in magazines now. I've seen it in several publications. Young, buff, millennial guy. Got it. That's fine. Cool little pictures in the margins - he reads his Bible. Check. Even categorizes what he reads by the pictures! Pastor material!

BUT . . .

Here's my question: Look at the Scriptures in the background (click on the picture to enlarge it). Look at all the passages that are underlined. What do they all have in common? All are Law. None of the Gospel passages (of which there are plenty) are underlined. Why not? It seems like a small thing, but small things are significant. We are training pastors to proclaim the Gospel. Yes, we need the Law, we're not antinomians. But all Law and no Gospel? Really?

Well, maybe the ad is trying to convey this fact: Like all of us, this young, buff, seminarian is drawn to the Law, but the Seminary is going to teach Him how to proclaim the Gospel and so in the future, it will be the Gospel passages that will be underlined! Not us, but Christ! But, it says he's a vicar already . . . so . . . uh . . .  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cool Pictures

To see some pretty cool photos:  www.perfectlytimedpics.com
Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Few Things . . .

Not really having a good week . . . tired, hard to focus, but pushin' through.  :-)  Some items:

(1.) + Klemet Preus +  Rest in peace, my friend.

(2.) Laurie and Robbie have left for Western New England University for his orientation. So I have to hold down the fort for the next three days.  :-(

(3.) The Senate Harry Reid is already introducing legislation to counteract the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. Here's the story. Boy, Harry, that didn't take long. "Do nothing Harry" can act fast when he wants to!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Higher Things - Day 4

Last Day! Always somewhat sad. Here's a picture I forgot to post yesterday, of Sam playing in the drenching rain before Evening Prayer:


The last day always has a lighter schedule - opening Matins (which I preached at), then the final plenary session, lunch, and the closing service (which I also assisted at). Then quickly check out and get on the road. Thankfully, it did not start raining (although we heard thunder during the service) until we were all loaded and in the van. :-)

Since we missed a good part of the opening service (see first Higher Things post) it was good to be able to soak in the whole closing service. Great pipe organ, great singing, ending with the Te Deum hymn (LSB #941) - which, by the way, is the theme for next year! Te Deum! So we'll get to sing it at least twice. :-)

Here's a picture from before the final plenary, but first, an explanation. The College Volunteers who help out at these conferences always have a different color t-shirt so they can be quickly identified. This year it was yellow and they kind of looked like the minions from the "Despicable Me" movies! So they dressed up like them for the final day . . . 


(Sorry my picture is not better! I think my flash was off and I was sitting back a bit.)

The drive halfway home was pretty easy. We stopped in Florence, SC - got here about 11 pm. When I booked the hotel on the internet, it looked really nice. Well, instead of using the word that starts with "F" and ends in "bag," (let the reader understand), let's just say they had a really awesome photographer! I would highly recommend them if you are in need of one! ;-)

So, off to breakfast shortly, and then the rest of the way home. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Higher Things - Day 3

With day three always begins the creeping and accumulated tiredness of the conference, but there's still much happening!


This is a picture of the youth filing into our chapel for Matins. We don't quite fill it, but it's great hearing all the kids and a great pipe organ singing our great hymns. We're here at least three times a day for Matins (morning), Vespers (afternoon), and Evening Prayer (evening). Wonderful liturgies that the kids really love.

Last night, sadly, it rained pretty hard right before Evening Prayer. We tried to wait it out, but it just kept raining. But you know what? The kids all ran to the chapel (several minutes, depending on how fast you are!) and would rather be soaking wet than miss Evening Prayer! And I don't just mean my kids - ALL the kids here. I give them a lot of credit for that.


Here's our group photo after Evening Prayer in our - at varying stages of wetness - conference t-shirts.

The rain also meant we didn't go to the fireworks. :-(  I love fireworks. So we stayed in and played games instead - which were a lot of fun, too. Some pictures:




Today is the last day, and then the long drive home. Another good week! Now, breakfast and the kids get to hear me preach!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Higher Things - Day 2

Things were a bit more normal today! Lots of opportunities for worship and learning. I taught my one breakout "What's Your Worth?" for the second time today. Tomorrow I will teach: "Lord, Teach Me to Pray!" Sadly, most of the kids didn't know their catechism when I asked them about a part of it. :-(

Rob and Sarah have been playing violin during some of the prayers offices. I don't yet have a picture of them together, but here's Rob next to the organ, introducing the closing hymn at Evening Prayer last night.


The excitement for the day came after dinner in the dorm. The fire alarm went off. (It's VERY loud!) At first, one of the University people came through and said it was just a test, but shortly after that he came back and said in a very stern voice: Everybody out - now! 



We waited across the street for a little bit as the fire and police men checked out the building. Then a policeman came strolling across the street carrying a fire extinguisher . . . yup, one of the kids had sprayed it and that set off the fire alarm. I think they found out who did it, not sure. We still had to wait for a while before entering our floors as they cleaned up and reset everything. Hopefully, no repeats tonight!


So, we went and played some basketball at the Rec Center on campus. We didn't do too badly!

Finally, it was back to the dorm for a little rest and talk and for one of the kids, a shower. Can you guess who? (He/she did not want his/her picture taken! But that never stops me. :-)



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Higher Things . . . So Far

Well, we're into day two of Higher Things-Gainesville. I had hoped to post each day but the internet connections I have had were not being cooperative! Now, however, I do have a connection, so I'll get you caught up.



Monday was driving day. We drove, and drove, and then drove some more. We landed in Savannah, GA around 6 pm and arrived at our hotel. Good thing about the hotel: it was cheap. Bad things about the hotel: internet connection, breakfast, fold out cot in the girls' room. Interesting thing about the hotel: the dog that kept trying to come in for the free breakfast!


But it was only for one night, so no big deal.

However, was turned out to be a somewhat bigger deal was the next morning . . .


We got a metal spike in the tire and so couldn't leave on time. We got everyone up and fed and the van packed by 8 and were all ready, but when we started out, the van was making a bad noise! So we pulled over and discovered the flat. :-(

The kids were great, though. The girls worked on getting the spare down and out, Rob worked on the jack and getting the flat off, and I tried to locate a place to fix it for us. Problem: one of the lug nuts wouldn't come off. So I went over and gave a couple of mighty tugs in each direction . . . and the nut came off . . . along with the lug stud (or post, or whatever you call it)! Ugh. 

So, got the spare on with only 4 lug nuts and start up I-95 ten miles north to the nearest tire place. Car keeps making more and more noise. Get to the place: Nope, sorry, can't get you in before lunch. Go to the next place: Nope, sorry, can't get you in before lunch. That man directed me another 2 miles north to a place he thought would take me quickly. So of we go again . . . car getting louder. See a "Goodyear" sign and stop there. as I get out of the car, I check the spare tire - and I can turn all the lug nuts easily with my fingers! The tire had been wobbling so badly that the lugs were coming off and if we had drive much farther, the tire might have come off all together. (Thanks to the angels for holding the wheel on for us!)

So Goodyear took us in and got us fixed in about 1.5 hours (had to buy a new tire, too). So, instead of leaving at 8, we left at 11 - so we were going to be late arriving. We arrived around 2:30 pm or so, missing a good part of the opening service. The rest of the day was quite hectic as we struggled to get caught up with everything we thought we'd have enough time for.

(Chapel set-up at UF-Gainesville)

I was on the schedule to teach during the first breakaway section. I wish I could have waited until the next day as I was still feeling a bit frazzled from everything, but it worked out. 

Now I have to change and get ready to teach again, so I will end this post now. But check back for some more info later!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

And Deeper Still . . .

Building on this post ("A Little Deeper") of a few days ago . . .

As I was working on one of my presentations for the Higher Things conference next week, it occurred to me that replacing creation with evolution also means that your value is also constantly evolving. What are you worth? What is your value?

creation (physical) - God's careful plan, meaningful, purposeful
new creation (spiritual) - carefully redeemed (re-created) by God's Son, who trades His life for yours!
All God, all gift. Unchanging, steady, reliable.

evolution (physical) - gradual, self-guided process, survival of the fittest
your value - gradual, society-guided process, survival of the fittest
                       whatever is valued by the world at the time
All man, all our doing. Constantly changing.

So years ago, the elderly were honored and revered. Now, just in the way and use up health care dollars.
Years ago, teachers important. Now, athletes.
Years ago, a beautiful woman meant meat on the bones, curves, shapeliness. Now, extreme thinness is considered beauty by many.

And these are constantly shifting, changing, elusive. So if your value, worth, and self-esteem come from the world, you're chasing after the wind. But if your value, worth, and self-esteem come from God and the fact that you are worth the life of His Son, that's something you can count on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pure Goofiness


Really?

And yes, this is real! Here's the link to the whole story.

Graduation

No, not mine! I still have a ways to go. My son graduated high school yesterday, which I guess makes me officially old! ;-) I'll (hopefully) post a short video of him receiving his diploma soon, but for now, here's a picture of the graduate with Pa and Ma Peasant.


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Little Deeper . . .

Yesterday in my sermon I mentioned how when God created everything in the beginning, He spoke - or preached - to the formless and void creation and ordered it. In the New Testament, Paul uses the term "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17) to describe what we are in Christ. This is not novel. The foundation of the New Testament is the Old Testament and when you hear the New Testament you should hear echoes of the Old ringing in your ears. Another example is when Jesus talks about His resurrections as "the sign of Jonah."

Those, therefore, who deny the validity and truthfulness of the Old Testament are impacting the New also. If no creation, then no "new" creation. If no Jonah, then no "sign of Jonah." If no first Adam, then no second Adam. And there's lots more examples that could be listed here.

But it occurred to me yesterday to then take this a little deeper . . .  Those who deny creation usually do so in favor of evolution of one sort or another. But in addition to "no creation, no new creation," what other impact could this substitution have on theology? If creation is really evolution, then by extension is "new creation" really evolutionary as well? Follow along:

creation (physical) -> God speaks and it is so
new creation (spiritual) -> God speaks and it is so
All God, all gift.

evolution (physical) -> gradual, self-guided process, survival of the fittest
spirituality -> gradual, self-guided process
                       decisions, progress, morality, survival of the fittest
All man, all our doing.

What do you think? Does this pattern hold? What other ramifications could there be?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day


Us three kids got my father this elevated garden so he could still get out and plant and dig as he used to and always so enjoyed. We actually gave it to him a couple weeks ago when it arrived so he could start planting. Gotta love the big cheesy grin he gave us for this picture!

There's so much I remember of being his son. Good times and rough times. I remember how in the morning I would come down to get ready for school and I would find him in his chair with his Bible open on his lap, praying. I remember how he was down to his last $250 sending me to college - of course, he wouldn't tell me that and I didn't know it until much later. I remember his service at church in so many offices and roles. I remember disappointing him but also making him proud. I remember the two weeks I spent with him after mom died. But through it all God worked, by grace, all by grace, to get us where we are today.

I am happy he is living with us now and I can help take care of him for however much longer God will give him to us. It's hard for him and at times for us, but what a blessing and a privilege. Happy Father's Day dad!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rebuilding

Well, I spent all day yesterday (except for taking my father for a hair cut and a quick lunch) working on the rebuild of the sermon archive on the church web site. Last year when our web site suddenly disappeared, so did all the sermon files. So I have had to take them all, one by one, and convert them into posting format and upload them to the site. I was doing well but when the Lent and Easter seasons hit, I got too busy and didn't get back to it. So now, I believe I have the entire Pentecost archive completed - at least, mostly. There are probably a few broken links that will need attention and I still have to upload a lot of audio files, but most of the text files should be in place. The next step is testing all the links and finding out which ones are broken and how to fix them. But with this, the archive is almost complete! I still have to do the Easter season and the special sermons - but Pentecost was the biggie! And now I also have all these files in the cloud as well as on the web site, so should this ever happen again, I am prepared!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sometimes

Sometimes you just don't have a good day. That was true for me today. Not sure why. Maybe just the end of a long week. Here's hoping next Sunday is better . . .

Sad also about the Pope's "prayer meeting," praying with those who deny the divinity of Jesus and that He is Saviour and that there are other ways to salvation. Difficult to present the Gospel with clarity with stuff like this out there.

One good thing: took a nap this afternoon. That felt good! :-)

UPDATE: The Mormons came by after dinner. I should just go to bed . . .

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sold


On Thursday, the sale on my father's house closed. The old homestead is sold. It really wasn't in very good shape. My father had been unable to take care of it for the last number of years and it needs a lot of major work. We were fortunate to find a buyer willing to buy it "as is, where is" without having to put it on the market. Also, after he guts it and fixes it up he is going to move in - he's not going to flip it. That was important to my Dad. He wanted to find a good neighbor for the guy he shares a driveway with.

It will be strange not having a house in Philadelphia to stay in anymore. It was the perfect halfway stopping point to my sister in Connecticut. But we'll also no longer have to worry about getting the grass cut and the utilities paid. Lots of good memories there: tree climbing, ball playing, dog chasing, and much more. May the man who bought it and will live it be as blessed as we were there.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Great Headline!

A friend of mine showed me this newspaper headline this week. You can't make this stuff up. Enjoy!



Thursday, June 5, 2014

The "S" Word

Here's what I wrote for my newsletter article in our latest issue:


A New Way to Think About
the “S” Word

I was asked to attend the LCMS Stewardship conference that was recently held in St. Louis. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but since the synod was offering to pay for it, I decided to give it a try and hear what they had to say.

For many people (myself included), stewardship is a topic that we’d really rather not talk about or think about. At least, not very much or in polite company! Too often I have been bashed over the head with the Law by well-intentioned folks trying to talk about stewardship. Too often it has been co-opted as a chance to beg for money. Too often, the same tired old phrases are trotted out and my eyes glaze over and my head goes numb . . .

There was some of that in this conference as well, and my eyes did glaze over and my mind go numb a little! But one presenter also offered a new way to approach thinking about this that was quite refreshing to me. He linked this topic to sanctification and living in your vocations with the terms presence and support. Let me explain:

In our lives, all of us live in what Luther called the “three realms:” the home, the church, and society. And within each of those realms, we have callings, or vocations - places or stations in life where God has put us to do good and receive good from others. So in the home, that would include father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister. In society that would include worker, student, neighbor, friend, citizen, soldier, and many more. And in the church we have the vocation of “Christian” in our local congregation, in our synod, and in the global church. We all have many, many callings, or vocations, in life. So far, so good.

So, he said, in each of those vocations, we have the duty of presence and support. What does that mean? Well, it’s really not very complicated! Presence, of course, means simply to be there. Be there for the people around you who need you. And support means to help them in whatever ways you are able.

Now think about how that would work in your home, in your family. Be there for one another and support one another.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Yet how often is not even this done?What would that mean for your callings in society? How can you be there for others and support them? What would that look like? And then finally for the church - be there and help and support as you are able.

There is nothing complicated about that! And each person can think about what that means for them depending on their age and abilities. And sometimes the two even go together - you help and support just by being there for someone, just by visiting, just by being in church. Just by doing that, you are being God’s blessing to your fellow Christians. 

Presence and support. A new way (for me, at least) to think about the “S” word. To think about what I do and why I do it. To think about how I can live the life God has so graciously given me among the people He has so graciously given me with the gifts He has so graciously given me. 

What about you? How can you be there for someone? How can you support them? And how are they God’s blessing to you in these ways? Presence and support. Seems like a pretty natural - and not forced! - way of life. Yes, even of stewarding the life God has so graciously given you. Think about it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Baptism is Bigger Than You Think

If you had to name the three biggest feasts in the Church year, I think there would be little argument - they are Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

Don't know why, but it occurred to me today that Baptism is linked to all three.

Christmas is the incarnation of the Son of God as a son of man; in Holy Baptism we sons of men are made sons of God. He is born here below, we are born from above (John 3:3).

Easter is the resurrection of our Lord; in Holy Baptism the old Adam in us is drowned and a new man raised up. Or as Paul puts it in Romans (6:5): in Holy Baptism, we are joined to Christ in His death and resurrection.

Pentecost is the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church; in Holy Baptism the Spirit is given to us through water and the Word (Acts 2:38).

So perhaps we could say that Holy Baptism gives us the whole Christ - from birth to resurrection to the sending of His Spirit. Or as Luther put it: "Therefore, Baptism is not only natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water, and whatever other terms we can find to praise it. This is all because of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, which no one can praise enough. For it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do." (Large Catechism)




Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why I Don't Trust the Dealer

So I have a recall repair for my Toyota van. I take it to the dealer and figure while it is there, I will have them look at something else as well. The switch that controls the power side view mirrors fell back into the dashboard. So I ask them to pull it out and give me an estimate to remount it. They tell me they cannot remount it - something is broken and they will need to buy a whole new switch at a cost of approximately $200. Well, just leave it hanging outside the dash, I said. At least I can use it that way. They still changed me $35 for that!

So another week or so later, I take the van in to my usual mechanic for an oil change and for him to check something else out. When I go back at the end of the day to pick it up, lo and behold, even though I did not ask him to do it, the switch is remounted in the dash! And for no charge. So, that is why I do not trust anything my Toyota dealer says to me. Sad.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Some Do, Some Don't

It jumped out at me this week as I was reading. After Peter's Pentecost sermon . . .

Acts 2:37 - "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" "

But then after Stephen's very similar sermon . . .

Acts 7:54 - "Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him."

Just like today. Some hear the message, repent, and are baptized, as after Peter's sermon, and some hear the message, become enraged, and reject both the Word and the messenger who brings it. But the result is not up to us; that is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is for us to simply preach the Word. Always. Sometimes it will bring us the joy of baptism and new life, and sometimes it will bring stones hurled at us - both physical and verbal. When it does, may we be like Stephen, who was like Christ, and pray: Father, forgive them.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Circuit Meeting, Day 2

Got home yesterday. A rather enjoyable drive with some good discussion. I am quite tired. I don't think I slept very well in the hotel. The pillows were too big. Nice, but too big. I like flatter pillows to sleep on. So it's good to get back to my own bed and my own pillows!

The conclusion of my presentation on prayer went well. A few bumps I need to work out before I present again this summer, but overall pretty good. The ladies of the congregation were quite gracious and served up some good food!

This morning, I found out some good school news - my last exam reading list was finally approved and my registration for the Fall finally went through. This last was important so I could have library privileges over the summer. So now I just need to get the appropriate signatures on the reading list and prepare over the summer. I have been struggling with balancing this with family and church for quite a while now, so it will be good to finally get it done and buckle down with my writing.

A busy day today, so now I'm off to prepare for the Psalms Bible Study which meets at noon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Circuit Meeting, Day 1

I arrived in Emporia Monday around dinner time. We went out to a Carolina BBQ place - all you can eat buffet style. They did have a lot of food - and lots of it fried! I tried a little bit of a lot of different things. The fried chicken was good, as were the fried flounder and hush puppies, but I was not brave enough to try to fried chicken gizzards! :-) Dessert-wise, the apple and peach cobblers were quite good, while the banana pudding was absolutely terrible! Completely tasteless. After dinner we hung out a while and talked, but I turned in kind of early - a long day.

Tuesday was the second half of our LERT training - Lutheran Early Response Team. This is to qualify us to help in times of disaster and to help us get the folks in our congregation ready to help as well. So after this day, we got our picture taken and will be receiving badges that will enable us to have access to our local Emergency Operations Centers and they know we won't be untrained but well-meaning volunteers that will just get in the way, but folks who know what they're doing. We're not first responders - they come in right away. We can come in the second wave to help with recovery and spiritual care.

After that I began my presentation on prayer. I am thinking about this as I will be teaching a sectional at Higher Things on prayer this summer. So we discussed things for about 75 minutes in the afternoon, and today we'll go through some Scriptures and think a bit more - maybe, hopefully, in ways that open some eyes and thinking. We had Private Absolution and the Divine Service last night and then some "fellowship" (let the reader understand) afterward.

All in all, not a bad conference thus far. Good, as always, to see the brothers again. The Holiday Inn we are staying at is nice. For breakfast yesterday, however, the scrambled eggs were the worst I have ever tasted! They tasted like fish! I am usually pretty tolerant and can eat most things, but I took one bite of those and couldn't eat any more. Just horrible. The cinnamon rolls, though, awesome!

Home tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Back Home, Tired, and An Interesting Tidbit

Well, I am back home after three long days cleaning out my father's house. We got it almost all done! We have a buyer lined up, and my cousin (a lawyer) and his wife (a realtor) are taking care of the sale for us. It will be nice to have that taken care of. But boy am I tired this morning! The neat part was that we came across a family (a mother with four boys) who had just gotten a house and had next to nothing in it. So we were able to give them lots of things - 12 boxes of kitchen things and lots of furniture. They were so happy and grateful. Then there was a young lady down the street who also just bought her first house and need to furnish it. So we gave her quite a bit too. Nice to know the stuff went to folks who needed it and will appreciate it.

Now, the interesting tidbit: The Old Testament reading for Morning Prayer today was Moses striking the rock to provide water in the desert for the people of Israel (Exodus 17:1-7). Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 10:4) that "the Rock was Christ." And this was the water that gave the people life - water from the side of Christ.  . . .  Sound familiar? John tells us (John 19:34) that after the soldier pierced Jesus' side after He died on the cross, out came blood and water. Water from the side of Christ which gives life to His people wandering in the wilderness of this world and sojourning to the Promised Land of heaven.