The Pastor Challenge


The Pastor Challenge

The Assist Pregnancy Center's Walk-Run-Ride for Life is coming up in May and this year I am challenging myself in order to challenge all of you! I am challenging myself to ride a "Metric Century" (100 kilometers) in four hours, and if I can ride farther than I ever have at one time before, I challenge all of you to support me more than ever before. I set my goal this year at $5,000, and our team (Lutherans for Life) at $7,500! If I can do it, you can do it. Assist helps so many mothers and babies, and they are expanding their facility to help even more - and so need our help more than ever, especially coming out of this pandemic. So please help! CLICK HERE to go to my sponsor page to sponsor me, or you can sponsor anyone else who joins the team, or the team as a whole.

Will you step up to the challenge??

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

+ Rev. Andrew Elisa +

This just received from the Lutheran Heritage Foundation:


Dear Friends in Mission,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you of the earthly passing of our good friend and brother in the ministry, Rev. Andrew Elisa. Of course, we do not mourn as unbelievers who have no hope. Our sadness is tempered by Andrew's joy as he enters into the presence of God.

As many of you know, Rev. Elisa was the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan (ELCS). He died today at the Nairobi Hospital in Kenya, Africa.

For more details, please go to the LHF website (www.LHFmissions.org); there's a link to his obituary at the right-hand side of the home page.

Please keep Andrew's wife, Linda, and their four children in your prayers. Also pray that the Lord might raise up other faithful leaders for the young ELCS.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! Yes, says the Spirit, let them rest from their hard work, for what they have done accompanies them." Rev. 14:13

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What to do?

My last post was entitled Christmas Joy - perhaps I "spoke" too soon. I received in the mail yesterday a letter from two dearly loved members of my flock that they are leaving our church for another confession. Being in a small congregation (and perhaps pastors in larger congregations feel this too), this kind of news always hits me hard. Perhaps this is something of what Mary felt - the mix of joy and sadness of which Simeon spoke.

So what to do? I can't ignore it, I can't change it, and I know that our Lord is watching over His flock, so what to do? Thinking about that this morning, I have determined to reach out - to call pastors I know and encourage them. Pastors who I know go through the same joy and sadness that I go through. I can encourage them and preach to them of Christ's love for His church and for them, and through my preaching, perhaps even "convince" myself.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Joy

I am so glad the Christmas season begins on Christmas and runs for 12 days! Why? Because for me, Christmas joy comes after the Divine Service on Christmas Day. As much as I love the services and the privilege and opportunity to preach about the incarnation of our Lord, I cannot unwind and relax until those services are over. My mind is too caught up in the details and making sure things are ready. Then I come home and reflect on what I preached, on the significance of it all, and rejoice with my family - the greatest gift God has given to me, after His Son.

So Merry Christmas, one and all! And if you are so inclined, my Christmas sermons have been posted on our church blog (see link of the left) and will soon be on the church web site, with audio.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well Pleased

Took the GRE for (hopefully) grad school yesterday. I am well pleased with how I did: 710 verbal and 740 quantitative. I did not expect that high. Hopefully these might get me some financial aid! The writing evaluation scores will come later. My application is now complete - now I just have to wait for their admission decision. For those of you who do not know, I am applying for admission (part time) to the PhD program at Catholic University in DC to study Liturgical and Sacramental Theology. I am going to try to be a father, husband, pastor, and student all at the same time. We'll see if I can do it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Benefits of the Internet

One of the great things about the internet is during seasons such as this - so many resources and great discoveries are posted by folks for us to read, ponder, and use. For example, read this and this. These will undoubtedly show up in my sermons this year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sadness

I just learned this week that a brother pastor of mine is resigning his call and resigning from the Office of the Holy Ministry. I do not know all the details and why he reached this conclusion, though I know things have been difficult for him and his church lately. This morning I wrote him a letter to thank him for his years of faithful service. I wish I could have been more of a support for him. His church and our church body will miss him.

Yet he is not the only one. Others have resigned and will resign, for a variety of reasons. Pastors and churches will always face the assaults of the evil one - assaults directed at us both outwardly and inwardly. It is not easy being a pastor or a Christian. So, please pray for your pastor and all pastors. Encourage them and support them. They need it. And we need them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Practicing What I Preach

This Wednesday night is the first of our Advent Evening Prayer services. However, it is also the night of my son's first Middle School Orchestra concert. So what to do? I am doing what I should do: being a father first and going to the concert. I have a friend who is an Air National Guard Chaplain in the area, who will fill in for me for the service.

Do I feel a little strange about this? Indeed, I do. It will seem wrong for me to be at the concert, though I know it isn't. And I know I need to do more of this. Pastor's children often have it tough, and try as I might, I know I often fail to be the father to them that I should. I am thankful for their forgiveness for me, and for my congregation's support in letting me go. I know many congregations that wouldn't. I am thankful for the good people of St. Athanasius!

One thing my pastor told me before I got married, that has stuck with me ever since - though as I said above, I do not always do what I should! - he said: "You're a father first, a pastor second. The church can always get another pastor, but your children have only one father." Amen. So Wednesday night I will not be at church, but enjoying and supporting my son.

And thank you, Lord, for my family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prayers Requested

I received this communication the other day. We are praying for Rev. Elisa - please join us. He is an amazing man and faithful servant of our Saviour.

+ + +

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

You may have heard that Rev. Andrew Elisa, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan (ELCS), has been hospitalized in Jordan.

As many of you know, the Holy Spirit has worked mightily through Rev. Elisa to establish the ELCS. Fifteen years ago, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation sent Andrew Elisa five copies of Luther's Small Catechism and a Book of Concord, and from there, the Lutheran church began in Sudan! Today, there are more than 80 Lutheran churches, five Lutheran elementary schools and two kindergartens located throughout Sudan, attended by more than 15,000 baptized Lutherans. More than a dozen men attend the seminary in Baguga, studying to become the faithful shepherds of these people.

After working tirelessly for the ELCS, today Rev. Elisa needs your help.

Early in October, Rev. Elisa began experiencing difficulties in his balance. After meeting with doctors at St. Paul Lutheran Hospital in Khartoum, he received treatment and returned to Yambio in southern Sudan.

Over the next two weeks, the imbalance continued and an MRI revealed a growing inflammation in the brain. Rev. Elisa and his wife, Linda, traveled to Jordan on Nov. 5 in hopes of better diagnosis and treatment. Physicians there are continuing his treatment and have started physical therapy. Unfortunately, Rev. Elisa's symptoms do not appear to be improving at this time, and the inflammation has started to affect his speech.

Rev. Elisa has requested your prayers for healing, and for the comfort of his wife, Linda, and their children. In addition, Rev. Elisa's medical bills are mounting. The Lutheran Heritage Foundation is coordinating an effort to help cover these costs, which total more than $12,000 so far (not including his room and board).

To send a gift to help cover Rev. Elisa's medical costs, go to the LHF website at www.LHFmissions.org. There, you can donate online using your credit card.

Or, you can send your donation to LHF at 51474 Romeo Plank Rd., Macomb, Michigan 48042. If sending a check, please note "Andrew Elisa Medical Expenses" on the memo line.

Finally, friends, if you would like to receive updates on Rev. Elisa's condition, or if you'd like to receive the latest news on LHF's work around the world, register as a member at the LHF site. Click on "Manage my E-communications," and you can choose to subscribe to several e-mail newsletters, all delivered directly to your e-mail In box.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Robert Rahn
Executive Director
The Lutheran Heritage Foundation

Monday, November 17, 2008

Want to be Happier?

1. Surf less. The internet makes everything seem more important than it really is.

2. Turn off the TV. Studies have shown that people who watch a lot of TV have a more negative outlook toward life.

3. Slow down. Rushing makes everything seem worse.

4. Interact. With friends, neighbors, family, nature . . . "It is not good for the man to be alone."

5. Pray. Especially the psalms. Remember who's in charge and greater than your problems.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now What?

A very worthwhile article by John Piper in World Magazine on the aftermath of the election. Go and read it here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Would King Think?

One of the interesting things about the election of Mr. Obama is the media's proclaiming this the "fulfillment" of Martin Luther King's dream. While I do not doubt the significance of this election, one of the better comments I heard this morning disavowed this the fulfillment of the dream. For Dr. King's dream was that all people be judged not on the basis of the color of their skin - but far too many people these past fews days proudly stated that they voted for Mr. Obama because he is black. Is this what Dr. King would have wanted?

Post-Election

The elections are over for another year. Whether or not your candidates won, there is one thing we can all be thankful for: all those “robocalls” and TV commercials will now stop for a while!

But now that the elections are over, there is something we are all now to do: pray. Pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4) – both those returning to office and those newly elected. Pray that God would grant them the wisdom and courage to govern in accordance with His Word and for the good of all people. And keep them in your prayers! Our officials do not have an easy job.

But what if you don’t like them!? What if you voted for someone who lost? That’s okay – you don’t have to like who got elected, but we are still subject to them, and we still owe them honor and respect because of the office they now hold (Romans 13:1, 7; Fourth Commandment). Also, Jesus told us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). If that is what we should do for our enemies, how much more should we pray for our leaders with whom we might disagree, but who are not our enemies! Just opponents in the political process.

Also remember that God will use these people to bless us. Maybe you will not agree with everything that do and say, but God uses believers and unbelievers alike to provide us with all that we need in this life – our daily bread, peace, health, safety, and more. Even hard times, persecution, and suffering (if they come) God can use for our good and benefit, to turn us to Him and strengthen our faith in Him.

So keep our leaders in your prayers. If you disagree with them, let your voice be heard. Speak up in love for the benefit and welfare of your neighbor, but always with all charity and respect.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Truth

In the liturgy for Private Absolution, the line that always gets me is this one: "I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most." I almost don't need to say anything else. This seems to sum it all up. All the rest of the confessional liturgy and my own confession of sins is simply an elaboration on this one statement - although it is good that I examine myself and confess my sins specifically. But there, in that one line, is a summary of both tables of the Law and the heart of the matter: I do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and my wrong fear, wrong love, and wrong trust cause me to be and do what I should not.

As much as I hate to acknowledge that, how good it is to do so, and to receive the unlimited grace and forgiveness of my Saviour. And I look up at the cross and see how that statement is true not only of me, but also of my crucified Lord - who lived as if being God did not matter (Philippians 2:6) and was hanging there for me, because I mattered most to Him. And so in Him, everything is changed. In Him, I am restored and forgiven. In Him, I rise off my knees in the resurrection of forgiveness from the death of my sins, to live a new life. How great is that?

Monday, October 27, 2008

One More . . .

One more win . . . Ace on the mound . . . Bats starting to come alive . . . tonight?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Birthday!


My littlest is three years old today! The time has surely flown by. She has truly been a blessing from God to me and my family. Te Deum Laudamus! (My Latin teacher will be happy with that!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why?

I find it somewhat ironic that for the Festival of the Reformation, there is no reading assigned from the Old Testament - this is replaced by a reading from Revelation 14. That is fine, but what would Luther, good Old Testament scholar that he was, say about that?

Things that make you go hmmmmm . . . 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yes!

I haven't blogged in a bit - my brain has been void of thoughts and I've been busy and tired with all sorts of things, including learning Latin. But I had to put a word in this morning for my Phillies! R.I.P. Dodgers, Torre, and Manny. And if our pitching holds up, I like our chances in the Series. 

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dentist Shortage

I went to the dentist today. We always talk a lot, and he was telling me about a seminar he went to where they were told of a looming dentist shortage - too many dentists retiring or leaving because of injury (lots of repetitive stress injuries), and not enough new dentists to fill the void.

Hmmm. This sounds to me exactly like what we are being told about pastors. Many are retiring or leaving because of abuse or burnout. An interesting commonality that deserves more thought.

My dentist went on to say that what is beginning to happen is that those who are not fully trained as dentists are beginning to do some of the work - like "cleaning clinics" and "denturists" to simply clean our teeth and make dentures. But, he said, while these may do fine at cleaning and making dentures, these folks are not trained to see and treat many other problems that a dentist is, like mouth cancer. There is a great danger looming here, he said.

Hmmm. This sounds to me exactly like what we are beginning to do with pastors. Those who are less than fully trained are beginning to do some of the work - but what is the great danger looming here for the church? Are the classes and training these folks are missing not really important (why do fully trained pastors have to take them then?), or could a "cancer of false doctrine" begin growing in the spiritual lives of people and churches that these good-intentioned-but-not-fully-trained folks are not trained to understand?

So, my dentist then said, the government is probably going to try to encourage and help folks to become dentists, probably by tax breaks or credits.

Hmmm. Here's where the similarity ends, for what is the LCMS doing? The funding for our seminaries and student aid is not being increased (the seminaries have received very little to no funds from the synod for a while now) to help folks become pastors. Instead they are touting and encouraging the "lesser training route." My dentist can see the great danger looming. Do we?

Cool Tool

You may have seen ultrasound pictures of babies in the womb. They usually look grainy and shadowy and hard to see. A few years ago, 4D ultrasound technology came out, which shows the baby much more clearly. Now, GE has posted these pictures on the web so that you can see the development of a baby from 6 weeks on. There is also information there about what develops when. There is a lot of evidence that education of women considering abortion prevents many abortions. Perhaps this can be a good tool for us to use in the fight for life - to show that yes, this little life in you is a real baby.

HT: World Magazine

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To Mercy or not to Mercy, That is the Question

Rev. Matt Harrison, Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, has started a blog. Check it for good quotes and stories of relief that is being done around the world. Matt is a big proponent of the role of showing mercy in the pastoral office. I do not disagree.

However, I have found it is not as simple as that. For the line of those who would take advantage of mercy is long and filled with all sorts of people. How does a pastor decide who to help with the limited resources we have? Are some needs greater than others? More important? Is it first come, first served, and when the money runs out, that's it? How do we know when a shyster is asking for what he does not really need? I wrestle with these questions a lot. I want to help folks who ask for help, but I find myself growing more cynical - especially when I am taken advantage of. Often times when I help one person, word spreads quickly and I get a bunch of phone calls at once, making me suspicious whether these folks really need help or not.

It happened again last week. I believed someone who said they needed help, but I have come to the conclusion that I was suckered. Do I stop helping people? No, I cannot do that. Am I angry? Probably a little. Those funds could have helped someone who really needed help. But I find myself praying that this person - though I believe he was dishonest with me - needed this money and that God will use this for good somehow.

But you know, we do it too, don't we? We take the good and gracious gifts of God and abuse them. We often ask for what we do not really need. We don't deprive others, for God's resources are unlimited, but I should not be so quick to condemn what I see also in myself. And so I'll work at that plank in my own eye, pray for mercy for them, and for forgiveness for myself. And I'll keep helping folks, for we have been so richly blessed . . . and I know will be in the future.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Two Weeks

Well, I've had my new MacBook for two weeks now. There are many things I really like about it, like how quickly it powers up and down, not having to worry about viruses, and Pages works really well and has some neat features. (I do wish it had some of the fonts that I liked using in Word, however.)

There have been some frustrations also. Like, Safari doesn't work as well with my blogging - does some funny things. I have to use Firefox for some things instead. Also, converting documents to Word (for sharing) is . . .  funky. Not all the formatting seems to be preserved. I had to download a program for burning DVDs to do what I like to do, and my laser printer has no Mac driver! :-( I must say, though, the folks at Apple have been very helpful and for the most part knowledgeable. I am happy that I made the switch, even though it has not been a smooth and seamless as I had hoped.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Christ Active in the Liturgy

"For what Christ was and did, he still is and does: it is he who preaches his Word, he who calls us to himself, he who binds the wounds of our sins and washes us in the waters of salvation, he who feeds us with his own life, he who is the pillar of fire leading us across the horizon of our own salvation history, lighting our sin-darkened path. He does it in Word and Sacrament . . ."
(Taft, Through Their Own Eyes, 139-140)

"For to be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself. Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God's own work. From this fact every one may himself readily infer that it is a far higher work than any work performed by a man or a saint. For what work greater than the work of God can we do?"
(Luther, Large Catechism)

Monday, August 25, 2008

LCMS Restructuring

Well, the proposal for the restructuring of Synod was unveiled last week at a special convocation. You can read it here. I am going to withhold a lot of comment for now. I want to think on these things more. Some of what was presented was expected, some a surprise to me. But this was my main overall impression: if this restructuring is to be done at the next convention, we are waaaay behind the curve! Too much "maybe this / maybe that" in the document. I expected a much more concrete proposal in many ways. I understand (and appreciate) the opportunity for feedback and study, but I worry that we'll talk a lot now, and the final proposal will be rushed through at the end when time gets short. Not the way to do it, seems to me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm Now Fruity!

No, not in that way! :-) Me and my household have decided to switch over to Apple computers. There were many reasons behind our decision. So far, we are enjoying them. Going to take some getting used to, but so far so good. I haven't yet installed and tried Bootcamp to run the Windows only programs that I use, so we'll see how that goes.

Patristic Quote

"See how great is the power of the [liturgical] assembly!  . . .  Again, in the most awesome mysteries the priest prays for the people and the people pray for the priest; for "And with your spirit" is nothing but that. Everything in the eucharist is shared, for the priest does not give thanks alone, but also the people [give thanks] with him. For after he has first received their acclamation consenting that "It is fitting and right" to do this, only then does he commence the eucharist . . .  Why are you surprised that the people speak together with the priest, when they send up in common those sacred hymns even with the very Cherubim and the heavenly Powers?"
- St. John Chrysostom
(as quoted by Robert Taft, Through Their Own Eyes, 29-30)

Interesting!

I just read a comment over at another blog that the book of Holy Scripture which speaks of the Holy Spirit most frequently is . . . (can you guess?) the book of Chronicles! I now need to go investigate and read these books again, keeping an eye out. But how appropriate - the books which are so liturgically structured are filled with talk of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Patristic Quote

"God is so good that he in no way permits an evil unless he knows how to draw good from it."
- St. Augustine

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thinking Out Loud

I just went through the Greek of the Holy Gospel for this coming Sunday: Mt 15:21-28, the Canaanite woman who cries to Jesus for mercy. I am struck by the connection to the Feeding of the 5,000 - the Holy Gospel two weeks ago! The disciples tell Jesus to send her away, just as they wanted to do with the crowds. Then, she makes reference to the dogs eating the scraps of bread that fall from the master's table. Why did she mention bread? And what scraps is she referring to? Could it be the 12 baskets of leftovers from the miracle? It is commonly said that there were 12 baskets of leftovers for the 12 apostles. Maybe. How about 12 baskets of leftovers for the 12 tribes of the New Israel? The New Israel that the apostles would feed. The New Israel that included this Canaanite woman - not by birth, but by faith!

Things that make you go hmmmmm . . .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Because God is Merciful

You all know the old Sunday School joke: “If you don’t know the answer, say Jesus and you will probably be right.” I have been thinking of a new spin on that . . .

Because there are an awful lot of times when I, as a pastor, do not know the answer to a question posed to me. This is when I get asked “Why?” Why did this happen? Why is this happening to me? Why did God do that? I have no answer to those questions. God has not revealed it to us. So I think from now on I’m going to have a stock answer. Why? Because God is merciful.

I’m not sure what started me down that road, but this is growing on me. In all the “why times” in my life and the life of my parishioners, the beauty of this answer is that it focuses us not on ourselves (which will only drive us to despair) but on God and what good He is working. Thus the Law is merciful because it drives me to the Gospel. Suffering is merciful as it causes me to despair of myself and take refuge in Christ alone. Whatever is going on in my life, how is my God and Saviour being merciful to me, a poor, miserable sinner, through it? We still may not know the answer, but at least we’d be looking in the right place.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Good Reminder

I am reading Eugene Peterson's Under the Unpredictable Plant - he uses the story of Jonah to explore the work of pastoral ministry and what he calls "vocational holiness." Got to this quote:

One final note of grace, for there is a happy ending to this. The wonderful, gracious surprise here is that in both movements in Jonah's life, the disobedient and the obedient, God used him to save the people.

In Jonah's escapist disobedience the sailors in the ship prayed to the Lord and entered into a life of faith: "Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows" (1:16).

In Jonah's angry obedience, the Ninevites were all saved: "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and did not do it" (3:10).

We never do get a picture of the kind of pastor we want to be in this story, but only of the kind of pastor we in fact are. Putting the mirror up to us and showing us our double failure would be a severe and unbearable burden if it were not for this other dimension in the story - that God works his purposes through who we actually are, our rash disobedience and our heartless obedience, and generously uses our lives as he finds us to do his work.

He does it in such a way that it is almost impossible for us to take credit for any of it, but also in such a way that somewhere along the way we gasp in surprised pleasure at the victories he accomplishes, on the sea and in the city, in which we have our strange Jonah part.


I guess the part that struck me was about never getting a picture of the kind of pastor we want to be, just the one we are. Warts, shortcomings, failings, confusion, escapist disobedience and angry obedience and all. Why did God call Jonah? Why did He call me? Grace. What else could it be? And whatever He accomplishes through me is all by grace too. What a wonder.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Back from Vacation

Well, my body is at least. Now if I could just get my mind to come back as well . . . :-)

It was a great two weeks of getting away from everything and spending time with my family. I got to read three books: two on submarine warfare during WWII (my son's interest in submarines has gotten me interested) and Jeff Shaara's book "Gods and Generals" about the Civil War. I have read a couple of his books now and highly recommend them. They are best categorized as "historical novels" and are highly readable and educational.

Thanks Rad for hosting us at the beach one day! If you ever want a great beach vacation, go to Folly Beach in Charleston. The sand is nice, the water warm, and the surf active and fun. Lots of other things to do in Charleston as well. And good eatin'!

Now back to the real world . . .

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vacation

Not that I post all that regularly here, but I will be on vacation for the next two weeks with my family. No computer or internet - just relaxing and having fun. If you don't hear from me in two weeks, then I've gone on permanent holiday! ;-)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lesson Learned

When e-mails get lost in cyberspace and do not arrive as expected, do not get short with your secretary - it's not her fault. Thanks be to God there is forgiveness for pastors! And thanks be to God for the Christ-like example of forgiveness my secretary is to me. She is two in a million (my wife is the other one in a million!) :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Finished!

December 2009 Portals of Prayer signed, sealed, and delivered. One more thing off my plate before vacation! :-)

Issues, Etc - Advice

Yes, Issues, Etc was back on the air yesterday after (as they phrased it) a prolonged "Spring Break!" Welcome back! I post here only to give some advice: if you are going to try to listen to the live online streaming audio, log on early! Connect during the first hour (3 pm ET) because so many folks tried to connect for the second hour that the limited bandwidth they have right now couldn't handle it. Hopefully they will be able to add to their capabilities in the near future. I was able to listen yesterday, and it was good to hear them back. I look forward to listening as I am able.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Spaghetti Pizza

If any of you are in Springfield, VA, stop in at Malek's Pizza. A nice little family restaurant. We went there for dinner tonight to celebrate the end of VBS week, and got their spaghetti pizza. Now, I know . . . spaghetti on a pizza?? But it was outstanding! I highly recommend it. All their other food is good as well, so if you don't want to order that, get the Greek pizza, or a gyro.

One Down . . .

Well, VBS is over for another year. Only four days this year, since many of our helpers couldn't be with us on Friday. We used the CPH materials for the first time in many years (we have been making our own) and while I was doubtful at first, they worked well in the end. My only complaint is that CPH made it awfully difficult to figure out what to order! Unless you bought one of their big kits (which had stuff we weren't going to use) it was tough to figure out what was what. The kids enjoyed themselves and learned really well, thanks to our great teachers! I am always happy when this week is - over because it is so tiring - but I always find myself also a little sad. Some of the neighborhood children we won't see again until next year.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Post Paucity

Just wanted to apologize for the paucity of posts lately. I've been busy getting ready for our VBS, writing devotions for Portals of Prayer, getting catechumens ready for confirmation, and getting a jump on things so my family and I can go on vacation in July. Hopefully I'll put some thoughts up this week.

PS Cool Whip Update! A thoughtful parishioner brought in a tub last Sunday after reading my post! And yes, I plunged a spoon in and ate some straight. Also lavished some on some apple tarts my daughter made. Mmm, tasty.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Secret Twin?

I read this blog post to my wife. She said he must be my secret twin. Cool Whip, Sugar Wafers, and Swiss Cake Rolls. It just doesn't get any better than that! :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thanks CM Almy!

I have a home communion set which I use for shut-ins and other sick calls from CM Almy. It was an ordination gift from my first congregation. It is quite nice and has received a LOT of use. As a result, the small, round piece of cardboard that seals the top of the cruet has deteriorated in recent years. I have been managing and trying to repair it, but to no avail. A new cruet from Almy costs $50! I did not want to have to pay so much to replace the whole cruet, since my problem was so small.

I was in Greenwich, CT last month (where Almy is based) and so went to their store to inquire whether they might have an extra top lying around in the back. You know, maybe a cruet broke and I could just get a new top. Well, no, they didn’t. But I left my name and contact information just in case.

Well guess what? I recently received in the mail not just a new lid, but a brand new cruet! There was no note in the package, and no bill – just a brand new shiny cruet. Not believing in my good fortune at first, I haven’t used it while waiting for a bill to arrive! But no bill has come. I am beginning to believe . . .

So here’s my THANKS, CM ALMY! And while in loyalty I encourage everyone to patronize CPH, I also encourage you to take a look at Almy. They sure have taken good care of me. (Ask me someday also about the mis-priced chausable I almost bought from them, for they were going to honor the wrong price on it! Unfortunately, it was the wrong size . . .)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

In the Stead of Christ

Here is a good explanation to the question "Can only a pastor preside at Holy Communion?" Go read it!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Must Read

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

Never Again?

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

And then each year, we do it again.

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

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

You were right Paul. It is hard work.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Doctrine and Life

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

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

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

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not So Good Quote

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 5, 2008

Good Quote

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

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Miscellany

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 25, 2008

National History Day

Well, in a few minutes we're off to Robbie's State National History Day competition in Williamsburg. He's beefed up his exhibit a little (in the areas the regional judges recommended) so we'll see what happens. I'll try to post when all is said and done.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Shall We Call This Movement?

A few months ago, my Elders and I were studying and we came across the following quotation regarding a church program, or movement, that was marked by:

“. . . reform of theological education, criticism of scholastic theology and theological polemics, advocacy of interconfessional toleration and understanding emphasis on a religion of the heart as well as the head, demand for a faith that expresses itself in life and activity, cultivation of personal holiness with a tendency toward perfectionism, upgrading of the laity, recommendation of private meetings for the fostering of piety, development of the spiritual priesthood of believers, endorsement of mysticism, etc.”

Does this sound like something happening in our synod today? Well, it is a quotation from the introduction of Pia Desideria (p 19), explaining the agenda of Philip Jacob Spener and his pietistic reforms. I think this helpfully illustrates that the battle in the LCMS today is not between the old categories of “liberal” and “conservative,” but between those who advocate a more pietistic, subjective religion, and those who are striving for a more confessional, objective Church.

This is important fact to realize, for when folks try to portray certain people in our synod today as “liberal” they are, well, wrong. They are not in the line of classic liberal Protestantism and what we see happening in so many mainline denominations today. They are in fact conservative by many standards . . . but they are also pietistic, and moving our synod in this direction. We need to understand this, in order to teach rightly and make a positive impact in our synod, and show why many things that are happening are undesirable.

What is at stake? Not just our synod, that is relatively unimportant. Much more critical is the certainty of our salvation, which can be found only in the objective truths of the faith. Once we move to a more subjectivistic, pietistic orientation, and begin to look to ourselves, our efforts, our holiness, our activity, our fire, or whatever else as the evidence of our spiritual life and unity, then we are lost. Then the devil will most certainly drive us to despair. The only certainty we have is the objective truth of the Gospel. The confession of the faith once delivered to the saints. The proclamation of the work of Jesus for us, not primarily His work in us. When we have that, we have everything. When we lose that, we lose everything. And that, my friends, is something worth fighting for.

(For more on this, read also The Lost Soul of American Protestantism by DG Hart.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An Peek at the Synod's Finances

Interesting reading . . .

Who's more in debt?

How are we paying for it?

Synodical Inversion

President Kieschnick has weighed in on the Wall Street Journal article about the discontinuation of Issues, Etc. You can read his response here. Pastor David Peterson has written a good piece about this response here. Please read these.

I simply want to add one point to all of this: while President Kieschnick points to unity in the Ablaze™ movement as evidence of our unity, our synod was founded on an entirely different unity: unity in doctrine and worship. Mission work did not have to be unified, but it is precisely here that a congregation could exercise flexibility, depending on its situation. But in our synod today it is exactly the opposite. We are being urged to uniformity in missions (i.e., Ablaze™) and disunity in worship. How sad.

Here is a good article explaining this understanding about the reasons for the founding of our synod.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Joy

There just isn't anything better than the Divine Service for the Resurrection of our Lord! Period. The joy after Holy Week and the anticipation of the Vigil. Crying out "Alleluia!" a countless number of times. The Victimae Paschali. Using our new communion vessels. Proclaiming the victory of our Lord. I am tired, but it just doesn't get any better than this!

Bring Back Issues Etc Blog

For all the latest news and information about the cancellation of the popular Issues, Etc. radio program, and what is or isn't being done to bring this program back, see a new blog set up for this purpose. I have also added the link to this site in the "required reading" section on the left column. Go read some of the entries! Especially surprising is the support being received by those who are not Lutheran and who did not always agree with the doctrine of the program.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Issues, Etc.

Many or most of you are already aware that the Synod's popular and theologically sound radio show "Issues, Etc." was suddenly canceled and pulled off the air on Tuesday. No real reasons have been as yet forthcoming. I have not blogged on this (though I am dismayed) because there is much on the blogosphere on it already (for example here and here), and this being Holy Week, I already have too much on my plate.

However, I do want to bring to your attention a petition for you to sign. Please pass the word about this. Many things will be said and done over the next weeks concerning this, but here is something we can do now.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Wonderful Surprise

What a wonderful surprise awaited us Sunday when we received the gift of a beautiful new communion chalice and paten! We are going to bless and dedicate them before our Divine Service on Holy Maundy Thursday and use them for the first time that night. Pictures below. Thank you to those who purchased this for us!



Sunday, March 9, 2008

Good Shepherd Seminar

My congregation’s Second Annual Good Shepherd Seminar will be on May 3rd. The Topic is “The Church and Her Fellowship,” which will be presented by Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki of Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN. All are invited, the cost is FREE, and lunch will be provided. You can’t beat that! Check our web site for more information.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Second Place!

My son Robbie took second place in his age group and category at the National History Day Northern Virginia Regional competition yesterday at George Mason University. That means he now moves on to the state competition at the end of April in Williamsburg. We are very proud of him! He was up against some pretty stiff competition in his age group (6th to 8th grade - Robbie is in 6th grade) and some other really good projects. Here are some pictures – one of him with his medal and the other of him with his project and teacher, Miss Hartt. His project was on the CSS Hunley, the Confederate submarine that was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in battle.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Special Anniversary

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my mother’s death. My family and I will go to Philadelphia to be with my father. As we have each year now, we will go to the same restaurant I took my father to that night three years ago to be together. It is a good evening.

As I think back, sometimes it seems as if that day happened a long time ago, while other times it seems to have happened almost yesterday. But the more time goes by, the more I come to realize what a great mother I had and all that she did. I was truly blessed by her – and by God through her – in so many ways. I sometimes think to myself that if I can be half the parent to my kids that she was to me, then I’ll be doing okay.

She would not have thought that, however. She often shared her struggles of parenting with me after I myself became a parent. She told me that she and my father really didn’t know what they were doing – they just did their best and entrusted all us kids to the Lord. Overall, I think that’s a pretty good model of parenting to emulate! And not just of parenting, but of all the Christian life – do the vocations God has given you to do to the best of your ability, and entrust the results to God.

I know I will think of her much more as my kids grow older and I struggle with the same things she struggled with! I will use the wisdom she planted in my heart. And I will thank God that He blessed me – like Timothy – with such a godly mother.

So tomorrow we celebrate a great lady, and rejoice that she now rests with her Lord and Saviour.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Patristic Quote

"If someone asks, therefore, why God allowed man to be tempted when he foreknew that man would yield to the tempter, I cannot sound the depths of divine wisdom, and I confess that the solution is far from my powers. . . . I do not think that a man would deserve great praise if he had been able to live a good life for the simple reason that nobody tempted him to live a bad one." (St. Augustine, Ancient Christian Devotional, 73)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Learning the Language of the Liturgy

I am learning Spanish. I am getting better, little by little. I am learning more words, and with practice, the sentences are making more sense and coming together. It takes time, but anything worth learning takes time.

It occurred to me that this is true also for the language of the liturgy. For visitors who come to our church for the first time, things sound funny and don’t make a lot of sense. What does Agnus Dei mean? Why do they bow when they do? What does the Creed mean when we say “of one substance with the Father”? But gradually, these things are learned. Little by little, with practice, things come together and begin to make sense. The rich and powerful symbolism deepens the awe and mystery that comes from being ushered into the presence of a holy God. And like with my Spanish, things begin to ‘click.’ And we’re at home.

Some would argue that the liturgy shouldn’t have to be learned, but that folks should feel comfortable right away. That would certainly be easier, wouldn’t it? But I believe easiness breeds boredom, while learning implants one in the depths of what is taking place, so that we’re at home not just for a while, but for eternity.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Importance of the Liturgy

A good quote:

"People are uncomfortable with mystery (God) and mess (themselves). They avoid both mystery and mess by devising programs and hiring pastors to manage them. A program provides a defined structure with an achievable goal. Mystery and mess are eliminate at a stroke. This is appealing. In the midst of the mysteries of grace and the complexities of human sin, it is nice to have something that you can evaluate every month or so and find out where you stand. We don’t have to deal with ourselves or with God, but can use the vocabulary of religion and work in an environment that acknowledges God, and so be assured that we are doing something significant."

(Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, 48)


My thoughts: The importance of the liturgy and liturgical preaching is that it is not programmatic. It ushers messy (sinful) people into the mystery (the presence of God for us), not so that we can do something significant – but so that God can: the forgiveness of sins. And this we do not evaluate, but receive, for it is gift. And our standing with God is assured, not on the basis of what I see or feel in myself, or what I have accomplished, but on the rock solid basis of His Word and promise (Rom 3:23-24).


Perhaps this is what makes the liturgy so polarizing in the church today, between those who live in it and those who do not. This simple fact: program and liturgy do not go together.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Symposia Papers

I appreciate going to the Ft. Wayne Symposia each year, though some years are better than others. This year I found many of the papers helpful and am looking forward to reading them when they are posted online. Over the next few weeks, I hope I will have some time to reflect on them and post some comments. However, when the papers are posted, the ones I recommend reading are (in no particular order) the two from Dr. Gathercole, Dr. Gibbs, Dr. Gieschen, Dr. Nordling, Dr. Masaki, and Dr. David Scaer. If you want to read a very provocative paper, read Dr. Root. His challenge to the construction of 20th century Lutheranism is thought provoking, and there are some things I both agree and disgree with in his presentation. (I was not able to hear the first two papers, by Dr. Maier and Dr. Peter Scaer, so I cannot speak to them.)

I was disappointed that attendance continues to decline. There are a couple of reasons for this, I think. One is that some guys are disgruntled with the seminary administration and the direction the seminary has been going, and so show it by staying home. They believe attending is a sign of support for the seminary. I don't think that is true, and don't want to impoverish myself from the learning I receive there. And while I also do not agree with everything going on, neither do I know the whole story, and I am still willing to "put the best construction" on things. The second reason folks have been staying away (I believe) is that in recent years the presentations had gotten too "esoteric" and were not enough directly addressing the needs of the Church. I think that changed this year, and I hope we will continue in a better direction.

All in all it was a good week.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Some Cool Thoughts

Just a few "cool thoughts" from the symposia this far (either explicitly stated or formed in my own thoughts) . . .

+ Mark tells us that Jesus was "thrown out" into the wilderness after His baptism. Why that verb? He is beginning to experience the same thing as the first Adam when he was "thrown out" of Eden and into the wilderness.

+ In the beginning, creation was not "neutral" -- but served sacramentally (small 's') to aid/contribute to our communion and fellowship with God.

+ God breathed life into Adam. What is one of the first things Jesus does after His resurrection? He breathes on His disciples and gives them the Spirit, to give them life. Creation - re-creation.

+ How does Jesus paying the "Temple Tax" foreshadow or fit into the truth of the atonement?

Very enjoyable so far. I am looking forward to today's lectures.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On the Road

I will be on the road tomorrow morning traveling to the theological symposia at our Ft. Wayne seminary. I will try to offer some posts while I am there. Please pray for safe travel for all pastors and laity who will be traveling there this week.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lutherans and Orthodox

If you are even somewhat a reader of the Lutheran blogosphere, you know that every so often a topic emerges that “discusses” Lutheran versus Orthodox theology. (I put that in quotes because often times it seems as if the discussion devolves rather quickly into sniping, accusations, and worse.) Me, being hopelessly and semi-permanently naïve, thinks this is a good thing. For responding to the theology and challenges of those who disagree with us serves to sharpen our own theology and thinking.

I know this is true for me, and not just about Orthodoxy, although certainly including it. One of the wonderful things about my congregation is the great questions they often pose to me on a whole host of topics. And while it is often frustrating to me not to have the answers they are looking for, it forces me to dive into the Scriptures, study, and keep reading. I don’t let my folks get away with “cliché” answers in class and constantly ask them why they are answering as they are. So it is good when they come up with questions for me and want to know why.

This is also why recent talk in our Synod about lessening the education required of pastors before ordination scares me. I know how unworthy and unable I am to meet all the challenges of being a pastor (a fact that becomes more evident to me with every passing year) though I thought I was very well trained coming out of seminary! I wonder what our Synod’s current path will lead to . . . but that is probably a topic for another post.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Taking It Home

Many folks have trouble taking their work home with them. Not trouble doing it, but trouble not doing it! The result is often that family and home life suffers for the sake of job, money, or advancement. It seems to me that if anything should be true, this should be the other way around. We do not realize how important our vocations as fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, really are.

Yet I have found as a pastor, I am particularly afflicted with this problem. The sadnesses of the ministry and my own failures follow me home. I have trouble turning off my mind and focusing on my family, as sermon writing, questions, issues, and concerns keep filling and turning over in my mind. I do not willingly bring these home with me, but they follow, unwanted. And so I find myself not being the father and husband I want to be for my family.

Pastors are always on call. I can handle that. The hours I work, the evening and weekend schedules, I have some say in. That’s the physical part, and perhaps for me, the easiest part. But the emotional and mental stress of the ministry I found not so easy to deal with. I may have to share in the suffering of my flock, but my family shouldn’t have to. Perhaps realizing it is half the battle.