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??

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blessed Christmas to All

A blessed Christmas to all who read or may stumble across this blog. For some of you it may be merry also, but I know that for many Christmas brings heartache and pain. For you I pray that the grace and peace of our Saviour's love enlighten the darkness of this time; and for others I pray that the merriness of this day not darken the light of our Saviour's grace and peace.

My gift this day is the words of my favorite Christmas hymn, by Paul Gerhardt. (UPDATE: click here to listen to this hymn!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

from The Lutheran Service Book #372
(c) 1941 Concordia Publishing House

Monday, December 21, 2009


I have been a subscriber to XM satellite radio for several years now. I like their service, especially when I am traveling, but I must say that their merger with Sirius has killed them. Their prices have gone up, their service has gone down, several channels are not as good as they used to be, and (I just found out today) that if I want to listen online now, I will have to pay an additional $3 per month. No way. I wish they would go back to the way they were.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What a Day

Well, this day is about over. Soon I am off to bed. But what a day. The snow forced us to cancel church (see previous post) and so this morning saw our first ever video conference Matins so that the folks of my congregation could still hear the Word of God proclaimed. It worked pretty well. We offered two times so that everyone could log on who wanted to. This is a nice tool to have - not a substitute for church, but nice when situations like this arise.

After that was a couple of hours of digging out the house and cars. Still haven't had a plow down the street, so getting out tomorrow will be dicey. After shoveling, played games with the family for a while. We were supposed to go hear the US Navy Band's Holiday concert, see the National Christmas Tree and all the state trees around it, and then go to dinner in DC, but that all got canceled. :-( But the games were fun.

Then it was to the TV to watch my Eagles clinch a playoff spot with a win against the 49ers. So all in all, a nice day. Tomorrow a busy week of sermons, family plans, finishing up tasks, and getting ready to travel after Christmas. Now off to bed. I'm beat.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Too Much Snow!

Well, the snow is 14 inches or so around my house and still coming down strong. We have canceled the Divine Service for tomorrow - even if they manage to get the highways clear, the side streets will be too difficult to navigate. We will offer Matins online at 10 am and 11 am tomorrow morning instead. Click here for instructions on how to join us. Stay safe and warm and see you all on Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


No, the title of this post is not an exclamation of pleasure, but of horror! One of my members was in Philadelphia last week, and brought me a bulletin from a church there (name not mentioned to protect the guilty). In place of a creed, they had a "statement of faith . . . adapted from Albert Schweitzer." (That sound you hear is my head shaking in disbelief . . .) Please sit before reading this:

We can find no name that expresses what God is for us.
God who comes to us as One unknown,
without a name, as of old, by the lake-side.
God came to those who did not know God.
God speaks to us the same word: "Follow me!"
and sets us to the tasks to fulfill for our time.
God requests.
And to those who obey, however they may be,
God will be revealed in the toils, the conflicts,
the sufferings that they shall pass through,
in God's fellowship,
and, as an ineffable mystery,
they shall learn in their own experience Who God is.

How can one begin to critique this?? It is beyond correctability, all possibility of good prose (God came to those who did not know God?? Who talks like that??), and has no redeeming value. This statement of faith simply directs one to their own works and experience - a recipe for despair. And what about that first line? "No name for what God is for us?" I have one: how about Immanuel, God with us.

My heart grieves for the people of my hometown who have to put up with such garbage. kyrie eleison!


I gave one of my tirades in Bible Class today. Why? The church who owns the building we rent for services is preparing for their big holiday stuff next weekend, and they are turning the church building into Bethlehem and environs. I wouldn't mind if it were just the hall, hallways, and classrooms, but when the sanctuary also starts getting changed, I get grumpy. It's their church and they can do what they want and we have to work around it . . . just makes things hard. But what I pointed out is that when you don't have the sacraments, this is what happens - something rushes in to fill the vacuum. Therefore, how do you celebrate Christmas or Easter? How do you remember? How do you put yourself in the story? You have to act it out. You have to try to put yourself there. But we don't have to do that! The sacraments are what unite us to Christ and make us participants in the story. We don't have to try to go to Bethlehem when Jesus comes to us in His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. So at Christmas, there is no better way to remember and celebrate than receiving the Lord's Supper. That is where heaven and earth meet. You cannot get closer to him than that. So, I'm not against plays or pageants if you want to do them (just leave the sanctuary alone, please!), but to borrow some words from the apostle Peter, we have something more sure! Let us rejoice to receive Him there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You Ever Seen . . . ?

Have you ever been on a train, seen someone sleeping, and wondered if they were going to miss their stop?

Well, yup. Now, that's me!

Yesterday on my way home from school, I fell asleep. I didn't think I was that tired, but I guess I was. I woke up when the train was stopped at the station after mine - just in time to get off the train. Another few seconds and it would have been the next stop. Couldn't find any busses going back north, so I had to phone my wife to come pick me up.

It will be a long time before I sleep on the train again!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Nice Treat

Last night, one of my parishioners came over and cooked dinner for me and my family. Actually, that statement doesn't do justice to what she did! She made a virtually gourmet dinner for us, with many courses. She came and basically took over the kitchen - bringing the food and wine, preparing it, serving us, and then cleaning everything up, and not letting us help at all. It was such a nice thing to do, and very, very delicious - including some new foods I had never had before. After dinner, with dessert, we also played a game called Rummikub - which I had never played before. It was fun and I am looking forward to a rematch, now that I know how to play.

So, if any of you out there wonder what nice thing you might do for your pastor, I would recommend this! My only regret is that I was so tired and had a headache and so wasn't as good company as I wished I could have been.

But yesterday I got over a big hump at school (that's why I was so tired). I presented and handed in my big research paper. The professor will now tear it up so I can revise it and hand it in again in a few weeks for my final grade. The presentation went fairly well, except that Microsoft bit me in the butt! How? Well, I made a Mac-version-of-Powerpoint presentation to use and exported it from Mac format into Powerpoint format, to use on the PC in the classroom. Well, Mac exported it into PP 2003 format, but the PC had PP 2007 on it, and guess what? Microsoft software is not upward compatible! So, half the slides didn't come out right and were basically unusable! Argh! Next time I will remember to bring an adapter and just plug my Mac in. Fortunately, I had also made a handout for the class, so for much of the information that didn't come out on the slides I was able to refer the class to that.

Overall, school has been good - I have learned a lot. It has been hard keeping up and trying not to let it interfere with my church schedule, but on those days I am tired and don't feel like pushing on, I keep reminding myself what a great opportunity God has given to me to pursue these studies, what a great church He has entrusted to my unworthy care, what wonderful parishioners He has surrounded me with, and what a wonderful, forgiving, and understanding family I have. How richly blessed I am.

Friday, November 20, 2009


A radio station here in Washington, DC has started playing "holiday music" 24/7 . . . TODAY! That's just not right.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Cool Picture (and Blog!)

This is a nice blog to go and read when you have the time. This pastor has consistently been posting some pretty good stuff! But the reason I am bringing it up today is this picture - this is a baptismal font! Does it not look like this man is being brought up out of the tomb? Is that not what happens in baptism? We are given a new birth to a new life through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to whom we now are joined. Just great. If we ever get to have our own church building, I am going to push for a font like this! :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Was That?

Yes, I'm still alive! Sorry (once again) for my long delay in posting anything. I have good intentions, but so precious little time these days. I am not complaining, though. I keep reminding myself that God has blessed me with so many opportunities. I am very fortunate.

Yesterday in church, we had a little furry visitor. I had actually seen him in the building before, I believe, quite some time ago at a Bible Class. Yesterday, however, he decided to make his presence known during the sermon and the prayers! I got a bit distracted, but continued. Some folks managed to get him out the door without too much disruption before the Lord's Supper began - I was going to stop the service and take care of him before trying to distribute the Supper! But gratefully, I didn't have to.

But what was this little critter? He was not a chipmunk, for he had a tail like a squirrel. But at the same time, he did not look like a squirrel either. His markings were different and his eyes too big. I had thought (when I saw him before) that he was someone's pet who had escaped. I still think so. So, I did a quick Google search for "pet rodents" and found this:

He is called a "Sugar Glider" and his description certainly seems to fit the little guy I saw yesterday! The information also said it is often mistaken for a flying squirrel, which many in my congregation thought it was after he launched himself off my pew near the pulpit! If it was this guy (and I'm certainly not sure!), he is an Australian marsupial and most certainly was someone's pet. I don't know if we'll ever see him again, but if so, perhaps we should try to catch him in a box instead of shooing him out the door and get him a good home.

Anyway, if this *was* him, it makes Dr. Veith's post on the day (read it here) even more amazing! For, to top off all that he wrote, his family brought along a visitor to church yesterday from . . . can you guess where . . . Australia! Things that make you go hmmmm. :-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Paper In

Well, yesterday I turned in my first real paper for grad school. (I say real because I've turned in a number of short reflection papers.) It is a great relief. I think I did a good job on it and my presentation of it went well in class. We'll see when I get it back if what I think is a good job and what the professor thinks is a good job are the same thing! I did enjoy doing it, and am enjoying being back in the academic environment. Now it's on to my next paper, which is longer still . . .

Great Words

Great words today from Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the Treasury of Daily Prayer (p. 840-1) in speaking of Christ as the one who builds His church:

"It is not we who build. [Christ] builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess - he builds. We must proclaim - He builds. We must pray to him - that he may build.

We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.

It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don't ask for judgments. Don't always be calculating what will happen. Don't always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sad Words

The following was overheard from an LCMS pastor recently: "A quia subscription to the Book of Concord? I let that subscription run out a long time ago."

If I were to put the best construction on that statement, it would be that it was said in jest. But not only do I seriously doubt it, I am saddened that one would think to make such a jest. The teaching and doctrine that we have in our church is a treasure and something to cling to, not "let run out." We should be encouraging our folks to read and study the Concordia, not make it the butt of jokes. We should be giving it out like candy instead of eating the latest pop-evangelical junk food and suffering from theological tooth decay. Are our confessions meaty? Yes, so let's chew on them and be fed!

And I'll put my money where my mouth is and make this offer to whoever may stumble across this post - if you need a copy of the Concordia, let me know and I'll send you one . . . if you promise to read it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

In the Backyard!

While we were eating dinner tonight, we saw this spider on a huge web in our backyard. One of the most interesting spiders I have ever seen!

For your information, it is a Marbled Orb Weaver.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sermon Tidbit

Since I haven't posted in a little while, I thought I better put something up to let you know that I am still alive!

So here it is . . .

Yesterday in the Divine Service we heard from Jesus that "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." (Mark 9:42) In my sermon on this text, I made the observation of how fortunate we are that instead of being cast into the sea because of our sin, we are cast into the waters of Holy Baptism - waters of salvation and forgiveness instead of death and condemnation! These are the same waters into which "our Jonah" was cast, that the millstones hung around our necks might be hung around His instead, and His resurrection to a new life now be ours.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What is Prayer?

I received a request to write an explanation of "What is Prayer?" in 50 words. Well, I used a few more words than that, but here is what I wrote:

What is prayer?

Prayer is the voice of faith.

Faith that is created and fed by the Word, cries out to its source - that same Word now made flesh. For faith speaks what it hears. Prayer comes not from ourselves, but from the faith given to us.

And so faith cries out for all that is needed, for all that is needed has been promised by God.
Faith cries out in thanksgiving, for all that is given is given by God.
Faith cries out in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, in good times and in bad, for ourselves and for others, for all things are in His hands.

If our faith falters, so too do our prayers falter.
Then the Word comes with forgiveness to raise our faltering faith and give us life and hope again.
And the voice of faith cries out again.
Never perfect,
until faith is needed no more, when our voices are joined to the choir of angels in the hymn of praise that has no end.

Until then, we live by faith.
And faith speaks in prayer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Busy Days

Lots going on! Two weeks of school under my belt - good learning, some challenges, but so far managing to keep up. Kids back in school - I'll post a picture of my little one's first day soon.

Found this blog and this entry this morning. I appreciated it, and believe you will too. Take a few minutes to go read it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

It was a good Labor Day today. My family and I went to the National Zoo and not only saw lots of animals, but lots of active animals, doing all kinds of fun things. We saw an elephant getting a bath, another one rolling around in the swimming pool, some gorillas wrestling, a cheetah and a zebra running next to each other on opposite sides of a fence, and the orangutans climbing above us on their ropes that stretch across part of the zoo. Pretty tired when we got home, but a nice day together before the start of school tomorrow for the kids. So its up early and back into the routine . . . and then off to school for me too! (Though I started last week.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Always Learning

Don't preach faith, preach Christ.

Don't tell people to cling to Christ (Law), give them the reason to (Gospel).

How often I need to remember this! It is so easy to fall into this Law-trap.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Things That Make You Go . . . Huh?

I had to go to Staples today to purchase 500 rubber bands. Did you know that they do not sell rubber bands by number, but by weight?! Hence, each package contains 1/4 pound of rubber bands . . . but they do not tell you how many that is. You have to guess. Who thought of that? Not very helpful.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Of Old Dogs and Pastors

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

You've heard that one, I'm sure. Let me add a new next line: but you can remind him of the old ones he should remember.

The pastoral ministry is a great gift God has given to His people to care for them. It is a gift of grace that He has placed a sinner like me into such a office. I am grateful for the wonderful seminary education I received, but in addition to that I learn more with each year that goes by what it means to be a pastor. Some of that learning is with experiences I have never had before and some of that learning is by being reminded of what I had learned, but had forgotten . . . or forgotten the importance of.

An interesting combination of learning and reminding is what prompted this post.

Paul tells Timothy: "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Tim 4:2) I know that verse and often remind myself to be patient in my teaching. I have found that what is easy in that verse is to correct, rebuke, and encourage - what is often difficult is to do so with great patience and careful instruction. I know how long it takes me to understand things sometimes, and so I try to have great patience in my teaching, not expecting folks to understand something I teach the first time and ready to teach it again and again.

But interestingly, while I have applied this verse to teaching, I needed to be reminded again to apply it also to times of pastoral care - those times of visitation, listening, and caring one-on-one with folks who are hurting. The Word of God applied in those places also needs to be with great patience and careful instruction. For while I realized that a particular teaching might not be understood all at once and need repetition and patience, I did not realize the same could be true of the comfort of the Gospel - that this too might not be understood or accepted and need to be repeated and given over and over again. That, in fact, for some in certain situations, receiving this comfort is even harder and requires even more patience.

God used a parishioner of mine to help teach me this the past few days. I am grateful. It will make me a better pastor now and in the future. I also encourage you to read this paper which has many such good reminders and tidbits in dealing with hurting souls and the great patience and careful instruction that is often required.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Recent ELCA Decision

A lot has been written in the Lutheran blogosphere about the ELCA's recent decisions regarding the acceptance of homosexual unions/marriages and clergy. But here is a nice little video by the president of Concordia Theological Seminary regarding these decisions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

And We're Back

Yes, back now from vacation. It was a nice two week break, but now catching up on everything that piled up for those two weeks! Picking hymns for the rest of the church year (always an arduous taks!), catching up on visits, household and family chores, getting the kids ready to start school, other new plans for the Fall - never a shortage! And then the never ending barrage from satan against the flock . . . yet I know he cannot win! Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!

One more thing: many bloggers have already posted this, but I wanted to also. The following is a letter from Dr. Timothy Quill - the Lutheran Seminary in Siberia is facing dire straits and needs our financial assistance. Anything you would be able to do would be a great help. So much good work has been done there! Here's his letter:

In 1995 Concordia Theological Seminary began working extensively in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. Under the oppressive Soviet government, Lutherans were persecuted, churches destroyed and most of the clergy killed, imprisoned or sent into exile. In 1997 CTS helped organize a new Lutheran Seminary in Novosibirsk, Siberia to train a new generation of Lutheran pastors. Following the dark era of communist oppression, the resurrection of a new, thriving Lutheran Church in the former Soviet Union is nothing short of miraculous. These new congregations and mission stations need pastors. Last year 25 students were enrolled in the LTS seminary and pre-seminary Bible School programs. The Seminary also holds regular seminars and conferences for pastors, church leaders and laity. In May of 2009 five seminarians graduated after completing a rigorous five years program of theological and practical preparation for the holy ministry. This was the third class to graduate.

Since its inception, the work of CTS in Russia has been financed entirely by the private charitable foundation whose founder had a great heart for the millions of Lutherans and other Christians who has suffered for so many years under atheistic communism. Due to recent economic problems in the United States, the foundation was forced to cut their support for Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk last year by 50%. This year they will cut it 50% to 70%. CTS is also under considerable financial pressure. President Wenthe is doing a tremendous job keeping the institution afloat and healthy, however, CTS is not in a position to subsidize the Novosibirsk Seminary. Without a secure home base, foreign mission work is a mute question.

In short, the Seminary in Russia will receive no funds from the foundation until March of 2010. Thus we need to raise $150,000 to keep the Seminary in Novosibirsk from closing. The next nine months are crucial. We can not simply close the Seminary for a year and then reopen it. The lives and wellbeing of faculty, staff, students and their families can not be put on hold for a year. Furthermore, after years of legal battles with the bureaucracy in Moscow the Seminary recently received is registration as an official educational institution. To close the Seminary now will jeopardize registration and cause legal problems and suspicion with the authorities.

Rector Alexei Streltsov and I have prepared a drastically reduced budget which will not only enable the Seminary to survive the current crisis, but to keep its doors open, classes running, and send a positive message to those who desire to matriculate with the next new class in September of 2010.

Donations should be made out to Concordia Theological Seminary accompanied with a note that the gift is designated for the support of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Thanks for any support you are able to give - especially your prayers.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On Vacation

No posts for two weeks as I will be on vacation. No computer, no email, no cell phone, no nothin'! Just me and my family and some time away.

See you on the 'net when I get back!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just a Thought

Found this thought on someone's twitter feed: "One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak." [GK Chesterton] Think about it.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I attended the ordination of one of the members of my church yesterday - Reverend Chris Yang. This is the second time I have had the privilege of seeing a member of my flock finish seminary and be ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry. It is not easy, I know, and I am very proud of him and his family for the journey they have taken. I am also proud of my congregation for their help in getting him through debt free. That is quite an accomplishment! But that is a promise I make to my seminarians: I will get them through debt free. My pastor made that promise to me, and I have made it to each of my men. Never sure how it would work, but so far it has. I think it is important that these men be able to devote themselves to their study and not have to worry about the finances. I hope that when one of Pastor Yang's men goes off to the seminary, he will make the same promise to them as well!

It was a great service, as ordinations usually are. Many members of Saint Athanasius were able to attend. Since Chris is called to be the pastor for the Chinese Ministry at his new church, the service was bi-lingual, including the sermon. Very interesting. It was also, I must admit, a bittersweet moment for me: sadness that Chris and his family have now "officially" left the fellowship of Saint Athanasius, but great joy that he is now no longer a parishioner of mine, but a brother in Office!

There was one thing I missed yesterday, though. At my ordination (14 years ago), the moment I remember most vividly was when all my brother pastors gathered around me and, laying their hands upon my head, spoke in unison the Lord's Prayer over me. The sound was thunderous! The weight of their hands on my head was great, the sound of their voices in my ears was deafening, and it was at that moment that the reality of it all sunk it. Yesterday, we prayed the Lord's Prayer, but not like that. That's okay. I wonder what part of the day Chris will remember the most?

Having Chris lead the prayers at the end of the service also brought back to me the memory of the disaster that almost was. It is the practice to have the newly ordained pastor lead the concluding liturgy. But when I was ordained, I had forgotten to prepare any closing prayers! So after the ordination, while the congregation was singing the hymn, I was at the altar, busily paging through the altar book, looking for prayers! (I knew there must be some!) Finally, I found some collects that I was able to pray, much relieved!

So hey - any pastors who may read or stumble across this blog and post - what part of your ordination do you remember the most?


I have started watching this TV show called "Kings" - Saturday nights at 8 pm. It is sort of a modern day retelling of the story of Saul and David. Of course, they take a lot of liberties in retelling the story and elaborate a lot, but I have been enjoying it and looking for the Biblical themes woven throughout.

Saul is currently the king - his name in the show is Silas Benjamin (being from the tribe of Benjamin, after all). David is "David Shepherd" (ha ha!) and Saul's daughter Michal is "Michelle Benjamin." The prophet Samuel is Reverend Samuels. It has been interesting the past few weeks to see how the strife between Saul and David has been portrayed, with Saul becoming more and more paranoid, yet David remaining loyal to his king. This past Saturday had David fleeing to Gath to take refuge from Saul (1 Samuel 21). If you're not doing anything Saturday night, give it a look.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Car

One too many repairs for the old car, so we've been car shopping for the past few days. (Do you know how much I hate doing that? Shopping, comparing, haggling, etc.) The internet has made that all much easier, thankfully. Yesterday, the dealer accepted the deal I offered, so we got a Honda Civic. Wanted something with good mileage. Its really nice. Now, hopefully, we'll be set for many, many years to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Way Two Cool

I simply cannot tell you how cool it is that I have two baptisms this Sunday! How cool will it be? Well, standing side-by-side at the Font will be a two week old baby and an adult woman. What a great picture of the grace of God given to all people the same. What a great confession that God creates faith the same way in infants and adults alike - through His living Word.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"This is the SELC?"

At my District Convention, there were scheduled times when we were given presentations that were titled "This is the SELC." The problem was, we were not really given a picture of the SELC - not the whole SELC anyway. We only received snippets from a few churches . . . the same churches we usually hear about. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 anyone?)

I wish we were given a more well-rounded picture of what the SELC really is. Yes, we have a few large churches, but must we always hear from them? (I know a pastor in at least one of these churches who would like a break from always talking about what they do!) Many of our District churches are gray, old ladies who have been faithful for over a century. Because they are in depressed, declining areas (where mining and factory jobs used to be), their numbers may not be up to "church growth" standards, but they are caring for their people, reaching out to their communities, and doing important and valuable work. Allowing many of them to present would have given a better picture of "This is the SELC" than we got. I wish we could recognize what they do, the many challenges they must face and overcome, and rejoice with them over even one sinner who repents. For isn't that what it's all about?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hump Day

Yes, today was a "hump day" for me of sorts. Two weeks ago was a week in Michigan for my District Convention. Last week was our Vacation Bible School, and Saturday was our church booth at our town festival. A tough two weeks! But it is over and everything went well. Now I hope that the month of July settles down to a normal routine of preaching and teaching, reading and studying, and playing and swimming with my family. Isn't that what summer's for? And we can also now start planning for our vacation in August!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Vocation of Delegate

One of the things that has made me sad over the last few years is the number of my brother pastors who have decided not to participate in Circuit, District, or Synod gatherings anymore. They are frustrated, saddened at theological developments, have been beat up, and see no good coming out of their participation. So they stay home. They are good, committed shepherds of their flocks that have decided to simply stay with their flocks.

However, I think part of our vocation in this church body is to serve our brother pastors with our presence. To serve as delegates, even when it may be hard. To encourage those who do participate and feel as if they are standing alone. To be a voice of truth, even if that voice is not welcome. For me, the business sessions of the convention are not where the most good happens - that comes around the lunch and dinner tables, at night over a beer, or in a hotel room, discussing issues of casuistry, theology, and pastoral care.

Last week, I sought out some trusted brother pastors for advice. I listened. We wrestled with some issues. I was also privileged to sit down and help others. I renewed friendships with others. My brothers who were not there I missed. I hope they will reconsider next time. I know it is not easy, but if you are one of those who do not participate, know this: you are gifts of God to His church. We need you.

Out With The Old, In With The . . . Old

Elections. Part of every District Convention. Many people do not want to serve and so do not run for election. I understand that. But part of what frustrates me a little is the continual re-election of the same people. I'm not against these people, per se, and while I think that continuity is needed to a degree, I also believe that we need new people to serve in positions as well. Yet unless someone chose not to run again, I cannot name a single incumbent that was not re-elected. (I chose not to run again for Circuit Counselor, given my commitment to grad school in the fall. And I think a new Circuit Counselor will serve us well.)

I don't know how to fix this, if it needs fixing at all. Perhaps the problem is mine. I understand also how it happens. When it is time for elections, people don't know everyone who is running and so vote for the names they know - which is usually the incumbents. I think also the fact that incumbents are almost always re-elected discourages some from allowing their name to stand for election. Perhaps we need some incumbents to step aside and allow some new blood to rise up. That would be good, I think, and give a rest to those who have served faithfully for a number of years. I know that I am looking forward to a break from Circuit Counselor!

Well, we'll see what the next three years will bring. I'm sure the people elected will serve faithfully. I will keep them and the District in my prayers. It is not easy to serve. I am grateful they are willing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Task Force Proposal

One of the agenda items at my District Convention was the Task Force proposal for restructuring our synod. We spent some amount of time on this. I will probably blog about several items in that presentation. First, though, is the proposal to give larger congregations more voting delegates at conventions. One of the rationales for this is that since they bear a larger share of the convention costs through assessments, they deserve a greater voice.


Besides the fact that this proposal violates our understanding of the church, that every congregation is not just part of the church but fully the church in that place (not because of size, but because Christ is present there with His gifts), I started wondering about this rationale . . . does size matter? And if so, which size?

I know that larger congregations bear a greater cost in paying for conventions. Assessments are usually made on the basis of communicant membership. But if we want to use “bearing the cost” as our criteria, is this the only size that matters? What about in between conventions? What about the day-to-day costs of operating the Synod? What would an analysis of that reveal?

The truth is that year after year, many larger districts give much less money to the synod than smaller districts. For example, take my own SELC District. In many categories, we are among the smallest districts in the synod. However, we are ninth in giving to the synod per communicant member. This means that year after year (not just in convention years and in assessments) the people of the SELC - on average - give more than 3/4 of the other districts.

Why not use that criteria for deciding representation? In fact, that criteria seems more biblical. When Jesus commended folks who were giving, who did He commend? The rich who contributed much out of their abundance, or the widow who contributed much less in dollars, but much more because it was all that she had? (Mark 12:41-44) You know the answer.

Now, I’m not really advocating for this, I simply want to point out that this suggestion by the Task Force regarding representation is quite an arbitrary standard which on the surface may seem fair to many, but which in the end serves very few and undermines the doctrine of the church and ultimately, the Gospel. Instead of marginalizing and silencing the many “widows” in our synod which give all they can, we should be honoring and cherishing these old faithful ladies of the church. Perhaps there is even something we could learn from them?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Private Absolution

Kudos to my District President for making Private Absolution available at the Convention before the opening Divine Service on Monday night. I took advantage of this opportunity (and really needed it!), and then was privileged to serve as a Father Confessor for my fellow pastors and laity in attendance. What a blessing this is! To hear the absolution applied to me individually. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity when they can, and if your pastor does not offer it - demand it! (Don't worry - he will be delighted at your demand.)

The only drawback at the Convention was the logistics. The chapel where we met the first day and for the opening Divine Service did not have a very good place for this. We found two rooms, but access to them was in the front of the chapel. While this didn't bother me, it may have inhibited others. In the future, I hope we will continue this practice at all District functions and I hope we will have better locations, that we may better encourage others to take advantage of this.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Plea to Preachers

This is my plea to preachers, especially those who preach at District Conventions and other gatherings of pastors.

Plea #1: Please preach Law and Gospel.

I am sure you do this with your people at home, and so why when preaching before a gathering of pastors do you depart from this practice? We do not need more exhortation to missions (that can also be, and is, done during the convention itself). We do not need to hear about your hobby horses. You do not need to impress us. We need the Law to show us our sin, and then the sweet, sweet Gospel to comfort us. The times to meet for worship at a gathering are precious to us - please feed us with Christ, not yourself.

Plea #2: Please preach on the Word of God that was read.

Again, I am sure you do this with your people at home, and so why when preaching before a gathering of pastors do you depart from this practice? We need the Word of God opened to us and its riches drawn out and presented to us. We are not listening to be critical of you, but to be fed. Please feed us with the Word. Exegete it, apply it to us and our lives, show us Christ. If conventions are not more edifying, perhaps this is the reason why. Besides, the worship folks picked those readings for a reason - for the liturgical day or the theme of the convention. Honor them, please.

Plea #3: Please be normal.

Long sermons with lots of stories do not necessarily make for a good sermon - that can actually hinder your message. Say what the Word of God says, give us the comfort of our Saviour’s love and forgiveness, and sit down. If that takes a short time or a little bit longer time, that’s fine. But don’t feel you have to “go long” and use a lot of fillers - we know they’re fillers. Give us Christ.

With these words, please do not think all the sermons I heard at my District Convention were bad - they ran the gamut. That being said, some did fall quite short. Just please, give us Christ. Please.

Back from Convention

Yes, I am back from the District Convention. I did not post while away because time was short and internet connections not the best. I will post some reflections over the next few days.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

District Convention

After church tomorrow my family and I will be leaving for our District Convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I should have internet access and will do some posting to keep you up to date with what is happening. Conventions are where the church does business - electing leaders, considering resolutions, those kinds of things. So they aren't the most pleasant things in the world! But it will be good to see many of my brothers and spend time with them. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


OK. Here's the answer to the multiple choice question from yesterday:

What is the greatest thing a pastor can hear?

a. “You’re the best pastor ever!” (Wrong. Not true anyway.)

b. “Great sermon, pastor” (Wrong. Often when this is said, I know I've preached too much Law! Often, not always.)

c. “What would we do without you?” (Wrong. The cemetery is full of pastors the church couldn't live without.)

d. “Pastor, I forgive you.” (Bingo! Pastors need Father Confessors and need to hear these words from their parishioners.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts on Pastoral Ministry

I’ve not posted in a while . . . part busy-ness and part lethargy! So perhaps some tidbits about pastoral care to get things going:

+ I am a proponent of smaller churches. While there are programmatic advantages in larger churches, I think there are better opportunities for pastoral care in smaller churches, where the pastor is better able to know his entire flock. But also over the past few years I have become keenly aware of this also: in a smaller church, while the opportunities for pastoral care may be magnified, the pastor’s flaws and mistakes are also. Thank God there is forgiveness for pastors!

+ As wonderful as the joys of pastoral care are, so heavy also are the pains. When the “light bulb goes on” and folks rejoice in the truth of our Saviour and His forgiveness, my heart leaps for joy with them. When sorrow and pain fill them, they fill my heart also. That’s not bad, but often difficult. It is for me to be there with them, bear their burden with them, and bring the Word of God to that time and place. I cannot “fix” their problem, but I bring the Word and forgiveness of the One who can. And so I try not to show too much of the joy or pain, but try to bring the quiet confidence of our Lord.

+ I love the lectionary! Why? Because the Word of God addresses and penetrates my people’s deepest needs every week. I often get the comment: “Those readings were specifically for me!” If I had to pick the readings every week, I would not do nearly as good and comprehensive a job. While I might select readings that address certain problems or issues that I know about, the lectionary cuts to the heart of the matter, addressing sin and unbelief - the issues we all have! - and presenting our Saviour. So the readings are specifically for them, because they are for us all.

+ One of my favorite sayings about preaching is this: “A preacher who is not simple in his preaching preaches not Christ, but himself.” (CFW Walther said that.) It is a good reminder for me. If my folks leave church not understanding the sermon, but thinking I must be pretty smart for preaching it, then I have failed. A sermon is best when the truth is heard and rejoiced in, and I am not even noticed. When the voice of the Saviour has spoken to and lifted up a broken sinner.

+ Finally, a multiple choice question for you: What is the greatest thing a pastor can hear?
a. “You’re the best pastor ever!”
b. “Great sermon, pastor”
c. “What would we do without you?”
d. “Pastor, I forgive you.”

Answer tomorrow . . . though I bet you can figure it out!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Being a Pastor

One of the things I love about my church is that they just want me to be a pastor. They want me to preach and teach the Word, administer the sacraments, study, pray, and take care of people. They don't want an administrator, a business man, or a CEO - they want a shepherd. They want me to bring the Word of God to them, the community, and the world in all the ways that I am able. What a wonderful thing.

I was thinking about this because I was talking to a friend recently to whom the notion of "pastoral care" was a strange new reality. This friend of mine has had many good preachers, theologians, and inspiring leaders in the churches he has attended, but never received the kind of pastoral care that I have been taught and which seems to be what I am here to do. How sad that there are so many people who need care, but are not being cared for in this way. And while yes, I know that all the people of God give care (and I am always trying to get my folks to be more active in this way), the pastor is unique. He stands in the Office as Christ's called and ordained representative in that place, the undershepherd of the Good Shepherd. Others may supplement his care, but cannot be a substitute for it.

And that's what my folks want me to be, and to do. As a result, I have missed a lot of my church's "Executive Board" (aka Church Council) meetings lately. This is the group of men and women that have been elected by the congregation to take care of the business aspects of the church. They meet after church once a month, but I am usually talking with visitors and members when they meet. And while I feel bad for not being with them, they understand, and want me to be doing this important pastoral work. And I know they can run the business parts of the church without me - and do it better than me! We trust each other.

How blessed I am to have such a church!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Binding and Loosing Satan

A footnote in a paper I have be reading has this wonderful interpretation of the "binding and loosing of satan" in Revelation 20. Ever wonder why God would suddenly, someday loose satan into the world? Read on, my friends . . .

"Christ binds Satan not with chains of iron but with none other than what He accomplished in His ministry, death, resurrection and ascension communicated now through Word and sacraments. The Word, the holy name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, strikes a blow at the Devil. And Holy Baptism wraps another chain about him. When in the last days these means of grace are derided, not only in the world but even in institutional churches so-called, that binding must consequently be loosed." (Rev. Thomas Aadland, A Straw in God's Hand: The Doctrine and Practice of Holy Baptism)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One Flesh

The ancient heresy of Gnosticism is a thorn in the side of the Church. It seems to keep rearing its ugly head in the Church across the centuries. There are many modern day incarnations of it, but one that particularly gets under my skin is the setting against one another the body and soul of a person. This is heard when one speaks of death as being set free from the body. Or, by the positing of ones soul against ones body (i.e., a woman trapped in a man’s body). Or, by the pro-homosexual marriage movement, which states that the body doesn’t matter, its the person inside. And then, the nauseating offshoot of that, the idea of “soulmates.”

When God created male and female, He created them body and soul - not one or the other. We are neither simply physical or spiritual beings, we are both, and quite simply, you are not human if you are not both.

Now, why am I writing about this? Because as I was thinking about the Word of God for the sermon on Sunday, Jesus prays “that they may all be one.” Which spurred in my mind what Jesus also said of marriage: “they are no longer two, but one flesh.” The word “flesh” is distinctly used, so that marriage is not just the uniting of “soulmates” (yuck!), but of whole persons.

What implications does this then have for Jesus’ prayer in the reading for Sunday? The Church is the Bride of Christ, and Christ has become one flesh with us in His incarnation. But it is in the Sacrament of the Altar - the foretaste of the feast to come, the foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom - it is in the Sacrament of the Altar where “we who are many grains become one loaf.” In the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, we are truly made one: united with Christ and in Him, with one another.

My thoughts right now. We’ll have to see if I can “flesh this out” into a sermon. (Ouch! Sorry for that pun!)

The Ascension of our Lord

Happy Ascension Day!
Our brother and Saviour is enthroned for us
and rules all things for us and for His Church.

Here is a link to a sermon by Martin Luther on the ascension of our Lord. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Mental Side of Preaching

Preaching is hard work. Exegeting a text, exegeting your congregation, and then crafting a proclamation of Law and Gospel that will neither bore your congregation nor sail far over their heads, is hard work. Sometimes I hit the mark, but often times I do not. At all times, I take refuge in the promise of God that His Spirit working through His Word will "achieve that for which He sends it" (Is 55:10-11) - so whether or not I "feel" good about a sermon is irrelevant. It is God's Word proclaimed, and God has promised to work through that Word in the hearts of His people. Often in ways I will never know.

But then there is also the actual preaching of the sermon. There are all different styles of preaching and delivery, and I am not writing here to critique any of them. I simply want to point out that for me, there is a definite "mental side of preaching" - the concentration and attention involved in proclaiming the sermon I have written this week to the congregation. It is the reason why I am usually tired on Sunday afternoon - preaching is not hard physical work, but it is very hard mental work.

This comes to my mind because of what happened to me yesterday - I flubbed in the middle of the sermon. Not a major breakdown, but an important reversal of what I wanted to say. I realized it, stopped, and corrected myself. No big deal. But my concentration, my attention, my "mental side of preaching," was broken. I write out my sermons and try to learn them to preach them, and I had the whole text of my sermon right before me (which I finished preaching), but I could not get myself back mentally. The rest of the sermon I felt "disengaged" rather than "engaged." Which was quite frustrating.

I thought later in the day of gymnasts. Sometimes you see these athletes "fall off the beam" in the middle of their routines, and what do they have to do? Get right back up and finish. The best in the world are able to do so, and finish well. I have never appreciated what mental toughness that must take until today. I got back on the beam, but did not finish so well. Thanks be to God that the sermon does not depend on my "performance" but on the Word and promise of God! Nevertheless, I have learned something from this, and the next time it happens (for surely it will!), I will be better prepared and hopefully finish more strongly. The saints of God deserve my best.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pastoral Messages

Rev. Matt Harrison has begun posting some short video messages on his "mercy" blog. They are only about 5 minutes each (so not long to listen to) and filled with Scripture, Confessions, and pastoral wisdom. Here is a man who was a pastor and remains a pastor, even though he is no longer serving as a parish pastor, but as the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Go watch these (click here, here, and here - or go here and scroll through his whole blog) and you will see why so many would like to see him elected as our next Synodical President. Will he be? We'll leave that in God's hands. But watch these little clips, and check back often for more. You will appreciate them.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tomorrow's Sermon

I decided to "wordle" my sermon for tomorrow. Not sure what possessed me. I have never done this before, though I've seen it on other blogs. Kind of cool, and cool that in this Easter season the word "life" wins! (The text is John 15:1-8.) You are cordially invited to come and hear this Word proclaimed tomorrow.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Seminar Audio Posted

The audio files from our Good Shepherd Seminar have now been posted on our church web site. Click here to go to the page. The presentation was recorded in four segments, to make it easier to listen to it a segment at a time.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Good Shepherd Seminar

We had a great seminar yesterday with Professor Pless. Attendance was good, interest was high, and the presentation excellent. We will have the audio of this seminar available on our web site very soon, so if you were not able to attend, you can still listen and learn. One tidbit from yesterday, just to whet your appetite: "Theologies that start with human freedom end up in bondage. Lutheran theology begins with bondage and ends in freedom."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Here

I haven't blogged for a while (a week). That's not all that unusual for me, though I'd like to be more frequent.

This week started with my last Circuit Conference as Circuit Counselor. I was actually quite excited! I am happy someone else will be taking over for me so that I can devote the next three years to my Ph.D. studies. I turned down nominations to other offices also. The next three years will be as father and husband, pastor, and student. Then we'll see after that.

The Circuit meetings are always good. Not that the agendas and presentations are always good - but it is good to be with my brothers in office and talk with them. I don't know how many of these conferences I will be able to go to the next three years (with my class schedule) - but I will definitely try to make the time to be with my brothers somehow.

I arrived home on Wednesday night (our Circuit meetings are multi-day, since we live so far apart in a non-geographical circuit). Thursday and Friday were devoted to installing a drain in my yard. We were getting lots of standing water in front of our door and in the yard when it rained, so hopefully this new drain will take care of a lot of that. Boy, was it a lot of work! The trench I had to dig was 8-12 inches deep for about 40 feet, with lots of rocks to dig up and roots to hack and chop out. I am quite sore and tired now, but the drain is in and working, new grass planted, and the yard looking good again. I sincerely hope I do not have to do that ever again!

Now, you may be asking, when will you have time to work on your sermon? Well, this weekend is my congregation's annual Good Shepherd Seminar. Professor John Pless from our Ft. Wayne Seminary is coming in tonight to give us a seminar tomorrow, and then he will lead Bible Class and preach for the Divine Service on Sunday. The topic this year is "Pastoral Care and the Sacraments" and will focus on the role of pastoral care in pre- and post-baptismal catechesis, pastoral care and private absolution, and pastoral care with regard to the Lord's Supper and the practice of close(d) communion. It should be good!

Next week is going to be very busy, so I am glad for a bit of a break this weekend. Now you're caught up . . . whoever "you" are!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Take the Survey!

A new survey on the Synod's restructuring report is available for everyone to take and add your comments and opinions. Click here to go and take the survey - let your voice be heard! And please pass the word - the more input and participation, the better.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Call Night

Last night was "Call Night" at Concordia Theological Seminary - the night when those men who are completing the preparation and formation receive their call into the Office of the Holy Ministry. Many do not know where they will be going until they hear their name and assignment announced that night. Every Pastor remembers that night - it is the culmination of a lot of work, and the beginning of much more! It is a joyous time.

Last night two of my congregation's adopted seminarians should have received calls. One did, one (it appears) did not. I would like to put the best construction on this, and say that his call is pending, that there weren't enough calls for all the men, or something like that. But it seems that there may (again) be retribution behind this - that he is being penalized for activities that he has done in the past. You see, before he entered the seminary, this man was very active and vocal in synodical politics. Those who now hold positions of responsibility and authority in our synod (notice I did not say power) did not like his activities, and (it seems) are letting it be known. I hope I am wrong. If I am shown to be wrong, I will gladly issue a retraction here, with my repentance and request for forgiveness. But right now, my heart is heavy for this man and his family, and I fear the worst. And I am saddened that something like this would happen in our synod.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I have the utmost respect for the folks who serve and protect us in the military. I have several current and retired service members in my congregation. I myself never served in the military - I'm no good at taking orders, though maybe I could have learned. The Navy SEALS have been in the news this week for their professionalism and skill in rescuing the captain of the Maersk Alabama, but I have seen this professionalism and skill in all those who serve. The vocation of soldier, marine, sailor, and airman is a good and honorable one, and I am thankful for all who serve.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Thoughts

A great day today. The Divine Service for the Resurrection of our Lord just can't be beat - the culmination of a week of wonderful time spent in the Word, meditation, prayer, and receiving the gifts of God. New white paraments today added to the beauty of the chancel. Now, some rest. No meetings or classes this week. I hope I'll get to spend some time outside this week too. Thursday I have a meeting with the folks at Catholic U. about my Ph.D. program - I am looking forward to that. Next week I start back in with Latin (my teacher took some time off to have a baby!), and then in a couple of weeks our Good Shepherd Seminar with Prof. John Pless. It's going to be a good month!

Christ is Risen!

He is not here. He is risen, as He said!
A blessed celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord to you all.
Divine Service at 10:15 am

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recommended Music

In the post that follows this one, you will see an album cover for Palestrina's Lamentations. Besides being a wonderful piece of art, the music is beautiful and a great way of relaxing and meditating on this day of our Lord's Sabbath rest in the tomb. I highly recommend it! (Available from the iTunes music store, if you want to go get it!)

Holy Saturday

A Blessed Holy Saturday to you all.
Join us for the Great Vigil of Easter, 7:30 pm
at the home of Jonathan and Viviana Malekzadeh
[click here for directions]

Friday, April 10, 2009

Great and Holy Friday

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
May God bless your time in His Word, prayer, and meditation this day.

Joins us for:
The Way of the Cross, 12:30 pm
at Greenspring Village
[click here for directions]

Tenebrae Service, 7:30 pm
at the home of Jonathan and Viviana Malekzadeh
[click here for directions]

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday

A blessed Holy Maundy Thursday to you all.
Divine Service this evening at 7:30 pm
at the home of Jonathan and Viviana Malekzadeh
Click here for directions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

TWO Lutheran Study Bibles!

Paul McCain points out on his Cybrebrethren blog that the ELCA has come out with a Bible they are also calling "The Lutheran Study Bible" - don't be confused! There is a vast difference between the ELCA version and the one coming this Fall from CPH. McCain gives one excerpt on his blog and you can see for yourself the tremendous difference in quality and orthodoxy. Our congregation is taking orders for the one you will want, from CPH. Please let others know about this and warn them. Thanks.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Well, I'm done. Toast. Some folks at church and I had a friendly bracket competition for the NCAA basketball championship. Until this weekend, I was in the lead. However, I missed the entire Final Four - all of them! I had Louisville, who played an absolutely horrible game today; Memphis, who got torched by Missouri; Oklahoma, who lost to North Carolina; and Pittsburgh, who got beat by Villanova last night. The good news is that I am a BIG Villanova fan! So even thought my bracket is shot, I am happy Villanova won! Go Cats!

PS - This is the 100th post on my blog. Who'd have thunk it?

New Humanistic Temples

As I was driving home from church today, I heard a report on the radio that some Funeral Homes are beginning to branch out in an effort to expand their business. What are they doing? Weddings! The story noted that "for funerals you need pall bearers, and for weddings you need groomsmen" - a need not so very different! Plus, many funeral homes have the facilities - chapels - for the service. Is this a trend that will catch on? Who knows. But it seems to me that here is the rise of yet another "do-it-yourself, define-it-yourself" church. A humanistic temple, where God can be whoever you want him to be.

Sermon Trend

Well, in my sermon last week, I mentioned "poopy diapers" (speaking of the good work of fulfilling our vocation as a father or mother). This week, I used the phrase "the vomit of our sins" to describe the mess of sin we often find ourselves in. One of my dear members pointed this out to me after the service today. I guess I'll have to clean up my sermon for next week! :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Your Voice Needed!

Many people are aware that President Obama is in the process of rescinding a regulation from late in the Bush administration allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide "services" (read: abortion) based on moral objections.

What many do not realize is that the required public comment phase began March 10 and ends April 9. It is also very difficult to find the link to provide such comment. Click here for the link and let your voice be heard! Tell our current administration that it is wrong to force people to act against conscience. And please pass this along, that many folks may express their concern with this proposed change.

Breaking the Silence

Well, I haven't felt inspired to write anything here for a while, but just so y'all know that I'm still alive, here are a couple of good pieces to read, written by brother pastors.

First, from Pastor Weedon.

Second, from Pastor Peterson.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blueberries, Part II

Sigh. Well, it didn't take the squirrels long! Yesterday - one day after planting my little blueberry plants - I saw a squirrel eating the leaves off of them! Argh! Maybe I could understand if there were some berries, but the leaves! Please! Let us have something!

So, we are trying the ol' cayenne pepper . . . maybe that will keep them away for a little while. We'll see. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Since moving to Virginia, we haven’t had a lot of success with our gardens and getting things to grow. In fact, it has been pretty dismal for us. But this year we’re trying something different - blueberry bushes! We found a pack of four different varieties, which produce throughout the summer, and yesterday we put them in the ground where we used to plant our squirrel feeders - uh, I mean, tomatoes. We have a raspberry bush in the same area that does pretty well - hopefully the blueberries will prosper there. We got them in the ground yesterday, so now we’ll see . . . I’m dreaming of some fresh blueberry pie, but what will probably happen is that if they grow, what the birds don’t eat my children will eat right off the bush! (That’s what happens to the raspberries.) That’s okay - at least they will be growing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Good news! I received notification in the mail today that I am the recipient of a half tuition scholarship for my Ph.D. studies at Catholic University. I was hoping that I would receive something, so I am well pleased - especially since I am going to be only a part-time student. Scholarships are usually reserved for full-time students.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Changin' Times

Monday: 6 inches of snow.

Tuesday: single digit temperatures.

Saturday: high temperature near 70!

Welcome to Virginia.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

From Pastor Neuhaus

A good quote from the late Richard John Neuhaus read in the Forum Letter I just received - a tribute edition to this theological thinker, containing some snippets of his writings.

The future of Lutheranism

"If the Lutheran Church has a future, it will be as the Lutheran Church. It will not be as imitation Baptists, Presbyterians, or anything else. If people are to become, remain, and rejoice in being Lutheran, it is because they understand the distinctively Lutheran way of being a Christian. Being Lutheran is an evangelical catholic and catholic evangelical way of being in unity with the entire Church of Christ. The present state of American Lutheranism is not just "not satisfactory." It is a sickness unto death. The alternative is not beating the drums to revive flagging spirits, nor is it to move evangelism a few notches up on the bureaucratic agenda. The alternative is renewal - theological, pastoral, sacramental, catechetical.  . . .  There is no guarantee that a Lutheran Church that is excitingly and distinctively Lutheran would reverse the dismal membership figures, although there is good reason to believe that it might. But at least there would be more purpose and integrity in going down with the ship." (Dec. 1986)

Monday, March 2, 2009

In Like a Lion

Well, March is here and it's coming in like a lion! Lots of snow here and all along the east coast. We have probably 6-7 inches on the ground. Schools closed. Very pretty outside.

I like snow, and like having a good snowstorm or two every winter. Yet last winter and this we have had next to no snow. :-( I was getting worried that I would miss out this year as well . . . until today. I'll have to go sledding with the kids later!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

A blessed Ash Wednesday to you all. May the ashes imposed this day cause you to rejoice in the forgiveness and life of your Saviour Jesus Christ. If He and His gifts are not the focus of this day, then all is lost. Do you know when that really hit home for me? When my son, my firstborn, first came up one Ash Wednesday, and I had to grind those ashes into his forehead and speak those words to him: "You are dust, and to dust you will return." How could that not create a gut-kicking knot in the stomach of a father? Yet thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ! So even though I hate the ashes, they're good for me and point me to my Saviour. May they do so for you today as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Ascension of Elijah

Tomorrow's Old Testament reading for the Transfiguration of our Lord is the taking of Elijah to heaven (2 Kings 2:1-12). Where does this happen? Not at Gilgal, nor Bethel, nor Jericho (isn't it interesting how all of this is described in detail) . . . only after they pass through the waters of the Jordan is Heaven then opened to Elijah. Hmmm, coincidence? Or a picture of Holy Baptism!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Upon my return from Kenya, I received my acceptance letter from The Catholic University of America to study in their Ph.D. program in Liturgical and Sacramental Theology. Now the real work begins . . .  :-)

Back Safe and Sound

I am back safe and sound from my teaching in Kenya. It was a great experience for me and one I will always be grateful to Dr. Quill and the Seminary for giving me. I am planning to create a new blog and post pictures and story on it for each day of my trip (so I don't clog up this blog!). When I get it going, I will post the link here. Thank you to all of you for your prayers for me and my family while I was gone.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Leaving for Kenya

I leave for Kenya tomorrow (Saturday). I leave around dinner time and get into Amsterdam on Sunday morning. From there it's onto Nairobi, getting in Sunday night. I will stay overnight there and leave to fly across the country to Kisumu on Monday morning. Then a drive to the seminary in Mutongo and teaching Monday afternoon. Sounds tiring - hopefully I'll be able to get some sleep on the planes. If I get internet access, I plan on posting daily updates here.

I have two plans for my time on the airplanes. First, I must study my Latin and get caught up! Second, I am going to read Ben Hur. Some folks in my congregation told me that would be a good book to read, and I figured this would be a good time to do so! I'll enjoy the down time, though I am going to miss my family. I've been away from them for almost as long a time before - but never halfway across the world! That makes it different somehow.

I know that I am going to learn as much from the pastors there as I am able to teach - probably more. Hopefully, I'll be able to tell you about it here soon. Bye for now . . .

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Missing Symposia

This is the first year since I became a pastor that I have missed the Theological Symposia at our Ft. Wayne seminary. I miss being among my fellow pastors, listening to the papers, and attending chapel. It is always a refreshing time for me. This year, though, since I am departing for Kenya on Saturday for a little over two weeks, would have been too much. I need this week to be with my family before I leave and to finish my preparations for teaching. I am both terrified and excited at the opportunity. But the reason for my post: I have not seen much posted about the symposia. Any of you out there attending - what have you heard? What has been good? Bad? Enlightening? Please advise.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good News and Bad News

Well, my Eagles lost. A truly ugly first half did them in, although they made it a game in the second half. I was going to be sad if they made it to the Super Bowl because I'm going to be in Kenya at that time and couldn't watch it! So I guess it's all good.

The good news today is that we are expecting some snow today - finally! Not a lot, probably only an inch, but we haven't gotten any yet this year, and I like to have some snow. So I'll enjoy watching it come down today, and make sure I fill the bird feeders to watch our feathered friends in it too.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Follow Up

A week or so ago, I wrote a post about two dearly loved members of my church leaving. Here is another post (mostly) on this subject, from a pastor-friend of mine. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Closed Communion

I appreciate this thought from Pastor Weedon on this topic. Close(d) communion is something folks in my congregation (and I) struggle with. While we do practice close(d) communion, we do not like it - which, as Pastor Weedon points out - is proper! One thing we do each week in our Prayer of the Church is pray both for those who commune and those who do not yet commune with, praying for unity in our confession and looking forward to the day when we are all united as one around the Lamb in His kingdom, which will never end.

I guess what struck me (which I never heard verbalized before) is that we don't have to - and shouldn't! - like this practice. But we do it in love for our Lord's Word and love for those who do not yet confess the truth.