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??

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!

Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;

for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
~ John Chrysostom

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Busy Week?

As I was showering this morning, I was thinking about this week that is now almost past. Many folks know that Holy Week is a very busy week for pastors. It is indeed. But I also want you to know how wonderful a week it also is. This week I got to spend so much time in the Word of God and prayer! Much more than usual. It was like bathing in it. The usual Morning Prayer with some of you, but also Saturday this week. The reading of the Passion accounts and the praying of the Great Litany on Monday through Wednesday. Holy Thursday, Good Friday noontime and evening, and the Great Vigil of Easter. And not only doing these services, but thinking, preparing, studying, writing, praying - what a fortunate time of feeding and drinking in the Word of God! What a wonderful week.

Could every week be this way? Well, I suppose that is what the monastic life is like. But we are called to ora et labora - pray and work. So as wonderful as this week was, there is much work to be done and that must continue in teaching, visiting, serving, helping, and all that comes with the pastoral ministry. But here is where rubber of ora et labora hits the road - prayer leads us to work, and work leads us to prayer. The Word of God and prayer leads us out into the world to work and serve, and working and serving in the world (and the weariness and beatings that come with it) lead us back to the Word of God and prayer. And that is as it should be, until our Lord comes to take us to His eternal rest.

Which is what this Holy Saturday is about - our Lord's sabbath rest in the tomb. It is a quiet day, an in between day. Good Friday is past, Easter is not yet. But tomorrow . . .  :-)

Rest well, Beloved, sweetly sleeping,
That I may cease from further weeping,
And let me, too, rest well.
The grave that is prepared for Thee,
And holds no further pain for me,
Doth open Heaven to me,
and close the gates of Hell.
(from JS Bach, The Passion according to St. John)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Prayers Requested

One and all,

The father of our dear Gene Veith fell this morning and hurt himself rather seriously. Please keep him and all the family in your prayers for healing, comfort, and peace at this time. Thanks.

UPDATE: Later in the day, the doctors felt confident that Gene, Sr.'s injuries were not as critical as first thought. Still serious, but at least not as dire. He will be in the ICU for some time. Thank you for your prayers, and please continue to pray for him and the family.

Great and Holy Friday

A blessed Good Friday to you all.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Is My Body

[This may turn into a sermon one day. We'll see. I need to think about this some more. Comments and concerns welcome. But for now, some Holy Thursday thoughts and musing, inspired by a sermon I recently read by Ronald Knox.]

"This is my body."

The first time those words become flesh for us is as newborns. A baby begins to discover his body, finger, toes, hair, all these new things. This is my body, he thinks. Given to me.

Then at the opposite end of life, it happens again. During our life, when we are healthy and busy and our days are full of work and play, we tend to forget about our body - we're too consumed with other things. But when we get old it happens again. Our bodies start wearing out, pains come more frequently and more sharply, maybe breathing becomes more difficult, it is harder to get out of bed in the morning. And then one day, lying there, not so busy nor able anymore, the thought comes again: this is my body. My body that doesn't work so good anymore.

Jesus went through both those times with us. He was born as a baby, just as we. So He, too, discovered His fingers and toes. This is My body, He realized. Jesus also had that time at the end of life. Not old age as most of us, but when His body was wracked with pain, when breathing was difficult, while he was hanging on the cross. This is My body, that He was giving for you, as the sacrifice for your sin.

But along with those two end points of life, there is yet another time those words become a part of our life, and that is when we get married. When husband and wife (who according to God's plan, anyway, have lived chastely up to this point) give themselves to one another. This is my body, the wife says (perhaps even without words) to her husband; and the husband to the wife. They give themselves, their bodies, to one another, and become one flesh.

Is this where the analogy fails? Not at all. While Jesus was not married as we (notwithstanding some recent books and movies that try to make us believe He was secretly married to mary Magdalene), He did have a spouse. Yes, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the Bridegroom and His bride is the Church. And here we see how Jesus gave Himself to His bride. He gave himself for her on the cross, and on the night when He was betrayed, before he went to the cross to lay down his life, He gave His Body to her. This is My Body, given for you. Not sexually, but in holiness. Not a mere symbol, but His real Body. We call it Holy Communion.

Does this seem like a stretch? Perhaps. But maybe not when you consider that the crucifixion is filled with bridal imagery. When Paul calls human marriage an icon of the real marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church, he refers to the fact that Christ lays down His life for His bride. Then there is Jesus' giving of His mother to his disciple. A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his bride and the two shall become one flesh (Mt 19:5). The Son of God left His Father to come down from heaven in His incarnation, and while hanging on the cross leaves His mother and clings to His bride. And when Jesus comes again at the end of time, the great feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end, will begin (Rev 21).

Until that day, This is My Body, given for you, He says. The Bridegroom to His bride. Given to make us his own. Given to wash us clean in forgiveness and make us beautiful and radiant brides. That we be one with Him.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Showing Mercy

I want to be compassionate and help those in need. To this end my church has funds set aside to use at my discretion - not a lot, but we want to do what we can. Usually, in this area, that means helping folks with lodging. But that can be a very frustrating enterprise. First, because as soon as I help one person, the floodgates open and I can get several calls from the same location. Word gets around. I wish the Gospel spread like that! But are these people truly in need? Or just know a good thing when they hear it? I get suspicious, which I suppose I should, but I don't want to be. Just this week I helped a man on Monday and then on Wednesday I get a call from a woman staying in the room right next door to him. "Oh, so Bob (made up name) told you about us?" I said. "Bob?" she asked, feigning ignorance. Just tell me the truth please! I still helped her. I don't believe she was being completely honest with me, and I told her so, but I helped anyway and gave her some things to read. I hope she reads them. I also will pray for her and "Bob."

Why did I help? Well, I believe we should. I am disappointed that more churches around here do not. Times are tough, I know. But this seems like a basic human thing to do. I also like helping people in need. I don't like sending them away. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I have to. I wish we had more funds to do so. By helping, I get to put a compassionate and merciful face on the church and I hope that makes a difference.

I also always remember these words from Luther's explanation to the Fifth Commandment in the Large Catechism:

Second, a person who does evil to his neighbor is not the only one guilty under this commandment. It also applies to anyone who can do his neighbor good, prevent or resist evil, defend, and save his neighbor so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him—yet does not do this [James 2:15–16]. If, therefore, you send away someone who is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death. If you see someone suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see anyone innocently sentenced to death or in similar distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. It will not work for you to make the excuse that you did not provide any help, counsel, or aid to harm him. For you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit by which his life would have been saved. [From Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (P. T. McCain, Ed.) (380). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.]
So, do I get taken advantage of? Probably. Do I help people in real need? I know I do. No one said it was gonna be easy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Musings on Francis

Well, all the hubbub over Pope Francis should settle down a bit now that he has been officially inaugurated, receiving his pallium and papal ring. It has been fun, though, reading the apoplectic overreactions from both the far right and the far left in Catholicism. The far left because the Pope is too Catholic (!) and won’t be ushering in a new era of women priests, approval of homosexuality and same sex marriage, and abortion on demand; and the far right because the Pope isn’t Catholic enough - he isn’t wearing the right vestments, acting the right way, or celebrating mass the way Benedict was. You gotta feel a little sorry for the guy.

I liked how one cardinal responded to a question about whether they all choose the papal name they would take if elected - he said: “If you go into the conclave a pope, you come out a cardinal; if you go in a cardinal, you may come out a pope.” Apply that to many areas of life and there’s some wisdom there.

One of the things I wondered about Francis was how great his devotion to Mary would be. John Paul II was all in with his “totus tuus” - totally yours, the “M” on his papal crest, and how he spoke of Mary in many of his homilies. Benedict seemed much more subdued in this respect. I wondered whether Francis, being from Latin America, would be more vocal and focused on Mary (like JP II), and it appears that he is. That saddens me a bit. Mary deserves our honor as the mother of God, of course, but if we are “totus tuus” we are totally Christ’s, not Mary’s.

So, we shall see what the future holds. For me, the future holds right now Holy Week and all the preparations that still need to be made! So, it is time to “ora et labora” - pray and work.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Help Save Babies!

Again this year I will be participating in the Assist Pregnancy Center's Walk/Run/Ride for Life on Saturday, April 20th. For any of you who read this blog, will you sponsor me? We need not only speak against abortion, but also help support those mothers who keep their babies, and help those who think that abortion is the only way for them understand that there is another way and that there is help available for them.

Here is the link to my fund raising page where you can sponsor me. And if you live in Northern Virginia, you can also join our team and participate yourself! Thanks in advance.

Team Athanasius from 2012

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interesting (or not) Factoid

No, not whether or not "factoid" is actually a word, but the fact that I now happen to share a birthday with the new pope - December 17th - though he was born a few years before me.

For when he reads this: I expect a card.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Interesting Luther Quote

In teaching about Leah and Rachel speaking against Laban, their father (LW vol. 6, p. 17), Luther says the following:

Here, indeed, the Fourth Commandment could cease to apply. For what paternal quality does Laban have that is worthy of honor? He is a beast and a monster! But how will you honor him as a parent who does not want to be a father and who disdains to regard you as a son but has stripped off all paternal feeling and affection and has degenerated into a tyrant?

This seems to contradict what Luther wrote in the Large Catechism when he said:

. . . however lowly, poor, frail, and strange their parents may be, nevertheless, they are the father and the mother given to them by God. Parents are not to be deprived of their honor because of their conduct or their failings. Therefore, we are not to consider who they are or how they may be, but the will of God, who has created and ordained parenthood.

Perhaps the difference is between the office of parent and the person. Parents as sinners will always fail in their conduct but are still due the honor of their office as parent. However, if the man or woman abdicates the office through abandonment or abuse, then (as Luther said above) the Fourth Commandment could cease to apply?

Interesting also is the use of the word "could." It need not necessarily cease - the child in love could continue to honor such parents with an extraordinary, divine love. But the honoring could cease without sinning because the office has been abandoned. Do you think this is a right understanding?

In this regard, then, we could also apply this reasoning to the "other authorities" included in the Fourth Commandment, including government.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Abortion: The Death Penalty for the Innocent

The new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, while the archbishop of Buenos Aires, said (in 2007): "We aren't in agreement with the death penalty, but in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death." In our country, it is even worse - an unborn child can receive the dealt penalty for any reason at all. No trial, no appeal, just death at the hand of a merciless executioner.

Now, in Lutheran theology, we would disagree with the new Pope in that the government has been given the power of the sword by God in Roman 13 - but it is the power to defend and protect its citizens, not kill them. But we need good rhetoric like the new Pope used in 2007 to help those who support abortion see the inconsistency and illogicality of their position. Many rail against the death penalty and offer in support the death of those who are innocent and were wrongly convicted. Sometimes it is not until many years later that the error is exposed. What if they had been executed? We should not stand for these wrongful deaths, they say!

Indeed, we should not. Yet that is exactly what is happening hundreds of thousands, if not millions of times each day all around the world. The death sentence is handed down by one person who acts as prosecutor, judge, and jury, and an innocent life is taken. We cannot stand for it. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the poorest and weakest - and smallest - among us.

Abortion: The Death Penalty for the Innocent. That should be a bumper sticker. And a death penalty all should fight against.

HT: Cranach: The Blog of Veith

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Good Quote

"When human affairs are so ordered that there is no recognition of God, there is a belittling of man."
(Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 19)

Boy, isn't that what we see happening in our world today! As our culture speeds ever faster toward a humanistic secularism, an ordering with no recognition of God, more and more people are being shoved out of the way, off to the side, and belittled. Whether it's the unborn, the elderly, the handicapped, the sick, in religion or in politics, dialogue and respect are out and belittling is in. So what is done to elevate man by getting rid of God actually does the very opposite.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thoughts on the Papal Abdication and Election

As a Ph.D. student at The Catholic University of America, the official papal university in the United States, the news surrounding the pope's abdication and the upcoming conclave are news items of importance for this community that I frequent. Of course, I am somewhat of an interloper, not being a member of the Roman church, but am still a member of the community there. (And treated very well, I might add!) During my course of studies it has been quite interesting to observe from a more "insider" perspective the workings of the Church of Rome - both positive and negative.

Regarding the upcoming conclave, yes, I have been watching the goings on and am quite interested. This is so because what happens in one church body affects the others also - both in positive and negative ways. For example, when I was taking classes and we do the obligatory introduction on the first day of class, I would introduce myself as a Lutheran Pastor, but then have to immediately add "but not that kind of Lutheran!" (Meaning, not one of the Lutherans who approve of women pastors, supports abortion rights, and has homosexual clergy.) To which there was often a sigh of relief!

But that is just an example. This is also true of the church with regard to the world. Unbelievers do not make much distinction between denominations - we're all "Christians" to them. So when one church decides homosexuality is alright, or one church is caught up in financial scandals or child abuse scandals, or a church leader kisses the Koran (!) - we're all guilty. Likewise, then, with the papal news - though we're not directly involved, it affects us all, pro or con.

So, who is elected the next pope is important. I have appreciated many of the things said by the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and their strong voice for the sanctity of life, the biblical teaching on marriage, the liturgy, and more. Of course, we still have theological disagreement and that cannot be dismissed. For the most part, coverage of these goings on have been positive, and for that I am grateful. It will be interesting now to see what happens next . . .

Daylight Savings Time

We only lose one hour for daylight savings time, yet why does it always seem to take a couple of days to adjust? I have a very busy week upcoming - hard to even envision getting everything done. If you think of it, say a prayer for me for strength, energy, and clarity of mind to accomplish all that needs to get done. Thanks.