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??

Saturday, February 29, 2020

O Lord, We Praise Thee

O Lord, We Praise Thee
LSB #617

v. 1: O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee,
In thanksgiving bow before Thee.
Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish
Our weak souls that they may flourish:

O Lord, have mercy!
May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:

O Lord, have mercy!

It seemed appropriate to consider Luther’s Lord Supper hymn for these meditations, and for the first one on the Supper. He begins with three verbs: praise, bless, and adore. All three take place with the receiving of the Lord’s Supper. We praise God as we proclaim His death and all that He has done for us. We bless Him as we thank (Greek: eucharist) Him for this wondrous gift. And we kneel in adoration of His presence here for us, His true Body and Blood nourishing our weak souls that they may not die in weakness but instead flourish with the forgiveness and strength of Christ. This is the very same Body and Blood that was born of Mary and that, as the prophet Isaiah said (chapter 53), bore our sins and sorrows. That holy, precious Blood, once poured out for us on the cross, now pleads for our forgiveness and for all that we need to see us through this world filled with trials, fears, and needs. Lord, have mercy! Give us all that we need! For if You, Lord, did not give it, we would not have it. And in the Supper, Jesus does just that. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

This Is the Spirit's Entry Now

This Is the Spirit’s Entry Now
LSB #591

v. 1 - This is the Spirit’s entry now;
The water and the Word,
The cross of Jesus on your brow,
The seal both felt and heard.

v. 2 - This miracle of life reborn
Comes from the Lord of breath;
The perfect Man from life was torn
Our life comes through Christ’s death.

I wanted to write about this baptismal hymn because this second verse intrigues me! First of all, “Lord of breath” is an unusual phrase that grabs your attention. What is the author referring to? Is it the creation of Adam, when the Lord breathed life into the first man after forming him from the dirt? Or is it a reference to the Spirit? In Hebrew, the word for spirit and breath are the same word, and when Jesus appeared to His disciples on Easter evening in the upper room, He breathed on them and said “receive the Holy Spirit.” Or is it both? The breath of God that gave life to Adam is the is the same breath of Jesus is the same breath of God that gives us new life in Holy Baptism. And then the next phrase, “The perfect Man from life was torn,” could be a reference to Adam or Jesus! Both were perfect men from whom life was torn. But since the author capitalized “Man,” this leads us to understand this Man as Jesus, which the next line then unfolds for us, that this perfect Man from whom life was torn becomes in this very act (of crucifixion) our life. What theological riches are given us in so few words! But that is how Scripture works. It is woven together by its Divine Author so that we can never exhaust its riches and meaning. This Lenten season, look for those connections throughout Scripture and thank God for the breath, Spirit, and new life He has given to you in your Baptism.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

From God Can Nothing Move Me


From God Can Nothing Move Me
LSB #713

v. 1 - From God can nothing move me; He will not step aside
But gently will reprove me And be my constant guide.
He stretches out His hand In evening and in morning,
My life with grace adorning Wherever I may stand.

If you just read this title of this hymn, you’d think it was about our steadfastness and that there is nothing that could move me to leave God. But if you read through the entire hymn, you discover it’s not about that at all! Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s all about God’s steadfastness and love for us. That nothing can move me out of His love and care for me. He will not step aside. He and His love and grace for me are constant. He is dependable. He makes promises and keeps them. When things happen in life that make me question His love for me, the problem is not God but me! The cross shows me that. The Father gave His Son for me. The Son laid down His life for me. That’s God’s love for me! And that’s what the Lenten season is all about. Not what I do for God, but what God has done, and is still doing, for me. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ

Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ
LSB #565

v. 1: Thy works, not mine, O Christ,
Speak gladness to this heart;
They tell me all is done,
They bid my fear depart.
To who save Thee,
     Who canst alone For sin atone,
          Lord, shall I flee?

I decided to use this hymn for this very first devotion (even though I don’t believe we’ve ever sung it!) because it seems to me what this entire Lenten season is all about. Lent is not about what I do. It’s all about what Christ has done for me. All five verses of the hymn speak to that: Thy works, Thy wounds, Thy cross, Thy death, Thy righteousness - not mine. So much of what passes for Christianity today focuses on what we do; and while it’s important that we fulfill the vocations given to us by God and strive to do good, that’s not the center and focus - Christ is. And more specifically, Christ crucified. What we do comes from that, from our dying and rising with Christ to a new life. So this hymn starts off this Lenten season the right way, with the right focus. Lent is all about Jesus the Christ. If you get a chance, get your hymnal out and read all the verses. Then thank the Lord for all He has done - for you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Lenten Hymn Meditations

As part of my Lenten discipline this year I decided to write a brief devotion for each day during Lent (not including Sunday) based on a verse in one of the hymns in our hymnal. I'll use different sections of the hymnal on the different days of the week:

Monday: Confession
Tuesday: Lent / Holy Week
Wednesday: Justification
Thursday: Hope and Comfort / Trust
Friday: Baptism
Saturday: Lord's Supper

So look for them starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Review: The Bestman, the Bride, and the Wedding

I bought this book eons ago, and it sat on my shelf waiting to be read someday. I was reminded of it recently, looked for it, found it, and needing something to read while riding my bike and exercising (not outside but on an indoor trainer!), I read it.

This book is an allegorical retelling of Christian history, from the fall into sin to the great wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. Of course, it doesn't retell everything - that would take far too long! But it hits the important events and enables you to see them and think about them in a new way. That is a strength of this book. And for me, three specific episodes stood out: the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and what life was like outside the Garden in a world of sin, the execution (biblical crucifixion) scene, and the final judgment. The execution scene in particular, where Jesus is speaking with satan and taking ALL the sin of ALL the world upon Himself is well done.

The other thing that stands out in this book is how the Office of the Ministry is woven throughout and portrayed. I wish I would have read this earlier in my ministry (which I could have, of course, since it sat on my shelf for a long time!). This would be a good book for seminarians to read.

So if you like allegory, this is a good book to read. If you don't know if you do or not, give it a shot. You can buy a used copy cheap through Amazon.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Winter?

What happened to winter? Sad to say, we've hardly had it here in Virginia. We had some cold days, but almost no snow. Nada. Zilch. Less than one inch total all winter. Makes me very sad. I like snow. It is peaceful and beautiful and slows the world down a bit. I don't always like shoveling large volumes of it, but prefer that to none! Sigh. I am holding out hope that maybe February will bring one last vestige of winter, but I'm not holding my breath. Maybe next year.  :-(