Thursday, July 31, 2008

Liturgy Empowers Mission

Quoting Professor Harold L. Senkbeil from his book Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness.
...Liturgy always empowers mission, and mission always leads back to liturgy.
There’s no separating the liturgical life of the church from the mission of the church; they are organically one piece. The two find common nourishment in the incarnate flesh of Jesus Christ, who is our life. As the Father sent Him, so He sends His church, cleansing her by water and the Spirit to be his holy bride. And so, for as long as she is in this dying world, the church proclaims her heavenly Husband’s life-giving invitation:
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Rev. 22:17)
Harold L. Senkbeil,
Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness
(St. Louis: CPH, 1994) 135.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Psychoanalysis - Luther Style

There seems to be a tendency among us sinners to affix blame on others rather than admit to our own shortcomings. If you were laying on Luther's couch pouring out your woes and how your present problems were somehow ultimately related to your upbringing as a child and your parents failures, Luther might repeat what he had to say in his Large Catechism on the Fourth Commandment:
We must, therefore, impress this truth upon the young that they should think of their parents as standing in God's place. They should remember that 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.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Answer to Weedon’s Reel

Caution for German Lutherans: Humor Ahead

Pastor Wil Weedon waxed eloquent about his “reel” mower the other day. For the uninitiated, a reel mower is a lawn mower in which the power is supplied, not by an engine, but by you! I’ll admit, it does have a certain savoir faire about it, at least until it’s really hot outside. Pastor Weedon doesn’t “mow” his lawn, he “shaves” it. But the Wx5 (stands for Wee Willie Weedon’s Weed Whacker) has nothing on the Honda HRX217HXA - although I do like his photo a lot more.

Nothing says “affluence” quite like the Honda. No pastoral mower, this. (Did you catch the witty double meaning there? That’s what I thought.) It’s got a deck that won’t rust. Two blades instead of one, which means finer-cut pieces of grass, equating to less emptying of the bag. And it has a variable mulch setting for you “green” types, so you can fertilize your yard the environmentally friendly way, plus happily mulch the occasional frog, and bag the rest. Plus, doesn’t the racket this thing makes as you’re competing with the other neighbor’s mowers on a Saturday morning, combined with the sweet smell of freshly cut grass, transport you back to your younger years when it was your dad cutting the grass instead of you?

I thoroughly broke it in today, including a little doggie doo doo on one of the tires. It works great. I do have one concern though. I’m not sure which mower is really the more “Confessional” of the two. Perhaps someone else can weigh in on the issue. Bueller, McCain, anyone?

Quotable Blog Quotes, #2

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Paredwka: Dropping the Ball
Rev. Benjamin Harju

The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ establishes, fills, defines, and vivifies what we usually think of as simply salvation. It should be no surprise, then, that the Holy Eucharist stands at the center of the existence and experience of salvation in this world, for there does one find the Word-made-Flesh. Therein is encapsulated and presented the totality of salvation, the sum and substance of the Gospel.

Cyberbrethren A Lutheran Blog
Pastor Paul McCain quoting Dr. Holger Sonntag

But in the church of the Crucified,truth is not found in generalizations and abstractions many can agree on "by their own reason or strength". It is found in offensive details, in agreeing on what God's word actually means.

AC 24
Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer

While vestments are certainly neither commanded nor forbidden in the New Testament they are not inconsequential. Vestments serve important purposes:

1. to cover the man officiating so that we focus not on him
2. a visual reminder in the officiant of the baptismal righteousness of Christ that covers all believers (just as we find the same meaning in the baptismal gown or even the funeral pall)
3. to indicate an office as well as liturgical duties in the Divine Service or other prayer offices
4. to emphasize catechetically the the themes and changes of the liturgical calendar
5. in the use of the chasuble to set apart the special reverence and joy that is to be given in the celebration of the Lord's Supper
6. to adorn the Divine Service with reverence, prayerful setting, and joy

Confessional Gadfly
Rev. Eric J. Brown

Friday, July 25, 2008

Derpriving Faith of Its Object

Francis Pieper on doctrine, from Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, p. 70.

Depriving faith of its object, namely, the doctrine presented in Scripture, has, as Eduard Koenig said, fatal results: It destroys the Biblical concept of "believing" and does away with the Christian religion as a positive religion. Indeed, it is due to an astounding aberration of the human mind that men can assert that "doctrine" or the "communication of doctrine" is not a "prime" concern of the Christian religion; we cannot comprehend how they can claim in all seriousness that what is to be preached is not "doctrine," but "faith," arguing that only in this way "a living Christianity can be produced" and "dead orthodoxy," "intellectualism," warded off. The stubborn fact is that from its very beginning the Christian religion dealt with doctrine and the impartation of doctrine. The Word spoken in the very beginning about the Seed of the woman, who would crush the head of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15), what is it but doctrine? And the entire Old Testament was written, as the Apostle Paul assures us, for our learning, εἰς τὴν ἡμετέϱαν διδασκαλίαν (doctrine), Rom. 5:4, and is profitable πϱὸς διδασκαλίαν (doctrine), 2 Tim. 3:16. When in the fullness of the time the Son of God appeared in the flesh and walked here on earth, He engaged in teaching. He teaches from the ship (Luke 5:3), on the mount (Matt. 5:2), in the synagogs (Luke 4:15), went about the land teaching (Matt. 4:23). He also makes use of the forty days between His resurrection and ascension to teach (Acts 1:3), and before His ascension He gives His Church the commission to teach all nations to the Last Day: "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). And the Apostles executed this commission. Paul declared, taught, publicly and from house to house, all the counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 27). Teaching the saving doctrine was his chief business, and he tells his successors in the ministry that it must be their chief business. He bids Timothy and Titus to hold fast the form of sound words, the doctrine, which they had heard from him (2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:2) and requires of the bishop that he should be apt to teach, διδακτικός (1 Tim. 3:2). Teachers should know that Scripture is given first of all "for doctrine" (2 Tim. 3:16). The members of the congregations, too, are bidden, like the teachers, to continue in the doctrine and to apply the doctrine to one another. Col. 3:16: "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another." 2 Thess. 2:15: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our Epistle." It is said in praise of the Christians at Jerusalem that they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine, διδαχη (Acts 2:42); and the Apostle John deems the adherence to the doctrine of Christ of such great importance that he instructs the churches to deny Christian fellowship to all who do not bring the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11). When in spite of all this modern theologians insist that Holy Scripture must not be regarded as "doctrine" nor received as a "manual" of the Christian religion, it is evident that their conception of the Christian religion is diametrically opposed to that of Christ and His Apostles and Prophets.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves

Lora at The Rebellious Pastor's Wife posted this a while back. LCMS President Kieschnick's response to Mollie Hemingway's Wall Street Journal article is old news, but Lora's discussion of convention politics and the way dissenters to the current synodical "powers that be" are dealt with is news that we need to revisit and keep afresh in our minds. Republished with permission.

Synodical President Cornelius Fudge

President Kieschnick, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, issued a response yesterday to the article that M.Z. Hemingway wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In the article, he wrote:

In truth, last summer the LCMS had its most positive and unified convention in years. Our church remains faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, an integral part of our identity as a church body. As stated in a resolution adopted last summer by the national Synod convention: “From the founding of our Synod 160 years ago, we have been blessed by unity in our common confession and the articles of our shared faith, such as the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, original sin, baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament, the inerrancy of Scripture and many others.
The fact of the matter was it was the most "peaceful" because nothing that could cause contention was allowed to be discussed. The year before the National Convention , the district conventions were loaded with resolutions from pastors, circuits, and congregations issuing formal protest against the resolution put out by Synod that basically said that individuals (including individual pastors) did not have the authority to interpret Scripture--that it was Synod's responsibility to interpret Scripture. This flies in the face of the purposes of the very founding of our Synod, and indeed in the very face of the Reformation itself.

But in many districts, these resolutions were left to the end, when many delegates were no longer in attendance, were combined together into a form that did not exactly say what the previous resolutions had said, and some district conventions attempted to pass over these many resolutions as already being resolved.

The few that did make it out of the district conventions again were combined by the committees to say something that none of the original protests actually said, and then were passed over as already being decided on.

The reason that the Convention was "peaceful" was that those who had grievances to voice before the body of the church were bound and gagged.

While I may maintain that the Harry Potter books are not Christian, there is a good deal of worldly wisdom in them. I believe it was Sirius Black who said "The world is not divided into good people and Death Eaters." There are also those who will change laws and ignore the need for true justice in the name of peace.

After Harry had witnessed Voldemort's return, and Dumbledore proclaimed it as truth, the Ministry of Magic, in fear of loss of order, ignored these claims and proclaimed Potter and Dumbledore to be nutcases. They also controlled the media and directed what and when things should be covered. They put a representative in Hogwarts to control Harry and keep an eye on Dumbledore. As the attempts to bring forth the truth continued, official "educational resolutions" came forward to prohibit gatherings, to silence protest, and to bolster authority of the bureaucracy and their representatives. Those who continued to protest were punished. Systems of justice that had always been in place were cast aside as well and replaced with new laws that dealt with the perceived crisis at hand.

In the last several years, the Synod has done just that. When they chose to not do their duty in administering church discipline to pastors who were not exhibiting unity in doctrine and practice, those who were voiced protests were silenced. Resolutions have been passed that took the authority away from the the believer, the shepherd, and the congregation to read Scripture and determine what it means -- in order to silence a beloved leader of the church who had the audacity to back up his claims that the Synod was wrong with Scriptural proof. Those who were not in agreement have been fired and/or kicked out of the Synod. Resolutions have also been passed that can be used to restrict independent gatherings and publications. The loves of our Synod since its beginnings -- mission and outreach have been drastically cut in order to support the burgeoning bureaucracy that is in St. Louis.

Martin Luther taught us that it is our individual responsibility to hold clergy accountable to follow the Word of God. He put Scripture in the language of the people so that they may learn the gospel, and also not be bound by laws that were not Scriptural. The LCMS was founded on the rights of individuals to do so. What authority Synod has comes to it because it was handed to it by the individual congregations. The synodical bureaucracy does not have the right to take it away from the very place it came from. I don't think that the answer is to leave and walk away, but it is our responsibility to not be silenced. It is our responsibility to know our Scripture, to know our catechisms, our history, and our bylaws so that we can cry out against this usurping...defending ourselves with the Word of God and to be sure that in our (just) anger, we do not sin. And to trust in the Spirit to change hearts and minds. We are to pray.

At the national convention, a call was made to create a new constitution. I believe that good COULD come out of this. But I am concerned. Soon, congregations will be handed synodically written Bible studies to start exploring the issues that will be addressed. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves as you evaluate these. Peace and silence are not necessarily the same thing. We do not have peace.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No Mas. (That's Spanish For "No More")

Dear General Scuttlebutt,

Your posts are usually funny, once in a while satirically point out something that should be pointed out, and sometimes offer a needed comedic break, but...

They're also too graphic, abuse people, and in no way promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so...

I'm going to have to block you. That's right. Just like in the commercial.

No hard feelings though. Now, who wants lemonade?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Great Sacrament of True Unity

Here lies the basic reason why church fellowship has been altar-fellowship, and vice versa, ever since New Testament times. The oldest traces of Christian liturgy in the new Testament prove that even at the time of the apostles the ‘holy kiss’, the kiss of brotherly love (agape) and peace (pax), was given at the beginning of the Eucharist (in the Eastern church it is still given before the Credo) or the Communion (in the Latin church). Whenever we find the exhortation in the New Testament: ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss’ (1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; Rom. 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14), this indicates that the reading of an apostolic epistle (otherwise, a sermon) was followed by the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The greetings attached to such passages testify to the fellowship that tied the local church to churches elsewhere and to the entire ‘brotherhood throughout the world’ (1 Peter 5:9). Thus, Holy Communion becomes the great Sacrament of the true unity of the Church. To believe in the Real Presence implies belief in the communion of saints as a reality existing within the Church.
Hermann Sasse, This is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (Adelaide: Openbook Publishers, 1977) 322.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Pastor vs. The Clinical Ethicist

The following quote of Pastor BT Ball, posted on Four and Twenty Blackbirds, requires a bit of context. Pastor Ball's parishioner lay dying in the hospital, and in much pain. The staff, including the hospital's "clinical ethicist," recommended increasing the dose of morphine, which would make the patient more comfortable and also likely kill him. The parishioner's family, with Pastor Ball's guidance, decided it was the Biblical path to forgo the morphine rather than risk the accelerated death of their loved one. These are a portion of Pastor Ball's comments, so descriptive of the transitory sufferings that unite us with Christ in this life and the ultimate glory that we will also share with Him in the next:

Jesus really means this business of bearing the cross, of denying the self of following him in suffering with the promises of resurrection and glory to come. We want to avoid this reality, and in doing so we are very tempted to avoid the glory of the cross itself, that God has done His greatest work in the suffering of His Son. The cross, it is His glory, it is our life. The promises that He gives through the Apostles are real too, of eternal glory of suffering a little while and receiving His gifts, real.

That it why it was with such joy that we prayed the Commendation of the Dying. Reading St. Matthew's Passion to a dying man, and to his family and telling him that because of Christ's suffering, of the fact that the Father forsook His Son, he was not forsaken in that room, nor would he ever be. That he was baptized into that one death, that his sins were truly atoned for and forgiven; that he was free from them and from death itself. And then to read St. John's account of the resurrection, "go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Telling him that Christ has been raised that He is now at the Father's right hand, the one mediator who has destroyed death, who has prepared a place for him and will take him to his side with all the saints. And then the fullness of his baptism into Christ's death and resurrection to come, his own resurrection on the last day. That he has a true Father in heaven, because he has all that the Son is and has through Holy Baptism. All of this is the real comfort, not some drug, these Words. And I got to rejoice in the faithfulness of these people, commending their husband and father completely to the Lord knowing what he would face, but that he would face it with clarity of mind and they with clarity of conscience.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Destroying the Church

Those who resort to other means than the Word and Sacraments to build the Church are disobedient to Christ’s instructions. And they are acting the part of fools; means selected by human wisdom do not build, but only destroy the Church.
The preceeding quote was taken from Christian Dogmatics, the three-volume lifework of Dr. Francis Pieper. Dr. Pieper was the second president of Concordia Theological Seminary, succeeding C.F.W. Walther, and was president of the Synod from 1899 to 1911. His work is still the standard theology textbook, being found on the shelf of every LCMS pastor.

Dr. Francis Pieper,
Christian Dogmatics
, Vol. II, (St. Louis: CPH, 1951) 388.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wilhelm Loehe and Evangelism

Quoting Professor John Pless from an appearance on Issues, Etc., discussing the great 19th century German theologian and missionary Wilhelm Loehe.

I think what would astound Loehe most about contemporary evangelism and missionary practices is how often what passes for evangelism and mission work today is severed from the very center of the Church’s life. Loehe wrote a little publication in the late 1840's, translated into English, entitled Three Books About the Church, and there he makes the comment that missions is the one Church of God in motion, and for Loehe the Church of God in motion did not mean that the Church was caught up in kind of frenzied activity, just running from place to place or always looking for a new technique, a new program, or even a new movement. Instead for Loehe the mission of the Church flowed from God’s coming to us in Jesus Christ. The man of Calvary who was crucified and raised for our justification, and then raised from the dead, he sends his apostles in all the world to preach the Gospel of forgiveness of sins. And wherever that Gospel of forgiveness is being proclaimed in sermon and in Sacrament, there God is himself in mission, gathering unto himself a people. And for Loehe, missions therefore had a divine simplicity to use his own language. A singleness of purpose as the Church through her pastors proclaims to all the world this Jesus who was crucified and raised, and in his resurrection he is gathering a new people for himself. For Loehe it was that simple. Not a collection of methods or techniques or programs, but really that which is essential to the Church’s life: preaching and Sacrament.

Meditation On Habakkuk 2:20

From the new pastoral blog Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a cooperative blog of 24 Lutheran pastors.

This quote comes courtesy of Pastor Benjamin Ball, from his meditation on a break in the music during the Lord's Supper and Habakkuk 2:20, which reads "The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."

We live in a world with constant noise, most of it junk. The silence was so very good. I found myself wishing that the Kantor wouldn't play any distribution hymns. The silence made me thankful, for it showed the devotion of the faithful who gather on the corner of Park and Grant in Brookfield. Of course there has been silence during the distribution before but on this past Lord's Day, thanks to our Kantor and those faithful, I was finally given to understand the prophet's words on the sign above the church door in the way that comes by the Gospel. The LORD was in his holy temple, and on that piece of earth, on that corner, there was silence before Him. The LORD was present according to the promise of His Word for those dear Christians to eat His very Body and drink His very Blood and that raised up such great joy, adoration, reverence and devotion that all the people of God could do was sit and be quiet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Let the “Amen” Sound From His People Again

We’ve been using the Lutheran Service Book for over a year now in our congregation. There are many good things about the new hymnal, but there’s one thing missing, the “amen” at the end of the hymns. It just didn’t seem right to move on without that “amen,” especially after the last hymn.

The Small Catechism states that “The word amen means ‘so shall it be’ and emphasizes that God, who has commanded us to pray, will hear our prayers and answer them as He has promised.”

We’ve decided to “go against the flow,” and return the amen to it’s rightful place, so amen!, it’s done. There are certain types of hymns after which you might not want to sing an amen because of the the lyrical content of the hymn or the cadence, although we haven’t fine tuned it to that point yet (there is an amen chart available for LSB). While it’s true that historically TLH was the only LCMS hymnal with the amen included in each hymn (A Guide to Introducing Lutheran Service Book, p. 40), a lot of us grew up with it, and continued the practice even though LW didn’t have the amen, so it’s nice to have the old practice back. What’s your vote on the “amen?”

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Power of Church Leaders

Pastor Brondos has a post on his blog Kyrie Eleison of six quotes from the Book of Concord, all of which seem apropos to today's Church. He quotes one of my favorites (the first on his list), so I'll remind you of one which is less commonly known:

St. Peter prohibits the bishops to rule as if they had the power to force the churches to do whatever they desired [1 Peter 5:2]. Now the question is not how to take power away from the bishops. Instead, we desire and ask that they would not force themselves into sin. But if they will not do so and despise this request, let them consider how they will have to answer to God, since by their obstinancy they cause division and schism, which they should rightly help to prevent. (Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII, 76-78)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Only Help For Resurrecting Our Church

Quoting C.F.W. Walther:

If our Church, which is now lying in the dust shall rise again and not gradually degenerate into a body which is Lutheran in name only, without any characteristics of the Church of the Reformation, then all the fine words about ecclesiastical propriety, about the re-introduction of ancient rites and ceremonies, all attempts to invest the office of the ministry with special glory and authority, all this will be utterly in vain. The only help for resurrecting our Church lies in a renewed acceptance of its old orthodox confessions and in a renewed unconditional subscription to its Symbols.
Quoted from Walther's essay titled "Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church," delivered at the Western District Convention in 1858. Printed in the April, 1947 Concordia Theological Monthly.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What’s New On Pirate Christian Radio

You may have heard the hubbub about some show called "Issues, Etc.™" (don’t forget the “TM”). Issues, Etc.™ returned with much fanfare on the online radio station Pirate Christian Radio, or PCR for short. PCR is the brainchild of the original Christian pirate himself, Chris Rosebrough, with Pastor Craig Donofrio on board as well.

PCR is undergoing a launch into the arena of Christ-centered Lutheran radio programming worthy of a NASA-type countdown. Besides Issues, Etc.™, the current regularly scheduled programming includes:

Fighting For the Faith, which is Chris Rosebrough’s “edgy” apologetics program - I highly recommend it.

The White Horse Inn Classics- “Reruns” of the best White Horse Inn apologetics shows.

Upcoming on PCR are sermons from several outstanding LCMS pastors, including:

• Sermons From Holy Trinity, by Pastor Bill Cwirla

• The Feast: Pastor Craig Donofrio’s sermons

• The Gift: Sermons from Faith Lutheran; Pastors Ron Hodel and Jeremy Rhode.

Also on the drawing board:

Table Talk Radio: Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller and Evan Goeglein, discussing various articles of the Christian faith and Holy Scriptures, as well and current events as they relate to the faith. This is another must-hear program. Those of you who’ve previously heard Pastor Wolfmueller on Issues, Etc.™ will know why.

• The God Whisperers: The dynamic duo of Pastors Craig Donofrio and Bill Cwirla discussing theological topics (Yes, they wear masks and capes, but you won’t be able to see them since it’s audio only).

• Christ For Us

• Higher Things: Pastor George Borghardt

• Grace Alone podcasts

• SOCO: Recorded presentations of previous South Orange County Outreach speakers such Uwe Siemon Netto, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, and Rod Rosenbladt.

Check out the Pirate Christian Radio website for details.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Introducing the LCMS Studebaker!

Here's the latest "hot" ecclesiastical marketing plan, compliments of Frank at Putting Out the Fire - the LCMS Studebaker. She's a beaut ain't she? You'll have to go read Frank's post to figure out the details. It'll be worth the trip.

The Church Has No Word of Its Own

Quoting Francis Pieper in Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, p. 315:
What the Church proclaims (the "Word of the Church") also has divine power and efficacy, but always only in so far as the Church remains true to its commission and proclaims only God’s Word (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 3:2; 1 Tim. 6:3 ff.; 2 John 9-10). The Church has no word of its own. Whatever is not taken from Scripture is not the "Word of the Church," but what Luther bluntly calls "prattle." Also other books can exert a divine power and efficacy, but always only inasmuch as they have absorbed God’s Word.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quotable Blog Quotes, v. 1.0

Assembled are a collection of notable blog quotes gleaned from various blog posts.

Weedon’s Blog
Pastor Wil Weedon
"The Church preserves the Gospel." Thus the constant appeal to tradition in both Rome and the East. But what do Lutherans say to this? "Rather, it is the Gospel which preserves the Church!" And we point to tradition *as witness* to how the Gospel has done so!
AC 24
Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer
The Lord longs for the fellowship of Divine Service with His Church. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. The Bread of Life comes down from heaven for the life of the world. Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches, we cannot live apart from being service from the One who is Divine and Man. For if we are not cleansed of our sins we can have no place with Him, if we think it beneath Him to serve us. The Lord came to seek and save the lost, to forgive sinners. To be a Christian is to be utterly Christ-sufficient and that spiritual self-sufficiency is a way of death. Therefore Christian worship, despite human reason, is to be at the receiving end of all the Lord's mercies poured out to us in the strong Word of the Lord and so also the sacramental gospel.
Let my husband share Your Gospel freely, and use Your Law only as much as is necessary.
Rev. Fr. Burnell F Eckardt
He is a consuming fire, but in His eternal love He has purged my sin, and delivers that forgiveness to me by the Holy Ghost.
Stand Firm
Comment by Anonymous
How important was keeping track [of ‘critical events’ as Ablaze!® does] to Paul? "(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)" (1 Cor 1:16)
On the Humorous Side:

Father Hollywood
Rev. Larry L. Beane II, SSP
In case some of my younger readers don't know what a diary is, it's an offline blog. ;-)
Father Hollywood
Rev. Larry L. Beane II, SSP
The word "missional" is not only being worn out faster than Lindsey Lohan's sense of self-respect by the latest round of church faddists and "experts" - it's being wielded as a club by starry-eyed church officials (neo-numerologists?) in the LCMS who have been seduced by the empty promises of church marketers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Are You Without Guile?

"No one who is a follower of the Augsburg Confession without guile will complain about these writings. They will cheerfully accept and tolerate them as witnesses of the truth. No one can think ill about us because we get an explanation and decision about the articles in controversy from these writings. As we lay down God's Word-the eternal truth-as the foundation, we also introduce and quote these writings as a witness of the truth and as the unanimously received, correct understanding of our predecessors who have steadfastly held to the pure doctrine."

The Formula of Concord, SD Rule and Norm, 12-13
Quoted from
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions
(St. Louis: CPH, 2006) 509.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Issues, Etc.™-The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In the first hour of the July 2 Issues, Etc™ program, Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz revisited some of the good, the bad, and the ugly after their unceremonious firing. Here’s some of what they had to say. Don’t forget, you can listen or download the shows at their website:

Pastor Wilken’s light-hearted description of Jeff Schwarz’ present state of affairs: “...freed from the shackles of ecclesiastical bureaucracy.”

Pastor Todd Wilken:
Now the restriction that existed before, that really became a tremendous frustration to me, especially in the last years and months was not so much a restriction as to what we could or couldn’t say, but what the priority had become that surrounded the radio program before. The priority quite honestly, became, not the proclamation or the promulgation of the Gospel, but the preservation of the commercial radio station in the St. Louis market. So that very often the editorial conversations that we would have had to do with whether or not something we may have said or failed to say or someone we may have talked to or failed to talk to on the air, was going to somehow hurt the prospects for a commercial radio station in the St. Louis market. And I found that at first, confusing, and in time almost completely intolerable. So when I talked earlier this week about the sense of relief that Jeff and I both had after the cancellation of Issues, Etc.™, it was due largely to the fact that we would no longer have to be in service of the preservation of a commercial radio station in the St. Louis market and worry about whether or not something we say might get a radio station sold or cast in a bad light.

The frustration was compounded by the fact that when I would bring up these concerns they met largely with a deaf ear. I mean people would listen and bob their heads and say “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we understand, don’t worry, that’ll all change, and it did change, we got canceled. That’s how it changed.

When I talked on the first day of the program about how a lot of things didn’t make sense to me, do you remember the end of the meeting where we did get fired? The last thing that both of us said was “This makes no sense.” ...Both of us were just kind of left with our mouths hanging open saying “This makes no sense.” And I’ll be quite honest with you folks, it still makes no sense to me today. If someone were to ask me, and I’ve said this several times, if someone were to ask me “Why was the show canceled? Why were you fired?” My honest answer is, “I don’t know.” I know what explanations have been given.
Jeff: Not to us.
Todd: Well not to us personally, no, to everyone but us. I do not know why the show really was canceled and why we were really fired. I have my ideas, I have my speculations. But I probably will go to my grave never knowing why, and with it making as little sense to me today or then as it did on March 18th. It really does make no sense.

We actually weren’t called in on a moments notice. We were given a weekend to stew about it. ...We didn’t have a lot of meetings at the International Center. Jeff and I are not kind of International Center type of guys. Both of us kind of feel the wind being sucked out of our lungs every time we walked into the building, and kind of the bones in our spine slowly turning into jelly. So we would usually keep those meetings as short as possible. ...I enquired about what the meeting was going to be about, and no one would tell me. ...So Jeff and I began to think about this and as Jeff and I were in the habit of doing, kind of living in a bunker mentality we began to develop our multiple scenarios for what might happen Tuesday during that meeting at 10:30. And I think we had six scenarios if I counted them all correctly, and we talked them over many times on the telephone over the weekend. Jeff being the pessimist that he is, said we’re being pink slipped. It’s that simple. But he expected two weeks notice at the very least. I thought it had something else to do with, I don’t know, management, maybe we were going to get a talking to. We didn’t know. I thought it highly unlikely that we would get pink slipped. But the minute we got there and walked to the meeting room and saw the little placard on the door that said “human resources meeting” we both knew exactly what was happening. And to tell you the truth, even though I can say honestly we didn’t know what it was about, we had some suspicions, neither of us were, I don’t think I was surprised. I was not surprised. It was kind of one of those things when I sat down in that meeting I thought to myself “Well this was going to happen sooner or later. Let’s just get this over with.”

Todd replaying the aftermath conversation with his wife:
I said, “Honey, I just got fired.” And my wife is hard to surprise, because she lives with me, but she was completely and utterly shocked. She said “You’re kidding me.” “No. I’m not kidding you. I got fired.” “What about the show?” “The show is gone. It’s over with.” “Aren’t you going to the radio station?” “No. They told us we can’t go to the radio station. Hand in your keys.”

Are You the Witnesser or the Witnessee?

I was eating lunch at In-N-Out® on a layover in San Francisco. Delicious fries from a freshly cut potato. A burger with a grilled onion on it - I doubt my co-pilot’s going to like that part so much. The polite twenty-something guy who had taken my order was now sweeping up, and he asked me if I would mind telling him what I was reading. It was C.F.W. Walther’s First Presidential Address. (Hey! It’s not as weird as Pastor Wilken’s propensity for surfing church websites in his spare time.)

I explained a little about my choice of reading material. He said he was considering going to seminary. He told me one of the seminaries he was considering, although I can’t remember now which one it was - I hadn’t heard of it. I mentioned he should consider a Lutheran seminary. If we’d had three hours I’m sure I could have convinced him, but his boss might not have appreciated it.

After our short conversation concluded, the gentleman sitting to my left commented that it was good to see another Christian. The guy to my right said that the employees there were a "cut above." He then proceeded to tell me that he was a member of a Lutheran Church in the bay area, and told me about some of the youth ministry he was involved with. Had the employee not asked me his random question, I never would have known I was dining with fellow Christians.

Walking back to the hotel, I knew my lunch trip was a reminder for me that I am supposed to be the "witnesser," not the "witnessee" (or the confessor using Klemet Preus’s way of saying "witness"). There have been other times when someone else made a bold confession of their faith to me, while I meekly replied that I too was a Christian, feeling a bit embarrassed that I wasn’t the one doing the confessing. Of course, in those situations, it didn’t matter, because we were both enlivened by our trust in the One who has set us free, but how many opportunities have I missed because I didn’t strike up a conversation? We are not all evangelists or ministers, but we do have the opportunity to share the Good News in our daily lives through our vocation as called Christians, no matter which restaurant is your preference. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, "but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you."

So the next time you’re waiting for your order, it might not be a bad idea to say "hi" to the person next to you. You never know who you’ll bump into. It could be a fellow Christian, an angel in disguise, or it could be someone starving for more than just a burger and fries.

One hint: The next time you’re at an In-N-Out Burger®, look inside the rim on the bottom of your cup.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Some Things Never Change

Pastor Blondos, at his Kyrie Eleison blog, has a post titled "Nothing New Under the Sun." He quotes P. E. Kretzman's 1929 comments to illustrate how "modern" church innovations are not at all modern. One quote from Kretzman:
"Gospel Anthems"

We must take note also of a most deplorable tendency of our times, namely, that of preferring the shallow modern ‘Gospel anthem’ to the classical hymns of our Church. The reference is both to the text and to the tunes in use in many churches. On all sides the criticism is heard that the old Lutheran hymns are “too heavy, too doctrinal, that our age does not understand them.” Strange that the Lutherans of four centuries and of countless languages could understand and appreciate them, even as late as a generation ago! Is the present generation less intelligent or merely more frivolous?

(From P. E . Kretzmann; Magazin fur evang.-luth. Homiletik und Pastoraltheologie; June 1929, pp 216-217.)

Life In the Post 2004 Convention Era, A Pastor's Perspective

by Rev. Glenn E. Huebel

(Presented previously and republished with permission. Also published at Consensus.)

My assignment today is to provide a parish pastor’s perspective on our Synodical struggles. Pastors in our Synod serve in a great variety of ministries, and context shapes perspective. A pastor who serves a small rural congregation of families who have been connected for decades, whose grandparents were baptized in the congregation, and who see very few new faces on Sunday will see a different Synod than a pastor who serves in the inner city or one who serves a fast growing suburban congregation. It is only fair for you to know my background before you hear my perspective. I have served in many different kinds of ministries and communities during my 24 years in the pastoral office. As a young man I pastored a tiny mission congregation in a quiet little old Texas railroad town with one traffic signal, one small high school, and no chain stores, not even a McDonalds. I am now serving as Sr. Pastor of a multi-staffed congregation with a preschool and school in a heavily populated and fast growing suburban community with traffic snarls, three large high schools, shopping centers, and new neighborhoods on every corner. I have also served everything in between. All of this I have been blessed to experience without ever changing locations or congregations. I was sent out of seminary in 1980 to plant a congregation in Keller, Texas, and the world has been dramatically changing around me ever since. I am not a confessional pastor who lives in the delusion that we can recreate the 1950s or any other era. I am used to dealing with change, and I know that we must adapt to new circumstances, but not through accommodation. From the beginning to the present, Messiah, Keller, has been a haven and refuge for orthodox Lutherans who want to remain steadfast and constant in confession of the truth as the world changes around us. Messiah’s membership is a cross section of the community itself, a wide distribution of ages and economic status with a large core of young families. A large proportion of our members are professionals working in the airline, defense or high-tech industries. As I have informed my congregation of synodical problems and issues through the years, the people of Messiah have remained theologically unified. We may debate for an hour over a $50 item in an $800,000 budget, but we are of one accord in the important matters. The present crisis is no exception. For this rare and precious blessing I give God thanks daily.

It might be helpful for you to know also that I am a pastor who is well acquainted with our Synodical President. Our relationship actually began on a very positive basis over 30 years ago when I was a 19 year old church youth director in Port Arthur, Texas. I greatly admired Pastor Kieschnick, the young and enthusiastic pastor of Redeemer, Beaumont, who was also the spiritual counselor for the zone youth organization. This experience gives me some understanding of those who have fallen under the Kieschnick spell today. Pastor Kieschnick, as circuit counselor, ordained me in my home congregation in 1980. During the following years we occasionally engaged in friendly correspondence and personal conversations, discussing various issues troubling the Synod. We did not always agree with one another, but our relationship was cordial. After he was elected District President he appointed me to my first term as circuit counselor and thereby placed me on his “team.” This was a magnanimous choice on his part since I was a founder and editor of Concord, and he was not a fan of unofficial publications (at least, not confessional ones). The circuit counselors met for two three-day retreats each year to discuss Synodical issues and to be informed of the Kieschnick agenda. Our conversations and correspondence became increasingly confrontational as I saw, firsthand, his agenda and leadership methods, and as he saw that my loyalty was not to him …. my reluctance and refusal to be a “team player.” I do appreciate, however, the opportunity that I had, while circuit counselor, to deal directly with those on the other side of the theological fence. I became keenly aware that the issues are not as simple as both sides often make them out to be. I also became aware that our disagreements are not merely a matter of semantics. In the end, I think both Jerry and I finally realized that our conversation is futile. I think he appreciates my advice even less than I appreciate his agenda. Our conversation has virtually ceased since he became Synod President.

My assignment is to describe life in the Missouri Synod in the post 2004 Convention era. The assumption, of course, is that the 2004 Convention was a watershed for our Synod, and it certainly was quite a significant event. It is now crystal clear that this is no longer our “grandfather’s Synod” even in doctrine and confession. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the real watershed occurred with the election of Rev. Kieschnick in 2001. All that has followed since that election, including the Benke controversy, the power struggles of the past triennium, and the 2004 convention, has been a predictable and natural result of the 2001 election. Confessional leaders differ from one another in style or degree, but Rev. Kieschnick is a leader of a different KIND. Pastor Lawrence White calls him the first “post modern Synod president,” and he is right. He is a thorough-going, unabashed, impatient, pragmatist. President Kieschnick emphasizes and focuses on what works instead of what is true. He prefers the measurable over the unseen, the things he can control over the free course of the Gospel working where and when it pleases God. He tends to view the church primarily as an outward institution rather than a union of saints who hear and follow the voice of Christ. President Kieschnick is not just a little more moderate than old LCMS conservatives. He has a fundamentally different approach to the nature of the institution, ecclesiastical authority, and even to the clarity and authority of the objective Word of God. This kind of difference has been described quite well, I think, by Bonhoeffer, in his “Life Together,” where he makes an interesting contrast between the community of Spirit and the human community. He wrote,

“In the community of the Spirit the Word of God alone rules; in the human community of spirit there rules, along with the Word, the man who is furnished with exceptional powers, experience, and magical, suggestive capacities. There God’s Word alone is binding; here, besides the Word, men bind others to themselves. There all power, honor, and domination are surrendered to the Holy Spirit; here spheres of power and influence of a personal nature are sought and cultivated. It is true, in so far as these are devout men, that they do this with the intention of serving the highest and the best, but in actuality the result is to dethrone the Holy Spirit, to relegate Him to remote unreality. In actuality it is only the human that is operative here.” (From Life Together, Harper and Row, 1957, page 32)
With the election of Kieschnick, Synod crossed the line from a “community of the Spirit” to a “human community of spirit,” whether it intended to or not, whether it realized it or not. An institutional revolution was set in motion. No longer are church politics ruled and shaped by theology. Under President Kieschnick, theology has become the handmaiden to political expediency and social engineering. In this reversal, the centrality of concord is replaced by the centrality of institutional harmony and growth, the authority of the Word is replaced by Synod’s official “interpretation of the Word,” which is, coincidentally, under the President’s control, the theology of glory replaces the theology of the cross, the relationship between Synod and congregation is reversed (i.e., Synod does not belong to congregations, congregations belong to the Synod), the authority of clear Scriptures, is replaced by the authority of fuzzy and complicated bylaws which always seem to say what the President wishes them to say, theologians are replaced by administrators, pastors are replaced with institutional managers and entrepreneurs, and the principle of sheep judging shepherds is abandoned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

“The Boys Are Back In Town”

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. That Christ-centered Cross-focused talk radio show, Issues, Etc.™, is back.

The first hour of the first show on June 30th was spent with Host Todd Wilken and Producer Jeff Schwarz reminiscing about their three month “spring break.” Pastor Wilken noted that he lost twenty pounds, started finishing his basement, and adopted a cat and subsequent kittens. There were plenty of “thanks” to go around to all of those people who supported Jeff and Todd during their hiatus.

There were several humorous moments, including a sound bite of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last,” as well as Margaritaville music with the voice over “We’re not funded by LCMS Inc. You’re listening to Issues, Etc.™”

The second hour was vintage Issues, Etc.™, featuring John Green of the Pew Forum discussing religion and politics and Dr. Carl Fickenscher of Concordia Theological Seminary discussing the Gospel versus the inspiring and helping Gospel of Evangelicalism.

Both hours of the show are available on the Issues, Etc.™ website.

This week’s upcoming shows:

Tuesday: Greg Koukl on relativism
Wednesday: Dr. Paul Maier on the historicity of Christianity
Thursday: Dr. John Warwick Montgomery on Islam