Thursday, December 31, 2009

It’s What’s in the Middle that Counts

Overheard on the December 18 Listener Email and Issues, Etc. Comment Line:

Producer Jeff Schwarz: Let’s talk about our own church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. We have leaders throw out terms like “Law and Gospel,” “Word and Sacrament,” and the lay people hear it, and they say “Sounds Lutheran to me.” But in practice, they don’t preach Law and Gospel, they intend to grow the Church not through Word and Sacrament. So, you know, it’s a, you could have the postmodern way, or how would you describe what we see in our own church body where we hear leadership use the right terms, the right Lutheran terms, but in practice, I don’t know if they interpret them differently, or…

Host Todd Wilken: That’s what I was just talking about. I was talking about, you know, Bishop Hanson [the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America], what he does is, his vocabulary, his native language, is no longer the language of Holy Scripture, or of the Lutheran Confessions. That’s not his native language any more. When he speaks that language, it is, he is engaging in a foreign tongue. That is the mark of a church bureaucrat when they lose the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions as their native language because they’ve also lost it as the way they think. If you don’t think in a language you’re not gonna speak in that language very comfortably. And what we have in our church body [the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod] are basically company men, institution men, who think of the church in institutional and company terms, but they’re still savvy enough to toss in a few Lutheran buzz words, to make it sound like they still think like church men rather than company men. So they’ll toss in Word and Sacrament. You ask them what they mean they might not even be able to name the Sacraments or explain what they are according to Scripture. They’ll toss in Law and Gospel, they’ll toss in other buzz words, of course also with a healthy dose of things like “missional” and “intentional” and all the little words that make them feel so warm and fuzzy inside. I mean if you’re going to be a bureaucrat and a company man just talk like a bureaucrat and a company man and then we know exactly what it is you really think and what it is you’re really saying. Drop the buzz words. We don’t need them. For the most part they don’t necessarily communicate anything at all. If you’re going to say “Word and Sacrament” then practice it, then promote it. I’m saying this to the leaders of our church. If you’re gonna throw Word and Sacrament in to make it sound Lutheran why don’t you just go all the way and be Lutheran, and promote that kind of thing? The real, solid preaching of the Word, the administration of the Sacraments. If you’re going to talk about Law and Gospel then promote that kind of preaching, and that interpretation of the Bible, rather than “how to” sermons and all this other stuff. If you’re going to talk, use the word “Confessional” or “Confessions,” really be what you say you are. And we’ll know by the way, because your Lutheranism won’t be just a few buzz words thrown in to otherwise very bland, boring, and bureaucratic speech. We’ll know when your whole vocabulary, and what you promote, and what you sanction, that is in the positive sense of the word, is genuinely Lutheran.

I couldn’t agree more. Time after time we see programs and presentations that start out and end with some nod to “Word and Sacrament,” with page after page of un-Scriptural ideas about leadership, purpose, and transformation in the middle. Call the thing what it is. You’re not fooling anyone when you say something has a “congregational bias” that is actually biased against congregations. You’re not fooling anyone when you call something a “movement” which you started yourself. You’re not fooling anyone when you say the Synod is “exceptionally unified” when you have to wear a jetpack to get from one side of the divide to the other. Let’s work towards getting back to the language of Scripture and Confession, not just at the front and the back end of what we say, but in the middle of our daily lives as well. Let’s be Confessional Lutherans once again.

photo credit: Lawrence OP

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christian Cremation?

Quoting Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado, from his November 2 appearance on Issues, Etc.:

That body that your soul lived in all through your life is the same body that Jesus will raise on the last day, stick your soul back into it, and you’ll be a body and soul together forever in the resurrection. This is really the governing thought behind Christian burial, is how do we confess best the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the Christian. And the way we can do that is by treating the body with respect. Luther said that you know all the patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all these old guys, David, et cetera, they built these tombs, and they did that to confess their faith in the resurrection, because they knew that God wasn’t done with their bodies. But these bodies that are now corrupt with sin would be raised imperishable and would live forever before the face of God. So we want to treat the body of a Christian with care in order to confess our faith in the resurrection.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Glory to God In the Highest

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Isaiah 9:2 ESV

Have a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the mystery of the Word become incarnate.

photo credit: dideo

Friday, December 18, 2009

Runnin' in San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo is a small Mexican town on the water at the tip of the Baja peninsula, just to the east of Cabo San Lucas, which is the town people are referring to when they say "Cabo." Here's a few pics from my recent run in San Jose del Cabo. You can click on the photos for a larger view.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Get Those Nominations In!

If your congregation hasn't yet sent in its form to nominate a candidate for LCMS President and other postitions for the 2010 elections, you'd better get going. Congregational wheels of progress often turn slowly, and the nominations are due by March 10, 2010.

My congregation is nominating Pastor Matt Harrison for President, and I hope your congregation will as well. Pastor Harrison is the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. He's certainly got the upper level bureaucratic experience required for the job, and I like him because he's a regular guy. Matt is from Iowa, and being a Midwesterner myself, I appreciate his down to earth demeanor. He's also someone who is interested in theology, and knows how to apply it to everyday life.

Rather than listen to me blather on, check out these resources if you don't already know Pastor Harrison. The trip will be worth your time, as will sending in that nomination form!

A good interview of Pastor Harrison by Pastors Donofrio and Cwirla on The God Whisperers:

Pastor Harrison's recent appearance on Issues, Etc.:

The Harrison for President website:

And of course, Pastor Harrison's blog, Mercy Journeys With Pastor Harrison:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You Wouldn't Hear This on the Old Issues, Etc.

Pastor Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc., and Producer Jeff Schwarz, comment on the "format change" of the music at their previous place of employ, KFUO AM, on the November 6 show. You definitely wouldn't have heard this on the show back in the day, when it was operated under the auspices of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

President Kieschnick Announces Extension of 2010 Convention

This just in from a frequent Stand Firm reader:

Citing “the huge amount of confusion and misunderstandings about the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance,” President Gerald Kieschnick announced today that the 2010 Synodical Convention will be extended by 10 days. “We need much more time to consider the Task Force’s recommendations,” Kieschnick said, “and 12 days ought to do it.” The entire additional cost will be borne by congregations with membership over 1,000, Kieschnick added. “They hope to get more delegates in future conventions, and we thought it only fair that they should up the ante in return.” Rev. Charles Mueller, Jr. of Trinity, Roselle, Illinois, one of the LCMS’ bigger congregations said, “It ain’t fair. We wuz robbed.” The original schedule called for two days to consider the Task Force’s proposals, however, it became apparent after “gatherings” in Denver and Dearborn that two days would be far too little time. Citing a particularly hostile atmosphere in Dearborn, Kieschnick said, “We didn’t like it, but we heard them loud and clear.” When told that several district presidents violently opposed this move, Kieschnick said, “They can take it through the dispute resolution process.” (That process, adopted by the 2004 Convention, takes about eight years to complete.) The convention will begin as originally scheduled on July 10, and will be extended to July 27.

Johannes Bach-Atyu, a descendent of J.S. Bach, has penned a “carol” describing this 12 day structure component of the upcoming convention. CPH and Augsburg-Fortress have declined to publish it, so he has decided to place it in the public domain.


On the first day of structure, the Task Force gave to me, More Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the second day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, Two Mission Commissions, and More Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the third day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, Constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and More Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the fourth day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, Four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the fifth day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the sixth day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me—Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the seventh day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, Seven hundred by-laws a-changin’, Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the eighth day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, V-P Mates A-Running, Seven hundred by-laws a-changin’, Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the ninth day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, Board-Appointed Members, V-P Mates A-Running, Seven hundred by-laws a-changin’, Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the tenth day of Structure, The Task Force gave to me, E-fish-un-cee, Board-Appointed Members, V-P Mates A-Running, Seven hundred by-laws a-changin’, Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the eleventh day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, “E-fec-tive-ness”, E-fish-un-cee, Board-Appointed Members, V-P Mates A-Running, Seven hundred by-laws a-changin’, Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

On the twelfth day of Structure, the Task Force gave to me, No Budget Savings, "E-fec-tive-ness," E-fish-un-cee, Board-Appointed Members, V-P Mates A-Running, Seven hundred by-laws a-changin’, Six hundred delegates (more or less) a-voting, "Five Districts New", four-year convention cycles, constitution meddling, two mission commissions, and more Pow’r to the Pres-i-den-cy.

photo credit: Leo Reynolds

Monday, December 14, 2009

Making Church Work More Effective?

Quoting from Dr. Theodore Graebner's essay "The Leprosy of Unionism," written in 1918. Dr. Graebner was a long-time Professor at Concordia Seminary. All ellipses are in the original.
The Lutheran Church in the United States has not been immune to unionism in the past, and it is not immune today.

No one believes that any Missouri Synod man would dare to propose at this time (1918) official synodical collaboration with the Reformed sects in church-work. That is a late development at which one does not arrive at a jump. On the other hand, the danger is ever present that on the specious plea of advancing the cause of "Lutheranism," we be tempted to enter into fellowship with members of synods Lutheran in name, but only partly Lutheran in doctrine and practice. There is danger that we get a taste of applause and flattery; that we become eager for "recognition" as a great church-body; that we compromise our doctrinal stand for the purpose of meeting emergencies. And the time to become aware of that danger is NOW.

It is a bad sign when hearers become angry at their pastor for "preaching against other churches." It is a worse sign when pastors, bowing to such disapproval, begin to withhold instructions concerning the errors of the sects. It is a most alarming symptom when pastors and parishoners fraternize. . . with those who represent a different conception of Lutheranism. It becomes denial of the Truth when they associate with such for the purpose of "making church-work more effective" or "keeping the Lutheran Church on the map."

As we love our church, let us so teach our people so that they will fear the contagion of error as they would fear to breathe the air of a small-pox hospital. Let us exhibit to them the damnableness of false doctrine. Let us preach Luther on this point, who saw only the work of Satan in every deviation from the truth of Scripture. If our people learn to recognize every false doctrine as a snare of the devil, spread to catch victims for hell, they will not need to be held with a rein lest they stampede into unionism. . .

Let it be understood that any undertaking or activity which is, in effect, the doing of religious work jointly with those from whom we ought, according to Scripture to separate, is unionism. Here, if ever, the old sayings must apply: "Nip the evil in the bud." Our first duty is that of watchfulness. There is no higher duty now because there is no greater danger.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Tree Is Up

We put up our Christmas tree last night. For you purist theologians out there, which hopefully is all of you, we’re a little ahead on the Church calendar, but the baby Jesus is not yet in His manger. It’s a 13 foot beauty, complete with lights to joyously welcome Jesus, the light of the world, and presents, to celebrate the gift of a Savior, who redeems all people from their sins.

“He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.”

-From Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Eyes Are Blind

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther from one of his Advent sermons:

If we don't want to understand this with our ears, but accept only that which our eyes see and our hands touch, we will miss our King and be lost. There's a big difference between this King and other kings. With the latter everything is outward pomp, great and gallant appearance, magnificent air. But not so with Christ. His mission and work is to help against sin and death, to justify and bring to life. He has placed his help in baptism and the sacrament, and incorporated it in the Word and preaching. To our eyes baptism appears to be nothing more than ordinary water, and the Sacrament of Christ's body and blood simple bread and wine, like other bread and wine, and the sermon, hot air from a man's mouth. But we must not trust what our eyes see, but listen to what this King is teaching us in his Word and Sacrament, namely, I poured out my blood to save you from your sins, to rescue you from death and bring you to heaven; to that end I have given you baptism as a gift for the forgiveness of sins, and preach to you unceasingly by word of mouth concerning this treasure, sealing it to you with the Sacrament of my body and blood, so that you need never doubt. True, it seems little and insignificant, that by the washing of water, the Word, and the Sacrament this should all be effected. But don't let your eyes deceive you. At that time, it seemed like a small and insignificant thing for him to come riding on a borrowed donkey and later be crucified, in order to take away sin, death, and hell. No one could tell this by his appearance, but the prophet foretold it, and his work later fulfilled it. Therefore we must simply grasp it with our ears and believe it with our hearts, for our eyes are blind.

The quote comes from Professor John Pless's paper "Learning to Preach from Luther in Advent and Christmas," which he in turn quoted from The House Postils, volume 1, edited by Eugene Klug.

photo credit: Mike West

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Missional: What Does This Mean?

My friend Jim Pierce, on his blog Confessional's Bytes, has a post that gets to the heart of the use of the word "missional." Here's a portion of his post:

"Missional" means something more than "missions", where I have read the word in use. Typically the word "missional" is used to define the Church pragmatically, the Church is a body doing missions. How about that? I think there in is why both of my eyebrows are raised and my teeth clench when I hear or read the word "missional". The Church is no longer defined as "the congregation of saints" where the "outward marks" of the Church "are the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ" (Apology VII and VIII). In other words, "missional" defines the Church on the basis of what it's members do to promote the Gospel; where as, the Scriptural definition of the Church is grounded upon what Christ is doing in the world through His means of grace: the preached Word of God, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We Have Confidence

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bursting the BRTFSSG Bubble, Part 5: Is This What “Mission” Sounds Like?

You back out your driveway, and head down the road. At first you don’t notice it, but as you round the corner and pick up speed it intrudes upon your consciousness. The faster you go, the more intrusive it becomes, the low frequency “thump, thump, thump” of an out of balance tire. As you accelerate, the sound becomes louder and more insistent and the car starts to shudder, so you hurriedly find a place to pull over and reconsider your options. That trip to the store no longer seems quite so important. You’re now so focused on the tire that you’ve got tunnel vision.

The recommendations of the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) are like that out of balance tire – the harder you look, the louder the “thump, thump, thump” becomes, until you think these recommendations are about to fly off their rim.

What is it about the Task Force proposals that are so out of balance? Consider the following quote from President Gerald Kieschnick’s original assignment to the Task Force:

Our work together as a Synod should enhance and enable achievement of the mission that God has given His church, a mission clearly articulated in many places, including especially the first two objectives in Article III of our Synod‘s Constitution:

Article III. Objectives
The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall—
1. Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor.1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy;
2. Strengthen congregations and their members in giving bold witness by word and deed to the love and work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and extend that Gospel witness into all the world;

These are certainly worthy objectives. Without the conservation and promotion of unity, and the constant vigilance against schism, sectarianism, and heresy, there can be no witness by word or deed, only discord and failure. Yet the Task Force has no balance, emphasizing “mission” to the near exclusion of unity and defense, to the point where the “thump, thump, thump” is deafening. The word “mission,” or a definitional derivative thereof (like “missions” or “missional,” excluding “commission”) is used 206 times in the searchable portion of the Task Force Final report, whereas “unity” is used only eight other times, and “defense,” none. Thump, thump, thump. There is something radically wrong with the hermeneutic of the Task Force. (The searchable portion of the Task Force report includes the main body of the report and all appendices, with the exception of Appendix 1, which is the Constitution and Bylaw changes.)

In an effort to put my finger on the root cause of this imbalance, I spent some time reading through old essays from Synodical conventions in the first half of the twentieth century, a time when the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod experienced rapid growth. Specifically, I read those essays related to “mission” and Synod structure. There was certainly no lack of Synod officials who emphasized “mission,” yet their understanding of it included a more balanced hermeneutic. In many of these essays, there was much more talk of sound catechesis and the pervasiveness of Word and Sacrament in the life of the congregation, with mission being the consequence of the power of the Word. There was a great deal more discussion of unity and sound doctrine. By comparison, these BRTFSSF suggestions seem a bit empty. Thump, thump, thump.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Respect the Crust

My wife is a great cook. She can make the lowliest meal taste wonderful, often without a recipe. Plus, I never know what I’ll be eating next – and it’s frequently something new. But even the great cooks need a day off every now and then, and this was one of those days.

In deference to my childhood, my wife baked Zach and I a pot pie – the old Swanson kind with the previously-aluminum pie plate to boot. When I was a kid I ate quite a few of those things for lunch when my mom worked, and you know what they say, “Old habits die hard.” I pretty much can’t stand the gorp in the center of the pie, but I love the crust. What my wife doesn’t seem to understand is that it’s important that the crust remain intact. (By crust I mean the fragile rim of the crust that’s crunchy and golden brown on the top outer edge before you invert it, not the part that annoyingly sticks to the bottom of the pie plate.) She generally unceremoniously dumps said pie on my plate with nary a consideration for the integrity of the crust. Which leads to my new motto: “RESPECT THE CRUST.”

Of course, my new motto can’t supplant the more dignified motto that’s on the Diekmann family coat of arms: “Carpe Chocolate.” The Latin adds a sense of savoir-faire, don’t you think?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Did You Know…

…that the budgeted convention expenses for the LCMS Officers, Board of Directors, and Council of Presidents for the 2010 Regular Convention increased a whopping 270% over the 2007 Regular Convention?

Calculating for inflation and a convention that is two days longer, the increase should be 29%. The cost per person for this group of individuals is $3,833 per person (figuring 68 people, which includes 10 extra people just to be conservative). If all the delegates rang up the same bill, it would cost the LCMS $4,791,250, nearly double the cost of the entire convention. That’s a lot of greenbacks.

photo credit: ZagatBuzz

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Is the Purpose of Singing in Church?

Quoting Dr. Mike Horton, co-host of the Christian apologetics radio program The White Horse Inn, on his October 26 visit to Issues, Etc.:
Paul says that the purpose of singing in church is so that the Word of Christ may dwell in you richly, admonishing and teaching each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs making joyful melody in our hearts to the Lord. So even the purpose of singing is to train our thoughts and our hearts toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we doing that? Are the prayers that we hear in church, the Scripture reading, public reading of Scripture, the benedictions, the salutations, everything in the Liturgy, not just the sermon, everything in the Liturgy pointing to the Triune God who has saved us in His Son? That’s the question we have to ask, even more important than whether we use organ or guitars, what our favorite playlist is on our iPod. The most important question is “Is Christ being deeply planted within our hearts, creating faith in Him, through this ministry of the Word, in everything that is done in the service?”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CORE: Continuation Of Real Eisegesis

On a November 19 Issues, Etc. segment, Pastor Todd Wilken interviewed Pastor Paull Spring, the Chair of Lutheran Coalition for Renewal, or Lutheran CORE. CORE was formed in response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Americas’ (ELCA) propensity to “wander away from Lutheran positions,” and specifically to its blessing of same sex unions and the ordination and ministry of clergy who are in active same sex relationships. The intent of CORE is to form a new Lutheran church body.

Here is a portion of the interview:

TW: "Will the new Lutheran church body take a stronger stand on inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, and what about the ordination of women in the new Lutheran church body?"

PS: "We really, I doubt, I doubt very much if we’ll take a stronger stand on inerrancy of Scripture… Regarding the ordination of women, we fully accept the ordination of women… So for us, I think it’s fair to say, the ordination of women is not going to be an issue for us."

TW: "How would you respond, and this would be my warning there, that the very way of reading the Bible that lead to the ordination of women, could potentially again lead to the ordination of active homosexuals, lesbians, and transectored bisexual?"

PW: "No, I would say, with respect, that the argument for the ordination of women can be Biblically supported. There are references in Scripture to men alone doing ministry, but we also know of the significant role of women in the history of God’s people all the way back to Miriam and even going beyond that, and the witnesses of the resurrection who were initially women. So there is a strong evidence of Biblical support for the ministry of women in the Church, even the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We find no evidence whatsoever in the Bible, no evidence that would in any way endorse a homosexual lifestyle."

I had high hopes for CORE. I really thought this was their chance to correct the un-Scriptural errors that the ELCA has embraced, and was totally crushed by the responses of Pastor Spring. The ELCA has given up on the inerrancy of Scripture, instead believing that the Bible contains the Word of God, rather than that the Bible is the Word of God. Taking this position allows them to rule over the text of the Bible, making it say whatever they’d like in this particular time and sociological underpinning.

Pastor Spring rightly points out that the Bible doesn’t endorse a homosexual lifestyle, yet in the same breath upholds women’s ordination. The same types of arguments that he uses here to defend women’s ordination are also used by those who support homosexual ordination. Both groups ignore the clear words of Scripture in favor of their own interpretation. It’s good that CORE condemns the ELCA’s warm embrace of homosexuality, but its stance on women’s ordination indicates it will continue to follow the erring ways of its soon-to-be former Synod.

“But test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV

If you’re interested, pasted below are a few of the “highlights” from the ELCA website’s “The Bible” page which demonstrate their low view of Scripture:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bursting the BRTFSSG Bubble, Part 4: Shifting the Paradigm

Do you get the feeling, after having read the report of the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG), that they're trying to sell us something? What is it they're urging us to buy? According to the Task Force, they want us to buy off on their proposals, which are presented in glowing terms: “The recommendations seek to broaden the voice and participation of the congregations in the Synod” (Final Report, p. 15) and will cause “expansion of the mutual influence and persuasion by the grassroots…” (p. 49).

But the proposals actually consolidate power in the hands of the Synod President and diminish the persuasive power of individual congregations. As Publius Aequillus points out, “Program Boards and Commissions are eliminated, thereby placing the tasks and functions handled by them under the Synod President.” With priority given to circuit and district overtures at the national convention, “it will become next to impossible for a small congregation to have a voice in the Synod,” and “all of these recommendations [#’s 3, 10, 16] take power away from the local congregations and transfer it to districts and the larger Synod.” (Brackets added)

Dr. Martin Noland, in a comment following Publius’ post, notes that this restructuring “…is the single biggest proposed concentration of power in one person that the Missouri Synod has seen in its history.” That’s a very significant comment, coming from the former Chief Historian of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The Task Force ideas represent a huge change in the structure and function of the Synod, as well as in how it sees itself. The move from a congregational basis to a top-down structure is nothing short of a paradigm shift. Changes of this magnitude can be difficult to achieve, and must be carefully orchestrated. There is certainly ample evidence that the Task Force has worked hard to achieve this paradigm shift.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Runnin' in San Diego

I took my trusty camera on a run with me in San Diego recently, and thought I'd share some of the pics with you. I started running at the top of the hill above downtown San Diego, with a beautiful view of Coronado in the distance, palms silhouetted against the bay. Down the hill I went, towards the Convention Center. Lots of restaurants along the way as I passed through the Gaslamp Quarter, weaving in and out of a sunny afternoon crowd on the busy sidewalks. I ran past the baseball field, named Petco Park, where the Padres play. Ran along the water front - row after row of gently swaying sail boats and speed boats docked between the big hotels and the bay. Ran along the length of the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway and several other big ships. I ended the run at Lucy's Taco Shop, which is a little hole-in-the-wall spot with really good authentic Mexican food, where, of course, I had to chow down (pictured below). A great run with a fitting conclusion.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Blessed Thanksgiving to You All

Lord, God, heavenly Father, from Your hand we recieve all good gifts and by Your grace we are guarded from all evil. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that, acknowledging with our whole heart Your boundless goodness, we may now and evermore thank and praise You for Your loving kindness and tender mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Quoted from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1316.

photo credit: xybermatthew

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dr. Noland's BRTFSSG Comment

Here's a portion of a comment left by Dr. Martin Noland regarding the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance on the Brothers of John the Steadfast website. His comment regards the blog post titled "Synod Renewal – Through Mission and Structure?," written by Publius Aequillus . This article is definitely worth the read. Dr. Noland's comment:

FIRST MAJOR POINT, in my opinion, Appendix Five is the most important document, which is actually from the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission. It is an excellent proposal. David Buegler, the author of Appendix Five, is a smart man, a good writer, and should have been the author of the original report from BRTFFM. The only thing I disagree with in Appendix Five is “mandated-congregational-fee-for service.” If synod pushes that, the pastors and laymen will rebel.

It is much better if the synod RECOMMENDS a certain level of giving to an individual congregation, based on the total number of communicants, %s of communicant vocations (student, military, employed, and retired), and the average income level of its census district (which is smaller than zip codes, and more accurately reflects socio-economic levels, since the congregation’s economic ability is a reflection of its local neighborhood). Recommendation is really the only thing synod CAN do in this respect, if you read our constitution correctly.

SECOND MAJOR POINT, Appendix Three needs to be looked at by the delegates very carefully. This is the new synod organization chart. If they don’t read anything else because their eyes glaze over, they should at least look at the chart.

First, they need to notice the many fine-print disclaimers: 1) in the lower right corner, organizational lines mean three things: “Additional reporting,” “Elected,” and “Appointed and Elected”; 2) in lower left corner “This chart is not intended to represent all duties and responsibilities of the President as defined in Article XI of the Constitution”; 3) in the lower right corner again, “Administrative, Organizational Chart Only (to be used in conjunction with the BRTFSSG report).”

What do these disclaimers mean? 1) They mean that the six new commissions of the synod will not really be “national convention committees.” They mean that the synodically-elected commission members will have some voice, but the appointed members will be the power and majority. Whoever appoints these members (either synod president, or Council of Presidents, or by “regional election”) will control that commission. 2) They mean that the President has a lot more power than what you see on the chart. 3) They mean that other relationships, for example, budgeting, fiscal control, theological oversight, and canon law, are not indicated at all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Certainty of Our Salvation

Here’s Pastor Wil Weedon, with a humorous start and a serious ending, answering the question “Could God have saved us in some other way?” The audio clip comes from the October 27, 2009 Issues, Etc. show on the Nicene Creed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bursting the BRTFSSG Bubble, Part 3: Excising Uniformity

We’ve all seen the battles fought in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) over the past several decades regarding worship practices and “church growth” philosophy. These battles have largely divided the Synod. If you’re the sort that argues in favor of the historic catholic liturgy of the Church, you might be heard quoting from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV:
At the outset, we must again make this preliminary statement: we do not abolish the Mass [the Divine Service], but religiously keep and defend it. Masses are celebrated among us every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals. The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other such things. (Brackets added)
If you favor contemporary worship, you might quote the Augsburg Confession, Article VII:
For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men, should be the same everywhere.
…or you might quote Luther from the preface to his German Mass:
Above all things, I most affectionately and for God's sake beseech all, who see or desire to observe this our Order of Divine Service, on no account to make of it a compulsory law, or to ensnare or make captive thereby any man's conscience; but to use it agreeably to Christian liberty at their good pleasure as, where, when and so long as circumstances favour and demand it. Moreover, we would not have our meaning taken to be that we desire to rule, or by law to compel, any one. (Online reference)
Who’s right? They’re both written by the reformers aren’t they? Are they both right? Well…. Yes and no.

The reformers, and in particular Martin Luther, fiercely defended Christian freedom. What they fought to regain they weren’t going to give up easily. The preceding Luther quote highlights this attitude. Yet when it comes to the Divine Service, freedom has its limits. Continuing on where we left off in the above quote, Luther says

Friday, November 20, 2009

Law or Gospel?

Thanks to that man of monstrous homiletical ability, Dave Whan, for pointing this one out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Enter Into the Holy of Holies

A portion of yesterday's excellent post from Pastor Rick Stuckwisch on his blog thinking-out-loud:

You, therefore, enter into His Passion, His Resurrection and salvation, by eating and drinking His Body and His Blood at His Word.
Here at His Altar are the fruits of His sacrifice, which has ended all sacrifice for sin, because it has atoned for all sin forever.
Here, in His holy body and precious blood, is the Temple of God and the Holy of Holies, which, having risen from the dead, shall never die again; which shall never be torn down, and shall never perish or pass away. This Body and Blood of Christ, which are given and poured out for you, have conquered death and the grave; and these also now conquer death in you.
For, as Jesus clearly says, this Body and Blood of His are given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins; and where there is such free and full forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any death, but everlasting life and eternal salvation.
As you are assembled here, together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, in His Name, to eat and drink His Body and Blood in the Holy Communion, you live and abide in the presence of God, and you reside in His Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.
Do not forsake this assembly, but draw near to God and enter His heaven here, as He draws near to you in the flesh and blood of Christ, the beloved Son.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Prince's Vocation

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:
Of course, a prince can be a Christian, but he must not rule as a Christian; and insofar as he does rule, his name is not "Christian" but "prince." The person is indeed a Christian, but his office or his princedom does not involve his Christianity. Insofar as he is a Christian, the Gospel teaches him not to do injury to anyone and to put up with any injury or injustice that may be done him. This, I say, is the Christian's duty. But it would not make for a good administration if you were to preach that sort of thing to the prince. This is what he has to say: My status as a Christian is something between God and myself. It has its own directions about how I should live in relation to Him. But above and beyond this I have another status or office in the world: I am a prince. The relation here is not one between God and this person but between me and my land and people. The issue here is not how you should live in relation to God, what you should do and what you should tolerate for yourself. That applies to you as a Christan person who is not involved with land and people. But this is not the business of your princely person, which should not do any of these things but should think about the administration of the government, the maintenance and protection of justice and peace, and the punishment of the wicked.
Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §675, 227-8.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bursting the BRTFSSG Bubble, Part 2: Conscience-Bound

You can’t help but notice the proposed constitutional changes in the final report of the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG). Some of these changes contain new and novel language requiring subscription to the Constitution of the Synod and upholding the “collective will” of the Synod. For a document that repeatedly emphasizes the advisory nature of the Synod, it’s starting to sound less and less “advisory.”

The most dramatic change related to subscription is found in Article VII of the Constitution. Previously this Article contained three simple sentences delineating the relation of the Synod to its members (which are defined as congregations, pastors, and commissioned ministers such as teachers and DCEs). The recommended changes add an entire section, delineating the relation of members to the Synod (Appendix 1, p. 1.6), and reads as follows:

B. Relation of the Members to the Synod

In their relation to the Synod, all members of the Synod, by voluntarily subscribing to the Confession (Article II) and the Constitution of the Synod, make a confession of faith, a joint commitment to God’s mission, and a mutual covenant of love. In so doing, they

  1. Bind themselves to the confessional basis of the Synod (Article II);
  2. Agree to abide by, honor, and uphold the collective will of the Synod as expressed in its Constitution, Bylaws, and convention resolutions;
  3. Pledge their active involvement and support of the Synod’s efforts to carry out its mission and purpose; and
  4. Promise that, if they find themselves to be in disagreement with the Synod’s actions or positions, they will so advise the Synod in a loving and evangelical manner, and if necessary follow the Synod’s authorized procedures for expressing dissent.
This addition (as well as the addition of Constitutional subscription as one of the Requirements of Membership in proposed Article VI, p. 1.5) insists that members of the Synod subscribe to the Confession and the Constitution. But what does “subscription” mean? According to The Book of Concord, “Confessional subscription is a solemn act of confessing in which I willingly and in the fear of God confess my faith and declare to the world what is my belief, teaching and confession. This I do by pledging myself with my whole heart to certain definite, formulated confessions. I do this in complete assurance that these confessions are true and are correct expositions of Scripture. These symbolical writings become for me permanent confessions and patterns of doctrine, according to which I judge all other writings and teachers” (redacted from Dr. Robert Preus’s article “Confessional Subscription”).

From that short explanation, it’s obvious that subscription to the Constitution isn’t going to work – at least not in the same sense. No one is going risk their hide to confess the entire Constitution of the LCMS, let alone Bylaws and convention resolutions by extension. In large part they contain no doctrine, and what little doctrine is present, as we saw in Part 1 of this series, may be subject to change. Walther had this to say about Lutherans who want to play with the doctrine of the Church:

A doctrine does not become an open question when supposedly loyal Lutherans are not in agreement. And whoever permits such doctrines to be treated as open questions surrenders the fortress of the confession of our Church and is in reality no loyal Lutheran. (Matthew C. Harrison, At Home in the House of My Fathers (Fort Wayne: Lutheran Legacy Press, 2009) 130.)

Is it possible that the constitutional subscription that’s being demanded is meant in a different sense than that of the subscription to the Confession? That would make sense, but yet the word “subscribing” in the proposed new wording is used only once and attaches itself to both of the words in the sentence, “Confession” and “Constitution,” indicating it has the same meaning for both words. The wording indicates that subparagraphs 1-4 define what that subscription entails: “…In so doing, they …agree to abide by, honor, and uphold the collective will of the Synod as expressed in its Constitution, Bylaws, and convention resolutions.”

No person is going to subscribe to resolutions as though they were heaven-sent, whose birth pains occur on the floor of a convention. Resolutions are totally at the mercy of the floor committee and the prevailing political winds and ideology of whomever appointed them during that particular convention cycle. At any moment the resolution might read one way, and the very next moment have a completely different meaning attached to it in helter-skelter fashion.

Friday, November 13, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Imagine Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things” in The Sound of Music for this blog post and you’ll have a modestly grand time.

If you’re a blogger or a website administrator, there’s about a 99% chance that you check your “stats.” Your stats can tell you a lot about who’s visiting your website, where they’re located, how long they stay and what they read -- even the screen resolution of their monitor. If you’re a business owner, your stats translate into dollars. Many a web guru has spent a sleepless night or more figuring out how they can drive their “stats” up. (A little like Ablaze! officials I guess.) Sophisticated web designers will go to great lengths to design everything on the page, including the wording, to drive up their “Google rank.”

On the other hand, I don’t look at my stats a whole lot. You won’t see me writing blog posts in a certain way just to attract more readers. One thing I do check on occasion though is the keywords people type into their web browser (i.e. Google) to arrive at this blog (and also at, which is a Lutheran apologetics website that I also have a hand in). It’s kinda fun to see some of the things people type in to get here. Today for instance, somebody in Korea ( typed in the word “schadenfreude” and ended up at Stand Firm, specifically at last Friday’s humorous post about Pastor Weedon, called “Was it Schandenfreude?" I’m still not sure how they got here. I looked through ten pages of schandenfreude on Google and couldn’t find the link for Stand Firm, but it’s gotta be there somewhere. Your “page rank,” where your website page is positioned in relation to all the other links that come up on the search engine page, changes from day to day, based on a very sophisticated (and secret) set of parameters that Google uses. They tweak their parameters often, which is one reason why the same page’s page rank can vary from day to day.

An easier to understand visitor to Stand Firm was the one who typed “the green bible criticism” into the search box on Google in the U.S. That brought up an article called "The Green Bible: Environmentalism Gone Awry" that I wrote a while back. It was the second link listed on the first page of Google’s results, so it’s not surprising that they would end up at Stand Firm.

The visitors that constitute “a few of my favorite things” are the ones who end up at an article that may give them a bit of a surprise when they get there. Imagine the consternation the person who’s trying to track down some information on their favorite “movement,” the Transforming Churches Network, gets when they type “transforming churches network” in, and they select the third Google link, which takes them to "The Transforming Churches Network: Part 1, A Non-Native Invasion."

The unsuspecting person who’s not paying attention when they type in “pli lcms” during their search for the official Pastoral Leadership Institute website and accidently selects the second Google link instead of the first one will end up with a real shock at “A Third Seminary in the LCMS?

When you type in "’emerging church’ lcms” the sixth Google link will take you to “LCMS Inc.: We R In Control,” which is actually an article on the BRTFSSG, and Google also lists a sub-article, "The Emerging Church, Part 2: A 'Chastened Hermeneutic'.” The hat tip for the first article listed on the Google results goes to my friend Ingrid Schlueter for her blog post at Slice of Laodicea called “LCMS Invites Emerging Church Guru Dan Kimball.”

But my most favorite thing happens when an unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witness types in “nearest kingdom hall memorial,” hoping to attend the memorial, which is their equivalent to Holy Communion (minus the Holy part). If they select the first Google link in the list, they end up at Sound Witness, faced with an apologetics article on the very same topic titled “Our Visit to the Kingdom Hall Memorial!” Written by my apologetics partner Greta Olsoe, the article lays out the works righteousness of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how their “memorial” contradicts the Gospel. Hopefully they’ll read it, and other similar articles at Sound Witness, and be rescued from their Law-driven organization.

Of course, while I say these things somewhat jokingly, it’s no joke. All of the apologetics articles that are sighted above have something in common, even though their subject matter is different. They all discuss the same error, in which man relies on himself to get things done, instead of relying on his Savior, who’s already completed His task on the cross. He’s already gotten it done. Whether you’re trying to save yourself through your own efforts, or trying to save someone else through your own efforts, neither will work. It’s only through trust in Jesus Christ, in what He has done, and in what He continues to do through His Word, that people come to a knowledge of the truth.

So when I see someone reading one of these articles I know that they’re being led to the truth, and that really is one of my favorite things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is This a Compliment?

Overheard recently on the ALPB Forum Online, a pan-Lutheran internet community, in a thread on the constitutional basis for the LCMS pre-convention gatherings. The conversation drifted to the Pastoral Leadership Institute and a quote from a previous Stand Firm post titled “A Third Seminary in the LCMS,” causing Atlantic District President Dr. David Benke to remark:

Although some might view the Stand Firm blogspot as the font of wisdom, it's representative of pretty much none of the leadership of the Missouri Synod as pertains to the Pastoral Leadership Institute. That doesn't make it wrong, of course.

…But for anyone on this board to look in thinking that the Stand Firm blogspot is representative of the Missouri Synod with regard to PLI would be a complete mistake.

Immediately following President Benke’s remark was a post by Rev. Charles Austin, who comments:

That's good to know. (Sort of like wondering whether the Word Alone or CORE blogs are "representative of the ELCA", no? )

You never know what’s going to turn up on the internet.

I wonder if Dr. Benke is sore at me for my blog post from 2008 titled "This Must Not Be Your Grandfather's Pope," in which I comment on his and President Kieschnick's visit with the Pope. I emailed Dr. Benke and offered to let him write a post about his visit at the time, but never heard back from him.

(Word Alone and CORE are groups within the ELCA which are trying to arrest the doctrinal freefall within their Synod.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who Is Christ? Look to the Eucharist!

Quoting Dr. Carl Beckwith from the October 12 Issues, Etc. show:
…In the early Church when the Fathers are thinking about who Christ is as true God and true man, they always want to point to the Eucharist; they always want to point to the Lord’s Supper, and the argument is something like this, that if you undermine who Christ truly is, that God has in fact entered into His own creation, assuming a true humanity, that He humbles Himself and comes to us in what appears to be a lowly manner in that humanity, well so to we see that in the Eucharist, that these common elements of wine and bread, yet God uses these to communicate His presence to us, and there we encounter the true body and blood of our Lord and Savior. They see an analogy here that God is the one always coming to us, serving us with His Word and His Sacrament, and this is what we do as we gather together in that worshipping community to hear that Word proclaimed, to receive that Sacrament, to offer our prayers of thanksgiving and our confession of who Christ is, and what He has done for us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Institutionalism: A Lack of Confidence

Heard on the October 23 Issues, Etc. segment on "The Reformation Today" with Dr. Laurence White, Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston:

Institutionalism is by nature a reflection of a lack of confidence in what the founding President of our church body, C.F.W. Walther used to talk about as the power of the Word of God in convincing. We don’t need constitutions and bylaws and more power and centralization for the officials and elected officers of a denomination to draw us together, because all of those things are inherently inimical to genuine Scriptural doctrinal unity, and when we resort to them we’re indicating a lack of confidence in the power of the Word of God and convincing.

There was a time in our own Missouri Synod where, when the Synod gathered for a national convention, the major feature of the convention was the doctrinal essay that went on and on and on throughout the convention. And that was what the delegates talked about when they went home - how we as a church body discuss the truths of God’s Word together and celebrated our unity in that truth. But the less confident we are, about the truth as it is confessed in God’s Word, and the power of that Biblical truth to unite us and bring us together, the more prominent human rules and regulations will necessarily become, and the more grasping for additional authority our leaders will become because we really don’t believe any more that God’s Word and a common confession of the truth of that Word can unite us and hold us together.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bursting the BRTFSSG Bubble, Part 1

The LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance Report – where to start? First off, let’s thank the Task Force members for the work they’ve put into their recommendations in service to the Synod. Their task was not an easy one. They’ve spent countless hours arriving at this point and they should be commended for the time and effort they’ve made.

Of necessity, I’ll mainly address areas where I disagree with the Task Force counsel, although there are areas where I agree as well, and will touch on some of these spots in the future. My comments are in no way meant to reflect personally on the members of the Task Force, whom I’m sure have done what they feel is in the best interest of the Synod. You may have other ideas as well, and I encourage you to share them here and discuss them with your peers. Some of these areas are adiaphora and some of them are not. None of them are unimportant. God grant us the wisdom to walk in His Word, as He preserves His Church through Word and Sacrament.

What’s Going On?

Looking at the broad landscape that has been sculpted by the Task Force, there are a few thoughts that initially come to mind. First, there is hardly a convention hall or dust-filled closet of the Synod that hasn’t been reengineered by the changes that the Task Force endorses. This truly is a “new way of doing ‘church,’” to turn an overused phrase that shouldn’t be uttered in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (not that we would confuse the Synod with the Church).

Second, what the Task Force has wrought is a top down structure where, like the yellow eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, nothing moves in Synod without the watchful gaze and consent of the Synod President. The report’s attestations to the congregational nature of this new structure are hollow promises, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Third, there are a number of characteristics of the Task Force proposals that contain the hallmarks of a Church Growth Movement mentality. Some of these characteristics include an overemphasis on church growth (often called “mission”) at the expense of doctrine, a dubious view of the function of the Office of the Holy Ministry, a “bigger is better” theology of glory, a two-fold de-emphasis on the liturgy (both in terms of use of the liturgy itself in the Divine Service and in terms of the Sacramental life of the Church, which should be one and the same), and a reliance on worldly methods instead of the Word of God. While this list is not all inclusive, it illustrates where we are headed as a Synod if we do not carefully scrutinize the Task Force endorsements and reject those which are unsound.

Finally, and by far most importantly, there are changes and additions that deliver a serious body blow to the doctrinal integrity of the Synod. If these Task Force ideas come to fruition, we will have curved in on ourselves, reserving the haughty right to rule over and create doctrine through our own resolutions. Like the grinding weight of a glacier trekking down its appointed slope, the doctrinal bedrock of the LCMS will be gradually and unrelentingly reduced to glacial till, solid rock crushed to gravel and silt, carried away to an awaiting pool of doctrinal indifference and heterodoxy. Though these changes may seem small, they reflect the same steps other Synods have taken on their way to apostasy. This, we cannot allow to happen.

Whose Doctrine Is It?

A good metaphor for the Task Force handling of doctrine can be seen in their question on page 49 of the report: “What benefits do they [the recommendations] offer for carrying out the mission and vision of the church?” The Task Force seems to believe the one doctrine of Christ is plastic – it can be molded and changed as we see fit and as our “vision” becomes more enlightened. Yet the Church has no vision of its own. The Church’s doctrine was built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. It is the same doctrine of the apostolic Church. It is the same doctrine of the Church Fathers, the same doctrine of the Lutheran reformers, and the same doctrine of our grandfathers. It does not change.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Was it Schadenfreude?

I was listening to Pastor Wil Weedon during Part 3 of the five-part series on the Nicene Creed on Issues, Etc. (October 7). In Pastor Weedon’s Weedonish way he was jumping back and forth from one language to another. First Greek, then Latin, then German and back to Greek again. After all of that came Hebrew too! All flawlessly pronounced and inflected. I wish I could do that! And then, IT HAPPENED! He mispronounced a word! A weak spot in the Weedon armor. He wandered a little too far off the path and related the Latin carnis resurrectio (the resurrection of the flesh) to the Spanish word “con,” as in “chili con carne” (chili with meat). But he pronounced the “o” in con with an “ah” sound instead of a long “o” – a grave mispronunciation of the Spanish. Was it schadenfreude? Was I secretly happy that Pastor Weedon had mispronounced a word. Nah, not really. If I was secretly happy about it I wouldn’t be telling you about it now would I. I’m publically happy about it because there’s a word somewhere in the wide wide world that I can pronounce that Pastor Weedon can’t. So yeah, I guess it is a case of schadenfreude!

Seriously, I’m thankful that we’ve got Pastors like Pastor Weedon who are willing to teach us the tougher stuff, and I’m thankful for Issues, Etc., which continually supplies us with quality teachers. I live vicariously through Pastor Weedon as he quotes Scripture and theologians in their native tongues. And I share in his joy as he revels in bringing to us the history of the Church and through it the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I just hope he stays away from the Spanish!

The series on The Nicene Creed was excellent, so good in fact that I'll have another [slightly] more serious post or two in the future inspired by it. The first episode was on October 5. Go to the archive page on the Issues, Etc. website and scroll down to find it.

Pastor Weedon's blog, unusually titled Weedon's Blog, can be found here.

The graphic comes from

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Pastoral Leadership Institute Devotee?

Another LCMS synodical official was caught on tape recently talking about pastoral leadership, and what it takes to be a good “leader.” Who was it, and what did he have to say? It was Pastor Matt Harrison, Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, preaching to the faculty and students of Concordia Seminary. Here’s what he had to say:

…The more the difficulties you face, the challenges, the crosses, these will make you the kind of leader, the kind of pastor the Lord would have you be -- His own, after His own heart.

How about that! Pastoral development without a classroom, through the cross. You can listen to Pastor Harrison’s entire sermon on the October 12 Issues, Etc. program.

For more information on the Pastoral Leadership Institute, read the post "A Third Seminary in the LCMS?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sit Down and Eat

Our son had a good time at the school dance the other night. He and his “date” and a bunch of other kids went to Red Robin to eat prior to the dance. I asked him if he paid for his date's dinner. He answered with a somewhat less-than-enthusiastic “Yes.” I pointed out to him, half in jest, that every time we sit down to a meal that’s what I’m doing – times three! For every meal, I’m “buying” it, Cheryl is preparing it, and all Zach and Paige have to do is sit down and eat it. That’s a pretty sweet deal. And that’s exactly the way God intended for it to be.

A family is really a picture of a heavenly reality. Just as our heavenly Father provides for us, the mom and dad provide for their little flock. Look around. Everything that we have, and everything that we need, are provided for us by God. He grants us food, clothing, and the roof over our head. He blesses us with a spouse and children. Our marriages should reflect the intimate love that Christ has for His bride, the Church. The husband should provide and sacrifice all for his bride, and the wife should trust and honor her husband. And both parents are overjoyed as they help their children grow in the knowledge and trust of their Savior.

So the next time you sit down for dinner with your family, look around. Though we’re often beset by the burdens of life, at the same time we are blessed in our families with the picture of that heavenly reality. Physically, God promises to provide for our needs – and there they are, spread out before us. And spiritually, God promises to provide for our needs as well. All that we need to do has already been done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. What's left for us to do? Sit down and eat.

Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts, which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

photo credit: presta

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Exclusion of Truth

Quoting Professor John Pless, from his paper "The Ordination of Women and Ecclesial Endorsement of Homosexuality: Are They Related?," presented at the Lutheran Theological Conference of South Africa in August of this year:

"When truth is sacrificed for unity, unity will finally demand the exclusion of those who insist on truth."

photo credit: naughton321

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reformation Day 2009

492 years ago today nails driven into the wooden doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, brought the Church back to the nails driven into Christ’s cross nearly 1,500 years earlier. I thank God for Dr. Martin Luther and all of the other great reformers in the life of the Church, who restored the one doctrine of the Church Universal, so that we all might live in Christ’s Gospel promise, free from the terror of the Law.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Colossians 2:9-15 ESV

photo credit: paula moya

Friday, October 30, 2009

Luther’s Te Deum

Martin Luther considered the Te Deum to be one of the most important creeds of the Church, eclipsed only by the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed.

The introduction in Luther’s Works has this to say of his Te Deum:

But here as elsewhere Luther proved more original and creative than any of his predecessors. Instead of clinging slavishly to the expressions of the Latin text, he recast the substance of the original in the new mold of a rimed chant for the people. Luther also recast the music. Doubtlessly the syllabic simplification of a florid Latin chant is Luther’s own work, and the bold steps of the strongly Phrygian melody give almost more forceful expression to the archaic grandeur of the ancient canticle than the original plain-chant melody.

Here is the text of Luther’s Te Deum, written some time around 1529:

Lord God, thy praise we sing: Lord God, our thanks we bring.
Father in eternity: all the world worships thee.
Angels and all heav’nly host: of thy glory loudly boast.
Both cherubim and seraphim: sing ever with loud voice this hymn:
Holy art thou, our God: holy art thou, our God,
Holy art thou, our God, the Lord of Sabaoth.

Thy god-like might and lordship go: wide over heav’n and earth below.
The twelve apostles join in song: with the dear prophets’ goodly throng.
The martyrs’ noble army raise: their voice to thee in hymns of praise.
All Christendom with one accord: exalt and praise their common Lord.
Thee, God Father in heaven’s throne: and thine only begotten Son,
Also the Holy Paraclete: we ever laud with praises meet.

O King of Glory, thee we own: thou art the Father’s only Son.
Thou didst not spurn the virgin’s womb: to save mankind from sin and doom.
Thou on the might of death didst tread: and Christians all to heav’n hast led.
Thou sittest at thy Father’s right: equal to him in pow’r and might.
To earth thou shalt return again: in majesty to judge all men.

Now come, Lord, to thy servants’ aid: who by thy blood thine own were made.
Let us in heaven have our dole: and with the holy e’er be whole.
Thy folk, Lord Jesus Christ, advance: and bless thine own inheritance.
Them watch and ward, Lord, ev’ry day: eternally them raise, we pray.
Daily, Lord God, we honor thee: and praise thy name continually.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, we humbly pray: to keep us safe from sin this day.
O Lord, have mercy on us all: have mercy on us when we call.
Let shine on us, O God, thy face: our only hope is in thy grace.
Our trust, O Lord, is all in thee: O let us ne’er confounded be.

Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann. vol. 53, Liturgy and Hymns, CD-ROM (Saint Louis: CPH, 1999).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fill 'Er Up with Law Please

Feeling like your missional gas tank is on “E?” Head on over to, where your tank can be filled by "lcms mission leaders" with a little Gospel and a lot of Law. Complete with inspirational quotes from Rick Warren and Perry Noble. If you aren’t familiar with Purpose-Driven Pastor Perry Noble, please watch the video below, but make sure you’re sitting down first.

Frequent readers of this blog know that I often quote the work of others. Who you quote really belies who it is that you trust, and what you believe. I quote people that understand the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, that faithfully preach the Gospel. When you put quotes of Pastor Rick Warren up, it makes one wonder what it is you believe. Pastor Warren hopelessly confuses Law and Gospel, and preaches a salvation that is based on your own actions. It makes me think, from the quotes of Warren and Noble on the Ablaze Fuel blog, that the posters don’t espouse Lutheran theology. If they did, they’d avoid these types of preachers, not cling to their every word.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blue Ribbon Danger

Pastor Tim Rossow points out today on The Brothers of John the Steadfast website that the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance proposals were based on the guidance of non-Lutheran consultants. He remarks:

The proposals to remake our synod are based on the advice of non-Lutheran consultants, one of whom is religion and cultural pluralist David Roozen. Cultural pluralism and its cousin multiculturalism are sociological approaches to understanding human behavior which promote a diversity of viewpoints (truth systems) and reject the idea that there is one foundational truth.

As far as I can tell the content of pages 16 -19 of the Final Report have never been seen before. I was studying this document with my elders Monday night and was surprised to learn that this non-Lutheran consultant had great amounts of input into the process even before the original proposals were written. Every member of every LCMS congregation needs to know that synod money and time was spent on hiring consultants who do not understand nor subscribe to the truth of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions and that their ideology is at the heart of the proposals.
I recommend you read Pastor Rossow's entire post. It is rather sobering.

My thoughts on the use of consultants to shape the future of the LCMS, which I made on the BJS site:

We shouldn’t be surprised that these proposals were engineered by a non-Christian consultant. It is the modus operandi of the current administration. This is in keeping with the “I’m not a theologian” mindset. If you claim you’re not a theologian, it gives you license to ignore theology and use the ways of the world to do what is right in your own eyes. Ablaze! was initially suggested by consultants as a fund raising operation. Transforming Churches Networks is based on the “theology” of non-Lutheran experts, with the predictable result that it doesn’t point to Christ and His Gospel, but rather to the Law, which cannot save. We seem to be in love with consultants. What happened to the simple words of the Bible to drive what we do? The Bible has become too meager and bare, tossed aside for the glamour, and exorbitant price tag, of today’s politically correct mareketeers and consultants. You get what you pay for. When you hire non-Lutheran and/or non-Christian consultants, you will get non-Lutheran and/or non-Christian results. We, as a Synod, have sworn before God to stand on our Confession, the same Confession professed by the Apostles. It’s time that the LCMS and its Confession were reunited. I suggest we elect someone to lead the LCMS who takes our Confession seriously, someone who understands the theology, yes, the doctrine of Christ, that should undergird all that we do and say as we walk together. I still want to be a Lutheran. How about you?

photo credit: teotwawki