Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Christmas Liturgy

“Set max power.”
“Power set, N1’s checked.”
“Airspeed alive both sides.”
“80 knots looking for 146.”
“V1, VR, V2.”
“Positive rate.”
“Gear up.”
“Verify LNAV.”
“Bug up, N1, flaps one.”
“Flaps up, after takeoff checklist.”

The wheels retract into their wells as we accelerate and point the nose of the jet southward on Christmas Eve morning, heading for Cabo San Lucas. On board is a full plane of mostly turistas and a few Mexicans. The flight is uneventful and relatively restful. Once we’re handed off on the radio from Los Angeles Center to Mazatlan Center just north of the border, the radio gets pretty quite. There’s not a whole lot to do except monitor the instruments and enjoy the view. From up at altitude, you can easily see all the way across the Baja, which is a beautiful sight. It’s very desolate, mountainous, and not much sign of civilization. The occasional volcanic island goes sliding by against its watery-blue backdrop.

Four hours later we touch down to a warm sunny day at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula. The cacti and mesquite hurtle by out the side window as we roll out on runway 34. While I’d rather be with my family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, getting people safely to their destination on Christmas is a good feeling – lots of folks who want to be with their loved ones, either at home or on the beach.

Every year that I fly on Christmas, I give the rest of the crew a present. This year I bought gift certificates to for the four Flight Attendants and the Co-pilot. Nobody is expecting that. We have our own mini-Christmas before the passengers board in Seattle. On the way back from Cabo on Christmas Day, the Co-pilot brings a bunch of chocolate. I guess he figures a well-chocolated Captain is a happy Captain. So we have a little auburn goodness as Los Arcos recedes in the distance.

Our Christmas liturgy, the series of calls that we made up above on takeoff, help to get us safely off the ground and help to get our passengers where they want to go. Through our vocation as pilots we serve our neighbor – a small gift that comes about because of the big gift of a Savior, God incarnate, who also comes to serve. A blessed Christmastide to you and your family as we celebrate the Liturgy which has no end in our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here’s a few fotograf√≠as:

Everybody lines up to wave goodbye just before we push back.

Looking through the heads up display out the windshield.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We Have Seen His Glory

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 ESV

photo credit: .Bala

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Does It Mean to Examine Yourself for Communion?

Quoting from a sermon of Dr. Martin Luther preached in his home on Maundy Thursday in 1534:
To examine one’s self means to consider well in what condition we are. If we find that our hearts are hardened, that we are not willing to refrain from sin, and that we do not fear its presence, then we may well conclude that we should not go to the Sacrament; for we are then no Christians. The best thing we could do, under such circumstances, would be to put a stop to such wickedness, to repent, to trust faithfully in the promises and mercy of God, and to unite again with Christians in the participation of the Holy Sacrament. If, however, we are unwilling to do this, we ought not to approach the Lord’s Table; for we would surely eat and drink damnation there. Let us carefully meditate upon what eternity has in store for us, if we thus fall under the judgment of God. If we are mindful of this, we will not be slow to repent, to put aside anger and other kinds of wickedness, and to make our peace with God in His Holy Supper. Again, if our hearts are contrite, if we confess our sins before God and are heartily sorry on account of them, if we believe that God in mercy, for Christ’s sake, will pardon us, then we are well prepared and can confidently say to the Savior: “O Lord, we are poor sinners, and therefore come to Your table to receive consolation.” If we approach the Sacrament in such a spirit, we shall be truly ready and receive the richest blessings. In behalf of such contrite and sorrowing souls the Lord’s Table was prepared, so that they might find there consolation and joy.
This quote is taken from the inaugural edition of Logia in 1992, in an article titled “Two Sermons on the Holy Supper.” They in turn were quoting from the house postils, in this case from Sermons on the Gospels for the Sundays and Principal Festivals of the Church Year by Martin Luther, translated by E. Schmid and edited by M. Loy (Rock Island, Illinois: Augustana Book Company, 1871).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quotable Blog Quotes #15

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Abide In My Word
Pastor Tom Messer
Contemporary Worship Came from Others

…Those who led the charge to turn worship into an experiential, enthusiastic, emotional-manipulating, feel-good, fun-fest do not believe Jesus is Present in their "worship experiences." That's the whole point, the whole basis for this genre of worship. Jesus is "up there," not here. We need to reach Him. We need to let Him know how much we love Him. We experience His love in return as we feel Him touch our hearts. And, if the worship is powerful enough, then that experienced love we feel in our hearts will lead us to commit ourselves to Jesus, make Him our personal Lord and Savior, and leave with the intent to live for Him in this world. It's all about you. Your feelings. Your emotions. Your decision. Your choice. Your commitment. Your life. Jesus is nothing more or less than the object of your affection and the arbiter of your feelings. It is little wonder that the vast majority of contemporary Christian praise songs focus on feelings and employ heart-language, since, well, they are simply the subjective experience and shared feelings of their authors put before others in the hope that they, too, will share that experience and those feelings.

Pastoral Meanderings
Pastor Larry Peters
Who is best equipped to change or adapt the liturgy?

It follows then that for whom the liturgy feels like an ill fitting garment, whose memory needs ever to be prompted by the appropriate response, for whom the church year is alien to their sense of time, and who seek to remove the liturgy as if it were a shackle or chain should not or cannot engage their discretion in adapting or changing the liturgy.

Pastoral Meanderings
Pastor Larry Peters

The good and wise presider will work to keep the liturgical flow going, without intruding or distracting from the unfolding of Confession to Word to Meal to Sending. That is, I often think, the gift of presiding at the liturgy -- knowing when to speak and when to keep silent, what is needful to be said and what just happens and, well, flows. Far from assisting this flow, the constant flow of announcements, explanations, and page numbers turns this flow into a faucet that is on and off, on and off, jerky and disconcerting.

Pastor Tom Chryst
Three Reactions to the Law

The great blessing of the law though, is that it drives us to despair - but in preparation for the hope and joy of the Gospel! To die, only to know the life he brings. Yes, without knowing our sin, how could we know our savior? Without knowing the severity of our sin, how could we appreciate the depth of his forgiveness? Without a daily, hard, cold look in the mirror, and a true view of the ugliness of our own sin, how can we daily know the forgiveness that flows from our baptism? This is the great blessing of the law - that it prepares us for the Gospel. It is the diagnosis before the treatment, the plowing of the dead field before the seed is planted and flourishes. The law lowers us down into the grave and shovels on the dirt, only for the trumpet call of Christ to bust our tombs open and burst death open into life.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Santa Sighting!

I bumped into Santa Claus at the Seattle airport. He had just finished up his deliveries and dropped into Seattle to get his sleigh runners waxed before the return flight to the North Pole. He and one of his elves commandeered a cart and were headed to the Sports Page Pub to tip back a cold one (doesn't it seem like he'd be drinking hot chocolate or something?), but I couldn't join them, since I was on duty. Oh well. Maybe next year. See ya Santa.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Nativity of Our Lord

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 8 The voice of your watchmen--they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.  Isaiah 52:7-10 ESV

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." 13 And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   Isaiah 7:10-14 ESV

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Triple Advent of Christ

The thoughts of 16th century Lutheran musicologist Lucas Lossius:
The Church celebrates the triple advent (or “coming”) of Christ. First is the advent into flesh, which is despised and humble before the world, of which Zechariah 9[:9] says, “Behold, Your King comes to you, gentle and poor, sitting upon a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden,” [cf.] Matthew 21[:5]. The second is the spiritual advent, which happens daily into the minds of the righteous, since He is present constantly with the Church, hears her, helps and consoles her, concerning which Christ said, John 14[:18]: “I will not leave you orphans, but will come to you.” Again, [v. 23:] “If anyone loves Me, We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.” The third advent of Christ is His glorious return to judgment, concerning which Isaiah 3[:14] says, “The Lord will come into judgment.” And Matthew 24[:30] says, “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.” It is useful always to consider these three advents of the Son of God—into flesh, the minds of the righteous, and for the last judgment—and to have them set forth in the Church for stirring up faith in minds, invocation, and the fear of God or repentance. St. Augustine says thus on Luke, “This time is called the Advent of the Lord for good reason: so that every believer will prepare himself and mend his ways, so that he may have strength worthily to celebrate the nativity of his God.”
Treasury of Daily Prayer, ed. Scot A. Kinnaman, (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) 1045.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People

Quoting from Dr. Martin Luther's treatise The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods, written in 1519.  God becomes incarnate that we might break His body on a cross, and that same body then be given back to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, healing our bodies and uniting us in perfect love: 
Whoever is in despair, distressed by a sin-stricken conscience or terrified by death or carrying some other burden upon his heart, if he would be rid of them all, let him go joyfully to the sacrament of the altar and lay down his woe in the midst of the community [of saints] and seek help from the entire company of the spiritual body—just as a citizen whose property has suffered damage or misfortune at the hands of his enemies makes complaint to his town council and fellow citizens and asks them for help. The immeasurable grace and mercy of God are given us in this sacrament to the end that we might put from us all misery and tribulation [anfechtung] and lay it upon the community [of saints], and especially on Christ. Then we may with joy find strength and comfort, and say, “Though I am a sinner and have fallen, though this or that misfortune has befallen me, nevertheless I will go to the sacrament to receive a sign from God that I have on my side Christ’s righteousness, life, and sufferings, with all holy angels and the blessed in heaven and all pious men on earth. If I die, I am not alone in death; if I suffer, they suffer with me. [I know that] all my misfortune is shared with Christ and the saints, because I have a sure sign of their love toward me.” See, this is the benefit to be derived from this sacrament; this is the use we should make of it. Then the heart cannot but rejoice and be strengthened.
Martin Luther, Luther's Works, Vol. 35 : Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1960). 35:III-54.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"My Katy von Bora"

Today the Church commemorates Katharina von Bora Luther, Luther's wife, as well as house mistress, gardener, and brewmistress too. Perhaps no greater indirect compliment could be paid to a wife than Luther paid to Katy in his words:
The Epistle to the Galatians is my dear epistle. I have put my confidence in it. It is my Katy von Bora.
For photos of Katie's grave, see President Matt Harrison's recent photographs here.

Martin Luther, Luther's Works, Vol. 54 : Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1967). 54:III-20.

photo credit: pittigliani2005

Join Me at the Lutheran Concerns Association Conference

The Lutheran Concerns Association (LCA) Annual Conference is being held on Monday, January 16th at Don Hall’s Guest House in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I’m planning on being there – maybe you’d like to head on over as well. You can double your conference pleasure by migrating to Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) the next day for their 2012 Symposia Series. The LCA promotes confessional causes within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and speaks out on issues which undermine confessional Lutheranism.

Some of the LCA highlights include the following speakers:
  • Rev. Dr. Larry Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, presenting “For Better or Worse: Seminaries, Theological Education and Pastoral Formation”
  • Rev. Kevin Vogts on “Our Concordia System: The Dying of the Light or Light from Above?”
  • Rev. Michael Kumm, Vice Chair of the LCMS Board of Directors, on “Synodical Issues and Update”
  • Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, member of the LCMS Board for National Mission and co-host of the radio show Table Talk Radio, on “Youth Ministry and the Disappearing Demographic: What’s Gone Wrong and How Can We Fix It?”
  • Mr. Walter Dissen, Esq, LCA President, on “Theology: the Real Issue of the Preus Era”
  • Rev. Dr. John Wohlrabe, LCMS Second Vice-President, on the Office of the Ministry
Also speaking will be Rev. Joseph Fisher, Rev. Charles Froh, Mr. Scott Meyer, Esq., and Rev. Dr. Bill Weinrich.

With all of these speakers and a gathering of fellow confessional Lutherans, it should be a rewarding experience. You can find all the details here. You can subscribe to the newsletter of the LCA, The Lutheran Clarion, by going here:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Less Tuition – for a Semester

Our daughter Paige graduated summa cum laude from Concordia University Wisconsin on Saturday with a degree in Theology and a minor in Missions. Of course, we’re very proud of her and thank God for the blessings He’s given us these past four years.

Rev. Dr. Tom Feiertag - one of Paige's favorites
What do you do with a theology degree? You go on to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne in the fall for the Deaconess program.

This was the first time Paige graduated without being one of the speakers, so we had to settle for LCMS President Matt Harrison, who gave a wonderful speech which can be summarized in one word, hope. (You can watch Paige’s high school commencement speech here.)

We had a great time afterwards with a party at Luther Memorial Chapel’s Student Center. Maybe most graduation parties don’t go on for seven hours, but with so many friends and relatives, pool, ping pong, foosball, and especially a chocolate fountain, you just can’t stop. Plus we had a half hour hymn sing to top off the evening. Whoever said that college age kids can’t relate to church hymns has never met these guys.

Thanks to all who came, and thanks to Rev. Dr. Pat Ferry and the entire staff of Concordia University Wisconsin for all that you do. If you’re considering a university for your kids, Concordia Wisconsin is a great choice.

Two more of Paige's favorites

Your Throne Shall Be Established Forever

The reading for the Fourth Sunday in Advent:

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." 3 And Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you." 4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, 5 "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"' 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'"   2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 ESV

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is It in Your Mailbox?

The Winter 2011 edition of HigherThings© Magazine should be on its way.  There's an article written by yours truly in it titled "In, Not Of."  You, or someone you know, might benefit from a subscription. There's even an electronic version, instantly downloadable.  They make great Christmas gifts.  You can receive a complimentary copy of HigherThings© Magazine, or subscribe, by going here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

President Harrison's Advent Greeting

I'm thankful this Advent for our Synod, our President, Matthew Harrison, and especially for Christ's grace, that forgives me, a poor sinful being. Here's President Harrison's Advent Greeting:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Do You Pray? Pastor George Borghardt's Got the Answer

How could you not want to watch this Higher Things video short, considering it's the incomparable Pastor George Borghardt teaching you how to pray?   He also offers sound advice on how to avoid "the three little piggy prayer."  Tune in.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O that We Were There

I came across a document titled “A Manual for Acolytes” on the internet. Maybe we could use it to “up our game” a little. Here’s a few quotes:

A Manual for Acolytes

“The Lord is my Light.”

What is the key function of an acolyte?

• To be an outward and very visible sign of Christ's be reliable, attentive, expectant, worshipful, confident, caring, careful and serve the Lord with gladness.
• To serve the Lord in the gathering of God's people by assisting in the drama and actions of the liturgies of the Church.

The Covenant

11.  Wear the very best and/or cleanest shoes I have.
12.  Be prepared for the unexpected or accidental.

...The best rule is that all should be done with dignity and care in the simplest way possible so as not to distract the congregation.

...Not just anyone becomes an acolyte. We don't recruit people from the Stanford Shopping Center. It is a privilege and an honor to serve.

...Many of us have been raised in the Church and most all of us have been at an event where we are so moved we have to be still……that's what it means to be reverent. That's what we are in worship.

...As you cross the chancel, always stop and reverence (bow) in the direction of the Altar.


•  Prayer with the ministers.

While Serving

•  Have a good time, with a feeling of reverence and dignity.
•  Keep hands together when moving about the sanctuary.
•  When crossing the chancel, pause and reverence the altar.

photo credit: jdbradley

Monday, December 12, 2011

Binding Up the Brokenhearted

The first reading for the Third Sunday in Advent, Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 ESV:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 8 For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Little Tired of Frosty? Try Sacred Christmas Music on LPR

Tired of hearing Willie Nelson singing "Frosty the Snowman" on your van ride to the hotel? The solution is right around the corner. Beginning on Christmas Eve, Lutheran Public Radio will be playing sacred Christmas music for the entire Christmas season. Tune in here.  My ears can't wait.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Unionistic Christmas

The Arlington United Methodist Church in Arlington, Tennessee announces the community-wide Christmas Day worship service like this:

The Advent Presbyterian Church in Arlington, where the event is being held, has this on their calendar:

Christ Lutheran Church, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation, puts it like this:

What's the difference?  Christ Lutheran Church omits the word "worship."  By omitting "worship," does that get them off the hook?  Here's a quote from the Christian Cyclopedia:
...The Concordia Cyclopedia (St. Louis, 1927), p. 774: “Religious unionism consists in joint worship and work of those not united in doctrine. Its essence is an agreement to disagree. In effect, it denies the doctrine of the clearness of Scripture.”
Maybe there's something here that isn't as it seems, because it seems that having a joint service with Methodists and Presbyterians on Christmas Day or any other day is unionism, and even if it's not, I won't be there.  We've all agreed not to do this sort of thing as Article VI of the LCMS Constitution clearly states:
Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as:
...b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession...
A blessed Advent to those of you who are non-Lutherans.  I rejoice that you are fellow Christians and I rejoice with you in the birth of our Savior, but all the same will reserve Christ's Christmas Day leitourgia for fellow Lutherans who share our confession.

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions, that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

For You Creative Types Out There

I'm a little slow in posting this.  You can contribute to Dan Engle's Christmas video that will be featured by Time Out and released on Christmas Day.  The video will feature LSB hymn #370, "What Child Is This."  Dan is looking for your video and stills to incorporate into the project.  Time is running short - he needs your submissions by December 18 or sooner, so dig out the Super 8 and have some fun.  More information can be found here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Doctrinally Pure?

Considering yesterday's post, the following comments from Pastor Wilken on the November 4 Issues, Etc. listener email segment related to the teaching of truth in the Church and the use of doctrinally pure materials seem rather timely:
If you had a potluck, at church, and your pastor showed up with a case of bottled water, you know, people out there at the picnic with the pot luck.  They want to have somethin’ to drink.  He’s in charge of bringin’ the bottled water.  O.K.?  And he comes in with a couple cases of this stuff.  And you look at it and it doesn’t look right.  The water’s kind of yellow.  Maybe some of the bottles look like they’ve been opened before – got some like dirty fingerprints on them.  You see something floatin’ in one of the bottles.  And you say “Pastor, um, what’s going on?  Why did you bring this water to the potluck?  I mean everybody’s going to need to drink this water.  It doesn’t look right.”  “Well, look.  I could have gone to the store where I know they sell the pure water, that hasn’t been opened, that hasn’t been opened, that doesn’t got stuff floatin’ in it.  I could have done that.  But, but this water is so interesting – you haven’t tasted it yet.  Now granted, some who have drunk this water have gotten sick.  But I think our immune systems are strong enough here at this pot luck to drink this tainted bottled water.  Sure we could have pure, but I think it’s time to try this, and by the way, they’re drinkin’ this water at the church down the street, at their pot lucks and they, they’re turnin’ people away from their potlucks, they’re so popular.  They must be doing something right.  I think it’s this water. So we’re all gonna drink it.”  Would you drink the water, just because the big box church down the street having their pot luck is turning people away serving this tainted water?  That your pastor admits is tainted, but he thinks you might be able to drink it without gettin’ sick.  He thinks you might have a strong enough immune system.  Would you give the water to your kids to drink? Or to a newborn baby?  Or to one of your old people?

Now please, someone, anyone, explain to me how that is any different, than a pastor who knows better, who knows the difference between pure and false doctrine, who can tell the difference, brings in books like The Purpose-Driven Life, or whatever it is, into his congregation and says “Look, I know that not everything in here is what the Bible teaches, on things like Baptism and conversion and sin.  I know it’s not exactly what the Bible teaches.  It’s not pure.  But I think we’re, our immune system’s strong enough to handle it.  And he wants to teach your children too, and your old people, and you.  Why would you accept that?  Why, when you could have pure water?  Oh, and by the way, the pure water’s free, and the books will cost you.  I mean, how many congregations went out, when The Purpose-Driven Life went out, good old-fashioned Lutheran congregations went out when The Purpose-Driven Life came out and they bought them by the carton, for everyone in the congregation to study.  And they did it knowing full well what was in there.  And I had conversations with pastors and church workers at the time who said “Yes we know it doesn’t teach what the Bible teaches, but you don’t understand.  We can drink this without getting sick.  We can imbibe of this and it’s not gonna hurt us because we know that it’s impure.  Come on.  If you wouldn’t do it with water don’t do it with something that can actually kill you spiritually.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fifteen Things Not to Do in a Sermon

Here’s a short list of fifteen things not to do in a sermon, compiled after watching the video of a sermon preached at an LCMS church. The context of this “message” was the completion of the congregation’s study of Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life. If you doubted President Harrison’s lament about the quality of preaching in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, doubt no more. I'm certain this preacher is doing what he thinks is best, yet his limited liturgical toolbox makes too frequent a use of the Law, and in a way that it wasn't meant to be used, as a pry bar.  All quotes are direct quotes from the sermon.

The List of Fifteen Things Not to Do in a Sermon:
  1. Begin the sermon with “Uh, hey.”
  2. Start out with your hands in your pockets – this problem is easily solved by wearing liturgical vestments.
  3. Cede your pastoral duty to rightly handle the Word of Truth by allowing Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, to catechize your flock.
  4. Talk about your pretty awesome-sounding new drum set that is an investment in the growth of the Kingdom for which your parishioners forsook “spending money on vacations or cars or stuff” to purchase – a thought which directly reflects the pietism taught in The Purpose-Driven Life.
  5. Say that life is simply a preparation for eternity, destroying God’s wonderful First Article gifts of vocation and Creation by saying “And the fact is there’s more to life than the here and the now, there’s more to this life than your mundane job, there’s more to this life than just the family you have at home, and whether or not you eat dinner together, whether or not your car runs.” This is, again, more Rick Warren pietism.
  6. Distract your hearers the whole time by waving about the paper outline that’s stuck to your hand.
  7. Expound The Purpose-Driven Life concept of “worship,” which is to bring God pleasure – a complete dismantling of sacramental Lutheran theology: “I was planned for God’s pleasure so I have to worship.”
  8. Have the congregants raise their hand during the sermon if they’ve been involved in a growth group.
  9. Teach that we grow spiritually through commitments, and that it takes more than just sitting and listening in church to grow. “You have to take it to the next level.”
  10. Spend part of your fleeting sermon time talking about upcoming church scheduling logistics and growth opportunities.
  11. Teach that blessing comes from doing the purposes of God as though God is the fast food drive-thru window attendant: Hand Him a good work, get back a steaming-hot blessing - in eternity of course.
  12. Use Alcoholics Anonymous quotes in the sermon: “If you want to keep it, you’ve got to give it away.”
  13. Treat the sermon like you’re teaching Bible class.
  14. Actually push your parishioners to study The Purpose-Driven Life and take it to heart, a book which is a perversion of Law and Gospel.
  15. Forget to kill and make alive through the power of God’s Word – otherwise you’re just wasting your time and their time.
This sermon was in line with the theology of Rick Warren - an Evangelical synergistic pietism. I listened to a second sermon about Christmas preached by the same person, thinking that an escape from the Rick Warren mindset on his part might improve things. There was no “comfort ye, comfort ye my people” given. The outline, a downloadable pdf, contains thirteen blank spots for the parishioners to fill in as the sermon progresses.

The first three blanks read “I MUST _________________.” The next seven blanks:

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Vicar from Hell

I'm thinking this vicar definitely won't make the cut.  If you're a pietist, view at your own risk:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did You Know Your Church’s DNA Is Defined by Five Components that Create the Platform for All Vision Casting?

Click on the graphic for a larger view
The following graphic comes from the Revitalization page of an LCMS congregation that’s involved with the Transforming Churches Network. Does the graphic have any sort of a Biblical basis, and is it appropriate for a Lutheran congregation?

As far as revitalization is concerned, Augsburg Confession Article V is hard to beat and is a little more succinct:
1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.
If you’re searching for book reviews on how to grow the Church written by non-Lutherans based on heterodox theology that therefore reaches questionable conclusions, they have a webpage for that which reviews the following books:

Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser
Church That Works by Gary L. McIntosh
Church Unique: How Mission Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini
Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts by Thom S. Rainer
Discover your God-Given Gifts by Don & Katie Fortune