Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's a martyr?

So, last night I was watching Mythbusters. Then I went to bed. This means that this morning when I turned on the TV, Joyce Meyers, one of the horde of so-called Christian Prosperity folks, was on the paid programming on Discovery. What did I learn in the 10 seconds that it took me to find the TV remote?

1. Too many people don't spend money on themselves.
2. If you don't take care of yourself, you are a martyr.
3. A martyr is someone who suffers and complains about it.

Now, anyone with a passing knowledge of Early Church History sees the complete and utter disconnect between this and the Church. When have people in the Church ever so completely tanked the word Martyr - our word. The Martyrs were the "witnesses" - those who bore witness (which is the Greek word from which we get "Martyr"), even to the point of death - not lamenting their situation but loudly and publicly praising God.

One of these things is not like the others. . . where the others are the whole of Christendom in all times and all places.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Postmodern take on the "Post Church" idea

(This comes forth from being at my district's convention this past weekend and hearing the various speakers - of note being the Blue Ribbon Task ___________ on Structure and also Dr. Robert Newton speak to the importance of mission as hermeneutical key in a Post-Church society)

One of the hip and hep ideas amongst the muckity-mucks of theology today is that we are entering into a "Post-Church" era. This idea basically says that back in the good old days a few decades ago, we were a "Churched" society - that the Church was respected, that pastors were by virtue of being pastors cultural movers and shakers, and that there was an innate draw of people towards the Church. Now, however, they would say that this is not the case - we have moved Post-Church, and the Church doesn't have it's immediate cultural impact or power. And from there, the "and this is what we must do about it" vary in great detail based upon who is giving it.

What will follow is a "Postmodern" take on this idea using a Foucaulian style analysis of the situation. I suppose if I were so inclined, I could make this very scholarly, but I won't. This is a few minutes before heading into the office - but just see what you think. Perhaps one should view this as a rough intellectual draft.

1 - Church and Post Church Era itself.

I find that I am dubious of the distinction between the Church and the Post Church Era - at least in any fashion that tries to say that we have been in a "Church" centered era for the past 100 years. A simple look at the arts will demonstrate that Christianity has been moving further and further from the center. When religious material is treated in the last Century's art, it generally is from a dismissive or mocking approach. In literature, what religious stand do the characters ever take? And Television? It says something when the most strongly "Christian" characters on TV are on the Simpsons. (Actually, there are some interesting studies on how Christianity is used on the Simpsons in a sympathetic light - which is ironic given the furor that the Simpsons caused when it first aired amongst the moralists.)

I would submit that we are not seeing a change in culture in the past few centuries, but rather those in the Church are realizing that some of their own cultural assumptions are not in fact true. Consider your own congregation. The faithful assume that they should be at Church, and lament when people don't regularly attend. They don't understand how people could not attend. The assumption is that of course you go to Church on Sunday. That has been the standard assumption - but it's never been true in this Country. In fact, as the stats here from Christianity Today (and Gallup) demonstrate, even in the good old days, the peak attendance was 49%.

If less than half of people do something, and we assume that "everyone" does it as a matter of course, and then we understand that not everyone does - this does not denote a cultural change. This is merely folks in the Church coming to grips with reality.

The idea of moving into a Post-Church era is really nothing more than abandoning the egotistical myth of the Church's modern importance. It is not a cultural change - things have been as they have been. Objectively, there is no change - it's only a change as viewed from an internal, subjective position. So why then, is this couched in terms of cultural change?

2 - The Changing World = a Need for Change

We have seen that a variety of plans and responses to the objectively false idea of entering a "Post-Church" era have been presented. The reason for this is one that is rather simple. If a change is going to happen, then the person implementing the change gathers power. Structures and organizations will be modified, all in the name of meeting the current challenge, which tend to place power in the hands of the person making the change.

One can only get a change approved provided that there is some impetus for that change. If things culturally remain as they are - there is no need for change. But, if we are presented with a spectacular change in society, the fear of that change gives a person's call for change political weight.

If you can convince people that the world is changing, then you can convince them to accept your changes which localize power in you. It doesn't matter whether or not the world actually is changing, as long as you convince them.

Now, before charges of a lack of charity are leveled against me - this is not to insinuate that people calling for various changes in the Church are deviously distorting the truth - they may themselves be caught in subjective views of reality and actually think that massive changes are occurring. We do live in a time in American society where there is quite a bit of fear being tossed around - so it is no surprise that this as a matter of course sloshes into the Church. Nevertheless it can be used to a person's advantage.

3 - The Various Plans

Consider the various plans that have been introduced in the LCMS that are needed as a result of the "Changing" Society. You will note that they are introduced to focus power in the hands of the people proposing the Change.

A - Synodical Restructuring. The reason given is that times are changing. The solution - give more central power to the Synod. Who proposes this? A Synodical task force.

B - Missio Dei. Dr. Newton, a Missiologist, notes that we must respond to the Post Church era with a more mission focused approach. This increases the focus on his speciality. Moreover, it is latched onto by Synod. Synod at large has been the traditional clearing house for missions. If more Church work is viewed as mission, it falls more and more under Synodical purview.

C - Ablaze Congregational Planting. The planting of congregations had been an organic thing, where congregations would give birth to other congregations. Now (at least in Oklahoma), there is structured planning on the district level about where to place congregations and district funds. This makes the district vital to the planting of congregations, where before, if anything, it was simply a clearing house for funds and a place for helping to find a pastor.

D - SMPP. Note that the Seminaries were involved in this, just as much as the Synodical higher-ups. With the various lay ministry practices in each district, control of who gets ordained/licensed was decentralized. Both the Seminaries and the Synod hierarchy acquired more control via SMPP.

There are more and more that we could look at, but this will suffice for now. And note - this is not "evil" necessarily. If you know something is not true, but use it to acquire power - that is morally wicked. If you act in ignorance or your own fear, it's just simple reason to try to acquire more control to yourself so that you can face the changes in the way that you see fit.

4 - Conclusion.

So, what am I trying to say with this? Simply this - there has been a lot of focus on responding to our ever changing society. The amount of change is over blown. Things aren't as wild as they seem. Also, people will take advantage of the idea of needing to respond to change in order to acquire power - so pay attention to who gains power when a change in Church practice/structure/organization/attitude is presented.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Storms and a sermon

Last night, much of the Enid Circuit was hit by tornadoes and thunderstorms - including Lahoma, Enid, Breckinridge, and Pond Creek. Lahoma seems okay - North Enid got hit hard (one of my members has someone's boat in his backyard), and I haven't heard about the rest.

**Correction** Just got a phone call here and my cleaning gal just took off, flood waters are coming and two of our members tend to get flooded out (her in-laws) - she's off to go get them

On a serious note - keep the folks here in your prayers.

On a smarmy note - people noting that this happens less than 24 hours after I have been made circuit counselor will be mocked. Besides, something of this magnitude, if incited by someone earthly, would clearly fall on the shoulders of our VP, Chris Hall.

Here follows today's sermon.

Easter 3 – April 26th, 2009 – John 10:11-16 – Good Shepherd Sunday

Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) Amen
Today our Lord teaches us by saying that He is the Good Shepherd. Again, this is such a familiar idea – it’s one we like, in fact, this is one of the most popular images of Scripture. If you have any Psalm memorized, chances are it’s the one that starts “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We have 7 stained glass windows in here, and one is of the Good Shepherd. In fact, we even have Churches named Good Shepherd – I have preached at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Toledo. It is a common, familiar idea. And again, the danger with any familiar idea is that when we hear it, we just give it the quick nod of the head – oh yeah, Good Shepherd, I’ve got that one down – and then move on by without much thought. But today we will ponder what our Lord is teaching us by saying that He is the Good Shepherd – we will pay this idea the attention it deserves.

I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. And suddenly we get something, even at the very start that is odd. No, it’s not odd that Christ would lay down His life for us – we’ve just come through Good Friday and Easter, we’ve been focused on this. But the connection that is made – the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Many of you here have animals. Doesn’t this phrase, then, strike you as a touch odd? I don’t expect, and I don’t want to be doing a funeral sermon because one of you lays your life down for one of your cattle, for one of your stock. In fact, it seems the height of foolishness to me. But then our Lord makes the contrast more full. “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf comes and scatters them.” Alright, here is the idea. What’s your stake, what’s your interest? If something doesn’t matter to you, you aren’t going to fight, you aren’t going to struggle for it. But if something is yours, if something belongs to you, you will fight and struggle to protect it from any dangers that come against it.

Is that not, then, the description of what our Lord Christ Jesus does? Yes, in Genesis 3 Satan acted under the guise of a serpent, but Scripture often describes the Devil as a ravenous wolf, ready to pounce, to crush people between his terrifying jaws, to cause panic and ruin, to scatter and destroy. And is this not an apt description of what sin and its impact upon us is like? How often does it happen that this world seems like it is clamping down upon you and shaking? How often does it seem like you just keep running and running away from one difficulty after another, not wanting to face them? How often do the people who ought to be there with you, who ought to be protecting you, supporting you, turn and flee at the first sign of trouble? Indeed, how often do they turn out to be wolves themselves? Or even to put a finer point on it – how often are you like the hired hand, who has a hard duty to care and support – and you see the wolf coming for someone else and you flee, you decide it’s too much, not worth your time, not right now there’s just too much going on for you to deal with this. And so often, the end result in our lives in this sinful world is that we are bruised, battered, and scattered – each one left alone.

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Christ sees the impact the Devil has upon the world. Christ sees the impact sin and death have upon us. He sees it, and He does not flee. Rather, He stands His ground, and for our sake, the sake of His beloved sheep – for our sake, for we who are not as good as He is, not as worth as much as He is, not as high as He is – but for our sake, not because of any worth of merit in us but simply because He loves us and is determined to have us as His own – the Good Shepherd stands His ground and fights. The wolf comes, the wolf approaches, his jaws snapping, his whips cracking, his crowds jeering and mocking, his nails piercing – but our Lord the Good Shepherd stands His Ground. Even at the cost of His own life, He will not let His sheep be scattered by that old wolf. And the Good Shepherd defeats that wolf, keeping us safe – even by laying down His life.

But as we know this Easter season – the same Good Shepherd who lays down His life for us rises from the dead, rises victorious over Satan. And risen, He beholds His sheep. Do you hear what He says? I Am the Good Shepherd. I know My own, and My own know Me. I know My own. Christ Jesus knows you, even knows you by your name, given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. Christ Jesus makes you to know Him as well. He calls you by Name, reaches out to you, teaches and trains you on His Word, continually cares for you, feeds you His Word and Sacraments, binds your wounds with forgiveness when something in this world gets to you, all of this, aiding your growth, aiding your increasing growth in knowing and understanding who He is. We know who Jesus is. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for us that He might protect us, the Good Shepherd who rises that He might have us with Him for life eternal.

But it is not just you and I for whom Christ does this. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, One Shepherd. It’s not just us here – Christ Jesus gathers sheep from all over. Consider all the divisions and hatreds that sin in this world bring out, all the causes for wars and strife between peoples – yet Christ gathers us together. This day, even those who have been our enemies in this world are gathered together with us around Christ. The phrase, “The Lord be with you” has been said in Arabic, and Russian, in German, and in whatever language an enemy or former enemy happens to speak. Christ has gathered many from all over into His flock – a flock that we don’t see now, a flock that we over look. It is a wondrous thing when we pray for the Church throughout the world – a reminder of just how vast the fold is of our Good Shepherd. From every tribe, from every race, Christ Jesus has gathered His own.

But also note that Christ speaks of what He will do, what will happen in the future. The simple fact is that sin scatters, sin causes division – and not just on a global scale – even in our own lives. Are there not people whom sin – your sin, their sin, probably sin on the part of both of you – whom sin has separated you from, scattered you from? Do you see what Christ desires? That we be gathered, that we be reconciled, that we be made part of one flock together again. Again and again the Shepherd calls out with His voice, speaking out forgiveness for our sin, but not only our sin, but also their sin as well. This should be the image we bear when we think of Christ the Good Shepherd, not just that He is the One who lays down His life for you, but that He is the One who lays down His life for that person who is most annoying, most hurtful to you. That the sheep which the Good Shepherd longs to find, restore, pick up and hold in His arms is the very person who has done you wrong.

This the is wondrous reality of the power of Christ’s forgiveness – it goes beyond what we could expect. The things in ourselves that still snipe at us and cause us guilt – the silly things we did decades ago that pop up and accuse us – those things are indeed forgiven – and we have been gathered to Christ. The things that others have done to us, against us – those to, really, have been forgiven. Those are sins which Christ has died for – and now His voice goes out, so that all those who have sinned might hear His voice, know His voice – and enjoy the benefit, make real in their own lives that forgiveness. Our Lord actually gathers us – and that us includes people the world cannot understand, people the world says we should have no reason to associate with – and gathers us into one flock together, gathered around our Good Shepherd.

This is the reality, this is the idea that our Lord puts forth to us today – He is the Good Shepherd who is determined to protect us from Satan – He is the Good Shepherd who is determined to restore us unto Himself, but also to gather us together around Himself and to restore us unto each other. This is the reality which we see – this is what God does. Indeed, this is what God accomplishes through us – for the Spirit puts His Word upon our tongues, so that when the ravenous wolf, Satan, attacks, the Word defends us, so that when we see others who are scattered, the Word of God on our tongue calls them back to the fold. Christ Jesus our Lord, is the Good Shepherd, and He is determined to love and care for you – all glory and praise be to Christ Jesus our Risen Savior who loves His unworthy sheep in so wondrous a way. Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Circuit Counselor

This morning I was elected the Circuit Counselor of the Enid Circuit. Christopher Hall was elected as the 3rd VP of District (covering our region). Oh, and Mason Beecroft is now on the Board of Directors . The Oklahoma district is awesome now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


A few months ago a sat down for an interview with a Methodist pastor in Enid. His congregation was looking at various other denominations and looking at how they worship. Hall was called first and then gave my name. So I went, did the interview. Just got a letter and DVD back - so I'll see how I came off in a bit.

But here is the irony. Note the following paragraph:

We thoroughly enjoyed having "Lutheran" worship at Willow View. When we sang "O For A Thousand Tongues" a young woman on the front row that had been raised and confirmed in the Lutheran Church was moved to tears. She told me that she had not heard that song in years and appreciated your words in the video clip.

Alright. . . who wrote "O For a Thousand Tongues"? If you guessed Charles Wesley, famous Methodist, you get a cookie!

Gads, what would Scaer say?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Debating - Pastoral Style

When a Pastor engages in a discussion, his candor and approach must be different than the approach one might take in the world. If you are debating in a board room, the focus is to show your idea as being superior, thus getting the bosses to follow it. If you are in a political debate, sucker in more voters and make your opponent look foolish. In a law room, convince the outside observers and the jury of your own position by legal hook or crook.

In the world, debate typically shifts into performance. The goal in the world is to *win* the debate in the public's eye, show your side to be stronger, so that people listening or hearing side with you. In other words, to debate well in the world is to win.

Pastors, though, when they engage in a debate must be different. When a Pastor debates, the focus isn't just upon the crowd, but also upon the person one is debating. A Pastor doesn't simply seek simply to win, to show himself superior, to force the the other into a logically embarrassing fix. Rather, a Pastor ought debate so as to try to convince the person he is debating. We are not simply trying to win the crowds, rather, we are trying to win back to ourselves a brother.

Behold my sweeping critique of too many "Lutheran" Lutherans - be they the Gnesio-Lutherans of the 16th up to the 21st Century Confessional Lutherans. Too often we argue as the world does - seeking to assert the simple dominance of our position rather than winning the other over to ours. We argue to show them wrong rather than trying to teach them to be right.

Yet, we are told not to be debators - Paul can even ask where is the debator of this age, the wise of this world, derisively. Rather, we are teachers, we are instructors, we are to be apt to teach, we are to use the Word not for intellectual dominance but rather correction and reproof - until the day when we will no long have to say, "Know the Lord" because they will.

Pastors! Do not lower yourself so as to just seek to win or prove your point. Seek to convince. Yes, instruct and demonstrate, but as teacher and not as the peddler of a theo-political position.


Jay Hosbon was sent to Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Joseph, Michigan.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Unofficial Prediction

My unofficial prediction of where Seminarian Jay Hobson will be placed for Vicarage.

Our Shepherd of the Pocketbook Community Church, Minot, North Dakota.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another sermon

Easter 2 – April 19th, 2009 – John 20:19-31

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) +
It was Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together. Not to celebrate, not to rejoice, but to hide. They didn’t know what was going on. The day that had just come had been quite confusing. Early in the morning Mary Magdalene had come and shown Peter and John that the tomb was empty – and Peter and John had seen it. And then a bit later Mary came and told them that Jesus had risen – what is one supposed to make of that? They didn’t know what was going on. But they did know one thing – that mob out there could turn angry. 72 hours ago they had been having dinner with Jesus – then they watched the mob turn on Him – the leaders call out for blood. If you are going to purge someone, you generally want to take out His disciples as well – and they were known – even the slave girl knew who Peter was. They were marked men – and whatever was going on – they knew that it wasn’t safe to head out after dark. And so the disciples (with the exception of Thomas) had gathered together behind locked doors.

Into that locked room strides Christ Jesus, risen from the dead and glorified. First, our Lord speaks to them – “Peace be with you.” Be at peace, be calm, put away your fears – Christ Jesus is here. Then our Lord shows them His hands, His side. See My wounds, it really it Me and not another. And then our Lord says to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgiven the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” That’s it. That’s Jesus solution that evening. Jesus tells them that Peace is with them, and that forgiveness has come, and it is time to hand out, to speak out, to proclaim forgiveness. He didn’t show up with legions of angels to slaughter the Jews – that danger is still there. 8 days later, they’ll still be locking their doors. Most of the men in that room will be killed by angry mobs. They still are hiding for fear of the Jews – and with reason – but Jesus proclaims peace, shows His resurrection, and sends forth the command for forgiveness to be given out. Here is the question for this morning – a question that is, or ought to be, near and dear to us. How does that do any good? It doesn’t seem like Jesus is dealing with the immediate problem, isn’t dealing with the current danger. Peace with God is one thing – but what about the mob out there? Your wounds are horrid Lord – but what about the wounds they want to give me. Yes, I can speak forgiveness – but I don’t want it to have to be from a cross saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” like you did! When we hear what Jesus does, we can be tempted to wonder what good it does.

This is a vitally important question, because this is the question that has shaped Christianity, and sadly the question that is deforming it in our generation. Too many people, too many Churches have come to the conclusion that Jesus’ peace, His resurrection, His forgiveness really don’t do any good. That’s why I heard stories of friends who went to Churches where peace with God isn’t proclaimed, where the pastors would say things like, “Eh, we don’t really know if the resurrection happened, but whether it did or didn’t doesn’t matter that much” – literally, had a friend hear that last Sunday – you can go to places where you can spend a Sunday morning and not hear the word “forgiveness” spoken – and certainly not about God forgiving you. Modern Culture has said that what Jesus does here in John 20 doesn’t do any good. When there are bills to be paid and kids to be raised and all the hustle and bustle of modern American life, who cares about peace, who cares about the resurrection, and who cares about forgiveness. We want solutions that will make our life easier – we want God to be, not just a broom to sweep up the messes of our life, no, we want God to be a swiffer wet jet, new and improved and shiney and quick. In the days of the early Church, when John wrote His Gospel – the problem was people would think this was too good to be true, that they would doubt it – that’s why we have the nice section on Thomas – no, no, I assure you, Christ has risen. All this is true. Today, people could care less. So the question remains, why is what Jesus says here vitally important, even though so many in the world blow right on by it? Let’s look at what Christ says and learn from Him.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” We forget what sin is. Sin is declaring war on God. Adam and Eve rebelled, they took up arms, as it were, against God. Sin isn’t just nothing, it isn’t just silly little things – it’s rebellion, it’s war – and when you go to war against the Almighty, when you try to fight against One you cannot hope to defeat – the only thing you can expect is death. This makes sense even in life. Why aren’t the disciples out there running around – there’s a mob, they can’t defeat the mob. Even Peter with his sword – not enough – live by the sword, die by the sword. That was true not just for this life, but for eternal life – live by sin – and you were doomed to die, eternally, by sin. The war was on, and we were on the loosing side. And Jesus steps in, and He says, “Peace”. Peace. War’s over. You are going to live, you are going to survive, trust in My peace, put your faith there, and you will not taste eternal death but you will have life and salvation. That’s what peace is – it’s peace with God – it means that the Strife is over, the battle is done – that the rebellion is done and we get to come home. Eternally, forever.

When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Jesus had risen from the dead – He had, not someone else. See – even the power, the threat of death – that’s been undone. Jesus is risen. Do you see what that means, what the disciples realized then at that moment, what people in John’s day so marveled at? That mob outside that the disciples so feared, it had put Jesus to death. He rose. He conquered, He is more powerful. Do you see what that means? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what that crowd does – it doesn’t matter if they find you one day, like they do to James, who gets caught a few years later by Herod Aggrippa, or Peter who gets caught in Rome – it doesn’t matter – Christ has risen and so shall you. It doesn’t matter what the world throws at you, how rough, how bad things are – Jesus has risen, and so shall you.

This is the truth that is so overlooked today. We simply want solutions for our problems, we want things better now – what good is Jesus if He doesn’t make my crops better, or grow the economy, or get me a better house, a Mercedes Benz, make me more popular or give me better friends? Now, now, now. That’s the cry of this world today, this faithless generation. We’ve lost perspective – we are so used to having things our way right away that we see nothing beyond the now – and we forget the truth that Christ’s resurrection shows. The things of this world, they pass away – the problems, even the blessings. But Christ is risen – and so shall you – and you shall have eternity with joys that do not fade away, with relationships that do not go sour, eternity without the things that poke at us and try to make us fearful now. That’s the perspective that Christ gives – not that all your problems will go away – 8 days later the disciples are still behind locked doors because that is the safe thing to do – but that we will outlast our problems, that we will rise victorious in the end. We know how the story turns out – and so we can face whatever trials we see confidently – for we know we win in the end.

Which comes to one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture. He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” I wish modern translators would translate it like this – When you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven. We tend to think of “if” as a word that implies that something might not happen. If it rains tomorrow – it might happen, probably not. That’s not the what’s going on here – it’s if being used this way – If it rains, the ground will become wet – whenever it rains, the ground becomes wet. When this happens, this other stuff will happen – the logical if. So do you see what this means? Jesus says that whenever His forgiveness is announced to us, whenever we hear it, be it proclaimed in Absolution, or preached, or tied to Baptism or to the Supper – it happens. Forgiveness is real – and forgiveness is that which ties us to Christ, which takes His life and righteousness and makes it ours – forgiveness gives life. And Jesus tells the disciples – “Go hand out forgiveness, go give it out.” We don’t have to wait and hope for a wild and miraculous vision, we don’t have to worry and wonder where and how God will act in our lives, we don’t have to debate if God is present for us giving us His peace – wherever His Word of forgiven is spoken, Christ is there giving forgiveness. If you hear it, it happens. Do you see how wondrous this is? When fears assail, when doubts mount, when problems rise – when all of this seems too good to be true – Christ Jesus has died for your sins and risen to give you life – there, you have it once again now in time, and you shall have it for all eternity. We speak forth God’s Word, we speak with God’s power – the very Word of God which brought forth all creation from nothing, the Word which said let there be light – God gives it to us to speak. Go forgive the sins of those who repent of their sin – and it’s real and it works. This is an awesome, mind boggling thing.

And so, dear friends, we see and understand the big picture – we see what God is giving to us – life and salvation, which goes over and above any earthly and temporal blessing. And He gives it to us over and over, so that we might remain in Him, so that at all times we might know that we have the victory, and even should the world wear us down – He will call us again to His house to hear, to believe, to take unto ourselves His own Body and Blood – given and shed for you for the remission of sin – so that we might always have life everlasting. Christ’s resurrection means you will live, you will conquer, you will out last every problem and threat Satan can throw your way. Let us receive the Supper then in humility with great rejoicing, for our Lord gives us life and victory. Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed) Alleluia, amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Language and Culture

In my undergraduate days I was a double major studying Classics and and History. My focus in Classics was the Greek Language. My focus in History was Japanese History. Both of these fields really dealt with studying and understanding foreign cultures. My conclusion was that language was vital to this - what a culture is and does is shaped by its language. The better examples I am thinking of at the moment come from Japanese. The word "Dekimasu" is the verb meaning "complete." Saying a woman is dekimasu (or dekimashita, the past tense) is a way of saying that she is pregnant (hence the gals were warned not to use this word about themselves lest they give the wrong implication). This conveys a cultural idea.

In studying Greek, I studied everything from Homeric Greek (~800 B.C.) to Koine (~200 A.D.). One could see language changes - words that are introduced, words that fall out - and that shows changes in how the culture operates.

Why do we then have this strange idea in the Church that (and by "we" I mean some segments of the LCMS community) we can tinker and play with our language and not change our cultural ideas? If you change what you say, it changes how you understand things. If your words don't center around the same things, your culture, your theology won't center around the same thing.

Or as Paul would say, if you aren't determined to know Christ and Him Crucified, you have changed the Gospel. The Central Focus of the Christian Church has to be the death and resurrection of Christ -- if you've moved your focus away from this -- be it to the Almightiness of the Father, or the Wonders of Earthly Blessings, or the Living as Good Christians -- if these become central, then the focus and language will change.

Things that are true aren't necessarily the central point. Having a good, fit trim body is a good thing for a football player - but if you aren't a good player, it doesn't matter how buff you are. It doesn't matter if you merely say true things about God - do your Words, does your language focus upon Christ Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Easter Sermon

Easter Sunday – April 12th, 2009 – John 20:1-18

Christ is Risen – He is Risen indeed, Alleluia +
My dear friends, indeed, my dear brothers in Christ, you who have been bought by Christ, washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, and brought together into His family, united with God Himself and with all the patriarchs, the prophets, the Apostles and saints of all ages, most blessed and joyous greetings be unto you this Easter morning in the Name of Christ our Risen Lord. Did you notice in our Gospel text for this morning, dealing with our Lord’s Resurrection, how everyone’s dire expectations are not met, how what people come expecting isn’t what happens. Mary comes to the tomb, and she expects a dead Body. It’s not there. That’s not what Mary expected that morning. Peter and John go rushing to the tomb – and by rights there should be a Body there. If anything this is probably just Mary being overwrought and confused – there has to be a Body there, John had seen Him die. No Body there. Not what they expected. The resurrection of our Lord turns everything on it’s head. Dead bodies are supposed to stay dead bodies. But not after our Lord’s Resurrection – nothing is as it was before.

There’s a reason why Mary was expecting a Body to be in that tomb. There’s a reason Peter and John don’t make the connection right away with what is going on. They were sinners in a sinful world. They had seen death over and over again. People are born, they grow old, perhaps, and then they die. That was life, or so they thought. But they were wrong. That wasn’t life. That’s wasn’t just nature. That wasn’t what we were created to be, created to do. That wasn’t life, that was death. That was the wages of sin. Sin had turned creation on its head, turned everything upside down. Sin turned people created to live into people doomed to die. Sin turned people created to care for God’s creation into selfish beings who would hurt and harm their neighbors in order to please themselves. And even those who feared God, who trusted in Him, they were still sinners. They might fight against their sin – but they never won completely, and over and over again we see in Scripture how the faithful messed up. We even see this in our own life – the times where we look back and think, “Why in the world did I do that. . . I can’t believe it.” Sin had turned everything on its head – sin had so taken and shaken this world that we had come to expect nothing but death. That’s what Mary and Peter and John were expecting – that’s how the story always ends – and he died. That’s what life in this fallen world had taught us to expect, that’s how twisted, how turned, how fallen we had become.

And Mary walks to the tomb, expecting nothing but death – but there’s no death there. Peter and John run, surely, there must be death, that’s how the story always ends. There’s no death there. Nothing is working like they expect it to be. Peter and John don’t know what to make of it – they wander back to their homes. But Mary, Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. She is still weeping. The story has to be that He’s still dead – she’s so thoroughly turned upside down by life in this fallen world, that that’s just how it has to be. And as she wept she stopped to look in the tomb. Maybe if I look again, the Body will be there, it will all have been a silly mistake. But there is no dead body in that tomb. No, instead, now there is something else – And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the Body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Why are you weeping, woman – do you not see, the World has been made right again – Death has been undone, what is there to weep over! Christ lives – He has risen.

Mary hasn’t seen that yet. She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” She still thinks only of a Body, of an innate, motionless lump of clay – that someone has dragged off, that someone has put somewhere. She doesn’t see, she doesn’t understand that He is not dead, but that He is alive. And she turns, and there He is, standing in front of her – yet she doesn’t see Him yet, not really. Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Mary is so distraught, so caught up in this world of sin and so sure of how things have to work, must work in this world, so ridden with tears that she doesn’t even recognize Jesus. Even when Jesus says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping, whom are you seeking?” – when Jesus says, “Hey, I’m over here, you were looking for me” – she still is so caught up, can’t conceive of expecting anything else, that she carries on, begins to babble quickly. Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where You have lain Him, and I will take Him away.” Just let me be, let me hold on to that dead body because I have nothing more that I can expect in this fallen world.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” And then the lights come on – then she realizes Who it is there in front of her, what has happened, then she gets the joy, then the wonder is revealed. Christ lives! Jesus who died now lives, to die no more. The Lord is living, and this world of sin, the power of death, the struggles and trials of this life, they are all undone. Christ Jesus has done it – He has undone death. He tells Mary to tell the disciples “go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” The sin which had sundered us from God, which had cut us off from life, which robbed us of heaven – it’s done, it’s defeated, it is destroyed and is no more. Behold Christ lives. Behold, He is going not just to His Father, but to your Father. Reunited, restored, everything put back to how it should be – for because Christ lives and is with God we too live and shall be with God. That is what Mary finally sees, and that is what she proclaims.

What do you see, this morning, O Christian? What did you gaze upon this morning? It is true that we still live in a world impacted by sin, where things fall apart, where things don’t work right, where decay comes and moth and worm destroy. But did you see the higher reality, did the higher truth shine through the tears of sorrow and pain that this world so often causes? Christ Jesus lives – and all the wickedness of the world, all the sin which clings to us, all the death that threatens us – all of it, is defeated. And it’s not just defeated in general – it is defeated in your own life. Do your tears and trials threaten to overwhelm you, just as Mary was overwhelmed by hers in this text? Jesus calls out to Mary by her name and she understand – guess what, God has called you by Name – there, at the font, in your Baptism, you, by Name, the very Name that is your gift from God, you were called forth by name from this world of sin and death unto Christ’s life. Our Lord has claimed you and united Himself unto you – and nothing tops that. Not even death can destroy that – behold your Lord lives – death can do nothing to Him – it can do nothing to you, for just as God called you by Name at the waters of the font so too at the Last Day He shall call you again by Name and you will answer your Lord’s call. If that day comes before our own death we will turn our heads to Christ and never see our own tomb, if that day comes after we have fallen asleep in Christ we will come forth in risen bodies and shake the dust of our grave off of our feet never to be troubled by it again. Why? Because He lives – and nothing can stop that.

But the world will try to distract us – the fallen world, defeated as it is, will still try to make us miserable, Satan will still scowl fierce and seek our distraction, will try to tell us what Jesus says could surely never be. . . and our Lord continually bursts forth into our lives with His Word, With His Blessed Sacraments and declares to us “I am Here, I am your life, I am your righteousness, I am your forgiveness – and Satan can go burn in hell, you are Mine and I have won you.” And Jesus knows that this world will still try to turn you on your head – and so He comes to us over and over again. What is the preaching of God’s Word but Jesus saying to us once again, “Yes, I see your sins which call out for your death – but I have died and I have risen, you so you shall have My life”? Or consider the Supper? The world sees nothing but bread and wine, but our Lord says, “Behold, this is My Body which is given for you, which has died and risen so that you will rise. Behold, this is My Blood, which I have shed so that you receive my forgiveness and are made clean and whole.” Christ drags our eyes of the chaos and sin of this world, and over, and over again turns us to Himself, holds His love and forgiveness before us, takes the dirges of death in this world off our lips, and places His Body and Blood on our lips so that we might join in the Song of Heaven, the Song of all eternity, singing with Angels and Archangels and all the company of Heaven, our brothers and sisters in the faith who are with Christ now. That is the reality which Christ brings us into, that is the reality which He makes us to see. That is what Christ ensured, guaranteed, that Easter morn when He broke the bonds of death and strode forth from the tomb Alive.

Everything, dear friends in Christ, my brothers, my sisters, you who in Christ are my closest family who will be with me for all eternity, everything is different, everything is more wondrous that it was, more wondrous than we comprehend, because our Lord, Christ Jesus has risen from the tomb, and has undone the fall, and restored unto us life and salvation and paradise. What we have just sung is true:

Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
Now His grace to us imparts
Eternal sunshine to our hearts
The night of sin is ended.

What then remains to us but rejoicing, what remains but feasting this Easter Day on Christ, the very bread of heaven, to celebrate once again the triumph feast of the Lamb who was slain to slay our death? He lives, and so shall we, indeed, so do we. Christ is Risen – He is Risen indeed, Alleluia + Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jay Hobson Dart Toss

Yes, I've been busy - and I haven't been posting much. I haven't had much time to be leisurely, and some of that time is taken up in what follows:

Jay Hobson, a member of this congregation, is in his 2nd year at Fort Wayne, and God willing will be sent out on Vicarage. We are going to have a dart toss to see who can get closest to where Jay ends up.

I have a map of the US here - I'm pulling push pins out of the board the map is on to get it ready.

Do you wish to play at home? Put in the comments your result for your dart toss.


Come on, don't you all have maps at home to throw darts at? Or do something random - open up an Atlas to a random page, close your eyes, and put your finger down. Sometime random. We'll see how you do.