Friday, November 28, 2008

Do as I say, not as I do!

"Do as I say, not as I do" is often viewed as the highest level of hypocrisy. And, if that phrase is descriptive of morality, where the speaker acts in an unjust manner - that is indeed hypocrisy.

However, when it comes to giving advice - aren't there many times when we might advise people to do things that aren't the way we would do them? I think that there ought to be. When talking to other people, I must remember that they have a different circumstance and different talents than I myself do - and thus there are different ways in which they can use their Christian freedom.

Now - before this sets off all the Post-modern warning bells, I'm not talking about morality, I'm not talking about situational ethics - rather this. Different people in different offices have different responsibilities an thus different opportunities. If someone says, "I've been offered a job that pays $15K a year more, should I take it" - that discussion would probably be different for a salesman and for a fellow pastor - or for me myself! It might be good, right, and salutary for you to buy a boat, and I might even encourage you in doing so if you had the opportunity, but I never would. . . cause I don't really like boating.

Politically I like to say that defending freedom means defending people's rights to do that which you never would. As regards Christian Freedom, people are at liberty to do things which you personally wouldn't do -- and it might be a good thing for them to do it.

Sometimes the temptation for Pastors can be to tell people to be as they are. We might wish that all people were as we are. . . but they aren't. And that is neither good nor bad - but sometimes like Paul in Corinthians, we give advice to people are are gonna do things that they are free to do that we wouldn't.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Families and the like

Pastor Stuckwisch has a Fantastic Post on Big Families that is one of the more well thought out discussions on the debates concerning "birth control" and the like. I highly recommend reading it. He is neither legalistic nor libertine -- which is a hard place to be, but the right one.

I will add an additional idea that I will put forth here. There can be valid and good reasons why a husband and wife might seek to avoid a pregnancy (just as there can be very bad ones as well) -- the reasoning and rationale must be examined before the act can be judged. Our Lord condemns even the putting of money into the church's plate if it is given for the wrong reason -- reasoning is important.

With all things, when you are making a decision, the thing to ponder is whether or not the decision is being made out of love or out of fear. It is out of love that I do this, or am I afraid of certain consequences? And then, having done your best to act in love. . . you take what the Lord gives you.

Right now, me bride and I are planning on waiting until she gets out of school. We both find education to be very important. Could we handle a kid before she gets out -- sure. If God sends one, hooray! But, as a husband it (in my opinion) is a better demonstration of love to my spouse (and she agrees) to try to hold off for another couples of years. Other people could be in the exact same situation - even ask me for advice - and I might tell them to not try to wait - depending upon their reasoning. Perfect love casts out fear -- if you are fearful, then check what you are doing and why you are doing it.


Actually - the stranger thought that my wife and I have discussed is this: If we decide as parents that we need to have a parent at home full time in order to raise the kids, it would be me. My wife will be better able to earn income (nurse trumps pastor) and I have stronger talents in teaching -- hence if one of us were to stay home it would probably be me, and we'd probably start homeschooling. Now, as I have some flexibility as a pastor, and she should have some shift flexibility, we may very well try to keep both working for a while and save up quite a bit -- but if that doesn't work, I get to be a stay-at-home padre.

My calling as a Husband (and a hypothetical calling as a father, God willing) is the highest calling in my life - one that ends only upon my death. I don't know if we Pastors always remember that. Perhaps this is part of the perspective I have having become a husband only after having become a pastor. But in all things, act out of love, not fear.

Not gonna think too much

Part of my libertarian streak dislikes Thanksgiving. How wicked and perverse of a society are we and how miserable are we as Christians especially if we need the government to tell us to pause and be thankful?

Thanksgiving - bah humbug?

Still, it is what it is - and it's not a bad thing, really. I enjoy it. But I'm not going to try and spend too much time thinking about what I am thankful for -- at least not more than any other time. Too often we put things that should be routine into one specific time, and then ignore it for the rest of the year. Instead of being intensely thankful now -- I think I'll just work on being thankful more and more all the time, thank you very much.

Just like I probably need to work on cleaning at times other than just the Spring! Lord have mercy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Last Sunday Sermon

If I was at Trinity, Norman I would have said something about Sunday morning being a two hour commitment. . .

Last Sunday of the Church Year – Matt 25:1-13 – November 23rd

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Coming Lord +
There is a world of difference between being wise and being foolish, but it seems so easy to end up doing the foolish things in life. Come this Thursday afternoon, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people here, right now, aren’t thinking, “Boy, I shouldn’t have had that extra helping of potatoes, I shouldn’t have had that extra piece of pie.” I suppose that there are all sorts of foolish things that we could point out. . . some that aren’t that serious, I’m sure we could find some old pictures that might have you laughing at some hair styles you wore back in the day. . . but in our Gospel lesson today, it’s no silly matter, it’s more than just a bellyache or a bit of embarrassment. No – as we close out the Church year we close remembering that Christ will indeed come again – and if we aren’t foolish, we will be prepared.

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Again, the setting is one of joy. Christ’s return is likened unto a marriage feast, a party. In Christ’s day it wasn’t unusual for a wedding celebration to last a couple of days – so what do we see. 10 young girls, all getting ready to go to their first big party. It’s a good thing, a great thing, they are eager for it to start. There’s just one thing.

Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. Now, this was part of the duty of the young gals at the party – they had a job to do – they carried lamps. Provided light. Helped everything look neat and cool. A good thing. Except, if you are going to be providing light, you need to have fuel, you need to have something to burn. And 5 of the gals were foolish, they weren’t prepared.

As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. Again, this is quite understandable. Just watch a little kid on New Years’ Eve trying to stay up and not quite making it. As a matter of fact, any more I don’t make it up to watch a show on TV if it comes on too late. But at any rate all the gals fall asleep. And then – But at midnight there was a cry, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” And the wake up call comes – the Bridegroom returns – and there’s a problem. The foolish can’t keep their lamps lit. They don’t have the fuel. So in a panic they beg, hey, you’ve got oil, let me have some! But – no dice. But the wise answered saying, “Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.” Can’t help you – the wise didn’t bring oil for everyone, they were prepared for themselves. And the wise say, “If you need oil, you’ve got to get it from the oil shop. Go find the dealer, he’ll sell you some. Hurry.” And off they go. But alas – And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward, the other virgins came also saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” They get left out. They miss it.

Watch, O Christian, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Christ here gives us a picture, a warning and admonishment to be prepared for the end times. For we are waiting for the end, just like those 10 virgins, we are waiting for Christ to return. And none of us are going to be expecting it when it happens, none of us will be looking to the sky counting down. . . 3. . . 2. . . 1. . . ah, He’s back, right on time. No, we all will be caught off guard, we all will be sleeping, as it were. And when Christ comes, there won’t be time for last minute preparations – He’s back, and it’s time to go. So we need to be prepared beforehand.

So, what does it mean to be prepared, as a Christian, for Christ’s coming? In the parable, the wise and foolish virgins had a lot in common. They both knew the bridegroom was coming, they both had their lamps, they both at first were eager, at least until their eyes grew heavy as they waited. The difference between the wise and the foolish boils down to one thing – oil. The wise had it, their lamps worked, they were prepared. The foolish didn’t, and their lamps sputtered and went out. So then the key to this entire parable is understanding what is the oil, what that oil is that will have us be prepared for our Lord’s Second coming.

The oil is the Word of God. You see, all the virgins knew that the Bridegroom was coming, it’s just, some weren’t prepared. This isn’t a parable about how some people heard and others didn’t. It’s a warning to us as Christians, to us as people of faith. We wait until the last day – we let our Gospel lights shine, as it were. But how do we keep our faith alive, how is our faith kept strong during the long days of our life? That is done by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. That’s the oil – hearing God’s Word preached – studying it, learning it, receiving it on your lips and tongue in the Supper. What God does through His Word in His Church is strengthen your faith, keeping you prepared for the Second Coming.

And some Christians aren’t wise – or at least they let folly rule their life. Other things become more important. Mom and dad aren’t there to make them go anymore – or the kids are out of the house so we don’t have to go and bring them. Work is hard so you just. . . need the rest on the weekend. Or of course, might be work to do in the fields. And it’s not a conscious decision, “I’ll never head to Church again,” – but rather, just a slow, drifting away. And I’m not saying this so that you folks here can simply sit and think, “Oh yeah, I know people like that. . . naughty, naughty!” No, this is a warning for us. Many good folks fall off the wagon – pastors can snap and fall off the wagon – I know of at least 1 of my classmates from the Seminary who has already. What we need to remember is that Satan will encourage every excuse in the book for you not to be at Church, for you not to be at bible study, for you to no longer desire Communion.

And know what Satan does. He always tries to distract you from the Word, from that oil that will have you ready for the last day. There have been times when you’ve been tempted to blow off Church – and do they have anything to do with the God’s Word? Maybe you are too busy. . . eh. . . make time. Maybe the kids are gone. . . eh. . . you need it too. Maybe other people in the Congregation are mean. . . yeah, but that’s not about the Word either. You see, this is how Satan tempts – he tries to twist your eyes off what is most important – the Preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Supper, studying God’s Word – on to other things – that while important, aren’t the center. Yes, if you are too busy, that is a problem – but cutting off God’s Word isn’t the right solution to that problem. Church might not give you the same warm feeling it did when the kids were sitting on your lap – but not going to Church won’t fix that. And yeah, the Church might be filled to the rafters with people who are mean, crude, angry, miserable sinners. Guess what – you’re one of them too, and you need the Word.

And so once again I call out the end of the Church Year plea. Be in the Word. This coming year – work on your attendance – get here more often, instead of once in a blue moon, come once in a moon. Instead of a couple of times a month, come a few times a month – come more often. Find a bible study and attend it – We’ve got Sunday morning, Tuesday Night, Wednesday Morning, once a month on Thursday afternoon – we’ve got e-mail devotions – and Sunday nights for the youth. And these studies aren’t torture; we have quite a bit of fun. Be in the Word. Advent is coming – we’ll have extra services here on Wednesday. You can do devotions at home with your family – that’s great too. But don’t push God off to the side – because when that happens, good habits get broken, and you can start pushing God ever more and more to the side, and you forget, and faith flickers and dies. Be in the Word. If you have questions – call and ask. If you want the Supper – call and ask. Be in the Word and keep your faith strong.

Because, dear friends, even as we talk about how we are to be prepared, how we have to be ready for Christ’s coming – what we remember is this. The reason we get to head to heaven is because Christ Jesus died for us. It’s all about what God has done for us – and the way in which God continues to work in us, the way in which God takes the benefit of Christ’s Death and Resurrection and applies it to us, fills our life with it, is through the Word. What I’m really saying is don’t cut yourself off from Christ – rather let Him fill you again and again with His love, with His forgiveness, with His life and strength. Let Him fill you with His Word. In that way, you will be prepared not only to face the trials of this life, but you will also be ready for the life to come. Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A note about the previous post

I would like to clarify a point in the previous post. I am not meaning to disparage the liturgy. Nor am I trying to argue against rubrics or what have you. Nor am I insinuating that the liturgy is not attractive to those who are unfamiliar with it.

Rather this: in terms of our own house, our own members - we have to teach the liturgy and it's meaning - and be explicit and clear about it. Yes - we'll have people who will think the liturgy is neat. . . but we'll also have folks from our own churches who, if not properly trained, will walk into other churches and then come back and say, "How come we don't have three big drop screens that show pretty pictures during the hymns?"

The liturgy is part of our culture as Lutherans -- but you can't simply assume that people will. . . value or understand culture if it isn't taught. That is the point. . . cultural acts must be accompanied by cultural instruction. Otherwise people will just flock to what seems appealing at the moment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Doing" the Service

One of the things that I find I understand. . . but I don't understand, is the discussion and even angst over Rubrics in worship. There can be this continual focus on what is the best way to *do* the liturgy - how best to read, to even "perform" the liturgy.

Now, this is not to say I am opposed to serious forms and gestures and actions during the liturgy. This isn't to say I don't care which direction I'm facing -- to the contrary, that teaches. But here is the thing - unless the "why" of the Rubrics are taught. . . they don't really teach.

When I teach the liturgy, when I teach my acolytes - I don't just teach the Rubrics, but what they mean. Why do you reverence when passing in front of the altar or changing level? It's a matter of respect for Who will be present on the Altar, and it shows that we aren't just running around in a room, but a room set aside for God's service to His people.

Simple repetition can make and establish a tradition, but unless the importance of that tradition is taught (or becomes obvious). . . it can easily disappear. And not all traditions need be the same -- when I quote from the Scripture in my sermon, my right arm lies flat on the pulpit and I lean over the text, eyes never lifting from the text. Now, the folks here know that when I do that, I am reading Scripture in my sermon. It's useful. They get it. But if the next person, or indeed, no one else does it -- so be it.

Hmmm. . . this is scatter shot in terms of organization. Maybe my focus is more on the Word and what is said or sung. . . what the blind would get from the service as being more important than the specifics of what is seen. Do rubrics make the service, or do they focus and clarify the service? I'd say it's the later. . . .


Well, I was on Table Talk Radio this past week as the guest challenger on "Iron Preacher!" -- and also another "game show" that came on afterwards.

I haven't listened to it yet - but you can find it here under show 22. It's downloading for me now.

I don't know. . . I just don't know. I may have to hang my head in shame. Of course, it's a good thing it's not the Japanese version of Iron Preacher. . . I may have been forced to commit honorable seppaku. . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The hearts of theology

When it all boils down, what are the basic things you have to "buy" in order to be Lutheran? What are the fundamentals that we run by? Let's have a go - and I want this to be as simple and short as possible.

1. Scripture is the Inspired, True, Word of God, which Christians are to believe and are to understand as the basis of any doctrine.
2. Scripture says that you are sinful through and through, and that even your own attempts at being good are full of wickedness and failure.
3. Scripture says that Christ Jesus, True God and True Man, wins Salvation and Forgiveness and Life for you through His death and resurrection.
4. This Salvation, Forgiveness, and Life is given to you by God through the Word (and the Sacraments, which are simply the Word made tangible).

If you buy these ideas, you have the ground work for the Lutheran approach to the Scripture.

Point 1 eliminates circumventing Scripture, either by denying it or setting it against itself (as those who are liberal tend to) or by allowing other traditions to be elevated to an equal par or placed above it. Scripture and what it says is "TRUE".

Point 2 is the Law. Point 3 is the Gospel. You stink on ice - God dies for you and gives you heaven.

Point 4 eliminates subjective approaches to faith by placing the working of God in concrete things (i.e. Word and Sacraments) that are outside of ourselves. This keeps us from moving in on God's turf of being the Author and Perfector of Salvation.

If you buy these four points. . . you should be able to be Lutheran -- or at least it will come down to a matter of interpreting the Scriptures on a specific point. If you don't buy any of these 4, Lutheranism will never make sense.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Yeah. . . I'm rereading Robert Jordan. .

Turn to page 123 of the book nearest to you.

Count the first five sentences.

Post the next three.

"That's what he wanted. I showed him the warrant exempting me from the horse lottery, signed by the High Lady Surroth herself, but was he impressed? It didn't matter to him that I rescued a high ranking Seanchan."

This is what happens when you check theological blogs whilest at home.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things we're embarrassed to ask about

There are things that we are embarrassed to ask about. The third time you've met someone, you can be embarrassed to ask their name again. There can be times when in visiting the doctor, you might be embarrassed about potential consequences and not ask. It happens. . . most of us will get embarrassed about something.

Remember this - your parishioners will, more than likely, be too embarrassed to ask you about something. And this isn't necessarily a private, personal issue (although that does happen) - it might just be something theological that they think, "I should know this - I can't ask pastor a question THIS easy, what will he think of me?!?"

Always, always return to the basics, always look at the foundation again and again - show them that you think things need to constantly be reviewed. . . and then they won't be quite as embarrassed to ask you something "basic" --- and there's a chance you may just go over it and answer it without them having to ask.

Note: This is not the solution for the other side. Don't just talk about embarrassing, personal issues to convince them that they can talk about them to you. That is not good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thoughts that come every Novemeber

November can be a rough time here. It's the beginning of two months of somewhat less popular hymns. The traditional end of the year hymns aren't as popular. . . and then I am an old crotchety pastor who insists on singing Advent hymns in Advent.

Now, I can understand the whole wanting Christmas stuff in Advent. That's the way society goes. Shoot, there is Christmas stuff up in some places already (it seems like the worse the economy is, the sooner the Christmas decorations come out). But why, why would the discussion of the End times be so difficult.

And again, I think this is a reflection of Western Culture. We focus so much on this life, stuff now, live to enjoy life. Any thoughts of things coming to an end can bring terror (even if we are moving on to something better). The idea of the end, the idea even of death, bring such abject fear -- and so much of the Christian faith is directly meant to counter this.

That's why November should be such a month of comfort. Look - God will rescue me like He did Noah and Lot. Look - I will be brought to heaven with all the sheep. Look - I am welcomed to the eternal marriage feast of the Lamb. What fantastic comfort!

Would that we saw the comfort of the end!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A unified East, eh?

America is not the only place with religious denominations. Christian monks started beating the tar out of each other in Jerusalem. It was a liturgical melee.

I'm not sure who I'd root form - probably just the Armenians as they are the underdog. And then I'd taunt them both, because we preach the Cross better than they do. >=o)

Trintiy 25

Trinity 25 – November 9th, 2008 – Luke 17:20-30

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our coming Lord +
We are approaching the end of the Church year, and that can be an uncomfortable time of year. The next three Sundays will deal with the end times, and we can hear our Gospel lessons and start to get nervous, get worried about when the end will come, worried that it will be here too quickly. And we completely get everything, everything backwards. What we will be doing these next three weeks is trying to step away, step outside of our preconceived notions of what the Last Days are like – and we will step away from the fear that the world tries to heap upon us about this, and rather we will learn to look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as we confess in the Nicene Creed. So what we will do today is look at this text of Luke, paying careful attention to what Jesus says, and see how we as Christians are to think about the end times. Let’s start at verse 22.

And He said to the disciples, “They days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go out or follow them. Did you hear what Jesus warns the disciples of – what Jesus warns us of? Jesus’ warning isn’t. . . you better watch out, the scary end times are coming – oooOOOOooo. No. The warning is it’s going to take too long – and you will have the days where you sit and think, “I am tired Lord, I’m fed up with all the sin and wickedness and vice I see, I’m tired of my hurts and agonies and sufferings and I want to go home.” And Jesus warns the disciples that they are going to have days like this – and He won’t have come yet.

Isn’t this so completely the opposite of how we in America tend to think of the end times? We in America have been taught and trained to fear the end times. In many ways we are no better off than the monks in Luther’s day, terrified that God might actually come back. The end is nothing to fear. What is hard, what is difficult is living as a Christian in a sinful world. This world, with all its vaunted pleasures, can be nice sometimes – but it can be mean and nasty and rough and painful the rest of the time. And Christ doesn’t pretend that it isn’t this way. God doesn’t play pretend with you – He is always honest. And yes, this life is rough – and you do have the days where you think, “Lord, just come back already”. You will, because as a Christian you will see the world for what it is.

And when you are hitting those points of struggle, when things seem long and weary – what do you do? You wait on the Lord – you don’t go running off after every fly-by-night scam artist with the latest and greatest heresy and false teaching designed to give you everything your heart desires. You don’t go running after the cult in Jonestown or Waco, you don’t buy into what the quacks are shouting. You simply pray “Thy Kingdom come,” and wait – because when Christ delivers us, it’s going to be obvious that He here to deliver us. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day. When Christ comes back – it won’t be hidden, there won’t be a little secret coming where Jesus sort of sneaks around and talks to a few people to give them the secret decoder ring. No, when Christ comes again – He will come again and it will be right then and there.

And now we will get to some verses that I think can cause some consternation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They will be eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot – they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. We hear this, and man, it sounds bad. The end times will be like the flood – who wants that! The end times will be like Sodom and Gamorrah – I don’t ever want to see that, I don’t want God to wipe me away in a flood or smite me with fire and brimstone. We hear the punishments, we get panicky and nervous and scared.

But let’s take a moment and listen to what Jesus says. Jesus doesn’t say it will be like the flood, He says it will be like in the days of Noah. So what happened to Noah? He was surrounded by a wicked, evil world, so wicked God couldn’t stand it. And what does God do for Noah – alright, here you go Noah, I will rescue you, I will save you. You will be preserved and these fools who do you such harm won’t even know what hit them. Come into the ark, you and your family, and you will be saved. That doesn’t sound so bad – being saved, being rescued from evil. What is Christ saying here? I’m going to do for you, o Disciple, what I did for Noah – and that’s a good thing, that’s a comfort.

Again, Jesus doesn’t say that the end times will be like Sodom – He says that they will be like it was in the days of Lot. So what happened to Lot? He was stuck in Sodom. He was stuck in a horrible place, people wanting to break down the doors of his house and abuse his guests, where there’s a real chance that his daughters will be brutalized. And so, what does God do? Alright Lot, it’s time to go, it’s time to get you out of there, let’s get you to someplace better. God rescues Lot from a wicked place. And even though Lot tries to warn the folks, tries to get them to repent – they never see it coming. What is Christ saying? I’m going to do for you, o Disciple, what I did for Lot – and I will rescue you. Be patient, endure wickedness, and know that I will deliver you.

Don’t you see? The end times are not a curse. They aren’t something to scare you. Jesus is not the boogey-man or the monster in the closet; we shouldn’t be scared of His coming. Rather this – when Christ comes again He will do so to rescue you, to take you from this vale of tears unto the joys of heaven – and that’s not a bad thing. And still we are nervous about it. So was Lot. He dragged his feet in leaving Sodom – the angels had to pretty much drag him out of there. But what Christ is saying, what Christ is teaching us is this. Don’t fret, don’t worry about the end of times – indeed, don’t even worry about your own death – because I am your God, and I will deliver you, for I am with you always.

That is Christ’s promise. Listen to the beginning of the Gospel lesson. Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, He answered them, ‘The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Do you hear what Christ is saying? The Pharisees ask Christ – so when is the Kingdom going to come, when are we going to get the good stuff. And Jesus says, “Quit looking for signs, the Kingdom of God is here in your midst, I am here, what more are you looking for?” This, dear friends, establishes for us how we as Christians approach all things. This shows why we can be bold and confident even as life grows long and we become weary and things in the world just keep getting worse. While we wait for Christ’s second coming, we remember that we aren’t waiting alone. Christ is already here in our midst. What is the Psalm that we all know – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – which is precisely the kinds of fears and trials this text talks about – yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil – and why? For Thou art with me.

This is what Christ proclaims to you. Fear nothing, for Christ is with you – and Christ is bigger than anything that you might face in your life. Christ is with you now – for you are Baptized, you were joined to Him by water and the Word. Christ is with you now – He continues to speak His comfort to You through His Word. Christ is with you now – He comes to you in His holy Supper. Christ is always with you – and what does this mean? It means you will be rescued from every evil, every danger that this world can throw at you and you shall obtain the eternal life that Christ has won for you.

That’s how we approach the end times as Christians. Not with fear, not with trepidation. We approach all these things remembering that we are God’s own children, that we are united to Christ. As we await the end times – we are simply waiting for God to show to everyone, to show to the entire world what we already know, what we already have. That He is our God who saves us, who protects us, who guides us, and who ultimately delivers us from wickedness unto His eternal life. So dear friends – fear not any talk of the end – for you know what happens, and it ends well for you. Christ Jesus is your Lord, and He lives, and He has won the victory for you – let not death, let not talk of the end appall you any longer. Be confident in Christ Jesus your Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 7, 2008

And now the calm

Not necessarily a calm before a storm, but just a calm. The mass of political fervor (which I admit I enjoy) has passed. And now we will see how things play out, and we will find that by in large, life continues as it always has.

And now, we can think about theology. Or at least try. I'm sure there will be some new distraction, some other aspect of life seeking to wrest our eyes off of Christ - either some new fear or some false hope.

That ends up being the way the world wends, doesn't it - one things flares up and we get agitated, then another, then another - all the while we pass right by the blessings and wonders and mysteries of God.

As I will say often in November - come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

4 Years Ago

I wasn't writing this blog four years ago -- so many of you have never seen this. I was looking at things I had written at the last elections, and I found this piece after the 2004 Election. Enjoy.

01:41 am - BPI News Flash - Florida Scandal!!!

BPI (Brown Press International) - Lahoma, OK -

Once again confused elderly voters in the state of Florida may have inadvertently elected George W. Bush President of the United States, causing Democrat John Kerry to call for a revote. Early Wednesday morning, over 56,000 calls flooded the Secretary of State's office, all asking why "that young Bush is still president when I voted for his father yesterday."

In what appears to be a bit of senility and confusion in a combination that only Florida can produce, an estimated 250,000 - 400,000 elderly voters mistook George W. Bush for George H. Bush, his father, and thereby erroneously cast their votes in favor of the younger Bush.

"You can't really blame these poor people," said Senior Advocate John Allen, "especially as they live in Florida. Not only do they have to keep track of the two Georges, but they also have a Bush for a governor. Add in the two Barbaras, and it's simple pandemonium, well beyond the ability of their feeble minds to comprehend."

Democratic Canidate for President John Kerry has demanded a recount, pointing out that anyone who would vote for someone as spineless as Bush Sr. would obviously rather have voted for him. "Besides," said one Kerry aid, "we all know Sr. hates Jr.'s guts anyway, and really, can you blame him? I know if I had a son who did coke, much less once owned the Texas Rangers, I'd be so embarrassed of him."

Undaunted, George W. Bush still happily claims the state as his. "I am confident that God used these kindly hearted people to strike a blow to the heart of terrorists all over the world in spite of their confusion. Clearly my election is the will of God, and I am His chosen instrument to vanquish the scourge of Muslimism from the face of this planet."

There has been much backlash to this across the nation. In 28 states legislation has been introduced to prohibit people over the age of 60 from voting. "They are just old idiots who want to steal from me and call it social security," said Texas State Senator Billy-Bob Allen-Weingarten. "Why should I pay my hard earned money into Social Security so some applesauce sippin' waste of skin can sit around all day and play canasta?"

The most severe response has come from US Senator Tom Daschle. Daschle, having lost his bid at reelection, has decided to dedicate his remaining political career to having Florida expelled from the Union. "Why not? We can get our oranges from California, and we could have an honest election without old folks just messing it up. I'm sick of them!"

While President Bush has not actively said that he supports the Daschle plan, Border Patrol stations are already being established in southern Georgia and Alabama, and Jeb Bush is stockpiling enough weaponry to ensure that if Florida loses statehood he can safely entrench himself as warlord. It appears the nation's troubles with Florida will continue, at least for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So. . . what does this mean?

So. . . California will close its polls in 15 minutes or so. . . and by then it looks like will be President Obama. With a Democratic House. And a Democratic Senate. . . that have have full Fillabuster override (and in terms a practical one given a few moderate Republicans).

Beats the tar out of me. I don't know. I don't think too much will happen in terms of radical things. Abortion clinics won't pop up on every corner. Your entire paycheck won't disappear. Terrorists won't suddenly thwart every plan of the Military and the CIA will not suddenly cease to exist. I doubt we'll even have a good persecution pop up.

I know what will happen. Tomorrow. . . I'll teach confirmation class, God willing. And Sunday there will be a sermon. And life will continue as it has until our Lord comes again. Actually - it's kind of fitting that we remember this in November.

Republicans and American Lutheranism

What follows in Italics are some political thoughts I shared with my friends this morning. It has also gotten me thinking about American Lutheranism, especially in the LCMS. First, the political thoughts.

I write this morning as a person who formerly considered himself to be a Republican. On many issues, I am quite Conservative, even now. And I have come to look upon the Republican National Convention with embarrassment. This is really a thought of the morning, and if it is scattershot, so be it.

It has been 8 years since I joined the Libertarian Party, I joined, ironically, the day W got elected. Watching the way the party comported itself drove me away. And yet - I realize that there are still several Republicans I respect and gladly support. I like Chuck Hagel a lot -- I don't always agree with my Rep. Frank Lucas - but he has a blunt candor even on the points where I think he might be too firm or to mushy. But this is almost the same way that there are some Democrats whom I really respect (even if I might agree with, say Hagel, more often that with these respected Democrats).

And I realized why I have come to dislike the Republican Party. Back in the 80s, you had Reagan de facto leading the party. Be bold. Be blunt. Do what you think you need to do. Mister Gorb., tear down this wall. Good stuff.

Even with Papa Bush - "Read my lips" was a bold statement -- and Republicans were shocked, shocked when he raised taxes. It cost him the election. Clinton won in 1992 because too many Republicans looked at Bush and said, "He went back on his word, I cannot vote for him."

Even in 1994 - the Republican House that swept in. Bold. Blunt. This is what we want to do for the American people - and then, they by in large stuck to their guns on the issues.

But then. . . something changed. I think a lust for power developed. Something snapped - where the focus shifted from a desire for Honest, small government into a desire for power. I think I want to lay it at the feet of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. At first there was the Republican response I grew up with. . . President Clinton lied to the American people. If we'll sacrifice our own President, we'll take down theirs. I can understand this. But as the process lingered, I think the smell of blood in the water - the realization that they could do almost anything if they worked together spoiled the Party and the Party leadership's approach.

By 2000 you had the wild egos come out. I remember with shock and horror listening to Republicans on election night - Republican Congressmen start talking about the money that they would finally be able to spend once Bush is elected. And I fled in terror.

Rush Limbaugh in the 90s had his big critique of the Democrats as that they value Style over Substance. I think that is still somewhat true. Of the Democrats, did Obama have the best plans. . . or did he look the best, sound the neatest? Of course, Limbaugh's complaint had the unspoken contrast - that the Republicans were the party of Substance.

Except now, looking at the Republicans I see a group that values Power over Principal. John McCain as the nominee. Why is McCain nominated. No party that wishes to stick to it's principals should ever nominate a "maverick" who bucks the party. . . if it is sticking to it's prinicipals. You don't make the unruly student the hall monitor. Unless - you are Republicans right now - and your desire is to, as a party, do anything to try and hold on to power which you are rapidly losing. If your current president is unpopular - the best way to try to keep power is "Hey, look at how different this guy is. . . he's awesome!"

And so. . . this is why the Republican party will enter decline - probably the same decline it had in the 60s and 70s. It's too focused on power, trying to lead, rather that being clear and honest and focus on their principals. Actually, I think either party would benefit greatly from clarity and honesty. . . but that's just me.

Some thoughts for election day.

Now, let me go a step further in my thoughts. I dislike talking about "Liberals" and "Conservatives" in the Church. It's not accurate. But I have made an observation. In the 50s and the 60s in the LCMS, the problem with the "libs" was that they ended up moving to a "style over substance" sort of approach. It doesn't matter what you really believe, as long as you feel good about yourself and look good doing it. This was rightly rejected.

But what of the "libs" today? They fall into a parallel of my critique of modern Republicans - power over principal. If we understand or view the Church in such a way that we assume that numbers and dollars = power, we see what goes on. What is important? We do whatever we can to get more people, more cash - and who cares if our principals, our statements of faith, or solidity of doctrine go by the wayside.

The Church isn't being run by liberals - it's being run by Neo-Cons. I'm sure the whole akward Texan thing is just a coincidence, though. Lord have mercy upon us.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Saints Sermon 2008

All Saints’ Day (Observed) – November 2nd, 2008 – Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of Christ Jesus our Coming Lord +
How do you see this life? When you look out, when you consider the events of your life, your interactions with people, your pains, your joys – how do you view them? Do you view them as the world does – simply by flocking to what feels good and avoiding what feels bad? Or do you view them as one of God’s saints, view them with eyes shaped by Christ? Today we are observing All Saints’ Day, a day where we remember those who have died in the faith in the past year – but not only them – but all Saints – including you and me today. What we struggle to see because of sin, because of fear, because of concerns in this world – they now see face to face. Today, as we remember those who are now with our Lord in heaven – we look at a text from Matthew – a text that they perfectly understand – a text that described their life in Christ – a text which describes our life in Christ. Let us begin.

And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is describing here what your life, your life as a Christian is like. You are poor in spirit. Are there not times, O Christian, when this world seems ready to overwhelm you, when you are worn, when the trials of this life seem too much? Of course it does – it’s a sinful world, and you are a sinner in it – and when you see that, when you feel that – look what Christ directs you to. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He comes into this world, this sinful world, to save people exactly like you, indeed, to save you – and to give you the gift of heaven. When you are pressed down – remember what is yours. Heaven is yours.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. You mourn in this life. Contrary to what some would have us believe – not everything in this life is happy and joyous. In this life – things go wrong, terribly wrong – and we mourn, whether it is literal death that we mourn, or the death of friendships, the death of hopes and dreams. In this world – we mourn. And so what does Christ do. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Remember, O Christian, what your comfort is. We pass through this world of mourning, we pass through the valley of the Shadow of death into the glories of heaven where no shadow falls, where we are eternally comforted. This is God’s promise to us – it is ours now. Would that we saw it – would that we always remembered God’s comfort alongside any sorrow in our life.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Oh, doesn’t this fly in the face of what the world teaches us? If you want to get ahead, you must strive, you must fight, you must claw your way ahead of the competition. It’s an election season – and everyone knows you have to smear your opponent. That’s the way things work in this world, right? No – not for you, O Christian. You remember your Father’s command to love your neighbor as yourself, to put them head of yourself. To be meek. And sometimes. . . don’t you get dumped on for that? Sometimes, don’t people take advantage of you, hurt you – even people in this very room? Listen to where Christ points you. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth – it shall be given to you. Does not Christ Jesus provide you with all that you need in this life – does not our heavenly Father provide you with daily bread. Be meek, be humble – and be at peace, for God will care for you. Your life ought not be a constant struggle for more and more – rather, be meek, be loving – receive the blessings God gives in this life – and be prepared for the New Heavens and the New Earth which are coming at the end of time.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. We desire righteousness. What does that mean – what is righteousness? Well, it would be doing that which is right, doing that which is proper, that which is meet, right, and salutary. As Christians, we strive to do what is right. We strive to love God, we strive to love neighbor. And we fail. We never satisfy righteousness, we fall short. Our deeds taste like ashes on our mouth, our works are sour like vinegar. Yet what does Christ point us to? He is righteous, and because Christ is righteous, because Jesus does what is good and proper – He goes to the Cross to win forgiveness. Because Jesus does that which is meet, right, and salutary, He gives you His own Body and Blood in His Supper not only to forgive your sins, but to strengthen you and make you righteous, give you strength to continue on in your struggles in this life – until He calls you home and you are finally, fully righteous, and satisfied in His presence.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Ponder this. Is not growing as a Christian, is not maturing simply learning to be merciful? To love the neighbor even though he is cruel to you? To care for those in need even though there is no way for them to repay? To be more like Christ? You, O Christian, desire to be like Christ – that is who you strive to be like. And Christ will teach you to be merciful – but the student who is learning, who is being taught, never quite gets it right all the time. There are mistakes. Are there not times when you falter in your showing mercy? Fear not – Christ our Lord teaches you true mercy by being merciful to you. And more over, when the time to show mercy comes, and when it is hard to show mercy, when Satan whispers calls for vengeance in your ears – look to Christ and remember the mercy He has shown you, the mercy He has given you – and show it forth.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Oh, we are not pure in heart, not completely, not yet. There’s not a one of us here who is – there’s not one of us who wouldn’t just love to slap someone upside the head, or see someone else get their comeuppance. But know, dear friends – this is what God is doing to you. God is making you pure in heart. What will we sing after this sermon is done? “Create in me a. . . clean heart” – a pure heart. We sin – God forgives and cleanses us, He purifies our heart. And why? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. So that one day we shall see Him face to face in Heaven. The purpose of forgiveness isn’t simply to make you feel better here – it is preparation for heaven. When we go to the Supper – it’s preparation for heaven. That’s what our liturgy is saying – with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven – and then we sing along. Know this – God is preparing you, making you ready to be with Him for all eternity – and He does this by forgiveness, by continually purifying your heart in this world.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. We in this world have a messed up view of what it means to make peace. We can call a revolver in the old west a “Peacemaker”. Not what Christ is talking about – He’s not talking about our notions of peace where people are forced to play nice because of fear. Rather this. When you forgive your neighbor, when you take that forgiveness that Christ has given you and give it out, you make peace. When Christ talks about peace, peace be with you – that’s always about forgiveness – about the fact that you are no longer at war with God, but rather you are forgiven by God. And this is the life to which God called you when He made you His child in the waters of Holy Baptism. In this life, O Christian, you are to be an agent of God – speaking His Word of mercy and forgiveness to those you come across in your life. The peace of the Lord be with you always – and as it is with you, let it be through you as well, and on to your neighbor.

It seems a lot, doesn’t it? A high standard that Christ sets for us in this world. And it is. And we don’t see it in ourselves often, do we. And in this life – we will see it briefly, we will see it on occasion, there will be times when we forgive gladly, when we show mercy gladly – but there are times when. . . it seems hard. Christ knows your life here will be hard, will be a struggle. And He knows that it’s not only against your sinful flesh that you will struggle against. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Christ understands. He knows what you struggle against. He’s seen it throughout all ages. All the saints who have come before us – this is how they struggled. Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, even on to the New Testament, Peter, Paul, John – all of them – not only did they have to fight their own sinfulness, but they were reviled and spoken against and persecuted. So, what are we to take from this?

Remember and know, O Christian – that God is well prepared to see you through the struggles of this life. In fact, in the face of all struggles, whether they are struggles you bring upon yourself by your sin, or struggles your neighbors thrust upon you – look to Christ, look to Christ, remember His love and His promises to you – these very promises of the beatitudes.

And that’s how it will be – this will be the message that is proclaimed from this pulpit, from every Christian pulpit as long as the world endures. Look to Christ and see His salvation. And every day we draw breath in this sinful world, in this vale of tears, it will be what we need to hear. In this world where our sinful flesh and Satan and the world itself constantly tries to distract us and smother us – our eyes need to continually be placed upon Christ. But ponder this – the day is coming when you will not need to have your eyes refocused upon Christ, when you will not need to be told, “Know the Lord, Know His promises to you” – for you will behold them yourself, you will see. Ponder this and rejoice with me – for our brothers and sisters who have passed away now behold their Lord beyond doubts, beyond fear, beyond pain. Frail Daisy is stronger in the faith now than any of us – Vernon is not tied to any oxygen machine, but tied to Christ – and Mildred now sings clearly and purely the songs of heaven. That is what they have now – that is what we too shall have in Christ. This is God’s promise to you, sealed by the blood of Christ Jesus upon the Cross. God preserve us and make us blessed all the days of our life until we see His blessings face to face and are as He is. Amen.