Tuesday, April 29, 2008

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Just a reminder that my audio sermons are available on my WattsWhat iTunes store.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

John.14.15-21 Sixth Sunday of Easter. April 27, 2008

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15-21, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I know it sounds like a silly question, especially in light of the words of Jesus we just heard, but I’m going to ask it anyway. “Does Jesus really want us to keep the commandments?” You know it’s easy to go “all Lutheran” here and say, “Ya God wants us to keep the commandments, but we can’t so we should feel bad and turn to God for forgiveness.” And that’s true, the commandments are the law that show us our sin, they show us very clearly that we don’t live up to God’s perfect standards. Especially the way Jesus defines them. “If you are angry at your brother you are guilty of killing him.”; “If you call your brother a fool you deserve to burn in hell.” (Matt 5:21-22) Those are pretty harsh words, and if that’s what Jesus really means when he says he wants us to keep the commandments we’re all in trouble. After all, he says right here “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So doesn’t that mean that if we get angry at someone we don’t love him? If Jesus really wants us to keep his commandments, we’re all in trouble. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been angry this week.

Maybe we should look into what Jesus is saying here just a little deeper. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Are we really talking about the Ten Commandments? Or is there some other commandment that Jesus is talking about? It wasn’t that long ago we heard Jesus say something about a “new commandment.” Remember back to Maunday Thursday (that’s what Maunday means: command). He washed the feet of the disciples and then said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have love you, you are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Does that really let us off the hook? Well actually it doesn’t. The commandment isn’t anything new in the sense of something completely different. A confirmation student could tell you that the commandments are divided into two parts. The first three are about our relationship to God. The last seven are about our relationship to other people.

Jesus was asked this very question once by Pharisees who wanted to see if Jesus really knew the law. They wanted to catch him in some hypocrisy. “Teacher,” one asked Jesus, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered by dividing the Ten into the two parts, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, ESV) So when Jesus is talking about keeping his commandments, when he says to love one another, he’s talking about the same, The Commandments. And at first, we might think that that’s not a very good thing at all. But notice how Jesus defines them. Look at the word that he uses most in his definition: According to Jesus, keeping the commandments, all of them, is to love.

It starts with Commandment one: “You shall have no other Gods” or “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” If we could just do that one we’d also be able to do the “Love your neighbor as yourself” too. Sounds a lot like what Jesus says too, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

But our inability to completely love God isn’t our only problem. We also have a problem with understanding the commandments as love because have been affected by the definition of love that’s been floating around our culture. At the prompting of the world around us we tend to think that love is a feeling. We think it’s something that happens here… in our hearts. God makes it clear that it’s not… with all your heart, soul and mind, that’s not just an emotion that much more than that. We connect love with the euphoria that comes from personal contact with a person we want to be with. But according to Jesus, love isn’t something that’s only found here (heart) it’s something that’s found here (hands)… keep my commandments. In other words, love isn’t just a feeling. Real love is much more than emotions, real love is a promise and a choice to keep a promise.

The best example I can think of is something that you’ve all heard:

Bridegroom, will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony as God ordained it? Will you nourish and cherish her as Christ loved His body the Church, giving Himself up for her? Will you love, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others remain united to her alone, as long as you both shall live? [Eph. 5:29]

Bride, will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony as God ordained it? Will you submit to him as the Church submits to Christ? Will you love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others remain united to him alone, as long as you both shall live? [Eph. 5:24]

Marriage vows from Lutheran Service Book Agenda, (CPH, 2006)

Our picture of love comes from romantic movies. There’s always that heartfelt scene between parent and child… “I know you’re going to get married, but do you really love him?” Did you notice that’s not the question we ask at the wedding? That’s not what God asks a newly weds. The vows don’t say “do” you love, they say “will” you love. Love is stated here as an act of the will, a promise, a decision. There’s nothing there about a burning feeling in the bride and grooms heart. Love isn’t just here (heart) love is here (hands). Any long married couple will tell you that. If marriage is based just on feelings found in the heart, there’ll be trouble: feelings and emotions don’t last, they change frequently. In fact, this misunderstanding of love and marriage is probably why one in four marriages end in divorce (even among Christians!). Marriage that is built on feelings that are thought to be love will always falter. God wants more than good feelings between a man and his wife. He wants them committed to each other in sickness and health, good times and bad, wealth and poverty, anger and calm. The world says that lack of loving feelings is a reason for divorce. In God’s eyes divorce never acceptable and is always sinful. (Mal 2:16; Matt 5:32; Mark 10:9, 11; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10 etc.) True love keeps its promise. The love that Jesus commands us to do in marriage and in every day of our lives isn’t just found in here (heart), it is found here (hands). Ask any wife, she’ll tell you doing the dishes can be one of the most loving things a husband can do.

Well marriage is one thing. But there are other commandments than the one talking about marriage (6th). Our wife/husband might be our closest neighbor but what about all the rest. Jesus wants us to love them, too. Right? Well, yea.

There was this man traveling on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho… he got beat up robbers and left for dead. The people who were expected to help him didn’t. The priest and the bible teacher just walked by because they had better things to do. The Samaritan is the only one who stops and helps. The story tells us that this unlikely person had compassion on him. That compassion isn’t a just a feeling, it’s an action. The priest and Levite undoubtedly felt bad for the beat up man, but they didn’t do a thing for him. But the Samaritan’s compassion shows in his actions. He bound up the wounds and took the man to the inn. That’s what Jesus means. According to Jesus, that is loving your neighbor. He’s saying, love isn’t only found here (heart) but here (hands). And what’s more, love found here (hands), acts even if there’s no feeling here (heart). It takes away the idea that’s often in our heads that we’ve got to have good feelings for someone to love them. We can show love in our actions even if we don’t feel it in our heart.

Well, if that’s love, then we are going to need some help. It’s hard to put that kind of thing into practice. It’s hard to do things for people who don’t seem to appreciate it, or even abuse the help. It’s hard to do things for people who are different from us. We want people to earn our help, and deserve our help. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition wouldn’t be a very popular program if they were dealing with undeserving families. “Joe’s been on Welfare because he’d rather sit on his butt all day watching cable and sucking down beer. Good Morning Joe! We’re here to tear down the cockroach infested shack you live in and build you a multi-million dollar house! We’re here to fulfill all your consumerist fantasies.” Well, I admit that’s a little extreme but that’s how we feel on a smaller scale. We aren’t able to love that way.

But Jesus does. Jesus’ love is a perfect love. It has feelings, he wept over the people who would kill him (Matt 23:37), and Lazarus his friend who died (John 11). But he really shows his love in action. He healed, taught, fed, and forgave undeserving people who gathered around him. Remember he ate with tax collectors and sinners. (Matt 9:10-13) He got his hands dirty serving dirty people. He shows us love that’s here in his hands. In fact, Jesus’ love is shown right here (hands) most clearly when he allowed nails to be driven right through them. He took our sins into his own hands and carried them to the cross. He served us. Like the Samaritan on the road, he helped us when we were helpless. There isn’t any better description of God’s love than John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17, ESV)

And remember the word “so” at the beginning means “in this way.” “God loved the world in this way that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins and mine.”

We certainly don’t deserve the forgiveness Jesus works for us on the cross. But he didn’t die for deserving families (there are no deserving families, we are all sinful from the time we are born) he died for sinners and tax collectors. He died for people who don’t feel like giving a hand to other people, especially when they are different or dirty. Jesus death on the cross forgives your sin and mine, even the sin wanting to pass by the helpless man on roadside.

Jesus knows you need help. He puts his love into action. He knows you can’t get rid of sin in your life, so he dies on the cross to remove it. He also knows that you don’t always feel like helping other people, so he gives you another Helper. That’s the very next thing he says after he says, “keep my commandments.” “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16, ESV) Just as he promised, Jesus gives you and me the Holy Spirit as a Helper. I really like the choice of translation in this text (ESV). “Comforter” in some of the other translations makes the Holy Spirit sound like someone whose been sent to make us “feel better.” But he’s so much more than that. He puts God’s love in action in our lives. He makes the love of Jesus flow from here (heart) to here (hands). In fact, the word there (helper, comforter, paraclete) can even be translated “the one who kneels beside.” Think of the Good Samaritan kneeling beside the man on the road. That’s Jesus working through the Holy Spirit in you; helping you when you need help, and helping other people through you. Jesus makes it very clear, where the Holy Spirit is He is too. He doesn’t leave us as orphans. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19, ESV) He’s right there with you when you help your neighbor who’s behind on his planting. He right there beside you when you give a can of food to the food bank. He’s there when you slap a pork and bacon patty on a bun for a biker.

You see, if you love Jesus, and every Christian does love Jesus, because they know that Jesus loves them first, with his life, death and resurrection… if you love Jesus, you will keep the commandments. Jesus makes sure of it. That’s love here (heart) and here (hands). Amen.

The peace of god that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pinball Wizardry - A Dying Barroom Sport...

When I was a teenager, I spent hours dropping quarters into these technological marvels.  They got replaced by computers (another one of my deep interests at the time).  Funny how you can love two things that are at odds with each other!  This article talks about the last pinball machine company in the world.

US
For a Pinball Survivor, the Game Isn’t Over
By MONICA DAVEY
Published: April 25, 2008
A range of companies once mass produced pinball machines, especially in the Chicago area. Now there is only Stern Pinball Inc. in Melrose Park, Ill.

A few quotes from the owner,

"The thing that’s killing pinball,” Mr. Arnold added, “is not that people don’t like it. It’s that there’s nowhere to play it.”

"Corner shops, pubs, arcades and bowling alleys stopped stocking pinball machines. A younger audience turned to video games. Men of a certain age, said [Pinball Hall of Fame operator Tim Arnold], who is 52, became the reliable audience. ("Chicks," he announced, "don't get it.")

I resemble that remark!

People used to go out and do things...  now they stay home in front of the internet.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Very, Very, Short, Short Summer

0426080948Only two days ago it was positively spring, over sixty degrees, shirt sleeve weather. Today summer is over. As some like to say, in South Dakota we have two seasons; White winter and green winter. Well this is South Dakota after all.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Great Article: Good Question!

Read "Your Sins are Forgiven." at the New Reformation Press Blog, watch the video.

Here's My comment.

"Sometimes its easier to feel guilty than forgiven." A sad commentary to a man who is asking for forgiveness.  The woman doesn't give anything except more guilt.

The blog asks the question how would you council the person.  I might begin by telling the story of a man who was wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, wrongly executed.  Yet, his words were, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing." If Jesus can forgive those who killed him he can and does forgive this man too.  He says he wants someone to look him in the eye and give him answers.  God's Word is just that, concrete, real, tangible.  Real answers to the real question, is atonement possible? Here's a couple of gems:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:5-9 ESV)

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:19-23 ESV)

Nagelism:

"When we listen to a funeral sermon, we listen to hear that this is one who was Baptized. The rest is chaff." Norman Nagel.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pastoral Concern - The Symptoms of Avoiding Our Vocations

Pastoral thoughts on Vocation by pastor Christopher Hall, on his blog, This Side of the Pulpit.

Pastor Hall asks the right questions:

But I've been thinking about another question: what happens when you don't do your vocation, when you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing? How can you tell you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing?

And give answers that are framed in everyday life... very vocational

The Symptoms of Avoiding Vocations.  Very nice, very pastoral, very much fulfilling his vocation!

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK:

"Faithful prayer is never offered in vain. Every such prayer is a sowing from which a precious fruit follows, and empty bucket let down into the fountain of divine goodness and filled to the top when it comes out again." C. F. W. Walther God Grant It p. 424

Thanks to Pastor Nour for this gem.

Seventy Percent of Italian Gynecologists Refuse to Perform Abortions

This is good news! It seems Doctors in Italy are refusing to do abortions. 70% many claiming moral grounds. Thanks to Gene Veith for this story.

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=080422192609.lcpkej77&show_article=1

Monday, April 21, 2008

Psa146 - Easter 5, April 20, 2008

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146, ESV)

Faith Walk;

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

Did you ever go to camp and do one of those "faith walks." You know how they go, one person is blindfolded and the other leads them all around… up and down steps, around corners, through doorways, maybe even outside… The whole idea is that, if you are the blindfolded person, you're supposed to learn to trust the person who is leading you around. If you're the leader then you are suppose to show yourself as trustworthy. You do it by example, by showing that you can trust someone else, or that you are trustworthy. The "faith walk" is supposed to begin to help you to develop a new relationship with another person, a relationship based on trust. I toyed for a few moments about doing that this morning, pairing up a couple of people who we all know are in disagreement and, put on the blindfold and have them lead each other around the sanctuary. But alas that would be pretty "un-Lutheran" to do that. So I'll just have to trust that you have the image in your head. And I'll leave you guessing who I might have picked.

Trust is very important in life. Just think about how people react when their trust has been violated. Remember the time when you broke a promise to a friend? Remember how you felt when the secret you told came back to you from a different source? Are you loosing money in the stock market, did you trust the word of a financial advisor? It isn't just feelings that are hurt when trust is violated. When trust is violated, relationships are broken.

Life is full of placing our trust in one place or another. In a way life is a faith walk. It's important to be able to put your trust in someone. It's important to learn who is actually trustworthy. Life is a faith walk…. In some sense you have the opportunity to pick who you want to lead you around while you are blindfolded. When I was younger going to youth events around the state of Nebraska and we would often have a faith walk. And just like every other teenage boy, I always tried to get next to some pretty girl; it was a chance to hold her hand… in fact I think that's how I met my wife.

Today's text for this message is the psalm we read together in place of the Introit this morning. The author of this poem isn't known, and we don't know when it was written either. But, some of the language suggests that it was written by someone who was far away from home, experiencing an exile. It makes sense because in the history of Israel they were exiled from the land that God had given them. They had a trust issue with God. They put their trust in themselves. They put their trust in their kings. They put their trust in everything except for their God. In our relationship to God our actions have consequence. God wanted to get their attention so he had them removed from their country and sent to a far away and foreign land… like… North Dakota… or Carthage… you know they just think differently there…

The Psalmist says, "Don't let the princes of this world lead you! They will fail you. They will lead you astray." He must have known it from personal experience. He might have under a government that failed. Maybe we've got something in common with him. In many ways we trust our government far too much. We trust it to bail us out of our financial mistakes. We trust it to get us out of poverty. We trust it to take care of us in times of disaster. We trust it provide for us when we retire. Counting on social security for your retirement? Want the government to take care of your health care? Many would say these things are foolish to place in the hands of any government. We trust it to keep the peace, and we trust it to be just. Peace and justice are very fleeting things; no government has complete control of things. While God has given us government to protect us and keep a lid on sin, we are not to put our trust in it. Governments fail all the time; ask people in Nigeria, or Iraq, or Afghanistan. And don't think for a moment that the United States has some special blessing from God that He promises it will never fall. The US isn't the new Jerusalem. Our government isn't so strong and perfect and perfect that such a thing could never happen. God gives us fair warning "Don't trust in princes." The Psalmist says.

The psalm also warns us not let mere human beings lead you in your faith walk either. Don't trust what human beings say or do. Don't make glorious plans with them. Human beings are most often motivated by self interest, even in the church! It is a part of our sinful nature to think first of ourselves, our money, our desires, before others. When we look at ourselves we know that it is true. We constantly make promises we don't keep. We constantly forget to do the things that we should. Most of the time we want to keep our promises, but there are times when we make them and we have no intention at all of keeping. We know who we are, and we know that other people are the same. But even more than that, our plans are temporary at best. Death is in our future. When we die all their plans come to nothing. Death is the great equalizer. It removes wealth, it cancels plans, it ends partnerships, and it ignores social status. On the day you die, all your plans for this life will quickly evaporate. There's a movie (Unforgiven, 1992) where a killer played by Clint Eastwood says, "It's a [heck] of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have." The character he's talking to replies, "Yeah, well, I guess he had it coming." Eastwood comes back, "We all got it coming, kid." You too, "got it coming." You are not trustworthy. Your friends and family are not trustworthy. Don't trust human beings either.

Life is a faith walk… but, you can't trust in yourself, you can't trust in other people, you can't trust in government. Who can you trust in? Well, the Psalm has an answer for that; it says God is the only one who is trustworthy. "Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob; whose hope is in YHWH his God." When God leads you around, even when you can't see where you are going, you can trust when here leads you.

But, the Psalm isn't just speaking in generalities; it tells us exactly why God is trustworthy. "Because" it says, "God is the one who created the heaven and the earth, the sea and everything in it!" It sounds like the creed we are going to confess in just a few moments. God created everything, he preserves and protects is. He has an interest in how it all goes. If can make it he guards and keeps it. Psalm 121 says it like this.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV)

In those days the false religions put their altars on top of the hills so that they could be seen all around. The psalmist is saying, "I look up to the hills, but my help doesn't come from there, it comes from the God who made the hills."

There's more though, and here is where the faith walk becomes even more interesting. God is faithful and trustworthy forever. Even when 'blindfolded' people are oppressed, He helps them. Here the Hebrew language for oppressed means economically. It means to not have the resources one needs to live. God helps those who are lead through hunger. He leads prisoners so that they become free. He helps the blind to see. He leads the humble people who have no place to call their own; and even the widow… God helps, you see, no matter where He leads you on your faith walk. No matter what the situation He places you in. When your trust is in "the God of Jacob" you will find that He is faithful.

Sometimes we find it difficult to trust in the "God of Jacob." Many of you know that it is true from personal experience. As you go through life, as you go on the faith walk, sometimes you trust God a lot, and sometimes you don't feel like you can trust him at all. He just doesn't lead us where we think we should be led. No one wants to go through an illness that threatens our life; no one wants to get old and unable to care for you, no one wants to loose a lifelong friend. We struggle with God just like Job did. God allowed all that happened to him to happen. He lost everything and found himself sitting in ashes, scraping the sores on his body with a broken pot. He didn't like it and he complained to God. "I'm innocent! He insisted." God's answer to him wasn't an answer we like to hear. "You don't know what you are talking about… I'm God and you are not!" I've told you before about a poster that used to hang in my parents house. "There are two fundamental facts of human enlightenment. There is a God. You are not Him." We do not understand how God works, and He doesn't work the way we expect. It's not unusual, because sin constantly threatens to separate us from God. While we are walking around blindfolded, we will at times try to pull our hand out of God's hand so that we can rip of our blindfold. We don't always trust where God is leading us. Those are the times when God is most faithful. If you remember the Gospel lesson from last week, Jesus is the one who said that no one could snatch us out of our Father's hand. (John 10).

The point is that we are not, and can not be faithful. God is, and always will be faithful. We see it most clearly in Jesus Christ. He shows us exactly how faithful God is. "I am in the Father and the Father is in me." "I and the Father are one." What you see me doing… you see God doing. Jesus was faithful in everything. People came to him for help and he helped them. People came to him with their sin and he forgave them. In fact the psalm describes Jesus perfectly;

who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

Jesus Christ is God who is faithful. He loves the least, the last, and the worst. He loves unfaithful you. He loves unfaithful me.

Just exactly how faithful is God in Jesus Christ. He is so faithful that He allows himself to be nailed to a cross and suffer great pain. He is so faithful that He is not willing for us to suffer eternal separation from God, even though our unfaithfulness deserves just such a punishment. We unfaithfully follow the God of Jacob, thinking first of ourselves, imagining that God is unfaithful because he allows us to suffer. We want God to act as we would have Him act. But God is too faithful to do things our way. Instead he does things his way. Just look to Jesus on the cross to see God's faithfulness in action. He bears the pain and suffering of the whole world. He hangs bleeding and dying for the forgiveness of sin. He is so faithful He knows the only way to save us from our sin. We can't be faithful, so Jesus is faithful, even unto death, for us.

Life is a faith walk… Jesus Christ the faithful one, places your hand in his, right there next to the nail print. No one can snatch you out of His hand. He leads you on your faith walk through all kinds of interesting places. He leads you in places you would never go yourself. He leads you through pain and suffering but promises that you will be better for it. Even though you are blindfolded you can trust in Him to lead you because he is trustworthy. He proves it through His willingness to die for you. He proves His is faithful by His resurrection from death. If He can control death, He can control life. Remember Death, the great equalizer; the canceller of plans, Jesus defeated him. It didn't thwart Jesus plans. Jesus Christ wasn't a mere mortal man; He was God and Man together, united. He alone is worthy of trust. He is God himself.

The psalm begins and ends the same way. "Praise the Lord," is says. Praise him because of what he has done. Praise him because he is worthy to be praised. Praise him because he alone is worthy of being trusted. Life is a faith walk… Trust Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God, keep your heart and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Movie Review: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. (Aka – Science is Deeply Divided)

Ben Stein seems to make his point. The scientific world is deeply divided. In the documentary, Stein effectively uses the image of the Berlin wall as a picture of modern science. On one side is the establishment set in Darwinian Evolution. The other advocates of Intelligent Design. One side has the prestige of institutions, the influence of Government and the power of money. The other has been expelled. Those who propose that there is another solution to the origin of life on earth are denied tenure, marginalized, and denied access to reasonable debate. The issue is Academic Freedom says Stein. Freedom does exist, if you are on the right side of the wall. Over and over again the Darwinian evolutionists are shown to say the debate of origins is over. The facts are established as well as any fact we know. The other side pushes for more debate. Darwin doesn't explain it all. The clash isn't over scientific theory, but instead a battle of worldviews. One is based on the premise that everything must have a natural explanation, i.e. there is no god of any kind. Science cannot survive with a creator. The other believes a designer is a possibility. The facts should determine the answer. Science is well served when it allows for the possibility of a designer.

But Ben Stein doesn't leave the point there. He also asks the question, where does the prevailing theory of origins lead? Stein a Jew, builds a connection to Nazi extermination camps. "This is deeply personal," he concedes. If life evolved by accident, the meaning of life is to ensure the survival of the species. Powered by Darwin and the eugenics movement in the United States, Hitler carried Darwin's theories to a logical, well thought out conclusion. He wasn't insane, just acting on a worldview. He was advancing Evolution on its natural course to improve the human species. Some lives are not worth the food they take to exist, they are idle hands. Hitler called evil, good. But can it happen again? Ben Stein asks. "It starts like it always starts," said one interviewee. People are marginalized based on their economics, or social standing. "Every child a wanted child." "He no longer had a quality life." These mantras are Darwinian. We are better off without these people. The value of human life is cheapened. Our society's acceptance of Abortion and Euthanasia are the canaries in the cage.

In spite of the serious nature of the topic, Ben Stein seems to enjoy exploring the topic. The film is filled with his dry wit. In one part of the interview with Darwinist/ Author Richard Dawkins he repeatedly asks if he believes in any god; The God of the Old Testament… the Trinity… the Muslim god… any of the Hindu gods? Dawkins exasperated reply says that everything he believes about Darwin excludes the possibility of any god at all. "How could you keep asking that?" Stein's reply simply says he wants to make sure and that it's fun to ask.

One very interesting moment in the film is Dawkins admission that life on earth could be designed by intelligent life. They would be a highly advanced race who "planted" life on earth. But they themselves would have to be a product of Darwinian Evolution.

The movie isn't going to convert any Darwin Evolutionists to Intelligent Design. That isn't its goal. It does ask that freedom be returned to the debate and that the dividing wall be torn down. He ends the film using his most famous line (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off,1986) If we don't stand up and speak about this will anyone be left to do it? Anyone… anyone…

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Luke.24.13-35, Third Sunday of Easter, April 6th, 2008

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

There's a painting. You've all seen it. It's a beautiful landscape with huge arching trees and bright light… and a road… maybe I should call it a "Way." On the Way are three men walking. One of them, the one in the middle, is obviously engaged in conversation. He has his arm raised in the air to animate and important point. The other two who are walking with him, are listening intently leaning ever so slightly toward the Traveler between them. The artist, a man named Robert Zend (1827-1909) has captured a pregnant moment. You can tell in the picture that something very important is happening. Maybe it's the majestic trees that frame the scene, or the bright light that seems to reach out of the background and envelop the Speaker. The painting is about this text for today. It's called The Way to Emmaus. I remember seeing the picture when I was very little. It was one of the many prints that hung in the basement of my Grandmother's church (Along with a print of Christ of St. John of the Cross). Every time I hear or read this text that picture pops into my mind. In my mind, that must be exactly as it looked that first Easter Sunday. (Never mind that the trees are grossly out of place for the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus).

Today, I don't think it'd be very difficult to put on our sandals and walk with these brothers of ours in that picture for a while. We could join them a little while before Jesus joins them. It will be easy to join in the conversation. We know about their pain. We know the kind of sorrow they are feeling. We know the kind of doubts they have. We know about death and the pain and sorrow and doubt it brings. Let's join the conversation: (Spoken by "Travelers" from the congregation)

"He was so young. Why did he have to die?"

"Why did he have to die like that?"

"He was such a good person he didn't deserve to die."

"After all the miracles he did why did those people want to kill him?"

"Couldn't he have found a way to avoid the … cross?"

"He deserved better than that."

"We all thought he was Messiah, but how could it be that Messiah would die?"

"The women said that angels told them that Jesus was alive."

"That's just wishful thinking… foolish talk."

"He's not alive. I saw his blood dripping on the ground. I saw pale death cross his face."

"Why didn't God do something to stop it all?"

"Dead is dead. But… why is his body gone from the tomb?"

The more we walk, the more we struggle. The more we struggle, the more sorrowful we become. But, we have cried all the tears that we have. We just have to get away. Emmaus seems like a good place to go. It is as far as we can bear walk in a day. A place far away from all that has happened.

The problem that our brothers on the way have, the problem we share with them is that we are unable to believe. You see, the road to Emmaus is the road away from Jerusalem. Even though we have all the facts; the words and promises of Jesus before his death, the angels announcement, and the empty tomb. We can't believe. We can't make a faith appear in our hearts. We can't build a faith that is strong enough to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead. We can't choose to believe what can't possibly be true. We know the reality of death. We've carved too many names in stone monuments. We know that our names will be there all too soon. Any faith we would drag out of our own hearts, stands in the face of cold death. Any faith of our own making is full of doubt.

Ah, but thanks be to God, he doesn't leave us to generate faith from our own sinful hearts. God gives us the faith we need to believe. And the faith that God gives is just that—the faith that God gives. It is faith to believe. It is faith that saves. That's what's just about to happen on the Way to Emmaus. Right there in the middle of our pain and sorrow and doubt, a Man, appears walking with us. We didn't really notice when he joined us but he doesn't carry the same painful expression we have. But he's walking the same way we are. He's come from Jerusalem, too.

"What are you talking about?" (Luke 24:17) He asks.

It's hard to believe that someone from Jerusalem wouldn't know what we've been talking about. It's hard to believe that someone from Jerusalem wouldn't feel the sorrow and pain over innocent death that was the center of so much of last few days. His question stops us dead in our tracks.

Cleopas, our fellow traveler says what we are all thinking, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" (Luke 24:18)

And when the new Traveler answers, "What things?" it all spills out again; Jesus the great prophet of God, crucified, dead and buried, three days in the tomb; Jesus who we thought had to be Messiah, the one who would redeem us all, turned over to the Romans and death on the cross; Jesus' whose body is now missing, and claimed to be alive again by angels. We want to believe, but how can we possibly believe that Jesus is actually alive.

The Traveler looks at each of us with a smile. "O foolish ones," He said, "and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26) And he gives us a gift. Well, actually two gifts, one gift to bring the other. From beginning to end, he tells us about Jesus using nothing but God's Word. He shows us Jesus in what Moses wrote, Adam, Eve, and the fall into sin. He shows us that Jesus is the one who God promised would crush Satan's head. (Gen 3:15) He shows us that Jesus is promised in the way that Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole, so that any of God's people who looked at it would be saved from the poison bite of snakes in the desert. (Num. 21:4-9) He shows us how the prophets tell us that Jesus is the one who is born of a virgin (Isa 7:14), suffers under Pontius Pilate (Isa 50:6), is crucified (Isa 50:13-53:12), dead and buried, and raised again to life. On and on he goes, with each step we take down The Way to Emmaus. This Traveler tells us that every word written in the bible is really all about Jesus. He opens to us the real meaning of God's Word. And what's more, that Word about Jesus brings us faith in Jesus. That's the second gift that we receive as we walk along the way. As we hear God speaking to us about his promise of forgiveness of sins through Jesus, life, death and resurrection, our doubts disappear. It's as if our hearts are burning as we learn the truth about Jesus. And because the faith that we now have comes from God through his word we know it's faith that saves us. Faith that God gives is sure faith, it's not filled with the doubt of sin.

Finally, we reach our destination: A small house in the village, a place to spend the night. But we are hardly finished listening to what Our New Friend has to say. And it looks like He's going to continue traveling and not stay with us. (Spoken by "Travelers" from the congregation)

"Stay with us!"

"We want to hear more about the Messiah!"

"It's too late to travel any farther, stay and eat, and talk."

"We want to hear more about how Jesus is our Savior."

Our hearts fill with joy when He agrees to stay. So we gather around the table to eat with Him. It's funny, that as we sit at table with this Traveler, our pain and sorrow and doubt are gone. Suddenly, the most amazing thing happens. As He takes the bread blesses it, breaks it and gives it to us to eat, we all realize that all this time along the way, we've been speaking to Jesus. And just as we see it's Him, He's gone. Jesus didn't leave us doubting. He didn't leave us to make our own faith from deep inside our hearts. He came to us on the Way to Emmaus. He came to us in His Word, and brought us the faith we need to believe. That is, in fact, what he does every time we gather to hear His Word. He didn't leave us alone to find the strength to live our lives in faith; He came to us in the breaking of the bread to give us the faith we need. That is, in fact, what he does every time we break bread together, and celebrate the special meal that He gave us.

You and I don't have to generate the faith that God gives. There's nothing that we do deep in our hearts to make it grow either. Since it's a gift from God we can be sure of it, even when we have doubts. Jesus doesn't say to us, "Stay away from me until you believe in me." The risen Jesus who was crucified, dead buried, comes to us and gives us the faith to believe.

So what do we do? We live in the faith that is given. Do you have doubts? Of course you do. So do I. Life is difficult and full of trouble. Talk to God anyway. Jesus says, pray these words, "Our Father who art in heaven…" Does the death threaten you with helplessness and despair? Of course it does. It does me, too. Gather with the rest of God's people where the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus, is told in its fullness and truth. Go where the bible is proclaimed as the story of God's love for sinful people, centered in Jesus Christ. Gather with other believing Christians, break the bread, and drink the cup that is Jesus very body and blood, there for you. Don't look to yourself to make your faith strong. Look to Jesus who comes to you and gives the gift of faith through His Word and Sacraments. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

"On the Way to Emmaus"

Pastor

… Let's join the conversation:

(Travelers stand)

Traveler 1

He was so young. Why did he have to die?

Traveler 2

Why did he have to die like that?

Traveler 3

He was such a good person he didn't deserve to die.

Traveler 1

After all the miracles he did why did those people want to kill him?

Traveler 3

Couldn't he have found a way to avoid the … cross?

Traveler 2

He deserved better than that.

Traveler 4

We all thought he was Messiah, but how could it be that Messiah would die?

Traveler 2

The women said that angels told them that Jesus was alive.

Traveler 4

That's just wishful thinking… foolish talk.

Traveler 1

He's not alive. I saw his blood dripping on the ground.

I saw pale death cross his face.

Traveler 3

Why didn't God do something to stop it all?

Traveler 4

Dead is dead. But… why is his body gone from the tomb?

(travelers are be seated)

Pastor

… And it looks like he's going to continue traveling and not stay with us.

(Travelers stand)

Traveler 1

Stay with us!

Traveler 2

We want to hear more about Messiah!

Traveler 3

It's too late to travel any farther, stay and eat, and talk.

Traveler 4

Tell us more about Jesus our Savior.

(travelers are be seated)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bored with the Liturgy? pr. Hall has some advice.

Since St. John's will soon be moving to the new LCMS Hymnal, Lutheran Service Book I thought this comment from Rev. Christopher Hall at his blog "This Side of the Pulpit" was appropriate.

Wisdom! Let us Attend

Find yourself growing bored with the liturgy?

Is it getting stale, saying the same things week after week?

Does every Sunday service seem the same?

Desire something a little different, you know, to mix it up a little bit?

There is a certain cure for this ennui: pay attention to what you are saying, and what is being said to you.

Thanks pr. Hall.

Issues, Etc. Demonstration in the News

News regarding, Issues, Etc. demonstration at LCMS Headquarters.

Story on StlToday.com

David Strand's comment at the end is very interesting.
Strand would not say whether the church was considering a sale of its stations. He pointed out that the 7,000 signatures make up one-third of 1 percent of the church body.

In the vacated time slot, the church has launched a new program called "The Afternoon Show," with topics Strand said should have a broader appeal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 13, 2008, John 10:11-18

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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 snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11-18, ESV)

(A Homily by Pr. Will Weedon, Hamil, IL)

Once upon a time (a real time, mind you, not an imagined one), there was a wolf. He was a fat old thing. You see, he had it pretty easy. Whenever he wanted to eat, he only had to walk his door of his cave and look at the sheep that fed right outside. He’d eye this one or that one. And then he’d go after it and with a pretty minimal struggle, he’d bring the sheep down and eat away. And the more that he ate, the bigger he got, and the bigger he grew, the hungrier he got. He was a wicked old thing; sometimes he’d just poke his head out the door and howl. All the sheep began to shiver at the very sound of him. He’d chuckle to himself. “Yes, you better be afraid, you stupid sheep because one of these days I am going to eat you, and it won’t be pleasant, oh no it won’t. Ha! Ha!” This big, bad wolf, you see, had a name. A name of fear. The sheep had only to think of his name and they’d get wobbly on their knees and some would faint outright. His name, you see, was Death. And Death was always hungry and never satisfied. Always eating sheep and always wanting more. And he stank. The very smell of him was worse than his name or his howl. He was altogether dreadful, let me tell you! He was in charge and all the sheep knew it.

There came a day when he was feeling hungrier than usual. He poked his head out the cave door to roar and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Why, right there in front of his door, on his very door-step almost was the fattest, juiciest sheep he’d ever laid his eyes on. The effrontery of it! He drew in the air to fill his vast lungs and then he let out a stone-splitting howl. All the other sheep in the vicinity turned tail and ran. They were afraid. All but the sheep that grazed still just outside his cave. That sheep paid him no heed at all. Kept on eating, just like it hadn’t even heard him. He was getting mad now. He came bounding out the door and right up to that impertinent animal. Again he sucked the air into his lungs and this time he breathed out right in the sheep’s face. The sheep looked up and blinked as the hideous odor of decay was blasted in its face. Totally unconcerned the sheep blinked and then stared.

Now the wolf was getting himself into quite a tizzy. “Don’t you know who I am?” he snarled. The sheep looked at him and said: “Yes. I know.” Calm, at peace even. The other sheep began to creep back at a distance to watch. They couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. “Well,” snarled the Wolf, “aren’t you afraid?” The sheep looked Death, that old wolf, right in the eyes and said: “Of you? You have got to be kidding!” Now the wolf was so livid with anger that he spoke low and menacing: “You’re for it, lamb chops. You are not going to have it easy. I’m going to take you out slow and painfully.” There was a moment of silence and then the sheep said: “I know.”

The other sheep had all been watching because they’d never heard anything like this before. But the moment that the wolf pounced they turned away. A great sadness filled them. They had thought, well, they had scarcely dared to hope, but it was just possible that, this once, the wolf wasn’t going to get his way. But their hopes were dashed. It was an awful and an ugly sight. The wolf chowed down. It was slow and it was painful, just like he said. And in the end, there was nothing left. He turned his rude face, red with blood to the other sheep, and he belched. They turned tail and ran, knowing that he’d be back for them one day soon.

As the wolf went back to his cave, he took out a tooth pick and cleaned his teeth and he thought that he’d never tasted a sheep that was quite so good before. Nothing tough about that meat. It was tender and rich and really altogether satisfying. The thought hit him with surprise. It was almost as though his insatiable hunger had actually been quenched for once. The thought was a little disturbing. Well, no matter, he thought. And off he went to bed.

When the morning came the wolf wasn’t feeling quite himself. It was almost as though he were getting a bit of tummy ache. Such a thing never happened. He always woke up ravenous and went off to start eating first thing in the morning. At least a dozen or so sheep before the dew was off the grass. But not this morning. His tummy WAS grumbling. By noon he was feeling more than discomfort. He was feeling positively ill. He who had brought such pain on those poor sheep, he was getting a taste of pain himself and it was most unpleasant. He kept thinking back to that impertinent sheep he had eaten yesterday afternoon, the one that had tasted so strangely good. Could it have actually been poisoned or something? It wasn’t long before he stopped thinking altogether. The pain was just too great. He rolled around on the floor of his den and his howled and yammered.

The sheep heard the sound and didn’t quite know what to make of it all. They crept cautiously nearer and nearer to the door of his house and turned their heads listening. What could it mean?

It was sometime in the dark of the night that the wolf let out a shuddering howl. Something was alive and moving inside its own gullet. Something that pushed and poked and prodded until with a sudden burst, the gullet was punctured and hole ripped open. And something, rather, someone stepped right out through the hole, right out of the massive stinking stomach. The wolf felt like he was dying. And I suppose in a way he was.

The figure that stepped out of the wolf’s belly was totally unknown to the wolf. Why, it looked like a shepherd. He’d heard of such a critter, but had never actually met one. With a staff in his hand he walked around and stood facing the wolf. And he began to laugh. He laughed and his laugher burst open the door of the wolf’s house. He laughed and the sheep were filled with bewilderment wondering what was going on in there. He laughed and he looked the wolf right in the eye.
“So, you don’t recognize me, old foe? It was I who ate outside your house three days ago. ‘Twas I that you promised would die horribly and how you kept your promise. But what do you propose to do about me now?”

“You? The wolf gasped. The voice was the same; he recognized it. This shepherd was indeed the sheep whom he had swallowed down. “You. But how? Oh, the pain!” The shepherd smiled and said: “Well, I think you’re pretty harmless now, my friend. Go on and try to eat some of my sheep. I promise you that as fast as you swallow them down I will lead right out through the hole I made in your stomach. And then you’ll never be able to touch them again! Ta!”

The wolf howled in fear and anger and rage, but there was nothing he could do. The Shepherd had tricked him, fooled him good! And the Shepherd then stepped outside the door and called the sheep together. They knew his voice too. They’d heard it before. They stood before the Lamb who had become the Shepherd and they listened as he told them what would happen to them. “You’ll die too. He’ll come out in a few days and be hungrier than ever. He’ll swallow you down. But don’t worry. I punched a hole right through his belly and I promise you I’ll bring you out again.”

Once upon a time, and the time was 2,000 years ago. But the promise still holds: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.” It is the comfort of the Resurrection that Christ reaches us today in his Supper. Here we may taste the body and blood that went into the wolf’s mouth, but which the wolf could not hold. As you eat and drink you have the same promise: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life!” Let the old wolf howl and snarl all he will. We know about the hole in his tummy. We know about the Sheep who is the Shepherd. Our Good Shepherd. Amen!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Christ-Less Christian Preaching

Thanks, Rev. McCain for the post. He writes:
Anyone who spends much time examining popular Protestant literature and listening to popular so-called "Evangelical" preaching, quickly realizes that, apparently, in much of Protestantism, the Name above every Name, Jesus, is optional: the specific articulation of the Gospel appears to be optional in much Protestant church culture, unless it is some kind of evangelistic rally. I know that generalizations always fail, but, it is something I continue to notice across all sorts of media: books, magazines, videos, blog sites: Jesus optional. Christ should be the main point of Christianity. Is He?
Speaking about a "Christian Sermon" he writes:

Jesus made no difference, made no contribution, determined no truth, solved no problem, offered no hope, performed no miracle, never interceded, never atoned, never taught, never lived the truth. Jesus made no claims, offered no invitations, defined no choices.

In fairness, the sermon was on an older testament story, but I am holding the preacher responsible for somehow preaching a Christian sermon, not a motivational talk. Christian preaching, no matter where it comes from, is necessarily oriented to the person, work and gospel of Jesus Christ in some way. (emphasis mine)

It is a constant struggle in preaching! "Pastor why can't you preach like that!" People hear what they think is a great sermon but in reality it brings not the Life that God promises in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Human nature wants acceptance instead of conflict. Pastors all too often give in to popularity instead of holding to what God has called them to do.

Luther's prayer from the Catechism:
How is God's name kept holy?
God's name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God's Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
This is exactly what we pray about in this petition!

pr. Wilken spoke of this often on Issues, Etc.

Cwirla Does Movies

I enjoyed Rev. William M. Cwirla very interesting analysis of the movie Big Night. It compares whats happening in the LCMS with the movie. I look foward to seeing the movie, so I threw it in the top of my netflix queue!

From Cwirla:
The LCMS is Secundo, a conflicted second son. Part of it believes that good theology brings one closer to God, and that people should come for the theology. The other part believes that you need to give the customers what they want, even to the point of heterodoxy, so that in time you can give them what you want.

The twin realities in the film are that Primo will never succeed like Pascal, and Pascal has nothing of his own to give. The beauty of the movie is that it offers no via media, no easy compromise between Primo's orthodoxy and Pascal's heterodoxy. Business style and culinary substance are inextricably tied together. The question posed to Secundo by Pascal at the end of the movie is this: Who are you?

That is the question posed to the LCMS today: Who are you?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Expelled from 'Expelled'

WorldNetDaily internet news has an article on the Documentary Expelled:Not Intellegence Allowed.

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.printable&pageId=61134

From the Article:
Scheduled for release in 1,000 theatres, "Expelled" will be hotter than "Farenheit 9/11," which debuted on 868 screens, and much more convenient to see than "An Inconvenient Truth," which I was surprised to find opened on only four screens nationwide despite all the hype, peaking at 587 before its appeal melted.
The movie is a documentary by Ben Stein, the actor, political speech writer and activist.
From the Website:
Big Science has expelled smart new ideas from the classroom. What they forgot is that every generation has its Rebel... Ben [Stein] blows the horn on suppression!
I admit I have not yet seen the movie but I plan to rectify that: Expelled Theater finder:

The movie opens April 18, in Sioux Falls. http://www.cinemark.com/century_showtimes.asp?fandango_id=AANYZ

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Spring Pastor’s Conference,
South Dakota District, Dakota Dunes, SD


Our speaker, Rev. James Waddell (author of The Struggle to Reclaim the Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in Historical, Theological and Practical Perspective) gave us much to think about. His topic “Clearly Communicating the Good News: Moving beyond Worship Wars,” was insightful. I still have many questions in my mind and yet, much of what he said makes a lot of sense. Now is the time to digest (and re-read the book). He has done an extensive amount of research and much of it very enlightening, indeed the basis for good discussion.

Here is my understanding of several points from Pr. Waddell that I found interesting:

  • We do not serve the church well by confessing the opposite of an error in order to correct an error. As my seminary professor Dr. Paul Raabe used to say, “that’s falling in the other ditch.” (Many “confessionals” are guilty of this practice… me included.)
  • The Confessions do not prescribe what form worship is to take. i.e. , “The Historic Liturgy” is not a “Confession” of the church in the sense that the Book of Concord is a confession of the church. Scripture (Norma Normans) is the only rule and norm for faith and life in the church. The Confessions (norma normata) are the standard that is “normed” by scripture. They accurately reflect the teaching of scripture, but are subject to scripture none the less. Liturgy is normed both by scripture and the confessions. No teaching or practice of the church is “normed” by liturgy.
  • The church cannot pre-scribe a particular form of worship. Waddell believes that some practices and content can be rejected when they fall outside of our confession. (i.e. we don’t sing hymns (songs, etc) that confess false doctrine.) He gave us a useful tool to help evaluate lyrics for use in worship.
  • The Lex orandi / Lex Crendi principal isn’t found in the confessions.
  • Worship Style and substance must be guided by the principal “Lutheran Theology for Lutheran Worship”
Some critique: Waddell claims to be standing on the middle ground and I have great respect for the positions he has brought to the floor. Much of his criticism is leveled at the “confessional” side of the isle and very little at the other. Since Waddell spends little time speaking against the arguments of the “Contemporary Worship” crowd, many “Confessionals” will simply see this as an attack leveled against them. While much of his criticism is in many ways valid it would stand in better stead to have some balancing arguments.

While I may not completely agree with all that pr. Waddell has given us he has sparked a good conversation and thought process. I’ll be processing the presentation for quite some time to come.

Pastor Watt.

Passed April 9, 2008 – South Dakota District Pastor’s Conference, Dakota Dunes, SD

Passed April 9, 2008 – South Dakota District Pastor’s Conference, Dakota Dunes, SD

Whereas, the “issues, etc.” radio program on KFUO-AM, St. Louis, has been a great blessing to many of the pastors an laity of the South Dakota District; and

Whereas
, pastor and people are at a loss to understand the decision to cancel a show that winsomely engaged the culture and offered a distinctly Lutheran perspective on the issues of the day; and

Whereas
, official explanations for the show’s cancellation have not satisfied ore answered the concerns of many, and

Whereas
, there is extensive public support for the continuation for Issues, Etc. and

Whereas
, we wish to demonstrate pastoral concern for Rev. Todd Wilken, the show’s host and Mr. Jeffry Schwarz, the shows producer;

Therefore be it:

Resolved
, that the Pastoral Conference of the South Dakota District gathered in solemn assembly at Dakota Dunes, SD this 9th day of April, in the year of our Lord 2008, give thanks and praise to God for the ministry of Issues, Etc. and the hard work of Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz and be it finally

Resolved, that the Pastoral Conference of the South Dakota District officially petition the Board of Communication Services to revisit the decision by its Executive Director, David Strand, to cancel Issues, Etc. and also petition the Board to reinstate both Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz to their positions, restore the ministry of Issues, Etc.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Church IS an Institution, and Denominationism is a GOOD Thing. by Rev. Todd Wilken

Here's a great video of Pastor Wilken talking about Denominations at the Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.


Find more videos like this on The Wittenberg Trail

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The ubiquity of religion in this campaign season is distinctly un-Lutheran. Uwe Siemon-Netto

Read the insightful article at http://concordia.typepad.com/vocation/2008/04/election-08s-fa.html

The ubiquity of religion in this campaign season is distinctly un-Lutheran. Uwe Siemon-Netto

Uwe lays out a nice contrast between the Two Kingdoms, right and left hand, the Church and the State. In this election cycle we would all do well to pay attention to our theology.

Here's a taste:
Nine years from now, in 2017, Protestants will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. This is a good time to remember its theological treasures, which differ from earthly treasures in that they multiply when shared. Where the world is concerned, Lutherans have perhaps the soberest message of all Protestant traditions. Like Paul and Augustine, Lutherans know that our secular reality cannot be fixed. They know that it is finite. It will disappear. Until that happens, though, we must roll up our sleeves and manage our fallen world as well as we can, preventing chaos and lovingly serving each other - not by the gospel, which would be impossible, but by natural reason. We are free to act rationally in this world thanks to our knowledge of our redemption in the kingdom of grace. But the gospel has nothing to say about traffic rules, illegal immigration, the price of gasoline, or the deployment or withdrawal of forces to or from the Middle East. The gospel cannot really be associated with any worldly cause. The gospel will illume the Christians' good sense, we hope, and affect their personal comportment to the extent that it makes others curious about their faith. But the

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Issues Etc, Program Replacment?

With all due respect to the hosts... the "replacement" show for Issues, Etc. on KFUO is a pale second.

The show seems to be a repeat of the "old morning show" content, mostly fluff; interviews (what are you doing) with "ministries" in St. Louis; chat between the hosts; Today's Light with CPH (not necessarily "fluff"); interviews with "psychologists", etc.

It's not the "etc" we are used to. Certainly non-controversial, certainly non-Doctrinal. I don't know how they expect to draw an audience with the same content as in the AM.

Mr. Strand's hope is at the moment ill founded "However, we hope you will enjoy our future programs." (from his email response to me).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What We Learned from Issues, Etc.

pr. Weedon has a nice article today "What We Learned from Issues, Etc."

http://weedon.blogspot.com/2008/03/tribute-what-have-we-learned-from.html