Tuesday, September 30, 2008

401-K Plan?

image In these uncertain times, isn't it good to know there is something we can always count on for our comfort and well being? Enjoy. If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have $16.50 left of the original $1000. With WorldCom, you would have less than $5.00 left. If you had purchased $1000.00 of Delta Airlines stock you would have $49.00 left. If you had purchased United Airlines, you would have nothing left.

BUT, if you had purchased $1000.00 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for recycling, you would have $214!

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

This is called the 401-Keg Plan.

P.S. I have no idea where this originated. Just one of those things making the rounds on the internet.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

White Crosses...

Daniel Elliot brings us some powerful pictures and dialog.  A powerful read, here's a sample:

So what if we could give those "whitewashed" cross a face? What if we could see a child behind the symbol? Would we be so quick to dismiss them, to throw them away if we could look into their eyes? If we could hear just one of them speak, just one audible giggle, would we stand up for them?


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Matt.21.28-32, Pentecost 20, September 28, 2008

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32, ESV)

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

image So, I wonder, which “son” you are ? That is what Jesus is getting at here isn’t it? To ask the question that Jesus asks. “What do you think?” Are you like the son who insults his father, refusing to do what he is obligated to do, but has a change of heart and goes out and works? Or are you more like the son who eagerly answers his father saying he’ll go, but then changes his mind blows off the work and does something different? Isn’t that after all what Jesus is asking us? Isn’t he asking us to choose which of the two sons is the best one? Wouldn’t he like us to be more like the “better” one? So even more importantly than that doesn’t Jesus use this parable to tell us how to live?

Let’s look at it a little closer: The father didn’t ask his first son to do something difficult. He simply asked him to do what he was obligated to do. “Go work in the field today.” He said. It was like any other chore a father would ask, take out the garbage, wash the car, or walk the dog. It was a request just like you received from your father. It was perfectly within the bounds of fatherhood to ask the work be done. But the son answered, “I will not! I don’t want any chores. I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it! and to heck with you, Dad.” Later on this son thought better of his words, changed his mind and went out and worked as his father asked.

Now the old German in us will quickly point out that at least the work got done, because we Germans are ultimately practical. And that’d be fine but God our Father never just wants the work done. He wants us to have the right attitude. He says for things to be good, for good works to be acceptable to him, our heart has to be in it, we can’t just go through the motions. The folks standing around Jesus understood the boy wasn’t living up to expectation. There’s nothing good in what the son says to his father. He may as well have said “Father I want you dead!” So what if he changed his mind and went. The parable doesn’t say anything about being sorry for the way he treated his father. It says nothing about doing the work because he had a sense of obligation, or even that he felt guilty. Jesus asked “who did the father’s will?” not “who got the work done?” Well, not this guy. It’s true he got the work done but it doesn’t look like his heart was in it.

Well, doesn’t that put us in our place as well? At work we often find ourselves doing just what we have to do to get paid. We spend little time on the tasks we dislike not doing them well; tell the little white lie about getting stuff done; take advantage of our employers and co-workers only for our own benefit; and on and on it goes. God give us work to serve others, we serve but our hearts are focused on ourselves.

And how many times do we end up working for God out of guilt? How often do we grudgingly drop the envelope in the collection plate? God loves a cheerful giver, He tells us. But what if you can’t be cheerful? God demands more of us than going through the motions of worship. He wants our whole heart. This father didn’t have his son’s whole heart. That is where we often fall short of God’s will, too. So very often our bodies are here but our hearts are out in the bean field…

The second son was also asked to go and work. The father’s request was the same. And this son answered right away that he’d do what his father asked. I’m sure the father was happy with the answer. At least one of his sons was listening, and obeying. Later on, though, this son also changed his mind. He didn’t go out to work as he said he would. He found something more important to do.

I don’t know if the boy really wanted to help his father or not. I don’t know if he was feeding him a line. But the fact is he didn’t do what his father asked. Either he lied, or he was lazy. It really doesn’t matter. At the heart of it is not obeying his father. Now it’s very hard not to see ourselves doing that very thing, too. We push our work on to others. We enthusiastically make promises we know we can’t keep. And we do the same for God our Father. He asks us to defend all life, especially helpless children, like those who have yet to be born. God asks us to feed the poor without regard to how we’ll be repaid. God asks us to visit the sick and the lonely, even the ones who are not members of our families. God asks us to speak about Jesus at every opportunity. We gladly say we will. We brightly make promises. But often we just don’t follow through. Other things crowd out our willingness. Things like fear, and pride, or just plain laziness. And the work our Father has asked us to do goes without being done.

Well, now you’ve done it pastor. You’ve taken away both choices. Jesus asked which one did the will of the father. You’ve made it so that neither one is any good. You’ve made them both out to be scoundrels. You’ve taken away our real lesson for today. Doesn’t Jesus want us to be like the son show actually gets the work done? Isn’t that what he’s getting at, actually getting the work done?

Well, as important as getting everything done is, that’s not Jesus point. What he wants is for people to see the real problem of sin. He tells us parables like this one so we find ourselves painted into the corner. The best answer to Jesus question is neither. Jesus paints people into corners where they can’t see any way out but him.

He first spoke this parable to the chief priests and elders. He gave them a question that they couldn’t answer. He had done the same thing before. When Jesus was preaching and healing in the temple they questioned his authority to do all the things he was doing. “Who says you can do the things you are doing, and say the things you are saying?” And Jesus confronted them. He asked them a question to answer their question. Speaking about John the Baptist,

Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:24-27, ESV)

Since they had answered, “I don’t know” in front of everyone before they didn’t dare not give an answer to Jesus’ question about the sons. But, to be sure, they were hardly happy with the answer they gave. And Jesus sharply turns their answer against them. He pronounced God’s law and convicted them of their sin by comparing them to the second son. The very one they said was the worst of the two. They claimed to be living in God’s will, but they refused to listen to John the Baptizer’s words about God coming into the world in Jesus. They refused to admit their sin. They refused to believe. They changed their minds about God and turned away from His Word and the promises given in Jesus. And then as if to pour salt on the wound, Jesus told them that the people chief priest and elders considered lost forever because of their sin, were closer to God than they were. The sinful hearts of tax collectors and prostitutes were changed by John’s preaching, and they believed. They repented their sin, believed in Jesus and found forgiveness with their Father.

This text, this parable of Jesus isn’t about how we should live at all, but it does tell us about how we do live. We make bad decisions. We hid our true motives. We fall short just like both sons. The will of God is not to do what either son did, but to say, “Yes, I will,” and then actually carry out what we say we’ll do. Anything less is sin. Anything less is not God the Father’s will. Anything less deserves punishment.

But I wonder if you’ve seen the third Son in the parable. (to quote Yoda) “There is another.” There’s a Son who isn’t like either of the other sons. He obeyed the His Father’s will. He says He’ll go and do the work, and He actually goes. And not only that, He does the work fully and completely, perfectly. The Third Son is the one telling the parable. There’s a hymn (we sang it last week) by Martin Luther that tells it so clearly (LSB 556, Dear Christians, One and All)

God said to his beloved Son:
"It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of my crown,
And bring to all salvation;
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with you forever."

The Son obeyed his Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal power disguised he bore,
A servant’s form, like mine, he wore
To lead the devil captive.

"Though he will shed my precious blood,
Of life me thus bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the victory win;
My innocence shall bear your sin;
And you are blest forever.

That’s what this parable of Jesus is about; Jesus doing God’s will; Jesus coming in human flesh to take away the sins of the world; Jesus removing the guilt of God’s sons and daughters with poor attitudes and lazy hearts; Jesus taking the punishment for forgetful and prideful sons and daughters.

That’s just it, too. Sin backs us into corners. We find ourselves painted in with no where to go. God plucks us out of the corner and saves us. Through the Holy Spirit’s work in Word and Sacrament, He gives us new lives and hearts that want to do His will. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives He makes good on our promise to do what He has asked, and get the job done. And most importantly through His Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit works in our lives to offer us forgiveness when we fall short. Amen.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rev. James Waddel Comments on My Comments.

Rev. James Waddel commented on my comments on his presentation at the 08 South Dakota Pastor's Conference.  I repost it here because of the time lapse.



image I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. You do a fine job of describing my presentation and the work that I’ve done on Lutheran liturgy. But rather than let someone else answer your questions about my work, and define it on their terms, I thought I would answer your questions myself.

One of the issues that has troubled me for a long time regarding the conversation about worship in the LCMS is that we are all too willing to approach this question with oversimplified answers, which also too often spiral into ad hominem attack. You may recall from my presentation how I talked about the state of the conversation in the church today, and how we have reached a point of impasse, where we are unwilling to listen to each other. “I’m right. You’re wrong. End of discussion.”

What I have done is to focus my analysis of the conversation about liturgy in the LCMS on assumptions and methodology. I intentionally avoided ad hominem by focusing my analysis this way. The unfortunate reality is that those who have themselves become comfortable with ad hominem attack in the debate only see ad hominem from others, because they are not open to the persuasion of others. To be open to the persuasion of others is one of the qualifications of the ministry according to 1 Timothy 3.3 (epieikee, “reasonable”). My sainted mentor Dr. H. Armin Moellering taught us this at the seminary.

Why did I pursue this question? Let me answer this on my own terms. As I stated in my presentation and also wrote in the introduction of my book (I hope clearly), I began my study of liturgy with the intent of catechizing my congregation NOT to adopt contemporary forms of worship. I had been trained to accept the assumptions of Liturgical Theology, one of which is to be deeply suspicious of all contemporary forms of worship. The goal of catechizing my congregation was to teach God’s people there that the historic liturgy was a gift from God, and to abandon the historic liturgy would be an unfaithful thing to do, because abandoning the liturgy (or changing it) would damage the pure proclamation of the Gospel and the reception of the sacraments as they are given in Scripture.

The first thing I did to prepare for this catechesis of my congregation was to study the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Contrary to what some who disagree with my point of view might think, I thoroughly investigated what the Lutheran Confessions have to say about our Lutheran way of worship. My presentation alone should have clearly demonstrated that. The book speaks for itself. As do my other articles on Lutheran worship which are available on line for everyone to read at the CONCORDIA JOURNAL. The amount and the detail of the documentation are what made the study what it is. It isn’t perfect. I don’t have such a megalistic view of myself. I will say, however, that I agonized over whether to publish it. I went back and forth for almost two years. What tipped it for me was the unwillingness of too many in the LCMS to have a meaningful conversation with someone with whom there is disagreement.

(And just to be clear: I am not “selling” my book to gain royalties. I make no royalties from this book. None. It is all gift on my part. If anyone questions this, I am more than happy to put you in touch with my publisher, with whom I am in contact regularly. I give him permission to share this personal information about my contract with anyone who needs to know.)

When I went to the sources (Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions) to clarify for the people of my congregation the blessing of historic liturgy and the curse of contemporary form, what I found was this: What is being written by Lutheran scholars today about liturgy contains subtle contradictions and revisionist readings of the sources, proof-texting, and generally bad methodology driven by wrong assumptions (that have been adopted from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Liturgical Theology). As I state clearly in my book as well as in my presentation: the goal is correct (to defend and extol historic liturgical forms); but the assumptions and methodology are incorrect.

Once I realized that the assumptions and the methodology I had been taught were incorrect, I was then able to allow my assumptions and methodology to be reshaped by Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (apart from any intrusion from other faith traditions).

Why do my criticisms seem to be aimed more at one side than another? That’s a fair question, but it’s a question that can only be answered by me, only by asking me. It is not fair play in the discussion for someone to speculate as to why my critical analysis was presented the way it was, and then use that speculation as a means to advance a position that cannot be supported by Scripture or the Confessions.

Remember, I began this whole study where you are, in unqualified defense of the historic liturgical forms published in our hymnals. I still think it is right to defend the historic forms in our hymnals. However, after studying Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, historical writings contemporaneous to the Confessions, Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, and more contemporary authors like Elert and Sasse, I have come to understand that the only worship prescribed in the Lutheran Confessions is the pure proclamation of the Gospel and the sacraments administered in accordance with the divine Word (AC VII), period. Humanly instituted rites and ceremonies in liturgy are not worship ordained by God, as FC X explicitly confesses. Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, Sasse, et al., all consistently made this point, and they made it very clearly.

Why do my criticisms seem unbalanced? Because it is necessary that we get our criticisms of contemporary form right. We do not correct an error by confessing the error’s opposite, something you were correct to take away from my presentation. This is a skewed model of confession (wrong methodology) which skews our approach to almost everything—how we read the Scriptures, how we read the Confessions, how we approach the whole liturgy question.

This was Matthias Flacius’ model of confession, and it was written out of the Formula of Concord. The model of confession the Formula of Concord gives us is this: to confess straight ahead the truth and freedom of the Gospel. We do not correct an error by confessing the error’s opposite. If that is our model of confession, then we should not be surprised to find ourselves stumbling along in the ditch on the other side, or bending the sapling too far (as Chemnitz put it).

I think my work is viewed to be unbalanced only by those who have this skewed model of confession.

Instead of letting those who are unwilling to have the conversation with someone who disagrees with them define my work, let the reviews of my work speak for themselves, reviews that were written by trained specialists in this field and trusted theological leaders of the church.

“I greatly appreciated your book, [and] have heartily encouraged others to read it. . . . it moves the conversation on worship forward in a sound, scholarly, healthy and balanced way.” — Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director, LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations

“I was most pleased with the scholarly and theologically balanced approach you took in your book. . . . The theological integrity that you demonstrate is much needed throughout the LCMS. . . . Thank you for writing this excellent book.” — Rev. Dale Sattgast, President of the South Dakota District, LCMS

“Waddell successfully enunciates a Lutheran theology of worship devoid of legalism and license. . . . [and] captures the wonder of being a Lutheran, liturgically speaking . . . . Lutherans neither make liturgical forms necessary nor espouse an anti-biblical, anti-creedal license in contemporary, cultural expressions. That makes this book necessary reading for transcending the traditional-contemporary worship divide.” — Rev. Dr. Kent J. Burreson, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Assistant Dean of the Chapel, Concordia Seminary

“This is an important book for our time and context. . . a book of immense importance for our discussion of worship and church unity. It deserves to be widely read and discussed.” — Rev. Dr. Steen Olsen, Former President of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand

“. . . a formidable critique of liturgical theology . . . in the Lutheran Church . . . . he has weighed in on a contentious issue in an impressive way.” — Rev. Dr. Frank C. Senn, Former President, the North American Academy of Liturgy

“. . . provides a distinctly Lutheran Liturgical Theology based on Lutheran Reformation principles and documents, over against a specifically Roman Catholic or Orthodox or Ecumenical approach. This is a major contribution to the wider debate on Liturgical Theology, and would be useful to scholars in this field, and to wider ecclesial debate.” — Dr. Bryan D. Spinks, Professor of Liturgical Studies, Yale Institute of Sacred Music

“Our church is getting caught up again in this issue and any resource which helps us to discuss, instead of merely cuss, our way through is greatly appreciated.” — LCMS Pastor in Kansas

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Nickel" Loafer?

image Everything changes.  My oldest son is about to embark on his first career.  My sweet sixteen girl is driving back and forth to school. A job that used to be mine. My youngest (10) doesn't say that cute stuff we all chuckled at nearly as much as before.  The news tells me that the financial system is on the brink of Armageddon and now Gene Veith tells me they are talking about dumping the penny, again.  I guess it costs more to make them then they are worth.  All kinds of images and clichés filled my head.  "a penny for your thoughts" "a penny saved is a penny earned" None of them will be the same anymore.  But finally I was drawn to a pair of shoes I used to own.  They were penny loafers.  That's right those leather shoes, with or without tassels, with or without socks, that you to stick a penny in.  I was told that when you find a penny on the street you put it in your shoe for good luck.  Before I had penny loafers the penny was just a nuisance rattling around under my sock.  You see, the strap that crossed the top of a penny loafer has a penny sized slot for the prize.  Somehow I just don't think a nickel is going to fit.  Besides, how often do you find a nickel on the street.  A penny, well, most folks won't bend down to retrieve a lost penny.  If the penny is discontinued, it won't be worthless anymore.  Collectors will scoop them up and my "lucky" shoes will no longer be able to afford a penny. 


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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Matt.20.1-16, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 21, 2008

Thanks to Rev. Edward O. Grimenstein (Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 15, part 4)

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, ESV)

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

Bob was an unemployed man. He had a terrible time finding work. It really wasn’t his fault the economy was tough. But he had children to feed, house payments to make, and living expenses. But work was hard to come by so he hung around the employment offices every day hoping to get lucky. He went early, the early bird, tying to be hired for a full day’s work. But there was no who would hire him. As the day dragged on hour by hour he felt that full day’s work slip away. At noon hope faded, and by late after noon he was so sure that there would be no work for him, he sat down in despair. Today would be an unproductive day. His children would be hungry tonight. Then a man came and hurriedly called out for workers. “It couldn’t be much,” the Bob thought, “but an hour or two would be better than nothing at all.” So he went. When he got to the field he was shown what to do, but he had hardly worked at all when the foreman told them all it was quitting time. What a waste of time, Bob thought. The little bit I’ve earned won’t even buy bread for the table. But even with his down spirits he lined up for his pay. And then the most amazing thing happened. Instead of pennies, Bob received a full day’s wage.

“This can’t be right,” he meekly protested. “I’ve only worked a few minutes. I don’t deserve this wage.”

“That’s right,” the owner answered him, “You don’t deserve it, but I want to give it to you anyway. It’s my gift to you. I want to be generous. Take it. Go home. Feed your family. Sleep well.” The puzzled worker quietly said “thank you” and left for home.

Well, that’s not the kind of story you hear everyday, is it? That’s not the way things work in the real world. This kind of naive boss isn’t going to stay in business very long. His generosity isn’t very smart, that kind of thing goes against the nature of the world. It even goes against what how we think bosses should act. In fact, we probably think the owner is rather foolish. People should be paid fairly. They should get a check just for what they earn and not a penny more. A full day’s pay should come after a full day’s work. This kind of charity just makes for lazy people. Just think about how angry you’d be if you were among the people who had slaved all day and gotten the same wage as the slacker. At least the full day people earned what they got. That’s why God invented time clocks. Everything in life should be fair. Your employer shouldn’t short you. And he should dole out cash to people who don’t earn it. The next guy should get paid for what he works. Everyone should get paid what they deserve to get paid.

Once again Jesus parable tells us something different. It stands up in our face and tells us that God doesn’t work the way we think He should work. It says that God’s ways aren’t ours ways. It was in the first reading for today, God spoke to his people through Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV)

Jesus says the same thing in the parable about the workers. It doesn’t seem fair that people should receive a full day’s wage for a very short day’s work. But, Jesus tells us that that’s the kind of God we have. And if we don’t listen to what He says carefully, if we don’t understand what He’s talking about it will certainly rub us the wrong way.

In this parable we usually put on the all-day-worker’s work boots. We stand in the place of the “good guy, hard worker.” “That’s me!” We say. They deserved the pay. We think somehow that we deserve the things we receive from God. We’re faithful lifelong members of the church. We sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday even if we don’t like the preacher. We’ve sat on boards, and faithfully maintained the church property. We’ve slaved and sacrificed just trying to make sure the doors stay open. Isn’t that worth something? Isn’t that a fair day’s work? We sit down and calculate it all out and think we’ve got a pretty full time card. And after all that good work, isn’t God obligated to pay us something? If I’m faithful, God has to be faithful, too. And it must be working too, because I’ve got lots of good things going in my life.

Well, if we balance out the time card with the rest of our life we’ll see that we don’t deserve anything at all from God. As far as God is concerned we’ve blown it. We’ve left God’s Word out of our lives. Our bibles set on the bookshelf collecting dust. God asks us to live our lives by His Word; we are lazy enough to think Sunday morning is enough. We’ve dropped the ball when it comes to helping our neighbor. We are selective with our help, looking for those who seem to deserve it. Or those who will appreciate help. And if we’ve missed one opportunity to tell the good news about Jesus we’ve missed a thousand. We speak more about what we really believe in a few seconds of silence, than if we spoke an hour. We are far from that. We hold on to what we think is important, trying to balance the church books, instead of caring for the lost and hurting people who live in this very town. You see, our works, the things we are so proud of are not much in God’s eyes. They are corrupted by our selfishness, pride and laziness. And worse than that God demands that we be perfect. Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48, ESV). If we set our hearts against all that we think we’ve done, we see very clearly that we don’t deserve any wages at all from God, let alone a full day’s wage.

Fortunately! God doesn’t use our time card. He doesn’t compare our thoughts and our deeds and our actions. He doesn’t do a yearly employee evaluation. God gives us exactly what we don’t deserve. God’s gifts to us are just that, gifts. And we receive them they are a surprise. When God gives and we compare His gifts with our sinful lives, we stand before God with our mouths hanging open. “God, I don’t deserve the life you’ve given me. I’ve sinned in thought word and deed by what I have done and by what I have left undone… I’ve done terrible things in my life. I’ve been poorest example of a Christian, especially for the people who know me. I haven’t treated my husband, as I should. I’ve cheated my boss. I’ve horded the money you given me instead of caring for the people nearest to me who need it. I’ve really blown it… I don’t deserve anything from you…” We hold out our time card to God with a shaky hand. Knowing that the balance what we’ve done is nothing worth any kind of payment, except punishment.

But, God takes your time card and says, “This time card is unacceptable,” and he tears it up in little pieces. And then, instead of giving you what you deserve, punishment for your sinful life, anger at offering your meager and corrupted works to Him, he gives you what exactly what you don’t deserve. And it’s more than a day’s wage. He pays you with something you could never afford, something you could never earn. It’s not just life that ends in death, either. He gives eternal life instead of eternal punishment. It is a completely full life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) that abundant life begins in faith in Jesus Christ. Faith given with the pouring of water and the placing of His Name on you. I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God says, “New life begins with the giving of my name and it goes on and on forever. God gives us his very life. Jesus says, “Here is my life for yours. You didn’t earn it. I did! You don’t deserve it. I do! It’s my gift to you because I love you.” And He points to the bloody cross, where He died to cancel out all the lousy work that you and I have done. He points to His perfect life, all the good and perfect things He did; His complete love for his neighbors; His perfect compassion for the sick; His over abundant feeding the hungry; His perfectly even and fair treatment of all people regardless of social status and gratefulness; His speaking the truth clearly when it needed to be spoken; His condemning of sin and error; and His love for his enemies even those who killed him; His whole life lived in complete perfect obedience to God the Father’s will, even though it meant the cross. God shows you Jesus’ time card. It’s full of good work and overflowing. “This is what I’ll use to determine what you deserve. Jesus worked out this time card for you. Your wages are not death, but eternal life.” Wow! Just think how Bob the worker in the parable felt, blessed. That’s you and me, blessed beyond our deserving.

Well, does that mean we don’t have to do anything? Should we resign our boards, stop supporting community support for those who are hungry, quit putting our money in the collection plate to pay our pastor? Certainly not! God says clearly that faith goes hand in hand with works. Think about the passage I read to you a couple of weeks ago:

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:15-18, ESV)

Notice that the passage doesn’t say that we give the good stuff we do to God. We can’t earn the gifts He gives us by helping our neighbor. The point of doing good works, the point of punching the time card, is helping our neighbor. We don’t need to impress God by working hard. We work hard to show our neighbor the wonderful God, who supplies them with what they need. God blesses us with wonderful earthly gifts, so that we can be a blessing to others. We do it through faith, that God has given us all that we need and more, eternal life through Jesus death on the cross. Amen.

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


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

More backbone at Lifeway Christian Bookstores.

image image In spite of the "Porn" spin, this story at Worldnetdaily  and Foxnews is good news.

Last week I pointed out where a pastor turned down lottery winnings because "his organization counsels against addictions, including gambling."  This week a bookstore won't openly display a magazine because women pastors are on the cover.

From the article:

Lifeway Christian Bookstores has pulled the magazine from its shelves because the chain's owner, the Southern Baptist Convention, reserves the role of pastor for men.

Reaction from the magazine shows what traditional Christian doctrine is up against.

Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, which describes itself as a magazine for the urban Christian community, told the Journal-Constitution she was shocked by the bookstore's decision.

Hairston can't seem to believe that any modern church would have a problem with women in the Pastoral office.

"Pastor" Tamara Bennett trumps scripture claiming another source for faith and life in the church other than God's Word... "winning souls."  Sounds sadly familiar.

"God's assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved," Bennett said. "Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period."


Thursday, September 18, 2008

For My Confirmation Class

Just checking to see if my confirmation class is looking at the blog. What do you guys thing of this? I could survive for 44 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Genesis 50:15-21, Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 14, 2008

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21, ESV)

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

The story of Joseph has it all; sex, lies, deceit, family conflict. Those reality TV shows have nothing on this story. Joseph was the victim of his brother’s jealousy. You remember how he was cast into a well to be killed because he was dad’s favorite. He got the best stuff like the expensive coat of many colors. And apparently he got more of dad’s attention too. He stayed home while the other brothers had to go with the sheep in the far fields. Joseph didn’t help either telling his brothers (and his parents) that they’d be serving him some day, because he dreamt it. His brothers hated him enough to want him dead. Jacob sent him out to spy on them and they would have killed him too, had it not been for Brother Reuben. He convinced them to sell Joseph to the traveling caravan of Ishmaelites. That put Joseph in Egypt in the house of a man named Potiphar. He was a hard worker and soon was in charge of everything this powerful man owned. And apparently he was a hansom boy because Potiphar’s wife had a roving eye and it caught Joseph. She cornered him to have a little affair but Joseph refused. She screamed bloody murder and got Joseph thrown in jail. This was better than the alternative, because Potiphar certainly could have had him executed on the spot. In the prison Joseph again rose to a good position, he always seems to land on his feet. While he was there the king’s cup bearer and baker were thrown in prison. When they had dreams they didn’t understand, Joseph told them what they meant. The cup bearer would be back with Pharaoh, the baker would lose his head. When it all turned out as Joseph said he asked the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about him. But Joseph was forgotten and spent more time in the jail. When Pharaoh had a dream he couldn’t understand the cup bearer remembered the dream teller in prison. He told Pharaoh and Joseph had his chance again. The dream was about seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so pleased with Joseph he put him in charge of preparing for the famine. Meanwhile back at home, the famine struck hard and Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to by food. Unknowingly the brothers came upon their “dead” brother, who was now in charge. He provided for their needs and brought the whole family to live with him in Egypt. That’s where our text for today picks up. The brothers wonder if Joseph is just waiting for their father to die to take out his revenge. Joseph shows he is a man of great character. He might be entitled to a bit of revenge but he’ll not take it. “What you meant for evil, God meant for good. Look at where we are and how God has taken care of us. God is indeed faithful.”

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

I often read this passage at the bedside of a member in the hospital. It is a passage we Christians are familiar with and take great comfort with. But as often as we hear it and even though we believe what it says, it is also true that we don’t always see that God is doing what he promises to do. After all, a three or four year vacancy is a long time. How can that possibly be “for the good?” Didn’t you often ask yourselves what you did that God would treat you this way? When we run through tough times, it is easy to think that God isn’t keeping his promises. When life is hard and trouble is forefront we wonder where God is in it all. When our hopes and dreams seem to be fading away, when what we want for our future evaporates before our eyes we ask God why he isn’t keeping up his end of our life.

How like the brothers of Joseph we are. God does good for us and we doubt his promises. Trouble comes and we look to the worst instead of the best. God is faithful and we mistrust his promises. In other words we sin. We can’t help it. We find it very difficult to trust God’s promises. We find it difficult to accept that God allows trouble and heartache into our lives. We want God to work the way we ant him to work. If I were God, I’d surely not let people suffer this way. If I were God, I’d eliminate suffering. If I were God, I’d make sure every day was a happy day instead of a sad or troubled day. If I were God… that sounds familiar doesn’t it. Isn’t it the snake in the garden that told Adam and Eve that they could be gods? “If you eat the fruit you’ll know good and evil, and you can be in control instead of God.” For all our talk of faith and trust we haven’t come very far from the Garden have we? We haven’t gotten over our desire to be god. We still want things our way instead of God’s way. We forget that he indeed knows what is best. It happens often when we stand in the face of trouble afraid. We are fearful that we will suffer. We want to avoid suffering at all cost.

That is just like Joseph’s brothers. They were afraid of suffering for the sin they had done to Joseph. They were looking at years of guilt, years of payback. But instead of revenge Joseph comforts them. God uses even evil such as this and makes it good. Joseph was telling them, that God used their sin to save thousands from starving. He used their sinful act and saved their family through it. Joseph’s faith and character tell us a lot about who he is, but even more they show us who God is. God takes evil in the world and uses it for good. We can’t always see the results, so we sometimes think there are none.

Imagine if the disciples had the faith of Joseph, when the guards came to arrest Our Savior in the garden, they would not have fled in to the darkness. They would have trusted that God would use that very evil event and used it for the good of all people. Don’t we all need to learn that God will take care of us in all things, no matter what we face, no matter how long the vacancy, no matter what the pain we face, no matter what the trouble? The truth is we are like Joseph’s brothers when we think we are like Joseph.

And yet, we have a Savior. We need a Savior. We are lost in our sin, helpless, like the brothers lacking faith when we need it most. Like the disciples in the garden unable to see the good that will come about because of suffering. But as sinful as we are, God is even more faithful. We have a brother who is gracious and faithful to us. It is our sin that leads him to pain and suffering. It is our faithlessness that brings him to blows of the whip. It is our arrogance and pride that drives the nails into his hands and feet and the thorns into his scalp. Our brother sold into death. This brother is even more faithful than Joseph. He has even more mercy than you and I and Pharaoh’s right hand man. He saves us not from famine but from eternal death. He says about us, “Father forgive them.” Jesus Christ God’s son, our Brother, and Savior forgives. His blood shed on the cross is our cleansing. His innocent suffering and death at our hands is what sets us free from sin, death and hell. God uses the most terrible event in history, the killing of his only son, to bring forgiveness to all people.

The passage we are so familiar with in Romans continues with these words:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, ESV)

The answer is yes indeed! God gives us all things we need. If he sent Jesus to suffer and die for our greatest need, he will take care of all of our other needs as well. God is perfectly willing to use what ever means are necessary to do what is best for us. Imagine if a parent wouldn’t discipline a child for playing in the street. When traffic killed the child we would be outraged. God will do whatever is necessary for our benefit. Mostly though God uses trouble and pain remind us of Jesus. Suffering and uneasy times push us to faith and trust. When there is nowhere else to turn we turn to God. When all our regular supports fail God is faithful. Sometimes we need to hit the bottom to be reminded that our Gracious God and Savior Jesus Christ, has done all things necessary for our salvation, and that all things are in his hands.

But that isn’t all. God indeed gives us everything we need and then he gives us more. As in everything else God’s math doesn’t add up according to our thinking. He gives all and then he gives even more. We have his Word, where he tells us of his love for us in Jesus. He tells us of the salvation won for us through Jesus perfect life, his sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. And then there’s more. We have the assurance of God’s name placed on us in Holy Baptism. We are his. God is where his name is. He is not far away when you suffer, he is close at hand to strengthen you and lead you through. God is right in the midst of our suffering with us. He gives the body and blood of Jesus shed on the cross, that by eating it you would be strengthened in faith. You are reminded of the price paid to save you from sin, the suffering and death of Jesus and that gives you the sure and certain hope that your suffering actually has purpose, just as his does. His blood and body go into you and cleanse you from your sin of doubt. Forgiveness strengthens faith. Forgiveness restores relationships. Forgiveness restores trust. God forgives you through Jesus.

My dear Christian friends, I wish I could promise you no trouble in your life. I wish I could say there would be no pain in you future. I can’t. God doesn’t make that promise to you either. What he does promise, what he wants you to remember and hold on to in faith, is that it always has a purpose. He wants you to trust that he works it out for your good. He makes that promise to you.

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

Here's a Pastor that Stands by His Convictions (Backbone)

image Three Cheers for Pastor James Ryan. He turned down and undisclosed amount of money donated from lottery winnings because "his organization counsels against addictions, including gambling." (according to the article).  Pastors with backbone seem to be few and far between these days.  I don't know what Pr. Ryan's theology is but I like him! 


Lighthouse Mission is located in Patchogue, N. Y.

Lighthouse Mission Web Page

Friday, September 05, 2008

More Quotes from the Church Fathers on Abortion.

HT: James H. Grant, Jr. via Gene Veith

“You shall not kill the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born.” (Barnabas, 70-80 AD, 1.148)

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born.” (The Didache, 80-140 AD, 1.377)

“We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder. And we also say that we will have to give an account to God for the abortion.” (Athenagoras, 175 AD, 2.147)

“In our case, murder is once for all forbidden. Therefore, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier way to kill a human. It does not matter whether you take away a life that has been born or destroy one that is not yet born.” (Tertullian, 197 AD, 3.26)

“Indeed, the Law of Moses punishes with appropriate penalties the person who causes abortion. For there already exists the beginning stages of a human being. And even at this stage, [the fetus] is already acknowledged with having the condition of life and death, since he is already susceptible to both.” (Tertullian, 210 AD, 3.218)

“Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of drugs? I believe it is no more lawful to hurt a child in process of birth, than to hurt one who is already born.” (Tertullian, 212 AD, 4.57)

“There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels. So they commit murder before they bring forth.” (Mark Minucius Felix, 200AD, 4.192)

“The womb of his wife was hit by a blow of his heel. And, in the miscarriage that soon followed, the offspring was brought forth, the fruit of a father’s murder.” (Cyprian, 250AD, 5.326)

“The soul is not introduced into the body after birth, as some philosophers think. Rather, it is introduced immediately after conception, when the divine necessity has formed the offspring in the womb.” (Lactantius, 304-313AD, 7.297)

“You shall not slay your child by causing abortion, nor kill the baby that is born.” (Apostolic Constitutions, 390 AD, 7.466)