Monday, April 27, 2009

The "Closed Communion" Cone...

imageFather Hollywood has a discussion of Closed Communion.  He's run into a pastor who said all LCMS Lutherans practice closed communion.  It's just that some have bigger cone, based on who they allow to commune. 

I clearly understand any pastor not "wanting" to practice closed communion, it is (currently) the most difficult pastoral practice we face.  But obfuscating language to allow for any practice is truly a post-modern deception.  Satan wraps the lie in the truth.  There's a whole lot of leaven here.

Read pastor Beane's article.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Luke 24:36-49; Third Sunday in Easter, April 26, 2009

34thomas As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49, ESV)

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

Touch me and see! Jesus said to the disciples. Touch me.

They immediately touched him. They were convinced, clutching his body and his very breath. For this reason they despised death itself and proved its victors. (Ignatius of Antioch on Luke 24:36ff; b. 25AD d. 102AD).

There is something about a dead body; the coolness of it; the stillness of it; life drained away leaves only cooling flesh. To touch the dead is to feel death, first hand; to wonder at the change. To touch the dead is to touch your own life leading to your own death. To know that it will be you, still and cool soon enough. To touch the dead is to see all that you have drain away from you in to the darkness of doubt and fear. This is death as we see it and feel it and fear it. One pastor told me of a time when he was at the death bed of a woman in the hospital. After she died, her daughter touched her face to rearrange her hair. “Oh, Mother’s cold,” and pulled up the blanket over her dead mother’s shoulders as if to warm her. There really is no mistaking it by touch. The dead have the touch of death. Death doesn’t just make us feel cold, it makes us cold.

The disciples were there; cold in the locked room; huddled together having seen Jesus dead. He was dead. There can be no doubt about that. The women went with Joseph of Aramathea to the tomb, where the cold dead body of Jesus was laid, wrapped in its burial cloth; drained of life’s blood; pail and stiff; pierced hands; pierced feet; pierced heart. Cold as clay. Dead Jesus.

You can hardly blame the men for doubting the women who claimed to see him alive after he was dead. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found no Jesus, only Jesus’ neatly folded burial cloth. What Jesus had said seemed so real and true when he was alive, but when he bled to death on the cross, when the spear was shoved into his side, any words about living again after death seem as cold as the grave. They know the coldness of death is permanent.

And then two disciples came from Emmaus and said they saw Jesus, alive and walking and talking on the road. They said he told them how everything he did was written in Moses and the Prophets. And that he must suffer and die and rise again. And that they were foolish not to believe everything he had told them. But how could it be true?

And then, he is there, Jesus himself, standing among them. Even though they had just been talking about him being alive, when he is there, they can only be afraid. Even when they longed for him to be alive, Jesus alive is a threat. They had deserted him, and left him to die. They ran. They hid. They lied. They denied. What they deserve is cold death.

But Jesus brings peace. “Peace be with you! Shalom Aleichem.” There is only Good News in the Savior’s words. No threat of death. No retribution for their doubts and faithlessness, only peace. His Word is forgiveness and life. And there is more for them. “Touch me and see! I am alive. Blood flows again through my veins. See I have flesh and blood and bone. What was dead is living. What was cold is warm. Touch me and see.”

They push toward him and reach out unsteady hands. They reach out to convince themselves that he is alive and not dead, warm and not cold. They reach out to touch flesh and bone and blood. They reach out to feel the warmth of a living human body. And Jesus is all that. They come near enough hear and feel his breath. And press their fingers into the nail prints in his hands. And look into his eyes. Jesus lives. He does the impossible. He was cold in death and now warm with life.

And suddenly the disciples hate death. They despise it. They curse it. And they don’t fear it anymore. Standing among them is death defeated. This is no phantom, no ghost. This is flesh and blood that has passed through death to life. This is the Enemy vanquished, death undone. This is the sure promise of warm, physical, bodily, eternal life. They see through death to life. They long for life. They trust the Savior to do for them what he has done for himself.

We hold on to his promise, too. We face death’s coldness in sure and certain hope of our own resurrection to warm, physical, bodily eternal life. Our Lord gathers us to hear his Word of promise. He comes here for us to touch in his body and blood, bound together with bread and wine. We open our ears and mouths and hear and taste and touch Jesus. Our hunger for life through death is satisfied. Our faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus is built and strengthened by His promises. We hate death. We despise it. We curse it. And sometimes we don’t really fear it; for we go though death, just as Jesus did, to new eternal life. Amen.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The March of Time, Use of the Common Cup

Guest Blogger Rev. David Schultz, St. John Lutheran Church, Fenton, IA

  • image 1st Century, Jesus Christ, uses the common cup to institute His supper.
  • 2nd Century-the church spreads across the Mediterranean, the first generation of pastors, all trained by the apostles, use the common cup.
  • 3rd Century, the Great Persecutions of the church.  Hidden in the catacombs, in the tombs of the dead, all Christians use the common cup in worship.
  • 4th Century, the Christian church becomes the official faith of the Roman Empire.  In the newly triumphant churches, they use the common cup.
  • 5th Century, the Roman Empire of the West falls to barbaric German tribes (maybe your ancestors).  The Christian missionaries to those tribes use the common cup.
  • 6th Century, The Dark Ages, not much is known of this time period, due to the fall of civilization. What we do know, is that in all the churches, they use the common cup.
  • 7th Century, the new religion of Islam conquers the Christian lands of the Middle East.  In those now captive churches, they still use the common cup.
  • 8th Century, Christian troops in what is now France stop the Islamic invasion at a place called Tours.  They use the common cup in their victory mass.
  • 9th Century, the kingdoms that will become France and Germany form.  In all Christian lands, they use the common cup in communion.
  • 10th Century-Great monasteries are founded, that later will grow into Medieval cities.  The savage Viking begins to be Christianized by monks and priests.  In those monastic houses in the wilderness, the common cup is used.
  • 11th Century, the western catholic and eastern orthodox churches split.  But in both the east and the west, the Christians use the common cup.
  • 12th Century, the great crusades are underway, to reconquer the Middle East and Spain from Islam.  The crusaders use the common cup, even as they search for the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ.
  • 13th Century, the Black Death stalks across Europe, killing up to 40% of the population.  In those places where Christians survive, the common cup is used.
  • 14th Century, the Hundred Years War between England and France is underway.  But in the camps of both armies, they still use the common cup.
  • 15th Century, The Eastern Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople, falls to invading Islamic armies.  In the last church service before the city falls, all Christians, west and east, join together to use the common cup for communion, (oh, and a place called America is discovered).
  • 16th Century, Martin Luther reforms the churches of Northern Germany and in Scandinavia.  In all churches, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Reformed and Orthodox, one issue that they agree on, is to use the common cup.
  • 17th Century, The 30 Years War roars across Europe, while puritan Pilgrims settle in new American lands.  All the churches still use the common cup.
  • 18th Century, 13 of the 15 British colonies declare independence.  The first Lutheran synod in North America is founded.  All the churches use the common cup.
  • 19th Century, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is founded.  All Missouri Synod churches use the common cup.
  • 20th Century, Because of World War I and II, the Missouri Synod switches languages, from German to English.  In most churches up to the 1970s and '80s, the common cup is used.  But because so many have become afraid of germs, the individual cup is introduced.
  • 21st Century, You now have a choice to make.  Like most of the Christians of previous centuries, you can use the common cup, or you can choose to use this innovation.  It is still the Blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins, no matter what vessel is used.  But the common cup does symbolize our unity, both with other Christians today, as well as those in the past, in the One Christ.  Now you can make an informed decision.
    God bless you now and always in Christ, Amen.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

On Rebates... I've seen this monster!


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

John.20.19-31; Second Sunday after Easter; April 19, 2009

19On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." 24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." 26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." 28Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-3,ESV)

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

It's a week after Easter. We are still joyful, basking in the glow of that wonderful day. The lilies aren’t here, but they are still bright. We're still singing Easter hymns (and we will for several more weeks!). Joy is still the overriding theme of our worship. But is very clear from our text that that is not the mood of the disciples on that first Easter (at least not yet). It was third day after Jesus had been crucified. Mary had run to them saying that she had "seen the Lord." But, instead of being joyful, they were afraid, they don’t believe what Mary says, “You are speaking like a crazy woman!” The news was too much to believe. Suddenly, unexplainably, miraculously Jesus passed through the walls and the locked doors stood among them. "Peace be with you. Shalom 'Alekem." (v. 26) The simple and common greeting may have gone over the Disciples heads, if Jesus was just your normal, everyday visitor. But it was anything but a simple and common greeting coming from the risen Jesus Christ. After all, before his suffering and death, "peace" is what he said he would bring them.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' (John 14:27-28a, ESV)

And maybe they didn't quite see it just yet. But the peace that Jesus brings them was the direct result of the "It is finished" he spoke on the cross. The peace Jesus brings, he brings through his suffering and death. It is the peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace that comes from sins forgiven. It is the peace that comes from sinful people being reconciled to God. "God and sinners reconciled." We sing in the well know Christmas hymn, but it would be a good hymn for today, too.

The disciples had their doubts. They didn’t believe what Mary Magdalene had told them. But now Jesus stood among them. He relieves their fear and doubt and ends their unbelief by showing them the wounds from his crucifixion. Only he would have those specific wounds in his hands and side. See, don't doubt that it is me! Don’t doubt that I am alive. I'm the very same one whom you saw crucified, dead and buried. This translation says they were glad (v. 20) when they saw him. Maybe that's a little understating it. They were overjoyed. Just as Jesus promised, their sorrow was turned into joy. Their fear and unbelief was turned to belief. His love for them, and for us, is unmistakable. It's proved by the nail marks. It's proved by the spear that pierced his heart. It was proved by his death. It is proved by his victory over death and the grave. This is the way that God shows his love for the world; that he gave his one and only son to die in our place, and to rise again from death, for us.

That is the joy that the ancient church celebrated. It was tradition in worship to say the words Maranatha! It means Come Lord now. You can almost see them saying it even many years later with a pregnant pause in the expectation of Jesus appearing again, just as he did that day. That joy is also our joy as we gather in his name, and in the shadow of his promise. Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am with you. (Matt 18:20) Right here in the midst of our doubts (yes we do have them!) Right here in the midst of our sorrow and pain. Right here in the midst of our illness and fear. Right here in the midst of our despair and guilt. Right here in the midst of our insecurity and worry. He comes here, sight unseen, to bring us the peace of sins forgiven. He comes to bring us the joy of God and sinners reconciled. Did I say, "Sight unseen?" Well, that's not exactly right is it? When we gather together in his name, we are the Body of Christ. As I was sent, so I am sending you. (John 20:21, ESV) In our sorrow and our pain we bring Jesus message of peace to each other. In the midst of our illness and fear, we bring Jesus message of peace. In the midst of our guild and despair we bring Jesus message of peace. And it is a message that we have not just for those gathered in this room, but a message of peace for the whole world.

The disciples didn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead at first. Thomas didn’t believe either. He wasn’t there to witness Jesus appearance. We don’t know why he wasn’t there, but when the others tell him what they had seen, he refuses to believe, without proof. Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. (John 20:25, ESV) It would be easy to get down on Thomas. But really he was only asking for what the others had already seen. They had disbelieved just as much as he did. Jesus changed their unbelief to belief by an appearance, and he does the same for Thomas. A week later, on Sunday again, Jesus appeared to the disciples in that same locked room. Peace be with you! he said to them. And then specifically to Thomas, Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbeliever, but believe! (John 20:27, ESV) These amazing words of Jesus show us that even though he wasn’t there, Jesus knew what Thomas had said. He provides the proof that Thomas demands. We don’t know if Thomas actually took Jesus up on his challenge, but it seems that the sight of Jesus alone was enough for him. My Lord and My God! (John 20:28, ESV) He says. It is a personal confession of faith that comes from the lips of the most skeptical disciple. They are directed to Jesus in such a way that they confess exactly what Thomas now believes. Jesus has indeed risen from the dead. Jesus is God. Jesus is his Savior.

You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (John 20:29, ESV) Jesus confirms Thomas’ strong statement of faith. His unbelief is swept away by the reality of the presence of the risen Lord.

It is easy to have doubts about our faith. Just look at the disciples. They just didn’t believe that Jesus could have possibly risen from the dead. They were afraid and locked themselves behind closed doors. Thomas was separated from them when Jesus came. He just wanted to see for himself. He wanted the big miracle. Even after they had seen Jesus they had doubts about what they were to do, and how they were to do it.

We are tempted to think that we would have a stronger faith if Jesus would just appear right here in front of us, just as he did for them. And even if he doesn’t appear in person what if he would just appear in other big ways. When we are sick and suffering we just want him to heal us. I once heard about a woman at the funeral of a strong Christian friend who died of cancer. “Wouldn’t it have been a powerful witness if God would have just healed her cancer?” Forgetting what a powerful witness the woman was in her acceptance of God’s will and her coming death. It is doubt that makes us want God to work the way we want him to work. It is doubt that says that we shouldn’t have to struggle in life. It is doubt that says we shouldn’t have to suffer. Doubt is the opposite of trust.

And that’s why we gather here in this place. Not because we trust perfectly, but because we don’t trust perfectly; because sometimes we just don’t believe what Jesus says. It’s the Risen Christ who sets aside our unbelief by coming to us. He shows himself to us in his Word. The whole bible is about Jesus. That’s what St. John means when he says, These things are written that you may believe. (John 20:31, ESV) When we hear it spoken to us Christ comes to us and strengthens our faith. When you hear the wonderful words of Jesus, “Peace be with you!” you know that your sins are forgiven, and your doubt is chased away by Jesus presence in His Word.

Jesus also shows himself to us in bread and wine. In some churches the communion wafers have an imprint of Jesus on the cross right on them. Ours have a little cross. That reminds us that Jesus comes to us in his very body and very blood, right there in the palm of our hand. It’s the same Christ there that stood before Thomas and said touch me and see. Right there in Holy Communion Jesus says to you touch me and see; take and eat this is my body; take and drink this is my blood. (Matt 26:26-29, ESV) He shows himself to us in another way; the Body of Christ is seated all around you in your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a brothers and sisters confessing a common faith. That’s what it means that we’ve joined this church. We believe, teach and confess the truths of scripture according to the Lutheran Confessions and that other churches don’t have the whole truth. Just as the father sent me, so I am sending you. Jesus sends us to each other. He sends us to our neighbors to confess the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done. Look and see Jesus in the concern and love that he shows you through your friends, neighbors and relatives here. As we live and work and play together we show that Christ is indeed among us.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (John 20:29, ESV) That’s me and you. We don’t have the benefit of seeing the Risen Lord in his glorified body like Thomas did, standing before us. But He is here none-the-less, and we are blessed. We are blessed because we have all that we need, in His Word and Sacraments. We have a way that we can be sure that he is with us and all that he has done is for us individually. All that we need is provided by God himself and that is what makes it sure. After all if it were dependent on anything in us it would only be full of doubt.

But this text is about faith that cancels doubt. These are written that you may believe, he says, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing in him you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, ESV) That’s the Peace that Jesus brings to us. Peace that cancels our unbelief and our doubt. Amen.

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

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Psa.118.14-24; Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, April 12, 2009

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:14-24, ESV)

(outline by Michael J. Redeker)

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

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

That’s nice to hear. It’s a celebration, today. Just take a quick look at the worship folder and you can tell that. “The Festival of the Resurrection…” You know what a festival is… We have lots of them and we really enjoy them. Not all that long ago we had the “Festival of the Super Bowl.” Who doesn’t like tailgating? Food and fun. Lot’s of folks like that day who don’t even like football. At times like that we like to pull out all the stops, gather friends and family around us, enjoy their company, eat, have fun, etc. What celebrations do you have coming up this year? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take all that energy, all those great times, all those good feelings, and wrap it up in a package we could just open up whenever we wanted? Wouldn’t it be great to open up that package when things weren’t so great? When illness comes and troubles us. When a family member dies? When we fail at work, or even lose our job?

Really that’s what Psalm 118, it’s the victory celebration bottled up in a nice little package we can refer to any time we like. It’s a little Festival package, full of victory and rejoicing. That’s probably why it has been used during the Festival of the Resurrection from way back. In fact I read that it was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm. If we look at it it’s easy to understand why. There’s victory all they way through it. God’s love endures forever. God remains faithful and has delivered His people from trouble and death. He has shown his great love and won the decisive victory. This Psalm shows us the victory that comes after God has handled our struggles. And it recounts God’s victory over our troubles in the past. The psalmist is sure of God’s victory in the future because of how God has been victorious in the past. “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” It says. The right hand is the symbol of strength. Here the Psalmist is saying that the Lord has overcome by his great strength. And just so you don’t miss what he’s saying it’s repeated 3 times. “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. The right hand of the Lord exalts. The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” The Lord is my strength and my song. He says. God has won the victory. And what is the result of that victory? “I shall not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.” When it seemed that death was coming, its threat was taken away. It was taken away by the power of God. The psalmist has seen what God has done and that is where he puts his trust. He has taken refuge in God rather than men. The Lord has been working all along. The psalmist confesses that, and says in effect, “won’t it be nicer and easier when the struggle is over and the victory is clear?”

That’s how it is for us today as well. The victory is sure in Jesus. We’ll sing one of my favorite hymns today. “Jesus lives the victory’s won.” (LSB 490)

Jesus lives! The victory’s won!
Death no longer can appall me;
Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done!
From the grave will Christ recall me.
Brighter scenes will then commence;
This shall be my confidence.

Ah, but aren’t we tempted to forget that the victory has been won already? Aren’t we tempted and teased by the world when we put our trust in Jesus? When people see us gathered around a casket and still we sing songs of rejoicing. Don’t they accuse us of being silly? Or confused? Aren’t we ridiculed every day in the media for what we believe? When we see our own death coming, when illness brings our mortality front and center in our lives? Aren’t we told to trust in everything but Jesus? And aren’t we tempted to do just that: “Believe in the doctors. Believe in the medicine. Believe in pyramid power.” And yet God came through just as he promised. Jesus Christ died but he also rose again. Our faith is an Easter faith, a resurrection faith. It is the middle of our struggles that it is most difficult to remember God’s faithfulness. It is when we are hurting, when we are lonely, when we feel threatened that is when Satan especially challenges our resurrection faith. But God uses those times, especially to draw us to himself. Those are the times when we realize that if the victory is sure at all it has to be God’s victory. Because we can’t triumph against the most serious threats and struggles in our lives.

And the victory of Jesus Christ is a sure thing. It was not by accident. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. Jesus spoke of himself in that way. The victory was assured from the beginning. In the movie by Mel Gibson, the Passion of the Christ, at the very beginning, Jesus crushes the head of the serpent as if to say, I’ve already won. It’s already over with, the victory is sure. Today is a victory day, because of Jesus. This is the day the Lord has made. It was no accident. The day of victory was in God’s heart from the beginning, when human beings pushed themselves away from him and toward death. Before the sun rose today, and yesterday, last year, and even the thousands of years of sun rises, God’s set his plan in motion. And the outcome was assured. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, God and man together in one person, to win the victory. To live life perfectly on God’s terms. To make the law right for everyone. And more importantly he died to remove the barrier of sin that keeps human beings away from God. And most importantly he rose again from death, striking at the heart of sin’s result. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus Christ gives us life again as a gift. That makes sin’s punishment empty. Sin and death and the grave hold no power over those who have received the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. That first Easter when Jesus walked out of the tomb alive again was the Great Victory Day.

Now I ask you this: Is that Victory day only a one day event? A week? A year? The victory day that the Lord has made is an eternal day. God’s victory celebration is one that will go on forever and ever. When little children are playing and having fun they don’t want to stop for anything. “Mom, I don’t want to go to bed, I want to play.” In God’s victorious day, the living doesn’t ever end. And in God’s heart is you and me. We are the reason for his wonderful and sure plan of victory. Because his plan for you and me is that we too shall be a part of that forever celebration.

It’s easy, really, to understand how people only celebrate Easter for one day, even though we don’t agree. For non-Christians it’s only about Easter egg hunts, and candy, and a visit to the dentist in the near future. For them it’s only about the promise of spring and green grass around the corner, or little baby ducks following their mother down the road. For those who have no faith in the Victory of Jesus, that is all there is. But why is it that for so many Christians; Easter is just a one day event? How many Christians are not even aware that the Easter season stretches over a forty day period that can be seen as one big long celebration day in the life of the church? How many Christians forget that God indeed brings his eternal celebration, his victory day to us every week? Through Jesus that’s what happens here when we gather to hear his word and eat and drink his victory meal, that “foretaste of the Feast to come.” “This is the Feast of Victory for our God.” And it doesn’t end when the Easter service is over. It doesn’t end after any Sunday worship service is over either. It continues every day of our new lives. Our lives given to us in Baptism.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5, ESV)

That verse isn’t just for you to remember on Easter day, or when we march a casket up this isle. That is the victory chant for you for every day of your life. Because of Jesus, we live in the victory of the Resurrection forever. It is a celebration that will go on and on and on and on.

So, what’s at the heart of the celebration? It’s Jesus. Early on that first Easter Sunday, the men and women who had followed Jesus didn’t think they had much to celebrate. Their whole world had come crashing to a bloody and painful and fearful end. Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. Early in the morning, even before the sun had come up, Mary Magdalene went to be with Jesus’ at his tomb. But when she got there the tomb was open, the stone had been rolled away, and Jesus’ body was gone. In panic she ran to tell Peter. “They’ve take the Lord’s body away!” She must have been worried that the men who had killed Jesus were adding insult to injury. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see it for themselves. And they saw that it was empty, except for the burial cloths they left with questions in their minds. Mary remained there crying. When she looked again into the tomb she saw men in bright white sitting where Jesus had been. “Women,” they said to her. “why are you weeping?” “They’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.” She answered. And then from behind her another voice spoke. “Woman,” it said, “Why are you weeping, whom are you seeking?” She thought it was the Gardner, and answered, “If you know anything about my Lord’s body please tell me where it is.” But, it was Jesus. He was alive and standing right there beside her. “Mary.” He said. And suddenly she knew who he was. “Teacher!” she shouted and reached out to grab hold of him. “Not yet, don’t hold on to me now. Go tell the rest that you have seen me.” And she ran as fast as she could, “I have seen the Lord! He is risen.” He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

As dead as he was, and his death is a sure thing. He is just as alive. His resurrection is a sure thing too. Death held him as it will hold you and me. Your death may be painful, or painless. It may be quick or slow. You may see your death coming or you may be taken by surprise. It doesn’t matter. Just as Jesus rose, you too will rise. And the promise isn’t just that you will rise it’s that Hell isn’t a part of the picture. Satan works every day to drag people with him into that abyss. But Jesus has made him release his grip on you and me. Death is Satan’s tool. It’s the threat of death and hell that he holds over you and me. But through baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, that threat is no threat at all. When we say, “He is risen!” He is risen indeed. Alleluia! We are talking about ourselves as well. We are talking about the promise of God that we are risen with Christ.

Today is a victory day. In fact it is the Victory day. In the words of the Psalm

23This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Job.19.25-26; Sunrise Service, Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Easter Sunday at last! We begin with and repeat that wonderful Easter greeting. We gather at the point of the sunrise. We dress in bright clothing... fill the church with flowers... plan to be with family... and repeat the Easter greeting again... Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Today is the easiest theme to figure out. It's Joy! Even at seven in the morning. And we sang that great hymn this morning I Know that My Redeemer Lives. It is one of my favorite Easter hymns. In the older blue hymnal it wasn’t in the Easter section, it was in the funeral section. When we sing that hymn it’s just that same as saying Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Now the really amazing thing about those words is they weren't first spoken on Easter. They were spoken under very different circumstances. They come from the middle of the book of Job. Now you remember Job. He's the guy that lost everything. Satan went to God and asked. “Hey, have you seen that guy Job down there?” God answered that He had. “Well, he's doing pretty well isn't he? He's a great guy doing everything right, huh?” God agreed. “He wouldn't be so high and mighty if he weren't so rich. If he had some trouble in his life he'd be first in line to tell You to take a flying leap.” God listened. “I've got a deal for you,” Satan continued, “you let me take away some of that stuff and we'll just see how good he really is.” God allowed it. “Only,” God commanded, “don't touch him.” And so the accuser did just as God said. And in a matter of a few moments Job lost everything, one of his servants came to tell him that his oxen and donkeys had been stolen by marauding hordes and his servants were all killed. Before he even finished speaking another breathless servant came and reported the same for his camels. Before he was finished another came with the worst news yet. His children were all killed by a freak twister. But even in the face of all that loss, Job's faith didn't waver. He blessed God in spite of all that had happened to him. Now Satan wasn't satisfied so he went back to God. “Well?” God asked. “That's nothing.” the devil replied. “He's still got his health. If you took that away he'd crumble into a pile of doubt and despair.” “Ok,” God answered. “But don't kill him.” And so Satan let him have it. Job was covered with sores from head to foot. He was miserable. He itched so mercilessly that he had to use pieces of broken pottery to find relief. And still Job didn't give up. When his wife told him to curse God and die, he refused. When his friends said he must have insulted God do deserve such punishment, Job didn't budge. He insisted that he was clean. Now collectively we know all about this kind of stuff. It happens to us all the time. Our hearts ache when we lose loved ones to death. Our lives loose meaning when we can't work anymore. Moving away from home for the first time is an adventure but the broken home ties are hard to live with. The possibility of failure in school seems to loom over our heads all the time. Sickness makes it impossible to do what we want to do. Anytime we set out to start anything we know full well we may not finish. The shadow of death covers everything we do. So we understand what Job was going through. Well, at least a part of it. It just that he got it all at once. Most of the time we just aren't as patent a Job. I know that I am not. In fact, there are times when I fell like curling up in a little ball in the closet. You've been there, too. You've felt a bit of what Job felt. Wondering why God allowed all this to happen. The answer? I don't know. Job never knew either. He had doubts, too. He asked God to tell him what he'd done to deserve all this trouble. God didn't answer. Job's wife and friends gathered around him and spoke what they thought was comfort and instead made things worse.
And that brings us to these two verses that Job speaks. Out of the depth of his despair, when there was nothing left to hang on to, Job gives us a glimpse of what's in his heart. And that glimpse is a glimpse of faith. It is such a powerful confession of faith that it has inspired God's faithful people for generations. Yet it is a very simple confession too. I know that my Redeemer lives. What a line packed with meaning. There in the ashes of his life, Job proclaims that God will deliver him. God himself with save him. You see, that word Redeemer is packed full of meaning. He was using a specific word there that referenced a member of your family who would come to your rescue when you were in trouble. Your Kinsman-Redeemer was to speak up for you in court should you need a defense. If you lost your land, your Kinsman-Redeemer was required to buy it back to keep it in the family. If you lost you freedom to slavery your Kinsman-Redeemer was required to buy you back. If you lost your life, your Kinsman-Redeemer was required to marry your wife and have your children to carry on your name. Now Job had lost everything. He had no relatives left to act as Kinsman-Redeemer. And yet he says that his redeemer lives. Besides when God is the one who has allowed all the trouble you have to come into your life who can speak in your defense to God except God himself.
Do you see the remarkable thing that Job is saying here? The flesh and blood man, Job, is declaring that he believes God will come to his defense as a flesh and blood relative... a kinsman. One like himself. He will see him, Job goes on. My eyes will behold him... with these very eyes he says. A real, physical Savior to redeem him from the trouble that God has caused him. One to stand in his defense in God's courtroom. Satan may accuse Job of being a phony, but Job believe God will come in person to his defense. What a statement of faith. God did restore everything to Job. But the words that Job spoke don't really come to a complete meaning until a few thousand years later.
Job.19.25-26; Sunrise Service, Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus ChristAnd so He did. Not so long ago we marveled at a God-in-the-flesh wiggling infant in a manger. It's easy to forget, as we stare in wonder, that He was born for a purpose. And that purpose was to die. But still Jesus was born God in human form. He's Job's Kinsman-Redeemer. He's our Kinsman-Redeemer, one of us, our relative, flesh and blood, a whole complete human being... yet more than human, God also. He stood on the earth, just as Job said he would. He walked on it. He slept on it. And He bled and died on it. That's the Kinsman-Redeemer part. Jesus stood before the authorities and faced the death penalty. In fact He stood before God and faced the sin penalty. He pleaded our case in this way, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.“I'll take it instead.” And He did. On the cross He carried the very heavy load of our sin. His death in place of ours.
I know that my redeemer lives! Here's the most important part. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! He's not still dead. His lifeless body lying in the grave didn't stay there. He died our death and He rises our resurrection, too! He's bigger than death. He's a Kinsman-Redeemer like no other. One who can do whatever He wants. And what He wants is described by Job very clearly.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
Jesus didn't die for Himself. He died for us. He didn't rise from the dead for Himself either. He rose for us. That's what Job was talking about. Seeing God, in the flesh, in a resurrected body. New and clean and fresh without the trouble that comes with our sinful lives.
At the second service today, we'll talk about our connection to this great victory over death. We'll start it all out by speaking God's Word written by St. Paul. (Words which, by the way, we begin every funeral. p. 278)
Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him, through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have new life. If we have been united with Him in His death, We will certainly be united with Him in His resurrection. (Rom 6:3-5)
I know that my redeemer lives! And He promises that even though I will die, He will raise me to new life again. And in Job's words, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. When we are raised from the dead and stand face to face with our Crucified and Risen Lord, all our earthly troubles will melt away into nothingness. These problems that cause us so much trouble now will seem as if they are nothing. You see, all that stuff that we think is so important doesn't really mean a thing, compared to the Redeeming Love of our Kinsman-Redeemer Jesus. The love that caused him to suffer and die for our sin. And a love that is so great that he rose again from our grave to live and breath again. And He lives right now. I know that my redeemer lives! Right now he's alive. Right now he's speaking about me to God the father, defending me. Forgiving my sins... Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Luke.22.7-20; Holy Thursday, April 9, 2009;

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:7-20, ESV)

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

During his three years of ministry Jesus and his disciples shared many meals. Of course this meal, this one on the night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was unlike any other they had had. There was something very unique about it. Not that every meal they had was ordinary. I’m reminded of the time that Jesus and his followers retreated to Bethsaida to get away from the crowd. Even though it was a remote place, the crowds found out that Jesus was there and they followed. Jesus reacted welcoming them, and teaching those who had gathered about the kingdom of God, and healing “those who needed healing.” When the time grew late, the disciples told Jesus to send everyone away to find places to eat and stay for the night, “It’s a long way home.” They protested. Jesus answer was unexpected. “You give them something to eat.” The disciples weren’t sure what Jesus meant because there were well over five thousand people. “But Lord,” they said, “we only have five loaves and two fish, unless you want us to buy food for them all.” “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” When everyone was seated, Jesus took the food they had, the five loaves and two fish, and blessed them, broke the bread into pieces, and gave it all to the disciples to give out to the people. Everyone there, all five thousand plus, ate the meal. It was like none other they had ever had. This meal was provided by Jesus. Over five thousand people had enough to eat from five loaves and two fish. That meal was everything they needed and some left over, twelve baskets full. I’ll bet that every time the disciples saw Jesus breaking bread after that they thought about God providing for people exactly what they needed.

Now the amazing thing about this meal wasn’t necessarily only the fact that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. That alone is an amazing thing. But sometimes we get sidetracked on the big miracles that we can see. If Jesus can provide bread for a multitude we know that he can provide daily bread for me. There is really more at work here than just the filling of empty stomachs. Actually the disciples were used to seeing miracles from Jesus. We can see that that is true just paging through Luke’s Gospel. Luke carefully records for us a great many miracles of Jesus. And even the disciples had been given the ability to do them for a time. Just before this meal the disciples were sent out by Jesus to preach and heal. So the miracle of multiplying is an amazing thing. But there is something else going on here that St. Luke wants us to see. There is something more that Jesus is doing. First, when the crowd gathers, he welcomes them. He doesn’t send them away. Now these people were the typical people who were following him. They were sick, lonely, outcast people. They were people that normally didn’t get invitations to meal, or gatherings. But still, Jesus welcomes them to be with him. Second, he teaches. Jesus tells the people about the kingdom of God. He tells them what it means that God is drawing near to them. He tells them how their lives are already different, just because he is there. And just to show them the reality of what he is speaking about, he blesses the bread, breaks it into pieces and the people eat it. In those days, what ever blessing you spoke over bread that is shared is a blessing for all who share it. The miracle of making the five loaves enough for everyone was only making sure that all those people knew that they were invited to have a friendship with Jesus.

It’s not unexpected for Jesus to use a meal to say that kind of thing to God’s people. The Passover meal was the very same thing. The most important even in Israel’s history was remembered every year by a meal. After the first nine plagues in Egypt, Pharaoh wasn’t impressed enough with the God of the Hebrews to let them go. Through Moses God told his people to sit down and eat. A lamb was slaughtered. Its blood was smeared on the doorposts of their houses. And while God’s friends ate the flesh of the dead lamb, the angel of death visited the houses where God’s friends weren’t eating. Inside all the bloodless houses, the first born died wherever a lamb hadn’t died in his place. So every year after that, the Jews remembered the friendship of God, showed to them in the killing and eating of a lamb.

14This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:14-17 (ESV)

Do any of you know the first question that was to be asked by the youngest child at this meal? “Why this night is different from all others?” It was a “memorial meal” to teach the people what God had done for them. The lamb’s blood was to be shed to show them what it means that they were the people of God. That He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. How now their lives were different, just because God was with them. And just to show them the reality of what he was saying, the lamb was killed and eaten, and unleavened bread was broken and shared.

And now that brings us to this night, the night that begins the great suffering of Jesus for the sins of the world. The night Jesus had an earnest desire to share with his disciples. Everything for the Feast of Unleavened Bread was prepared. They gathered around Lord’s Table. The table was littered with what was left over from the Passover meal. They had killed and eaten a lamb. And there was unleavened bread. Jesus took the bread gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And then he took the cup of wine and gave it to them and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus was teaching again. He was telling them what was going to happen beginning that night was the real reason that he came. Within hours his blood would be poured out just as it was now begin being poured into them with the wine. Within hours his body would be broken just as it was broken with the bread that they were eating. But the key to what Jesus was saying wasn’t just the miracle of his presence in the meal. The really big miracle comes in the smallest words that he spoke. “for you.” “This is my body given for you. This cup is poured out for you.” Jesus was telling his disciples what it means that God had drawn near to them. He tells them that because of what he was about to do, their lives were already different. And just to show the reality of what he is about to do, he gave his true body and true blood in bread and wine for them to eat and drink. The miracle of what Jesus had come to do was show to them in a way that they could see and taste.

Then it was out to the garden… on to arrest… on to trial… on to crucifixion… and on to death. Jesus offers himself as the replacement lamb. He was killed and his body eaten for the sake of his friends who had gathered at his table.

Tonight, in a few moments we’ll do it again, in remembrance. It is no less miraculous than the feeding of the five thousand. It is no less miraculous than the night the blood was spread on the doorposts and the angel of death passed over. It is no less miraculous than the night the disciples gathered with Jesus over the Passover meal. Right here in this place, God is coming near to us in a very special way. We’ll eat the bread and drink from the cup, just as Jesus told us to do. Jesus is still teaching. The very body and blood that hung and suffered and died on the cross is going to be right here. The very same Jesus who rose from the dead is going to be here at his table again tonight. He wants you to remember what he has done for you. He wants you to remember his broken and bloody body hanging on the cross. He wants you to remember his death and his resurrection. It will all be shown to you in a very visual way right here, tonight. Jesus is telling you what it means that he is drawing near to you. He is telling you that because of what he has done your life is already different. It is all right here and the most important thing to hear when we speak Jesus words over the bread and wine in a few moments is those two very small but very important words… “for you.”

At this meal, you’ve been invited by Jesus himself. He says to you, “Look, my baptized child, look at my body and my blood given and shed for you. Through them you have forgiveness of your sins. Through them you are my friend. I am the very Lamb of God who has given myself up to death in your place. And even though death will come to you, right here in my body and blood you have my promise of life forever with me.”

It is an unusual meal. Amen.

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

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Statement on Gay Marriage in Iowa - Dr. Paul G. Sieveking, President, Iowa District West; and Dr. Gary M. Arp, President, Iowa District East

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Crucified and Risen Savior, Jesus, this Holy week.

Like many of you, we were saddened and offended by Iowa Supreme Court ruling regarding “same sex marriage” and the response of the leaders of the Iowa Legislature ruling out any effort to overturn the decision or even discuss it.

Today there are voices telling us that we must learn to “accept” the changes that are taking place in society. The reality is, society no longer values the church’s role, is suspicious of our views, and considers us irrelevant. Society has lost its moral foundation upon which to base any decisions regarding true and false, good and evil, right and wrong.

As Lutheran Christians we have a duty and an unprecedented opportunity to speak to society the will of God as revealed to us in His Holy Word for this is the only solid foundation upon which a civilized society can stand. The Law of God declares that homophile behavior is intrinsically sinful (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom.1:24–27). The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2) and that Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be our sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). The church’s proper evangelical work is to proclaim the reconciliation of the sinner to God in the death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–19).

Therefore, we cannot be silent regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling, but must faithfully and publicly speak against it. For we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that ‘we’ may declare the praises of him who called ‘us’ out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

We will continue to define marriage as God has, “a lifelong union of one man and one woman.” We will celebrate His gift to us and defend marriage as Martin Luther reminds us in his explanation of the sixth commandment, “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

We encourage our pastors and congregations to minister to homosexuals and their families with love and concern, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ when there is repentance.

We are attaching a copy of the 2008 letter from Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in response to the California Supreme Court ruling and a copy of Resolution 3-05A adopted at the LCMS 2004 Convention both of which further clarify our church body’s position. We encourage an “in depth” study of the Bible passages cited so that all of our people might be informed by God’s Word.

We urge all of God’s people to pray for our elected leaders, our legislature, our judges that our God will grant them wisdom and understanding so that they might govern us according to His will so that our nation, our state, our communities, and all people might be truly blessed.

Your Servants in Christ,

Dr. Paul G. Sieveking, President Dr. Gary M. Arp, President

Iowa District West, LCMS Iowa District East, LCMS

2004 Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; RESOLUTION 3-05A; To Affirm Marriage as Union of One Man and One Woman

WHEREAS, The LCMS, in convention, in 1973, stated in Res. 2-04 (Proceedings, p. 110): “That the Synod recognize homophile behavior as intrinsically sinful” (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom.1:24–27); and

WHEREAS, The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2) and that Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be our sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21); and

WHEREAS, The church’s proper evangelical work is to proclaim the reconciliation of the sinner to God in the death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–19); and

WHEREAS, The Synod, in convention (2001 Res. 2-08A), encouraged its congregations “to minister to homosexuals and their families in a spirit of compassion and humility, recognizing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23–24)”; and

WHEREAS, Many in American society are demanding legal recognition of same-sex unions as “marriages” by appeals to “equality under the law” (e.g., the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts, Feb. 4, 2004); and

WHEREAS, God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the Church (Eph. 5:32); and

WHEREAS, Homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9–20; 1 Tim. 1:10) as contrary to the Creator’s design (Rom. 1:26–27); and

WHEREAS, For our Synod to be silent, especially in the present context, could be viewed as acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle; therefore be it

Resolved, That the Synod urge its members to give a public witness from Scripture against the social acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual “marriage”; and be it further

Resolved, That in ministering to homosexuals, “A Plan for Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families,” prepared by the President’s Task Force, be commended as a resource for study and a guide for pastoral care; and be it further

Resolved, That the members of the Synod deal with sexual sins with the same love and concern as all other sins, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ when there is repentance; and be it further

Resolved, That husbands and wives give thanks to God for the blessings of marriage, lead a chaste and decent life, and each love and honor one’s spouse; and be it finally

Resolved, That the LCMS, in convention, affirm, on the basis of Scripture, marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:2–24; Matt. 19:5–6).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Statement from the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Response to the Iowa Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex “Marriage” (April 6, 2009)

Last Friday, marriage was redefined by seven judges for the entire state of Iowa and for the majority of Iowans because six couples had sued the state and demanded marriage licenses in 2005.  The majority of Iowans wholeheartedly supported the 1998 Iowa Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to protect marriage between one man and one woman, yet the court's decision on Friday overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.
This case in Iowa could affect other states and how they handle challenges to same-sex marriage, which has been the subject of court cases nationwide.  Laws banning same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California already have been struck down by their respective state courts.
Marriage, as it was instituted by God between male and female, has existed since the beginning of time. Marriage between any beings other than one man and one woman changes the meaning of marriage designed by the Creator for the order of this world.
While members of the LCMS respect all people, we believe it is against the will of God and contrary to the moral fiber of our country to redefine marriage.  Furthermore, society needs heterosexual marriages between men and women to thrive and succeed, as such unions remain the cornerstone in God's design for the procreation and raising of children.
It is not acceptable to experiment with this generation of children by trying to muster up weak alternatives to biological mothers and fathers.  We call upon the citizens of this nation to bolster and strengthen the institution of traditional marriage, lest our society spiral uncontrollably into disorder and moral decay.
Though this occasion prompts the LCMS, once again, to declare that homosexual behavior is both intrinsically unnatural and sinful (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:24–27), we also recognize the need to respond to this behavior with the same love and concern we show for all other sins, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ where there is repentance.

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Signs? Trends? Change? Me?

image At the beginning of the school year I asked my confirmation class (7th and 8th Grade) for their eMail address so we could keep in touch.

"I don't use eMail."  Said one of the students, and they all quickly agreed. 

"Then how do you communicate?" Their out-of-cool pastor asked.

"We text." they said in unison holding up their phones... (I actually caught them text-ing each other in class just a few weeks ago, they can do it without looking).

It was a defining moment.  What should I do?  I've been using eMail since it was invented.  I've actually communicated using 300 baud, long before Al Gore invented the Internet.  I blog.  I PodCast.  I Google.  I have Facebook friends.  I've edited WikiPedia Articles.  (and now I even Twitter)  I had always considered myself somewhere at least near to the 'bleeding edge' even though I knew I had slipped a bit in the last few years.  It was painfully clear that something had zoomed past me while I was happily engaged in eMail.

I had a solution, a work around.  Before the next class period I composed a short eMail and sent it to them through the Internet to their phones.  No relpy.  In class I asked.

"Hey, I sent you a text message.  Why didn't you reply?" 

"Pastor, if your going to text you have to use your phone.  Texting with eMail is just lame."

I had been quickly demoted from 'out-of-cool' to lame. 

So I took the plunge.  I entered all the numbers in my phone, spent the $.10 each and sent them all a text message from my phone. (Time to upgrade to an unlimited text message plan).

"Hey, I sent you a text message.  And you didn't reply.  You know that's just lame."  I quipped at the next class.  It worked.  At least a bit.  We swap a few messages a week about class.

So when I read this article about the number of Facebook users over 35 increasing rapidly, I had to smile. (HT: @RyanMarkel) Especially this paragraph. 

"It also notes the particular trend of moms going on Facebook. "I can't tell you how many friends of mine have complained about their mothers registering in the past couple weeks," wrote AllFacebook's Nick O'Neill. He acknowledges that "younger individuals" may not find that so cool.

It is a peculiar trend that is almost running backwards.  Online, and technology used to be a "safe" place for kids away from their parents.  Things change.   Even my son (he's 22) was reluctant to confirm my "friends" request on Facebook.  None of the confirmation class has done that yet.  I keep trying.  The struggle is worth it.  I'm not trying to be cool, relevant, or even hip.  I'm their pastor I have a call to be in their face.... book. 

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