Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sermon - 2nd Sun. after Pentecost - Matthew 7:15-29

2nd Sunday after Pentecost – May 29th, 2005
Matthew 7:15-29
“Working Around the Garden,Working Around the House"

I. Introduction –
Memorial Day Weekend… time off work, time to relax, maybe have a cookout. Also time to get some of those chores done. You know, those annual jobs many people do – gardening, or maybe fixing something, doing some spring cleaning. Working around the garden, working around the house. That of reminds me of our Gospel reading.

Here in today’s reading from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses two pictures to show us what the kingdom of heaven is like.

The first is a picture of a fruit-bearing tree. The other a picture of two houses with very different foundations. In both cases there is a contrast between the one that is bad, and the one that is good. In both cases, what makes the thing good is Christ himself, and his Good work.

Take a look at the pictures Jesus is painting, and see the tree with good fruit, and the house with the good foundation. Take a look a little deeper, and see the good work of our great Savior!

II. Good Trees, Good Fruit
Jesus warns his followers about false prophets – those who teach, but don’t teach the truth. He says they are like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But their disguise is not perfect. You can know the false prophet. There are clues. Likewise these words have a wider application to all unfaithful, unbelievers, who may also masquerade and pretend to be good. Maybe they even apply to us, in a way…

First Jesus calls up the image of a tree. You can tell what kind of tree it is, by the fruit it bears. A bad tree produces bad fruit – thorns or thistles. You wouldn’t want to eat those. But the good tree makes good fruit – tasty and nutritious. What is Jesus telling us here?

Fruit is a common scriptural symbol for works. The fruits of the Spirit are the works of the Spirit. Having many children, one is “fruitful” and multiplies. Hebrews tells us that the praise of God is the “fruit of lips that confess his name”. Fruit is the effect, the end result of something.

The end result of a false prophet is destruction. The lies he speaks lead only to death and despair. Likewise any unbeliever will produce works that we could call, “bad fruit”. Bad people do bad things. It’s just the way things are.

And ever since our first parents ate from the forbidden tree, we humans have all produced bad fruit. Sin leads to more sin, and heartache, disease, even death. Even us Christians, if we were to look only at our outward fruit, we might conclude that we too are “bad trees”, producing thorns and thistles. The problems, the worries of life. So many of our troubles we bring on ourselves. So much of life’s suffering, we have a hand in. In sin, we are bad trees, and no matter how hard we work, we can’t produce good fruits. Maybe we feel like we are masquerading, pretending to be so good, when we know deep down we are not.

How then, do we get good fruit? Remember, it’s the tree that makes the fruit. So how do we become a good tree? A change must take place. A miracle must happen. And for us, it has. And it all goes back to another tree, the tree of the cross.

The cross. The fruits of the cross. The redemption Christ won for us on the accursed tree is a fruit that makes us into good, fruit-bearing trees. His crown of thorns for our thorniness, his pierced hands and feet for our thistles. He bore the rot of all our fruits spoiled by sin, and there on the trash heap of Golgotha they are forever discarded.

By the cross, in the Christ, a change takes place and bad trees are made good. Sinful people are made holy. First in God’s eyes, then by the sanctifying Spirit, and finally at the completion of all things. Likewise, the works we do, God sees them as good fruit, even now. The Spirit guides us in His ways, and through him we do bear more and better fruit. And finally the fruit will fully ripen, to extend the metaphor a bit, when the final harvest is announced, and Christ comes to judge all. If fruit is not only the work, but the effect, the end result, then we must conclude the good tree is the believer in Christ, the person of faith. And such faith produces the fruit of eternal life.

III. Good House, Good Foundation

The second extended metaphor here is a contrast between two house-builders, the wise and the foolish. The foundation is the key – where is the house built? On a firm or shifting base? Rock or sand? Steady or not?

We’ve all seen pictures of those homes in California sliding off the cliffs into a pile of mud. That’s a not a bad visual for the foolish man’s house. When the storms, rains, and floods of life come – houses with poor foundations are easily washed away.

I remember as a child, building sand-castles, spending all day on a large network of bucket-formed towers and carefully shoveled castle walls. Large and grandiose were my sand creations in my mind. But then the tide came in. And the next day, the house was gone.

So often we take our stand on the sand, build our house on shaky ground. Trusting in your own powers, your own reason, or abilities. You will be washed away by the flood. Trusting in people around you, your house will not stnad. Trust in any other god or any other person or thing or idea – and it all comes crashing down sooner or later. Such is the ultimate fate of the unbeliever, who builds his house anywhere else than on Christ. But trusting in Jesus Christ, our rock and foundation, we are wise. He is the only unwavering strength we have or could have. He alone makes us strong to the end.

The metaphor of the two houses is good, but even Jesus only meant it to go so far. For the wise man who trusts in Him isn’t really the builder. Jesus is the builder. Or maybe we need to take the metaphor a little further:

Our spiritual house of faith is something God builds for us, through Word and Sacrament. Saved by his grace alone, we bring nothing to the table. He lays the foundation in Christ. He provides the materials. He brings the plans. He assembles the walls. He raises the roof. He opens the door and carries us across the threshold. He makes us his dwelling, and he keeps us – maintains us – for all eternity. All that we are and have and will be, we owe to him, and his work.

IV. Good Work, Great Savior!
In every aspect of our salvation, God is the doer of the good work. We are the recipients of his labor. We enjoy the fruit he has cultivated. We are given the house built on Christ.
And though in Christ the work is done, and “it is finished”, the work of God continues on in his church. When a child is baptized. When a young person is confirmed. When an adult kneels to receive the precious sacrament. When a word of encouragement or Christian love is shared. When sins are forgiven, and faith grows – the work of the Savior goes on. By His Grace. Through his Spirit.

I hope everyone has a nice Memorial day weekend. Maybe you’ll be in the garden, maybe working on the house. Maybe you’ll be working hard – and recalling the hard work Christ has done for you. Or maybe you’ll be taking it easy – and recalling that in Christ, the good work is all done. Either way, remember that he is our hope for salvation, and he alone gets the job done! Good work, great Savior! In Him, Amen.

V. Conclusion
Jesus uses two metaphors to describe the difference between believers and unbelievers. But either way, Jesus makes the difference by this work at the cross on our behalf.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Memorial Day Prayer

Here is the prayer I will use Monday at the Memorial Day "event" at the local cemetery. It is a "tweaked" version of a prayer for Armed Forces Sunday from the LCMS Commission on Worship:

With grateful hearts on this Memorial Day, we thank you, Lord, for the men and women who gave their lives in service of our country. They died honorably, protecting the life and liberty of so many others. Lord, make us appreciative of the blessings we enjoy as Americans, and of the lives which were given that we might live in peace in this land.
Lord, in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER.

Our Lord Jesus once said, “Greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends”. May we seen in the soldier who lays down his life in battle, a reminder of our Savior who laid down his life at the cross.
Lord, in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER.

We also thank you this day for our men and women in uniform who so selflessly serve God and country. Be with them deployed overseas, in armed conflict or wherever their duties carry them. Grant them courage in battle, compassion on the wounded, and strength in your grace to endure unto victory. Be with the family of each serviceman
or woman who anxiously awaits their return, with the promise that you are with us even unto the end of the world.
Lord, in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER.

We pray for all who are in positions of leadership and great responsibility governing over the affairs of our nation. Grant them wisdom from above as they seek to administer justice and mercy rightfully in the sacred halls of government. Grant us your grace as a nation to be a beacon of hope and to establish a just and noble relationship with all other nations in the world.
Lord, in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER.

Heavenly Father, how can we ever thank you enough for your enduring grace that sustains our life in trouble, comforts our souls in distress and shelters us from disaster. Through the presence of your Son Jesus, our resurrected Lord and savior, we remain strong, and through your Word we will endure unto the end. In a world filled with conflicts and wars, He alone is our source of true and lasting peace.
Lord, in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER.

Hear now our petitions and receive now our thanks, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Hymn - "O Lord, Our Great Physician"

O Lord, Our Great Physician
Tune: Munich
(“I Lay My sins on Jesus”, LW Hymn # 366)
Based on Matthew 9:9-13

O Lord, our Great Physician,
O Healer of our race,
You call men to contrition,
To save them by your grace.
You came to bring your healing,
To those diseased by sin,
Your blood the balm of blessing,
The sin-sick soul to win.

You called the tax collector,
A publican by trade,
A Jew but a defector,
Now your disciple made.
He sought to gain taxation,
To earn his earthly fee.
You brought your medication,
Your riches set him free.

The Pharisees offended,
That sinners you received,
Your grace not comprehended,
Your mercy not believed.
But Healing God of Heaven,
Our only sacrifice,
To us true health you’ve given,
Your death and life suffice.

O Lord, our Great Physician,
O Healer of our race,
You call men to contrition,
To save them by your grace.
You ate with sinners lowly,
Now bless us with your Meal,
Your blood and body holy,
Our suffering souls to heal.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Hymn - "A Righteousness From God"

A Righteousness from God
Tune: Darwall’s 148th
(“Rejoice, the Lord Is King” – LW Hymn # 179)
Based on Romans 3:21-28

A righteousness from God,
His people have been shown,
Apart from Law, and its dread rod,
He has made known,
That all who trust, in Him who died,
By His free grace are Justified.

A righteousness through faith,
Though tainted by the fall,
In Jesus Christ, God saves,
Redeeming one and all,
For all who trust, in Him who died,
By His free grace are Justified.

Now boasting we exclude,
No merit can we claim,
Instead we must conclude,
We’re saved in Jesus’ name,
So let us trust, in Him who died,
And by His grace be Justified.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Rainbow Sashes and Holy Communion

The Associated Press
Sunday, May 15, 2005; 10:48 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Roman Catholic priest denied communion to more than 100 people Sunday, saying they could not receive the sacrament because they wore rainbow-colored sashes to church to show support for gay Catholics.

Before offering communion, the Rev. Michael Sklucazek told the congregation at the Cathedral of St. Paul that anyone wearing a sash could come forward for a blessing but would not receive wine and bread.

Read More…


What an interesting story. I believe it serves to illustrate an important aspect of the Lord’s Supper. That is the fact that partaking of the sacrament is not only about “me and Jesus”, but also a statement of confession – a profession of doctrinal unity. It seems that on some level, Rome understands this.

Traditionally, we Lutherans also practice “close(d) communion”. It has been the standard practice of the church until only recently, from a historical perspective. One simply does not commune with Christians of a different public confession – with whom we have doctrinal disagreement.

The case in Minnesota is a shocking one, perhaps. But sometimes we can see the issues most clearly in the starkest examples.

I submit these questions. Should an LCMS Lutheran refuse communion to members of the Rainbow Sash Alliance, as the priest did? What if they were wearing “other” kinds of sashes? What if the sash said, “Baptist” or “Presbyterian” or “Roman Catholic” or even “ELCA”?

What if the sash said, “Scripture is not God’s Word”? Or, “You have to decide to follow Jesus”, or “Christ isn’t really present in his meal”, or “You have to do good works to get to heaven”?

Having said all that, I do think there is one important difference with our story and my fantasy illustrations (and thanks to Pastor Poppe for pointing out this distinction): In the case of the Rainbow Sashers, they had been specifically told in no uncertain terms that they MAY NOT receive the sacrament while wearing the sash. Their attempts to do so anyway represent a blatant, knowing defiance of this instruction. When a Christian of another denomination comes to commune at an LCMS altar, they typically don’t do so in defiance of our practice, but in ignorance of it. Most, when the pastor is given the chance to explain our teaching, even if they do not agree or understand, are respectful enough not to challenge it in such a brazen way.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Veith on Star Wars III

A nice review from our LCMS member and World Magazine Guru, Gene Veith.

Check it out.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Indiana Jones He's Not...

The following story from , a crazy compliation of news-ish sorts of things:

Raiding the lost ark

Eccentric Texan archaeologist Vendyl Jones--often incorrectly named as the inspiration for Indiana Jones--claims that this summer he will finally excavate the real Ark of the Covenant from its hiding place in the Judean Desert. From Arutz Sheva:

Throughout the many years of his quest, Jones has been in close contact and under the tutelage of numerous Rabbis and Kabbalists. Extremely knowledgeable in Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah sources dealing with Holy Temple issues, Jones has now received permission from both known and secret Kabbalists to finally uncover the lost ark...

He believes the ark will be discovered by Tisha B'Av (Aug. 14), a day of repeated tragedy in Jewish history. Most notably, it is the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and Second Holy Temples.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sith Stuff

Warning: Star Wars post.

Yes, I saw "Revenge of the Sith". I liked it. But of course, the eyes of a preacher see movies a little differently. So here are my observations/comments:

This was perhaps the most interesting Star Wars from a philosophical perspective (I hesitate to say "theological"). But nonetheless the tension between good and evil, the internal conflict of Anakin, and the contrast of Jedi and Sith all got me thinking.

Certainly the movie makes no claim to be Christian, but it still hinges on the question of "what makes someone evil". What I liked about the treatment here was that it showed how evil often begins with "good intentions". That is, Anakin wanted to save his wife from death, and this is, after all, a good intention. It's just twisted. Sort of like the good intention to "be like God", which the serpent twisted into temptation for our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Another interesting piece of the puzzle was the characters' focus on immortality. The Sith promised it, and craved it. There was the story the Emperor told Anakin of the powerful Sith Master who learned the secret of cheating death. He taught everything he knew to his apprentice, and then that apprentice killed him in the middle of the night. It seemed clear the apprentice was Palpatine himself. However, this story also foreshadows the Emperor's own relationship with Vader, who kills the Emperor in "Return of the Jedi".

Then there was the scene near the end in which Yoda promises the secret of immortality to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yoda's advice to Anakin regarding the death of Padme was to "learn to let go" and "death is a natural part of life". But then when it's Yoda's own hide, a little immortality comes in handy, eh?

I liked the last scene. The juxtaposition of the birth of the twins and the "birth" of Vader (at least as we know him) was powerful, emotional, even creepy.

Birth, Death, Good and Evil - all themes we know well in our faith. Of course only Christ brings immortality, only Christ makes us good, only in Christ, by His Baptism, are we reborn.

As to the nature of Evil, here are some interesting ideas - how one uses power, to benefit whom, and in what way - these were not always such clear-cut differences for the Jedi and Sith. The "Ick-factor" was clear enough, though, with the darkness and gravelly voices surrounding the villains, and the major "Ick" of Anakin slaying the "younglings". Then we knew for sure he was evil.

What was missing was a clear source of moral authority. We Christians have that, in Scripture. But what about the Jedi code? Seemed rather flexible to me. One's feelings are another source of authority for the Jedi, but which feelings? Anger and fear, apparently are not feelings to be trusted; they lead to the dark side. But for Christians, we know that all of our feelings can fail us, lead us astray, for we are sinful by nature. We have God's unchanging word to rely on. I guess that's why it's better to be a Christian than a Jedi.

Kudos to Richard Fritz!

A Grace member, Richard Fritz, recently had this letter printed in the opinion section of our local paper. A fine analogy:

Oppose abortion

Recently the paper and other news media had published the horrifying store of the two young children in Zion, Ill., who lost their life by the hands of one of the fathers.

Another story that doesn't get much attention is one of a young woman with child that goes to Planned Parenthood for counseling.

Her child has a body, legs, arms, a brain that was formed 18 days into her pregnancy and a heart that was formed 22 days into her pregnancy with it's own separate heart beat. She now is counseled into having an abortion. The question is, what is the difference in these two stories? Answer: Murder in both cases. Life is a precious gift that we should honor as such.

Richard R. Fritz

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gallup Poll on Moral Issues

Results of a recent Gallup poll regarding moral issues from Abortion to Polygamy to Divorce to everything in between. Interesting.

Thanks to Watersblogged for pointing out the story.

Lutheran is as Lutheran does...

Whew... a Lutheran after all!

I took this test, here are my results. Worked for me, I guess!

Rank Item Percent
1: Lutheran (100%)
2: Eastern Orthodox (85%)
3: Roman Catholic (78%)
4: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (75%)
5: Presbyterian/Reformed (70%)
6: Congregational/United Church of Christ (67%)
7: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (50%)
8: Church of Christ/Campbellite (50%)
9: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (34%)
10: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (21%)
11: Seventh-Day Adventist (21%)
12: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (18%)
13: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (12%)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Lutheran Blog Directory

Introducing the Lutheran Blog Directory:

A free service with which you can submit your Lutheran Blog listing.

Lutheran Blog Directory will list blogs pertaining to Lutheranism.

Personal blogs are welcome from clergy and lay alike, but content should reflect a Lutheran perspective.

Sites listed should be blogs. Church websites, and other site formats will not be listed.

All blogs submitted must be approved by the webmaster. I reserve the right to refuse listing for any reason.

Please feel free to link to us, and tell your Lutheran blogging friends!

If you have questions, comments, or complaints, contact me:
Rev. Tom Chryst, Owner:

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sermon - Pentecost - Joel 2:28-29

Pentecost Sunday (Youth Confirmation)
May 15th, 2005
Joel 2:28-29
“It’s Pouring!”

I. Introduction –

It is the day of Pentecost. Perhaps the third most important Sunday in the Church Year. Though Christmas and Easter both have quite a secular following, I doubt anyone outside of Christendom will wish you a happy Pentecost – if they even know it is today. If they’ve even heard of it!

But Pentecost is important. It’s right up there behind Easter and Christmas. Some have even argued that these three Christian Holy Days correlate with the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father showed his love by sending his Son - Christmas. God the Son showed his love by dying on Good Friday and rising on Easter. And on the Day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit showed his love by empowering the saints in a special way.

Today is also a special occasion for you 12 confirmands. As you have completed your instruction in the faith, and here before God and this congregation you will speak your vows. You are, in a sense, taking a step forward in your life in the Church. It’s the end of sermon reports and attitude points. But it’s not the end! It’s not the end of your learning or your involvement here, It’s a new beginning for you.

Pentecost has been called the “birthday of the Christian church”. It certainly marks a new chapter in God’s plan for his people. For on that day, the promised Holy Spirit was “poured out” on the disciples. Flames of fire marked the occasion. Miraculous speaking ensued. The Gospel was shared with many pilgrims. And the church of Jesus Christ grew.

The Holy Spirit usually gets a little more of our attention on Pentecost. The work of the Spirit is clearer. But that work always leads us back to Jesus Christ and his cross.

“I will pour out my Spirit” is the promise twice repeated in today’s reading from the prophet Joel. Peter goes on to quote this passage in his Pentecost Day sermon, found in Acts chapter 2. Well if it’s good enough for Peter, it’s good enough for us. Let’s approach our Pentecost reading with this key idea: “It’s Pouring!”

II. When life feels like a rainy day.

As I drove to church on Wednesday morning, it was pouring. Amidst the rain, the radio DJ sarcastically played a song, “I’m gonna soak up the sun”. It seems like we’ve had a lot of rain lately. I always thought the saying was “April showers bring May flowers”, but maybe they should change that to “May showers” – at least in Wisconsin.

Not that rain is all bad. In fact it is a blessing. We need it. I don’t have to explain why. But that doesn’t change the fact that rainy days often make us feel dreary and depressed. They seem to darken people’s mood. So much so that rain has become a common metaphor for the problems of life. There’s that other song, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone… It’s gonna be a bright, sun-shiny day”.

Each life has its share of this kind of rain. The problems, the worries, the woes. Each person, even the Christian, has his share of suffering. We live in a world broken by sin and polluted by our own sin. Whether problems of our own making or not, each of us has our rainy day. It might even be longer than a day. Loss of a loved one. Struggling with a terminal illness. Stressing out over work or school. Trying to raise our children right – and everything seems to go wrong. Trying just to get along with family members, and live in peace. It’s this kind of rain that makes us want to say, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” Or better yet, don’t come at all.

III. Showered with blessings

But not all that pours upon us is so bad. God knows our sorry state, our dreary days deluged with sin and its consequences. And he pours out blessings on us. He showers us, drenches us with his good gifts.

If you ever watch a football game, especially an important one – a certain tradition has become popular lately. The winning team finds one of those big orange Gatorade coolers. And two of the teammates on the sidelines take it and sneak up on an unsuspecting coach. As a victory celebration, they drench the poor guy by pouring the entire thing over his head. Makes me glad I’m not a football coach.

But God showers us with blessings all the more. God the Father provides us with our earthly life and everything to support it – food, clothing, work, family, friends – all I need from day to day.

God the Son, Jesus Christ, showers us with even greater blessings. He, after all, is our Savior. His perfect life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, ascension, and his promised return – all he does for us – to save us, redeem us, forgive us, renew us, cleanse us, justify us and reconcile us with God. Jesus is the greatest blessing ever given. Without him, nothing else matters.

But we are not without him. Even though he has now ascended to his rightful heavenly throne. Even though we do not see him as his disciples once did. What he promised them he promises us – we are not alone. He sends his Spirit. The Counselor. The Comforter. And the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ, The Lord and Giver of Life who spoke by the prophets – he brings us countless blessings the same, though never apart from Christ.

Take the day of Pentecost. When the Spirit was “poured out” in such a spectacular way. It wasn’t the first time anyone ever had the Spirit, mind you. For Jesus told his disciples, “You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” In the Old Testament, the prophets often claimed, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon me…” It’s not like the Holy Spirit was a genie in a bottle, waiting thousands of years to finally be let loose on the day of Pentecost. He, God, with the Father and Son, was active even since Creation, when “The Spirit of God moved across the face of the deep”.

But here on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit is poured out in a special way, for a particular purpose. And that purpose is to bring people to Christ, the Savior. To shower them with the blessings of Christ’s Gospel!

It was a golden opportunity, you might say, to have so many pilgrims gathered there in Jerusalem. Believers from all over the known world had come to worship in the Holy City. And as the spirit was poured out on the disciples, the same Spirit overflowed onto them. By the preaching of the word, “declaring the wonders of God”, the Spirit brought some 3000 to faith in Christ that day alone. And they would carry that faith, that Gospel message, and that Spirit living in them – they would carry it back to their homelands, and sow even more seeds for the kingdom.

Those “wonders of God” could only be the life, the death, the rising again and the entire message and person of Jesus Christ. For the Spirit does not appear to draw attention to himself, but to the Savior. He creates faith in Christ. He points to the redemption offered in Christ. He blesses us, by making us Christ-ians.

Christ is what the Spirit is all about: He comforts us, with Christ! He counsels us, in Christ! He guides us, to Christ!

IV. The Baptismal “pouring out”

And how can we talk about the Spirit, and “pouring out” without mentioning Baptism? For it is there, as the waters of baptism are poured out upon us, that the Spirit too, is poured out upon us.

When Peter preached his Pentecost sermon, it ended like this, (Acts 2:37-38) “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be… baptized… every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The point of the Spirit’s work on that day of Pentecost – the point of the pouring out – was that baptismal water, and the forgiveness of Christ would be poured out in rich measure. That’s always the point when, in Christ, by His Spirit, it’s “ pouring”. We too share the blessings of that baptism. We too are daily cleansed by it, as God pours his forgiveness out continually.

You confirmands. God has poured out his blessings on you too. We remember today, especially, your baptism. You come here today to give thanks for and to respond to the blessings God has poured on you. Today you confirm, the church confirms, God himself confirms what was poured out years ago – His grace, forgiveness, His Spirit.

As you now also come to the Lord’s Table to receive his Supper, he pours out new blessings for you. And he’ll keep pouring out his blessings for you all your life. So remain strong in your faith. Stand firm on God’s word. And remember what you have learned from me and so many others. God will keep pouring his blessings. May you receive them always with a thankful heart.

In each life, the rain will come. After all, we’re sinners in a sinful world, and frankly, we deserve it. But God pours out blessings on us, in Christ, by His Spirit. As we have been washed in baptism, and as we live in His word, and receive His supper, God continues to shower us with his love. In his church, it’s ALWAYS “Pouring”. In Jesus Christ, Amen.

V. Conclusion
Sometimes it feels like the rain never stops, and life dumps everything on you. But remember God has poured His Spirit out on us – to guide and comfort, to counsel and encourage, and to point to Christ, our Savior. Baptized into Christ, by the Spirit, we are saved!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Hymn - "Triune God, Your Holy Nature"

Triune God, Your Holy Nature
Tune: Stephanos
(“I Am Trusting You, Lord Jesus” Hymn # 408 from Lutheran Worship)
Trinity Sunday

Triune God, your holy nature,
One and also three,
In your word, I know you truly,
Grace I see.

Father God, Creator mighty,
Source of all that is,
You have sent your Son to save me;
I am his.

Son of God, my dear Lord Jesus,
You have died for me -
Paid your precious blood, and from sin
Set me free.

Holy Spirit, Guide and Comfort,
Sent to sanctify,
When you raise me, I will live with
Christ on high.

Triune God, your holy nature,
Three and also one,
Hear my praise and thanks you for all that
You have done.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

On Eastern Orthodox Prayers

An online chum of mine, Jim Roemke, happens to be a Concordia Seminary student in St. Louis (about to go on vicarage).

Jim has an appreciation for iconography. While shopping online at an Eastern Orthodox bookstore, he ran across some morning and evening prayers which he found intruiging, and passed along to me.

Many of these prayers are un-prayable for a Lutheran, because they address saints, Mary, or someone (or something) other than God. But in the Lutheran tradition of saving the baby while throwing out the bathwater, I found some of these prayers actually worthwhile (with some minor editing).

In the "spirit" of Pentecost (pardon the pun), take a look at this evening "Prayer to the Holy Spirit":

O Lord, Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, show compassion and have mercy on me Thy sinful servant, and loose me from mine unworthiness, and forgive all wherein I have sinned against Thee today as a man, and not only as a man, but even worse than a beast, my sins voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, whether from youth, and from evil suggestion, or whether from brazenness and despondency. If I have sworn by Thy name, or blasphemed it in my thought; or grieved anyone, or have become angry about anything; or have lied, or slept needlessly, or if a beggar hath come to me and I disdained him; or if I have grieved my brother, or have quarreled, or have condemned anyone; or if I have been boastful, or prideful, or angry; if, as I stood at prayer, my mind hath been distracted by the wiles of this world, or by thoughts of depravity; if I have over-eaten, or have drunk excessively, or laughed frivolously; if I have thought evil, or seen the beauty of another and been wounded thereby in my heart; if I have said improper things, or derided my brother's sin when mine own sins are countless; if I have been neglectful of prayer, or have done some other wrong that I do not remember, for all of this and more than this have I done: have mercy, O Master my Creator, on me Thy downcast and unworthy servant, and loose me, and remit, and forgive me, for Thou art good and the Lover of mankind, so that, lustful, sinful, and wretched as I am, I may lie down and sleep and rest in peace. And I shall worship, and hymn, and glorify Thy most honourable name, together with the Father and His Only-begotten Son, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Just two comments.

1. You gotta love the confession of sin here. It just about covers everything!

2. As a Lutheran, I would make it clearer that our sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ and his blood shed for us, not just out of the love of the Holy Spirit. But with a little tweaking, couldn't a Lutheran pray something like this?

PETA Kills Animals!

The "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA) has a PR problem, it seems.
Their problems don't stop there. But this is an amusing development.

Times Square Billboard Declares: “PETA Kills Animals”

My General thoughts on PETA:

As a Christian, our approach to animals is formed by scripture. God clearly places them, and all creation, in our care. We are to use animals for clothing, food, etc... But like all of God's gifts, we should treat them as such. They do not belong to us, ultimately, but to the Lord.

Nevertheless, they are not human beings created in the image of God. Christ didn't die for lions, tigers and bears - but for humans. The Fifth Commandment does not apply to Fluffy.

Still, we look forward to the "New Heaven and Earth" when this broken creation is restored. Will that include the animals? I think so! Does that mean your dog goes to heaven? That's a little tougher to say.

I think the scriptural, Christian approach is a balanced one. Unlike the PETA approach, which confuses many of these issues by claiming animals are equal to humans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Shacking Up" and the ACLU

Well once again the ACLU jumps into bed with a cause that seems to contradict Christian values.

So many news items nowadays seem to touch on church-state issues, and here is another. While the Bible clearly teaches the immorality of fornication, a sin against God's law, how does a society reflect this in its civil law?

Certainly not every law of God should be a law of the state. But it does seem that a just society will largely reflect the second table of the 10 commandments in its laws.

Marriage has been under assault from so many angles - homosexual "marriage", divorce, and the general acceptance of cohabitation. So is it really a surprise when the legal system seeks to bring current law in line with current practice?

The following is part of an article by Libertarian Ralph Bristol. While he too is against the law in question, he wants it dealt with via legislature, rather than judicial means. Either way, it's an interesting (and not too surprising) commentary on the spirit of our age.

May 10, 2005

A sheriff’s deputy is openly breaking the law and refuses to stop. What’s a good sheriff to do? He told her she had to quit breaking the law or quit being a deputy. She quit being a deputy. Former deputy Debora Hobbs has now sued Pender County, N.C. Sheriff Carson Smith, and the American Civil Liberties Union is standing with the deputy.

The law she deliberately violated was the North Carolina law against cohabitation. Smith found out that Hobbs and her boyfriend had been living together for three years. The sheriff says the cohabitation was both a moral issue and a legal question. He said he tries to avoid hiring people who openly live together but does not send out deputies to enforce the law.
ere are about 144,000 unmarried couples living together in North Carolina, and they are all violating a statute that has been on the books since 1805.

Six other states have similar laws. They are Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota. In January this year, the North Dakota House defeated a challenge to its cohabitation law on a 52 to 37 vote, so even though the laws are rarely enforced, they have not yet been relegated to the graveyard for the cultural obsolete.

The ACLU will argue that they should be. “Certainly the government has no business regulating relationships between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes,” said Jennifer Rudinger, state executive director of the ACLU. “This law is 200 years old, and a lot of people are very surprised that we even have it on the books.”

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Hymn - "With Sound of Violent Wind"

With Sound of Violent Wind
Tune: St. Thomas
(Hymn # 296 from Lutheran Worship, “I Love Your Kingdom, Lord”)
Based on Acts 2:1-21 (Joel 2:28-32)

With sound of violent wind,
The Spirit came from heavn’
And fifty days from Easter bright
The message would be givn’.

As tongues of fire came down,
A-lighting on their heads,
To pilgrims from both far and wide,
The Gospel message spread.

They spoke of Jesus’ death,
His rising and his word,
As each in his own native tongue
The blessed message heard.

Then scoffers sought to claim,
“They’re drinking too much wine”,
But Peter testified that day -
The message was divine.

“They are not drunk,” he said,
“Joel’s prophecy of old,
Showed how God’s Spirit would be giv’n,
The message was foretold.”

Pour out your Spirit Lord,
This day of Pentecost,
To point to Jesus Christ your Son,
Whose message saves the lost.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Purpose Drivel?

No, not a type-o in the title. The following are some LCMS Lutheran perspectives on the best-selling book by Rick Warren.

The first one listed, by Scott Diekmann, is a more detailed, 23 page critique, which points to some flaws in "PDL" I had never heard of (i.e. the whole issue of Bible translations). Nice work, Scott!

Mr. Diekmann sent me his article recently, which prompted me to post the other critiques I have read. So here are those that I know about:

“The Purpose-Driven Life - A Lutheran’s Perspective”
by Scott Diekmann (LCMS Layman)

“A Critique of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ By Rick Warren”
by Pastor Joe Fisher

“Reflections on The Purpose Driven Life in Light of the Doctrine of Vocation”
by Professor John T.Pless

The Lutheran Witness (online), April 2004
(pages 8 and 9 of the .pdf file)
Pastor Paul R. Naumann – (With a “friendlier” take on Warren)
Professor John T. Pless – (Sidebar with an “alternative suggestion”)

Issues, Etc. Broadcast Transcript
With Radio Host Todd Wilken

EDIT 3/31/06:
Check out these thoughts by Chris Roseburgh:
Extreme Theology

EDIT 6/19/06:
Satire piece by "HornSwoggled"
Lutheran Church to Study Koran

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Don't Forget - Ascension Day!

Modern Day Nebuchadnezzer?

Bill Gates Gives Lutherans $539,000 for Sudan Relief Work

Bill Gates, arguably the most powerful atheist in the world, has donated a large sum of money to Lutheran World Relief (which is based in my home town of Baltimore).

Jeremiah 27:8 (New International Version)
8 "If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the LORD, until I destroy it by his hand.

If the Lord could use mean old Nebuchadnezzer as his instrument, why not the "Overlord of Microsoft"?

The proceeds will fund humanitarian work in southern Sudan.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Schaivo and Herbert

Am I the only one who has thought about this connection? Probably not.

Here's the story of a brain-damaged man, a fire-fighter by the name of Donald Herbert. He recently awoke from a 10 year coma:

The story mentions another person who was "under" for 19 years.

Now, I am sure that the cases aren't exactly the same, but it sort of makes you think about Teri Schaivo, doesn't it?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Plagiarism - The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Well, people, I am a shameless plagiarist. Maybe that's too strong a word. But I have no compunctions about stealing a good idea when I see it. So just to give credit where due, here's a word of thanks to Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer, of Burr in the Burgh for the several blog mod ideas I have officially ganked off him. Thanks, Scott!

By the way, I highly recommend his blog, full of insightful and wise, bold yet not overwhelming, apprehendable yet digestion-worthy, both pithy and profound Lutheran... uh... stuff.

And cool bells and whistles too!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sermon - Easter 6 - 1 Peter 3:15-22

Easter 6 – May 1st, 2005
1 Peter 3:15-22
“Hell, Flood and Baptism”

I. Introduction –
Today’s Epistle reading is from 1 Peter 3:15-22. It’s a little bit of an odd passage- but that’s part of what attracted me to it this week. It’s also a very “busy” reading. There is a lot going on – much for the preacher to choose from. It starts out with some words of encouragement about giving answer for our faith, in gentleness and respect. It speaks of enduring suffering and of doing good, keeping a clear conscience.

But it’s also an Easter passage. Peter tells again and a Christ’s death and resurrection. But there is more here. The shape of the passage takes us on a journey – following the work of the resurrected Christ and all he has done for us. For the sake of time, let’s pick up these three destinations today – Hell, Flood, and Baptism.

II. Christ’s Descent into Hell – The Victory Lap
“he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who disobeyed long ago…”
This passage is forms the basis for that statement of the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into Hell”. Hell – the prison here – holds those who disobeyed God (and were not saved by grace through faith).

Many of them were from the days of Noah, when God wiped so many wicked people from the face of the earth– but not all. There would be others there too – not to mention Satan himself. Wretched, rebellious enemies of God, steeped in sin and hatred for him. These were no friends of Jesus he was dropping in on.
And he had come there for a purpose. Some people think he went to Hell to suffer – after all, Hell is the place of punishment. But there’s two problems with that. For one, Jesus did all his suffering on the cross, and then proclaimed “It is finished”. If the condemnation of Hell is God turning his back on you, then Jesus suffered such abandonment when he cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”. No, Jesus didn’t descend to Hell to suffer. Then why?

The reading says he was there to “preach” . But what does this mean? Was he there to give one last sermon to those wicked people? To give them one last chance to believe? That they might somehow escape from eternal damnation? Was this, in fact, a jail-break? No. For scripture makes it quite clear that man dies once and then the judgment. That the fires of Hell are eternal. That once we die, there is no turning back. “A great chasm has been fixed between there and here” So says Abraham in one of Jesus’ parables about Heaven and Hell. Jesus wasn’t there to save those condemned souls. Then why?

A better translation of the word “preach” here is “proclaim”. Because the real purpose of Jesus’ descent into hell is not to suffer or to save those already condemned. He goes there to announce his victory to the forces of evil, and to Satan himself!

Remember, it was just a couple of days before that Christ had died. I can picture the party that must have been thrown in hell. The hymn “He’s Risen, He’s Risen”, written by Walther – the founder of the Missouri Synod – puts it this way:

“The Foe was triumphant when on Calvary,
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain his hosts shouted and jeered,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones feared”

And with the hellish celebration perhaps reaching its peak, Jesus crashes the party. Their collective jaws drop as they see him, ALIVE. Glorified and victorious, Jesus takes his victory lap through hell, announcing their defeat, and his triumph – our triumph. For as faithful saints of his, we too share in the victory of Sin, death, and all the forces of Hell. Jesus descended into Hell – for us!

III. God’s Patience with Evil
The text mentions those spirits in prison, who “disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

In scriptural terms, there are few examples of sin getting out of hand as glaring as the wicked people living at the time of Noah. Genesis says, of man’s wickedness at that time, “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time”. Now that’s bad. But God was patient with them. He gave them ample opportunity to repent, for the ark wasn’t built in a day. God is slow to anger, and patient in his judgment. He was then. He is now.

We may look at the evil world around us, and wonder, “How long, oh Lord?” How much worse can things get? How much more evil will you allow in this world? It may seem like things are getting worse and worse and worse and that God has forgotten or is powerless to DO SOMETHING about all this evil. When we see the evil-doer prosper, when we see people lie, cheat, steal, and take advantage of others to get ahead – and NOTHING bad happens to them. We might wonder, “Lord, are you going to let them get away with that???”

But one day God’s patience will run out. Like it did when the raindrops started to fall, and the wickedness of man was washed away in the flood. So too God promises a judgment to come. He is patient, but his patience has its limits. And when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, then all will be set right. Divine justice will finally be served. The flood reminds us that God’s patience with the wicked will not last forever.

IV. Saved in the Flood
And remember, God deals mercifully with us – just as he did with the faithful 8 of the ark. The true story of Noah’s ark, and Noah’s flood – it’s more than just good material for children’s literature. It’s a story of divine judgment for sin, and divine mercy for some – who walked with God in faith.

Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives – the only people to escape the judgment – saved through the waters. The same waters that wiped out their evil foes, floated the ark safely through the flood.

Peter draws the connection here – he says the flood of Noah is a symbol of baptism. We can see the connection. For in Holy Baptism God drowns the evil, sinful man within us – the “old Adam”. And out of the waters rises the new creation – the fresh start – the child of God. Peter says that baptism actually saves us!
But that water is nothing without the word. And that water and word are nothing without the resurrection – the real power for us to be reborn is that Jesus was reborn from the grave. Just as our victory of the forces of evil is only made real in his victory. And our heavenly destination is promised, because he already resides there. You see, all depends on Jesus – and what he does for us. His death for us. His resurrection of us. His descent into hell for us. His ascension and heavenly reign and his promised return – for us!

These are deep mysteries – deeper than the floodwaters themselves. Deeper than the depths of Hell. For in Christ we are lifted up above the flood of judgment. We are lifted out of the jaws of death and hell and Satan. And we are promised the heights of Heaven – by him who lives and reigns there on high, now and forever – Jesus Christ, the VICTORIOUS ONE! In His Name. Amen.

V. Conclusion
Peter tells of Christ’s death, resurrection AND descent into hell for us. Just as the flood washed away the evil doers, so in Baptism our sins are drowned and we are saved!