Thursday, June 30, 2005

Grace Website Updated

One of my many hats is webmaster of our church's internet site. I had been using a certain program to author the page, but due to some formatting issues (for instance, Pastor Poppe's picture and mine were mixed up) I had to re-do it. Hopefully the new format will prevent these issues in the future.

So (espcially if you are a Grace member) check out the newly designed site at:


I welcome your comments, suggestions, and (constructive) criticism. Please remember I am an amateur here.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sermon - Pentecost 6A - Matthew 10:34-42

6th Sunday after Pentecost – June 26th, 2005
Matthew 10:34-42
“A Sword and a Cross”

I. Introduction –
I often hear modern parents us the phrase “I need to pick my battles”. As we try to decide when to correct a child and when to ignore a bad behavior, this handy little phrase reminds us that not everything is worth fighting about. Putting your hand on the hot stove – that’s a battle worth fighting. Putting your elbows on the dinner table, maybe not quite so important.

But Jesus in our Gospel reading from Matthew 10, today, is talking about something more than just squabbling with your toddler or a tussle with a teenager. He is talking about families divided: (text)

II. The Prince of Peace Brings a Sword
Jesus words here may come as a bit of a shock to us. What do you mean, Jesus, you don’t come to bring peace, but a sword? Isn’t this the same Jesus who is called “Prince of Peace”? Isn’t this the same Jesus who tells his disciples, “Peace be with you. My peace I give to you…”? Who says in the Sermon on the Mt. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Sons of God”? that “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword”? Jesus is all about peace. So why all the talk of violence and sword and discord? Even in the family? Isn’t this also the same God who tells us to honor our father and mother?

To make sense of Jesus’ words here we have to understand what kind of sword he means. He is speaking of the divisions that sometimes come when believer meets unbeliever. When Christian is faced with non-Christian, especially in the same household. Jesus is telling us that following him is more important than anything – and everything – including your own family.

To be sure, most of us won’t actually take up the sword or break into fisticuffs against our non-believing family members. But the tensions that do often surface can cut us to the heart. When our children turn away from God and Church and Christ, it is hurtful. When our parents or siblings make derisive comments about our faith or our Christian values – it can pierce us. And there is something about Jesus that demands an all or nothing – either he is who he says he is, God’s Son, the Savior of the World… or he is a mythical figure or a liar or just a marginalized moralist, but not someone worthy of our concern or attention.

Martin Franzmamn, the seminary professor who wrote the hymn, “Thy Strong Word” puts it this way:
He brings no cheap pace, no half peace, no peace by compromise. He can create peace only by destroying evil; and since men love evil and cling to that which excludes them from the whole peace of God, His coming forces a decision between good and evil and proves to be, for all its peaceful intent, the sundering sword.”

And Luther says,
We must be guided by the principle that one must obey God rather than all men, be they parents, government, preachers, yea, even the whole church, if it were possible for it to oppose Christ.

III. He Bears a Cross, We Follow
You can see why Jesus also likens the experience of being his disciple to that of bearing a cross. It can be painful at times, dividing us, cutting us off from even our family, like a sword. But it can also make us suffer – like a cross. Jesus calls his disciples to follow him not just in the nice-ities of the faith, but also in the cross-bearing.

Here we aren’t talking so much about trouble we bring on ourselves (though we must bear that too). Nor are we talking about the troubles of life in a sinful world, like illness and sorrow and all other problems. Instead, bearing the cross means suffering for the sake of the Christ.

Now if you are like me, you don’t like to suffer. And you don’t like to be on the “outs” with family. Ridicule and persecution don’t’ sound like fun. These words of Jesus about swords and crosses, discord and suffering, are hard to swallow. They are even harder to fulfill.

How often do we, faced with even the mildest of persecution, bend like a reed, wilt like a flower. How often do we miss our chances, take the easy way out, and throw the cross from our shoulder. How often are we not worthy of Him.

But then there is His cross. Jesus never ran from his cross. His mission was always to bear it. To carry it, to die on it. Jesus’ call for his disciples to follow him and carry their own cross implies that Jesus goes to his cross first. His cross starts it all, fulfills it all, and brings life to all who believe.
Because of His cross we find forgiveness for our poor cross-bearing. In His cross we come to peace in our warfare with God. And in his cross we receive life, even life eternal. His cross makes us worthy. And only in the shadow of his cross can Jesus seriously expect us to carry our own. By the power of His Spirit, and under his forgiving grace.

Here Jesus shares another paradoxical saying, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”.
In other words: if you seek after life in this world – if your only worries are how to live long and suffer little, watch out – because life is fleeting and we all die in the end. But if you lose your life for Christ – that is, if you receive him as he comes to you, if you trust in him and his promises, and therefore even suffer for his name and carry that cross – then life is yours, and not just life but eternal life. Try to do it yourself, you will die. But if Christ dies for you, you will live. In fact, his death and his cross are our only hope for life.

IV. Sent With Encouragement
When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples - the words earlier in the same chapter we read last week, as well as the words we read today – he was sending them out on a mission. Yet there is a wider application here as Jesus wasn’t JUST speaking to them. These words are for all of us.

We aren’t all apostles, pastors and preachers. But we all have a mission and a commission from God. We are not all called to public ministry, but we are to privately witness, and to serve God in whatever vocation we hold. Sometimes this is even harder. For as a preacher, I have a friendly audience Sunday after Sunday. But for you who live and move in the “real world”, being a Christian isn’t always so easy. And so hear these words of encouragement from Christ.

Sure, there will be hardships, persecution, sword and cross to bear. But there will be those who receive the message. There will be those who welcome the prophet. There will be those who show an openness and a hospitality. For them, and for us, there is a reward waiting. We could see ourselves on both sides of this equation. Sometimes we bear the message of Christ’s love to another. Sometimes we receive the message with appreciation. Either way, we are blessed with a reward.

Not a reward that we have earned. But a reward Christ has earned at His cross. This is the promise that encourages us in the face of swords and crosses. This is the hope that inspires us and the glory we press on to one day see. In comparison to the reward, all else seems a small thing. St Paul writes, “I consider that our present suffering are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).

So today, the Prince of Peace brings us a sword and a cross. And it’s not always easy. And sometimes we fail him. But in his own cross, we find true life. And by his grace we are forgiven when we fail, and empowered to carry on, and carry our own cross, for his sake. In his name. Amen.

V. Conclusion

The Gospel of Jesus brings peace and division, even in the family. But the cross is our only hope for life – and he encourages us as we follow him.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Local Clergy Association Strikes Again...

This was printed in Friday's local paper, under the column "Parson to Person", orchestrated by our local clergy association:

Ecumenical churches must shed gay discrimination
By Rev. Glen Halbe

Every day we awaken we should give praise to God for the rainbow of creation; the dazzling variety and diversity in our world and our lives. God's rainbow of hope is not one, two or three colors, but the entire spectrum of colors.

The peoples of the world reflect that wonderful diversity in hue of skin and mode of living. God's gift of thought and dreams is the highest and best among all creation.

We need only look at the circle of friends we each have to celebrate the wonderful variety of shapes, sizes and manners among us. Heinz 57 has nothing on us.

Just this past week, however, we were reminded of the time when our African American brothers and sisters were looked down upon as inferior and not worthy of the protection given the rest of Americans. Public lynching was common in the north and south regions of our nation. Black Americans lived every day with the humiliation of Jim Crow discriminatory laws in the south and practiced widely in the north.

Throughout it all the U.S. Senate failed to pass any laws making such discrimination and wanton murder federal crimes. Last week the august body finally officially apologized by unanimous vote.

During that long chapter of injustice in our nation many Christians were complicit in the oppression of our brothers and sisters of color. The doors of many of our white churches were closed to blacks. Many church school lessons and sermons rationalized slavery and discrimination using a few isolated verses from both the Common Covenant and the New Testament.

All is not what it should be in America in the pursuit of racial harmony. We can celebrate the progress made and determine to continue the pursuit of racial justice. The Senate's apology was a big step to that end.
I hope in the not too distant future state and federal legislatures will officially apologize to another minority group in our country for passing discriminatory laws against them. I refer to the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender community. I hope and pray those Christians complicit in those laws will repent as well.

Why is it that we celebrate the wonderful diversity in God's creation except when it comes to gender and sexuality? Just as some rationalized discrimination against African-Americans; so do many Christians with the GLBT folks. They pick and choose isolated scriptures in Leviticus and in the Pauline letters. They choose to ignore the same-sex love demonstrated by David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, as well as Jesus and the disciple he loved above all other disciples.

Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association determined way back in the 1970s that homosexuality is not mental illness. Just this year both organizations called for the recognition of civil unions or marriages for gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgender citizens.

Let us lift ourselves into the 21st century. The ecumenical church must come around to not just give lip service for the rights of the GLBT community, but to work for those rights.

That several ecumenical denominations still sanction discrimination within the church is sad. That the newly elevated pope in one of his first news interviews should encourage such discrimination is tragic. I confidently hope and pray for the day when universal apologies will be offered to our gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender brothers and sisters. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

Rev. Glen A. Halbe is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ and lives in Racine. Parson to Person is written by community religious leaders and coordinated by the Racine Clergy Association.

My terse response that follows was emailed to the paper the same day:

Jesus was not gay.

Once again "Parson to Person" misses the mark. Rev. Glen Halbe trots out the tired old charges that Christians who disapprove of homosexuality are discriminating. Then there's the overused and flawed comparison to racial injustice. Oh, and of course we are instructed in the many wonders of diversity.

But his "anything-goes" Christianity has to go even further to legitimize what scripture clearly says is immoral behavior. Rev. Halbe actually implies that David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and St. John and Jesus Christ himself were all homosexual couples! This is outrageous! If there is anyone in need of repentance, it is Rev. Halbe and all who would twist God's word to their own distorted view of morality. Is it really too much to ask that Christians follow the Bible?

Next month, Rev. Halbe's denomination, the UCC, will actually be voting on a measure to "declare Jesus Christ as Lord". Some are saying the resolution might not pass because of the high number of UCC clergy who don't even believe in God. Hopefully the UCC will open its Bible this time, and read what is clear, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" Philippians 2:10-11

Rev. Thomas Chryst
Grace Lutheran Church, Racine

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Death goes Eco-friendly

You should see this video, from Fox News.

With all the talk in the Lutheran Blogosphere lately about the merits/demerits of cremation, this story might pique some interest. It's about "natural" and "ecological" burial. Check out this post on The Burr in the Burgh, by the way, about why death is NOT natural.

So now the new-age, mother earth worshipping, eco-feminists can get buried in the way that testifies to THEIR religion. Or, that's one take on it....

And for all the naturalness of it, the internet gets involved too, so that you can log in and check out where your loved one is buried, and have a "virtual memorial" for them too. Is this strange or what?

Hymn - "What A Wretched Man Am I?"

What A Wretched Man Am I?

Tune: Jesus, Meine Zuversicht
(“Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense”
Hymn # 266 from Lutheran Worship)
Based on Romans 7:15-25

What a wretched man am I?
What great conflict churns within me?
For, the good that I would try,
Never, like the evil, easy.
Who can save this man at odds?
Only Christ. Thanks be to God!

With a mind that’s sanctified,
And a flesh of evil nature,
Though in Christ I’m purified,
I am still a sin-filled creature.
But my faith is no façade,
So, in Christ, thanks be to God!

In the flesh a slave to sin,
But, in faith, my mind knows better,
Trusting Jesus Christ will win,
And release me from sin’s fetters.
All the glory praise and laud,
And in Christ, thanks be to God!

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Flag Burning, or, Symbols Mean Things

Looks like the House of Representatives has voted to support an ammendment banning flag burning. While I won't comment on the pros/cons of this particular action. It does raise an important (though tangential) theological issue. That being that symbols mean things.

Take the symbol of the cross, for instance. Also something which is sometimes burned in protest or to make a statement. But more than that, and even in scripture, the cross stands for something - the sum total of what Jesus Christ, God's own Son has done for us.

Or take God's name (any of them). The reason the commandment forbids its misuse is because (I believe) profaning or misusing or de-valuing God's name (a symbol) is tantamount to doing the same to God himself.

I think there's even some application here for God's Word in and of itself. As a symbol of Him and of what He says and does. Or even Jesus Christ, the Living Word, himself the very image (symbol?) of God.

Well, I just thought I'd throw that out there. Not as well-researched and fleshed out as something you might see on Here We Stand. But maybe a new or deeper understanding for someone...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Book Tag

Guess I have been tagged too. Thanks, Burr in the Burgh. I was afraid this would happen.

Here's the game:

Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn't like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?

1. Funny: Junk English by Ken Smith Smith criticizes pernicious misuse and abuse of English words, especially in mass-media advertising. Quite funny.

2. Western Civilization: Modern Fascism by G.E. Veith. I am fascinated by the history of Hitler and Nazism, and Veith gives some good insight in to what made Fascism tick then, and why it may rear its head again in a modern context.

3. Western Civilization: The Freemasons : A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society by Jasper Ridley More scholarly. Less half-baked-crackpot-conspiracy theory.

4. Western Civilization: Pope Joan : A Novel by Donna Cross Historical fiction about a female pope. Apparently there is some evidence for this! Regardless the novel is interesting for its portrayal of everyday life in the Middle Ages.

5. Other: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. The prequel to the acclaimed "DaVinci Code", this novel reads much the same (fast-paced, plot twists). The setting, though, is the death of one pope and the conclave to elect the next. Some interesting insight into the process which has been in the news lately. Some neat art history in there too, albeit with Brown's conspiracy twist.

6. Other: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense by Suzette H. Elgin If you use the English language, this book can come in real handy.

7. Racking my brain over something regional. Here's the closest I can find.
Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist by Dan Barker. Ok, I can't really recommend this book except that it paints a truly sad picture of one man's descent into hard-core atheism. It also, for me, shows some of the dangers of modern Evangelical theology (which Barker came from). Made me glad I am a Lutheran. And I put it under regional because he lives in Madison, Wisconsin (not too far from here) and is associated with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based there.

Ok. I now tag: Sceleratissimus-lutheranus, Terrible Swede, and Cyberstones.

Monday, June 20, 2005

South Park Children's Message?

File under, "Internet Sermon Research: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly"
and "You've got to be kidding me!"

This is definitely ugly. Ran across the following children's message suggestion when I was researching Romans 6:1b-11. I often poke around the internet while researching texts for my sermon. Sometimes I find useful ideas or illustrations. The internet is a wonderful resource. Take Bul's Notes for example, or Scholia

Then sometimes you find something like this:

(from: THIS SITE)

I tried this out on Easter Sunday and it worked exceptionally well,
The children were brilliant and they were the ones who
really made this talk a success.I also issued a public health warning about South Park to the effect that the use of Kenny's experience was not an endorsement of the contents or language of the South Park programme!


I began by asking the children if they knew who the kid in the orange outfit is.
Having established who Kenny is, I then asked what happened to Kenny in every episode of South Park. Answer, he dies, often horribly. If the kids watch this cartoon series they will almost certainly be able to tell you with great enthusiasm a number of the more outrageous ways in which Kenny gets killed and also that the Christmas episode is the one time in the year when Kenny gets to stay alive past the final credits.

We established that Kenny's role in this series is to die and then come back to life again in time for the next episode. It is a never ending cycle in the programme which is destined to keep on happening for as long as the series runs. But today, on Easter Sunday, we remember Jesus, who died horribly on a cross on Good Friday but miraculously came back to life again on the first
Easter Sunday as the conqueror of death. The good news is that having died once for our sins he will never die again because his conquest over sin and death is forever. "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God." [Romans 6:9,10]

1. I've heard of some bad children's messages, but HOLY SMOKES!
2. I am NOT a big fan of South Park, though I have seen the show. However I find the "disclaimer" here is a joke.
3. Didn't I read something somewhere about everything in God's house being done "reverently and in good order"? What's reverent about South Park?

Hymn - "Shall We Go On With Our Sinning?"

"Shall We Go On With Our Sinning?"
(Hymn #415 “All Depends on Our Possessing” from LW)
Based on Romans 6:1b-11

Shall we go on with our sinning?
No, we have a new beginning.
For in Christ we’ve been baptized.
We are therefore with him buried,
Dead to all the sins we carried,
So in his new life we rise.

We, in Christ, are recreated,
From sin’s slav’ry liberated,
Our old self is crucified.
By this mystical connection,
We join in his resurrection,
For with Christ we’re unified.

Jesus Christ who lives forever,
Died but once, and now shall never,
Die again; he lives on high.
Death had mastery, but no longer,
For our Jesus is much stronger,
And in Him, we are alive.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Sermon - Pentecost 5A - Romans 5:12-15

5th Sunday after Pentecost – June 19th, 2005
Romans 5:12-15
“Gift vs. Trespass”

I. Introduction – A happy Fathers’ day to everyone. I am sure many of you have plans to do something special with or for Dad today. Many of us will be enjoying our family time together. Whether you are a dad, or you are with dad today, or even if your father has long since gone, it’s a good day to remember the blessings God has given through our fathers.

As a relatively new father myself, I now see fatherhood somewhat differently than I used to. For one, I see myself turning into my father (which has its good and bad points). But I also see the effect I have on my children. When my words are repeated by a little mouth – well, that has its good and bad points too.

In Romans today, we are appropriately reminded that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Paul draws our attention to our earliest fore-father, Adam. He shows us the dubious inheritance that comes from the first man to each of us, his earthly descendants. But Paul also points out the contrast between the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus Christ. What a contrast, today, as we learn that “the gift is not like the trespass!”

II. The Universal Effect of Adam’s Sin
To rightly understand ourselves, we must understand where we come from. Each of us has a heritage that is important in forming our identity. Some are Danish, Norwegian or German. Or maybe you are like me, a “mutt”. Maybe you were raised Catholic and married into the Lutheran church, maybe you were born and bred, raised and fed on Lutheran potluck jello-molds and potato salads. Understanding where you come from is a big part of knowing who you are today.

But as far as Paul would be concerned here, we are all in the same boat on the question of where we come from. We are all descendants of Adam. We all live in the world that was put in Adam’s charge. And we are all inheritors of Adam’s sin, and death. Though Adam was created in the image of God, as Genesis tells the generations after Adam, it makes it clear that these children and children’s children were brought forth in Adam’s own (meaning, now sinful) image.

You might wonder at this point, “what about Eve?”. Well, remember she too, came from Adam. But more importantly, Adam, as the head of the household, had the responsibility for his family. As the husband, he was to be the leader, protector, and provider. And in those responsibilities he failed. So too do many modern fathers follow in his footsteps, failing in our responsibilities as head of the household – failing to show the Christ-like leadership and love for our spouse and children. The father should be the example and encourager for the family to attend worship, for example. All too often, however, these things seem to fall to mom – if they happen at all. For these failures we fathers must repent!

But Adam also stands as representative of all humankind in charge of creation.
The corruption of Adam and Eve had repercussions on all of creation – from the mosquitoes to the whales, from forests and mountains to the stars in the galaxies – all creation is touched by the sin of Adam. And along with sin comes death and decay, disease and disaster. What an inheritance, right?

The thing is, no one escapes this. Paul shows that even before the 10 commandments and the rest of the covenant was given – even without the rules written down – we know there was still sin in the world because death reigned. And now, even after the law is written, we still find ourselves born into the sin and the death of Adam. It is inescapable, unavoidable, and completely predictable. Nobody is perfect. Everybody is a sinner. Like Father, like son and daughter. It’s the universal effect of Adam’s trespass.

And that means you and me too. Just as Adam was a trespasser, going where he shouldn’t have gone, we too trespass God’s laws in our sin. And it’s not like we are born perfect and eventually become corrupted through life in this world. No, we are conceived in sin, born into it, and thoroughly reeking with it. It has become such a part of us that we can’t really see outside of it, or imagine what it’s like to not be sinful. This is how hopeless our condition is.

We may not think it fair that God would hold us in some way responsible for the sin of one man, Adam. That because of what he did, we inherit sin, we fall under God’s judgment and wrath. It just doesn’t seem fair. But that is how it is. Not that we don’t add our own sins to the equation…

And there is only one place that sin leads – to the grave. Paul says it well, because of Adam “death reigned” – like a king on his throne, to whom we all must eventually bow.

III. The Universal Effect of Christ’s Grace
The only antidote to the sin and death of the one man Adam, is the death and forgiveness of the one man Jesus Christ. He brings a gift that is not like the trespass. What Christ gives is so different, so opposite to that which we receive from Adam.
Sure, there are some similarities, but they soon give way to great contrast. Both Adam and Jesus Christ - the only two men -ever- not to have an earthly father. In both cases, one man has universal effects. Adam’s sin affects everyone who is ever born. But Jesus’ gift is better – it is for everyone who ever was or will be born.

Adam’s sin changes the entire creation – corrupting it.
But Jesus makes us a new creation – and promises a new heaven and new earth.

On account of Adam’s sin, the ground is cursed with thistles and thorns.
Jesus is made a curse, and wears a crown of thorns for Adam’s sin and ours.

Adam’s bride, Eve, is taken out of Him.
Christ’s bride, the church, is taken into Him.

Sinful Adam dies because of his own sin.
Sinless Jesus dies for the world’s sin.

Adam disobeyed God’s only command to him.
Christ obeyed the entire law perfectly.

Adam ate from the tree and derailed human history.
Jesus hung from the tree and set us back on course for eternity.

Adam was expelled from the garden of paradise.
But Christ is preparing mansions for us in heaven.

Adam hid in fear of God, knowing he was naked.
In Christ, we need not fear God, for we are clothed in his righteousness.

What Adam had lost, Christ restored.
What Adam had polluted, Christ purified.
Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded.
Where Adam brings death, Christ brings life.

Oh yes, death – reigning as a king in the world because of Adam’s sin.
But Jesus, the real king - His death throws death off its throne. He casts death into the lake of fire – never to be heard from again. In that garden tomb, that empty Easter grave – death meets its death. When Jesus rises victorious.

This is the gift Christ brings- grace, mercy, peace – life in the face of death – forgiveness in the face of sin. The gift which is not like the trespass.

Maybe you will be giving dad a gift today for Fathers day. Maybe its something original like a tie. But today we have all received a gift – one that far exceeds what we’ve inherited from our first father. For in Jesus Christ we have been made children of God. Now his Heavenly Father is our Father. And in Jesus Christ, all blessings are ours. The gift is greater than the trespass. In His Name. Amen.

IV. Conclusion
Our first father, Adam, brought sin into the world, and with it death for all his descendants. But in contrast to Adam, Christ brought his gift of grace, and by his own death, restored us to life. What a contrast. What a gift.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Another good article by Gene Edward Veith

Fathers - GO TO CHURCH!

According to a Swiss study, cited by Rev. Paul McCain's "Cyberbrethren",

A father's church attendance (or lack thereof) has profound effects on the church attendance of the next generation. These statistics astounded me. Here's an excerpt from the findings:

Father’s Influence

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Teri Schaivo Autopsy

I won't say too much about this except to draw your attention to Rev. Stiegemeyer's blog. He has a nice collection of articles, excerpts and summaries of what this all means. Check it out at:

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Famous Atheists

Found this interesting website, which lists famous atheists, agnostics, and those who are "apparently skeptical of theism or religion -- need more info"

Under the atheist list, some names that you may know:

Woody Allen, Lance Armstrong, Issac Asimov, Dave Barry, Bjork, Marlon Brando, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, George Carlin, Fidel Castro, Rodney Dangerfield, Phil Donahue, Roger Ebert, (Dr.) Dean Edell, Albert Einstein, Larry Flynt, Jodie Foster, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Gates, Katharine Hepburn, Billy Joel, Angelina Jolie, Diane Keaton, Bruce Lee, Julianne Moore, Ron Reagan Jr., Keanu Reeves, Andy Rooney, Salman Rushdie, George Soros, Howard Stern, Annika Sörenstam...

Just to name a few.

Some surprises, some not.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hymn - "Help Us, Jesus, Not To Fear Them,"

Help Us, Jesus, Not To Fear Them,
Tune: Austria
(“Glorious Things of You Are Spoken”
Hymn # 294 from Lutheran Worship)
Based on Matthew 10:24-33

Help us, Jesus, not to fear them,
Who would ridicule your name.
They who cast aspersions on you,
And would do to us the same.
Is a servant oe’r his master?
But the student does aspire,
To be ever like his teacher,
Like the one whom he admires.

Help us, Jesus, not to fear them,
Who our bodies seek to kill.
Rather make us rightly reverent,
Of the One who saves from Hell.
For what you have told in secret,
For what once was so concealed,
You would have us shout from rooftops,
That your mercy is revealed.

Help us, Jesus, not to fear then,
For the sparrows though they fall,
God the Father knows each of them.
How much more does God know all,
Those who fear him, and in Jesus,
Whose eternal life is spared?
If our very hairs are numbered,
We can surely trust your care.

Help us, Jesus, to acknowledge,
You as Lord before all men,
You as Savior, You who suffered,
You who died for us and then,
Rose forever, now ascended,
Seated with the Lord on high.
Then according to your promise,
Tell your Father, “These are mine!”

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sermon - Pentecost 4 - Exodus 19:2-8a

4th Sunday after Pentecost – June 12th, 2005
Exodus 19:2-8a

“Instructions at Sinai”

I. Introduction –
Moses and the people of Israel had arrived at Mt. Sinai. And as Moses had climbed the mountain for his “summit” meeting with Yahweh, we can only imagine what was running through his mind. Perhaps one of the things Moses was wondering was, “NOW WHAT?” . Moses found himself as the leader of this newly independent nation of some 600,000 adult men (plus women and children). They too, were certainly struggling with uncertainty. What would the future hold, what would happen today? So maybe Moses wondered what he would say to them. How would he encourage them? What message could he bring? Remember this was Moses who told God he has “never been eloquent” and “I am slow of speech and tongue”.

As a preacher, I can relate. Often I wonder what my sermon will be about this week. What can I say that will “get people’s attention” or “make a difference in your life”. Will it be helpful? I hope so. What should I say this week? Ultimately my questions must always find their answer in the word of God. For as your pastor, I am wasting your time if I am not making clear, proclaiming, and encouraging you with God’s word. My words are of little value. God’s word is a priceless treasure.

If Moses wondered what he should preach about, God certainly answered. He gave Moses clear instructions for the people. We will find instruction in those same words today. God reminded them of the past, encouraged them in the present, and promised them a future. So he does for us.

II. “You Saw What I Did Then”
God was good to the Israelites in the past. He had done wonders. “You saw what I did in Egypt” The Nile turned to blood, the plague of frogs, of gnats, of flies, of livestock, the boils, the hail, the locusts, the darkness – and finally, the death of all the firstborn sons – except for those that were passed over. “You saw what I did in Egypt” would include all of that and more – as here at Mt. Sinai the people had probably not yet cleaned off the mud from their sandals after passing through the divinely-parted Red sea. Time and again, over and over, God had been good to the Israelites – bringing punishment on their enemies, and keeping them safe and sound.

If you think about it, God has been good to you, too. He has worked wonders in your life – maybe not as spectacular, but no less important.
Your birth, your baptism, your Christian education – through these and more God has blessed you. Through every danger and problem and storm and trouble – through all the crises in life – God has been with you. He might even say, “You saw what I did – in YOUR life”. But then again, there are surely numerous ways God has worked for you and in you – that you may not even see. That’s how gracious and loving he has been to each of us.

Even before we were born, God was preparing our salvation. Most specifically, thousands of years before – in the person of His Son, Jesus. As we retell and rehearse the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Christ – we see what God did then – for all of us. And we can see how good he has been.

III. “Trust Me Now”
Though it may be easy to look at our past with a certain degree of nostalgia, My guess is your life isn’t perfect now. Most people have an “issue” or two. I saw a girl in the store the other day with a T-shirt that said just that, “I have issues”. I think we all have “issues”. Maybe something happening to you. Or some temptation or sin you’re struggling with. A problem in the family, a conflict in the workplace. It may be the accumulation of little things, or one big, glaring problem. Whatever the case, however you see it, no one’s life is trouble-free in this sinful world.

For the Israelites, their problems were also in the here and now. They needed help just to survive. God was about to take them on a 40 year vacation in the desert of Sinai. But this would be no picnic. There were real concerns for where they would get even food and water. It wasn’t going to be easy. They would complain. Even thinking that going back to slavery in Egypt was a good idea. “At least there, we had food”.

But God says, trust me. “NOW. Obey my covenant.”

We hear the “obey” and we think “follow the rules”. But the real idea here is not one of sinless perfection by fulfilling every jot and tittle of some legal agreement. God is asking for their trust. He is calling the Israelites to faith. He will feed them, give them drink. He will make sure their clothing lasts. He will provide for their present, physical needs. But also the spiritual!

He will work through this covenantal system – the sacrifices, the festivals, the priests and the tabernacle – he will work through these to show the people his grace, mercy and love. He will work through these to show them forgiveness. He will work through these to point them forward to the coming messiah.

God calls us to trust him in the present, too. It’s why we worship on a regular, weekly, basis. It’s why we have come today – to hear God’s word to us right now – to receive Christ’s body and blood in the present tense. God is the God of yesterday, but also of today!

Some people accuse us Christians, especially faithful, bible-believing, Christ proclaiming, traditional Lutherans that we are – some accuse us of being irrelevant. That the church doesn’t speak to people’s needs today. That we aren’t current, or “with it”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no more pressing need for the present than the forgiveness won by Jesus Christ at the cross. Jesus is ALWAYS relevant. Christ is ALWAYS current. Styles, fashions, language, music, tastes in food and all sorts of cultural preferences will change. But the basic problems of sin and death are always the same. And so is the solution. Jesus. It is his constant changeless grace that makes him so relevant.

IV. “You Will Be Special”
So God’s wonders are seen in our past. And his love is seen in our present. But what about the future? God has plans there too.

For the Israelites, their future included a multitude of promises – “you will be my treasured possession… you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. They were also promised a land, divine protection, abundant harvests, and many descendants. On all these promises God eventually delivered. God always keeps his promises.

And then of course his greatest promise to them, or we could say, the root promise of all the other promises, was fulfilled on a lonely night in Bethlehem when God’s own son was born. It was fulfilled further on a lonely hill outside Jerusalem where God’s own son was crucified. It was fulfilled when God raised his Son and our Savior from the grave. To the Israelites this was the future. To us it’s the past, but also the future. For the resurrection of Christ guarantees our resurrection too! Because he lives, we will live. He has gone to the Father, but promised to return for us. He will grant us mansions in heaven, the crown of life, and eternity in his presence.

In fact, all of God’s promises to his ancient people apply to us, in Christ. In Christ, we are a treasured possession of God. Because of Christ’s precious blood shed for us, God holds us dear. In Christ, we are a kingdom of priests – royal in the promised reign with him – priestly in that we need no other mediator than our high priest, Jesus. Our priestly sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving - Christ has made acceptable to God.

And we are a holy nation. Not a nation of one ethnicity or of mere geographic borders, but the church, the holy people of God, with Christ as our eternal head – we are special to God. Not in ourselves, but in Christ our savior. We are the new Israel, by faith not lineage. And our future is in His good hands.

You know, it might be nice to be like Moses. To be able to just go right up to God and find out what you need to know – to get your instruction from the source. (Personally, I wouldn’t mind it if he wrote my sermon for me every week). But really, we have that same instruction in the words of Holy Scripture. Even here in Exodus, as we read God’s instructions at Sinai, we know they are for us too. For like the Israelites, our past, present and future all depend on him and his son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In his name, Amen.

V. Conclusion
God speaks words of instruction to the Israelites at Sinai. Drawing on the past, calling in the present, and promising the future – God deals with the ancient Israelites and with us, by His grace in Jesus Christ. Our past, present and future are always with Him.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Not just Gays - Abortion too - ELCA church leaving

One congregation (Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Columbus, Nebraska) recently voted to leave the ELCA. Their story is chronicled here.

I can understand WHY they are going. I wondered WHERE they are going. LCMC it seems.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Love and Scientology

Now, I am no ga-ga fan of Hollywood stars, and take only a passing notice of the latest "high-profile romances". But apparently I am in the minority, or at least the MSM thinks so. For weeks now, we have been subjected to gossip and coverage about the latest such couple: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ("Tomkat", as they have been called). So what?

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I saw an interesting spot on the couple and on Ms. Holmes' openness to (involvement in) Tom Cruise's cult - Scientology. I don't recall exactly what she said, but it was very positive about the group.

Anyway it made me do some digging and I found THIS interesting article on how Tom's involvement in the cult has affected his movie career.

Here are some more resources on Scientology:

Official Scientology Home Page

Tom Cruise believing in spaceships is not acting

WELS Q & A on Scientology (1)

WELS Q & A on Scientology (2)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Local ELCA Gay Vote

Local synod backs ordination of homosexual pastors
Resolution will go to national ELCA assembly in August

Posted: June 4, 2005
The Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution at its annual meeting Saturday recommending the Churchwide Assembly "permit gay and lesbian candidates in committed relationships to be considered for ordination on the same basis as other candidates."


Amid what is a contentious resolution, Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers said it was important to maintain unity within the church.

"We are committed to remaining united even amid our differences, recognizing our center is not on our opinions but rather it is in Christ," he said.

The recommendation is one of up to 65 that are expected to be delivered to the Churchwide Assembly, which in August will consider whether to bless same-sex unions and whether to allow homosexuals to serve as rostered leaders - pastors, associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.

Discussion since late 1990s
The issue of homosexual unions and pastors has been discussed by the Greater Milwaukee Synod since the late 1990s. Homosexual issues have also been the subjects of intense debate by other denominations and were controversial in the most recent presidential election.

Nearly 20 synods are holding regional meetings this weekend, and it is unclear how many other synods have passed similar memorials, said John Brooks, a national spokesman for the ELCA, whose headquarters are in Chicago.

But, Brooks said, it is not unusual for the Greater Milwaukee Synod to pass such a resolution.

"The (Greater) Milwaukee Synod has a history of tending to be liberal on these matters," Brooks said. "The same has tended to be true historically in other metro areas."

3 components
The resolution components that will be recommended to the Churchwide Assembly are as follows:

• That individual congregations be allowed to disagree about whether to accept homosexual members and pastors.

• That homosexuals in committed relationships be allowed to serve as rostered leaders.

• That individual congregations be allowed to decide whether to bless committed same-sex unions.

The recommendation for the ordination of practicing homosexuals passed by a vote of 177-120.

The other two resolution components passed by such magnitude that votes were not counted.

Pastor Jennifer Thomas, 32, of Lake Park Lutheran Church on the east side of Milwaukee, said she was pleased with the results. "I believe the Gospel of Christ calls us to fully include everyone in the church. Homosexuality is not a sin," Thomas said.

But Pastor Jay Thorson, 45, of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Hubertus, disagreed with the vote. "Homosexual sexual behavior is a sin," he said. "I see the entire Bible as the inspired word of God. (Ordination of homosexuals) violates our understanding of the use of Scripture."

Two-thirds vote needed
For the Churchwide Assembly to revise national ELCA policies, two-thirds of the 1,100 voting delegates would have to approve a change.

The ELCA has 96,000 baptized members and 141 congregations in the Greater Milwaukee Synod, making it one of the largest Christian denominations in the area, second only to the Catholic Church.

Nationwide and in the Caribbean, the ELCA has 5 million baptized members and 11,000 congregations.

Hymn - “Our Teaching, Healing, Lord”

“Our Teaching, Healing, Lord”
Tune: St. Michael
(“The Man is Ever Blessed”
Hymn # 388 from Lutheran Worship)
based on Matthew 9:35-10:8

Our teaching, healing, Lord,
With such good news to share,
By word and deed compassion showed,
You proved how much you care.

“How helpless and harassed
How shepherd-less the sheep,
The harvest great, the workers few,
I send you now to reap.”

“To heal those with disease,
Authority I give-
To Cast out demons, cleanse the ill,
To make the dead to live”

“But more than all of this,
Go preach into their ear,
The good news that I bring to all-
Heav’n’s kingdom is come near”

In you the kingdom comes,
In your cross we are healed,
In empty tomb your powr’ shown forth,
Authority revealed.

For your dear shepherds, Lord,
And for their message, true,
We thank and praise your holy name,
All glory be to you.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Received this recent communique'. Sounds like an interesting idea to me.

Introducing the Alliance of Evangelical Lutheran Laypeople (AELLP)
An Alliance of Evangelical Lutheran Lay People has been formed to
inform, educate and encourage fellow Evangelical Lutherans regarding
issues of concern in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).

In order to accomplish this purpose, lay people will write about the
major issues in the church, striving to be factual rather than
expressing personal opinions. Each month, articles will be published
in our AELLP Newsletter, which will be e-mailed to congregations. An
e-mail list of lay people who wish to receive the newsletter and other
communications has also been created. Anyone interested in being
placed on the e-mail list may sign up on our website at There will also be links to related materials.

Our hope is that Pastors will share these newsletters with their
congregations through church bulletins or inclusion with church
newsletters. We also hope that laity will sign up for AELLP mailing
lists so that they might read, learn, and share the information with
fellow members of the Body of Christ, especially their Pastors (who
might not know of the AELLP yet).

In addition to our newsletters the AELLP will host Confessional
Lutheran Forums in order to discuss topics of concern within the
Missouri Synod in more detail. We will be recording these forums and
making the audio recordings available online through Lutheran
Conversations ( so that those unable
to attend can benefit from what was discussed.

Please visit our website at in order to sign up for
our mailing lists. While there, you can view information on our
upcoming forums, as well as past forums that have been held. We have
also provided what we hope is a solid list of Confessional Lutheran
links for further enrichment.

In Christ,

The Alliance of Evangelical Lutheran Lay People

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Gay Adoption: Bad Idea.

Interesting article here:

an excerpt:

Among children raised by same-sex couples, the report notes a significant increase in low self-esteem, stress, confusion regarding sexual identity, an increase in mental illness, drug use, promiscuity, STD's, and homosexual behavior, among others. Furthermore, the report shows that statistics have brought to light the fact that same-sex relationships betray a much higher instance of separation and break-up than heterosexual relationships, increasing the likelihood that the child will experience familial instability.