Thursday, July 28, 2005

Polygamy and Jihaad

An interesting article with a hypothesis about the connection between terrorism in Islam and the practice of polygamy (multiple wives).

While I don't agree with the evolutionary framework or the suggestion at the end, the idea that "polygamy creates dysfunctional societies" certainly makes sense to my biblically-informed worldview.

God made marriage for good reason(s!). When you mess with what God made, bad things happen....

Issues Etc. Program on Blogging

Issues, Etc. (at KFUO.ORG) Wednesday, July, 27 has a program on blogging, with guests Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer and Sandra Ostapowich.

You can download and listen to it for free!

God in State Constitutions

I have recently read the CPH published book, "The Anonymous God" edited by David Adams and Ken Schurb (that's the Amazon link, the CPH link is here). A colleciton of writings mulling the topic of "civil religion", it was helpful in understanding where we have been, as well as where we are when it comes to the intersection of "government and God" in the U.S.

Here is an interesting article which pertains to the topic. While the article seeks to prove America is a Christian nation by citing references to God in state constitutions, it is an "anonymous God", for I failed to notice any references to JESUS CHRIST therein. For your information:

Here's the article.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sermon - Matthew 13:44-52 - "You are the Treasure!"

10th Sunday after Pentecost – July 24th, 2005
Matthew 13:44-52
“You are the Treasure!”

I. Introduction –
Pretend with me for a moment that it is the day of your death. The doctors have told you that there is nothing more they can do. Your family stands around your bedside helpless to prevent your death from coming. It no longer matters how much money you have, how expensive your house is or the kind of car that you drive. Your education and your job are now meaningless and now you have only a past with no future. But as you lay there in bed a song from childhood keeps going through your mind: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

Now pretend with me again. Jesus has returned to judge the living and the dead….and now you stand before him and see him with your own eyes. And as you stand before him you fully understand why he is the most valuable treasure you have in all of life for your eternal destiny of eternal life or eternal damnation will be sealed. For Jesus says: “The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Part of our joy is knowing that we will not be thrown into that fiery furnace of damnation. We will live, and by his grace alone, attain heaven’s riches. At that moment, nothing – NOTHING – else will matter, nothing but our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Today Jesus tells us one of those “kingdom parables”. What is the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God like? He answered this question many ways. Today we will focus on the two short kingdom parables – the hidden treasure, and the fine pearl. We will consider questions of ultimate value. And we will be reminded of what (who) is truly priceless, and how.

II. What’s it Worth to You?
I think we’ve all seen those mastercard commercials, which list off the price of several things – gas for the car, $40 – airline tickets, $200 – Spending a tropical weekend vacation with the family – priceless! “Some things in life are priceless, for everything else, there is mastercard”. It’s not a bad series of commercials, I think, because it makes us think about what is truly valuable in life.

Take the man in this first parable, who found the hidden treasure in the field. That treasure, what was it? A stash of gold? Some ancient artifacts? Precious jewels? Doesn’t matter, this is a parable. The point is it was SO valuable, that he HAD to have it. He sold all that he had – his total net worth – exchanged it for the field (and that treasure), and presumably, ended up a very wealthy man.

Likewise the merchant looking for pearls. He knows value when he sees it. The perfect shape, the right color. And size counts too. When he finds that one diamond in the rough, that pearl of great value, he liquidates his portfolio to get his hands on the precious jewel.

Now, one interpretation we could draw here, is that very simply, the kingdom of God is of ultimate value. That, being a follower of Jesus, having faith in him, being baptized, receiving the sacrament, hearing his word – that these things together are more important than ANYTHING else. Our faith – which holds onto God’s grace in Christ - our greatest treasure. God is #1 most important. Amen. Great. We can all go home now, right? Wait just a minute.

I don’t know about you, but if we take this meaning of the parable, we are left with something other than a warm fuzzy feeling. This interpretation makes me think, “If God’s kingdom is worth more than anything, even all my possessions, how come I don’t act like it is?”

In other words, “how come I don’t pray all that much? How come I don’t give more and more joyfully to support God’s work? How come I don’t love God above all else? How come I take God for granted so often and so easily? How come I can’t even love my neighbor as myself? Am I taking the treasure for granted? Am I dragging the gift through the mud?”

Well, to the “how come’s”, we could answer, “because you are a sinner”. And to the, “Am I messing up’s” we could answer, “yes”.

Does our sin ultimately disqualify us for the treasure? Does our failure to appreciate the treasure make us ineligible? Will we stand before the throne of God’s judgment empty-handed, because we didn’t sell all our possessions in service of him? No.

III. What You are Worth to God.

There’s another way of looking at these 2 parables. Instead of thinking of the treasure hunter as YOU, think of him as GOD. Instead of you being the merchant, think of GOD going through the marketplace. Now the story is different. Now the treasure hidden in the field is – YOU and ME! Now the pearl of great price is – the sinner who becomes a child of God?

And what does God “sell” to make his purchase? Better question, who? Jesus. Jesus, his only son. His greatest treasure, to make us his treasured possessions.

Jesus paid a price too. He too gave all he had, to make us his own.
Luther put it this way in the Small Catechism:

“He has purchased and won me from all sin death and the power of the devil, not with silver or gold, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death…That I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

Now, certainly, we have no value of our own. We are not worthy or valuable except in that God loved us so. We bring nothing to the table, no value, no merit, no worth. Scripture says the best we can offer God is as filthy rags. Yuck, who wants them?

But God sees us, even in our sin, as treasures – great pearls – worth even the life and suffering and death of his own Son. And there at the cross of Jesus he makes us into the treasures that shine with heaven’s brightness forever. What are you worth to God? Everything.

IV. Eternal Salvation: Priceless!

What would you pay for a dream vacation? Thousands of dollars? What about the best luxury car on the market? Hundreds of thousands? What about eternal salvation: priceless!

You see, with our first understanding of the parable, we could never have the kingdom anyway. Nothing we can do, nothing we can earn, nothing we can give up for the kingdom of God will buy our way into heaven. Only Jesus can pay the price. Even if we did, literally, sell everything we had and donate it to Grace Lutheran Church, and go live in Calcutta serving the poor and the lepers, it still isn’t enough. We would still be lost, if we didn’t have Jesus.

But Christ has paid the price and bought us back, our value to God depends on HIM not on US. This is why we can rest assured knowing the treasure of God’s kingdom is ours forever. Because Jesus put it on HIS tab, and there is no credit limit there. His grace will never be declined. His mercy will never go bankrupt. His love will never be repossessed. His promises are more than FDIC insured – they are eternally trustworthy and true.

What a great treasure we have in these parables of Christ. They illustrate the great value of belonging to his kingdom, and I believe even more, the great value that God places on us by paying the ultimate price for us at the cross. May we always treasure Him who has treasured us so. In the precious, precious, name of Jesus, Amen.

V. Conclusion
The parables of the Hidden Treasure and Fine Pearl are not only about how valuable the kingdom is to the believer. They also show how valuable we are to God – who would send his only Son to die – that we might be his.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hymn - "In Christ, The Love of God Is Sure"

In Christ, The Love Of God Is Sure
Tune: Magdalen
(“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”
Hymn # 368 from Lutheran Worship)
Based on Romans 8:35-39

In Christ, the Love of God is sure,
In Christ, we ever rest secure,
Though facing death the whole day long,
We sing the conqueror’s vict’ry song:
In Christ the love of God is found,
In Christ, to God we’re ever bound.

No trouble sore, no hardship drear,
No persecution need we fear,
No peril, famine, want nor sword,
Can sever us from Christ our Lord,
In Christ the Love of God we know,
That love which conquers every foe.

Not life nor death, nor spirit pow’rs
Not present times nor future hours,
No lowly depth nor airy height,
No threat brought on by earthly might,
Nor other thing in all the world
Can break God’s love in Christ our Lord.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Dare To Be Lutheran: Evaluation

Daring in St. Louis

My first time attending the Higher Things Youth Conference was this July. We gathered in St. Louis, my former place of residence while attending seminary. Some 1500 or so attendees (mostly youth, of course) joined us. And it was hot. Really, really, hot.

We arrived just in time to register and get a seat for opening worship, which was held in the college church (of St. Francis Xavier). What a beautiful gothic building this was! Nice and cool too. This very ornate, formal, echo-friendly chamber would serve as the setting for most of the conference chapel services. The choice of an excellent venue was as signal of what type of worship would take place there.

The liturgical excellence of the conference worship was seen in the leaders’ great attention to detail. While purposely formal, the pastors who preached and performed the liturgy modeled a solemnity and seriousness that served to focus one on the event, and lent a tone that was wonderfully reverent. The preaching was also top-notch: Christ-centered, Law-and-Gospel, while still reaching the hearers and capturing the elusive teenage attention. Highlights included:

Pastor Cwirla who reminded us that we are Yitzak (Issac), with the dagger, the sword of Damocles, the Law of God hanging over our heads. Christ is the ram, the lamb of God who takes our place and is fastened to the altar (the cross), burned in the fire of God’s wrath for us.

Pastor Steigemeyer’s powerful story of a Nigerian woman who converted from Islam, and suffered beatings and torture for her infant faith, at the hands of her own family...

Pastor Woodring’s wonderfully short, “How dare you?” sermon. Law and Gospel in a distilled form…

And Pastor Baue ROCKED when he stuck it to the pope in his own house! Have you ever heard a sermon in a Roman Catholic church, where the preacher said we are MORE catholic than the pope? Where the preacher DARED THE POPE to BE LUTHERAN??? I now have. Nice connection with the church bell too (the bell in St. Francis Xavier church was sold to the Jesuits by the Saxon immigrants who formed the LCMS - they brought it over with them from Germany. Neat, neat, factoid that was wonderfully woven into the sermon)

Plenary sessions…

I found the plenary sectionals mostly helpful. Pastor Klement Preus reminded us what “one little word can fell him” (the devil). The word is, “liar!”.

Pastor William Weedon, got us to think about our congregations as colonies of the future. What a neat concept. He also read a really intriguing definition of the church from an anonymous letter written in the early second century. Where can I get a copy of that?

Dr. John Kleinig, from Australia, I found a little difficult to follow at times, perhaps because of the “language barrier”. But his message about being a secret agent for Christ and the humorous story to illustrate were well received.

Professor Rast was good too – a great historian is a great story-teller, and Dr. Rast told a memorable one about how his great-grandfather came to America, became a Lutheran, and made the good confession.


What a variety to choose from! If I ever wanted to clone myself… I ended up hopping between sectionals, and caught most of some of them. However I missed all of most of them. Some of interest:

Pastor Steigemeyer’s in-depth look at Christianity in Fantasy and Fiction (literature and film). Much of this I saw coming because I am an avid reader of his blog, but it was still very good stuff.

Dr. Alvin Schmidt’s look at Islam, it’s history, it’s teachings. Dr. Schmidt painted a disturbing picture of the religion of Muhammed and makes a strong case that Islam is NOT a religion of peace.

Rev. Todd Wilken, host of Issues Etc… radio program, hosted a sectional on UFO’s. His basic point – that if we think about the topic with reason informed by scripture, we must conclude “space aliens” do not exist, but that we humans are the crown of God’s creation. Rev. Wilken and I had a quick chat afterwards about the movie “Enemy Mine” which we agreed was the only one we knew of that even approached this topic (what religion aliens would be or have).

Mollie Ziegler’s straight-talking style was applied to the idea of being “in the world, but not of it”. Ms. Ziegler does pretty well for a self described, “someone who is not theologically trained”. My kids enjoyed her session at my recommendation, too.

Pastor Zill, a campus pastor, told an interesting story about a young woman who (having no religious background) went church-shopping on his campus. After sampling many of the other offerings, she settled on Zill’s Lutheran church, because only there did she “feel awkward”. Other places made her feel SO welcome, but at the Lutheran church she was uncomfortable. She took that to mean that she found a place with integrity, where she had something to learn, and eventually was baptized and confirmed.

Other sessions I missed out on, but sounded interesting:

“What to Do When Bored in Church”

“The Truth About Cutting”

“How to Talk to Evangelicals”

“Christian Rock: Dare we Applaud?”

“When Home is the Wilderness”

“Mormonism Exposed”

And many more.

I have to also say that I found this group of kids to be better behaved and more respectful than other large groups of, yes, even Lutheran youth I have been with. I think much of that goes to the tone of the event, which was set early. Leaders made it known that worship is worship, study is study, and fun is fun. I like this distinction, and it seems that the Higher Things group achieves each purpose both separately, and well. Worship was taken seriously, and the reception of the Lord’s Supper was the focal point, or climax of the entire conference (as it should be).

Knowing full well that this conference was being offered as somewhat of an alternative to the “official” synodical type of gathering, I was slightly unsure of what to expect when I arrived. I was, and still am, uncomfortable with much of the way our LCMS typically handles youth conferences, and so I felt some sympathy with the HT group. However, I was afraid I would hear bad-mouthing and criticism of those “other” youth gatherings.

To their credit, I heard no one associated with this event bashing on any other. The tone of the entire thing was very positive, uplifting, and just made me even more proud to be Lutheran. Hopefully the youth resonated with this too. Actions speak louder than words, here, I think. And the best approach seems to be just to do things well, and let the conference speak for itself.

Overall, as I told one pastor, this is the kind of youth gathering I want my OWN children to attend some day.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Too Late

Hey, all. Having a great time at the Higher Things "DARE TO BE LUTHERAN" conference (see previous post). Wish you were here, unless you already are!

While checking my email and the news stories of the day, I ran across the following article regarding the ELCA. It uses the allusion to Jesus' words, "A house divided against itself cannot stand..."

I find another biblical text to be applicable here, from Daniel 5,

5 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote....25 "This is the inscription that was written:
Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin

Here's the ELCA article:

Conservative Lutherans Tell ELCA 'Not to Divide Our House'

Leaders of Solid Rock Lutherans, Inc., a large reform movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has announced their movement's strong opposition to ELCA proposals that would allow the ordination of gays and lesbians in same-sex relationships and open the door to blessing such relationships.

Solid Rock Lutherans, Inc. is an umbrella organization for groups and individuals who oppose drastic change in the ELCA's standards for sexual conduct and ordination.

Pastor Paull Spring, former bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA and chairman of Solid Rock Lutherans compared what is happening in the ELCA to similar events in the Episcopal Church (USA). "We've already seen the damage caused to the Episcopal Church by their approval of one openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as a bishop," Spring said. "This action has led to a loss of membership and giving and has strained and fractured the worldwide Anglican Communion.

"I am deeply concerned for the future of my church. The ELCA is considering truly radical proposals to allow the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals and bless same-sex unions. These proposals have no basis in scripture and will, I'm afraid, wreak havoc within the church I love."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dare To Be Lutheran

We are off, as of Tuesday (tomorrow) morning, to St. Louis for the Higher Things conference, "Dare To Be Lutheran".

This is the first HT conference I will attend, and I am looking forward to see how it compares to the national youth gatherings hosted by our synod. So far, I am fairly impressed with this organization, the magazine, and their expressed approach to "youth ministry".

I know some other Lutheran bloggers will be there, and I look forward to meeting you. I will also try to give an evaluation of the conference here on the blog once I return.

If you are interested in finding out more about Higher Things, of course you can go here, to their website.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner?

I hate this phrase. "Hate the sin and love the sinner". God does not do this. It simply aint in the book.

Rather, we read: Psalm 5:4-6 (New International Version)

4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell.

5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all who do wrong.

6 You destroy those who tell lies;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
the LORD abhors.

Apparently God hates the sin AND the sinner. This is his justice, his righteousness.

So then how do we square this with John 3:16? "For God so loved the world..." (assuming the world is full of those who "do wrong").

The answer, my friends, is found in the paradox of Law and Gospel. The Lord who hates sins AND sinners also LOVES sinners - so much that he sends his own Son to save us. This is a deep mystery.

But God will not angrily send people's SINS to hell. He will send sinners. He does not separate sins from sinners except in Christ. So, I suppose for the Christian, our little catch phrase might apply better - but I am always wary of this type of sound-byte theology. Too much wiggle room here for false theology.

Hymn - "Predestined, Oh, What Comfort Here"

Predestined, Oh, What Comfort Here
Tune: O Jesu Christe, Wahres Licht
(Hymn # 314 from Lutheran Worship
“O Christ, Our Light, O Radiance True”)
Based on Romans 8:28-30

Predestined, oh, what comfort here,
To know you Lord, who calms our fear,
Who works for good for all who love,
Him who reigns, thron’d, in heav’n above.

Called by your Spirit, in your word,
There in our hearts, true faith is stirred.
Make us like Christ; our lives conform.
Sanctify, strengthen and reform.

Justified by the blood of Christ
What precious treasure, pearl of price.
There at the cross, your love complete.
There in your son, we are redeemed.

Glorified, yet, with glory to come,
When, in your time, we reach our home.
When heaven’s gates are opened wide,
With you forever, to reside.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Diabetes, Burns, Circumcision, Stem Cells?

My wife saw this story on the nightly news, and I googled it. Sounds like a rather unusual, but perfectly ethical use of stem cells. Notice, no human beings are destroyed in the process...

Foot wounds dangerous to diabetics
Monday, July 04, 2005
By Kathleen Longcore
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- Dennis Rogers is still trying to heal a foot burned by hot grease last Thanksgiving when he was taking the turkey out of the oven while in his stocking feet.

For most people, a burn like his would have healed in a month. But Rogers, 54, is diabetic, and he still has an open sore on his right foot.

Foot and leg wounds that don't heal are dangerous complications of diabetes that can lead to infection and amputations, said Dr. Richard Hodgson, a wound care specialist at Spectrum Health. However, they are common, with about 2.5 million people in the United States suffering from a chronic unhealed foot or leg wound.

[and later in the article]

Rogers, a Greenville father of 10, said two stays in the Spectrum Blodgett burn unit included grafts of skin from his thigh. But these didn't heal.

Now a different kind of skin graft at Spectrum's wound care center is helping.

Grafts he's getting weekly for eight weeks came from stem cells from the foreskin of a circumcised infant. Produced by a Florida-based firm, Smith and Nephew Inc., the grafts use cells called fibroblasts that are rich in growth factors. They are cultured on fine material that is laid over the wound like a skin substitute.

Cells on the graft Hodgson placed on Rogers' foot this week will become part of his system and help him heal.

Novartis is another company using these stem cell building blocks to make substitute skin for grafts. The two companies, wary of protests from anti-circumcision and anti-stem cell groups, stress they are using noncontroversial stem cells from what was medical waste.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lutheran Clergy, Politics, and Blogging

I would like to have a discussion on the appropriateness of Lutheran Clergy making political comments/observations in the form of a blog. I have been thinking about this for some time, as it is the convergence of three topics I find very interesting personally.

To the current time, I have chosen NOT to make political comments (I mean national, secular politics, etc..) in the context of my blog. I understand that as a private citizen I am free to participate in the left hand kingdom. But as a pastor, functioning in the right hand kingdom, I think it would be inappropriate for me to speak of politics in a public fashion. (Just to be clear, I do think that moral issues are fair game - even those that overlap into the realm of politics - like abortion, euthanasia, etc...)

I know some Christian clergy have no qualms about political endorsements and electioneering, even inviting candidates to take the pulpit. I expect that most Lutheran clergy, especially of the LCMS and more conservative stripes, would not do something like this.

But how one expresses political leanings "privately" is another matter. Is a bumper sticker acceptable? A lawn sign?

I wouldn't use a bumper sticker, but I did use a lawn sign. Actually, my wife said it was "on her half of the lawn" if anyone asked. I also attended a rally by a politician, but I didn't see this as an public endorsement as much as "going to see a famous person".

When it comes to blogging, I think it is inappropriate for a Lutheran clergyperson to make endorsements. To me, blogging is a public endeavor. If I were to blog about my political thoughts I think it could cause problems in my calling and work as a pastor, but more importantly it seems a confusion of the 2 kingdoms.

Now, I am particularly interested in hearing from clergy on this. I don't have a problem with Lutheran laity expressing such thoughts on a blog, as they don't have the "entanglements" of the office.

Bob Waters, if you are reading this, in particular. I would like to hear from you on this, as you will be re-entering the ranks of "called and ordained..." shortly. How do you see the role of the blog in the RH/LH kingdom distinction of Lutheran clergy?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Song Tag

Will this never end? What next, movie tag? Pet tag? Food tag? Favorite color tag?

Ok, Ok, Ok. I will play along. Pastor Stiegemeyer smacked a tag on me, and I respect that. So here goes:

My "probably best song ever" candidates:

- "A Mighty Fortress" (had to throw in a hymn here)

- "One" by U2. Actually, most songs by U2.

- "For the Beauty of the Earth" by John Rutter (composer)

- "Anna Godda Da Vida" (sp?) by Iron Butterfly. Especially the drum solo.

- "Heaven" Los Lonely Boys

- "Traffic" by Techno-Dj Tiesto

- "Rain King" by Counting Crows. Actually, most songs by them.

- "Played A-Live" (The "Bongo" Song) by Safari Duo

Is that enough?

I TAG: Bob Waters, Tim the Enchanter, and Disgruntled World Citizen

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hymn - "Lord, Holy Spirit, Pray For Us"

Lord, Holy Spirit, Pray For Us
Tune: Erhalt Uns, Herr
(“Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word”
Hymn # 334 from Lutheran Worship)
Based on Romans 8:26-27

Lord, Holy Spirit, pray for us
With groans that words cannot express
For, we, not knowing what to pray
Trust you to know what best to say.

Lord, Holy Spirit, pray for us
Your called and holy temples bless,
That in accord with God’s own will
Our lives with heaven’s blessings fill.

Lord, Holy Spirit, pray for us
As by your power we confess
When God does search our heart and mind
Then his own Spirit he will find.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Redneck Church

This came to me via Grace member Bill Kindschy. Thanks, Bill. Very funny.

You Know Your Church Is A Redneck Church if
... The finance committee refuses to provide funds for the purchase of
a chandelier because none of the members knows how to play one.
... People ask, when they learn that Jesus fed the 5000, whether the
two fish were bass or catfish, and what bait was used to catch 'em.
... When the pastor says, "I'd like to ask Bubba to help take up the
offering," five guys and two women stand up.
... Opening day of deer season is recognized as an official church
... A member of the church requests to be buried in his 4-wheel-drive
truck because "It ain't never been in a hole it couldn't get out of."
(Love it!)
... The choir is known as the "OK Chorale".
... In a congregation of 500 members, there are only seven last names
in the church directory.
... Baptism is referred to as branding".
... High notes on the organ set the dogs on the floor to howling.
... People think "rapture" is what you get when you lift something too
... The baptismal pool is a #2 galvanized washtub.
... The collection plates are really hub caps from a '56 Chevy.
... Instead of a bell, you are called to service by a duck call.
... The minister and his wife drive matching pickup trucks.
... The communion wine is Boone's Farm "Tickled Pink".
... "Thou shalt not covet" applies to hunting dogs,
... The final words of the benediction are, "Y'all come back now!! Ya

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Logical Fallacy Hate-Mail

After my recent letter in the local paper refuting the UCC pastor who supports homosexuality, I expected to get the usual hate-mail response. Today it came, and it actually made me laugh out loud.

A card, actually, which read on the cover, "What Jesus Said About Homosexuality". When you open the card, the inside is blank.

So, if I am to understand this right, if Jesus didn't speak directly against it, then it's ok, right? Then we must also list as acceptable moral beahviors:

-child abuse
-money laundering
-insider trading
-voter fraud
-impersonating a police officer
-domestic violence

Well, I suppose I could do this all day.

Too bad these anonymous opponents of mine don't have the courage to engage in a civil discussion of the matter. But then when your position lacks substance - it's hard to do that, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hymn - “Sowing Seeds of Kingdom Teaching”

“Sowing Seeds of Kingdom Teaching”
Tune: O Durchbrecher
(“Hail, O Source of Every Blessing” LW #84)
Based on Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Sowing seeds of kingdom teaching,
Our Lord taught the crowds that day,
From a boat began his preaching,
Jesus Christ sat down to say,
“Once a farmer, his seed sowing,
Cast his handfuls all about,
Then the seed began its growing,
All in various soils to sprout,”

“Some seed fell on trodden places,
And the birds snatched it away,
Some seed fell in rocky spaces,
And survived for just a day,
Some seed fell where thorns had rooted,
Soon those plants were choked by weeds,
Some seed fell in soil that suited,
This seed would produce indeed.”

“Hear the meaning of the sowing,
Of my parable take heed,
For the message now I’m showing:
God’s word is the kingdom’s seed.
Some the message, when receiving,
Hardened hearts make hardened soil,
On a path far from believing,
Satan comes, their faith to foil.”

“Some, who hear the kingdom’s calling,
Joyful at the first are found,
But when trouble comes they’re falling,
Scorched and withered to the ground.
When the roots of faith are shallow,
Persecution has its way.
Such a field will be made fallow.
Such a man will fall away.”

“Like the seeds by weeds surrounded,
Some choked by the cares of life,
Duped by wealth, by worries hounded,
These plants will succumb to strife.
But there are those who receive it,
When the seed falls on good land.
They who by God’s grace believe it,
They the word will understand.”

Lord, we pray your word would flourish,
By your Spirit, fruit produce.
Always may it save and nourish,
Never its success reduce.
Make us all be fruitful for you.
May our lives be sanctified,
That in faith we so adore you,
Whose word makes us justified.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sermon - Pentecost 7 - Matthew 11:25-30

7th Sunday after Pentecost
July 3rd, 2005
Matthew 11:25-30
“Rest for the Weary”

I. Introduction –

As we celebrate this holiday weekend, I hope you have a chance to get some rest. Rest isn’t always easy to get, you know.

A man had been driving all night and by morning was still far from his destination. He decided to stop at the next city he came to, and parked somewhere quiet so he could get an hour or two of sleep. As luck would have it, the quiet place he chose happened to be on one of the city's major jogging routes. No sooner had he settled back to snooze when there came a knocking on his window. He looked out and saw a jogger running in place.


"Excuse me, sir," the jogger said, "do you have the time?" The man looked at the car clock and answered, "8:15". The jogger said thanks and left. The man settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window and another jogger.

"Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?"


The jogger said thanks and left. Now the man could see other joggers passing by and he knew it was only a matter of time before another one disturbed him. To avoid the problem, he got out a pen and paper and put a sign in his window saying, "I do not know the time!" Once again he settled back to sleep. He was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window.

"Sir, sir? It's 8:45!."

Today we hear from Jesus, who offers rest to his people. More than just a snooze or a catnap, Jesus brings rest for the soul!

II. Weary and Burdened

Why do we need this rest? Because we are weary and burdened.

We are weary – tired – exhausted. Life is hard. We need rest. We work hard to raise children. We work hard to earn a living. We work hard to get things done in life. But no matter how hard we work, we can’t avoid hardships. We can’t have the perfect life. The curse on Adam and Eve goes further than just thorns in the soil, and pain in childbirth. We are keenly aware of what it means to live in a world tainted by sin and sorrow and suffering. And it gets old sometimes. Life makes us weary. Sometimes physically. Sometimes spiritually.

We get tired, worn out, impatient. We cry out with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”

Add to that, our burden. We are burdened with a yoke of sin. A yoke is a more primitive farming implement – a bar of wood laid across the shoulders of the oxen which plow the fields for the farmer. A yoke is heavy. An ox can handle it, but for a human to shoulder a yoke would be rather difficult. Such is our yoke of sin. It is a burden.

Sometimes we are particularly burdened by a particular sin. Something that is troubling you, maybe, that nags at your conscience. Something that you really, really, really, wish you hadn’t done. Something that you keep reliving in your mind, wishing you could change what you said or did. Something that you wonder, just sometimes, whether God can really forgive – even this sin?! It’s a burden. Like carrying around a wooden beam on your shoulders. Only, you are not strong enough to bear it.

III. Rest for your Souls

When Jesus invites all who are weary and burdened, it is a universal appeal. He offers rest, and he says, “take my yoke upon you”.

But Jesus brings a differed yoke – a yoke that is not a burden – in fact, rather than weighing us down, it lifts us up!

He never tired of doing God’s will for us. His body grew tired, and he slept, true man that he was. But only he had the spiritual stamina to endure all temptations, to fulfill the entire law, and live perfectly on our behalf. Only he was “strong as an ox” when it came to bearing the burden – not of his sin for he had none – but of our sin. The sins of the world.

No Jesus doesn’t literally bear the yoke of oxen. But he does carry the heavy beam of the cross. And there he was nailed, and from there he was hung, and on that heavy beam he suffered the punishment we deserve. On the cross. That’s really our yoke, our burden, that he bears.

And he gives us his yoke – an easy one, a lightweight yoke. In fact it weighs nothing at all. It is a yoke which actually lifts us up, carries us, even into heaven. It is a yoke of grace, mercy and peace. It is a yoke of unconditional love and forgiveness. It is an unburdening load, which takes away not just some, but ALL of our sins – even those we find unforgivable. God forgives. And in Christ, we find rest.

In the Old Testament, we hear a lot about the day of rest, the Sabbath day. It was originally on Saturday, and the word Sabbath is related to seventh – the day of creation on which God rested. After all the work of creating light, land and sea, fish, birds, land animals, and human beings – God decided to take a break. But it’s not because he was over-exerted, mind you. As with everything God does, he does it for his people. “Man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for Man” Jesus said.

Jesus got in some trouble from time to time on the day of rest. He was breaking the man-made rules, working and healing on this holy day. But the Pharisees did not approve. They rather seemed to enjoy the burden of their rules and rituals, dotting the i’s an crossing the t’s. If you ask me, keeping all those regulations on the day of rest seems like a lot of work. Not very restful.

But Jesus set them straight. For he, after all, is Lord of the Sabbath. He is our rest. He removes our burden. When God created our world, he did so knowing he would one day send his Son to redeem it. So Colossians tells us that festivals and Sabbaths were “a shadow of the things…to come” and that “the reality, however, is found in Christ”.

In other words, Jesus Christ, Lord of the Sabbath, is our Sabbath rest. No longer a day of the week. But now a person. We find our best and truest rest in him – rest for the soul.

Even if the 10 commandments are not found in a courtroom, they are still remembered among us. And the 3rd one, to remember the Sabbath day, is still in effect. Only now, not on Saturday only – but on Sunday in honor of Christ’s resurrection – on at any time in any place where Christians gather around God’s word. Anywhere the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners is made known.

Whatever the words, however it is expressed, Jesus’ invitation is the same and it is still in effect, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Every time we gather for worship we hear his word proclaimed, and we are rejuvenated. We remember his promise each time we recall our baptism, and know our guilt is washed away. We receive rest, recuperation, rehabilitation, and more – when we kneel at his altar and our load of sin is lifted.

For the Lord of the Sabbath has come to give rest. Rest from our sins, rest for our souls. He came to bear our burden, and suffer our cross. And he gives us a yoke of his own, easy and light. May we find our rest always in Him. Rest for the soul, in Jesus Christ, Amen.

We all get a little burned out once in a while. When sin and its consequences become a burden, we have only to turn to Jesus. What we receive from him gives true rest for the soul.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

$2,000 Sermon

recipients were announced June 30th, 2005. The annual award recognizes and promotes outstanding achievement in effective Christian preaching. It is one of the Acton Institute's many programs designed to assist future religious leaders in developing an understanding of the relationship between morality and the marketplace.
This year’s Homiletics Award included entrants from more than 47 different seminaries and universities. Contestants were asked to prepare and preach a sermon targeted toward a group of corporate executives at a weekend retreat. This year, participants preached a sermon based on James 5:1-6 "The Warning to Rich Oppressors"

Here's the $2,000 winning sermon that I wouldn't pay a dime for.

Jesus mentioned twice by name in the whole thing, neither time to say what he has done for us. And this from a "Lutheran" seminary student?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Jesus Was Not Gay.

Today appeared my recent letter to the editor of our local paper, the Racine Journal-Times. You can read the column I was responding to, as well as my letter here.

You can also read what some have said in response to my piece, here, at the paper's own blog site.