Thursday, March 31, 2005

LCMS to ELCA - "Don't Go There!"

The link below is the LCMS response to the recent ELCA recommendations regarding Human Sexuality (read: Homosexuality) in the church.

You will recall that the ELCA study group recently recommended, in effect, the "local option" for congregations. In other words, "Let's not change the rules, let's just agree not to enforce them".

If adopted at this summer's ELCA churchwide convention, it would be an ominous (though not entirely surprising) step further away from God's truth for the ELCA.

The tone of the report from Rev. Kieschnick (and others) is slightly more collegial and "soft" than I would have used. But nonetheless, they do address the issues at hand and state clearly where we differ with the ELCA.

We will certainly watch these developments very closely.

Here's the link...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Unmanning the Bible"

Interesting article from Rev. McCain's Blog...

Click Here to Read...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Hymn - "Peace Be With You, Jesus Said"



"Peace be with you! Jesus said,"
Tune: Song 13
(LW # 256 "Yours Forever, God of Love")

Peace be with you! Jesus said,
Risen now, no longer dead,
To the locked room, He came in,
Gave the keys to unlock sin.

Thomas, who had gone away,
Did not see the Lord that day.
Then returning, heard the word,
"Brother, we have seen the Lord!"

"Proof I need, is that so much?
If my hands His wounds could touch -
If my eyes do not perceive,
I will surely not believe."

Jesus came in just a week,
Thomas, now, the Lord would seek,
"Touch my wounds, my scars now see,
Stop your doubting. Trust in me!"

"Blessed Thomas, seeing now,
Trust in me, your faith avow,
But more bless'd are those by faith,
Trusting in me, and my grace."

As we touch You in the meal,
Bearing our baptismal seal,
Peace receiving in your word,
We confess You, God and Lord.


© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sermon - Easter Sunday - Colossians 3:1-4




Easter Sunday Sermon
“Three Truths of Easter”
Colossians 3:1-4
March 27th, 2005


Introduction:
CHRIST IS RISEN! (HE IS RISEN INDEED) ALELLUIA!

What a blessing to be gathered here on this holy day. Our mourning turned to laughter, or sorrow to joy, our tears give way to singing. For Christ who once was slain has now been raised to life. The tomb is empty, and He lives forever! It is Easter. And CHRIST IS RISEN!

There is an air of excitement today. As our music turns festive, the chancel is full of flowers, the Alelluias have returned. Easter is the high point of life in the church year. But what does it all mean?

A Sunday School teacher asked her class to write one sentence each on "What Easter Means to Me." One pupil wrote: "Easter means - Egg salad sandwiches for the next two weeks!"... We know there is more.
There’s a cause for all the excitement today. Jesus Christ risen from the dead. And the reason that’s exciting is what it means for us.

One of my favorite stories is about a young preacher who had just arrived at a congregation. He was giving his first sermon there, and he began, “Today’s sermon is entitled, ‘What you can expect from your new pastor?” and my sermon answers this question with 3 points. What can you expect from your new pastor? 1) not much. 2) more of the same. 3) 3-point sermons.”

Today, a three point sermon is in order. For there are three important meanings, three important truths to Easter.

Colossians explains that we have been raised with Christ, that Christ is now with God, and that when Christ appears – we will be with him in Glory. Taken in the context of all the Bible tells us about Easter, we can see here 3 reasons that Easter is so important. 3 Things that Easter Means:

YOU CAN BELIEVE WHAT JESUS SAYS
Peter found out the hard way, that you can always believe what Jesus says.
”No, No, I won’t every deny you Lord. I would DIE FIRST” But Jesus predicted, and so it happened. But with the cockadoodledoo – Peter chickened out – and denied Jesus just as he said he would.


John had also heard the many predictions of Jesus – including the number of times Jesus spoke of his coming death AND RESURRECTION. So when they met Mary early in the morning, and she was running, perhaps out of breath, “they… have taken… the Lord… out of the tomb… and we can’t find him!” Perhaps something flashed in John’s mind. And maybe he and Peter looked at each other as both recalled the prediction, “The Son of man will be crucified, and after three days rise again”. Could it be true?

And so they ran. The raced each other to the tomb and found it deserted. The burial cloths, neatly folded - not what you would expect of a grave-robber. And there in the absence of Christ, there at the barely used grave, John saw and believed.

You can always believe what Jesus says. In this world people will lie to you. They will tell you what you want to hear, what will get you to buy the product. They will exaggerate or minimize, as suits the purpose. Even people who mean well break promises. But you can always trust what Jesus says.

What does he say to us? Much the same as he said long ago – Repent, for the kingdom is near. Son your sins are forgiven. Woman, go and sin no more. He who believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.

And we know he means what he says, and will do it. Even something as outrageous as bringing us back from the grave – we know he can do it, because he already did it himself. You can believe what Jesus says.

GOD THE FATHER ACCEPTS THE SACRIFICE
The second meaning of the resurrection is that God the Father accepts Jesus’ sacrifice.

When Jesus died on the cross, it may have seemed like God the Father was angry with him or disapproved of him in some way. And that is true! God did pour out his wrath on Jesus, who was made sin and a curse for us.

But there’s more to the story. Jesus also did at the cross what we couldn’t do, can’t do. He satisfied God’s anger. He paid the price. He bore the punishment. And Easter shows that God’s anger at sin is put away. When God raises his Son from the dead, and says, “well done, good and faithful servant,” That’s not just good news for Jesus – it’s great news for us too!

Why? Because only through Jesus can we approach God. Only because of Jesus are we acceptable to God. Having Jesus as a Savior is “Having friends in high places”. In fact, as Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God, we have a friend in the highest place of all. We know that our advocate, our mediator, our go-between with the Father is worthy. Because God accepted his sacrifice on Friday and raised him to life on Sunday.

WE ARE RAISED WITH CHRIST
Finally, Easter means resurrection – not just for Jesus, but for us too!
Our text says, “We are raised with Christ”.

Or as I have said so often, “His resurrection IS our resurrection!”

It is said that possums are smart animals. You wouldn’t think so because you hardly ever see one except when it’s dead on the road. There’s a joke that goes, “why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done!” But possums, it turns out, are smart. They won’t enter a hole if there’s just one set of tracks going into it. They know there’s something in there. But if there are two sets of tracks. The possum will enter and not be afraid. The message of Easter is that we can enter the grave - we don’t have to fear death because there are tracks leading out of the tomb.

Earlier in Colossians, Jesus is called the “Firstborn among the dead”. But he’s not the only one. Just the first. Others will follow. You and I and all believers in Christ will have our own Easter. We too will rise from the dead, to live forever. When Christ returns and the trumpet call of God sounds, scripture tells us the dead in Christ will rise.

All Christians know that when we die, we go to heaven. But Christians often forget the promise of God is not just for eternal life in the spirit. Our BODY AND SOUL will live with him forever. Job said, “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God!” That’s why Easter is so important. Christ shows us what to expect. He goes from death to life again – to guarantee us the same.

Do you feel the excitement of Easter? More importantly, do you see the meaning? Did you catch the three points? Easter means, You can believe what Jesus says. Easter means, God the Father accepted his sacrifice. Easter means – We are raised with Christ! Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed – Alelluia). Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sermon - Good Friday - John 19:28-30



Good Friday Sermon
“So Much to Say”John 19:28-30
March 25, 2005

So much could be said about this holiest Friday, and that Friday long ago we remember now. We will focus our attention on John’s account of it, chapter 19, verses 28-30. We will focus on what John had to say about what Jesus had to say. The last words of our Lord.

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I Thirst’…

Jesus had said much already. Much had happened. Predictions came true, prophecies were fulfilled. The betrayer, the soldiers, the trials, the questioning, the desertion, the denial.

The striking. The spitting. The crown of thorns, the rod, the flogging, the crowds calling for blood, the freeing of Barabbas, the sentence on Jesus, the washing of hands, the stripping of his clothes, carrying the cross, stumbling, finally the nails – hammered in, one by one, his hands, his feet. Then raised up to hang – to be seen by all, to be mocked by many – to suffer. To die.

“Father forgive them” he cried. “Woman, here is your son”. “Today, you will be with me in paradise”. “MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

The sun grew dark. The earth shook. The temple curtain split. Tombs broke open. Dead people walked about.

Through it all, Jesus remained in control. He knew what had to happen, he knew what he needed to do. Now in order to fulfill the scripture, he spoke again, “I thirst”.

The Psalmist had written long ago, “They put gall in my food, and gave me vinegar for my thirst” and “my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”

For his part, Jesus’ body had lost fluids. Blood, from the beatings and flogging, sweat from the stresses to his body beginning in Gethsemane, and continuing up the road to Calvary and even here hanging on the tree.

“A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.”

This was the second drink offered to Jesus. The first was a wine drugged with something to deaden the pain. This he had refused. He would endure the full measure of suffering for us.

The second drink, which He now accepts moments before His death, is described as a wine vinegar. Two points are important to note. The drink was given on the "stalk of a hyssop plant". Remember that these events occurred at the Feast of the Passover. During this feast, hyssop was used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the wooden doorposts of the Jews.

It is interesting that the end of this hyssop stalk pointed to the blood of the Perfect Lamb which was applied to the wooden cross for the salvation of all mankind..

In addition, the wine vinegar is a product of fermentation, which is made from grape juice and yeast. The word literally means "that which is soured" and is related to the Hebrew term for "that which is leavened" . Yeast or leaven, is a Biblical symbol of sin. When Jesus took this drink, (i.e. a drink which was "leavened") it is thus symbolic of His taking the sins of the world into His body.

But there is another reason he must drink now. He had something else to say, and just as a preacher might drink water during a transition or before making an important point. Jesus was now prepared to make a declaration. He wet his lips so as to be ready to speak, one last time:

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘IT IS FINISHED’. With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”

What are the most important words you have said in your life? “I Do”? “I Love You”? “I do so intend, with the help of God”? or something else?

Many people think of someone’s last words as holding special significance. What might your last words be? Maybe words of love to family members. Maybe a thoughtful piece of advice to those left behind. Or maybe our last words will be something mundane and common, like, “what’s for breakfast?”

Here we have Jesus’ last words. And of all the important, all the meaningful, all the loving words he ever spoke. Perhaps – Perhaps these words were the most important of all. “IT IS FINISHED”. Of all the last words spoken by any dying person, these must be pre-emminent. In fact, one could argue, that in the entire history of the created universe, these words hold the most weight, the most lasting significance – they could be the greatest words ever spoken. His dying words, which give us life. A declaration, not to anyone but to everyone – to all creation, to God the Father himself – that IT IS FINISHED!

As if to say, “My work here is done. My perfect life of obedience to the law – finished. My suffering and death at the hands of wicked and cruel men – finished. My bearing the sins of the entire world, and enduring the wrath and anger of God on behalf of all mankind – FINISHED.”

“Death, you are defeated. Hell, you hold no more fear. Satan, you serpent, now is the day of your undoing. For here in my moment of my deepest suffering and pain, here in the shame of death, here at the last moment of the last hour with my last breath I declare – that YOU are finished. The prophecy is fulfilled. My heel is bruised. Your head is crushed.”

When he says, “It is finished” Jesus sums up the entire significance of his work for us – from cradle to grave – and declares it complete.

And then, Jesus died. But he didn’t “just die”. He didn’t finally lose, his life wasn’t stripped from him – he “gave up his spirit”. In accord with his earlier explanation, “No one takes my life from me but I give it up freely.” And so he committed his spirit into God’s hands. And died. His declaration made, our debt paid. And all was quiet.

They would take him down. They would dress him for burial. And they would place his body in the tomb. Darkness and silence would shroud him there… but the light was coming. The dawn would arrive. The Son would soon rise.

On this Good Friday, we meditate on the Lord Jesus Christ, once crucified for our sins, and the sins of the world. He had so much to say. As we remember his last words before death, we thank God for what Christ has done – and said, for us. It Is Finished. And we await the Easter dawn.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2005

You're kidding, right?

from:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,150968,00.html

Underwear. It can say "I'm sexy." It can say "I'm confident." But can it say "I'm waiting for marriage?"

That's what Yvette Thomas is banking on. Her growing line of clothing, WaitWear, plasters slogans like "Virginity Lane: Exit When Married" and "Notice: No Trespassing On This Property. My Father Is Watching" on underwear and T-shirts, and is meant to inspire young people to abstain from sex until they tie the knot...

(for the rest of this story follow the link above).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sermon - Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

Palm/Passion Sunday – March 20th, 2005
Matthew 21, Matthew 27, Revelation 7
“Shouting Crowds”

I. Introduction –
This Sunday is unusual, in that it has two names. First, commonly, called “Palm Sunday”, it marks one week before Easter, and we remember the day when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to inaugurate Holy Week. But because it is also the last Sunday before Easter, it has also been called the Sunday of the Passion. The idea is, that on this Sunday, we would recall ALL the events of Holy Week, and of Christ’s Passion, including (and especially) Good Friday. You might say then that this Sunday has sort of a split personality. Trying to fit all this in, can make us feel a little bit crowded. Crowds…. Hmm.

It’s also common on this Sunday to point out the 2 crowds we meet in the 2 events. The crowd of Palm Sunday, and the crowd of Good Friday. In fact Pastor Poppe used this contrast just this past Wednesday, as we listened to the voice of “the shouting mob”. We’ll revisit some of that today, but also go a bit further, and in a slightly different direction. We’ll also see a third crowd.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of crowds. Even a few too many people in the elevator bugs me a little. I’ve never understood those people who go to Times’ Square, New York for the New Year’s celebration every year. Or amusement parks with long, long lines – cranky kids and crabby adults – I just don’t really like crowds. People bump into you, you have to wait, they slow you down – and on top of it all, they can be loud! The crowds we see today are loud – shouting, even – but it’s more than noise.

One final note about the Passion of our Lord, and that is that as we read the account, it is full of (what I call) prophetic irony – people speaking the truth of God in spite of themselves… Like the Chief Priest who said it was better that one man should die for the whole nation. Like Pilate, who wrote that Jesus was, indeed, a King. Like the Chief Priests who reminded Pilate that Jesus intended to rise from the dead… And then, there are the crowds.

So picture with me today 3 shouting crowds. 3 large groups of people, with loud voices and different messages. But taken together, they preach a sermon. Unknowingly, in spite of themselves, the crowds bring us a message on this crowded Sunday. They shout: Hosanna!, Crucify!, Salvation is done!

II. The Palm Sunday Crowd – “Hosanna!”
The crowds…shouted…’Hosanna to the Son of David’!
–Matt 21:9


The electricity in the air – the arrival of the Messiah
Long expected, Long awaited, could this be the one?
His miracles spoke for themselves. He healed, he fed, he even raised the dead! He had quite a following, and his teaching had its own authority.
Rumors may have spread about his lineage – descended from David, born in Bethlehem. Look – he’s riding a donkey, just like David and his sons did. It’s a sign of peace – not a horse of war – could he bring us such peace? Could he be the one? The Messiah, the Savior?

“Save us!” they shouted, “Hosanna!”. They knew they needed a savior. But they didn’t know from what. They waved their palm branches. They knew they were oppressed, but they didn’t know by whom. They spread their coats before him. It wasn’t the Roman tyrants, but Sin and Death were the real enemies. And Jesus would indeed save. He was David’s Son and David’s Lord.

How many Christians today get caught up in the shouting, the singing, the praising, and forget the cause of our joy? Not just that God is powerful and righteous and holy – though all that is true. But it means nothing to us if He is not our Savior! HOSANNA! SAVE US! Save us from our sins, Lord, Save us from the wages of our sin. Save us from guilt for our iniquities. And rescue us from death and hell. Let us join our voices with those of the Jerusalem crowd. SAVE US! HOSANNA!

They knew Why Jesus had come – to save them. They just didn’t know how he would do it.


III. The Good Friday Mob – “Crucify!”
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd…
They shouted all the louder, “Crucify Him!” –Matt. 27:20,23


Then, another crowd. A crowd that has gathered early to see a spectacle – a trial. Perhaps some of the same people waving palms a few days before, perhaps not. Either way, they too become a part of the plan, unknowingly, perhaps. They too serve a purpose, speak a message, teach a truth. That truth is just this – Jesus must die.

It may have seemed to all of Jesus’ disciples that his arrest, trial, suffering and execution were a terrible miscarriage of justice, but in reality is was God demonstrating his own justice. They might have thought this was all terrible misfortune, but there is purpose here. God is in control, directing the events. Jesus went willingly, to his arrest, to trial, to death. Even the call of the crowd would mean nothing had he not permitted their riotous threats to sway Pilate.

And what about that crowd? Stirred up by the enemies of Christ. Were they paid? Were they trying to earn the favor of their leaders, or just star-struck by those influential priests and holy men? Were they simply a bunch of bored travelers seeking some excitement while away from home- and who doesn’t like to see a blasphemer get his come-up’ns?

Or were these some, maybe many, of the Hosanna crowd – who were perhaps impatient or disappointed with the “supposed” Messiah. He wasn’t doing any saving. He wasn’t over-throwing the Romans – in fact, they had him in custody. Perhaps they felt betrayed, or let down by a false Messiah – and in vengeance called for his death.

Don’t we sometimes become impatient, frustrated with God – for not being the kind of savior we desire in any given situation? We know we can turn to him for help – but when that help doesn’t seem to come, or at least the way and in the time we want it – do we turn on Him just as easily?

Whatever the motives of the crowd – vengeance, boredom, currying the favor of the Jewish leaders – whatever their agenda or agendas – their cry was prophetic. They participated in the pre-ordained plan of God for the salvation of all. In spite of themselves, they called for the one thing that was needed. Blood. The blood of Christ.
They even said, “His blood be on us and on our children” How ironic. How prophetic. They meant it as a statement to take long-term responsibility for the death of one man. But his blood on us, and on our children, is the only thing that removes from us the responsibility of our sins – and of an eternal death sentence.

Crucifixion was the worst death imaginable in that day, and perhaps even since then. But by it, Jesus saves us from a death beyond imagination. He saves not just us, but the world – all the crowds of history – born and yet unborn, by his blood.

The “Crucify” crowd knew how Jesus would die – by crucifixion. They just didn’t know why.

IV. A Great Multitude –“Salvation!”
A great multitude that no one could count…wearing white robes, and holding palm branches…cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God…and to the Lamb”
-Rev. 7:9,10


Pastor Poppe pointed out on Wednesday how sometimes we are a part of both the “Hosanna” and the “Crucify” crowds. And it’s true. But of all the crowds gathered in scripture I could think of only one other that shouted. It’s not part of the Passion week narrative, or any other passage we might hear in church this time of year – unless, that is, we are at a funeral.

Revelation 7, a passage often used in the Order of Christian Burial – speaks of this other shouting crowd. A large group, a “Great Multitude” of white-robed people. They too, waving palms, like the Hosanna crowd. They too, well aware of the blood and death of the Lamb. And they too, a crowd of which we are a part!

John sees them as part of his vision, a crowd so great that “no one could count”. They come “From every tribe, nation, people and language”. Someone asks John who they are, but John doesn’t. Then John is told, “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!” In other words, this crowd is the church. All believers in Christ from all times, all places and races, all gathered before the throne of God in heaven. The crowd, that by our baptism and in accordance with our faith – includes you and me!

And that crowd in heaven shouts, cries out, sings – with a loud voice. They complete the sermon of the three crowds by proclaiming, that “Salvation belongs to our God… and to the Lamb!” It is an accomplished fact. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world, the Lamb who once was slain, but who now is alive and reigns. You can see why this is a favorite passage for funerals.

What a crowd of crowds we have seen today. And what a message they bring. And in as much as we belong to each of these crowds, we can hear our own loud shouting:

Admitting our need for saving. Acknowledging the need for His blood. And joining all those who are cleansed by his blood. The great multitude of believers destined for, and already there. All that is worth shouting about. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

V. Conclusion
The Palm Sunday crowd shouted, “Hosanna!”, but just 5 days later, another crowd shouted, “Crucify!”. As we recall the Palms and the Passion, let us also thank God for making us part of still another crowd- the Great Multitude of Heaven. In Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Abortion Nun-sense in the Local Paper

The following is a series of pieces printed in our local newspaper,
The Racine Journal-Times

The first is an article in the column, "Parson to Person",
which runs periodically in the paper,
and is written by a member of the Racine Clergy Association.
It ran on March 3rd, 2005.

The second is my response, printed on March 9th, 2005

The third is a response to me, printed on March 15th, 2005.

Abortion: Move from battleground to common ground

By Michelle Olley What if all the time and money spent during the recent presidential campaign promoting the pro-choice and pro-life causes would have been spent on providing options that addressed the root causes of this complex issue of abortion?

To reduce the complicated human dilemma of abortion to a simplistic, politically debatable issue that can be flippantly won or lost, when most debaters on all sides have never suffered personally from the consequences of the position held, is absolutely irresponsible.

The extreme positions of both pro-life and pro-choice are inadequate responses to an epidemic of unplanned pregnancies, unwanted children and indescribable poverty worldwide. It appears to many that the extreme position of pro-life is really pro-birth, and the extreme position of pro-choice is really pro-abortion.

The Supreme Court Webster Decision of July 1989 and the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Act may protect the unborn fetus, but they do not protect the life of the mother in serious medical conditions. They do little to serve poor mothers who need better alternatives and support systems to protect their children after birth.

Laws and policies will not end abortion. Many of the abortions, which occur throughout the world, reflect desperation, not an anti-life orientation. Those who are starving, abused, or neglected do not debate the ethics of when life begins.
The divisiveness of the abortion issue is evident in the ink and time given by the media. Those developing public policy or church law need to recognize the diverse perspectives and values not only among the people who speak, write, or campaign on the issues, but also among the women who have the abortions as well as the men who are partners in the pregnancies.

Those who make a pro-choice or pro-life stance a litmus test for public office or church membership are showing their culpable ignorance and limited perspective of a global, complex, multi-layered problem that has no quick fix. It is easy to be lulled into complacency when it isn't happening in our own backyard or when we are supported by an anti-environmental economy which is a threat to all life and choice on this planet.

What would it take to get beyond the "we're right and they're wrong" syndrome and the "baby killers" and "woman haters" signs? When will we have the patience, vulnerability, and courage to struggle through a process in which the goal Is "understanding, not necessarily agreement"? Would such discussion (internationally, nationally, and locally) enable us both individually and collectively to understand and be part of the struggle to build a more compassionate world which would protect and value all forms of life? Is it possible to find any common ground when we remain steadfast on the battleground? When we become so busy arguing over the right to choose, do we lose sight of whether the choice itself is a good choice for the long term? Or when we become so intense over the pro-life, do we lose sight of whether human life is possible after birth? If both sides would have some fruitful discussion together on what is best for family life and what conditions are necessary to support it, we may find some common ground.

Recently Professor John Jefferson Davis at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts called conservative Christians to focus on broader social issues such as the environment, racism, poverty, and help for the disadvantaged in society instead of just gay marriage and abortion. What a refreshing and encouraging step!

What would happen if we would explore togetherĊ  * The root causes for more than a million abortions in the United States and 12 million in Latin America annually and approximately 30,000 deaths of babies in their first year of life here in the US.

* The connection between the number of abortions performed and the availability of pro-family programs of housing, parental leave, childcare allowances, educational and employment opportunities, etc.

* Support for measures to ensure better choices than abortion, as well as viable options for victims of incest, rape, and domestic abuse.

* Better alternative and support systems for women with unplanned pregnancies or unwanted children.

* The conditions under which women could believe that to choose life for their children would be better than choosing death.

* The possibilities of providing free prenatal and post natal care, free delivery at birth, and/or free adoption services for both parties.

* The development of a litmus test for each line item of all government and church budgets to determine if they support a consistent ethic of life for planetary survival of all life.

* The establishment of skilled pastoral counseling centers that provide support systems not only for women and their families who regret their abortions, but also for women and their families who regret the births of their babies and have unwanted and/or neglected children.

* A better understanding of the terrible life-long conflicts and consequences of no choice which occur in forced abortions and forced births.

What the world needs now is not just one more sit-in or rally or legislation, but rather a society in which people are working together to eliminate the root causes of both abortion and lack of choice, thereby creating a culture of life choices in which abortion is unnecessary, unusual, and unthinkable. And let's call that party "Choice For Life".

Sister Michelle Olley, Racine Dominican, is a ember of the Racine Clergy Association


A sin is still a sin

The March 3rd "Parson to Person" column by Sister Michelle Olley advised moving from "battleground to common ground" on the abortion issue. This sort of thinking, not uncommon to the column, is precisely why conservative clergy like me avoid the Racine Clergy Association.

Aside from a misguided overindulgence in liberal politics, it seems some clergy in town are afraid to call sin what it is. Let's be clear, Bible-believing Christians see abortion as the illegitimate taking of human life (except in those extremely rare cases which might save the life of the mother). We don't need to be spiteful about it, but neither should we apologize, nor try so hard to "soften" our position that it becomes meaningless.

Sister Olley's argument is more flawed than I have space to explain. But for starters - would she similarly equivocate with other sins like rape or child abuse? The absurdity of her logic is readily apparent when we simply substitute one of these other evils for "abortion". Try it. Read her article again, plug in "rape" instead of "abortion", and watch the argument fall apart.

Finally, her implication that Christians who adhere to their values are somehow "extremists" is saddening. Was Jesus an extremist when he condemned sin? Or did he try to find "common ground" with the Pharisees and Temple money-changers? Instead, Jesus called a sin a sin, then died for and forgave sinners.

No amount of "understanding" or "patience", "vulnerability", "courage", "process" or "discussion" will change what abortion is. Sin.

Rev. Thomas Chryst

Grace Lutheran Church, Racine




Religions vary in views

Rev. Thomas Chryst's letter in the March 9 Journal Times regarding abortion displays an intolerance which should make true Christians cringe. I understand that, in the doctrine which he teaches and practices, abortion is a sin under most circumstances.

It is his right to teach and practice this.

However, not all religious law and doctrine agree with his perspective. To paint religious law which does not agree with that of Rev. Chryst as a sin is hateful of those who practice legitimate other religious perspectives and laws. To impose one view upon those with other legitimate views is a constitutional violation of the rights of those who do not agree with Rev. Chryst's professed doctrine.

In his letter, Rev. Chryst invokes what he perceives as Jesus' stand on the subject. He forgets that Jesus interpreted life around him according to Jewish law, which is not concordant with the position Rev. Chryst espouses.

Marc Wollman Racine



Monday, March 14, 2005

Hymn- "As the Crowd at City Gate"

“As the Crowd at City Gate"
Tune: Dix
Hymn # 75 from Lutheran Worship
(“As with Gladness Men of Old”)




As the Crowd at City Gate
Christ's arrival celebrate
Palms they wave and cloaks they lay
For the Lord to pass their way
We our glad Hosannas bring
David's Son and David's King

As the Mob yells, “crucify!”
Calling for the Christ to die,
Hateful anger fills their eyes
Lust for blood so fills their cry.
Sinners they and sinful we,
Sins He conquered at the tree.

As the Host Arrayed in White,
No more fear and no more night,
Sing their praise to God in heaven,
For the blessings Christ has giv'n
May we join their joyful strain,
To the Lamb who once was slain!

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Euthanasia's Roe v. Wade

Euthanasia's Roe v. Wade
A perfect storm could be brewing against the sick and injured | by Gene Edward Veith


Check out this article on the Schaivo case from World Magazine's Gene Veith (an LCMS Lutheran):

http://www.worldmag.com/subscriber/displayarticle.cfm?id=10412

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Passion: Recut

Apparently Mel Gibson has produced a "kinder, gentler" version of his film, which may be suited for a wider audience. Less blood and gore, it seems. Though according to Gibson's introduction on the official website, it is still a "hard film" but he "alleviated some of the more horrific aspects of it".

Here's the link, FYI:

http://www.passionrecut.com/

Hymn - "A Journey to the Valley"

“A Journey to the Valley”
Tune: Anthes
(LW # 345 “Come unto Me, Ye Weary”)



A journey to the valley
Where bones lay dry and dead,
Ezekiel the prophet
Through heaps of death was led.
The Lord posed him a question,
“Can these dry bones yet live?
Oh Son of Man now tell me,
What answer do you give?”

“You are the Lord Almighty
And You alone can know”
The prophet waited rightly,
For God His pow’r to show.
He showed it in the prophet,
By power of His word,
Now spoken in the valley,
“Know that I am the Lord!”

The bones began to rattle
As flesh and skin reformed.
Soon soldiers slain in battle,
Their bodies were restored.
God’s power re-creating,
Just as the Lord had said.
They silently lay waiting
But, lo, they still were dead.

A second time proclaiming
To bodies cold in death,
Their spirits thus reclaiming ,
From wind to give them breath.
The life returning to them
Just as God’s Word commands.
His power had renewed them
The host again did stand.

Lord, save us from the Valley
Of sin and certain death.
By sacramental blessing,
Your Spirit gives us breath.
By your sweet Word of Promise
By your strong, saving hand,
You save us all through Jesus,
That other “Son of Man”.

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sermon - Lent 4 - Matthew 20:17-28

Lent 4 – March 6, 2005
Matthew 20:17-28
“An Inappropriate Request”

Text: Jesus Again Predicts His Death
17Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
A Mother's Request
20Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22“You don't know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


I. Introduction –
One of the blessings of a church calendar is that we get to retrace, each year, the important events in the story of our salvation. Particularly, in the life of our Lord Jesus. For example, we know that Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, and that it leads up to Holy Week. We know that in 2 Sundays we will be marking Palm Sunday, with our Lord’s arrival into the Holy City. Then we will observe Maundy Thursday, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and instituted the sacrament of His Supper. We know that Good Friday is coming, that darkest day in our church year, when we remember Jesus’ death for us. And we also know that Easter is right around the corner. We know what is coming. We know what to expect. And this yearly rhythm to our life of faith gives comfort, and helps us to grow in our faith.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples, just what is coming. What to expect. How it will all happen. Only instead of responding in faith, some of them came with an inappropriate request. In spite of this, Jesus presses on, and teaches them more about not only what to expect, but what it means. Let’s examine the reading, so that we too can know what to expect.

II. Jesus Sets the Agenda

Jesus Christ knew what he was doing. He was going to be arrested. He was going to be tried. He was going to be mocked, beaten, spit on, flogged, sentenced and executed. While suffering to death, he would endure the anguish of the Father’s forsaking, that is, the cup of God’s righteous wrath. Then, when he was dead, they would wrap him in burial linens and leave his lifeless body in the dark of a sealed tomb.

Jesus progressively reveals this truth to his disciples. Here is recorded at least the fourth occasion on which he predicts just what will happen to him –and each time it gets clearer. Now, even the details of mocking, flogging and the particular form of his death are given. As is the promise of Easter. He knew it was the Jews who would take him, and the Gentiles who would crucify him. Still, it is Jesus who sets the agenda. Jesus knew what He was doing. And he told his disciples what was coming.

But then James and John and their mother, boldly, (awkwardly?), and inappropriately come with an agenda of their own.

III. An Inappropriate Request

Have you ever had something really important to say to someone, and they just didn’t seem to want to listen? You want to tell them about your new job – and they want to talk about the latest sale at the store. You have exciting news about a new baby – and they want to complain about not finding a parking space. You want to say, “I Love You”, and they are worried about what to have for dinner.
I wonder if Jesus felt this way, as he poured out his soul to those disciples – speaking very plainly and seriously about something very important – namely, his arrest, suffering, death and resurrection – But THEY have “more important” things to deal with.

So here come James and John – along with mommy. Now admittedly, these were two of the “big three” disciples. With Peter, they were part of Jesus’ inner circle. They got to see the transfiguration. John stayed with Christ to the very end, the only disciple not to forsake him completely. And some scholars believe that James and John were even cousins or relatives of Jesus. They were already closer than the “crowds” and more “in” than most of the 12. But they wanted more!
A selfish request? Greedy? How could we describe it? Inappropriate at best.

First of all they seemed to ignore what Jesus had JUST SAID! “Yes, yes, dying and rising, Jesus. Whatever. Let’s talk about what’s really important. US, and our positions of honor and glory. We can get to this crucifixion business later.” Can you imagine? Sometimes I just want to see the look on Jesus’ face.

Furthermore, their request was inappropriate because they continue to misunderstand the true nature of Christ’s kingdom, and the true purpose of his work. They are looking for the earthly King, the political Savior, the Military Messiah. What a poor substitute such a Christ would be, when instead we have the very Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Who testified himself, “My kingdom is not of this world”. That would be way too small a kingdom. Instead, he rules hearts and lives by the saving Gospel. He brings a lasting peace, an eternal security that no earthly king could offer. Our annual theme reminds us of that, “telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36)

But any time we pick on the disciples, we must turn the focus also on ourselves. Let’s not think we are any less prone to sin, selfishness, and confusion. 2000 years later we are still capable of ignoring the most important messages Christ offers. We still look for God to be the kind of God WE want, to whom we may as well pray, “MY will be done, Lord”. We still underestimate just how mighty His kingdom is, how powerful His promises are, how great His love. Lent is a good time to be reminded.

And just as Jesus gently steered the conversation back where it needed to go, and refocused them on his suffering service… so too would our Lord direct our attention to His crucifixion and death and resurrection.

IV. Not to Be Served, But to Serve

Jesus lets the Zebedee boys know, that His kingdom means suffering. That’s what the “cup” is, a metaphor for the suffering He would endure. “Can you drink it too?” They thought they could, but they couldn’t really. Only He, true man and true God, the Lord’s anointed, could bear such a burden. Only He is the savior.
The irony is that they would suffer. James was one of the first disciples to die a martyr’s death. And John, though he died of old age, was persecuted and imprisoned for Christ, even exiled to the island of Patmos as an old man.

But the real suffering, the ultimate suffering, the paying the price of Hell and condemnation before God, Jesus would do that. For James and John, for Mrs. Zebedee, for the other disciples, and for you and me. For unlike the rest of the world’s rulers, our King is a servant. His kingdom truly is different!

When the other disciples heard what James and John were up to, they were upset. Probably upset that they were stabbed in the back, and that they didn’t think to ask the same thing sooner. Perhaps a quarrel broke out among them, as these supposed men of God wrangled over places of power and authority in the kingdom.

Another irony here, is that the disciples are promised thrones of rulership, “judging the 12 tribes of Israel”. And in the vision of heaven John sees in Revelation, there are 24 elders, wearing crowns, seated on thrones. They represent all of God’s people, who participate in the rulership of His kingdom. After all, He has made us a “ROYAL priesthood” – a nation of kings. And that includes you and me.
But remember also, our King of Kings sets the example of service.

While earthly kings are full of their own power and demanding obedience and servitude – Lording their authority over their subjects – it is not so with Christ – and “not so with you”. The Christian, a royal priest, is like the High Priest and King – first, a servant. Life in His kingdom means putting others before ourselves. Not seeking the best seat in the house, the power, the honor, the praise of men. But, “how may I help you, my neighbor?”

Even more than an example - Christ’s ultimate service of suffering and death to us is what makes us who we are – makes us holy, makes us part of the royal bloodline, and empowers us to serve by His Spirit. Jesus sets His 12 disciples straight, and he reminds us, His modern disciples, of the same.

As our Lenten reflection continues, we read of Jesus and his important agenda. But like the disciples and their inappropriate request, sometimes we make less of our Lord’s work. In sin we want power for ourselves. Still, it doesn’t stop our King from being our Servant, and through the cross and the resurrection, from making us royal servants too. The Lord bless us, as we serve each other and as we serve Him who has served us all, in Christ, Amen.

V. Conclusion

Oh, Mrs. Zebedee and her inappropriate request! But Jesus uses the occasion to again point to the service He would render - for the disciples, and “for many”. He is the Servant of all.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Images Down

I found this at the site where I host my images:

from http://www.imagevenue.com/ :

News: Imagevenue temporaraly disallows hotlinking of large images. The uploads will continue as normal and your previously hotlinked large images will stay as is. You will still be able to post thumbs to large images. This is a temporary measure till we beef up our server cluster.

Whatever that means...

Friday, March 04, 2005

ELCA Dissent: Pig Farmer Sets Prodigals Straight!

ELCA Dissent: Pig Farmer Sets Prodigals Straight!

Check out this link, in the on-going saga of "How long will it really be until they ordain everyone doing anything with anyone in the ELCA?"

Hurray for Mr. Hesse.


http://wordalone.org/


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Luther's Sacristy Prayer

The following hangs in our Sacristy at Grace Lutheran, Racine:

Luther’s Sacristy Prayer

O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known Thy glory and to nurture and to serve this congregation.

But since Thou hast appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teachings and the instructions, O be Thou my helper and let Thy holy angels attend me.

Then if Thou art pleased to accomplish anything through me, to Thy glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of Thy pure grace and mercy a right understanding of Thy Word and that I may also diligently perform it.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Thou Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, send Thy Holy Spirit that He may work with me, yea, that He may work in me to will and to do through Thy divine strength according to Thy good pleasure. Amen.


Here is another of Luther's sacristy prayers, from the ICL website:

Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but
you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had
lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I
call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall
teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word.
Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should
be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hymn - "There is No Condemnation"

"There is No Condemnation"
Tune: Foundation
(LW # 411 “How Firm a Foundation”)



There is no condemnation for those, who in Christ,
Have a nature controlled by the Spirit of life.
And oh, what a blessing, what power in Him,
Who has freed us from death and the power of sin.

What the law could not do, God would do through His Son,
Who fulfilled all requirements – for us, it was done.
Our sin was condemned, at the Cross, in the Christ,
As an off'ring for sin, only His life sufficed.

Those who live in the grip of the old nature’s way,
Cannot please God in what they may do, think, or say.
Their hostile desire, versus God will rebel,
And their course leads to nothing but sin, death and Hell.

But to you, who, controlled by the Spirit of peace,
From the old sinful nature, He grants you release.
Though your body will suffer, will age and will die,
Yet your spirit is righteous, in Christ, and alive!

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2005