Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dusting off a Preus Article

Since I have stirred up some interest by my comments about the interfaith neighborhood prayer meetings here in Racine, I thought I would share this article by Rev. Daniel Preus. It's a couple years old so I had to dig up and dust if off a little. But it's still worth a read. It expresses well the concerns of Confessional Lutheranism with the dangers of syncretism and unionism.

Here are some excerpts from it:

As Christians, we gladly submit to both these truths: 1. We are to proclaim the Gospel unashamedly to everyone who will listen and 2. We cannot worship together with those whose worship is directed to any god other than the Triune God who alone is Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier and who alone is God in the true sense of the word. There was a day when it was much easier to hold these two truths in the proper balance. To those who know the Scriptures well it should not be difficult today either. But the postmodern world in which we live has severely complicated life for us Christians.


With increasing frequency Christians are being invited to participate in interfaith prayer services or memorial services or so-called civic events. These services or civic events are true postmodern events, implying by their inclusion of clergy of varying religions that no religion takes precedence over or supersedes another, at least in the eyes of those planning these events.

Christians who resist the postmodern claims of equality for all religions will be marginalized, labeled intolerant, unloving, bigoted, insensitive, outdated, primitive and prejudiced. And who wants to be called, intolerant, unloving, bigoted, insensitive, outdated, primitive and prejudiced?

We who are Christians are of course, willing to suffer such abuse for the sake of the Gospel. We will therefore refrain from participating in events in which we have no choice but to compromise the faith.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Neighborhood Violence and Prayer Meetings

Our neighborhood around the church here has been in quite an uproar lately after a shooting. Someone was trying to break into a car, and the owner of the car shot him in the back and killed him. Something like that. Anyway the paper has run with the story and the ELCA church down the street has hosted a “town meeting” type of thing with local residents and police (which I understand also degenerated into a screaming match – with some punches thrown).

Well now comes the suggestion, this morning, that a neighborhood prayer group be formed to answer the violence in our neighborhood. Sounds like a nice enough idea, right?

But read a little closer.

Who can be against such a gathering? This pastor, for one. Me.

What a lie the Ba’Hai religion is based on, that “we all worship the same God”. Nonsense. Anyone with but the shallowest understanding of what different religions teach knows this cannot be the case. For instance:

Islam’s great motto, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet” kinda flies in the face of Jesus, who says, “No one comes to the Father but by me”, and Paul, from this past Sunday’s Epistle (1 Corinthians 8:1-13), “For even if there are so-called gods…yet for us there is but one God, the Father… and one Lord, Jesus Christ”.

No, Mr. and Mrs. Uhlenhake, the religions do not all worship the same God. That’s the scandal of Christianity – that Jesus is the ONLY way to God. Of course, it’s also the great good news that we have – that Jesus IS the way to God.

I do encourage Christians to pray for an end to violence. In their neighborhoods, in the U.S. and in the world. We should not only pray, but also speak and act to promote peace, when possible.

But joining with wrong-believers and un-believers, and allowing your faith to be trumped by one of Satan’s lies is not the way to do it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Guest Bloging at the Cube

Is it a violation of our fellowship principles to guest-blog at the site of an aspiring preacher who "wishes he were Lutheran"?

Read here, as the Preachrboy ascends the pulpit of the Cubicle Reverend to share some thoughts on what makes a church "healthy".

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Updates to Church Website

I also wear the hat of Webmaster for our Congregation's site, and have recently added a page of "Articles and Resources". It includes various documents either produced by or used by our congregation, and may be of use to you in yours!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pastor's Stock Scheme

In another example of a pastor over-stepping (mis-stepping) his authority, a Washington State minister is advocating an unusual form of protest against software giant Microsoft. The issue seems to be Microsoft's support for a gay-rights bill in the state.

"Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in the Seattle suburb of Redmond... wants supporters to buy one or two shares over the next few months, then sell them May 1."

Even if it would work, which the article says it won't, this pastor is out of line. Pastors - preach God's Word, but stay out of the Left Hand Kingdom!!!!

"Book of Daniel" Slammed Shut

NBC has cancelled the controversial series, "Book of Daniel".

Now we'll just have to be happy with "Desperate Housewives". Ho-hum.

Myths about Confirmation

Pastor Borghardt (of Bloghardt's Reflector) has posted "8 Myths About Confirmation".

I will paste them here, but please visit his site for comments:

Eight Myths about Confirmation

Here are eight false thoughts or statements that I've heard in my short time as a pastor. There are tons more. These are the ones

1. "I have a right to be confirmed." - Confirmation is a church rite, not a right given to all kids when they reach a certain age. Being taught everything our Lord mandated is not easy, it's very difficult. It takes study. It takes commitment. It even takes memorization. They are given to hear the Gospel.

2. "Confirmands today can't memorize." - Yeah, they do. They can. They just don't want to. They memorize passwords, the lyrics to their favorite songs, facts for school, and even phone numbers. The question is not, "Can youth memorize?" but, "Will they?"

3. "The material is boring" - My youth never cease to amaze me. This year, I decided to cut them some slack on their memory work. They work so hard and they were getting behind. So, trying to be a good guy (which is my sinful flesh), I decreased some of their work. Initially they rejoiced, then they showed up the next week having memorized more than I asked them to do, AND excitedly asked for the next section early.

Imagine that! They love to hear and read and memorize more and more about what Jesus did for them on the Cross and delivers to them in the Lord's Supper. Faith desires more and more gifts.

4. "Don't overload the kids, just give them the basics." - The way of faith is the way of wanting always more. There is never enough, never a limit, never a point in which the confirmands should sit back and say, "That's it, I've now learned all I need to know."

The more their pastors put into them, the more they learn. It's a crazy idea, but it's true. As pastors we are mandated to teach everything that the Lord has commanded. Why not do that while we have time?

5. "We should confirm kids who aren't coming to church because they might start again afterwards." - If they aren't coming to church now, they won't come to church after confirmation. Part of confirmation is learning about the Third Commandment.

6. "We must confirm at " - If Dr. Luther can speak with great certainty about how seven-year olds can know what the Church is, why not confirm earlier? If the Lord's Supper truly does deliver eternal life and salvation to our kids, why do we wait so long to deliver it to them?

7. "Parental participation is optional." - Oh no, no, no. Confirmation is not like having your oil changed, where you just drop off your car and let the mechanics do the work. Parents cannot simply drop their kids off to church and expect Pastor to do everything. It is given to each parent to teach their kids the faith. Parent participation is required.

Last class, one of my kids showed up sick. His mom caught me before class and explained his attendance this way, "He was feeling sick, Pastor, but I told him to pop a few Tums and buck up and go – this is confirmation." What a confession! In confirmation the Faith is taught to her son. She didn't want her son missing anything.

8. "No visitors in confirmation classes." - Why? I let my high school sit in class and listen. Why should confirmation stop with confirmation? Why not more give us more! Parents can come too!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sermon - Epiphany 3 - Johan 3:1-5,10 (Life Sunday)

Epiphany 3, “Life Sunday” – January 22nd, 2006
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
“A God of Life”

I. Introduction –
There are many aspects of the true story of Jonah that are worth thinking about. Most of us know the Sunday School basics – that God called Jonah to preach, Jonah ran away, and ended up as “fish food”. God then had the fish spit Jonah out on dry land – safe and sound (if a little smelly) – and renewed his instructions for Jonah to go and preach. That’s where our Old Testament reading picks up today.

What many forget, or never learn about the book of Jonah is the reason WHY Jonah was so reluctant. God was calling Jonah to preach in Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian empire. And Jonah knew full well these were not nice people. I have often called them the “Old Testament Nazis”. The Assyrians were notorious for wartime atrocities, including rape, pillaging, torture, and even cutting open the bellies of pregnant women.

Jonah knew that if he was sent to Nineveh, and preached God’s word, and if the Ninevites repented, that God was a merciful God who would relent from his judgment, and forgive their sins. Jonah didn’t want to see that happen. He wanted to see fire and brimstone rain down on Nineveh, like they did when God judged Sodom and Gomorrah. He didn’t want Nineveh to be forgiven. But Jonah is made the fool by the end of the story, as God asks the rhetorical question, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people… should I not be concerned about that great city?” It seems Jonah too had something to learn about the value of God’s gift of life.

II. We Who Debase the Gift of Life
Today, January 22nd, is an infamous anniversary. Our nation marks 33 years since Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision effectively legalizing abortion. Since then, some estimate 47 million abortions have been performed, and continue today at a rate of 146 per hour, or one every 25 seconds. For every 1000 live births, we are told there are 306 abortions. And over 140,000 of these annually are during the 2nd or 3rd trimester. While some progress has been made in eliminating this sinful and barbaric affront to God’s gift of life, our nation as a whole still has much to answer for when it comes to the sin of abortion.

Perhaps you personally know someone who has had an abortion. Perhaps you personally have had an abortion. One of the least talked about effects of abortion is the heavy burden of guilt it brings. We well know it is sinful. We know, deep down, it is terribly wrong. Many women who have abortions suffer under the weight of this guilt for years – struggling with depression and even showing higher rates of suicide. But there is another secret which is not told often enough. There is forgiveness in Christ.

Yes, the same God who could forgive even the Ninevites, those wicked people – can forgive us even the sin of abortion. If you know someone who carries this burden of guilt – don’t be the reluctant Jonah who withholds God’s forgiveness. If you are someone who has sinned in this way – then hear now from this called and ordained servant of the Word that Christ offers forgiveness – yes very much to YOU! His blood shed at the cross covers all sins – even the sin of abortion. So great is his abounding mercy.

But not all of us have such personal concerns about the sin of abortion. This doesn’t let us off the hook, though. We humans are inventive when it comes to debasing God’s gift of life. Sin takes many forms, no less sinning against the 5th commandment. “Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder” says God through Moses.

Luther asks, “What does this mean?” and answers:
“We should fear and love God that we may not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.”

This means there are other ways of sinning against God’s gift of Life:
· Physically harming our neighbor in any way (by our actions)
· Failing to help when we can (by our inaction)
· Disrespecting God’s role as giver (and taker) of life
– from cradle to grave (or from womb to tomb)
· Treating our own life with less value than God means for it – even to such things how we handle our health – not eating well and exercising enough.
· Doing those “little things” which tear away at life, contribute to our culture of death, and fail to appreciate our creator’s handiwork.

The gift of life is one of God’s most precious to us. For in it, he has created us in his own image. We are reflections of him. All human life is therefore precious to God, and worthy of our care. And for all the ways we sin against human life, we need, like the Ninevites, to repent of our wicked ways.

III. A God who Gave His Life
And Just as God showed mercy to the Ninevites, God shows mercy to us. They didn’t know their forgiveness was based on the work of a Christ who was yet to come. We know ours is based on the Christ who has indeed come! Jesus tells us the very reason he comes in John 10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus is the God of life who gave his life to ransom our lives. He gave his life on the cross to deal a death-blow to death. He gave his most precious life to bring us the precious gift of life in his name.

Jesus goes on to say of his life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”

And we know that he has such authority over life and death because death could not hold him. We see his authority over death in the empty tomb of Easter. And there, with the stone rolled back and the grave left behind, we see a glimpse of our new life too. His authority over death and life is not only for himself, you see, but for our benefit too!

IV. A God Who Gives New Life
Christ brings new life.

He brings us a future that goes beyond the seeming end that is death. In a world that teaches such uplifting sound-bytes as, “Life stinks, and then you die”. Jesus brings true hope. Death is not the end for us. There is more. A blessed, eternal, wonderful existence – LIVING – with God forever.

This means not just a dis-embodied existence as some ephemeral spirit. The Christian hope is in the resurrection of the body – yes, that’s OUR body – as we confess in the Creed. “Though my skin be destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God”, as the book of Job reads. The final hope of Christians for the future is a physical eternal life in a re-created, resurrected body!

But that life that Jesus brings is more than just a future hope. Eternal life, for the Christian, begins not when we die and go to heaven – it begins in the waters of baptism, as we are reborn in the Holy Spirit. Our life with God, our eternal life, is something we enjoy even now – though we will see it even more fully in the new heaven and new earth.

We might say as Martha did at the tomb of Lazarus, “yes, Jesus, I know about the…resurrection at the last day."To which he would answer us as he did her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

As we lament a particular day, 33 years ago, in which human life was dealt a mighty blow – let us also turn from our sins against God’s gift of life. And let us remember a day 2000 years ago, in which sin and death itself were dealt the final blow. As Jesus gave his life for ours, and brought new life in abundance, may we ever treasure the precious gift of life – life here, and life to come – life in his name, forever, Amen.

V. Conclusion
As sinners who misuse, abuse, and debase God’s precious gift of life, we need to hear about the God who gave his life for us, that we would be forgiven, and have new and eternal life in him.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Truth or Fiction?

Twice this week I have received emails from friends or family that were forwarded from another source, and made a claim that seemed somewhat suspicious to me. In one case, the person said, "I don't know if this is even true, but I thought I would pass it along anyway."

I have found a most useful website: TruthOrFiction.com (and added it to my links on the left).

It's a neat little site that works well for all sorts of hoax-busting, especially of the forwarded email variety. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


One of the insights I gained from our Blogger Conference here in Ft. Wayne was the importance of one's blogroll. I hadn't considered the impact of these on search engines. Before, I only listed my very favorite blogs on the sidebar (for simplicity). But thanks to Pastor Snyder of "Ask the Pastor", I understand better the benefits of linking to others.

So in that spirit, I have updated my sidebar to include not ONLY my favorite blogs, but the entire listing of Confessional Lutheran blogs found on Pastor Snyder's site.

In Ft. Wayne

I have arrived in Ft. Wayne for the Symposium. My first one this year, I am only staying fot the first part (the exegetical symposium). Seems like it will be a good time.

Last night was the very first "Confessional Lutheran Bloggers Conference", in which we heard from speakers: Pr. Walt Snyder, Pr. Eric Stefanski, Dr. Gene Veith, and Technophile Jason Evans. It was some good discussion, but there could have been more attendees! Look for the online recording of the event to come out soon.

Sermon - Epiphany 2 - John 1:43-51

Epiphany 2 – January 15th, 2006
John 1:43-51
“Found, Known, Believed”

I. Introduction –

This week and next, our Gospel readings find Jesus very busy calling disciples to follow him. Next week, we have the fishermen- Peter and Andrew, James and John. This week, Phillip and Nathanael. I think these accounts are not only familiar to most of us, but they are near to our hearts. We can relate to them, because Jesus calls us to follow him too. And our following is often very similar.

As we see the disciples following, as we think on our own following, and as we see the key words in this text, we see that following involves some finding, some knowing, and of course, believing. But maybe not the way we think…

II. Found

In the first couple of verses, there’s a lot of “finding” going on. First Jesus finds Philip. Then Philip finds Nathanael. Then Philip tells him they have found, essentially, the Christ! But as enthusiastic as Philip was, as eager to go and tell and share his great news, he was wrong.

Oh, sure, Jesus was the one written about by Moses and the prophets. But did you notice he called him “Son of Jospeh”. That wasn’t really the case, was it. How could Philip know, though, that the man he was about to follow was really the Son of God?

And Philip was wrong when he said “WE have found the one…”. No, we just read that it was Jesus, who, in fact, found Philip. But it’s often that way with us modern disciples too. We make the same mistake. We think we find Christ. No, rather, he finds us.

After all, we are the ones that are lost. We are the ones that don’t know our way, because we have turned away from God in our sin and gotten hopelessly lost in a maze of corruption that is handed down from generation to generation. We are often so lost, we have no clue how lost we are.

And so it’s no small thing that Jesus found Philip. And it’s no small thing that he finds us too. He finds us in our baptism. He finds us through his word – calling us to repentance and faith – over and over again.

Finally, we will speak well of Philip on this count – when Jesus called him to follow, he did. And Philip knew that following meant bringing others along. He found Nathanael, and brought him to Jesus. And Jesus, through Philip, and again through his word, would “find” Nathanael too.

III. Known

Nathanael seems to me like a bit of a know-it-all. He certainly doesn’t come off well with his condescending comments about Nazareth. But Nathanael knew that Nazareth was a backwater town. He didn’t expect anyone who knew much about anything to come from there – much less the very Messiah they had been waiting for. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” he asked, and expected the answer was “no”.

But little did he know, it was, “yes!” Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God comes from there. And what little Nathanael knew about Jesus seemed all the less, compared with what Jesus knew about him.

Though Nathanael had as much as insulted Jesus, or at least his home town, Jesus meets Nathanel and compliments him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Jesus knew something about Nathanael! What did he mean by that, “A true Israelite in whom there is nothing false”? Well he didn’t mean Nathanel was without sin. He didn’t mean Nathanael didn’t’ need a Savior. Likely Jesus was commending Nathanael’s proper Old Testament faith in the Christ who was to come. Nathanael knew his scriptures. He knew what Moses and the prophets had written about the “one who is to come”, that is, the Messiah. And now, to his great surprise, he was meeting him.

Nathanael is surprised that Jesus knows him, and Jesus shocks him all the more by mentioning the fig tree. Here Jesus demonstrates a knowledge that no mere mortal could have had. He saw Nathanael, he knew Nathanael before he could have seen him. And he knew Nathanael better than the disciple knew himself. Nathanael had much to learn.

Isn’t it this way with us, too? We are often know-it-alls. We think we know our needs, we think we know what God wants from us. Even some Christians seem to think they learned it all years ago, and have nothing to gain from continued study of God’s word. As if 8th grade confirmation is the end of our faith learning.

Or maybe some who read the bible, study it, attend various classes, perhaps become prideful of our biblical knowledge, as if knowing enough will somehow save us. It won’t.

It’s so easy to sin. It’s our nature. But Jesus knows our weakness. For Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our needs better than we do. He alone knows how to do the saving. And he does it. And it’s not by seeking him that we are saved. And it’s not by knowing-it-all, or even knowing enough, it’s believing.

IV. Believed
Nathanael states his faith – his trust – his belief in Jesus. Jesus is more concerned about peoples’ faith than their knowledge anyway. So often he comments on someone’s great faith. So too with Nathanael. He doesn’t say “you’ve found me” or “you know me”. He says, “You believe me”.

Nathanael’s great confession here, is right up there in the top ten, along with Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” and Thomas’ “My Lord, and my God!”. But Nathanael’s statement of faith was given right out of the gate. Peter’s great confession wasn’t until Jesus was well into his public ministry. Thomas’ was after the Resurrection. So for Nathanael to express such profound trust, and to make such a confession even as he was being called as a disciple – is truly remarkable. It is another hint that the faith he speaks comes as a gift – from the one his faith is in.

So too, when we confess with our lips and believe in our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord – we do not speak on our own. We speak by the power of His Spirit given in our baptism. We speak the words he gives us. We say what he has already said to us, and for us. And we say it, like Nathanael, in faith.

Jesus then goes on to say, in effect, “You aint seen nothin’ yet!” Nathanael would see “Heaven opened, and angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man”. What a strange thing for Jesus to say… But Nathanael likely knew what Jesus meant.

In the Old Testament, which Nathanael knew well enough, there is the story of Jacob, the patriarch. One night while sleeping with his head on a rock, Jacob had a vision of a ladder to heaven, and angels going up and down. He names the place Bethel, meaning, house of God.

What Jesus is saying is, “Nathanael – I AM JACOB’S LADDER” and, “I AM the way to heaven”. And in the next few years, Nathanael and all Jesus’ followers, would see heaven opened to them – and to the world – in Jesus. And we see it too…

Perhaps we see it most clearly at the cross. Nathanael called Jesus, “Son of God and King of Israel”, but at the cross, we see him called “King of the Jews” in a sarcastic Roman fashion. There at the cross, heaven was opened - so that God’s wrath could be poured out on his only Son. And as Jesus bears our sin, and suffers in our place, Heaven is open to us. When, “it if finished”, that cross becomes our ladder to an open heaven. The sign of execution and shame and death becomes a symbol of hope, and comfort, and life.

In this Nathanael believed. This we believe, this we teach and confess. Jesus Christ crucified. He who finds sinners like us. He who knows our deepest needs. And he who opens heaven to us by his death and resurrection, and through the faith which his Spirit creates in us.

Found by Christ, Known by Christ, Believing in Christ, “The Son of God, and King of Israel”. In His name, Amen.

V. Conclusion
Jesus finds Philip, knows Nathanael, and they believe in Him. Let us also believe in the one who finds and knows us – and who opens heaven for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Here is an MP3 of myself and Richard, one of our Elders performing the hymn "Treasured by the Virgin Mary" that I wrote. The lyrics can be found here. That's me singing the higher part (melody).

The instrumentation for the piece was written by his son, Jonathan. Accompanying us were Jonathan on violin, Samuel on Cello (his sons), and his wife Susan on keyboard.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Phelps At It Again!

This AP story ran on the front page of our local paper:

Debatable -- Should protests at funerals be banned?


MILWAUKEE - Some of the people who attended Sgt. Andrew P. Wallace's visitation weren't there to remember the fallen soldier.

Instead, the members of a Kansas-based church said his death was God's revenge on a nation that accepts homosexuality, and they carried signs that read "Thank God for dead soldiers."

I sent the follow comments to the Opinion Page Editor:

I write regarding the front-page story on Monday, January 9th
about the Westboro Baptist Church protesting at the funerals of soldiers.

Whether or not such protests should be outlawed by the government,
or how they should be restricted may be a debatable question.

But what is not debatable is that common decency condemns such
inappropriate protests.

Christians are taught to speak the truth, but to do it in love (Ephesians 4).
Rev. Phelps and his associates are notorious for their unloving,
in-your-face, grandstanding demonstrations on this issue. They do
not speak for the mainstream of Christianity, or even for the vast,
vast majority of conservative Christians.

While faithful Christians who regard the Bible as God's word must
also regard homosexuality as sinful, there is a time and a place and a
manner for this truth to be told. The funeral of a fallen soldier,
gay or straight, is not the proper venue.

Rev. Thomas Chryst
Associate Pastor
Grace Lutheran Church, Racine

Sermon - The Baptism of Our Lord - Mark 1:4-11

The Baptism of Our Lord – January 8th, 2006
Mark 1:4-11
“The Voice from Heaven”

I. Introduction –
A few words about Epiphany…
It’s one of those words we don’t use around the water cooler. Epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation” or “revealing”. It is the post-Christmas season in which the church dwells on just who it is that has appeared among us. Throughout the Epiphany season, we will be progressively unveiling more and more about this Jesus. Today as we read of Jesus’ Baptism, we hear the voice from heaven, which says, “This is my son” . At the end of the Epiphany season, we find ourselves on the Mount of Transfiguration, and again the voice declares, “This is my son.” What a wonderful way to summarize the meaning of Epiphany. Book-ended by the voice of God.

The actual day of the Epiphany of our Lord, celebrated on January 6th, is also known as the Gentile Christmas, and we recall the star that brought the wise men to worship the Christ-child. We modern worshippers of the Christ would be wise men too, by recalling and appreciating his appearing. Today, we turn to Christ's Baptism...

II. A Burning Question
I think many, maybe most Christians who first read this account of Jesus’ Baptism, and have a basic understanding of who Jesus is, are left with a burning question. Why is Jesus, sinless, spotless Lamb of God that he is, getting baptized? Isn’t baptism for forgiveness? What’s going on here? Does Jesus need to be forgiven? For what?

Now, you and I, that’s a different story. We need our baptism. We are sinners. We are born in sin, we live in sin, we love to sin. We wallow in it like pigs in mud. We need a good washing off. So Christian baptism, a gift of God, a holy sacrament, cleanses us from the soil of our soul. We who are baptized stand clean before the Lord – pure – sinless.

Baptism for us is also more than a temporary fix. It’s not like an earthly cleaning that has to be done over and over. Like brushing your teeth every morning because they don’t stay minty-fresh for long. Like the endless tasks of washing dishes and washing laundry. Like my wife and I doing our daily picking up after the kids. NO! Baptism is entirely different.

Baptism is a “washing of rebirth and renewal”. When Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, he says baptism is being “born again”. So we who are baptized – ARE BAPTIZED. It is an action of God which recreates us to be something entirely different than the sinners we once were. And day after day, we return to those baptismal waters – reminding ourselves of God’s promise and his love and our status as his beloved children. We are free from sin, by God’s grace, given in this precious way.

But that still doesn’t answer why Jesus got baptized. One clue is in Matthew’s Gospel, where John protests – “I need to be baptized by YOU, Jesus!” But Jesus answers that it is fitting to do so now, “in order to fulfill all righteousness”. And here is the key.

Righteousness comes to us only through the work of Christ as our savior. He wins it for us, as well we know, at the Cross – where he died for our sins. This was important! But also important was Jesus living the perfect life for us. In fact, if at the cross he dies in our place, everything that leads up to the cross is Jesus “living in our place”. He “fulfills all righteousness” by standing in the place of sinners. Here now, he publicly identifies with us sinners, by standing in our place – in the baptismal waters of the Jordan.

And as much as our baptism takes our sins away, Jesus’ baptism does for him quite the opposite. He, the sinless Lamb of God, in a sense, here takes on our sin – and will carry it, eventually, to the cross. Jesus’ Baptism – such an important event – is the first step, in a way, toward Calvary.

III. A Trinitarian Event
Another indicator of this event’s great significance is the glaring presence of God in all his Triune fullness. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all come together in a profound way here. Jesus, of course, the voice of the Father, as well as the descent of the Spirit.

Few other times in scripture do we have such a clear picture of the Trinue God. Surely at Creation, where the Father speaks, the Pre-incarnate Word (that is the son) also has a hand (John says, “through him all things were made”). And the Spirit too is present, moving over the waters, and bringing life to Adam’s cold clay.

Also in the final chapters of our Bible, where John’s Revelation reveals a picture of the heavenly throne – with God the Father seated, Christ the Lamb at the center of the throne, and the Holy Spirit also symbolically present in the 7 lamp-stands.

What an event that brings the Trinue God into such focus – But Christ’s baptism also means creation and it also means heaven for his people. For as we are baptized, we receive the three-fold name of our three-in-one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we become a new creation. And we become heirs of heaven. It’s all connected.

IV. A Voice from Heaven
One final note here, that should not escape us. The voice that speaks from heaven is a kindly voice of the Father. If it were not for Christ, we couldn’t expect such a thing.

Either we would hear the voice of God’s wrath – the voice of a God who was angry with our sin. The voice of judgment. The voice of punishment. Or we would hear a deafening silence from a God who wants nothing to do with sin . God would forsake us, exile us from his presence, the just desserts for our wickedness.

But the Father’s voice does speak. In Christ, we can hear it. And it is a voice of love. “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased”. That’s great for Jesus – but what about us?In Christ, that voice is for us too. God was speaking to his son, but he was also speaking to you and me. Remember Christ stands as our representative, and what he receives he passes on to us. So that in our Baptism, the voice from heaven says to us, “You are my son. You are my daughter. I love you. With you I am pleased!” Not because of us, but because of Christ!

And heaven is opened. Torn open, Mark says. Dramatically open. Like the temple curtain that was shredded on Good Friday, Christ tears open the barrier between heaven and earth, between God and man. He does demolition on the devil’s dreaded kingdom. And in his tomb that was burst open at his resurrection, he even rips apart death itself. He restores and forgives, recreates and cleanses. He makes us God’s beloved children.

As this Epiphany season begins, think again on what it all means that the God of Heaven was born as a man. That Jesus Christ has appeared to us, and as one of us. Sinless, yet taking on our sin. And as we unpack the meaning of it all, we see more and more the grace and love of God for us sinners. That in Christ, heaven is opened, our sins are washed away, and the kindly voice of God speaks loving words to us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

V. Conclusion
At Jesus’ Baptism, God speaks! His words apply to His Son, and through Jesus, to us as well. Because of Christ, God is well pleased with us!

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Like the Jeopardy category...

Here's a few of the interesting links I have run across in the past few weeks:

Do Islam's Ideas Incite Violence? Quite an interesting collection of quotes from the Koran, as well as some rather humorous ones from the Ayatollah Komehni.

Ken Collins' Web Site. A Disciples of Christ minister who has been a presence on the web for quite some time. He has an interesting collection of articles which are meant to appeal to a wide-range of Christians. The article that I first stumbled on was this one, about why clergy should wear clerical collars. Some good stuff here!

Some nice image resources:

The Ecole Initiative

Google Images Search (Yahoo has one too) - be sure to set the filter on these!

Wikipedia's entry on the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
. For those who don't know, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Which has its pros and cons....
They also feature some interesting articles from time to time, like this one on the "Omnipotence Paradox".

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pastors and 2-Kingdom Authority

This is a response to some of the comments in my ongoing discussion with Bob Waters regarding the Left Hand (LH) and Right Hand (RH) kingdoms…

In my way of thinking, pastors do hold some LH authority, but it is not what I would call a "proper" authority, rather, an "alien" one. Another way of looking at it, might be, that pastors are accorded RH authority by virtue of their divine call, while any LH authority is that which is voluntarily accorded by the congregation. For example:

When it comes to the teaching/preaching of the Gospel (RH kingdom), the "buck stops here" so to speak.

I suppose when it comes to second and third use of the law, the same applies. The second use of the law, showing our sin, should always be with an eye toward the Gospel. Likewise there can BE no third use without the Gospel.

But would our discussion so far indicate that when it comes to the first use of the law as curb, the pastor’s authority is more coram deo than coram hominibus? The latter would fall under the realm of the state? Or is the first use wholly LH kingdom, and outside the role of the Office? Guess I need a little clarity here….

But when it comes to LH kingdom type decisions in the congregation (what color should the carpet be?) the pastor has no real authority, unless it is voluntarily given by the congregation (which it often is). Here the LH kingdom application seems to go to property ownership, and at least in our circles, the congregation (as a corporate entity under the state) “belongs” to the members. Finally, I would think a wise LH leadership would want to consult the pastor on many decisions for possible RH implications. After all, the primary purpose of a congregation is a RH one…

I know a pastor who said it this way: “If the toilet backs up, call the trustee. If the toilet backs up and floods the hallway, call the president of the congregation. If the toilet backs up, floods the hallway, and drowns three people… THEN you call the pastor.”

In the case of Stephan, here we had a faulty balance (best construction) of 2 kingdom authority. The pastor must always spend most of his time and energy in the RH kingdom, else trouble ensues. He must remember what his proper authority is, and not demand LH authority as Stephan did. Even if the LH authority is voluntarily afforded, the pastor should never let it overshadow or distract from his RH role,

This is an interesting point of debate too… should pastors have a vote in congregational meetings, council meetings, etc..??? Constitutions probably vary on this, as to what they allow, but in most cases I avoid it, personally, even though ours allows it.

I would think that such things as Confirmation instruction have some LH kingdom implications, inasmuch as the pastor performs this task on behalf of the parents (read Luther’s instructions in the front of the catechism about how the head of the household should teach this to his children – I often think about canceling confirmation classes and pointing parents to THAT). It’s not the pastor’s main responsibility to do this particular teaching (though it is to teach the word in general), however I do believe that because most parents are (sadly) not equipped to do so, it makes sense to have the pastor teach the confirmands. Having said all that, confirmation instruction, also has RH kingdom aspects too, of course. I guess I’m a little fuzzy on this one. Maybe it’s a case of both?

The dividing lines of the two kingdoms seem clearer when discussing the roles of church and state, than dividing various issues within, say the church.

Anyone else feel free to jump in here....

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sinning and the State

Once again, I draw your attention to the blog of Bob Waters, Watersblogged!, where he and I have been discussing principles for the government's punishment of wrongdoers. Pastor Steigemeyer, at Burr in the Burgh, has a related story about a child rapist who received a ludicrously light sentence. I won't say too much more about these issues here, but encourage you to take a look, especially at Bob's very thoughtful comments...


According to this report, 2 students were expelled from a WELS/ELS Lutheran High School in California on the suspicion they were lesbians. The school is now being sued for damages of over $25,000.

Christianpost.com also reports on the story.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Issue of "The Lark"

Read it here...

Churches Blessing Ipods

Purpose Driven Field

Billy Graham License Plates

and more...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Circumcision of our Lord - The Circumcision of our Children?

Our local paper recently ran this story, "To Snip, or Not to Snip?"

The article itself focuses mainly on the health aspects of the procedure, and declining rates of circumcision, especially among Hispanics.

I thought about this today as we celebrated the Circumcision of Our Lord (according to the official CPH rubrics)

So what about it, Lutherans? Any thoughts on the practice? I have two girls and haven't had to decide... but I would lean toward it if I had a boy.

Good enough for Jesus, Abraham, and so many others... why not good enough for our children? Not as a law. But if disease isn't an issue, as the article suggests, what would be the pros and cons?