Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Latest Abortion News...

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Genetic material from four dead fetuses found at an Ocean City home was being examined Tuesday in an attempt to see whether a 37-year-old taxi driver charged with murdering one of the babies is the mother of all four.

I am struck by this story for a number of reasons.

1. I am originally from Baltimore, MD and Ocean City was a favorite vacation spot for our family. In fact, I spent my honeymoon with my wife there.

2. Obviously this story presents all sorts of problems for the pro-abortion/pro-choice proponents. It will be interesting to see the legal wranglings over this case, and how the law treats this woman's actions in regards to the babies, born and unborn.

3. Mostly, though, the whole thing just makes me sick. And it makes me ponder about the ever more shocking news stories I've been reading in the headlines. Things that are unspeakable have become daily fodder for our media outlets. The Connecticut home invasion. This story, which I hate to even mention. There are so many horrific and increasingly disturbing accounts of sin gone wild in our world today.
What gives?

Before I sound like an old fogey, hankering for the good old days when everything was idyllic and placid... I know full well we have always had sin, and horrific crimes are nothing new.

But it appears to me there is an ever-increasing need to shock the American public with edgier and edgier stories. What might have outraged us years ago barely gets a shrug now. So how much further can we go?

I also wonder about the cumulative effect of all this on the spirit. It can't be good.

And to think, even for THIS sin, Christ has paid the price... wow.

Edit:  Found this interesting commentary by pundit Jon Sanders

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sermon - Pentecost 9 - Luke 11:1-13

Pentecost 9c
July 29th, 2007
Luke 11:1-13

"An Egg or a Scorpion?"

An egg or a scorpion. Close your eyes, hold out your hand, and I will give you one or the other. Which would you like? I think we would all prefer the egg. But what happens when the egg looks like a scorpion, and the scorpion looks like an egg? Then I may think I want the scorpion, even though I really want the egg.

Today we hear from Jesus on prayer. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is a little different than the one we’ve all memorized, but essentially the same. It is the example, or model prayer for disciples of Jesus to pray. It teaches us how to pray, how to think about prayer, what prayer is all about. But not just prayer – in fact here we learn much more about our relationship with God. For instance…

He is our Father, and we are his children. Perhaps not something that shocks us, but it should, that the God of the universe would see himself as our loving Father.

We pray for his name to be kept holy, and his kingdom to come. These “things of God”, his identity and his rulership, should always be first priorities for his children.

We pray for daily bread – not just bread, but everything to sustain our lives – and we pray to him, because he alone provides those things. And he provides them every day.

We pray for forgiveness – which is the bread for the soul. It is what we need to live spiritually, and he provides it even more abundantly.

And we ask for continued guidance, to steer us clear from sin and temptation – all that would harm us, every evil.

So we pray. So we trust God to hear us for the sake of Christ. So we live and believe in him.
Here in our reading from Luke, Jesus provides some further commentary, too…

He speaks of eggs and scorpions, fish and serpents, and a pest who knocks on his neighbor’s door at the midnight hour. But in it all, he wants to show us how to pray, and to assure us that through him our Heavenly Father will answer our prayers by giving us good things.
Back to the example of the scorpion and egg, or likewise the fish and the serpent. The point here is that the father gives the children what is good for them. But the problem with this, from our perspective, is that we don’t know what is good for us.

Imagine if certain parents gave their children everything they ever asked for. Perhaps you know parents like this – that let their children go to bed when they want, have any toys that they want, eat whatever junk food they want, and generally misbehave to their hearts’ content. Our estimation of such parents would be that they are shirking their duties, and failing their children. And the children likely won’t be the better for it. Though the children think they are receiving eggs, they are really getting scorpions.

So it is with us, when it comes to prayer. We think we know what’s best for ourselves. We certainly know what we want. And sometimes that is what God wants us to have. But not always. God’s will for our lives, and his estimation of what is good for us is not determined by our often petty and sinful wants and desires. Even the “biggies” for us, like wealth and health and love – things for which most people pray fervently – God often says “no” to these requests. Such an answer doesn’t make sense to us. We may ask God why? And often no answer is forthcoming. Sort of like a parent, who tells a child, “Because I said so”.

But God is good, and he means good for us, his children. He knows what we need and knows it better than we do. And while he does bless us richly with physical, earthly blessings, sometimes we are blessed by not receiving them. All in accord with his will.

However, these earthly things are not the only kinds of blessings, nor are they most important. Just as it is more important for our children to learn kindness and integrity than to have the latest toy, so too God knows the things spiritual are better for us than anything physical could be. And here is where his sure promise is founded.

When Jesus says, “ask, and it will be given… knock, and it will be open to you”, he doesn’t mean to suggest God is a great candy dispenser or social welfare provider. God is not the eager bellhop who stands ready to do our bidding. Rather, when prayed in faith, according to his will, God will give us everything good for our blessing – especially those things spiritual.

Grace, mercy and peace. Forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ. Salvation. Eternal life. A clear conscience. The guidance of the Holy Spirit. These things we know are God’s will for us. These are the good gifts he guarantees.

How can God make such promises? Why does he esteem us, poorly behaved children that we are? On what basis does he provide so many and wonderful gifts to such petulant and wayward children? It’s because of Jesus Christ, of course.

Jesus who died on the cross – and there crushed the head of the serpent. Jesus who drank the cup of wrath, according to his Father’s will, that cup filled not with scorpion’s venom, but with the poison of our sins. He takes what is evil and sinful and wicked, and in return he gives us all good things.

And he calls on us to trust him, as in our prayers. That we would look to him for good things. For as an earthly father wouldn’t give his children something to harm them, how much more our Heavenly Father will give us good things.

And as an impatient neighbor gives in to a persistent neighbor, not out of love but to get rid of the pest, how much more will our patient and loving Father graciously give us good things simply because he wants to!

So, Christians, pray. Pray as Jesus taught. Pray for what he taught – earthly and spiritual blessings. Pray, knowing that your Heavenly Father hears you, and knows what is best – better than you do. Pray, trusting that he hears you, even though you are a sinner, only for the sake of Jesus Christ. Pray and expect that he will give you what is good. Ask. Seek. Knock. And all the while, trust. And you will receive what he freely gives, in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Grace TV Ad

Here's a local cable television ad we ran a few years back. We eventually gave up on it because the cost was a little high, and we weren't able to run it too often.

Of course, now in the age of YouTube... I see all kinds of possibilities.

We are going to tinker with some sermon V-Casts soon. Many thanks to Matt who is helping out with this project!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More disturbing ELCA news...

Same-sex salvation
LUTHERAN CHURCH | Wayne Miller, the next Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, is pushing for abolition of celibacy requirements for gay and lesbian clergy...  link here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Did some updates to the blog... cleaned up some of the mess at the top, updated some links, removed some clutter.

Also deleted "Lutheran Surviror"  (cancelled?)

and moved much of "Render Unto Caesar..." to a perma-post on the main blog.

Simplifying my blog life, you see.

Render Unto Caesar...

So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:21-26 ESV)

A Collection of Resources on Lutheran Two-Kingdom Theology:

From "Issues, Etc." Lutheran Radio Program:
Issues, Etc. Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Hour 2 WMA
Hour 2 MP3 "Open Lines: Sen. Kerry's Remarks at the AME Convention"
"Christianity & Culture: Two Kingdom Theology"
Rev. Mark Sell Concordia Publishing House
Hour 3 WMA
Hour 3 MP3 "Christianity & Culture: Two Kingdom Theology (cont.)" Rev. Mark Sell Concordia Publishing House "Sen. John Edwards & Abortion" Barbara Holdt North Carolina Right to Life

Issues, Etc. Sunday, October 24, 2004
Hour 1 WMA
Hour 1 MP3

Hour 2 WMA
Hour 2 MP3 "Christianity in Two Kingdoms: Church and State," Pastor Mark Sell Concordia Publishing House

Issues, Etc. Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Hour 1 WMA
Hour 1 MP3 "Two Kingdom Theology & Bioethics" Dr. Gene Edward Veith World magazine

Issues, Etc. Monday, November 20, 2006
Hour 2 WMA
Hour 2 MP3 "The Culture War & Christian Democracy" Allan Carlson Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society "Two Kingdom Theology" Uwe Siemon Netto Concordia Seminary Institute on Lay Vocation

Some Books: 

Preachrblog  posts on the Two Kingdoms:

More on Confusion of 2 Kingdoms

More 2 Kingdom and Clergy Stuff

Lutheran Clergy, Politics, and Blogging

Pastors and 2-Kingdom Authority

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pr. Fouts Coins a Phrase

Pastor Ryan Fouts, from an internet discussion group:

"Of course we have areas of agreement. The disagreements have certainly
shifted from SOME of those of the Seminex era -- though I'd suggest that "Gospel
reductionism," morphed now into "mission reductionism" is one of the errors of
our day being avidly promoted by some"

"Mission Reductionism" - a false belief in some circles that "mission" or "outreach" is the number one priority of the church, something I certainly saw on display at the recent LCMS convention. Thanks for the aphorism, Pr. Fouts!

Sermon - St. Mary Magdalene - John 20:1-2, 10-18

St. Mary Magdalene
John 20:1-2, 10-18
July 22, 2007

As you’ve certainly noticed from our bulletin, today we observe a saint’s day in honor of Mary Magdalene. Like Christians throughout the ages, we look back to these people of God, especially from the New Testament, as examples of God’s grace shown in people’s lives, and as examples of faith for us to follow.

We don’t worship the saints, or look to them for any blessings – that is reserved for God alone. Nevertheless, there is something to learn from them about how our Lord deals with his people. And so we consider Mary Magdalene today, not for her own sake, but for how her story leads us also to Christ.

So who was Mary? What we know about her from the New Testament is this: she was a follower of Jesus. He had cast 7 demons out from her. Along with other women who accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem, she witnessed the crucifixion. She also was among those first witnesses to the Resurrection. After seeing Jesus’ body missing at the empty tomb, she went to tell Peter and John (and is sometimes called, therefore, “apostle to the apostles”). She then, apparently, returned to the tomb and there met two angels, along with Jesus himself, as we see in our Gospel reading today.

Many other traditions surround Mary, however. Many think of her as a former prostitute, though Scripture doesn’t say this, because Pope Gregory suggested this in a famous sermon. There is an ancient document known as “The Gospel of Mary” which the Christian church has long since rejected as false teaching.

More recently, the popular novel and movie “The DaVinci Code” suggests Mary was much more than a follower of Jesus, but his very wife. The idea is that Jesus and Mary had a child together, and that Jesus’ bloodline can be traced down into the kings of European history, and perhaps even continues today.

But all of this nonsense is a huge distraction from the most important thing to know about Mary – she was sinner forgiven by Christ. Just like you and me.

Not a gospel writer, but a gospel receiver. She was among the first to hear and see the good news that Jesus was alive! Like Mary, we too are recipients of that news. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, not only on Easter, but on every Sunday (or, Lord's Day). But also like Mary, we can and do tell the news as we have the opportunity. She went to tell Peter and John. Perhaps we have chances to tell family members and friends, witnessing and answering of the hope that is within us. “What makes you tick?” Someone might want to know... and an opening to share your faith in Christ appears. “What are you doing this Sunday?” and an opportunity to invite your family member to church arises.

No, Mary was not Jesus' wife, but like all of us she was part of the Bride. Yes, Jesus does have a bride, and that is his church – the whole people of God. People who fall at his feet in worship and praise for all the good he has done us.

Like us, Mary was set free from the power of the devil. For her, it was a direct exorcism by the Lord. For most of us, it was at the baptismal font, where we “renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways” and there our Lord cast out (or washed out) from us all sin, death and power of the devil. Like Mary, we belong to a new Spirit – the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ.

And like Jesus spoke to Mary, in the garden, calling her by name – so he has called each of us by name in Baptism, applying his grace and mercy in an individual way.

No, Mary was not the bearer of Jesus' bloodline, but she was, like us, saved by his blood. For at the cross Jesus shed his blood to make us all children of God – members of his divine bloodline by grace through faith. We become part of his family, and receive blessings untold through that saving blood.

And that same blood, along with his body, is offered even today. For the fruits of the cross are not merely seasonal. Jesus body and blood are here for you today, just as Christ is present in bread and wine for Christians all over the world, from every nation and tribe. And Jesus Christ will be here for you in Word and Sacrament next week, and the week after that, and for your whole earthly life. His forgiveness never ends. His blood never fails.

And on your deathbed, you will still be able to turn to Christ and know that the one who rose from the dead promises you a resurrection. So like Mary, who saw our risen Lord in the Garden, we too will meet him face to face.

Mary Magdalene reminds us today of our status as sinners forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ. Like her, we have seen the Lord and know his goodness. For just as Jesus loved Mary, so he loves us, and grants us the same promises and blessings. Give thanks to God for Mary Magdalene, who like all the saints, points us to Christ our savior, by whose blood we are saved. In His Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Too Tired...

Too tired to blog much about the convention. A little frustrated, and a lot bored.

You can get the daily summaries from lcms.org

I would commend to you another two bloggers who have been commenting:

The Confessional Gadfly for the comments of delegate Rev. Eric J Brown

Thinking Out Loud for the thoughts of delegate Rev. Rick Stuckwisch

Edit: One Lutheran Ablog! Rev. Paul Beisel shares his thoughts as a delegate

Don't forget to also check out the ALPB.org coverage

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Convention Report - Day 1

Kieschnick re-elected 52% on the first ballot.

Diekelman narrowly edges out Wohlrabe on the 3rd ballot for 1st VP.

Paul Maier 2nd VP.

John Wohlrabe 3rd VP, the one candidate I voted for that won...

Nadasdy and Buegler 4th and 5th.

Lots of other manuevering on nominations and omnibus resolutions, in which the "minority" was basically shellaqed.

Video greetings from president GWB as well as some minor levity rounded out this very LONG first day of the convention.

Preconvention Report - Overheard Conversations

Well here I am in the hotel lobby, too cheap to pay the $10/day in-room internet fee. At least it's free here. As promised, an update from the convention so far.

Official business, and the "big" elections begin today. I'm sure I will post about that later today.

Yesterday was: open floor committee meetings (which I did not attend), all delegate orientation (which was prety much the same as last year), opening worship, and the all-delegate meal.

But so far the most notable things that have happened have been conversations I have overheard.

One, in the shuttle on the way from the airport, included a conference attendee who came only to speak to the floor committee. He was a PCA (conservative Presbyterian) military chaplin who was lobbying for the LCMS to pass a resolution decrying women in combat roles. We had an overture to that effect which the floor committee had declined - saying the issue had been adequetely covered in a 13 year old Lutheran Witness article (which was really a point-counterpoint type of piece). I hope he swayed the floor committee to put the issue back on the docket, so the LCMS can take an official stand on this, as many other conservative denominaitons have done.

The other interesting conversation I overheard was at the delegate orientation session. Right behind me sat two older gentlemen who got to talking about the choices in the presidential election. One said something like this: "Yeah, I read all the stuff and studied the candidates. I even watched that DVD about Wohlrabe. I agree with a lot of what he said there, but... he said something against contemporary worship, and my congregation HAS contemporary worship, so I can't vote for him..." Too bad, because I do think Wohlrabe is the man we should elect.

The general sentiment around here seems to be that Kieschnick will be reelected handily. We shall see.

Finally I have had the chance to re-connect with a number of old friends and acquaintences, and meet some new ones. I pray the convention will go well, but even if not, God will continue to bless His church in Jesus Christ.

Until later...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A "Shocking" Sermon?

Charismatic Pastor in Uganda is accused of getting a little "help" in his... uh... anointing.

LCMS Convention Updates

As I mentioned, I will be trying to provide a daily reflection on the day's events. This may depend on my access to the internet.

But there are a couple of other sources you may wish to check out for convention reporting.

One is the live video stream and other sources provided by the LCMS website. See here for "How to get convention news"

Another is the reporting of Pr. Speckhard, of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (ALPB). This intra-Lutheran group certainly tends toward a more "moderate" stance, and Pr. Speckhard describes himself as a "company guy". Still, it's another perspective.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Authority "Behind the Bible" or "In Front of"?


Click on the link above to see Dr. Rolf A. Jacobson's introduction on, "How to Read the Bible".

As an LCMS Lutheran, I have little to quibble with in (ELCA) Dr. Jacobson's comments until about 4:35 in the video, where he discusses the authority of the Bible.

He discusses two approaches:  "Behind the Bible" and "In Front of the Bible".  The "Behind the Bible View" he then goes on to describe as "verbal inspiration".  However the way he describes it sounds more like the "dictation theory", which those of us in the LCMS typically don't espouse, even though we do hold to "verbal inspiration".  So this is a straw man.  

I would also object to his assertion that Lutherans haven't traditionally understood the Bible as verbally inspired.  In fact, they always have, as Luther did.  It is this new approach that is the real innovation....

The "In Front of the Bible" approach, he says, sees the Bible's authority more in its effects or its "claim on my life".  While I would certainly agree the Bible should not be put on a shelf or in a cooler, I find this a false alternative he is setting up.  Certainly the Bible has power.  Certainly the Bible is inspired - the very word of God.  It is one because it is the other.

What is truly Lutheran is so embrace the both/and, not the either/or.  However, if I had to choose one, I would still go with a "Behind" approach.

The danger of Dr. Jacobson's approach, as the ELCA exhibits, is in diminuating certain portions of the Bible as "not verbally inspired" (i.e., not God's word?), and therefore if it has no "effect" on me, then where is its authority?  It would seem the "In Front of" approach he is stumping is rather subjective, compared to an objective (and therefore more reliable) "Behind the Bible" approach.

I suppose he could have also talked more about a Christocentric view of Scripture, which is just important to Lutherans as anything else he has mentioned.  His citation of Luther's "cradle" quote at the end would have been a good jumping off point for that.

Getting Ready for Convention

As our circuit's pastoral delegate, I will be attending the LCMS convention in Houston next week. As I've told many, "I expect it to get hot in Houston, and the temperature should be pretty warm too!"

I plan to blog daily with news of the convention - particularly my insights and observations. Some of this might depend on internet availabilty. Will the hotel charge (or charge too much) for access? This is the biggest burning question I have right now. It would be nice to "live-blog" the convention, however, sadly, no electronic communication devices are allowed in the voting delegate section. Perhaps they will let me listen to my MP3 player, at least....

Anyway just some preliminary thoughts on how I am inclined, at this point, to vote next week:

Wohlrabe, Pres.
Preus, 1st VP
...along with the usual cadre of more traditional candidates.


1. Missions
Generally against most things "Ablaze!" i.e., the assumption that our churches need to be "revitalized". What does this mean? I'm all for missions, but "Ablaze!" does not equal "Missions". Too bad those resolutions on "correcting the theology of Ablaze!" didn't make it into resolutions. I could support Ablaze! if it was made Lutheran. 

2. District and Congregational Services
Nothing here excites or enrages me.

3. Theology and Church Relations
I am inclined to vote against fellowship with the AALC. I can be swayed, but my impression of them so far is that they are far more similar to the neo-evangelical wing of the LCMS than to the traditional Lutheran wing.

Some of the other requests for study seem ok (serial prayer, role of women), but I wonder if this is a "be careful what you wish for" situation...

4. Program and Finance
Much of this seems to be simple ratification of bylaw changes... about which I am not concerned. I will, however, be watching out for any whiff of a "membership fee" or "tax on congregations" proposal.

5. Seminary and University Education
The big one here is the SMP proposal. I have mixed feelings on this idea. I like the idea of cleaning up the mess of Witchita (lay ministers, etc...). But I am uncomfortable with the prospect of dumbed-down requirements for our pastors, or the thought of a two-tiered office. However, it might be an improvement even if it's not a perfect solution. My vote could go either way on this one.

Also generally NOT in favor of expanding boards of regents, especially by appointment. Boards can acquire the expertise they need without adding voting members, which would further dilute the authority of the Synod over the board.

6. Human Care
Mom and apple pie here. I expect the Stem Cell resolution to be the most notable one, and to pass overwhelmingly (as it should).

7. Planning and Administration
Red flag on 7-08, "..Removal of Individual Members from Board or Commission Membership" Whether intentional or not, this certainly smacks of a power-grab to keep those office-holders from the "opposition party" in line. Not good.

I would also like to see us revert to an earlier dispute resolution process... I am not satisfied with the latest version for a number of reasons (Too complicated, DP's as sole gate-keepers, legalistic face-to-face mandate, etc..) But I doubt that will happen.

8. Synod Structure and Governance
The big stumbling block here is the clause in 8.01, "In case of any conflict...such issues shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the constitution and bylaws of the synod". This gets to the heart of much of the dispute surrounding the synod's Board of Directors in recent years. It is extremely foolish to codify that the LCMS rules trump the laws of the state.

I didn't sign the lawsuit, nor did I think it was the best idea. But I don't believe, as some on the other side do, that Scripture ALWAYS prohibits Christians from pursuing justice in a secular court. The resolved of 8-02 that makes LCMS dispute resolution the "exclusive and final remedy" is out of line with a Lutheran understanding of two-kingdom theology.

I am also against, generally, calling a special convention (res. 8-07) for several reasons (too costly, not happy with most of the changes that are proposed, not seeing the needed changes being proposed, etc...)

As a general observation, this being my second round as a delegate (I went in 2004): It seems this time there is a lot more legaleese to be dealt with. Has our synod taken a turn toward the profusion of bylaws and policies? I would rather these meetings wrestled with things that mattered more, debated theology more, and discussed legal minutae less.