Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Avast! Be they Lutheran pirates?

Suffering scurvy. Batten the hatches.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Christian News Irony

I find it ironic that Christian News, which has been pretty down on the Lutheran blogosphere, has been re-printing large portions of Lutheran blogs lately (including comments!) There must be 4 pages of Augsburg 1530 discussion printed in the latest issue of CN. There's also a reprint of a Father Hollywood blog post, and some other blog stuff, too, I think.

Which I find humorous, and telling.

See here and here for my previous comments on Christian News.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost 2 - Matthew 6:24-34

“Don't Worry”
Matthew 6:24-34

“Don't worry, be happy. Aint got no cash, aint got no style? Aint got no gal to make you smile? Don't worry. Be happy. Cause when you worry your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down. Don't worry, be happy”

So go the lyrics of a once-popular song you'll sometimes hear on the radio, even today. Light-hearted fun that it is, it's not exactly the same sentiment that Jesus expresses here in Matthew 6, from the Sermon on the Mt.

Jesus does say not to worry. But more than a trite aphorism designed to put a spring in our step and a smile on our face – Jesus' words about worry are deeply rooted in an understanding of God – whose good and gracious will is always to care for us, his people. Let's consider today the savior's words on worry.

First, can we agree that worry is a problem for everyone? I often observe that worry is the pet sin of mothers – who love to worry about their children. But the truth is, we all worry about tomorrow. We may not worry so much about what we will eat or wear, as many did in Jesus' day. We may have different worries. But we worry all the same.

Worrying about finances – especially in these uncertain times, with food and gas prices rising. We worry about tomorrow. We worry about our health. What will the test results show? Will I make it to retirement, to see my children's children, or even another year on this earth?

We worry about what people think about us. Will they like me? Will they remember me? Will they hate me?

Maybe you worry about your church – and how we will get everything done around here with finances tight and expenses getting higher. Maybe you worry about terrorism and the threats of those who would harm Americans abroad or at home.

We worry about our children – will they be safe, successful, and financially stable? Will they get into the right school, get the right job, marry the right person (and stay married)? Will they have children and will those children ever learn to behave? Will our kids keep the faith, go to church and treasure the values we raised them with, or will they go their own way?

And we might even worry about our own standing with God. Will God hold my sins against me? Will I have to answer for those deep, dark things I have done? Will I really be going to heaven after all, or might he change his mind or something?

Yes, we could go on and on about our worries. They come in many flavors. But then, we also try to mask them, don't we, rationalizing them by saying, “Oh, I'm not worried, I'm just concerned”. Really? Sometimes that's just a smokescreen to make our worry seem pious and wise.

How many of the things we worry about never come to fruition anyway? How much time and energy is spent on this fruitless and wasteful endeavor of worry?

Do you think of worry as a mere character flaw or foible? Something that everyone does and gosh-golly, oh well, it would be nice if we didn't do it so Jesus is just giving us a helpful hint here. Is that why we use those cute little monikers like “worry wort” to chide someone - “don't worry, be happy!”

Or do you see worry as a sin? After all, he tells us not to do it, and we do it anyway. Isn't this yet another form of willful disobedience flowing from the sinful human heart? Do you think of worry as being against God's will – a sin for which we should repent? We confess sins of word and deed and thought – and worry should be among those sins of thought.

So here's the heart of the question of worry. Do we trust God?

Do we trust God to provide for our daily needs? Jesus says we should. Look at the birds and the lilies – these relatively insignificant creations – and how God provides for them. Don't you think God will care for you all the more, since you are worth so much more than they are?

The good news is that God provides for us – and does so abundantly.
He gives us daily bread so abundant we lose track. Especially here, in our day and age and place. We Americans have, historically speaking, far less cause to worry than most people in the world ever had. And yet we find ways to do it.

He provides for us, though we don't deserve it. It's true – “the rain falls even on the wicked”. God provides for us all only out of his “fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me”. What we deserve is death and punishment. What we get is fresh vegetables and gourmet cheeseburgers - and big-screen TVs, SUVs and i-phones and houses and cottages up north and clothes that look spiffy and gadgets and gizmos and products galore. Not to mention family and friends and a good reputation, land, animals and all that we have.

But more than this, he provides for us, first and foremost for our salvation through Jesus Christ. We have no need to worry before God, because of Jesus. We have no need to fear the future or the judgment day, because Christ is our savior. God the Father, who demands payment for sin, is also the one to provide it. He sends his Son to shed his blood to make everything right and new. When worried Issac asked his father Abraham, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” he might have suspected what his father was about to do. But Abraham spoke the words of faith, “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice”. And of course, our faithful God did. He provided the ram in the thicket for Issac, and he provides the Lamb of God on the cross for us all.

So the call to “not worry” is much more than a slogan or soundbyte of Jesus. He's telling us more than just to put on a happy face. He is calling us to repent of our lack of faith, and to turn to him and to God the Father in faith. He promises us that faith will be well placed. He gives evidence from the world of nature, and he puts his blood where his mouth is when he shows God's ultimate care for us at the cross. He gives us good reasons to not worry. He cares for us. He provides for us.

So don't worry about tomorrow. Don't even worry about today. Instead trust in the good and gracious God, our Father, through his Son our Savior Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And be at peace in him. Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Seminary Prof. Berger on ABLAZE!

Check out the scathing critique of ABLAZE! by Seminary Professor (and Board for Communications Services member) David Berger. This is posted on the Seminary's official site, "Concordia Theology". Wow!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kelly on Dedications

Kelly Klages, a Lutheran in Canada and a fellow blogger, has some nice thoughts on the practice of "Infant Dedications". I've often had similar thoughts about it. Check out hers here.

In my crabbier moments, I've called these dedications a poor substitute for the real thing - Holy Baptism.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rams to Concordia for Training!

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Rams will be coming to Concordia University, Wisconsin (Mequon) for their annual training camp activities.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost Sunday - John 7:37-39

The Day of Pentecost
“The Feast of Living Waters”
John 7:37-39

Today is the day of Pentecost. It is one of the three great holy days of the Christian year. Along with Christmas and Easter, today, 50 days after Easter, has long been one of the “big three” for Christ's people.

Perhaps it is because Pentecost is the “Birthday of the Church”. Or maybe because it is when we see the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit - in his most visible demonstration of power. Or maybe it's because the ancient Jews celebrated three major festivals, too... Rosh Hashannah (the New Year), the Passover Feast, and one less know to us modern Christians, the “Feast of Tabernacles” or “Booths”.

It was this third feast, this one of these three pilgrimage feasts, that brought many observant Jews from all over the world to Jerusalem on the original Christian day of Pentecost. What a perfect occasion for the Holy Spirit to pour out his Living Waters and for the gospel to be spread and shared with many nations.

Our Gospel reading today from John tells about Jesus celebrating on this Feast Day, a year before the events of the passion. But it was more than just a day.

Actually, the feast of Tabernacles would last 8 days, and included a number of ceremonies and traditions. It was a harvest feast, in some ways similar to our own Thanksgiving. During the feast, participants were to live and eat in tents, or booths – temporary dwellings. This would remind them of their forefather's wilderness wanderings. It would perhaps also remind them to be thankful for the permanent land and yearly cycle of agriculture they now enjoyed. And maybe also to show how this earth itself is a temporary dwelling, compared to our eternal home in heaven.

Among the interesting aspects of this festival, were the important connections to water. During the feast, a priest would draw water with a golden pitcher and pour it on the altar. And the final day – the day on which Jesus spoke – was called, “the Festival of Living Water”. On it, the people would pray for rain to come and water the land for next year's crops to grow too.

So it's no accident that on the “Festival of Living Water” Jesus says HE will give the living waters – and John says that water he spoke of is the Holy Spirit. Waters that have little to do with agriculture and harvest, but waters much more important for quenching the spiritual thirst of all people. Waters which refresh us, and make us refreshing to others.

Consider for a few moments, the words of Jesus on the “Festival of Living Water”.

“Let all who thirst come to me.”

Do you thirst? I don't mean do you need a tall glass of water or a bottle of gatorade. I mean do you thirst? Do you recognize, spiritually, that you are parched and dry and in need of something to refresh you? Like the dry ground of the Israelite farmers, are you in need of softening up, so that the seed can take root?

Jesus isn't speaking here of the thirsts of our sinful nature – the passions of the flesh. He means the thirst for righteousness that comes when a soul knows its sin. Like Peter's hearers on that first day of Pentecost, who were “cut to the heart” and asked, “what shall we then do?”

So do you know your sin? Do you feel the weight of your conscience for the wrongs you have done? Do you see the law you have broken and the consequences that follow? Can you see through your rationalizations and excuses like God does? What about that nagging voice of the law bearing down on you, that pointing finger that shows all your faults and flaws? Do you thirst for righteousness?

Or do you thirst from hurt? Do your own sins and the sins of those around you bring pain and suffering that seem unbearable? Do you just wish it would all go away? Are you thirsting for a better time, a light at the end of the tunnel? Hope in the midst of hopelessness? An oasis in the hot scorching desert?

“Let all how thirst come to me and drink.” Jesus is the only one to quench the thirst. We can't do it ourselves. But his blood shed at the cross gives us life, even as he gives it to us to drink in the sacrament. His baptismal waters wash away sin, not just back then, but even now, and we are refreshed. Jesus is all about forgiving, refreshing, renewing and giving life. And he does it, also, by sending his Holy Spirit.

Today, confirmation day, we mark and remember that living water which washed away your sins in Holy Baptism. This isn't so much a day recognizing all the great things you've learned about your faith in the last couple years. It's not even mostly about your opportunity to state your faith publicly, though you will. Confirmation is when we recognize and confirm the gifts God gave you in your baptism – the living water of the Holy Spirit. It is there that you were brought to faith and made spiritually alive forever. There, at the font, God made you his child for eternity.

But today, you will also begin to partake of the blessings of His Supper. And as the Lord feeds you with his own body and blood, you will continue to be refreshed with forgiveness, life and salvation. And all of us, believers, here today, enjoy these same blessings, as we too are his children. As we too are fed and nourished by him.

Notice this, though. When Jesus speaks of us, who believe in him, after our thirst is quenched, and we have received the spirit.... Notice what he says...
“of his heart will flow rivers of living water”. Will... not should or may or must. It simply will happen.

Sometimes we get the idea that to really, truly, be a Christian, we must do this work or that work – we must give our offerings and give more, or we must go to church every sunday or help old ladies across the street. Or even the idea that we must constantly evangelize the world, personally.

But Jesus doesn't say must or shalt or even, “would you please?” He simply says what happens with the believer. Those who have received the living water, now have the Spirit's water flowing from their hearts. And so the flood of his blessings becomes a rising tide washing over more and more who believe in Christ and are saved.

You may not recognize, ever, how and when it happens – that those waters flow from you. But it's not our job to go around measuring such things. Ours is to believe in him and live according to that word. How will the Spirit flow from you? You may never now how and where and when, but he will. God will use you as he sees fit, to bring others those living waters.

On this day of Pentecost, this feast of Tabernacles, this festival of Living Waters, consider the Living Water that quenches our thirst – our spiritual thirst for righteousness and hope. That water which also flows from each of us – as we trust in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Be thankful for this great flood of blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord, For we are baptized, and we believe in him, amen.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Rev. Wright - Valpo Connection

One of our congregation members (jokingly) asked me when Rev. Jeremiah Wright might be scheduled to preach here, since he held a Doctorate from one of our schools.

What? He then explained that in the Chicago Tribune, a recent article pointed out that Wright received an honorary doctorate from Valparaiso University in 2002.

Here's the article. Did you know Wright had this "Lutheran connection"?

Oh, apparently one of the Professors from LSTC is also a member of Wright's congregation, and is quoted in the article too.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sermon - Ascension Day - Psalm 110:4

Ascension Day
May 1st, 2008
Psalm 110:4
“A Priest in the Order of Melchizedek”

Today, Ascension Day, marks that event in our Lord's work for us, when, after he was born and lived and died and rose – he completed his earthly tour of duty, and ascended into Heaven right before his disciples' eyes. He was going back from whence he came – re-taking his heavenly throne. He was resuming his rightful power and majesty and glory as the Lord of Heaven and Earth – God of God over all. Today is a triumphant day for him – and for us his people, as our Lord not only rules all things – but rules all things for our benefit.

The Introit for Ascension day takes a note from Psalm 110, which is also quoted in Heberews 5 and 6. An unusual thought – that Jesus Christ our Lord is a “Priest in the Order of Melchizedek”. A good Lutheran question is always, “what does this mean?”

Your first question might be, “Who is Melchizedek?” There are some interesting legends about Melchizedek from Jewish tradition. One holds that he was born circumcised. Another says he gave the robes of the first man, Adam, to Abraham. Still another says that Melchizedek was actually Shem, one of the sons of Noah. In any case he is a mysterious figure, barely even mentioned in the Old Testament.

What the Bible does say about him, is however, very instructive. For Melchizedek stands as one of those “types” or foreshadowings of our Lord Jesus Christ. His unique role and description point forward to the unique role our Lord assumes, especially in his Ascension to his Father's throne. So just who was Melchizedek?

Abraham had just gone on a mission to rescue his nephew Lot from the clutches of four kings who had conquered Sodom and Gamorrah (this was before the fire and brimstone, you see). In a nighttime raid, Abraham and his fighting men were victorious over their enemies, and a sort of victory celebration ensues – it is then that Melchizedek appears, abruptly. We read:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand."

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Later, Psalm 110 prophesies the coming Messiah, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

So why does the New Testament writer to the Hebrews connect Christ to this mysterious Old Testament figure? And what does this mean for our faith? We could suggest the following:

Melchizedek – the name means “king of righteousness”. Certainly Jesus Christ is our king of righteousness. A king unlike the kings of this world, especially now that he is ascended on high. He not only rules over us, but also guards and protects us from all enemies – keeping us safe from Sin, Death and Devil. And in Christ's righteousness, we are also made righteous.

Melchizedek was also the “king of Salem”. Salem means “peace” and Jesus, of course, is called the “prince of peace”. However, it's also been suggested that the city Melchizedek ruled was actually Jerusalem (Salem being an older name for the same place). Jerusalem, the city of David, the capitol of Israel – Jerusalem, which is synonymous with “God's people”. Jesus is the king over us, his people, the New Jerusalem, and one day over the Heavenly Jerusalem, which Revelation describes as his own bride. Jesus is the king that brings us peace with God forever.

Melchizedek. A king, but also a priest. A ruler over his people, but also one who intercedes with God for them. A representative of the people before God. So too, Jesus Christ – the great High Priest. The one who offered the ultimate sacrifice of his very self on the altar of the cross. He, who now intercedes for us all with his Father. Jesus' kingly priesthood exceeds all Levitical and Aaronic priesthood. He was, like Melchizedek, a priest before them And he is a priest forevermore – our high priest in Heaven.

It's also worth mentioning that since Scripture calls the church a “royal priesthood”, we could see ourselves, also, in the Order of Melchizedek. We are kingly priests – who will share in the reign of our great High Priest now already seated on his throne.

And strangely, Melchizedek appears, bringing bread and wine. Could this be a foreshadowing of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who brings us bread and wine that is also his body and blood? Are there sacramental overtones in the priesthood of old Melchizedek?

Finally, Abraham, awash in his success, and wealthy in plunder, nonetheless offers a tithe to this strange kingly priest. In an act of worship, Abraham honors God through the priest – offering a portion of what he had received. We too return to the Lord a share of our blessings, sometimes even a tenth, sometimes more. We too give thanks for the victory he grants us, victory in the battle over sin and death. A victory won on Calvary, and made ours at the font and rail. So we bring to his altar the firstfruits of what he gives in joyful gratitude.

So what of Melchizedek? He points to Jesus. And what of Jesus? He is our king, he is our priest. He brings us blessings and victory. He rules over us, and he watches over us. He intercedes for us with the Father – a perfect go-between, just as he was the perfect substitute and the perfect sacrifice.

On this Ascension day, as we ponder our king who now reigns on high – remember he is your king, your prince of peace, your mighty God, who rules all things for your good. But remember he is also your priest, who made the sacrifice for you, and who goes to God on your behalf, even now, and for eternity.

“You are a priest forever in the Order of Melchizedek” Hail, oh kingly-priest, receive our thanks and praise. In Jesus' Name. Amen.