Monday, June 29, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost 4 - Mark 5:21-43

Sermon – Pentecost 4
June 28, 2009
Mark 5:21-43

Just who is this man, anyway? That's the question of Mark's Gospel that we asked and answered last week, as we considered Jesus calming the storm. Today we have two miracles – one interrupting the other. And the same question could be asked as Jesus miracles point to who he is.

First we have Jairus, a respected leader, a man of some standing. A man who humbled himself to come and beg for Jesus to help. His daughter was dying, and Jairus heard of Jesus' miraculous power. He could help. He could heal. It was urgent, the girl was at death's door, and so Jairus was in a hurry. But Jesus was surrounded by crowds, and they must have slowed him down some.

Especially when that other miracle happened, and the woman with the flow of blood found healing in Christ. 12 years she had suffered (probably as long as the little girl had lived). 12 years she had prayed, and hoped for a cure. But now comes Jesus, and she has faith – even after 12 years – faith that God will heal her. Such faith that she didn't need a laying on of hands, a special pronouncement of Jesus. She wasn't even looking for him to talk to her. She just thought, “if only I could touch him. No, not even him, just the hem of his garment – then I will be healed”. A little bit of Jesus goes a long way, and the woman's faith was rewarded. Jesus not only healed her, but gave her an audience, called her “daughter” and bid her go in peace. More than she could have hoped for.

But all this must have tested Jairus' faith. As he stood by, perhaps drumming his fingers as Jesus spent time with this old woman. Doesn't he remember my daughter? Doesn't he know time is of the essence? Reminds me of the disciples' question from last week's reading, “Don't you care if we drown?”

Yet before they even arrived, Jairus' worst fears were realized. It was too late. His daughter had died. He heard a message, and was about to send Jesus on his way. But Jesus would have none of it. He pressed on to Jairus' house. “Don't fear. Only believe.”

When Jesus arrived, the mourning had already begun. Customarily, professional mourners were hired. Perhaps this was just such an occasion. For their weeping and wailing quickly turned to laughter at Jesus when he said the girl wasn't dead, but sleeping. Jesus, however, is undeterred again, paying no mind to their ridicule. He had a job to do.

Later, others would ridicule him in the shadow of death, “if you are the Christ, save yourself”. But he would ignore them too, and be about his Father's business.

And so Jesus found the girl, and tenderly took her by the hand. Any other Jew would have been made ritually unclean by touching a corpse. But Jesus is the source of all cleansing and healing and life. And so he touches her, and speaks to her, and she lives.

“Little girl, I say to you, arise”. “Talitha Coum” How precious that the gospel writers preserve Jesus' words in the original language for us. Two other times we have such an insight – when Jesus healed the deaf man, “Ephatha”, meaning, “be opened”. And when Jesus suffered the worst of the cross, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani”. In all these cases Jesus was busy bringing health, wholeness, and life to his people.

The little girl arises to life – one of just three recorded times Jesus raised someone from death. The widow's son at Nain, also touched by Jesus – and Lazarus, who was raised simply by his strong word, “Lazarus, come out!”

And Jesus tells them to get her something to eat. Life is back to normal. Everything is restored.

There is so much to learn about Jesus from these miracles. He is the healer of disease. He is the one who gives life, even after death.

We who are beset by all sorts of sin and sin's effects – sickness, infirmity, troubles and trials, yes, even death. We need Jesus. We need him like Jairus, and the old woman and the little girl. We need to touch him, to hear him. We need him to come to our house.

It doesn't always happen like we expect. Sometimes there's some waiting involved. Sometimes life comes only after death. But Jesus doesn't give up when the going gets tough. He doesn't let time or death deter him from his goal.

One day, Jesus will speak a similar word to all of us. We Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead at the last day. One day he will call us from our graves, call us by name. Daughter, Son, arise. Come out of your grave and live. Join me in the mansions of heaven I have prepared. Yes, all his promises will be fulfilled in his time.

And so what would Jesus have us do now? The same as he told Jairus, “Do not fear. Only believe”. Easier said than done, but with God all things are possible. “Do not fear. Only believe”. Do not fear that God doesn't hear you. Do not fear that he doesn't care. Do not fear that he's forgotten even one of his many promises to you. Only believe.

And if you are sorry for your sins, do not fear that he holds them against you. Only believe what he says concerning them. That he who believes and is baptized will be saved. That sins forgiven on earth are forgiven in heaven. That our sins are made as far from us as the east is from the west. That he forgives our wickedness and remembers our sins no more. That though the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ. Do not fear. Only believe.

Believe in his Son Jesus Christ, who died to bring you life. Who lives that you may live. Who reigns and promises you a throne and crown. Do not fear, only believe, that the same Jesus who helped the prominent and the humble, who served the old and the young alike, has a place for you in his Kingdom of Grace. Believe in all that he has commanded you, and lo, he is with you always to the very end of the age.

In His Name, Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More from Walther...

(from "Law and Gospel" - the 29th Evening Lecture):

Every true preacher and servant of Christ will be filled with earnest zeal, even though his only return may be unpopularity and even bitter hatred. A true preacher will prefer that to being on good terms with everybody as a result of concealing or blunting the truth.

Thus, my friends, it cannot be denied: A preacher, especially a zealous one, must take his preaching very seriously, or else he commits grave sin. But he can also sin by going beyond the Word of God in what he says about Christianity and its demands.

(from the 28th evening lecture):

When, for example, a preacher wrongly reproves, and this is heard by pious, conscientious Christians who work out their salvation with fear and trembling, it may easily happen that such dear souls now become uncertain about their state of grace and doubt whether they will be saved. Then the preacher must not think that he will straighten out everything in a later sermon. No, the more the hearers look upon their pastor as orthodox and a genuine, experienced Christian, the less will they be able to surmount the trouble when he has shot the arrow of a false rebuke into their hearts.

Or he may offer false comfort where he should have rebuked, and false Christians enjoy it and compliment themselves on being good Christians. How terrible when a carnal-minded and secure person regards himself as a good Christian, even though the opposite is the case! He will go on in his blindness and finally be eternally damned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost 3 - Mark 4:35-41

Sermon – Pentecost 3
June 21, 2009
Mark 4:35-41

Just who is this man, anyway? That's not only the question at the end of our Gospel text today, but it's a question around which Mark builds his Gospel, at least until Chapter 8. Jesus is shown to be a preacher and a healer, someone who can draw a crowd and cast out demons. He eats with sinners, and even called a tax collector as a disciple. He heals a paralytic and forgives sins on his own authority. Mark gives us more than a clue at the beginning, when at Jesus' baptism God himself answers the question, “who is this man?”: This is His Son, with whom he is well pleased. Peter would say it again in Chapter 8, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Jesus has been dropping hints and calling cards in all these signs and wonders, if only they'd put it all together. And maybe they were starting to get it. But when trouble comes, and faith is put to the test, humans often fall short. That's what happened on the sea of Galilee, that day when the storm came.

It all starts out like any other day. Jesus is teaching, the Disciples are following. He says let's get in the boat and go to the other side.
But then the storm comes. And it must have been a doozie.

When we were in Israel in 2007, we took the tourist boat ride on the sea of Galilee. It was rather pleasant. In fact it even started to rain. But the light sprinkling we got was nothing like that day Mark writes about. He says a “furious squall” or a “great windstorm” came up, and the boat was already filling with water. These seasoned fishermen must not have seen too many storms like this. It quickly threatened to sink their boat and drown them all in short order. They were afraid.

But Jesus slept. With all of the commotion, wind, wave, and surely shouting disciples, Jesus slept. He appeared not to notice, not to care, while the storm raged about them.

And while this is a true story, it serves a such an apt picture of the troubles in our lives. We can relate to those disciples, who feared in the face of the storm. It's not mostly weather that makes us quake and tremble, but it's the “storms of life”. The troubles and conflicts, the worries and woes that we face on life's sea.

Some we bring on ourselves, by our own sin. Some are brought on by others, members of the sinful world around us. Some may even come from the Devil and his forces. These spiritual enemies are constantly trying to sink our boat of faith.

Sometimes the storm happens, and it's just a storm. A freak of the broken nature we live in. A disease, an accident, a job loss – the unpleasant things that happen to you for seemingly no reason. These too are a result of sin, and living in this fallen world we are sure to see our share of them.

And it's not just individuals that face the storms. Sometimes a congregation charts a course through rough waters. Sin's effects are sometimes pervasive – affecting the body as well as individual members. We may struggle with conflict and disagreement, confusion and worry.

The disciples, in their fearful panic at the storm – asked a question. And we give them mixed marks for their question.

On the one hand, we can say, with Jesus, that they should have had more faith. If they truly knew and believed in Jesus, they would not have worried, even in the face of the storm. Even with the prospect that the boat would take on water and sink to the depths. Even if they all should drown, Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. He came to save them, and he would. He cared for them – deeper than they could ever know. “Don't you care?” they asked him. Of course he cared, and he still does.

When we see the storm coming, we are just as quick to worry. When we see the wind and wave around us, we struggle with faith the same. Do we trust Jesus to be the Christ? Do we trust him to save us? That in the end it all works out to his glory? That in all things he works for the good of those who love him? Could Jesus ask us all, “have you still no faith?”

On the other hand, the disciples were right in this: They knew where to go for help. They knew that Jesus could do something. Even if they didn't quite believe that he would. They called on him, (could we say, they prayed to him?) and asked his help. And he delivered.

So too is it good for us to call on Christ in every trouble. So often we think we can solve our own troubles, or we despair when we think we can't. But we forget that Christ is right here with us. And if it seems he slumbers, perhaps he's waiting for us to finally turn to him. To repent of our own way and rely on him and his way.

And notice how he does it. He doesn't wave a magic wand. He doesn't bail out the water with his own bucket. He simply speaks. It's the word. That's where he shows his power, even today.

The same Christ, Son of God whose word holds the power to hush the furious storm is the same Christ whose word holds the power today.

The Word that rebukes wind and wave, is a word of rebuke for us. It is the same word that condemns and terrifies us for our sins, commands and corrects us to do better. The same word that calls us to repentance, and by which we call each other to turn from sin and receive that other word – the Gospel.

The Word that bids the storm to cease is the same word of quiet and peace for us. That all who bring our sins to Jesus find a calm in the storms of life – be they storms of our own making or not. In all of it he says, “Be still. Be still and know that I am God.” If he has the power to calm the storm, he certainly has the power to calm my troubled heart, my conflicted home, my distressed congregation. To forgive sins and rescue from death and hell. We have only to turn to him, and hear his word.

Let us do so, in his Name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eastern District Report

I received the following report on the Eastern District 2009 convention from a friend who attended as a lay delegate:


My trip to the convention started with a seven hour drive to Amherst, NY (in the Beltway of Buffalo). Nothing really special there and I am sure that you do not really care about the drive anyway.

The location was Daemen College, which from what I can tell was originally founded as a Catholic institution but seems to be pretty well secularized, even though there were signs that there is a prevalent Campus Ministry of some type there.

The convention this year was a two day event, Friday and Saturday; in the past it had covered three days, but this year they tightened the schedule. Part of what allowed that was the use of wireless electronic voting keypads, which gave immediate results for voting previously they hand counted the paper votes.

Our itinerary stated with two workshops on Friday morning. Our choices were: “Ablaze in your Congregation” (Russ Sommerfeld), “Military Chaplaincy” (John Wohlrabe and Alex Knowles), “Congregational Finances” (Dave Bernard and John Siebert), “Ministry to Aging Boomers” (Cory Eckstrom), “Contextual Worship” (Dave Hurlbutt), “Parish Nursing” (Joyce Schumm and Mary Dries), “Building Your Facility Around Your Ministry” (Arnold Deknatel), and “Man-gelism – Reaching Men” (Rich Cohrs). We had to sign up for the workshops weeks ago when we registered. I had signed up for Congregational Finances and Man-gelism, the former because it sounded the least likely to be Ablaze propaganda and the later just because it seemed somewhat interesting. The Finances workshop was lead by a CPA who deals allot with helping Churches with their finances and was actually very informative, although not very theologically challenging. The Man-gelism workshop had a couple interesting points made, but was more or less trying to work up niche marketing with men in mind.

After Lunch we got to the actual convention business, which naturally started with one of eleven “Eastern District Ablaze! Ministry Moments Video,” which were five minute video clips highlighting some special thing a church in the Eastern District was doing they felt they could tack with the Ablaze! moniker.

The first order of business was the election of the new Eastern District President, since Dr. Brunner announced his retirement last year effective this August. The three canidates were Chris Wicher, Divid Werly, and Arthur Litke. Chris Wicher, probably the most Kieschnick-like, won on the first vote with more than 50% of the vote, so there was not even a runoff. One nice thing though is that Arthur Litke did later win the vote to be the First Vice President of the district. He was the favorite of the more confessional segment of the district which seems to be centered around the Pittsburgh region.

There were several other votes to fill offices of the district. There were also several voice votes on resolutions, which are contained in the “Todays Business” document, which I can send to you if you would like. Most of these were somewhat vaguely written and supported Ablaze! initiatives. There were some dissenting voices which spoke on the one microphone (we are a relatively small district and only really need one mike because there were only 192 voting delegates) but all of the resolutions passed without problem.

During all of this there were three Bible Study led by Russ Somerfeld, the President of the Nebraska District. They were centered around the theme of the convention, “Transforming Lives for time and for Eternity.” Perhaps I am just a bit cynical, but the Bible Study seemed to be mostly Law focused prodding us to do more. There were these little ceramic pieces of “Art” made by people in Panama called Bibelots that were a major feature of the Bible studies. We were all supposed to take these things home and use them at some time in the future to witness to someone else. I found that to be too gimmicky and left mine at the convention, perhaps someone who actually likes those type of things will pick it up and use it.

After the convention adjourned for the evening on Friday there was a Presidents reception, but several of us skipped that because of game 7 (I am sure you know what I am talking about here), probably the best part of the convention in my personal opinion.

On Saturday we received a report from the President of the Synod. Apparently President Kieschnick was too busy to make it to our convention personally, so he sent a proxy to read a statement followed by a videotaped report.

Then we had a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance give us a four page survey, ranked with five choices for each point from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree on the changes they are proposing. The representative said the Task Force would consider our opinion in their final proposal to the Synod at convention next year. He read each of the statements and gave the Task Force's reasons for making the proposals. Questions and comments were allowed after he had went through the entire survey. Personally I did not like the fact that questions and comments were not allowed until the end because some of these could have changed how people responded to points on the survey, but I really wonder if the results of the survey have much real weight in the Tasks Forces actions anyway.

The last question on the survey was should the Synod change its name, and if yes, what should the Synod be called.

There were a few more votes on resolutions in the afternoon on Saturday, but seeing as all of them were passing despite of my vote anyway, and that I had a seven hour drive home and a Sunday School lesson to finish because I am teaching the Adult Bible class during our vacancy, I left a couple of hours early. [A neighboring pastor] told me all of the resolutions passed as I had expected. I also missed a Eucharist Service, which bothered me more, but really I do not know if I consider myself in communion with the leadership of our district who are so much into this Ablaze! Garbage.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Walther: Insanity

How can I dare to approach God with an evil conscience and thank Him for forgiveness?...Only an insane person would say, "Forgive me for what I have done, but I intend to keep on doing it; I will insult you whenever I see you, but please forgive me." Yet that is the way people act who want to take comfort in God's grace and still continue in their sin...

What matterrs is not the external enormity of the sin but the attitude of my heart in connection with that sin. A sudden sin of passion or temper does not extinguish faith, for I sinned without wanting to do it. I can remain in grace. But where there is persistence in sin against conscience and better knowledge, faith departs, one cannot pray to God, the Holy Spirit moves out of the heart, and another spirit moves in.

...All sins are great sins. Even the so-called sins of weakness, of which the justified cannot rid themselves, are no trifle. Even though faith is not extinguished thereby, they are no joking matter.

And let no one find security in the thought that he is one of the elect and therefore bound to be saved, regardless of what he does. If you live in your sins and persist in them, that is a sign that you are not among the elect. Not as though God really did not want you, but He foresaw that you are such a disgraceful scoundrel and that you abuse His grace. No indeed, if you are that kind of person, you are not in the state of grace, and if you persist in this condition you will be damned! No one can deny that Adam and Eve were among the elect. Yet the fell and lost God's image, the Holy Spirit, their holiness, everything. But they repented and thus returned to the state of grace.

(C.F.W. Walther - Law and Gospel from Twentieth Evening Lecture on Thesis X)

Sermon - Pentecost 2 - Mark 4:26-34

Sermon – Pentecost 2
June 14, 2009
Mark 4:26-34

What young schoolchild doesn't do that universal project – you know the one, where you plant a seed in a little container, water it, put it on the classroom windowsill, and by the end of the school year it's sprouted and grown. What a lesson in how things work, and in patience and in how wonderful God has made this creation.

It's also a lesson about the kingdom of God. Jesus uses seeds again to tell us what the kingdom is like. And there's always something to learn from Jesus' teaching. Let's examine these two seed parables from Mark, and think on the kingdom of God as Jesus explains it.

The first parable is about patience and trust. The farmer learns the same lesson the schoolchild does – after you plant and water, there isn't much to do but wait. I planted my own garden several weeks ago, and though I diligently check its progress daily, it's not growing anywhere fast. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes trust in knowing that the combination of seed and soil and sun and water will produce results. But when? And how much?

In the kingdom of God, it's the same. God's word is cast onto the soil – and it produces effects. The church does the casting, the planting of the word – but we don't know why or how it works. We simply share what we have received, and watch its effects grow. We don't understand it, but we trust God to make it happen.

Through the Gospel, we come to believe in Jesus Christ. “Faith comes by hearing”. Through the Gospel, the Spirit calls us to faith in Christ. He plants the seed in our heart, and nurtures it to life. And it grows. When we hear the message of Christ crucified for sinners, he awakens and enlivens our faith. When we receive the Gospel in physical form – bread and wine that is his Body and Blood – he nurtures the seed growing within us.

And sometimes (quite often) we don't even see the growth happening. With an earthly seed the change is too gradual to watch it happen. But with the seed of his teaching, and the working of his Spirit, sometimes it's even harder to see, maybe even impossible.

We can't hurry it along, either. God's timetable is his own. There is no spiritual Miracle-grow. But as the seed gives life, so does the Gospel. And we trust in God's power to bring about that growth, in his time, in his way. This is frustrating for us, as we see friends and family members who aren't where we'd like them to be. We see our children straying from church. We see husbands who sleep in or stay home while mom brings the kids to church. We pray for people that God would touch their hearts, make them see – help them believe or believe more deeply. And we don't see it.

Or, we look in the mirror. And we see the same old sinner that we always wake up to. Same old warts and blemishes. We'd like to be someone else. Someone more Christ-like. But sin breathes down our neck. It's a constant companion. Why can't we grow, grow more, grow more Christ-like? But God promises, “he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We don't see it, but we believe it. The harvest will come.

In another parable Jesus compares the resurrection to planting a seed (which appears dead and is literally buried). And yet that seed sprouts and grows at the proper time. The seed of God's word is planted in us, and perhaps we don't see any growth. Perhaps we even die. But we trust that seed will produce a harvest, even if it's only seen fully in our resurrection to glory – at the harvest.

And so we are patient through all the ups and downs of life, patiently waiting for God to fulfill all his promises to us in Christ. Patiently waiting for his good gifts, for the fulfillment of his plan, and for him to take us home to himself. Trusting that the seed will grow until the harvest.

The other seed parable we read today, about the mustard seed, further explains this mysterious gift of faith. Here the reminder – the small things of God can have great and wonderful effects. Just as the mustard seed, one of the tiniest of seeds, becomes a grand shrub where even birds can nest – so does the word of God produce a faith in us that has far-reaching effects.

This is a promise. It's not a command. If we were to sit about measuring and pondering our good works and the effects of our faith on others.... if we compare how much fruit we bear with the next guy, if we count and tally, focusing on ourselves and our accomplishments, we will always fall short.

But trusting in his word, we know our faith is not in vain. Our work is not for nothing. What seems small to the eye, may have effects we'll never know.

For instance, these simple words - “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. A short sentence. A little water with it. But that small seed grows to a lifetime of blessings, and an eternity of fullness.

Thank God for the seeds he plants in us and through us. Thank God for the blessings he brings through his word of Law and Gospel – which grows in hearts and renews spirits and minds. Which gives life – even when you can't see it. Which has an effect for the good of those who love him. God grant us the faith and patience to believe it. Amen.

Friday, June 12, 2009

From Blog to Book - "Dark My Road"

My good friend and fellow pastor, Todd Peperkorn, has been writing a blog for a while now concerning pastors and depression: "I Trust When Dark My Road".

LCMS World Relief has just published a book version of Todd's work, by the same name. Even better, you can get it sent to you for free - or you can download a .pdf version right now! How cool is that?

Check it out at:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Let Preachers Take Note!"

I've been re-reading Walther's "Law and Gospel" again, and thought I'd share some interesting passages:

(From the 13th Evening Lecture):

Our first model is our dear Lord Jesus Christ. Observe Him in the gospels and you will discover: Whenever He confronted secure sinners, such as the self-righteous Pharisees surely were, He did not have a spark of comfort for them, but called them serpents and a brood of vipers and hurled a tenfold woe at them. He uncovered their abominable hypocrisy and assigned them to hell and eternal damnation, from which they could not escape. Even though Jesus knew that they would be the ones who would nail Him to the cross, He fearlessly told them the truth. Let preachers take note!

You must proclaim the Law in its full severity to secure and impious sinners, to enemies and hypocrites, even though you know in advance that you will get teh same treatment the Lord received. This is not to suggest that we can bear what He bore, for we cannot drink the cup He drank. But we must experience the people's enmity. They will oppose us openly or agitate against us secretly. But no matter; if the preacher faces such people, he can preach nothing but the Law to them...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

2009 LCMS District Convention Reports

The following is a collection of information from the various 2009 LCMS District Conventions. It's a work in progress. Please help me out, especially if you have some first hand reports of what goes on at the various conventions. I'll try to include whatever links I can here.

North Dakota January 18 - 21
LCMS Reporter
A friend's report

Southern Illinois February 19 - 21
LCMS Reporter

Oklahoma April 24 - 25
LCMS Reporter
Pastor Hall's comments on "This Side of the Pulpit"
Eric Brown comments

Minnesota North
April 27 - 29
LCMS Reporter
From (who else?) The Minnesota Lutheran

South Dakota April 29 - May 2
LCMS Reporter

Wyoming April 30 - May 2
LCMS Reporter (Problem with Link)
Thanks to Rev. Tucher, who even points us to a chart
Wild Boar has a series of posts, starting with this one

Southeastern May 1 – 3
LCMS Reporter (Problem with Link)

Northern Illinois May 8 - 9
LCMS Reporter (Problem with Link)
Numerous articles from Pastor Rossow at BJS (start with this one)

California-Nevada-Hawaii May 15 - 17
LCMS Reporter (Problem with Link)
Vocation in the Valley - (there's a whole series of posts here - well worth your browsing)

New Jersey June 4 - 6
LCMS Reporter
Reports from the NJ District website

Kansas June 4 - 6
LCMS Reporter
Election results from KS District Website

Nebraska June 4 - 6
LCMS Reporter
News from CUNE

New England June 4 - 6
LCMS Reporter

Atlantic June 5 - 6
LCMS Reporter
President Benke's comments on ALPB

South Wisconsin June 7 - 9
LCMS Reporter
My own report
Josh Schroeder's comments

Minnesota South June 11 - 13
LCMS Reporter
Pr. Klemet Preus reports at BJS

Mid-South June 12 - 14
LCMS Reporter

Florida-Georgia June 12 - 14
LCMS Reporter

Eastern June 12 - 13
LCMS Reporter
A report from a friend

Missouri June 14 - 16
LCMS Reporter
Reports from Pr. Henrickson, starting here... Continued here

North Wisconsin June 14 - 16
Northwoods Seelsorger comments

Montana June 15 - 18

Northwest June 18 - 20
Scott Diekman at Stand Firm reports Day 1, Days 2 and 3

Ohio June 18 - 20
Darrell Wacker reports at BJS
Paul Schlueter reports at Straight Schlueter

Rocky Mountain June 18 - 20
Colorado Rocky Mountain District Guy reports

English June 18 - 20

Southern June 18 - 20

Iowa West June 21 - 24

SELC June 21 - 25

Indiana June 25 - 26
Indiana District Convention - A View from the Floor, by Glen Piper (at BJS)

Texas June 25 - 28

Iowa East June 26 - 27

Pacific Southwest June 28 - 30

Michigan June 28 – July 1

Central Illinois July 5 - 7

South Wisconsin District Convention - Debriefing

Hello readers. I just got back from the SWD 2009 convention and I have to say it was the least bad district convention I have been to. Actually it was fairly boring, which is probably a good thing. (Remember the ancient Chinese curse: "may you live in interesting times").

Having said that there were a few newsworthy items:

1) Our DP, Rev. John Wille was re-elected by acclamation. I can't say I have always agreed with DP Wille's handling of things, but he still gets overall good marks from me. He has been doing good work on the District's massive financial problems (which he inherited), and has made some moves to bring us in a more Lutheran direction. He's a good man.

2) A number of good, solid, Lutheran pastors and laypeople were elected to district offices.

3) The SWD heard the same presentation from the BRTFSSG that every other district gets to hear (and which is available online). I had already read the proposals closely. I was pleased that the district not only spoke against but also passed resolutions which discouraged these proposals (usually by margins of 70% or more!)

4) President Kieschnick gave his "Music Man" speech, his President's report, and answered questions as usual. He also spoke at length from a floor mike during debate on one of the resolutions regarding restructuring. I'm not sure how this "played" with the delegates.

Much of what he said, I have heard/read from him before except this: This is the first time I have ever heard President Kieschnick mention blogs. As you can imagine, it was not in a favorable light, but a warning about falsehoods being spread.

5) Rev. Matt Harrison had just two half-hour spots in which he spoke more substantial theology than all the other presenters put together. He put a proper "Theology of the Cross" emphasis on the convention theme passage "With Unveiled Faces" (from 2 Corinthians 3:18 "
We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face…")

6) One elderly lady (86) thrilled the convention when she approached the mike and declared, "I hate bureaucracy!"

7) Another highlight was when a Brazilian pastor who serves in our district spoke his conscience, and in a very soft way criticized the convention's opening worship.

8) That opening service was, for me, the lowlight of the congregation. All the music was handled by a "praise team", and was quite contemporary. The preacher was Dr. Norb Oesch of PLI.

9) Josh Schroeder, a lay delegate, has some more commentary on the convention at his blog. One of those posts is here:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost - Luke 15:26

Pentecost Day 2009
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
“Help from the Helper”

A Blessed Day of Pentecost to you, as we mark and remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Easter. The disciples gathered together and spoke in miraculous fashion, telling the gathered nations about Jesus. Pentecost is, after Easter and Christmas, the highest festival in our church year. Pentecost highlights the person and work of the Holy Spirit. And today is also the day in which 7 young people participate in the Rite of Confirmation, recalling and renewing their baptismal vows.

As it is Pentecost, we expect to hear about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. He is called the “Comforter, Guide, Spirit of Truth, Lord and Giver of Life”. He is God, along with the Father and Son. He has divine attributes, works, and names. And he receives our worship and praise just the same.

Here in our text from St. John, Jesus introduces the Spirit by yet another name. He calls the Holy Spirit the “Helper”.

One of those mild insults in our modern vocabulary is to tell someone, “you need help!” As in, professional help. You're messed up in some way and you need someone to straighten you out.

And in a sense, we all need help, don't we? We all have problems and challenges. We all have failings and faults and issues. In spiritual terms, we call this sin. The imperfection that corrupts our nature and marks our thoughts, words and deeds. The guilt we inherit from our parents and incur on our own. And that sin causes all sorts of problems in life – within ourselves and between us and others. Problems that we can't solve for ourselves if we are honest. Sin itself is the problem, and we are powerless against it.

One of the great mistaken quotes from scripture is that “God helps those who help themselves.” That's just not in there. In fact if scripture teaches anything it's that we CAN'T help ourselves. Saying we need help is an important admission. We can't help ourselves. But God can. Jesus does. And the Holy Spirit himself is the Helper. So how does he help? What does he do?

Jesus is very clear about the Spirit's “job description” if you will. He uses the following verbs to describe the Spirit's action. The Spirit will: Bear Witness, Convict, Guide, Declare, Glorify. All of this goes together.

The Spirit bears witness to Jesus. His main job, or function, you see, is to point us to Jesus, the Savior. So many today use the Spirit as another excuse to get distracted from Jesus and the cross. But the Holy Spirit is the one to lead us back to this central teaching of our faith – that Christ was crucified for sinners like you and me, and that by his blood we are made clean and righteous before God.

The Spirit also convicts us – that is, he makes us believe. He doesn't force us to believe, but we can't believe without his help. We can't believe by our own reason or strength. If we believe, the Spirit gets the credit, for faith itself is a gift.

The Spirit convicts us of sin – he shows us through the Word how our lives don't measure up to God's law, and he calls us to repent. Not just to feel sorry for our sins, but a complete change of heart and mind which turns away from sin and turns toward Christ in faith.

The Spirit convicts of righteousness - just as Jesus preached the good news, so now the Spirit works through the written and preached word to do the same. Announcing the forgiveness that Jesus has won for us – promising us victory over our enemy the devil, who already stands judged, and pointing us to the final day of judgment when God's plans are all fulfilled. Through the Spirit's work, we believe all this.

He declares the truth of Christ, and does it all for the glory of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the Helper. He helps Christ in working for our salvation. Pointing us to what Christ has done and is doing. Distributing his gifts in word and sacrament. And he helps us – well, he really does his work without our help, doesn't he? We simply receive it, like all of God's gifts.

The Catechism teaches that the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies. Those words are on this banner...

He calls each of us to repentance and faith in Christ.
He gathers us all together as one people – one body – the church.
He enlightens us, that is, he helps us to “see the light” - through the word of God which dispels all darkness.
And he sanctifies, that is, he makes us holy in Christ.

So the Spirit, the Helper, is at work. Never without Christ or apart from Him. Always encouraging, guiding, comforting, leading. Invisible, but working through visible and sure means – the word of God and the gifts of Baptism and Holy Communion. Helping Christ and more than helping us to receive his blessings.

When I was a kid, my dad would often do a project in the garage, and ask me to come help. I don't think he needed my help, though. I think it was really to spend some quality time together, or maybe to get me out of mom's hair. I began to wonder if he really needed a “light helper” to stand there and hold the light for him while he worked. He could have easily done it without me.

Likewise, God doesn't need our help, Christ doesn't need our help. The Spirit doesn't need our help. But we need our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We need help, and he gives help and more. Thanks and praise to the Father and Son who send us the Spirit, the Counselor, the Comforter, the Helper. Amen.