Monday, November 30, 2009

Two-Year Reading of the Day

Today's Reading (Week 1 - Monday):  Gen. 1:1-2:24

A better pic . . .

of our beautiful, new, purple superfrontal:

TLSB Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

As we begin this new Church Year, I have invited my parish to join me in following the Two-Year Reading Plan found in The Lutheran Study Bible (p. lix).  It has been a few years since I have deliberately read through the entire Bible from beginning to end, so I am looking forward to doing so.  I'll continue to use the daily lectionary found in Treasury of Daily Prayer, but will add the TLSB Two-Year Plan to my daily devotions.  One of the features I really like about this Plan is that it is a Monday-Saturday Plan, leaving Sundays dedicated to meditation upon the readings heard in the Divine Service.  Also, being a Two-Year Plan, as opposed to the many One-Year Plans out there (which are good, too), the daily readings are shorter and will enable those who follow this Plan to spend a little time exploring the excellent notes in TLSB.  Anyway, feel free to join us, if you wish.  I'll try to post a link to the readings here daily, along with a few thoughts (or, TLSB notes).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another excellent post . . .

by Pr. Peters here.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Beloved in the Lord, as we begin another Church Year with the holy season of Advent, let us be reminded that Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel, has come, is coming, and will come again. He came to conquer sin, death, and the devil with His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross. He continues to come to deliver His salvific work at Calvary to us via His Holy Word and Sacraments in the Divine Service. He will come again in great glory on the Last Day to usher us into His eternal kingdom. Therefore, let us pray:

"Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Higher Things Radio Interview

Last week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Pastor George Borghardt, host of Higher Things Radio.  Pr. Borghardt is such a hoot!  It was great fun to chat with him before, and during, the interview.  He has done a phenomenal job helping to make Higher Things the absolute best Christian Youth organization around.  Pr. Borghardt is simply superb with the youth, and they love him.  When I told my two teenage daughters, both of whom have been to HT conferences, that I was going to be interviewed by Pr. Borghardt, their eyes lit up, and they said, almost in unison, "I just love him."  Yeah, he is well loved by the youth! :)     

I've been to three HT Conferences now and they have all been nothing short of fantastic.  The past two conferences, I have had the honor of teaching an In-Depth Sectional (three sessions on a specific topic), and have had a blast doing it.  Two years ago, at the "For You" conference in Scranton, PA, I taught an In-Depth Sectional titled, "Amen, Come Lord Jesus," in which I presented the truth about the End Times, as revealed in Holy Scripture and exposited in our Lutheran Confessions, in comparison and contrast with the false, but ever so popular, teachings of Dispensationalism (or, Left Behind-ism).  That was one of the most enjoyable teaching experiences I have ever had.  Very well attended and lots of enthusiastic discussion, which continued with a number of people for several months after the conference via email.  It was on the basis of my teaching that class that I was asked to do the interview last week, since the topic was the End Times.

Anyway, if you'd like to give the interview a listen, you can go do so below:

Church Decorating

This morning, several of us gathered at the church to decorate for Advent.  In years past, it was customary to spend this Saturday decorating all out for Christmas.  But, this year, after much conversation, we have decided to scale down our decorating in a manner more in line with the penitential nature of Advent.  A few of the changes we've made include:

  • Returning to the liturgical color of purple (we had used blue the past five years) - we were blessed with the ability to purchase a beautiful new purple superfrontal, chalice veil, and pulpit bookmark, along with a gorgeous new purple chasuble for yours truly to wear, custom made by DK Brunner & Son
  • Removing the candelabras from the chancel
  • Ordering flowers more in line with Advent (as opposed to the bright red and white in the past)
  • Still putting the Christmas tree up, but holding off on lighting it until Christmas Eve
  • Still putting the Nativity scene up, but adding to it progressively (the first week of Advent, the stable will be empty; the second week, we'll add the animals; the third week, we'll place Mary and Joseph outside of the stable; the fourth week, we'll place them inside the stable; on Christmas Eve, we'll add the Christ Child and the shepherds; on Epiphany, we'll add the wise men - and, we'll keep the Nativity scene in place until February 2nd, when we'll celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord)
  • Not putting the banners up on the side wall of our nave, between our stained glass panels (these four banners are the names/titles of our Lord from Isaiah 9:6 - Wonderful Couselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; we'll put these up after Divine Service on the fourth Sunday in Advent)
  • Removing the two long red/scarlet curtains that flank the altar, allowing the white pillars to be exposed (we may keep these curtains down permanently, as all who were there think it looks much better without them)
  • Minimizing decorations throughout the nave; adding festive decorations when Christmas arrives

We toyed with the idea of not putting the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene up, but concluded that putting them up in the manner we have (not lighting the tree and progressively adding to the Nativity scene) is a healthy compromise between those who would rather not put them up and those who would rather have them decorated in full.  Besides, I think this works well.  While Advent is a penitential season, it is also a season of anticipation and expectation.  Having symbols of Christmas before us, but holding off on seeing them in their full splendor lends itself well to a people longing for the Coming of their Lord.

Anyway, the end result is simply beautiful.  I am very impressed with how everything turned out and can't wait to serve in the Lord's House tomorrow.  Here are some pics (the purple doesn't come through as well as I would have liked in these pics from my iphone - hopefully, I'll get some better pics tomorrow with one of my daughter's digital cameras with flash):









And the best pic of all:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A blessed Thanksgiving Day 
to one and all! 

Almighty God, Your mercies are new every morning and You graciously provide for all our needs of body and soul.  Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience all our days; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An excellent post . . .

by Pr. Petersen over at Cyberstones, titled "Seasonal Stress and the End of Time."   Give it a read. 

2012 - Same old, same old

So, I went to see the movie last night with a few of my kids and a few friends from church.  None of us were very impressed.  The special effects were cool, sure.  But, the story line was unbelievably unrealistic and woefully predictable.  How many times can the special characters escape danger just in the nick of time?  There were far too many "oh boy, that was close" events in this movie.  It was actually rather comical.

There is a lot of talk about this movie being an apocalyptic thriller depicting the end of the world, but it's not that.  It's just another installment of mankind surviving what should be its utter annihilation.  Director Roland Emmerich seems to have a fetish for this theme.  First, he brought us "Independence Day," in which aliens threatened to wipe mankind out, but, alas, mankind found a weakness and avoided extinction (that was actually a decent movie).  Then came "The Day After Tomorrow," in which global warming takes a shot at erasing mankind from the planet, but, alas, mankind finds a way to survive (that was a horrible, not-worth-watching, movie).  And now, in "2012," mankind's enemy is the sun, which causes the earth's core to overheat and wreak havoc on the earth's crust, causing massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis and worldwide flooding that threaten mankind's extinction.  But, again, alas, mankind finds a way to survive.  Go figure!

The theme in all of these movies is human autonomy.  Human beings are depicted as gods unto themselves, left all alone to ward off destruction and figure out a way to secure the survival of their race.  This plays well within the postmodern, post-Christian, worldview that dominates Western society, which posits that human beings are nothing more than the most sophisticated and intelligent species to evolve and inhabit this planet thus far.  There is nothing special or unique about the human race from this perspective, besides the fact that it is the most evolved race in earth's long history.  There is no God and no Divine Plan.  Whether the human race survives whatever threatens to eliminate it from existence is totally dependent upon whether or not the human race has the will and the ingenuity to do so.

But, we Christians know better.  We know that there is a God and that He has a plan in place for our human race.  We know that we human beings are not just another in a long line of species to inhabit this planet, but the pinnacle of God's Creation.  We know that the Earth was created for us, and that we were created in the image of the Triune God.  We know that the reason natural catastrophes occur on our planet is because of sin; that they are reminders to us of the Final Judgment to come.  We know that our God came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made Man.  So special is the human race that the Creator of the universe took on human flesh to live and die to save it from destruction.  We are not alone.  Our survival is not dependent upon us.

And, we Christians know how this world will come to an end.  It won't be from alien attack, global warming, increased solar activity, or a big asteroid.  It will happen when the trumpets blare and our Lord Jesus Christ returns in great glory.  Everything will be proceeding normally on earth when He appears.  He will come like a thief in the night.  No one knows the day or hour.  His coming will be all of a sudden and will take everyone by surprise.  So much for the Mayan calendar and for all other attempts to set dates for the end of this world.

But, anyway, back to the movie.  Besides being far-fetched and predictable, it's too long.  I don't mind long movies, but 2 hours and 38 minutes of one disaster and near miss after another is just too much.  Did anything make it to the cutting room floor on this one?

I don't want to say much more about the movie and ruin it for anyone who is planning on seeing it.  My advice would be to wait until it comes out on dvd or pay-per-view.  It's worth watching for the special effects, and the acting in the film is not horrible, but I wouldn't spend a night out and pay the extra money to see it.  You can wait for this one.  And I guarantee you that you know how it ends.  There aren't many surprises along the way.  It's not a movie that requires much brain power at all.

With all that said, here's a special effects-less trailer for the film that you might enjoy:

Monday, November 23, 2009

A new look at our church

While I was away in the woods, a major project took place on our church property.  The three big pines in front of our building were cut down.  Wow!  What a difference!  I was amazed when I approached our church on Sunday morning and could actually see the building and the cross on the roof from down the road.  I think it is a major improvement.  Not only were those trees blocking our building, but, if you look at the third and fifth pics below, you can see some of the damage they were doing to the roof and side of our building - damage that will soon be fixed.  There is also a plan in the works to beautify the front of our property this spring with colorful landscaping and such, and I look forward to seeing the end result of that.  For now, I'm just happy that our church is much more noticeable than it was before.  Thanks to Cassie's dad and to all the members who helped bring this project to completion.

A couple of before pics:


And now for the after pics (courtesy of Meggers):


Back from the great outdoors

Actually, I returned late Saturday, but haven't had a chance to blog until now. 

First things first, I think the DNR is lying to us in Michigan.  They claim that the deer herd is at an all time high.  I find that hard to believe.  They claim that the deer herd in the county in which we hunt (Montcalm) is one of the most heavily populated in our state.  I find that even harder to believe.  Two deer were all I saw in the woods ALL WEEK - TWO!  One came from behind me at around 6:50 a.m. on opening day.  It was too dark to even tell whether it was a buck or a doe - couldn't even see the thing through my scope, even though it was no more than 20 yards behind me.  Had to let it pass me by.  But, I was thinking at the time, "Hey, this is good.  The deer are moving.  Surely this is going to be a good hunt!"  Um, no.  Not so much.  The only other deer I saw was in the afternoon on opening day, but it was off to my right and behind some thickets.  Only caught a glimpse of that deer for a few seconds.  Waited for it to come out, but it never did.  That was it.  No more deer ALL WEEK!  The deer herd is at an all time high?  ROFLOL!

But, all was not lost.  My uncle had a pretty productive opening morning.  He bagged a nice doe at 7:10 a.m., shot at a coyote that was coming for that fallen deer about an hour later, but missed, and had a four-point buck come in around 9:30 a.m.  He had to shoot at it left-handed and ended up doing more damage to his jaw than he did to the buck.  Pretty comical to hear him describe trying to shoot left handed with the shotgun seated in his right shoulder, instead of his left.  We still have no clue how he could have managed that.  Lots of fun ribbing him about that the rest of the week. :)  Here's a pic of the doe he bagged (not exactly what he was looking for, but at least he'll have meat in his freezer this year):

Other than that, we were all shut out the rest of the week.  My uncle never saw another deer besides those two opening morning, and my poor dad didn't see deer one all week.  This was the worst year we have ever had in the woods.  We have had seasons with no deer to take home, but never a season in which we saw so few deer.  The deer herd is at an all time high?  Again, ROFLOL!

But, it was an enjoyable week, all the same.  And, because my uncle was able to bag a nice doe, we were able to enjoy the meal I look forward to more than any other all year - Heart and Liver Dinner:

Mmmmmmmm . . . good!

  It doesn't get any better than this (it's even better than a nice sack of choke and pukes!)

On Thursday last week, my dad and I went and checked out a different hunting area.  As we were scouting out the area, we came across what we think is an old, abandoned Ford Fairlane in the middle of the woods.  Here's a pic of my dad standing next to the only trophy he bagged this year:

(I'm not helping to drag that thing out of the woods!)

So, another year of deer hunting has come and gone.  Now it's back to work.  The busy season in the Church Year is quickly approaching.  Lots to do.  The big buck will have to wait another year, unless I'm able to squeeze in a couple afternoon hunts in the next week or so, which I highly doubt.  But, I am left with the comfort of knowing that it's only 356 days until opening day next year.  Can't wait! :) 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heading for the woods . . .

where there is no internet, so blogging will be on hold for the week. Please keep my family, and all those who head to the woods in the spirit of Nimrod, the mighty hunter, in your prayers, that all would return home safely after the hunt. Oh, and if you'd like to utter a few prayers on my behalf, that the Lord would give me the opportunity to see a monster like the one pictured below, that'd be cool, too. :)

On second thought, cancel that request - I'd probably fall out of my tree stand if I saw this guy! :)  

A few of my favorite pics

On the left:  Rev. Matt Harrison, next President of the LCMS
On the right:  Rev. Steve Starke, hymn-writer extraordinaire
In the middle:  Jesus, bestowing His blessing upon these faithful servants

Post-Vespers Pow-Wow

Attending an afternoon seminar with Rev. Matt Harrison:  Freewill offering
Gas expense to make the trip:  $20.00
The opportunity to chat with the next President of the LCMS and have him sign your copies of his excellent books:  PRICELESS!

Attending an afternoon seminar with Rev. Matt Harrison:  Freewill offering
Gas expense to make the trip:  $20.00
The opportunity for the chairman of your board of elders and his wife to sit and chat with the next President of the LCMS:  PRICELESS! 

Me, pictured with Rev. Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc., at the BJS conference last February

Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian Radio and Extreme Theology) and Scott Diekmann (Stand Firm) - two of the most outstanding lay theologians in our midst today!  I took the pic and, just before I snapped it, instead of telling them to say, "Cheese!," I told them to say, "Rick Warren rocks!" (Chris thought it was funny; Scott - not so much) - :)

 Happy to finally meet Scott in person

Serving as Lector during Vespers at the first annual BJS Conference - quite an honor!  

Chatting with Rev. David Petersen and Rev. Mark Braden after the St. Michael's Liturgical Conference

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Man Who Slew Brutus

What follows is a poem I wrote on November 22, 2006 in honor of my dad, who successfully bagged a beautiful 8-point buck that year.  I am no polished poet, to be sure.  This was simply written straight from the heart on the occasion of the most glorious experience my dad, my uncle, and I have ever had in the woods in all the years we have been hunting together.  I have deliberately left it unedited and in its original form.  

There are few things in this life that I cherish as much as the time I get to spend with family in the November woods.  You hunters know what I'm talking about.  I'm looking forward to the coming week, which will not only afford me with some welcomed rest and relaxation, but also with the blessed opportunity to spend time with those I love and to accumulate more cherished memories to store up in my heart.  

Anyway, here's the amateurish, but heartfelt poem from a few years ago:  

The Man Who Slew Brutus

He sat in the woods year after year,
hoping to someday bag Brutus the deer.
But, the years they did come and the years they did go,
and never had he a buck like Brutus to show.

From the age of fourteen, his dream was but one;
that at a big buck he could fire his gun.
A few trophy bucks he was privileged to see,
but never a good shot afforded was he.

There once was a time when a monster passed by,
on the road between he and his loved one, the beast, it did fly;
but a shot at the trophy neither could take,
they neglected the trigger for each other’s sake.

On another occasion, he was in his blind all alone,
when a Brutus-like buck he spotted just out of his zone.
He ran to the road, hoping to cut off the buck,
but the brute never showed so bad was his luck.

Years later he sat with his son in his blind,
a buck in the brush his keen eye did find.
He handed the rifle to his son for the shot,
but see the buck through the brush, his son, he could not.
So, taking the gun back, he shot at the deer;
he missed, but it wasn’t Brutus, so he didn’t much care.

As the years came and went, there was many a day,
a doe or young buck he could have easily slay.
But, he let them pass by, for determined was he
to wait for the big one he hoped one day to see.

For many, many years, he went into the woods,
but never was privileged to come home with the goods.
Then one year, tired of sitting in his blind,
he headed off stalking a big buck to find.
It was raining that day, so quiet could he be,
allowing him to sneak up on a six-point sleeping under a tree.
He paused and considered if the buck he should kill,
but long had he waited to experience the thrill.
He kicked a rock at the buck and it lifted its head,
and with the squeeze of his trigger the six-point was dead.
Happy was he with the first deer he killed,
but still to slay Brutus he patiently willed.

Years later, presented was he with the chance he did seek,
but the way it panned out left him nothing but weak.
A beautiful eight-point one opening day,
came down the hill heading his way.
But, alas, he was in no position to shoot and left only to see,
for he was away from his blind taking a much needed pee.

He stood in disbelief at what had just transpired,
but his sadness turned to joy when, not long after, his son fired.
He waited some time, then headed over to see
his son standing over the eight-point, smiling with glee.
But, when he arrived at his son’s blind this wasn’t the case,
a look of bewilderment was on his son’s face.

His brother was there with his son when he came,
they both looked to him like they’d just been hobbled lame.
The story they told him was almost as sad
as the unprepared encounter with the eight-point he’d had.
Like him, they weren’t ready when that buck came their way,
they were talking and laughing on the hill where they lay.
The eight-point came upon them like a thief in the night,
and a few minutes later he was out of their sight. 
His son did get a shot off, but it was only a prayer,
into the swamp ran that elusive and fortunate deer.

Then came the time in 1999,
his son was there with him for lunch at his blind.
He was enjoying some cookies when he heard his son say,
“Dad, look, there’s a deer coming on that runway.”
Slowly, he took aim at the long-horned spike,
but fire he did not much to his son’s dislike.
His son would’ve fired, but a few moments before,
his uncle had taken his gun to stalk the swamp’s core.
The man who slew Brutus let the spike pass him by;
he said he’d no clean shot, but that’s not the real reason why. 
He doesn’t go hunting to kill deer like so many of us;
to bag a trophy buck like Brutus, that’s why he does.

A few years later, he did take another shot at a buck,
but, like so often before, not good was his luck.
He only had a moment to aim and to shoot,
and when his bullet was low, off did the deer scoot.

But, then came that great and most glorious day
when the man who slew Brutus would finally have his way.

He’d spent four days in the woods away from his old blind,
but only a few stray does did his eyes find.
So, he decided to once again give “old faithful” a try,
hoping to see the big buck his brother had seen passing by.
And, lo and behold, on November 19th, 2006,
there came that buck through the swamp crackling sticks.
He wondered at first if an elk he did see,
so big was this buck and so happy his glee.
He knew that the buck had no clue he was there,
so he got in position and took aim at the monstrous deer.
He almost messed up and fired too soon,
but he knew if he missed he’d feel like a buffoon.
He knew that the monster was on the perfect runway
and heading to a scrape he’d noticed earlier that day.
He’d dreamed many times about this exact scene
and could hardly believe it was happening.
But, there stood the monster out of the swamp in the clear
and he took careful aim and shot at the deer.
To his great delight, the beast dropped on the spot,
and his brother and son heard the fateful shot.
He waited a few moments and then reached for his cell,
but the buck began to crawl off, so he shot, and again it fell.
A third shot it took to secure this grand trophy,
for he wasn’t about to let this beautiful buck flee.
When his son and his brother arrived, so happy were they
that the man who slew Brutus at long last had his day.
A grand celebration did naturally ensue
if you had been there, you would’ve joined in, too!
All three labored to drag this beast out of the woods,
but nothing would prevent them from bringing home these goods.

Back at the camp, later that eve,
they decided to name this deer, but nothing like Steve.
His name would be Brutus, for a large brute he was
with a beautiful, eight-point rack, and monstrous paws.
When they hung Brutus in the tree with the other two deer
his son and his brother were able to bag that year,
Brutus looked like a monster and put them to shame,
so his son’s doe and his brother’s deformed spike received no name.

Justice was served on that fateful day
for the man who slew Brutus now had something to say
in response to the ribbing he took year after year
from his son and his brother who killed many a deer.
The ribbing would stop from that day on,
for with one word, “Brutus,” they’d be undone.

That is the story, and it is nothing short of great,
for the man who slew Brutus, forty-one years did he wait.
Hundreds of deer he could’ve easily bagged,
but he waited for Brutus and now he is tagged.

Many more stories this amateur poet could tell,
but none are as great as when big, bad Brutus fell.
I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life,
it will comfort me whenever I face strife.

Pictured below is the man and his prize,
though it does not do justice to Brutus’ great size.
The man who slew Brutus, a great hunter is he;
he’s my hero and my dad and I love him fully!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Busy Couple Days

Yesterday started early, out and about for some visits; home for a bit to prepare for evening meetings and upcoming Bible Studies, then out again for another visit and two consecutive meetings (Bd. of Evangelism and Church Council).  Great meetings!  It's so nice to actually look forward to attending meetings, and I'm extremely thankful to be serving in the midst of so many faithful servants of our Lord. 

Today began even earlier:  7am-9am Adult Confirmation Class with Kyle and Jilian, a wonderful young couple I'm looking forward to welcoming into our fellowship soon; quick stop at home to make a few phone calls (one was to Pr. Heath Curtis' mom, Donita, from DK Brunner & Son, to thank her for the beautiful new violet chasuble she made for me, which arrived on Friday, and to make arrangements for the three remaining chasubles I need to complete a full set - very excited!); a trip to Saginaw with Carol to order new paraments (can't wait for these to arrive!) and to purchase a new video projector and dvd player for the church, thanks to a generous donation; lunch at Olive Garden (love that place); back home around 5pm.  Back out for "Christian History 101" Class at 6pm, Vespers at 7pm, and Bd. of Christian Ed. meeting following Vespers.

Thankful for answered prayers on behalf of Ken Hill and Virginia Gorsline, both of whom came through surgery well and are on the mend.  I pray for the continued restoration of health and strength for them, and for Marlene Miller, who had surgery over a week ago.

On tap for tomorrow:  Romans Bible Study in the morning; then off to Lansing to visit Virginia; back in town to finish visits of shut-ins; pack for hunting trip, if time permits; Table Talk at 7pm; to the cottage (hunting camp) after that (or, if I'm not able to finish visits tomorrow, will stay home, finish them on Friday, and head for the cottage then).

Looking forward to spending time with my son, dad, and uncle (if he makes it) in the woods next week! 

For now, off to bed - will sleep soundly tonight, for sure! :) 

Monday, November 9, 2009

How to Worship

Thanks to Scott Larkins, who included a link to this in a comment on Pr. Weedon's blog, with the preface, "Just released from the LCMS Commission on Worship."  Truly funny stuff! :) 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Afternoon with Rev. Matt Harrison

Thirteen members of our congregation made the hour drive over to St. John-Amelith Lutheran in Bay City today to spend "An Afternoon with Rev. Matt Harrison" (the next president of the LCMS).  What a treat this was!

First of all, what a beautiful church this is.  Wow!  This was the first time I had been inside this historic church and it is simply breathtakingly gorgeous.  Here's a pic of the sanctuary:

You can also click here to check out the beautiful stained glass throughout - beauty everywhere you look.

But, even more beautiful was the opportunity to sit at the feet of Rev. Harrison and listen to him speak.  I had never had that opportunity before.  I've heard him on Issues, Etc., watched him in videos, read his books, visited his blog, but to hear him in person was very special.  I've had brothers who know him tell me that he's a pastor's pastor and a theologian's theologian.  Yeah, he is, but more.  What I love most about Rev. Harrison is that he's just plain real; there's nothing fake about this man of God.  He is sincere through and through.  And, he knows his stuff - man, does he know his stuff!  He is definitely "at home in the house of his fathers," as his knowledge of our Lutheran history, and especially our LCMS history, is amazing.  He spent the first portion of his presentation talking about that history, conveying how important it was for our Lutheran forefathers to retain sound doctrine and practice in the midst of the errant doctrine and practice surrounding them here in America, and how important it is for us to do the same today.  It is only through sound doctrine and practice that faithful mission work is done by our Lord through His Church.  Pure doctrine and practice go hand in hand with missions.  But, there are dangers here.  We must not be so preoccupied with guarding our doctrine that we lack a zeal for missions, even as we must not be so preoccupied with missions that we abandon our doctrine.

To illustrate this, Rev. Harrison led us through an awesome study of Acts, showing us how the early church faithfully kept the proper balance of pure doctrine and zeal for mission work.  He highlighted the koinonia (communion, fellowship) evident in the early church, and showed how the brethren shared all things in common.  The church is a community which shares the most intimate fellowship, for all are one in Christ.  When one person in that fellowship suffers, all suffer with him, and all come to his aid.  He believes the church needs to get back to what she is supposed to be, an intimate fellowship of believers fed by the same Christ from font, pulpit, and altar, who bear one another's burdens in love.  He pointed out how the individualistic mentality, especially here in America, has gotten us off track, and how the care of the poor and sick has sadly shifted away from the church and into the hands of the secular government.  He did not shy away from showing us our sins in this regard, reminding us that our failures to care for, and help, our brothers and sisters in Christ is, at the end of the day, more than breaking this or that commandment, but a denial of our very fellowship, which is established in Baptism and sustained in preaching, Holy Absolution, and the ongoing reception of our Lord's very Body and Blood in the Holy Supper.  When we lose our sense of koinonia (communion, fellowship) and fail to care for, and help, those among us in need, we are acting like we don't share a common Christ as Savior.  Therefore, renewal in the church must always begin with self-examination and repentance.  That's what the Reformation was all about - it was a call to repentance.

One of the things I appreciated most about Rev. Harrison's presentation was his assessment that outreach is not nearly as important as inreach.  All we hear about today is how necessary it is for us to do outreach.  All the programs and movements coming forth from synodical headquarters today are outreach-focused.  Outreach is important.  We need to be zealous about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with this dead and dying world.  But, the way true outreach will be done among us is when we learn how to do more effective inreach.  Learning to live together within the intimate fellowship we share with one another through Christ, and getting back to what we are supposed to be, a community of believers who care for, and help, one another, even as we have been cared for, and helped, by our Lord and Savior, will enliven us to go out with the Gospel of Christ with the zeal to bring others to meet our Lord where He promises to be, that they, too, might be brought into the joy of that fellowship.   

There is so much more I could write.  It was a wonderful, and very helpful, study.  It was so refreshing to witness a synodical leader so at home in, and so knowledgeable of, Holy Scripture.  Imagine a synodical leader who uses a worn-out Greek New Testament and teaches the sacred Scriptures faithfully and with evident ease and you begin to get a picture of Rev. Harrison.  Color me very impressed.

And, as if listening to Rev. Harrison teach the Word of God to us was not enough, we were also privileged to hear him preach the Word during Vespers.  His homily upon the Parable of the Good Samaritan brought home all that he had taught during his presentation.  A splendid, Cross-focused, Christ-centered homily it was!

As I said above, this afternoon with Rev. Harrison was a real treat.  I'm so thankful that a dozen members from the congregation I serve were able to attend with me.  They got to witness and experience what our beloved synod could be with a leader like Rev. Harrison at the helm.

As an added bonus, Rev. Harrison was gracious enough to sign copies of his books during the soup/sandwich dinner, so I am the proud owner of signed copies of "Christ Have Mercy" and "At Home in the House of My Fathers."  Pictured below is Sharyn, one of our members, getting her copies signed, as the event was winding down:


I've been saying it for a while now, but I say it now more fervently than ever before:


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Gem

I finally received my copy of Starck's Prayer Book: Revised Concordia Edition yesterday.  I already love it.  Wow!

Originally published in English in 1921, this gem contains the rich devotional writings of Johann Friedrich Starck (1680-1756), faithful Lutheran preacher, pastor, and author.  This new edition was revised and edited by Pastor Weedon and is simply fantastic!  Thanks, Pr. Weedon, for all the work you did on this.

The prayer book is divided into five books, and each book contains several devotions around the given theme.  The devotions begin with a Scripture passage, followed by an Exhortation, then Prayer, and rounded off by a hymn (from LSB, no less).  Here's a sample, which happens to be the first devotion in the book, to whet your appetite:


One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.  Psalm 27:4

Immediately after the fall, God, in His wisdom, directed Adam, the first man, to offer sacrifices.  Adam's children, Cain and Abel, were, in turn, directed by their father to do the same.  (Their sacrifice is expressly mentioned in Genesis 4:3-4.)  These sacrifices were not offered in silence!  In fact, at such sacrifices they praised God for the benefits received from Him, and also proclaimed the name of the Lord.  Those offering the sacrifices confessed their sins, prayed to God for forgiveness, and declared their faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was to shed His blood for humanity like the animals offered in sacrifice.  The patriarchs retained this form of worship until in the wilderness God commanded the ark of the covenant to be erected, which afterward furnished the pattern for Solomon's temple.

Further, in the Old Testament, God singled out the seventh day as a day of rest and commanded that day to be kept holy.  In its external meaning this commandment does not apply to Christians.  Just like other laws in the Old Testament having to do with particular practices, persons, seasons, and locations, this, too, is an entirely external affair; in the New Testament, Christians have been given freedom by Christ regarding all such matters.  Still, in the exercise of our Christian freedom, we Christians in the New Testament also keep festival days and days of rest, especially Sunday, so we have time and opportunity to attend the Divine Service, to gather with fellow Christians to hear and study God's Word, to receive the Sacraments, and to praise God with our hymns and prayers.

On the arrival of a day of this kind, a believing Christian should free the mind from earthly matters and stop working, prepare by prayer for the coming Sunday or holy day, praise God for the many blessings received during the past week, and look up in the Bible or hymnal the assigned readings for the Feast or Sunday and meditate on them, thus being prepared for reverently hearing the Word.

Gracious and merciful God, I come before Your holy face today with praise and thanksgiving.  You have graciously kept me during the past week and bountifully blessed the work of my hands.  You have preserved my going out and my coming in.  You have kept me in all my ways and have shown me so much kindness in body and soul.  For all of this I praise and magnify You with my whole heart!  I will forget what is past, lay down the burden of all my labors and callings, turn my mind to heaven alone, to my God, that I may rejoice in You.

O gracious God, grant that I may spend the coming Sunday [or Feast] in Your fear and grace.  Keep me from evil company, lest Satan by his wicked attacks keep me from attending the Divine Service.  Help me refuse to follow his enticements.  Guard me, lest I spend this day in idleness, wastefulness, immorality, or sinful amusements, and thus inflict great harm on my soul.  Grant me Your Holy Spirit that I may gladly hear and learn Your Word this day.  When Your Word is being preached, open my heart that I may listen to it and receive it within me as a precious treasure.  Help me to build myself up in my Christian faith and to grow in the knowledge of the truth.  Grant that the Word I hear at church may change and sanctify me.  As I grow in years, grant that I may also grow inwardly, in faith and piety.  Grant me grace to become a new creature and to be and remain a living member in the Body of my Lord Jesus.  Grant that I may reverently close my worship and carefully treasure up what I have learned.  Grant me grace to be constantly mindful of the Word that I have heard, so that I may walk, speak, live, and act according to it, and thus prove not to be a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the Word.  Grant me to keep the Sabbath always in this manner until You bring me to the unending joys of heaven, to the Sabbath that never ends, through Jesus Christ, my only Redeemer and Savior.  Amen.

Lord, open now my heart to hear,
And through your Word to me draw near;
Let me Your Word e'er pure retain;
Let me Your child and heir remain.

Your Word inspires my heart within;
Your Word grants healing from my sin;
Your Word has pow'r to guide and bless;
Your Word brings peace and happiness.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Shall glory, praise, and honor be
Now and throughout eternity. 
LSB 908:1-3   

Ready for Winter . . . Finally!

We took advantage of the beautiful weather today (high of 64 and lots of sunshine) and finally got everything done outside in preparation for winter.  Thank God that's done!  It's been hanging over my head like a black cloud for over a month now . . . especially getting the pool closed up - yeah, that didn't get done until today; what can I say - I've been busy.  But, it's done.  Pshew!  Bring on the snow! :)   

On Being Who We Are

Pastor Peters has blessed us with yet another most excellent post on his blog.  He titles it, "Authenticity and the Church," and passionately pleads in this post for us Lutherans to be who we confess to be.

What I appreciate most about Pr. Peter's post is the fact that he makes it vividly clear that his call for Lutherans to be who they confess to be is not a call to return to the past, but to be who we confess to be in the here and now:
I am not advocating for a return to some by-gone era or the repristination of some golden era of Lutheranism, liturgy, or church work. I am calling for us to be who we are as Lutheran Christians, with an identifiable Confession that shapes us because we believe in that Confession and in its faithfulness to the Word of God. You can call it quia but I call it authenticity to who we are. Period. This is who we are.
This sounds an awful lot like the man who many of us hope will be the next president of our synod, Rev. Matthew Harrison, who writes in the preface of his newly released book, "At Home in the House of My Fathers:  Presidential Sermons, Essays, Letters, and Addresses from the Missouri Synod's Great Era of Unity and Growth":
At first glance the publication of this book might appear to be motivated by mere ecclesiastical nostalgia, a ridiculous longing for a church long gone, or a quest to return Missouri to an allegedly more glorious past.  That is not my motivation at all.  I don't long for the past, and neither did the leaders of the Missouri Synod in her first century of existence.  I live and long and work for the future of the Lutheran Church, here and now.
The frequent and false charge hurled at those of us who criticize the direction our current synodical leaders are taking our synod is that we are so consumed with the desire to live in the past that we are blinded to present reality.  We are mocked and ridiculed as those who "have their heads stuck in the sand of yesterday."  We are said to be ignorant of the needs of our ever-changing culture, and accused of "not having a heart for the lost," since we are not willing to follow the lead of those among us who are taking risks, trying new things, and "living outside of the box."  If we truly loved the lost, we would not engage in "incessant, internal purification," but would be willing to do "whatever it takes" to reach them for Jesus.  We have many derogatory labels placed on us, such as "ultra-confessionals," "purists," and "radical right wingers."

But, our opponents misunderstand who we are.  They are just plain wrong about us.  We simply desire to remain faithful to who we confess to be.  We actually believe that our Lutheran Confessions provide a correct exposition of the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture, and that those doctrines are unchanging and timeless.  We actually believe that our Lutheran Confessions are every bit as valid today as they were in the 16th century.  We actually believe that doctrine and practice are two sides of the same coin, that our practices must be derived from, and confess and teach, what we believe.  We point out what should be obvious, namely that we cannot employ the "styles" of those who believe differently than we do and retain our Lutheran "substance."  That is just a fact, tested and proved time and time again. 

We're not looking to return to some "golden age" in the distant past; we're simply intent on remaining true to what we believe, teach, and confess.  It ain't rocket science; it ain't even rock science.  We are Lutherans.  We should act like it.  Is that really too much to ask? 

Anyway, give Pastor Peter's fine post a read, for it is representative of what we "ultra-confessional" Lutherans believe.  And, I highly recommend purchasing Rev. Harrison's, "At Home in the House of My Fathers."  I received my copy earlier this week and have thoroughly enjoyed what I have read thus far, all of which is just as relevant today as it was when penned by those faithful men from our past.  That's the thing, you see - true theology doesn't change with the times.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and so is what is to be believed about Him.  That true theology, which we Lutherans are blessed to possess, must continue to mold and shape us, so that it is delivered to the faithful, and presented to the lost, for the purpose of advancing Christ's Kingdom.  We contend for sound doctrine and practice not merely because we have some love affair with the past, but because we believe, teach, and confess that it is only through sound doctrine and practice that sinners are brought to, and sustained in, the one true faith.