Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is This Justice?

A friend sent me a link to the following youtube video featuring two ELCA "pastors" rejoicing over their reinstatement to the "ministry."  The two fellas are in a homosexual relationship with one another and, evidently, were both under some form of discipline which has now been lifted, since, well, the ELCA decided last summer to further ignore God's Word (which it had long ago abandoned) and allow for homosexuals in "a life-long, committed relationship" to serve as "pastors."

What struck me as I watched the video was the oft-mentioned word "justice."  For these two delusional men, justice has been served with their reinstatement to the "ministry."  Justice based on what?  Surely not God's Word.  They don't really want the kind of justice they deserve and will receive from God should they continue in their impenitence.  So, whence this justice of which they speak?  It is a worldly justice; a sinful justice - which is no justice at all!

But, this is what happens when you abandon God's Word.  You get to do as you please.  You get to make the rules.  You get to define what is right and wrong.  And, hey, when you are in charge and making all the rules, you get to define what justice is, too.

Of course, opposing homosexuality makes me a gay-bashing, homophobic, intolerant promoter of hatred and unfairness (injustice), right?  Wrong.  I don't hate these men.  I have no desire to bash them.  I don't wish violence upon them.  If they want to abandon God's Word, that's their business.  They just don't get to be Christians in the process.  They can call themselves Christians.  They can even dress up like pastors and pretend to be serving in Christ's stead and by His command.  But, it's all a facade, and nothing more.  You simply cannot be a Christian, let alone a Christian pastor, if you are an active homosexual.  Call it hatred and intolerant, if you wish.  Cry "Unjust!" all you want.  I don't make the rules.  Neither do you.  God does.  And He could not be any clearer in His Word on this subject.  This is not one of those mysteries beyond our understanding.  He tells us exactly what His position is on this many times in His Word, this example from Romans being just one occurrence:
"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.  For their women exchanged natural relationships for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." (Rom. 1:26-28) 
And so, as a Christian pastor, and specifically as a Lutheran pastor, I am greatly offended by what I see in this video.  That offense does not come from seeing two homosexual men; it comes from seeing two homosexual men masquerading as Christians, which they cannot be.  And that offense is heightened by the fact that they are further masquerading as Lutheran pastors, which they cannot be.  I am offended not only by their obvious disdain for God's Word, but also by the thought of how many people they are guilty of leading astray from the truth of that Word.  They may be the most lovable guys in the world.  They may have a great love for people and may be doing great things for the poor and disenfranchised in their communities.  But, all of that is trumped by the fact that they thumb their noses at the Lord and His Holy Word, and thus remain outside of His Kingdom.

Of course, what do I know?  I'm one of those old-fashioned, crazy people who still believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.  We're becoming fewer and fewer by the day, it seems.  So be it!  Here I stand.  Amen.    

Sometimes, you just gotta laugh!

Here is a story that is making the rounds through all the usual media outlets (local and national news, morning and afternoon talk shows, etc.).  "Little liars grow up to be great leaders" is the catchy headline/title of the story.  It's about the "research" done by Dr. Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Studies at Toronto University.  The reason the story is making news is because Dr. Lee and his team have claimed to make a breakthrough in understanding the nature of lying among children.  Basically, they have come to the conclusion that the better children are at lying, the better chance they have of becoming more productive adults and even great leaders.  The implication is obvious, of course - lying is good!  Parents should not be worried that their children lie.  Instead, they should be encouraged by that.  And, if their children are really good at lying, able to come up with grand, imaginative cover stories to conceal their lies, well, then, parents should be all the more encouraged, since that is an indication of future greatness.  I suppose I should be extremely encouraged and excited by this, since all four of my children proved to be fantastically imaginative liars from a very early age.  They should all turn out to be great leaders, indeed! 

One wonders how much time and money was wasted on this "research."  The conclusions are nothing short of laughable.  According to Dr. Lee, who, along with his team, tested 1200 children from ages 2 to 16, 20% of two-year-olds lie, 50% of three-year-olds lie, and 90% of four-year-olds lie.  By the age of 12, they claim, almost all lie.  Huh?  All this tells me is that 80% of two-year-olds, 50% of three-year-olds, and 10% of four-year-olds were extremely good liars, able to deceive Dr. Lee and his team into believing that they don't lie.  For here is the sober truth:  ALL CHILDREN LIE!  And I don't even need to receive large governmental grants to put together a research team to come to this determination.  All children lie because all children are conceived in sin.  By nature, they are liars.  By nature, they will attempt to deceive others in order to achieve self-preservation. 

And guess what - I don't even need the Bible to reveal this to me, although it does so quite clearly.  Experience is teacher enough.  I mean, show me the always honest two-, three-, or four-year-old.  You can't, 'cause none exist.  Every child will, when caught red-handed doing something they know they shouldn't be doing, try to lie themselves out of it.  That's what these little sinners know, and do, by nature.

There was only one Child in the history of mankind who never lied.  His name was/is Jesus.  He is the only hope for liars of all ages, for He lived the perfect, sinless life on behalf of all and gave His life on the cross to atone for the sin of the world - yes, even the sin of the cute, cuddly, little two-year-old who swears he didn't put the remote control in his mouth, even though you watched him do it.

It's bad enough that this ridiculous "research" is considered scientific and released to the public as some great breakthrough; what's worse is that it is accepted and reported by so many as such.  Yeah, sometimes you just gotta laugh!   

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Um, that's not MY fault!

So, Samantha asked me to schedule her driving test a few weeks back.  She is itching to get her license.  So, I called and scheduled it, just as she asked me to do.  It was scheduled for this evening at 6:00.  When I scheduled it, the lady on the phone told me to call back and give her Sam's driver's license number and the eight digits which appear at the top of that license sometime before we show up for the test.  I called this morning to give the lady the numbers and she said, "Oops.  Samantha can't take the road test this evening.  Those eight digits at the top of her learner's permit reveal the date the permit was issued (11202009), and she must have her learner's for six months before she can take the test and get her operator's license.  We'll have to re-schedule, Mr. Messer."  I apologized to the lady and told her that I was unaware of that fact.  We re-scheduled Sam's test for next Monday, which was the next available time.  After school, I called Sam to inform her of this.  She went into what could only be described as a moment of mental insanity, huffing and puffing about not going tonight.  "Samantha," I said, as calmly as I could muster, "Were you aware of the fact that you had to have your learner's permit for six months before you could take the test."  (huff-puff) "Well, yeah, but . . . (silence mixed with huffing and puffing)"  "But, what?" I asked.  "But, but, I've had my permit since November and that's six months ago."  "Not quite," I said.  "It will be six months two days from now, but it ain't six months yet."  (huff-puff) "Whatever!"

So, now she'll have to wait a whole 'nother six days before taking the test.  Of course, that's a lifetime in her mind.  Whatever!  It's not MY fault.  And, methinks a "Thanks dad for rescheduling my test as soon as you could" might just be in order here.  I'm sure I'll get something like that - after all the huffing and puffing subsides, that is. :)  


Lunch with the Choir

What a joy to have lunch with our choir this past Sunday after Divine Service and Bible Study.  Our choir does a fabulous job of enhancing our musical confession of the faith and praise to the Lord during Divine Services throughout the festival half of the Church Year.  They are a committed group, showing up at 8:30 a.m. every Sunday to practice during that time frame, and their commitment shines through in the selections they sing.  Special thanks to Mary for leading them so wonderfully, and to all of them for their commitment and for their willingness to share their talents.  We will miss hearing them in the next few months to come as they take a much deserved break until the fall.  Here's a pic I took of the group and their spouses:

Peace Bowling Night

A bunch of us gathered at the local bowling alley this past Saturday evening for Peace Bowling Night.  We had lots of kids and several guests among us.  A good time was had by all (until the next day, for some of us, who awoke with some aching bodies and sore fingers - getting old is great, isn't it?).  Here are a few pics from the evening:

 Not THOSE kinds of issues! :)

Terry can't watch as Zane prepares to throw his ball.

Chris, our congregational president, prepares to hurl his ball down the alley at about 600 mph (whenever he hit the head pin, none of the other pins stood a chance; the problem was that he didn't hit the head pin very often :); in the background, Sierra uses some massive body English to try to prevent her ball from finding the gutter.

Charlotte (the beautiful white-haired lady a couple lanes down), who had a knee replacement recently, bowled outstandingly, rolling a 195 one game!  

Don't be fooled!  When you see Preggers Meggers posing like this, something is definitely amiss! :) 

There are two things to notice from this scorecard:  1) PM does NOT stand for Preggers Meggers, but Pastor Messer - yeah, I managed a 197, which ain't bad, considering I hadn't picked up a bowling ball for five years (that game should have been a deuce; got robbed in the 9th!); 2) Chris hit the head pin three times in this game. :) 

Preggers Meggers rolled a gutter-gutter in the 8th frame of her final game - just thought I'd share (actually, other than this frame, she bowled very well - for a pregnant gal, that is! :)  

The rest of the pics I have turned out too blurry to share (the one drawback of the iphone).  If any of you who were there have pictures, please send them to me, so that I can add them to my files. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Again, What Weedon Said!

Pr. Weedon shares thoughts on why YOU should attend Voters' Assemblies here.  Yea, verily, and amen!  (Actually, I should mention that the VA's in our parish have been nothing but blessed gatherings the last couple of years - thanks be to God! - but salutary advice and something to always keep in mind, since we all know how uncomfortable they can be at times). 

Samantha's latest claim to fame (or, "How embarrassing, dad!")

Our daughter, Samantha, was pictured in the local paper long jumping during a recent track meet.  A lot of fun has been had with this one.  Her history teacher printed out enough copies for the class, had Sam come and sit up front and autograph copies for her classmates as they filed up one by one - I thought that was pretty cool, not to mention borderline hilarious; Samantha - not so much. :)  Lisa also printed this pic out and put it in a stand up frame right smack dab in the middle of our kitchen counter, much to Sam's delight - not! :)  Anyway, here's the pic (very appropriate pose for Ascension Day, I'd say - gazing into heaven and all): 

Alma's Sam Messer competes in the long jump during the track meet at Alma College on Wednesday. 
Sun Photograph by RYAN EVON

The Ascension of Our Lord

What a blessing to gather in the Lord's House this evening to celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord.  There were about 25 of us in attendance (not counting the multitudes of saints and angels with us, of course), which is the most we've had in Divine Service on Ascension Day in the five years I've been serving here.  Hey, maybe it's catching on!  I love the hymns we sing during this joyous Feast - Bede's "A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing" (one of my favorites, for sure - we'll be singing this as the Processional Hymn again on Sunday, so that our brothers and sisters who couldn't join us this evening won't miss it, and because, well, as I said, it's one of my favorites and I'm the pastor, so there), and "Up through Endless Ranks of Angels" (less familiar, but a goodie, nonetheless).  I love the Proper Preface for this Feast, too:
It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who after His resurrection appeared openly to all His disciples (great line, confessing the historic reality of our Lord's resurrection) and in their sight was taken up into heaven that He might make us partakers of His divine life (just ponder that one for a bit - awesome!).  Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying . . .
The Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

OT Reading:  2 Kings 2:5-15
Second Reading:  Acts 1:1-11
Holy Gospel:  Luke 24:44-53 

Jesus Is Ascended, but Not Absent
On the fortieth day after his resurrection, our Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father.  But although Jesus is hidden from your eyes, He is not absent from you.  For He now fills all things in heaven and on earth.  He continues "to do and to teach" (Acts 1:1), preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins through those sent in His Name (Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-53), giving You His true body and blood in the Supper.  Jesus is your great Elijah who pours out on you a double portion of His Spirit in the Word and the Sacraments (2 Kings 2:5-15).  He is Lord over all things for the sake of the Church.  He whom heaven cannot contain has raised your human nature to share fully in the glory of God.  You who believe and are baptized into Christ's body are already sitting in the heavenly places; for you are in Him who is at the Father's right hand.  When He comes again in the clouds on the Last Day, you also will appear with Him in glory. (Lectionary Summary from LCMS CoW)

A blessed Feast Day it was! 

Le Canadien détrône les champions de la coupe Stanley!

Wow!  Not only did the Canadiens dispatch of the defending Stanley Cup champs, but they did so in convincing fashion, ousting the Penguins 5-2 last night.  Who would've thunk it?  This Halak fella is for real, that's for sure.  He's turned in one of the greatest playoff goalie performances in recent memory thus far, and if he can continue his stellar play, the Habs could go all the way.  Unbelievable, really.  But, then, it was rather unbelievable that the Canadiens would even force a game seven with the Penguins, let alone win it.  Sid the Kid and company get to work on their golf games now - when the shock wears off, that is.  I almost feel sorry for them - almost. :)

The other semifinal series in the East is pretty exciting, too.  The Flyers have come back from being down three games to none to force a seventh game.  If they can complete the improbable comeback with a victory in game seven, they'd be the first team to do so since the 1975 Islanders came back to defeat the Penguins.  Before those Islanders, you have to go back to 1942 when the Maple Leafs came back to defeat the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Those are the only two teams in NHL history to accomplish what the Flyers hope to do in a couple of nights.  History in the making?  We'll see.          

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

One of our petitions during the Prayer of the Church today:

Look with favor, O God, upon all our mothers.  Guide them as they serve You in caring for their children.  Ease their anxieties as they perform daily parenting responsibilities.  Bring them joy in the privilege of nurturing their children, and fill us, their children, with Your Spirit, that we may obey Your command to love and honor our mothers not only on this day, but always.  Lord, in Your mercy:  Hear our prayer. 

It's Over!

I wish I could blame this one on the refs, but I can't.  The Wings were just flat out out-played last night.  The Sharks definitely wanted it more.  It was pretty frustrating to witness, especially after the Thursday night thrashing the Wings put on the Sharks.  How can a team play so well and so full of energy and then come out two nights later and be so flat?  I don't get it.  They didn't play with any desperation at all.  It was one of the worst games I've seen the Wings play in years.  If goalie Jimmy Howard hadn't stood on his head, this game would've been a repeat of Thursday night with the opposite result. 

Oh well.  There's always next year.  I give the Wings credit for enduring an injury-filled season and turning things around just in time to make the playoffs and go on a run, short as that run turned out to be in the end.  Looking on the bright side, the boys get to get out the golf clubs and hit the links a whole lot earlier than they have in the past few years - that's a bonus, for sure! :) 

I could bring up the fact that the first two games of the series, which were so hideously refereed, put the Wings in a position from which it was nearly impossible to recover.  Or, I could bring up the fact that the Wings have to travel several thousand more miles than any other NHL team in the playoffs.  But,  you know us Wings fans; we never whine or make excuses! :) 

I hope Lidstrom comes back for one more year!

In case you missed it . . .

Pr. Todd Wilken posted this on Facebook last week (I can't remember when I've laughed so hard - absolutely hilarious!):

"Todd Wilken thinks it's time . . . babies agree"

(Matt Harrison's "Mini-Me"? :) 

Divine Service 6?

Fr. Hollywood posted this video over at Gottesdienst Online and wonders if the CoW is busy developing a 6th Setting for the Divine Service in LSB (it'd be mo' funny if it didn't come so close to describing the "contemporary worship" being used in our midst today):

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Prom Pics

Pics from last night, before Sarah (our 18-year-old daughter - man, that makes me feel so old!) headed off for her Senior Prom:

Sarah and Jordan (I hate to admit it, but they do make a cute couple. :)  

You better not drop her, dude!

Come on, Sarah!  Samantha's not THAT heavy! :)

Goofy girls!

"Where's my prom dress, yo!"

Our 3 girls:  Samantha (16), Sarah (18), Kelsey (20) - it's not possible that they're so grown up, is it? (And people wonder why most of my hair is gone, and why what little of it remains is turning grey! :) 

Sarah and Haley (a.k.a. "Dimples")

Sarah and Chelsea

Rogate (Easter 6)

What a blessing to be in our Lord's House this morning for Divine Service on this Rogate Sunday.  The liturgical theme of the day on this Sunday is true Christian prayer.  We baptized Christians, who have received the sign of the holy cross, been marked as those redeemed by Christ the Crucified, and bear the Divine Name, are members of the Divine Family, invited and encouraged to pray to our Father in heaven confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.  Jesus, our Lord and Brother, has ascended into heaven to be our Advocate.  He is our Mediator and stands between us and the Heavenly Father, still bearing the wounds He suffered to atone for our sins as a constant reminder of the forgiveness, life, and salvation we have through Him.  And, the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is our great Comforter, pointing us always to Jesus, sanctifying our prayers in His Name, and picking up the slack when our prayers fall short or are lacking, constantly praying to the Father for us in Jesus' Name.

As part of the Introit on this day, we chant Ps. 66:17, 19:
I cried to him | with my mouth,*
     and high praise was | on my tongue.
But truly God has | listened;*
     because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast | love from me!

The Collect of the Day
O God, the giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. 

Old Testament Reading:  Numbers 21:4-9
Epistle:  James 1:22-27 (or 1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Holy Gospel:  John 16:23-33

Lectionary Summary for the Day:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you" (John 16:23).  To pray in Jesus' name is to pray as one who has been baptized.  For it is in the water that He put His name upon you, claiming you as His own, making you a son of God with access to the Father.  By His incarnation and crucifixion, our Lord Jesus broke through the barrier of sin which separated us from God, opening a portal to the Father.  To pray in Jesus' name is to pray with faith in Him as the one Mediator between God and men, who gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:1-6).  Like Moses in the wilderness, Jesus is our go-between and intercessor before the throne of heaven.  He was lifted up for us on the cross that we might be saved and restored to fellowship with the Father (Num. 21:4-9).  Looking into this perfect teaching of liberty (James 1:22-27) we pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God.

Processional Hymn:  LSB 837 "Lift High the Cross"
Hymn of the Day:  LSB 773 "Hear Us, Father, When We Pray" (we sang LSB 766 "Our Father, Who From Heaven Above" as one of our Distribution Hymns)
Recessional Hymn:  895 "Now Thank We All Our God"   

Speaking of prayer, here is the perfect prayer chanted beautifully in Latin:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wise Words from Pastor Weedon

When addressing the subject of "skipping Church," we often focus our attention and energy on reminding people of what they are missing out on when they absent themselves from the Divine Service.  I know this has been my main focus when talking with people who are either inactive or whose attendance is sporadic.  I remind them that when they choose to skip the Divine Service, they are missing out on the Divine Gifts our Lord delivers through His Holy Word and Sacraments, which are the blessed means of grace through which our Lord strengthens and preserves us in the faith, providing us with the sustenance we need as we journey through the wilderness of this sinful world on our way to the Promised Land.  I also draw their attention to the fact that they are also missing out on the blessings which flow from the fellowship they share with their brothers and sisters in Christ, reminding them that the Christian faith is not meant to be lived out individualistically in a "me and my Jesus" kind of way, but within the blessings of the communion of the saints.

All of this is well and good and should be part of our catechetical exhortation to those who are in the habit of skipping the Divine Service.  But, Pr. Weedon reminds us that there is another aspect here to be considered, namely the effect absenting oneself from the Divine Service has on those who do gather together.  He is so right, and I'm thankful for the wisdom he has shared in this regard, and will use that wisdom in the future.

Anyway, here's what Pr. Weedon had to say about this:
If I decided one Sunday just to skip Church that week, do you think anyone would notice? Ah, you say, but you're the pastor. Yes, they'd notice. I agree. They would. But it also makes a difference when YOU decide to skip Church this Sunday.

Each Sunday is a gathering of the family - and when a beloved family member doesn't show up for the family gathering and meal at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, there's a hole, a gap, a pain that everyone feels. We're all the less for that person not being with us to revel in the celebration of that day. Their absence diminishes the joy of the family. So when you choose to skip on Sunday, when you don't come together with your church family to join in offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and to receive the gifts your Lord has for you, it's not just you that miss out. Your extended family - the Church - misses out. They are diminished by your decision to absent yourself. The singing is that much quieter. The "amens" that much softer. The spot where you usually sit and stand reminds us all of your absence.

Surely old Neuhaus was dead right on this: Christian discipleship should begin with a very simple commitment that any given Lord's Day will find you in the assembly of God's people, singing His praise, offering your prayers, receiving His gifts. The *only* reasons for missing is because you're too sick to be present or because you're away travelling - and even in the later case, blessed are you if you find the family gathered in that location and join with them.

"Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:25  

Monday, May 3, 2010

Refs Take 2-0 Lead in Wings-Sharks Series

This ain't hockey, Mr. Bettman. I know YOU think it is, but it ain't! You and yours are ruining the game. Please, stop. Hockey is meant to be played 5 on 5. Please quit ordering the refs to "make it exciting" by calling a penalty every time a player falls down. If there is an actual trip, call a penalty. If there is an actual hook, call a penalty. If there is actual interference, call a penalty. If someone actually interferes with the goalie, call a penalty. And so forth. Get it? Penalties are penalties. That's why the refs are on the ice - to call penalties when they ACTUALLY occur.

In last night's Wings-Sharks game, San Jose had four penalties called on them. They actually only committed two penalties. The Wings had TEN penalties called on them (Um, ten penalties is a WHOLE PERIOD - that's 1/3 of the game! - just sayin'). Of those ten, they actually only committed three (maybe four) penalties. The other seven (or six) penalties were called on them for just playing the game of hockey.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually like the fact that you have worked to take the hooking and holding and interference, which used to be a regular feature, out of the game. That's all well and good. It did speed the game up. It has made it more a game of skill than it used to be. All for it. It used to drive me nuts when I was a kid to watch a player dump the puck in and go after it only to get completely mauled and taken out of the play by the opposing defenseman. I used to hate all the hooking and holding that was always allowed to go on uncalled, too. There were players in the NHL when I was growing up that truly lacked the skating ability and the skill to be there, but they made a living in the league because they were allowed to grab and hold. You have successfully eliminated all that stuff from the game. And that has been a good thing. Players today better have the skating ability and skill to play the game.

But, you see, here's the thing: The players have long since adapted to the new style of the game. They're not hooking and holding and grabbing and interfering like they used to. They haven't been doing that for some years now. They got the memo long ago. They've adjusted.

The problem is that this wasn't enough for you, was it? You still think the game isn't exciting enough. So, you have resorted to calling phantom penalties. If a player touches an opposing player's midsection, it's a hook these days. Even if a player only has one hand on his stick and is not in any way, shape, or form impeding his opponent, it's a hook. If a player shoves another player who has the puck and that player falls down, it's interference. If a player touches the opposing goalie, even if that goalie is three feet out of his crease, it's a penalty. And so on. It's embarrassing to watch. The refs look like idiotic fools. But, they're just doing their jobs, aren't they? That's what you want, Mr. Bettman, isn't it? You like a playoff hockey game with fourteen penalties called. You think it's exciting. You think the fans like multiple 5-on-3s in a game.

But, let me assure you, no true hockey fan likes this. It's all rather pathetic. We would rather have playoff hockey be playoff hockey, not a continuous display of "special teams."

And, guess what, Mr. Bettman. The players have adapted to this "new," new style, and have learned all too well how to make your refs look like fools. They know that if they fall down, the ref's arm is going to go up, and they're taking full advantage of it. There is more diving going on today than there ever was in the past. Players know that your refs are itching to raise their arms and blow their whistles. So, they fall down and flail about every chance they get, and your refs are all too willing to oblige their acting. This is actually worse than when the game suffered from all the holding and grabbing, for it has turned the game into a mockery.

And, yes, I know, Mr. Bettman, I'm writing this as a bitter Wings fan who finds his team down 2-0 right now. Call me a sore loser, if you wish, but the reffing in both of these games was nothing short of pathetic. I'm not the only one who believes this. Do a little searching around the internet and you will find that nearly everyone agrees, even those who can't stand the Wings.

But, these last two playoff games are not my major point of contention here. They are just symptoms of the disease which you have allowed to afflict this game that many of us love dearly. It is getting to the point where I can hardly stomach to watch any NHL game anymore. It's becoming a game for sissies, who make their livings falling to the ice every time they get touched.

But, given the fact that you do not have a hockey background and are nothing more than a business man, I don't expect you to understand any of this. I expect, rather, that you will continue in your attempt to "Americanize" the game, making it more and more a game for the amusement and entertainment of American fans who have little understanding of what the game is, where it came from, and how it is to be played. Just be aware that as you continue to do so, you will be losing many true hockey fans along the way. And, whether you realize it or not, the real and most essential "fan base" for the league you run (and are ruining) consists of we true hockey fans. Lose us, and your league will suffer greatly, whether you believe so or not.

Oh, and while I'm at it, quit dissing our Canadian neighbors. The next few expansion teams MUST be given to Canadian cities (e.g. Winnepeg, Hamilton, Quebec). If you expand further in the south here in America and deny our neighbors to the north in the process, I guarantee you that your league will suffer greatly because of it.

Rant over.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Holy Baptism of Mabel Diane Elliott

We were blessed on this Cantate Sunday to witness our Triune God enlarge His family, as Mabel received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  A good object lesson for the Holy Gospel of the day (John 16:5-15), where we hear our Lord promising His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to them, for here, in Holy Baptism, we see that promised fulfilled, as the Holy Spirit takes what is Jesus' and gives it to us, clothing us in His perfect holiness and righteousness.  Yeah, good object lesson indeed!

We also did something we had never done before during a baptism.  Larry set up his laptop in the front pew directly in front of the font and webcast the baptism, so that Angie, one of Mabel's sponsors, could participate all the way from Texas.  Pretty cool!  (I knew that front pew would come in handy eventually! :)

Almighty and most merciful God and Father, we thank and praise You that You graciously preserve and enlarge Your family and have granted Mabel the new birth in Holy Baptism and made her a member of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and an heir of Your heavenly kingdom.  We humbly implore You that, as she has now become Your child, You would keep her in her baptismal grace, that according to Your good pleasure she may faithfully grow to lead a godly life to the praise and honor of Your holy name and finally, with all Your saints, obtain the promised inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Some pics:

(This is what happens when multiple people are taking pictures - :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Peace Movie Night

Last night, several of us gathered together at the church for Peace Movie Night.  A few of us brought different movies from which the group could choose, but someone made reference to "The Blind Side," which wasn't one of the movies we had with us.  Since most of us hadn't seen the movie and decided it would be a good choice, Sharyn and Morgan quickly ran to the video store and rented it for us.  I'm glad they did.  Wow!  What a great movie.  I really enjoyed it, as did everyone else in attendance.  Not only is it a great story (based on a true story), but the movie was well made and the acting was superb.  It's a movie I'd definitely watch again, and there aren't many of them around these days.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. 

Thanks to everyone who showed up last night.  It was the highest attended Movie Night we've had in a long time and it was a blessing to share that time together!  

This is . . .

how you end up when you refuse to come in and stay outside all night hunting field mice and running from raccoons:

Harrison Homily

In the last post, I included a link to a message preached by Jesus First member, Pr. Jonathan Coyne. Compare that to this excellent homily preached by Pastor Matt Harrison at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne yesterday. Law and Gospel? Check. Law and Gospel applied to the specific hearers of the preacher? Check. Christ and Him Crucified? Check. Jesus actually being FIRST? Check. Predominance of the Gospel? Check.

Yeah, I'd say this one passes as a Lutheran sermon. 
What do you think?  Listen below:

And, They're Off . . .

No, I'm not talking about the start of the Kentucky Derby, but about the left-wing political action committee known as Jesus First, which is led by a bunch of LCMS pastors whose public testimony leads one to conclude that they are ashamed of being Lutheran and desperately wish they were "Americanized Evangelicals."  Formed in 1998, the purpose of this group is to advocate for, and support, what they deem to be "Gospel-centered, Mission-driven, Future-oriented leadership in the LCMS."  Amazingly, however, the group is repeatedly heard denying the charge that they are a political organization.  Every time I hear them denying this charge, I am reminded of this:

It doesn't get much more political than Jesus First.  They're all about politics.  And, the kind of politics they practice is the same kind of politics we see practiced in the secular realm, full of stump speeches, false promises, and slight-of-hand techniques, all in the attempt to convince voters to trust them without looking any deeper than the false facade they present.  Oh yes, they're all about politics.  And, you have to give them their props - they're very good at politics!  Heck, the fact that they can convince some that they're not political, with the mountain of evidence which most definitely proves otherwise, shows just what savvy politicians they are.  And, just as is the case with most secular politicians these days, the Jesus Firsters are "on the surface" politicians.  What I mean by that is that they're not big on substance.  They go out of their way to avoid having to deal with anything substantive.  That's not their bag.  Hit-n-run is more their speed.  They're great at saying a lot without having really said anything.

But, make no mistake, this group knows exactly what it's doing.  Do not underestimate them.  They've proven that they can get the job done.  They have had much success following their political strategy.  They're banking on the fact that most people don't really care about substance.  Their main ploy is to simply convince people that they are the good guys and that their opponents are the bad guys, and they set out to accomplish that not by hard facts or by appealing to authoritative sources (like Scripture and our Confessions), but by providing out-of-context quotes and superficial soundbites.  Their goal is to convince people that they're loving and kind, while their opponents are unloving, mean, and nasty.  And the way they go about accomplishing their goal is to go out of their way to convince people that it is a massive waste of the church's time to focus on purity of doctrine, and that those who are wont to focus on purity of doctrine obviously must not love the lost or have a heart for mission.  It's a neat game they play, and, sadly, a great many unknowing, unsuspecting Lutherans are check-mated by their strategy.    

The theology which undergirds the Jesus First political machine is less than ankle deep.  These chaps are no theologians, to be sure, which is probably why they so vigorously support leaders who just come out and admit that they're not theologians, like our current synodical president has.  They share a personal kinship with the Rick Warrens and Bill Hybels out there, who believe the church must do whatever it takes to reach the lost, and advocate for innovative, entertaining, seeker-sensitive "worship experiences"; relevant, practical "self-help" messages in place of sermons; small groups, and the "everyone's a minister" model, among other things.  The Jesus Firsters are clearly like fish out of water when in the company of the Lutheran forebears from whom they claim to descend.  They have reduced Lutheran theology to a few quick soundbites uttered by, amazingly, non-Lutherans.  For them, all that is important is that people know that Jesus loves them.  Nothing else matters.  All that theological and doctrinal stuff is just unnecessary.  To worry about that stuff is to fall into the sin of the Pharisees, who worried more about preserving their tradition than accomplishing God's purposes.

I write all of this as one who has followed this political machine for over a decade now.  I have read just about everything the group has published and I am thoroughly convinced that their major problem is that they just don't like Lutheranism.  It would be a mistake to think that their problem is that they don't understand Lutheranism.  They do.  They just don't like it.  For them, Lutheranism has been weighed, measured, and found wanting.  It's not enough.  They don't believe it works.  So, they are determined to change it.  That's their goal.  They want to change Lutheranism and make it something much broader and more inclusive than it is.  They want to eliminate the boundaries put forth in the Lutheran Confessions, in order to make way for the new-age "Lutheranism" they have in mind, where doctrine is unimportant, practice is optional and blessedly diverse, and the only thing that matters is doing whatever it takes to reach the lost and fill the pews. 

And so, they're off and running, promising to send a weekly newsletter to all the delegates who will be making their way to Houston this summer for the LCMS National Convention.  This is all non-political, of course.  They're just going to be sharing their views, that's all.  That Voter's Guide their send, and all the desperate pleas you'll hear from them to elect this leader or to hold that position, it's all just their way of sharing.  Nothing political about it at all.  Yeah, right.  It reminds me of this.    

The first of the ten non-political, "just sharing," special Jesus First Delegate Newsletters can be found here.  The lead article is written by Pr. Jonathan Coyne of Bethany Lutheran Church in Menlo Park, CA.  I thought it would be prudent to visit the website of the congregation he serves and check it out.  While there, I decided to listen to a couple of Pr. Coyne's sermons messages.  They are exactly what I would expect from a Jesus Firster - self-help, motivational messages where Jesus is most definitely NOT first in any way, shape, or form.  Click here and listen for yourself (this is Pr. Coyne's message delivered last week).  Go ahead; I'll wait . . .

What did you hear?  You tell me.  Was it a Lutheran sermon or a pop-psychological, self-help, motivational message?  Thankfully, he did get the Gospel in there around the 14-minute mark, but it was so obscured by the rest of the law-driven, pop advice that dominated the message that you really had to be listening for it to hear it.  This is the typical fare that passes itself off as Lutheran preaching among many Jesus Firsters.  It's what makes the name they've chosen for themselves oxymoronic, for clearly Jesus is not first in their preaching.  And, they won't apologize for that, since they have listened to their "Americanized Evangelical" heroes and have adopted their style of preaching, which focuses not on preaching the Christ, but the Christian.  As Rick Warren has said, "[People] want to hear something on Sunday that they can apply on Monday" (Purpose Driven Church, p. 191).  For Warren and company, including many of the Jesus Firsters, to preach about what Jesus has done and continues to do for us is a waste of time.  People already know all that stuff.  What they need is to be taught how to live their lives.  They need practical, relevant messages.  They need good advice.  And so forth.

In Pr. Coyne's message linked above, much of what he says is, in fact, good advice.  But, is good advice what the Lutheran preacher is sent to proclaim to the people he serves?  Um, not so much.  Lutheran preachers are sent to proclaim Christ and Him Crucified to people.  That's still every bit as relevant and practical today as it ever has been.  That's what people need on Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday . . .).  They need to be convicted of their sins and comforted with the sweet balm of the Gospel.  They need that every time they sit in the pew and listen to their pastor.  They need Jesus.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Every day of their lives.  They need Jesus.  And, they need Him to be their Savior, not their life-coach or a mere example to follow.  Christian living flows forth from the Gospel, not to it.

Anyway, my advice to delegates is not to deposit the Jesus First newsletters in the garbage as soon as they receive them (although, that wouldn't be a bad idea), but to read them closely and critically, for I am convinced that it can be easily seen how shallow and un-Lutheran they are - oh, and pretty dang political, too. Just sayin'.