Sunday, January 31, 2010


Collect of the Day:
O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequence of our sin may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Old Testament Reading:  Exodus 17:1-7

The Gradual (Ps. 9:9-10, 18-19a):
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
Arise, O Lord!  Let not man prevail.

The Epistle:  1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5

The Tract (replaces the Alleluia):  Ps. 130:1-4:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!  O Lord, hear my voice!  Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!  If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feard.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 20:1-16 (Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard)

The Hymn of the Day:  LSB 555 "Salvation Unto Us Has Come"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just saw this . . .

posted at Pr. McCain's Cyberbrethren.  It's, like, so true.  My teenage daughters, like, hate it when their friends are around, and I'm, like, there with them, 'cause I, like, talk like them, using, like, "like" as every other word, so, like, I sound like them, ya know?  What's worse, though, is, like, when you sit down to have, like, a parent-teacher conference with, like, one of your kid's teachers and, like, the teacher uses "like" like every other word, ya know?  I just, like, want to scream when that happens!  Like, ya know? 

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Meggers Is Preggers!

So, we went to lunch today after Bible Study, as has become our custom, and as Megan was getting ready to sit down, she took her coat off and looked at me.  It took me a minute, but I finally understand what the t-shirt she was wearing meant (see pics below).  "No way!" I exclaimed, as I got up to give her a hug.  How exciting!  I've been teasing Megan and Chris for a while now, dropping little hints and reminding them that our Lord tells us to be fruitful and multiply (and, yeah, probably getting on their nerves a bit, too), so now I'll have to stop (or come up with some other way to get on their nerves, like calling Megan, "Preggers Meggers" - I can already tell how much she loves that! :).  But, that's okay, I'm thrilled!  More Church Growth the old fashioned way!  Woo hoo!!! 

Congrats Meggers and Chris!  Love you guys!  Can't wait till September! :) 

And here's a pic of Preggers Meggers with proud and "Foxy Grandma," Sharyn:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best start ever for Sparty!

My Spartans pulled one out against that other team from our state tonight.  I don't know why they allowed that other team to stay with them.  Usually, they just run 'em off the court (they've won the last 17 out of 20 games against that team, after all), but tonight they had to go down to the wire.  Kalin Lucas hit a jumper with 3.5 seconds left to secure the 57-56 victory.  In doing so, he also secured Sparty's best start ever in conference play, lifting their record to 8-0 in the Big Ten (18-3 overall).  Go, Sparty, Go! :)  All you fans of that other team, let me see if I can work up a tear for you . . . nope, sorry! :)  

The only bummer . . .

about our vacation last week was that I left my autographed copy of Matt Harrison's, "Christ Have Mercy" book on the plane while traveling back from Ft. Lauderdale to Detroit.  I had read through this excellent book when I first received it over a year ago, but was enjoying re-reading it and highlighting some important points Pastor Harrison makes.  I put it in the pocket of the seat in front of me when they came around for beverage services, then decided to take a little snooze, and forgot all about it when we exited the plane.  It didn't hit me that I had forgotten it until Lisa and I were driving home from Lansing later that night.  Ugh!

I hope that whoever finds it will read it and be as blessed by its contents as I have been.  But, I also hope that I'll be able to somehow secure another autographed copy to replace it, since I'm more than a little bummed to have lost it. 

Nominations for LCMS Praesidium

At our Voters' Assembly this past Sunday, our congregation voted unanimously to send in the following nominations for the LCMS Praesidium:

President:  Rev. Matthew Harrison
First Vice-President:  Rev. Herbert Mueller
Other Vice-Presidents:  Rev. John Wohlrabe, Rev. Daniel Preus, Rev. David Adams, Rev. Scott Murray

Back to Reality

My wife and I had a fabulous time cruising the Caribbean last week (we are SO THANKFUL to our friend, Brenda, who made this possible - thanks a million, Brenda, we love ya!).  The ship was awesome, the weather was beautiful, and the islands were gorgeous.  We were literally shut-off from the world for a whole week, and I gotta tell ya, it was kind of nice.  No cell or internet service all week (actually, both were available, but far too expensive to set up).  Princess Cruise Line's motto is Escape Completely, and that's just what we did.  It was wonderful. 

At the same time, it's really nice to be back home, even though that means I have a lot of catching up to do. :) 

Here are some pics from our little getaway:

Upper deck of ship, featuring pools, hot tubs, and big screen TV

Going to dinner

Staying in for dinner

Filet medallions and fettucine alfredo - delicious!

The beach at Roatan, Honduras

Cozumel, Mexico (Puerto Maya)

Enjoying an authentic Mexican lunch in Cozumel (with Sol beer - so good!)

I thought the Mayans were extinct!

The first of many a few pina coladas! :)

Dragan, our server from Serbia, who treated us wonderfully all week

My lovely wife, happily awaiting her massage at the Lotus Spa

Our theme song for the week:

More Free Music at

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pat Robertson is . . .

an IDIOT!  He does NOT represent Christianity.  I wish people understood that.  But, unfortunately, they don't.  Robertson continues to attract millions of followers and his 700 Club continues to be watched all over the world.  People actually think the guy knows what he's talking about, but nearly every time he opens his mouth, nonsense comes forth.  He doesn't have a clue what true Christianity is.  He is a clear-cut FALSE PROPHET - you know, the ones our Lord warned us about (cf. Matt. 7).  The Bible remains a closed book to Robertson.  He's an entertainer, not a preacher.  He's a newspaper-prophet, not a theologian.  And it is a crying shame that he, and others like him, are not recognized by all as the charlatans they are. 

Robertson's latest comments regarding the tragic earthquake in Haiti may be the worst in a long line of hideous comments the idiot has made in the wake of disasters.  He is always quick to cite these events as God's specific judgment on evil people.  What the puke doesn't understand is that if God was to bring tragedies like these upon evil people, there would not be a safe place to dwell in this sin-drenched world.  But, how could he understand such a thing, since he has no clue who God really is or what He has revealed to us in His Word.  Robertson's mind is warped and he lives in his own world of delusion, along with all the other charlatans that masquerade as Christians on TV, but who are really the wolves in sheep's clothing our Lord tells us about.

First, Robertson said that this tragedy in Haiti could be "a blessing in disguise."  Why?  Because now that everything has been destroyed, rebuilding can take place.  Yeah, Pat, what a blessing.  So what if 100,000 are dead.  So what if everything is destroyed.  So what if children are dying in the streets.  It's a blessing.  Only a hideous, hideous man would be able to utter such absurdity at a time like this.  But, that's Pat for you.  He's always uttered these kinds of absurdities at times like these.  That's what he does.  And, people listen.  Would that they would stop listening to this idiot.  Maybe then he would be removed from the public realm and suffering people would not have to hear his evil voice.

Worse than the "blessing in disguise" comments, though, was his take on Haitian history, from which he draws his perverted conclusion regarding why this earthquake hit them.  "They made a pact with the devil," he says.  They did so in order to be able to rise up in revolt to win their freedom from their French rulers.  Evidently, Satan himself led the charge on behalf of the Haitians.  And, evidently, Pat has first-hand knowledge of such.  He says that this fantastic tale he presents as history is "a true story."  I wonder how Pat knows this?  Has he been talking with Satan?  That wouldn't surprise me, actually, since the teachings Pat spews forth on his little television show do come straight from the pit of Hell.  But, Pat claims to be working for God.  What gives?  What gives is that the man is a charlatan, plain and simple.  If he was the Christian he claims he is, he would never dream of responding to something as devastating as this by telling the Haitians that it's their fault and God hates them.  But, that's essentially what Pat has said.  They made a pact with the devil and have been cursed ever since.  That's why God sent this earthquake to destroy them.  What an absolute idiot!  The guy should be locked up!

But, Pat won't be locked up.  He'll continue to spew forth his evil week in and week out.  And, sadly, people will continue to listen to the man, as if he speaks for God.  And unbelievers will continue to point to Pat and say, "If that's what Christianity is all about, I want nothing to do with it."  Yea, me either.  If Pat Robertson represented Christianity, I'd find another religion as quickly as I could.  He is a sick, twisted man.  Do not listen to him.  And, for God's sake, please do not send a penny to this idiot.  Yeah, even though the Haitians made a pact with the devil, are cursed, and God hates them, Pat is still raising funds for the relief effort.  He's done this many times in the past, too.  But, the money sent in has about as much chance of getting to the people who need it as Pat does of representing orthodox Christianity (i.e. a snowball's chance in Hell).  He's proven that in the past.  People send him money and he spends it on himself.  That's what charlatans do.

Why did this tragic earthquake strike Haiti?  Because bad things happen in this sinful world.  Is it God's judgment upon the Haitian people?  No, but it is a reminder of God's judgment to come on this dead and dying world, as are all natural catastrophes.  Creation groans as in birth pangs longing to be freed from the effects sin has had.  That's the world we live in.  These kinds of tragedies will continue until the Last Day, when our Lord and Savior returns in great glory.  But, make no mistake, if they are examples of God's specific judgment upon a specific group of people in a specific location, as Pat claims, we all better watch out, 'cause surely our areas will be next on God's list.  But, I dare say that if that was God's way of doing things, the studio where they air The 700 Club would have been hit a long time ago.

With all that said, if you want to send money in to help with the relief efforts in Haiti, you can do so through Lutheran World Relief and Human Care here.  This link will also provide you with an update from the Church in Haiti.  Yeah, there are plenty of Christians in Haiti, and these brothers and sisters need our help.  

Here's a clip of Robertson's latest example of what an idiot he is (Warning:  Have a trash can or some other container available, as you may want to puke while watching it):

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I got to see . . .

Kylie Rose yesterday, the beautiful newborn daughter of Kyle and Jilian.  Kylie arrived on the scene about seven weeks earlier than expected via an emergency C-Section and was rushed to Covenant in Saginaw.  She came in at 4 pounds, 15 ounces, and 18 1/2 inches, and she is a little cutie, for sure.  Besides the fact that she is breathing a little faster than they would like at times, Kylie is doing fabulously, thanks be to God.  All her vitals are normal, her color is great, and she is very active, kicking her legs and tugging at those yucky tubes with her hands.  I even got to hear her cry and fuss a little bit while there.  If all goes well, she may be able to go home as early as next week, and may receive the washing of rebirth in Holy Baptism on January 24.  We'll see how things progress.  Please keep Kylie and family in your prayers.

Mommy and daddy are doing well, too.  Jilian had to spend a little over a day at the hospital here in Alma before being released to make the trip to be with Kylie.  She is a little sore, but getting around okay.  I had the joy of having dinner with her and Kyle yesterday before heading back to Alma (and just so you know, Kyle, the half of the Philly-Cheese-Steak sandwich I brought home and ate last night was just as delicious as it was in the restaurant - don't you wish you would've saved some for later, too!:)

Here are some pics I took during my visit:


Saturday, January 9, 2010

A week from today . . .

my lovely wife, Lisa, and I will be getting on the Crown Princess (pictured to the left) and setting sail for the Caribbean.  A friend of ours, Brenda, recently experienced a financial windfall and surprised us with this unbelievably generous and awesome gift.  She is paying for everything.  The only thing Lisa and I will have to spring for is the occasional pina colada or margarita as we bask in the sun.  As you might imagine, we are geeked about this and can't wait to set sail, especially given the weather we're currently having here in snowy Michigan! 

This will be the fifth cruise for Lisa and me, all of which have been FREE - we've been very blessed, to say the least.  Actually, I should qualify that statement, since I'm sure my wife would want to correct me here:  The first four weren't exactly free.  We earned/won them from the direct selling company we worked for back then.  But, they sure did feel free, as we didn't pay a dime of our own money for them. 

So, we're "cruise veterans," so to speak.  And we love them.  There is simply nothing like being on a cruise, and we are so looking forward to this one.  This will be the first time on a Princess Cruise (the previous four were all on Carnival), so it will be interesting to compare.  We can't wait! :)   

We are so thankful to Brenda, with whom we have cruised three times in the past, for doing this for us, and we look forward to spending time with her and her family on the big boat.  And, we're doubly excited by the fact that we're going to a couple new places.  Here's our itinerary (we've been to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, but Honduras and Bahamas are new):

Saturday, Jan. 16:  Set sail from Ft. Lauderdale at 5 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 17:  At sea
Monday, Jan. 18:  Port of Call - Grand Cayman (7 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
Tuesday, Jan. 19:  Port of Call - Roatan, Honduras (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Wednesday, Jan. 20:  Port of Call - Cozumel, Mexico (7 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Thursday, Jan. 21:  At sea
Friday, Jan. 22:  Port of Call:  Princess Cays, Bahamas (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
Saturday, Jan. 23:  Arrive in Ft. Lauderdale at 7 a.m. (arrive back in Lansing, MI at 7:04 p.m.)

It Is Finished!

No, I'm not talking about the remarkable Gospel proclamation declared by our Lord from the cross just before He breathes His last and dies for our sins.  I'm speaking of my recent run-in with the Law and subsequent tour through our local court system.

Okay, so here's what happened:  On November 30, I took the afternoon off to get one last deer hunt in on this, the last day of the season.  Evidently, I wasn't the only hunter looking for one last chance to bag a deer.  I drove to four different state game areas near my house and there were hunters everywhere (wasn't even room to park in the designated parking areas).  When I got to the fifth, and last location, things were looking up, as there were no vehicles parked there.  So, I got out of my truck, grabbed my rifle, and headed across the field to the woods.  But, looking before me, I saw hunter's orange glaring at me from both patches of woods there is to hunt in this spot.  I don't know how those guys got in there, but there they were.  Not wanting to disturb their hunts, and having no clue where else to go, I headed back to my truck, ready to give up.  It was getting late anyway - around 3:45 already.  But, then my cell phone buzzed.  It was Ken, a member of our parish.  I had told him the day before that I was going to try to get out that afternoon and he was calling to invite me to come over to his place and hunt on his property.  Good news!  But, what follows - not so good!

Ken lives about 5 or 6 miles up the road from where I was.  So, knowing that I was just a short ride away, I did a bad, bad thing.  I just put my loaded rifle on the seat in my truck, closed the door and started to walk around to the other side.  Luckily (oh so luckily!), I stopped myself, went back, opened the door, and unloaded my rifle.  But - BUT! - like an idiot, I didn't take the time to slip my unloaded rifle into the case upon which it laid.  That would have taken probably a total of 3 or 4 seconds . . . but, no, I left it out of the case, got in my truck, and headed to Ken's.  You can probably already see where I'm going with this.

Between the hunting spot where I was and Ken's house, there is a little town, so the speed limit goes from 55 to 25 as you approach that town.  Yeah, I guess I didn't slow down fast enough.  I never even saw the County Sheriff  until I passed him (he was coming in the opposite direction I was heading and there were no police lights on the top of his vehicle).  But, when I did pass him, I wasn't worried about being pulled over or anything.  I wasn't speeding at that point.  I wasn't racing through town or anything.  So, I was surprised to see him turn around and turn his (inside) lights on to indicate that he wanted me to pull over.

When he came to the window, he asked, "Do you know why I stopped you?"  "No," I answered.  I wasn't lying, I really didn't know.  He said, "As you entered the 25-mile-per-hour zone, I clocked you at 42, and the law states that you need to be going the speed limit when you reach the posted sign."  He then asked for my license and registration, which is when the fun began.

As I handed him my information, he said, in a very stern voice, "Get out of the vehicle and place your hands on the hood!"  Shocked by this, I hesitated, and he said in a loud voice, "Now!"  As I opened the truck door to get out, he took a couple of steps back, extending his left arm in my direction and placing his right hand on his sidearm, obviously taking a defensive posture just in case I might attack him or something.  I thought it was a bit much, and I also thought I could hear, "Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do when they come for you?" playing in the background, but that was probably just in my head. :)

After getting out and assuming the position, he slammed my door and said, "Stay right there with your hands on the hood!"  Then, he proceeded around the truck to the other side, all the while keeping a keen eye on me as if I posed some sort of threat to him.  It was then that it hit me.  My rifle was out of its case.  That's what he was freaking out about.  When he got to the passenger door, he said, "Do you know that it's against the law to operate a motor vehicle while carrying an uncased weapon?"  I acknowledged that I did.  As he opened the passenger door, he snarled, "This better not be loaded!"  Remembering how I originally put the rifle in the truck loaded, I was thinking, "Pshew, glad I unloaded it."  He grabbed the rifle, confirmed it wasn't loaded, saying, "You're so lucky!," came around to my side of the truck, told me to get in and have a seat, and proceeded back to his car, taking my rifle with him.

Now, as I sat there waiting for nearly fifteen minutes, two things kept going through my mind:  1) I hope he doesn't confiscate my rifle, which was a gift from someone I cherish very much, and 2) Remember that you are a pastor (that was going through my mind because the Old Adam in me was getting a little steamed at the way this officer was handling the situation).

Finally, he emerged from his vehicle and walked up to the passenger side door, opened it, and placed my rifle where it was laying before.  He didn't put it in its case and he didn't ask me to do so, either.  He just laid it on top of the case, as it was before, which I found odd.  Then he handed me two tickets, one for speeding (40 in a 25) and a misdemeanor for operating a motor vehicle with an uncased weapon.  As he handed me the tickets, he said, "I'm not going to confiscate your weapon, even though I have every right to do so.  I'm doing you a big favor here.  The only reason I'm doing that is because you have a clean driving record and no prior criminal record.  However, I am writing you up for 40 in a 25, which is a civil infraction, and for having an uncased weapon, which is a misdemeanor and will go on your permanent record.  In the future, I suggest that you case your weapon when traveling."  Then he said, "By the way, I assume you're out hunting this afternoon.  Before I let you go, I need to see your hunting license."  As I was pulling my hunting license out of my wallet, I wanted to say, "Gee whiz, officer, what led you to the conclusion that I was hunting?  Could it be that I am dressed in camouflage from head to toe?  Or, is it the hunter's orange vest and hat I'm wearing?  Just what was it that led you to that assumption?"  But, I resisted that temptation.  Instead, as I handed him my hunting license, I asked him, "Do you really think it's necessary to give me a misdemeanor here?"  Handing me back my hunting license, he responded, "Yes, I do.  And, as I said, you're lucky I don't confiscate your rifle, too.  The DNR officer I was talking to while running your record told me I should, but I thought I'd give you a break."

Then, he stepped back and looked like he was going to close the door, and I said, "Can I get out and put my rifle in its case now?"  "Yes," he said, in a way that told me that he had forgotten about that.  One would think that if it was such a big deal, worthy of a misdemeanor and all, that would have been the first thing he would have done, or had me do.

Now, I was intent on simply walking around my truck, putting my rifle in its case, and heading away.  I was a little mad, I admit it.  But, I had no intention of saying another word to this officer.  However, when I got around to the other side and was putting the rifle in its case, he thought it would be prudent to give me a lecture on hunter safety, and I simply couldn't take it any longer.  I didn't yell or scream at him or anything, but I did tell him, "Look, you gave me the tickets.  I don't need a lecture."  To which he responded, "Obviously you do, if you're going to break the law and drive around unsafe."  "What, exactly, is unsafe about driving with an unloaded rifle?" I asked.  He said, "It's against the law."

I still wasn't overly mad at this point, so I asked the officer what his name was.  Then I got mad, because his response was, "My name is on those tickets; can you read?" (said in a very sarcastic tone).  "Yes, I can read," I said.  "Can you interpret a situation?  Do you see how I'm dressed?  Do you really not understand what I'm doing?  I'm not some hardened criminal driving around with a weapon.  I'm out hunting, going from one spot to another.  Did you really need to have me get out of my truck and put my hands on the hood?  That was a little much, don't ya think?"  "You better watch it," he said, "or I will go ahead and confiscate your weapon."  "Why do you keep referring to it as a weapon?  It's a hunting rifle, and it's in its case and in my vehicle now.  So, have a nice day, and happy holidays to you."  And then I got in my truck and drove away.

As I drove away, I was a little disappointed in myself.  I should not have let the officer get to me.  I should have just kept my mouth shut and left.  At the same time, the whole thing was a bit ridiculous.  He really had no need to even pull me over.  If I was speeding, it could only have been for a few seconds, since I started slowing down when I saw the first 25 mph sign.  And then, to make me get out of the truck and put my hands on the hood, while placing his hand on his gun, as if I was a threat, was simply absurd.  I could understand if it wasn't hunting season and if we were not in a hunting location and if I was not dressed in hunting clothing.  But, given ALL those indicators, and the additional indicator that we're not in a hot-bed of criminal activity, one would think that the officer would have been able to interpret the situation for what it was.  Indeed, having spoken to a few police officers about the whole matter since it happened, they agreed whole-heartedly that this officer should have handled things much differently.  In fact, two of the three told me that they would have just told me to case my rifle the next time; the other one said he would have had me put it in the case then and let me be on my way.  It just was not necessary to simulate an episode of "Cops" in this situation. 

Anyway, since I was issued a misdemeanor, I had to appear at District Court a couple weeks after this happened for my arraignment.  Lots of fun, that was.  I sat there for over two hours just to go to the podium and say, "Not guilty."  Pleading "Not Guilty" doesn't mean that you think you are innocent of the charges against you; it just means that you want to have a chance to talk the prosecutor and hopefully work out a deal.  Even the judge, who cannot officially give anyone legal advice, made it clear that most people should just go ahead and plead "Not Guilty."  So, having spent over two hours to do what took about 30 seconds, I had to reappear two weeks later for a "Pre-Trial" conference with the prosecutor. 

The prosecutor (actually, assistant prosecutor) was a very reasonable and understanding lady.  She asked me what happened.  I told her the story.  After chatting about things for a bit, she said, "I'll make you a deal:  You pay the speeding ticket and I'll drop the misdemeanor altogether.  Or, you can plead guilty to the misdemeanor and I'll drop the speeding ticket.  Your choice.  If you decide to go for the first offer, I will, out of courtesy, have to talk to the officer first, but I'm sure he'll be amenable to that.  If you go for the second offer, you need to know that this offense carries a sentence of zero to ninety days in jail and zero to $500 in fines.  Also, all misdemeanors are reported in the paper and if you are convicted of this particular misdemeanor, the DNR can take some action regarding your hunting privileges."  After telling her that I would be happy to take her first offer, she said that she would talk to the officer and get back with me after Jan. 1.  Finally, yesterday, having had another useless court date set for Jan. 5, she got back to me and told me that the deal was on.  So, all I have to do is mail the speeding ticket in with $125.00 and the misdemeanor will be thrown out.  My criminal record will remain squeaky clean, no action will be taken against my hunting privileges, and my name will stay out of the local papers - Pshew!

And, hopefully, this will bring an end to the fun some of my family and friends have been having at my expense (photo-shopped pics of me in jail; headlines depicting me as "Most Wanted," etc.).  Actually, I quite enjoyed that stuff - very funny! :)  But, it can end now . . . it really can. :)    

Friday, January 8, 2010

Another outstanding post . . .

by Pr. Reed here.  An excerpt, to whet your appetite:

Can anyone imagine Luther clowning around in the pulpit or prancing around in the house of God? Can anyone imagine Bach’s music inspired by anything less than the glory of the Gospel? Can anyone envisage C.F.W. Walther or any of our Lutheran forefathers tolerating doctrinally questionable, insipidly shallow and repetitive ditties in worship when great hymns with theological meat on their bones are available?

What are the deal-breakers?

In response to my recent post, "Legalism & License," a brother pastor emailed me and asked me to name some deal-breakers (practices that would be unacceptable among Lutherans).  For reasons known only to him, he wishes to remain anonymous, which is why he didn't post a response here on the blog.  [SIDEBAR:  While I have my blog set up not to allow anonymous comments, it is pretty simple to create a pseudonymn for yourself and post anonymously here - but, whatever]. 

First of all, I think framing the "worship wars" debate around what are, and are not, "deal-breakers" misses the mark, and is a rather un-Lutheran exercise.  It reeks of a "what-can-I-get-away-with" or "how-far-can-I-go" mentality, and that sort of mentality just ain't Lutheran.  Lutherans are not minimalists.  We don't search for some lowest common denominator in worship, believing that if we do at least such and such, we are being faithful to our theology of worship.

A former pastor of mine, who bought whole-heartedly into the Church Growth Movement, used to say, "We still worship like Lutherans.  The liturgy is still there; it's just hidden, that's all."  Um, no.  It wasn't still there.  It was replaced by a new liturgy, one that contradicted and negated the liturgy it was supposedly hiding.  And, that new liturgy was based on a completely different theology of worship, one that sought to entertain and amuse the audience, rousing people to "give their all" for Jesus, who was decidedly absent, which is absolutely foreign to the Lutheran theology of worship, which is built upon the premise that Jesus is there in our midst - really there.  But, this was a "Lutheran" (LCMS) congregation, so they still believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, right?  Well, they said they did, but their practice didn't jive with their confession.  Case in point:  After the "praise band" would perform, the audience congregation would break into applause.  The pastor and "performers" knew that there was something not right about that.  So, in the attempt to teach the congregation to give thanks where thanks was due, they would look up (as if toward heaven) while they clapped, and direct others to do the same.  After awhile this caught on, so that when the time came for the people to break into applause after the performance, you would see most heads looking up toward heaven while clapping.  Why look up?  Well, 'cause that's where Jesus is, silly. 

This example is put forth to illustrate what is truly a deal-breaker for Lutherans, namely the adherence to a theology of worship which contradicts what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess.  If we want to break things down and look at this or that practice to determine whether or not it is a "deal-breaker" for Lutherans, we need only ask ourselves whether or not it fits with our theology of worship.  Anything that doesn't fit is a "deal-breaker." 

But, I'd rather look at this from the positive side of the equation, since the anonymous pastor pointed to my comments about there being an appropriate amount of freedom in worship among Lutherans.  In doing so, the preliminary remark must be made:  The Lutheran Church is a LITURGICAL Church.  All Lutherans who try to suppress, hide, or otherwise negate this truth find themselves in the "deal-breaking realm" (and, sadly, there's a whole lot of that going on these days).  Being a Liturgical Church, we follow a recognized pattern in the Divine Service, one that has been handed down to us, is Christ-centered, and puts our theology of worship into practice.  That is non-negotiable.  We Lutherans simply cannot pitch the liturgy we've been given and maintain the integrity of our confession. 

With that said, there is a great deal of appropriate freedom in worship among us.  There is even room for us to have our own personal "styles" or "tastes" (gag!) regarding the way the Liturgy is conducted among us - within limits, of course.  We can speak or chant the liturgy.  We can have processionals or not.  We can make the sign of the cross at appropriate places in the liturgy or not.  We can bow, genuflect, and elevate or not.  We can wear a variety of vestments, from cassok and surplice to alb and stole to chasuble, etc. (not wearing vestments, unless they are simply unavailable or the situation makes them impractical, for some reason, seems like a deal-breaker to me, since, well, we confess to retain them).  We can speak or sing the Proper Preface or the Words of Institution.  We can pray the Lord's Prayer together as a congregation, sing it together, or have pastor and congregation sing parts.  We can ring bells or not.  We can employ an organ or not.  We can employ a choir (large or small) or not.  We can employ incense or not.  And on and on the list goes.

The point is that there IS a great deal of appropriate freedom among us.  It matters not to me whether my brother down the road chants or speaks the Liturgy.  I don't care whether or not he wears a chasuble and genuflects, etc.  I have opinions and preferences about such things, but these things are not what matters.  What matters is that my brother and I both adhere to the same theology of worship, using the same liturgy to deliver our Very Present Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to sinners in need, whether more or less ceremonial in the process.  What matters is that we conduct the Service with reverence and awe, recognizing that we do so in the stead and by the command of our mutual Lord.  What matters is that we are on the same page, serving for the same purpose, presenting and practicing the same doctrine.  The differences among us are not "deal-breakers," but examples of the true adiaphora about which our Lutheran forefathers spoke.  When those we serve visit the other's parish for Divine Service, they will recognize the differences between us, to be sure, but they will know they are in a sister congregation with whom they are in fellowship, for they will be greeted with the same doctrine at practice, albeit in slightly different ways.

That my brother down the road and I are in fellowship, even with our different "styles" of conducting the Liturgy among God's people, is NOT due to us agreeing upon some lowest common denominator and avoiding specific "deal-breakers," but rather is due to the fact that we adhere to the same theology of worship and put that theology into practice.  That is what is necessary and it simply cannot be brought into existence by drafting a checklist of practices which are either acceptable or "deal-breaking."  Lutheran worship is Lutheran worship, and it flows out of, adheres to, and puts into practice Lutheran theology.  Period.  

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Help Alexa and Family

Alexa, the two year old granddaughter of Pastor Kurt Hering (Layton, Utah), was taken to the hospital last week with stroke-like symptoms. The cause was found to be a tumor (about the size of a soup can) pressing on her brain. The tumor was successfully removed, but it was found to be malignant, so Alexa will have to receive radiation treatments.  A blog and donation center for Alexa and her family has been established to keep people informed and to give people an opportunity to help the family offset what insurance won't cover ($5,000 plus travel and so forth).  If you can donate to help the family out, please do so, but if not, please visit the site and remember to keep Alexa and her family in your prayers.  You can find the blog here, and you can go directly to the donate page here

Lord Jesus Christ, hear our prayers on behalf of Your beloved child, Alexa, as she undergoes radiation treatments.  Bless her and her family with faith in Your loving-kindness and protection.  Endow all medical personnel responsible for applying these treatments with ability and skill, so that, according to Your will, Alexa may be brought to full restoration of health and strength; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can I wear . . .

this hat while wearing a clerical shirt?  Or, is that overkill?  I'm so confused.  What are the rules here?

A Christmas present from Karla.  Thanks, Karla.  Already miss ya! :)

Celebrating Feast Days

The Gottesdiensters are talking about whether or not to transfer Feast Days.  In a perfect world, such a discussion would not have to take place, for the Church would be flooded with Christians on all Feast Days.  I mean, why would any Christian purposely stay away from an additional opportunity to receive the Holy Word and Sacrament in the Divine Service?  But, we know we don't live in a perfect world, and the reality is that most people don't come to Feast Day Services during the week.  For that reason, the celebration of Feast Days among Lutherans has all but fallen by the wayside.  Pity, that.  Especially when we Lutherans confess:  "At the outset, we must again make this preliminary statement:  We do not abolish the Mass, but religiously keep and defend it.  Masses are celebrated among us every Lord's Day and on the other festivals" (Ap. XXIV:1).

Perhaps I'm stubborn (perhaps?:), but I really do not think that whether people will come or not should determine whether or not our Lutheran parishes celebrate Mass on the Feast Days.  It is something we confess to do, which means it's something we probably should do.  Besides, as the little girl in Field of Dreams told Kevin Costner, people will come.  They will.  Not all the people, for sure.  Not even most of the people.  But, people will come.

We have been celebrating every Feast Day on the calendar in our hymnal here at our parish for three years.  I have yet to find myself alone and unable to celebrate Mass.  People have always come.  Not a lot of people, mind you.  Usually between ten and fifteen, sometimes more, sometimes less.  And, while I would love to see more people take advantage of these additional opportunities to be in the Lord's House to receive His Gifts, I have come to cherish the time I spend with the brothers and sisters who come to these Services, and would never dream of eliminating them.

As for transferring Feast Days, the only ones we transfer to the nearest Sunday are St. Michael, Reformation, and All Saints.  We also celebrate Feast Days on Sundays when they occur during the Trinity Season.  And, beginning this year, we will be transferring many Feast Days to Wednesday evenings, celebrating others on their days when that's not possible.

I really didn't ask for anyone's permission to start celebrating Feast Days.  I simply taught people what our Confessions had to say about them, showed them the calendar in our hymnal, and started holding them.  To my knowledge, no one got mad about it.  I did have a couple people question whether or not this was a Lutheran thing to do (people who don't regularly attend Bible Study and hadn't received my teaching about this), since they had never heard of such a thing before, except among the Roman Catholics, of course, but they weren't mad or anything, and they simply couldn't argue against the practice after I showed them our Confessions and pointed them to our hymnal.  The introduction of Feast Days here was rather uneventful and easily done.

So, for those confessional Lutheran brothers of mine who would like to reintroduce the practice of celebrating Mass on Feast Days, but are hesitant to do so (and a couple of you know who you are), just do it already, would ya?!  Of course, if you do and it backfires and blows up in your face for some insane reason, you don't know me. :)          

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who's Really Under Attack?

Over at the BJS site, there is a post asking people to complete the following sentence:  You may be practicing "Contemporary" Worship if . . .

As is always the case with posts like these, a few people have chimed in to express their opinion that such posts are less than constructive, mean, hateful, uncharitable, and hostile.  One commenter accused those who have posted responses as "destroying relationships for the sake of orthopraxy (orthopraxy means "right practice")," and asks, "Why don't you support your fellow brothers and sisters in the LCMS rather than attack?" 

My question to this commenter and to those who share his views is:  Who's really under attack?

The fact is that many pastors and congregations in the LCMS are employing worship practices that are inconsistent with Lutheran doctrine.  Not only that, but the current LCMS leadership continues to endorse and promote such congregations.  Have you taken a look at the official periodicals of our synod lately?  How about the "Igniting Congregations" link on the President's page of the LCMS website?  Congregations that are "boldly stepping outside of the box" and "doing whatever it takes to win the lost" are highlighted as "perfect examples" for the rest of the synod to follow.  What do these "perfect examples" look like?  NOT like Lutheran congregations at all.  In fact, a while back, I conducted a little experiment during a Bible Study.  I showed several short videos of congregations from the LCMS and other denominations at worship and asked those in attendance to pick out which ones they thought were Lutheran.  They couldn't do it.  They all looked the same.  They simply could not tell the difference between the LCMS congregations and the Pentecostal, "Evangelical," and Non-denominational congregations I showed. 

But, so what, right?  Obviously, I chose to show some rogue Lutheran congregations that do their own thing and fly under the radar, right?  Um, no.  These were congregations recently highlighted by President Kieschnick and company as "perfect examples."  These were congregations that were making synodical news.  They were being praised by the current LCMS leadership as "leading" and "spotlight" congregations.

Who's really under attack?  Those who simply desire to be Lutheran in our synod, that's who!  But, this is ignored by some.  When the Lutherans in our synod speak up and point out what is really going on, they are rebuked as mean-spirited, unloving, and uncharitable.  They have to bear the brunt of being accused of "destroying relationships for the sake of orthopraxy."  What an absolutely absurd comment!  Those interested in RIGHT PRACTICES (i.e. practices that jive with our Lutheran doctrine) are destroying relationships?  Can you say, oxymoronic?  What about those who ARE destroying relationships for the sake of FALSE PRACTICES?  That is what is truly ailing our synod.  What does it say about our synod when we have to do research when we have members move away to find a Lutheran LCMS congregation to attend and join?  No, it is NOT those who simply desire to be Lutheran, but those who want to merely bear the name Lutheran while practicing like methobapticostals who are destroying relationships and causing turmoil in our synod. 

And this all began many years ago.  Pastors and congregations enamored with the Church Growth Movement began doing their own thing already in the 80s (some before that), knowing full well that they were employing practices that conflicted with our Lutheran Confessions.  I personally know of four different LCMS pastors who went and got themselves degrees in "Church Growth" from Fuller Theological Seminary, and have heard of several more.  I sat in "Bible Studies" with one of these pastors and listened to him say things like, "We're doing things that the Missouri Synod doesn't currently approve, but hopefully they'll eventually remove their heads from the sand and get with the program.  Until then, mum's the word!"  That's just plain dishonest.  But, this pastor was not alone.  There were several who joined in his little rebellion against the synod with its head stuck in the sand.  They did whatever they wanted.  They learned from the "Church Growth Movement" gurus and followed them as if they were the wisest of wise sages.  They were not the least bit concerned with how their little rebellion would impact the synod.  They showed up every week, entertained the crowd, gave people what they wanted, and grew.  That was the proof for them that they were right and the synod with its head stuck in the sand was wrong.  So, they continued to do whatever was pleasing in their eyes, and no one stopped them.

And now their wish has come true.  They have taken over our synod.  No longer do they have to fly under the radar.  No longer do they have to say, "Mum's the word."  They are free to do whatever they please.  They are free to practice the principles of the Satanic "Church Growth Movement" no longer under the cover of darkness, but out in the open, in the light of day.  More than that, now that they have one of their own on the "throne," they're not just allowed to do as they please, but praised for doing so.  Their practices have been more than sanctioned; they have been put forth as beacons of light for the rest of us to follow.

Is it mean-spirited, hateful, unloving, and uncharitable to point these things out?  Not at all.  These are just the facts.  President Kieschnick is a self-proclaimed "church growth enthusiast."  It should not surprise anyone who is paying attention to see the enormous influx of Church Growth Movement principles introduced into our synod under his leadership.  He believes in those principles.  He's just being who he is.  He belongs to the group who did whatever they wanted while the synod had its head stuck in the sand and legitimately believes that his calling from God is to un-stick our synod's head from the sand and move us forward in the direction he whole-heartedly believes is the right direction to go. 

And please note that my criticism of President Kieschnick and those like him is NOT a personal attack.  I have no doubt that they have a tremendous love for the lost and sincerely desire to share the Gospel of our Lord with as many as possible.  They just seek to do so in a decidedly un-Lutheran manner.  That's why our current leadership hires un-Lutheran "church consultants" to show them the way.  The Lutheran way simply doesn't appeal to them.  They don't think it works.  They're looking for success.  They want to see positive results. 

And, make no mistake, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, they are the ones attacking those of us who simply desire to be Lutheran.  And, their attack is no longer subtle, as it once was.  No, it is smack dab in our faces these days.  We Lutherans who continue to to employ the historic liturgy and hymnody handed down to us, and who continue to trust in the Holy Word and Sacraments as the means of grace by which our Lord creates and sustains faith are called "maintenance congregations," accused of not having a heart for the lost, of being anti-missional.  We are dead (or, dying) and need to be revived (transformed).  And how shall we be revived?  By adopting the practices of the Revivalists, which are put before us by our leaders.  We must change or die, we're told.  And the changing we're told we must do is not merely about trying this or that new thing.  No, it's about changing who we are as Lutherans.  It's about changing our identity.  It's about transforming into non-Lutherans.

But those in the Purple Palace will respond:  You're overstating the case, Pr. Messer.  The unity we have in our synod is the envy of many other denominations.  The great divide you claim that exists is untrue.  Why, 80% of our congregations are currently using the Lutheran Service Book (hymnal), for Pete's sake!

Hogwash!  There is a HUGE chasm which exists in our synod right now, and it has only grown wider and wider these past 8+ years under the current administration.  And, as for 80% of our congregations being united around the same hymnal, get real!  How many within that fictitious 80% simply purchased the Builder (electronic hymnal) and pluck things from here and there to insert into their self-devised "contemporary" formats?  How many use the hymnal at one Service, but use nothing but "praise songs" and the pastor's (or worship leader's) own "liturgy" at another each week?  80% of our congregations are NOT united around the same hymnal - not even close!  But, that's okay in today's "not-your-grandfather's" LCMS, because President Kieschnick's hand-picked "Commission on Worship" has decided that it's okay for Lutheran congregations to use and sing "contemporary praise songs" that, at best, offer praise to some generic god and, at worst, contain false doctrine. 

Who's really under attack in today's LCMS?  It ain't those who worship like methobapticostals.  It is, rather, those who simply want to be Lutheran.  Those who worship like methobapticostals are praised; those who worship like Lutherans are looked upon with pity as some dying breed on the verge of extinction.  But, we're not extinct quite yet.  We still have a voice, and even if it continues to fall on deaf ears, we'll use that voice to speak up about what's really going on among us, and I suppose we'll just have to put up with being called mean-spirited and hateful along the way.  That's okay; I think we'll manage.   

Monday, January 4, 2010

Legalism & License

In the latest "Issues, Etc. Journal" (Winter, 2009), there is an excellent article written by Pr. Wilken titled, "Legalism & License."  In it, Pr. Wilken reveals how both the legalist and the licentious 1) share a common, false assumption, namely that "God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid" (the legalist comes to the conclusion that he must have the ability to avoid sin; the licentious comes to the conclusion that, since he cannot avoid sin, he must have permission to sin), 2) underestimate sin (the legalist underestimates sin's depth; the licentious underestimates sin's danger), and 3) are prevented from struggling against sin, based on their false assumptions (the legalist thinks he's struggling against sin, but is really only struggling to keep the rules, and thinks he's getting it done; the licentious believes it is pointless to struggle against sin, so he indulges his sinful nature).  Legalism and License are the same error expressed in two different ways.  The only answer to both is a proper application of Law and Gospel, which will lead both to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, who alone kept the Law perfectly in our place, and died on the cross for our sins.  What both the legalist and the licentious need is the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus.   

Pr. Wilken's excellent article (of which the above summary obviously doesn't do justice) got me to thinking about the ongoing "worship wars" in our synod (which, contrary to David Luecke and "Jesus First," aren't nearly over).  Legalism and License are not only errors to be avoided by individual sinners, but by the Church at worship as well. 

The Church must not demand that Christians follow a specific set of liturgical rites and rubrics.  That would be legalistic.  At the same time, the Church must not demand that she is free to do whatever she pleases in worship.  That would be licentious.  Both are the same error expressed in two different ways, for both shift the focus in worship away from Christ and toward what we're doing, whether rigidly following a specific set of liturgical rites and rubrics or allowing our freedom to be expressed however we wish. 

Our Lutheran forefathers were wise in addressing this matter, neither falling into legalism nor licentiousness.  Would that we would simply listen to them today, for they have the answers we need to put an end to this "war."  Essentially, what they said was that we Lutherans should keep that which has been handed down to us in worship and does not conflict with the Gospel, but, at the same time, that we should not bind consciences by demanding these things as necessary for salvation.  They recognized that there was freedom in worship, but also that this freedom was not limitless.  They were careful not to pen themselves in to a specific set of liturgical rites and rubrics, allowing for an appropriate amount of freedom in worship, but they were also careful not to endorse a free-for-all, do-whatever-you-like, theology of worship. 

One would think that we would have little trouble following the guidance of our Lutheran forefathers in this area, but we modern-day Lutherans just don't seem to get it.  And I would contend, much to the chagrin of many, I suppose, that our not getting it has far more to do with abusing the freedom we have in worship than it does with being overly legalistic.  I would also contend, as I have all along, that the war being fought over worship today in our synod is theological, not practical or pragmatic. 

It is not legalistic to demand that Lutherans be Lutherans.  Those who, in the name of freedom, borrow worship practices from those whose theology is not in line with what we Lutherans believe, teach, and confess are simply being dishonest and bearing false witness.  We Lutherans are NOT free to worship like methobapticostals.  How can we worship like those we condemn in our own Confessions? 

But, what about those among us who demand that every liturgical "i" be dotted and "t" be crossed in the same exact manner, or else?  What about those crass legalists in our midst?  Well, if they exist, they're wrong.  The problem is that I've never met these mysterious types.  I really haven't.  But, as I said, if they're out there, they're wrong and should be corrected.

That the "worship wars" continue in our synod is sad.  It shouldn't be this way.  There is enough freedom within our common confession of the faith to allow for a variety of practices that fit comfortably under the tent of a Lutheran theology of worship.  The problem is that many among us want to remove that tent altogether.  They want to be free to do whatever they please and are quick to cry "Legalist!" when anyone points out the obvious, namely that they have abandoned our Lutheran theology of worship and replaced it with a theology of worship held by those with whom we are not in fellowship.

The bottom line is that Lutherans should be, well, Lutherans.  And to be Lutheran is to neither be legalistic nor licentious when it comes to worship.  It simply means putting into practice what we believe, teach, and confess.  That comes in many shapes and sizes, but it is identifiable.  It is apparent where the Gospel is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ's institution.  It is identified where the liturgy is Christ-centered and Cross-focused, and when the children of God recognize that they are gathered in the very Presence of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who comes among them to Gift them with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His precious means of grace.  There is nothing legalistic about this; it's just a matter of Lutherans being who they are - those who voluntarily restrain themselves from abusing their freedom in worship because they share a common confession of the faith and a theology of worship which puts that common confession into practice.