Thursday, July 21, 2011

Issues, Etc. Pastors' Roundtable on Luke 5:1-11

I had the privilege of joining Pr. Timothy Landskroener and host, Pr. Todd Wilken, on Issues, Etc. this afternoon for a Pastors' Roundtable on Luke 5:1-11 (the Holy Gospel appointed for this Sunday in the Historic Lectionary). 

I love this text.  Here, our Lord Jesus Christ shows us how He will establish, and bring people into, His eternal kingdom, namely by the Holy Gospel as it is preached in its purity and administered according to His institution via the Holy Sacraments.  No gimmicks or fads.  No need for creativity or imagination.  No enticing bait or fancy lures.  Just the "net" of His Holy Gospel cast out into the "sea" of the world to catch "fish" (sinners) and bring them into His "boat" (Church).  And He will do the casting of this "net" through the men He calls and ordains into the Office of the Holy Ministry, like Peter and the sons of Zebedee, who will serve in His stead and by His command, preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His Name, baptizing, catechizing, and feeding His lambs.  It's a pretty straight-forward evangelism program, really.  I say we go with it! :)

You can listen to the Pastor's Roundtable below or click here.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pres. Harrison's Sermon at New Missionary Sending Service

One of my favorite blogs . . .

is Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Partuition.  I think I was first alerted to this blog by Pr. Weedon on his blog a few years back, and I have been an enthusiastic follower ever since, checking in often to hear the musings of the faithful and talented ladies there, whose posts are always intriguing and thought-provoking, and put forward in what I believe to be some of the best and imaginative writing to be found among Lutheran bloggers, artfully combining wit and humor with a seriousness and reverence for the topics upon which they delve.  It really is a wonderful blog and I highly recommend that you add it to your reading list.

Plus, it was on this wonderful blog that one of my favorite blog posts of all-time was posted back in February, which I include in full here for your reading pleasure.  The way the ever-talented Rebekah tells the tale of her attempt to complete the seemingly mundane task of taking out the trash on this particular occasion is pure genius - poetic, creative, skillful, and absolutely hilarious!  There are a plethora of posts on the more serious side of things I could include as a sample of the posting there, but I'm going with this one, since, as I said, it's one of my favorite blog posts of all-time. :)    
Many nights ago, I had a trash bag full of trash. EVER so full of trash. Trash largely of a nature of which we have spoken here before; namely, the trash of others which they are unable to trash. We will call it "füdtrash," received as it was in such vast quantity as to prohibit its total consumption or quartering. Warm was this füdtrash, and squishy.

Excepting one year of our married life, my husband and I have not taken trash to the corner in a marital trash can like a proper man and wife but rather have shared a dumpster with other families and/or institutions. This night occurred not in that year of propriety. Excepting occasional exigent trips to dumpsters, my husband takes out the trash like a proper man, but again, we speak not of a night of propriety. There were reasons for this: a long day of physical labor on his part, an overstuffing of trash bags on my part for which I did not wish to be reprimanded again, the loathing of Wifekind to ask Mankind to take out the trash.

This reprimandible overstuffing found my feeble self dragging my füdtrash along the ground from dwelling to dumpster. It found me propping my warm, overstuffed füdtrash against the dumpster while I opened the lid. It found me swinging my squishy füdtrash back and forth, putting that momentum paragraph from ninth grade science and the more memorable thingy on my teacher's desk to good use. It found me mustering strength for a final heave. It found my füdtrash arcing promisingly, then embarrassingly evacuating itself out the bottom of the misused bag all over the ground.

Alas. Alas.

Shared dumpster. Traffic in vicinity of shared dumpster guaranteed in morning (barring certain eschatological events, which history now shows did not occur). Ground thickly covered in warm füdtrash and distinctive, incriminating personal items. Basic human decency. My path was clear.

Thus did I run back to my dwelling and return to the scene of my crime with a plethora of bags. Bags for my hands, bags for my füdtrash, bags for my bags. And in the dark night, I felt along the ground for my trash. I gathered my trash to me. I picked up the fluttering Tootsie Roll wrappers and the greasy junk mail, the overnight diaper and the pineapple top, the off-brand Kleenices stiff with their ministry and the off-brand Gladware that broke when it fell out of my overstuffed freezer. Most of all, I gathered up my warm füdtrash. Out of the grass did I rake up with baggéd fingers my reconstituted potato flakes, my quivering gravy. Under the quarter moon did I gather my trash even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings. I put my trash in new bags, and did toss these understuffed bags easily into the dumpster. Verily, they floated above me like jellyfish on the wing.

My amiable consort, missing me at last, called to me from our dwelling, but I assured him all was well. I found a hose, and hooked it up, and sprayed the lingering füdtrash into a more considerate arrangement for the morning's sure traffic. I closed the dumpster. I walked home.

And through it all my heart quickened not, neither did my nose burn; yea, my soul was at peace: for no child wept, and no child tugged at me, and no child whined, and no child bickered, and no child needed to be nursed, and no child bled, and no child painted another's sweater, and no child frolicked in the litter box, and no child profaned his trousers, and no child consumed an ink cartridge, for every child slept and no child knew. Wherefore I devoted myself wholeheartedly to the task and completed it well and satisfactorily, free of panic, wrath, or interruption; and I went to sleep at once and in good cheer.

In Memoriam + Georgia Spindler (6/17/1922 - 6/30/2011) +

A post a couple weeks past due.  We said goodbye for now to a dear sister in Christ and Charter Member of our congregation, Georgia Spindler, a couple of weeks ago.  Georgia was called home by our Lord on June 30 peacefully and quietly in her room.  Her health had been deteriorating for the past year, as her heart was weakening and she was placed on full-time oxygen.  But, that didn't slow this amazing woman down much.  She remained active in many ways at the nursing home in which she lived (Masonic Pathways here in Alma), volunteering her time to help with mail delivery, assist in the library, and participate in the many functions held daily there (basket-weaving, bingo, and other games/activities).  She really was quite an amazing woman.

But, the most amazing thing about Georgia was her steadfast faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which was always on full display whenever I had the privilege of visiting this dear saint.  No matter how she felt, no matter how poor her health, she was always uplifted in spirit, and always made it known how blessed she was by our Lord.  She wasn't able to attend church for the past couple of years, which was hard for her, since she had been attending Divine Service regularly for so many years, so she really looked forward to having Word and Sacrament brought to her, and it was always a blessing for me to do so.

I regret the fact that I wasn't able to bring these blessed means of grace to Georgia and visit with her one last time before her departure.  Knowing that I was going on vacation the following week, I tried to catch up with Georgia a few times in the week leading up to that.  I spoke with her on the phone the Thursday before she was called home, and she told me that she wasn't feeling well and asked me to call on her again at the beginning of the next week.  I stopped by her room on that Monday, but she wasn't in, and I called several times on Tuesday and Wednesday, but got no answer.  I was worried about her, thinking maybe she had been admitted to the hospital and I just hadn't been notified yet, so I called the hospital on Thursday morning, but she wasn't there.  So, I called her room again that morning, but still no answer.  Before leaving that afternoon for vacation, I sent an email to our elders, letting them know that I hadn't been able to reach Georgia and asking them to check in on her and let her know that I would catch up with her upon my return.  One of our elders, Terry, called me and told me that he had been able to catch up with her and pay her a visit on Monday and that, while she seemed a little weaker than normal, she seemed to be doing well.  So, I decided to take one more stab at catching up with her before leaving town.

When I got to the nursing home and went to the elevator to go up to her room, I about had a heart attack when I saw her name posted on the "Dearly Missed" bulletin board posted by that elevator.  I couldn't believe it.  I was informed that she had died sometime that morning, probably around 11:30 a.m.  I wasn't the only one shocked by her sudden departure.  The nurse from her floor told me that everyone was a little taken aback.  Georgia seemed just fine that morning, following her normal routine, going to breakfast, doing some of her volunteer activities, before heading back to her room to rest before lunch.  Little did anyone know that she would be graciously falling asleep in our Lord that morning.  And while I regret that I wasn't able to visit with her one last time, I am eternally thankful to our Lord for taking our dear sister to be where He is so quickly, quietly, and peacefully.  He is good!  His steadfast love and mercy endure forever!

Georgia will be dearly missed.  She was one of the sweetest ladies I have ever been blessed to know.  Her steadfast faith was an inspiration to all who knew her.  She knew that her Redeemer lives and was fully confident that He would call her home in His way and in His time.  And so He did.

+ Rest eternal, grant Georgia, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her! + 

After talking with the Funeral Home director handling the arrangements for Georgia, I headed over the the cottage to spend time with family over the weekend of the 4th, but spent time there preparing for Georgia's funeral service and the sermon I would preach.  We held her funeral at Peace on Tuesday, July 5, and we were thrilled to see so many more than we anticipated attend.  It was truly a most blessed day, as we mourned the departure of our dear sister, but celebrated the life she now lives in heaven, resting with all the saints until the Day of our Lord's Glorious Return.  

Here is the sermon I preached (you can listen to audio of the sermon here).  The Hymn of the Day was "I Know that My Redeemer Lives," which was one of Georgia's favorites:

+ Georgia H. Spindler (6/17/22 - 6/30/11) +
5 July Anno + Domini 2011
"Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled”
John 14:1-6
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
"Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives:  I know that my Redeemer lives!”
Dear family and friends and brothers and sisters in Christ of Georgia, our dearly departed sister in Christ, it is that sentence which gave Georgia the sweet joy by which she lived her life in this vale of tears; the sweet joy that was obvious to those blessed to know her; the sweet joy felt by those blessed to spend time in her presence.  Georgia knew that her Redeemer lives.
And because Georgia knew the sweet joy of this sweetest of sentences, our Lord Jesus Christ speaks the joy of another very sweet sentence to you who mourn Georgia's departure this morning:  "Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Our Lord Jesus sets these words before you this morning to bring you joy in the midst of your sorrow, for these words are His sure and certain pledge - His guarantee, His promise - that He prepares a place in His Father's House for all who believe in Him, for all who know Him as their Living Redeemer, and that, at the appointed time, He does come and take them to Himself, that where He is they may be also.  Our Lord is faithful to His promises.  He never lies.  He always comes through.  And so we can be absolutely certain that this past Thursday morning He took our beloved Georgia home to the place He had prepared for her in His Father's house, and that she is now with our Lord and all the saints who preceded her and all the holy angels in heaven, experiencing unknowable bliss, peace, and comfort. 
What makes us so sure of this is that Georgia confessed her faith in Jesus Christ in word and deed.  She was baptized into this faith on November 11, 1952.  She was confirmed in this faith on December 15, 1953.  She was sustained in this faith throughout her earthly pilgrimage right up to the end by the ongoing reception of our Lord's Word delivered via preaching, the liturgy, and the Holy Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood.  And this faith, given to Georgia as a blessed gift from above, was on full display for all to see.  I highly doubt that anyone could possibly come to know Georgia without also coming to know that she was a Christian, who placed her trust in our Lord Jesus Christ. 
I say this, dear friends, because I want to make vividly clear what Georgia herself would want me to make vividly clear, namely that she is now in heaven not because she was a sweet person who lived a good life, but solely because she had faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Georgia would have you hear our Lord's words this morning, exhorting you to believe in Him and to know that no one comes to the Father except through Him. 
She would have you know that she was a sinner who needed a Savior.  Georgia was quick to point this out to those who would praise her for her kind and gentle demeanor, her sweet and loving heart.  I remember a visit I had with her a couple of years ago.  As I was getting ready to leave, I hugged her and told her that she was one of the sweetest persons I had ever been blessed to know, to which she responded with a smile, "Well, I guess you need to get to know me a little better, Pastor.  I am a poor, miserable sinner, as I confessed to you a little bit ago before receiving the Lord's Supper.”  "Nevertheless,” I said, "I'm sticking with my assessment.  You are a sweetheart,” which was meant by the quick-witted response:  "And I'm sticking with mine, that I am a poor, miserable sinner.” 
I'm still sticking with my assessment:  Georgia was one of the sweetest persons I have ever been blessed to know.  But, her assessment of herself was right as well.  She was a poor, miserable sinner, just like you and me.  That's why we commit her body to the ground today.  She was infected with the disease of sin, an infection that she inherited upon conception, an infection she was born with, the same infection every human being inherits upon conception and is born with, ever since our first parents, Adam and Eve, fell into sin in the Garden of Eden.  And that infection leads to death, for as it is written, "The wages of sin is death.”  It seems almost out of place to say this when speaking of someone as sweet as Georgia, but the reality is that she died because she was a sinner, even as there is no escaping that reality for any of us here.  We are all sinners and we will all die.  The casket at the front of the nave this morning serves as a powerful object lesson for us; a stark reminder of the reality we all face as sinners. 
But, the burning flame of the Paschal Candle by the casket reminds us of another reality, namely that the death we will all endure because of sin has lost its sting.  For that flame symbolizes the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary to live the perfect, sinless life we can't live, and to go to the Cross to suffer and die in our place, to pay the price in full for all of our sins with His holy and precious blood.  And we know that our Redeemer was victorious over sin, death, and the devil, because He rose from the tomb on the third day.  Our Redeemer lives!  What sweet joy this sentence gives!  Sweet joy because death has been swallowed up in victory.  Death has lost its sting for we who believe in Jesus Christ.  The One who lived, died, and rose for us declares, "I am the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” 
Let not your hearts be troubled, dear friends.  Georgia believed in Jesus.  Even though she has died, she lives on, not just in our thoughts and memories or in our hearts, and not in some imaginary "better place” we need to create for ourselves to make her departure from us less painful, but her spirit lives on - really lives on - in heaven, where she rests with all the saints and waits with them and all the holy angels for the Day of our Lord's glorious return, when her body which we commit to the ground today will be raised, together will the bodies of all believers, incorruptible and imperishable to dwell with our Lord in His eternal kingdom, where there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more suffering, no more mourning, for there will be no more sin, but only perfect peace, comfort, and joy - eternal life in body and spirit the way our Lord intended when He first spoke our universe into existence and formed us from the dust of the earth. 
This is why we don't mourn like those who have no hope.  We mourn, to be sure.  We will certainly miss Georgia.  We have, and will, shed tears over her departure.  There is no shame in that.  Jesus wept over the death of His friend, Lazarus, and it's okay for us to weep over the death of our loved ones and friends, too.  Thus, when our Lord says, "Let not your hearts be troubled,” He is not saying, "Don't be sad, don't cry, don't mourn,” but rather, "Don't be sad and cry and mourn like those who have no hope.  Georgia is Mine.  She was gifted with faith to believe in Me.  She lives.  I have taken her to be with Me.  Believe it, and be comforted in your time of sorrow.” 
That would serve as a fine ending to my sermon this morning, and I'm sure Georgia would be thrilled if I ended there.  She once told me, "When this old ticker of mine finally stops working and I die, please don't blather on about me when you preach at my funeral.  Just preach about Jesus.”  But, I would be remiss not to mention a few things about our dearly departed sister.  And, besides, I'm really not violating Georgia's wishes in doing so, since it is only because she was gifted with faith in Jesus that these things are worth mentioning. 
Things like the fact that she and her husband, Emil, were Charter Members of our congregation, both of whom served Peace actively and faithfully in a variety of ways until each was called home by our Lord.  Georgia played an instrumental role in the formation of our Ladies' Guild and used her time and talents to serve that Guild faithfully for as long as her body allowed her to do so.  She served as secretary of our congregation for a time, served on the Altar Guild for many years, and remained loyal to the congregation she helped found, by the grace of our Lord, through both the bad times and the good times, which are par for the course with every congregation within the Church Militant, this side of heaven. 
Georgia loved to serve.  She was a certified Braille Transcriber, and loved to help the blind and those with impaired vision.  She was very active in the St. Louis Library over the years, which not only stemmed from her love to serve, but from her passion for reading.  Boy did Georgia love to read.  She read the Bible regularly and faithfully, along with Portals of Prayer and other devotional literature, but she also always had a stack of books she was reading whenever I visited her.  Her love of books and reading continued right up to the end, as she continued to help with the library at the Masonic Home, even after she was on oxygen full-time. 
That's one of the things that always impressed me about Georgia, that she remained active till the end, helping with the library and mail delivery and in other ways at the Masonic Home.  She considered the fact that she was able to do these things as a genuine blessing from our Lord, and most certainly they were. 
Another impressive thing about Georgia was the love that she had for her family.  She didn't have children of her own, but she loved and remained close to her nieces and nephews and their families.  I doubt I ever had a visit with Georgia when she failed to mention her nieces and nephews and what they and their families were up to.  She loved you all very much and greatly appreciated the fact that you stayed in touch with her and checked in on her. 
As I said, mentioning these things - and many other things could be mentioned, like Georgia's love of knitting, golf, bowling, fishing, camping, and much else - these things are a testimony to the faith Georgia had in her Lord Jesus.  That faith is by far the most impressive thing I was blessed to behold.  I noticed that faith right away in Georgia and it was always on full display whenever I was blessed to be in her presence.  It is that faith which allowed her to get through the pain and difficulty of having Emil called home by our Lord on Christmas Day in 2004.  I remember my first visit with Georgia, when she was still living in the apartment at Masonic that she and Emil were living in when he died, and how she spoke of his death with full assurance and confidence that he had gone home to the Lord and that she would see him again.  And what joy she is surely now experiencing, having been reunited with Emil and with other family and friends who preceded her in death.    
And that, dear friends, is how Georgia would have you view her departure.  She has gone home to our Lord.  She was ready for this.  She knew the day would come and she was not the least bit afraid of it, because she trusted in our Lord's promises.  The same promises that are for you.  You are sinners, all of you, but you have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Repent, and believe in Him.  Cling to Him as your Savior and I guarantee you that you will see Georgia again.  
"Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives:  I know that my Redeemer lives!”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My First "Call Off" in Six Years

Well, almost six years . . . next Sunday, July 24, will be my 6th Anniversary of my Ordination and Installation as Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church.  There have been times during those six years that I didn't feel well on Sunday mornings, and a few of those times I felt like "death warmed over" and would have liked nothing more than to crawl back into bed, but I always managed to get to Church and conduct the Divine Service . . . until yesterday. 

I drove home from the campground (we were having our Peace Camping Weekend) Saturday night, took a shower, and passed out.  Got a good night's rest and woke up around 7:00 a.m. not feeling so well and with my right eye swollen shut.  Still, I was bound and determined not to let this get the best of me.  I'd just have to lead the Service with one eye.  But, after practicing my sermon a few times, my head just started aching something fierce and I felt nauseous.  So, about 8:00 a.m., I called Miguel, who would be serving as elder, and broke the news to him that I wasn't going to be able to make it.  He was a real trooper.  I sent him my sermon and the prayers, and we walked through the Service, noting which parts would be omitted and such.  He told me not to worry about it and that he was happy to cover things.  And, from what I've heard from those who have sent me well wishes is that he did a fabulous job.  So great to have elders like him to count on in a crunch like this. 

Anyway, the reason for the illness and swollen eye is poison ivy.  I got under our deck last Monday to pull weeds and just laid right down in the stuff, I guess.  I put sweats and a sweatshirt on, and wore gloves, but it still got me - and got me good.  It didn't start coming out until Thursday night, but I had felt sick (soreness in the right side of my throat and headaches) for a few days prior.  I just thought it was my tonsils acting up, but it was the poison ivy working its way through me, which finally started appearing Thursday.  It is all up and down the right side of my body, which was the side I was laying on under the deck while pulling weeds.  Talk about itchy!  But, I would have been fine had it not gotten on my face.  It is not fun at all waking up with an eye swollen shut.  And, it remained swollen shut all day yesterday and was still that way this morning.  So, my wife ordered me to go to the doctor.  I went this afternoon and the doc told me that it was one of the worst cases of poison ivy she had seen in a long time, and that it was good that I came in, since it's dangerous to have it on your face and around your eye.  She gave me a steriod shot and prescriptions for steriod pills and antibiotics, and just a few hours later, my eye is already feeling much better.  I can see out of it again!

Next year, there will be no crawling under the deck for me.  I'm thinking lots of Round Up will be in order! :)

A few pics of my ugly, disfigured mug:

This is what I looked like on Sunday morning.  

Still no improvement this morning.
Just 4 hours after the steroid shot - steroid shots are cool! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel

So, I heard some buzz about this book and purchased it last October.  But, it sat on my bookshelf unopened until last week when I took it with me over to the cottage and finally cracked it open.  I could hardly put the thing down and finished it a couple of days later.  What a fun, intriguing read! 

Ray Keating has created a unique and memorable character in Pr. Stephen Grant, who is an ex-CIA agent turned LCMS pastor, and the story he weaves together in this book is both wildly entertaining and thought-provoking.  Adventure, politics, theology, humor, temptation, suspense, romance - this book has it all, and then some.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from beginning to end, and look forward to future adventures with Pr. Stephen Grant.

If you're looking for a fun read that will not only entertain you, but also give you much to ponder, this is it.  I love the fact that Pr. Grant serves St. Mary's Lutheran Church, and that the LCMS President in the book is named Harrison Piepkorn (things that make you go, "hmmm").  And, I really enjoy Keating's style of writing, especially the way he has the characters in the book interact with each other, which makes the reader feel like he's part of that interaction, and the way he lets us in on what's going through Pr. Grant's mind throughout the book, which provide for some of the most humorous, but oh so true, moments.  I'd say more, but you'll just have to read if for yourself. :)  

So, give it a read, friends.  You won't be disappointed.  You can order it here or here.

Hey, this would be a great book for members of a congregation to read and then discuss together - hint, hint! :)  Maybe a certain congregation could even use this book to launch the book club they keep talking about starting someday.   

A UCC "Flash Eucharist"

And Jesus wept.

One year ago today . . .

Still get emotional when I watch this.