Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Ignorance of Atheists on Display

I wonder if atheists realize how ridiculously absurd and extremely ignorant they come off when they produce fun, little videos like the one below (a link to which was sent to me via email a bit ago by some anonymous person who either thinks he/she can shake my faith or gets his/her thrills by sending such things to pastors).  I mean, come on.  Do a little research.  Consult a commentary or two.  Interview an orthodox pastor or three.  At least try to understand what the Bible actually reveals.  Don't just take a few passages out of the Bible from here and there - passages about which you have absolutely zero clue - and make your case against Christianity.  It makes you sound woefully ignorant.  Oh, and by the way, I know how silly you think we Christians are for believing in God, but rather than spew that forth in your ignorant fashion, perhaps you should spend a little time considering the fantastic silliness of your own beliefs - you know, that all this stuff just somehow exploded into existence and that our planet just happened to find itself the perfect distance from the sun and that somehow, someway life formed (have you folks ever taken a look at what's going on inside a single cell, with its complex machinery, complete with gears which mesh just so - just sayin') and so forth.  We do not even possess the math possible to calculate the odds of many of the fantastically silly things you atheists remarkably take as fact, but must, at the end of the day, accept by faith.  But, whatever.  Keep on keepin' on.  We Christians will happily remain "fools" in your eyes.  That Jesus guy you know so very little about told us long ago that we would be mocked and ridiculed for trusting in Him.  So be it.

Now, where's my "Lord of the Rings" collection - time to read through that excellent series again . . . I just hope I don't get it too confused with Holy Scripture! :)   

I'm thinking about . . .

starting a "Send Pastor Messer to St. Louis" fundraiser, so that I can attend this sure-to-be glorious Service.  Anyone interested in helping me to get that going should contact me immediately! :)

Seriously, I'd love to be there and to join in the procession.  Maybe, just maybe, I can figure out a way.

Just in case . . .

you haven't yet seen this "Lion King meets PCUSA" opening "worship" processional. I think one commenter asks the right question(s): "Uh, is it Christians pretending to be pagans, or is it pagans pretending to be Christian?" Another commenter wonders if the skunks were employed to provide the incense. You can read these and other comments here, here, and here.  The sad thing is that it wouldn't surprise me to see something like this at some LCMS function someday.  After all, we already have the "dancing girls" and the "Holy-Spirit-whirly-streamer-thingys."  Why not add some animals and big puppets, etc.?  I hope not.  I hope we can finally have the kind of serious, honest, deliberate theological dialogue our President-elect proposes and begin turning away from the trend we have seen to turn the Divine Service into a circus.  We'll see!   

Another Illustrative Video

Is there anyone out there who can really, honestly, seriously not see the difference here?  

Date Night

Lisa and I got out last night for a movie and dinner.  Since we were celebrating my birthday (a few days late, I know), I got to choose the movie.  That was a no-brainer for me, being the huge fan of Steve Carell that I am.  Is there a better show on television than "The Office"?  I think not.  So, the choice was, without a doubt, "Dinner for Schmucks."

I think I would have enjoyed the movie a lot more had the theater not been packed with giggling teenage girls, who seemed to lack any sense that they were not the only ones there.  But, like, whatever.  Ya know?  Anyway, be that as it may, it was a good flick.  Not the most intelligent of movies, but it's not meant to be.  It's one of those "stupid-funny" movies and it definitely accomplishes its mission.  Stupid and funny, for sure.  Steve Carell is just a master at playing the idiot, and the combination with Paul Rudd is just perfect.  Funny stuff - totally stupid, but funny!

I do wonder, though, how they get away with rating movies like this PG-13.  But, I've been wondering that for years now, and I think that particular ship has sailed.  We should just consider PG-rated movies to be PG-13, and PG-13 rated movies to be R.

After the movie, we went to dinner at a local restaurant, which turned out to be one of the worst dining experiences we've ever had.  The waitress was great.  The wine, appetizers, and salads were good.  Everything seemed to be moving along wonderfully - until we received our main courses.  Yuck!  Lisa got the deep-fried shrimp and it tasted awful - I don't even know how to describe it.  I got the New York Strip and it was, bar none, the absolute worst steak I have ever eaten in my life.  How in the world can a steak have no flavor?  I don't get it.  To describe it as bland is an understatement.  I had to smother it with A-1 just to have some semblance of flavor, and this is a big no-no in my book.  Steak should be eaten with a little salt and a lot of pepper and no sauce.  But, even A-1 couldn't save this steak.  I can't remember the last time I left half a piece of steak on my plate (don't think it's ever happened, actually).  Thank God they were out of both baked and mashed potatoes and I had to order french fries.  We ate those up like nobody's business! :)     

"Take Home More God"

I made the mistake of tuning in to the live stream last week to watch the "Divine Service" at the LCMS National Youth Gathering.  I say it was a mistake because I knew it would make me sad and angry and nauseous all at the same time.  And, it did.  Hence, the mistake. 

What I know for sure is that what I watched unfold before my eyes was NOT Lutheran.  That famous Wyneken quote I've heard President-Elect Harrison share from time to time came to mind:  "I don't know if it was from God or the devil, but it wasn't Lutheran."  It's such a shame.  Our youth deserve better.  Those in charge of organizing this ought to be ashamed of themselves.  Yeah, I said it.  They ought to be ashamed!  I mean, who in the world thought it would be even a little bit appropriate to have a dude pretending to be Jesus bantering back and forth with a pastor?  Do they really not understand how wrong that is, and on so many different levels?  Also - NEWSFLASH:  Just because you throw in a couple traditional hymns and have the pastor vest in an alb and stole does not mean that you have somehow met the minimal requirements for the "service" to be considered Lutheran.  Just sayin'!

I would go on, but I think Pastor Fisk has covered things pretty well in the following video he posted today.  This isn't about differing opinions or differing styles; it's about theology.  Filling our youth up with false teachings is just a bad idea.  Isn't it?  Anyway, here's the video:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lord, Have Mercy!

Yeah, let's put Christ in a dispenser and plop Him out for people in order to appease the irrational fears of those who worry about catching germs.  Never mind the fact that those pews haven't been wiped down and sanitized in months, or the fact that you'll be shaking hands with people after the Service, or the fact that those people over there are coughing out germs into the air, or the fact that . . .  Oh, whatever!

HT:  Father Hollywood at Gottesdienst Online

Issues, Etc. Interview

I had the privilege of being interviewed on Issues, Etc. this past Wednesday regarding an article I wrote for Higher Things Magazine.  The article is the second in a four-part series I was asked to write on some of the Old Testament Feasts, this one focusing on "The Feast of Booths."  You can listen below (or head over to the IE website):

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Take Me Out To the Ball Game

A bunch of us from our congregation headed down to Lansing this afternoon to watch the Lansing Lugnuts take on the Clinton Lumberkings.  It was a beautiful day, although it did get pretty hot sitting in the seats with the sun blazing down upon us.  The game itself wasn't all that exciting.  Clinton ended up beating Lansing 3-0, and the teams only combined for 10 hits in the game.  But, it was a good time nonetheless.  Minor league baseball games are always fun to attend - lots of entertainment in between innings, which helps when the game is a bit slow, as it was today.  Here are some pics:

Our group

The Lugnuts' Mascot - "Big Lug" ("Hey, down in front, dude! :)

Morgan and Marissa posing with "Big Lug"

Cinderella and company leading the "chicken dance"

The "Potter Park Zoo" had an exhibit in the mezzanine - Don't think I've ever seen an armadillo up close like this.

This little fella entertained us by pushing that red ball around - pretty neat to watch!

A milk snake the kids enjoyed touching - NOT ME!

Larry and Ben waiting in line to run the bases after the game

And there they go . . . 

Carolyn (the one looking up at us), who made all the arrangements for the day - thanks, Carolyn!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Five Years Ago Today . . .

I was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry and installed as parish pastor of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Alma, MI.  This was a pretty significant event not only in my life (duh!), and not only in the lives of my family (again, duh!), but also in the life of this congregation.  Of course, every time the Lord of the harvest sends a man to serve a congregation of His people in His stead and by His command, it's pretty significant.  But, in this case, there was added significance, since this congregation had been vacant for over 15 years!  They were not without pastoral care during that lengthy time frame, as many pastors filled in, some serving on a part-time basis for extended periods, but they didn't have their own pastor, called by them and sent by the Lord to serve them full time.

Additionally, while five years seems a rather minor milestone, in the life of this congregation, it is pretty major, considering that of the other seven full-time parish pastors who preceded me, only two served for more than five years - Rev. Ronald Mueller, who served for five years and five months, and Rev. Duane Florschuetz, who served for five years and eight months.  Thus, if the Lord grants me another nine months of service here at Peace, I will have served here longer than any other pastor.  This history of short pastorates, a few of which were cut short due to severe conflict in the congregation, along with the congregation being vacant for over fifteen years, have presented many unique challenges during my first five years of service here.  There have been some rocky times along the way, but the Lord has been with us and has seen us through those times, and He has blessed us with remarkable peace and unity.  It has been a pure pleasure to serve this beloved congregation these past five years and I pray that the Lord will grant us many more years together.

And it all began on July 24, 2005, which was the hottest day ever recorded in the history of this planet.  Okay, so maybe it wasn't THAT hot, but it was HOT!  The brother pastors in our circuit who were there still talk about how hot it was that day, as do the many members of the congregation and the many family and friends who were there.  In fact, it was largely due to the extreme hotness of that day that the plan to install air conditioning was expedited and accomplished in short fashion (see, the Lord does work all things together for our good! :).

Not only was it HOT, but the place was packed to the gills (our overflow area was overflowing that day).  Having just completed my vicarage at Immanuel, Frankentrost, several members there came for the event, including Pr. Mark Loest, who ordained me.  Several family and friends turned out as well, along with several pastors from our circuit and a few from outside our circuit, not to mention the many members of Peace itself.  It was packed, more packed than our little congregation has ever been.  And, of course, that only added to the hotness! :)  But, what a blessing to share this day with so many!

I'll never forget that day.  It was without a doubt the most surreal moment of my life.  Me, a pastor?  That still boggles my mind.  That the Lord has called me into His Office and kept me in that Office these past five years truly proves the validity of the saying, "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

Anyway, here are a few pics in remembrance of that day:

I told you the place was packed!  At this point, there are still people coming in, too!

Rev. Mark Loest ordaining me into the Office of the Holy Ministry

The laying on of hands

Rev. David Reed installing me as Pastor of Peace

The family - my, how these rascals have grown!

My wife, Lisa, and me (featuring my cheesy, fake smile! :)

Mom and Dad

A Bold Confession

Invited as an Ecumenical Advisory Delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Orthodox Archpriest Siarhei Hardun made a rather bold confession, worthy of a resounding "Amen," regarding the deplorable decision reached by the assembly to approve non-celibate gay clergy (similar to what the ELCA did last summer).  Here are the words of the bold confession of which I speak, which you can hear for yourself by watching the video embedded below:
As Christian morality is as old as Christianity itself, it doesn’t need to be invented now.   And those attempts to invent new morality look to me like attempts to make a new religion, a sort of modern paganism.   When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible, if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspires the Holy Orthodox church not to change anything in Christian doctrine and moral standards.   But if it is the same Spirit, I wonder, if perhaps, there are different spirits acting in different denominations and inspiring them to develop in different direction to create different theologies and different morals.  My desire is that all Christians should contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints as saint Jude calls us to do, and my advice as is, as ecumenical delegate, my advice is the following, do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, yes the words of saint Paul.  Anyway, I thank you for kindness, love, hospitality and, of course, for your attention.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our President-Elect . . .

was interviewed by Religious News Service - "Ten Minutes With . . . Matthew Harrison" (just in case anyone hasn't seen this yet :)

Tragedy Strikes Alma

Our little city of Alma was shocked with the news of a plane crash earlier today involving five well known members of the community.  The plane was piloted by Jerry Freed, owner of Freed Construction, and was on its way to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where one of the passengers, Don Pavlik (Superintendent of Alma Schools) was going to receive cancer treatment.  Mr. Pavlik's wife was also on board, along with Dr. James Hall and co-pilot Earl Davidson.  The plane's engine went out and crashed into Lake Michigan about seven miles out from Ludington, MI.  Jerry Freed was rescued from the water, but the other four passengers remain missing. 

It goes without saying that our community is suffering right now.  Many are holding out hope that the four missing passengers may still be found, but that hope dwindles with every passing hour.  Prayers for our community, especially for the families of those who remain missing, are appreciated. 

You can read more about the story here and here.  

Confessions Study Group

Larry Elliott (our congregation's chairman of the board of elders) and I had the privilege and joy of attending the Confessions Study Group at Hope Lutheran in DeWitt, MI yesterday, where Pr. Tony Sikora serves.  When Larry and I walked in, we were greeted by Pr. Sikora, who immediately walked us over to his office door to show us the picture he has hanging there:

 (Pr. Sikora, President-Elect Harrison, and newly appointed Director of Church Relations - Assistant to the President, Rev. Al Collver)

I was going to photoshop myself into this pic, but I lack both the software and the know-how, so, instead, to make myself feel better and quench my jealousy of Pr. Sikora, I'll just re-post a couple of pics of my own:

(Notice how Pr. Steve Starke, Hymn-writer extraordinaire, and President-Elect Harrison are taking great joy in listening to me - take that, Sikora! :)

(In this pic, President-Elect Harrison is writing down the many suggestions I shared with him on how he should lead our synod - it only looks like he's merely signing my copies of his books; I know the truth! :)

Okay, now that that's out of the way and I feel better . . . 

Before we commenced with our study of the Confessions, we had Divine Service, celebrating the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene.  Pr. Sikora preached a most excellent sermon to us, calling us to repentance for often seeking God in the wrong places (much like St. Mary Magdalene did in going to the tomb to look for a dead Christ), and enlivening us with the pure, sweet message of the Gospel, reminding us that the Living Christ has sought us and called us by name (just like He did with St. Mary Magdalene) and continues to call us to where He promises to be, that He may deliver unto us the Divine Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments.  Then we received the very Body and Blood of the Living Christ in the Holy Eucharist for the forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith.  A wonderful way to begin the day!

After Divine Service, we turned to our study of the Confessions.  There were around 40 people in attendance, which I believe set a record.  We began a study of Luther's Large Catechism, taking turns reading paragraphs and then discussing what we'd read.  It was most delightful and edifying, especially given the fact that there were some top-notch theologians in attendance, both clergy and lay.  Great discussion!  We made it through the Longer Preface and began the Shorter Preface.  Always a bit sobering (and convicting) to read Dr. Luther's admonishments here, especially given the fact that his words are every bit as applicable to our day and our situation as they were to his.  It doesn't appear that things have changed much and we would do well to listen anew (and often) to Dr. Luther's admonishments.  Here are a couple of excerpts from the Longer Preface:
To this laziness such preachers add the shameful vice and secret infection of security and contentment.  In other words, many see the catechism as a poor, common teaching, which they can read through once and immediately understand.  They can throw the book into a corner and be ashamed to read it again . . . 

But for myself I say this:  I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment.  Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism.  Every morning - and whenever I have time - I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, and such.  I must still read and study them daily.  Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish.  But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so.  Yet these delicate, refined fellows would in one reading promptly become doctors above all doctors, know everything, and need nothing.  Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the souls of the people.  Indeed, they even despise God and His Word.  They do not have to fall.  They have already fallen too horribly.  They need to become children and begin to learn their alphabet, which they imagine they have long outgrown [Mark 10:15].
I wonder what Dr. Luther would say about the conditions of the clergy in our synod today?  I'd bet he would write much the same thing, only in not so nice a fashion. :)  All pastors need to heed his words here.  We should all be diligent in our reading and study of the catechism, never imagining that we have learned it all and no longer need it.  The same is true for the rest of our Confessions.  They should not be placed on some bookshelf to collect dust, but should be regularly read and studied.  If we cannot master the catechism - and we can't! - then how in the world could we ever master the rest of our Confessions?  

After our study, the vast majority of us went to lunch, which was a blast.  Lots of conversation about the Convention last week, mixed with some good, solid, theological gab, and a little catching up.  It was so good to be with many brothers I don't get to see as often as I like, and I'm already looking forward to next month's Study!   

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On "Prayer Walking"

Note to Lutherans:  "Prayer Walking" was invented by those who belong to the "Word-Faith" (or, "Word of Faith") Movement (think of all the false teachers you see on TV, who exhort you to "name it and claim it" or "agree with God for your healing," etc.).  It was then adopted by more mainline Protestant denominations and has been especially targeted toward youth - you know, to give them something to do so that they feel like Christians.  Now, it is being promoted to our own Lutheran youth, as the following video has been added to the fare being shown at the LCMS National Youth Gathering taking place right now in New Orleans.

Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with praying.  We're all for that.  Pray often.  Pray, pray, pray, I say (hey, that rhymed!).  And, there is certainly nothing wrong with walking (Lord knows that some of us need to do a little more of that!).  And, there is not even a thing wrong with walking and praying at the same time, although there are certainly more focused ways to offer your petitions to the Lord.  But, when you promote what has become known as "Prayer Walking," you're promoting false theology.  Why?  Because this activity was invented by, well, false teachers, who, well, teach falsely about prayer.  To these false teachers, prayer is a way for the Christian to manipulate God to succumb to a given desire.  Not only that, but those who invented this activity believe, teach, and confess that God MUST succumb to your prayers, so long as you offer them in the right manner - oh, and with the right amount of faith, too (if God is not responding, it's because you have done something wrong, or because you don't have enough faith).  I could go on, but you get the picture.

The confused DCE in the video below has obviously been drinking from the poisoned wells of these false teachers.  I'm sure he means well, but watching him make his case for this activity just pains me as a Lutheran.  What he says is EXACTLY what the false teachers say.  He says that they "prayer walk" in his community for two reasons:  1) To assess the spiritual situation (you know, like the 12 spies did per Moses' instruction - except that, well, the spies were sent out to bring back intelligence which would aid the military conquest of the land; just sayin'), and 2) To take authority over, and posses, our territory (you know, like how God told Abraham to look all around and see the land he would be given - except that the land was to be given to Abraham regardless of anything he did, but by God's promise alone, and this DCE uses this to say that we need to serve God by spiritually taking possession of our territory for His glory - yep, straight out of the Word-Faith handbook - um, question:  Can WE take spiritual possession of our territory?).  He goes on to note that his church is sandwiched between two public schools and that, when those schools seek to implement things which would bring improvements (better teachers, better curriculum, more money, armed guards), his church just sends in prayer walkers.  He gives another example of drugs being sold by someone in an apartment across from one of the schools.  Principle and police try to fix the problem, but to no avail.  Answer:  We send in prayer walkers.  He ends by noting a variety of things for which the prayer walkers pray - all good things mind you (well, except that I wonder about praying for God to abundantly bless the two churches in close proximity to his - what kind of churches are these?  Should they be praying for God to abundantly bless these churches if they are false teaching churches?).  But, see, here's the deal:  "Prayer Walking" is not just about praying; it's about getting things done for God and to His glory.  It's about doing something about the spiritual condition of your territory.  It's about having the power to get things done in your territory where others lack the power to do so (you know, like those whose vocations, given by God, by the way, are to do those things).  It's treated as some special "ministry," the goal of which is to transform the territory into one in which God Himself would be proud to dwell.  Again, I could go on, but you get the idea.

So, to repeat, just so we're clear - Note to Lutherans:  "Prayer Walking" was invented by false teachers and is latent with their false teachings.  But, hey, don't take my word for it.  Google "Prayer Walking" and have fun reading what all the false teachers have to say about this activity.

It is very sad that this is being foisted upon our youth.  Here's the video on the NYG website:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Every Great Leap Forward

This could serve as a "Not-So-Old Lutheran Quote of the Day" on Pr. Weedon's blog: 
"Every great leap forward in the history of the Lutheran Church - every great leap forward! - says, 'Back to Luther, back to the Confessions, back to the Bible.'  Every descent into its demise says, 'Forget Luther, forget the Confessions, forget . . .'" (President-Elect Harrison during his presentation at the ACL Conference - see a few posts down, part 1, about 49 minutes in)

What do you think of . . .

this description of worship?
Worshiping together is a powerful way for us to experience God, His love, and His life transforming Spirit. Our desire is to lead those who attend worship at _________ Lutheran into genuine, life-giving, life-changing praise and worship, and to encourage praise and worship as a daily lifestyle in their hearts and lives.
Appropriate or not?

Friday, July 16, 2010


One of the intriguing things about watching LCMS Conventions in action is that, just when you think you have the pulse of the delegates, they surprise you.  Such was the case this morning when the delegates adopted Resolution 1-10.  I am not so much surprised that they adopted this resolution as I am that they did so by such a wide margin (779-286 - 73%).  Here is the resolution:
To Make a Concerted Effort to Reach Generation X (born in the late 60s through the late 70s) and the Millennials in the US (those born after 1980 who are coming of age around 2000ff) with the Gospel of Jesus
Resolution 1-10
WHEREAS, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that "fully one in four Millennials are unaffiliated with any faith and describe their religion as "atheist," "agnostic" or "nothing in particular"; and

WHEREAS, The percentage of young adults who regard themselves as unaffiliated to any religion has grown from 12% in the 1980s to 23% in the 2000s; and 

WHEREAS, We know from the example of Jesus Himself that He was concerned about people of every age, preaching to all the Good News of the Kingdom and calling them into the Kingdom of God and that it is the will of God that all be saved; and

WHEREAS, This vast mission field exists in the communities where our congregations are carrying out their ministries; therefore be it

Resolved, That congregations strive to better understand these generations and the effective means to reach them; and be it further

Resolved, That congregations be encouraged to actively communicate the Gospel message in a manner that connects with these generations; and be it finally 

Resolved, That LCMS World Missions spearhead the effort to assist congregations in reaching these generations with the Gospel. 
Now, this is one of those non-resolute, "encouragement" resolutions, which may be why the delegates quickly dispatched with it and let it fly.  But, it is also one of those resolutions which sends a message the delegates may not have thought through deeply enough.  

The main problem, at least for me, is the second resolved.  What does "actively communicate the Gospel message in a manner that connects with these generations" mean?  This is language which is consistent with one of the principles of the Church Growth Movement, which is to "repackage the Gospel in a way that will appeal to a certain targeted audience" - in this case, the specific generations mentioned.  This resolved suggests that the manner of communicating the Gospel revealed in the Word of God and confirmed in Article IV of our Augsburg Confession, namely to preach the Gospel in its purity and to administer the Sacraments according to Christ's institution, is not sufficient in reaching these specific generations.  Something different is needed.  Something extra or innovative needs to be done to reach these generations with the Gospel.  We have no idea what that something is, since the resolution is vague, as is usually the case in these types of non-resolute, "encouragement" resolutions, but there is a definite message being sent that the normal and God-given way of communicating the Gospel must be supplemented or repackaged in some way.  I suppose LCMS World Missions, whom the last resolved calls upon to spearhead this effort and assist congregations in this endeavor, will let us know how the communication of the Gospel should be supplemented or repackaged.  

I am betting that many delegates didn't think this through as much as they should have.  They simply heard the stats given in the Whereases from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which probably reminded them of many young people they know who have absented themselves from the Church, and thought this sounded like a good idea.  Who doesn't want to reach more of our youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, after all?  The problem is that this resolution is not just about having that God-pleasing desire to reach more of our youth with the Gospel, but rather that it suggests that WE must find a way to better communicate the Gospel, and whenever WE are involved in coming up with something better than what our Lord Himself has ordained for us, there is great danger involved.  

Criticizing this resolution will probably sound to some like something akin to getting enjoyment out of kicking puppy dogs, but I do believe that this resolution opens the door to all sorts of tomfoolery being done in the name of reaching these generations.  I say preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments and let the Holy Spirit do what He does.

Now, to be fair, it could very well be that many delegates were thinking solely in terms of what happens outside of the Divine Service.  They may have had the employment of new media in mind (youtube, social networking, podcasts, etc.) in order to reach out to those raised on this sort of communication and invite them to come and hear the pure Gospel preached and receive the Holy Sacraments.  After all, there is nothing wrong with employing these means to reach out to these generations (consider Pr. Fisk's most excellent videos, or the many connections being made via social networking, or "Issues, Etc." podcasts), and, indeed, we should be using any and all means available to us to do just that, so long as the Gospel is still purely proclaimed in those new media outlets.  The problem, though, is that the resolution itself doesn't make this clear.  It is far too vague and leaves the door open for interpreting it to mean that we need to "shake things up" in the church, so to speak.

And so, I was surprised that this went through with such a majority.  But, maybe it's just me.  Well, no, it's not just me, since Larry, our circuit's lay delegate, called me at lunch today to express his displeasure that this resolution was passed, and his surprise that it was passed with such a majority.  So, maybe it's just Larry and me.  Or, maybe great minds think alike! :)  I'd love to hear from those who supported this resolution.  It very well could be that I'm protesting where there is no need.  I've been known to do that a time or two before (but, just a time or two! :).     


Congrats to Pr. William Weedon, good friend and blogger extraordinaire, who was elected to serve on the Board of Regents of Concordia University - Chicago.  Also, a shout out to Sandra Ostapowich, of Higher Things fame, and Glen Piper, internet pal, both of whom were elected to the Board of Regents of Concordia University - Irvine as lay representatives, and to Pr. Klemet Preus, author of one of the very best books written on doctrine and practice, The Fire and the Staff, and contributor to the BJS website, who was elected to the Board of Regents of Concordia University - Wisconsin. 

The elections at this convention continue to amaze me - in a good way! 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Highlight of Today's Convention Proceedings . . .

took place when Resolution 6-01 was brought to the floor, which resolves "To Commend LCMS Disaster Relief Work, Particularly in Haiti."  Before the resolution was brought to the floor, a video was shown depicting the Haitian relief efforts, and then a delegation from Haiti took the stage and gave their thanks for the wonderful support they have received.  The resolution was passed 1110-9 (99% - one wonders who in the world these 9 delegates are who voted against this!)  You can watch this great moment here

.Rev. Marky Kessa, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti, addressing the LCMS Convention
(HT:  Stand Firm

This Is Our New President!

The videos below are of President-elect Harrison's presentation at the Association of Confessional Lutherans conference a few months ago - a conference I had attended the last four years, but was not able to attend this year (major bummer!).  I hope you will carve out some time and watch these videos (they're both around an hour long) as they will give you a good idea of who this man is that we've just elected to serve as our president.  And, for those of you who come to our Church History class on Wednesday nights, much of what Pr. Harrison says will be a good review for you. :)  This is just great stuff!  I'm so thrilled that we have elected this man to serve and lead us.  Enjoy!

ACL Conference with Pastor Matt Harrison from Norm Fisher on Vimeo.

ACL Conference with Pastor Matt Harrison, Part 2 from Norm Fisher on Vimeo.

An "Issues, Etc. Revolution"?

That's what Mollie Hemingway is calling the remarkable "changing of the guard" we're witnessing at the LCMS National Convention.  I, like so many others I know, have been blown away by what I've been watching unfold these last few days, especially in regard to the elections that have taken place - from the Praesidium down to the various boards of regents, there has been a noticeable trend to elect candidates who fall on the conservative (or "confessional") side of the spectrum.  It really has been quite shocking for those of us who have been following LCMS politics for a while. 

Anyway, whence this "Issues, Etc. Revolution," to which Mollie refers?  First of all, I really do think that the sudden cancellation of "Issues, Etc." and firings of Pr. Wilken and Jeff Schwarz during Holy Week a little over two years ago opened the eyes of a lot of people, who began to realize that they really should be paying attention to what's going on in our synod.  Secondly, the popularity of "Issues, Etc." soared when it came back on the air after a couple of months of hiatus and continues to grow to this day, and the promotion of Rev. Matthew Harrison, who has been, and hopefully will remain, a frequent guest, gave a lot of listeners out there a sneak preview of what our synod could be like under his faithful leadership.  Thirdly, the catechesis (teaching) done by Pr. Wilken and the many faithful pastors, seminary professors, etc. has had an enormous, positive impact on our synod.  Both clergy and laypeople learn much from this outstanding program and pass that learning on to others in their parishes.  Fourthly, "Issues, Etc." has been a tremendous uniting factor among the more conservative (or, "confessional") side of our synod, especially these last couple of years.  Having been closely monitoring synodical politics for over a decade, I cannot think of a time when there was anywhere near the unity among the "confessionals" we're witnessing now, and "Issues, Etc." has a lot to do with that, along with the Brothers of John the Steadfast, which came into being shortly after the cancellation of the show a couple of years ago.  So, yeah, I can see why Mollie would consider the happenings at the convention an "Issues, Etc. Revolution."

And, if there was any doubt about this, that was removed today when Jeff Schwarz, the long-time Producer of "Issues, Etc" was elected to the board of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).  This, after Rev. Michael Kumm, who just happens to be the Senior Pastor where Pr. Todd Wilken serves, was elected yesterday to the LCMS Board of Directors.

An "Issues, Etc. Revolution"?  Yeah, I think so.  So, a hearty thanks to "Issues, Etc." for rallying us to pay a little more attention to what's happening in our synod, but especially for delivering Cross-focused, Christ-centered programming to our ears, which makes your show the absolute best in Christian radio!

    Congrats to Jeff Schwarz, newly elected to serve on the CTCR board!  

Congrats to Rev. Michael Kumm, newly elected to serve on the LCMS Board of Directors!

Why Trampolines Aren't Safe in Michigan

A friend sent me this pic via email today with the above title.  Why can't I see these guys when I'm in my tree stand during the sacred season in November? :)  Anyway, kids in Michigan, always be sure to check beneath the trampoline . . . :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Okay To Be Happy!

A group of us went out to celebrate the election of Pr. Matt Harrison tonight after Evening Prayer.  We're happy about this - really, really happy!  And I don't see a thing wrong with that.  It's okay to be happy about the election of the candidate we supported.  It's okay to be happy about the fact that our new President-elect is a pastor, a theologian, and a man of mercy.  It's okay to be happy about the fact that our synod elected a man to lead us who is serious about being Lutheran in doctrine and practice.  It's okay to be happy about the fact that this man recognizes the deep division which exists in our synod and honestly wants to work toward healing that division, using the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions to do so.  It's okay for us to be happy about that.  How could we not be happy about it?

Almost immediately after Pr. Harrison was elected, warnings began to spring up all over the blogosphere about not being too happy or celebratory about this.  I understand the sentiment.  Our synod needs to work toward unity and this is not the time to boast or gloat.  Fine.  I get that.  But, being happy and celebrating this significant and joyous event is not the same thing as boasting or gloating.  The happiness I, and many others, feel right now is not derived from some sense of misplaced pride, but from a sense of utter relief and deep gratitude.  It isn't a "we won and you lost" kind of thing, but a "what a blessing!" kind of thing.

I think it is absurd to suggest that we should not be too happy right now.  It doesn't make us insensitive jerks to express our delight over the way the elections have gone so far at the convention.  We prayed for this.  We longed for this.  We hoped for this.  And, lo and behold, it has happened.  So, we're happy.  Sue us, I guess.

Also, let's just have a little honesty here.  We're also happy that Pres. Kieschnick and many on his team we're not re-elected.  That doesn't mean we're sadistic people who like to revel in the misery of others.  It just means that we disagreed with the direction they were taking our synod and are happy that they will no longer be in place to lead us further in that direction.  That's all.  We thank them for their service among us, recognizing that they served as they thought best, and we wish them well in whatever the future holds for them.  But, at the same time, we're happy.

There has also already been much speculation about what is going to happen now.  When will President Harrison take care of this or focus on that, etc.  First of all, the man isn't even installed until September.  Secondly, the work he has before him is enormous.  Not only is he inheriting a synod divided on many issues, but also a completely new structure to our synod, and it will be his responsibility to oversee the transition from the old to the new.  Thirdly, President-elect Harrison has been forthright in expressing that it will take years of hard work and honest dialogue to get us to the unity he envisions (the plan he lays forth in "It's Time" is a ten-year plan), and that the unity he envisions can only be achieved by the Word of God.

What is needed right now is patience and support.  President-elect Harrison asked us to pray for him daily.  Please do so.  He will need our prayers - and our patience, and our support. 

Also, if there are any people out there who are hoping for President-elect Harrison to begin "cleaning house" in our synod, I assure you that you are going to be disappointed.  That's not his plan, nor is that his style.  His plan is to lead not by coercion, but by the Word of God.  He's one of those long-lost believers who actually believes that the Word of God is living and active, mighty and powerful, and able to unite, even as it also divides.  Let's give him a chance.  Let's give the Word of God a chance.  Let's be patient and supportive and see what the Word can do among us.  We haven't done that for a while as a synod.  We have, for quite some time, focused on our efforts and our ideas.  Let's see what the Word can do. 

Anyway, I'm happy.  I can't help it.  I'm not sorry about it.  I'm thankful for it.

It's okay to be happy!     

Newly Elected LCMS Praesidium

(From L-R:  President Matthew Harrison; 1st Vice President Herbert Mueller, Jr.; 2nd Vice President John Wohlrabe, Jr.; 3rd Vice President Paul Maier; 4th Vice President Daniel Preus; 5th Vice President Scott Murray)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Congrats to President-elect Harrison . . .

from Father Hollywood and from Fr. Eckardt

There is no doubt . . .

that the mustache momentum which continued to pick up steam right up until the votes were cast had much to do with the outcome of our synod's presidential election this afternoon.  But, what I really think sealed the deal was the fact that the Blessed Reformer, Dr. Luther himself, got swept up in the momentum: 


"Grandpa" apparel now available

Pr. Jonathan Fisk, of "Worldview Everlasting" fame, just announced that new "Still Attending Grandpa's Church" shirts are now available.  Click here to check 'em out.  Half of the proceeds will go to support Rev. James May and Lutherans in Africa; the other half to support the technology and production of "Worldview Everlasting" (see Pr. Fisk's most recent offering here). 

So, go now and order a new "Grandpa" shirt and support the important mission work being done in Africa by our Lord through Pr. May, and the super-duper "new media" mission work being done by Pr. Fisk. 

All the cool kids are doing it.  You know you want to. 

Go now! :) 

President-elect Harrison's First Interview

President-elect Harrison (man, that sounds so good) was gracious enough to take a few moments to speak with Pr. Wilken on Issues, Etc. shortly after the election this afternoon.  The connection is not the greatest, but you can still hear the pastor and theologian in our newly elected president coming through loudly and clearly:

Blessed Results

Rev. Matthew Harrison

 Rev. Herbert Mueller, Jr.

Rev. John Wohlrabe, Jr.
Rev. Paul L. Maier
Rev. Daniel Preus
Rev. Scott Murray

What a wonderful, faithful Praesidium to lead our synod! 

Call me a sap, if you will, but my eyes were pretty teared up with joy as I watched these results unfold.  So many of us have been praying for the day when we would be given leaders in our synod who were committed to leading and guiding our synod in a direction faithful to Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions, and who would work diligently in love toward faithful resolutions regarding those issues which currently divide us.  I believe with all my heart that Pastor Harrison and the rest of the Praesidium will strive to do just that, and so I am ever so thankful that they have been elected.  Prayers ascend for this group as they make their transition into their newly elected positions in the days and months to come! 

Prayers also ascend for Pres. Kieschnick.  I disagreed vehemently with the direction he was leading our synod, but, as I've said before, he is a brother in Christ who sincerely believed in what he was doing and has a passion to share the Gospel of Christ with others that is very noticeable and admirable.  He was very gracious in defeat this afternoon and he has always done a very good job at chairing our conventions.  I don't know what the future holds for him, but I pray God's blessings upon him.  

In case you missed it, here is the acceptance speech of our newly elected synodical president, which provides a good indication for why so many of us are excited right now:


A Hymn Worth Singing Today

The following was crafted by Pr. John Frahm.  I think it's great, and I offer it here as a substitute resolution hymn to sing in place of the next jazzed-up, praise band-led, hymn to be offered at the convention:

Preserve our synod from the smoke
that blinds our eyes from Christ our hope
Grant us what we need, Lord most dear;
Deliver us from evil here.

Grant faithfulness to us today
That we confess what Thou dost say
Give repentance to our sins
O Holy Spirit enter in.

Take up your cross, O churchman now!
Confess the truth, with hand to plow!
With eyes fixed on Christ crucified
Upon God’s Word we have relied.

The gates of hell shall not prevail
Though popes and councils surely fail;
Where Word and Sacrament remain
There Christ’s clear promise still obtains

Great Video

I ran across the following on Facebook a few minutes ago.  Here's the description:

Ever wish there was a confessional Lutheran version of Veggie Tales? Now you can plop the kiddies in front of some good, sound Lutheran theology. Your favorite Beer Steins present Table Talk - based solely on God's Word and the Lutheran Confessions. Written for a talent show at the Higher Things conference in Nashville.


The first day and a half of business at the LCMS National Convention has focused on taking action regarding several proposals brought forth by Floor Committee 8, all of which have to do with restructuring how our synod governs itself.  My good friend, Scott Diekmann, is doing a wonderful job of reporting the decisions made by the delegates regarding these proposals as they happen, and I encourage you to check his blog often (you can also check the status of all the resolutions acted upon at the LCMS website here). 

I've been watching as much of the proceedings as I can via the live stream on the LCMS website here.  What I find interesting and very ironic is the fact that this Floor Committee has continued to claim that putting their resolutions before the delegates is motivated by their desire to bring more unity to our synod.  That claim simply doesn't make much sense considering the fact that most of their resolutions (and, especially, the most controverted ones) are passing by a very slim majority (51% or 52%).  As a couple of pastoral delegates have very wisely pointed out on the floor, making changes as broad and reaching as the ones being made with these resolutions should never be done with such a small majority in favor.  As they've noted, we would never push changes like this through at the congregational level (or, at least, we never should), since it would obviously breed disunity.  It would seem, then, that if the motivation driving the Floor Committee to present these resolutions was to bring more unity to our synod, they would have recognized the disunity they were creating when they began to present these resolutions and, for the sake of fostering unity in our synod, made the decision to cease and desist from moving forward.  Yeah, that would have meant a lot of time, energy, and money going down the tubes, but what is more important - time, energy, and money or unity?

Now, some may try to argue that the Floor Committee simply couldn't have known what the will of the assembly would have been and, therefore, they can't be blamed for the disunity which their resolutions are most certainly breeding.  Not so much.  I mean, they should have been given a clue as to the obvious disunity they would be breeding by moving forward as they have from the many pre-convention overtures and memorials presented by whole districts, circuits, and congregations to either not bring forth these restructuring proposals or to put them on hold until more study and a greater consensus could be achieved.  But, nope.  They marched on and our synod will suffer more disunity because of that, which leads me to question not only what they claim to be their motivation, but also whether or not they really understand what the word "unity" means.  It kind of reminds me of this: 

Pray; Don't Say

Very wise words from Pr. Wilken here.  He is exactly right and we need to keep his reminder in mind as things play out this afternoon and the rest of the week in Houston.

Some other wise words shared by another dear brother pastor:
As important as earthly rulers are, also within the Church on earth, our hope and trust remain in Christ alone.  I am praying for a new president of the LCMS, one who will be a pastor first and foremost, rather than principally a politician.  But neither will a good president save the Lord's Church, nor will a bad president destroy the Lord's Church.  The question is, whether the Missouri Synod will remain within the Lord's Church or go the way of all flesh.  In any case, the great Good Shepherd will care for His sheep and His undershepherds.

Mustache Day Is Here!

HT:  Pr. Wilken's Facebook page

LCMS Presidential Nominee Rev. Matt Harrison . . .

addressing the LCMS Black Ministry Convocation a couple of days ago: