Monday, August 30, 2010

Going to St. Louis!

I am so blessed to be serving such a loving, faithful, and generous flock.  I was recently presented with the following card, which included a check inside that will more than cover the cost for me to travel to St. Louis in a couple of weeks and attend the Installation of President-elect Matt Harrison and other officers.  I am so looking forward to that trip.  I'm downright geeked about it.  Can't wait!  I'm hoping to pay a visit to the "bunker" of "Issues, Etc." during the trip, and I will definitely be attending Divine Service at St. Paul's in Hamel, where Pr. Weedon serves, on the Sunday after the Installation (attending, Pr. Weedon, NOT serving! :).  And, as a bonus, I'm planning on paying a visit to my good friend and brother-of-another-mother, Pr. Al Majewski, and his family, on the way back home.  It promises to be a most glorious little getaway, and I am ever so thankful to the members of the parish I serve for making this possible.  Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!


About my Work-Cation . . .

So, Sharyn (a.k.a. Trixie) mentioned some time last fall that she wanted to replace the cabinets in her kitchen.  Knowing that she would pay someone lots mo' money than she needed to for that job, I opened my big mouth and told her that my dad and I would do it for her for half of what she would be charged by one of the local construction companies.  Long story short, replacing the cabinets turned into a complete kitchen remodel (new cabinets, new ceramic tile floor, new lighting fixtures, some new electrical and plumbing, drywall repair and painting, all new appliances, etc.).  Soooo, my dad and I began to work on the project the Tuesday after "Messer Weekend" and have spent the last two weeks going at it.  It's been a lot of fun to work on this project with my dad, although it has been far more work than I anticipated.  We're still not done, but we've made a lot of progress.  Tearing out the old flooring and pulling the millions of staples took a few days, and laying the cement board underlayment in preparation for the tile took a few more.  Then, the cabinets arrived last Monday in boxes and we spent the majority of last week putting all of them together and then hanging and setting them.  My dad is coming back up on Wednesday and bringing his buddy, Don, with him to begin tiling the floor.  In the meantime, I will be spending a little time over there the next few days installing all the drawers, doors, pulls (knobs), and painting.  My hope is to have the entire project complete by the end of next week.  We'll see how it goes . . .

Here are a few pics of how I spent my vawork-cation:

 No matter where you put a level on any of these cabinets, this is the result:
 Man, these guys are good! :) 


My dad and I were able to get a few rounds of golf in during the past couple of weeks.  I'm really getting tired of him beating me, but he's had my number for the past several years.  Of course, I remind him often that this is only because he gets out a lot more than I do, but he revels in getting the best of me nonetheless.  It's really annoying when I have a great round and he still gets me.  One of the rounds we played, I managed a 78.  Yeah, a 78!  One would think that this would surely be enough to score a victory.  Nope!  He shot a 74 that day.  On another occasion a while back, I had him by three strokes when making the turn and then shot a 38 on the back.  That still wasn't enough, as he played out of his head and managed a 34 on the back to get me by a stroke!  What-Ev-Er!!!  Of course, when he makes shots like the one pictured below, he's awfully hard to beat.  This was on #10 at Hidden Oaks in St. Louis, MI last week, a 170-yard par 3.  The bummer of it is that you can't see the green from the tee box, so while we knew that he had hit a nice shot, we had no idea that it was less than a foot away from a hole-in-one, something that neither of us have been able to accomplish to date - someday! 

Messer Weekend 2010

My vacation began with a wonderful weekend (August 13-15) spent with family and friends at our home.  It has become an annual tradition for us to host "Messer Weekend" at our place every August.  The tradition began five years ago when family and friends spent the weekend of my ordination/installation with us.  We decided then that it would be fun to get together like that for a weekend every summer, and we have done just that.  We greatly look forward to this weekend every year.  Family and friends bring their tents and campers and set up camp for the weekend on our property for three days of fun and fellowship.  Some like to come and just enjoy some rest and relaxation with loved ones; others like to engage in the many activities we have during the weekend, including horseshoe and poker tournaments, swimming, basketball, volleyball, golf in the backyard, good food, "Lutheran" beverages, and so forth.  It's a blast.  Here are a few of the hundreds of pics taken during "Messer Weekend 2010":

New this year:  Wine Tasting - it was a HUGE HIT! 

The "Gum in the Whip Cream" game - Teams are divided up; bubble gum is placed in whip cream on a plate; the first member of each team must get the gum out with their mouths (no hands), chew it, and blow a noticeable bubble, then the next team member goes, and so forth; the first team to finish wins!  It's a game for the kids, but some of the "big kids" couldn't help but participate! :)

"Craft Contest" - the kids were divided up into two teams and given a box of "junk" from which they had to create some piece of art - these are the two creations they came up with.

"Shuffle up and deal!" - the poker tables are ready for the first of many Texas Hold 'Em tourneys

"Horseshoe Champs!" - Sarah and I won the horseshoe tourny this year - teams are chosen by chance, the only exception being the defending champs from last year; everyone antes a whopping dollar and the champs take all.  Lots of fun.  Sarah and I look forward to defending our title next year! :)

And last, but certainly not least . . . 

My goofy Aunt Val thought it would be a good idea to combine "wine tasting" with volleyball - it wasn't! :)

Vacation is Over

I spent the last couple of weeks on vacation.  Actually, it was more of a work-cation (more on that later).  It was wonderful to be back with my parish family yesterday for Divine Service.  Strange how a couple weeks away can seem so long.  As I was vesting in the sacristy before Service yesterday, it felt as though I hadn't done so in months.  Weird, that.  But, it was great to be back, and I was pleased to see so many in the House of the Lord yesterday to receive His Divine Gifts. 

During my vacation work-cation, I stayed away from the computer almost entirely, which was actually rather refreshing, although I did miss checking in on my favorite blogs and forums to see what was going on.  I spent a couple hours this morning browsing around, but there is simply no way to get all caught up on things after being away for over two weeks.  Oh well.  I'll survive. :) 

Special thanks to Pastor Jon Bakker for serving in my stead (actually, in the stead and by the command of Christ) a couple of Sundays ago (August 15) for the Feast of St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord.  It is such a blessing to know that the flock I serve is in such faithful hands when I'm away. 

Anyway, now it's back to work.  Lots to do . . .

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Luther's First Hymn

I saw this video posted over at Facebook tonight.  It brought back memories of sitting in Hymnology I class with Kantor Resch and hearing him tell the story behind Luther's first hymn, "A New Song Here Shall Be Begun."  I dug up my notes from that class and here is what I had jotted down:

Luther's First Hymn - "The July 1, 1523 Brussels Tragedy"
  • Brussels was one of the places that was undergoing persecution following the Diet of Worms - a persecution that was trying to crush the "newfound religious movement" begun by Luther.  The authorities came to the Augustinian monastery there and arrested all the monks and burned the monastery down.  The monks were ordered to recant or be burned at the stake.  Out of all the monks, only three said they would rather die than recant; the rest recanted and were set free.  
  • On July 1, 1523, two of the monks, Heinrich Voes and Johannes Esch, were burned at the stake (we don't know when the third was put to death - probably later that year).  These were two teenage boys who refused to deny their new Lutheran confession of the faith.  They were heard singing the Te Deum from the Liber Usualis while being burned.  These two were the first Lutheran martyrs
  • Luther was so moved by this that he wrote a hymn about the faith of these two teenage monks, which was his first hymn - "A New Song Here Shall Be Begun" (AE 53:214 has the complete, 12-stanza hymn; TLH 259 has stanza 9).
  • The martyrdom of these two monks spread throughout Europe largely due to this hymn and it had the opposite effect of suppressing the Reformation - it fired the people up!
  • Luther's tune is beautiful, but difficult, which is typical Luther.  Many of his tunes are hard to learn at first, but, once you learn them, you can't get them out of your head and will never forget them (cf. "A Mighty Fortress").  Luther's tunes have lasting power!  
Here's the video - enjoy! 

Greek Tuesday

Okay, so I know I have a link to Pr. Fisk's videos on the sidebar (click on the Worldview Everlasting pic), but these are just too good not to share here as well.  The only downfall to Pr. Fisk's "Greek Tuesdays" is that he's using the wrong lectionary. :)  I say we start a petition imploring him to either a) switch to the historic, one-year lectionary like all the cool kids have done or b) start a Greek Wednesday exegeting the Gospel for the historic lectionary (if this was one of his videos, here is where I would include the quick flash of the 80s band dude singing "zap!" - who is that, anyway?).  But, that aside, these videos are simply awesome and Pr. Fisk does a stellar job of revealing and proclaiming Law and Gospel.

Oh, and do be sure to watch it to the end, so that you can hear Pr. Fisk's reminder about supporting Pr. May and the Lutherans in Africa.  $20 for a hymnal.  Surely, we can all manage at least $20 to send one or more hymnals to be used by our brothers and sisters in Christ in Africa (see this post for more info).   

5-Minute University

Father Guido Sarducci might be on to something here.  I wonder why his stellar idea never caught on . . . :)

This whole college subject has been a major topic in our household these last couple of months.  Sarah, our daughter, was on her way to Michigan State in the Fall, but, after much thought and many discussions, she is now heading to Mid Michigan Community College.  She wanted to re-route herself and attend Central Michigan in the Fall, where she had been offered a pretty nice scholarship package, but by the time she made up her mind to do so, they were full.  So, we began discussing other alternatives and looked into Mid Michigan.  After meeting with an admissions counselor there, Sarah was convinced that this was the way to go.  Her desire is to be a high school teacher (and basketball coach) and she can definitely get there this way, as Mid and CMU have a two-year program already in place, the completion of which will land her at CMU as a Junior with an Associate's Degree in hand and on pace to graduate with the very same B.A. that everyone else will receive two years later.  The bonus is that by going to Mid, she already has 8 credits earned from AP classes (something she wouldn't have going to MSU or CMU - I think CMU would have given her 3 credits, but none at MSU) and she can get through these two years with minimal debt, as she is going to live at home (at least for the first year) and will be able to keep working at her current place of employment to cover much of the cost.

I think she's made a very wise decision here.  As I've told her countless times, it doesn't matter how she gets that B.A. in her hands, only that she does.  I do wish she could have gone to MSU as she wanted to (mainly so that I could have lived vicariously through her :), but the economics to do so just aren't there, and she would have ended up with a mountain-load of debt just like her poor parish pastor dad has.

So, Mid Michigan it is.  She already has her first semester paid, her schedule in hand, and all her books ordered.  She's ready to go!  Had she stuck with MSU, she would have been ready to go by this point, too, the difference being that she would have $9,500 in student loan debt and probably an additional $5,000 in personal loan debt, which still would have left us with the task of coming up with another $5,000 - and all of that just for her first year.  She will get through her first full year of Mid completely debt-free, and maybe the second - we'll see.  Then, she'll only have to contend with two years of student loan debt at CMU, which will be manageable even on a teacher's salary when she graduates.  Yeah, I definitely think this was a very wise decision!  Plus, I get to keep my eye on her for a bit longer (but, don't tell her I said that! :)  

Would Someone Please . . .

get this woman some Chicken McNuggets! 

Just saw this story on the local news at Noon here.  Evidently, it was breakfast time and the woman wanted Chicken McNuggets.  When told that they weren't serving those at that time, she demanded that they get some out and make them for her.  When the employees refused to do so, the woman went berserk, as you'll see in the video.  Thankfully, no one was hurt by her tirade.  This took place in Ohio back in December (thus, the Christmas decorations on the drive-thru windows).  I think it's just now making the news (if you want to call this "news") because they have identified the woman and will be prosecuting her. 

The irony here is that she went berserk over Chicken McNuggets not being served during breakfast time.  There are so many items on the breakfast menu at McDonald's that are so much better than Chicken McNuggets.  Breakfast is the only reason anyone should ever visit McDonald's in the first place.  Now, if they had told her that they were out of sausage and egg McGriddles, this would all make a little more sense . . . :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

At least this little ditty . . .

is most appropriately titled!  I'm thinking about using it as the Hymn of the Day next Sunday . . . NOT! :) 

Daily Divine Service Book

I received my pre-publication copy of Daily Divine Service Book:  A Lutheran Missal today and have spent the last couple hours looking through this gem.  Wow, what a remarkable resource this will prove to be!  It contains all the Propers for both the temporal and sanctoral cylces, as well as Common Propers for various groupings of saints, and Propers for Votive Divine Services for the days of the week and for various occasions.  And, as if that wasn't enough, it has the Ordinary of the Divine Service, and two very helpful and convenient appendices (one consisting of selected prayers for the Celebrant, the other consisting of the texts for all the hymns of the day for the entire temporal cycle).  Simply fabulous! 

Special thanks to Pr. Heath Curtis for overseeing the monumental task of putting this together and for allowing me to get my hands on it early to do a little "field testing" before it is released in October.  I look forward to putting it to use.  I can already say, though, even before putting it to use, that it will be an invaluable resource for me.  Just having all the Propers for just about every occasion in one book is awesome.  A while back, I began the experiment of holding Divine Services for the Commemorations in LSB, in addition to the Feasts and Festivals, but soon gave that up.  We still have Divine Service for every Feast and Festival, but the Commemorations were just too much work, as I had to search for Propers, and often came up empty, which meant that I had to put some things together myself.  Not liking that concept at all, I ended the experiment.  But, now that these are all readily available in DDSB (as well as Propers for a whole host of other Saints' Days not included in LSB), I may resurrect that experiment in the near future.  We'll see. :) 

Innovation or Extinction?

Anyone who has studied the classic Church Growth Movement (CGM) texts (McGavran, Wagner, et. al.) knows that the underlying principle which gives birth to all the other principles is the idea that the Church must change or die.  That person also knows that the CGM advocates that the sort of changing the Church must do should be based on successful business models in the secular realm, the idea being that the Church must think of herself as a business and learn how to market herself and her product(s) in an effective and efficient manner, so that she might better appeal to, and attract, more and more customers/consumers (unchurched people) and, thereby, grow and thrive.  A successful business is one that realizes that it must always be willing to change and adapt in order to meet the ever-changing desires and demands of the customers it targets.  Likewise, the Church, according to the CGM.  A successful Church is one that is willing to take risks, change and adapt, and do whatever it takes to meet the desires and demands of the customers it targets (unchurched people).  The customer is always right, after all, and the goal is to win that customer and keep him happily coming back for more by offering him a product that appeals to him.

It should go without saying that Lutherans should avoid the CGM like the plague.  It is built upon theological principles so at odds with Lutheran theology that this should be a no-brainer for Lutherans.  Unfortunately, this hasn't been a no-brainer for many Lutherans, who have, sadly, bought into the false theology of the CGM.  For the past nine-plus years, the LCMS has been led by President Gerald Kieschnick, who has never shied away from making it well known that he is an advocate of many of the principles of the CGM.  Even before he was elected to serve as synodical president, he was outspoken in his support of the principles of the CGM.  While serving as President of the Texas District, he endorsed the book, "Confessions of a Church Growth Enthusiast," written by LCMS Pr. Kent Hunter, stating:  "Confessions of a Church Growth Enthusiast will prove to be one of the most significant writings of these latter days of the 20th Century."  From the development of the Ablaze!(tm) Program/Movement to the steady and continuous promotion and endorsement of LCMS pastors and congregations who employ CGM principles to the writing of his own book, "Waking the Sleeping Giant," which is replete with CGM principles, President Kieschnick has charged full steam ahead with the goal of providing a welcome home for the CGM within our Lutheran synod.

But, don't take my word for it, listen to what President Kieschnick himself has to say.  What follows is the latest "Perspectives," a weekly, e-mail message President Kieschnick sends out to those who subscribe:
Perspectives - Volume I Number 44 (August 5, 2010)
“Innovation or Extinction?”
A world renowned business consultant is quoted as saying, “An established company which, in an age demanding innovation, is not able to innovate, is doomed to decline and extinction.” I think often about those words. How does a national church body that prides itself on the past even begin to think about such innovation without risking significant elements of its 163-year old heritage and tradition? The sainted Dr. C.F.W. Walther, first president of The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other States, said, “If we lose the German language in our worship services, we will lose the Gospel.” Yet the time came when our people said, “We’re Americans now, and Americans speak English. We can’t keep replicating the past. The language of our worship must be something our countrymen will understand.” Making this change was a risk. It was not readily accepted and ultimately resulted in a serious internal conflict. But can you imagine what The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod would be like today if its congregations still conducted worship and education only in the German language?
For nine years I’ve worked to bring about responsible innovation in the LCMS. Some of that work has been successful. More of it remains to be accomplished. That task will soon fall to the shoulders of other leaders. The challenge is to retain the non-negotiable, unwavering belief that we are saved only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the pages of God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, while recognizing that certain traditions—not doctrine, but traditions, for they are not the same—must be expanded to meet the opportunities God is giving us today. We are called not simply to look back on what was, but, honoring and appreciating all that was, to go forward with new ideas to win the hearts of sinners for Christ. Our Synod’s success in meeting that challenge, under the forgiving love and grace of God, will play a significant role in determining our Synod’s future—innovation or extinction?   
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!
Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Note how President Kieschnick begins this missive by quoting "a world renowned business consultant."  There's the first clue that CGM stuff is to follow.  The Church must think of herself as a business.  And, what is the point of this quotation, which President Kieschnick thinks often about?  It is that a business which is not able to innovate is doomed to decline and extinction.  Immediately, President Kieschnick begins to apply this to the Church.  For him, it is simply a given that this business principle applies to the Church.  The Church must be innovative or it will become extinct (the Church must change or die!).

He then tries to support his case by drawing our attention to our own synodical history, pointing to the change we eventually made from German to English in our worship.  He includes a Walther quote that he and those like him often toss around, but conveniently never provide a reference for the quote.  I've searched high and low and cannot find where Walther is quoted as saying what he is alleged to have said here.  It seems to me that a bit of revisionist history is being done here, which is par for the course among those who endorse and promote the CGM.  That is not to say that there wasn't a battle in our synod regarding the change from German to English, or that Walther himself didn't oppose such a change.  Surely, there was conflict over this.  But, I find it hard to believe that Walther, or any of the other great theologians in our past, would have concluded that the Gospel would be lost if our synod changed to English.  That would be rather absurd.  If Walther did say what he is alleged to say, I'm sure there is more to it than we are being led to believe. 

Whatever the case, what I do know for sure is that Walther and company were adamant about the fact that Lutherans needed to be, and remain, Lutheran in doctrine and practice, and they believed that doctrine and practice went hand in hand, something that is simply lost on President Kieschnick and those like him.  How do I know this?  Consider the "responsible" innovation President Kieschnick has spent nine years bringing into our synod.  These innovations are not merely "traditions" which stand apart from doctrine.  These innovations come directly out of the CGM playbook and are doctrinal innovations through and through.  It is quite a different thing to endorse and promote the employment of a false theology of worship, which is built upon the doctrines held by those our very own Confessions condemn, as President Kieschnick has done during his time in office, than to debate actual "traditions," such as putting the liturgy and hymnody into the vernacular, which do not bring about doctrinal changes.  Trying to compare the two is an exercise in comparing apples to oranges.  They are different matters entirely.  Innovation which has as its source false doctrines and practices cannot be compared to innovation which truly belong to the realm of adiaphora (those things neither commanded nor forbidden by Holy Scripture).  But, see, herein is the problem for President Kieschnick and company:  The CGM considers everything adiaphora, employing the "whatever it takes" principle.  What, really, is taboo for the Church which follows the CGM?  Nothing!  Everything is permissible.  Do whatever it takes.  Change however you must.  Grow the Church at whatever cost.  The goal is success, and success is determined by the numbers you bring in.  Period!  And, thus, the Lutheran who follows the principles of the CGM, at the end of the day, will, at best, consider many things which are not adiaphora to be adiaphora, and, at worst, will end up considering everything to be adiaphora.     

Already, before any innovations are actually done, we see the false theology of the CGM at work in the reasons it gives for why these innovations need to be done in the first place.  It's a vicious circle.  Why does the Church need to be innovative?  Because winning people for Jesus is why the Church exists, and the Church will win more people for Jesus if it is innovative and makes itself more appealing to the masses.  This is false theology at work.  Winning people for Jesus is NOT something we EVER do.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit, who creates faith through the Word when and where He pleases.  The Church's task, then, is NOT to come up with new ideas on how she can make herself more appealing to the masses and win more people for Jesus.  No!  The Church's task is to preach the pure Gospel and administer the Sacraments according to Christ's institution, so that the Holy Spirit can do His work.  The Church's task is not to be innovative, but to be faithful to her Lord and Head, Jesus Christ. 

Thus, when President Kieschnick states that we need "to go forward with new ideas to win the hearts of sinners for Christ" and that our efforts to do this will determine the "success" of our "synod's future," he is a) showing himself to be a faithful son of the CGM, and b) openly proclaiming false theology to everyone who hears him.  And, furthermore, that he ends his missive with the question - "innovation or extinction?" - shows how very far he has fallen away from our Lutheran confession of the faith, for no true Lutheran would ever dare pin the existence of a church body upon the willingness, or lack thereof, of her members to be innovative.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Issues, Etc. Hymn Vote Results

Issues, Etc. listeners were asked to send their votes in for their favorite hymn.  The results are now in and IE will be running a special series of in-depth studies next week of the top-five favorite hymns of the listeners who participated in the voting process.  The hymn I voted for didn't make the list ("Salvation Unto Us Has Come" LSB 555), but the five that did make the list are definitely also favorites of mine, and I'm looking forward to listening to the series, which will be aired live Monday-Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CST), and made available for on-demand listening later at the IE website (click "Listen" and then "On-Demand Archives").

Here Are the Hymn Vote Results:
#5 - "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less" (LSB 575, 576)
To be studied Monday on IE with guest, Pr. William Cwirla

#4 - "The Church's One Foundation" (LSB 644)
To be studied Tuesday on IE with guest, Dr. Arthur Just

#3 - "Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart" (LSB 708)
To be studied Wednesday on IE with guest, Rev. Paul McCain

#2 - "Thy Strong Word" (LSB 578)
To be studied Thursday on IE with guest, Dr. Arthur Just

And, finally, making it to the top of the list (drum roll, please) . . . 

#1 - "God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It" (LSB 594)
To be studied Friday on IE with guest, Pr. William Weedon

Rev. James May and Lutherans in Africa

In his latest video, Pr. Fisk provides an update regarding the missionary work being done by Rev. James May and Lutherans in Africa, and announces the new "Worldview Everlasting Lutherans in Africa Hymnal Project."  Up until this year, our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Africa had no singing resources in their native language.  These resources are now available, but our support is needed to get them printed, published, and shipped for use.  You can assist in this blessed endeavor by sending a donation (it costs $20/hymnal) to:
Bethany Lutheran Church
7500 State Road
Parma, OH 44134-6102
(Indicate "For Lutherans in Africa Hymnal" on your check)

Please consider supporting this real, live missionary work being done in Africa.  You can read Rev. James May's latest newsletter by clicking here.   

A Lutheran Seminary in Russia

This is a remarkable story; even rather miraculous, as Father Hollywood points out.  Having been blessed to study at the feet of many of the profs interviewed in this short, informational film, I got to hear a lot about this remarkable, and still unfolding, story in the classroom.  It was very interesting, and inspiring, to hear from those who were involved in this very real mission endeavor.  They faced many challenges and difficulties, not to mention many real dangers, along the way, but continued to march on toward the goal of establishing a seminary in Russia where our Lutheran brothers could be trained and formed for the pastoral ministry.

Our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Russia continue to need our support.  You can click on the pic on the sidebar to learn more about The Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, which our congregation will continue to support as best we can.

Here are the videos.  As Father Hollywood said, "Watch and be amazed!"

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Herding Cats

In his interview with Reporter (see a couple posts down), President-Elect Harrison mentioned that his job "is not to herd anybody.  It'd be like herding cats anyway." 

Here's a visual of what he's talking about (thanks to Pr. Kurt Hering for providing the link to this - funny stuff!):

One would think . . .

that the happenings of the LCMS National Convention would be something that every District President in the LCMS would be sure made the news in the Districts they serve.  But, a tour of the District websites, done by Scott Diekmann, reveals otherwise.  Read what he has to say about this over at Stand Firm.  Very interesting.  And, I concur with him - very disappointing. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

President-Elect Harrison Interviewed by Reporter

Ever since Tuesday, July 13, the day on which the delegates at the LCMS National Convention elected Rev. Matthew C. Harrison to the office of Synodical President, the question most bantered around our synod has been:  What can Harrison do?  My answer to that has been rather simple:  He can simply be who he is.  He is a sinner redeemed by Christ.  He is a pastor, a theologian, and a man of mercy.  He is a Christian who subscribes unconditionally to our Lutheran Confessions.  He is a Lutheran, not only in name, but in confession and by conviction - a Lutheran who actually and honestly believes that being and remaining Lutheran is important.

What can Harrison do?  He can be himself.  He can speak like the Lutheran he is.  He can act like the Lutheran he is.  He can appoint other Lutherans to speak and act as the Lutherans they are.  That will do wonders for our synod, I think.  After all, Lutheranism is pretty cool stuff.  That whole "justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" business is awesome.  The Gospel is superbly refreshing to sinners in desperate need of a Savior.  Lutheranism is where it's at!  Harrison can promote it by confessing it, by living it out, by teaching it, by practicing it, by encouraging it, and by appointing others to do the same.

After nearly a decade of having the doctrines and practices of Americanized Evangelicalism promoted from on high, it will be refreshing to this Lutheran to just hear and see Lutheranism promoted.  And, it will be good for our synod.  We are, after all, a Lutheran synod, and it will be meet, right, and salutary to have, well, Lutheranism promoted by our leaders.

That's what Harrison can do.  He can be the Lutheran he is.  If this interview is any indication of what we can expect in the future, I would say that President-elect Harrison is off to a good start and that we are in for a real treat with him at the helm.     

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I'm still waiting . . .

for someone to actually offer up an explanation for, and theological defense of, the practice of "liturgical dancing" in the Divine Service.  Every time this subject has come up in the midst of internet discussions, those who defend the practice claim that the Bible supports it and that the ancient church practiced it.  When asked to provide the supposed support from the Bible, they point to David dancing before the ark (cf. 2 Sam. 6:14).  After it is quickly pointed out to them that David wasn't dancing in the Holy Place during Divine Service, they throw out a couple of references in the Psalms, including the supposed "clincher" in Psalm 149:3.  But, again, this doesn't clinch anything, since that verse is pointing to a festive procession taking place, again, outside of the Holy Place and not during Divine Service.  And, what of the claim that the ancient church practiced "liturgical dancing"?  Where's the evidence?  I can't find it.  What I can find is evidence that the Gnostic heretics employed some form of dancing in their false worship, but that can't be what the defenders of "liturgical dancing" mean, can it?

The last couple of times this topic came up for discussion, some of the defenders of the practice made promises that they were going to enlist several Lutheran theologians to produce a solid theological defense of the practice, which would shortly be released for our perusal and study.  I'm still waiting for that.  But, given that the last time that promise was made was several months ago, I'm betting that my waiting has only just begun.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'll be waiting for the rest of my life for someone to produce a solid theological defense of "liturgical dancing," since, well, I do not think it is possible to defend theologically - not from a theological perspective that is Lutheran, anyway.

The truth is that what we refer to as "liturgical dance" is a recent phenomenon begun by non-Lutherans who neither understand Holy Scripture nor Church History, and who adhere to a false theology of worship.  They abuse the Scriptures, plucking this and that passage from hither and yon in the attempt to provide proof-texts.  And they like to make the claim that "liturgical dance" was the norm in the Church for the first 500 years, but fell into disuse in the Middle Ages, and that they are now bringing it back into existence.  Big claim there.  Unfortunately for them, it holds no water.  It's akin to the way Dan Brown does history - make it up as you go in order to get to where you want to be, factual history be damned.   

But, all that aside, the fact is that "liturgical dancing" is among us.  In fact, it was my watching of the National Youth Gathering that got me thinking about this subject again, reminding me of all those promises made in the past about offering a theological defense of the practice.  As I said, I think my waiting will continue.  The only attempted defenses by Lutherans I have come across are nothing more than regurgitations of what non-Lutherans have spewed forth on the subject, without any real theological or historical support.  So, I invite Lutherans out there who endorse and promote this practice to defend it theologically.  Show me where I am wrong on this, because I cannot come up with a single reason why this practice should exist among us, but I can list a plethora of reasons why it shouldn't.  Please, show me the error of my ways.  I'm waiting . . .   

All Four Bodies Recovered

As I mentioned in a previous post, our little town of Alma was dealt a crushing blow a little over a week ago when a plane carrying five prominent and well-known members of our community crashed into Lake Michigan near Ludington.  Jerry Freed, the pilot, was the only passenger rescued.  The other four passengers were missing and presumed dead until this weekend.  The bodies of Don Pavlik and his wife, Irene, were recovered on Friday from within the wreckage of the plane, the body of Dr. James Hall was recovered yesterday, and the body of Earl Davidson was recovered this morning.  It will be some time before our community recovers from this tragedy, but the recovery of the bodies of all involved will bring much relief to many, even as they continue to mourn their loss. 

Driving through downtown Alma right now is quite the experience.  I don't think there is a tree or a pole or a post anywhere without a ribbon.  These people will definitely be missed, and it is comforting to see the community coming together and expressing their shared sympathy as they are.  A memorial service for Earl Davidson was held this past Friday, and it was packed.  I imagine the same will hold true for the memorial services for the Pavliks and for Dr. Hall, which are scheduled for later this week. 

Please keep the families of those who perished in this tragic accident, as well as our community at large, and Jerry Freed, who must bear the awful burden of being the lone survivor, and his family, in your prayers.