Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ad Te Levavi - Advent 1

As difficult as it is to believe, Advent is here and, with it, a new Church Year begins.  Blessings to all during this holy, penitential, and preparatory season!  From the liturgy for this First Sunday in Advent:

The Antiphon:
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame.
Let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.

The Collect of the Day:
Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

From the Old Testament Reading (Jeremiah 23:5-8):
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which he will be called:  'The LORD is our righteousness.'"

The Gradual:
None who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.

From the Epistle (Romans 13:8-14):
"Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now that when we first believed." 

The Verse:
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

From the Holy Gospel (Matthew 21:1-9):
"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden' . . . Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"

The Processional Hymn:  "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"(LSB 357):

The Hymn of the Day:  "Savior of the Nations, Come" (LSB 332):

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Praying For Al

One of my best friends - or, as he always puts it, "my brother from another mother" - Pastor Al Majewski (Saint Paul Lutheran, Manito, IL) is in very critical condition at this hour.  He is bleeding from ulcers in his esophagus and has a liver that is barely functioning.  His dad called me about an hour ago and told me that the doctor informed him that Al has a 40% chance of surviving the procedure they need to do on him to stop the bleeding.  I'm in shock and don't even know what to say.  I'm tired, but there's no way I can sleep right now.  They're doing the procedure as I type this and I'm waiting to hear news from his dad.  Nothing to do now but pray . . . and wait . . . my brother is in our Lord's hands.  Al is four days shy of his 50th birthday.  He is husband to Marge, father to Dustin, Chris, Brittany, and Jake, and sole pastor to a couple hundred souls in Manito.  Lots to pray about . . .     

Monday, November 22, 2010

Earl Netzley Has Been Called Home

Our dear brother in Christ, Earl Netzley (father of Tanarae Lemmermann), was called home by our Lord early this morning.  Earl was a member of our mother congregation, Immanuel, Wheeler.  He and his wife, Nilah, have been living at Arbor Grove here in Alma for some time, and I was asked to provide pastoral care to them these last few weeks.  It has been a pure pleasure getting to know Earl and his family.  Earl has had quite the battle health-wise - a battle that began many years ago, but was graciously brought to a peaceful end this morning.  He had been on dialysis three times a week since February and, after suffering another heart attack a few weeks back, he had simply had enough.  He decided to discontinue dialysis last Monday and allow the Lord to take him home when He was ready.  His hope and prayer was that the Lord would grant him to see his 83rd birthday and spend it with his beloved family, and the Lord was gracious to grant that request this past Saturday, as Earl was blessed to celebrate that birthday surrounded by those he loved.  He also desired to receive Holy Communion one last time together with his family that day, and the Lord graciously answered this prayer as well, as I was privileged to distribute the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord's very Body and Blood to Earl and family on Saturday afternoon.  Yeah, our Lord is good!  I stopped by to see Earl and pray with him yesterday after Bible Study.  He had grown much weaker than he was the previous day and was lying in his bed.  We had a good chat and shared a couple of laughs together.  Earl was in good spirits.  He knew his time was short, but he was ready to go.  His desire, shared by his family, was that the Lord would take him home quickly and peacefully, and so we prayed thusly yesterday.  And, again, our Lord was gracious to hear and answer us, for Earl was blessed to transition from this vale of tears and into the bliss of heaven peacefully and quietly in his sleep sometime after 3:00 a.m. this morning.  Did I mention that our Lord is good?! 

Earl remained in the one, true, faith right up to the very end.  He has now received the crown of life and has been reunited with those faithful loved ones who preceded him in passing through death and into life.  Please keep his family in your prayers, that they may be comforted by the Gospel which assures them that Earl is with our Lord and all His saints and angels, and that they will see him again when the Lord calls them home. 

Visitation will be at Smith Family Funeral Home in Ithaca (1333 East Center St.) tomorrow (Tuesday) from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
The Funeral Service will be held at Immanuel, Wheeler, and conducted by me, on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.

Earl knew that his Redeemer lives.  So do I.  So do you.  So does his family.  What an absolute blessing it is to be filled with that knowledge and gifted with that faith.  We do not mourn like those who have no hope.  Thanks be to God for that!  He IS our Shepherd and we shall not want!  We shall dwell in His House forever!  
Let us pray:  O God of grace and mercy, we give thanks for Your loving-kindness shown to our brother, Earl, and to all Your servants who, having finished their course in faith, now rest from their labors.  Grant that we also may be faithful unto death and receive the crown of eternal life.  Be with Earl's family in their time of sorrow and fill them with the comfort and peace which comes from knowing that a joyful reunion in heaven awaits all who trust in Jesus Christ; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

You can read Earl's obituary here.

+ Rest eternal grant Earl, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him!  Amen. +

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hunting Report

I spent this past week in the woods.  I didn't open my laptop once (until this morning).  I did check emails once a day via my iphone (when it would allow me to do so - don't get great service where I was), but, beyond that, it was a week spent hunting, which is always one of my favorite weeks of the year.  Not only do I get to spend time with family doing what I love, but it's a nice little break before the busy part of the Church Year kicks in with Advent.  Anyway, here's a report of the week (Warning:  No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog post, but there were animals harmed in the woods this week - so, if you don't want to hear about that, stop reading now :).

My son, Aaron, and I sat in our two-person tree stand on opening morning, but got skunked.  Lots of squirrels frantically carrying on all morning, but no deer.  Aaron went back home before the evening hunt, so my dad and I headed out to the woods.  Sitting in my same tree stand, I had a monster buck come in about 5:10 p.m.  He appeared on the hill in front of me and began following the runway that comes around to my left.  That runway forks into two different runways, one that goes right by my stand, about 40 yards away and another that heads into the valley going away from me.  He took the one going into the valley, but it still gave me a shot to bag him.  So, I waited until I had what I thought was a decent shooting lane.  He was just strutting along very slowly and had no clue I was there, which gave me plenty of time to calm myself down.  When I first saw him, my heart about burst out of my chest and the adrenalin was almost unbearable - yeah, I had a true case of "Buck Fever."  I had never seen a buck this big while hunting.  But, as I said, he gave me plenty of time to get control of myself.  So, I waited, picked a spot, and took aim.  When I had my cross-hairs on his shoulder, I shot.  He acted like he was shot, as he bucked up, turned around, and started running.  I quickly racked another round and fired again, but that second shot was at a moving tail and I'm sure it missed.  But, I was confident that I had hit him good and hard with that first shot, so I waited a bit before climbing down out of my blind to go look for blood and begin tracking him.  But, when I got over to the spot where he was standing when I shot at him, there was no blood.  None.  I could see where the ground was scuffled by him when I shot at him, but no signs that I had hit him.  I looked back up to my blind from that site and noticed that it was a longer shot than it had appeared to be, and that it wasn't nearly as open as I thought - there were definitely some twigs and branches in the way.  Still, I knew I had him in my sights and he acted like he was shot, so I began following the path he took when he ran off after I shot at him.  I was hoping that I'd pick up some evidence along the way and eventually find him lying over yonder.  But, as soon as I started heading along that path, I heard the big guy bolt out of there like nobody's business.  He was probably up on the hill watching me, wondering what in the world had just happened, and when he spotted me heading in his direction, he took off.  I called my dad.  He was already on his way over, since he heard me shoot and thought for sure I had one down.  When he joined me, we looked around for a bit, but never did find any blood, and we decided we'd do another search the next day after the morning hunt, since it was pitch dark in the woods at that point.  But, not seeing any signs, we were pretty sure I had missed.  The bullet probably hit a branch or two on its way and veered off target.  Talk about a major bummer!

The next morning, my dad and I headed out again.  About 8:10 a.m. I had three deer approaching from behind me and to my right - the worst place they could come for me to get a good shot.  I slowly stood up and turned around.  Luckily, the movement didn't scare them off, and the lead deer, a huge doe, kept coming down the runway about 30 yards to the right of my blind.  There are only a couple of openings there for a shot, so I picked the second opening and waited for her to appear in my sights.  When she did, I fired.  I knew I hit her good, as I could see the wound the bullet made as she dashed off toward the swamp.  The other two deer lingered around for about 20 minutes; I couldn't believe they didn't run off.  When they eventually left the area, I waited a bit longer and then climbed down to go find the deer I shot.  Amazingly, when I got to the place where I shot her, there was no blood.  None.  Not one ounce.  I couldn't believe it!  Did I miss?  No way!  I could see the wound when she took off, and I heard her crashing around like a deer does when it has been shot.  I was even sure I heard her fall.  But, still - no blood?  How in the world could that be?  I started second guessing myself.  Maybe my eyes and ears were playing tricks on me.  Maybe I had missed again.  I was standing up when I shot her and had nothing to steady myself, so maybe I just flat out missed.  Then, I started wondering if my scope was off and regretted not sighting it in this year.  I thought about following the path she took after I shot her, but decided that I should wait a bit.  Maybe I hadn't hit her very good and I didn't want to push her away.  So, I climbed back up into my stand, called my dad and let him know what had happened.  We hunted for another hour or so and he came over to help me search.

When I showed him the place where I shot her, he was just as amazed as I was that there was no blood.  But, after telling him about seeing the wound and about hearing her crash and fall, he said, "Blood or no blood, she has to be lying dead over there somewhere."  So, we began heading in the direction she ran off and, less than five minutes later, I found her.  She wasn't more than fifty yards away from where I shot her.  And the wound was very visible - I knew I had seen it!  She was a big girl, the largest doe we had ever seen.  And now, having found her without there being any blood to indicate that she had been shot (the only spots of blood we found were within 10-20 feet of where she fell - I still can't believe that), I thought we might have similar luck finding the big buck I had shot at the evening before, but we didn't.  But, after bagging this big doe and ensuring that we'll be eating some tasty venison again this year, I didn't feel nearly as bad about missing him as I did the evening before.  And, who knows, maybe he'd show up again . . .

A few pics of the big doe I was blessed to bag:

I saw one more doe Tuesday morning before my dad came over to help me get the one I shot out of the woods, but nothing on Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday.  My dad's luck was even worse.  He saw not a single deer until this morning (Saturday) - more on that later.  

On Thursday morning, around 8:20 a.m., I noticed some movement way out in the valley to the left of me and, lo and behold, it was the same big buck I had shot at Monday evening.  I couldn't believe I was seeing him again, but I was thrilled that he showed up, since that confirmed for me that I had missed before and he wasn't somewhere out there in the woods lying dead, and it gave me another chance to bag him.  This guy is huge - massive body, large rack with a very wide spread (don't know how many points he has, but I'm guessing 10 or 12).  Unfortunately, the big guy never gave me a shot this time.  He stayed way out there in the valley and there were just too many obstacles between him and me.  I had one slim chance of getting a shot, but I didn't take it, hoping that he would turn and come into my area.  He didn't.  He moseyed through the valley and into the narrow gully through which I walk to get to my blind.  I tried calling and rattling him back in, but he wasn't buying it.  He was too busy doing this:

This is one of the hundreds of rubs in our hunting area this year - more rubs and scrapes than we have ever seen out there.  You would think we would have bucks all over us all day long!  This particular rub is up that gully this big guy walked through.  I looked at this rub every day on my way in and out.  The morning this guy came through, it was only half as big as pictured here and it didn't have the fresh shavings you see here.  That big buck made his way over to this rub and worked it.  Maybe instead of sitting in my tree stand, I should have climbed down and tried to sneak up on him, huh?  Nah, that stuff only works on the hunting shows you see on TV. :)  Anyway, this big fella eluded me twice.  I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

My uncle, Art, made it to camp late Wednesday night and was on the hunt with us Thursday morning.  I heard him shoot just before 8:00 a.m., just before Big Daddy came walking through my area, and he was successful in bagging a smaller doe with that shot.  So, we had two deer hanging in camp by lunch on Thursday:

None of us saw anything Thursday night or all day Friday.  I heard a bunch of deer to the south of me in the swamp late Friday evening, but they never came out.  Lots of sitting in the cold and staring at empty woods this year.  Thank God the squirrels and woodpeckers provided entertainment.  Even when you're not seeing a lot of deer, there's still nothing like being out in the woods and watching God's creatures at work and play.

This morning (Saturday), I stayed in to write my sermon for this Sunday and my dad went out to sit in my blind.  He had gone a long time without seeing a deer in the woods - 14 days (9 last year, 5 this year).  But, don't feel too bad for him.  When he does see a deer, it's usually a big 8-pointer and he successfully bags it - he's taken two beauties in the last four years, the first of which was simply a monster that we named, quite aptly, "Brutus."  Still, 14 days of hard hunting is a long spell to go without seeing anything, so we figured we might change his luck if he sat in my blind.  We were hoping that he would get a shot at the monster I saw twice in the week. 

Well, he didn't see the monster, but around 8:20 a.m., he had a 4-pointer come in that he could have easily taken (he said the buck was so close he could have jumped on him).  But, he let him go, much to the disappointment of my uncle and myself.  Had either of us been sitting there, we would have nailed that buck, but I guess my dad won't shoot anything unless it has 8 or more points (I think he thinks that he's on one of those hunting shows - you know, where they have the privilege of letting buck after buck go by, since they know they'll eventually see the big one - we ain't on one of those hunting shows, dad! :)  Oh well, at least he finally got to see a deer!  And, if that 4-pointer survives the winter and other hunters this year, who knows what he'll be next year. 

I didn't get to go out this afternoon before returning home.  Got a phone call from Tanarae, a dear member whose father, Earl, I've been providing pastoral care for the last few weeks, and returned home to pay him a visit.  Earl made the decision to stop dialysis this week and is getting weaker every day.  Today was his 83rd birthday and he was blessed to be surrounded by family to celebrate the occasion.  It was his hope and prayer that the Lord would grant him to see this last birthday, and so He has.  He also wanted to receive the Holy Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood with his family before being called home, and the Lord granted this blessing tonight as well.  What a blessing to bring the Gospel in Word and Meal at times like this!  Earl is surely not long for this world, but he is ready to go home.  And, what an extra joy it is to serve in the midst of a family that speaks the same language of the faith together.  We had Divine Service this evening and everybody there knew the Holy Liturgy by heart.  There will be many tears shed by this family in the days to come, but they will not grieve like those who have no hope.  They know where Earl is going and the Holy Gospel which assures them of that will get them through.

As for the rest of the hunting report, my dad told me that neither he nor Art saw anything this afternoon.  They will go out tomorrow for one last shot before closing up camp for another year and heading home.  If it works out, I may head over there for the evening hunt tomorrow - I'd love to get one last chance at Big Daddy!  Is it possible to see the same big buck three times in a week?  We'll see . . .  

By the way, here's the best part of hunting (besides the time spent with loved ones and memories made, of course):

 Tenderloin dinner for my dad and me Tuesday night - doesn't get much better than this!

  Heart and Liver dinner for the three of us Thursday night - absolutely, out-of-this-world, delicious!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Favorite Deer Hunting Story

The year was 1999.  On Opening Day (November 15), my dad, my uncle, and I headed for the woods.  It was a glorious morning - a little crisp, but lots of sunshine.  And, it was a very active morning - my dad and I saw many deer passing between us during the first hours of the morning (his blind was only a couple hundred yards to the south of the old tree in which I used to sit), but none of these deer had any antlers attached to their heads, so we had to let them pass us by (no doe permits that year).  Because it was such an active morning, I was in "ready-standby" mode (fellow hunters know what that means), making myself as invisible as I could and especially tuned in to my surroundings.   

Then, things got exciting.  I heard the loud crunching of leaves directly behind me, and the sound was getting louder by the second, until whatever it was making the noise had to be less than twenty feet behind me.  I slowly - very slowly! - turned my head to take a peek, being careful to use the large tree trunk to shield my movement.  I was hoping to see a big buck coming right for me, but instead, it was my uncle!  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I hadn't looked at my watch in a while, but I knew it wasn't anywhere near lunch time yet, and my uncle, dedicated hunter that he is, never leaves his blind before noon on opening day.

"What the heck are you doing, Art?" I asked.  "I've spent the whole damn morning trying to find a place to hunt!  Everywhere I've gone, another hunter was there.  They're everywhere!"  He wasn't having a very good morning, to say the least.  "That's strange," I said, "I haven't seen any other hunters over here, but I have seen a bunch of deer this morning."  He went on to say that he was going to try to find a spot over by the swamp and he figured he'd stop by and see how I was doing.  

I looked at my watch.  It was a little after ten, far too early to be taking a break on Opening Day.  But, given the interruption, I climbed down out of my tree and sat down with my uncle.  We had a cup of hot chocolate together and snacked on some cookies, and were laughing and carrying on, when all of a sudden, we hear this crashing coming right at us from behind the hill where we were sitting.  We both turned and looked, and here came this beautiful 8-point buck right at us.  The rack on this guy was spectacular - huge spread, long tines, and perfectly symmetrical.  When the buck noticed us, he stopped and stared us down.  He was less than twenty feet from us.  The dilemma:  We're both holding cookies and cups of hot chocolate in our hands.  My rifle is laying on the ground behind me; my uncle's is perched against a tree about five feet from where he was sitting.  Simultaneously, we both looked at each other in amazement at what we were witnessing.  The buck just stood there, glaring at us.  Then, he started snorting and stomping his front hooves.  He was one ticked off deer!  We thought he was going to charge us.  In all our years of hunting, neither of us had ever seen anything like this.

But, the buck didn't charge us.  Instead, he snorted one last time and starting stomping down the runway around us, never taking his gaze away from us.  He was moving rather slowly, so I slowly began to put down the cookie and cup I was holding in my hands and reached for my rifle behind me.  After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than ten seconds or so, I finally had my rifle in position and was ready to take aim, but as soon as I brought it up to get the shot, the buck sprinted into the swamp.  I took the shot anyway, but missed.  What a bummer!  This was a beautiful buck - a trophy!  To make matters worse, about a minute after the buck disappeared from our sight, we heard a shot.  Less than a minute after that shot, we heard a guy celebrating back in the swamp.  He had obviously taken this beauty down.

My uncle and I sat there on that hill still shocked and amazed at what we had witnessed.  That buck was visibly angry that we were in his way, and he wasn't going to let us prevent him from getting to the swamp.  After the shock and awe began to subside, I turned to my uncle and said, "You idiot!  That buck would have been mine had you not come over here and ruined my hunt!"  His response:  "What do you mean?  I lured that big guy over here for ya!"  As we were discussing this, laughing and carrying on, we heard some movement to the south of us.  This time we were both ready for whatever would appear over the hill.  But, it weren't no deer this time.  It was my dad.

"Did you get him?" he asked, excitedly.  I said, "Nope!"  "Wow," my dad said, "that was one beautiful buck, wasn't it?"  "Why, did you see him?" I asked.  "Yeah, about ten minutes before I heard you shoot, he was standing no less than ten feet from me."  "Well, what happened?  Why didn't you shoot him?" I asked.  "Because I was taking a leak at the time.  I had to pee all morning, but held it as long as I could, especially with all the activity going on.  Did you see all those deer earlier between us?"  "Yeah," I said, "they were putting on quite the show for us this morning."  "Anyway," he continued, "I couldn't hold it anymore, so I finally stood up, headed over to the base of the hill by my blind, and started to pee.  And, as soon as it started flowing, that 8-point beauty came running down the hill right at me.  He literally got to within ten feet of my blind before he noticed me.  But, when he saw me, he stopped, turned around, bolted back up the hill, and started heading your way.  I was hoping that he'd try to head for the swamp over by you, and when I heard you shoot, I was sure you bagged him.  What happened?"

Art and I told him our story, and my dad got a huge kick out of it, although we were all greatly disappointed that this big guy had eluded us.  Later in the day, we met the guy who had bagged this buck, and as he lifted up this big buck's head, the first words out of his mouth were, "I'm having this fella mounted!"  I think we all said in unison, "Whatever, dude!" :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yes, It IS About the Music, Too - Part Deux

Okay, so I've received several emails regarding my post last week.  First of all, y'all can respond to the post right here on the blog.  I mean, I know I don't allow anonymous comments, but it's not all that difficult to create a blogger account and post a response.  Takes all of 15 seconds or so.  Just sayin'. :)  That said, I do appreciate those of you who did take the time to contact me with your thoughts.  

Those who emailed me argue that it's not enough to simply talk about music.  Well, yeah, that's kinda my point.  We shouldn't be saying, "It's not about the music," since the inevitable response is, "What do you mean by 'music'"?  Plus, as I noted in my post last week, that vague, little phrase can also give the impression that music is neutral.  It's not.  Music is a powerful medium and it needs to be treated as such.  So, I agree.  It's not enough to simply talk about music.  Much more needs be said.

The other main argument from those who emailed me is that this whole debate revolves around taste.  Some people like organ music and traditional hymns; others like praise bands and popular CCM songs.  And, as one person stated, "As long as Christ is being glorified, the style of music being used shouldn't matter."  But, this begs the question:  Is Christ being glorified, no matter the style of music?

But, wait, before we tackle that question, let's back up for a minute.  Where, oh where, in Holy Scripture is the precedent set for us to employ our likes and tastes in worship?  I've been asking that question of those Lutherans who advocate "contemporary worship" for years, and I have yet to receive an answer.  But, gee whiz, if we're gonna follow the methodology which purports that worship is about satisfying our likes and tastes, we ought to have a little Scripture to back that up, don't ya think?  But, alas, there is no Scripture to back this up.  There's a reason for that:  Worship is NOT about US!  Our likes and tastes are a non-factor in worship.  I know that sounds crazy to postmodern ears, but it's true.

So, back to the question:  Is Christ being glorified, no matter the style of music?  If the style of music being used is to satisfy the likes and tastes of those gathered together, then the answer must be a resounding, "No!"  You can't say that we use a certain style of music because we know people like it and, at the same time, be about the business of glorifying Christ.  That dog just won't hunt.  If you are using a certain style of music precisely because it appeals to the likes and tastes of those gathered, you are glorifying them - and yourself! - not Christ.

But, wait, there's more.  What is the real reason for using praise bands and CCM music?  Is it not to attract the "unchurched" (i.e. unbelievers)?  You know it is.  Admit it.  You want to put on a good show in the hope that those who would otherwise not step foot in a Church will feel right at home in your worship services.  And, thus, the real purpose of the music style you employ is not to glorify Christ, but to attract the lost.  And so, what is really happening is that the music style you employ (along with the whole "worship form" you use) is being determined by what those on the outside of Christ's Church find appealing and attractive.  Another way to say this is that the unbelieving culture is responsible for setting the agenda for your worship.  Good luck finding any Scriptural precedent for that!   

Okay, so what about "my side" of the equation.  Isn't the reason we old, fuddy-duddy Lutherans use the organ and traditional hymnody (and the historic liturgy) because we like it and it satisfies our personal tastes?  Nope!  It's not about what we like; it's about what is appropriate in the Divine Service.  Does the music (and liturgy) employed during the Divine Service point us to, and proclaim, Christ?  Is it a servant to the Gospel, or master over it?  Does it confess the faith or focus on our feelings and emotions?  Does it support our theology of worship and jive with what we believe, teach, and confess, or would it be perfectly at home in the worship services of other Christians, who have a different theology of worship?  These are some of the questions we have in mind when determining what is appropriate in the Divine Service.  Whether we personally like the music - or whether the "unchurched" might like it - is, as I said above, a non-factor. 

So, no, I do not agree that this whole debate revolves around taste.  Taste should have absolutely nothing to do with it.  As soon as we bring taste into the debate, it becomes about us and ceases to be about Christ, His Church, and the Gifts He desires to distribute to us in the Divine Service.  It ain't about US; it's about Him.

I don't love the Holy Liturgy and Hymnody of the Church because it satisfies my personal taste.  I love it because it is Christ-centered, Cross-focused, and delivers Christ and His Gifts.  I love it because it always serves to remind me where I am and what is happening in the Divine Service.  I love it because it is unique and other-worldly.  I love it because it flows from, and adheres to, the theology of worship revealed in Holy Scripture and confessed in our Lutheran Confessions.  I love it because it is the language and sound of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and it teaches me to speak that language and cherish that sound.

We all have different personal tastes when it comes to music, but those personal tastes should be left out of the equation when determining what is appropriate in the Divine Service.  If it's not left out, then it becomes about us and not about Christ.  That's the real issue here, and relegating the debate to competing arguments over personal taste and likes not only evades the real issue, but completely misses the point.   

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Relevancy FAIL!

HT:  Rev. Paul McCain

Sparty Back on Track

MSU got back on track yesterday with a convincing win over Minnesota, 31-8, improving their stellar record to 9-1 (5-1 in the Big Ten).  After last week's poor performance at Iowa, it was good to see the Spartans handle their business yesterday.  They were supposed to dominate this reeling Gopher squad, and they did.  Edwin Baker (pictured to the left) had a career day, rushing for 179 yards and 4 TDs.  The defense played well.  Cousins was mistake free.  It was a good "get healthy" game for the whole team.  And now they are blessed with a much needed bye, so that they can truly get healthy and hopefully finish the regular season strong.  They have two games remaining:  Purdue at home (11/20) and at Penn State (11/27).  They'll be favored in both of those games and have a real shot at finishing 11-1 (7-1).  A Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl is still very possible, although they'll need a little help.  They almost got some help yesterday, as Indiana was a dropped pass in the end zone away from upsetting Iowa (still can't believe that kid dropped that ball).  Oh well.  They just need to take care of their own business and let the rest of the games play out as they will.  Go Green!  Go White!

In other news, the other Big Ten team from our state sunk a last minute basket to defeat Illinois in OT yesterday, 67-65.  Oh wait, that was a football game, not a basketball game. :)  Rich Rod is still my favorite all-time college football coach! :)   

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Panthers Fall Short

We traveled over to Freeland this morning to watch the Alma Panthers take on the Hemlock Huskies in the District Championship.  What an exciting match - the most exciting I've ever had the privilege to watch!  We were all a little worried that Hemlock would roll over Alma, especially since the two teams had just met in the League Championship game a week and a half ago, and Hemlock ran away with that, winning three straight games.  But, the Panthers came to play this morning.  They jumped out to a big lead in the first game and ended up hanging on for the win, 30-28.  The second game was tight from start to finish, but the Panthers prevailed, in extra time again, 31-29 (each game goes to 25, but you gotta win by two).  The Huskies woke up in the third game and took a 16-7 lead early, but the Panthers rallied back, cutting the lead to 20-19 before Hemlock finished strong and took the game, 25-19.  The fourth game was much closer than the final score indicates.  The Huskies won, 25-14, but it was one of those games where all the bounces went their way.  So, it came down to a fifth game.  Both teams battled hard.  With Hemlock leading 14-13, an exciting rally ensued, which went back and forth for quite a while, until, all of a sudden, the chair ump blew the whistle and called a net violation on Alma, giving Hemlock the Championship, 15-13 (the final game only goes to 15).  That's a painful way to lose an important match like this one, especially when the supposed violation had nothing at all to do with the exciting rally we were all witnessing (it was away from the action).  But, that's how it goes.  I'm proud of Samantha, and of all the girls.  They played their hearts out.  No one gave them a chance against this very dominant Hemlock team, but they gave them all they could handle, and then same.  Nothing at all to hang their heads about, that's for sure.  Congrats to the Lady Huskies, who had the determination to come back after losing the first two games.  That's one tough volleyball team they have there.  The good news for Alma is that they will be returning a lot of players next year, so they have much to look forward to next season!  Here are a few pics:

Pre-Game Introductions (Sam #10 being introduced)

Game 1 Final Score

Game 2 Final Score

Game 3 Final Score

Game 4 Final Score

Game 5 Final Score

Hemlock Huskies:  District Champs

Another Gem from Bo Giertz

It is a great mistake to believe that the Lord's Supper is profaned by being celebrated often.  If it were a mobilization of human feelings or a beautiful spectacle, then we had all reasons to rarely celebrate it, because all stirring up of human feelings and all spectacles are boring in the long run.  But Holy Communion is something completely different.  It is God's dealing with the soul, something that we need continually and that will increasingly become a blessing to us the more often it happens.  God's work never becomes boring, and His holiness does not decrease as the years pass by.  

No one doubts that we daily need to receive forgiveness of sin.  Isn't it then also appropriate that we often receive this gift at the Lord's Table?  Every Christian knows that we should be prepared to meet our Savior at any minute.  Why wouldn't we want to meet Him then every Sunday at the altar?  "Indeed, the very words as often as you do it imply that we should do it often," says Luther in the Large Catechism (V:61), "It is the highest wisdom to realize that this sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness.  We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy, nor do we come to confession pure and without sin; on the contrary, we come as poor, miserable men, precisely because we are unworthy."

There is a word that once was thrown into our Master's face as an invective, but it was remembered by His disciples as a word of honor.  It should be widely announced when the Lord's Supper is celebrated.  It is a promise and an invitation from God.  It is recorded in Luke 15:2, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." ("Christ's Church," Bo Giertz, pp. 120-121)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jeopardized Faith

MSNBC Suspends Olbermann

Of all the political analysts (if you can call them that) out there blowing hot air and entertaining the masses with their overdone rhetoric and biased, "don't let the facts get in the way of a good story," reporting, the worst of the worst, in my not so humble opinion, has always been Keith Olbermann.  His pompous, condescending attitude and approach has always rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that when NBC started using him in the pre-game show for Sunday Night Football, I stopped watching.  Well, okay, I still watched the game, but I refused to turn it to NBC until the actual game started.  And this has nothing at all to do with my being strongly opposed to many of Olbermann's liberal views.  It's just him.  His attitude.  His smugness.  His condescension.  I have never understood how liberals could find him appealing.  In the same way, I can't figure out what in the world conservatives find appealing about the likes of Glenn Beck, who makes a living butchering history and sobbing like a baby, or Bill O'Reilly, who makes a living throwing fits and bullying guests.  But, hey, that's just me.  Anyway, back to Olbermann.  MSNBC announced today that he is being suspended indefinitely without pay because, get this, he donated funds to the campaigns of three different Democratic candidates during this latest political season.  Say it ain't so!  Not Keith Olbermann!  Not after all the woeful lamentations about those on the other side of the political aisle doing this very thing.  Not after all the years of telling the world how far above the conservatives he was on the ethical ladder.  Something about a pot and black kettle comes to mind.  But, of course, something tells me that Mr. Olbermann will be back in the saddle soon, if not on MSNBC, somewhere else, and I'm sure he'll come up with a fantastic way to spin this little "oops!" in his favor, and begin informing us about "America's Worst" once again.  We'll see.  You can read about this here

Big Brother at Work

So, it seems that we will all have a decision to make when we fly in the future.  Either we can submit to a naked body scan or we can opt out of those and allow TSA agents to fondle and grope our private parts - all in the name of national security, of course.  Sing it with me:

"My country, 'tis of thee, 
Sweet land of liberty, 
Of thee I sing . . ." 

On October 28, TSA released the following statement:
"TSA is in the process of implementing new pat-down procedures at checkpoints nationwide as one of our many layers of security to keep the traveling public safe. Pat-downs are one important tool to help TSA detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives. Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, among others."
I guess the "among others" in that statement includes fondling and groping the private parts of women and children, as the video below reveals (or you can go here and read an article on the subject - they pat-down men's private parts, too).

". . . Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!"    

Pr. Curtis on "Lay Ministry"

Below is an Issues, Etc. interview featuring Pr. Heath Curtis on the subject of "Lay Ministry" in the LCMS.  It is a must listen!  I am hopeful that our synod will finally put an end to this practice, which stands in clear violation of AC XIV, at the 2013 Convention.  It is good to see both of our seminary's systematics faculties addressing this issue, which you can read here.  You can also read a study document on the topic written by Pr. Curtis and Pr. Weedon here.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn Greeting from LCMS President Harrison

I know most of you have probably seen this by now, but I also know that some of you haven't.  A beautiful, Christ-centered, autumn greeting from our Synodical President:

God Is In Our Midst!

I have long argued that the chief reason many Lutherans abolish the Mass, contra AC and Apology XXIV, and replace it with the revivalistic worship styles and forms of the Methobapticostals and Americanized Evangelicals, is a lack of faith in the Real Presence of our Lord.  Advocates of "contemporary worship" among Lutherans vehemently argue to the contrary, but the old saying, "actions speak louder than words," holds forth here.  It is very difficult to believe that one believes Christ is truly Present when the altar is pushed to the side to make room for the praise band, the pastor is clad in street clothes and wont to speak and behave informally, even making it a point to crack a few jokes now and then, the gathered assembly is treated as an audience there to be entertained, and so forth.  Perhaps this lack of faith in the Real Presence of our Lord is due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.  I'm certain that is the case with the majority of the people assembled.  They simply have no clue, and you really can't blame them.  The "worship experiences" they attend do not exactly scream of Christ's Presence.  But, what of these Lutheran pastors, who should know better?  I suppose lack of knowledge and understanding accounts for some, but I'm convinced that many simply believe otherwise.  They have weighed and measured Lutheranism and found it wanting, and proceed accordingly.  They claim that their actions flow from their deep love for the lost.  I believe them.  I know many who have a fervent desire to reach the lost for Christ and work feverishly to that end.  But, what they fail to realize is that, in the process of their "soul-winning" efforts, they end up forsaking their First Love.  

Anyway, I got to thinking about this while reading "Christ's Church" by Bo Giertz this evening, who writes (on pp. 102-103):
God is on our midst!  Also today.  Because what happened once in history is not only something in the past.  The connection that was then opened between earth and heaven has never since been broken.  The same Lord, who came to dwell among us, also built His Church among us.  He is still active there through His Spirit, in the external forms of the word and the sacraments.  The new life still descends into this world of corruption.  The eternal light is still being revealed.  Christ is still doing the work for which He was made man . . . 

God is in our midst!  Just as Jesus once entered the world as God's outstretched hand, as a visible revelation of God's invisible being, and as an audible message of that which no ear has heard, so God's hand is still stretched out at the baptismal font and the communion rails, and so the Word still sounds, not as a mechanical repetition of what the Master once said but as a continually repeated message from the mouth of our Savior.  The Word is not only a teaching but a living call, an offer from God, a herald's summons, that the Eternal One issues to us and that again and again requires from us a response.  It is the same way with the sacraments.  They are not symbols and metaphors but Christ's way to deal with us today, just as real and tangible as He once dealt with people on the fields in Galilee and the streets in Capernaum.  Thus He has given us baptism in order still to receive people into the Kingdom and into the fellowship of His followers.  Thus He is still at the table with us in the Lord's Supper to make us partakers of His atoning sacrifice.  He has not left the world, where He once was born for our salvation . . . 

Living and genuine Christianity is in its innermost essence faith in the incarnation and the atonement.  It is in its innermost essence sacramental, it is the message of God's real and wondrous presence in the midst of the fallen creation, in the Lord Christ and His Church.
Beautiful!  Would that all Lutheran pastors confessed the same, not only with their mouths, but in their practice, believing that Christ is truly Present in the Mass, that they would take seriously their sacred duty to preach the Gospel in its purity and administer the Sacraments according to Christ's institution.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The latest from . . .

Sarah's World Religions prof, per a text I received earlier from Sarah, which read:

"My religion prof just said, 'Some uptight and stubborn Christians still believe that the old, boring music should be a part of the liturgy.  But most faithful Christians realize that traditions change and so should music and liturgy with it.'" 

Hmmm, let's see what we've learned thus far:  1) Luther started the Reformation because he wanted to marry a nun; 2) Lutherans believe that only a literal 144,000 people will be saved; 3) Faithful Christians realize that traditions change and so should music and liturgy with it, among many other things (these are just the highlights).  A solid education being had there, for sure - NOT!  Sigh.

Just for Meggers . . .

Pastor Weedon on "Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise," last week on Issues, Etc.  Okay, so not just for Meggers, but especially for her. :)  Listen below:

Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Yes, It IS About the Music, Too

I've been no stranger to the ongoing "worship wars" among Lutherans.  I've been in the trenches fully engaged in the "wars" for many years now.  And, believe it or not, there was a time, many, many moons ago, when I fought for the other side, believing that we Lutherans needed to ditch the historic liturgy and get with the times.  I was young and naive - and very ignorant about what Christian worship is.  But, then I read and studied the entire Bible, from beginning to end.  I had done that several times before, but this time I paid special attention to every reference to worship I found in the Bible.  I jotted down those references, along with some notes about each.  I came across those notes in an old file cabinet some time back.  They're in rough shape, and much of what I wrote down back then shows forth how ignorant I was at the time, especially considering that I completely missed a plethora of worship references, and I wonder now how I could have possibly done so.  But, even back then, as ignorant as I was, what this exercise of reading through Holy Scripture and noting the references to worship taught me was that my ideas about the need to make worship entertaining, fun, and more appealing to the lost were way off base.  I simply couldn't find any basis for that anywhere in Scripture.  I still can't.  What I did find was that Biblical worship is always a holy and reverent encounter between God and His people.  I also found that Biblical worship simply knows not a thing about mimicking the surrounding culture for the purpose of outreach, something I was told time and time again was the main purpose and end-all, be-all of Christian worship.

Noting the discrepancy between what I found in Holy Scripture and what was passing itself off as Christian worship in the LCMS congregation I was attending at the time, I was encouraged to read many of the classic "Church Growth Movement" text books and assured by my pastor, who had been convinced by these himself, that these books would set me straight about what Christian worship is really all about.  It didn't work.  What I read in those books was not consistent with what I read in Holy Scripture.  Instead, what I found was that the authors of these books began with a series of self-conceived assumptions, developed these assumptions into a detailed set of principles, and then read those assumptions-turned-principles into the Biblical text.  In other words, it was pretty obvious that they were not beginning with the Word of God, but with their own ideas, which they forced upon the Word of God.  Plus, it was vividly clear to me that the authors of these books adhered to a theology wholly inconsistent with Lutheran theology, and I found it odd that, as a Lutheran, I was supposed to be learning from non-Lutherans.  But, that's precisely the thing that made this a fruitful exercise for me, since it led me to dig deeper into what Lutherans actually believed.  Prior to this, the only thing I knew of Lutheranism was what I read in the Small Catechism and what I was taught in Confirmation/New Member Classes.  But, this led me to actually pick up, read, and study the Lutheran Confessions, which, in turn, led me to hunger for more, and I began to read the writings of our Lutheran fathers.  Suffice to say that the more I read and studied what Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice, the more convinced I was that the "seeker-sensitive, outreach-focused, fun, entertaining" worship being done in my congregation stood in stark contrast to our Lutheran theology of worship.  It was also at this time that the desire to pursue the Office of the Holy Ministry began in me, a desire I did my best to suppress, but one that the Lord would confirm several years later by calling and ordaining me into this Office.

Anyway, this little autobiographical sketch and trip down memory lane is simply meant to reveal that I know much about, and have been engaged in, the "worship wars" among Lutherans.  What I really want to talk about is the concern I have about the repeated mantra I've been hearing from brothers on my side of the "worship wars," namely, "It's not about the music."

I am concerned about this because it seems to give the impression that music is neutral and that, all other things being equal, it doesn't matter what music is used in the Divine Service.  Knowing many of the brothers I've heard saying this, I cannot bring myself to believe that this is at all what they believe, but it begs the question:  Why say it and give that impression?

I think those who have been saying this need to stop.  People are hearing it in a way that I don't think those who are saying it mean.  In fact, what prompted me to finally write about this was an email I received yesterday from a lady named Anne, who stated:
Dear Pastor Messer,
I really enjoy reading your blog.  I also read the blogs of many other Lutheran pastors and enjoy them as well.  If you don't mind, I have a question for you.  First, I should let you know a little of why I'm asking about this.  I belong to a missouri synod congregation that has three worship services every Sunday, the early one is traditional and we use the hymnal and follow the liturgy in that one, the middle one is blended and has some of the liturgy and uses some hymns and some popular praise songs of today with the praise band leading us, and the third one is contemporary - actually it's titled "praise service" - and there really is no liturgy to speak of or hymns (well, on the rare occasion, the praise band might sing a hymn) and it is very informal and feels more like a rock concert than a worship service.  My question is would it be enough for this "praise service" to be Lutheran if they did the liturgy but kept the music the same?  The reason I ask is because I have been reading on other blogs of Lutheran pastors that the issue is not the music or musical instruments being used in worship, but when the liturgy is not used.  I am confused about this and wonder what you think about it.  Just to let you know, my husband and I have thought about finding another congregation to worship at, but it seems that all the Missouri congregations around us have these same kinds of different services at them.  So, for now, we stay put and attend the traditional service at our congregation.  But I think that even if the "praise service" at our congregation used the liturgy from beginning to end while using the music they use now, it would still feel more like a rock concert than a Lutheran worship service.  Am I wrong?  What do you think?

Thanks for listening,
As I told Anne in my response to her, I don't think she is wrong at all.  Our Lutheran theology of worship is about more than simply using our hymnal and following the liturgy.  I have actually been to Services in LCMS congregations where the entire liturgy was used, word for word, but left thinking that there was nothing Lutheran about what I had just experienced.  Why?  The music.  The liturgy was undone by the entertainment of the praise band and the songs they sung, filled with false doctrine as they were - false doctrine that grossly contradicted the doctrine being taught and delivered in the liturgy.  The liturgy couldn't save the Service from feeling far more like a Pentecostal "worship experience" (or rock concert) than a Lutheran Divine Service.

Now, I think the reason many of my brothers are heard saying that it's not about the music (or about specific musical instruments) is because they want to emphasize that the far greater issue at stake is theological.  Plus, I think they see how bad things are among us today in the realm of worship and would be thrilled if every congregation in our synod would at least employ the liturgy in all of their Services.  But, while that would definitely be a step in the right direction, it would be but a step and not an end to our "worship wars."  Music is a huge factor in these "wars" and ultimately needs to be addressed before we can truly become united in the theology of worship to which we all claim to adhere in our synod.  Thus, I think it would behoove those who are wont to say, "It's not about the music (or about specific musical instruments)" to stop saying this, for it most definitely IS about the music, too.

Lutherans have no business singing popular CCM songs which contain theology contrary to ours.  Likewise, Lutherans have no business employing praise bands and using rock and roll instruments to entertain the congregation.  Whenever the music used by Lutherans is the main thing, our theology of worship is lost.  Whenever the music used by Lutherans is presented in a performative and entertaining manner, our theology of worship is lost.  Whenever the music used by Lutherans does not remain a servant to the text, but overpowers it, our theology of worship is lost.  And, of course, as already mentioned, whenever the music used by Lutherans contradicts our theology, our theology of worship is lost.

The Divine Service, according to our Lutheran theology of worship, is a holy, reverent encounter with our Lord, who graciously and mercifully comes into our midst to Gift us with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments.  It is, by definition, Christ-centered and Cross-focused.  It's focus is always on Christ and the work He does for us and among us.  It is ever mindful of the fact that our Lord is really, actually, and truly Present among us, and not "up there" in heaven waiting for us to reach Him with our praise.  Anything that detracts from that foremost and essential truth is inconsistent with our theology of worship.  And, certainly, one of the biggest detractors from that foremost and essential truth is the use of music which suggests otherwise.

The bottom line is that if it looks, sounds, and feels more like a rock concert than the Divine Service, it is not our Lutheran theology of worship at work.  It IS about the music, too, and we need to make sure that we are clear about this.  For to suggest otherwise is not only misleading, but it runs the risk of falling into the "style vs. substance" pit, as if we can employ the "worship style" of other Christians, who do not believe as we do, but somehow maintain our "Lutheran substance," which is quite impossible.

As an object lesson, here is an LCMS praise band singing a hymn which is near and dear the hearts of Lutherans, and a favorite among many, including myself - "Thy Strong Word."  It's a good test case to examine, for if it is true that music is not the issue, then surely a praise band singing a great hymn would be okey-dokey with our theology of worship.  But, you tell me:  Is the video of this praise band singing a solid Lutheran hymn reflective of our theology of worship?

Great News!

Many of us have been praying for the LCMS and the SELC (Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church) to enter into altar and pulpit fellowship with one another.  It seems that prayer is very close to being answered.  A delegation from the LCMS, led by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations - Assistant to the President, recently met with leaders of the SELC at Novosibirsk, in Siberia, Russia, for theological discussions.  It was determined that the two Church Bodies are in doctrinal agreement and that steps should be taken immediately to officially declare them to be in full fellowship with one another.  Those steps will hopefully be completed by next month and, thanks to the adoption of Res. 3-04A at the 2010 LCMS National Convention, upon completion of these steps, the LCMS and the SELC will be in fellowship, and that fellowship will be presented to the 2013 LCMS National Convention for ratification.  This is outstanding news, and you can read more about it at Dr. Collver's blog.  As I said above, this will be the answer to the prayers of many of us who have longed for the day when the fellowship we share with our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Russia would be officially recognized and declared.  Thanks be to God! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is This Little Guy Precious or What?!

A few more pics of my nephew, Max:

Max's first sleep over at Grandma Sally's

Max's first Halloween - Now THAT'S just downright cute!

Max missed his favorite uncle so much, they had to give him a picture of me to calm him down! :)

No Mo' BEEcursitudes

A Long, but Blessed Day

Winkel this morning at Lord of New Life in Midland.  Our Lord fed us on Word and Sacrament through His servant, Pr. Kurt Eichinger, and Pr. Dave Reed, who served as our pastoral delegate to the LCMS Convention this past July, presented his report, and led us in a discussion of, the Convention, highlighting the elections made and major resolutions passed and declined.  He also shared with us his experiences during his recent trip to Ireland, along with several Irish jokes he picked up over there, using a perfect Irish accent, to boot.  Good stuff! :)  It was good to see such a good turnout - every congregation in our circuit had pastoral representation, and I think there were only two brother pastors who couldn't make it.  I spent the rest of the afternoon bringing the Holy Word and Holy Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood to shut-ins (still have a few more to see in the next couple of days), which is always a great blessing, and even made it to the polls to vote, too.  And, when I finally got home this evening, I was thrilled to see that my copy of "Christ's Church" by Bo Giertz had arrived today.  A good day all around!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just in case . . .

you missed these.  Here are Pr. Fisk's Worldview Everlasting videos for last week - awesome as always!

Reformation Celebration - 6

Okay, so one last post with pics of our Reformation Celebration yesterday.  The first set of pics are of those six brave souls who competed in our "Best Luther Impression" contest.  Each person had to stand up in front of everyone, put on the Luther mask, and read a famous Luther quote as if they were Luther himself.  After all the contestants took their turn, everyone in the audience voted for the person they thought did the best Luther impression.  All the contestants did a great job, but the clear winner was Mary, our church secretary and organist, who read her Luther quote with much zeal and drama and received about 95% of the vote.  Lots of fun!  The last few pics are of those who stayed to play Reformation Pictionary after the celebration had pretty much broken up.  It was a grand day, beginning with the beautiful Festival of Reformation Day Divine Service in the morning and lasting all through the good eats and great fun into the afternoon.  We'll definitely be doing this again next year, and I'm confident that it will be even bigger and better!  Thanks to everyone who helped make this a very special day in the life of our little parish!






Mary - the champ!  (You can see a bit of the drama of her performance depicted here - she made a great Luther!)