Monday, June 27, 2011

Congrats, Pastor Schian!

This afternoon (yesterday afternoon, now), I had the privilege of attending the Ordination of Aaron Schian into the Office of the Holy Ministry, which took place at Immanuel, Frankentrost, where I did my vicarage.  Great to be back at 'Trost for the day and visit with some dear friends on this most blessed occasion!  Pastor Schian served as Crucifer for my Ordination/Installation and Pastor Mark Loest, who serves at 'Trost and was my Vicarage Supervisor, ordained me into the Office of the Holy Ministry, as he also did Pastor Schian today.  It was wonderful to be able to participate in the laying on of hands today as our Lord sent another laborer to work in His vineyard.  Pastor Schian received the Divine Call to serve as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and School in Owego, NY, where he will be Installed on August 7.  I am confident that the saints in Owego will be well served by their new pastor and pray our Lord's richest blessings upon Pastor Schian as he begins his service there in August.  Some pics of the occasion:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Members at Peace

This past Sunday, we were blessed to welcome two new members into our fellowship, as Gabriel and Amy Blair were brought in via the Rite of Confirmation during Divine Service.  These two were an absolute pleasure to work with throughout the catechetical process - diligent in their studies and always bringing lots of questions with them each week.  Pastors love lots of questions, by the way - just not those infamous "quick questions" five minutes before Divine Service is to begin. :)  Anyway, I couldn't be more thrilled that we have now welcomed Gabe and Amy into our church family, although I am going to miss our Mondays together. :( 

On our last Monday together (June 13), Amy came in concerned about the baptism she had received years ago.  In the process of filling out the informational paperwork and Affirmation of Faith, she paid a visit to the website of the congregation where she was baptized and didn't like what she saw there at all.  Turns out, her concerns were justified, as she had been baptized in a Oneness Pentecostal congregation that doesn't believe in the Holy Trinity, but "in one God, eternally existent in three personalities, identified by the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  They believe that the Trinitarian view of the Godhead is a pagan invention of the early church and adhere to the ancient heresies of Modalism, Monarchianism, and a touch of Arianism.  They are not Christians, but a cult, much like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.  Anyway, after we took some time to research this and found out that Amy had not received a Christian Baptism, I filled the font, got vested, and baptized Amy in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, per her request, with myself and Gabe bearing witness to the work of our Lord in rebirthing her with water and the Spirit.  Then, we publicly recognized the Holy Baptism at the beginning of the Divine Service on Sunday and the two of them were Confirmed later in the same Service.  A pretty eventful last catechetical session, to say the least, but blessed beyond measure, to be sure.

Some pics of our newest members:

The Blair Family (Gabe, Amy, Gabe Jr., and the girls, Savannah and Farrah, who were Baptized this year at Easter Vigil)

Gifts:  Compact TLSB's with names imprinted from our Ladies' Guild, and a wall crucifix to hang in their home.

On Lutheran Fathers - The Latest Lutheran Satire video

I'm a Roman Catholic?

I received an email last week from a Lutheran layman who accused me of being a Roman Catholic.  The basis for his accusation were some comments I made regarding the Holy Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood in a recent thread over at BJS.  Evidently, if one believes that the Body and Blood of our Lord are Present at the moment of consecration, and that His Body and Blood remain Present until what has been consecrated has been consumed, one is a Roman Catholic.

Not only that, but those of us who masquerade as Lutherans, but who are really Roman Catholics at heart, are responsible for all the problems in the LCMS.  I think that's just a little much, actually.  I mean, surely we pretend-Lutheran-Roman-Catholics-in-disguise are not to blame for all the problems.  But, whatever.

Here is the accusation:

Reverend Messer,
I am greatly disturbed by the many pastors like you in our synod today who are obviously Roman Catholic, but not honest enough to admit it and leave.  Your recent comments about the Lord's Supper on the Steadfast site show that you definitely hold a Roman Catholic, and not a Lutheran, view of the Supper.  Roman Catholics believe that the bread and wine are immediately changed into Christ's body and blood at the priest's consecration, not Lutherans.  Roman Catholics elevate and genuflect at the consecration, not Lutherans.  Roman Catholics believe that Christ's body and blood remain after the distribution, not Lutherans.  I wonder what they are teaching at our seminaries these days, because there seem to be a lot of young guys like you coming out with Roman Catholic beliefs, rather than Lutheran beliefs.  That's a real shame.  I feel sorry for the members of your congregation who are being served by a pastor who follows the doctrines of the Antichrist.  Why don't you, and all those other closet Roman Catholics in our synod, do us Lutherans a favor and go join up with the Pope and his church, since you love his teachings?  You papistical pastors are responsible for all the problems in our synod.  Please stop spreading your venom among Lutherans and leave!!!
First of all, this layman never heard me say that I believe that the bread and wine are "changed into" Christ's Body and Blood "at the priest's consecration."  Contrary to his false accusations, I am a Lutheran.  I do not adhere to the doctrine of Transubstantiation.  I also do not adhere to the belief that the priest's/pastor's words affect the consecration, as if the power to "change" the bread/wine into Christ's Body/Blood resides in the priest/pastor.  Rather, I believe, teach, and confess, with all Lutherans, that the Body and Blood of Christ are sacramentally united to the bread and wine when Christ Himself speaks His Word at the consecration.  When our Lord Jesus Christ says, through the pastor, "This Is My Body; This Is My Blood," the bread and wine are His Body and Blood.  He says it.  They are.  Lutherans do not delve into philosophical attempts to explain the mystery of this sacramental union.  We simply confess that the bread and wine, consecrated by Christ, are His Body and Blood given to us Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins.

Secondly, because, as a Lutheran, I believe that when Christ speaks His Word over the bread and wine, His Body and Blood are Present, yes, I do, as the celebrant, elevate and genuflect.  By doing so, I confess that what I elevate and kneel before is Christ Himself.  I am not holding up mere bread, but the Body of Christ.  That is not mere wine in the chalice I elevate, but the Blood of the Lamb.  What I hold in my hands, and what lies upon the holy altar after the consecration, IS the very Body and Blood of Christ, and I believe it is good, right, and salutary to kneel before my Lord and Savior in worship and adoration.  Likewise, when I face the congregation, holding the Body and Blood of Christ in my hands, and say, "The Peace of the Lord be with you always," I am confessing that the Prince of Peace Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, has been faithful to His promise to "be with us always," since He is, right then and there, with us in His very Body and Blood.  When the congregation responds, "Amen" (so glad we did away with the "And also with you" at this point), they are confessing, "Yes, this is so; the Peace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, our Savior, is with us here and now in His very Body and Blood."  Then, immediately following this, the congregation joins in praying to our Present Lord for mercy and peace by singing the Agnus Dei ("O Christ, Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us . . .").  I'm pretty sure that all of this is most assuredly in line with what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice.

Thirdly, I have no word from our Lord telling me that His Body and Blood do not remain sacramentally united to the consecrated bread and wine after the Distribution.  For this reason, the Church has historically treated what remains of Christ's Body and Blood (commonly referred to with the Latin word, "reliquae") with great reverence and respect.  It was common in the early church to reserve some of the reliquae in order to take Christ's Body and Blood to the sick and shut-in (St. Justin, Martyr, for instance, says, ". . . and there is a distribution [of Christ's Body and Blood] to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.").  Another practice throughout history in the Church has been to reserve the reliquae against the next Communion, but such reservation was practiced reverently, the reliquae being reserved in a fitting receptacle and never mixed in with unconsecrated bread and wine.  And still another faithful practice in the Church has been to consume what remains immediately following the Distribution, in order to avoid any possible scandal which might arise with what remains of our Lord's Body and Blood.

That third practice is the one Dr. Luther himself advised and the one I follow.  After everyone present in the Divine Service has partaken, I consume what remains and reverently cleanse the sacramental vessels, so that there remains nothing left of our Lord's Body and Blood to deal with after the Service.  I believe this is the safest and wisest practice, but as I have pointed out several times over the years in debates regarding what to do with the reliquae, it is not a widely held practice in our synod today.  The vast majority of LCMS pastors and congregations practice some form of reservation, many of which I find less than salutary (e.g. storing consecrated hosts in a jar in the sacristy cabinet; mixing consecrated with unconsecrated hosts, as if there is no difference between them; putting consecrated hosts/bread in a bag and storing in the freezer; throwing used individual cups with remnants of Christ's Blood in the garbage; pouring consecrated wine down the drain; I've even heard of the practice of throwing consecrated hosts on the ground outside to feed the birds).

With less than salutary practices of reservation or disposal like these, it is understandable how Lutheran laypeople would develop the belief that what remains after the Distribution is not Christ's Body and Blood.  But, again, where is the word of the Lord which says so?  Also, it must be pointed out that it would seem odd for Dr. Luther to give the advice to consume what remains if what remains is nothing but bread and wine.  If that was the case, who cares what we do with it?  Throw it away or feed it to the birds or put it back in the jar with unconsecrated hosts.  But, Dr. Luther was an "Is means Is" kind of fella, like all good Lutherans, and so advised that we deal with the reliquae as Christ's Body and Blood, which is what it "Is."  It must be further pointed out that our own Lutheran Altar Guild manuals, right down to the present day, implore us to deal with the reliquae in a reverent and respectful manner, as if we are dealing with Christ's Body and Blood.  We are advised to either consume what remains or to reserve reverently in a fitting receptacle and never to mix consecrated with unconsecrated hosts.  And, if we're not going to consume what remains of Christ's Blood, the advice is to reverently pour what remains on the ground.  Oh, and our Altar Guild manuals also advise us never to use plastic, throw-away individual cups for Distribution of Christ's Blood, not only because these tend to lead to the abuse of throwing remnants of Christ's Blood in the garbage, but also because they are not fitting vessels to carry our Lord's Blood.  The advice is to employ the chalice, but that if you are going to use individual cups, they should be glass and should be reverently cleansed after the Distribution.  But, I digress.

Now, it never fails that when this debate is initiated among Lutherans, some will point to the "usage clause" in FC X and try to make the claim that here we confess that the Body and Blood of Christ are only Present during the Distribution within the Divine Service, as if the point of the "usage clause" there is to nail down a specific time-frame of our Lord's Sacramental Presence.  But, that is hardly the case.  What we are confessing against in FC X is the abuse of consecrating for the sole purpose of adoration, as the Roman Catholics are wont to do by housing consecrated hosts in a tabernacle or monstrance purely for Eucharistic Adoration or to be paraded around in Corpus Christi parades, and not for Distribution.  We say, "No!" to that.  Our Lord did not institute the Sacrament of His Body and Blood for that purpose, but to be given to us Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins.  But, to try to use the "usage clause" in FC X to argue for a specific time-frame of our Lord's Sacramental Presence is an exercise in futility, since our Lutheran forefathers are in no way addressing that in this article.

What really is at play here is the error of Receptionism, which is an error to which many unknowing Lutherans adhere, believing that the Body and Blood of our Lord are not Present until they eat and drink, and only remains Present until the last person present in the Divine Service has eaten and drunk.  But, Lutherans have always believed, taught, confessed, believed, and practiced that the Body and Blood of our Lord is Present the moment He speaks His Word over the elements and remains so until it is all consumed.  To call me, or any other Lutheran, a Roman Catholic for confessing this is to misunderstand what Lutherans believe.

Fourthly, what I learned at seminary was what Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice, and this in contrast to what other Christians believe, teach, confess, and practice, other Christians including Roman Catholics.

Fifthly, I have four children, ranging from the ages of 21 to 14, so I'm not exactly sure the whole "young guy" thing applies to me, but I appreciate the sentiment. 

Sixthly, I do often feel sorry for the members of the congregation I serve, since I am a wretched sinner prone to make many mistakes and completely unworthy of the Office to which I have been called and ordained, but not because I follow the doctrines of the Antichrist. 

Seventhly, I cannot follow this layman's advice and join the Pope and his church because I vehemently reject many of the doctrines taught by the Pope and his church, since, well, I am a Lutheran. 

Eighthly, I reject the notion that I am a "papistical pastor," but even were that true, I highly doubt that pastors like me are responsible for "all the errors in our synod."  As I said above, that's a bit much, methinks. 

Ninthly, if what I believe, teach, confess, and practice is "venom," then I am wholly committed to spreading that "venom" for as long as our Lord grants me the ability to serve.  Of course, what this layman calls "venom," I simply refer to as Lutheranism and, in true Lutheran fashion, state:  "Here I stand.  I can do no other.  God help me!"

Now, where did I leave my rosary?  I need to locate it so that I can say my morning prayers to our Holy Mother. :)  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Original John Calvin

"I'm a Calvinist; I'm certain about everything . . . except if Jesus died for me." :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Review of "Love Wins"

I finally got around to reading Rob Bell's "Love Wins" last week.  Here's my review:

I just read "Love Wins," but this leads to all sorts of questions.

Did I really actually read it?
Were my eyes opened as I read it?
Did I comprehend what I read?

Assuming that I did actually read the book, that my eyes were opened as I read it, and that I did comprehend what I read, a ton more questions surface:

Is this really a book about heaven?
Or hell?
Or both?

And this leads to yet more questions:

Which heaven?
Which hell?

And, by the way, who is this Jesus we read so much about in the Bible?

Good guy?
Angry fella?

For that matter, what is the Bible?

God's revealed Word?
Nice story?
A little of both?

Let's go ahead and assume that the Bible is, in fact, the Word of God.

The infallible Word.
The inspired Word.
The inerrant Word.

With that assumption in place, we need to figure out how to interpret this Word of God.

Because we're not God.
He is.
We're not.

Here's how I think we need to interpret the Bible.  We need to figure out what the one main point of the Bible is and then interpret everything through that one main point.  If that means that we end up having to twist this or that verse, or this and that passage, to make it line up with that one main point, that is obviously what God intended.  Fortunately, we can easily determine what the one main point of God's Word is:

God is love.

That's what this whole thing is about.  God is love.

God loves.

Wait, even those people?  Yes, even those people.  God loves everyone, regardless of what they believe or do or say or teach or confess.

His love is that vast.
That wide.
That expansive.
That cool.
And, His love is not temporary or fleeting.  It is a forever kind of love.  God's love never ends.  It is:

Good, now that we have that figured out, we can begin to answer all these other questions about heaven and hell and Jesus and the eternal fate of all people.  Luckily for us, all those other questions are easily answered:

God is love.
He loves all.
Love wins.

Any questions?

[NOTE:  Those who have read the book will understand this review.  If you haven't read the book, my recommendation is that you don't bother with it.  Go fly a kite.  Or spend hours watching youtube videos of cute kittens.  Or whatever else you can think of to waste some time, because that's exactly what this book is:  A complete and utter waste of time.  Oh, and it's heretical.  Another reason to avoid it.  In no way, shape, or form is it consistent with Christian theology.  But, that's kind of Bell's point.  He seeks in this book to get his readers to disregard everything they have ever learned about Christianity and begin to conceive of the god he has created out of his own imagination.  He begins with his own preconception of who God is and then goes and finds Scripture passages to try to support that preconception.  In the process, he blasphemes against the true God revealed in the Bible, claiming that for Him to allow anyone to suffer eternal punishment would mean that He is like an abusive father who needs to be locked up.  So, Bell creates a god more palatable to his taste, a god who will, given enough time, bring everyone to enjoy his love forever.  Bell's god is a lot like Oprah Winfrey's god - a god who doesn't care what you call him (or her, or it), who doesn't care what you believe about him, or if you worship him or not, or what you do, or what you say, or anything else, but who loves everyone, saves everyone, and will eventually have everyone with him forever.  According to Bell, the Christian God is a puny failure, since He doesn't get His desire fulfilled to have all people saved.  But, Bell's god is almighty and gets his way in the end.  But, enough.  I've already written more than I wanted to.  As I said, go fly a kite.  Watch youtube videos.  Get a root canal or something.  Anything would be better than having to endure the nonsense in this book.] 

Dare to Read Like a Lutheran

Friday with Fisk