A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

yourHT: Minneapolis Day One

by Rev. Rich Heinz

Here I am, at my first Higher Things conference! Am I crazy? I woke up at 3:15 this morning to have enough time for the TSA line after less than four hours of sleep, got on a little jet from Louisville to O’Hare, and then switched planes to get to Minneapolis. So…is it worth it? Oh, yes!

Every morning this week, check myHT (or the main site at http:/higherthings.org ) for an update of the previous day’s “blog” about For You.

A joyous “Amen!” For You began with a so-good-you-had-chills-down-your-spine Divine Service. It was Lutheran Service Book’s Divine Service, Setting 3 (formerly known as “Page 15.”) The beauty and drama attending the Lord’s Gifts were increased by violin, woodwinds and brass instruments, as well as the Rev. Kantor Richard Resch’s masterful organ skills.

The University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Center was “Lutheranized,” transforming it into a fitting liturgical space. Green and white banners hung around the balconies. Paraments adorned the podium to dress it as a pulpit, and proper linens to cover the altar. The newest piece of art for Higher Things is a crucifix coming from the Rev. Mark Mumme. (More on this work of art in the coming days!)

Pastor David Kind, the host pastor, was both preacher and celebrant for the Divine Service, with ten other pastors assisting him. Add to all of this some 1200-1300 voices intrepidly singing, and you have some amazing thanksgiving for His Gifts – given FOR YOU!

The “work” of the conference is the catechetical sessions. There are plenaries that are attended by everyone, 3-session electives for “In-Depth” sectionals, and 45-minute electives to choose for the Breakaway sectionals.

I am attending Pastor Kind’s Hitchiker’s Guide to the Sanctuary: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly for my In-Depth. Today he spoke of Old Testament origins of art, God’s prohibition of graven images made for worshipping, and God’s very specific design for the Tabernacle and Temple.

Pastor George Borghardt and Sandra Ostapowich led Youth Ministry 101: Youth Ministry for Dummies (like us). Landon Reed, Higher Things’ Retreat Executive added his experience as well. Among other things, some myths about youth were debunked, such as: 1.) Youth don’t want to study the Word of God, 2.) Youth are ignorant, 3.) Youth don’t want substance, 4.) Youth only want “contemporary Christian music,” and 5.) Youth don’t want structure. Much Bible study is the key to truly Lutheran youth work, in addition to scheduled recreation – not “fun” activities with a little devotion tacked on. (We’re back to the adage of not mingling worship, work and play.)

Meeting youth, leaders, and pastors from all across the country is an amazing thing. Already today, I know I’ve met someone from Pennsylvania and another from Albuquerque. My kind chauffer from the airport is a Concordia, St. Paul student from Fargo, ND.

Pastor Mark Buetow’s fun crowd from Bethel, Du Quoin, IL have taught me a new hand greeting, that will soon be all the rage! 

More is planned, such as special arrangements in the student union, and a Saint Paul Saints game.

As the day began with worship, so it ends. Evening Prayer is a gem from Lutheran Service Book, and what a cool service to experience with this entourage! Pastor Kind officiated, chanting beautifully, and indeed, our prayers rose before God as incense! Pastor Marcus Zill preached on the incredible, almighty, so-holy-you-can’t-see-Him-and-live God, entering our flesh FOR YOU!

Private confession and absolution is available to those who desire this gift! And, an order of Compline is available for use in the dorms.

Although I have watched Higher Things with admiration for some time, I am finally a participant, and blessed to be on staff! I am going to bed well after midnight, thanking God for allowing me the gift of being here! What a joy to join my “Amen” with those of the youth and adults gathered here with me, being reminded that Christ does this all FOR YOU!

Rev. Rich Heinz is Senior Pastor of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, IN. He is the editor of myHT, and a first time participant and breakout speaker for a Higher Things conference.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Remember, O Man, You are Lutheran

Pastor David Petersen of Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana has a great posting in his blog regarding the imposition of ashes!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I am one of my own heroes?

Your results:
You are Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi ______________________________________ 80%
R2-D2 ________________________________________ 78%
Qui-Gon Jinn _______________________________________ 75%
Yoda ________________________________________ 71%
Chewbacca _______________________________________ 66%
Princess Leia _______________________________________ 65%
Luke Skywalker _______________________________________ 64%
Mace Windu _______________________________________ 61%
Han Solo _______________________________________ 60%
Padme ________________________________________ 60%
You are civilized, calm, and
have a good sense of humor,
even when those around you don't.
You can hold your own in a fight,
but prefer it when things
don't get too exciting.

I copied this "personality test" a while back after following a link from Bloghardt's Reflector. Can't find the link now, but I tripped across this and thought I'd post the fun!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Listen to Him -- St. John's Messenger -- February 2007

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

During the Epiphany season, we hear about our Lord manifesting – revealing – Himself as God in the flesh. He speaks and acts, showing all that He is the Christ. His Word to both Jew and Gentile declares liberty from sin, death, and the devil – and actually makes it happen!

The season begins and ends with blessed words from the Father admonishing us: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5 ESV)

Listen to Him. We are offered several opportunities every week to listen to Him. At the Divine Service, we hear the Word of Christ in the lessons from Scripture, in the preaching of that Word, and even in the words of the holy liturgy itself. There is a blessed irony: as you sing the divine liturgy, you are declaring God’s Word to those around you, and even to yourself!

Listen to Him. In Sunday School and Bible Classes, opportunities abound (and so do the vacant seats!) to sit at Jesus’ feet, like Mary of Bethany, and hear Him teach us. So many more could be joining us for this time of catechesis -- this time of hearing His Word. We have many faithful members who teach and other faithful ones who attend this receiving of our Lord’s Word.

Listen to Him. As you bring your children to receive the saving washing of Holy Baptism, they are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Their Old Adams die and the Lord gives them new birth as His children. At this miracle, our Father in heaven blesses them with echoes of “This is My beloved son.”

Listen to Him. Through confession, our hearts are convicted as we speak our sins and admit our guilt to our pastor. But then another miracle occurs. Jesus Christ speaks through the pastor to remove your guilt and release you from that sin. He stands in Christ’s stead, and again Jesus’ words through Isaiah echo: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Listen to Him. In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus declares the most clear and concise words of Gospel: “This is My Body,…given for you.” “This is My Blood…shed for you.” Too amazing to understand completely, we can simply marvel at His Word, and humbly say, “Thank you,” and “Amen.” Our glorious God has become Man for us. The Eternal Son, begotten of the Father has received flesh through His Mother and been born of the same Blessed Virgin. Now, He becomes our perfect heavenly Bread and Priest! As He enters our bodies through our mouths, His sacred words enter our ears, and we Listen to Him!

Listen to Him. As we are already a month into the Year of Our Lord 2007, may we encourage one another in keeping a new year’s resolution increasingly to be in His Word. God grant that you may always Listen to Him!

Homily for Epiphany 5 -- Luke 5:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

You may recall the last time I preached this text. A rather shocking realization dawned upon me: when it comes to fishing, Jesus doesn’t know what He’s doing! Fish are more easily caught in the evening, or at least before the sun rises. Here is Jesus in broad daylight, telling Simon Peter and his partners to go at the wrong time. Fishing in the Sea of Galilee is best in the shallows. Jesus tells Peter and company to go out into the deep.

Most likely, Peter, Andrew, James and John, along with any crew, are thinking, “Poor Jesus! You really don’t know the first thing about being a fisherman!” And yet, because they have heard our Lord speak, they keep His Word, and do His bidding. By the world’s standards, He doesn’t know what He is doing. By business standards, He doesn’t know what He is doing. By popularity standards, He is treading on thin ice in the fisherman demographic.

When it comes down to it, everyone else thinks He’s going at it all wrong. “Jesus, you won’t get many fish that way,” we tell Him. In a condescending, arrogant mindset, we say: “Jesus, You’re setting yourself up for failure!” “Jesus, you need to sit back and let someone who knows what he’s doing handle things!”

But He doesn’t care. Donald Trump can’t fire Him for not producing the higher income and numbers. Simon Cowell cannot send Him home, telling Him that He is appalling. And it doesn’t even matter if Olivia Newton John tells Him that He is not “the one that we want.” He is the Lord God in the flesh; and He knows He is right!

You and I continue in this sinful attitude even now. In our pride over what we know and have accomplished, we want to tell Jesus that we know better. “Jesus, I’m just sure that if we change this music or add that program, we’ll have a lot more people in church.” “Jesus, You don’t appeal to modern people when you just have this liturgy and not something exciting or different.” “Jesus, You just need to dump those disciples and hire some new people in Your marketing department!” Sure, we don’t come out and say these things, but often they are not too far from what we are thinking.

But back to the catch of fish; in the end, while we see that this incident – this great miracle – actually happened, it was not the greatest miracle in this passage. It is amazing indeed that such a great catch was given to these fishermen. Yet even more amazing is the absolution here; Jesus absolves Simon Peter’s sin, and calls him, so that eventually he will do the same.

On this day, Peter has heard Jesus preach. He has listened. Now, this great catch confirms the authority and divinity of Jesus Christ. Peter heard the power of Jesus’ teaching; now he witnesses it in this miracle. Recognizing this, Peter is full of fear. He knows he is sinful. He knows he deserves only judgment and punishment from the Lord. So he confesses his guilt and tells Jesus He should go away and not associate with such a sinner.

Peter had been told to go out into the deep. Many centuries earlier, Noah was told to build a great vessel, which the Lord took out into the deep, as the entire earth was covered with great waters. Through this, the Lord God saved Noah’s life and the lives of those with him. Through Jesus’ calling of Peter, He saved Peter’s life, and the lives of those who listened to him. That is what absolution is all about: saving lives.

Our amazing Lord calls Simon Peter this morning, along with his companions, to begin being transformed into His ministers. Christ, the Master-Teacher is calling His first students to follow Him and learn from Him in His traveling seminary. He is drawing them to Himself, that He may teach, train, and form them to be stewards of His mysteries. He is gathering them in His nets, that they can, in turn, be fishers of men, and catch them alive.

Of course, there would be those thinking: “Poor Jesus! He picked those dumb fishermen!” “What is He thinking!? These disciples are common and uneducated – Jesus needs to reconsider His choices in those whom He sends to preach His Gospel.”

And even in our day and age, we can get sucked into the devil’s schemes to tear the nets and breech the hulls of the ship our Lord calls His Church. In extreme cases, we may even push aside biblical teaching on the ministry, and fancy that the boat of the Church is the H.M.S. Bounty, and join the likes of Fletcher Christian in mutiny. Others may be fish who dislike the boat, and flail about in it until they jump ship and dive back into the dark depths. We question Jesus’ wisdom and challenge His preaching, thinking we know better in the “who, what, when, and where” of Christ’s work in catching men alive.

But what would Jesus have us realize about His catching? “To catch fish, one needs a net and a boat; to catch people alive one needs absolution from Jesus and the commission to absolve others. To capture people alive is to declare to them the kingdom of God in Jesus (4:43) and bring them into that kingdom through catechesis, Baptism, and Eucharist…that is how the church is created and formed and preserved.” (Just, 209-210)

Today we celebrate miracles—not just the miracle of the great catch of fish—we celebrate the miracles through which God touches your life! When your pastor washed you in Christ’s holy font, the net of the Gospel was cast, and you were caught alive, placed into the boat of His Church. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!

When your Old Adam through daily contrition and repentance is drowned and dies, your new creature thrives. Confessing our guilt to the Lord through His servants, and receiving Holy Absolution from them, we soak in His waters, and receive the release of His grace. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!

When you are constantly brought into contact with the Word of the Lord, you are kept alive. Cutting yourself from the Word is the same as fish drying out in the sun, but receiving and keeping that Word is being refreshed and revived in His sacred waters. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!

When you come to the Lord’s Table and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, you are nourished and sustained, body and soul, in the baptismal communion of the Church. Jesus Christ enters your body, and blesses you with the promise of true and everlasting life. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!

When you attend to His Word and receive these sacraments, He keeps you alive and well in His Church. Our Lord Jesus uses these simple Gifts to keep you faithful! This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!

This morning you can rejoice, dear friends in Christ! Rejoice in His miracles. Rejoice that the Lord has called you out of the chaos of the rough waters of this world! Rejoice that He has used his pastors to catch you alive through Holy Baptism and His preaching of the Gospel! Rejoice that He continues to absolve you in the vessel of His Church, as you dwell with the Lord in that boat! Rejoice that He takes sinful men such as Peter, absolves them, and uses them to absolve countless others—including you—in His Holy Church! Rejoice, dear friends in Christ, for He tells you not to fear, your sin is taken away, and you are safe in His boat until you reach the heavenly shore! Amen.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Homily for Epiphany 3 -- Luke 4:16-30

This was preached for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, on the 21st of January -- "Sanctity of Life Sunday."

I know what you’ve been thinking this morning: “Pastor, are you off your rocker?! Why in the world did we sing, ‘Hark the Glad Sound’?! Isn’t that an Advent hymn!?”
Yes, my friends, and yet sometimes we can get stuck in a rut of associating a hymn with a certain time or day that we forget its many words and phrases that apply it to other times. Don’t just go through the motions of singing it. Look at it. Listen to it. This hymn speaks the very portions of Isaiah that our Lord Jesus preaches in this morning’s Gospel. It reminds us of who our Messiah is and what He does.

For the synagogue congregation at Nazareth, the expectations were off. We’ve heard it many times: they looked for a Christ who would come as a leader, a warrior, a King! This liberty He would bring would remove foreign governments, and restore Israel to the glory days of David and Solomon. All sorts of miracles would be worked, for their own sake.

What does the Messiah come to do? We see the common theme: liberty. But this is not liberty as the founding fathers of our nation describe it. This is not flowing from the eloquent pen of Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton. The liberty that you may be considering is what the Nazareth congregation was imagining. They heard of Jesus’ miracles in Capernaum and elsewhere; now they wanted the same for the home court crowd.

Our dear Savior, however, has something else in mind. The liberty that the Messiah brings has nothing to do with occupying governments. It is not dependant upon physical healings (although they can be a beautiful and blessed addition.) Miracles would not be worked for their own sakes, but only to support His teaching, to bolster faith, and to give glory to God.

No, dear Christian friends, this liberty is not about earthly liberty – it transcends earth. It is release—spiritual release! Release from sin; release from death; release from the power of the devil.

“He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” The liberation of the oppressed is not simply physical here. There is spiritual liberation – and the recovery of spiritual sight.

On this day, millions are marking the anniversary of the unleashing of the holocaust of abortion. During the past 34 years, our land has been deceived into a spiritual blindness – a blindness that refuses to see the murder of innocents – a blindness that no longer recognizes the gift of life as something from God, not from our constitution. Many times you and I are drawn into this blindness, being comfortable with the cataracts that the secular world places on our eyes – cataracts that dim our vision and blur the issue, so that we no longer see it as a biblical and moral issue, not a political one.

At times, the devil even darkens vision further. He works hard at convincing us that the Lord’s Word is merely opinion, or someone’s interpretation. A smug and stubborn blindness can result. But do not decide to be blind, my friends. Our Great Physician, who at your baptism removed your blindness and gave you sight, constantly wants to give you a divine cataract surgery.

Jesus has come to proclaim liberty, and give recovery of sight to the blind. Our revealed Savior this morning causes you to recover your sight! He sets you at spiritual liberty, which in turn, makes you His instrument in restoring the sight of others.

Our Epiphany Lord has come to you and, through faith, blesses you in receiving and understanding Him as the Messiah. He comforts you and forgives you and builds you up, week after week, with His Holy Gifts. As He does this, you become reflections of His Epiphany light, and lighten the darkness of the world around you! You are His instruments in restoring sight to the world, one neighbor at a time.

As He preached, the folks of Nazareth realized that they did not want to listen to Jesus. They had been confused as they marveled when He began his sermon. Now, “No longer confused, they are filled with anger—anger that He will not be the Messiah they want.” (Just, Luke 1:1-9:50) They wanted great miracles because they were cool. They wanted these signs because the whole region was talking about them. Forget the teaching. Forget that this is supposed to support Jesus’ claim as Christ. Forget that the Messiah actually needs to be God in the flesh. Just give us the Messiah we want!

We too fall into this train of thought. But often when He is not the Messiah we want, we simply try to give Jesus a makeover. Take away the hard teachings about Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Tone down on the emphasis of how He does all the work in our conversion. Soften what He teaches regarding the apostolic ministry and the absolution of sin through these men. Place heavier emphasis on His sayings and less on His suffering, death, and resurrection.

When this is done, Jesus has had the ultimate in Extreme Makeovers. He is no longer the Messiah of the Bible. He becomes a good teacher, joining the ranks of Mohammed, Buddha, Ghandi, and the like.

Dear friends in Christ: do not give Jesus an extreme makeover. Do not transform Him into what you want.

And do not be citizens of Nazareth, ready to push Jesus off the cliff, and watch Him fall like Wile E. Coyote from the Warner Bros. cartoons. No. Receive the message with joy of the One who comes to restore your sight and give you liberty.

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal! He reveals Himself as the true Messiah through these very signs that Isaiah spoke. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in His shedding of His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in His bodily rising to new and glorious life. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in coming to us and delivering this forgiving release and liberty through His holy sacraments.

Through the wondrous miracle of the Holy Spirit’s work, you and I are converted, transformed into God’s children, and made His own. We are given the precious gift of faith, and as God’s faithful, we want the Messiah He sent!

We want Jesus the true Messiah, who declares:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Yes! The Spirit of the Lord leads you to want this Messiah, Jesus! The Spirit of the Lord delivers this Good News – this Gospel – to you, and proclaims spiritual liberty to you. The Spirit of the Lord recovers your sight! Thanks be to God who sends this Spirit to gift you with His spiritual liberty, and with true sight! Amen.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Defending Life

The week of the 2006 national elections, I wrote a letter to the editor which was published in both local papers for our county, The Corydon Democrat and The Capitol News. With this past Monday being the anniversary of the beginning of the U.S.A.'s holocaust against the pre-born, it is still timely. The article follows.

“What happens in Missouri stays in Missouri!” … We Hope

Perhaps the most important battle for Indiana’s most innocent residents occurred last Tuesday; and it happened in another state. It was a vote that did not involve a candidate at all. Whether one was Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, was irrelevant. What was at stake was protecting the lives of those incapable of defending themselves.

Missouri had an amendment on its ballot – one that used the euphemism “early stem cell research.” This was to approve the procedure of cloning human embryos for the purpose of harvesting stem cells. It also specifically prohibited implanting these embryos into a human womb.

In other words, the production of new human life was endorsed, so long as it would be destroyed. Missouri voters by a razor thin margin have approved for human life to be manufactured in a lab, with the accompanying promise to kill that life when it is no longer useful for the lab’s experiments. To the Christian ear, this is hideously contrary to God’s sacred gift of life.

Shouldn’t we just leave this to politicians to sort out? Actually, no! The truth is this is not a political issue; it is a biblical, moral one. For some 33 years, life has become cheap in this country, and that attitude manifests itself in our entertainment. We live in a culture that sees school shootings in the news, extreme “shoot-em-up” video games, humorous murders in sit-coms, and abortion and euthanasia praised by some of our favorite hospital drama series.

Indeed, life has become cheap. On Tuesday, November 7, 2006, it just became cheaper – except for research facilities in Missouri which will now “make a killing” off of the funds spent in grants for what we used to call “mad scientist” laboratories. Now, we pray that this infection does not spread across our great land! We pray that, to spin off of the popular television commercial, “What happens in Missouri stays in Missouri!”

Yes, we just witnessed the most important battle for Indiana’s most innocent residents. So now what? Teach. Teach your family your spiritual virtues. Teach them the sanctity and respect of life. Teach them love. And teach them to speak up to defend the innocent who cannot speak for themselves.

In their defense,
The Rev. Richard A. Heinz

Thursday, January 25, 2007

LSB: A Decade in the Making, and Worth the Wait

We dedicated our copies of Lutheran Service Book at the conclusion of last Sunday's Divine Service. In three days we will use them for our first Sunday!

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the change has been the swiftness of the process. Now, I have spent over seven years of teaching toward LSB at Saint John's. But it was not until the November voters' meeting that we approved collecting funds for the books. Our altar guild got behind it and encouraged gifts toward the hymnals rather than poinsettias for the altar this year. That, along with several other generous gifts made for a fast collection -- less than two months -- that exceeded our need!

We will obviously begin with the familiar: Divine Service, Setting Three ("Page 15" revision.) Our members are just glad to be rid of the "juggling" of TLH, HS98, and various bulletin inserts. It was never my intention to use that "juggling" as a tool to encourage the switch, but it ended up a serendipitous side-effect.

Hymns will also stick with the familiar in the early weeks. The very first hymn we will sing is 790, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. The Divine Service will close with 656, A Mighty Fortress.

Praise to the Lord, indeed! I look forward to using LSB as a steward of the mysteries, for many years to come!