A myHT Fortress

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Holy Days! -- So Close, and yet So Far

Throughout the month of December, a beautiful Candlelight Processional is held in the evening at EPCOT. A large choir from various churches and schools sing various Christmas hymns. Yes! Not secular carols. No “Winter Wonderland” or “Jingle Bells.” The songs are about Jesus’ birth.

Selections from the Scriptures are also read, by guest celebrities. The night my family and I saw it, Broadway star Chita Rivera was the reader. What was spoken and sung was a beautiful witness to Jesus. But what exactly did it witness?

As I pondered more closely what was read, I noticed tiny omissions that had great importance. One reading concluded: “You shall call His name ‘Jesus.’” Hmm…do you remember what follows in the Gospel? He is the Son of the Most High. He will save His people from their sins.

Yes, Jesus was THE reason for this event. That was clear. But why was Jesus being celebrated? Was it simply that He was a great prophet? That He taught love and mercy? Where was the clear and simple statement that Jesus IS God Incarnate, the one and only Savior from sin?

You see, without the purpose of rescuing us from sin, death, and the devil, Jesus simply is reduced to another world religious leader. And then “peace on earth” becomes reduced to a slogan that deals with politics and national relations, rather than the true and lasting peace of a restored relationship with our Father in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a lovely sacred concert. Nothing was wrong with what was spoken. The failure was in what remained unspoken.

If there is no purpose in the birth of Jesus – no expressly stated delivery from sin and death, then His birth was in vain. Jesus was born to save you from your sin! And He has! And He now delivers that release from sin with every baptism, absolution, preaching, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper. These are part and parcel of the greatest Gift ever given – the Gift of the Newborn Savior in Bethlehem!

Without the rescue from sin, then this is not a unique and life-changing event, it is just another “holiday.” “Happy Holidays!” is the greeting given by employees in most places, including most Disney “cast members.” Only after a guest or customer says, “Merry Christmas!” can most people respond in kind.

Happy Holidays, indeed! “Holiday” comes from shortening the English words “holy” and “day.” Yes. The Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25th through January 5th) are Holy Days for Christians. But given most people’s lack of knowledge about this, we boldly proclaim, “Merry Christmas!”

God bless you richly as you celebrate more than the birth of a man who changed the world. The Lord will bless you as you rejoice a great joy, celebrating the birth of the Only-begotten Son of God, our Savior Jesus, Christ, the LORD!

Happy Holy Days! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Homily for the Funeral of a World War II P.O.W.

Earl Faith was a dear man in our parish who recently suffered from leukemia. Earl was born in 1920, and had served in the Second World War. Not long after boot camp, he was in Northern Africa, on a truck full of ammo. They were ambushed by Germans. Knowing it was too dangerous with the explosive ammo on the truck, the Americans fled to the desert surrounding the road, and dug foxholes. They were found quickly, and taken to a P.O.W. camp that ran a potato farm. Life was harsh there for 2 1/2 years, until the war concluded. What follows is the homily from Earl's funeral.

Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Two and a half years may not seem like a long time to many people, but to a prisoner, it can seem like forever. Young Earl had barely begun his service to our country when his unit was ambushed in Northern Africa and he ended up in a German P.O.W. camp.

No one outside of the veterans who have experienced it can understand the oppression. The loss of liberties can be disheartening and depressing. And they will cling to any good news that makes it to them.

Perhaps it was enduring those prison hardships as a P.O.W. that gave Earl all the more focus on those he loved. An adoring husband and loving father, Earl raised a healthy, happy, and fun-loving family. More importantly, he headed a household in faith.

But the prison of hard labor and poor care on the potato farm was nothing compared to the prison of sin that Earl and every one of us were born into. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” That sin we were conceived in was holding us captive. Not one of us could release ourselves. It was not until our dear Lord came and worked His redeeming work that this changed.

When Jesus preached His first sermon in Nazareth, He read and proclaimed another passage from Isaiah that speaks the same themes. As the Messiah, His mission was about release. Releasing the blind from their darkness; releasing the deaf from their silence; releasing people from bondage to sin, death, and the devil.

When Jesus came and was conceived and born, He began our release. As He came to the cross, and suffered and died on that cross, the release was purchased. As He burst from the prison of His tomb, our release was sealed.

Across the years, the release is delivered through the Holy washing of Baptism. The raging flood of the font breaks the bonds, crushes the chains, bursts the gates of brass and causes those iron fetters to yield.

Earl had the joy of release from the German prison, where Red Cross care packages and an occasional bit of food beyond potatoes and black bread had been the only comforts. After two and a half years, our Savior gave him freedom from his earthly enemies.

But far more joyful was the release from sin and death that Jesus gave through His Holy Baptism, His Holy Gospel, Holy Absolution, and His Holy Supper. In these precious Gifts, Earl was frequently reminded that our Savior released him from these enemies of the soul. In these Gifts, we all have joined Earl in experiencing the thrill of release.

Over recent weeks and months, Earl faced yet another captor: leukemia. The gates of brass and iron fetters did not surround him; instead, they ran through his veins. Yet in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning, Earl finally was granted a peaceful release. The Lord had mercy and flung wide the doors of paradise. The confines of this suffering world were opened and he was blessed with liberation beyond our imagination.

As you approach this holy season of Christmas, it will be a challenging and hurtful time. But do not despair. As Jesus brings release to you in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, He is bringing you into communion with Earl. Jesus frees you from sin in the very same sacrament that He gives you a foretaste of heaven, and joins you with Earl in celebrating and welcoming the Coming King. Amazing! With every Eucharist, you rejoice with Earl in the bliss of heaven!

Today, the Third Sunday in Advent, has the Latin name Gaudete. It means, “Rejoice.” And so we are reminded by God to rejoice and join Earl in singing with joy in our hearts, “Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne and ev’ry voice a song.” “He comes the pris’ners to release, in Satan’s bondage held. The gates of brass before Him burst, the iron fetters yield.”

We live in this world awaiting that rejoicing release as well. We continue to suffer in the prison of this earth, fenced in by sin, threatened by death, and guarded by the devil. But our liberating Lord awaits the day when He will gather us with Earl and all who have departed in the faith. He desires to come and gather us home with Him forever, echoing the same words of love that He has just spoken to Earl: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the pleasure of My Father’s kingdom.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Hands of the Blessed Virgin Mother

The Blessed Virgin is another figure who has a typical posture. In Church art, especially the earliest traditions of icons, paintings, and statues, the Blessed Virgin Mary always has one hand directing our attention to the infant in her arms. She motions to Him, and our eyes go from viewing the Handmaiden of the Lord to the Incarnate God on her lap.

Saint John the Baptizer

Saint John the Baptizer -- someone we spend time pondering during Advent. Pastor Mark Buetow pointed out to me a very interesting feature of much art depicting John: the Baptizer is usually pointing. His fingers extended, he directs our attention to Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

As we continue in this Advent-tide, we follow Saint John's fingers, as they point us to the manger and cross, to the font and chalice.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sevens: A Holy Number MeMe

My dear wife tagged me, after she was tagged by Glenda Mumme. :-) It's a meme with everything in "sevens."

Seven things I did before (a) child(ren):
1. Stayed up until 1 a.m. watching "Star Trek" or "Travels in Europe with Rick Steves."

2. Spent money more loosely on books and hobbies.

3. Took long walks with my wife at our Fairy Godmother's condo.

4. Bought and displayed Department 56 like there was no tomorrow.

5. Spent two weeks (and put over 1,000 miles on a rental car) in Great Britain with sem buddies.

6. Drove only midsize cars, and didn't THINK about a mini-van.

7. Had one too many "Nazis from hell" at Applebee's near the sem.

Seven Things I Do Now
1. Recognize Hannah Montana songs.

2. Drive a mini-van (and LOVE it.)

3. Share my Star Wars toys with my son.

4. Serve as Cubmaster (and soon to cross over with my son into Boy Scouts.)

5. Watch American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and other "reality shows."

6. Take care of my son's pets.

7. Nag my son about a room that is only as messy as mine was at his age.

Seven Things I Would Like to Do
1. Travel around Europe with my family (same as Kristi and Glenda.)

2. Further my education.

3. Retire to Walt Disney World and work at the "Happiest Place on Earth."

4. Be more faithful in praying the Daily Office.

5. Be more faithful in going to the Y.

6. Have more free time as a couple & family.

7. Be wealthy enough to give like crazy to churches and charities.

Seven Things That Attract Me to My Wife:
1. Her faith & witness.

2. Her sparkling eyes.

3. Her laughter & sense of humor.

4. Her desire to give and help others.

5. Her endless creativity!

6. Her love of Christmas.

7. She's my Cinderella!

Seven Favorite Foods
1. Crab legs

2. Coca Cola (do drinks count?)

3. Coconut Shrimp

4. Coconut-Almond Chicken from the Polynesian (which my dear wife amazingly re-created!)

5. Steak, salad & baked potato

6. Cashew Chicken (Chi Tung's is the best!)

7. Key Lime Pie

Seven Things I Say Most Often

1. "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

2. "Amen."

3. "We're going to Disney!" (Responding to Kristi's daily question: "Guess what?!"

4. "Love you, Lady. buh bye!" (Quoting an Animaniacs episode.)

5. "You need to tie your shoe!" (To Ben, at least twice daily.)

6. "What do you want to do for dinner?"

7. "Do you need anything else before I go?" (To Kristi, as I head over to the church.)

(Knowing that this is lighter fare than some of these bloggers are wont to write)
Seven People I'm Tagging for this:
1. Tyler Best

2. Jon Kohlmeier

3. Randy Asburry

4. Wil Weedon

5. David Juhl

6. Paul Beisel

7. Rick Stuckwisch

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Troops: A Star Wars/Cops Parody

I was sent this by a friend. It provides the "real" story behind Owen and Beru Lars' demise in Star Wars: Episode IV.

Very funny!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Scoping out Scouts

Ben and his fellow Webelos Scouts will have a tough decision in the coming weeks: they need to choose which Boy Scout troop to join.

We have two troops that are both fairly close. The one in Lanesville is nice, but VERY small. You can probably count them on one hand. Also, they are all older and much higher in the scout ranks.

The other possibility is a troop in Georgetown. We also know boys there. They are a very LARGE troop, and VERY organized. They have boys across the whole range of ranks.

Neither choice will be a bad one. I guess it comes down to this: do our boys want to be "big fish in a small pond?" Or do they want the advantage of many others with experience and help? In either troop, they likely would be their own patrol, and still be close buddies.

Any boy could go anywhere. However, with this group, I think once one boy decides, the others will decide to stick together.

Only time will tell. We shall see in the coming weeks which troop is chosen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Night

Here we sit on the sofa, very full and a little tired. But we are going through an annual tradition. We are searching our TiVo guide seeking for all things Walt Disney World and various Christmas specials to record.

We always have to search for programs that may not appeal to everyone. A number of Food Network and HGTV shows are always on our list. We have loved Laura Bush guiding a televised tour of the White House decked out for Christmas each year. We are looking forward to the Travel Channel's Samantha Brown in a special about the holidays at WDW.

A nice way to wrap up Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm Coming

“I’m coming,” says the mother to the crying toddler, waking from his nap. Mom’s voice brings great comfort with this promise.

“I’m coming,” says the husband, as his wife calls out the back door for his assistance. And in a moment, he joins her in providing whatever she needed.

“I’m coming,” says the college friend, who has been invited to the wedding. And when the bride sees so many loved ones in the church, she is overwhelmed with love and support from those dear to her.

“I’m coming,” says the grandmother to the parents, when her grandson is sick in the hospital. And her love, care, and extra set of hands provides encouragement and aid for all.

“I’m coming!” says the Advent King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He who keeps His Word perfectly does just as He says. He comes!

Our Coming Savior has promised this coming in three ways, which we celebrate throughout this season of repentance and hope.

First, He came in the flesh, born as a Baby in Bethlehem. For a little over thirty years He walked this earth, preaching, teaching, healing, and forgiving. Throughout that ministry, He continually was coming to those around Him. As He died and rose, He did these great things, coming to us!

Even now, He comes! With every baptism, He comes! With every sermon preached, with every Word of God taught, He comes. With every absolution spoken by His ministers, He comes. With every celebration of His Holy Supper, He comes.

In the end, He will come again! As this past Church Year closed, and a new one begins, we rejoice that He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. Yes. He will come!

And what’s more, He comes for you! It’s not just some bit of history. He is doing this for you. His Word and deeds are spoken and done for you, that you may live with Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

“I’m coming!” says Jesus. And we, members of His Bride, the Church, are excited beyond words. Dear friends in Christ, even as we live in repentant hope, rejoice in your coming King.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Know Thyself

A new blog has surfaced in Lutheran blogdom. A pastor who has been suffering from depression has started Know Thyself, and it looks fascinating.

Lots of us (Lutheran pastors) deal with the burdens of others as well as our own. Often, it can be overwhelming. This brother in the ministry is sharing his experiences in the hopes of helping others.

While this pastor is remaining anonymous, I can assure you of two things:
1. This is a real pastor.
2. This pastor is not me.

Check out Know Thyself, and pass it on to anyone you know who may be touched by depression.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church?

My friend, Pastor David Juhl, posted this video today. As he states, I would not condone the website or theology of the source, but this film gives us food for thought.

While I dislike the talk of "marketing" a church, there is something to be said for the welcoming attitudes and friendly atmosphere of some parishes, versus the cliques, silent glances, and awkward avoidances of visitors in others. When we know we have the theologically sound, Christ-centered, sacramental liturgy and preaching, how can we be content with many of our congregations' snobbish first impressions? The problem reaches across the country, and beyond. Yes, friends, we can be completely orthodox evangelical catholics -- i.e. solidly Lutheran -- and still be friendly, receiving new members into the fold.

Most pastors know this. It is a matter of lovingly and gently encouraging our parishes to hop on board! In the mean time, take a look at this parable.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

He CAN Camp!

Ben completed a significant task last night. So significant, in fact, that both Kristi and I are blogging about it. :-)

He and I went with his Webelos Den on an overnight camp out with Troop 525 from Lanesville. We simply went to Cedarbrook, the local rustic camp run by the Lutheran Laymen's League of the two Lousiville circuits. (Troop 525 is sponsored by our local LLL.)

Ben had gone to Webelos resident camp two summers ago. He was not ready for it, as far as maturity, and cried and threw up so as not to stay the night. So he and I had gone like day camp that week. Since then, he has avoided talk of camping.

One of the requirements for the Arrow of Light, however, is going camping with a Boy Scout troop. Well, last night we did. Our entire Webelos den went, and they all had a blast! Including Ben!!!

He and Cameron were in one tent, and I was right "next door." Around 1:30 a.m. or so, he crawled into my tent. But not one tear or upset tummy! And this morning he said he was ready to stay another night.

We were confident he would enjoy it if he gave it a fair chance. Now he realizes that too. Our boy is getting closer to being a Boy Scout.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Life Imitates Art: Art Imitates Life

Senator Padme Amidalla: [to Bail Organa]
"So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lord, Have Mercy!

Voting Near-Problem

Kristi and I waited until Ben was finished with school and D.I. (Destination: Imagination) to go vote, so that he could come and see voting in action. Polls had opened at 6 a.m., and this was around 4:30 p.m.

When we got there, only 25 paper ballots remained. The line at the time would have used half of those. We got to vote right away. I am not sure what happened to later voters.

Our ballots are paper, with arrows printed on them. The arrows are missing their middle sections, and you fill in the "shaft" of the arrow on your chosen candidate with a black marker.

Did more ballots arrive? I am unsure. Hopefully they came swiftly, so that anyone wishing to vote could.

Remembering Collective Shame

By Uwe Siemon-Netto

This column requires a caveat: I am not an American citizen and therefore neither a Republican nor a Democrat. But as a German residing permanently in the United States I believe that I have a duty to opine on at least one aspect of the upcoming elections – the question whether years from now Americans will have to wrestle with collective shame, just as I have had to deal with collective shame over what has happened in Germany in my childhood for my entire life.

It was West Germany’s first postwar president, Theodor Heuss, who coined the phrase, “collective shame” contrasting it with the notion of collective guilt, which he rejected. No, I cannot be expected to feel guilty for crimes the Nazis committed while I was still in elementary school. But as a bearer of a German passport I have never ceased feeling ashamed because three years before I was born German voters elected leaders planning the annihilation of millions of innocent people.

I am certain that in 1933 most Germans did not find the Nazis’ anti-Semitic rhetoric particularly attractive. What made them choose Hitler, then? It was the economy, stupid, and presumably injured national pride, and similar issues. This came to mind as I read the latest Faith in Life poll of issues Americans in general and white evangelicals in particular consider “very important” in this year’s elections.

Guess what? For both groups, the economy ranked first, while abortion was way down the list. Among Americans in general abortion took ninth and among white evangelicals seventh place, well below gas prices and health care. Now, it’s true that most evangelicals still believe that abortion should be illegal, which is where they differ from the general public and, astonishingly, from Roman Catholics even though their own church continues to fight valiantly against the ongoing mass destruction of unborn life. Still, 54 percent of Catholics and 60 percent of young Catholics have declared themselves “pro choice,” according to the Faith in Life researchers.

What I am going to say next is going to make me many enemies, of this I am sure: Yes, there is a parallel between what has happened in Germany in 1933 and what is happening in America now. The legalized murder of 40 million fetuses since Roe v. Wade in 1973 will one day cause collective shame of huge proportions. So what if this wasn’t a “holocaust?” This term should remain reserved for another horror in history. But a genocide has been happening in the last 35 years, even if no liberators have shocked the world with photographs they snapped of the victims as the Allies did in Germany in 1945. And it has the open support of politicians running for office next month.

If most Americans, and shockingly even a majority of Catholics, think physicians should have the “right” to suck babies’ brains out so that their skulls will collapse making it easy for these abortionists to drag their tiny bodies through the birth canal; if even most white evangelicals think that economic woes are a more important concern (78 percent) than legalized mass murder (57 percent), then surely a moral lobotomy has been performed on this society.

I agree it would be unscholarly to claim that what is happening in America and much of the Western world every day is “another holocaust.” No two historical events are exactly identical. So let’s leave the word “holocaust” where it belongs – next to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Mauthausen. Still there are compelling parallels between today’s genocide and the Nazi crimes, for example:

1. Man presumes to decide which lives are worthy of living and which are not. “Lebensunwertes Leben” (life unworthy of living) was a Nazi “excuse” for killing mentally handicapped children and adults, a crime that preceded the holocaust committed against the Jews. Notice that today fetuses diagnosed with Downs Syndrome are often aborted as a matter of course in America and Europe.

2. In German-occupied territories, Jews and Gypsies were gassed for no other reason than that some people considered it inconvenient to have them around. Today, unborn children are often slaughtered because it is inconvenient for their mothers to bring their pregnancies to term.

3. Murder I is legally defined as killing another human being with malice and aforethought. The Nazis killed Jewish and Gypsies with deliberation – and maliciously. But what are we to think of babies being killed deliberately simply because they would be a nuisance if they were allowed to live? No malice here?

4. Ordinary Germans of the Nazi era were rightly chastised for not having come to their Jewish neighbors’ rescue when they were rounded up and sent to extermination camps. Ordinary Americans and Western Europeans might find the fad to kill babies disagreeable, but as we see from the Faith in Life poll, most have more pressing concerns.

Some future day Americans and Western Europeans will be asked why they allowed their children to be slaughtered. They would even have less of an excuse than Germans of my grandparents’ and parents’ generation. In Germany, you risked your life if you dared to come to the Jews’ rescue. In today’s democracies the worst that can happen to you is being ridiculed for being “a Christian.”

As a foreigner I have no right to tell Americans whom to elect on Nov. 4. Recently, though, a friend asked me: “If you worked in an office and a colleague asked you at the voter cooler, whom he should vote for what would you tell him?” Well, I would say: “I am not here to make up your mind for you. But personally I could never give my vote to so-called pro-choice candidates.”

This would doubtless lead to a heated postmodern dialogue. Perhaps the colleague is not a Christian; he might chastise me for mixing politics and religion. “If you as a Christian oppose abortion,” he could say, “then by all means don’t get involved in an abortion, just don’t impose your religious views on the rest of us.” How would I answer that? An evangelical might yank out his Bible and quote passages pertaining to this issue. But to a non-Christian the Bible is meaningless; I am not sure a political debate around the water cooler is a great venue to start individual evangelization.

My Lutheran approach would be different. I would argue natural law, the law God has written upon the hearts of all human beings, including non-believers. Unless they really have undergone a moral lobotomy they should be open to this story: Down in Wichita, Kansas, there is a physician by the name of George Tiller. On his website he boasts that he has already performed 60,000 abortions, mostly late-term, and week after week he is killing 100 more unborn babies.

Dr. Tiller does not think of these fetuses as clusters of cancerous cells. He knows they are human because he baptizes some of them before he incinerates them in his own crematorium. You don’t baptize non-humans. Dr. Tiller knows that. He is a practicing Lutheran. His former congregation, Holy Cross of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, excommunicated him as an unrepentant sinner. But the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, which belongs to the ELCA, communes him. Did I mention that he kills 100 human beings every week and has already done away with 60.000? Sixty thousand! In Nuremberg they hanged some fiends for murdering less than 60 -- zero point one percent of Tiller’s toll.

Perhaps this little tale will give even non-believers pause if they have not discarded their conscience, known to Christians as the law God has written upon every man’s heart. One day, of this I am certain, this will indeed result in collective shame – and God knows what other horrible consequences.

You may find this in its original location at Concordia Seminary: Institute on Lay Vocation.

Infanticide Supported in the US

Abortion is a gut-wrenching abomination to God. Infanticide is the next step, and it has begun its journey to acceptability. Senator Obama voted on a bill in the Illinois State Senate to not save the lives of infants born during failed abortions. In other words, if an abortion was attempted and the baby came out completely, this bill would deny life saving measures for the infant. A baby that could live, is thus sentenced to death.

The National Right to Life PAC has the following video on YouTube.

Obama’s first priority: abortion on demand

“The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.”
– Senator Barack Obama, speaking to
the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007.

Thanks to Pastor Christopher Esget of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School, Alexandria, Virginia, for publishing this quote on his blog, Esgetology.

Can You Be Pro-Life and Vote for Obama?

The Rev. Christopher Esget of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School in Alexandria, VA wrote this yesterday. You can see it in its original context at Esgetology.

On this question, some have decided “yes.” I cannot disagree more. I do not endorse the Republican candidate; I honestly have not decided for whom I will vote tomorrow. But I know it will not, cannot, must not be for Sen. Obama, nor for any candidate for any federal or state legislative or executive office who supports abortion. I believe that makes one complicit in the act of murder.

A recent article by Randy Alcorn addressed this topic better than I have. Here are some excerpts:

So, is the candidate’s stand on the issue of shedding innocent blood important enough to disqualify him as a candidate? Yes. While a single issue can’t qualify a candidate, it can disqualify him. In my opinion, this issue clearly disqualifies Barack Obama, just as it disqualified Republican Rudy Giuliani.

I don’t think someone is a good candidate just because he is prolife. But he cannot be a good candidate unless he is prolife. Personally, if he is committed to legalized child-killing, as a matter of conscience I must vote against him….

If neither candidate were committed to the legalized killing of people, any people, then I would say, by all means weigh and measure those other important issues and make your choice. But can you seriously argue that these other issues trump the killing of millions of innocent children, not just now, but in the decades to come under a proabortion Supreme Court that could have been a prolife Supreme Court?

Don’t you believe that though there were other issues in Nazi Germany besides the killing of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled, that all those other issues were trumped by that one? If Lincoln’s platform involved ending slavery yet you agreed with Douglas (who wanted slavery to remain legal) in lots of other areas, would you feel right voting for Douglas, knowing you were voting for slavery?

So I say OF COURSE THERE ARE OTHER ISSUES. I don’t minimize them. All I can say is the differences between the candidates on those issues don’t stack up, even cumulatively, to the legalized killing of human beings. It’s a matter of relative importance, not just a number of issues. A man who is a good husband in most respects, but who beats his wife, is not a good husband. That issue outweighs all the others.

You can read the entire article here. I don’t agree with his perspective that there are only two candidates in this race. While there are two major parties, I think a person should be free and willing to vote his conscience, and not simply do what is “pragmatic.” There are no wasted votes. But there are immoral ones.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pondering Hearts

Reading Luke 2:15-19, 46-51 ESV

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?" And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.


From the earliest times, our Lord’s mother has often been understood as a picture of the Church. Why? Because she is so good and holy? Because she is immaculate? No.

Because she hears the Word and responds in faith. God gives her the faith to receive His Word. It’s the pattern of the Divine Service. The Lord gives His Gifts. We respond with thanks and praise. The Word enfleshed is given to the Blessed Virgin, and she receives Him, pondering and treasuring Him.

Again, is Mary pondering because she has some immaculate, sinless heart? Does she have the power and virtue to do this? As Professor Froehlich, my beloved Greek professor from River Forest, would say, [me genoita]! By no means! Not at all! No way!

Mary receives what is given her to receive. She ponders what is given her to ponder. She treasures what is given her to treasure. The Spirit of the Lord has delivered Christ to her and brings about the pondering and treasuring.

Likewise, the Spirit delivers Christ to us, and brings about the pondering and treasuring of the Word made flesh.

As the Church, following the example of the Virgin Mother, treasures the Word in her heart, we are in union with each other and that Word made flesh. Our hearts are one in Christ, as He blesses and preserves us in that wondrous cycle of hearing His Word and responding in thanks.

God’s own child, I gladly say it. Why? I am baptized into Christ. Baptized into Christ, you are united with Him. As each one here is united with Him, each is united with the other. We are of one heart.

As His baptized people, where do we find God’s Love, the Word made flesh? He is there in a manger. And Mary pondered all of this in her heart.

Later, where do we find Jesus? Going about His Father’s business – proclaiming and teaching the Gospel in the House of the Lord. Again, the Blessed Virgin ponders all this in her heart.

The Word travels from water to body, from ear to heart, working, creating and sustaining faith. And now, you baptized people of God, you continue to hear this Word, pondering it in your heart.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Conference Devotions

I was asked by President May's office to deliver three devotions for the Indiana District conference this week. On the 28th of October, the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, I spoke the following:

Jeremiah 26:1-16

The Large Catechism -- Third Commandment ¶ 100-102 McCain

Let me tell you this, even though you know God’s Word perfectly and are already a master of all things: you are daily in the devil’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14.) He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments and all the commandments. Therefore, you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware (Matthew 13:24-30.)

On the other hand, the Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit (Isaiah 55:11; Mark 4:20.) It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts (Philippians 4:8.) For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words (Hebrews 4:12.)

And even though no other interest or necessity moves us, this truth ought to urge everyone to the Word, because thereby the devil is put to flight and driven away (James 4:7.)


How can you add to the good Doctor? Yes, indeed. We are in the devil’s kingdom. Even though not of the world, we are in it. The devil is constantly enticing our flocks, our families, our very selves. He seeks every opportunity to place a wedge between us and Christ’s Word.

But who is to blame about that wedge? Satan alone? As we look closely, we see that we cannot lay the blame entirely at the feet of culture. For the aspects of culture that are against God, yes, it deserves blame. And then there are the times when we are like Adam, blaming his wife, and the God who created her, rather than acknowledging his own guilt. We cannot say, “It was this culture, that You gave to me, that caused me to sin.”

Today we remember and give thanks for two of the lesser known apostles – Simon (not Peter) and Jude, or Judas (not Iscariot.) The Holy Spirit placed them in the context to which Dr. Luther refers. In the midst of the devil’s kingdom, where the Word is despised, the Lord sent these two to preach and teach and baptize.

On this day, we give thanks to God that He calls us to join Simon and Jude at the wheel of the tractor. And as we run over those posts and scare those cows, we are reminded that our place of residence is in the devil’s kingdom.

The heart of Christ, out of great compassion, had mercy on the apostles, even as He has on us today. He rescues us from His old evil foe’s kingdom, and carries us into His own. He sends His Spirit to call us by the Gospel, into His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, gather us through Baptism, enlighten us through His preaching and teaching, and sanctify us through His Holy Supper.

Through it all, Christ, transcends all culture, enters our lives, and binds us with one heart – His very own.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Today Ben and I went to the Y with other Webelos Scouts to work on their badge for swimming, also known as "Aquanaut." They learned swimming safety, rescue methods, and practiced various strokes and floating.

All of the boys did a fine job, tried their best, and were very well-mannered.

Congratulations, Ben!

Monday, October 20, 2008

ESV Study Bible: WAIT for The Lutheran Study Bible

Avoid the confusion. Paul McCain of CPH has posted a clear and striking review of Crossway's ESV Study Bible. It is quite Reformed, and not useful or beneficial for Lutherans. A lack of Law/Gospel understanding, and complete denial of God's saving work through His Sacraments is evident. Even OT passages that are clearly speaking Christologically (on the Person and work of Christ) are left "blurry" and "gray."

On the other hand, CPH is wrapping up a project of historic proportions: The Lutheran Study Bible. It is ESV, but every note and help is completely Lutheran in its origin -- nothing borrowed from other sources, as we have done in past "study Bibles."

Save your money for now. The Lutheran Study Bible will be released in about a year, October 2009!

To read the entire article, go to:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scout Hike

This morning, Ben had his first Scout hike. We went to Wyandotte Woods, in the local state park, for a three-mile hike. It was a fun morning. The first half was pretty much uphill. Then we turned around and returned on the same path. It was a horse riding trail, so we had to watch where we stepped, if you know what I mean!

It was a beautiful October morning for a hike. In the 50's to 60's and sunny. We began hiking at 9 and finished at 11. Not bad for a bunch of ten-year-olds on their first hike!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Saint Luke: The Beloved Physician Serves the Great Physician

Many people don’t enjoy doctor visits. Some even avoid them. In spite of that, the time spent in hearing the doctor’s advice and receiving his treatment can be soothing, healing, and even life-saving.

October 18 is our annual appointment with Dr. Luke. Today is a day that the Church remembers Saint Luke the Evangelist. But why? What good is it to give any thought to this person from history? Pastor Stuckwisch has a Higher Homily that will soon preach this in even more detail, but today we have some thoughts to ponder.

We don’t know a great deal about him, but through the Apostle Paul we gather some information about this human author of the third Gospel. He teamed up with Paul for missions within the modern borders of Turkey and Greece. He also remained with Paul during his final days in Rome, even when others had gone their various ways: Luke alone is with me.” (2 Tim. 4:11)

In Colossians 4, Saint Paul refers to him as “Luke the beloved physician. Yet this beloved doctor had a far more lasting impact than touching lives through medicine. The Lord used Luke to proclaim His Gospel. Luke tells us in his first chapter that he gathered information to record the story of our Lord’s life and work.

Luke, led by the Holy Spirit, crafted a literary masterpiece. His skill with vocabulary and grammar, explaining Jewish customs to Gentile hearers, and general eloquence have served the Church in every age well, preaching Christ incarnate, crucified, and risen for you!

Having completed the Gospel according to Luke, the Beloved Physician continued the story with its continuation. We know it as the Acts of the Apostles. He knew it as a second volume of the Gospel, the life and ministry of our Ascended Lord!

What good is it to give any thought to this person in history? No good if we are simply attempting to consider Luke’s personal accomplishments. In the end, it has no effect on salvation whether he painted the first icon of the Christ Child with the Virgin Mary, or whether he actually “interviewed” the Blessed Virgin to provide information for his book. It doesn’t matter how great of a doctor he was or what his bedside manner was like. The people healed or medicines used are not significant to people of all times and places. But there is a significant thought!

The true reason about today is not to dwell on the “Beloved Physician,” but to receive healing from the Great Physician! Our Lord Jesus is the Author and Giver of Life, who also brings true and lasting healing through His Gospel and Sacraments. He anoints our wounds with the “oil” of His Baptism and pours out the “wine” of His Blood, soothing, nurturing, and restoring our health of body and soul.

The Great Physician used the Beloved Physician to present His Gospel to Gentile converts. Jesus gathered (and continues to gather) even more people to be strengthened and made whole through the forgiving Gospel message preached by Luke. Christ uses the voice of this dynamic doctor to proclaim release from sin, death, and the devil in every time and place. Our Lord Jesus continues to use Luke’s “orderly account” so “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4 ESV)

Yes, today we give thanks to God for the appointments He gives us with Dr. Luke. Our Great Physician still uses him to give you certainty concerning the things you have been taught!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Disney Dreaming

Less than two months until we go on our incredible-deal-of-a-vacation! Last time, Ben got to fight Darth Vader outside Star Tours, as part of the Jedi Training Academy. What fun!

This time around, we will devote a full day to Disney Studios and a full day to Epcot. (Something we haven't done since our honeymoon.)

Each day we continue to marvel about the great deal that we got via email. I guess we are valued customers...er...um... "guests!"

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jesus: The Biggest Loser

A few seasons ago, before watching, I thought it was a mean, voyeuristic concept of a show. Put a bunch of overweight people on a ranch, make them work hard, and vote them off if they did not work hard enough.

Yet when I actually watched the program, I came to see it as much more. Even when the trainers are hard on their contestants, they are pushing them to excel and teaching them to cope with food, exercise, and life in general. When competitors are voted off, many others cry, as they actually become friends and support each other.

Of course, as I sit on the couch, eating a brownie and sipping Starbucks, I don’t think I’m complying with the choices that the show encourages – at least not all the time. On the other hand, the previous week my wife and I went outside and ran the hill of our driveway a couple times when the show was over.

As Pastor Borghardt and the entire HT staff would say, “Ah! The freedom of the Gospel!” Both the brownie and Starbucks, and the exercise are gifts from the Lord; and there is a time and a place for each.

On Biggest Loser, we see people taught good nutrition choices, great exercise in and out of the gym, and simply living a healthier lifestyle. The show is not about mocking large people. It is not about pitying them either. Biggest Loser is about teaching and encouraging viewers to live healthier lives, becoming Big Losers themselves.

When you think about it, Jesus is the Biggest Loser. Saint Paul directs us to “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5b-8 ESV) Jesus humbled Himself to lose it all for you.

On the show, the one who ends up losing the most weight (unless unfairly voted off) becomes the “Biggest Loser.” Yet in Jesus’ case, He made a major adjustment to this concept.

First, Christ released you from the weight of your sin. As He was baptized in the Jordan, He soaked up the oppressive load of your trespasses. You became “lighter,” as His “weight” increased. It would seem that He was actually being defeated in this contest!

Then Jesus, under the burden of the whole world’s sin, suffered and died. But wait! At the moment of His death, the weight was removed. The pounds of punishment – the tons of trespasses – all gone for good. Jesus indeed became the Biggest Loser!

But in a bizarre twist, Jesus decided not to remain simply the “Biggest Loser,” but to be the Biggest Loser FOR YOU! The Winner, the Champion hands out His delivery through His Holy Gifts, one of which (irony of ironies) is through eating!

Yes, the creators of the show Biggest Loser might be perplexed, but the Lord shares His victory and new life with you as He feeds you! And kneeling at the Lord’s Table, longing for the Holy Food and Drink He gives there, is one food addiction that is to be praised and encouraged!

Jesus became the Biggest Loser that you too might be Big Losers – losing the control that sin, death, and the devil have in your lives. You lose the burden of constantly being accused by the devil. You lose the hopelessness and despair that come from our failures in this world. You lose the weight of Old Adam, as Christ, the Biggest Loser, feeds you His victorious Body and Blood! Congratulations! Jesus has made you a bunch of Losers!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wittenberg Trail

If you haven't checked out The Wittenberg Trail in a while, you might want to visit. On the front page, before looking at any one person's "member" pages, there's a slide show of really cool photos from our parishes, pastors & people!

Find more photos like this on The Wittenberg Trail

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tribute to Tremendous Treasure

The life of prayer is not always easy to maintain. When we do try to keep the discipline of a structured prayer life, we often find ourselves needing a Bible, a hymnal, a catechism, and perhaps some books by modern Christian laymen or pastors. It can get rather overwhelming.

Here at Saint John’s, the “Parish at Prayer” is one tool to help with this. (This is modeled after Pastor Peter Bender's "Congregation at Prayer.") Yet, even with the catechism portion and a hymn verse printed, it still requires at least a Bible for the readings and psalms.

After much careful study and preparation, committee members of the Lutheran Hymnal Project that brought us Lutheran Service Book have prepared Treasury of Daily Prayer. Nothing like this has ever been published, at least in the English-speaking world of Lutheranism.

In a single volume, just slightly larger than copies of LSB, the entire year of prayer is laid out. All 150 psalms are printed. Every day has a passage from a psalm, an Old Testament and a New Testament reading, a writing from a saint, “church father,” or more recent Lutheran are printed in their entirety. A latter section of the book has the orders of Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline (prayer for the close of the day.)

The only thing that will require a second book is if the reader wants to follow the recommended readings from the Concordia (The Lutheran Confessions), which I do. Everything else is contained between the covers of this noteworthy book.

We gather frequently in the Lord’s House to be fed His Holy Word and Blessed Sacrament. Our daily prayer between these Divine Services provides another opportunity to be fed His Word, and then through prayer, to exercise this gift of faith. During this time of daily Prayer, as He speaks His Word, we are reminded of the sure and certain promises from the most recent Divine Service, and at the same time prepared for the next reception of His Gifts!

There currently is an online sample that I have been using in my daily devotions. Concordia Publishing House hopes that this will introduce a number of pastors and laity to this great resource, whetting their appetites and spreading the word. It has done just that for me! The Lord is feeding me with this true Treasure, and I cannot wait to get a full copy! I will be pre-ordering soon, so that I can have the book itself as soon as it is “hot off the presses.”

Concordia Publishing House will release this Treasury later in October. You can pre-order a copy at CPH.org, or 800-325-3040.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who "Inspires" You?

I just saw this "meme" on another blog. It's interesting to stop and ponder.

What five people - past or present - inspire your spiritual life??


OK, we know that our Lord Himself has to be at the top of the list, so He is assumed. Your five simply follow Him. In Lutheran circles, we will also presume "Father Martin of Wittenberg" as well. :-)

So the five would be additional people who (humanly speaking) have greatly impacted your life of faith and love on this earth.

Here are mine, in alphabetical order:

Pastor Peter Bender
a hero with the heart of a catechist, who encourages others to have the same.
Dr. Ron Feuerhahn
the ultimate example of Churchman, gentleman & scholar; one of the most pastoral men I have ever met.
Bishop Walter Obare
this Lutheran Bishop of Kenya has lovingly and fearlessly stood up for what is right in doctrine and practice.
Dr. Rick Stuckwisch
for proving that a gentle, humble spirit, together with steadfast orthodox doctrine and catholic practice can truly advance the cause of authentic Evangelical-Lutheranism!
Pastor William Weedon
for the encouragement of being well-rounded, well-read, and actively engaging in the life of prayer to which we are called.

Now, I tag Pastor Weedon, the good Dr. Stuckwisch, Pastor David Juhl, Jonathan Kohlmeier, and my dear wife Kristi. :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Remembering Elijah

And behold, the word of the LORD came to [Elijah], and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." 11And he said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." 15And the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 the sword of HazaelAnd the one who escapes from shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:9b-18 ESV)

Even some of the LORD's greatest prophets felt overwhelmed and depressed, and could not always see God's wisdom in sending or permitting hardships and trials. Just when Elijah felt that he alone was left as a faithful believer in Israel, the LORD assured him of 7,000 others. He was not alone. (And even if he had been the last man, with the LORD no fear or dread needed to exist.)

At times, we all need reassurance that we are not alone in standing up for what is right. We all need to be reminded that Jesus calls us "blessed" when we are persecuted for righteousness' sake. We all need reminded of those 7,000 others whom the Lord has called to faith and gathers around His Holy Gifts.

...Yes. Even pastors need reminders such as these.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Don't Like Ike

"Auntie Em! Auntie Em! It's a hurricane -- and it's in Indiana!

Yes, on Sunday afternoon, Ike paid a visit to the Ohio River Valley. By this point, he was reduced to category one winds -- 70-80 m.p.h., which lasted from about noon to 3 p.m.

We fared pretty well. The Lord protected us and our house, as both large maples in our front yard fell to their demise. But we joined over 500,000 people in the area who were left without electricity. At first we had no idea how widespread the power outage was, but after several hours of it not returning, we turned on the battery-powered radio. We then realized we would not have electricity before nightfall.

Around 8 p.m. we picked up Kristi's mom and went to Walmart. We got a new tank for our gas grill, so we could cook. (Our stove, along with all appliances in our home, is electric.) We also picked up a few sundry items. "C" and "D" batteries were sold out!

The Lord blessed us with mild weather. It has been in the 70's through the day, and 50's-60's at night. We have spent two evenings by candle light, listening to the radio, and being forced to slow down. All in all, not bad.

Our biggest concern has been our full freezers. Last night (Monday), our trustees came over and ran a generator for a while on the deep freeze. Today they came back for an hour. This afternoon, another member whose power had come back on loaned us hers.

After Tuesday dinner and a round of "Hand and Foot" (cards), we returned home to find that we once again were members of the 21st century! After feeling like "Little House in Lanesville" ala Laura Ingalls Wilder, it feels good.

A little power outage is fine from time to time, reminding us of priorities. But after 48 hours, it is nice tonight to return to conveniences!