A myHT Fortress

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