A myHT Fortress

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jesus, Don't You Care?

Yes, this is last Sunday's homily. Enjoy it anyway! :-)

Mark 4:35-41

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

The car drives along the vacation route, and dad is wanting to make up for lost time. It is now two hours past the scheduled time to stop and have lunch. Voices rise from the back seat. “Dad, we’re starving!” “I’m hungry!” “We’re gonna die from not eating!” And with that is the implied: “Dad! Don’t you care that we are starving to death?!”

This morning’s Gospel presents a more serious moment than grumbling children in the back of the mini-van. A violent storm had arisen on the Sea of Galilee, and it quite easily could have sent the Twelve to a watery grave.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus, don’t you care that we are dying? Harsh words from the disciples. Here are the Twelve, accusing Jesus of apathy and a lack of love and compassion. The disciples are frantic, absolutely positive that this is it – they are in their final moments and will certainly drown. So sure that they will die that they don’t even say, “Do you not care that we are going to perish?” No. They say: “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Don’t you care, Jesus? Why are you letting us die?

How dare they? Such harsh and crass unbelief! We are reminded of Adam, who when confronted by God, not only blames Eve, but also the Lord GOD for even giving him his wife. GOD is the one at fault! He gave the woman to Adam!

What nerve! Adam was pretty bold, and wrong, for blaming God, we say. Yet you and I do the same. We push blame away from ourselves, and pass the buck to others around us, and even to God.

God, don’t You care that I have cancer? God, don’t You care my company is downsizing and I might lose my job? God, don’t You care that this woman lost her baby? God, don’t You care that my car was totaled in the accident? Far more often than we realize, we lay the blame at the feet of the Lord. Just because something isn’t going our way, even if it is something harmful or hurtful, we slip into saying, “It must have been God’s will.” Like rebellious and disrespectful children, we are blaming the Lord for whatever it is.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” we might say, as we worry and stress about the shrinking number of people in the Divine Service. (Never mind the growing number who now worship from the other side of the altar, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven—a growing number that we can rejoice in, having ushered those saints home.) We sit back in our same comfortable pew with our same comfortable people that we speak to, not realizing how many others may perceive us an unfriendly and uncaring. And while several people do go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming, the majority of us remain securely in our cliques, and assume that the problem lies with God and the teachers and pastors He has sent here.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you see the irony in that question? It is precisely because we are perishing that Jesus Christ took on human flesh and came for us! It is because Adam and Eve ate of that fruit and plunged us into a dying existence that the Lord became incarnate and bore our sin to be our Savior. Jesus is fully aware of our depravity and completely ferries us from death to life.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Stop and ponder for a moment: the disciples are crying out to Jesus, thinking all is lost. They are praying to the Lord, yet not believing He can fix it. They are trapped in unbelief! These baptized and believing disciples are now falling into unbelief!

You and I can too. The Bible teaches quite clearly that we can lapse into unbelief, and that we will…daily! So what do we do?

We cannot do a thing! But our Lord Christ has awakened from the sleep of death, risen from the stern of His tomb, and now declares His Word. He speaks, and creation responds. The Word of God goes forth and does what it says, bringing life to the perishing!

Did you catch that? The disciples are praying, but not really thinking that Jesus can or will save them. But He does anyway. He does not let them die. He does not leave them to waste away in unbelief and sink to the bottom of the sea. He has compassion and rescues them!

In much the same way, He answers our prayers. Even prayers spoken in unbelief. Yes, He turns a deaf ear to those who have rejected Christ. But this is different! Jesus knows we are constantly under assault from the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. To those who are in Christ, yet having a time of doubt or fear, a time of worry or depression, our dear Lord opens His ears and heart. And He saves them! And He saves you and me.

Prayers are not more worthy of Jesus if spoken in supposedly stronger faith. God did not hear Abraham or Moses or Saint Paul more clearly or more favorably simply because they were more faithful. He hears each of us, and acts on those prayers.

“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus asked His disciples after He rescued them. Notice that He answered the prayer spoken in unbelief, and then chides them. Like a disappointed father, it hurt that they did not have a better grasp of who He is and what He can do; but He saved them anyway, because they were His children.

Are you assaulted by the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh? Of course you are. Do you have doubts, fears, and anxieties? Yes, you do. So will Jesus hear your prayers if they are tempered with these flaws? Yes, He will! Our precious Savior receives your prayers and makes them His own, perfectly presenting your every need to the Heavenly Father. In spite of any unbelieving moments or selfish thoughts or despairing doubts, our loving Lord hears you and gives you every good gift you need, that you may be His and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

John and Kate Plus HT

An excellent overview of last night's episode of John & Kate Plus Eight is over at Higher Things! How sad that people can be deceived into thinking that despising God's holy gift of marriage can be "best for the kids."

Check it out!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let Us Pray

I have received a Divine Call to serve as Pastor for Saint John's Lutheran Church & School in Chicago, Illinois. Saint John's is on the north side, near the intersection of Cicero Ave. & Montrose Ave. There are over 1,000 baptized members, with 250 regular attendees.

There is much to ponder in the coming days, trying to see where God can use my gifts best, and where He would have me serve in my vocations as pastor, husband and father.

We ask you to join us in prayer, for the building of His kingdom and the giving of His Gifts.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

So You Think You Can Hummingbird?

We love watching So You Think You Can Dance. The show has some pretty off-the-wall numbers at times, but then there are some that are absolutely stunning!

One piece that seemed bizarre as we began watching it, yet drew us into it as it unfolded, was a selection called "The Hummingbird and the Flower," using instrumental music from "Memoirs of a Geisha." This was performed two seasons ago, I believe, and it still sticks in the memory.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Last month, we drove to Terre Haute for the day to celebrate with Brooklyn. She was Ben's first babysitter, and became very dear to our family. When he was first talking, he called her "Br'yn," which later developed into "Brook'n."

Brooklyn just graduated from Indiana State with a degree in business, and is busy planning her wedding for next spring. What a joy it is to "adopt" people like Brooklyn into your family, and also be "adopted" into theirs!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Grand Tea

As you might have caught in the previous post, I have been looking through some pictures in my computer tonight. Here are a few from five years ago, combining two of our favorite things: tea and Walt Disney World.

In 2004 we organized a group from St. John's and went on a bus trip to Disney. It was an incredibly fun week!

One of the things we try to do on each trip to the "Happiest Place on Earth" is to take tea at the Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian. This tradition began on our honeymoon, when we were able to simply walk up and be seated. (Normally, one must make reservations far in advance. We did not make them far enough in advance for our December 2008 trip, and were saddened to miss out on a "Christmas" tea.

On this trip in 2004, Ruth and Davie joined us. This was also the first time that Ben experienced tea at the Grand (although he had gone with us to the Drake and the Ritz in Chicago.)

Tea at the Grand is delightful! We had the traditional courses of savories, scones, and sweets. Also a delight is that it is all served on Royal Albert china -- the Old Country Roses pattern, which is our china pattern.

As at the hotels in Chicago, Ben had hot chocolate in his tea cup, and peanut butter & jelly s
andwiches. That made him happy.

Of course, as delightful as it is at the Grand, and as amazing as afternoon tea at the Drake Hotel is, I have to say that a Kristi Heinz tea still tops them all!

Confirmed Strike

Kristi and I used to bowl more regularly. Our first parish had a league, in which none of us took ourselves too seriously. We had a lot of fun!

We also have a tradition of getting together with my family to celebrate the kids' birthdays. Within a month's time, Ben, Emily, and Jake all have their birthdays. This year, we went to Peoria for the get-together.

During our weekend to celebrate our niece Emily's confirmation, we spent time celebrating their birthdays by going bowling. We had a lot of fun, and every time someone threw a strike, we took their picture.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Up: Searching for Adventure

This weekend, my family saw Up, the latest Disney/Pixar film. Once again, the great minds (and computers) at Pixar have proven that they cannot produce a bad or even mediochre film...every Disney/Pixar is a great film!

Up presents Carl Fredricksen, a man who grew up dreaming of adventure with his childhood sweetheart. They did grow up and get married, and had a lovely, normal life, never reaching their South American adventure. We see a montage of scenes from across the years, "filling us in," until we see him widowed and his quaint Victorian surrounded by construction.

Along the way we meet Russell, a "Wilderness Explorer" -- (read "Boy Scout.") Russell happens to be at the house when Carl unleashes thousands of helium balloons to carry his house far from the depressing overhaul of his neighborhood.

The house floats to Paradise Falls, in South America, where Carl and his beloved Ellie had always dreamed of going. Yet through it all, Carl (who has been a gruff recluse) learns from Russell that sometimes the best and favorite memories are the ordinary ones, not exciting adventures.

Russell could teach people about the Holy Liturgy too. Far too often we have people yearning for something new and exciting. "If we only had this pop song style, or that multi-media equipment, we'd really pack in the young people!" some say.

Hmm....listen to Russell. The best aspect of the Liturgy is that it does not change on you. You can count on it. Yes, hymns, readings, and prayers may change, but certain items are the same week in and week out. That is a GOOD thing. Stability. Reliability. While the world changes around you and things can become chaotic, the Divine Service will be your sure and certain friend through it all.

The best worship experiences are not chasing after moments of excitment, searching desperately for mountain top experiences. The best moments of worship are ordinary. Or rather, the best moments of worship are when we recognize just how amazing and extraordinary it is for our Almighty and Eternal God-in-the-flesh comes to us in His Gifts and forgives us...which He does through ordinary elements of bread, wine, water, and Word!

Up is a touching film, which I highly recommend. It also has some beautiful, if not subtle, applications to our lives.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does Your Church "Look Like a Church?"

Thanks again to Pastor McCain for bringing something to my attention. Here is the link to an article about church architecture and symbolism from Christianity Today.

Guess what?! Your typical "seeker" is NOT looking for a church that looks like Starbuck's or a shopping mall lobby; they are seeking a church that looks like a church!

Check it out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Top Ten Reasons You Will Love The Lutheran Study Bible

by Pastor Paul McCain
(Yes, I realize that there are more than 10, but I am leaving it exactly as Pr. McCain posted it on Facebook!) :-)

10. The Lutheran Study Bible’s hardback edition is burgundy, a beautiful color, with a Luther Rose stamped on the front cover. Big “wow” factor. Need we say more?

9. The Lutheran Study Bible is available in a larger print edition, as well as a regular print edition. Not that our eyes are getting older, type is just getting smaller.

8. The Lutheran Study Bible has better cross-references than any other study Bible available today, carefully prepared and supplemented with historic Lutheran cross-references and notes dating back to the Luther Bible of 1534. It is chock-full of historic Lutheran goodness.

9. The Lutheran Study Bible has thirty-six custom-designed maps, which are linked to from over 880 references throughout the Bible, more map references than any other Bible. Especially helpful for some of us who refuse to stop and ask for directions.

8. The Lutheran Study Bible has over 31,000 concordance entries, helping you locate important topics and issues throughout the Bible. If you check one reference a day, the fun won’t end for 84 years!

7. The Lutheran Study Bible has more notes than nearly any other study Bible available today: over 26,500, all researched, written and edited by faithful Lutheran Bible scholars, pastors and Bible teachers. This is most certainly true.

6. The Lutheran Study Bible has over 120 diagrams and charts, prepared exclusively for this Bible to highlight and underscore key concepts, terms, teachings, events and people in the Bible. We know you like pictures. We do too.

5. The Lutheran Study Bible has over 220 thematic articles offering discussions on a wide variety of topics, issues and concerns dealt with in the Bible. Faithfully Lutheran, practical and relevant: can’t beat that combination.

4. The Lutheran Study Bible contains an extensive introduction on how to read and understand the Bible, with reading plans, Luther’s Catechism, and all kinds of other helps. But wait, there’s more!

3. The Lutheran Study Bible contains many comments and insights from the entire history of the Christian Church: Early Church, Middle Ages, Reformation Era, contemporary theologians, drawing you into the rich conversation around God’s Word that has been going on for millennia. Pull up a chair, listen in and join the conversation.

2. The Lutheran Study Bible gives you practical helps and aids to strengthen your life of prayer and meditation on God’s Word with life-application notes and prayers throughout the Bible. A good study Bible does not have to read like stereo instructions.

1. The Lutheran Study Bible is the first, and only, study Bible in English prepared entirely from the ground-up by Lutherans, offering a uniquely keen focus on the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, shining a brilliant light on the heart and center of the Scriptures: Christ and Him crucified, risen and ascended for your salvation—its all about Jesus, in every way, for you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Star Trek

OK. I'm just back from the theater and my head is still reeling. Loved, loved, LOVED the film!

I first became a Trekker in high school. Got hooked with ST 2: The Wrath of Khan. Watched
all the films, and then became a die hard fan of The Next Generation. Still, the classic cast will always be dear to me. Especially Bones, for some reason.

This evening Kristi's boss and I went to see the film, since Kristi hates science fiction, and
since her boss did not have anyone that wanted to go either. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh, new take on the classic cast. First of all, the casting director should be given a handsome bonus! The actors were spot on, yet not slavishly impersonating the original actors. The hat tips to the original series and films were there too, without being corny.

I read a novel during college about Kirk's father being on board the first Starfleet vessel that had an experimental warp drive. While that story is transformed, I liked the new origin.

A wonderful film that has you leaving the theater wanting more and excited at the prospect of a new chapter in Star Trek films! Well done!