A myHT Fortress

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just For Fun: Ponda Baba has a Bad Day

OK, so you cannot endorse everything from Robot Chicken or "Adult Swim," but this is a hilarious clip!

Ponda Baba (known to many simply as "Walrus Man" is in Star Wars: Episode IV. Here is his side of the story!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just For Fun: Star Wars Jedi Church

Here is another funny clip. This is intended as playful (although there seriously are people out there claiming "Jedi" as their religion!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On a Lighter Note: Palpatine Looks for a Job

George, this one is for you!

Compline with Grandma

Last night I went to see my grandmother once more, before she departs this earth. Dorothy Heinz has lived a good, full, 87-year-long pilgrimage in this life. She has been ailing for some time, and has spent her recent months in the OSF St. Clare Home near Peoria.

She has had a number of strokes, and has not been too talkative -- especially now. While still having her full faculties, in spite of aspirating food/triggering pnemonia, she refused a feeding tube. Naturally, she has grown weaker.

I arrived at the nursing home around 10PM, but the nurse promptly unlocked the door when she saw my collar. I walked down the hall to Grandma's room.

She looked up when I told her it was me, and you could see the recognition in her expression. I chatted with her a little, but then came the important part of the visit.

I know a priest has already anointed her, but I did the same. St. James instructs us: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders [pastors/priests] of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:14-15 ESV)

Then, I prayed Compline with her. What is Compline? Compline is a prayer service, like Matins and Vespers, intended for bedtime. The order of Compline is intended to be a way for the Lord to guide us to "rest in peace" each night. In fact, it uses those very words. In a way, the Lord is showing us that we have nothing to fear in the darkness of night, and foreshadows the rest we will have in our tombs until He raises us.

Grandma attended Mass every week. I doubt she had prayed Compline often -- if at all. However, this was yet another connection for her to the Church catholic in all times and places. Christ gave her comfort by speaking His Word to her then, and we rejoice in that!

"The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last.
Stay with us Lord, for it is evening and the day is almost over."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hearts and Lips: A Homily on Mark 7:1-13

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

Wow! More hard words from Jesus! He lashes out at the scribes and Pharisees for honoring God with their lips, but their hearts are far from God.

And here we go – lining up as fast as we can to condemn the Pharisees. “Oh those nasty men! Why wouldn’t they listen to Jesus? They were so full of themselves and trusted their own works. They deserved to get a tongue-lashing from Christ!”

And so we sound like the well-meaning but misguided parishioner telling the pastor, “Good sermon, Pastor. That really told ‘em. That’s just what they needed to hear!” All the while our Lord compassionately shakes His head, knowing that every last one of us needs to see our sin in the mirror of the Law in order to receive His Gospel.

It is not just the Pharisees who have honored God with their lips, but had their hearts far from Him. You and I fall into that same trap. Before Baptism, that was a great summary of our whole lives. From the moment you were a single cell inside your mother, you existed in this sinful, flawed condition that keeps its distance from the Lord and His Word. Even though you might have kept the appearance of wanting to do good for the Lord, your heart was far from Him.

But our good and gracious Savior has worked forgiveness of sins, rescued from death and the devil, and given eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. He has redeemed you from all of that, and rejoices in making you children of the Heavenly Father.

We seem to have had a run on baptisms recently. What a joyous gift to our congregation! The Holy Spirit has been hard at work, rescuing many little ones from sin, death, and the devil. He has been entering their hearts where even now their little lips utter cries of faith! He has done the same with each of us, and will continue doing the same until Christ comes again.

Yes, we do slip up. Yes, we do fall back into moments of honoring God with [our] lips, but [our] hearts are far from Him. We show up and sit through church, but maybe we let our mind wander. Maybe we entertain other thoughts in our head: “What’s for lunch?” “Isn’t she wearing a cute dress!” “That baby is so precious!” “What time is it?” “Boy, I’m sure glad we didn’t tack on those extra ten minutes for Communion today!” Indeed. There we are honoring God with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him.

So here we are, knowing that we cannot do a thing to change the situation with our lips and hearts. We stand condemned as Christ declares: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19) With hearts like that, it’s a wonder that we can say anything with the lips that even sounds good.

At Holy Baptism, God worked through His Word and the water to purge out the evil and plunge in the Holy Spirit. He transformed you, using the ultimate in power-washings to cleanse your heart and place Christ there. In spite of Old Adam wanting to wallow in the filth of sin, our Lord Christ has claimed your heart and made you His.

The Holy Spirit comes to you week after week as you hear the Gospel preached. He gives you Jesus as the Word of God enters your ears! He gives you Jesus as you kneel at this altar and taste and see that the Lord is good. And as He gives you Jesus, He forgives, renews, and builds up the faith He places in your hearts. He is the One who gives you to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,” so “you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

We have a great joy and privilege here at St. John’s. Christian families are given a great gift in rearing their children in the faith. “St. John’s Lutheran School exists to help families pass their faith in the Lord Jesus to their children through a Christ-centered educational program and to help children fully develop their God-given gifts.” With the blessing of a parochial school, Jesus Christ daily builds upon what the children hear on Sunday. He constantly is making His home in their hearts, and the Spirit is giving them the words to say, confessing their faith.

This morning we celebrate, thanking God for the gift of those whom God has placed here to ensure that this keeps happening. We rejoice in the Lord that He has called and placed Nancy Bowman as our 7th grade teacher, and that He has assembled a great team of principal, pastor, teachers, and support staff to serve Christ’s kingdom. These individuals work together for Christ our Master Teacher, tending to His children and youth, that they may know the Lord who dwells in their hearts, and that they may confess with their lips the faith He gives.

Our loving Lord continues to bless St. John’s with a loving family in Christ that nurture our youth to speak their faith and live out their love – truly living “in faith toward [God] and in fervent love toward one another.”

Today we thank God for the great opportunity He places among us – the mission of this parochial school, where He proclaims His Law and Gospel 5 days a week to His young ones, continuing what He works each week among us in the Divine Service. This joyous mission is a fabulous cause, in which Jesus is constantly bidding His Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify our students, families, and staff. Praise God for this gift!

Of course, we also thank the Lord that He leads us to confess with our lips at home as well. That is what the “Parish at Prayer” bulletin insert is all about. This is given to be a helpful tool in your home devotional life. On this page, a common Bible verse and Catechism passage are provided for the entire parish. Everyone from school families to church families, from senior citizens to college singles may all refer to this with their daily prayers. And as we all continue through this earthly life, we continue to learn His Word by heart and reinforce the catechesis we have received.

Today Jesus forgives you through the Gospel you are hearing! He renews you as He absolves your sin! He continues to send His Spirit that He may dwell in your heart, that it may not be far, but rather close to God, and indeed honor Him with your lips! Yes, it’s a miracle – God keeps His Word holy in your minds, on your lips, and in your hearts! Amen!

Friday, August 21, 2009

HT Radio -- Matins

Here is my latest "appearance" on Higher Things Radio. In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk with Pastor Borghardt about Matins.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Hush, Jesus!?

A Homily on John 6:51-69

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Hush, Jesus! You don’t realize what You are saying! Hush, Jesus! That is gross – it’s cannibalism! Hush, Jesus! People are thinking You are crazy…You’re going to drive most of the congregation away!

Funny how we turn that into the Lord’s problem! We should be examining our own hearts and how we are refusing and closing our ears to God’s Word. Instead, we often complain how God isn’t doing something right, or that He really doesn’t mean what He says. We join the thousands who turn their backs on Jesus and reply, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

Hush, Jesus! I don’t like what You are saying. Lord, I’m sure You don’t really mean what You just said! We shove our way into the conversation, letting Jesus know that we can explain things better than He … or so we think.

And if the Lord doesn’t budge, in this day and age, we simply pack up our toys and leave. “I can just go to a different church,” we say, fooling ourselves and pretending that we can actually explain away what Jesus teaches.

That was exactly what was happening in this crowd. They liked Jesus. He was popular. But then He spoke a hard saying and started teaching and prophesying about His Holy Supper. That was it! And now, thousands began looking for a different rabbi – one who would speak what their itching ears desired to hear.

Right before this pasage, our Lord’s congregation had reached a high point in attendance. At the feeding of the 5,000, by the time you count all the women and children present, in all likelihood there were over 20,000 people! After Jesus speaks these words that were hard to swallow, there are only around 100 left. Imagine! Going from a gigantic group that would rival Willow Creek to barely more than half of our recent attendance here.

Why? Why the sudden drop in membership? The reason is Jesus Himself. The Lord and His Supper. The very Gift that unites us is also the very item that divides many from complete harmony with Christ’s Church – His Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. While we are drawn into union with our Savior in the Lord’s Supper, others refuse and deny Him, in essence, calling Him a liar, and cutting themselves off from the Lord.

Jesus does not merely speak of “bread” or “wine,” He speaks of His Body and Blood. He does not speak of signs or symbols or representations. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. And when He has His Last Supper with the Twelve, Jesus explains as He holds the bread and says: “This is My Body, given for you.” And He takes the cup and says: “This is My Blood, shed for you.” The bread and wine are His Body and Blood. “Is” means “is.” Period.

And again, we slip into, “Hush, Jesus! Do You see how strange You sound?” We pay lip service to the Body and Blood, but often our human minds waver and think that the physical elements remain the way they were and Jesus is somehow only there spiritually. Outwardly we are like, “Yeah, right, …body and blood.” But inwardly the doubt and disbelief enters and we usher Jesus away from the communion rail.

Hush, Jesus, indeed! But wait a minute! There was a time when Jesus hushed…for you! “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Our suffering Savior endured the pains of sin, death, and hell on the cross – without protesting or decrying the judgment. He took it all upon Himself, hushed, paying the price for you and me.

But now He is hushed no more. Our Risen Lord comes to us week after week, boldly declaring His saving Gospel and joyfully delivering His forgiving and life-giving Body and Blood! And week after week His mouth is wide open as He proclaims the most sure and certain and succinct words of Gospel: “Take, eat. This is My Body, given for you.” “Take, drink. This is My Blood, shed for you.”

Christ Jesus comes now, and even as He fed and taught the multitude, He feeds and teaches His Church. He nourishes and sustains you body and soul. He gives His Flesh and Blood for you to feed on, and you are given a life-saving miracle. How? God has attached His saving promise to this Gift!

Remember how Dr. Luther describes it? These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” shows us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

You can be confident, dear friends in Christ, and assured that our Lord Jesus does what He says. He does not lie. His Word actually carries out the things it speaks of. So when He says "Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day," we know it to be completely true. His Sacrament gives life. And it is in the rejection of that Holy Gift that many reject Christ Himself.

But through the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit has kept you from rejecting Jesus. Even in moments of mystery and awe, when you say, “Lord, I don’t understand how this can be Your Body and Blood!” you still can be assured that it is, and it is given to you in blessing and healing and forgiveness. Confessing you do not understand is not sinful doubt. It is a plea to God to give His mercy and help. “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief!”

The soothing Savior comes to you today. He has released you from your sin in words of Holy Absolution. He has spoken His forgiving and life-saving Word. He is about to feed you life itself, with the Body broken and Blood shed for you. Through these precious means, He gives you eternal life, and He will raise you up on the last day.

So rejoice! Be glad that Jesus did hush on the cross, gladly taking your place in death, that He could give you life. And rejoice that now He does NOT hush, that He can constantly and boldly declare to you the forgiveness, life, and salvation that come through His Gospel and Sacraments!

Friday, August 14, 2009


We've been here for two weeks, and so much has happened! We moved on the 30th of July, and our moving truck pulled up the next morning to unload. After a week, Kristi and her mom had it looking like we've lived here forever. Pictures are hung, as well as curtains. Things not only out of their boxes, but in their places. The main floor is great, and ready for visitors. :-)

The sofa did not fit down the stairs for our basement family room. The overstuffed back and arms, with the deep dimensions, just would not get through the threshold. Other than that, it looks great. We'll just need to get a newer, smaller sofa.

There have been several hospital calls already, including two surgeries. The vacancy pastor
had atypical pneumonia, and it ended up that I preached the morning before I was installed! (He is doing OK.) There were also THREE baptisms lined up for that morning. So what a day! It was great!

The installation was scheduled for 6 PM. Originally I wasn't wanting such a late time, but it was
good. The day was VERY hot, and it would have been much worse earlier in the afternoon.

Pastor George Borghardt, a good friend of mine and the Higher Things executive for Conferences flew into O'Hare to preach. He preached in Conroe, TX (suburban Houston) that morning and had planned just enough time to make it. Of course, his plane was delayed by almost a half hour. I got a little nervous as he Twittered this update!

But the Lord was gracious, and got him here in plenty of time. And what a blessing indeed! You can read or hear his sermon here. I thank God for the words he gave Pastor Borghardt -- it was a great homily! It's making its rounds on the web too. Pr. Borghardt has it on his Facebook page and his blog, Weedon has linked it on his blog too. Who knows where else it is by now. The word "Gospelly" will no doubt be added to next year's edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language.

Several friends from college and from Mt. Greenwood Lutheran (my first parish on the south side of Chicago) were here to celebrate with us. Pastor Allan Buss (1st VP of the Northern Illinois District) and his wife Marie (family friends) came too. Also, several friends from Higher Things came. Jon Kohlmeier, Stan Lemon, Pastor Borghardt and I took the classic HT "Two thimbs up" pose after the Divine Service.

The people of St. John's have been very warm and welcoming! They are excited to have a new shepherd. And we are excited to join them in serving the Lord here.

It is my pleasure to be "put" here by God to dish out His forgiveness. "You can't get any more gospelly than that."