Monday, March 26, 2012


I don't like change. But then again, who does? But I really don't like change when there is no reason to change. That is what I am seeing happen in the LC-MS. It is as though the way that the LC-MS has been for the past 50 + years (I can't talk beyond that at the moment because I am not any older than that and don't have the history straight in my mind) isn't good enough or correct and so we have to change what we are doing and how we do it. Where are we looking for these changes? The 17th century. Seriously. That is where we are going to in order to make changes. Practices of the 17th century are being brought back into vogue by the liturgical set of the LC-MS.

Is what they are doing wrong? No it isn't. But then again, what has been going on the LC-MS for the past century hasn't been wrong either. So why change? Why do we need to change Maundy Thursday to Holy Thursday? Because it is more accurate with the 17th century? Who cares? We live today not back then. I am not one who wants to return the liturgy and practice of the LC-MS to the 17th century. Why? Not because I don't like change (which we have established already) but because I feel that it is leading us backward instead of forward. I do not agree that we need to return to the high church of yesteryear. It seems as though we are so enamored with a neo-catholicism that we must embrace and hold fast to all that reeks of the old ways and get rid of all that is used today.

I grew up with Maundy Thursday. I was taught in confirmation class what it meant and why it was celebrated. I was taught at Seminary about Maundy Thursday. And now, after 25 years in the ministry, I am being told it Holy Thursday. What's up with that? What happened to "the new command that I give you," from the Lord Himself. Why do we want to make this change? It has been subtle. Clergy begin to talk of Holy Thursday instead of Maundy Thursday. The LC-MS website has the church calendar listed as it says "Holy (Maundy) Thursday." Does it make any difference? On one level, no. On another level, yes.

I honestly believe that we are at the corner of change. The forces at movement within the leadership of the LC-MS are moving our church into the "way it used to be." And when that is said it is not meaning the way it was in the 20th century. No, that is unacceptable and not true Lutheranism. Instead it talking about the 17th century Lutheranism that it is wanting to return to. I feel that this is unacceptable. It is not where the LC-MS is to be moving. I know, what gives me the right to decide what direction the LC-MS is to be moving? Then again, what gives those behind this movement the right to decide for the rest of us? Because they are in "power." If it was a "liberal" in power (say Pres. Kieschnick, who many felt was too liberal and a true Lutheran and they wanted to get rid of him almost as soon as he was elected, which was wrong!) they would fight tooth and nail and say it isn't his/their right to change things. Now that the power pendulum has swung the other way, it is all right to make changes without any fanfare. Just bring them in. When someone balks at it, tell them that it is a practice from the 17th century Lutheran Church, and that will make it all right.

I disagree. I do not like where our church is heading. I feel that this is just as dangerous as the contemporary, Calvinistic type of worship and theology that some have tried to get into the Lutheran church. Perhaps it is more deadly because while it purports to not be focused on self, works, etc, it seems to be just as focused on what it wants.

Straw men? Am I putting out straw men? Probably. But I am just frustrated and disgusted by the ways things are progressing. What the "true Confessional Lutherans" want is all right and should be accepted without question or reservation. What has been in practice for years and is practiced in many congregations at this time is to be questioned and changed. Why? Because someone tells us? Because that is how it was done in the 17th century? Sorry. I don't agree. And I won't go away. I am that burr under the saddle that is a pain and makes things uncomfortable. I would hope that there would be others like me that feel the same way that would stand up and start to raise their voice. If we don't, we will soon be more Catholic than Lutheran, more 17th century than 21st century.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday morning

A new week has started. Sunday began our week. What did you do with your Sunday? Did you take time to worship this week? Why worship? Because it is the time when we have to go to God's house, hear His Word, be fed from the Sacrament, be strengthened in our faith, to join with our fellow Christians, to give support to the struggling, to receive support from others, to lift up our hearts in prayer, to take time out of our busy lives for an hour to be in the presence of God, to be uplifted, to be admonished, to be challenged, to be helped, to be a Child of God coming to our Father's house to hear the good news from our Father - that is why we should worship.

I love the weekend. Not for the reason that most people love it. For many people it is the end of the work week. They don't have to go to the office, the factory, the job, the daily grind. They can sleep in or get up and get going. They can work in they yard, around the house or go for a bike ride. They can enjoy the free time to go to the store without having it be on the way home from work before they have to get home to prepare supper, help the kids with the homework, mow the grass, do the laundry and talk to the parents. Weekend is a time of rest for most people.

For me the weekend is time to worship! Yes, it is time to worship. Three services - lots to prepare, lots to be ready for, lots to do. Setting all that aside, it is time to worship. I get to go to God's house. Not once, not twice but three times! Most people come in for the hour and rejoice when they can walk out, especially when it is under an hour. Me, I love coming into the house of God, getting there early, watching the sun rise (Sunday) or set (Saturday), talking with God, knowing that "God is in His temple..." and rejoicing that I have that opportunity to bring the Word of God to His people. I pray for the members to be drawn to the house of God. I ask Him to open my up to the wonder of the Word, the marvel of the Sacrament and the joy of the service. I get excited when people start to arrive. I am happy to see them, to know that they came back once again, despite hearing the ramblings of a their pastor the week before. And I know, at that moment when the bell rings, that they are in church, not because of me but because they desire what God has to offer. I give thanks for each person that is there and pray for those that are not. My heart breaks for those who are not able to attend worship for a variety of reasons (health, work, etc.) and for those who do not desire to attend worship. I pray that the Holy Spirit would touch their hearts and open them to the wonder of the Word, the marvel of the service.

Then we begin. O how great it is to hear the people sing. But even if there would be no singing, I would lift up my voice. I can't help but sing. God has saved me. He has forgiven me. He has called me by that wondrous Gospel. He has brought me to His house. He has promised to feed and care for my soul and my body. So I sing! I love the hymns, the songs, the joy that it brings to my heart.

Before I know it, the service is over. And I am surprised. I can't believe the hour is already past. I wish we had another 5 minutes, another 10 minutes but I know that it would cause some strain in people's lives to stay longer. Just one more song! But no, the benediction is given, the song is sang and we great one another at the door. All too soon, the house of God is empty of people. It is just God and me. And I know He is there. He is smiling. He has touched the hearts of each person that came through the doors. It doesn't matter if it is 5 or 500. He is smiling. God has invited, we have responded, He rejoices! Thanks be to God for worship.

So it is Monday. Did you begin your week with worship? I pray that you have a blessed week. In all that happens, know this - God is with you!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Different Direction - 1 John

I am stepping away from the direction of my last few blogs. It is isn't that I feel enough has been said about that because there is much more that can and should be said. But this morning, as I was reading in 1 John, I felt compelled to write.

I love John's epistles, especially 1 John. If there is one book of the Bible (other than Psalms) that I would say is my favorite, it would have to be this one. What a pastoral, loving heart John had. It must have been a joy to have been in Ephesus with John during the last years of his life. I can only imagine how peaceful and caring he must have been - though I am sure that he would thunder loudly when someone tried to change the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. He truly would have been on of the Sons of Thunder. even while you hear his loving, pastoral heart in this letter, you can also hear in his writing the uncompromising spirit that says, "Don't you try to change what my Lord has said. If you do, I will take you to the mat!"

So many things jump out at me as I read and study. I thought about those who say that they can be a Christian and not attend worship regularly and frequently. They do not need to receive the Lord's Supper all that often in their lives and they are still good Christian people, following the Lord. "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected." (1 John 2:4-5a ESV) The person who claims to follow Christ but then sees worship as optional, as something that he does not need to regularly be a part of, needs to listen to John. People were saying the same things in his day. "You don't need to worship to be a Christian." "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to a stable makes you a horse." You have heard the people say these things. And I bet you have tongue tied trying to answer them. What do you say? After all, there is a grain of truth in what they say.

Yes, and there is a cupful of deception in what they are saying as well. "By this we know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." (1 John 2:5b-6 ESV) You say you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Then walk as He walked. Follow His commands. But His command is only to "love one another." You forget that He did not come to set aside the Law of God but to fulfill it for us. Not to do away with it so that we do not need to follow the Law in our lives. He came to empower us to be able to live under that law in the love of God.

Do you love God? Then why do not worship Him? You worship Him at home, on the golf course, lieing in your bed each and every week? I doubt it. I know, you will tell me not to judge you. Often, when a person says that, they mean that the Law is condemning them in their sin and to stop saying that because they don't like it. "You are not to judge others," will be said. I reply, "By this we know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." Jesus worshiped EVERY week. Every Sabboth He was was in the synagogue or the Temple. He did not despise preaching or the Word.

That is exactly what we do when we avoid regular, weekly worship (and I am not talking to those who are ill, shut-in, homebound, having to work people). You know who you are. You don't make the conscious decision to "not" attend worship. Worship isn't a part of your thoughts. You don't think about it on Saturday evening when you go to bed. You don't feel convicted on Sunday morning as you sit at home driking your cup of joe while reading the paper. In fact, you don't think about it at all. Then when the preacher or some other "Bible beating" Christian mentions worship to you, you come back with "I don't need to worship to be a Christian." Really? You really don't need to be fed from Word and Sacrament? Your faith is so strong in and of itself that you are not assailed by the attacks of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature? You really have such a powerful faith that you do not need to heed the Word of the Lord that tells you that you are not to forget the Sabboth day, that you are not to avoid worship? Boy has the devil fed you a line! He has convinced you that you can stand against him without the help of the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace. That is like the Taliban convincing our soldiers that they don't need to arm themselves or wear their body armor because they have nothing to fear from the Taliban warriors because they won't attack them or offer to hurt them in any way. WOW! Would we want our Marines going against the Taliban empty-handed? Would we want them to be unprepared and underarmed? Of course not.

Then why do you go into your daily life, the spiritual battle that it is, without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you and guiding you? You aer told, walk in the same way that He walked. You need worship. You need to hear the Word preached and proclaimed. You need to receive the body and blood of your Savior for the strengthening of your faith. You NEED these things. To not receive them, to avoid them, to despise them, is utter foolishness. It is committing spiritual suicide.

"By this we may know that we are in him..." Worship, Godly, Bible-based, confessional worship is what you need in your life. I need it in my life. I cannot live spiritually without it. It doesn't mean I am a better Christian than you if I attend worship. But then again, it isn't a competition to see who is "better." It is a walk of faith and life in which we walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We need what He offers to us. And we need each other in this walk.

See you in worship this weekend.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ramblings on faith, life and spring

All right, so that title is a little ambitious. But remember that these are ramblings and therefore can go wherever the feeling leads me. I dare not say wherever the Spirit leads me, because then we must test the spirits and see if it from God or from man. Those from the Lord are blessed while those from man are merely thoughts that can mislead or even destroy.

Spring first. What is up with this weather? It feels more like it should be late April or early May than mid-March. We haven't hit the midpoint in March and we are having a week of 70+ weather with lows in the upper 50's and lower 60's. We slept with the window open most of the night last night. And is is ONLY March 13. Does this bode well for spring/summer or does it give us a warning of what is to be? Will summer be overly warm? Or perhaps things will get really mixed up and we will have a cool summer. We will know come August and September. Just like we now know that this last winter was a mild one, not giving us much snow or cold - though in other areas of the country they might argue with us about that. While one area is mild, another is severe. That is the nature of the beast.

I must say that I am enjoying this warm weather. We clipped a few daffodils and brought them in yesterday. How nice it is to have fresh flowers in the house. Gives a certain cheery look to the house that you can't have in the middle of winter. Thanks Lord! You designed the most wonderful things when You made this world and all that is in it. Sorry that we mess it up so badly.

Faith - I have been thinking about Mandi's question of what makes a good Lutheran as opposed to a good Christian. I used that term in my ramblings as a way of showing the difference between the high church and low church people. Perhaps it is an unfair term but it is one I use because it is what I feel. When I am in the midst of the discussion on the types of liturgy or worship that is used, I use the term "good Lutheran" as one that is set up by others to define who is right and who is wrong. A "good Lutheran" in this sense is the one that loves the liturgy, desires that the pastor chants the service, leads high church, extremely liturgical service, and sees all else that is done by others in the church as less than worthwhile of being called Lutheran. This may be an unfair statement but that is what I begin to feel in the midst of the worship wars that go on. Would those on the side of high church say these things? No they wouldn't. But that is how they make someone like me feel. Since I am not so "knowledgeable" in liturgical practices, since I do not chant, wear a chasuble, participate in a Gospel procession or kiss the altar at the appropriate times in the service, then I am not truly a "good Lutheran." (I know, cry fowl. That is unfair! You can't say those things. This is my ramblings and my feelings. It is what is laid out that there without saying the words.)

What truly makes a good Lutheran? It is a person who holds firmly to the Word of God as the sole source of life and doctrine. It is a person who is faithful to the Confessions of the Church. It is a person who does not focus on his own self but on what the Lord desires for his life. It is a person who know that salvation comes to him only through the blood of Jesus Christ, not by his decision, not by his actions but by the grace and mercy of God who works in his life through the blessed Means of Grace - Word and Sacraments (in which we have 2, Baptism and Lord's Supper). It is a person who knows that the rites and rituals of the service don't make him more Lutheran or less Lutheran. He knows that the pastor can wear a cassock and surplice, an alb or a suit and the divine worship is still the divine worship. He know that a spoken service is just as edifying as a chanted service and that no one can say one is right and one is wrong just because he doesn't prefer one or the other. He knows that you can sing a hymn from LSB, LW or TLH to the powerful sound of the pipe organ as well as a contemporary praise song (that is doctrinally correct of course0 to the music of a praise band that includes a guitar, bass, keyboard and drums as well as a Sunday School type song without anything accompaniment at all. He knows that his pastor can bow before the altar or not bow before the altar and it is all right - because we do not worship the altar but the one who has given us the altar. He is certain that the Lord is present in high church, low church, middle church, or contemporary service and that as the pastor is faithful to the Word, the Confessions and to the practices/doctrines of the Lutheran Church he is leading his people faithfully in that time and place.

I am sure that I have forgotten something or perhaps have misstated something. This hasn't been through doctrinal review. But then again, there are those things that go through doctrinal review that some still disagree with. When we say that we must use only CPH hymnals (dead horse, I know), I know of a highly conservative, "true Lutheran" pastor who would rather not use All God's People Sing because he doesn't feel that it is of the same value or strength as TLH. There are those who were adamantly opposed to Lutheran Worship. It was seen as liberal and not fit for a truly conservative Lutheran Church, who now embrace Lutheran Service Book because it is a correct and true hymnal of the church even though it has "How Great Thou Art" which I can remember being taught is a hymn that shouldn't be used in the church because it wasn't truly Lutheran. Times have changed, haven't they?

So what of all this? I once wore a cassock and surplice for a worship service. When asked why I wore it, I answer, "Because as a Lutheran, I can." I am not bound by any liturgical law that says I can't or that says I must. I can lead worship in a suit or in an alb and chasuble. And one is not better than another. One might desire it one way and another desire it another. To say "you must" steps beyond what Lutheranism says. I do not "have" to wear a certain thing in order to lead worship. The outer wear does not make it more Lutheran or less Lutheran. I am free to go any direction, until I say that one is the only way to go. Then I am wrong. I am also wrong to make a fellow brother feel that he is wrong because he doesn't follow the practice that I have adopted or desire. For me to tell a brother that he cannot be high church is wrong. So is he wrong to tell me that I must be high church. That is a desire of the heart, a practice of the congregation (that will follow the way of the pastor if he lovingly leads them in that direction rather than coming in and being a bull in the china shop in order to get his way),

All right I hope I answered Mandi's question. Where there any straw men in this one? Probably. But then again, we all set them up. To say that to take people back into the high church, extreme liturgy worship is no different than using an altar, pulpit, hymnal or alb is a straw man. After all, there was several generations that lived and died without chanting or high church worship but at the same time still used the altar, pulpit, etc. They would have been offended if the pastor chanted. They would have been appalled at the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The straw man says that we are just doing what is accepted but the reality says, we are going back much further than Lutheranism in the USA. All right history people, come down on me an correct me. But I will show you Art Troge or Norman Rex both of whom would walk out on you in your were to try to high church them in a worship service but they were devote, God-fearing Lutherans who could pass the blood test for Lutheranism. They lived, breathed and loved the writings of Martin Luther and held firmly to their Lutheran teachings and church. You are not "going back" to their church. They would have scoffed at that thought.

I end there. for I have rambled more that I wanted. Sorry. Test the spirits. And may the Lord bless your day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ramblings about Lent

Lent is a powerful season for personal, spiritual growth. There are many traditions associated with Lent that have come down through the years. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with any of them. Giving up something for Lent, special devotions, time of reflection, use of ashes, mission outreach and many  more that I am not familiar with in my life. Through out the years (since being in the ministry I guess I should say), Penny and I have practiced the discipline of giving up something for Lent. It is a personal and private discipline. And in many ways, it has been very helpful in our spiritual walk. It has drawn us closer to our Lord. So in that way I believe it has been very good.

I normally don't talk about what we give up for Lent. Actually, very few even know that we do it. I take that from what our Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount, doing your acts of fasting and piety are meant to be between you and the Lord. So we have kept it that way.

But this year has been a challenge for us to follow what we have done. Not because we have the desire for it, which of course we do, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have been able to train our bodies and minds to follow the way of the Lord not the way of the flesh. The challenge for us has come from others within the Lutheran Church (and here I do not mean the members of St. Paul's, Troy. I am talking about the other clergy of the Lutheran Church.). It has seemed to me that we are taking our personal piety to great lengths and it has become a show. Things that were not part of the practice of the Lutheran Church have seemed to become almost a necessity if you want to be considered a good, confessional Lutheran. The more Lutheran you want to be, the more pious, the more "ancient" your practice is supposed to be. Things that were not a part of the Lutheran Church are now considered to be the "norm" and when you don't follow the practice, you are made to the outsider, the strange one. It is like everyone who wants to show that they are "true Lutheran" will jump on the bandwagon. For example, the whole imputation of ashes. It has become the craze among Lutherans. It seems that if you really want to be on the "in" crowd, you will make sure that your congregation uses ashes, and then you will talk about them over and over again as though they are the focus of your spiritual life.

It just seems to me that our actions have become the focus. We are so busy trying to prove we are good Lutherans, that we are following the way of the the ancients, the church of years gone by, that we are losing sight of who we are as Lutherans today. I am not a Lutheran from the 16th century. No matter how hard I try, I cannot be. I did not live then. The personal practice, the form of worship, the way of life - all are different now than they were then. To try to reach back and pull all that practice and form from then seems to be plastic and fake. It is like we are trying to be something we are not and cannot be. People today cannot worship as people in the 17th century. Nor do they really want to. Will they worship that way? Sure they will. They will do whatever the pastor of the congregation wishes to do. And some will even grow to like it, perhaps even love it. But that is not the majority of people in the pew. Lutherans don't want to be Catholic or Presbyterian. They don't want to act like they did in Walther's day (19th century) nor do they want to be like they were in the mid-20th century. They want to practice, worship and live as Lutherans in the 21st century.

Why do we feel that we need to go backwards in time? Is it because there are some Lutheran pastors and congregations that try to be Reformed or Baptist in practice, thinking that is the way to draw people in? Is it because we have this reaction against the mega-churches that we seem to want to drive people away from our churches by forcing an ancient form of worship upon them and making them feel that if they don't like it then they are not being good Lutheran?

All right, I know that I am generalizing. And any time you generalize you run the risk of saying the wrong thing or offending someone. That isn't my goal. I am just venting against the push that I am feeling from those within the Southern Illinois District of the LC-MS to return to a time that I don't enjoy, like or feel is necessary. I feel like we are leaving behind our Lutheran heritage. And before you jump of that and say, "But that is our heritage," understand what I mean. It feels and looks like we are trying to become Catholic or Orthodox. It feels like we are trying to force upon the church, me and others, people in the pews, etc. a form of worship and a type of piety that does not fit into the lives of people today.

Yes, there are those that like and enjoy the ancient form of worship. But there are more that don't. Why don't they speak out? Most of the time because they are intimidated by those who are brash and out spoken. They are made to feel less than Lutheran if they speak out and say that they don't like it. They are beaten down with this ancient father and that ancient father, and having never read them, nor caring to read them, nor having the time to read them, they feel that it is easier to say nothing and suffer in silence.

I don't like doing that. Back to my thoughts on giving up something for Lent. I have felt less inclined to hold to it, not because of weakness of the flesh but because of the sick feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I listen to those who are of the "true Lutheran" mindset. I feel that such action is nothing more than man trying to prove something. And at that point, I realize that my personal spiritual piety has become nothing more than show - trying to say, "See, I can do this. Look at what I am about." And then, I know that I am wrong. I have lost sight of why it is being done.

This too is the rambling of a parish pastor who is upset with the direction of his Church body. And soon, perhaps sooner than he thinks, he is going to have speak out and work to return to the Lutheran Church he grew up knowing and loving and wants to continue to have for the years to come.