Thursday, April 28, 2016


On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis held the call service for the men who were receiving their 1st call into the pastoral ministry. This is such a wonderful event for the LC-MS, to have these men entering the pastoral ministry. It is a time of great celebration. There is often much pomp and circumstance that goes with such a service. I am sure that when Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN held their call service there was also much pomp and circumstance. There is good reason for such services to pull out all the stops. This is truly a celebration of the gift that the Lord is giving in the men who will serve as pastors in the church.

There has been discussion following the service at St. Louis about the banner poles that were used in the service. There were some that poked fun at it in good Christian fellowship. Others seemed to use that as a lightning rod to show that there is trouble at the St. Louis Seminary. It seems that they are saying, "Since I do not like the banner poles and think that they are frivolous and do not add anything to the service but distract from the solemness of the service, that means that this is a sign of deeper problems at the Seminary."

As I listened to this discussion, I thought of David and Michal. David is filled with godly joy at the wonder of the Ark of the Covenant being brought into Jerusalem. He danced before the Ark and Michal the daughter of Saul despised King David for this action. (1 Chronicles 15:29) Her feelings for David's actions were colored by her personal feelings and desires and so she despised the King. I think that personal feelings and desires are causing some to find fault and despise the Seminary for the use of the banner poles.

As an editorial thought, and I have no real basis for fact on this, I think the issue is deeper than just the use of banner poles in the service or the statements that it shows a deeper issue at St. Louis. I think that it goes to the very heart of our Synod as it goes to convention this summer. Dr. Dale Meyer has been nominated by a large number of congregations to be on the ballot for the presidency of the LC-MS. For those who would like a more middle of the road Lutheranism, this is a good thing. For those who would like to continue going deeper into the historical/liturgical Lutheranism, this is a challenge to the current administration and direction of the LC-MS. So in order to cause folks to think that Dr. Meyer would not be a worthy president of the LC-MS, it is necessary to call into question the practices that take at the Seminary of which he is currently president.

I am not a fan of the high church liturgical practice in our Synod. I do not find it the style of worship that I desire. Many times, I feel that we are leaning more towards becoming like the Roman church or the Orthodox church. I know the answer will be that it is just trying to return to the form of historic Lutheranism of Luther's day. That is fine and good but that is not the Lutheranism as it has been here in America. I do not wish to return to the 16th century in the same way I do not wish to return to the 19th century. I feel that Dr. Meyer has done a very fine job in making all forms of worship available at St. Louis, showing that there is neither right nor wrong as long as it continue to be Lutheran. It can be high church or low church, it can be chanted and incensed or it can be contemporary in form (meaning the use of a variety of instruments and songs). He has done his best to help see that these worship wars are something that we should not be fighting with each other.

So as I reflect on the discussion on the banner poles, I just shake my head. I realize that it is just a symptom of a much deeper problem in our Synod, that really doesn't have to do with banner poles at the Call Day service. It has to do with who is going to be the head of the church for the next 4 years and what direction our church will be going these next 4 years.

Personally, I would rather see Dr. Meyer leading the LC-MS than Dr. Harrison. I would feel much more comfortable with his leadership. I have become very uncomfortable with the direction of our Synod over the past 8 years.

There is much more that can be said, much of which is personal opinion and covered under freedom of expression. I pray that our church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can right itself and continue to be the bearer of the Gospel at this time. I pray that the Lord will raise up leaders who will guide in the direction He wishes the LC-MS to go at this time.

As far as the discussion on the use of the banner poles, Lord forgive us for our petty bickering and our unhealthy attacks that have happened. Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thoughts on a variety of things

I have been thinking about different things that have happened or are happening in our world today. By no means do I think I have all the answers or have the last word on anything. I just have my ramblings and my meanderings. But then again, isn't this what my blog is for? The random thoughts of a parish pastor.

First, I would like to weigh in on the death of Prince. I was never a big Prince fan. I didn't really think he was that great. I really didn't enjoy his music, his style or his lifestyle. My heart didn't break when he died. Wait, that isn't true. I have been waiting to hear from someone that Prince was a believer in Jesus Christ. I have longed to hear it said that Prince believed in Jesus Christ as his only Savior and the only way to heaven. I haven't heard that. And that breaks my heart. If indeed Prince died without faith in Jesus, then it is a tragedy. That means that he will not spend eternity with the Almighty in heaven.

You see, faith is more than just saying there is a Supreme Being, a great big something outside of us, or a God somewhere that we think might exist but we don't know who he is. Faith is more than just throwing the words "Thank God" out there whenever we think it is necessary. Faith is believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, true God and true man, who is the only Savior of the world. Faith believes in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as the Resurrection and the Life. The Holy Spirit works that faith. It breaks my heart when I hear of some famous person who dies and doesn't believe in Jesus. That truly is a tragedy and I pray that the Spirit would work faith in each person before they die. Then we can celebrate the eternal life given by Jesus Christ.

Second, there is this whole bathroom controversy. Should those who identify as the opposite gender than which they were born? Should those who are one gender be allowed into the bathroom of the other gender just because they say that they feel or want to act like the other gender? I am not commenting on the whole transgender issue. But I am commenting on the bathroom issue.

If the bathroom has more than one stall and is open to more than one person at a time, it should be limited to those of the same gender which they had at birth. I know that our society is trying to make the small number of transgender people feel comfortable or welcome in society and trying to not make them do something they don't want to do - go to the bathroom in the appropriate restroom based on their birth gender. We don't want to offend anyone, especially those of the transgender, lesbian, homosexual or any other sexually unusual people in our society.

But what about the majority of people who are not sexually unusual? What about those who do identify as the gender with which they were born? Do we not want to offend them? Or is it only if you are one of the minority are we afraid to offend? These actions offend a vast majority of people in our country and yet we don't worry about offending them? The number of transgender people who wish to use public bathrooms are minimal. The vast majority of people are not transgender and are offended and mortified to think that there is a male in a women's bathroom or a woman in a men's bathroom. Yes, it goes both ways. And it is offensive. Why are we not afraid to offend the masses in order to not offend a small number of people?

Another side to the issue is that there are many sick people in the world. It isn't just those who have been placed on the sexual predators list. There are many sick people who will take advantage of such a law in order to feed their sick feelings. A man may not actually attack a child or a woman in a bathroom, but in his sickness, he will go into the bathroom to feed his sick desires to be close to someone who is the opposite gender. Who can stop him? Why would you try to stop him? He should be offended that someone thinks his desires are sick. He should be supported in his feelings that he desires to be in the next stall to a little girl who is going to the bathroom. It is, after all, what he feels he needs to make his life complete. Who are we to stop him?

I have been around the sexually sick people. When I served at Big Muddy Correctional Center, I worked with those who were sexually dangerous people. Many of those men did not feel any remorse about their sexual crimes. They would do them again if given the chance. Opening the bathrooms up to them makes it possible for them to live their deviant behavior. Why would we take the chance with our daughters, wives or grandmothers? Why would we even think that this is acceptable? What happened to trying to keep the majority safe even if it meant that a minority would have to not be allowed to act in a certain way?

If the bathroom is a single stall, locked door, then it isn't an issue. Who cares who goes into it? Male, female or whatever the person identifies as can go into a single seat restroom. No one else in there at the same time. But multiple stalls restrooms should be kept for those of the same birth gender.

Third, this brings to the front the reality of sin. The whole sexual revolution in our country is nothing more than an sinful abuse of that which God has given to us. God has made the sexual relationship a beautiful gift for a man and woman who is in a marriage relationship. Outside of that relationship, any sexual relationship is sinful. That is the basic statement that must be made. Sin is still sin even if one thinks their choice of sexuality is acceptable. God still says that sexual sin is still sexual sin no matter what we think in our lives.

All right, I think I will stop at that point for today. That is enough ramblings for one day.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Variety is the spice of life, or something like that

I have not real point to today's ramblings. Perhaps that is what makes these random thoughts. Perhaps I should rename my blog to ramblings. No, wait, that would be what happens when I preach. Ramblings. Not really. There is always a point to any sermon that I preach. The central point is always Jesus Christ, Him crucified and risen. Then next point is what does that mean for me as I live my life each day. How does His life, death and resurrection affect my life as I sit at a compute? Or watch a ball game? Or spend time with the family? Or go to work? Or whatever I do day after day?

In many ways, I have come to understand that those thoughts really are found in the life of sanctification of the Christian. It also is what takes place in the life of stewardship. All our daily life is a life of stewardship. Stewardship is about money, yes. It is about what you put in the plate. It is about the budget of the church. It is about how you serve your Lord at your church. You don't volunteer at church. You live out your life of stewardship. To volunteer means you have no responsibility to the life of the church. That is wrong. All that takes place in the church is a part of your life. It is your stewardship life. It is not just time, talent and treasure at church. It is life, everyday life. But I digress. The discussion of stewardship is a continued emphasis of the congregation, an emphasis that is part of Doctor of Ministry Major Applied Project (MAP). I have come to see that the Christian cannot separate out a section of his life as "stewardship." That would be like saying that only a portion of your life belongs to Christ. It can't be done. It is all or nothing. Christ is your all in all or He is nothing to you. Same with stewardship.

I was thinking about this last weekend. It was a busy weekend for the youth of St. Paul's, especially the youth going to the National Lutheran Youth Gathering. The congregation has been very supportive of our youth going to NYG in New Orleans. The youth started their fund raising with the thought that as the financial support came in, they would give back to the congregation in some way. This has taken place this last weekend. On Saturday, they went out behind the Ministry Center and cleared away over 7 years of growth of vines, trees and weeds. The area was slowly being overgrown. They spent hours cutting, hacking, sawing, dragging, pulling and burning. They cleared the whole area, which was absolutely amazing. I didn't think that they would make such progress but they did. In fact, they finished that task. They uncovered the soccer goal, a picnic table that had long been swallowed up by overgrowth. Thank you to them for this work. (I wondered to myself as our youth were doing the work, where have the adults of the congregation been all this time? Why did we let it become such a mess? I thought about it and realized that we, as a congregation, had become lazy, taking for granted the land the Lord had given us. I am willing to bet most of the congregation hadn't looked out the back of the Ministry Center since it had been built. Out of sight, out of mind. And if we would have asked, would the adults have stepped forward and done the work with complaining? Or would we have been too busy to do it? I just wonder.)

Then these same youth spent Sunday afternoon baking cookies which they will be giving to all the members of the congregation that attend worship next weekend. They spent several more hours mixing and baking dozens and dozens of cookies. Really? These youth gave up their whole weekend for the Lord and for St. Paul's. I admire them. I think you should too. Why? I doubt if many of us would have done both things. We would have said, "Sorry. I am too busy. Doing what? I have a chair to sit in. I have places to go. I have ball games to watch." We would have found our excuses. For that, I am sorry Lord. I am just as guilty as anyone on this. Forgive me for being self-centered Lord. I am betraying a power stewardship life. I am focused more on me than on You and that which will bring glory to You and edify Your people.

Following an afternoon of baking, these same youth and their parents then spent the evening working on things for the NYG. They worked on their group covenant, how they will act at the Gathering. They discussed how they will act, what they say and do in various situations. They were working on how they can bring glory to God and to St. Paul's, Troy. When was the last time you asked yourself how you can bring glory to God and to St. Paul's? Or have you thought of that at all? Once again, their actions convicted me of how I live my life for the Lord.

More ramblings. I have much more to say but not enough time to tell it. And so I say good by till I ramble on again. Blessings to you.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What would you do?

I asked that question this morning in the sermon at St. Paul's, Troy. In the epistle reading for today, in the 3 year lectionary, we faced that question. In Acts 5, the apostles are arrested again, much as they were in Acts 4. They were imprisoned, yes out of jealousy by the chief priests and the Sadducees, but also because of the preaching of the words of this Life, the words of resurrection, Jesus' resurrection. As you read in Acts 5, they were sent by the angel to proclaim the words of this Life in the Temple courts after they were miraculously released from prison.

I asked the question, What would you do? Would you go and tell of Jesus' life, death and resurrection? Or would you keep quiet because it might offend someone? Not saying anything because you didn't want to make waves, upset someone or get in trouble? A powerful question that we need to ask ourselves.

Then this afternoon, Penny and I went to see the movie "God's Not Dead 2." This movie addresses just that issue. What would you do? What would you do if when you are in the public arena, asked a question about Jesus, how would you answer? And if you answered by telling about Jesus and what Scripture says about Him, and then someone took offense, would you apologize for causing offense? Would you say you were sorry for speaking about Jesus? Would you then keep quiet and not say anything else?

Far-fetched? Not really. The Christian teacher in a public school faces that dilemma every day. When asked about Jesus, do you avoid saying anything for fear that the principal, Board of Education or the State is going to come down on you and you might just lose you job? Do you avoid answering the question at work when you coworker asks you about the joy you have in your life, a joy placed there by your faith in Christ Jesus? What would you do?

When you have family visiting that aren't Christian or don't practice the faith that they "might" be a part of, do you avoid praying before the meal for fear of offending them? When you have someone come over, do you skip church because you don't want them to be uncomfortable having you leave and go to church while they sit at home waiting for you to return? Do you even think of inviting them to attend worship with you?

The reading from Acts 5 and then the movie, all struck home with me. I asked myself, what do I do? If the state put out a subpoena for all the sermon I have preached over the last 3 months, to see if I said anything radical like, "homosexuality is a sin," or "same sex marriage is wrong," or something else that might be considered hateful or harmful to people in society, would I give them my sermon? Or would I tell the state "No, you can't come into the church and tell me what to preach"? In truth, I would them no, I will not give them my sermons for that is my freedom to preach in my church and they cannot tell me what I can or cannot say. Only my Lord can tell me that.

Very real things. Very difficult questions. Struggles that are being faced more and more in our country. What would you do? When the angel of the church says to you, "Go and speak the words of this Life," how do you respond?

I wrestle with that question. I struggle with the answer. Only through the power of Christ working in me, only as the Holy Spirit leads me, only as I am in the strength of God, can I give the right answer. I pray that I will always be able to say that. And I pray that you will too.