Monday, February 27, 2006

The Church's 40 Days of Purpose, Lent

I am very much looking forward to next Sunday which starts the Lenten season. Lent for the historic Church is a time for reflection on Christ's Passion. Lent is considered a penitent, almost somber time in the church year because the alleluias in the Divine Service are omitted. The 40 days do not include Sundays because Sundays are never to be considered somber. Also, the hymnody we sing changes to reflect the penitential tone. But the hymns of lent are by no means funeral dirges. Some of the most beautiful hymns are sung during this time in the Church's calendar year. There is no doubt I'll post on these hymns in the upcoming weeks.

For more on the subject go here to visit Pastor Thomas Chryst at Preachrblog. He has his Lenten newsletter up as a post. Also, there is a page set up at the LCMS website that answers the "what is the significance of Lent?" question here.

Friday, February 24, 2006

On Confession And Absolution..

Pastor Walter Snyder at Ask the Pastor has a great post on confession and absolution. I've been arguing with family members who say we should confess our sins only to God, but our faults, well, those we need to confess to one another. I've tried to point to John 20:23 with no success. As a Lutheran I confess that Christ really means what he says. If Christ says His servants of Word and Sacrament have the authority to forgive sins then that is what I believe. He isn't starting off this command like He would with a parable"the kingdom of heaven is like this or that." He is not using metaphorical or symbolic language here.

I was informed, by said family member that a commentary they had on hand stated that this is one of the misunderstood passages of Scripture. I'm sorry but Scripture trumps a commentary. Of course, oh lucky me, Calvin was quoted as saying Jesus didn't really mean what he said. After reading the quote to me, said person asked "who's Calvin?" I didn't have the heart to tell a family member that Calvin was a serial killer, who killed nine people in upstate New York and found Jesus in prison. For more on Calvin go here. I'm sorry, but I'll take the word of an apostle over Calvin any day. It just seems to be a safer bet.

I'm Not Looking Forward To This Weekend

I am so not looking forward to this weekend. I volunteered to attend an Equipping To Share "convocation" being put on by the Southeastern District. My wife thinks I'm nuts for wasting my time with such things. I just don't feel that my pastor should be the only confessional Lutheran there. As they say misery love company. So what is the event about? Well, it all about outreach to the friendly seeker and the faithfully undecided. It appears to be all about getting folks in the door so we can increase our membership and pat ourselves on the back for the good job we did. Here's a taste:

Tips for sharing Turino! Use the Olympic Winter Games as a conversation starter, then use a Christian athlete like U.S. speed skater Derek Barra to talk about Jesus. Google Christian athletes at the Olympics and related queries to find testimonies and articles you can use. And note a fact you won't hear on the evening news- there are Christian counselors available to athletes at the games, worship events, even evangelistic athlete organizations at work. Pray for Christ to be proclaimed at the Games and use the Games to proclaim Christ at home!

Perhaps we should share a little more Jesus and worry less about the Olympics. Or this gem:

Religious Research and Outreach Planning Tools. Get the word out, but first get to know your community! Learn about your community from a spiritual perspective by using religious research now available online. These detailed religious research reports will help you better understand your community and improve your ability to reach out to the community. Based on the community needs and media preferences, select a print, radio, or TV ad to reach out or promote your church or school.

So what's my problem with this? Well, this program or movement looks outside the Church when it should be pointing to the true marks of the Church, that is to say Word and Sacrament. I'm not saying we shouldn't share our faith or reach out to the community. What I am saying is that we need to preach Christ crucified. Law and Gospel folks, it's not that difficult. The two quotes above could also be used by the local Rotary Club. There is something wrong with the message if it can be used by Mormons and Muhammadians alike.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Is Pat Robertson Right?, No!

In a previous post I expressed unbelief that anyone takes Pat Robertson seriously. After that, I started a discussion offline with TL after an email which stated " Frank, I think that Pat Robinson was saying it like it is, God said that land was for Israel, it was promised to them. He just can't say the truth because most people don't understand it and he seems way off the wall. He is really right on the money. TL".

Let's take a quick look at what Robertson said. Pat Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which Robertson opposed. I guess that God is still punishing Sharon. Last weekend Sharon needed emergency surgery to remove part of his intestines. Using TL's logic, God must be very, very ticked off to continue to punish a comatose man.

So I asked TL if it would be ok to post the email and start a discussion about the fact that I don't believe the God punished Sharon for giving the Palestinians some land. TL said it would be ok to post the short email as long the name was removed. I've also been discussing the fact that I believe that Christ is the fulfillment and reason for the Old testament Judaism rather than to set up a political state of Israel. I would like some help in the discussion of Robertson's ideas that if we don't do this or that we should expect divine wrath in the form of strokes, hurricanes, or any thing else for that matter.

The flip side of this coin is the Osteenian idea that if we do that which is pleasing or if we believe enough, God will bless us with worldly riches that can be seen by all. What about the parents of children with disabilities? What did these parents do so wrong to deserve that. Why didn't God punish the parents with strokes instead of punishing the children. My best friend's first child has a form of severe autism. What did my friends do that was so bad for this kind of punishment? This is the where Robertson's line of thinking will naturally take us.

Over the next few days I will be very busy and would appreciate some help starting the discussion.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Now I'll Never Know If Jesus Is Real

It turns out that an Italian judge will not be deciding if Jesus really existed. The Associated Press just reported that the case against a priest was dropped. Without a decision, I'll never know if Jesus is, or for that matter was real. I'm sure Pat Robertson is going tosay that God will now bless the judge and his family for getting rid of that nasty lawsuit. Wait a minute, Italy is still mostly Roman, isn't it? Never mind, I sure he thinks they're stilled damned for that.

VITERBO, Italy An Italian judge has dismissed an atheist's petition that a small-town priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed, both sides said on Friday. Luigi Cascioli, a 72-year-old retired agronomist, had accused the Rev. Enrico Righi of violating two laws with the assertion, which he called a deceptive fable propagated by the Roman Catholic Church. "The Rev. Righi is very satisfied and moved," Righi's attorney, Severo Bruno, said. "He is an old, small-town parish priest who never would have thought he'd be in the spotlight for something like this." Cascioli, a former schoolmate of Righi's, said he had not expected the case to succeed in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy. "This is not surprising but it doesn't mean it all ends here," he said, adding that he's considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. "This is an important case and it deserves to go ahead," he said. Judge Gaetano Mautone said in his decision that prosecutors should investigate Cascioli for possible slander. The ruling was released Thursday in Viterbo, a town north of Rome where the priest is based. Cascioli filed a criminal complaint against Righi in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus existed, that he was born to a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and that he lived in Nazareth. Righi, 76, said substantial historical evidence proves Jesus' existence. Cascioli claimed that Righi's assertions violated two Italian laws: one barring "abuse of popular belief," or fraudulently deceiving people; and another barring "impersonation" or personal gain from attributing a false name to someone.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Reason For Not Posting Lately

The reason I've not been able to post much lately is work. A couple of family members, friends, and coworkers have actually yelled at me for not posting. So, here's the reason: I've been fighting the good fight against the soulless dominion of corporate orthodoxy.

About a year ago I decided to no longer sell my soul for a buck. I no longer would feel obligated or pressure to lie (I remember my salesman saying "there are just things we can't say in front of the customer, even if they are true" no, that's not a lie) or even deceive a customer.

By changing jobs, I no longer have to protect my customers from the very company that I work for. I'm very lucky that I now have a great boss who sees the value of keeping a promise of quality to all customers, no matter what the size of the account. And I don't believe that it's just because his name is on the company's letterhead.

So, over the past week I've been taking care of my customers. At the same time I get to fight the soulless dominion of corporate orthodoxy that is my former company. Yes, it was a good week indeed. I'll just have to try to keep the site a little more updated.

Oh, the photo is from my last national sales and service meeting with the other company. I didn't think the picture would take because of that whole soulless thingy. But guess what....

A Great Post Over At What You Do, Do Quickly

What You Do, Do Quickly has a great post here on how Lutheran congregations become Lutheran in name only, just like how you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice! Practice! Practice! He writes by adopting non denominational styles and practices the doctrine will soon follow.

A few years back I was attending the yearly Symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During the event I had the pleasure of dining with a semi retired pastor that hailed from the southwest. He told a friend and I of what should be a cautionary tale in his home district.

A parish tried to do whatever it took to be ecumenical, it tried to reach out and gain new members. And the first thing they attacked was worship. They started reaching out to the “unchurched” by removing the lectern. Next came the altar; it just got in the way of what was to become the equivalent of a stage. Next to go was the pulpit. After all, pulpits are just adiaphra, that is to say, things not specifically commanded by Scripture. The last thing to go was the Cross. In the beginning membership went up but after a relatively short amount of time, the congregation died. They were so worried about not being Lutheran that they forgot to preach the Word purely and administer the Sacraments rightly. By practicing to be something they should not be, they became just another listing in the phone book.

How often are we told that we need to change the way we worship. How many congregations are told, like mine was, to be less “church” minded and more “mission” minded? We were told this by our district president! I’m sorry, but Word and Sacrament is the only mission of the Church. Everything else that is done, good works and all that come with it, is the fruit of faith.

Two years ago I had the chance to visit my parents up north for the weekend. I attended the city’s mother church as I had many times in the past. But this time I found that they too were trying to “reach out to the community to increase membership. They were in the beginning stages of altering the liturgy. It had been worked and reworked by the pastor until, by the time I got there, it was unrecognizable. Everything was changed from the order of confession and absolution to the “new Lord’s Prayer”. The biggest red flag was, once again, the “new” version of the Nicene Creed. Apparently the Ecumenical Creeds are not ecumenical enough.
Please allow me to get a little sidetracked here. I once attended a class by the Rev. Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr. in which he said we should always come away feeling refreshed by the hearing of the Word. He said we should feel fed by our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He said we should feel the very peace that is proclaimed in the benediction at the end of our service.

All I felt when I visited the congregation up north was anger. I was not fed that day because the practice of style, that this congregation felt it must change, was accented by an empty doctrine. I would not even commune that day because I was no longer sure we shared the same confession of faith. This congregation’s practice was no longer recognizable as Lutheran. And there is no way to convince me this happened overnight. I didn’t need to talk to a not so happy elder to figure out that this practice was practiced.

So, back to my original point, What You Do, Do Quickly is right on the money, the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is Practice! Practice! Practice! Ah, the road to perdition…

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My Last Osteen Post, For A While

Ok, I'm still upset that I missed Joel Osteen's visit last week. Last night on the way home I tuned in to BB King's song When Love Came To Town on the radio. I found myself substituting the name Joel for the word love, and isn't that just easy to do? So when I got home I penned this little diddy that should be sung to the previously mentioned tune. Enjoy the musical version of Your Best Life NOW.

I felt like a sinner, lost you see
The weight of God’s law was just crushing me
I just wasn’t happy, didn’t seem to have faith
That was before Joel Osteen showed me God’s grace

When Joel came to town he taught me to see
God’s preferential treatment was owed to me
I’m living favor minded, no more keeping me down
I’ve changed my thinking after Joel came to town

Joel told me to enlarge my vision, live to give
Your best life NOW you must now live
You can be happy and fulfilled, starting today
Just believe in yourself, get out of God’s way

When Joel came to town he taught me to see
God’s preferential treatment was owed to me
I’m living favor minded, no more keeping me down
I’ve changed my thinking after Joel came to town

God’s keeping a record of every deed you’ve done
He’s kept a record of every seed you’ve sown
It didn’t go unnoticed, God saw it you see
So it’s time to cash in, it's your time of need

When Joel came to town he taught me to see
God’s preferential treatment was owed to me
I’m living favor minded, no more keeping me down
I’ve changed my thinking after Joel came to town

No more looking to the cross, I’m thinking positively
I’ll maintain an attitude of expectancy
I’ll look for God to start spreading those miracles around
But I used to think differently before Joel came to town

When Joel came to town he taught me to see
God’s preferential treatment was owed to me
I’m living favor minded, no more keeping me down
I’ve changed my thinking after Joel came to town

I know what your thinking, "no theology of the cross, no gospel Frank". But isn't that really the point? There really is no need to apply Pr. Wilken's diagnostic scrutiny. It's just a song, right?