Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Another Modest Proposal...

Today we have another modest proposal from A. Blaise. Monsieur Blaise's previous post recommending a new translation of the Book of Concord was very well received and still generates a large number of "hits." Enjoy!

“Consequently the church cannot be better governed and maintained than by having all of us live under one head, Christ, and by having all the bishops equal in office (however they may differ in gifts)…” (SA II:IV:9)
“But if our opponents would only listen to the complaints of churches and pious hearts! Our opponents valiantly defend their own position and wealth. Meanwhile they neglect the state of the churches, and they do not see to it that there is proper preaching and administration of the sacraments in the churches…Those who are now bishops do not perform the duties of bishops according to the Gospel…” (Ap. XVIII:3, 12)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So it would seem in the church of the 16th century and that of the 21st. In the modern Missouri Synod, we of course mostly shun the title “Bishop” (save the English District). “District President” sounds so much more American and democratic. But the office seems the same and the abuses similar to the 16th century days and complaints cited above. Except, in the 16th century, those who exercised ecclesiastical supervision at least made a pretense of holding office in a Christian congregation where the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments was nominally required of them. Our current DPs in Missouri with only one or two exceptions (i.e. Atlantic DP) are not pastors anymore except in name. They serve no congregations, they have no pulpits, they administer the sacraments rarely, and preach only at anniversary celebrations, giving the same tired accolades over and over and over (if you can call that preaching). Pretty much the 16th century bishop revisited.

It’s rough being a DP these days in Missouri. You have to spend long hours bossing people around and collecting money. Even if you’re inclined, there’s no time and you’re not really supposed to preach the Gospel, give the sacraments, or make hospital visits. Even good, orthodox men seem easily corrupted by such an office. They come in with good intentions, but soon are the same sort of no preaching, no sacrament, no Gospel giving louts of which our Lutheran fathers complained. And so the church suffers today in astonishingly similar ways as it suffered in the 16th century. Money is king, along with numbers and organizational unity (though you can’t say the Synod is wrong about anything anymore, according to our Synod President. I guess we even have an infallible hierarchy again, but that’s a subject for another time). So our DPs sow seeds of dissent and cause considerable trouble for orthodox pastors, and seem to lack any sympathy whatsoever for the needs of humble parish pastors serving diligently in small parishes with little help or encouragement.

But there is a fairly simple solution! Several years ago, the former President of the St. Louis Seminary, Dr. John Johnson had a six month sabbatical coming to him. Instead of using it to sit on a beach in Tahiti, he went back to the parish and served six months as a pastor at a church in Houston. By all accounts, it was a great experience for Dr. Johnson and for that congregation, and served to connect him in a real and powerful way to the office he holds and for which he prepared men to enter.

So here’s a modest proposal: how about we pass a resolution at the next Synod convention (since such resolutions are infallible and unconditionally binding on all Synod members now!) that every District President serve at least six months of every three year term in a parish. And not just any parish: it is easy to serve in a big mega church and run a few volleyball leagues, chair a couple of boards, and pat all the lay leaders on the head, without preaching more than once or twice a year, or ever making a single shut-in visit. No, no they must be required to serve a church that has no more than 100 members average Sunday attendance, allowing the pastors of such congregations some rest and respite. If these congregations were in urban areas with challenging conditions and high crime rates (especially muggings), all the better! Then they’d really get a taste of modern parish life! Then they could truly empathize with the least of Christ’s servants.

I hear the cry “but Districts would grind to a halt without our DPs! Their strategery (sic) and what not is vital for the church to survive!” But I recall a presentation by the former SED DP, Dr. Scherer. He informed the brethren of a little known fact from the animal kingdom: if you shoot the lead buffalo in a herd, the whole herd stops and is easy prey for hunters. But if you shoot the lead goose in a formation, he drops out and is quickly replaced and the geese fly on. “Don’t be the buffalo, Dr. Scherer admonished: be the goose.”

We read ad nauseum anyway about “servant leadership” and how the mission of the clergy is not to actually minister but equip others to do the real work. What DP does not preach such things? So let them put their feet where their mouths are. If they are such dynamic servant leaders and have done their jobs properly for a year or two, they should be able to walk out of their cozy corner offices for six months and not even be missed. Surely they are all geese, are they not?

So let’s get those cards and letters flying into Synod, my dear fellow Lutherans, imploring the Synod to require the Six Month Parish Ministry Tour (small parish, less than 100 members in worship, inner city, high crime rate, lots of muggings) for all our DPs. They will be better, the church will be better, and our complaints may at last find redress…

A. Blaise

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tropical Storm Alberto Interrupts Posting

I will be taking a short break from posting this and probably next week. Tropical Storm Alberto came through town and put my shop under water. What a mess! I have flood experience from when Hurricane Floyd flooded the eastern half of the state a few years back. Trust you me, ain't no picnic!

The good news is that we are still here and are going to rebuild. I will try to post an update as soon as everything calms down.

The picture posted is the water crossing the street in front of my shop on the way to my shop.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I Bind Unto Myself Today

For Trinity Sunday we sang the hymn I Bind Unto Myself Today that is attributed to Saint Patrick (372-466) and sung to the tune St. Patrick’s Breastplate. This hymn is a beautiful Trinitarian hymn that confesses the three persons of the trinity, that is to say God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. I’ll take a closer look at the Trinity later in the week with an examination of the Quicunque Vult.

The Gospel reading for the day is taken from the Gospel according to St. John 3:1-17
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Here in this Gospel reading we have the Trinity. In the text there is God the Father who gives us His only begotten Son. We are told of God the Spirit who by grace gives us saving faith. And we have the Son, that just as the bronze serpent that was lifted up by Moses to heal Israel, will be lifted up on the cross as our propitiation, our atoning sacrifice.

St. Patrick confess the entire Gospel story in the second verse of the hymn. Without the incarnate Lord of the first line we are lost to sin. Since Christ’s baptism is our baptism we would lost to sin without it as well. Since Christ death on the cross is our death and since his rising from the tomb is our resurrection, St Patrick is confessing his absolute faith in God’s word. For if we couldn’t believe Scripture means what it says we would rightly be brought to the state of despair under the crushing weight of the Law! The Gospel give us the freedom to look to Christ for our salvation as the One who has done it all for us poor miserable sinners. And just as St. Patrick binds unto himself the good news of the Gospel, so should we daily with confidence!

My only “issue” with our opening hymn is my own difficulty in singing it. One would expect a cantor like myself to read music with little difficulty, and that would be a mistake! Chanting the Introit (the psalm of the day) back and forth with the congregation is quite a bit different than following the musical notes of what I consider a difficult hymn. That being said, I love this hymn for the doctrine it confesses; we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. It is for this reason that I look forward to singing it again.

I Bind unto Myself Today Text: attr. Saint Patrick para. Cecil F. Alexander 1823- 95

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The three in One and One in Three

I bind this day to me forever
By pow’r of faith, Christ’s incarnation,
His baptism in the Jordan River,
His cross of death for my salvation,
His bursting forth from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today

I bind unto myself the name
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three
Of whom all nature has creation
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word
Praise to the Lord of my salvation:
Salvation is of Christ the Lord

Monday, June 05, 2006

Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition.

"Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." That's how the Kansas City Star starts the story on the video game coming out based on the Left Behind series by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

Left Behind: Eternal Forces allows the gamer to convert the different charactors to Christianity. If the charactors don't want to just make that decision for Jesus, well then it's just peachy keen to go ahead and shoot them dead. In the multiplayer games, participants can choose to command the Antichrist’s forces.

Here's a quote from the article: "In the game, Tribulation squads unleash the usual arsenal against the Antichrist: guns, tanks, helicopters. But soldiers lose some of their spirituality every time they kill an opponent and must be bolstered through prayer. The failure to nurture good guys causes their spirit points to drop, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment by the other side. The player’s choices prompt intervention by angelic forces or unleash demons who feast on the faithful. As players progress through the increasingly difficult levels, they see Scripture passages presented as secret scrolls and hear inspirational music."

In multiplayer games, participants can choose to command the Antichrist’s forces.

I wonder what brain child thought this would be a good idea? Better yet, who really thinks this nonsense will attract Christians? Isn't there already a glut of first person shooter games out there?

But ya know, if this sells even a couple copies, wouldn't it be a good idea to release Koran: Eternal Jihad. Now that's a game I would consider playing on the ole Gamesphere 2000! Wouldn't it be cool to play one of the archangles and start wiping out the Mohammadians. I'm mean, if its ok to play the role of the Antichrist and his forces, well it must be ok to, well you know...

There's enough fodder in this one little story that I could start writing full time. To read what I have previously written about deciding or making a choice for Jesus go here. It's ridiculous I know, but I can hear folks out there already thinking "God is just using these programers to reach the unchurched and show them the error of their ways". Oh great, now I'm thinking like these half wits! Blast!

HT: my niece Valerie

Lutheran Carnival XXV

The latest edition of the Lutheran Carnival is up and running at Mrs. Terrible Swede’s site Journalistic Jargon. The theme for the first carnival after Pentecost is the life and ministry of Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm (C.F.W.) Walther. Make sure to stop by and say howdy!

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Superb Post At Gottesblog

Father Eckardt over at Gottesblog has a superb post on the administration of the Eucharist. He takes on the question: do men who receive grape juice as the second kind in the sacrament receive the forgiveness of sins that is promised in the Eucharist? His answer is a simple; no they do not.

His thought process in drawing the conclusion he does is the fact that faith must believe the Word of God recorded in the Gospel according to St. Mathew 26:27-28
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Here our Lord does not mention grape juice but refers to a very real element, wine. Faith must believe the very words of Christ. Here Jesus gives us an earthly element that, through His words, becomes a mystery that only faith can comprehend. He does not say that the wine in the cup is “like” his blood; he says that the cup is his blood. It is the same blood in that cup that in just a few short hours will flow down the cursed tree that He will be nailed to. He means what he says!

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29,30 write
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

St. Paul states for a fact that some didn’t recognize what it was that they were doing and in the process died after eating and drinking the Host and the Cup respectively. A number of the Corinthians thought the Eucharist something akin to brunch at the local Kountry Kitchen and not as a holy thing God. In treating the Euchrist lightly and without the due respect a holy thing of the Lord, they died!

Lutheran confess in AC X “Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise”. It is the very body of Christ because Christ says it is! We also confess that both kinds are to be used in the administration as we confess in AC XXII 9-12 “But it is evident that any custom introduced against the commandments of God is not to be allowed, as the Canons witness (dist. III., cap. Veritate, and the following chapters). But this custom has been received, not only against the Scripture, but also against the old Canons and the example of the Church. Therefore, if any preferred to use both kinds of the Sacrament, they ought not to have been compelled with offense to their consciences to do otherwise. And because the division of the Sacrament does not agree with the ordinance of Christ, we are accustomed to omit the procession, which hitherto has been in use”. If the Lord of heaven and earth wanted us to use grape juice he would have surely said so. Introducing grape juice as a substitute conflicts with the command and the promise of our Lord and therefore can not have any salvific merit.

A student once asked me in my Sunday school class why don’t we use Oreos and milk instead of bread and wine. The student merely wanted to know where is the proof that Scripture commands what to use as the Host and the Cup. I pointed to the same verses in the Gospel according to Matthew as well as the Corinthian verses as the proof texts that the use of bread and wine is not adiaphra! Sure at any time we can use Oreos and milk and call it the Eucharist, but it would not be a holy thing commanded by God. A group of children “playing church” can pretend to administer the Sacrament by passing out Ritz crackers and Kool-Aid but all the wishing in the world will not make what they do holy.

It is refreshing to see that there are pastors like Father Eckardt that are willing, no matter how much flack they catch. confess the words of Christ as truth.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Today I begin my reign as the Chair of the Board of Education at church. I wonder how upset will folks be when I require the Sunday school opening to chanted in Latin? I mean, Latin is the language of theology so isn't that what we should be teaching the kinder? I can hear the little raggamuffins chanting in harmony now...


Yes, I can hear them already. Exxxcellent.