Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oversimplifying Worship

Today we have a guest post by Dan from Necessary Roughness entitled Oversimplifying Worship. For my guest post at his site visit here. I'll let Dan do all the talking and tell ya why he's here and I'm there, enjoy!

Greetings to all at Putting Out the Fire!

When the Lutheran Carnival began its Sabbath, the need for bloggers to share content and expand readership continued. I extended invitations to begin a new project, calling it Cross Posting, (all puns intended). I will trade posts with other bloggers, effectively becoming a guest contributor on some blogs while other bloggers guest-post on mine.

One of the things that caused me to invite Frank was the fact that he teaches high schoolers Christian (Lutheran) doctrine. The kids thirst for it and ask questions that adults don't even consider.

This phenomenon is not limited to high schoolers. My wife and I are raising five-year-old twin fraternal girls, one of whom is mildly affected by autism. I refer to them as my older and younger daughters, the older child being my “typical” child. They are less than an hour apart, yet they function like an older and younger sister. The older one even parrots things we tell the younger kid to do.

Every other day on average when I am home, I sit at the piano, conveniently located in our toy room, and we play a Matins or a Vespers service, depending on the time of day. If the next Sunday is a church holiday, like Easter, I will run through hymns that will likely be sung that day, so that they can jump in before they can fully read. It worked for Easter when, even though we visited another church, they were able to sing the Alleluia in “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”

With relatively the same exposure to liturgy and catechesis, it is interesting to see what each picks up on her own. The older daughter knows the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the first nine out of the Ten Commandments (that tenth is a doozy!), Luther's Evening Prayer, and she has asked me a lot of questions regarding Jesus, the Trinity, and so forth. I try to keep things simple without dumbing things down to the point of being doctrinally inaccurate.

My wife has been praying the Lord's Prayer with the younger, who now recites it by heart. She can complete the Apostle's Creed, even keeping “ascended” and “descended” straight. She practically leads the family in Asking a Blessing from Luther's Small Catechism; she is affectionately known as the “prayer police.” The rest she learns through music. She sings about half of the Venite from Matins and half of the Magnificat from Vespers. She even asks for “Jesus Loves Me: five-eight-eight” and “I Am Jesus Little Lamb” (LSB 740) on occasion.

The suggestion has been made that the kids are getting “too much church.” I can concede that there is a point when kids, indeed all people, might be spending too much time in one location without learning things like: what a price means at the store, learning how to kick a ball in a goal, or how to write her name neatly. But 20 minutes every other day isn't that much. It is less time than we spend cleaning up after dinner.

Good Christian friends, your targets for evangelism are usually older than five years old, and yet we expect less from adults. Dumbing down worship leaves people unchallenged and unprepared for the secular world they are exposed to the rest of the week.

Not only are Christian souls are under attack by atheistic philosophy or other religions, but the Christian soul is under “friendly fire” from the rejection of infant baptism, the denial of the Real Presence of body and blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, salvation by faith plus works, decision theology, and other differences in doctrine among the denominations. Help them! Sound doctrine unites rather than divides.

It is my observation that many church leaders (LCMS included) seek to simplify church and compact it into 30 minutes on Sunday morning. They leave out Old Testament lessons or Holy Communion. They drop the hymns with 10 verses and simplify language that is still understandable (if but a little Jacobian). They drop the hymnal and use projectors, assuming that people can't read music.

In a week, assuming you get one hour of church and eight hours of sleep per day, you are in the world 111 hours for every hour you spend in church. That is a serious advantage to give the stalking lion. We need to increase that time and improve that time, not only giving people a respite from the rest of the week, but also leaving them with the “means of grace”: word and sacrament. Don't hold it back and insult their intelligence. Don't play into this world's mantra that Christians cannot think and handle advanced topics.

Hymnals, for example, have words and music in them. Some people can't read music and thus read just the words. Those who can read music benefit from reading both. It is better to give the Christian too much and let the Christian choose what he or she can handle, rather than limiting everyone by catering to one person’s perspective of what everyone can handle.

It is a popular thing to bend doctrine and practice over backwards in the attempt to attract and retain visitors. We are reducing our expectations of what people need to be taught, and then we wonder why people don’t see important differences between denominations. We play into the expectation that church is about how to make your present life a little better, rather than admitting our mistakes, receiving the forgiveness of sins, and ensuring our eternity in the new heaven and earth.

It takes the Ad Council a grant from the government to make TV tell kids that they shouldn’t be watching TV. Through our lax expectatations, the church tells parishoners they don’t need to be immersed in the Word. Don’t guilt them. Just offer the opportunity to study, sing, and pray, with a pastor trained in Biblical languages when possible. Offer enough opportunties that people will think, “Gee, perhaps this is something I should be doing; this is something I should be learning.” The sower may get good soil, but the seed has to be planted, sometimes more than we think necessary.

Todd Wilken Video

"The Church IS an institution and Denominationalism is a GOOD Thing"

HT: Wittenberg Trail
Find more videos like this on The Wittenberg Trail

Issues, Etc. Update - Mollie Ziegler Hemingway Interview

Friday, March 28, 2008

Issues, Etc. Debacle Goes Public

The always awesome Mollie Ziegler Hemingway writing for The Wall Street Journal exposes the issues behind the Issues, Etc. debacle in the online article Radio Silence.

Also, Anthony Sacramone writing for First Things has a piece titled The LCMS Mess.

Ain't it just plain weird how a little show that supposedly nobody listened to, created such a brouhaha? Hmm, national attention… I wonder what David will say when visited by Nathan?

Todd Wilken's Statement

The following statement was read by Pr. Michael Kumm (Pr. Todd Wilken’s pastor) at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions (March 25-27, 2008, in Bloomington, MN).

When I was on the air, I often joked about retreating each night to the “Wilken Compound” and closing the gate. Radio can be an isolating profession. I would even say in jest, “I have no friends.” I was wrong.

In fact, the first thing Jeff said to me as the International Center’s doors closed behind us on Holy Tuesday morning was, “Now we’ll find out who our friends really are.” We have.

“Thank you” seems to fall short. “Thanks be to God” is better. In the days to come, we will need all the friends we can get.

We’ll always have one. His enemies called Him “the Friend of sinners.” To that I can testify. “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

The first person I called on that holy Tuesday morning was not my wife. The first person I called on that morning was my Pastor.

I love my wife (I called her next). My wife is my best friend in the world. But that morning I didn’t need a friend; I needed a pastor.

Our Church needs a faithful pastor too.

If you want to carry on the legacy of Issues, Etc., you already know what to do: Pastors, go to the pulpit and the altar, be faithful to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confession in everything you preach, teach and practice. Preach Christ crucified for sinners.

People of God, require your pastors to do nothing less and nothing more than that. Hear the Word, trust Jesus, live for your neighbor.

Everyone, when decisions are required (be they congregational, district or synodical), remember: You need a faithful pastor, and so does your Church.

I keep hearing in my head those words from Hebrews: “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” This is so true.

This story has no martyrs; no one has died. This story has no sacrificial lambs; no blood has been shed.

The only story I’m interested in telling is the story of the one Martyr, the story of the Lamb of God. That story has all the death and blood I will ever need.

The writer to the Hebrews also asks a question:

The Lord is my helper;I will not fear;what can man do to me? What can man do to me? What can man do to you?

The answer to that question is seen just inside the threshold of the hollow tomb; it is heard in the frightened voices of the women who saw Him alive again; it is written in the blood of the true martyrs mingled with the blood of their Savior.

What can man do to me? Nothing; Christ is risen.

Wir sind alle Bettler,

Todd Wilken

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Erich Heidenreich Asks The Tough Questions

Dr. Erich Heidenreich asks the following questions over at Rev. Cwirla's Blogosphere (Underground) in response to David Strand's "explanation" of the reasoning behind the canceling of Issues, Etc. and the firing of host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Mr. Jeff Schwarz:

For the record, here are the updated questions I have sent to David Strand in light of his letter. Answers to these are crucial to providing the whole truth on this matter.

Is the revenue generated by Issues, Etc. underwriters, church sponsors, ALL Reformation Club income and Bott Radio Network contributions included in Issues, Etc.’s total revenue figure?

Why were the host and the producer made responsible for a $3.5 million loss since 2001 and not KFUO management?

You have given statitistics for people listening live on the web. Why have you failed to release the on-demand listening statistics?

How does the on-demand listenership of Issues, Etc. compare to the on-demand listenership of other KFUO produced programs in the past year?

The official responsibility for raising financial support for KFUO lies with the LCMS Foundation. Is it true that LCMS Foundation President Tom Ries was strongly critical of Issues, Etc.’s on-air editorial positions, specifically its public critique of popular televangelist Joel Osteen?

What was the total listenership for the weekly nationally, syndicated edition of Issues, Etc.?

How many grant proposals were written for Issues, Etc. compared to other proposals for KFUO-AM and KFUO-FM?

Why was Issues, Etc. the only KFUO-produced program required to raise and account for its own funds?

Why was Issues, Etc. the only KFUO-produced program that generated major financial underwriters like Concordia Seminary-St. Louis, Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, Concordia Publishing House and LCMS World Relief?

Why cancel all of Issues, Etc.? Why not first cancel the more expensive Sunday night nationally, syndicated edition of Issues, Etc. and continue to do the three-hour weekday local broadcast of Issues, Etc.?

Why not make cuts at top-level, higher-paid management at KFUO?

Why were the audio archives of Issues, Etc. initially removed? This doesn't cost KFUO any salaries and benefits?

Why fire the only Lutheran Pastor on staff, of the more than 20 full-time employees at KFUO?Does the LCMS Treasurer, Tom Kuchta, think that Issues, Etc. was the cause of KFUO’s financial woes?

Does KFUO management think that Issues, Etc. was the cause of KFUO’s financial woes?

Why cancel the show just as it was launching a major development initiative (Issues, Etc. 300)? This campaign had the potential to eliminate the entire fiscal year deficit for KFUO-AM.

An Updated Statement On ''Issues, Etc.'', Again

March 27, 2008

Dear Christian Friends:

Last week the decision was made to discontinue the “Issues, Etc.” program on KFUO-AM Radio, a ministry owned and operated by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). A brief statement was posted soon after on KFUO-AM's website citing programmatic and stewardship (business) reasons for this decision.

Following the discontinuation of the program, some KFUO-AM listeners asked for more information as to why “Issues, Etc.” had been ended. Detailed reasons are not usually provided when making program changes, and I intend to continue our policy and practice not to publicly discuss specific personnel matters. However, I do want to provide additional information regarding some of the significant challenges we faced prior to the discontinuation of the program and to respond to the inquiries of those who were particularly fond and appreciative of “Issues, Etc.”

In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,698. Since 2001, the accumulated deficits at the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. The LCMS budget, entrusted to our care by members of our Synod’s congregations, has absorbed these shortfalls for years. After long and prayerful consideration, it became clear that measures had to be taken to stop the ongoing, staggering losses.

Although some are under the impression that “Issues, Etc.” was profitable and self-supporting, the fact is the program lost approximately $250,000 in the last fiscal year. While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues” accounted for more than 40 percent of the station’s total deficit. These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS.

Over the years, every effort has been made to cut expenses at KFUO-AM. At the same time, particularly in the past year, extraordinary measures were taken to bolster the financial support of the station. A sizable portion of those efforts focused on assisting “Issues, Etc.,” the most costly program on the AM schedule. Unfortunately, these measures have not solved the problem. As of February 29th, two-thirds into the current fiscal year, KFUO-AM was on pace to suffer heavy losses again.

Some may also be under a misapprehension about the size of the “Issues” audience. In 2005, station management decided it could no longer justify paying for expensive ratings reports in light of the predictably low and static nature of KFUO-AM’s audience numbers. At the time, a blending of the spring 2004 and spring 2005 “books” showed an average listening audience during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot of 1,650. There is no indication these numbers have grown appreciably since.

As for the audio streaming of “Issues, Etc.” via the Internet, the numbers are similarly low. During the last full month (February 2008) for which we have reports, the average number of live, streaming listeners during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot was 64.

On Sunday nights, when the first hour of “Issues” was syndicated in a number of markets (an opportunity for which, during the past fiscal year, the LCMS actually paid $66,000 in broadcast fees), and where the second hour was available only on the Internet, the peak number of online listeners on the KFUO stream was 39.

Sadly, very difficult financial conditions sometimes require decisions that are not popular among all affected. In the case of KFUO-AM, the time had come when good stewardship of the church’s funds required a decision that meaningfully curtailed the deep, ongoing losses at the station. Ending the costs associated with “Issues, Etc.” was the only viable option, and the decision to do this was prayerfully and contemplatively made.

I am sorry that those who enjoyed “Issues” are disappointed, but I have made the show’s archives available, and I respectfully hope that all listeners will support the ongoing radio ministry of our beloved Synod.

Sincerely in Christ,

David L. Strand
Executive Director
Board for Communication Services

So, according to David Strand, 1,650 people listened to the show during the week, only 64 listened via the live internet streams. On the Sunday show, only 39 people were listening via the internet.

Does Mr. Strand even know what an MP3 file is? Does he know that many people actually worked during the hours that Issues, Etc. was running live? Does he know that if it is inappropriate to listen to such a program in a work environment that people like me might download an MP3 file onto a disk to play as I drive back and forth to work? Does he know what the figures are for all the iTunes downloads?

No, I suspect he doesn’t know a great many things about how people communicate at all in the modern information age.

For a good commentary on this read Obfuscation! over at Save the LCMS!

Explanation of Issues, Etc. Debacle Shifts

The official KFUO-AM statement about Issues, Etc. has changed:

For programmatic and stewardship reasons, the decision was made to discontinue the "Issues, Etc." program on KFUO-AM. We look forward to bringing you new programming in this time slot in the near future. Also, we thank "Issues" host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Mr. Jeff Schwarz for their years of service on behalf of the station. Those interested may still download past "Issues, Etc." programs from the "Issues" archive on this website. Thank you sincerely for your continued support of KFUO's radio ministry.

I know I’m a day late on this one but… isn’t it interesting that Issues, Etc. went from being canceled for business reasons to being canceled for stewardship reasons? Usually, when an explanation needs to be modified after the fact, someone has not exactly been truthful. I’d be willing to bet that this explanation will be “reworded” a couple more times before it’s over.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Modest Proposal At Issue

Today we have a guest post by Monsieur A. Blaise. Enjoy;

So I think it’s clear that Issues, Etc. is gone. I was sad too about the loss. But remember what the noted post-modern philosopher Jack Handey once said: “If you drop your keys in a river of molten lava, just let ‘em go—because man, they’re gone!” This is clearly the same kind of deal here with Issues, Etc. It’s gone. The modern LCMS Bureaucracy is about as friendly to Lutheran theology and serious discussion of it and its alternatives as molten lava is to car keys. Perhaps this is a needed wake-up call to those who were in denial about that fact?

Anyway, I was thinking: so, what comes next? I mean, what will KFUO put on in place of Issues, Etc? The vague news release announcing its cancellation hinted they had something else in mind for the slot. Here’s what I propose KFUO consider putting on in the Issues, Etc timeslot:

Since life in our Synod is becoming increasingly like a chapter out of Orwell’s 1984 I would suggest the programming wizards at KFUO start modestly with a little program called “The Two Minutes Hate” in place of Issues, Etc. (start with 2 minutes and build to 3 hours. Rome wasn’t built in day.) I put myself in the mind of a Synod Bureaucrat (a very strange and surreal place to be, I can tell you) and I asked myself: “Self, what was the real problem with Issues, Etc?” “Well, clearly it did not push the company line,” I answered myself (Synod Bureaucrats talk to themselves a lot. It’s part of the mindset). Issues, Etc. simply failed to rally the troops around the Ablaze!tm program/movement/fundraiser—and that is the modern unforgivable sin in this Synod. It did not inspire unflinching loyalty to the friends of the Bureaucracy and hatred for its enemies which all KFUO programming surely must do under the current regime if it is to be an exercise in good stewardship (and sound business practices).

“The Two Minutes Hate” will rectify this oversight. The program will feature snippets of quotes from an enemy of the Synod. Some maintenance-ministry retrograde rabble-rouser. These quotes will be so obviously contrary to the Synod’s current policies and programs that it will inspire spontaneous cries of “Swine! Swine! Swine!” from the bowels of the International Center, cries which will radiate out all over this great land—well, at least wherever there’s a station tuned to KFUO and some right thinking LCMSers gathered around…

Here’s a sample program: Get some quotes of Norman Nagel preaching. I’ve heard this guy quite enough to know there’s an enemy of the Synod if ever the modern Bureaucrat saw one! Good gracious, look what the man preaches: he preaches like there’s not a blessed thing any of us can do to build the kingdom or make it come. He preaches like this Jesus fellow did it all, every last, little bit of the work for us, on the cross when He died (he’s always going on about this cross business, this Nagel is. Bloody-minded he is!). He preaches like the kingdom of God is an entirely free gift that comes to us out of the sheer goodness and mercy of Christ Jesus alone without any works of our own—without even any fundraising, if you can believe that! (I told you it was noxious stuff this Nagel preaches).

And it gets worse. This Nagel character goes on as if the Law always accuses us. Not like the Law presents a model to which we obviously conform and so can use in our carefully rehearsed speech to our neighbors to make them just like us. No, no, no! This Nagel guy preaches like the Law shows that I’m the one with the problem, like I’m the one who’s lost! Like I’m some loser who needs saving, instead of a faithful servant who goes out every day with a cheerful attitude to help Jesus get His work done by my diligent efforts (and fundraising). See what an enemy of the current Synodical regime this Nagel is? See how right he is for The Two Minutes Hate? I mean, really, if you let guys like Nagel go on the radio (and Wilken let guys like Nagel on all the time) well, pretty soon the whole world will be going after them, just believing in Jesus and extolling His gifts—as if that’s all you need for the kingdom to come! And pretty soon the church will be like a some great Jesus cult or something, with everyone practically worshiping this Jesus like He’s God or something, as if there is nothing better to do with your life than just sit at His feet and bask in His word—as if there’s nothing more to being Church than simply hearing the Gospel, receiving the Sacraments, and delighting with one another in this most holy faith!

What could be more contrary to the great Ablaze!tm movement than such preaching as this Nagel does (and has been teaching others to do!)? What could be more subversive of Synod’s current mission efforts than such preaching? I can’t think of anything. So put Nagel on for The Two Minutes Hate and get everyone to start hating on this guy too, and things will get back to normal pretty soon in our Synod. After you’ve hated on Nagel for a year or so, you could just work down the old guest list from Issues, Etc. They had tons of guys like this on all the time, and eventually you could move on to historical characters like Sasse, Walther, Gerhardt, Nicolai—till you get back to that Luther guy himself. They all went on like Nagel does.

And every episode of The Two Minute Hate will end with The Two Minutes Hate official three slogans: “War is Peace. Law is Gospel. Fire is extremely comfortable once you get used to it…”

Think about it. It’s got real potential.

A. Blaise

Cyberstones Weighs In On The Issues, Etc. Debacle

Pastor David Peterson over at Cyberstones has weighed in on the Issues, Etc. travesty by putting the best possible construction on the situation in a post titled The LCMS does NOT have Issues. Without breaking the eighth commandment, that is a task unto itself. This post is a must read, period.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More Issues, Etc. Sausage

It’s becoming increasingly difficult even attempting to keep up with all the great posts (and still hold down full time employmement) surrounding the Issues, Etc. debacle but here’s some of the good stuff:

Pastor Cwrila has taken le resistance underground in Rev. Cwirla's Blogosphere (Underground).

Pastor Wheedon is keeping on top of the situation over at his self titled blog and asking folks to voice what they think should be done.

Pastor Asburry has two more good posts up, the first asking for answers on the why of the situation (something I doubt synodocrats are going to want to give answers for) and the second, a post listing a series of open letters to the synodocrats.

Finally, Chris Rosenberg has a great post which reprints his letter asking synodocrats the question “Is the LCMS Being "Transitioned" into a Seeker-Sensitive Denomination?” Good stuff from someone who doesn’t have his pension or livelihood tied to a burocracy that must be made to give an account of what transpired and why.

March 2008 Evangelgram

From my Inbox this morning...

The Global Gospel Outreach of
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

The Evangelgram

This is a monthly publication of LCMS World Mission. It contains useful information, resources, and news regarding outreach efforts in congregations throughout Synod.

The March 2008 edition of The Evangelgram is now online.Click here to download the current issue

Page 1
Take Comfort in the Good News (Just don't keep it to yourself!)

Yep, that's right kids, make sure you don't keep it to yourselves. Maybe we could someday broadcast that same Good News on a radio station, someday... See Pastor Esget's suggesstion for a way to reach those who would listen here.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Three hundred posts, five hundred fifty three comments (with fifteen deleted for content issues) and still going strong! For all who read Putting Out The Fire on a regular basis, thank you so much! For those of you who are new(er) to the site, I bid you a welcome and I certainly hope you come back for a return visit. Again, thank you!

Taking Issue With The Cancellation Of Issues, Etc.

In an email sent out via the Wittenberg Trail, Dr. Gene E. Veith writes on the matter of Issues, Etc. being canceled;

I was #1,999 to sign that petition and the number keeps going up. Now I'm reading about a protest march at the Purple Palace!
You know, the good thing about this is that now the laypeople are rising up in arms. Before, a number of pastors were concerned about what has been going on in our synod, but the average lay folks were pretty oblivious. Take away one of their beloved radio programs, though, and the masses rise up!
Recall that it was when the laypeople woke up to the problem of liberal theology being taught in our seminary that changed things back in the 1970's.
Maybe this could become a catalyst for Reformation.

Personally, I’m at a loss as to how any of us are to proceed in this matter. All I do know is that my hit counter is clicking away at a faster rate than the first time Pastor Todd Wilken, the recently fired host of Issues, Etc., first linked to my site from his blog a couple of years back. The picture in the post is of my little hit counter getting a serious workout from all the people looking for information on a very popular radio program. I’m used to fifty or so hits a day, but two to three hundred visitors is simply unheard of!

With that I can say unequivocally that folks are fired up over what is clearly a shot across the bow of confessional Lutheranism. If these firings are allowed to stand with no response, the question we will all need to ask is “who is next?” How we handle it responsibly and in a manner that is beneficial as we move forward is anybody’s guess. For once, I’m at a loss for what to say.

I do know that if people who care about this try to handle it in the same manner that the whole Yankee Stadium incident was handled, the battle will already be lost. Name calling and charges of being a bunch of liberals should never again replace serious debates and apologetics. The neo-reformation that Dr. Veith hopes for will only happen if we stand our ground by arguing the issues with Scripture and the confessions. Dr. Luther knew this and we would be wise to follow his example.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Tomb Is Empty, Rejoice!

Our Gospel reading this morning is from Matthew 28:1-10:

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

The tomb is empty, death has been destroyed and the faithful rejoice and sing with one voice and proclaim “He is risen, He is risen indeed!”

A blessed Easter to all.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

In his Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Dr. Luther wrote in thesis 21:

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A the­ology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

Today is a day that only a theologian of the cross will call good.

The theologian of glory will look at his Lord nailed naked, beaten, dripping blood and say that what they see is a very bad thing, an evil thing. The theologian of glory will want to skip ahead two days to avoid the ugliness and scandal of the cross.

The theologian of the cross however, looks at the cross and immediately recognizes that it is he that deserves to be on the cross. He understands that all he does falls short of God’s perfect law and that it is he that justly deserves God’s wrath for every transgression committed. The theologian of the cross looks at the cross and at Christ and sees God’s perfect love given as an atoning sacrifice. The theologian of the cross looks at his Lord, acting as high priest and offering himself as the sacrifice for the entire world. The perfect Lamb is slain for those who are fallen and sinful.

A theologian of the cross calls Good Friday good. Thanks be to God for Good Friday!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

From Uberblogger Reverend Paul McCain's Cyberbrethren email comes a nice little devotional that focuses us on that which is important, as opposed to the "distractions" of the last few days:

Today is the day in the Christian church year known as Maundy Thursday. Why "Maundy"? It is a word derived from the Latin word "Mandatum" which means "command" and originates from the words of our Lord spoken on the evening of this holy day so many years ago: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35).

Where does this love come from? Is it a human emotion? Oh, it is that, but so much more, in fact, much greater than a feeling. The love about which our Lord speaks is the eternal self-sacrificing and self- giving, self-emptying love that animates the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity Himself. "God is love" and therefore, "We love God because He first loved us." (1 John 4). How? As Christ told us, "No greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends." (John 15:13).

And on this day we have Love Incarnate giving Himself to us as He institutes the Most Venerable and Blessed Sacrament of the Altar: the Lord's Supper, also known as the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Lord's Table.

What is it? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.It is the holy of holies of the New Testament. It is where we are given, by the Lord Himself, into our very mouths, the body and blood given up and shed for us on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). All the ancient Old Testament animal sacrifices were foreshadows and types of the One final and last eternal sacrifice, the sacrifice by which our sins were cleansed and by which we are set free.

In the Holy Meal we have a share in that sacrifice and are given to eat of that sacrifice, as a sign, promise and assurance that we, personally, are covered by that sacrifice. Where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.

Through the Lord's Supper, Christ fortifies us to face whatever grief, pain or loss comes into our life. And, they will come, be sure of that. There will be the unexpected loss of a job, a disappointing decision made that impacts many. The loss of a loved one to death, which we will all go through. There is the worry and pressure of life in a busy world, the stress of a strained relationship, or a marriage that is going through a difficult time.

And there is then the sin that is ever before us. From which we can not escape, try as we might, the sin that brings us the weight of guilt and, like Adam and Eve, causes us to realize how naked and without excuse we stand before the Holy God. And we turn to the Lord of Life and plead for mercy and He answers our prayer. He says to you, "My son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven! You are mine. I have called you by name. Nothing shall separate you from my love. No sin is too great for my blood to cover. I love you. I forgive you. I lay down my life for you. You are my friend."

I can think of no more beautiful meditation on the priceless treasure of the Lord's Supper than Martin Luther's hymn: O Lord We Praise Thee May God grant you a blessed Maundy Thursday.

O Lord, we praise you bless Thee, and adore Thee, in thanksgiving bow before Thee. Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish our weak souls that they may flourish.O Lord, have mercy!

May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary, that our sins and sorrows did carry, and Thy blood for us plead in all trial, fear, and need.O Lord, have mercy!

Thy holy body into death was given, life to win for us in heaven. No greater love than this to Thee could bind us; may this feast thereof remind us!O Lord, have mercy!

Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee that Thy blood should bless and sustain me. All our debt Thou hast paid; peace with God once more is made.O Lord, have mercy.

May God bestow on us His grace and favor to please Him with our behavior and live as brethren here in love and union nor repent this blest Communion!O Lord, have mercy!

Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us; grant that heavenly-minded He make us; give Thy Church, Lord, to see, days of peace and unity.O Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

KFUO's Statement On Canceling Issues, Etc.

"For programmatic and business reasons, the decision was made this week to discontinue the "Issues, Etc." program on KFUO-AM.We look forward to bringing you new programming in this time slot in the near future. Also, we thank "Issues" host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Mr. Jeff Schwarz for their years of service on behalf of the station. Those interested may still download past "Issues, Program Etc." programs from the "Issues" archive on this website. Thank you sincerely for your continued support of KFUO's radio ministry."

Ok, we still don't who or why! I guess we are supposed to trust that a proper decision was made. Something is very, very wrong here. Anytime any entity, whether it is a business or synod, has to delay a statement upon firing two employees, especially if they ran the a successful program like Issues, Etc., there is something else going on that needs to be brought to light.
And if you think it's just me that's got a migraine over this, go read Dan at Necessary Roughness, Der Bettler at Hoc Est Verum, Pastor Weedon, Pastor Snyder, Pastor Cwirla, and Pastor Asburry for more insight on this appalling act.

Also, Pastor Esget has a great idea in response to President Kieschnick's question out of this months reporter; "How do we share the Gospel with youngsters who are plugged into their iPods most of their waking hours?". Pastor Esget proposes that the synod, which already owns a radio station, maybe come up with an informative program that inform those young ragamuffins through things like, maybe podcasts...


For any good joke to be funny there has to be a tiny little bit of truth hidden in there somewhere. If you enjoy gallows humor, Horn+Swoggled hits the nail smack dab on the head. Scandal and insensitivity indeed…
Update #2
Timotheos over at Balaam's Ass has a good post where he points out that the outrage over the Issues, Etc. cancellation is not just a Lutheran issue. He links to a number of reformed, PCA, nondenominational folks who are similarly expressing outrage over the loss of a clear voice in the wilderness.
Update #3
Here's an online petition to show your support for Issues, Etc., and to speak out for reinstating the program. Sign the online petition here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Issues, Etc. Canceled

From Pastor Weedon’s Blog comes this sad news:

Today's a black day in the LCMS. Today the Synod ordered the cancellation of the popular radio show Issues, Etc. without stating a reason why, and terminated the employment of Pastor Todd Wilken, the show's host, and Mr. Jeff Schwarz, the show's producer. Folks, I don't know about you, but I do not think we can sit by and let this happen.

There was no finer program on in the radio medium that taught what orthodox Christians believed, taught and confessed, period.

Who wants to bet me that the monies that were used to fund Issues, Etc. will be allocated to print up glossy pocket mission prayer pals and slick brochures. Who wants place a wager that when all is said and done and “explained” it will be said that this was done to bring the good news to that most important demographic that we seemed so infatuated with; the unchurched and people who actually say don’t like church? Ya wanna take me up on that wager? If so, drop me a line, I need the cash.


The Wittenberg Trail has set up a PayPal account for Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, who are jobless:
A message to all members of The Wittenberg Trail
The Wittenberg Trail is organizing a drive to offer financial support to Pastor Wilken, Jeff Schwarz and their families during this difficult time.
The WT has a secure Pay Pal account set up. Please indicate “Wilken/Schwarz” in the donation comment section.
Please log into the Wittenberg Trail and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the screen.
Visit The Wittenberg Trail at:

Update #2

Funds to Support the Wilken and the Schwarz families
Can be sent to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Box 247, Hamel IL 62046. Just mark it Wilken/Schwarz Fund. Folks, they've given us so very, very much. Let's see them through this. (If Paypal is more convenient, you can also donate through that at the Wittenberg Trail). And also let's make sure that President Kieschnick, the Board of Communication Services, and KFUO know that we want to see this show returned to the air.

Update #3

The person who made the decision to cancel Issues, Etc. was Mr. David Strand, Executive Director of the Board for Communication Services. Here is Mr. Strand's contact information: David L. Strand
Executive Director Board for Communication
(314) 996-1200
Why not give Mr. Strand a call? I know I will.

Meet The Peepsmaster

After our Sunday night study on Calvinism and it’s tenets, arguably the biggest influence on Americanized Christianity, we took a break and the kids ate what else? Why, pizza of course of course. Then came the games!

Then began our peeps themed Olympics with cool sports competitions like “Chubby Bunny”, the peep flick, and the highlight of night, peeps jousting in the microwave. Yes the microwave!

We even had an adult entry into the jousting event with what can only be described as the “Peep of Doom”. While said peep didn’t live up to its much-heralded reputation, fun ensued and was had by all.

And the winner of all three events was, drum roll please, Ben: this year's Peepsmaster extraordinaire. Congratulations Ben on your hard fought victory, we salute you fine sir!

Calvinism and Peeps, oh yeah!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Infestation Problems

Hey all! Just so everyone is aware, I needed to turn on comment moderation due to a witch infestation problem after today’s snide comments from the last post. No, really, witches, I wouldn’t kid ya. They just ain't happy...

I guess this means that I going to lose my non-bombastic status, eh Dan@NR? Darn, I was doing so good...

The only people that have ever had their comments deleted on this blog are those who denied Christ. In that respect, nothing has changed.

Just because comment moderation is turned on doesn’t mean that the comments aren’t being logged.

If anyone wishes to have a discussion with me on the nature of who a Christian considers family, and if you can do it without the hateful and venomous language that I’ve seen in the last day, my email is at the end of my blogroll. I’ll be more than happy to chat once you’ve calmed down and start acting like a reasonable adult.

And finally, I just don’t sense the happy…

Things I Learned Last Week, On The Periphery

One thing is certain, you can’t pick your relatives.

The whole wages of sin thingy, really isn’t all that well understood by Americanized Christianity.

I was previously unaware of how much of an offense it is being called a sinner to those outside the faith. Even the first line of Amazing Grace, which states “that saved a wretch like me” is enough to hurt somebody's feelings.

I was previously unaware that there is a difference between Wicca and witches (hey, hey, hey, not my side of the family).

Witches do not seem to be the happiest bunch of folks, really.

I think witches like to shop at Hot Topic. The Goth look might come across as sorta cool on a teenager, but on middle aged women, it just looks sad.

Witches say they can perform magic, but if you lose your composure after toning your sarcasm down to almost nothing for six days straight, and if you ask for a card trick or two, they become really less than pleasant and will want you removed from any scheduled festivities. Go figure…

On the brighter side, I love my family more than I’m capable of properly communicating. They adopted me long ago for reasons that I cant seem to understand. They kept telling me that there was no way they could thank me for being there for them. I kept saying the debt on my part was far from being paid. Eventually I had to say that the love we have for each other would not allow debts. We do for each other because that is what we do.

I started missing them as soon as I climbed into my truck to go home to be with my missus who I also missed more than words could express.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Old Jewish Quote of the Day

How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?—J.T.Kirk, 8130.3, commenting on the Kobayashi Maru Scenario

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What I Learned At An Evangelical Wake

Les’s wake was held last night. There where some rough parts with family members angry about who might be included in the receiving line. But the evening ended about as well as it possibly could.

The one odd thing that struck me occurred after the viewing was over and only Anne, the kids and their wives or girlfriends, two or three members of Anne’s church, and myself remained. Their Pastor read a little bit of scripture and led the bunch of us in a prayer that was longer than most Lutheran sermons these days.

And then, the odd thingy, they broke out singing their favorite hymnody. And not just singing the melody but these folks were singing harmony as well. And unlike what I usually hear in many Lutheran churches today, they sang joyfully. I swear the ten of them sang louder and clearer and with more joy than even my own congregation is capable of at a midweek service.

I believe that most Lutherans would be put to shame if asked to sing ten entire hymns without their hymnals and sing them well or even in parts. With such a rich tradition in hymnody it would stand to reason that most Lutherans should at least be able to keep up with ten evangelicals, but that just sadly isn’t the case.

We certainly differ theologically with most evangelicals in America today, but one thing I think is clear, they love Jesus and are better about communicating that than most of us.

Monday, March 10, 2008

So, You Want Me To Cry?

So, you want me to cry do you? Well, here’s how you do it; just tell me and your children that you would like it if I could be introduced as your brother to everybody at the wake and memorial service of your husband. That should definitely accomplish the mission. My friends really deserve better friends than me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Quick Update

My dear friend Anne and I were able to take some time this morning and do a short devotion. I had asked her the Saturday night if she would object to Matins and she thought that it would be nice. It’s too bad that I couldn’t find my stupid hymnal. I normally keep one in my truck just for giggles but when I went out there it was nowhere to be found.

So I just ended up putting something together out of the Pastoral Care Companion that I’d been using since I’d arrived. She added two or three Psalms after I was finished with my bit and I found a little peace hearing the Word on the Lord’s Day. With all that was going on, being mobbed by well intentioned people who would just want to wish the family well just wasn’t something to look forward to. A Matins-lite devotion just hit the spot.

Regarding the Pastoral Care Companion , what a terrific resource that little book is. I had used it when I was “up” with Les his last two nights. Through the tears and a bit of blubbering I chanted many of the Psalms and read all I could until I was no longer able to focus on the text because of the lack of sleep. It was invaluable to me in the respect that it focused my attention on God’s word and not where I would veer off to given my attention span.

The picture in the post is serious proof that I’m definitely not in the huat south this week. All that snow came down on my truck in only one night. Anne has informed me, in very clear terms that “I’ll take you "out" if you go outside one… more… time in your shorts and without anything on your feet". Frankly, I’ve just been having fun playing Hobbit.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Saint Called Home

Leslie died in Christ at 1:10 this morning. He leaves behind his wife of twenty-five years Anne and three children Christopher, David, and Jonathon. In addition, he is also survived by a daughter Cricket from a previous marriage and three sisters Dorothy, Linda, and Judith.

These folks have been my friends for thirty two years. Les and Anne are second only to my wife in helping me find my way back to the Church. They are my family in every sense of the word.

While we differed in our theological tradition, Les understood and confessed his faith in the atoning work of Christ. Based on that confession, there is no doubt that he rests with the Lord. After years of being very sick, he’s earned the right to rest before the last day when we are all given our new bodies, made perfect for eternity.

I will miss him very, very, much. But this world of needles, sickness, pain and suffering thankfully didn’t last long. As Dan over at Necessary Roughness likes to say, put another one in the win column.

Please keep Anne and the kids in your constant prayers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My patience for tolerating people who would lead folks away from Christ and for those who want to make for themselves a brand new and relevant Jesus in tune with today cultural sensitivities, ended tonight.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bad News

I received some bad news last night. My dear friend Anne called me to say that I needed to move up my arrival to visit Les as he was no longer responding to dialysis treatments for kidney failure. I drove all night long to be there for my friends. thirteen hours in a car just ain't fun anymore.

Needless to say I’m about exhausted. Please keep the whole family in your prayers, they’ll surely need it over the next few days. I still don’t know what to say to or for them though. Right now I'm just listening to whichever one of them that wants to talk. Maybe that’s the point and I need not follow the advice of Job’s friends who while well intentioned, proved that running one’s mouth isn't always the best way to comfort someone.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Official Ablaze! Firefighter Gets His Uniform

Last week I posted a photo of myself somewhere (but not here) and immediately heard from two fine individuals who wanted to know where my fireman’s suit was. Huh? The picture I put up was of me at a family reunion of sorts last summer. I was just sitting out on a patio in a t-shirt and shorts, which by the way, is my normal attire away from work and church even if it just so happens to be thirty degrees out. Anyways…

“Frank, where’s your fireman’s outfit?” and “Where’s the suit and hose to put out all those fires Frank?” were two question that were thrown at me. Ha! These guys get the joke! Gosh I love folks with my skewed sense of humor!

I know they were joking around but what if they weren’t? I guess these might be valid or fair questions since I was dubbed the Official Ablaze! Firefighter(TM) some time ago. I’ve had more than my fair share of fun with that idea to be sure and after some consideration, the questions got me a thinkin’. What to do, what to do? Uh oh, there I go thinking again.

But here’s my problem, I’m not a fireman, I’m a metrologist. That means there is no way I would even have access to the gear necessary to even pretend that I was a fireman. So when I decided entertain the idea that I should post a picture of myself as the Official Ablaze! Firefighter(TM), I turned to the best tool at my disposal, Gimp, a Photoshop type program that is absolutely free. I was able to cut and paste myself and the blog’s logo into a pretty convincing picture in just under three hours. Not the quickest job, but it got done. That was last week.

Yesterday morning, someone who I’ll only identify as CB, delivered a real, regulation firefighter’s suit; coat, pants, gloves, the works, to the Official Ablaze! Firefighter(TM). The suit was taken out of service on a schedule and was just sitting in a closet. CB thought I might enjoy being able to take a real picture in a real suit instead of altering an existing one’s pixels.

Yeah, I’m gonna have fun with this as soon as I deal with next weeks unpleasantries. Thank you CB, you made my day and cheered me up a little.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Unexpected Phone Calls, Sorrow, And The Comfort Of Lenten Hymnody

My morning started off very, very badly. About fifteen minutes before I was to leave for church I received a phone call from my oldest friend, Anne. She was calling me to request my presence when her husband comes home from the hospital to die. Anne’s husband Les has been on dialysis for kidney failure for many years now and he’s well past the average time that most people with his condition survive. Simply put, Les is at the point where the dialysis no longer does what it is supposed to. In six days he will come home for the last time to die with his family. Anne and Les consider me to be the not so sane younger brother, their three children all call me Uncle Frank, and for this reason, because I’m considered family, I too will be there at his passing.

This is not the way I expected my Sunday to start. Who knew? Not me I assure you. So needless to say I went off to church not in the right frame of mind. Fortunately, God’s gifts through His promised means of grace are not dependent on me being in the right frame of mind. The preached Word does what it does in spite of my emotional state whether it be distressed and cheerless or joyful, it makes no difference. Thankfully the Word of the Lord is not subjective but rather objective and alive and active. The comfort of God’s undeserved gift of grace through faith in Christ preached purely did what it was intended to, it comforted me.

And the closing hymn comforted me as well. I’ve written at length about my love of Lenten hymnody because of the focus on Christ’s passion and his journey to Jerusalem to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for all poor miserable sinners, like me and the rest of the planet. Our closing hymn was My Song Is Love Unknown by Samuel Crossman, written in 1664 was found on page 430 of our hymnal, LSB.

My song is love unknown,
 My Savior’s love to me;
 Love to the loveless shown,
 That they might lovely be.
 O who am I, that for my sake
 My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
 Salvation to bestow;
 But men made strange, and none
 The longed-for Christ would know:
 But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
 Who at my need His life did spend!

Sometimes they strew His way,
 And His sweet praises sing;
 Resounding all the day
 Hosannas to their King:
 Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
 And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
 What makes this rage and spite? 
He made the lame to run,
 He gave the blind their sight,
 Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
 Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have 
My dear Lord made away; 
A murderer they save,
 The Prince of life they slay,
 Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
 That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
 My Lord on earth might have;
 In death no friendly tomb 
But what a stranger gave.
 What may I say? Heav’n was His home; 
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
 No story so divine; 
Never was love, dear King!
 Never was grief like Thine. 
This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise 
I all my days could gladly spend.

What a beautiful confession it is that repeats back in song the very story that is the good news for a fallen world. This Lenten hymn comforted me every bit as much as the reading of this morning's Scripture readings. I pray that I’m in some way able to share that same comfort that I sung this morning very soon with those I love dearly.

Please keep Anne and Les, my oldest friends, in your prayers.

Another Soul Winning Church?

The picture in this post is of a little country church that I pass by on the way home every night. Last week they put the following message up on their roadside board; Don’t be God’s weakest link. I wonder if the LCMS Commission on Worship would like to interview them to see what visible signs they have nailed down to insure that they will not be God’s weakest link. Sure they aren’t Lutheran (they are nondenominational Church of God of Prophesy) but heck, why should that matter? I mean, to make sure we are doing things the right way we are inviting people that admit that they don’t even like church to help us with church. We (LCMS types) are especially worried about the retention of youth to the point where we try to emulate the culture so as to be relevant with the little ragamuffins. Not sure what I’m talking about with the whole soul winning thingy? Go here for a refresher.