Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ion TV Now Running Advertisements For The Sons Of Kobol

I was watching Ion TV last night and was floored when a commercial for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aired. Taking a play from Rick Warren’s purpose driven playbook, the sons of Kolob are running an advertisement to help folks realize God’s plan for their lives. The Mormon.org website, which features the commercial I saw last night, follows the statement “We all have questions” and seeks to address their visitor’s queries this way:

Why am I? Why am I here? What happens when I die? Explore the purpose of life and discover God’s plan for you through the restored teachings of Jesus Christ. Life’s great questions don't have to go unanswered. You, too, can find answers to your questions

The sad, even if amusing, side of this commercial is that Ion TV started out as a PAX TV. PAX TV was the creation of Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, who is an outspoken evangelical Christian, as a more wholesome alternative to the “adult” programming of the major TV networks. So what’s the problem with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints running commercials on the former PAX TV, now Ion TV? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, are not Christian!

How can anyone say that Mormons aren’t Christians? It’s easy really once it’s understood that Mormons deny the Triune God as revealed by Scripture, deny that Jesus is God in human flesh, believe that humans can become gods just as their god did, believe that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers, amongst other things that conflict directly with what the historic and catholic church has confessed and taught since Christ ascended to sit at the right hand of God the Father nearly two thousand years ago.

It’s almost depressing that any station founded by an evangelical Christian would run advertising created and paid for a group whose teaching and doctrines are so antithetical to Christ’s church. Seeing the new Mormon commercial makes it clear that Ion TV is definitely not PAX TV. Business is business I guess. It almost makes me wish I tune into the old station with their endless reruns of Who's the Boss?, Designing Women, Mama's Family, and Growing Pains… almost.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No More Pancakes! Or… A Hymn Of Hope

There are few things better than a hymn that confesses our hope in the last day when all things of this world will pass away and our Lord will create a new heaven and a new earth for our resurrected bodies. I loves me my hymns of the eschaton.

Now, some may view the embedded video and think that I’m just gonna have a field day and only make fun of this “Breakfast Son”; that is not the case. Nope, mocking such a video is for angry bloggers and as we all know, I’m about the most cheerful chap you’d ever want to meet.

I actually like the darned thing because of the hope it confesses. Sure, some may lament that there may or may not be bacon and oatmeal in heaven but I think there is something deeper going on here. First, the bacon in the song is clearly a metaphor for the curse of the Law that will pass away. Second, all things must pass away and we should sing joyfully of this great truth!

And most importantly, even if there is no eggs benedict or French toast in heaven, then at least we have the comfort that the scourge of both the Advent and Lenten dinners hosted by men’s fellowship’ groups all across the country wont be there either, that’s right folks; pancakes.

I love both the penitential seasons of the Advent and Lent and the dinners that precede the midweek services almost as much. But, why somebody hasn’t just come right out and said that inflicting pancakes filled with M&Ms and raisins on the congregations of our beloved synod year after year after year is just plain wrong and simply beyond me.

So if we can sing of the joy to come; a heaven without pancakes thrust upon us for dinner because nobody want to upset the oldsters, then this Breakfast Song is a song of joy that I will gladly sing during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Whether there is bacon in heaven matters not as long as our songs sing of an eternity without pancakes.

Now, who do I call to get this song put in the LSB supplement?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back From Vacation And Into The Sunday School Classroom

Ah, back from vacation and finishing up the teaching on a class about the sacramental nature of water in the creation story to our high school to the high school class… Life is good.

The only time we deviated from the lesson was a brief excursus into Biblical inerrancy and textual criticism issues. One of the students is sure that the Bible we have today is does not contain Paul’s, Peter’s or John’s original letters much less the Gospel accounts because “there has to be mistakes because it’s all a copy of a copy of a copy.

Yeah, I’ll be happy to take up the inerrancy issues as soon as we are done with our study of God using water for salvation in both the New and Old Testaments. The student that made the statement above didn’t know quite what to say when I said that we would be happy to address the issue but that we would have “play CSI and follow the evidence.” I think that there are a great many people that are simply afraid to conduct such a study because they believe that the extra-Biblical authors and sources as well as sciences such as archeology will contradict Scripture when that is not the case at all and no reason to not hold such apologetics classes for youth as well as adults.

One thing our class has never shied away from is dealing history and science. Both these fields of study are the Christian’s friend and can certainly be brought in to teach especially when it comes to both textual criticisms. Yeah, we’ll get to that…

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time Out Episode 31

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 31 posted.

The Scripture reading for this episode is Mark 10:1-45 and the hymn is “Lord Help Us Ever to Retain” found on page 865 in the Lutheran Service Book.

This edition of Time Out sports a fresh introduction and wrap-up.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 31!

Previous Time Out episodes:

Time Out Episode 30

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Vacation

I’ll be taking a short vacation from my vocation of blogging (and metrology) this week as the missus and I are out island hopping. I’m thinking that I might possibly share some pictures of our numerous kayaking excursions and beach excursions so if ya’ll want to stop by for a visit there’ll be something new here to see.

While I’m on vacation this week I’m gonna try to put together a couple of posts (hinted at over the last few months) for posting when I get back concerning my dalliance with a cult after coming back to the church following fifteen years of atheism. I need to figure out where all the puzzle pieces go so it all makes sense, that’s the tricky part…

Anyhoo. the photo above is from our first day on the beach.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

POTF Blog Of The Week:Cyberbrethren’s Connecting The Dots

This week’s blog of the week has got to go to ├╝berblogger Rev. Paul McCain’s Connecting the Dots: Women’s Ordination and the ELCA’s Decisions about Homosexuality over at Cyberbrethren. While I agree with every point Rev. McCain makes concerning how we should deal with the ELCA’s recent decisions at its church wide assembly, it his opening paragraph that had me cheering:

It is painful to watch men and women I’ve come to know and love as brothers and sisters in Christ, in the ELCA, suffer through the agony of their church body crumbling down around them. If somebody wants to chastise me for calling them brothers and sisters in Christ, go ahead, but it changes nothing. They are. I am, frankly, sick to my stomach watching some of the ham-fisted, rude, obnoxious, boorish reactions to the ELCA decisions appearing on Lutheran blog sites and discussion groups, including ridicule and mockery in the form of songs. Must we Missourians go out of our way like this to confirm every worst suspicion of us, that we are a bunch of jerks? No. It is time for clarity with charity.

Rev. McCain isn’t the only one frustrated with sectors of the Lutheran blogosphere. I’ve been a bit discouraged myself, especially with people and sites that purport to teach and who hold themselves up as true heirs of the reformation. More and more frequently these sites I once enjoyed resort to personal attacks and allowing venomous commentary and remarks that will only serve to damage any effort to steer our beloved synod from the road so many have gone down in Americanized Christianity. Sadly some fail to see how their own words will be used against the very causes they so enthusiastically fight for.

Rev. McCain isn’t the only one getting sick to his stomach watching boorish behavior. I fail to understand how anyone thinks an opinion or view on a particular issue will be changed without even a semblance of civility. Watching folks not content to just tear people down using only their true names that they resort to signing in under numerous pseudonyms so as to pile on (because even though we say we don’t like counting heads, we sure do like making sure that there are plenty of non-people agreeing with us to prove our point don’t we?) at these same sites is confirmation that all too often we Missourians are jerks indeed.

Now before anyone asks “isn’t this the pot is calling the kettle black here?” maybe, but I’ve never once put myself on a pedestal or set myself above others as the place to go to learn how to do things the way true blue Lutheran’s are supposed to, I don’t defend my goofy ideas from silence, and yes I will delete a comment if the adjectives jackboot, thug or ilk are used. Ya know why? Because even a slack jawed layman understands civility and what it means to make attacks personal. Just so ya know.

Anyhoo, the rest of Rev. McCain’s post is as good as the opening paragraph and I strongly encourage everyone to give it a read and see what he means by connecting the dots. Thanks for the great post Rev. McCain!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Song Review: What A Friend I've Found

In a comment on a recent post I was asked by someone new to POTF to give my thoughts on a particular song. I think this song would qualify as a praise song as I’ve heard similar lyrics sung in Sunday worship services of friends of mine who do not share my traditional Lutheran sensibilities. I’ve always taken requests here at POTF so there was no reason at all to not accepted the challenge.

Since “What a friend I've found” isn’t a traditional hymn I’ll be using a shorter but succinct method that I use to judge not only hymnody but sermons as well: the Wilken Diagnostic. The Wilken Diagnostic is a three step evaluation popularized on my favorite radio program Issues, Etc. by host Pr. Todd Wilken that goes like this:

1. How often is Jesus mentioned?

2. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs? Is Jesus the one who acts, or are you?

3. What are the verbs? What has Jesus done and what is He doing?

Now, keeping the Wilken Diagnostic in the back of our minds as we read “What a friend I've found” written by Martin Smith; here’s the lyrics:

What a friend I've found, Closer than a brother

I have felt your touch, More intimate than lovers

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, friend forever

What a hope I've found, More faithful than a mother

It would break my heart, To ever lose each other

chorus repeat until end

So, using the Wilken Diagnostic, let’s start answering the questions.

1. How often is Jesus mentioned? Well, Jesus does get mentioned in the chorus and that’s a lot more than some songs I’ve heard that purport to be Christian. It’s true that Jesus is our friend and that will indeed last an eternity but He’s a bit more than that, isn’t He. I just think “Jesus, friend forever” leaves out nearly everything about who Jesus is and what he does which is a nice segue into our next diagnostic question.

2. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs? Is Jesus the one who acts, or are you? This question is a crucial one because if Jesus isn’t doing the doing, He’s not doing anything at all. The first line the song seems to fail this particular test. Do we as poor sinful creatures really find Jesus? Are we capable of coming to know anything about Jesus on our own? Let’s see what Scripture says about our own ability; let’s look at what St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-8;

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

So, we are indeed dead in our sins and can only receive faith as a gift from God. In the above text, who is running the verbs? It’s God ain’t it? Yep, and thanks be to God that by grace He does this even though we don’t deserve it. The Lord looks at us and sees, not fallen creatures, but His only begotten Son’s blood drenched robes and declares us righteous on the account of Christ. All that sin that we carry with us is atoned for at Calvary. If we are to be honest about it, we could say we had a part only in the fact that it was our sin that caused Him to be nailed to the cursed tree.

Now let’s also look at the words of Jesus in John 15:1-6;

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

The key phrase here is Jesus saying “for apart from me you can do nothing.” Here Jesus reminds us that everything is dependent on God’s grace, even the good works that bear fruit are gifts from the Spirit! All the doing is God doing the doing. All our lives, whether we talk of faith or works it is God running the verbs.

So can we “find” Jesus? Not on our own we can’t. To say or even think that we run the verbs goes against what Scripture proclaims! The song “What a friend I've found” doesn’t have Jesus doing the doing but rather it has us and what we do and what we think and what we feel as the subject of the verbs.

This brings to our last question;

3. What are the verbs? What has Jesus done and what is He doing? If Jesus isn’t the subject of the verbs, this question must simply be left blank. Not much more to say than that other than to lament the fact that the song fails to mention what Jesus did out of love for all His poor miserable creature! The story of Jesus’ work at the cross is called good news for a reason! If I’m gonna sing about Jesus, I sorta want to sing about the evangel, the good news. If that wonderful story isn’t at the center of your song… I really don’t feel comfortable singing it because it doesn't say anything that offers me any hope for the sin which infects all of us to core; Jesus’ atonement on the cross which allows me, through no work of my own, be declared righteous before the Lord God almighty.

Lastly, while this thought doesn’t fall under the Wilken Diagnostic, I still feel it needs to be said; I would be really uncomfortable singing the first stanza with a line like “I have felt your touch, More intimate than lovers” in any setting. We often speak of Christ as the Bridegroom and His Church as the bride but in the last few years there has been an explosion of songs that seem to use erotic language when referring to our Lord. I fail to see how Christ’s Church is edified with such language.

It’s true that the Song of Songs has some imagery that describes a very intimate relationship (this book of Scripture in particular is often sited as an excuses for the sexualization of both hymnody and preaching) but texts of this sort do not give us license to turn our songs into soft core porn ditties that resemble hits(?) sung by so many over sexualized pop stars seen on stations that still play music videos. Sorry, but I still get creeped out every time I hear a song that requires me to constantly remind myself it supposed to be about our Lord!

Ask yourself this; if you scratched out the name Jesus and wrote in either the name Andy or Andrea into the chorus, does the song still work if you sing it as a love song to your respective boyfriend or girlfriend? If you answer in the affirmative, I fail to see how anybody can enjoy singing such a song.

I’m afraid I can’t give my approval to the song “What a friend I've found”. With so many good hymns out there, both ancient and modern, that are able to speak of Christ’s salvific work and even our response, why sing a song that falls so short of confessing how God expresses love and our response?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Email To The Lutheran Witness Concerning A Recent Article On DCEs

I just thought I’d share what is only my second letter to the editors of the official periodical of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod, The Lutheran Witness, concerning the latest article on Directors of Christian Education or DCE’s:

I apologize for taking so long to write this email but my vocation has had me quite busy as of late. It is the matter of vocation that I write today.

One of the blessings of the reformation was the freeing of the people of consciences that had been burdened by the Roman system of works. Under this system, people had been taught the only good works and vocations were those done for the service of the church by the priests, nuns, and monks (I’m sure there are other sub-vocations but those escape me at the moment). The Roman culture was so corrupt that by the time of the Reformation; there are in fact reports of parents, fearing for their children’s eternal souls, giving up their infants directly to monasteries or nunneries to insure that they might merit heaven by a life of service to God’s church. I have great difficulty imagining, as most would today, the fear of just not doing enough to merit our Lord’s grace to the point that I would leave my child with a religious order.

The question I have now is this; are we really all that far away from the same mind set the faced the reformers five hundred years ago? Are we now ourselves burdening consciences with the idea that unless you do something for the church, your vocation is a lesser vocation? I think sometimes we do indeed say that even if it is not what we intend and I think the recent article on DCE’s very much propagates this false notion.

Under “What is a DCE?” found on page 19 of the August issue of the Lutheran Witness; an explanation from the website of Concordia University Texas is used to describe what the vocation of a DCE is and states:

A director of Christian education (DCE) is a synodically certified, called, and commissioned life-span educational leader prepared for team ministry in a congregational setting.

In this setting a DCE is
· a called minister of the Gospel;
· a trained parish-education specialist;
· a team minister who works with the pastor, staff, and lay leaders of the congregation;
· a teacher of the faith; and
· a trainer of the laity for service

Ok, I have little problem with bullet points 2 and 5 as a DCE is educated to be an educator. However, on bullet points 1, 3, and 4, I find these explanations to be confusing at best and an outright rejection of the Lutheran father's bold confessions during the reformation at worst.

DCE’s are not ministers, period. The ministry is only for those men called by our Lord through our congregations as we confess in AC XIV: Our churches teach that no one should publically teach in the church or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call1. In this article of confession, we clearly confess that it is the pastors who are charged to be ministers and teachers of the faith. It is through this Office of the Holy Ministry that our Lord uses these under-shepherds to feed his sheep until his glorious return. The office of ministry belongs to pastors and to pastors alone.

Putting the best construction on the matter I’ll presume that this blurring of educator and minister is a mere oversight. The danger of such confusion is that with catechesis in this country as poor as it is, there will undoubtedly be some people reading this article and thinking, like so many in Americanized Christianity do, that as the saying goes; everybody’s a minister. What typically goes with that thought is that only “ministry” is a God pleasing vocation. This is a dangerous idea that has burdened many souls since medieval times. This is a dangerous idea that runs rampant all across our country as people create idols out of “finding God’s purpose for you” and serving one’s neighbor but only through sanctioned sanctification.

Maybe one might say that “Well, that terminology would be understood by any Lutheran reader so you’re just splitting hairs!” I would hope that I would be able to share any article with my non-Lutheran next door neighbor but I can’t honestly say I would share this particular piece. Shouldn’t the Lutheran Witness be a clearer witness and not having all of us dig out our secret decoder rings and explaining to our neighbors that we say DCE’s are ministers but not really? Is should mean is here or a better way to say it is that is shouldn’t even have been used.

DCE’s are trained as educators and we should hold up this valuable vocation for what it is. DCE’s are not trained to be ministers and neither are our ushers, the people who clean our sanctuaries, or the people who fix our church secretaries’ favorite copier. Just because I’m a metrologist doesn't mean I’ve a metrology ministry. I could go on and on but my point is that we all have valuable vocations that are God pleasing and allow us to serve our neighbor but we are not all ministers!

Often people try to elevate vocations by tearing down another and many times the Office of the Holy Ministry seems to be a favorite target. By reproducing Concordia University Texas’s misleading website information on the role of a DCE; the author or the editor risked unnecessarily burdening the consciences of the readers of the Lutheran Witness. As the official periodical of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; better care should have been taken to use language that is distinctively confessional (even if unpopular) and Lutheran (also, even if unpopular) and then explained if such was an explanation was required.

I hope that in the future more discernment will be used when reporting on the subjects of vocation as well as ministry.

1 For the record, I am quoting the Augsburg Confession article XIV from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. A Reader’s Edition (CPH) which has passed a doctrinal review from the LCMS Commission on Doctrinal Review; an undertaking I’m not entirely sure the Concordia University Texas’s website could muster.

In Christ,

Frank Gillespie

CC Concordia University Texas Webmaster

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Time Out Episode 29

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 29 posted.

The Scripture reading for this episode is chapter 20 of the John’s gospel and the hymn is “Lord of Our Life.” found on page 659 in the Lutheran Service Book.

Dan is joined in this edition of Time Out by Kantor Nathan Beethe on the organ. Kantor Beethe is Director of Parish Music for Grace Lutheran Church down in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 29!

Previous Time Out episodes: