Sunday, July 31, 2005

Take the ELS poll on top Lutheran "fears"...

I visited our synod's website and found this funny and insightful quiz: My top two Lutheran fears are...

The top two fears I chose were my pastor receiving a call and missing orblowing a chance to give witness to Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Preachrblog: Issues, Etc. radio program on Lutheran bloggers

Preachrblog posts on Issues, Etc's recent program on Lutheran bloggers. I recently discovered this program. Coming from the ELS, it is amazing to me to think that a synod would have their own radio station, but the Missouri Synod is that big. I plan to go through the show's archives and find shows of interest to me.

It was fun to hear the voice of Pastor Scott Steigemeyer, author of Burr in the Burgh blog. I suppose that is the first time I've heard the voice of a blogger (except for the voices of Northern Alliance Radio Network bloggers!). I don't know Sandra Ostopowich, author of Madre's Missives blog, but she had some good comments to make also. I was confused and disappointed to hear the show's moderator, Todd Wilken, take a cynical tone toward bloggers. I suppose the bad bloggers among us has colored the view of some people, but I think that blogging is here to stay and that the responsible ones will continue. Whether you blog in a magazine format, a diary format or as an apprentice writer, I encourage you to continue! Be responsible, always accurately research your topic and remember that real people read your comments (maybe even the person you think you are secretly writing about). Read the post here: Preachrblog

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ask the Pastor!

I've highlighted posts by Pastor Walter Snyder who keeps Ask The Pastor blog. He's added more and more great posts and this blog is on my list of favorite spots to read. Pastor Snyder does a great job of responding to questions in a clear manner without dumbing down the answer. I am thankful for Ask The Pastor.

Here's a list of his most recent and intriguing posts:

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wretched of the Earth: Aquaphobia

A pre-seminary student and Confessional Lutheran blogger, Ryan at Wretched of the Earth, aptly expresses his doubts of being a "good enough" pastor and also is able to encourage us all:

Voicing my reservations to God about this path he has me on, I'm reminded of a simple fact: it's not about me. And it's not about you. I've always felt like I had to put on a show for people 'cause we're all so concerned about impressions, and to be a religious person you have to keep up the grandest show of all. But I can't do it. None of us can do it, and it simply isn't worth the effort anymore. God has loved us in spite of ourselves, and made us sufficient in the sacrificial work of Christ. We are but earthen vessels, busted out clay pots whose weaknesses can only point to the strength of a gracious God.Read on: Wretched of the Earth: Aquaphobia

Ask the Pastor: What Is a Confessional Lutheran?

Since I sometimes refer to Confessional Lutheranism, I thought I'd post this explanation written by Pastor Walter Snyder: Ask the Pastor: What Is a Confessional Lutheran?

We’re familiar with “conservatism.” In Christianity, it means those unwilling or unlikely to make hasty change, who are connected to their past, and who interpret the Bible assuming that it is God’s revealed, true Word. We officially reject those who call the Bible a human invention, or a mixture of the divine and the human.

The word “confessional” is not so commonly used. Normally, we think of a confession as an admission of guilt. “Confess” has a root meaning of “acknowledge together.” In matters of error, we state that we have, indeed, done what’s wrong — we “fess up.” But confession also has positive application: It can be used to declare faith.
Read on...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Sceleratissimus Lutheranus: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

Wildboar at Sceleratissimus Lutheranus writes:

I was in church recently and noticed that one of our elderly members, a woman named Marie, was in a wheelchair. Not unusual for some of the senior citizens in attendance, but I’d never seen her need one before. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Marie that day (her daughter wheeled her out the side door while I was still in the receiving line) but I received word the next morning that she had been hospitalized.

So I drove over to St. Joseph’s to see how Marie was doing. Thankfully, it was nothing serious, but it was causing her some serious discomfort. In the course of our conversation, she told me that the pain had started the day before, in the morning, before church! I asked “why didn’t you go to the hospital right away?” and she said “Oh, I wouldn’t miss church. I know how badly I need it.”I was astounded. Marie’s generation really seems to get what church is all about.
Read on:Sceleratissimus Lutheranus: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

Monday, July 04, 2005

Tired of hearing about sin?

Someone very dear to me recently asked why our pastors preach so often on the topic of sin. She's got one foot still in the door of our church, but her other foot is in the door of a modern, "evangelical" ELCA "lutheran" church known for its praise services and focus on joy and love. She said that the pastor in her new church is just as good as our pastors, but he doesn't focus on sin so much. She told me she is tired of hearing about sin; she wants to focus on joy and love. Funny thing is that the more time she spends at that church, the less joyful and loving she has become. I say "funny" sadly; I know that irony of trying to achieve love and joy too well. I have walked down that very road and have tried to warn her of the dangers such a church will bring to her faith. My loving warning received accusations of lack of love and judgmentalism. I know that I spoken those things to other Christians in the past. My human heart is so unfaithful; I am so thankful that God has a sure plan to bring me into His holiness someday. My own plans for perfection certainly didn't work!

The more focus a Christian attempts to put a focus on joy and love as a discipline - as the actions and attributes of the good Christian life - the more those things slip right out of your hands. It took me too many years to learn that the only way to become more loving and more joyful is to be totally, completely and daily confronted by my own sinful nature and utter helplessness to become the person I wish I were. It is only at that point that the Holy Spirit can whisper to my soul of where my help comes from. The apostle Paul knew this. He wrote:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!

And so my dear friend, if Paul himself knew that confession and absolution of sin must come before we can shout out for joy upon hearing the good news of our salvation, then how is it that your church is telling you otherwise?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus reminds us of where we can find rest from our sins and the gentleness and humility that we seek to own. Yesterday in church, my pastor reminded me that the ability to become loving, gentle and humble is a result of hearing the the law pronounced to me so that I understand that I am sinful; and hearing the gospel - the good news of my redeemer- and clinging to my king in desparate thankfulness. Jesus then shows me how to become that loving person I wish I were by taking His yoke upon me and learning from Him.

Even the Old Testament convicts of of our sin and points us to the Savior who will save us from our sins. This is why we can rejoice. Our king comes to us bearing our salvation!
The Coming of Zion's King
9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

The scripture for church yesterday is among my favorites. When Paul writes of his own sinful nature, he makes it clear that even the most "accomplished" Christian can not save himself and will not achieve holiness on this earth. But does this message discourage him or us? No! It is the source of our joy! Scripture is clear. We cannot know or experience real joy and love apart from the knowledge that God comes to us with the salvation that we are never able to achieve by ourselves. To tire of hearing about sin is to deny that you have a sinful nature and need a savior. A church that doesn't remind you that you are, indeed, sinful has no way to proclaim the good news that you have a savior. A joy-and-peace-only church is a church that doesn't need Jesus and cannot strengthen Christians. For the rest of us sinners, we need to hear about sin and we need Jesus.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ask the Pastor: Premarital Sex, Living Together, Ceremonies, and Marriage

This is just too good to leave on Pastor Synder's blog. I'll post it here, too! We humans are very sexual and, in certain moments and situations, we can come up with the darndest and creative excuses! This post is funny, sad and helpful all in one.

Q: What Scriptures say to refrain from sex — not adultery or fornication, as one has to be married to commit these sins — between those who love each other and intend to marry? I can’t find anything against sex between two who love each other and are monogamous.

Q: Does having sex before the ceremony make it wrong? Do you become married in a spiritual sense when you have sex for the first time? Is the real seal on the marriage the first sexual experience, and not the ceremony itself?

Q: Is it a sin to have sexual relations with someone if we’re both not married? My mother and I are having a heated discussion about this. I am 51 years old; my husband passed away 2 years ago. I don’t intend to marry again. I want to be faithful to the Lord but to have complete abstinence seems a little old-fashioned to me.

Q: Could you tell me about sex before marriage? I’ve been racking my brains for ages with this issue; I know it's wrong but I want to be with my partner like that and I want to be a Christian. We aren't planning to get married for a long time, and I don’t want to wait that long to be intimate with him again. Can I still be a Christian?

Q: I have fallen in love with a woman I want to marry. She loves me as well. Previously, we had spent the night with each other in the same bed several times. After deciding that this may be a practice frowned upon by God, we were contemplating either living under the same roof without sexual relations and without sleeping in the same bed (in other words, as roommates) until the marriage.

Q: I asked my love to marry me and she accepted. Our parents agree. The problem: I cannot be with my wife for two years since she lives overseas. We met while she was in America for school. Before she returned home I proposed. At this point we became one, not through intercourse but through love. I’ll see her only once again before being able to wed her legally. But in heart and soul we are already in wed lock. My question is, if a man and a woman commit to marriage in all aspects of mind, body, heart, and soul, is intercourse a sin at this point?

For the answers, read here: Ask the Pastor: Premarital Sex, Living Together, Ceremonies, and Marriage

I'm also posting the answers here, just in case.

A: Adultery is marital infidelity. Fornication is general sexual sin. including consorting with prostitutes, homosexuality, or moving from sex partner to sex partner, with or without marriage.

A general implication is correct: Ceremony doesn’t make a marriage. Commitment establishes the relationship. Yet Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:16, “He who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her. For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” Consummation seals the commitment. Thus, both a public declaration and a private action are part of marriage.

Sex defines and determines with whom you are “one flesh.” The commitment of your sex organ is final, no matter who your partner. Thus, you are, in God’s eyes, married when you have sex with another. One questioner specifically mentions monogamy: Monogamy means “one marriage” or “one marriage partner.” The Bible establishes no particular religious or civil rite and many governments recognize “common law” marriages, wherein living together, having sex, or merely representing themselves as husband and wife legally bind a man and a woman.

When a man and woman engage in sex without publicly representing themselves as married, they lie about their relationship. This happens among young people who may not be ready for the legal commitments or who want to maintain parental support while indulging their sexual desires. It also includes older people who live together without a public declaration or ceremony or a state license. They may do this so as to not lose pensions or possessions.

Paul wrote, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything. (1 Cor 6:12)” Married is married and single is single. There is no trial period, no “test drive.” There is no benefit, rather loss, in dallying with another outside a lifetime commitment. Be married or be single — but be truthful. Without the public confession of unity and commitment to remain united, it is easier for one or both partners to enter the relationship casually — then to throw it away just as casually.

It isn’t easy to be one flesh with one person: Commitment and focus are difficult to maintain even when bound by vows, witnesses, and laws as well by sex. Secret or private relationships are even harder to sustain, since you lack the benefit of the support of family and society. For the young man wondering about beginning the sexual relationship before the vows, God said, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24)” Until ready to live together, man and woman should remain apart.

To the couple wondering about living together without sharing a bed and without sex, I ask first of all if you think that you can resist the temptations of proximity. Then consider your public testimony: What will the world assume about your shared living? What witness will it give about the Christian life? “Abstain from every form [appearance] of evil,” Paul advised (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Even if an action isn’t wicked, can it be interpreted as such by an outside observer?

One questioner knows that “it’s wrong” to have premarital sex, then wonders if she can do so and still be a Christian. Certainly, all Christians remain sinners. However, sinning with knowledge and intent is different from succumbing to temptation due to the weakness of flesh. In Matthew 4:7, Jesus referenced Deuteronomy 6:6, saying, “It is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Wilfully doing wrong dares God to withhold judgment.

Finally, sex only within the marriage is very “old-fashioned”: God fashioned it in the “good old days” of Creation, introducing it when He introduced Eve to Adam. His plan for those wanting sex remains simple: Be and stay married to one person. Depending upon laws, customs, and the like, the shape of the wedding may vary. However you promise yourselves to each other, consider what is legal in society and what is right by God’s Word. Does a secret relationship that you’ll “someday” reveal to others truly “honor your father and your mother”? Does wanting the state to not declare your relationship a marriage mean that, deep down, you don’t consider it a marriage, either?

“Flee from sexual immorality ...” said Paul, for “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body ... [which is] a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.... You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:18-20)” Glorify God openly, honestly, absolutely. Compare who you are with whom God desires you to be. Marriage — especially Christian marriage — testifies to the world about Christ’s relationship with his Church (see Ephesians 5:15-32).

Declare your intent to each other and to the world, make your promises, then live according to them. Christ did not take a secret bride when He claimed the Church as His own. The Church does not secretly worship Christ. Nor is Christ honored by men and women taking secret wives and husbands. His commitment was absolute, even through crucifixion and death. That same death forgives our sexual sins and restores us to live in integrity from this day forth, until death parts us.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

To Ask the Pastor, send email to

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

Tablethoughts for 7/1

In regard to John's comment about Tabletalk times being just a bit late for the folks in the UK, I thought I'd post on the idea of opening the pub a little earlier on Tuesdays. I'm often home by 4pm which would be 9pm in the UK (I think). Maybe that time would work for others. I'll post this and see what the innkeepers say. It seems to me that people show up at the table a wide range of times. I know for me that the current time is very difficult - lots of family duties at that time. I often stop by at 8pm, chat for a bit, leave and then come after 10pm. There's still lots of folks there. People like Theology Geek and others have to get up early, so they leave by 10pm ET.

The dynamics of the Tabletalk Inn is interesting. Most people know WAY more than me about doctrine and theology, which is a good thing. Age is another thing; I've run into a whopping TWO people who are older than me. There are only occasionaly synodical differences. The other dynamic for me is that my own kids give me looks, as they patiently (not!) wait their turn on the family computer. They look at me as if to say, "Why are you in a CHAT room, mother? That's for our age group." Of course, they don't know I was in the AOL chatrooms when they were actually ASLEEP by 8pm way back in the old days of the mid to late 90's - scrapbooking, parenting, faith, etc. It's OK...I'll just let them think I'm weird. What's the point of trying to defend myself? I'll get my revenge! I think a sports car, new lap top and new clothes RIGHT when they are poor college graduates will do just fine. Me and my friend, Suzi, will taunt our grown kids and bribe them to come for weekly dinners with offers of laundry, groceries, etc.

The Burr in the Burgh: reports from Trego, WI

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer reports from the conference I wanted to be at: The Burr in the Burgh: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism