Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Semper Virgo

From the WELS Q & A site:

Q#1: Did Mary have other children?

A: There are three theories about Jesus' brothers and sisters who are mentioned in the gospels. One is that these were actually Jesus' cousins. Another is that these were children of Joseph, whose first wife had died before he married Mary. Both of these theories were motivated at least in part by the desire to preserve Mary's virginity even after Christ's birth. The third idea is that these were children of Mary and Joseph born in a natural way after Christ's birth. This is the most natural understanding of the passages in which Jesus, Mary and these brothers and sisters appear together. See, for example, Matthew 12:46 and 13:55.

Q#2: To summarize, you stated that Mary did indeed have other children with Joseph and that this is "the most natural understanding of the passages." I find that rather hard to believe, though this oversexed society probably does not. Allow me to explain...

Both Mary and Joseph were no doubt amazed/shocked at her pregnancy when in fact they had had no sexual relations. The bible states that BOTH Joseph and Mary had an angel appear to them explaining the situation. Certainly the two them must have discussed these visions among themselves. Now imagine Joseph and Mary, BOTH pious Jews, realizing that God had chosen HER to give birth to His one and only Son -- The Word made flesh.

Are we then to assume that, pardon the crudeness of this comment, that both were just dying to jump into the sack together after they BOTH experienced the appearance of an angel followed by the miraculous birth of The Christ!?

Certainly they BOTH would have understood that Mary was "Blessed among women" and that she was in fact the Mother of God.
In your response (above) you imply Joseph was NOT going to respect that. Get real!

Now perhaps you will respond that is all a story and not really true. Well what else do you care to edit out (or mythologize) of the Bible (or Christ's teachings) that are critical of present day concepts of 'sanctity' or 'morality'?


If Scripture wished to make it clear that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were half brothers and sisters, this could have been done with only a few words. For example, in Matthew 1:25 Scripture could have said that Joseph never had any union with Mary instead of saying "He had no union with her until she gave birth to a son." This verse plus the fact that Scripture speaks matter of factly about Jesus' brothers and sisters certainly indicates that they could have been such.

To refer to Mary and Joseph as "jumping into the sack" after Jesus birth is indeed a crude comment. It seems to imply that all sexual union is an expression of sinful lust. Scripture speaks of the loving sexual union between a husband and wife as a blessing of God. For Mary to enjoy this blessing would not have been a sin for her, nor would it have affected in any way the fact of Jesus' miraculous birth.

It is only the false attempt to make of Mary something she is not that seems to drive the denial that Jesus could have had brothers and sisters. Mary herself says that she rejoiced in the birth of the Savior of all God's people among whom she includes herself (Luke 1:46-55). All Christians will honor Mary highly, just as we do other people through whom God accomplished great things such as Moses, Elijah, David, Paul etc. But like us, each of them rejoiced in the Savior by whom their sins were washed away and thus they were made heirs of eternal life.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lutheran Carnival IX

The Paradise
Lucas Cranach(the elder), 1530
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
From EuroWeb archives

Why have I chosen Lucas Cranach the Elder's painting, Paradise, as my theme for this issue of the Lutheran Carnival? On the surface, it is a busy painting. You must stop and carefully note what each set of figures is depicting. Certainly, as you analyze each little scene within a scene, you realize a theme. As I read through the many excellent submissions to this ninth issue of the Lutheran Carnival, my mind searched for a theme. Maybe that is human nature and a failing of my character, but it actually wasn't hard to see a pattern. The people who write for the Lutheran Carnival understand what being a Lutheran actually means and demonstrate Luther's doctrine of vocation, no matter what their subject matter. Fittingly, Dr. Gene E. Veith, Jr. recently debuted the Cranach blog, devoted to the topic of vocation. Be sure to visit daily for discussions and learn who Cranach is and what he did. Luther's thoughts on vocation are summarized in his own words:

What is our work in field and garden, in town and house, in battling and in ruling, to God, but the work of his children. Our works are God's mask, behind which He remains hidden, although He does all things.

To start off this issue of Lutheran Carnival, Pastor Paul T. McCain has summarized confessional Lutheranism in his post, Does Being Lutheran Still Matter?. He writes:

People who are passionate about the truth of Biblical Lutheranism know that the Bible teaches often and clearly that we are all sinful human beings in need of God’s constant mercy, which He so lavishly gives in Christ. To be truly Lutheran is to receive the gifts of God with humility, repentantly recognizing our great need. It is tempting for Lutherans to be proud and arrogant of their great heritage, but this is a terrible evil! To be Lutheran is to be always mindful of our great sin and our great need for a Savior. To be a Lutheran is to be a sinner calling out to fellow sinners, “Come and see!”
He also warns us of pride in being Lutheran, as if we were the only ones in true faith. No! That is a lie the devil whispers to us to convince us that God is not actually as powerful as we wished he were. Pastor McCain wisely reminds us, "We must realize that the Word of God is powerful and active, wherever and whenever it is heard, read or meditated upon."

So now that we understand what it means to be a Lutheran and how we should live our daily lives, how then do we keep our blogs? Weekend Fisher, of Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength, posts on the vocation of blog-keeping with Humility and the aftermath of GodBlogCon I and notes that many prominent "Christian" blogs rarely discuss God. Aardvark Alley shows the "dark side of standing for the pure Gospel in The Meanies of Grace, namely getting a reputation of being mean-spirited and unloving for refusing to compromise it. Then he recruits modern-day "meanies" to band together in promoting confessional Lutheran blogs by blogrolling and referencing favorite posts in The Truth (Blog-) Rolls Along. Ol' Aardvark writes:

The way I look at it, confessional Lutheran bloggers should do what we can to keep the truth near the top o fthe search engines, burying racism, evolutionary biology, and other false doctrines and philosophies of men as deeply as possible.

Beyond the vocation of blog-keeper (a side job, to be sure), Lutherans must live in this world. They are pastors, parents, children, employees, bosses, doctors, dentists, patients, educators, students, geologists, writers, computer geeks and much more. They are called to be prepared to give an account for the joy they have in Christ Jesus.

Dan of Necessary Roughness defended the gospel of Christ in one of the modern day marketplaces of our electronic world, the Free Republic, where Rick Warren's chance to spread the gospel message on a Starbucks coffee cup was being discussed.
Dan looks at what Rev. Warren has chosen to tell the world. You won't see Christ... His account, Coffee Beans, Not Creeds, reminded me of Paul's experience in Athens. Paul scoped out the city and its people while waiting for others to arrive. He reasoned with people and was invited to the Areopagus where ideas were discussed. I think the Free Republic might just be a modern version of the Areopagus, especially in that many people want to hear new ideas, discuss them at length and when the conversation turns pointed, they ask people like Paul politely, but insincerely, to come back another day to discuss it again. In The Divine Service is the True "Children's Church", Dan also write of his experience in bringing his children to the worship service of a church that doesn't appear to welcome the little ones, at least not in the actual service. This is an exellent post and an important topic!

Daniel of Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran, who often ties in geology and faith as no one else could do, writes on the lessons to be learned as an ESL teacher. He writes:

Patience isn't a virtue I have a lot of, but I find I have more than I thought I did when I teach ESL. Frustration can come easy and overtake you if you are not careful.

Kletos Sumboulos of Amor Et Labor examines his chosen profession of psychologist in light of scripture in Excuses For Sin. He writes,

One of my goals for my internship is to try to spell out what a confessional Lutheran psychologist would look like in practice. I've been troubled at the following thought, "Is what I am doing as a counselor merely helping clients make excuses for sin?"

This future psychologist is a man after Dr. Laura's, as well as Luther's, heart! Collegiate musician Sean of Hot Lutheran on Lutheran Action explains how Bach's KlavierUebung Part II ties in to Luther's Small Catechism.
Jumping off a lecture on the 3rd part of the J.S.Bach's KlavierÜbung given by Christoph Wolff (world famous Bach scholar), this post discusses this work and its connection with Luther's Catechism. Bach understands vocation, and generally blows us all away with his deep theological commentaries in his music.

Lutherans engaged in life have many opportunities to discuss important issues of our day, such as evolution, bird flu, abuse, abortion and other sufferings of this world.
Pastor's Wife at Lonesome Grove reminds us of a time, in the midst of a terrible time of sickness, when a beautiful hymn was written. The pastor of a dying congregation wrote of the great joy we have in life or death, sickness or health, peace or war, abuse or respect. She is reminded, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Amid reports of a 'potential pandemic' sweeping around the nations, Just Me finds comfort in God's word and our Lutheran hymnody in wake, awake, for night is flying.

Madre's Missives provides wise counsel on the topic of abuse in our relationships, but also helps readers to put abuse into God's perspective. In You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, she writes,

God does not mean for the worst possible thing to happen to us. That's the last thing He means for us. In giving Christ all the worst things that could happen to every human being since Creation, we are given all the best things the Only-Begotten Son deserves. He didn't deserve God's punishment, but He took it because in Christ God loved us and meant for our salvation and deliverance from sin, death, and the devil.
Ron, that great and Terrible Swede, examines a more helpful approach to discussing abortion in Abortion and the Message of the Church. Ron describes the tract from Lutherans for Life combating the Devil's lies and reminding us of God's forgiveness. One excerpt:
"Failing to preach about abortion offends women more grieviously than preaching about it. If the sin of abortion is never mentioned, then the Gospel - that Gospel pastors have been called to proclaim - is never applied to that sin nor to those caught up in the pain and guilt of abortion. Instead, Satan whispers through the silence, 'This sin is so awful, even Jesus can't forgive you.' ...The Church has the message of forgiveness and hope that can bring healing."
Does God need us to defend Him when others are suffering? Joy in the Lord is for now, not just in a distant future. Pastor Borghardt of Bloghardt's Reflector reminds us of the lavishness of God's grace as he proclaims The Gospel Is THAT Audacious! While it is true that God calls us to repentance in Christ through the cataclysmic event, it is also true that the mundane is His means for the same, too. However, the routine is often the means for despair both because it is banal and we because have tuned out where He can be found in it. Ste. Em of Quicunque Vult posts Mundane Catastrophes. She writes:
For what is the ordinary task but service to neighbor? And what is the defeat of Satan bu the confession of our own sin (not the neighbor's) in repentance?
Bob Waters, of Watersblogged, challenges us,
in The Wrong Question, to consider the true differences between evolution, creation science and intelligent design:
I think that conservative Christians have once again blundered in their attempt to advance Intelligent Design as science, and thus as the proper subject matter of a public school science class. In fact, it is no more science than materialism is. Both are philosophical conclusions from the data, and neither have any place in the public school classroom.

Rather than trying to get Creationism or Intelligent Design taught too- thereby choosing to battle on ground which compels us to argue that, contrary to fact, either one of them is any more "science" than materialism is- why not choose to fight the battle on ground which guarantees victory? Most scientists believe in evolution. Many consider it a scientific fact. I see nothing offensive to the Faith or to the First Amendment in the theory and the conclusions most scientists reach about it being taught to public school students on precisely those grounds.
He also reminds us of the purpose of public school classrooms:

It seems to me, finally, that we need to take account of whence the movement to teach Creationism and not Intelligent Design in the public schools originates. It comes from those Fundamentalistic traditions most apt across the board to confuse the Two Kingdoms, and to see the State as an appropriate agent of the work God has properly assigned to the Church. It comes from the same folks who promote the inaccurate and scandalously revisionist version of history which seeks to transform the United States into something meant by its founders to be a "Christian nation."

Our daily lives also give us opportunity for reading, reflecting on prayer and discussing faith and blog-keeping with a friend, as Karl, the not-very-disgruntled world citizen , relates. I can relate to the Tevia comparison as Karl writes on prayer:

"...I'll find myself in church praying and my mind starts to wander, or I'll be mouthing the words, but my brain is disengaged and before I realize it, I've missed it and I have martryed the Lord's Prayer,yet again.

I have often wished I could be like Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof his style of prayer is wonderful. He has conversations with God. He knows who his god is and isn't afraid to go to him with problems, or praise. Why is it that I can't do that, aside from the fact that people might look at me like I'm crazy..."
Lutherans value the vocation of all Christians, but we sure love our pastors! It is tradition to send our brightest young men to seminary and make sure they learn Greek, Latin and Hebrew so that they can teach us well from scripture. My sister and I used to have a little joke about creating our very own pocket pastors because of the way our pastors could explain Bible passages. We wanted to be able to carry that wisdom around in our pockets! Pastor Walter Snyder of Ask the Pastor talks about issues in Biblical translation while answering questions on Translating, Copyrighting, and Profiting from God's Word. He also clarifies the Biblical teaching of simil iustus et peccator in Sinner and Saint: Why Do I Do Wrong?

Vicar Charles Lehmann, of Drowning Myself Whenever I Can does a good job, in That Too Gross to be in the Bible, of showing teens that the Bible is relevant to all ages, just as it is written, without our artifical attempts to make it more exciting. It is an example of a way to get kids interested in studying God's Word (and seeing Jesus!). The smiling vicar also posts A Sermon for Trinity 22 He writes:

We want to be like Peter. Peter doesn't realize that he's the unmerciful servant he's condemning, the same unmerciful servant who has received his very life from the King. We want to try to hold all that love, all that life, inside of us. But, friends, it just doesn't work that way. If you try to keep Jesus to yourself, He'll burst forth from you, and that's not going to be good. He'll leave you behind, because Jesus is Gift, and He's not going to be satisfied unless He's being given out.

And so we don't get to keep Him to ourselves. We don't get to make a little box, put Jesus inside it, and keep him there in a nice cool dark place where He can never have His way with us. The grave couldn't hold him, and neither can we.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer, of A Burr in the Burgh, informs us that he is for "preaching the law of God, first as a mirror which reveals my sin, but also as a rule for life. It's about preaching the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian, through the Word. It's about vocation. It's about understanding the two realms we inhabit." In Antinomianism: I'm Against It he attempts to explain the importance of preaching God's law to Christians, not only to accuse them and bring them to daily repentance, but also to instruct them for living.

As much as the little ones need to hear the law preached along with the gospel, so do our eldest Christians. Pastor Tom Chryst, of Preachrblog, writes The Law is but a Mirror Bright...
about a funny, but poignant sermon to residents of a nursing home.

Along with our excellent pastors, Lutherans also are blessed with laymen who take seriously the catechism of the congregation, often by using their training and talents in other fields. Who is most excellent Theophilus? Richard of dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos theophilos explains. CPA of Three Hierarchies, weighs in on Christian Liberty. His post was the longest of this carnival, so I saved it to read last. CPA often writes in detail and adds in his unique perspective of Asian history. You can never breeze through one of his posts, but if you take the time to study what he writes you will be blessed in return. He writes:

The first question is, what is Christian liberty for? Let’s go back to Paul. Paul’s teaching of Christian liberty, as enunciated in his famous chapters in Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Colossians, is primarily occasioned by the need to integrate two different cultures in one church: Jewish and Gentile. (This is not to say that cultural integration within one church is the only possible use of Christian liberty, but that was the occasion for its scriptural enunciation.) These two cultures differed in their calendar (Jews observed lunar months and sabbaths [i.e. Saturday], while Gentiles had only the Roman solar calendar and pagan festivals), eating habits (Jews had access to kosher butchers and could eat meat, but Gentile Christians had access only to pagan butchers who dedicated their victims to the pagan gods and hence found meat-eating problematic), and bodily care (Jews circumcised, Gentiles didn’t).

As with any good blog post, sometimes the best part is the discussions following it. So it was with the post on Christian liberty. Finally, since I didn't have time to post during my famous battle with a nameless, faceless cowardly troll, I will highlight a exchange of ideas that took place on Beggars All between Tim the Enchanter, Glen of Territorial Bloggings and I on Blogging, Prudence and the Adult Children of Fundamentalists.
Like our Lord, Christian bloggers need to "know what is in men" and to not entrust ourselves so freely to them (John 2:24-25). The world is not always a friendly place, especially to confessional Christians, and maybe that's why bloggers use goofy pseudonyms, like my own, even though anyone with half a brain could easily figure out who we really are. (Hey, if folks can figure out who the elusive Kathy Luder is, they can figure out who we are!)

I think blogs, even those produced by humble layfolks like myself, have a place. Like the "Wittenberg Trail" stories in the Issues, Etc. Journal, I think that such personal confessions of the liberating power of the Gospel so clearly taught in our Confessions are very much needed today.
Be sure to read the rest of his post! Thanks for the opportunity to host this carnival. I believe it is the first time that I've actually studied posts rather than merely breeze through them. For the benefit of that alone, I encourage blog-keepers to take their turns hosting. Likewise with the seemingly questionable painting at the top of this post; look at it closely and you will see a detailed portrayal, in all its joy and sadness, of paradise. Long live the Lutheran Carnival!

Friday, October 21, 2005

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Busy reading and writing for upcoming Lutheran Carnival...

c. 1670-72 National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

This masterpiece has been stolen not once, but twice in the last twenty-five years. The owner, a member of Britain's Parliament, was targeted by the IRA, who broke into his estate in 1974 and took a total of nineteen paintings. It was recovered a week later, having sustained only minor damage. In 1986, the Dublin underworld stole the painting. Only after more than seven years of secret negotiations and international detective work was the painting recovered. Hopefully Vermeer's The Concert, recently stolen from the Gardner Museum in Boston, will be recovered in a similar manner.

Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid exemplifies Vermeer's essential theme of revealing the universal within the domain of the commonplace. By avoiding anecdote, by not relating actions to specific situations, he attained a sense of timelessness in his work. The representation of universal truths was achieved by eliminating incidental objects and through subtle manipulation of light, color and perspective.

The firm stance of the statuesque maid acts as a counterweight to the lively mistress intent on writing her letter.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sin boldy: One of the most often misstated quotes of Martin Luther...


I found the explanation I was looking for. See the comments section below.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

One of our pastors recently talked about this letter from Luther to Melancthon in Bible Study, in fact during our study of the Lutheran Confessions. This letter is the source of the oft wrongly quoted line "let your sins be strong". If I remember correctly, Luther wrote this in response to a specific concern/question from Melancthon. I hope that a viewer can fill me in on Melancthon's concern; I remember that it was key in understanding Luther's response. I will also email my pastor.

Luther to Melancthon, 8-1-1541

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cranach: Christianity and culture with a Lutheran Twist

Shamelessly stolen from one of my favorite bloggers, Glen of Territorial Bloggings:

A most hearty welcome goes out to the newest member of the Worldmagblog family to come online, the Cranach blog!

The Cranach blog is an offshoot of the Cranach mailing/discussion list. Per the “about” section on the Cranach blog’s main page,

Lucas Cranach was a good friend of Martin Luther’s, who became a great artist. He was also a businessman who ran a pharmacy and the printing shop that published Luther’s translation of the Bible. He was also something of a politician, who served on the Wittenberg town council and for awhile was mayor of the city. As a layman who lived out his faith in his various callings, Cranach embodies the Reformation doctrine of vocation. In the spirit of Lucas Cranach, this blog will discuss issues of Christianity and culture with a Lutheran twist.

Cranach is a good mailing/discussion list, but I’m really looking forward to the blog! Dr. Veith is an amazing intellect, and has written a boatload of great books, so I’m anticipating that Cranach will be a hugely beneficial addition to the blogosphere.

Check it out!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Yikes, I'm next... Lutheran Carnival IX

I don't know how I will top Karl's job on Lutheran Carnival VIII, but I'll try. My turn is next. Be Strong in the Grace will host the Lutheran Carnival IX on October 23. Lutheran Carnival X will be back at the home site, Lutheran Carnival, on November 6. I've alread started claiming and collecting posts for this carnival!

Daniel has modified the participation requirements:

  • no more suggested topics
  • early submissions are welcome, but late submissions will be held over to the next carnival
  • need 20 posts to hold carnival
  • one link per person rule has been changed to two links

I'd like to add that, due to the moving back of my original chosen Carnival date, I must request that post links be submitted to me by 11:59pm on Wednesday, October 20th. I certainly will consider a very few exceptions; I am female after all. The reason for my request is that I will most likely be out of town from 10/20/05 to 10/23/05, since this is when all schools in MN shut down and have teacher conventions (even the Lutheran ones). I want to be reading the posts on Thursday (20th) and Friday (21st) and writing my introduction on Saturday (10/22). I will have internet access at my location, but I want to get started early anyway.

Monday, October 10, 2005

How to deal with homosexuality

This post does a great job of explaining a Christian's response to homosexuality in the course of daily life. Brian writes:

One thing I never forget no matter what I'm doing is that everyone is a sinner, not just "bad people" or my openly sinful colleagues at school. All of my good friends are sinners, I share an apartment with 3 other WELS Lutheran sinners, and I myself am tainted from sin in everything I think, say, or do.

Read on: Brian Braatz

Full Throttle & an Empty Gas Tank: Lutheran Carnival VIII

Please take the time to check a particularly good turnout for the 8th Lutheran Carnival. Karl has done an outstanding job of introducing each enter; he's quite the comedian...and knowledgeable too! Read here: Lutheran Carnival VIII

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A tale of three communities: Glory, Comfort and Death

Christ in Glory
Mattia Preti, Italian Painter,
Oil on canvas, 220 x 253 cm
held at Museo del Prado, Madrid

Romans 5: 1-11: Peace and Joy
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Community of Glory

Postmodern "communion" service

Recently, I read a Zondervan advertisement for a new series of kids' book based on verses from Proverbs. Right away I noticed that the books had a very legalistic tone. I investigated further and found that the books are also based on the curriculum of Promiseland, the children's ministry branch for the Willow Creek church movement. As I read through the vision, and mission and values of Promiseland, I was struck by the lack of mention of sin and Savior. NO MENTION OF SIN OR A SAVIOR. How RELEVANT, CONTEMPORARY, INTENTIONAL, THRIVING and PREVAILING can a children's ministry be if the children aren't taught that they are sinners by nature and are in need of a savior? Of course, many communities of glory deny that children are sinners; therefore those children are not baptized and do not have the seed of faith God promises planted in them. These communities of glory also deny that God works forgiveness and strengthen through the bread and the wine. Thankfully, those children are still hearing God's Word proclaimed, but not all of it. The full proclamation of the gospel will be limited by the false teachings that once you make a decision for Christ and choose to be baptized, you are saved forever. As the children of those communities of glory become teenagers and young adults, many will begin wonder why they have not acheived the feeling of the assurance of salvation promised to them and why they have not acheived victory over sin.

Contrast Promiseland's many promises of glory and perfectly devoted children to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's thoughts on what he calls visionary dreaming:

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.

The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community, the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more that the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own laws, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.

When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
hat tip to What You Do, Do Quickly: God Hates Visionary Dreaming

The mission statement for a church's Sunday School program should be pretty simple. No claims of it being the best hour of anyone's week and no promises of fun, although both could be true on any given Sunday. (I would hope that my own children don't ever claim that Sunday School is the best thing that ever happened to them in the week.) Separate Sunday morning Bible classes should be offered apart from Sunday services and should be for all ages: preschool, kindergarten through eighth grade, teens and adults. Here's an example of a solid Sunday School program preaching the full gospel:

It is our goal to teach everyone that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes on Him will not die but have everlasting life. This joyous news saves not only the little children but gives all of us a reason to respond to the Lord with gratitude and thanksgiving.


Community of Comfort

Pastor Russow preaches to the children of King of Grace

Our pastor recently made the heart-wrenching decision to leave the comfort and love of his congregation to accept a synod call to begin a missionary church and school in a new and rapidly growing suburban area of the Twin Cities. At first, I struggled with his decision. "How could he leave us?", I railed against God. "He's my pastor...my father figure...if he loved us, truly loved us, then he would stay here with us and continue building up our wonderful, growing congregation." After a few days of selfish anger and sorrow, the Holy Spirit moved me to repent of my selfish anger and reconcile with my departing pastor. I do not think it was coincidence that the Holy Spirit was able to move my heart following my confession of sins and reception of absolution in Divine Service and the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith at Holy Communion.

My pastor's departing sermon was preached in a most Lutheranesque manner. He asked us to remember two things: the wages of sin is death and the gift of God is Christ Jesus our Lord. He asked us not to remember his many sins, his failings and personality quirks. He reminded us that we are not to be building a comfortable congregation, but a kingdom in heaven.


Community of Death

The sailors of the Enhiørningen and the Lamprenen prepare for winter harboring at "Jens Munk's Bay", on the western coast of the Hudson Bay. Munk's account from this expedition, and the 1619-1620 winter stay, are recorded in his Navigatio Septentrionalis (1624)

This past Sunday, our departing pastor was commissioned by our congregation and by a group of area ELS and WELS pastors. The sermon was preached by Reverend Steve Petersen. Pastor Petersen began with the story of the first Lutheran pastor to be buried in North America.

In 1619, King Christian IV of Norway and Denmark sent two ships and 64 men to search for the Northwest Passage to India. They got as far as the site of Churchill, Manitoba, on the western shore of Hudson Bay. There, locked in by ice, they spent the winter, and were ravaged by scurvy. Their captain was Jens Munk , a thoroughly experienced naval officer. Their chaplain was a Lutheran pastor, Rasmus Jensen. The captain's journal relates:

The Holy Christmas day, we all celebrated and observed Solemnly, as a Christian's duty is. We had a sermon and Mass.... On the 23rd of January... the priest sat up in his berth and gave the people a sermon, which sermon was the last he delivered in this world....On the 20th of February, in the evening, died the priest, Mr. Rasmus Jensen as aforesaid, who had been ill and kept his bed a long time.... Only four, besides myself, had strength enough to sit up in the berth and listen to the homily for Good Friday.

And when the ice finally opened, in June 1620, there were only three survivors left. Jens Munk was one of them. Incredibly, he and the remaining two men managed to sail one of the vessels across the Atlantic to Norway, which they reached at the end of September 1620.
From: The Northern Lights Route website

Pastor Petersen commented that while this story appeared to be a story of suffering and death, it was really story of faith and hope. This brave crew started out as a community, bringing their good pastor with them. They fell upon bad times and started to die. Pastor Jenson had been bedridden for some time when they came to him, their pastor, for a good word... for proclamation of the gospel I don't think I'll ever forget the picture Pastor Petersen painted of Pastor Jensen being propped up in his bed...his death bed...to read scripture to his remaining congregation. Pastor Petersen then went on to say that it is ironic that missionaries, the ones we send out to bring cure to the sin sick, are themselves infected with the disease of sin.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

And the winner is...the Holy Spirit!

The following comments are a great summary of the baptism discussion over at the Bunnie Diehl blog:

Comment #37

I guess the question boils down to:

Mark 16:16 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned'.

How does an infant believe? js

Posted by Jesse at October 6, 2005 08:24 AM

Comment #38

An infant would believe the same way the rest of us do, no? By a working of the Holy Spirit.

Unless faith isn't a work of God but of sinful man -- which wouldn't make much sense.

Posted by Bunnie at October 6, 2005 08:28 AM

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Scottius Maximus: If Only I Were To Have Child-like Faith Like This

Warning: this account will bring tears of joy, even if you are reading it on your break at work...

Scottius Maximus: If Only I Were To Have Child-like Faith Like This

What does baptism mean to you?

There is an excellent discussion of baptism going on at Bunnie Diehl blog. The conversation starts by asking for an explanation of why some churches will not recognize a person's previous baptism. It predictably turns to a discussion of whether a baptism is merely an outward symbol of a person's born again faith or whether it is God reaching out to the person through the water, as He said he does, to create faith in the heart of all...even of an infant. There are many more issues and related doctrinal matters, such as a person's inability to nominate themselves for salvation, whether a person can lose faith if it is not sustained by the Word and whether it is important to surround yourself and your family with scripturally sound teaching.

Getting back to the discussion on Bunnie Diehl, I particularly I loved Andrew's comments:

Is it not significant that the "all nations" Jesus commands His disciples to baptize in Matt 28:18ff has been building up through the whole Gospel of Matthew to speak of little children, infants, not-so-bright people, Gentiles, ladies, and lepers?


11:25 "I praise You, Father that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants."

18:6 "these little ones who believe in Me", implying that infants can have faith

18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

19:13-15 "Let the little children [infants in Luke] come to me, and do not hinder them..."

21:15 When the chief priests question the children's praise of Jesus, He responds, "Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes You have prepared praise for Yourself."

The consider what the Apostles will do following those words...

Polycarp, born AD 69, a disciple of John, is going to be baptized as an infant.

Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) is going to write about people who were Christ's disciples "from childhood".

Irenaeus (AD 130-200) is going to write that infants are being baptized in the churches.

Origen (AD 185-254) is going to write that infant baptism was a practice of the Apostles.

And the list goes on thru the centuries...

Did Matthew and the early church get it wrong?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Cross Theology: Why hate Lutheranism?

Well, it must be October. I am enjoying reading some great posts on Lutheranism today. Cross Theology: Why hate Lutheranism? writes:

"It has come to be my understanding, due largely to the education I've received ... that Lutherans and the Lutheran Confessions aren't right about everything under the sun, nor do they claim to be. But we do claim to be right about certain things which cannot be compromised without ceasing to be Lutheran, the most central of which is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone for the sake of the man Jesus Christ.
" Read on...

What You Do, Do Quickly: I'm Always the Last to Know.

A new, apparently anonymous, blog-keeper has emerged with posts near and dear to my heart. What you do, do quickly, is the blog. S/he has burst out of the gate quickly with some great posts.

I'm Always the Last to Know. speaks to the odd dilemma of appearing to be a member of a sect merely for sticking to your guns on doctrine.

"I just found out that I am a member of a sect. Not just one person, but two people told me that Confessional Lutheranism is a sect. One was a nominal Baptist, the other was a Lutheran pastor. This news surprized me at first. I've been a Lutheran all my life. My family is Lutheran on one side as far back as we can count. Did Mom and Dad know? How long has this been going on?" Read on...

What befuddles me about the Evangelical world (as defined by Ted Haggard of N.A.E.) is that they alternately embrace a wide variety of doctrine (calling it "true" diversity), even to the point of conflicting doctrine, yet lay a title of sect upon people who attempt to stand firm on doctrine. This contradiction certainly was partly responsible for me leaving the Evangelical world after twenty years.

Bored and Embarrassed Lutherans is another good post on the reverse problem of poorly catechized Lutherans falling to the temptation to abandon their spiritual hertitage.

"We've all seen it: Lutherans playing Evangelicals. These bored Lutherans worship like evangelicals and preach like evangelicals. Inevitably they start believing the anemic moralism of non-denominationalism." Read on...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Guess who I met today...

I met the author of a book that brought me to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Pastor J. Kincaid Smith, ELS pastor and co-author of What's Going On Among the Lutherans, attended Pastor David Russow's commissioning service today. I had stared at his photo on the back of his book for so long, often wondering if he were still alive; it was easy for me to recognize him! I was able to be introduced by another pastor after the service and I fought back the tears as I thanked him for writing the book. He was being pulled in different directions by others who wanted to say hello and photographers wanting to document the day, but he seemed genuinely interested in someone asking him about the book. He told me that Marvin Schwan funded the book's distribution to all Lutheran pastors in all synods across the country. He also told me that he received a variety of responses from those pastors, good and bad. If you have read the book, you can imagine that some ELCA pastors did not appreciate his work. One ELCA pastor told him that as soon as he finished writing his letter of complaint and criticism, he would drop the book down the outhouse hole! I asked him if he had considered updating the book and he said that he had and that he decided against it. We would have talked longer, but the time was not right.