Sermon for Trinity 25

I’m always impressed on snowy days by the members who go above and beyond to make it to church. I remember one day years ago, snow drifts had almost blocked the parking lot. A saintly old member was just grinding the tires on her Ford Taurus through the drift. I cheered her on from the front of the church as she finally broke through and managed to park and walk in without incident. Today, we had members from Glendo (30 miles to the north) and Hartville (up a small mountain past the purview of snowplows) make it through the ice and snow to hear the Word of God. And a rancher dug out of the drifts down by the river to arrive only a few minutes late. I really thought no one would hear my sermon, but attendance was pretty good, all things considered. Of course, snow meant a number of older members stayed in – as it should be. I’d rather see them in church next Sunday than in the hospital today. Here is the sermon from today, for those who couldn’t get out of the house, despite their good intentions.

Text is after the jump, but the audio is here:

Continue reading

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One Year Switch

Many pastors are considering switching to the Historic One Year series, and Advent 1 is probably the most common time to make the switch. If you are a pastor about to switch, good for you. The stated reason of the three year series, to increase biblical literacy, has been an abject failure. The historic lectionary has a track record of success – it sustained the church for over a thousand years – as well as being far more ecumenical – in use by Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and others until the 20th century. There is no universal three-year series. They are all unique to a certain theological outlook.

The challenge that pastors find when making the switch is the multiple readings. Oh, not in the historic one year. But the LSB version is only mostly-historic. There are quirks. Throughout the year, the Epistle readings have two options. And it isn’t always obvious which of them is historic. (For the Gospel readings, the first one listed is always historic.)

The real shame of the options-approach to printing the lectionary, is that on a couple of occasions (Epiphany and Trinity) the historic one-year Epistle readings are actually lectio-continua (one of the supposed selling points of the 3 year series).

Oddly, I don’t remember ever hearing that in my seminary days. I don’t remember ever reading it in my early years as a pastor. And when LSB was released, I just went with the first reading in every case. Which is sometimes the historic reading, and sometimes not. What is absolutely ruined with this approach is the lectio-continua. Because in the two or three cases where it occurs, this is where the editors of the lectionary for LSB tinkered.

Below are some pics I snapped from The Lutheran Liturgy. (TLH is copyrighted, and I didn’t want to get in trouble. TLL – the pastor’s book for TLH – is in the public domain.) So, if you are working your way through the church year and aren’t sure which reading is historic, you can check it out here.

One more thing: You’ll notice there are no OT readings. Those aren’t a part of the historic lectionary anyway, so if there are two options, pick whichever one you prefer.

I hope this helps, if you’re moving to the one-year series. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years, and it’s been a great help in teaching the faith.


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Chaste and Decent

The old catechism explanation of the sixth commandment said “Chaste and decent life in word and deed…” The “new” (1986) translation is less… appropriate for small children. That shouldn’t be a concern in using the small catechism. I know of at least one Lutheran School that switches to the old verbiage for that portion of the commandment. They teach the commandments in pre-school. For a lot of kids, this would be their introduction to the word. That seems wrong.

Over the years, I’ve had parents of kids from non-Lutheran churches ask how we address what used to be called “living a chaste and decent life…” They are tired of all the “s– talk” at church. I think it’s important for the church to be careful about how is speaks on these issues. Not that we ignore these matters. My congregation has the books from our church publishing house to help parents explain the biology to their children.

I know it’s sort of litmus-testy of me, but I’ve considered switching back to the old catechism primarily because of the wording of the sixth commandment. In our s– obsessed culture, the church can be a place of refuge.  And maybe the time has come to re-think how we speak about things, even (especially!) as we teach children. There are other ways to speak of these matters than using s– language.

As we used to say, “Chaste and Decent life…” it has a nice ring to it. A return to that language may be overdue.

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Reformation Sermon: Matthew 11

Today’s sermon is once again multimedia. Audio first, with print below the jump.

“The kingdom of heaven suffers violence.” John has been thrown into prison for the crime of preaching that Herod’s adultery and incest was a sin. He would soon be killed. Those who speak the truth against the pet sins of the world risk their lives. 501 years ago this week, Martin Luther posted 95 statements about the sale of indulgences. Little pieces of paper that, for a fee, could get a person into heaven. The church claimed it had a treasure chest of merits before God it could give out as it wished. And, to help fund Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome, they were selling some of those merits for a very reasonable fee. After years of struggle, and searching scripture, Luther became convinced that God gives forgiveness freely for Christ’s sake to all who believe in Jesus name. It is not our merit or work, it is God’s work on our behalf. This re-discovery of the Gospel was based on the clear testimony of Holy Scripture. Continue reading

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How to Celebrate Reformation Day: Go to Church

Gregory Nazianzen once said in a sermon how happy he was to see everyone in church for Epiphany (Epiphany was like Christmas back then). He said it was way better than the previous Sunday when everyone skipped church and he was sad.

During the Middle Ages, the church came up with a solution: Require attendance on certain days. It was the law.

Luther rediscovered the Gospel. Now we were not required to go to church to make payment to God. We were allowed to go to church to receive God’s blessings. What wonderful liberty!

And then, Luther complained that people got really good at abusing their liberty, because they were skipping church.

We still don’t make a law about it. If you skip church tomorrow, we won’t kick you out. But for Reformation 501, the best place to be to celebrate? In church. So, you don’t have to go to church. You get to go to church. Happy Reformation day! See you in church!

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They say the key to building an online audience is to write everyday. If I want to have a following of people who will purchase my books, I need to blog regularly.

But, I also have a parish, a Visitorship, and am assisting another pastor with a “local” vacancy. This leaves little time for extra projects. Often, it means that I can either write a blog post regularly to promote the book, or work on the book that I’m hoping to promote. I can not do both. Do I want to have the cake, or eat it?

So, I haven’t been writing a whole lot. I’ve started some posts that never got finished, and likely never will. They weren’t that important anyway. But I’ve been editing away like an industrious little church mouse. Today was a banner day.

I finished re-working my 2017 catechism blog posts (Here, here, and here) into a little chapter addendum for inclusion in the book. (I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of my concerns were addressed, although as we all know, the largest concern – the overall pattern of instruction – could not be changed.)  I then powered through edits to the half-way point of the book. I’m now ready to send part 1 of Catechetics to my copy-editor. And, thanks to those who supported my GoFundMe (and a speaking engagement last month), I have enough to cover the cost for it. (If you’re still interested in helping out with edits for part 2, you can click here to donate.)

Now, I have to find time to do edits on the second half of the book, while catching up on various parish matters, and squeezing in visitation of one of the parishes in my circuit. (Wyoming District actually uses Circuit Visitors to VISIT. It’s just crazy enough to work…)

But for today, I’m just giving a little woop and sharing my joy with my readers. I have a couple of pastors who have been asking every time they see me, when will Catechetics be finished. I was hoping for 2018. It may end up being early 2019. (It wouldn’t be the first book I’ve released in time to give as a Valentine’s gift, instead of Christmas.) But today I took one more small step in the work schedule, and made a giant leap toward release day. I feel like planting a flag somewhere, but I hear that’s fallen out of fashion…


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Sports Analytics

I’ve been a pastor for over 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of people in a lot of different situations. My parishes have been mostly older however, and I’ve talked to people at the end of life as they reconsider some of their life choices. I’ve done some quick, back of the envelope calculations, and I’ve come up with the following numbers.

Parents who wish they had spent more time with their kids at sports / the lake / sleeping in: 0

Parents who wish they had been more faithful in bringing their kids to church: Many, many, many.


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