Nursing Home / Hospital Visit

For too many months, our members have been wasting away in nursing homes without pastoral care, and we have been told repeatedly that the Nursing Homes are just following HHS guidelines.

It turns out this was a lie. I wish I had heard about this months ago! Nursing Homes, Hospitals, etc. are required BY LAW to provide clergy access to patients. And now I have the documents from HHS to prove it!

If you are also having trouble getting in to see your members, try these. In this one (https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-13-hospitals-cahs-revised.pdf) , the key part is on p. 8, point “c”:

“Facilities must ensure patients have adequate and lawful access to chaplains or clergy…” Note – this isn’t optional. Other parts say “should”. This says “Must”, and then notes the laws which require it. 

In the second document (https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-39-nh-revised.pdf), p. 5 is key, under “Compassionate Care situations.” This is not only end-of-life (and says so explicitly). If you can’t get access, forwarding these documents, or using some of the key phrases may help. 

I wish we had these in hand in March and September of last year when they were published! How much suffering could have been alleviated. I pray that in the future, the IC and LCMS office in Washington DC will keep tabs on how pastors can provide care to our most vulnerable members. It seems to me that this is the real work of the church. If we aren’t doing that, then the rest of our work is an banging drum or clanging cymbal, and we have gained nothing.

For now, I am just happy that I have a weapon to push back against the constant refrain of “We have to follow HHS guidelines.”

And if the above doesn’t work, there’s always the big gun. This article: (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/12/16/ocr-facilitates-safe-clergy-access-for-patients-at-mt-sinai-hospital-during-covid-19.html) I’m guessing a quick email with this and mention of “Contacting the HHS Office of Civil Rights” will work better than a magic wand at opening once closed doors.

It’s Time to get back to work.

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The Paradox of Faithfulness

In Augustana Article XIV, we confess “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” We also reject the idea of a temporary call. It goes against the nature of the office as a God-given office of oversight/shepherding. If those overseen/the sheep can cancel it at will (or fail to renew it) It places the overseer under those he oversees, and so our fathers rightly rejected a temporary call as both illegitimate and invalid. It is no call.

As we continue through our lengthened schedule of district conventions, our districts will elect (re-elect) a president (overseer, bishop, etc.) In general, we have turned away from electing executives as DPs. Most are pastors at the time of their election – a shepherd of Christ’s flock.

As a DP, the term of office is three (or four) years, renewable (although some districts have term limits.) The overwhelming majority or our DP’s (85-90%) no longer serve as pastor of a congregation, giving up the divine office – the one our synod rightly calls “the highest office in the church”. And we will ask the man if he accepts the teachings of the church, including the two teachings noted above (No one teaching w/o a valid call & no temporary calls), and then ask him to violate one of those. For he must do so if he is not a pastor of a congregation. He has either left the congregation for a temporary call – thereby not a valid call – or (as our bylaws seem to hint) he leaves the called office for a temporary contract position: one which by necessity involves teaching in the church.

So if you think bishop is a called position, it is unfaithful because we make it a temporary call. If you think President (not bishop) is merely a de iure humano arrangement, then it is a human office by human arrangement, for the purpose of teaching the church, in violation of AC XIV.

I have spoken to a few others about this paradox, this test of faithfulness where only those who fail can be elevated to District President. So far, no one has been able to explain to me how it is not unfaithful either one direction or the other.

This was – among many similar reasons – why I resigned two months before my term as CV was over, rather than serving to the end of the term. Because the unfaithfulness is baked in to the system, and we are told to just accept it for the greater good. That’s not how faithfulness works. The greatest good is following the word of God. It is only the difficult situations which show our faithfulness. If faithfulness is the easier path, it is no credit to you to be faithful. Faithfulness is narrow and difficult, as our Lord himself teaches. But time and time again, our synod seems to say, “Well, sure ideally we would do that, but it’s too difficult right now. We can’t make those sorts of changes at this time.”

The truth is, time is running out on our idol altars. God’s judgment is at the door. I don’t know how long it will take. But I do know that five years ago we had 10 Universities. Today we have 7. I know of a prominent district that used to have at least 9 full time pastoral executive officers. Today it has 3, and the building they work in is for sale. I know that the IC has been basically closed for a year. 19 staff have been let go. Not a single pastor I talk to has noticed even the slightest difference. The busy-for-the-sake-of-busy idol is falling, and falling fast. Eventually, there won’t be enough money to support the unfaithful initiation rite of DP as we do now. Then it will finally end. And I pray that, once it falls, we are never in a position to re-instate it. Ideally, that would be because of our faithfulness and adherence to the Word of God. But if God has to keep us from such unfaithfulness by persecution or smallness of scale, it is still a better fate than unfaithfulness.

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Buying into the World’s Narrative

In my seminary days, while the baby boomers (At the height of their powers both physically and politically) were telling us we needed to use worship that was less good and have pastors less trained in order to reach out to other cultures in America, a professor was showing us videos of worship services in the native countries of those cultures. Their worship was so beautiful and complex it made us look like amateurs. So I’ve never really bought into the subtle racism of condescension and low expectations.

In my first congregation, we had four different continents of origin represented on many Sundays. We worshipped together, using a specific setting of the liturgy that was over a century old, with specific words that can be traced back in Latin over a thousand years, and that followed the basic form of worship going back to the Didache and Justin Martyr in the second century. It was gathered from many different cultures, many different times, and was not so much designed as developed out of the mouths of millions of Christians over the course of two millenia. Worship transcends place and time.

Paul tells us not to get caught up in national identities. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3, ESV)

Earlier this week, I saw a pastor in the church who is claiming the LCMS is guilty of “Systemic racism.” But of course, no examples are provided. No actual sins against actual commandments against actual people are being listed. We are guilty by implication. And those who say “If I have spoken wrongly tell me of the wrong” are either ignored, or used as proof that the accusation has merit.

And yet perhaps this pernicious twisting of God’s law is having the desired effect. Our Seminary in Saint Louis is seeking a new Dean of the Chapel. The job description includes the following:

Provide theological oversight and manage the multicultural efforts relative to campus worship.

I know that I could not in good conscience consider a call with such an anti-biblical mandate. It certainly matches the spirit of the age, but it goes against not only the explicit command of God, but also the practice of the church of all ages. It is sectarian in the truest sense of the word, and I would not only reject such a call, I would call those who issued it to repent.

I wonder who they will finally get to fill this call. I’m sure it will be someone of renown. I’m sure everyone will marvel at the wisdom of the selection. “A churchman who can instruct future generations in what is needed for the church to survive these difficult times!” But given the description, I guess I would marvel if people said “This is a faithful man who will stand for the Word of God against the spirit of the age.”

I’m not angry to see this sort of thing happening yet again in Christ’s church. But I am sad. And it reminds me that we must be in constant prayer that our Heavenly Father would preserve his church against all enemies – both from without and within.

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Sine Screenime (Latin: Without Screens)

Our whole lives are lived in front of screens today. I’m staring at one. So are you. We work, learn, even do medical care via screen today. Our kids look at nothing else. They wake up, spend hours in front of screens at school. Then spend hours playing on computers.

But I sense a backlash building. My kids don’t take anything on screens seriously. Screens are for games, or stories, or memes. And its becoming obvious that the schooling done on screens – even tough they are in person, they are still on computers way more than is healthy – is treated by them in the same way (and with the same authority) as memes or video games. That’s not how teachers want themselves to be considered, and the warning signs are there – GET OFF THE SCREENS!

That’s why the church must be without them. We are face to face with each other, and face to face in the presence of God (though hidden in preaching and the sacraments.)

I’ve been looking at prospective congregations for my son – a techy sort of guy, who spends a lot of time on computers. He is absolutely uninterested in any congregation with a screen. He won’t attend. Not even if its just to project words to a hymn or the bible readings. If you have a screen, he won’t be there.

And I suspect the same is true of a lot of kids today. Why don’t they want to go to church? Because you don’t take it seriously. They know that as soon as they see the screen.

I’ve written against them before. But now that they have become such a plague in our lives, I think the church needs to renounce their use. I think a legitimate evangelism tactic is to post on the sign outside “Worship without screens! Meet real people!” Or, in the language of church-sign theology, “Recharge by unplugging for an hour.”

I think this will be the new trend. Congregations that adopt it have a great opportunity to set themselves apart from all the other froopy “We’re as exciting as your favorite TV show, we promise!” congregations. I think those will begin to struggle more and more. After all, if screens are the same as in person, why even bother getting out of pajamas? I can sit and watch church without ever leaving my bed. Sleep in for an extra half-hour. Watch and doze, then get up for the Sunday morning coffee. And I don’t have to watch the terrible preacher I’ve been subjected to for the last XX years at my local congregteria. I can pick a really good preacher from anywhere in America.

Congregations with screens aren’t going to survive post-COVID trauma very well. Oh, they may have lots of members. But as one of the Willow Creek pastors noted after many years, “It doesn’t seem to produce committed Christians.”

Lose the screens.

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Continuing Education / Master Class Opportunity

I am beyond excited to announce this: A Continuing Education Class in Catechesis, this summer in Pine Bluffs Wyoming! Here are all the details:

Continuing Education / Master Class in Catechesis

Cost: $50. (For the class. See other details below)

Presenter: Lincoln Winter

When: August 2-3 (Monday noon –  Tuesday 4 pm)

Where: Grace, Pine Bluffs

To Register: Email pastoruac1530@aol.com

Description:

Progressive education went from nouveau theory to total acceptance in about 50 years. Still in use and promoted in the church, this experiment on our children has destroyed the once vibrant spiritual life of our congregations: fewer children attend & adults often don’t know the most basic teachings of the church. Instead of unity of faith, confession, and practice under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, the LCMS no longer agrees on worship, women in the church, scripture, creation, the meaning of the word “drink”, etc. How can we fix such unfixable problems?

Answer: A return to sound catechetical principles. But what are they? Scripture tells us what to teach. Does it also tell us HOW to teach? Yes. Yes it does.

This class will help pastors plan a vigorous life of scriptural catechesis in the congregation integrating the entire pastoral task, and all members of the body of Christ.

Scheduled topics include:

  • Models of education & Scriptural Catechesis
  • Teaching using Narratives & Proof Texts
  • Pre-postmodern principles of interpretation
  • Catechesis in a non-Christian World
  • Apologetics & Catechesis
  • Optional Tuesday afternoon Sectional: Preaching using the Gerhard/Mayes Methodology.

Lincoln Winter has served the church as a pastor for 23 years. He has presented papers at Concordia Seminary & district conferences, has published books on catechesis and apologetics, and once beat Bryan Wolfmueller at Iron Preacher.

A decade-long research project into Catechesis culminated in “Catechetics: Fixing Confirmation”. It was the first comprehensive look at catechesis in over a century. This class will take a deeper look at some of the issues raised in that book. (Recommended that you read the book first: Available on Amazon or Lulu.)

Other conference details:

Instruction: 8-10 hours of in-person instruction. (8 hours + 2 hours for optional preaching workshop)

Meals: Lunch Mon & Tue on your own. Hospitality hour & Dinner Monday included.

Housing:

Option 1) Cobblestone Hotel one block away. (Call 307-245-9300, mention Grace Lutheran Church Conference, for discount rate of $119) OR

Option 2) Parsonage is available overnight. First registrants get beds, then couches, then floor space for sleeping bag.

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Satan Opposes Prayer: Sermon for Rogate

Satan has been working overtime in the last year to keep the church from gathering to pray. Don’t fall for it. The church is the church at prayer. Here is my sermon on the topic:

James tells us “We are to be doers of the word – not hearers only.” And what is it that God commands? What are we to do? We look to Jesus for the answer. He tells us to ask the Father in His name for anything of which we have need. We are commanded to pray. Prayer is part of our duty to have no others gods, to fear, love and trust in God above all things. It is also part of our duty to love and serve our neighbor.

We are commanded to worship only the true God. Ultimately, worship isn’t our action. It is God promising to save us, and we hear and believe the promise, and so receive salvation. But prayer is the response of the faithful. We hear the promises of God, we respond in prayer, and so live out our faith in God who saves. When we come before God with our praises and thanksgivings, our requests, petitions, and supplications, we pray.

Today is Rogate Sunday – the 6th Sunday of Easter – a day of prayer. Today we focus on the command from God that we pray, and the great promise that he gives about our prayers : He will hear and answer them.

We are tempted to think that prayer is some small thing. But it is not. It is a mighty defense against Satan. That’s why he always attacks it. And it’s why the church is always in prayer. It is what we do whenever we come together. It is what we do when we go home on our own. Luther says in the Third Petition that it isn’t enough to build a city, we must also defend it. Prayer is our defense against Satan and his attacks. He wants to corrupt everything God has made. He twists the word of God. He corrupts things God has given for our good – he turns first article gifts such as food or drink into gluttony and drunkenness. He turns a gift like family into conflict and anger. He twists love into lust. He tries to turn us away from trust in God to our own false gods. Trusting in the false promises of this world instead of the promise of eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ.

Until recently, the church had a long run as the default organization everyone belonged to. Not all the same church. But you could assume most people belonged to some church. The church was given a preferred status in the world. It was easy to get used to things being easy for the church. To get used to prayers for the church not really being a big deal. After all, God had blessed the church with a great deal of influence. We didn’t really need to be fervent in our prayers, did we? We didn’t need to be regular in our prayers? We got a bit lazy about things.

The last year has been a wake up call to the church. Satan is around the corner trying to corrupt all that God has made. He is trying to kill and destroy. And if allowed even a little bit of freedom to do so – well we saw how disruptive it can be.

And, like a middle aged superhero, we were a bit out of shape ourselves. The call went out that there was a problem, and the church stumbled a bit getting ready for the fight. Instead of gathering for prayer – our default thing to do – the church was told we would be better off not gathering for prayer. And we listened. Some services were canceled even here. Farther away, there was no gathering as the church until just a couple of months ago. Almost a year of no church services where the people of God gather to hear and receive the word and sacraments and respond in prayer. In Canada, the command is still “do not gather to pray”.

The reasons sounded so… reasonable. You could harm your neighbor. In love you must not gather as the church. But with the benefit of hindsight, we can see this was always a lie. The fifth commandment does not override the first and second commandments.

To be clear, there are times where it is impossible to gather. Services were cancelled a few weeks ago because of a blizzard. We call it an act of God – because it is. There are reasons why the church may miss the occasional service. But that is different from ruling authorities commanding the church not to gather and pray. The rulers and governing authorities overstep their bounds when they say such things. The church gathers hear the word and pray because we have need of that word, and because prayer is a powerful defense against exactly the kind of disaster we feared this last year.

And so we may have stumbled out of the gate, but God is gracious. He is patient with us. We have now seen this past year the importance of prayer, the importance of gathering to pray not only for the church, but for our neighbor.

The world discounts it entirely. But we must recognize how important this is. The world mocks and says what good are “Thoughts and prayers” as if the two are the same thing. It’s sort of like saying “sling shots and nuclear weapons.” Both are useful in their way, but one is many orders of magnitude greater than the other. Certainly thoughts may lead to prayer. But prayer is a powerful defensive weapon against all manner of wickedness. And only the Church and her members wield it. Because prayer is not powerful in itself. It is the one you pray to that matters. Prayer to false gods doesn’t work because there is no one to hear or answer the prayer. We pray to God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, the one who created the seas and all that is in them, the nations and powers and principalities – he created them all and preserves them all. So we pray for all these things. Because the prayer of the righteous is effective.

Peter calls us a royal priesthood because we are priests of God. Priests are born, not made. We are born into this office of royal priest of God by virtue of our baptism. And we are given the holy priestly task of praying. That’s what priests do. Jesus tells us we are to pray. So we come before God in prayer in the morning and evening, at meals and at other times. But we especially come before God in prayer as we gather together as the church, praying first for the church of God and for all those who believe, then for those in need both in the church and our communities. We pray for kings and all those in authority. We pray for all people in the world. We ask God to guard and protect them, to strengthen our faith, and to bring to faith those who do not believe in our dear Lord Jesus. For those who already believe, we pray God would keep them even if they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. That he would not let fear of death drive them away from the consolation of the Gospel. That we would be given a blessed end in this world, and be taken to our Father in heaven.

Satan wants to ruin all of this. That’s why we continue to pray. The last year has given us the chance to see how important it is, and how great our need of it. God, in his mercy, has awakened us to a great truth: We pray, and in times of need, we pray more. There is no more loving act we can do than to pray for our neighbor. So there is no greater sacrifice we can offer than to risk our lives to pray for him. That’s why Satan and his forces tried to stop our prayers. And if we stumbled, it was only so we could get back up again more determined than ever not to let anything come between us and the prayers of the people of God. If there is danger in coming to pray, we gladly risk the danger. The prayers of the faithful for those in need are worth the risk. We will risk even our lives if necessary in order to offer our neighbor this great loving act of sacrifice. Loving not because of who we are, but because of our Lord who commands us to pray.

If you think all of this is overstating it, there was an editorial in a major newspaper that complained about “the pernicious power of prayer.” Satan wants us to stop praying. How much more evidence do we need of it’s great power than that?

So how do we pray? Our Lord has told us – he has given us the pattern of prayer in the Lord’s Prayer. And no prayer of ours can ever add to what we pray for in that prayer.

Beginning with the Lord’s Prayer, we also have the catechism to help us understand all that God has given us. We should return to it often. Reviewing and re-hearing those words of simple confession about the six chief parts of our faith. The things we confess in the catechism – fulfilling the commandments, believing the creed, prayer, loving, cherishing and rightly receiving the sacraments – these are all wonderful things to pray for, and the catechism helps us. It teaches us what they are and how we should do it.

We have the Psalms. One pastor, when anyone was in trouble and asked for help, would ask them, “Are you praying the psalms each day”. And if they said no, he would say, “Well, your problems aren’t that bad yet. Let me know when you have been driven to praying the psalms each day.”

The psalms were the first prayer and hymn book for God’s people. That brings us to another resource – the hymnal. We have prayers and hymns in their for just about every occasion. It is a wonderful tool as well.

And of course, the holy scriptures themselves. We have James with his good words about prayer. We have Jesus encouraging us to pray. We have the prayers of the faithful throughout scripture. The bible, the catechism, the hymnal, the psalms. There is enough in these for us to learn our entire lives.

In addition to our private prayers, we also have the church’s prayer, as we gather and join our prayers together to pray for the church and the world, using psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with gratitude in our hearts toward God.

Let us pray that God would keep us steadfast in prayer, that, no matter what the world does, no matter how it may persecute or mock us, we would be constant in our prayers, we would not give up, but become ever more fervent, ever more faithful in praying to God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who is enthroned and now sends his Holy Spirit so that we might pray in humility and faith.

Amen.

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The Call is from God, not the People

Today the LCMS commemorates a local Saint – but one who had a tremendous effect on Christians throughout the world. It’s CFW Walther day. It’s not an overstatement to say that, without him, Confessional Lutheranism might not have survived past about 1900. And even our separated brethren in heterodox and heretic churches would have noticed the difference, I assure you.

And as I’m pondering his influence, and as my district meets in convention and elects officials, I ponder these wise words of his. I wish we would take them more seriously, and do more than merely pay lip service to them.

Especially here in America, many congregations follow the practice of calling preachers only temporarily – that is, either with the reservation that they can be dismissed at will, or only for a certain period of time (perhaps for one or several years)… even if all of this is done with the possibility of being elected again for another specified period of time. However, a congregation does not have the right to extend such a call, nor is a preacher authorized to accept it. Such a call is neither valid nor legitimate before God…

The preacher, however, who gives a congregation the right to call him in this way and to remove him arbitrarily makes himself a hireling, a servant of people. Such a call is absolutely not what God ordained with respect to the holy preaching office but an entirely different matter that has nothing to do with it. It is precisely not a mediate call of God through the Church, but rather a human contract; it is not a lifelong calling, but a temporary function outside of the divine order, an ecclesiastical – and thus human – ordinance made contrary to the order of God, or, rather, a dreadful disorder. As such, it is therefore without any validity, null and nothing, ,and one called this way should not be regarded as a minister of Christ and the Church…

Finally, no proof is required that, if that kind of call is practiced, the church can never again be properly cared for, governed, proper discipline can not be exercised in it, it cannot be established properly in faith and blessed ways, and it cannot be propagated. Such a call opens door and gate to every disorder, confusion, and disaster by antagonists and by people-pleasing and people-fearing belly-servers. 

Today is a good day to pray that the church would take these words to heart, especially for my own beloved district, as she gathers in convention to elect office holders according to our humanly devised bylaws. I pray godly men are elected, and that they only serve faithfully in offices which are faithfully given.

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Already a Conflict

I’m doing some research into Aristotle for a class I’ll be teaching later this summer on Catechesis. (Stay tuned for more details on that, but if you will be anywhere near Southeast Wyoming the first part of August, save a couple of days.)

If you’re researching Aristotle, you can 1) Read a boring book about Aristotle, or 2) Read Aristotle. I am doing the latter – his Ethics to be exact. And in sentence one, I can already see the conflict between the old and the new.

Here is Aristotle, “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good…” And then I consider modern “art”, which is supposed to tear down, challenge, deconstruct, transgress in some way. And I’m trying to imagine how he might respond to our new ideas. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are three thousand words detailing how I imagine his response. Perhaps cliche, but I think accurate:

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Finally Following the Advice

Every three years or so, I remember Saint Gregory Nazianzen as I head off to convention. This year, I am actually following the advice he gives and remaining home for contemplation and prayer.

For my part, if I am to write the truth, my inclination is to avoid all assemblies of bishops, because I have never seen any Council come to a good end, nor turn out to be a solution to evils. On the contrary, it usually increases them. You always find there love of contention and love of power (I hope you will not think me a bore, for writing like this), which beggar the description; and, while sitting in judgment on others, a man might well be convicted of ill-doing himself long before he should put down the ill-doings of his opponents. So I retired into myself; and came to the conclusion that the only security for one’s soul lies in keeping quiet.

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Diploma of Vocation

I’ve been getting requests for the Diploma of Vocation I put together – it has the advantage of not being modernistic and ugly. Not that the beauty of the certificate makes it valid. But, if you’re receiving a call from a congregation, you may as well have them fill out the pretty version so you can all rejoice together in the beauty of the call, as well as the document conveying it.

I didn’t realize I hadn’t made that widely available. Here it is, for anyone who is getting ordained or installed this year, and finds the COP version… less than beautiful. Just print, fill in the blanks, and you are good to go!

Note: Since it has come up, evidently, the Diploma of Old had three signatures from the congregation. The new version has two, and one for the pastor. You may use the blanks as you see fit, but I had the congregation sign all three blanks.

Here is a preview image:

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