Properly Unimportant

It has come to my attention recently that my name is known among the movers and shakers in our synod. I’m really sad to discover that. I have always considered myself unimportant, and content to remain so. According to what I have heard, I am considered arrogant, filled with self-importance. But such thoughts can only be applied to me by those who do not know me. I will admit to being terrible at poker. My feelings are instantly expressed on my face. I tend to react strongly to things. This can be off-putting, I suppose. I also tend to have a rather uncomfortable honesty about things. Not that I am indiscreet (pastors must be able to keep a confidence), but I speak more openly about my own flaws than most are accustomed to. I own those things. And, like all nerds, I have the ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time in social situations. So, I am either embarrassing myself, or sitting uncomfortably silent. This doesn’t come off very well at parties.

But arrogant? No. I really am not.

The prophet’s job is to speak the truth, unafraid and unflinchingly. When someone publicly teaches error, I will publicly rebuke, as I am sworn to do according to the Lutheran Confessions. I “must” do so, according to the 8th commandment, so that others will be warned against error.

But I know that I am entirely expendable. As I’ve said to my parish in bible class, at some point (old age, call, collision with cattle truck) I will no longer be serving as pastor of this parish. Unless it is because our Lord returns, the parish will call someone else. He will (DV) preach the same things, and teach the same things. If things go as they should, the only differences will be the height, weight, hair color, etc. But the message will be the same. I could be plucked out of my parish by a flaming chariot today, and the District President would have someone here tomorrow to preach who would be indistinguishable from myself.

I was gone for a week once, and they had a guest preacher. When I returned, my bible class said, “Pastor, you were right. He said the same things you do.” Yup. That’s how it works. He is a few inches shorter, but the teaching/preaching was the same.

Pastors are always insignificant. Scripture tells us that there were only two exceptions to the rule. Moses – who spoke with God like no one else before or since, and Jesus, who is God. Even Elijah, who went to heaven without dying, was only repeating something done before by another (Enoch). Pastors come and go. Someday I will as well. That may be soon, or far off. I don’t know. God knows, and I’ll let him tell me when the time is right.

I’m not arrogant. I speak forcefully, as do all faithful pastors. Not because we think we have some greatness in ourselves, but because we are to preach with authority. We speak the word of Jesus himself to people. And that word is useful for correcting, rebuking, and encouraging. Faithful pastors do that fearlessly. To the lowliest of members, or the greatest of kings. And yes, even to the highest of synodical officers.  In our world of sensitive feelings, and bureaucratic red tape, that can come off as arrogance. It is not.

I am nothing, really. I don’t have my own word to bring, and I am only to bring the word I have been given. I’m a messenger boy in the pulpit. And I’m a waiter at the table. I have no power in our synod. I don’t want any. I’m not after some great office. And when asked about names for offices, I have a long list of people who aren’t me. Because I am not about me. I am about Christ. It is his message I bring. His food I serve. And THAT IS IMPORTANT.

So, I will apologize and seek forgiveness for my own faults – and I have many. (My wife has to live with me. She is very loving and forgiving.) But I will not apologize for the word I bring. And no, I will not “tone it down” to fit in better.

I saw an article the other day about a company that sent a messenger to another company dressed as a medieval town crier. He was paid to do it that way. If he arrived in a more normal outfit, and talked in modern words, he would actually have failed in the task for which he was sent. So also pastors. We are sent to bring the Word of God to people, to do so with reckless abandon, with the full authority of God behind us, and to do it without apology. Anything less would be unfaithful.If that doesn’t fit in with today’s modern sensibilities, we rest in the knowledge that it didn’t fit in well in the time of Noah, or Elijah, or John the Baptist, or Jesus, or the Holy Apostles, or Luther, or Walther, or Pieper, or Preus. We do it anyway. Because that is what we are called by God to do.

And there are worse ways to live and die than that.

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A Regretful Goodbye

Actual photo of me, when I was told that CPH was not including the birth or death of Jesus in their materials this year.

It looks like my congregation will be bidding a sad farewell to the Concordia Publishing House Sunday School curriculum. I’m not happy to do that. Last summer we even looked at other (less expensive) options. Our conclusion was that you get what you pay for. The other options were either less complete, or less orthodox. Since shortly after my arrival when we switched to CPH, we know that every three months we get a new set of materials that are Scriptural, Orthodox, and will teach the children faithfully what we believe, teach, and confess.

And that sad thing is, I’m guessing that most of the lessons still are Scriptural and Orthodox.

But they are no longer complete. CPH uses a three-year rotating cycle of lessons. For the last 12 years it has been “Fall: Old Testament. Winter & Spring: Life of Christ and New Testament.”

This year it is Fall: Old Testament. Winter: Book of Acts. Spring: More Old Testament.

That is just not acceptable. While increasing biblical literacy is important, our understanding of Scripture rests on our faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We’re sort of one-trick ponies that way. “We preach Christ Crucified.” “I decided to nothing among you but Christ and him crucified.” Those sorts of statements – which the Holy Spirit caused to be written for our instruction – give us the “Scope and sequence” of our instruction.

It would be as if one year, the parents came into the Christmas Program expecting to hear about the birth of Jesus, but instead we had the children recount the time that Deborah defeated the Cannanites, ending with the climactic account of Jael killing Sisera by driving a tent peg through is temple and into the ground. With the old classic “I’ve got a great big tent peg, right through my head. Where?…”

No. We have the kids memorize verses about the birth of Jesus. And they learn songs about the birth of Jesus. Why? Because it is that important. Every year. Same thing. We don’t “mix it up” with camping stories from the book of Judges. Because that would be less faithful – even if we teach them the story faithfully.

Monday, I will be cancelling our subscription. But I’ll check back in. As soon as they change the scope and sequence back so that it covers the birth and death of Jesus each year, I’ll be on the phone to sign up again. Because the materials are quite good.

But suddenly, they aren’t complete.

 

Luther’s Large Catechism has everything you need to know about the faith. And now, with these outlines, it’s easier than ever to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. Great for family or personal devotions. Order today!

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Best Year Ever!

I’d like to thank all my readers for making this the best year ever for my blog! The numbers are small, compared to real blogs and professional bloggers. But even so, it’s nice to know that some people are stopping by to share with me in my reflections on the ministry.

I enjoy being mostly unimportant as the world sees it. But it’s nice to know I have a few friends out there on the blogonets.

Thanks, and keep reading!

 

 

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A Nickel’s Worth of Free Advice

When you live in an ivory tower, it’s easy to get rather out-of-touch with the common man. For our seminaries, there is a danger that they will lose the ability to communicate effectively with the man in the pew. I mention it only to say I understand why, in the latest dust up between Concordia Seminary Saint Louis, and those who insist that the Word be proclaimed rightly, they have made a few tactical errors. It’s not their fault really. (Well, the promotion of false teaching is totally their fault. But I will give them a pass on the tactical errors).

So, in order to help them going forward, I thought I would offer a nickel’s worth of free advice regarding how to speak to the church. This is from my many years as a pastor, as well as my detailed study of the “Battle for the Bible”.

When you say things like, “Trust us, we are super smart”, it really sounds like you’re saying, “You are too dumb to understand.” Don’t insult your audience.

Similarly, “This is how scholarship is done today” sounds to us like you’re saying “You are not up on the latest heresies.” Because that’s the same excuse your predecessors used, shortly before they decided to start a new seminary named “Half-Dead.”

Also, don’t tell us “We are violating the bonds of brotherhood” in the synod. The bonds of brotherhood in the synod are based on agreement in the Gospel and all her articles, and in the proper administration of the sacraments. It is not based on some collegial ideal of deference to the one with the most letters after their name.

And don’t even try the old “impugning the integrity of the seminaries” line. It’s 1 seminary that is promoting false doctrine regarding the creation. We have no problem with the other seminary, unless they also promote or teach falsely. And we are not impugning your integrity. We are pointing out what you teach and comparing it to the word of God. If that makes you look bad, then you need to stop teaching or promoting false doctrine.

Hopefully, those tips will be helpful the next time you write a letter to those in the church who actually hold the highest office. They understand it is an office of service. And, in general, they know how to deal in love with people. You might look to them to see what to do.

Oh, and a quick message to Ecclesiastical Supervisors. I know it can be difficult to speak publicly on controverted issues. But this one is not controverted. We fought this battle 40 years ago. The truth won the day. Those who are attempting to confuse the issue with re-hashed false doctrine and the same excuses their vanquished predecessors used need to be reminded of their solemn vow to teach in accord with Holy Scripture. And if they refuse to do that, they need to be relieved of the responsibility that came with those vows.

And if that’s too hard a task in your office of “Ecclesiastical Supervisor”, we understand. The bylaws are complicated, and carrying them out can be too much to handle. It would not be the first time and the hoi polloi in our synod had to take seriously their office of “elector” and make the hard call themselves.

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Evolution: A Defense Against Cover Preview & Update

I had hoped to have Evolution, a Defense Against, ready for your Christmas-gift lists. Alas. It won’t quite be ready in time. But I am now on the final read through before sending it off for copy editing. That means that it should be available in the next two months or so.

One advantage of all these delays is that I’ve had a chance to add a few more words on the incompatibility of so-called theistic evolution and the Christian faith. The sad part is the reason for those additions – the theory is now being promoted by our Saint Louis seminary.

This is so close, I wish you could see it already. But I wanted to give my scientist friends another round of looks at it. They loved it, and think it is a valuable addition to the church’s arsenal against the attacks of the world. As a pastor who has a theatre degree, I consider that a pretty strong endorsement, and I’m pretty happy about it.

Give me just a few more weeks, and I think you will be too.

Oh, and yes, the picture above is a preview of the cover.

In the meantime, why not read Gustav Just’s classic biography of Luther. Only $5 at Lulu.

 

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Dr. Faustus, Call on Line One

I had planned to have several additional articles posted already regarding the promotion of evolution by our seminary in Saint Louis. Sadly, I have been detained by other duties. But the Brothers of John the Steadfast are on the job! This article, about science grant funding for the seminary, shows the corrosive influence that outside funds are having on our Saint Louis seminary: Science for Seminaries Program Enters Phase 2.

But the most explosive revelation is saved for the last line:

BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.

Why has the seminary not revealed until now that they are ACCEPTING FUNDS FROM PRO-EVOLUTION ORGANIZATIONS???

The Saint Louis seminary not only made a deal with the devil, they hid the diabolical part of that deal from the synod. Is it any wonder that the official journal of CSL is now promoting evolution? I wonder how many phases we get to go through before Satan demands the souls promised him.

Perhaps it is time for our Ecclesiastical Supervisors to supervise our seminary.

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Advent Midweek Sermon

Advent Midweek Services this year are based on the Old Testament Reading from the previous Sunday. Tonight, the text is Jeremiah 23:5-8.

NB: Midweek sermons are often outlined in whole or part, and I tend to depart from the manuscript. But this should give the general idea of what I preached this evening.

Jeremiah – time of uncertainty – northern kingdom has been destroyed. Southern kingdom of Judah is pressured. Lifetime of Jeremiah is really decline and fall of Judah. It certainly seems as if the Word of God will be snuffed out.

But promise – will not be utterly destroyed. Isaiah says: Grass withers, flowers fade, but Word of God endures forever.

Peter quotes that in Epistle as well. Becomes motto of Concordia Publishing House when it is founded in 1840’s. 2700 years after it seemed that Israel would be overcome.

Consider this – since time this was written – Assyria, Egypt., Babylon, Greece, Rome, Goths, Huns, Byzantium, Spain, Britain, have risen and fallen. That’s just the list of world-dominating ones. And if you include small regional powers that rose, fell and were never heard from again, were wiped off the map and out of existence, the list would be pages long. Each of them has a detailed and rich history.

But this one little nation – of no consequence even when the words were written by Jeremiah – has not gone away. The words of Jeremiah are still heard and confessed 2700 years later. Continue reading

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