Sermon for Trinity 16

The week is half over. But nevertheless here’s my sermon from this past Sunday, for those who were unable to attend. The Gospel was Luke 7: The raising of the young man of Nain.

God created us as concrete beings – with bodies as well as souls. He made us so that we would need food for physical sustenance. We live in a physical world, and move through it physically – we aren’t magically transported from place to place. You would think, with all of the clues he has given us, we would consider that God intends for us to live according to certain physical commandments, and that we would understand that there is a physical penalty for violating them. Continue reading

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Resource for the Homebound

Click HERE for the Homebound Liturgy Booklet mentioned below. 

Back in the day, before FB/Twitter/Snapchat reduced everything to a couple of angry sentences, online conversations were had on blogs: A long well-considered post, and a worthy response. In that sense this post is something of a throwback. It’s a response I posted over at Gottesblog. Pr. Jason Braaten has a great post on Rethinking Homebound Visits. My comment follows:

Pr. Braaten,

Oh my yes! The Divine Liturgy just aches to be sung! And the memory is fully engaged – even for those with dementia – when music is added. (As an aside, I have had some catechumens chant the words of consecration when reciting memory work for the first part of Holy Communion.) Everything just works better with music.

As for my practice with shut-ins, it was formed in my first parish, where the homebound members were often confused, unable to read, and unfamiliar with their own responses. I paired down the service to just the ordinaries (no responses except the confession/absolution.) I had a member who was blind; she told me the best font for the vision impaired is called Verdana. It is ugly, but it is clear.
Generally the member will sing along.

I print small booklets with the liturgy as well as about 20 hymns. Shut in Large Print Liturgy You’ll want to select your own hymns based on what people know in your parish. I pick hymns that match general themes for the season, are direct and clear in their confession, or focus on comfort and hope. I have two different books – one with hymns for the festival seasons, one with hymns for regular time. I also have a little book for myself with the liturgy, a few prayers, the hymns, and the Introit/Collect/2 Readings for each week. Saves my flipping about between many books. Rarely if ever (Occasional hospital visits) do I use the readings for the sick in the Pastoral Care Companion. The weekly lectionary readings work beautifully in most cases.

But yes, sing with your shut-ins! The hymns are a great comfort to them. I usually figure I’m singing loudly enough at the hospital/nursing home if the nurse comes by to close the door (heh-heh).

I recently moved to the new setting – “you” not “thee”. It only took 11 years for my shut-ins to be more familiar to with the new setting than the old, due to attrition. I looked at the PCC, but too many options, and too much that is unique. Homebound member is the wrong time to be teaching. It’s why we teach and use the same liturgy for the first 85 years.

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Lies **** lies, and statistics

There is a rather execrable lie being told by certain would-be leaders in our church. I’ve heard it from district officials in other districts, seminary professors and so-called church-growth gurus.

It is that births in the US increased between 1970 and 2000. Now, strictly speaking, this is true. But it is misleading. The birth rate did not increase. Only total number of births increased. And it did so very meagerly.

In 1970 there were 3.7 million births. In 2000 there were 3.9 million births. AN INCREASE OF 5%! But the population went from 205 million people to 282 million – an increase of 37%. So the actual birthrate fell – dramatically. It doesn’t show up in most statistics as a dramatic fall because the usual measure of birthrate looks at females of child-bearing age. And the population has been aging rapidly. So, increases in population are still occurring for a time – but the number of children each woman has in her life has been on a downward trajectory in practically every nation on earth – and has been so since 1900. We are living in an world of declining births, and have been for a century.

And the people who are peddling this statistic know it. And continuing to peddle the statistic hurts the church, because it encourages the false teaching (promulgated in colleges, the media, etc.) that the planet is in a crisis from overcrowding, and that couples are better off waiting many years to get married and (maybe if you’r selfish) have children. The biblical doctrine is that children are a blessing from the Lord, and the truth is that God’s creation is so ordered to support the marriage of young adults and the raising of children. The place of marriage and the family was actually a disputed point in the Reformation between Rome and the Lutherans. It’s why Lutherans have never had much interest in Romanist visions of natural law, but prefer our own more scriptural and God-pleasing view.

So why are they suddenly so interested in the total birth statistic between 1970 and 2000? Because President Harrison has been encouraging a godly reconsideration of our practice regarding of getting married (late!) and having children (not more than 1.8!) And they know he is correct. But they hate him (and the Word of God he brings) so much that they are willing to mislead and harm the church just to undermine this one talking point.

The result – if they succeed – is that they can continue with their papistic views of marriage and the family and their arminian views of evangelism. (Marriage is not as holy as being in full time church work – preferably guitarist for the praise band!)

I find it rather disgusting. Being in Wyoming, we don’t get too many folks spouting that sort of cow-by-product here. Which is good. Because if they tried, their talk would be interrupted by earnest pastors and laity telling others to watch their step.

As for those outside of Wyoming – now you know to be careful as well. And if you hear this whopper, be sure to hand a shovel to your neighbor so you can both keep things from getting too deep. Our synod doesn’t need that sort of mess tracked everywhere. We’ve got problems, and President Harrison is not perfect (a fact he noted in his acceptance speech). But in this case, he speaks the truth and brings the Word of God to the church. And those who oppose him out of spite will find their time better spent pondering the words of Psalm 4:4. “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.”

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Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Many years ago, there was a district with an unfaithful District President. He also had the misfortune to be wildly unpopular in the district. For the first time in many years, it looked as if the district could elect a faithful President. A pastor was nominated. Others eagerly campaigned for him. He warned them not to speak negatively against the current President. They could support him, speak favorably about him. But, he believed the 8th commandment forbade public ridicule of a man in office.

To be clear, they didn’t need half-f0rmed insinuations, as we are seeing in recent mailings. Neither did they make claims that were refutable by the Board of Directors of Preasidium of the district. There were clear cases of misconduct and false teaching. Congregations were being specifically and identifiably harmed. The temptation was too great. The well-meaning pastors went negative. Removing the man would be good for the entire church.

But not this way. At the convention, where he was almost certain to displace the District President, this pastor stood up, renounced the negative tactics of his supporters (who were his close friends), and withdrew his name from consideration. It was a shock, a terrible blow. But it was the right thing to do. Since that time, the President in question has retired, as has the pastor. The current President is a good man, as far as anyone in this world is able to be “good”. So, in the end, it worked out. But I will never forget the lesson of that district – which was not my own. I heard about it because of how odd it was. A man walking away from a position of power, because he did not want it if it could not be gained with integrity.

And I think about that incident, that pastor, that man, as I receive mailing after mailing opining about the terrible situation of our synod, and how it is the fault of one man, and how this other man will make everything better. And I wonder if the men being pushed on me worry about using such blatant violations of God’s Word to attempt to gain office in Christ’s church. They may not be doing it themselves. But I have not heard a single word in opposition to the tactics being employed.  Do they think that an office, if it is gained through such sinful means on the part of so many, can be a blessing to others? Oh, don’t get me wrong, God will work all the good for those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose. But I do not that think that any office gained by such skulduggery can be a blessing to the man who gains it.

I remember that long-ago and far away pastor, who stood alone and spoke out against such things. God has richly blessed him and his district in the years since. Today I pray that, if one of these men are elected, God will not hold the sins of their supporters against the entire synod. He would be right to do it. This isn’t just a coarsening of the culture of the church. This is playing with matters of sin and judgment. It is a most dangerous game.

And, being the optimist I am, I pray that the men receiving benefit from the sins of others will renounce that sin, in godly love both for them, and for the synod that they say they hope to serve.

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Sermon for Pentecost

A few typos, but you get the gist. The coming of the Holy Spirit is a good thing, and we give thanks to God for all his many gifts.  My favorite line (and it’s a tribute to an obscure line in a James Thurber piece called “Macbeth Murder Mystery”) is “No one says ‘Hey, those guys are on fire!'” Here’s the start, with more after the jump:

We finally come to Pentecost. We’ve spent the last six months covering the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord. The festival half of the church year now finishes with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the comforter. Today we celebrate and give thanks for his work in the church. And what is that work? What amazing things does he bring? We hear of the fire today. That must have been impressive. Strange languages. Also good. Miracles. Sure to impress. Jesus promises the disciples on ascension day that they will be poisoned and not harmed, the sick will be healed, demons will be cast out in Jesus name. We could use some more of that today – maybe with a healing ministry people would come to the church – at the very least the church could save a little bit on the pastor’s health insurance. Jesus promises such amazing things, and then it seems like today the church is so ordinary. Other churches have exciting programs, you feel like the Spirit is moving. Here we have the same people, the same old readings, the same liturgy, the same hymnal, the same reserved attitude. We could use an infusion of… something. A tongue of fire would be helpful. Maybe just one or two miracles. Something to let us know we are doing it properly.

But then, as Jesus says in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus – if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they hear even if someone were to rise from the dead. We have the word and promise of our Lord. And while on Ascension Day he gives some rather lofty sounding promises, they are all fulfilled in the time of the apostles. He never promises they will continue.

Even the tongues of fire – the most obvious sign of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the apostles, doesn’t seem to last more than a few seconds or minutes. How do we know? Because when the disciples go outside and Peter preaches, the response is “these men are drunk.” No one says, “Hey! Those guys are on fire!” The Spirit dwelling in them with tongues of fire on the heads was a sign for the apostles and those who already believed. It was not an ongoing thing. It was to indicate that now the preaching of the Gospel was to begin. And begin it did. Peter preaches his famous Pentecost sermon. 3,000 are baptized that day. Enough that, when they all return home, there are little churches scattered throughout the empire. So, when the Jerusalem authorities start arresting and imprisoning the Christians – and even killing them – they have places to flee to in other cities. And when they are suffering so much they don’t have enough money for food because of the persecution of the leaders in Jerusalem, there are churches in other towns and cities that can support them with their offerings. Don’t be fooled by that 3,000 number. Those were visitors, not residents. The Jerusalem church was not the world’s first mega-church, with programs and activities for all ages, and a barista bar by the entrance and a fancy lighting system.

The book of Acts continually says the church was blessed and continued to grow, but it also describes significant poverty on the part of many, and significant persecution for those who dared to confess the name of Christ. The blessing was in those who would hear and believe the word of God. And the power of the Spirit was not in miracles that made life easier for the disciples – they were actually arrested and beaten for healing people. Where God is active, there you will find Satan working to tear down what God is building. And let’s look at what Jesus promises in the Gospel reading today. He says:

The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The great gift of the Holy Spirit is to teach, and to help them remember all he said to them. That may not sound like much, but it is a great comfort to us. Continue reading

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Hello again

A friend recently asked what my plans are, now that Catechetics has been published. I had already started working on it while I was waiting for the final part of the publishing process to wind down.

Now that it’s summer, it’s time for my continuing education project. I read and I write. And to give you a hint of what’s coming, I have the following books on the way:

Oh, and then there’s this – which is nearing the two decade mark, but worth a review as well:

It should be a good summer.

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Gifts for the seminary graduate

The perfect gift – A beautiful copy of Luther’s Sacristy prayer.

You can print and frame (8*10) this PDF. Luther’s Sacristy Prayer Decorated

If you prefer to use a different prayer, a different translation, or just want a different font, here is the Word File so you can edit it. Luther’s Sacristy Prayer Decorated

They are public domain. Use, change, or distribute them as you see fit.

Happy graduation to all of our seminaries graduates!

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