Ash Wednesday Sermon

25580f178d1c71582da64e9ee705efa4_ash20wednesday20clipart-ash-wed-clipart_1721-1768Roads closed all over the county. Wife stuck in Cheyenne. Elder of the day on the other side of the snow drift that is his road. Members huddled in their homes, waiting for the weather to break. (Ok, probably not exactly huddled. But they are in their homes until the crazy subsides.)

So, for those who could not make it to church, here is Ash Wednesday’s sermon to read (with a Tip-o-the-hat to Hans Feine for some of the ideas):

The Gospel reading says not to disfigure faces. We put ashes on the faces. It’s a long tradition in the church. Did we not hear what he just said? Is this one of those Catholic practices that we should just get rid of? For many years, Lutherans celebrated Ash Wednesday without the ashes. Should we go back to that? “do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.”

Sure sounds like maybe we should rethink the ashes thing.

But then, we also prayed together. No secret rooms. All together, where we could see each other. And we do that every time we come together. And left hands can see what right hands are doing at offering time. If we’re under condemnation for the ashes, we were under condemnation for the prayers and offerings as well.

So, what’s up with that? Continue reading

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Teach These Things – Second Edition!

Luther2The Second (corrected) edition of Teach These Things has finally been released!

No more will my fat fingered typing of “Exceslsis” be an embarrassment to you. No more will your children read an extra chapter of First Kings. Typos fixed, a few phrases (and a couple of paragraphs) evened out, and ready to order. Including hard copy sales over at Lulu, I’ve sold over 100 copies! That means that 1 in 60 parishes in the LCMS has used TTT. That may seem small, but for a country parson in the wilds of Wyoming, where the population density is less than 2/sq mile, that’s a pretty cool thing to see.

If you haven’t ordered Teach These Things, there really hasn’t been a better time to try it out. Why? Because Lent.

One of the focuses of Lent is Catechesis. For pastors who would like to review the Large Catechism during Lent (never a bad idea…) Teach These Things also includes Large Catechism Outlines. I’ve heard pastors who say that the outlines are terrific for helping their own devotional life. (Once I clear my desk of current projects, I may work on publishing just the outlines. It kind of depends on some things, but I’m told it would be a great resource for the church.) So even if you aren’t teaching the faith to catechumens this Lententide, you can use Teach These Things as a guide for returning to the fountainhead: The Word of God, explained by Martin Luther in simple way.

To order a printable PDF of Teach These Things, click HERE.

Hard copy? HERE. And if you order TODAY, try entering “OSCAR30”, there might be a 30% discount. Otherwise, put it in your cart, log in, but don’t complete the order. Lulu will usually send some sort of discount to your email.

And thanks to everyone for your support.

 

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Choosing a College for your Lutheran Snowflake

rpt-lcms-uThis has been much on my mind lately. My oldest child will soon be on her way to the hallowed halls of higher learning. A wealth of academic opportunities await. And as her father (and pastor) I want only the best for her. But how do I make sure that college will be a good thing, not a bad one.

The first consideration when choosing a college *MUST* be “Will my loved one be able to receive proper spiritual care.” “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul.” And the stark truth is that the amazing times your child had in youth group will not be able to sustain them in the faith if they are constantly attacked for their faith for four years and have no support from the church. The best case scenario is that they learn they don’t need the church to survive. Worst case (and oh the stories regretful parents could tell) is that they come out of college completely rejecting their baptism. All the great job offers in the world, all the sports glory you can imagine, will not make up for this. As a parent, a lifetime of regret awaits you is you forget your child’s spiritual well being when they go to college. You do not want to carry this burden.

So, please, please, please, contact your pastor before you begin the college search. He can help find schools that have proper pastoral care for college students in the area. And he can direct you to area parishes or campus ministries for specific details about the school itself. If he doesn’t know, the synod has an office just to support and aid Campus Ministry. He can find out what resources are available at a given school.

Now that you have a few names of active campus ministries you will want to find out which schools offer the program your child wants. Why wait to do this until you have the names of local pastors? Because if you contact the colleges first, they will inundate you with promotional materials about how amazing it is there, how much aid they can absolutely guaranteed to give you (hah-hah!), how they have exactly the program your child needs, etc. You will be very excited. And then if you find out that there is really no spiritual support, you will be tempted to consider it anyway. Don’t be fooled! The proper order is: Pastoral support, THEN educational opportunities. Another reason to find/contact a local campus ministry first is that you can find out any danger spots in the curriculum. For example, one of our local schools is well known as having a militant atheist as the head of the theatre program. Of course, we expect that a public college would not have an explicitly Christian theatre program. But in this case, students have struggled even when only minimally involved. Arriving bright eyed and bushy tailed to college, only to learn later that you are not welcome in the program because of your faith would be a tough learning experience. Your local campus ministry can help avoid problems like that.

So, what do you look for in a campus ministry? Most importantly – make sure the local pastor is faithful in his teaching and practice. Do they use the hymnal for their services? (This is a deal breaker. Not-a-Lutheran-Hymnal means Not-a-Lutheran-Parish.) Is the preaching and life of the parish actually Lutheran? (Does it teach the faith according to scripture, are Law and Gospel divided properly, etc.) If you aren’t certain, ask your pastor. Is it crazy to evaluate the teaching of the local pastor before picking a college? You will probably sit in on classes to evaluate the professors. And which is more important – “Ancient Sumerian Underwater Basketweaving” or “Not being led astray by False Doctrine”? One of best practical checks for faithfulness these days is “Do they faithfully practice Closed Communion?” Sadly, too many parishes don’t. You’ll want to make sure that pastors are faithful in all aspects of their teaching. And Closed communion is often one of the first things to go when faithfulness becomes optional. A pastor that does not practice closed communion either does not believe in the Real Presence, or he does not believe in sin. Those are both important. You don’t want years of faithful instruction undone when your child is away.

So, you’ve found a faithful parish. How do you know if it’s an active campus ministry with lots of programs, or if it’s mostly inactive? The truth is, not all campus ministries are full time endeavors. Smaller schools, or areas with smaller Lutheran populations, will likely have a joint parish-campus ministry (Called Town & Gown). There may be only one pastor who serves both. This means that he may not have all the latest up to date information on the school. But he should know a few students. There should be transportation available to church on Sunday mornings. A 24 hour campus center with lots of activities is not required, but there should be some opportunities for college students to come to church and participate in the life of the parish. And if the pastor says that they don’t have any of those things, but will arrange transport for your budding scholar? If he is faithful, take him at his word. And feel free to check in with him as you move through the process to see how those arrangements are going. (Trust, but remind. Even faithful pastors forget things.)

You might have hoped that I would have solutions for funding, travel, housing, etc. Those usually take care of themselves. But a faithful pastor does not just happen. It takes the conscious efforts of all involved. And a faithful campus ministry doesn’t just grow because you wish it did. It takes long term investment of time and money. And if it is not there, then you need to pass that school over for one that meets all your needs. Every school can feed your kid, provide a bed for housing, offer laundry facilities. Every school can teach him things he didn’t know before. But not every school has a local parish where the sheep of God will be tended and cared for. And no matter what you are doing, that is the number one thing to look for.

Make your child’s college experience one you will both look back on fondly, rather than one that they will treasure, but you will regret. Church is too important to leave to chance. And our children’s salvation is just too precious to risk.

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Catechetics: Peer Review

printing-history-gutenberg-pressAs I neared completion on the first draft of Catechetics, I sent out a request for peer reviewers. That was 3 1/2 years ago. So, let’s just say the last half of the book didn’t move along at a blistering pace. Good thing I’ve still got that day job…

Well, I’m now ready, so today I sent out an email to see if there is still interest in volunteering. Apparently, the average lifespan of a web page is 100 days. That means that my initial request was almost 10 lifetimes ago, in web years.

Knowing that makes me feel a little bit late to my own party.

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Next Project?

I’ve been hinting that, once I get my current book projects to reviewers, I have another project waiting in the wings. I’m super mega excited about it. We’ll have to see if others are as well.

As I’ve mentioned, I rescanned the early 20th century book Life of Luther, by CPH. I updated the text, ever so slightly, and included all the engraving plates. But the engraving plates are from a larger work: The Life of Luther in 48 Historical Engravings.

The engravings are all by Gustav Koenig, and they come with brief explanations. (Usually about a page or two.) Originally printed in 1856, I’ve been looking for a copy for quite some time. I finally got one. Original binding. It’s beautiful (but as I learned today, very very fragile – oops!)

I have been wanting to put together a coffee table book version. 48 engravings of the life of Luther, with brief explanations. Hopefully, it would be a summer project (ready for Reformation 500 in the fall, if things go well. If not, then, 501 is an even bigger number!)

I told myself I wouldn’t do anything until I get my current books to their various reviewers. Work continues apace on those projects. (Which is to say, slow, but steady). But I had to take a moment and let you see what I’ve got my hands on. So, here are two pictures – the cover of the book (isn’t it beautiful!) and an engraving of Luther at the foot of the cross. I’m still working out the details. I will need to purchase some equipment to even begin this one. So it might end up being a kickstarter – all or nothing! That’s unusual for me. In the past I’ve just put it out there and seen whether people are interested. But this would be a significant investment of time and funds to even get started. So, I need to know people are interested. Stay tuned. There should be more details as we approach Lent/Easter.

Oh, right. The pictures:

life-of-luther

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Moving On

After three abortive attempts at a final edit, I have finished my final edit of “Catechetics: Fixing Confirmation”. Now I just have to enter them before I lose the manuscript…

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Publishing Update. And a Bleg

printing-history-gutenberg-pressTechnically, I’m currently working on three different books.

Catechetics: Fixing Confirmation is coming along nicely. I’m finishing up the final round of major edits from my end, and then I will be sending it out to reviewers. So here is my bleg:

WANTED: Reviewers for a theology book.

REQUIREMENTS: Eye for detail, knowledge of publishing conventions (footnotes, etc.), familiarity with Lutheran theology, and ability to volunteer the necessary time.

In return, I can offer a credit in the acknowledgements, and a free copy of the book. Not much, I know. But you do get to see this before anyone else does. Qualified applicants who would like to contribute to the cause of promoting and teaching Lutheran Theology would be appreciated. Please leave a comment if you can help.

Evolution: A Defense Against has come back from review, and is awaiting revisions. Once I finish my corrections to Catechetics and get it out for review, I’ll be working on those. After that, it’s ready for proofreading, and then final formatting/publishing.

God willing, both of these projects will be finished by the end of the year. But then, I say that every year.

The third project is easier. Relatively speaking. I’m wrapping up work on Teach These Things: Second Corrected Edition. There were a number of typos in the first edition, and a couple of minor fixes that were needed to the text. These are done, as far as I am aware. I’ve been hoping for months that I would have a chance to review it and get it online. But that just hasn’t happened. And proofreading is just not my thing – I am terrible at it. So, I’ve asked a pastor who has more of an eagle I than I do to take a look at it. Hopefully, that will be completed soon, and the second edition will go live before Lent.

And don’t worry – those who purchased the e-version will get a free upgrade.

After that, I’ve got a few more projects in the pipeline. But I need to move these forward before those can happen. So, stay tuned. There should be news in the coming months…

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