Saturday, September 23, 2006

Have Gown, Will Travel -- in hopes of teaching rubrics

Actually, I'm only taking a small carryon and a briefcase, due to airline restrictions, but I'm off to a doubleheader this week. First, it's off to the St. Michael Conference, moved this year for the first time from Detroit to Fort Wayne (Redeemer), to do a workshop on the rubrics for the celebrant at mass; and then the next day I wing through Chicago to a second itinerary to Denver, to attend the second annual Augustana Ministerium conference, where I must present a paper/discussion topic on the Historic Liturgy.

Both of these will be opportunities to plug our new St. Paul's Liturgical Institute. We're finally planning to do some hands-on teaching to make up for what has long been a serious deficiency at the Lutheran seminaries. Sorry to make this claim, but it's true. For too long, the bulk of training in how to do the ceremonies has been relegated to 'field work' parishes in the seminary neighborhoods. So neighboring pastors show the students how to do it. How did they learn? In field work, in their seminary days, by neighboring pastors. It gets pretty close to the blind leading the blind, when the seminary doesn't take the lead in these things.

It's been awhile since I've been there, so undoubtedly things have changed a bit, but not nearly enough, from what I hear out of recent graduates. Much more work is needed. Till then, the St. Paul's Liturgical Institute hopes to fill in the blanks.

First seminar, by the way, is in Kewanee, Illinois, from October 20 till November 3. To learn more, log on at (I sure hope the website is running ok; there are bugs in it still), or email me:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Letter to the Editor

To the editor [of the Wall Street Journal]

Brent Stephens’ “Pope Provacateur” (9/19/2006) is certainly a welcome and refreshing rebuttal to the fanatics whose very manner of response sort of proves this pope’s point. In particular I found myself nodding agreement with his highlight of the Pope’s recognition that for Islam, God is utterly transcendent, “not bound even by his own word.” This is also the case, Mr. Stephens notes, for Protestantism. Here, however, a distinction is needed, and the Lutherans’ perennial defense against being lumped with the Protestants might be a particularly helpful ingredient in the faith-and-reason debate. It was John Calvin, roughly the contemporary of Martin Luther, who insisted on the utter sovereignty of God, characterized by a boundless and transcendent will. Pristine Calvinism bears some striking resemblance to Islam in this respect. Luther’s complaints against reason are not to be understood in the same way. His complaint was always against the exaltation of reason above what is revealed. The Pope’s argument sounds similar to that of St. Anselm of Canterbury, with whose famous declaration, “I believe that I may understand” Luther had no quarrel. Indeed when the Pope affirms that God must be bound by His word, he and Luther begin to sound very much alike. When God is divorced from His word, whether by Christians or Muslims, the danger of fanaticism always looms nearby. Since Calvin never saw that utter divine sovereignty and divine mercy were incompatible with each other, his thought never reached the radical stage of which it might otherwise have been capable. With Islam—although it certainly has its moderates—there is no mitigating notion of divine mercy at all to offset a transcendent and untethered divine will. The result can easily be, understandably, a very unruly mob of people. They’re acting the way they believe their God is capable of acting.

Monday, September 18, 2006

They're Here

Well, I knew this was coming. I told you so. We now have women ministers in the Missouri Synod. We just don't know it.

Here's how they did it. For the past thirty years, we've had the notion drummed into our heads that you can't ordain women, it's against the Bible, etc. So the SOW* folks decided to change their tactics in order to get the women pastors they always wanted.

Step one: convince everyone that ordination is an adiaphoron, an indifferent thing. Never mind that the Lutheran Confessions permit you to call it a sacrament, it's nothing more than a nice apostolic custom which we are free to take or leave. By the way, to any idiot who wants to retort that the Confessions do not require us to call it a sacrament, I'd like to say that I dont require it either: but in permitting such a designation, the Confessions are at the least affirming that it is an act of God. I wouldn't want to call an act of God an indifferent thing, would you?

But the SOW* crowd accomplished the first step, and now synodical types everywhere are convinced that ordination is really an adiaphoron, in spite of the fact that the Church has never designated someone as a minister without it.

Step two: reintroduce the historic diaconate, something the Synod should never have abandoned in the first place. I remember the haughtiness of the committee at the last convention which, when asked to consider an ordained diaconate, declared, oh no, ordination is a term reserved for pastors. Sure it is: as of 1853 in our synod alone. Talk about parochial!
Anyhow, now deacons are popping up here and there without ordination, and in fact the duties of a deacon, given for example in the Mid-South District, are pretty good ones (for which click here). Only trouble is, they're not ordained!

Oh, and this: there are females among them! Want to see one? Just check out the Mid-South newsletter, click on July-August, and go to page five (thanks to Fr. Larry Beane for the heads up on this). So now you have what I knew you were going to get: women in the ministry, women preaching, women administering the Sacraments. But it's all OK, because they're not ordained! You synodical types will just never get it, will you? You've been duped into this, and you never knew what hit you; the SOW* crowd can just give a quiet aside to its members: don't worry, ordination is no big deal anyhow. After all, we can even arrange for you to get your holy tax break, like we did for our "commissioned ministers"!

Now instead of this nonsense, can we please get serious about having a proper diaconate, complete with proper ordination? Like I said, they have a very nice explanation of what a diaconate does (and, unintentionally, why it should be an ordained diaconate), which, once again, you can see if you click here.

*Synodical Organization of Women, which actually doesn't exist as such, but is definitely a crowd of people who think the Biblical mandate against women preachers doesn't apply to them. They, like the NOW crowd, seek to impose their brand of feminism on the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Octoberfest is Coming

Announcing . . .

The Eleventh Annual


At St. Paul’s Ev.-Lutheran Church

Kewanee, Illinois

Sunday afternoon and Monday, October 8-9, 2006

Conference theme: Arranging Everything around the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar

This year we hope to have presentations by as many of the Gottedienst editors, live and in person, as we can get. Our editors include Dr. Burnell Eckardt, the pastor of St. Paul’s, who is the editor-in-chief, Dr. Karl Fabrizius, Rev. Aaron Koch, Chaplain Jonathan Shaw, Rev. John Fenton, and our newest associate, Rev. David Petersen. We expect most if not all of these men to be on hand to speak to participate.

The two-day event begins on Sunday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. with Autumn Choral Vespers, followed by a bratwurst banquet and awards ceremony (actually a bit of horseplay . . .). Monday’s schedule begins at 9:00 a.m. and includes Holy Mass at 9:30, followed by a series of seminars on the Sacrament and its centrality in the life of the Church. The day’s events end with Vespers at 3:00 p.m.

The conference fee, which includes three meals, is $25 per person, $40 per couple, or $15 per student. Children with parents free.

For more information, call (309) 852-2461.

Lodging: AmericInn, 4823 US Hwy 34. 800-634-3444

Aunt Daisy's B & B, 223 W Central Blv.d. 888-422-4148

Kewanee Motor Lodge, 400 S Main St. 309-853-4000

Super 8 Motel, 901 S Tenney (Rt 78). 309-853-8800

Days Inn, I-80 & Rt 40, Sheffield. 815-454-2361

Holiday Inn Express, I-80 & Rt 78, Annawan. 309-935-6565

Directions: Take Illinois State hwy 78 to Central Blvd. (middle of downtown), and turn east. Go two blocks east on Central to the church. Red-brick Neo-Gothic building. No, it’s not incense you see rising from the vicinity; it’s bratwurst smoke…

To register, you may send us an email ( the following information:



Wife’s first name if applicable





Sunday and Monday or Sunday only or Monday only

You could also reply to this blog and let us know, if you want, if you don't mind everyone in the world knowing that you're coming. But why not? It might encourage them. Then again, if you're shy, just send us your data as I suggested in the first place, in a separate email.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Man's Best Friend

We finally did it. After a twelve-year hiatus without a dog, we have now increased our family size by one canine. We've had a fine cat in the intervening years, whose objections to this new brother are actually not as fierce as we might have expected, but I must say I disagree with Robert DeNiro's character in Meet the Parents. He said, as you may recall, that cats are better than dogs because they don't sell out, they make you earn their affection. Maybe so, but the thing about dogs is that they are loyal, as everyone knows. You can be the ugliest, craziest, or most neurotic, hated, or odd person in the world, and you dog will still love you. A dog's love is pure grace. I guess that's what I need.

So anyway, this little Labrador-retriever puppy is only four months old, and we're pondering a name for him. On top of the list right now is Reggie (the boys like this one, for Green Bay legend Reggie White). My favorite, Wyatt, was nixed. Also rans included Brett, Vince, and Lambeau. I would have liked Herb (my favorite Packer was Herb Adderley, back in the day). We also considered Luther, but that's a bit too common among Lutheran pastors. Also Bach, Mozart, and Johann. I sort of liked Laphroaig too, or Islay, or Malt (he is a brown dog), or simply Scotch. But I guess that would be better for a terrier.

Anyone with ideas may submit. We still haven't decided.

In other news, we have learned that we are to become grandparents sometime in late April or early May. Forgot to blog about that the other day. I guess that shows how much I am into instant gratification. Like, we have a dog right now, and the baby is still a ways off.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Double Life in the Blogosphere

I just spent a little while surfing through various blogs. Man, I am behind the curve. They're everywhere, and they are multiplying faster than rabbits on enzymes. Some of the blogs I saw are sharp and witty, and had me chuckling, thinking, gee, when I grow up I want to blog like that. The links are helpful ways to get you from blog to blog, but they can also blow you away, when you begin to see what looks like a vast blog-wing conspiracy seemingly seeking to take over the universe. There are blogs for everything. Naturally, I especially liked the one I ran into debating the virtues of Ann Coulter (she's my girlfriend, according to my dear wife, who seems to be all right with this).

What I find somehow stupifying is that there seems to be a lot of time and effort going into these blogs, some of which are updated daily. This is a veritable Phoenix which has arisen from the ashes of ruined newspaper empires. There must be millions who are writing and reading blogs. Reading too, because of the comments that get attached to the posts. Hey, is anyone reading this one? Ah well, I have been known to talk to myself on occasion.

So anyway, I'm wondering just how much time people are spending at this stuff, and I'm thinking maybe it's way too much. Or is it? The jury is out, I guess. On the one hand, it's so much fun to sit in front of the screen and type away, and not have to deal with life's real issues. It's a great escape, and in a certain respect one can easily live a double life in the blogosphere. I guess everyone knows there's cybersex too for those who want it, and nobody has to know. What a convenient place is the blogosphere for vices of all kinds, from the x-rated kinds to the garden variety, which, while tame by contrast, can be plenty harmful. Sloth is one the deadly sins, after all.

On the other hand, I suppose blogging can be a very good thing, as it's a means to reach people's minds and engage them in conversation. The blogosphere is very large. Anyone from Australia reading this? Or Siberia? Or the planet Pluto? As is usually the case with vices, the vice of overblogging is the abuse of a good thing.

And wouldn't you know it, here I go, spending too much time at this already. See how easily one can get carried away?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Something Missing?

Today I read an article about how the Pope went to see Veronica's veil, supposedly kept in a village about three hours from Rome. As I read the account, from a Roman Catholic source, I noticed the usual sense of wonder over miraculous things meant to verify the Christian faith. It is now thought by some that this 'veil' may not be the veil with which Veronica wiped Jesus' face as He was on the via dolorosa, but the headcloth, or "sweat cloth" found folded separately from the shroud in the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. There are some compelling data about the veil which contribute to the possibility that it is genuine, and yet, as is the case with most artifacts and relics the Church of Rome maintains, a thread of sensationalism running through the report. It's almost as if they're wanting these things to be true to bolster the Christian faith.

On the other hand, when I finished the article, I turned to some current events and doings among Lutherans, and I saw a completely different approach. Here, there was no concern at all about matters which have a direct connection to the life of Jesus, the matters reported in the Gospels, but rather, an abundance of emphasis on 'reaching people', evangelism, spreading the 'gospel', etc.

And I think that somehow, the attention given to relics and artifacts, while often bordering on superstition, is better, nevertheless, than attention given to 'sharing your faith'. The latter is too often subjective, personal, and devoid of any real Gospel content.

While certainly it is possible--and even laudable--to take the opportunity given to 'tell someone about Jesus', the emphasis on this telling has reached such a fevered pitch that, ironically, little about Jesus ends up being told at all. Rather, passing reference to who He is and what He has done might be made, while the heart of the telling is usually the invitation to receive Him, or to accept Him into your heart.

It's easy to criticize Rome for its superfluity of relics and superstitions. But I must say that there does seem to be at least a grain of goodness, if only a small one, in paying more attention to things which actually bear a better connection to Jesus than my own personal experience of His presence in my life.