Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, presented a paper to the Synod's Council of Presidents today, in which he delineated what he thought were areas in which we were united, and then areas in which some disagreement has been expressed. If you want to see the list, click here.

Without debating the success with which this letter, which seems to be yet another attempt to show how very Lutheran the man really is, accomplishes that goal, I'm going to move to a couple of items in the list of matters of agreement that caught my eye.

To wit, first, this:

"That homosexual behavior is contrary to the will of God and, therefore, intrinsically sinful."

True enough, we agree on that. But what about homosexual orientation? It seems to me that, current tensions between us and the more liberal Lutherans being what they are, there ought to be a statement which unequivocally denounces any orientation--sexual or otherwise--which is not in accordance with His expressed will.

And second, and in my view more importantly, this:

"That in, with, and under the bread and the wine of Holy Communion, we receive Christ’s true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal salvation."

Yes, we agree on that too; but my, how the elephant in the room is ignored here. For "in the room," that is, in our LCMS house, are many who deny that the Sacramental elements are themselves the very body and blood of Christ, that is, that "the true body and blood of Christ are truly present in the Holy Supper under the form of bread and wine, and are there dispensed and received" (Formula of Concord VII:9).

Why not convince us that you're really serious about rooting out some real error in our midst by saying a word about the egregious heresy of receptionism, hmmm?

We report, you decide . . .

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Athanasian Creed and the Holy Trinity

After a brief look at a number of blogs on this, I found the expected schizophrenia that descends upon many a confessional Lutheran on Trinity Sunday, myself included.

On the one hand, this great creed gets so little press that we really need to expose our people to it at least once a year.

On the other hand, as the liturgically minded are sometimes wont to say, "there is no authority" for replacing the Nicene Creed with it on Trinity Sunday.

What to do?

The Bishop of Kewanee (that would be your humble scribe) has given the parish here permission to allow that it be confessed in place of the Nicene Creed on Trinity Sunday only.

It is a great thing to say, and always brings the mind to wondering.

To see the entire text of it, click here.

This year I took to wondering about this: "He that would be saved must thus think of the Trinity."

And the left side of my brain began pondering -- right during mass, mind you -- the idea that one must 'think' anything at all in order to be saved. I mean, what about infants, etc.

But then the right side of my brain quickly replied, 'thus think' means essentially this: 'if you're going to go thinking about the Trinity, as thinkers do, you must think of the Trinity in this way. That's what it means. No heretics permitted, you know?

And then the left side of my brain thought, Well, there's also: ". . . which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved." Seems to me this 'firmly' business suggests that it's a matter of mustering up enough confidence; which it really isn't.

And then the right side of my brain replied, This is really nothing other than what we have in St. James, who says that a double-minded man ought not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

It's all a matter of context.

The Christian faith is not for idle conversations of the intelligentsia of the culture. The Holy Trinity does not belong on page xx of the catechism. He is a consuming fire. He is holy, holy, holy. His train fills the temple.

And that got me musing on Isaiah 6, and thinking, I too am undone, a man of unclean lips, dwelling in the midst of a people of unclean lips, until, as it were, a seraph places his live coal, which he had taken from the altar with tongs, on my tongue, to purge my sin.

[Here's the meaning I take from the vision of Isaiah: on the 'tongs' of the cross, Christ was crucified, and the savor of it rose to the Father's nostrils, a pleasing aroma of sacrifice for the sin of the world; and Christ Himself is now taken from the altar, in the Holy Sacrament, and placed on my tongue to purge my sins]

He is a consuming fire, but in His eternal love He has purged my sin, and delivers that forgiveness to me by the Holy Ghost.

Indeed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is no matter for idle or disinterested conversation. "He that would be saved must thus think . . ."

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Fire of Pentecost

The tongues of fire that sat on the heads of the Apostles surely signify judgment, as we are reminded by the association of the Holy Ghost and fire in the preaching of John the Baptist. Judgment, for the ruler of this world is judged, and judgment, for the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world. The latter reference is from the Book of Wisdom, whose context serves to indicate that the Spirit knows all things and therefore is capable of judgment.

But the fire of Pentecost also may be said to signify passion. The heart of God is filled with passion, and has been so from eternity, from before the creation of the world. For the Father loves the Son, and the beloved Son loves His Father. And in the case of God, who is one, and simple, this love is not merely an attribute. It is a Person; a Person of the Holy Trinity, as the Apostle John tells us: God is love.

God is passionate; and the Passion of God is the Spirit of God, is God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

Thus God is by nature creating and giving; and thus He made the world. Did not the Spirit of God hover over the face of the waters in the beginning? The Spirit was fully involved (God is one) in the creation of the world. The world was created in love.

Therefore, although man has no claim on God, no right in himself to expect God to redeem him, there was nevertheless something in God that required Him to accomplish the redemption of the world. There is something in God that required Him to become flesh, and in our flesh to restore dignity to our flesh. There is love; there is the Spirit. Thus the Spirit of God was upon Jesus, and impelled Him to go the way of the cross. For Jesus loved His Father: this is why He suffered for the sin of the world.

And so, not only did He suffer; He also, on the very day of His resurrection, breathed on His disciples and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained, and whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted."

And so now these apostles (and their successors to the present day) proclaim Christ to all the world, and thus the love -- the Spirit -- of God is spread abroad in our hearts.

Most especially is the Spirit present and active in the Holy Liturgy of the Mass, in which, by the Word of Christ, the forgiveness of sins is seen to be located ("Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins") and distributed. Thus, to receive Christ in the Supper is also to receive the Spirit; that is, to receive the Love of God.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Matter of Perspective?

I suppose it's part of human nature that we tend to ignore or put off things of such dreadful import that we can scarcely imagine them. Is this why we hear so little about the tragic cyclone in Burma a week ago? Thousands upon thousands dead. Some reports say up to 100,000. No clean water or food. People still missing and dying. Entire villages submerged. Unspeakable terror. A government which, unbelievably, has up till recently refused any aid from the West, while its own people are dying. For them, it's the end of the world.

Kind of puts things like 9/11 in a different perspective, doesn't it. Don't get me wrong, that was a dreadful day too, especially since it was an enemy attack, and not, as the mainstream media tends to call it, a 'tragedy' (Burma is a tragedy. 9/11 was an act of war, but I digress). About 3,000 died on 9/11. And 3,000 is a figure large enough to take your breath away. I know it did mine.

But there are those who tend to think that since 9/11 was so cataclysmic, it was a kind of new event, never before seen, or on a scale never before reached. And that's simply nearsighted.

Horrid deaths of thousands, even millions, do happen.

Think of the tsunami a few years back. Do you remember how many died? I mean, we all know that 3,000 died on 9/11, right? OK, how many died in southeast Asia in December 2004?

(I'm as guilty of this nearsightedness as anyone, by the way, I remember that it was December 2004 because that's also when Green Bay Packer football legend Reggie White died.)

So, do you know?

The answer: around 240,000.

Which is almost 100 times more than on 9/11.

And now this: possibly as many as 100,000 dead in Burma (which I refuse to call Myanmar, because the disgusting totalitarian regime insisted on the new name).

Yesterday morning the news reported on Burma for about five minutes or so, and then went on to talk about a huge sinkhole in Texas, some twisters in the Midwest, and a killer on the loose in California.

I'm not really sure what conclusion to draw from this, or what lesson. I just think it's odd, and perhaps hopelessly myopic.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Father Hollywood on Christian Cruising

Wow, Father Hollywood has gone and done it again. A recent post on his blog is a veritable exposé of some rather lavish expenditures at pastors' conferences.

Evidently a recent such conference was held on a cruise ship. A cruise ship.

Holy cow.

And this one was held in the deep South. You know, Katrina lands. As I mentioned to him, somebody obviously wasn’t too concerned about how that might look, to say nothing of its, ah, questionable morality. Sort of reminds me of the absentee bishops in medieval times, or again, of things which led right up to the French Revolution.

I have no beef with occasional vacations, but I don't think I ought to expect the people to foot the bill in addition to paying my salary. I certainly wouldn't expect them to pay it if they had recently been ravaged by a hurricane.

But he tells me a colleague of his told him he was being too legalistic, that he even worshiped a different Christ. And my reply was this: perhaps he does worship a different Christ.

You know, the one who said “Feed my sheep,” not “Fleece my sheep.”

Anyhow, a look at his article is well your time: click here.

Post script: If you check out that article, you might find the responses amusing too, to say the least. I just looked them over myself, and was quite surprised to find, in addition to the expected rants against him, a plug for our own Oktoberfest up here in Kewanee next fall.

Yes, Father Hollywood, you must come. My gold watch is swinging back and forth, and I say this in deep, comforting tones. Come to Oktoberfest. Come to Oktoberfest. You're getting sleepy . . .

Thursday, May 01, 2008

OK, He'll Get My Vote

Like many political conservatives, I have had my reservations about John McCain, to say the least. But as I learn more about the man, I must say that I am deeply impressed by reports of his integrity, particularly those coming not from Mr. McCain himself (who is nobly reticent about telling his own stories), but from people who knew him at the Hanoi Hilton. Contrasted against John Kerry's endless prattle about his own wartime valor, Here is one such story, related by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal. Very impressive, and in need of telling.

Mr. McCain's biography has me convinced that the man is fit for the job of President, if only because he is not governed by a need for acclamation.