Friday, January 30, 2009

The Best in Pastoral Counseling

This Newhart sketch is what I call fine pastoral counseling technique. Hat tip: Chaplain Jonathan Shaw.

Monday, January 26, 2009

That's What the Army Does, Ma'am

I couldn't believe my ears.

Here I'm sitting at lunch, while the background noise includes the new administration's press secretary answering reporters' questions, blathering on about the stimulus plan and whatnot. Suddenly the little guy inside my head who monitors this for me alerts me: Doofus Alert! Here comes a question from Helen Thomas, the old aunt in the attic:

"Why does the president want to send troops to Afghanistan to kill people?"

Holy cow, she really is a batty old aunt in the attic. Or a kindergartener, perhaps--no, that would be insulting to kindergarteners.

She might have found a legitimate way to ask why we must send more troops to Afghanistan, or why they need to be there, though even that would have betrayed the kind of wide-eyed naivete with which too many of our pundits are afflicted, but heavens, it's her additional clause "to kill people" that makes her ignorance so spectacularly stunning. The sun itself could not be more brilliant than this inscience.

I mean--do I need to say this?--what else are you going to send the military to do, plant daisies? I'm reminded of the old line the army likes to use to describe what it is they do: break things and kill people.

Yes, Helen, there is a military.

And while you may prefer simply and only to believe in fairies, we really do have to have some people carrying big scary guns because, Helen, there really are bad guys. See, Helen, they have big scary guns too, and they mean to use them against kindergarteners and old ladies just like you. But Helen, what you might do if that frightens you too much is just go back into the attic like a good girl, and here, take some chocolate chip cookies with you, and if you're nice, maybe we'll let you come down again for dinner.

Who keeps letting her into those press conferences?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rev. Juhana Pohjola Receives Sabre of Boldness for 2009

On Thursday night, January 22nd, the editors of Gottesdienst again acknowledged the faith and courage of confessional Lutherans in Scandanavia, by awarding the Sabre of Boldness to Rev. Juhana Pohjola, Dean of the Luther Foundation in Finland. Two years ago, when the Finnish situation first came to the attention of the editors, the Sabre was awarded to Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya for his intervention in Finland to ordain some persecuted confessional pastors. Last night’s ceremony, the fourteenth annual, was held at the Fort Wayne Hilton, where Rev. Pohjola was in attendance to receive the award. Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, the Editor-in-Chief, noted that Rev. Pohjola recently refused to allow the Bishop of Helsinki, who ordains women and persecutes confessional Lutherans, to come to his altar, and that he refused to recant in this matter when threatened by the Finnish government, for which he was exiled from the ministry and from his parish for three months.

The ceremony opened with remarks by Gottesdienst Sabre of Boldness editor Chaplain (LTC) Jonathan Shaw which focused on the value of shared hardship, a concept understood by soldiers in warfare. He introduced the entire editorial staff of Gottesdienst, and then yielded the podium to Dr. Eckardt, who gave a brief address to the attendees before listing this year’s nominees and announcing the winner.

Rev. Pohjola, upon accepting the award, offered thanks on behalf of his compatriots in Finland, and spoke briefly of a motto under which they endure: Victor quia victimi, which roughly translates, “victorious because of sacrifice,” indicating an awareness of the sacrifice of Christ for us sinners and also of the need of enduring affliction for the sake of the Gospel.

The other nominees for the Sabre of Boldness for 2009 were

• Rev. Todd Wilken of Waterloo, Illinois, for his boldness in proclaiming without compromise the cross of Christ on the radio and now internet program Issues, Etc. This he did even against the knowledge that it could cause him to lose his post at the Synod’s KFUO radio station in St. Louis, which in fact, last year, it did.

• Mr. Jeff Schwarz of Hamel, Illinois, the producer of Issues, Etc., for his boldness in bucking the threats of people in high places and keeping the show on, until they took it off the air; and he also lost his position for this stance.

• Rev. Eric Stefanski of Harrison, Arkansas, our seemingly perpetual nominee, for a lifetime of achievements with CAT41 online.

• Rev. Dustin Anderson of Marseilles, Illinois, for his faithfulness in applying the Word of God in a case requiring admonition and the need to repent, though he was physically assaulted twice for it.

Dr Eckardt’s address:

Fourscore and seven years ago—I was half expecting President Obama’s Inaugural Address to begin that way. What a cool way to start a speech. I always think of that old Far Side cartoon where you’re looking over Lincoln’s shoulder at Gettysburg, at the text of the speech, and you see scribbled there on the top of his next page: “and then the bartender said, ‘hey, that’s not a duck!” (wait for laughter) Fourscore and seven years ago . . .”

So anyway, that’s how I’m starting my speech.

Fourscore and seven years ago, many momentous things happened. 1922. The USSR was created. Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy. The entrance to King Tut’s tomb was discovered. And, not to be missed, the Molly Pitcher Club was also formed, to promote the repeal of prohibition. The Molly Pitcher Club. You know that that was? The purpose of the Molly Pitcher Club was to achieve the repeal of prohibition. What a great club! Consider how indebted we are to them: we would not be here tonight, were it not for the efforts of the Molly Pitcher club, begun fourscore and seven years ago. We’d be somewhere else, where you could get a drink, like a speakeasy, a place where you needed a special password to get in, and everyone was on the lookout for the law. But the Molly Pitcher club was successful, and here we are, and if you’re interested, there’s a bar right over there, and nobody will arrest you for having a drink. And remember tonight to raise a glass to the winner of the Sabre of Boldness award, and the other nominees. Umm, be careful about that cigar you want with your cognac, though. The nanny state is at it again.

But more importantly: fourscore and seven years ago, on this very date, Pope Benedict XV died: January 22nd, 1922. Now, he is not our forefather, notwithstanding all the sneers about the Romanizing tendencies of us Gottesdienst folks, although it’s worth mentioning that he did promulgate the first Code of Canon Law, which was credited with reviving religious life and providing judicial clarity throughout the Roman Church. Heaven knows, we could use a bit of canon law around here. Instead we get its converse, writ large: adiaphora. The sanctuary was once a holy place; now it’s a stage. Now there’s no longer any thought of letting all mortal flesh keep silence; instead all carnal flesh wildly gyrates around a golden calf of amusement, in what they call celebrations of meaningful togetherness. I’ve always thought the very word meaningful was invented to cover a void. Void indeed: now that anything goes, and everything is adiaphora, there’s really nothing left that’s worthy of veneration or worship. And Jesus went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

But even more importantly, fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers were just getting started. Hermann Sasse had just been ordained two years earlier, and was probably already delving into his study of the Marburg Colloquy in which Luther defended the Real Presence in the Sacrament, against the Reformed, which he would publish in 1934. And Francis Pieper, who had stepped down from the presidency of the Missouri Synod, was now busily writing his Christian Dogmatics. Men like these are our forefathers, whose piety led them to make their confession against the encroachment of the Pietism and Methodism that were so much a part of the American frontier, knowing that the Gospel and the Presence of Christ among us were at stake. Call them hyper-Euro Lutherans if you want, but at least they were Lutherans!

Fourscore and seven years ago, in short, there was no drinking allowed, but the traditions of the liturgical churches were still safe, and our Lutheran forefathers were boldly defending and confessing their faith, the faith we still desire to defend and confess today. I wonder if Walther ever had bootleg whiskey, you think? I bet he did. He was no Pietist, you know.

Incidentally, it seems people are always in search of a name to call this movement begun by our forefathers: for a while we were the Synodical Conference, and then perhaps the Society of St. James, and then Confessional Lutherans, or Hyper-Euro Lutherans. It may come as no surprise to you, but I sort of like the ring of “Gottesdienst Lutherans.”

At any rate, tonight, four score and seven years later, we are, as Lincoln was, engaged in a great war. But ours is not a civil war, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. And in our struggle, we are pleased tonight to honor the valor of those who have been at the front and have not flinched in the line of duty. To use Lincoln’s words again, it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. Although this award goes only to one, it bears repeating that one bears it on behalf of all the unsung. The lapel pin has two sabers: one for the bearer and the other for all the others.

We haven’t heard of your deeds, and we don’t even know your names. But we know of your Spirit. We know that it is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, which has moved you to refuse to acquiesce when the Gospel was at stake, even at the greatest personal cost. There are thousands of you, and this award is for you all. You myriads in North Korea, in Kenya, in Sudan, in Zimbabwe, and elsewhere, whose suffering and martyrdom is itself infinitely more honorable than anything we could bestow. And even here at home, there are many of you who, while not called upon to resist to that extreme, nevertheless know that you risk and sometimes incur the loss of livelihood, of income, of home, and worst of all, of reputation. Perhaps no one will ever notice your silent suffering, and you know this, and yet you also know that you cannot do otherwise, for to act against conscience is neither safe nor right.

So we wish to do our small part and recognize, if only annually, that it is you who are waging the greatest battles among us. Our nominees are just a few whose deeds have happened to come to our attention, and we humbly ask that this be seen as giving honor also to the many whose deeds we have missed. The world may despise you, but we salute you. And of course, what’s far more important, blessed are you, when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for Jesus’ sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

22 January 2009
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Sabre of Boldness Recipients:

2009 The Reverend Juhana Pohjola
2008 The Reverend Aaron Moldenhauer
2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1996 The Reverend Peter C. Bender

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sabre of Boldness Thursday night AT THE HILTON

Note the new location: on Thursday night of Symposium week, January 22nd, in Fort Wayne (as usual) the editors of Gottesdienst will be announcing the recipient of the 2009 Sabre of Boldness award.

WE HAVE MOVED the location of this event from the Marriott, where it was originally set to take place, to the Hilton at the Grand Wayne Center. This should make the event easier for people at the Symposium banquet to attend. It will take place when the banquet ends, at about 8 pm, in the atrium at the Hilton.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This Is My Body

You say you believe this. You insist it is so.

But you exchange the sublime liturgy for the music of entertainment, as if the setting for these Most Holy Things doesn't matter.

You carry on as though there's nothing special here. No need to genuflect. No need for holy trepidation. No need for taking pains.

You might put on your vestments to please some folks, but not if it's too inconvenient. Not if, say, it's an informal gathering anyhow. Informal? This can be informal to you? How?

You place this in plastic. You throw the remains down the drain. You spill, and it doesn't matter. You make crumbs, and they fly, and you don't care.

You don't care.

Yet you say it's the real thing.

Well frankly, guy, I'm having a real hard time believing you.

I think you're making a confession here, and it belies what you say you believe.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lutheranism and its Temptations in the 21st Century

Rev. David Petersen is hosting a one-day conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne next Monday, and has asked me and Dr. Rick Stuckwisch to sit on a two-man panel to gab about the future of the LCMS in a rather informal free-for-all. Here's the scoop from his blog:

The Future of the LCMS is a terrible name. It should have been something like "Lutheranism and its Temptations in the 21st Century."

Here is the idea. In the late 1930's Winston Churchill was the lone voice raising the alarm about Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany. For the most part, the rest of the world was asleep. I am hoping to nudge Dr. Eckardt and Dr. Stuckwisch into speaking with that kind of clarity regarding the current state and future of Lutheranism. Is that a bit ambitious? Yes. But it will be a collaborative project. We aren't going to try and set an agenda for saving the synod or deciding what we should do. We're simply going to try and analyze where we are and what is coming at us next.

Along with Churchill, think of this: our immediate predecessors in American Lutheranism ushered in a Confessional revival. But most of them thought the most significant issue of the 20th century was inerrancy. Most of us now think they were wrong, not that it wasn't important, but that it was misaligned for the real threats. So also notice how a generation before them the Missouri Synod read and pledged itself to the Book of Concord but made almost no effort to restore or practice private confession and absolution or a weekly celebration of the Holy Communion. How do you read the Book of Concord and miss that? I don't know but they did. So what are we missing? Where are our blind spots?

These are the questions that will be addressed first to Dr. Eckardt and Dr. Stuckwisch. The conversation will be informal but moderated. Will we come to any conclusions? Probably not. But I hope our thinking will be stretched in the process and we will walk away with a deeper humility and better understanding of who we are and what we are up against.

That is the topic. We will also get some training late in the day regarding Gregorian chant and a chance to pray vespers from LLPB.

Here is the schedule, and yes it is free, and yes, lay people are welcome and even encouraged to come.

9:30 - Private Confession available with Petersen in Redeemer's chapel
10:30 Low Mass in the Chapel
11:00 - discussion of most significant controversy in the LCMS for the future / most significant current blindess of Confessional Lutheranism
12:30 - lunch - order in pizza, pitch in for costs
2:00 - discussion continues
3:30 - Gregorian choir practice/training with Beisel for the LLPB Vespers
4:30 - LLPB Vespers w/ Treasury Propers
5:30 - ???

Monday, January 12, 2009

St. Paul's on the Air Now Has Its Own Blog

Now that we have the audio files of our radio show (and podcast) on the web, we've parked it at its own blog, from which you can link to the audio file whenever you want, or subscribe to it, or comment, or whatever, Here's the link:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Palin Phenomenon

Of course they didn't publish it, but I waited all the same to see, just in case. I submitted this letter to the Wall Street Journal in late December.

To the editor, regarding Sarah Palin:

It’s about time we heard John O’Sullivan weigh in on Sarah Palin (“Conservative Snobs Are Wrong About Palin,” 12/23). As Margaret Thatcher’s confidante, he would certainly know better than any pedigreed conservatives whether Governor Palin may be compared favorably to the Iron Lady. Not only so, but one would think that a close personal friend of Ronald Reagan, such as he also was, would be well equipped to know a rising star when he sees one.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. O’Sullivan aboard the National Review post-election cruise in November, and was already pleased then to hear a man of his stature speak in such glowing terms of Mrs. Palin. Indeed not only I, but a day earlier the entire audience had erupted in rather wild applause when he first mentioned her name. That spontaneous reaction, one of the unmistakable high points of the cruise, in itself suggests the likelihood that the Palin phenomenon is far from over.

Rev. Burnell Eckardt
Kewanee, Illinois

Thursday, January 08, 2009

+ Fr Richard John Neuhaus +

Apart from the usual thoughts Lutherans might be expected to have about the passing of as important an American theologian as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (mostly having to do with his move from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to the Church of Rome), there ought to be a good deal thought, and said, about two things at least.

First, there is the fact that this man was an unflinching champion of the unborn.

Second, there is his contributions, in First Things, which he begot, and his book The Naked Public Square, toward fighting the erosion of morality and decency in our society, from a distinctly Christian perspective.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Introducing St. Paul's on the Air

"This is St. Paul's On the Air: a radio program brought to you by the members of St. Paul's Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Illinois, where you know you've been to church. No gimmicks, no compromises, the talk is straight, and we feast on sacred things. We're glad to have you with us as we talk about the Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ and the things that matter the most to us. I'm your host, the Rev. Fr. Burnell Eckardt, pastor of St. Paul's, with a small group of listeners and a couple of microphones carefully positioned to help you get into the room with us and listen along . . ."

St. Paul's on the Air is a weekly radio program which airs on our local radio station every Sunday morning, and is also podcast on Pirate Christian Radio every Wednesday morning, 25 minutes of a classroom monologue and discussion, recorded live and aired on our local radio station every Sunday morning.

And as of today, it is also available right here, right now. The first program posted is actually the one meant for this coming Sunday, January 11. Go ahead, have a listen: click here.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Two Nights from Tonight

If you've been thinking about it, but remain unsure, let this little boost help you make up your mind. A sublime evening of quality choral renditions of Christmas carols at St. Paul's in Kewanee, Sunday, January 4th, at 7 p.m., followed by wine and cheese.

And then a two day seminar on Monday and Tuesday on "The Chrisology of Moses and the Exodus." Details here.

Here's a map if you need one, and here's a list of hotels. And here's your invitation!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Music and Meditation: Retreat in Kewanee Begins Sunday

Our annual Christmas Choral Vespers is Sunday night at 7:00. Weather is supposed to be fine, so everything's on track. All we need is people to come. So make your plans today, and give yourself a treat. This has been a major cultural event for our parish as well as an uplifting edifying experience. Our neo-gothic style church enables our small and talented choir to sound as if it has more voices. This is our thirteenth annual January choral vespers.

The event is always followed with a wine and cheese reception.

The next two days (count 'em, two!) we'll be having a seminar of Theological Reflection, which includes Holy Mass on both days, the second being Epiphany Day, January 6th. The Theme for the retreat is “A Prophet Like unto Me: The Christology of the Moses and the Exodus.” We'll look at the first several chapters of the Book of Exodus in the Patristic/Medieval manner which involves seeking Christ in all the Scriptures, as the old rhyme puts it: "In the Old is concealed what the New has revealed."

Join us! Here's your map, here's your hotel, and here's your invitation!