Monday, August 31, 2009

Here's Another One, on St. Mary Magdalene

Still a little behind (better than being a big behind), I'll put this sermon up, on St. Mary Magdalene's Day. A few weeks ago, I mused on who she was, but didn't post any audio file of the sermon. Here it is:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Your Value

Here's an attempt to return to putting occasional audio files of sermons up on my blog. This is a sermon preached sometime this summer, probably on a Tuesday morning, on St. Matthew 10: "Fear not . . . Ye are of more value than many sparrows."

The Prophetic Voice of David

We were looking at 2 Samuel 16 this morning, and the question came up--for the second time, actually--why there is no reference to any prophet during the time of David. Nathan came to him the one time, when he sinned with Bathsheba, but after that, nothing. Why is this?

There is a related matter, pertaining to the Psalter, and, for that matter, to the books of Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and the Proverbs. These books are written by kings, not prophets. They are royal. When David speaks, his voice is prophetic, though he was a king.

In this we see how David foretells Christ, in his very office. Where has Nathan gone? He has decreased, in token of the way John the Baptist decreases when Jesus' ministry begins. For Jesus is the King of the Jews, and yet he is greater than all the prophets, speaking the oracles of God.

The prophetic voice of David betokens the coming of Jesus the Son of David, who is himself the Word, and whose voice is the living voice of God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The ELCA and Gays

In our weekly radio program, St. Paul's on the Air, we discuss the recent decision of the ELCA in convention to admit practicing gays onto their clergy roster. It's the last program on the list below, PCR 60, to air on our local radio station on Sunday, August 30, and to be podcast at Pirate Christian Radio the following Wednesday at 7:30 CDT.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Broken Houses and Broken Homes

As we were walking the dog through a part of town not too far from our house the other day, I was struck by the number of run-down dwellings I saw. Our own neighborhood is in pretty good shape, but you don't have to walk far to get to some residences in serious want of home improvement. Paint worn off, sagging roofs, rotting wood; people sitting on their front porches quite likely because, we surmised, the living conditions outside were preferable to those within.

I don't know the people who live in any of those homes, nor of the circumstances that drove them to these houses, so my opining here could not be, and should not be seen as, a diatribe against any of them in particular. Nor, for that matter, should the label I have chosen for this post be taken as a criticism of any of them in particular.

But I do know that there is a large percentage of residents in this town who are living out of wedlock, and raising children in broken homes. And it occurred to me (yet again) that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between immorality and trouble.

Trouble sometimes comes, to be sure, without that particular cause; sometimes trouble comes as a result of faithfulness, as so many faithful have come to know all to well. Persecution is, for instance, that kind of trouble. John the Baptist was beheaded because of the immorality of others; and Jesus Himself was crucified as a spotless Lamb. And sometimes trouble comes simply as a trial for life, as in the case of Job. Cause-and-effect does not allow us logically to work back from effect to cause; that would be the classic post hoc fallacy.

On the other hand, where there is a cause, one can expect an effect. The law of God was not meant to be flaunted and ignored, and where it is, one can expect trouble to ensue, sooner or later. In some cases "later" can even mean after death, as in the case of the rich man who ignored Lazarus.

All those important asterisks to the side, what occurred to me on that walk was the likelihood of cause and effect in this case: children have sex outside of marriage; unmarried girls get pregnant and have babies (or abortions, which of course is worse); new and unprepared mothers suddenly find themselves unable to get an education or a good job; broken families bear the strain of insufficient finances; squalor spreads.

Just today I read an article in the latest issue of National Review point to the very same thing. "Five Decades of Crisis," by Duncan Currie, documents "the persistent, alarming link between illegitimacy and poverty," with some pretty convincing statistics that point to what ought to be self-evident: unstable homes "poison family environments" leading to a perpetuation of poverty-stricken generations.

Currie's conclusion: "The nonmarital-birth crisis is, well, as crisis--one that has unfolded in slow motion over the past five decades, with tragic consequences."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Announcing the Fourteenth Annual Oktoberfest and Third Annual Liturgical Seminar

The Fourteenth Annual Oktoberfest and Third Annual Liturgical Seminar will take place at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois, October 11-13, 2009 (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday)

Conference theme: Not a Matter of Indifferent Things

This year we are pleased to welcome as our guests the three men who have most recently joined the staff of Gottesdienst as our online editors.

Reverend Frs. Heath Curtis, Larry Beane, and Rick Stuckwisch will be joining us for a discussion of the Divine Liturgy of the Church, to provide their insights on the questions which arise in connection with the ongoing debates concerning why certain styles and elements may or may not be counted as permissible in worship, and what is at stake in the worship wars of the 21st century. Fr. Curtis is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Edwardsville, Illinois, and Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, Illinois; Fr. Beane is pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, Louisiana; and Fr. Stuckwisch is pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church, South Bend, Indiana.

Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. is our Autumn Choral Vespers, followed by our annual bratwurst banquet (if you haven’t had our award-winning Sheboygan brats, it’s high time you did!).

On Monday morning, following Holy Mass at 9:30, the seminar runs until 3:15 p.m. the following questions are on the table for discussion by our guests:

“So what's negotiable and what isn't, in worship?"
“Nothing is an adiaphoron in a state of confession: meaning what, exactly?"
“Is Gottesdienst adiaphora? Of course not, but why not?"

Tuesday, October 13 (Liturgical Seminar)

On Tuesday, matters raised in the Monday discussions will be considered further in a roundtable liturgical seminar designed to seek uniformity in our worship practices. Informed Lutheran clergy are particularly invited to provide input and exchange of ideas, although all are invited to stay for the day.

REGISTRATION: $25 per person (students $20) $40 per couple — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents.

Log on at for details and to register.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Town Hell Part III

Guess what? The little brush fires that were town hall meetings have been fanned into a national health care inferno. What's stunning to me is that it is the Democrats who did the fanning. They called the meetings "orchestrated" (they aren't), they called them unamerican (honestly, isn't this quintessentially American?), and they dug in their heels. Just made people madder.

And now, we're getting a delicious report of some real and documented orchestration on the part of the Obama people. Here's a woman claiming to be a doctor in support of Obamacare:

Well, she's no doctor at all; she's a bald-faced liar! And to boot, she's an Obama delegate, with an Obama campaign volunteer sitting right behind her in the room. Read all about it at Lone Star Go ahead, follow the link; it's hilarious.

No wonder the President's approval ratings have sunk below 50% and continue in free-fall; and no wonder Pat Toomey has a double digit lead on Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania polls.

By the way, I heard Mr. Toomey speak last fall. He's brilliant, and he's on our side, in spite of the misrepresentation of his views the press is giving him. Keep an eye on him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Woodstock's 40th

I was a lad when it happened, and the political and social implications of it went way over my head. I just liked the music that was wafting over the airwaves back in the day. Woodstock, held between August 15 and 19, 1969, was a watershed event, a pinnacle of the revolutionary fervor that was sweeping across the youth culture of this nation. The reverberations of that fervor are still being felt today.

Aside from the music, free love was at the heart of that event, and today, free love has been translated into the destruction of marriage. Like Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah, marriage has been abandoned and left weeping, her face wet with tears. Marriage is in ruins, and the result of that is misery for millions.

Strangely, the music of Woodstock did not really portend or bespeak much of that at all. Take a look at the schedule: much of the music was rather tame by current standards. Frankly, it was just good music, but perhaps since it was so different from the pops and big bands of the parents in 1969, it became a token of the rebellion against all things traditional.

It's all rather odd, since forty years prior to that, music had already been shifting rather radically. Jazz and soul music was first seen as rebellious (certainly by the people who attended the southern Baptist churches whose style it borrowed); much of the music to which people danced new dances in the 1920s was seen as rebellious by the parents in the 1920s.

So in a sense we may mark the onset of another new generation this summer, but it doesn't seem to be so rebellious to me. Things have changed. Perhaps (hopefully) a more pensive culture is wondering if maybe their parents got it wrong.

As an aside, there is a bit of a rebellion going on right now, but in a way it's against the rebellious, and only time will tell its course. The rebellion, on parade in town halls across the country, is against the sweeping, wholesale kind of "reform" the government seems to be foisting upon the people. Elderly people, interestingly, are a centerpiece of it. Whether that's a true groundswell or not remains to be seen.

In terms of music, there are some fascinating differences between 2009 and 1969. The youth of today still listen to the music of their 60's parents, and often find it preferable to their own. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that rap is out, and rock is back in. Certainly there is a resurgence of the jazz band (I'm in one, in fact), playing the big band music of two generations ago. Not sure if this means anything significant, but I hope so. I hope it means the rebellion has run its course; I hope the gender-mocking, sex-celebrating, cross-dressing, marriage-mangling culture is beginning to be pushed to the fringe; I hope that millions of our children will not suffer from the lack of fathers and families from which so many of our day now suffer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Town Hell Part II

I had a scary thought about all this. The current bill has some pretty outlandish things in it, as I'm sure everyone--everyone--knows. Giving the Federal Government access to all bank accounts, forcing seniors to get counsel on dying with dignity, etc. These things are ridiculous, and, as anyone could easily expect, are just the kind of things that would get people up in arms. Looky here: people are up in arms! Surprise!

Well, those congressmen aren't stupid. They surely knew this was going to happen. So here's my worry. What if they put those utterly outrageous things in there for one reason only: so that after the outrage burst out, they could go back and remove them and then say, See, we compromised for you! And then, voila, Federal Health Care becomes law, just as they planned in the first place.

Oh, do I hope it fails.

And by the way, this notion that "you can keep your own health care plan if you want to" is so bogus that I wonder who can believe it. Listen, you can't keep it if it goes out of business, which it will.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Town Hell

I must admit to having a little schadenfreude over the Democrats' consternation arising from the turmoil developing at their little town hall events. These are a sight to behold. And when they and their allies in the press say they're 'orchestrated' it makes it all the more ironic, not to say hypocritical. Talk about orchestrated! Isn't that what ACORN was all about, orchestrating? Man, this is fun to watch.

But seriously, I am really, really hoping and praying this healthcare thing fails. We know what 'wonders' huge government bureaucracies produce. Every last one of them is a nightmare, with mountains of red tape. It's no surprise to me that there are long waiting lines for surgery and procedures in Canada and England.

And if the pharmaceutical companies lose their incentive to do research (which would happen), guess what? Research ebbs.

And when they cut funding for clinical trials (which would happen), that spells death to people who may find that their only hope would be clinical trials; and was it not clinical trials which have produced so many of the medical marvels we now enjoy?

Speaking of medical marvels, all my life I've been thinking that the 21st century would bring us medical marvels that would cure so many dreaded diseases, and now we find that the major obstacle in the way of this is the government.

On behalf of the weak, the elderly, the unborn, and the sick in our country, I am fervently hoping and praying that it fails.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


For no particular reason, or as my kids would say, randomly, I got to thinking about that slogan, and it occurred to me that if we were to ask that question honestly, we might come up with an answer rather unexpected by those who dreamt up that slogan years ago.

When it first came out--when was it, 1990's?--a bunch of Lutherans jumped on it and said woah, this is backwards, it's all law, and we need Gospel, so it should be WHJD: what has Jesus done? But of course to run around saying WHJD and making WHJD bracelets and whatnot would be to fall victim to the gimmickry which is just as much out of place as is a confusion of law and Gospel.

I much preferred the saucier kinds of retorts, viz., WWJD: We Want Jack Daniels, Willie Wonka Just Died, etc.

But actually if you take the question seriously: What Would Jesus Do? -- you could easily come to conclude that Jesus would not do the kind of things people wearing the bracelets might think he'd do. They suppose that when you think WWJD, you'll refrain from anger, or invective, or insentitivity, right?

But when you think about it in view of what the Gospels report, you could come to the opposite conclusion: Jesus would make a whip, turn over moneychangers' tables, and throw a fit. Or, Jesus would read his enemies the riot act: woe unto you, lawyers, etc. Or Jesus would say, "Leave the dead to bury their dead," not a particularly "sensitive" thing to say.

Jesus' demeanor was no-nonsense. WWJD? My guess is that he'd shrug and ask, "Why in the world are you wearing that silly bracelet? Follow me."

Thursday, August 06, 2009


It amazes me that the names of some churches virtually shout out the very thing they are missing. Baptists, for instance, refuse to baptize people they should be baptizing.

And the so-called Apostolic Christian Church similarly has a disdain for that which is explicitly apostolic, viz., the apostolic ministry.

They also emphasize a "life of repentance" which means a lot of externals designed to show that one is truly a Christian. In particular, "The believers live separated, sanctified lives and are not conformed to the world. Discipline of erring members is administered for their spiritual welfare and for the preservation of the church."

All very John Calvin. And ironic, because in spite of all appearances, and their insistence that the Bible is the infallible word of God, they also insist that in the Sacrament "The bread and the fruit of the vine (read: grape juice) in Holy Communion symbolize the body and the blood of Christ." I guess I missed the part where Jesus said that.

Of course you dear readers already know what I'm talking about.

One thing that struck me about the doctrinal statement of this church is that much of it sounded a bit too familiar. Especially this, from the "government" section:

"Direction is sought from the congregation for filling teaching and leadership offices either by vote or personal suggestion. The decision for appointment rests with the elder, a responsibility given to Timothy by Apostle Paul."

So there you are: voting is said to be what's truly "apostolic" about the selection of your "elder." Is it just me, or does that sound very Missourian?