Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The New Commission on Worship Members and Their Congregations

Pr. Asburry pointed out to me the new appointed members of the Commission on Worship, supplying the web address in a previous comment. All the site gives is their name and church membership. But that may reveal much.

One member is from Concordia, San Antonio. They describe their worship this way:

The 6:00 p.m. worship service on Saturday is a blended worship service incorporating hymns as well as more contemporary praise music.

The 8:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday is a meaningful traditional service featuring hymns and some traditional liturgy.

The 9:30 a.m. worship service is a blended worship experience incorporating hymns as well as more contemporary praise music.

The 11:00 a.m. worship service is a vibrant praise service with lead singers, backed by a live praise band.

The 7:00 p.m. worship service on Monday is a blended worship service incorporating hymns as well as more contemporary praise music.
St. John, Ellisville, MO is one of the earliest megachurches in the LCMS. Their worship is described this way:

Traditions: 5:00pm, Saturday, Sanctuary, Ellisville Campus

This service celebrates a sense of reverence and features classic and modern hymns and songs. Children are welcome to worship in this venue or Click here to find out more information about our Children’s Ministry options.

Call to Worship:
This blended form of worship brings together classic elements of worship in a devotional setting.
Children are welcome to worship in this venue.

Full choir, band, drama, video and dynamic teaching are combined to share God’s truth in a relevant style. Click here to find out more information about our Children’s Ministry options.


All ages come together for this band-led, heartfelt worship experience in a casual environment. Children’s Ministry is available for infants through 5th grade. Click here to find out more information about our Children’s Ministry options

And...Outpost Maplewood

At: Schlafley's Bottleworks

St. John takes its band-led, heartfelt worship experience out into the community. Extend the evening by meeting up with friends in the restaurant before or after the service. Children are welcome to worship in this venue.

Did you know that our Outpost Maplewood campus posts a video of the message each week on YouTUBE? Check them out at FREEWEB Follow the link for the weekly message chosen and click "Play All Videos"

Another is from Trinity, Houston TX: they have a "Classic Lutheran," a "Blended" and a "ninethrityone" which is described this way:
"Trinity Lutheran Church has been known for its rich worship history. The ninethirtyone service is a completely different from the style of worship. The ninethirtyone experience will include modern Christian music led by Right Lane Vacant. The worship service will be in a relaxed atmosphere where coffee and cookies are present. Participants will have the option to sit around tables as we work toward building community. The service will also be heavy on video/multimedia with an emphasis on being interactive. Read more."
St. John, Orange, CA. Here's their description of worship services:
Blended Service
9:30 a.m. in the Sanctuary -- This service focuses on the teaching of God’s Word in the context of a simpler liturgical setting. The opening of the service is written with the specific theme of the day in mind; a combination of hymns and praise songs are used in this service. Communion is celebrated on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

Sundays at 9:30 a.m. - 11a.m. and 6:30p.m. in the Auditorium. Every Sunday the ‘e’ service will continue to host great contemporary worship with the St. John’s Praise Band with relevant and applicable messages from God’s Word. Communion will be celebrated every first and third Sundays of the month. Invite a friend and attend.

Family Service
11 a.m. in the Sanctuary -- This service is very much like the 9:30 a.m. service, but features a Children’s Message as part of the service. Children’s Choirs are scheduled twice a month at this service because of its emphasis on young families. Communion is celebrated on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

Saturday Service
6:30 p.m. on Saturdays in the Sanctuary -- This service follows the 8 a.m. format and communion schedule. The historic liturgy is featured at this service.

Liturgical Service
8 a.m. in the Sanctuary -- This service follows the historic liturgy of the Church, with some creative changes or substitutions. These changes highlight a season of the Church Year or emphasize a theme for a given Sunday. Holy Communion is celebrated on the first, third, and fifth Sundays of the month.

Light of Life, Indio, CA. Nothing informative online. It's a mission congregation with no reported members or attendance.

Rev. William Utech is also on the Commission. He is on faculty at Concordia Seminary, and was pretty outspoken about his love of contemporary things.

Finally, Rev. Dr. Wismar remains. I don't know much about him. Rev. Vieker remains and the lovely Mrs. Asburry.

This is the new LCMS to be sure.

Lord have mercy on us...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Other LCMS Blogs?

The Confessional Lutheran blogosphere is well-documented. But where are the "moderate" LCMS blogs? Where are the liberal blogs? Where are the Ablaze! friendly blogs? Where are the Church Growth, Contemporary Worship blogging pastors? Are they too busy writing their own worship services?

I searched for some but can't find any. I don't plan on adding them to my blogroll or to my reader, but I am curious.


The Death of Blogs | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

The Death of Blogs | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction: "The blogosphere, which was supposed to be a great democratizer, has made us all perennial candidates, demanding that we weigh in on every news item, no matter how mundane or overexposed. (The blog world risks becoming one giant midrash on The New York Times front page.)"

Hearing Both Sides

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, blogger, and ordained Deacon in the Orthodox Church, writes of patience in solving conflicts. While his post is written from a corporate angle, it applies to pastors, parents, and just about everyone. Here it is:
From Where I Sit: Both Sides of the Story

Monday, September 24, 2007

An Epidemic of Liturgical Posts

First was Weedon's list (see below).

Next comes one by McCain: Lutheran Worship: Old School ... Too Roman Catholic? Thoughts on Lutheranism and Liturgy.

Finally, Fr. Hollywood has one: Confession on the Comeback Trail. The article Fr. Hollywood references is excellent as well. A noteworthy quote:

Today, we're seeing an interesting phenomenon. One part of the synod is moving further toward Protestantism, with radical and non-liturgical neo-Evangelical worship styles and emphasis on the very-Protestant Ablaze!(tm) program - as evidenced by the recent "official" LCMS youth gathering that featured dancing girls at the contemporary worship service. At the same time, another part of our synod is recovering the reverent and historic Lutheran "Evangelical Catholicism" that emphasizes the Gospel through the liturgy and the sacraments of the Church - typified by the recent Higher Things youth conference that featured a solemn Mass with incense. A tale of two synods!

Some Questions On Church

Is there one true Church on earth? (Yes or no)

If "no," then did the gates of Hades overcome it? ("And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Matt. 16:18)

If "yes," then which Church is the one true Church on earth?

Are you then willing to say that every other organization is not the Church?

If the Church you believe is the one true Church was formed sometime after Pentecost, what did those people previously belong to? What were they doing?

If you have in mind some grouping of people who are known to God but may be scattered around, then I ask if that is really an ecclesia or an idea.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weedon's Blog: My List

A theme of this blog has been the paucity we experience in Lutheranism today, a paucity of spirituality, worship and identity. Here's Pr. Weedon's List

Oh, and read the comments too!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Finding a Way

I am fascinated with stories of reinvention and change. There was a man I buried the other day who sold cars, then houses, then insurance, then managed an apartment complex. Another man I know sold cars, worked a radio station and then went into real estate. There's the guy at the funeral home who "works" funerals and is also a pastor, and another who sells heavy trucks on the side.

I grew up with this notion that you chose a career and then worked at it until you retired. I know this was the perceived norm for the generation ahead of me, and for generations ahead of them. I'm not sure how this notion came about for me. Dad painted vending machines before I was born, worked for IBM for twenty years, retired early from them and then bounced around managing a parts depot (subcontracting for IBM), working at Sony, then for a real estate developer. My mom stayed at home, sewed and baked and so forth until she suddenly went to pharmacy school then worked at a variety of hospitals and pharmacies until she retired.

Working the same vocation as your father, and his father before used to be the way of the world. The family farm, the family business, the family trade was a certain and dependable as early marriage and plenty of children to help out. Expansion and success often was borne on the backs of employees you raised but didn't have to pay. In this world, one either embraced where fate had placed him, or despaired of something he is not suited to. Women were not even given the choice of despair; their only outlet was marrying outside the small circle, of finding a different kind of life through opportune marriage...which actually, was more freedom than boys had, especially the first born males; they had little or no escape from the family vocation.

Today only the professions can speak of familial loyalty and constancy. Physicians, attorneys, dentists and clergy tend to remain so throughout their lives, and many follow in their father's (or mother's) footsteps. I suppose this is so because of the commitment that the professions require: years of education beyond the the bachelor's degree; the sense of calling that many of the professions have; the income that they demand (except for the obvious!); the social status they give.

The conservative in me should abhor this kind of vocational chaos as something harmful to society. It is true that society lacks stability across the board. And certainly there is a discipline and obedience we learn in staying put. There's a reason monks were told to stay in their cells (what their rooms/communities were called).

However, in changing careers, in reinvention, in change I see fallout from the Gospel, but not the Gospel itself. We are not bound by fate or slaves to the gods. We are captives no longer. Christ has freed us from the prison of our sin, but He has also freed us. Period. Living in fear of the unknown, fearing change, fear in general is cast out with the love of God. And even monks were not born into it, but had to renounce their former ways and choose a new life by God's grace to get to their cells in the first place.

Interesting Site

World Clock continually updates population and census figures based on statistical frequency. In other words, you can sit and watch the rate of change for births and deaths, the number who die by AIDS or violence unfold right before your eyes. The creator admits that the actual figures are not necessarily correct, but the rate of change, statistically speaking, is. Pretty cool.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Three Things I Think are Inherently Funny

1. Dogs using computers. Dogs driving cars or reading newspapers, or otherwise acting like people.

2. Cats playing piano...but not using computers or driving or anything else. Just playing the piano.

3. Spit takes

Sermon Update

My previous post was a "meditation on a theme" from this Sunday's sermon for Trinity 15. The text was Matthew 6:24-34.

It was, as my dear wife says, a "pew-sinker." From a Lutheran perspective it was perhaps too much Law (meaning focused on what we should do and how we fail), rather than emphasizing the comfort which this passage overwhelming gives. I stand by what I said, but could have emphasized the love and mercy of God on us poor sinners more.

I'm not sure it went over too well, attacking lots of our shibboleths, like TV and sports addictions and rampant consumerism. I am sure that it did not go over well with me. I try to preach to myself.

I will not post the sermon though. With one or two exceptions in the past, I don't do this. I write my sermons with an ear for preaching, not reading, and what I write and what I end up saying are sometimes quite a bit different. Besides which, I think of my sermons as intimate, as a conversation between the Word and me and them. Family talk.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Our Precarious Position

A high school football coach in Muskogee, OK accidently struck a boy with his car a few days ago. Tulsa World has the latest on the incident here. Apparently the boy was on a bike when the accident happened. The boy had scrapes, but appeared fine, so the coach called the boy's parents, his athletic trainer to look at the injuries, and a nurse happened to be at the scene. The coach had practice to attend, so he then left the scene with the boy in care of others. He didn't call the police, though, and pretty soon after the accident it was determined the boy had a broken collar bone.

This, obviously, is turning into a nightmare for the coach, who also said some insensitive-sounding things to a reported later that night. He may be facing criminal charges now of failure to report an accident or some such.

At first blush, I thought this story was about a cocky coach. Here in Oklahoma, football is a god, and the coaches are darn near that too. I'm not using hyperbole; it's a real spiritual problem. But as I heard his interview last night on the ten o'clock news, I reconsidered. It's the story of a harried professional in the public eye who made a mistake--the same kind of mistake that any one of us could similarly make. The difference between him and I --and the rest of us--is a single decision, which at the time probably didn't seem as critical and important as it was.

Disaster, disgrace, a great and terrible fall is really only a decision away. Sin is crouching at our doors too (Gen 4:7). "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18 NKJV)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Living As a Disciple

We're called to live as disciples of the Kingdom, not as average Americans.

We are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, not in seeking first a "normal" life. As Christians we know the foolishness of "keeping up with the Jones'," at least until we have to sell our house and we realize that the Jones' have new cabinets and granite, and well, maybe I'm not selling my house today, but if I do a little right now, then when the time comes it will already be updated...

We are to live as disciples of the Kingdom, and not as average Americans. I'm going to repeat this phrase until I get it.

My "Avatar"

Is from I think it's amusing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rebuilding the Archives

I've added a few select posts to the archives from the other incarnation of this blog. I've left out a good number (I had about 45,000 words!) that will remain on my computer.

Enjoy them!

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Favorite Blogger Publishes a Book

One of the funniest bloggers ever, "Holy Office" at LiveJournal (his blog is inactive now) has just announced he has a book being published, The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus: Dispatches from the Intersection of Christianity and Pop Culture.

Why is he funny? Here's an excerpt of an article published at Christian Century (written under a pseudonym):

SOME PEOPLE in America are scared silly of Christianity, but many of the most frightened know very little about it. They throw around terms like fundamentalist and evangelical with very little knowledge of their meaning, and this is before they enter the dark thicket of Preterists, Amillennialists, Prelapsarian Arminian Claims Adjusters, etc.

Here, then, is a handy reference guide to some of the key terms, concepts and groups.

Premillennialism: This is the belief among some Christians that ever since January 1, 2000, it has no longer been possible, in the words of the Prince song, "to party like it's 1999." Postmillennialists are those Christians who believe that it will always be possible to do so, while amillennialists believe that in this context "1999" cannot be understood literally, but must be read as an allegorical term roughly meaning "a time at which it is especially appropriate to party."

Rapture: This was a No. 1 hit in 1980 for Blondie (No. 5 in the UK), from the otherwise underwhelming Autoamerican album. Many Christians now concede that the then-pioneering use of rap in the song sounds a little lame in retrospect. In their bestselling series of books about the song, Left Behind (Parallel Lines), Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye defend the rap verse's hip references to Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy, and maintain that when Jesus returns, all believers will be united in accepting that Blondie's cover of "The Tide Is High" is better than the original.

Pope: The pope is the president of Christianity. He is elected every four years by the Congress of Cardinals, which is divided into the Senate and the Holy House of Representatives. As president, the pope can veto important pieces of legislation, which he tends to do. The pope is also magical and cannot be seen with the naked eye except for one hour on Christmas Eve every year... (read the rest here)

Congratulations to him!

"Holy Office"'s blog apparently was inactive while he worked at a new job and madly prepared a book manuscript. When this blog is inactive, I am watching "24" or playing a computer game. I feel shame.

Martyrdom of the Alarm Clock

We sometimes think of martyrdom in a strict sense--"worship the beast or die!"--that kind of situation. But martyrdom is broader than that, encompassing all witness to Christ and suffering with him, and the so-called martyrdom of the desert, the martyrdom of asceticism. The latter 16th Century Lutherans criticized as a false kind of martyrdom in the western monastic movement. While the Lutheran Reformers had good things to say about specific ascetics, like St. Anthony the Great [citation needed], the Lutheran Confessions look askance at asceticism in general. Of course there were grave problems in western monasticism at the time, with all kinds of propaganda about vows being a second baptism and so forth.

Yet in a sense Lutherans use a different version of the martyrdom language when we speak of "putting to death the Old Adam," or "daily drowing in baptismal repentance" and the like. What else is this than asceticism? Of course, for some reason the Lutherans left it vague and amorphous, much like Luther's direction that fasting before the Eucharist is good, but nowhere do those early Lutherans discuss how to do it (I realize that for them they knew how to do it, and if it wasn't detailed the assumption would be to continue practicing as they had received from their former tradition, but that certainly doesn't help their children or grandchildren learn).

Here's some specifics: from another blog, I read the following advice about waking up:

Getting out of bed quickly is often very unpleasant for our flesh, because our flesh, like a lazy servant, always likes to lie and sleep or to luxuriate and remain idle. Every single morning act against the base desires of your flesh. Let this opposition to the flesh be your first sacrifice to the Lord God.
I loved this advice. Even at the moment of waking up we are engaged in battle with ourselves, denying ourselves, and when understood spiritually, getting out of bed takes on significance as yet another opportunity to join with St. Paul, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Rising early, forcing oneself out of bed when done out of discipline gets the day off to a good start, with the first action forcing the body to submission to your sanctified will, making it "your slave," not to do its bidding, the things opposed to the Spirit, but to be submissive to you and the Spirit you have received from God.


I checked my congregation's website this morning and discovered that in my attempt to fix this blog (and move it here) I apparently broke the church's website as well. I know what I'll be doing in my spare time this week...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Benefits Against Our Will

Wherefore both against our will [God] befriends us often, and without our knowledge oftener than not.

St. John Chrysostom gives and example then, of St. Paul praying that the "thorn" be removed from his side, and God responding, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." God was "benefit[ing] him against his will, and without his knowing it," writes St. John.

So we are to give thanks in every circumstances, and give glory to God for all things.

Let us then also, the more we advance in virtue, so much the more make ourselves contrite; for indeed this, more than anything else is virtue. Because, as the sharper our sight is, the more thoroughly do we learn how distant we are from the sky; so the more we advance in virtue, so much the more we are instructed in the difference between God and us. And this is no small part of true wisdom, to be able to perceive our own desert. For he best knows himself, who accounts himself to be nothing."(St. John Chrysostom, Homily XXV, The Gospel of Matthew; NPNF, Vol. X, p. 175)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Giving Alms to a Murderer

A friend of mine gave breakfast to a mass-murderer. Those are his words. My friend was the Samaritan, but this one he helped was not the beaten and broken one, but the thief who was about to do his evil business.

He was near a church (not mine), getting into his car when a clean-cut Indian walked up to him, early 50s maybe, wearing a button down shirt and clean trousers. "I love Jesus!" he called out. My friend said, "Me too...but I don't work here."

"I was hoping for a cup of coffee," the man said. My friend took the bait.

"Do you want coffee or breakfast or money?"

"Well, I was hoping for some breakfast, really."

So my friend invited him into his car and drove across town to McDonalds. The drifter told his story about going to Anadarko to meet his sister who came into money. The two stood in line at the counter and the man ordered what he wanted. My friend paid and gave the change to the drifter: $1.82.

"Is this it?" the man asked, looking at the money in his hand like it was garbage he had been handed. "Is this all you can spare?" My friend assured him that it was and this transaction was over. He drove off.

But the drifter didn't leave. He stayed around town for a few more days, went to church on the south side of town, was given a ride to the next town, and a few days later showed up here again. But this time he killed a woman in her front yard and then chased down another woman, leaving her body on the front yard too. The police arrested him a day or two later.

Many of his friends reprimanded him. "You'd better be glad he didn't have murder on his mind when he was sitting in your car," one person told him. But I didn't have any words of reprimand. It didn't surprise me in the least that he had given breakfast to a killer, nor do I believe he did anything wrong.

Christ bids us to feed and clothe poor, the hungry, those who beg. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to be discriminate in our giving. "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys." (Luke 12:33 NKJV). But we are told to be kind to those who are evil; on the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20-21 NKJV).

St. John Chrysostom said somewhere that we should not discriminate in giving alms, judging the truth and value of the person and their situation, but that we should simply give, and "let God sort it out."

And so my friend did that. He felt uneasy about it, and I can only imagine that feel of a close call...wondering what might have been, what could have been. Of course, if the murderer hadn't been fed that morning maybe something worse would have happened. Maybe he would have started a spree right then and there, and it was only the kindness of strangers giving him rides that stayed the beast within for a while. We can only see one direction, dimly, and do not have the whole story laid before us. We can only do what our Lord would have us do and trust in His goodness.

Lord have mercy on that man and on us all.