Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saying of the Day

The brethren also asked him. "Amongst all good works, which is the virtue which requires the greatest effort?" He answered, "Forgive me, but I think there is no labor greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he preserves in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath."

Sayings. Agathon. 9

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saying of the Day

The same abba said, "A man who is angry, even if he were to raise the dead, is not acceptable to God."

Sayings. Agathon. 19

Decrying Minimalism

This time from an Orthodox priest, and a well-known and loved blogger, Fr. Stephen Freeman:

There is a tendency in our modern world to make things as simple as possible. We hide the complexities behind a keyboard (I don’t know how my computer works - or not very well) or we treat things that seem complex as unnecessary obfuscations. This same drive to simplify was very much alive in the 16th century as Christianity underwent reform in many places of the world.

Thomas Cranmer, the English Reformer, railed against the complexity of the service books required for a Roman Catholic Mass and managed to bring everything down to one small book. Every service required by a cleric could be found in the one Prayer Book, which also contained the book of Psalms.

Cranmer’s work was often outdone in other places - some eventually discarding the use of any book but the Bible. Following Martin Luther’s lead, the Scriptures themselves were limited to 66 books (discarding those Old Testament books which did not have a Hebrew original - the so-called “Apocrypha”).

This, of course, is not all of the story of the Reform. At the same time that services were being simplified, there were massive productions of new commentaries and works of theology. Thus there was both a simplification and a new layer of complexity.

As centuries have gone on, the drive to simplify has not disappeared. Frontier preaching in America had little place for complexity and the proclamation of the gospel became quite straight-forward indeed. A common tool in use throughout various religious movements in post-Guttenburg Europe, was the religious tract. Produced by the thousands and millions, these small summaries of the faith or of a point of doctrine were spread throughout homes and the streets and occasionally played important religious roles in religious movements (I’m not sure how much they do today).

How simple should Christianity be? Should it be reduceable to four spiritual laws or summarized in a paragraph or two? Is John 3:16 the perfect summary of the perfect faith? If you were shipwrecked on an island and could only have one chapter of Scripture, what would you keep?

I would like to suggest several principles that might be of help in thinking about such things.

1. Christianity is not an idea.

2. Christianity is not part of the religious annex of planet earth.

3. Reality cannot be simplified.

On the first point - Christianity is not an idea. I could say that it is also not a philosophy. It is a faith about how things (all things) are and Who God is, and what God has to do with us (or us with Him). It is thus a full account of reality, even though much of that account may remain unspoken. Christianity is either everything or it is nothing.

This leads easily to my second point. Christianity is not part of the religious annex of planet earth - that is, it is not a subset or comparment of something else. Since it is the fullness of reality in its truth - there is not a larger fullness (other than God) in which it may be contained.

My third point - reality cannot be simplied - may sound obvious - but we frequently live in simplified, digitzed, simulacra of the world itself. Given the choice between life on earth as we know it, and life in a holo-deck as pictured in the Star Trek movies and series - many people would gladly choose the holo-deck, some already opting for its current low-tech version in various games and such.

The invitation to another human being to embrace Christ as Lord, God and Savior is thus an invitation not to a religious hobby, but to the truth of the world as it is and as it shall be. Christ reveals reality in its fullness. Thus Christianity can never properly be a diminishing of human life.

It is interesting to me, having spent the last 10 years of my life (and a little more) as an Orthodox Christian missionary in the American South (or one small corner of it) to note how much I have learned in those 10 years - far more than I knew when I started. For one, I am not in a hurry. An invitation to reality (which is the essence of Catechesis) is rarely something you can do in a single moment (with apologies to the good thief who was far more worthy than I to be saved). Catechesis is the invitation “to put your hand to the plow and not turn back.” It is an invitation to a fullness that cannot be contained and yet is placed in our mouths at communion. It is a fullness that has birthed cultures and sustained hermits. It is the fullness that brought the whole of the universe into existence and towards which the entire universe is being gathered.

Shame on us for ever having diminished the faith - for reducing it to something less than all that is (and more). Shame on those who would remove whole elements of reality (the saints, the angels, etc.) for a simplified world. Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works! There is no word to hymn Thy wonders!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Saying of the Day

The same Abba Agathon was walking with his disciples. One of them, finding a small green pea on the road, said to the old man, "Father, mya I take it?" The old man, looking at him with astonishment, said, "Was it you who put it there?" "No," replied the brother. "How then," continued the old man, "can you take up something which you did not put down?"

Sayings. Agathon. 11

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saying of the Day

The old man was asked, "What should a man do in all the temptations and evil thoughts that come upon him?" The old man said to him, "He should weep and implore the goodness of God to come to his aid, and he will obtain peace if he prays with discenrment. For it is written, 'With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?'" (Ps. 118:6)

Sayings. Moses. 6

Pelosi Needs to Study Christian History

No doubt you've heard Nancy Pelosi's delusional claim that the Catholic Church was not always opposed to Abortion. Here's an excellent post from Western Orthodoxy that gathers all kinds of sayings of the Fathers, from many generations going back to Apostolic times that describe the Christian's abhorrence of abortion.

Forgive the "political" post, but a politician stepped into our territory. Our fearless Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, claimed on Meet the Press that Christianity has no clear teaching on when life begins, and hence on abortion, and St. Augustine denied life began until the end of the first trimester. Tom Brokaw asked her what she would tell Barack Obama if he asked her when human life has its genesis:
I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose...over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.
She went on to say Christianity has believed life began at conception for "like maybe 50 years or something like that." You can see the disgusting display here.

If she has studied this issue "for a long time," she would have known the Church Fathers had an unbroken teaching on this subject for 2,000 years. Yes, it is true that St. Augustine of Hippo made a distinction between a child before its "quickening" (the time it began to move) and afterwards; so, too, did Aquinas. However, none believed abortion before that time was blameless (!). More importantly, there was a long tradition in the Church that corrected these unrepresentative views, going back to the earliest days of Christianity:

The Didache [A.D. 70]

"The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (Didache 2:1–2).

The Letter of Barnabas [A.D. 74]

"The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following...Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born" (Letter of Barnabas 19).

Athenagoras [A.D. 177]

"What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers?...[W]hen we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it" (A Plea for the Christians 35).

Tertullian [A.D. 197]

"In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed" (Apology 9:8 ).

"Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

"There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive...

"[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive" (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" (ibid., 27).

"The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]" (ibid., 37).

Minucius Felix [A.D. 226]

"There are some [pagan] women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your [false] gods...To us [Christians] it is not lawful either to see or hear of homicide" (Octavius 30 ).

Hippolytus [A.D. 228]

"Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!" (Refutation of All Heresies).

Council of Ancyra [A.D. 314]

"Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees" (canon 21).

Basil the Great [A.D. 374]

"Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not" (First Canonical Letter, canon 2).

"He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it dies upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees" (ibid., canon 8).

John Chrysostom [A.D. 391]

"Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication...Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit?—where there are many efforts at abortion?—where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with his laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine" (Homilies on Romans 24 ).

Jerome [A.D. 396]

"I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother...Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder" (Letters 22:13).

The Apostolic Constitutions [A.D. 400]

"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, ‘You shall not suffer a witch to live’ [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten...[I]f it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed" (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Saying of the Day

He also said, "Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." He even added, "Without temptation no one can be saved."

Sayings. Anthony the Great. 5

Not Beyond Redemption

Basic Instinct. Showgirls. Writer Joe Eszterhas made a fortune on these scripts and others like them. He used to cut a large swath in Hollywood. A lurid, indulgent and dissipated swath.

But he has been completed another kind of manuscript recently--a book published by St. Martin's Press: Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith.

Get Religion posted a story published in the Toronto Blade about Eszterhas' conversion to Christianity. It's a remarkable story, filled with God's working in his life to overcome his addiction to alcohol and tobacco, healing throat cancer and, even more miraculously, healing the heart of a man. Eszterhas also praises the miracle of Holy Communion saying,

The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It’s almost a feeling of a kind of high.Eszterhas understands the heart of repentance as well.

He went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol, to knowing that he could “defeat myself and win.”

What a wonderful way to describe repentance! It reminded me of what I had read in my daily devotion:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:23-25 NKJV)

Read the entire piece here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saying of the Day

A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you." So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said tohim, "What is this, Father?" The old man said to them, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another." When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

Sayings. Moses. 2


I call it “missionalism” rather than “evangelism.” It’s when the good news about the
mission replaces the Good News about Jesus.

Look again at the Ablaze! homepage. What do you find? How many we have reached.
How much we have raised. How many congregations or districts are involved. How
many critical events have ocurred. “Help us spread the Ablaze! Movement. Help us
spread the word about the Ablaze! vision.”

Ablaze! seems to do a better job of promoting itself than promoting the
Gospel. It’s almost as though the inventors of Ablaze! have confused
Ablaze! with the Gospel.

That would explain that exclamation mark ...and many other things.

(By Todd Wilken. Read the rest here.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Working Out Again

Several years ago my doctor told me my cholesterol was high--like 230 high. He told me to eat better and exercise more, as he didn't want me taking cholesterol medications for the next 40 years, if I lived that long.

Now, I'm a skinny guy and never had any major problems, so this surprised me. I got a membership at the YMCA and started going. After six weeks I'd lowered my cholesterol to 180. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the exercise regimen didn't last. Time marched on. Last January, Marjorie realized that I was regularly arriving at work at 7:40 after dropping the kiddos off at school (they like to eat breakfast there) and suggested I go to the Y before work. I managed that well until school let out for the summer.

Now that they're all out of the house again, I've started back. It's amazing how much better I feel in the mornings already. I still arrive at my study before 9:00--later than I normally like, but energized enough that I don't miss the early start I could be getting.

Granted, it's not up to my Rogue Warrior ;) days, but I'm on the right track again.

Saying of the Day

It happened that when Abba Arsenius was sitting in his cell that he was harassed by demons. His servants, on their return, stood outside his cell and heard him praying to God in these words, "O God, do not leave me. I have done nothing good in your sight, but according to your goodness, let me now make a beginning of good."

Sayings. Arsenius. 3

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saying of the Day

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, "This is the great work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath."

Sayings. Anthony the Great. 4

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saying of the Day

They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which he heard, as though he did not hear them.

Sayings. Macarius the Great. 32

Note: The phrase "a god upon the earth" is a reference to Ps. 82:6, "I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High;" and 2 Peter 1:4, "...that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

A Must Read

This is from Pr. William Weedon:

So as I was cutting the grass I was thinking about my Synod. This usually makes me sad (and not too unfrequently makes me angry). But today it was definitely sad. I thought about how the landscape has changed in my years of ministry and in my experience in the Lutheran Church. If there's ONE thing that stands out, surely everyone will agree it is the changes to our worship. There was a time when you really could just about bet on either p. 5 or 15, and if you had a certain kind of parish, maybe Matins. But Lutherans didn't obsess on liturgy; they just worshipped. They followed what was in the book (more or less - we've never been ones for liturgical straight-jackets).

And then enter the whole contemporary worship scene (which should really be called by what it is: the adoption of the liturgy of the Pentecostals and Charismatics). What has been the result?

Are our churches stronger in mission than they were when the liturgy was honored nearly across the board in our Synod? Do we send more or fewer missionaries? Are our people more united now than they were then? How about our support of Synod - stronger or weaker? Is our preaching better or worse? How about our catechesis? Our confessional commitment?

No, I'm NOT picturing some golden age that never existed. Anyone who knows the Synod knows the turbulence of the 20th century almost from the get-go. But where theologians squabbled (as they always have and I suspect they always will), our people were nurtured in a culture that did not oppose liturgy and mission; speaking to the culture and being faithful to our Confessions. It was rather taken for granted. Would that we could see those days again. The invasion of the Pentecostal liturgy has brought disruption and disillusionment to so many parishes; and folks who wouldn't "get on the band wagon" were invited to leave. And then when troubles grew worse, is it any wonder that folks who had become accustomed to that foreign liturgy simply go home - they head to where that liturgy is native. The non-denoms and Pentecostals will always do it better than any Lutheran imitating them can.

And then I thought how Krauth's insight about the progress of error in the church also holds for worship: first they asked only for toleration; then they demanded equality; and you know what the next step is. I fear it's coming.

As the mower was clipping away and the grass was flying up, I had a hankering for simply turning back the clock to a time when Lutherans worshipped as Lutherans and took such worship for granted. Yeah, I wish it was my members' grandfather's church. It's turning into MY grandfather's church - he was a Primitive Baptist - except that he actually cared about doctrine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Three Things Taught Badly

Three things are so badly taught it's a miracle that anyone survives: the Christian faith, poetry, and mathematics. Those three things are always taught so any natural aptitude you have is going to be squelched out of you by the time you're in 8th grade. Why we worship, what prayer really is and what it isn't, all of those things are really not taught well to children. They have these little cute word puzzles and they might memorize the names of the books of the Bible, but that's not going to help them when they're 14 and wondering about the real issues of life. I think people just need a better grounding in whatever faith tradition that they're in. We've short-changed a great religious tradition.
(Kathleen Norris)

Saying of the Day

Abba Macarius said, "Do not sleep in the cell of a brother who has a bad reputation."

Sayings. Macarius the Great. 29

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You Should Know Who You Vote For

My personal political statements on my personal blog (alles klar, IRS?):

Barak Obama, discussing the "burden" or trying to save the life of a baby who was born during a failed abortion, said,

"...and that essentially adding an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion." (unofficial transcript of Barack Obama on the Born Alive Infants Protection Act)

Listen to it here. In his own words.

What's he saying? That a woman, seeking to kill her unborn and failing, the baby coming out of her womb alive is "burdened" by an additional doctor assessing the baby (making sure it is alive) and whisking the baby away to be treated as a human baby. Or an animal, for that matter.

The alternative to trying to save the baby's life is to honor the mother's wishes and let the baby die outside the womb.

This is infanticide and evil.

Think McCain is too liberal? Don't like his Iraq policy? Think he's too old? That we need a new party in there for whatever reason? Don't want to vote for anybody?

Whatever his faults, he does not advocate the murder of babies born alive.

Think about this on election day. Think about what your non-vote or vote against would mean.

Thanks...and my children thank you too.

HT: Creative Minority Report and And Sometimes Tea

Saying of the Day

One day when Abba Macarius was going down to Egypt with some brethren, he heard a boy saying to his mother, "Mother, there is a rich man who likes me, but I detest him; and on the other hand, there is a poor man who hates me, and I love him." Hearing these words, Abba Macarius marvelled. So the brethren said to him, "What is this saying abba, that makes you marvel?" The old man said to them, "Truly, our Lord is rich and loves us, and we do not listen to him; while our enemy the devil is poor and hates us, but we love his impurity."

Sayings. Macarius the Great. 24

The Task Force Report: Initial Observations

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance--whose title alone guarantees that lay people with lives and the majority of pastors have already stopped reading-- has issued their initial report, offering "proposals and possibilities for consideration and discussion." It's available at the LCMS website (this should link directly to it.)

Don't stop reading! This stuff is important for the LCMS and LCMS congregations!

Some items of note:

1. The second paragraph says, "The following proposals are not final by any means. The task force considers its work to be under construction." In other words, the final proposals may get much better, or much, much worse.

2. With only a hat-tip to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, the report plunges in to governance issues. In other words, we are in the realm of politics now, not theology. There are worldly presuppositions and agendas at work in the proposals.

3. The report suggests either increasing the number of districts to 100 or reducing the districts from 35 to 20. Either options would isolate Confessional, liturgical congregations from the others. How so? If you had 100 districts, the ones with the biggest churches would get the most influence, and confessional pastors would get routed into like-minded districts and then ignored, making confessional ghettos. With larger districts, the few Confessional-minded districts that now exist will not any longer, and thus District Resolutions from such districts that are now a thorn in the side of the Powers-That-Be will vanish.

4. The proposal that "circuits could be formed geographically, by affinity group [emphasis mine], by size of congregation, or by any other method deemed most appropriate by the congregations of the district" will ensure that we would have entire circuits of consumerist pop-Christianity, Contemporary Worship, Saddleback-Willow Creek congregations, who would get more delgates (see below). I suppose this would keep pastors from fighting with each other as it happens at many Circuit Meetings, but it does seem to isolate "Old Missouri" from "Not Your Grandfather's New Missouri."

5. Several items under "Congregations and the National Synod" entail eliminating various boards and committees (in general, good), with fewer "national," non-executive staff reporting directly to the president. More power in the President's hands. Never a good thing, since he would have no peer. We know in the Western Church what happens when power is concentrated in one office without peer.

6. Furthermore, there is this disturbing idea that task forces be appointed for "LCMS Youth Gatherings, hymnal projects, transformation of congregations [emphasis mine], urban ministry and the like." So we would then have the President appointing people to make his kind of hymnal, and transform congregations (what does that really mean?) into his likeness.

7. A proposal that congregational delegates (one ordained/commissioned, one lay) per 750 members was long expected. The system we have now is akin to a Senate--each congregation represented equally at District Conventions. This proposal would ensure that large congregations would have the most influence and control over District Conventions, which furthermore ensures that they will set the agenda, nominations and elections for all National-level Conventions.

8. Reduce the number of voting delegates to 625 or 850 at National Conventions, to "provide more effective representation." How's that? Either I don't understand representational government (probable), or they are lying. How could less representatives ensure "more effective representation?"

9. National Convention delegates would be elected not at circuit forums, but at District Conventions--where the largest congregations have most representation. This further marginalizes small-congregatoin pastors and those "outside the loop."

10. A reference to the Divine Call of the Synodical President, vice presidents and secretary is confusing. Currently, these are not "called" positions, I don't believe.

11. As it now works, a congregation can send an overture (resolution) to the District Convention or Synodical Convention. A series of proposals would limit this by giving precedence to overtures that are also adopted by circuits or districts. The effect would be to eliminate overtures that cut against the grain.

12. Finally, at the end there is this proposal, "All adopted doctrinal resolutions are to be honored and upheld by the members of Synod (pastors & congregations) in accordance with each resolution's intended status until such time as teh Synod amends or repeals them," and, "The task force proposal clarifies and affirms that the Synod expects every member congregation of the Synod to respect its resolutions and to consider them of binding force on the assumption that they are in accordance with the Word of God and that they are applicable to the condition of the congregation." No more dissent!

I must say that I am not too surprised at these "proposals for discussion." On the surface they seem mild and reasonable--nothing too radical. But as noted above, there seems to be a systematic effort to isolate and marginalize those not in the majority. Confessional pastors and congregations, or whatever you wish to call them, are not in the majority. I believe if these proposals are all enacted, they would maximize the ongoing transformation of our Synod away from our Lutheran, Evangelical Catholic heritage and confession into a mainstream, Evangelical Pop Consumerist Trend.

Other analysis at: and Necessary Roughness

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saying of the Day

A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, "Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved." So the old man said, "Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead." The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man abut it. The latter said to him, "Didn't they say anything to you?" He replied, "no." The old man said, "Go back tomorrow and praise them." So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, :Apostles, saints and righteous men." He returned to the old man and said to him, "I have complimented them." And the old man said to him, "Did they not answer you?" The brother said no. The old man said to him, "You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved."

Sayings. Macarius the Great. 23

Today it Happens

Apparently the Convocation in St. Louis has no spies in attendance, for there has been nary a peep about what has been happening. But today the Task Force on Structure is presenting their plan. Hopefully we will soon here what they are proposing.

I'm anticipating this greatly. Why? This is one the "legacy" items that our Synodical President wants to accomplish; so much is riding on it for him. This is a Big Deal for him and will be for us. Whatever is presented today will be presented to District Conventions next spring and then on the agenda for the National Convention in 2010. And as I said before, some suspect that this is going to be divisive for the Synod and put many pastors and congregations in a tight spot, forcing us to decide to support the Synod as it is being re-made or not.

Others, however, have imagined that after all the sound and fury only minor changes, if any, will be recommended and adopted. With this administration I can only imagine. It seems clear to me that they are seeking to radically change the Synod's public imagine and practice to a more mainstream consumerist Evangelicalism. But at the same time, congregations like are resistant to change. They may tolerate praise songs and general modern Ameri-Christian nonsense, but if forced to make a choice would choose the "old ways" of the 1950-60s.

It's like the man who oogles women at the beach: he's more than happy to watch whatever passes by, but if his wife gives him the evil eye and tells him to make the choice: chase what he sees or come home with her, he'll follow her to the car like a puppy dog.

We can only wait and see.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saying of the Day

Abba Macarius was asked, "How should one pray?" The old man said, "There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hand and say, 'Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer say, 'Lord, help!' He knows very well what we need and he shows us his mercy."

Sayings. Macarius the Great. 19

Err Toward Grace!

Pr. Larry "Father Hollywood" Beane hits another winner with this post entitled "When Does Death Occur?" His blog has been exceptional lately. Go visit--or better, put it on your blogreader. A snippet:

I remember a discussion back in seminary in one of Professor Marquart's classes concerning the question of baptizing a child that has just been pronounced dead - perhaps minutes or even hours ago. His advice: baptize the child. His rationale was that we don't know when the spirit actually leaves the body. What can it hurt to conduct the baptism and commit the child to God's mercy?

It's hard to argue with his logic.
He concludes by writing that if we err, we should err on the side of grace, a worthy statement. I wonder what other implications this may have?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to the Convocation?

The Theological Convocation on Church Structure of the LCMS, that is. Leonard Sweet. Who's that you ask? This is from his bio on his webpage:

  • "One of the church's most important and provocative thinkers."
  • Voted "One of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America" (2006, 2207)
  • "No church leader understands better how to navigate the seas of the 21st century."
  • "A writer of vast imagination, poise and charm."
  • "I can't imagine a Christian leader in America who hasn't read one or more of Leonard Sweet's books."
  • "Some statistician-types will drown you in doom and gloom. Sweet's message is uplifting, hopeful and relevant."
These are but a sampling of responses to Len's three-ring mission: as a historian of American culture; as a futurist/semiotician who "sees things the rest of us do not see, and dreams possibilities that are beyond most of our imagining;" and as a preacher and writer who communicates the gospel powerfully to a postmodem age by bridging the worlds of academe and popular culture.

Currently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, NJ and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University, Portland, Oregon, Len has been Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Theological School at Drew University for five years, Previous to Drew Len served for eleven years as President and Professor of Church History at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Prior to 1985, Len was Provost of Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. Involved in leadership positions in the United Methodist Church, Len has been chosen to speak at various Jurisdictional and General Conferences as well as the 1996 World Methodist Congress in Rio de Janeiro. He also serves as a consultant to many of America's denominational leaders and agencies. He is a member of the West Virginia Annual Conference.
So he is a Methodist and a futurist. And he's speaking to our theological convocation to...what? To help us understand Lutheran theology about Church Structure. Hmmm....

But it is actually much, much worse. Here's some quotes from one of his books:

“A globalization of evangelism “in connection” with others, and a globally “informed” gospel, is capable of talking across the fence with Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim–people from other so called “new” religious traditions (“new” only to us)–without assumption of superiority and power. One Caribbean theologian has called this the “decolonization of theology.”~It will take a decolonized theology for Christians to appreciate the genuineness of others’ faiths, and to see and celebrate what is good, beautiful, and true in their beliefs without any illusions that down deep we all are believers in the same thing” (Leonard Sweet, “Quantum Spirituality” pp.130-131).

“The power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another.” (ibid. p. 147)

I found these quotes from a comment by Jim Pierce on He says it better than I can.

Leonard Sweet is a pan-theist who has embraced New Age mysticism. For Sweet we are all on the same path, Hindu, Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism… these are all religions that equally have the “spark of truth”. Take notice of what Sweet states about people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another”. This is the old jargon of New Age philosophy.

So, here we have synod paying a heretic to speak at our convocation over theology and church structure. It was just in January that Terry Dittmer (LCMS National Youth Director) had well known Emergent guru Dan Kimball speak to our youth workers, at a symposium in Texas, about reaching out to youth.

We have a female pentecostal pastor leading worship at a the Texas District Youth convention.

Are these sort of events coincidental, or are they evidence of a concerted effort by leadership in the synod to move the LCMS into 21st century synergistic practice and doctrinal baloney?

But maybe Mr. Pierce and I are jousting at windmills.

"Church Structure"

My church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has gathered people together this week for the Convocation on Structure. As you may know, some within the LCMS have been promoting a need to change the structure of Synod. A Task Force was assembled, their report is done, and this is the first meeting where the Powers-That-Be present what they have been working on what changes they will persuade us to make.

Boring Church Politics? Probably. Important? You bet. Many have been trying to predict exactly how things will go down and what changes to expect. Most believe it will not be good for those of us in the LCMS who are liturgical (the so-called Evangelical Catholic). Some think that not much will be accomplished, that the Powers-That-Be may be overreaching.

If you have LCMS connections and are still not interested, follow this link and be persuaded to keep abreast of what is happening.

I'm sure there will be more to report in days ahead.

Saying of the Day

Abba Macarius the Great said to the brothers at Scetis, when he dismissed the assembly, "Flee, my brothers." One of the old men asked him, "Where could we flee beyond this desert?" He put his finger on his lips and said, "Flee that," and he went into his cell, shut the door, and sat down.

Sayings. Macarius the Great. 16

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saying of the Day

One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, "You have not understood it." Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, "How would you explain this saying?" and he replied, "I do not know." Then Abba Anthony said, "Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: 'I do not know.'"

Sayings. Abba Anthony 17.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saying of the Day

A brother said to Abba Anthony, "Pray for me." The old man said to him, "I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God."

Sayings. Abba Anthony 16

Friday, August 15, 2008

Saying of the Day

Abba Anthony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"

Sayings. Abba Anthony 25

The Other Stuff Continues, Too

Just a reminder...though I've added the "Saying of the Day," this is still the place to find my jejune observations on items of disinterest.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anglicans and Politics

HT: Energetic Procession

Saying of the Day

He also said, "God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much."

(Sayings. Abba Anthony 23)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Cause for Tears

This story just broke my heart. The AP report begins,

When police finally searched the squat white mobile home where they say a man held his family captive for three years, the place was so filthy and bug-infested that one officer had to wear a gas mask and another refused to continue.

Thousands of roaches and other bugs crawled in and out of drawers, cupboards and furniture. Spoiled food littered the place, and a long-ignored plumbing problem left the floors rotten and mattresses moldy.

Investigators allege it was in this three-bedroom trailer in northeastern Georgia where Raymond Daniel Thurmond forced his wife and four children to live, allowing them to leave only once in three years. Even then, it was only fleeting: A two-hour Easter visit to his wife's parents' place in North Carolina.

While all this is bad enough, but what brought tears to my eyes were these two sentences from the end of the report:

He said investigators found no food in the home, and the children were undernourished and underweight.

A 14-year-old once attended first grade but that the other children — 13, 12 and 9 — had never been to school, Carlisle said.

Assuming that this monster was not keen on homeschooling, I cannot imagine a 14-year-old with only a first grade education, and none for the others. Heart-wrenching.

Lord have mercy on all of them!

Saying of the Day

Abba Anthony said, "Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge or we labor in vain."

(Sayings. Abba Anthony 35)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Regular Feature

Taking a cue from my good friend Pr. Weedon, I am beginning a new feature here at This Side: The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Who were the Desert Fathers?
The term "Desert Fathers" describes countless Christians who fled Roman civilization beginning in the late 3rd Century and lived as hermits in the deserts and waste places in Egypt and Syria. Some imagine that they fled the cities in order to escape the severe persecutions that were carried out at this time, especially under Diocletian (Emperor 284-305). But after the Edict of Milan (313) when churches began to be flooded with catechumens, visitors and the newly baptized, even more fled to the deserts to escape temptation and to live lives of suffering and self-denial for the sake of the Gospel.

Many were motivated by the "hard sayings" of Jesus about wealth, about non-violence, about humility, weakness and self-denial. Many were concerned that the Church was growing too fast and genuine Christianity and Christian living was being undermined by the popularity of the Church and accompanying laxness in discipline in order to accommodate such large nymbers of converts. Many saw the holiness of the desert dwellers and were attracted.

They were the first Christian monks and were universally esteemed by their peers, by the priests and bishops of the their day, and in time, by non-Christians, Emperors, Kings and rulers. Everyone could recognize that they were living markedly different lives for the sake of Christ, and by His power.

One of the practices of these hermits and monks was that those who were acknowledged as elders (mature in faith) by the others were made guides and teachers for the younger (this is not to give the impression that there was a system to this--it happened naturally through recognition of other's gifts). These were called Fathers, or in address, "Abba." They gave instruction and help to other monks and visitors in the form of sayings, brief stories, parables, commandments and exhortations. These sayings were collected by others in order to remember and preserve their wisdom and faith. A modern translation of the "Alphabetical Collection" by Benedicta Ward will be used for this feature.

Why would a good Lutheran pastor want to share these sayings of the Desert Fathers when Lutherans don't even have monks?
First, the lives of the Desert Fathers and their sayings have been universally esteemed and cherished by Christians from the time they began up until the Protestant Reformation. If you believe that the Christian Church was completely spoiled, ruined and false by the 4th Century and nothing good happened from then until the 1500's, then these are not for you. Neither is this blog, and neither is Lutheranism. Lutherans believe that God is present in His Church and that despite from some abuses that arose within Western Roman Catholicism, the Church has been guided by the Spirit from the beginning.

Second, the Lutheran Confessions speak highly of a few of these fathers, namely St. Anthony. 1 Luther praises them in various places, even teaching that Psalm 68:31 prophesies them, writing, "For 'the Egyptian messengers' are undoubtedly the holy fathers living in the desert: St. Anthony, Macarius, and many others."2 The Desert Fathers are praised for their faith, when Luther writes, " But those who follow the faith of the fathers can be tolerated, such as the disciples of SS. Benedict, Augustine, and Anthony were in the beginning. Thus too, in former times, the ceremonies conducted in some of the high places did not displease God, such as the great altar of Gibeon in I Kings 3[:4], upon which Solomon sacrificed, and the high place where Samuel lived and anointed Saul [I Sam. 9:25, 10:1]; because they lived in faith and did all things in faith, and did not merely follow the works of the fathers, as the later monks did and still do. They are downright hypocrites when it comes to God’s commandments; for such ceremonies are intended to achieve righteousness in the divine law by means of their own works and without faith."3

(On the other hand, Luther writes, "
Here I praise St. Anthony, who faithfully advised and commanded that no one should undertake any work not founded in the Scriptures. Indeed it is safer to regard anything the saints did without warrant of Scripture as a sin, rather than to hold it up as a good example. Neither will you offend any of the saints by considering as sins those works which they did without assurance and foundation in the Scriptures; for they know that they are sinners. But you will offend God and the saints if by their example you fall and break your neck.4)

Third, I am not a "good" Lutheran pastor, meaning that while some among us believe that Lutherans should read, feed and bleed only Pure Lutheran Teaching© I believe that is the way of cults and removes us from the heritage, history and purpose of Lutheranism and Christianity.5 We have much to learn, and even more to do.

How will this work?
Hopefully every day I will post a saying taken from Benedicta Ward's excellent translation.6. I do not know who long this will last, as there are a finite number of sayings, and an even smaller number that are appropriate to share here. I doubt the publisher would take kindly to me slowly republishing their entire book here online. But I will keep this going as long as there is interest and there are quotes to be found.

1 ApIV.211 says, "Anthony, Bernard, Dominicus, Franciscus, and other holy Fathers selected a certain kind of life either for the sake of study [of more readily reading the Holy Scriptures] or other useful exercises. In the mean time they believed that by faith they were accounted righteous for Christ’s sake, and that God was gracious to them, not on account of those exercises of their own." Ap.XXIV (XIII).38 says, "In the histories of the hermits there are examples of Anthony and of others which make the various spheres of life equal..."

2 Luther, M. 1999, c1956. Vol. 13: Luther's works, vol. 13 : Selected Psalms II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Concordia Publishing House: Saint Louis

3 Luther, M. 1999, c1959. Vol. 36: Luther's works, vol. 36 : Word and Sacrament II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

Luther, M. 1999, c1959. Vol. 36: Luther's works, vol. 36 : Word and Sacrament II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

5 I am not a good Lutheran in other respects, too, but that is the subject of another blog post.

6 Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:The Alphabetical Collection. Revised Ed. 1984. Cistercian Publications. Kalamazoo, MI

Why the Liturgy, Someone Asked

One of my wife's friends stopped by unexpectedly last night for a brief visit. They discussed what they needed to while I made chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen. But soon the friend pulled me into the conversation, asking "church questions." I also enjoy question-time with her: she's smart and inquisitive, respectful and lacks that nasty habit of asking leading questions in order to disagree. She genuinely seeks knowledge and not ammunition.

The conversation turned to how we worship, so Marjorie pulled out a hymnal and began walking her through the service (another reason to have one at home, friends!). The friend is Baptist, and had been for a long time, so the liturgy was very new to her. After getting her questions answered, getting a feel for what we did, she responded, "Say you were a 'worship pastor' and you want to be led by the Spirit. Suppose you want to sing a song again, or the Spirit leads you to do something else. Wouldn't it be good to have that kind of flexibility? To plan each service being led where the Spirit leads you, or being able to adjust it as the Spirit leads during the service?"

It was a question I hadn't heard in a long time. My members might ask why we do things, or may say they like it or not, or that the liturgy is what they grew up with and the way church ought to be, or they don't like it, complain, or leave. But they generally don't talk like Marjorie's friend.

I responded with an analogy to Scripture, that even if we feel tired of the Psalms, or suddenly want Scripture to say something else to us, we do not change it. Likewise, nearly all the liturgy is from Scripture, and thus we are speaking and singing what the Spirit has already given to us.

But the value of the liturgy in this case is also in teaching submission and obedience. As humans, we have disobedience down pat. We are very capable of innovation, of leading ourselves, of doing what we want to do. Using the liturgy teaches us to follow, to be obedient, to submit to worship that is not from ourselves. Even if we don't feel like the Spirit is working, He is. Likewise with Scripture: the Spirit is working even if we are not particularly moved at the time, but we don't go changing it because we can't feel Him. Billy Joel was on to something.

It wasn't like speaking a foreign language to her, but I didn't convince her in the least. Sadly, it was getting late, and the conversation had to end. But I invited her to "come and see" and check it out, and hope that the three of us can talk more in the future.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I was asked to anoint someone today. They'd been reading James 5:14 ("Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord"). I had to tell them that when modern translations use the word "elder" they are not referring to "elders" in the LCMS terminology; rather it refers to presbyters--priests or pastors.

This is not the only issue, however.

1. Why is it that there are virtually no resources, rites or rubrics for the Lutheran use of the chrism? Yes, I know about the one page in the Pastoral Care Companion and actually used it this afternoon. But that is also vague. What should the oil be carried in? Where to get the oil? Should we use scented olive oil or unscented?

2. Why was it that before LSB there were no resources or acknowledgment in the LCMS that anointing was permissible?

3. James 5:14-15 sounds awfully close to defining a Sacrament: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." Yes, I know that anointing was not "instituted by the Lord."

Thankfully, I have at my disposal a wonderful priest's kit that contains a mini-altar setup with crucifix and candles, chalice, paten, stole, vials for wine, holy water and unction/chrism, a small host box and two things I cannot identify. So I was able to keep the oil in a proper receptacle and anoint and commune with proper dignity.

File this under Weedon's Neglected Rubrics.

UPDATED: Notice I wrote "priest's kit" and not "pastor's kit." The LCMS nor Lutherans in general neither encourage or provide anything for reverent communion for shut-ins. Thus the pastor who wants to use a chalice instead of plastic cups or use a little crucifix must shop at Catholic Bookstores for items produced for priests. The upside is that they also include vials for unction/chrism and other useful, reverent sacramental items. Thanks to the donor who gave this kit to Redeemer!

Fiction Reading This Month

My wife and I have been reading some Dean Koontz novels lately. I had never read his stuff before. I remember some mediocre made-for-tv movies entitled, "Dean Koontz' So-and-So" and was unimpressed. I believed him to be a less ambitious Steven King.

But then I read a profile of him in National Review. Turns out the Steven King connection wasn't just me, but that the press and critics tended to lump the two ueber-successful authors together. The profile piece suggested they were not that much alike. And Koontz converted to Catholicism and has a distinctly conservative voice in his novels.

I now know what NR was talking about. Of the novels I've read so far, none would be included in your Average Christian Bookstore. None would be reviewed as literature, either, though his writing demands more attention and vocabulary than your average mass market paperback. But his narrative voice gently condemns liberal idols and his characters exhibit virtue. There are other slight nods to Catholicism and religion scattered around, too.

Oh, and Koontz has a knack of packing in more conflict and tension in the first 100 pages than many bestsellers have in the climax. It makes a tense read.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Please Follow Instructions

When you see my hand wrapped up in a purple bandage know that I was not following the directions and have eleven stitches to prove it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blindness and Sight

Often we only see and hear what we wish to see and hear. If we look for scandal we find it. If we look for offense, we are offended. But if we look for joy, it is present.

If we read Scripture as a Baptist, a Baptist we will be; as a Lutheran, a Lutheran. If we read it with skepticism, we will doubt. If we read Scripture looking for faith, faith we will find.

It is impossible by ourselves to understand the world--the things visible and invisible-- in their true light. We carry the baggage of sin, our prejudices, our habits and passions. We see and hear what we wish to see and hear, and our capacity for ignorance is immense. Again, by ourselves we will see only what we want to see, what we have been trained to recognize, what we in our passions and sin desire.

Yet Christ says "I am the Light of the World," and the Psalmist says, "in your light do we see light" (Psa. 36:9). How much we need to begin each day, each task, each moment praying that we may see the true light, that we may receive the Spirit--that Christ will open our blind eyes to Him, that we may see by Him and live in Him.

This is my prayer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Perfect Love and Fear

Pastor Brown writes,

Scripture says that perfect love casts out fear. As such - a Christian ought never act out of fear. Our actions are not to be based on fear of what is to come, worry, what have you.

Every decision, every action you take - fear is to not be a factor. Why? Because if you are acting out of fear, you won't be seeking to show love. Simple as that.

Think on the times you have made decisions because of fear and or terror. Do they show love? Are they done well? Nope. Be calm, be focused on Christ - and act in peace and hope and love. Christ is in charge, He is in control - decide what is given to you with peace and calm. Never act out of fear of what might come, but with love and hope and the desire to use the gifts God has given you for the sake of your neighbor.

This is the Christian life.
Wonderful advice. Most of us do make decisions from fear--the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of reprisals, fear of bankruptcy and so on.

The Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life explores living a life based on fear and how debilitating it is. The premise is that Brooks' character dies and the afterlife begins with a trial of sorts, where scenes from his past are projected in a theater. The Prosecutor chooses moments of life where the character is living based on fear to illustrate the subject is not suitable for "Heaven" or whatever. Brooks also receives a Defense Attorney of sorts, who chooses moments from his life that show courage and love. Despite the movie fouling everything up, especially equating fear with self-denial and moral choices, there are some wonderful scenes that illustrate how debilitating and evil acting from fear is. In one scene, Brooks' character is shown to be in Elementary school and refuses to help another kid being bullied--refuses in a most despicable manner. Everyone in the theater watching this unfold squirms, especially the adult Brooks. It's rare to see such a depiction of shame on the screen.

Thank you Pr. Brown for a good reminder that perfect love casts out fear.

Texas Site Reconfigured

Or, How the Temperature is Reduced By Several Degrees

The website for the Texas District LCMS Youth Gathering has now been changed. Kari Jobe, one of the pastors of Gateway Church is now being billed as "Song Leader" and has fallen from top billing to third.

It is good to see that the webmaster and planners of this event have responded to the scandal and offense this has caused. But as another website suggested, spend some time there and ask yourself "Does this look Lutheran or does it look like a mainstream Evangelical non-denominational youth gathering?"

Es sheint als ob einen andere Geist.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Turning Up the Heat

Lord have mercy! I go to Texas for a little vacation and look what I bring with me:

The Texas District LCMS Youth Gathering is featuring a "Lead Worshipper" who is the female worship pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake Texas.

Yes, a pastor of a non-denominational church is leading worship at an LCMS youth gathering.

Yes, she is female.

And yes, we still do not ordain women in our denomination. Call us backward if you will, but we do not believe Scripture supports it.

And yes, we still do not believe in worshiping with those who do not agree with us in doctrine....

Father Hollywood has an excellent post about this. Here is a key section of his post:

This kind of thing will expand, and will continue to send a message to our young people that women's ordination is okay, as are unionistic worship, and worship that not only sets aside our Lutheran confession of sacraments as well as the traditional western liturgy. What will be deemed as an acceptable replacement is emotional, exciting, entertainment based religion of a general non-denominational sort.

Then we wonder why people leave - why those who actually strive for the sacramental and liturgical Presence of our Lord Jesus (as confessed in the Lutheran confessions) seek that Presence outside of Lutheranism. On the other hand, we also see the exodus of young people who have been taught there is no difference between Lutheranism and non-denominationalism, and so they likewise leave Lutheran churches in seek of even bigger and better entertainment.

It is no wonder why so many of our young people are confused and leaving the LCMS. It is also no wonder why so many of our seminarians, vicars, and pastors are appalled at the dissonance between what we confess on paper and how we worship in the real world, and leave the LCMS for Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Roman Catholicism. In many cases, the doctrine and practice of those churches is closer to the Lutheran confessions than our own churches! I'm not in favor of either group's departure from the LCMS, but it takes a great deal of self-delusion to overlook why this is happening. Maybe our dwindling membership is a judgment against the LCMS for its infidelity. And if this is the case, no amount of corporate marketing gimmicks can replace repentance.
More on this to come.

HT: Father Hollywood

Back Home

We had a great vacation with my family in Texas. My little sister was in from Florida with her husband and one-year boy, and my sister from Oklahoma came down for a day or so. This made it the first time in years that all of us were together, and it was great to have everyone there.

The kids and grown-ups did a lot of swimming, and I played guitar every day. The Big Project Dad and I planned had to be scaled down. His brilliant siding idea didn't work out too well in reality, but that left us with more time to relax and enjoy each other's company.

Dad wasn't feeling good while we were there, and this is some concern. Back in 2002, he received a Whipple (more info here) and beat the odds; he's now cancer-free. The oncologist and hematologist and every other -ologist have recently completed a battery of tests and found nothing. But we can all tell that something is wrong with him; hopefully it's nothing serious.