Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm Moving!!

I'm moving this blog to a (slightly) different location.

Please update your links and feed readers. This Feed should work for 30 days has been removed due to problems. Please visit the new site and re-subscribe using the buttons provided.

Thanks for moving with me!

Read the following only if you're really interested:

Why move? I started off at my congregation's website, using a Wordpress installation. Wordpress was good, but it was a little too hard to use, and certain things weren't working right. Furthermore, I wanted my blog to have some independence from the church's website. So I moved to this location.

However, I recently took another look at Wordpress and it is incredible. Stunning. They have updated and improved it tremendously. Still I was undecided if I wanted to mess with y'all's links.

The final straw was when I realized that my former web host was pretty slow and limited., apart from their tasteless commercials offers quite a bit of hosting muscle and tons of goodies and excellent features. So I moved my hosting there and am making it permament.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Clarification

Of course I should also say that while I am completely surprised at the election, I am confident that this was the will of God and that He will use this for the good of my salvation and for His glory.

I didn't mean to make it sound like a negative thing at all!

What Happened at the District Convention

So as Eric Brown first reported, the Oklahoma District Convention went differently than I had planned. I was elected 3rd Vice President of the District for a three-year term. For those who are unfamiliar with our denomination, the Synod is divided into districts, each with an elected District President, a pastor who is the ecclesiastical and administrative supervisor for the region. Districts are composed of circuits, which are groupings of seven or more congregations (think dioceses). the Oklahoma District is also divided into three regions, each composed of three circuits. I am the Vice President of the Western Region, and am charged with representing the District President in this region and generally administrating the area in his absence. All this is pretty broad and vague on purpose; I'll have to read the policy manual and the Synodical handbook to find out exactly what all my duties and responsibilities actually are.

A further distinction: the Oklahoma District Officers are all designated as part-time. Our District President is the parish pastor of Holy Trinity, Edmond, and will continue in his vocation there. We have no full-time district staff or offices, and this is a real blessing for our district.

Interestingly enough, Pr. Brown was elected Circuit Counselor of our circuit, who is the administrative officer for the circuit. Pr. Mason Beecroft was elected to the District Board of Directors. Congratulations to them!

I knew there was a possibility I would be elected as Circuit Counselor, and would have accepted that duty reluctantly. I had no idea that I would be elected to be a VP. I didn't desire it, and it did not fit into my life plan. Needless to say, I didn't lobby for it any way apart from allowing my name to stand on the slate and am still in a state of shock.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Where Did This Come From?

Two churches on a small Grecian island have the tradition of firing rockets at each other on Easter morning.

The video there is short, with quiet audio and is amazing!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

May the Force be with You...Lift Up Your Hearts...

Jack (age 2) found a picture from the original Star Wars movie that had fallen out of a book. It showed Han Solo and Chewbacca shooting at something. He was very intrigued.

"Who's this?" he asked.

"Han Solo and Chewie. From Star Wars," I answered.

"They shoot bad guys?"

"Yes, they're shooting bad guys."

"What is it?" he asked, unsure.

"Star Wars."

A long pause, then: "I want to see that!"

He's a little young for it. But the Clone Wars cartoon was on television, so I allowed him to watch it. Now everything is a light saber and bad guys are everywhere. A little too violent for me. I've banned it again.

But then yesterday he had a stick and, running up to me, said, "I have a light saber. I a pastor. I kill bad guys."

"A pastor? With a light saber?"

"Yes. I kill bad guys with my light saber. I a pastor." He paused. "I pastor and you mommy. Let's go get bad guys."

I think the Jedi robes remind him of what I wear on Sundays. Maybe he thinks I have a light saber in my pocket, just like Obi Wan in the cartoon.

I can let him think that.

OK District Convention


I'll be attending the Oklahoma District Convention Friday and Saturday in Norman, OK. We'll be electing a new presidium, as the current DP is retiring. My understanding is that we will also be electing a completely new slate of district officers, as the current ones did not wish to be re-elected either declined nominations or were not re-elected.

For those of you in the LCMS and in other districts, Oklahoma has a completely part-time district staff. It is a good situation.

Keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"In Thoughts from the Visions of the Night, When Deep Sleep Falleth on Men"

I suffer sleep paralysis. African-Americans call it "the witch riding your back," and they're right. It's a condition in which you wake from dreaming sleep, yet your body is still paralyzed. Awareness shifts from wakefullness back to dreaming sleep, and it is impossible to know if you are awake or dreaming. It's bad news. Sometimes I hear voices behind my back. My eyes are open, and I can move them, but not my head to turn and see who is talking. Some people report hearing monsters/boogymen/mass muderers threatening them, but they cannot get up to run. The witch riding your back indeed.

Sometimes these episodes lead into, or out of "false awakenings," when I dream that I wake, get up and start to go about, and then suddenly find myself paralyzed on the couch.

It happens most often when I'm napping, which these days usually only happens on Sunday afternoons. While I can't move or speak during an episode, I can "breathe funny," like Morse Code, and if M is around, she wakes me up. Mostly I've learned to relax and ease myself back into regular sleep and hope I can wake normally after that. It never happens at night. Once or twice when I have slept-in really, really late it has happened.

It's all very Matrix-like. Except it is scary and doesn't involve dodging bullets.

There all many myths to explain this sensation. Most cultures believed ghosts were sitting on the afflicted. Interestingly, if you are of the Hmong people, it may kill you. The rest of us seem to be immune from this fatality.

I'm not going to tie this in with something spiritual. But there are plenty of implications. Enjoy.

Book Review: Christianity in Crisis

Hank Hanegraaff's Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century is an eye-opening expose of how heretical and corrupt the modern batch of “Word of Faith” popularity preachers have become. Hanegraaff bars no holds on televangelists and mega-preachers such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and the entire TBN Network. The book well-researched—a necessity for the kinds of accusations that the author levies against the heretical teachers. He quotes liberally from television shows and phone interviews, from book and pamphlets, newspapers and magazines. Sometimes the book is repetitive, but the reader can easily pass over arguments and accusations that he repeats from section to section.

For those who do not regularly watch charismatic, word-of-faith, prosperity Gospel shows or read their books, Hanegraaff reveals there is much more to them than simply asking for money. In chapter after chapter, Hanegraaff exposes tri-theism, Adoptionism, Arianism, Dualism rampant in “teachers” such as Creflo Dollar, Frederick Price, T D Jakes, John Hagee, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and many more. The author also traces their “word of faith” teachings to New Age “reality-creating” teachings.

Hanegraaff does miss a few beats here and there. He is very uncomfortable with the Apostle's Creed confession of the descent into hell. While the preachers Hanegraaff exposes misinterpret the purpose of Christ's descent into hell as one of suffering, the author dismisses any positive interpretation of the event as the Harrowing of Hell. Likewise, the heretics the author attacks preach a gross and gnostic kind of apotheosis, but Hanegraaff seems ill-suited to contrast this with the Mormon doctrine—and with the Orthodox doctrine of theosis. In sections were the author advocates for a more traditional doctrine, his approach is a little too fundamentalist for my taste, but this is a small quibble.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Or as a Poet Says:

Seven Stanzas at Easter
by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

HT: -C

"Ain't no Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down"

I asked a small child if Jesus' body is in the grave. She responded, "Yes. He died on the cross, but He lives in heaven now." A small child, of course. Perhaps a slip, a momentary confusion. Let's hope so.

But I wonder. This is how so many think of our death: bodies left behind to turn to dust, but the self, the awareness, the Real Me in heaven with Jesus forever. Our funeral liturgy is full of references to the resurrection. The prayers at the committal are for God to bless the body until the resurrection. But I do not think people hear those prayers anymore. We are gnostic, the body a shell, the material things temporary, the spirit world is our home.

That is not Christianity, not if you leave it at that. Not if this is the goal and hope for our future and eternity. It's gnosticism. Maybe even Islam, if you said "Paradise" instead of heaven.

I heard what the child said and I was afraid. I was afraid that after so long--generations? centuries? of going-to-heaven-to-be-with-Jesus talk, of leaving my body behind, of "that's not her anymore. That body is a shell" talk--that such heresy has passed from us to Christ. That when people here, "On the third day He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven," we think of Spirit-Jesus in heaven with Jesus, His body left behind, unnecessary any longer. Lord have mercy!

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.(1 Cor. 15:12-14)
No. I am a stranger here on earth, but I await a new heaven and a new earth. I long to be with Jesus, but I also await the resurrection of the dead. My goal is not to be in heaven. My goal is to live, to rest in the grave and then rise, to be in Christ and with Christ.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Move or Not to Move?

FYI: I'm still weighing the pros and cons of moving the blog, but I'll announce it well before hand if and when I do it.

Thanks for the feedback from those who commented. I appreciate it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Church


Here is a nice post (though I hesitate to call it that, considering the angst involved) on the contemporary worship "blended worship" service at an LCMS congregation. Hardly news, yet his account is compelling in its own way, giving voice to the fractures that "diverse" and "divergent" consumerist worship services are creating among us.

Thanks to Mr. Magness for calling my attention to the fact that it was not the contemporary service he described, but the "blended"--all the more horror, as Dr. Nagel would say.

Here's an excerpt:

This blended service began as the pastor came out in a golf shirt and made a series of announcements about “mission and ministry opportunities.” He then sat down and let the band take over. As is typical in contemporary services, the band leader introduced the songs and functioned as an assisting minister. The people were supposed to sing along with the band, but few did on the verses of the first song. They were in a solo vocal style with a range and syncopation that did not invite communal singing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blog Make Over Input Requested

I want to invite all of you to check out the new "beta" site at:

It's not "live" yet, so I want your input, especially on the following:

1. Does it look good?
2. Is switching domains (again) too obnoxious?
3. Does it look professional, but not "cold"?
4. Do the fonts and colors look right?
5. Anything else I am missing...

Thanks for your help.

And I there is a reason for this rhyme. Same as it ever was. :)

Even Better than the Real Thing

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones: Romanizing Bunker Blaster?

We had our first-ever Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord on March 25 at my parish. Because we are rotating pulpits for Lent, my friend Pr. Eric Brown presided here, while I served a contemporary Lenten service at another congregation. He did a good job, my spies report. :)

When the Director of Music and I were selecting hymns for the service, I immediately thought of "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones." But there was controversy: do we sing "Alleluia" for this feast or refrain because we are still in Lent? I decided not to sing "alleluia". Correct me if I am wrong.

The big issue, however: how in the world did this hymn ever make it past our doctrinal review? Here are the words.

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
Raise the glad strain: “Alleluia!”
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, pow’rs,
Archangels, virtues, angel choirs:
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises: "Alleluia!"
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord:
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest:
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song:
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Eternal anthems echoing:
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One:
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

First issue: Lutherans generally don't talk to our guardian angels, nor any other angel. The Confessions portray that talking to creatures we cannot see as prayer, and thus it would be idolatrous.

This leads to the second issue, the second stanza. Our Orthodox friends will recognize this stanza immediately. It's Marian, that is, addressed to the Virgin Mary. She is higher than the cherubim and more glorious than the seraphim because she "bore the eternal Word" in her womb. The cherubim and seraphim attend the the throne of God. She is the seat where the Son of God took residence.

But do Lutherans speak this way about the Virgin Mary? Not usually. Is it incorrect? I don't think so. But there's still a problem: we address her in this stanza. As a life-long Lutheran, I know it's one thing to address an angel ("pray to an angel"), but addressing the Virgin Mary? Das geht nicht.

Which is the issue in the last two stanzas as well, calling upon the saints and martyrs likewise to praise the Lord.

Now... I don't think I will call the wrath of the Brute Squad down on me for saying I'm very glad this hymn is included. I personally do not think it is incorrect. It is not idolatrous in the least.

But I cannot see how it jibes with the rhetoric of the Confessions which state:

But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. 3] He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2, 1: 4] If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc. (AC XXI)

...Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, or that we are to ask the saints for aid. But since neither a command, nor a promise, nor an example can be produced from the Scriptures concerning the invocation of saints, it follows that conscience can have nothing concerning this invocation that is certain. And since prayer ought to be made from faith, how do we know that God approves this invocation? Whence do we know without the testimony of Scripture that the saints perceive the prayers of each one? 11] Some plainly ascribe divinity to the saints, namely, that they discern the silent thoughts of the minds in us. They dispute concerning morning and evening knowledge, perhaps because they doubt whether they hear us in the morning or the evening. They invent these things, not in order to treat the saints with honor, but to defend lucrative services. 12] Nothing can be produced by the adversaries against this reasoning, that, since invocation does not have a testimony from God's Word, it cannot be affirmed that the saints understand our invocation, or, even if they understand it, that God approves it. (AP XXI)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Elephant in the Lutheran Room

In one of the 138+ comments on this post at Weedon's Blog, we see why Lutheranism is broken:

"No. I think that your interpretation of what is confessional is wrong." (comment here)

I have to admit that I appreciate Pr. Louderback's refreshingly frank and good-spirited comments. Were the other foxes in the hen house so open and honest...

Not Just a Small Thing...

Fr. Stephen Freeman and Glory to God for All Things, writes:

...Dostoevsky is correct that God and the devil engage in warfare and the battleground is the human heart. However, the battle is often fought in very small skirmishes. Brief encounters with the good and brief encounters with evil.

It is not true that the little things do not matter. It may well be that the little things are all we will ever encounter. It is true in every great battle. The historians write about large movements of troops and the effect of terrain - but those who actually do the fighting are aware of each stroke of the sword, of the difficulty of fighting wounded, or without food or rest.

By the same token, those who take up their prayers and beg for the mercy of God, may appear to be engaged in a very small thing. Yet prayer is never small. If it has gained the ear of the God of the universe, how can it ever be small?

No act of kindness is ever too small. No generosity of spirit is ever insignificant. No harsh word not spoken is a minor act of restraint. No effort of forgiveness is without value....

Read the rest of his beautiful post here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Idle Hands Here

I am trying to NOT make this all about me, but I want to share a few things that have happened this week.

Sunday was great. I baptized two children and confirmed three more at the 10:30 service. The funeral luncheon for Bob Graf took place immediately after. Then the funeral at 2:00, one of the most crowded funerals I have ever seen. He was interred in a country cemetery. Back at home, I dozed for twenty minutes, ate a ham sandwich for supper, went back to church to open it up for the deceased family members, who needed a place to visit and eat before they all went their separate directions. Then I went home to crash.

But it was not to be. The phone rang. A member was in ICU, not expected to survive the night. Glory to God, he did. Yesterday another member landed in the ICU with heart problems. At lunch I received word that a third member had unexpectedly passed away--Joan Thomas. I met with their family yesterday aftenoon. This morning I attended Joe, whose heart cath revealed the need for bypass surgery. I prayed with him before they took him to the OR.

I've never had a Lent like this, but it certainly is keeping me out of trouble. Pray for Everett, Joe and the Family of Joan (and her, if that is according to your faith).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Conversionism Again

The second issue with conversion: so many who leave seem to be saying, "The LCMS is not Lutheran I'm becoming Orthodox (or Catholic)." The modus operandi of many of those who leave is unflagging criticism of the LCMS followed by unflagging praise for their new communion. It doesn't make much sense.

But there is something else going on here: crisis. Something overturns the apple cart and it gets these pastors thinking. Something forces these pastors to wonder if the struggle is not lost, if the LCMS is something other than it says it is. Often the sacramental and worship life or practice in the LCMS serves as the tipping point. They realize that the LCMS does not do what it says Lutheranism says it does. This brings them to question not only what we don't do and why, but also the claims of the Confessions themselves. When that doubt strikes, the reaction is unpredictable.

What strikes me about this is that the Contemporary Worship-pop consumerist pastors in our Synod have done the same thing, but as stated below, haven't left. They found something lacking in the LCMS and began asking their own questions about the true nature of our Confession and ontology. But when their search led them in the opposite liturgical direction, they stay and transform their parishes, sometimes completely.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Another Enters Orthodoxy

Pr. Ben Harju has resigned the clergy roster and will be received as a catechumen in the Orthodox Church tomorrow. Old news by internet standards--Ben announced it yesterday.

But the vitriol, angst, incredulity, accusations and so forth has already begun.

I've blogged about some others who have left the LCMS before. See these posts. What I've said before hold true here as well. God bless him for the courage to follow his convictions...and not try to make the LCMS into something it's not.

There are a couple of issues I'd like to explore. The first is, Why East? Why are so many leaving the LCMS and entering the Orthodox Church? I can name a dozen or more who have in the last four or five years. Maybe more. Granted, in a denomination of 8000 or 9000 pastors, that number is a pittance, yet there seems a trend.

Yet, how many LCMS pastors have become Baptists (I know of one)? How many non-denominational Evangelicals? Methodist? Episcopal? (I know of one).

Few, I imagine. And here's why. Because of our lack of oversight, integrity, honesty, support and standards, you can become almost any of those in all but name and stay within the LCMS. Some of them a pastor can "convert to" completely and be featured in the official newspaper and magazine and praised. Consider the "Emergent LCMS" churches in the St. Louis area.

Consider this and comment.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Brain Dump for Today

Drove to Edmond today to shop at Sam's Club. We had a nice time--it was good for M and I to get out of the house and have some time to talk. That doesn't happen often enough.

I'm also working on a major renovation/redesign/move (?) of the blog. Again. Why can't I leave well-enough alone? Distractions. See this post.

This week I finished sermons for Palm Sunday, the funeral, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning. Tomorrow I meet with the confirmands at 9:00, a pre-baptism meeting with a family at 10:00, the church garage sale, soccer games in the afternoon. Sunday is worship, confirmation presentation/reception, the second service with a baptism and confirmation, then a funeral meal, Bob Graf's funeral, then...bed. Or at least it should feel like it.

Shut-ins to visit next week, and Holy Week services, but not too many other items on the to-do list. I like to have all in-office work done before Holy Week, so that I can spend my time seeing people, preparing for worship, and in devotional reading.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pres. Obama Needs better Staff

On NPR yesterday I heard the Culture Minister of France extolling President Obama's intelligence, patronage of the arts and culture, and general liberal artiness. At the time of the election I heard other comments of how Obama will be good for the arts and culture of the United States. That would be a good thing. We pray in one of our collects for the fomenting of the cultural arts.

So why does the President give such insipid gifts? Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave our President a pen holder made from timbers of the anti-slave ship HMS Gannet, and a first edition biography of W. Churchhill. Obama gave him some DVDs...which were not compatible with European DVD players. When the President met the Queen of England, he gave her an iPod.

In all fairness, I would have no idea what to get a Queen. It's hard enough buying something for my mother, or my father who buys himself whatever he wants. But I'm pretty sure if I were a cultured man, a patron of the arts, I wouldn't get Her Majesty a gift befitting a teenager.

As you read this blog, Mr. President, I urge you to get better protocol advisors. We expect such boorish gifts from clueless Republicans; not from a cultured, sensitive Democrat. Seriously.