Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some Music for Advent

I know it is off topic for Honoring the Office of the Holy Ministry, but......

Back in the mid 90’s a good friend of mine, Victor Minetola, with a recording studio in his basement, came up with a great way for us to give out cheap Christmas presents: Record a Christmas tape!

He recently put three of the best that we did on his website:

“Born in Bethlehem” was written by Victor (I wrote one stanza)

“The Coventry Carol” was arranged by Victor and me and is kind of what one ends up with when punk meets traditional hymns – but still respectful.

“A Fire is Started in Bethlehem” is my favorite.

I am playing guitar on all of the pieces.

It isn’t the Rapps, but it ain't too shabby.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

God Speaks Through Real Mouths!

I don't know about you, but I've always had the cinematic picture of God speaking to a bewildered Noah from the clouds, and Noah (played by John Huston) looking around to see where this mysterious voice (I think also played by him) is coming from until he recognizes it as the voice of God.

This is even more enforced by movies like George Burns in "Oh, God!" and the recent "Evan Almighty" where God (in this case Morgan Freeman) has to make repeated special miraculous appearances to convince the hearers that it is, indeed, God who is speaking to them.

Why do we think that when Scripture says God speaks to someone that it must be through some strange or miraculous means? I think it is because we think of God as some kind of distant deity who doesn't have a natural and constant means of connection to His people in this material world.

Alternately, some people think God exercises a special hot-line connection to them (or visa versa) through emotional experiences, signs, and/or wonders. Well, what do we Lutherans believe? In other words, what does Scripture have to say about this?

These are the generations of Shem. Shem was a hundred years old and fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood... [Genesis 11:10]

These genealogies always seem to me like useless tidbits of Biblical trivia at first blush. However, let us consider Luther's commentary on this verse:

Even Abraham was almost swallowed up by the church of Nimrod; but he was called back by the voice of the Lord, who admonished him to separate from the ungodly race and to seek a new abode. I believe that this was done by Shem himself. Since he was the ruler of the church and had the promise concerning Christ, he was held in high esteem by his grandsons; for his ministry was in truth a ministry of God, and what he ordered, his grandsons received as the voice of God.

Thus when it is written that Rebecca consulted the Lord (Gen. 25:22), I think that she consulted Shem himself, whom the Lord wanted to be at the head of the church. For Shem died when Jacob and Esau were fifty years old; and when men who are full of the Holy Spirit speak, it is God who is speaking. At about this time the kingdom of Egypt had its beginning, for the account states that Abraham went down to Egypt.

Hence it is the main point of this chapter to have us realize where the church was at that time, by which fathers it was governed, and finally which fathers were contemporaries.

Luther's Works, Volume 2: Lectures on Genesis (Ge 11:10)

I searched for this Luther quote on my Luther's Works CD (Libronix) after hearing that Luther believed that when God spoke to Noah he did so through Methuselah. Perhaps it's speculative, but according to this theory, God through Adam confronted Cain with the sin of killing Abel, and Abraham was called by God through Shem to leave Ur and go to the promised land. Before we dismiss this as pure speculation, consider that God's Holy Word itself says:

For prophecy was not borne at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke being borne along by the Holy Spirit. [2 Peter, 1:21 - emphasis mine]

Apparently, throughout his commentaries on the Old Testament, at almost every point in history in which God spoke, Luther was able to find a patriarch who was alive and who could speak for God in His place. Peter obviously wouldn't have found this such a novel idea.

So perhaps it's not all that speculative. It is certainly a great comfort to know that God normally uses means to communicate with us. We aren't left (like the enthusiasts and charismatics in our midst think) to try to discern God's voice in superstitious signs and wonders, or in our own sinful hearts and minds.

God gives us parents, brothers, sisters, and godly friends; and He talks to us through them. How much more does he speak to us through the mouths of pastors, who are divinely called and ordained to be preachers and teachers of the Word of God. And, of course, we should always consult Scripture to affirm that what any and all of these messengers tell us is consistent with His infallible Word.

Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments. For God wished to appear even to Moses through the burning bush and spoken Word; and no prophet neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments [or spoken Word]. Neither was John the Baptist conceived without the preceding word of Gabriel, nor did he leap in his mother’s womb without the voice of Mary. And Peter says, 2 Pet. 1, 21: The prophecy came not by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy, much less would the Holy Ghost have moved them to speak when they still were unholy [or profane]; for they were holy, says he, since the Holy Ghost spake through them.

[Luther, Smalkald Articles, Part III, Article VIII, 10-13]

...which takes us right back to the motto of this blog from the Large Catechism's explanation of the Fourth Commandment with regard to pastors:
Now, since they are fathers they are entitled to their honor, even above all others. ...those who would be Christians are under obligation in the sight of God to esteem them worthy of double honor who minister to their souls, that they deal well with them and provide for them. ...He who despises and casts this to the winds is not worthy ever to hear a word of God.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jeff Schwarz for the President of Something

Jeff Schwarz, producer par excellence of the radio show Issues, Etc. made a throw-a-way comment on running for president and his former vicar started a page on Facebook for him: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8048400700.

I'd vote for him. In one of his weaker moments he made me promise to take over for him if he should die. I suppose public office is a kind of death.

This is a stealth campaign, kind of like Fred Thompson.

There is talk of him running for Synodical President of the LCMS - which begs the question can a layman be SP of the LCMS?

Why not? I defy anyone to show me in sacred scripture the requirements to be Synodical President. Bishops, deacons and presbyters are mentioned, but not Synodical Presidents. So I suppose as it is not truly an office of the holy ministry, Jeff could certainly fill the role.

This is all done in jest of course, Rev. Matt Harrison should fill that role in 2010.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Blind Men, Beggars, Preaching and Those Who are Sent

This morning I was on my way to church with the kids and was listening to the local Roman Catholic radio station (I've taken it on the chin on The Unknown Lutheran blog and back in the Beggars All days for my EWTN obsession - I know the fact that it beats the heck out of Joel Osteen, Robert Schuler and D. James Kennedy is no excuse - and when I hit the lotto there will be a Lutheran nationally broadcast radio and television network.).

A priest from Africa was preaching on Luke 19 (Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree) and was doing an admirable job of preaching the Gospel text - he emphasized what Jesus did in coming to Zacchaeus' house. Somehow he went outside of the gospel for the day and talked about the beggar mentioned in Luke 18:

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Lord, I want to see," he replied.
Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

The priest followed up with these words, "We too must ask Jesus to heal our blindness and the blindness of others."

I started praying for a friend of mine, who simply fails to see that he needs to return to the Church. I prayed, "Lord, please help my friend to see." And something odd happened, my mind went to the following bible verse in Romans 10 - and it was odd, it was almost as if someone else was speaking to me.

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

My friend certainly believed at one time. He is baptized. He went to Lutheran school. I have told him that he needs to return to the Church and I have told him why he needs to return. He is however blind and cannot see his need. He also doesn't realize that he is a beggar.

And I started thinking, could it be that my "preaching" to this man is in vain, because I am not sent? Or maybe he is so blind that the only way he will realize that he is a beggar and blind would be to bring him to where Jesus is walking by? How am I going to get him there? How I am going to get him to the place where I know that a man sent by Jesus is? Or maybe when I told him that he needed Jesus, did I do it all wrong?

After all of these mental gymnastics, I could only return to the fact that I was blind and still only see through the glass dimly. I am a beggar but, I have much to rejoice in, just as the man Jesus healed in Luke 18. I was only 1 mile from where I would soon meet Jesus in the words of Absolution, in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Sacrament of the Altar.

In the end, I can only tell the blind that they are blind. I can only tell the beggars I know where Jesus will be passing by. And I should continue to rejoice in the healing our Saviour has given me.

And those who are sent will continue to make sure that Jesus passes by, by the command and in the stead of our Lord Jesus Christ. This our Lord has promised until the end of time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wonderful News from Northern Europe! Pray for the Ordained in Finland

Try holding -without reservation - to the Book of Concord in Finland..... and you'll end up renting out the local Seventh Day Adventist church for your divine service.

There may be great and wonderful Lutheran parishes and cathedrals there. And hey, if you are lodge member or having some kind of secular event, you may use it. If you are a pastor who stands on scripture and opposes the ordination of women, you must rent space elsewhere to feed your flock.

Rev. Markus Pöyry is such a man who stands on scripture and holds to the Book of Concord. He was a student at Fort Wayne and was supported by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

He was ordained in Gothenburg Sweden on October 20th. He will be serving Luukas-koinonia in Seinäjoki, Finland. St. Luke's has 50 members and is renting space from the local Seventh Day Adventist congregation, because there is, as it were, "no place for them in the inn".

Please pray for Pastor Markus and his flock. May our blessed Lord strengthen and preserve them and use their example to strengthen us all!

Happy Reformation Day Markus!

For pictures of the ordination go to:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Is your Lutheran pastor trying to make you a Roman Catholic?

I recently heard my pastor publicly accused of trying to make our church in Marshall, Michigan a 'Roman Catholic' church. The brothers and sisters in Christ who suggested this were, quite frankly, just plain silly. They have a grave need for catechesis, especially since several of them actually teach Sunday School.

The accusations reminded me of an
Issues, Etc. interview from about three or four years ago in which my favorite regular guest on that fine program, Pastor Will Weedon, read some apposite quotations from the founding father of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther.

I tried to find the episode, but couldn't, so I wrote Pastor Weedon, and he was kind enough to, amazingly, almost immediately send me the following:
No one would ever argue that C.F.W. Walther was a true Lutheran! This man who was so instrumental in the founding of the Missouri Synod wished to be nothing other than a faithful Lutheran. I’d like to offer for your consideration, then, some of his statements about the liturgy and the fear of being “too catholic”:

"It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregation is of course still very great with many people - this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, “Qui cantat, bis orat - he who sings prays twice."

- C.F.W. Walther
Explanation of Thesis 17 in “The True Visible Church”

Below is an excerpt from a Reformation sermon delivered by C. F. W. Walther in 1858. Source is listed at bottom.

"It is true that of all the church bodies which have left the papacy, it is precisely the Lutheran Church which is accused of retaining many papal abuses and of having been the least successful in cleansing itself. It is pointed out, for example, that in our church priestly clothing, church ornamentation, pictures, altar, crucifixes, candles, confession, the sign of the cross, and the like are still apparent. But, my friends, whoever regards these innocent things as vestiges of the papacy knows neither what the papacy is, nor what the Bible teaches. The very fact that the Lutheran Reformation was not aimed at indifferent adiaphora, but retained those things which were in harmony with God's Word, shows that it was not a disorderly revolution, but a Biblical reformation; for whatever did not agree with God's Word was unrelentingly cleansed from the church by the Lutheran Reformation even though it seemed to glow with angelic holiness.

"The Lutheran Reformation, however, was complete not only in the destruction and tearing down of all the idols which had been erected in the church, but also in bringing forth its treasures and in setting up its truly sacred possessions. Luther followed not only the principle, "truth and nothing but the truth," but also the principle, "and the whole truth." Therefore, through his efforts, not only this and that truth, not just half the truth, but the whole truth of Holy Scripture was opened for the church, was used, and made the Christians' common possession. Not only did the Lutheran Reformation get all its doctrines out of the marble quarry of the written Word of God, but there is no doctrine of the Word of God which it did not place on the candlesticks of the church like a heavenly light in its purity. This includes the doctrine concerning God as well as the doctrine concerning man; the doctrine concerning the foundation of salvation as well as those concerning the means of salvation and the order of salvation; the doctrine concerning faith as well as those concerning love and hope. The whole counsel of God for man's salvation was clearly and purely brought to the light of day out of the gold mine of Scripture, beginning with the doctrine of justification; namely, that a man is righteous before God and can be saved only by grace through faith in Christ without the merits of works. This laid the foundation on which the whole Christian doctrinal edifice rises like a holy diamond temple. In its holy of holies the New Testament mercy seat of the holy sacraments and the absolution is enthroned."

(Excerpt of C. F. W. Walther's 1858 Reformation sermon published in "Gottesdienst: A Quarterly Journal of the Evangelical-Lutheran Liturgy" Michaelmas 2000, Volume 8 Number 3 (2000:3), p. 12. "Gottesdienst" provides us with more from the same sermon which they reprint from: "The Word of His Grace: Sermon Selections, C. F. W. Walther", Lake Mills, Iowa: Graphic Publishing, 1978, pp. 50-53.)

In an essay delivered to a district convention, Walther said:

“We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them…. It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Papism in outward things. It is a pity and a dreadful cowardice when one sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American sects, lest they accuse us of being papistic (i.e., too catholic!). Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that the sects can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?”

We are not insisting that there be uniformity of perception or feeling or of taste among all believing Christians – neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he is. Nevertheless it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extend that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are addressed or instructed (NOTE: if he were writing today, he’d no doubt add: they look like movie theatres in which the hearers are entertained!), while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.
(Essays for the Church, Volume 1, p. 194 (St. Louis, CPH, 1992).
Thank you, Pastor Weedon!


Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Feed for Our Podcast

Law & Gospel at Zion (Sermons, Bible Classes, Eric and Polly Rapp concerts, and even sound bites from Snoopy!)

Here is a new feed for our podcast:

  1. Go to the "Advanced" menu of iTunes.
  2. Select "Subscribe to Podcast."
  3. Copy and paste the above feed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bible Class on the Royal Priesthood: Lesson #3

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

Here is this week's Bible class on the Royal Priesthood:



Protecting My Family from False Doctrine and Bad Pastors

I want to protect my family from false doctrine and bad pastors.

I know that this blog deals with honoring the Office of Holy Ministry, so it seems odd to be talking about bad pastors. But I have already acknowledged in a previous post
("The Spiritually Abused and the OHM", 7/2/07) that there are Lutheran pastors today, called and ordained servants of the Word, who are simply bad.

My family has been spiritually abused in the past by clergy who have, in the name of evangelism or 'compassion' for the lost, brushed aside the need for sound doctrine. So it was with great sadness, disappointment, and more than a few hairs standing up on the back of my neck that I read a disturbing series of contrasting quotations in an e-mail that I received this morning.

The following quotations contain language that I heard all of the time during our years in manipulative, abusive charismatic/Evangelical churches, and I thank Rev. Charles Hendrickson for pointing out the sharp contrast between them and those (further below) of C.F.W. Walther:
President Kieschnick:

"The church cannot afford to waste time on incessant internal purification at the expense of the lost in the world."
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president
http://www.lutheranchurch.ca/synod2002/fri-greetin gs.html

"We have not the luxury of time and energy spent on incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died, but who know not His name and have accepted not His saving grace."

"My concern is that we can spend so much time in incessant internal purification that we do so at the expense of the eternal destiny of people who are dying every minute."
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president

"People, this is NOT a game. Our incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died must stop!"
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president

President Walther:

"Many say, 'Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.' But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls."
--C. F. W. Walther, synodical president
"Our Common Task--The Saving of Souls," 1872

Whether our Synod gains friends or makes enemies, wins honor or invites disgrace, grows or declines in numbers, brings peace or incites enmity, all this must be unimportant to us--just so our Synod may keep the jewel of purity of doctrine and knowledge. However, should our Synod ever grow indifferent toward purity of doctrine, through ingratitude forget this prize, or betray or barter it away to the false church, then let our church body perish and the name "Missourian" decay in disgrace.
--C.F.W. Walther, synodical president
First Sermon Delivered at the Opening of Synod,
1 Corinthians 1:4, 5


Oh my dear friends of the Lutheran faith, confession, and conflict, do not be misled when today those are everywhere accused of lovelessness who still do not give up the battle for pure doctrine in our Church. . . . Oh my dear friends, let us indeed sorrow and lament over this: that false teachers constantly assail the pure doctrine in our Church and thus are at fault for the conflict and strife in the Church. However, let us never lament but rather extol and praise God that he always awakens men who fight against those false teachers, for, I repeat, this pertains to "the common salvation." . . . This conflict is one commanded us by God and is therefore certainly one blessed in time and in eternity. . . . Oh, therefore, let us never listen to those who praise and extol the conflict of the Reformation for the pure Gospel but want to know nothing of a similar conflict in our days.
--C. F. W. Walther, synodical president
"Why Dare and Can We Never Give Up
the Church's Struggle for the Pure Doctrine?" 1876

Pastors who brush aside the critical importance of sound doctrine in the name of 'compassion' for the lost have brushed aside God's Word and do not, in spite of all their pious platitudes, give a rat's behind for the unsaved. Show me a pastor who does not care about doctrine or apologetics, and I will show you a man who does not care about the lost. When they complain about others who are concerned about sound biblical teaching, they really are saying that they do not want to stand under the authority of God's Word. They do not want their doctrine or practice to be questioned.

As a lay person who almost rejected the Christian faith due to spiritual abuse at the hands of such men 'ablaze' with such a supposed 'compassion' for the lost, I became a Lutheran because of the explosively liberating doctrine of the Reformation. So now when I hear that pastors in the Missouri Synod are using the very same rationale to avoid standing under the authority of Holy Scripture, I realize that honoring the holy ministry is one thing, whereas honoring the specious, manipulative, and damnable teachings of truly bad pastors is another.
The Office of Holy Ministry ends where pastors step out from underneath the authority of God's Word, even in the name of Evangelism.

Such teaching is a public, deadly evil, and I will, by God's grace, keep my wife and children far from such men.

"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." Acts 17:11


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Paper Just Published by Rev. Joel Baseley, Emmanuel-Dearborn

"The Lord, the Keys and the Church vis a vis Synodical Offices"


"The Department of Redundancy Department"

A paper delineating the Authority and Responsibilities of the mandated Office of the Keys, theologically diagnosing current synodical confusions with remedies suggested. It contains copious Walther quotes previously unavailable in English. This paper is deep and long, but is
addressed to every member of our church vis a vis their own responsibilities for the use of the Office of the Keys.
Available in three formats:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Priesthood of all Believers: Lesson #2 (9/30/07)

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

Our second lesson on the Royal Priesthood last Sunday focused upon 1 Peter 2.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jokes & Preaching

Pastor Petersen has a worthwhile post on humor in the pulpit over at Cyberstones, and I suppose it could be categorized under Pastor McCain's recent posts:  "Because it Had to be Said."

I used to belong to a Lutheran church where sermons always seemed to begin with jokes, cheesy object lessons, or cutesy stories, and they ALWAYS seemed to undermine the death and life nature of Law and Gospel sermons.

Everyone had a good chuckle and relaxed, as nothing serious was to follow.  (Do the professors at St. Louis actually teach their students to do this?  Seriously.  Do they?)  Beginning sermons in this way seemed to be an attempt to be a good old boy and 'relevant' in an appeal to some country club style of populism.  

Every Christian should be required to read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and consider how the terrible state of public discourse in our country might be influencing the pulpits in our churches!

Cyberbrethren: Pious Pretense and Attacks Against Faithful Shepherds

Pastor Paul T. McCain makes this very wise observation:
Congregations that refuse to abide by the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word and force a pastor out who is carrying out his ministry faithfully but not according to the whims of the wealthy members in the congregation...
  • who want him to marry their fornicating children who refuse to stop living together,
  • who demand he commune their relatives who have long ago abandoned their Lutheran confession,
  • who demand that the pastor stop calling on inactive members because he is irritating them,
  • who insist that the pastor accept as baptismal sponsors people who have no interest in seeing the child raised in the Lutheran faith,
  • who do not want their pastor talking about the differences between church bodies,
  • who never want to hear the Law preached too specifically,
  • who want their pastor to be, more or less, their hired hand,
...do not deserve another pastor and it is a shame when a church official allows them to receive another one!
Of course, those who attack and oppose faithful pastors do not really want a biblical pastor, like the one Pastor McCain describes above. And such sad, lost people will rarely force a pastor out honestly, for pretense and passive aggression are always their modi operandi. Instead, they write 'letters of concern' to district presidents or do their dirty work behind the scenes or through secret ballots.

They will not openly tell a district president why they are so dissatisfied with their pastor. Instead, they will point out that 'souls are leaving the church' because the pastor is not compassionate enough, caring enough, is not open to lay readers, blah, blah, blah. Frankly, I wonder how often domineering women or hen-pecked husbands are behind such attacks: "Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path." Isaiah 3:12

May God give 'church officials' the wisdom and character to discern the truth that such disgruntled sheep are rebelling against their faithful shepherd because they are in open rebellion against Christ, our Good Shepherd. Such deceived people, more than anyone else, are in need of the faithful shepherding that they so despise. Their souls are in grave danger.

"The curses of the ungodly can be more pleasing to God than the hallalujahs of the pious." -Martin Luther

Friday, September 28, 2007

When Pastors Fail

Pastor McCain:
Over the years I've observed as pastors are put out of office unjustly. I do not deny this happens. And that it happens, when it happens, it is a tragedy.

I have also observed as pastors are put out of their office due to their own foolish behavior and malfeasance in office. What is particularly upsetting to me is that pastors put of office due to their own fault will, more often than not, attempt to wrap themselves in the flag of "confessionalism" or "orthdoxy" and claim they are being persecuted.

Such pastors should not expect any sympathy when they fail to call on the sick, the shut-in and the dying, but instead think they have more important things to do. When they are cautioned about such behavior and ignore it and persist in it. Well, it's their own fault when finally they are asked to leave. A recent example: a pastor was asked by a family to visit mom, whom they had to put in a home. He said he would. He didn't. He was asked again. He said he would. He didn't. Foolish!

I'm not making this up. This happens, and is happening. Pastors simply failing to perform the basic duties of their office. I have experienced this first-hand with a pastor who was asked to leave after he failed to call on a person who was dying, after many requests, and this was merely one of many examples of this kind of behavior on his part. And recently another pastor who has been warned repeatedly over a good length of time, continues, defiantly, to persist in neglect of his duties.

So, pastors...you make it very hard for pastors who do face persecution for being truly faithful, when you, due to your own dumb fault, are asked to leave. Enough said.

And to all the pastor out there who are being faithful, who are performing the duties of your office. Thank you! God bless.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Priesthood of all Believers, Lesson #1

"The doctrine of the Royal Priesthood is often used as an excuse to do away with any form of distinction between people. Particularly, it sets up an antagonism between the clergy and the laity, so that they are at odds with one another. This occurs time and time again. Whenever our own church body, the Missouri Synod, has addressed the Royal Priesthood in the past, it has been because there had been some type of antagonism between clergy and laity, which is sad because there is so much joy in this doctrine that is lost because it is only seen in terms of conflict." -Rev. Roger James, 9/23/07

Last Sunday, my pastor said these words as he began a new year-long Sunday Bible class series, an in-depth study of the Royal Priesthood of Believers. (Lesson #1 in mp3)

Erich and I will do our best to faithfully record all of these classes and then post them here. You can also automatically receive them by subscribing to our church's podcast, Law & Gospel at Zion.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quote for the Day

"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
-Hebrews 13:17  

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Which family ought we focus upon?

"Your family can never be a lasting source of peace."
-Roger James

What would James Dobson tells us to focus upon?  Judging from the Focus on the Family web site, he probably would not point us to Jesus Christ crucified upon the cross.

My pastor's sermon on Sunday (16 minutes) has me thinking about the idolatry of family or 'family values' among American churches.  

Praise God that Jesus is a Savior who divides and offers us true peace!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pastor Stuckwisch: Catechesis, Confession, and Admittance to the Holy Communion

"...In any case, I am more and more convinced that admittance to the Holy Communion has to be a function of active pastoral care, including the conscientious exercise of church discipline across the board. Such pastoral care ought to mean the communing of those who are baptized and being catechized in the one true faith, whereas church discipline should not require the exclusion of those disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ from His Table."

Read the whole thing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

October 5-7 Youth Retreat in Marshall, Michigan!

One way we are honoring the office of holy ministry is by organizing youth retreats for our congregation under the authority of our pastor. We have been very careful every step of the way to get our pastor's approval for what we're doing and how we do it. Most pastors don't have the time to organize such events. Ask your pastor what you can do to help him. Perhaps one way is simply by helping to organize the youth of your congregation to attend our retreat!

For all the information on this year's retreat, go to our
retreat blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Roman Catholic Bishop tells us to...

Call God ‘Allah’ to ease relations!

'Allah' is the word for 'God' in Arabic and I assume Arabic-speaking Christians use the word, but the idea of non-Arabic speaking believers in the Triune God using the word seems foolish, as imprudent as supposedly Lutheran pastors participating in the Yankee Stadium affair. The 'allah' of Islam is not the one true God.

Once again, Roman Catholicism seems to join C.S. Lewis is suggesting that Tash is Aslan and Aslan is Tash.

Ministers of the Gospel, please remember what a wiser Roman Catholic, G.K. Chesteron, once told wrote: "Tolerance is the virtue of the man with no convictions!"

Tash, the Inexorable

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Issues, Etc. Coming to Detroit

...along with Angus Menuge and Jeff Kloha for an Apologetics Conference at Emmanuel-Dearborn on September 23. Free admission. More information at http://emmanueldearborn.org/. Click on the poster to enlarge it a little.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sound Bite: Korah's Rebellion Today

Pastor Roger James on attacks against the Office of Holy Ministry 
(4 minutes, 31 seconds)

Pastor Roger James: Bible Class on Acts 11 & OHM

Today, my pastor taught on Acts 11 and discussed what a biblical elder is (verse 30) and explained, among other things, the qualifications of an elder (pastor) and the importance of the Office of Holy Ministry. 

Towards the end of class, I asked him what is at stake today as the Office of Holy Ministry is attacked, as Korah attacked Moses in Numbers 16:3:
You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?
Here is an mp3 of Pastor James' Bible class, one part of this week's podcast, Law & Gospel at Zion.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quote for the Day: Charles H. Spurgeon

"Never play at preaching, nor beat about the bush; get at it, and always mean business."
-Charles H. Spurgeon

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Loose Cannons & the OHM

This morning during a Bible class on Acts 11, my pastor mentioned that the first century church had to deal with 'loose cannons' -- those who traveled around the country preaching a variety of doctrines. One person subsequently asked him how the Office of Holy Ministry protects God's people from the 'loose cannons' of our own day. Here is his answer:
Bible Class Soundbite:
"Loose Cannons" (7.5 minutes)

Note the size of the rope in the above picture that holds that cannon in place, guarding against the danger of hundreds of pounds rolling or even tumbling toward sailors while at sea. The expression 'loose cannon' intrigued me, so I looked it up online:
"...an irresponsible and reckless individual whose behaviour (either intended or unintended) endangers the group he or she belongs to. The term originates in the Age of Sail, and wooden men-of-war. When a storm began, all cannons had to be securely fastened and tied in place; otherwise, they would roll uncontrollably around the deck, causing havoc. A loose cannon, weighing hundreds of kilograms, would crush anything and anyone in its path, and possibly even break a hole in the hull, thus endangering the seaworthiness of the whole ship..." -Wikipedia.org
There have always been loose cannons among God's people, folks like Korah, who also had to be 'tied down' by God, in a rather frightful way:
"Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?' When Moses heard this, he fell on his face. [...] The ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. " (Numbers 16:1-4, 31-33)
The Reformation saw the likes of Korah in folks like Thomas Münzer, and sadly, there are also many today who rise up against the called and ordained servants of the Lord in the Office of Holy Ministry, even in Lutheran churches, and say the very same things. Without being called and ordained, they rise up in rebellion. At times, Korah really does sound like a baby-boomer.

So if folks like Korah might be called loose cannons, what would those ropes be in the 'ship' of Christ's Church?

As a Lutheran laymen with a family that I very much want protected from being rolled over by 500 pound cannons, I look first to Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession: "Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called."

Martin Chemnitz also adds:
It is true that all Christians have a general call to proclaim the Gospel of God, Romans 10:9, to speak the Word of God among themselves, Eph. 5:19; to admonish each other from the Word of God, Col. 3:16; to reprove, Eph. 5:11 [and] to comfort, 1 Th. 4:18. And family heads are enjoined [to do] this with the special command that they give their households the instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4. But the public ministry of the Word and of the Sacraments in the church is not entrusted to all Christians in general, as we have already shown, 1 Co 12:28; Eph 4:12. For a special or particular call is required for this, Ro 10:15. [p. 29, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion]
The rope which holds cannons in place that might otherwise damage or even sink a church is indeed found in Article 14; this rope firmly secures hundreds of pounds of enthusiast cannon, as we believe, teach, and confess its truth.

In these dark days, how cool is that God not only told us where we would find His spirit (in the external Word and Sacrament), but he also points us to this divinely appointed office through which we may confidently receive them!

May God continue to protect my family, your family, and all of us from latter-day Korahs, Thomas Münzers, or in other words, the innumerable loose cannons of our day!


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Plug for My Pastor's Podcast

I have just recently resurrected Law and Gospel at Zion, my pastor's sermon podcast, and we presently only have seven subscribers. I received some kind feedback from one subscriber, Pastor Fleming up at Our Savior in Grand Rapids, who mentioned while passing through Hillsdale that he has greatly appreciated listening to Pastor James' sermons.

If you are looking for some good sermons to listen to as a supplement to your normal Word intake, I would strongly recommend subscribing. Also, if you are one of the four unknown subscribers (Erich and I are two), it would be fun to know who you are!

Here is a link with feed and subscription info.

And here is a random picture (click for larger view) of Pastor James enjoying one of Erich's hamburgers with Mark, the world's tallest historian, looking on:


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another Pearl from Pr. Weedon...

Posted on Weedon's Blog:

Hymn on St. James' Day

O Lord, for James, we praise You,

Who fell to Herod's sword;
He drank the cup of suff'ring
And thus fulfilled Your word.
Lord, curb our vain impatience
For glory and for fame,
Equip us for such suff'rings
As glorify Your name.
LSB 518:21

Young Pastors Need Special Encouragement

St. James the Hoosier (Pr. Jim Roemke) writes:
Confessional pastors need to unite in hospitality and brotherly love toward new pastors. With one of the biggest classes between the seminaries in years, this is a perfect opportunity to reach out to an impressionable and scarred group of tomorrow's pastors.
Here's a post on this from his blog:

That ol' sinful nature

As a new and young pastor I often do not "feel" like I'm really a pastor. I worried about this a lot before ordination. How could I possibly minister to my "elders" with God's Law and His Gospel? Would my congregation take me seriously?

Now that I am out here, I have found the most amazing reversal of my expectations. My beloved parish has no problem accepting me and has always shown the utmost respect for the Office and for me. What is really surprising is other pastors. I feel so out of place whenever there is a gathering of pastors. Some don't speak to me at all (a few have actually ignored me when I spoke to them!) Some are a bit condescending. Some act suspicious of the "new guy." But, overall, most don't seem to want to take any time at all to even acknowledge me.

I have to say, that ol' sinful nature really gets hurt by this. I want to be accepted by my older brothers. I really want to just sit down and talk with them openly and honestly. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple around me who have been just great.

To other newbies, has this been your experience? Am I overreacting? Is this unusual? Is there something wrong with me?

Check out the comments as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pastors, Finish the Race!

The below two YouTube videos are from the Academy Award winner for best film of 1982, Chariots of Fire, and if you haven't seen it yet, you ought to. Based upon a true story, the film has a scene (included in the first video below) in which the Prince of Wales is trying to pressure Eric Liddell (pictured right), a strict Scottish Presbyterian, to run in the Olympic Games on a Sunday, which was against his convictions.

After he continues to refuse to run on Sunday, to compromise his convictions, one member of the British Athletic Committee admits that they had attempted to separate Erich Liddell the runner from Erich Liddel the Christian, and since Liddell was a thoroughly integrated man of Christian conviction, it was not only wrong, but futile:
He did have us beaten, and thank God he did! The lad, as you call him, is a true man of principle and a true athlete. His speed is only an extension of his life, his force. We sought to sever his running from himself.
The United Kingdom could not have the runner without the Christian, as Liddell's running was a mere extension of his Christian faith.

But I wonder how much 'conflict resolution' in churches today looks the same as the meeting (in the first video) below, for I am afraid that much of such 'counseling' in the secular world is based upon the proposition that all conflicts can be resolve because of an implicit acceptance of some type of egalitarianism rooted in relativism. I pray that such thinking has not made its way into the Church!

Romans 12 has much good counsel that can guide our behavior toward those with whom we disagree, but regarding liberal 'conflict resolution' techniques, verse 18 is directly applicable:
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men!"
If possible are the two key words here. There will be times when pastors will find themselves up against the wall and must, by God's grace, stand fast to their Confession. Do not compromise! Most good pastors are certainly willing to compromise in adiaphora, but any attempts by groups or individuals to manipulate or pressure God's ministers into compromising their biblical convictions regarding the ministry of Word and Sacrament ought to be publicly exposed as evil and opposed by all of God's people.

Dear pastors, please stand firm and true in the ministry to which Christ has called you -- for our sake and the sake of our children and grandchildren!

Please finish the race!

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

-2 Timothy 4:1-7

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hey, Preacherman James!

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or at least Weird Al Yankovic seems to thinks so.

I hope that this is alright with Eric and Polly Rapp, but they now have their first cover band out here in the south-central part of the state. Some of Tim and Erich's kiddos, who call themselves 'Lutheran Chicks', have adopted and sang the Rapps' "Hey, Preacherman" to our own beloved pastor, Roger James.

Here is an mp3 and here are the lyrics:
Hey, Pastor James!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
It brings salvation to those who believe!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You tell us were sinners and Christ died for me!

We want to know what you did last week on your summer vacation,
What you saw and where you went and who you visited!
But wait to tell us after the words that give salvation,
How He lived and how He died for me on the cross!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You give us the Good News of God's Only Son!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You give us His Body and give us His blood!

We love to see you in the front teaching Bible classes,
You answer all our questions and help us understand!
Standing up to read aloud and adjusting your eyeglasses,
That troublesome Revelation's no longer a mystery!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
Not with human wisdom, you tell it to us straight!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You let us know we're foolish and lead us to the gate!

We're always looking forward to the next youth activity,
Now that Catechism's over, this is all we have!
We always have some question for 'Ask the Pastor Night',
You're ready with an answer and the answer is always right!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You tell us of Jesus who bore all the blame!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
When you preach the Gospel, you never are ashamed!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spiritual Care for Pastors

I found the link to this organization on the LCMS Word Relief and Human Care website. Here's how they describe their mission:

The primary purpose of this organization shall be to provide ongoing spiritual care opportunities for Lutheran pastors. Participants will be refreshed and equipped as a result of their participation in a program of soul care grounded in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The Center provides a safe environment for clergy to reflect on their own spiritual health and offers a program carefully crafted to help them review and enhance their professional competencies and skills. Doxology strengthens pastors so they can more faithfully pastor others.

Program Objectives:

The program curriculum:

  1. Provides resources, insights, teaching, admonition, encouragement, new tools and strategies needed to move beyond “survival functioning in pastoral ministry” to joyful service in the pastoral life and calling.
  2. Provides opportunities for immediate and ongoing care to nurture and encourage pastors whose personal lives may have been burdened by stress and isolation or wounded by sin, depression, conflict, fear, or hopelessness.
  3. Yields critical insights to enhance the pedagogy of spiritual care and counsel.
  4. Benefits from team casuistry and the experience of fellow pastors enrolled in this renewal experience.

Pastors participating in DOXOLOGY will:

  1. Prize and embrace their identity as called and ordained servants of God.
  2. Explore the art of spiritual care and enhance their skills as physicians of the soul so as to help those entrusted to their care to find health and healing in God through His gracious Word and Sacraments.
  3. Choose to benefit from individual spiritual care and personal counsel for restoration by Christ’s healing and peace.
  4. Establish and maintain meaningful professional relationships with peers through personal interaction.
  5. Return to their parish renewed, strengthened, and equipped in their vocation to preach, teach, and administer God’s Holy sacraments faithfully.

Also check out their Resources page. Looks like great stuff!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Who Ever Thought it Would be Cool to Hang Out with the Ordained?

First a quick comment: Pastor Weedon must be the favorite pastor of the HTOOHM clan. If one of us isn't mentioning him in a post, there are probably some emails flying around between us. Once again it is Will Weedon's fault that something is written in the Lutheran Blogosphere.

I returned from the fatherland and was catching up on my Issues Etc. listening and I got around to listening to the Pastor Weedon sermon on the July 9th episode (http://www.kfuoam.org/mp3/Issues7/Issues_Etc_Jul_09a.mp3).

After I listened to it, I shot Pastor Weedon an email complimenting him on the sermon.

I have a dream, and that dream is to hit the Lotto and start the Lutheran version of EWTN and I wrote Pastor Weedon that he has to take on the Father Corapi role (see this post on TUL for a further explanation: http://theunknownlutheran.blogspot.com/2007/03/yes-i-do-watch-ewtn.html)

So the correspondence starts about the mutual bad habit of EWTN watching and I started rambling on about the show "Life on the Rock"

Is Fr. Mark (Note: I was wrong as you can see by the picture - Will, please comment on Fr. Francis) the one that hosts "Life on the Rock"? You ever watch that show? Priests and Friars playing basketball hanging out with the "youth" on the big comfy couch - the "Friar-Cam". Between 18 and 20, I hung out in the rectory of an RC parish in Detroit - I was at Wayne State during the days and working midnights and when I couldn't sleep I hung out there with some friends. The priest was really cool and would just sit around and talk to us and tell about cool stuff like exorcisms. "Life on the Rock" kind of reminds me of that.... I almost converted to the church of papacy at the time, but Fr. left for another parish and the next priest wasn't so nice.

The point is that "Life on the Rock" is absolutely the cheesiest show featuring the ordained ever, but I miss this kind of experience. I miss hanging out at the church and talking freely with the ordained.

Ironically - all of the other young men hanging out with me when I was that age did not have their own father present in their lives. Our fathers were either drunk, or on to new families, or recent immigrants that didn't quite assimilate into american life. I think that is what made the hours of hanging out there special. I remember one day in which I was very tired - I hadn't slept for a few days and Fr. told me to pray more and it would help me sleep. He cared. He let us hang out. He had something interesting to say. That's what fathers do.

Every once and a while, I hang out with my own pastor, but in reality he isn't there to be my pal or the father figure I never had. A lot of care needs to be taken in such relationships, because the truth is that I am sin sick and it is his job to give me the medicine I need. Sometimes, I don't like the taste of that medicine - but without it, I only have death to look forward to. The guy I like to drink a few beers with, may need to hold me down and give me a strong dose of the Law.

The moral of my rambling is this: Basketball playing clergy, reality TV show clergy, drinking some beers with your pastor, the hippest guy in the room is wearing a black shirt with a white collar - it is awesome to have someone ordained to call your friend or father figure, but the bottom line is that he is not there to fill your need for any human relationship. He is there to bring you Jesus.