Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Teaching about Divorce

I'm still trying to figure out a way to get to this. If you're in the St. Louis area and want to carpool (or possibly I fly up to Milwaukee and need you to drive me to Madison), let me know!

Tuesday, November 17th, DOXOLOGY will offer its first SPOTLIGHT on Ministry Conference. The Conference will address Pastoral Care Responses to Marital Struggle.
Dr. Harold Senkbeil and Dr. Beverly Yahnke will address the topics: Truth in Love: Spiritual Therapy for Troubled Marriages; Essential Tools for Hearing, Helping and Healing; and, “Pastor, We’re Getting a Divorce”: A Shepherd’s Guide.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pastoral Care Responses to Marital Struggle

Registration: 8:15-9:00 a.m.
Program begins at 9:00 a.m.
Program concludes at 4:00 p.m.

For those pastors who are traveling some distance and would like to arrive before Tuesday’s conference, as well as for men who would like to extend their conference experience, a Pre-conference program examining Personality Disorders will be offered beginning Monday afternoon.

Monday, November 16, 2009
Pre-Conference Program

Understanding Personality Disorders: Providing Spiritual Care for “Difficult People”

Registration: 2:15-3:00 p.m.
Program begins at 3:00 p.m.
Dinner, Evening Office and Fellowship follows

Registration Fees

Pastoral Care Responses to Marital Struggle, $45.00
(Includes lunch)

Both programs, including meals, lodging and reception, $135.00

Location: Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in Madison, WI 53744

Please see our website for a downloadable Registration Form

October 28 - Psalmody

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
But your work is not in vain as you abound in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). Even if your work goes nearly anonymous in the long run, like that of St. Simon and St. Jude. Still, you are God's fellow worker (1 Corinthians 3) as Christ builds the House of His Church when the Spirit of your Father speaks through you (Matthew 10:20, responsory for Apostles and Evangelists).

(Dr. Stuckwisch has this sermon for the day.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 27 - What others are saying

Pastor Weedon has this great post on today's readings. One thing I might add - could we see the Matthew 18:21-35 reading as a sermon on Deuteronomy 29:18-20's warning against idolatry/poisonous and bitter fruit/stubbornness?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Both Rev. Cwirla and Rev. Douthwaite liked today's writing from Bonhoeffer so much that they quote it on their blog today.

"We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down."

Along similar lines, fwiw, at the end of this month's church newsletter I wrote some similar thoughts to challenge my parish to think that Christ might have greater plans for us than we realize. (I don't know what's going on with the font size - if you want to read it, try cutting and pasting into a word processor, and then enlarging the font.)

What are we going to do?

That can be more of a statement of panic than an actual question – “What are we going to do?” can actually mean, “I don’t think there is anything that can be done. We’ve got no way out of this hopeless mess.” You can hear the despair in the person’s voice.

But, “What are we going to do?” could also be asked very calmly or eagerly if you have many promising opportunities. Imagine the child in the morning, excited over the possible adventures: “What are we going to do today, mommy?” Imagine the child of God asking, “What blessings do you have in store for me today, Father?”

I now ask you, the members of St. Peter Lutheran Church, what are we going to do? You and I both know our congregation has many challenges. Despite that, don’t hear me ask the question with despair, like I’ve given up. Hear me ask it calmly, in an encouraging way, inviting you to provide answers to the question, “What are we going to do?” Note the word “we” – not just what can I do better as a pastor (that certainly is a long list), but what can we do together as a congregation?

The Doxology seminars and other recent conversations have shown me that I too often approach problems in the wrong way – as if the solution all depended upon me. (Luther has a nice prayer for pastors before church that confesses, “If I am left alone I shall easily bring [the church] all to destruction.”) God has blessed you with wisdom, knowledge, experiences and talents that can lead to solutions, which I would never think of (or be able to put into practice) on my own.

Speaking of Doxology, you might remember the last newsletter article was about authority. The abuse of power is destructive, while the proper use of divinely given authority builds up the church. Sin would have us see authority in terms of a chain of command – this leader tells the person under them what to do, like in the military. And yes, there is an element of the chain of command as God tells parents to raise their children in the discipline of the Lord. But that is done to preserve the Lord’s supply chain of blessings which He authorizes us to pass along to others. So, for instance, God authorized your parents to bring the blessing of life to you – not just by giving birth, but also by supporting you with the blessings of love, care, faith, food, clothing and shelter.

Now let’s take this thought into the Church. God’s blessings go from His sanctuary to His World – from the Heavenly sanctuary to His church in the world, and then from the church’s sanctuary out to the world. Again, there is an element of chain of command, as God authorizes His Church to proclaim the Law. But the Law is used in support of the supply chain of the Gospel, as He authorizes His people to bring to the world the blessings of forgiveness, peace, comfort, joy, and eternal life in Christ – blessings which we first freely receive from Him.

We cannot control the situations that we face, but we can work on improving our responses to them. What would happen if we refused to give up, but more often expected the Lord to provide possibilities when we ask, “What are we going to do?” As we find ourselves receiving so much help by God’s grace, it makes us want to bring the blessings of Christ to His world. What are we going to do when someone sins against us? When we get frustrated? When things do not go our way? I pray that God open our eyes to see how He would have us bring His blessings to the situation, that we would respond with the patience and peace that He first gave to us in Christ.

As a congregation, we directly supported Christ Our Savior Lutheran High School by providing them with our building for their classes. Now that they have their own buildings, they only use our church for chapel services. Our quilters still use the building on Tuesdays, we have our various meetings and a few meals, I do a little work here some weekdays. When I am visiting people, or doing other things elsewhere, mostly the building very quietly waits to be used on Sunday mornings.

What are we going to do? Individually some of you still support the High School, some support various spiritual and physical aid organizations locally and internationally. As a body of believers together, is there a way for our congregation to show charity to others, besides sending in mission offerings? Is God preparing us to use our buildings to bring more blessings to our congregation – or our community? Maybe, maybe not. To do something is not always better than to do nothing – but to do some things are better than doing nothing. What about a mid-week service of Scripture and prayer, a community Bible study, establishing our own food pantry? It might sound ridiculous, but who knows – maybe years from now, God will lead this congregation to re-open its school.

No, that would not succeed if we tried doing it now. But I mention the thought for a few reasons. First, to make the point that we might be able to guess where things are headed, but only God knows what the future holds, what good He will work for those who love Him. Second, to get you to start thinking about what our congregation could do as a congregation – and talk about it! If I kept those ideas to myself, they would have died with me. If you have ideas, mention them to your fellow members, bring them up to the elders, discuss them with me, and pray to God to guide us. Even if your idea is something that cannot happen right now, it might be able to happen in the future. Or it might lead to some way to build up the church, help our community or our world right now. Who knows what we might be able to do if we put our heads together and are willing to help one another? Only God knows.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20 - Matthew 15

strangely, I've been thinking lately about various passages and they appear in the readings that day. Take for instance today. My father fell off a ladder yesterday, broke his ankle, will have surgery this afternoon. So I'm thinking about how showing father and mother honor includes praying for them. And what shows up in today's TDP reading? Matthew 15:4.

UPDATE: Dad's surgery went well. Now for the Lord to grant patience to dad and mom during an extended recovery period.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19 - Matthew 14

if you haven't read the writing for today, make sure to do so. Luther hits the nail on the head with one of my favorite themes of the Scriptures.
On another note, in this morning's chapel message at the local Lutheran High School, Rev. Ralph Laufer brought up the Markan parallel's detail, suggesting that maybe Jesus kept walking past the boat to go in front of the disciples and clear the path through the storm to the other side. Wouldn't be the only time people were scared when the Lord was working to make their paths straight.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

when you can't go to church...

today was one of those odd days for a pastor - Doctor told me not to go to church since I am probably still contagious for Type A flu until tomorrow. Funny that it's the blessed physician St. Luke's day, eh?
So this morning I thought about posting these thoughts on what to do when you can't go to church (whether Pastor or layperson). Here's at least a start to a list:
  • Repent - Not necessarily that any particular active sin has a straight line correlation to the sickness or other obstacle to attendance (unless you imbibed too much fruit of the vine the night before, which produced a hangover, or other such sin cause and effect). Nevertheless, the wages of sin is death (flu being one form of the proleptic nature of death... thankfully Christ works His healings proleptically too!). And where Isaiah and Nehemiah both confess not only their own individual sins, but the sins of their people, so also I think we can confess Adam and Eve's sin, without which there would be no flu. (I might need some correction on this thought - it seemed better before I thought it out loud.)
  • Rejoice because you miss church. This sadness is not natural. It is a sign the Holy Spirit has been at work on you (which you know all the more so if you ever spent time avoiding church.) And especially if you are a pastor, your sorrow in missing church is a sign of blessing as indicated by Ecclesiastes 5:19, for you have been blessed by God with the gift of joy in the ministry.
  • Which leads me to the next reason for praise - Rejoice because though you cannot come to church, you are blessed by Christ's ability to come to you. I only though the above thought because I heard Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 being read at Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church on KFUO-FM this morning, and then listened to a well done sermon on Psalm 84, encouraging our desire to behold the beauty of the Lord's sanctuary as we give up our false desires and come into the presence of Christ.
  • If you do not have local Lutheran services broadcast, the fact that you are reading these words means you have the internet. You are probably well aware of the sermons that can be heard on this medium. Two that I check every so often are St. John-Wheaton, IL (there's a Kleinig sermon up there from a few Sunday's back) and Resurrection, Cambridge, England - though that hasn't been updated since July and only has one sermon at a time. Ft. Wayne Sem's website has a nice web interface set up for listening to weekly chapel services too.
  • If you can listen to the whole service and not just the sermon, then sing with the congregation if you are able to. I suffered from being a bit short of breath, so I could only join in every so often. But I find comfort in those vows in the Psalms along the lines of "I will sing to the Lord forever" - since that must mean that the Lord is going to have to give me back my voice so I can sing eternally, because right now I can't.
  • I'd recommend not wasting your time watching the stuff that passes for Christian preaching on television (which hopefully not too many of your members watch approvingly when they aren't at church). Maybe do it once to confirm what you have heard - but tape it and watch it at some other time since it probably will make you sad or mad. It won't assist you in meditation upon the Lord's mercy - so spend time online listening to solid fathers in the faith who will encourage your faith.
  • And focus on it. Don't multitask. (You might not be tempted to do it, but I had to force myself to just sit and listen and do nothing else.)
  • And know that you and all the sick are being prayed for by the Church this day. And those prayers are heard and answered by the Great Physician of Body and Soul, who is omnipotent, omniscient and merciful. To Him, with the Father and the Spirit, be all glory and honor forever.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 17 - bringing out treasures old and new

You can hear what Dr. David Scaer had to say in January 2005 on Issues, etc about various passages from Matthew
The Sermon on the Mount
The Commissioning of the 12 Apostles
Parables in Matthew, Part 1
Parables in Matthew, Part 2
Matthew 18
Matthew 24 and 25
(These are whole hours, so you'll also be getting stuff on other topics)

and you can hear Rev. Randy Asburry on Ignatius of Antioch here or Rev. Rick Stuckwisch here

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ukranian Bishop uses Treasury of Daily Prayer

adding to the recent post about not being alone, here's a post introducing you to someone else with whom you pray TDP

Ukranian Bishop uses Treasury of Daily Prayer

(if you don't have TDP, and you don't have a Lutheran Service Book, you can find the OT and NT readings for the day here. just click on the day on the calendar.)

October 15 - Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13)

In his post "Jesus Does Things Backwards", Rev. Petersen makes the point that that is the key to understanding parables, worship, and the office of the Ministry. Yesterday's text hits all three of those realms.
A few years back I read a sermon on the parable of the Sower by Rev. Lance O'Donnell, a classmate of mine. He started out having his listener picture all these John Deere tractors driving down the main street in town, spraying seeds everywhere - the street, office buildings, stores, etc. As ridiculous as that sounds (what modern farmer would waste valuable seed in a city?), so also it sounded ridiculous to Christ's first hearers - the seed is too valuable. No sower would cast seed on a path, amongst weeds, etc. No sower except Jesus Christ - and the ministers He sends to scatter His Word behind Him.

O Lord, we praise you for being extravagant with your redemption, paying with Your precious blood not only for our sins, but for the sins of all the world. Send Your Holy Spirit that Your ministers would not be discouraged, but even scatter Your Word in the most unlikely of places, that it might bear fruit of thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 13th (nothing connected to TDP)

I preached something like this in the Lutheran High School chapel here this morning. The material from John 20 is based on an Easter 2 sermon from Pastor Weedon. (For something about today's TDP readings, check out how he connects the OT text to the Eucharist here.)


Quick Poll – How many wish that today was Friday?

How many are glad that today’s not Friday, because then it would be Friday the 13th?

How many do not care that November will have a Friday the 13th? That day in November happens to be my birthday, so I do care about it – and no I don’t think it will be a day filled with bad luck.

There’s a number of superstitions in our world. If you’ve ever been to Dynasty, or some other Chinese restaurant, you’ve probably seen the Chinese zodiac and figured out what animal you are according to what year you were born. It’s funny to me that it says that my wife and I bring bad luck to my oldest daughter, so she should avoid us because of the animals we are.

Weddings have their own share of superstitions. The Bride is supposed to find something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue to bring good luck. And it is extremely bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding. As a pastor, I meet with the couple a few times before the wedding. One of the things I do is encourage them to have as many wedding pictures taken as possible before the service. Which means the bride and groom see each other before the wedding.

It is just a superstition – besides, we are to fear love and trust in God above all things, even superstitious luck, because we are to have no other gods than Him. As we said in Psalm 27 this morning, the Lord is our light and our salvation. Shall we be afraid of bad luck? Shall we be afraid of the number 13? No, the Lord is the stronghold of our life.

Now, we might be afraid of God – or at least a bit uncertain about what He thinks about us. After all, we have not kept that First Commandment. We have acted as if He was not in control of our lives, as if luck had more power than He did, as if we have more power than He does. Our approach to life is pretty offensive to the Lord who can destroy both body and soul in Hell forever.

Yet consider what kind of God this is. Again and again when His people are terrified because either He arrives in His world, or the angels in all God’s holiness arrive, again and again scared sinners here this message from God: “Do not be afraid.” Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes, and God comes not to destroy them, but to invite them out and into His salvation in the Son of Man who will come years later to destroy the devil’s work.

Or in today’s Gospel text, with the Disciples on Easter evening locked away behind the closed doors for fear of the Jews. The Jesus who has defeated death and risen from His grave, appears to them – not to destroy them for abandoning Him and being a bunch of faithless cowards on Good Friday. Jesus does not hold a grudge. But neither does He simply ignore their failure and pretend they never sinned. Rather our Lord and our God arrives to forgive them and release them from the condemnation that is worse than any imagined bad luck. “Peace be with you,” He says.

And then God sends them out as His ambassadors. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you… If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld” (20:21, 23). It was not enough that the Father sent the Son to suffer and die for the sins of these disciples. More scared to death sinners must be made alive, until His Kingdom is filled with people from every tribe and people and language. So Jesus sends the Apostles out with the authority to preach, baptize, and feed the Supper to people in His name. He puts forgiveness in their mouths for a world lost in the same sins that had held these men as prisoners. His Word of peace is sent to people locked in the darkness where we hide, not just hide from bad luck, but we hide from each other because we are afraid of them. That is what our sin does – it isolates, divides, and alienates us, it tears apart what God has joined together. We refuse to step out, but Jesus steps in. He comes to us in the Christians He sends to us, with His word of pardon for our false superstitions. The times we have been ungrateful to Him for His goodness because we were too busy trusting good luck – those times are all forgiven by the Lord who says to you, “Peace be with you.”

The Apostles from the Scriptures tell us to look at the wounds of Jesus. Look at the wounds that killed Him when He hung on the tree. These wounds are for you. There is no sin of yours that He did not answer for upon His cross. Not one. And His risen body shows that the sacrifice He once offered was totally pleasing to God the Father, who raised Jesus and “exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior,” to give you repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:30-31). Look at the wounds of Jesus! They tell you of the eternal love that was in the heart of God for you before time began. The Holy God was willing to embrace your sin and your death in order to swallow them up with His mercy and life.

Whether today is the 13th or not, a Friday or not, as the Scriptures say, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). The Bible does not speak about good luck or bad luck, but it does speak about blessings and curses. And whatever curses do come your way, we will rejoice because God knows about it – and He will work the curse into something that will eventually be good for you. I do not know whether Good Friday was on a 13th or not, but look what God did with the evil murder of Christ on the Cross – the Lord has turned that evil into your eternal blessing, to forgive your sin and bring you to Paradise, the place where no one will even think about bad luck. So we can rejoice and be glad in this day, for your eternal Christ has blessed you with the freedom to step out of locked rooms and fearful lives and the darkness of unbelief. You are blessed to go out into the world rejoicing in the good news of sins forgiven in the name of the crucified and risen Jesus. You have no bad luck. You are blessed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12 - Prayer of the Day

"Be merciful to us by healing us from all our sins and diseases, that we may be merciful to others..."

D0xology's Shepherd's Anthology just quoted this from Bonhoeffer on the Church's care for the sick.

October 11 - Gospel

Who does not labor? Who is not heavy laden? Who is not seeking rest? Thank you, Lord, for inviting all people to You. In fulfillment of Your promise, provide rest for the souls of the sick, the suffering, the persecuted, the unemployed, the tempted, the leaders and the people who follow them (as well as for fans of the Cardinals, Twins, Red Sox, Tigers, and Rams). Amen.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 10 - Psalmody

as I prepare to preach tomorrow and read Psalm 106:2, I was reminded of the critique I received on my first sermon - "Jim, remember you can't preach the whole counsel of God in one sermon."

Who can declare all the Lord's praise indeed. Holy Spirit, help me to proclaim Your Word clearly and keep me from babbling on endlessly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

not alone

back from the EXCELLENT SID Pastors' Conference. I'm hoping that sermons will be posted so I can direct you to them - which were based on the TDP readings (so, as mentioned in the previous post, you were not alone in meditation on those Scriptures - you had a whole group of pastors praying them with you), and yesterday's upon both the Matthew text and Muhlenberg.
anyway, you know how it is when you're gone - the work piles up and you have about 6 days of work to do in two. I hope to post some thoughts on the conference, but it might not be until next week (if ever.)
btw, if you have The Lutheran Study Bible, check out the wording of the dedication page. very cool.


Monday, October 5, 2009

I'll be gone, but you're not alone

Pastors' Conference time in these parts - so I won't be back to blogging until Thursday at the earliest. I get to see Weedon, who just posted this comment from a friend on not being alone while reading from TDP.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 3 - Psalmody

Psalm 119:9-16 is a quite fitting prayer as one prepares to preach. Perhaps that could be said of much of Psalm 119.

Friday, October 2, 2009

October 2

  1. Psalm 3 reminds me of the collect for Vespers, asking for God's protection during the night. that God protect us not from our enemies per se, but from the fear of our enemies. (Think of the sins committed by Abraham, King Saul, Peter, et al because they were afraid of what man could do to them.) Long before the collect was written, Psalm 3:5-6 had put together the themes of sleep, the Lord's sustenance and protection from fear.
  2. Is the Deuteronomy reading giving us an example of Moses failing like we do, blaming others when it was really his fault? For he says that "The LORD was angry with me because of you..." (3:26)... Numbers 20 would indicate it was "because of Moses" not "you". The Lutheran Study Bible gives that reference in the notes (without pointing out the "not really because of you" aspect. AND it has a great quote of Luther from AE 9:42, pointing out that though, like Moses, we are not heard by God, He still gives us evidence of His favor, even as He gave Moses to see the Promised Land.
  3. "Whatever you wish that others would do to you..." (Matthew 7:12) follows right after the section on prayer. We pray for others even as we wish they would pray for us.
  4. Brilliant Writing by Gerhard. In some places of this selection, it sounds a bit like prayer is a means of grace. Since it is Friday, I started thinking of the final four points in terms of our Lord's first prayer from the Cross (Luke 23:34):
  • God's omnipotent kindness - omnipotence without kindness is dangerous for us. Kindness without omnipotence leads to, "I wish there is something I could do, but I can't." His kindness is all-powerful over our sin as the Father does forgive us.
  • God's unfailing truthfulness - just think if God's promise to forgive was really just an example of Him pulling our leg. yikes.
  • Christ's intercession as our mediator - case in point, this prayer from the Cross. Kleinig uses the example of Christ giving us a piggy back ride into the Holy of Holies
  • The Holy Spirit's Testimony - without His bringing to mind all the Lord had spoken, inspiring Luke to write what he had heard from others, we would not know this prayer had been prayed.

for what it's worth...

October 1 - Psalm 130

a good psalm to have read on the day I visited my Father Confessor - in this case, after the visit. A reminder that though I still see the earthly consequences to my sins (and even have fell back into some of those failings I confessed), I am to hope in the Word of the LORD that promises there is forgiveness with Him, and thus enough plentiful redemption even for my lot of sins, and those of all the Church (v. 8).