Monthly Archives: August 2010

Added Facebook Functions

Well I think I have anyway.

You can go to the facebook page page by following the links in the right sidebar or by clicking here.

Here is a ultimate sad plea, “please like us, please…” But seriously, click the like button for the St. Mark Lutheran application. We get to five users/likes we can get in the listings. I don’t want to have to register my three kids. I’d like to get a bunch more photos in the box if at all possible.

There are also like buttons for individual posts, and if you leave a comment you can cross post it to you facebook wall with a check mark. If you just press like it will publish to you wall that you like the post with a link to the post.

Some Hard Earned Wisdom

A pastor always hesitates before he adds something like this. But this post by Gordon Atkinson (aka Real Live Preacher) has a lot of wisdom in it.

Two virtues are at the root of it I think. A great humility and a sense of the corporate. American Christianity places a huge emphasis on the personal i.e. the Jesus in your heart, having a personal relationship. Not to knock those, but New Testament’s primary way of talking about the church is corporate: the body of Christ, living stones of the temple, vine and branches. In down seasons, what used to be called dark nights of the soul, you lean on the community and its practices. Let the community do the confessing for you until the sun comes back up. And ultimately let Christ do the confession. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, (Gal 2:16 KJV)”

Todd Wilken meets Brian McLaren or Modern meets Post-Modern

I’m going to post two links. The first is an interview done by Scott McKnight with Brian McLaren. The second is a link to the Issues, Etc. archives regarding an interview Todd Wilken did with Brian McLaren. The background is this. Brian McLaren is an “emerging church” guy. He is an evangelical. He’s younger, and he wants to see the conversation change. And his version of changing the conversation can be seen as heretical. Here is my basic understanding. Mr. McLaren does not like the penal substitution understanding of the cross. I’m not exactly sure that he denies it; he just thinks there are much better metaphors like freedom or peace or adoption. Mr. McLaren also wants to be a universalist regarding salvation although he will hedge that. Underneath both positions, I think, is a large understanding of the limits of our knowledge. Brian McLaren thinks we are too sure of certain understandings. Todd Wilken is a smart LCMS confessional. He takes none of that squishy uncertainty. CFW Walther, LCMS founder, once held that everything in theology was settled and all we had to do was confess it. Todd Wilken is the heir of that understanding.

After I saw the Scott McKnight interview (FYI, McKnight has serious reservations about some of McLaren’s writings), there was a spot in it where McLaren complains about how certain people didn’t have any interest in what he was actually talking about, they just wanted to grind swords on dogmatic topics. He had to be talking about Todd Wilken.

So why am I posting this stuff? I think it highlights a change in the general culture. And it is a change that drives a large portion of the LCMS out of their minds. The post-modern holds multiple opinions and might even personally think some of them are objectively true. They will argue for them. But they will try on other opinions. They are experimental. They hold a small core set of propositions as universally true, and think that it is darn near impossible to build from there. The modern starts with a small set, but believes that we have the ability to construct relatively expansive systems of truth. If you question the modern’s surety, they usually gets defensive and think that you are squishy and stupid. (Can’t you see the simple logic here! If you give up that you’ve given up justification by grace! All of this stand or fall together!) The post-modern will refuse separate from others over dogma because we just aren’t that sure. (I get the feeling that Brian McLaren’s small set truth is Jesus is the Lord who represents the Father too us. Follow him as best you can.) The modern will separate very quickly and will drill down to find the point of separation.

Now let’s bring it out of the clouds. In living together in a congregation, what is more important? Should we all be sure that we confess exactly the same large set of doctrine, or is the unity on a small set and commitment to life together more important? The 19th and most of the 20th century were a large set time. Lutherans were separate from Baptists were separate from Methodists were separate from everyone. It would have been unthinkable for a Methodist to send their kids to a Lutheran VBS. The last third of the 20th century up to today is not that. Is this a sign of gross immorality and backsliding, or a healthy reshuffling toward unity? It is possible to see church history going from large set (Aquinas in the 13th century) to small set (Luther in the 16th) to large set (Confessionalism in the 17th/18th) to small set (pietism/revivalism in the 18th/19th) to large set (denominationalism in the 19th/20th) to small set (today’s environment). The complexity of the large set works, until it doesn’t. And things get ugly when it breaks.

Q | Conversations on Being a Heretic from Q Ideas on Vimeo.

Issues, Etc interviews and discussion.

God’s Word is ______ – the VBS Litergy

Full Text of Sermon

Text: Luke 12:49-53

One of the VBS kids said something profound in the way only children can. The second day’s bible point was: God’s Word is Comforting. In quizzing the kids the next day what that main point was, one stood up, emphatically waving his hand in the air saying I know, I know. And when called on said – “God’s Word is comfortable.”

Comforting vs. comfortable. “I’ve not come to bring peace on earth, but division.” That isn’t comfortable, but it should be comforting.

In the background I continue to be amazed how often the appointed lessons for the lectionary match up with the life together in the church. Either as a reflection on events or as preparation for struggles upcoming. Of course that is the chicken and the egg problem. Since these texts are usually read first on the Sunday the prior week as I’m locking up the church, they impact the entire week. It might be just as easy to say that I’m obsessed with them for the week and so everything becomes about them regardless. But without going completely mystical – there are weeks that events over-ride the texts appointed. What I am amazed at is how infrequent that happens. When I read – “I’ve come to bring division” and saw the picture on the bulletin (flowing lava with those words) last Sunday, I said we’ll see. It didn’t seem promising. By Tuesday – divisions and events of all kinds had happened that made this sermon a easy write.

I was probably too tough in the law section. Not that these activities are not true, it is just that the people of God assembled are not really the ones to which it applies. But the text of the day, especially the OT Jeremiah 23:16-29, demanded the rough exposition.

3 minutes that can frame your next step

Wondering what to do? Watch this…

Warning – This Man Has No Ecclesiology

Here is a fun site to check in on every once in a while. Three women with a bunch of kids. Our three are put to shame. The particular post is trying to think about where church ends and politics begins. That is where the title of this post comes from. It is a reference to a Lutheran inside joke and a theologian by the name of Forde. (Ask me and I’ll explain further).

As Lutheran’s we belive in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. Big problem there is it is an article of faith. We can’t see it. Even if we could see it here and now (i.e. Rome’s claims were right), we still couldn’t see it as the una sancta is in all times and all places, many of which have gone to their reward.

Confessionally we also profess the local congregation. AC7 – where the gospel is preached the sacraments administered.

Is there anything that is “church” between those two things – the one holy and the local congregation. There are many in the LCMS who have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to say yes.

Of course saying no doesn’t relieve someone of being civil to bureaucrats, but it does remove that slightly ill feeling of doing secular things in holy spaces. I think Rebekah’s theses are on the right track. These political assemblies called churches are really political entities (in the left hand kingdom in fancy Lutheran speak). Those in them deserve civil respect. The respect you would give a judge or the police. Which is much more than they often get. But these “churches” are not repositories of the gospel. They do not speak for the one holy. They can, but that take decades or centuries to sort out and then other voices join them.

A bunch of things become clearer when we see these intermediate bodies as law oriented bodies for the sake of the gospel. You want the gospel? Go to your congregation and expect the one holy we see in Revelation. You want to effectively manage the civil affairs? Send your best people and trust that they are doing the best they can. But don’t confuse their work for the church or the gospel. Doing so is claiming the same thing as Rome, and bluntly if anyone is going to claim that, the guy in Rome has a better case.


VBS concluded this week. We had a great time and a great group of kids. He is a little of the week in pictures…

Suffering & A “Good” God

This link has a Sullivan reader giving his logic on why suffering should lead to atheism.

Here is the simple Christian answer. We have done something terribly wrong and its fouled up this entire existence. To our relative way of thinking our petty sins aren’t that bad. But to the absolute standard of holiness. We don’t measure up; and never can. The whole world groans under that weight. And some people get it worse than others. And that s*cks. The Father knows that. Knowing that he didn’t wash his hands of it. He sent His son into it. And this s*cky world did to him what it does to everybody. It kills everybody. This existence places all of us under the cross. A cross that God did not dodge. He promises not the perfection of this world, but the recreation. Everything under the cross heads to the fire. But starting with His son, and following through with all those found in Christ, we long for that new creation.

Time is lived under the cross. Eternity in the resurrection.

Claiming that you haven’t done that much bad is just a way of saying, I’m not really a sinner. Grace begins at repentance.

A Virtual Life

Took the kids (7,4) to the local summer youth presentation of Beauty and the Beast tonight. The kids performing did a great job. And I suppose it shouldn’t shock me, but it still does. How many people choose to live their life, to live the great moments of that life, behind a screen or in a box. The number of cameras, cell phones and video devices set up and how guarded the operators were was shocking.

The central song of Beauty of course hums, “tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme…” Can you ever have such a tale or a song if everything is perpetually new and captured on film? The finished product of a film, obscures the unreal life that went into its making. But we have a world dedicated to capturing the “real” moment never giving a second thought to the uncertainty principle – that the act of observing something changes it.

Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy. But it seems to me that in trying to capture our greatest moments, we have of necessity lessened them. What if you had a camera with King Arthur? The sword in the stone wouldn’t have seemed as grand. A camera following even 5000 scruffy Galilean peasants wouldn’t look as significant. Just another peasant hung on a cross. We’ve traded a real living truth for a virtual promise of meaning and immortality. This says something about us.

Struggling with Words

Its been a while since I put something up. The main reason is that I’ve been struggling with the format vs. the intent. The format of the web or specifically a blog really is an off the cuff give and take medium. Nobody enjoys a good ironic line or scathing bit of satire more than me, but most of the time that is against the intent of a congregation. Irony and Satire are at best 2nd uses of the law. They point out our failings, but unlike other methods, they are rooted in cynicism. We are sinners and this is the best we can ever expect; have a nice life. The intent of a congregation of Jesus is to refute that cynicism while affirming what casuses it. We are sinners, and this is the best we can expect right now. But we live in the hope of the new creation witnessed in the resurrected Jesus. A new creation that is never perfected here, but we certainly see it in changed lives and a million little things done every day at the urging of the Spirit.

The format is also one of speed, and the intent usually requires time. There have been many times I’d have like to put something up, but then said I’d think that goes under a church’s banner. Speed causes mistakes. Speed causes you to say things you regret. The blog is an experimental place first. It is like pan sifting for gold. There are a bunch of rocks that get tossed. That causes problems and stress when you stop to think that this is going under a church’s banner.

All that said, I came accross a quote the Rod Dreher threw up on his site here. I couldn’t not reference it. And start to think that maybe I’m expecting too much. That maybe my conflict is just a poor reason to avoid trying. That Luther’s snarky phrase – “sin boldly” – might not have a better use.

All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin. This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of the sins of Catholics; however, what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit very rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God created him in, you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time, and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly because she is a Church of sinners. … All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work through our human nature. God has chosen to operate in this manner. We can’t understand this but we can’t reject it without rejecting life.

Human nature is so faulty that it can resists any amount of grace and most of the time it does. The Church does well to hold her own; you are asking that she show a profit. When she shows a profit you have a saint, not necessarily a canonized one. I agree with you that you shouldn’t have to go back centuries to find Catholic thought, and to be sure, you don’t. But you are not going to find the highest principles of Catholicism exemplified on the surface of life nor the highest Protestant principles either. It is easy for any child to pick out the faults in the sermon on his way home from Church every Sunday. It is impossible for him to find out the hidden love that makes a man, in spite of his intellectual limitations, his neuroticism, his own lack of strength, give ups hi life to the service of God’s people, however bumblingly he may go about it.

It is what is invisible that God sees and that the Christian must look for. Because he knows the consequences of sin, he knows how deep in you have to go to find love. … You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it.

To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life, and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures; I don’t want to discourage you from reading St. Thomas but don’t read him with the notion that he is going to clear anything up for you. That is done by study but more by prayer.