Tag Archives: children

Children of God

Biblical Text: Matthew 18:1-20
Full Sermon Draft

Matthew 18 is a section held together by a verbal theme. Children or little ones are present in each little snippet. The sermon attempts to paint a picture of Matthew having a store of stories that he can’t leave out, but that don’t exactly fit into the large narrative. What emerges for me I place under a comparsion of the son of man and the son of God. While the cross represents how we (mankind) treat the children/little ones, read as the powerless and vulnerable, the Father of Jesus treats his children much differently. Jesus endures our “Fatherhood”, such that we might have His Father. Experiencing the love of true Fatherhood, we are invited to be children of God, to live it out in our lives to others. In that sense it is a sermon about love.

Worship note: I have left in the hymn after the sermon, LSB 686, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. During the service I marveled at how well its text reflected what I was attempting to preach. It is something of a classic hymn, but if you asked me it is such less because of the text and more because of the hymn tune. I’m still humming it.

To Us a Son is Given

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The recording is our Children’s Christmas Pageant. There is a short homily by me at the start and then the kids you see in the photos take over and renew the story of the Son given to us. Their bother, Immanuel.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 30:1-20 and Matthew 19:1-15

Deuteronomy 30:1-20
Matthew 19:1-15
Moses preaches the Gospel/Circumcised Hearts & The nearness of the Word
Moses’ allowance for uncircumcised hearts, divorce
The normative nature of marriage & even Jesus’ acknowledgement of its toughness

If Something Can’t Go On, It Won’t

How to say this? There are some long running arguments about society and social structure that seem to be coming to watersheds or settlement points.

Here is the anchoress as First Things talking about the Priesthood in the Catholic Church. It has seemed to me for a long time that “the spirit of Vatican 2” crowd and the “typical every sunday” Catholic was something that couldn’t go on. If I’m reading this article correctly, it sounds as if it won’t. The being nice to each other phase is over.

That debate is related to this next item in a way. Ask yourself the question does marriage precede the state? Then ask yourself the question: is a fundamental of the essence part of marriage children or is marriage simply a personal arrangement? This is the original NYT column where Ross Douthat would call those who would say “no, simply a personal arrangement” decadent. Here is my favorite finance columnist, reacting to that column and the many mean-spirited responses.

We used to live in a society where:
a) marriage was about four things: a picture of Christ and the church, mutual support, lust control and children (please look up the liturgy of marriage on LSB page 275 to see these things spelled out, I’m not making them up).
b) marriage was an institution that preceded the state and in fact formed the stable foundation (Gen 2:24 and Mark 10:7, and the 4th commandment and Luther’s explanation)
c) bright lines were drawn between expected choices, accepted choices and choices out of bounds

The emerging society: a) marriage is only about mutual support, it is an individual contract, b) it can be redefined by the state, and c) drawing of bright lines is judgmental which you have no authority to be and might even need to be “re-educated”.

If you live or believe in that old society you see the new one as decadent and narcissistic which ultimately leads to collapse. If you live in the emerging society – “Hey, don’t harsh my buzz, you evil troll”. That is a divide in worldview that can’t be sustained or bridged. If something can’t go on, it won’t.

Consider the lilies of the field…

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Luke 12:27-28 KJV)

Today was David’s (middle child’s) last day of kindergarten. He can be a delightful goofball, or in a different mood…a complete pain in the…. Well, after the end of year play, I stopped by work to pick something up before heading back out, and I was greeted by these…


Our trustees and groundskeepers do an amazing job…with a little help from the one who clothes. If God makes these that beautiful, what will he do with goofballs, o ye of little faith.

Rock-a-bye baby: A Theology of Children, Church and Family – post #1

Last month’s Lutheran Witness had a slate of articles that I was slightly shocked at. I want to explore some of that shock and some of the theology underlying it.
Here is a chart that basically spells out the problem (the chart is my compilation, pastors usually aren’t great at numbers and synodocrats don’t like publishing clear data)….

What you can see is that births per 1000 women in the US (I’ve looked at white, non-Hispanic because that is what most of the LCMS was/is) took a dramatic swing down from 1960 to 1980. Somewhere around 1970 it went below the magic “replacement rate”. What that means is that the white, non-Hispanic population of the US is shrinking. It will be smaller in the future than it is today. Communicant Membership is roughly a 10 year stagger. The LCMS by-and-large starts communion around the 12 years old. So the highest birthrate in 1960 leads to the highest communicant membership in 1970. It has been downhill since then.

That downhill slope hasn’t been that dramatic because of the other fact of our modern world – we live longer. Less kids in at the base gets mitigated by less deaths than might have been expected. The population gets older. But we can only extend those years out so far. We have more late 70’s and more 80’s and maybe even a few 90’s, but barring a major scientific breakthrough in longevity (which could happen, remember those ages in Genesis, we could find the genetic switches and a treatment), barring that breakthrough we can’t really extend that. What happens is what we currently see – a cliff. People are go-go, until they don’t go. Eventually that last major birth cohort casts off this mortal coil and we have a smaller church in a short number of years.

From the viewpoint of the church universal (the one, holy, catholic and apostolic) this might not be much of a problem. The church shrinks in the west and grows in Africa, Asia and South America. Just because whites stopped having kids doesn’t mean everybody did. From the viewpoint of American denominations this is disaster. From the viewpoint of a denominational pastor it is troubling. What that chart means is a vicious funnel for pulpits – barring a couple of things I’ll look at in this series. I can see myself about age 55-60 with churches closing left and right begging for that job at Wal-Mart or on the used car lot (because let’s face it, after 20 years in the parish at that age what would I be able to get?) and the retirement fund of the denomination that I’ve paid into for 20 years saying “sorry, we’re broke, thanks for paying for the retirement of the generation before you who caused the mess.”

Now to start setting up the problems. The first answer to any such problem could be evangelism. If we have this problem we could solve it through committed and concentrated evangelism of those who don’t look like us right now. But there is a problem with that. Those who don’t look like us, or who weren’t raised within a particular tradition, often have novel and interesting ways of carrying on the tradition. That fight that my grand-dad started, and left it to my Dad who bequeathed the vendetta to me just doesn’t carry the passion for a convert. If we were smart we’d learn from that, but we are not. Instead we moan that the newbies aren’t “confessional” enough. They obviously don’t have the pure doctrine because look at what they sing in worship, pray, hold their hands, etc. Unless you are committed to adapting your traditions to a new context, you just won’t convert enough. And if you aren’t, you compound the problem with internal doctrine wars. Which is exactly what we have seen since 1970 – the battle for the bible, worship wars, the battle for the liturgy, church growth “heresy”, missional.

Right now in the LCMS a strongly confessional faction is in political power. They got elected largely campaigning on being “your grandfather’s church”. Now smartly when they say such things they are adding they are grand-dad’s in the vein of doctrine and theology – not larger social things. Nobody likes to think that doctrine changes or theology changes. And some parts of it – like the creeds – don’t. That is what the Roman Catholic Church calls the deposit of faith. But if I take a look at the “doctrines” that my grand-dad followed: no usury, no life insurance, no birth control, no women in any leadership positions, no official women teachers, questions if English was a possible language, questions over just how kosher this democracy thing is, the list could go on… God the Father is still the maker of all things visible and invisible, God the son is still born of the virgin Mary and ruling from the right hand of the Father, God the Holy Spirit is still active in the Christian church and the communion of saints. The end note here is that churches tend to hold way too much as inviolate doctrine that is really just expression not of Christian identity but LCMS or Denominational identity. As the old joke goes – the seminarian leaves the home church loving Jesus and comes back loving the church.

So, faced with an inability to adapt practices to a new people due to “confessional/doctrinal” reasons, those in power must come up with some “solution” to the problem or at least appear to offer something. Enter the Lutheran Witness issue. Quoting from President Harrison,

Our LCMS birth rate mirrors that of the broader population of the US which is at an all-time low. So, how do we best encourage our young people to treasure marriage and have children? How do we make the point in a freeing and Gospel-oriented way? How do we encourage those capable of having more children to do so? How do we take concrete action in our congregations to care for children and encourage young parents…be fruitful and multiply. It can be a God-pleasing act to have a large, loving orthodox Lutheran family…

I think you can see what the correct doctrine and solution being offered is (hint, it looks like your grand-mothers existence). So, what I want to do in this series is look at some of the theology (which isn’t all crazy) behind the baby push. Now I’m the father of a very traditional family of three (ok, compared to what they are talking about we are slackers), so I do want to support it where I can as a true option, but I also want to look at some of the theological ugly side (i.e. if babies are gifts, and you aren’t having them, what does that mean), and I want to look at how that might not be the case.

Warning note, this series is me thinking out loud. I’m highly likely to be inflammatory and inconsiderate and make everyone mad. Because this is the true fault line in our culture, and I won’t agree with the LW expression enough for the confessional to feel comfortable, but I’ll be too natalist (especially in one area) for moderns to take. I’d love to hear your comments through-out this series, because it is in the living were this doctrine takes form.

Sunday School and Awarding Bibles

Yesterday was our first real day of Sunday School for the year. Part of Sunday School this year is the awarding of story bibles to the kids in the congregation. Here is a picture of the group.

Anne of Green Gables – On Prayer

Reading Anne of Green Gables to the 8 year old, and I’m enjoying it as much if not more than her. From chapter 7 entitled Anne Says her Prayers…

She had intended to teach Anne the childish classic, ‘now I lay me down to sleep’. But she had the glimmerings of a sense of humor – which is simply another name for a sense of the fitness of things; and it suddenly occurred to her that that simple little prayer…was entirely unsuited to this freckled girl who knew and cared nothing about God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love.

The entire chapter is a classic. It would probably teach more about how and what to pray than a hundred catechisms.

What message do you want to tell your son?

From the WSJ via the AP

A fan at a Texas Rangers game died Thursday night after falling from the stands while reaching for a baseball tossed his way by All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday the victim was 39-year-old firefighter Shannon Stone of Brownwood. City Manager Bobby Rountree said Mr. Stone had been a firefighter for nearly 18 years in Brownwood, located 150 miles southwest of Arlington.

Mr. Stone fell about 20 feet onto concrete Thursday night, tumbling over the left-field railing after catching the ball and falling into an area out of sight from the field as the Rangers faced Oakland. Mr. Stone’s young son witnessed the fall during the second inning.

Luke 12:20. But God said to him, “You fool! This night your soul is required of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”