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Archive for August, 2007

Simpsonize Me

August 31st, 2007 Comments off

Mccain_simpson_invert_2

Apparently, if I was a Simpsons character, I would look like this. Might be an improvement on the real me. I think he has more hair on the forehead. You too can be "Simpsonized."

Categories: Uncategorized

What We Don’t Want to Admit To Ourselves

August 28th, 2007 9 comments

New church plants! Contemporary worship! One requires the other, right? Ah, well…perhaps not. A "contemporary/relevant worship" guru has second thoughts.

For all the money, time, and effort
we’ve spent on cultural relevance—
and that includes culturally relevant
worship—it seems we came through
the last 15 years with a significant
net loss in churchgoers, proliferation
of megachurches and all.

You need to read this article.

More Thoughts on Sermon Length

August 28th, 2007 9 comments

We are having a good discussion about my recent post about sermon length. One younger brother in office told me that he felt I was saying that pastors who preach ten minute sermons are being unfaithful. I can understand why he might feel that was my intention. He also indicated he preaches 10-12 minute sermons, etc. Jim, my friend, I was not saying you are being unfaithful because you don’t preach twenty minute sermons. And that goes for the rest of you.

I certainly do not believe that short sermons are necessarily bad, but I can’t help but wonder how or why we have moved from regarding the sermon and its length differently than all our fathers in the faith, from the Early Church period to the Reformation period, down to our own times. This is what I mean by a "starvation diet." If I do say so myself, I can’t help but wonder if I might have a point. Bear with me, if you will.

One comment in particular in the previous post’s discussion, I thought, nailed the point I’m trying to make. Dr. Aaron Wolf is commenting on something my good friend Pr. David Petersen said about this subject. I’ll just put Aaron’s comment here for your consideration.

Pastor Petersen writes that "I think [the Rev. McCain] wants expository, didactic sermons."  He also notes that "This, despite what he wrote in Law and Gospel, was Walther’s view. It was also Luther’s view despite what he occasionally said. So also: Chyrsostom, Leo the Great, Gregory, Augustine, etc."

Doesn’t that jibe with the quotation from the Apology below?

"On the contrary, in our churches all the sermons are occupied with such topics as these: of repentance; of the fear of God; of faith in Christ, of the righteousness of faith, of the consolation of consciences by faith, of the exercises of faith; of prayer, what its nature should be, and that we should be fully confident that it is efficacious, that it is heard; of the cross; of the authority of magistrates and all civil ordinances [likewise, how each one in his station should live in a Christian manner, and, out of obedience to the command of the Lord God, should conduct himself in reference to every worldly ordinance and law]; of the distinction between the kingdom of Christ, or the spiritual kingdom, and political affairs; of marriage; of the education and instruction of children; of chastity; of all the offices of love."Click through to the rest of the post as I put forward some more thoughts.

Contrast this with what another friend posted about the goal of sermons. I think we have here a helpful "case study" in precisely what is going on today with sermons.

My thoughts on sermon length and the content are simple: it should be
as long as it takes to tell your flock that they are sinners who
deserve nothing more than eternal damnation from a holy and just God;
God, the One Holy Trinity, has looked upon His people in mercy and has
sent His only begotten Son, true God and true man, to earth to live the
holy life we are unable to live, to die as a holy, perfect and complete
offering for our sins, and to be raised to new life for our complete
justification. This Jesus Christ is our sufficiency, our completeness
and in Him we live new lives. In Him we are everything God wants us to
be.

My reaction to this comment would be simply to say, respectfully, "Really? Is this really the only point of our sermons?" If so, frankly, you could simply stand in the pulpit and say these very words, in all of two minutes, if that.

Here is another post from a younger brother in the ministry that well summarizes what we have all been taught at the seminary for the past several decades.

Is a preacher first and foremost a herald of the Gospel, or is he first
and foremost a teacher. Is my goal on Sunday morning to proclaim Law
& Gospel, or is it to teach the hearers something new? I believe in
the former–but many of the sermons found on Sunday mornings seem more
geared toward the latter. Do we "intentionally" preach sanctification
in our sermons (in other words, do our sermons end with "Go and do
likewise"), or do we simply preach the sternness of the Law and trust
that the Holy Spirit will work all three uses of the Law in the lives
of the hearers? I haven’t made up my mind on this one. My basic point
is that our church could do a better job distinguishing a "theology of
preaching."

This is a very interesting comment and points to precisely where I believe we need to do some serious, very serious, rethinking. Is the pastor a preacher or a teacher? I would say he must be both. We are commanded to keeruxon ton logon, to "preach the Word" and the same Apostle who penned those words under the Spirit’s inspiration listed this as an absolutely essential attribute of one who aspires to the churchly office he must be apt to teach. I believe we have probably gone wrong by making this distinction in such a manner as to suggest that the sermon is preaching and teaching is teaching. We never want to teach anything "new" but we do want to declare the whole counsel of God.

Let’s keep mulling this over brothers. The Church deserves our best thinking on this and I for one have over the past fifteen years or so gone through a serious reconsideration of all these things, particularly as I have spent more time reading sermons from our fathers in the faith.

Read more…

Categories: Sermons

The Unsung Joys of the Ministry

August 28th, 2007 Comments off

Read this post. Such things do not get a lot of "press" these days in church publications. Rather, we are regaled with tales of the newest, latest, greatest programs, movements, techniques, plans, visions, mission statements. We read about honorary degrees, and grand expenditures and national gatherings, conventions, gatherings and the like. How refreshing it is then to read a post like this one from, as the sainted Dr. Barry would describe him, a "GI Joe Pastor." And we all know who always fights the real battles, who stand at the front lines, who lead the charges and who ultimately are used to win the war: the GI Joes! Thanks Brother Engebretson for the wonderful post reminding us all that the ministry of the Church is not measured by vast numbers, by grand plans, by dramatic stories, by emotional events, but by faithfulness, by proclamation of the Gospel, by care for the least of our brethren. What joy to know that this is what is going on, day-in and day-out, across the Missouri Synod. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Uncategorized

New Roundtable Discussion at Book of Concord blog

August 27th, 2007 Comments off

We are on to a new roundtable conversation at the Book of Concord blog site. Check it out at:

Categories: Uncategorized

Baptism by Fire Hose

August 27th, 2007 1 comment

Yes, apparently, there is such a thing as baptism by fire hose, begun in the 1920s. You may read about it here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Are sermons too short in our congregations?

August 27th, 2007 25 comments

More and more Lutheran pastors are putting their sermons up on their blog sites. Some posting the audio, others the text. I have noticed with increasing frequency sermons that are only 10-12 minutes long, 15 minutes is often a "long" sermon. I’ve even noticed sermons that are only 8:30 minutes long. I do not think it is wrong to say  that if we are delivering sermons that are only 10-12 minutes long we should not be surprised that after putting our folks on this kind of sermonic starvation diet they really have little grasp of the Christian faith. I’m concerned. Your thoughts?

Categories: Uncategorized

“A Remarkable Predilection for Small Numbers”

August 26th, 2007 4 comments

I was looking through some of my papers and came across this copy of a
letter that Hermann Sasse sent privately to a group of LCMS leaders in
1964. Prophetic, timely, timeless, wisdom.

Private letter by Hermann Sasse
June 24, 1964

"If I say something foolish, please bear with me. But speak I must as
a representative of a generation which is now slowly dying out. It is
the generation of Lutheran pastors who after the First World War when
the churches in Germany were reorganized tried, under the leadership
of the great churchmen like Wilhelm Zoellner, to restore the Lutheran
Church in Prussia; who later started, over against the claims of
secular political powers on the Church that movement which has become
known as the "Confessing Church" in Germany. It is the generation of
those who in the Lutheran World Convention under the leadership of men
such as Moorehead, Ihmels, Ralph Long, Michael Reu, tried to gather
the Lutherans of the world against the rising world unionism, and who
did what they could, in the old World Conference on Faith and Order at
Lausanne, 1928, and later to build up the coming "Oikumen" as a
federation of the great confessional churches. We failed because the
doctrinal substance of the Protestant churches, including those who
claimed the Augsburg Confessions had vanished to such a degree that
they could not resist the raging currents of a world syncretism in
which the substance of the Christian faith will vanish and in which
the Church of the Gospel will perhaps exist "as a cottage in a
vineyard . . . as a besieged city" (Is. 1:8), as small minority groups
comparable to the remnants of the old Christian churches in the
post-Christian, Mohammedan era of the Orient, or as the oppressed
churches in the Communist world today. For this will be the true
destiny of the true Church of Christ even if the phantastic [sic?]
plans of the "One World Church" under the leadership of Rome should be
realized. It is from personal experiences in Germany and other
European countries, from studies in the U.S.A. and from many years of
ecumenical studies that I look upon your situation and ask for your
forbearance in putting before you some thoughts.

"Our Lord has always shown a remarkable predilection for small numbers
and little flocks. Instead of organizing vast evangelistic campaigns
He has, in the terms of modern missiology, wasted His time by seeking
the individual, leaving the ninety-nine in the desert for the one lost
sheep. We modern Christians seem sometimes to think and act as if He
said: ‘Where two or three millions are gathered in my name . . . "
Besides, the small Free Churches represent in all weakness the faith
for which the Fathers of Missouri left their old country. We should be
very carful not to condemn our own fathers and so to destroy the very
foundations of our church. Moreover, what Missouri’s commission may
teach on such questions as Revelation and Inspiration does not only
concern its sister churches but all Christendom. For up to this day
Christians of all denominations have looked at Missouri as the
stronghold of Orthodox Lutheranism. The repercussions of a false
decision may have a detrimental effect on the churches that claim to
be still churches of the Reformation, as, on the other hand, a sound,
Biblical decision may be a blessing for many churches, even outside
the Lutheran orbit. It belongs to the very nature of any true
confession that it is made "in the presence of God and of all
Christendom before both our contemporaries and our posterity" (FC,
Conclusion).

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Reclaiming Walther

August 22nd, 2007 3 comments

Walther_2
A post from a week or so ago about church polity elicited two interesting reactions: One, I heard from those who regard the historic episcopate to be the "magic bullet" fix to all woes and ills facing the Lutheran Church here in America. They are wrong, of course. Second, I heard from a person who claimed I had, with my post, fallen from the one, true faith because I denied that "Supreme Voters’ Assemblies" were divinely mandated. And he was wrong, of course.

It is always a dangerous thing to read Walther selectively. In his first presidential address CFW Walther makes the point that there is no one divinely instituted way for a congregation, or church, to choose to govern itself. In such things, there is freedom. He make it clear that there are times and circumstances in which a church, or congregation, may choose, in Christian freedom, to hand governance of the church over to representatives. Read it for yourself and than ask yourself how it is that anyone who has spent time reading Walther could ever conclude that Walther regarded so-called "Supreme Voters’ Assemblies" to be the one and only and truly divine mandated form of church governance. I have no problem with voters’ assemblies. They are fine. They have worked well and can work well. They are however no more "divinely mandated" than any other form of congregational organization and governance. There were no "voters’ assembly" as we have them today during the Reformation era. Luther’s congregation in Wittenberg had no "voters’ assembly." It was governed by a small council of educated townsmen with the clergy.

Walther’s whole point is that there is FREEDOM in such issues and no congregation can claim, over against another,

‘We know how you need to organize yourselves and unless you do it this way, you are not Lutheran."

The key is the Word. Only faithfulness to the Word, not even Supreme Voters’ Assembly, can assure the orthodoxy of a church body or congregation.  It is tragic to notice the extent to which misinformed individuals are now even making an argument that it is the voters’ assembly that establishes the Real Presence in the Sacrament.  We must reclaim Walther from those who misrepresent him. Walther said:

"Undoubtedly our congregations were free to follow this example and to invest the synod
  meeting in their name with a power beside the power of the Word; but it is a different question whether it would have been wise if they had done so. I say no, because under the prevailing circumstances we can confidently hope for auspicious success of our work, or rather of God’s work which we are promoting, if we use only the power of God. This is the
  second reason why we should and can carry on our work with joy, although we have no power but the power of the Word.

"Perhaps there are times and conditions when it is profitable for the church to place
  the supreme deciding and regulating power into the hands of representatives.
Who, for
  instance, would deny that at one time the consistories
in our German fatherland were an
  inestimable blessing, especially when the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled in the
  German Lutheran Church: "And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy
  nursing mothers" (ch. 49, v.23)? Which person acquainted a bit with history would
  deny that the Swedish church grew splendidly under its episcopal constitution, especially
  so long as men like Laurentius Petri, the famous Swedish translator of the Bible and
  student of Luther, bore the episcopal dignity, and so long as men like the two Gustavuses
  wore the royal crown of Sweden? If, however, we glance at the conditions in which the
  church finds itself here, we can hardly consider any other constitution as the most
  salutary except one under which the congregations are free to govern themselves
but enter
  into a Synodical organization such as the one existing among us with the help of God, for
  enjoying fraternal consultation, supervision, and aid to spread the kingdom of God jointly
  and to make possible and accomplish the aims of the church in general.

It is true, if our congregations had granted us full power to decide and decree in
  their name, it apparently would have been easy for us to give all of the congregations of
  our territory the form of truly Lutheran congregations, whereas with our present
  constitution our hands appear to be tied. But this only seems to be the case. Even though
  some congregations may use the liberty they possess of rejecting our recommendations even
  if they are salutary; thereby they indeed deprive themselves of a blessing. But what would
  be the result if such congregations by their entrance into our organization had obligated
  themselves to submit to all of our orders? The exercise of our power would have laid the
  foundation for constant dissatisfaction, for constantly reviving fear of hierarchical
  efforts, and thus for endless friction. In a republic, as the United States of America is,
  where the feeling of being free and independent of man is nourished so strongly from
  childhood, the inevitable result would be that any restriction beyond the limits drawn by
  God Himself would be empty shells, and our apparent growth would often be nothing but a
  process of becoming stiff and dying in a great mass of lifeless forms. Our chief battle
  would soon center about the execution of manufactured, external human ordinances and
  institutions and would swallow up the true blessed battle for the real treasure of the
  church, for the purity and unity of doctrine. In a word, we would lose sight of our
  beautiful aim of building the true church, which is not an external scaffold, but the
  kingdom of God in the heart of men and at best ourselves bring about our early
  dissolution. To be sure, there are religious organizations in this republic which in spite
  of their strictly representative form of government are being built without antagonism and
  are prospering in their manner, but why? Because the congregations are not permitted to
  come to a knowledge of their liberty and their consciences are bound in favor of their
  form of government by false doctrine. In our Evangelical Lutheran Church, however, we must
  preach to our congregations that the choice of the form of government for a church is an
  inalienable part of their Christian liberty and that Christians as members of the church
  are subject to no power in the world except the clear Word of the living God.
There the
  above mentioned disastrous results are certainly to be feared from any restriction of the
  liberty of the congregations, especially in a republic such as ours is."

Source:
http://www.reclaimingwalther.org/articles/cfw00001.htm

 
 

Categories: CFW Walther

Google Earth….Amazing

August 22nd, 2007 2 comments

The latest version of Google Earth allows you to explore the night sky. Truly a "wow" moment. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. If you are not amazed, I’ll…well, I’ll do something. Probably think negatively about you for a moment or two.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Name of God: Does It Matter What We Call Him?

August 20th, 2007 11 comments

First Things knocks one out of the park….

By Robert T. Miller

Monday, August 20, 2007,  7:07 AM

Tiny Muskens, the Roman Catholic bishop of Breda in the Netherlands, says that Dutch Catholics ought to pray using the word Allah rather than God
or its synonyms in Dutch. Muskens argues that it makes no inherent
theological difference in which language one prays, and he notes that
in countries where the word Allah is in common usage as a name for God, Christians already often use the word in their prayers. Adopting the word Allah,
Muskens thinks, will eliminate “discussions and bickerings” between
Muslims and Christians and so improve relations between the religions.

Muskens is right that, from a Catholic point of view, there is
nothing inherently wrong in saying “Allah” for “God,” just as there
would be nothing inherently wrong in saying “Miny Tuskens” or “Tuny
Miskens” for “Tiny Muskens.” The problem, of course, is Tiny Muskens’
name is Tiny Muskens, and anyone who called Tiny Tuny or Muskens
Miskens would be making fun of him. So, too, in theology; despite the
conventionality by which strings of phonemes get their meaning, once
names have been established, people who change them are doing so for a
reason, and the nature of that reason counts in determining whether the
change is reasonable or unreasonable, advisable or inadvisable.

In this case, even from a Catholic point of view, the name of God is
not a pure triviality. When at the burning bush Moses asked God for his
name, the Lord gave a very particular answer. “God said to Moses, I am
who am. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered
throughout all generations” (Exod. 3:14–15). Many devout Jews treat
this name, especially in Hebrew, with such reverence that they will not
speak it aloud. And when Christ appropriated this name to himself (John
8:58), everyone understood that he was proclaiming his own divinity.

On the other hand, some Muslims believe that the phonetic string
“Allah” is an especially appropriate name for God, in part because, in
their understanding, “Allah” has no feminine or plural forms. Thus,
even many non–Arabic-speaking Muslims refer to God as “Allah” and do so
for reasons of theological importance in Islam. Hence, it’s unclear
what might be at stake theologically in the unlikely event that anyone
were to take Muskens’ proposal seriously.

But debating the merits of Muskens’ suggestion misses the larger
point here. Muskens makes it sound as if the problems in
Muslim–Catholic relations were merely silly arguments about semantics
that distract from the truly important things on which we all agree. In
fact, there is a serious, substantive problem dominating
Christian–Muslim relations at the moment, the same problem that
dominates Muslim–Jewish, Muslim–Buddhist, Muslim–Hindu, and
Muslim–Orthodox relations, and that problem is that Muslim fanatics
keep murdering innocents of all faiths, including their own, in terror
attacks.

In Muskens’ own Holland, for example, a Muslim fanatic killed filmmaker Theo van Gogh on November 2, 2004—though killed
does not quite convey the full meaning here, for the perpetrator shot
van Gogh eight times, cut his throat almost to the point of
decapitation, stabbed him in the chest, and left two knives plunged in
his torso, one attaching a five-page note (text available here)
threatening the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and railing against Western
governments and, of course, the Jews. And then there were the train and
bus bombings in London on July 7, 2005 (52 dead); the school massacre
in Beslan in North Ossetia-Alania on September 1–3, 2004 (334 dead,
including 186 children); the train bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004
(191 dead); and of course the spectacular atrocities in the United
States on September 11, 2001 (2,974 dead). For that matter, just last
week Islamic terrorists in Iraq detonated four truck bombs, flattening
whole villages and murdering at least 250 Yizadis (the Yizadi religion
combines elements of Islam and pre-Islamic Persian religions).

I realize that the many responsibilities of a bishop can make it
difficult to keep up with current events, but I think Muskens must have
heard about these things. It is puzzling, therefore, that he doesn’t
see them as having the importance for Muslim–Christian relations that
most other people do. To be sure, there are other problems between
Muslims and Christians, but anyone with a normal sense of morality
recognizes immediately that such other issues pale in comparison with
the wholesale slaughter of innocents. Muskens’ suggestion is thus
strangely, even perversely, disconnected from real-world problems.

Worse, in saying that the things that divide Muslims and Christians
are products of human invention, Muskens seems to imply that, on
fundamentals, there is no difference between Muslims and Christians.
The prevalence of Islamic terrorism refutes this simpleminded notion,
but there is an even larger point here. Chesterton explained it well long ago:

There is a phrase of facile liberality uttered again and
again at ethical societies and parliaments of religion: “the religions
of the earth differ in rites and forms, but they are the same in what
they teach.” It is false; it is the opposite of the fact. The religions
of the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly
differ in what they teach. It is as if a man were to say, “Do not be
misled by the fact that the Church Times and the Freethinker
look utterly different, that one is painted on vellum and the other
carved on marble, that one is triangular and the other hectagonal; read
them and you will see that they say the same thing.” The truth is, of
course, that they are alike in everything except in the fact that they
don’t say the same thing. An atheist stockbroker in Surbiton looks
exactly like a Swedenborgian stockbroker in Wimbledon. You may walk
round and round them and subject them to the most personal and
offensive study without seeing anything Swedenborgian in the hat or
anything particularly godless in the umbrella. It is exactly in their
souls that they are divided. So the truth is that the difficulty of all
the creeds of the earth is not as alleged in this cheap maxim: that
they agree in meaning, but differ in machinery. It is exactly the
opposite. They agree in machinery; almost every great religion on earth
works with the same external methods, with priests, scriptures, altars,
sworn brotherhoods, special feasts. They agree in the mode of teaching;
what they differ about is the thing to be taught. Pagan optimists and
Eastern pessimists would both have temples, just as Liberals and Tories
would both have newspapers. Creeds that exist to destroy each other
both have scriptures, just as armies that exist to destroy each other
both have guns.

That freethinking secularists can fail to see that there are
critically important differences between religions is unsurprising;
such people are notorious for their inability to understand any point
of view other than their own. That a bishop of the Catholic Church,
however, might make the same mistake is much more disturbing. Bishops
are still expected to know something about theology.

Our blessed Lord told his disciples that he was sending them “out as
sheep in the midst of wolves” and so they “should be as wise as
serpents but as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10: 16). I am happy to
acknowledge the innocence of Tiny Muskens, but he is exactly the kind
of sheep who, if he ever met a wolf, would likely get eaten by it.

Robert T. Miller is assistant professor at the Villanova University School of Law.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Brave New World

August 20th, 2007 4 comments

One of the most disturbing reports I’ve read in a long time: artificial life.

Categories: Sanctity of Life

Google Cyberbrethren

August 19th, 2007 1 comment

A number of you have asked me for a way to search my blog. Honestly, I’ve wanted a way to search my blog, for I’ll often be asked about something I’ve blogged about months, or years, ago and I have only the foggiest of an idea where to find it. So, I poked around Typepad and found that they offer a Google search function, duh. How long has that option been there? I have no idea. But now it is here, for your searching pleasure. If someone has a better idea how I can make a search function available here, please let me know, but for now Cyberbrethren is formally Googleized.

Categories: Blogging

Making the Case for an Earlier First Communion Age

August 18th, 2007 35 comments

Update: I learned in the conversation that has taken place in
the comment section under this post that in fact Dr. Stuckwisch is not
requiring children who are presented to him for first communion to have
committed to memory the basic/primary texts of the Small Catechism,
which are: Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Confession, Lord’s
Supper. I would therefore moderate my support for his comments and
indicate that I believe, as Dr. Sonntag makes clear in one of his posts
below, that clearly our Confessions indicate that such familiarity with
these texts is what our Confessions do expect and require. Therefore, I
would respectfully differ with Pastor Stuckwisch on this point. I would therefore not be communing the six year old child that Dr. Stuckwisch is communing. But,
otherwise, I heartily agree with his pastoral concerns regarding the
age of first communion. I believe Pastor Stuckwisch has done a fine job of making the case for earlier age of first communion, but I believe we are bound together to follow the practice indicated in our Lutheran Confessions of requiring memorization of the primary texts of the Catechism [not the explanations necessarily]. I continue to believe however, in spite of this difference with Dr. Stuckwisch, that the practice of denying the Sacrament to children until after they have completed a two or three year course of instruction is not founded on Biblical or Confessional principles. In the comments that follow this post, you will read how one pastor, William Weedon, is going about these things in his parish and I would agree with his practice]

One of the blessings of the new hymnal Lutheran Service Book is that it puts squarely in front of Lutheran pastors and congregations using it, the opportunity to think more carefully about an earlier age of first communion. Like many of you reading this, I did not receive the Lord’s Supper until I was in the seventh grade, after eight years of Lutheran day school education which included extensive instruction in the faith and complete memorization of Luther’s Small Catechism. But as I had children and observed them as they were taught the basics of the Christian faith: the Commandments, Creed, the Our Father and as they were taught about Holy Baptism and Holy Communion I came to realize that withholding the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar from them until they had gone through "confirmation" simply had no Biblical or Confessional justification.

I’ve been thinking for many years now that we really do need to end the practice of using the Lord’s Supper as a "carrot" we hold before the "horse" through the confirmation process. Further, I found myself growing increasingly concerned by the overall message we are sending when we withhold the Lord’s Supper from children and make it a sort of "graduation" gift, in fact, when confirmation is treated as a kind of "rite of passage" that Lutherans must go through on their way to adulthood.

Then, as I studied Scripture, the Lutheran Confession, Luther and other Lutheran fathers more I realized that our entire system of confirmation really is not rooted in the age of the Reformation and Lutheran Orthodoxy as much as it is rooted in practices that sprang up during the age of Pietism, when it was felt that we need to "do something" to make all these precious realities "more special" and to make sure that people are "really serious" about these things, hence, the process of confirmation became regarded as, in some ways, even more important than Baptism.

I’ve come to realize that we have this quite wrong. And just about the time I came to these conclusions, I was very sad to realize that a, thankfully small, group of Lutheran pastors had, based on similar concerns, gone too far over toward a solution that called on the Church to give the Sacrament to infants in arms and toddlers. Force-feeding the Sacrament to children who have no awareness of what this Sacrament is and why they come to receive it is a grave error and those who advocate infant communion are doing so in contradiction of Sacred Scripture and the Lutheran Confession. Sadly, the fact that there are some who go to this extreme has a tendency to "spook" others from even wanting to talk about an earlier age of first communion.

I awoke this morning to find this wonderful blog post by the Rev. Dr. Richard Stuckwisch. Pastor Stuckwisch is a thoughtful, deeply pastoral and theological man who brings significant experience as a parish pastor and a parent to bear on this issue (he has nine children!).

I commend his comments to you and invite you to consider them prayerfully. I believe he makes the points that must be considered and I can find nothing in these words that contradict what the assumption is in our Confessions about those who wish to receive the Lord’s Supper. This is the most well stated defense of an early age for first communion I’ve read. What are your thoughts about it? Pastor Rick Stuckwisch offers these comments. Click on the "continuing reading" link.

Read more…

Statement from Missouri Synod regarding ELCA Homosexuality Decision

August 14th, 2007 12 comments

TO:                 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 
FROM:           Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President 
SUBJECT:      Statement regarding 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly Action
DATE:            August 13, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings
in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Lord of the
universe, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and
salvation!

On the final day of its 2007 Churchwide
Assembly in Chicago (Saturday, August 11), the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) adopted a resolution which “prays, urges, and
encourages [ELCA geographical] synods, synodical bishops, and the
presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in
disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful
committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in
this church.” 

News of this action troubles me
greatly and is causing serious concern and consternation among the
members and leaders of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). We in
the LCMS hold firmly to the conviction that, according to the Holy
Bible, homosexual behavior is “intrinsically sinful.” We are deeply
disappointed that the ELCA, by its decision, has failed to act in
keeping with the historic and universal understanding of the Christian
church regarding what Holy Scripture teaches about homosexual behavior
as contrary to God’s will and about the biblical qualifications for
holding the pastoral office. 

The LCMS firmly
believes that the sin of homosexual behavior, like every sin that
fallen human beings commit, has been paid for in full by the life,
suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The LCMS also believes that we must continue to reach out in love to
all people on the basis of what God’s Word alone teaches about human
sinfulness, God’s grace in Christ, and the new life empowered by God’s
Holy Spirit. 

It should be noted that the ELCA voted
not to amend at this time its governing documents regarding the
expectations of its ordained workers in this area (this matter was
referred to its task force on sexuality). However, its decision “to
refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining” ELCA workers in
“a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship”
raises troubling questions about whether the expectations set forth in
its governing documents will be taken seriously by the ELCA or by the
task force. The potential implications of decisions such as this for
future LCMS-ELCA relations have been discussed in previous meetings
involving leaders of the LCMS and the ELCA. In addition, I stated in my
official greetings to the 2007 ELCA Assembly on Friday, August 10, “For
the sake of our mutual witness and service together, the implications
of such action, should it be taken, would need to be addressed,
fraternally and evangelically.” 

As the LCMS noted in
a resolution adopted at its 2001 Convention (Resolution 3-21A), “we of
the LCMS recognize that many of our brothers and sisters of the ELCA
remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and we resolve
to reach out to them in love and support.” As President of the LCMS, it
is my ongoing hope and fervent prayer—as stated in my remarks to the
2003 ELCA Assembly—that the ELCA’s continuing “study and deliberation
of this matter will be made in the light of the biblical understanding
of human sexuality and the qualifications for the pastoral office.” I
also pray that God the Holy Spirit will lead and guide all Christians
and Christian denominations everywhere to seek wisdom and truth from
God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word on this and other critical
issues in our contemporary church and culture.

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod