Archive for June, 2008

Reservation of Consecrated Communion Elements as If They Remain the Body and Blood of Christ is Not a Lutheran Practice

June 20th, 2008 6 comments

Another case-in-point illustrating the reaction/over-reaction pendulum swinging. In light of the fact that some in our Lutheran Church do not highly enough regard the actual presence of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, in the Venerable Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, there has developed a certain point of view that would hold that we are to reserve the remaining elements of the Lord's Supper, rather than consuming them all [the best practice], and regard these remaining elements to be the body and blood of Christ. From there, it is said that these elements should be brought to the sick and shut-in for the purpose of communining them, again, assuming they are the body and blood of Christ. This is inappropriate and not a Lutheran position.

I ran across recently Luther's position on consecrating the elements in the church and then taking them from the church's communion service to the shut-in or sick. Luther was convinced such a practice smacked of Romanism and should be done away with as quickly as possible. He said in regard to such a practice:

The sacrament of the altar is to be consumed during mass and may not be preserved in a ciborium.*

Luther's position is reflected in the Formula of Concord's discussion about the Sacrament. Nowhere is there to be found in the Book of Concord any support for "reserved consecrated elements" no matter how noble the intention is behind such a practice. Appeals to some local practices as found in Brandenburg is not adequate, since the history of the Reformation in Brandenburg reveals that the electors there were very reticent to give up Roman practices and customs.

For a thorough and detailed discussion of this issue, see Roland Ziegler's excellent article on the subject.

We should consume what is consecrated in the Divine Service out of reverence for their purpose and use as the host of Christ's body and blood. If this is not done, then they should be reverently set aside for use at another consecration, but not because they are, or remain, the body and blood of Christ. Suggesting that they remain the body and blood of Christ and as such are to be reserved is not a Lutheran belief, or practice, and should not be put forward as if it is.

* WABr 8:622-623.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Dangers of Hyper-Ritualizing Lutheran Worship

June 19th, 2008 17 comments

Or: Why "Say the black, do the red" is the wisest course

I've grown concerned, once more, that we have at work in our Synod an overreaction to how some have moved away, in some cases nearly completely, from the the historic form of Lutheran worship. I've posted several times on the problems in moving away from historic Lutheran worship and practices. But I also see a problem with what I regard as a rigidity that has set in, in some circles, when it comes to what I'll call a "hyper-ritualization" of the Lutheran Liturgy. It is happening because of a well-intentioned desire to resist the movement to abandon the historic liturgy altogether, but it is not a measured reaction. It is over-reaction.

I think some are are getting too concerned about Medieval-era Roman Catholic rubrics calling, for example, for a pastor to hold his fingers in a certain
position, in a certain way, "just so" when performing the liturgy. It is this kind of
hyper-ritualization of all things having to do with worship and liturgy
that is about the best formula I can imagine for turning people away
from the liturgy. The better way is to "say the black, do the red" as contained in the
hymnals and its companion volumes, not trying to "one up" the church's
accepted worship resources.

The case in point I have in mind is the advocacy of the pastor holding his thumb and forefinger together, unless he is touching a host, from the moment of the consecration to the benediction, during the service of Holy Communion. Such a practice derives from the Roman Catholic Latin Mass, as it developed during the High Middle Ages. It is a direct result of the doctrine of transsubstantion, as this web site site indicates:

Let me go back to the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries to see
how important the Church considered signs. The elevations of the Host
and Chalice were performed, not because of a theological question as
to the precise moment of transubstantiation, but rather to solve the
pastoral problem of people venerating the Host and Chalice before the
words of consecration were pronounced, and so that they would not be
confused as to the proper moment to display their devotion. At that
time, the rubrics indicated that the priest would only make a medium
bow after the consecration of each species, and not a genuflection.
It is also at this time that the instruction ‘Indutus
’ was given for the priest to hold his thumbs and
forefingers together after the consecration of the host. Source.

Consider then how the Medieval Latin Mass, as it is being reincarnated today in the Roman Communion, was a result of false doctrine concerning the Lord's Supper and the purpose of the service of Holy Communion (the Mass). It is not wise to be fondly looking back not to the Reformation era for its traditional liturgical practices, but back to the low-point of the Medieval Roman Mass. Here are the instructions for how to pronounce the Words of Institution, with the rubric about the finger holding.

Consecration of the Host:

  1. Just before the “Qui pridie…” (“The
    day before He suffered”) is said, the priest wipes his thumbs
    and forefingers on the Corporal.
  2. Just before the words of
    Consecration, he uncovers the Ciborium if there is one.
  3. He places both elbows on the altar, bows his head and pronounces the
    words of consecration, “HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM”,
    distinctly, secretly and reverently.
  4. After the consecration, the priest must hold his thumbs and
    forefingers together until the post-communion, unless of course he is
    touching or holding the host.
  5. The priest genuflects in adoration (by this time, the ‘medium’
    bows have been replaced with genuflections).
  6. The Elevation of the Host follows, as high as the priest can
    comfortably do so.
  7. He then replaces the consecrated host back on the Corporal.
  8. Again he genuflects all the way down to the ground.
  9. If there is a Ciborium, he replaces the cover at this time. Source

Let us keep in mind that at the same time in the Western Church's history when there was the greatest accumulation of rubrics, rites, ceremonies, layered on in increasing levels on to the basic structure of the Communion service, there developed the most horrendous errors in regard to the Lord's Supper and the Church's teaching and confession of what the Communion service was all about. It was precisely these sort sorts of highly elaborate rituals that were used to prop up what the Smalcald Articles identifies as the "greatest abomination" — the Roman Mass.

I am quite concerned by the fact that there are those who are advocating for a return to the form of the Communion service as found during the High Middle Ages, as described on this web site. Here is another detailed web page describing the classic Roman Mass. Trying to go back to such rubrics and practices, that are not part of our Synod's worship forms, hymnals and agendas, is highly unwise, to say the least.

The best way to help our congregations grow in their appreciation for the historic, traditional Lutheran liturgy is
not to try to reinstitute practices that derive from a time and place where the precise manner
in which the liturgy was performed was required in order to merit
satisfaction and offer a worth sacrifice. I am, by no means, ridiculing traditional liturgical
practice, but I would like to counter the arguments advanced by
some that the "better" way is to try to follow the kind of minutiae
of liturgical rubrics that were refined to a "high art" during the darkest times for the Gospel in the Medieval Roman Catholic Church.

Martin Luther himself had a grand time tweaking the noses of those too
caught up in questions of rubrics, gestures and vestments. For example, Luther had this to say to a man who was concerned that in
the Brandenburg area many of the Roman customs were retained, Luther,
not wanting to make any laws about these things, sent a reply that is
fairly dripping with sarcasm:

"Provided the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached purely with no human
additions and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are
observed, with no invocation of the saints, no carrying of the
sacrament in procession, no daily masses and vigils for the dead, no
holy water and salt, and provided that pure hymns are sung in Latin and
German, then it does matter if there be a cross of gold or silver,
whether the cope be of saffron, silk or linen; and f the Elector is not
content to put on one gown, let him have three the way Aaron wore them,
one on top of the other; and if he doesn't find one procession enough,
let him go around seven times like Joshua with trumpets blowing; and if
he wants to leap with the harp, psaltry, and cymbals, let him dance
like David before the ark. Conscience is not to be bound, and if we
have given up these practices in Wittenberg, we may have reason which
are not valid in Berlin. Except where God has commanded, let there be
freedom." (WA Br 8:635).

How does this quote apply here?

There are some well-meaning folks in our Missouri Synod who would wish not merely to adorn their liturgy with "extras," but also imply and suggest to others that these "extras" are really the better
way, a more attentive practice, a more acceptable, a more Lutheran, a
more churchly way of doing the liturgy. And therefore we must say: No,
you are wrong. You may of course, in Christian freedom, wear as many
robes as you like, and may hold your fingers however you wish, and may gesture, genuflect, bow and make as many signs of the cross as you wish, but you dare not
suggest that this is the "more appropriate" and the "better" way. It is
another way, not a more appropriate way.

I am concerned that some have mistakenly chosen to regard the matter of rubrics to be of
such essence to the Lutheran Confession that they have lost the joyful
sense of freedom in the Gospel, as espoused by Dr. Luther, or, at least, have given pious laypeople the impression that unless the "nth" degree of rubrics are followed or heeded that there is somehow something "less" about a worship service. This should not be.

John Adams: A Must See

June 14th, 2008 4 comments

I finished watching the HBO special series John Adams, produced by Tom Hanks, based on David McCullough's book. It is, simply put, spectacular. It brings the history of the tumultuous days of the beginning of the United States to life in a way that is simply unparalleled. It conveys the sense of outrage and injustice that moved America's founding fathers to throw off the yoke of Great Britain's oppressive rule. The writing, acting, filming and authenticity is truly breathtaking. This is definitely not a series to show young children, there are some scenes of things that we would not wish the little ones to see. If you are a fan of the book, and by all means, you must read it if you have not, then you will simply love this movie. It captures the depth and warmth of John and Abigail's relationship, and shows Adams, warts and all, through his triumphs and tragedies. The episode, Part II, where the Declaration of Independence is debated and adopted is a particular treasure. And, as a real treat and bonus, there is a thirty minute documentary on David McCullough that is a feast for anyone who has anything to do with writing.

Categories: Film

To Live With Christ: Daily Devotions by Bo Giertz

June 11th, 2008 2 comments

Famous among English speaking Lutherans for his masterful work, The Hammer of God, Bo Giertz’ collection of daily devotions is now available in English for the first time:
To Live With Christ.
It is 830 pages, hardback, for $19.99.
You may place your order here.
Or call 800-325-3040.
This book was originally two books, but we decided to publish both together. Here’s what Bishop Giertz had to say about this work:
“I myself once began with a clean slate, not knowing much at all about Christianity. It was the beginning of a long life of continuous exploration. I have written this book in the hope that it will help some reader follow the same path. He will not regret it.”
To Live With Christ is for the believer who wants more knowledge, help in prayer, help in understanding the Bible, familiarity with the rhythm of the Church Year, and desires a structured daily devotional life. Beginning with Advent, each daily devotional includes a Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer.

Categories: Books

Twenty Five Years Ago Today: A Husband’s Tribute to His Wife

June 11th, 2008 4 comments

I am stunned and amazed and can't believe that it was twenty-five years ago, to the day, that I said, "I do" and received the precious gift of a good and faithful wife: Lynn Carol Grunow. Everyone who knows Lynn knows she is a special person, very special. She has a unique combination of steely determination and the most kind, outgoing accepting personality I've ever known. Nobody is a stranger for long around Lynn. She can rattle off the names of every person in a mile radius of our home and tell me their children's names. I forget my dog's name.

I tend to be a bit more reserved.

She was a high school and then big-time university cheerleader. I was a bookworm. I was embarrassed to admit I was dating a cheerleader. It broke every stereotype. My high school friends were stunned and shocked when they heard about it.

Lynn and I met during my second year at River Forest where she had transferred in for her final two years of college. She was the yearbook editor and I chief photographer. I know you are not supposed to say stupid things like this, but honestly, for me at least, I was smitten at first site of her. I fell into those big blue eyes and have never found my way out. I was knocked off my feet by her big smile. But she did have a most annoying habit of bossing me around and telling me what to do. She had the nerve to disagree with me and tell me I was wrong, and why she thought so. The fact that she was, and is, right, most of the time only makes it more irritating.

We made an agreement the day we were married. We agreed that I would make all the really big decisions and she would make all the little ones. So far I've not had to make a single decision. (OK, old joke, but I love it).

Shortly after meeting her I announced to my roommate: "Remind me never to marry that Lynn Grunow!" So, of course, I married her. I had just turned 21 when we were married. She was a year or so older. Funny, but she still is older than me. I had not finished college. Lynn had graduated. My mom told me the other day that she was shocked I was getting married so young. Lynn told me, "Oh, I could have waited. I didn't care, but you really wanted to get married." So, I learn all this finally after twenty-five years?

I had a great senior year of college and Lynn stood by my side through my senior year of college, four years of seminary, two more years of work at the seminary, and finally into a parish. Every pastor should have a wife who is so completely supportive of his ministry. I attribute this a lot to Lynn being raised in a pastor's home. She understood the importance of a good pastor's wife. Her commitment to the ministry has been absolute, total and never, not once, has there been any complaining, whining or "poor me" that we hear so often from seminary wives and pastor's wives: total, constant encouragement and support.

The most devastating experience for Lynn very early in our marriage was when we did visit a seminary and she sat in on a seminary wives meeting. She came back to the dorm room where we were staying and cried her eyes out at the thought of having to be around so many negative, complaining, whiney, "pity party" types. Thankfully, the Lord provided a teaching position for Lynn in a parish in Defiance, Ohio, where we were just far enough away from the seminary that she was not forced to be involved with "seminary wife" groups. She instead poured herself into her teaching. And what a fantastic teacher she is. While were in Ohio she earned her Masters in Education, with a concentration in reading and computer technology.

Lynn's idea of a fun time is doing fifty things, and going 100 places, in a day. My idea of a fun time is reading in my chair and listening to Bach all day. We compromised. I do a lot of things now and go a lot of places. And she understands how much I enjoy reading and thinking and being contemplative.

We absolutely are nuts for each other. It's a mutual admiration society. I'm her number one fan, and she is mine. We just really enjoy being together. We were driving somewhere together the other day, spending some time alone, and I said, "Lynn, I just really like you." She laughed. And said, "I like you too." The more years you are married, the more important it is to like each other. You kids who are just married, you have a lot to look forward to. It only gets better. Before we fell asleep last night, she said, "Tomorrow is our 25th anniversary! It doesn't seem like 25 years." I said, "No, it feels more like, oh, maybe five years." "Right, maybe six."

She was my "secret weapon" in the parish, charming the socks off every member of the parish, precisely because she was so sincere. I do NOT advise this, but….in my first month at my parish I had one particularly grumpy member who started to give me a hard time. Lynn took it upon herself to drive to his house and politely and sternly tell him to stop giving me a hard time and told him point blank, "My husband is a brand new pastor. He loves this congregation. So be nice to him and support him. I will not let you ruin my husband's ministry." Now, please, understand, only Lynn could get away with this. He became her fast friend and she beautifully took care of him and his wife when his wife was in her final days with advanced Alzheimers. He became my staunchest supporter. She has been a superb mother to our three children, who are all so incredibly unique. Vexing at times? Sure. Fascinating? Always. I just sit back on this day and thank God that I have been so blessed. So blessed indeed. It truly amazes me.

One more glimpse into Lynn's personality. On our wedding day she knew that I, being a shy person by nature, was highly uncomfortable with a number of the silly ceremonies associated with weddings, chiefly the whole "throw the garter" thing during which the groom is expected to lift his wife's dress, expose her leg and take her garter off. Pastors, you know how nearly obscene these  foolish spectacles can get. Well, the moment came and I lifted her dress gingerly to find outrageously pink and white striped socks all the way up to her knees, and brand new white Nike tennis shoes on her feet, and the garter discreetly placed below her knee.

Yup, that's my Lynn.

That's more personal information in one post than I've posted on this blog site in years. So, please indulge me and realize how deeply this day, and this woman, means to me. Rejoice with me and pray for us.

Twenty five years ago today, these two people were married: Lynn and Paul. What a truly blessed man I am.

Mother's Day 2008

Then along came these three people: Mary (13), Paul (18), and John (16). The fuzzy white creature is Sunny, the Dog.

Mother's Day 2008

Categories: Uncategorized

Something Better Than the Ordinary Christian Life? Lutheranism on Monasticism

June 8th, 2008 2 comments

Augustinians1 We tend to forget that Martin Luther spent many years as a monk, in the Augustinian cloister in Erfurt, Germany. He had his choice of several different orders he could have joined, but elected to join the "Black Friars," an order known for its particularly stringent ascetic practices. Leaving behind a promising career in the law, he entered the walls of the monastery on July 17, 1505. It was only in the mid-1520s that Luther finally set aside his monk's cowl.

He would later remark, "If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would indeed have been among them." Luther described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. He said, "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailor and hangman of my poor soul." (See Kittelson, Luther the Reformer, pp. 53&79).

Reflecting on these years, thirty-two years later as he wrote the Smalcald Articles, Luther acknowledges the original good intentions for the founding and maintenance of monastic communities: to educate men and women for the good of society and church. "They could produce pastors, preachers, and other ministers for the churches. They could also produce essential personnel for the secular government in cities and countries, as well as well-educate young women for mothers, housekeepers and such."

The last remark about young-women surely was written as Luther reflected on his beloved Katie, a product of the monastic system, where she had received precisely this kind of education, making her a particularly suitable helpmeet for the Reformer.

However, because the monastic institutions had lost sight of their primary and most important purpose, and had become "blasphemous" with all their "humanly invented services regarded as something better than the ordinary Christian life and the offices and callings ordained by God" they should be abandoned and torn down.

This is a key point to consider. Luther puts his finger on the chief evil associated with monastic communities: they had come to be regarded as "something better than the ordinary Christian life." This is what the unique Lutheran emphasis on vocation is all about: it is not in set-apart monasteries, or in liturgical finery, or in monastic rigor that one finds the true Christian life. No, quite the contrary. One serves God best and chiefly in the "ordinary Christian life."

There is a particularly moving and poignant letter by Martin Luther, composed during his time in hiding at the Wartburg Castle, in 1521, after he had been excommunicated and declared a public criminal. He wrote it as the dedication letter for his work Martin Luther's Judgment About Monastic Vows. It was a letter t0 his father, Hans. In the letter Luther describes the conflict between himself and his father when he became a monk over-against his father's wishes. He rejoices in their reconciliation and thanks his father for helping him to see the truly higher commands of God were not to be found in monastic life, but in the "ordinary life" as set forth in the Ten Commandments. He had come to realize that the only aspect of his monastic life that was God-pleasing was that through it God had called him into the ministry of the Word. He thanks God for reconciling him to his father and explains to his father how now, through the ministry of the Word, God is making many more sons for Himself. The letter concludes:

I am sending [you] this book, then, in which you may see by what signs and wonders Christ has absolved me from the monastic vow and granted me such great liberty. Although he has made me the servant of all men, I am, nevertheless, subject to no one except to him alone. He is himself (as they say) my immediate bishop, abbot, prior, lord, father, and teacher; I know no other. Thus I hope that he has taken from you one son in order that he may begin to help the sons of many others through me. You ought not only to endure this willingly, but you ought to rejoice with exceeding joy—and this I am sure is what you will do. What if the pope should slay me or condemn me to the depths of hell! Having once slain me, he will not raise me up again to slay me a second and third time, and now that I have been condemned I have no desire ever to be absolved. I trust that the day is at hand when that kingdom of abomination and perdition will be destroyed. Would that we were worthy to be burned or slain by him before that time, so that our blood might cry out against him all the more and hasten the day of his judgment! But if we are not worthy to bear testimony with our blood, then let us at least pray and implore mercy that we may testify with deed and word that Jesus Christ alone is the Lord our God, who is praised forever. Amen. Farewell in the Lord, my dearest Father, and greet in Christ my mother, your Margaret, and our whole family. (Luther's Works, Vol. 48:336).

Luther's remarks about the good that God brought out of monasticism, in his personal experience, applies as well to monasticism's history in general. Through the monastic orders God preserved the Sacred Scriptures and the Christian faith itself during the darkest days of Europe, when much of culture and learning had collapsed after the fall o the Roman Empire. Even as we must reject and condemn the errors born of monasticism, we must take care to thank God for the blessings and benefits that resulted from the existence of the monasteries, particularly the missionary work conducted throughout Europe in the first millennium.

Encouraging people to seek to live a "higher" Christian life in monastic communities, as Luther says in this article "conflicts with the chief article on redemption through Jesus Christ." How is that? When the Church teaches, or creates the impression, that by observing humanly devised services to God, one is in fact bringing oneself closer to God, making oneself more holy in God's eyes, then the merits of Christ are obscured, clouded and eventually set aside in favor of a focus on the "higher" calling invented by man. This is what monastic communities had become, and still are.

Even to this day in the Roman Church, those who pursue a vocation of full-time service to the Church are known as "religious" as opposed to the laity. Here, and elsewhere in the Lutheran Confessions, monasticism is soundly and roundly criticized and rejected, chiefly because of its threat to the "chief article" — the Gospel of Christ.

Though brief, this article contains a profound insight for the church today, and a challenge. Consider how it is possible to give people the impression that it is when they are doing things at their church that they are serving God in a higher way? There is always lurking about the danger of a "New Monasticism" by which people are made to feel that it is only when they are on the congregation's property, involved in a parish committee or project that the are truly serving God. Thankfully in recent yeas there has been a renewed emphasis on the doctrine of vocation, whereby we are able to see that the entire "ordinary life" of the Christian is service to God. And it is the "ordinary life" of our various callings and stations in life that we are the witnesses to Christ that we are called to be.

Indeed, perhaps the greatest
use of this particular article today is to help us understand the high calling each of us has in Christ in our "ordinary life," made new in Christ.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Ah! Coffee Nirvana Has Returned

June 7th, 2008 4 comments

I took the plunge finally and purchased a burr grinder for whole bean coffee, and replaced our Bodem French Press that broke some months ago. I picked up a bag of Starbucks Sumatran (I prefer Kenya AAA), whole bean. Wow. And, wow.

If you have never had a cup of coffee properly brewed with freshly burr-ground coffee, using good beans, please don't. If you do, you will never be satisfied with anything less than this. There is simply no comparison between coffee brewed this way, and any other way. Sure, it's more work, but well worth it.Bodum_8_cup

If you don't believe me, go ahead, try it. But be warned: there's no going back once you reach coffee nirvana.

And if you think I'm obsessive about my coffee, don't worry, there are people far worse than me. There are those who buy green unroasted beans, and roast them, themselves. You can read about how to use a certain brand of hot air popcorn popper to do it. I can neither confirm or deny that I've tried it. They scoff at using pre-roasted beans. So there. I'm not that bad. I do not buy green coffee and roast it myself.

And, I'll come clean. I love it with Coffeemate creamer. Nothing else. And Splenda. One packet per six ounces. There, now you know everything.I feel better.

Here is a good web site with an explanation of how to use a French press.

Categories: Uncategorized

Millennialism and Dispensationalism and a Web Site Devoted to Spreading False Hope

June 6th, 2008 8 comments

Picture 3
You'd think this was a joke, if it was not. There is a web site that Christians who are enraptured with the Rapture can use to communicate from the dead. Have they not read what the Lord Jesus Christ said? "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,
they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' " [or: even if someone e-mails them from the dead!]. (Luke 16:31).

Either the people doing this are sincere in this effort, or they are scam artists; but either way, this is the height of false doctrine and a horribly, horribly wrong web site. There are no second chances. There are no "do overs" when it comes to Christ and His Gospel. Now is the hour of salvation!

Recently Portals of Prayer had some very pointed rejections of the Rapture and Millennialism. It was disturbing to note the number of comments we received from Lutherans who expressed their shock that we would reject the notion that there will be a millennial kingdom of Christ and a "rapture," or that the modern state of Israel is still God's chosen people. Hello!? We are Lutherans folks. That means we teach what the Bible teaches, not what the false prophets on television and the false teachers who wrote the Left Behind series taught.

Pastors, do be sure to pointedly reject these false teachings. Now is the hour of salvation! There are no second chances. Read this and weep. Thanks, Frank, for pointing this one out.

Here is how the web site explains their service:

Services Overview

We have set up a system to send documents by the email, to the
addresses you provide, 6 days after the "Rapture" of the Church. This
occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to
log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any
false triggering of the system.

We give you 150mb of encrypted storage that can be sent to 12
possible email addresses, in Box #1. You up load any documents and
choose which documents go to who. You can edit these documents at any
time and change the addresses they will be sent to as needed. Box #1 is
for your personal private letters to your closest lost friends and

We give you another 100mb. of unencrypted storage that can be sent
to up to 50 email addresses, in Box #2. You can edit the documents and
the addresses any time. Box #2 is for more generic documents to lost
family & friends.

The cost is $40 for the first year. Re-subscription will be reduced
as the number of subscribers increases. Tell your friends about You've
Been left behind.

Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service

June 5th, 2008 Comments off

Many people are familiar with the teaching of Dr. Arthur Just on the liturgy as a result of his popular video lectures. If you liked the movie, you are going to love the book.

This book is an introduction to
the liturgy and its importance. It takes the liturgy and makes it easy
for the layperson to understand that the New Testament church service
brings God's presence, in Jesus the Christ to the people of God who
have been cleansed from their sins. This is a holy meeting made
possible by the blood of Christ that cleanses the believer. This
understanding of the church service helps one to understand that the
church service is more than a meeting place; it is the manifestation of
the New Testament church on earth as Christ calls His bride around Word
and Sacraments.

Heaven on Earth will deepen your understanding of the Divine Service and why it remains the Church's chief worship service.

The book is $14.99, and comes with a 20% clergy/church worker discount.

Want to order a copy? Click here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Iron Man Thirty Second Review

June 5th, 2008 2 comments

Stunning. Amazing. Superbly crafted script. Unbelievably believable. Captivating. Two hours rushed by. Left me wanting more. And no doubt more to come. Well acted. Casting choices were perfect. What a big-budget summer action movie should be. Must see. AAA+++

Categories: Uncategorized

Eighteen Years Ago: A Personal Reflection

June 3rd, 2008 8 comments

Readers of this blog know that I rarely talk about personal matters. But I'm making an exception today. For you see, eighteen year ago on this day, June 3, on Pentecost Sunday, I was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, as pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, in Waverly, Iowa. How fondly I remember processing in to the loud and beautiful four-part harmony singing of "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" as the farmers and their families filled the church with their powerful singing.

It was a beautiful Pentecost Sunday, at this wonderful rural congregation, twelve miles northeast of Waverly, Iowa, about an hour south of Minnesota. The corn was already more than knee-high. I was privileged to be ordained in a full Divine Service and for the first time, to celebrate the Blessed and Most Venerable Sacrament of the Altar [did you know that's how it is described in the Lutheran Confessions?].

It was an extremely meaningful day, made more so by the attendance of my father, who preached my ordination sermon, my father-in-law, who served as lector (both of whom were pastors, now both in heaven). I was ordained by Dr. Alvin Barry, then president of the Iowa District East, and then, only two years later, Dr. Barry was elected president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and took me along with him to Saint Louis, where I served as his assistant until his death in 2001. I then served as assistant to Dr. Robert Kuhn, who took office immediately upon President Barry's death. From August-November 2001, I was interim director of Concordia Historical Institute, and in November I came to Concordia Publishing House, where I served as Interim President/CEO for about five years, and now presently I'm serving as Publisher and Executive Director of the Editorial Department.

It's been a remarkable eighteen years, preceded by a wonderful seminary education at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, where I received my M.Div. and got my start in publishing as an assistant to Dr. Robert Preus during my last year of seminary. I began working with him on the Lutheran Confessional Dogmatics project. After my graduation, I served at the seminary full-time, for two more years, first as a systematics department assistant, then as a Guest Instructor in Systematic Theology.

During that time I worked closely with Dr. Kurt Marquart and Dr. David Scaer on their volumes for the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series. Upon arriving in the parish, I continued serving as managing editor for the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics project, and was one of the LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, along with Rev. John Pless, Rev. Joel Brondos, Rev. Erling Teigen and Dr. Preus. We also began the annual review of Luther studies: Luther Digest. I'm pleased that both journals continue and have flourished.

During my first year of the ministry, I received invaluable counsel and guidance from my closest neighbor in the ministry, Gary Arp, pastor of the church in the town of Waverly, he was also our circuit counselor, and is now district president of Iowa District East. The good people of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Waverly, treated a young
pastor and his family with such kindness and love as together we took
strength, comfort and joy in the gifts of Christ given through Word and

I have had so many wonderful experiences and the best part of them has
always been the people I've been privileged to get to know here in the
United States and around the world. I learned so much during my time in Iowa and each new opportunity has presented many new things to learn, new experiences, and the joy of working with truly talented and wonderful servants of Christ, cherished friends and colleagues. It's always the people that one remembers the best. I have already stored up a treasure of memories and experiences. So many people have been so helpful to me and have provided me with so much support, wisdom and advice.

And through it all, my dear wife Lynn has been totally supportive and a source of never-ending joy and encouragement. She is an amazing person, truly. [You think I'm just gushing on as husband's do? Just ask anyone who knows her!] I hope every pastor's wife is as wonderful as my Lynn. My three children, one of whom we brought to Waverly as a newborn (Paul), another born there (John) and our daughter Mary (born here in Saint Louis) has been a source of wonder, amazement and joy through these years, teaching me so much about myself and about life.

I've learned so much, and continue to learn. The seminary gave me a strong grounding and taught me how to learn and grow in theology. My STM coursework and additional graduate classes I've taken have all been deeply enriching. I love to learn and grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. Over the years, I've learned that I learn the most from sitting with the fathers and reading their sermons and writings. 

I pray that my Lord Jesus Christ will continue to give me strength to serve Him, according to the grace that He so richly supplies. Soli Deo gloria!

Categories: Uncategorized