Wonderful news. Big Tobacco, for years, lied and did all they could to cover up the deadly dangers of smoking, and on top of that, did all they could to chemically enhance tobacco to increase its addictive properties. This is such wonderful news, particularly well received by people, such as myself, who have lost loved ones to the ravages of the cancer that tobacco addiction caused.
I continue to be impressed, both negatively and positively, by the many congregational web sites I visit. I just heard from a pastor friend of mine who reported that a family in his area found his congregation via his web site. And he is in a fairly remote area. I can not underscore enough how important it is for your congregation to: (a) have a web site; (b) make it look very, very good; (c) keep it simple, clear and with good information right on the first page people see. You would be surprised how often a congregation’s web site makes it nearly impossible to find the most basic of information: where it is located; a contact e-mail; a phone number; clear directions; service times. I see web sites that bury this information on other pages, spread it out across several pages, or if they do put it on their home page, it is hard to read and see. It is much better to have a simple, clear, basic web site that looks nice, rather than one that is cluttered with poor quality design, images, colors and assorted eye-candy that adds nothing of value to the site. Keep in mind that your congregation’s home page should be designed with the non-member in mind, first and foremost. If you don’t want people to think your congregation is a private club, then don’t make the web site look that way. Here then, for your consideration, are
The Ten Commandments of Church Web Sites
I. Thou shalt communicate basic, necessary information first and foremost: directions to your church; service times; contact information.
II. Thou shalt not make it hard for the stranger in your midst to find this basic information.
III. Thou shalt be attentive to requests and inquiries thy web site receives: answer queries immediately, on the same day. Delay not when thou art contacted!
IV. Thou shalt design thy site with the non-member in mind, first and foremost.
V. Thou shalt place member-only information on separate pages, easily found for your members, but keep the sojourner and alien’s need in mind first on your home page.
VI. Thou shalt inform viewers what your church stands for and believes. Hide not thy public confession, lest you deceive visitors.
VII. Thou shalt not clutter thy church web site with ugly graphics, too many colors and 1990s era web design. If thou can not provide an excellent web site, thou shalt keep it simple.
VIII. Thou shalt keep thy site neat and clean. Just because thou canst add widgets, graphics and flash graphics, does not mean that thou shouldst add them.
IX. Thou shalt not force visitors to listen to dreadful MIDI organ music; therefore, turn off all auto-play audio and video files. Force not music and videos on thy visitors.
X. Thou shalt not post embarrassing, poorly produced or prepared images of thy pastor and thy congregation’s staff. Better no pictures, than ugly ones.
This survey explains, well, frankly, everything that we see going on in mainline Protestantism today. Seriously. Give it a read, at least the summary, and let’s talk about it. While the media has made news of the report’s findings on the attitude of mainline Protestant clergy and gay marriage, for me the “smoking gun” findings are really these:
Overall, Mainline Protestant clergy hold a theological outlook that is a mix of modernist and traditional views. On the one hand, more than two‐thirds (67%) of clergy do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, both in matters of faith and in historic, geographical, and other secular matters. More than three‐quarters (76%) reject the notion that there is only one correct Christian position on political issues. Moreover, less than 4‐in‐10 (38%) believe that social issues would take care of themselves if enough people were brought to Christ. On the other hand, more than 6‐in‐10 (61%) believe in the existence of the Devil and that the only way to attain salvation is through Jesus Christ. Eight‐in‐ten clergy believe that Jesus will return to earth one day. [Source: Mainline Protestant Clergy Views on Theology and Gay and Lesbian Issues: Findings from the 2008 Clergy Voices Survey (Public Religion Research, Washington DC, May 2009), p. 5.]
Here is a web site that has the complete report findings, along with summaries: http://www.publicreligion.org/research/?id=208
Fair warning. Ten days left to buy the Treasury of Daily Prayer at half-price. The sale ends on May 31. If your congregation is placing a group order, don’t forget to get it in by May 31.
I received a copy of this letter, and found it to be very interesting.
An Open Letter to the Voting Members of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly
We are grateful that the church has called you to serve as a voting member for the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. Your role at the assembly will be a difficult one. We are writing this open letter as Lutheran theologians and church leaders concerned about the fidelity and future of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The proposals are in fact no compromise
The teaching of the church will be changed The proposals to be considered by the Churchwide Assembly this summer from the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality are perceived by some as compromises that will permit the ELCA to live faithfully with internal diversity on controversial ethical questions. The proposals are in fact no compromise. They clearly imply that same-sex blessings and the ordination and rostering of homosexual persons in committed relationships are acceptable within the ELCA. The teaching of the church will be changed. We should not make such an important decision without clear biblical and theological support. The Task Force did not provide such support, nor has it been provided in statements from some of our colleagues in ELCA institutions.
Indifference to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church
1. If the assembly adopts the proposed rules of procedure, a simple majority of one Churchwide Assembly will alter the moral teaching on sexuality we have shared with the vast majority of the church past and present. We are concerned that such a procedure shows an indifference to the common mind of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church throughout the ages and across cultures. At the least, a two-thirds majority should be required, if indeed the assembly should be voting on these matters at all.
The church is founded on the whole Word of God, both law and gospel
2. The proposals claim that the ELCA can live with profound differences on sexual questions because our unity is centered exclusively on the gospel and the sacraments. This claim separates law and gospel in a way contrary to both Scripture and the Confessions. The church is founded on the whole Word of God, both law and gospel. The Task Force texts seem to permit variation on all ethical questions, no matter how fundamental. How Christians behave sexually is not a matter of indifference to our life in Christ.
It would damage our ecumenical relationships
3. If the ELCA were to approve the public recognition of same-sex unions or the rostering of persons in such relationships, it would damage our ecumenical relationships with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and Evangelical churches, all of which affirm the clear teaching of Scripture that homosexual activity departs from God’s design for marriage and sexuality. Furthermore, it would put the ELCA at odds with many of our sister Lutheran churches, especially in Asia and Africa. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have also recently upheld scriptural teaching on this matter. These bodies have officially recognized that the biblical prohibitions against homosexual activity remain applicable today to consensual sexual relationships between persons of the same sex.
Our unity will be fractured
4. With regard to calling rostered leaders, the statement proposes “structured flexibility,” which we believe will lead inevitably to “local option.” If adopted, this proposal will mean that the relationship among bishops, candidacy committees, and congregations will become confused and conflicted. Practically speaking, there will be two lists of candidates for rostered leadership in the church. The result will be that not all pastors and congregations will be in full fellowship with each other, nor with many of the pastors and congregations of those denominations with whom we are in full communion. Further, laity seeking a congregation to join would need to ask about which option a congregation has chosen in calling its leaders. Our unity in the office of ministry will be fractured.
Conscience can err
5. The social statement calls for opponents in the current controversy to respect each other’s “bound conscience,” referring to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. Luther, however, was not merely claiming that he was sincere about the convictions he held; he asserted rather that his conscience was bound to the Word of God. Conscience can err. The Word of God, not conscience, is the final court of appeal in the church. We are deeply sensitive to the need of the church to provide pastoral care for all people. We are aware that there are some in the church who will disagree with this letter. Nevertheless, we feel we are called to support and advocate the biblical teaching on human sexuality. We pledge to you our prayers and we invite you to work with us for the renewal of our church under the Word of God.
Rev. Richard Bansemer, Salem, VA, former Bishop, Virginia Synod
Dr. Robert D. Benne, Director of the Center for Religion and Society, Roanoke College, VA
Rev. John C. Beem, Miltona, MN, former Bishop, East-Central Synod of Wisconsin
Rev. Dr. Paul S. Berge, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Dr. Dennis D. Bielfeldt, Professor of Religion, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD
Rev. Dr. Carl E. Braaten, Professor Emeritus, Systematic Theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Rev. Mark C. Chavez, Landisville, PA, Director of Lutheran CORE
Rev. Dr. James R. Crumley, Jr, Chapin, SC, Former Bishop, Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Jaynan Clark Egland, Nine Mile Falls, WA, President, WordAlone Network
Rev. Dr. C. Jack Eichhorst, President emeritus, Trinity Lutheran College, WA
Dr. Rebecca Frey, New Haven, CT, Lutheran Forum Editorial Staff
Rev. Gregory P. Fryer, Immanuel Lutheran Church, New York, MY
Gracia M. Grindal, Professor of Rhetoric, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Mr. David J. Hardy, Esq., Chicago, IL, Former General Counsel of the ELCA
Rev. Dr. Roy A. Harrisville, Jr., Professor Emeritus, New Testament, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Dr. Roy A. Harrisville, III, Menomonie, WI
Rev. Dr. Mary Havens, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Prof. of Church History, Columbia, SC
Rev. Carol S. Hendrix, former bishop, Lower Susquehanna Synod, PA
Dr. Hans J. Hillerbrand, Professor of Religion, Duke University, NC
Rev. Dr. Paul R. Hinlicky, Professor of Religion, Roanoke College, VA
Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Hultgren, Assistant Professor of Religion, Fordham University, Bronx, NY
Rev. Dr. Robert W. Jenson, Princeton, NJ
Ben Arlen Johnson, Th.D., Professor emeritus, Lutheran Bible Institute in California
Rev. Dr. Richard O. Johnson, Grass Valley, CA, Editor of Forum Letter
Rev. Corinne R. Johnson, Crystal Falls, MI
Rev. Ralph A. Kempski, Aiken, SC, Bishop Emeritus, Indiana-Kentucky Synod
Rev. Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology, Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA
Rev. Gerard H. Knoche, Bishop, Delaware-Maryland Synod
Rev. Dr. Marc Kolden, Professor Emeritus, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Dr. David W. Lotz, Washburn Professor Emeritus of Church History, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
Rev. Dr. Lamontte Luker, Professor of Hebrew Scriptures, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, SC
Rev. Dr. Paul V. Martinson, Professor Emeritus of Missions, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Dr. Mark C. Mattes, Professor of Religion, Grand View College, Des Moines, IA
Rev. George P. Mocko, Bishop Emeritus, Delaware-Maryland Synod
Rev. Dr. James A. Nestingen, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Richard J. Niebanck III, Delhi, NY
Rev. Dr. Oliver K. Olson, Minneapolis, MN
Rev. Dr. Steven D. Paulson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Dr. David W. Preus, Minneapolis, MN, Former Bishop, American Lutheran Church
Dr. Michael Root, Dean, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, SC
Rev. Dr. Paul E. Rorem, Professor of Church History, Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ
Rev. Russell E. Saltzman, Ruskin Heights Lutheran Church, Kansas City, MO
Rev. Kenneth H. Sauer, Columbus, OH, Former Chair of Conference of Bishops
Rev. Dr. James A. Scherer, Professor Emeritus, Missions and Church History, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Rev. Dr. Amy Schifrin, Hershey, PA
Rev. Paul A. Schreck, Round Lake Beach, IL, former Executive Assistant to the Secretary, ELCA
Rev. Henry Schulte Jr, Boerne, TX, former Bishop, Southwestern Texas Synod
Rev. Frederick J. Schumacher, Manchester Township, NJ, Executive Director, American Lutheran Publicity Bureau
Rev. Dr. Hans Schwarz, Professor of Systematic Theology and Contemporary Theological Issues, University of Regensburg, Germany
Rev. Dr. Frank Senn, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Evanston, IL
Rev. Dr. Franklin Sherman, Schnecksville, PA
Rev. Dr. Trygve R. Skarsten, Pickerington, OH, President Emeritus of Trinity Lutheran College, Everett, WA
Rev. Paull E. Spring, State College, PA, Former Bishop, Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod
Rev. Dr. John R. Stumme, Chicago, IL, former Director of the Department for Studies in the Church in Society unit of the ELCA
Rev. Dr. Anders Tune, Campus Minister, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
Rev. Paul M. Werger, Iowa City, IA, Former Chair of Conference of Bishops
Rev. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, Associate Research Professor, Institute for Ecumenical Research, Strasbourg, France
Dr. David S. Yeago, Professor of Systematic Theology, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, SC
Rev. Dr. J. Larry Yoder, Professor and Director, Center for Theology, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC
Check out PrintFriendly, an impressive new plugin/widget/gadget that makes printing things from blog sites and web sites easy. Their web site has a nice video explanation of how it works. They offer a way for you to install this into your browser to make printing any web page you are on easier, it will also generate a PDF file for you, and you can install a little widget gizmo thing on every blog post to let your readers print your posts out in a printer-friendly format. Pretty cool. I’m not sure how using paper helps save the environment, but….it’s still pretty cool.
Wow, I woke up this morning to discover that Concordia Publishing House has a series of great sale prices on some great books, including, for example, John Kleinig’s book Grace Upon Grace. It is half off today, only. So….take a look at the prices for Tuesday and keep checking back every day this week for special prices.
Alas, we do not keep the Book of Concord blog site as active as it deserves to be, but I’m resolving to change this now by adding a new post once a week to it. I’ve said that before. This time I hope I follow through. If you find the Book of Concord blog site to be of interest, add a comment and join the conversation. The newest post is on the article on call and ordination in the Smalcald Articles.
Here’s an interesting story on an exhibit of Lucas Cranach paintings, in the city of Bremen, Germany. Since Lucas Cranach is the “artist in residence” on the Cyberbrethren blog site, I thought you would find this story interesting. Here is a beautiful photo nicely lending scale to the size of the two portraits, one of Luther and the other of Katie, his wife. I’m not convinced, looking at the images, that these are actual paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder himself, personally. They look to me a bit like paintings from his workshop, that is, copies of his own paintings, made by skilled craftsmen working in his workshop in Wittenberg. Click on the image, or this link, for the full size of the published photograph.
Look at what I found. A photo of The Lutheran Study Bible, a copy of it! Well, ok, not quite. This is a “mock up” we created for the video shoot recently completed out in Los Angeles. Lutherans working in the film industry helped us write, shoot, edit and produce these videos, which we will be releasing toward the end of July. But this does give you a fairly good idea of what the final/finished product is going to look like. To see more shots from the video shoot, please go to the Concordia Publishing House Facebook page and check them out. Interesting!
So, Amazon has opened their blog distribution network to, well, anyone with a blog. Cyberbrethren is now available via monthly subscription to all Kindle owners and readers. It will be interesting to see what happens. I’m having a hard time figuring out why anyone would actually use a Kindle as their blog reader, and pay to view blogs, when they are available for free over the Webernet. Here is a screen shot of Cyberbrethren’s Amazon Kindle location:
Pastor Robert Franck prepared a schedule for reading through the entire Book of Concord during the summer and has kindly shared it with me, so I in turn can share it with you and you can share and distribute with whomever you wish. So, enjoy! Very nicely done, Rob, and thank you. Click on this link to download the PDF file to your computer: BOC Summer Reading Schedule Here is a screen shot of the PDF file:
I found this video of a performance in a Lutheran Church yesterday. What do you think?
An excellent sermon on the subject of prayer from Weedon’s Blog by
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples and to us about prayer. He is well aware of the problem, the reluctance we· have in praying. The problem is not one of technique. It will not be solved by the countless resolutions we have made to have that daily quiet time with God – resolutions we routinely break. Jesus’ words reveal the source of the problem with prayer to be a problem of relationship, a problem of faith, of trust. Prayer, you see, arises out of relationship of trust, out of knowing God as our Father and ourselves as his dearly loved children. When we live in that relationship, prayer blossoms of its own accord. We chatter on endlessly to God then, just as children run on when they are with their parents.
With their parents. We have a problem of not seeing that we are always with the Father. He is always with us. We forget that, and that is one reason why our prayer life falters. I don’t know how many times I have read the Scripture where Jesus says: “Even the hairs of your head are numbered.” I know that I used to think that meant God, way up in heaven, far away, knew in his divine knowing even the number of my hairs – like some distant computer bank simply chocked full of information about us down here on earth. I think I was missing the point. The point Jesus was trying to get across is that the Father is not far away. The Father walks with us and we walk with him. He is so close to us that He counts our hairs. He is that near!
Prayer is talking to God the way a little one talks to mother or father. Such prayer bubbles up of its own accord when we remember that we are always walking in His sight, that He never leaves us, never forsakes us. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that. Remember that the words that he speaks in today’s Gospel were spoken on the night of his betrayal. He is not going to be with the disciples in the same way that he had been with them before. The cross and the empty tomb, the death and resurrection of Jesus, will bring a change in the manner of His presence. He will no longer be with them in the same way. But the Father’s presence which Jesus had sought to show them, to teach them, that will not change. The Father will be by them, with them, even through the dark days and hours ahead, and He’s just waiting for them to realize it and talk to him.
You see, Jesus did many wonderful things in the presence of the disciples. Miracles. Teachings that astounded and awed them. But only one thing that Jesus did moved the disciples to ask: “Teach us to do that too. Like you do.” That one thing was prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus prayed like no one had ever prayed before. Jesus spoke to the Father in the complete assurance of the Father’s acceptance and love. Jesus spoke to the Father not as to some absent deity, but as to a lovingly present parent. “Teach us to do that too.”
Jesus spent three years teaching them. He spoke to the Father constantly. In the middle of a conversation with them, he would lift his eyes and speak to the Father and then turn right back and speak to the disciples. He took prayer out from the temple and onto the streets; out from the synagogues and into the homes. He showed them that prayer wasn’t religious – in the sense of being something that was confined only to certain areas of our life. Prayer was a conversation with the Father that goes on wherever you happen to be. It doesn’t need a special time or a special place. All times and all places are prayer times and prayer places because the Father walks with you wherever you may go.
Think of what that means for us! Prayer is talking to God as his much loved child in the middle of your work day, as you’re driving the car, as you’re washing the dishes, as you’re plowing your fields, as you’re eating your meals, and as you’re lying down to sleep at night or waking up in the morning. Prayer is such speaking to the Father when you realize He is with you wherever you go and whatever you are doing. Prayer is the confession that you live in the presence of the Father.
And Jesus says that all talk to the Father is made in Jesus’, name. “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.” The joy that is in the name of Jesus is that we have a confident access to His Father as our Father. He is the Only Begotten Son of the Father. He invites us into His relationship with the Father, calls us His brothers, His sisters. Makes us coheirs with Him – all that is His, He gives to us. His Father He makes our Father. His home He makes our home. His Kingdom, He makes our kingdom. That is what Baptism is all about.
When we make our prayer then, in the name of Jesus, we are acknowledging that we have a Father in heaven who loves us and who regards us as his very own children all for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus came forth from the Father a single Son, an only Child. He returns with joy to the Father, and through cross and resurrection brings with Him many sisters and brothers, a whole family.
When our prayer is anchored in the name of Jesus we speak to the Father with absolute confidence and boldness. We know that He loves us, that He hears us, that He answers us for sure. Our sureness is based solidly on the fact that Jesus has brought us into this relationship with His Father and has told us to make ourselves at home.
The Church as the children of the family is marked by her family rituals. We talk to our Father together at certain times and at certain times we talk to our Father alone. The catechism teaches us to remember that we are God’s children by reciting the name that made us God’s children in our Baptism and by retracing the sign of the holy cross by which we were redeemed and then to talk to Him when we get up in the morning and receive a new day of grace from His loving hand: to thank Him for keeping us safely through the night and to ask that He would keep us also through the day that our life may please Him. The catechism teaches us to remember that we are God’s beloved children and to talk to Him whenever we receive the gift of food and drink from his hand, when we sit at table and when we rise from the table, saying thank you! The catechism teaches us to remember that we are God’s beloved children by reciting the name that made us His children and by retracing the sign of the holy cross by which we were redeemed and to talk to Him at night, when we are ready to lay down our bodies and rest: then we ask for his forgiveness for all the times we have failed to live as His children during the day just past and we ask for His loving protection through the night.
That is the basic framework of each day. By framing the day with prayer and punctuating it with prayer at the moments when we receive God’s gifts, the Catechism would teach us to live our lives in the presence of a loving heavenly Father, confident of the Father’s love because of the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. Fullness of joy will be ours indeed when we remember who we are: children of the heavenly Father, who take God up on His invitation to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father. Amen
- Like the crowd that had “eaten their fill,” we also are tempted to seek the Lord only for the earthly things He can give us. #
- Jesus reigns as our heavenly King, who calls us to repentance, fills us with needed spiritual blessings, and gives us everlasting life. #
- O Christ, satisfy not only my temporal needs but also my deepest spiritual needs. Amen. #
- People wanted to make Jesus a king on their terms (political, earthly) rather than accept Him as the King He was and is (heavenly, eternal). #
- People wanted to make Jesus a king on their terms (political, earthly) rather than accept Him as the King He was and is (heavenly, eternal). #
- As God provided manna in the wilderness after the exodus, so Jesus miraculously provided food for these people, proving He was the Christ. #
- Deception comes from the world, which has rejected God. #
- Though the heavenly bodies change and move, God and His Word remain constant and sure. We can trust His promises. #
- By holy Baptism he declared us to be begotten, freely, so that by a new restoration we might be born into his family. —Cassiodorus #
- In Baptism, God gives His struggling children the crown of life not because of their strength but because of His grace in Christ. #
- As a seed is planted into soil, so the Word of God comes from outside of us and produces a harvest of righteousness in our lives. #
- When Isaiah envisions a new exodus, it includes miraculous provision of water. Jesus Christ offers living water from His pierced side. #
- The Lord’s people break out in song, proclaiming God’s deeds to all people. Those who know the Word are obligated and blessed to proclaim it #
- Just as the people of old had been saved from Egyptian slavery, so also we have been saved sin and death through Christ. #
- In Christ, the sinner who is thirsty for forgiveness and reconciliation with God finds rest. -Bishop Lytkin, Siberian Lutheran Church. #
- The Father exalted, crowned, and enthroned the Son, giving Him as man a full share in His own divine glory. #