Why is There Strife and Conflict in the Church?

October 22nd, 2009 2 comments

Johann Gerhard offers these thoughts:

(7) We must also add that the unity of faith and doctrine in the Church in this life is not perfect nor absolute in all parts, for at times among the members of the true Church controversies occur which tear apart that holy unity. Therefore a distinction must be made between an absolute unity, perfect and free of all dissent, which will first take place in the church triumphant, and a fundamental unity which consists of agreement over the principal articles, though controversies may arise over some less principal parts of the faith or about indifferent ceremonies or even about the interpretation of some passages of Scripture. <P5:490> This is the sort of unity that takes place in the church militant, for in it we never find such a harmony but that it is mixed with some disagreements. For in this life “we know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). Augustine, De civ. Dei, bk. 15, c. 5:

Good people and good people, if they are perfect, cannot fight among themselves. Those who make progress but are not yet perfect can do so, as every good man fights another to the degree in which he fights against himself. In every man “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Therefore spiritual concupiscence can fight against the carnal concupiscence of another, or carnal concupiscence can fight against the spiritual concupiscence of another in the same way as good and evil people fight with each other; or certain carnal lusts of two good but not yet perfect people fight among themselves in the same way as bad people fight with bad people. This goes on until the health of those being cured is brought to final victory.

Here Augustine is disclosing the cause of discords in the church. The truly devout have not yet been renewed perfectly. Rather, some remnants of the flesh remain in them. Therefore they do not attain the exact and perfect knowledge of the mysteries of faith. In some matters they dream and stagger. In the reborn, the flesh still battles against the Spirit. Therefore it can happen easily, especially at the suggestion of the devil, that those who indulge in the opinions of the flesh stir up contentions in the church. Yet unless stubbornness is added and unless the foundation of faith is removed, they are not immediately separated from the body of the Church because of that.

Why Social Media and Social Networking for the Church? See for yourself

October 22nd, 2009 13 comments

Bach: The Composer – BBC Documentary

October 21st, 2009 4 comments

Categories: Bach

Vatican Issues Procedures for Anglicans to Enter Full, Corporate and Sacramental Union with the Roman Catholic Church

October 20th, 2009 33 comments

An interesting story “hot off the wires,” so to speak. One to watch. Will Rome extend the same invitation to Lutherans and make provisions similarly for them? And what will be the response and reaction if it does? From Scott Richert’s blog:

October 20, 2009, will go down in history as a turning point in Catholic-Anglican relations. This morning, at 11 A.M. Rome time (5 A.M. EDT), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced new procedures through which entire congregations of Anglicans can be reunited to the Catholic Church.

Late on Monday, October 19, after the CDF press conference was announced by the Vatican, rumors began to swirl. Most commentators thought that the announcement would involve the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group which represents 400,000 Anglicans in 40 countries worldwide, which had approached the CDF two years ago, requesting “full, corporate, and sacramental union” with the Catholic Church.

But today’s announcement goes well beyond the TAC.

William Cardinal Levada, the prefect of the CDF, and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, announced that Pope Benedict has signed an Apostolic Constitution (which has not yet been released) that will allow the TAC and other disaffected Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church as discrete bodies:

In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.

As John Allen of the National Catholic Register explains, “personal ordinariates” are

similar to the structures created throughout the world to provide pastoral care for members of the military and their families. The structures are, in effect, non-territorial dioceses, provided over by a bishop and with their own priests and seminarians.

While the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Anglican Holy Orders, the new structure will allow married Anglican clergy to receive Holy Orders after formal conversion, and thus to serve as Roman Catholic priests. As John Allen notes, in keeping with both Catholic and Orthodox tradition, “they may not be ordained as bishops.”

This new canonical structure will be open to all in the Anglican Communion (currently 77 million strong), including the Episcopal Church in the United States (approximately 2.2 million). The TAC will likely be the first to take advantage of the Apostolic Constitution, but more will undoubtedly follow. The Anglican Communion has been increasingly divided since the consecration of Gene Robinson, a open and practicing homosexual, as bishop in 2003, not to mention early controversies over the priestly and episcopal ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex couples.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Bonded and Genuine Leather: What’s the Difference?

October 19th, 2009 5 comments

During the course of a conversation with our customer service center at Concordia Publishing House a person asked,  “Can you ask Pastor McCain to post something on his blog about the difference between bonded leather and genuine leather?” Here you go. Bonded leather is manufactured from leather fibers scrapped from animal hides during the leather making process. These fibers are then formed into a sheet of leather-like materials using glues and bonding techniques. The result is a material that looks, smells and feels like a piece of leather, but is in fact, bonded leather fibers. It is less expensive than genuine leather and often people prefer it because it provides a leather-like experience for the book-buyer and user, but does not cost as much as real, genuine leather. It is not as strong as real leather and won’t last as long as genuine leather. Genuine leather is what the name states: genuine animal skin. The leather used on the genuine leather editions of The Lutheran Study Bible is pigskin, an extremely durable and strong leather, more so than cowhide. The bonded leather editions of The Lutheran Study Bible is made from cowhide fibers. Hope this helps!

Categories: CPH Resources

A Former Woman Lutheran Pastor on How She Realized Women’s Ordination is Wrong

October 19th, 2009 25 comments

WomenOrdinatesYes, I’m reporting on a former Lutheran, turned Roman Catholic, who renounced her ordination. Let me say that I do not necessarily endorse every word in this article, but it is safe to say that one of the tragedies in this story is the fact that she could only escape the grip of feminist/liberal theology at her ELCA seminary by moving to Romanism. It is important however to see in her story her recognition that the ordination of women has never had any good, solid theological justification. In Australia, where the struggle to push through the ordination of women has now failed, the theological arguments for the ordination of women simply could not stand up to the clear, and theological arguments made against it. Finally, the demand that women be ordained rests on social/cultural and emotional arguments, and it is absolutely no coincidence that the very same foundations are the reason why the ELCA has embraced homosexual clergy and homosexual “marriages.” Here is the source for this article.

Jennifer Ferrara Was Won Over by the Pope’s Theology of the Body

SPRING CITY, Pennsylvania, 21 JUNE 2004 (ZENIT)

When she was younger, Jennifer Ferrara never would have foreseen the day when she became a sort of apologist for the all-male Catholic priesthood.

But that’s what the former Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism has become.

Ferrara, who became Catholic in 1998, recently told her conversion story in “The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic Church” (Our Sunday Visitor), which she co-edited with Patricia Sodano Ireland, another former Lutheran pastor.

Ferrara shared with ZENIT how her search for theological justification of women’s ordination in Lutheran seminary eventually changed her mind about the priesthood and opened her heart to the Catholic Church.

Q: How did you as a former Lutheran pastor come to realize that women should not and cannot be ordained as priests?

Ferrara: When I entered seminary, I was a garden-variety feminist who believed men and women were basically the same. I thought it patently obvious that women should be ordained.

I really gave the issue little thought, but to the extent that I did, it was a matter of equal rights. I also was not particularly orthodox in my beliefs. I had studied religion in college; I did not lose my faith in the process but adopted a mishmash of heretical ideas.

While in the seminary, I gradually became theologically orthodox, which was — considering the environment of mainline Protestant seminaries — a minor miracle. Slowly, it began to dawn on me that women’s ordination was a new development that needed theological justification. I did not come up with a full-blown defense until years later when I was a parish pastor.

By that time, I thought of myself as an “evangelical catholic.” Evangelical catholics view Lutheranism as a reform movement within and for the one Church of Christ. Therefore, Lutherans have a responsibility to work toward reconciliation with Rome.

The fact that I was a Lutheran pastor put me in an awkward position, theologically speaking. I was an impediment to that reconciliation for which I longed. This forced me to take a hard look at the issue of women’s ordination.

Q: What did Luther himself think of the idea of women priests?

Ferrara: Though Martin Luther did not believe in women’s ordination, I found support for it in his writings.

In his “Lectures on Genesis,” he argues that God did not intend for men and women to have different roles. Differentiation between the sexes is a result of the fall of our first parents. As a form of punishment, women have been subjected to men and, therefore, have been deprived of the ability to administer to affairs outside the home, including those of the Church.

Luther believed that male headship was a matter of natural law. As a Lutheran pastor, I disagreed. The acceptance of equality between the sexes throughout the Western world demonstrated otherwise.

According to Luther, societal arrangements should be preserved within the Church, lest we give scandal to the Gospel. I thought restricting ordination to men had become a modern-day scandal. Ordaining women seemed like the best way to serve our Lord in this time and place.

When I started to think about becoming Roman Catholic, I disagreed with the Church’s teachings on women’s ordination. I actually thought about writing an article outlining what I presumed to be the theological deficiencies with the Catholic position, which in retrospect seems like sheer hubris.

In order to prepare for it, I read John Paul II’s theology of the body. There I encountered a vision of creation that challenged all my feminist notions about men and women.

Q: How so?

Ferrara: According to John Paul, men and women were not created essentially the same. Masculinity and femininity are not just attributes; rather, the function of sex is a constituent part of the person. Men and woman both express the human but do so in different and complementary ways. Believe it or not, this was a radically new idea to me.

The differences between men and women lie in the way they express love for one another. Men have the more active role in the relationship: The husband is the one who loves while the wife is the one who is loved and, in return, gives love. True authority is exercised through service. As John Paul II says, “To reign is to serve.”

However, men and women serve in particularly masculine and feminine ways. At the heart of this diversity in roles is the difference between motherhood and fatherhood.

No matter what men and women do, they bring paternal or maternal characteristics to their vocation. This is just as true of those who have chosen the religious life as it is of those who become biological parents.

This means the Roman Catholic priest is not simply a father figure: He is a spiritual father. To state what has ceased to be obvious in a society governed by the principle of androgyny: Mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Women are not men and, therefore, cannot be priests any more than they can be fathers in the physical sense. If women can step into the role of priest, then it is no longer one of fatherhood.

To understand all of this required me to give up my functional view of the ministry. In most Protestant denominations, the pastor serves a role within the priesthood of all believers. He or she preaches the Word and administers the sacraments.

In the Catholic Church, the priest acts “in persona Christi.” Christ is the bridegroom; the Church is his bride. This nuptial mystery is proclaimed throughout the Old and New Testaments.

According to the Catholic understanding of the priesthood, the priest represents Christ himself, the author of the covenant, the bridegroom and head of the Church. This is especially true in the case of the Eucharist, when Christ is exercising his ministry of salvation.

One must utterly disregard the importance of the nuptial mystery for the economy of salvation in order to make an argument for women’s ordination.

If the Church were to ordain women, the entire understanding of the importance of the feminine and masculine in the working out of our salvation would be lost. Much is at stake here. Once I really saw that, it was relatively easy for me to give up my ordination and embrace the Church’s position. ZE04062121


Jennifer Ferrara on Proper Roles in the Church

SPRING CITY, Pennsylvania, 22 JUNE 2004 (ZENIT)

Women can find innumerable opportunities for service in the Church if only they embrace their proper role, says a former Lutheran minister who now extols the all-male Catholic priesthood.

Jennifer Ferrara, who became Catholic in 1998, recently told her conversion story in “The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic Church” (Our Sunday Visitor). She co-edited it with Patricia Sodano Ireland, another former Lutheran pastor.

Ferrara shared with ZENIT how women will find fulfillment in the Church if they understand that only Catholicism recognizes the importance of the feminine in society and in salvation. Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.

Q: What role is left for women in the Church if they cannot be priests?

Ferrara: It is not a matter of a role “being left for women” but of women embracing their proper role. There has always been plenty for women to do in the Catholic Church.

Remember, the ordination of women in Protestant communities is a recent development. Before then, women had almost no role to play in those denominations. Protestant churches are starkly masculine.

As a Lutheran, I had no female models of holiness to turn to for comfort and guidance. Though many Protestant denominations ordain women, they do not recognize the importance of the feminine—mother Church embodied in Mary—in God’s plan for salvation.

I do not see why many Catholics discount the importance of the women religious in the life of the Church as if they were second-class citizens. They are our spiritual mothers.

Protestants have never recognized such a role for women. Moreover, there are also all sorts of lay apostolates, orders and associations women can join.

Q: Your conversion from a Lutheran minister to being a Catholic also meant giving up your former ministerial role, yet some women in the Church argue they feel excluded because they cannot become priests. What would you say to them?

Ferrara: I would begin by saying I understand their anger and frustration.

At first, I was bitter about the prospect of giving up my ordination in order to join the Church. However, I would also tell them my life as a Roman Catholic laywoman, wife and mother has taken on a new sense of definition.

For the first time, I am trying to listen to what the Church has to say about who I am rather than expecting the Church to conform to what I think she should be.

In general, modern people chafe against revealed authority because they expect the outer life of institutions to be rendered serviceable to the psychological inner life of individuals. Therefore, if women want to be priests and claim to feel pain because they are not priests, it automatically follows that they should be priests.

Yet women who insist they have a call to the priesthood and use their pain as evidence of an authentic interior call from God are, in fact, using the protean politics of pain and not Catholic theology to explain their experiences.

If they truly wish to empty themselves and renounce their own will for the sake of God and Church, they will find innumerable opportunities for service.

Q: How do you explain John Paul II’s claim that men and women were not created as identical beings to those who think men and women are the same, interchangeable?

Ferrara: I have found that those who are determined to embrace the principle of androgyny are not open to hearing about the Pope’s teachings.

However, the average person knows instinctively that men and women are not the same. This is especially true of those who have children. They see mothers and fathers, boys and girls, are inherently different.

John Paul II’s teachings explain reality. That is where I begin. If you can get people to acknowledge the simple premise that men and women—though equal in dignity and importance—are different, you can begin to talk about what this means for the roles they play.

Q: What can be done to combat the movement for women’s ordination?

Ferrara: Those of us who oppose women’s ordination cannot allow ourselves to be put on the defensive. We do not have to apologize for our stance. The best way to combat the movement for women’s ordination is to present the Church’s teachings in a positive light.

We do not raise the status of women by convincing them that they need to be men. Though women can and should be allowed to do most of the jobs traditionally filled by men—bringing to them a feminine sensibility—they cannot and never will be biological and spiritual fathers.

Those who insist otherwise effectively deny that which is noble and holy about being wives and mothers—biological and spiritual—in the plan by which God intends to redeem his creation.

The Catholic Church is one the few institutions, maybe the only one, left in the world that recognizes the importance of the feminine not only for the proper working of society but for our salvation. We need to be willing to say just that. ZE04062223

Categories: Theology

The Art in My Office

October 18th, 2009 2 comments

Per the request of a number of, as we say here in St. Louis, “Youse guys” … a little video tour of the artwork in my office. Sorry for the audio variations…the iPhone does a decent job with little videos, but you have to stay close to it as you talk!

Categories: Art

Why I Love my iPhone and Do Not Miss My Blackberry

October 17th, 2009 15 comments

Iphone 3GsIt is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Apple Inc. formally known as Apple Computer. I bought my first Apple computer, the Apple IIc back in…wow…let’s see now…it was 1985 or 1986. I bought my first Macintosh in 1987 or so. I’ve used PCs all these years too, not by choice, though. I fondly recall the passionate debates I got into with fellow seminary students who told me that a graphical user interface, a GUI, as we called it back in the day, was “stupid” and “would never catch on.” I fondly recall how those debates halted abruptly and with only embarrassing silence when Microsoft rolled out their Windows operating system. I’ve owned nearly every gizmo that Apple came out with, both the hits and the clunkers. I dodged the Newton bullet, fortunately. But there has been one thing I’ve avoided and swore I’d never use: an iPhone. Why? Simple really. I thought I would not like the fact that it has only a virtual keyboard, no real buttons to push. And so, I’ve had a Blackberry for several years and even when others around me started using the iPhone, I declared, when asked if I wanted an iPhone, “No thanks.” But that ended recently when I started using an iPhone 3GS, 32 gigabyte model.

I can’t believe how stupid I was in refusing one earlier. For anyone who has been following Apple for as long as I have (and you know who you are), you will agree with me when I say this, the iPhone is the epitome of what makes Apple one of the most innovative and consistently successful companies in the world. The iPhone is nothing short of a masterpiece of design and functionality, engineering and innovation, creativity and practicality. It is simply amazing. The fact that I have everything on one small device: a large music library, all my contacts, my phone, my e-mail system, text messaging, and a large e-book library to boot in a system engineered to be nearly idiot proof is powerful evidence of why Apple remains the innovator, and everyone else the follower. And, oh yea, I almost forgot: the apps. The iPhone is all about the apps. They are amazingly helpful and useful. I now have a talking GPS system better than my Garmin NUVI. I have apps that help me read more news than I have in years: the New York Times app, the CNN Mobile app, the Weather Channel, the stock market app. I’ve got an app that is helping me track my eating habits (we manage what we measure!).

I thought I would miss my Blackberry, but I do not. The keyboard on the iPhone is remarkable. As everyone told me, you just have to learn to trust it. The touch screen’s sensitivity is simply amazing, and I find that I can thumb-type almost as quickly on my iPhone as I did on the Blackberry. Everything about my iPhone is better than my Blackberry: better/sharper image, better sound, easier to use and navigate, etc.

What would I suggest as improvements to the iPhone? First, a multitasking operating system so I did not have to effectively quit one app, to launch another. Second, I would like a better way to activate the phone and place a call with a speed-dial, though, I must admit, I have not tried the voice recognition as much as I should, and used it successfully yesterday. Battery life? Yup, definitely needs to be improved, but I’m managing just fine with proper power management techniques and not using it obsessively. Other than that, I haven’t noticed anything I’d improve.

And that is why I love my iPhone and do not miss my Blackberry. Let’s hear it from iPhone and BB users out there. What is your take on the iPhone?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Famous “Bach Bible” — How it Found Its Way to Saint Louis, Missouri

October 17th, 2009 Comments off

Categories: Bach

How to Understand the Bible’s Teaching about Good Works

October 16th, 2009 4 comments

work-in-progressAccording to the “Second Martin,” that is, Martin Chemnitz, here is how we are to go about preaching and teaching about good works:

“Luther used to present this doctrine in a fine way in three points:

First, good works should be done for the sake of God’s will, because to do them is his command and will (John 15); because He is our Father, that we show ourselves to be as obedient children toward Him, 1 Pet. 1; 1 Jn 3, that we be God’s disciples, Eph. 5; 1 Pet. 2; 1 Jn 2, as he loves us and has forgiven us, Col. 3; 1 John 4, because Christ has given himself to us, in order that we not serve sin, but walk in the new life, Rom. 6; Titus 2; 1 Peter 1 and 2; Eph. 2; 2 Cor. 5, and in summary, that God be praised through our good works, Mat. 5; PHil. 1, 1 Pet.

Second, we are to do good works for the sake of our neighbor that he thereby be helped and served in his need, 1 John 3, that we give no one offense, 2 Cor. 6; Phil. 2, and the doctrine not be ridiculed, 1 Tim. 6; Titus 2, rather the mouth of the gainsayers be stopped, 1 Pet. 2 and 3, Titus 2, and that others may be won through our good conduct, Mat. 5; 1 Peter 3.

Third, we are to do good works, for the sake of our own need, so that through them we may have a certain testimony that our faith is true, and that we are truly righteous and saved by faith, 1 John 4; 2 Pet. 1; Gal. 5; Phil. 1;, that we not perchance deceive ourselves with a false and dead faith, 1 John 2 and 3; 1 Tim. 5; 2 Pet. 1; Js. 2, so that faith, the Holy Spirit, righteousness and salvation not again be lost, if we live according to the flesh, 1 Tim. 1; ;5 and 6; 1 Pet. 2; 2 Pet. 1 and 2; Rom. 8; Col. 3; Eph. 4; 1 Thess. 4, rather that faith be exercised and the calling made sure, Gal. 5; 2 Pet. 1, also for this reason, because God threatens severe punishment temporally and eternally for sin against conscience and promises forgiveness of sins and blessedness, they do otherwise, however, really have rich and glorious reward in this and in the future life, not on account of the worthiness of the works, but rather on account of grace, 1 Tim. 4; Galat. 6; Ephes. 6; 2 Tim. 4, Mat. 5; 6; 10; 25; Mark 10; Luke 14, etc.”

The Church Order of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
by Martin Chemnitz
Printed in Wolfenbüttel by Conrad Horn, 1569
Translated by M. Harrison and A. Smith, 2006

Categories: Christian Life

Kleinig Catechetical Material Now Available

October 15th, 2009 2 comments

Dr. John Kleinig, the popular author and lecturer, is featured on a new resource that I’m happy to tell you about:

New DVD Available Through Lutheran Catechetical Society –

Heaven Now Open

The Rev. Dr. John Kleinig will lead you through the Christ-centered, historic Lutheran Service and how we have access to the Father through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This DVD set contains over 7 hrs. of presentation from a symposium held in Ainsworth, Nebraska. Included on each of the 4 DVDs are Dr. Kleinig’s session outlines and another accompanying paper.

Captured in Hi-Def/anamorphic 16:9 widescreen/5.1 Surround.

This presentation, due to the amount of digital data, is produced on dual-layer discs (DVD + R DL, or DVD-9). While these discs should play in most modern DVD players, The LCS cannot guarantee it will work on yours. Please consult your player’s manual.

The cost of the DVD set is $40 plus $5 shipping. To order your set using paypal go to thelcs.org and click on purchase. For those who do not wish to use paypal send a check to:

The Lutheran Catechetical Society
704 N Jefferson PO 687
Roanoke, IL. 61561

Categories: Uncategorized

Former Christian Bookstore Manager Comments on The Lutheran Study Bible and Other Study Bibles

October 15th, 2009 2 comments

I received this very interesting message from a former manager of a Christian bookstore, who has a lot of experience with many Study Bibles. I told him that his remarks were not “goofy” at all but spot-on. I think you will agree:

In the late 80′s and early 90′s when I was fresh out of Bible college that I worked in and then managed a Christian Bookstore. I was familiar with the Scofield Reference Bible (my parents bought me one in 1978), the Thompson Chain Reference, the Open Bible (even the Walk through the Bible edition), and the Ryrie Study Bible. I was there for the release of the NIV Study Bible–and gave them away as gifts. I saw the Disciple’s Study Bible appear from Holman. I was there at the 1990 Christian Retailers convention in Denver when one of the “scholars” who worked on the New Revised Standard Version openly stated that they “fixed” the wording in part of Hebrews where it quoted the LXX rather than the “actual Hebrew” and became completely, openly convinced that I would never, ever use that translation with a church group nor recommend it to anyone ever—You don’t correct theopneustos words, they correct you. I saw the Life Application Bible and the “English translation explosion” and for a few years reviewed every new Study Bible or translation that came out.

Then the Holy Spirit took what I had learned from my Baptist professors and helped me to understand that the Sacraments weren’t pretty pictures, but that God actually worked through them. And as I searched for where God would have me go, I found the complete works of a fellow called “Martin Luther” at the State Library of Michigan (of all places). I read and I read and I read. I found a man whom the Holy Spirit had changed through the Word of God and who thought as did I and I could sense the Holy Spirit using this text. No, not in some sort of pietistic “outside of scripture” way, but as God led Luther to use the scriptures, the Holy Spirit then worked with them on me.

All that is to lead up to this: I had almost the exact same experience as I read through the notes of The Lutheran Study Bible. It’s as if the commentators jumped back to an earlier era of Lutheranism. I say that because much of what I read outside of Luther or Chemnitz (even a lot of Walther) really didn’t thrill me. It either seemed like a response against the Zwinglian-Reformed or it was just an empty stating of Dogma rather than an interaction with the Risen Christ. But this new Lutheran Study Bible doesn’t leave me just intellectually stimulated; it goes deeper.

Most of the problems I now see with the Zwinglian-Reformed Study Bibles stem from the fact they focus either on a conservative cerebral exercise or they tend to drum up a false emotional-based sensation that focuses “on the horizontal” (Jesus and me—and really, it’s me) rather than leading us back to Christ and having the emotion that sometimes naturally flows come from interaction with the “vertical” by the Holy Spirit using the Word.

What I have experienced in just two days of using my new LSB is not only cerebral, but it’s deeper. It’s not only emotional, it’s emotion based on a relationship with Christ through His Word—it’s hard to explain without sounding goofy.

I guess all this is simply to say, “Thank you.” “Home Run.”

I bought one of these for my “classical dispensationalist” Father-in-law, but I think he’s really, really going to be blessed by it (even if he won’t like the chart in the beginning of the Revelation).

Thank you

Randy Keyes Lansing, MI

Bach Documentary

October 15th, 2009 3 comments

Categories: Bach

Banishing the Dead from Their Own Funeral

October 14th, 2009 8 comments

Yeltsinwid2504_468x379Pastor Peters has an extremely important post up on his blog site. I simply must repeat it here. I can not begin to tell you how powerfully essential the body of a loved one is, to view, and to bury, at the time of death. People think that somehow they are doing something good by an instant cremation or a simple memorial service, with the body of their loved one out of sight. Believe me, it is not helpful. Please consider carefully Pastor Peters’ very wise words.

Funeral practices could probably take up a hundred posts and still we would but scratch the surface. Suffice it to say that the industry is profit driven and that most funeral directors will do whatever the family wants to please the customer. I am not faulting this but suggesting that the goals of the funeral home may be at odds with the Church.

I for one am not a big fan of the big screen TVs that have shown up in every funeral chapel around. They are fine in the viewing areas where family meets friends and often help put a fuller perspective on a person’s life than what someone might know only from the perspective of work or neighborhood. If chosen well it can relieve some of the pressure on the family to rehearse over and over again details and stories that can be easily told in the form of a single photo. But…
None of this belongs in the chapel or in the church. There these screens stick out at cross purposes with the funeral liturgy. Here we focus not on the life of the deceased but on the hope that bestows resurrection and life everlasting — in other words, we focus on Jesus Christ. But it is hard to talk about Jesus while photos of the deceased and the family trip to Yosemite flash behind or on either side of the preacher. And if the family is non-Christian, why do they gather in the “chapel” at all — it seems a curious place for people with no beliefs.
I am equally uncomfortable about most of the canned music that is played as either background or front and center during many funerals at funeral homes (and, unfortunately, in churches, too). The music for the funeral is the music of the Church — the sturdy hymns of old that give melody to the message of death and resurrection, forgiveness and life through Jesus Christ. ‘Daddy’s Hands” may be good for a ton of tears but sentiment is no substitute for the hope that is within us. For that it must be Jesus Christ — crucified and risen for me and my salvation. Again this is directed to Christians — to church members — and not to the unbelieving world which can play whatever they want (with the exception of music of the faith) — including “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (ala The Big Chill).

But increasingly we are finding the phenomenon of a funeral in which the deceased is not present. People are doing more and more immediate cremations with memorial services that follow later (often sans even the ashes). In other words, a funeral in which the dead have been banished. But why? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Having the dead present only reminds us that funerals are, well, about death. They make it hard to turn the funeral into a happy event when there is the unpleasantness of a dead body lying right there in front everyone. It costs a bit more and who wants to waste money on a body that is already dead? The person isn’t really there anyway so that body is just a shell that has been outgrown, right?But I am all for having the body there. Even if cremation is the choice, having the body there for the funeral is a good thing. Yes, it reminds us that we have not gathered to remember a life but to bury the dead. But that is the reality of it. Death is real. We can cover it up with pancake makeup, we can dress it up in new clothes, we can make it look like sleep (but isn’t that a pleasant thought — your loved one is sleeping in a casket and about to be closed in a covered up forever), but it is death we must deal with.

The resurrection only makes sense as hope if death is real to us — the thief who steals away our lives… the result of a sin we were born into and added to on our own… the cold darkness that would swallow us up except that Jesus swallowed it up for us…

All our wonderful funeral practices cannot make this reality go away — only Jesus can. And we do not do ourselves any favors by trying to make it appear as if death were not real. It is. It is real and personal. Only a Savior who is as real and personal can address it and steal away its victory.

And we do our children no favors by shielding them from death. We won’t teach them to pray “if I should die before I wake” because we don’t want them to have nightmares. We drop them off at the babysitter so that they don’t have to suffer seeing grandma in the casket. Are we helping or hurting them? Or, by insulating them, are we are hurting them?

I have a vivid memory of my mother lovingly and gently fixing the hair of her Aunt Alice when she died. It did not scar me. It taught me. Like the men and women who brought the spices to anoint Jesus’ body, this was an act of love. Years ago the family washed the body and this duty of love was not only an acknowledgment of death’s reality but pointed to a reality even bigger — of the love that raises the dead to life everlasting. Years ago every home had a formal parlor whose duties included housing the coffin and the dead for the family visitation. Churches has formal parlors for just the same purpose.

I can still recall when my Grandpa Peters died and the pallbearers lifted the heavy casket and body to carry it out the door of the country church and down the hill into the cemetery behind it. I can still see the long line of people who had filled the building in testament to their love for my Grandpa. I can still hear the dirt and the sound it made on the metal casket as the casket was being lowered into the ground. I remember the tombstones of my great-grandparents nearby and other family members as I looked around that day now forty six years ago. These are not terrible memories but comforting ones. Death was real and honest but life was proclaimed in Jesus Christ who is even more real and more truthful. It all combined to tell me where my Grandpa was, who he was a child of God, and what grace supported him in life and now called to him in death with the life only Christ can give.

Let the body be at the funeral… Let the children come, too… Don’t let memories be your only consolation — let it be the Resurrection of our Lord that lifts your spirit. Don’t hide the death in the hopes that it will make it all easier. Let us be honest… honest about death and honest about the life that is ours in Christ. It will help and will not hurt. God promises us this…

Categories: pastoral ministry

“I’m Not Interested in Building up the Church, just the Kingdom of God”

October 13th, 2009 16 comments

i_love_heart_my_church_t_shirt-p235728516225536370c9hl_400Oh, the things some Christians say and do. There is now buzzing about the Interwebs a whole lot of chatter about wanting to build the Kingdom of God, but not the Church. Well, this betrays a total misunderstanding of what the Bible says about the Kingdom of God and the Church. The sound-bite is appealing to those who want to be Christians but don’t like “the Church.” You see, there is this latent stream of arrogance that runs under much of the “missional” movement by which they try to drive a wedge between “the Kingdom” and “the Church.” For, you see, they are so much hipper, cooler, more in tune with and aware of “Kingdom issues” than “Church” things. Huddling in darkened candle-lit spaces singing spiritual songs is Kingdom building. Sitting around a table decided how to organize next year’s youth program: well, that’s just “church stuff.” You get the picture. Here is a nice rebuttal to this thinking:

Ray Ortlund responds to those who says, “My passion isn’t to build up my church. My passion is for God’s Kingdom.” He thinks such a sentiment sounds large-hearted, but is wrong–and can even be destructive:

Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I’ll work for that. I’ll pray for that. I’ll sacrifice for that. But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I’m aiming at something grander.”

If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?

If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.

We build great churches the same way we build great marriages — real commitment that makes a positive difference every day.

Coming soon: Reflections on the oft-heard comment in our circles, “We just want to make people Christians, not Lutherans.”