Saturday, May 31, 2008

Change the Chicken or Change the Egg?

Here's a post that covers both religion and politics.

The modern worldview, shaped by the enlightenment believed that man can solve all the problems in the world. The enlightenment thinkers understood that man must be changed. They believed that if they changed society, man would be changed. Thus, if you can create the workers paradise, human beings will change to fit into this perfection. It was not just communism, but also the liberal social agenda in the United States - the so called war on poverty.

The problem is that it doesn't work. Attempting to change society first, fails to take into account the nature of evil. Because human beings are born with an evil nature, they refuse to fit into such Utopian boxes - even if the individual would them self benefit.

Historic Christianity offers the only real alternative. Christianity doesn't set out to change the world. It sets out to show people that they are sinners and that they have a savior in Jesus Christ. When a person becomes a Christian, over time, this changes them. They are no longer driven entirely by the forces of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Strangely, human beings who are changed, when enough are changed, change the world.

This is no longer theory. Both approaches have been attempted. Changing the individual first and letting the changed individuals change society has worked. Attempting to change society then letting society change the individual has proven to be a failure. Understanding this will direct the direction of theology, teaching us to focus upon each individual person rather than on social movements. It also changes how we vote, teaching us that government has to get out of the way and let other forces change individuals.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Swimming the Tiber

It has become commonplace for Lutheran pastors to become Roman Catholic - or as we say to swim the Tiber. The companion expression is to swim the Bosporus for those who become Orthodox. Recently I heard a report that a pastor that I have known and respected did swim the Tiber.

Why is this happening? Often times it is the best and the brightest that we are losing. The answer is complex and varied. But one factor is that we in the Missouri Synod are failing to be Lutheran. Confessional Lutheranism is built around an authoritative Scripture and authoritative confession which is expressed in practice in the liturgy. This also results in an authoritative ministry, speaking the words of Scripture. At the heart of this is the concept of means of Grace. We do not believe that God's gifts are floating around out there, but that they are applied to each Christian, directly, by name, in Word and Sacrament.

We have this structure on paper but often not in practice. C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the LCMS, stated that no one dare challenge a pastor when he is correctly speaking the Word of God. Yet, I have had congregational leaders, including elders, tell me to my face that they don't care what the Bible says. Many of our congregations are begging to adopt non-Lutheran worship practices, which implicitly deny our understanding of means of grace.

Rome has many problems, from the perspective of confessional Lutheranism. But they have structure and they do believe in means of grace. This is why many of our best and brightest are swimming the Tiber - they see Rome as more Lutheran than most Lutherans are.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Waky World of Computers & Hospitals

I'm blogging from the hospital computer in the lounge. My own laptop is down. I need the Windows XP setup disk to fix it. Wouldn't you think in a hospital full of computers there would a be a copy laying around somewhere, but no. And since I'm four hours from home I don't get many visiters. A couple friends in the area have tried but either have Vista or can't find their own copy of the set up disk. Needless to say that that has made life rather frustrating here at club med.

The hospital brought in a loner lap top and that broke down after about a day. I'd better finish this before the lounge computer breaks down.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Presidential Election

I'm not predicting anything. I would like lay out a possible way this could play out. The Dems could split resulting in both Hilary and Obama being on the ballet come November. That is that there are two Democratic presidential candidates. This has happened a few times in U.S. history, most notably in 1860, when there were three Democratic presidential candidates, Stephen Douglas, John Bell, and John Breckinridge. It also happened to the Republicans where former president Theodore Roosevelt ran in 1912 as an independent Republican - the so called "Bull Moose" party.

Before the McCainiacs get all excited, I should point out that this may not play to McCain's advantage. If he were to pick a very liberal VP, he could alienate his base. In which case, many conservatives could defect to Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate. Barr is not really a Libertarian at all, but a very conservative Republican who felt like he was squeezed out of his own party. With a united Demcratic party, conservatives will likely rally behind McCain, because both Dem candidates are so radically liberal that they would do great damage. But if the Dems are divided, all bets are off and we could end up with four presidential candidates getting electorial votes. Is this likely, no, but what did happen in 1860 wasn't likely either.

Polygamists Exhonerated?

There is an interesting development in the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints case down in Texas. A judge has ruled that the state was wrong to seize all the children from the FLDS compound. The appeals court judge said that there was no evidence that the children were in immediate danger, which under Texas law is require to seize children without first going to court.

While I do not support polygamy, and recognize the FLDS, and indeed all branches of the LDS, as non-Christian, I am pleased with this ruling. The standard for taking children from their homes and their parents should be high.

Some years ago I was involved in a child custody case. The parent involved was a convicted sex offender and also was a drug user. Yet, child welfare was determined that this child be with the parent. Yet, at the same time they were harassing home school parents, for no other reason than that they were home schoolers. This experience has taught me that bureaucrats can't be trusted with our children. In fact, I would rather see a child with less than stellar parents with flaky ideas, than be victims of the state.

Health, Politics, and Technology

I had a new experience today at Club Med. When I come in for my tune up visits they need to put in a "Pic" line. This is an I-V that goes about a foot up into your veins. Most of the time these a place in radiology either using a flouriscope and having dye shot in your veins or with an ultrasound. This time a nurse came into my room with a portable ultrasound and placed the line.

Typically a line placed in radiology costs about $3k. This probably still ran by a five hundred and a thousand dollars, but still a considerable savings.

The health care industry is a very creative area of our society. Those who work in the field are constantly trying to improve. It's one place where people try to inovate for reasons other than personal gain. (Though some inovations are profitable.) It's the nature of those who work in this vocation to want to help others. It must also be said that the U.S. health care system is best in the world. Yet, health care has now become a political football. Of course it is the cost of health care is the problem. Yet, I believe that the health care industry, left unfettered would solve the problem of cost. They would innovate, as this hospital has, using new technologies like portable ultrasound to manage costs as well as improve treatments.

The health care industry is the victim of two kinds of socialism. The government has become a major provide of health care funding. Yet, they underpay the providers, drivng everyone's costs higher. I understand the motives of those who created government health care coverage. I myself have benifitted from this at times. But it is hurting this increasingly vital industry. It is a given that it should be our national policy to move as many people as possible off of government health care programs. But private insurance has, at the same time, imposed its own form of Schumpeteran socialism. In Joseph Schumpeter's model the large corporations basicly each take control of their sector of the economy, eliminate compitition and maximize profits. This is what managed health care programs are all about. They benifit no one but the insurance companies. So the solution is not just getting people off of government programs but also getting them into private insurance that is not corporate socialism either. This would turn doctors and hospitals loose to innvate and continue to improve this already great health care system.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Father Pius

Today I was visited by Father Pius, the Roman Catholic chaplin on 8 north here at club med. Since it is a Catholic hospital though there is an LCMS chaplin pastor Steve Sutterer.

I enjoy visiting with the RC chaplins because they are generally very scholarly men. In the case of Father Pius he is from Nigeria. I asked him about his country. There are tensions there, which he believes are in part because the common people get no benifit of the sale of oil from their country. Sadly this all too often case in many parts of the world, with a few awash in oil money and the people getting nothing.

We also discussed Pope Benedict. He noted that Benedict is a great writer, but not as charismatic as John Paul.

I want to make another point about foreign chaplins in general. Unlike some American clergy, these men get it. They understand the superficially of our earthly lives and the need to find meaning in Christ. While I, of course, have many disagreements with RC's, being that I am a confessional Lutheran, I respect these men. Most of all I respect them for being willing to be genuine.

News From Club Med

In the Cystic Fibrosis community "Club Med" is short for "Club Medical" aka the hospital. In this case it is St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield, Wisconsin. I am in for an extra "tune up" visit.

I came in on Tuesday evening, May 20. First they didn't have my paperwork at addmitting, although 6th floor already had it. Then 6 North didn't have private room for me. CF's are always put in private rooms to prevent cross infection. So they shipped me up to 8 North which is oncology. I proceeded to unload the moving van with all my stuff. For CF patients a week in the hospital is short. Since they don't let you out on pass anymore you have to try to remember everything the first time.

About midnight, right after my first does of Zosen, I broke out in a rash, turned red as the coats of the Coldstream Guards and developed chills. I guess that antibiotic is a no-no from now one. They gave me some morphine. I guess I'm a real druggy now. That did seem to resolve the short term problems. I think, however, I'll pass on any more of the "good drugs."

The nurses up here have been great. Julie, my nurse last night for our big adventure was outstanding. Apparently they get a lot of wierd reactions to medications in oncology, so she knew exactly what was happening and what to do.

I'm catching up to with all my friends in Respretory Theropy. (RTs.) One of the cleaning ladies who remembered from 6 north asked how I saw the election playing out. While I do my walking on the treadmill we starting watching a tape of the movie "Zeppeline" with Michael York - a great, oft overlooked movie.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Huh? Crazy Things We See and Hear

I saw a couple bumper stickers that really made me pause and wonder about the rationality of the owner of the vehicle. One was "Impeachment is Patriotic". Now I would contend that as a general statement, that is correct. If a president has committed a crime, like lying under oath to a grand jury, they should be brought to trial under the impeachment process and removed from office. There is some debate among scholars whether the impeachment clause in the constitution was intended just for governmental process crimes or personal criminal activity. I would contend it was intended to cover any and all crimes committed by a president. I would even suggest that it include crimes that he may have committed before coming into office. If it didn't cover all crimes we would have situations like this: A president gets angry with the Secretary of State for nailing his daughter, the president pulls out a gun and shoots him dead right in the oval office in front of ten witness. Yet, he can't be prosecuted in the normal courts, because a president is immune from such prosecution. Nor could he be impeached because it would be a private criminal matter. So impeachment would have to apply to all criminal matters. Otherwise it would be absurd. And indeed, since it is always a bad thing to have a criminal in the White House, impeachment is indeed patriotic.

The problem with this bumper sticker is that it was not intended to make a general statement. It was in fact a call to impeach president Bush. The problem is that there is no crime. Even if Bush lied to get the nation to approve of the invasion of Iraq, there's no law against that. Furthermore, one can be truthful and be wrong. A lie is when one knows the truth and then says something different. If President Bush thought Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's) then he was telling the truth. He may have been wrong, but he was still honest. Further at this point in time, with reliable reports of WMD material showing up in Syria and the actual uncovering of small amounts of WMD material in Iraq, Bush may not even have been wrong.

A further point must be made regarding the irrationality of the impeach Bush position. He leaves office in seven months. He's term limited, so he's done, period. Why the vitriol for one who's about to go away anyway?

This same vehicle also had a bumper sticker that said: "You can't be prolife and prowar." Holy nonsequitur! War is about restraining evil in the world. Terrorists are about the most evil people you can find in the whole history of the world. A war to restrain terrorists is about as just of a war as you could ever fight. In this sense, war is what we do to restrain evil doers outside our own nation. Law enforcement is what we do to restrain evil doers inside the country. On the other hand, the prolife movement is about protecting the lives of the innocent, who have done no specific evil and who have been given no due process. Our constitution says that no citizen of the United States may be deprived of their life without due process. That means that they have to have a fair trial with legally collected evidence presented to show their guilt. Once their guilt is established, through this due process, they may, if the statues call for it, be deprived of their life. In fact, one can be very supportive of war and capital punishment precisely because they are prolife. After all, did those people in the World Trade Center ever get due process? Is there due process at a Planned Parenthood Clinic?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sermon for May 17-18

The Feast of the Holy Trinity
May 17-18, 2008
Text: Matthew 28:16-20

Dear Friends in Christ,
Why do we name things? Why don’t we just point and say that thing or that person? Well, for one thing it would make communication difficult. Think of a telephone conversation where you couldn’t identify anything or anyone by name. You would be talking in circles. One person would be talking about their car, but the other person might think that they were talking about their dog. Thus, already in the Garden of Eden, God had Adam name the animals. That made it possible to distinguish between a dog, a horse, and a cow. But that was not enough. They quickly also named the people, Adam, Eve, Seth, Noah, and so forth. And early on in Scripture, there are names for the true God - I Am or Yahweh, the Ruach-Elohiem, that is the Spirit of God and so forth. Later more names would be added - Ancient of Days or Father, Son of Mankind or Christ, the Comforter or Holy Spirit. There are many others, as well. I should make one point here as an aside. “Trinity” is not a name for God. It is a theological description of God. The word “Trinity” appears nowhere in Scripture.
Names function in two ways. They allow us to greet and identify someone by name. When I see the secretary of the Lion’s Club I can say, “Hi, Barry.” I can identify him by name. I can address him and he knows that I’m talking to him and not someone else. And if I need to get his attention from across the room, I can call out to him. That’s what knowing his name does for me. Names function another way. They identify ownership. Most of us have either gone to summer camp or sent children to summer camp. Or perhaps you had children of the same gender who wore clothes that were the same size. So what do you do so you can identify what belongs to which person? You take a laundry marker and do what? You write their name on the tag. This is my shirt, it has my name on it, or no this is not mine, it say “Mark” on the label.
God’s name is no different. We must know His name to call upon Him. God is a little like a girl in a certain story who was named Jennifer. She would answer to no other name. People would try to call her Jenny and she wouldn’t answer. She would only answer to her proper name. So also with God. He is not simply a generic being. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is what He had revealed Himself to be.
Many times people will make up nicknames. A young English boy named Clive, had nicknames for everyone, including himself. Even as an adult, his friends knew him as Jack. Even one of the biographies of this man was called “Jack”. Most of us know this man simply as C. S. Lewis - the author of the “Chronicles of Narnia.” But with God it is different. We are not to make up names for Him. Part of this is that we are to have a great respect for God. But more importantly, we know nothing of God, beyond what He has revealed to us. We do not address God as “parent”, we address Him as “Father”. He has not revealed Himself as parent. He has revealed Himself as Father. We must trust that God is as God the Holy Spirit has revealed Him. We must not presume to know more than the Holy Spirit.
God also uses His Holy divine name to make us as His property. He has ownership of us in two ways. The first is that He made us in His own image. We read this in our first lesson for today. Because of the fall into sin, we were lost to God. But God the Son, that is Jesus Christ, the Son of Mankind was sent to reclaim us to God. God then writes His name on the forehead of those whom He has reclaimed. You might say, “I don’t see anything.” That’s right, we don’t. But God does. There are even passages in Scripture that speak of this such as Revelation 22:4 “They will see [God’s] face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” In other places, angels are sent out to work God’s judgements upon the earth, but the angels are to spare anyone who has God’s name written upon their forehead. That name is written upon us when we are baptized. We are made God’s personal property. We bear His mark. It is a mark of God’s grace. He has bought us back from sin and death with the Holy, precious, innocent blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Then having regained us to Himself, He lovingly marks us as His own by placing His own name upon us.
The names of God are important. Our very salvation hinges upon it. As Peter stated, speaking to the Sanhedrin: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Our salvation is not just in Christ. It is in His found in His name. Christ Himself ordered that forgiveness be preached in His name. (Luke 24:47) So we are taught in Holy Scripture to regard the names by which God has revealed Himself, as holy and precious. Indeed, the Second Commandment teaches us to not misuse the name of God. None of the names of God is to be regarded as more important or more precious than that of Jesus Christ. For the man Jesus, is the full revelation of God. As Christ states, no one has seen the Father except the Son and if you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father.
Many will claim that these books which we regard as Scripture are no different than other ancient writings. Why do we not regard the so called gnostic gospels as being of equal importance? Why do we reject the Koran? To be Holy Scripture, two things are required. First it must be a genuine writing. That is if it says it was written by Paul, it must have been written by Paul. Scripture will never approach us with a falsehood. Any writings which are fraudulent must be rejected. Thus, in the Middle Ages, there was a letter to the Laodiceans that was circulating. But long before Luther’s day, scholarship had made it clear that this work was a pious fraud that was not written by St. Paul at all. Secondly, a book must have been written by or approved by a prophet or apostle. Lastly, God Himself has closed off further revelation of Himself. He has said that there is no more to be revealed. In Revelation 22:18-19 we read: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” This passage is understood among us to be referring to all of Scripture. By these words God is saying that there will be no writings to be added. The work of writing Scripture is complete. Therefore, there are no new names for God to be revealed.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It is a day where we celebrate that full revelation of God, by His Holy names - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Many want to invent new names or say that we can use any name we choose. But this is not so. We can only call upon God by the names He has revealed to us. We are to use no others. Thus we must say that names like Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, and the like are not names for the true God. They are false gods which are to be rejected. Those who call upon those names will not be saved. We must confess this boldly and without reservation. Instead of these rejected names, we call upon the name of Jesus Christ. The name Father Son and Holy Spirit is written on our foreheads in baptism. These names are saving names. The name of Jesus is life itself. Amen!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Caution: Change Management Steamroller in Operation

Well, today we heard that Rev. Dr. Martin Noland has resigned from the Concordia Historical Institute. He was asked to resign by the governing board of CHI, so this was not Rev. Noland's choice.

So that's three that we know about the about in the last few weeks - Rev. Wilken, Rev. May, and now Rev. Noland - who have been removed from their positions in the Missouri Synod. However, it should be noted that Rev. May and Rev. Noland would have largely slipped under the radar, had not people been put on alert by the firing of Rev. Wilken. I am also convinced that the firestorm that was created by the firing of Rev. Wilken genuinely caught the bureaucrats by surprise.

It appears that President Kieschnick is following a management model called "Change Management". One of the stages is eliminating opposition. (I think Lucky Luciano was the first one to master this phase of "Change Management".) This is the stage we're at today. Kieschnick is trying to remove the roadblocks to change. I believe the plan was to work up from smallest to biggest. People like Rev. Matt Harrison at LCMS World Relief and Rev. Paul McCain at Concordia Publishing house would only be taken down after they'd eliminated most of the less visible "obstacles". The plan was partially derailed by the fact that Rev. Wilken had a broader base of support than they had expected.

Who's next on the chopping block? Probably someone that most of us have never heard of. Those will be the guys they go after next. But sooner or later, the prominent names have to be eliminated. So we should be expecting that. Also, I believe that Kieschnick will have to remove some district presidents as well. So don't be surprised when that happens. The time to be especially alert is going to be August. August is a traditional time for big firings. Beyond that we must be on our guard at any holiday or traditional vacation time. Those are the times the bureaucracy likes to play.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

sermon for May 10-11

The Feast of Pentecost
May 11, 2008
Text: Acts 2:1-21
Dear Friends in Christ,
One my favorite Warner Brothers cartoon character is Marvin Martian. Marvin is always trying to set off the big ka-boom. He wants to blow up the Earth because it’s blocking his view of Venus. His antics always lead Bugs Bunny to comment, “Hey Doc, you could hurt someone.” Inevitably Bugs always has to stop Marvin from setting off the big ka-boom. But like all good cartoon characters, Marvin keeps coming back to try again.
On Pentecost God had His own big ka-boom to set off. His Word was about to explode into the world. And the effects would be world wide.
The day of Pentecost was one of the great pilgrim festivals of the Jewish religion. Further, at that time, as it is today with the modern state of Israel, many Jews were looking to return to their ancestral homeland. Likewise there were more Jews in other parts of the world than there were in Jerusalem. In this, it is much like today where there are more Jews in New York City than in the whole nation of Israel. The upshot of all this is that Jerusalem was full to overflowing.
Notice here how God picks his times. Christ was crucified at a time when Jerusalem was full of visitors. Fifty days later, on the Jewish Pentecost festival, the city is again filled with visitors literally from all over the world. God has set the stage for word of these events to spread quickly.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.” By all here, we mean the whole congregation of Christians that already existed in Jerusalem. It was a group of about 120 people. They were gathered to commemorate Christ’s resurrection and very likely to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We know from ancient sources like the “Apostolic Tradition” written by the church father Hippolytus that there services were not much different than our services today. So it was during this liturgical gathering that the Holy Spirit came upon them. If I were to hazard a guess at what point in the Service the Holy Spirit came, I would say it was probably during the singing of the Santcus, right after the bread and wine had been consecrated. For that moment, it was a whole congregation of prophets.
What is this speaking in other tongues? This is clearly, from the context, speaking in other earthly languages, beyond what they had ever learned. So to put it in our modern context is was as if suddenly people were speaking in English, Dutch, German, Swedish, French, Italian and so forth. This was not at all like the modern phenomenon of speaking in tongues. People clearly understood what was being said - in their own native languages. Scholars will debate if the miracle was in the mouths of the speakers or the ears of the hearers. But that is not important for us. What is important is that the people who gathered could understand what was being said. The Tower of Babel was, for that moment, reversed, and there was perfect communication.
Why does Peter get up to preach? Why not someone else, if the Holy Spirit came upon all of them? What was Peter? He was a pastor. Christ appointed the faithful eleven to be pastors. It is unclear whether Christ also appointed His brother James, or if James would be placed into office by the eleven. We do know, however that Christ, after His resurrection, appeared specifically to James. So even though his “ordination” is not recorded in Scripture, he too may have been directly appointed by Christ. So the point here is that Peter, along with a few others, is a pastor. The Church always speaks though its appointed spokesmen. So Peter gets up and preaches. He explains that this event was the coming of the Holy Spirit prophesied in the writings of Joel. He goes on to accuse them of killing Christ through their leaders. But he also assures them “that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Central to Peter’s message is that Jesus lives and rules over all things. At the end of Peter’s sermon we read: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Notice here again, they went to the Apostles, that is the pastors. Peter and the other Apostles then teach them they are to repent of their sins and be baptized into the name of Christ. In this way they would be making Christ’s death and resurrection, their own death and resurrection. That day the fishermens’ nets were full to overthrowing.
We call this day, Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. This is the day that God’s Word exploded in the world. Why did this happen? Because the Holy Spirit was at work through the Word. Many today think that we can reproduce Pentecost if we just have the right technique. But this is faulty thinking. Luther dealt with in the Small Catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel...” Without the person and work of God, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, people cannot come to faith. Yet, we know that through God’s Word the Holy Spirit is at work. Christ continues to explode through the Word in places and ways we cannot imagine or predict. We are now hearing reports that many people in Iraq are secretly converting to Christianity and rejecting Islam. We shall see how that plays out. But even just a handful of years ago, who would have thought such a thing.
If we are not to concern ourselves with trying to the Holy Spirit’s work for Him, what are we to be about. We are to be focused upon Peter’s message. We are sinners. Our sins put Christ on the cross. But in Christ there is forgiveness and life. In the waters of baptism we are united with Christ’s death and resurrection, so we also rise to life with Him. We are to be confessors of Christ. For indeed without Christ, we have nothing of value. And yet, in all this, the Holy Spirit is working. He is drawing us ever closer to Christ and bring others to faith in Christ. In some cases we don’t even know how our witness affects others. Such is the way of the Holy Spirit. We confess Christ. We cling to our baptism. We let the Holy Spirit set off God’s big ka-boom when and where He chooses. Amen!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Witchcraft, Code Pink, and the Marine Corp

Here's one that's made for the intersection of religion and politics. Code Pink protesters in front of the Marine Corp recruiting center, are turning to witchcraft. This is not Harry Potter. This is for real. They are casting spells against the Marine recruiters.

Now as a confessional Lutheran, I equate such antics with the term "Satanic Arts" used in Luther's explanation to the Second Commandment. What effect the spells will have is not clear. I would certainly contend that they have the potential to cause harm to our service personnel. I'm hardly an expert on "Satanic Arts."

Now I know that our national and state laws probably don't recognize witchcraft per say. But I would think that since the intent is malicious, it would fall under attempted something. I can see it now, the Berkley Witch trials!

Oil States and Food Relief

An article on Fox News website notes that the OPEC states have given very little to the United Nations for world hunger relief. Now, I don't know if I'd give to the U.N. either. However, these filthy rich governments are not giving in any way, shape, or form. It's been long noted that the oil states would have enough funds to peacefully resolve the Palestinian problem by relocating all the Palestinian people into their countries. So how is it that the United States is always the morally deficient nation in world politics?

Words Mean Things II: Why the Name Calling?

Recently I have taken to calling LCMS President Kieschnick "Pope Jerry X". There is a point to this. I am trying to evoke the image of Pope Leo X, who was Pope during the first years of the Reformation. (Leo X, formerly Giovanni de' Medici, pope 1513-1521.) Leo was determined to build St. Peter's Basilica and commissioned other building and artistic projects throughout the city. Leo was so committed to his agenda that he was determined to pursue it regardless the cost. He bankrupted the Roman church and even this did not satisfy this lust for building, artwork and lavish living. He continued to spend, funding this ongoing spree by selling everything that wasn't bolted down.

President Kieschnick likewise appears determined to pursue an irrationally expensive agenda regardless of the consequences. We are told the synod is $22m in debt and climbing. How much more can the synod borrow? How deeply in debt can we go? At what point is the church body officially bankrupt? And what is going to get sold off first? Anyone want to buy two radio stations? A few college and seminary campuses? Get your bids in early. Who knows, the way this is going, they might go cheap to the first bidder.

Monday, May 5, 2008

2000 Missions

President Kieschnick says that he wants to have 2000 new Ablaze missions started by the year 2017. Let's think about this for a moment. A new mission can cost as much as $3-4m from district and synod to get started. Now not all missions cost that much, but some do. (In fact a few conservative missions don't even ask for any money from district or synod.) Ablaze missions are missions following the church growth or Fullerite model. This emphasizes the role of advertising and marketing in getting the new mission started. Billboards signed by Satan and such cost money. They also are contemporary worship congregations so you have to hire a praise band. That costs more than just having an organist or pianist. So the Ablaze missions will tend to cost more to start than the typical conservative, traditional, liturgical mission. An aside here that must be mentioned as well, is that none of the cross cultural Ablaze missions are ever expected to be self sustaining. So they will require ongoing funding. So lets add up some numbers here. Let's say on average that it takes $2m to get one of these Ablaze missions off the ground. To start 2000 of them would require $400m. Plus, some of these missions will require ongoing funding. This is starting to sound like a program cooked up in the U. S. congress.

Word's Mean Things

One of the complaints early on in the Issues, Et. controversy was that some people were referring to synodical officials, elected and appointed, as "bureaucrats", "suits", and worst of all "politicians". The reason why this is done is very simple - the Eighth Commandment. This Commandment requires us to bear true witness. When our elected and appointed synodical officials act like the people in the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter books, there are no other terms to use for them unless we wish to violate the Eighth Commandment.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sermon of May 3-4, 2008

The Ascension of Our Lord
May 3-4, 2008
Text: Ephesians 1:15-23

Dear Friends in Christ,
Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Yet, presumably Lazarus later died again and was buried for the second time. He may have even died violently at the hands of the Jewish leaders. For in John 12 we read: “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” (John 12:9-11) We must consider here the implications of this. Lazarus had died and would die again. Why was that? Because He was a sinner. He continued to sin each day of his life. A physical resurrection and a return to this world of sin could not rescue Lazarus.
Many would make the same presumption about Christ. Even if He did rise surely He is now dead and buried in some tomb someplace. The latest conspiracy theory is that His body was discovered by the Knights Templar and brought back to France. They even have the supposed body. But as scholar Paul Maier has noted, finding old bones in the Holy Land is not terribly difficult. So what if the Knights Templar brought some body back from Jerusalem? Who can prove the identity of said remains? But surely it must have been somebody important to go to that trouble. Well, at least they thought so. They may well have been deceived by their find. Or it may have been somebody else’s bones that they deemed important. Of one thing we can be certain, there are no real Knights Templar left to ask.
In Scripture there are no accidents. We can be certain that the Holy Spirit knew that one day some idiots would come along and make such absurd charges. The Holy Spirit therefore led the Evangelist St. Luke to record a very important fact - what eventually happened to this Jesus of Nazareth. The answer? He ascended into Heaven. Luke assures us that we will not find a body. The body is gone from this earth in its normal visible form. The body of Christ is now among us in the Holy Supper. Only in the bread of the Supper can we see the body of Christ. For Christ is not like Lazarus. To kill Christ again is an absurd concept. It’s really an absurd idea that He died in the first place.
What is death? Our world has real problems understanding death. We don’t really know what it is. Death is the consequence of man falling into sin. Death is separation from God who is the source of life. Physical death and the decomposition of the body are really just symptoms of something far greater. Death and sin go together. Only those who are sinners can die. One who is without sin cannot die. Of course we are born in sin as we learn in Romans: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) This is not saying that death spread because we each have committed our own sins, but if by chance someone didn’t sin they wouldn’t die. What this is saying is that when Adam sinned, we all participated in that sin. So we are all guilty of Adam’s sin. Our sins just compound our guilt. There is no chance of a person not sinning because we are all participants in Adam’s sin. That means we are all born into a state of corruption. As has been often noted you don’t have to teach a child to lie. They do it automatically. I know that was true of myself as a small child. I had to be taught to tell the truth. This is a symptom of our state of death.
Christ is without sin. So therefore, He should not have died. It should not have been possible. But He carried the sin of the world to the cross - that is our sin. For this reason He died. But having risen from the dead, He cannot die again. He does not have sin. So His resurrection is His permanent state. One of the ways this is expressed is in the book of Revelation where Christ appears as the victorious Lamb, eternally enthroned in heaven. Another way that this is expressed is through the Ascension of Christ. The Ascension explains in simple terms that Christ is still alive and has returned to His Father in heaven.
Already in the book of Daniel we have the idea of God the Son being given the authority to rule over this world. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Christ of course calls Himself “the Son of Man.” He reflects this same authority after His resurrection. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18) And now we can add to this our text: “He worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20-23)
The fact that Christ now rules over all things is not an ivory tower academic issue. It is our great comfort and assurance. The One who paid the price of our sins in history, is still ruling today. He determines who will be saved and who will be condemned. We can approach Christ, the King of Kings, the ruler of all things, with great confidence, because He has assured us that all who trust in His death as the payment for their sins, will be given forgiveness and life. And He’s the one that calls the shots. Nor will this ever change. Christ will rule over all things forever. It will never change. So we have perfect confidence. The One who rules is also the One Who died for us. He will not abandon us now or ever.
Many people today act as though the resurrection of Christ is irrelevant. They further act as though it does not matter if Christ is alive today. The Holy Spirit didn’t think it was irrelevant. He gave us the Biblical texts that speak of Christ’s Ascension and His eternal rule from heaven. The Church didn’t think it was irrelevant either, for from ancient times the Church has celebrated the Ascension of Christ as we are doing here today. This is not just an interesting fact. The Ascension of Christ is our assurance that Christ is alive and ruling over all things. And that is something to celebrate indeed!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Numbers that Don't Add Up

According to a statement issued, yesterday, by David Strand, the LCMS radio program, Issues, Etc. lost about $250k last year. According to the "Save the LCMS" website they raised over $900k last year. So that makes the budget for Issues, Etc. about $1.2M. We are also told at "Save the LCMS" that the LCMS Foundation was charging Issues, Etc. a 38% fundraising service fee. That would be nearly $350k. That means that synod, through it's various entities actually took in more money than it cost to produce and broadcast Issues, Etc. This also means that Issues, Etc. was in fact self supporting. So how is the synod actually saving money on this deal?

One note that needs to be made in the form of full disclosure, I have heard through the grape vine from a private source that the 38% service fee charged by the LCMS Foundation may not be accurate. But, if it is not accurate, why hasn't the LCMS Foundation issued a denial. This is a damning fact. If I were at the Foundation, and such a thing was in circulation, and it was not in fact true, I'd be running at full sprint to the nearest microphone, blog site, etc. to get my denial out, like yesterday.

Yes, I Do Believe David Strand

In in the minutes from the recent meeting of the LCMS Board for Communication Services (BCS) David Strand, the synod executive director of communication, said that everyone was surprised at the strong reaction to the cancellation of the radio program Issues, Etc. I do believe him when he says this, especially if by everyone you mean the bureaucracy of the synod.

Why should they be shocked? Well, consider the firing of Wallace Schulz from the Lutheran Hour a few years ago. Here he was a vice president of synod and he was thrown under the bus. Lutheran Laymen's League (LLL) which produces the Lutheran Hour gave all sorts of excuses. But conventional wisdom is that he was removed because the LLL leadership was upset that he had ruled against Atlantic District President Rev. David Benke, in an adjudication case to which Schulz had been assigned as a VP of synod. The result was little more than a whimper. In fact most of those who actually listen to the Lutheran Hour were totally indifferent. As long as there was a broadcast they didn't care who was on it. Many consider the Lutheran Hour to be the most sacred cow of the LCMS.

In comparison, Issues, Etc. was considered to be this small time apologetics show that no one listened to. I really do believe that this is what the bureaucracy thought of Issues, Etc. They certainly didn't know anyone that bothered to listen. Plus, I don't think that many of the suits in St. Louis really understand the impact of the internet and on demand listening. In some cases I'm not even sure if they know what pod casting is.

The Lutheran Hour was a big deal years ago. But today it's largely church for shut-ins. Or in some case, like my parents, they get up on Sunday morning, listen to Lutheran Hour, then the WELS church broadcast from Frankenmuth, watch the Coral Ridge Hour on television, go to church, then listen to Immanuel Bay City on the radio when they come home, until it's time for the Tiger's game. The upshot of all this is that it is largely an elderly audience listening to the Lutheran Hour. They are not well connected with the internet and at most might read Christian News. Plus this audience is largely people who spent their lives assembling steering gears for Chevy's or laying bricks for Dow. There's nothing wrong with such honorable work. But such people are more willing to accept the decrees of management. The audience of Issues, Etc. was young, highly educated, and well connected. These are doctor's, lawyers, journalists, investment bankers, and college professors. They are the type of people who bought their 250k "starter" home before they were thirty. They are also very internet savvy. And they are people who expect straight answers. They are also people who believe you get your dirty laundry clean by exposing it to the light of day.

I really don't think that David Strand realized that we have people like this in the LCMS.