Monday, August 31, 2009

Poop Check Flushed

WASHINGTON - As Americans are learning the details of the Poop Check proposal, there is a ground swell of grass roots opposition. The proposal would ban toilets from private residences and would require people to use newly constructed public toilets. This is proposed as a way to lower human impact on the environment. In some forms of the bill, taxes would be based on each person's output.

Members of congress have been dumped with phone calls from constituents who say, "Poop Check stinks." Opposition groups have also staged protests at town hall meetings with members of congress. At one town hall meeting a citizen showed up carrying a copy of the entire bill, which weighs in at 3666 pages. It has been noted that public restrooms in smaller communities, according to provisions on page 1836, would not be open twenty-four hours a day. Elmer Schmitzel, at a town hall with Russ Fiengold (D-Wis), explained why this would be a hardship since he suffers from prostate enlargement and gets up six times each night. Young mothers across the county have noted that this will play havoc with toilet training.

An even greater furor has been created by a clause on page 2856 which exempts congress from the provisions of this bill. Rep. Barney Frank (F-Mass) Frank denied that this was the case, until several constituents challenged him and cited the exact passage.

In addition, there have have been numerous claims that the proposal is unworkable. Fuller Comodious of John Potter & Associates Santiation Engeneering, stated that it would be impossible to construct a public facility large enough to handle the output of Capital Hill.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I find it odd that today we describe the symbol of the Democratic Party as a donkey or mule. If we knew our history we wouldn't use those terms. The proper term is "jackass". People said that Andrew Jackson was as stubborn as a jackass. In response, in typical Jacksonian fashion, Old Hickory made the jackass the symbol of the Democratic Party. So we should insist that it is termed correctly according to the symbol's historical origins. It not a donkey or a mule - it's a jackass!

Friday, August 28, 2009

What Legacy?

The passing of Ted Kennedy has brought out great showers of praise for his wonderful accomplishments. To this I ask, what accomplishments? He participated in the creation of a number of pieces of legislation. This could be said of any long term member of congress. But there is one very unique accomplishment that should be cited, though no one that I heard or read, has. Kennedy and Lowell Weicker teamed up to tie up the Ford administration so that we could not participate in the second Vietnam war. Though we were obligated to provide air and naval support for South Vietnam as well as equipment by the Paris Accords, none of this happened. Congress prevented the Ford administration from keeping our nation's word. There are some pundits who believe that this has led to the rise in terrorism that we see today. Perhaps it even led to 9-11. Thanks Ted for making us a nation that doesn't keep its word.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poop Check II: Poop and Trade

WASHINGTON - As Congress begins the process of considering the new proposed environmental legislation, many questions have been raised. The legislation would ban toilets from private homes and require people to use special, environmentally friendly public restrooms. It would also tax people, based upon their output.

The Colitis lobby has objected to this saying that such a tax would be unfair to their members and others that, through no fault of their own, have an above normal output. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and a number of other disease related organizations have joined with the Colitis lobby.

In, response to this, Senator Arlan Spector (turncoat- Penn) has offered a novel solution which has been dubbed "poop and trade". In hope of convincing conservatives to support the legislation, Spector suggested that we let the market work out this inequity. In the new version of bill, an output baseline would be established. Those who don't use all their quota will be given poop credits which they can sell to those who need extra credits.

In spite of a tepid public response, most members of congress are still confident of final passage of the measure. Rep. Barny Frank (F-Mass), stated that he is exited about the new public restrooms, stating that they "will be a great place to make new friends."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sermon for August 22-23

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 22-23, 2009
Text: Mark 7:1-13

Dear Friends in Christ,
It is ironic that this text should appear this particular week. This past week tornadoes went through down town Minneapolis. The convention center suffered minor damage while the ELCA convention was gathered. Across the street, the steeple was torn from Central Lutheran Church. The cross was left hanging upside down. The upside down cross, as I’m sure you know, has often been used as the symbol of Satan. We can note the irony, but we cannot say what, if anything, God intends to tell us by this. We don’t know. But it is ironic that God would turn a cross upside down right there where the ELCA was debating the ordination of practicing homosexuals. If indeed God intended this as a warning, it was not heeded. On Friday, the ELCA approved the ordination into the office of the ministry of openly practicing homosexuals with 68% support.
In our text, Christ warns against following the rules of man. He gives several examples. One is rather confusing. “Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother...” What was happening was a wealthy man would have parents who were destitute. Rather than supporting them, the man would say, well all my extra money is promised to the support of the temple - though somehow the money never seemed to actually make it to the temple. The Pharisees would say that supporting the temple was more important than supporting one’s parents. But Christ is saying, no, God’s clear command is to honor our parents, which includes supporting them if they have need. They were making the commands of men more important than the clear commands of God.

We have seen this played out in spades this past week. The ELCA has ignored dozens of passage from the beginning to the end of Scripture that speak to homosexuality . They will say didn’t God make them that way? But they are forgetting that part in Genesis 3 about the fall into sin. They are forgetting that every thing in this world is corrupted. Things don’t always happen in the way God intended at creation. This is why we distinguish between God’s primary will and His consequent will. Then they will say but God intends that we love all men. Yes, but love does not include condoning those things which Christ clearly calls sin. Christ defines, by divine law, that is the Ten Commandments, what love is. We don’t make it up for ourselves. The bottom line here is that the ELCA now has cast aside the clear word of God for the teachings of men.

Why is this a crucial error? What is at stake? True repentance. If we no longer call sin, sin, how can it be that one comes to repentance. How does one even know of what they should be repenting. Remember that our hearts are corrupt. Man has a limitless capacity to justify himself in his own mind. I could go out and commit a murder and call it good. People do it all the time. The same with any other sin. God’s law is there to be held up in front of us so that we see our sins. It is an objective standard that is located outside ourselves. This is so that we cannot manipulate it to suit ourselves. Once we start to manipulate the law to suit us, we no longer see our sins, as sins. This makes it hard to repent of such sins. One must first see our sins to repent of them.

You see the Christian faith is not about being good or being nice to everyone. A life of obedience to God and service to our neighbor is the natural byproduct of the Christian faith, but not it’s purpose. In fact we are often told in Scripture that where this doesn’t happen, something is very wrong. But again, it’s not the purpose of the Christian faith. The purpose of the Christian faith is connecting people to the forgiveness of their sins. If one doesn’t know that they have any sins, they have no use for forgiveness. The problem is that we are sinners. Whether we see our sins or not does not change this reality. In fact, we never will see all our sins. This is why we make a general confession of all sins. But even this becomes nonsensical for many who have rewritten God’s law. We need to see at least some of our sins so that we see that we are indeed sinners.

Christ desires to give us forgiveness for our sins. If fact He died on the cross so that He could give us forgiveness. We trample upon the gifts of Christ when we follow the teachings of men. The teachings of men are always man’s way of saying that what is clearly wrong is really right. Nor can we say that we are guiltless in this regard. Our own synod’s Ablaze program, with it’s implicit denial of the Third Article and triumphalism is the doctrines of man in our own midst. It has come to the point, in some circles, that it is more important to show your support for Ablaze than your support for the Word of God. So we cannot even say that, yeh, this is their problem. They teach the doctrines of men. Though it is perhaps less obvious, the same problem is present, among us also. Among us also the doctrines of men are being taught. And for this we need to repent, even as we also call upon our brothers in the ELCA to repent of their departure from the Word of God.

God, in Christ, has given to us His Word and His Law. Many sins, including homosexuality, are condemned. This is God speaking - thus saith the Lord. And to this we can add one more - despising the Word God and replacing it with the teachings of men. When we see others do this, it is wrong and we should speak out. But we must be aware of how it is happening among us as well. God will say, good you spoke out about their sin, but now what did you do about your own sins? See we must deal with both. And how is it that we deal with our sins? By laying them before Christ in repentance. That means not only being sorry for our sins, but also a genuine desire to amend our lives and turn away from that sin. We know we do this imperfectly as we remain in that tension we call saint and sinner. Then we return to our baptism and the daily drowning of the old man. We turn to holy absolution where Christ Himself speaks to us through our pastors telling us He has indeed forgiven our sins. We turn to the supper where we participate in Christ’s sacrificial death and claim it as payment for our sins. Then we again turn to the Word and seek to even more fully understand it, to the very day we die. We seek to see our lives in the mirror of that Word. We seek to be conformed to God’s Word. Then, if we are indeed conformed to God’s Word, we are free from the life destroying word of man.

Wedding Homily II

Wedding of Jennifer Dittel & Daniel Lanoux
August 22, 2009
Text: Ephesians 5:1-2, 22-33

Dear friends and family of Jennifer and Daniel, gathered here as friends in Christ,
Jennifer and Daniel, many would ask why you are getting married. With both being in the service and our nation’s continued involvement overseas for the foreseeable future, one must wonder what kind of marriage you will have. Even if you were resolved to leave the military, you might not have that choice. A fellow pastor who is a long time retired air force colonel and pilot was mentioning the other day that he still was required to maintain his uniform in case he was recalled. And so we know that the military is a life time commitment itself, whether we want it to be or not. The question is further pressed with the notion that many today despise the institution of marriage. Many today live in arrangements other than marriage. And so, while your motivations are your own, we are here today doing something that is genuinely counter cultural.

We can look at marriage in two ways, as God instituted and as it exists today. God instituted marriage before the fall into sin, so that isn’t really very helpful. So that leaves us examining the muck that we, sinful, humans have made of it. But there is in fact a third option. That is to look through the eyes of Scripture at God’s view of marriage in our sinful world.

Marriage is a major theme in the Old Testament prophets. Israel is described as God’s bride. But she is an unfaithful bride. Scripture describes bride Israel in the harshest terms imaginable. St. Paul picks up on our sinful nature in describing earthly marriage in I Corinthians 7:9 were we read, “If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” Later in that chapter St. Paul adds: “Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.” These things reminds us how our sins drive us and often hurt those around us, those closest to us. These trials reflect our sinfulness.

Yet, St. Paul also has more to say to us about marriage. Marriage is also a picture of redemption. Christ redeems us and washes us clean. Christ takes Israel, that unfaithful bride, Israel, and restores her to virgin purity and takes her as His bride. To do this, Christ gives Himself for Her. He dies for His bride. This then becomes the image of marriage. We give ourselves for the sake of the other. Christian marriage is an act of redemption. It is a buying back from sin and death and committing to life. In marriage we commit to life together in Christ. We commit to being a vessel of life to the world, in our prayers together, and if God wills, in procreation.

And so Jennifer and Daniel, you are making a huge leap today. Marriage is a great commitment and obligation. It is also a good and Godly estate. In addition it is intended for your mutual joy and to build up one another and to bring the best out of each other. This happens when you each recognize who and what you are - sinners, who are also beggars of God’s grace. Luther’s last written words were, “This is certain, we are beggars all.” But we are also the redeemers of one another, as we forgive each other’s sins, as Christ has forgiven you. Marriage works, as best it can among sinful humans, when we are mirrors of Christ’s love and forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poop Check

WASHINGTON - There is a great buzz about town regarding a new piece of legislation that some believe is about to be introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. The legislation, commonly called poop check, would make the U.S. the true leader in transforming human habits to protect the environment.

The law would ban toilets from private residences. U.S. citizens would be required to use new, environmentally friendly, public toilets which would be constructed in every community. Union leaders are excited about this as the bill stipulates that all the construction work must be done by union workers. In addition a new union will be formed to represent the restroom attendants. President Obama has noted that the plan would reduce unemployment by 17%.

In addition to being required to use public facilities, people will be required to get a receipt from the attendant for each visit. Failing to get a receipt will be a $1000 fine per offence. The specially equipped toilets will measure both volume and weight as well as methane content. People will be required to include their toilet receipts with their tax returns. They will be charged a tax surcharge based on their output.

The principle architect of the legislation is Georgetown University biology professor Dr. Ennrico Filostrato. (Dr. Filostrato is the great grand nephew of the famed biologist of the same name who was involved in Britain's ill fated N.I.C.E. right after WWII) Dr. Filostrato, in commenting on this proposal stated, "This is the first and most important step we need to take to begin to sterilize this planet and make it truly fit for the higher life forms that will evolve in the years to come." Al Gore has already endorsed the proposal and has stated that he is the inventor of the new toilets.

Sermon for August 15-16

The Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
August 15-16, 2009
Text: John 6:51-69

Dear Friends in Christ,
Back in 1973 there was a program called Key ‘73. It was created and promoted by Billy Graham. What Graham asked, is that every congregation of all denominations join the effort. Each congregation would be assigned an area, normally the area right around the church building. They would call upon every house in the area, regardless if it was a churched household or not. They had a presentation and they would hand out little red booklets that contained Luke and Acts from the Good News Translation. Many LCMS congregations did participate in this effort, including my home church. My father was one of the Key ‘73 callers. I remember having stacks of the booklets setting at home. There are probably a few copies still on the shelf someplace. The effort actually accomplished very little. Research has shown that such campaigns rarely do. But it did have a profound effect on the callers, if they were astute and carefully thought about what people told them. One of the things that shocked by my father, was how few people actually knew that salvation was a gift of God, in Jesus Christ, given apart from anything that we do. Many of the people he called upon thought they had to earn their salvation by being a “good” person. Now you have to understand that many of the people he was calling upon were members of our own congregation. These were life long Missouri Synod Lutherans who had went to Lutheran elementary school and had been thoroughly catechized. Recent research shows that only 21% of American Lutherans believe that salvation is a gift from God. We can’t blame this in the loosey goosey ELCA or the legalistic WELS. The LCMS is more than 21% of American Lutheranism by itself. So at lease some of the 79% that got this wrong are our people. Actually, these stats do not shock me. This has been observed for centuries. Luther talks about this. And this is why as pastors we must constantly come back to the basic teaching of Justification by grace in our sermons. Remember that the doctrine of Justification is the doctrine upon which the church rises and falls. We get this wrong, there is no church.

One of the places in Scripture where we can see the Gospel clearly explained is John 6. Here before us are the climactic verses. Christ says: “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Notice the verb here, in the future tense - give - as in will give. This is denoting a future action. It points forward both to His death on the cross and His establishment of the Lord’s Supper. The key here to understanding this passage is that verb give. Christ gives. Christ is the giver. A gift is never earned. We are not owed a gift. A gift is something the giver chooses to give.

Now we place these words into their original context. The original situation was unbelief. Jesus is confronting the unbelief of the people. In another place Christ says that if the miracles performed around the Sea of Galilee had been performed in the pagan cities of Tyre and Siden the people of those places would have been on their knees, in sack cloth and ashes, begging God’s forgiveness. But the Israelites, who had the promise that God Himself would come and redeem them from their sins, couldn’t see it. And yes, we know from the first that it was understood among the Old Testament believers that the Messiah would be God Himself. We can look to Genesis 4:1, which is a verse that causes many translators to whimp out. Even Luther was unwilling to translate what the Hebrew actually says. Eve gave birth to her son and she said, I have given birth to a man who is the Lord. You see Eve didn’t understand that it would take four thousand years for God to fulfill His promise. She thought it would happen immediately. But it is clear from Genesis 4:1 that Adam and Eve already understood that the Messiah would be God come into flesh. Yet, many of the Jews of Jesus day, seem scandalized by this very idea. Earlier in this discourse Christ makes the claim that He is the only who has seen the Father - that He is only One to come from God the Father. This is a claim of divinity.

He is God, Christ is making this point clear. More than the He gives Himself to be our heavenly food and drink. He goes so far as to say that unless some eats of His flesh and drinks of His blood, he cannot be saved. Life comes from eating the flesh of the Son of God and drinking His blood. Now our Orthodox brothers take from this that receiving the Lord’s Supper is an absolute necessity for salvation. Because of this understanding a child is communed immediately after they are baptized. They’ll crumble a little bit of bread into the wine and place it in baby’s mouth with a small spoon. In the west, the understanding has always been that one must have a conscious knowledge of what they are doing. So infants, the unconscious, the severely demented and the like are not communed. It should be noted however, that at many times and places in the history of Lutheranism, first communion was at about age six. So is it necessary that one partake of the Lord’s Supper to be saved? Yes, but not absolutely necessary. One cannot reject the Supper and be saved. This does not necessarily mean communing every time its offered. But it does mean communing often and regularly. However, if say a child were to die before they had received the Lord’s Supper, simply by matter of custom and lack of instruction, this does not deprive them of their salvation. But if one steadfastly refused to partake of the Lord’s Supper, then they would indeed stand condemned before God, as they have refused God’s gift to them.

What is Jesus really pointing too by calling His flesh bread and His blood drink? He is pointing toward His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. When one came to Jerusalem, to the temple, to make a sacrifice, a whole bunch of things happened. You would present your animal to the priest and he would inspect it. Only unblemished animals could be offered up to God. The priest would then kill the animal. The blood, considered the most holy part of the animal, was poured out on the altar. Under no circumstances was the blood to be consumed. Certain parts of the animal were given to the priest as his payment for offering the sacrifice. Then certain parts were returned for you to eat. You would eat this holy meat right at the gate to the court of the priests, looking in upon the altar of sacrifice. By eating that portion of the animal you were saying to God, count this sacrifice to my account. Of course no sacrifice that we could bring would ever really pay for our sins. So God Himself gives us the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Then He returns to us a portion of the flesh for us to eat and claim this sacrifice for ourselves. But there is more still. This time, we are given to the most holy blood to drink. For of course as every student of the Old Testament knows, the life is in the blood. The life is in the blood of Christ which is now sprinkled, not just upon us, but in us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sermon for August 9

The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
August 9, 2009
Text: I Kings 19:1-8

Dear Friends in Christ,
I have found, sadly, that the story of Elijah is not well known among us. Really our knowledge of the Old Testament is sadly lacking. Yet, in order to really understand the New Testament, one must understand the Old Testament. Luther spent most of his academic career lecturing on the text of the Old Testament. He did a continuous lecture series on the Book of Genesis that took several years. It is the first eight volumes of the American Edition of Luther’s Works.

Our text takes place after Elijah had confronted the Prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. You might recall that they had a contest, each offering a sacrifice to their god, but not lighting it. The true god would be the one who answered by taking his sacrifice by fire. Baal never showed, but Elijah could hardly get out a simple, little prayer and Yahweh, the true God, sent fire that not only consumed the wood and the bull, but also the altar itself. What many people do not remember is what happened next. Elijah slaughtered the prophets of Baal with a sword. It may have been as many as four hundred fifty men that Elijah killed. And if by prophets of Baal, they include also the prophets of Asherah, it could even have been as high as eight hundred fifty. Queen Jezebel, the Phoenician wife of King Ahab, now threatened to take revenge against Elijah.

Elijah flees first to Beersheba. This city would have been outside of Ahab’s kingdom. It would have been in the Kingdom of Judah which at that time was ruled by King Jehoshaphat. If you look on a map you see that Beersheba is way in the south. It is really the last settlement before you get into the deep desert of the Sinai Peninsula. Elijah then travels alone in the desert, about twenty or thirty miles. He sleeps there under a broom tree. They are called a broom trees because people would make brooms from their branches.

Before we get into the meat of the text, I’d like to continue our geography lesson. Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai, where Moses has spoken with God and from whose heights God had spoken the Ten Commandments to the Israelites. The problem is that we don’t know where Mount Sinai was. The traditional site is not correct. Archeology has shown that there has never been any sort of settlement or encampment in that area. Scripture speaks of Mount Sinai as being in the land of Midian, which would be Arabia. So the Red Sea that the Israelites crossed was probably what we today call the Gulf of Aqaba. Mount Sinai is very likely in the western mountain region of modern Saudi Arabia - a good bit further east and across a body of water from the traditional site.

Back to our text. Elijah prayed that God would take his life. He confessed that he was exhausted by the many years of battling. He also said that he was no better than his fathers. What does He mean by this? He means that He is a sinner. He is a sinner, just as his fathers were sinners. After praying Elijah laid down and went to sleep. Elijah awakened by an angel. But this is no ordinary angel. It is the Angel of the Lord. It really should be capitalized in our text. So who is the Angel of the Lord? The Angel of the Lord is Christ. This is the pre-incarnate Christ appearing to Elijah in the desert. There is piece of bread there and a jar of water. This bread would be like what we call pita bread. Christ commands him to eat. Elijah eats and lays back down. But Christ wakes him a second time and tells him to eat again. Elijah then traveled forty days without eating, until he arrived at Mount Sinai. In forty days, Elijah could well have traveled eight hundred miles, and perhaps even farther. That would get one past modern day Mecca.

Our text ends with Elijah arriving at Mount Sinai. But Christ has some cheery words for Elijah when he arrives. Elijah repeats his complaint to God saying: "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." There was an earthquake, a whirlwind, and a fire. Then Christ speaks to Elijah in a still, small voice. Christ accepts his complaint and agrees that Elijah has fought the battles long enough. But He also assures Elijah that the battle has not been in vain. There are still people who are faithful to God. Then Christ gives Elijah this instruction: "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." That is a cheery message - there will be death and destruction on every side. But it is also a message of justice. God will punish the evil doers. These are the instruments he would use to do it. Jehu would purge the worship of Baal from Israel by gathering all those who worshiped Baal in one place and then ordering his solders to lock the doors and kill them all. God’s justice would be swift and deadly. But there is more. God is preserving for Himself a remnant of faithful people. The English translations don’t quite catch the sense of this. God is preserving a remnant by both keeping them faithful and then keeping them alive. They are not choosing to not worship Baal. God is protecting them so that they don’t worship Baal. Now 7,000 is a symbolic number. God is preserving the full number of those who have not worshiped Baal. Just as Christ miraculously preserved Elijah in the wilderness, so also Christ would miraculously preserve a remnant of Israel.

What does this have to do with us today? Nothing has changed. We have false gods and false prophets right around us. Sometimes they are right within our churches. They might, in some cases, even be important people in the church. Like Elijah, we might want to give up. We might think we’re the only one left. But God preserves people. He preserves their faithfulness. And He calls those who have fallen away from the truth of His Word back to faithfulness through Word and Sacrament. And then we have the assurance that God will get all those that need to be gotten. God the Father is a God of love. We see that reflected in the death and resurrection of Christ for our sins. But He is also a God absolute justice. This is why Christ had to die on the cross, rather than God just forgive our sins. The price of the sins had to be paid. Our Father is very patient. He takes His time. But in end, He will render justice. And this also is intended as a comfort for us. Those who would torment us for the sake of Christ will be dealt with. God has already taken care of it. He has placed the swords where He wills. They will not fail. So we might say, yes, this world is going to hell in a hand basket. But what of it. God has us covered. He saves and He avenges. Both are intended for the good His people.


Wedding Homily

Wedding of Christina Rose Dahling & Samuel Joseph Halverson
August 8, 2009
Text: I John 1:5-2:1

Chrissy, Sam, parents, grandparents, and all our dear Friends in Christ gathered here,
You might wonder from such a text what Pastor Walter is smoking? Did he forget that this is a wedding? No, I’m not smoking anything. And I don’t even think the pharmacy is dispensing anything questionable.

John confronts the basic reality of our life. We are sinners. St. Paul says that we are dead in trespasses and sins. David states that he was a sinner from the moment of his conception in his mother’s womb. Luther describes Baptism in the Small Catechism as a daily drowning of the old Adam - that is our sinful nature. All human being struggle with sin daily.

Chrissy, Sam, you also will struggle with sin daily. But now for you there is a complication. You have a spouse. Sin is no longer a matter between you and God and the world in general. Sin becomes something between the two of you, as well. Most of the sins you will commit will be against your spouse. It can divide you. It can become a wedge between you. And I am going to suggest to you that apologies are often not enough. What is needed, many times, is confession. James admonishes us to confess our sins to one another. This is never more important than between husband and wife. This is a problem however. Many times we don’t know what confession looks like. There is much that could be said of our Roman Catholic brothers, and our criticisms have long been published. But there is something that they do well. The traditional Roman formula for confession says: I have sinned, by my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault... I would commend these words to you as good and most Christian words. The Christian life if one of daily contrition and repentance.

And then how you will react to the confessions of one another? We are all to reflect Christ. Christ gave Himself for our sins. He makes us right with Him by forgiving our sins. Even more than this, He becomes our advocate. What is an advocate - a defense lawyer, a defender. In forgiving one another of their sins, you reverse roles. You become the one who would storm the very gates of hell for the other. In olden times, men would fight duels to defend the honor of their wives. This a reflection of this idea. We are to advocate for one another, just as Christ advocates for us, regardless of the cost. This is what we mean when we say that in marriage, we die to self and live for the other.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves... A spouse often reminds us most powerfully of our sin. But as brothers of Christ and sons of God the father, we are to live in the light. Repentance always means seeking to turn from our sins. Yet, as sinners, we know that we will always do this imperfectly. This means that sin will continue to be something that we struggle with each day. But we also know that we have the perfect remedy for our sins, that is the forgiveness of our sins won for us by Christ. This very same Christ, who paid the price of our sins, is now our advocate, our defender before God the Father. And so also in marriage, living in the light means living in forgiveness. We must live in the light of Christ’s forgiveness, which we in turn reflect to one another. So then I would commend to you this one thought. The key to a truly Christian marriage is the forgiveness of sins - both the forgiveness you receive from Christ and the forgiveness you give to one another.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August Newletter

From the Disk of the Pastor August 2009

Dear Friends in Christ,
The founders of the Missouri Synod were an interesting lot. Unfortunately, we don’t hear that much about them, other than C. F. W. Walther. He may have been the dullest of the bunch. All he did was debate theology... Oops - I almost forgot. When he left Germany there was a warrant out for his arrest. He had “kidnapped” a niece and nephew that wanted to go to America with him. In order to smuggle them past the authorities he hid them in the back of a cart and disguised himself as an old woman. Yes, the first president of the LCMS left Germany in a dress!

The real man behind the formation of the synod is Rev. F.C.D. Wyneken. He deliberately split two congregations, one in Fort Wayne and one in Baltimore, and single handedly destroyed the Synod of the West. Now there’s a churchman for you! In addition, while he was in Fort Wayne he would go around dressed as a common frontiersman in buckskins. The congregation was so upset by this that they had a tailor make him a proper black suit, and tricked him into trying it on. While he was doing so, they stole his buckskins. Wyneken would serve as president of the LCMS for fourteen of its first seventeen years, finally retiring due to ill health in 1864.

One of the other leading lights of the early Missouri Synod was F. A. Craemer - the founding pastor of St. Lorenz, Frankenmuth, Michigan. On the boat over to America he married a woman with an illegitimate son, which scandalized many of the colonists. He frequently quarreled with his congregation over the control of congregational funds. In Craemer’s defense these funds had been give to the colony by German pastor Wilhelm Loehe, and specifically entrusted to Craemer by Loehe. Craemer was frequently ill in those first years in America. Once, a Michigan Synod pastor by the name of Dumser stopped by to visit when Craemer was in bed with a high fever. Craemer became so angry at Dumser for his lack of commitment to the Lutheran Confessions, that Craemer got himself out of bed, in spite of the high fever, and physically tossed Dumser from his house. Craemer would go on to be president of Concordia Theological Seminary, which today is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Needless to say, none of these men were “Minnesota Nice”. In fact, today, most congregations in the LCMS would not tolerate such a man as their pastor. I would suggest that this is to our discredit. What drove these men to do such zany things and be so contentious? It was an absolute commitment to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. It was a commitment to doing what was right before God, regardless of the cost. These were men who were not constrained by either church or civil authorities in matters where God had clearly spoken.

We live in an age where many issues are swept under the rug and not confronted. We strive to avoid even the appearance of scandal or contention at all costs. The truth of God’s Word becomes the first victim of such an attitude. This is why giving everything a pleasant public face, often becomes a great evil. Truth is something that must be fought for about twice in every generation in synod and in each congregation. Otherwise, the truth will be lost. Those who fight for the truth are often painted as the “bad guys”. We must not fall into that trap. A church that is committed to the truth of God’s word will always have a certain level of conflict, because the devil is always looking to attack the truth. Such conflict, far from being bad, is in fact good and necessary to maintain the truth. Let us also pray for the same spirit and commitment to truth as was possessed by the founders of our great synod.
Rev. Jody R. Walter
Psalm 119:104-105

Sermon for August 1-2

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
August 1-2, 2009
Text: Exodus 16:2-15

Dear Friends in Christ,
Every once in a while, in the midst of that nuclear toxic waist dump known as contemporary Christian music, there is something useful. The late Keith Green had a song called “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt”. It really falls into the category of a novelty song. He’s making fun of the complaining of the Israelites. One of the things he does in this song is talk about all the things they made from manna - manna waffles, manna bagels and ba-manna bread. Of course Green’s version is tongue in cheek. However, it does beg the question, what is manna? I phrase this in the present tense, because manna still exists. God took something that already existed in the desert and multiplied it for their use. Manna is a fungus, closely related to the mushroom. It grows up occasionally, in very small quantities, at night, in the deserts of the middle east. It is highly prized by desert dwellers to this day. It must be harvested in the predawn light. Once the sun hits it, it withers and turns to dust. Typically, manna is gathered and crushed into a form of flour and then baked into bread. Again, such bread will not keep, but must be quickly eaten. However, it is said to be very flavorful and very rich in nutrition. You could call it a desert delicacy. It should be noted, that while the people were puzzled, Moses knew exactly what it was. There is no indication that God had to tell Moses what it was.

We live in the richest country in the history of the world. Christianity has blessed this country in many ways. The western tradition, is also the Judeao-Christian World view. In the west, every man stands accountable to God for his actions. In the pagan world, the king and other important nobles were gods. The law literally didn’t apply to them. We this is played out dramatically when the Prophet Nathan confronts David with his sins of adultery and murder. David might be king, but He is still accountable to God. There are things that are universally true. God made the world that way. Thus, Thomas Jefferson could say that we are “endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.” By this He is saying that each individual has certain rights that belong him regardless of circumstances. It would be wrong to violate such rights. In fact it is against God’s created order of the universe. Among these rights is the fruit of our own labor. This is crucial for the prosperity of any nation. Those nations that operate with this belief prosper. Those nations that do not believe that man has the right to the fruit of his own labor, remain in poverty. In the Old Testament, we see this used as a frequent image. To be cursed it to plant, but have another harvest. To be blessed, is to plant and harvest.

Many complain about the difficulties of our times. And certainly, in comparison to what has been, these are difficult economic times. We have further exacerbated the problem by poor long term planning by many individuals. But even so, as difficult as times are, we have many blessings. Most still have homes and are eating well. In fact, by the appearance of most Americans, too well. Most of us still have cars, cable television, many videos and music recordings. We have closets full of clothes and several pairs of shoes. We have medicine and medical devices according to our needs. My wife an I watch the movie “The Big Lift” this past week. It featured a U.S. Airman, from St. Paul, played by Montgomery Clift, in post World War II Berlin. The movie was shot on location. At that time, in Berlin, people barely had food to eat and one set of clothing. One of the characters in the movie was a young woman who worked clearing rubble from the streets. Everyone was fearful, and mistrusting. It’s quite a contrast to life in Rice Lake, Frederic, Webster and Danbury.

Yet, how often are we like the Israelites, complaining even as God feeds us with delicacies, like the cheese curds and mini donuts I just had at the Fair. Like with so many things, Scripture says so much and give us so many examples, one hardly knows where to begin. But even here God has blessed us. He gave us Dr. Luther. Luther understood that we need to start with the “Readers’ Digest” version. Thus, Luther give us the explanation to the First Article of the Apostles Creed. “I believe that God has made me and all creatures... He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all that I need to support this body and life...” God does this by giving us things to do for the good of our fellow man. Many will questions this by asking what good their labor was. Where I grew up the complaint went like this: I just put lug nuts on Chevys (or fill in the brand of your choice) at the assembly plant. What good is that for my fellow man? Well, as someone who’s logged a lot miles in cars, I’m very grateful that someone put the lug nuts on correctly. Another mistake people make is to think that if it is by my labor, then it is not really from God. But our labor is in vain apart from God. A farmer can plant, but he does not make it rain. He cannot hold back crop disease, or parasites. And so we must see all honest labor as a gift from God. If God does not make conditions favorable for men, we would not survive. A third error that is common is to say that we have no obligation back to God for this, since it is a blessing that God gives to all, regardless if they believers in Christ or not. But here we must say that just because our neighbor does not know where his daily bread comes from, we do. It is still right and proper to give thanks to God who has given us all these earthly blessings.

Those who are starving will be grateful and praise God for sack of potatoes. Those with full bellies and great material wealth have a tendency to forget that these are gifts from God. Yet, God continues to bless us, though we are all too often ungrateful for His gifts. For this we must flee to the forgiveness of sins offered in the absolution and Supper. For our God does not merely feed us to keep us alive. He gives us many delicacies and great abundance, as a foretaste of heaven. Even in these times, where many are struggling and we have very real concerns about the future, God is still the source of all that we have. Perhaps in the future, we will not have quite as abundantly as we have today. Perhaps in the future, there will be even greater abundance. This has not been revealed to us. But either way, we must be thankful to God, who gives us all that we need, and then continues to give until our cup of blessing is overflowing.