Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nice Bulletin Insert Explaining the Place of the Gesimas in Lententide

Look at THIS BULLETIN INSERT that Rev. Todd Peperkorn has made available for everyone's use at HistoricLectionary.com.

If you're like me and don't want to have to reinvent the wheel, this is a great summary. The insert states that after Ash Wednesday the crosses are veiled. I always thought that ceremony was after Judica. But since he makes it available in both .PDF and .DOC formats, it's easily changeable.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to learn to preach

Preaching is hard. This is the double plus profound conclusion I have come to. It is embarrassing to read back over many of my old sermons. Some I still like. Many I think were just...bad. I'm sure you've had similar experience. The preachers I respect the most are those who struggle with it the most and don't rest on their laurels.

The second double plus profound conclusion I have come to about preaching is that the only way to learn to be a better preacher is to read the sermons of the better preachers. I am honestly shocked that my seminary homiletics classes had almost none of this. I think one professor assigned us to read a couple of sermons. Maybe you had a different experience, but in my classes we spent a lot more time on technique, exegetical studies, Lowry Loops, object lessons, yadayadayada. I learned something or other from all of it, I suppose, but I really wish that I had started my reading of good preachers a lot earlier.

This is one of the main reasons to observe the Historic Lectionary. When I'm called to speak to pastors about worship or liturgy I always bring this up. Even if you are a fan of the post-Vatican II three year series, why not try out the Historic Lectionary for one year? If you do, every week you can read the sermons of Augustine and Chrysostom through the NPNF series (online for free), Luther (online for free), and countless others through the Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers volumes, and the Gospel volumes of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. This is a year-long course in homiletics vastly superior to any you have taken so far. I guarantee it. And if you don't love the Historic Lectionary after that year, go back to the 3-year series with what you have learned.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jefferson Bethke's Palpable Hypocrisy

Over sixteen million hits on his YouTube video "Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus" have provided over sixteen million people with an opportunity to see the palpable hypocrisy of Jefferson Bethke and his poetry.  Unfortunately it's likely that the same misguided thinking has kept many more millions away from the church, Bethke's straw man. He claims the church starts wars, builds huge churches while failing the poor, and equates establishment Christianity with support for the Republican party. His verdict: "It never gets to the core; it's just behavior modification like a long list of chores."

He claims that God calls religious people whores, and charges them with hypocrisy ("acting like a church kid while addicted to pornography"), because they are "self-righteous."

No doubt it would be easy to find churches that fit this description, in part for the simple reason that there are so many offerings on the smorgasbord, but here's what struck me.  While going on this rampage without making any distinctions, and writing religion off in some of the most wildly descriptive judgments imaginable, he makes this outlandish disclaimer: “Now I ain’t judging.  I’m just saying quit putting on a fake look."

"I ain't judging"?  Friend, if this ain't judging, then what is?  

Here's the whole trouble, actually.  He shouldn't be judging, because his judgment is grossly unfair; he's not equipped, and he doesn't provide the evidence.  It's the same worn and tired complaint that it's religion that starts wars. What religion started the Nazi regime?  Or the Viking marauders?  Or the Huns?  And as for religions that do start wars, well, let's see: there's Islamofascism, but I don't think that's the religion Bethke has in mind.  What he's probably thinking of (though one can't really tell) is the Crusades.  There's a lot of misunderstanding afoot about the Crusades, but even we grant that the Crusades were stared in the name of religion, it's doubtful that Pope Urban was the religious type Bethke has in mind, and to say the papacy in that day was an exemplar of the religion prominent in today's American churches is a hard sell.  My guess is that Bethke knows next to nothing about the Crusades. 

In the end, he's another self-styled, self sent preacher, who conveniently chooses to forget that the apostles were "in the temple" praising God, and that Jesus stood up to preach "in the synagogue," as was his wont, and that those who preached his name in the New Testament were sent by him to do so.  "How can they preach, except they be sent?"  The result of such self-crafted preaching is that while it may be partly true--and on the basis of its partial truth it gains adherents--its overall message ends up being a lie.  

"Pure religion and undefiled and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."  And that reminds me of one of the important duties laid upon the ministers of the Gospel, whom God has sent.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Being a pastor in the sticks

So by now you have probably discovered that they didn't tell you everything in the seminary. Indeed, that it's a long list. But what I had in mind today was about the nuts and bolts of being a parish pastor. It seems odd that this would be one of the lacunae of seminary education - I think the plan is that this is what you are supposed to pick up from your fieldwork supervisor and vicarage bishop. And fair enough: we all learn a lot there. Yet in that quick immersion in parish life one can lose sight of the forest for the trees. And what if you don't end up in a parish like unto your vicarage parish? A lot of the practical things are very, well, parochial.

For example, my father in law served the majority of his career as a parish pastor in an exurban parish that exploded in growth as the yuppies of Chicagoland headed west. He himself grew up in the city of Kansas City. We had a very interesting conversation once about home visits. Never worked for him. The people didn't want him in their homes, and that made total sense to him. This is all mind boggling to me - I'm from a small Nebraska town and serve two small rural Illinois parishes. The people expect me to be in there homes, to know what pets they have, to eat their coffee cake, and remember to say hello to their aunt (who is not a member) is in the nursing home three towns over when I visit their cousin (who is a member).

In all my pastoral ministry classes - Intro to Pastoral Ministry, Pastor as Counselor, Pastor as Administrator, Pastoral Theology (the capstone class) - such things were not discussed. I've often thought that the best pastoral ministry class would be if the professor just brought in five different pastors from the area with different sorts of parishes and let each one talk to the class for two weeks, leaving one day at the end of that second week for the prof to dissect, evaluate, and comment on what the pastor said. That's what I wish I had had.

At any rate, this post is especially for a city-boy friend who finds himself now in the sticks in my native Nebraska. I feel sorry for him. He likes country life about as much as I liked Chicagoland, which is to say zilch. But worse than not liking it is feeling like you don't have your bearings, like the people are expecting something of you but you don't know what. As I said, all parishes are parochial, but for what it is worth, here is my primer on pastoring in the sticks.

* You have to do the home visits. Right away. And then make opportunities for them to happen every year. Folks might say they don't want you to bother, but they are lying.

* Oh, about that lying. They do it all the time. They are Midwesterners. Any time somebody says, "Oh, you don't have to come to the hospital/confirmation party/nursing home, Pastor, I know you are so busy." The only appropriate response is, "Of course I'll be there."

* They expect you to know who is sick, but they will never bother calling to tell you without a lot of training on your part. I once wrote a newsletter article called "When to call Pastor." That helped, but I still rely mainly on gossip.

* Speaking of gossip, somewhere in your small town there is a bar, or truck stop, or restaurant where all the retired men go in the morning to drink coffee. In the OT they called this "the city gates." You need to be there once or twice a week. This is where you will learn almost everything. I'd recommend first just going. You can start a Bible class later. For now, just go and listen, and tell a joke or two, learn their politics, their pet peeves, what a "pork belly" is, etc.

* On homeschooling. If your parish has a school, forget about it. Just forget about it - I'm sorry, but it can't be done. Put your energies into making your parish school better, freely take your kids out of school when you want, skip all the field trips, whatever - but your kids have to be enrolled in your parish school. [If you are one of the exceptions to this rule, good for you and your family. But I honestly don't know of even one exception to this rule where the pastor, family, and parish are all happy and looking forward to many, many fruitful years together.] If there is no parish school, be ready to be surprised by just how much pride the people place in their local government school. I wouldn't send my kid to a government school either, but just be ready to get a lot of push back. 

* I never received communion from a chalice until I went to college. This is largely a West of the Mississippi phenomenon, but be ready to work on that. It probably will be neither as easy nor as hard as you think.

* If you ride a bicycle for exercise: don't wear spandex. Ever. Really even wearing a helmet is problematic, but I know your wife wants you to be safe.

* While you are in God's country you might as well take up a country hobby. That way the men of your parish will then have something to talk to you about instead of just looking at their shoes and shuffling off to the bathroom whenever you approach. Your options are fishing, hunting, and shooting. Fishing is probably the easiest to get in to, and the most practical-cost effective if you like eating fish. Gardening is good too, but one of the three overtly masculine hobbies is really needed as well. Woodworking is also masculine. Settlers of Catan, Star Trek, bocce ball, and squash are not masculine: I don't care what that article on artofmaniless.com might have said.

* Whenever you are on the job, wear your clerics and keep your appearance sharp and well maintained. Whenever you are not on duty (down the post office on Saturday, the grocery store, working in the yard) dress in ratty old jeans (Wrangler preferred) or camo hunting pants and try to be unshowered and generally filthy.

* The parsonage lawn. This is a tricky one. Offer to mow it and see what the trustees say. They may guard it jealously, or they may be longing for a pastor who isn't so lazy that he won't mow hizzowndamnlawn.

* If a Midwesterner takes you to dinner. . . they might make it easy and tell the waitress right away that it will be on one check and they'll take it. If so, then all you have to do is say, "Oh, no, I'll get our side of it." Then, when that offer is refused, say, "Are you sure? Well, OK, then. Thanks, let me get the tip." If the check comes and this arrangement has not been made, reach for your wallet, not the check - then the same dialogue will ensue.

The same city boy who is struggling in the sticks recommends Wuthnow's Remaking the Heartland. He sent me two quotations that I thought were hilarious, but for very different reasons than he thought they were hilarious. I was laughing at his pain and he was laughing at us hicks. You might like the book, too, whichever side of that debate you happen to be on.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rev. Paul Rydecki Receives Sabre of Boldness 2012

On Thursday night, January 19, 2012, Rev. Paul Rydecki, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Las CrucesNew Mexico, was selected from among six nominees for the 2012 Sabre of Boldness.  The Sabre has been awarded by the editors of Gottesdienst for seventeen years. Originally slated to be held at La Quinta Hotel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the ceremony was moved to the commons at Concordia Theological Seminary due to the threat of inclement weather.  As it turned out, this also made matters more convenient for attendees at the seminary's Symposium banquet the same night.  The Sabre ceremony was held shortly after the banquet's conclusion.

Rev. Rydecki is a founding member of Intrepid Lutherans, a blog (www.intrepidlutherans.com) which serves as an online forum to “promote, support, and where necessary, encourage a restoration of confessional Lutheranism within the Wisconsin Synod.” He was given the award for his steadfast willingness to publish the Intrepid Lutherans blog, in spite of the hardships that he has incurred because of it. 

The Sabre Ceremony was recorded, and the link to the audio is here.

There were five other nominees, all of whom the editors consider most worthy of the award, and whom we wish to honor as well.  They are listed here below.

1. Rev. David Kind is pastor of the Univ. Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis.  The chapel is being sold by the district’s Board of Directors.  Fr. Kind has remained faithful in the face of hardship and opposition to this important campus mission.

2. Rev. Richard Gizynski is pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Chicago.  This church and its parsonage are in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, one of the most economically, depressed, crime, drug and gang ridden areas in Chicago. Today the church and parsonage are for sale because of the congregation’s poverty. He has not been paid in months, and faces potential homelessness, but he remains committed to serving his congregation faithfully, as he has done for years, for as long as he is able.

Due to this troubling situation, the editors deemed it proper to set up a fund for the purpose of providing Pastor Gizynski with aid.  In addition to funds collected the night of the ceremony, we have established the capability for donors to contribute online, at our regular Gottesdienst website under "Make a donation." Be sure to list Pastor Gizynski in the "Purpose" box.  The link is here.

3. Rev’d Jonathan L. Jenkins, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon Pennsylvania, practices confessionally orthodox worship and has stood up for the faith in the face of secularization and revision of the faith in the ELCA. He has organized Lutherans Reform! in Central Pennsylvania and has been a strong voice for orthodox Lutheranism.

4. Rev. Donavon Riley, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Webster, Minnesota, is under extreme stress as his eldest son, Owen, age 9 has fluid on his brain which threatens to push the cerebellum into the spinal column and will most likely require brain surgery. At the same time, his wife is pregnant and has developed gestational diabetes. Yet he continues to post both to his own blog “The First Premise” (http://thefirstpremise.blogspot.com/) and co-edit the blog Gnesio (http://gnesiolutheran.com/, and carry out a full schedule of regular duties.  Meanwhile his church has suffered financial difficulty and he himself has faced criticism for his unwavering preaching of the Theology of the Cross and fidelity to the Gospel.

5. Provost Gert Kelter of the SELK (our German sister church), pastor of the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, is a powerful orthodox force among the leadership of the SELK as one of the four supervisory clerics under the bishop.  He has been severely criticized and threatened for a straightforward piece he has published in Logia regarding the Islamic surge in Europe.  He has consistently been the confessional voice in the SELK.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Undoubtedly you have by now seen that the former bassist of Megadeath is enrolled in SMP through CSL. Well, good for him. I wish him every blessing in Christ.

The scandal in this story is not that the LCMS is about to get another praisebanding pastor - we've got a bushel and a peck of those a-ready. Nor is the scandal in that CSL is trying to get publicity from a semi-celebrity enrollé: any self-respecting institution of higher ed would do the same.

The scandal is this. SMP was sold to the Synod on two premises. First, that we have a shortage of clergy and thus need to ease academic requirements to fill the gaps in our ministerium. This is just false. Seven years on of shortages of calls in May have pretty much convinced even the bureaucrats to stop saying otherwise. Second, SMP was sold as needed to help fill special ministry situations, specifically mentioned were ethnic enclaves. I know, I was there when Larry Rast and Andy Bartelt sold it to us in convention: this was the big selling point. SMP would get guys who just could not otherwise go to seminary through - especially poor folks from ethnic communities who desperately needed native pastors and didn't have 4 years to wait and lots of money to spend.

I've already given you anecdotal stories about good old fashioned German-descended white guys getting in to SMP. I don't need to give you my private anecdotes anymore. Here is a real live rich white guy with a Vikingish last name (and beard!) who gets in to SMP. Why could not the Rev. Sem. Ellefson have just learned Greek and Hebrew and moved to St. Louis for 4 years like the rest of us? He would have received a much better education and been better prepared for the ministry for it. Does anyone honestly disagree? Does anyone honestly think that the regular 4 year programs and the SMP program provide equal preparation for the Ministry?

No. No thinking man of any experience in the Church thinks this. SMP is a second class, dumbed down, mostly distance ed, speed route to ordination. In that it is very unwise. But at least it is not asking men to pretend to be pastors when they are not, as in lay ministry, which is evil.

So, in a contest between unwise and evil I'll vote for unwise every time. But we could stop both. We could end SMP and lay ministry. We really could. All we need is a little leadership. I was glad to see that Larry Rast dared to speak some truth at the Symposia. Any one else in high places want to take up this baton?


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Student debt

This may be old news to many, but it was new to me. If you came out of seminary with any federal backed student debt, read this.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fort Wayne Festivities

We had a great time at Redeemer's Free Conference yesterday and more Gottesdienst events are on their way for later this week. Alas, parish duties have called me back to Illinois, but if you are in Fort Wayne or on your way, don't forget to stop by the Gottesdienst booth and attend the Sabre Ceremony on Thursday.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


A unanimous US Supreme Court has dismissed the employment discrimination case against Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church. This is the best decision for the religious life of the nation - though I remain immensely uncomfortable with the MO Synod's language about "ministers."  Read all about it.
HT: Herr Vehse


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sabre of Boldness Nominees Sought

Nominations for the 2012 Sabre of Boldness Bearer are invited.  The award is given “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ while engaged in the confession of His pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces and at the greatest personal risk.”  Please submit a signed nomination to Fr. Eckardt via E-mail.  Simply state the name, address, and telephone number of the nominee and the reasons why he or she is a fitting choice for Sabre Bearer.  The degree of the adversity faced by the nominee, a demonstration of steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise the truth of the Gospel, heedlessness of threatened personal consequences, and a clear confession of the truth at stake are considered.  The slate of nominees will close on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012.  Then the editors of Gottesdienst will meet privately to make their selection.
 The Sabre ceremony is slated to be held Thursday night, January 20th, following the symposium banquet, at La Quinta Inn and Suites, on 2902 East Dupont Road in Fort Wayne.

Sabre of Boldness Recipients
1996 The Reverend Peter C.  Bender
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S.  Suelflow
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2008 The Reverend Aaron Moldenhauer
2009 The Reverend Juhana Pohjola
2010 The Right Reverend Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn
2011 The Reverend Brian Saunders

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vespers at Redeemer's Free Conference

I hope that you are planning on coming up to Fort Wayne for the Symposia - which looks to be especially good this year with the main guest being Richard Bauckham - and that you can come early for Redeemer's Free Conference on Monday (see the post below). Once again we will be using the Brotherhood Prayer Book for Vespers with instruction in Gregorian chant coming from its editor, Dr. Benjamin Mayes. He has kindly sent along this pdf copy of the order of Vespers so that you can look it over before arriving at Redeemer.

Now, if someone could just explain to me why we do all this in beautiful Ft. Wayne in JANUARY instead of September. . .