Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's the distinction between Traditional and High Church?

I'm very excited to hear that our own Dr. Stuckwisch is set to discuss this issue among others at the ACELC free conference in Austin. He asked us fellow Gottesdienst editors to chime in as he prepares his paper. Here's my stab at it. 

Indeed - it's a bit like the judge's famous quip about pornography: hard to define, but I know it when I see it.

Anyone who uses the hymnal for the service, the lectionary for the readings, and vests in alb and stole is traditional. A chasuble can also be traditional. A little bit of chanting - like DS Setting I's Kyrie, can still be traditional. Bowing at the consecration can still be traditional. But if you have the chasuble, a little bit of chanting, and the bowing...that's starting to add up to High Church. 

Anyone who uses the hymnal for the service, the lectionary for the readings, and vests in alb, stole, and chasuble, and chants all the parts where the says it "may" be chanted or spoken is High Church. Genuflecting during the Creed and/or the Consecration is High Church. Incense is High Church. Having an assisting pastor vested in dalmatic is High Church.

Traditionalists are conservatives and can thus suffer from the conservative's bane: what am I conserving? Like the GOP who is always trying to conserve the status quo of 20 years ago, which was the progressive vision of 40 years ago, it can be hard to know what they stand for. 50 years ago the alb was High Church in the Midwest. Today it is traditional. Thirty years ago a chasuble was unheard of. Today the utterly traditional, "low church," say-sing parish where I vicared has chasubles.  

Folks who are High Church can suffer from the repristinator's bane: setting a given point in history as the high water mark for good practice and seeking to regain all those ceremonies. 

Intelligent and well meaning folks in each camp focus on an honest to goodness agenda: I want my practice to reflect my doctrine and to teach the people all while honoring the heritage of my church's history and making realistic accommodations to the sensibilities of my flock and my neighbors. A good many men in Missouri have exactly this praiseworthy agenda and thus we see the creep of ceremonies that were once the exclusive property of the "High Church" (chanting, albs, chasubles, Tenebrae Vespers) into the realm of the "traditional." All this really means is that Missouri has slowly reclaiming portions of historical Lutheran ceremony in a responsible way that teaches the people and confesses our faith clearly. I view Gottesdienst as a resource for anybody with this agenda, whether they are "traditional" or "high church."

Reading the Braunsweig-Wolfenbuettel Church Order was the real eye opener for me. It turns out this High Church/traditional, or more ceremonious/less ceremonious distinction has always been with Lutheranism. In that Church Order the divide is spelled out with amazing clarity: the rich city churches had Latin and high ceremony, the poor country parishes had low ceremony and Luther's (in my humble opinion: grossly truncated) German Mass. 

We are a society of the middle class. It is only natural that our church's have therefore mixed up the city mouse/country mouse divide.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Gerhard on Ordination

Check it out over at the Lutheran Orthodoxy blog.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mrs. Katie Schuermann Awarded the Sabre

Mrs. Katie Schuermann was awarded the Sabre of Boldness on Thursday, January 24, 2013 A+D in Ft. Wayne. 

We want to note that Mrs. Schuermann is not the “winner.” The Sabre of Boldness is not a competition, but a recognition. All of the nominees were worthy and deserved this award, Mrs. Schuermann bears it for them and also for all of the unsung heroes and confessors of the faith.

Here is the description of Mrs. Schuermann as read at the ceremony:

“Mrs. Schuermann is the author of the book He Remembers the Barren, and had spoken to groups of women burdened like her with the affliction of barrenness. In the course of these meetings she soon found herself hearing from women who had turned to in vitro fertilization as a last resort to ease their pain. In spite of the sensitive nature of the matter, she felt constrained to tell the truth in love about the unacceptability of in vitro fertilization. For us who know that life begins at conception, there is really no ethical alternative than to reject in vitro fertilization, in whose process fertilized embryos are always discarded. For her to have the courage to say so in such circumstances, and to speak up for life, for which she has endured much grief and rejection, is commendable.”

We commend to you her blog as well:  http://heremembersthebarren.com

We pray that her example, and the example of all this year’s nominees, will inspire us all to speak the truth despite the cost, trusting in God’s mercy to deliver us out of this vale of tears, to the place where the Holy Innocents play with the babies taken from their mothers’ wombs, and where no mothers weep or feel false guilt, and where no babies are threatened with murder if they prove inconvenient or undesirable.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sabre of Boldness ceremony Thursday

Thursday, January 24th, the annual Sabre of Boldness ceremony will be held at about 8:30 pm in the seminary commons area. This year we have amplification, so everyone should be able to hear just fine.  You may bring libations with you. In fact, if you don't bring libations with you, you might be without them.

Here is the official list of nominees, in no particular order.  Not all the submitted names made this list.  Details pertaining to each, and the announcement of the recipient, will be posted.

1.  Bishop Amos Bolay
Lutheran Church of Liberia

2.  Rev. Jim Matthews
Grace Lutheran Church
Tacoma, Washington

3.  Rev. Joshua Gale
Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church

4. Rev. Rolf Preus
three point parish
Mayville, North Dakota

5. Mrs. Katie Schuermann
Sherman, Illinois

6. Rev. Michael Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana

7. Rev. Tim Rossow
Bethany Lutheran Church
Naperville, Illinois

Male and female

In regard to Fr. Braaten's post about Lewis' take on Biblical maleness and femaleness we have this, which is evidently not a statement by The Onion: "Women in all branches of the military soon will have unprecedented opportunities to serve on the front lines of the nation's wars." 

What a great opportunity! Where can I sign up my wife and daughters?

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/01/23/panetta-opens-combat-roles-to-women/#ixzz2IpzuRGGD


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reclaiming the “Discarded Image” -- Using Narnia to Reclaim What it Means to be Male and Female

One of the biggest misunderstandings I run across is the misunderstanding of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman in today's culture. We are plagued with androgyny. Men aren't men unless they're more feminine. And women are women unless they're more masculine. We turn upside the uniqueness of maleness and femaleness, while at the same time, destroy what truly binds us together.

Perhaps, C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia can help us reclaim the discarded images of male and female that plagues us so in order inculcate through story what is truly noble and heroic about the sexual order. This at least is what the below book review claims. It's worth the read. And I'd like to hear your thoughts on how mothers and fathers, pastors and teachers can use theses insights to do just that. 
This book review is copied and pasted from: http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/reclaiming-the-“discarded-image”-guest-review-of-dr-monika-hilders-the-feminine-ethos-in-c-s-lewiss-chronicles-of-narnia/

Reclaiming the “Discarded Image”:
Monika B. Hilder’s The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia
A Theological Review by Ralph E. Lentz II, Appalachian State University
C. S. Lewis wrote, by his faith and his studies, from a pre-Modern thought-world that was not schizophrenic—from a world that did not divide faith and reason, the natural and supernatural, fact and value. As a Medievalist, Lewis had digested the Whole, from Thomas Aquinas’ notion that grace perfects nature, to Nicholas of Cusa’s idea of the “coincidence of opposites.” In her brilliant new book The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (Peter Lang, 2012), Monika B. Hilder reveals Lewis’s dedication to this pre-Modern, orthodox Christian vision of an integrated world of beautiful paradox. And, following Lewis, she does it in a wonderfully imaginative and subversive way by focusing on what she calls “theological feminism” (12, et passim.). Through her analysis of all seven books of the Narnia series, Hilder demonstrates how Lewis, far from being chauvinist and misogynistic (as some critics have charged), actually challenges the pagan conception of power based on force and the twisted image of sexuality that it supports. In contrast, Lewis’s use of “theological feminism” points to “another City”[1] where the “sword between the sexes” has been cast away, and where the contraries of Male and Female can become one without confusion or contradiction (cf. Genesis 2:24). A model of careful analysis, comprehensive scholarship, and eloquence, the book itself merits a substantial review—particularly in light of its theological implications. Hence the purpose of the present essay.

Hilder immediately addresses Lewis’s many critics and their charges in her introduction. Stella Gibbons, Doris T. Myers, Margaret Hannay, Sam McBride, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Philip Pullman, and J. K. Rowling, among many others have leveled serious criticisms against Lewis’s depictions of females in the Chronicles of Narnia series. (2) They object to Lucy and Susan’s absence from physical combat in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They censure Jill’s non-participation in the fight against the serpent-witch in The Silver Chair, and Lewis’s apparent chauvinistic commentary through her thoughts: “‘I do hope I won’t faint—or blub—or do anything idiotic’” (2). J. K. Rowling has condemned Lewis for Susan’s seeming apostasy and damnation because of her teen-age discovery of fashion and sexuality in The Last Battle (2).
Yet Hilder’s careful explanations of the symbolism of the characters in the Narniad demonstrates that these charges of sexism against Lewis stem from Modern critics’ univocal (and hence literalistic) reading of the Chronicles and their own un-conscious adoption of pagan gender roles. In other words, the problem of sexism in reading Lewis’s work lies not in him or his generation, but rather in our post-Christian and Neo-Pagan culture. What is perhaps more problematic is that Modern and “Post-Modern” Christian readers stumble over Lewis’s gender metaphors. It is a sign of forgotten and/or discarded orthodoxy, and one which I believe Hilder helps to overcome through her philosophically and theologically informed literary analysis. Thus her thesis: . . . perhaps C. S. Lewis’s views on sex and gender have so far been largely misunderstood, offering a complexity that defies cultural assumptions. Moreover, perhaps he imagines a theological feminism so radical that it even repairs some of the blunders of contemporary discourse on biological sex and gendered identities. . .” (4, italics in original). As Hilder demonstrates throughout her book, this “theological feminism” is distinctly orthodox, pre-Modern, and Christian. It is this which enabled Lewis to subvert Modern Neo-Pagan gender constructions, but which also so confounds his critics and admirers alike.
The brilliancy of Hilder’s study is her insight into Lewis’s employment of “theological feminism.” She defines theological feminism as a view of gender hierarchy as “a metaphor for the ideal relationship between ‘feminine’ humanity and the ‘masculine’ divine.” (12) “Gender hierarchy” as opposed to the Enlightenment ideal of Equality is itself quite controversial, yet Hilder’s historical and theological contextualization of this ancient metaphor shows that it is not the scourge of sexual harmony as proclaimed by Modern critics. She situates Lewis’s “theological feminism” within the context of the two heroic models of the West—that of “classical heroism” and “spiritual heroism” (6). (Here is my one criticism of the work: Hilder’s use of “classical” instead of “pagan.” While the former sounds more “neutral,” it was not—it was “pagan” through and through. Elizabeth Baird Hardy’s preface does address this concern, however). From Homer and Virgil the West inherited notions of the hero as “the strong,”[2] the mighty, the beautiful—but also the enraged and cool killer—Achilles and Aeneas, respectively (cf. 7). To the brute force of the poets, Pagan philosophers like Aristotle and Cicero added the “heroic” virtues of the mind: reason, autonomy, and aristocratic excellence, which were only attainable by the Liberal Man of antiquity (cf. 7) .
In contrast, “Spiritual heroism in the biblical tradition of centeredness in God is the lesser known and lesser understood Western heroic ethic” (7). (This may be the supreme understatement of the book). The virtues of spiritual heroism are “imagination, interdependence, passivity, care, submission, truthfulness, and humility” (7-8). They are the values the Pagans deemed weaker and feminine. As Hilder points out, the virtues of spiritual heroism often go unrecognized because “[u]nlike classical martial valour exercised in order to establish worldly power through brute force, spiritual heroism requires inner valour in order to establish the kingdom of heaven through humility” (8). And yet, as anyone who has read The Chronicles will attest, Lewis obviously delighted in acts of martial courage, strength, and skill primarily by his male characters. It is at this point that the carefulness of Hilder’s analysis becomes particularly important. For what she shows is that Lewis’s “theological feminism” is not to be confused with Modern feminist theology. Whereas the latter at its best aims at equality, and at its worst seeks to “masculize” femininity so that women may become full participants in aggressiveness, violence, and all forms of Modern sublimated warfare, the former holds onto hierarchy with distinct complimentary roles for the two different sexes. Hilder reveals how Lewis’s “Theological feminism”—like all Christian orthodoxy—marries opposites without confusing them, and without denying their “contrariness.” Thus just as Christ is both fully God and fully Human, so too Lewis’s “theological feminism” enabled him to characterize Medieval Christian knights as both fully fierce (Male) and fully meek, “demure, almost. . .maidenlike” (Female) (10) . This paradox, what Nicholas of Cusa called the “coincidence of opposites” unique to the Christian Triune God, is what animated Lewis’s images and metaphors.[3]
After the Introduction, each chapter analyzes one book of the Narnia series, and Hilder applies her paradigm of “‘Masculine’ Classical Heroes” and “‘Feminine’ Spiritual Heroes” to illustrate Lewis’s subversion of Modern Neo-Pagan gender constructions. For instance, the White Witch / Jadis, whom critics have used to argue for Lewis’s misogynistic association of evil with women, is shown by Hilder to actually exhibit the male characteristics of pagan heroes. She is tall and beautiful, yet “‘cold’” and “‘stern’”; she hates “. . . all things ‘feminine,’ for example, smallness, humility, and love.” (22) The White Witch is characterized by “. . . deceit, rage, and desperate courage” (23). She in fact demonstrates all the characteristics of a Greek or Roman goddess—Homer’s Hera, or Virgil’s Juno. With them and the heroes of the epics, she “seeks to objectify, possess, and devour others” (23). Before his redemption by Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund embodies pagan heroic “virtues.” Like Achilles or Agamemnon, “[h]e is consistently self-seeking, spiteful, and deceitful” (25). Likewise, Jill , before believing in Aslan, is given to “male” pride, self-centeredness, and aggression.
Hilder points out that critics have tended to view Jill as a “stronger” female character than either Susan or Lucy, and therefore as evidence of Lewis’s “maturing” views on sexuality. (82) She rejoins: “But in what sense is Jill stronger? Perhaps in self-assertion through anger? She shares this trait with Edmund in the first story, and Eustace in the third. . .” (82) This belies the fact that many modern “feminist” critics esteem Jill’s un-redeemed proclivity to pagan anger—(what St. Augustine un-masked in The City of God as one of their “splendid vices”)—more than her later infusion of Christian feminine spiritual virtue. This is indicative of modern feminist critics wish that Lewis’s female characters on the one hand be more aggressive and violent—more traditionally male, traditionally heroic, in other words—and on the other hand, as with Susan, more traditionally female—fully sexualized and aestheticized. In this light Modern feminism reveals its un-conscious enthrallment to pagan gender constructions: one almost hears Homer calling, “Let Susan become Helen, let Lucy become Achilles”—or perhaps Artemis/Katniss? . . . Yet Hilder’s brilliant analysis of the characters of the Narniad demonstrate that in Lewis’s thought and writing, “[b]iological gender . .. is irrelevant to the identity of a ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ hero” (79-80). This is supremely true of the center of all the Narnia tales—Aslan.
Like John’s subversive and paradoxical image of a slaughtered yet living triumphant Lamb (Rev. 5:6-14), Lewis’s image of a massive and meek Lion frustrates the rigid dualities of Pagan and Modern gender thought. Aslan is an image of Cusa’s “coincidence of opposites”: “He is both ‘good and terrible’ at once”; “good but not safe;” “good but ‘wild,’ not ‘tame’.” (27-28) Unlike Pagan heroes, Aslan overcomes force and evil not with more force and violence, but by laying down his life as a sacrifice for those he loves. This “feminine” action is disgusting in the Pagan and Modern paradigm of “masculine” heroics. Hilder rightly comments, “Aslan’s motionless surrender, without anger or fear, but only some sadness, only enrages the Witch and her rabble, as if they sense something of what they cannot yet know: the patient grace of true royalty which will undo their classical hatred” (29, with my emphasis). Indeed, as Hilder points out, all victories in the Narniad come not ultimately through martial skill or valor, but rather through “. . . the cosmic joy centered in the person of Aslan” (55). Here is a gem that is too often forgotten in Evangelical Christianity’s approach to today’s culture wars. That many Christians even think in terms of a “culture war” is sign of the loss of confidence, joy, and humor shared by our Fathers and Mothers in the faith who lived in the so-called “Dark Ages.” Lewis, as a “dinosaur,” (as he once referred to himself), re-discovered the lost treasure of Christian symbolic discourse and discreetly permeated his works with it. Monika Hilder has given readers of the Narnia series a much needed key to unlocking this lovely universe. For what so many Evangelicals find winsome in Lewis’s work is his pre-Modern, pre-Reformation, pre-schizophrenic Medieval orthodoxy and the metaphors and symbols it used to convey the Beautiful Whole—and to point to the “Invisible Visible”[4] Three In One God. Lewis’s generation had purposely discarded this image of God and His creation; the wisdom of Augustine, Aquinas, and Cusa seemed ill-suited to the god and mechanical universe created by Descartes, Newton, and Darwin. Hilder has helped today’s readers understand the power and beauty of Lewis’s symbols in The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. It is a book that deserves a wide reading in our universities, seminaries, and homes. For it is a book that not only aids in re-claiming the analogical literary symbolism of pre-Modernity, it also supports the reclamation of that other discarded image: the imago dei which was made “both male and female” (cf. Gen. 1:27).
[1]See St. Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans and John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2006), Chapter 12, “The Other City: Theology as a Social Science.”
[2]‘η ρων (hē rōn, “the strong,”), from which we get the word “hero,” never occurs in the New Testament.
[3]On Nicholas of Cusa and the “coincidence of opposites,” see Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings, translated and introduced by H. Lawrence Bond (New York and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997).
[4]On the “Invisible Visible” God, see Nicholas of Cusa’s “On the Vision of God” in Bond, and Johannes Hoff, The Analogical Turn: Re-Thinking (Post-) Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, forthcoming 2013).

Monday, January 21, 2013


Extremist Christians (outside the cultural mainstream)
By Larry Beane

In this article, a seasoned U.S. senator describes the National Rifle Association as an "extreme group."

Now whether one agrees or disagrees with the NRA's interpretation of the second amendment, the issue ought to be whether they are right or wrong, not how "extreme" they are, as if "two plus two" can be answered according to a bell curve of popularity.

The use of the word "extreme" and its cousins "extremist" and "extremism" is a rhetorical tool to demonize someone who does not agree with the person making the charge.  In the minds of some, it might conjure up disturbing black and white footage of stormtroopers goose-stepping in unison or of raving fascists gesturing and ranting.  For others, it might call to mind imagery of a camel-clad preacher using words like "vipers" and "wrath," or the word may even remind one of another Preacher who drove moneychangers out of the temple with whips while overturning tables.

One man's "extremism" is another man's "passion."

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod clings to "extreme" views that many other church bodies have long since discarded in our modern, if not postmodern, age: such quaint doctrines as male only ordination, closed communion, belief in the literal reading of Genesis and the six-day creation account (over and against Darwinian evolution), and the traditional view of marriage that considers homosexuality sinful.  Many find our belief that Christianity is the only path to heaven and that people actually go to hell to be not just "extremist," but downright shocking, embarrassing, and reactionary.  We are way out of the mainstream of modern Christian thought.  And that's what it means to be "extremist."

We also are pretty "extreme" when it comes to fellowship, as we won't share altars and pulpits with denominations that have not formally agreed with us in doctrine and practice.  We do not share sacraments even with many Americans who call themselves "Lutherans," nor do we sanction prayers with non-Christians - even in the aftermath of terrible tragedies.

Many would call this "extremism."

But the reason for using this term is that it prevents any substantive discussion.  It is a way of appealing to numbers, to the crowd of one's peers, instead of to the rightness or wrongness of something.  It is a variation of the old "ad hominem" trick. With one word (that really communicates nothing), those who disagree claim a moral high ground and are spared having to debate, discuss, or defend their position.  It is much like the rhetorical tactic of asking a man if he has stopped beating his wife.

The epithet is sometimes hurled at Gottesdiensters.  We are "extremists" in liturgical matters.  Of course, that is really just a way of saying we do not countenance guitars, skits, and dancing girls in our worship services.  Sometimes the appeal is made to moderation.  Twin straw men are set up on either side, with Hans conducting High Mass with incense, and Franz singing Jesus lyrics to Green Day music.  Both Hans and Franz are condemned as "extremists" while their bland step-brother Lukewarm Louey emerges as the Reasonable Middle - the guy who wears vestments (but not too many), who is respectful (but not to the point of reverence) and who avoids both "extremes" of guitars and chanting, and of chasubles and hipster jeans in the chancel.

When the word "extremist" is used, the conversation ends.  The questions do not get asked, discussed, or answered.  The trump has been played and the trick is taken.  And yet, we still want to ask and discuss and answer the question: "Why do we make use of traditional chant, hymnody, vestments, and rubrics in worship?"  The answer to these questions always point us to Jesus.  Whether you agree with or disagree with, like or dislike, are comfortable with or uncomfortable with the traditional liturgy, the elements of Christian liturgical practice are undoubtedly Christian, which is to say: Christocentric.  The answers to the substantive questions (whether they are asked or side-stepped) are rooted firmly in Christ and in our confession of Him as Lord and Savior.

Yeah, the Guy with the whips.

And whether you agree with Barry Goldwater's politics or not, I believe his paraphrase of Cicero (applied not to Jesus but to liberty and justice) exposes the intellectual laziness and avoidance of real discussion built in to the word "extremist" when the classical Roman orator said: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

If you actually believe in something that is of grave importance, you should be willing to bear the epithet "extremist."  Otherwise, what's the point?

Evil Eyes and the Good Master: Thoughts on Septuagesima

The ESV has a rather unfortunate translation of Matthew 20:15. It says: "Or do you begrudge my generosity?" Literally it is: "Or is your eye evil because I am good?" The goodness of the master reveals the evil of our eyes and our hearts. We don't just begrudge his generosity. We begrudge him.

The grumbling of those who worked in the vineyard the longest reveals something about them. It reveals their assumptions. It sounds as if they want fairness. But the cry for fairness only applies if the rules are broken. The master broke no rules. He gave them what they agreed to work for, a day's wage, which was standard operating procedure. No, they don't want fairness. They want more. They want more because they think they're worth more. They assume their work is somehow better and more deserving.

And we side with them. Our initial thought, too, is that it's not fair. This mentality reveals what we really think about the master, about what he promises and what he commands. It reveals that we really think he's holding out on them and, likewise, us. It reveals that we think doing what he says is burdensome, that the reward is not worth the work, that it'd be way more fun to be doing something else, with someone else, in someplace else. We think that what we have done has earned what he gives. And more than that, we think that somehow what we've done in the Kingdom of God is not only better and more deserving than what others do, but also that God somehow owes us because of it, that he is in our debt, and not we in his. Can't He see, we think to ourselves, all that we have done, all that we have given up over the years, all the fun we missed out on because we were doing what He asked? Can't He see that we're worth more . . . worth more than what He's given . . . worth more than His only Son?

Repent. The commandments of God are not burdensome. They are set into place to protect you and bless you. They are established to ensure that you will be made holy by His Work and Word (1st-3rd Commandments) and to ensure that you are kept from defiling yourself and others, keeping you holy (4th-10th). They are given for your benefit. They are given to keep you safe. They are His good will toward you. They are His gifts to keep you holy and undefiled. And you begrudge Him for it. Your eye is evil toward Him because He is good toward you. Repent.

The kingdom of God isn’t like workers in a vineyard. Rather, “The kingdom of God is like the master of the vineyard who goes out himself to hire workers who had no work to work in his vineyards." The owner goes out himself. He doesn’t send his manager, he doesn’t send his servant, which we know he had. But instead he goes out himself. He goes to the corner of the marketplace where all the unemployed go daily to search for work. And going early one morning, he hires workers and makes a contract with them to work in his vineyard for one day’s wage, that is, one denarius.

But later, moved by the sight of so many without work, He goes back again to check and to see for himself if any are left. And when he arrives, he finds them all standing. He finds them all ready, eager even, to work. So he hires more. But this time he doesn’t quote them a wage. He only says, “I will give you what is right,” that is, I will give you what is just.

The vineyard owner continues this throughout the day, returning to the unemployment marketplace, checking to see if more remain unemployed. He’s compulsive about it, the way we check our e-mail when expecting an important note, or the window when we’re expecting someone to visit. The vineyard owner checks for himself again at 12:00 noon, 3:00 PM, and finally just one hour before dusk at 5:00 PM. And each time he finds the same thing: workers standing, workers ready, willing, and eager to work.

Now something akin to this still happens in the Middle East today at the Damscus Gate in east Jerusalem. And there, those who haven’t been hired by 12:00 noon (the 6th hour) all go home. They all call it a day at the 6th hour. But the workers in this parable all stay well past noon, and not only that, they’re still standing, and so despite all the odds of getting hired past the 6th hour, these guys stay. And they’re not found loafing, they’re standing, they’re ready to work, eager—even those staying till the 11th hour, an hour before dusk.

None have given up hope. They are staying until night comes when no one can work. They remain eager and expectant, even optimistic. They were faithful to the end: hopeful, trusting that someone might come by and hire them for the remainder of the day. For if no one comes, they must return home humiliated to an anxious wife and hungry children with bad news of another day of frustration and disappointment.

And when asked by the vineyard owner: “Why have you stood here unemployed all day?” They say: “Because no one has hired us.” That is, “We’re eager to work, willing to work, ready to work, able to work and we will not give up! We will stand here until the light fades and go home in the dark if we must.”

And this is the amazing thing. With one hour to before the night comes, the vineyard owner doesn’t give them charity. He doesn’t just flip them a denarius and send them on their way so he can be done with them. He doesn't just dust his hands of them, and go home feeling good about himself. He refuses to humiliate them further by putting them on relief. Instead he gives them the one thing they so desperately needed, what they wanted so much but evaded them all day. He gave them a job.

The vineyard owner puts them on his payroll. He takes responsibility for them by hiring them as his workers in his vineyard. What is his he puts into their hands—his grapes, his livelihood, his future—and in exchange he takes upon himself responsibility for what is theirs—their livelihood, their future, the feeding of their families.

This finally is what drives the owner to return time and time again—his compassion for those who are without, those who have nothing but hope that they’ll be rescued and given a chance to work. The owner sacrifices of himself, trekking back and forth, despite the heat, despite have a manager, a servant, who could do it for him, to ensure that no one is left without work, that no one is goes home without honor or food for his family. And he does it again and again and again.

And when the whistle blew, the owner says to his servant, the manager of his affairs, “Pay them all THE WAGE,” that is, the only wage mentioned—a denarius, a day’s wage for a day’s worth of work. The owner makes all the workers equal: Those who worked all day and those who stood looking for work all day. They’re all equal. They all have the same reward, the same wage.

This our Lord has done also for you—for all of you. For this parable reveals what the kingdom of God is like. It is like one who, because of His compassion, sought to save those alienated from God because of their sin. It is like one who for the joy set before him, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant though being equal to God, and humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, death on a cross. The Lord Jesus Christ didn’t just give you charity, he loved you, taking on himself what is yours—sin and death—and gives to you what is his--his righteousness and his life.

And in Christ, you all have to the same reward. In Christ, in His kingdom, the first are last and the last are first. For in Christ there is no last, there is no first, only THE WAGE, the just reward, that he gives out of his divine goodness, His grace, His mercy, His compassion. What is His is yours, and what is yours is His. And thus, you are a member of his kingdom, a worker his vineyard, an heir in his family.

And because of this, you have a calling, you have a job. For the Lord leaves no one without work. He gives to each according to his call. He calls some to be mothers and fathers and others to be sons and daughters. Some, he calls to be employers and others be employees. And for others still he calls to be teachers in His kingdom, while some he calls to be hearers.

But regardless of what calling you have, in the kingdom of God everyone works, everyone has a job, everyone a duty. For this is God’s will, that you work in these callings serving one another, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. And not because you have to prove something to him, not because you must earn your way, but because you are eager, willing, and able to work for the benefit of those in your care.

And in doing that you find that you are in God’s employ. That you are on His staff. That you are servants of God your King. That your master is not one who demands but gives, He gives what is His to you to make you His own. And the work he gives isn’t aimless or petty. It has a purpose uniquely created for each one of you. To show you that regardless of what you think you are worth, that no matter what you do or for how long you do it, you are called by the compassion of your Lord Jesus Christ and the giving of himself on the cross and that is sufficient to carry you through all the daily trials and struggles that you face. Hope in that. Trust is that. And you will find that rest in what He gives—forgiveness of sin, new life in Him—makes you free. You are free. Freed to live in His cross-shaped compassion, and from out of that, freed to give of yourself in sacrificial love toward one another.

All were unemployed. All were rescued from shame, from guilt, from certain death and given new hope in the compassionate self-giving of the Lord. And you are no different. So come and feast with the Lord on the fruits of his vineyard, the just reward from His labor for you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, April 17-19, 2013, Bloomington, Minnesota

Congress on the Lutheran Confessions

ACL National Free Conference 24
Luther Academy Lecture Series 20

April 17–19, 2013

Ramada Mall of America
Bloomington (a suburb of Minneapolis) Minnesota


What is Legalism and Antinomianism?
Rev. Dr. Scott Murray of Houston, Texas

Lutherans Caught Between Rome and Geneva
Rev. Rolf Preus of Mayville, North Dakota

What Happens when the Third Use of the Law is Rejected?
Rev. Roland Ziegler of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Teaching the Law from Luther's Small Catechism
Rev. Peter Bender of Sussex, Wisconsin

The Lord's Prayer as a Prayer of Confession in the Antinomian Disputations of Luther
Rev. Paul Strawn of Spring Lake Park, Minnesota

The Third Use of the Law as Answer to Anti-Nomianism
Rev. Dr. David Scaer of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Gospel Only – What's Wrong with That?
Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III of St. Louis, Missouri

Why Germans Drink Beer and Baptists Don't
Rev. John Pless of Fort Wayne, IndianaThursday Evening Banquet Speaker

Embodied Antinomians: Female Priests, Pastors, and Preachers
Rev. Dr. Charles Cortright of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Monday, January 14, 2013

Something More Sure: Thoughts on the Transfiguration

Compare the account of the Transfiguration with the account of our Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane:

  1. In both accounts Peter, James, and John are singled out from the other disciples (Matt 17:1; 26:37).
  2. In both cases Jesus' physical appearance changes--face was bright like the sun (Matt 17:); face red from sweating blood (Luke 20:44). 
  3. Peter speaks of Jesus' will in the Transfiguration (Matt 17:4); Jesus speaks of His Father's will in the Garden (Matt 26:39).
  4. In both cases Jesus says "Arise" (Matt 17:7; 26:46).
  5. In both accounts there is this similar phrase "While he [Peter] was yet speaking, behold a cloud . . . "(Matt 17:5); and "While He [Jesus] was yet speaking, behold Judas . . . " (Matt 26:47).
  6. At the Transfiguration, from the cloud comes a "voice" revealing the Father's love for Jesus (Matt 17:5). In the Garden, from Judas comes a "sign" betraying Jesus' love him (Matt 26:48--50). 
  7. In both accounts, Jesus is left alone at the end (Matt 17:8; 26:56). 
As impressive as this list of similarities is, what I find most striking is what is missing in Matthew's account of our Lord's agony in the Garden: (1) Moses and Elijah are conspicuously absent; (2) the Father is deafeningly silent; and (3) Peter, James, and John are so utterly uninterested in what's happening in the Garden that they fall asleep . . . three times. In other words, our Lord is in a one-way conversation in Matthew's account of the Garden, whereas in the Transfiguration, He is speaking with Moses and Elijah, with Peter, James, and John, and with the Father. What is highlighted then in the Garden is Jesus' Words. What stands out is what Jesus is saying. Listen to Him. Not My Will but Your will be done.

Thus, when our Lord spoke with Moses and Elijah on the Transfiguration mount, He spoke with them about His departure, His exodus, which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). When our Lord's face became bright like the sun and His garments dazzling white, and He was enveloped by the bright cloud, He heard the Word of His Father: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." And so it is that our Lord heard the testimony of three witnesses. He had the testimony of the Law and the Prophets that what He was about to do in Jerusalem was His Father's will and well-pleasing in His sight. 

And when He was in the agony of His soul with exceedingly great sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He cried out to His Father for the cup to pass, though there was no answer, thought there was no revelation from His Father above, no holy convocation with Moses and Elijah, He had His answer. For He had received it already at the Transfiguration. He had the prophetic word. He had the testimony of the Law and the Prophets as His help, His comfort, His strength and His might. He had the promise of His Father that He is loved and well-pleasing in His sight. He knew that His Father's will is good and gracious because His Father is good and gracious. 

And we have something more sure than the vision on the mount of Transfiguration. We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed. We have the Words of the Word made flesh. We have the faithful promise of Him who submits to the Father's will and word, endures suffering and death and on the third day rises. This is more sure because it confirms what the prophets had spoken. It confirms what our Lord had spoken. Listen to Him. Not My will but Your will be done. And it is so. 

We live our lives in the valleys between two mountaintops--the Mount of Transfiguration and  Mount Zion. We live our lives in the seeming silence of Gethsemane, in the vale of one-way conversations. But even this valley is a mountain, for the Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives. And while it seems silent, it is neither voiceless nor wordless. For we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed. We have not only the Law and the Prophets, Moses and Elijah, but we also have their fulfillment. For we have Jesus, crucified but arisen. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. Jesus is with us. He will never forsake us. He never leaves us. He speaks to us in His Word. He takes away our sin. He removes the curse of death, and silences the accusation of Satan. He touches us in His Sacraments, in His risen and living Body and Blood. And He says: Arise. Come Blessed of My Father. Receive the inheritance prepared for you  from the foundation of the world. And so we listen to Him. Not our will but Your will be done, O Lord. And it is. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On Flags in the Sanctuary

By Larry Beane

The question recently came up in my congregation about the lack of a U.S. flag in the sanctuary of the church.  I did not remove it; my predecessor actually did it years ago, before I was called to my current congregation.

And I support his decision to do so.

Of course, this was not a popular decision at the time.  But pastors are not called to be popular.  And for people who simply want what they want, and who stop up their ears to any explanation, they will simply choose to be angry.  They may even pass along veiled (or not so veiled) accusations of evil motives.  And yet even though I did not always agree with my predecessor in liturgical matters, I know he had no evil intention in making this decision - a decision that had the unanimous concurrence of the Board of Elders.

Everything in the church is about Jesus.  Everything in the sanctuary points us to Jesus.  Art is a powerful communicator of Christ and the Gospel - from the candles (representing the Light of Christ, the Light of the World), to the linen-shrouded altar (representing the empty tomb), to the baptismal font (often eight-sided pointing us to the eight people saved through water in the ark), to the stained glass windows depicting events in the life of our Lord and of the church, to statues and paintings, even to the plants and flowers (reminding us of Eden and of "the Lord and giver of life," everything in the church points us to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ultimately to the restored communion with the Triune God won for us by the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The pastor's vestments, the symbols sewn on them and on the paraments, the colors used in the course of the year, the advent candles, the art depicted on banners, all point us to Jesus.  Crosses and chi-rhos, alphas and omegas, images of nails and crowns of thorns, even the dignified precious metals used in the communion vessels communicate the holiness of the sacramental reality of the Lord's presence.

Some might argue that Christmas trees and poinsettias and lilies that adorn our chancels are exceptions to this rule, but not so.  The Christmas tree is a tree - symbolic of both the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, as well as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from which comes all death and misery.  The Christmas tree symbolizes both the manger (the rough-hewn cradle of the Christ child) and the cross (the tree upon which the cursed Man is hanged).  Poinsettias and lilies are both plants that are at the height of their beauty during the holy seasons of Christmas and Easter.  There is nothing more natural and Christ-centered than to bring the beauty of life at the fullness of its vitality into the place where eternal life is given by grace!

The lily, in particular, is sometimes manifested (especially in my region) as a fleur-de-lis.  It is a symbol of Louisiana's French heritage because it is a religious symbol of a people steeped in the Christian faith.  The lily is often symbolic of Easter and the resurrection, also the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the Holy Trinity.  It is a symbol of the football team called the Saints because it was first a symbol of Christian sainthood, that is, holiness.

Similarly, the pelican appears on the state flag of Louisiana, not only because these creatures are native to our state, but also because the pelican is a venerable symbol of Christ, based on the medieval fable of the mother pelican giving her life to feed her brood with her own blood (see also LSB 640, stanza 3).  The symbol of our region is so because the people of our region have an ancient Christian heritage.

The Fleur-de-lis and pelicans have been used in Christian symbolism and art for centuries.  There is a rich and deep christology and Trinitarian confession made with these symbols.

So where do national flags come into all of this?

In the vast majority of churches around the world, you will not find a national flag.  Visitors to the U.S. are sometimes shocked to visit churches and find flags adorning the sanctuary.  It sends a mixed signal about what Lutherans refer to as "the two kingdoms" - that is, the Church (the right hand) and the State (the left hand).  In some European state churches, there is a mixing of the two to the point where in England, the head of the Church is the Queen, and where until recently, in Sweden, pastors were paid out of compulsory taxes.

Some brutal regimes forced flags into the churches, such as Nazi Germany, which compelled churches to display the desecrated cross of National Socialism - which was essentially a competing religion of state-worship.  Sadly, many clergy fell for this false religion and its symbols.

Modern Roman Catholic churches do display the coat of arms of the pope - which so happens to be the national flag of the Vatican.  This probably explains why Roman Catholic churches in the United States do often display U.S. flags - as it is a breach of U.S. etiquette (according to the flag code) to display a foreign ensign without a U.S. flag.  Here in New Orleans, the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter - a historic landmark and tourist attraction - actually displays dozens of historic flags that flew over New Orleans - including the official governmental flag of the Confederate States of America.  And even though I enjoy history and have an affection for the Stars and Bars and other symbols of my heritage, I believe none of these flags have a place in a Christian sanctuary.  The Cathedral has an impressive history, but its most important historical connection is to the body and blood of Christ that are physically present on the holy altar - all other history pales in comparison to Him whose incarnation is why we number our years Anno Domini.

The practice of displaying the U.S. flag in Lutheran churches is a recent phenomenon - and it began because during the World War I era (and again during the Second world war) mainstream Americans were harassing ethnic Germans, and the German Lutherans felt compelled to abandon their German language and heritage and to try very hard to show their American patriotism - partially out of fear of being terrorized - as the U.S. was at war against Germany twice in the last century.

The LCMS website addresses this history as well as the overall issue of whether or not having a U.S. flag in the sanctuary is appropriate:
Rev. Prof. William Schmelder, seasoned parish pastor, historian and professor emeritus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, has responded to a query from the Commission on Worship regarding this matter:
“To the best of my knowledge, the U.S. flag began appearing in our churches in response to two things: the desire to express an unquestioned loyalty as U.S. citizens (a reaction to WWI sentiment) and the growing sacralization of the flag in U.S. culture. In the history of my home congregation (Immanuel, Bristol, CT), the story of the responses to both WWI and WWII is given in some detail. However, the picture of the church after the renovation in 1948 does not show a flag. There was a flag on the grounds between the church and the school, and it was raised and lowered with considerable ceremony when school was in session. I think that is one response evident in many congregations: we could show our loyalty in many ways without placing the flag in the church; other congregations seem to have brought it into the building itself, with great debate about the proper location (nave, chancel, narthex, etc.).
“Non-Americans are often astounded to see a national symbol in the church (perhaps they have memories of the Nazi flag being touched to the altars of German churches).
“The so-called Christian flag is another matter entirely. It has no tradition of the church behind it. In fact, it violates much of what anyone knows of ecclesiastical heraldry. It seems to be the design of one man, who both drew it and profits from it. He or his heirs still get a royalty on every one sold. People seem to think that you need something to balance the U.S. flag on the other side, so you have a Christian flag.”
Obviously, the inclusion of the American and Christian flags is widespread in the LCMS. As Professor Schmelder mentioned, this probably developed out of the desire of congregations of prominently German-American heritage not to appear German during and after the world wars. Likewise, many veterans of those wars returned with great patriotic zeal, which probably manifested itself in the desire to display “Old Glory” in the sanctuary.
Today, however, it may be time to reconsider this short-lived tradition among us (Lutherans never did this prior to WWI, and then only in America). One may observe that many congregations today, when considering a sanctuary renovation or even building a new sanctuary, will opt to display the flag in a location other than the chancel or nave. Many will place a flag outside of the building proper, or perhaps in the narthex. In such ways, as Professor Schmelder noted, we can demonstrate our patriotism, but not blur the distinction between the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of the world/government. Our Lord’s words, of course, come to bear on this issue ultimately: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and render unto God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:22). Both are good and right … in their respective places and times.
Flags are popular in some cultures, and the United States is one of them.  Flags evoke strong feelings and loyalty to hearth and home.  Soccer fans will often wave flags during matches to show affection for their home countries as they are represented on the field.  The same is certainly true in the Olympics.  Flags are displayed on houses and in various community displays out of love of country.

Flags are so common in the United States that they are beloved and comforting symbols.  They appear at sports events, in military or Boy Scout ceremonies, and sometimes even in ways that it could be argued might not be entirely appropriate - such as on decals on cars and on belt buckles.  Some people want the flag in the church because they like it.  But that fact alone is not justification to include it.  I once had a lively debate with a motorcycle-church pastor who argued that it is appropriate to adorn church walls with exhaust pipes and gas tanks.  How these things point us toward Jesus, I don't know.  There is a difference between a Hard Rock Cafe or a Cracker Barrel (both of which have interesting things hanging on the wall) and a Christian church sanctuary - in which the art exists to point us to Christ.

But there is another context and use of flags: a show of jurisdiction.

For example, a Kentucky State court will display the flag of the Commonwealth as a confession of sorts, that this court is convened under Kentucky (not Ohio and not Indiana) law.  A 1988 movie called Judgment in Berlin is an adaptation of the 1984 non-fiction book of the same name written by a U.S. federal judge named  Herbert J. Stern.  Stern presided over an unusual case in 1978, held on German soil, but because of the way post-war Germany had been divided up by the allies, this trial was held under the auspices of U.S. law.  Juries had been abolished by Germany in 1924, and yet this trial, held in Germany, had to have a jury and be conducted under American law and juridical procedure.  The U.S. flag in the courtroom was not a symbol of patriotism or nostalgic feelings of home - it indicated a legal jurisdiction.

Similarly, ships on the high seas are flagged and are under the jurisdictions of the flags they fly.  

Another example of the jurisdictional use of national flags involves embassies.  The Saudi Embassy, for example, is located in Washington, DC.  But it does not fly the U.S. flag.  Embassies are outposts of the countries they serve, and the Saudi Embassy in Washington is actually "Saudi soil" (not sand in Washington!).  U.S. law does not apply there.  The Saudi flag is indicative of sovereignty and jurisdiction.

In a sense, the church (whose space we sometimes call the "nave" - that is, the "ship") is like a ship or an embassy that flies under its own flag.  Churches, though located in the U.S. or Canada or Russia or Ethiopia - are actually missions or consulates or embassies of heaven.  The sovereign of the Church is not the king or the queen or the president - but the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, He who said, "My kingdom is not of this world," He who rebuffed Satan's temptations to give Him all of the kingdoms of the world.

And in the west, there is a long tradition of ecclesiastical law (canon law) being applied to the church instead of civil law.  The controversy between King Henry II and Archbishop Thomas Becket began as a dispute over who had legal jurisdiction over priests: the king or the bishop.

Even in funerals of soldiers, the draping on the casket inside the sanctuary is not the national flag, but rather the white baptismal pall.  The flag is placed onto the casket only after the body leaves the church and the casket is being prepared to be placed into the grave.  There is a liturgical break between the rites of the church and the rites of the military.  

Finally, it is important to understand that the Church is universal and transcends nation and tribe.  The Lord reveals His Church to be from "every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages."  The Church is not contiguous with any national jurisdiction.  And Lutheran Christians can traverse the planet and can feel right at home in the Divine Service in the presence of their brothers and sisters in Christ (in the very presence of Christ) even if the language of the Mass is unknown to the worshiper.  There is no American Church, German Church, Russian Church, Kenyan Church, or Icelandic Church.  There is only one holy catholic and apostolic Church, a "holy nation" that knows no boundaries, but spans the globe and transcends time itself, even unto eternity.

Nations will rise and fall - and they have.  Kingdoms will come and go - and they have.  Flags will be raised and lowered - and they have.  But God's kingdom "shall stand forever!"

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sabre of Boldness Nominees Sought

The Sabre of Boldness ceremony, held annually at the Concordia  Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne) Symposia on the Lutheran Confessions, is now in its eighteenth year, a longevity which in itself adds to the venerable character of the event. The event is set for Thursday, January 24, following the symposia banquet.

Nominations for the 2013 Sabre Bearer are being sought. 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 send your nomination to Fr. Eckardt via email. 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 Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Then the editors of Gottesdienst will meet privately to make their selection.

The CTS Symposia on the Lutheran Confessions are scheduled for January 22-25, 2013. This year the Gottesdienst crowd will again be staying at La Quinta Inn and Suites, at 2902 East Dupont Road in Fort Wayne, at the special discount rate of $72 per night (that’s a $27 discount). Just minutes from the seminary, this La Quinta has a spacious indoor swimming pool, exercise room, and free breakfast. To reserve a room at this special rate, call 1-260-490-7950 and mention that you are with Gottesdienst. Be sure to make your reservation by January 8. If you are staying at La Quinta, you will want to join us for the high point of symposia week, which is (as every Gottesdienster should know) the announcement of the recipient of our prestigious Sabre of Boldness award. Last year the Sabre event was moved on campus. At press time we don’t know whether the ceremony will be held at La Quinta or at the seminary campus, or perhaps another site in Fort Wayne, so you’ll need to stay tuned.   Join the Gottesdienst crowd at La Quinta!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter Retreat in Kewanee This Weekend

It's still not too late to put this on your schedule, particularly if you live nearby, but even if you don't:

St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Illinois is having her annual Epiphany Choral Vespers on Sunday Night, January 6th, the night of Epiphany Day at 7:00.  The pastor is Rev. Fr. Burnell Eckardt, the editor of Gottesdienst.

It will be followed by a traditional wine-and-cheese reception, another annual tradition.

Then, Monday January 7th, there will be another Day of Theological Reflection, from 8:30 – 3:30.  This fifteenth retreat in the Theological Reflection series is entitled,

“The Nativity Canticles of St. Luke”

The seminar is led by Fr. Eckardt, who has a PhD from Marquette University, will focus on the first and second chapters of the Gospel according to St. Luke, and in particular the canticles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Zacharias, the angels, and Simeon, all of whom exulted in the coming of the Blessed Nativity of our Lord.

If there is inclement weather, a snow date for Choral Vespers is scheduled for that (Monday) night at 7 pm.

Lodging options:

AmericInn, 4823 US Hwy. 34 800-634-3444
Super 8 Motel, 901 S. Tenney (Rt. 78) 309-853-8800
Aunt Daisy’s B&B, 223 W. Central Blvd.         308-853-3300
Kewanee Motor Lodge, 400 S. Main St. 309-853-4000
Days Inn, I-80 & Rt. 40, Sheffield 815-454-2361
Best Western, I-80 & Rt. 78, Annawan 309-935-6565

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

John 18:36

By Larry Beane

I just read through the latest Reporter. I'm concerned that our church body is becoming so enamored with Caesar. 

It's one thing to go to Washington and demand that the state obey the constitution and respect the rights of churches, it's quite something else for the church to transform itself into a lobbying organization to try to get specific bills passed that would give tax-appropriated funds to the church for its pet projects.

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizing the federal government to collect tax funds from Americans (and taxes are collected by compulsion) in order to fight disease around the world. That is a very good cause indeed - which is why it should be supported voluntarily, out of love, from "cheerful givers" - not expropriated by compulsion through the state apparatus. Moreover, in case nobody has noticed, Washington is broke. Where is the money going to come from for the American people to support Lutherans fighting malaria? If Christians can disagree about certain appropriation bills in congress, does the LCMS leadership have the right to lobby for those bills? 

It may make for some good photo ops for our leaders to be seen in the Presence of Senators and Congressmen and in the shadow of Columned Marble Walls - but let's not forget that our Lord's Kingdom is "not of this world." 

It is one thing to advocate for protecting human life. Of course, nothing is ever addressed about black-ops and torture and drones and provocative and imperious blowback-ridden foreign policy and the military-industrial complex. It is one thing to advocate for the natural right to private property, though the church never has anything to say about the absolutely fraud-based social programs paid for by morally (and literally) bankrupt ponzi schemes - not to mention the unconscionable practice of devaluing the currency through the federal reserve system - which openly violates Scripture. It is one thing to defend human dignity and human liberty, but the church utters not one peep about the NDAA that allows the president to arrest anyone - including citizens - without trial, without due process, without the right to a lawyer - and hold them in secret prisons indefinitely. Similarly, the church seems to have nothing to say when it comes to the Orwellian surveillance society we now live under - a system that has been used by governments to crush Christianity when the church became the opponent of state worship.

When it comes to such matters, the cat seems to get the LCMS's tongue. It seems that the church will not make any statement unless it is cleared by its own GOP gatekeepers.

The church should not be shilling for the Republican Party (or any party), nor should she be so enamored of being seen as Important in the eyes of the world. The state has a pretty abysmal record when it comes to dealing with the Bride of Christ - and coziness with the state has resulted in chaos in the Lutheran world. Every state church (and many Lutheran churches were) has become apostate - even to the point where faithful Christians are enduring persecution at the hands of government bureaucrats. This is what happens when you lie down with dogs.

The church ought to understand better than any other institution the pitfalls of dancing to Caesar's tune and cozying up to state power. John F. Kennedy summed it up best when he said: "In the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding on the back of the tiger ended up inside."

Maybe I should just toss the Reporter into the trash when the next one comes.