Saturday, May 25, 2013

Art of the possible...

The first issue of the 2013 Synod Convention's Today's Business is out and with it the resolution Committee 4 came up with regarding AC XIV. It begins on page 90.

Realistically, I suppose that it's as good as we could have hoped for given the climate of the Synod. It directs the President to teach on the topic and gives him the authority to create a task force to develop a plan "to resolve issues about persons who are not rightly called (prepared, examined, called, and ordained)" which is to be presented at the 2016 convention.

Teaching is certainly needed, and it does need to come from the top - a re-elected President Harrison will be a powerful teacher, to be sure, both publicly and in more private settings with any recalcitrant DPs. According to the resolution as drafted, he will have his choice of the men serving on the CTCR, COP, Presidium, and the Seminary faculties to put on this task force. Prof. Joel Okamoto, who authored the 2007 joint systematics faculty statement, would be a great choice to chair it.

A task force with an open ended assignment from a convention is a very powerful tool (think of what the Blue Ribbon whateverwhatever got done...) - let us pray for wisdom in the wielding of it.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Historic Lectionary Bulletin Covers Coming in 2013-14

I got word today that CPH will indeed be offering full color bulletin covers for the Historic Lectionary featuring classic artwork starting with the 2013-14 church year. This is a project that lovers of the Historic Lectionary from all corners have been seeking for some time and I'm very glad that CPH has been so responsive to those requests. The project is in the capable hands of the same team that gave us the Treasury of Daily Prayer. As they get the apparatus in place to take orders, I'll post information in this space.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Please to ignoring the kalendar

That is, the one you got in the mail from CSL: it has the improper dates of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. If you hang that one in the sacristy for the ladies' reference regarding parament color: be on your guard to see white when you show up on Sunday...


Thoughts in Verse on the Feast of Pentecost


From The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse for the Sundays and Holydays Throughout the Year

by John Keble

When God of old came down from Heaven,

In power and wrath He came;

Before His feet the clouds were riven,

Half darkness and half flame:

Around the trembling mountain’s base

The prostrate people lay;

A day of wrath and not of grace;

A dim and dreadful day.

But when he came the second time,

He came in power and love,

Softer than gale at morning prime

Hover’d His holy Dove.

The fires that rush’d on Sinai down

In sudden torrents dread,

Now gently light, a glorious crown,

On every sainted head.

Like arrows went those lightnings forth

Wing’d with the sinner’s doom,

But these, like tongues, o’er all the earth

Proclaiming life to come:

And as on Israel’s awe-struck ear

The voice exceeding loud,

The trump, that angels quake to hear,

Thrill’d from the deep, dark cloud;

So, when the Spirit of our God

Came down His flock to find,

A voice from Heaven was heard abroad,

A rushing, mighty wind.

Nor doth the outward ear alone

At that high warning start;

Conscience gives back th’ appalling tone;

’Tis echoed in the heart.

It fills the Church of God; it fills

The sinful world around;

Only in stubborn hearts and wills

No place for it is found.

To other strains our souls are set:

A giddy whirl of sin

Fills ear and brain, and will not let

Heaven’s harmonies come in.

Come Lord, Come Wisdom, Love, and Power,

Open our ears to hear;

Let us not miss th’ accepted hour;

Save, Lord, by Love or Fear.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Great post from the current Sabre Bearer

She continues her good work of speaking up for the lowly with graceful, reasonable, and direct speech that comes from a loving Christian heart. Ever been called "unforgiving and judgmental" for standing for the truth? Here's how to respond.


Friday, May 10, 2013

A Remnant from The Purple Curtain

The following excerpt touches upon a point that has piqued my interest for the past few years now.  Although the author, Brian S. Chan, does not deal specifically with liturgical ceremonies or worship practices, I believe that what he has to say does pertain to the diversities and controversies that have come to be the norm in those areas.  From my reading, it is clear that Luther's views on music, in particular, coincide closely with the ancient and medieval understanding of beauty, such as Chan describes (drawing upon Umberto Eco):

"It is fascinating to see how the definition of beauty in society changed from a sense of objectivity to relativity over the last two thousand plus years, an aesthetic evolution that Umberto Eco detailed in his monumental work History of Beauty.  The ancient Greeks and medieval philosophers predominantly subscribed to a canon or standard of beauty, which held to the qualities of harmony, proportion, goodness and truth.  This standard, however, in no way diminished the pleasurable effects beauty has on the one who experiences it.  But there is a difference between the definition and the effects.

"As Eco tracked beauty's definition over the centuries, he discovered the canon gradually became less popular.  Society wanted to push beyond the canon.  People wanted to define beauty according to originality, the surprise factor, the genius factor and the passion element.  When Eco's research finally landed in our contemporary day of mass media and plurality, he concluded that a single idea of beauty no longer exists.  Beauty could be whatever is pleasing, provocative, marketable or consumable.  Beauty was defined by 'whatever sells,' fueling an overall superficial sense of beauty.  He reasoned that if a time traveler from the future visited our present-day, he would 'have to surrender before the orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute and unstoppable polytheism of Beauty.'

"According to Eco, beauty in contemporary time no longer had a unified definition.  It's not surprising that the plurality of beauty reflects the plurality of spirituality as well.  Tolerance that allows for multiple views versus an objective view of truth became the greatest virtue and definition of ideologies in our time" (The Purple Curtain, by Brian S. Chan, Chapter Two).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wise as serpents . . .

Canceling Christmas
by Fr. Christopher Seifferlein

There was a young whippersnapper of a pastor that came to a parish whose traditions were as old as the hills. You know, he was the kind that just arrived from the seminary, with all that youthful enthusiasm and not much wisdom to match. As for the traditions of this church, which had been around far longer than he was ever alive, this youthful boy trampled on all of them. This town, which was rather stuck in its ways, was stirred up, and the conversation among the boys at the local coffee shop changed from the weather to, “How’s that pastor of yours?” and “What’s he up to now?”

Well, one from the group who sat in that coffee clutch was on the Board of Elders, and while the pastor always said for them to “keep things close to the chest,” he didn’t think that telling one or two of his closet comrades would hurt anything; and so the boys at the local shop always looked to him for the most recent news about what the pastor was up to. 

"Well," he said one morning as he gripped his coffee in his hand, “you will never believe this!" "The pastor wants to cancel Christmas." "Cancel Christmas?" the men gasped, "and why in God’s good name would he want to do that?" “Well, he said he was tired, and very busy with work and his family and all, and being that it fell during the week this year he thought they could just celebrate Christmas the Sunday after and just ‘transfer’ the feast.” “He said that it was a busy night, that it would save him a lot of time and energy, and that he would not have to go out of his house, but could stay home and enjoy the night with his family, after all, ‘it was in the middle of the week.’” 

Soon the nature of the private conversation between the pastor and the elder had spread all throughout the town. The villagers couldn’t quite believe it. For some of them it was the last straw. “I am not sure if I ever want to go to that church again!” they said. “We’ll just have church without him,” another said, and while it was said in haste, it seemed like a good idea when they thought about it. After all, maybe their pastor was busy, maybe they had worked him too hard, and maybe he did need a break. They would have church without him, and keep it quiet. You might be surprised, but while they were quite poor at keeping the pastor’s secrets, they were very good at keeping their own secrets from him. And so for them it became a kind of game.

Old Mrs. Schmidt said she would get the children to sing something for the service. Roger volunteered his wife to play the organ. And the old elder said that he would “get something together for the sermon.” 

Time came for the service. They lit their candles as to not disturb the pastor in the parsonage, parking on the other side of the building and down the street. Surprisingly, half the community came just to see what would happen. It was like the services in olden days. “Welcome to our canceled Christmas service,” one of the elders said as they began the service. Songs were sung, prayers were offered, and even a prayer or two for their new pastor ushered out of their lips.

Time came for the sermon, and lo and behold, out of the vestry, came the pastor stepping into the pulpit!

“My friends,” he said, “this was planned all along.” “Christmas really was never cancelled. You see, some things are valuable for you, and that today I see. And some things are valuable to me, as you have learned to see also. We both find things valuable. That is what traditions are. Yet many of those things we find valuable are different. Together we find meaning and love as we learn to value what each of us finds important.” 
He talked about traditions and the importance of them. About honoring others traditions even if they aren’t very important to you. He talked about working together as a congregation. He talked about the Bible and the importance of Jesus’ birth. He spoke about Christ’s life and death and how important every event from the life of Christ was. Even as he mentioned the birth of Jesus and the first Christmas, the title of his sermon was evident, “The Canceled Christmas Service that Still Met.”

Most thought the pastor’s message was about the best they had ever heard him preach, but they were still puzzled why he canceled Christmas and then showed up. It was one of those sermons that truly brought the congregation together and installed confidence in their pastor once again.

Several months went by and things at the local coffee shop were back to normal. Nobody gave much thought to the event that happened at Christmas. It was time for another elders meeting, and the old elder asked the pastor to begin with his report.

“You know that service I have been meaning to start?” the pastor said. “I’d really like to have a service on Ascension this year.” “After all, besides Christmas and Easter, it is the most important service of the year.”

The old elder quickly interjected. “The people are much too busy!” “They have lives and work and families to attend to!” “Besides, it’s in the middle of the week.” “How about we just cancel the service and have it on the following Sunday.”

The pastor smiled a big grin, like he had finally, just this once, pulled the wool over the eyes of his old elder. “You know,” he said very slowly, “I think that’s just what I said too!”

A few weeks later the service began. The pastor peeked out of the vestry to see if anyone had gathered. It was the largest crowd on Ascension Day that he had ever seen. As he was buttoning his robes his wise old elder walked into the vestry and said with a big smile on his face and an outstretched hand, “How about a Christmas service this year too, pastor?”

Monday, May 6, 2013


One of the prayers in the old Minister's Prayerbook has something about "guarding our thoughts from wandering." This is a very good thing to pray for. Yesterday was Confirmation Day in these parts; my eldest son was one of our four confirmands.

And I forgot to confirm them.

I would like to blame one (or all) of the FOUR other pastors in the sanctuary at the time (two of whom are High Ranking Synodical Officials) for not helping a brother out, but 1) one of them did try and 2) as Mr. Buffett said, "it's my own damn fault."

Thanks be to God for the usher. After the entire communion liturgy, as I was blithely motioning the befuddled youngsters up for their first communion, he called me aside to say, "You forgot to confirm them." So I confirmed them then before proceeding to the distribution.

Well, at least it wasn't as bad as the time I dismissed a table at Wednesday low mass without giving them the Chalice. . .


In our churches, Mass is celebrated...

By Larry Beane

In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc. ~ Ap 24:1

Some make the argument that this is merely descriptive rather than prescriptive - therefore it is purely optional. Some would even say this used to be descriptive and is actually expired or not true any more. And yet in spite of this, Lutheran pastors still take unqualified vows that this Book of Concord norms their ministry in the Church. The reality is this: the entire Book of Concord is descriptive - it describes the doctrine and practice of our churches. We do not obey the Book of Concord, rather we confess it. It describes our faith and explicates how we (Lutherans, that is) interpret the Scriptures.

Some argue that there is no theological significance to AC 24 and its corresponding article in the Apology (Ap 24), that these are as irrelevant to our faith and practice as the statement, "In our churches, we have men's rooms that have urinals and waste baskets." Such a statement would be a throw-away line, a historical curiosity like knee breeches and powdered wigs - as quaint and useless as a quill pen.

But the reality is this: the confessors laid out an entire article to describe and defend the Lutheran practices of weekly communion and traditional worship. Both were already being discarded by some groups in the 16th century, and the Lutherans were very careful to distance themselves from the infrequent-communion and non-traditional-worship parties. Our practice of weekly, traditional, liturgical, Catholic Mass is a theological consequence and lived-out practicum of our doctrines, beliefs, and interpretation of the Scriptures - so much so that the reformers angrily corrected insinuations to the contrary (e.g. "We are unjustly accused of having abolished the Mass.  Without boasting, it is manifest that the Mass is observed among us with greater devotion and more earnestness than among our opponents" (AC 24:9)).

To those who claim Ap 24 is quaint, outdated, irrelevant, and no longer part of our confession, I would argue that it is even more fresh and timely today than in 1530. For today Lutherans are pressured - by society, by other Christians, by their own hierarchs and bureaucrats, by some of their own clergy, by some of their own lay people, by moneyed interests, and by those who care more about feelings than confessions - to abandon this article and concede to infrequent communion and entertainment-based non-traditional and/or non-liturgical worship. In many cases, pastors are unable to keep this promise they made at ordination out of pastoral concern for their congregations who may have parishioners who will violently oppose something as simple as using the hymnal or having the Holy Sacrament every Sunday - and so they must pray and teach, perhaps at best hoping to "move the chains" a few yards so that a future pastor might be able to bring this great blessing to the parish - even as we are all collectively committed to do by virtue of our vows.

The reason we need the traditional worship forms and weekly Eucharist is because we are sinners. That has not changed since 1530. What has changed is that our culture is even more self-centered (living in a 24-7 entertainment culture) and less influenced by Christian doctrine and practice than in the days of the reformers. The solution is not to compromise either our doctrine or our practice. The solution is the opposite: to be faithful to our doctrine and practice - because our faith is not something that changes with every whim of the culture. We cling to traditional marriage and traditional liturgy - even though hipsters and celebrities tell us both are no longer relevant. 

They only lose their relevance when Christians reject them in order to be popular. The Book of Concord places us firmly within the catholic tradition. It never once describes us as Protestant. Not only does the Book of Concord confess traditional and liturgical worship forms, it decries novelty (AC 24:40) and frivolity (FC SD 10:9) in our ceremonial.

Not all Christians confess the Book of Concord.  In fact, very few do explicitly.  Many Christians indeed do not enjoy the blessings of weekly Eucharist (and the Real Presence) and the awestruck reverence that goes hand-in-glove with the confession of the Real Presence - a reverence that not merely results from, but also shapes, our worship life as Christians.  Those who lack it are the poorer for it.  Similarly, many Christians deny the reality that Holy Baptism regenerates, that divine grace is monergistic, and that pastors forgive sins by virtue of their office by Christ's authority.  But all Lutherans, by definition, joyfully and humbly confess these things - even as all Lutheran pastors and congregations, by definition, willingly and explicitly bind themselves to the Book of Concord - including AC and Ap 24.

And what we confess, we should also believe and teach.  What we teach we should also strive insofar as we are able, to put into practice:

In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc.  ~ Ap 24:1

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Preaching, some years in.

I have gone through roughly three phases in my preaching.

1. Years 1-5ish. Every Thursday at 11am I would write a sermon, come what may. I read through it several times before Sunday and had the manuscript well in hand. I focused on learning how to preach by reading good preaching and then producing good sermons on paper.

2. Years 5ish-7ish. I wrote my sermons the Thursday the week before the sermon was to be preached. The week of the sermon I worked hard on memorizing if not the whole sermon, then at least the first few paragraphs. My focus changed much more to delivery.

3. Years 7ish-just about 9. With several years through the lectionary now I only write sermons I feel like writing. If I have that itch to really say something new or something strikes my fancy, I sit down and write that sermon. If not, then I look over an old manuscript before the service and take it with me into the pulpit, but generally preach not from that manuscript but from a mental outline, or start with idea that develops before or during the Mass itself that morning.

I have no illusions about being a world class preacher. I continue to learn more and I hope that I keep improving. I don't necessarily recommend or not recommend any of the methods I have used or am using. Well, I do recommend learning to preach by reading good preachers. In fact, I believe that is the only way to learn. But other than that, I have almost no advice worth taking. I keep trying new things and I'm sure my list will not stop at three methods.

Preaching is work. Like any art, you have to learn the rules by rote before you can bend and break them and make the art your own. And, just as in art, you can't go breaking all of them all the time. Picasso is just trash: he breaks all the rules all the time and it's just stupid. But Hieronymus Bosch inspires, frightens, and awes precisely because he is a very technical rule-following artist who knows where to bend and break the rules.

In the preaching art, this kind of thing can only come with time - and, I think, only with time in a given place. A certain rapport must be built with a specific people before certain rules can be broken. For example, you can't preach this sermon in your first month at your parish: but it is an amazing sermon once you have earned your stripes and honed your art.

Likewise, this week the following sermon came my way from a friend. I think it manages to break about every rule in the book - certainly the first rule of us at Gottesdiesnt: thou shalt not use the 3-year lectionary. And it is brilliant. I love it, and I would never preach it. It is not me. But I have done similar things with humor and surprise and quirky looks at the text that did come from me and fit my preaching and my parish. You can't preach like this every week, and you've got to earn the right to do it. But being able to preach like this is one of the things that keeps you sane. If preaching is never truly enjoyable for the preacher then bad things start to happen.

At any rate: I hope I keep reading surprising sermons and I hope I keep learning more and creating a few myself.


S. Easter 6.13 “Bubble Boy” John 5:1-4. Rev. Kevin Martin

I told the Tuesday morning bible study group that I wasn’t going to talk about the Bubble Boy from Seinfeld this morning, no matter how tempting it might be, and Tuesday morning it looked pretty tempting. But by Friday morning, the temptation was basically overwhelming, and my bones grew weary of holding it in, so… do you know about the Bubble Boy from the old Seinfeld show?
Ah, let me tell you about him then, since you’re wondering. He relates. Trust me…

Paul Simon wrote a song about the boy who had to live in a big plastic bubble because of a rare immune disorder (that tugs at the heartstrings) and Seinfeld picked up on this—in his no hugging, no learning fashion. He’s visiting a boy who lives in a hermetically sealed bubble in his parent’s living room (any air from the outside world would presumably kill him) and is a big fan of Seinfeld’s, so he goes to visit with George and Elaine.

Thinking the boy will be young, meek, innocent, and heart breakingly cute, they are surprised to find the Bubble Boy is actually a surly, rude, mean-spirited teenager (whom we never see, only hearhis Northeastern accent—which sounds like the New Jersey state anthem played through an electric shaver) who uses his infirmity to manipulate, irritate, and basically torture everyone around him, but who put up with it because he’s the Bubble Boy and isn’t it tragic and sad?

The Bubble Boy berates George for being a moron, so they play a grudge game of Trivial Pursuit. It comes down to the last question which is the Bubble Boy’s for the win and it’s “Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?” The Bubble Boy goes (correctly) “That’s easy! It’s the Moors” And George goes “oh, no; I’m sorry. It’s the Moops!” The Bubble Boy points out it’s a misprint, (there are no Moops!) but George stands firm and a melee ensues where the Bubble Boy tries to choke George through his rubber gloves and the bubble is pierced and the air leaks out and an angry mob chases Seinfeld, George, and Elaine, shouting “Who would hurt the Bubble Boy?”
You really should You Tube it and watch. The genius of this episode is that it shows how the infirm, and tragically suffering aren’t always lovable and cute. Sometimes they are mean and manipulative; using their infirmity to torment all those around them…

Such, I think, is precisely the case with the man at the pool of Bethesda whom Jesus encounters this morning in our Gospel. He is the ancient Bubble Boy, if you will…

St. John is having fun with this story, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t as well. St. John mentions laconically that there was this Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem where an angel would descend periodically and stir up the water and the first one in the pool after the stirring was healed of any disease. This lame guy had been there 38 years, and Jesus visits him. Upon seeing him, Jesus asks (literally, in the Greek) “Do you want to be healthy?ugihV and who wouldn’t want to be ugihV, really?

The sick dude answers saying: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. Someone else always gets the jump on me…” Now, two things:1) Lame-guy didn’t answer Jesus’ question. Jesus did not ask if he couldn’t get in the pool. He asked if he wants to be healthy? 2) after 38 years, why does lame-dude have no one to put him in the pool? Because he is such a rotten, lousy pain in the neck, he alienates all his friends, that’s why! We learn this, reading between the lines, in the rest of the story!

So, Jesus says: “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.” And the Bubble Boy, I mean the lame guy, is healthy, whole, and walks immediately. Now, the Jews stop him and berate him for carrying his cot, which they define as “work” which is not lawful on the Sabbath. Instead of telling them to buzz off because he’s just been made ugihV for the first time in his life, the man blames Jesus for the supposed infraction. When they ask Jesus’ Name, the lame-guy doesn’t have it, because he didn’t care enough to even ask or say thanks.

Jesus finds the guy in the temple and gives one of His more ominous warnings (Jesus is not being as nice to the irritating Bubble Boy as He’s supposed to be, either!) that he has been made healthy, but “sin no more less a worse thing come upon you.” That is, don’t rat Me out, quit using your troubles as a weapon against others, dude. And so,Mr. Lame-Dude immediately stirs up an angry mob against Jesus, rushing to tell the Jews that is was Jesus who made the Bubble Boy sin, so go get Him, make Him pay!

If there is a more annoying guy in the Bible, more ungrateful, mean, and manipulative, a more Lame Dude in every sense of those words, than this guy, I haven’t run across him! The original Bubble Boy, for sure!

But here’s the thing: we’re all Bubble Boys in this respect: just like the lame dude, we often use our infirmity as a weapon to play on the kindness of strangers and manipulate them to our own selfish ends. We play that game like pros, all of us, some of the time, and some of us all of the time. But Jesus is onto us. The question for the lame guy is His question to you right now: “Do you want to be healthy?” Do you? Really? Or would you rather keep using sickness as a weapon against God and others? Do you want to be whole and happy and sound, or do you kind of like wallowing in the misery you’ve found?

It’s a serious question. And, like the Bubble Boy, we often have a whole series of lame excuses for why we are in our miserable state—“no one helps me, other people are mean and greedy,” and on and on. But Jesus just fixes us with that Stare and says “Do you want to be healthy?”
Do you?

‘Cause with a Word, He’ll make you whole and hilariously ugihV, healthy beyond imagination! 

Jesus doesn’t need angels or magic pools. Just a Word, a touch, and you’re healthy as a horse! Joy and peace are yours in a flash. But is that what you really want? The lame guy at Bethesda, like the Bubble Boy, had no real desire to be healthy or to leave his hermetically sealed world. First thing Bubble Boy does with his new found health is to turn on the One who healed Him, turn Him into the ones who would kill Him for making lame dudes like us ugihV healthy and whole…!

I’ve got good news and bad news for you this morning, Bubble Boys and Girls: Jesus has come and means to burst your bubble in which you’ve sealed yourself. He means to let in the fresh air of His Kingdom, He means to huff and puff and blow your little house down! He means to give you His rude, good health—eternally and entirely, with a Word, with a sip of His blood, a bite of His Body as your own at His Supper.

Which is first bad news for those of us who have learned to use our sin and misery as weapons to manipulate and milk sympathy from others. But it’s good news for those who are tired of living in the Bubble beside Bethesda’s Pool!

The Kingdom of Jesus is a vast, splendid, mountainous Paradise for body and soul. Bust your Bubble and breathe that bracing air!Sure, the prospect is at first daunting. But for those who long to be wholly, hilariously ugihV, it’s here,now, in Word and Sacrament for you: joy beyond describing, Peace surpassing all understanding, guarding heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Lutheran bishop reflects on his ministry

[Note: This is Faith and Hope Newsletter 222 from the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church - Ed.]

Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Our Church has been autocephalous for six years already: our Bishop Vsevolod has been consecrated six years ago. The prayers for the Bishop and all the clergy are being offered annually on the Cantate Sunday.
This time Bishop Vsevolod spent the anniversary of his episcopal consecration in Tuim (Republic of Khakassia), where he served Eucharist along with the dean Pavel Zayakin and pastor Vitaly Gavrilov. Also during liturgy the bishop baptized the newly born daughter of pastor Gavrilov.
The bishop said in his sermon among other things: 

Sometimes they ask me whether it is difficult to be a bishop.  Is it easy?  You know, perhaps, you would think that I’m boasting if I tell you that it is very hard. It is much harder than being simply a priest.
“Simply put: you know, sometimes I dream at night that I went back in time and remained a simple priest.  Oh, if I only could!  Actually, I never wanted to be a bishop. Parish priest: that’s an ideal; I know this work, I’m used to it during many years (recently, by the way, 20 years have passed since the day of my pastoral ordination. Can you imagine? Time flies!).  So, I know this work, I learned by personal mistakes and mistakes done by others.  I got to know my parishioners; I know many of them very well, because they entrusted me the most intimate thing they had -- truth about their sins. I have forgiven those sins by the power given to me by God.  They have also entrusted me their concerns, which they shared with me knowing that everything would remain strictly between God, them, and me.    
“So this is my work.  With it I feel myself like a fish in water.  But being bishop is too hard. It seems on the surface that being bishop is not much different from being a priest. Glamorous color shirt, miter on the head and staff in the left hand. But you know, I almost died when exactly six years ago five bishops have laid their hands on me, and I am still dying (cf. 1Cor 15:31). 
“Every time I die when I ordain somebody as a priest.  It seems that I physically sense how the power leaves me, and after that I want to fall down and lie without standing back on my feet.  This is some kind of mysticism, you might say, and you would be right.  Yes!  It is mystical.  If somebody told me this earlier, just six years earlier, I would not have believed it.
“But the Church has decided that I must become a bishop in Siberia...  And when I feel that I am unworthy of this high ministry, when I say that I’m sinful and unclean, as it is, you remember, in the Gospel: 'Depart from my boat, O Lord!' (cf. Lk 5:8), the Lord does not depart my boat.  On the contrary, He tells me that I must stand up and keep on moving. 
  “In general, I don’t know if I’m glad that my episcopal ministry has been going on for six years. These were difficult six years, and I personally want for everything to be over already.  “God, however, has His plans and His goals. And they say that He doesn’t send us more trials than what we can bear. Probably, it is so! Probably, one has to stop thinking about oneself, and, having put one’s hand to the plow, not look back (cf. Lk 9:62), but rather continue one’s work.   “'Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my load is light' (Mt 11: 29- 30).  This is what the Lord said to His disciples in today’s Gospel. Therefore, if He wills so, we shall not die, but shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord (from Ps 118:17). And we would continue our ministry, in which we someday would find long awaited rest instead of present constant stress.

“Today marks six years of my episcopal ministry.  It is not a round date, but I am glad to celebrate it together with you.  I love you, brothers and sisters, father Pavel and father Vitaly, and by your prayers I will try to further serve God and you. Christ is risen!

Please pray together with us for our Bishop Vsevolod and for all the clergymen in Siberia.

[Note: for more information about the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, visit the website of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society at  100% of all donations to SLMS go directly to Russia.  SLMS has years of outstanding newsletters cataloging the rebirth of Lutheranism in Russia after the fall of communism available for download at their site.  A travel blog of the Rev. Larry Beane's 2011 visit can be found here: - Ed.]

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Post from a different world

That different world being the Missouri Synod at the turn of the 20th century. Father Micah Gaunt found and kindly typed up the following article: Steffens, D.H. “Principles of Liturgics.” The Lutheran Witness. 18.17 (1900): 133.  You can find this whole issue of the Lutheran Witness, and many others, on Google Books.


Four years ago I had occasion to enter upon a short correspondence with the Rev. F. Lochner, of Milwaukee, regarding a certain question of liturgical usage. In a personal letter written by the venerable pastor of our mother synod, Lochner quotes Dr. Walther as follows:

Even during his last attendance at the meeting of the Synodical Conference – it was in 1886 at Detroit – he (Dr. Walther) said to some in a private conversation: ‘It is to be expected, alas! That some in our midst will wish to curtail the liturgy more and more and to make changes in it here and there. In order to avoid disruption it will become necessary to yield to the pressure in this place and that, since the liturgy belongs to the adiaphora, though it be done with a heavy heart. But when the liturgy will have been pretty well reformed, then the center, the doctrine, will be attacked.

I quote this to show that Walther, to whom we owe so much, was by no means led by his great regard for sound doctrinal standing to a disregard of what so many hold to be of little moment, correct liturgical usage. Walther not only knew and appreciated the fact that our Lutheran forms and liturgies are the husk or shell in which the Reformation handed us the pure doctrine of the Word, but he also saw the danger of that frivolous carelessness in these things which puts aside all questions pertaining to worship and liturgies with a one-sided appeal to the principle of Christian liberty. In proof of this statement, I would call your attention to an article from his pen published in the 41 vol. of “Der Lutheraner,” the question, whether it is right for us simply and for all time to drop the edifying and churchly ceremonies of our church and to adopt the cold naked worship of the Reformed, he merely points out the fact, that our old orthodox teachers, whenever they recount the official duties of a pastor, never fail to enumerate the preservation of ecclesiastical rites as one of these duties.

Need I say that we are not as precise in the performance of this duty as we should be? Numerous instances will no doubt occur to you. We all know that there is lack of uniformity in our worship; that almost each congregation has somewhat different ceremonies from the others.

This is a pity. More than that, it is positively dangerous. Living as we do in a church atmosphere foreign to us; brought into constant contact with the old intolerant Carlstadt spirit, which never knew and never will know how to distinguish between essential and nonessentials; receiving into fellowship people out of the confused hosts of sectarianism; undergoing the strains attendant upon a change of language – this lack of unity of judgment on matters liturgical and on public worship is most certainly a thing to be deplored.

The opinion may safely be ventured, therefore, that an attempt on our part to call to mind the principle by which our judgment in these matters should be guided, would not be altogether unprofitable.

In an examination of these principles it will be well to define the subject to which they apply. Our confessions give us the Scriptural idea of a liturgy of service, when the Apology e.g. says: “Accordingly ceremonies are to be observed (in the church) for this purpose, that people may learn to know the Scriptures and word of God and that thus the fear of God may be inculcated.

The essential of all divine service is the Word (Sacrament). The origin of all divine service is to be traced to the obedience required by the Third Comment. God, who instituted the ministry of reconciliation, in this commandment enjoins upon us the attendance at the public preaching of the Word, hence at public worship. This then would be a Scriptural definition of divine worship; the reception of divine grace through the public administration of the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments.

But the Scriptures show us other elements of worship, e.g. prayer, invocation, hymns, etc. Acts 1: 14; 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:26; Ps. 35: 18; 40: 10; 3:1. The Scriptures give us not only a correct idea of divine service, but also the elements of the same. It would, therefore, follow that all sound liturgical principles are to be sought in the Scriptures. To this we may add the Confession of our church, her Kirchenordnungen and, especially the writings of Luther on this subject. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gottesdienst Chicago!

Reminder:  13 days to go! Sign up now!

Gottesdienst Chicago

A one-day conference: 

“Missing Something?”  

—emphasizing the Holy Sacrament 
and the frequency of its celebration

Tuesday, May 14th 

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
5259 S. Major Ave
Chicago, IL 60638

Featuring from among our editors:

"John 6, the Bread of Life, and the Sacrament"

  • Rev. Fr. Jason Braaten, MDiv 

 “Why the Sacrament? Why Not the Word Alone?”

  • Rev. Fr. Burnell F. Eckardt Jr., MDiv, STM, PhD

"Every Sunday Communion" - Panel Discussion, with
  • Rev. Fr. Heath Curtis, MDiv, STM
  • Rev. Fr. D. Richard Stuckwisch Jr., MDiv, PhD 
  • Rev. Fr. David H. Petersen, MDiv


8:30-9:00 am registration/coffee donuts/
Holy Absolution available

9:00 am Matins
9:40 am Welcome

9:45-10:45 am Fr Braaten
11:00 am Holy Mass

12:15 pm Lunch (on your own)

1:30 – 2:30 pm Fr Eckardt

2:30 – 3:30 pm
Panel discussion

3:30 pm Vespers

4:00 pm Gem├╝tlichkeit

Lodging on your own.  Recommended:

  • Hampton Inn $169. 6540 S Cicero Ave, Bedford Park, IL. (708) 496-1900 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 496-1900  
  • Chicago Marriott Midway $219.  6520 S Cicero Ave, Chicago, IL. (708) 594-5500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 594-5500      end_of_the_skype_highlighting ‎
  • Carlton Inn Midway $109. 4944 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL. (773) 582-0900 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (773) 582-0900      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (773) 582-0900      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites $171. 6500 S Cicero Ave, Chicago, IL. (708) 458-0202 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 458-0202      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 458-0202      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
  • Hilton Garden Inn $239. 6530 S Cicero Ave, Bedford Park, IL. (708) 496-2700 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 496-2700      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 496-2700      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
  • Courtyard. $199. 6610 S Cicero Ave, Bedford Park, IL. (708) 563-0200 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 563-0200      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 563-0200      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
  • Sleep Inn $159. 6650 S Cicero Ave, Bedford Park, IL. (708) 594-0001 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 594-0001      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 594-0001
  • Holiday Inn $180. 6624 S Cicero Ave, Chicago, IL. (708) 563-6490 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 563-6490      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (708) 563-6490

Registration: $12 (Payable to Gottesdienst: email this information to us with “Gottesdienst” in the subject line).  Give us your name, title, parish, full address, ZIP, phone, and email.  You may pay the registration fee when you arrive.  Or you may send us registration in advance, to Gottesdienst, c/o St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 109 South Elm Street, Kewanee,  IL 61443.