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Admitting the worst kept secret. . .

  Posted:Mar 01, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
We live in a time that loves youth.  We work so hard to prolong the effects of age.  From botox to facelifts to face creams, we resist the march of time and its destiny.  I recently buried a fellow who joked he would be the best looking body in the coffin.  He had it right.  Though we spend energy and money to postpone death and we run from any admission of our culpability to its cause, sin and death cannot be ignored.  Sin and its death are the worst kept secret of all.  On this day we admit what we are so tempted to deny.  We are mortal.  We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves.

Though we assume that admitting this obvious fact will cause us to suffer, Ash Wednesday reminds us that confession and repentance have a good and holy outcome -- forgiveness, restoration, and renewal.  On our botoxed and lifted foreheads and on the seemingly innocent foreheads of our children and grandchildren, a cross will be marked in ashes.  It is the public sign of our inward repentance.  It is the most poorly kept secret that we finally admit.  God, be merciful to me a sinner.

Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.   God breathed into dust and Adam came into being.  Adam's sin reminded him of his dust and all the sons and daughters of Adam have struggled to admit that the dust of their beginning will be the dust of their ending.  Even though we try to preserve the body and place it into a vault to seal it from the forces of decay, we do not stop the death cast upon us children of dust.  I wonder if, in some way, we have not made it even more obvious.  For all the time, energy, and money we expend upon the pursuit of youth testifies as much to its loss and to the reign of death as it does any success we have had in slowing its progress.

On Ash Wednesday we come in sackcloth and ashes, the traditional clothing of repentance.  Running no more, we admit.  We are the walking dead, marked with sin to die, and helpless to save ourselves unless God Himself saves us.  But that is the other side of Ash Wednesday.  We come not in despair but in hope.  The ashes are marked in the sign of the cross.  There is life even in ashes - not the first life given us in our human birth but the new and everlasting life of Christ into which we were baptized.

On Ash Wednesday we admit that we know who we are.  Far from the final act of despair by a people without hope, this is a confession made within the context of mercy.  It is no play acting for show but the outward display of our inward faith.  God has given life to those marked by sin for death.  We are from dust and will return to dust but God has planted life in this dust and now the grave must surrender us to Him who owns even death!  Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, we come not only confessing who we were but admitting who we are.  Grant us the destiny written in Your blood and in the future prepared for us when You were planted like a seed into the earth and rose with the hope of eternity for us and all believers. 

Scripture speaks often of ashes:
  • … daughter of my people, put on sackcloth, and roll in ashes… ( Jer 6:26 ).
  • … and shout aloud over you and cry out bitterly. They cast dust on their heads and wallow in ashes;… ( Eze 27:30 ).
  • The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes… ( Jonah 3:6 ).
  • Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes ( Mt 11:21 ).
Though we hear the caution of Jesus against pride in our piety (And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” Mt 6:16-17 ), Jesus is not at all suggesting that ashes or acts of penitence be dispensed with.  Not at all.  Jesus does just the opposite.  He reminds us that external acts cannot make up for an empty heart and that genuine repentance is more than deeds.  It is a salutary warning.  We heed it not by internalizing everything but by making sure that our external acts and words flow from the repentance of the Spirit working in us to confess our sins and believe in the forgiveness Christ alone gives.  For those so concerned, our unfailing glorification and pursuit of youth is far more dangerous than this pious and faithful mark of confession.

So come.  Confess.  Repent.  Believe. Christ has hidden hope even in ashes and death.  You know this.  You are the baptized.  Live this faith.
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schmidt Dr. Alvin Schmidt of
Illinois College

Hallmarks of Lutheran Identity

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0594. Devotion and Prayer – Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, 2/28/17

  Posted:Feb 28, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)

wolfy Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of Hope Lutheran-Aurora, CO

Has American Christianity Failed?
Everyone’s Luther

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Sermo Dei: Quinquagesima 2017

  Posted:Feb 28, 2017 By Pastor Esget (Esgetology)

It’s hard to love difficult people. And everywhere we go, we find them. At work. At school. On the road. Sitting behind you, kicking, talking, spilling their drink on you.

“A man’s enemies will be those of His own household,” Jesus says. He’s talking about people in our own families who go to war with us because our Christianity is causing problems. But we go to war over so much less, don’t we?

It’s hard to love difficult people. And people are difficult because they have difficulties. One person is sick, another has a disability, still another is frightened by something we cannot comprehend. It upsets our plans, disorients our days, disrupts our priorities. And this is all for the good, because our plans and priorities were centered on our own success, our own ideals, our own dreams. Our plans were not good for us, because the good they sought was a self-good. So God gives us other people to force us outside ourselves. For it is not good that the man should be alone.

 

Alone sat a man along the roadside (Gospel, Luke 18:31-43). He wasn’t alone, and yet he was. Surrounded by people, none were his friends. The blind man in the Gospel was a beggar. When he cried out for help, they silenced him. When he begged for mercy, they were enraged. “Be silent!”

How easily we condemn that crowd! But when a person needs help, do you step forward? Certainly you do when it is a friend, or a relative. But when the person is a difficult person – when he is annoying, when she is always negative, when it is going to really cost you something, where are you? You don’t love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the truth.


Here’s another hard truth: you are the difficult person. It’s hard to love difficult people, and it’s harder still to see the ways we are difficult. Our fears are rational, we suppose; our selfishness is justifiable, we imagine; there is little need to confess, for we rarely do anything wrong.

Noisy gongs and clanging cymbals are we (Epistle, 1 Cor. 13:1-13). St. Paul says, “When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” ; have you? You are the difficult person.


Yet here is good news! When Jesus comes to the difficult person, He stops. Jesus silences the crowd that had been demanding silence. He pays attention to the beggar. He talks to him. He listens to him.

“What do you want Me to do for you?”

He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.”

That’s one miracle: Jesus restores creation. That’s His work, mending what is broken in this death-ridden graveyard. Healing the blind man is one miracle. But here is another: “And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Moments earlier they were yelling at the man to be quiet. They were annoyed. The difficult man was getting in the way of their aspirations, their desire for a Christ in their own image. But Jesus stops to care for the difficult man, and everything changes. Not only for the man whose sight is recovered, but everything changes for the crowd as well. Their angry shouts become songs of praise.

They have encountered not the idealized love of fantasy and imagination, but the real love that goes into the difficult situation and bears with the suffering, the smells, the sadness.

“Love bears all things,” the holy Apostle teaches us this morning, and we see that love lived out in Jesus Himself. “ For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” 

This is love bearing all things and enduring all things. Jesus loves the difficult people. Jesus dies for difficult people, even people as difficult as you and me.


And He’s not done with us difficult people. The blind beggar, having recovered His sight, becomes a follower of Jesus. It’s not a metaphor. The man goes where Jesus goes – and Jesus is journeying to His cross. Palm Sunday happens almost immediately after this. The cross is very near now.

The cross is near to you too. God has designed a cross for each of us. We don’t like it. That’s okay. Jesus didn’t like His. He begged the Father for another way.

But we get the cross designed for us, because this is how we are conformed to the image of Jesus. All is forgiven in the cross of Jesus. All is changed as you bear your own cross, and become as He is.

So you get difficult people to love, all around you. But the difficulty becomes easy as you realize this is exactly where God wants you to be. He who loves you teaches you to love. “Love is patient and kind…. Love bears all things … [love] endures all things.” That’s who Jesus is, and what He does for you. As we follow Him to His cross this holy Lent, we pray that He teaches us this same kind of love, and removes our blindness to His will.

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Note:

The following is a guest article by Rev. Ryan Loeslie, Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church , Merna, Nebraska.

Most Lutherans who went through junior high confirmation class at one time in their lives are familiar with Luther’s famous question from his Small Catechism, “What does this mean?”  Sadly, this is all many remember.  But at the same time, this proves Luther’s genius.  He devised a simple, childlike question which all people can relate to as they are learning the basics of the faith.  Whatever failure the church has had in retaining its children after confirmation is its own fault, not that of the Small Catechism.

In the original German, Luther’s question was framed a bit differently than what we’ve come to know in English translation.  “Was ist das?,” the Small Catechism reads.  Literally we would translate this as “What is it?” or “What is that?”  As you can see, this is an even more basic question than “What does this mean?”  It is simpler.  It is more childlike.  We can picture a small child pointing to a colorful flower or a strange-looking insect and asking the same question: What is it?  What is that?

I never knew the genius of Luther’s question until having my own child and teaching her the Small Catechism.  We started teaching our daughter the Small Catechism even as she was starting to speak her first words.  She started learning by repeating after us the last word which was said.

So if we said the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” she would say “gods” when we were done.  It didn’t take long before she could say more and more, and even at two and a half years old now she can say the Lord’s Prayer, most of the creed, and most of the commandments.

And actually, her favorite thing to do is answer Luther’s question, “What is Baptism?”  On the one hand, this is very special.  We are glad such a small girl whom we love so much can pray and say the commandments.  On the other hand, it’s not so special.  I imagine this is within the capability of almost any child the same age.

What I find fascinating about this is how she grew into the routine.  We always do a bit of Catechism work after reading a Bible story at bedtime.  And our daughter came up with her own name for our little time of catechesis.  She says it’s time to “say it!”

What is fascinating about “saying it” is that my daughter with her words hearkened me back to Luther’s question, “Was ist das?” or “What is it?” I learned in the most profound way, through the lips of a child, that our simple home catechesis with our children was truly the vision that Luther had when writing the Small Catechism.  He didn’t have in mind 7th and 8th   graders with the pastor on a late Wednesday afternoon.  He envisioned parents “saying it” with their children.

And this is a much more joyous way to pass down the faith, one which does not require cumbersome worksheets, tedious homework, and scheduling hassles. Children love to please their parents, and so also our daughter loves to “say it.” I have a funny story to illustrate this, too.  One evening we were visiting friends and came home much later than our children’s bedtime.  It was our intention to say the Lord’s Prayer with them quickly and put them to bed.  But what happened?  Our daughter broke down in tears because she wanted to “say it.”  She would not let it go.  So as I tucked her in we did “say it,” however little time we had.  The day wouldn’t be complete for her otherwise.

I mention this not because it’s cute, but because it demonstrates the joyous and powerful effect that the Small Catechism can have on our children.  When people remember the question “What does this mean?,” it is often in a nostalgic manner.  It’s a relic of their past when they went to confirmation class.  Perhaps it is something remembered fondly, but it doesn’t serve much use in the present, nor does it make them more faithful Christians.

But when we “say it” with our kids, this is something that is a part of them every day, something at the very fiber of their being.  When we “say it” with our kids, the Small Catechism becomes something which will actually form a worldview and serve us in our lives.  Children who can “say it” will be bright lights in this world because the very Word of God is actually written on their hearts.  And when they grow up, the Small Catechism will not be a relic of their past.  It will be a treasured possession, something they have always known, loved, and will never let go.

And so take this as a word of encouragement.  You can go to Lutherancatechism.com and find some easy schedules to use so you can “say it” together as a family.  These are very helpful if you’ve had good intentions about this but never had the support or resources to follow through.  It takes very little natural skill.  It does not even require much time or effort, only consistency.  And yet the rewards are enormous.  We learn our faith better.  We learn to love it more.  We learn a beautiful pattern of sound words which will serve us well in this world.  And we can raise up a new generation of children who love God and his Word, who love the Small Catechism and the Lutheran Church, and our lives will be better for it.

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Schools of Doubt. . .

  Posted:Feb 28, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Schools are supposed to be places of learning but they have become arenas of skeptics who refuse all wisdom not their own.  I am not only speaking of those who teach in these schools but the students who will not be taught what does not conform to their own wisdom or experience.  Instead of imparting knowledge, schools have taught their students to doubt what they hear and trust only what they feel.  And if they are not skeptical enough, they are taught to question even their feelings so that it all accords with the uncommon wisdom of political correctness.

Children who should be looking with awe and wonder at the world around them are taught to look inside and wonder about sexual feelings and identity they know nothing about.  They are led like lambs to the slaughter to be sacrificed on the high altar of unproven ideas and suspect truth.  So instead of encouraging children to be inquisitive or even allowing them to be silly, they are urged to ponder the adult ideas that have captured the wandering minds of a people captive to their fickle feelings about desire and happiness and fulfillment.  It is the ultimate betrayal of their youth by those who think they know better.

It is no different when they graduate and some well meaning speaker encourages them to trust nothing but their feelings and to let nothing stand in the way of their dreams.  They have little knowledge of history and have learned only that their truth is subjective and transitory.  Then they head to institutions of higher learning filled with instructors who value novelty above all.  If it is not new, it cannot be true and truth is an antiquated category anyway.  They are urged again to trust feelings more than anything else and to be suspicious of anyone (except those who mouth the party line).

If some of them end up thinking of religion, it will not take long before the same skepticism about authority and truth will raise questions about whether the Jesus of creed and confession is the Jesus of Scripture or the Jesus of history -- as if anyone could ever know any Jesus very well.  Absent the facts of creation, sin, redemption, and resurrection, they will learn that it is all really about spirituality (one that is present in bits and pieces in every religion) and a morality built upon the shifting sands of what is right right now.

Though the Lutheran elementary school is under threat from shrinking finances and a pool of students, it is needed now more than ever.  Though the Lutheran high school is becoming an endangered species, it is needed now more than ever.  Though the Lutheran university faces enemies all around and skyrocketing costs that make it harder than ever to justify for church and student, it is needed now more than ever.  And part of that reason is that parents are either struggling with or have given up on trying to teach the faith to their children to counter the secularization and uncertainty fed to their children by educational institutions and the media alike.  I applaud those parents who believe that the best they can give their children is to raise them in the faith but I know the pressures they are under and the factors against them.  Now more than ever the Lutheran school is needed to support and encourage the noble task. 
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It is good, Lord, to be here. . .

  Posted:Feb 28, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Sermon for Transfiguration A, preached on Sunday, February 26, 2017.

It is great sport to poke fun at Peter – either His foolishness or his failings. It is downright funny when the water gives way, Peter sinks into the sea, and must cry out to Jesus to rescue him.  It is sinfully delightful when Peter opens his mouth and inserts his foot.  And then we Lutherans giggle that he is supposed to be the first pope!  But we are laughing at our own weakness. Peter is nothing but a mirror of our own failings.  Even on this Sunday when Peter is so overcome by everything all he can think about is camping with Jesus high above all his problems – never wanting to go back down.

It is good to be there.  For where Peter is, that’s where we yearn to be.  Who among us would not gladly leave the valley of our frustrations behind to escape to the mountain of our dreams?  We grow weary of the costs of spouse and family, of the constant string of problems to fix and troubles to deal with.  We grow tired of the grind of work and live in the dreams of our next day off, our next vacation, or the permanent vacation of retirement - when we can do what we want and not what others want.  We have sweat the toil of earthly labor and we have groaned with tired muscles and over stressed minds.  We long for rest – just like Peter!

Is there any one of us who would not exchange the uncertainties of tomorrow for the permanence of a today in which we have what we want or what we need?  Of course we would!  Sin has created a certain melancholia in our lives in which yesterdays were good old days and the future is filled with fear.  We don’t like living in the face of the unknown that may tear down all we have built up.  We want our easy life, our happy life, and we want it right now.  That is what Peter was saying.  We understand it.

But Peter could not stay on that mountain to camp out with Jesus in the clouds.  It was not because Peter had failed in some way.  The choice between mountain top and valley of the shadow had been made for Peter, as it has for us -- by Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Peter was an ordinary sinner.  and sinners -- ordinary or special -- no abiding place here on earth.  There is no escape or refuge where we can hide.  Unless someone faces sin and its death for us, we will be vagabonds searching for peace where there is none and running away from the troubles and trials that will surely follow wherever we go.

Jesus humanity is like ours.  He has no desire to suffer, no want to die.  But if He is to give us the glory that is His, He must descend the mountain and enter the valley of the shadow of death for us and for our salvation.  Because Jesus cannot stay hiding in the clouds, neither can Peter.  Neither can you.  Neither can I.  We must go down the mountain.  But down the mountain comes the greater glory hidden in suffering and death that forgives and gives life.

Jesus must go down the mountain.  He came not for dreams but for death, not for soaring mountain heights but for the depths of sin.  Moses was once on a mountain but he could not stay.  God sent him down with the Law to act as protective guardian against our harm and to point us to the Savior whom the Father would send.  Elijah had to go down to speak the Word of the Lord to the people, calling them to repentance and filling them with the hope of God’s deliverance, mercy, and grace.

You must go down as well.  You walk with Peter, Moses, and Elijah -- not in dreams but amid the reality of this life where we still wrestle with sin every day and where we are dogged by death that still threatens to steal our hope.  You live your life not in some utopia where happy endings are for all but in the real world where marriages are a struggle, where children cost us more than money, where work is hard, and where leisure is a temporary rest at best.  And this way you walk is called faith.

The way we walk is not by sight but by faith – faith amid struggles, costing sacrifice, carrying sorrows, fighting against sin and its temptation, and living still in the shadow of death.  Faith sees all these things and sees through them because we see Jesus.  You bet your life would be easier without the demands of marriage and family, without the burden of work, and without illness, age, and death.  But here is where Christ has come.  Here is where we live out our lives of faith.  Here is where we see Jesus and Him only – even though tests, trials, troubles, and tribulation tries to steal our gaze.

Here is where we learn to live out the new life our eyes struggle to see but the water of baptism promises and the Word of Christ speaks. Here is where we learn to live as the new people created in Christ Jesus for good works.  Here is where we find the commandments not only accusing our sin or driving us into the arms of Jesus but teaching us how then we shall live as the children of God we are by baptism and faith.

Peter was a fool but so are you and so am I.  We have no best life now to dreams about.  We have this life and we live it by faith, seeing Jesus even more clearly than we see disappointment and death.  We have this life and we live it by faith, fighting against sin not to win God’s approval but because He has come to us in Christ and made us His own as the free gift of God hidden in water and proclaimed in the Word that does what it says. 

Our true joy lies not in a dream world we escape to but in this life where Christ is and we are in Christ His new creation.  The Law and the prophets do not point to a mountain top resort but to the valley where a cross is planted.  And Jesus is there.  There in Christ and Him crucified is the glory that is accessible to us, that saves us as we are, but does not leave us as we are.

Listen to Him is no command from the Father but an invitation to hear the voice of Christ when our eyes see nothing.  It is a promise that Christ is there when our hearts feel nothing but fear, guilt, shame, and bitterness.  It is the hope of a people who live in the world but not of it, destined for more than what we see, a future that is seen only by seeing Jesus.

This is why we are here.  Here where Christ is.  Where His glory is.  Where His mercy is.  Where our hope is.  In the taste of bread that is His body, in the sip of wine that is His blood.  In the Word that calls to us through the wilderness of our sins and its death, I am here, I have saved you, and I will be with you always. In response to such grace, the Christian gives up a dream but a better reality today and a future beyond all our knowing.  And in response to what God has said, what more can we say than "It is good to be here."  Right here.  Right now.  In the arms of grace.  Amen.
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0581. The Movie, “Moonlight” – Pr. Ted Giese, 2/27/17

  Posted:Feb 27, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)

giese Pr. Ted Giese of Mount
Olive Lutheran-Regina,
Saskatchewan

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Pr. Hans Fiene of River of Life Lutheran-Channahon, IL

Lutheran Satire

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Show #399: The 6 Attributes Of Lex Showprepi, Lex Mediocriti

  Posted:Feb 27, 2017 By Bryan Wolfmueller (The Wolrd Wide Wolfmueller)

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Listen here: http://tabletalkradio.org/content/node/515

On this episode of Table Talk Radio after Pastor Wolfmueller shares about his trip to Taiwan we discuss our Buzzwords, especially Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Then we play a new game called What Attribute Of Scripture Is This Denying so we can discuss some the 6 attributes of the Holy Scriptures and so we can answer a few listener emails. – As We Show Prep, So We Make Mediocre Radio!

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The post Show #399: The 6 Attributes Of Lex Showprepi, Lex Mediocriti appeared first on World Wide Wolfmueller .

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Prayer and Suffering

  Posted:Feb 27, 2017 By Bryan Wolfmueller (The Wolrd Wide Wolfmueller)

Every week Evan and I talk through the book “Has American Christianity Failed?” and then muse on some current events.


Listen here: http://943thebridge.com/2017/02/15/prayer-and-suffering/
In the first half of today’s program, we talk to Pastor Wolfmueller about the essentials of prayer. Then Pastor Goeglein talks about persecution and suffering.

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