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A loss of shame. . .

  Posted:Aug 28, 2016 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Perhaps one of the most significant developments of the modern age is our utter lack of shame (except, of course, the enforced shame of political correctness which acts as the voice of conscience that appears to be mute in us as individuals).  Shame once defined us as much as virtue.  We could put it into religious language and call shame sin and virtue righteousness but it was not merely religion.  The common understanding of what shamed us as well as what honored us was key to the assimilation of folks from other cultures and religions.  We were able to mesh together because the common values of right and wrong, virtue and shame, righteousness and sin transcended our differences.

We may not have all practiced it, but we understood fidelity to spouse and infidelity shamed us.  It was not spoken of out loud or in mixed company but in whispers and with care to see who was listening.  Marriage between husband and wife was epitomized by the self-denial of sexual urge apart from this relationship.  Religion encouraged this but so did the state which had a vested interest in shame and virtue as well as faith.  Stable homes, good families, and moral, productive children were the ingredients to the American dream every bit as much as the pursuit of happiness.  Freedom was not license but the encouragement toward good unconstrained by fear.

One of the casualties of our modern era in addition to the common virtue of fidelity in marriage or even marriage itself is the whole idea that certain things can and should and do shame us.  Our conversation has become ever so tolerant of vulgarity.  We are content with a coarseness of language that would not have been tolerated by politeness long ago.  Some call it prudish but it was not naivete -- no, it was not that they did not know the words but the knew enough not to speak them in certain contexts.

In addition to the salty conversations that now delight in saying out loud what was once only whispered is our penchant for leaving nothing to the imagination.  I am not only speaking here of sexual images but the graphic images of violence and horror that were once suggested but left to the imagination and not to the eye.  Now we are accustomed to seeing nudity and graphic violence on TV and in the movie theater and video games thrive on these images once thought too much to be shown openly or without constraint.

Many were once prodded to become productive citizens by less than virtuous motive.  Boys became men because of their desire for love and sex.  Girls became women for some of the same reasons.  Now it seems that more and more boys are choosing a prolonged adolescence with the virtual reality of the video game and pornography over work, wife, children, family, and community.  Almost as many 18-30 year old boys who have not completed college live at home as they do with spouse or significant other.  That is a statistic few of us saw coming.  There seems to be little shame in failing to board the engine of work and responsibility and find it no big deal to be taken care of (when a generation or so ago independence and self-sufficiency were driving forces to move out).

My point in saying this is not to condemn everyone who is not old.  I will have plenty of time to do that in a few years when I retire.  It is great sport.  At this point my concern is more about the Gospel and how to speak to a people who seem to have no shame -- about anything!  The Gospel of Christ crucified presumes shame -- the shame of sin and the awareness of its death that chains down hope of the future to its terrible anchor of death.  The Gospel speaks to people who know shame, who lament their sin, and who seek not only forgiveness but new life.  What does it have to say to people who have no shame?

Sure, someone will say that this is why we preach the Law but preaching the Law to a people who have no shame sounds simply like prudes complaining that they are not free enough to indulge themselves like the people they condemn.  It only feeds the notion that the church is basically a bunch of naysayers who do not want people to be happy, to have fun, to fulfill their wants and desires, and to enjoy themselves doing so.

My point is this.  How do we speak the Gospel outside the framework of sin and shame?  I wish I had the answer.  My fear is that we in the Church are proceeding like people in the dark trying to find their way by feeling along the wall.  I am not at all suggesting that we need a strategy or program but how do we preach to people who have learned not to feel shame?  How do we speak the faith to folks who use their feelings to define everything from gender to happiness, right and wrong?  I know that the Spirit will work through the Word even when we speak awkwardly or hesitantly but I also know that we can learn to speak it better so that our speaking itself is not an impediment.

These are the kinds of things I ruminate on day and restless night.  Perhaps I need to trust God more.  I am sure I do.  But as someone who regularly preaches to the products of our modern world and who weekly teaches them, I want to be a more effective spokesman of the Gospel to those who hear it -- all ages for sure but especially to those who will replace me and my generation as we age.

I am not at all convinced that mirroring the culture or trying to duplicate the ambiance of their technological and entertainment oriented lives will do anything but render the church an orphan in the next generation.  Such is the future for those who marry the spirit of the age.  So I am not talking about redefining the church or re-imagining what it means to worship.  I want to be a more faithful and effective preacher and teacher for the sake of Christ and His cross.  In this, I expect many are in the same place I am.  So, you tell me what you think?
A Guest Essay by Wesley Tetsuji Kan

I am sending these photographs to you on the assumption that you may not be aware of the current doctrinal status of Valparaiso University .  

In my opinion, that institution attempts to be "all things to all people," putting on a confessional, orthodox front when soliciting students from LCMS parishes.  It sent me a request for the names of students graduating from high school within the past year, and you have probably received the same if you are currently an active parish pastor.  

In reality, Valparaiso is no longer Lutheran, as these photos clearly demonstrate.  They were taken at the University's Institute of Liturgical Studies this year.  Based on the vestments, the majority of the officiants were women.  

This means Valparaiso is functionally the same as any ELCA owned institution.

Father Kan is pastor of Redemption Lutheran Church in Panama City, Florida.


“Friend, Move Up Higher” (Luke 14:1-14)

Suppose you’re invited to a banquet–a wedding banquet, for instance–so you get dressed up in your best clothes, and you get there, and you see some seats that are open at the various tables. You figure you’re a pretty important person, or you’d like to be seen as such, so you go up and take a seat up front, maybe even at the head table. But then some other guy comes in, and he doesn’t look all that impressive, and the host or the waiter comes over and tells you that you need to move down so that this guy can sit up front. Well, you wouldn’t like that very much, would you? You would feel put out and embarrassed. “Why don’t I get one of the top spots? And who is this guy that he should get more attention and a better place than I do?”

Well, that’s kind of the situation Jesus describes in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 14. But what Jesus has in mind is more important than mere dinner etiquette or table manners. What Christ has to say to us has to do with our place before God, our place in God’s kingdom, our place for eternity at the heavenly wedding banquet. Better to be called to move up higher than to be told to move down. Thus our theme this morning: “Friend, Move Up Higher.”

Our text takes place at a house where Jesus had been invited for supper. Jesus often got invited to dine at someone’s house. He had become a well-known figure, with some interesting–and controversial–things to say about religious matters. The dinner guests who were there on this occasion included a number of Pharisees, and they were keeping a close eye on him. They had heard about this traveling rabbi, and they wanted to see him up close and in person. No doubt some of them were looking for something they could catch Jesus on, to trip him up and trap him. “They were watching him carefully,” it says.

Little did they realize, though, that Jesus was carefully watching them. “He noticed,” it says, “he noticed how they chose the places of honor.” And not only did he notice their behavior, he also knew their motives. You see, Jesus could read people like a book. In John’s gospel it says that Jesus “knew what was in a man,” that is, in a person’s very heart and mind. That’s because Jesus is true God, and thus he knows the innermost thoughts of his creatures.

God sees all and knows all. There is no fooling him. There is no hiding from him. If we think that our sins are hidden from God, well, we need to think again. Even sins like pride and envy and coveting–secret things no one can see–God sees. He knows what’s going on inside of us. God knows our deceitful hearts even better than we do.

And so Jesus, the Son of God, knew the sinful pride that was motivating these guests at the dinner table. Their biggest concern was to look good in the eyes of others. The Pharisees as a group particularly had this desire for recognition. On a number of occasions Jesus called them out on it. “Woe to you Pharisees,” he said, “because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” On another occasion he said of the Pharisees, “Everything they do is done for men to see.”

So it was when it came to banquet seating. Their desire was to be seen as important, and it caused them to compete for the prime places. Jesus knew this. He read it in their hearts. And so he tells them: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.”

Jesus here is talking on their level, in terms the Pharisees could understand. They had a strong interest not only in seeking honor, but also in avoiding shame. And so, on a practical level, Jesus’ advice might make sense to them. They didn’t want to do anything that might cause them to lose face.

But at the same time Jesus here is exposing their shallow concern for attention. He cuts through their pious facade and shows them what is really in their heart. It’s like he’s saying, “I can see what’s really going on inside of you. You’re not fooling me. You’re not fooling God, either.”

Jesus continues: “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.”

Obviously, Jesus is not interested here in giving the Pharisees just a better strategy for gaining attention. Like, “Taking the high spot is risky; you might get called back down. So better to take a low spot and get called up. That’s a safer way to get the attention you crave and to look good in front of others. Try the false humility angle.” No, Jesus is not advocating that.

But by speaking to the Pharisees on a level they can understand–something that would appeal to their self-interest and their desire to look good–Jesus is exposing their desire for prestige as their real main concern. That was their god. That was their idol. And Jesus is saying, “I see that desire inside of you. God sees it, too. He knows what is in your heart.”

Jesus here exposes the dark and hidden recesses of the human heart. He shows us the pride and self-centeredness that lurk inside every one of us. For we all do this, in one way or another. Like the Pharisees, we like to look good in front of others and be recognized. And we do this at the expense of humbly trusting in God and serving our neighbor. In many different ways, we do that same thing every day. Ask yourself: How have I been advancing myself and my own interests at the expense of others? Have I been trusting in God even when I’m not getting the attention or respect I think I deserve? Have I been seeking God’s approval or the popularity of my peers? The answers to these questions will reveal the heart of a sinner.

Jesus would have us realize that and admit it, so that we will come to him for mercy–so that we will come to the place of repentance and be in a position to receive God’s help. For until we realize how low we are, we don’t realize how much we need God’s grace to lift us up. But once I know that God knows my sinful heart, all that’s left to me then is true humility. I can admit that I am a poor miserable sinner in need of God’s mercy.

Now Jesus sums it up: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This is a truth running throughout the Bible. It’s all over the place: “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” “God brings down the mighty and exalts those of humble estate.” “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that he may exalt you.” And so on. The point is clear: Don’t advance yourself before God with your pride and accomplishments and your supposed goodness. That won’t work. Rather, let God advance you, out of his mercy and grace in Christ. Come to God as a sinner in need of forgiveness, rely on Christ and his righteousness, and this is how you will be moved up higher.

“Everyone who exalts himself,” before God, “will be humbled,” by God. “He who humbles himself,” before God, “will be exalted,” by God. Jesus here is giving us the key to true exaltation–the kind that comes when God lifts up a helpless and undeserving sinner. Repentance and faith are the aim of Jesus’ teaching: Repentance that admits our sin and our need. Faith in God’s promise to forgive us and lift us up and give us better than we deserve.

God lifts us up because his Son Jesus Christ was lifted up–on the cross. Christ Jesus came and took the lowest place, our place, the place of a sinner condemned to die. Jesus took your place, he took your sins and died the death that you deserve, so that you would not die eternally. He came that you might live, live forever! Philippians says of Christ: “He humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him.” Yes, our risen and ascended Savior has been highly exalted, and we find our life and our security in him.

And now as God’s people, we have this same mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, to live humbly toward one another and to walk humbly before our God. To take the lower part and to let God exalt us. This is the way of greatness in God’s kingdom.

Today Jesus is saying to each one of us, “Friend, move up higher.” “Move up to a better place. I will lift you up from the miry pit and set your feet upon solid ground. I will lift you up from the place of sin and pride to the place of forgiveness and faith. I will lift you up from a selfish striving after position, and I will give you a place in my kingdom, freely, purely out of my grace. And at the resurrection of the just, I will raise you from the grave and give you eternal life.” Today Jesus is addressing you as friend, and he invites you to move up higher.

Joined to Jesus by faith, you and I now have the undeserved honor of dining at Christ’s banqueting table. Now we have the freedom, as God’s forgiven people, to “move on up”–to enter into the presence of the holy God, to seek him in prayer, and to sing his praises. Now, in Christ, we have the security we need to be able to lower ourselves and to serve our neighbor at the point of his need. For we have moved up higher, by Christ’s gracious invitation.

“Friend, move up higher.” Today move up and take your place at this altar, where you will receive the bread of life and the cup of salvation. My friends, you are invited to the wedding feast! It is the wedding feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which will have no end. And it begins right here, at this foretaste of the feast to come. Christ, the host, is inviting you, saying, “Friend, move up higher.”


Show #384: Most Influenctial Ladders in America

  Posted:Aug 27, 2016 By Table Talk Radio (Table Talk Radio)

In Table Talk Radio’s Which Ladder Marathon, we roll the dice to listen to America’s Most Influential Pastors of America and discern are they telling us to do something, feel something or think something? In any case, they’re not telling us about Christ who has done all for us (ie. The Gospel).

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Lighting Cut: The Fellowship of the WELS

  Posted:Aug 25, 2016 By Worldview Everlasting (Worldview Everlasting)

In this Lightning Cut, Pastor Richard answers a question about the differences between the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Where do we differ, what are we similar on, etc…

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Dropkick: The Answer to the War

  Posted:Aug 26, 2016 By Worldview Everlasting (Worldview Everlasting)

Worldview Everlasting Dropkick’s on a viewer question about how to finally defeat the flesh.

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Absolutely Fascinating. . .

  Posted:Aug 27, 2016 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)

And this too!


Soundbite 3 – Pr. David Petersen, Why Evangelize? 8/26/16

  Posted:Aug 26, 2016 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)
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