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Confirmation and Palm Sunday. . .

  Posted:May 27, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
Like nearly every other Lutheran of my age, I was confirmed on Palm Sunday (April 7, 1968).  It was custom (along with the obligatory examination in front of the congregation).  I did not think anything much about it except to note that my godparents could not attend since my cousin was being confirmed in another LCMS congregation on the same day and, of course, that meant we could not go there and the family ended up having to choose sides).  But once I began preparation for the pastoral ministry, the whole idea of Palm Sunday began to raise questions.  I did not grow up with palms but with boys in their first big boy suits and girls in white lacy dresses.  I did not even think about Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem since I had the catechism to memorize.  I did not reflect upon the impending suffering and death of Jesus because my mind was on memorizing the 660 Bible passages of the 1941 Synodical Catechism.  I did not pause to consider Jesus' preparation to meet His death that would give us life because I was wondering if death just might be easier than the ordeal I was going to endure of a public examination and the hopes that I would not defame my parents or family or self.

Pastor Mark Surburg has written of it all here -- I encourage you to click on his blog and read up his summary of the history and the problems of confirmation day displacing Palm Sunday.  It is surely true for Luther that his problems with confirmation had to do with the insufficiency of baptism and the requirement that episcopal confirmation add something to complete baptism.  Nobody ever said that when I was confirmed but baptism was clearly an also ran to the emotional fervor and ceremonial attention given to confirmation on Palm Sunday.  At least that is not much of a problem, here, anyway. 

In the South confirmation is not so big among Lutherans.  Families are spread out and there are no huge gatherings to honor the confirmand.  The examination has been replaced with an essay.  The time has shifted from Palm Sunday to Reformation Sunday (at least in my parish).  Catechism classes are usually an also ran to soccer, baseball, basketball, football, dance, and every other extracurricular activity of school and home.  Often the confirmation rite itself is but a blip on the radar of the busy schedules of our youth and their families.  We work to make it bigger because it is almost a forgotten moment in the lives of our parish, the confirmands, and their families.

Some have moved it to low Sunday (not so good to connect catechumens with Thomas and his doubts) or Pentecost (it is okay to displace the Spirit but not Jesus on a donkey!?).  Moving the date may be part of it but there is surely much more to this (as Pastor Surburg well explains).  It is not just when we confirm but why.  It is in the why that the biggest debate is taking place.  Along with it is what the content of the catechesis ought to be.  Those two questions are probably best reserved for their own blog post.  In the meantime, reading Pastor Surburg has given me something to think about as I remember that day soon to be 50 years ago!

My own personal history lies in stark contrast with the way things are today.  The suits have given way to jeans and sneakers.  The white dresses have been replaced with slacks and casual tops.  The day that once commanded place and privilege over Jesus and His donkey ride into Jerusalem has, for many, become an antiquated notion out of place with modern day schedules and priorities.  Even good solid families within the parish find confirmation day a shadow of its former robust self.  So what Luther was unable to do, culture has already done -- just not as Luther might have wanted.

Confirmation went from graduation to a minor promotion, from a celebration of learning to an emotional moment, and from something that competed with baptism to something the baptized struggle to explain (except in cultural terms).  Sometimes I wonder.  Should I be working as hard as I am to retain it or should we just bury it and start all over?  In the end, I think it is worth rehabilitation.  It is one more place where we stop the retreat of the faith and the faithful into a private faith that confesses a personal and subjective truth that has little to do with how one actually lives.  I am certainly not read to put it back on Palm Sunday but neither am I ready to give it up.

Chaplain Craig Muehler of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces

LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces

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Sermo Dei: Ascension 2017

  Posted:May 27, 2017 By Pastor Esget (Esgetology)

The Ascension is like staring at the sun. The more you look, the less you see. It’s a mystery. It doesn’t make any sense, but then neither does Jesus walking upon the waters, or passing through closed doors, or being born of a virgin. The creation of the world, or the raising of the dead– it’s all incomprehensible to us.

The Lord’s Ascension instead comforts the simple believer that Jesus is with the Father, and yet keeps on caring for us. Part of His care is calling us to repentance. “ To repent means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them” (FC SD V). To this then is added remission of sins. This means they are taken away, the debt is cancelled.

This is a total declaration. Sins are gone. There is nothing that comes after. Sins are taken away, blotted out in His name. You are looked upon by the Father as His beloved child. Can you then dare to say, “I will hold my brother’s sins against him, I will make him pay”? If God forgives sins, who are you to hold on to the sin? We all stand together under the cross, baptized in the same name, fed with the same body and blood, blessed with the same blessing.

Three simple phrases surround the Ascension. They show us what the Ascension means for us: “He blessed them.” “They worshipped Him.” “They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”

“He blessed them.” We don’t know the specific words, although I suspect it is a form of the blessing given to Aaron: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

The main thing is that the blessing, the good word from Jesus, is what remains, what rings out throughout the Church. The Ascension of Jesus means that God is continually saying to us, “Peace.”

We are prone to be angry and want justice. We are upset and don’t understand why the suffering continues. We hurt and want the pain to stop. And constantly the voice of Jesus keeps speaking to us as to a raging storm: “Peace! Be still!”

“They worshipped Him.” Luke’s Gospel ends where it began, in the temple, with worship. Life only makes sense when our eyes are fixed on Jesus: Jesus crucified for us, Jesus victorious over death for us, Jesus returning for us. The Divine Service trains us to see all of life through this lens, that Jesus is Lord, He is with us, and He is returning for us.

This being true, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” What’s in Jerusalem? The Temple. The promise of the coming Holy Spirit. But there’s something else: Persecution. Suffering. Death.

Still they go. They go knowing that life will be hard. Life will be lived in the valley. They will not be wealthy. They will not be comfortable. They will be hated and hounded. All of them except John will be killed.

Yet they go with joy! This is only possible because everything has changed. Jesus is risen from the dead. They have His blessing. They have the remission of sins. They have His peace. They know that He is not gone into heaven, but rather He has received all the heavens into Himself. He is with them always, even to the end of the age. He is with them in His blessing, His good word. He is with them in His Supper. He is with them in life. He is with them in death. He is with them in the grave. He is with them in the resurrection. He is with them.

So it does not matter what the world does. It does not matter how others treat them. Though everything be cold and dark and they are alone, yet they are never alone. They have Him. They have His blessing.

This now is the pattern of our own lives. He blesses us. We worship Him. We go into the heart of danger with great joy.  +INJ+



Soundbite 2 – Mark Hemingway on Trump Impeachment Rumors, 5/26/17

  Posted:May 26, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)
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Soundbite 3 – Dr. James Bushur, A Christian View of History, 5/26/17

  Posted:May 26, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)
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Soundbite 4 – Terry Mattingly, How the Media View Russia, 5/26/17

  Posted:May 26, 2017 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)
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Just got this note from the assistant editor of the forthcoming Gerhard volume  On Justification, part of the English translation of his Theological Commonplaces being produced by CPH. A straight forward and much needed statement of the difference between justification and sanctification, or as Gerhard has it here, between regeneration and renewal.   When this volume hits the shelves in 2018 it will be a must to own it!

 Regeneration properly so called, which includes the remission of sins, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, passing from the state of wrath to the state of grace, the adoption of sons, and the right of eternal life, does not admit degrees as does than actual carnal generation. But renewal does admit degrees, because the inner man is renewed from day to day (2 Cor. 4:16 ); and the renewed are commanded to be renewed in the spirit of their mind (Eph. 4:23 ) and to perfect their sanctification (2 Cor. 7:1).

(5) For the remission of sins is one thing. It is the work of God alone and does not admit degrees. Therefore it happens perfectly in justification. The mortification of sin is another thing. It is not absolutely the work of God alone but is partly ours as well to the extent that the reborn, gifted as they are with new powers from the Holy Spirit, are co-workers with God in the mortification of sin. This mortification does admit degrees, for some reborn mortify sin more and some less; in fact the same reborn people at different times mortify sin more and less. This mortification and renewal is not completed in a moment but has its own grades and increments. “The inner man is renewed from day to day,” (2 Cor. 4:16 ).

If you are interested in obtaining such treasure for yourself or your pastor, go to Concordia Publishing House for their existing volumes .


This is part of 15 in the series Lambs at Pasture

Lambs at Pasture for the Feast of Pentecost and its Answer Key are now available for download.

The repetitive nature of  Lambs at Pasture  aids familiarity and memorization of key passages. This is especially true when used in conjunction with the Daily Prayer meditation found in the  Lutheran Service Book  (page 295).

For more information about  Lambs at Pasture , please see the  introduction blog post .

If you would like to receive an email when the next edition is ready, please sign up here.


A crossless Christ for sinfree people. . .

  Posted:May 26, 2017 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
The state of liberal Christianity was once characterized as “a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”  Though some may have complained that H. Richard Niebuhr was exaggerating when he first wrote those words, the perspective we see today knows just how prescient he was in his characterization of a Christianity consumed with happy talk instead of truth.

I was once told that the reason we should not have crucifixes is because they were ugly.  What can I say?  They are -- except for the ones that have attempted to hide the brutality of Christ's death and somehow make attractive what was always a scandal.  A month or so ago during Holy Week we read from St. Paul about how we preach Christ and Him crucified -- not with words of eloquence or lofty wisdom or to appeal to our better side but the simple, honest, cross of suffering wherein our salvation was won.

Those of us who grew up in an age when it seemed culture was friendlier to the faith certainly lament what it has become to hold to a truth found repugnant in a culture determined to make all truth relative and in a political environment in which religious freedom means the right to private worship and belief only.  Yet there is no return to a time when culture and church had at least the appearance of friendship.  It is a post-Christian world, as they keep reminding us.

We heard of the conversion of the popular evangelical radio personality known as "The Bible Answer Man" and president and chairman of the Christian Research Institute to Orthodoxy.  Hank  Hanegraaff  and his wife were chrismated on Palm Sunday at Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  While I might complain that he should have given Lutheranism a closer look, I understand his decision.  Evangelicalism has become a shell that includes so much it no longer stands for anything specific.  Mainline Protestantism has adopted the social justice menu and defined the Gospel as liberty to indulge desire.  Roman Catholicism seems at war with itself as Francis stirs up things without settling much but sets apart the kinds of cardinals who seem to choose love over truth.  Orthodoxy is certainly attractive but this is perhaps as much about the emptiness of the other choices in Christianity than it is about the positive attraction of Orthodoxy.

For Lutherans this should be a wake up call.  We cannot survive by mirroring the culture around us.  We cannot reverse our decline by embracing the newest and latest of what we see going on in the megachurches of evangelicalism.  We cannot hold up hope to the world with a skeptical heart toward the Word of God.  Lutheranism offers the Western mind and heart a fruitful opportunity of catholic doctrine.  Now, if we as a whole, but especially in the Missouri Synod, would fully embrace the catholic practice that reflects this doctrinal truth, we would have something to offer the Hank Hanegraaffs who want truth, authenticity, and catholicity.  We have it all in theory.  Now it is time to put it into practice.  Or someday the judgment of Niebuhr will be laid at our own feet (having chosen a cultural Christianity which no longer offends or a skeptical Christianity that no longer believes).

The crucifix is ugly because sin is ugly.  It is offensive.  It cannot be made attractive.  It is not nice.  So the preaching of Christ crucified will always offend those who believe in a happy God and happy people who just want to get along. . .

SONY DSC Pastor Brian Kachelmeier of Redeemer Lutheran-Los Alamos, NM

Redeemer Theological Academy

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bushur Dr. James Bushur of
Concordia Theological
Seminary-Ft. Wayne, IN

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