26 February 2009

Interview on Ash Wednesday

Here's the interview I was privileged to do yesterday, February 25, 2009 for Issues, Etc. as we discussed Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Check out...

...this response from Issues, Etc. to Dr. Gerald Kieschnick's "Issues, Etc." memo to the the LCMS Council of Presidents.

WEB EXTRA OPEN MICS: "A Response to Dr. Gerald Kieschnick's "Issues, Etc." Memo"

You can also find it by going to www.issuesetc.org and clicking On-Demand. You can also find a copy of the December 16, 2008 letter (facsimile of letter in PDF available) in which the threat of a lawsuit was at least made a possibility and a PDF of the Trademark Timeline.

Alleged Lawsuit, Dropped Opposition, And...?

So a memo comes out about "an alleged lawsuit involving" Issues, Etc. But are we really getting the whole story?

I just received this emailed memo from LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick via my Missouri District President, the Rev. Ray Mirly, who was given permission to share it as he deemed appropriate. The memo speaks to the matter of Issues, Etc.:
To: LCMS Council of Presidents
From: Gerald B. Kieschnick
Subject: Issues, Etc.
Date: February 26, 2009

Dear Brothers in Christ:

Grace and peace be with you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

In order to assist you in responding to inquiries and/or rumors about my involvement in an alleged lawsuit involving “Issues, Etc.,” I am providing this memo, which you may share as you deem appropriate.

As indicated during our Council of Presidents discussion of that topic earlier this week, contrary to allegations and rumors you and I have recently received, I have not filed, initiated, supported, or encouraged any lawsuit against Rev. Todd Wilken or Mr. Jeff Schwarz, nor have I ever had a desire to do so. Any allegations or rumors to the contrary are simply untrue. As an individual Christian, as a Lutheran pastor, and as President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I take seriously the Holy Spirit-inspired words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 regarding such matters.

Furthermore, the LCMS Board of Directors has not filed a lawsuit against these brothers in Christ and in fact has taken action that effectively ends any and all legal considerations regarding this matter and is designed to restore relationships with them through fraternal conversation, mutual respect, and genuine humility. A communication from the Board with additional information about this matter will be forthcoming.

It is my prayer that this memo will be helpful to you in responding to anyone in your district who has expressed concern regarding this issue. I know you join me in prayer that it will be resolved under the leading, guiding, and directing of God’s Holy Spirit.

The peace of the Lord be with you all!

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

"Transforming lives through Christ's love ... in time ... for eternity ..." John 3:16-17

C: LCMS Board of Directors

President Kieschnick, I thank you for the clarification that you yourself "have not filed, initiated, supported, or encouraged any lawsuit against Rev. Todd Wilken or Mr. Jeff Schwarz, nor have [you] ever had a desire to do so." Also, thank you for clarifying that "the LCMS Board of Directors has not filed a lawsuit against these brothers in Christ and in fact has taken action that effectively ends any and all legal considerations regarding this matter and is designed to restore relationships with them through fraternal conversation, mutual respect, and genuine humility."

But you see, Mr. President, and with all due respect, that’s not the real issue.

I certainly understand how the rumors got rolling about a lawsuit against Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz personally. Evidently, on December 16, 2008 a letter from LCMS legal counsel was received by legal counsel representing Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz. In that letter LCMS legal counsel says to the attorney representing Wilken and Schwarz:

"Unless your client is willing to negotiate in good faith to finalize a mutually acceptable agreement in the near future, along the lines that were discussed last summer, we will be left with no alternative but to recommend that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prosecute the opposition against Madsen's application and take action against your clients to enforce its rights to the trademark." (emphasis added)

Your point is quite clear, President Kieschnick: neither you personally nor the LCMS Board of Directors has taken legal action against, nor do you intend to take legal action against Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz personally. Great! Good news! But that's not the real issue.

What about the above quoted threat of a lawsuit against Wilken and Schwarz? Fair enough, you personally did not file, initiate, support, or encourage any lawsuit. Fair enough, “the LCMS Board of Directors has not filed a lawsuit against these brothers in Christ.” I assume these statements are true enough on their own specific merits.

So what about that threat of a lawsuit made by LCMS legal counsel? From where did that come: merely the self-starting initiative of attorneys representing the LCMS or from some other source(s), or at the very least with the knowledge of some other source(s)? Perhaps we’ll never know, but I’m sure the Lord God knows.

It's great news to hear that the LCMS Board of Directors has decided to withdraw its opposition to the Madsen application for the trademark "Issues, Etc." It's also great to hear of a planned meeting of members of the LCMS Board of Directors with Wilken and Schwarz with the purpose of resolving the dispute between LCMS, Inc. and Issues, Etc. once and for all. This news first aired on Feb. 23 and can be heard on the Issues, Etc. website.

Again, though, questions still remain and deserve to be answered, especially in the interest of laying this matter aside and fostering peace, unity, and reconciliation in the synod. Here are some questions I can think of:

  • Why did this whole odd, messy affair of opposing Mr. Madsen's application for the trademark even come up in the first place?
  • How much money has been spent on this petty endeavor, money which could have been better spent on more edifying tasks of proclaiming the Gospel and building up the Body of Christ?
  • Who was pushing the opposition and why?
  • And will the party/parties pushing this opposition give a public statement of apology - that is, will this sad affair be dealt with by means of godly repentance - so that Absolution may be given and steps toward reconciliation may be begun?

I truly hope that the communication forthcoming from the LCMS Board of Directors will not only announce that the opposition to the trademark application has been dropped, but also that it will help us put this matter to rest in a godly way and not merely sweep it under the rug.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Ps. 51:17).

Fatherly Wisdom-Repentance

Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is to his Father, because, being poured out for our salvation, it won for the whole world the grace of repentance. Let us review all the generations in turn, and learn that from generation to generation the Master has given an opportunity for repentance to those who desire to turn to him. Noah preached repentance, and those who obeyed were saved. Jonah preached destruction to the people of Nineveh; but they, repenting of their sins, made atonement to God by their prayers and received salvation, even though they were alienated from God.

The ministers of the grace of God spoke about repentance through the Holy Spirit; indeed, the Master of the universe himself spoke about repentance with an oath: 'For as I live, says the Lord, I do not desire the death of the sinner, so much as his repentance.' [Cf. Ezek. 33:11]" (The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, 7-8; quoted from Lightfoot and Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition, p. 32)

Need for Repentance

Yesterday I had the privilege of being interviewed on Issues, Etc. on the topic of Ash Wednesday and Lent. We discussed all kinds of Ash Wednesday matters, from ashes being applied in the shape of a cross to figuring the date of Easter and the counting of 40 days excluding Sundays. At the end of the interview we talked briefly - far too briefly, I'm afraid - on the matter of why we need repentance. Some might say, "Why do we need repentance? That's such a downer. We should be happy and joyful and upbeat."

As soon as it's available on the Issues, Etc. website, I plan to embed the interview here so that you can hear my response in full. Essentially, I said that we need repentance now because we are sinners who are trapped in our sin and death. We need God's help; we need His work of freeing us from sin and death. And if we are looking for "joy" and "happiness" and "upbeatness" in life, we will be sorely disappointed. You see, this life is not all cheer and roses. Our sin and death and the many fruits thereof constantly plague us and haunt us.

Besides all that, Lent teaches us that the journey of the Christian life is best lived in the footsteps of Christ. That is, He humbled Himself. He endured suffering, shame, rejection, and death. Only then did He enter the glory of the resurrection. We too walk the same path. Now we live in the time of humility, repentance, and confessing our sins. Then, by God's pure and boundless grace, we will enter the joys of life with Him in eternity, in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Lent teaches us that we can indeed wait for the pure joy, the true happiness, and, yes, the genuine "upbeatness" of eternity with out loving Triune God.

With that final thought from yesterday's interview still in mind, though, I was delighted to come across this quote from St. Gregory the Great in his Book of Pastoral Rule. Why do we need repentance, especially as we embark on another season of Lent with one of its main themes being repentance? While not using the specific vocable "repentance," St. Gregory surely describes repentance and its purpose as he says:

"God does not enjoy our torments. Instead, he heals the diseases of our sins with medicinal antidotes so that we who have departed from him through the pleasures of sin might return to him by the tears of bitterness, and we who have fallen by losing ourselves in sin may rise by controlling in ourselves even that which is lawful. For the heart that is flooded by irrational delights must be cleansed with beneficial sorrow, and the wounds caused by pride can only be cured by the subjugation of the humble life." (The Book of Pastoral Rule, III, 30)

25 February 2009


Well, it's only fitting that on this Ash Wednesday I must eat some (more) crow, that is, in addition to the usual reminder of returning to dust as ashes were placed on my head. About what? About a Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote that I posted last August. For some reason I thought that the quote about Christ building His Church came from Life Together - at least that's what I thought at some point when I retrieved the quote from somewhere and saved it in the "Quotes" folder on my hard drive, whenever I happened to do that.

A while back I went skimming through Life Together, searching for the page number - you know, finally to make my quote file complete and accurate. But, alas, I couldn't find the quote. At the time I thought that I just didn't skim carefully enough. So I put it on the "To Do Later/Whenever" list. And wouldn't you know it, Pr. Landskroener emailed and asked for the exact source of the quote, since he had had the same problem with his optical skimming scanners.

Well, I was wrong. (What do you expect from a sinner?) I'm man enough to admit it. (No, I won't wander off into that little joke about a man being out in the woods all alone, speaking, and still being wrong. :-) Here's the correct source, or at least what I can glean from "googling" the quote. (I guess one can "google" just about anything these days.)

That great quote from Bonhoeffer is not from Life Together, but from a sermon on Matthew 16:13-18 titled "Peter and the Church Struggle (Church election sermon, Berlin), July 23, 1933." Evidently, it shows up originally in a book titled No Rusty Sword, but I found it here, in a book called A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (just scroll to pp. 215-216 if the link doesn't take you straight there).

In case you don't want to wade through the scanned pages at Google Book Search, here's the quote again, this time with corrected source info. It's always a good reminder of our true life, purpose, and mission in the Church.

“It is not we who build. [Christ] builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess—He builds. We must proclaim—He builds. We must pray to Him—that He may build.

“We do not know His plan. We cannot see whether His is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for Him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.

“It is a great comfort which Christ gives to His Church: you confess, preach, bear witness to Me and I alone will build where it pleases Me. Do not meddle in what is My province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from His grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Peter and the Church Struggle (Church election sermon, Berlin), July 23, 1933," quoted in A Testament to Freedom, pp. 215-216).

Tomorrow I'll have to come back and read the whole sermon. Perhaps there are some other gems for citing (yes, with the correct source reference given).

Ash Wednesday Meditation 3

Fasting and Mercy

Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues. If you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others. (Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 43; quoted from Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, p. 121-122)

Ash Wednesday Meditation 2

On the Lenten Disciplines

There are three things by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy, and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ears to yourself.

When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.

Let this be the pattern for all when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.

Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defense, a threefold united prayer in our favor. (Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 43; quoted from Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, p. 121-122)

Ash Wednesday Meditation

This passage from St. Gregory the Great's The Book of Pastoral Rule is addressed specifically to those who have experienced sins of the flesh, but also applies to all sinners in general. It also serves as a great meditation for this Ash Wednesday.

God Calls the Sinner

For indeed, this merciful calling for us to return after our sin is well expressed through the prophet when to a man who had turned [from God] it is said: ‘Your eyes will be your teacher and your ears will hear the words of the one behind you encouraging you.’ [Is. 30.20-21] For the Lord did, indeed, admonish the human race to its face when it was created in paradise, given free will, and told how it should act. But humanity turned its back on the face of God when through pride it spurned his commands. Even then, God did not desert the prideful race, for he gave humanity a law for the purpose of recalling mortality. Therefore, ‘standing behind our back, he advised us,’ for even though we are contemptible, he recalled us to the recuperation of his grace. Therefore, what we can say generally about all, it is necessary to speak of individually. For everyone, as if standing before God, hears the words of his admonition when the precepts of his will are made known to us just before we sin. For to stand before his face is not the same thing as to despise him through sin. But when one abandons the good of innocence and freely chooses iniquity, it is as though he turns his back on the face of God. But behold, even after one turns his back, God follows and advises in that even after sin, he invites the sinner to return. He calls him to return; his is not mindful of the transgression but expands the bosom of mercy to the one who returns. And so, we ‘hear the words of the one behind us encouraging us’ if, after our sins, we at least return to the Lord, who welcomes us. (St. Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, III, 28)

22 February 2009

Let It Be

HT to Pr. Cwirla for posting this, and to whoever put it together. Nothing new on the Issues, Etc. matter; just putting it together with a good ol' song that sings volumes.

20 February 2009

Are Lawsuits Sinful?

One email list to which I belong has been asking and discussing this question: are lawsuits sinful?

The question arises out of the new online petition designed to show support for Issues, Etc. as LCMS, Inc. opposes Harry Madsen's application for the trademark "Issues, Etc." Along with that matter comes the possibility that the lawyers of LCMS, Inc. could recommend that LCMS, Inc. bring legal action against Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz if they do not meet and agree to certain conditions for obtaining the trademark "Issues, Etc." (I hope I got all that right.)

Here's the specific statement from the petition's letter that sparked the question of the sinfulness of lawsuits:

"The threat of a lawsuit initiated by the LCMS against fellow Christians, whether by the leaders themselves or attorneys hired by the LCMS, is a shameful act, and is in fact a sin, as taught by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8."

Now I've used 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 in this forum and on the petition itself as a Scriptural way of calling LCMS, Inc. (including President Kieschnick, the Board of Directors, whoever else to whom it may apply in this matter) to the carpet for mistakenly trying to settle such matters with fellow Christians via societal legal channels. However, it appears that some have a problem with calling a lawsuit "a sin." (I am not at all criticizing the good folks on this particular email list, for they are my brothers in Office and my friends, folks I respect and love dearly. Hence I focus on the arguments made, not the persons involved.)

So, are lawsuits sinful? Just what is St. Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8?

One comment focused on the "intrinsic" sinfulness of lawsuits. I would wonder how one determines if a lawsuit, or anything else, is "intrinsically sinful" myself. For that matter, what does "intrisically sinful" mean? Does it mean that something (e.g. a lawsuit) is sinful by its very essense or nature? Would that be like saying, "Money is evil"? After all, money is only printed pieces of paper or stamped coins to which give such great value. But this is getting too philosophical for me. :-)

One comment made a distinction between suing in general and this particular suing, referring to the Issues, Etc. matter. So now we need to discern what kind of suing would be sinful and what kind would not? How would we determine when a certain lawsuit would *not* be "sinful"? Again, pardon me for getting too philosophical here. :-)

Actually, in light of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, I do think it would be good, right, and salutary to call lawsuits sinful.

No, I am not denying that law courts are a perfectly reasonable tool to have in the toolbox of the civil authorities. They are indeed God's gifts to us for maintaining justice in a sinful, fallen world. No, I am not saying that anyone who goes to court, especially those who would use the courts to bring justice to the murderers, rapists, etc., is automatically committing a sin just by walking through those little gates on the way to the judge's bench. Again, law courts are God's gift and a protective one at that.

What am I saying? Let's keep 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 firmly in mind:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

The sin in lawsuits comes not from the intrinsic nature of lawsuits or from what kind of lawsuit it might be. Rather, the sin that St. Paul calls out here is the lovelessness and fighting between fellow Christians, that is, Christian taking Christian to court. These are the lawsuits that are sinful, because they betray a stark lack of love for fellow Christians, a love that is first shown and given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here's how I said it when I weighed in on the discussion via email:

If I may weigh in, I do think that labeling this passage and the issue that it addresses as "sinful" or "a sin" may be a bit misleading from the start, just because we so often think of sin merely as transgressing some clearly stated, proof-text-able command of God. Instead, better to go with the language and ideas that St. Paul himself uses: shameful (v. 5), foolish (i.e. the opposite of "wise enough," v. 5), and defeat (v. 7). Or if we insist on using the "sin" word, then let's remember that a lawsuit against a fellow believer is sin *against our fellow Christian.* After all, that's what St. Paul is driving at here in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8--not that lawsuits transgress some etched-in-stone commandment of God (as in "Thou shalt not go to court, ever" or "Watch out for that immediate dose of fire and brimstone if you do take each other to court!" ;-), but rather that lawsuits between fellow Christians betray the lack of Christian love and unity that should be the very hallmarks of a Christian church.

Specifically applying this to LCMS, Inc., I do believe that we should let the sword of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 cut both ways. The lawsuit from a couple of years ago against LCMS, Inc. (and, no, I'm not defending whatever sinful, selfish, or misguided actions that may have led up to it or sparked it . . . on either side) was just as shameful, foolish, and showing defeat as the current legal proceedings, and/or threats thereof, that LCMS, Inc. is carrying out against folks related to "Issues, Etc." That is, in either case, the fact that Christians were/are suing each other and using society's legal proceedings against each other "is already a defeat for [us]." It is a defeat for us both in proclaiming the Gospel and in showing Christian love and unity precisely because it puts our sinful egos and actions out there on the "witness stand" of public scrutiny for all to see. And when people of the world see us Christians bickering with, fighting against, and suing each other--just as the people of the world themselves do--why, they think, should they bother with coming into the Church? What would be so different?

That, I believe, is what St. Paul is getting at in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. Or to say it another way, when we Christians take each other to court, whatever the cause, the reason, the purpose, or the goal, we are showing the shamefulness, the foolishness, and the defeat of our sinful ways. Now, of course, there is forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ Jesus. But let's not use that as free license to sue as we please. Let's also remember how our Lord won that forgiveness and reconciliation: not by asserting His rights (cf. Philippians 2:6) or suing His accusers and abusers (Matthew 27:12-14), but rather by suffering and dying and then rising again to new life. So, yes, God has indeed given our civil authorities, including law courts, for our temporal benefit, but when we're talking about cases of Christian vs. Christian, we in the Church have a better and higher way. We get to lower ourselves in humility to one another. We get to confess our sins to one another. And, should only one "side" choose to confess or forgive, well then, we get to practice our humility and patience (and remember "patience" comes from the Latin word for "suffer" or "allow") even more.

How did St. Paul put it? "Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" After all, we'll be in good company: with our Lord Jesus Himself, and His eternal vindication is worth so much more than any law court settlement regardless of how sinful or not.


Fatherly Wisdom-Preacher, Heal Thyself

Gregory the Great gives this advice to preachers who rightly understand God's Word but do not speak it with humility:

"For indeed, he is a poor and unskilled physician who attempts to heal others but is not able to diagnose his own wounds. Therefore, those who do not speak the words of God with humility must be advised that when they apply medicine to the sick, they must first inspect the poison of their own infection, or else by attempting to heal others, they kill themselves. They ought to be advised that they take care so that their manner of speaking is consistent with the excellence of what is being said, and what they say with words is also preached by their actions. And let them hear what is written: 'If anyone speaks, let him speak as the words of God' [1 Pet. 4:11]" (Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, part III, chapter 24.)

Fatherly Wisdom-The Lord Offers His Wine

In applying Hosea 2:8 to those who misinterpret the words of sacred Scripture, Gregory the Great gives this great quote about what the Lord gives in the preaching of His Scripture:

"The Lord 'offers his wine to us' when he fills us with the most sublime preaching of his Scripture. He also 'provides us with his oil' when he orders our lives with gentle smoothness by his more obvious teachings. He 'multiplies silver' when he supplies us with eloquent words filled with the light of truth. And he 'gives us gold' when he soothes our heart with an understanding of supreme splendor." (Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, part III, chapter 24.)

19 February 2009

Thoughts on Abortion

HT to Anastasia for these two thoughts on the horror and holocaust called abortion.

First, a twelve year old girl speaks very eloquently and persuasively on abortion. Talk about "out of the mouths of babes." This video is worth its 5 minutes and 20 seconds in gold.

Second, Anastasia herself weighs in with some incisive insight on arguments used in favor of abortion. I hadn't quite thought of the being less than human argument in this way before, but I shall not forget it, or forget to use it, because it makes perfect Christian sense. Here's Anastasia's "More on Abortion":

More on Abortion

The arguments in favor of abortion are so duplicitous. Well, okay, not all of them are. Some of them spring from genuine, if misguided, compassion for the pregnant woman. But the arguments I'm specifically thinking of are the one about a woman's rights, and the one about how the fetus is not really a human being yet, supposedly. Gimma a break!

Abortion isn't just about a woman's body. Yes, the baby is developing within her body, but it isn't her body (usually) being destroyed; it's someone else's! How does anybody have that "right"?

Yes, women have a choice; in fact, they have lots of choices. But those choices are made before the pregnancy begins. There is no right to choose once the baby is conceived.

But is that creature inside the mother really a baby, really a human being? When do we become fully human? The Orthodox answer is that we become fully human when we fully resemble Jesus Christ, for He is our measure of true personhood. That means none of us is fully human yet.

But we still aren't supposed to kill one another.

18 February 2009

Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor

On this day Lutheran Service Book commemorates Dr. Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor. Treasury of Daily Prayer gives a brief synopsis of Luther's life and work, which you can read at Pr. Weedon's blog.

I also notice that Pr. Weedon posted the very same quote that I intended to post. It is one of my favorites from Dr. Luther, as it nicely describes the Christian life in this world:

“This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.” (“A Defense and Explanation of All Articles,” AE 32:24).

Since there are so many good pearls from Dr. Luther, I'll post a few more quotes that have impressed me, sustained me, and taught me much. Here's one on faith:

“Faith is a lively and mighty thing. It is not a sleepy and lazy thought held suspended over the heart yet never swimming in it like a goose hovering over the water. It is rather like water that is heated and warmed by a fire so that if it still remains water, yet it is no longer cold but warm and a completely different kind of water. So faith, which is the work of the Holy Ghost, makes a different heart, mind and soul. It makes the whole person new.” ("Lectures on Genesis," AE, 2:265-267).

Here's a gem that we certainly need to hear in our time, as the Reformer extols holding to the faith and teaching of the whole Church of all times:

“For it is dangerous and atrocious to hear and believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the whole holy Christian church that from its beginning now for more than fifteen hundred years has been taught with one accord all over the world.” (“Letter Against Some Factious Spirits to Margrave Albrecht of Brandenberg,” 1523, St. Louis Edition, 20:1686; cited in C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry, 141)

And speaking of the Church, who can forget Luther's lovely and simple way of describing the Church as that which even a child can know:

"Thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. So children pray, 'I believe in one holy Christian church.'" (Smalcald Articles, III, XII, 2)

Luther certainly knew how to preach the Gospel of God saving us and enlivening us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Here Luther proclaims that precious message as he speaks of Jesus' Baptism:

“For we see how God in heaven pours out his grace through his Son’s baptism. Heaven which before was closed, is opened by Christ’s baptism and a window and door now stand open for us to see through. No longer is there a barrier between God and us, since God himself descends at the Jordan. The Father lets his voice be heard, the Son sanctifies baptism with his body, and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Is this not a great manifestation, a truly great sign of how very precious baptism is to God, that he does not abstain from it?” (House Postils, I:218)

And finally, this quote on the Virgin Mary really opened my eyes to just how much Luther wanted to remain with "the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the whole holy Christian church." Notice it comes from "mature Luther."

“She was without doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in the birth, and after the birth.” (Sermon from 1541 on Holy Innocents)

Luther was certainly a complex and colorful character, but most of all we thank God that His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ brought great comfort to the Reformer and that our gracious God used Luther's humble lips and pen (okay, not always so humble, we must admit) to confess the Truth who is Jesus Christ. If nothing else of Luther's writings were to remain, his Small Catechism would be plenty for us to feast on the Bread of Life whom he confessed. After all, the Small Catechism gives a great summation of the Christian faith as a whole, and especially in the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed:

"I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true." (Small Catechism, Creed, The Second Article)

Another Issues, Etc. Petition

If you are interested in showing your support for Issues, Etc., Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz as they are subject to threats of lawsuits by LCMS, Inc., you may sign another petition. (Remember the one from almost a year ago, when the show was suddenly canceled? It was quite the success.)

Mr. Scott Diekmann, LCMS layman and writer of the blog "Stand Firm," has begun a new online petition for showing support to Issues, Wilken and Schwarz in this latest saga (soap opera?) with LCMS, Inc. Scott also posts a letter introducing and explaining the purpose of this new petition.

Caveat: Once you sign the online petition at ipetitions.com, the site will direct you to a page for donating to ipetitions. No, this donation will not go for or benefit Issues, Pr. Wilken, or Mr. Schwarz. Of course, feel free to donate if you wish. Just be clear on where that donation would go.

17 February 2009

And About All That Money

Here's another post from Mollie over at Brothers of John the Steadfast, this time on all the money being spent by LCMS, Inc. for challenging the the very trademark that they let lapse some ten years ago and go virtually unclaimed for all that time. In our current dire economic times, we can only scratch out heads at this colossal waste of money in legal wranglings, money that could be much better spent doing what the Church is supposed to be doing: proclaiming the Gospel and giving aid to the poor, the sick, and those afflicted by disasters of various sorts.

Anyway, here's Mollie's post:

Money money money! (Mollie)

Of the four attorneys working on the LCMS v Madsen case, three of them (Strand, Jinkins, and Polcyn) are full partners in the firm of Thompson, Coburn LLP. That’s the LCMS Inc.’s legal firm.

And partners cost $$$$$$$$. The other attorney, Braunel, is just an associated. So he costs ¢¢¢¢¢¢¢¢¢¢¢¢.

However, all of them except Sherri Strand are specialists in trademarks and patents.

You’ve probably heard that trademark and patent attorneys are among the highest paid legal specialist. That turns out to be wrong. Trademark and patent attorneys aren’t among the highest paid legal specialists; they are the highest paid legal specialists for in-house counsel.

According to the Hildebrandt benchmark survey, InsideCounsel, March 2008: “trademark litigation tops the list of the highest paying practice areas for in-house counsel: increase in total cash.”

Strand is already chief legal counsel for LCMS Inc.


Trademark attorneys get paid for each step, submission and filing. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trial and appeal board has laid out a 12-point schedule of conferences, submissions and filings in the LCMS v. Madsen case — a schedule that stretches all the way out to March 2010. Here is that schedule.

- Time to Answer 1/20/2009
- Deadline for Discovery Conference 2/19/2009
- Discovery Opens 2/19/2009
- Initial Disclosures Due 3/21/2009
- Expert Disclosures Due 7/19/2009
- Discovery Closes 8/18/2009
- Plaintiff’s Pretrial Disclosures 10/2/2009
- Plaintiff’s 30-day Trial Period Ends 11/16/2009
- Defendant’s Pretrial Disclosures 12/1/2009
- Defendant’s 30-day Trial Period Ends 1/15/2010
- Plaintiff’s Rebuttal Disclosures 1/30/2010
- Plaintiff’s 15-day Rebuttal Period Ends 3/1/2010

Add to that whatever costs are associated with having Strand and Co. threaten Wilken and Schwarz with a lawsuit . . . and pretty soon we’re talking massive amounts of cash.

LCMS, Inc.’s 2008-09 budget lists $450,000 for “Legal” under “General and Administrative.”

Certainly LCMS, Inc. has routine legal expenses that justify a line item of $450,000 for any given year. But a $450,000 legal budget doesn’t appear leave much room for adding extra, expensive, and unnecessary Trademark litigation, does it?

After all this addition, we really need to know, how much is LCMS, Inc. going to spend to get something it claims it doesn’t even want?

A Goodie from Mollie

Here's a good post from Mollie over at Brothers of John the Steadfast:

To threaten or not to threaten

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re recieving threatening letters from lawyers but it’s most unpleasant. As any of you who have been following the latest with Issues, Etc. know, LCMS, Inc.’s lawyers sent a threatening letter to Pastor Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz.

Or did they?

Some of you have written to the LCMS Board of Directors and to LCMS CAO, Ron Schultz, inquiring about the LCMS BOD’s opposition to the “Issues, Etc.” trademark application AND their threat of legal action against Wilken and Schwarz.

Some of you may have also received a curious reply from Ron Schultz saying something like,

“The LCMS has not filed any legal action against Rev. Wilken or Mr. Schwarz. Further, contrary to what you may have heard, nor has the LCMS threatened to sue them. Apparently, Rev. Wilken has been telling people that the LCMS has threatened to sue him by referring to a letter our attorney wrote to his attorney encouraging them to negotiate in good faith. Rev. Wilken has taken part of the letter out of context and mischaracterized it as a threat by the LCMS.”

Has the LCMS threaten legal action against Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, or not? Is this a case of “he said, he said”? Has Pastor Wilken taken part of the letter out of context, or mischaracterized it?
Well, judge for yourself.

Here’s the section of the actual December 16 letter from the LCMS laywer that Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz say threatens legal action against them. Judge for yourself:

“Unless your client is willing to negotiate in good faith to finalize a mutually acceptable agreement in the near future, along the lines that were discussed last summer, we will be left with no alternative but to recommend that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prosecute the opposition against Madsen’s application and take action against your clients to enforce its rights to the trademark.”

Does that sound like a threat of legal action to you? I always think threats of legal action sound like threats of legal action and I’m unsure how Schultz & Co. could say otherwise.

Remember that the LCMS has already made good on the first threat to “prosecute the opposition against Madsen’s application.” The LCMS is, in fact, actively opposing Harry Madsen’s trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name.

So, what reason is there to believe that the LCMS won’t make good on the second part, “to… take action against your clients to enforce its rights to the trademark”?

If you received a letter like this from a corporate lawyer, would you consider it a threat?

Ron Schultz says it isn’t a threat, Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz say it is.

Judge for yourself.

Fatherly Wisdom-Christ is Our Love

"Christ is the seal on the forehead, the seal on the heart: on the forehead, that we may ever confess him: on the heart, that we always love him; a seal on the arm, that we may carry out his tasks.

"Therefore, let his image radiate in our confession, let it radiate in our love, let it radiate in our works and deeds, so that all his beauty may be expressed in us if it is possible. Let him be our head, because 'the head of everyone is Christ.' Let him be our eye, that through him we may see the Father. Let him be our voice, that through him we may speak to the Father. Let him be our right hand, that through him we may bring our sacrifice to God the Father. He is also our seal, which is the sign of perfection and love, because the Father loved the Son and set his seal on him, as we read: 'It is on him that God the Father has set his seal.'

"Therefore, Christ is our love. Love is good, when it has remitted sins. Hence, let our soul put on love, a kind of love which is as 'strong as death.' For just as death is the end of sins, so is love as well, since the person who loves the Lord ceases to commit sin." (Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, "Treatise on Isaac or the Soul"; cited in Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, p. 95)

13 February 2009

Issues Overture to Southern Illinois District Convention

The following overture will come before next week's convention of the Southern Illinois District of the LCMS. I share it here with the full permission and blessing of the overture's author, the Rev. Michael Kumm.


WHEREAS, Issues Etc. weekday and national Sunday night show was cancelled on Tuesday March 18th, 2008, for programmatic and business reasons; and

WHEREAS, The LCMS Board of Director's stated in the September 2008 Reporter, “the Board authorized its general counsel to prepare a release for use of the LCMS-owned trademark for the radio program "Issues, Etc.," the archived programs, and related materials to Rev. Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz. Wilken and Schwarz intend to continue the program, which was dropped by KFUO. According to (Ron) Schultz, the Board expects the agreement will help bring the recent programming issues to a positive conclusion”; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. Trademark office, stated that in October of 1999 the LCMS failed to maintain its trademark on the name "Issues, Etc."; and

WHEREAS, On May 31, 2008, Mr. Harry Madsen made application for the trademark in his own name, as sole proprietor, desiring to make arrangements for Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz to use the "Issues, Etc." name for their new radio broadcast.; and

WHEREAS, On December 2, 2008 the LCMS filed a Letter of Opposition to Mr. Madsen's trademark application; and

WHEREAS, On December 7, 2008 Mr. Madsen filed a Motion to Dismiss the LCMS Objection on grounds with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office; and

WHEREAS, On December 16th, 2008 the attorney for the LCMS Board of Director's sent a letter threatening to recommend legal action against Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz, “to enforce its rights to the trademark”; and

WHEREAS, No vote is recorded in any minutes of the LCMS Board of Directors stating a change in their position “to assign its entire right, title, and interest in and to the Issues, Etc. mark….to Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz”, which was written in the resolution voted on and carried at the August 21-22, 2008, meeting and recorded in the minutes;

WHEREAS, The LCMS has spent thousands of dollars on the opposition to the Issues, Etc. trademark, and the expense and opposition and threatened legal action is totally unnecessary and is a poor use of Synodical financial resources and man hours that could be used for the further proclamation of the Gospel; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District gathered in convention at Collinsville, Illinois, this 21st day of February, in the year of our Lord 2009, give thanks and praise to God for the ministry of Issues, Etc. and the hard work of Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District direct the District President to admonish the Synodical Board of Directors to cease and desist all legal action regarding the Issues, Etc. trademark and legal action against Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz; and be it further

RESOLVED, that Synodical Board of Directors be admonished to be better stewards of donated congregational dollars to be used toward the proclamation and spreading of the Gospel rather than frivolously engaging in legal matters; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Synodical Board of Directors adhere to their published and carried resolution of August 2008, and withdraw its opposition to Mr. Harry Madsen’s application for the trademark “Issues, etc.,” and release the archived programs, and related materials to Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that these actions by the Synodical Board of Directors will bring the recent programming issues to a positive conclusion for all.

12 February 2009

Exploring the One-Year Lectionary

Last summer I had the privilege of presenting a sectional paper on the One-Year Lectionary to the Commission on Worship's Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music, held in Seward, NE. It's titled "Exploring the One-Year Lectionary."

After receiving a couple of requests for copies of my paper, I also thought that I would make it available for others who may also be interested. If you are interested, you can go to my public iDisk page at mobileme.com (mac.com) and download the PDF file. Just click on the little arrow at the far right and you can download the paper to your computer.

Just Plain Cute

Now this is just plain cute, and it also shows just how well little ones can learn at quite early ages. (Not to mention, the father pronounces "Oregon" correctly - it's a thing we native Oregonians just happen to notice.)

Check out...

...Chris Rosebrough's "Open Letter to the LCMS Board of Directors."

Great Quotes

So I just finished reading Luther's Faith: The Cause of the Gospel in the Church, by French Roman Catholic scholar Daniel Olivier (CPH, 1982). It's a most intriguing look at Luther's writings with a view to calling for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to have its way in the Church of Rome as well as in Protestantism.

Here's a most insightful quote on church politics from Olivier's final chapter:

"Ecclesiastical politics often still uses the methods of earthly powers in pursuing the objectives of Jesus, a practice against which many people across the world rise in revolt. The price to be paid for this stepping outside the ways of the Gospel is heavy, for man's disappointment with the Church leads him most often to atheism." (Olivier, Luther's Faith, p. 164)

Two paragraphs later Olivier gives this appeal to the Word of God:

"One cannot deviate with impunity from the pure apostolic preaching. It is to the Word of God that the faithful must be tied in a time when the results of the Church's word become less and less convincing. 'Blessed . . . are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!' (Luke 11:27)." (p. 164-165)

Great words not only for Olivier's intended audience, but also for all who confess Christ and live in His cross-won forgiveness and resurrection life.

11 February 2009

Just Let It Go!

Check out Brothers of John the Steadfast for loads of legalese information on the Trademark Dispute between LCMS, Inc. and the good folks at Issues, Etc.

Long story short: President Kieschnick and LCMS, Inc. just can't seem to part with the trademark "Issues, Etc." even though LCMS, Inc. let that very trademark lapse in 1999 and callously canceled the radio program on 18 March 2008.

Long story even shorter: Apparently, the folks at LCMS, Inc. simply cannot stand that they did not get the final say in the destiny of Wilken, Schwarz, and Issues, Etc. or the satisfaction of limiting their free speech.

Message #1 to President Kieschnick and LCMS, Inc.: Let go of the trademark "Issues, Etc." and be done with it. You're certainly not helping your image by taking the path you're currently on.

Message #2: I'm very sure that the money being thrown into legal fees and the whole trademark dispute could be better used to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, wasn't the chief reason given for cancelling Issues, Etc. one of finances? Why spend more money on the show that you cancelled in order to save money?

Message #3: "When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?... So, if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers." (1 Corinthians 6:1, 4-8)

09 February 2009

For all you Moms out there

HT to Pr. Cwirla for posting this music video. He makes the connection with the direction of government these days, but it's also just brilliant for its social commentary on the vocation of moms:

And just remember, a song like this may not necessarily work for Dads. After all, they're quite fond of simply saying: "Huh? What?" :-)

Don't Miss This Issues, Etc.

Here's a note from Rev. Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc., on an upcoming Open Mics episode. Trust me, folks, you do not want to miss this installment of Open Mics! It will discuss how LCMS, Inc. wants to take legal action against the good folks at Issues, Etc. for their use of a trademark that the LCMS let lapse many years ago. In other words, it would appear that the folks at Issues, Etc. have every right to use the trademark - "Issues, Etc." - but the folks who canceled the radio program back in March 2008 now want to take legal action against the resurrected and independent program.

Hmm. Does anyone else think of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8?

Anyway, here's the note from Pr. Wilken:


Later today you will be able to find the latest, WEB EXTRA: Open Mics - "The Issues, Etc. Trademark Dispute and LCMS Legal Threat."

It will be posted at iTunes, just search for Issues, Etc. and subscribe to the podcast if you haven't already.

It will be at our website, under on-demand, a little later.


A Great Morning Hymn

Sometimes the loftiest thoughts and prayers can be expressed in the simplest of terms. Such is the case with this morning prayer hymn by Zhao Zichen (1888-1970) and translated by Stephen P. Starke. And with this hymn the oriental tune, Le P'ing, really makes it stick in your mind, sometimes for days to come.

"Greet the Rising Sun" (LSB 871)

Greet the rising sun,
Shining with bright force,
Like an athlete strong,
Set to run the course;
Birds soar high above,
Wildflow'rs bloom below;
With the day's new light,
Glad to work I go.

Father, hear my prayer,
Keep me safe today;
Sanctify my thoughts,
All I do and say:
As I teach the young
And esteem the old,
May Your bounteous grace
By my life be told.

Lord, I will today
On Your love rely;
Let no evil thought
Cloud the clear blue sky.
Joyful and content
With life's simpler things,
Knowing all I need
From Your kindness springs.

07 February 2009

Calling all Followers

I've just added the little "Followers" widget to the blog. You'll find it just below the icon of Christ on the left-hand side. (Yeah, I know, Blogger suggests putting "Followers" at the very top, but I just couldn't rob Christ, or at least one of my favorite icons of Him, from the top spot.)

So, sign on to follow, and we can all see who's joining us in the reading and conversing.

Fatherly Wisdom-God's Promises

From Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, in his commentary on the Psalms:

[God] promised eternal salvation, everlasting happiness with the angels, an unfading inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after our resurrection from the dead the assurance of no further fear of death. This is (so to speak) his final promise toward which all our intentions should be focused; for when we have reached it, we shall require nothing more nor demand anything further.

Furthermore, our Lord also manifested in his promises and prophecies the way in which we would arrive at our final goal. He promises humans divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, the poor a rising to glory. Whatever he promised, he promised to those who were unworthy, so that it was not a case of a reward being promised to workers but of grace being given as a gift as its name indicates.

Hence, even those who live justly, insofar as humans can live justly, do so not through human merits but through divine help. No one lives justly unless that person has been justified, that is, been made just; and one is made just by him who can never be unjust. As a lamp is not lighted by itself, so the human soul does not give light to itself but calls out to God: " You indeed, O Lord, give light to my lamp."

But, my beloved, because God's promises seemed impossible to us--equality with the angels in exchange for mortality, corruption, poverty, weakness, dust and ashes--God not only made a written contract with us to win our belief [referring to the Scriptures], but also established a mediator of his good faith: not a prince or angel or archangel, but his only Son. He wanted, through his Son, to show and give us the way he would lead us to the goal he has promised. (Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 109 [110], 1-3; cited in Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, pp. 85-86.)

06 February 2009

How Sweet It Is

So the Weedons came to St. Louis to play Pinochle with the RAsburrys. It's been far too long since we last bid one another up (or passed to help our partners), laid down the meld (or not), and played the hands for those counter cards (A, 10, K). But at long last, the guys can celebrate the sweetness of victory.

Yes, the guys won! And all three games, I might add. Everything is right with the world. :-)

Sure the women were very gracious in defeat, even as the guys just had to point out that tonight is the way things are ordered to be. However, there was that pretty spurious quote of the evening: "The order of creation has nothing to do with cards."

Well, we guys can be gracious too. :-)

Thanks, William and Cindi, for making the journey and for the good company and card games. A great evening indeed.

05 February 2009

Fatherly Wisdom-No Favors, Please

This quote from C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) would teach us to say, "No favors, please," to our "compassionate" government that now tries to race in and bail out various institutions and even our whole economy. By the way, I'm still waiting for the "all-compassionate ones" in Washington D.C. and the state capitol to do the decent thing and return my money that they've taken in the form of various taxes (income taxes, sales taxes, cell phone fees, etc.). But don't worry, I'm not holding my breath. You see, our "compassionate" government now figures that letting us determine what to do with our money--pay off bills, save it, invest it, etc.--would not fit with their plans for our money.

As the Kairos Journal website says, "C. S. Lewis, literature professor and Christian apologist, peered behind the 'compassionate' actions of government and discovered instead threads of tyranny. He notes that the most benevolent ideas imposed on others through the rule of law can often result in the exact opposite of what is intended."

Here's the quote from C. S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. (C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970], 292.)

04 February 2009

DOXOLOGY Notes: “Shepherding Souls” (part 1)

This post continues looking back at, summarizing, and reflecting upon the sessions of the recent DOXOLOGY session, “The Gathering,” which I attended 25-28 January in Springfield, IL.

In the second session of DOXOLOGY’s “The Gathering,” the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil spoke on the subject of “Shepherding Souls: The Classic Model for the Care of Souls in Contemporary Practice.” In this session Dr. Senkbeil focused our attention on the traditional term used by Lutherans for pastoral work: “seelsorge” – the “care/cure of souls.”

As the “spiritual physician,” the pastor’s primary work centers on the Latin phrase “cura animarum.” Dr. Senkbeil translated that phrase in two ways and then drew out the implications of both. First, “cura animarum” can be translated “cure of souls.” Dr. Senkbeil suggested that we view this as the intervention or “crisis care” of souls in acute distress because of sin and death. The phrase “cura animarum” can also be translated “care of souls.” This, Dr. Senkbeil said, we might consider the “specialized care” or, in my words, the “ongoing care” of the soul dealing with the chronic, long-term distress of sin and death.

Dr. Senkbeil wanted to start his presentation with “cura animarum,” or for the more German-minded, seelsorge, because in our contemporary context we are confronted with various and competing models for the office of the holy ministry. Dr. Senkbeil listed these models, and I give my handwritten notes and comments in italics:

  • Pastor as CEO – The church is viewed as a corporation. It hires the pastor to “get things done.” Thus, the hire-fire mentality plaguing our churches.
  • Pastor as Ringmaster – The pastor keeps the activities of the congregation going and keeps the organizational wheels well oiled.
  • Pastor as Hand Holder – The pastor is the “go-to” guy when you’re feeling down. He may be able to help. And besides, the price is right.
  • Pastor as Arbiter – Feuding brothers (congregation members) want the pastor to make peace, or at least tell each side that he/she is in the right and the other….
  • Pastor as Advisor – Well, not really. Some people just want the pastor’s blessing for what they’ve already decided.
  • Pastor as Seelsorger/Physician of Souls – (Already covered above.)

Having then set the stage for understanding the pastor’s task as the “care/cure of souls,” Dr. Senkbeil gave ten theses for “The Anatomy of the Care of Souls.” Again, my comments from notes and reflections appear in italics.

  • Thesis One: All spiritual care is the care that God the Holy Trinity provides through His Word in both oral and visible form. We pastors only bring people into “proximity of God and His gifts”; He does the work of healing souls.
  • Thesis Two: This care is received by faith. We pastors emphasize trust in Jesus.
  • Thesis Three: Faith comes by hearing. That’s how we pastors operate—making sure there are no barriers to hearing God’s words. Dr. Senkbeil’s illustration: clearing out the under brush or the clutter of life in order that people may better hear God’s promises.
  • Thesis Four: Devil, world, and flesh conspire against faith. (“misbelief, despair and other great shame and vice”) The greatest sins attack faith, that is, giving up on God.
  • Thesis Five: Pastoral care focuses on enabling the soul to hear the Word it needs in the context of its distress.
  • Thesis Six: Pastors attentively discern what threatens faith; then intentionally address that threat with the Word of God.
  • Thesis Seven: Pastors baptize people into the death and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is not just a one-time event; all of life is the living out of one’s Baptism.
  • Thesis Eight: Pastors forgive the sins of penitent sinners and retain the sins of the impenitent so long as they do not repent. Absolution is the key. The sacraments are central to the pastor’s work—his primary “tools” in the “toolbox” of pastoral care. We want to use the “laser beam of the Gospel” in the “surgical process” of caring for the soul, much like lasers used in medical surgeries requiring precision.
  • Thesis Nine: Pastors distribute the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and to strengthen and preserve baptized believers in both body and soul.
  • Thesis Ten: Pastors teach souls to pray for what God promises in His Word and bless them in the Name of the Holy Trinity, applying the promises of His Word individually and specifically. If the disciples needed to say, “Lord, teach us to pray,” then so do our parishioners and we. And we pray for more than the pressing need of the moment; we pray for God to give and strengthen faith. We also do well to bless the soul for whom we are caring, placing a hand on the person’s head and speaking a blessing. To bless a person is to give the promises of God in His words.

Just in case the references to “souls” seems a bit odd, Dr. Senkbeil later explained what he meant by using the term to refer to the person. The soul, Dr. Senkbeil said, is not something you have, but who you are. It refers to the whole individual or person in relation to God (Latin: coram Deo). Remember the Psalm that says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul”? It refers to the whole person created, redeemed, and made holy by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

How do we pastors put this understanding of “care/cure of souls” into practice? We’ll cover that next time.

Pray for the Jobless...and the Politicians

With the economy in a slow down/recession/depression/crisis (or whatever other term we want to lob in there), those who lose their jobs certainly need our prayers.

However, it would also appear that our politicians *really* need our prayers. You see, their math is not so great when it comes to the economy. And *they* are the ones charging to our economic rescue? Get a load of this clip from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

Losing 500,000,000 jobs per month?!

Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue? Perhaps it was a miscalculation by a Ms. Pelosi staffer? Perhaps just one, two, or more zeroes were accidentally or subliminally added in during the Q & A? Or perhaps a comment like this is really intended to gin up more panic, fear, dread, and worry than the American people already have regarding the economy? Or perhaps it's just another line to stir up the so-called urgency for "Nanny Government" to swoop in and take control of more of our economy and more of our daily lives?

Some commentators today have tried to work the math upward. One blogger said, "If that's the case, I guess we’re on pace to lose 6 billion jobs this year." Um, isn't that closer to the population figure for the whole world?

I submit, though, that we must do the math downward, in the other direction, as it were.

The simple truth is this. According to the CIA website, the U.S. population stands at a mere 303,824,640 (July 2008 est.). Yes, you read that correctly. The whole population of the United States, as estimated last summer, stands at just over 300,000,000. That's only about 60% of Ms. Pelosi's figure for a month's worth of job losses.

If Ms. Pelosi's figures are correct--and how many unthinking fellow citizens in our land will assume just that?--then we will all be out of work not within a matter of a month, but rather in just under three weeks. (Hmm. I wonder how we should count those already retired and not even seeking employment?)

So, let's of course pray for those who have lost their jobs as well as those who may/will lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months of hardship. But let's also be discerning and vigilant regarding what our politicians try to tell us ... and let's pray for them. After all, it would appear that the wisdom requisite for leading our nation is in rather short supply these days.

Most of all, as Christians let's also not panic or join in the ever-present hand-wringing sessions over our economic doldrums these days. You see, such circumstances may very well have a God-given and salutary silver lining. We just may get to see how God Himself, not we ourselves nor the government itself, will provide for our every need, and with less stuff and economic "bling" than we think we may "need." And we just may get to see that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are really the true source of all of life.

The Lord Jesus said: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)

St. Paul said, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

The psalmist said: "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is not salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish." (Psalm 146:3-4)

Prayers for the Unemployed:
"Heavenly Father, we commend to Your care those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Grant that the wealth and resources of this rich land be profitably used so that all persons may find suitable and fulfilling employment and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." (LSB, 317)

"Heavenly Father, during His earthly ministry, Your Son had nowhere to lay His head. Look with pity on those who seek work but are unable to find any. Of Your tender mercy raise up opportunities for employment that in peace and thankfulness they may earn a juge wage, serve their neighbor in love, and find the contentment that You promise; for the sake of Him whose poverty we are made rich, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever." (Pastoral Care Companion, 452, adapted)

Prayer for the Nation:
"Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage. Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action. Grant that we, who came from many nations with many different languages, may become a united people. Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." (LSB, 313)

The Blind Man

This evening's reading from For All the Saints is Mark 8:11-26, and this poem by one Howard Arnold Walter (1883-1918) complements the reading quite well:

The blind man, bowed in sordid helplessness,
A sound of footsteps caught,
“The Healer comes,” they cried, and through the press
The hapless wretch they brought.
With wild hope born of uttermost distress,
The healing touch he sought.
A hand reached forth in potent tenderness—
The miracle was wrought.

Strangely he stares. “What does thou see?” they cry.
“I see men walk as trees.”
Again the cool hand strokes each aching eye,
The last dim shadow flees:
Not moving shapes but live men, drawing nigh,
Now far and clear he sees.
To each he tells how God’s own Son came by
And healed his dire disease.

Dungeoned by self, we too besought His hand
Our shuttered eyes to free.
His touch bestowed, dumb, stricken crowds we scanned,
And guessed their misery.
Lord Christ, Thy second touch our hearts demand,
Each separate soul to see.
His wounds to salve, his wants to understand,
And lead him home to Thee.

(Wednesday of Epiphany 4; cited in For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church, volume I, page 334.)

02 February 2009

"St Francis de la Sissies"

What do you get when monks who take a vow of silence are also confronted with the exhortation to make a joyful noise to the Lord? Well, check this out and have a good laugh.

(I had seen this routine before, but on a different stage, as I recall. It's good to laugh with it again, though.)