Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sermon: Funeral of Barbara Althage

31 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 14:1-6 (Ps 25:1-9, 16-21; Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Rich, Carol, Kristin, Joey, Matthew, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and dear guests:

“Peace be with you.”

With these words, our risen and victorious Lord greeted His disciples as they mourned His death: “Peace be with you.” And what a bold greeting this was from our Lord. For death is anything but peaceful. Death is the condition of our fallen world, it is the wages of sin, and it is our constant enemy. We are at war with this foe, and like the cancer that mercilessly ravaged Barbara’s body, this enemy turns even our own flesh against itself. What a contrast it was when our Lord, having just defeated death, greeted us, His beloved Church, with the words: “Peace be with you.”

For we “poor, miserable sinners” have been at war for so long – war against ourselves, war against God, war against all that is right, even war against our own bodies – that we can’t even begin to imagine what true peace is like. At best, we get little glimpses of it – when a war ends, when opponents reconcile, when an ailing body is made well. But even then, we don’t know what real peace is, the kind that St. Paul says “passes all understanding.”

But Barbara does! Her strife is over, her battle done. Alleluia.

And even as we mourn, Barbara rejoices. Even as we feel the pain of separation, Barbara truly proclaims victoriously: “O death, where is your sting?” Even as we soldier on upon this weary battleground of sickness and death, Barbara basks in the eternal glow of glory and life. That, dear friends, is the meaning of “peace.” The war is over, because the enemy is defeated.

That is why the word “peace” appears more than 340 times in Scripture. That is why people all over the word greet one another with the hopeful salutation: “peace.” The word “peace” is all over our liturgy as well, even being the last word the pastor speaks before the final “Amen.” Even this congregation, where Barbara heard the Word of God, received absolution, and took part in Holy Communion – is named “Salem” – which means “peace.”

For hear again the Prince of Peace’s comforting words to us, dear friends: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

These hopeful words of promise and peace brought comfort and assurance to Barbara when it became apparent that her cancer was not going to be fixed by science and medicine. We can most certainly find peace even in the stressful valley of the shadow of death, for Jesus Himself tells us not to be troubled, but to be at peace – for He has already prepared a place for us. He would not have told us this if it were not true. For to us Christians, heaven is no mere philosophical speculation. We have the Word of Him who died, conquered death and the grave, defeated Satan, and walked victoriously out of His own tomb. And where He has gone, so will we, His beloved sheep, follow.

What joyful comfort this is for us, dear friends, even in the midst of our mourning! For indeed we mourn, but not as unbelievers. For we have hope. We have the promise: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We have the peace that passes all understanding – even if imperfectly right now. But once again, our dear sister Barbara has that peace in its radiant fullness, and nothing will ever take that from her, nor can it be taken from us.

In fact, St. Paul has once more preached this reality into our ears and hearts though the Word of God: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” And “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

St. Paul answers His own question with a resounding “Nobody” and “Nothing.” Neither Satan nor death has the power to separate us from God’s love. Nobody and nothing can undo what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, and to us.

The apostle continues: “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That, dear friends, is the peace that the risen Christ places on all the baptized, upon all those who sins are forgiven, on all those who confess His name. Nothing will, or even can, separate us from God’s love. Not cancer. Not death. Not our sins (which have been forgiven) and not the devil (who has been defeated). Nobody and nothing.

As her time for leaving this fallen world approached, Barbara prayed with the Psalmist: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

But now, she no longer waits, but rather stands before the God of her salvation in eternal fullness and joy. She no longer prays to know God’s ways, for she sees the Lord face to face. She no longer must plead for understanding, for now she is in the presence of the One who knows all things, who created the universe, who redeemed Barbara and all of her fellow baptized, whose Son died so that Barbara might live forever.

And while there will be difficult days ahead for all of you, and while all of us who love Barbara will continue to feel the pang of longing and loss until the coming of the time of our own victory over sin, death, and the devil – we can take comfort in the same Word of God that brought comfort to Barbara, and we can place our trust and faith in the same Christ that bore Barbara safely to His Father’s house. We can claim the same baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through which Barbara was given a second birth, buried with Christ, and raised to life eternal.

And when we kneel in the presence of the Lord Himself in His Holy Supper, we know that Barbara is also eternally present before the very same most holy body of our victorious Lord, separated from us by the thinnest of veils, and though unseen, she is truly there, singing with us the praise and glory to the Lord in whose presence she remains eternally, peacefully waiting for us to join her in the full, complete, and eternal peace of God.

That, dear brothers and sisters is Barbara’s peace. That is Christ’s peace. That is the Christian’s peace. And may that peace of God, the peace Barbara enjoys to the full, the victorious and eternal peace won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, the peace that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

“Peace be with you…” the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon: Septuagesima

31 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 20:1-16 (Ex 17:1-7)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

God is not fair. He is the kind of boss that we complain about. He pays the guy who works little the same as the guy who works a lot. When the wages are calculated on an hourly rate, the guy who makes the most by far is the one who does the least work.

God does not pay us what we deserve, and thanks be to Him that He doesn’t! For even if we may seem to be more diligent or harder working than the next person, we all know the wages we truly deserve – “the wages of sin is death.” To be honest about it, every one of us who labors in the Lord’s vineyard is pretty much worthless. We’re not exactly “employee of the month” material. Anyone who says otherwise is also a liar. We are shiftless and lazy, we are dishonest and unmotivated, we are litigious and we do nothing but grumble.

Moses knew a thing or two about grumbling. After leading the people out of Egypt, out of slavery, they griped and moaned about all sorts of things, from the lack of variety on the menu to the fact that others were not permitted to exercise the kind of authority Moses did among the people. On more than one occasion, Moses prayed the “just kill me now” prayer – which is fortunately not included in most prayer books of the Church.

In spite of the constant grumbling of the people, the Lord provided for their needs in the form of life-giving water from the rock – even though the people’s response was to doubt the Lord’s presence among them.

God has a history of not giving His people what they deserve. And again, how grateful we ought to be, dear brothers and sisters of that Rock that continues to bear life-giving water among us who grumble and complain and doubt the Lord’s presence in our midst!

In paying all of His laborers the same, in making the last first, and the first last, in granting free and full salvation to those who came to the faith early in life as well as those who have made deathbed conversions, the Lord is proving that He is indeed the Boss. And in His unfairness, He shows Himself to be merciful. In His refusal to pay wages according to the dictates of reason, He demonstrates His grace.

For which of us lazy, grumbling, dishonest, and greedy workers wants to actually be paid what we deserve?

And so how is it that St. Paul speaks of the Christian faith with an athletic metaphor? For only one person wins the gold medal. And in order to win it, an athlete must train, work hard, be diligent, and persevere. And so must we, dear friends. This is no contradiction. For the Lord Jesus has run the race and won the prize. He has gained the victor’s crown for finishing in first place. But we are His followers. As His disciples and followers, we too discipline ourselves. Not so that we can earn our own prize, but rather because we share in His. We run the race knowing that we too have a share in His prize. And that reality ought not make us lazy, but it should encourage us to train even harder, knowing that the prize of eternal life given to the Victor is given to us as well. For St. Paul says that we are “more than conquerors.”

And even as we train and practice self-discipline, even as we run with perseverance, we keep our eye on the prize so as not to lose it. For we already know it will not be taken away from us. Furthermore, we know that though our efforts do not earn us salvation, our efforts do bear fruit for the good of the kingdom, bringing more and more people to the victor’s stand with us to share the prize.

And only our own petty sense of greed could make us grumble that we share the victor’s podium with a multitude of our fellow-redeemed. Only our own sense of inflated self-worth could ever lead us to complain that we who work eleven hours are paid at the same rate as those who work only one. May it not be so among us!

And when we realize that the denarius in the parable is not just a day’s wages, but rather the unearned wages of everlasting life – that should remove from us any desire for God to be “fair” in the eyes of the world, or that we should grumble that God has “made them equal to us.” For when we realize what the denarius is, when we really comprehend how we have cheated the hangman, when we truly meditate on what it means that “salvation unto us has come,” and that “by grace I’m saved,” what, dear friends, do any of us have to gripe about?

We’re free! We’re rich beyond all measure! We are not paid according to the wages we deserve, but rather according to the wages that Jesus deserves. His work on the cross is credited to us. His bearing of the “burden of the day and the scorching heat” of his passion and death are borne unfairly by Him while we, the eleventh-hour malingerers, strut into heaven without so much as a paper cut’s worth of blood of our own by which to plead worthiness or even a drop of sweat by which we have earned salvation.

And yet Jesus does not grumble. He does not shake His fist at God and complain of the unfairness of it all. He who is first does not spurn being last. Rather He embraces this happy exchange of our sin for His righteousness, all for us, all out of love, not begrudging the Father’s generosity toward us in the least, but rather rejoicing with us and for us.

And this is the thing about the Christian faith that confounds the world. The Eastern religions teach of karma, but Christianity proclaims grace. The world speaks of revenge, and the Church proclaims forgiveness. Our sinful nature thumps its chest and cries out for fairness, while our emerging New Man drowns the Old Adam in the water that flowed from the Rock, and proclaims this “unfair” Good News before all nations.

God is indeed not fair! And we Christians, we forgiven sinners, we the undeserving redeemed and beloved of God – should not want it any other way. It is a cause of rejoicing. It is the Good News we have to offer a grumbling world stuck in karma, revenge, and delusions of self-justification. We are not paid the wages we deserve, and thanks be to God – now and unto eternity. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Some Helpful Hints for the Poor NFL

New Orleans Saints fans are shocked (shocked!) that the National Football League is claiming ownership of words, colors, and ethnic symbols that have been around for a long time. Here's the story.

And I know it seems natural to bash the NFL, after all, it is a ginormous corporation that has an annual budget bigger than many countries around the world, it enjoys a sweetheart congressional exemption from federal antitrust laws that everyone else is subject to, and there is a legal "good old boy" collusion between the owners of the teams, er "franchises."

Which reminds me, how about a drinking game involving whenever one of the commentators uses the word "franchise" during the Super Bowl? I'll have the B&B at the ready during the game. Somebody take my keys away from me...

Anyway, I think the poor, poor, pitiful NFL deserves our sympathy. After all, they have a lot of big salaries to pay. And let's face it, those little 30-second commercials during the Super Bowl can't pay that much. And somebody has to buy those gold rings for the champions (hopefully, the Commissioner has been hoarding some Krugerrands to melt down, have you seen the price of gold lately?).

And Father H. is here to offer some kind assistance and help to the NFL in the form of additional things for them to copyright:
  • Roman numerals - The article mentions the use of Roman numerals. Obviously, Roman numerals are used to denote which Super Bowl we're watching. Claiming ownership of Roman numerals is utterly brilliant. If the NFL can secure copyrights specifically on the letters of the Roman alphabet I, V, X, L, and C, they will have a clear title to a half-millennium of Super Bowl designations, not to mention movie sequels and watch sales. But why stop there?
  • Arabic numerals - The decimal system that we use today was borrowed from Arabic, and frankly, I can't believe the legal eagles at the NFL didn't consider this: every jersey worn by every player in the NFL contains Arabic numerals. Any use of the digits 0 through 9 outside of the NFL should constitute a gross infringement on the legal rights of the NFL. Grade schools across the country should be required to prominently display the NFL logo next to any use of any numbers.
  • Colors - All NFL teams, er, "franchises" have a white jersey. Therefore, the color white is really the property of the NFL - whether used by paint companies, tacky Ku Klux Klan bumper stickers, or among the millions of people in the U.S. who have "White" as a last name. Also, given that the Cleveland Browns team (er, "franchise" - down the hatch!) logo is a plain field of orange (no, they were never the Cleveland Oranges, citrus doesn't grow in the Buckeye State, y'all), this color is clearly property of the National Football League, and any use or description of orange is prohibited. The country of Ireland should receive a "cease and desist" order for having a third of its national flag encroaching (five yard penalty) on the rights of the NFL. The Dutch should consult legal counsel before making historic references to William of Orange. Ditto for the citrus folks in Florida, California, and my own Louisiana.
  • Foot and Ball - The "F" in NFL is short for "football." Therefore, the two constituent vocables of this compound word belong to the NFL. The league should scour podiatrist offices, companies that make 12-inch rulers, and shoe stores to monitor illegal word usages "without express written consent of the National Football League." Likewise for "ball." Major League Baseball and NBA Basketball should pay the NFL for their encroachment (another five yards...) on the property of the NFL. After all, they do have salaries to pay. I mean, Art Modell's Rolls isn't going to pay for itself. Is Art Modell still alive? Goodness, I have been away from Ohio for a long time. This B&B is really tasty...
  • Mardi Gras - Here in New Orleans, we have a lot of merchandise that employ the combination of purple, green, and gold with the words "Mardi Gras." This juxtaposition of words and colors is right up the NFL's alley. No matter that the words "Mardi Gras" and the associated colors date back to Colonial (if not Medieval times), somebody's got to make the money and own the combo. It might as well be the NFL.
  • National - There are many times in which the word "national" is used without "express written consent." First National Bank. National Car Rental. National Debt. National Anthem. The list is endless. Like I said, I am glad to help the league in any way I can...
  • Saints - Many churches employ this word that is already owned by the NFL (per the article). Perhaps a royalty should be paid by Bible, hymnal, and missal publishers whenever this NFL-owned word is used. "All Saints Day" should include the NFL logo prominently displayed in the front of the church, and the hymn "For All The Saints" should really include a verse about the Pro Bowl. It's only fair.
  • Eagles - This is a job for the Obama Administration and Capitol Hill. The United States' use of the logo of the Philadelphia NFL franchise (am I still legal to drive at this point?) is unconscionable. The federal government must "cease and desist."
  • League - Just because the "L" is in third place in "NFL" is no excuse to let it slide. Bowling leagues, little leagues, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea need to make sure they stop cheating the National Football League out of its fair share.

Finally, the NFL really has to put some teeth into its disclaimer (let's say it together, children):
This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited.
Don't you love that word "descriptions"? They really need to start turning the screws here. Maybe there should be a little jar next to the water cooler at work, so when someone describes the game as "great" or describes the ghastly throwback uniforms, or when a co-worker mentions that the game went into overtime, or that the players are big, the grass is green, the football is not round, or that the referees look like zebras - they can drop a quarter into the pot.

After all, it's all about sportsmanship and following the rules. So, I'm going to be very careful here and use a legally unencumbered cheer for the New Orleans "franchise" as proposed in the article:
Who exactly is it that states they are going to defeat the football team from New Orleans?
No fleur-de-lis, no "who dat?" and no Roman numerals. I think I'm legal. But I am going to say "franchise" just one more time, because the B&B is really good tonight.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Stellar Performance

The honey-voiced David Gilmour joins his former Pink Floyd bandmate, the gritty-throated Rick Wright, a 40-member string orchestra, lasers, his euphonic, heavenly sounding guitar, and thousands of his best friends in an epic live performance of "Comfortably Numb" in Gdansk in 2006.


Obviously, this is a subjective value-judgment from a non-guitar player, but Gilmour's solo at the end of "Comfortably Numb" has to rank with the greatest performances of guitaric virtuosity in the short history of rock music. It is one of the few solos that I want to go on and on.

Thy Strong Word

Does anyone know of a nice recording of the hymn "Thy Strong Word" (LSB 578) by the now sainted Rev. Dr. Martin Franzmann?

It is a beloved hymn in my parish. We sang it last night at the Mass in observance of the commemoration of St. John Chrysostom (along with another profound Franzmann hymn, 586 - "Preach You the Word"). A catechumen in our parish is absolutely smitten with "Thy Strong Word" and is looking for a recording of it. It has always been one of my favorites - as are all the sermons, hymns, and poetry of Dr. Franzmann - one of the greatest wordsmiths and proclaimers of the Gospel in the history of the LCMS.

So if any of you know of a CD out there, please let me know! I would love to have a recording of it as well. YouTube did not have much to offer along the lines of what I'm looking for. So please help!

For other Franzmann texts, see the following hymns...

LSB (Lutheran Service Book):

473 - "Our Paschal Lamb That Sets Us Free"
569 - "In Adam We Have All Been One"
578 - "Thy Strong Word"
586 - "Preach You the Word"
834 - "O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth".

In addition, there is a magnificent hymn that was in our previous hymnal, Lutheran Worship, that was not carried over into LSB, an admittedly difficult hymn, but rich and glorious nonetheless:

LW 346- "O Kingly Love" (You can find a beautifully rendered recording here).

And if you want to treat yourself to some of Franzmann's potent and poetic preaching that will resonate in your very heart and soul, you will want to pick this up post haste!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sermon: Feast of St. John Chrysostom

27 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 21:12-15 (Jer 1:4-10, 2 Tim 4:1-5)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

A thousand years before Dr. Luther, there was another reformer in the church, a courageous preacher, insightful theologian, a doctor of the church, and a man who, like Luther a thousand years hence, would suffer for the sake of his confession, having to preach unpopular sermons against the powerful and mighty, calling those with the power to destroy him to repentance, and trusting in Jesus to save him.

St. John Chrysostom, whose name means “Golden Mouth,” is so beloved by Lutheran Christians that he is mentioned eleven times in the Book of Concord. He is venerated as a saint not only among Lutherans, but also by Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians.

St. John was a preacher of the Gospel, a defender of the faith, a theologian of the cross, and a proclaimer of Jesus Christ. Though he was content to be a parish priest, and later a bishop, in his hometown of Antioch (a place where the church was founded by St. Paul and where followers of Jesus were first called “Christians”), he was later called, against his will, to serve as Archbishop of Constantinople. In that capacity, he was forced into moving among the rich and powerful, and yet, he remained first and foremost a preacher of the Lord Jesus Christ.

St. John Chrysostom embodied the ongoing promise of the Lord that those who “preach the word… in season and out of season” can expect this: “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.”

How different this theology of the cross sounds from the kind of name-it-and-claim-it Christianity that has become popular on billboards around our city and in bestselling books lining the aisles of WalMart – a heavily marketed religion that promises you wealth and prosperity. While false preachers make promises they can’t keep, Jesus promises faithful preachers that they will be persecuted. And Jesus always keeps his promises. St. John Chrysostom knew what it was like to “preach the word” – whether in season or out. And he was out more than he was in.

John, like Jeremiah, was called to be a preacher. It was not his choice. John’s life might have been easier had he chosen another line of work – but he did not choose his ministry any more than he chose his Christianity. The Lord puts us where he wants us to be for the sake of the kingdom.

And, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not only we preachers who are promised suffering for the sake of the kingdom. If you are a person whose “itching ears” causes you to “accumulate… teachers to suit [your] own passions,” then the authentic Christian faith is not for you. Jesus promises you neither a rose garden nor a Rolex. Jesus does not tell you that you will never get cancer. Jesus does not offer you a life of ease free from conflict on this side of the grave. No indeed. The more you cling to Christ, the more you will bear your own cross. But this, dear friends, is not a weakness of the faith, but a strength!

For our strength is made perfect in weakness, and it is in the cross that we find victory. For our Lord Jesus Christ has defeated death by tasting it, swallowing it, and spewing it out of His own mouth as a vanquished foe. And the victorious mouth of Jesus proclaims the Gospel anew to us through the golden mouth of St. John Chrysostom, and by the orations of preachers of every time and place who “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

How many times must St. John Chrysostom reflected on the words of St. Paul as he suffered exile and threats from the ruling classes of the city of Constantinople who (like Herod did with John the Baptist) sought ways to silence the golden mouth of the preacher of the Word of God? What comfort and courage Bishop John must have taken to hear these words and preach on them: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

And what could be a higher calling for any Christian – layman or preacher, exalted archbishop or humble parish pastor, than to fulfill the calling the Lord has for us, and to do so seeking sober determination, even to the point of not flinching at suffering.

For indeed, dear brothers and sisters, we know how the story ends. We know who is right. We know who has won the victory.

We can suffer for the sake of the kingdom, dear friends, because the kingdom has been won for us. We have been made citizens of heaven by pure unmerited grace. And the Lord has called some men, like John the Baptist, like John Chrysostom, like Martin Luther – to speak the truth of God’s law to power, and speak the truth of God’s Gospel to those who indeed suffer for righteousness’s sake.

As the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant,” so too does He speak to all those called to bear witness to the good news of salvation and the proclamation of God’s Word in Jesus Christ!

All Christians, whether preachers or hearers, are called to a priesthood in which we offer ourselves as living sacrifices – each according to his own calling and measure of faith. All Christians, whether preachers or hearers, can listen to the Word of God as proclaimed by faithful preachers of every age and hear the resounding Gospel of Jesus Christ. All Christians, whether preachers or hearers, are called to suffer for the sake of the kingdom and to see, hidden away beneath the veil, the very face of Jesus.

And even in his death in 407 AD, St. John Chrysostom pointed us to God’s glory and set an example for all Christians to cast their eyes heavenward, as he reportedly said with his dying breath: “Glory be to God for all things!” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Po' Boy's Godiva

I am obviously no wine snob - and I'm going to prove it here!

I'm using the term "Po' Boy" not as a sandwich, but rather in a more literal sense of "frugal." If you like Godiva Chocolate Liqueur (but don't like the price), here is something that I think tastes just as awesome, but is only ten bucks a bottle. It is genuinely lovely, in spite of its rather el cheapo sounding name: ChocoVine. It claims to be a "fine French cabernet subtly combined with a rich dark chocolate from Holland." Whatever. The technical term I would employ commensurate with my level of expertise would be "yummy!"

It tastes like the expensive stuff, but is wine rather than liqueur. It is entirely appropriate to drink it in a wine glass in a healthy portion - it is, after all, a creamy chocolate drink, not the sort of thing you want to lap out with your tongue a drop at a time out of a thimble. At 14% alcohol, it can be consumed like any other wine - in good sized glassware.

ChocoVine can be found at Cost Plus World Market, though it doesn't seem to appear on their website.

Anyway, I know chocolate wine is kind of goofy sounding, but it has become a fast favorite at the Hollywood Rectory. But don't anyone get any funny ideas about having chocolate communion wine...

Hayek vs. Keynes Rap

I'm no fan of rap, but this is an extraordinary video that demonstrates why our country is in trouble. It pits economist John Maynard Keynes's approach to economics (based on central government planning, central banks, and "stimulus" - which is the current Democrat and Republican economic model) against that of F.A. Hayek's opposing "Austrian School" of economics that is rooted in free markets, sound money, and individual freedom.

This is no ordinary rap video. It is clever and chock full of information. And even when stumbling on the technical economist jargon, one can pretty well follow the visuals to see why we have a boom and bust cycle and what we should do about it. And note that the lyrics and other educational materials are available at Econstories. Well done!

Big shock here (not!): HT: Lew Rockwell.

Pietism According to Bo Giertz

The Rt. Rev. Bo H. Giertz (1905-1998) was the youngest man elected and consecrated to serve the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden as a diocesan bishop. He was a staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy, the Lutheran tradition, confessional doctrine, and the centrality of the Bible in a derelict Swedish Church eager to push the envelope away from the traditional faith into a brave new world of radical social experimentation and gender-bending.

Giertz was a hard churchman to box-in with a label.

He was a "high-church" smells-and-bells miter-and-crosier catholic bishop who refused to relinquish episcopal polity and apostolic succession; was unflinchingly devoted to the Lutheran confessions and evangelical doctrine that placed the focus of the faith on the cross and justification through Word and Sacrament and expressed in the Lutheran liturgy; and yet retained a soft spot in his heart for "low-church" evangelicalism and rustic Swedish Pietism that emphasized conversion, sanctification, and holy living.

In his preaching, teaching, popular writing, and scholarly work, Giertz synthesized these popular expressions of Swedish Lutheranism and drew from the best each had to offer, proclaiming a holistic Christian faith that denied neither doctrine nor Christian living, demonstrating a vibrant faith that did not sacrifice the new life for the sake of pure dogma - but kept all of these in balance with one another.

All this from a man who was not merely a great churchman, but who was a bona fide genius (also a grandson of the founder of the Ericsson telecommunications company) who was actually raised in an atheist home! After his "retirement" as bishop of Gothenburg, he continued to speak, write, and lead the cause of orthodoxy in Sweden. He gave Swedish speakers a new Bible translation and wrote commentaries for all of the books of the New Testament. In spite of his rigorous academic life, Bishop Giertz was always a "man of the people" who had great affection for those under his pastoral care. First and last, Bishop Giertz was always a kyrkoherde, a pastor.

I think his motto as a pastor in Christ's Church might be summed up in the words Bishop Giertz placed into the mouth of one of his characters in his book Stengrunden (page 188), Pastor Fridfeldt, who said:

"Finns det något större än att få vara präst? (Is there anything greater than to be a priest?)."

English speakers (especially Lutherans) will want to read (and re-read) the English translation of this novel (comprised of three novellas), known in English as The Hammer of God. The first novella was made into a feature film that includes a cameo of the nonagenarian bishop shortly before his death.

CPH has released an English translation of Bishop Giertz's daily devotional To Live With Christ, co-translated by my classmate, colleague, and one of my own Swedish teachers, the Rev. Bror Erickson, pastor of First Lutheran Church, Tooele, UT.

But here is what I actually want to share with you: an outstanding article about how Bishop Giertz understood the role of Pietism in the life of Lutheran Christianity, written by my friend and colleague, the Swedish born LCMS pastor who serves First Trinity Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh, the Rev. Eric Andrae.

It seems appropriate to offer a shout-out to my dear friend the Rev. Hans Andrae (Eric's father, known affectionately in the parish by the double entendre "Father Andrae"), Swedish-born LCMS pastor (formerly of the ELCA) who was ordained in the Church of Sweden, and who knew Bishop Giertz. Hans is the translator of the last chapter of The Hammer of God, and is the epitome of the churchman and pastor.

Bishop Giertz still has much to offer us in our own context as American Christians and Lutherans.

The Best Bourbon Street Video You Will See All Day

Like one of the announcers said during the game, "This city knows how to party." Captain Obvious agrees. And contrary to the punch line of a well-known local joke, hell has not frozen over!

After the game, the Hollywoods walked the three blocks to the Mississippi River Levee and we could actually hear the din coming from across the river. The Superdome is about two miles away as a crow flies and we could hear cheering and music bouncing off of the local buildings. We also saw spontaneous fireworks south of us on the Westbank (don't even ask how the compass directions work here...).

Going to the Super Bowl is a wonderful shot in the arm for our city, not just in terms of morale, but also for enjoying the focus of the entire world for the next couple weeks. Our local economy thrives on tourism, and New Orleans is really one of those places every American should see at least once. We also get a lot of international visitors as well, both for business and pleasure - though there is nothing wrong with mixing the two.

Y'all come! Laissez les bons temps rouler! Geaux Saints!

HT: Salem Lutheran School teacher Mrs. Nikki Chatelain

Monday, January 25, 2010

Had Enough Yet?

More from your friendly neighborhood Transportation Stupidity Administration. Don't you feel safer?

And don't you love all the "privacy" these "public" employees enjoy when they commit what would have been crimes for us "little people?" If the passenger had played a "joke," how would this situation been different, and what would have been private about how it would have been addressed?

I'm not exactly sure why, but the juxtaposition of the words "privacy" and TSA just don't seem to go together...

Remind me again why we broke away from Britain (and don't tell me to read the Declaration of Independence, it only depresses me...). Of course, things are even worse there these days. Where is William Wallace when you need him?


from a member of my parish:

On Law and Gospel: "If you think you need one, you probably need the other instead."

On the Second Use of the Law: "If everyone would go to WalMart and spend ten bucks on a mirror, most of the problems in the church would go away."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sermon: Transfiguration of our Lord

24 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 17:1-9 (Ex 3:1-14, 2 Pet 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

We have very bad memories. Thanks to sin, we have forgotten what it is like to see God face to face, to walk with Him in the cool of the day, to call to mind the days of perfect and continual communion with Him.

That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that the Lord is merciful, and He gives us many and various reminders of His love, numerous previews of the glory of the restored creation yet to be revealed, and repeatedly tells us what we need to know to have that broken fellowship mended.

In fact, we gather in this place week after week to hear what amounts to be the same message again and again. We partake of the same sacrament over and over. And in the Holy Eucharist, the Lord Himself reminds us: “Do this in memory of me” – repeating word for word the Lord’s institution of the Supper in the eternal echo of the Church’s liturgy. And given how poor our memories are, thanks be to God that we are reminded again and again.

Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, the Lord has withdrawn His face from us, no longer walks in the cool of the day with us, and even as the old sinful flesh clings to us, we do not enjoy perfect and continual communion with God.

That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that the Lord is merciful, and He allows mankind small glimpses underneath the protective veil that shields us from His overwhelming glory. He reveals His name. He speaks to us. He takes on our flesh. He allows us to see His face in the less threatening countenance of His fully divine and yet fully human Son. He walks with us for three years, and offers Himself as the perfect and continual communion that is God under the veiled forms of bread and wine.

God takes pity on us, knowing that our sinful and faulty memory needs help, for “we have something more sure,” says St. Peter, “the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention.” This is the same St. Peter who was an eyewitness “of His majesty… when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Peter points us not only to His eyewitness account, but also to the Word of God – equally a divine revelation of the God who wants us to remember.

In fact, this is the second time the Father spoke these same words, “This is My beloved Son” in the hearing of men. God knows repetition helps us to remember.

A common remembrance all throughout the Old Testament was the calling to mind of the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. The Exodus is remembered liturgically every year to this day by the descendants of those who miraculously walked with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea. For the Lord Himself considered this deliverance a “sign for you,” as verification that He had indeed sent Moses.

And Moses would be dispatched again, centuries later, on the Mountain of Transfiguration, where the burning bush and the glowing face of Moses would be called to mind anew by the radiant Jesus, glowing with supernatural light and speaking with Moses and Elijah. We are reminded of the law and the prophets in a way that Peter, James, and John were sure never to forget. Just as the multicolored rainbow was a sign of God’s mercy in the heavens after the flood, here is yet another dazzling sign in the sky – the beaming white luminosity shining off of His face and His clothing – the entire spectrum of the rainbow combined into one pure blazing white light.

“We were eyewitnesses,” says Peter. This transfiguration is not something one would tend to forget. And he also reminds us that God’s Word is not the stuff of myth, but rather “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

And lest we forget, dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit caused these words to be recorded, these revelations, these reminders of the Lord’s mercy in a written form, where we can read them again and again, constantly reminding our sinful forgetful nature that we are sinners, that we are called to repent, that we are forgiven, and that we are promised eternal life in a new and better age. We are reminded of this promise, and we are urged to call these promises to mind.

The Lord Jesus took Peter, James, and John on the mountain by themselves and lifted the veil, being transfigured, changed in form, once again reminding them that they were not dealing with an ordinary man. His beaming face reminded them of the sun. He reminded them that He is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament – something He had told them before, and now shows them as a more graphic and visual reminder, calling to mind the law in the form of Moses and the prophets in the form of Elijah. The voice of the Father reminds them of God’s complexity, God being both Father and Son, who chronicles the event by the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus mercifully reminds the three disciples – especially Peter who was earlier frightened by the display of the divinity of Jesus involving a miraculous catch of fish – that there is nothing to fear. For “Jesus came and touched them,” reminding them that His touch is a healing touch, and that His words bring the peace that passes all understanding.

“And when they lifted up their eyes,” reports St. Matthew, “they saw no one but Jesus only.” The holy evangelist reminds us, as he spoke “from God… carried along by the Holy Spirit,” that we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things from above, and look to “Jesus only” for salvation and life.

And later, on another high hill, one of the three disciples who witnessed our Lord’s transfiguration, St. John, stood beneath the cross. There he saw another transfiguration, another change in form in the countenance of Jesus. He saw His glory veiled in His suffering, His radiance hidden in His passion. He saw God robed in humility, reminding us of both our sins and of His mercy. And surely the apostle John must have called to mind the Lord’s words: “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Easter was a glorious reminder of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

And though our sinfulness makes us forget whose we are at times, dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is there to remind us anew of His mighty deeds of the past, His acts of grace in the present, and His eternal glory that He will share with us in the eternity to come, when we shall see God face to face, walk with Him in the cool of the day, and call to mind the days of perfect and continual communion with Him, world without end. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

U.S. is Becoming Less Free

According to this article, the Heritage Foundation's and the Wall Street Journal's annual ranking of nations of the world based on economic freedom reports that the United States has slipped to only the eighth freest economy - falling behind Canada (ranked as the 7th).

Also freer than the United States are: 1) Hong Kong, 2) Singapore, 3) Australia, 4) New Zealand, 5) Ireland, and 6) Switzerland.

Did you ever think you'd live to see this? Are we destined to drop further down the list?

This is how governments steal from us

Here is an open and brazen example of how governments steal from the people.

Hugo Chavez is, of course, an open and unrepentant Marxist dictator. But at least he's honest and up front about it. All governments around the world that have replaced hard currency with paper money (and that would be all governments around the world...) are actually doing the same thing, only more gradually.

Chavez is devaluing the Venezuelan bolivar in one fell swoop. This is a way of literally stealing from the pockets of the people. The United States has been doing the same thing, albeit gradually, to the U.S. dollar since 1913 with the establishment of the Federal Reserve. The "Fed" enables reckless government spending by giving the federal government an endless source of "money" in the form of paper with numbers printed on it - a "money" monopoly of Monopoly "money"! The Fed itself is conveniently rewarded with exemption from any and all audits and Congressional oversight. It is the ultimate sweetheart deal in which Congress accepts dirty money (made legal tender by force of law) and asks no questions. The Fed gives Congress (and Wall Street bankers) access to the printing press, and, of course, gets a cut for itself and its executives - all with no danger of being audited, that is, until now.

The Fed also causes the boom-bust business cycle by artificially deflating the interest rate, encouraging banks, businesses, and private consumers to borrow excessively (based on false market signals), encouraging a culture of malinvestment, debt and impulsive consumer spending, while at the same time discouraging thrift and savings. We Americans often ride a crest of "prosperity" (which is nothing more than running up the national credit card to the max) only to fall into "unexpected" economic disasters - which the political parties blame on each other. It is a great game of hot potato, and whichever party is in office when the bubble randomly bursts is blamed for the mess - when both have always been to blame.

The result has been the devaluation of the dollar to the tune of some 95% (yes, 95%!) - although it has taken nearly a century to do it. The recent bailouts have even spurred further and faster dollar devaluation.

The "inflation rate" - which we have been conditioned to accept as normal - even in "good" years is 2 or 3 per cent (and this is the "official" number provided by the government). This is Marxist theft just as surely (though certainly more slowly and less brazenly) as it is when Chavez does it.

The Fed, which is actually a form of a central bank (which, by the way, is one of the ten planks of Marx's Communist Manifesto), will not be able to keep the pyramid scheme going indefinitely. All bubbles eventually burst, and what goes up must come down. The danger of this economic slight-of-hand was exposed by the late great Nobel prize-winning economist Ludwig von Mises.

The Ludwig von Mises Institute is dedicated to educating the public about economics from the perspective of sound principles of reality - not promises and spin shoveled at us by Marxists, both here and abroad.

It's time to hold our politicians' feet to the fire - of both parties. I do believe the current economic malaise is going to prove to be the endgame of the national prosperity of the U.S. - unless we act quickly to pull the plug on Washington's and Wall Street's theft and replace compulsory devaluation with sound money. We can only do that by educating ourselves.

Unfortunately, you will not learn this from talk radio and partisan entertainers on either side of the political spectrum, nor from bestselling books from people who make a living by being rude and crude. Somewhere along the line, conservatism has lost its reputation of being based on intelligence and sound reason, instead having taken on the air of a professional wrestling match or monster truck rally. The good news is that true conservatism is not dead, and there is a lot of thoughtful and serious economic resources available on the World Wide Web.

Lew Rockwell is a good place to check day to day to understand the nature of the current economic picture, how government steals from us, and what we should be doing about it down the road for the sake of future generations.

January Thaw

Hats off to our local weather guy Bob Breck, who has been openly (and courageously) taking a scientifically skeptical position on "global warming" and pointing out the political chicanery long before the duplicitous cover-up was exposed.

Here is Bob Breck's latest.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sermon: Epiphany 2

17 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 2:1-11 (Amos 9:11-15, Rom 12:6-16)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s hard to imagine the devastation in Haiti, a mere 700 miles from our safe and well-to-do American coastlands. Can you just imagine the house of the President of our country being in ruins, the leaders of nearly all of our industries and churches dead or missing? Can you imagine a disaster that will likely claim more than a hundred times the lives as Hurricane Katrina?

We know what it is like to suffer devastation. But what has happened in poverty-stricken Haiti is of a magnitude that even surpasses our suffering by far. Generations will date the history of Haiti in relation to this earthquake.

The prophet Amos likewise dated his own ministry as beginning two years before the earthquake that the Lord revealed to him that would happen, did happen. This earthquake of 760 BC was so significant that it was still being called to mind by Zechariah centuries later.

And thus Amos also spoke of ruins. He prophesied literally of the devastated City of Jerusalem. But listen to the promise of God regarding these ruins: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.”

The prophet relays the Lord’s promise: “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them.”

And notice the sign of this promise: “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it,” and again, “they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine.”

Wine is not simply something to survive on. It is a gift of joy. The Psalmist tells us it gladdens the heart. It always accompanies feasts and celebrations. The Lord is promising to rebuild in spite of devastations and restore in spite of the ruins, not merely promising survival, but offering the glorious sweetness of celebratory wine.

Jesus begins his miraculous ministry among the ruins of our sin-devastated world in a town called Cana. He is there to observe two people make a fresh start as one flesh, as a new entity, in a loving relationship with one another, a union that exists to bring fruit to the wife’s womb and to bring honor to the husband’s name. And wine is a part of the feast.

But the wine “ran out.” The limits of this fallen world were brought to the fore, invading the joy of the banquet and threatening the couple with shame. The Lord Jesus came into our ruins to cover our shame and to remove our reproach. His mother, who was not unfamiliar with marital shame herself, instructs the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

And that they did. The result is that the Lord Jesus, the living and breathing “booth of David” who was Himself to be raised up from the ruin of death following the earthquake on the day of His own crucifixion, would on this day, bring the couple a little foretaste of Amos’s fulfilled prophecy. The wedding party was dripping with sweet wine. Jesus restored the fortunes of those whose wedding feast had lain in ruins. The Lord prevented this marital union from beginning on a note of humiliation by mercifully redeeming the day by providing the wine.

And one of the fruits of this wine was faith: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”

This wine created faith in those who partook of this miracle, those who were served by the One who would later serve them the wine of His own crucified body.

The Lord Jesus is the epicenter of the greatest humanitarian and rebuilding effort of all, the work of God to take human form, relieve us of the burden of our sins, and to rebuild, renew, and restore our ruined and devastated universe. Even as the changing of the water into wine was a sign, so too are all those who serve their neighbors in Haiti doing Christ’s work, as Luther put it, being “little Christs.” And as Christ Himself put it: “What you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.”

The rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Katrina and the rebuilding of Haiti after this earthquake ought to serve us as object lessons of the Lord’s merciful mission to recreate the universe that we have all destroyed thanks to the Fall and thanks to all sin’s effect on all creation. This process of making all things new is what Christianity is all about. And the Lord also makes us new, calling us to daily repentance, imploring us to yield the fruits of good works by virtue of our connection as branches to the Vine, and through the wine of His true Blood, in which we are washed and of which we are bidden to drink along with the bread of His true body.

Like good trees bearing good fruits, we are called upon to bear the good fruits of repentance, of helping our neighbor, of spreading the kingdom, and of striving to keep the commandments. This is how it is that St. Paul pleads with us to “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

St. Paul is not giving us a list of hoops to jump through, so that if we do them, God will be impressed with our piety and use those good works to purchase a place in heaven for us at His footstool. No indeed! We are the Lord’s children. We are sons by adoption. We are co-heirs with Christ. We offer of ourselves because He has first given us Himself – at the cross, in His Word, in Holy Absolution, at the Holy Font, and in His Holy Supper.

Rather St. Paul is imploring us to live out this rebuilding, this renewal, this renaissance, with joy, using what God has given to us, to likewise bring it to others in need. The Lord has rebuilt our lives, which has put us in a position to help our neighbors rebuild theirs. By virtue of our own crosses, we are especially in a position to show compassion, empathy, and love to our neighbors. The chalice of joy offered to us by our merciful Father is now ours to share, brimming with the wine that gladdens men’s hearts and brings them relief in suffering. It is the wine of the Lord’s gracious promise, signed and delivered in the wine of His very blood.

“Rejoice in hope,” St. Paul says anew to us, and to the suffering in Haiti, “be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

And listen to this timely invitation from St. Paul, chosen for us to hear on this day by divine appointment: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” How moving and joyful it was, dear friends, in our time of need, when so many contributed to our needs and showed selfless hospitality to us – kindhearted and generous people, both believers and non-believers alike – who acted in love toward us, who were in dire need.

The Lord, who has forgiven us all our sins, who has literally given us the universe, who loves us, watches over us, who promises us a heavenly home of mountains dripping with wine and blanketed with fruitful gardens, of peace and harmony, of an end to all disasters and an end to all human need – has given us the opportunity to show the same compassion and love that He has first shown us.

Let us partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Let us enter into the eternal fellowship anew in the communion of His body and blood. And let us joyfully share the wine of the Lord’s grace and mercy as a sign, not only to manifest the Lord’s glory and bring others to faith, but also as a sign of the love and mercy shown to us by the one who has saved the good wine until now. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Big Oh-Five!

January 15, 2010

A happy dual birthday to our son Leo, who turned five according to the flesh yesterday (January 15), and according to to the spirit today (January 16).

We had a fun day yesterday
: lunch at Chuck E. Cheese (pizza and games - which Mommy and Daddy may have even enjoyed more), dinner at IHOP (complete with ice cream and singing waitresses). His favorite present was an anatomically-correct model of a tarantula. Yes, Leo is a weird as his parents. We wound the day down with a video-conference with Uncle Bryan and Aunt Pia in Ottawa.

Thanks also to relatives and parishioners whose calls and presents made the day so joyful. We hope you had a great day, notre fils!

January 15, 2005, moments after being born

January 16, 2005, moments after being born again

Friday, January 15, 2010

A song about a song, Wallgreen's, and musical memory

Since I no longer commute, the only time I really listen to the radio is when I'm in the car making visits to parishioners. And since they all live pretty much close by, and even the hospitals are generally a short drive - even those sessions with the car radio are brief. So, I don't listen to a lot of music on the radio.

And so I was fooled briefly when I heard "Sweet Home Alabama," and following Lynyrd Skynyrd's rubric early in the song to "turn it up," I did. But it actually wasn't "Sweet Home Alabama," but rather a song about "Sweet Home Alabama." It was a catchy little tune about a guy reminiscing about his youth in the 1980s listening to the archetypal Skynyrd tune about the Southland and what it's like to miss home - even though his childhood was actually in Michigan.

I didn't realize it was Kid Rock (I'm not a fan), but like I said, the tune was catchy and made me think about how music gels and sets in the memory, linking to other memories, resulting in a cerebral explosion of recollection of old times and oddly-related happenings.

Music is powerful that way.

Shortly, I heard the song again, only this time I heard it from the very beginning, and was fooled again! Only this time, I thought it was the late great Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London," (thanks to the song's borrowing of the opening chords), but no, for some reason, the Kid Rock song about "Sweet Home Alabama" includes the opening piano riff from Zevon's "Werewolves." Go figure. Can you believe that song ("All Summer Long") fooled me twice?

But anyway, my own young adulthood was a lot of fun, though not quite as "edgy" (shall we say) as the narrator of the Kid Rock "All Summer Long" tune.

I was not a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd in those days, but in the mid 1990s I did have the honor of having "Sweet Home Alabama" played as bumper music before I gave a speech in tribute of Stonewall Jackson at a Lee-Jackson Day event in Danville, Virginia (from the steps of the Last Capitol of the Confederate States of America). I can't hear "Sweet Home Alabama" without thinking of Virginia (ironically), Stonewall Jackson, and the Third National Flag of the CSA. Music is powerful that way.

Since commentary about the music being played at Wallgreen's has somehow become a feature of this blog, tonight's tuneage is illustrative of this effect. Today, the frequently-Hollywood-visited Gretna Wallgreen's on Stumpf blared out Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town" - which never fails to make me think of my high school class ring (Walsh Jesuit H.S., 1982) and send a chill up my spine.

Okay, here's the connection:

In the same period of time cataloged by Kid Rock (the late 1980s), I was working the midnight shift at a warehouse. My boss turned me on to Stephen King, whose short story collection Skeleton Crew includes a macabre tale called "The Raft." In this story, a bunch of high school kids are on a raft, and a monster from under the raft's boards sucks the football star ("Deke") gruesomely between the floorboards. I hate when that happens...

Here is King's description of the unfortunate football player's extraction from my 1985 edition of Skeleton Crew, pages 298-299:
"Deke's football ring - All Conference, 1981 - slid slowly up the third finger of his right hand. The starlight rimmed the gold and played in the minute gutters between the engraved numbers, 19 on one side of the reddish stone, 81 on the other. The ring slid off his finger. The ring was a little too big to fit down through the crack, and of course it wouldn't squeeze.

"It lay there. It was all that was left of Deke now. Deke was gone. No more dark-haired girls with sloe-eyes, no more flicking Randy's bare rump with a wet towel when Randy came out of the shower, no more breakaway runs from midfield with fans rising to their feet in the bleachers and cheerleaders turning hysterical cartwheels along the sidelines. No more fast rides after dark in the Camaro with Thin Lizzy blaring 'The Boys are Back in Town' out of the tape deck. No more Cisco Kid."
Do you see what I mean? After all these years, each and every time I hear "The Boys are Back in Town," I think of my own gold class ring and poor old Deke being eaten by a sea monster. And I didn't even have a Camaro.

Music is powerful that way. "Turn it up!"

Haiti Emergency Ham Radio Updates

We live in a highly technologically connected world - with ubiquitous cell phones, laptops, satellite communications, e-mail, facebook, text messaging, etc. But all these things depend on some outside source beyond one's control in order to function. And it is extremely frustrating when they don't work - even for a few minutes.

When devastating emergencies like the Haitian earthquake take out all the normal methods of communication, sometimes for weeks on end, amateur radio operators and their radio stations often become the only means to get information in and out of the disaster area.

The International Amateur Radio Union is posting emergency updates as they come in. You can track them here.

Amateur radio allows for small privately owned radio stations operating on frequencies across the radio spectrum - including shortwave communications that skip off the ionosphere and travel worldwide - to be run off of emergency power (batteries or generators), often making use of primitive antennas, such as strings of wire cut to the right length. An amateur station can be set up anywhere - even in a car. After Katrina, one of our local ham radio operators who did not evacuate (a lady from Honduras who lives in Kenner), has a ham station in her van. For weeks, her station was one of the very few means of communications into Kenner from the outside world. She worked tirelessly to "pass traffic" during the crisis - all powered by her 12-volt car battery using an antenna mounted to her bumper.

When all else fails...

Ham radio operators worldwide coordinate with each other to bring instructions to save lives into disaster areas, as well as critical timely news about the local situation to people on the outside world. Ham radio is literally a lifeline in these kinds of situations and still works when there are no landlines, no cell phones, no electricity, no internet, and no commercial or government radio or TV operating.

Anyone can get a ham radio license with a little study. It is not just a fun hobby that enables people to make friends around the world, but it becomes much more when disaster strikes: the only way communications can flow to people in need of information in order to stay alive.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Dear members and friends of Salem:

As people who understand what it is like to suffer the results of a terrible natural disaster, we're in a position to empathize with the people of Haiti as they dig out from the recent earthquake and its aftershocks. Thousands of lives hang in the balance this very minute. Ham radio operators in Haiti are just now beginning to make post-earthquake contact with the outside world. Rescue workers are making their way to Port-au-Prince any way they can. And we know that this is just the beginning of the rebuilding of this country and the lives of its people.

We can help.

Even if you're like me and unable to physically go to Haiti to help the people there onsite, you can do two things: pray and send money. If you think back to the desperate times after Katrina, you will recall what a great blessing it was when people traveled long distances to come to help us and when we received financial gifts to keep us going until we could get back on our feet. A lot of people selflessly donated money and time to help us. Now is our chance to show the same Christian compassion and charity to our neighbors.

While I was at seminary, we had many Haitian students and their families on campus as Haitian men studied for the ministry, prepared to do mission work, and worked towards the establishment of a Haitian seminary. This was a project especially dear to the late Prof. Kurt Marquart, who took a special interest in our Haitian brothers and sisters. As of now, many of our classmates are unaccounted for. Please keep them and all earthquake victims in your prayers.

You may have heard or seen Pat Robertson's claim that the Haitians brought this disaster upon themselves owing to some pact with the devil. This is simply nonsense, and it is a horrible witness of the Christian faith. Our Lord's response to Robertson's false theology can be found here and here. The same kind of things were said about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Church is to be a beacon of hope in such times, and we are to be unconditionally compassionate and loving toward these the least of the Lord's brethren - even as the Lord Jesus shows compassion, grace, and mercy to us.

Click here for a video from LCMS World Relief and Human Care director Rev. Matthew Harrison. Click here for a radio interview with Pastor Harrison on Issues, Etc. Click here to see how you can help, whether giving your time and talent, or by sending much needed money to help LCMS World Relief and Human Care carry out its humanitarian work.

To make a financial donation to LCMS World Relief and Human Care for relief work in Haiti, click here. And of course, please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers.

Lord, have mercy.

Pastor Beane

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Romans 2:24

Sermon: Baptism of our Lord

13 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 3:13-17 (Josh 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17, 1 Cor 1:26-31)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The baptism of our Lord is a study in the unexpected mercy of God.

The most surprised of all was John the Baptist. He knew the Lord called him to preach. He knew the Lord called him to baptize. He knew the Lord called him to call others to repent of their sins for the sake of the near and imminent kingdom of God. He knew the Lord called him to be the forerunner of the Greater One.

But he did not know that he would be baptizing his cousin who was also God. He did not know that he would hear the voice of God the Father, saying: “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well-pleased.” He did not know that he would “fulfill all righteousness” by obeying the Word of God the Son. He did not know that he would see a rare physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

So surprised was John that he first sought to refuse God’s request to baptize him.

But, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we worship a God who never fails to surprise, to amaze, to astound, and to confound!

Baptism continues to baffle people by its simplicity and its mystery. “How can water do such great things?” Blessed Martin Luther asks in the Small Catechism, reiterating the question in everyone’s mind. “Not just water,” we confess with the good Reformer, “Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water.”

The Lord in His wisdom invites us into His kingdom using the most common and even despised and taken-for-granted substance on the planet, combined with His Word and command, administered in His Holy Trinitarian Name, sealing the baptized with a promise – all in order to “fulfill all righteousness” for us. For our Lord Jesus, the crucified One, has indeed fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf, calling us to live out that fulfilled righteousness in a new life as a new creature.

It was not the Lord who needed to be baptized, for He had no sins to wash away. It was not the Lord who needed to be circumcised, for He, the Redeemer, is not one who needed to shed blood to seal the covenant as one of the redeemed. It was not the Lord who needed the sacrifice of the blood of the innocent Lamb, the blood of the new testament, “for the forgiveness of sins.”

No indeed, the righteousness He fulfilled by John’s baptism is His righteousness applied to us “poor miserable sinners.” We are the ones in need of baptism, we who are likewise unworthy to untie His shoes, and yet He allows Himself to be bound to a cross for us “unholy and forlorn.”

The Lord’s submission to baptism, cross, and grave is utterly surprising and a joyful manifestation of the Lord’s divine mercy and compassion for His broken creation.

And look at what He saves! We baptized Christians are looked upon as unwise and ignoble according to the unbelieving world. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” We Christians are lampooned and ridiculed, slandered, and often shut out of society – and yet we are still loved by God and shown mercy through our most humble and yet most powerful baptism.

“God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Might does not make right, and today’s strong man is tomorrow on his own death bed. No matter how much the world rants and raves against the Church, and no matter how much the Church deserves it with her sins and foolishness, the Lord continues to abide by her in her weakness, unworthiness, and folly. Not even the gates of hell shall prevail against her.

“The Lord chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.” And He affects this great surprising and ever-merciful reversal “so that no man might boast in the presence of God.”

We have been rescued, dear friends, because we needed rescuing. The strong have no need of One stronger. The perfect have no need of a Savior. And this is how it is that we ordinary sinners become saints, thanks to a little water, a pastor, some words, and the Name of the Holy Trinity.

The fact that our Lord uses Holy Baptism to save us takes away all pretence we might have to boast. You were not baptized because you deserve to be – in fact it is the opposite. You were not baptized because you can recite the catechism and pontificate about Christian doctrine – for what common demon can’t do that much? You were not even saved because you have such strong and stellar faith – for faith itself is a gift given to us in spite of our unworthiness!

And so we have been rescued, surprised to find that God was not ready to swoop down on us in rage, but ever-eager to pardon us, take us under His wings, and show us love.

This is all wrapped up in the mystery of the Lord’s explanation to John: “to fulfill all righteousness.”

Let us follow the baptismal invitation from John the Baptist to “repent” and “believe” – to take comfort in the unchanging reality that we have been “dipped in the brink” and marked by the sign of the holy cross as one of the Lord’s beloved and redeemed. Let us give up all pretension and arrogance, as though we can take credit for any of the mercies shown to us by our Savior in whom the Lord is “well pleased.” Let us live out the baptismal and cruciform Christian life in redeemed joy, in sanctified service, and in the assurance of eternal life.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Memo to Borders: "Move Orwell's 1984 to the non-fiction section..."

This unbelievable article was (accurately!) summed up by a submitter to a popular site for news headlines as follows:

"In Britain you can now be arrested for writing an email you did not write, because it contains a word that rhymes with another word that some official thinks is racist, but no one complained about."

But wait! There's more! Now how much would you pay?

Welcome to the 21st century. The entire world is a lunatic asylum.

Monday, January 11, 2010

So it goes...

Dresden Frauenkirche (the Church of Our Lady Lutheran cathedral in Dresden, Germany)

A remarkable piece of WW2 history and a real treat for fans of American literature can be found here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eine Kleine Bluesmusik

A little Sunday Night Sonny Boy Williamson's "Sad to be Lonesome" (recorded in Frankfurt, Germany) for your Father Hollywood listening pleasure.

And as a bonus, here is a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight to the Blind" performed by B.B. King and (Pink Floyd's) David Gilmour, a tune fans of The Who will recognize from the rock opera Tommy.

Lil Rev aficionados may hear hints of the sainted Rev. Dr. Stephen "Big Rev" Wiest in SBW's harmonica riffs.

Sermon: Epiphany 1

10 January 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 2:41-52 (1 Kings 8:6-13, Rom 12:1-5)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

St. Luke records only this single event in the later childhood of Jesus. And it is based on the same idea as the old Home Alone movies. Only there is nothing funny going on here.

When Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not in their travel party, one can only imagine the panic. This young man Jesus was the miracle baby foretold by the angel Gabriel and mysteriously implanted into Mary’s virgin womb by God Himself. He was visited by shepherds who were themselves visited by angels. He survived Herod’s murderous rampage thanks to an angelic message delivered in a dream, and He was worshiped as God in the flesh by the gift-bearing magi. The Book of Revelation makes it clear that Satan is obsessed with destroying this Jesus.

And Mary and Joseph think they have lost Him.

If we’re to believe only in His divinity, we could just shrug the incident off. But this young Man is not merely God, He is also miraculously human! He is capable of death, and this is likely what is flashing through St. Joseph and Blessed Mary’s aching minds in their frantic search.

In fact, Mary’s tension comes across even in St. Luke’s rather journalistic account of the incident: “Son, why have You treated us so? Behold, Your father and I have been searching for You in great distress.” The Greek reads in a very literal sense: “Your father and I have been torturing ourselves.” And though Blessed Mary relieves her tension by scolding her perfect and sinless Son, her use of language reveals that her source of anguish is really self-inflicted.

Our Blessed Lord, having been teaching the teachers in the Temple, replies: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

It would be easy for us to criticize Jesus and accuse Him of backtalk – but this is not the case. Far from it! Mary’s holy Son offers His beloved mother comfort in the form of trust in God. He gently reminds her that her very human Son is also her very divine Son, that His dear and devoted stepfather is not His true Father. And the adolescent Christ also reminds both of them that He has a mission. He is growing up, and His hour will come. And yet, that time was still some 18 years away. And so, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.”

It isn’t easy being the mother of God. It would surely have been less of a burden for St. Mary if her Son were an ordinary sinner. For the distress of three agonizing days of believing Him to be lost and wondering if He were dead would be repeated at the cross, a stone’s throw from this same place, 21 years later, as Mary would once again be in great distress hoping once again to see her Son, who on the third day would emerge from death, again in the Temple of His own body, teaching, preaching, and about His Father’s business for eternity.

There are certainly a few lessons St. Luke has for us as the Holy Spirit inspired this piece of our Lord’s childhood to be recorded. For Jesus is in the Temple. He is physically present where the Word of God is being preached and taught. He is present in flesh and blood in the proximity of the altar. He is bodily present in the presentation of the sacrificed flesh and blood for the benefit of those covered by the Blood of the Lamb.

Dear Christians, we know where to find Jesus. Unlike the Blessed Virgin and the Lord’s sainted Guardian, we have no reason to be shocked to learn that the Lord is physically present near the altar, in the holy places around the world where His Word is read, preached, and taught, and where His true body and blood are delivered for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life!

The Lord continues to ask people today: “Why were you looking for Me?” People are seeking God in all sorts of places, in the smug esoteric teachings of conspiracy theorists who join forces with novelists and filmmakers. Others seek God in ultra-hip religious fads that suck in Hollywood actresses, or cults fronted by a-list actors. Others go hunting for God in “alternative scriptures” because the ones that have been revered for centuries as the Word of God are not trendy enough. Still others seek God in money, drugs, fame, thrill-seeking, violently controlling others, or even in entertainment.

But most people seek God on their own terms, in ways that are conveniently self-serving. But Jesus continues to ask, His face set like a flint: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?

The Son is never apart from the Father who was well-pleased at the Son’s baptism, nor ever disjointed from the Holy Spirit, who even as He hovered over the waters of creation “in the beginning,” likewise hovered over the waters of re-creation in the beginning of the Lord’s ministry in making all things new.

If you seek the Father, you don’t need to hunt for Him in vain in a spiritual fantasy. You don’t have to create some made-up religion that is bogus anyway. Rather you can, and you do, still find Him in His physical reality, the flesh-and-blood Jesus, who abides in the Temple of the Church, where His prophetic Word is preached and His miraculous true body and blood of His Supper are freely given to freely forgiven sinners.

And just as finding the young Lord Jesus was a great relief to Mary and Joseph, so too is our encounter with the risen Lord Jesus a great relief to us as well. His Word assures us and comforts us; it teaches us who He is, and what He does for us. And Jesus carries this out by His same mighty Word and by the same holy Presence that filled the Ark of the Covenant “in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim.” Just as it was a great mystery how the limited space and time of the Temple could contain God Almighty, we too have the promise that He is present with us, in Word and Sacrament, until the end of the age. And what a great joy this is, dear friends!

And according to these “mercies of God,” St. Paul describes us as priests of a New Covenant, offering ourselves as “living sacrifices” – not the dead flesh and blood of animals that of themselves are powerless, but rather we offer ourselves as thank offerings because of these “mercies of God.” In response to the once-for-all sacrifice of our Lord on the cross, the holy apostle exhorts us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Rather than being conformed, literally “molded” to the darkness, we are called to be transformed, literally “metamorphosized” in the dazzling light of the glory of the Lord, the same glory that “filled the house of the Lord.”

Dear Christian brothers and sisters, the same glory is here for you now, calling you to a new and better priesthood, to be partakers of His nature and witnesses of His glory, renewed in the mind and discerning of God’s will by testing. For Mary and Joseph did not lose Jesus. They found Him where God promised always to be. We are blessed to continue to be “amazed at his understanding and his answers.” We continue to hear His Word of forgiveness and assurance, and to take comfort that He is in the Most Holy Place near the altar, in flesh and blood, sharing not only His teaching with us, but offering us His very self, even to the end of the age. Thanks be to God! Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.