Friday, July 30, 2010

Eighties Prog-Rock Flashback

One of my favorite albums is Marillion's 1985 Misplaced Childhood.

This was a concept album typical of the period. Until now, I've never actually seen any of the videos. Above is the song "Lavender" from the album. It has many quaintly-dated essential 80s prog-rock elements: tee shirts and narrow-lapelled jackets, mullets, heavy guitars, synthesizer, a sweet melancholic melody with lyrics that are at times nonsensical, and yet poetic - in this case sung intensely and passionately by an angry-looking kilted Scotsman.

Bonus: "Kayleigh"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Fit In in Church

Funny and true. But we could use a "Lutheran Use Version" of this video.

Now, in certain areas of Canada, smoking (les cigarettes) in church may be considered okay. Otherwise, smoking should be limited to incense and/or candles. "Speaking in tongues" is definitely a no-no in Lutheran churches, unless the pastor is getting wound up in the German or Latin of the Book of Concord (with other rare exceptions such as: Swedish or Swahili, or in the case of a certain professor of Japanese heritage: Norwegian...).

Snake handling will not work in any Lutheran church in South Louisiana, as the snake will end up in a boiling pot with the crabs, shrimp, and British Petroleum by-products. And if you are raising your hands in prayer, you had better be the pastor at the altar, or else word has just gotten out the the Saints have scored.

For the most part, the above video is ecumenism at its best. These tips will hold you in good stead in pretty much any house of worship.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sermon: St. James the Apostle

25 July 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 10:35-45 (Acts 11:27-12:5, Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Sts. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were part of our Lord’s inner circle – along with St. Peter. They were among the first disciples called. They were with Jesus on the Holy Mount of Transfiguration. These three disciples were also our Lord’s sleepy guards at Gethsemane.

St. James, whom the Church commemorates on this day, along with his brother John, wanted to have a special place in the Lord’s kingdom. They sought to be great. They wanted a place at the head of the table and the front of the line.

St. James received his wish. But as often happens in Lord’s kingdom, he received it in a way that he could not have imagined when he asked.

James and John wanted to bask in the glow of King Jesus, to be his right-hand men in the political kingdom they expected our Lord to establish. They sought to be important. They wanted the attention of the king, and the glory that goes along with it. “Grant us to sit,” they asked, “one at Your right hand and one at Your left in Your glory.”

Our blessed Lord said to them in a gentle way that they don’t know what they are asking for. Even though Jesus had repeatedly explained that His was a different kind of kingdom, that He was to die and rise again, and that those who follow Him are to take up their crosses, deny themselves, and be servants – the “sons of thunder” still had stars in their eyes.

Can you “drink the cup that I drink?” asks Jesus, or “be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” –
referring to His suffering and death. And they were most eager to reply: “We are able!” Like their fellow disciple Peter, their enthusiasm was more of the spirit than the flesh. For they were not even able to remain vigilant in the garden for a single hour.

The other disciples became angry at the sons of Zebadee. Our Lord took them all aside and ended their squabbling, teaching them about the kingdom, and about what it means to be a Christian. If you want worldly glory, you won’t find it here. To be a Christian is to be a servant, a lowly slave, to be scorned by the world and treated with contempt. For this is how our Blessed Lord was treated, dear brothers and sisters. And thanks be to God that He was, for in His passion and death, we have forgiveness and life. In His cross we find the love of God and the ransom for our very souls.

St. James was indeed to have his glory. He was to be at the top of the heap, at the front of the line, at the head of the table, the very first of the twelve, in fact, to die as a martyr in the service of the Lord Jesus. What a change in priority! No more was James selfishly seeking the praise of men, rather in praising His Lord, he was willing to be arrested, humiliated, and put to death. Truly, he did drink the Lord’s cup and was baptized with the Lord’s baptism. By God’s grace, he was able.

For “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”

Indeed, “Herod the king” – the false impostor king – “laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword.” For even as St. James had earlier wanted the attention of the king, and the glory that goes along with it, he now received scorn from the worldly, political king, while truly being glorified by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whose kingdom is not of this world. James received glory in giving all glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. For Jesus shed His blood and laid down His life for James, and James offered His own life up in return as a thank offering to God, a thanksgiving for his life that will have no end.

It is unlikely that any one of us will be threatened with the sword for the sake of our Christian faith. But nevertheless, dear brothers and sisters, our lives are not our own. We are slaves of Him who ransomed us and saved us. We can offer ourselves as living sacrifices in His service, having been redeemed and saved by the His boundless grace and mercy!

For we also have been baptized with the Lord’s baptism. And we too share in the Lord’s cup. And in that Holy Baptism we have been buried with Him. And we too shall rise with Him in glory. And in that Lord’s cup, that Holy Communion, we too proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

And how liberating this new life in Christ is, dear friends! For we know that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Having been called, we have been justified, that is, made righteous. And having been justified, we have been glorified.

And this glory, given to us by the Lord’s grace, through the Lord’s cross, and delivered through the Lord’s merciful Word and miraculous sacraments, is greater than any passing worldly glory. It far exceeds being seen by the rich, powerful, and famous in this world. For we are not just seen with, but loved and redeemed by, the most powerful King in the universe!

Listen anew, dear brethren, to St. Paul’s proclamation of the glory we share in Christ Jesus: “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 glory shines forth in the witness of James the holy apostle and martyr. And it even shines forth in us, dear Christians, even as we struggle, like St. James, with our old Adam that seeks glory and yet cannot even stay awake for an hour. Thanks be to God that the Lord remains vigilant for us! And by His “blood and merit,” we are “at peace with God.”

Let us pray:

O Lord, for James we praise You,
Who fell to Herod’s sword;
He drank the cup of suff’ring
And thus fulfilled Your Word.
Lord, curb our vain impatience
For glory and for fame,
Equip us for such suff’rings
As glorify Your name.”

Now and even unto eternity. Amen.

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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Here we go...

Bonnie is only a tropical depression and is not expected to strengthen to a tropical storm. But at this point, New Orleans is right in the cross-hairs, and the computer models are pretty much all in agreement.

This won't be a devastating storm by any means (Deo volente), but it will likely give us a good bit of thunder and lightening, and maybe some local flash floods. And there is the x-factor of the oil spill. This storm is a good opportunity to get ready, review plans, and have contingencies; a sort-of dry run (well, not so dry) for a hurricane. Our generator is all set and ready to go. We have some extra milk in the fridge.

So it looks like we are prepared. We have a cabinet full of Gevalia and several cans of freshly-ground espresso beans. Our coffee grinder can run on generator power, as can the cappuccino maker. And in a worse case scenario, there is always the low-tech French press. We have emergency lighting and reading materials.

So, it looks like we are well positioned to "rough it." As long as one can have a decent cup of coffee and a book, all shall be well and all shall be well... ;-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Road Trip to Detroit, Anyone?

This year's St. Michael's Liturgical Conference looks like a winner.

In great contrast to the rock bands, skits, and dancing girls at the disturbingly-titled Worship Service/Mass Event at the LCMS National Youth Gathering (read and weep) in the New Orleans Superdome, the theme of the 13th annual St. Michael's Conference at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Detroit will be:
Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV: “Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence.” The conference will examine the Mass in the Lutheran Confessions and the writings of Luther, stressing the practical contemporary application of our Confession “The Mass is celebrated among us with the highest reverence.”
The keynote address will be given by one of my former professors, the brilliant Lutheran scholar the Rev. Prof. Roland Ziegler:
of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, will address the question “What does it mean when the Augsburg Confession claims that the subscribing churches retained the Mass?” This requires a historical investigation of the form of worship used among Lutherans around 1530 and the decade to follow, and what dogmatic relevance the form of the Mass had among Lutherans in the time of the reformation. Only then can we discern what this statement means for contemporary practice.
Now how much would you pay? But wait! There's more!...
Sectional presenters will be Fr. Burnell Eckardt, Pastor of St. Paul, Kewanee, and editor of Gottesdienst magazine; the Reverend Dr. Daniel Reuning, Kantor and church musician of Redeemer Lutheran Church of Fort Wayne, and Dean of Chapel at CTS for 31 years; Deacon David Muehlenbruch of Bethany Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, and of the Lex Orandi web site; and Fr. Mark Braden, Pastor of Zion Detroit.

Sectional presentations will treat of both the ceremony and the rite of the Lutheran high Mass, with special attention paid to the rubrics for the Celebrant, Deacon and Subdeacon, and the chanting of the Gospel.

At the Mass, Fr. David Petersen of Redeemer, Fort Wayne will preach, the Rt. Rev. David Stechholz, Bishop of the English District, will preside, and Fr. Braden will serve as Celebrant.

Zion Detroit sponsored the St. Michael Liturgical Conference from 1998 until 2005. From 2006-2008 the St Michael Liturgical Conferences were held at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
My family and parochial duties (not to mention financial limitations) will keep me a good thousand miles away, but I've been to St. Michael's conferences while studying at Fort Wayne, and they were always top-notch in both scholarship and hospitality. I highly recommend them to any Lutheran.

This year's conference will not only feature a District President (the Bishop of the English District), but also two Fort Wayne professors (Prof. Ziegler and Dr. Reuning). Fr. Braden (Zion's pastor) is also a classmate of mine. He is not only a scholar and an exegete, but also a beloved Seelsorger and brother in the ministry. Dr. Eckardt, Fr. Petersen, and Dcn Muhlenbruch are all remarkable scholars and churchmen.

If you can get to Detroit on Monday, September 27, 2010, I recommend you sign up now!

Now this is what a "Mass Event" ought to look like!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sermon: Funeral of Lois Coyne

20 July 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Philip, Jody, David, Bonnie, family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, peace be with all of you.

We all grieve the loss of such a wonderful mother, grandmother, and friend. It is a truly painful experience to suddenly be separated from someone so beloved, so kind, and so joyful to be around. Obviously, Lois touched so many people during her eighty-four year sojourn with us on this side of the grave. We are indeed a sad people on this day.

And yet, at the same time, there is joy in knowing that Lois doesn’t join us in our mourning and sadness. She has run the race and won the victor’s crown. She has joined her Savior in “the fruit” that “leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” She now waits joyfully for us to be reunited with her. And so, even in our sadness, there is joy.

This is how St. Paul can point out to us Christians that even though we mourn, we do not mourn like the unbelievers, like those who have no hope. For we do have hope, dear friends, the Good News of the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus, a victory shared by Lois and by all those who are baptized and believe. For Lois is not just in a better place now, she is in the best place forever. She is not merely beyond pain and suffering, for she enjoys happiness beyond anything we can comprehend.

Indeed, dear brothers and sisters, there is much we don’t comprehend. We don’t understand the Lord’s will. Why didn’t we have the opportunity to be with Lois as she went to be with the Lord? Why did she have to suffer in her later years? There are many “whys” the Lord doesn’t answer. But the question of why we die, and why there are no exceptions, is explained in God’s Word. St. Paul teaches us: “For the wages of sin is death.” Death is the result of the willful rebellion of our ancestors in the Garden of Eden. That beautiful idyllic existence of fruit and gold and onyx and walks with God in the cool of the day was shattered and replaced by work and pain and mortality, as Adam and Eve sought that which was not given them. And the Lord had warned them: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” We have all heard the Lord’s warning, and we have all sinned. And we all die.

Lois and all people bear the burden of this consequence. And we deserve it. For even as saintly a person as Lois is not without sin. And, dear brothers and sisters, this is why we mortal sinners come here to this place: to hear God’s Word, to listen to Him call us to repent, to allow His Word to sink into our hearts, and to be blessed by that same Word as it comforts us with the full and free forgiveness of Christ. God’s Word brings life out of death, and wrenches joy out of sadness.

Lois understood this very well. She heard it from infancy from Pastor Schmid, who baptized her, taught her the faith, and confirmed her. She heard it through the many years of pastors who preached to her, absolved her, and gave her the Lord’s Supper. And she heard it again last week as the last of those unworthy servants who ministered to her, in her more than eight decades, gave her the Lord’s Body and Blood one last time.

For Lois knew and confessed this truth: “For the wages of sin is death.” But she also knew and confessed the rest of St. Paul’s inspired proclamation, the Good News: “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Life. That is the very opposite of death. Eternal life. Life that never ends. Life in Christ: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The victory won for Lois and for us by our Savior at the cross has been given to her, and to us, as a free and glorious gift. Lois does not have eternal life because she earned it by attending worship, by her kindness and gentleness, by her tireless devotion as a mother, nor by working for the church. None of that merited anything. Rather Lois enjoys eternal life as a free gift. All of her manifold good works were done out of gratitude for the Lord who saved her from her sins, who redeemed her from death, and who won for her and delivered to her eternal life.

For Lois confessed the one true faith taught by God’s Word. Like the four thousand hungry people who gathered around Jesus and heard His preaching and His Word, so too did Lois join her brothers and sisters in Christ to hear the Good News. She too received the Lord’s compassion. She too took part as the Lord Jesus continues to call His disciples to feed the multitudes with the life-giving bread. And like the four thousand, Lois was “satisfied.” She was satisfied and made whole by this miraculous bread and wine made holy by the Word and command of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Lois was satisfied when water was poured on her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Lois was satisfied when time and again, she heard the Lord’s words: “I forgive you all your sins….” Lois was satisfied when her hunger and thirst were taken away by eating and drinking the Holy Supper, even as her sins were taken away at the cross, and that forgiveness and life were delivered to her at the rail. For the Lord’s promise is true: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Lois was satisfied by this Good News of forgiveness and life for 84 years, and she continues to be satisfied eternally, as she gathers around the Banquet Table of which the Lord’s Supper was but an earthly foretaste.

Dear friends, we don’t mourn for Lois. We mourn for ourselves. And we should mourn. For even our Lord wept upon the death of His friend Lazarus. And yet, the Lord demonstrated that even in His own mourning, there was a resurrection to come. For though we are the poorer without Lois in our immediate midst, we have the promise of our Lord: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom is ours, and the kingdom is hers.

And let us not forget our Lord’s wonderful promise of comfort: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

We shall be comforted, dear brothers and sisters, dear Philip, Jody, David, and Bonnie, family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been blessed by Lois, and what’s more, we have been blessed by our Lord who loves us, sheds His blood for us, gives us His Word, reveals His promises, fills us with hope and joy, and in the fullness of time, brings his promise to fruition in the form of the victory of resurrection and eternal life. That is Lois’s joy and her crown.

Peace be with all of you, now and unto eternity! Amen.

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ordination anniversary

Today is the sixth anniversary of my ordination into the office of the holy ministry at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I am eternally grateful to the people of Zion, to Pastor Doug Punke, and all the the clergy who came to lay hands on me - especially Rev. Dr. Fred Baue, my former pastor and the first person to lead me to the seminary.

Also, a shout-out is due to my dear friend and brother Deacon (then Seminarian) Latif Gaba who served as the subdeacon at my ordination. Thanks also to Pastor (then Seminarian) Jon Bakker who played trombone, Professor Chad Bird who preached the sermon, to Professor Peter Scaer, who taught me Greek and was a great friend during my pastoral formation, to Kantor Mike Hollman and the magnificent choir of Zion, to Seminarian Sony Lawrence the videographer, as well as to my dad, my parents-in-law, my brother- and sister-in-law, classmates, professors, participant clergy, friends, and of course Mrs. Hollywood (and the fetal Leo) who made this a momentous day for me, yet one more unworthy servant of Jesus Christ in a chain of presbyters stretching back to the apostles who have been given the gift and vocation to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments, and to serve the saints of the Lord's Church.

To quote Bishop Bo Giertz's fictional Pastor Fridfeldt: "Finns det något större än att få vara präst?"

Deo gratias!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pastor Brown on Doctor Quill

Rev. Eric Brown has assembled a bunch of pithy quotes by our beloved professor the Rev. Dr. Tim Quill (shown left).

I took Lutheran Worship and Homiletics with Dr. Quill. He is not only a stellar intellect, engaging lecturer, font of pastoral wisdom, a prince among men, but is also just a fun professor and person to listen to. While soft-spoken and even-keeled, you just never knew what he was going to say next.

He also headed up the Russian Project and did a lot of travelling around the world making contact with conservative, confessional, and traditional Lutherans around the globe, raised a family - and still managed to teach us wet-behind-the-ears seminarians.

Enjoy these quotes from Pr. Brown's Fall 2003 Pastoral Practice class with Dr. Quill, here, here, and here.

Obla Diah Obla Daiah?

Does this ever happen to you while putting tabs in your Septuagint? When I got to Obadiah, I got this little tune stuck in my head. Hey, well, at least it isn't Bad Romance. Life goes on...

He who sings, prays twice...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day / Bonne Fête Nationale

A powerful scene from Casablanca, which is even more poignant when one considers the words of the anthem...

especially the part about spilling the "impure blood" of the tyrannical occupiers and using it to water the "furrows of our fields." I think that whole "impure blood" thing didn't set well with the Nazis...

The national anthem of the United States is a martial anthem to be sure, but I think La Marseillaise takes the cake for goriness, unless, of course, The Onion's report about the Star Spangled Banner's missing verses is true:

One more beautiful rendition of the French anthem is this 1989 black and white performance by Mireille Mathieu:

Vive La France!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Congratulations to the New LCMS President

Today, the Rev. Matt Harrison was elected the 13th president of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He is a conservative, confessional Lutheran - and a theologian. In fact, here is a nice write-up by the traditionalist Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, editor-in-chief of Gottesdienst, the world's foremost journal of Lutheran liturgy.

I'm sure Pastor Harrison doesn't remember me, but ten years ago, when he was pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I was one of many seminarians placed under his supervision for field work. Pr. Harrison can be an intimidating fellow: deep voiced, barrel chested, and theologically learned. And Zion (where I was later to be ordained) can also be an intimidating church: massive, historic, traditional, and laid out like a cathedral. On my first assignment to serve as subdeacon for a midweek Vespers service - which meant being vested (awkwardly at that time) in collar, cassock, and surplice; reading the lesson from the lecturn; and chanting the response - I was nervous, to say the least.

That evening, we had a big snowstorm. So I set aside my dress shoes and pushed my stocking feet into my oversized, sturdy, fur-lined winter boots. Problem is, in my nervousness, I forgot my dress shoes at home. There was no time to go back for them.

I was mortified.

Hangdog and expecting a dressing-down, I went to Pr. Harrison to face the music just prior to the service. I told him I didn't think I could serve that evening. When he asked why not, I pointed with embarrassment to my silly snow-booted feet.

Pr. Harrison laughed and laughed. He got the associate pastor and they both laughed. Not in meanness or mockery, but in a reassuringly backslapping kind of way, as brothers might tease each other. Pr. Harrison told me it would be just fine. So there I was in cassock, surplice, and clownish fur-lined boots performing the sacred office of liturgical subdeacon for the first time on the marble floor within the chancel of historic Zion church the same place where I would be ordained and celebrate my first Mass (properly shod that time) only four years later.

Pr. Harrison also lectured our field education classes at the seminary and occasionally preached in chapel. He had a well-worn copy of the Greek New Testament, and would read to us out of it without a translation, rendering it into English on the fly.

Five years ago, Pr. Harrison also came to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to meet with several of us area pastors, and distributed funds from LCMS World Relief and Human Care to help us get our churches up and running again. On that occasion, he was gracious to sign a copy of Johann Gerhard's Meditations on Divine Mercy for me, a book he translated from the German. He inscribed the book for me in Latin.

I don't think Pr. Harrison will be able to fix all of our problems in the LCMS (and I hope people don't expect him to be a miracle worker), but we as a synod have certainly voted to move in a different direction than the path we've been on for nearly a decade. It should be an interesting time in the life of the LCMS.

Congratulations and blessings to Pr. Harrison, and let us keep the synod in our prayers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sermon: Trinity 6

11 July 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 5:17-26 (Ex 20:1-17, Rom 6:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The Ten Commandments continue to be controversial nearly 4,000 years after they were carved into stone by the finger of God. Non-Christians criticize Christians who want the Law displayed in courthouses. Non-Lutherans criticize Lutherans who memorize the commandments as part of our Catechism. And Lutherans fought against other Lutherans in the 1500s about whether or not the Law belonged in the pulpit.

All this fuss is because we really don’t like the Law. Our Old Adam kicks and screams. If one were to take our Lord’s sermon that serves as our Gospel for today, and mark all the Law in red and all the Gospel in blue, well, let’s just say that you would not want to wave the result in front of a bull.

Of course, we like the Law when it is applied to others, but not to us. When it comes to our own sins, we want mercy. When it comes to the sins of others, we want justice. And to make matters more confusing, God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful – a mystery of faith that taxes our reason.

And yet, here we are once again, by God’s providence, pondering the Ten Commandments and their place in our faith and life. Our Lord in His infinite wisdom is calling us to repentance, right here and right now, by yet again reminding us of His Law. And who can sit perfectly still and comfortable as these accusatory commands remind us of our failures, our disappointments, the people we have hurt, and our indifference toward our Creator?

And if that weren’t enough, our Lord shuts off the last bit of comfort we can take from the commandment “You shall not murder.” For most of us can safely say that we have not maliciously taken a human life. And even that little bit of satisfaction that we have in believing that we have actually kept a commandment is taken away from us by our Blessed Lord who preaches that “Everyone who is angry with His brother” breaks the commandment, and is “liable to judgment,” and “whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.”

And immediately following this fire-and-brimstone sermon from Jesus, the hymnal calls for this ironic response: “This is the Gospel of the Lord.”

But thanks be to God for this airtight and no-nonesense Law! It breaks us of any illusion that we can save ourselves. It strips us of any delusion that we are anything but “poor miserable sinners.” The Law, which Jesus did not abolish, “not an iota, not a dot,” cuts off every avenue of escape and slams every door in our faces.

All, that is, except one.

The only door through which we can pass to safety is Christ. And the only way to that door is confession and repentance in response to God’s Law. We have no choice but to surrender unconditionally and to fall down upon the ground before God. We must hit rock bottom. And this, dear Christians, makes the blood of our Old Adam boil.

But this is the Gospel of the Lord! For this one way out is the only begotten Son, whose death on the cross redeems us and atones for us. He is the only lifeline we get, but the good news is that He is the only lifeline we need: the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. When we finally tire of running away from the reality that we need to repent, that we cannot save ourselves, there is our merciful Savior to pick up our weary bodies, lifting us up onto His scarred and bloodied shoulders, carrying us safely between the equally frightening lies of the devil and the truth of our unworthiness. And rather than grumble about the way the Law makes us feel, let us rejoice, dear brothers and sisters, in the Savior to whom the Law draw us! For our merciful Redeemer does for us what we realize that we can’t do.

The wages of sin is death. And part of our Lord’s fulfillment of the Law was His very own undeserved death. “Do you not know,” asks St. Paul, “that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, our sinful, dead selves are buried with Christ. The waterborne Word is a death sentence for our Old Adam, and is a regenerating life-giving bath for the New Man. And this is no mere symbol, dear brothers and sisters. Listen to the holy apostle: “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Just as Jesus was dead and rose physically, literally, and bodily from the grave, so too shall we. And if the Law merely wounded us or annoyed us, if we could weasel out of it or push it away through our protestations, we would have been on our own. No, dear friends, the Law leaves us with no way out – except Christ alone! The Law that so repulses us, pushes us right into the loving arms of our Savior, stretched out on the cross, offering us His eternal and life-giving embrace.

What a merciful Lord we have, for He leaves us with nowhere to go except to Him! What a great and merciful thing this Law is, that exposes as useless and futile, any and all attempts by us to reach up to God by our own efforts! What a loving God we have that makes it clear in His Word that He and He alone is our hope and our salvation, our light and our life.

Our Lord refuses to soften the Law. For to do so would be to cave in to our Old Adam that always wants credit, seeks praise, and claims to be worthy. The Law shows us that we are only fooling ourselves, and prepares us for the truth, the glorious truth, the Gospel truth, that Jesus is our Savior, our loving Redeemer, and that in Him and in Him alone, all our sins are forgiven. And what’s more, this forgiveness is all a free and unmitigated gift.

For without the Law in its severity, we would never know the Gospel in its sweetness. And worst of all, without the Law, we would die in the very sins that we thought were no big deal, clinging to a faith in ourselves. Thanks be to God that He breaks us free from these chains of death and self-delusion!

“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you have been set free by Christ and have been made “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Thanks be to God, now and forever. Amen.

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

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Bible Recommendation

One would think that the last thing we would need is another Bible - especially given 2008's being nicknamed The Year of the Study Bible. The LCMS was only slightly late to the party with CPH's well-received The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) being released in 2009.

But the Apostolic Bible, 2006 edition, edited by Charles Van Der Pool, is not a new translation nor a "study Bible," but rather a reference tool that I have found very helpful. It weds the Greek New Testament to the Greek Old Testament of the Septuagint.

To read more, click here.

I Dare You...

...not to watch this, and not to laugh. Bonus "double dog dare" not to think of Chris Farley as you simply can't take your eyes off of this one-of-a-kind drummer.

Asia, Eponymity, and Winn-Dixie

Next up on listener-supported Father Hollywood (and just in time for your summer entertainment): "Heat of the Moment" by eighties supergroup Asia (from their 1981 eponymous debut - and anytime one can use the word "eponymous", one should seize the opportunity), courtesy of the public address system at the Winn-Dixie on Belle Chasse Highway.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Refreshing Summer Drink, Part Deux

Here's all the stuff you need. Note the lock on the cabinet, owing to Vicar's (not shown) ability to open doors even without an opposable thumb...

Two years ago to the day, I posted a suggestion for a great summer drink.

Here is another glorious and yet facile summer quaff: lychee soda.

You may be familiar with lychees as a dessert fruit served in Chinese restaurants. They are available canned or fresh. They are sweet and juicy, sublime in texture, and quite simply, edenic awesomeness. Coca Cola sells a lychee soda (available for sampling at the Coke Museum in Atlanta), but it is not available in the U.S. - unless you make your own!

And it's really (no, really really!) easy.

Here is what you need:

1) A double shot glass.

Your shot glass may differ based on regional exigencies...

2) Lychee syrup (I got mine from Hong Kong Market in Gretna, pics here).

Avoid the temptation to stick your tongue in the carton like a hummingbird...

3) Mineral water (or club soda)

4) Tall glass.

Plastic has advantages, right Mrs. H.?

5) Cat is optional.

It was nice of Athena to share her counter and to make herself available for pictures

Fill the double jigger halfway with the lychee syrup (or, following a sophisticated mathematical algorithm, fill a single shot all the way to the top - though such scrawny vessels intended to serve alcoholic beverages may actually be illegal in the New Orleans area, Napoleonic Law and all that...). Fill up the glass with mineral water. Pour in the lychee syrup. Mix thoroughly. Adjust to taste. Add ice if you wish.


This just may be the finest thing you will taste this side of heaven.

Lychees in their raw splendor

"Home sweet home," Athena is happy to be back on top of the Euro Pro toaster oven

Bonus: Click here for boring home movie footage of us buying lychees at Hong Kong Market.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Mega-Church Bus

HT to my buddy Greg over at Our Holy Cause, who snagged this from The Sacred Sandwich.

I especially like the "landing strip for the pastor's jet" - a very practical feature for the $ucce$$ful Louisiana pastor.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Lest We Forget: When Big Government Attacks...

Happy Independence Day. Here is what the Fourth is all about.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Sermon: Trinity 5

4 July 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 5:1-11 (1 Kings 19:11-21, 1 Cor 1:18-25

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

God is delightfully illogical.

This doesn’t mean chaotic or arbitrary, but rather that He is joyfully unpredictable as compared to our fallen world. For in our sin-filled existence: bigger is better, might makes right, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the braggart is fawned over, the loudest and most abusive people are the ones who get the attention.

Indeed, according to the world, “coffee is for closers only,” and to the victor belong the spoils. And in our culture, science and technology are king. Planning and marketing are behind fortunes rising and falling. And our lives are as predictable as the precise ticks of our atomic clocks.

And then God breaks into our world!

Logic teaches us to adopt the bumper-sticker motto: “Jesus is coming soon, and boy is He mad!” Reason tells us that God is a vengeful tyrant. Science tells us that a great deal of energy is released in strong winds and massive earthquakes and ablazing fires.

Our minds have convinced us that religion has nothing to teach us about fishing, nor that men can be “caught” by preaching. Conventional wisdom holds that education and discernment, wisdom and learning, being a scribe or a debater is the highest expression of the mind.

And then God comes in – wrapped in swaddling cloths in a manger, and bleeding to death on a cross – and destroys all of these silly myths that seem to our fallen minds to make so much sense.

For the Lord God appeared to Elijah not in the hurricane-force winds that tore away hunks of mountains, nor in terrifying shifts in the world’s landmasses, nor even in an all-consuming conflagration – but rather in a whisper. A simple whisper! God speaks in a human voice, and a weak one at that – like that of a barely-audible rasp of a saint on her death bed.

That, dear friends, is the voice of God.

The might of God’s voice is not in the volume or the bluster, nor in hurling invective or in formulating clever speculations – but rather in a simple truth uttered however feebly. The voice of God is the Word of God: the Word made flesh who speaks to us, whose Word forgives our sins, whose breath ordains preachers by the Holy Spirit, whose “low whisper” sends demons scurrying and restores sinners to eternal life and complete incorruptibility – something neither science nor philosophy nor screaming and yelling nor marketing could ever do.

God’s Word is not a horrifying breaker of rocks or a consuming fire raging in wrath and destruction, but rather a Word of absolution uttered in agony, almost imperceptibly, from the cross: “Father forgive them…” The Word of God, which seems so scandalous to the Jew and so foolish to the Greek, is indeed the “Word of the cross” – which is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

This power is unexpected, and it breaks into our lives like the Trojan Horse. Only this gift is not borne by Greeks but by the living God, and its contents not a legion of soldiers but an army of grace. The Lord delivers His gifts of mercy and eternal life by His very Word, even as the Lord spoke a word that seemed absurd to Peter about putting out into the deep and lowering his nets anew for a catch. For Peter was an experienced fisherman. He knew how to catch fish. He had been toiling all night, and caught nothing. The Word of the preacher was, by contrast, sheer folly, and maybe even a stumbling-block to the fisherman’s work schedule.

But in response to this seemingly ridiculous Word of the Lord, Peter obeyed: “But at your word…” said Peter. And at the Lord’s Word, the miracle happened, the gifts were delivered, the blessings abounded, and fish were caught in the net that seemed so impotent and useless only a few hours before. St. Peter knew this was a miracle, and at that moment, he perceived something about Jesus. “Depart from me,” Simon Peter pleads, “for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” St. Peter knew that sin and God are incompatible. He knew that no-one sees God and lives. This was logical and reasonable.

But then God acts unexpectedly, delightfully illogically, in love and mercy. The Lord puts it bluntly to Peter: “Do not be afraid.” Even though Peter is a great sinner, the Lord is a greater Savior. Even though reason teaches Peter to fear – and it is healthy to fear God – the reason-defying Author of all reason throws logic to the wind and reveals His plan: St. Peter was to be a preacher of the Word – whose power is manifest even in a whisper. St. Peter was to be one who would be “catching men” – even though the world and our sinful flesh does not want to believe that a word can do any such thing, that a preacher can proclaim good news as from God Himself, that a pastor can speak a simple word of absolution and that God Himself causes the miracle to happen.

It’s pure scandal and folly.

For our inner Jew seeks a sign, and our inner Greek seeks wisdom. But it is all for naught – for “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles… the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The Lord’s power and wisdom are found in the last places the world would look. And what is there for us to do, dear friends, but to confess this truth before the world? In fact, we sing it before God and men, ringing out the glorious battle, the ending of the fray, the world’s redemption, all by way of the Word of the cross, folly and scandal, and yet true sign of triumph, upon which the Victim won the day. God is delightfully illogical because love itself is illogical.

Unto God be praise and glory;
To the Father and the Son,
To th’eternal Spirit honor
Now and ever more be done;
Praise and glory in the highest
While the timeless ages run.


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

Friday, July 02, 2010

Possibly the coolest graduation speech ever...

This is from the 2007 Harvard commencement. Not only is the speech clever and engaging, funny and delivered with conversational ease and familiarity - it's in Latin. There are subtitles.

It's worth a look.

Happy July 2nd (Independence Day)

The Second of July is the date in 1776 that the Second Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain.

The celebration of the Fourth is actually two days late, commemorating not independence, but the passing of the formal resolution known today as the Declaration of Independence. The actual act of secession happened on the Second.

Here is a snippet from a famous letter from John Adams (delegate from Massachusetts who would later become the second president of the United States) to his wife Abagail, written on the 3rd, the day after Congress broke ties with the mother country:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

The clip above from the musical 1776 incorporates some of the wording in a dramatized version of Adams' letter home.

The play and film 1776 is not entirely historically accurate, but it does capture the spirit of the tensions and big personalities that led to American Independence. There are also some catchy tunes and clever turns of phrase. This time of year might be a good time to review the movie and ponder why we Americans, each and every year, continue to celebrate our separation from a centralized, overbearing government with "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations" and why we should continue to see the value of political independence and liberty.

Below is another clip from the movie, dramatizing more exchanges between John and Abagail Adams and the latter's frustrations with Congress.

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dr. Thomas Woods is Interviewed by a Zombie!

HT: Lew Rockwell.

This is one of the finest and funniest lessons in Constitutional liberty you will ever see. And so true to life!

The Swingin' Polycarpians...

... would be a good name for a retro band. Or, the title of the above pic of myself and my dear old friend and brother in Christ, Deacon Latif Gaba, while lazily strolling about Milwaukee with our families.

Picture courtesy of the legendary Ruth Gaba.

O Canada!

Happy Canada Day, Bonne Fête du Canada!

Bonus: Here is the greatest Canadian commercial ever, as well as a PG-13 spoof of that same spot with a Québécois spin. Here is another Molson Canadian commercial entitled "No doot aboot it," and the sequel.

Feel "strong and free" to find your inner Canadian today by cracking open a Molson Canadian, a Labatt's Blue, or a Moosehead, listening to an old Rush album (or other classic Canadian rock), putting on some hockey reruns, enjoying the CFL season kickoff, and if you've had enough Canadian beer, settle in with a viewing of Strange Brew.

And one of the best things about Canadians is their sense of humour (with a "u"): check out this video, please (politeness is a must).

Mrs. H. (right) and friend, Canada Day 1988 in Ottawa