Monday, June 25, 2012

Sermon: Presentation of the Augsburg Confession - 2012

25 June 2012 at Hope Lutheran Church, Bellaire, MI

Text: Matt 10:26-33 (Neh 8:1-2, 5-6, 9-12; 1 Tim 6:11-16)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Believing is easy.  Believing is just being convinced that something is true.  And you can do that without anyone knowing about it.  It’s the confessing that can be hard. 

Because Satan and his allies in positions of authority do not want to hear what we have to say, what the Church has to say, what Christ has to say.  Confession of Christ has resulted in the shedding of blood of every martyr of every age.  Confession has placed men, women, and children into shackles and cells and torture chambers right down to this very moment.  Confession is what it means to “fight the good fight of faith” as St. Paul exhorts us.  For once one has engaged the enemy, once one has “confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses,” one is taking up the cross and truly following our Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself “witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate.”

Christians of every time and place are called upon to confess Christ and to openly and lovingly proclaim to the world the reason for the hope that is in them, to confess before kings and before paupers the good news of Jesus Christ, of His atoning death on the cross, His freely offered sacrifice of His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, and our own unworthy reception of this redemptive grace through faith, by hearing the Word and partaking of the sacraments.

Sometimes this confession can be made freely.  Sometimes there is a cost.  While salvation is free, sometimes the confession of the free grace costs confessors their very lives.

Our forbears in the age of reformation knew this cost.  They had seen those who dared ask questions being tortured and burned at the stake.  They followed the sad saga of the excommunication of Doctor Luther, one of the Church’s greatest theologians, and stubborn refusal of the Church’s pompous bureaucracy to submit to Holy Scripture.  Some of these confessors would be burned at the stake or have their lands seized.  At very least, their reputations would be savaged, and they would be accused of being heretics.

But these brave men and women, pastors and laypeople, redeemed sinners of many lands, Christians who hungered for righteousness and thirsted for truth, took comfort in our Lord’s encouragement, “Therefore do not fear them.  For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  ‘Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light, and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops….  Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.’”

The evangelical movement that began in Germany – the churches, the pastors, the lay people, the university professors, all Christians who looked to the Bible instead of bureaucracy, who sought the Gospel and not superstitious trinkets – they were to have their opportunity at Augsburg to “fight the good fight” and “confess the good confession” before church and state, before nobles and peasants, before angels and demons – on this very date 482 years ago.

In the very teeth of the Roman Church and the Imperial State, these confessors, just as their Lord did before Pilate, “witnessed the good confession.”

And like the Old Testament exiles who returned home after decades in captivity, these confessors of Augsburg once more “opened the book” of the Word of God, and “the people stood up.”  They heard about the good news of our Lord’s death on the cross and rejected the theory of Purgatory.  They heard the proclamation of grace and rejected the mercenary trade in Masses and in relics.  They heard the Word in its glory and they rejected the self-proclaimed infallibility of church bureaucrats.

And the people were called to “rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.”

The people heard the presentation of this good confession with clarity, that these reformers indeed worshiped the Trinity and confessed original sin, the Son of God, justification, the ministry, the new obedience, the Church (and what it is), baptism, the Lord’s Supper, confession, repentance, the use of sacraments, order in the Church, the observance of ceremonies, civil government, Christ’s return, the proper understanding of free will, the cause of sin, good works, and the proper way to honor the saints.

They heard these 21 articles of faith confessed with charity, in firmness and yet in love, with courage and with faith.  And they indeed confessed, “Our churches do not dissent from any article of the faith held by the Church catholic.” 

And the people heard explanations of certain practices of the ancient church that were restored: both kinds in the sacrament, the marriage of priests, the proper understanding of the Mass and its ceremonies, confession and absolution, the right way to fast, a biblical view of monastic vows, and the proper exercise of authority in the Church. 

And this confession was offered at this time and in this place for the sake of the Gospel, “so that it would be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies, we have received nothing contrary to Scripture or to the Church universal.”

Dear friends, this confession is needed now more than ever.  We live in a postmodern age where those who are afraid to commit and afraid to offend allow truth to be twisted and turned and led around like a pig with a ring in its snout.  But truth is objective, dear brothers and sisters, and though we can (and do) have honest disagreements with other Christians and even within our on communion, there is a basic confession that we Lutherans have bound ourselves, our pastors, and our churches to. 

Not only is there an objective truth, but it is knowable as revealed in Scripture and confessed by the Church Catholic.  We confess the faith of our fathers, of the apostles, of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  The Bible always trumps the bureaucrat, the Gospel always outshines trinkets, and we are bidden always to confess Him “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.  Amen.”

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sermon: Nativity of St. John the Baptist - 2012

24 June 2012 at Hope Lutheran Church, Bellaire, MI

Text: Luke 1:57-80

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Just as every Lord’s Day is a mini-Easter, every Lord’s day is also a mini-Christmas.  Indeed, as we Lutherans confess in the Apology of our Augsburg Confession:

“We do not abolish the Mass, but religiously keep and defend it.  Masses are celebrated among us every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals.  The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved.”

And so even in the middle of summer we are not out of line to wish one another a Merry Christ’s Mass.  For this holy day and holy sacrament that we celebrate today is the celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ, born of Mary, true God and true Man, come to us in Word and Sacrament, in body and blood, in bread and wine.

Dear friends, what a treasure we have!  What a privilege to be here!  What a glorious thing we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and take into our bodies: the Word of the Lord, the body and blood of Christ – for us men and for our salvation!

Indeed, today is yet another celebration of Christmas, of the incarnation of our Lord, of the fulfillment of the hope and yearning of the elderly Zacharias and his formerly barren wife Elizabeth, of the answer to prayers, of the peace and mercy and redemption and love of God for His people, of the fulfillment of the passing millennia as generations awaited the fulfillment of the promise, the victory over the devil, the restoration of life to a people dead in their trespasses, and the vindication of all creation from the devastation of sin.

With the coming of the Lord’s holy cousin John, the man who is the greatest of those born of woman and yet the least in the kingdom, the voice crying in the wilderness prophesied by Isaiah seven centuries before, he who would close out the Old Testament by announcing the coming of Him whose blood is the New Testament – we see everything changing.

The grip of Satan is loosed as the devil is being mortally wounded by our Lord – who was Himself mortally wounded for us and in our place.  The consequences of sin, the debt we can never pay, the damage we can never undo – is paid in full and creation is repaired to its former glory by Him who died and rose again.  The finality of death – the most cruel and final of all enemies of man and beast alike – has been rendered temporary, as the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the first-fruits of the resurrection promised and given to us as a free gift of God’s gracious mercy.

For the Lord laid a burden upon St. John: the vocation of being the forerunner, the herald, the preacher of repentance, and the baptizer of our blessed Lord.  It is a burden that St. John the Baptist would carry faithfully unto death – in spite of his doubts, in spite of his perceived failure, in spite of his shameful execution.  John surrendered his head as a martyr’s testimony to the Head of the Church, the Sacred Head now Wounded, the one who has come to crush the vile serpent’s head, so that we might be members of His body, the Church, the redeemed bride, sinners converted into saints – by the power of the same Word preached by John, his very cousin in the flesh, the Word Made Flesh, the one who comes to us today, dear brothers and sisters.

We sing with Zecharias and with Christians of every age, filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.”

He has visited us, dear friends.  He does not leave us to fend for ourselves.  But He visits us in our sinful world in His sinless flesh.  He visits, literally “oversees” or “bishops” us as the Good Shepherd of our souls, leading us safely away from predators and joyfully to the still baptismal waters and green pastures of eternal life.  He redeems us, dying for us that we might live.  Purchasing us from the bondage of sin – “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

“And (He) has raised up for us,” continues St. Zacharias, “a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.  As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us.”

Dear friends, we have all this – right here and right now!  We have heard the Lord speak to us through His appointed minister!  Our sins have been forgiven!  We have heard the good news placed into our ears through the reading of the Lord’s most precious and most holy Word!  And, dear brothers and sisters, we are about to partake of the very body and blood of our dear Lord, the true fountain of youth, the antidote to death, the medicine of immortality, the physical communion between us poor miserable, but forgiven sinners, and our almighty and infinite, but merciful and present, God.

“How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

For John the Baptist came in his own flesh to proclaim the coming of the Son of God in the flesh.  He has come into time and space, to a specific place, and He continues to seek us out where we may be found, dear friends.  He meets us here, in the house of God and at the gate of heaven.  He comes here and now to be with us, to save us, to redeem us, to forgive us, and to give us everlasting life.  This is what John proclaimed, this is what we proclaim, and this is what the Church will proclaim until the Lord’s return.

For the Lord came into time and space “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham.”

What a glorious thing, dear friends, that we are privileged to hear this anew, to yet again commune with our Lord, the same Lord born of Mary and baptized by John, the same Lord who died in His body and blood on the cross and who rose in His body and blood from the empty tomb.  This is what we receive in this Word and Sacrament: “To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”

Dear friends, we have been delivered from our enemies: those in this world who seek our pain and destruction, as well as those in realms unseen that wage relentless war to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  We shall serve the Lord without fear, without the fear of our sins, without fear of rejection, without fear that we must rely on our own goodness to save us.  For we have been granted “holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” – for we too have heard St. John’s sermon: “repent!” and we have been given the gift of the baptizer, being baptized into Christ’s death, even as we have been given this gift for “all the days of our life.”

And, dear brothers and sisters, with our enemies defeated, our sins atoned for, our death undone, and our sinful and broken world renewed and restored, the promise that this is for “all the days of our life” takes on new meaning.  It means without sin, without sorrow, without regret, without pain, and without death – and without end!

This, dear friends, is why John was born: “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 

We praise You for the Baptist,
Forerunner of the Word,
Our true Elijah making
A highway for the Lord.
The last and greatest prophet,
He saw the dawning ray
Of light that grows in splendor
Until the perfect day.


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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 2 – 2012

17 June 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 14:15-24 (Prov 9:1-10, 1 John 3:13-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our spiritual father St. John the Apostle says to us: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 

For he knows how we are.

We are talkers, not doers.  We are like the man who says: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  Rather than being rewarded by Jesus for saying something profound and pious, our Lord Jesus tells a parable to convict him of his sins and call him to repentance.  For in this story, everyone has an excuse.

This is because we are talkers and not doers. 

We are like St. Peter who swears that even if everyone else falls away, he won’t.  Instead, he denied the Lord three times.  It’s easier to make promises than to keep them.  It’s easier to talk about Christianity than to be a Christian.  It’s easier to pay lip service to “spirituality” than to abide by the teachings of Christ’s holy religion.

In other words, we talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. 

But, dear friends, the Lord is calling on us to be honest with ourselves.  He invites us: “Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”  For “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” 

The first thing every Lutheran child memorizes from the catechism is the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.  What does this mean?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”  But who wants a God that is feared? 

And yet, the Word of the Lord is clear: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

But do we really fear the Lord?  Are we any different than the characters of our Lord’s parable?  “Come, for everything is now ready,” He invites us.  The bread and wine are on the altar.  Everything is now ready.  “The feast is ready, come to the feast.”  Sins are forgiven in this place.  The Word of God is proclaimed in this place.  The Lord is miraculously present in the Holy Sacrament in this place.  “Come, for everything is now ready,” He says to us with great joy and excitement.

But where is everyone?

Jesus is here.  What could be more important than that?

“The first says to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it.”  Someone else says: “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to examine them.”  Still another says: “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”

There is always an excuse.  There is always something more important.  There is always a good reason to do something else, go somewhere else, pay attention to someone else.  There is TV to be watched, parties to attend, chores to be done, places to go, things to do, people to see.  There are shows and sports and things to do at work.  And even when there isn’t, there is the morning paper and the chance to sleep in.

“So the servant came and reported these things to his master.  Then the master of the house became angry.”  He uninvited those with excuses, he sought others who would recognize and appreciate the invitation.  “Bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame,” he orders.  And he adds: “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

This is a hard word the Lord gives us today, dear friends.  But thanks be to God our Father that He loves us enough to warn us, to call us to repent, to draw us into Himself, to His Son who did walk the walk of the road to Calvary, who made no excuses, but who loves us in deed and in truth.  Thanks be to God that He sends us His Spirit, to convict us, call us, and draw us to Himself.

The Lord calls us to put away our excuses!  The Lord calls us to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things!  The Lord calls us to “eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”  The Lord calls us to walk the walk and to truly know love.  For “by this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

He issues the invitation anew: “Come, for everything is now ready!”  He has gone out into the “highways and hedges” and He compels us – not with force, but with love.  He draws us in by grace!  He beckons us with His Word: the Word of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He desires that His house should be filled, filled with the “poor and crippled and blind and lame.”  Filled with “poor miserable sinners.”  Filled with people who stop making excuses because there is no excuse for our sinfulness.  Filled with forgiven sinners who accept reproof in love and who respond to the call to repent with thanksgiving and not with scoffing.

Let us turn aside from our excuses and let us confess our lukewarm hearts and repent of our fair-weather faith.  Let us joyfully partake of the feast.  Let us hear the Word of the Lord and not allow it to become just one more text or e-mail in the clutter.  Let us pray to the Lord and not just go through the motions.  Let us partake of the Most Holy Sacrament, knowing and confessing that the Lord is physically and miraculously present with us, for us, even as He has died in our place and leads us into perfect love.  Let us receive the free and full gift of forgiveness, offered in love, and received in love – the pure love of God that abides in us though we most certainly do not deserve it.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  Amen!

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Speaking of the sale of ULC...

Nuff said!

Back in the Saddle

Our family's days as a uni-vehicular family (which has been the case since shortly after Hurricane Katrina) are now over!

I located a nice 2001 Honda Rebel (appropriately purchased from Mississippi) with low miles and in almost new condition for a nice price.  It is a small (and I mean small) motorcycle - 234 cc with the seat 26 inches off the ground.  It's quite a different ride than my old Honda 900 or my Suzuki 850 that I was riding 20 years ago.  But it gets about 70 miles per gallon in a two and a half gallon tank.

The bike runs very well, can get up over 70 mph - though that is about the extent of it.  This is fine for the commuting that I need to do.  We have a longer riding season in New Orleans than when I was riding in Ohio (having to wear a snow-suit part of the year).

No more daily one-person minivan commute - at least when the weather cooperates.

Every family should have a little Rebel.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My interview today on Issues, Etc.

Thank you to Jeff Schwarz and Rev. Todd Wilkin for having me on today on the world's greatest Lutheran radio program - Issues, Etc.  You can listen here for today's half hour interview about my article in the latest Gottesdienst called "The Problem with Protestantism."

I've been on Issues, Etc. three times.  You can search the archives of all of the shows since it went online here.  There is a little something for everyone here - for Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike!

And if you can't get the Issues, Etc. theme song out of your head, here is the video!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Iron Man vs. Idiocracy?

The above video of Peter Schiff's recent testimony before congress reminds me a bit of this:


The reaction of congress to Schiff reminds me more of this...


not to mention this...


Observing congress is like seeing a video of a toddler who has grabbed the car keys, started the engine, and is driving an automobile to a certain wreck.  America's Funniest Videos it isn't.

I especially find the one congressman's intended condescending remark about "an Ayn Rand novel" to be especially illustrative - as he doesn't even know how to pronounce "Ayn Rand."  If they don't even read their own bills, maybe it's unreasonable to expect anything more than The Cat And The Hat out of these guys.  One of the valid criticisms of Ayn Rand is her one-dimensional characters that are just too cut-and-dried.  The problem is, when I watch this video, I see members of congress just as economically clueless and full of themselves as any bloodless villain in an Ayn Rand story.

Anyway, below is Peter Schiff's announcement of this video including a few key points marked and linked.  It is worth clicking on his excerpts.

Dear Friends,

On Friday, I sent you a link to  the video of my June 7th Congressional testimony regarding the Federal Housing Authority loan policy. Given that the exchanges I had with the Congressmen so clearly illuminate the flawed legislative process and the ignorance that many have about the workings of the free market, I wanted to take this opportunity to resend this important video.

If you share my opinion on economic issues, please help me make this video go viral. For those of you who haven't had the chance to watch the full 33 minutes, I have compiled a guide to the juiciest highlights below.

Investors' Daily Digest  

6:06  - My Opening Statement

11:16 - "I don't know whether to go to Mr. Schiff or not, but I guess I will" - Judy Biggert (R)
  • I explain to Chairwoman Judy Biggert why federal involvement in home lending has created more problems than it has solved.  

16:22 - "Despite all the sound and fury, there's not a lot of details..." - Robert Hurt (R)
  • My proposals that old regulations be repealed, rather than new ones proposed, in order for the free market to come up with solutions are repeatedly lost on Congressman Robert Hurt.

25:16 - "Mr. Schiff, I just have one question..." - Emanuel Cleaver II (D)
  • Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II unsuccessfully tries to 'nail' me. Instead, a spirited discussion ensues in which I remind the congressman of the moral hazard and economic costs of government subsidies.

30:38 - "Maybe that happens in an Ayn Rand novel..." - Brad Sherman (D)  
  • Congressman Brad Sherman asserts that as a practical matter the federal government, in one way or another, insures all homes, and that only characters in an Ayn Rand novel would believe otherwise.  
Peter Schiff
CEO and Chief Global Strategist
Euro Pacific Capital

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Living the Estonian Dream: Can America Learn from a Former Soviet Republic?

Here is an interesting article from CNBC (June 5) that demonstrates the power of austerity, savings, and investment instead of stimulus, debt, and consumerism.  Could we swallow such a bitter pill here in America?  Can we afford not to?  It will be interesting to see what becomes of Estonia - especially being part of the Eurozone.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Primal Cure for Anorexia

Check out Melissa's primal success story from Mark's Daily Apple.

Before primal...
and after!
It's not just about losing weight.  It's just plain more healthy and contributes to a better life.