Saturday, March 10, 2012

Your Entertainment at Guantanamo...

If the federal government takes the next logical step in light of the NDAA and starts deporting its critics to GTMO without a trial, it won't be fun (I don't like swimming, how do you think I would react to waterboarding...), but there might be a plus side: free in-cage lectures on economics by Lew Rockwell, nostalgic reminiscences on the Constitution by Judge Andrew Napolitano, and entertainment by Tim Hawkins!

I guess it could be worse...

A Busy Week at GO

I would like to encourage FH readers to check out Gottesdienst Online.

This is the online blog of the world's greatest print journal devoted to the liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Gottesdienst - now in its 20th year (the printed edition, that is - the blog is now in its fourth year).

Okay, as a matter of full disclosure, I'm one of the editors of GO and I am also one of the editors of the print journal (the sermons editor).  I'm honored to be able to place my scribblings alongside the likes of the editors, the Revs...

  • Burnell Eckardt, Ph.D.
  • John Berg
  • Peter Berg
  • Jason Braaten
  • Heath Curtis, M.A.
  • Karl Fabrizius, Ph.D.
  • David Petersen
  • Col. Jonathan Shaw, S.T.M.
  • Richard Stuckwisch, Ph.D.
Beginning this past Sunday (March 4) until now, we have seen the following articles posted at GO:

Playing the das-ist-Katholische card  (Jason Braaten)
A Letter from Rev. Gizynsky, a 2012 Sabre Nominee  (Burnell Eckardt)
Thoughts on Lent 3 and the Beelzebul Controversy  (Jason Braaten)
O contempora!  O mores!  (Heath Curtis)
Goldilocks, George Carlin, and the Middle of the Road  (yours truly)
Sermon Writer's Block  (David Petersen)
A Tyranny of Moderation  (David Petersen)
On Being Witting or Unwitting Ritualists  (Jason Braaten)
Chanting, Ceremonies, and Consciences  (Richard Stuckwisch)

There has been not only a flurry of posts, but also of thoughtful comments and lively discussion.  Really good stuff!

Gottesdienst also has a facebook page.

If you believe the worship life of the Church is important, if you believe the Bible is God's Word, if you confess the Book of Concord, if you believe in the means of grace, if you value the ancient liturgy of the Church, if you want to do your part in preserving and promoting the liturgy as we Lutherans have received it as western catholic Christians, if you value the Reformation for its focus on the Gospel and its fidelity to the catholic tradition, if you value Christocentric preaching and exegesis, if you like to learn the history and symbolism related to our rich liturgical tradition, if you would like to support your pastor in teaching the value of the liturgy, please consider subscribing to Gottesdienst.

Regular subscriptions are $15 per year, $25 for two years.  Students can subscribe for $12 per year, $20 for two years.  Better yet, get a very inexpensive bulk subscription and leave copies out for other members of your congregation!  10 copies are $45 per year, $80 for two years.  25 copies are $75 per year, $140 for two years.

You will find sermons, engaging editorials, regular columns related to the liturgy (both theological and practical), the state of our culture, issues facing the church as a whole and American Lutheranism more specifically, historical articles, thoughtful Christocentric reflections on Scripture, and even on occasion humor, poetry, and hymnody.  You will also find news and notices concerning our speaker's bureau, upcoming Gottesdienst conferences, books written and/or published by Gottesdienst editors, the annual Sabre of Boldness ceremony, and the handy annual liturgical calendar for the Sundays in the coming year.

At any rate, GO is completely free, and you are always welcome to drop by, follow our posts on facebook, or add us to your blog reader.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Tea time!

One habit I brought back from Russia was drinking tea.  I drink the stuff every day now.  There are great health benefits as reported here.

I like a lot of different kinds - from the domestic Bigelow blends to various kinds of green teas.  I generally drink tea several times a day.

A big favorite in the Hollywood home is Indian style masala chai.  It is not as full of antioxydants as green tea - but it includes the benefits of ginger (which is good for digestion) and cinnamon.  And it is just plain pleasurable to drink. I learned to make it more than 20 years ago from my friends from India.  These days, Mrs. H. and I enjoy a slightly simplified recipe, which is very quick and easy to make - which we include here at no extra charge...

This makes a large teapot worth (1.25 liters) - five large cups.

You need 2 to 3 rounded tablespoons of Assam black tea.  It really needs to be Assam tea - it is dark and pungent!  You may need to go to an international grocer or Indian store to find it.  But use Assam!  It is the foundation.  How much you use depends on the strength of the particular tea tea that you buy.  It may take a little experimentation to get the right strength.  We prefer a full-bodied cup that can hold its own with a good portion of milk as well as the melange of spices.


  • 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger (it comes from a jar and is wet).
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom.
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

Pour in the water (boiled and then cooled just a bit - we have an electric kettle that is lightening fast).

Stir.  Let steep at least five minutes.

After pouring into a cup (you might want to use a strainer when you pour), add milk and sweetener to taste.  We use Sweet Leaf stevia - a natural calorie-free sugar product (the bottles are a little expensive, but since you only use a few drops at a time, it lasts a long time!).  It should have a beautiful caramel color, creamy consistency, and a good spicy kick.

Tea is a healthier alternative to soft drinks, and generally, has less caffeine than coffee.



In honor of our new Chick-fil-A going up in Gretna...

Bonus verse included here.

Check out Tim Hawkins other parodies and comedy routines here.

The Feds: To Serve Man... With Bleach?

Here is the article.

Is this is why we have a federal government?  So bureaucrats can invade a picnic and pour bleach on everyone's food?

If this isn't tyranny, plain and simple, I would like to know why it isn't.  One of the problems with the federal government is that in spite of all the talk of "democracy" and "republic" and "of the people" and "freedom," what we really have is an oligarchical top-down empire held captive to two nearly-identical political "parties."  There is no check and balance from the states and the people as envisioned by the founders.  Neither do each of the branches of the federal government check the other.  They have all gone into cahoots - and this is the result.

Moreover, our "elections" are completely overseen by these two extra-constitutional parties with crazy internal rules designed to allow the parties (The Party?) to keep a stranglehold on the entire process.

And for the most part, in response, the people focus on a media-driven goose-chase of buying into the politics by blaming the other party, name-calling, aping platitudes and talking points offered up again and again as mindless mantras on talk radio and in tabloid TV.  The politicians are all "outraged" and promise "change" - all the while benefiting by keeping the people divided against each other while they literally do things like pour bleach on people's food.  CNN-watchers blame the FOX-watchers; FOX-watchers blame the CNN-watchers.  The "liberals" blame the "conservatives" and the "conservatives" blame the "liberals" - all the while those terms have switched places back and forth, gotten mixed and matched, and have become utterly meaningless labels.

Hooray for our team!

Meanwhile, once entrenched in Washington, Republicans and Democrats continue growing old agencies and creating new ones like mushrooms, generating reams and reams of new laws and regulations, destroying civil rights and national security, and printing dollars until they are nearly worthless.  Both "parties" support both warfare and welfare - while cleverly convincing their own members that it's really the "other" party doing it.

It's Laurel and Hardy.  And it would be funny if they weren't equipped with the power to tax, to regulate, to control, to execute, to torture, etc. and with enough nuclear firepower to turn the planet into a cinder - all with the brainpower and wisdom of two toddlers that have unlocked the liquor cabinet and the gun rack.  A little bleach anyone?

Instead of blaming Bush and Obama, and getting all wrapped up in getting their partisans elected, Democrats and Republicans ought to ditch the party apparatuses and apparatchiks and blame the federal government (comprised almost exclusively of functionaries of both of these parties) and its arrogant, imperial, bureaucratic attitude toward the people they are supposed to serve, not rule.  Whether we are Republican, Democrat, or neither, we would all benefit by going back to the Constitution and restoring the republic.

There was a time when federal bureaucrats did not pour bleach on food.  There was a time when Americans could not secretly be executed by the president. There was a time when people had the right to a trial.  There was a time when people were free to eat whatever food they wanted to eat.  The Bill of Rights (that historic relic) actually addresses these things, although every amendment has been whittled away or outright abolished de facto by partisan lackeys in all three branches of the federal government, by both alleged parties, and by their confederates in the state governments who play along to get ahead themselves.  We are no longer a union of fifty states, but rather an empire of two teams (Red Team and Blue Team, the Elephants and the Donkeys) of the same ideological philosophy of government that holds ordinary people in contempt.

And the people have been lulled into playing along, serving as "food" as it were to the monster.  To borrow the punch line of the old Twilight Zone episode: "It's a cookbook!"

One day, maybe the people will say "enough is enough."  This is exactly the kind of thing that happens when power is left unchecked.  A little Clorox on your porterhouse, anyone?  How disgraceful and shameful!  Pouring bleach on food to ruin a peaceful picnic.  "We the people" indeed!

Have you had enough yet?  Or are you waiting for some party hack from the Red/Blue Team to vandalize your dinner table?  Public service indeed!  

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sermon: Wednesday of Reminiscere – 2012

7 March 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 8:27-38 (Rom 5:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Saint Peter tends to the extreme. One minute, he’s riding high, as he had just given the right answer to our Lord’s question about who He is: “You are he Christ,” said St. Peter correctly, “the Son of God.”

But then Peter got a little too big for his britches. For when our Lord told him the plan, and did so plainly: “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again,” well, let’s just say that Peter didn’t really like that idea. Peter “rebuked” Jesus – a term that in Greek is very strong. In other words, Peter scolded Jesus harshly: “I don’t want to hear you say that ever again,” is kind of what he is saying, “Do you hear me, Jesus?” He talks to him the way an angry parent wags his finger at a naughty child.

Peter has forgotten who the Creator is and who the creature is. Peter thinks he is above God to the point where he can call the shots. And this is exactly what the devil did in his pride. This is why Jesus turns around and lets Peter have it full bore with one of the harshest rebukes in the Bible: “Get behind Me, Satan.”

What causes the Lord to use such shocking language is not that Peter committed some great crime against humanity, or hurt a child, or swindled a widow out of her home, or bowed down before a stone idol. No, what prompted this outburst from the Son of God was that Peter was not setting his “mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Now there is a sin that I suppose all of us commit nearly all the time. How can we not? We live in a fallen world that is wrapped up in itself. We live in a me-first culture where we get to make all our own choices, and get to be offended when the world doesn’t behave the way we think it should. And what’s more, we treat God the same way Peter treated Him. We think we know best. We get angry at him when we don’t get our way. We ignore him and continue dropping him lower and lower on our priority list – and then when things are really bad for us, we summon him up like a Genie in a lamp and expect Him to do our bidding.

To that, our Lord scolds us: “Get behind Me, Satan.”

If we really want to know the plan, the Lord has made it plain to us. Indeed, He taught us all about the suffering of the Son of Man, His rejection by The Important People, His passion, His death, and yes, His resurrection.

And we are part of that plan too. We are called to follow Him. And here is what it means (for He says this plainly): “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Who actually likes this plan? Take up a cross? Deny ourselves? Our Lord tells us plainly that the plan is that we give up our lives. We too will suffer, be rejected by The Important People, die, and yes, rise again. That is what it means to follow Him. Where Jesus went, we go. Where Jesus goes, we shall go. And when our sinful flesh rises up on its hind legs and wags its fist at Jesus saying: “I don’t like this plan, I have a better one,” the Lord Jesus Himself rebukes us: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

This, dear friends, is where the first commandment comes into our lives. It almost never involves stone idols. Rather we worship idols of flesh, idols we see in the mirror. We put our hearts where our treasure is, and we treasure ourselves.

Thanks be to God that the Son of God is not as selfish as we are, otherwise we would have no Savior willing to take up His cross and die in our place. And we would have no hope of rising again. Thanks be to God that Jesus casts out Satan from our sinful hearts when we confess our sins, repent, and hear the words of absolution and the proclamation of the gospel! Thanks be to God for Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper!

“For whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani knows exactly how to save his own life. He sits condemned to hang from a Muslim executioner’s rope, which would leave behind a widow and two young orphan sons. His captors tell him that he can save his life by simply renouncing Jesus. But Pastor Nadarkhani knows better. He will not place himself in the role of Satan by setting his mind on the things of man, but rather he has taken up a very heavy cross to follow the Lord. When you see the pastor’s picture, whether in a beautiful field before his capture, or in a filthy, tiny concrete cell – he has just the hint of a smile on his face. For he knows exactly how to save his life. He knows our Lord’s warning: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” He is not ashamed of Jesus, even as Jesus is not ashamed of Pastor Nadarkhani’s good confession. For even if he is hanged, he receives eternal life as a free gift from the One about whom he also confesses, “You are the Christ.”

This is how another man who knew the despair of a death sentence, St. Paul the apostle, can write to us by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration: “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

Again, dear friends, this is the little smile that the saints can show to the world, the devil, and their own sinful flesh even in the face of death. For “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” And moreover, the apostle proclaims: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

This is how Pastor Nadarkhani can endure each day in suffering, not cursing his captors, but praising God and praying for his enemies. And when we are tried and tempted, the Lord is allowing us the opportunity to become stronger, to produce endurance, character, and hope – which we have by means of the Lord’s love for us, poured out as the blood of the sacrifice at the cross, poured into our hearts even as His heart poured out water and blood – tokens of baptism and Holy Communion, given to us so that we might have peace with God.

What a wondrous mystery, dear brothers and sisters! And if the Lord were to do things our way, we would be pretty pathetic indeed, lacking the faith to tap into God’s grace that wins eternal life for us. For if we had it our way, we would not even have the strength to endure so much as a pin prick. Thanks be to our crucified Lord that His love for us compelled Him to endure all the suffering He revealed to Peter, and indeed all that did happen to Him for our sakes.

And, dear brothers and sisters, in spite of Peter’s momentary surrender to Satan, in spite of the Lord’s stinging rebuke, in spite of Peter’s later shameful conduct at the Lord’s execution – St. Peter was justified by faith and had peace with God! He did suffer and endure and grew in character and died himself as a man of hope – not in himself, but in the Lord whom he followed by taking up his own cross.

St. Peter knew that “whoever loses his life for [Jesus’s] sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

No-one likes to bear the cross. We all have sinful flesh that resents God’s plan. But, dear friends, we have been justified by faith for peace with God. We can, in Christ, smile like Pastor Nadarkhani, knowing where we find our life – even if we lose our life. For we know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He will come “in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And “we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Amen.

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

Sunday, March 04, 2012

America Needs Freedom!

You can read more here.

Interestingly, in his brilliant postscript to The Screwtape Letters (1942), an essay called Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1959), C.S. Lewis ascribes this creeping control of government involvement in everyday life to Satan.  Writing in the persona of Screwtape, a demon of some reputation as a tempter of men in hell's bureaucracy, states:
Even in England we were pretty successful.  I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a tool-shed in his own garden.
Although our own country is deeply in debt - to the point of near-certain runaway (if not hyper) inflation, and although almost without exception, politicians of both parties (more like both wings of the same party)  in Washington (and in the state capitols) are clueless, or worse, there is a wave of libertarianism sweeping among mainly younger people, the ones who are literate, who think, who yearn to be free of the petty and not-so-petty tyranny that is simply the norm today at nearly every level of government.  As we see the failure of Big Government and the increasing ridiculousness of our laws, there is a movement toward embracing freedom and becoming more self-sufficient, rolling back the Nanny State and its "happy face fascism."

A good place to begin is with the U.S. Constitution.  It is not a perfect document, but if it were actually followed, we would be a much more free people today with a healthier relationship between the people and their governments at all levels.

What we have now is not working - at least to people who value freedom the way our ancestors did.

Sermon: Reminiscere – 2012

4 March 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 15:21-28

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

It is always amazing to hear and consider the account of the Canaanite woman, and her mini-debate with the Son of God. Everybody likes to cheer for the underdog, which means in this case, I suppose, cheering against Jesus.

But this is not a matter of winning a debate. This is a matter of faith. And while appearing to have been defeated, our Lord Jesus is the winner – and He shares His winnings with those for whom He came to save: like the Canaanite woman and her demon-oppressed daughter.

The Canaanite woman is being tested, sorely tested, tested to the point of desperation. Her daughter is under the control of a devil. And this upset mother, this Canaanite woman, has a couple strikes against her. Of course, being a woman, it is not normal for her to stroll up to the Rabbi and ask for favors. Second, she is a Gentile – a handicap the Lord Himself throws in her face as a test of her faith.

But, dear friends, what is a faith that is never tested? Can a person consider himself courageous if he is never confronted with something frightening? Can a person consider himself skilled if he only knows theories read from a book? Too often, we treat faith as though it were knowledge. And knowing the facts about the faith – such as the Nicene Creed – is important. Believing those facts is important. But faith is not something one holds in one’s head, and not something one treasures only in one’s heart, but rather faith is practiced, is acted out, carried out by hands and feet and mouth and deeds. Faith is the Nicene Creed put into motion in a believer’s life. We say it one day a week, but we live it seven days a week. Faith is the cross under the eyes and ears of one’s friends and foes in day to day life. Faith is what we have when it is all that we have. Faith is what is left after the storm has taken away everything else, when one’s trust in princes and in oneself has been purged away by the flames of trials and temptations. Faith is all that a person has when all other remedies have failed.

Faith takes risks!

The Canaanite woman risks rejection and humiliation in her quest to find Jesus and offer up her prayer to Him for help. She “came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.” In her faith, she has abandoned her ego, her pride, her self-esteem. She comes before the Lord humbly, without guile, claiming no merit for herself. She bares her soul before the One of has created her, to Him who will make her well, seeking the mercy of the Lord, the Son of David, Him with the power to heal, to save, to draw life out of death, and to remove the harassment of the devil.

The Canaanite woman refuses to quit, to give up, to yield to the natural feelings of anger and resentment in the face of the harsh coldness of the disciples who say: “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” She does not lose her faith even when severely tested by God Himself, as the Lord Jesus seems to be rejecting her with the stunning words: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” and “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

The Canaanite women understood perfectly well how insulting the term “dog” is. For Jews hold dogs to be unclean animals. The term “dog” – especially when applied to women – is nearly universal among all peoples as a terrible insult.

But the Canaanite woman, like an ace pilot refusing to be shaken off the tail of her opponent in a desperate dogfight, locks in on Jesus, refuses to be deterred, does not let emotion get in the way of her salvation, clings to Christ with all the faith she can muster, and lets fly: “Yes, Lord.” For faith always says “Yes, Lord” – even when we are tried and tempted, disappointed and hurt, harassed and harried, beaten up and beaten down by the world, even when it seems God Himself has forsaken us. “Yes, Lord,” she confesses in faith, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

She does not deny her uncleanness and unworthiness. But what she holds to is the promise of the Lord, His mercy, His providence, His table with which He shares the crumbs of His very self, offered for us men and for our salvation! Faith enables her to confess boldly her worthiness according to the Lord’s promise at the same time that she confesses humbly her unworthiness according to her own sinfulness.

And this paradox is at the heart of faith, where the two arms of the cross intersect at the heart: our unworthiness and Christ’s worthiness, the Law’s demands and the Gospel’s promises, our earned wages of death and the Lord’s gracious gift of life!

And in her humble “Yes, Lord,” she does not win a debate, but wins eternal life. Jesus is not defeated in a battle of wills, but rather defeats the devil by the will of His Father who sent the Son, to give faith and hope and life to all of the dogs who await the life-giving crumbs that fall from the Master’s table!

“O woman,” declares the Lord, “great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” She has passed the test, not by being clever, but by clinging to faith. She has not defeated Jesus in logic, but has yielded to Him in faith. She has won because Jesus has won. The devil’s grip on her family was beaten into submission. “And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Dear brothers and sisters, how often we get discouraged! How often we feel like the Lord has left us to bless others instead of us. And yet, how wrong we are! For the Lord has come to save us, to heal us, to forgive us, and to give us eternal life! And though it is a paradox, our faith means the most when it is tested. Our faith is made the strongest when it is challenged. Our faith is able to make us well precisely when it is all that we have, and it seems so weak.

Let us never grow weary of praying with our Canaanite sister, with one another, and with our brothers and sisters in every time and place: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.” And let us hear yet again the Lord’s mercy: “Great is your faith. Be it done for you as you desire.” Amen.

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