Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Way We Speak

Growing up, I learned how to speak. I didn't merely learn to talk, but I learned the language itself - the nouns and verbs and inflections and all the nuances that come with learning to speak. And it wasn't taught primarily in school, but at home - I don't think "fixin' to" is in any vocabulary lists throughout the educational system. And learning was not a matter of sitting down and cracking homemade textbooks, but it was done by mimicking.

I learned to mimic the language of my father. He wouldn't sit down and teach me to say "fixin to" but it was how He talked, and so I followed the way he talked. I loved my father then, as I do now. As a boy growing up, he knew everything. My father was the greatest guy. I loved my father so much, I even took after the way he talked.

In the same way we are born into a family of Christian believers. Our Heavenly Father teaches us how to speak of Him through his Holy Word. Now, like our father on earth, God doesn't sit down often and tell us exactly how to speak - with exception perhaps in the Lord's Prayer as elsewhere. Instead, because He is our Father, we love Him. We look and see how He speaks, and we speak the same things. We look to God our Heavenly father with so much love and appreciation because of the gift of salvation he gave in Jesus Christ, that we too as the church, rightly speak the language of our Lord.

Unfortunately, this tends to be a dying trend. Instead of seeing the way our Lord speaks and mimicking his language, the church seems to be finding "more popular" ways of speaking. The church has begun to adopt language less biblical and more worldly in character. Yes, I am keeping this vague. But, you can see the changes if you just look at the language some churches are using now days. You can see these churches have moved away from the way God uses words and phrases, to using their own forms and catchwords. Some astonishingly even re-define the language God has originally spoken. These churches have left their Father's Word, for the words of others.

If they have decided the Words of their Father insufficient, what else of the Father's might these deem undesirable?

+Kyrie Eleison

Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Pray

Luther wrote a wonderful letter to Peter the Barber. Peter had asked Luther how one was to pray. And Luther sent him a response. This letter was sent early in the year 1535.

The most basic way to pray Luther says is to go to the Lord in humility knowing that you are a sinner, but that it is the Lord's command that you do pray. Then, use the Lord's Prayer as a template for all other prayers. Pray on each petition and expand as you see fit. Then perhaps a prayer with the Ten Commandments, and then parts of the Apostles Creed. Pray as is needed.

Luther thought the Lord's Prayer is the best of all prayers, even superior to the psalter. And Luther really loved the psalter.

So when you pray pray the Lord's Prayer and then delve into the petitions. Or pray the Ten commandments, or the Creed. And if you need help, grab your catechism and use it as a guide.

If you are not used to praying like this, it will take some getting used to. But, it is worth it. Pray in this way, and you ground your prayers on the Word of the Lord. This, I have found, is a good way to learn how to pray.

+Kyrie Eleison

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finding Some Ground to Stand On

Today was a little bit of an off day for me. I woke up and just felt odd. Nothing was quite right. I couldn't concentrate well enough to be productive and my mind was in other places.

I tried reading a blog or two on theology, but they just made me even more irritated than I was. Everything was off kilter.

Now, it may sound odd, but I decided to go over to the church and just do some liturgy. So I grabbed my Bible and walked over.

Trinity here in Saint Joseph, MI has a beautiful sanctuary. Not only that, but the church is well designed and singing is very easy. They spent a large sum of money on refurbishing the organ. It sounds incredible. But this morning, I didn't have the organ. The church was quiet and no one was around, so I went up the railing and started through Morning Prayer from the Lutheran Service Book. I sang all the parts myself. I chanted a psalm. I happen to be reading through Luke, so I read from Luke 14. I said some prayers and ended with the alternate benediction.

Now it is later in the afternoon. I still feel out of kilter. It is slow around here, and I can't get into any kind of rhythm.

But for the 20 minutes it took to go through the brief service, I had found some footing. I knew this. It was familiar. It was God's Word. It comforted me today. I needed it to comfort me. Now, there are some days when any liturgy will be a little more rote than usual. However, it's days like these that Jesus' familiar Words can make all the difference.

+Kyrie Eleison

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sin vs. Sin

Are all sins equal?

Truly this depends upon what you are asking? With respect to what are you asking the question?

If it is with respect to the law of God, then yes. All sins are damning from the white lie to the adulterer and murderer. Each and every sin separates us from God and judges us unworthy of eternal life. We read in John 8.34 that
everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin
and from Psalm 14.3,
they have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Perhaps you ask this in respect to the judicial law of our government? Here the answer is shows that not all sins are equal. For when you tell a white lie and sin, the police do not come and give you the death penalty. Whereas if you commit a crime, a sin, which is considered bad enough, the death penalty may be given. And there is a wide variety of punishments in between depending upon how severe the crime has been judged.

It is pretty well understood that whatever you do sinfully, there will be some punishment for it, whether that be before God or before men. You could say that a problem occurs today when the free given grace of Jesus is given in the picture and also when the kingdom of the left (the government) is not checked in its foray into the kingdom of the right (the kingdom of God).

When the grace of Jesus is given, all sins are forgiven. He paid for all sins, and was our propitiation to the Father. As we read in Matthew 20.28 that the Son of Man came
to give His life as a ransom for many.
and from Roman 3.25 that the grace of Jesus Christ was
put forward as a propitiation by His blood.
And with respect to this. It can often be sorely abused. For example, if a man and woman are living in sexual immorality, they may justify the fact that they are living that way by saying (In good straw man fashion) that Christ has absolved them from all that. "What then," they would ask, "is the difference between what they are doing and what a person who tells a white lie often enough? A sin is a sin and all are guilty for them, and Jesus Christ has die for all!"

And the secular laws haven't helped either. As "we" (Christians who think our nation was founded on Christian principles, I exclude myself from this group) have decided that the Ten Commandment belong in the courtroom, it has back flowed into Christianity. Thus, the consequences become such that if there is no legislation on a certain action, then it must be permissible. (I thank David F. Wells for his discussion in his book Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover It's Moral Vision for my conclusions) Thus, the same couple living in sexual immorality can also say, well there's no law (secular) against it, so it isn't wrong.

And thus the grace of Christ and the secular laws have given us a problem... it seems.

But, what is missing? What are we leaving out of the picture? The answer is faith. Saving faith and a "fear, love and trust in God above all things" is missing from the picture. What we are dealing with here is the battle against unbelief, which is at the heart and center of Christianity.

It is unbelief which leads a person to no longer fear the consequences of breaking the law. It is unbelief that looks for reasons to circumvent or ignore the law of God. It is unbelief that allows that couple to say it is alright to continue living in sin.

The Law of God remains true and clear and its threat of eternal punishment is there for all who choose darkness and unbelief. Thankfully, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the message of the forgiveness of sins given to us, is the combatant against this unbelief. For, it brings light to the darkness and life to the dead and unbelieving heart. It drowns the Old Adam and proclaims upon us the righteousness of Christ, giving us new hearts to accept and fulfill the law of God with a willing spirit.

Yet, the hard question still remains if all sin is forgiven, what is the difference between a white lie and living in sexual immorality? Deitrich Bonhoeffer in his Ethics has a very good quote that I think is spot on. He writes,
One sin, then, is not like another. They do not all have the same weight. There are heavier sins and lighter sins. A falling away is of infinitely greater weight than a falling down. The most shining virtues of him who has fallen away are as black as night in comparison with the darkest lapses of the steadfast.
Again, it comes back to unbelief. Those who are living in sin are in a cosmic battle for their souls. The devil is guiding them by the hand into unbelief and damnation. He teaches them to treat the Word of God, especially the threat of condemnation, as though it were inconsequential. Thus, the couple living in sin, accepting of that sin, are on the road of unbelief. But again, thanks be to God. For by His great mercy He has given us His Word that we might have eternal life. This Word is good for reproof, teaching and salvation.

So it seems that Bonhoeffer's assertion is correct, and the reason is a battle against unbelief. So are all sins the same? Yes. The answer must be yes. But the hold that a given sin has on a person may vary, as Bonhoeffer points out. Yet even still, the Gospel overcomes all sin and unbelief through the forgiveness of sins.

+Kyrie Eleison

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Harvesting is a Dirty Job

Luke 10:2 speaks of a harvest being plentiful, but the laborers being few. Also that we should pray the Lord would send these men.

But what of this harvest? What are the laborers to expect?

Looking back through time since Adam first cultivated this ground and brought forth fruit by the sweat of his brow, harvesting crops has always been a dirty and hard and tiresome task. Even today this is true. Despite all the advances that have been made with technology, harvesting a crop is still a dirty and tiring job filled with all sorts of mishaps.

For example, this year during harvest, we had a few things break down (the truck and the auger) and the combine had it's problems. It should also be noted that dirt and grossness necessarily had to cover us as we fixed the problems. Of course, don't forget about the 100 degree weather we had as well!

Things go wrong and it is no fun for those who are harvesting.

If the task of harvesting a crop is any indication, there are many implications for those laborers being sent into his harvest. It means that harvesting, or being a pastor, is a dirty and hard and tiresome task! There will be times when things don't go the way they should. There will be times when you will get tired and worn out in caring for God's people.There will be times when the beating heat of the devils attacks wears you down.

But the harvest must go on. And it will go on. Not because of the men and their strength, but because of Christ and his strength. Christ is the True Harvester. He is the one who plants the seeds, He is the one through the Holy Spirit who brings these seeds to fruition and it is because Him that the Father cares for and nourishes these seeds throughout their time of living and dying.

And it was no easy task for this Harvester either. For to ultimately harvest His crop, he took upon himself a grueling, hard, filthy, blood stained task. He went to work in the field of His Father and by His suffering and death watered the ground with His own blood. Thus, bringing to life the seed which was dead and making it ripe because of the forgiveness found in that blood.

If the True Harvester endured so much, how much more will the servants, the laborers sent by the Harvester, endure? They will be persecuted and the task will be tiresome, but Christ is ever guiding them in their task. But the harvest is ready. He will call men. Pray that the Lord would send these men into his fields and harvest the crop according to his good and gracious will.

+Kyrie Eleison

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The First Day

The first day of anything is always fun. Unless you have nerves of steel, any "first" can be quite nerve rattling.

But, today has gone well for me. I think it is because Pastor Roth is still off at the Michigan District Convention. This makes my first day less stressful. The only responsibility I really have is getting here and getting organized. So it has been a good first day...for the hour and a half I've been in the office. Perhaps I'll begin working on my first sermon. I'll at least start the exegesis.

Hopefully since I will be around my computer much more often, I can begin to post regularly. We shall see how busy I get. :)

+Kyrie Eleison