Saturday, January 31, 2009

Good Movie Quote

From last night's DVD Bella: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

Friday, January 30, 2009

The End of the Story in the Middle

There are some scholars and textual critics of the Bible who suggest that the account of the Transfiguration is, in fact, a misplaced resurrection narrative, an Easter story. For whatever reason, the end of the story, Jesus in His glory, got placed in the middle. I don’t agree with this, of course. But there is a sense in which it is helpful for us to think of the Transfiguration in this way. Before we get to the end of the story, Jesus gives us a glimpse of how it all culminates.

We often need this in our own lives. We need to know how the story ends for us, especially in the middle of suffering or difficulty. Jesus shows us this on the mountain. After speaking of the necessity of His suffering and death, after saying that whoever wants to be a disciple of His must take up the cross and follow Him, He then reveals the glory that belongs to all those who are baptized into His body, shining brighter than the sun. The fact that Jesus is speaking of His death with Moses and Elijah on the mountain (Luke 9:31) shows that the only true way to glory is through the cross. “Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).

In the middle of your story Jesus comes to you and shows the glorious climax of it all. He speaks to you the words of eternal life; He gives His own risen body and blood into your frail flesh and blood. He gives away the end of story; but that doesn’t spoil it but gives meaning to it and strengthens you to bear the cross and endure to the end. He says to you, “It’s only a little while longer; keep on going, trusting in Me and loving your neighbor. For the sufferings of this present time are not even worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in you” (Romans 8:18). The Apostle John encourages us, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). (See also Hebrews 12:2)

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This morning I was reading a little bit of church history with 8th grade Mary, our youngest and last being home-schooled. We were covering a section on Irenaeus and were reminded of an important (and I think correct) point he made: Even if the fall into sin had not occurred, the Son of God still would have become man. The incarnation was the intended goal all along. It wasn’t something God was somehow forced to do in order to save us. Rather this intimate union and communion of God and man in Christ was the plan from the beginning. Clearly the incarnation is a key aspect of our redemption; the Son of God took on our flesh and blood in order to die in the flesh and shed his blood as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. But it’s not as if, had the fall never occurred, God would have remained separate from us and not joined our nature to His own. After all, Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and the image of the invisible God is Christ (Colossians 1:15). The God who is love created us that He might give Himself to us completely. Sharing fully in our human life, His desire is that we share ever more and more fully in His divine life. That will continue to be the case in the new creation, too, long after we leave this old sin-cursed world behind.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Petersen on John 4

An insightful post on John 4 from Pastor David Petersen: Desperate Wives No More. Be sure and read to the end.


Here's a unique and interesting take on the stimulus subject from fellow Lutheran pastor, Larry Beane, better known as Father Hollywood: "O Death, Where is Your Stimulus?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If Global Warming Gets Any Worse, We're All Going to Freeze to Death

Perhaps it's because I'm currently reading Michael Crichton's book State of Fear (or rather, listening to it on audiobook). Perhaps it's because yesterday's utility bill came stating that last month was 10 degrees colder on average than the same period the year before. Or maybe it's the way goddess Earth ignores her worshipful adherents. But I find headlines like this one on Drudge strangely satisfying: "Gore hearing on warming may be put on ice." It's not just a liberal vs. conservative thing. It's more a truth vs. propaganda thing for me. And it seems to be more and more the case that the actual scientific data is less and less certain about man-made global warming, all the while the environmentalistic/socialistic propaganda gets ratcheted up in the political sphere and indoctrinated into our elementary school children. Graphs like the following just don't fit the paradigm, or are manipulated (click on this link to get more detail and links on the science), and so they are ignored.

Anyway, here's the text of the Drudge story:

Al Gore is scheduled before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning to once again testify on the 'urgent need' to combat global warming.

But Mother Nature seems ready to freeze the proceedings.

A 'Winter Storm Watch' has been posted for the nation's capitol and there is a potential for significant snow... sleet... or ice accumulations.

"I can't imagine the Democrats would want to showcase Mr. Gore and his new findings on global warming as a winter storm rages outside," a Republican lawmaker emailed the DRUDGE REPORT. "And if the ice really piles up, it will not be safe to travel."

A spokesman for Sen. John Kerry, who chairs the committee, was not immediately available to comment on contingency plans.

Global warming advocates have suggested this year's wild winter spells are proof of climate change.

I especially like that last line. If it's warmer than usual, it's because of global warming. If it's colder than usual (like this year), it's because global warming is affecting global weather patterns. If it's just average weather, it's because global warming occurs slowly and sometimes imperceptibly. But the overall effects will soon be catastrophic; so we must take action! How do you use logic against airtight arguments like those?

In the end, while everyone wants to work for cleaner air and water and the like, the problem with environmentalism/global warming orthodoxy is its worldview which places creation over the Creator, Mother Nature over Father God. In the end it rejects the One "through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together," Christ Himself. (See Colossians 1:16-17)

And here's a sermon related to the subject.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I think this may be carrying the scapegoat thing a bit too far:

"One of Nigeria's biggest daily newspapers reported that police implicated a goat in an attempted automobile theft. In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.

"The paper quoted police spokesman Tunde Mohammed as saying that while one suspect escaped, the other transformed into a goat as he was about to be apprehended.

"The newspaper reported that police paraded the goat before journalists, and published a picture of the animal.

"Police in the state couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

"Belief in black magic is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in far-flung rural areas."

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Political Quote Worth Remembering

"The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." Margaret Thatcher

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Slight Chuckle

During chapel today at the Fort Wayne Seminary Symposia, we sang the hymn, "We Are Called to Stand Together" (not one of my favorite hymns, but that's another post). And how did we sing this hymn "We Are Called to Stand Together"? Seated, of course! Isn't it great to be Lutheran?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Third Day

One more thing about today’s Gospel reading from John 2, the wedding at Cana: The fact that Jesus performs the miracle of turning water to wine “on the third day” not only points forward to the resurrection, but also points back to the beginning, the third day of creation, when God brought forth the fruit-bearing plants from the earth. That this miracle brings forth 3rd-day fruit of the vine certainly adds to the new creation theme of Jesus' first sign.

If John’s Gospel starts with Day 1, (“In the beginning was the Word . . . The light shines in the darkness”), and today’s Gospel reading is akin to Day 3 of creation, would it be wrong to see Day 2 in Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, (the waters below and the waters above), when John the Baptist sees the Spirit descending from heaven and remaining upon Jesus (John 1:32)? I’m sure other theologians and commentators have pursued the parallels John the Evangelist makes to the days of creation and fleshed this out better. If anyone is aware of where such writings can be found, please feel free to comment below or email me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't They See the Irony?

I don't think life will ever be created in a laboratory. Transforming dead elements into a living organism is far too complex a thing. But even if scientists were able to do that at some point in the future, that wouldn't strike a blow for evolutionists against those who believe in the Biblical creation account. After all, life would have had to have been created by an intelligence guiding and directing the process. A "higher power" (in this case, the scientist) is necessary to cause these things to happen, even if it's in the laboratory.

In this article, "Life as We Know It Nearly Created in the Lab," the argument is clearly being made for evolution, that we're supposedly closer to understanding how some of the early processes might have worked. Isn't it ironic, though, that they have to use words like "created" to describe their work? And the self-replicating enzymes that are being spoken of in the article were synthesized by the researchers, programmed and oriented by them to behave a certain way--all of which, to me at least, seems to support a creationist point of view more than an evolutionary one. How these incredibly complex self-replicating enzymes could ever come into existence on their own by chance random processes is never even addressed. And even if you take everything the scientists are saying at face value, you're still light-years away from anything approaching "life as we know it." For those who only want to deal with objective fact, they sure exhibit a lot of faith in their theories!

In the end these scientists are taking stuff God already made and tinkering with it to try to show God's non-existence, or at least his irrelevance. A little reminiscent of Psalm 14:1 it seems to me.

(Thanks to Nathan Fischer for forwarding this article to me.)

Give Geese a Chance

For those with an offbeat sense of humor who don't mind making a little fun of the liberal mindset, here's an article that takes a unique look at the amazing story of the US Airways water landing in the Hudson River, trying to understand the geese and why they would have attempted this suicide attack.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Christian Prayer from Bishop

Here's a post from Gene Veith about gay "bishop" Eugene Robinson's promise not to give a specifically Christian prayer at an event for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

And here's a post from Mollie Ziegler with further commentary on this subject as it relates to being Lutheran in the civil realm. A couple quotes: "Patriotism may be a virtue but it shouldn’t trump a clear confession of Christ and him crucified." "The deities of civil religion force away distinctives and turn all belief into cliches and platitudes."

You know things are really messed up when Rick Warren is the guy you can most identify with in the story.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coming Up Short

This Sunday’s Gospel is John 2:1-11, the wedding feast miracle at Cana. It has always seemed a little strange to me that, when Jesus is told by His mother that the wine has run out, He replies by saying “My hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ "hour" in John is a reference to His impending crucifixion. Why does Jesus make that connection? What would running out of wine have to do with the cross?

Part of the connection, I believe, is revealed in the word used to describe the problem in John 2:3, husterasantos, meaning “lacking”: “When wine was lacking,” or “when they ran out of wine.” It’s the same word used in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short (husterountai) of the glory of God.” The reason that the things of this creation fail us and run short is because we ourselves have failed and come up short. This has not only brought the judgment of death on us; it has brought a curse on all creation. The blessings of God's good creation are passing and temporary. The Scriptures say that the world in its present form is in bondage to decay and is passing away (Cf. Romans 8:21).

So, when the wine ran out, that drew attention to the hour of Christ’s suffering and dying in order to redeem His sapped and fallen creation. Jesus reminds His mother that if she is going to appeal to him for a miracle, she must also deal with the cross, where He will break the curse of decay and death forever. Already here, then, Jesus was beginning to bring about the redemption of creation, which would come to fulfillment on Good Friday and Easter. For He was reversing the draining force of sin so that there was bounty and joy once again.

This miracle, like the greater miracle of Jesus' resurrection, occurs “on the third day” (John 2:1). In Him and through Him creation is renewed and revitalized. The prophet Amos (9:13) said of the Messiah’s kingdom, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when . . . sweet wine will drip from the mountains and flow from the hills.” No lack here! And Isaiah (25:6) foretold a day when the Lord would swallow up death forever. Of that day he said this, “The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats and the finest of wines.” In this miracle, then, we begin to see the very kingdom of God and the new creation breaking in, which will be revealed in all its glory on the Last Day.

The Gospel concludes by saying that through this miracle Jesus “manifested His glory.” We have fallen short of the glory of God, but Christ is the glory of God revealed and freely given to us in the cleansing water of baptism and the rich wine of His precious blood.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Womanhood and Bearing Children

I ran across a couple of posts yesterday that offer an interesting and telling contrast of worldviews regarding what it means to be a woman and have children. Notice the difference in the "iconography," not to mention the comments sections. Notice also that the first author is male. Here are the articles for your consideration. Any conclusions I might draw I think are self-evident.

Say No To . . .


The Soft Sexism of Low Expectations

Monday, January 12, 2009

God's Own Child

At lunch today, our youngest and last still being home-schooled, 14-year old Mary says out of the blue to my wife and me, "For my funeral--you're probably not going to be there--but I'd like to have that hymn that we sang yesterday at church, 'God's Own Child, I Gladly Say it.'" I certainly hope she's right about my not being there for her funeral. And I'm so thankful that the grace of God covers all the ways I screw up as a parent and still produces such beautiful-to-hear statements of faith. Here are the words of the hymn (LSB, 594):

God's own child, I gladly say it:
I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it,
Gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth's treasures many?
I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free
Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:
I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger:
Jesus' cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me
Since my Baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood,
Sprinkling me with Jesus' blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I've traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I'm a child of paradise!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Word is in the Water

We confess that, in Baptism, the key thing is not simply the water, but what has been added to it. Even with ordinary uses of water, it is common for us to think this way. For instance, it's not the water but the flavoring and fizz added to it that make soda what it is, or the barley, hops, and fermenting yeast that make beer what it is. In a much greater way, it is the Name and Word of God connected to the water that make baptism what it is. In fact in the baptism of our Lord, we see that the Word made flesh is in the water Himself. Thus, baptism is the Gospel. It is Jesus. It delivers Him and all His gifts to us in and with the water poured over us. To reject baptism or its saving power is to reject the Word contained in it. Luther comments this way in the Large Catechism:

"From this now learn a proper understanding of the subject, and how to answer the question what Baptism is, namely thus, that it is not mere ordinary water, but water comprehended in God's Word and command, and sanctified thereby, so that it is nothing else than a divine water; not that the water in itself is nobler than other water, but that God's Word and command are added.

"Therefore it is pure wickedness and blasphemy of the devil that now our new spirits, to mock at Baptism, omit from it God's Word and institution, and look upon it in no other way than as water which is taken from the well, and then blather and say: How is a handful of water to help the soul? Aye, my friend, who does not know that water is water if tearing things asunder is what we are after? But how dare you thus interfere with God's order, and tear away the most precious treasure with which God has connected and enclosed it, and which He will not have separated? For the kernel in the water is God's Word or command and the name of God, which is a treasure greater and nobler than heaven and earth.

"Comprehend the difference, then, that Baptism is quite another thing than all other water; not on account of the natural quality but because something more noble is here added; for God Himself stakes His honor, His power and might on it. Therefore it is not only natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water, and in whatever other terms we can praise it, all on account of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, that no one can sufficiently extol, for it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do [since it has all the virtue and power of God comprised in it]. Hence also it derives its essence as a Sacrament, as St. Augustine also taught: Accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum. That is, when the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, it becomes a Sacrament, that is, a holy and divine matter and sign.

"Therefore we always teach that the Sacraments and all external things which God ordains and institutes should not be regarded according to the coarse, external mask, as we regard the shell of a nut, but as the Word of God is included therein. . .

"Thus, and much more even, you must honor Baptism and esteem it glorious on account of the Word, since He Himself has honored it both by words and deeds; moreover, confirmed it with miracles from heaven. For do you think it was a jest that, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost descended visibly, and everything was divine glory and majesty?

"Therefore I exhort again that these two, the water and the Word, by no means be separated from one another and parted. For if the Word is separated from it, the water is the same as that with which the servant cooks' and may indeed be called a bath-keeper's baptism. But when it is added, as God has ordained, it is a Sacrament, and is called Christ-baptism."

(Large Catechism, Holy Baptism, 14-19,21-22)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You Can't Take It With You

The wicked may prosper, but never for long. (See Psalm 73)

And here's another take on the whole event.

Gran Torino

(Cautiously taking off my pastor hat for something a little less theological:)

Last evening, all the ladies of the house were gathered in the living room having a Jane Austen fest, watching the long version of Pride and Prejudice (as in 5 hours long). Thus, the self-respecting males in the house had to go out and watch the new Clint Eastwood movie, Gran Torino. We were not disappointed.

While I hesitate to recommend an R-rated movie–and this movie is rather raw at some points and filled with bad language throughout–I found it to be an entertaining and compelling story. The Clint Eastwood character, despite his gruff, seemingly racist exterior, is a very likable character–a "real man" in the old school sense. And his relationship with his family, as contrasted with his neighbors in a changing neighborhood, is developed fairly well. If I was hearing correctly, Clint Eastwood himself even does a little singing during the closing credits.

In terms of the religious aspects of the movie, there is a shaman who is very briefly portrayed in a positive light, and there are a few not unexpected problems in the way the Catholic priest is portrayed (though he, too, is developed as a positive character). But in a deeper way, the climax of the movie in particular is quite Christological–a slightly surprising and satisfying resolution of the story (though the imagery perhaps gets carried a little too far). Lutherans even get a brief reference in connection with Hmong refugees coming to America.

Some of the actors portraying the Hmong characters in this movie were a little stiff and clearly newer to the acting craft. And again, there is a heavy dose of foul language (thought it mostly comes off as realistic rather than gratuitous). But if that coarseness doesn't put you off, I believe you'll thoroughly enjoy this movie.

Here's a review of the movie from the local Milwaukee paper.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Milwaukee, the new San Francisco

I didn't realize we were on the liberal (or libertine) cutting edge here in the Milwaukee area, but evidently we are. Here is the web site of our gay-friendly Milwaukee Public School, which reportedly is going to be the first of its kind in the country to extend the grade levels it serves from high school down to middle school. Yes, middle school. The slogan for this school is "Where you can be who you are." But seriously, how many middle schoolers have a firm grip on who they are? They also say in their vision statement that they want to create "a safe environment where students will be treated fairly regardless of sexuality, ability, appearance, or beliefs." I wonder how fairly someone would be treated who expressed their Scriptural belief that homosexuality is sinful? (See Romans 1:24-28 or 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

This, of course, is just another sign of how far our schools have fallen, from promoting academic knowledge and learning to promoting a social agenda. But even more so, it's a sign of how the church needs to clearly proclaim both repentance and the forgiveness of sins, not only the sinful corruption of our humanity that homosexuality is, but also how Christ is the Lamb of God who bears and carries away the sin of the world. As we observe the Baptism of our Lord in the coming days, we are reminded of how the sinless Jesus became the homosexual and the adulterer Himself in the water of the Jordan, how He absorbed all of our sin into Himself and became Sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Only as those baptized into Christ do we really find who we are, holy and beloved and forgiven children of God.

The funny thing is, this hasn't really been a news item here in the local Milwaukee media that I've noticed. I don't think anyone wants to be labeled as hateful or bigoted by questioning the motives or the wisdom of this move. However, U.S. News and World Report picked up on the story. Here's a snippet of the article:

The Milwaukee Public School System will expand the services provided by its gay-friendly high school and apparently become the nation's first school system to create a gay-friendly middle school.

At a meeting two weeks ago, a subcommittee of Milwaukee's Board of Education unanimously approved the Alliance School's proposal to serve sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. The proposal gained unanimous approval from the full board by default when the item was not pulled for further discussion or a vote at last night's meeting. Alliance School lead teacher Tina Owen said the public charter school will begin accepting new applicants eligible for middle school in the 2009-2010 school year immediately.

Milwaukee's response to gay-friendly schools has been much different from other cities'. In Chicago, community leaders' concerns about creating a gay-friendly high school stalled plans to bring such a proposal before the city's school board. In New York City, protesters greeted students of the gay-friendly Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan's East Village on its first day of classes five years ago. But in Milwaukee, the Alliance School's birth as a high school and expansion to serve middle school students passed with no real opposition. Calls from social service organizations and parents urging Owen to create the middle school more quickly are the only responses she has received from the community, Owen said.

(Hat tip to Charlie Sykes for this story)

LCMS Clergy Numbers

I don't follow LCMS statistics too closely. Perhaps that's why the numbers on p. 8 of the January 2009 Lutheran Witness were just a little bit surprising to me regarding clergy. According to the LCMS Church Information Center, there are 6,167 congregations in the synod with 9,164 clergy, or 1.49 clergymen per congregation. But then comes the next line: Of the 9,164 clergy in the synod, only 5,356 are serving a parish! Adding in chaplains (which I'm assuming are all ordained men) the number still only adds up to 5,837. That means more than 35% of our clergy, 3,327 men, are not serving in a parish or full-time work as a pastor! Now, of course, I recognize that a good chunk of that 35% includes retired pastors who often serve part-time, or ordained ministers teaching at our synodical schools, and the like. But 35%? Do we have that many bureaucrats in our synodical and district offices? What's up with these numbers? The number of missionaries is listed at 811. But in LCMS-speak, the vast majority of those are laity, right? Whatever the case, I don't want to hear any more about our need for "lay ministers." It seems we need more of our ordained men doing the first thing they were given to do in their ordination: serving in a pulpit and at an altar, preaching and teaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A few more pictures

Here are a few of the professional pictures taken at Bekah and Gabe's wedding back on December 27th. (And yes, the photographer did graciously give us the digital rights to these.)

All my children (including Gabe):

The whole crew with Mom and Dad:

View from the balcony during the marriage rite:

The Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann preaching during Vespers:

The Rev. Dr. Karl Fabrizius playing a mean air guitar at the reception:

You can view many more pictures at my wife's blog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

How should I dress for church?

Here's one from the archives. I wrote it for the church newsletter the year the Packers last won the Super Bowl. (What a distant memory that seems compared to this year!) On the day of the NFC championship, everyone kneeling for communion at one point was wearing Packers garb of some sort, be it a jacket or sweatshirt or T-shirt. Now I was as rabid a fan as any of them, but that picture just didn't look quite right to me. Here's what I came up with to address the larger issue, which I think is still relevant:

I have noticed lately that more and more people are coming to church wearing clothing which has on it the names of sports teams or names of companies or slogans or various pictures and symbols from the secular or entertainment world. Is it appropriate for Christians to dress this way in the Lord's house? And if not, why not?

To begin with, we don't want to make up some sort of arbitrary and legalistic code about what a person can and cannot wear that goes beyond what the Scriptures teach. We do not wish to encourage our sinful human pride by setting up a system whereby people are judged by their clothing or are shown partiality by how they dress. The Scriptures speak of this in James 2: "If there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,' and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,' or, ‘Sit here at my feet,' have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?"

But this does not mean that we can simply dress however we please, either. For the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that when we gather for the divine service of the Word and the Sacraments, we are coming into the very presence of Christ. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). The way we dress should reflect this reality that our Lord Jesus is truly present among us in worship. Just as we wear our best when we go out to a fine restaurant, so we are to wear clothing that is fit for feasting at the banquet table of the Lamb of God, partaking of His Holy Word and His precious body and blood. To do otherwise is to act as if Christ is not really present or that His presence isn't all that important or worth honoring. It would be like wearing sweats and an old T-shirt to your wedding.

This is not to say that we should be showy in our clothing, dressing in such a way as to draw attention to ourselves. Rather, modesty should be the rule. St. Paul speaks this way when he tells women how to dress in I Timothy 2: "I desire that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works."

Our real clothing as Christians is the righteousness and holiness of Christ which He has freely given to us. "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27). It is this spiritual clothing that should be reflected in our earthly clothing.

Especially when we gather for the divine service, our dress should exhibit the fact that we are people who have been called out of the world in Christ; we are certainly in the world, but we are not of the world. Worldly clothing with worldly philosophies and agendas, then, should not find its way into the holy house of God. "Come out from among them (the people of the world) and be separate, says the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17).

Here, then, are some simple guidelines for how to dress for Church:

+ Avoid wearing clothing with any words displayed on it, especially if it's promoting some person or team or company. This isn't the business of the church, and it can be distracting to others.

+ Avoid wearing clothing with any sort of pictures or symbols that represent the things of the secular or entertainment world. Again, the divine service is not the place for these to be featured.

+ Dress in such as way as is fitting in the presence of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

+ Dress in such a way that you don't draw improper attention to yourself. Modesty is the key word.

+ "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering. . . But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:12-14).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

No Goods or Services Provided

"No good or services were provided to you by the church in connection with any contribution"

Those are the words stamped on our congregation's financial forms which indicate how much was given in offerings over the past year. Evidently federal or state law requires that we include such a statement because of our non-profit status as a church.

That statement got me to thinking, though. Is it true? Don't you receive goods and services in connection with your offerings? What greater service could you be receiving than divine service? What greater goods are there than the saving Word of God and the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins? Does that statement on your financial form lie?

The answer is, "no." For your offering is not given to pay for such heavenly goods and services. Your offerings are not "dues" that you pay so that you can stay in the church "club" and receive its benefits. For the divine service and the holy goods that God gives to you are entirely free and without any strings attached.

It is written in Romans 6, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." What you receive in church is a free gift! The forgiveness, life, and salvation bestowed upon you come with no strings attached. There is nothing for you to do but to receive what God gives you entirely by grace. No requirements are laid upon you.

So what are the offerings for then? Why do we give them? There are at least three answers. First of all, the giving of an offering shows forth your thanks to God for all that He has done for you in Christ and all that He has given you in both body and soul. It is a concrete expression of gratitude for His goodness toward you.

Secondly, an offering is an expression of faith. It shows that you believe that the Lord is indeed the Creator and Owner of all things and He alone is to be praised for the good things that you have. Returning back to Him a portion of what He has first given you honors Him as your Maker and Redeemer and shows a trust that He will continue to care for you in the future.

Thirdly, we give offerings because we desire to support the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. We want to be sure that the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments will continue to go on in our midst, both for our salvation and for the salvation of others. This Gospel is our very life and our greatest treasure, and we want the good news of Jesus to be proclaimed here and in all the world.