Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Second Adam

In the Garden of Eden man exalts himself to be a god in place of God. He succumbs to the temptation of the devil, and eating of the forbidden fruit he receives death. But in the sin-cursed wilderness God humbles Himself to become man in place of man. Jesus does not eat but fasts and bears the onslaughts of the devil for us that we may be restored to life. In the Garden man tries to win independence from God, to be his own master, to be in charge of his own life, and in the end man cuts himself off from all that is good. But in the wilderness, Jesus depends and relies on His heavenly Father, submitting to His will and looking to Him for all that He needs, in order that He might restore us to faith and to a right relationship with God. In the Garden, the tame and gentle animals that God had created fell under the curse of man's rebellion, turning against one another and against man himself. But in the wilderness, Jesus lived among the wild beasts (Mark 1:13), that He might experience the full effects of the fall and restore His creatures and renew all of creation.

It is for this reason that the Scriptures refer to Jesus as the second Adam. He came to undo and overcome the work of the first Adam. You and I are one with the first Adam. His blood flows through each of us. His rebellion dwells within us. We have participated in his sin. We are of the same nature. In Adam, we die. However, in Christ, we live. For we have also been made one with Christ through our baptism into His body. Jesus bore the sin of our old Adam and put it to death that we might be raised to a new life with Him. Now Christ's blood flows through each of us who have been made to be His members, particularly as we receive His blood and body in the Sacrament. God's love and faithfulness dwell within us by His Word and Spirit. St. Peter says that we have actually been made to be partakers of the divine nature through the flesh of Christ (2 Peter 1:4).

(The rest of this 2007 sermon is here.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Update on Issues, Etc.

Here are a couple of links on the legal matters regarding Issues, Etc., the Synod's Board of Directors, and President Kieschnick.

Timeline of trademark and other issues

About President Kieschnick's memo

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Crucifix is in Place



The icon of Jesus that was on the altar is now over the doorway entering the church from the narthex. In its place is the tabernacle with an icon of the Last Supper.

And one more:

We had to add the white edging so that the beams of the cross didn't get lost in the dark background. That's why the installation of the crucifix was delayed until today--just in time for Ash Wednesday services!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Body of Christ

A nice post from Mt. Zion member and seminarian Nathan Fischer.

No Actors

I saw portions of the Academy Awards last evening. I enjoyed the opening number by Hugh Jackman and a couple other bits along the way. But the overall self-importance of the evening brought to mind some things I preached in an Ash Wednesday sermon a couple of years ago. Here's a portion of that sermon (which is hopefully better than what Sean Penn preached last night).


This coming weekend is the Academy Awards. With much fanfare and media attention, the movie industry will congratulate itself and hand out Oscars to those they believe have excelled in the craft of acting. Now I enjoy movies and watch them fairly regularly, but I do think it is a sign of the decline of our culture that actors are considered to be among the most important people in society. We pay all sorts of attention to people who are really good at faking like they're somebody they're not. Our most popular form of entertainment is to watch accomplished pretenders, those who can give the illusion of reality, which then evaporates and is gone when the cameras are turned off.

I bring this up not to bash Hollywood–-that's like shooting fish in barrel. Rather, I mention this because in today's Gospel Jesus warns us not to be like the hypocrites. And the word for "hypocrite" literally means "actor" or "someone who impersonates another." What Jesus is saying is, "Don't be an actor or an impersonator when it comes to the faith. You may be able to fool others with a show of piety, but God sees the way things truly are. And He's the One you should be paying attention to."

In ancient theater, actors would wear masks over their faces. These masks would hide the actor's true identity from the audience, and the attention would then be drawn to the character he was playing. To this day many theaters will display two masks, one smiling, the other frowning as emblems of this past practice. In our day to day life, we also often put on a mask, a pretend face that conceals the truth of who we are or what we're thinking and feeling. Some are covering the pain of a failing relationship. Others are masking some self-destructive addiction. Still others hide the scars left by loved ones or by complete strangers. All of us try to camouflage our sins and failings and imperfections.

Jesus reminds us that in His church, there are to be no masks. There is to be no faking like everything's going just perfectly, no pretending like you have no struggles with sin in your life. Here, especially as Lent begins, the disguise comes off. We can be honest in the presence of a merciful God, and before one another as His children. Somehow people get the impression that going to church is about showing that you've got it all together spiritually. The last thing you'd want to do is reveal your sins to your pastor. Why, he might actually think you're a sinner who needs forgiveness (as if that would be shocking news). Martin Luther once commented, "May God in His mercy save me from a Christian Church where there are only saints. I want to be with that little company and in that Church where there are faint-hearted and weak people, the sick, and those who are aware of their sin, misery, and wretchedness and who feel it, who cry to God without ceasing and sigh unto Him for comfort and help." (Day by Day We Magnify Thee, p. 226)

(The whole sermon is here.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why is it Good for the Body of Christ to be Portrayed on the Cross?

(The following appeared in the Mt. Zion newsletter and formed the basis of some of our discussion leading up to the decision to purchase a crucifix to go over our altar. The crucifix is a memorial gift given in honor of Lorraine Hintze.)

The cross has been a symbol of the Christian faith ever since the days of the apostles. Sometimes, the cross is portrayed by itself; other times it is portrayed with the body of Christ on it. Of course, both of these types of crosses–the plain cross and the crucifix–are good and perfectly acceptable ways of symbolizing the Christian faith.

However, there are several reasons why Lutherans might prefer the crucifix, the cross with the body of Christ on it. First of all, the Scriptures clearly state, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). While Jesus, of course, is now risen from the dead, the fact remains that the center and focus of our preaching is the sacrifice that Christ made for our sins on the cross. And what better portrays for our eyes the Gospel we hear with our ears but the crucifix? There we see visibly a representation of what our Lord did to redeem us from the burden of our sin. There we see Him on His throne, with His crown of thorns, exercising His royal self-giving love for us. The crucifix portrays very clearly the Scriptural Gospel of Christ the crucified.

Some prefer the empty cross because, they say, it portrays the resurrection. However, that is not really true. The fact of the matter is that all the crosses of all the thousands of criminals who were crucified by the Romans were eventually empty. The bodies were taken down and buried or left for dogs and ravens to eat. All an empty cross means is that the dead body was removed from it. Again, there is certainly nothing wrong with using a plain cross–I have several myself. But we shouldn’t think that it proclaims the resurrection any more than an empty electric chair or hangman’s noose proclaims the resurrection.

Some prefer the plain cross because they think of it as Lutheran and the crucifix as Roman Catholic. But that is simply not the case. Many if not most of the crosses in the churches of the Reformation in the days of Martin Luther would have been crucifixes. Luther never spoke against having the body of Christ portrayed on a cross. It was only things that obscured the Gospel that Luther sought to reform. It is true that many of the non-Lutheran Protestant churches had only plain crosses, since their misguided theology caused them to forbid the use of any statues or sculptures in connection with their worship. But that has never been the theology of Lutheran Churches.

Our theology has always been to emphasize the physical, concrete realities of our salvation in Christ–that He took on our flesh and blood in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, that He died in the flesh for our sins, and that He now gives us His true body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar for our forgiveness. Portraying the body of Christ on the cross fits perfectly with our Scriptural belief that we now receive that same body in Holy Communion. And in fact St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

Using a crucifix can sometimes seem offensive to our sensibilities; we prefer something more pleasant to look at. But the truth is that the Gospel itself is offensive. St. Paul writes that it is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to us who are being saved, the message of the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18,23). Though Christ the crucified was despised and rejected by men and “we hid our faces from Him” (Isaiah 53:3), we now look to the cross in faith and find our life there. In a very real sense it is beautiful for us to behold. We are not ashamed of the Gospel of the crucified One, for it is the power of God to save us (Romans 1:16).

-Pastor Koch-

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sneak Peak

I went down to Stempers today to see the crucifix that we had ordered to replace our current plain cross. I was very pleased. It is pictured above in the store. It was made by the Demetz art studio in Italy. Right now the plan is to have it installed on Monday so that our first service with it in place is Ash Wednesday. Dedication of the cross will take place on the First Sunday in Lent.

Nothing New Under the Sun

In case you didn't think Roman Catholics still did indulgences, here's an article which demonstrates that they're alive and well. You can't buy indulgences outright any more, as in Luther's day. But the underlying problem of human merit contributing toward one's ultimate salvation, taking time off of purgatory, etc. hasn't changed or diminished one bit.

I especially like this quote: "(This year's offer of indulgences) appeared prominently on the Web site of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which announced that any Catholic could receive an indulgence at any of six churches on any day, or at dozens more on specific days, by fulfilling the basic requirements: going to confession, receiving holy communion, saying a prayer for the pope and achieving 'complete detachment from any inclination to sin.'”

Hmm. I think I could handle the first three requirements. But achieving complete detachment from any inclination to sin? That sort of makes the indulgence impossible, doesn't it? The only way to achieve complete detachment from any inclination to sin is to die. But then again, that's Jesus prescription for us in baptism isn't it?

Romans 6:3-5--"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection."
Colossians 3:3--"For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (See the full context of Colossians 3)

Living the baptismal life most certainly means putting down the sinful flesh and engaging in deeds of love. But that is our life precisely because we are in Christ the crucified, already fully redeemed by Him and accepted by the Father. It's all done and delivered by Jesus in His death and resurrection. No indulgences necessary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First Communion/Confirmation

(Here's the lead item in the March Mt. Zion newsletter:)

Dear members of Mt. Zion,

Throughout my years of instructing the young people of this congregation in the Christian faith, I have been pulled by two important desires. The first is that our children should not be made to wait an unnecessarily long time to receive the Sacrament of the Altar. God’s Word gives us no age requirements regarding when someone may receive Holy Communion, only that a person recognize and receive the body and blood of Christ with penitent faith in Him. It is for that reason that we have started Confirmation instruction at a younger age, so that children don’t have to wait until they’re graduating from 8th grade to receive this precious gift of Christ.

On the other hand, we want the children to be thoroughly instructed in the Scriptural faith as it is rightly confessed in the Small Catechism. We want them to be well grounded in the truths of God’s Word and have a deep understanding of the Bible that will stick with them the rest of their lives. That would seem to argue for having Confirmation take place when the children are a little bit older and can grasp things intellectually at a little deeper level. (Of course, our growth in the knowledge of Christ and His Word never ends but is to continue throughout our lives.)

While our current practice of having Confirmation instruction take place during the middle grade levels has worked well, with first communion following Confirmation, I think we would do even better by separating First Communion from the completion of Confirmation instruction. Here are my reasons:

Young children most certainly can receive Holy Communion properly and to their benefit. Martin Luther once said against the followers of the Pope who claimed that they alone were the true church, "God be praised, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is: holy believers and ‘the little sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd.’" (Smalcald Articles, Kolb/Wengert, p. 324) Luther knew that even a seven year old could grasp the things of the church. His practice demonstrated this. The Lutheran churches in Reformation times received to the Lord’s table children as young as around seven years old. These children were brought by their parents and examined by the pastor as to their faith. Acknowledging their sin, confessing faith in Jesus as their Savior who died for their sin, believing that the body and blood of Christ are truly present under the bread and wine for their forgiveness, they were given the Sacrament.

Some may question whether young children can understand such things as the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion. But then which of us adults can understand this great mystery? It is something only faith can grasp.

In the materials that accompany our hymnal Lutheran Service Book, there is an order called "First Communion prior to Confirmation," which acknowledges the importance of this as an option for congregations to practice. These materials from our Synod state,

"This rite is intended to be used to admit to the Lord’s Supper baptized children who have not yet been confirmed. Candidates for admission to the Lord’s Supper have learned the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. They have received careful instruction in the Gospel and the Sacraments. Confessing their sin and trusting in their Savior, they desire to receive the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of their faith in Christ and their love toward others.

"Concerning the worthy reception of the Lord’s Supper, the Small Catechism teaches: ‘That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words "for you" require all hearts to believe.’" (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, p. 25)

A period of instruction for several weeks would take place prior to these children being received to the Lord’s table (in addition to the months and years of Sunday School these children have already attended). Parents would be a part of the teaching process. In this way the children will be properly prepared to reverently receive the gifts Christ has for them in the Sacrament.

Allowing First Communion before Confirmation would have two additional benefits. It would do away with any notion that we are accepted to the Lord’s table because we’ve earned the right by "passing" Confirmation. Holy Communion is not a reward for something we do, but a free gift of God’s grace. Also, allowing an earlier First Communion would enable the in-depth Confirmation instruction to start at a little bit later stage where a deeper look at the Christian faith and life would be more of a possibility.

Parents who bring their children for First Communion would be required to commit themselves to bringing their children to Confirmation instruction later on. We don’t want to diminish the importance of that ongoing catechesis that takes place in Confirmation class. While Confirmation itself is nowhere commanded in the Bible, our ongoing growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance, and this change has the goal of enhancing and improving that in our congregation.

Doing this would definitely be a change from what most of us are familiar with. It’s certainly different from my own experience growing up. But if we truly believe that the Holy Sacrament is the true body and blood of Christ given for us to eat and drink for our forgiveness, then our practice should reflect that belief and not withhold the benefits of this eating and drinking from our younger members who are properly prepared to receive it.

This topic will be brought up for discussion at our next Voters Meeting on March 15th. I encourage you prayerfully to think this through so that we can have a healthy discussion about this matter and hopefully come to a consensus about how to handle the practice of First Communion and Confirmation in our congregation.

-Pastor Koch-

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Still More on Issues, Etc.

Again from Pastor Asburry's blog: Just Let It Go!

What I Love About You . . .

Flipping through the radio stations recently in the car, I heard the words of the 70's song, “Loving you is easy ‘cause you’re beautiful . . .” Which got me to thinking again how we really don’t use the word “love” in its truest sense very often. I might say, “I love my wife’s beautiful hands, or her silly sense of humor.” But love, in the sense of self-giving and self-sacrifice, really isn’t involved in that statement. It’s easy for me to like those characteristics because they’re attractive to me. There’s nothing really self-giving about it, other than perhaps building her up by telling her so.

The truth is that what we really have to love most about our spouses or other family members or friends is their worst characteristics. To truly love them is to give yourself to them in spite of their flaws. That’s where the real self-sacrifice takes place. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). In that sense, what a wife has to love most about her husband is his laziness and impatience, and a husband his wife’s coldness or crankiness, and a friend the other’s disorganization or tendency to gossip, and so on. What parents really have to love most about their children is not their good study habits and their athletic ability, but their disobedience and disrespect. That’s where the patience is tried and the struggle and the real self-giving love of parenting enters in.

Now I’m not suggesting that wives give their husbands a Valentine’s card reading, “What I love about you is how opinionated you are and that you’ve put on a little extra weight.” But it’s worth remembering that to say “I love you” (in any context) is to say “I’m willing to give myself to you and for you no matter what. I am yours, and my highest desire is for your good and your happiness.”

And there is only one who loves like that perfectly and completely. Only our Lord loved us even when we were sinners and His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). What our Lord most had to love about us was our sin. That is what He sacrificed and gave Himself for on the cross. His love covers the multitude of our sins. There was nothing in us that attracted Him to come to our aid. His own love is what made us lovable and lovely in His eyes. Jesus is the literal embodiment of the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13. Our Lord is patient and kind. He keeps no record of wrongs, for His mercy has covered them and taken them away. We are without flaw and without blemish. His love has made it so.

Petersen Brief Review of Book on Marital Infidelity

I hate to promote a post that promotes a link to Oprah's web site (Lord, have mercy!). But Pastor Petersen has a review of a book focusing particularly on why husbands cheat on their wives. I think most married couples will find both the review and the book itself interesting and helpful.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Issues, Etc. stuff

From Pastor Asburry, here's some new stuff you might want to know about what's going on with Issues, Etc.

Update: Here's the open mic segment about the above.

Mary, the Mother of God

Pastor Alms just posted a link regarding a new movie about Mary, the mother of our Lord. Looks interesting, though I never get my hopes up too much about secularly produced movies dealing with Scriptural content.

Pastor Alms is right in noting that the movie's title is Nestorian: Mary, the Mother of Christ. The phrase ascribed to Mary by the church is theotokos, "the bearer of God," or "the mother of God." For she didn't only carry the human nature of Jesus in her womb; she carried and gave birth to the very Son of God, whose natures as God and man are inseparably joined in one person.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Would this story really be any better or different if the abortion hadn't been "botched?" Why is this horrific only when it's in plain view?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Abortion Better than Giving Birth?

On the way to a shut-in visit this morning, I heard Charlie Sykes talking about some alarming comments by Barack Obama's choice for Deputy Attorney General, David Ogden. Here's what the Family Research Council found about Ogden:

In a brief for the American Psychological Association in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, he wrote: "Abortion rarely causes or exacerbates psychological or emotional problems. When women do experience regret, depression, or guilt, such feelings are mild and diminish rapidly without adversely affecting general functioning. The few women who do experience negative psychological responses after abortion appear to be those with preexisting emotional problems ...."

Ogden also wrote: "In sum, it is grossly misleading to tell a woman that abortion imposes possible detrimental psychological effects when the risks are negligible in most cases, when the evidence shows that she is more likely to experience feelings of relief and happiness, and when child-birth and child-rearing or adoption may pose concomitant (if not greater) risks or adverse psychological effects ...."

So many lies are necessary to support the ongoing practice of killing the unborn. Here's a site that gives details about the facts of Post-Abortion Syndrome and it's rather significant impact on women. That abortion is given a more favorable assessment than child-birth borders on obscene.

And here's the portion of the show that I was listening to. What especially struck me was the women who called obviously still in emotional pain over their abortions (the part I heard was about 3/4 of the way in, though there's good discussion starting about 1/4 of the way in). The reality of hearing this just shatters the deception that surrounds this issue. And it's a stark reminder of the need to apply the shed blood of Christ, the only thing which heals and cleanses us of all sin (1 John 1:7).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I went with my daughter today to see a play called Witness put on by First Stage Children's Theater of Milwaukee. It was a fairly standard politically correct production about the Ku Klux clan's effect on a Vermont town in 1924. It's message against hatred was good; it rightly identified prejudice as often being a mask for fear. But I just didn't enjoy the show. Perhaps it was because it wasn't particularly well written, or that the preacher and his congregation were stereotyped (ironically enough) as being hateful and/or ignorant. I guess I'm just tired of being beaten over the head with the constant, wearisome preaching of tolerance as if it were the highest virtue. The winning student essays in the lobby promoting the acceptance of homosexuality were proof that isn't true.

What really got me, though, was when they invited the playwright himself up on stage for the talkback afterwards. One of the adults asked him if he thought America was the same today as it was back then. Amazingly, the guy stated without hesitation or qualification that our country is still exactly the same. Good grief. While there's obviously still pockets of racism around, it's so thoroughly repudiated and looked down upon and our sensitivity to it is so high that even things that aren't racist are condemned for just appearing to be so. (Remember the story about the guy who felt compelled to resign for using the word "niggardly?")

The playwright also stated that he believed such things as those portrayed in the play could happen again. With that I agree. I just wonder if the playwright has stopped to consider that the roots of such intolerance and prejudice thrive in the liberal and artistic institutions he would extol, which mock and impugn the church and those who hold to traditional standards of morality. If tyrannical intolerance reasserts itself to a Klan-like extent again in this country, I believe it's going to be people of his worldview who will come to be the perpetrators, enforcing penalties on those who don't conform to their liberal orthodoxy.