20 July 2008

Homily - Trinity 9

Using His Money to Show His Mercy
Trinity 9

Luke 16:1-13

God tells us exactly what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. As individuals, as families, and as a congregation, we struggle with how best to use our money. At home we love to buy all sorts of new clothes, new cars, and various toys for young and old, but in our current economy with high gas and food prices, we must rethink our priorities. And in the church we struggle with little money and pinch pennies to proclaim the true riches of Jesus’ life and forgiveness. So God knows we need to hear this story of the Unjust Manager, because in this story, Jesus teaches us to use His money to show His mercy.

Before we get the bottom line on Jesus’ “money sermon,” let’s rejoice in His “mercy sermon.” In Luke 15 Jesus gives us three stories on God’s mercy. First: a man has 100 sheep. One goes astray. He leaves the 99 to go find the one. When he finds it, he rejoices greatly. Second story: a woman has ten silver coins, but loses one. She carefully cleans her house until she finds it. When she finds the coin, she rejoices greatly. Third story: a man has two sons. The younger son asks for his share of the inheritance, then goes off and squanders it. When he returns home poor and humbled, his father receives him and rejoices greatly. These stories show and tell God’s great mercy for us lost sinners. All of heaven rejoices greatly and celebrates wondrously when one lost sinner is rescued, found, and made alive by Jesus and His cross-won forgiveness. Keep Jesus’ “mercy sermon” fresh in your mind so you can truly get the point of Jesus’ “money sermon.”

Now Jesus addresses His disciples who trust His mercy. Like the father in the previous story, we meet another rich man. Just as the prodigal son squandered his father’s estate, a manager squanders his master’s money. Just as the father had mercy on his squandering son, the rich master has mercy on his misbehaving manager. He does not execute him, though he legally could have. He does not put him in jail, though he rightly should have. No, the master simply fires the manager who mishandled his business. And the manager would remember such mercy!

The manager knows he is headed straight for the unemployment line. He knows he cannot go into manual labor. He’s too proud to beg or rely on handouts. What does he do? He acts very wisely. He calls in his master’s business clients and has them pay smaller bills. The clients then think, “This manager is a great guy to cut back on what we owe.” Yes, the unjust manager was unjust, but he was also banking on his master’s mercy as he planned ahead.

So the merciful master shows mercy yet again. Even though he was cheated, even though he lost some of his profits, he praised the unjust manager: “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.” No, the master did not commend him for cheating. Rather, he praised him for his wisdom. The manager showed that he could plan ahead. He showed that he was concerned about what would happen to him in the future.

Now we come to the punch line of the story, the real “bottom line”: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” The unbelievers of the world are very good at pursuing their worldly goals. They know how to use money, how to work clients, how to achieve their purposes for their man-made security. And they do it very well. But what about us Christians? Do we know how best to use God’s gift of money for eternal goals, for proclaiming Christ and Him crucified? Or do we try to look and act just like unbelievers when we use Jesus’ money, make our friends, and enjoy our possessions?

In 1532 Martin Luther preached on this same story. He said: “We ought to learn from this that just as a greedy person goes after money and a worldling after his livelihood, so we ought zealously apply ourselves to things eternal” (House Postils 2:354). A worldly unbeliever will get up early in the morning and travel 100s of miles to make a few bucks. Where is the Christian who will eagerly and gladly get up early on a Sunday morning and travel across town to hear the message of Jesus and His forgiveness and mercy? A tightwad tycoon will rearrange his hectic schedule for a lunch meeting and risk cold hard cash for a new, promising investment opportunity. Where is the Christian who will rearrange his schedule to eat and drink at Jesus’ Table and receive the rich feast of Jesus’ forgiveness every chance he/she can? A crude factory worker will gladly work overtime for extra money to pay bills or buy a new boat or truck. Where is the Christian who will gladly and freely devote money, time and energy to make his/her church the best, classiest place on earth for proclaiming God’s goodness in Jesus Christ? Where is the Christian who will gladly give money so the pure Gospel of Jesus can freely spread through community and world?

By God’s mercy, we are the “sons of light,” the Christians. That means we get to live life differently than the worldly, unbelieving people around us. But how can they tell we are any different if we chase after the same fleeting happiness in the money and toys and good times that they pursue? How can they tell we already have our life in Jesus, our meaning in His mercy, our security in His forgiveness, when we use our money and goods merely to please ourselves?

In His mercy Jesus tells us today: “You don’t need to hoard and use your money and possessions to serve yourselves. You don’t need to find your identity in your prosperity. No, your identity comes from Me,” Jesus says. “I make you a child of light. I give you your meaning because you belong to Me. You are My treasured possession. Through My shed blood I forgive your greed. I was rich, but I made Myself poor for you. And by spending all I had on the cross, I make you rich beyond money. So when you possess Me, you have all that you need…now and forever.”

The master’s mercy freed the unjust manager to use money differently. Jesus’ mercy for us frees us to use money and possessions differently. Now we get to use our money and goods to glorify God and serve other people. We get to use His money and goods to show His mercy, to draw other people to Jesus and His forgiveness. But we need to look at our money and goods differently. Let me illustrate. Several years ago politicians in Washington D.C. were talking about a surplus of money. (Hard to believe now, isn’t it?) Some politicians saw that surplus of money as theirs to spend according to their hearts’ desire. Other politicians, however, saw the money surplus differently. They saw it as the people’s money, and so they returned it to the people by cutting taxes. It all depended on how they viewed the money—whether they saw it as theirs or someone else’s.

In the same way Christians view money differently than other people do. Does our money belong to us, to spend according to our heart’s every little desire? No, it actually belongs to Someone else, to Jesus. In Jesus’ story, the money belonged not to the manager, but to the master. The manager simply used and managed what belonged to the master. The money we have does not belong to us, but to Master Jesus. In His mercy He lets us use and manage His money to show His mercy. We learn to say with the Catechism that God “gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have.”

Master Jesus gives us these “little things” of money and goods, so that we can show ourselves faithful in the “bigger things” of His forgiveness, life, and salvation. Our Master Jesus Christ gives us “unrighteous mammon” of money and goods, but they won’t last into eternity. So, He gives us the “true riches” of hearing His words of life, living in our Baptism, and feasting at His Supper. Since we are members of Jesus’ kingdom through water, word and meal, we are rich toward God. And our Lord Jesus loves to see us use all of our riches to show His mercy. Amen.

18 July 2008

Sermon Wordles?

Some of the blogs that I frequent have discovered "Wordles," or word clouds, as a fun--and maybe insightful?--way to analyze sermon texts. I'd emphasize the "fun" part and downplay the insightful part. While it's always prudent to choose your words carefully, the "Wordles" method of reviewing sermons would critique a sermon based merely on word counts (and how some programmer set up the software to display words), not on content, or how those words are put together in an overall message.

Here's an example. For this Sunday's sermon various time constraints and added obligations have led me to "pull one out of the barrel," as they say. So, for giggles, I "wordled" my sermon from Trinity 9 of 2004, which I chose to rework for this Sunday. Here's what it looks like:
Of course, my first thought was, "Oh, no! Someone out there in cyberspace and blogosphere could take my text and 'wordle' it to see if I'm really preaching Jesus!" So, since I was revising the sermon a bit anyway, I decided to tweak the verbage with "Wordle" in mind. Here's what came out for Trinity 9, 2008:
Now, mind you, I did my best to leave the overall message and content quite in tact. With just a few word changes here and there, I can certainly make "money" look smaller and "Jesus" look bigger. But the content and central point of the sermon remains the same: "Jesus teaches us to use His money to show His mercy."

So, by all means, enjoy the "Wordle" just for fun, but be cautious of serious sermon reviews via word clouds, that is, mere word counts. After all, words don't stand in isolation; they get put together into a larger whole, and it's that larger content, context, and message that's truly deserving of hearing and analysis.

16 July 2008

Articles on Issues Cancellation Available

The new Issues, Etc. has now made available several press articles that covered, discussed, exposed, and otherwise evaluated the cancellation of its former incarnation. You can access them at the "Etcetera" section of the Issues website.

15 July 2008

Singing Together

Over at "This Side of the Pulpit" Pr. Christopher Hall has a nice little piece on singing in church. He makes a most needed point for the "American church scene": worship is not about pleasing one's individual desires, especially when it comes to music and singing. How odd it is that so many faithful church-goers, and of various stripes, merely assume that the songs and music are meant to please them on a merely individualistic, private level. It's almost as though "church" ("worship") has become nothing but the Sunday morning version of some pop-radio station's "Request Line"--just make your requests known, and the DJ - er, I mean, pastor - is automatically obligated to air the songs in order to make the listener(s) - i.e. worshiper(s) - happy.

So, thanks, Pr. Hall for a good little post on something that constantly vexes us pastors. After all, I know that I did not become a pastor just so I could take requests, air the right songs, and sit back and say, "Wow, I made 'em happy today."

However, I might quibble just a tad with one minor point in Pr. Hall's piece. In this brief post he says,
There are many reasons to go to church, but going in order to sing songs is not one of them. Hearing the Word of God and receiving the Sacraments--those are reasons to go to church. To worship and pray--those are reasons for going to church. To sing along with a crowd, to be moved emotionally because my favorite church-style or pop-style songs were sung doesn't make the cut (emphasis added).
Actually, I would say that one reason to go to church, among the other good ones he mentions, most certainly IS to sing songs--songs that sing of our Triune God and His unfathomable love for us sinners; songs that proclaim His saving deeds by sending the Son into our flesh to restore us to life with Him through His life, death, and resurrection; songs that comfort us with His goodness and gifts so that we constantly learn to repent of our sins and trust His mercy, forgiveness, and life.

Singing and music truly serve an essential purpose in hearing the Word of God and receiving the Sacraments. They carry that message of mercy in Christ Jesus, and they have a unique way of embedding it in hearts and minds, our bodies and souls.

The better way to critique the "have it your way" and "I want, I want" notions regarding music would be to zero in on the egotism of it all. I forget who said it years ago, but the stronger hymns and songs in the church do seem to be the ones that sing with "we" rather than "I." When we come together to sing the Church's song, we do so as a corporate community, a group of people baptized into the Body of Christ, a group made and becoming more unified in the forgiveness and life of our Savior. Our song, then, is more than "my favorite"; it belongs to the whole community called the Church. Therefore, the incessant requests for songs *I* like to sing, whether they're the "old favorites" or of the newer "styles" (along with the temper tantrums and church hopping that result from not getting one's way), are just plain out of place.

We do come to church to sing together, and we come to sing about something - actually, Someone - outside of and above our narrow little lives and momentary puny cares. In fact, when "we" come together to sing with the "we" of the whole Church catholic, we actually get drawn outside of ourselves as we sing not only in the presence of one another, but also *to* one another. Talk about hearing and proclaiming the Gospel! On those occasions when my voice has been less than operative, it's been great comfort to hear others sing of the saving deeds of our God and Savior. When a widow's grief from losing her husband makes her too emotional to sing, she needs us to sing God's message of life in Jesus' resurrection. The examples could continue.

So singing and music in church are not completely beside the point. They do carry the message of our Savior's works of overcoming sin and death for us. And we do best to check our personal likes, dislikes, tastes, and requests at the door when we enter God's presence. After all, He has something much better in store for us: His Word of life, His Sacraments, and His tender, fatherly ways of uniting us together with each other.

And, who knows, in singing songs that are not necessarily our "favorites" or our self-chosen "style," we just may grow to appreciate more music and singing as well. We will, after all, have a whole eternity to sing the praises of our loving, saving, humanity restoring God, and I'm pretty sure that we'll need a pretty extensive repertoire of music and singing to go with it.

Homily - Funeral

Carried by the Good Shepherd
John 10:11-16
14 July 2008

Let’s begin with a story that Earl loved:
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it. “LORD, you said that [when I followed] you, you’d walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.” The LORD replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Many people find great comfort in that little story, but what’s truly amazing is that someone like Earl would find comfort in it. After all, Earl was a war veteran, no doubt toughened by the horrors of war. He was also an engineer and carpenter by trade, no doubt because he liked to build things and have things fit together in logical, predictable ways. Yet, despite his rough and tough personality and his great accomplishments in constructing bridges and buildings, Earl still found comfort in that little story of the Lord’s presence and protection.

Some people don’t like that little story. Some say that the Lord would be carrying us all the time, so there should only be one set of footprints all the time. Others say that there should really be two sets of footprints, because we’re still following the Lord even through the difficult times. Actually, it might be better to focus on a different “problem” in the story. Why is it that when difficult times come our way, we automatically think that the Lord is not with us? If we could look back on our lives, would we assume that God somehow left us high and dry in the moments we needed Him most?

That is a constant temptation. It’s also a concrete reality. You see, Earl had the same fallen human nature that we all have. Like us, he also would question if God were with him and protecting him. I have no doubts that such thoughts flooded his mind as he sat in the gunner’s seat in the fighter plane during World War II. Such thoughts may have vexed him when he lost his first wife. And these past few years, as he fought the cancer and stared death in the face—a prime opportunity for wondering, “God, where are you?”

So the punch line of that little story is what gives great comfort. In the story the Lord says, “During your times of trial and suffering…it was then that I carried you.” It takes faith to trust something like that, because, after all, that is God’s promise to His dear children—even if they are toughened by war or accomplished in feats of construction and carpentry or fighting against cancer that ultimately wins out.

It’s the very promise that our Lord Jesus Christ gives when He calls Himself “the Good Shepherd.” He says, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” He knows the troublesome time of suffering and dying. That’s why He came into the world—not to avoid suffering and dying, but for the express, eternal purpose of suffering and dying to free us from such troubles. What Earl truly trusted was his Savior who shared in our human toil and woes. After all, Jesus the Christ, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for Earl and for us, His blood-bought sheep. And when He rose victorious on the third day, He revealed the best comfort of all. Death has been swallowed up. Death has been conquered. The enemy worse than war and more threatening than any cancer has been soundly defeated—and all because our Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep, for Earl and for you and me.

Jesus also says this: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28). Now that’s a much greater promise and comfort than that little story! Earl heard the voice of his Shepherd Jesus through the years. He also received the Shepherd’s eternal life every time he ate and drank the Lord’s Body and Blood in Communion. So even now, as he rests and awaits the resurrection of the body on the Last Day, Earl rests in the promise that no one and nothing can snatch him out of his Shepherd’s hand. Even now, Good Shepherd Jesus is carrying Earl.

Dear family and friends of Earl, that promise and comfort are for you too. You may think of this as a time when you see only one set of footprints in the sand, but don’t for a minute think that your Lord and Savior has left you. Remember and trust that your Good Shepherd Jesus is with you, yes, even carrying you. Remember and trust that His victory over death is your victory even now by virtue of your Baptism into Him. And, by all means, remember and trust the words we heard from St. Peter: “According to His great mercy, [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

That’s what Earl awaits as he rests in the arms of his Shepherd. That’s what we anticipate even now. Amen.

Homily - Trinity 8

At Peace with Sin or with God?
Trinity 8

Jeremiah 23:16-29; Acts 20:27-38; Matthew 7:15-23

If there’s one thing God condemns through the Prophet Jeremiah, it’s this: the notion that we can be at peace with the God of Israel and at the same time be at peace with the sin and wickedness in our lives. In our Old Testament reading false prophets were going around telling people, “It shall be well with you.” They were promising this to people who “despise the word of the LORD” and “to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart.” But this is most certainly a case where we cannot eat our cake and have it too. We cannot cozy up to sin and cozy up to God. We cannot coddle the rebellions of our hearts and still sustain saving faith and a living relationship with the living God.

Jeremiah gives an antidote to this foolish dreaming of the prophets. The other prophets had lulled the people into a spiritual slumber and robbed them of their spiritual inheritance. But Jeremiah wants to heal them by waking them up to God’s mercies: “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

Yes, God’s message to us is a fire that purges and cleanses from sin! It’s a hammer that can smash and break our stone-cold, rock-hard human hearts to pieces! Nothing can stand up to that Word when it is spoken faithfully. Oh, sure, a person may rebel against it – may say, “Phooey on you God! I want nothing to do with you! I will live life my way.” But that does not make God’s Word one bit less effective. Its fire will still burn. Its heavy blow will still fall and smash to bits.

So, let’s not imagine, even for one second, that we can possibly live in peace with sin and with God at the same time. If anyone suggests such a thing, they are a false prophet. They are just like the prophets who lied to Israel. And Israel found out the hard way that these preachers of “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14) were only belly-servers and deceivers.

This is not just a problem for the Old Testament people of God. The same problem runs right on through the New Testament. In today’s Gospel reading we hear our Lord Jesus say, as plainly as He can, that we are to “Beware of false prophets, who come to [us] in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Then He tells us how to spot them: “You will recognize them by their fruits.”

Some people think this means that we will realize who is a false prophet by looking at how they live, say, a scandalous life. That may be true. But I think our Lord is making a different point. The fruit of a prophet is what results from believing his teaching. What happens if we take a false prophet at his word? What fruits bud and grow in our life? If we were to listen to the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, and take to heart what they preached, we would think: “Hey, I can do whatever my little heart desires and trust that God will forgive me no matter what, and all will be well in the end.” In other words, their teaching bore the fruit of leaving people unrepentant for their sins. It left their hearts in a state of rebellion against the Holy God of Israel. That’s how we tell if we have a false prophet on our hands and in our ears!

Jesus could not be clearer, or more blunt: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” He tells us flat out that some will say to Him on the Last Day: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” To them He will give the sad and tragic reply: “‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

“Yes, lawlessness,” the Lord says. “You thought you could serve sin and rejoice in it and still enjoy My presence. Don’t you understand that I came to destroy sin? Don’t you get it that I came to free you from sin’s shackles, not to strengthen their hold on you? I went to My Cross bearing the full load of your sin so that you could be forgiven, so that you could stand in My Father’s presence. When I poured out My blood for you, I blotted out the handwriting that was against you. I became a curse for you in order to set you free from the curse of the law. I did all of this to set you free from sin’s tyrannical clutches. Yes, I bought you as My own flock with My own blood, the very blood of God.”

In our second reading, from Acts 20, we hear the Apostle Paul speaking in harmony with Jeremiah and our Lord Jesus. St. Paul warns the Ephesian elders – that is, pastors – to pay careful attention to themselves and to the flock that the Holy Spirit committed to their care. Paul forewarns them that, after he leaves, fierce wolves will come in among the flock. They will even arise from among their own number, speaking twisted things to draw the disciples to themselves, and thus away from the Good Shepherd. And what could be more twisted and more certain to separate them from the Shepherd than telling people: “God forgives you so that you can continue in your rebellion”?

Instead, Paul does what every good pastor must do: he commends them to God in prayer; he commends them to the message of God’s grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, who is able to build them up and give them “the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

So, if you have been playing with sin, enjoying its hollow, fleeting pleasures; if you’ve been toying with it, serving it, living in rebellion against God and His ways of life; if you’ve been holding a grudge, slandering, committing sexual sin, being disobedient to the authorities that God has given; if you’ve been a slave to food or drink; if you’ve been thinking that you can do whatever you want without a care for God or other people around you; if you’ve been thinking that you can live life on your terms, yet still cling to and enjoy the grace and forgiveness of God, then I invite you to hear God’s Word of grace for you today.

You cannot cling to both self-seeking sin and God-given forgiveness. In fact, our whole life as Christians should be one of constantly struggling against the sins that we enjoy far too much. It’s what we call repentance and faith. Our whole life should be marked by repentance, that is, by changing our minds, our wills, and our loyalties from merely earthly things to be more attuned to the things of God. It’s what Scripture calls working out our salvation with fear and trembling. It takes work—hard work—to hate our sin instead of hating God, and it takes work to love our God who conquers sin and death for us and in us. Sometimes – even quite often – we will fail in our work, and our struggle will end in defeat. But the real defeat comes when we cease to struggle against sin at all.

But here is the incredibly great news: God still wants you, still cleanses you, still nourishes you to enjoy His mercy, His grace, His presence. No matter how defiled, no matter how rebellious and sinful, no matter how deceived by false prophets, He calls you to Himself, the Crucified and Resurrected One. In the blood and water that flowed from His pierced side and through the sacred Font, He washes you from your sins and sets you free to live for Him. In the same body nailed to a tree and the same blood spilled from the Cross, He comes to you today again at this holy Table. He who puts an end to sin and deals a deathblow to death feeds you with His forgiveness and life. He calls you to come to Him and let Him give you His forgiveness – to hear from the lips of your pastor the divine Absolution that sets you free from the chains of your sins and covers you with His perfect righteousness. He wants to unite you to Himself and pour out His good Spirit into you.

So, beware of false prophets. Beware of anyone who suggests to you that you can stay safe and secure in your sin. Beware…and flee. Flee to your Jesus, the True Prophet, who conquers the sin, who rescues you from its clutches, and who gives you life and strength to live with Him. Amen.

Homily - Wedding

The Lamb’s Wedding
Revelation 19:6-9
12 July 2008

John and Devon, what a great day for the two of you. As God designed from the beginning, the two of you are becoming one flesh for life. As our Lord Jesus taught, when the two become one flesh, let no one—absolutely no one, including either of you—separate them. When the two of you are joined together in flesh here today, God means for that union to last for life.

You have chosen a most interesting Epistle reading for today. Normally we hear from Ephesians 5, about wives submitting to their husbands as the Church does to Christ and about husbands sacrificing themselves for their wives as Christ does for His Church. But you have chosen to transport us to the end of time with a reading on the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

In Revelation 19 St. John the Apostle heard the voice of a great multitude. That noise of the crowd sounded to him like “the roar of many waters” and “the sound of mighty peals of thunder” (kind of like we had last night, after the rehearsal! ☺). What was this crowd gathered for? A most majestic wedding: the wedding and marriage supper of Jesus and His Bride the Church! It will be the most majestic wedding ever seen. It will make even the most regal weddings, like that of Princess Di many years ago, look like child’s play.

Yet, John and Devon, you get to be a picture of this very marriage between Christ and His Bride the Church. Yes, as you stand here today, and as you live your marriage for the years to come, you get to give the rest of us a glimpse of the perfect marriage between Jesus and His Church. Now that’s a tall order. Do you think you’re up to the challenge?

At first you may think that you’re not quite up to that challenge. After all, each of you knows your weaknesses and your faults and foibles, even some weakness and foibles of each other, with more sure to come as you grow together through the years. But even with those weaknesses, faults, foibles, and sins, you will still show us the love of Christ for His bride, the Church. You see, your Lord Jesus loved you and His whole Church by sacrificing Himself—becoming the Lamb of God who takes away your sins and the sins of the world.

You, Devon and John, will get to sacrifice yourselves for each other in much the same way. You will get to sacrifice your individual wants and desires in order to do what’s best for the other person and even the marriage itself. You will get plenty of opportunities to love each other by putting the other person before yourself. And when you don’t do that quite so well—when each of you gets caught thinking about self and letting the other person down—then you will get to practice forgiveness. And it’s the very forgiveness that your Lord Jesus has given you in His blood shed from the cross.

And because of that blood of Jesus the Lamb, the two of you will get to show us what life in His Church is all about. Our reading says that the “Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” What a beautiful sight! And what was that linen? “The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Those righteous deeds come from the Righteous One Himself. But you, Devon and John, get to show a life of living in His righteous deeds as you faithfully attend the Divine Service, as you partake week in and week out of His Supper called Communion. You see, it’s from the Communion that you learn to love and forgive each other, just as your Lord has forgiven and loves you.

So, yes, today we join with the great crowd in Revelation. By gathering in God’s House, we cry out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” He reigns now, as the two of you become one flesh. After all, it’s His plan and design. But He will also reign from this point forward, as the two of you learn to love and forgive each other even as He has loved and forgiven you. So, in your union with each other and with your Lord, you are showing us the great marriage mystery of Jesus and His Church. Amen.


...I've not fallen off the face of the earth!

Just been tending to other obligations: a wedding and a funeral, with the necessary rehearsals, preparations, and dinners, all in one weekend; getting used to my glorious new iPhone (via Christmas gift money just waiting to be used :-) ; preparing for a three-hour seminar and a one-hour workshop at the LCMS Commission on Worship's "Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church" music next week; trying to get ready for vacation after that; getting used to my new iPhone and getting it set up for optimum performance; oh, yeah, trying to keep up with regular parish duties (visits, sermon preparations, Bible class preparations), and did I say getting acquainted with my new iPhone? (What a cool gadget! :-)

So, while I'm taking my break from seminar and workshop preparations (or procrastinating?), I'll take a few moments and post the homilies from this past weekend.

09 July 2008

Homily - Trinity 7 Midweek

From Wrestling to Rest
Trinity 7 Midweek

Romans 7:14-25a & Matthew 11:25-30 (Ser. A-Prop. 9)

We hear Jesus inviting to come to Him for rest: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But we also hear St. Paul describe his wrestling with sin after he became a Christian: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Talk about conflicting messages here in one service! What shall we make of this conflict, this tug of war between wrestling and resting?

Remember that St. Paul does not describe just himself. His words also describe us. His internal wrestling match between sinner and saint is our wrestling match too. It’s our tug of war between the inborn, indwelling rebel-without-a-cause and the baptized, reborn, faithful follower of Jesus who grows in us by God’s grace. So, tonight we wrestle with our wrestling, but then we are invited to rest in Christ’s redemption. Tonight we wrestle with our sin, and then we rest in Jesus’ forgiveness and life. In fact, that’s the heart of being Christian—wrestling with our inborn desire to rely on ourselves and then resting in the new birth of relying on Jesus. After all, our Lord Jesus wrestled with our sin on the cross and He also gives us the rest of His resurrection life.

Each one of us has our shameful deeds, our skeletons in the closet, our burdensome thoughts, words, or actions. And they weigh us down, even years after the fact. Some we can talk about, but others are just too raw and painful to mention. Some words or deeds we were very proud of when we performed them; now we wouldn’t be caught dead doing them. No doubt these shameful, sinful thoughts, words, and deeds have already revealed the stench of death in us. And that’s a horrifying reality check!

But we’re not alone in that realization. Many in the Bible wrestled with their sins. Just think of David and his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband. Just think of Peter and this three-fold denial of Jesus, or Paul and his persecution of Christians before he was converted. For centuries, everyone in the Church has wrestled with sins. Take St. Augustine, for another example. He was locked in a full-nelson with his sin. The former Christian rock band “Petra” actually summarized St. Augustine’s story quite well in a song called “St. Augustine’s Pears.” Listen to the lyrics:

Late one night I heard a knock at the door
The boys were really painting the town
I was just another bored teenage boy
Kickin’ up and actin’ the clown

One dare led to another dare
Then things were getting out of control
We hopped the fence and we stole the pears
And I threw away a part of my soul
Yes, I threw away a part of my soul.

Now it’s haunting me how I stole those pears
‘Cause I love the wrong
Even though I knew a better way
Not for hunger or poverty
It was more than pears that I ended up throwin’ away.

Time goes by – now I’m old and grey
Those pears are just a memory
I would gladly pay all I have today
But that’s just not the problem you see.

‘Cause it’s haunting me how I stole those pears
‘Cause I loved the wrong
Even though I knew a better way
Not for hunger or poverty
It was more than pears that I ended up throwin’ away.

The song continues with St. Augustine reflecting this way:

Why do we do all the things that are wrong
Forbidden fruit has a strange siren song
Why do we do what we don’t want to do
When we live with regrets our whole life through.

It’s haunting me how I stole those pears
‘Cause I loved the wrong
Even though I knew a better way
Not for hunger or poverty
It was more than pears that I ended up throwin’ away.
(Petra, “God Fixation,” Word Records, 1998, track 10).

What a penetrating reflection! Sound familiar? Perhaps it makes you reflect on how you “love the wrong.” Yes, we do love to sin. And what causes us to sin? As Scripture reminds us, it’s simply the love to sin. It’s that innate cancer that infects us from the time we are conceived in our mothers’ wombs.

Well, the song may leave us diagnosing our sin, poking and prodding and forcing ourselves to say, “Ah” as we see the symptoms. But our Lord Jesus does not leave us there. Actually, St. Augustine was not left there either. St. Augustine thanked God for His forgiveness and salvation. He said, “I will love You, O Lord, and thank You, and confess to Your name, because You have put away from me these wicked and nefarious acts of mine. To Your grace I attribute it, and to Your mercy, that You have melted away my sin as if it were ice” (Confessions, Bk. 2, Ch. 7).

Our Lord Jesus led Augustine from wrestling to rest. Listen to Augustine one more time: “Who can unravel that twisted and tangled knottiness? I hate to reflect on it. I hate to look at it. But You do I long for, O righteousness and innocence, fair and pleasant to all virtuous eyes, and of a satisfaction that never palls! With You is perfect rest, and life unchanging. He who enters into You enters into the joy of his Lord, and shall have no fear, and shall do excellently in the most Excellent” (Confessions, Bk. 2, ch. 10).

So, let the words of Jesus ring loudly and clearly in your ears and hearts: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Yes, we labor and are heavy laden as we strive and toil against our sin and sins. We are weighed down by how little we truly trust God and how loveless we are toward people around us. But Jesus is speaking to us.

Jesus promises and gives rest. Yes, it’s healthful to examine ourselves and reflect on how we love the wrong. But let’s not turn that into a psychotic syndrome with incessant torture. We have a comforting promise from Jesus: “I will give you rest.” When our Lord says, “Come to Me,” He wants us to trust that His battle with sin and death has overcome our dreaded enemies. By His wrestling with our sin on the cross, we are forgiven. That’s our rest and our freedom—our freedom to live in Jesus’ resurrection rest and peace.

And that rest and peace are ours again this evening in the Eucharist. Martin Luther said it this way in his Large Catechism: “Here [Jesus] offers us the entire treasure that He has brought for us from heaven. With the greatest kindness He invites us to receive it also in other places, like when He says in St. Matthew 11:28, ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’… We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved” (LC V:66-68). Amen.

08 July 2008

Yep, still longing for the New Creation!

Thanks, Fr. Hollywood, for posting this video, several versions of which show up on YouTube, (depending on what song you may prefer with it as well as what "love your neighbor" and "get in touch with your long lost loved ones" message you may desire :-).

Rather than take this video as a "love your neighbor" and "get in touch with your friends" message, perhaps we really ought to think of our Savior's restoration of us and all of His creation begun in His death and resurrection. Not only does this video remind me of that news story of a lion hugging its benefactor (see my March 14 post), but once again it instills that healthy longing for our Lord's new creation when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, etc. It also reminds me of Luther's delightful speculation about Adam before the fall into sin:
"I am fully convinced that before Adam's sin his eyes were so sharp and clear that they surpassed those of the lynx and eagle. He was stronger than the lions and the bears, whose strength is very great; and he handled them the way we handle puppies. Both the loveliness and the quality of the fruits he used as food were also far superior to what they are now" ("Lectures on Genesis," Luther's Works, American Edition, vol. 1, p. 62).
And, I suppose I must say this: this video does lead me to appreciate - I guess - the loving mauling that my little Beagles often give, jumping up on my lap, getting right in my face, and smothering me with licks. Yes, that too gives a glimpse of our Lord's restored creation (even if I do have to go wash my face afterward, because, yes, I do know where those tongues have been and what they may have eaten in the backyard! :-).

07 July 2008

"Issues" Bulletin Blurb

Pastors and church secretaries (or anyone else responsible for preparing the Sunday bulletin),

Please consider running this announcement for Issues, Etc. in your church's bulletin:

LUTHERAN TALK RADIO. You can listen to Issues, Etc. on-demand at www.issuesetc.org. Issues, Etc. is hosted by LCMS Pastor Todd Wilken and produced by Lutheran Public Radio. This week's topics include: Islam, The Gospel, Religion & the 2008 Election, Evangelical Style, Lutheran Substance, the Purpose Driven Movement and more. Listen to what you want when you want at www.issuesetc.org!

Issues "A-List"

If you haven't seen it yet, check out Pr. Cwirla's post on the "A-List" of guests on Issues, Etc. resurrected. He also comes to grips with the term "pirate radio" as he celebrates Lutherans being on "the cutting edge of societal evolution" (to quote another radio personality). :-)

06 July 2008

Homily - Trinity 7

“Things that Are Profitable for Us”
Trinity 7

Mark 8:1-9

Did you catch the lamentable question from the disciples? Jesus wants to feed the crowd, because, after all, they’ve been hanging out with Him for three whole days, listening to His great teaching about the kingdom of God. But when Jesus expresses His compassion for the crowd, the disciples merely respond with faithless confusion: “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

Now you’d think that the disciples, of all people, would know better. But they don’t. Jesus had already fed 5000 people, and that from a mere five loaves of bread and two small fish. In St. John’s Gospel we read of two different worries that the disciples had at that earlier miraculous meal. First, they fretted over the mammoth need. As Philip said: “The wages for 200 days of work—that’s just over $10,000 with our current minimum wage—would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (Jn. 6:7). Second, they were anxious over the meager resources at their disposal. “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother said to [Jesus], ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they among so many?’” (Jn. 6:9). Yet Jesus used those meager resources to meet the mammoth need. From the five small loaves and two small fish He made a feast that fed 5000 men plus women and children and had twelve good-sized baskets of fragments left over.

You’d think the disciples would remember that. But no! Now comes a second mammoth need with similarly meager resources. And what do the disciples ask? “How can we possibly feed all of these 4000 people?” But remember how Jesus started this discussion: “I have compassion on the crowd.” So He takes the seven loaves and the few small fish, He blesses them, He hands them to the disciples, they distribute them to the crowd, and everyone is satisfied. And again they have leftovers—seven good-sized baskets full.

Actually, you’d think that we would know better too. After all, we have both stories, and we hear them year after year. We heard the Feeding of the 5000 back on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Now today we hear the Feeding of the 4000. It’s almost as if Jesus is quizzing us to see if we’ll catch on and trust Him to provide for us. But we keep worrying about how we’ll make ends meet. We keep wringing our hands over our mammoth needs and our meager resources. We keep wondering and fretting over how our Lord can possibly feed us and provide for us here in this desolate place called the world.

Of course, we’re all aware of the news reports on the economy. The housing market has been in a slump for some time now. Economists are saying, “Yep, we’re in a ‘bear market’ on Wall Street” or “Yep, we’re heading into a recession.” But we really see the mammoth need and the meager resources every time we fill up the gas tanks in our cars or sit in traffic just burning up that liquid gold that makes our cars go. And not only are gas prices skyrocketing, so are the prices for our favorite foods. How on earth can we make ends meet now in this desolate economy?

Then, in our anxiety, we also seek to uncover what went wrong or determine whom to blame. Who or what caused the high gas prices—what politicians, what businesses, what governmental policies or what business practices? And in this election year we look to certain politicians to fix the problem for us. Which candidate for President will fix the housing slump or the energy crisis for us? But let’s be honest. None of this can truly solve our faithless confusion. None of this can soothe our troubled souls or heal our anxious cares.

That’s why we need the words and actions of our Lord Jesus. What He said to His disciples He also says to us: “I have compassion on the crowd.” Great words of promise and comfort! Then He puts those words into action by feeding the mammoth crowd of 4000 with the meager resources of seven loaves and a few small fish. Remember, this is the same Jesus who would promise and show His great compassion by going to the cross, by suffering and dying to free us from sin and death. This is the same Jesus who would rise from the dead on the third day to proclaim and give us His life with God, both now and into eternity. That’s His greatest compassion!

So how does that help us when we face the anxieties and stresses of an economy in a tailspin? Listen again to the words we prayed in today’s Collect. We began by addressing God: “O God, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth….” We may look at our nation’s economy and our personal finances and think things are out of control. But really our gracious God orders all things both in heaven and earth. Yes, our Lord and Savior Jesus is in control of all things. He does know what we need, and He gives us what we need to live and survive. That shows His great compassion too.

Then we petitioned our providential God with this request: “we humbly implore You to put away from us all hurtful things and to give us those things that are profitable for us.” Yes, right now, paying $4.00 per gallon for gas seems like a “hurtful thing,” as does paying more for simple groceries. But actually there are things more hurtful to us—things such as anxiety and worry, things such as our dependence on money and stuff for meaning in life, things such as trusting our possessions and status in life over our Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us.

So let me suggest that we consider high prices at the gas pump and the grocery store under the second part of our petition. We ask God “to give us those things that are profitable for us.” He always has, and He always does. As people who trust the great, cross-won, resurrection-given compassion of our Savior Jesus, we can receive and view most things in life as “profitable for us.” After all, paying more at the pump or at the check out line just may lead us to rethink and revise our priorities. It just may lead us to see that we don’t need all of the frills and niceties that money can buy. It just may lead us to realize that all the goodies of life are here today but gone tomorrow, passing away like the morning dew. It just may lead us to realize that we must and can depend on our compassionate Savior God to sustain us.

And He does just that, dear friends. If our Lord Jesus can feed a mammoth, hungry crowd from just a few loaves of bread and some fish, He can certainly take care of us in our daily needs. When we have Him, His life, His forgiveness, His salvation, everything else is but icing on the cake. When we have and hold dear His new life in our Baptism, we see that bad economic times cannot take that new life away. When we have Him in His Body and Blood on the Altar, we are nourished and strengthened to persevere and endure whatever trials come our way. In fact, when we cling to our compassionate Christ in His words and deeds, we realize that He is the chief thing that is most profitable for us. Our great, giving God has already answered our prayer. He gives us exactly what we need in giving us His Son to feed us and satisfy us. So, come to His Table, eat, drink and be satisfied!

On Friday we celebrated our nation’s independence. When I prayed the prayer “For the nation” (LSB, p. 313), the last line of the prayer resonated quite well. It says, “When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail.” Yes, prosperous times and troubled times will come and go. However, our Lord Jesus has compassion and we can trust Him to give those things that are profitable for us. Not only does He open His hands and satisfy the desires of every living thing, but He also satisfies us with Himself, with His mercy and forgiveness, and with His very Body and Blood. So, come, be filled, and be satisfied! Amen.

02 July 2008

Preach You the Word

On Sunday June 29, 2008 - the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles - Mike Bahr was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bluffs, Illinois. I was both honored and humbled to be asked to preach for this great event, and my sermon is posted here. It was also a day of pride as I got to see a fine young man whom I had the privilege of supervising in Field Education reach his goal of serving the Lord and His Church.

Pr. Bahr will be a very fine pastor for God's flock at Bluffs, Arenzville, and Winchester, IL. I pray God's most gracious blessing on him and the fine folks in the tri-parish. May He grant many years for them to hear and grow together in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Here's a picture of the clergy who came for the laying on of hands:

And here's a picture of the ordinand and his proud former Field Ed. supervisor:

I must also admit that it was somewhat surreal to receive the Eucharist from the hand of this fine young man whom I trained (somewhat, at least) in the Sunday morning liturgy. :-) But it's also great to call Mike a brother in Office. So, Mike,

Preach you the Word and plant it home
To men who like or like it not,
The Word that shall endure and stand
When flow'rs and men shall be forgot.

Preach you the Word and plant it home
And never faint; the Harvest Lord
Who gave the sower seed to sow
Will watch and tend His planted Word
(LSB, 586:1, 6)

Porthos & Gimli Update

Some of you have asked how Porthos and Gimli are doing, and some have even sent their "hugs and kisses" (okay, not your exact words perhaps, but a similar sentiment ;-). Here they are, enjoying the warm summer weather a couple of weeks ago, and, as they say in Trinidad, doing some "liming" (just hangin' out), except without the mandatory beer. (Yes, I've tried, but they just turn up their noses. Oh, well, more for me! :-)


...to Pr. Paul Becker of Kingsport, Tennessee, as he enters the world of blogging. You can check it out here.

Looks like he's just starting to venture out into the wild, wooly world of blogdom, so I look forward to seeing more.

The Visitation

Last week, on June 24, we celebrated a little "Advent in June" with the Nativity of John the Baptist. Today we who use the historic One-Year Series from LSB celebrate some "Advent in July" with the Visitation. (Those who use the LSB Three-Year Series celebrated this festival on May 31.)

In the Visitation we hear the account of the Virgin Mary going to visit her relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth is six months pregnant with John the Baptist, and Mary has just been given the miraculous conception of the Word of God, the eternal Son of God, in her womb. But the visitation that truly captures our attention and elicits our praise, along with that of Mary and Elizabeth, is that God Himself comes to visit us in the flesh.

Isaiah 11:1-5

The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed the coming of our visiting Lord and Savior as "a shoot from the stump of Jesse." The Holy Spirit would rest on Him, thus showing Him to be the very embodiment of God's "wisdom and understanding," "counsel and might," "knowledge and the fear of the LORD." We discover all of this in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh in the womb of the humble Virgin. The Savior who comes to visit us brings righteousness, that is, righteousness as the gift of God's forgiveness and the vindication of being set free from sin, death, and the devil. Thus this "shoot from the stump of Jesse" would "judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth." How blessed we are that our Savior comes to visit!

Romans 12:9-16
When our Savior comes to visit us in our flesh and blood, He comes to reunite and restore us to life with our holy, Triune God, the very life we had before Adam and Eve's fall into sin and death. Thus today's Epistle reading draws our attention to our true humanity, what it should look like and how it is meant to be lived. "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Certainly the Virgin Mother of God displayed these qualities and lived these virtues in her lowly state, but our Lord Jesus showed them perfectly and supremely. While Mary is certainly a good example of faithfully receiving the great things that God did for her, her Son both shows us how to "rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer," and He freely gives such gifts to us through His atoning death and resurrection and in the work and life of His Church. Since He has come to visit us in great humility by taking on our flesh and by dying and rising for us, we too can "rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." We also can live and love in our recreated humanity and "live in harmony with one another," striving not to be haughty but rather to associate with the lowly and shunning conceit. This is the life that our visiting Lord embodies and gives for us.

Luke 1:39-56
Today's Gospel gives us the account of Mary coming to visit Elizabeth. However, the greater visitation happens between those who are unseen at this time: John and Jesus each in their mother's wombs. When Jesus enters the house, residing in Mary's womb, John, in his mother's womb, leaps for joy. His Savior, as well as the Savior of his parents and of the Virgin herself, has come to visit. Then Mary sings her magnificent song of praise, lauding God Himself, extolling His deeds for her and the rest of humanity, and teaching us how to receive God's good things no matter how lowly our estate. Mary serves as our great example for how to receive our God who comes to visit us in the flesh--in the flesh of His Incarnation and "in the flesh" of His Body the Church, especially as He comes in His Body and Blood on the Altar. Luther said it well in 1521: "Therefore god lets us remain poor and hapless, because we cannot leave His tender gifts undefiled or keep an even mind, but let our spirits rise or fall according to how He gives or takes away His gifts. But Mary's heart remains the same at all times: she lets God have His will with her and draws from it all only a good comfort, joy and trust in God. Thus we too should do; that would be to sing a right Magnificat" (The Magnificat, 1521; cited in For All the Saints, III:1307).

When our Savior comes to visit in His flesh and blood then, in Mary's womb, and in His Body and Blood now, at the Eucharist, we rejoice greatly, because He restores us to life with God by working His justice over our sin and death and over our enemy the devil. Thus we sing as Mary teaches us: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

01 July 2008

A Most Intriguing Phenomenon

As Mr. Spock from Star Trek might say, "Intriguing" or even "Fascinating." To what do I refer? The most intriguing phenomenon of what appears to be a fairly silent blogosphere now that Issues, Etc. has actually returned to the airwaves on the Internet and on radio.

Back on March 18, the blogosphere erupted with talk of what happened, why it happened, and how to fix it. Many words were written, many posts were published--by myself and others--and I know that visits to my blog skyrocketed to over 1000 hits for several of those days following the ignominious cancellation of Issues, Etc. Yes, we wanted to know "Why?" I had fun creating that little red circle-slash over the old Issues logo, and was quite thrilled to see it pop up in so many other places. (Perhaps I should have copyrighted it? ;-)

So what's happening now that Issues, Etc. has returned to the airwaves? Where are the bloggers and those who visit, read and comment? I posted one little piece yesterday after the first hour and as the second hour got underway. For this blog Site-Meter shows a whopping 239 visits yesterday, and as of now I have one comment for the Issues post. (Don't get me wrong, I truly appreciate all 239 visits from yesterday as well as the singular comment so far. Thanks, Susan!)

Now I'm sure that many of the blogs which commented on the Issues, Etc. debacle, the online petition, and even the events leading up to and including the protest in front of the LCMS International Center wound up on some kind of watch lists at the IC. I am certain that many readers of the blogs for those few weeks merely wanted to spy out what was being said for the purposes of "damage control," or being informed on what some of us loonies were saying, or who knows what. (Hmm. Wonder what's in my official, top-secret file now? ;-) Now that Issues, Etc. has resumed independent of any official LCMS channels, I'm sure some couldn't care less. They achieved their objective of ridding themselves of a thorn in their theological side and their ecclesial agenda, and they weathered their little self-made typhoon. So be it.

But what is most intriguing to me is that, apparently, those who longed for and eagerly anticipated the return of Issues, Etc. - and with the promise of "no holds barred," as we heard on the initial announcement of its return - also seem somewhat silent. What's up with that? (Please don't take this as any kind of chastisement. It's not meant that way at all! I'm simply observing a most intriguing phenomenon.)

What is that phenomenon? It would appear that blog publishing, and perhaps periodical publishing in general, seems to thrive on and long for *bad news* rather than good news. After all, what make the front page of the newspaper? The sordid bad news of floodings and murders, not the good news of births and wedding engagements. So, it would appear that the same holds true for the blogosphere even when discussing Issues, Etc. and related matters. When the tragedy happens, the blogosphere livens up quite quickly. But when things are coasting along smoothly and well, then we just sort of carry on with our business ... and make it a point to listen to www.piratechristianradio.com come 3:00 p.m. Central Time.

Let me say again, I don't mean this as criticism in any way, shape, matter, or form. It's just an intriguing observation, and I thought that I'd put it out for general consumption and discussion. I have no doubts that faithful Issues, Etc. listeners are very glad to hear once again the discussions, the host, the producer, and the guests. Yes, thank God for it. I'm sure everyone got their "fix" yesterday afternoon :-), and it is certainly nice to hear some much better bump music! :-) I'm even looking forward to see how the listenership numbers measure up to what they were previously on KFUO-AM or in the previous online, on-demand venues. I hope they put the previous numbers to shame!

What I will say is this: Come on, folks, talk it up! Let's not let the bad news rule the day; let's enjoy and promote the good news that is happening - especially this good news that draws us and so many to the real Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us sinners. So many wanted Issues to return to the airwaves. Well, it has. So let's keep talking it up! (And, of course, keep supporting it financially as well.) After all, we Christians have a chance to show how set apart from the world's values we can be. We can actually put something good and decent on these "front pages" called blogs.