16 December 2012

It's not the gun ... it's the sinner behind the gun.

Two more gun-related tragedies have recently taken place: a shooting at the Clackamas Town Center near Portland, Oregon, and, most recently, the horrific, barbaric shooting of innocent children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. (I refuse to glorify the monstrous gunmen by mentioning their names here; they don't need such "fame" for their heinous deeds.)

Our hearts ache and our eyes weep with those who have lost loved ones, those who have been injured, those who have had to witness the carnage, and those whose lives have been changed forever! Lord, have mercy! Lord Jesus, come soon and "lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation" (Collect for Advent 3).

So many people are looking for answers to the questions of "Why?" or "Where was God?" or "How could God let something like this happen?" However, let's always remember that it was not God who brought evil into the world. It was us human beings, when we turned away from God. And let's also remember that our true comfort and peace come in this glorious Good News: God is still with us. In His eternal mercy, He has not abandoned His fallen world, nor His fallen creatures. That's what the Christmas message is all about: God came down to us in His Son Jesus Christ--the Word made flesh--to rescue us from the darkness of our sinful nature, of the fallen world, and of evil itself.

And when folks start blaming the guns ... and when politicians and media types start clamoring for stricter gun laws, as well as lurching toward confiscating guns from those who legally and responsibly own and use them ... let's remember one simple fact. The guns do not pull their own triggers. It takes fallen, sinful human beings to do that. It's not the gun that's the problem in these horrific shooting events; it's the sinful human being behind the gun.

Just in case that point is a bit difficult to swallow, consider this little-reported detail from the recent shooting near Portland, Oregon. It would appear that another sinner and another gun were involved, and for a beneficial and salutary end. But we won't hear that from the national media. And we certainly won't hear that this sinner and his gun actually may have reduced the carnage that the gunman, who did make the news (and generated the hype ... and received his "15 minutes of fame"), could have inflicted.

The gun is not the problem; the sinner behind the gun is!

22 September 2012

"Lutheran" Way to Beat Debt?

Some people lament that Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is "not Lutheran." Well, duh! Dave's not a Lutheran and never claims to be.

But that raises a different question: Is there a specifically "Lutheran" way for beating debt, building wealth, and learning to give?

Or could Dave's (and grandma's) ways of avoiding debt, growing wealth, and giving generously be just good ol' First Article wisdom--which itself *is* very Lutheran?

Besides, how much Lutheran theology does one need in order to beat debt, build wealth, and give lots of it away?

08 August 2012

"His Time"

Check out "His Time," every morning, Monday - Friday, 7:00-9:30 a.m. (Central Time) on worldwide KFUO radio.

“His Time” starts your day by sanctifying it with the Word of God and prayer. Based on God’s time in the Church Year, we feast on God’s Word in daily Scripture readings and interview guests on various topics vital to your daily life. The “Morning Prayer” segment features devotional meditations by pastors from around the country.

04 July 2012

Does the Declaration of Independence Still Matter?

Thank you, Heritage Foundation, for expressing not only what's on my mind this Independence Day, but also what truly needs to be said, read, heard, and pondered by all Americans. This from "The Morning Bell" put out by the Heritage  Foundation:

The Declaration of Independence was partly intended as a list of grievances against a distant monarch. And both George III and the colonists who disagreed with his rule are long dead. But so are many of those who’ve argued that the Declaration is obsolete. In fact, this is exactly what those who called themselves “progressives” were saying a century ago.

Woodrow Wilson, one of the most famous early progressives, argued during the 1912 presidential campaign that “all that Progressives ask or desire is permission…to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle,” meaning that it should promote an ever-expanding set of powers for an ever-expanding government. The problem, he declared, was that pesky Declaration of Independence: “Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence,” he remarked. “The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day.”

But in fact the Declaration is more than a litany of complaints. Its greater meaning is as a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government. It proclaimed that political rule would, from then on, reside in the sovereignty of the people. “If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence,” wrote the great historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, “it would have been worthwhile.”

The ringing phrases of the document’s famous second paragraph are a powerful synthesis of American constitutional and republican government theories. All men have a right to liberty as they are by nature equal, which is to say none are inherently superior and deserve to rule or inferior and deserve to be ruled.

Because all are endowed with these rights, the rights are unalienable, which means that they cannot be given up or taken away. And because individuals equally possess these rights, governments derive their just powers from the consent of those governed. Government’s purpose is to secure these fundamental rights and, although prudence tells us that governments should not be changed for trivial reasons, the people retain the right to alter or abolish government when it becomes destructive of these ends.

The Declaration also insists we have the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” A higher component of that pursuit, of course, is being able to worship as we please. What right is more fundamental than religious liberty? Yet as Heritage’s Sarah Torre wrote recently, that right seems to be under attack.
Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate has a narrow religious exemption that applies only to formal houses of worship. Countless other religious employers, like Catholic schools, hospitals, and crisis pregnancy centers, are forced to provide coverage for the mandated services despite moral or religious objections—simply because they step outside the four walls of a church to serve others.
Insinuating that faith should remain behind closed doors, not influencing or inspiring care for others, the government’s narrow view of religion has created what some have called a “religious caste system.” Only those considered “religious enough” by government bureaucrats are awarded religious freedom under the mandate.

Churches across the country have been pushing back against the regulation since its promulgation. A national “Fortnight for Freedom” has been spotlighting the erosion of religious freedom and helping Americans learn how to defend their freedom. Torre notes that “the freedoms enshrined in our founding document will be hard to ignore on July 4. As the Fortnight for Freedom concludes, church bells across the country will ring simultaneously at noon (Eastern time), declaring loudly: Let Religious Freedom Ring.”

On Independence Day – and every day – Americans should remember and celebrate the Declaration’s timeless expression of our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and recall all those – past, present, and future – who pledge their lives, liberty, and sacred honor to upholding these truths.

21 June 2012

President Harrison on "Open Letter on Religious Freedom"

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION: Putting Beliefs into Practice

Putting Beliefs into Practice

An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerley yours,

Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches

The Rev. John A. Moldstad
Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions
Orthodox Church in America

Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann
Concordia Deaconess Conference
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis

The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All American and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
Hispanic Evangelical Association

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Imam Faizul R. Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of Washington Area

Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann,
R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A.
Generalate Secretary
Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
Superior General of the Sisters of Life

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky
Director of External Affairs
and Interchurch Relations
Orthodox Church in America

The Rev. Mark Schroeder
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Sister Barbara Anne Gooding,
Director, Department of Religion
Saint Francis Health System

The Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church in America

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran,
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p.
Communications Director
Little Sisters of the Poor

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
The General Council of the Assemblies of God

14 June 2012

My Recent Interview with Mr. Timothy Goeglein

On Wednesday, 13 June, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Timothy Goeglein on my radio program, "The Morning Show," on KFUO Radio. Mr. Goeglein served for nearly eight years as Deputy Director of the Office of Public Liaison for President George W. Bush and now serves as Vice President of External Relations for Focus on the Family.

Goeglein's book, The Man in the Middle, is a memoir of his years in public service, especially his years in the Bush White House.  He makes the case that 1) George W. Bush was a president driven by strong Christian conviction and integrity, and 2) Christians, with their Christian worldview, are very much needed in the restoration of culture and government.

It was a high honor to interview Mr. Goeglein, and I hope that it's but the first of more to come!

Here's a link to the audio of the interview at the KFUO website.

10 June 2012

Be sure to listen...

...to "The Morning Show" on KFUO Radio this week!

Two very special guests will join us.

On Monday, 11 June, a very important guest will join us in the second half of the 8:00 hour.

On Wednesday, 13 June (first half of the 8:00 hour), we will interview Mr. Timothy Goeglein.

Goeglein now serves as Vice President with Focus on the Family, but formerly he served in the George W. Bush Administration in the Office of Public Liaison for almost eight years.

We'll talk with Tim about his book, The Man in the Middle, in which he gives insights into the Bush White House, the character of our 43rd President, as well as some stunning and self-less forgiveness that President Bush showed to Goeglein and his family.

"The Morning Show"
7:00-9:00 a.m., Central Time
AM 850, in greater St. Louis
www.kfuoam.org, online and worldwide

29 May 2012

Faith and Works: Two Sides of the Same Coin

The following article will appear in the June-July issue of my congregation's newsletter, The Hope Lutheran:

We Lutherans are good about talking about how we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But what about our good works? Do we Lutherans talk at all about how to live our life and how to do good works? Let’s see.
In 1520 Martin Luther wrote a book called The Freedom of the Christian. He made two statements that, at first glance, seem to contradict each other. Luther said,
·       A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none,” and
·       A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 31, p. 344)
What exactly did Luther mean? Since the Bible shaped Luther and his teaching, he was saying only what God says in His written Word. Even the Bible seems to give us some “dueling verses.” On the one hand, we read St. Paul when he says, “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). Then, on the other hand, we read St. James, who says, “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).
Well, which is it? Are we justified by faith alone, or are we justified by our works and our faith? Are we free lords, or dutiful servants? The answer is a good, firm, solid Lutheran “Yes!” Let me explain.
In Ephesians 2:8-10, St. Paul shows us how faith and works are really like to sides of the same coin—that coin being life with God. In part 1 of this well known passage Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God saved us purely and solely by His grace revealed in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. As St. Paul said earlier in Ephesians 2, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Now, a corpse cannot give itself CPR, can it? Of course not! But God saved us—made us alive—by His grace, that is, by His goodness in Christ Jesus, His Son. And we receive that gift of new life and forgiveness by faith alone. In other words, we may not see visible proof of our new spiritual life, given by God Himself, but we can trust Him that we have it. As St. Paul says elsewhere, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
After extolling God’s grace that saves us, St. Paul goes on to part 2 of this well known passage. Here he talks about living in good works: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Now that we are alive in Christ Jesus, we live to do good works, and we do good works as we live all of life. Now that Christ’s blood covers and cloaks our sin, God sees everything we do as “good”—everything from getting up in the morning to going to work or school to helping a friend in need. Now that God makes us completely pure and holy in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, we are free to do good works.
The catch, however, is that we do not need to do our good works for God. He doesn’t want or need them for Himself. Instead, we get to do our good works for our neighbor. Gustaf Wingren, a 20th century Swedish Lutheran theologian, said it this way: “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does” (Luther on Vocation, p. 10).
You see, God already gives us everything by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. He does not need us to “give Him” our good works. Instead, God wants us to give our good works to our neighbor. Bishop Wingren explained the difference well. First, he explained what faith is all about:
Faith receives a gift which is not to be “used” toward something else; it is simply a gift, a promise of participation in Christ’s eternal kingdom. Faith is joy at a gift which man received without becoming as good as he hoped (the gospel is for sinners). When he also receives God’s commandment, he heeds it, not that he may thereby become a better person—that would still be bondage to the law—but simply because God commands it. Such “single” obedience is the work of the Holy Spirit (Luther on Vocation, p. 200).
Simply stated, faith only receives the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ as a free gift. The good news is this: we don’t need to do anything—anything!—to acquire or keep God’s gift of spiritual life.
Bishop Wingren then explained good works. Again, we don’t need to do our good works “for God” or “for Jesus.” Instead, we get to do them for our neighbor. Here’s what Wingren said:
The man of faith knows that in God he has enough for eternity. Therefore he can desist from great, systematic efforts toward being holy. He can attend to that which needs righting in relation to other people’s need, in the context of his life. It is of no moment to him whether or not his actions look spiritual. He does not act in order to strengthen his religious life, but rather for the sake of his neighbor. (Luther on Vocation, p. 201-202)
So, when we think about our faith and our good works—yes, Lutherans teach both!—we remember that they belong together like two sides of the same coin. First, God makes us pure, perfect, and completely holy in the blood of Jesus Christ. In our Baptism, God washed us clean for all eternity. When we hear the Gospel proclaimed in sermons, Bible classes or Holy Absolution, God keeps us pure and perfect in His forgiveness. And as often as we eat and drink Christ’s Body and Blood, Jesus Himself strengthens us on His own perfect life. So, in Christ each of us really is “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This new, pure, perfect, holy life that God freely gives us shows itself as we serve our neighbor. And our neighbor can be as close as our spouse, our child, or our parent, or as unknown as the child who benefits from our donation to the United Way. Good works are not necessarily “fancy works” or “works that get praised” at church or in society. Good works serve the need of our neighbor. Our good works can include feeding a homeless person, or they can simply involve clearing the table after dinner or changing a dirty diaper. Going to work in the morning and doing our job to the best of our ability is just as much a good work as giving to a charity. You see, God delights in all shapes and sizes of good works. But He does not create us for good works so that we can stroke our own egos. Instead, He “reprograms us,” if you will, to do good works for our neighbor’s benefit.
So, we can rejoice in our faith in Christ Jesus and in our good works. They go together like two sides of the same coin—the “coin” of new life with God in Christ Jesus. The hymn says it so well,
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
      And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
      With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
            The proof that faith is living. (LSB 555:9)

26 May 2012

KFUO Open House - 5/29/2012

You're invited to an open house on Tuesday May 29 2012 anytime between 10: am and 2: pm. We are celebrating our 85th anniversary of broadcasting from our current location at 85 Founders lane in Clayton, Mo. The KFUO air studio is the longest continually operating broadcast studio in the world.

"With Intrepid Hearts"

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison talks with seminary student Chris Chandler at the conclusion of today's (5/23) chapel service at The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod's International Center in St. Louis.

03 May 2012

And Kudos...

...to all who have been listening and continue listening to "The Morning Show" on KFUO Radio (AM 850 in greater St. Louis, or kfuo.org worldwide), Monday-Friday, 7:00-9:00 a.m. (Central Time).

It truly is an honor and joy to serve as host of the show. It's a great delight to help you start your day with:
  • the Word of God and prayer - "Morning Prayer" segment,
  • catechetical thoughts - "Feeding the Faith" segment,
  • quick trips through the Church's history - "On This Day" segment,
  • news and views from around the Church - "Around the LCMS" segment,
  • and different topics in the "Open Lines" segment.
By the way, please call in or email (kfuo@kfuo.org), and join the conversation. No need to be shy.

Thank you for letting us help you "Sanctify your day with the Word of God and prayer"!

Delightful Hearing

Thank you, Pr. Weedon, for the kudos on KFUO's "Morning Show," and especially for your insight into today's reading from Luke 10!

I do have to wonder if it wasn't the hearing of this text that largely sparked the insight. After all, when we read the text on a page, we do tend to break things up, by sentence or verse or paragraph or according to editorial headings. But when we actually hear the text read aloud, the mind - with the aid of the Holy Spirit, of course (cf. John 16:13) - seems to make these insightful connections. St. Paul said it well: "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).

And that's what makes it so delightful to put the Church's prayer life out on the airwaves to be heard.

Here's Pr. Weedon's post in full:

One of the delightful things...

...about the morning commute into St. Louis is that at 7 a.m. each morning, KFUO (850 AM) returns to the airwaves, and I get to pray Matins with my dear friend, Pastor Randy Asburry.  This morning as he read the NT reading in Treasury (from Luke 10), I heard something I'd always missed before.  You see, one of the dangers of using a lectionary is that stories take on a life of their own and you forget that they nestle right next to OTHER stories.  So I certainly know very well the pericopes dealing with the Good Samaritan, and Jesus' visit to the home of Martha and Mary.  But I plum forgot that thy literally are next-door neighbors!

So, think of it:  the Good Samaritan story ends with Jesus wringing from the lawyer the very word that is at the heart of Torah:  mercy.  And he tells him:  "Go and do likewise."  Go, show mercy.  Go, have compassion.  Go, be of service and use to another.

And THEN, we see Martha being all good Samaritanish, serving and working in the kitchen, fixing a meal for our Lord and his followers.  And yet when she dares to criticize Mary and urge the Lord to tell her to get busy with the serving, Jesus stops her dead in her tracks.  The result of Martha's busyness was that she was fretting and worked up about lots of stuff.  Mary, on the other hand, has chosen the better part, the better portion, the chief goodie.  Jesus refuses to let anyone take it from her.

The life of action or the contemplative life?  Well, our Lord desires for us both.  But he's utterly clear which MUST have the priority.  His Word and the hearing of His Word and its preaching.  That's the best, and we must never allow anyone to deprive us of it with urging to be busy.  For we can ONLY "go and do likewise" when we have first sat at the Feet of the Good Samaritan and let Him through His Word spoken and sacramentally enacted bind up our wounds, anoint us, and heal us.

Anywho, kudos to KFUO for allowing us to kick off each day with the joys of hearing the Word together, singing God's praises together, and asking His blessing upon the new day He has seen fit to give us.  "O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise!"

18 April 2012

Conception to Birth - Visualized

Now here's an amazing video!

It certainly brings out the depth and gravitas of Psalm 139:14: "I praise you, [O LORD,] for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

04 April 2012

Thank you, Pr. Peters!

Thank you, Pastor Larry Peters, for the plug on KFUO's "Morning Show."

WOW.... KFUO becomes a radio station of the Church...

First we spoke about the restoration of Issues, Etc., albeit as paid programming airing on KFUO... Now this!  Why, who would have thunk it?  A radio station of the Church...  Think what might have been with KFUO-FM...
HT: Pastoral Meanderings

01 April 2012

New Morning Show on KFUO

On Monday, 2 April 2012, KFUO Radio (AM 850 in the St. Louis area or kfuo.org around the worldwide web) will begin airing a new Morning Show. And it will be hosted by little ol' me (Yep, they must have been searching the bottom of the barrel! :-).

The Morning Show will include such features as:
  • Daily Prayer - praying with the Church & using the Church's prayers (Matins, Morning Prayer),
  • Feeding the Faith - some early morning Catechism discussion,
  • Daily Devotion - such as Higher Things Reflections,
  • On This Day - a look at our Christian history each day,
  • Around the LCMS - news and interviews on the work and happenings of our church body,
  • and more.
  • Heck, we might even be able to squeeze in some Open Lines now and again.
Start your day off right. Listen to the Morning Show, Monday - Friday, 7:00 - 9:00 a.m. (Central Time) on LCMS owned and operated KFUO Radio. AM 850 (St. Louis area) or kfuo.org (around the world)!

Homily for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

So the holiest week of the Christian year begins. The Divine Service began with the procession with palms and the reading of the Palm Sunday Gospel. This year we chose to use John 12:12-19. For the Sunday of the Passion we chose to use an alternate Gospel reading--the one used in the SELK lectionary--John 12:20-36, the continuation of the processional Gospel.

In this Gospel reading some Greeks approach Philip and ask him: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." This request leads to Jesus revealing when and how we get to see him, namely, when He suffers and dies. Like a grain of wheat, our Lord falls to the earth and dies, but in His dying He "bears much fruit," namely, forgiveness, life and salvation for us.

Today's homily, "We Wish to See Jesus," picks up on the request of the Greeks. Our loving Lord wants us to seek and see Him, but only where He has promised to be seen, where He is lifted up in order to draw all people to Himself.

To listen to "We Wish to See Jesus," click here and download the audio file.

30 March 2012

Holy Week Message from Pres. Harrison

What a great way to prepare for Holy Week--a 10 minute sermon/Bible study on the Gospel of Mark. Thank you, President Harrison!

Homily for Lent 5 Midweek

We wrapped up this year's series on "Thirsty for Living Waters" with two very familiar readings. In Exodus 17:1-7, the Israelites thirst for water, grumble against Moses and God, and then receive water from a rock. In John 19:16b-42 the living water gushes forth from the pierced side of our crucified Lord Jesus, the Rock Himself. Our crucified Lord came--and comes--by water and blood to quench our thirst for life with God Himself.

Click here, download the audio file, and listen to "Jesus Thirsts to Satisfy You."

Homily for Lent 4 Midweek

Our fourth installment in the Lenten series of "Thirsty for Living Waters" was titled "A Fountain Opened to Cleanse." The homily focused Zechariah 12:10-13:1 and John 18:28-19:16a. In Zechariah's day, God's people had just returned from exile in Babylon and wondered if God would yet provide them with a future and a hope. Yes, they would have a hope and a future, when they look "on Him whom they have pierced." So, Pilate brings Him out and invites one and all to "Behold the Man" (ecce homo). This Man, beaten and bruised because of and for our transgressions, is the fountain opened to cleanse us from sin and uncleanness.

To listen to "A Fountain Opened to Cleanse," click here and download the audio file.

Homily for Lent 4

The Fourth Sunday in Lent - Laetare - is one of my favorites for preaching. There's so much in that Gospel reading of John 6:1-15. If we focus simply on the physical Feeding of the 5000, we can point out the joys of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, providing for all of our bodily needs. Martin Luther certainly took this approach in his house postils for this Sunday. And yet when we include the context of the rest of John 6, Jesus the Bread of Life draws us into eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to receive His eternal life. He certainly provides for our spiritual needs in the Eucharist.

This year, however, I must admit to becoming fixated on the fixations of Philip and Andrew--fixations that got in the way of their faith. Philip was obviously fixated on the enormous need of so many hungry people coming to Jesus. Andrew was fixated on the meager resources of the mere five small barley loaves (akin to sandwich rolls?) and two small fish. And so the homily focused on Jesus "Fixing Our Fixations."

Our Bread of Life, the living Lord Jesus, does indeed fix our fixations over enormous needs and meager resources. Not only does our gracious heavenly Father provide for our bodily needs (First Article), but He also gives us His Son (Second Article) to forgive us for our fixations that get in the way of faith. On top of all that, our gracious, saving God also brings us into His Church (Third Article), where He feeds us on Himself to strengthen our faith.

Click here to download the audio file and listen to "Fixing Our Fixations."

Homily for Lent 3 Midweek

The midweek homily for the third week in Lent, "Water to Restore Parched Souls," focused on the cleansing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-15a and Peter's thirst for the living waters of Jesus in John 18:15-27. Both men were parched and dry--Naaman from his leprosy and misbelief, and Peter in his denials and self-preservation. For both men the cleansing waters of God's rich mercy and grace created new hearts and renewed their spirits (Psalm 51:10-12). Jesus' living water in Baptism also gives life to our souls parched with self-preservation. Our gracious Lord creates new hearts and right spirits in us as He works "forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation" in the waters of our Baptism.

Listen to "Water to Restore Parched Souls." Just click here and download the audio file.

Homily for Lent 2 Midweek

For the second week in Lent we continued the theme of "Thirsty for Living Waters" with a homily on Joshua 3:1-17 and John 18:1-14. This week's homily ran with the theme "Water That Ends Our Wandering" and showed how our Baptism brings us to the Promised Land of our Lord's forgiveness and salvation.

Click here, download the audio file, and listen to "Water That Ends Our Wandering."

16 March 2012

The Lord Bless "Chaplain" Weedon

Our good friend Pr. William Weedon is going to the LCMS International Center to serve as Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain. While the good brothers and sisters at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Hamel, IL, may consider this a "loss" for them, the church at large within the Missouri Synod may certainly consider this a large gain and blessing.

Here's the official press release (HT: lcms.org):
Weedon accepts call to LCMS Worship, IC chaplaincy post
The Rev. William C. Weedon of Worden, Ill., has accepted the call to serve as the Synod's director of Worship and International Center (IC) chaplain.
He will join the staff at the IC May 1. His installation is planned for May 7 at 10 a.m. in the IC chapel.
Weedon, 51, has been pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, Ill. -- just northeast of the metropolitan St. Louis area -- since 1992.
In his new position with the Synod's Office of National Mission (ONM) as the director of Worship, he will report to ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day. As IC chaplain, he will report to the Office of the President. 
In his director of Worship role, Weedon will be responsible for proposing and creating programs that will carry out the purposes and aims of the Synod in matters of worship. As IC chaplain, he will work with the President's Office in planning and supervising all chapel services at the IC and Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF), as well as rendering informal chaplaincy and counseling services to employees as requested.
Before the Synod's restructuring that was mandated by the 2010 LCMS convention, its worship and IC chaplaincy duties were carried out by separate staff members. An executive director reported to the former LCMS Commission on Worship, and chaplaincy services for the staff were provided part time by a retired pastor.
"The ONM is overjoyed that Rev. Weedon has accepted the call to support the Synod in her worship life," Day said. "Rev. Weedon brings deep knowledge and passion for the liturgical life of congregations. His evangelical spirit and ability to work with everyone lovingly in koinonia make him well suited to lead continued discussion on a matter that remains contentious in the Synod, but lies at the heart of our life together."
Concerning his worship responsibilities, Weedon said, "We have been blessed with an extraordinarily rich, intentional and beautiful liturgical heritage that fully accords with our Lutheran Confessions. We recognize that within that heritage we possess a wide range of freedom in how we receive together the Lord's gifts in our parishes, but that we have a responsibility to each other and, above all, to the world to make sure that the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ rings through loud and clear in all we do. Together, we'll grow in our corporate reception of the Lord's gifts in an authentically Lutheran manner that is not legalistic, but joyfully receives our living and ever-growing heritage."
"It is absolutely important to provide regular chapel services and ensure pastoral care for the people at the IC and at LCEF who daily make decisions on behalf of the LCMS," Weedon said of his chaplaincy responsibilities. "We're not in competition with the pastoral care these folks receive in their own churches, but we seek to supplement it by speaking the Word of God in the midst of our work, allowing that Word to permeate and shape our life together . . . in service to Christ's church."
Weedon has become familiar to Synod staff who have come to hear him preach through Luther's Small Catechism at Wednesday-morning chapel services from January through June, in 2011 and 2012.
A 1982 graduate of Concordia College - New York, in Bronxville, Weedon earned M.Div. and S.T.M. degrees from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1986 and 1998, respectively. From 1986 until 1992, he was pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Burlington, N.C.
Weedon is a contributor for Concordia Publishing House's (CPH) upcoming The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes; a contributor to CPH's A Year in the New Testament (published in 2010) and a reviser and updater for Starck's Prayer Book (CPH, 2009). He also is the author of CPH's 2009 Bible study titled "Matter of the Heart" and of its book Lutheranism 101: All About Jesus, which is slated for publication in 2013.
He also has written articles published in church journals and magazines including Concordia Pulpit Resources and Higher Things.
In addition, Weedon served as a member of the working group of the Lord's Supper Liturgy in preparation for Lutheran Service Book.
In other service to the church, he currently is spiritual counselor for the Concordia Deaconess Conference. He was a regent for Concordia University Chicago until accepting the call from the Synod. Also, he has served as keynote presenter and chaplain for Higher Things youth conferences, as a facilitator for the Synod's PALS program, and as circuit counselor. He is a frequent guest on the "Issues, Etc." radio program.
Weedon and his wife, Cynthia, have three grown children: daughters Lauren Herberts, a Lutheran teacher in Overland, Mo., and Rebekah, a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Ill.); and a son, David, a graphic designer living in Worden. Cynthia Weedon is office manager for White Mountain Financial in Alhambra, Ill. She is an accomplished vocalist and frequent soloist -- particularly in church and with the Collinsville (Ill.) Chorale.
A blogger for a number of years, Pastor Weedon's blog can be found at weedon.blogspot.com.
Posted March 16, 2012

08 March 2012

Who Speaks for the Church?

Thank you, Pastor Peters, for this wonderful insight!

HT: Pastoral Meanderings

Divide, Distract, and Conquer

Who speaks for the Church?  As is so often the case, the media loves to point to those within the pews who dissent from or disagree with the teachings of their church.  Call them cafeteria Catholics or lunch line Lutherans or buffet Baptists, the issue remains that dissenters and those who disagree do not get to define what the Church believes, confesses and teaches.

The Obama administration has attempted to exploit the fact that there are Roman Catholics who do violate their church teachings and use birth control.  So what?  There are dieters that cheat at Weight Watchers and AA members that sneak a drink.  There are speeders who violate the speed limits and yet we do not allow them to define what is law and what is not.  It is a bogus argument that will certainly backfire on the administration and it is one that we need to address whenever established teaching is challenged.

Lutherans don't get to decide what Lutherans believe, confess, and teach.  That was decided for us when adopted the Book of Concord as our confessional standard.  Outside of the BoC, the individual resolutions of the various Lutheran bodies define where they stand -- not individuals, be they clergy or lay.

It is about time that we remember this fact and call the ad hominem arguments that appeal to dissent or those who disagree as justification for saying this is what this church or that believes, confesses, and teaches.  Who speaks for the Church?  Its confessors (in Rome, the Pope and his bishops), its councils (Orthodoxy), and its confessions (Lutherans).  No matter what we might like to think, these are not so vague or imprecise as to justify or allow broad diversity.  All three are fairly specific.  We know what Rome teaches, what Constantinople teaches, and what Wittenberg teaches.  Evangelicalism is a muddle and they will have to solve that but for the rest of us, we know who speaks for the Church.  Period.

07 March 2012

LCMS Campus Ministry's "Unwrapped"

A big event coming up for LCMS Campus Ministry: "Unwrapped." Coming to St. Louis in 2013. Go here for more information.


For those of us who liked superheroes when we were children (and, truth be told, still do in their newer, big-screen, live action versions) the notion of a man flying by himself, outside of an airplane, a helicopter, etc., well, it's quite intriguing and exhilarating. (Pr. Weedon: You need not view, if the heights and flights will get the better of you! :-)

Get a load of "Jetman"!
HT: Translogic

Homily for Lent 2

What do you do when you must "wrestle" with our Lord Jesus Himself? What do you do when the Lord Himself tests your faith? These questions come straight out of the Gospel reading, Matthew 15:21-28, for the Second Sunday in Lent (Reminiscere). So Sunday's homily focused on the theme "When the Lord Tests Your Faith."

To listen to "When the Lord Tests Your Faith," click here and download the audio file.

Homily for Lent 1 Midweek

This year's theme for our Lent Evening Prayer services is "Thirsty for Living Waters." We are tying together the Scriptural theme of water, the Biblical and Catechism teaching on Baptism, and the Passion readings from the Gospel of John.

Last Wednesday's homily was titled "A Little Water Fills the World" and focused on the readings from Ezekiel 47:1-2 and John 13:1-20.

To listen to "A Little Water Fills the World," click here and download the audio file.

Lutheran Satire: Where Are the Women?

06 March 2012

"Issues, Etc." Returns to KFUO

On Monday, March 12, the popular Lutheran talk radio show Issues, Etc. will return to KFUO (AM 850 in the St. Louis area, and kfuo.org), the radio station owned and operated by the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. The show will air 3-5 p.m. Central Time.

After its unexpected and ignominious cancellation on March 18, 2008, by synodical officialdom (see here and here), Issues, Etc. returned to the air on June 30, 2008. Since that time Issues, Etc. has been broadcasting its two-hour show (3-5 p.m. Central Time) over the internet with the 4-5 p.m. hour also broadcasting on St. Louis area's KSIV 1320 (Bott Radio Network) on.

Issues, Etc. will remain independent of the LCMS and KFUO Radio as it simply buys airtime from the Synod's radio station. Lutheran Public Radio will maintain editorial and financial control of Issues, Etc. content and programing.

For more information here's the press release:
“Issues, Etc.”, a radio talk show produced by Lutheran Public Radio and hosted by Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Pastor Todd Wilken, will begin broadcasting live Monday, March 12 from 3-5 p.m. CST weekdays on KFUO, 850 AM in St. Louis. “Issues, Etc.” has been broadcasting on KSIV, Bott Radio Network in St. Louis since June 30, 2008. KFUO is owned and operated by the LCMS. The popular radio show aired for more than 15 years on KFUO. However, the LCMS cancelled the program on March 18, 2008.

“By purchasing airtime on KFUO instead of KSIV, we will be able to offer ten hours of live programming each week to St. Louis area listeners instead of five hours of programming. KFUO also provides a stronger signal for our listeners in southern Illinois,” said Jeff Schwarz, general manager of LPR.

“We will not become employees of KFUO or the LCMS,” said Pastor Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc. “LPR and KFUO are totally separate entities. When listeners donate to KFUO, they won’t be supporting LPR and vice versa. It is vitally important for us to have complete editorial control and financial independence from the LCMS.”

“We are extremely thankful to the Bott family and to the Bott Radio Network for providing us the opportunity to broadcast Issues, Etc. on KSIV,” Schwarz said. “Almost immediately after the cancellation, we were contacted by Rich Bott and presented with the opportunity to continue broadcasting on a terrestrial radio station in St. Louis.”

LPR will continue to produce “Issues, Etc.” from its studios in Collinsville, IL.
HT: Mollie over at "Steadfast Lutherans"

01 March 2012

Chuck Colson: Standing Up for Religious Liberty

HT: ManhattanDeclaration.org

"Mr. President, I Still Believe"

The good folks over at ManhattanDeclaration.org are putting forth a petition to send to President Obama regarding his Administration's assault on religious liberty via the healthcare law and the recent HHS mandate compelling religious organization to provide drugs and services that go against their faith. The petition asks the President to reconsider his recent decisions and actions and actually to return to upholding the U.S. Constitution as he swore to do.

I just signed the petition, and I highly encourage you to sign it as well. To sign the petition, "Mr. President, I Still Believe," go here.

Here's the text of the petition in its entirety:
Dear President Obama,

I am deeply disappointed at your recent failure to protect religious liberty in the context of the HHS preventive care mandate. As Americans we are used to having political and religious disagreements. But we should all be able to agree that the government should not force religious people and institutions to provide drugs and services that violate their faith.

The recent statement from HHS that it will give religious objectors one extra year to change their religious views added insult to injury. It is as if you are saying to religious people "We respect your religious views so much that we'll give you one extra year to abandon them." Religious principles have no expiration date. True protection for religious liberty--the kind required by the Constitution you swore to uphold and the federal laws you are obliged to enforce--requires a broad religious exemption, one that protects any person or institution from being forced to provide services in violation of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Please reconsider your administration's actions and order HHS to provide the kind of broad protection for religious liberty that our laws require. Doing so would honor the sacrifices of those who fought and died to give us our freedoms. It would allow religious employers across the country to stay in business and keep offering health insurance to their employees. And it would pay tribute to the great heritage of religious diversity upon which this great nation was built.
Again, to sign Manhattan Declaration's petition to President Obama, go here.

To read and sign the Manhattan Declaration itself, go here.

(It is something to watch the ticker keep going up as it indicates a steady stream of signers!)

29 February 2012

Maggie Karner Speaks at Heritage Foundation

On Monday, February 27, Mrs. Maggie Karner spoke before the Heritage Foundation. The topic? The recent overreaching mandate of the U.S. Government to force religious organizations, other than houses of worship, to provide abortion-causing drugs quite contrary to their tenets and their consciences. And to prove that, yes, women too stand up for the First Amendment right that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Way to go, Maggie! And thanks for keeping the mercy work of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod front and center.

Homily for Lent 1 - Invocabit

The Gospel reading for the First Sunday in Lent, Matthew 4:1-11, presents us with our previously baptized Lord Jesus, the Son of  God, as He endures and conquers the temptations of the devil. We certainly face many and sundry temptations, and it is great comfort to hear the Good News of Jesus conquering those temptations and forgiving us when we fall.

This year, however, I chose not to focus on the temptations, but rather on the doubt. Yes, doubt. The tempter uses the tactic of doubt when he seeks to lure Jesus into breaking His fast: "If you are the Son of God...." It was the same tactic the sly, satanic foe used in the Garden of Eden: "Did God really say...?"

Not only does Jesus, our great High Priest, conquer the temptations Satan hurls our way, but He also overcomes the doubts, especially the doubts about who and Whose we are.

Click here, download the audio file, and listen to "Overcoming the Doubt(s)."

Homily for Ash Wednesday

Last week's Ash Wednesday homily, "The Sacrifices of God," focused on two things: 1) the notion of giving things up for Lent (sacrificing) and 2) the sacrifices that Psalm 51 proclaims and sets before. While we may certainly "give something up" for Lent (chocolate cake, Starbucks runs, or even Facebook!), and while that may certainly be fine outward training, Psalm 51 guides us to sacrifice our sins for Lent. Yes, you read that correctly! "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17). You see, when we sacrifice our sins--that is, bring them out into the open in Confession--then we joyously receive the Lord's genuine sacrifice for us--His blood-bought Absolution.

To listen to "The Sacrifices of God," click here and download the audio file.

22 February 2012

KFUO's "The Bible Study" - Feb. 21

Here's the audio archive of yesterday's "The Bible Study" on KFUO (AM 850; kfuo.org). We read and discussed Genesis 1:1-2:3.

The World and Everything in It & Pres. Harrison

WORLD Magazine also produces a weekly news magazine radio/podcast program called "The World and Everything in It." This last weekend's edition (Feb. 18) led with the story of the clergy, including LCMS President Matthew Harrison, testifying before the House Committee on the overreaching HHS mandate on contraception and abortifacients. Listen to the segment, Hour A, Segment 1, here.

Homily for Quinquagesima

Quinquagesima ("50 days") is indeed fifty days before Easter. On this last Sunday before Lent, we hear Jesus once again prepare His disciples, and us, for His passion, death, and resurrection. But they just don't get it. It's no accident that the following section of the Gospel reading, Luke 18:31-43, gives us Jesus healing a blind man. His faith in the Christ made Him well. That is, the formerly blind man saw who Jesus is, the Suffering Savior, and followed Him.

Yes, Jesus must open our eyes to see that the coming season of Lent is vital for understanding and trusting who Jesus is and what He has come to do for us. He shows us His "Sacrificial Grace" by going to Jerusalem, suffering, dying, and rising again for us. It's the very love proclaimed in the day's Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 13. "The great love chapter" is the chapter about His great, sacrificial love for us.

To listen to "Sacrificial Grace," click here and download the audio file.

20 February 2012

Pretty much sums it up

Here's a picture that pretty much sums up what transpired at last Thursday's House Committee meeting in which Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, along with other clergy (Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Jewish), testified to defend our First Amendment religious liberties:

Sorry, liberal, leftist politicians who merely wanted to make the "absence" of women an issue, your weeping and gnashing of teeth just don't cut it!

17 February 2012

An Excellent Piece from Mollie Hemmingway

 A Lutheran, a Jew, a Baptist and a Catholic Walk Into A Hearing
HT: ricochet.com
Right now, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee is having a hearing titled "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" Witnesses include the head of my church body, the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod).

Also there: Dr. Ben Mitchell of Union University, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University, Dr. Craig Mitchell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Roman Catholic Bishop William Lori of Connecticut.

The hearing included many of the members (on both sides of the aisle) engaged in grandstanding, but that shouldn't take away from the unity shown by the many religious bodies taking the threat to religious liberty very seriously. This is routinely treated as an issue for bishops or a Catholic issue, and that is far too narrow. This is an issue that poses serious threats to all religious groups. In fact, we're talking about threats to our individual freedom that go well beyond religion -- the federal government telling individuals how to run their businesses with no detail too small.

At one point, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., suggested that the religious leaders were lying when they said they were concerned about religious liberty and called the hearing "a sham."

How wise of a political strategy is it for Democrats to shake their finger at Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish leaders while calling them liars? It didn't sit particularly well with me.

Rev. Harrison revisited the topic later by saying that he loathes politics and reminding the members that 98% of what we Lutherans do has nothing to do with politics and that our church is full of Democrats and Republicans. We are focused on preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments, rather than politics. We pray for President Obama daily, he noted. He said he was there for one reason and one reason only: the HHS threat to religious liberty. Other leaders echoed those sentiments.

I believe that the church has much more important work to do than weighing in on politics every day. I can't emphasize how rare it is for our church to get involved. I don't know if the head of our church body has ever testified before Congress before.

And we do think this is a worthy fight. Earlier today Rep. Nancy Pelosi told reporters she believes the federal government should require the Catholic Church itself to pay for free birth control. And Rep. DeLauro claimed, in the hearing, that religious liberty doesn't extend beyond the right to worship. She basically said that so long as religious people keep their beliefs secret and private, she won't bring the boot heel of the state down on us. Why thank you! It's really amazing we're complaining at all, isn't it!

We don't want to engage in these politics, but we will if forced to. And it looks like we're being forced to.

15 February 2012

"By Blood, Sweat, and Tears"

For those who haven't seen it yet, here's a new blog from a fine young man, a faithful Christian, and (let me burst the buttons a bit on my "super-pastor uniform") a son of Hope congregation in St. Louis. Check out:

"By Blood, Sweat, and Tears" by Aaron Nielsen.

Harrison to speak before House committee

LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison will take part in a Capitol Hill hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington, D. C., on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Check out the whole article here.