Greetings from the southwest corner of Wyoming

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Gift of Time

Since Adam, each and every human being ever born as been born under a death sentence. The only thing that varies from person to person is TIME. These differences in time do not reflect differences in the value of each person. The time from conception to death is always a part of the total package of God's gift of each individual to the world.

We would never have dreamed of shortening the life of Steven (Acts 7) just because we knew ahead of time that his lifespan would be only 3% of Methuselah's (Genesis 5). And yet that is exactly the counsel which many of today's parents are receiving through misguided counsellors armed with uncertain test results.

Last week, we heard the travesty of a perfectly healthy twin who was accidentally killed in an attempt to purposely kill his sibling who seemed to be destined to live a shorter life already.

While there is nothing that we can do to lengthen either our own lifespan or that of others, there is plenty that we can do to receive what time God gives for the gift that it is. Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care is just such an opportunity to rejoice in God's gift of time. Their mission statement is:

As prenatal testing becomes increasingly routine, more parents are learning devastating news before their babies are born. In too many places, the ability to diagnose has raced ahead of the ability to care for these families and their babies. But in a beautiful and practical response, more than 100 pioneering hospitals and hospices in the U.S. and other countries have started providing perinatal hospice/palliative care for families who wish to continue their pregnancies with babies who likely will die before or shortly after birth.
A perinatal hospice approach walks with these families on their journey through pregnancy, birth and death, honoring the baby as well as the baby's family. Perinatal hospice is not a place; it is more a frame of mind. Even in areas without a formal program, parents can create a loving experience for themselves and their baby, and health professionals and family and friends can offer support in the spirit of hospice
There are two nearby programs that we can support in concrete and active ways.
Angel Watch, Intermountain Health Care. Contact: Carolyn Kasteler RN, (801) 698-4486. Salt Lake City, Utah

Rainbow Kids Palliative Care Program, Primary Children's Medical Center/University of Utah. Contact: Nurse coordinator Beth Nordfors RN, (801) 662-3770. Salt Lake City, Utah
Let's give some thought to how we might help others to receive and rejoice in God's gifts.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Being Thankful for Lutheranism

The Internet Monk has been blogging in the "Post-Evangelical Wilderness" for 11 years. Now, having become a Lutheran he has posted a series of articles titled: How Lutheran Tradition Answers Many Post-Evangelical Concerns"

Life-long Lutherans often cannot know the richness of their own tradition simply because they don't have anything else to compare with it. Non-Lutherans may not know of its richness for the simple reason that it appears irrelevant to the concerns of popular Evangelicalism.

Either way, Chaplain Mike's articles are a worthwhile read for anyone interested in God the Crucified.  He provides seven reasons to be thankful for the Lutheran tradition which are summed up as follows:

1. The Lutheran tradition provides a solid historic tradition with roots.



2. The Lutheran tradition gives priority to Word and Table liturgical worship.


3. The Lutheran tradition places a strong emphasis on pastoral ministry.


4. The Lutheran tradition has a healthy emphasis on the vocational callings of all believers.

5. The Lutheran tradition is centered on Christ and the Gospel.


6. The Lutheran tradition keeps proper distinctions between Law and Gospel.
7. The Lutheran tradition has a sacramental theology that corrects the inefficiencies of revivalism.
8. The Lutheran tradition teaches most clearly the biblical doctrine of the Theology of the Cross.
 
After these 8 points, Mike gives a bonus post called "10 Reasons to Love Luther." All five articles can be accessed by following this link.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Leo on Librivox

Leo the Great was unanimously elected Bishop of Rome on September 29, 440 a.d. At the Council of Chalcedon, his famous "Tome" was a decisive contribution to the Christological controversies of the fifth century. But the Tome did not stand alone. It was written in the context of over two decades of pastoral sensitivity. This collection of sermons is the best way to let Leo himself unpack the nuances and power of Chalcedonian Christology according to one of its most influential proponents.

This collection of 48 sermons are brief (3-15 minutes each) but packed with punch. Simple, down to earth pastoral advice based on profound insights into the nature of God. Throughout, Leo operates with a view of the Church which is both representative of the entire early Church but virtually unknown to moderns.

Enjoy it on Librivox

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The LCMS before the SCOTUS

Readers of this blog should be interested in a case on the docket of the Supreme Court. A congregational dispute about whether or not to rehire a parish school teacher after a leave of absence has worked it way up to the highest court of the land.

This is no longer about a local dispute. It has become about whether or not the Federal Government can impel a church to hire someone. The decision issuing from this case has the potential to overturn centuries of case law and could impair a congregation's ability to hire based on the life and doctrine of a particular teacher or preacher.

For a synopsis of the case, read this article in the Wall Street Journal.

For a transcript of the argument before the Supreme Court, read this PDF document.

Or, you may wish to follow this on the Supreme Court Blog.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pastor Yousef: The Tactics Are Changing

Reports as recently as Saturday morning indicate that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is still alive. These same reports indicate that the Iranian government seems to be changing its tune. While the original trial ran all the way up to the Iranian supreme court on the charge that Yousef left Islam for Christianity. Now the Iranian press is indicating that his death penalty is actually because of rape. Much is still unclear. Namely, whether this is a new formal charge or whether it is only an allegation to deflect international pressure.

This kind of tactic should surprise no one who is a student of history. As Eusebius' Church History tells, oftentimes the Roman persecutors of the early Christians would trump up outrageous moral charges once they knew that threats of death did not have the desired effect. While a Christian is not afraid of dying, it would be abhorrent to drag Christ's name into baseness and dishonor.

Let us pray keep praying for Pastor Yousef remains steadfast in the face of this new challenge. Let us also pray that we may be as abhorred by the thought of falling into immorality as the faithful martyrs of all ages.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani's life hangs in the balance today. He is slated to be hanged because he became a Christian after being a Muslim. You can read the whole story here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/09/islam-age-iran-court-muslim.

The judge gave him an opportunity to save his life by denying that Jesus is God. He did not. Just as Jesus on Good Friday knew that Pilate's power came from the True God, so on this Friday, Pastor Nadarkhani confesses that the power of life and death are not ultimately any Muslim judge's, but Jesus' own power.

That is why Jesus says, "Whoever saves his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

  • Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani's wife and children that they will be cared for.
  • Pray for the Iranian people that they will be freed from the bonds of Islam.
  • Pray for the judge and prosecutors that God would use Pastor Nadarkhani's words to rescue them from their bondage.
  • Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani that Jesus would keep him steadfast in his confession to eternal life.
  • Pray for yourselves and for your children, that you might believe as Pastor Nadarkhani does.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

40 Days for Life (Sept. 28 - Nov. 6, 2011)

"There are many hindrances to establishing a prolife emphasis in the church. One is the deeply held conviction of some members that prolife work distracts us from the main thing. To those who say the job of the church is evangelism, I would point out that prolife activities open great doors for evangelism. Students who make a speech on abortion have follow-up conversations that can lead to sharing the gospel. Those who work at Pregnancy Resource Centers have regular built-in opportunities they would otherwise not have to share Christ. Those who pass out literature at abortion clinics regularly share the love of Christ. People who open their homes to pregnant women can demonstrate a love that is more than words, then follow with the words of the gospel. My own family had the joy of seeing a pregnant young woman come to the Lord while living with us.


"Many, both church leaders and members, still insist it isn’t the job of the church to get involved in prolife activities. But what is the job of the church? I appeal to you to come to grips with the fact that loving God cannot be separated from loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). To a man who wished to define “neighbor” in a way that excluded certain groups of needy people, Christ presented the Good Samaritan as a model for our behavior (Luke 10:25-37). He went out of his way to help the man lying in the ditch. In contrast, the religious hypocrites looked the other way because they had more “spiritual” things to do.

"In Matthew 25:31-46 Christ makes a distinction of eternal significance based not merely on what people believe and preach, but on what they have done for the weak and needy. Can anyone read this passage and still believe that intervening for the needy is some peripheral issue that distracts the church from its main business? On the contrary; it is part and parcel of what the church is to be and do. It is at the heart of our main business.

"In His Great Commission, Jesus didn’t tell us only to evangelize. He told us to be “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus commanded us to be compassionate and to take sacrificial action for the weak and needy. If we fail to do this—and if we fail by our word and example to teach others to do this—then we fail to fulfill the Great Commission. We show the world and the church that our words about the gospel are only that—words."

by Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org, www.randyalcorn.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/randyalcorn, www.twitter.com/randyalcorn

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Identifying the Source

There are few catastrophes so indelibly connected to a single day as 9-11. Most are years in the making and so gradual that they go unnoticed.


Had God caused the Twin Towers to crumble gradually, over the course of time... Had He caused the 3000 people in it to grow weak and die by the ravages of age and disease... This day would not impact us so much as it does.

But the sheer suddenness of it, the cataract of steel and concrete, the great and growing cloud of dust, still reach out to envelope us and cover us with the patina of death.

Shocked into a zombie-like state, we too wander the streets seeking escape from the horror of what we've seen... but in vain.

As the towers folded in upon themselves, so were time and space themselves compressed. And when, what normally happens over decades is compressed into moments, the truth becomes undeniable.

No longer is it possible to deny the source of death and decay. And that "source" is not Al Qaida. It is, rather, Satan Himself. This is no benign and impersonal agency like time. Now we see it for what it is--an intrusion, an alien and unwelcome invasion.

In like manner, Jesus' miracles are the compressing of space and time. They are more than "wonderments" Rather, what God does normally and imperceptibly every day is sped up in time so that you can more easily trace its source. Now, with crystal clarity, you can see that the Man, Jesus, is Himself the source, the Creator of all life, the up-builder of all. And hearing this blaringly obvious truth, how can you help but speak of it?

Confession of Christ is not something you calmly decide to do or not to do. It is the natural and spontaneous result of the hearing of faith. When people across this land saw the events of ten years ago, they didn't timidly ask permission to broach the subject. But they broke out in conversations everywhere declaring the obvious! Suddenly all of life was interpreted through that cloud of dust. Our world changed.

Why don't we do that about Jesus? He is more obviously our source of life and order than Al-Qaida is our source of death and chaos. So why are we so reluctant to talk of Him, to stand up for Him, to organize our lives around Him?

Since 9-11 we have come to take it for granted that everything we do must be ordered according to the new realities of our world. We gladly surrender our personal freedoms in a trade for security of our flesh. An extra hour at the airport? Monitor my cell phone and my emails? X-ray my luggage? Take naked pictures of me at the security line?... OK, no problem.

But when Jesus calls us to an extra hour of worship; or to monitor your computer and cell phone usage... When Jesus has something to say about how you spend your money; or with His surgical Word penetrates your heart, do you rejoice at the spiritual security He gives you? Or resent His intrusions?

All people ought to be convicted by these thoughts. But Christians will respond differently than others.

The world will take this criticism as an opportunity to make personal resolutions - I will start thinking differently. I will take Jesus more seriously. I will more willingly listen to Him... But Christians know that "I" is the problem. The deeper is not that I don't respond enough--it's that I can't hear; I can't perceive.

The problem is not that I am UNwilling. The problem is that I WILL the wrong things. I don't speak, because I can't hear. And so the Christian response is not a resolution to remember. It is a prayer to BE REMEMBERED!

Salvation from the dust of death begins with the recognition that I am hopelessly covered in--and surrounded by--the dust of death. I am inextricably stuck in--and buried under--the rubble of the world. Recognizing this, the only cry is "HELP!" Lord, have mercy! Save me! Heal me!

Give me ears to hear that I might speak. Touch Me with Your Body and Blood and remember Me.

And into this world of dust and death comes Jesus. He, and He alone is clean. He is in the rubble and outside of the rubble at the same time. He is the source (Al Qaida) of life in this world of death. He alone knows the pervasiveness of the problem. So, He alone groans from the depths of His soul.

And He comes today, as the first and only responder, to rescue you. To lift you out of death and into Life Himself. He restores your hearing - your very ability to receive the WORD. And in restoring this, He gives you life. Speech naturally follows.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord! AMEN.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

...Where do you go when you die?

Members and friends of this blogspot know Pastor Matthew Richardt as a friendly and encouraging voice. I thought you would appreciate this brief interview he recently held with the San Diego Reader. The final question and answer speaks volumes.

San Diego Reader: Where do you go when you die?

Pastor Matt: I don’t think we think about death enough. If we did, we’d be more humble than we are. As Christians we believe in a real Heaven, Hell, judgment, things we believe the Bible teaches very clearly. This section of the Reader is called “Sheep and Goats,” which is a direct reference to Matthew 25:46. Jesus talks about eternal punishment and eternal life. We believe we’re the ones who deserve eternal punishment, but we have a savior, God’s own son, our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who took that punishment for us, and gives us eternal life in its place. For me, if I can say, this, the question is “Where do you go when Jesus died for you?” The answer is, “To be with him.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Those Dern Lutherans

Here's a great little interview with Rev. Paul McCain that you will find both entertaining and informative.

And, Paul, when you see this. Don't let it go to your head.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recommended Reading/Listening

I just finished listening to a librivox recording of G. K. Chesterton's The New Jerusalem. Immediately upon finishing it, I went back to the beginning again. If you have never experienced Chesterton's writing, you will spend the first pages -- even the first chapters -- wondering if his rambling, poetical style has any theme or point at all. But you will soon discover that every seemingly haphazard word is precisely chosen and every rambling path leads you to a breathtaking vista.

Written in 1920 shortly after the close of the Great War, 19 years before the beginning of the Holocaust and 27 years before the charter of the nation of Israel, this book takes an historico-theologico-practical approach to the politics of the Middle East which is every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The chapter on the Crusades, alone, would be worth your time. Here you have a devastating critique of the past two centuries of Western evaluations of their purpose and value. In modern histories, we are told few of the actual facts and even less about the stated motives of either side. Instead, rather, we are fed only enough information to form a negative opinion of the masses of well-meaning Christians who gave their wealth and health and lives in pursuit of we-know-not-what. If Chesterton can help you fill in this blank, you will not only see the past more clearly, but the present as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When did Christians Start Baptizing Infants?

"When Polycarp at the trial preceding his martyrdom testifies that he has been serving the Lord for eighty-six years (Mart. Pol., 9), the reference can only be to his membership in the church. Accordingly, his baptism must have taken place in the apostolic age, even prior to the year ad 70. The statement of Justin (Apol. 1:15) that at that time there were many Christians sixty and seventy years old who from the days of their childhood ematheteuthesan to Christo [who had become disciples of Christ] can refer only to members of the church who were baptized as children during the period between ad 80 and 90. We have already mentioned Irenaeus. He testifies that Christ came to save all, “all who by Him are regenerated unto God; babes (infantes), little children, boys, youths and men” (Adv. Haer., II 22:4). In the Church Order of his disciple Hippolytus (ca. 170- c. 235) the baptism of little children is mentioned in so many words. They are to be baptized before the adults, and their parents or some relative are to take their places at the “Amen” and confession of faith by speaking vicariously for them.

"When Tertullian (ca. 155-220) in his Treatise on Baptism directs his polemics against the custom of infant baptism, he certainly is not attacking it as an innovation; even as, later on, Pelagius in his battle against Augustine’s doctrine of original sin had to admit the argument that, after all, infants were baptized too; at least he does not deny the fact. Likewise, Origen (ca. 185- ca. 254) and Cyprian (ca. 200-258) presuppose the baptism of infants: the former in the claim later transmitted to the Middle Ages by Dionysius the Areopagite that the baptism of infants goes back to a tradition given by the Lord to his apostles (Commentary on Romans, 5:9); Cyprian in the well-known instruction given to Bishop Fidus (Ep. 64) not to defer baptism to the eighth day analogous to circumcision. Jeremias is right when he claims that a later introduction of infant baptism would have stirred up a great excitement and thus have left definite traces in the history of the Church. The results of church-historical investigation rather indicate that in the ancient church, precisely as in our modern mission fields, both forms of baptism, adult and infant, have always existed side by side. If that is true, then infant baptism must go back to the apostolic age. The baptism of children must then be included in the baptism of entire families, of which we have examples in the New Testament, even though the children are not specifically mentioned.
Translated from Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors vol. V, 1949. Found at Mercy Journey's blog.



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

On this day in 1530 the electors and princes of Germany were summoned before the Emperor Charles V in Augsburg Germany to give answer to charges that they were supporting the heresy of Martin Luther. This frightening prospect gave them opportunity to read aloud (in German and Latin) the confession of faith which they had drawn up in preparation for the meeting. This document is known as the Augsburg Confession. It is the primary foundational document of Lutheranism which is still subscribed by every Lutheran Church in the world to this day.

In honor of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, I will be listening to an English reading of it today and invite you to join me. Find it here: The Augsburg Confession at Librivox.com.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Joy of Koinonia

On Sunday, Pastor Lincoln Winter and his family joined us around the altar of our Lord. Here are the comments that he made when he arrived home. He is absolutely right about the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us by our unity with Christians across space and time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Looking for things to pray about???

Here's a short list from President Harrison to get you started.

What do I hope for at this moment? My hope is for time, for patience, for prayer, for love, for kindness. My hope is for a time of peace, as God wills. My hope is for a church, which is and remains faithful to the inerrant word of God, and unreservedly to the Lutheran Confessions. My hope is for pastors and people who love the Word of God and read it vigorously. My hope is that wherever I fail, wherever we fail, whatever we have done or do to make our life together bitter, that God grant us repentance, and faith. My hope and dream is for a church which loves its pastors, pastors care for their people, pastors who visit their members’ homes as possible, pastors who head into their communities to “seek and save the lost.” My hope is for preaching which is lively and pulsing with damning law and the joyous, forgiving and faith-creating gospel of free forgiveness in Jesus’ cross. My desire is preaching which is both textual (biblical) and grabs the hearer by the neck, heart and toes, throws him/her to hell, then carries them to heaven. My hope is for laypeople equipped to share Christ in their vocations. My hope and prayer is for laypeople who are delighted to invite friends and family to church. My hope is for a lively mission of mercy where zeal is as great for orthodoxy as for mercy and vice versa. My hope is for continuing joy and success in reaching different ethnic communities, and through them, reaching the nations of the world. My hope is for a growing appreciation for the Synod’s national and international mission, for improvement in that mission, for advancement in what is good, and the support and participation of our pastors, congregations, districts, and people. My hope is for a continued healthy and healthier Concordia University System, schools free to meet the challenges they face, but resolved to maintain and even increase fidelity to the Lutheran confession of the faith. Our schools have missions and capacity well worth celebrating, a cause to rejoice in hope. My hope is for a growing number of grade schools reaching into their communities. My hope is for a renewal in teaching the faith to the youth, and a profound love of the simple Small Catechism.

My humble hope is for greater agreement among us on communion practice and especially issues of worship and other things, which cause angst and impede our common joy, mission and life together. God have mercy upon us as we attempt to come to a meeting of the minds under the living and mighty and active word of God.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A / V Resources

I have recently put together a new collection of audio books, mp3 lectures and video resources. These are great for learning while you drive or while you work out. Resources range from Josephus to Rod Rosenblatt and from Athanasius to Luther.

Look to the column on the right in the section called "Parish Resources" and click on "Audio Books and Lectures" (just under "Pastor's Sermons."

This list will be continually updated as I find more worthwhile resources.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Title on Librivox

For those who are interested in listening to the Lutheran Confessions on your MP3 player, I have recently finished recording Philip Melanchthon's Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (1537) (Latin, Tractatus de Potestate et Primatu Papae), The Tractate for short, is the seventh Lutheran credal document of the Book of Concord. Philip Melanchthon, its author, completed it on February 17, 1537 during the assembly of princes and theologians in Smalcald. (Introduction by Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Five Theological Orations - Gregory Nazianzen

After the death of the Arian Emperor Valens, the synod of Antioch in 379 asked Gregory of Nazianzus to help resurrect Constantinople to the true Christian faith. While the most important churches were still headed by Arian bishops, Gregory transformed his cousin's villa into the Anastasia (Resurrection) chapel. From this little chapel he delivered five powerful discourses on Nicene doctrine, explaining the nature of the Trinity and the unity of the Godhead. These are called the "Theological Orations." By the time he left Constantinople two years later, there did not remain one Arian church in all of the city.


These orations have now been recorded for free download so that you can listen to them for yourself and benefit from the clear biblical thinking of this Cappadocian father -- every bit as relavant today as 1632 years ago.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus Found(ed) What You're Looking For

"Many Christians look for signs and miracles. But there is no more miraculous sign than what happens during Holy Communion. Many Christians look for a religious experience, but there is no experience as vivid as tasting. Evangelicals talk about receiving Christ, something that happened way back at their conversion. But in the Lord’s Supper, as we are brought back to the Gospel again and again, we can continue to receive Christ.

Contemporary Christianity tends to be all internalized — a matter of my feelings, my inner life, and my personal opinions. People look inward for their salvation, with some health-and-wealth preachers urging the members of their congregation to “have faith in yourself.” But the Reformers — Calvin as well as Luther — stressed how salvation is extra nos, outside ourselves, accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Contemporary Christians tend to be all spiritual. They often scorn the physical realm, even as they indulge their sinful flesh, reasoning like Gnostics that what they do with their bodies does not affect their spirits. They often construe God as a being primarily inside their heads, and they treat Jesus like some imaginary friend. The Reformers rejected such Gnosticism.
Recovering the Lord’s Supper can remind all Christians that their faith is grounded in objectivity, in a God who created matter and became incarnate in history, in a Christ who redeemed us by giving His body — not just His “spirit” — in a bloody sacrifice.

What we do in our bodies and in our physical, mundane lives does matter, both for sin and for grace. When we eat the bread of the Lord’s Supper, Christ nourishes us both spiritually and physically, uniting us with His body on the cross and the body that is His church. When we drink the wine, Christ’s cleansing blood courses through our veins, such is the thoroughness and the intimacy of our salvation."
Gene Vieth "showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity." - Tabletalk Magazine

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Anunciation of Our Lord - The True 'Earth Day'

About 100 years after the death of the St. John, Tertullian of Carthage set about to calculate the month and day of Jesus' death. Using all the information available to him at the time, he settled on Friday, March 25, Anno Domini 29.

Whether his calculations were precisely correct or just nearly so, this date has become much more important than an early-third century attempt to date the crucifixion. It has become the cornerstone of the entire Christian calendar.

First of all, following rabbinic tradition that a prophet always dies on the date of his conception, early Christians considered that Jesus, The Prophet (Deuteronomy 18), also followed this pattern. Thus the date of Jesus' crucifixion was also understood to be the date of Jesus conception.

What a beautiful symmetry! The Savior of the world was first planted in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Then, on the very same day, the Savior of the world was planted in the womb (tomb) of the earth to await His resurrection on the Third Day.

Since we all know that human gestation is nine months, this March 25th dating of Jesus conception and burial led naturally to the church's celebration of Christmas on the 25th of December. (You can safely discard all those rumors about Christmas being nothing but a converted pagan holiday.)

Finally, since the Scriptures tell us that Jesus was conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy (Luke 1:36), June 24th is also established as the Nativity of John the Baptist by Tertullian's early-third century calculations.

But that's not all... One final date is said to coincide with March 25 -- and that is the earliest possible date of all! March 25 is also considered by many of the early church fathers to be the date when Adam was formed from the dust of the ground.
 
So, from one calculation we have:
  • The Nativity of Our Lord (December 25)
  • The Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24)
  • The Crucifixion, Conception and Annunciation of Jesus -- and the Creation of Adam (March 25)
Given the lack of biblical evidence for these coincidences, they are best understood as a result of deep theological reflection. The first Adam was formed from the dust of the ground and now the second Adam likewise becomes dust in the womb of the Virgin. As the Psalmist says, "Truth shall spring out of the earth..." (Psalm 85:10). And, of course, Jesus is "the Truth" (John 14:6).

Today is a day to reflect more deeply on the importance of Jesus' incarnation. And as we reflect on the incarnation, do not fail to note that Adam was created from the dust of the earth in order to have Dominion over the earth. Accordingly, God's assumption into flesh was simultaneously God's assumption of dust itself. And God's redemption of humanity is also God's redemption of His entire creation. As St. Paul said, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22).

Today ecology has become the new religion. And it's central tenet is that humans are the scourge of the earth. By this way of thinking, the planet will only be saved by minimizing man's foot-print on the planet. This neopagan religion brings with it birth control, abortion, euthanasia and a calloused disregard for human life in all kinds of situations.

But this new religion runs directly counter to Jesus. In Him we find that the planet's salvation depends entirely upon this Man who is the Incarnate God. Salvation does not come by minimizing His impact on the world but by maximizing it -- just as originally, creation was not lessened by the creation of Adam. Rather, the work of God was not deemed "VERY good" until the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:31). Nor is Jesus' impact on the world is now relegated to some "spiritualized"  realm; but He is still available in His flesh and blood in His Church on earth -- where men and women are baptized into His Body and where His Body and Blood are given and received.


One of my favorite pieces of art is a 12th century mosaic in the apse of the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. In its center, the cross of Jesus is thrust into the ground like a sword and at the place where it pierces the earth, shoots forth a vine of wild and uncontainable growth. The New Creation spurts forth where Jesus is planted in the earth.

The sin of the first Adam caused the ground itself to be cursed (Genesis 3:17). Again, Cain's murder of His brother meant that he would be "cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood" (Genesis 4:11). The incarnation of God as a Man from the dust of the ground sets about to restore the ground itself to its original fertility. And the blood of the second Adam renews not only all of mankind, but the very earth itself which drinks it in!

Thus, March 25th is the Christian Earth Day.
  • On it we do not celebrate the earth goddess, Gaea; but we celebrate the Virgin Mother, Mary.
  • We do not seek ways of lessening the impact that man has upon the environment. We, rather, rejoice that Christ's redemption of mankind is, itself, the repair of the environment.
  • We do not solve problems by destroying human beings conceived by God, but we rejoice that by Jesus' own conception, He has made conception and childbearing salutary (1 Timothy 2:15).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick at Tara

It was on 26 March, Easter Sunday, in 433, that the eventful assembly was to meet at Tara, and the decree went forth that from the preceding day the fires throughout the kingdom should be extinguished until the signal blaze was kindled at the royal mansion. The chiefs and Brehons came in full numbers and the druids too would muster all their strength to bid defiance to the herald of good tidings and to secure the hold of their superstition on the Celtic race, for their demoniac oracles had announced that the messenger of Christ had come to Erin.

St Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of the hill kindled the Paschal fire.

The druids at once raised their voice. "O King", (they said) "live for ever; this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished." By order of the king and the agency of the druids, repeated attempts were made to extinguish the blessed fire and to punish with death the intruder who had disobeyed the royal command.

But the fire was not extinguished and Patrick shielded by the Divine power came unscathed from their snares and assaults. On Easter Day the missionary band having at their head the youth Benignus bearing aloft a copy of the Gospels, and followed by St Patrick who with mitre and crozier was arrayed in full episcopal attire, proceeded in processional order to Tara...

On that bright Easter Day, the triumph the Triune God i Hibernia was complete. The Ard-Righ granted permission to Patrick to preach the Faith throughout the length and breadth of Erin, and the druidical prophecy like the words of Balaam of old were fulfilled: the sacred fire now kindled by the saint would never be extinguished.

The beautiful prayer of St Patrick, popularly known as "St Patrick's Breast-Plate", is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over Paganism. The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text:

I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism, The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today The virtue of the love of seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea, The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's Pray the Litany Daily: Kyrie Eleison!

"I've long enjoyed praying the Litany. Luther did too. The prayer has an amazing longevity in the church, having found its form by the 6th century (Gregory the Great regularized it). Luther removed a few un-evangelical aspects, but retained the prayer nearly in toto, even rendering it into German and proving an original chant tone. Click HERE for a nice overview of the history of the Litany.


Left to ourselves, bereft of texts as the foundation of our prayers, we are often left praying "Dear God, give me a mini-bike," as I was wont to pray as a 12 year old - and am prone to pray even today!!!!!! Texts of the scriptures (Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments) and scriptural texts (Creed, Litany!) lay down God's thoughts as the foundation of prayer, the tarmac if you will, from which our meditations may gently or quickly rise, aided by the Holy Spirit. The fulsome petitions of the Litany take us out of ourselves, to pray for the church, pastors and teachers, our enemies, women with children, the poor, the imprisoned and much much more. And all for mercy, growing out of the great petitions of the blind, the lame and the ill who comes to Jesus in the New Testament, "Lord have mercy!" "Kyrie eleison!" The Lord loves to have mercy. The Lord came to have mercy. The Lord continues to have mercy.

You'll find the litany in any standard Lutheran hymnal worth it's salt. Pray it daily with me for Lent won't you?

Pastor Matthew Harrison"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Smalcald Articles on Librivox

This summary of Lutheran doctrine was written by Martin Luther in 1537 for a meeting of the Schmalkaldic League of German princes. While the Augsburg Confession was the first, concise confession to be adopted by the Lutheran Church, the Smalcald Articles hold a special place in that they were composed by Luther's own hand and, therefore, reflect his accents and frame of mind.

Now, for the first time, they are available in audio format at Librivox.org so that they can be heard and digested while exercizing, driving or working.  The Smalcald Articles join other documents of the Book of Concord which are also available on Librivox: The Ecumenical Creeds, The Augsburg Confession, Luther's Small Catechism and Luther's Large Catechism.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'Another Dark Day'

Pakistan - A Leading Christian and Advocate for religious freedom in Pakistan is gunned down.
A pastor (not named for security reasons) said, “Bhatti has paid the ultimate price for his boldness to stand for the truth and for the good of common people.” News of the assassination, he said, “has sent shock waves of fear through the Christian community in the country.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Salt Lake to South Sudan

I sit this evening enjoying the memories of the past two days. Members of St. John's Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City came up with their pastor to enjoy fellowship and to help us see God's world in wider perspective.

Pastor Lindemood introduced us to thirteen wonderful saints of Christ who shared their lives with us over two days of games, food, conversation, worship and song. The focus of our learning was on the cooperative work among these vibrant Christians in Salt Lake to strengthen and equip the fragile Lutheran Church in the southern Sudanese town of Akobo.

It also gave us occasion to think on the long history of Christianity in this region of the world beginning already in the apostolic era when Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to teach and baptize the eunuch from court of Queen Candice of Ethiopia. A brief history of Christianity of Sudan may be found here. I heartily encourage you to get acquainted with this history and to shine the light of knowledge to beat back the darkness of our own inclination to ignore people for whom Christ Jesus has given His own Divine Life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Encouragement from President Harrison

Dear Friends and Members,

In the midst of our harried and busy lives, we often lose courage, inspiration and dedication because our attention is taken off the basics and fixed, instead, on a myriad of irrelevancies which seen all-important.  This is the devil's trick.

But we are not trapped into going along with him. We have been set free in Jesus Christ -- free to return our fixed gaze upon the One Person who matters.  Take the time to watch this 30 minute talk from President Harrison and rejoice in the simple word of God which humbles, calms, and encourages your hearts.  You'll be glad you did.

President Harrison LCEF Presentation from VimeoLCMS on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Augsburg Confession on Librivox

The Augsburg Confession is the first and most fundamental Confession of the Lutheran Church. It was composed for a public reading at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530. For some years now it has been available on the internet to be read and printed. Now, it is available for listening.

If you are interested in hearing, first hand, a simple presentation of what Lutherans believe go to this link to download the mp3 files of the Confession. If you want to get right to the heart of the reading, skip the Preface and download the 21 Chief Articles.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ignored Again

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country , including many from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod , gathered in Washington, D.C., to stand up for unborn children and the sanctity of life during the 38th annual March For Life.


Sadly, many people are unaware that this event even occurred. The march, despite the impressive crowd it drew, largely was ignored by many in the mainstream media. In the years since the U.S. Supreme Court tragically legalized abortion through its Roe v. Wade decision, the message that human life is sacred and valued has become almost background noise for many. How can that be? How can we ignore the fact that an estimated 52 million babies have been aborted since 1973?

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, with its 6,200 congregations across the country, has a vast array of Lutheran agencies and partners that care for the neediest, providing adoption and foster care, senior care, care for the developmentally disabled, etc., both domestically and internationally. We shall continue this ministry of mercy, along with Christians the world over, even as we weep and pray by the tomb of the American conscience, until it rises again.
Letter to the Editor, St. Louis Post, January 28, 2011
The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison • Kirkwood
President, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ideas Have Consequences

On Sunday in Bible Class we discussed the relationship between Creed and Actions, Faith and Love, Church and State, Trinitarian love and Monistic inhumanity.

While Christians do not need or want the power of the government in order to fulfill or realize the life of faith and hope and love, that does not mean that the life of faith and hope and love has nothing to say to the governmental powers. Precisely since you have been restored to true humanity in Christ's flesh and blood, you have something urgent to say to every power--foreign and domestic--which would consign certain people to inhumanity.

Today our nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. day. President Harrison has posted an excerpt from his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" which contributes solidly to this discussion. Please take the time to read it here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Letter of Marque

As we enter the season of Epiphany, these words on the source of Light, are well-spoken.
The prophetic scriptures, given by the Spirit's inspiration, are the inerrant judge and norm for all that is said and done within the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church does not stand over the Scriptures but under them in order to receive all that the Lord would give her for her life and blessing. No one within Christendom should seek God's will apart from the Scriptures, or behind them in supposed oral traditions or pre-canonical documents or along side them via so-called direct revelation, dreams or personal experiences.