Saturday, July 31, 2010

Drumheller, Alberta, Summer 2010

Someone (!) thought Drumheller is all plastic dinosaurs and famous museums bowing to evolutionary biological orthodoxy.  Ha!  We skipped the famous, heretical museum, however, I did collect dinosaurs for Someone, who is herewith challenged to pick his favorite dinosaur picture.  Personally, I think many of them are quite tasteful and artistic.  I think I like the huge T-Rex the best myself. 

Quite amazing was the lushness with which the badland's presented themselves this year due to the unusual rainfalls. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Service from Ulm on ZDF

Someone recommended this service to me (below).  It is in German.  I could not watch it, yet, because my internet was too slow.  I'll try again.  I got to minute 12 or so and can see that the facility is very impressive and suitable for the music.  I have not been able to ascertain as yet if there is a Gospel message.   Very curious at this point.

Peter Bowal's newest article, today's paper

Peter asks us what do we think?

I think he must be right.  When the authorities themselves can garner no respect, something needs to be fixed.  Go Peter, go!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is prayer a means of grace?

Someone help me with this.  I read quite a bit.  I have never read:  "Prayer is not a means of grace"  in Luther or the Confessions.  I don't know the confessions inside out, so, please, show me if it's there.

The other day I posted this to "The Sacrament is the Gospel"  (see sidebar) to this thread:

What I’m wondering about is the “prayer is not a means of grace.” I’ve heard this plenty before. But. Whenever prayer is right and scriptural we should believe that we will receive. In that sense it is not work but receiving from the Word. Such as “Forgive us our trespasses.” Every day we can pray this (daily bread) and expect to be forgiven again, as it is a right prayer, straight from Christ’s mouth.
Jim Pierce in yesterday’s interview  (Issues, etc.)  also said, that the liturgy “sings forgiveness” to him.  When growing up the theology was highly variable from preacher to preacher, but I got my bearings from the Lutheran hymns and Bach Cantatas. Bach wrote in his Bible how great songs brought in the Spirit. Of course, this would be via the Word.
Another one: every night we prayed: “Deine Gnad und Jesu Blut machen allen Schaden gut.”  "Your grace and the blood of Jesus, make all the damage good.” (it rhymes in
German). This is the most memorable Gospel to me.

--Nobody replied to this, which usually means that one is not completely off one's rocker, or else, everyone is on holidays, or everyone has decided you are a complete nut.

What is true is that we cannot make a beginning in faith ourselves.  The beginning is with the Word and the effectiveness is through the Spirit via the Word (and Sacrament), but a prayer can certainly be "Word".   That's all I'm saying.

When Luther stresses Word and Sacrament he does it against the "enthusiasts", against the "whore" of reason, against thinking God talks to you individually in your "Kaemmerlein" (your own little room), outside of the Word.

The Moral of the story is, whether in preaching or in prayer, we must always stick with the Word and what's revealed.

The other day I also posted Luther, and that's what got me going on this.  Here it is again.

First, he must know what he should and shouldn't do.  Second, when he sees that he isn't able to do good or refrain from doing evil in his own strength, he must know where he can find the strength.  Third, he must know where he should look for this strength.  It's similar to being sick.  To begin with, a sick person needs to know what his illness is and what he can and cannot do.  After that, he needs to know where he can find the medicine that will make him well.  Finally, he must want this medicine, obtain it, or have someone bring it to him.  So the Ten Commandments teach a person to recognize his illness.  They help him see why he cannot do or refrain from doing.  They help him see himself as a sinner.  Then, the Apostle's Creed shows him were he can find the medicine--the grace--to help him become faithful so that he can keep the commandments.  The Apostle's Creed points out that God and his mercy is offered in Christ.  Finally, the Lord's Prayer teaches a believer how to desire and obtain all this through orderly and humble prayer.  In this way, he will receive the cure and be saved.  (my emphasis)

It is not because of the making of the prayer that grace is given.  But the prayer contains the word of truth and this word of truth saves.

This is how as children we first believed the Gospel cognitively in our growing mind, saying the prayers over and over that our parents taught us, from the simplest one onward.

When I get my hands on children, (VBS), etc. that's what I focus on, beside the stories and the verses, that they have a little book of excellent  prayers to keep.  This is also an excellent ministry to mothers.  Teach them to pray and sing good things to their little children.

In fact this praying and singing with children and assuring them of God's love and grace in Christ is quite the opposite of telling them "you must make a decision somewhere down the road."  Regular prayer does not equate decision theology, rather it shows the opposite.  It shows that we know we are children who should ask good things from their dear heavenly Father, who will surely not deny them what he has promised.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Paul Gerhardt evening--video

I am kind of sad.  This Paul Gerhard video is so beautiful and yet very wrong.

We need to spend more time exposing this kind of wrong.  We can sing and play and talk beautiful and yet deny Christ by not talking about what he has done and that for every sinner, such as we all are.

It is broadcast from the St. Laurentiuskirche in Toenning.

With Paul Gerhardt, no wool can be pulled over our eyes.  We know him.  We know his many hymns.  We know in Whom he believes.  And we know Him, too.  It is crystal clear.  Gerhardt clung to Christ and Christ crucified for him and his justification for dear life as anyone ever has and that through the toughest life conditions.  Christ is the only reason he could keep singing, writing and preaching.

YET!  They (the speakers in the video, including two pastors) can manage to have an almost two hour evening, singing, reading, preaching, trumpeting, stringed instruments, joy and solemnity in a historic church under the crucifix--and they can still manage to leave Christ out!  How can this even be done with those hymns?  It takes incredible gymnastics or a desire to mislead or plain delusion.  I cannot make out the discrepancy.  It reminds me of my mother's fellow choir members in a large, musical church, who would come to sing in the famous choir and leave before the sermon.

I watched the video, sang along, nearly wept with Gerhadt's stories of repeated losses, songs we sing in our most horrid hours and most joyful times, we have sung to our dying loved ones and God willing will sing in our own dying hour...  YET, I cannot find Christ in the messages given outside of Gerhard's songs.  The song on justification:  "If God himself be fore me..." is not used in this evening program, either.  The conflict with the Reformed and the King are skimmed over.  Confessional matters are not explored.  Gerhard was a "strenger Lutheraner", they say, here.  "Streng" can mean "strict" or maybe even "strong", but it also connotes "severe", as if he might have been "unreasonable", or "unyielding" in perhaps a good or bad way.  Vagueness abounds and these topics are not developed.

I am kind of sad about it all.  I thought about it all night.  It is the church of my childhood.  Nothing but vague messages, but wonderful hymns, choirs and brass bands.  At least, they passed down to us Paul Gerhardt's songs and he can continue to preach to us.

This whole is quite a big mish-mash, one has to say it, as well.  A little bit of everything.

Now, when will WE make a gorgeous, Christ-centered, Paul Gerhardt video and preach the Gospel somewhat as meaningfully as Gerhardt?

We had a Paul Gerhard evening not that long ago at Concordia, Edmonton.  Did we make a video of that?

"If God himself be for me" is not even on YouTube while the Germans have their gorgeous hymns plastered all over the internet.  Thank God the hymns speak for themselves, the poets, and God himself.  It is still not the same as having a correct theology preached by your living pastor. 

See also Rev. Harrison's recent blogpost:

Also see just above, the crucifix from the church in Toenning.  Everyone please remember that the Christ, Paul Gerhard sings about is the one he knows took all his sins away by his death, resurrection and ascension and this is why he and we can be confident about seeing our Lord and embracing and kissing him, the way Gerhardt likes to say.  There is peace fully made.  It is all done.  Everything is paid for.  That is why we are his and he is ours.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Wir pfluegen und wir streuen..." one more time.

This organist has it.  This is the proper bouncy way to play this.  :)  Thumbs up from me.

From 4 min. after an awesome organ prelude.

Matthias Claudius video

Let's try it again this way.

Wir pfluegen und wir streuen/ We plow the fields and scatter

Here is the other song by Matthias Claudius in the German hymnbook.  You can see it once, below, with the organist running ahead of the congregation.  On You-tube, there is criticism of the organist for being too fast.  As for myself, I have great sympathy for the organist.  The song is very robust and should have good strength with a decent clip.

Below an English choir with the same song in English.  Very nicely performed, however, lacking in the simple, rustic feeling.  To me it should be sung with a bounce, almost like children skipping along.  What do you think Gary?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A few random things from the wedding

The wedding went very well and was most beautiful, joyful, inclusive and tasteful (due to other people's designing and planning skills).  The sermon was great, too, and we sang a lovely hymn. The mother of the groom brought her military execution skills to implementing practical things.  I learned the phrase:  "Time spent on reconi is seldom wasted." ("reconi" being "reconnaissance").

If you must know, the mother of the bride went into basket case mode right away.  When Stefan's little brother came down the isle with the rings with he girls, I was done for and never quite recovered the rest of the day.  Crying is very bad for me, but I never got a headache, at least.  I don't think I look very good on any of the pictures, and this could have been part of the problem.  Other than that I think getting done up is not something that really helps.  I will gladly keep things simple.  I am desperately trying to get myself untagged from all kinds of pictures on facebook.  But with the onslaught of pictures, it is hard to keep up with that.  Ack.

There were other people who complained about how ugly, plain, chubby, etc. they are.  I started quoting them a song from Mattias Claudius, "Ich freue mich und danke Gott"  (, in which among other things, you thank God for your very own face, just the way it is.  They told me I was whining about my own weight and was being hypocritical (--that's the German youth for you, nowadays, what can I say :).  What is it with this finding of discrepancies. :)).

Mother of the bride was not the only basket case.  I was told some young men were crying on the other side of the church and someone was wondering "why".  I cannot quite imagine how someone could not know "why" right away. But maybe it's not that obvious.  Stefan's friends are nowhere near over his death.  Something like this will stick with them for life, like for us.
There were some others dissolved in tears around my neck later on, and I tried to comfort them the best I could talking about the other wedding banquet, which was on my soul anyhow from all this preparing for a wedding... -- It was all a little much for the emotional capacity.  You may pray for this happy, sad congregation we had, and the youth of our towns.  The young people keep grieving just like the immediate family. They lose too many friends.  But basically we tried all day not to push too many emotional buttons.

On the other hand, the  bridal couple was completely radiant, and we have been given such a great gift in them, and they in each other.  The groom was shining like the sun when the vows were said to him.  I have never quite seen such a thing.  God bless their union.  To have such a marvelous daughter and excellent God-son/son-in-law is a most astonishing blessing.  For them and all of us, it is also most wonderful to have so many great sets of families, who all came to the wedding.  The openness in adoption has certainly worked very well for all involved.

There was also an experienced social worker present that day, who talked generally about some cases, and remarked on how this was really the way to do it.  Too many children have no roots and no good, meaningful connections.  I can tell you, as an adoptive parent, you really do have to learn to share, but that's not such a bad thing.  As much as we say that your adopted children are your very own children, there are differences.   But now they are founding their own family, and we are all part of their lives.  Most of all, if we are oriented toward the Lord, we will know that we are all blood brothers and sisters and part of the same family, anyways.  Thanks be to him for all great gifts. And his will  we receive in this context, even if we do not understand.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

Renaturalisierung/ Reunions

I learned a newly coined German word today:  "Renaturalisierung".  It would be in English:  "Renaturalizing".  The word came up when we were at the beaver dam and someone thought the filtration system of the water there was something worth remarking on.  Germans always seem to have technical ideas when they are in nature. Practical and romantic people at the same time.  It would be an example of  "Renaturalisierung".  It is supposed to be THE concept.  -- OK.  I don't think I totally got it.

It is so amazing to have a reunion after all these times and to meet the young folk, one's blood relatives whom you barely know or have never met, your elders who know all the stories.  If we can be so happy, how will it be when we are with the Lord?

It makes me think of the adopted persons, too, and how much they love their birthfamilies.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More relatives

My other elderly relatives are coming from Vancouver.  What a pleasure!  I have scrounged up two wheelchairs for them.  Pray, nobody has any emergencies. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The cross is Christ's place of glory

This helped me sort something out. 

The Small Catechism bids us to begin each day and to end each day with the sign of the holy cross.  Thus each day is set to be lived in our Baptism, which incorporated us with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  At Baptism the cross, the abbreviated name of God, was done on us.  Where His name is, there is the Lord.  Where His doxa is, there is the Lord.  His doxa, His chavod, locates Him. 

The Lord is, of course, everywhere.  But is He there for you?  Is He anywhere for you?  Today's Gospel says yes.  Jesus says there is a place where I am there for you.  The cross is the doxa point, and it has time/location--"under Pontius Pilate,"  we say.  Jesus said, "The hour is come, that the son of man should be glorified.... but for this cause came I unto this hour"  (John 12:23-27).  This is an enthronement word, and His throne is the cross.  That is the doxa point.  "Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other."  There is God.  There for you, and not only for you but also for everyone.  Or, better still, for everyone and also for you.  No "just me and Jesus."  Yet "for all men" can fly past us, as can the "for you"--the delivery--done by the means of grace.

As Doctor Luther says, "the Gospel is not Christ."  The Gospel is the proclamation of Christ.  The proclamation of Christ is the proclamation of the cross, the proclamation of the cross for you.  Thus the delivery of the cross and with it all that was there achieved for you that day long ago.  We are not back there.  Nor need we attempt to get back there with some sort of getting contemporary with it.

Our Lord is not back there today, but here, where He is having His words spoken, the words that deliver Him.  Doctor Luther said if you want your sins forgiven, don't go to Calvary.  There forgiveness was won for you, but there it is not given out.  You go to the Lord's Supper.  There forgiveness is not won for you, but there it is given out.  The Lord's Supper has always a specific place and time.  For there to be a delivery to us, it cannot be otherwise.  We go on only as we are located at a particular place and time.  The Lord has appointed the place and time for the delivery of His gifts, means of grace, externum verbum.  And so gifts, that is, from Him to you by way of located words, water, wine, and bread.

For me but also I thought Larry would like it (who I don't think reads this blog.)  From Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel, p. 291.  Also for my friend John M.

Now we just need to know what doxa means, exactly.

OK, doxa means "glory.  The cross is Christ's glory. The Gospel is the proclamation of Christ's cross/glory.  The proclamation/delivery is located here and now--in the means of grace--words, water, wine and bread.

Catechism and rearing another generation

Therefore, I advise and exhort as before that with warning and threatening, restraint and punishment, the children should be trained early to shun falsehood.  They should especially avoid the use of God's name to support falsehood.  For where children are allowed to do as they please, no good will result.  This is clear even now.  The world is worse than it has ever been, and there is no government, no obedience, no loyalty, no faith, but only daring, unbridled people.  No teaching or reproof helps them.  All this is God's wrath and punishment for our lewd contempt of this commandment...

Look, we could train our youth this way [Proverbs 22:6], in a childlike way and playfully in the fear and honor of God.  Then the First and Second Commandments might be well kept and in constant practice.  Then some good might take root, spring up, and bear fruit.  People would grow up whom an entire land might relish and enjoy.  In addition, this would be the true way to bring up children well as long as they could be trained with kindness and delight.  For children who must be forced with rods and blows will not develop into a good generation.  At best they will remain godly under such treatment only as long as the rod is upon their backs  [Proverbs 10:13]

But teaching the commandments in a childlike and playful way spreads its roots in the heart so that children fear God more than rods and clubs.  This I say with such simplicity for the sake of the young, that it may penetrate their minds.  For we are preaching to children, so we must also talk like them.  In this way we would prevent the abuse of the divine name and teach the right use.  This should happen not only in words, but also practice and life.  Then we may know God is well pleased with this and will as richly reward good use of His name as He will terribly punish the abuse.

Large Catechism on the first commandment.

It is really quite amazing.  For all the ideas proposed for improving the world, Luther hits upon the important parts.  In our days, the answer for every problem is the right kind or more "education".  And for solving the world's problems more "programming".  But here we get at the heart of the matter.  While "education" and "programming" are good, they are good in the law sense.  They can only give us so much and then we are up against hearts that are not changed, efforts that are wasted and unfruitful.

Here, Luther would raise and educate another generation, which truly fears the Lord, knows the commandments, shuns falsehood, etc. by inculcating the ten commandments.  (Where have we heard lately any public figure, or even pastors, advocate that we need to fix the world by fixing in the children 's minds the ten commandments?)  The first commandment is the most important:  the fear and love of God will motivate the good.  Without motivation all is dead. Without faith all is dead.

And these commandments need to inculcated in a loving way.  No one can be driven with blows to be good.  He might behave while under supervision.  But with loving teaching of the commandments to fear and love God and neighbor, an new generation might be instructed and improved.

The way Luther handles law and gospel, here, in the catechism explanations of the ten commandments is really phenomenal.  Also his hope of improving the world is unlike the world's "best" ideas. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Christ have Mercy/ I don't know what number

[I am NOT reading a book.  This is from the Treasury of Daily Prayer which Martin and I use every day (almost).  This is basic necessity. Just three pages a day, most of it scripture readings.]

Yesterday, there was this, below, from the Large Catechism that involved looking after poor.  To my chagrin, I have no idea where exactly it is from.  It only says:  Large Catechism I 247, 252-253.  --  Aha, which book?  Am I missing something?  Someone tell me.

This is how it reads:

Beware of this:  The poor man will come to you (there are so many now).  He must buy things with the penny of his daily wages and live upon it.  When you are harsh to him, as though everyone lived by your favor, and you skin and scrape him to the bone, and when you turn him away with pride and arrogance to whom you ought to give things without payment, he will go away wretched and sorrowful.  since he can complaint no one else, he will cry and call to heaven [Psalm 20:6;  146: 8-9].  Then beware, I say again,  as of the devil himself.  For such groaning and calling will be no joke.  It will have a weight that will prove too heavy for you and all the world.  For it will reach Him who takes care of the poor, sorrowful hearts.  He will not allow them to go unavenged [Isaiah 61:1-3].  but if you despise this and become defiant, see the One you have brought upon you.  If you succeed and prosper, before all the world, you may call God and me a liar.
And the other one.

Whoever now seeks and desires good works will find here more than enough to do that are heartily acceptable and pleasing to God.  In addition, they are favored and crowned with excellent blessings.  So we are to be richly compensated for all that we do for our neighbor's good and from friendship.  King Solomon also teaches this in Proverbs 19:17, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his deed."  Here, then , you have a rich Lord.  He is certainly enough for you.  He will not allow you to come up short in anything or to lack [Psalm 37:25].  So you can with a joyful conscience enjoy a hundred times more than you could scrape together with unfaithfulness and wrong.  Now, whoever does not desire this blessing will find enough wrath and misfortune.

This is somewhere in the Large Catechism.  I don't have time to read it right now to find it.  From reading the Large Catechism before, however, I did find that Luther was very interested in building a better society--all based on the ten commandments and from faith in Christ. Especially on the ten commandments, he stressed how these should be brought close to the generation being reared so something like useful citizens would become of the young people.  It's definitely there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Faith/ Pain

Re study from the University of Toronto in Psychological Science.

"Religion a buffer to Pain, study shows.  Belief in God likened to anti-anxiety drug."

What do we think?  It reminds me of a book I heard about but haven't read, yet:  "God's Brain."

Of course, faith can't be based on the desire to reap these benefits.  Faith is based on actually believing something to be true.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Just a few more days until the relatives arrive--my elderly aunt Christa, my cousin Joachim with family, my cousin Christine with family.  They have never been to Canada before.

It is very pleasant outside.  Yesterday evening,  I saw the beaver.  He swam up the stream alongside me on the path for about 50 meters, then climbed over his dam and entered the pool behind it.  Such things happen now that I don't have a dog with me.  Brought home an armful of wildflowers.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"The Essentials of the Bible"

 [I'm not blogging about books.  This is just a devotional book, not a real book.  This is just a real short thing.]

This devotional book  has many advantages.  It's not so big.  I keep it in the car.  The devotions have a short Bible passage and then a couple of paragraphs from Luther.  In no time and effort flat you have gleaned something wonderful.

I usually read it at odd times and at random.  I haul it out when someone should have prepared a devotion and did not and give it to them to read out.  Voila, the meeting has been graced with scripture and exposition, at least a minimum of it.  It's also a book I've given away a few times over the last year.

Last time, the page opened to this one.

Nov. 6

You know the commandments:  Never commit adultery.  Never murder.  Never steal.  Never give false testimony.  Honor your father and your mother.  LUKE 18: 20

God has so ordered matters so that a Christian who might not be able to read the Bible should still learn the Ten Commandments, the Apostle's Creed, and the Lord's Prayer.  The essentials of Scripture and everything else a Christian needs to know are summed up in these three.  They are written so briefly and clearly that no one has an excuse.  No one should complain that it's too much or too difficult.  In essence, a person only has to know three things to be saved.

First, he must know what he should and shouldn't do.  Second, when he sees that he isn't able to do good or refrain from doing evil in his own strength, he must know where he can find the strength.  Third, he must know where he should look for this strength.  It's similar to being sick.  To begin with, a sick person needs to know what his illness is and what he can and cannot do.  After that, he needs to know where he can find the medicine that will make him well.  Finally, he must want this medicine, obtain it, or have someone bring it to him.  So the Ten Commandments teach a person to recognize his illness.  They help him see why he cannot do or refrain from doing.  They help him see himself as a sinner.  Then, the Apostle's Creed shows him were he can find the medicine--the grace--to help him become faithful so that he can keep the commandments.  The Apostle's Creed points out that God and his mercy is offered in Christ.  Finally, the Lord's Prayer teaches a believer how to desire and obtain all this through orderly and humble prayer.  In this way, he will receive the cure and be saved.

I was struck by this one, because we have been talking about law and gospel and  the limit of the law, etc. and it is always difficult to get this right, largely because different things apply to different people at different times.  This is why the whole daily emphasis on catechism, and mediation on the Essentials, needs to be ever fresh.  This is something to be lived daily more than it is a matter of systematics.  I am only beginning to understand by what Luther meant by going over and over the same stuff.  It is ever meaningful in living an always repenting Christian life, fearing and loving God so that we will treat our neighbor in a right way, so help us God.

The other thing that struck me is that through the "humble" and "ordered" way of praying the Lord's Prayer, we will receive that we ask for--grace and all good things.  We always say that prayer or singing/music is not a means of grace, but is only not in the way in that it is not physical.  We are promised that we will receive if we ask in the right way, in Christ's name.  The Lord's Prayer always counts as a right prayer.  It also happens to be "Word", having come from Christ's very lips.  And we should believe when we pray, that we will receive, including the forgiveness of sins.  It's good to pray things from scripture.