Catechesis

Created: April 4th, 2007

The Divine Service: What is the Processional All About?

It’s all about Jesus. That’s what we heard at Higher Things conferences this summer and that is what we confess. The Scriptures are about Jesus.

The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.

The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.

God is the True Philanthropist, that is, the lover of humanity who generously gives gifts. Every morning God gives the gift of a new day.

The Sixth Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.

In the 6th Commandment, we are taught to protect God’s gift of marriage. We are learning to regard the gift of marriage and life as holy. Thus, we are struggling against a culture that does not believe in the sanctity of life or the sanctity of marriage.

The Fifth Commandment: You shall not murder

Learning to walk in newness of life is not any easy task. By nature, we are sinners who naturally hate God and even our brother. In fact, the first murder was carried out by Cain who hated his brother, Abel.

Nunc Dimittis: Salvation - FOR YOU

Historically Lutherans don’t mess around with the Liturgy much. We don’t really have a “Lutheran” liturgy – we have what has been passed down through the ages.

Honor Your Father and Mother - Challenging Authority

Without a doubt you have seen the trend in modern society to “challenge authority”. We can see it ‎in ‎politics, civil government, and even in our own homes.

The Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

We all have certain gifts that we cherish. One of those gifts should be our parents. That’s right. Our father and our mother are gifts from God.

The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy

As the baptized children of God, we are disciples, that is, students of Jesus. We are learning to remember His Word to us. He is the Key to the knowledge of salvation.

Being Instructed by the Ten Commandments - The Second Commandment: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

Children tend to abuse and misuse names. They call each other names. They make fun of each other’s names. They desire to change the identity of another person with a different name. Such behavior is childish. It is the way of the world.

Reverence

I think it is that people don’t know that in the Divine Service there is something special. More than that – that there is something holy. Better yet – Someone holy.

Being Instructed by the Ten Commandments - The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods.

As the baptized people of God, we have access to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Thus, at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy we gather before the face of God remembering our baptism in which we daily die to sin and rise again to walk in newness of life.

The Ashes of The Living

Today, your pastor will speak these words to you as he traces the sign of the holy cross in ashes upon your forehead as a reminder of your hopeless mortality. There seems to be no hope in death, only an inconsolable, desperate, miserable grief that will forever hold your soul in thrall. In death, your life is reduced to ashes.

To Dust You Shall Return

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These somber words come at the beginning of the Lenten Season as they are spoken to us on Ash Wednesday. They aren't the most cheery words ever spoken to be sure, but they are true and they confront us with a truth that we so often seek to ignore, deny, and hide. We are going to die.

Pax Domini

Pax Domini. What’s that now? Does that having something to do with pizza being delivered in 30 minutes or less? No, it’s about one of the coolest moments during Divine Service. Pax Domini: the peace of the Lord.

I'm Lutheran Because I'm Desperate

More than bold, Luther was desperate. I don't think this makes him less admirable. He saw something that was lost for a long time. Jesus is for sinners. Jesus is for you. There is peace here.

Just Don't Condemn the Gospel!

Sometimes we can view the Reformation as though what was taught was "fighting words." We can sometimes think of the Reformation as the big, bold battle where we played our theological version of King of the Mountain, where Luther knocked down all his opponents then jumped up and down shouting, "We're number 1! In your face, losers!"

Is the Reformation Still Relevant?

The heart of the matter is expressed no better than in the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession, the foundational document of the teaching of the Lutheran Church. "Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4).

What's The Reformation All About Anyway?

So, when you hear the Gospel reading from John 8 appointed for Reformation Sunday telling you that you are free in Jesus don't be filled with pride and arrogance and look down on others who are not Lutherans. Instead, give thanks for those who have gone before you and who have delivered to you the Good News that you are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Illuminating the Paschal Candle

So, you know that candle that is in the church that is on a stand? It is often found near the baptismal font or the altar—but not always. It's called the Paschal candle. Have you ever wondered why the Paschal candle is lit on some Sundays and on some occasions, but not on others? C'mon...you know you have!

St. Michael and All Angels

"And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb."

New Obedience

That's why the teaching on new obedience concludes not with the Law, but with the Gospel. The promise of forgiveness and that promise alone is what creates faith. In faith, that is, in Christ, we are right with God. The same Spirit who creates faith through the Gospel also stirs up love in us on account of those forgiven sins; and love fulfills the Law. And works done in faith, no matter how small and humble according to outward measures, are truly good and pleasing works before God.

The Sign of the Holy Cross

For us Lutherans, the celebration of the Holy Cross isn't about going halfway across the world to try to find some ancient lumber. And it's certainly not about worshipping a tree. Let all those relics be thrown into a wood chipper. The True Cross for the Christian is more about water than about wood. Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your + forehead, and upon your + heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. The Holy Cross is your baptismal gift.

What's Up with the Weird Clothes?

The pastor delivers to you the gifts of Jesus. Forgiveness. Life. Salvation. Receive these gifts regularly through the preaching of the Word. Through remembering the gifts Jesus gave in Holy Baptism. Through the Holy Absolution. Through the Body and the Blood. That's your pastor's job—to point you to Jesus. To be His delivery man. The weird clothes he wears are to draw your attention away from the man and point you to Jesus and His promises.

Draw Near to the Throne of Grace

So to think He is far off is a lie of the devil. Because God is indeed able to sympathize with our weaknesses, because He faced them too, but has done so without sin.

O Lord, Open My Lips

A church musician's prayer is as simple as "O Lord, open my lips," because without faith, we would have no joy in the Gospel. We would have no words to sing of this life won for us. Our music would have no meaning, and it would be empty of the "pure voices" belonging to God's people that join together in Christ to sing the New Song of salvation. My prayer throughout this week of Higher Things was to strengthen our faith, and so our voices, to the proclamation and praise of God's Holy Word.

Stand by Me

The promise of baptism is a Jesus who stands by me. The promise is that Jesus will always be faithful though I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). He wrapped Himself around me in the waters of my baptism and took my sins from me giving me His righteousness. The promise is that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). He has promised He will never leave me and God cannot lie.

Two Kinds of Eating

Two kinds of eating. Both of them are necessary for the Sacrament. Because of the Word of Christ, the bread is the body, the body is in the bread; the cup is the blood, the blood is in the cup. Everyone who eats and drinks eats and drinks Body and Blood. But by faith and the Holy Spirit we receive this Body and Blood for a benefit—eternal life now and on the Last Day.

The "Extra" Commandments?

When God tells us that we shall not covet, it's a reminder of the fact that He has already provided for us so many good things—all that we need and certainly more than we deserve. There is no need to get ground down and become miserable because of the rat race of the world for you have true life in Christ.

Mary Magdalene's True Story

We are God's children: called, redeemed, purchased, and won. The true stories about our fleshly life aren't held against us anymore than they're credited to us. Like the stories of Mary Magdalene, true or pious myth, all of our life stories tell of one whom Christ has saved.

Instruments of the Holy Spirit

The Word and the Sacraments are instruments of the Holy Spirit. They are the means by which the Holy Spirit comes to you as a gift in order to bestow faith. Faith is His work, not the work of the faithful. Faith is the Spirit's pleasure, wherever He bestows it. The Word and the Sacraments deliver the good news that God justifies the sinner, and receives Him into grace for Christ's sake, by the faith that He works.

Thanks for Bringing God's Word to Us

One tradition of many Christian congregations is for the congregation to shake hands with the minister(s) after a worship service. For many, this two to ten-second interaction is about the only one-on-one time they have with their minister during the week. Some take advantage of it by starting a conversation. Others say "Good morning" and move the line along.

An Empty Cross?

I was recently asked why I have a crucifix in my office at the church. I told them that we also have a crucifix hanging on the wall near the entrance to our home. They looked at me dumbfounded. "Isn't that catholic?" they asked.

A Tale of Toenails

So yes, the toenails don't look like much. For the most part they just sit there. At times they can look as ugly as the calloused and blistered hands that serve them. Still, they are the body of Christ, members of His church who need to hear the Gospel.

The Lost Coin: Luke 15:7-10

Remember that this parable was never about a coin. It was all about you and the Savior who sought you. Christ searches for you when you are lost in sin. Jesus searches for you when you covered in despair. Jesus frees you and washes you clean. He is your good caretaker. You are His treasure that He desperately seeks. And when He finds you through repentance and faith the whole company of heaven rejoices because what was lost has been found. The lost have rejoined the treasure chest.

What I Want Young People to Take to Heart Regarding Church

I cannot control my children or any young person, but it does not mean I cannot proclaim the truth. In much the same way parents leave a last will and testament, I leave these things to my children so that they know the truth of the church we leave to them.

Beautiful, Heartbreaking World

As Christians we can fully embrace both the beautiful and the heartbreaking. As Christians we can be real. We can give thanks and praise to God for the beautiful and receive it as gift. We can turn to God in our heartbreak and seek His love and forgiveness. We understand that God is not only with us in the beautiful, He is also with us in the brokenness. And that changes everything. No, it doesn't answer all the questions we may have, but it assures us even in the midst of them.

A Rightly Ordered Call

Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call (Augsburg Confession XIV). One short sentence is all we get for the 14th article of the Augsburg Confession. The only thing it says about order in the Church is that it should be ordered. That's a bit redundant. So what does it mean by "a rightly ordered call?" The 14th article of the Augsburg Confession doesn't elaborate much, but you can think of it as including three things: preparation and examination, call, and ordination.

Taking Another Look at Gospel Freedom

One day, I rediscovered a book from my Lutheran school days. Yes, in a strange twist I, an Orthodox Christian, attended Lutheran schools. I cracked it open and it led me to another book and then to another book. Finally, I came to the conclusion that the confirmation classes I had taken in 7th and 8th grade might have the insight that I so desperately needed.

Christ In, With, and Through the Church

Church is the place where you belong, but not because of the music, activities, or programs that may be offered. You belong in the church because you are a sinner. You belong in the church and have been placed into the church because you are a redeemed and baptized child of God.

Changes

Jesus and His church is more than a source of stability. He's the only constant in our changing world. He's unwavering. He doesn't falter under Supreme Court decisions or the cries of a mob. He "is the same yesterday, today, and forever"

What Young People Should Know and Love about the Church

What should young people know about the church? While the question is a broad one I hope that readers of any age can see these common themes: In church, we experience God physically on earth where He has promised to be. We gather as His redeemed and beloved people to hear with our own ears His Word in Scripture—the two-edged sword that brings us to humility and repentance with the Law and lifts us up again to new life, cleansed and comforted by the Gospel. We hear our sins delivered up and forgiven in Confession and Absolution. We touch, taste, and see the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed freely for us to feed our starving souls and give us life. We see precious children of all ages enter God's Kingdom in the waters of Holy Baptism.

The Broken Yet Beautiful Bride of Christ

Broken yet beautiful, that is the church. The beauty of the church rests in its willingness to confess its brokenness—to embrace sinners and to serve them with its blessings and gifts. The church, you should know, is at its best when it lives among sinners, for Christ only dwells in sinners. The church, you should know, is not a place of spiritual perfection but is an infirmary for the sinner who desires the forgiveness of sins.

Luther on the Seven Marks of the Church

Although Christians seek to be obedient to God and His law, their obedience is not the glue that holds the church together. Rather, the church is held together by the presence of the risen Jesus, who, through Word and Sacrament, binds the people of God into a fellowship of holiness and grace.

The Treasure That Is the Church

Martin Luther wrote, "If you knew how many fiery darts the devil was shooting at you, you'd run to the Sacrament of the Altar every chance you got!" It is my prayer that the generations to come would know and cling to the treasure that is the Church—in other words, to Christ—and that by doing so they would rejoice in the priceless gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation!

The Church Is for Sinners

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. Your salvation isn't founded on your behavior. It's founded on Jesus who died on the cross. Jesus got you here, so you have nothing to brag about. The grace that saved you is the free gift given to all the world.

Remember Not the Sins of My Youth

The world says, "Follow your heart," but the church says, "Our hearts are already secure in Christ. He is the life-source from which our faith flows and clings to. We need not worry, for we have everything in Christ and a joy that surpasses all human understanding and desires this world could ever hope for or imagine."

Our Hearts Are Secure in Christ

The world says, "Follow your heart," but the church says, "Our hearts are already secure in Christ. He is the life-source from which our faith flows and clings to. We need not worry, for we have everything in Christ and a joy that surpasses all human understanding and desires this world could ever hope for or imagine."

The Church's One Foundation

You belong to the church, because you belong to Christ. And because you belong to Christ, He gives you Himself in the church. For where the Word is, there is Christ; where Christ is, there is the forgiveness of sins; where the forgiveness of sins is; there is eternal life. The splash of baptism, the taste of bread and wine, the voice of your Shepherd Jesus saying, "It is finished." There is the church.

When God Rolls up His Sleeves: Paul Gerhardt on the Cross of Christ

Pr. Gaven Mize demonstrate that when studying Gerhardt's devotional understanding of scripture, it's not too difficult to see that he was never far from the cross.

The Bridegroom and His Bride

She is His Bride. He is her Bridegroom. He loves her. She is loved by Him. He does all that He does for her. She receives His love and loves Him in return.

What Is Church?

The Holy Spirit works exclusively through the Word and the Word in the Sacraments to give faith and salvation as we see in Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

Bones in the Bottom of the Basin

And now, having had my bones laid at the bottom of the font, I have been raised to new life. How could water do such wonderful things? But that's just it; it wasn't the water alone, but the water with the Word of God and the faith now granted to me that I could trust the very Word and water that put me to death.

Amen

So, you see, that little word "amen" is not a throw away word. It is not a word that is simply the way we signal the end of a sentence. No! It is a bold word of confidence and trust. It is THE word of faith. Saying "amen" is like shouting "I trust what Jesus says is true! I believe this!"

The Second Temptation

"Lead us not into temptation." This is the prayer Jesus gives us to pray. May we continue to pray this prayer and always look for the escape God has provided from the temptations we face. Lord, in Your mercy forgive, strengthen, save, and deliver us from all evil and when we fall prey to temptation, may Your Spirit lead us to turn from our sins to the forgiveness Your cross delivers to sinners.

Two Parts of Repentance

Repentance. Metanoia. Literally it means, "a change of thinking." A change of heart. Repentance is what brings you to Holy Baptism. "Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," proclaims St. Peter (Acts 2:38). But repentance isn't just to prepare you for baptism; it's also for the baptized when they fall into sins. Repentance is life for a Christian.

Seeing Is Not Believing: When We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

"Unless I see...I will not believe" was the notorious position of Doubting Thomas (John 20:25). Yet, such a stance is more popular now than ever. "Seeing is believing" has taken the place of traditional faith that, is "drawn to the love of those things which are not seen."

Eve, Mother of all the Living

Through Eve's womb now held a piece of the promise of salvation. From her womb would come the Savior of the world--the one who would carry the burden of the sins of every person to ever live, who would redeem our fallen race from the clutches of Satan and carry us to Heaven to be with Him forever.

Can These Bones Live?

The beauty of Easter isn't just that someday God will do something cool. It isn't just that someday things will be better. No--God is active, even when (especially when) I am weak and worn and can't do a thing. He gives life, even when we are at our weakest and lowest and worst. Even the week after Easter. Even the week after the party, after the celebration, even the week when things are at their worst. Christ Jesus the Lord has spoken life to you.

Being an Easter People

The key to the Gospel preached by the Apostles was the resurrection; immortality, with glorified bodies, made for the new creation with the Triune God, was what kept the early Christians enduring and long-suffering in faith. It was what kept the lamps of their faith burning brightly, doing good works for their neighbors to the glory of our Father in heaven, despite the severe persecution, hard labor, and unjust martyrdom.

Do Our Bodies Matter?

You matter, both body and soul. Together, these things make you one. And to take them apart is death. You matter, in the flesh. You matter enough that Jesus gave up everything to pull you out of the grave. Your body is you, and it is a gift from God. Therefore, gender matters. Sexuality matters. Self-harm matters. Abortion matters. Suicide matters. Death matters. And these all matter enough for Christ to have done something about them all. By being born in Bethlehem for you. By dying on that cross for you. By rising from that grave on the third day for you--not just spiritually, but physically, in the flesh, all for you.

Easter: An Unexpected Party

It is important that we never fail to uphold both of these doctrines: the resurrection of Christ and His Body and Blood given to us for the forgiveness of sin. Thankfully, along with that unexpected gift of salvation, there is also the gift of faith which we receive in our Easter feast.

Every Sunday Is Easter Sunday

From the early days of the church we've worshiped on Sunday morning. Please note that I'm not saying that you can't go to a Saturday night service or anything like that - but very early on in church history the standard became to gather together on Sunday morning and celebrate the Lord's Supper. There's a very good and simple reason for this.

The First Easter Sermon

So think on this and say it out loud whenever you say the creed -- as if you yourself are beating down Satan under your feet with these words -- He descended into hell. Because in Baptism you are joined with Christ's death and His resurrection and made part of His body, which means that His foot that holds down Satan is also your foot and His victory over death is your victory over death.

The Finality of the Cross

"It is finished." These are some of the most profound words in the entirety of Scripture. They are also some of the most difficult to believe. They are the words our sinful flesh hates above all others. The cry of the sinful flesh is, "Finished? It's not finished until I say it is finished!" My grudge against my neighbor: How dare You say it is finished!

Given and Shed For You

Maundy Thursday is all about the gracious gifts of God given to you in Word and Sacrament. Outside of the word, outside of Baptism and absolution, outside of the Sacrament of the Altar that grace won for you on the cross is never delivered to you. That is where the Lord has promised to be for you. And that's where you find Him on Maundy Thursday -- the same place that He is the rest of the Church year. The gracious gifts of God are delivered to you in the read and proclaimed Word. Forgiveness of sins is found in the water and Word at the font. As the sixth chief part's refrain says, the body and blood of Christ, under the bread and the wine, is "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." And where there is forgiveness of sins there also is life and salvation.

Christ Died for Jerks

This is the great thing. Jesus died for all sins. Everyone's sin. That means all my sin. It means everything that my neighbor has done to me, Jesus has died for, too. And thus I see their sin differently. Yeah, it hurts. So what? Jesus died for it. That person is mean. So what? Jesus died for them.

Don't Lent Me Down

And that, to me, is the purpose of this Lenten season: to demonstrate to us that even though we might try to be holy or sanctified, we cannot be holy or sanctified without Christ. It is Christ alone who paid the debt for our sin on the cross, and it is Christ alone who triumphed over death on Easter morning.

No Cover-ups

The truth is, it's all about what Christ has done. He has lived, died, and risen again. And He has done this for you. And He's done this for your neighbor. And--this is pretty neat--He even uses you to give His own blessings of care, compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness to your neighbor. All that good stuff that He does through you and it doesn't matter a hill of beans that the world doesn't like it or that the smug don't like it. You're free--free in Christ.

Remembering Your Baptism in Lent

Even though we may or may not be able to remember the exact day of our baptism, this Lent we can all remember that we are baptized and are therefore united with Christ.

The Lenten Opportunity

Lent is a gift. Every single sin has been completely wiped away. They are paid for. We can repent with full confidence during Lent. We can repent with full confidence anytime, but Lent provides that special opportunity to dwell on our own wickedness and repent of it.

The God Who Remembers

"Remember me," pleads the thief on the cross, "when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). These are words spoken from sinner to Savior-words which cling to life even in the throes of death. "Remember me."

The Danger of the Bleachers

It ultimately doesn't matter what I can or can't sacrifice for 40 days. What matters is the sacrifice of Jesus in my place. So give something up or don't, but don't sit in the bleachers and lie to yourself. Confess the reality of your sin and live in the joy of forgiveness, for that is what it means to be a child of God.

Discipleship as Following Jesus to the Cross

In the season of Lent, it is important for us to focus first on how Christ has sacrificed himself for us, receiving His gifts in the daily remembrance of our baptism, hearing His Word and receiving His Supper, so that we may in turn sacrifice ourselves for our neighbor in the service of love. In doing this, we follow Jesus' command to take up our crosses and follow him.

Create in Me a Clean Heart

When it comes to sin, there is nothing clean about it. It is forever a part of us as it infects our entire being with its dirt and grime. We think that we can scrape it off by ourselves, yet we despair with no avail.

Nothing Yielded or Surrendered

That right there is the heart of the Lutheran Confession. All have sinned. All have been justified freely without work or merit. Justification--becoming right with God--is something that happens outside myself, apart from myself. It's objective. My redemption is in Christ Jesus, in the blood that He shed.

Baptized: Ready to Die

You're baptized. So, you're ready to die! Not so sure? Well, you've already died! You died with Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism. And you not only died there, but you have been raised there. So, you're baptized. That means, you're ready to rise from the dead!

Psalm 6: Lamentation in Lent

Our tongue and its world of unrighteousness is loosened by the Psalms of lamentation. Psalm 6, the first of seven penitential psalms, is profoundly terrifying yet profoundly comforting. It teaches us that in all trials and afflictions we must hurry to God.

I Hope You Fail at Lent

A Lent that points us away from our egos and our sins is a Lent that draws us outside of ourselves and shows us Jesus. He bore your sins and failures, your ego and your death upon a cross. I hope you fail so hard at Lent you die inside. Then, I hope you receive the crucified Jesus to make you live.

Good News in The Wreckage

Like the paramedic, your pastor will no longer point out the nearness of death. Instead, God will give him the promise, the good news that heals your sin-riddled body.

No Other Way to Lent

What brought me to Lutheranism was it's Biblical understanding of the means of grace. There I found true comfort and certainty! The Lord's Supper is not some mental act of remembrance of Jesus and how He once lived, died and rose again. The Lord's Supper is where I come as a beggar and am nourished with the gift of His true Body and Blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins FOR ME.

God Has Gifts to Give This Lent

While you are busy this Lent, the gifts of Christ are there for you. When you have every excuse to not to go worship, Christ's gifts are there for you. When you skip a week here or there, the gifts of Christ are there for you. This Lent the gifts are offered to you more than once a week, thanks be to God. Go and receive.

There's No "I" in Lent

This Lent, we are free to give something up, and we are free not to. Neither choice makes us righteous; neither choice will make us better in the eyes of God. We all stand as helpless sinners, but sinners covered by the holy blood of Christ, washed in baptism, clean in God's eyes.

Giving Up Something for Lent?

What does fasting look like? How do you fast? There are different ways this is done among Christians and there is no "right" way. Some people will talk about "giving something up for Lent." This is one form of fasting. You are "fasting" from that "thing you gave up." It takes willpower to deny yourself whatever you have "given up for Lent."

Things Happen for a Reason

God never promised that life would be easy. He didn't promise earthly happiness. He promised His Presence. "Lo, I am with you always," in the Supper and in the waters.

Christ and the Church: The Eternal Image of Heaven

The picture of the church is a glorious one. God's holiness, as manifest before Moses in the burning bush and in the temple before Isaiah, is full of perfection, power, and loving-kindness. It was made manifest in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ, to bring forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to a world wounded with suffering and stricken with sin and death. God's holiness comes from heaven to earth where He has promised: in His Word, His life-giving Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, His Holy Absolution, Baptism, and the preaching of the Gospel for sinners.

An Extraordinary Christmas Gift

This past Christmas day...and every Sunday year 'round, drop what you're doing. Hear and go see what is given for you: a Savior! Run with haste to your church where the Word is preached and where the Sacraments are distributed! Yes, you will again read the same Luke 2 as before at the same standard church service per usual, but the extraordinary that is our Christ lies in those "standard" Words and those "standard" Sacraments--no matter how many times you hear them or receive them--are soul-saving, lifesaving, and, therefore, not that standard at all.

Can't Argue with That

"You are the same species as God." That's what a visiting presenter said about a month ago at Immanuel Lutheran Church of Pensacola, Florida. As I sat there, I'd like to say that you could hear a pin drop, but that wasn't the case. What I saw instead were people who had their systems shocked. They weren't angry or appalled. The audience didn't disagree. It was just that the gears got jolted. We all paused. We all pondered. We all thought, "Yep. Can't argue with that." Of course, context is everything.

Comfort and Joy

I love Alvin and the Chipmunks as much as the next guy. But hearing "Christmas time is near" makes me think of the endless to-do lists and stress that often mark this season. Real Christmas music doesn't direct us to holiday-themed, liturgically colored overfunctioning. It replaces "Do this!" with "It is finished!" Take a quick journey down a road of comfort and joy...

A Strange First Christmas

Why is Christmas so wonderful? Why do we spend so much time waiting for it to come each year? It cannot be just because it looks beautiful outside, or because you think your parents will get you a really good present this year, or because you don't have school or work on that day. There must be a reason that this holiday is so special.

No Room for Him to Park

He who worked the church could not find a parking place. The parking lot had more cars than he was ever used to seeing. What had he forgotten and why was his usual spot taken? Then, the revelation dawned on him and the proverbial LED light bulb shined brightly through his darkness, "Today is the preschool children's Christmas program!" The parking lot is full of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. There was no room for him in the parking lot because people, gobs of them, have come to see their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews perform the Biblical story of Christmas.

Out of the Mouths of Angels

Whether or not there are angel costumes, the Gospel still comes as it did from the mouths of angels that Christmas night, and it sings a song of salvation more beautiful than any treasures this world holds.

The Cross of Christmas

It is an old practice in the Christian church to take the Christmas tree after the Christmas Season is over and make it into a cross. To do so you take all the branches off so that you have just the trunk of the tree and then you cut the trunk into two pieces--one piece roughly twice as long as the other. You then attach the shorter piece to the longer piece with either some cord or some nails making a cross. And there you have it: a cross made out of the Christmas tree. This cross is then often displayed in the church building throughout the Season of Lent.

God Is Born

What a ridiculous thing to say: God is born. A contradiction of terms. God is eternal. Without beginning. How can He be born? There must be some divine trick, some heavenly illusion at work at Christmas. But against all human reason, the angel appears to Mary and says, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35 NKJV). No tricks here, just the promise of the ages coming to its fulfillment in time: the Seed of the woman born to crush the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15).

The Fragile Flesh of Christmas Eve

Life is fragile. Hold onto it too hard and fiercely and you will break it. Hold it too softly and detached and you will miss its giftedness. Tonight almighty God descends to fragile human flesh.

A Cross from Where?

I go to church because I need what's there. I go because I embody anger and bitterness and lust and evil and sin. I go because I need Christ. You can come, too. Receive the same gifts that sustain me.

The Endurance of Faith

The strength to endure comes not from inside of you, but from outside of you. It is Jesus, and only Jesus, who will give you the strength. He promised you in your baptism to be with you always and He is faithful to His promise. Through hearing God's Word and receiving the Holy Supper Jesus gives you what you need to endure. So, let's not play games. Runners run and Christians go to church.

The Gerhardt Files: Lord, How Shall I Greet You, Stanza 2

Love always comes with a sacrifice or else it isn't love. Hymn writer Paul Gerhardt knocks this truth out of the park in the second stanza of O Lord How Shall I Meet You.

The Inconceivable Gift of the Church

If you're a fan of the movie The Princess Bride you might be familiar with the dialog between Vizzini and Inigo Montoya. Vizzini loved to use the interjection, "Inconceivable!" After hearing it a few times, Inigo responded to Vizzini, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Church with a Side of Ketchup

In some ways your church sign is like the name Heinz on a ketchup bottle. If I see that your sign has the name Lutheran (and in particular LCMS in the U.S. and LCC in Canada) I know what I should expect. In fact, that is why when I am traveling I will try to find a LCMS/LCC church to visit. The name represents something. It is telling me that at this church there are certain things taught and certain beliefs that are held to by the people there.

The Great Thanksgiving

When He brings us to His table, He gathers us to himself, His beloved "given-to." We are called to the party to eat well, to drink and rejoice, to love and serve each other as we have been loved and served by our heavenly Father. At the Lord's Table it is revealed to us that all creation is the gorgeousness of God's Fatherly heart made solid. And from His table all our feasts, every gravy-smeared plate, every wine stain on the couch, every pie crumb ground into the carpet, will cause us to give thanks for the giftedness of creation. Those things remind us again that in this life all of our thank-yous are but a foretaste of the Great Thanksgiving to come -- the Supper of the Lamb without end. Amen

The Watchmen on the Heights Are Crying

The fact of the matter is that there is always enough cross to go around. There is always enough life to be given, for Christ is the One who gives. So, live. In your baptism rejoice, and live. As your fingers close around the cross, live. Because Christ has come for you. Christ remains the One coming for you. And soon, the ones who have been planted and the ones who walk the earth in faith, will call out, "Ah come, Thou blessed Lord, O Jesus, Son of God, Hallelujah! We follow till the halls we see, Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee!"

The Small Catechism: From the Cradle to the Grave

The church and its teaching are never contemporary, for it deals in that which has stood the test of time, fights against the gates of hell and draws its strength and resolve from Christ who is its body and life and who confesses, "This is most certainly true."

A World Full of Lies

Satan uses words to form many disguises to hide the truth. As the father of lies, he works to lead us away from this Word made flesh. While the wisdom of this age always changes according to our senses, the Word of the Lord remains forever.

Drowned And Togethered in Christ

In this family, the church, God's Spirit works to drown the Old Adam. He raises up each day a new man in Christ who resists Satan's lies and who clings to God's baptismal promises. In baptismal grace and peace, the new man in Christ confesses the old Adam's sins and receives absolution from a pastor in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ordinary Saints

St. Vincent (2014) is an American comedy-drama film. It stars Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy. The movie is not for everyone. It has material that is not suitable for young children. And it certainly doesn't conform to the popular and pietistic belief that a "saint" is a wonder worker, flawless human being, or a super-human intercessor.

When He Speaks, He Gets Things Done

Jesus has brought the spiritual authority to forgive sins to earth. The eternal Son of God has come into the body in order to suffer in the body. On the cross, He suffers the punishments for the sins of the world. And because He suffered for your sins, He has authority to forgive your sins. But He doesn't keep this authority for Himself. He sends out His ministers to speak in His stead and by His authority.

Inactives and the Bandwagon

Whether you are a "diehard" or a "#bandwagon" fan, or anywhere in between, you can still rejoice with these teams in their earthly gifts, and even more so in His greater Gifts!

Forgiveness in Christ: Church and Vocation

Forgiveness in Christ is the call of the church. After the resurrection, Jesus tells the church to preach "repentance and forgiveness of sins" (Luke 24) and "if you forgive them they are forgiven" (John 20). This call is defined as the "Office of the Keys" which Christ has given to the church-the special authority to forgive sinners like you and me.

God Has a Preference for Sinners

God doesn't write us off or leave us to our own fixes. But precisely because there is no fix, He gives His Son into death and raises him up again.

Uncomfortable Grace

When the pastor showed up and I sat down in a chair and read the order of private confession, I was nervous and a bit scared. Yet in that order, there are some wonderful words: "In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins."

The Public Service Pronouncement

God serves you the gifts of Christ's death. In church, Jesus serves His Word and Sacrament. He serves the good news that God justifies you, an ungodly sinner.

The Adolescent's Chalice

You know it by many names-Communion, the Breaking of the Bread, the Last Supper, the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar-but it has a singular gift: forgiveness of sins. And where this forgiveness of sins is eaten and swallowed so also death is buried. This life meal has sprung you unto eternity with its immortal yet visible cook, Jesus the embodied One, for broken bodies.

The Lectionary Protects You From Your Pastor

Your pastor does not pick the readings on Saturday night. In fact, your pastor does not pick the readings at all. And that's the point.

There Is No Such Thing As "Cheap Grace"

Have you ever heard of the phrase "cheap grace" in reference to Lutherans, or had someone accuse you of simply being a "lazy Catholic?" Grace is NOT cheap. The grace of God towards us came at a price-a huge price. The price was so large that the immortal God, who rules over every last centimeter of the cosmos, had to take on the form of us measly human beings and then die.

I Don't Believe in the Power of Prayer

Don't feel that you should never pray from the heart. But first, let the Word inform your heart. Make your daily prayers the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Psalms, the Creed, the prayers in the Catechism, and the other prayers of the faithful that have been composed in accordance with these words and have stood the test of time. These will teach you how to pray, and will radically alter your spontaneous requests and thanksgivings.

Focusing on Christ Crucified

Without the focus of Christ, we have nowhere to turn. We are blind in sin, always squinting to find a way to fix this impediment, yet God has brought us from death to life, from the blurriness of sin to the focus of His Son, and from our lost and fallen nature to a forgiven sinner in Christ.

War and Peace

The world will call out for battles. People with the best intentions will warn of the latest war. Some of these you might even think are worth fighting. Even then, the truth of Christ Jesus and the peace He won for you and for the person you're fighting against still remains and shapes everything. Even then, the great battle is the one Jesus waged for you upon the Cross against Satan and sin and death. In Him you have peace - now and forever.

A Confession About Confession

I've always had a problem with confession. Night after night, staring up at the dark ceiling from my bed, I took upon myself the exhausting work of trying to enumerate the sins I'd committed over the past day and then attempted to conjure up sufficient sorrow for what I'd done.

Concupiscence and Its Cure

Jesus Christ alone is without concupiscence and so only has the inclination to do His Father's will. It's for this reason that He became the sacrifice for sinners. On the cross, He bore your sin and your inclination to sin.

Forgiveness Isn't a Beauty Queen

Forgiveness doesn't look like much. In fact it's down-right ugly. We expect that when God does something for it to be beautiful, spectacular even.

What The Heart Wants, God Must Crucify

When Lutherans talk about law and Gospel stuff we talk about two kingdoms stuff at the same time. What is "two kingdoms stuff"? That's the way Martin Luther talked to distinguish between the two different ways God works in and for His creation.

Scuba Diving for Sins

You don't need a license to scuba dive down into the depths of your own or someone else's shipwrecked collection of sins. The reality is we have a natural inclination to do so. The good news, as Chad declares, is that the love of Jesus is deeper than you can even imagine and you don't have to plumb the dark depths of sin any longer.

Hypocrite!

The world loves a good hypocrite. Nothing makes the Twitterverse explode like a Christian who is revealed to be caught up in the very sin he preaches against.

What Do Pastors Do Anyway?

So, what do pastors do anyway? They deliver God's gifts to God's people through Word and Sacrament in the Church.

Commemoration of the Augsburg Confession

What are we celebrating when we commemorate this day of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession by the reformers to Emperor Charles V?

Why I'm A Lutheran

I'm a Lutheran because Luther lead me to the Word of God. He pointed to Jesus. He pointed me to Jesus Christ, to His cross, to His blood and death, to all that God the Father has done for me and all his creatures since the beginning of creation.

Making a Defense

I'm a Christian because the Holy Spirit gave me the gift of faith through His gifts of the Gospel. I'm a Christian because I was baptized into the death of Jesus Christ and was raised to walk in newness of life, and because God nourishes my weak faith with the true body and blood of His Son. I'm a Christian because Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who has ever done anything to save humanity. I'm a Christian out of desperation. I'm a Christian because Jesus says so.

The Quest of the Cross

In the face of suffering, we do not often feel brave. But the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to endure all things, even persecution and death, rather than fall away from the Word, or our Confessions of the Word.

His Blood Speaks

The blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of righteous Abel, whose sacrifice offered in faith to God was pleasing, but in no way as pleasing as the once and for all sacrifice made by our High Priest on a hill outside Jerusalem.

Sin: Can We Fix It?

In this technological mindset of fixing things, we battle against the many forces that lure us into thinking that we can find rest on our own and create our own identity from the world.

Forgiving Others

You can eventually squeeze an apology out of most people. But notice how often what seems to be a humble petition for forgiveness is qualified with something like, "I'm sorry, but..." It's just as likely that when you're supposedly the one doing the forgiving, you'll manage to slip in a remark like, "I would never do what you just did to me."

Not Counted Against Us

You think that being a Christian bulletproofs you against sin. Well, maybe not the little ones-we're all sinners, of course; but not those sins. Christians never do the Big Ones. But if you think this way you're kidding yourself and the truth is not in you.

Narthex-y Things

The first time I heard someone say the word narthex I had no idea what they were talking about. "Please sign the guest register in the narthex" I was told. I stared dazed and confused at the person making the announcement after Service. What's a narthex? It sounds scary. Why would I want to go there? The Church uses weird words.

Confessions About Confession, Part Three

The real trick with confession is believing that Jesus gives the same forgiveness to us here and now as He gave to those now justly famous confessing sinners found in the pages of Scripture mentioned before.

The Hidden Life

Christianity is not a conditional spirituality. It's 100% receptive. You receive every blessing as a gift from God. In the body of Christ, you are the walking dead carrying the promise of forgiveness and life - a promise delivered and sealed in the waters of Baptism.

Confessions About Confession, Part Two

In my mind, I really only transgressed the Law on a handful of discrete points. The evangelical subculture in which I was raised only stigmatized certain sins and consequently only fetishized certain virtues. I'd been conditioned to know I was accountable for all the Law, but only because I hadn't kept it perfectly on a couple of points. Some sins didn't need forgiving because I hadn't committed them.

Confessions About Confession, Part One

For us, our salvation is just that: we exert no effort, we do not climb the ladder of piety to gain the approval of God. Kneeling there every Sunday, hearing that I was forgiven simply because Christ, through His called and ordained servant, said so, was the beginning of my consolation.

You Don't Have to Go to Church

But that is not what going to church is about at all. It is not about you doing anything. It's not just about downloading information into your brain or receiving tips and tricks on how to live your life. It is about Jesus doing something for you. It is about an actual encounter with Jesus - not just information about Jesus. It is about receiving the gifts Jesus has to give.

Pray the Psalms with Jesus in Song

We chant from the Psalter every Sunday in the Introit. Our Divine liturgies are saturated with the language of the Psalms. Did you ever stop and ask yourself why you sing from these old-fashioned poems set to antiquated chant modes? And what do the Psalms have to do with church music?

Sinners Love a Checklist

Me, I just need my list. And then with my handy-dandy notepad, I can check off when I've done what I need to do and know that it's done and I'm getting better. I'll be that person with two checkmarks on my list, and that's at least better than that loser who only has one. Or that poor sot who's still scrambling to find a list as their sins tear them up.

Only When You Are Free to Fall - Are You Free Not to Fall

Only when we are free to fall, knowing that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us when we do, are we free not to fall! Only then will our hearts be filled with the Love of God in Christ. Only then will our coldness melt and the love of sinning be taken away.

The Creed as The Gospel, For You

Although the Creed is commonly understood as a confession about our faith, this is not its primary function. The Creed is the summary of the whole Gospel, which comes from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Farting in Church

The devil deals in doubt and uncertainty. Jesus deals in the sure and certain. By remembering your baptism and the gifts Jesus gave you there you are on solid ground.

The Hyperbolic Goodness of the Gospel

See the Gospel in all of its sweetness! Just when you think you know how good the Gospel really is, Rev. Borghardt reminds us of how truly outrageous the promises of God are!

Hung Up on the Law

Hear the Law in all of its ferocity! You have nothing to fear, though, for Christ has borne its requirements and punishment on your behalf, just as Rev. Buetow shows us.

Catechism: Intro to the Small Catechism

Now is the perfect time to pull your Small Catechism from the shelf, blow off the dust, and rediscover its value. Before Rev. Cwirla delves into even more Catechism goodness, he lays out its origin and development and why it is the essential tool for nurturing our faith.

David's House

"The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed," is an ancient maxim about the Old and New Testaments attributed to church father, Augustine. Rev. Buetow highlights this insightful saying by illustrating the amazing connection between David, King of Israel and Jesus.

Communion is for Real

Regardless of your opinion of the movie, Heaven is for Real, it fared well at the box office, but Daniel, especially when reflecting back on his HT conference experiences, rejoices that Communion is as REAL as it gets: real food for our souls, real flesh and blood, and real forgiveness.

Dare to Be Lutheran: What Does This Mean?

Rev. Borghardt reminds us that "Dare to be Lutheran" is more than a motto - it's a phrase that points us back to the Solas of the Reformation: faith alone, grace alone, Scripture alone and it declares boldly: It's all about Jesus!

Sanctification: Jesus Living in You

Sanctification is frequently a Christian buzz word. For some it means how we become more holy or sin less the longer we are Christians. With clarity, Rev. Buetow illuminates the Biblical understanding of sanctification that takes us out of the driver's seat.

The Life You Now Live

Drown, rinse, and repeat. This is the formula for the Christian life. It isn't about trying to follow God's law more faithfully. It's about realizing that, having been baptized through Christ, you follow God's law perfectly.

The First Time I Died

It's a normal ambition to attempt to map out our lives. At the tender young age of 18, Rev. Riley did just that but ended up down a path where God took him face to face with Jesus. He died that day, but it was no "Heaven Is for Real" experience - he was "buried with Christ by Baptism into death." And it was then that his life truly began.

Chaste and Decent Lives

There's a whole lot more to the sixth commandment than you might think and we're all guilty of breaking it in some ways. However, Pastor Cwirla reminds us that it all boils down to God protecting us from the dangers of misusing His good gift of sex, which He intended to be enjoyed within the bounds of marriage.

Christian Marriage as "Fellowship"

"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togeder today. That bwessed awangement, that dweam within a dweam..." Think the Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride got it right? Perhaps if Humperdink hadn't cut him off we'd have found out. Pastor Drosendahl, on the other hand, clearly explains God's purpose in marriage.

Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified

The crucifix is a reminder of what stands at the center of our Christian faith: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. That’s all St. Paul was resolved to know in His preaching. (1 Corinthians 2:2).

The Apostle's Creed: The Holy Spirit Gives Life Through the Word

The First Article of the Creed teaches us that God the Father made all things. The Second Article teaches that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, who was born, lived, suffered, died and rose again to take away our sins. The Third Article tells us what the Holy Spirit does.

The Creed: God the Son Redeems the World

The center, foundation, focus, emphasis, big deal and whole point of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. But there are lots of Jesuses out there. So we learn and pray and recite the Apostles' Creed to confess, teach and be reminded of what the Bible says about the real Jesus. Who is He? Why did He come here? What did He do?

The Creed: God the Father Makes All Things

The first thing that the Creed teaches us is that God is our Father. People like to stick lots of adjectives on God: He is almighty. He is all-powerful. He is present everywhere. He is mighty and eternal and so on and so forth. While those things are true, what matters most for us is that God is our Father. What do fathers do? Well, they give us life and, if they are doing their job, they provide for their children.

40 Days of What?

Lent is a Holy Season of the Church Year lasting 40 days. But what is Lent about? Well, it's not about things people borrowed from you and it's not about that fuzzy stuff that sticks to your pockets. No, Lent is a season in which Christians pay close attention to Jesus going to the cross for sinners

Catechism: The Table of Duties: Parents and Children

We live in a day when the roles of parents and children in the home are being blurred or sometimes even obliterated. As always, Rev. Cwirla provides an excellent walk through this area in Luther’s Small Catechism, which will equip you in the faith, whether you are a child, a parent or both.

Know-Nothing Know-It-Alls? The Curious Case of Agnosticism

It’s one thing to deny there is a God. It’s another thing altogether to operate as if you cannot know if there is a God. Far from being “atheismlite,” agnosticism offers its own set of challenges. Rev. Pierson sheds some light on this lesser known belief system.

Your Church is Too Sexy: Why Church Architecture Matters

Think there’s a disconnect between theology and architecture? Chad Bird artfully presents just how intertwined they actually are and why this is so important when understanding the doctrines that undergird worship.

The Mark of a False Prophet: They Draw Away Disciples After Themselves

There are so many messages being sent out on blogs, twitter, radio airwaves, TV channels from preachers of every stripe...how do we know whom we can trust? What distinguishes a false prophet, or a wolf from a faithful preacher? Chris Rosebrough deals with this subject on a regular basis on his radio program and shares his insight with us.

The Church Year and the Liturgy

Not only is our divine service liturgy filled with Scripture, it also sets the scene for God to give us His wonderful gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which Dr. Eifert explains as he lays out the cool connection between this same liturgy and our Church Year.

Putting the Mass back in "Christmas"!

"Jesus is the reason for the season" and "Keep Christ in Christmas!" are familiar sayings at Christmastime. But what about keeping the “mass” in Christmas? Pastor Borghardt explains what the other half of the word "Christmas" is all about.

Heaven and Earth Come Together in Jesus

The Son of God became man in Mary’s womb when the angel Gabriel spoke God’s Word to her. He told her that the Child she would bear would be the “Son of the Most High.” That means that baby will be God. Mary is the Mother of God! But the angel also said the Child would have the throne of His Father, David. That means the baby will be a true human being with a human family tree. And tying it all together? His name. Jesus. Joshua. “Yahweh (the LORD) saves.” God becomes a man to save sinners.

Behold, the Lamb of God!

John the Baptist (or, as some call him, John the Forerunner) was the preacher who came before and in anticipation of Jesus the Christ. To his old father and barren mother, John's conception and birth was the event which signaled the beginning of the final fulfillment of God's promise to save sinners. Not long after, Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb. When he grew up, John preached and baptized, telling people the time was near. Then Jesus showed up to the Jordan River and John pointed to Him and declared, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" by Rev. Mark Buetow

Where Did Advent Go?

So where did Advent go? Well, it didn’t go anywhere. It’s still here. Because Advent isn’t about decorating trees or not. And it’s not about baking cookies or waiting. It’s not about any of that. Advent is about Jesus. And so Advent is right where it should be: in the church, with the blue or the purple indicating it’s a special season and the readings from God’s Word telling us that Jesus is coming. Rev. Mark Buetow

He Alone is Holy

The Lord's "holy ones" are His "saints." They are qadosh because He is qadosh. They are not holy in and of themselves. They certainly aren’t made of better stuff than other people. They’re holy because He sets them apart. He separates them for Himself in the death of His Son. He makes them His own in the waters of Holy Baptism. He marks each one and says, "This one is mine." Rev. George Borghardt

Solus Christus: Christ Alone. Only Christ. Nothin’ but Christ!

When Lutherans say “Solus Christus (Christ alone)” or sometimes “Solo Christo (by Christ alone)” we mean exactly that. Jesus and nothing else.

Sola Scriptura: It’s Really About Jesus

We look to Scripture because of Jesus. All of scripture points to Jesus and confesses Jesus. Pastor Fenker continues our look at the Solas with Sola Scriptura.

Sola Gratia: God's Gracious Acceptance of Sinners for Christ’s Sake

We continue our October Article Series on the Solas with Grace Alone. Pr. Donavon Riley tells us about God's gift of grace which reconciles us to God by forgiveness won for us by Christ. by Rev. Donavon Riley

Faith Alone

Throughout the month of October, we will be taking a look at the solas of the Reformation on the HT website: faith alone, grace alone, scripture alone and Christ alone. This week Jonathan Kohlmeier takes a look at sola fide - faith alone.

Killing Christians

In Pakistan over this past weekend, suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a big Christian church in Peshawar, Pakistan killing 80 people. Also over the weekend, Muslim terrorists attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. One report says the terrorists told Muslims they could leave safely while the rest would be killed. In Egypt, Christians are targeted for harassment and even murder. What are we to make of such horror stories from the comforts of our living rooms and safe churches where we worship each week without much thought or worry about being blown to bits when we walk outside afterwards?

The Table of Duties: Rulers and Citizens

If you've ever been frustrated by a particular rule that your parents enforce, or wonder why there is a need for a speed limit, you are sure to gain some insight by reading through Rev. Cwirla's persuasively written explanation about civil authority and where we as citizens fit in. by Rev. William Cwirla

This Diamond Christ Jesus

As a child of Christ, you will have those days when your own sinful nature, the devil or the world try to force you under the weight of your burdened conscience. Thankfully, your ability to defend against this does not depend on you. Instead, it is through your Savior, Jesus, that you can freely lay your burdens at His feet, because of what He did out of His love for you. by Rev. Evan Goeglein

What God Cannot Do

What? There is something God is not able to do? Surely not! Thankfully, there actually are a number of things God cannot do—things which are contrary to who He is.Thank heaven for that! Rev. Wilken definitively brings the truths of Scripture to bear against the common fallacy, “God can do everything.” by Rev.Todd Wilken

I Have a Confession to Make

Stan Lemon has a confession to make. He is a Higher Things Conference addict. Read about his love for the organization and what he likes so much about conferences.

It's Not Supposed to Work Like This

This week, Jon talks about how strange Higher Things conferences are in the eyes of the world. 1400 people rejoicing in the Gospel and studying the Word of God in depth as they Dare to be Lutheran. It's an unforgettable experience that is reproducible. by Jonathan Kohlmeier

Dying and Rising from Above

No matter how brave you are, the thought of getting a shot for anything is not likely to be something you relish. There’s one inoculation, however, that you can rejoice in and look back on as a purely positive experience—your baptism! Another one of our plenary speakers, Rev. Buetow, continues the theme of “from above” as he focuses on our death as Christians and the resurrection to come. by Rev. Mark Buetow

Born and Living from Above

Your Greek 101 word for the day is: anothen. From above. Get a taste of this year’s conferences from one of our plenary speakers, Rev. Borghardt, as he sheds some light on Jesus’ nighttime conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.

The Table of Duties: Pastors and People

You're a sheep...it's one of your vocations in the context of the Church. Your pastor is your shepherd and that is one of his vocations. How does this play out in the Table of Duties? Rev. Cwirla artfully unpacks yet another part of the Small Catechism.Rev. William Cwirla

True Confession

History doesn't have to be a bunch of dry events laid out in chronological order with a lot of dates your teacher wants you to memorize that you'll never use. And the same goes with our Lutheran heritage. See for yourself as Dr. Phillips provides a quick but thorough summary of the pivotal events surrounding the formation of our foundational document of the faith—the Augsburg Confession. by Dr. C. Matthew Phillips

A Little Bit of Latin Goes a Long Way

Let a little Latin fly and your friends will think you are an intellectual heavyweight. Well, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but once you’ve finished reading this article you’ll be familiar with two Latin phrases that help you focus on what’s important in salvation. And the good thing is that the focus is not on you! by Rev. Mark Buetow

One Hundred Percent Free-One Hundred Percent Servant

One of our Lutheran distinctives is the desire to work out that delicate balance we call Christian liberty. This is just what Rev. Borghardt successfully communicates in his capable handling of the some of the principles from Martin Luther’s work, On Christian Liberty.
by Rev. George F. Borghardt

Easter 2013: Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

Blessed Easter from Higher Things! We thought that it would be a good time to highlight this article from our Apologetics Issue of Higher Things Magazine. In this article Pr. Fisk gives ten reasons that the Resurrection did happen.
Rev. Jonathan Fisk.

The Church Year: Pointing to Jesus for You

The church year points to and flows from the Triduum. These three days from Maundy Thursday evening to Easter Sunday Evening. Jon Kohlmeier gives an overview of the Church year and how it's all about the death and resurrection of Christ for you!
by Jonathan Kohlmeier

Catechism: Three Orders

What's God's plan for your life? It's no mystery, according to Rev. Cwirla, who takes us once again into the heart of another solid catechism study and simplifies what life tries to make so very complicated.
by Rev. William Cwirla

The Church and State and God's Gifts

Rev. Riley cautions us against taking Scripture passages that were meant for the Old Testament nation of Israel and applying them to any other nation or time. Learn how such passages, specifically Psalm 85, apply to His people, the Church, no matter where or when they may be.by the Rev. Donovan Riley.

Merry after Christmas?

Jon Kohlmeier wishes you a Merry Christmas during the twelve days of Christmas, in the divine service and all year round!

Christmas Light in the Darkness

Rev. Mark Buetow

Pr. Buetow talks about one of his favorite things during this time of year--Christmas lights. He writes about how those Christmas lights point to the Christmas Light of the world: Jesus.

Christmas Slogans vs. Flesh and Blood Jesus

Rev. Mark Buetow
It’s that time of year again: Advent, the time when Christians around the world complain that the culture is taking over Christmas by putting up decorations after Halloween, while simultaneously crying that the culture hates Christmas because the atheists won’t let us put Nativity scenes up in public parks. So then come the battle cries: “Keep Christ in Christmas!” “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!” “Bah Humbug to saying ‘Happy Holidays!’”

Baseball and Prayer

by Rev. Michael J. Schmidt
Rev. Schmidt takes us back in time, to his own childhood, when his simple, persistent prayer for a wonderful baseball season set the tone for his future prayer life. Let the four lessons he took away from his own experience encourage you as you pray.

Feasting with the Saints

Jonathan Kohlmeier

This Sunday we celebrated All Saints’ Day. Part of that service was the reading of the faithful who had fallen asleep this past year with ties to our congregation.

The Irony of being "Lutheran"

Rev. Mark Buetow

Martin Luther the monk. October 31. 95 Theses. The Diet of Worms. “I will not recant; Here I stand, so help me God.” Knight George. Popes. Councils. Excommunication. A staged kidnapping. Throwing an inkwell at the devil. Threats of being burned at the stake. A scholar and Bible translator. Wittenburg. Saxony. Augsburg. If you are familiar with the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation, you will recognize many of these images in the life of Martin Luther and the “Lutheran” Reformers. But even if you aren’t aware of all this history, that doesn’t matter. As exciting as these things are and as a great a story as they tell, the Reformation and being “Lutheran” isn’t about any of that. The irony of the Reformation and “daring to be Lutheran” is that it’s only about one thing. One person. Not Martin Luther. And not you.

Jesus' Works

If you asked most people what they think being a Christian is all about they would likely say "living a good life." You know, help others. Don't hurt other people. Always do the right thing, whatever that is. Of course, we know the world's reaction to that: "Christians are just hypocrites. They talk about doing the right thing and then they don't do it." Another popular answer about what it means to be a Christian is that God changes your life. If you were a drunk, now you're sober. If you had a bad temper, now you're gentle. The problem with that answer is what happens if you have a relapse? Are you still a Christian? What if your supposed overcoming of sin gets derailed?

When You Pray, Say "Our Father"

It’s a tender invitation to pray as a member of the family. Jesus invites you to address His Father as your Father and to say “Our Father,” and to come as a dear, little child coming to his or her dear Father in heaven.

Two Voiceless Prophets

Do you remember the story of David and Bathsheba? David and Bathsheba sinned by committing adultery. The punishment for doing so was death—the man and the woman who were caught in adultery were to be stoned. In their sin, Bathsheba became pregnant by David, and they were about to be caught. Everyone would know what they had done—unless it was covered over. And so, in order to spare their lives, the king sent the righteous man, Uriah, to his death—the innocent husband being slaughtered so that his adulterous bride would live. The sin was covered over. Bathsheba would not die. No one would know about this sin—no one, that is, except God.

Church is Boring

I would argue that those words make up the single greatest excuse why Christians are increasingly absent from church.

“It’s not interesting.”
“It doesn’t keep my attention.”
“The service isn’t my ‘style’ or ‘preference.’”
“The sermons are hard to listen to.” etc.
In the end, it basically boils down to: 
“Church is boring… so I don’t go.”

TrueBlood

Week after week, this phrase is heard in Lutheran churches all around the world. The words have remained essentially the same for hundreds of years. They serve as a reminder of what we are truly receiving from the Lord Jesus Christ every time we celebrate His Supper.

On Being "Simul" New Software on Old Hardware

Have you ever tried running new software on an old computer? I have. I have a seven year-old laptop—my trusty old road warrior. I’ve replaced the keyboard, the hard disk, and the logic board, three batteries and a few other spare parts from E-Bay. It’s not my primary computer, which is a desktop, but I try to make the old laptop as compatible as possible. However, I find that the new versions of software just don’t run well on old hardware.

Holy Jesus, Holy You

Do you do drugs? Sleep around? Look at porn? Steal stuff? Gossip about others? Treat your parents like dirt? Blow off church? How can you be a Christian and do those things? Or maybe those aren’t your sins. You know people like that but it’s not you. Ah, so it’s pride then? Proud of how well behaved you are? Wonder why those other people can’t make the good choices you do?

Knowing Jesus

Do you really know Jesus? How do you know? Miss Teske shares a personal account about that very challenge someone once made to her and how it firmed up what she can confidently say about knowing Our Lord.

"Jesus" Isn't Enough

You’re bound to hear it from your non-Lutheran friends. Perhaps a family member will say it or you’ll hear it spoken by campus “Christian” groups. Pastors (hopefully never yours) will even tell people. “Sure, we all have differences but what matters is that we all believe in Jesus.”

Would Somebody PLEASE Do Something About Death?

Rev. Mark Buetow

Death. It happens suddenly in a horrible wreck on the highway. It happens slowly over a long battle with cancer. It happens to children in an accident. It happens to someone at the end of a long life. It happens in many ways, but one thing is for sure: Death happens to everyone.

Catechism: Hallowed Be Thy Name

Rev. William M. Cwirla

Hallowed. Now there’s a strange word! We don’t use it very much. We may occasionally refer to the “hallowed halls” of some historic old building or the “hallowed ground” of a former battlefield or cemetery. Most familiar of all is “Hallowe’en.” (Yes, the apostrophe belongs there!), All Hallows’ Eve, the evening before the Feast of All Hallows (Saints).

Islam, Muslims and the Gospel

This week's article from the Spring Apologetics Issue highlights the religion of Islam and shows you how to confess the faith by taking the conversation back to who Jesus really is and what he has done of us.

Answering the Knock

Confessing the faith means more than giving a defense just to unbelievers. What if you encounter someone who believes but believes in something false? In this week's Apologetics Issue article, Pastor Kuhlman teaches us how to react when the Mormons come knocking.

Is Faith Unreasonable?

Rev. William M. Cwirla

Evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins writes, “Faith is the great 
cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” He asserts that people who believe in God suffer from a “god delusion” and might as well believe in a “flying spaghetti monster.”

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

Easter is everything! The resurrection of Jesus is the center of the Christian faith. Check out Pastor Fisk's article on ways we know the resurrection really happened and that the tomb was actually empty. It will help you as you confess the resurrection to those around you.

Christianity's Answer to the Problem of Evil

So what about evil? If God is good, why does He allow evil? If He is all-powerful, why doesn't he prevent evil? Pastor Ian Pacey addresses the "problem" of evil and the Christian faith in this week's Article Spotlight from the 2012 Spring Apologetics Issue of Higher Things magazine.

Text, Typos and Transmission: Why You Can Trust the New Testament

Rev. Mark Pierson

I remember when it first dawned on me that there might be “problems” with the New Testament. As I casually flipped through the red-lettered words of Jesus in my parents’ study Bible, something surprising caught my eye. There, in the Gospel of John, I noticed a particularly strange footnote. It said something like, “This part is not the same in all ancient manuscripts.” This struck me as rather odd and out of place. Why would a note like that be in the New Testament? Does this mean we don’t know the whole truth about Jesus? Can a book that contains typos really be God’s holy Word?

Lutheran Apologetics, Augsburg Style

Rev. George F. Borghardt

After the Gospel became clear to Dr. Luther, the Lutherans presented a statement to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530. They confessed that salvation was by Jesus alone, that it is by grace alone, and is received by faith alone. Although they quoted the Fathers of the Church, their arguments were based solely on Scripture.

Praise the Lord! Lent Ain’t About YOU!

The Gift of Incense

The Thing About Mary

Sheep Don't Keep Track

Rev. Todd Wilken
Sheep are not known for being the smartest animals in the world, but they have a special place in God's Word. Our Shepherd, Jesus, who cares for us, uses them many times in His parables and illustrations. Rev. Wilken expounds on one such instance, and in doing so, will make you revel in your sheephood.

Give it Up for Lent!

What's Jesus Doing in the Water?

What Child is This?

It's a question that Jesus asked His own disciples: “Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?” This question gets asked in another way in the beloved Christmas hymn, “What Child is This?” It's a hymn that reminds us as we celebrate Jesus' birth that He was born to die for our sins. For your Christmas meditation, here are some thoughts on the words of this wonderful hymn. 

Lead Us Not into Temptation

Rev. William Cwirla

"Did God say, "You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'" A subtle, subversive question. A devilish question. What did God say? You may eat the fruit of all trees of the garden except one. Eat of that one and you will die. That's what God said, and the serpent wants to get between Eve and the Word.

"Dear God, I've got an empty sack..."

Rev. Matthew Harrison

My dad loved to go to the early service—always the early service, and the earlier the better. He would have loved to have Easter sunrise service every Sunday of the year! But it was a different story for my brother and me. Church? Forget it. I’d rather sleep in since my brother and I liked to stay up as late as we possibly could on Saturday night.

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Shedding Light on Christ

by Rev. Marcus T. Zill

Now, kids, don’t try this analogy out at home.  Just take my word on this one, okay? 

A flashlight is not very helpful if you hold it before your face and simply stare into the beam of light. In fact, if you use a flashlight like that you might just end up blind. 

A flashlight functions not by drawing you to gaze at the light bulb in it, but by throwing light on an object which you need to see. Ultimately, seeing that object is the whole point. 

It’s kind of like that with work of the Holy Spirit. We do not gaze directly on the Holy Spirit but instead the Spirit causes His light to shine through His Word so that we see it’s object - Jesus Christ. That is why the Holy Spirit is often called "the shy member of the Holy Trinity." He’s there. He’s at work. He’s just not about drawing attention to Himself.

"A Death On A Friday Afternoon"

Rev. Brent Kuhlman

There he is!  He’s just hanging there.  He refused to come down. Stayed to the bitter end.  Breathed his last and said:  “It is finished”(John 19:30). The veil in the temple split in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked.  The rocks split.  Dead people came out of their tombs (Matthew 27:51-52).  Do you see him?  Jesus of Nazareth!  Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven Jesus of Nazareth!  Yes, that’s right, he’s hanging there. His body hangs limp.   Dead.  Graveyard dead on a Friday afternoon we now call “Good!” 

The Lord is Coming For You!

by The Rev. Brent Kuhlman

Go ahead.  Try to bore a way up to heaven.  Peek your head through the clouds.  See if you can find the Lord seated on a red-velvety cushioned throne.  I’ve got news for you.  You won’t find Him way up there!  Why?  Because the Lord has come way down here!   

In Your Face, Death!

by The Rev. Mark Buetow

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Hallelujah! Booyah! Jesus died for our sins but then came back to life, rose again on the third day. The Easter season is a celebration of our Lord's triumph over sin and death. It is a time to hear that we can poke death in the eye! Death can't hurt us! Oh, it can kill us, but it can't keep us down. Because it couldn't keep Jesus down into Whom you have been baptized. His resurrection means your resurrection on the Last Day. Now we laugh at Death and mock it as St. Paul does, "Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?"  

Top Ten Reasons Why We Use the Liturgy

by The Rev. William Cwirla 

liturgyWhy the Liturgy?  First a definition and a disclaimer.  By “liturgy” I mean the western catholic mass form as it has been handed down by way of the Lutheran Reformation consisting of the five fixed canticles - Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.  Pardon the Greek and Latin, but it sounds cool and we still use ‘em.  “Liturgy” also includes the assigned Scripture texts for the Sundays, feast days, and seasons.  Most of what I will say about the liturgy of the Divine Service will pertain to “liturgical worship” in general. 

No Complaints from this Lamb!

by Seminarian Jeff Dock

Cranach Crucifixion painting“A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, The guilts of sinners bearing. And, laden with the the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing.”

In the Old Testament, God the Father had appointed that an innocent lamb be the animal marked as the sin bearer. Only an animal such as this was pure enough to have sin placed upon it. These lambs all point to Christ who bears the sin of the world. It doesn’t seem fair. Cute cuddly lambs get sacrificed. The innocent Son of God has the sins of the world placed upon Him. He (without complaint) is beaten, wounded, mocked, and finally crucified. What made such a sacrifice necessary?

 

Skipping Meals is Not Healthy

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

ChancelIf you have ever watched The Biggest Loser, one of the bits of information you may have gleaned is this: skipping meals does NOT help weight loss.  Long-term fasting is not going to make you healthy.  Changing which foods, or the serving size can make a difference, but skipping meals altogether actually has the opposite of its desired outcome. 

Epiphany: The Other Christmas

by The Rev. William Cwirla

epiphany iconEpiphany. The Gentiles' Christmas. The word "epiphany" means "appearing," as in the appearing of a deity, the appearing of God. We celebrate the visit of the magi, those mysterious Persian astrologers who traveled the eastern caravan routes following a star.

Isaiah anticipated this event. "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn...Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah, and all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord." So did Balaam, the prophet hired to curse Israel who could only bless: "A star will come out of Jacob, a scepter will rise out of Israel." Stars and kings go together.

Stir up Your Power

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come and help us by Your might, that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Advent 101 - Fasting

fastingAdvent is a fasting season.  Fasting is a “fine outward discipline,” according to the Small Catechism.  While it does not commend us before God nor is it to be seen by others (Mt 6:16), fasting is a valuable spiritual and physical discipline to train our appetites and bring them into conformity with our will.

Advent 101 - The Season

by the Rev. William Cwirla

adventThe church year in the West begins with with a preparatory season called “Advent.”  The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “appearing” or “coming,” referring to the appearing of a great king or even a god.  In Christian usage, it refers to the appearing of Jesus Christ in two ways - His first appearing as the Child born of the Virgin Mary and His second appearing in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.  You see, Advent isn’t only about getting ready for Christmas; it’s also about getting ready for Jesus’ final appearing in glory only the Last Day.

"Comfort, Comfort My People" - A Homily for Advent

by The Rev. William Weedon

zechariahandangelGod commands a word of comfort to His people: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” A word of comfort, pardon, grace, and huge gift. And yet this word from God is often met with skepticism. Can He mean me? Surely not. Not after all I’ve done. Such a word of comfort and grace cannot be meant for the likes of one whose sin is like mine.

All That Daily Bread!

Our Lord works through His Word and means. By means of flesh, the Son of God was able to bleed and die for our sins. By means of water, God puts His name on us. By means of a pastor's voice, Christ absolves us of our sins. By means of bread and wine, Jesus gives us His body and blood. Of all the means by which the Lord does things, those are the most important! Jesus, who is the Bread of Life, is truly our daily bread!

Advent is Coming

by The Rev. Jonathan Naumann

Yes, that annual season we call Advent is on the way this month beginning on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) this year.

But by saying “Advent is Coming” I am not referring to the calendar as much as the meaning of the term. “Advent” (from the Latin) means “coming”.

Saint Luke: Beloved Physician Serving the Great Physician

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

Many people don’t enjoy doctor visits. Some even avoid them. In spite of that, the time spent in hearing the doctor’s advice and receiving his treatment can be soothing, healing, and even life-saving.

October 18 is our annual appointment with Dr. Luke. Pastor Rich Heinz welcomes you to keep that appointment and join Theophilus in getting to know the Beloved Physician.

 

Chanting: Why Does Pastor “Sing” So Much?

by The Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Teenage readers of Higher Things may not remember a time before chanted services, especially if your pastor graduated from the seminary within the last 15 years.  Even the youngest of us pastors and parents, on the other hand, can recall a time when fully chanted services were almost non-existent in Lutheran churches. Chanted psalms and prayers were virtually unheard of. That’s not to say that there was no singing. The congregation sang hymns and liturgical responses, but in the majority of congregations the pastor spoke all of his parts, in part because only the responses were set to music in The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).

Is There an Unforgivable Sin?

by The Rev. Dr. Steven Hein

Have you ever wondered if you might have sinned so much, or in such a way, that God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus would no longer apply to you? If you have, what have you turned to for confident answers? It is not uncommon for Christians who have been battling nagging sins that trouble to wonder of they might be running out of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Is there an end to God’s forgiveness? Can a Christian sin so persistently that God would loose his patience and withhold his forgiveness? Can we reach a point when our sinning becomes unforgivable? Indeed, is there such a thing as an unforgivable sin? Anxious sinners who see alarming sins sticking to their lives, desperately want to know the answers to these questions. Do you know someone like this? Are you one of them?

Holy Cross Day

by The Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch

The Feast of Holy Cross Day (14 September) is a relatively recent addition to the church calendar for most Lutherans. It was introduced to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod with Lutheran Worship in 1982. Perhaps it remains unfamiliar to many Lutherans in our day. Nevertheless, Holy Cross Day is actually a rather ancient observance in the history of the Christian Church, and there were some Lutherans who retained its observance in the centuries following the Reformation.

The End is...Here!

by Aaron Fenker

Within our current age and culture – as it might be with every age – the end and meaning of human existence is defined within ourselves, but waves, earthquakes, and hurricanes come and disrupt the world’s perceived order of things – boats are rocked, towers fall down, and houses are blown away. All these things show that creation itself is groaning, waiting, and crying out, “The end is near!”

Higher Hymnody: The Gifts Christ Freely Gives

by Jonathan Kohlmeier

Have you ever asked, “Why do we sing all these different hymns during church?” I have. Wouldn't the service go much faster if we just started with the Invocation instead of singing all of the verses of some hymn before it? Do we really need a Hymn of the Day, doesn't that just take up more time? I guess communion hymns are okay, they give us something to do while everyone else is receiving communion. Does Pastor really need to make the service even longer by having a closing hymn? What's the point?

Arrows From the Evil One

by Seminarian Mark Pierson

“Darwin loves you.” “God is too big for just one religion.” “What Would Buddha Do?” Even if you haven’t seen these bumper stickers, surely you’ve run into some anti-Christian expressions. They’re everywhere! From the lips of celebrities like Tom Cruise, to the best-selling Da Vinci Code, to angry atheists like Richard Dawkins, to silly youtube conspiracy videos, it appears biblical Christianity has its fair share of enemies these days. So what are we Lutherans to do about it?

 

Show Us the Father

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

What a week!  Saturday night (really Sunday morning, Beijing time) ended a week of often staying up until 1:30 a.m. watching our incredible swim team – and particularly Michael Phelps.  Nightly we would see his sisters and mother, faithfully and devotedly in the stands, cheering and savoring his amazing feat!  But one thing—one person—was noticeably absent: Michael’s father.

Higher Hymnody: All Christians Who Have Been Baptized

by the Rev. Rich Heinz

There is a Latin saying in the Church: Lex orandi, lex credendi – literally, the law of prayer is the law of belief. In plain English, this means that what we pray and how we pray contributes to the form and practice of our faith. Likewise, our faith shapes the content and pattern of our prayers.

Not as the World Gives

by Jonathan Kohlmeier

This world isn't very peaceful is it? You are always hearing about hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding and other natural disasters. The news is plagued with stories of tragic accidents, homicides, suicides, rape, or the constant slandering of public officials. Just viewing the world from the outside can show that it is not a peaceful place. In fact, all the evil may even lead one to become extremely depressed

Muddy Murky Mess or Beautiful Blessed Bath?!

by the Rev. Paul L. Beisel

The Mississippi River isn’t exactly what you would call “clean.” Its waters are murky, muddy, and filled with all kinds of things that are just better left to the imagination. It’s not the kind of river that invites swimming or eating its fish. This summer we really got to see these murky, muddy waters up close and personal as water levels rose far above normal flood stage. We also got our first taste of sand-bagging, as we desperately tried to keep the flood water from overtaking our town’s water pump. Fortunately for us, we live up on a bluff, far out of the danger zone. But we know plenty of people whose homes and fields were destroyed. One thing is for sure, wherever the water went it left behind an appetizing(!) trail of silt, dead fish, and driftwood.

Absolution Received - Amen!

by The Rev. Richard Heinz

The highlight for today? Pastor Borghardt’s plenary catechetical sessions were fabulous! The “vote for the best T-shirt” contest has been fun. Presenting my “breakaway” catechetical session was great. The prayer offices (Matins, Vespers, and Evening Prayer) have been thrilling! And how chills-down-your-spine exciting when your prayers really do rise before Him as incense! The sweet aroma of prayer greeted worshipers as they entered the church.

Why Make the Sign of the Cross?

by The Rev. John M. Dreyer

"Why make the sign of the cross, isn't that Roman Catholic?" was a common expression I heard when I was in the parish. I responded first by mentioning that Luther's Catechism teaches us to make the sign of the cross. "The catechism doesn't teach that," they say.

Higher Hymnody: Sing Alleluia! Amen!

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

Thirty-four years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Franzmann pondered these words from the historic Epistle for the Resurrection of Our Lord. As the Lord blessed his imagination, talent, and eloquence, Dr. Franzmann’s pen issued forth a text with beauty and strength – one that begets many “Alleluias” and “Amens!”

Phylacteries (and other strange things) for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

by Stan Lemon

The book of Deuteronomy is a sort of sermon on the Law, delivered by Moses to explain the theology behind the Law. It’s often misunderstood as a simple reiteration or repetition, but that misses the fact that Moses is dealing with the Commandments in much greater detail in Deuteronomy. This Sunday, some churches heard Deuteronomy 11 read in the Divine Service. The reading picks up with second half of the chapter after Moses introduces the 1st Commandment, “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge…”

The Festival of Corpus Christi

by Stan Lemon

The word Corpus is Latin for “body” and Christi if you couldn’t tell is “of Christ”. Today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the Festival of the Body of Christ. You may not have heard of it before and you probably won’t find it in your hymnal either, but I assure you today is the Festival of the Body of Christ.

The Spirit Comes For You

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

Pentecost. It is the Israelite Festival of Weeks – a “week” of weeks since the Passover. Pentecost is when God was thanked for the gift of processed grain. Yet now it took on a whole new meaning. Just over a week earlier, Jesus had ascended. He had promised to send the “Helper” – the “Counselor”/“Comforter” – the Holy Spirit. Indeed, He would process the “grain” that He harvested through the ministry of the apostles!

Saint Boniface: Example, Role Model, and Pastor

by The Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch

Hats off to St. Boniface of Mainz, the eighth-century missionary bishop and martyr, who is commemorated today. It was on the 5th of June in the Year of Our Lord 754 that St. Boniface and his companions were attacked and killed by a band of hostile pagans in what is now the Netherlands. He was pushing 80 years old at that point, but he was still out there on the mission field, preaching the Gospel, teaching the Word of God, and bringing the Church to new frontiers. 

Credo...remissionem peccatorum

by The Rev. George Borghardt III

My little church had a wonderful organist play for our services during Holy Week. He was amazing! I had never heard our little organ make such wonderful sounds. The walls shook, the people sang with more zeal, it was truly amazing. It was the same organ, but it in the hands of this wonderful musician, it was heavenly.

Jubilate - Rejoice!

by Aaron Fenker

Jubilate comes from the Latin Introit for today - "Make a joyful noise." Earlier in the Church Year we had other joy-filled Sundays: Advent 3 - Gaudete, and Lent 4 - Laetare. The joy on those Sundays was for something yet to come (Christmas and Good Friday/Easter), but now, in the heart of the Easter Season, our joy is made complete.

For You and For All

by The Rev. Brent W. Kuhlman

“ Whoa there Peter! Better try that again! After all, we Americans are told time and time again by the popular TV, radio, and book pastors that Holy Baptism is a nothing! That Holy Baptism is only for the adults! “The Bible says! The Bible says!” is their never-ending mantra. And yet here you are Peter saying just the opposite. And it’s right here in the Bible.

Day of Rest and Restoration

by The Rev. Randy Asburry

Holy Thursday brought a small burst of joy. As we finished Lent and entered the Holy Three Days, we heard the readings of the Passover, the Lord's Supper, and Jesus washing the grimy feet of His disciples.  Good Friday drew our focus to the blessed Cross on which our Savior, the Son of God and perfect Man, suffered and died for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. But what shall we do with today, "Holy Saturday," the seventh day of Holy Week?

Higher Hymnody: No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet

by  The Rev. Randy  Asburry

I had never sung this hymn before this week. But now that my Kantor has been introducing it to us, I can't imagine preparing for Holy Week or going through Holy Week without it. The hymn is "No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet" - #444 in Lutheran Service Book.

The Theology of Snow

by Jonathan Kohlmeier

If you live in the Northern states, you know firsthand that we have gotten a lot of snow this winter. Chances are at your school or work place, or just when you are out and about, you have probably heard quite a few people wish that the snow would just melt already and that spring would come. The majority of the time when people think of snow they think of negative things; it’s cold, it’s terrible to drive in, you have to shovel it, and you have to brush it off your car. We want snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then we want to be done with it. But rarely do we ever think of good things about snow.

Give it Up For Lent!

by The Rev. Mark Buetow

Give it up for Lent! The season of Lent is usually associated with "giving something up", or not eating meat on Fridays. One year I gave up television for Lent. I figured I spent too much time just sitting around and channel surfing. So I figured I would deny myself that pleasure (and waste of time) and use that time for better things...like surfing the web! Then I went to school with my daughters one day. One of their fellow kindergartners asked me, "Pastor why did you ground yourself from TV?" Good question!

Comfort in a Cup

by The Rev. Richard Heinz

A few years ago, a dear friend of our family moved to Delaware, Ohio. She shares our love of tea. To make a long story short, she and her daughter discovered a little cottage where afternoon tea was served.

Preparing for the Journey: The Gesima Sundays

Rev. William Weedon

If Lent is the journey to Easter; if Easter is the return to the new life given to us in our Baptism; then Gesimatide is the preparation for that journey of return to our Baptism. The Church knows in her wisdom that we cannot be like Bilbo Baggins, simply shoved out the door for our journey without our kerchief or any plans or preparations. So for three weeks the Church seeks to ready her children to begin the slow and sometimes painful pilgrimage back to the very fountain of their life in Christ: back to Baptism and to the life in and from Christ Himself.

A Heart that Sees

by The Rev. Jonathan Naumann

As we recently contemplated during Christmastime, the Gospel of St. John says, “[Christ] was in the world, . . . the world did not recognize Him” (John 1:10). Unfortunately, even when Jesus walked the earth in human form, many people failed to “see God”. Also today, it is a sad reality that many people do not understand God’s plan of salvation properly.

Ichabod!

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

Ichabod? That seems like a funny name to bring up right now. Most often that name makes us think of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman. But the name is recorded in 1 Samuel 4:21. Eli the Priest was judge over Israel. His two sons had died and the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant. Eli fell over and died from the news. Eli's daughter-in-law went into labor at the news, and gave birth to a son as she died. She named the baby Ichabod, which in Hebrew means, "Where is the Glory?"

The Happiest Place on Earth?

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

The commercial begins with a racing, horse-drawn coach. The white horses gallop toward the home where the children are sleeping, while parents are online, discovering that there is an affordable vacation package for them. The excitement rushes through your veins as you begin to think, “Maybe there is a great bargain for me, too!” and you check out the Disney website.

No sola goes Alone

by The Rev. George Borghardt

“Sola” means “alone.” Solus Christus. Sola gratia. Sola fide. Sola scriptura. Christ alone, Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone.  But no sola ever goes alone. Together they sum up the teachings of the Reformation.

Saint Michael and All Angels

by The Rev. Jacob Sutton

The Festival of St. Michael and All Angels gives a unique opportunity to properly teach the doctrine of the Church concerning God’s holy angels. September 29th is the date of the dedication in the fifth century of a small basilica outside of Rome dedicated to Michael, the first in Italy. From earliest Christian history, many churches were dedicated in Michael’s honor since he is the only archangel named in Scripture.

Did You Miss It Too? The Oft-Overlooked Festival of St. Mary: Mother of Our Lord

by The Rev. Peter Burfeind

What is the Assumption of Mary? What is the Dormition of the Mother of God? Both basically describe the same event. Tradition has it that at the end of Mary’s life, all the apostles were transported from various places in the world to her side. Only Thomas was not present. Thomas arrived after her burial, and he asked to bid her farewell at her grave. When the apostles and Thomas arrived at the grave, Mary’s body was gone. The apostles believed that she was "assumed" bodily into heaven. Mary, it was taught, participated in the bodily resurrection ahead of schedule. The rest of us will be resurrected bodily at Jesus’ second coming, but Mary was granted this gift of early resurrection.

Should I Believe Evolution, My Bible, or Both?

by The Rev. Christopher Truelsen

Whatever grade of school you have finished, evolution is everywhere. When it comes to the conflict between biblical teaching and the teaching about secular evolution, many times evolution wins the argument. Why? People believe in science because they think they can rely only on what they can see, observe, and test.

O Love How Deep

by Jonathan Kohlmeier

 When it comes to sacred music there are two options. The first we can sing about how Jesus is worthy of OUR worship. The law in how WE lift his name and sing his praises. Then there is the second option, the better option: The option where the Gospel is present.

In the NAME

by the Rev. Allen Braun

< “I baptize you in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  So begins our life in Christ. It is fitting, then, that the Divine Service also begins in that same NAME, since the Divine Service is the center of our Life in Christ.

Pentecost: “Lord and Giver of Life”

by The Rev. Dan Feusse

In the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed you confess that the Holy Spirit is the “Lord and Giver of Life.” That is the work of the Holy Spirit - to give life. It is on Pentecost that the work of the Holy Spirit is given special attention by the Church. But have you ever stopped to consider what was going on in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost?

Encouraging Your Choir...Dare to be Lutheran

by The Rev. Kantor Richard Resch

Unfortunately, in Christendom the church choir is often seen as a democracy, but for Lutherans - this cannot be! And if this is not understood by all up front, a degree of chaos could be the weekly result. Why?

The Ascension of Our Lord

by The Rev. Dan Feusse

In the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, you confess these things about Jesus: that He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. You confess that on the Third Day He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

When Evil Suddenly Assails Us

by Vicar Mark Preus
The following hymn text was submitted by Vicar Mark Preus, presently serving a campus ministry vicarage at Trinity Lutheran Church in Norman, OK. Vicar Preus will be returning this summer to Concordia Theological Seminary for his Semi IV year. Trinity Lutheran Church is a Christ on Champus Chapter and serves students at the University of Oklahoma.