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Unlimited Horizons

IMG_8311I used to wake up to a view much like this everyday when I lived in Leadville Co.  I can still remember getting out early in the morning on those crisp Fall days and feeling like the mountains were so close I could touch them and yet the vault of air was such that they seemed endlessly far away.  There was always a momentarily feeling of disorientation over something that lovely.  The mountains where I was always had a dusting of snow and so they were always a reminder of seasons coming and going and the rhythm of life.

My Grandfather was a child of the plains and he would come and visit on occasion but was never comfortable.  The endless vistas of the prairies made him feel free and able to “see what was coming”.  The mountains were beautiful to see but also a barrier to his vision and he didn’t like that.

The Bible is full of images of mountains and high places where one went to encounter God.  Jesus often took the disciples up on a mountain.  He also reminded them that there was work to do down on the plain as well.

My nephew took this picture and it is quite something.  It should be in a magazine.

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Lutheran Social Ethics

mercy

Many years ago professor F.E.Meyer wrote this in the Concordia Theological Journal Vol XV no 6 1944 –

“In recent theological literature (Neo-Orthodoxy) the charge has been made that the Lutheran ethic is not sufficiently social. The specific charge. The Lutheran emphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith and on the otherworldly character of the Christian religion leaves little or no room for a genuine interest in
society’s welfare. The charge is unfounded and rests upon a twofold error: 1. Misunderstanding the essence of Christ’s work and of the Gospel. If the Church’s program is the saving of immortal souls by improving man’s character, then the Lutheran Church has failed to develop a genuine social ethic. 2.Misunderstanding the nature of faith. Faith is the hand which appropriates Christ’s merit, and therefore in sincere gratitude becomes active in the social realm. Trigl., 941, 10 f.; Luther’s The Liberty of a Christian Man, St. L., XIX: 986 ff. The Lutheran Christian does not withdraw from the world but is keenly aware of his obligation to his fellow man; he has a genuine social ethic. In fact, his social consciousness does not stop with alleviating man’s social ills, but concerns itself primarily with his fellow man’s eternal welfare. As his Master, so the Christian is a “friend of sinners.”

All these years later after a great revival and interest in mercy work and caring for the hungry, the hurting and the alienated there are those making noises that mercy work has no place in the mission field.

In the same journal Victor Bartling wrote,

The word here used for mercy (Luke 6:36-42) designates an abiding feeling of compassion excited by the misery of another, whether friend or foe, and impelling one to eager efforts in order to bring relief. “Your Father is merciful” (v. 36) . His mercy is seen in the realm of nature (v. 35 b; Matt. 5: 45) and, above all, in the realm of grace (Titus2: 11; 3: 4). Jesus is Mercy Incarnate (see Matt. 9: 36-38; Acts 10: 38). “Touched
with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4: 15) and afflicted by our afflictions (Is. 63: 9), He “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Matt. 8: 17; 1 Pet. 2: 24), “laid down His life for us” (1 John 3: 16).

The debate never ends, but it should.

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Eternal Habitations

friend

Jesus says in Luke 16, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  Richard Caemmerer writes,

One of the reproaches leveled against this pericope (reading) is that it seems to set almsgiving and investment before us in prudential terms. Take care of people now, and you will get an eternal return. This seems to be the opposite of Jesus’ definition of love in Matt. 5 :46, 47. And yet quite the opposite is true. Jesus says that we are to invest our cash and property in such a way that a relation to the brethren which has everlasting quality be assured. Safeguarding the place of our brethren in God’s dimension of life is indeed an act of love, in its highest meaning. Jesus depicts His people at Judgment as those who used their resources on
earth in order to sustain one another (Matt.25:31-46). In this parable the objective of the investment is not simply to get a future return in general that is the impulse of the man of “this world” -but to establish people in a situation in which they exert God’s own kind of “receiving,” in which they love with God’s kind of love.
Here Jesus counsels to that exercise of love which nurtures love in others. Particularly where the “everlasting habitation” is realized to exist not only beyond the grave but already here, in the families and parishes and businesses and communities where Christians live and where they spend their money so that others are sustained to live and love in God’s sphere of life, there the counsel to nurture and not to self-interest becomes apparent. Matt. 19: 16-30 shows Jesus busy bringing immediate control of wealth and advantage into consciousness as a test of whether the heart is alive toward God.

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The Uses of Money

devotion

After last Sundays Gospel from Luke 16:1-113 there is a great summary from Richard Caemmerer in an article called “Investment for the Future”.

The uses of money.-Old and New Testament alike set before us two major areas in
which the money of God’s people can profitably be invested. The first is charity,
providing for the needy. The first church in Jerusalem is an illustration of
Christians gathering and disbursing their money for those in need. Many of our
standard texts on Christian giving stem from the counsel which St. Paul gave in his
epistles concerning giving for famine sufferers in Jerusalem. The giving of alms and
the care of the poor is a commonplace in Jesus’ teaching (Luke ll:41; 12:33; Matt.
19:21,22). The second field for the investment of money toward eternal ends is the
provision of Word and worship. The tithes of the Old Testament people of God
supported the priests in their labors (e. g., Lev. 27). While St. Paul made a point
of it that he had not preached for pay, he quickly counseled to reimbursement of
servants of the Word (e. g., Gal. 6: 6; 1 Tim. 5: 17) -not failing to rebuke avarice
in preachers too (1 Tim. 6: 5-11) . Actually, as John 12:7, 8 imply, the thought for
the total life of the brother need not attempt to concern itself for the physical
care without the reminding of the Word, or vice versa. The church today has expanded
both of these objectives in many directions. Modern methods of business,
communications, and transport have made it possible to invest astronomic sums 10
church-directed welfare and charity, parish worship and education, missions and
evangelism, and the training of pastors and teachers. All of them fit into Luke
16:9-12 when we realize that their ultimate objective is the finding, sustaining,
nurturing of God’s people.

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CPH and CTCR

catechism

One on the great gifts that Concordia Publishing House provides for us, is theological books but we can use for education, as well as devotional books for pastors and lay people like.  Among those marvelous books has always been Luther’s  Small Catechism. This gem from Luther in my mind grows more and more important every year I get older. For years now I have used Luther’s Small Catechism as a tool to
introduce others into the Christian faith. Over the years the explanation to the Catechism has been important for me, but I also noticed that as times change I had to adapt more and more.
The need for a “modernization” of the explanation was explained well by the executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations Joel Lehenbauer.  He wrote
“much has changed in the 25 year since the Senate last published in addition of the explanation. We have entered an age of computers, smart phones, and virtual reality – a world in which bullying involves text messages as often as physical confrontations, where Islam is in the news on a daily basis, and the word marriage has taken on a radically new, unscriptural, court – mandated meaning.  Along the way, the United States has become increasingly secular and religiously diverse. Christianity has not only lost his privilege position, but his teachings are often casually scorned and Christians themselves are sometimes treated with hostility. Those who are catechized today are faced with an old question that holds a new sobriety: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and the suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” (LSB Rite of Confirmation)

CPH and the Commission have a field test going on for an updated explanation that is quite interesting and much appreciated.

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Unjust Management – Unjust Money.

mammon

 

Luke 16:1-13 was the Gospel for Sunday and I preached on it reluctantly.  I don’t like preaching about money but if Christ talked about it more than almost anything else in the Gospels I guess I need to get used to it.  The idea of “unjust”, and “righteous” money is interesting.

Luther wrote –

“Our property will not help us into heaven, when we fail and have to leave everything on earth, but when we make of unrighteous mammon righteous, that is, when we bring mammon from the wrong to the right use; and when we help the poor … we demonstrate our faith and witness that we are upright Christians and heirs of eternal life

 

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Sad for Saint Cloud

st cloud

I am a bit struck by the reaction over the weekend to the stabbings in St, Cloud and the bombings in New Jersey and New York.  One of the commentators on the news says that maybe we are getting numbed to these kinds of things because the outrage and sense of urgency do not seem to be there.  The only time the news folks get worked up is when Donald Trump says something rather than when other folks do things.  His reaction was roundly condemned while HRC’s reaction seemed catatonic.  Her campaign needs to switch her medications to whatever Nancy Pelosi is on.  Pelosi is incoherent most of the time but at least she seems excited in her incoherence.

So there are stabbings and bombings in several difference places and innocent people injured, a one year old among them.  Sleepy little St. Cloud as it was described, will never be the same some say.  I have spent much time in St. Cloud and much Project 24 support is there.  I feel for the folks there and we should all remember that whole community in prayer.

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Signs of Excellence -Concordia Publishing House and Bacon Cheeseburgers?

cph

So I heard about a convenience store that hired some new folks the other day to work the grill.  The first day on the job was indicative.  Some folks came to the drive through and ordered bacon cheeseburgers to go and almost crashed  a mile or so down the road when they found out that whoever cooked the cheeseburgers just slapped a couple pieces of raw bacon on top of the hamburger and sent them on their way.  I believe that bacon is good on anything but even I know that it has to be cooked.

I say that this is indicative because I am hearing from folks who hire other folks that those they hire can’t read or write and cannot do the simplest tasks without constant supervision.  Some one told me that by the time they get done explaining simple things they would have been better off to do it themselves.  I also recall a great conversation on the minimum wage in which a company owner told me that if I was not worth at least $17 an hour to him he would not hire me.  He also said it is getting harder and harder to find anyone worth $5 an hour.  Excellence is disappearing, and even mediocrity is getting hard to find.

Now to the point of this blog.  On a Friday night  I talked to the CEO of Concordia Publishing House and tried to explain an idea I had for a presentation.  I tried to explain in my muddled way.  I say muddled because I was not really sure what I wanted except in the most general terms.  I have a picture that I would like included in a format but I am not sure how to make it work.  He says send the picture which I do.  Monday morning I get an email with an attachment showing a product that is exactly what I wanted.  It is as if the person doing the work read my mind.  One shot from a muddled explanation and these folks got it perfect and I have the finished product less than a week after my request.  To me that is excellent service from concept to conclusion.  Concordia Publishing has been recognized for excellence for years and they won the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in 2011.

This is their mission statement.

Concordia Publishing House is the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. It exists for the purposes of strengthening and aiding member congregations in their proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and working in partnership with the agencies and congregations of the Synod to provide publishing services. On their behalf, Concordia Publishing House will develop, produce, market and distribute products and services that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and which will effectively serve such proclamation to people throughout the world. All to the Glory of God.

I have worked with CPH before and find that from the receptionist to the folks that take your orders on the phone they are all excellent.  They have tremendous customer service and a fantastic catalog of products.  They are the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and they are a gem.  They may not make cheeseburgers but if they did I imagine the bacon would be perfect.  Please check out their website at www.cph.org.

 

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No Free Tuition – Based on What – a Theological Principle.

free tuitionWe wrote yesterday about Professor Hamann and his objection to free tuition at the seminaries in Australia.

Here is the report on his rationale written by J.T. Mueller in the Theological Observer section of CTM way back in 1951.

He draws this conclusion especially from 1 Tim. 5:3-16, where St. Paul makes
provision of congregational support for such widows only as are destitute or in
need. Some commentators hold that the official position of these widows was
analogous to that of the elders, but whether this is true or not, the Apostle’s
advice is clearly set forth in v.16, where he writes: “If any man or woman that
believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged;
that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” Dr. Hamann adds: “These widows,
too, the congregation should not be expected to support while there were relatives
upon whom that duty naturally devolved.” To the question “What has the support of
widows to do with the training of church workers?” Dr. Hamann replies: “More than
appears on the surface; for a careful study of St. Paul’s words in vv. 4, 8, and 16
will probably convince most theologians that he is not merely formulating a
principle for the occasion in hand, but is applying to that occasion a principle of
much wider and more general validity. It is this, put very briefly: Christians
should not expect the Church to do for them -and this includes members of their
family -what they can well do themselves. This is, of course, also an axiom rooted
in the normal Christian’s sense of equity and responsibility; that is, in the last
analysis, in the law of Christian love. The Church is not to be ‘charged’ or
‘burdened’ to save the pocketbooks of those to whom God has given ample means.” The
principle here set forth is one of the greatest importance also for us in America,
where socialized views of free and ready help by some higher power are imperceptibly
being absorbed by workers of all kinds, including church workers. It is true,
college courses for the pastoral or teaching ministry today demand much more by way
of expenditure than they did many years ago when “things were still cheap,” but the
student who ruggedly works his way through college and parents who take pride in
seeing their sons through college without church help, will derive from their
self-sacrificing devotion lasting benefits in self-reliance and self-respect which
they will never regret. To help persons who need no help is certainly as harmful (if
not more so) as not to help those who need help. As a rule, too, it is not the
student or parent in the higher bracket that too readily sues for assistance.

 

 

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Free Tuition and Theological Principles.

tuitionWhen politicians run out of ways to spend other peoples money they begin to figure out ways to make things free.  One of the folks calling for free tuition charged colleges $250000 to a half a million to come and speak at these centers of higher learning.  Begging the question of what she could possible say that was worth that money is the question of why the schools didn’t cut tuition by that much or supply scholarships for that amount if they have that kind of money to throw around. Everyone knows that nothing is free and that somehow some one pays for everything.

The church is called upon to care for the poor and the needy, the sick and imprisoned and that is not an optional activity.  Caring for her own however has never been an easy discussion in churches.  There has always been a movement to care for church workers and the costs that they bear for education and most churches are generous especially with their sons and daughters who go into church work.  There is talk at District level Boards as to how much Districts should support students and give them aid and one wag was heard saying that if a student in our system graduates “deeply in debt they should be investigated as to their fitness to be a teacher or a Pastor”.  He went on to list the support from home congregations, District aid and grants, LWML support and grants, school aid and grants, and scholarships.  His point was if a student took advantage of everything that churches, schools, Districts and LWML’s offered the average student would basically have “free tuition”.

Not having time to analyze all that I found this intriguing article from a year before I was born.

LET NOT THE CHURCH BE CHARGED

Under this heading Dr. H. Hamann, in the Australasian
Theological Review (Vol. XXI, No.4, December, 1950) discusses the question how much
the Church owes to students who prepare themselves for the pastoral or teaching
ministry. * The writer is not opposed to any support given to needy students. Nor
does he object to the principle of keeping the charges for board and other services
as low as possible. But he believes that it is not in keeping with the best
interests of the Church to transfer the “welfare state” 1dea to the student body at
its colleges. In particular, he is at variance with a proposal with which recently
the Toowoomba Convention of the Australian Church had to deal. According to this
memorial there was to be returned to theological students, upon graduation, all
money paid by them (or their parents) for board during the years of preparation. He
adds a word of praise for such parents as “count themselves happy in supplying
workers for their Church at some sacrifice to themselves” and stresses the thought
that whenever students or their parents are able to provide for the expenditure at
college, the Church should not offer assistance that is not needed.

We will get to the theological principles tomorrow.

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