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The Scholar as Pastor or Vice Versa.

scholar

A Lutheran Pastor named Herbert Lindemann spoke at a banquet at a meeting of the Institute on the Church and Society almost exactly 50 years ago.  The topic was “The Pastor as Scholar”.  It was obviously a topic then and seems to be a topic again.  His opening sentence is illuminating.  “That some pastors are scholars is true enough.  But it is also true that most of them don’t continue as pastors very long; presently they become members of a college or seminary faculty”.  Lindeman described the parochial ministry as an “activist function” and says that pastors generally are “not men of great learning”.  Remember that we are talking about a half century ago and for the Missouri Synod at least I believe that statement is no longer functional. Our pastors today are highly educated, but the question remains, are they, or should they be scholars?

As someone once famously said about the word “is”, it depends upon your definition of scholar.  If you are talking about the fellow who spends all his time in the office studying the amphictyony (be a scholar and look it up) or declining Greek verbs, maybe not.  If you mean someone who can converse about a variety of topics and who can see how the culture corrodes and attacks the church and can see patterns in history that can help illuminate the preaching of Law and Gospel then absolutely.

Here are the definitions of scholar – a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it : an intelligent and well-educated person who knows a particular subject very well, or, a student.

As for the first a Pastor needs to be steeped in God’s story.  Someone said that the Scriptures are God’s love song for a fallen humanity and show how God wants to bring that humanity into His story so that they can be saved.  He needs to understand how that story is constantly high jacked and how some try to get humanity so involved in their story that they cannot see God.  The justification of the sinner for Christ’s sake is the central article of the Christian faith but it is not the central fascination of the world, and our own sin and the power of the devil seek to keep it away from us.  Here is a quote from Lindemann –

Here, then, is modern man wandering around in a wasteland. If there is one word that
characterizes him, it is the word “lost”; and if there is a story that epitomizes
his need, it is the story of the prodigal son. Modern man has traveled far from
home, and so far the expeditions sent out from the father’s house have not been very
successful in inducing him to return. He has not yet spent everything, and he is
still having a good time doing it. In the meantime the father waits, and his people
with him. (Incidentally, we must take care not to become insufferable prigs, like
the boy in the story who never left home! ) So the age in which we live is in many
ways thoroughly depressing. If you don’t think so, look at an impressionist
painting, listen to some 12-tone-scale music, watch one of those homosexual plays,
or read one of the innumerable novels about moral decay. Even more significant than
the reflection of modern life in the arts is modern life itself. If I had known what
a furious, unremitting warfare we have on our hands against the malicious powers of
evil, I doubt that I should have had the courage to go into the ministry. The
struggle has become more severe every passing year, the opposition more subtle and
more deadly, the casualties on the Christian side more numerous, not perhaps in
terms of widespread defection from the church, but definitely in respect to the
poisons of secularism infecting the souls of us alL Once more, I do not wish to
sound like a typical preacher shouting at the top of his voice that the world is
going to hell, but at the same time I mean to say that there is not the slightest
justification for complacency among us. We need not be scholars to be students of
our age; but we can ill afford to neglect being students of its literature (which
sometimes preaches sermons better than any we are able to devise) and students of
the life of man in our time, with everything that affects it.

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Egg Heads and the Fall – What Happened to Humpty Dumpty?

humpty dumptyOut of the blue I get a question from someone which absolutely intrigued me.  “Why does a Pastor need to be a scholar?  The question brought back pictures of the academician some would call an egg head who is so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good.  What does scholarship mean in terms of a parish Pastor?

The simple nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty is actually pretty complicated stuff.  We assume that he was an egg but that is not in the tale.  We think of him as an egg because several years after the rhyme appeared some one pictured him as an egg.  It has been thought of as the story of the Fall.  The fall broke humanity into pieces that all earthly power cannot fix.  Some see sitting on a wall as an inability to make a decision.  Some see all kinds of things in a silly rhyme.  The scholar as an egg head can be applied here as well.  The academic who sits on the wall studying all kinds of esoteric concepts rather than patrolling the wall and being a watchman who announces peril as well as salvation will fall and crack.  Behind the question to me was the assumption that a parish pastor needs to have “practical attributes” that work in the real world.  But that raises the question as to what a parish preacher is too be.

“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest” Isaiah tells us in chapter 62.  The pastors job is to be a watchmen and continually put the Lord in remembrance by the proclamation of Law and Gospel.  The main message is the forgiveness of sins for Christ sake.  The pastor as watchman and administrator of the gifts of God has two things to do – preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. This should be a relatively simple undertaking but that attitude belies the nature of the people to whom he is preaching.

50 years ago Paul Scherer talked about the difficulty for the preacher who tries to communicate the good news of Jesus to the world.  Remember that the more things change the more they stay the same and take into account the last sentence where the word “agape” appears.  Agape is the Greek word for the sacrificial love that God has for us.

“The trouble is not only that we are addressing the child and heir of the last four
centuries. That makes the task difficult enough. The trouble is that we are
addressing “fallen man.” And he lives in a strange world of his own. For him God no
longer occupies the center of the picture; he does: which is what the Fall means. He
regards himself as the victim of forces beyond his control; but he has to do the
best he can on the assumption that he can master them singlehanded and shape his own
destiny: which is what the Fall means. So he thinks of himself as standing over
against nature to conquer and exploit it; and for the most part over against his
fellowman as well: which is what the Fall means. He has to handle things, deal with
facts, and come out as near the top as may be. He has his own ideals and standards,
moral, intellectual, aesthetic, cultural, and you will please allow him to operate
under his own articles of self-government. This is where he lives, this is his frame
of reference, this is what the Fall means. He is not alone in the mind of the
twentieth century; he is the mind of Adam. If you can give him something he can use
right now, where he is, to his own advantage, well and good; but please, no more of
this double talk about the foolishness of God which is wiser than men, and the
weakness of God which is stronger than men -things which are not, and yet bring to
nought things that are – an eternal Word revealed in a historical event -a faith which
is within history, yet transcends history. What has any of that to do with him? He
has been driven out of the Eden for which he was made, to cast about for it now, in
his lonely search, every day he lives, without ever finding it. Its imagery is quite
alien to him, its language is scarcely any more to be called language! If agape does
not mean “having one’s mouth open,” then you have to set it down as gibberish.”

So can a scholar be a good parish preacher and vice versa?  More later.

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Saying and Doing.

fatherswill

Matthew 21:28-32New King James Version (NKJV – Jesus said, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

My parents always told me that it was more important what I did rather than what I said.  Actions speak louder than words as the old saw goes.

A famous talk show host once went off on the fact that people were outraged at him for what he said when others who actually did outrageous things got a pass.  The matter came up because of a bit he would do called a caller abortion.  He said that it occurred to him that a caller was not a caller until the call was completed.  The call was screened, he answered.  The caller spoke and if the caller was interesting and on topic and a conversation ensued all was well.  But if he was bored or didn’t like the topic or the callers voice, or if he felt the call might damage the rest of the program he would “abort” it.   He played the sound of a vacuum cleaner over the call and it was gone.  Perhaps what outraged people the most was a very faint scream in the background noise of the vacuum.

As I said people were offended and outraged and he did a segment just on this topic.  He said “I am a voice on the radio that you can turn off at anytime”.  No one is forced to listen and yet people went ballistic over what he said.  Some called what he did an obscenity.   He said the real obscenity took place thousands of times a day and yet people were more upset over what he said rather than what others did.

It is an interesting conundrum.  One of our Presidential candidates is constantly in trouble for what he says while the other seems to be covered in Teflon over what she did.  The nattering class say it is “baked into the cake” of this candidate and the people that support her will no matter what.  So immersed in scandals for so long that it is baked into the cake of perception and makes no difference in how folks vote.

Meanwhile the President of the United States makes videos about untangling the power cords for smart phones and his approval ratings climb.  He talks about how things are better today under his watch, and his approval ratings climb.  Once again the difference between what one says and what one actually does.

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John Wolf Journey

IMG_0749Mr. John Wolf is touring North Dakota and Minnesota.  He was in the Hankinson area Sunday.  He is headed for New York Mills and Parkers Prairie and Fargo and Warren and then he and his wife and 5 children are headed for Africa.  He will be the Project overseer for all mercy projects in Africa.  He will be involved with Project 24.  If you get a chance to hear him please avail yourself of the opportunity.  If you cannot please pray for him and his family.  You can support him by going online to the missionary section of the LCMS website.

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Political Math.

political mathMitt Romney was pilloried because he had the audacity to tell the truth.  He was recorded in a closed meeting as saying that 46% of the people in the United States would not vote for him no matter what.  This of course was blasted out at the time as being a terrible, sexist, racist, homophobic, statement but the fact is it was the truth. Pundits and columnists and the nattering class have said the same thing over and over again.  One commentator said that about 45% of the electorate will vote for a Democrat candidate even if that candidate is “a box of rocks”.  I thought that proposition had been proven when Al Gore almost became President but then that was the year that J Dub was.  Republicans seem to be in the same boat.

Almost of all our politics are pretty much divided right down the middle and every one keeps complaining that “nothing ever gets done”.  I actually have the view that is as it should be.  The Constitution was actually designed in such a way as to insure that not a lot gets done, and that what does get done was not forced down an expecting electorate’s throat.  If all the safe guards in the Constitution were understood and followed something like Obama Care would never have been part of our problems now.  The idea was the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government watched over by a non – partisan press would pretty much cancel out the most egregious  over reach that governments will naturally attempt.

Since government cannot seem to control itself today a natural kind of separation has taken place where there is in almost very major debate a split that is pretty close to half and half.  Believe it or not, in a representative Republic which we are designed to be as a nation, that may not be a bad thing.

The guy who most people agree was the author of the Constitution and most definitely the writer behind most of the Federalist Papers, the lead up to the Constitution, was James Madison.  He addressed the idea that the country could grow beyond the original colonies and it would be, politically, a good thing.

In a book about Andrew Jackson entitled strangely enough, “Andrew Jackson – His Life and Times”, author H.W. Brands wrote this about Madison –

“In a small republic, one or two factions could easily conspire against the general interest, engineer a majority, and subvert the liberties of the rest. In a large republic, the factions would be more dispersed, rendering conspiracy and subversion more difficult and rare. “Extend the sphere,” Madison said, “and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or, if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength and to act in unison with each other.” What others considered a weakness of large republics— the dispersion of their people and the diversity of their interests— Madison touted as a strength.” *

H.W. Brands, “Andrew Jackson – His Life and Times” New York, Random House 2003 page 48

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Delirious Christians.

luke 9

A man said that he would follow Jesus anywhere and then asks to go back and take care of family matters.

Luke 9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Folks have troubles with the things that Jesus says in this portion of Scriptures,  Harold Buls has written a study that I find fascinating and here is a portion,

“Jesus’ answer is an axiom, a statement understandable to all cultures. Jesus must be speaking about a man who has no experience as a plowman. The plow here is similar to the walking plow used in former generations in our country. One cannot plow without placing both hands firmly on the plow handle and looking forward.

“Keeps looking back” is the translation in NEB and AAT. This kind of plowing is ridiculous and impossible. Bengel mentions here that such a man is “delirious.” The etymology of this word is “de” and “lira” in Latin, meaning “out of the furrow.” A delirious man is like a plow out of the furrow.

Jesus is criticizing the man’s attitude. Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26 are parallel thoughts. The Children of Israel longed for the flesh-pots of Egypt. See Exodus 16:3. Remember Lot’s wife. Luke 17:32; Genesis 19:26. Read Philippians 3:2-14, especially verse 13.

To have the righteousness of God by faith in Christ is the best antidote against being impeded by human relationships. That alone makes one fit for the Kingdom of God. Look at Matthew 6:33.

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Brexit This and Brexit That.

Image result for brexit meme

The folks at CNN are taking it personally that the Brits are leaving the EU.  It is as if their entire world view is coming unglued.  Why would anyone want to leave a command and control, centrally planned society that is controlled by the elites and a left leaning press?  They might have talked to the folks who live outside of London, but of course that will ever happen.  Bumpkins may have opinions but that doesn’t mean they have to be listened to.  They may have heard something like this……

So you are tired of having free health care but can’t get in to see a Doctor.  You are frustrated that people in Brussels decide what kind of tea kettle you are “allowed” to own in Liverpool.  You are frustrated that your wages have not increased in 15 years and your politicians talk about how great the economy is and how we need to “stay the course”.  You are fed up with political correctness especially when it comes to what kind of energy you can and cannot consume.  The elites, the rock stars, and the city folk tell you how great you have it, and when you complain they call you names.  So you get a chance to vote as to whether or not you want to stay in a Union that you consider oppressive and frustrating.  52 percent of your countrymen agree with you while 48 percent do not.  You find it interesting that ratio seems to be the same in almost every poll taken on any subject in your country and even in America.  The world seems to be split evenly on almost every important subject.

There is a lesson here for politicians if they will listen.  The politics and the rhetoric of division is a deadly thing.  The politicians who say that they are trying to bring us all together are usually the most divisive.  The ones who talk about love and compassion are usually the most vicious.  Calling people who don’t think that aborted baby parts should be sold out of coolers on the street the “equivalent of the Taliban” doesn’t go very far in creating unity. Announcing to the world that the hard working middle class in the country that disagrees with you are holding too tightly to “their guns and their Bible’s” certainly sits well with those who actually go to work everyday.  Saying that you plan to put coal miners and coal companies out of business and then back track on the statement is politics.  Saying that you cannot be responsible for every under capitalized small business is politics as well.  Put those two political statements together and you see an incredible amount of hubris that betrays a world view that 53 percent of us are terrified by.

Command and control liberals and central planner types might want to stop and think for a moment.  How can you control a massive thing like an economy if you can’t read the polls?  And by the way, not everyone who disagrees with you is a racist.

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Government by Tantrum

house sit in

Governments are good gifts of God that are meant to exist so that “we might live quiet and peaceful lives”.   When Governments become separated from their grounding in Christ, or even in a genuine trust in a nebulous “higher power”, they become unhinged and in many ways demonic.  They will seek to replace God or a belief in a higher power in the populations mind, with their ability to give a better life to all and their ability to know what is good for you.

When the government or the state removes Christianity it must by definition take the place of Christ.  It must become the way and the truth and the life.  It must become a savior.  Since that is impossible it will become opposing ideologies since those who share in power will also want to be in control.  There will be more unhinging as the power of the state grows.

The “sit in” at the house over gun control is a perfect example of what happens when the state wants to control everything.  The redaction of emails from the shooter in Orlando; the gaps in press conference videos; the reliance upon lying to change public opinion; the need to actually rewrite history are all examples of trying to control all things.  The constant need to “get something done” is another example.  The endless procession of regulations for everything from smoke emissions to light fixtures is another.  When they cannot control, they resort to what I like to call tantrum.

How should a Christian respond to these things?  There is a great book called Christ and the powers by Hendrik Berkhof in which he says this –- “The Holy Spirit shrinks the powers before the eyes of faith. They may well have inflated themselves into omnipotent total value systems, but the believer sees them in their
true proportions, as nothing more than one segment of creation, existing because of the Creator, and limited by other creatures.” (Christ and the Powers, By Hendrik Berkhof.  Translated from Dutch by John H. Yoder Herald Press )

 

 

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Jeremiah and Mission and Mercy – North Dakota LWML

Jeremiah 31

The North Dakota District of the LWML meets June 24  -26.  The theme is “Rejoicing in God’s Bounty” based on Jeremiah 31:12b-14.  This is the beginning of what is called the Book of Comfort 9 chapter 30-31)  After all the judgement and condemnation, the weeping and the mourning, the crying and the warning there comes comfort from God’s prophet to God’s people.  It is a very specific comfort dealing with the great Prince of God.  All the blessings that are marked and listed in the theme verse of the LWML will be brought about by God’s Prince.  The agent through whom the Lord will bring restoration and healing to His people will be that Branch of Righteousness (33:15). He will reign as king and will execute justice and righteousness in His kingdom (23:5). His name will be called the Lord, our Righteousness. He will not only be righteous Himself, He will also impart righteousness to His people (23:6).

All of God’s bounty comes through Jesus.  Our righteousness is given to us by Him.  He is the bountiful giver of all good gifts.  Those gifts are to shared and given to other who do not yet know this Prince.  The LWML is a great channel through whom those gifts are shared.

Jeremiah 31:10 – Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.

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What Manner of Love?

2016 LWML MN North District Convention LogoThe LWML of the Minnesota North District has a convention that starts today.  The Minnesota North LWML has been a wonderful supporter of Project 24 for a long time and their meetings and  former President Cheryl traveled to Kenya to see first hand the work being done there.  They are a true missionary support agency and we appreciate all that they have done.

Their theme is “Heir of God’s Abundant Love” based on 1 John 3:1a “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us”….

John says, “behold” or “see”.  What a great word.  Behold, and let it sink deep down into your inmost soul there to remain as an abiding object of joyous, adoring contemplation (Laetsch).  Think of your baptism and “behold” that the Lord of the universe and the God of all creation claimed you as His own and marked and sealed and adopted you to be His, even when you were His enemy; blind dead and lost.

“What manner” is an interesting concept.  The Expositor’s Greek Testament says that the word here “retains something of its proper and original idea and that is ,”of what country?”  So think deeply and meditate upon where this love comes from.  From what country, from what universe has ever come the idea that the Lord of all things before whom we stand condemned as sinners, would bestow upon us; lavish upon us such love that we would be called His children?

The Father.  The Father of our Lord Jesus condescends to call us His children.  This is not just some universal “fatherhood of God” concept.  This is up close and personal.  Jesus refers to the Father as “My Father” fifty-three times in the Gospels. He calls God “Our Father” some twenty-one times in the Gospels. This may seem rather generic too, but Jesus calls God “your Father” twenty-one times in the Gospels too!

“Has bestowed.” This word shows a past action that has abiding results; the gift of His love and its  blessings still continue with us. Again those baptismal promises and the daily forgiveness of sins.  This is something that all men can have and something that we, as His children want all to have as well.

Have a great convention Minnesota North!

 

 

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