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Archive for March, 2017

Adulting Schools – Caution – If you were born in the early 80’s or later this may make you want to get to your “safe space”.

I had calmed down from my rant about the millennial who made a bacon cheeseburger at the local Cenex by cooking the hamburger and slapping raw bacon on top of it and serving it.  He thought the hot hamburger would someone make the raw bacon ok.   Then I got worked up again when I heard about the 25 year old who thought that the minimum payment on a credit card was a fine idea.  Never looking at the balance or realizing the 18% interest rate that would be paid this person in in some serious trouble unless he can shame the credit card company for being mean to him.  He wants a pass which means that my credit card interest will go up to “forgive” his debt.  Then I heard about a mom and pop operation that hired two millennial women to work one job because their “therapy sessions” synched up so that when one was at the therapist, the other could work.

About the time I think I have seen it all I came across the Adulting Schools that are popping up all over the country that are meant to get millennials up to a basic understanding of what it takes to live outside of mommy and daddy”s basement.  We find from millennials themselves that they do not think of themselves as adults until they are 30 so…..

Basic questions remain.  They need to learn the basics of handling money we are told.  I learned how to make change when I was in some grade somewhere. I remember the teacher saying that I would need to learn how to make change to make sure that I wasn’t getting ripped off at the comic book store.  She also said I needed to learn if I worked in a store someday.  My grandmother made me walk to a store to by bread.  It was about ten blocks from our house.  She said “be sure to bring back the change”. I got the bread and walked home and was told that the change was a nickel short and I would have to go back.  The store owner was angry at me and asked if I thought he couldn’t count change?  I walked back home and snuck into the house and up to my room and took a nickel out of my piggy bank and gave it to my grandma.  (For anyone reading this that was born during or after the “80’s” that means that I walked 40 blocks without a GPS app because there were no cell phones.)    I have counted change ever since. What were the millennials  taught in the public school system up to now?  I suppose giving someone $20 in change for a $15 purchase was applauded because they were trying.  Approximation and guessing is ok as long as you feel good about yourself.  The employers feelings don’t count.  My guess is that for many millennials employers are considered the enemy because their teachers went to college and learned about the evils of Capitalism.

What did or do millennials learn in college?  It looks like mommy and daddy spend $50000 a year for their darlings to learn about medieval women’s issues and environmental imperialism.  Who cares if you can make change as long as you can learn about cool stuff like the “Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics.”  How about “Whiteness, the Other Side of Racism”?  Here is one that is truly fascinating – “Taking Marx Seriously”.  I thought we were all taking Marx seriously for some time now.  All the while the generation that raised me thought we were in a “long twilight struggle” against the tyranny of Marxism, their children and children’s children seem to think that flirting with Marzism is pretty cool.  We seem to be desperately trying to become a Marxist state.  Maybe a course like this is offered because if we get to be actual Marxist’s we won’t need to make change because no one will have any money anyway.  By the way the long twilight struggle remark is from the inauguration speech of John Kennedy.  He was the 35th President of the United States.

I know it sounds like I am angry at those who think that they are children until they are thirty.  It is not anger, but I am dismayed that they will be the ones operating on my body, caring for me in my dotage, making our wills, giving us change at MacDonald’s, flying great big airplanes, and running big institutions of finance (that means dealing with money and making change).   I can’t be angry with 29 year old children because Jesus says that we have to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God.  But I also agree with Luther when he asked God; “do we have to be such idiots”.

 



 

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Loving Salvation But Not the Savior.

On Wednesday Evenings during Lent we often use the service of Evening Prayer.  Interestingly the Canticle for that service is the Magnificat.  For some it seems strange that we would use a Christmas song during Lent.  We miss the great images that come from this song of thanksgiving

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Martin Luther wrote a meditation on the Magnificat for Prince John Frederick who would become the ruler of Saxony.  He thought it had something to say to political leaders, but more importantly it tells us something about God and his dealing with us.

“The Magnificat taught Luther that a Christian does not place his trust in God’s gifts; he trusts in His grace, in God Himself.” Perverted lovers of God, the parasites, hirelings, and slaves, love salvation but not their Savior.’~ They “seek their own advantage in God, neither love nor praise His bare goodness, but have an eye to themselves and consider only how good God is to them.”When He hides His face and withdraws the rays of goodness, love cools promptly. They seem to be unable to love the bare, unfelt goodness hidden in God. Contrary to this spirit the Christians, the truly lowly, naked, hungry, and God fearing – like the Virgin Mary – love God Himself, not only the good things of God.  The hirelings, thinks Luther, would let God’s good things go unloved and unpraised if heaven and hell did not exist.  Such men are actually trying to make a lackey out of God. They surely will not obtain a reward; God is not their Savior; they have fabricated a savior for themselves.” (Heino O. Kadai, “Luther’s Theology of the Cross”  Concordia Theological Quarterly Vol 63:3 July 199 page 169″

 

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Why Come to Church?

In 1881 a billboard in London invited passers-by to come to church.  It said, “There is a poem on ‘The Buried Life’ of which I am often reminded. Your lives are busy, useful, honest; but your faces are anxious and you are not all you want to be. There is within you another life, a buried life, which does not get free. It is buried but it is not dead. When it really hears God’s voice it will rise.  I believe that in the quiet of a place full of good memories, in the sound off music, in the sympathy of fellow seekers, we may better wait God’s call….It maybe that as you listen to the silence, to the music, or to the worship of others, God will speak and that the buried life will arise and that you will have peace.”

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Hanging Out In Front of the Drug Store and Ontology.

In a comedy skit from the distant memories of my past is a nun in a parochial school that asks a student to read an assigned essay.  It was called “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”.  The students monotone reading went something like this – Day one. I got up.  Went downtown to look for a job.  Hung out in front of the drugstore. Day two.  I got up.  Went downtown to look for a job.  Hung out in front of the drugstore.  Day three.  I got up.  Went downtown to look for a job.  Got a job keeping people from hanging out in front of the drugstore.  There was more to the skit of course, but I thought that was funny because my friends and I, when we weren’t working, hung out in front of the drugstore.*  We went there to by a “coke” but what we bought was different flavored pop that cost a dime.  We pooled  our money and bought two cans of “pop” and shared it among three or four guys.

There was a time when “hanging out” was real cool.  Malls took over the front of the drugstore as the place to be.  When I came to this town in 1978 a large Mall was either being constructed or had just been completed and the advertising tease said “Meet Me at Columbia Mall”.  Anchored by retail stores like Dayton’s, Macy’s, Penney’s, Sear’s, Neimen Marcus, Dillard’s, Famous Bar, Donaldson’s, and a host of others, Malls were huge and kept getting hugher.  The apotheosis of the Mall was created in Edmonton Alberta Canada and it’s offspring is the Mall of America in Bloomington MN.  It is 5.6 million square feet and has over 500 stores, give or take as the economy goes.  In our Northern Crossings we have this mega entertainment/retail/boutique/thing in common.  For years folks from North Dakota traveled to Minneapolis for one reason and that was to go to the Mall.  They might throw in  a baseball, football, hockey game in too, but they were going to the Mall.  There are some interesting things going on with the retail anchor stores.  They are in serious trouble.  Look at the list above and you will see names that do not exist anymore.  There is evidence that retail stores are losing their customers.  Macy’s is in big trouble and even Niemann Marcus may be taken over by Hudson Bay.

Two issues seem to be making times tough for retailers.  The first issue happened the first time a customer asked for a product and the clerk said, we don’t have it in stock but we can order it for you”.  “I can order it myself from my cell phone and it will arrive at my door without my having to worry about you screwing up the order” seems to be the response.  I would like to think that political statements and boycotts by stores don’t help but I am not sure that is a big deal.  The other issue is what is considered “hanging out” today and the changing nature of gathering.  Face book and twitter and cell phones have changed the conception of gathering and hanging out.  Who needs to hang out in front of the drug store with five or six friends when you can get a thousand followers on twitter.  If you pay attention you will note that having a corporeal presence near you, even in a restaurant over dinner, does not mean you are “present” in a real sense if you are staring at your smart phone and texting someone else.

Not needing a corporeal presence next to you to hang out with them is a huge psychological and philosophical issue.  “Meet Me At the Mall” is too much work and the social aspect of going is mitigated by the device that transmitted the message.  Why should we meet when we are already together on our devices?

There is a message for the church here too.  The place where we “gathered” in sacred space to be gifted by God with His mercy can be transmitted to us by TV and radio and WIFI etc.  Those who see the decline in worship attendance are now trying the electronic avenue to preach and teach the Word.  The pastor’s gambit of “I haven’t seen you in church” is crippled by the riposte, “I got it on the live streaming”.

*Think of this sentence.  I “went to the skit” on YouTube.  It seems an absurdity because I never left my chair and yet I “went to You Tube”.  You can watch this skit by Cheech and Chong by looking up “Sister Mary Elephant” or click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSJ_k49ITUY

 

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Mercy and The Big Why.

In the Gospel lesson for tomorrow you will hear how the disciples see a man who was born blind and they ask the great “why” question.  Who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?  I guess I have to rephrase it – “why was this man born blind?  Was it his or his parents fault?”

We do the same in our life.  We have an issue and we ask “why is this happening to me” and the “this” is defined by us.  Tragedy is in the eye of the beholder.  Some of the young people that I know are reduced to quivering fountains of tears if they can’t go on spring break like they used to before they supposedly got a job and supposedly became responsible grown up folks. “Why is this happening to me “they say, “when I am supposedly doing the right thing getting a job?”  Lots of supposing there.  I am a veteran pastor who supposedly has a fixed reliance and understanding of the object of my preaching and teaching, the object of my faith, Jesus Christ.  The preached Christ is all mercy and compassionate care for the fallen children of men.  He did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  He is love.  Yet when trouble and tragedy and pain come to my life I want to get from the preached Jesus an answer that God as Creator does not choose to give.  He wants to, as Luther says, “be inscrutable and remain incomprehensible”.  It is a strange trait that folks try to find answers where God chooses not to speak rather than flee and hide in Christ who has been given to us as Savior and who reveals Himself in Word and Sacrament.

John Pless has written this – “Unexplainable tragedies bring pain and chaos. God leaves the wound open to use the words of Bayer.*  We cry out to God in lamentation in the face of events that defy our capacities for understanding. But the anguished lament ascends from the crucible of faith, not unbelief. It is a confession of trust in the God who works all things for the good of those who called (Rom. 8:28). Living in repentance and faith, we are freed from the inward turn of speculation that seeks to investigate the hidden God and instead we trust in the kindness and mercy of God revealed in Christ Jesus. With such a freedom we are liberated to rely on God’s promises and turn our attention to works of mercy to bring compassion and relief to those who suffer in this sinful world. What is the nature and shape of this mercy? Mercy is the Lord’s compassionate action toward sinful human beings in that He does not leave us alone with our sin, forsaking us to death and condemnation, but instead rescues us by His death and resurrection to live with Him.”+

*Oswald Bayer, “Poetological Doctrine of the Trinity” Lutheran Quarterly (Spring 2001), 19-20

+John Pless, Answering the “Why” Question;  Martin Luther on Human suffering and God’s Mercy”, Journal of Lutheran Mission February 2015, Vol.2 No.1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Case Against Mercy and Christlikeness

Over the past month or so I have been talking about the case against mercy because believe it or not I am hearing that from some folks who should know better.  Our churches need the money because their are declining memberships and declining offerings and we need to scratch around on our own dung hill.  Mercy work is treating chronic problems as if they are emergencies and that makes them “toxic”.  I learned that from books that I have been bombarded with and you can by them on a sponsored page on Amazon.  That page is sponsored by the American Cancer Society which as I have said certainly treats a chronic problem like an emergency.  I write about the attacks on mercy on February 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, and March 10, 11, 13.  We need to have a discussion about this because I even heard the case against mercy made because it has about it the whiff of “liberation theology” and a preferential care for the poor.  I am not sure what to do with that except to say that if you don’t God has care for the poor in the forefront of His approach to His people you haven’t read the Bible.  If you don’t think that God wants to liberate not only us as human beings but the whole created order we have no common ground to debate.  To equate our corporate responsibilities as church under the Lordship of Jesus with a political movement is nothing short of breathtaking.  Let us cut to the “chase” as they say and get to the point – many are making the case against mercy because of greed.  Many make the case against mercy because of sheer laziness.  We want to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments and nothing else.  Those gifts of God are to bring us to the point where “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4  In other words we want to be like Christ and even have His mind in us (Phil 2).

“Christ (……) dwelt among us that we might behold God’s glory. God is the God who reaches out to men’s needs whatever they are, and Christ is the Christ who entered into all the needs of men as an act of self-sacrifice, and we are the church that would remain aloof from the needs of men, unsoiled by their dirt, unbloodied by their blows as we seek to help them, honored and respected and not despised any more, because we do not consort with publicans and sinners, because we can play the part of the priest and the levite so well that we no longer cause others to blush as they follow us and pass by on the other side?

Christlikeness, we say, and we have a “place”, a pleasant place where to lay our heads while there still are many who do not have.

Christlikeness, we say, and the leper never knows our touch, the hungry never eats our little which is greatly multiplied under the blessing of God, the outcast never knows what it means for us to sit down at a well and talk with him for hours.

Christlikeness, we say, and we have never gone cold so that others might be warm, we have never gone thirsty that others might have to drink, we have never given so much away that we literally had to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Christlikeness, we say, and the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.”  William Buege, “Declaring God’s Glory Through Welfare Work”, CTM vol XXXI No.11

 

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One Guy, Two Knives and a Set of Car Keys

Stuart Varney used this phrase today in a voice that exhibited his stunned understanding that a guy with a set of car keys and two knives can bring a modern cosmopolitan city to a stand still and raise all kinds of havoc.  It seems impossible but the underlying politics that allow things like this are even more stunning.  Two young men 17 and 18 posing as freshman in high school can bring a city to turmoil and raise all kinds of hell with a school system, but even worse, rape a 14 year old and get what seems to be sympathy from a whole lot of people who should know better.  The underlying politics seems to be that they were illegals and therefore have the right to more protection and understanding than their victim.  Why that could be can only be explained by a sad reading of the environment that says that whatever frustrates the folks that pay the bills and obey the laws and actually make things work must be opposed by the folks on the left because they, the law abiding folks, are the problem.  The folks who get angry when illegals without drivers license run into their new cars are racist.  When moms and dads whose children are sodomized by illegals are angry they are called vengeful.  When the primary reason that a government exists is turned on its head and the people who foot the bill for that government get angry and go to the polls to change things we, the people, must be opposed at every point because we are not enlightened enough “get it”.  Please notice that all the yammering, angry, frustrated stars and songsters and TV personalities that preach to us get angry with us for what we SAY, but they will excuse and exonerate others for what they DO.

I have run two stories together here.  One is about a British born ISIS wannabe, if the reports hold up, and the other is about illegal aliens allowed to pretty much do what they want.   But there are three questions that haunt me when I think of them.

  1.  What would Winston Churchill, who called Islam the “most retrograde force in the world” do today.
  2.   Is that statement why his bust was taken out of the Oval Office 7 or 8 years ago and only recently put back?
  3.   The little girl who was raped in Maryland, if she is able emotionally to ever go to school again – will she be required to undergo another anti-bullying class?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I Awake I am Still With Thee

David writes in Psalm 139 “In Thy book were written everyone of the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Old Time Professor Alfred Rehwaldt wrote – “It is not a mere coincidence that I am here and you are there, and that tomorrow or the day after someone else has taken our place. Long, long ago before there was any angel or man, or blade of grass or drop of dew, God had brought us to this present moment to bestow a blessing upon us. If we are not self-willed, but trustingly lay our hand in His, every moment of life will be a moment of blessing, no matter how much the trends of the time may seem to push us around or hostile forces may seem to turn upon us. Even the dark and the somber things will turn out to be our friends.”

For all you who are sick or undergoing treatments or tests or just struggling with the fractiousities  of life Psalm 139 is something you need to immerse yourself in for awhile.  Tonight at our Lenten devotional services we will be talking about the importance of the Psalm and the message of Christ.

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The Supreme Court and the Church.

I was able to watch some of Judge Gorsuch’ confirmation hearings today and was fascinated to see that one of the first questions on an actual case was the  “Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School” vs Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.  Hosanna Tabor is a Lutheran Church and school in our school system.  The Supreme court was unanimous in it’s decision that the Government did not have the power to tell a church who their “ministers” could or should be and the Government had no right to interfere in selecting their own.   The “Establishment Clause” forbids the first part and the “Free Exercise Clause” forbids the second.  This is an interesting exercise in watching a real life issue with a set of eyes that see how our religious institutions can be pinned down and litigated if they are not careful in how they exercise their calling and dismissing practices.

There is a large amount of opinion among Pastors and many lay people that a Christian individual let alone a Church should never go to court based on 1 Corinthians 6.

“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession praises legal action, when necessary: “Public remedy, made through the office of the public official, is not condemned, but is commanded and is God’s work, according to Paul (Romans 13). Now the different kinds of public remedy are legal decisions, capital punishment, wars, and military service” (Ap XVI 59). Where the government impedes our freedom to believe and act according to our biblical confession, we will fight for our freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. And we also will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with citizens of good will — be they Lutheran, Christian or not — for the religious freedoms of all. For the conscience is bound only to God, not to men. Consider how St. Paul made use of his rights as a Roman citizen. “I appeal to Caesar,” he said in Acts 25:11. This is from Matthew Harrison as found in a March 5, 2015 letter introducing the Synod’s Office in Washington DC that will defend religious liberty.

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Rediscovery of a Rediscovery.

For strange reasons we try to steer away from ethics as Pastor’s because we get into the arguments about the uses of the Law especially the third one.  There is an ethic of Jesus that is there in the Sermon on the Mount that is unlike anything that the world would ever teach.

I just discovered Henry Link’s “Rediscovery of Man”, New York: Macmillan 1938. This is old stuff but very interesting

He writes: “The essence of Christianity is its insistence on the supreme value of the individual in the scheme of things where love, faith, and moral law transcend all man’s intellectual schemes and mechanical concepts. “In Christianity men are not the puppets of the state; they are the sons of God. They are not cogs in a machine, but creatures with souls. They are not helpless victims of an adverse environment, but rather beings born in sin, bound to suffer for their sins, but who can be born again to a new life of unlimited growth and freedom. “No matter how individuals, differing in background and point of view, read the New Testament, they will agree that the common denominator is the potentiality of personality. All men are held equal in the opportunity to develop a richer personality and a higher life, whether Jew or Gentile, Pharisee or Publican, rich or poor, whole or crippled. If anything, the possibilities of the underprivileged excel those of the privileged. For the rich, salvation is more difficult than to enter through the eye of a needle; for the arrogant intellectual it is harder than for the ignorant, but repentant sinner. But for all it is possible. “Thus the Christian concept of personality is the absolute opposite to that of the physical sciences. Whereas the natural sciences have progressively revealed man’s limitations, Christianity forever emphasizes his possibilities. Whereas the hygiene movement of medical science increasingly describes people as innocent victims of mental disorders, Christianity long ago described the same disorders as the natural consequence of sin, either the sins of omission or commission. (Pp.235-236.)

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