25 July 2016

A Thought on Closed Communion

Sometimes the suggestion is made that we practice a closed table in order not to bring judgment on a person who might be communing unworthily. We admit that such a person is a believer, and we stress that we're not actually judging him or her. The Formula has always seemed to slam the door shut on that. It states without hesitation that no genuine believer, so long as he or she retains a living faith, CAN receive the Supper to their judgment.

So if that is ruled out as a reason not to commune someone who might want to receive at the altar in a Church of the Augsburg Confession while holding to a different confession any other week, what's left but to open the table?

What if, though, the reason you decline to commune such a person isn't because it would spiritually damage them, but because it would spiritually damage others? What others? All those who would then conclude that the error of the confession of that person's home church wasn't so big or important; and by implication that confession of the truth itself simply isn't a big deal.

Can one seriously read the pages of the NT and not realize the concern that rings through them to avoid error, to beware of it, to mark it and steer clear of it? No, I wouldn't commune someone who attends a church that teaches that Baptism is a human work, that a human decision saves, that what is received in the Supper is a remembrance of Christ's body and blood, or that the body and blood of Christ are sacrifice that can be applied by the priest to ease the sufferings of those in Purgatory! Yes, the person may say: "But I don't believe that; what I believe is that it really IS His body and blood!" That doesn't alter the damage done to the Body of Christ when I treat the individual as the be all and end all, and ignore the wider implications of where they regularly gather to be fed, taught, and corrected. Here's the shocker: IT JUST MAY NOT BE ALL ABOUT YOU.

Hard to fathom in this day and age, I know, but I have come to believe that people hate closed communion chiefly for this reason: it is a crystal clear confession that the faith simply isn't now and has never been an individual matter, you aren't the center of everything, and whether or not you will get your feathers ruffled and leave in a huff won't alter the facts one little bit. Is the Body and Blood that redeemed your sorry hide as well as mine upon the altar? Indeed it is. Was it given for you and for the forgiveness of sins? Indeed it was. Does the person receive it worthily who comes believing our Lord's words and promises? Indubitably.  Does that mean we are free to treat a person of another confession as free floating agent, an individual? Absolutely not. We have to love them enough to break the news: none of us stands apart from his public confession; all of us are part of a confession by virtue of where we gather to be fed, taught, and corrected. Koinonia. Christians never stand apart from, but within, the Church and so within the confession of a specific congregation.

The Festival of St. James the Elder, Apostle

O Lord, for James, we praise You, 

Who fell to Herod's sword; 

He drank Your cup of suff'ring 

And thus fulfilled Your word. 

Lord, curb our vain impatience 

For glory and for fame, 

Equip us for such sufferings 

As glorify Your name.

LSB 518:21

"For silent James, the holy martyr whose blood speaks boldly of the defeat of death, all glory to You, Lord Jesus!" (Celebrating the Saints).

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ.  Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

19 July 2016


This has been one very hectic time. In the last several weeks I've been to Nashville for Higher Things, Milwaukee for Synod Convention, and to New Orleans for National Youth Gathering. Sitting right now in the NOLA airport waiting to fly to Dallas and then home to St. Louis. I've had opportunity to do a bit of reflecting while I've been on the road and I came to a realization: just because one can do something reasonably well, doesn't mean that one needs to be doing it. I've decided I'm done with the travelling to speak at conferences. Saying "yes" to that was saying "no" to other things that I really want to do: putting time on "Thy Strong Word" on KFUO, working on Issues, and doing more writing. I'm going to be investing heavily in those things going forward and turn down the public speaking. I still have a conference that I promised to do out in New York in September, but I do believe that that finishes my commitments at present and I'm delighted to see the slate cleared and be able to focus on a number of projects close at hand. But first just to get home and put away the computer and just chill for a few days. I. Can't. Wait.

15 July 2016

The Convention Divine Service

The Divine Service itself begins around minute 31. This arrangement of Divine Service, Setting 4, was composed by James Biery.

14 July 2016

Truly an amazing convention...

...a bit insane with all that happened around the opening Eucharist, but hey: it was beautiful all the same. Biery setting of DS IV is amazingly lovely. I am encouraged by the solid votes (tended to be 70%+ even on controverted items), by the excellent folks who were elected, by the solid brotherly tone that prevailed.

How to describe what's happened in the LCMS? I put it like this: in 2010, the LCMS was toying with following American Evangelicalism over the precipice. With each passing year, she seems more strongly to say: Yeah, really glad we didn't go over THAT cliff. With each passing year she seems to say: Being Lutheran, after all, is what we do best because that's who we are. That's who we really must be for the sake of the world.

Last time round we heard a few voices afterwards complain about the worship (which overwhelmingly just used our hymnal) as being "too high church." Delightful that President Harrison actually put the question to the assembly: "If you have thoroughly enjoyed the convention worship, press 1. Not so much, press 2." 

And it was just Lutheran, you know. With outstanding music, to be sure, by Rosebrock, Freese, Magness, Janssen, May, Nunes, and others. But it was truly just Lutheran. And that pile of Lutherans loved it. Who knew?

06 July 2016

Celebrating the Saints

Though I've not yet seen a physical copy, rumor on FB is that it exists! I think I'll have to wait till Milwaukee to actually see it in person: Celebrating the Saints. I hope it builds on the work of Treasury/PrayNow/ LSB in bringing the joy of our fellow pilgrims across the ages back to contemporary Lutheran consciousness. You can order here:  Order.

04 July 2016

Little things

that remove ongoing irritants. I've been a fan of simplification for a long time. Just reflecting on some of the small things that have been a blessing and they are quite random:

1. Simplification in the digital area. Basically one company (Apple, of course) and everything tightly tied in. iPhone, AppleTV and iPad Pro. The iPad Pro has been the single most simplifying thing. No need for a laptop, seriously. Not for what I do (which is mainly write and edit). I have a simple, big and beautiful display to work on, to play on, to read on. And music, of course. We have an old iPad that is basically our musical system. No LPs, tapes, cds to keep track of. Apple Music and Pandora take care of our musical needs entirely. Oh, and that irritant of not being able to turn pages well when playing intense musical pieces? Gone. A simple bluetooth pedal beside the piano that with a tap turns the pages on my iPad. Amazing!

2. Bacon. This is super silly because I've heard about it for a long time, but finally decided to implement it. Just cook it on a pan in the oven, spread on parchment paper to soak up the grease, and at 375 for about half an hour (though use your nose to check on it). No mess, no standing over the pan, no greasy glasses, no grease spread throughout the house (open floor plan kitchen problem!), no burns from popping grease. And the bacon each time: PEFECTION!

3. Blocks. We have the most beautiful dining room table from Cindi's grandmother. Clawed feet, beautiful grain. But when you expand it, it wasn't reliable on the leaves. They would drop if you put pressure on them just a certain way and we've had messes at big dinners with this. To rememdy it, we've been putting books underneath to hold the leaves in place. It was a hassle! Hauling the books from the guest room, figuring out the right combo to insert them, and it was damaging the books. Yesterday, I mentioned to Dave the possibility of blocks. Last night I got them. They slide right in and hold it up perfectly and when not in use, slip into a drawer in the dining room's buffet. Hassle gone!

4. Doors. This house has settled and the doors have gone a tad awry. The master bedroom closet door always wanted to open on you (when you were in the closet), the master bedroom door itself had to lifted to latch shut, the front screen door didn't like to catch. We mentioned these to Dave and he fixed or showed how to fix every last one of them. A whole pile of stupid minor irritants, poof! Gone!

5. Gate. The gate to the pool had also become a sticky wicket. A hinge had apparently begun to pull away. Dave fixed this as well. It opens and closes smoothly!

6. Glasses. I really wish I didn't need them and could keep on with contacts. I try the contacts periodically and invariably regret the decision within a few hours. Most days it's simple. I just reach for the glasses and that's that. I can see and see clearly up close, far away, and everything in between. And they're much lower maintenance, though I find wearing them in rain to be still intensely irritating!

7. Alcohol. I like wine, but I'm now on my 42 day without alcohol at all and I have to confess: I love THAT even more. Feel far more energetic, saving money (alcohol is expensive; tea is not!), sleeping like a champ, and still having a blast. I learned that it was EASY for me to say: "I don't drink" just like "I don't eat wheat; I don't eat sugar." Once the decision was made, life was so much simpler. And I've learned to enjoy my "Nojitos" with just sparkling water, lime and mint leaves. Oh, and Cindi and I enjoy an afternoon smoothie most days too: various fruits and berries, a pile of spinach and other greens, and even some lemon (peel and all!). YUM.

8. Prayers. Weird to put that in here, I know, but Treasury has made our devotional life so simple. There was a time I tried using it like a breviary (and you can), but as Cwirla said: "I'm not a monk" and David Petersen observed, "It really is a single office book." So with our morning bullet-proof coffee, Cindi and I pray the Treasury every day. Simplicity itself. Daily kicking off the day with the Word and prayer. What's not to like?

9. Omnifocus. This is an amazing piece of software, that regularly used really does free the mind of clutter through the Getting Things Done paradigm. I'm so glad Michael Schuermann recommended this as a way to implement GTD! Still mastering it, but I have found it such a blessing. 

10. Exercise. Again, simplicity was the key. I basically just walk and do push-ups. Try to do a minimum of 10,000 steps a day (more is always better!), and 250 push-ups interspersed along that walk as a minimum. Sundays are rest day (gee, who thought of that one!). This is usually my lunch hour routine. When I feel like it, I add in more (rows, pull-ups, situps, or a run). But mostly I'm content to walk and do the push-ups. The old body responds well to it all and I can see doing this simple routine for the rest of my days. No need for a gym, no need for special equipment, and can be done anywhere at all.

Kind of ridiculous miscellany, but all of them have reduced minor irritants and major stresses and tended toward more a more simple and peaceful life!

02 July 2016


Lutheran Service Book lists the Visitation as one of the "principal feasts of Christ."  Like the Transfiguration, it falls differently depending upon the lectionary system one uses:  in the three year cycle, it is observed on May 31; in the one year cycle, it is observed today. It is a relatively late-comer to the feast days, but by the time of the Reformation it was rather set on July 2 and continued to be observed in most Lutheran Church Orders.  Luther has a fine homily on the feast in his House Postils (III:341ff.).  Here's an excerpt:

For us, indeed, it is an occasion to thank God for the glorious revelation which occurred on this day, that Elisabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; and although till now she knows nothing about Christ and his conception, she here declares and openly confesses that Mary is in truth the mother of her Lord and God.  And John leaps in his mother's womb in witness to his Lord, while Mary sings her beautiful song of praise, the Magnificat, showing most excellently the profundity of her understanding.  We still repeat it after her.  It expresses the reason for us to celebrate, to learn it, and thank God for it.  The purpose for the pope's celebration is to invoke Mary; but our purpose is to praise and thank God in accordance with the example of the beloved Virgin, so that we celebrate just as she did.

On this day, we pray in our churches: 

Almighty God, You chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised.  Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.