31 January 2011


If you just received two posts with Ball children in them, sorry about that. One of the dangers of being on a few blogs is that you can post erroneously. I just sent you two posts intended for our family blog. Hope you enjoyed them anyway.

23 January 2011

Who said that?

 "Who said that?....  Was it you?"  ~ Gunny Hartman (heavily edited)

Here is a counter-cultural quote from a Lutheran theologian (the name mentioned in the quote has been removed to increase the difficulty factor).  So, who said it?

"We should stop stabbing at pietism.  It is always misunderstood, so that one would think that we disdain conversion and lack a sense of the factor of personal responsibility in Christianity....  Personally, I am convinced that the portion of pietism, which is found in *****, is useful for salvation, not to mention necessary."

13 January 2011

Or else...?

Over the last year or so I have had a few couples approach me to be married within the church. We set up a time to have a meeting, so we might be able to work out some of the details. This initial meeting also gives me the chance to ask questions of the couple and have them ask me anything. At all these meetings I discover that each couple is living together in a cohabitation relationship. When this is brought up I ask if they see that this act is wrong and against God’s Word and Will. All of them have said yes. Since they answer that they see what they are doing is in fact sinful, I walk them through what is laid out in the Lutheran Study Bible “God Blessed Marriage”.
1) Separate with no plans for marriage.
2) Separate until marriage.
3) If at any time during the process they wish to marry, the pastor will do so via a private ceremony (A concession by the congregation and pastor).
4) Get married by a justice of the peace immediately and have a consecration of the marriage in church at a later time.
I have yet to have one of these couples take me up on any of these options or come up with a viable one on their own. At the end of our meeting they leave and thank me for my time and then simply find another church/pastor who will marry them. I have to confess that it is disheartening that none of the couples return, they do not ask for more instruction/information, nor do they try to argue with me or ask why what they are doing is wrong and when I try to follow up I get the polite brush off or simply no response. As I said it is a little disheartening when God’s Word is spoken, and it is ignored first of all by the couple, but then it is reinforced by whatever church or pastor ends up performing the marriage rite. I will openly admit that I do not know where the couples who have come to me end up going to get married, or who performs the marriage rite and the pastor may have been able to do what I was not, convince, and show the need for repentance and only after catechesis of God’s Word were these couples able to marry. Again I do not know and do not want to paint the picture that I am the only Pastor in this area holding to the truths of Scripture concerning God’s Blessings and Desire for marriage.
What practices do the congregations in which you serve or worship have concerning cohabiting couples who seek to marry? Do you have any who have heard the word of God, repented and then lived chaste lives until their wedding night? What are we to do when other congregations will openly marry those who do not repent of their sins?

05 January 2011

Reading the Junk E-mail can be interesting

So, I got the following in a junk e-mail -- it's 10 things I can do to transform my congregation (from "Group" - I have no idea how I got on there).

I just thought I would see what, if any reaction or amusement or insight is taken from this (or social commentary). And for some reason I don't think 10 is suggesting adopting the Eastern Orthodox practice, but hey, I could be wrong.

+ + + + +
1. Banish the "stand and greet your neighbor" time in the worship service. I know your intentions are good, but it's forced, fruitless and goofy.
2. Forget everything they taught you about three-point sermons. You're wildly successful if you can get across one point. Just one point. Then sit down.
3. Get out and spend time with real people. Schedule lunches at your members' workplaces and schools. Listen. Get a feel for how real people live.
4. Encourage regular evaluation. Use comment cards. Ask us what we remember from last week's sermon. Then take us seriously, and adjust.
5. Crank down the volume of the band. Allow us to actually hear the voices of the flock.
6. Burn the fill-in-the-blank sermon guides. They're insulting, distracting and ineffective. (Can you imagine Jesus using them? Let's see, "Feed my _______.")
7. Show hospitality. Encourage people to enjoy a cup of coffee-during the service.
8. Let us participate. Entertain our questions-during the service. Let the real people around us tell how God is working in their lives.
9. Relax. Make some real friends. Spend more time with your family. Don't schedule every evening with church meetings.
10. Get rid of the pews. Really.

03 January 2011

Liturgical interuption, innovation, and the classic form of idolatry

So, I have been involved in a good discussion at the Gottesdienst Blog concerning, depending upon who you ask, the Confessions, Children's Sermons, Liturgical Innovation, and other various and sundry things. However, it has gotten me thinking on something.

Two frequent complaints leveled against children's sermons are that they are unnecessary innovations that don't fit in the service and that they disrupt the service.

Now, the point that they aren't "necessary" doesn't sway me much -- I'm more concerned with whether or not something may be freely done, not whether it *must* be done. However, it is a common concern for many, and I have been pondering it. Also, the idea that the 3 or 4 minutes a children's sermon takes also causes some consternation. Again, I'm not sold -- once any rite becomes established in a place, it becomes part of the flow of the service. I don't think my predecessor used the Gradual with regularity - I do. This was disruptive for a bit; now omitting the gradual would be disruptive. However, many people view the service as having a specific movement and flow that can be easily disrupted.

Offhandedly I had made a comment that, if we must eliminate anything that disrupts the service, we should remove the Offering, as this is an innovation that also disrupts the service. It was meant to be an argument... not of absurdity, but of comparison. There is no furor raised over the offering - it is accepted. Hence, something that is likewise disruptive could be accepted.

Then I saw a news promo this night. A Roman Catholic Parish in Oklahoma City was robbed -- and what does the promo show? Not offering plates, not a safe - but collection boxes.

Think about it. No break in the middle of the service. No pony show. No paying attention to what someone else might give - is it an envelop or just a few bucks from the wallet. No parade of cash to the front of the Church. Rather, when people give, quietly, out of the way, in the back of the Church, on their own time, with no one the wiser. No trumpets, no musical fanfare - when you give, let your giving be in secret.

And this is a new innovation - A Christianity Today article puts it really coming into vogue in the 19th Century. And mainly a protestant innovation (another bugaboo).

Why do we allow this? How is it beneficial? How does taking a collection in the middle of service support the idea that this is Divine Service, that worship is about the gifts that God gives us? We stop the service so everyone can see the money brought forward.

Now, I'm not going to say that have a collection for home mission work is wrong (although, when we have had special collections, we do just put a plate or basket in the back of the Church... and I don't do the LWML mite blessing - I think many would say that is uncouth). It really, though, when we think about it, seem odd. It seems much more odd to stop the flow of the service to focus on that old idol of cash than it does to pause to devote time to teaching children.

Yet the later raises fervor and fury among some as one of the signs of the utter decay of the Lutheran faith -- yet in nothing do we seem to borrow more from the reformed than when it comes to offering, tithing, and "stewardship" drives.

Just something to make one ponder.

Any thoughts from the Blackbirds? Have any of you had any qualms with our practice of the Offering?