Sunday, September 28, 2008
I also experienced for the first time the abstergent nature of private Confession during my time in North Dakota, which served to exuviate the guilt of my sin. The pastor to whom I confessed, a fubsy, olid, somewhat griseous man wearing a nitid, cruciform periapt, pronounced sin a malison, a collection of recrement. He then spoke the words of absolution to me, which served as a roborant. He also attempted to vaticinate regarding the end times, but his words lacked fatidical conviction.
For an explanation, read this: http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2008/09/dying-words-contest.html?ext-ref=comm-sub-email
Thursday, September 25, 2008
What five people, past or present, inspire your spiritual life? (From what I hear, the initial instructions for this meme say that Jesus is assumed and doesn't need to be listed. Luther also is if you are a Lutheran. ) These come in no particular order after the first one.
1. The Rev. Kim L. Scharff, my vicarage Bishop. He doesn't blog, and he barely participates online. However, he has been and continues to be a profound influence on my spiritual life. I was a somewhat lukewarm Lutheran before I started my vicarage. Under his tutelage, I found myself caring about theology, caring about liturgy, caring about something more than generic spirituality.
2. The Orthodox priest formerly known as the Rev. Dr. C. Robb Hogg--now known, I believe, as Fr. Gregory Hogg. Though I will never follow him across the Bosphorus into "Orthodoxy", Dr. Hogg as one of my seminary professors first kindled in me an interest beyond a vague curiosity in the Lutheran Confessions. It saddens me that he has since abandoned the confession that he defended so competently, and that he led so many away with him. However, I still have my notes from Confessions I, and I hope never to lose them.
3. The Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil. I've never had him as a professor, but his book Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness has had a profound influence on my life. I read this book at the same time that I was first reading Franz Pieper's Christian Dogmatics, and the fact that he made the faith so profoundly simple influenced my preaching and teaching as a pastor.
4. The Rev. John T. Pless. Another man I've never had as a professor, but his writings have had a significant influence on me. His focus on liturgy and pastoral care (and liturgy as pastoral care) has guided me as a parish pastor. (And I ask that no one blame him for my failures.) When I was a single man convinced that I would remain a single man, he encouraged me to believe that it would not stunt my ability to be a pastor to married people.
5. Deaconess Emily Carder. She drives me absolutely nuts sometimes. When we first encountered each other I wanted to smack her upside the head--maybe literally. However, she forced me to look deeper into things, to examine more closely what I was saying and the implications of what lurks beneath the surface of my words. Still drives me nuts, but I have a great deal of respect for her. And I wish I knew my languages as well as she does.
Honorable Mention: the Rev. Eric Swyres, the Rev. Drew Newman, the Rev. Dr. John Stephenson (though I ask you not to tell him--his head is already big enough), the Rev. Thomas K. Spahn (who was the first to instill in me a love for the liturgy).
I won't tag anyone, but feel free to share.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christians hear those words a lot. Like myself, many pastors do begin their sermons—not to mention their newsletter articles and all correspondence with their congregations—with the words, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." After all, if it's good enough for the Apostle Paul, it certainly must be a salutary greeting between Christians, especially when a pastor communicates with the people he has been Called to serve.
There is something a little deeper behind this seemingly innocuous greeting, however. In our text, Paul lauds the church in Corinth for its faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the church in Corinth is not without its problems. Because of their faithfulness, they have become complacent and even arrogant in their faithfulness. The church itself has divisions and factions. If you read on through the rest of this epistle, Paul takes the congregation in Corinth to task for a number of things: a laxity in church discipline, tolerance of sexual immorality, the tendency of congregation members to bring civil law suits against each other, and—dare I say it?—a tendency to practice open communion, inviting the uncatechized and the unreprentant to receive the body and blood of Christ to their judgment.
With all these problems, you might expect Paul to open his letter with a scathing rebuke of the people. But Paul is their pastor. Yes, it's his job to lead God's people to the truth of the Word, and he would do them no favor by letting them remain in their sin. However, he is also Called to preach the Gospel to them. He is Called as their pastor to love them with Christ's love. And he does precisely that.
Even with all the problems this congregation is struggling with, Paul says, "I thank my God always concerning you." And he does this in quite a few of the Epistles we have recorded in the New Testament. We should always be thankful to God for the brothers and sisters we havein Christ. This is not always the easiest example to follow. We in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod should understand that very well. We are a body divided. We don't agree on what hymns should be in our hymnals, how we should interact with those Christians around us with whom we have doctrinal differences, where our mission money should be focused. And even at the congregational level, the fight is fierce. If you'll forgive me for saying so, look at how deeply the lines are drawn in this congregation between those who want one service on Sunday and those who want two services on Sunday. I'm not your Called pastor, I'm not a member here, and I don't make it a habit of talking to Mt. Olive's membership when I'm not here; and yet even I can see it. But it's not just here, of course. Every congregation has its disagreements. And when we Christians fight, we tend to "lose our religion". Disagreements between Christians often turn ugly. The Eighth Commandment? Throw it out the window! Matthew 18? Why would I speak to my brother who I feel is sinning against me when I can tell fifty of my closest friends? We call each other hypocrites. We assume the very worst about the people with whom we disagree. And then we threaten to stop coming to worship altogether or leave the congregation entirely if our way isn't found to be the "right" way. Even in the most faithful of congregations, we allow disagreements to divide us, distract us, and turn us away from what our Lord Jesus calls "the one thing needful".
Paul calls the congregation at Corinth—and us—back to this one needful thing, reminding us of what unites us. He names us, "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." This is creedal language. This brings us back to the Apostles' Creed, where we confess, "I believe in the holy Christian Church, [which is] the Communion of saints." We first confess in the Creed who God is and what He has done, and then we confess what we are through Christ: the communion of saints, the body of Christ, God's holy people.
As we see in how Paul greets the congregation in Corinth, it begins with grace. It begins with God giving us life, with Christ giving us new life, with the Spirit granting us faith as we live that new life. Without these gifts, without this grace, we have nothing and we are nothing. The grace of God is not something we have earned or were born with or have made for ourselves. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died in our place, and He rose again so that we would rise with Him and so that we would receive all the blessings and benefits God has for us.
Once that grace has been applied to us, peace follows it. In Baptism we are made children of God. When we speak of ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ, this is no hyperbole, no metaphor. We truly are brothers and sisters in Christ. And because we are family, we should treat each other as family. The people in the pews around you and in the Church at large are not enemies to be overcome, no matter how much we may disagree with them. No—they are brothers and sisters in Christ, family to be loved fiercely, forgiven freely, and, yes, sometimes endured patiently. We bring our Christian siblings before the Lord in prayer, thanking God for them, no matter how much we may disagree with them. We thank God that He has loved our brother in Christ, that He has died for our sister in Christ, that He has made our brothers and sisters in Christ His own through Holy Baptism, that He forgives their sins with the Word of Holy Absolution, that He feeds them in the Holy Supper. That grace from God is the source of the peace we share with each other. Because Christ has brought us to reconciliation with the Father, we are now also reconciled to each other—no matter how often we feel worship should be offered each Sunday.
And now, because it begins with grace, let us end the sermon with grace, and see what follows behind. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (+) and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I'm preaching this Sunday on the epistle for Trinity 18 in the one-year lectionary, which is I Corinthians 1:(1-3) 4-9. Looking at v. 4 in his commentary in the Concordia Commentary series Father Lockwood says, "Faced by the host of problems in the Corinthian congregation, Paul might naturally be expected to begin on a note of complaint. But he takes care not to let the abundant abberations loom so large in his mind that they sour his relationship with the church and make him lose sight of the far more abundant grace of God. As their faithful apostle, pastor, and intercessor, he first assures the Corinthians that he always thanks God for them (p.34)."
Taking this a step further, we should first always thank God for each other as members of the Holy Catholic Church, (which is) the Communion of Saints. If we did so, it would help our conflicts to be less bitter and our resolutions all the more joyful.
Thanks be to God for faithful pastors, and thanks be to God for such a faithful commentary to remind us of what we already know in our hearts to be true.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I've also, unfortunately, seen some of the worst. As far as I can tell, we haven't had the wide-spread looting that followed Katrina. However, I've been first-hand witness to racism, political maneuvering, and blame shifting as a result of events that happened during and after the storm. It's always sad to see what fallen man can bring forth--even in the best of circumstances, but especially in the worst of circumstances.
I'm not saying anything new or profound, of course. We all know that we are sinners by nature, fallen. It's just . . . it's so disappointing to witness the depths to which we can sink when there is so much good God gives us to do.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Hi all! I just wanted to let you know that the Kornacki family is safe and sound. The storm, which destroyed the stained glass window in the church I attend down here, otherwise left us mostly unscathed. The house I stayed in had some roofing damage and we lost power and phone/cable/Internet, but we were otherwise unaffected. Power is still out, but everything else is back.
I'll be here for at least one more full day, but I may go back on Friday or Saturday. My father-in-law stopped at all our houses today, and he said there may be some shingle damage, but the houses are otherwise fine. Power is still out in both Morgan City and Amelia. Water is also out in Morgan City. If I go back, I'd probably sleep at the Rec or at my in-laws' house and spend some time each day doing some cleanup at our house. Meanwhile, we've got some people sleeping at the Rec at night, so I'll be able to monitor that.
Thank you for your kind words and prayers.