That’s the Way it Is…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2015 by Country Preacher

Whenever the church leadership comes up with policies that are “good for the church”, it seems inevitable that they will fall most heavily on the pastors (although, the church leaders themselves manage to avoid bearing the burden. Funny, that.)

From Elijah, to Chrysostom, the pattern is the same. The troubler of Israel, the faithful preacher is driven out for the comfort of those at the top. Luther notes how miserably most pastors live in his own day – A sign of how much the Word of God is despised. And Jesus says that the faithful will be killed by those in the church who think they are doing service to God by their actions.

In our own day we have Candidate Status – the very word is enough to make the palms of faithful pastors sweat. But, we are assured, we need such things. It’s really for the good of the church. Toss another pastor into the woodchopper, and move along, there’s nothing to see here. Just making the church gooder.

So, why do it? Why do men even bother to enter the holy ministry? Well, most aren’t told of the cost before they enter. Never discount the power of misinformation. We study the parts of scripture about Sacraments and Justification. We skip the parts about “if they hate you, know that they hated me first.” And while we tell them that they will suffer, we might skip the bit about who is causing the suffering. (Robert Preus was a confessor who saw his reputation destroyed by the very church that he served and spent years protecting from wolves. Today he is celebrated. His tomb has been carefully whitewashed. Good job, everyone.)

But the more fundamental reason is that sometimes, very occasionally, we get to speak the Word of God to someone. And they listen. They hear and believe the word. There’s nothing else like it in the world. In fact, speaking the Word of God is so awesomely amazing, that it’s even quite the privilege when they don’t believe it – in some ways, even more so.

And through it all, we have the promise that Christ will take the burden from us. That’s not always easy to see when we are being death marched into the wilderness, Chrysostom style, or weeping and in a fetal position in the desert praying for death like Elijah. (And remember, that happened right after the victory over the prophets of Baal.) But the promise is good. Jesus says that the moments when we are ‘gooded’ the most, are the moments we should rejoice. And some days, when church leaders are out there doing their best to make things better for us, that’s all we have. But it’s enough. Satis est, as our confessions say in a different context. Or, as the Blessed Reformator said, (who knew a little something about the help afforded by church leadership) “let these all be gone. They yet have nothing won.” Or, as Jesus himself reminds us, shortly before he was shown some real hospitality by the esteemed churchman of his own day, “In the world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid, I have overcome the world.”

Buy These Books.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2015 by Country Preacher

It’s a sale so big, it has people saying, “Affordable books from CPH???” And, as a public service, I got up early for the CPH warehouse sale so you don’t have to. I also went through the entire listing of academic resources. That’s right, I looked at every book on both pages. And here are the ones you need, if you don’t have them:

Fabricated Luther. Enough with the Nazi’s already. Almost Half off!

Also, Robert Preus (53% off!), Robert Preus (62% off!), and Robert Preus (59% off!).

All four books, only $56. And if you’d rather let Indiana Jones fight the Nazi’s, you can get Preus’s Lord of the Scripture Trilogy for only $36. (Plus S&H. We must never forget the S&H…)

So, if you’re wondering what Orthodoxy sounds like when it’s done right. Order up some Preus. Or Preus. Or Preus. You, your congregation, and the wider church will be glad you did.

Pruning Like a Wild Boar

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2015 by Country Preacher

In seminary we were told at least once a week, do not to go into a congregation “Like a bull in a China shop.” Well, Mythbusters proved that a bull in a China shop can actually be quite agile. Myth Busted.

The professors never warned against pruning vines like a wild boar. Of course, that’s not really a saying. But our Lord compares the church to a vineyard. He is the vine, we are the branches. And he prunes the branches (us) so that they (we) bear more fruit. Not necessarily a painless process, but a necessary one.

When the anti-Christ excommunicated Luther (Wait, that can’t be right…) he referred to the church as a vineyard, suggesting that Luther was a wild boar that threatened the vine. Of course, Luther (who was the angel with the pure and everlasting Gospel, prophesied in Revelation) was/is no threat to Christ’s church. He was just sent to reform – that is, to prune things a bit, and get rid of some dead wood.

October reminds us that the church is always in need of Reforming. I don’t claim Luther-like powers to understand the Gospel or to teach it. But, like the Wild Boar of old, I try to do my part, ham-fisted though it may be.

So the ForestBoar returns to the blogging vineyard. And, with the grace and elegance one might expect of such a delicate creature, I will once again ‘prune the hedges of many small villages’. (Bonus points if you know the 80’s movie that came from.)

Not to Generalize

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 by Country Preacher

The Lutheran Church has been called “The Singing Church” since the days of Martin Luther himself. We sing. It’s what we do. A trained Lutheran organist is ready for this. I have worked with organists from many different “faith traditions.” The only ones who know how to lead a congregation in singing are the ones who have been trained as Lutheran organists. I have even worked with professional organists who have played on some of the most magnificent pipe organs the world has to offer, and they can rock the organ in ways I can’t even imagine or comprehend. But when it comes to playing the Divine Liturgy (page 15/184) and leading congregational singing, I promise you that Gramda Schmidt on the ol’ Wurlitzer knows a whole lot more about it than they do.
Lutherans sing. And if you aren’t ready for that, your years playing the organ at First church of generic protestantism, or Our Lady of Perpetual Mumbles will not prepare you to play our service well. It just won’t. Which I why I so very much love and appreciate having two organists born and raised in the Lutheran Church. They just know how it’s done. I miss them when they are on vacation, and am always happy to see them when they return.

Conducting Public Worship – An exercise in Nostalgia

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 by Country Preacher

Two decades before anyone had ever heard of “Worship Wars”, Charles Merrill Smith wrote what is arguably the best book on practical pastoral practice.  (I would have said pastoral theology, but his book is more a look at the theology your people hold dear, than what God’s Word actually says.)

In his chapter on Worship (the title of which is also the title of this post) he explains how to pick “good” hymns.  The philosophy espoused in his book is the driving force behind the so-called “contemporary worship movement.”  I offer a snippet here, his take on “In the Garden” (After the jump).  The whole book is available for free download HERE. Continue reading

Requiescat in Pace

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2011 by Country Preacher

Harold Steeley, longtime member of Trinity Lutheran Church, was called to glory on Annunciation Day, 2011. He was a man who did his duty, fulfilled his vocation, and was faithful to God and his word.
I don’t think a Christian can have a better epitaph than that.

End of an Era

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 by Country Preacher

For a glorious decade  and a half, Pixar was the go-to studio for movies that didn’t stink.  Fun, wholesome, family entertainment that, as often as not, espoused good Lutheran themes. (Vocation, anyone?)  And, most importantly for my wife and I, no potty jokes.  Even otherwise good movies from Disney apparently needed an entirely extraneous unnecessary scatological joke.  (We almost didn’t buy the otherwise delightful Enchanted because of one)  At a certain point, Dreamworks movies were simply off limits to the children.  They reveled in such humor. (Shrek is just not for children.)  Not Pixar.  Clean, wholesome fun for the family, time and again.

The era is over.  Pixar is now planning only sequels to previous films, rather than original movies.  And Cars 2 has the obligatory bathroom joke.  This one so inappropriate that if it were live action, it would immediately garner a PG rating.   And it is included in the trailer.  That’s right, they are leading with it.  They think it’s one of the best parts of the movie.

RIP Pixar.  We will miss you.