Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What, then, can daunt my spirit?

While the title of this post is short on clever, it's eternally long on comfort.  Simon Dach, the author, referenced my favorite passage from Romans 8:38 - 39. There is no greater comfort than knowing that nothing can sever us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Art by Edward Riojas
Although I have not yet penned the message for my first chapel for the upcoming school year, I do know this will be one of the hymns we sing because of the temporal and eternal comfort it offers in Christ our Lord and Savior.

Through Jesus' Blood and Merit
Hymn 746 in the Lutheran Service Book

Through Jesus' blood and merit
I am at peace with God.
What, then, can daunt my spirit,
However dark my road?
My courage shall not fail me,
For God is on my side;
Though hell itself assail me,
Its rage I may deride.

There's nothing that can sever From this great love of God;
No want, no pain whatever,
No famine, peril, flood.
Though thousand foes surround me,
For slaughter mark His sheep,
They never shall confound me,
The vict'ry I shall reap.

For neither life's temptation
Nor death's most trying hour
Nor angels of high station
Nor any other pow'r,
Nor things that now are present
Nor things that are to come
Nor height, however pleasant,
Nor darkest depths of gloom

Nor any creature ever
Shall from the love of God
This ransomed sinner sever;
For in my Savior's blood
This love has its foundation;
God hears my faithful prayer
And long before creation
Named me His child and heir.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Is knowledge a mountain stream or a pump-filled ditch?

Motivating, nurturing and leading students to discover and understand the difference between these two attitudes concerning knowledge is every teacher’s arduous, yet worthy, goal.

“The difference between the pupil who works for himself and the one who works only when he is driven is too obvious to need explanation. The one is a free agent, the other is a machine. The former is attracted by his work, and, prompted by his interest, he works on until he meets some overwhelming difficulty or reaches the end of his task. The latter moves only when he is urged. He sees what is shown him, he hears what he is told, advances when his teacher leads, and stops just where and when the teacher stops. The one moves by his own activities, and the other by borrowed impulse. The former is a mountain stream fed by living springs, the latter a ditch filled from a pump worked by another’s hands.” –Dr. Milton Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching

Monday, June 8, 2015

Luther on card-playing, singing, dancing and... reading

Replace "card-playing, singing and dancing" with travel soccer, baseball and gaming, and Luther's concerns still abound.  
I wonder if the parents who spend the time, energy and money on getting li'l Franklin to his U-8 weekend soccer tournament in AcresonAcresofSoccerFields, Ohio, spend the same amount of time, energy and money on li'l Franklin's access to books, stories and human laps on which he can sit and listen to more books and stories.

"If we take so much time and trouble to teach children card-playing, singing, and dancing, why do we not take as much time to teach them reading and other disciplines while they are young and have the time, and are apt and eager to learn? For my part if I had children and could manage it, I would have them study not only languages and history, but also singing and music together with the whole of mathematics.  For what is all this but mere child’s play? The ancient Greeks trained their children in these disciplines; yet they grew up to be people of wondrous ability, subsequently fit for everything. How I regret now that I did not read more poets and historians, and that no one taught me them! Instead, I was obliged to read at great cost, toil, and detriment to myself, that devil's dung, the philosophers and sophists, from which I have all I can do to purge myself."   - Luther

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Gospel Trifecta

So American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.  In order to complete the prestigious Triple Crown, American Pharoah must now win the Belmont Stakes. 

For my last chapel of the year I arranged a Gospel trifecta around the truth that our sins are forever removed through Christ's atoning sacrifice.

The text
I John 2:1  "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

The hymn
1st and 2nd graders from St. Peter, Macomb sang: "The King of Love my Shepherd Is"
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine forever.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

The chapel's closing quote
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!' ”  - Martin Luther

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Ugly, The Bad, and the Good in Good Shepherd Sermons

He has risen.
He has risen indeed.

In many churches this past Lord's Day the sermons, texts and hymns all revolved around preaching and teaching Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The text pastors used to feed their flocks was John 10:11-18.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Here are some very good, Good Shepherd Sunday sermons where the pastors preach
the ugly - our wretched, sinful condition,
the bad - our inability to do anything about it,
and the good - as in the Good Shepherd whose atoning sacrifice delivers to His flock forgiveness and life eternal.

Monday, January 26, 2015

National Lutheran Schools Week: Part One

Today begins National Lutheran Schools Week. Thanks be to God, I have been a Lutheran teacher for twenty-nine years.  Celebrating Lutheran Schools means sharing, promoting and teaching Christ's redemptive work on the cross. This year's theme is Standing in Christ, Serving others.  Mercy Forever.

It's a privilege and  blessing to teach the young men and women sitting in my classes.  Teaching in a Lutheran school means that while I am in the midst of teaching Shakespeare's Macbeth, I can also allude to this Higher Things devotion from Rev. Cwirla.
Sin has left its mark on you - on your soul, your body, your mind, your psyche, your robes.  The damned spot of Adam, the original sin and the origin of all sins - your lies, your immoralities, your blasphemies, your idolatries, your greed, your coveting, your murders, your disobedience, insolence, arrogance, hatred - there’s no covering them up.  They have all left a mark on you. You have blood on your hands.  You search in this world for something that will wash that damned spot of sin away- drugs, alcohol, religion.  You discover the terrible truth of Lady Macbeth.  That damned spot doesn’t go away, no matter how hard you try.  Your prayers and pieties won’t do it.  Your guilt and shame won’t wash it away.  The smell of sin is on you and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten it.  And then you hear Jesus say, “I am coming soon, bringing my recompense to reward everyone for what he has done.”  So now what?
Not only do I have the blessed opportunity to share Shakespeare's literary treasures, I can also use those as launching pads into the eternal treasures of forgiveness, grace, mercy and salvation that are ours through Christ's death and resurrection.
The Spirit and the Church, say “Come.”  You are invited.  Come.  Come, you sinners, poor, broken, needy.  Come, young and old, torn by guilt and shame.  There is living water to refresh you here, cleansing blood to wash away that damned spot.  Flush it down the drain of your Baptism together with the old Adam and all his sinful desires and deeds.  Let Jesus deal with it.  He already has.  Come, drink of that stream of forgiveness that flows from His cross to you.  Come the church, God’s inn of mercy.  Come to the ministry of forgiveness and healing, to your fellow priests clothed in Christ.  Come, sons and daughters of Adam, no matter how great your sin, no matter how deep the stain, it’s all washed away by the slain Lamb who lives and reigns.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reading Buddy Basketball Night

Each month seniors from my AP Lit class meet with my wife's 2nd grade students from St. Peter, Macomb to read and write books. During one of our recent meetings, students read Eric Carle books and then wrote and illustrated their own Eric Carle-esque creations.


Another event that does not involve reading, but lots of fun and laughter is Buddy Basketball Night.  My students invite their reading buddies to a girls' basketball game. They sit with each other, eat lots of snacks and at halftime participate in the always intense uniform relay race. 

Galloping out of the corral for this year's Buddy Basketball night was Lutheran North's mascot, Marty the Mustang.  Marty cheered for the buddies and then posed for buddy pictures preserving a fantastic night.

A unique dimension to this year's Reading Buddies is that twelve of the second grade parents are Lutheran North alumni.  It's a unique blessing to see my former students return to Lutheran North with their families and walk the hallways of their old high school. 
It's even more important that all of these parents have selected Lutheran schools to help nurture their children's mind and more importantly, through the power of the Holy Spirit, their faith.
In his Large Catechism explanation to the Fourth Commandment, Dr. Martin Luther explains the important role parents have in their children's education:
  • For if we wish to have excellent and able persons both for civil and Church leadership, we must spare no diligence, time, or cost in teaching and educating our children, so that they may serve God and the world.  We must not think only about how we may amass money and possessions for them.  God can indeed support and make them rich without us,  as He daily does.  But for this purpose He has given us children and issued this command: we should train and govern them according to His will...Therefore, let everyone know that it is his duty, on peril of losing the divine favor, to bring up his children in the fear and knowledge of God above all things (Proverbs 1:7)  LC I 172

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Feed my sheep; not try experiments on my rats" - C.S. Lewis

"Hearing the Word of God was once a weighty phrase, corresponding to an awesome reality. Today, in the thinking of many, the whole thing can be taken care of without inconvenience or loss of time if need be, by tuning in to the “Lutheran Hour” while devoutly chewing Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way to Six Flags!"  - Rev. Dr. Kurt Marquart
Unfortunately, we convenience church into our lives. It's a perfect fit as long as we can squeeze it between Starbucks and soccer practice or a late morning's sleep and tailgating or fishing and the NFL preview show… or  __________________ and ________________. 

Recently Rev. Matt Richard posted a quote from Dr. Marquart’s article, “Liturgical Commonplaces” published in Concordia Theological Quarterly.  The quote was so intriguing it compelled me to read the entire article.

Perhaps these excerpts will whet your appetite for a feast-filled reading of Dr. Marquart’s article. 

  • Richard Wurmbrand, having noted the frequent refrain in church-bulletins that refreshments will be served after the service, asks pointedly: “Why do you not provide refreshment in the service?”
  • The idea, for instance, that the Service should be “meaningful,” that is, clear and obvious to any casual visitor who might pop in from the street is short-sightedly pragmatic.  A “service” tailored to such a misguided ideal would comprise a mélange of threadbare banalities, which even the casual visitor is likely to find unbearable after the third time – not to speak of the faithful who attend regularly for threescore years and ten. People who come to the church seeking divine truths do not expect it to be huckstered like soap or soft drinks, with mindless jingles.
  • What then shall we make of the idea that “the youth” get bored with sameness and therefore require constant innovations to keep them interested? The sentiment is well-meaning enough but is essentially misguided…In the long term, however, such an approach is bound to produce conscious or subconscious contempt for the church. Who, after all, could respect an institution which is, after two thousand years’ experience, so confused about its functions as to say, in effect: ‘Dear Children, help us! We are no longer sure about what we out to be doing.  Perhaps you might have some good ideas?’ Who could possibly take seriously the play-worship prefixed with that horrid word, ‘experimental’?