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What Luther Says

More Tales From The Spiritual Wasteland That Is The Eastern District-LCMS

I was going to say, "Thanks be to God for the blessing of churches that offer Saturday night services for those who know they won't be able to make it to church on Sunday morning!" but then we drove 40 minutes to a Lutheran church that didn't even give us Christ's gift of the Absolution!

No Absolution at a Lutheran church!?!

So much for the excessive pre-Service pronouncements of "celebrating" and "honoring" the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this month.

If you're not going to give me the Lord's Supper, then at least give me the Absolution. Instead, we were treated to a feast of false doctrine that included a "Theology of Glory" for the entree and "Vision Casting" for dessert.

For those who want to keep score at home, the word "sin" was mentioned once or twice, "Jesus" and/or "Christ" maybe only three or four times, and the word "you" and "your" was the clear winner with an easy 50+ mentions throughout the sermon (a "sermon" which was strange Fill-In-The-Blank activity worksheet). Seriously, it was like the Lutheran version of Joel Osteen!

I wish I was exaggerating too. I'm not. Not even one bit.

At first, I was frustrated at myself for not doing enough research before deciding to attend this church, but then I went back to their website and realized they did a phenomenal job at the old Bait-And-Switch. The online content screamed "Confessional Lutheran Church" but the reality was anything but.

Sadly, just another typical worship service here in the spiritual wasteland that is the Eastern District-LCMS. Lord, have mercy!

It's so sad what most Lutheran churches have become nowadays.

Thank God for the truly faithful pastors serving God's faithful in Christ's Church.

One such Pastor I know and respect asked me the following when he saw my comments about this on Facebook last night...

Do they do it at a time prior to the Divine Service? Confession Absolution is considered preparatory if I recall from the rubrics. Years ago, I believe it was done the day before. Perhaps not the case, in this situation, anyway, just a thought. Possibility...We always include it unless it is one of the offices...Matins, Vespers, etc.

It would have been a completely different story if this was intended to be a Compline, Evening Prayer, and/or Vespers Service. However, that was not the case, unfortunately.

Of course, I always want to try to put the best construction on things and give the benefit of the doubt at first, but this was billed as their "Traditional Service" and the order of service used is the exact same one that they will be using during Sunday morning's "Traditional Service" too!

The weirdest thing is that they even listed "Confession and Absolution" on the printout, but then when we got there...nothing! Nothing on the two big projector screens either (and churches like these always make sure they put the "important stuff" up on the projector screens).

In hindsight, I should've known we were in uncharted waters when this Lutheran Pastor opened the so-called "Divine Service" with his own version of Joel Osteen's "This Is My Bible..." introduction, which even caused my 12-year-old son to give me a side glance that he too knew something strange was up.

Later, when I got home, I had a chance to read through the church bulletin and noticed that the current "All-Church Study" was a multi-week series on "The Miracle of Mercy" by none other than Rick Warren. Ok, now it all made perfect sense.

Even so, is it too much to ask that our Lutheran Pastors and the churches they have been called to serve to actually resemble Lutherans in their doctrine and practice, especially as we approach the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation?

For all the talk of what Martin Luther did some 500 years ago, why he did it, and why it's important for us to celebrate and honor this coming moment in history, it's like a majority of the under-shepherds in the LCMS suffer from collective spiritual amnesia.

Odd, because this is "Pastor Appreciation Month" too, which means you'd think they'd all remember their Ordination Vows made before and to God Himself that demands and expects their faithfulness and fidelity to Him and His Word and not to the whims of the flock or it's "Vision Casting" leaders.

Why do I even care about any of this?

What can a mere layman like me hope to accomplish by writing a piece like this?

Well, perhaps I can merely help to remind others of the dangers of false doctrine and practices ("a little leaven," right?). And yet, I'm sure there would be many people here in the Eastern District who would scoff at my account and my frustrations expressed today, because, after all, "Stop being so divisive and negative and join us in celebrating what we share in common at our 'Marty's Party' in a few weeks!"

"If I were to strangle someone's father and mother, wife and child, and try to choke him too, and then say 'Keep the peace, dear friend, we wish to love one another, the matter is not so important that we should be divided over it,' what would he say to me? This is what the fanatics do to Christ, the Lord, and God, the Father, and to mother church and the brethren with their rejection of God's Word while at the same time claiming it for themselves." 
-- Martin Luther

I suppose this is what happens when "Unity In Love" trumps "Unity In Faith" because of the erroneous belief that it's about "Deeds Not Creeds" or that "Doctrine Divides" (like that's a "bad" thing somehow) and is "unloving" when it should be precisely what leads us to unity in the Body of Christ in the first place.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Yes, doctrine matters! Why?

"The church does not depend on power, social prestige, rhetorical manipulation, or human-designed programs. All it has are the Word and Sacraments, which, though they seem weak to the world and to all theologies of glory, in fact carry the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit." 
-- Gene Edward Veith, Jr. (The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals, p. 103)

Yes, faithfulness to doctrine matters!

So, let us pray that Pastors and God's people, as they are found in their various God-given vocations, would remain steadfast and true to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Luther once famously said...

"The dog is a picture of the preacher in whom there is watchfulness and faithfulness. He is on guard by day and night, watching and barking. A dog is a faithful animal."

This is most certainly true.

Now if we could only get Pastors to believe (or rediscover) it as well.

We should want our Pastors to be the "watching and barking" dog or "a faithful animal" rather than a "a dog that returns to his vomit" or "a fool who repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11) by thinking that man's ways, man's doctrine and practices, are somehow better than the Lord's.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, these tales from the spiritual wasteland that is the Eastern District-LCMS make my heart yearn for my grandfather's church now more than ever.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 4 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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