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Inside this issue:
• Face to Face • I Am a Sinner • When A Loved One Dies
W W W. H I G H E RT H I N G S . O R G
/ WINTER / 2009
Worship, Theology, and Roller Coasters… Where do I sign up?
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Join guys like you, guys who have been encouraged to consider serving the Church as a pastor. ✠ Worship together ✠ Study together ✠ Play together
For more information about Christ Academy, please call us at 1-800-481-2155. You can also find information at the seminary’s Web site www.ctsfw.edu/christacademy or e-mail email@example.com
June 20–July 3, 2010 Theme: "Evangelical Responses to Non-Christian Religions" Featuring: "Ministry in a Pluralistic Context" with Dr. Douglas Rutt and Dr. Adam Francisco.
Students will explore how to present and defend the faith "with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)" during a day-trip to Chicago where we will visit the Baha'i temple, a mosque, and a modern Jewish synagogue.
Concordia Theological Seminary ✠ 6600 N. Clinton St. ✠ Fort Wayne, IN 46825
Contents T A B L E
Me and JSB
By Mrs. Katie Schuermann A long time ago in a land far, far away, before Lady Gaga and Kanye West, people listened to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. And, as it turns out, Bach’s music is still loved by Lutherans today. Mrs. Schuermann is dropping the beat with Bach, and you just might want to also.
Your Pastor Is a Nerd
By Rev. Hans Fiene It’s true.You know it is.Your pastor is a nerd. He’s always saying things that are goofy, acting silly, dressing funny, and, well, just plain reveling in his extreme nerdery. How’s a kid supposed to deal with that? Speaking as a nerdy pastor who knows, Pastor Fiene is going on the record about the dark side of pastoral nerdery.
How to Date Like a Normal Person
By Mrs. Jeni Miller If you’re a Lutheran teenager with a pulse, you’ve probably realized that there are members of the opposite sex in this world . . . and that they’re fun and even sometimes cute. So, what’s next? Do your parents pick your spouse? Do you have six boyfriends at once? What a teen to do? Mrs. Jeni Miller went on a date or two in her life before meeting her husband, and she’s ready to give some advice.
10 Are Christians a Tribe or Are We a Nation?
By Rev. James Hageman Being in the body of Christ can sometimes be hard to define. Are we part of a special group of people cut out of the exact same theological cloth? Or are we a nation, a big group of random people all united under the banner of Christendom? Pastor Hageman has an answer, and you might be surprised at his conclusion.
12 Face to Face
By Mr. James Lee Roman Catholics pray to Mary.The Reformed practically refuse to acknowledge her. And Lutherans are right in between. Mr. Lee takes us back to Luther who sliced and diced his way through the arguments of how exactly we should view Mary. Saint? Sinner? Yes.
14 It’s a Problem
By Mr. John Pawlitz Why are we here? You’ve probably had a science teacher or two who said that (a) the world was most certainly not created in a week and (b) evolutionary theory is the only logical explanation for the world’s existence. Mr. Pawlitz recommends something a little different, that we view creation in light of its Creator, and it makes all the difference!
Volume 9/Number 4 • Winter 2009
19 Afraid of the Dark
By Mr. Nicholai Stuckwisch What is it about the dark that makes it so creepy? Let’s face it: it’s a little unsettling. But what’s even scarier is the thought of life apart from Christ. Mr. Stuckwisch explains why there’s no need to be afraid of the dark when the Light of the World is there to guide you.
20 Grace Alone
By Rev. Todd Peperkorn Zombie. Noun. Walking dead. A person that resembles someone who is emotionless and painless.Me. You. Wait. What? Who just called you a zombie? We did.That’s right. Without Christ, you are dead in your sins. But, Pastor Peperkorn is quick to note, God has given you grace through Jesus’ death on the cross. No more dead man walking for you!
24 The Good Calling
By Rev. Heath Curtis As young men, you’re under a lot of pressure to choose a college, a career, a first job. But hold up one second. As Lutherans, we are not do-ers. We are receivers. Pastor Curtis wants you to know that God, in His good time, chooses these things for us. And, believe it or not, He may just give you the blessing of marriage and a family! See? That choice wasn’t so hard after all.
26 Can’t Fool Me
By Mrs. Rebekah Curtis Raise your hand if you think women are no different than men. What? No takers? You’re right. And so is Mrs. Curtis who’s about to tell you what makes women unique and why their vocation in life is so different from that of men.
22 When a Loved One Dies
by Mrs. Christine Mons College is already a difficult time. But, for some students, it's compounded by the loss of a friend, parent, or sibling. If you or someone you know has experienced this kind of great loss, Mrs. Mons' article will give you and them comfort and hope in Christ.
28 I Am a Sinner
Rev. David Petersen We’ve got good news and bad news.The bad news is that we’re sinners, and because of that, we never love God with our whole heart.The good news? We are forgiven sinners who live by and through grace, and Rev. Petersen fills you in on why.
Volume 9/Number 4/Winter 2009
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Me and JSB By Katie Schuermann
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It wasn’t love at first sight by any means. We had very little in common at that point. I wore my hair long and straight; he wore a white, curly wig. I enjoyed jogging and lifting weights; he was kind of roly-poly. I was in my late teens; he had been dead for over two hundred years. I grew up in the middle of a cornfield.The nearest stoplight was three towns away, and my family drove thirty minutes just to shop for groceries. I happily spent my summers climbing trees, chasing kittens, swinging from a rope in our barn, and baking bread for the county 4-H fair. If someone had told me back then I would eventually grow up to sing German Lutheran music with a professional orchestra, I would have laughed before jumping on my bike and peddling away. My high school was so small that it did not even have a choir. We were all given a chance to join the concert band, so I spent a few months agonizing over whether to play the saxophone or the drums. One drum set and several pairs of sticks later, I decided to go to college and major in singing. It was there that I first met Johann Sebastian Bach. I might not have even noticed him, except my music history teacher mentioned in passing that he was Lutheran. My ears perked up instantly.Really? A Lutheran composer? As one of only about three Lutherans attending a Methodist college at that time, I had often felt in the minority. Here I was, a hymn-singing, catechism-wielding gal swimming in a sea of hand-lifting evangelicals. I was pretty sure I might have been the only student on campus who knew what a sacrament was. I wondered if this Bach guy ever felt like the only Lutheran in town. I felt an instant bond with him. Bach and I started to get to know each other slowly. I began noticing his name in the hymnal and on pieces of music my choir conductor handed out. His music was difficult to sing, so Bach and I had to spend a lot of time in the practice room together. I am not sure what he thought of me and my country charm, but I found him to be a real taskmaster. I really began to dig his music. It was complex and never boring. I liked that once I learned a line from his music, it would pop in my head whenever I brushed my teeth. Trying to learn more about him, I read about his life in the Baroque period. He played the organ so well many people considered him to be the best player in all of Germany, if not Europe. In fact, his music was so important, the Baroque period ended the very year that he died. Even Michael Jackson can’t claim that kind of fame!
Do you know what impresses me the most though? With all of Bach’s talents and gifts, he sought no glory and fame for himself.You would never see him on any American Idol search today. Instead, Bach spent his career serving the Church, writing music for Sunday services, funerals, weddings, and special feast days. He believed that music should be written for nothing other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit. In fact, Bach often wrote the prayer “Jesus, help” at the beginning of his compositions and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God be the Glory) at the end. Bach was an orthodox Lutheran through and through. His personal library of theology books was as extensive as any pastor’s, and he kept adding to it until he died. I felt a special kinship with Bach when I learned that his community pressured him to join in with the pietists, a group of people who believed that faith in Christ was based on an internal feeling and a personal experience. I had felt similar pressures from friends at my Methodist college. Bach did not give into pietism though. Instead, he grounded himself in the liturgical life of the Church and took comfort in the clear, solid, reassuring fact of his Baptism. His knew his salvation depended on the atoning work of Christ alone, not on any particular feeling in his stomach. I still run into Bach every once in awhile these days. Sometimes I meet him on a page of music when I perform with various choirs. Sometimes I get to talk about him with my college students in music appreciation classes. I even got a chance to travel to Leipzig, Germany, not too long ago to see his grave. I am sure he was embarrassed by the fuss I made. Bach has been a sure friend, teacher, and companion to me over the years. I can always count on him to remind me of who I am in Christ, and his music never fails to refresh my spirit. He is definitely one of the guys I am most looking forward to seeing in heaven. I just hope he doesn’t hold all of my wrong notes against me. If he does, I’m just going to have to tease him about his hair. Mrs. Katie Schuermann currently lives in Texas with her husband who is on vicarage from Concordia Theological Seminary. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Your pastor is a nerd. H I G H E R
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By Rev. Hans W. Fiene
Now, I’m not 100 percent entirely certain about this. I wouldn’t swear to it in a court of law. But, based on many years of observing myself and other pastors, as certain as I am that your pastor went to a Lutheran seminary in St. Louis or Fort Wayne and as certain as I am that your pastor wears black socks on Sunday morning, I’m just about as certain that your pastor is a nerd. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In all reality, it’s most often a good thing for your pastor to be a nerd. Nerds are often avid readers who excel in their specific area of training. And this is good. You want a pastor who knows who’s who and what’s what on every page of the Bible and who can spend all day quoting the Word of God from memory with the same skill that enables nerds of other varieties to rattle off endless, memorized quotes from Napoleon Dynamite or Star Wars. But while there are many great things about having your pastor be a nerd, there is also a dark side to pastor nerdery—that dark side being an overwhelming desire to be seen as quite the opposite of a nerd. And, unfortunately, when pastors give into the dark side of their nerdery, they do it in the worst way possible: by trying to show the youth of the congregation how awesome they are. Whether it was your pastor or someone else’s, you’ve probably witnessed this before.You’ve probably shuffled nervously in your seat as a called and ordained servant of the Word unleashed supposedly hip words and phrases that you vaguely recall using yourself about five years ago.You’ve probably cringed in embarrassment as he made reference to some pop culture thing of your generation that you’re pretty sure he just learned about through the power of Wikipedia four days before. In all of this, you’ve probably thought to yourself,“Uh, if this is what it means to be a Christian, I think I want out.” And whenever such a thought is thunk, you’ve just witnessed the great tragedy of a pastor making the Gospel seem quite lame in his attempts to be cool. So, what’s a teenager to do when he witnesses his pastor giving into the dark side of nerdery? What’s a youth to do when she worries that her shepherd might be scandalizing the faith of his younger sheep? Well, as it turns out, there is much we can learn by looking to Scripture’s chief of sinners and chief of nerds: the apostle Paul.
There is no doubt that Paul was a giant nerd. Based upon his own words, it’s very easy to picture him back in his days as Saul the Student, perhaps having skipped several grades of Pharisee school, never failing to raise his hand to answer every question, and always making certain he got the best grade on every exam.“And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people,” he says in Galatians 1:13,“so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” And yet, when Paul reveals this about himself, he doesn’t do what you might expect a nerd pastor to do. Prefacing the above Scripture verse, Paul states,“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). And through these words, Paul reveals that he isn’t listing his accomplishments of intelligence and zeal because he wants to wow people with his awesomeness. Instead, he’s listing those same accomplishments to reveal the great mercy of God in Christ Jesus, to reveal the great love of a Savior who could forgive a sinner as great as Paul, even using him to serve and build Christ’s Church. Here in these words, Paul shows us that, if a nerd pastor wants to avoid scandalizing the Gospel by giving into the dark side of his nerdery, the greatest way he can do this is simply by preaching the Gospel, by forgetting himself and focusing on Jesus Christ and His mercy. And so, if ever you see your pastor making the faith look stupid while giving in to the dark side of nerdery, don’t just roll your eyes and leave it at that. Remind him of what he should be doing. Remind him of what that nerd apostle did. Remind him that he never needs to impress you with anything other than how greatly God loved you through the pierced hands and feet of His Son.Tell him that, even if he doesn’t know what music you listen to or what you think is funny, he’ll still be the awesomest, coolest, best pastor you could have whenever he tells you that your sins are forgiven in the blood of Christ. And, if ever you tell that to your pastor, you can say it in good conscience because it’s true.The pastor who preaches Christ is always the awesomest, coolest, best pastor there is. Even if he’s a big nerd. Which your pastor is. Probably. Rev. Hans Fiene is pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado. Contact him at email@example.com.
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How to Date Like a Normal Person By Jeni Miller
e sinners are great at making our own lives and other people’s lives pretty difficult. Because of sin, people are just plain difficult. Bring two people together—especially when they’re of the opposite sex—and you might as well update your Facebook relationship option to say “It’s Complicated.” Challenges in relationships are sometimes enough to make us girls want to quit, vowing to wear a “Jesus Is My Boyfriend”T-shirt and get on with life. (Okay, forget that T-shirt and its horrible theology.) And the guys? They can head off to the nearest monastery and check in as a monk. Thanks but no thanks.
Take heart! No matter what Facebook thinks, it is possible to be in a happy, God-approved relationship and still be a normal person. In fact, a healthy relationship is a fabulous way to continue learning all the ins and outs of living the Christian life. Still not sure? Take our quiz to find out just how much you know about relationships and why in the world God would care about our love lives.
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1) Should I be dating right now? a) No way. Nothing good will come of it. Wait until you’re married. b) Yes.You have to . . . right now. Celebrities are dating all the time, and they should be role models for everything you do. Put down this article, forsake your homework, and go. c) Not necessarily. (There is no command to start dating, but these are just things to consider when you do.Your situation, age, and parents will help you in making that decision.) 2) Is there a point to dating? a) Nope. Why torture yourself by spending all your time hanging out with just one person? Besides, you should focus all of your time and energy on Jesus. b) It doesn’t matter.The point is to date as many people as possible all the time.You need to find the person you’re going to marry . . . quickly! c) Yes, of course. It’s a great way to learn how to care for your neighbor and be cared for as well. Plus, you get to know what kinds of traits you like in the opposite sex, and that certainly can’t hurt! 3) When you’re dating someone, how much alone time should you two have together? a) None.You need to kiss dating goodbye, remember? Being alone with your boyfriend/girlfriend is wrong. b) Spend as much alone time with your boyfriend/girlfriend as you can. When you’re in a relationship, your friends just have to take the number two spot. Plus, you need to have your privacy. c) Go out on group dates pretty often. It keeps you honest and likely out of trouble! Even when you’re alone, it’s good to be alone in public places around other people. 4) Problems in your dating relationship likely stem from . . . a) Not dating Jesus. b) Guys are so confusing. They, like, totally never talk. And when they do, they change their minds every eight seconds. Plus, girls are so clingy.They get mad if their boyfriends aren’t stuck to their side like glue 24/7. And when they are mad, they won’t tell you why. c) As the brilliant author of this quiz mentioned earlier, it’s because we’re all just a bunch of sinners: unable to communicate, unable to relate to one another. Thank God Christ redeemed even our broken relationships.
5) What role should your parents, pastor, and deaconess play in your relationship? a) They should give as much advice and help as possible. In fact, my parents and pastor or deaconess can pretty much just choose who I’ll marry.That is, after all, their job. b) Ewwww.They should all back off and stay out of the relationship realm! If you have a question or need to talk, that’s what your friends are for. c) Cliché alert: Parents, pastors, and deaconesses are always there to help when needed.They are wildly underrated when it comes to how much they can comfort, guide, and care for you and your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend.They dated once upon a time. Well, probably. 6) The best example of how a serious relationship should function is . . . a) Duh, Edward and Bella.True love. It doesn’t get any better than that! b) Heidi and Spencer.They do what they want and don’t care who disapproves of their relationship as long as they are happy. c) Christ and His Church. Okay, well, for a marriage anyway. But in many ways, the same goes for two people who are dating. Ask your pastor, deaconess, or other trustworthy adult to describe this example for you! Answer Key: Okay, let’s face it.The best choice is C for all of the questions above. Entering into a dating relationship doesn’t mean that you need to flip into evangelical overdrive, acting as if you’re more Christian than Jesus.You’ve heard the phrase “Be yourself” over and over again, and that is because it still applies. Who is “yourself,” you ask? Imperfect. Problematical. Perfected. Redeemed.You know you’re a sinner; you’re reminded of it every day and hear it from the pew every week. However, you also know that you’re a saint, so now you can dwell continually on Christ’s love and forgiveness and be pleased to get to know others who are as loved and forgiven as you are. Dating is a common activity, so approach it as you would anything else in your life that matters and needs special care. Our Lord has restored your imperfect impulses and wretched relationships, making it possible for you to make nice with the opposite sex, always keeping in mind that without confession and forgiveness, we have nothing. And relationship or not, in Christ, we have everything! Jeni Miller is a recent graduate of the deaconess program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Are Christians a Tribe, or Are We a Nation? By James Hageman
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It’s a strange question and one I would not have asked if it hadn’t been for YouTube. Recently, I saw a video clip featuring Steven Pressfield.You may know him as the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire, the first of which was made into a movie starring Will Smith, and the second a part of a general interest in the battle of Thermopylae, which brought about the movie 300. He was talking about the war in Afghanistan and how we need to understand what he calls “tribalism.” He contrasted tribes with nations and tribesmen with citizens.Tribes are groups as diverse as the Pashtuns in Afghanistan, the U.S. Marines, and gangs in the inner cities.These are groups that value honor, tradition, authority, and family. Nations are modern states. Nations value freedom, diversity, democracy, and the role of the individual in society. What caught my eye is what Pressfield said about the individual in a tribe. First, a tribe gives you a sense of belonging.You are part of something bigger and more important than yourself. When you are part of a tribe you know who you are.Your identity is secure; you were born into the tribe. You also have significance. Each person is valued simply by being a member of the tribe. Contrast this with citizens in the modern state; often individuals feel they have no place.They don’t know who they are, why they matter, or even if they matter. Score one for tribalism. Nations, on the other hand, are composed of citizens.There are good things about nations. Freedom and the individual are valued. Nations gain strength from the diverse gifts and talents of their citizens, who can use those talents to better themselves and others. Nations are governed by laws that treat all fairly (as opposed to tribes, which are governed by custom and a code of honor). As I listened to this, I asked myself,“We Christians: what are we? Are we a tribe or a nation?”The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that the answer is yes.We are a tribe, and we are a nation. As a tribe, Christians belong. They know who they are, and they know that they have significance. Bible verses like “You are not your own; you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20) or “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13) teach us that we belong to God; that we were purchased from sin, death, and the power of the
devil by the blood of Christ; and that we have a place in His kingdom. We are members of the Church, the body of Christ. We know who we are.The name of God Himself— Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is placed on us in Baptism. We were born again into the family of our heavenly Father at the baptismal font. Our identity is secure in Christ. And we have significance: our lives matter.“Fear not,” Jesus says,“you are of more value than many sparrows.”We don’t need to fear the attacks of others in our world or the attacks of the devil who seek to destroy our self-worth. For our self-worth does not come from our accomplishments but from Christ’s love. Christians have all the benefits of being a tribe. But Christians are citizens of a nation too and all for the better.“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). Christ has give us freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil.“For freedom Christ has set us free,” says Paul (Galatians 5:1). God has given us talents and gifts that we can use to serve Him and one another. We are not constrained by any law, except to love one another. As Martin Luther wrote in The Freedom of a Christian, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” So, tribe and nation, tribesman and citizen: leave it to God in His wisdom to give us, His Church, the blessings and benefits of both. Rev. James Hageman is pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Glendive, Montana, and Grace Lutheran Church in Fallon, Montana. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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Face to Face By James Lee H I G H E R
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Andrea Mantegna, Madonna and Child, c.1490. Museo Poldi Pezzoli, MIlan
ithin our life in the Church, we are often brought face to face with Mary, the mother of Jesus. We encounter her in the liturgical year, especially in the seasons of Advent and Christmas, as the angel Gabriel announces that the Messiah will come from her womb. We watch as the infant John jumps within the belly of Elizabeth at the greeting of Mary who carries the One who would redeem us from our sins. We watch with Mary as Simeon takes within his hands the infant Jesus as he gives thanks to God for permitting his eyes to gaze upon the salvation of the world.
In addition to the lectionary, we come upon Mary in the Church’s iconography as she holds the infant Christ in her arms and asks all onlookers to look upon the Word made flesh. Our ears hear about her in the Church’s hymnody as we sing:“The angel Gabriel from heaven came, with wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame:‘All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored lady.’ Gloria!” (LSB 356). But what do we do with Mary? What do we think about her? As Lutherans, these questions may seem difficult to answer. We don’t pray to her or call her the “Mediatrix” like our Roman Catholic friends do. But we also don’t cast her aside as many of our Protestant friends have done. Mary is not the feminine side of God, despite what some denominations boldly and wrongly declare. But neither is she merely some woman who happened to be at the right place at the right time. So, what do we do with Mary? In order to get some help for this tough question, let’s turn to someone who always has words of guidance: Martin Luther. During his lifetime, Marian devotion had become quite exuberant. Luther, like a surgeon with a scalpel, removed much of the excess that characterized the Church’s piety, such as prayers addressed to the Virgin Mother.Yet, as a surgeon only removes the cancerous tumors and not the entire organ, so Luther only cut away the excess; he did not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Although some Marian feasts of the Church were removed, many were kept and restored to a more pristine Christ-centered celebration, where the Church gave thanks to God for using Mary as the means by which the Savior of the world made His appearance in the flesh. Even more than this, Luther sees Mary as a model for the Christian life. In a sermon on the Visitation, he writes: “It appears that Luke had a special fondness for this story, for he was so diligent with it and he portrayed the dear Virgin so well for us, and especially for the women folk . . . For he praises three special virtues, in which we should also happily apply ourselves: the first is faith, the second a very great modesty, and the third is fine and chaste conduct toward other people” (p. 47).
In this sermon and other texts, Luther elevates Mary as an example of how the Christian is to live. Nowhere is this more evident then in his preaching on the Annunciation and Visitation. When Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of God, Luther sees Mary’s response as model of faith: she holds fast to the Word of God spoken to her by His messenger.This is faith! The faith of Mary that attaches itself to the Word of God, despite the ridiculousness of the claim that a virgin will have a baby, is the faith of the Christian. She makes no claim on God’s act; it is not because of her works or merit that God chose her; instead, it is all by His grace! When Mary receives the joyous words from Elizabeth (Luke 1:42–45), she does not become proud or boastful, rather, she gives thanks to God. She praises Him for His mighty work.This is what we do as Christians. In humility, we receive God’s mighty act of salvation, and we thank Him for what He has done. Her response to the work of God (faith, humility, and thanksgiving) is the shape of the life we all live! So, when you are in church and you see or hear of Mary, give thanks to God that He sent His Son to take flesh and blood from this daughter of Eve.Thank Him that Jesus poured out His life upon the cross and rose from the grave in order to justify all of us. We can learn a great deal from Mary because, as Luther says,“The tender mother of Christ . . . teaches us, with her words and by the example of her experience, how to know, love, and praise God” (45). As it was with Mary so it is with us: we attach ourselves to God’s forgiving and life-giving Word, and with humble hearts, we give thanks and praise to our heavenly Father for our salvation that He has accomplished for us in His Son born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ. James Lee is a fourth year seminarian at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 1 All quotes are taken from: Susan C. Karant-Nunn and Merry E. Wiesner, eds. and trans., Luther on Women: A Sourcebook. European history after 1450. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 32-57.
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Itâ€™s a Problem By John Pawlitz
f you made a car, a phone, or a computer program, and it turned around and said “I exist for my own purposes,” would you be a little surprised? Much of philosophy has developed down this line of thinking, a thought process that attaches morality to existence. Believing such a thing is probably more dangerous to the doctrine of creation than evolution itself.
Back to your car. If you could get over the shock of conversing with an object, would you agree with its reasoning? You would probably argue that the object only existed to provide you with the service you created it or brought it to provide. Or you might suggest that only you, as the creator, have the right to make it act, now that it had come into existence, in any way other than what you originally intended. Now suppose the car said to you,“I will only exist in whatever way is most useful” even though it didn’t know you or want to serve you. What uses would the car have in mind for you? Or what if the phone said,“My existence serves no purpose” and refused to cooperate? Then you would no longer be able to talk or text to your friends. Or let’s suppose that a computer program no longer responded to your logic and instead tried to enjoy its existence, obeying commands or disobeying them, how it pleased.This would torment you! All of these examples show some of the problems with philosophy denying the importance of a creator (even though God did not create us to be cars, phones, or computers). When you view creations in light of a creator, then it is not their existence that matters so much as their creator. A good example of this lies in marriage. Without a creator, you should be able to exist and live however you feel like. But with a creator—especially one who intends for a man and a woman to be married—you exist (and remain) in that unity rather than in any number of other conceivable existences. This point carries in less life-changing examples.You should not talk down to others simply because of too apparent differences. However great you may be is all a related to the fact that you were created by God. After all, how would you be so wonderful if God had not first created you and provided for that possibility? And this is true, most of all, even while fulfilling necessary tasks.There is no reason to go about your duties gloating in a superior position and contemptuous of others. The acknowledgement of a creator does away with the question of why we exist. It changes the measure of human life. Existence is a foregone conclusion based on an understanding of the will of the creator. A theory that explains existence, such as evolution, makes far less of an impression. Why would we exist simply to exist however we feel like? You do not look for a theory that explains why you exist, unless you are motivated to justify what you want.This is why a factual contradiction of evolution has little force. When people want an explanation that allows for and agrees with philosophical idols, this urges more than facts or contradictions. As soon as the narrative of evolution is refuted, a new narrative arises until someone can remove the motivation for finding such an explanation. We find this not in our scientific superiority but in faith and in trust in our God. John Pawlitz graduated from Concordia University Chicago and now resides in St. Louis, Missouri. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Take and eat; this is my body. This is my blood... H I G H E R
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Given - Utah Gi
Utah State University, Logan, UT June 29â€“July 2, 2010
Check out www.given2010.org
poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
iven - Memphis
iversity of Memphis, Memphis, TN y 6â€“9, 2010 for more information!
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Information about the 2010 Higher Things Conferences
GIVEN - Utah GIVEN - Memphis
Why Higher Things?
Utah State University, Logan, UT June 29–July 2, 2010
We live in a culture of blurry religious distinctions and do-ityourself spirituality.Youth, especially, need solid ground that will nurture lasting Christian faith. Rather than treating youth as an adolescent subculture and subjecting them to experiences that cannot be replicated at home, Higher Things believes in challenging youth to learn the pure doctrine of the Christian faith. By teaching them the same message that they hear at home, youth grow in the fullness of the Christian faith as they come to appreciate historic liturgical practice and its unique focus on God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation for us delivered in Word and Sacrament.
“Take, eat; this is My body given for you.This is My blood, poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Sound familiar? Jesus does the giving; we are the ones given to. Jesus gives His life for us on the cross, and we are given His cross-won forgiveness in the Divine Service in the Word, in Holy Absolution, in Holy Baptism, and His Supper. As Jesus gives us His life and salvation in the Divine Service, so we are given to pray in His Name, to praise and to give thanks unto our Father in heaven. And just as we are given the gift of Jesus in the Divine Service, so also He gives us as a gift to our neighbors. This year, in Utah and in Tennessee, Lutheran youth will gather to rejoice in all that we are GIVEN in the Divine Service where Jesus gives us His actual body to eat and His blood to drink! His Word and Sacraments enliven us to be given in service to our neighbors. And it’s all given to us in the Divine Service: the cross, forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, and service to others!
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Registration opened on October 1, 2009, and will close on February 28, 2010, or when a site reaches capacity—whichever happens first. We work very diligently to keep costs as low as possible while providing the best conferences we can every year! Here’s how it works out this year:
GIVEN - Utah GIVEN - Memphis
Oct. 1, 2009 to Jan. 1, 2010
Jan. 2, 2010 to Feb. 28, 2010
After March 1, 2010
A deposit of $100/person will secure a spot at a conference. The per-person rates above are based on the date your group’s registration balance is PAID IN FULL. All payments must be made in
University of Memphis, Memphis, TN July 6–9, 2010 U.S. funds. Additional fees may apply for registrations and changes made after March 1, 2010. Not only can you register your group online at www.given2010.org, you can pay deposits and your balance through PayPal (balance due is determined by the postmark date or online payment date). All you need is a valid Higher Things account. If you don’t have a free HT Account yet, you can sign up for one at www.higherthings.org. Your registration fee covers: ✠ Conference programming – Planning – Catechesis – Worship – Entertainment
✠ ✠ ✠ ✠ ✠
Three nights of housing Ten meals Conference handbook Daily services book Conference t-shirt
Are there age requirements for youth?
Short answer: Not really. Long answer: Higher Things conferences are generally planned for high school-aged youth, but registrants may be any youth who have been confirmed before the date of the conference, including college students.We recognize that the age for confirmation may vary from congregation to congregation and just ask that if a group is bringing youth who are not yet in high school that the group leaders be prepared to provide any additional supervision accordingly.
Higher Things requires a minimum of one chaperone for every seven youth in your group. Each group must be accompanied by at least one chaperone: one male adult for the male youth and/or one female adult for the female youth in your group. Chaperones must be at least twenty-one years old at the time of registration and approved by the group’s pastor for their role. All chaperones and other adults in a group must also complete the registration process. If you are unable to recruit the necessary number of chaperones from your church for your youth to attend a conference, Higher Things is happy to help you find other groups from your area who might be willing to share their chaperones with you. More information will be GIVEN to you very soon! But if you just can’t contain your curiousity and excitement, you may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure you haven’t missed anything or to ask any questions you might have. Everything that is available about the conferences at any GIVEN time at www.given2010.org.
Afraid of the
Dark? By Nicholai Stuckwisch
Almost every person at least at some point in their life is afraid of the dark. Why? After all, there is nothing there that wasn’t there when the light was on. Darkness doesn’t hurt. In fact, it’s when you turn on the light after you have been in the dark that your eyes hurt. So why are we afraid of the dark? I have come to the conclusion that we are afraid of the dark simply because there is no light. Without light we cannot see clearly.There are plenty of things for us to run into that we would notice easily when it is light. We need to rely on our own senses to guide us, but they are rendered nearly useless in the dark. We could make mistakes, lose things, bump into objects, step on that action figure our little brother left on the floor, and possibly end up hurting ourselves.We can do a lot of harm. People are afraid of the dark because when it is dark they are by themselves and realize that they must fend for themselves. No matter how brave we feel, it’s when we actually must rely completely on ourselves in a time of need that we realize how helpless we really are. Now try and picture Christianity in that light/dark scenario. When you are in darkness, you are really in the absence of light: when you are in absence of God, you are by yourself, on your own. Because we’re sinful human beings, we Christians are still often trying to do things by ourselves, keeping them in the dark. As a result, we end up stumbling through life, making mistakes and sometimes hurting ourselves very badly. It is only when we “turn on the light” or stop trying to do things ourselves and let God handle it that we can feel safe. It is only when we repent, that is turn away from sin (darkness) back to God (light), that we are free to live without worry of the dark.
Bad things may still happen even when we are in the light.You can burn that cake in the oven even when the light is on. Rather then despair and turn back to the darkness because “nothing” is going right now anyway, we should look at all the good things that have happened. It’s a lot easier to deal with a burning cake in the light than in the dark. Furthermore, the cake may have burnt but you still have a delicious meal with amazing bread and wine (God’s body and blood) to have for supper. In other words, no matter how many mistakes we make while stumbling around in the dark, God promises to welcome us back in His light with open arms.That’s why we repent. Sometimes it hurts, but that pain you feel when the light comes on is the pain that comes with realizing you have done wrong. It lasts only a little while and is followed by joy of forgiveness. You may have grown out of being afraid of the dark and look on it as a childish thing. Or maybe it’s that children have far less trouble depending on the light and not trying to do things themselves that they shouldn’t. We have a lot to learn from little kids. When they fear the darkness, they know better than to think they can face things themselves and so they call on the light. If they cannot reach it themselves, they call their parents to help them. It’s the grown-ups who want to deal with darkness by themselves, failing to call upon pastors and others for help. Jesus says the kingdom belongs to little children because little children, though they may be stubborn at times, know that they need God’s help and are a lot less worried about turning on the light than adults. Nicholai Stuckwisch attends Emmaus Lutheran Church in South Bend, Indiana, and can be reached at email@example.com
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By Rev.Todd Peperkorn
Zombies. We havenâ€™t had a zombie sermon yet this conference, so itâ€™s about time. Paul really lays this out for us nicely in Ephesians 2. You are a dead one walking, following the prince of the air into the darkest holes of hell.You are by nature zombies, the walking dead, mindlessly following the spirit of disobedience, doing what comes naturally, and let me tell you, what comes naturally ainâ€™t good, people. Anger and hatred are probably some of the nicer things that come naturally to us children of men.You are dead, at enmity with God, following the passions of your body, like dogs that cannot help themselves but do what comes naturally. Ugh. Blech. Not good, people. Not good at all.
So, why? If you are all these things and do all these things, why would God raise you up to the heavenly places in Christ Jesus? Why would the Father send His Son to death so that you may live together in Him alone? We don’t deserve it, that’s for sure. We talk a lot about what God does, but that question of why is one that every child of man must struggle with at some point. Why does God care about me at all? If I am so bad, if I screw up so often, if I am, as Luther would put it, a maggot sack, the walking dead, with the stench of the grave wafting out of my pores, why does God do all of this wonderful and great stuff for me? The word, dearly baptized, is grace. Breathe that word out. We can even use Luther’s language and say “grace alone.” It is perhaps the most Lutheran of words. If it isn’t THE Lutheran word, it is certainly in the running. Grace: what does it mean? Originally, the word meant something like beauty. It was a character or a quality in the person. God is full of grace. It is who He is. But grace also means favor or attitude or disposition, like a rich landlord would show grace to his tenants or servants. One of the wonderful things about this word grace is that it’s hard to distinguish between the gracer, the one giving or showing grace, what his attitude is toward you, and what he actually does or gives to you.The nature of God and the actions of God go hand in hand. One flows from the other. And God, who is rich in mercy and full of grace, shows you who He really is in sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross so that you might live. Since you all are mostly Lutheran geeks, that probably means that a good portion of you are also Lord of the Rings geeks. One of the many great scenes in the book is when Samwise slips up that Frodo carries the One Ring. But Faramir is given a chance to “show his quality.” His quality—his essential character—was that he would let them go and continue their journey to their doom and the salvation of all. So, this is who God is, that He is rich in mercy, full of grace, that God is love, always giving, always moving outside Himself and to His creation that He loves.You, dearly baptized, are His doing, His workmanship, His work of art. God could no more abandon you than He could deny His own nature. His nature of love, of mercy, of grace, of favor, is to give you all things in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has raised us up in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Why? “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). In other words, He shows you His grace, gives you His divine favor, sets you up in the heavenly place in Him, so that in the coming ages He might show the world the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Higher things in higher places for higher people: this happens not by your doing or mine but solely by grace, by His work. He has revealed His saving love. And He will use you, dearly baptized, He will use you for His good purposes in Christ Jesus.You are His living work of art, His beloved, His chosen.You aren’t zombies, the walking dead.You are alive in Christ Jesus, washing in Him, holy, lifted up, and favored by Him. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). In the name of Jesus. Amen. Rev.Todd Peperkorn is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Kenosha,Wisconsin, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He preached this sermon during the 2009 Higher Things Sola Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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of Pittsburgh & Other Pittsburgh Area Colleges ✠ University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee ✠ University of Wisconsin - Superior ✠ University of Wyoming ✠ Vanderbilt University (TN) ✠ Wright State University (OH) ✠
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When a Loved One
Dies by Christine Mons
In the fall of 1984, I was a freshman at the University of Michigan. Life seemed to stretch before me with limitless possibilities and avenues to explore. I loved my dorm, and the all-girls wing where I was housed had quickly coalesced into a tight-knit family. We were young, alive, and invincible.
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It was after 10:00 p.m. on an October night when the phone rang in my friend Wendy’s room. Most of us had packed in the books for the day and were sitting out in the hallway talking. Music blared from open doors as people filtered in and out, wandering up and down the hall visiting. Wendy’s mom was on the phone. In a few minutes, Wendy’s face contorted into fear and shock. Her mom was telling her that her father had dropped over dead from a sudden heart attack. Suddenly, grief and loss had infiltrated our utopia, and none of us were immune from it. Wendy’s world collapsed that night. As her friends, we tried to console her, but our friendship was a weak substitute for her parental support. For many of us, grief had never touched our young lives, and in our inexperience, we felt ashamed and embarrassed. We didn’t know what to say or when to say it. We neither knew the words nor had ideas about resources to help our friend. Wendy was not alone. According to the National Students of AMF (Ailing Mothers, Fathers at www.studentsofamf.org), 35–48 percent of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last two years.Yet many of these
students feel isolated by their grief and struggle through college with an invisible but very real burden that segregates them from their peers. Many young people reading this article know exactly how Wendy felt.You have lost a parent and now must face a world that expects you to grow up much too quickly.There are resources to help. Please understand that you are not alone. On Campus: Your Local LCMS Campus Ministry A campus pastor is much more than a preacher on Sunday mornings. He is a resource for you. If you are alone, call your pastor. Stop by his office. Drop by his house if he lives nearby. As the wife of a campus pastor, let me assure you that he and his family would much rather you do that then you struggle with the weight of grief and loneliness on your own. Pastors will not only let you unburden yourself, but they have the experience and the knowledge to help you through a time of mourning. As clergy, they also may have access to resources within the community that can provide support for you in addition to your local church if it is needed.
a – Morris ✠ University of Minnesota – Twin Cities ✠ University of Northern Colorado ✠ University of Northern Iowa ✠ University of Oklahoma ✠ University of Tennessee ✠ University
er Boston Area Colleges ✠ Indiana University ✠ Indiana State University ✠ North Carolina State University ✠ NW Oklahoma State University ✠ Pittsburgh State University (PA) ✠
On Your Own Grab your Bible. Keep it close.There are times when you may want nothing to do with God, but the good news is God loves you regardless of—and often in spite of—your attitudes and emotions. He sent His own dear Son to earth to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus loves us so much that He willingly died on the cross on Calvary to take away sins: yours, mine, and those of your loved one. He gives us His precious Word so that in times of trial we can hold onto truth. Last June, after the death of my much-loved father-in-law, I clung to the words of Psalm 121.The verses matched the beauty of the Catskill Mountains in New York where he lived, and for me, that Psalm and the loveliness of that area are inextricably linked. Online There are some very good grief support groups online, but always be wary when obtaining any information on the Web. Perhaps the best I have found to date is a secular site found at http://www.studentsofamf.org.This site is designed to support college students dealing with illness or death. Because it is a secular site, it lacks a Christ-centered foundation in its information, and the spiritual element is not represented. It’s worth checking out but in conjunction with support from your church. Understanding this, the site has some excellent information about the grieving process and also has a list of campus chapters of support groups.Two worthwhile sections are “Tips on Living with Loss” and the “5 Feelings You May Experience During Grief.” Death isolates. By its very nature, it separates us from our loved ones and then, in a sinister second act, seeks to separate the grieving from help and comfort. For college students away from home, support systems can be difficult to find. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, does not want us to be alone in times of grief. If you are experiencing the trauma of loss, please seek the help and comfort that is yours in Christ. If you find yourself with a friend who has recently experience this sort of loss, continue to be a friend. Be someone who listens, understanding that each person grieves according to his or her own method.The resources in this article can also help you as you seek to provide comfort and care.
Mrs. Christine Mons is the wife of Rev. Max Mons at St. Paul’s Lutheran Chapel and Student Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.
✠ The campus ministry arm of Higher Things ✠ Pastors and laity interested in confessional Lutheran campus ministry ✠ A great source for campus ministry resources ✠ Discussion forums for college students and campus ministry workers ✠ College retreats and service opportunities ✠ A growing and developing network of campus ministry chapters
Christ on Campus Chapters Fifty strong and growing! Newest chapters: ✠ Shepherd of the Springs Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, CO (Serving students at the Air Force Academy, Colorado College, UCCS) ✠ Wittenberg Lutheran Chapel, Grand Forks, ND (Serving Students at the University of North Dakota) Join the network! Apply online or contact us!
2010 Christ on Campus Conference Christ the King Lutheran Chapel, Mt. Pleasant, MI June 15–17, 2010 More information will be available after the new year.
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Apply to be a Christ On Campus volunteer at Given: http://www.given2010.org Contact: Rev. Marcus Zill Christ on Campus Executive email@example.com or (307) 745-5892
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Christ on Campus Is:
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Good Calling The
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By Rev. Heath Curtis
The world is so messed up that itâ€™s hard to know where to begin. Hereâ€™s how it was supposed to work.The man was to tend the garden, which would be his joy, for the garden was bent on blessing him. And the woman was to be his helpmeet, there at his side as he went about his duty. God blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply. From their love was to spring forth yet more love: children to grow up under the care of mother and father, learning the ways of the garden.Their sons, in their turn, would cleave unto their wives, leave father and mother, and till the garden in their own place.
But the serpent whispered, the man put down his work to listen to the voice of his wife repeat Satan’s words, and both turned their backs on God and ate. Now the man will earn bread by the sweat of his brow, and his work will be beset with weeds and thorns. Now the woman’s labor is greatly multiplied, and danger and death lurk even where new life begins. And yet, in all the curses that fell down on mankind, marriage was not taken from him. God still joins a man to his helpmeet, and they are one flesh, and they are blessed and told to be fruitful and multiply. So, gentlemen, get ready to work your piece of fallen ground, to love your wife as Christ loved the Church and lay down your life for her, and to raise your children in the fear and instruction of the Lord. That’s your vocation: to be a husband and father.To fulfill an important part of that vocation will mean doing useful work so that you can provide daily bread for your wife and children by the sweat of your brow. You shouldn’t get married until you are prepared to do those things. Notice I didn’t say “ready to do those things.” No one is ready, and no one is adequate, and all need the forgiveness Christ provides. But you should be prepared.You should know your catechism so you can teach your future household.You should practice at the virtues of honesty, courage, kindness, loyalty, and humility so that you may love your wife with a Christlike love. Indeed, virtue is just Latin for “manliness.”To be a real man, you must be virtuous. And then there is that old question that the father is supposed to ask the guy courting his daughter:“How are you going to support my little girl?” A chief purpose of your youth is readying yourself to answer that question. Christ feeds His Bride with the bloody sweat of his brow.You are called to imitate Him. You are free in Christ to consider your abilities and decide what piece of ground you want to till. Go to college or don’t. It doesn’t matter, so long as you learn to do something useful that will pay the bills (and learn contentment so that you may live within your means).You may love to paint watercolor landscapes or go snowboarding, but if you are no good at it or it won’t pay the bills, you will have to sacrifice your dream for the sake of your wife and children. (If you want my advice, choose something that will allow you to work at home as much as possible. Of all men I know, I think the farmers around the homestead and the insurance agents who work out of the house are the happiest.) The men I have come to truly respect in the congregations I serve are those who work hard at their jobs all the while confessing with their lives that their job is not their vocation. In other words, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” only has one answer: a husband and father.That’s your vocation, your calling from God. What you do to earn your bread is not who you are but just one piece of what it means to be called to be a Christlike husband and father.There are many answers to the question, “What do you do to earn a living?” for there are many jobs, and all are godly so long as they serve rather than replace or push out our vocation. So be a man, and do it with joy and without fear.The Lord has plowed the toughest bit of Eden’s ground with the plowshare of His cross. Husbands and fathers follow after Him in the furrow with faltering steps praying that His blood will make the work of our hands acceptable to the only one worthy to be called Father. It’s a good calling. Rev. Heath Curtis is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Worden, Illinois. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s in a name? Just as God puts His name on us in Baptism, so an earthly father puts his name on his children. And then, since husband and wife are to relate to each other as Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5), the wife receives the husband’s name, even as the Church is called Christian. Thus, a woman passes from her father’s care to her husband’s support. This is also what is behind the custom of the father walking the bride down the aisle.
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Canâ€™t Fool Me By Rebekah Curtis
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Adults love torturing young people by asking,
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”This is a stupid question. For boys, the answer is,“A man.” For girls, the answer is,“A woman.” Duh. What adults mean, of course, is,“What do you want to do when you grow up?”They’re asking what kind of job you want. It’s a question that, until about fifty years ago, no girl would have been asked. In the past, a poor girl would have to work in a factory or a rich person’s house as soon as she was old enough and give the money to her parents. Girls from families that weren’t so poor would prepare for marriage by acquiring the skills needed to run a household.Then, they would get married and have children and move into the lives their mothers had. But nobody asked them what job they wanted, because everybody knew that their job was to take care of their families. That’s still their job. It always has been. When Adam was alone in the garden, God made Eve to be “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). No matter how much life has changed since then, studies show that it’s still almost always Mom who keeps the house livable, even if she’s away from it for most of the day. This is why it’s really unfair to make girls think they’d better start climbing a career ladder that’s already crawling with dudes. It just means the girls are going to have twice as much work to do, because back at home there are still diapers to change and lasagnas to build and football jerseys to scrub with stain sticks.The world is so busy judging women for what they do that it doesn’t treasure who women are: the heart of the house, the people without whom a family’s life becomes a mess, the ones who care enough to make sure hair gets brushed and birthday presents get wrapped and Dad’s holey underwear gets replaced. There are still women who have to work to provide for their families’ basic needs.There are also women who are successful in public careers. But when a woman marries and has children, she finds herself faced with a choice: keep devoting her time to her career, or let the career go to take care of the family God has given her. She actually can’t have it all.There just isn’t enough time in the day to become a CEO, or maybe just an office manager, and to be the mom that children need (which is more work than you might think).
The devil is this world’s prince, and he is a liar. He loves weakening families by confusing and dividing the attention of the person God created to hold that family together. In our time, he’s accomplished this by telling girls that they’re not respectable, smart, or worth anything if they don’t compete with guys in everything. He whispers in their ears at college fairs and career days,“Aren’t you going to do something with your life?” You have to be able to smell a lie.You can’t outlift a guy in the weight room, but that doesn’t mean he’s better than you. It just means you’re different.The day will probably come when you will perform a feat no man could ever approach: you’ll become a mother. In the years that follow, maybe it will become a little clearer to you that nothing in human life is more important than what you’re doing as that baby’s mom. It’s so important that it had to be done to bring a baby Savior into the world.That baby was born to a girl who wasn’t a National Merit finalist and certainly wasn’t respected, since her reputation was shot after everyone heard she was pregnant. What she had going for her were her words of faith:“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” She submitted to the will of God for her life, contrary as that will was to what this world and its prince had in mind for her. So when someone asks you,“What do you want to be?” return that dishonest question with an honest answer.Tell them you’ll be what God makes you. If He makes you a wife and mother, do that job with all your gifts and energy, and don’t believe the lie that you’re worth less for it. Or if God blesses you with celibacy, show the world what a daughter of Eve looks like. She’s not a counterfeit man imitating gruffness and bravado but a gentle person whose virtues include industry and integrity, like every faithful woman, no matter what she does. Mrs. Rebekah Curtis is married to Rev. Heath Curtis and resides in Worden, Illinois. Contact her at email@example.com.
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A Sinner By Rev. David Petersen
he first of Luther’s “Christian Questions and Answers” is “Do you believe that you are a sinner?”The answer, of course, is,“Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.”These questions at the end of the Small Catechism are meant for those who intend to receive the Holy Communion.
Luther doesn’t ask us if we have sinned. Of course we have. The real problem is not that we’ve sinned, that we’ve fallen short and sometimes forgotten who we were or failed somehow.The problem is that we cannot and do not love God with our whole heart and our neighbors as ourselves. Sure, we sometimes do some nice things and don’t hurt other people. We occasionally refrain from carrying out the evil thoughts in our heads. We sometimes look good in an outward way. But we never love God with our whole heart. Never. We always keep a part of our heart for ourselves. We are always thinking about ourselves and are highly aware of whether or not we’re hungry or cold or bored. We are always looking around to see who is noticing us, and we want to get credit and honor among our friends and neighbors. The reason we’ve sinned is because we are sinners.That’s the problem. It’s not the sins we do but the sin we are. Do you believe you are a sinner? Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner. What does this mean? It means that we can no more stop sinning than we can force ourselves to keep our hand on a hot stove. We are helpless against ourselves.There is no cure for this and no exceptions. It is in our nature and is with us even when we do good, even when we try to pray or come to church or keep the Law. We are sinners. This is a very unpopular idea. It is bad for self-esteem. It is not encouraging or uplifting. It is not praise songs and spiritual mountaintops. Rather, it is the killing truth of the Law: we are born into this world as selfish little pigs, evil and wicked and self-centered. Our working philosophy is always “I want what I want when I want it,”1 which is to say,“Now!”This is the anger that overcomes us in a traffic jam. I just want everyone to get out of my way. I am angry because I want to go where I want to go now. I can’t go because there are other people in the world. I not only wish the world was mine alone, but I am angry because I actually think it should be. Many modern people understand something of this, but some refuse to call it sin. Some think it is the way that the tooth-and-claw of evolution has designed us. Being evil is a survival device like unto the long neck of a giraffe or the camouflaging spots of a leopard. In that case, fornication is only natural.That is what you are.You are following your instincts to survive and trying to propagate your genetic code for the species.This is what animals do. Who are we to say it’s sin? The best these thinkers can suggest is that we learn to cope, to suppress our baser desires when they threaten social
Christian Questions with their answers.Luther's Small Catechism. © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. www.cph.org.Used with permission.
stability. But then they encourage us to give in to them when we are alone or with other consenting adults. Note the irony: these are the same people who tell us that Christianity’s talk of sin makes them depressed. In fact, Christianity is far more optimistic than they are, because Christianity judges evil for what it is, sin for what it is, and seeks not to cure it but to destroy it. Sin can be overcome . . . just not by us.The reason this view seems depressing is that they don’t see the problem. No perfectly healthy person walking down the street is thrilled to be offered a heart transplant. But for those who are dying of heart failure, it’s a Godsend.2 The only way the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope and joy is if it is a rescue away from evil, and that’s only so if the diagnosis has first been announced and even suffered. Luther’s questions don’t stop with the Law. He also asks, “Do you hope to be saved? ”“Yes,” we say,“that is my hope.”“In whom then do you trust?”“ In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.” And then a little later,“What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him?” And we confess:“He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.” We are sinners, to be sure. But we are forgiven sinners. Every saint of God is.That is what a saint is: someone who has been forgiven, who has been baptized, who has been cleansed through the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What we cannot do, the Lord has done and is doing. He doesn’t cure sin; He kills it. One of the places He kills it and replaces it with His own righteousness is the Holy Communion.There He joins forgiven sinners to Himself. We eat His body and drink His blood to proclaim His death until He comes again that “we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that;” and that “we may learn to be horrified by our sins, and to regard them as very serious.” And, finally, and most importantly, that “we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.” Yes, I am a sinner, a forgiven sinner, who lives by grace through faith. Rev. David Petersen is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. 1 Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1993) p. 148. 2 Ibid.
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Utah State University, Logan, UT June 29–July 2, 2010 "Take and eat; this is my body. This is my blood . . . poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27–28).
Jesus does the giving; we are given to. Jesus gives His life for us on the cross. We are given His cross-won forgiveness in the Divine Service: in the Word, in Holy Absolution, in Holy Baptism, and His Supper. As Jesus gives us His life and salvation in the Divine Service, so we are given to pray in His name, to praise, and to give thanks unto our Father in heaven. We live with love for those around us. For just as we are given the Gospel of Jesus in the Divine Service, so does He give us as a gift to our neighbors.
University of Memphis, Memphis, TN July 6–9, 2010 At next year’s Higher Things conferences, we will rejoice in all that we are given in the Divine Service. Jesus gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink. His Word and Sacraments enliven us to give our lives in service to our neighbors. It’s all given to us in the Divine Service: the cross, forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, and service to others! For more information, please see page 18 inside this issue or e-mail email@example.com to ask any questions you might have. Everything that is available about the conferences at any GIVEN time can also be found at www.given2010.org.