Do not Abandon your Tradition and Heritage

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When I think about what it looks like to abandon families there are many images that come to mind. I think about many of our children’s desire to get out of Staunton.  Perhaps they want to go to school in St. Louis or wherever.  The desire to go to school is not what disturbs me but ulterior motives.   They do not want to have anything to do with farming, a trade, being a housewife, or anything their family has done for centuries perhaps.  They are discontent with the family because it is not an image of the glamour, progression, freedom, fun, and happiness the world displays life to be; that we as individuals in a “free” country are entitled to enjoy, so they desire to leave all behind.

I think this sort of thinking may be applied to several issues we face.  This disturbs me.  Our children, and many of our lives, are ones of discontent.  We are always looking to the future, but not for judgment and restoration as is the Christian hope.  The devil so easily bewitches us, all of us-both young and old, with the glory of the world and all

it has to offer, and how that glory comes through shedding the past that holds you back.  However, do not abandon your tradition and heritage.

You have been placed into a family, your family.  You received this blessing from God without your knowledge, you were chosen, elected.  You have been given to your family and them to you to form your faith, thinking, spiritual and physical health, and how you enter into relationship with one another, there is nothing you can do to separate them from you.  Why try through distance or lifestyle to abandon what you have received from God because you desire a future the world images?

Your family has walked a faithful path through history.  It seems nowadays we are more prone to imagining some path to the future that can be completely independent of the one our family has blazed.  My future starts with me.  Am I saying we ought not to have goals or visions for our futures?  No.  But I am challenging the basis for our vision and goals of the future.  Is it Christ and the future He has accomplished and prepared which is given us by our families through baptism?  Or is it the future of the world, which is selfishness and death?

The same vein of thinkingmay be applied to church.  Do not abandon your church.  You have been born into this community also.  No doubt many of your families and the way they speak, think, and act are based on the faith they have learned in this Church.  Therefore, for many of you this Church is an inseparable part of your familial identity too.  However, just like in a family orphans may become children so too many orphans are brought together in the church and made kin.  Whether your family has been Lutheran since the Reformation or you have just been baptized today you are here in the same family, the congregation, the Church.  This is the election of the Father too.

Now, we speak a great deal about our heavenly Father’s work, but who is our Mother.  The Church is our Mother.  It is her we come to for care, protection, and love.  She is the one who God is given to us to care for us while we are here on this earth.  Shall we as the children of God in the care of our mother the Church abandon this family?  The church seems to hold onto the old, traditional ways, the ways that were given to her by God when they were first married.  The ways all of her children have been brought up in are now being called old, outdated, dusty.  Shall the children become emancipated minors?

We perhaps know what it is like to have stubborn parents.   They will not change for anyone.  They will not get cell phones, big televisions, cable.  They still want to walk instead of sit in a scooter.  They want to live in their homes rather than a nursing home or retirement community.  They will not let anyone come in to clean their home that is not family, sometimes they will not even let family.  They are stubborn, non-understanding.  At least this is the verdict of us children looking in from a perspective of our lives and needs.  The strains we have and places we need to be.  We have our futures in view.  Our stubborn parents must fit into our schema of life based on that future.  However, we children are born into families, not the other way around.

You are born into your parent’s past.  By that, you are also born into their future.  If we are truthful with ourselves, there is nothing we can do about that.  Is our real desire to abandon all our family for the sake of the future we hope to have?  Or are we content with the future that is made for us through the history of our family?   Here I am speaking of both families and sets of Mothers and Fathers.  Shall we as Children attempt to wrangle the past and future our parents have borne us into?  Or shall we be content within them?

We as Christians have a Savior, our Lord Christ, who leads us by example.  Who, even though tempted by the devil to take hold of the riches of the world and all its power and glory, was faithful to His Father and the path laid before Him based on the history of promises His Father made.  Jesus knew what lay before Him.  However, He held firmly to the past promises of His Father.  He knew His future not simply because it was His ability as God, but because He knew His Father’s promises and history.  He knew where He came from.  Because He knew His Father He knew His Future.  This is Faith.  We live this faith in the care of our Mother.

Now we are bound to fail when held up to this example.  We are sinners after-all.  We are bound to stray from families.  I am not giving license because of sin, because our Father and Mother do not.  We are bound to desire the deadly future and its present glory, rather than a deadly Baptism and its future promised glory in Christ.  However, remember your Heavenly Father and how He received His Son.  Do not forget your Father is one of forgiveness and your Mother one of love, care, and tender mercies.  No matter how stubborn they seem to you no doubt it is for your own good.  Do not abandon them.  You are theirs and they are yours, what riches more do you desire?  Do not abandon your tradition and heritage.  In Peace and Contentment Amen.

Cardinals Baseball

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I am not sure why I am drawn to being a Cardinals fan.  I was never a very supportive Rangers fan while in Texas.  Baseball has never been a favorite of mine.  For some reason there is nothing I would rather do now, especially on a day like today, than watch a game.  Perhaps it is the summertime conclusion.  Baseball ushers in the summer months.  The warm, muggy, non-winter-like, summer months.  I like those months.  Baseball, Bar-B-Q, coolers, pools, and friends, I like all of those things.

Fishing: One of God’s Great Gifts

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I love fishing.  It is perhaps my favorite activity.  Is it a hobby?  Yes, I guess.  Although, I am more bound to call it a passion.  I will, at the end of this month, sit in a boat on my father-in-laws lake and fish all morning and night.  I really will.  I can be out on the water fishing, thinking about nothing except fishing, and be content.  I will most likely spend most of my time trying to find out where a lunker Bass is hiding, or some of the slab Crappie are hanging out.  I am guessing his lake is about 15-17 acres in size with a max depth of 30+ feet.

Yesterday I went to a farm pond near Staunton.  I spent about 30 minutes pulling 40-50 crappie out of one spot in the pond.  It was awesome.  There must be slabs in there, I just have not found them.  Then again, there might just be a ton of smaller ones.  I think the owner only cares about having bass.  He said I could take as many crappie as I wanted out of there.  I might just have to do that.  Cleaning fish is not my favorite activity.  I am a cacth-and-release kind of guy.  If the Crappie are huge though, then they are going home with me.

I love fishing.  I cannot wait to be in another place where I can find all the little holes to fish.

Politicians or “Public Servants” for Breakfast

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This morning right in the middle of what is usually a very relaxed and light-hearted breakfast with elders Politicians came through the doors.  We should have known something was wrong when there were several women with political shirts on streaming through the door.  Soon, I think since we were some of the only men in the place, we had two gentlemen come with their political speaking.  

I do not know what to make of American politics.  I am skeptical of “public-servants” living in their own community and not the communities they say they serve.  I am wary especially of anyone whose desire is a Christian State.  I do not understand that thinking at all.  God’s desire is not to make America a new Israel.  If that were the case anyway we ought to let this current political system fall apart completely, and return to Monarchical Reign.  This might be one reason why I think our “founding fathers” were morons.

The entire basis of this country and its constitution as I see it is the individual secular autonomous  moral man.  Kant, Descarte, and Sartre are so proud.  My personal freedom-of religion-is the most important thing to me…look where that has got us.  A government apathetic to the actual needs of the population and “freedom” ( perhaps not completely but close),and serving to sustain the institution, and apathetic Christianity obsessed with political reform and a diminished desire for unity and commonality but desiring growth, prosperity, influence and power in the world.

We can bastardize Scripture to bolster political work too.  I was told today, “faith without works is dead” when one of these guys got fed up with me.  My faith without political works for good is dead is basically what he said whether he knew it or not.  I did not get into the fact that he totally misused scripture.  I am sure that is what he has grown up with.  Scripture being a guide for politics and guilt driven morals.  Not the revelation of God’s formation of a separate community of faith over-and-against civil politics.

Uhhhhhh…I just had to get that all out.  I hate having all that stuffed up inside of my brain while I am trying to Spiritually prepare to preach this weekend and learn from wise men later this morning.

Pentecost- Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, John 14:23-31

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Samuel G. Beltz

May 17, 2010

Pentecost- Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, John 14:23-31

We cannot speak the same way in airports as we do in everyday life.  We cannot say bomb, explosion, Taliban, or “what is that in your shoe?” Last week I was flying home from my little sister’s graduation thinking, “why can’t we speak the same in airports?”

I came to the conclusion that we, as the world, are afraid of death and looking like terrorists.  Now, you might say you are not afraid of dying I pray that to be true, but you still alter the way you speak because your neighbors are afraid.  They are afraid of dying so you must change the way you speak as not to offend them. You do not want them to be afraid. Plus, you do not want to be considered a terrorist yourself!  After-all only a terrorist would come into an airport talking about bombs, Allah, and explosions.

All of this in the end is a civil matter, and as Christians we are to serve our neighbor.  However, in Spiritual matters are we to serve our neighbor at the expense of Christ?  You tend to shrink back from convicted Christian speaking and action because society says it is not polite to talk and act that way.  You do not want to offend anyone.  Culture says you must be tolerant of an individual rather than faithful to your God.  You are no different than Peter and the other ten disciples in that respect no matter how much smarter or advanced you consider yourself.

The disciples were afraid of dying too.  Do you remember Peter in the court of the high priest?  Jesus was being questioned, Peter was warming himself by the fire and a servant girl of the High Priest came up to him and asked him if he was with Jesus.  Peter denies Jesus.  He betrayed his heritage as a Galilean.  His appearance and speaking gave him away as one who was with Jesus.  Rather than be courageous Peter and the rest of the disciples hid and they changed they way they talked and lived all because they did not want to die or be considered “terrorists” at that time. All of this history takes place before one key event though.

Today we celebrate Pentecost; the event where God’s Holy Spirit is poured out on His People.  We learn that the work of the Holy Spirit is to inspire faith, courage, power, and unity among us Christians in our Lord Christ and His work of salvation as we are always faced with the fear of death on account of our confession that Jesus Christ is Lord!  We hear about this work of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:14-

“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them all…”

Peter stands up in-front of hundreds of Jews and preaches a fiery, very Lutheran, Law & Gospel sermon.  No longer cringing and running from an association with Jesus-Peter and the eleven boldly preach Christ crucified.  They think nothing of their death.  They are not afraid.  Even though these are the very men who killed Jesus.  Their speaking is convicted, unwavering, powerful and unified.  Their hearts are filled with courage.  They do not resemble the men they once were.  Isn’t this amazing? What do we learn about God the Holy Spirit and His work?

First we learn that the work of Jesus and the Work of the Holy Spirit are different, even though they are the same God.  Here I must be careful.  We enter into the mystery of the Trinity.  Let us look again to Scripture for clarity:

We learn from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John that even after the Resurrection there was, unbelief, fear, and doubt in the hearts and minds of Jesus’ disciples.  This tells me that even seeing the Risen and Resurrected Jesus, and touching Him, does not change the hearts of men.  It was Jesus’ work to live, die, rise, and ascend to His Father for our sake, to ransom us, so that we might ascend to the Father someday.  The Holy Spirit comes to us and inspires us to believe that all the work of Jesus was for our sake, for us!  That is why, as Jesus tells His Disciples, it is better that He (Jesus) go so the Helper, Encourager, Paraclete, or Holy Spirit may come so that we might believe fervently what Jesus does for us.  What else do we learn from this passage in Acts about God the Holy Spirit?

Look at the disciples after Jesus appears to them and then Ascends.  What I find most interesting about them is that they are not preaching.  They are not sharing, by their living or speaking, the Gospel we preach and try to live so adamantly.  Here again we see the work of the Holy Spirit.

When the Spirit comes and inspires faith in us He drives it so far into our hearts that words and actions of faith pour out of our hearts through our mouths, hands, and feet.  Look at what happened to Peter and the eleven on this day and the years after the Holy Spirit came.  They were humble fishermen even afraid of Jesus after His Resurrections and now they were not willing to let the Jews (who had gathered around them in a public place may I remind you) alter their speech or action.  Instead, they speak boldly and with great courage despite death.  They gather together in synagogues and churches to worship.  They travel to Rome even though they would certainly die.  They Preach and Pray while they are being stoned to death.  They sell all they have so that widows and orphans may have care.   The disciples do not shrink back from any kind of speaking.

The disciples tell the Jews just what they have done to the Lord of the Universe.  They preach repentance and also forgiveness.  Disciples do not shy away from their faith in the work of Christ.  The Holy Spirit has kindled a faith in them that believes Jesus Christ has defeated all the enemies of humanity.  Courageously they proclaim what God does in Jesus because they are convicted by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is truly LORD!  Just what has your Lord done to make you so courageous and assured of life and love in the face of this world, the devil, and death?

The whole world became confused in language and divided by sin at Babel.  Your language became so confused and ungodly that when your God came to Earth to save you, you did not understand his faithful speech and action.  Rather than hear or see any more of His godly words and actions you killed Him.  However, God raised Jesus from the dead.

Your sin and faithlessness did not keep God away from you.  He loves you.  He overcame death and all its fears for you.  He places you into this community for your protection and care.  He does this through baptism, absolution, and the Holy Supper.  Take Heart!  Have Courage!  And Fight! against this world and the devil as they try to destroy your faithful speaking and acting in the same way they tried to destroy Jesus in the grave.

You will be tempted to speak like the world, and against one another.  Your flesh will try to convince you to give in to the times and that the church is better run like a fortune 500 company.  The language, worship, and songs of the church seem old an irrelevant to this world.  The language is hard to understand.  If you are sitting here today thinking that very thing I encourage you to come to bible class where Pastor Fritsche can teach you.  The World will not understand the language, worship, and singing of this church.  Because the world is completely controlled by the devil.

Do you remember what the world and Cesar did to Jesus, Peter, John, Steven, and Luther because they were speaking the faithful language of God in servant-hood and prayer!  As Christians living in this world you can expect the same thing and like those men you can stand up in all boldness against them without fear.

You speak boldly the Faith of Christ as a church every time you worship here and each time you Baptize and eat together.  The Holy Spirit has convicted you to do so.  You can stand-up in courage against the nations that might one day outlaw Christianity as you and this Church confess it.  You are not as tolerant as they want you to be.  The world and the devil want you to change the way you talk and act.  Will you let them or will you fight and stand your ground?

You speak a different language because you have a different future in view.  You live and speak as people who know the outcome. You speak and live as a people of God, forgiven and justified by God’s action for you and believing He is coming back to earth again for you!  Let all of Staunton from this moment until our Lord’s return be certain of your allegiance.  Let them know that the conviction and fire you speak with, live by, and love one another in, is that of the Holy Spirit of God who is poured out on you once again here today as you worship, pray, and eat together. The same Holy Spirit remains on you as It remained on Our Lord Jesus Christ who is Lord of All because He has overcome this World and death for you!  Take Heart!  Do not be Afraid.   Amen.

A Pastor is not a Helping Profession

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From Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon (pg. 119-120)

“The young pastor had been conditioned to assume that real ministry was about ‘helping people.’  Of course, Jesus helped people and commissioned us to do the same.  The trouble begins when we assume that we already know what ‘helping people’ looks like, that helping people is a simple matter of motivating the church to go out and do what everyone already knows ought to be done.

Yet we have argued, earlier, that Christians define “what ought to be done” on the basis of our peculiar account of what God has done and is doing in the world.  That account teaches us to be suspicious of all proposed solutions until they are placed under the scrutiny of God’s story.”

Too many times I have heard sermons that were more therapy and psychology that  proclamation of Gospel.  For me, as I reflect upon this reading and the fact that the two men writing are from a Reformed background, I cannot help think what happened to the preaching and teaching for a generation?  When did stories and clever one liners become the content of our preaching.  When did general moral and ethical observations become the basis for pulpit speech rather than the word of God.  “Do not seat the small stuff” where is that in Scripture?

Is this what happens to a church and people who take Scripture and the revelation of God’s Son incarnate as a moral, ethical, relational tool, a life=coach incarnate?  We already have plenty of those thank-you-very-much.

What happens when the Scripture becomes a tangible place where the Incarnate Word of God is revealed for us?  When the story of God and His Salvation is at the center of our lives as a congregation?  What happens when preaching becomes yet another place where the Holy Spirit drives Christ into the middle of a people whose lives and hearts are divided, afraid, and hostile toward God?  These are all rhetorical questions of course.  Those of us who read the Scripture know what happens.  Pentecost happens.

Pentecost is when the office of the ministry takes flight.  It, the office, is driven by the Holy Spirit driving Christ right into the hearts and out of the mouths of faithful men.  When that happens the world, flesh, and the devil become incredulous.  They no longer dictate speech, actions, and life.  They are a defeated empire waiting for that last trumpet too.  The eschaton then becomes where we are headed.  Pastors can stop trying to “help people” figure out life now and help people believe their baptism gives them life then.  Pastors can preach convicted, fiery sermons of Law and Gospel that cut to the heart and convert sinners.

Of course I say all this as a Vicar.  As one who knows nothing of what I speak other than what I have seen.

Thank-you Mr. Hauerwas, Mr. Willimon.  Thank-you very much.

Cooking

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I love cooking with and for my wife.  Something about noshing on vegetables from your garden and fish caught by your hand is very fulfilling.

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