Devotion of the Day

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Galatians 6.1-10

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.


Paul continues concluding his letter with an extended discussion on the Life Together that these Galatian Christians are called to have.  Remember, they are many congregations in the region of Galatia, and just like today there can be bad blood between Church congregations just as within congregations.  So Paul gives clear rules to follow.

Paul then moves on to giving instruction with regards to compensating the teacher of the Word.  Share all good things with that one.  Thank you.

As far as the next few lines, I am not sure what Paul is commenting on.  Is it on a particular congregations lack of support for the teacher of the word?  Is it a general warning regarding much of what has been taking place in the Galatian congregations?  I am just not sure. 

This section concludes with Paul’s exortaion for these Galatians Christians to continue doing good TO EVERYONE, especially to those within the “household of faith.”  Notice especially the language Paul uses concerning the images of sowing and reaping.  This is the image that is painted for us of the final judgment.  The question then is for us these days, “What am I sowing, what might I reap?”

Pastor Beltz


The Office and Evangelism

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“Evangelism is the homiletical announcement and the ecclesial enactment of fact of God’s invasion of our history in Jesus and thereby God’s creation of a new world” –The intrusive Word, 86

Yes.  Thank you William Willimon for good and true words in the midst of what can be confusing.  The bulk of Evangelism is on the preacher.  The one called to announce to those sitting in-front of him of God’s invasion.

What a great way to think of the work of God in the Sacraments.   Willimon does not go here, but I will.  An invasion.  Invasion of our lifes, selves, thoughts, and minds.  Yes, he drags us into him Kingdom.  No free will about it.  We are taken against our evil fleshy Wills, just as we are, and what is brought about is truly Evangelistic.  Conversion!  Actual true and blessed conversion.  Death to life, dark to light, tasteless to salty.

The creation of a new world ex nihilo–out of nothing–is the pinnacle of Mercy and grace.  It is election at its finest.  An untamed God doing to work he wants to do despite our objections.  Create a world.  Create a new world.  Create a people. Create a new people.

So when preachers get into the pulpit and pander to free will I want to vomit.  The problem is not understanding, at least not most of the time.  Things need to be explain, exegetics must happen, words must be explained, and theology–good theology–must be taught and refreshed.  But, in the end if there is no announcement, then the Will is left to decide to believe these things or not and Christianities Truth becomes subject.

This is the horrible nature our world and many preacher have fallen into.  There is a fact/value distinction out there.  What is not fact is then only value.  And, for a long time, convinced of its place, the Scripture and teaching of the church was an unadulterated fact.  But now, not so much.  So now, because there is too much that cannot be proven, we have relegated ourselves to a value.  In our preaching, in our teaching, we go as if validation is the goal.  Preaching information that leaves us all Arminian rather than continuing the work and ministry of the Apostles and Christ before them of electing, working, doing the sacraments.

Evangelism is the Preachers proper place and work.  At least, that is my opinion.

A Theological Paper at a Theological Symposium?

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Preaching that does not kill God.  I wrote about one bright spot in the St. Louis Symposium.  That will be the paper, “Preaching that does not Kill God.”  I know that it will be delivered early in the morning, 8 a.m. to be exact, but what day I am not sure.  What I find interesting is this; I have read through the list of presentation and papers that will be given.  None of what I have seen seems to be theologically potent.  Dr. Meyer’s presentation on “baptismal theology” and its work in shaping a sermon might be a good one to sit through.  Theologically potent?  That will be seen.   Other than that these seem to be vaguely theological leaning toward more hermeneutical and, of course, homiletical.  The bulk of the presenters are “practical” theologians, whatever that is?  And their topics reveal the issue I brought up in the first place, rediscovering the artfulness of preaching is not what we are currently in need of as a church.  What these topics do seem to present is that there seems to be a clear division between theology and preaching that is even evident in the symposium.  Other than Dr. Meyer’s main presentation on the underpinnings of baptismal theology and preaching, the main presentations are about using the text, the creative Word and why that means we should be creative in preaching (that might be entertaining), and devotional structures to help you get your point across and be remembered.

If I were spending the $140 bucks to register, paying for a hotel and gas, I would make sure that I am at the Seminary at 8 a.m. to hear what I think will be one of the clearest, most theologically potent papers that will be delivered.  I think I might even go so far as to say this might be one of the most theologicall potent papers I would have ever heard in a Symposium.  “Preaching that does not Kill God” will get at and make very clear just what I meant when I said, “God has been suffocated from our pulpits.”  What this paper will do is lead us to think about removing the pillow from God’s face or loosening our fingers from around his neck.

St. Louis Symposium and then there is Preaching

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I thought I might post another little piece that helps flesh out where I am coming from a bit more.  I do not want to seem reactionary or vindictive in any way.  This is something I have been thinking of for a long time.  Since I know little about Ft. Wayne I might just assume the issue is the same there, but do not know so I will not say.

I have just said why I think the upcoming symposium is going to be a bust.  I say that, and news comes to my attention about one bright spot.  I think the art of preaching is not something we need to rediscover.  Many pastors are very good at telling stories and doing that well.  What we do need to rediscover is a good reason to preach in the first place.  Which I think means rediscovering the only story the church has to go on and proclaiming that from our pulpits.  After that is accomplished, the artfulness of preaching is then put in its proper place.  To help us begin I turn to Luther and his writing on the New Testament, which is the Mass. I think he helps illumine the point.

When speaking of the Mass Luther states that if the people do not grasp and comprehend the words of Christ and believe them, what do we need the artfulness of the Mass for?  If the people do not hold tightly and cherish the words of Jesus, “This is my body given for you, this is my blood of a new testament shed for you for the forgiveness of sin” and believe them to be His gift then the priest would do well to get rid of the bells, chausibles, genuflections, elevations, chants, and all the external beauty of the Mass because the internal, or Spiritual, beauty of the Mass is not believed and cherished by the people, and it is an empty thing and does them no good(LW., Vol. 35).  Stripe away all the things that are not necessary to proclaim to the poor souls the Gospel and when they grasp it let all the beauty, internal and external, unfold.  How does this relate to our current topic of rediscovering the artfulness of preaching?

The problem seems all the more compounded in our day.  Most certainly Luther is assuming that the priest in any place knows the depth of the Gospel of the Sacrament of the Mass.  Luther also assumes the same priest will be able to proclaim that Gospel to his people and from there move toward the celebration of the full internal and external beauty of the Sacrament of the Mass in that place.  Why is the problem compounded in regards to preaching in our day?  I am afraid not only do the people perhaps not know why they are listening to a man preach to them, which in turn leads to worse preaching, but that also the preacher might certainly be ignorant of why he himself is preaching in the first place!  The problem is then ignorance and ignorance!  These poor people are hearing little to no Gospel from their preacher and their preacher might have no good reason to preach another way because the people make no peep either for ignorance or fear!  And, there is little discussion on preaching to influence him.  The people fear because they do not know if they can speak to the pastor about such things.  I am afraid this is a most terrible place for any man to be.  Be he a pastor or layman.  This is why I think the artfulness of preaching is better buried and put away for the time being.  There are obvious questions that arise though.  How can a pastor not know the reason for preaching?  For the purposes of this little essay we will not explore such questions because that question occupies an essay all for itself. I will now move to some concluding remarks.

Here is St. Paul doing what I would like us to do.

I have been thinking much lately concerning why a pastor preaches.  After-all, I am now a Called and Ordained Servant of the Word.  I am the one Called to speak on behalf of God in this place.  I stand in line with the Apostles and their designation from the Lord.  I take that seriously. That is not to say other men in the Office do not take preaching seriously.  I notice that many of them DO take preaching seriously.  This is the very reason why I am writing.  But, what I observe from where I stand is that many do not take preaching seriously in the way I am taking it seriously.  In fact, in light of the title of the upcoming symposium in St. Louis, I think

many preachers take preaching seriously for the sake of artfulness rather than for the sake of proclamation.  Because if we were worried about what was being said by the preacher and not the artfulness of the preacher, the classes at the seminaries would look differently than they do today.  Our Sym

posium would have a different title.  Also, visits from district presidents to parishes would look differently than they currently do.  Many want to be great preachers according to their seriousness and because of that they want to rediscover what seems to be a lost art to preaching.  I think a current thought is if we have artfulness the proclamation of the Gospel is stronger or more beneficial and clear.   Again, I disagree that there is a lost art and that this is the point in time for the church to worry about increasing such things.  What I AM worried about, as I hear and see all the things from within the Synod and without, is that God might be the thing that is lost, suffocated, and buried among all things artful in the church.  Maybe HE needs be rediscovered!  For, as Luther pointed out, if we have great beauty and artfulness but no Word from the lips of our Savior to cling upon, believe, and cherish, we have nothing.  If the Word of God is gone God himself is gone!  For as we Lutherans believe, God has bound himself to His Word for us.

Yes, again I will say, I hear a great deal of stories and jokes, I see a great many pictures across screens, movie clips, visual aids, and talk about God which all try to communicate some point that is apparently very important.  I hear a great many voices quiver and crack throughout a sermon.  But for all this art, beauty, help in communication, and rhetorical force we have covered over and seemed to have pushed aside the one Being worthy to occupy the hearts and minds of His People.  And we seem to have been convinced to do this because the people are ignorant and need these things to make the Gospel come alive.  If there is one thing I know and believe with all my heart it is this; the Gospel needs no help from the minds of men.  It is man who is in total despair and destruction without the good news of God for us.

This then brings up what would hopefully be a longer conversation, but one worth having.  How is it that preachers and churches can suffocate and bury God in their preaching?

Aviary Enjoyment

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For some reason I enjoy watching birds.  I never really had the chance in St. Louis to do so.  Where we lived there were not too many trees and there were not too may birds that would sit so close.  Here in our home I can sit at my kitchen table and watch hummingbirds.  They are only 24 inches away from my face.  They are lovely creatures.

Right now as I am typing a Cardinal swoops down onto the feeder that is just a few more feet out in the yard.  I am not too sure why they are so attractive to me?  The beauty?  The variety?  The freedom?  Perhaps it is my lingering boyhood desire to fly?  Whatever the reason I sit here with my daughter and my coffee and I watch the birds.  They are a gentle reminder to me of my place before God.  There it is!  This is perhaps the greatest reason I love to watch them.  They are a gentle reminder to me that God is God and even I am his creature.  I holding my daughter watching the birds.

Fatherhood and Fatherhood

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Tomorrow, unless she decides on making an appearance today, I will be able to hold my baby girl in my hands.  I am a little confused on what to think and how to fell.  I think this is the case because all I have to go on is the advice, counsel, and experiences of others.  Now, that is not unhelpful in any way.  It only leaves me thinking, will I experience the same?  Will I feel the same?  If I am not is there something wrong?

I have woken myself up the last few days in a row thinking of her.  She is, after all, in bed with me and my wife.  I wake up.  I look at her and her mother.  Not that I can stare into my child’s eyes yet but I look in her general direction, down.  I think, “This is the most strange, amazing, and dumbfounding time and experience I can remember going through” and she is not even born.

Yes, it is hard to put words to it.  At least, words that can capture what is going on inside my mind and heart, let alone what is going on inside my wife.  Nervous?  Yes, but that seems inadequate.  Joyful?  Yes, but again inadequate.  I imagine this might be one of the times when the speech and words of men fail when they consider deeply what is taking place.  Life begets life.  Is this a moment when the image of God breaks back into this dark world?  I think so.  I think this might be a moment when and where the Lord of all reminds His humble servants of who He is.  He reminds us of the contingency of all things upon His Being.  He reminds us that He is the Ultimate Shaping Reality for life and thought.  I remember Job 38 when I think of these things.

“1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

I thought this was a good representation of what a child might think of a whirlwind.

2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action[a] like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
7when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8“Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
9when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

12“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
13that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14It is changed like clay under the seal,
and its features stand out like a garment.
15From the wicked their light is withheld,
and their uplifted arm is broken.”

This reminder to Job carries on for some time in the account.  It continues and Job speaks in 42:

1Then Job answered the LORD and said:
2“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?  Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6therefore I despise myself,
and repent[a] in dust and ashes.’”

Yes, a whirlwind and things to wonderful for me seem to be a little more in line with what is taking place.  God is in this way demonstrating his Majesty and Might.  He is doing what He wants in humanity but sustaining and continuing to provide for us.  He gives us our children.  He forms them by his hand.  Who is this God that he can even shape the flesh of humanity?  He is the Lord.

A Bust of a Symposium. And it hasn’t hapened yet!


The St. Louis Symposium is a little over a month away and already it is a bust in my mind.  Here is why.  Having just graduated from St. Louis (that is I think I graduated even though I have not paid my final bill) I have a very clear account of just what kind of homiletical instruction goes on there.  Now, for sure, my account of things will be skewed.  I struggle with the lack of respect I have for the practical department instruction going on in St. Louis.  Sadly, this also makes me, more often than not, transgress the fourth commandment.  I am saying this for myself and anyone like me.  But still, the Symposium will be a bust.  Let us start with the title.

“Rediscovering the Art of Homiletics” This title seems adventuresome, brave, pioneering even.  However, in my mind, I ask “has the artfulness of homiletics gone someplace that it needs to be rediscovered?”  No.  It has not.  If there is one thing that is very apparent to me as I have seen and heard the homiletical noise from pulpits in my short life it is that artfulness is in no need of rediscovery when it comes to homiletics.  In-fact let us bury some of what we currently possess. 

As I see it there is no shortage of performance art, quivering voices, winsome laughter, visual aids, jokes, and/or stories that fill the time when a man speaks from the pulpit.  I have seen M&M’s and the worn out Life Saver used to death. I have seen Biblical Role Play (I can only handle attempts at reincarnating Paul or Moses so many times).  Passionate diatribes about the beauty of marriage where two persons come from the back wearing a Tux and Gown, this extends then to the violence of divorce where the couple has a fight in the middle of the sanctuary and storms out.  In my opinion formed by experience, let us bury some artfulness rather than rediscover any more.  But, what am I saying, and what am I not saying?

What I am not saying is that preaching is to strive for boredom.  I am not saying that at all.  Good presentation, clear speech, clear points, even interaction with the congregation, all these might be beneficial for the preacher and the hearer.  I am not saying preaching is to be boring.  I think what I am saying is that our preaching has become so artful that we no longer need and pointers on finding more ways to make it artful, especially from St. Louis Seminary.  After all, isn’t this a “Theological Symposium”?  Then let us find a new name to call it and let the presentations begin!

How about, “Rediscovering our reason for Preaching”?  This sounds like a good title which leads to what might be a hearty, fruitful discussion.  “Why do we preach anyway?”  I wonder if the practical theologians have had to answer that question?  I wonder if the Systematic Theologians have had to answer that question, because if this is a Theological Symposium, would it not behoove us to have a theological discussion?  Yes, I think it might.  What are the foundations for preaching in the first place?  And then, what is/are good answer to that question, if there is more than one.  To my mind this is a more fitting, more theological, discussion to be had.  Because I am convinced the artfulness of our preaching has increased to cover over the reality that many are lacking any good reasons for preaching in the first place.  I am afraid many are lacking a good reason because they might not have been given a good reason to preach in the first place.  I know most of my homiletical training had to do with Grammar, and properly color coding Law & Gospel within the body of writing.  Again, I am afraid this is inadequate, the instruction and the symposium, for where we are in the Lutheran Church and her preaching pastors.  In any case, we need no more art.  We abound with art.  We have a greater stockpile than New York and Paris combined.  Let us bury some and rediscover why any of us pastors might dare get in a pulpit on Sunday in the first place.

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