Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Prayers

This morning I had the honor of providing the opening and closing prayers for the Memorial Day ceremonies at our local courthouse.  The veterans have asked me to do this now for the third year.  The guest speaker for this event was our state representative Tom Tiffany.  Below is a copy of the prayers I offered.


Invocation
Almighty God, we gather this day in your holy name, thankful for the freedoms you have protected and preserved through the sacrifice of those who fought and died in our stead.  Make us ever mindful of the high cost in human life required to resist the forces of evil that seek to bring pain and destruction upon the innocent and helpless.  In mercy bring comfort to those who grieve this loss because of the deaths of family and friends; comfort them through the promise of your abiding presence and the assurance of eternal life in your risen Son.   Bless now our gathering in this place, that in honoring our fallen heroes we would honor you who worked through their service for our greater good; that all glory would be given to you who gave strength to our weakness and allowed us to serve you by serving our fellow citizens, sometimes through the giving of life and health that others might not suffer, that life be preserved, that safety for all would be secured.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
 
Benediction
Gracious Lord, may you bring peace and an end to warfare in our time, that the sorrow and sadness we share this day will soon be but a distant memory.  Sustain us in true hope, that even in our darkest hours when we struggle to see any good, and when the enemies of freedom seem for a while to prevail, we might look confidently in faith to you, our all-powerful God, in whom all things work for good for those who love you.   And may that hope carry our vision beyond this place and time to the end of all things, when death is no more, evil is judged and banished, and the faithful find eternal rest in you, our living Lord. As we await that day, preserve our country according to your gracious will, and uphold our brave military service personnel who still serve, both here and abroad. 
In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and Savior of the world, Amen. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In Memory

The Seelsorger would like to remember in gratitude the many brave men and women who have served this nation in the various branches of its armed forces.  God has graciously used their sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure from its enemies, so above all our thanks ascend heavenward to the Heavenly Father who has provided such protection.

In particular two veterans are remembered here, one being my father, SSG  George S. Engebretson (Ret), who served this nation for 20 years from the 40's through the early 60's.  His service encompassed two wars, World War II and the Korean; and SMSgt Robert E. McBride (Ret), my father-in-law, who served this nation for 20 years from the 50's until the early 70's in the U.S. Air Force, encompassing the Vietnam War era.  Both of these men were highly decorated veterans who were immensely proud of their service and of their country.   They have since passed away and their legacy is left to those who remain.

Requiescat in pace....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study

The date on the inside reads "1970," so my recent purchase of this used copy at my local Good Will store was partly out of nostalgia, and partly out of respect to its author, Dr. Frederick W. Danker.  Earlier in February I posted a brief article on Danker in honor of his recent passing, so this find seemed rather fortuitous. Dr. Danker's legacy still remains, if even in the most unlikely places.  The title is a bit deceptive as far as the average lay reader is concerned.  Chapter headings concern the Nestle Text, the Hebrew Old Testament, the History of the Septuagint, and a wealth of information on grammars, lexicons, Bible dictionaries, various versions of the English Bible, Judaica, Archeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  A revised and expanded version of the book is available through Amazon.com.  It appears that this last revision was done in 2003, complete with a CD-ROM (the last revision being 10 years before in 1993), something Dr. Danker could not have imagined when he first wrote this classic in 1960, 43 years before. The 1970 edition was published by Concordia Publishing House, but the latest edition was now done by Fortress Press.  Given Dr. Danker's departure from the LCMS, the change in publishers is not surprising. Even though my copy is now decades out of date, much of the information is still relevant and worthy of study.   I'm curious how current seminary professors in the Missouri Synod rate this updated classic. 

A side note:  Dr. James W. Voelz offers a short but fitting tribute to this scholar in the latest issue of Concordia Journal (Spring 2012), entitled "Frederick W. Danker: The Passing of a Giant."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Couple of Interesting Artcles

A couple of articles I recommend for your review that were posted on Lutheran sites but written by non-Lutherans:

"24 Hours -Plain as Day" by Dr. Jud Davis of Tyndale College.  He specifically addresses a topic being discussed currently on the ALPB site regarding whether the days of creation were 24 hour days or not.  This article is posted on the Christian News site, but came originally, as far as I can see, from the Answers in Genesis site. Dr. Davis is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Amercia.

"Osteen: 'God Wants to Supersize Your Joy' - So what's wrong with that?" This is posted on the Steadfast Lutherans site.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Ascension of Our Lord

Tomorrow brings one of those almost forgotten festivals of the church - at least among Lutherans.  A few still hold a midweek service with a small, but dedicated crowd.  A few others transfer it over to the nearest Sunday.  However, the Ascension of our Lord represents a significant event in the Easter season and one worthy of observing, whether on its own appointed day or the nearest Sunday. That said, a challenge still remains.

At our circuit pastor's meeting yesterday a retired pastor admitted the difficulty of getting a handle on a clear theme for this festival.  Christmas and Easter, he admitted, were easier to find topics on which to preach.  Now we are familiar with the Creed's declaration that our Lord "ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty" (Apostles' Creed).  Perhaps this lies behind Dr. Pfatteicher's observation that "The Ascension is part of an enthronement festival.  The coronation of Christ the King is celebrated, but so in him is the enthronement of humanity itself.  John Chrysostom declared, 'Our very nature...is enthroned today high above all cherubim'" (Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship,1990, pages 295-296.)  This last quote coincides with the appointed collect for the festival: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that even as we believe your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind ascend and continually dwell there with him...."

The Ascension, however, was originally not viewed as a separate feast, but as part of a unified fifty day festival period.  Sometime after the third century this unity broke down and the Ascension was celebrated as a separate festival.  In Jerusalem, according to Egeria, the Ascension and the sending of the Spirit were celebrated together on the fiftieth day.  Jesus ascends and in turn sends the Spirit.  The two do naturally link together.  However, for those who celebrate Pentecost linking them sermonically provides repetition the pastor may want to avoid.

Adolf Adam provides two themes worth considering: "The festal Mass emphasizes both the return of Christ...and his abiding presence in the community" (The Liturgical Year: Its History and Meaning After the Reform of the Liturgy, 1979, 1981, page 88).  This works well with the account from Acts 1 where the angels inform the gazing disciples that Jesus will return as He ascended, as well as the emphasis in that text on the visibility/invisibility of Jesus' presence.  The Reformed would take this event as a sign that Jesus' physical presence is now locked away in heaven until the end of time.  That, of course, does not bode well for real presence Christians who take Jesus' promise of being with us until the end of time as a real, physical presence celebrated regularly in the Supper.  The cloud "hides" Him from their sight, it does not remove Him from their presence.  This could be an important point to stress on this day, helping hearers to appreciate how Jesus dwells among us and how the Supper is a key location to appreciate that presence.  Thankfully we are celebrating the Sacrament tomorrow night, so this theme could work well.

The Ascension provides a tension with which we can wrestle.  In a post in 2007 I wrote: "The Ascension is truly an event of the 'now, not yet' reality of the Kingdom. It is fulfillment, yet it is transitional. It is hiddenness, yet it is revelation. It is comfort, yet it is also anticipation. So it is also with the blessed dead. In heaven, yet awaiting the fulfillment of their salvation at the final resurrection."

With these brief thoughts I would like to wish all a blessed Ascensiontide celebration, even if you must do so in the privacy of your personal devotions.

Personal Update

The Seelsorger has been busy as of late, and admittedly has not been posting on a regular basis.  Spring always seems to bring a number of concerts and recitals, and with two children in the arts we have a few to attend.  Add to this my wife serves as an accompanist for a couple of high school choral groups as well as the community choir. 

My son is going to graduate from high school next month and spends the remainder of his free time working at a local grocery store, now that the school musical has ended (which consumed a lot of days this Spring for all of us).  They performed "Beauty and the Beast," a musical based on the Disney production of the same name, and he was privileged to have one of the leading roles - the Beast.  We joked at the time that it was cheap therapy.  He could vent all that rage and anger in a safe environment at no cost to us - except all the flowers and tickets we bought.  He is going to attend the same university as his sister this coming Fall.  Although he is going in with an undeclared major, one of his interests is theater arts.  Whatever he does, though, he brings a lot of talent and potential. 

My eldest daughter is now in the last stages of her university career, inching ever closer to the final semester of student teaching.  Recently we ventured over to the university to proudly witness her reception of a scholarship from the English department.  She has worked very hard to establish herself as a promising up-and-coming professional with great potential.  With high respect from peers and teachers alike, we are very encouraged for her future.  She will make a terrific teacher.  I also think that she would do quite well in graduate studies! 

The Seelsorger, meanwhile, continues to keep up with parish responsibilities and community commitments.  The work on my STM degree is now in the thesis phase, and I have made one trip downstate already to consult with my adviser at Nashotah House. I am finished with my coursework and will miss the enjoyment of the summer classes for the first time since 2010. I have to finish the proposal and submit it for approval, a task I have been whittling away at little by little.  The working title at present is "The Apocalypse as Used in the Worship of the Church: A Rationale For Its Omission and Selective Use in the Historic Lectionaries."  Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

I am also serving as chaplain for the upcoming district convention, a role I have now served in for three conventions (2006, 2009, 2012).  My duties involve planning all the worship for the convention, but with a shorter convention this time around (a mere 24 hours) the work was lessened considerably.  Conventions involve elections, and the Seelsorger was also nominated to a few positions, among which are district president, regional vice president, and district secretary.  My reelection as circuit counselor has already been completed, so if the other elections do not claim me I will still have plenty of church-at-large responsibilities to keep me busy.   Stay tuned.

Reading remains an enjoyable pastime and a way to keep me intellectually stimulated.  My choices are eclectic and have recently ranged from a biography of Rick Warren (Prophet of Purpose: the Life of Rick Warren, 2009), to an apologetic work by Lee Stobel entitled The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, 2000.  This last work was picked up after encountering author Bart D. Ehrman, one of those "objectors" to Christianity.  I checked out his 2008 book God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer.  Dr. Ehrman (a NT scholar at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill)  is an avowed Christian-turned-agnostic, and while he is less vitriolic than Dawkins, an angry atheist, he is still a powerful influence in the popular book world.  I was less than impressed with Dr. Ehrman's arguments, which I felt were stretched, and reading Stobel has been an invigorating distraction. 

My wife blessed me with a Nook at my birthday this past December, so picking up books for this electronic toy has also given me a new environment to explore.  Unfortunately I am too cheap to spend more than a few dollars on an electronic copy and prefer to hold in my hands the actual paper copy.  I'm adapting, though, and the Nook often goes with me in the car as my portable library filled with classics and others interesting works to be read at convenient snippets of time.

Of course, I also continue my study of Dr. Herman Sasse as part of a book study group that meets monthly at our district office.  We are currently working our way through the "We Confess" series, the present one concerning Christ.  Dr. Sasse's works saved me in my early ministry when I was drowning in a sea of Church Growth theories, so I am particularly indebted to him. 

While I am not always blogging a lot, you can usually find me dropping in on discussions over at the ALPB site which I joined about a year or so ago.  I pick and choose what I am interested in and usually do not write long posts.   I can also be found via Facebook, although I have to confess that I do not frequent that realm as much as some.  I'm trying to use it more, but I prefer discussion boards and blogging.  Must be my age. 

Well, it seemed like a good time to update and I think that is complete enough for now.  Blessings to all in the waning days of the glorious Easter season!