I have been absent from this world for a while. I am preparing to leave Missouri and head to Illinois for a year on a vicarage assignment. I am hoping through the nest year I will be more faithful in corresponding what is transpiring in Staunton through this medium.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

St. Michael and all Angels

I am excited about being able to read a Luther sermon tonight to the congregation. I was hit in the mouth by its potency. I hope people listen to the whole thing.

ON a different note; the October fest 5k Cassie and I have been preparing and training for is a week away. We are physically prepared as well as mentally prepared. WE are just in the process of trying to reduce our times for each mile.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Absolution and the Vicar

Thanks again to Pastor Brown and Meador for their input and insight into this area of discussion as well as the rest of us for feeling comfortable enough to share our insights and thoughts throughout this discussion. As well as the blessed men who have guided me through prayer and meditation.

This section will be a review of the circumstance that has brought this reflection and discussion into fruition. If you have followed the discussion all along then you might want to skip down a paragraph if not and you would like to have a greater grasp on what is being discussed, please read on.

This week a child was brought to me, he was heavy with guilt on account of a trespass committed at home. We discussed it, I led him into the sanctuary and we knelt together at the altar. He had no words for his confession so I opened him to the confession that is printed in the LSB. He acknowledged that the confession he had read was his own and according to his confession I proclaimed the Grace of God to him. (That is the short of it) I halted though because I felt a desire to proclaim to the child, “I forgive you all your sin, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus” but did not. I resisted because I believe that these words are given to the pastor according to the keys and authority given to him by the church. (Properly understanding the keys is critical and I thank Nathan, a classmate of mine from Concordia Austin, for the review in Lutheran Catechesis. So if anyone needs an explanation of “the office of the Keys” then look to the Small Catechism of Luther first, go to a local Lutheran Parish second, or call me if you have my number) So, I was unsettled because I wanted to remit him of his sin because I had compassion on him in his grief but was bound not to overstep the lines of authority which have been established for proper order of the church and for the care of souls. Now, back to the discussion…

I have read through all of the comments that have been posted and read through the confessions. I have talked to my Bishop, I have talked to Pastors who are around me daily who are wiser more learned men than I could hope to be in a lifetime and think that now I have a satisfactory presentation of “Absolution and the Vicar” which I hope challenges us in our thinking but more importantly our DOING. Here is my brief presentation (and it is important also to remember that as a vicar I am neither laity or Pastor, so my view will be different than that of a lay-man but I will try with all my might to make it so for the sake of the casual reader that might happen into the confines of this correspondence) thanks for all your patience and careful thought through all of this. I hope and pray this is for the mutual building up and education of us all, I know it has been for me, and perhaps a re-inforcer and refiner for others.

There are three realms that confession/absolution reign in and may be applied. These are not realms that you will find in a systematic or worship book, as far as I know and have read, but just three different areas of faith that the “sacrament” may be celebrated. I will begin with the one closest to the situation I have previously presented; between a penitent believer and a third party.

It is important to point out that the child in my story did not trespass against me, making me a third party in his story. I was the one asked to lead him in confession/absolution not being his father or mother. In this celebration of confession absolution I resolve that any lay-man not holding the authority of the Pastoral Office and the vicar alike absolve the sins of a third party in the form and fashion of that presented to us in Compline. In this confession and absolution the leader as well as the congregation confesses sin before Almighty God, the whole company of Heaven, and all gathered brothers and sisters of faith. Then the response is given in the third person asking that God forgive, remit, and pardon all sin. This is what Pastor J. Brown is talking about when he mentioned in his comment that I am left with a third person absolution. This is a declaration of Grace upon a penitent believer. This is where my tension stemmed forth on account of the literature I read.

I am being trained as a Pastor, like all vicars, and as a candidate we are being taught the necessity of a first person to second person dialogue in our speaking, Baptismal Speech, W. Willimon might put it and well as G. Forde. A speech that bears full authority to remit sins; as if it were God himself booking the declaration from heaven! That is why I think there was great tension. I am being trained to say words that I have not yet the authority to mutter. This might lead to a further discussion on the propriety of a third year vicarage. But, that is another topic altogether. Let us move onto what I label the second realm or celebration.

The second realm is what we see presented to us by Jesus in so many of his teachings concerning forgiveness; when a brother or a sister trespasses against me. In this celebration of confession/absolution there is nothing restraining me from using a first person to second person discourse in my absolution. If I am sinned against I will tell the trespasser, “I forgive you of all your sin by the command of Christ my Lord” or something to that effect. In this celebration there is nothing keeping a priest of the saintly priesthood from declaring full pardon. In-fact, we should hold fast to the command of Christ and forgive or else (Matt. 18:35). After this stern reminder from Christ let us move on to the third celebration of confession/absolution.

In the third celebration we see the richness of the Pastoral Office. Standing before a gathered crowd or a homebound soul the Pastor declares a first person to second person absolution in the stead of Christ and by his command. This absolution is authoritative to remit any sin committed. Not limited in only pardoning the sins committed to him in a first to second person setting or limited to grant only a third person absolution; the Pastor declares as if God were there in-front of the penitent, “I forgive You.” This is the Kerygmatic Public Ministry, if there is such a term. The declaration of First to Second person absolution which is bound by nothing because it is from God and not man, as my friend Shawn Barnett has pointed out so wonderfully. I should say make mention, the other celebrations of confession/absolution are also not bound for God in any way, and are powerful indeed, but as far as humanity we are bound by their form or the realm they are celebrated in.

A lay-man ought not to cross the lines of the Pastoral Office in celebrating absolution according to the third celebration I have mentioned above. In the same way, as we are being trained, a Pastor should not act as a lay-man in the pulpit. He ought to celebrate the full practice of this third celebration of absolution; using a first to second person correspondence between God and Man. “I forgive you all your sins!” This is the election of God and the full measure of his Grace which the church has authorized the Pastor to practice publicly, so let him practice it.

This brings into light the comment concerning the authorization of any person to hold the keys. I am not sure yet how to answer that and might take a few more days of looking, asking, praying, and reading to come up with a coherent response. Perhaps one of our other contributors might be able to sufficiently respond in less time.

If the question is, “could” the church authorize a man to perform absolution the answer is yes they could. Now, I think there are all kinds of other factors that come into play here. The question I have is, why does the church make use of its God given keys more often? Why don’t we gather sinners before the whole communion, confess, and then absolve as the body of Christ? I think Pastor Meador had an experience like this when he was visiting his current parish in Plymouth, WI. The communion gathered and forgave. That might also be a topic for another discussion/reflection.

I hope that you have endured through all of this. I hope that you have enjoyed it in some way. I pray that I have not been a stumbling block and that the devil and his evil angels keep away from these words and this discussion. Let us not be led astray and to divisions over words that we do not understand or agree. Let us, as brother, try to explain and teach simply, patiently, and calmly in love, so that the communion may be built up and the church protected. Pray that St. Michael and all the company of heaven be will us in battle against the evil one not taking his power for granted but reminding him of his defeat in Christ and lack of power over us. Let us practice and celebrate daily the richness of confession and absolution. As vicars let us pray to remain steadfast in our current vocations and not give into desire and temptation. As Pastors I pray that all you blessed men celebrate the Authority given to you by Christ through His Church to absolve by his Power and Might. As lay-men I pray that you/we would remain prayerful in our support of the Pastoral office not neglecting or becoming envious in anyway the position our Pastors have been granted.

I thank you my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger, and that you would keep me this day from sin and every evil. That all my doings in life may please you. For into your hand I commend myself. My body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have not power over me. Amen and Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Power of Private Confession and Absolution

A theft from a mothers purse and the subsequent fear of punishment weighted upon the chest. I know of only one relief, confession and absolution. However, do I, as a vicar have the authority to absolve of sin? It was not a random disciple that Jesus lectured on forgiveness but Peter. Or, does what Jesus said to Peter expand to the whole body of forgiven restore people as Jesus taught in a parabolic way using an unmerciful servant as an example, with the warning do it? I am left wondering because today I was confronted with a child who was suffering from the shame and guilt of trespass. He had no words to confess to God so of course I led him by the words given to us through the Apostles. I absolved him as he believed, that the forgiveness was of God and not man. I am just wrestling, in my short-lived vicarage career, with several incompatibilities that we seem fine in glazing over, like Augustana XIV, within our vicarage experiences. So I am asking the question, is the authority to remit/retain sins a key that all believers are given on account of their righteousness or rather a specific aspect of the Public Ministry handed down by the Spirit through Apostolic Succession?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mums and Morning Light

Light rays originating beyond our space and time somehow made the mums pouring out from our porch much more vibrant this morning. As if they were singing a morning prayer to their creator they beamed and saluted the radiance from above. I was stopped by them and reminded to sing a morning prayer to my creator as well because I am far more radiant than these small buds.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Willimon Quote

When reflecting on the baptismal rites of the ancient church Willimon looks to Hippolytus' observations and notes

"These rites of Baptism expected a decisive ending of the old life, transformation through the process of initiation, and the beginning of a new life. Through instruction, dramatic rite, exorcism, and careful, communal examination, these ancient congregations prepared candidates for the shock of ethical transformation brought about by freeing a person from the grip of the old pagan gods" W.W., Peculiar Speech, 60.

What I appreciate the most concerning this entry, and indeed the whole book, is that Willimon places the responsibility for Baptismal speech on the entire congregation, not only the pastor. I am attracted to this type of speaking because all too often I feel like congregations want pastors to BE the only Baptized member of the congregation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day Break

Long weekends do not have as much allure as they had months ago. I spent Sunday evening and the majority of Monday fishing for "slab" Crappie in my Father-in-Laws tank (or pond as it might be known in the Mid-West). I do not know the exact words to use to describe just how nice it is to be out on the water in a boat fishing. The ancient Greek understanding of the word "perfect" comes to mind. Not perfect as in "no fault" but perfect as in "doing exactly what a thing is supposed to do" that kind of perfect.

I felt like I was out there on that water doing exactly what I was supposed to do for that given time. I was focused in thought and determination. Poised and ready for the strike of whatever might have been swimming nearby. Anticipating he braggadocios clamor that might be had if I did find the place where the Crappie rest.

As you can tell I was successful in my venture and was able to employ my story telling technique. However, I am rather envious that such perfection still remains elusive in the area of Homiletical reflection and concentration. I disappoint myself by having such a high view of the preached Word and yet poorly execute the writing of a homily. The problem is not a lack of information or thought but a lack of perfection in the carrying out of the writing. I do not yet feel like I am doing what I ought when I am finished, and that is most distressing.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Check out the post below

The ongoing manipulation and commodification of humanity by humanity. I do not know how to say it any better than that. I am not even going to use the ambiguous phrase "playing God" because we do not play big "G" god, but we believe we are gods incarnate. Of course, when one believes that we live in a closed universe and we are left to justify ourselves to one another, there is no alternative to believe that you are god to sustain your doings in life.

But, if you believe that Jesus is Lord. Then you are free from the bondage of slavery which is justifying self according to the elementary principles of this world. You have been adopted into a new world, the church, which forms you in the image of the apostles who were formed by Christ. If Jesus is Lord then abandon your Baal's and Asheroth and other gods and follow Him alone. If you do this then your days will be blessed and your life will be peaceful. The Lord is our strength and our song and he is our salvation and he lays waste to the enemies of His people and those who pervert His creation. Thy kingdom come.

First baby born from new egg-screening technique

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Simple Truth

Telling the story of God's work in our lives, in simple language, is a gift. Thanks to Zion for letting me lead ZLC chapels sometimes. God's love is shown that he wants us to be with him so badly that he gave us his Son. We still see Jesus every Sunday we celebrate the Lord's Supper. Jesus is with us. He is saying you have nothing to fear, God loves you, you are right with God again.

Dogs at the Reservoir

We have taken our pups to the Staunton reservoir the last few days for swim training and exercise. We have been having a great time plus the pups are wiped-out when they come home. I do not have any snapshots of them in the water yet but hope to soon. For the mean time however, I have a few little photos of our pooches.
Homiletic reflection:
Being able to preach the Word, as Paul charged to Timothy, is never boring. I was reading through the L.C. (Large Catechism) this morning; focusing specifically on the third commandment and its meaning.

I came accross the sentences towards the explanations close, pg. 399 in the B.o.C. (Book of Concord) 96,97, where Luther goes onto to tell the reader who is in violation of the third commandment by making the day of rest and worship unholy. Not only is it the swine-like-drunkard, but it is also any man who comes to the Service of the Word as they would to any other entertainment, "who only from the force of habit go to hear the sermon and then leave again with as little knowledge at the end of the year as at the beginning." Luther might as well have said, "Let him who has ears, hear."

I am only reflecting on this more heavily today because in my first homlietical meditation and sermon to Zion, I hit on this point and warned the people not to fall into idle contrived practice in worship. "Do not come on account of tradition alone, thinking that by your entering through the doors, opening the hymnal, singing your hymns that you are holy and right with God" I think those were the words I used. And then, as if to breathe life and justice into the Word and the Holy Spirits work of hardening hearts or revealing Christ to destroy all that stands between us and the Almighty as well as what Luther has given us to read, mark, and learn, a parishioner comes up to me and says, "that was a longer sermon than we are used to, but it was pretty good, you had me at the beginning, then you lost me, then you had me again, then you lost me, but it was pretty good."

Blessed be the Father, Son, and Spirit, who have worked in the narrative of human time to reveal to us poor beggars the Word of Truth which is Eternal Life and Restoration for the Faithful.

Another Attempt

I always have the worst time remembering and wanting to use this blog. I just do not like it for the most part. The main reason is I do not like being responded to. In the same way I do not like talking to myself I do not like writing for myself. And, considering journaling here as writing to God, which was a piece of advice once given to me in an attempt to encourage me to write more often, does not strike me in the least as motivating. However, there are still some people out there who cruise by here once in a while. I have heard that there are some connetions from my time in Asia who are passersby. For the sake of piety and the neighbor I will attempt, yet again, the challenge of bearing this Blog.