Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I received word the other day that one of the congregations I served in my first parish is closing its doors after a final service on August 17th. Zion Lutheran Church of Hoskins, Nebraska. The locals call it "Zion East".

I have mixed feelings about it. I loved that church and most every single member. Clem and Lorena Weich, who were the perennial youth group leaders, Herman Koepke (and his bride, Dorothy, and their children), The Andersons, and, well, too many people to name, and too long ago to be sure that I would not misspell their names or forget someone who is, in memory, precious to me. I have personal stories about most of them, and they delight me when I think about them.

I only served as pastor there for two years. These were the people who had the first shot at teaching me how to be a pastor, and they did it with great patience and love.

I don't feel badly that the congregation must close. Every congregation has a life - it is born, it lives for a time, and it "dies". When I was there almost thirty years ago, I told them that if they could not support their congregation, they should close. At that time, they stepped it up a notch, and the congregation continued. As a small farm congregation, many of whose members drove past several other Lutheran congregations to get to "their" church, slow death by attrition was almost inevitable.

I just wanted to say, "Thank God for Zion East". It sheltered the saints of God for generations, and trained more than one pastor in how to be a pastor. I buried a number of the saints in their cemetery, and baptized a few children. It was my joy and honor to serve them, and serve the Lord among them. May God bless and keep the members who still live among us, and gather us in heaven, when the time is right, to sing that song of glory before the throne!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I observed many years ago that I went to the seminary to train for a job that didn't really exist in a church body that wasn't really there. I meant -- as I explained to anyone who asked -- that what I thought the parish ministry was, it wasn't. My mental picture of what a pastor was did not really resemble the reality. People did not deal with their pastors the way I did, and thought that everyone would. There was less respect. They tended to treat their pastors as oddities.

And the church I had grown up in had seemed so united and Christian, and about God and worship. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was not so. The church body (the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) was all about money. Go figure. They talked about being united, but they had been divided since before my birth on theological grounds. Half of the church body did not believe the Bible was the Word of God. Some did not believe much of what the Bible teaches about Jesus. And that was almost thirty years ago.

A decade (or more) ago, I had a friend describe to me the arrogant dismissal of doctrine by a member of the Synodical missions staff. He called concern about truth and sound doctrine a "seminary mindset", and one which my friend was cautioned to dispose of as quickly as possible.

Apparently the church, which our beloved Synod's president intoned "is not your grandfather's" wasn't really my grandfather's church even back a while ago.

So, we live in a church that says that it stands to promote sound doctrine, but actually opposes it. It says that it exists to protect congregations from renegade pastors, but refuses to do so. It says that it stand to protect pastors against rogue congregations, but rather chooses to assist rogue congregations in abusing faithful pastors.

We call this the church militant. We are at war. Sadly, it seems like we are at war with one another rather than with the enemy, you know, the old evil foe. This is the place where you are trained to stand up for the truth -- and if you stand up for it, it simply makes you a target.

I do not regret for a minute that I became a pastor. I have known so many wonderful people -- and roughly as many monsters who wear their sheep disguise badly. I am what God called me to be. I gladly stand and take the arrows. I love to share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. I am simply not willing to pretend that the world - or the church - is anything other than what it is. And I wish that we could stop all the pretending and hypocrisy around us, at least in the church.

To that end, one must admire the fresh new openness of the Kieschnick Klan in St. Louis. They force faithful men out of their positions, fire confessional radio people, and can missionaries for the effrontery of actually doing mission work. Don't these people (the fired and abused) know that this all a con, and the synod is about money, not the Word of God? This not just not my grandfather's, it isn't really church, either. But dressed up in the disguise of religion, and the sense of "rightness" that accompanies so many in religion, they are confident that they are doing "God's work".

And He shall hold them accountable. May God have mercy on their souls.