Author Archives: Robert Paul

FROM THE PASTOR

Published on May 16, 2016

Our Father, who from heav’n above Bids all of us to live in love
As members of one family And pray to You in unity,
Teach us no thoughtless words to say But from our inmost hearts to pray.
LSB 766, stz. 1

Greetings and a Blessed Eastertide to you!

Prayer and the Christian Life

Rogate, “Ask Sunday,” is the last Sunday before the Ascension. Our Lord rose on Easter and was with the disciples for forty days until he ascended to the Father and took up always and fully all of his divine glory. Your Lord Jesus fills all things, by virtue of his Godhead, and constantly brings your prayers to the Father. Thus he tells you to ask in his name and you will receive it. For the past month or so, we have studied prayer in Sunday Bible Class. We have looked at who prays, to whom we pray, what we pray, when we pray; and we will continue to study it yet a little while longer.  I hope this study of prayer has been beneficial. So often we assume the prayer is only “asking,” and how burdensome would that be if we were to unceasingly only have to ask of the Father? Yet Christian prayer is not a burden. The question above assumes prayer to be solely a function of the Law. Instead Christian prayer relies solely upon the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit equips us with the faith that trusts in Christ and relies on Christ and thus directs our prayers.

This Sunday we have revamped and overhauled the prayer list. Now we will not only pray for the sick, but also for our shut-ins, women with child in the congregation, our government, our church and pastors, our school and faculty and staff. Please let us know if you would like to add any family or friends to the list. We want to pray for all neighbors that we might trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness for them in whatever needs they may have. We pray not only to intercede for them, but also to praise God for them and to thank Him for what He gives our neighbors and us.

The topic of prayer suffers much false teaching. I hope that our studies have been and continue to be fruitful so that we might think on this gift that God has given us and how we might always love him and the neighbor when we “call upon him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

Confirmation: Never an End of Catechesis

This month we celebrate the confirmation of four catechumens on Pentecost, 15 May. Confirmation, a churchly rite, has suffered much abuse in the Church. Often it has been viewed an treated as a graduation, an end of Sunday School and Christian learning. But in fact, Confirmation only confirms that the Baptized are indeed Christians. It confirms that they desire to live as Christians and that they also desire to continue to be Christians and receive the Lord’s gifts in the Divine Service weekly.

Our recent traditions have paired the First Communion with Confirmation. Whether it ought always to be like this is a topic for later discussion, but it is important to note that the two occasions are different. First Communion trains Christians to understand Christian doctrine in order to discern that they are sinners in need of the Sacrament of the Altar to receive the forgiveness of sins, comfort the conscience, and strengthen their faith and love towards God and one another. Confirmation is a confession that this Christian faith is theirs that they will hold until death, by the grace of God. This year our eighth graders will receive both for their benefit and yours. It is good to see and care for our fellow Christians as they confess their faith. Pray for our confirmands and our catechumens (confirmation students). Pray for strength of faith, courage of conscience, resolution to receive the Lord’s gifts often, and also a bold confession that they would always confess Christ as Lord and trust firmly in His Means of Grace.

Blessed Eastertide!

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

The Table of Duties: Living the Christian Life

Published on December 15, 2015

"Various Holy Orders"

The Lutheran doctrine of vocation is a shining light for the comfort of the believer. It flows directly from the Creed and the confession of who God is. God is a God of order and He uses the order he has created and instituted on Earth to take care of His creation. The “Holy Orders,” as our Confessions call them, are the God-given duties that each of us holds: Government, Citizens, Husbands, Wives, Parents, Children, Workers, Employers, Pastors, Hearers, Youths, Widows and Everyone.

The Calling of Peter and Andrew

The Calling of Peter and Andrew

Vocation comes from the Latin vocatio, “calling.” But these are not callings that come from the inside, based upon feelings or emotions but those which God gives to us. God makes us members of families, governments, churches, and businesses; even if we would rather put ourselves at the center of every relationship. We need to be reminded frequently about vocation. Otherwise, like Korah of the Old Testament, we will seek to serve God in the ways that we see fit (Numbers 16). Instead vocation and the Table of Duties teach us what God’s ways are and how he works in the world.

He uses each vocation of the Christian as a mask. Christians alone have vocations, because this is how God works through the baptized and redeemed. Everyone (Christian and non-Christian) has an office; but Christians are called by God to work in the “various holy orders.” God has established government and families, but Christian rulers and Christian parents are pleasing to God because God works through them by His Spirit. This distinction is important for us to remember, for vocations do not merit God’s grace and favor but operate because of His grace and favor. This is how God works through believers.

We are called to remember this through the Table of Duties because history and the Scriptures are filled with examples of man’s attempt to serve God and the neighbor is his own way. Monasticism was Luther’s main “whipping boy” when it came to teaching about vocation. The Medieval “offices” of priest, nun, and monk were invented by the church as God pleasing tasks. Many still hold this opinion today. “You must really serve God, if you have chosen an occupation in the Church; unlike the rest of us.”

Yet, this is simply not true. The Office of the Holy Ministry (Office of Pastor) is pleasing to God because it distributes the means of grace. Your duties are truly Holy Orders because you are all priests (1 Peter 2). Christians offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving as priests, the holy nation set apart by the blood of Christ and the Spirit. Christians then also serve their neighbor as God works through them in these Holy Orders.
Each section of the Table of Duties (LSB, p. 328) contains only Bible verses which detail how God understands each position. This is based on 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 6. In Confirmation class and in our memory work we always include the Table of Duties, because here we learn how the 10 Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, and the Supper are worked out in the lives of Christians to the glory of God.

“Created Orders for an Ordered Creation”

What is made very evident by the Table of Duties, as well as the totality of the Scriptures, is that God is a God of order. He has created everything to have an order and inner logic to it. Today’s culture cannot stand to have such order and thus everything is interchangeable. Mothers and fathers are not distinct in any way. Husbands and wives too have lost their distinctions, because male and female are treated as androgynous equals. Our current state of affairs, especially in America, leads one to despair because of the outright rejection of God’s created order.

But Christians have God’s Word and therefore do not need to lose heart or feel defeated as society continues to debase itself and abandon God’s gifts that have been preserved throughout the millennia. Government is given to the world so that all mankind would know that God is the” king of kings and lord of lords.” The rulers of earthly kingdoms are to care for the lands and peoples they rule according to Natural Law because this is how God has made all these things (Romans 13:1-4). Citizens are to respect and fear their governments because of the God who has established them for their good (Romans 13:5-7). Now of course, sinners sin; God knows this and Christians ought always to question the government that causes them to sin and reject God’s Word. But apart from this government is for the benefit of creation.

michelangelo_obed_grtThe estates of Marriage and parenting too are God’s good gifts, currently forsaken for personal gain and adulterous desires. God created male and female to be perfectly compatible. The woman was the help meet for man. Recent generations of egalitarianism and feminism have eroded the Scriptural background behind marriage and the roles of male and female. Now it is hard to tell whether conservative Christians have biblical principles or the principles of yesteryear (the 1950’s and a “Leave it to Beaver” notion of family roles). However the Table of Duties clarifies this. Husbands are to be considerate with their wives and women are to fear and respect their husbands. Eyebrows always rise when these topics come up; but we must talk about them for God has instituted marriage and families for his good purposes and for our benefit.

The relationships of pastor and hearer too are important. When one doubts who is to be a pastor, the Scriptures are very clear (1 Timothy 3:2-6). When hearers of the Word are tempted to do more and perhaps abandon their other vocations, the Scriptures too are clear on what they owe the pastor: his livelihood and sharing God’s gifts in theological discussion.

Much can be said about each portion of the Table of Duties. By these passages God clearly tells us how we are to live in which positions God has placed us. We ought not be afraid that we are not doing what God wants us to do, for he works through us by his Spirit how he pleases. When we have a concern or question we should follow the example of the Small Catechism and turn to God’s Word. Here we find clear instructions and admonishments so that we would attempt in all faith and earnestness to live a Christian life. As Luther concluded the Table of Duties, we here finish our treatment of the Small Catechism:

Let each his lesson learn with care,
And all the household well shall fare.

Rev. R. W. Paul
Ad Te Levavi, Advent I
29 November AD 2015
Pastor and Headmaster, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School

From Pastor Paul

Published on October 9, 2015

Lord God, to Thee we give all praise,
With grateful hearts our voices raise,
That angel hosts Thou didst create
Around Thy glorious throne to wait.

They never rest nor sleep as we;
Their whole delight is but to be
With Thee Lord Jesus, and to keep
Thy little flock, Thy lambs and sheep.

LSB 522:1&3, Philipp Melanchthon

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels was celebrated this past week with Matins. Michaelmas, as it was often called, begins to usher in the close of our Church Year. This month concludes with the Festival of the Reformation. Next month begins with All Saints and concludes with the Last Sunday of the Church Year and the First Sunday in Advent. Thus the cycle repeats again. Why such repetition? Why such an emphasis on this ordering of our lives as Christians? The Church Year is moulded around Christ and His Bride the Church. As we live our lives in Christ through faith and the Holy Spirit, this should have import in all aspects. Our days are ordered in his peace, and so can daily find our Sabbath rest in the preaching and readings of the Church Year as we remember the various Sundays, Feasts and Festivals.

Living in the peace of Christ, we then are given ways to live out our lives as Christians mainly in our daily vocations. As always strength for your vocation can be found in hearing and studying God’s Word. Matins is offered every school day at 8:05. This half hour service is a wonderful way to begin the day: hearing God’s Word, singing hymns, and praying. Bible and theology studies are offered throughout the week for the building up of faith. However, daily vocation does sometimes prohibit the usual pattern of attendance at the Sunday Divine Service and Bible Study. If a weeknight Divine Service would benefit you and your family, please let me know. I have spoken to some of you and found that need apparent. It would give me great pleasure to offer the Lord’s Supper more than once a week for those who desire it. We have had the Divine Service on some weeknights (Feasts and Festivals), but this would be a weekly spoken Divine Service perhaps early evening for the purpose of delivering the forgiveness of sins to those whose jobs prohibit regular Sunday attendance. Sabbath rest is Sabbath rest. The day is not prescribed. Please speak with me, if this would benefit you.

We are nearing the end of the calendar year, and my newsletter series on the Catechism draws to a close. This month and next month cover the Sacrament of the Altar. December will handle the Table of Duties. In January the newsletter series will focus on hymns. Hymns, which exemplify the season/month, will be explained and discussed with the purpose of introducing or remembering the chief hymns of our Lutheran confession and identity.

As we enter the month of the Reformation, October, let us keep our eyes fixed on the means of grace by which we receive the true Gospel. Forgiveness is here for you at Immanuel. God grant us a desire to receive His Word and Sacrament freely and often.

God bless you!

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

Confession: “A Sacrament? And the Significance of Individual Confession and Absolution”

Published on September 10, 2015

“To be a sacrament, or not to be a sacrament?”

What is a sacrament? We hear the term fairly often, but can we define it? The term is Scriptural but not written in the Bible as such. Sacramentum is the Latin translation for the Greek mysterion or “mystery.” This term arises three times in St. Paul’s Epistles:

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:1
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32
“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16

In these cases the term deals with the saving truths of the Gospel and faith: the incarnation, redemption, the Trinity and the church. By the same token then, the term was applied to the means by which the Christian receives this faith and the forgiveness of sins.

Apart from the sevenfold sacramental system of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox confessions, the Lutheran church understood two or three sacraments. Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and perhaps Absolution. Philip Melanchthon, a chief teacher of our Confessions, in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession states,

If we define sacraments as “rites which have the command of God and to which the promise of grace has been added,” we can easily determine which are sacraments in the strict sense. By this definition, rites instituted by men are not sacraments in the strict sense since men do not have the authority to promise grace. … The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace, which is the heart of the New Testament. Ap. XIII, 3-4.

Luther understood Absolution to be an extension of Baptism, because repentance is above all things a return to Baptism (LC IV, 74-79).
The traditional definition of Sacrament in our theology is:

A sacred act 1) instituted by God, 2) where God has joined His Word of promise to a visible element, and 3) where He gives the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ.

So where does that place the gift of Absolution? God certainly promises the forgiveness of sins to the repentant. He gives the Office of the Keys to the Church through Christ in St. John 20 and in St. Matthew 18. Here the Church is given authority, through the office of the pastor, to pronounce  forgiveness or withhold forgiveness. Thus the absolution is clearly instituted by God. It is joined to the very Words of Christ and it gives forgiveness.
In order to match the traditional definition above, however, many have trouble associating a visible element with this great gift of God. Is it too great of a stretch to acknowledge that the visible element is the voice of the man pronouncing absolution? For some it is and for some it isn’t. Our Confessions leave the door open for such a moniker to be used of the Absolution- a sacrament. For the Absolution is nothing else than the promise of God’s forgiveness pronounced through the Word of Christ in the words of the pastor for the comfort of the penitent.

“Individual Confession and Absolution”

Keys-50Confession and Absolution is one of the greatest treasures of the Church. The term “confession” often brings to mind the confessional booths of the Roman Catholic tradition, the phrase “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” and the requisite works to guarantee forgiveness. But this is not the great treasure of Confession and Absolution. Since the days of the Reformation the Church has freed this gift from the tyranny of the Law alone and returned it to the proper light of Law and Gospel. Repentance has two parts, first that we confess our sins driven to do so by the Law and second that we believe that we are forgiven for the sake of Christ, according to his promises.

We are comfortable with the Office of the Keys, forgiving and retaining sins, with individual Christians. Sometimes it takes extra effort, but most Christians can ask forgiveness from their neighbor when they have sinned against him. We are also comfortable with corporate forms of Confession and Absolution. During the Divine Service it has been our practice to observe a general absolution before continuing with the Introit. But when it comes to Individual Confession and Absolution where the pastor is simply the ears and mouthpiece of God, we are often reluctant to take advantage of such a gift.

Use of Confession and Absolution cannot be urged successfully from anyone outside of the sinner. It is a desire of the Christian to beg pastors to share this great gift and receive forgiveness. As Luther writes,

When I urge you to go to Confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian. If I have brought you to the point of being a Christian, I have thereby also brought you to Confession. For those who really desire to be true Christians, to be rid of their sins, and to have a cheerful conscience already possess the true hunger and thirst. They reach for the bread, just as Psalm 42:1 says of a hunted deer, burning in the heat with thirst, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God." Luther’s Exhortation to Confession, LC VI, 32-33.

Confession and Absolution is for the benefit of the Christian. Christians are those who cling to Christ and not to their sins. Therefore Christians are those who take advantage of Confession and Absolution. There is, of course, no Law when it comes to how Confession is made or Absolution is received. But there should always be a proper sense of necessity when considering this great treasure.

Our Lord says in St. Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” St. Matthew 11:28-30 It is without a doubt that this easy yoke and light burden is found in the forgiveness of sins as we receive them in the Sacraments.

When you are oppressed by your sins and find no relief anywhere for your conscience, know that there is such relief and comfort in Confession and Absolution. When you are burdened with doubt, shame, or grief; return to your baptism and confess your sins receiving the glorious words of forgiveness that satisfy those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our Lord has given us this gift that we might use it and use it frequently. Let us do so in the fullness of Christian freedom exercising our faith as Christians by trusting in God’s promise of forgiveness.

Rev. R. W. Paul
Thursday of Trinity XII
26 August AD 2015
Pastor and Headmaster, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School

From Pastor Paul

Published on September 10, 2015

I trust O Christ in You alone; No earthly hope avails me.
You will not see me overthrown When Satan’s host assails me.
No human strength, no earthly pow’r
Can see me through the evil hour,
For you alone my strength renew.
I cry to You! I trust, O Lord, Your promise true.
LSB 972:1, Conrad Hubert

It is a deep joy and pleasure to be here at Immanuel to serve both the church and school. Classes are now underway, with only a few more groups to join us after Labor Day. Our school year has been off to a great start. Please see the school newsletter this week for more information on what has gone on with our school this summer and how the school year is shaping up. Thank you for your support of our school. It is your school, for without Immanuel Lutheran Church we would have no need to teach our children the faith. Since the church is here, it is right that we also have such a wonderful place to educate our children and raise them in the faith. Feel free to visit at Matins and during the school day. We would love to have you come.

It is encouraging to see many of you week in and week out even as the summer has waned and the school year began. Please take great joy and comfort in God’s gifts of preaching and the Sacraments. The Divine Service is God’s chief service for you where he delivers you the bread of life, the Word for repentance and faith and the Holy Supper for the strengthening of that faith. For those who travel throughout the year, please let me know where you might visit so that I can help you find a congregation to visit and perhaps commune at if they are in fellowship with us. Attending the Divine Service to receive God’s gifts is of the utmost importance and it shows confidence in God’s promises fulfilled and delivered by our Lord, Christ Jesus.

As I continue to try to balance both roles as headmaster and pastor please do keep me in your thoughts when you need the help or support of your pastor. I appreciate many of your concerns for my personal time and family time; but I still am your pastor and desire to be with you in pastoral needs. We will balance these. But when you are going into the hospital, or are in need of someone to talk to, or have questions about the faith: I am here for you.

Bible Studies have gone very well so far and I hope that they continue to do so. Last Monday’s Gemütlichkeit (Beer and Theology) was a great success. We have decided to do a survey of the writings of Martin Luther starting at his earliest lectures (1513) and then to follow his development theologically through his writings until his death (1546). It will be quite the undertaking. We also hope to dive into the books of the Scriptures that he comments on in order to further our own studies of the Scriptures while we also study on a crucial teacher of the Christian faith. Men, please join us this month! For dates and times, see the newsletter and bulletins.

Ladies, the Tuesday morning class studying 1 Corinthians begins on the 8th. In addition our Friday study of the Catholic/General Epistles, beginning with 1 Peter, is off to a great start. If you are free please join us!

Finally, choir starts up again this Wednesday, September 2nd. I am delighted to see that our choir is returning for another year. Singers and aspiring singers are all welcome! If you have thought about choir but are not sure, please see me. It is my intent this year to not only prepare sacred pieces for the offering but also to continue to enrich the service with choir support during the hymns and liturgy. If you can join us for the fall, please do so! We would love to have you.

Opportunities abound here at Immanuel to grow in the faith that God has given to us by His Word and Spirit. God grant that we pursue them to the benefit of our faith, our love of God and the neighbor.

God bless you!

In Christ,

Pastor Paul