Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A look into the mind of one of the most random, crazy people in all the land.

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Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Win Some and Lose Some

Hey all. It's been a long time since I've posted anything of substance, so I'm going to give a general update.

First year at seminary went fine. I mostly got A's, but I was a little disappointed with my Gospels I, II grades, which were both B's. However, I managed to get an A from Dr. Nordling (I think the only one he's given since he's been at Concordia) on my paper regarding the Words of Institution in Matthew's Gospel. I also got B's in Hebrew I and II. Aside from that, I loved my history and exegetics classes. I was a little disappointed by the systematic and liturgical classes though.

However, after my first year of seminary, I've come to the conclusion that ordination is not for me. I've begun the process of switching out of the MDiv program and pursuing academic interests in historical theology. As a result I'll graduate next year with an MA in Religion. Due to some recent discussions with Calvinists, I'm anxious to work on the theology of the sixth ecumenical council and St. Maximus the Confessor. I've become convinced that at times when referring to the natures of Christ, Calvinists tend to the Nestorian, but when it comes to the will, they are Monothelites, which is itself an extension of Monophysitism and ultimately a form of Apolinarianism.

I met a lot of good people at seminary, but sadly, two of my close friends are doing years in the study abroad program. Matt Moss will be in England and Travis Berg will be in Germany. Mike Miller gets married this Summer (though since I can't find a job to save my life I don't know if I'll be able to make it). I reconnected with a friend from University who teaches Paleontology at Duke in Oklahoma, and he ardently discusses the creation/evolution debate.

Aside from theological discoveries, I have to admit that aside from Christology, I'm not learning a whole lot about systematics (even in that class a lot was review for me). I learned more systematics in church history I.

This Summer, if I can't find a job, I'll be reading and reviewing my languages and history, but also making movies on youtube...especially since I've found a text-to-speech program that lets you make 6 minute cartoons in less than an hour. I'm in the middle of doing a series on the history of Christology, aimed at explaining to Calvinists why some of us accuse them of Christological difficulties at times.

The only thing I'm going to ask for prayer is for a family member very close to me that has cancer. We've caught it early, but prayer is always good in this situation.

Glory to God for all things.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sermon for Christmas Eve Midnight

No, I didn't deliver it to a congregation, just Homiletics I.

Text: Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalm 110:1-4, Antiphon 2a
1 John 4:7-16
Matthew 1:18-25
Hymn of the Day: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and our enfleshed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Gospel text is an unusual one if you stop and think about it. Here we have a dream announcement to a man named Joseph, as if that idea doesn’t ring any bells from the book of Genesis. We have an unnamed angel who pretty much catches Joseph by surprise, and a message that has a reference to a passage from Isaiah, which we heard earlier tonight. This text seems to have something to do with tonight, but why does Matthew not record the birth of Jesus or the events leading up to it in Bethlehem? This is most of the setup for the birth, which is passed over relatively quickly. Rather than look to the events of tonight, this text is forward looking to the ultimate reason for the season, and the true reason Our Lord became man. This is not the “Peanuts Christmas Special” Gospel text of Luke 2 which we all know and love. There are no shepherds, no inn, no Caesar Augustus, no census, not even a choir of angels singing, “Gloria in excelsis!” One almost gets the idea from reading Luke’s Gospel, that everyone was happy that Jesus was born, and that Caesar himself would enter the manger right behind the shepherds. Everything is just peachy keen. But in Matthew, there is but one angel and St. Joseph the stepfather and guardian of Jesus.
Matthew’s Gospel portrays a darker Christmas story. One almost gets the impression that time is running out, and that this is completely unexpected by anyone. Joseph is thinking of divorcing his “virgin” wife whom he suspects of coming together with another man, he and Mary run from Herod into Egypt, and there is the awful slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem. There is even a nice touch of pagan astrology where magi follow a star and show up the Jews who have the authoritative Scriptures and prophecies from God. No, this Gospel is gritty, and desperate. Yet God is still in control. As Joseph debates how to divorce his wife quietly in order not to “put her to shame” – that is, to avoid her being stoned to death for adultery according to Jewish law – he is visited by an angel in a dream. He is told that Mary is still a virgin, and her child is conceived by the Holy Spirit. After being told to name the child Jesus, he awakes, and with no hint of questioning, he goes off to do as he was told. In fact, Joseph says absolutely nothing in the entire Bible. All dialogue between Jesus and His earthly parents are with His mother, and her alone. Joseph is so seemingly unimportant, that his death during the life of Jesus is not recorded by any Gospel, nor spoken of much in the various traditions of the church. It is almost as if he doesn’t even exist. This event seemingly is quite unimportant in general, except that it seems to alleviate Joseph’s fears regarding his betrothed. He is a side character to this cosmic drama, and he does as he is told in a dream. This man, who is the stepfather of Jesus listens and does what most of us would think foolish, for how many of us do what our dreams tell us?
So, with no birth, one angel, and a dream, what are we to make of this text for Christmas? Well, we find the reason given for Christ’s coming; He is to save us from our sins. He is to save us not only from our acts of lust, greed, idleness, lewdness, and our acts of omission with regard to our parents, bosses, and governmental authority, but He frees us from the sin of our first parents which enslaves us and leads us to death and damnation. He comes to save us from ourselves and we don’t even know how to welcome Him. He is the rose to blossom from the dead stem of Jesse. He is the one the prophets foretold and who kings and peasants alike in Israel had believed in. He is their king and God. He is Immanuel, “God with us.” And just as He was with them, so He is with us as king and Lord.
This Gospel does nothing, but look forward, not to tonight, but to the cross, and the awaiting of His return following His resurrection and ascension. The psalm of the day we read earlier goes hand in hand with explaining that this annunciation at Christmas-time, is actually a Good Friday and Easter text. As the Psalmist says, He has taken the right hand of God until His enemies are made His footstool. He began His reign on earth amidst His enemies on the cross, between two thieves. He came from Mt. Zion and His trial. He was crowned with thorns and welcomed in true royal regalia of whips and spit. He ascended His throne with shouts of “crucify Him,” and He still saves them from their sins by asking His father to forgive them all. Because of His work on our behalf, we are free to be His people. We are free from death, sin, and the cause of our fall, the Devil. He gives us a share in His glory and might. He gives us the right to be born again and to be adopted as God’s sons. We join His kingdom through Holy Baptism, where we are given the white robes of His righteousness and become born again from the “womb of the morning,” that is the resurrection. We are fed at the glorious banquet of Heaven by His body while we wander through this desert on the way to our final Heavenly promised land, just as He benevolently fed the Jews in the wilderness with manna that fell like dew.
But we still have a tendency to let this all pass by unnoticed at Christmas. We shop and spend time with our relatives and only vaguely catch a glimpse of the star and the figurine of the young girl and shepherds looking intently into a manger with awe and wonder. We get so caught up in the trimmings of the season; the decorating, the cooking, the driving, that we ignore what is bigger than the turkey, goose, ham, or pudding. We get so caught up in what we have to do for ourselves and others, that often this season is one of darkness and despair, and we are blinded by this darkness to the true light. This season is filled with so many responsibilities to neighbors and relatives that we lose sight of the fact that God became our brother in order to die in our place and take us from darkness into light by His resurrection from death. We are too busy figuring out what gift to buy our loved ones, that Christmas passes by and we often completely forget that God sent His only Son to us as an ultimate gift of love, or at best, we mark off one church service and a quick prayer before we gorge at the feast. We are in such a hurry to get done with food, and turn on the television where we are treated to all manner of Christmas stories and shows, including ones that are idolatrous, elevating family, or an idea of love, in place of the child who sleeps in the manger. We are confronted by red suits that show a marred image of St. Nicholas, who would be appalled by how most of us spend this season. But how does Joseph spend this night?
If we return briefly to our text, and the similarity to the Joseph in Genesis, we see this point beautifully illustrated. Joseph awakens from sleep after a vision, says nothing but trusts that it is from God, he goes into Egypt, and he watches his son grow. Matthew intends for us to see this as, in some way, the Joseph from the Old Testament, who again goes to Egypt, where he welcomes and takes care of His Son, the king of the new Israel. Jesus comes to Joseph as a son, and saves him as well, making peace with him by the forgiving of his sins, just the opposite of the Genesis story, where Joseph forgave his brothers whom he protected. He is a silent witness that God fulfilled His promises to the patriarchs of the Old Testament, just as He will fulfill His promises to us.
So even though we are still mired by sin and love either ourselves or someone else more than God, we can still live with the knowledge that God loves us, and His love can overcome any sin we have. It was meant to. Even one drop of Christ’s blood is enough to forgive the sins of all mankind, many times over. His blood that would be shed for us and which we will drink here tonight is the blood of the Son of God Himself, who comes to claim us and make us the Father’s children. He is the king of glory that came to die and rise again to forgive you all of your sins. He is the king of glory who comes tonight from the womb of a young virgin. He is the king of glory who is still with us and who saves us from our sins. He is the king of glory whose announcing wakes us from our sleep of soul and fleshly idleness. He is the king of glory who gives Himself to us as a gift, from the true Father Christmas, God. Let us then, with thankfulness, be silent as Joseph, and bask in the goodness of our newborn king, Jesus, who in His weakness saves us in a way that we, His people, with all our strength, and might cannot.

And now, may the peace which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the savior born this day, who is Christ the Lord. Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
What I'm thankful for:
1. Jesus
2. Liturgy
3. Family
4. Bad Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal movies :-).
5. church
6. Guys from seminary
7. The few friends from college I keep in touch with.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

No, Really....

No, really, I'm not dead. I've just been SO busy that I haven't had time to think. I'm already getting some good posts ready though (in my mind), dealing with ecclessiology, soteriology, and the atonement. Believe me, it's gonna get strange :-P

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The State of Our Theology

Today the Lutheran church remembers St. Augustine the Doctor of Grace (St. Monica his mother was celebrated yesterday). He is chiefly remembered for his role in several debates (the Manicheans, Donatists, and Pelagians) and his many works on the Christian faith, most notably his "Confessions" and "City of God." While the East sometimes doesn't care for him...he's one of the West's greatest defenders of the faith. With so many fights and battles to be fought, it would be next to impossible if he did not get something wrong some of the time...but those things pale in comparison to what he has given the West and the church catholic in general.

The story of his conversion is a good one, recorded in the "Confessions" and was brought about chiefly by the prayers of his mother and the instruction of St. Ambrose the Bishop of Milan (Dec. 7th). What a team up...and what an excellent type of how we are all brought into the church. The church prays for those who are lost to become her children and know salvation in Christ and the teachers of God's Word instruct and eventually bring in new believers in the Holy Mysteries. I still can't get over how amazing it is that both masculine and feminine work together to create new life, even in the Spiritual realm. Let us remember this story as we pray and weep for those friends and family (and they are innumerable) whom we know that are not in the family of God.

After Summer Greek, I was tired, but now have relaxed somewhat, and begun to read several of my books for the Fall Quarter. I have had the opportunity to return to my home congregation and I have been somewhat troubled by what I have seen and heard. This is not an indictment against Trinity alone, but against most of American Lutheranism. Something so simple as having the Blessed Sacrament every week has been met with such a negative and belabored response. Many of the laymen who have given their reasons why the Sacrament should not be offered at every Divine Service have, to put it bluntly, scared me. The excuses have scared me because they make me fearful for our salvation in times of trial. If the Christian church worries that we are not under persecution for our faith as countries in Africa are, do not worry. The Devil has his teeth sunk in our spoiled and lazy flesh. He has brought us to the point of thinking we don't have it that bad...and we don't need the Sacrament.

Here are the reasons given, my response, and my fear:
1. "I am satisfied." - No you are not! Thinking you are satisfied means you really aren't. This breads complacency and makes us forget that we are the church millitant...the fight isn't over yet.

2. "It will become a law." - To the church body, yes. The Sacraments are to be offered by the church or else it ceases to have the gifts of Christ. But to the believer it is yes and no. The believer is called by the Sacrament, but they choose whether or not to take it. You don't force anyone by offering it...but you can condemn those who need it and do not receive it. Not to mention...if those who say this also push members to read their Bible and pray daily (a worthy goal), how can this be a law but not reception of the Sacrament? Even granting that the Sacrament is a law and not grace (a damnable error), this seems to show a misunderstanding of law and gospel!

3. "I am completely forgiven." - Not if you deny what forgives you your sins and feeds your faith. There is a difference between the forgiveness given freely and you turning your back on one of the means instituted by Christ. You have forgiveness when your will is surrendered to Him and you receive His gifts with faith and repentance. To turn your back on His gifts is a lack of both.

4. "I don't need the church to get grace, it is between me and Jesus." - This one scares me more than the first three, for it shows a complete lack of communion with each other in the ONE body of Christ. This will also play into point 5. Aside from the potential condmenation spoken of in 1 Corinthians 11 for not recognizing the body, it demonstrates a misunderstanding of the means of grace...the means are offered by the priest on behalf of Christ to the congregation...and yes, I'm purposely using the dreaded (yet confessional) term "priest" to get this concept across...the Office of the Holy Ministry is a Divinely instituted office to shepherd God's people with Word and is not the, "we get to wear cool clothes club." This is a misunderstanding of the church, the ministry, and the Sacraments...influenced by Baptiprotestant theology which gets the person and work of Christ wrong. This was also accompanied by "sometimes I don't take it because I don't feel worthy." What?! Such a high view of the Supper one minute and not the next? It is a means of prepare to receive it is to humble one's self and realize that no matter WHAT you do you are unworthy for it...but it is given anyway as long as you have faith that it forgives you your sins because it is the body and blood of Christ.

5. "It is up to the people of God to decide how to worship. If you don't like how we worship you can go to another church." - Ouch...swing and a miss. BTW, this quote just cast the individuals saying it out of the church catholic...the true "people of God" spoken of in the Communion of Saints. To see the the church as a congregation of voting members as in a Democracy is decidedly American and unscriptural. The church is a family and includes many many generations of faithful Christians who worshipped liturgically with Word AND Sacrament for nearly 1600 years before some boob decided to alter the theology behind the Supper and thus downplay its importance.

6. "If we have it too often, it will be taken for granted." - If this is a reflection of how much people read their Bible, then I'd believe it...but the problem is that I have centuries and centuries of the church's witness to tell you that such a situation (while possible) is not guaranteed.

7. "It's a means of grace just like preaching and Scripture is" OR "All we need is the general absolution at the beginning of the service." - you can leave and we can continue to worship as Scripture says...thanks! This shows the Western theological error of simplifying everything down to its substance. Reasoning that all the means of grace are the same because they give grace (or that I only need one and not another) is tantamount to treating a person of the Trinity as more important because they are truly God...they're all why should we mention the Holy Spirit everytime we mention the Father and Jesus?

8. "You can't show me in the Bible where it mandates worship every Sunday." - Yes I can...the Apostles did it and you call yourself an apostolic church in the creeds...either do what they did with the Sacraments or take it out of the creed....easy!

I know I may have seemed harsh above...but I'm tired of being called a legalist for pointing out to people the danger of their mindset. That their direct quotes show what is in their hearts indicates to me that the people running many of our parishes are wilfully ignorant of doctrine. This willful ignorance hurts the Sacramental ministry of our churches and WILL end up condemning people because of their lack of true faith. To treat faith as a purely intellectual or enthusiast understanding of "me and Jesus" and to have no worry of sin and sorrow with repentance which always seeks God's gifts and doesn't despise them is the same as having no faith at all. I say that to be complacent in one's Christian walk will lead to death...Scripture and our Confessions make this abundantly clear (the articles on Justification and Penitence in the AC and Ap spring to mind, as well as Christ's many exhortations to good works and sorrow over sin, such as the Parable of the Publican and the tax collector). True penitence seeks after God's gifts and hopefully is willing to take the pastor's chiding over such spiritual pride apart from where Christ is found.

We preach Christ crucified, and where else do WE (note St. Paul is speaking to a whole congregation, not just the bishop) preach and proclaim this than in the Holy Eucharist?! To say it is not necessary or to say we preach this same thing in the Sermon is to change the number of the one's proclaiming Christ crucified. Am I a legalist? I will gladly take the name if it means I spurn on others to good works, genuine repentance and proclaim the love of God which by faith we should emulate. The problem is we stop short of exhorting our people to good works. Many times we treat confession as mechanical and the lack of private confession as well as the lack of deacons means our pastors are too busy to truly get to know the needs of their members (at least in very large congregations). If I were a pastor of a large church, I would be trembling for fear of God...for their eternal destiny is in my care. Let us shed this antinomian mindset! That we can read Scripture and see the Gospel in every page but still not the law, which rather than fear we should want to do because we have been united to Christ and HE wants to follow the law, should embarrass us. We have cheapened the Gospel by making it about felling good for the next week.

To be forgiven in Christ is a joyful position, for we can call God "Abba." But to be forgiven and treat God's gifts with little or no care, or even contempt is a sure sign of Satanic influence on our Old Adam and a clear example of testing God. Let us remember not just that we are forgiven...but WHERE this forgiveness is made manifest....the Sacraments. Let us shed our pride and arrogance and realize that we are not strong at all spiritually. To be strong in the Spirit is to realize that you are weaker and weaker....therefore those externals which many feel are a crutch are to those who know they are sinners the Gospel, for they constantly bring to mind Christ and Him crucified.

Remember, when we are WEAK, He is strong. "I must decrease so that He may increase" (St. John the Baptist). Take the image of St. Monica and St. Augustine to heart...the church desires to give us the gifts of God...let us take them and become the converted St. Augustine, not the pagan one, so that God may be glorified in our salvation.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Heavy Metal Monk Equals ROFLCOPTERS

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I Taste Fresh Meat!

Mini-Beast (a.k.a. "Pepper") - Now at 6.2lb from 4.5.

The Divine Service and the Changing Context of American Christendom

"It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills. Before I would drink mere wine with the Enthusiasts, I would rather have pure blood with the Pope" LW 37:317.

I have seen several discourses within our Lutheran circles that simply make my blood run cold. One the one hand, there are those who defend the historic rubrics and on the other, there are those who feel that the historic rubrics, at times, are meaningless, or practiced solely for the sake of one's piety. Before I begin, let me say this about American Lutheransim: We are scared of two things, Papists and Pietists. Historically, I understand the reason for both.

On the one hand, the Papists have destroyed the pure Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone through the merits of Christ alone as expressed in Scripture alone. Through this perversion all manner of adiaphora became tainted, including the very nature of adiaphora itself: Masses could be said for the dead and privately by a priest, the nature of man's relationship to His savior became one of an angry judge without whose intercession by His mother He would smite us for even thinking about calling on Him, blessing objects such as holy water or oil, or the visiting and invoking of departed saints became superstitious and the gaining of atonement for sins, etc.

On the other hand, the Pietists have destroyed the clear feeling of piety! The Eucharist was treated as only for those who already felt a connection to Christ, not as the means for the connection with Christ and the forgiveness of one's sins. Personal piety was separate from communal piety, and strict legalism became a problem! Salvation became uncertain!

What we are not scared of, is Reformed-ism. This belief rears its head as "receptionism," "liturgical minimalism," and also commonly as "crypto-Papal/Orthodox caw-cawing." Indeed, Fr. Todd Wilkens called this last one "playing the Pharisee card" in the newest "Issues, Etc. Journal." Similarly, this heterodox tradition has become inceptive within Lutheranism to degrees that lead to pure absurdities in theological discourse. Is the Formula speaking of doctrine or rites and practices when it addresses the concept of adiaphora? It's the latter. Therefore receptionism is not even a valid opinion as it contradicts Christ's words in the Sacrament (this IS, not "will become" my body), it is contrary to the received tradition of the church catholic, and as a paper by WELS theologian Rev. Dr. Becker has brought to light (though indirectly since he was arguing for the ambiguousness of the Real Presence), the promise of Christ's physical presence in the Eucharist is contingent upon our response to it and not on Christ's promise PERIOD.

Similarly, liturgical minimalism also begins to creep up and attack combined with anti-piety movements. Good lord, someone prays the minor hours regularly, venerates an icon, bows deeply at the point of the incarnation in the creeds, says a Hail Mary or prays a form of the rosary, crosses themselves, wishes to use holy water fonts to remind them of their baptism, etc., and they are a high church pietist! One wishes to retain the rubrics of the service? They must be a high church pietist! Worse yet, one could argue they are going against the Confessions in their actions, because the Confessions are as perspicuous as Scripture and have no context (sorry, being sarcastic as St. Paul here). What a way to defend Christian freedom....attack someone for having piety!!! Mmmm, that's good scholastic and intellectual Calvinism, may I have another?

But here is perhaps the biggest question I can ask, and will bring to light that we MUST be willing to have the guts to actually defend what we believe, teach, and confess. If certain doctrines and practices are TRULY adiaphora...then to attack someone for wanting to follow some of Rome's practices yet still confessing both through them and through the clear preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments is the equivalent of destroying church order and being in the spirit of antichrist....period! If it is worth getting worked up over and calling people out as being crypto-Romanists, etc., then let's actually deal with these doctrines. But let's also acknowledge that we in the Lutheran church have been heavily influenced through the backdoor by the Calvinists.

If one doubts that this is true, one merely has to go to a usual Lutheran congregation and ask about bringing in a Roman practice or a Reformed practice....and see which one people turn into sheets of white more for. Good heavens the Roman church has been greatly feared in the Americas so much so that John Kennedy was feared as a catholic! Yet the man in the funny hat from Geneva still affects our doctrines (and this from the man who denied the Genus Maiestacum!!!!).

Get it And I don't want to hear Scripture badly invoked either, for all I hear concerning such practices is "they are not found in Scripture." I was unaware that Scripture had to be the source of all that we confess (and be source, I mean clearly exposited source). IF such a reformed view (which is an-oversimplified a-historical and magical view) is correct, then we cannot proclaim condemnation to Hell those who deny the homousious connection of the Father and the Son...for that word is not clearly in Scripture either, yet we say "Amen" to what is in the Nicene Creed. It is not Lutheranism which should be having the problem of changing contexts and how to preach Christ and Him crucified for us in a changing cultural is the over-scholastic reformed who take all manner of documents and councils out of context (saying they agree with Chalcedon yet denying it in practice with the Eucharist).

What are we dealing with in the future of America, and sadly within much of American Christianity? Here's a list and a suggestion of ways to deal with them...and horrors, some might be *gulp* Romanizing!
1. Denial of the physical resurrection - Solution: Invocation of the saints (a practice that one cannot seriously deny the early church practiced, and one which can be rescued from the bastardization of it by the Papists).
2. Cheapening of grace - Solution: Preach the Law. I know it is hardly done...when it is, it is usually hidden as weakness that one cannot help, let alone sin one might "plan" to do. How can salvation be sweet to those who need it if they are not truly aware that they do?
3. Relativism in the church concerning truth - Solution: Uphold the historic confessions and creeds of the church catholic as authoritative and guided by the Holy Spirit. We deny this and have a tendency to treat much the councils discussed as "good ideas" rather than as clarifications of doctrine borne out of necessity...something Christ promised to the church that called upon Him in faith.
4. New Age Thinking - Solution: Christian piety COMBINED with the mystical end of the whole church's life of Word, Sacrament, and Prayer. True mysticism is Christ coming to us through His means and us being in communion with the Holy Spirit through prayer. Any other mysticism that comes to us apart from the means instituted by Christ, if not contrary to Scripture, must be tested against Scripture, the traditions of the church, and treated as subservient to the clear means He has given us (for God can operate any way He desires, yet we have a promise in a few).
5. Receptionism - Solution: Eucharistic adoration in the liturgy and the resurrection (forgive the pun) of the Tabernacle and table of repose with consecrated elements to be eaten at the next Divine Service. Again, this practice is adiaphora, but adiaphora with a clear confession against a potentially big problem.

I know, someone like me who does philosophy is dangerous and an Easternizing/Romanizing influence....but as the quote above says, I'd rather have true blood than just wine. And besides...if doctrine and practiced are as divorced as we practice, what have we to lose by taking on a practice? Let's use some common sense (yes, reason: The devil's whore!...oh, and God's greatest gift to man) and Scripture and come together as Lutheran Christians who desire to love and serve Christ.