Friday, May 23, 2008

The 2008 Confirmation Class at GSLC

Dear Confirmands of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (i.e. Nina, Phil, Elizabeth, Jason, Leta, Camille, Jessica, Ryan, Diego, Nikki, Owen, Edward and Joseph),

Before I spend a single "breath" encouraging or exhorting you, I want to thank you for the honor and privilege of being your instructor this past year. These past months have been a constant reminder to me that our Lord works through "means"; God bestows his good gifts on the world through the "things of the worlds", whether they be people, events, the impressions a place leaves on us, etc. My joy in sharing with you our shared faith this past year has been a gift from God - and you were the "means" he used to grant that gift!

Of course, our Lord has also used me as his tool to teach you as well. I thank God that he has brought you this far! Regarding those teachings you already embraced with confidence: this is a gift of God through the means of your pastors, parents, Sunday School teachers and others around you. Regarding those teaching we wrestled with together and to which you now confess with boldness: this, too, is a gift of God through the means of your fellow confirmands, your small group leaders and your instructors. Regarding those teachings about which you still struggle: forgive you instructor where he has failed and wait on the Lord, he will make these things clear in time as well.

Remember that you all are priests. As Lutheran Christians, we most frequently speak of the "priesthood of all believers"; however, we rarely refer to one another directly as priests. You are priests! Through your baptism, you have been set apart in this world with the faith in and knowledge of "Jesus Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins." You have been consecrated to carry this message to the world! In your confirmation, you affirmed and were confirmed in your place in this kingdom. Now: go and build bridges between our merciful God and a world that only knows him now through the crushing weight of his law.

May the Lord Jesus preserve you in the faith of your baptism through the work of his Holy Spirit. I love you, guys!

Your teacher and brother in the one true faith,


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Am I worthy to be a pastor?

These were the first words of the last line of my presentation to the Men's Fellowship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church this morning. The whole line actually reads: "Am I worthy to be a pastor? No. But by God's grace and at the time of His calling, I will be a pastor."

A couple of months ago, I was invited to address this group before leaving to begin seminary this summer. I've met in fellowship with these men for several years; however, this was the first time I had been asked to address them.

Early on, I was not sure what I would say; the presentations are usually biographical and the speakers are usually taken from the group itself. The purpose of the talks is to get to know the speaker better. Since I knew I would be leaving for an extended absence immediately after this presentation, I was not sure if I should use the opportunity to take the presentation in a different direction.

In the end, I opted to do both. In the words of Pastor Flammann: "It was long." It really was. These presentations usually run between 20 to 30 minutes; mine was not so concise.

After receiving several requests to discuss what the call to ministry has looked like for me, I did so after doing a "fast forward" biography. (Pastor, can you imagine how long it would have been if I hadn't fast forwarded? ) I organized my talk about the call to ministry around the three questions that Fort Wayne has recommended men discerning the call ask themselves: Are God's people nudging you? Do you find joy at the thought of this service? Do you feel utterly unworthy for this service?

It was a great privilege to address these men this morning. Afterwards, they presented me a gift bag containing: Ole and Lena fortune cookies, a Men's Fellowship coffee mug, and a short-sleeve shirt with clerical collar for use in the coming years. Thanks, guys!


"Shalom" means peace, or so I've been told. Although I had come to accept that I was going to have to self-study my way through Summer Hebrew, I was disappointed I would not have the benefit of interactive classroom instruction. On Thursday, 15 May, I received a wonderful voicemail from Rev. Fritsche: the seminary had received a fourth preregistration, considered the situation and decided to go forward with Summer Hebrew anyway! Shalom, indeed!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What's the Hebrew Word for "Bump in the Road"?

Seminarians preparing to attend the LCMS-sponsored seminaries have to pass five "entry-level competency exams" (referred to by the acronym "ELCE") in Old Testament, New Testament, Christian Doctrine, Greek and Hebrew before being admitted into the M.Div program. Over the past year, I have self-studied my way through the first three and have completed a year of Greek at Wesley Theological Seminary to prepare for the fourth. My plan has been to take Summer Hebrew at Concordia to wrap up my pre-seminary preparations.

As I was driving home on Tuesday afternoon this past week, I received a call from Rev. Joel Fritsche. Rev. Fritsche is an admissions counselor in the office of ministerial recruitment at Concordia and slated to teach the Summer Hebrew class I had registered for. Unfortunately, his call was to warn me that only two seminarians had pre-registered for the Hebrew class and they would likely cancel it unless three more pre-registrations came in before the end of week. (We will find out the registrars' decision tomorrow, Monday, May 12.) ACK!!!

Rev. Fritsche was very kind to talk through options with me and offered to make himself available if I should opt to self-study my way through Hebrew over the summer. (Concordia Seminary was one of the earliest participants in iTunesU and has posted their Hebrew curriculum there! There's a lot of other great stuff there, too! Check it out!)

Heather and I have talked about our options at length; we haven't come to any conclusions yet. There are a number of seminaries in the St. Louis area that may offer Summer Hebrew. The LCMS seminary in Fort Wayne may also be an option. I may opt to self-study from the Concordia Seminary campus in St. Louis and take advantage of access to the faculty there. Or we may simply throw up our hands and start the M.Div program during the Winter quarter after taking Hebrew during the Fall. (Seminarians who do this end up taking a full load during summer school; I had been hoping to avoid this.)

Until we make a decision, we certainly appreciate your prayers on our behalf for wisdom! We trust that the Lord will work in and through our choices.

What a Week!

Last week (it is now Sunday morning, 11 May) was quite a week of last-minute packing, truck loading, house closing, driving, and unloading/reloading!

The "heavy lifting" started last Saturday with the "staging" event. We anticipated have trouble rounding up help during the work week, so we asked folks to come over on Saturday to help us move furniture into our garage. This was "hedging our bets"; if Heather and I were going to have to load the truck ourselves, we wanted everything to be a straight shot onto the truck. Heather can lift and load, but navigating the house would have been nearly impossible for the two of us alone.

Thank you to Jamie Ellor, John Frankhouser, Jim Kent and Steve Xeller. Steve Xeller also showed up when he has said he would, but he was able to turn right back around and return to his Saturday errands because things had gone so much faster than we expected. (Once again, I failed to break out the camera - so we do not have pictures to immortalize these mens' Herculean efforts on our behalf!)

We also really appreciate the help of Cynthia Priolet, Jody Wolfe and her family and Elizabeth Huang for watching our kids while we were packing on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, respectively! David and Emily got "just enough" of the packing experience when they were around, but it eased our way to not have to wonder "where are the kids and what are they getting into"?

Another thank you goes out to Jessica Cullen (and Hannah Susan!) for a delicious chicken pot pie dinner on Tuesday night, complete with yummy cupcakes and throw-away plastic dishes. A great help when all our dishes were in assorted boxes!

Wednesday was "throw it all on the truck" day. Our old house went from disaster area to empty in the space of a day. It was quite a transformation!

A great big thank you to Alice Burwell, Arlissa Ferrara, Lisa Fournier, Jose Gonzalez, Dan Rubin and Cal Stone! Each helped in different ways and at different times. It was a very long day, and it would have been unworkable without their help!

Thank you to Hanif, Mike and Logan Drzal, who watched Emily during the day!

After a very confusing period of time on Wednesday night while we were getting my car relocated to Brian Herzog's house, we spent the night at Suburban Extended Stay in Sterling before running out to Ashburn for our closing on Thursday morning. (Who is Brian Herzog, you ask? I will be staying with Brian for the next two weeks while I wrap things up at work in Virginia. I suspect I will mention him in a subsequent post; however, "thank you" is definitely in order to Brian for being willing to open his home to me for such a long visit!)

"Thank you so much" to Shauna Kent, who watched David and Emily during the closing. Thank you also to Sylvia Haefer-Rose and Toni Macintire for guiding us through the process of selling our home and seeing us through the "legalese" of the settlement.

Many of this blogs' readers know that my parents-in-law, Tom and Sarah Clark, have offered space in their attic and basement to house much of our furniture and other "stuff" while we are at seminary. (Although the apartments at Concordia are nice and come with a healthy storage area underground, my family has accumulated enough things over the past ten years that we needed an alternative storage solution. Many thanks to Dad and Mom Clark for providing one!)

So after closing on the house on Thursday morning, we started our drive out the Noblesville with our truck load of household goods. We made the trip in two half days and arrived in the early afternoon on Friday. From the time of our arrival with only a break for lunch, we pulled off all of the things that were to stay in Noblesville, reloaded the boxes that had to come off to "make way" for those staying in Noblesville, and loaded a bunch of boxes that had already been staying there while we were selling our house.

We are thankful to the "moving party" for excellent help: Dad and Mom Clark, Jim Howe (there's a joker in every crowd), Austin Murray, Aaron Murray and Adam Murray.

Many, many thanks to Dad and Mom Clark, who opened their house for us to stay Friday night and are hosting my "homeless" family for the next several weeks! (We do not know how long it will be before we are able to move into our seminary housing. Although we plan to take a week and a half to visit my parents in Rogersville, Missouri, Mom and Dad Clark have opened their house to us for the duration.)

Although there was a light at the end of the tunnel, the work was not yet done. Leaving Heather, David and Emily in Noblesville, I drove the truck the last leg to St. Louis.

Thanks to the St. Louis lifters-haulers for giving up a Saturday to help out: Jaimie Miller, Jeff and Julie Miller, my Uncle Marvin Rosenkoetter (see, there really is a joker in every crowd!), and my Dad and Mom Rosenkoetter.

Many, many thanks also to Jeff and Julie Miller, who graciously opened their house last night. I was wiped out, so I was not especially lively company. Hopefully we will have many opportunities in the coming year to enjoy one anothers' company when we haven't been worn out lifting large, heavy furniture and boxes!

Sounds like a tiring week, no? Well, please note this very important point: our gracious God showers blessings on us all the time. And this big, tiring, long week was no exception. We received a lot of help! Did you read all of those names? Our Lord works through "means" to deliver His good gifts! Moved by the Spirit, many people were Creator's hands and feet as they lightened our load and lavished hospitality upon us. We are thankful for them all; we are thankful for the God who gives them life!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Confirmation Banquet at Good Shepherd

Last night (Sunday, 4 May), the second year confirmation class of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, along with their parents and teachers, enjoyed a delightful dinner to celebrate their upcoming participation in the Rite of Confirmation on 18 May 2008. The event was hosted, per the tradition at GSLC, by the first year confirmands and their parents. (Bravo! Well done!)

In accordance with the custom, we invited a member of the congregation to address the confirmands on matters of faith and life. This year, Mr. Ed Bochtler, who recently returned from a tour in Iraq, spoke to the youth about listening to the Holy Spirit's leading and how His decisions are better than they may even seem. His talk was organized biographically, with points of emphasis including his marriage to Beth, the twists and turns surrounding their first deployment to Germany, and his recent return to active duty and service in Iraq.

After Mr. Bochtler's presentation, Mr. Don Kidwell represented the elders and distributed their gift to the confirmations - a Life Applications Study Bible. After asking the first year students to distribute the Bibles, Mr. Kidwell urged the confirmands to open them up, highlight their confirmation verse, and then write the names of their confirmation teachers and small group leaders in the front of the book. (Several of the confirmands asked me to write a short note and sign inside the front flap of their book afterwards, which I was happy to do.)

Throughout, I was privileged to serve as the "guy with the mic" and Pastor Flammann opened and closed our event with prayer.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the presence of mind to take my camera and take pictures. Several of the confirmands' parents brought cameras, though; so I'll try to get ahold of a picture or two to include in this posting soon.

Bioethicist with Insight into Pastoral Ministry?

Pastor Frohm pointed me to First Things a while back and, although I've only had the chance to subscribe (and try to keep pace with) its blog, I find it compelling reading. That said, the most recent blog posting on bioethics has something to say about pastoral ministry.

I feel compelled to reproduce the quote here. It comes from "FIRST THINGS: On the Square" and can be accessed at

"Pellegrino maintains that medicine is not simply applied biology; rather, it “embraces activities beyond those inherent in the pursuit of scientific knowledge.” For example, whereas scientists study the epidemiology, histology, and pathophysiology of squamous cell carcinoma, such knowledge, though used by medicine, is not proper to it until that cancer is placed in the context of the effects, manifestations, and outcomes on a given patient—in short, until it is oriented toward the practical end which medicine serves: “the health and healing of human beings.” "

How does this relate to the pastoral ministry? In a CD distribution from Concordia Seminary - St. Louis entitled "The Pastor's Head and the Pastor's Heart", Dr. Andrew Bartelt emphasizes that a seminarians' study of theology is not to be contrasted against "ministry in the real world". He asserts that theology is practical. With apologies to Patrick C. Beeman, the blog entry's author: "whereas theologians study the revealed nature of God, His holy Law, the fallen human condition, and their interrelationships, such knowledge, through critical to the pastoral ministry, is not proper to it until these doctrines are placed in the context of their effects, manifestations and outcomes on a particular soul - in short, until it is oriented toward the practical end which theology serves: 'the proclamation of Christ crucified to the glory of God and out of love for our neighbor'"

However, this is yet another situation when sinful humanity takes the truth of Dr. Bartelt's assertion and twists it. Haven't we all known times when we ourselves or others have used the study of theology as: a club or rule to "normalize" other people to our own expectations, a vain pursuit to build up our own self-esteem, or as nothing more than an academic exercise or an intellectual curiosity. All of these "theological" pursuits have more to do with the one doing the study than the One being studied.

Ironically, I read the FIRST THINGS blog entry after a conversation I had with Pastor Flammann last night (Sunday) at the Good Shepherd Confirmation Banquet (more on this in a subsequent post). During dinner, we were discussing the difference "within Wittenburg" (i.e. Lutheran circles) between those with leanings "towards Augsburg" and those with leanings towards "the Formula of Concord" and especially the more dangerous rationalism that followed. Although this categorization can be easily carried too far, these represent points (and not the endpoints) on a spectrum proceeding towards a Pharisaical exclusivism.

During this conversation, I hypothesized a connection between the way an engineer thinks and the way that an engineer-turned-pastor (like yours truly, if God wills it) might be prone to thinking. The engineer takes a "fixed" body of theoretical knowledge (i.e. sciences, related disciplines) and then applies it flexibly and creatively to solve problems. An engineer-turned-pastor might be prone to thinking of the doctrines of the church as the fixed "principles of God" that are then turned towards "solving people's problems".

All believers are called, and pastors are specifically trained, to apply the Word of God (both law and Gospel) when interpreting and interacting with the world around them. I suppose in this sense the analogy holds (though loosely). My concern, and one of the points behind my conversation with Pastor, is that my tendency towards a rigid dogmatism may be a stumbling block for both me and my to-be-congregation. I hope you will join me in praying that the Holy Spirit would shape and mold me (and all of us, in fact) to hold to Jesus' teachings faithfully and apply them with love and compassion.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

SportBounce Birthday Party!

You know how some people say "Christmas came early this year" when they receive a gift or something great happens ahead of schedule? Well, David John's birthday came early this year! Since we are moving to St. Louis, we wanted David to have a chance to play with his friends before they left and we wanted to throw him a birthday party this year.

Last Friday, we threw a birthday party for David at Sport Bounce ( What near-five-year-old boy doesn't like to run around in a padded room with a bunch of REALLY LARGE BEDS to jump on?

Attached is the group photo of the kids on the "big red chair" - both "before" and "after". As quickly as the kids vacated that chair, it's amazing there was a "before" at all!