Thoughts After Orientation

For those of you who don’t know, this summer I began to study for the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degree at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. This is a decision that was a long time in coming, and helps to fulfill a longtime dream of mine to get back into the classroom not as a teacher, but as a student. We just finished our three day Orientation class here in St. Louis, and I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home. I thought it might be worthwhile to put down some of my initial thoughts about the experience, and establish a sort of baseline of my experience here, and where it will lead.

Frankly, it’s hard to begin on how to summarize my thoughts. After drinking from a firehouse for three days, I am a bit, uh, sated. However, I’ll give it my best shot.

THE PLACES

St. Louis

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in St. Charles, Missouri, which is just across the river from St. Louis. It is a special treat for me to have a reason to go home, especially since none of my family live here anymore. Between this and my work on the Board of Regents at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I should be in St. Louis about half a dozen times a year.

A few of the cohort check out Ted Drewes on Chippewa

 

Quite simply, I love St. Louis. It has always been one of my favorite cities, and not just because I grew up here. The sights, the sounds, the food, the drinks, the sports (Go Cards!), all of them are a part of my DNA, and I am thrilled to have an excuse to be here for a time. Except for the humidity. There is no good reason for humidity. Ugh.

Aquinas Institute of Theology

Aquinas is a Dominican (Roman Catholic) school. They train pastors, and offer several other degrees, but in many ways are best known for their DMIN program, which has been in existence for about 35 years. The campus is entirely housed in a converted adding machine factory, and is right next to St. Louis University, with whom they often collaborate. Somehow, the managed to pull off making a building that’s basically a big box into something that is intimate, professional, and Ecclesial. We can learn from them, because they have done it right. I’ll talk more about it in the future, I’m sure, but suffice it to say right now that I really like the space and how it is used.

The Chapel at Aquinas, with Fr. Dan’s backside.

The Motherhouse

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My room at the Motherhouse.

Most of the students spent the week at the CSJ Motherhouse. This is a retreat house that is run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. I don’t really know anything about the space or the order at this time. I think they said there were seventeen nuns that live on campus. It is a beautiful old building, probably dating from the 1920s or so. They were kind, hospitable, and the meals were fantastic. What more can you ask for?

THE PROGRAM

The DMIN Program is rigorous. I can see that already. It uses a cohort system, so the eleven of us that began the program together will take all of our classes together, work on projects together, listen to and critique each other’s sermons, and kind of do everything together. At this point I am glad to say that I like everyone, and I pray they feel the same way!

Our first professor is named Fr. Greg Heille, O.P. He is a kind man, both meticulous and articulate. I expect he will get us on the right path, and help to blow out the dust of academic writing that many of us are felling.

One of my big concerns coming into this program was whether I will be able to be true to my confession as a Lutheran. At this point I would say certainly yes, and that in many ways they welcome it.

Fr. Greg Heille teaches on the Good Samaritan

THE PEOPLE

The real joy of the week was the people. There are eleven of us in this cohort, and it is diverse, much more so that one might even expect. We can be divided up in many different ways. 10 Catholics, 1 Pentecostal and 1 Lutheran. Or 10 men and 1 woman (which, FYI, is one of the Catholics). Or two members of religious orders and 9 who were not. Or 8 North Americans, 1 Canadian, and 2 Nigerians. Or 5 parish priests, 2 pastors, 1 hospital chaplain, 1 permanent deacon, 1 lay ecclesial minister, and 1 Pastoral Associate for Adult Faith Formation.

But despite the various differences, it is actually our commonalities that are more interesting. All eleven have a deep desire to proclaim the Gospel (although what is the “Gospel” for each remains to be seen). Each person in their own way, sees preaching as a craft that can be learned, worked on, and improved, while at the same time, recognizing that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work through each. My impression thus far is that there is a fairly broad view in terms of the them-political spectrum, at least in Roman Catholic terms. But my familiarity with modern day Rome is quite limited, and I’m sure I’ll spend a great deal of time learning.

It is certainly fair to say that we are still getting to know each other. I am very much looking forward to that process, and think it may be the best part of the whole thing. I did not expect that.

THE LUTHERAN IN THE MOSTLY CATHOLIC ROOM

This is really the interesting and in some ways funny part of the whole thing. I am a Lutheran through and through. That is very much my DNA. But it would also be fair to say that I find that I have a much closer affinity to modern Rome than I do to modern Protestantism, or even more with Rome than with some groups that call themselves Lutheran. There are many Lutherans, even of my same confession (The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod) that would find themselves much closer in terms of practice with the Baptist or Evangelical than with a Roman Catholic. But I am clearly not one of them.A part of what this means is that it was both amusing and gratifying to see that by and large, this little band of Roman Catholics had about as many caricatures of me as I did (do?) of them. Crucifixes, consubstantiation, the authority of the Scriptures, the place of tradition, the Sacraments in general, private confession, vestments, we covered all kinds of Lutheran practices or caricatures. In the same way, I was asking questions throughout orientation about everything from the Monstrance to what it means to be a part of a religious order, to concelebration, to all kinds of peculiar terms that I’ve never even heard of. And I’m probably on the much more educated end of things when it comes to knowing about Catholicism!

The chapel at the Motherhouse.

But what the experience highlighted for me is that we really are separated brothers and sisters in Christ. I could not go to the Eucharist with them, nor would they let me if I tried. This is good and right. It means that words matter, that we have much work to do, and that maybe, just maybe, we can actually learn from each other.

Anyway, these are my initial thoughts on the orientation time. There’s a lot more to say, but I expect it will take time to digest before I can put it into words.

In the meantime, thank you, everyone, for your patience and kindness! We’ll see you next time.image

And go, Cohort of 2016!

Lent 4 – Sermon: “My Two Sons” – Luke 15 1-3, 11-32

Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.

Lent 4c, (March 6, 2016)

Luke 15:11-32

TITLE: “My Two Sons”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter fifteen.

Once upon a time there was a man who had two sons. They were both good and bad, each in their own way. Now the younger son was all fire, full of vim and vigor. When he wanted something, he wanted it now! He didn’t want to wait, and he certainly didn’t want his father or anyone else telling him what he could or couldn’t do. The older son, however, he was ice. He was willing to work, to wait in the shadows and in the quiet, because he knew that sooner or later, he, too, would get what he wanted.

Now the father, he loved both his sons. But each of them seem to have forgotten what it meant to be a son. What is a father to do? Neither happy, both working, but things were about to change. “Father,” said the younger son, “I wish you were dead! I want my inheritance now! Why do I have to wait for you to die when I could be living the good life while I’m young? Give my my inheritance, and I will be gone from this foul place and you will never see me again.”

What was the father to do? If he refused, his younger son would hate him all the more, but if he said yes, then his son would take the money and run.

The father gave in to his younger son, and gave him his inheritance. The son went off to a far away land, and wasted it all on living the so-called “high life”. But money is never enough, and soon enough this younger son didn’t even have that. He found himself lost in a faraway land, with no money, no possessions, no family, no home. His only companion were the pigs, and there was no Wilbur in the lot of them. Disgusting.

Eventually he came to his senses. Eventually he recognized that his father may still have some feelings for him. Perhaps he could negotiate a position in his old household? At least he would not be sleeping with the pigs.

As this younger son was on his way home, the father saw him afar off, and in a way that was very undignified, he want down through he fields to meet his lost son. It seems the love of the father had never stopped, after all. When the son came to him, he said, “Father, I have been a jerk to both God and to you. I am not worthy to be called your son.” At this point the father could not contain himself anymore. He took off his robe and put it over the son’s rags. “Dress up my son like he belongs here!” he called to his servants. “Kill the fatted calf, get out the best china, we’re throwing a party like this house has never seen before!”

But the older son was not happy with this situation. He was still cold as ice, but even ice can burn hot with anger and jealousy. Why should this reprobate, this unfaithful one be let back into the house! He’s made his bed. His life is set. I have remained in this wretched place, waiting for the day when I can do what I want with my friends. And so he remained outside, and would not go in to the party.

What is the father to do? He loves both his sons. But they have each forgotten his love and mercy in their own way. It is as if the words of the Lord from Isaiah 29 have come to life:

“…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV)

When the Father heard the complaint of the son, he said:

“…‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”” (Luke 15:31–32 ESV)

So the first question for you is this. Where do you see yourself in this story? Are you the younger son who sowed his oats in his youth and now comes back in repentance and faith? Are you the older son, ever faithful, ever measuring, ever watchful of the time when you will get what is rightfully yours? Or are you the merciful father, who only wants to love and be reconciled with his children?

There are ways in which we can see ourselves in this story in so many ways. Foolish, self-righteous, merciful, these words fit in so well with different parts of our lives. But remember how Luke started this whole thing off:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”” (Luke 15:1–2 ESV)

What this parable is here to teach you is that this man, Jesus Christ the righteous, receives sinners and eats with them. That means you. He receives you, warts, sins and all. He sets you up at His holy table, and eats and feasts with you today on His own body and blood. This fellowship, this divine meal puts you in the place of honor. You. It is not because you deserve it somehow. It is because “this man receives sinners and eats with them.”

That, beloved, is the very essence of the Gospel. No matter your sin, Jesus receives you as His own. No matter how broken you are, Jesus receives you as His won. No matter what your past, Jesus receives you as His own. Shame and guilt, sorrow and regret, they all have consumed you in their own way. But Jesus receives you as His own.

I want this to sink into you for a time. Those words drip into your ears and cleanse your very soul. They are light and life and hope in a land of darkness. They are HIs words to you this day. God the Father loves you, sends you His Son, and now because of Him you have a place at the Table, not just for now, but for all eternity.

Come to the Table. It is set for you. Everything is ready. All is forgiven. You have a place here. God loves you and sends His only Son into the wilderness to seek you out. Trust in Him, the God of your salvation.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

Lent 2 Sermon “Put Your Trust Where It Belongs” Luke 13:31-35

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Lent 2c, (February 21, 2016)

Luke 13:31-35

TITLE: “Put Your Trust Where it Belongs”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter thirteen.

No one likes to hear bad news. When bad news comes, it is our instinct as human beings to blame the messenger. If I don’t know about the bad news, then surely the news doesn’t affect me, does it?

Yet that is exactly the scenario we have with Jeremiah. In the prophet Jeremiah we have a picture or image of what Jesus would suffer in His ministry and death and life again. Jeremiah was a prophet and priest about six hundred years before Jesus. He was a prophet at a time when the people of Israel had really forgotten their identity. They had forgotten what it meant to be God’s chosen, and to live in the grace and mercy which only He could give. They worshipped other gods. They let the places of God’s mercy decay. The ones who were there to shepherd the people were instead fleecing the flock. They did not care for the sojourner and foreigner, but rather mistreated him and left him to rot. But when Jeremiah prophesied against Jerusalem and her people, well, the people were not very happy about the process. They did not want to be convicted of sin. And when confronted with the Law, ultimately there are only two reactions: either repentance or rebellion. They rebelled, and so they wanted to kill him, and intended to do so.

We see the same thing with Jesus in our Gospel. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. He has preached of the people’s need for a Savior, over and over again. They are broken, they are dead in trespass and sins, they are lost, without a God and therefore without each other.

The people then are just like you and me. Each day there is another death, another loss, another sin that separates and divides us from God and from each other. While in one respect, the world asks “why”, in another way we really don’t want to hear the answer. Do you want to hear that it is your sin which drives the world to madness? It is their fault, it is society’s fault, it is those people, over there. It’s their fault. But your fault? No, surely not. Surely you are not the author of your own downfall. Are you? St. Paul reminds us of the danger here in Philippians 3:

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18–19 ESV)

There are many in the world, sadly, who do not see themselves as the problem, but only want to push away, and to place the blame squarely on someone else, anyone else. So I say to you this day, repent of your sin. Recognize that you are the cause of your own disaster. Repent.

Yet in our text Jesus laments over Jerusalem, not out of anger but out of love. He loves His children, near and far. He loves even the ones who hate Him so. Do you remember His words from the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 ESV) He loves them all, and that includes you. And because He loves them all, he will not be deterred from His purpose, His end and final goal of bringing you back into communion with Him.

The tears of our God are for the lost ones, for the broken like you and me and others the world over. And you also know that not all will be saved. But know this, God’s love is for all, and His mercy extends out to the whole world.

The last words in our text point us to where we are to find Jesus. Our Lord says, “And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”” (Luke 13:35 ESV) We sing those words every Sunday in the liturgy, right before hearing the words of our Lord in His Supper.

In Jeremiah’s day, the city of Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians within years of his words of warning. In Jesus’ day, the rebuilt city of Jerusalem fell to the Romans a generation after our Lord’s words. Cities collapse, kingdoms fall, civilizations crumble, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Don’t put your trust in places or the things of this world.

Put your trust right where it belongs, on the shoulders of Jesus Christ the righteous one. He comes to you now in His Word and meal, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. He comes because you have no strength to save yourself (collect of the day). But His strength lies not in the power and might of the world. His strength lies in His compassion and mercy for you. Trust in Him, for He will take care of you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

2016-02-14 – Lent 1 – Sermon: “Temptation” – Luke 4:1-13

Lent 1, (February 14, 2016)

Luke 4:1-13

TITLE: “Temptation”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter four.

Temptation is one of those words that we really don't know what to do with today. In a world and a time when there is no right or wrong, and where ideas such as the devil or angels are quaint superstitions, the idea of temptation is hard to find a place.

Yet here is Jesus, still wet from the waters of the Jordan in His baptism, being led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, while He is tempted by the devil. Now I want you to notice something important here. He isn't tempted by the Holy Spirit. He is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where He is tempted by the devil.

But why? Why would God put Jesus into such harms way? And, for that matter, why does our Heavenly Father put YOU into harms way, time after time, in temptation?

That is the question.

Every day the Holy Spirit leads you into the wilderness, where you are tempted by the devil, the world, and your old flesh. Will you love your neighbor as yourself? Will you love the Lord, your God, with your heart, soul and mind? Like our Lord, you, too, are hungry. The day's resources may make you weak. You may not have everything that you need, or at least it may feel like you don't have everything that you need. But our Heavenly Father knows you, and what's more, He knows your neighbor needs you. He knows that every day you have opportunity to love, to show mercy to the loveless and the unloved. You have opportunity time and time again to rejoice in the good the Lord your God has given you. And how do you do this? You do this by showing mercy to those around you, be they friend or foe, neighbor or enemy. You have opportunity to rejoice and give mercy, because Your God has shown mercy to you.

But the problem is that God sends you out to love Him by loving those around you, and you respond with a cold heart. Rather than give your bread to those in need, you feed your own face, not trusting that your Father will provide for you. Rather than working where God has placed you, you long to escape your own wilderness for a place where the grass is greener, and where the cries of those in need are, well, a little better manicured, a little better behaved. Rather than trusting that God will provide and care for you, you hoard and cling and test God by sinning and making Him pick up the pieces of your own mess.

When we hear about Jesus' temptation, what makes it so hard is that we fail to resist the temptation that is put before us over and over again. This is why we pray so often about temptation. Hear again. Luther''s explanation.

Lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

The devil, the world, and your own sinful nature all want to deceive you and mislead you. But notice what the goal of these three is. False belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Finally, temptation is about faith, isn't it? Do you trust that God will do what He promises, or not? Do you believe the lies and act on them, or do you believe the truth and act on it?

You, of course, know the answer. Left to yourself, you would fall into these pits. Truth be told, you wouldn’t fall into them, you would dive into them headfirst! But you, beloved, are not left to yourself. Jesus Christ is the one who is the Victor over sin, death and the devil. He is the victor by remaining faithful to and trusting in the Word of God. And He is the victor by taking these failures of yours and mine into Himself. We spoke last week in the Transfiguration about how Jesus is the One who leads us on the path through the Valley of the Shadow of death. Here we see what that path will be like. And without His aid, without His continual presence and word for you and with you, without all of that, you would be lost, left in the clutches of the Evil One. But thanks be to God, that Jesus Christ is the victor over Satan and His foul temptations.

So what are you to do when you are faced with temptation? What are you to do when you are staring evil in the fact, and know that the next move on your part could be very good, or very, very bad?

  • First, remember and rejoice that the reason you are tempted is because you are in Christ. Satan would not tempt you if you are already His.
  • Second, pray that God would give you guidance, wisdom, and strength to resist the Temptation and to love those around you as He loves you.
  • Third, cling to His forgiveness. Jesus knows your every weakness, for He bears them in His own body. God forgives you for the sake of Jesus Christ, the righteous one. Cling to His forgiveness, for Jesus delivers Himself to you this Day, so that He is the way of escape from temptation to evil.

No matter what may come, no matter how many times you fail, no matter if the world crashes around you and hell itself seems to come knocking at your door, you have a mighty Savior who bears you in weakness. That is who you are, and that’s a pretty good place to be.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn