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Big Sunset

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Sometimes the sunset is too big for the camera lens.

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The truth is beautiful, and when beauty and truth are more than we can grasp, we are left in awe and wonder.

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The world God created reflects His order and His infinity.  It is incomprehensibly large, and full of things that are incomprehensibly small.

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So no matter how much we learn, a full understanding of God and His logical creation will always be beyond our grasp.  It will always be beyond our ability to fully know.  We will always be left in awe and wonder.

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If the logical creation leaves us in wonder, how much more so the Infinite Creator?

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Yet, just as a camera can catch part of a sunset, so also we can understand and receive in part.

That is why God comes to us in means.  Means are ways we can understand and receive God.  Jesus Christ is the one true God.  He comes to us in words that we can understand and sacraments we can see, taste, and feel.

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May we always appreciate the gifts of God, always grow in learning, and always stand in awe of His infinite wonder (both great and small).

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WCCA stands for Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (formerly known as CCAP), and is the internet portal for information about Wisconsin court cases.  When someone applies for a job, an apartment, or any important position; every employer, landlord, or inquirer of every denomination checks WCCA.  If your name shows up on WCCA, it could have a profound long-lasting negative effect on your life.  Information on WCCA lasts for decades.  For example, information on a civil lawsuit is available on WCCA for 20 years.

Recently, four WELS church workers brought four almost identical civil lawsuits against a WELS layman.  (See Two WELS Pastors and Four Meritless Lawsuits).  They publicly accused him of harassment, they publicly said he was mentally unbalanced, they publicly said he might have a gun, they publicly implied he might use this alleged gun against them, and they publicly said they were living in fear.  These accusations were made in open court, in a public hearing, and as part of a public record.  Their written accusations remain a part of the public record.  Their cases all appear on WCCA.

The court dismissed all four harassment restraining order petitions.  But WCCA does not really explain why they were dismissed, just that they were dismissed.

So what happens when this young WELS husband, father, and layman goes out to apply for jobs?  What do prospective employers see?  They see four civil lawsuits against him, and not just small-claims court stuff, but harassment restraining order petitions.  Harassment restraining order lawsuits are the sort of cases that usually involve stalking, threats, and/or violence.  How many potential employers would stop right there?  How many potential employers would interpret these public court records to mean that at a minimum this young man is a troublemaker who can not get along with others?

If a potential employer were to dig a little deeper, they could go down to the courthouse, and read the four vicious letters that the church workers filed with the court against this WELS layman.  Each of those letters was a public violation of the Lutheran understanding of the Eight Commandment: each of them twisted every word and action into the worst possible construction, and those disgusting documents are all a matter of public record.  They are all on file at the courthouse.

What else could a potential employer find?  Nothing.  Not a single word of defense from this young man appears in the public record.  That is because during the court case, he never spoke in his own defense.

The court dismissed these WELS pastors’ accusations before the defense presented any evidence.  Why?  To find out, a potential employer would have to read the court transcript.

Some benefactors paid to have the transcript prepared to help defend this young man, so that people could see directly the vacuousness of these WELS pastors’ accusations.  (For example, the pastor’s evidence for threats was that the young layman said, “I will publicly defend my wife because that’s what God demands of me.”  The pastor testified, that was “a very open-ended statement,” thus the pastor was concerned what the young husband would do.  Court transcript, pages 45 & 47.  The pastor’s evidence for the young layman being mentally unbalanced was his pastoral knowledge that the layman had suffered trauma in combat while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.  The pastor’s evidence for the layman possibly having a gun was that the layman had served in the U.S. military.  So there was no evidence of any wrongful threats.  There was no evidence of anyone being mentally unbalanced or dangerous.  And there was no evidence that anyone had a gun, as if that should matter anyway).  Because some people paid to have the transcript prepared, now a potential employer could at least go to the courthouse, and read the 80 page transcript of the proceedings.  But realistically, who would do that?

WCCA is society wide, and can destroy a man’s reputation far beyond the WELS.  Who will defend the reputation of our young Christian brother?

Some people tried to discuss this case on a WELS Lutherans Facebook group, but WELS pastor administrators deleted comments and entire threads.  Some WELS pastors have said that discussing this public case on the internet is profoundly wrong because it doesn’t go through the right channels, it aligns one with the tools of the devil, it leads to false rumors, and it hurts Christians because they might lose trust in their WELS pastor.

Unfortunately, this concern is all focused on the WELS, but the WELS does not exist for its own sake.  The good news is not that the WELS is perfect, but rather that Christ is perfect.  The WELS is supposed to be brothers and sisters walking together in truth and repentance, but anytime someone says, “Here is the truth, we need to repent,” the WELS minders shout “No!  You are harming the WELS’ reputation.”

A WELS pastor posted on Facebook that if we post truthful negative things about the WELS on the internet, then we are aligned with the tools of the devil.  However, this is not true Lutheran teaching.  Lutherans don’t believe in a holy WELS Synod, instead we “believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.”  (Nicene Creed).  He who speaks against the one holy Church is aligned with the devil, but he who exposes sin in the visible church is not aligned with the devil.  It is false teaching to confuse the WELS with the one holy Church.

Further, if talking truthfully on a little WELS Facebook page or blog is communicating with an audience too large, then what does it mean when WELS church workers put undeserved black marks against a WELS layman on WCCA, the Godzilla of reputation destroyers?

Is it the reputations of only WELS pastors that matter?

When these church workers brought their unfounded allegations against this young man to the WCCA and the public court system, they forfeited their claim to privacy.  Even then, all of this could have remained “private” for the sake of the visible church.  However, when the Northern Wisconsin District publicly declared one of the pastors who brought these meritless lawsuits to be “blameless” and “above reproach,” then the District also forfeited its claim to privacy.  The Church calls pastors to the public ministry (Power and Primacy of the Pope, paragraphs 23-24), and the Church is composed of every baptized believer.  Everyone in the WELS is now involved.  Everyone in the WELS should know what is happening.

We need to collectively repent, and make restitution to this young couple we have victimized.  We in the WELS need a genuine culture of repentance.  And the Northern Wisconsin District needs new leadership.  The Church calls and ordains, but the District leadership does it directly for the sake of good order.  If they cannot uphold good order, then the leadership must be removed.

The Northern Wisconsin District convention will be held in Appleton, Wisconsin on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 17 & 18, 2014 A.D.

Kyrie eleison.

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Recently, two WELS Pastors, Tim Glende and James Skorzewski, and two of their staff members filed four almost identical lawsuits against a WELS layman, Jonathan Donnan, a former member of their congregation.  Specifically, they asked a secular court to issue four restraining orders, ordering Jonathan Donnan to stop “harassing” them.

In the courthouse lobby before the first case was heard, a local attorney who handles a lot of cases in that court (and who had absolutely no connection to this case) looked at the court’s calender, and said, “When you see four restraining order petitions against one person, then usually that person did something extremely bad, or it’s a bunch of bullies ganging up on someone.”  Jonathan’s wife, Mara, who was sitting nearby, piped up and said, “It’s the second one.  It’s a bunch of bullies ganging up on someone.”

History

According to Jonathan Donnan’s wife, Mara, Pastor Skorzewski said numerous sexually inappropriate things to her over the course of months, and on at least one occasion, Pastor Glende also joined in with this disgusting behavior.  (At the time, Mara was a member of The CORE, a WELS church, and also Pastor Skorzewski’s executive assistant).

After a long ordeal involving the Circuit Pastor, District President, and even the Synod President, Pastor Skorzewski finally resigned.  However, Skorzewski almost immediately requested CRM status.  (CRM means that a man is deemed to be blameless, above reproach, and qualified to receive a call as a pastor).

Jonathan did not think the man who behaved so inappropriately toward his wife should become a pastor again, and he thought the WELS pastors from the district who would be asked to comment on Skorzewski’s CRM status should have more information.  So he wrote a letter to the pastors of the Northern Wisconsin District giving them information about Pastors Skorzewski’s and Glende’s behavior toward his wife.  This letter was signed by Jonathan, his wife Mara, and also concerned WELS pastors Lidtke and Suhr.

Having received comments regarding Skorzewski’s potential CRM status from other WELS pastors, District President Engelbrecht then also sought comments specifically from the membership of St. Peter & The CORE, which had been Skorzewski’s congregation before he resigned.  To this end, an informational meeting was scheduled at The CORE for August 13, 2013.

At the beginning of the meeting, Pastor Glende said the purpose of the meeting was so that the congregation could seek direction and make decisions about the ministry “specifically on this campus,” The CORE.  During this meeting, District President Engelbrecht summarized Skorzewski’s behavior and the Donnan’s reaction and the steps the District took to rehabilitate Skorzewski, he solicited questions, and then he gave the members of St. Peter & The CORE thirty days to submit comments to the district leadership regarding Skorzewski’s proposed CRM status.  During this meeting, District President Engelbrecht also said that he was an ardent supporter of Skorzewski and his ministry.

Jonathan Donnan showed up at this meeting because he wanted to protect his wife’s reputation and honor.  After DP Engelbrecht’s summary, Jonathan believed that DP Engelbrecht had portrayed Pastor Skorzewski’s behavior in the best possible light, while portraying his wife’s reaction in the worst possible light.  Therefore, Jonathan sat through much of the Q&A section with his hand raised waiting to be called upon.  Finally, Pastor Glende said that he would allow Jonathan to speak; however, he first informed the congregation that Jonathan was not invited to the meeting, had no legal right to be there, and that if Jonathan started attacking people, then he would be asked to leave.

Jonathan said that was a rude way to call upon him.  The entire exchange then quickly devolved into whether Jonathan had a right to be there because he was not a member of St. Peter & The CORE.  Jonathan believed that as a Christian husband he had a duty to try to defend his wife, and that St. Peter & The CORE’s constitution and bylaws could not overrule his moral obligations.  After a short period of time, Jonathan left the meeting, but announced that he was there to defend his wife, and would be outside to speak with anyone who wanted to hear the whole truth.

While Jonathan was outside, he could hear laughter and applause inside as the meeting continued without him.  While Jonathan was outside, he also received a lecture about forgiveness and about how he did not understand forgiveness.

A few days later, Pastors Glende and Skorzewski and two church staff members filed four almost identical lawsuits against Jonathan Donnan.  They asked the Outagamie County Family Court to issue four restraining orders telling Jonathan to not write any more letters to WELS pastors about Glende or Skorzewski, to not show up at any future meetings at St. Peter & The CORE where they would be discussing personnel issues, and to have no further contact with St. Peter & The CORE or its staff.

Pastor Glende’s case was heard first.  Pastor Glende spent about two hours presenting his case.  He himself testified extensively along with two laymen from his church.

Legal Issues

In order for a behavior to be harassment, it has to serve no legitimate purpose.  Does writing a letter to the men (WELS pastors) who would help decide Skorzewski’s CRM status serve no legitimate purpose?  And does showing up at a congregational meeting where they are discussing how your wife was treated, and where the District President is seeking comments and advice about whether that pastor should get CRM status, does that serve no legitimate purpose?

Is that inappropriate behavior?  Or could those be the behaviors of a man trying to protect and defend his wife?

The allegations Mara made against Skorzewski were not false.  A false allegation would serve no legitimate purpose, but a truthful allegation does.  If certain WELS pastors and a certain WELS congregation are going to be specifically asked to provide comments about whether Skorzewski should serve as a pastor again, is it legitimate that they should also hear from the victim or her representative?

The August 30 Court Hearing

Under oath, Pastor Glende testified that Jonathan’s behavior served no legitimate purpose because it hindered the ministry of St. Peter & The CORE, and it was just an attack.  (Court transcript, page 40).  According to Pastor Glende, Jonathan’s behavior served no legitimate purpose because the decision about whether Skorzewski would serve as a pastor was made back in January and April.  Pastor Glende stated this numerous times throughout his testimony.  Below is just one example.

Under oath, Pastor Glende said that Jonathan’s “behavior was disruptive in our congregation in a meeting.  It is — it attacks me personally.”  Attorney Maurer then asked Glende: “What’s wrong with that, pastor?  What’s wrong with a person attacking on how you handled the situation of allegations of sexual harassment by one of your pastors?  What’s wrong with that?”  To which Pastor Glende responded: “A group of my peers have said it’s been dealt with, addressed, move on.”  (Court transcript, page 39).

In summarizing all of the evidence presented by Pastor Glende, Pastor Glende’s attorney said:

There are statements that have been provided as evidence that … show that Mr. Donnan is not going to let this issue die.  He believes his purpose is to see this through.  The issue has absolutely been resolved, and for some reason Mr. Donnan refuses to come to grips with that.  So his conduct in sending the letters, continuing to contact people, showing up at the church and refusing to leave, clearly, in my opinion, falls within, engages in a course of conduct that has no legitimate purpose …

— Court Transcript, page 75.

Was the issue of Skorzewski’s CRM status absolutely resolved?  No.  This court hearing took place during the 30 day comment period in which members of St. Peter & The CORE were being asked to advise the District about Skorzewski’s CRM status.  And only a few months later, the District granted Skorzewski CRM status, he immediately received a call, and has already been installed as a WELS pastor in Texas.

Attorney Maurer tried to get Pastor Glende to admit that the August 13 meeting was about potentially reinstating Skorzewski to the pastoral office.  Attorney Maurer questioning Pastor Glende:

Q:   Okay, you testified earlier that the issue in the past had been resolved back in January, correct?

A:   There was an initial decision reached on it in January.

Q:   He resigned in April?

A:   Correct.

Q:   And you’re stating that the August 13, 2013 meeting had nothing to do with that whatsoever, with his disposition going forward with the church, correct?

A:   Pastor Ski resigned and is not currently a pastor.  He doesn’t have status to be a pastor.  The church has nothing to do with him going forward as a pastor.

Q:   That’s not entirely true, is it?  Isn’t it a fact that part of the purpose of this meeting was some specific members of the congregation wanted to reinstate the pastor to his previous position, correct?

A:   That’s not true.

Q:   If I have people come in and testify that there were people at that meeting that were petitioning the church to reinstate the pastor, that’s not the truth, they’re lying?

A:   Were there people there that their opinion was that the pastor should be reinstated?  Yes.

Q:   Were there people at the meeting that said that?

A:   There could have been people in the meeting that said that.  The purpose of the meeting; however, was not to reinstate him.

Q:   The purpose of the meeting was as it related to Jonathan’s wife, correct?

A:   To share information regarding the case.

Q:   So why would you think it’s inappropriate for the husband of the alleged victim to be present at the meeting to hear this?

A:   Mr. Donnan has heard all that information before, and from my knowledge, it was a meeting for the members of our congregation, which he is not one of.

Q:   Why didn’t you simply tell him to leave in the beginning?  Instead you gave him the opportunity to speak.

A:   I didn’t see him there at the beginning, I was up in the front.  I had not had a chance to do anything about it and I didn’t want to cause a scene to ask him to leave.  For two hours of the meeting Jonathan sat there.  From my position he looked agitated and upset when different things were said, which, as I have always said, Jonathan is entitled to his opinion in regards to this case.

Q:   Wouldn’t you be upset if you believed your wife was the victim of sexual harassment by a pastor and they were discussing that at a meeting?  Do you think that’s unreasonable?

A:   I guess I don’t know how to answer that question.

— Court Transcript, pages 35-37.

Attorney Maurer further questioning Pastor Glende:

Q:   Do you believe there was any merit to the allegations against the pastor?

A:   Do I believe it was sexual harassment?

Q:   Do you believe there was any merit to any of the allegations, factual allegations, alleged against the pastor?

A:   The pastor resigned.

Q:   That’s not an answer to my question.  Do you believe there was any factual basis for the allegations of harassment made by Jonathan’s wife towards the pastor?

A:   We have said, declared publicly, that lapses in judgment happened.

Q:   I’m just — yes or no, you personally?

ATTORNEY GILL:  Objection to the relevance, your Honor.

ATTORNEY MAURER:  It’s part of a harassment injunction, conduct that does not serve a legitimate purpose.  Making up allegations of harassment just to attack these people, then that doesn’t serve a legitimate purpose.

ATTORNEY GILL:  Your Honor, the continued behavior has no legitimate purpose.

THE COURT:  The objection is overruled, he can answer.

WITNESS [Pastor Glende]:  Can you repeat the question?

Q:   I’m asking you if you personally believe there was any merit to the factual allegations of harassment raised by Jonathan’s wife against the pastor?

A:   Are you asking me if there were –

Q:   Just yes or no.

A:   You’re asking me a yes or no to — I can’t agree with -­-

Q:   So you don’t believe there was any merit to the factual allegations of harassment?

ATTORNEY GILL:  I’m going to object.  There were eight or nine allegations, your Honor.

ATTORNEY MAURER:  I’m asking about any of them.

ATTORNEY GILL:  What specific allegations are we talking about, your Honor?

THE COURT:  Overruled, he can answer.

[Attorney Maurer questioning Pastor Glende]:

Q:   To any of them in general.  Yes?

A:   Sure, yes.

Q:   Okay, so would you personally condone that type of conduct by one of your pastors?

A:   No.

Q:   Okay, so you believe that there were indiscretions by the pastor directly towards Jonathan’s wife that occurred by the pastor, correct?

A:   Yes, which were addressed.  And then once he resigned, it was over because he is no longer a pastor.  That happened in the middle of April.

Q:   Okay, but again, the August 13 meeting was to address possibly the allegations that had happened in the past?

A:   It was to share the summary of everything that had gone on from the end of October, November to that point.

Q:   What precipitated that meeting?

A:   Because of the letter that Jonathan and Mara sent out.  Our district president said it was appropriate, at this time, to set it out.  Until that point, we had not shared publicly with anyone in our congregation that this involved Jonathan or Mara.

Q:   Your superiors told you, let’s have a meeting with the congregation on this to let everyone know what happened, and it’s your position you didn’t want him and his wife to be there?

A:   He wasn’t a member, he was an uninvited guest.

Q:   Okay.

A:   Wanted or not wanted, I wouldn’t have thought of inviting him, he wasn’t a member.

— Court Transcript, pages 40-43.

Also at issue during the hearing was whether the August 13 meeting at The CORE was about how Pastor Skorzewski treated Jonathan’s wife, and Pastor Glende admitted that was true.

After Pastor Glende finished presenting all his evidence, and before the defense called a single witness, the court ruled on the case.  The standard the court used was this:  It put the best construction on everything Pastor Glende and his witnesses said, it considered Pastor Glende’s case in the kindest possible light, and gave Pastor Glende the benefit of the doubt on everything.  Nonetheless, the court ruled that Pastor Glende’s case had no merit, and dismissed his case.

Pastor Glende’s case was dismissed even before the defense called a single witness or presented any evidence.  Glende had nothing.

Aftermath

Immediately after the court dismissed Pastor Glende’s case, Attorney Maurer suggested that Skorzewski and the two church staffers should voluntarily dismiss their own virtually identical cases.  (Because Pastor Glende’s case took so long, the other three cases were rescheduled to a later date).  However, Skorzewski and the two church staffers refused to dismiss their cases, and instead attempted to negotiate a settlement out of court.

However, Jonathan refused to give up any of his legal rights in return for them agreeing to dismiss their cases.  In response, Skorzewski and the two staffers waited until the very last hour to dismiss their cases, thereby forcing the Donnans to endure the maximum amount of stress, and to pay the maximum amount in legal (attorney) fees.

Soon after, the Northern Wisconsin District denied Skorzewski CRM status, but made no announcement.  In congregational meetings at both St. Peter & The CORE, Skorzewski then advised the congregation that they should move on without him.  (“Around the Council Table,” November 2013 church newsletter).  The November 2013 church newsletter also had a special section entitled: “MOVING FORWARD AT THE CORE” which stated:

The announcement has been made that Ski will not be returning to that position [pastor at The CORE].  Although he applied for it, his reinstatement to the pastoral office was not granted at this point.  In a special meeting at The CORE, Ski expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to serve in our midst, but encouraged all in attendance to move forward.  That is the intent of our leadership on both campuses.  We will continue to pray for Ski, his family, and his reinstatement.

Shortly after that, Skorzewski applied for CRM status a second time.  This time, the Northern Wisconsin District granted Skorzewski CRM status (under the condition that he not be a pastor in the Northern Wisconsin District), and almost immediately Skorzewski received a call to serve as a WELS pastor in Texas.  St. Peter & The CORE then announced in their church newsletter that they were holding a farewell party for Pastor Skorzewski to wish him God’s blessings as he prepared to leave for his new call.

So a WELS pastor resigned, for cause, because of sin, but before he left for his new call at another congregation, his former congregation threw him a farewell party.

On Sunday, April 27, 2014, Skorzewski was installed as pastor at Christ the Rock (a WELS) church in Texas, and Pastor Glende preached at Skorzewski’s installation service.  (Vimeo 93511608).  At 28:20 in the sermon, Pastor Glende said that Skorzewski was his best friend, and that he wished he could work with Skorzewski forever, but God had a different plan: to bring him to Texas.  At about 28 minutes into the sermon, Pastor Glende said, “I’m sure down the road or in the course of time, you’ll hear a great deal about what it is that God used to bring him here.  It’s an amazing story.”

A Spring Hike

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These pictures are from a Spring hike in the northern Kettle Moraine Forest near Greenbush, WI.

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Exercise is good for the mind and body.

Truth and beauty are good for the soul.

Hiking in the outdoors combines beauty and exercise.

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This particular trail used to be open to mountain biking, but now is limited to only hiking and cross country skiing.

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It was a good hike and a beautiful day.

May God bless you.

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Light from Light is six years old.  In recognition of this anniversary, I would like to give away a copy of the Christian Book of Concord bonded-leather-cover second edition from Concordia Publishing House.  This is similar to the regular hard-cover second edition, except it has a bonded-leather-cover with gold trim on the page edges and it comes in a gift box.  The condition is new, never used.

If you would like to enter the drawing for a free copy, just fill out the form below.  However, you must be at least 18 years old, may enter the drawing only once, and you must be a resident of the United States.

After the winner is chosen at random, all names and e-mails will be permanently deleted.  The deadline for entries is 12 noon on Monday, May 5, 2014 A.D.

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Trust.  This is the first qualification of a pastor.  He must be trustworthy.  This is because a pastor stands in the place of Christ, and has tremendous power over others.  He has been appointed by Christ to protect the flock, not to harm it.

It is wrong when a man says sexually inappropriate things to an unknown woman in a bar.  But because he has no power over her, she would feel little pressure to put up with his disgusting behavior.  However, when someone in a position of trust and power (for example, an employer, a doctor, a teacher, or a pastor) uses their office to say sexually inappropriate things to an employee, a patient, a student, or a parishioner, that is not only intrinsically wrong, it is also a violation of trust.

People with power over others have a duty to protect those in their care.  Doctors must protect patients.  Teachers must protect students.  Employers must protect employees.  And pastors must protect parishioners.

A pastor should not say sexually inappropriate things to an employee or a parishioner.  This is especially because a pastor has tremendous social power, not just over the victim, but often also over her family and friends.  He could not only use his position to create a hostile work environment, thereby pushing her to quit and lose her employment, but he could also apply social pressure in the church environment to keep her quiet, and to discredit her.  As a result, she could lose a job, a church, friends, and she could become depressed and maybe even alienated from Christ.

One might expect the wolves to attack the sheep, but a shepherd has been given a position of authority and trust.  He is there to protect the sheep.  Therefore, the shepherd must never intentionally harm the sheep, not even one of them.

Would a babysitter or daycare operator who intentionally harmed a child ever be put in that position of trust again?  Would a nurse who intentionally took sexual advantage of a patient ever be put in such a position of trust again?  Would a psychiatrist who intentionally hurt a patient be allowed to continue practicing?  The world does not tolerate this sin.  In the world, people who have violated a trust are not given offices of trust.

The issue is not just the intrinsic wrong, but also the abuse of an office to commit that wrong.  Those are two distinct offenses, and they magnify each other.  When a powerful person hurts a weaker person, that is an especially grievous sin.  How much worse is it when the powerful person is trusted by the weaker?  It is far worse because it is also a betrayal.  A pastor who has intentionally harmed an employee and/or a parishioner has also betrayed them.  He has betrayed the trust of not only the victim, but also his office, the Church, and Christ.

We do not trust betrayers.  Therefore, a shepherd who intentionally harms the sheep cannot be a pastor.

“But what about repentance?” some will ask.  First, “repentant” is not the only qualification to be a pastor.  A pastor must also be blameless and above reproach.  (1 Timothy 3:2, 7).  Second, genuine repentance involves not just faith, but also contrition.  (AC Apology XIIA (V) 28).  There should be fruit worthy of repentance.  (Matthew 3:8).

Thus, if a pastor says sexually inappropriate things to an employee or parishioner repeatedly over many months, he should resign immediately.  The pastor should not wait until her husband finds out.  He should not wait until the Circuit Pastor finds out.  He should not wait until the District President finds out.  He should not wait until after Christmas.  He should not wait until after the congregation’s building dedication.  He should not wait until the Synod President finds out.  He should not wait to be told to resign.  Finally, he should not file a meritless lawsuit against the victim or her husband.

True repentance is contrition and faith.  True contrition means that we accept the temporal consequences for our sins.  In contrition we accept the consequences, in faith we trust that even though we suffer in this world because of our sin God will still protect us to eternal life.  Only a man who completely surrenders in contrition and faith will ever be trusted again.

But if we try to avoid taking full responsibility, then we show that this world is more important to us.  And if we do not bear fruit worthy of repentance, then we are not fit to be called “pastor” or even “Christian.”

Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:39).  May the Lord grant to all of us true repentance.

Happy Easter 2014

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Happy Easter!

He is risen!

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Good Friday.

“It is finished.”

Α Ω

In Flesh, In Us

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The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  The sky shown in through the blue stained glass windows, illuminating the chalice, and enhancing its silver tone.  The altar area was gently illuminated by amber track lighting, which caused the gold on the altar to glow, and gave the background a warm color.  The crucifix was illumined by purple lights inside the altar.  (St. John recently purchased, and installed lights around the crucifix that can change their color according to the season).  I used a time delay, and let the camera’s lens drink in the light.  The picture is still a little dark, but I wanted the photo to reflect the dark reverent stillness of Lent.

The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  An organist was practicing, but the place still felt quiet, silent, reverent.  The quietness of a holy place is a powerful solid stillness found in the whisper of God’s word and the awe of things sacred.  (1 Kings 19:11-13).

During our Lord’s first Supper, it was probably quiet.  The words He spoke were sacred: “This is my body.  This is my blood.  Given for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”  The reality was quiet and hidden, but it was also no less momentous than at any other time the Lord was with His people.  He was with His people through the sea and in the dessert.  He was with His people in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.  At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple

fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.  When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  [2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV].

The Lord was in the Temple, but on one great day, from one sundown to the next, Christ tore the Temple curtain in two.  Was it so we could go in to Him in Jerusalem’s Temple?  Or was He coming out to us?  He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And He puts His real presence into our bodies.  We, our very bodies are the new Temple of God.  We are God’s Temple/Church/Congregation.  When His Temple assembles in congregation, there He is in the midst of them.  There He is inside of us.

Take and eat.  This is my body.  This is my blood.  We are our bodies, and we are the physical Temple of God.  We are the physical place on earth where God can be found, where He puts His very real presence.  He is in human flesh, in bread, in wine, in us.

May you have a blessed Maundy Thursday.

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May you have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

From Olivet they followed
Mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving
And chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of saints and angels
Rode on in lowly state
Nor scorned that little children
Should on his bidding wait.

“Hosanna in the highest!”
That ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer,
The Lord of heaven our King.
Oh, may we ever praise him
With heart and life and voice
And in his royal presence
Eternally rejoice.

— “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” Christian Worship, 130:2-3.

The morning sun illuminates daffodils.

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The Lord came to the earth, and from the earth He receives praise.

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

— Luke 19:40, ESV.

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