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Messages - D. Engebretson

Chaplaincy work is part of the missionary work of the LCMS.  It exists, as it were, on the edges.  As a fire chaplain now for over 20 years I have always understood that my work in that realm, while broadly related to my overall work as a pastor, is still distinct from it. I am not the pastor of the members of my department.  I do not have a relationship with them that I have with those in my congregation.  But I still witness to the truth of God's Word among them.   
On what basis would we say that God protected any particular individual?
I do not believe that God specifically protected the ex-president. Why wouldn't God protect any of the other victims of crazed shootings?
The ex president survived because his assailant was not a perfect marksman.

I suppose we could believe that the sparing of the life of any individual was simply a matter of pure chance.  I have had numerous 'close calls' in my own life, including a recent car accident where my car was totaled.  A mere second's difference and I would have been hit squarely in the driver's side door.  Instead, I was hit at the end of the car and spared any real injury.  Another time I had a heavy fire tool called a New York Hook fall from 15 feet above me and hit my head.  I was wearing a protective helmet, but if I had looked up at that moment my injuries would have been life-threatening.  In each case I thanked God for sparing me great harm and even death.  Why did God spare my life?  I can theorize on that, but for now I'll just thank Him and give Him the credit for my safety and health.  I also prayed yesterday in church thanking God for sparing the life of the former president.

We do not pretend to understand why God spares one life and not another.  This is part of the mystery of His hidden will.  Still, we recognize that God is active in our world and that nothing happens that He does not will.  A God who is separated and distant from his creation is a theology of the Deists. Lutherans have never believed that God is absent from His creation.  At its heart such a belief calls into questions the incarnation itself. 

BTW, the reason the shooter missed, technically speaking, is not because he was not a good marksman. Actually, considering that he is not in the military, I was surprised by how well he did. The distance was about 400 to 500 ft., potentially over 160 yards.  The fact that he was able to pierce the ear of the former president is pretty accurate shooting.  For hunters to be that close to a target is considered excellent shooting.  The fact that Trump was injured in his ear and did not receive a killing shot to the head is attributed to the fact that at that last moment he moved his head. If he had not moved his head even in such a slight way, we would be talking about his death as we did JFK's.   
Your Turn / Re: Some people claim...
June 29, 2024, 09:02:20 AM
Define "Christian nation."

Who are the "some"?

And is it technically "illegal" to be "homeless" or is the issue about where the homeless choose to sleep and whether local governments can regulate encampments in public places?  Also, is it true that communities offer no other solution for the homeless?  Do the homeless choose to sleep in public places rather than take advantage of provided shelters?  And questions abound. The issues complex.
Although I have some minor connection with the TEC because of my graduate studies, I am largely an outsider to what goes on within this denomination.  They are currently holding their General Convention in  Louisville, Kentucky.  The new presiding bishop is the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, who, as far as I see, is the youngest ever elected to that position. There were some issues surrounding other candidates and disciplinary action taken against them by the outgoing presiding bishop.   

For those more in the know, what are the major issues facing this convention and how might it impact the larger community of Lutherans?
Your Turn / Re: Tschüss
June 25, 2024, 05:49:24 PM
This idea that all conservative minded Christians who adhere to a strict biblical morality are "afraid" of people such as homosexuals, transsexuals, Muslims, etc. is getting old.  Very old.  Why does it have to be when we disapprove of something that we are automatically 'afraid' of it?  And why does the assumption persist that when we disapprove of something we automatically avoid and shun and openly demean such people with open hatred? How can we hope to communicate when such caricatures persist? Seriously, can we drop the 'phobic' attachment and simply respect that we have a reason to disapprove? You don't have to agree, but you don't have to label. 

Since there is a line of thinking that the Lutheran Confessions do not support close(d) communion, I'm curious, given what the Lutheran reformers wrote regarding the false doctrine of such groups as the Anabaptists and Zwingli and others, would Luther and his fellow pastors have openly welcomed such to the Table? As Schaff describes the last meeting between Luther and Zwingli:


Schaff describes this meeting:

    On Monday morning he arranged another private conference between the Saxon and the Swiss Reformers. They met for the last time on earth. With tears in his eyes, Zwingli approached Luther, and held out the hand of brotherhood: but Luther declined it, saying again, "Yours is a different spirit from ours." Zwingli thought that differences in non-essentials, with unity in essentials, did not forbid Christian brotherhood. "Let us," he said, "confess our union in all things in which we agree; and, as for the rest, let us remember that we are brethren. There will never be peace in the churches if we cannot bear differences on secondary points." Luther deemed the corporal presence a fundamental article, and construed Zwingli's liberality into indifference to truth. "I am astonished," he said, "that you wish to consider me as your brother. It shows clearly that you do not attach much importance to your doctrine." Melanchthon looked upon the request of the Swiss as a strange inconsistency. Turning to the Swiss, the Wittenbergers said, "You do not belong to the communion of the Christian Church. We cannot acknowledge you as brethren." They were willing, however, to include them in that universal charity which we owe to our enemies (Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII. Hendrickson, 1996 (1888). pp. 644–645
Your Turn / Re: Women in Ministry
May 11, 2024, 10:30:34 AM
I think there is danger in placing too much emphasis of the call to pastoral ministry coming to us "as individuals."  Many a freelance evangelical preacher has ascended the pulpit believing that God called him (or her) apart from anyone or anything else.  I know I felt a sense of calling into the ministry many decades ago, but my presence in that office today was nurtured, affirmed, and encouraged by countless people from the church, pastors and lay included.  It also was also assessed and evaluated by professors from the seminary and the elected leaders of my denomination. 

Simply saying we feel we have a call to be a pastor does not make us a pastor, or legitimize it.  Many deviations from the apostolic biblical and historic pattern have come from the idea that ministry originates in the individual and the gifts they feel they possess.  And thus the continued defense of those modern deviations: How can we deny the office to one who personally believes they are called?
Quote from: Dave Benke on May 01, 2024, 11:58:23 AMIn opposition to some of your thoughts, I find this to be an actual primitive-Church-level era of excitement.  We cannot and should not take anything for granted with the exception of the assurance of salvation in Christ.  That's great!

Yes, steeples are falling.  Yes, institutions are fading away.  Yes, there are alternate ways of couching reality that are competing.  I can't see where that all ends or even leads, nor I guess can you.  My spidey sense is that we're all just killing time until the Singularity, which is hard upon us.  And I do not think that can or will be contained as it rolls out.  That Brave New World will take a supple, able and courageous crew of Christians.  And God will provide.
I am in no way despairing.  Quite the opposite.  It's just that the challenges are different. It is true, we can take nothing for granted.  I was fortunate to call the ministry my full-time vocation for now nearly 37 years and will undoubtedly retire from full-time work as a pastor.  I have had provided housing (parsonages) for all of that time.  That will become more and more rare.  Bi-vocational pastors will become more of the norm, I suspect. And the place of a pastor in society-at-large will continue to change.  I live in a small town/rural community.  Clergy still enjoy a measure of respect.  But that could change even in contexts such as this.  I have been thankful to work in a missionary fashion as a fire chaplain for over 20 years.  I work side-by-side with many men and even women who have no formal church connection.  Witnessing to such by word and deed is a challenge different than those inside the church walls.  I pray that chaplaincy work can continue in the military and emergency service sectors, but that may not last either.  But we should take advantage of it while it lasts. 

But we must be on guard that we do not reflect the world during those holy moments in God's House when receiving His gifts of Word and Sacrament.  I am concerned in what see that the world has been allowed, like the nose of the proverbial camel, to poke in through the tent, and in some cases the whole animal is now inside and becoming too much the focus of attention. 
As one born in 1960 my commitment to my Synod and what it teaches and stands for does not arise from a desire to 'turn back the clock' to a supposedly more pristine era.  I grew up in essentially a transitional era with the TLH as my parish was moving to adopt the LBW and others would shortly adopt the LW.  My pastors already wore albs, and one introduced a chasuble at Easter when I was in sem; I do not remember seeing any in Geneva gowns.  I think there may have been a German service yet in the 70s, but I did not attend it and it disappeared relatively soon in my youthful years.  I attended a Synodical college just a few years after the Walk Out in St. Louis (freshman year - 1979), but thankfully did not feel the effects of it where I studied.  My college years, looking back, seem relatively normal. 

Pastors of my generation came into the ministry in the throes of the Church Growth Movement (I entered the ministry in 1987), and the waning years of the Charismatic Movement (later to be renamed "renewal movement"). While the 'Battle for the Bible' occupied the years before I entered the sem, the early years of my ministry were occupied with what we might called the 'Battle for the Church.'  Would it be driven by a foreign neo-Pentecostal movement that depended on an emotional foundation?  Would it be driven by a business model that stressed numbers as signs of success (theology of glory), or would it be grounded in the theology of the cross. I am deeply thankful in those early years that I had Sasse's books which Prof. Marquart had used in systemtatics courses.  Ministering in a poor, lightly populated area where I did not see the kind of growth the 'experts' told me was the sign of a true church that was on fire for the Lord, I was able to be reoriented back to Christ and the cross and the call to be faithful 'in season and out of season.'

Now in my latter years I've lived to see a level of confusion in the world and the church I could not have imagined, even in the shadow of the rather turbulent 60s and 70s.  I have seen the culture creep into the church and once again claim ground and set up a foreign presence.  I have watched and seen an erosion of commonality even on the agreement of the basics, seeing churches drift apart theologically to degrees we might not have predicted decades earlier.  Whereas the Christian Church may have yet enjoyed some sense of respectability in the culture-at-large (albeit quickly disappearing, and in some cases gone), I now see the church much more like Paul may have envisioned it in his time as pockets in the sea of Roman and Greek culture, or our distant missionary forbearers who took the gospel to the pagan lands from which many of us now discern our genetic makeup (think Patrick or Cryil and Methodius or Boniface.)

I am committed to a serious and conservative view of Holy Scripture not as a reaction against the higher critics of another century, but because the Word is the last lifeline for our dying times; the only source of true hope in a decaying culture. I still see this in my Synod.  Perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But it's still out there doing what the church has been called to do from the beginning: baptizing all nations and teaching all about Christ.     
A second 'thank you' Will for your thoughts. I love my Synod, but see both its strengths and its weaknesses, as well.

Such as: "One of her weaknesses, in my opinion (I know many will disagree), is her attempt to hold together disparate theological convictions and pretend that we can say 'yes' and 'no' at the same time."  I sometimes feel that neighboring parishes live different lives with different directions. This happens most often, in my opinion, on what we do on Sunday morning.  With live-streamed services now so prevalent since the pandemic, anyone can see for themselves what is happening in the sanctuaries of our parishes.  At times I do not recognize my Synod in what I see.  It does not sound like what I cherish and practice. It seems like a different church.   
Your Turn / Re: Israel
April 27, 2024, 09:23:28 AM
I wonder if October 7 is somewhat forgotten and sidelined in the midst of all these protests of late.  What should a country do if it is attacked and its people are taken hostage by terrorists?  The entire situation was complicated by a group of combatants that deliberately hid behind innocent citizens, safely ensconced in an array of underground tunnels, some right beneath hospitals.  Wars cannot always be fought in open fields and in non-populated areas.  WWII is a prime example.  Much of that war was forced into the cities. 

If Israel had simply let things remain as they were, fearful of civilian casualties if they proceeded into Palestine and the more highly populated areas, do any of us expect that Hamas would remain passive? Or the other groups like Hezbollah?  That they would not attack again?  What did the chant "from the sea to the river, Palestine will be free" imply? 

Many of the protestors want the US to divest of its assistance to Israel.  Can we imagine what Israel would look like today if the Iranian barrage of bombs on April 18 had been left to Israel alone to thwart?  Could we stand by and watch their people needlessly killed?

It's complicated. I get that.  Mistakes are made. Not everything turns out the way it should.  But what I now hear these college students demand is that Israel be abandoned, punished and left at the mercy of its radical Islamic neighbors. Is that really fair?
Your Turn / Re: Israel
April 25, 2024, 04:27:16 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on April 25, 2024, 09:31:41 AM
Quote from: D. Engebretson on April 25, 2024, 09:03:54 AMSo what makes these US students so pro-Hamas and so anti-Israel, especially on elite universities?  In the Vietnam era the campus protests were no doubt motivated by an unwillingness to be drafted into a foreign war in which they felt they had no stake.

While many may have been concerned about their draft status, I suspect that most were opposed the United States engagement in an immoral war.  And, those who were concerned about their draft status were also aware that those with power and influence were able to avoid the draft - e.g. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump.

While there is nothing acceptable about violence and vile words that might foment violence, many of the protestors are just opposed to the United States support for the immoral way that Israel has engaged its opposition to Hamas.

So, do you believe these same students, who see Israel's actions as "immoral," would be similarly critical of the attacks of Hamas, such as occurred on October 7?  Or do you think, according to much of the protest I see, that they feel Hamas was fully justified in slaughtering the people that day and taking others hostage?  I see the latter. 
Your Turn / Re: Israel
April 25, 2024, 09:03:54 AM
So what makes these US students so pro-Hamas and so anti-Israel, especially on elite universities?  In the Vietnam era the campus protests were no doubt motivated by an unwillingness to be drafted into a foreign war in which they felt they had no stake. Yet even in that era you had people like Jane Fonda who showed support for the Communists over her own democratically governed country.  Do these students really understand the plans and purposes of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah?  Do they understand radical Islamic goals against the west? Do they support its attacks on our own bases and ships?   
Your Turn / Re: 2024 Call Days
April 24, 2024, 09:25:06 AM
Quote from: Dave Benke on April 23, 2024, 09:20:25 PM
Quote from: Jim Butler on April 23, 2024, 05:22:32 PM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on April 23, 2024, 10:28:30 AMIt used to be that in the LCMS, a pastor received a Letter of Call in the mail out of the blue; and then the interviews occurred. I don't know if that's still the process in the LCMS.

I'd say that the vast majority of calls issued in the LCMS are to pastors who have been interviewed prior to receiving the call. But I can think of a few that have come out of the blue, so it still takes place.

The year before I was elected in 1991 was a gap year, an interim situation.  A candidate from Wyoming was called to the Bronx.  How did that happen?  Why did that happen?  What was anyone thinking?  Was anyone thinking.  No interview there at all, just a raw placement.  A year after I got started I began visiting the young pastor.  Eventually I went over there one afternoon.  He invited me into his office, laid on top of his desk facing the ceiling and began wailing, "I can't do this.  I can't do this.  I don't belong here." 

He went back to Wyoming, and has lived out his life in another occupation.  It was one of the most textbook fish out of water situations I ran into. 

Dave Benke

I am sure that as with any process there are holes and gaps.  Looking back nearly 37 years I wonder if a modern day placement system would have placed me where I went in 1987.  I was a middle class suburban guy from a mid-sized city in Wisconsin who married a middle class city gal from Denver.  My first call was to the poorest county in the lower peninsula in MI.  Bi-racial.  Rural.  My first parsonage (there would be two) was a 12X50 trailer home. 

I stayed around 5 years and would consider it a good first call despite the above.  My wife struggled, now away from home, friends, family, and without familiar work.  We had our first child there, and the mostly older congregation was very supportive. Again, it all worked out, but it might not have, given the dynamics.  Our circuit was supportive, but we were spread out and other than winkels I'm not sure I saw a lot of my brother pastors. It was hard to form the kind of friendships we once had with so many members the age of our parents.  But we made it work. 

In later years when I became a circuit counselor I would try to follow up on younger pastors  and check in on them occasionally.  I remembered my own beginning.  People don't often realize how isolating and lonely ministry can be. Even with a good placement system you have to have a good follow-up and support system.  People still fall between the cracks.  We lost a young pastor over a year ago who eventually decided he was not a good fit ministerially.  He's off the roster and I'm not sure where he went.  Should we have been in closer contact with him?  I had a brother pastor, a classmate and friend for decades (same college, congregation, etc.), who sealed himself off from many outside his church, never attending pastor's conferences, etc..  As the CC I had to oversee his removal and departure when his ministry imploded and leadership broke ranks and reached out to me.  It was heart-rending.

I don't have all the answers, but I don't expect those from the sem to really understand the transition challenges young pastor experience as they go from the familiar to the unfamiliar.  Many at the sem have probably been out of parish ministry for some time.  DPs may have more connection with that world, but depending on how long they have served may struggle to remember and relate as well. 

We need to have something to support these young me, especially when they struggle.   
Your Turn / Re: Who are the Other Sheep?
April 23, 2024, 09:09:56 AM
Dr. Francis Pieper in his Christian Dogmatics wrote that "The true Lutheran Church does not attempt any solution of the question at all, but regards it as an unsolvable mystery, which human reason should not try to explore" (p. 251). He says that there are two truths which the Bible holds which must be maintained: 1. God's grace is universal (available to all), and 2. We are saved by grace alone. "The two truths regarding man's salvation which Holy Scripture clearly reveals are: a.) Those who are saved are saved by grace alone, without any merit on their part; b) those who are lost are lost through their own fault. Beyond these two revealed facts no Christian theologian dare go."

Theodore Engelder admits that these questions "touch upon a domain which is utterly closed and hidden to us."

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