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Der Antwort Mann
“Cure for a Guilty Conscience”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    Why don’t all people believe in Christ’s saving grace, that He died on the cross to forgive the sins of all people?  I know this lady who thinks she’s too dirty for God to forgive her, and her family won’t let her forget her sins.  What can be done for her?
Signed,  
   “Don’t Get It”
 

Dear “Don’t,” 
    While we know that the Holy Spirit is the one who creates faith through Word and Sacraments, we also know that people can reject the faith He desires to work in us. The devil will try to steal away from us the comfort and encouragement of Christ’s atoning work for us.  While God desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, not all people want to be saved through Christ, or won’t believe that faith alone in Christ is sufficient to save.
 
     It sounds like the lady in question lacks not repentance, but faith.  The Law has done its work, and her conscience, as well as her family’s criticisms, continues to hammer her with judgment.  She doesn’t yet understand that it’s not God who won’t forgive her, but she (and her family) won’t forgive herself.  Thus, she is presently unable to take hold of the comfort of the Gospel.
 
    She doesn’t need to hear any more Law; she needs the Gospel.  Passages like John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoeverbelieves in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life;” Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us;” and Psalm 103:10-12, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us” are powerful antidotes to the poisoned conscience that despairs of God’s grace.
 
    You might ask your friend if she thinks she’s a greater sinner than those who scourged, mocked and crucified Christ.  Then remind her that He prayed for them: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).”  If He would feel that way towards those brutal, unbelieving beasts, why would he not also feel the same way towards her?
 
     Just keep pointing her to the Gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to do His work.

 
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief”
I Timothy 1:15
 
Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann

  
“A Super Question”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
     What force makes Superman fly?
Signed,
     “Haha”
 
Dear “Haha,”
 
     Superman was born on the planet Krypton, which was in a galaxy with a red sun, and had a gravity quotient much greater than on earth.  As such, because earth’s gravity is so much less, he is able to fly. And the rays from our yellow sun give him his other powers. 
 
    Duh!  Everybody knows that.
 
Best regards,
     Der Antwort Mann


“Regaining ‘Niceness’”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    It seems like everybody is so angry all the time.  It takes little to nothing to offend people, and they have no shame in the things they say and write about others in social media and people on different sides of the political spectrum appear to hate each other.  How can we change this?
Signed,  
   “Walking on Eggs”

Dear “Eggs,” 

    The basis for much of what you describe is due to the loss of civility or, put more simply, common courtesy.  For many of us, we grew up having been taught to say “Please” and “Thank You,” and to respect our elders by saying “Sir,” or “Ma’am.”  Men would hold doors open for women and tip their hats or remove them completely in a woman’s presence.  People would step back to let another go through a door before them, and younger people would give up their seats on a bus or train so someone older or weaker than them could sit.
 
    These were common courtesies that made society “civil.”  It was a matter of showing respect to others, whether or not you knew them.  And, for the most part, it contributed to people generally getting along with each other.  We have lost most of that in our present culture and, with the lack of common courtesy and civility, everybody is ready to assume the worst in others and take offense at the drop of a hat.
 
    My suggestion is that each of us take it upon ourselves to be civil to others, whether or not they return the same to us.  Smile; be pleasant; show respect; don’t use foul language in public; say “Please and Thank You;” hold the door open for others and let them go in first; offer your seat to someone else who really needs it.  These things may not change the world, but they might just change your daily environment.  They will certainly change your own perspective.  And politeness, or civility, is infectious.  If you treat others with courtesy, most will return the same to you.
 
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving
one another, 
as God in Christ forgave you.”   
Ephesians 4:32

 

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann



“When Does the Final Judgment Actually Occur?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
     If it is true that when we die our eternity is forever sealed, one way or another, how come we speak of a final Judgment Day, like when we confess in the Creed that Jesus “will come to judge the living and the dead?”  Is that really when God makes up His mind who will go to heaven and who will not?
Signed,  “Here Comes the Judge”

Dear “Judge,”
 
      While many do misunderstand the purpose of that final Day of Judgment, it really is very simple, and the Creed rightly confesses what Scripture itself teaches.  But let me first use an analogy before getting into the answer to your question.
 
      Trials often have two phases: the first phase is to determine the guilt or innocence of someone, and the second phase is the sentencing.  There is often an extended period of time in between those two phases.  The guilty person is judged to be so in the first phase, and then is incarcerated to await his final sentencing in the last phase.  If you keep this picture in mind with our topic at hand, it may make more sense to you.
 
      Judgment Day does not decide the question of eternal life or death, for that is decided in this world by whether one is a believer in Christ or not, as Jesus says in John 3:18: “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  Death seals the believer in his eternal bliss, and the unbeliever in his eternal condemnation.
 
      At the Final Judgment there will be no need of questions of law or evidence, but the Judge (Christ), who knows all things, will proceed at once to publicly pronounce His sentence.  Since faith and unbelief are invisible to human eyes, the outward fruits of both will be made to bear witness to the justness of the Judge’s sentence.  The believers will not bring forth their good works to prove their righteousness; the Judge will bring them forth to prove His righteousness in judgment.  Likewise, no good works of the unbeliever are brought forth at all; only their sins which bear witness to their unbelief and rejection of God’s grace in Christ which leave them justly condemned.
 
      When Christ awards to His believers the Kingdom of heaven which He has prepared for them, it is not in payment for their good deeds while on earth.  It is given to them as an inheritance because they belong to Him by faith.  They receive what Christ has earned for them.  The wicked deeds of unbelievers testify that they are doing the works of their father, the devil, and it is only fitting that they share in his eternal abode.  Thus, the condemned shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous in Christ into eternal life (Matt. 25).
 
      So, let’s wrap this up in a nice, neat package:  Christ bore the judgment of the whole world’s sins upon Himself when He died on the cross.  In one sense, Judgment Day occurred then.  His sacrifice was made for everyone, but only those who believe in Him benefit from this sacrifice.  Those who reject Christ through unbelief will then bear their sins to their own judgment. There are no second chances after death.  The eternal judgment is rendered at death, and the final sentence is passed at Judgment Day.
 
      The good news for all believers in Christ is that we don’t have to fear that Day, for it will be for us a day of joy as, body and soul, we will be with our gracious Savior forever.
 
[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you: Whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me
 has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”   John 5:24
 
Best Regards,
Der Antwort Mann


 “Who Needs Church?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
     I talk to a lot of people about religion and why they don’t go to church.  Many of them reply that Jesus died for their sins. All they have to do is believe in Him to go to heaven, thus they don’t need to go to church.  I understand about Law and Gospel, but it seems the Gospel gives them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card on sin.  Are they right or wrong?
     Signed, “Not Sure What to Tell Them”
 
Dear “Not Sure,”
 
      This is a problem of not understanding what the Church is.  In one very real sense, if they truly believe in Christ as their Savior, they can’t avoid “Church” because, through faith, they are part of that “one holy, Christian and apostolic Church” that we confess in the Creed.  They belong to the Body of Christ.  As such, it is God’s will that His Christians receive the Gifts of Christ in visible groups, called “churches,” that preach and teach His Word purely and administer His Sacraments faithfully.
 
           Why is that important?  Well, God has promised to work through what are called “The Means of Grace,” i.e. Word and Sacraments, to bring people to faith and keep them in the faith.  When one is disconnected from those “Means,” it is difficult, if not impossible for faith to flourish and, in fact, it may die out altogether.  Those “Means of Grace” are carried out in congregations of people joined together around them.  
 
            So, tell me: How did those people you talk to come to believe in Jesus?  It happened, in one form or another, through the preaching and teaching of the Church; through her mission of proclaiming Christ to the world.  They did not arrive at this faith independently from the Church.  If that faith is important to them, is it just as important to them that their kids and grandkids are brought to this faith?  How are they going to do that apart from being connected to the church?
 
           Our sinful natures are lazy.  This is why people often try to use the Gospel as a cover for sinful lives and attitudes, such as not attending church.  We look for the easiest and most pleasurable routes and going to church isn’t always easy or “pleasurable,” as the world considers pleasure.  I guess that’s why our Lord says that anyone who would follow Him must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him.  But if we have true faith in Jesus, we should want to be with Him where He has promised to be - in His Word and Sacraments proclaimed and administered by, and in the church.  And because we are members of the Body of Christ, that makes us members of one another as parts of that Body living out in our lives together with, and in connection to the church.
 
           So, while a person is saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ, and not by just simply “going to church,” one who is saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ will want to go to, and be an active part of the church, for that is according to our Savior’s will and design for us.  It is in the church we share together in Christ’s gifts and encourage one another in the Faith.  It is there we hear God’s Word, receive the objective forgiveness of our sins, partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for us and are equipped and strengthened to live out our daily lives in service to our neighbor.  It is in connection with the church that we join with all who have gone before us, and all who will come after us that will one day be gathered before Christ to live with Him forever.
 
           Knowing all that, why would anyone want to settle for anything less?
 
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, 
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  Acts 2:42
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann

 

“Christian Socialism?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
     I recently heard someone on TV say that if one is truly a Christian, he must be a Socialist because Jesus was a Socialist.  He even quoted a couple of Bible passages in support of that.  I’m confused.  Help me understand.
Signed, “Marx Brother”
 
Dear “Marx (Groucho or Harpo?),”
 
      Socialism, and its evil step-sister Communism, is a philosophy of economics where “The Collective,” i.e. Government, rather than the individual, owns and controls the means of production and distribution of goods.  Thus, everyone is equalized in that, those who have or produce more have that extra taken away from them to be given to those who produce or have less.  While in theory this may sound good, in reality pure Socialism (not streamlined versions of it that still rely on Free Market economics) makes everyone, except the elite, equally miserable.
 
     To prove his point, I imagine that the person on TV quoted from Acts 2:44-45, about the believers having “all things in common” and “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need,” and Acts 5:1-11, the account of Ananias and Sapphira being struck dead because they withheld from the Apostles some of the proceeds of a property sale.  I would guess he even quoted Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler to “sell what you possess and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21).
 
     The problem is, none of those passages support the economic system of “Socialism,” because these are all cases of voluntary, individual giving rather than government control or seizure of people’s assets.  In the Matthew 19 passage, Jesus is dealing with the rich young man’s inability to understand that he wasn’t keeping the 1stCommandment, much less the other nine.  Telling him to sell everything and give it to the poor, and the man’s sorrowful retreat revealed that his god was his money.  The believers’ charity in Acts 2 was just that: Charity out of love for one another.  It was not a forced redistribution of assets, but a voluntary response to the needs of others.  And in the Acts 5 account, Ananias and Sapphira were punished with death, not because they held back part of the proceeds from the land sale, but because they “lied to the Holy Spirit.”  Peter told them they had full control of their property, to sell it or not, and they had full control over how much they would give from the proceeds of the sale.  Yet, they lied by claiming they were giving the whole amount when, in truth, they withheld part of it.  That’s why they were punished.  Again, there’s no Socialism to be seen here.
 
     We know that God is not against private ownership of property and wealth because He gave us the 7thCommandment: “You shall not steal” (Which should apply to governments as well as individuals!).  If everything was to be held in common and no one was to own anything of their own, then this Commandment would be unnecessary.
 
     Scripture is clear in so many places that our property and income are gifts from God to us that we may be good stewards of those gifts to benefit both ourselves and our neighbors.  When we freely give of our resources to the needs of our neighbor, that is pleasing in God’s eyes.  With the exception of the levying of necessary taxes to carry out its proper function to protect the innocent and punish the wrongdoer (Romans 13), when a governmental system coerces our assets from us in order to control and redistribute those assets to others as it sees fit, then that is wrong, unbiblical and a tragic example of fallen man’s lust for power and control over others under the guise of compassion and fairness.
 
    Socialism sounds good (“Free Everything!”), but it always appeals to our greed to have the government take (dare I say, steal?) from others and give to us.  We want the rich to pay taxes while we don’t want to pay taxes ourselves.  We want to go to college, but we want someone else to pay for it.  We want free health care, food, housing, and even a guaranteed income from the government for doing nothing (as some of the Swamp Creatures in D.C., and some presidential candidates are proposing), and we want nothing expected of us in return. This is not healthy for individuals or for nations.  It is, instead, sinful and deserving of judgment.  And that judgment is shown by the fact that everywhere pure Socialism has been tried (c.f. Venezuela and Cuba for example), it leads to poverty, mass deaths and the destruction of nations.
 
     So, the Bible does not command Socialism and Jesus was not a Socialist, nor does He expect His followers to be, either.  The Lord wants His Christians to use their resources wisely and charitably, as they see fit, not as others see fit for them.  
 
     Ultimately, Socialism is inimical to Jesus, the Bible and to human prosperity and happiness.  Those who are pushing for it in our country today are simply buying the rope by which to hang themselves.
 
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, 
for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann
 
Kids and adults are encouraged to send their questions to “Der Antwort Mann” for publication in the newsletter.  These questions can be sent to or dropped off at church. 

To Give Up or Not to Give Up”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   Since Lent starts this month, do I need to give something up during it?  Is it a sin if I don’t?
Signed,  
   “On the Fence”
 
Dear "Fence,"
 
    The answers to your questions are: No, and No.  But, I guess, you probably want me to elaborate.
The custom of giving up something for Lent is an ancient one, principally still practiced within Roman Catholicism.  While properly understood, temporarily foregoing some lesser thing to concentrate on the Greater Thing can be a pious and beneficial practice, yet all too often it becomes a kind of bargaining chip with God: “I gave up something for You, God, now You reward me for it.”  The ugly step-sister of this is you are coerced to give something up during Lent out of fear that if you don’t, you are sinning.
 
    Luther’s explanation to The Sacrament of the Altar in the Small Catechism offers great wisdom and insight that certainly applies in this matter as well:
    “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.  But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’  These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”
 
    The point is, giving up something for Lent can be a fine discipline to help us meditate on all that Christ gave up for our redemption. But giving up something during Lent does not gain us blessings from God, and not giving up something for Lent is no sin before God.  The main thing in any of this is that we believe the Gospel that Christ died “for you.”  Apart from that, everything else is meaningless.
 
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  I Timothy 1:15    

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann

 
Kids and adults are encouraged to send their questions to Der Antwort Mann for publication in the newsletter.  These questions can be sent to or dropped off at church.

“So, Sue Me!”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   Is it a sin for Christians to sue people?  Sometimes it’s the only way to pay medical bills.
Signed,  
   “Lee Free”
 

Dear “Lee”,

     It depends.  Is the lawsuit frivolous, contrived or malicious?  Is the lawsuit simply a way to enrich yourself by putting “the squeeze” on someone else?  Are you using a lawsuit and the courts when there are other, less costly and disruptive ways to solve an issue?  Then, yes, it is a sin.
 
     Clearly, if you have wrongly suffered injury or loss at the hands of another, legal action may be necessary, and there are provisions in the Bible for seeking protection and redress through legal measures.  St. Paul did not hesitate to use the civil authorities, and his status as a Roman citizen, for protection against those wrongly abusing him (Acts 22).  So, there are appropriate times that Christians can engage in lawsuits.
 
     But . . . Paul has stern words for Christians, and fellow-members of a congregation who sue each other in the courts rather than seeking to reconcile with each other through the Church.  In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul writes: “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?”  “…If you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?  I say this to your shame.  Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.  Why not rather suffer wrong?  Why not rather be defrauded?  But you yourselves wrong and defraud – even your own brothers!”
 
     His concern is both for the church, that Christians aren’t at odds with one another, and also for the poor witness it lays before the world when Christians sue one another instead of, in love, working out the matter in a godly way.  Unbelievers and skeptics will see this as another reason that Christianity and the Church is hypocritical and unworthy of their attention.  Christians, and fellow-members of a congregation who sue each other over some squabble shows that Satan has already defeated them, even if they should win in court.
 
     Sadly, we are so accustomed in this secular world to see the courts as a way to get even, or to get ahead of our adversary, that we seldom consider that there is “a still more excellent way” to handle these things among Christians.  The way of love, forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ.
 
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32 

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann


“Live Long and Prosper”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
            I read about people in the Bible living hundreds of years, so how come people now rarely live to see their hundredth birthday?  Does the Bible tell us why God took all these years away from us, and why does He allow us to get sick?
Signed, “Too Young to Die”
 
Dear “Too Young,”
            Yes, before Noah’s Flood, people often did live very extended lifespans, some for several hundreds of years.  This is not because they figured time differently, or were ignorant of mathematics, but because they were closer to the time of Creation, and the world was much more hospitable to long lifespans.  That all changed after The Flood.
 
            It seems the farther we get away from Creation, and especially after the Flood, there was more opportunity for genetic decay and mutating viruses to negatively affect how long we live.  Couple that with environments hostile to healthy lifespans, and you get people living fewer years.  A century ago, it was not uncommon for Americans to live to the high ‘40’s, and many not even reaching that.  Improved diets, medicine and less taxing workloads have mitigated that so people are living much longer, but the fact remains that whenever we find a “fix” to something that kills us, something else comes along to take its place.
 
            When Adam and Eve rebelled, the judgment of death came to mankind, and even the Creation itself was subjected to futility as part of God’s judgment on man, as St. Paul writes in Romans 8.  Thus, injury, sickness and death are all part of “the wages of sin.”  Why God allows people to get sick is not a question we can answer in specific circumstances.  Sickness exists because sin exists.  Since we’re all sinners, we all get sick, whether it’s the common Cold or Cancer.  That’s part of living in a fallen world.
 
            But rather than being angry at God because we do not live hundreds of years like the folks before The Flood, perhaps we should give thanks to God instead.  For the Christian, we put our hope and faith in the fact that Christ died for our sins to bring forgiveness and reconciliation with God to us.  We understand that when we leave this life we go to be with the Lord, awaiting our bodily resurrection at the Last Day when God “makes all things new.”  While we work to improve our lives and the lives of others, and to alleviate as much suffering in this world as possible, death is inevitable.
 
            But so is Life!  Life lived eternally in bodies that will never again experience sickness, death and decay.  We will be living the lives we were meant to live when God created the world, but it will be in His “new heavens and new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).”  And we will want it no other way.
 
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”  
                                                          Revelation 21:3-4

 
Best Regards,
            Der Antwort Mann

“Depressing Christmas?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   Why is it, at Christmas time, so many people are so depressed.  They say that suicide rates skyrocket at this time of year.  What’s up with that?
Signed,  
   Gloomy
 

Dear Gloomy,

  You are right.  This time of the year is very difficult for a lot of folks.  Single people struggle with loneliness in the midst of the Season’s emphasis on family.  Widows and widowers keenly sense the loss of a loved one during the holidays and families may not be together for Christmas due to a variety of circumstances, and they are depressed because of that.
 
    Also, heightened expectations during the Christmas Season puts a tremendous burden on folks.  We are supposed to be joyful; families are supposed to love each other and get along; we are supposed to give (and receive) “the perfect gifts;” the world is supposed to be more peaceful and joyous; and “Christmas Magic” is supposed to make all the bad stuff in our lives go away.  When few, or none of these expectations are realized, it makes for a very depressing reality.
 
   We are constantly bombarded with songs and shows filled with a sappy sentimentalism that, all too often, influences what we think Christmas should be instead of what it really is.  All of this contributes to the dark and depressed moods that so many do experience during this time of year.
 
   So, what can we, who are feeling gloomy and depressed, do about it?  First and foremost, reorient your thinking about Christmas.  Focus on God sending His Son into the world to redeem you from sin, death and hell.  Understand, and believe, that Christmas is about the birth of Christ – God becoming man – to save us, to give us life, and to connect us to Himself and to each other.  Instead of binging on silly songs and shows of the season, listen to the classic Advent and Christmas hymns that soothe the soul and lift up our faith in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation.  And, obviously, make plans to attend Services at church during Advent and Christmas (and throughout the year).  Hearing God’s Word, receiving His gifts and being with His people can be a powerful antidote to the loneliness and depression one might experience during the holidays.
 
    Secondly, if you are lonely, don’t be alone – by that, I’m not saying that you “hook up” with someone or go out and get drunk – but rather that you become involved in bringing cheer to others.  Go visit people in the nursing home or hospital.  Go help out in a soup kitchen or some other charitable endeavor where you give yourself to others.  It’s amazing how, when your focus and energy is on others, you feel less alone and gloomy yourself.
 
    And, finally, be realistic.  The Christmas Season is a wonderful and beautiful time for joy and celebration precisely because God sent us our Redeemer.  But it is no guarantee that life will be one, big “Hallmark Moment.”  Though it may be a difficult time of year for many, Christ the Savior has been born, and you are dearly loved by Him.
 
“Come, then, banish all your sadness!  One and all, Great and small, Come with songs of gladness.
We shall live with Him forever There on high in that joy which will vanish never.” LSB #360 vs. 6
 

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann


“Valid Sacraments”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    I don’t know a lot, except that we are all wretched sinners.  As for the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, I know this is wrong.  My question is:  For those priests and bishops who did these evil things, and especially for those who remain hidden and are still active as priests, are the Sacraments that they had administered, or administer presently, null and void?  In other words: Are the Sacraments administered by these priests valid?
   Signed, “Uncertain”
 

Dear “Uncertain,”

 
     The question you ask is a valid one (pun intended), and certainly understandable in the light of these distressing and heartbreaking revelations.  To restate your question: “Does the character of the one administering the Sacraments make them effective or nullifies their effectiveness?”
 
     This issue has its roots in the Early Church.  During the Roman persecutions of the Church under the Emperor Diocletian, many clergy and a number of laypeople were martyred while others were forced to deny the Faith to save their lives.  Once the pressure of persecution subsided there was a shortage of priests, and those who had formerly denied the faith were once again functioning as priests. This infuriated the followers of a theologian named Donatus the Great, and the movement he led against these priests became known as Donatism.
 
   Donatists believed that only those who led blameless lives belonged in the Church, and only priests who were personally worthy could administer valid Sacraments.  A priest’s personal failures, especially under persecution invalidated, in their view, all Sacraments he had administered, even prior to his failure, and any Sacraments he presently administered.
 
     Two Church Councils, and even the great theologian St. Augustine argued against the Donatist position, and Donatism was firmly rejected by the Church as heresy. Even our own Lutheran Confessions agree that the validity of the Sacraments depends on God’s Word, not on the man’s character who administers them: “However, the fact that the Sacraments are administered by the unworthy does not detract from the Sacraments’ power.  Because of the call of the Church, the unworthy still represent the person of Christ and do not represent their own persons  . . . When they offer God’s Word, when they offer the Sacraments, they offer them in the stead and place of Christ” (Apology of the Augsburg Confesstion, Art. VII, 28).
 
     So, in answer to your question: The sins of those priests, or any pastor or minister for that matter, do not invalidate the Sacraments’ power and effectiveness. The Sacraments do not depend on man’s character or worthiness but on God’s Word and Promise.  Knowing that, we can be comforted receiving the good Gifts of God even at the hands of the most unworthy of men.
 
“What I have forgiven…has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 2:10

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann


“Children Having Children”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    I am a sixteen year old girl and most of the girls I know are talking a lot(!) about getting pregnant.  They don’t care about the marriage part – they just want to get pregnant and have a baby to love them and they can love back.  I don’t think this is a good idea, but I’m not sure how to convince them of that.  Can you give some reasons why they shouldn’t get pregnant at so young an age and without being married?  Maybe you can save some girl a lot of heartache. 
Signed,  
   “Really Worried About My Friends”
 

Dear “Worried” 
     God bless you for having the maturity to see the problem here.  May God keep you faithful to these values until you are married and able to properly give birth and raise children of your own.
 
     Most teenagers, especially in this media age of “Jersey Shore” and “Pregnant and Unwed” have a hard time seeing beyond the present.  Kids and adults alike are living for immediate gratification without regard to future problems or costs.  Unfortunately, this attitude is causing a lot of heartache for multitudes of people, as well as society in general for years to come.
 
     Here are a few points for your friends to consider.  Obviously, these comments are for the young girl thinking about getting pregnant, not the one who is pregnant and considering an abortion.  That’s a whole different subject altogether:
 
1.A baby is not a puppy or kitten.  While children are a gift of God, they are a whole lot of work, and can be very frustrating. A child raising a child only makes the problem worse.
2.How are you going to raise the child while you’re still in high school and don’t have a job – or at least, one that pays enough?
3.How is having a baby going to help your social life?  Will the guys who date you do so because you’ve already had sex (thus, a baby) and they think you’ll have sex with them?
4.Is it right to expect your parents to take responsibility to raise your child while you go to school, have dates, go out with your friends, etc.?  If you have a baby, what makes you think you’ll have time to do most of those things?
5.Is it fair to force me, and all other hardworking taxpayers to support you for your selfish and irresponsible choices?  Why should we pay your medical bills, housing and food and all other associated costs for having a child that you weren’t prepared to properly provide and care for yourself?  Is it fair to put that extra financial, emotional and physical burden on your parents?
6.Do you really expect the father of your child, who is likely as young as you, to stick by you and help you raise this child?  Really?  Are you honestly prepared to do this on your own?
7.Do you think seriously that God doesn’t care that you are breaking His Commandments?
 
     The fact of the matter is: When a husband and wife have a child, it is a selfless act of love, and provides the proper environment in which the child can grow and prosper.  Both parents can support each other as they raise that child together.  An unwed, teenaged girl having a baby is the ultimate in self-centeredness: first, by engaging in sex outside of marriage and, secondly, by wanting a child the way one would want a pet.  All too often, the burden of caring for, and providing for that child (like what happens to pets) falls on others when the child loses interest. That is not right.
 
     Statistics show that many young, unwed teen mothers often never finish high school or go to college.  They work at low paying jobs and require welfare.  They are prone to remain in poverty throughout their lives.  Often they end up without husbands, or live with abusive boyfriends.  And many children raised without a loving father and husband to their mothers, will become angry, use drugs and get into trouble with the law.
 
     While many girls do eventually mature and are good moms to their children, they live harder lives filled with regrets and unfulfilled dreams, simply because they engaged in very adult activities without the maturity and forethought necessary to prepare them for such an awesome responsibility and privilege as that of being a parent.  
 
     Let me make this clear: If you are not married, you shouldn’t be having sex, whatever your age (And that includes you men and boys as well!).  And you shouldn’t be trying to get pregnant. It’s wrong, and it’s a sin against God, yourself, and the child you may have.  That child will need both parents, and both parents will need each other to properly and fully raise this child in the way God intended when He created male and female and instituted marriage.  While it is true that Christ died for all sins, and forgiveness is available for all who repent and trust in Him, it doesn’t follow that because we are forgiven all the bad consequences for our decisions will go away in this life.  We may still have to live with the results of what we have done, even while having the confident assurance of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.
 
     I know you can find exceptions to some of the things I have written here, but God designed sex, marriage and childbearing to be kept within certain limits, that really are for our benefit.  Maybe some teenage, unwed girls have “the perfect life” with their child, but are you really willing to take the chance that you’ll be one of them?  I pray not – for your sake, your parents’ sake, society’s sake, and for the sake of the child you might have.

 

“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”       Titus 2:11-12

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann



“Who’s Liable?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
 
           I have two questions: The shooting victims of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas are suing MGM Grand, who owns the hotel.  Now MGM is suing the survivors and relatives of the dead.  Where does liability start and end?  Second question: How does liability fall on the human race as to God and all He has done for us?
Signed, “Curious”
 
Dear “Curious,”
 
           As you probably intended, your first question is a legal one, and your second question is a theological one.  Lawyers will argue about, and get rich off of the issues surrounding the shooting.  Common sense would seem to indicate that the shooter, and any accomplices are the ones “liable.”  They did it; it's his/their fault.  But today’s legal eagles look for deep pockets, no matter how far removed from the perpetrator(s) they are in hopes of large sums of money paid out in judgments or settlements, regardless of who really is culpable.  I believe MGM is suing to try to minimize the financial impact to them.  I have no idea how, legally, the liability issues will work out.
 
           As to your second question: All of us are “liable” to God on account of our sins.  St. Paul writes in Romans 3: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable (liable) to God.”  By nature, we are all lawbreakers under judgment, both in this life and the next, and the penalty will be meted out by God.
 
           No amount of money; no amount of blame shifting can remove our liability.  Neither can a Liability Insurance Plan can protect us from what’s due.  “Mea culpa; mea culpa; mea maximus culpa” – “My fault; my fault; my own most grievous fault.”
 
           And yet . . . and yet there is Good News! Though we are guilty (liable), God has provided One who has taken our liability on Himself – Jesus.  The very Son of God, whom we have sinned against and have deeply offended by our sins, was crucified for us to bear in Himself the penalty we deserved.  Again, quoting St. Paul, this time in 2 Corinthians 5: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself . . . that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting (holding liable) their trespasses against them.”
 
           This blessed condition comes to us through faith in Christ.  Though we may have to bear the earthly liabilities for what we do, Christ has borne the eternal liability for us and we are free to be His beloved children now, and heirs of eternal life with God, who is reconciled to us in Christ.  
 
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”  
2 Cor. 7:1
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann
 


“Vacation From Church?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
 
           My pastor is really getting to be a pain.  He just doesn’t understand that people want to relax on vacation and not worry about going to church.  What’s the big deal about missing church over the summer, anyway?  We still believe in God, after all.
Signed, “Nature Christian”
 
Dear “Nature,”
 
           So, you believe in God?  Well, good for you!  “Even the demons believe, and shudder! (James 2:19).”  Do you?  The fact is, missing church for extended periods of time over the summer makes it easier to miss church throughout the rest of the year.  One excuse after another becomes commonplace: “I’m too tired this morning.”  “I was at a party until late Saturday night.”  “My kids have games scheduled on Sunday morning.”  And Blah, Blah, Blah.
 
           While we understand that everyone can’t be in church every Sunday for a variety of reasons, when an individual makes the choice not to come regularly or thinks that there are times of the year that he is exempted from church, well, that indicates a spiritual problem, either of despising God’s Word, or despising God Himself.
 
           Harsh?  You bet!  God’s Law is harsh and condemns all our self-justification, laziness and idolatry.  It is only the Gospel proclaimed in God’s Word and given in His Holy Supper that forgives and comforts sinners, which we all are.  You do not receive those things by avoiding church in favor of sports, parties, vacations or whatever.  You only become more averse to the gifts of God and to His people and find more and more reasons not to go.  Whatever “faith” you may have then becomes more what your own feelings and opinions say rather than being anchored on what God says and does for you in Christ.  Without meaning to, over time you could be recreating yourself to hell.
 
           Der Antwort Mann suggests that you repent and get a new attitude concerning church.  Rather than seeing it as a duty that you must perform and looking for the “minimum requirement necessary” for church attendance, begin to see it as the place where God promises to come to you with His gifts, comfort you in your sorrows, forgive you all your sins, and join you together with others who share this Faith and Life in Christ.  Church really is not a Law thing, although God commands us to go; it is a Gospel thing, where God comes to serve us in Christ.
 
           And when you have conflicts with attending your own church on a particular Sunday because of vacation, sports, or other issues, then get creative.  If you have a game on Sunday, go to church on Saturday, or another day of the week if available.  If you are traveling on vacation, plan ahead to find a church near you to go to or, if that is not possible, set aside some time on that Sunday for individual and/or family devotions.  As the saying goes: “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  Be purposeful.  Be creative. Willfully plan each week to “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy,” whatever your circumstances may be and then, as quickly as possible, return to regularly attend your own church, participate in its life, and receive the good things God has for you.
 
           Someone once said that “If it’s important to you, you will find a way to make it happen.”  This IS important.  I pray you will see it so as well and develop the good and pious habit and desire to regularly (dare I say, weekly!) be with Christ where He promises to concretely be with you – in church.
 
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!”  Psalm 95:1-2
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann


“Manly Men and Church”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   My wife is always hassling me to go to church.  As far as I’m concerned, I believe in God, but I think church is more for women and children.  Real men, such as myself, are uncomfortable in church.  And isn’t it true that taking care of the religious stuff is really more appropriate for women, anyway?
Signed,  
   Mr. Manly

Dear Manly,

  Where to begin?  I assume you’re talking about real men like those who drive trucks, are hunters and fishermen, construction or factory workers, farmers, mechanics, cops and firemen.  Guys who are strong and can see a problem and tackle it head on; who are able to provide leadership and show courage in the face of fear, hardship and danger.  Guys who like a challenge, and who strive to be the best they can be.  Are those the real men you are talking about?
 
   Well, Mr. Manly, you might be surprised to find out that guys just like that, and more, regularly attend church, and not just because their wives drag them here, either.  Many of them like guns and Harleys and all the stuff typically associated with male pursuits.  But these men also understand what a great and high calling they have, as men, in the life of the church.  Rather than hiding behind some simpering phrase like “I believe in God; let my wife handle the religious stuff,” they are willing to be seen, and to stand up and be counted.  In my eyes, those are the real men, whether or not they hunt, fish, etc.
 
   I’m going to be blunt now, Mr. Manly, like an old Dutch Uncle.  You have a God given duty to lead and guide your family, especially in their spiritual life and growth.  Real men lead by their example of faith, service and sacrifice on behalf of Christ.  If real men won’t stand in the gap, who will?
 
   Maybe you’re uncomfortable in church because you don’t understand what is going on.  Then be a man and stick with it so you can learn what it’s all about.  Maybe you think real men don’t sing hymns.  Tell that to all the men who sing, not just in church, but in the music industry, Country or otherwise.  Maybe you think it’s not manly to confess that you are a sinner who relies solely on God’s grace and forgiveness.  Then you have no idea what true courage is.  Maybe you think Jesus is somehow a weakling who has no real appeal for men.  If that’s the case, then listen closely while I set you straight!
 
   Is a fireman or cop who dies saving someone else a weakling?  Is a soldier who falls on a grenade to save his buddies a weakling?  Is a husband and father who puts himself between his family and the bad guy a weakling?  Of course not.  You would say they manifest all that real men aspire to be.  How much more so, then, Christ?  He went head to head with powers and authorities.  He stood alone against evil and took on our real enemies of sin, death and the devil.  Instead of running away, avoiding suffering and death, He went straight into the lion’s jaws, laying down His life on the cross to save you.  And He has absolutely won the victory by His resurrection from the dead.  That hardly sounds like a weakling, don’t you think?
 
   You see, Mr. Manly, a strong and courageous man not only attends church, he participatesin and, when he can, serves in the church. To leave the spiritual guidance and upbringing of the family to one’s wife is not manly, as you presume in your question, but cowardly.  You are running away from what God has given to you as a man, and as a Christian, and your family is suffering for it.
 
   So, I challenge you to live up to the high calling you have as a man.  Are you willing to show real strength of character and faith as one who has been forgiven, and lead your family in Christ?  Are you willing to be strong and courageous in the gifts God provides in His Word and Sacraments and lend your strength to the cause of Christ and His kingdom?
 
   If so, then come to church.  Show your family what a Christian man is really like in love and in service (not just on Sunday morning, either).  Be willing to stay faithful, even in the face of ridicule by your buddies, whose scorn simply shows that their heads are so far up their nether regions that the lumps they feel in their throats are their noses.  Be an example of one who lives out in his daily life a humble trust in the only Savior from sin, who died and rose again for us.  Be an active part of the Church, leading and building for the future.  Then, sir, you will not only be a real man, but a real man of God.
 
“Be on your guard; stand fast in the faith; acquit yourselves like men; be strong.”  1 Corinthians 16:13
 

Best regards,

  Der Antwort Mann

 
Kids and adults are encouraged to send their questions to Der Antwort Mann for publication in the newsletter.  These questions can be sent to, or dropped off at church.


“Prayer Chains”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
 
           Our church has a Prayer Chain, so when someone is ill or in need of prayer, the members of the Prayer Chain pray for them.  My question is, why do we do this?  Does God listen more if a bunch of people are praying for something?  Are prayers from many people worth more to Him than one little voice?  If that’s not the case, and God singularly considers any and all prayers, then why do we have prayer chains? 

Signed, “Puzzled Pray-er”
 
Dear “Puzzled,”
 
           Clearly, our Lord not only commands, but also invites us to pray to Him (Ps. 50:15).  He promises to hear our prayers on account of Christ and will answer them according to His good and gracious will.  We can pray to Him as individuals, and corporately as the Church.  Prayer is an act of worship whereby we talk to our heavenly Father in thoughts and words and He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible.
 
           Prayer is not manipulation.  Just throwing a bunch of words at God doesn’t impress or sway Him, neither does the number of people praying for a thing necessarily make it happen (Matt. 6:7-8).  Yet, as the Scripture assures us that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16),” so we understand that, individually or corporately, prayer is not a waste of time.
 
           Part of the value of corporate prayers, whether as a Prayer Chain or in the congregation at large, is that we are uniting around the needs of individuals.  In prayer we join together to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).”  While the number of people praying does not necessarily increase the chances of a successful answer to prayer; for God works His own good and perfect will for our lives with or without our prayer (c.f. 3rd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism), the number of people praying does increase the care and concern shown by fellow Christians for the one being prayed for. and helps to encourage them against the assaults of the devil in their time of weakness or distress.
 
To be prayed for by many not only calls upon God to work His will among us for our ultimate good in Christ, but it also brings much comfort to the individual and reminds him that he is not alone but is included in the Body of Christ.  Comparing the Church to a human body, St. Paul writes: “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:18, 25-26).”
 
To recap: Praying for one another is pleasing to God, and He promises to hear the prayers of His faithful people and will answer them in the way He deems best.  Being prayed for by one’s fellow Christians is very comforting and eases the burden that one may be bearing, knowing that others are helping to bear that burden with him through prayer, concern, compassion and love.  The Prayer Circle is just one way of making that happen in an organized, ongoing fashion.
 
“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people … that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  1 Timothy 2:1-2
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann 


“Teach Your Children”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
 
           I was watching this TV preacher who said that parents have a “Divine Responsibility” to teach their kids about God and the Bible, and that those who fail to do that will be subject to judgment on the Last Day.  Is this true?
Signed, “Wow!”
 
Dear “Wow!,”
 
           Yes, it is true that Christian parents have an, if you will, “Divine Responsibility” to see that their kids are instructed in God’s Word and raised in the Faith.  But, if your portrayal of that preacher’s comments is accurate, he is typical of Reformed preachers who paint with the broad brush of the Law in order to force or scare people into a certain response.
 
           Parents are given by God the privilege of not only seeing that their kids are taught the Faith, but also of modeling that Faith to their kids.  This is done in the home through reading the Bible and having devotions and prayers with the kids.  This is also done in church as parents bring (not just send) their kids to church and Sunday School, and are themselves students of God’s Word.
 
           Yet, even a Christian parent’s best efforts can and will fall short.  There’s always something we could do better, and haven’t or, no matter how faithful we have been, we still may have a wayward child who rejects that Faith.  Yet we live in the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus, and we strive to do our best to expose our kids, while they are young, to the life-giving Word and Sacraments of Christ.  Even after our kids are grown, we still can encourage them, pray for them, and model the Christian life for them.
 
           Obviously, neglectful parents who will not expose their kids to God’s Word and involvement in His church are sinning against God and their kids, as well.  It is no surprise that, if Mom and Dad aren’t interested in the Faith, the kids likely won’t be either.  This can result in a lot of heartbreak in this life, especially if the kids, without the guidance of God’s Word, and faith in their Redeemer, chose a life that is destructive and immoral, rather than that which is pleasing in Christ.  And yes, if the parents’ lack of interest and commitment in raising their kids in God’s Word betrays a lack of faith in Christ in themselves, their neglect will be one more “nail in the coffin” for them at the Last Day.
 
           Yet, even for parents who have failed miserably in passing the Faith on to their kids, they can repent and trust in the mercies of the One who was crucified for the sins of all, and not have to fear that final Day of Judgment.  But in this life, as is the case with all sins, the neglectful parent may carry many regrets at opportunities missed to share with their kids the blessings of life in Christ and in the church.
 
           So, rather than focus on what God may do to you if you don’t (a.k.a. Your TV Preacher), focus instead on what God has promised to give you, and to do for you and your children as you share together in faith the blessings and gifts of Christ.
 
“These words I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann 


“Meaningful Life”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
 
           What is the meaning of life?  Why are we here?  Trying to live on earth is not fun so, what’s the point?
Signed, “Looking for Purpose”
 
Dear “Looking,”
 
           Uffda!  There are so many angles to this question, yet I’m assuming that you are simply looking to answer the question of the purpose or meaning of life in general.  We’ll give it a shot, while trying to keep it short and sweet.
 
           The meaning of life is not just to find happiness, fulfillment or comfort, which are all transitory things that, even if acquired, cannot last permanently.  Notice that all of those things focus on us as the center of all: My happiness; My fulfillment; my comfort.  When our primary focus is on ourselves as the center of the universe, frustration, anger and disappointment will result when the universe doesn’t agree with us.  As odd as it may seem, to find the real meaning and purpose of life comes from looking outside of ourselves.
 
           To put it simply, life finds its real meaning and purpose through our relationship to the Triune God, as we live by faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, regularly receiving His gifts to us, and carrying out that life in Christ through service to others in the various vocations in which God has placed us.  Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant (Matt. 20:26).”
 
           God created us to have life, meaning and purpose with Him.  Sin corrupts that by causing us to seek meaning and purpose apart from Him.  Christ redeemed us from the “empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers (1 Pet. 1:18)” and, by our connection to Him, we “bear much fruit.”  Apart from Christ, life is ultimately empty and meaningless – and then we die.  Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5).”
 
           And as God created us to have meaning and purpose in Him, so He has created us also to find meaning and purpose in relation to our neighbor.  As we carry out our God-given vocations in life, Christ is living out His life through us to the benefit of others.  As one of our theologians, Francis Pieper wrote: “The ultimate purpose of our life on earth is the performance of good works (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, pg. 61).”  Not to be saved, of course, but because we are saved and living out our lives in Christ.  In those famous “Lutheran Verses,” Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, lest any man should boast,” we see that works don’t save, only Christ does.  But vs. 10 goes on to say: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Good works don’t save; but we are saved to do good works in Christ for others.
 
           And that, dear “Looking,” is the meaning of life.
 
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann 


“The Passover Plot”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
      I’m confused.  The Bible says that Jesus celebrated the Passover on Thursday with His disciples, was betrayed that evening and then crucified the next morning (Good Friday).  Then, on that following Sunday (Easter) was resurrected to life again.  I know that Easter is on a different date each year yet, sometimes, it occurs at a much different time than the date for Passover.  Shouldn’t Easter always immediately follow the Passover?  What’s up with that?
   Signed, “Befuddled”
 
Dear “Befuddled,”
 
      Yes, the events recorded in the Bible of our Lord’s resurrection occurring right after the Passover give us the timeframe of events.  And, in most years, the Passover and Easter observances occur very close together.  But there are times when the Jewish Passover is observed up to a month later than Easter, rather than before.  This is because of the differences in the calendars used by Jews and Gentiles to calculate the times of these observances.
 
      To explain this more fully, I am reprinting below an article that I think does a fine job of explaining the discrepancies.  I don’t know who the author is, or from where I got this article, but it should help to alleviate your befuddlement.
 
Determining the Dates for Easter and Passover
 
Determining the date for Passover:
The Jewish calendar year begins in late September or early October with the celebration of Rosh Hashana. Unlike our calendar, which is based on the solar year, the Jewish calendar uses twelve lunar months of 29 to 30 days in length. The new moon marks the beginning of each month with the full moon occurring halfway through the month. The seventh month in a normal Jewish calendar year is the month of Nisan (also called Abib in the Old Testament). Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan at the time of the full moon.
 
Determining the date for Easter (*Western Church):
Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox (March 21). Thus Easter can take place as early as March 22 but no later than April 25. This full moon is normally the full moon, which takes place on the 14th day of Nisan. Thus in most years Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following Passover.
 
Why don’t Easter and Passover always fall together on the calendar?
Every two or three years the Jewish calendar requires the adjustment of a leap year. During a Jewish leap year an additional month of 29 days is inserted before the month of Nisan. The additional month is needed because the Jewish calendar year has fewer days than the solar year and begins to slip out of gear with the seasons. The extra month thus realigns the Jewish calendar year with the seasons of the solar year. This is important because the Jewish holidays are closely related to the seasons. For example, the Torah commands that Passover be celebrated in the spring.
 
Every so often the Jewish leap year will push Passover so far into April that a second full moon following the vernal equinox would appear before the Sunday following Passover. This happens anytime the Sunday following Passover falls later than April 25th on our calendar. On those rare occasions Easter is celebrated the month before Passover rather than the Sunday following Passover.
 
How did this system for determining the date for Easter originate?
The early church was faced with the following conflict in dates: Jesus rose on a Sunday, but Passover can fall on various days of the week. So the early church saw two options:
  1. Celebrate Easter in strict relation to the 14th of Nisan without regard for the day of the week, or
  2. Determine a system whereby Easter could always be celebrated on a Sunday.
 
Although the issue was hotly debated and variously practiced during the first centuries of the church, the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. eventually adopted the current system of celebrating Easter on the Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox.
 
Since the Second Vatican Council in 1963 there has been new discussion about fixing the date of Easter on a set Sunday such as the first or second Sunday in April. However, no progress has been made thus far towards such a change.
 
*Note: The Western Church (Catholic; Protestant) celebrates Easter based on the Gregorian Calendar, while the Eastern Church (Orthodox) follows the Julian Calendar. As a result, in most years the Orthodox Easter follows the Western Easter by one or more weeks, although in some years the dates coincide.
 
 
“It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for Him
to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world,
He now showed them the full extent of His love.” 
John 13:1
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann 


“You Don’t Say!”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
           Recently, I went to the funeral of a relative of mine, and the pastor did not invite people to come up and give eulogies about him.  I think eulogies are nice and wonder why he didn’t allow people to get up and speak.  I don’t think that’s right.  What do you think?
   Signed, “Speaker of the House”
 
Dear “Speaker,”
 
           Did the pastor preach about Christ crucified for our sins and raised from the dead assuring the resurrection to eternal life of all who believe in Him?  If he did, then he gave you what you needed to hear, though not necessarily what you expected or wanted to hear.  Families and friends can reminisce anytime about their loved one, but it’s not often many of them get to hear of who Christ is, and what He has done.  If a pastor fails to preach Christ in favor of sentimental remembrances of the deceased instead, he has robbed his hearers of something precious.
 
            Contrary to popular belief, a Christian funeral is really not about the one who died, except as he is connected by faith to Jesus.  The main emphasis of the funeral should be about what Jesus has done about death, and holding out the comforting hope of our own resurrections in Him at the Last Day.  When people are invited to eulogize the deceased during the Service, it may be cathartic, and even at times touching.  But people at that time don’t need to know what a great guy Joe was; they need to hear what a great Redeemer Christ is.
 
           Besides, asking folks during the Service to come forward to speak puts great pressure on them.  They often break down in tears, jumble their words, sometimes tell off-color stories about the deceased and, generally, make it seem like the person who has died is sure to go to heaven because he was so good, kind, loving, or whatever.   Rarely have I seen a eulogizer actually keep the focus on Christ, and the connection the dearly departed had with Him.
 
           As you can probably guess; I’m not a big fan of eulogies.  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe the sermon should be, when possible, personal and speak to the life of the deceased and his connection to the life of Christ in him.  But there are other more appropriate places for people to reminisce, such as at the funeral home or the dinner after the funeral.  There’s less pressure and people are more relaxed.  Also, as a pastor, I don’t then have to try to fix during the Service what they may break.
 
           Because Scripture does not tell us how we are to conduct funerals, people are free to conduct them however they see fit.  But, in my considered opinion, at a Christian funeral we should want to hear from Christ, and about Christ, and what that means for our departed loved one and for us.  God’s Word, and not the eulogizing of the deceased, is what causes us to consider that time when we, too, shall depart “this veil of tears” to enter eternity by the mercies of God through true faith in Christ our Redeemer.
 
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann 


“What About Those Wise Men?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
           Okay.  I’m in the process of getting out the Christmas decorations, including my nativity set.  That got me wondering: Were the Wise Men really there at the stable with the shepherds and the holy family on that first Christmas or, as I heard somewhere, were they not?
   Signed,  “Crèche Fan”
 
Dear “Crèche Fan,”
 
            Thanks a lot!  You might as well ask me if there really is a Santa Claus.  In the popular piety and tradition of Christmas observances, it is just assumed that the Wise Men, or Magi, were present at the manger.  This assumption probably developed because the events surrounding the birth of Christ, as recorded in Matthew and Luke, include the Wise Men as part of the account.  So, naturally, popular perception tends to include them with all the other major figures in Christmas nativity scenes.
 
           Yet, when you read the Bible, you will notice a subtle difference in who was present and when.  In Luke 2, the shepherds receive the announcement of the angels that the Savior has been born in Bethlehem.  The shepherds then go to Bethlehem “and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger (Lk. 2:16).”  So the shepherds and, one must assume, the angels, were present at that stable on Christmas night, beholding “the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Lk. 2:12).”
 
           On the other hand, Matthew 2 records that when the Wise Men finally get to Bethlehem, Jesus is already a “child,” not a “baby,” and He is living in a house, not in the manger in the stable.  What is likely is that, when Jesus was born, not only did the angels announce His birth to the shepherds, but God announced His birth to the world through the “Bethlehem Star” that the Wise Men saw in the sky.  Seeing the star, they then began their journey westward to Bethlehem.  That would have taken some time.  Some scholars believe Jesus could have been up to two years old when the Wise Men arrived.  They base this on King Herod’s orders to his soldiers to slaughter all the boys, two years old and younger, in order to put an end to this child “who has been born king of the Jews (Matt. 2:2).” 
 
Frankly, I’m not so sure Jesus was that old, but He likely would have been several weeks or months old when the Magi finally arrived with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The Greek word for “baby” used in Luke is “Brephos,” which refers to an unborn child, or one just born.  But in Matthew, the Greek word for “child,” which is “Paidion,” refers to those older than eight days after birth.  Jesus could still have been a very young child when the Wise Men arrived, but not a newborn.  Also, He was in a house, not in the stable when they did finally find Him.
 
Even though the Wise Men weren’t at the stable that first Christmas, they are still part of the “Christmas Story,” so don’t throw away your Magi figurines.  Include them with all the other traditional figures in your crèche, because they, too, witness to the Good News that the Savior has been born, which is Christ the Lord (Lk. 2:11).
 
“On coming to the house…they bowed down and worshipped Him.”  Matthew 2:11
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann


“Anonymously Offended”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
            Someone supposedly from my church sent me an anonymous letter claiming that some comments I made at a meeting were offensive.  I’ve been wracking my brains trying to figure out what I said that might be offensive, and whom I offended.  The person writing to me did not identify him/herself or what I said that was so offensive so, what should I do?
            Signed,  “Really Bothered”
 
Dear “Bothered,”
 
           These kinds of occurrences really frost Der Antwort Mann’s canary!  When you have third party or anonymous reports critical of something one has said or done, it makes it impossible to correct the record or to reconcile if offense has actually been given.  Anonymous criticisms eat away at us like acid and cause a lot of emotional and spiritual turmoil.  It is, quite frankly, a sin against the 8th Commandment and is the devil’s playground.
 
           Strong words?  Yes, but true nonetheless.  Now I am not totally clear from your comments if the person writing to you is the one offended, or that they worried that your comments could be offensive to someone else.  In this Politically Correct environment, we not only obsess about being offended personally, but we are constantly on alert for comments that could be offensive to “someone, somewhere at sometime.”  Ugh!
 
           In Matthew 18, our Lord gives His Christians direction on how to handle matters of offense.  The offended party first needs to talk to the one who has offended him, in a spirit of gentleness, in order that the problem can be resolved.  He is not to go “spill his guts” to others first, or have them do his dirty work.  Only when a private meeting does not bring reconciliation is the offended party then to enlist others to help.  And all of this is to be done with the goal of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Anonymous letters or vague reports about “someone” being offended by “something” you said or did without the specific details of the Who and What are, in themselves, an offense to Christ and to those targeted by the accusations.  The accuser now becomes the one needing to repent.
 
           You asked what you should do.  Der Antwort Mann suggests that, if you should discover who wrote this letter to you, go then to that person (in gentleness) to either clear up what it is you actually said, or to ask forgiveness for your offense and be reconciled to the one you offended as fellow believers in Christ.
 
           In the meantime, though, since anonymous letters and complaints give no constructive way to address them, you should fuhgeddabowdit!  Put it in the Lord’s hands; pray the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer; entrust yourself to the mercies of Christ and go about your life with a clear conscience.  You, who have been set free in Christ, do not have to be bound by the anonymous “Drive-by” criticisms of others who are too cowardly to face you with their objections in order to heal the relationship in a godly, and God-pleasing way.
 
           Now, please excuse me while I go defrost my canary.
 
[Jesus said] “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
Matthew 18:15
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann


“No Infant Baptism?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
            While Lutherans, Catholics and others practice Infant Baptism, there are many Christians who don’t.  They state that, since the Bible doesn’t give an example of an infant being baptized, we should baptize only older children or adults.  Is this true?
Signed,  “All Wet.”
 
Dear “Wet,”
            When you examine the theological perspective of the “Anti-Infant Baptism” folks, they see Baptism simply as a person’s public response to becoming a Christian.  It is a work that we do in obedience to God’s command once we have “made a decision for Christ.”  Since babies, they say, do not have the intellectual capacity to do this, they should not be baptized.  But when you examine all the passages in the Bible concerning Baptism, you realize that Baptism is not our work for God, but His Work, Word and Promise for us.  And it isn’t reserved only for older children and adults.
 
            But let’s first examine the statement that there is no example of the baptism of infants. That’s not entirely true.  Granted, the most obvious examples in Acts were the sermons of Peter and Paul addressing adults to repent and be baptized, yet upon closer examination of those passages, there is definitely indirect evidence for the baptizing of infants and younger children (Not to mention that the Early Church largely practiced infant baptism from the beginning).
 
            In Acts 2:38-39, Peter tells the crowd: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children…”  Were there children and infants in the crowd listening to Peter’s call to be baptized?  Likely.  And Peter says that the promise of baptism is also for the children.
 
            In Acts 16:30-34, Paul preaches to his jailer in Philippi, and the jailer asks: “What must I do to be saved?”  Paul responds, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.  Then he spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all others in his house … then immediately he and all his family were baptized … he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.”  Would there have been infants or children in his household and family.  Very likely.
 
            Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them.  For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14).”  How are children brought to Jesus?  Ordinarily through Baptism.  Jesus says, “These little ones (literally in the Greek: “Babies”) who believe in Me (Matt. 18:3-6).”  So, infants can believe through the working of the Holy Spirit by His Word in Baptism.  Jesus also says we are to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… (Matt. 28:19).”  Aren’t little children part of “all nations?”  Doesn’t Jesus want children to be His disciples as well?
 
            Even in the Old Testament, baby boys were brought into a covenant relationship with God and with His people (Church) through circumcision eight days after they were born.  God’s Word and Promise attached to circumcision made that possible.  So, if God prescribed something for the children’s salvation in the Old Testament, and attached promises to it by His Word, why would He not do the same for children in the New Testament?
 
            In summary, Baptism is God’s Work.  It is anchored in His Word and Promise for all who are baptized.  Through Baptism our sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16); we receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); we are born again (John 3:5-6); we are connected to Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4); we are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27); we are made Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 28:19); we are saved (Titus 3:4-7, 1 Peter 3:18-21).  So, unless you completely ignore both the direct and indirect statements of Scripture about baptism, you cannot but conclude that God desires all these blessings for everyone, young and old alike.
 
            That’s why we baptize infants.
 
“…Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word.”  Ephesians 5:25-26
 
Best Regards,
            Der Antwort Mann

“Which God Hears Our Prayers?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
            I’ve been told that if you don’t pray to the right God, He will not hear or answer your prayers.  At times I wonder if I am praying to the right God, or a god I am making up in my own mind.  In my mind, God is white; Jesus is white, and He only takes care of me and my needs.  I know I am a sinner, and sometimes I don’t have a clue as to what I am doing.  Can you teach me how to pray to the one true God, and what to say and ask for?
 
Signed,  “Tongue-Tied.”
 
Dear “Tied,”
            While it is true that we have no promise in Scripture that God hears and answers the prayers of those who worship false gods or idols, I’m wondering if you are over-thinking your own situation.  We know there is only one true God, the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Is that the God you believe in, worship and pray to?  If so, don’t worry.  He does hear your prayers and, for the sake of Christ, answers them according to His good and perfect will.
 
            Generally, all people tend to picture Jesus looking as they do: Caucasian to Whites; African to Blacks; Oriental to Asians, etc.  While not technically accurate, as Jesus likely had the Middle Eastern appearance of a Jewish man, people just tend to relate better to those who look like them.  Don’t sweat it, unless you are making your perception of His “whiteness” as an idol.
 
            In your prayers, it is perfectly appropriate to address one (or all three) of the persons of the Trinity, depending on the nature of the particular prayer, because you are still praying with faith in the Triune God, and all persons of the Trinity are involved in hearing, and answering your prayers.  Someone once said: “We pray to the Father, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit.”
 
            God invites us to pray for everything: for yourself; for others; asking for help; giving of thanks; praising God for who He is and what He does; etc.  But if you are still unsure how, or for what to pray then there is no better teacher than the Lord Himself.  Pray The Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, or other prayers that you find in the Bible.  Use your hymnal.  Lutheran Service Book has a section of various prayers and there are also many hymns that can be suitably used for prayer.  Don’t forget that your Catechism is also a good resource to teach you about Prayer. 
 
            Even your own “inadequate” prayers from the heart are heard by Him because of the One who gave His life for you, forgives you all your sins and welcomes you into His presence.  Take to heart the words of Luther: “With these words (Our Father, who art in heaven) God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”
 
“In the same way, the [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Sprit, because the Sprit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27
 
Best Regards,
            Der Antwort Mann

 

“Now About That Rapture Thing”
 
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
     Listening to one of those TV preachers the other day, he spoke of The Rapture, where Christ returns secretly in the clouds to take His Christians out of the world before the Tribulation Period.  I was amazed, and I wondered how come Lutherans don’t teach about The Rapture?
Signed, 
   “Left Behind”
 

Dear “Behind,”
    Lutherans do believe in (and teach about) The Rapture, but not as these so-called End Times preachers do (And what, by the way, are you doing listening to that drivel, anyway?  Consider yourself severely chastised!).  Rapture simply means “caught up,” and we do teach that, when Christ returns at the Last Day in glory, we will “be caught up with them (the bodies of those who have died and are with Christ) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17).”  There will be a Rapture, just not seven years before Christ’s visible return at The End.
 
     Without getting too far into the weeds, most of what passes for American Christianity tends toward a “Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist” theology, that wants to hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, trying to “prove” Biblical prophecy from today’s headlines.  They (wrongly) believe and teach that Christ will secretly remove His Church from the earth before a seven year period, called The Great Tribulation, where God pours out His wrath upon the world, Antichrist will arise, and there will be a mass conversion of the Jews, leading up to all the armies of the world massing against Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish people.  Known as Armageddon, this last great battle will usher in the return of Christ, who will destroy all those armies, bind Satan, and then set up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem for a thousand years (The Millennium).  At the end of this period, Satan is loosed one more time, is put down by Christ, who then institutes The Great White Throne of Judgment, i.e. Judgment Day.
 
     Uffda!  There is just so much wrong with this theology that, in the space of this article, I just can’t cover it all.  While they employ many passages of Scripture, those passages are ripped out of context, and they often ignore the plain meaning of Scripture elsewhere that contradicts their interpretations.  And, other than the idea of a thousand year kingdom of peace under Messiah, which many Jews looked forward to from before the time of Christ, all this other stuff of a Rapture, Tribulation Period, etc, are less than two hundred years old, and never before taught by any Christians, including the Apostles and Early Church Fathers.  In other words: Pre-Millennial Dispensationalism is a false theological novelty.
 
     So, to try to give you the historic, Biblical understanding of these things: The binding of Satan took place at Christ’s death, resurrection and Ascension; The Millennium is a symbolic number for the whole, or complete time of the Church from Christ’s incarnation until His return as the Gospel goes into the whole world; as The End approaches, Satan is loosed to cause a worldwide falling away from the Gospel and persecution of God’s Christians; then Christ returns “to judge the living and the dead,” resurrecting our bodies and “catching us up” to be with Him. 
 
     I know: The historic, Biblical teaching is not as “sexy” as all this End Times stuff, and certainly leaves little room for embellishment, but it is the truth.  As God’s Christians, we don’t have to fear missing out on the Rapture, suffering through The Tribulation Period or any of that other stuff.  We belong to Christ, who died for us to bring about forgiveness, life and salvation, and by Word and Sacrament He will sustain us during the tribulations of this present life until that time when He takes us to be with Him forever.

“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”   Luke 21:28
 

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann




As Der Antwort Mann received no questions for this month’s column, he is reprinting an earlier article from 2009 and is, instead, off somewhere drinking Lutheran Lemonade.
 
“Loose Lips Sink Ships”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    My husband recently called me a Gossip, and I resent that.  I don’t think it’s wrong to be interested in the lives of people and talk with others about what’s going on.  What do you think?  
   Signed,  “Gabby”
 
Dear “Gabby,”
 
   There is a very fine line between sharing of information and gossip.  When you talk to others about someone, is it always with the intent of helping that person or are you, instead, deriving some secret satisfaction in revealing their misery?  Is the information you are sharing with others necessary?  Is the information accurate and true?  How do you know?  And even if it is true, what business is it of yours to reveal this information? 
 
   People naturally tend to be interested in others.  We like to be “in the know,” so when we hear something, especially if it’s bad, we spread it around.  That information may start out as true, but becomes embellished with layers of misinformation and opinion with each retelling.  Gossip rarely helps our neighbor, but instead, makes us feel superior to him with each telling.  The Germans call this Schadenfreude, “Bad Joy” which revels in the miseries of others.
 
   Gossip often has a judgmental spirit, adding one’s own “spin” to things.  For example: “Did you hear that So and So’s pregnant?”  “Yeah, I wonder who the father is?”  “Well, you know what a slut she is anyway!”  And if that last statement offends you, think of how it offends our heavenly Father when people talk about others in such a self-righteous, judgmental fashion. 
 
   Because our reputations can be so easily damaged, and so difficult to regain, God gives us a Commandment regarding this.  The 8th Commandment states: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  In the negative, Luther explains: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation.”  So, how should we talk about our neighbor?  Luther continues: “But defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”  Your own mother probably told you, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.”  Good advice.
 
   Ask yourself: “If I were going through what I’m spreading around about my neighbor, would I want people talking about me in this way?”  If your answer is no, then you are probably gossiping and should stop.  As Jesus says: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you (Luke 6:31).”
 
   Again, it is a very fine line between appropriate sharing of information out of a genuine concern for our neighbor’s wellbeing and gossip.  We must constantly be on guard against saying things, even inadvertently, that damages our neighbor in the sight of others.  When we catch ourselves gossiping, we should repent and seek the forgiveness of Christ.  And we should also pray with the Psalmist: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3).
 
“A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”  Proverbs 11:13
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann
 


“Drive-By Communion?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   I recently saw a picture in the paper of some church in Michigan that offered “Communion on the Go” to people driving by the church.  They could just stop, and receive Communion through their car windows and then drive on.  What do you think of this?
Signed,  “Have It Your Way”
 
Dear “Have,”
     When I read of churches doing stunts like this, I realize how old and grumpy I’ve become.  I’m sure their intentions were good, but you know what road is paved with good intentions!
 
     Holy Communion is a most sacred act given to us by our Lord.  With the earthly elements of bread and wine, Jesus is giving us His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Hearing the Words of Institution spoken over the earthly elements gives faith the focus on what it is about to receive.  It is not something to take lightly or frivolously, or apart from the Word and Promise of Christ. 
 
     As we partake of the Sacrament, we are in union with Christ and with one another.  As such, communicants are to “be of one mind” regarding that which they receive, otherwise the unity of The Lord’s Supper becomes the chaos of our own supper (as evidenced by all the differing views about it among denominations).  St. Paul scolded the Corinthians for doing just that: turning this sacred meal of Christ into a mockery while they engaged in their own self-indulgence.  Without knowing it, they were bringing upon themselves not God’s blessing, but His judgment.  Why would we want to do that to ourselves, or others?
 
    Remember, this is God’s Meal, not ours.  He is the One who determines who should, and shouldn’t attend.  Imagine being invited to a dinner party where the host had a specific guest list of those invited to the meal.  But you think you know better than the host who should come to the party, so you invite all kinds of other people, many who don’t even know the host.  What can the host do but call the police and have all those uninvited people hauled off to jail for trespassing.  What greater consequences could face those who “crash” the Supper that God provides only for those who believe His Word and Promise?
 
     As you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of Open Communion, whether it is practiced during the congregation’s normal Services or at curbside.  They take what God offers in His love, mercy and grace to those who repent and believe His Word, and turn it into a gimmick to show instead how loving, tolerant and accepting they are.  The focus is all wrong.
 
     So, my advice to you if you encounter one of those “Drive-By Communion” stations is that you do just that: Drive by.
 
“Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
1 Corinthians 11:28


“A Couple of Questions”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   I am in this Catechism class.  Please tell me why it is important to memorize everything.  It seems a waste of time.  I do have better things to do with my time and it’s hard for me to learn these lessons from memory.
     Signed,  “Head Hurts”
 
Dear “Head Hurts,”
     Why do you have to learn your multiplication tables, or eat your vegetables?  I’m sure you could find better and more enjoyable things than math and vegetables.  But doing these things now will help you in the future.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but the same is true for memorizing Bible and Catechism passages.  Doing this now will benefit you throughout your life.
     In fact, now is the perfect time to do this because young people memorize more easily, and what they memorize stays with them even in old age.  Adults, on the other hand, have much a harder time memorizing, and it just doesn’t “stick” as well.
     Your catechism classes help you learn God’s Word and, most importantly, of His forgiveness for you in Christ.  You will get to know God better, and receive His guidance to help you make better decisions for your life.  When God’s Word is a big part of your life, then it (and He) will always be there for you and you will never be alone.
     Sure, it may be hard, but the best and most fulfilling things in life usually come through hard work and struggle.  Hang in there and learn the material, for you aren’t just preparing for a quiz; you are preparing for eternity.
 
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105
 
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   Why do we have to fill out those attendance cards in church?  I don’t like having to “report in” when I come to church.  Shouldn’t they just know that I am here?
     Signed,  “Bad at Cards”
 
Dear “Bad at Cards,”
      In an ideal world, everyone would know when you are, or aren’t in church.  But the reality is, with over 700 members, three Services every weekend and people constantly moving around for the winter or summer seasons, it is very difficult to be aware of everyone who is, or is not regularly in worship.
     Attendance Cards are tools (albeit imperfect) to help recognize worship patterns.  If a person is regular in attendance, then stops coming or communing for several weeks, this may indicate a possible spiritual crisis.  These cards can help us to avoid missing the warning signs until it’s too late.
     As responsible stewards of the souls God has entrusted to the congregation, and as members of the Body of Christ, we are accountable to each other, and should be watching out for each other.  Filling out those cards is simply a way of helping the church help you in your walk with God through Christ.
 
“Let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25


“Don’t Lutherans Praise the Lord?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    We have again started another season of Lent.  I have noticed that, during Lent, we don’t sing hymns with “Alleluias” in them, and omit singing certain other parts of the liturgy.  Why is that?
Signed,
    “Missing the Action”
 
Dear “Missing,”
 
     Lent, like Advent, is a penitential season.  It is a time to reflect on our sins, and on the great sacrifice our Savior made for sinners.  As such, Lent is more of a somber season then, say, Christmas, Easter, or even the General Season of the Church Year.  The hymns and liturgies used during Lent are meant to underscore that penitential theme.   Taking a break from the use of certain phrases in the liturgies and hymns promotes a certain longing for their joyful return as we enter the Easter Season.
 
     The “Alleluia,” which means, “Praise the Lord,” isn’t usually used during Lent, and neither is the “Gloria in Excelsis (Glory Be to God on High) or “This is the Feast.”  Omitting them marks the nature of the season, which as we said before, is somber and penitential.  When they are brought back into the Service at Easter in celebration of Christ’s victory over death, we again lift up our voices in His praise.
 
     As you can see, there’s a logic to the reason we do the things we do weekly in the Service, and as we move through the various Seasons of the Church Year.  And this isn’t unique to Lutherans.  These practices have a rich history in the practice and piety of the Church, and draws deeply from various  liturgical bodies throughout the ages.  It’s a shame that many of the so-called Reformed and Evangelical churches do not appreciate and practice these things together with the whole Church.  In my opinion,
 
 
they are isolating themselves from the rich traditions of Christianity that underscores Biblical truth, and are impoverishing themselves in their quest to be ever relevant and “contemporary.”
 
    So then, dear Missing, rest assured that during Lent, Lutherans still praise the Lord even though we may not sing “Alleluia.”
 
“Hope in God [my soul]; for I shall again praise Him, my Salvation and my God.”  Psalm 42:5
 
Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann


“Ethics vs. Morals”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
    Do morals and, therefore, ethics have any basis for decisions when those morals are based on individual beliefs?  Aren’t our moral beliefs based on the commands of God, rather than our personal (changing) whims and feelings?
Signed,
    “Plato-Puss”
 
Dear “Plato-Puss,”
 
    The terms, “Ethics” and “Morals,” are often used interchangeably, which can become really confusing.  Both are a reference to standards, whether externally imposed, or internally.  A good definition of the two would be: “Ethics” deals with “Right and Wrong” and what one “ought to do,” while “Morality” is determined by what is acceptable and, thus, by “what one actually does.”  Ethics tends to be external, imposed from the outside, whereas morality tends to be what one has internalized.
 
   For example: It is Ethical, in modern medicine, to perform abortions.  But a doctor may be morally opposed to abortion and, thus, will not perform them.  His moral position may come from an external source, or simply be based on his feelings in the matter, that he doesn’t like taking the life of an unborn child.  So, Ethics and Morality can be opposed to one another.
 
    We really get into trouble when morality is determined statistically, which then shapes our Ethics.  What I mean is, people’s personal views and feelings on a subject are tabulated and an Ethic is developed from that.  Let’s go back to my earlier example.  At some point, a large enough number of people in this country sought abortions, or felt that abortions should be legalized (Morality), that finally a law was passed (Ethics) legalizing the practice and removing the stigma of killing one’s unborn child.
 
    You can see how this, for the Christian, can create a crisis.  For us, “Right and Wrong” are not based on what everybody is doing (or what our own hearts tell us), but on what God’s Word says.  It is both an external and internal standard, because His Law is “written in stone,” so to speak, as well as on our hearts.  Yet, because of sin, our hearts do not always see clearly what the Law says there, and our minds want to reject what the Law says in His Word.  Therefore, all too often, Christians follow what the world tells us we “ought to do (Ethics),” and what our heart leads us to do (Morality).  This will get us into trouble every time.
 
     This is why everything, for us, begins and ends with Christ.  He is the One who kept God’s Law perfectly for us, and died in our place so we can be forgiven.  Together with The Father, He gives us His Holy Spirit who converts us to faith and “leads us into all truth.”  It is the Holy Spirit who has inspired the Scriptures to be written, and provides that external witness for us.  Ultimately, God’s Word is the basis for our Ethics (What we ought to do), and our Morality (What we want to do and, insofar as we are still sinners, actually do).  These heavenly Morals and Ethics may stand opposed to the world’s Morals and Ethics, but what of that?  When the world’s Ethic calls evil good and good evil, our moral practice follows God and His Word.  When the morals of the world encourages, and practices every kind of sinful pursuit, we stand on the Ethics of Scripture and its determination of Right and Wrong, entrusting our lives to Him who died for us to make us His own.
 
“Let God be true, though every man be a liar.”  
Romans 3:4
Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann



“Little Green Men From Mars?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   Are UFO’s real?  Is there life on other planets?  Did aliens “seed” this planet so that, through their efforts, the complexity of life on Earth began?
Signed, 
   “Sci-Fi Fan”

Dear “Fan,”

     Are there UFO’s?  Yes, there are many “Unidentified Flying Objects.”  They may be military planes, experimental aircraft, or just things flying around that we don’t recognize.  Yet, their origins are all earth-bound.
 
     Are there “Little Green Men from Mars?”  Doubtful.  Are there other intelligent life forms throughout the universe?  Don’t know.  The Scriptures do not speak of space aliens at all (contrary to popular books from the 1960’s like “Chariots of the Gods”).  Its focus is on our creation, fall and subsequent redemption through Christ, the Son of God.  If there is intelligent life on other planets (And I sometimes wonder about intelligent life on this planet!), God keeps that council to Himself.
 
     Are there any alien life forms in the universe?  Certainly.  The holy angels and the fallen angels would fit into that category, in that they are “alien” to our experience in this physical world in which we live.  Could the fallen angels pretend to be UFO’s and aliens from other planets in order to deceive us and make us doubt the truthfulness of the Bible and the reality God?  Yes, that’s a real possibility.
 
     Did space aliens cause us to come into existence?  Definitely not!  That’s the view now being offered by evolutionary scientists, who keep banging their heads against the brick wall of Intelligent Design.  In their inability to admit that there is a God who created all things, and in light of mounting scientific evidence that the complexity of life could not possibly be the product of random mutation and unguided evolution, life on our planet must be the result of aliens from outer space!  (See Rom. 1:18-23 for a powerful rebuttal of this nonsense).  But, that then begs the question: How did those beings get started?  What intelligent beings caused their evolution so they could come to earth to cause ours?  And then where did those beings that caused those other beings that caused our existence get their start?  Uffda!
 
     Do you have a headache, yet?  The fact is, there is only one Intelligent Designer of all that exists: the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  His Word tells us that He created all things, including life on this planet and, until the fall of Adam and Eve, the universe was complete in its creation and in its perfection (Gen. 1:31).  Through Adam’s fall, the whole creation (not just earth) was “subjected to futility” by God as judgment for man’s sin (Rom. 8:20-23).  Creation itself will be restored at the resurrection of the dead, when God will make “a new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13).”
 
     So, while you are a Sci-Fi fan, remember what Sci-Fi means: “Science Fiction.”  These are just made-up stories about life forms on other planets visiting the earth and traveling around in flying saucers.  The true Science, which is not fiction, is contained in the Bible, where we have the real story about life on this planet, and the exciting prospect of exploring the rest of God’s creation beyond.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann



“Yes, Virginia. What About Santa Claus?”
Dear Antwort Mann,
           My wife and I have a child that will be just over a year old this Christmas.  We have been wondering how to deal with the “Santa Claus” problem.  Do we just follow the tradition and tell our child that Santa brings presents and knows who is good and bad and flies around in a sleigh with eight reindeer, or not?  We don’t want our child to find out one day that Santa is not true, and then decide that everything he learned about Jesus is not true, as well.  What do we do?
     Signed,  “Wanting to Be Nice, Not Naughty”

 
Dear “Nice,”
 
           You are right to be concerned about how you should deal with the Santa tradition so that it doesn’t interfere with the truth of the incarnation of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  While Christmas really is about the birth of Christ, the culture has so hijacked the season that it has substituted a “jolly, old elf” for the true God.  You see it in most of the holiday movies and TV shows produced in the last few years, and in a lot of popular songs that people have loved for generations.  Yet, Christian parents can navigate between the rocks and shoals of either a total rejection of Santa Claus or a total embracing of the myth.
 
           First and foremost is the example you set for your child, not just at Christmastime, but all year long.  Santa Claus comes and goes.  He appears a few weeks before Christmas, then disappears by Dec. 26th.  If you only talk about the “Baby Jesus” and go to church at Christmas, and the rest of the year have little to no contact with Him, then your child will likely begin to equate Santa and Jesus as being happy myths only for children.  But if you attend church with your child regularly throughout the year, then God’s Word will have its effect.  Your child will see that, unlike Santa, a mythological figure who shows up once a year, Jesus is a real person who is with us all through the year, continuing to lavish His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation upon us by His Word.
 
           Now, as to the Santa tradition itself, go easy on all the secular holiday decorations and emphasis on Santa, reindeer and snowmen.  You are free to use them, but make the main emphasis about Jesus.  As your child grows, you can explain that Santa Claus is based upon a real person, St. Nicholas, but Christmas is really about Christ.  It’s okay to give your child a present, with a wink and a nod, “from Santa.”  Don’t be afraid to sing “Jingle Bells,” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” or any of the other fun songs of the season.  But make sure your child has a healthy dose of the hymns and carols of the season, too.  These songs of the church will help ground the faith of your child so that, even as he understands that Santa is just a story, Jesus is a real person – the Son of God, your child’s Savior.
 
           And perhaps a good tradition for your young family to start would be to read together, either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the Nativity account from Chapter Two of Luke’s Gospel.  This way, amidst all the glitter and chaos of the Santa tradition, your child is being exposed to the real meaning of Christmas, which is the love of God for all mankind, that He sent His only-begotten Son to save us from our sins.   
 
“But the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
 which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the City of David
a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord.’”  Luke 2:10-11
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann



“Why Do Baptists Reject Baptism?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   In our local newspaper, I recently read an article written by a Baptist minister.  He said that Baptism is simply an external sign of obedience to God’s command once a person has made a decision to become a Christian.  He denied that there is any other power or significance to it, and those who believe otherwise are putting their faith in a work they do rather than in Jesus.  Is he right?
Signed,  “Wet Behind the Ears”
 
Dear “Wet,”
 
           With all due respect to that minister, he is mistaken.  He, and others like him embrace what’s known as “Decision Theology,” which teaches that fallen sinners still retain in themselves the ability to decide for or against Jesus, based on their own intellects and emotions.  In other words, with the Spirit’s help, they can “cooperate” in their conversion.  Unlike Lutherans, which were part of the Conservative Reformation, Baptists were one of the groups that came out of the Radical Reformation movement, which sought to reject anything that appeared “Catholic.”  Baptism was one of the casualties of that scorched earth theology of the Radical Reformation, turning it from a gracious work of God for us into a required work we must do for God.
 
           While we can’t go over all the passages that refute his position, we can reference a few in the space we have.  First: Because the Scripture describes all of us as being spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God (Rom. 8:7, 1 Cor. 2:14, Eph. 2:1), there is no way we have any ability to become a Christian by our own reason or strength.  Only God can convert us (Jn. 3:5-6, 1 Cor. 12:3).  He does this through means: Word and Sacrament.  Both together are His work to bring us to faith in Christ and keep us in faith.
 
           Secondly, as for his claim that Baptism is nothing more than an outward act that we perform in obedience to God when we choose to become a Christian, Scripture says otherwise. In the following passages, see what God promises to give and to do for us in Baptism:
 
           Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
           Acts 2:38-39: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
           Acts 22:16: “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away.”
           Romans 6:3, 5:  “All of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death . . . If we have been united in a death like His, we shall certainly be united in a resurrection like His.”
           Galatians 3:27: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
           Titus 3:5: He saved us by the washing (baptizing) of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
           1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism now saves you also . . . by the resurrection of Christ.”
 
           Those who rightly understand Baptism aren’t trusting in an empty ceremony or a work they do for God (which, oddly, is what ends up being the case in Decision Theology), but in the Word and Promises of Christ.  In other words, to “have faith in our Baptism” is to have faith in Jesus alone; what He has done for us, and what He has promised to give us in Baptism because of His atoning sacrifice on the cross: Forgiveness, salvation, the Holy Spirit, resurrection, rebirth and renewal.  And, unlike those folks who embrace Decision Theology, God wants to give these blessings even to little children and babies, not just to those who are old enough to “do something” to merit being baptized.
 
           So, in light of all these wonderful promises of God in Baptism, why would you want to believe or trust in any other view that detracts from that?
          
[Jesus said] “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 28:19
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann


“When is a Member Not a Member?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   I know someone who was removed from the membership roll of a local church simply for not attending Services in a couple of years.  I don’t think that’s right.  Isn’t it the individual’s choice whether or not to be a member of a church?  I think that when churches kick people out, that is not a Christian thing to do.   So, what do you say?  
   Signed,  “It’s my Choice”
 
Dear “Choice,”
 
    Webster’s Dictionary defines “Member” as, “One of the individuals composing a group.”  Notice the assumption here: that individuals are united with one another to form a group.  Each individual is committed to, and working on behalf of the good of the whole.  Now, how does that relate to membership in a church?
 
     Well, there are two ways the word “Church” is used in the Bible.  The first refers to “the holy Christian Church, which is the Communion of Saints.”  Faith in Jesus Christ makes us members of this “holy Christian Church,” and unites us to each and every true believer in Christ. 
 
   The second is in regard to a local congregation.  By virtue of the salvation we have in Christ and our membership in His Body, God’s Word says that Christians are also to gather together with one another to hear God’s Word and live lives of service to Him (Hebrews 10:23-25).  While we may choose which particular congregation to join, God’s Word does not give us the choice of whether or not to belong to a congregation.  Christians are to be active with fellow believers in receiving God’s gifts, and living out those gifts in His service.  In other words, the growing Christian not only needs to hear God’s Word, needs the gifts He gives in worship, needs to be in fellowship with other believers, needs to serve Him with his life, but wants to as well. 
 
   By being members of a congregation, we promise to be faithful to God’s Word, to be active in worship, and to support the work of the congregation with our prayers, offerings and service, as we are able.  By being members of a congregation, we receive Christian care and nurture through the pure Word and Sacraments, help in times of need, and Christian discipline, when necessary, to bring us to repentance and to forgiveness in Christ. 
 
   But, when individual members simply choose not to come to church for extended periods of time, this indicates a spiritual problem – either ignorance of the importance of an active life of worship, the thought that other pursuits in life are more important than God and His Word, or that some problem or grudge is keeping them away.  In Christian love and concern for these folks, the congregation tries to reach out to them through visits, letters, phone calls and the like, encouraging them to return to an active life in the church by regularly receiving again the gifts that God has for them.  If there is some reason why they won’t come back, they are encouraged to join another congregation where they can be active and continue growing in Christ.
 
   But if, after all that, the person still refuses to return to worship and will not worship anywhere else either, his actions (for only God can see the heart) demonstrate that he has, for all practical purposes, already severed his membership.  Under those circumstances, he leaves the congregation no choice but to finally act on that by removing him officially.  If that seems unfair to you, then ask yourself whether or not an individual who wants nothing to do with a congregation and its members, and deliberately avoids God’s Word and Sacraments there over long periods of time, can truly be considered a member.
 
   Notice, here, I am not talking about someone who, because of age, health or work can’t attend Services regularly.  Neither am I referring to those who are in college, the military, or “in transition,” that is, they are living elsewhere, but haven’t permanently settled down in that location.  I am referring to those who could be attending Services and participating in the Means of Grace and in the life of the congregation, but choose not to do so, no matter how much they are admonished by the Word of God and Christian love.
 
   So, to answer your question: If that congregation has followed Scripture, and repeatedly attempted to get that individual to return to an active life in the congregation, but that person has steadfastly refused every admonishment to return, then the congregation has acted properly by removing him from membership.  Even our Lord said about the sinning brother who will not “listen to the church,” that he must be treated as “a heathen and a publican (Matt. 18:15-18).”  That is, he must be put out of the congregation in hopes that he might eventually be led to repentance and be restored to fellowship with God and with the local congregation once more.
 
    And that last point bears repeating: a person who has been removed from membership can come back when he repents and desires to “hold God’s Word sacred, and gladly hear and learn it” once more.  Heaven itself rejoices over the one who is restored to the blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection.  Obviously, we would rather share together with everyone the blessings Christ gives us in his Church, but it is sometimes necessary to finally make a break with those who will not heed God’s Word and repent.  Doing this, in the hope that this action might eventually awaken those who have been apathetic toward God and His Word, really is “the Christian thing to do.”
 
“And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and to the fellowship,
 to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann


“A Snowbird’s Lament”
Dear Antwort Mann,
   It’s September, and my wife and I are again preparing to head south for the winter.  We can hardly wait to get back to our friends and our church in Florida.  It’s so active and so many people participate.  It’s all very exciting.  Why can’t my home church here be more like that?
Signed,  “Snowbird”
 
Dear Snowbird,
 
    It’s wonderful that you have good friends and a church in Florida that you will soon be with again.  That is truly a gift from God for which you should be thankful.  Now, as to your question: While I can’t speak to the specifics of either congregation you attend, I can generally address why there may be such differences.  Every congregation has its own history, personality and, if you will, DNA that fashions the way it carries out its ministry.  Larger congregations tend to have more resources than smaller ones.  Congregations in large towns, suburbs or cities can draw from larger, and more diverse populations than can rural or small town congregations.  And some congregations have individuals who are more musically trained, or have more executive experience than others.  Any, or all of these factors can determine why some congregations seem more active or “dynamic” in comparison to others.
 
     You should also consider that, especially in the last thirty years or so, northern congregations lose many of their able volunteers during the winter as those individuals head south.  Then, in summertime, young and old alike disappear regularly to vacation “up north.”  So you have two narrow windows of increased attendance and activity: Spring and Fall.  Many don’t come to church in winter because of the weather, and many don’t come to church during the summer because of the weather!  That can make it hard for congregations in the north to maintain a fully active schedule throughout year.
 
    Conversely, when you head to your congregation down south, so do many others.  Sunbelt congregations swell in attendance and activity during the winter.  Many snowbirds are in fairly decent health, pretty financially secure, and are from the generation where volunteerism is a given.  In large groups, they are eager to get involved and are quite supportive of their winter congregations.  And – This is not a criticism! –  many of those congregations, because they depend so much on the snowbirds, tend to cater more to their wants and desires than do their home congregations.  So, naturally, everything seems more welcoming and exciting.  You are seeing that congregation at its best and most active.  But if you stayed there during the summer months, you might be surprised at how most of the activity you are used to seeing slows down and how few are in church, relatively speaking.  It may actually look a lot like your home congregation up north!
 
    Additionally, many of your northern congregations are older, having been around for several decades, or even beyond a century.  Their buildings often reflect their age, as does the entrenched traditions, attitudes and “powerbroker families” within those congregations.  On the other hand, southern congregations tend to be younger, a few decades at most, with newer, more modern buildings.  Whatever traditions they have are less fixed and, with the heavy influx of new people each winter, tend to be more fluid.  Naturally, this gives a feeling of “freshness” to your wintertime congregation.
 
     So, having said all this, I believe you may be making an “apples to oranges” comparison between your two congregations that is causing you to be disenchanted with your home church.  Perhaps the following “parable,” together with my above comments, may help you view your home congregation, with all its flaws, more sympathetically.
 
     Say you’ve been married to your wife for thirty-five or forty years.  When you married her, she was young and pretty.  Now, after a few kids and a number of years, she’s older, grayer and has put on some weight.  But she still loves you very much.  Now, every few months you have to go on a business trip to a certain city and you spend your evenings at a particular bar where you’ve gotten to know a younger, and quite attractive woman with whom you’ve become friends.  Nothing bad happens; you just enjoy each other’s company, have a few drinks and share some laughs.  You both see each other at your best.  She’s eager to please, and finds you rather dashing and fun to be with.  With her you feel younger and more alive and it’s all quite exciting.
 
    Then you return home.  Compared to the woman in the bar, your wife looks kind of old, tired and set in her ways.  She’s glad you’re back home and gives you a kiss, but the routine soon returns.  Rather than being constantly upbeat, she can be quite cranky on occasion.  And she always has that never-ending list of “Honey-Do’s” for you.  That’s when the comparisons begin:
 
    “Why can’t you be more fun?”  “You should drop a few pounds.”  “You need to put on some different makeup and do your hair better!”  “How come you’re always tired?”  Even though she’s been faithful to you through the years, bore your children, cooked your meals, and spoken often of her love for you, she just doesn’t compare to that younger woman who occasionally comes into your life and excites you so.  Longing for your wife to be more like “the other woman,” and criticizing her for not being so, makes neither of you happy.  But loving and cherishing your wife for who she is will help you see past her faults, and have real contentment with her, gray hair, wrinkles, extra pounds, and all.
 
    It’s the same with congregations.  Comparing the youthful vigor and attractiveness of your winter congregation to the “aged ordinariness” of your home congregation up north creates a dissatisfied and critical spirit that keeps you from recognizing the good things you’ve shared together in the past and that are still there now.  But if your home congregation preaches the Word of God purely and administers the Sacraments of Christ rightly, then thank God for that.  She’s doing what she’s supposed to do.  Rather than criticizing her for not being like your winter congregation, help her instead to be her best by remaining faithful to her; supporting her through your offerings and service; and by encouraging and praying for her regularly.  Then, in spite of her flaws, will you see the real beauty that is hers in Christ.
 
[Jesus said] “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.”
 Matthew 18:20
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann


"Catholic Communion?"

Dear Antwort Mann,
   I have heard talk of allowing kids to commune earlier than Confirmation Day.  That sounds rather “Catholic” to me.  So, do Lutherans do that?  
   Signed,  “Leery of the Whole Thing”
 
Dear Leery (any relation to Timothy?),
     In a word: Some do, some don’t.  It might surprise you to learn that our present practice of withholding Communion from children until they are confirmed in the 8th grade has not been handed down from Martin Luther, or always been the tradition of the Church.  There have been many different Confirmation practices adopted and dropped over time as each generation attempted to provide responsible Christian education and care for children, as they thought best.  The general principle over time seems to be that of communing children when they are able and ready to receive it properly.
 
     To  rightly receive the Sacrament, the Bible says that a person should be able to “examine himself (I Cor. 11)” regarding repentance, faith in Christ, and trust that Christ’s body and blood are truly present in and with the bread and wine.  Luther says in his Large Catechism that before one is admitted to the Supper, he should know by heart the Ten Commandments, The Creed and The Lord’s Prayer.  In the Small Catechism, Luther says, “He is worthy and well prepared (to partake of Holy Communion) who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’”  Note that there is no age requirement here, but one of faith and trust in God’s Word and Promise, knowledge and ability to confess the very basic truths of The Faith, and a repentant trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
 
     The sad reality is that Confirmation, as it has been practiced over the last few generations, has become to many a form of Graduation.   In other words, since one has completed a course of instruction and is finally able to receive Holy Communion, he is finished with the study of God’s Word and no longer has to go to church.  Many pastors and congregations agonize over all the kids who are confirmed then disappear from church for years, or even forever.  While there is plenty of blame to go around for this, perhaps denying one of God’s “Means of Grace” to those who, otherwise, are “worthy and well prepared” to receive it at an earlier age could be a contributing factor.
 
     This is why many pastors and lay people in the Lutheran Church are re-examining our present practice of Confirmation.  Everyone agrees that a comprehensive period of study in God’s Word and the Small Catechism is an important and necessary part of our children’s lives to prepare them for continued growth in Christ and the Church.  What is being re-examined is not the catechization and confirmation of our children, but whether or not it is desirable or proper to withhold Holy Communion from children who otherwise would be ready to receive it at a younger age.
 
     There is much study and debate going on as to how children could be prepared to receive the Sacrament earlier, even while continuing their Catechetical instruction (Recently, pastors and laypeople from our Thumb East and West Circuits met in a Circuit Forum to discuss this very topic).   Parents wanting their children to receive the Sacrament before Confirmation would have a greater responsibility to work with their children to prepare them for it, which was Martin Luther’s original intention in writing the Small Catechism (“As the Head of the Family Should Teach Them in a Simple Way to His Household”).
 
     So, to summarize: Allowing children to commune earlier than 8th Grade Confirmation, as long as they understand what they are receiving and can “examine themselves” is not just a Catholic Thing, but can certainly be a Lutheran Thing as well.  After all, who wouldn’t want their children to receive the blessings Christ gives in His body and blood if they are truly ready to receive them?
 
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them.  For of such is the Kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14
 
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann
 

“Different Strokes for Different Folks?”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
 
My church uses the same liturgies and hymns from the hymnal for all weekend Services, but I have visited some churches that have different Services for different people’s preferences: Traditional, Blended and Contemporary.  Why don’t all churches do that?  After all, we’re not all the same.
 
Signed,
            “I Like Variety”
 
Dear Variety,
 
I know that some congregations use a variety of “worship styles” in an attempt to attract more people to church.  The feeling is that if you give people the style of music they like, or make church “fun,” you are more likely to reach more people with the Gospel.  While reaching people with the Gospel is a good thing, the question arises whether or not offering so-called “Contemporary Worship” really attracts non-churched or unbelieving individuals, or only pulls away from other congregations those people who prefer that style of – ugh! – “worship experience.”
 
At the outset, let me say that the use of instruments other than the organ, or the use of soloists or groups to add musical variety in worship is not the problem.  The problem is when Lutherans try to adopt typically Reformed/Baptist content and styles of worship and music.  What often happens is that the congregation’s doctrine and practice will tend to follow suit over time.  Central teachings and practices important to Lutheran Theology, such as Confession and Absolution, Law and Gospel, the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper – even Christ Himself, will become minimized as Reformed thinking, piety and preferences become more pronounced.  What you eventually end up with are congregations Lutheran in name, but at their core are really Reformed.  This is not a good thing (unless you believe that doctrine doesn’t matter).
 
With this in mind, it is likely that your pastor doesn’t offer a variety of worship styles because he wants to be faithful to his ordination vows, and he is following the Synod’s constitution to use only “doctrinally pure hymnbooks.”  He understands also that, as young and old worship together with the same resources, they are united with those who have gone before us, and those who will come after us.  Despite individual musical preferences, we are all part of the Body of Christ gathering together around a common body of liturgy and hymns to receive the gifts of God’s Word and Sacraments.
 
I do have a few questions for those who insist that, in order to reach more people, we’ve got to offer the worship and musical styles they want:  Where does it stop?  Will you offer Heavy Metal Services, or Big Band and Swing?  How about Hip-Hop and Rap Services?  What about Rock and Roll or Country and Western?  Techno or Punk, perhaps?  If not, why not, if the goal is “reaching people for Christ, no matter what?”  I think most can see the inappropriateness of those styles of music being used in worship.  Yet, there are some who still clamor for Contemporary Worship and praise songs, just like Brand X Church – excuse me – Family Life Worship Center uses.
 
But the irony of so-called “Contemporary” praise music is that it is not contemporary at all.  Much of it is over thirty years old, a product of the 1980’s and 90’s.  Advocates for this type of music (usually from the “Baby Boomer” generation) say: “It’s for the kids,” when it’s really for themselves.  Think about it: do you really think the youth of today are attracted to church because of Boomer-Era Praise Songs?  Statistics show just the opposite.  Kids today want traditional worship, liturgies and hymns precisely because they don’t want in church what they hear throughout the week.  They want to be part of something bigger than just the “right now.”  The timelessness of the liturgies and hymns of the Church provides just that.
 
The beauty of real Lutheran worship (besides the fact that it is doctrinally sound and Christ-centered) is the fact that our liturgies and hymns span many ages, cultures and church traditions. The best of what the Church has produced, past and present, is used to join us together, whether as a large congregation with many resources, or a small congregation with few resources.  In the truest sense of the term, our liturgies and hymns are contemporary, even though some of it may be very old, because people are using them today.  They remind us that the Church existed long before we were born, and will be here after we leave this world.   Rather than arrogantly believing that we are the center of the universe, demanding that the church must change to suit us, using the liturgies and hymns of the Church actually imparts to us a godly sense of humility and thankfulness for what we have received from others.
 
So, while some pastors and congregations believe that utilizing any and every style of music and worship practice is a way of reaching people and giving them what they want, other pastors recognize that our hymns and liturgies bind us with other Christians throughout the ages and anchor those who worship in both doctrine and in faith in Christ our Redeemer.
 
“Then I heard every creature . . . singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!’” 
Revelation 5:13
 
Best Wishes,
 
Der Antwort Mann


“Real Men Attend Church”
 
Dear Antwort Mann,
   My wife is always hassling me to go to church.  As far as I’m concerned, I believe in God, but I think church is more for women and children.  Real men, such as myself, are uncomfortable in church.  And isn’t it true that taking care of the religious stuff is really more the woman’s job, anyway?
Signed, 
   Mr. Manly

 

Dear Manly,

  Where to begin?  I assume you’re talking about real men like truck drivers, hunters and fishermen, construction or factory workers, farmers, mechanics, cops and firemen.  Guys who are strong and can see a problem and tackle it head on; who are able to provide leadership and show courage in the face of fear, hardship and danger.  Guys who like a challenge, and who strive to be the best they can be.  Are those the real men you are talking about?
 
   Well, Mr. Manly, you might be surprised to find out that guys just like that, and more, regularly attend church, and not just because their wives drag them there, either!  Many of them like guns and Harleys and all the stuff typically associated with male pursuits.  But these men also understand what a great and high calling they have, as men, in the life of the church.  Rather than hiding behind some B.S. phrase like “I believe in God; let my wife handle the religious stuff,” they are willing to be seen, and to stand up and be counted.  In my eyes, those are the real men, whether or not they hunt, fish, etc.
 
   I’m going to be blunt now, Mr. Manly, like an old Dutch Uncle.  You have a God given duty to lead and guide your family, especially in their spiritual lives and growth.  Real men lead by their example of faith, service and sacrifice on behalf of Christ.  If real men won’t stand in the gap, then who will?
 
   Maybe you’re uncomfortable in church because you don’t understand what is going on.  Then be a man and stick with it so you can learn what it’s all about.  Maybe you think real men don’t sing hymns.  Tell that to all the men who sing, not just in church, but in the music industry, Country or otherwise.  Maybe you think it’s not manly to confess that you are a sinner who relies solely on God’s grace and forgiveness.  Then you have no idea what true courage is.  Maybe you think Jesus is somehow a weakling who has no real appeal for men.  If that’s the case, then listen up, Pal!
 
   Is a fireman or cop who dies saving lives a weakling?  Is a soldier who falls on a grenade to save his buddies a weakling?  Is a husband and father who puts himself between his family and the bad guy a weakling?  Of course not.  You would say they manifest all that real men aspire to be.  How much more so, then, Christ?  He went head to head with powers and authorities.  He stood alone against evil and took on our real enemies of sin, death and the devil.  Instead of running away, avoiding suffering and death, He went straight into the lion’s jaws, laying down His life on the cross to save even you, you bonehead!  And He has absolutely won the victory by His resurrection from the dead.  That hardly sounds like a weakling, does it?
 
   You see, Mr. Manly, a strong and courageous man not only attends church, he participates in it and, when he can, serves in the church.  To leave the spiritual guidance and upbringing of the family to one’s wife is not being manly, as you presume in your question, but spineless.  You are running away from what God has given to you as a man, and as a Christian, and your family is suffering for it.
 
   So, I challenge you to live up to the high calling you have as a man.  Are you willing to show real strength of character and faith as one who has been forgiven, and lead your family in Christ?  Are you willing to be strong and courageous in the gifts God provides in His Word and Sacraments and lend your strength to the cause of Christ and His kingdom?  Are you willing to stand in the gap and defend your loved ones against the assaults on their faith?
 
   If so, then take the lead and bring your family to church.  Show them what a Christian man is really like in love and in service (not just on Sunday morning, either).  Be willing to stay faithful, even in the face of ridicule by your buddies, whose scorn simply shows that their heads are so far up their backsides that the lumps they feel in their throats are their noses!  Be an example of one who lives out in his daily life a humble trust in the only Savior from sin, who died and rose again for us.  Be an active part of the Church, leading and building for the future.  Then, sir, you will not only be a real man, but a real man of God.

 
“Be on your guard; stand fast in the faith; acquit yourselves like men; be strong.”  1 Cor. 16:13
 

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann


Kids and adults are encouraged to send their questions to Der Antwort Mann for publication in the newsletter.  These questions can be sent to, or dropped off at church.
 
 
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