Der Antwort Mann



“Glory Be!”


Dear Antwort Mann,

     What is “the Glory of God?”  I’ve heard various answers from various preachers what the glory of God is, but I’m still confused.  Can you help a guy out here?

Signed, “Don’t Understand”


Dear “D U,”


      It all depends.  The meaning of the word “glory,” and its corollaries (glorified, glorying, gloried), depends on the context in which it is used.  Glory can mean “magnificence,” “splendor” and “beauty,” such as in passages like Luke 2:9, “And the glory (magnificence) of the Lord shone around them.”  Exodus 33:18-22, “Moses said, ‘Please let me see your glory (splendor, magnificence).’ And God said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you … but you cannot see my face (and live) … and while my glory passes by I will put you in the cleft of the rock and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.’”


      It can also mean worshipful praise, honor or thanksgiving, such as in passages like Luke 2:14, “Glory (praise) to God in the highest,” or Isaiah 25:3, “Therefore strong peoples will glorify (honor) you.”


      Glory can refer to renown or being in an exalted position, such as: Colossians 1:27, “… are the riches of the glory (praise worthy) of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (exaltation through resurrection),” Isaiah 52:13 [My Servant] shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted (Greek: Glorified), John 12:23, “Now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified (exalted), or even, in some cases, boasting: 2 Cor. 12:9, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory (boast) in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory (boast), save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


      The word can also indicate something that is wonderful (glorious): Psalm 87:3, “Glorious (wonderful, praiseworthy) things of you are spoken, O city of God.”


      So, as you see, there’s not just one way the word “Glory” can be understood.  It is a very rich and full word that expresses a variety of things depending on the context of its usage.  Yet, when it comes to God, all the various ways to understand the word “Glory” find fulfilment in Him.


“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts

to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”   2 Corinthians 4:6


Best Regards,

   Der Antwort Mann

Aliens Among Us?”


Dear Antwort Mann,

            Recently on national TV a top government official with a very high security clearance was saying we are not alone.  The military (Air Force) has videos of UFO’s defying all the Laws of Physics and they’re saucer shape.  Question: How is the Church, and the pastors going to explain this to the people that God didn’t stop creating with just the earth?

Signed: “Just Human”


Dear “Just Human,”

            I think you’re making several assumptions here.  1. That there are space aliens. 2. That they have the technology to come here. 3. That what is being told to us is true. 4. That there is only a “materialistic” explanation for the phenomena, and 5. That the Church (and her pastors) are wrong about Cosmology and they are going to have to scramble to come up with a new theology.  Are there strange, UFO-type phenomena? Yes.  The question is: What is their origin?


            The assumption that there are space aliens usually arises from a belief in evolution.  Since we “evolved” over millions of years under particular conditions, it’s probable (they say) that other beings evolved elsewhere as well.  Even if one is willing to credit God with our creation, they assume He must also have created, or still is creating other creatures all around the universe.  Yet the Bible does not give evidence that God also made other beings populating other planets in the universe.  The creation of “the heavens and the earth” took place at a specific time in a particular way.  In those six days of creation week, God established all the physical laws governing our world and the universe and then “rested” from His creating work on the Seventh Day declaring that all that He had made was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).


            Scripture also indicates that, because of the sin and rebellion of Adam and Eve, it wasn’t just mankind that fell but the whole creation itself (Rom. 8:20).  The ramifications of the Fall were not just global in scope but universal.  So, if there are Klingons, Vulcans, Little Green Men from Mars or any other non-human entity, our Fall also caused theirs. Does that seem right or possible?  Would Jesus then have to become incarnate on every other populated planet and die for those creatures’ sins, too?


            So, if we are really “alone” in the universe, what might explain these phenomena?  Possible explanations could include secret technological advances by our, or another government, natural occurrences that are mistaken for UFO’s, faulty or tampered with sensors, faked evidence, outright lies told by governments to divert people’s attention from other things going on, or even as a way of population control (what better way to do that than an “alien” visitation or attack?).


            And why is it that, with all of our sophisticated satellites containing high resolution cameras able to read a matchbook cover from space, and the billions of cell phones worldwide capable of taking pictures and videos, we still have only grainy, shadowed images and videos of these supposed extra-terrestrials?  You would think by now that there would be a whistleblower in the government that didn’t just say these things exist but would produce actual concrete evidence of their existence.  Yet, all we have so far is hearsay and questionable “evidence” of said E.T.’s.


            To be truthful, though, there clearly have been numerous sightings worldwide of these strange phenomena and some very reputable people report experiencing them.  But rather than posing a materialistic/physical explanation for these manifestations, I would suggest instead a meta-physical/spiritual explanation: We aren’t the only creatures in the universe.  Wait, what?


            That’s right.  While we have no Scriptural proof that God created other physical creatures in the universe beyond Earth, He did create the angels (non-material spirits) who are great in number.  Though originally good, a significant number of them rebelled against God and became what we call “fallen angels,” or demons.  Opposed to God and His creation, they work to deceive, undermine and destroy what He has created.  Since demonic forces are not bound by the same physical laws of the universe that we are, they can operate in the world in ways that are alien (pun intended) to us, even appearing to be UFO’s.


The Bible warns that, especially as we move toward the Last Day, there will be lying signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9, Mt. 24:24, Rev. 13:14; 16:14).  Satan is described as one who can dress himself up as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).  And when people forsake God and His Word, they set themselves up to become prey to great deception (Rom. 1:21-23, 2 Thess. 2:11).  So, instead of actual space aliens, some UFO’s could be manifestations of demonic spirits attempting to deceive people into believing false realities and causing them to forsake true faith and trust in God.


            So, until actual alien spaceships make themselves undeniably known, along the lines of “Independence Day” or a myriad of other Hollyweird Sci-Fi movies, the reality of space aliens is undoubtably wishful thinking.  And if one actually did appear and say, “Take me to your leader,” I would tell him about Christ.


“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise you heads, 

because your redemption is drawing near.”   Luke 21:28


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 where there is 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 


“Christmas Sadness”


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?




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 emphasis on family.  Widows and widowers during the holidays keenly sense the loss of a loved one.  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 (And who came up with all those “supposed to’s, anyway?).  It doesn’t help that 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, thus contributing to the dark and depressed moods so many do experience this time of year.


   So, what can we do about it?  First and foremost, reorient your own thinking about Christmas.  Christmas is about the birth of Christ – God becoming man – to redeem you from sin, death and hell and give you life, connect you to Himself and to others. 


    And instead of bingeing on so many 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.  Obviously, also make plans to attend Services at church.  Hearing God’s Word, receiving His gifts and being with His people is the antidote to loneliness and depression one may experience during this season.


    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, get involved in bringing cheer to others.  Go visit people in the nursing home or hospital or help out in a soup kitchen or some other endeavor where you give yourself to others.  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 season 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

“Facing the Facebook Mob”


Dear Antwort Mann,

     I have several friends who frequently post so-called theological discussions on their Facebook pages which are, to say the least, interesting.  Recently posted was a discussion about a kindergarten teacher who has a student being raised by her parents in a semi gender-neutral fashion.  Her classmates thought she was a boy!  The post approved such techniques and a seminarian in the thread thought it also valid and was a true expression of the Gospel (inclusivity).  What does someone say to this?

     Signed, “B.”


Dear “B,”

     In a word: Nothing.  Facebook, and other social media, are terrible places to engage in theological or social discussions.  You can’t really discuss anything with meaning because you lack eye-contact, voice inflection and context.  All people have to go on are words and emojis to convey what’s meant.  On top of that, you have all kinds of people jumping in, and some of them are “trolls” looking to stir things up and deliberately misread what is said, and the comments spin out of control and ends up with the mob piling on.  And, due to our “Old Adam,” people are inclined to say hurtful things online that they might never say to your face.  It’s just a lousy place to have significant, controversial discussions.


Now, you didn’t say if these were Lutherans discussing this, or if the seminarian in question was Lutheran (and if he was, he should be defrocked before he is frocked!).  Coming from a similar theological foundation might change the dynamics somewhat.  But if it’s made up of all sorts of different people from different religious or non-religious backgrounds, any response you give from a “traditionalist, conservative” viewpoint will simply be pounced on and then dismissed with all sorts of invective.  While I understand the desire to defend the Truth, is it really worth it on that platform and in that context?


Understand, Der Antwort Mann has no problem with speaking truth to error.  There are times when the Christian must stand up and be ready for the backlash.  But, perhaps, it might be better to discuss this with particular individuals holding these aberrant views in a private chat away from the thread.  You have more chance of having your position heard and, possibly, changing minds than in a venue where everybody simply wants to score points and signal how virtuous they are.


Now, if you want Der Antwort Mann’s views on the subject in the discussion itself, that would be a good topic for a future column.  Just let me know.


“To everything there is a season ... a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Eccl. 3:1, 7


Best regards!

     Der Antwort Mann


“The Zoomer Generation”


Dear Antwort Mann,

     All during the pandemic, and even now, my family and I have chosen to watch our church services online.  This is very convenient for us and we are still connected to God’s Word so, is there a problem with us doing this?

     Signed, “Zoomers.”


Dear “Zoomers,”

     Der Antwort Mann is glad that you kept a connection to God’s Word during the pandemic by watching the services online, and that you still desire being connected to His Word now.  Many folks did not do this during the pandemic and currently have drifted away from the Word entirely, so you are to be commended.


I wonder though, if you have kids, are they still taking classes online or are they in school?  Are you only visiting with family and friends over Zoom or in person?  Are you going to stores, restaurants and sporting events or are you just staying home?  If you have returned to normal routines in other areas of life, isn’t it now time for you to return to in-person worship as well?


While online services are indeed a blessing for those who cannot get out of their homes, they are not meant to replace in-person worship for those who can.  And watching services online certainly cannot give you what you can receive in church: the physicality of being with God’s people together; singing together and hearing in person the life-giving message of salvation in Christ for you; receiving the forgiveness of your sins through Holy Absolution; and having placed into your mouth the very body and blood of Jesus given and shed for you.  These things cannot be fully appreciated by passively watching others do them, but by actively participating in them.


So, if you leave home to participate actively in other areas of life, then it is time for you to leave home and come home – home to the House of God and to your family in Christ.


“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”  Psalm 122:1


Best Regards,

Der Antwort Mann

“God Killed?”


Dear Antwort Mann,

    I read a book recently where the author states that America “killed God” back in the 1960’s and since then have embraced the devil’s lies instead.  He states that because we have turned our backs on God, rejected His saving grace and have no need for Him anymore, the United States is now falling apart.  What do you think?




Dear “Worried”


    There is no doubt that since the 1960’s, America has seen a stark decline in the faith and morality of a large majority of its citizens.  While the country has always had periods of greater or lesser commitment to a public standard of virtue, we have come to a place today that would have been unthinkable fifty years ago.


      Traditional religious expression in public schools was attacked and has, for the most part, been erased with few exceptions.  Sex outside of marriage became the norm.  Abortion in all stages of pregnancy was legalized to the tune of over sixty million babies killed since then.  Divorce became “no fault,” where upwards of 50% of marriages now end.  Children in fatherless homes have skyrocketed, as has drug use, crime, gang violence, poverty, mental illness, rage, murder and more social ills too numerous to mention.


      Now our kids are being taught (contrary to science!) that boys can be girls and girls can be boys.  We are sexually confused and easily manipulated.  After the strides made in ending racism, the country has gone in the opposite direction where “people of color” are the ones demanding segregation.  Kids are being taught that America’s foundations are inherently Racist and must be torn down.  Politics has become the god we worship and all heretics on the other side from us are evil.  Many are advocating the abolition of rights such as freedom of religion, speech, assembly, etc. for those who are deemed deplorables, or who don’t fully embrace the current (and changing every few minutes) “Woke” ideology.


     Yes, by rejecting God and His Word, we have descended into a kind of “new paganism,” and are quickly moving toward a totalitarianism much like George Orwell described in his novel “1984.”  Following in the footsteps of Communism and National Socialism, millions today are being indoctrinated to spy on each other and report any “unapproved” behavior they see, and to mindlessly worship at the altar of Big Government.  Individual freedoms must be ground under the boot of “The Collective.”  


     Truly, the author you referred to has a valid point that needs to be heeded.  All of this is, indeed, the devil’s lies deceiving and destroying people.  Yet even as the Church may be heading into some very dark times, we have God’s promise that He is with His Christians.  While tempted, like the prophet Elijah, to hide in a cave believing we are the only faithful ones left in the land, God promises that He will always have and preserve a faithful remnant who will not hide in a cave but go out in the world to do His work.  If anything will turn back the death spiral our country is in, it will be God’s Christians living out the life of Christ in us individually and corporately as The Church.


      The world has faced dark times throughout the ages, and it is quickly heading now toward the final curtain when Christ returns in His glory, Judgment Day comes and the wicked and unbelieving will receive the “due penalty for their error (Rom. 1:27).”  In the meantime, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” is still at work through His Christians, just like you.  We here in America may soon be joining the Suffering Church in other parts of the world, yet we live by faith in the One who suffered for all to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation with God.  While we may be uncertain as to how events will unfold, we are not uncertain how things will work out at the end.


      No, America hasn’t killed God.  He is very much alive and is coming soon.  “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).”


Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann

“I 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?


   “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, largely 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 stepsister of this is being 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 (or fasting) 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 rewards 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.

“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 andJesus 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

“Church Architecture”
Dear Antwort Mann,
     I was on the East Coast last month and visited a couple of Lutheran churches there.  Both were very beautiful.  The walls were white, and the pews were white with wood trim.  Wow!  The atmosphere of those churches was very inviting.  My question is why our church seems so much darker?  Is that a German thing?  Is there something that we could do to “brighten up” the inside of our church?  
   “Just Asking,”
Dear “Asking,”
     The short answer to your question is: “Sure, we could.  But do we want to?”
     While there are many similarities in traditional church architecture that are the same from building to building, conveying Biblical truths or lessons, styles can vary greatly from region to region, and from generation to generation.
     Those churches you visited on the East Coast likely reflected the “Colonial Style” of that region, much like many Presbyterian churches do around the country.  They tend to be brighter and “cleaner” in appearance, while also being simpler in ornamentation.  On the other hand, many older midwestern churches tend to model the European designs found in Germany and elsewhere going back hundreds of years.  Some interiors can be darker and others lighter in appearance depending upon the goals of the design and the preferences of the congregation building its church.
     Your church was fashioned after the style of a particular church in Germany, even imitating the block pattern and color of the walls.  This is what the congregation wanted when it built the church.  The darkness of the walls helps to accentuate one of the best features of the church; its Stained Glass windows.  Lighter walls, even though brightening up the interior, could detract from the beauty of those windows.
     Some may see your church as “dark and dungeon-like,” yet others are awed by its stateliness and connection to history.  It “looks like a church.” Ultimately, though, it is a matter of taste.  Some future generation may want to make the changes you suggest or may not.  That won’t make the church any more or less “inviting.”  But what is essential is what goes on in the church, and that is the preaching of Christ’s death and resurrection for sinners, and the proper administration of His Means of Grace.  Without those, everything else doesn’t matter.
“…Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”   
Ephesians 2:20-21
 Best regards,
Der Antwort Mann


“Only Partially Pro-life?”
Dear Antwort Mann,
           I am a bit confused.  The LCMS is a Pro-life church body that vigorously defends the lives of unborn children.  Yet it also teaches that Capital Punishment, which allows for the execution of criminals in certain circumstances, is a legitimate power of government.  Isn’t that a contradiction?  To be consistent, if you are against abortion, shouldn’t you also be against Capital Punishment?
           Signed,  “Lifer”
Dear “Lifer,”
      While both issues you raise deal with human life, you are making an “apples to oranges” comparison.  The key word in your Capital Punishment reference is “criminal.”  That distinction makes all the difference in one’s approach to these life issues.
      Scripture allows government to “bear the sword (Romans 13:4)” against those found guilty of certain crimes. Thus, for example, those who murder others may forfeit their own lives as punishment (Genesis 9:5-6).  Even though Scripture does gives authority to government to exercise Capital Punishment, it is not a “Carte Blanche” authority, i.e. government does not have the right to execute the innocent who have committed no crimes, or those who have committed lesser, non-violent crimes.
      Regarding the issue of abortion, the only “crime” committed by those unborn children is to be unwanted.  Yet the government, through a warped interpretation by the Supreme Court of the 14th Amendment’s due process and privacy clause, has sanctioned their executions through abortion.  That is immoral and wrong.  
       Because Scripture upholds the humanity of the unborn (Ps. 139) and calls upon us to come to the rescue of the “weak and needy (Ps. 82:4),” it only makes sense that we fight against the wholesale evil of the abortion industry.  Rather than being perpetrators of murderous crimes against others, those unborn children are the victims of murderous crimes being committed against them.  That what makes abortion a completely different issue, theologically and morally, from Capital Punishment. 
      The Bible itself makes this distinction concerning the sanctity of life for the unborn, and the authority it gives government to take the life of a murderer.  Granted, government doesn’t have to exercise its authority regarding Capital Punishment, but Scripture does make allowances for it to do so in order to preserve order in society and to protect its citizens.  In a fallen, sinful world, civil authority is God’s tool, through all phases of the legal process, to punish the wrongdoer and protect the innocent.
      Thus, when these distinctions are properly understood, one can indeed be Pro-life regarding the unborn and Pro-Capital Punishment regarding the murderer and not be inconsistent at all.  One is simply in harmony with what the Bible says.
“For he [the civil authority] is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, 
for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger 
who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  Romans 13:4
Best Regards,
Der Antwort Mann

“Last Days?”
Dear Antwort Mann,
A worldwide pandemic; massive fires in the west; devastating hurricanes striking the Gulf states; and even an earthquake in Southeast Michigan.  On top of that, you have rioting, looting and civil unrest, with many of our major cities on fire.  My question is: are these indications that we are in the Last Days before Christ returns?
Signed: “Fearful.”
Dear “Fearful,”
Yes, we are … and no, we are not.
We have been in the Last Days since Christ’s first Advent two thousand years ago.  The whole period of time between His first coming and His return at the end are considered in Scripture the “Last Days,” in which we will hear of, according to our Lord, “wars and rumors of wars” and “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places (Matt. 24:6-7).”  He says those are the beginning of birth pains but not the end.  Even the persecution of Christians, the rise of false prophets, the increase of lawlessness and lack of love among many are part of all that.
But that does not necessarily mean it is The End.  Yet.  These are all characteristics of a fallen, sinful world and fallen, sinful people.  These are the natural consequences of sin and judgment upon sinners.  While they could be indications that we are close to “The End,” they are mostly reminders that The End is coming and that today should be a day of repentance for sin and trust in the Savior who died so that sinners can be forgiven and have eternal life.
Jesus comments on the account of Pilate’s slaughter of worshippers in the temple, and of the wall that fell on eighteen people and killed them and asked the question, “Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:1-5).”  The driving point of all natural and manmade disasters and afflictions is “The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23a).”  It is God’s call to us to repent before it’s too late.  It is to draw us outside of ourselves and our own deluded idea that we are in control of our lives and instead, to draw us to Christ.
While all these things are truly God’s direct or indirect judgments on a world gone mad, it is also a gracious invitation to partake of “the free gift of God [which is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23b).”
Martin Luther was once asked: “Dr. Luther.  If you knew Christ was coming back tomorrow, what would you do?”  He answered: “Plant an apple tree today.”  In other words: Do not fret over whether or not the things happening in this world are signs that it’s about to end, but rather live each day productively as one redeemed by Christ and whose eternity is secure in the heavens.  Use the time you have to be in God’s Word and do good to your neighbor.
“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

“Do-It-Yourself Religion?”
Dear Antwort Mann,
           I have a sister who had gone to church for many years but stopped going around two years ago.  She tells me that she is closer to God now than she has ever been.  Yet, she has turned away from God’s Word, and seems to have made up her own god and religion.  But she does seem happy, and it helps her deal with this world’s problems.  What do I do?
Signed,  “Uncertain”
Dear “Uncertain,”
      Your sister appears to be part of a growing number of people referred to as “Nones,” that is, those who are religious (or “spiritual,” as they prefer) without any formal affiliation with a church or denomination.  While many may be products of a Christian upbringing, and may even believe certain Christian doctrines, they are basically inventing their own spirituality according to their own rules.  This isn’t new; people have been doing it since Adam and Eve, but it can be spiritually deadly, no matter how seemingly fulfilling it is at the moment.
           You don’t say why your sister stopped going to church.  Was it because of problems with some members of her congregation, the pastor, or even some of the teachings of the church with which she disagrees?  People stop going to church for those, and many other reasons.  While her reasons may be understandable, and we might even sympathize with those reasons, for her to isolate herself from her fellow Christians and neglect hearing God’s Word and receiving His Supper is a sin, for which she needs to repent.
           When one engages in a “Do-It-Yourself” religion, or spirituality, one stops being taught by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God and, instead, becomes a pupil of the devil, the world and one’s own sinful flesh.  These “teachers” may make one feel “close to God,” but what god is it they are close to?  If it’s not the Triune God who has redeemed sinners through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus Christ, then it is a false god and a false spirituality that cannot save.
           Your sister’s apparent happiness with her self-made religion may be more of an outward show than it is genuine happiness.  She may be trying to convince you (and herself) that she is justified in her choice to leave the Church.  Rather than trying to argue her back into the Church, if she’s stubborn – and I get the impression she is – you will only drive her further away.  Instead, try to gently ask her some questions about her newfound “religion” to better understand what she truly believes.  Ask her about Jesus – who He is to her, and what He has done.  Find out if she understands we are all sinners redeemed by faith alone in Jesus.  Ask her if she misses receiving The Lord’s Supper and, if she doesn’t, why not.
           Above all, you continue to remain faithful in coming to church, hearing God’s word of forgiveness in Christ, and receiving His true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  And continue to love, pray for, and be encouraging to your sister, as one redeemed sinner to another.  Do these things with the patience, love and compassion that Christ has for you.  In time, your sister may rethink things and, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, return to Him who has loved her even before she was born.
“Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your steadfast love 
remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O Lord.”  Ps. 25:7
Best Regards,
Der Antwort Mann

“Here’s Your Change”
Dear Antwort Mann,
     The Bible talks a lot about change; how the Unchanging God can change us; that He wants for us to do good and live as He wants us to live.  Ezekiel 36 says: “I will sprinkle you with clean water and you will be clean . . . I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart . . . you will have only pure thoughts, because I will put My Spirit in you.”  It also says in Ephesians 2 that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”
     My question is:  If this is so, why are there so many folks against change taking place when the change is for their good, and the good of others.  How can you get more people to support a positive change, and embrace it with love instead of fear?
   Signed, “Answer Seeker”
Dear “Seeker,”
     Change is always unsettling.  It moves us from the familiar to that which is unfamiliar, and we feel threatened by that.  Even so, sometimes being resistant to change can be a good thing if it slows us down from jumping into something that may initially look good but is actually bad.
     I’m not sure if your first question relates to spiritual change, or some other change, like a new hymn in church, or a new program or building project.
     If you’re referring to spiritual change, such as growth in, and knowledge of God’s Word, and living our lives more in accordance with it, then the answer is that our sinful nature (the “Old Adam”) is very resistant.  Just because we are baptized into Christ and have the Holy Spirit, all of us do still struggle against the change God wishes to work in us.  That is the Romans 7 conflict St. Paul speaks about.  There will be times when, by God’s Spirit, we joyfully grow and advance (are changed) in the faith, and there are other times when the devil, the world and our sinful flesh hold us back.  The point is: We don’t change ourselves, but God, through His Word and Sacraments, does.  It is through the forgiveness of our sins – in other words, through the Gospel – that change happens in us.
     Your second question appears to focus on getting people to embrace change other than internal.  Here I am assuming you mean changes in church, liturgy and hymns, or changes in outreach and human care efforts like helping the poor, reaching out to the lost, etc.  The answer to that is catechesis, which is a patient teaching of people about the reasons for the change, and why it is in keeping with God’s Word and will.  This may take a considerable amount of time for folks to accept and, in some cases, some never will.
     Depending on the particular change you speak of (working in a soup kitchen, witnessing to the lost, etc.), that may not be the calling another person has, and you won’t change them.  The best you can hope for is that they will support your efforts in those fields, rather than fight against it.
     In other cases (such as a new hymnal, organ, building project, etc.), change and acceptance may come only over time.  In any event, conversation, instruction and love will go a long way to overcoming the resistance many may initially feel about the proposed change.
     At least, we can hope so.
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
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. 

“Communion Clique?””
Dear Antwort Mann,
    Why does the Lutheran Church (for the most part) forbid non-Lutherans or former Lutherans who have joined a different denomination from taking Holy Communion with them?  Do they think they are better Christians than others, or that anyone who isn’t a Lutheran isn’t Christian?  I think anyone who is a Christian should be allowed to commune wherever they want and it ticks me off that they can’t.  So, what do you have to say about this?
   “Really Torqued!”

Dear “Torqued,”

     The practice you are referring to is known as “Close, or Closed Communion,” admitting to the Sacrament only those who are baptized, instructed and share the same confession and doctrine as professed by the congregation.  This has been the practice of the whole Christian Church, even in its various denominations from its beginning.  But since the 1960’s, many congregations and denominations began to practice what’s known as Open Communion, admitting all baptized Christians to the Sacrament   whatever their denominational ties are.  This was in an attempt to foster unity among Christians and to be seen as more loving and less judgmental than were those who practice Close(d) Communion.
   Yet, those churches which have restrictions regarding those who may commune at their altars do not think that they are “better Christians” than others.  They are simply trying to uphold God’s Word and to love and care for the souls of those who come to the altar, especially as St. Paul writes that those who partake of the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord and … eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).  So, it is an act of love, not of arrogance to have these boundaries.
     While we acknowledge that all who confess Jesus as their Savior are united to one another in the “one, holy Christian and apostolic Church,” i.e. The Body of Christ, we are not all fully united in what we teach and confess about certain things.  An external show of unity while ignoring the differences in our understanding of that which God teaches in His Word is not God-pleasing, and that is why we have to make the hard call at times about who is able to commune at our altars.
     Without getting into the weeds, there are generally three different views of the Lord’s Supper in Christendom: 

  • The view that we are performing an act that earns God’s favor; 
  • The view that Christ graciously gives us His true body and blood together with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sin
  • And the view that this is only a Memorial Meal by which we remember Jesus’ death, with the bread and “juice” as mere symbols of Jesus’ body and blood. 
While this description paints with a fairly broad brush, we can clearly see that Christians are not unified in their understanding of what Holy Communion is or does.  Thus, while Open Communion gives the outward appearance of unity, it actually fosters disunity by allowing competing beliefs about the Supper to exist side by side without clarifying what is true.
     The church we belong to and the altar at which we commune is a public declaration of what we supposedly believe.  Since people can’t look in our heart, they can only assume by our outward affiliation that we hold to the doctrines of that church, otherwise why belong to it or commune at it?  So, to commune at a church that teaches differently than what you believe is, in a sense, giving a false witness, and that is not a good thing.  A consistent Christian would celebrate the oneness we share in Christ and love his fellow Christians even while refraining from communing with them because of differing views of the Sacrament.
     So, the long and short of this is that while all true Christians are indeed united in The Body of Christ as The Church, there are some profound disagreements and disunity in what is believed, taught and confessed in the visible manifestations of this Body that should not be overlooked or ignored.  To do so would not be loving and would risk losing the truth of God’s Word and the true unity that Jesus prayed that His Church might have.
[Jesus prayed] “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which you have given Me,
 that they may be one, even as we are one.”  John 17:11

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann

“Anger and Forgiveness”
Dear Antwort Mann,
   I have a hard time with anger and find it very difficult to forgive.  Can you give me a short answer that will help me with this?
   Signed, “Red in the Face”
Dear “Red,”
    Can I give you a short answer?  Yes.  Will I?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Without going into a lot of “psycho-babble” about personality traits, etc., it is true that some people’s natures are such that they do get angry quickly and can hold grudges for a very long time.  While I can’t deal with your anger issues here, I can give you some direction regarding forgiveness.
    First, to forgive others, you must come to terms with God’s forgiveness for you.  How do you do that?  By truly believing you are a sinner who deserves death and hell, and by fully embracing in faith that God has forgiven you all of your sins through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  By constantly returning to your need for a Savior, and God’s grace freely given to you in Christ, your own mind and heart will be changed and then you will begin to see the sins of others against you in a different light and find forgiveness much easier.
    What also helps is praying for the person who has sinned against you.  First, it’s hard to be angry with someone for whom you are praying and, secondly, never underestimate God’s power at work through prayer.  He is certainly able to reconcile those at odds with each other as He has, in Christ, reconciled us to Himself.
    In closing, it is helpful to ask yourself why you are angry.  Did they really do something wrong to you, or are you unnecessarily taking offense?  If they did do wrong, it may be necessary for you to go to them to try to work it out, rather than waiting for them to come to you first.  But don’t go to them with “guns ablazin.’”  Go calmly, with the desire to set things right between you.  And if they are unwilling to be reconciled, leave it in God’s hands until, possibly, a door opens later on for you to be reconciled with them.  That way, you don’t have to carry the burden, and you can let go of the anger.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,”    
Ephesians 4:32
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann

“Is There a Hell?”
Dear Antwort Mann,
     I have a question that’s been bothering me for a while and I’m sure you have the answer.  Is there a “Hell?”  While growing up we were always told that hell and the devil are always around, and now it seems that they are no longer mentioned.  I go to church a lot and it’s never mentioned in any reading or Gospel.  What are your thoughts?  I read the Lutheran paper, and your comments to people that ask questions, and it’s very interesting.
   “Just a Concerned Person,”

Dear “Concerned Person,”

It might interest you to know that there is one person in the Bible who speaks of hell more than anyone else.  Who would that be?  St. Paul, maybe, or Elijah, Isaiah or one of the other prophets?  No.  Jesus does.  And that is not surprising because the very reason He came into this world to die upon the cross for sinners is to save us from ending up in hell.  Hell is very real, and both the Old and New Testaments testify to its reality.

Because hell is an uncomfortable subject, many pastors and churches neglect to speak of it.  To speak of judgment and hell means that you also have to speak of sin and repentance, and those are not popular subjects in this age of “Self-Esteem,” and will certainly not help fill the pews with people looking for a spiritual feel-good booster shot.

If I remember correctly, the Archbishop of the Church of England once publicly declared that there is no hell.  Many churches in America downplay, or deny altogether the existence of hell or, if there is one, believe that no one is there.  Many people say, “My God is a God of love, so He would never send anyone to hell.”

Indeed, God is a God of Love, but He is also a Just and Holy God who hates sin.  Therefore, justice demands that all sin be punished, not only in this life but also in eternity.  Love, though, provides the remedy, or rescue from that terrible fate.  In love and mercy, God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, became true man, kept the Law of God perfectly in our place, became the full and final sacrifice when He bore our sins on the cross, and defeated death and the grave when He rose from the dead.  Through faith in Him, we receive forgiveness for our sins and a righteousness before God that is not from us, but a gift from Him to us.  God’s justice is satisfied in Christ, and God’s love is shown through Christ.   Thus, heaven, not hell, becomes the eternal home for all those who have faith in Jesus.

So, hell indeed does exist.  And because the Bible speaks clearly about it, so must pastors and churches preach and teach clearly about it.  For in doing so, we then can appreciate to the fullest extent both the need for repentance and faith, and power of God’s love for us in Christ, who died for our sins to rescue us from sin, death and hell.

“For great is Your steadfast love toward me; You have delivered my soul 
from the depths of Sheol.”  Psalm 86:13

Best regards,

   Der Antwort Mann

“Responsible Baptizing”
Dear Antwort Mann,
     Does Baptism assure salvation?  I’ve seen this happen: A non-member family wants to have an infant/small child baptized but have no intention of attending church.  They also don’t plan to bring that child to Sunday School or Confirmation.  They just think Baptism “covers all the bases,” or they’re doing it because of pressure from family.  What does the Church have to say about this?  Are we just casting pearls before the swine?  Is there a responsible way to administer Baptism without snuffing out the dimly burning wick, so to speak?
   Signed, “Former Swine”
Dear “Mr. Swine,”
     Any relation to Mr. Flu?  Never mind.  You ask a lot of questions above (and make a few assumptions, too), but I will try to answer in a concise way.
     Scripture is clear that Baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:4-7), connects us to Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3 - 4), washes away our sin (Acts 22:16), gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and grants us forgiveness (also Acts 2:38).  As Luther says: “Baptism is not just plain water, but is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.”  Faith, of course, is assured of salvation through Baptism because it believes that Word and promise of God in Baptism and clings to it in a confident hope that God is indeed gracious to us through Christ.
     Is Baptism a “lucky rabbit’s foot” or some kind of magic spell that grants heaven no matter what?  No.  The one who does not believe, or rejects that which God offers in Baptism is under condemnation (Mark 16:16).  How is the faith given to us in Baptism nurtured?  By an ongoing reception of the gifts God gives through the Gospel and, when we are instructed and can properly examine ourselves, through Holy Communion.
    Parents assume a great responsibility when they have their child baptized.  They are to raise their child in the Christian faith, bring them to church and Sunday School and, as much as is possible, see to it that their child continues in the Faith received through Baptism.  Even though parents may lack faith or commitment in spiritual matters, this does not negate what God gives their child in Baptism.  But by their indifference, they may certainly reap a greater judgment for not following through with their child’s spiritual growth.  As Jesus Himself says: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6).”  As you can see, this is no joke.
    Churches, and pastors, may have different views on whether or not to baptize a child of uncommitted parents.  I can certainly understand those who do not think it a wise practice, for many of the above reasons.  Yet, I cannot personally turn away “one of these little ones” who are being brought to Christ in Baptism.  Who knows what the Holy Spirit will continue to do for that child, in spite of its parents.  And if the child does fall away at some point, perhaps at a later time, just the knowledge that they were baptized once upon a time might be that very thing God uses to bring them back to Him.
“Let the little children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann

"Catholic Communion?"
(This is a reprint of a column from a few years ago, as the Bd. of Elders is again examining the possibility of offering Holy Communion to younger children who have not yet been confirmed but may truly be ready to receive it.  Hopefully, this will help generate discussion and action by the congregation on this issue when the time comes.)
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
“What Kind of Sanctuary?”
Dear Antwort Mann,
     I recently heard that the Lutheran Church has now declared itself a “Sanctuary Church” and will work to protect illegal aliens and encourage open borders.  I thought Lutherans had more sense.  What’s up with that?
     “Law and Order Man”
Dear “Law and Order Man,”
     First off, “The Lutheran Church” has not declared itself a Sanctuary Church, but rather a denomination within the Church generally known as Lutheran has.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the most theologically and socially liberal denomination among Lutherans, has made this determination for itself.  The LCMS, NALC, WELS and other Lutheran Synods have not taken this step, nor do I think they ever will.
      Why the ELCA has chosen to do this I can’t say, but it seems unwise to me for a church body to take this kind of political stance. Certainly, we should be concerned about the well-being of immigrants and aliens, but we should also be concerned that the laws of our nation are upheld and its borders secure.  Without those things, a nation can descend into chaos and anarchy as its systems are overwhelmed by the numbers of people entering the country illegally and its resources are taxed to the limit.  Under those conditions, society as a whole suffers greatly or collapses altogether.
     In my opinion, the ELCA would serve the Gospel more faithfully, not by taking the most liberal stance on every issue imaginable, from sexuality to immigration, but by remaining faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.  Then they would have a much more solid foundation that would support both the integrity of our nation and its laws and engage properly in evangelism and in the works of mercy we are called to do.
     The State should have a clear and enforceable system protecting our borders while generously allowing non-criminal immigrants to enter the country legally to work or to flee from persecution elsewhere.  The Church, on the other hand, should not be a sanctuary protecting or encouraging those who break our laws, but for all sinners seeking forgiveness and life in Christ.
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Galatians 6:10
Best Regards,
   Der Antwort Mann
Kids and adults are encouraged to send their questions to Der Antwort Mann for publication in the newsletter.  You can email your questions to:

“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?
   “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

“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?
   “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.
   “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?

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. 
   “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?
   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?
   “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