Why Denny Hitzeman Hates American Idol

Since all I seem to have time to write lately is devotions for Wednesday Vespers and final exams for my students, I guess I’ll have to content myself with linking you to this really cool post from my good friend Denny.

After exams, and Mexico, and VBS, I should be back to my usual long-winded self.

Coffee-in-hand: Uganda Bugishu


I don't usually like blogs that post family news and stuff, but this picture was irresistable. It's my son on his fourth birthday serving as ring bearer in my brother's wedding.


Forget the Border...

Read this article.

I think I’ve been saying this for a long long time. I'll have more to say on this topic later.

Praying and Staying Together

(a devotion based on Acts 4:23-33)

“The family that prays together stays together.” Have you ever heard that saying? Do you think it’s true? I do. I mean, there are statistics and surveys and studies that show how church-going, Christian couples are happier and have lower divorce rates, better-behaved kids, and all that jazz. The family that prays together stays together ― it’s true. But why is it true? It’s not true because of some vague psychological closeness that may (or may not) last in this world, because “shared religious experience” is so important to human relations. It’s true because of a real, objective, spiritual closeness that we have with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we are all close to Jesus, then we, almost by default, are also close to each other in love and faith.

The apostles in Jerusalem had a problem. They were being persecuted by the chief priests, the elders ― the very people who were supposed to be God’s witnesses and ministers on this earth. Peter and John had just spent a night in jail and received a “stern talking-to” from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high-court, and now they were back with the other believers. They had a problem, so they prayed. They prayed to the God who raised Jesus from the dead, and he listened to them and granted their request, almost word-for-word.

Why was their prayer answered? It wasn’t answered because of the good deeds and piety of the apostles. It wasn’t answered because it was such a pretty prayer. It was because their prayer was in accord with God’s will, which is what we mean when we conclude our prayers with “in Jesus’ name.”

It’s not so much that we pray, it’s to whom we pray. It’s not how we pray, it’s the God who hears our prayer. And it’s not our faith ― it’s the object of that faith, the powerful Word of God that testifies to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He answers our prayers in his own time and in his own fashion, according to his perfect holy will. We trust God’s character and his promises.

And so we pray together as a family of believers. And because we pray together, under the blanket of protection and forgiveness that God provides for us in Christ, we will stay together ― now, perhaps, but even more importantly in eternity. We will stay together under Christ our Good Shepherd, who promised in Sunday’s Gospel reading that he will find the other sheep, who are not of his sheep-pen, and bring them into the fold where there will be one flock, one Shepherd.

The Church is God’s family. We are the bride of Christ, his family. In an even closer metaphor, we are the body of Christ and he is our head. Is it any surprise that those early Christians were “one in heart and mind?”

Well, to be blunt, it should be. When I look inside myself, I see that I am far from being “one in heart and mind” with anybody, much less everybody. When I look around, I see fraction and faction, divisions and divisiveness. We are all believers ― why aren’t we one in heart and mind? The answer, of course, is sin ― our sins against one another, against our brothers and sisters. Our sinful selfishness and pride. That oh-so-American virtue of self-sufficiency (as if anyone could actually make it on their own). Our dubious quest for ‘privacy.’ We look around and see the results of sin and its destructive effects in our lives and in our hearts.

But look to the cross and the empty tomb. The glorious fact is that we are one in heart and mind, not just with each other, not just with those who are “walking together” with us in the WELS, but with every Christian who has ever lived. One in heart and mind with Peter and John, with these Christians in Acts. One in heart and mind with Jesus himself, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2, “we have the mind of Christ.”

Our text tells us that the believers were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” And so are we. We were filled, individually and personally, with the Holy Spirit at our baptism. We are filled collectively with the Holy Spirit as we gather together around Word and Sacrament, which is how the Spirit promises to work and where Jesus Christ promises to be.

The Christians in Jerusalem were one in heart and mind. They were so united that they shared everything, and didn’t consider anything to be their own. That doesn’t mean that socialism is the answer for the world’s problems, or that it is the only God-pleasing economic system for Christians to live by. What it means is what it says ― the disciples shared everything they had out of love. Especially look at what the very next verse says ― the most important thing they had in common: the testimony of the resurrection, which they shared boldly. That is certainly a treasure worth sharing.

The apostles prayed together, to Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior and the Lord and Savior of the Church. And they stayed together ― under God’s protection and blessing, one in heart and mind, sharing what they had, boldly proclaiming Christ and his resurrection in the face of people who opposed that teaching.

We, too, who pray together in the holy house of God will stay together as well. Not necessarily here on earth. Certainly not because of the fine words of our prayers, the beautiful music of the piano, or the ancient songs of the Church which we join. Definitely not because of our sincere hearts, our upright and blameless lives, or our whole-hearted walking together here in this sinful world.

No. We have the Holy Spirit’s testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The testimony that our sins are forgiven and that eternal life is ours from God as a gift by grace alone. We receive that gift in the faith God creates and strengthens in our hearts, and we cling to the Word of God with its gracious promises of eternal life for the certainly of our salvation. That’s where our sure and certain hope is founded, that we, the family of God, who pray together will stay together.

“With great power, continue to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and may much grace be upon you all.” Amen.


Well, even though they misspelled my name, I’m proud to say I made it into Lutheran Carnival of Blogs XXIII. Enjoy!

PS ― did you know that “carnival” is from the Latin words “Carne” and “Vale,” which means, when put together, “Farewell to meat.” As in, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Martes Gordo, Meatfare, preparation for Lenten fasting? Neato.

Silver Dollars

My father-in-law is a man of many stories. One of his most memorable was told to me as we drove together through the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. He had been stationed at Walker AFB just outside Roswell back in the 1950s. Walker AFB was the biggest SAC base in the country, was home of the famous atomic-bomb-dropping 509th, and later became home to a squadron of ICBMs during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It turns out that the people of Roswell weren’t getting along very well with the Air Force people back in Harry’s day. You military people probably know the story ― the military guys were a drain on the economy, disturbers of the peace, bad for the town. The base commissary and exchange was unfair competition for local merchants. Young, irresponsible airmen disrupted the normality of life, corrupted the girls, ran out honest folk, etc. I guess at one point people even marched in the streets protesting the Air Force presence in their town.

One week, the base commander at Walker (in the 50s, as I gather, base commanders were basically God) decided to show the town a thing or two. So he paid all of his airmen their entire paycheck in silver dollars, encouraging them to spend their money as usual.

At the end of the week, the base commander personally went from shop to shop up and down the main street of town, asking shopkeepers how many silver dollars they had in their tills. Of course, you can guess what he found. The airmen at Walker, like most airmen at most airbases, spent lots of their money in town. Some of it was at the bars and liquor stores, yes. But also the grocery stores, hardware store, dry cleaners…just about everywhere the other residents of Roswell spent their money. Far from being a drain on the economy of Roswell, the Air Force base was an almost indispensable part of it.

Is what is going on today across the country a macrocosm of this little event? (Read one of the many stories here.) I personally hope that it is; TCS columnist Lee Harris has a slightly more pessimistic view here. I hope and pray that this attention-grabbing stunt, which has been treated with some disdain even by those in the Hispanic community, is only that: a stunt. The Walker base commander made his point with little or no disruption, and I think that the immigrants’ point can be made effectively with a one day show-of-force as well.

Yes, there is an “immigration problem” in this country. No, kicking out all the illegals isn’t the answer, and neither is legalizing all of them. Yes, the problem needs solutions. No, the solutions aren’t as easy as a fifteen foot wall and machine gun nests and mass deportations.

Not to over-simplify, but at the root of all of this are two related issues. First, there are several parts of the world in which making a sustainable living is simply impossible. There are places on this planet where the inhabitants are faced with the choice to move or starve. It’s not always the case that people are climbing fences and swimming rivers to get to the US, it’s that sometimes people are floating across the ocean in boats and stowing away in railroad cars to get away from their home, because they can’t live in their homes anymore. And that’s sad.

The second, related, problem is that for too long the US has made it too easy to get here and work here illegally. People, like pressurized water in an espresso machine, take the path of least resistance. Lax enforcement of untenable laws has done the job of enabling millions of people to live and work here at great social and economic cost to the legal residents of this country.

And not to over-simplify, but to me the problem has a threefold solution. First, on an individual level, human decency and Christian charity compels us to help the poor, the weak, the fatherless, and the widow. I think that must extend to the poor in other countries, especially considering Jesus’ injunction to love our neighbors as ourselves. If their homes are more livable, many of them won’t have to make the hard choice to come here.

Secondly, on a national level, the problem of illegal entry can’t be controlled at the border. I think it needs to be controlled at the place of employment. Higher fines and stricter enforcement of existing employment laws must be part of the answer ― if the demand for illegal labor goes down, the supply must inevitably decline as well.

Hand-in-hand with that must be a “guest worker” program that actually works. It needs to be simple enough to be easier than the illegal alternative. It should probably use some sort of fee or special income tax to pay for itself. Basically, the program needs to be structured in such a way that anyone who wants to (who’s not a felon, drug dealer, or a terrorist) can enter this country decently and in order to work, pay taxes, send his money home, and not die of dehydration on his way through the desert.

It seems like some people are taking an unwisely “liberal” view of this problem, the same view people take on Iran, Social Security, and so many other world problems: if we ignore it, maybe it’ll go away (or at least not bother us). Just give them all amnesty and forget about it. Some are taking a heard-heartedly “conservative” view, a view that didn’t work for the US before either of the world wars and a view that won’t work today: throw up the wall, man the barricades, look to ourselves and let the rest of the world go to hell. As usual, somewhere in the middle is the answer, and answer that takes seriously our duty as both responsible citizens of this country, responsible members of a global economy, and forgiven sinners in a God-redeemed human race. Pray that this country find that answer, soon.

I don’t have all the answers. I might not even have any of the answers. But I’ll be surprised if, at the end of this controversial day, I don’t have a silver dollar or two in my cash register.