The curiosity of Mormons

The American Southwest is Mormon country.  Or at least that is what it seemed to be in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  For on a recent vacation, whether by luck or by irony, we found ourselves encountering Mormons in unusual ways.

The first was in St. George, Utah, a community founded by Mormons, where we stopped for the night and before leaving the next morning decided to explore the local Mormon Temple and Visitor Center.

St. George actually has the oldest Mormon temple, built around 1870.  But of course, you cannot enter it; unless of course you are a Mormon in good standing.  The Visitors Center is a far different story; anyone can go in there, and take whatever pictures you like.

But that is hardly the only contrast here.  The Visitors Center was very appealing; in fact, one could hardly complain about it.  There was a statue of Jesus, with a recording of various verses from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, all of which sounded good and pleasing.  There was also a room depicting scenes from a typical family’s life, all of which would be very familiar to any family, and all of which could easily be commended.  The Visitors Center also offered any number of resources for free for any who might have even the most passing interest in anything they saw or heard.

Compare that, with the temple a mere 100 yards away.  Visitors could walk around the highly manicured grounds and take pictures of the outside of the temple; but there was no entry allowed.  In fact, the doors were all locked; windows blacked out; and the only people who we did see enter through a back door, had to be buzzed in.  Whereas anyone could go into the visitors center and feel at home and familiar with the teachings and Jesus portrayed there; what happened in the temple, the rituals and ceremonies that only the most devout Mormons could partake in, was closed off; presumably for fear of what outsiders might think, let alone say or do.

Which brings us to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  On Sunday morning we visited an LCMS church, which by happenstance was built directly across the street from a Mormon temple.  This temple was likewise locked up, windows blacked out, and no one was nearby.  The LCMS church on the other hand was bustling with activity on Sunday morning, with about 150 in attendance.  My wife and I were visitors, and yet we were welcomed to join in all the rights and ceremonies taking place, including Lord’s Supper.  And even if we were not in altar fellowship, we still would have been allowed to stay and worship.  Nothing was hidden, nothing was held back, we saw firsthand the worship and the life of the church.

When we departed following the service, the Mormon temple was still all locked up across the street, without even a gate visible to enter in to park.

This brings to mind Jesus word’s in the Garden of Gethsemane in St. Matthew 26:55: Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to capture me?  Day after day I sat in the temple teaching and you did not seize me.  Jesus words and teachings are public, not meant to be hidden or held back; but Satan works in darkness, using deception, seeking to devour all who believe.

The Visitors Center was bright and open and very welcoming indeed in St. George; but the temples in St. George and in Albuquerque were dark; contrast that with the LCMS church in Albuquerque which was very bright and open, with all focus on Jesus.

Which would you prefer?

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Greetings from America

My grandparents visited in one way or another, all 50 states.  Alaska was the last one, and they took a cruise on what was one of their last big trips together.

Of course, not every trip was the big deal that Alaska was; for instance, they only drove through a northern portion of Florida on their way someplace else.  But they did it.  Whether they planned to or not, whether they wanted to or not; they made it to all 50 states.

I think about that as I have just returned from a trip of some 3600 miles, where I was able to cross 5 states off my own list toward visiting all 50 states.

Granted there were times during both the planning and the execution of this trip, where the question of flying was broached.  Would you not enjoy more of your vacation if you were not cooped up in a car for a third of it?  Would you not spend the same amount on plane tickets as you would on gas and hotels and food?

And yet for better or for worse, we drove; and I’m glad we did.  First and foremost: flying only saves you money when you travel alone.  Gas and hotels are going to cost the same whether it is one person or 4, whereas each individual needs to purchase their own plane ticket.

But more importantly, was that while we spent a great deal of time in the car, it was not wasted hours; we got to see America.  We drove through the Rocky Mountains, which was quite incredible.  We drove through the Mojave Desert; which was far different than anything we had ever seen.  And because we drove, we were able to stop in Moab, Utah and explore Arches National Park; as well as St. George, Utah, and visit a Mormon Temple; not to mention seeing the Hoover Dam in Nevada.  We also got to stop at a variety of Welcome Centers, and dream of future trips.

None of which would have happened if we were in a plane.

Technology is an amazing thing; and it is a wonder of wonders that planes can cross the country in just a few hours, cutting travel time by literally days from what our ancestors traveled in covered wagons.  But for as impressive as it is to fly into New York City and peer down at the skyscrapers from above, I would rather drive and see all that is between here and there, and discover America all over again.

I am reminded of the scene in The Muppet Movie, where driving cross-county in his trusty Studebaker, Fozzie Bear sings America the Beautiful.  Truer words were never spoken: America is beautiful, and it is even more so when you are driving around, seeing the sights and the places that are impossible to see 20,000 feet in the air.

Who knows if we’ll make it to all 50 states; Hawaii may have to wait a while; and Montana and Idaho are kind of out of the way and may end up being like Florida was for my grandparents, just a drive through on the way to someplace else.

But the road maps are ready should the opportunity arise.  We pray it does, if for no other reason than while the bathrooms in airports may be cleaner and more easily accessible, the scenery is not nearly as impressive on your way to them.

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Seeking rest.

Pentecost 5 – St. Matthew 11:25-30

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Word Alone

First Lutheran Church    Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church    Natoma, Kansas

July, 2017

This is part 3 in a 4 part series on the Solas of the Reformation.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found in the January and April newsletters, part 4 will be in the October edition.

A new edition of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism is due for publication in the Fall.  It will contain more bells and whistles that previous editions did not include, and ultimately will become pretty standard throughout the Synod fairly quickly.

We’ll have signup sheets at the appropriate time if you would like to order one, but here is the thing: the new one will look a lot like the old one, whether the old one you are referring to is the 1943 version, or the 1986 version, or the 1991 version.  In fact, if you happened to come across the original 1529 version, it too would like very similar.

What’s up with that?

How can a catechism be updated every so often, and yet never actually change?

Well, what else never changes?

The Word never changes.  The Bible never changes.  The Word of God is timeless and unchanging; God’s Word does not change from one day to the next based on the times or the will of the people.  God’s Word does not get updated every couple of years because a new discovery has been made.  No; God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and forever.  And if the Word of God doesn’t change, then neither does our doctrine.

This is a radical idea to be sure.  Other confessions of faith believe that God’s word was written in a particular time and to a particular people and therefore does not apply to us modern day people.  Some churches put great value on the Word, but they also place value on tradition and other manmade institutions to account for changes in the world.  Still other religions rely on prophets to have a dream to reveal God’s new teaching to them.

What does this all look like?  It sounds like chaos, and it means that the faithful today really do not look anything like the faithful of years ago.  And it means that the faith is in danger of being led astray by false teachers, poor practices, and the whims and ways of the world.

But when the teachings of a church are based not on man or on practice, but rather on the solid ground of God’s Word, these dangers pass away.  Because who determines the doctrine and practice of the Church?  Not man; not tradition; not opinion polls; but rather the Word of God, the Word which never changes, but is the same yesterday, today and forever.

And that means that what you learn today, is the same things your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and all the way down the line learned; and it is what your children and grandchildren going forward will learn.  God’s Word does not change.  Not now; not ever.

So why a new edition of the Small Catechism?  If the teachings never change, because the Word never changes, why make a new one?

The cynic would say it is about making money, but in reality, the new edition will do what all the old ones strove to do: to back up the teachings with more of the Word.  To show you how the teachings of the Church provide real, solid answers to the question of how to live as a baptized child of God in the world today.

For the world does change, but the Word does not; therefore the answers never change.

God Bless!    Pastor Schmidt

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Happy Birthday!

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Wednesday of VBS

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Tuesday of VBS

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