Theology for all!

Friday, April 26, 2024

Standard Equipment -- An Observation, Rev Irvin Stapf, AALC

 (Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,

                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 

An Observation: Comes as Standard Equipment

A few years ago our middle daughter had the opportunity to buy a seven passenger Honda SUV. This was

very helpful since she is a foster mom who now has five children between the ages of 3 and 9. Two of the

older ones take the third row. The middle row accommodates the child car seat and the booster. Everyone

is safe and belted in. The front passenger seat accommodated the her purse and whatever other items are

necessary at the time. ..... Stay with me all this does have an important point!

There is a fold down video screen for entertainment, and various books and games for longer journeys. All

very convenient and should be sufficiently useful for any journey, short or long. The one difficulty is the

children's tendency not to keep their hands to themselves. Whether initially accidental or intentional matters

little. What is heard is "She hit me." Which of course requires a response of equal or greater magnitude. But

that was intentional and cannot be ignored. The back and forth continues to greater or lesser degree until

there is some intervention.

All of this sounds familiar to every parent in one form and degree or another. It may be in the form of

expressions, "That isn't fair." "She did it to me first." "But you gave him...." "I want......" "But I'm old

enough....." "Billy's mom lets him....." ; or just the very standard and oft used, "Why?" You see, what is

happening in the back seats of a Honda SUV is the display of what people in our Lutheran Church worship

service confess every Sunday morning. “We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.”

Other Christian denominations acknowledge the same truth in one form or another. Our fallen human nature

is part of our standard equipment ever since our first rebellion from the will of our God in the Garden. There

must also be the acknowledgment that the solution is not within ourselves. It is not just a matter of trying


Bear with me further and consider the words in our Lutheran service:


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our

sins God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in

thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not

loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve

your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to

the glory of your holy name. Amen


Almighty God in his mercy has given his Son to die for you and for his sake forgives you

all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore declare

unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of

the Holy Spirit.


Amen. Thanks be to God.

One might ask why we feel is necessary to continue to do this each week when the Pastor has declare our

forgiveness in Jesus Christ our Lord? I believe we find that answer in the back seat of a Honda SUV! It is

also on the front page of every newspaper and evening newscast, headlined in everynational response of one

nation to another's aggressive affront. Of course there are many more complex factors involved but it still

comes down to standard equipment displayed in those sitting in the third row of a Honda SUV.

Dear friends, don't make light of that word sin. Don't treat the account of Creation and Fall recorded in

Genesis chapters one, two, and three as myths. It is what explains so much of what we see in our world and

in ourselves everyday.

The standard for what is good is God Himself, the perfection in which He created us and desired for us. But

our first parents yielded to the devil's temptation to want more, breaking the clear command of our God.

Ever since we have inherited the standard equipment of sin within our human nature. As our Lutheran liturgy

declares it is not a problem we are able to fix. All the expressions we like to use have no place. "It's really

not so bad." "Everybody does it." "We can work it out." or even the fear of each country having enough

bombs to destroy the world.

The solution is not within us. The Solution is only in the promise of Genesis 3:15, the promised Redeemer

who will ultimately crush the head of the Serpent, the devil, the fallen angel Lucifer. It is He, the Lord Jesus

Christ, crucified, died, and raised again from the dead, who lives forevermore. It is He who we have just

celebrated in this Easter Season. It is He, alone, who is able to change our nature, giving us life, hope, and


We will still have to deal from time to time with those sitting in the back seats of the Honda, but they too

can learn. They too can grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus, beginning to make some better choice about

how to respond to wayward hand, intentional or not. We are redeemed in Jesus and can mature in the only

life that truly has meaning and brings us into God's peace.

May you learn this a bit more each day dear friend.


 (Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,

                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Rev. Irvin Stapf On Love

 Back in ancient days when I was in what was then called Junior High School, 8th or 9th grade, one of our English teachers would put an expression on the black board and ask us to explain what it meant. One that has stuck with me to this day is from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116. At the time I don't think we even knew what a Sonnet was. At any rate the quote said:     

                "Love is not love which altars when it altercation finds." 
The class talked about it for a little while but I don't think that we really understood it. Since we are in the midst of this Holy Week and Easter Season I think it really is a very apt expression. Though Shakespeare didn't really intend it in a religious sense.
From Holy Scripture we read and often quote it's most famous verse. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life." St. John's Gospel Chapter 3, verse 16. This is speaking of the relationship between God and all mankind whom He created. That is the depth, St. John is saying, of the love that Almighty God, our Father, has for each one of us. If we have even a casual relationship with Christians or Christian church worship we've been told that God loves us. It is also one of those expressions that we first begin to question when we find our self in some difficulty or need. Yet, Scripture continues to declare it as God's truth for each human life.
We also realize that from the time the Bible records our first rebellion from God's will we have caused our Lord a lot of trouble or "altercation" in the Sonnet's terms. So much of what leads us to question God's love is the brokenness of this fallen and rebellious world in which we live. We suffer because of things we've done ourselves, or things that happen to us even through no direct fault of our own. Yet we still declare that God's loves us even though we don't fully understand why things happen as they do. Is this really love with all of this altercation around me?
I attended a Good Friday community service last evening where the pastor was talking about the nature of this God-love. The service was a large gathering of eight local congregations, 300 or400 Christians, many young families with small children. The pastor knew the love the people had for one another and observed that many of these people would be willing to even give their life to protect one of their friends. Many agreed that they would be willing. We have all heard accounts of this actually happening in times of great danger.
But then the pastor asked how many of us would be willing to give the life of one of our children to save the life of another? This question bit us very deeply, and none in this large gathering was able to answer in the affirmative. None of us could say that we had that much love to help another in need.
Is that not the love we are taught that God loves each of us? And we can't pass it off easily by saying, "Oh, but God knew He was going to bring Jesus back to life." That trivializes all of the events that led to the the crucifixion and the words spoken from the cross. 
The man Jesus, the son of God in human flesh, was without sin. There was no guilt found in Him, and yet He was given by the Father to take the punishment each of us deserves. We hear that often in our church fellowships, but don't ever minimize it. The depth of pain is contained in the words spoken from the cross on our behalf. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." That is our pain He is feeling through the nails in His hands and feet and the hatred in the taunts of the jeering crowd. 
That is the love that refused to altar in the midst of your and my altercation of numerous sins and a very sinful nature. That is the depth of love God, our Father, has for you as He works each day, in each situation of life, to lead you into His best life. 
And since I'm writing this on the Saturday morning after Good Friday, we have the assurance of that love in the truth of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday morning. These are not just nice Christian stories or sayings we write on a chalk board. This is life itself! The life that offers us forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. The life that comforts and strengthens us in worst of life's times. The life that seeks to guide us day by day giving us meaning and purpose. And a life that assures us of it's endless nature in eternal fellowship with our Good Lord.
This is the life and love that allows us to identify with the Lord Jesus when He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit", and to know the depth of love that passes all understanding. 
God's blessing my dear friends. Rejoice, and live daily in God's love and your love for one another.  Amen.
(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,
                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 
cell: 240-285-4472

Monday, March 11, 2024

Holiness -- Rev Irvin Stapf, Christ Lutheran Germantown, AALC

 Greetings to everyone,

     Here are more reflections from Rev Irvin Stapf, Pastor Emeritus, Christ Lutheran Church, Germantown, MD, AALC. 

Sometime back in grade school, many ..... many years ago, we were introduced to the 1913 poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer with its beginning line, "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree." The speaker insists that no human art or creation can match the beauty and majesty of nature. A commentary states that, "The poem can thus be read as a hymn of praise to God’s creation, celebrating both the wonder of the natural world and its maker." 

Why this came to mind now I have no idea but the description in the above commentary with the words "beauty", "majesty", and "wonder", are a strong parallel for my thoughts this morning. I'm thinking about the concept of holiness, the awesome wonder and holiness of our Lord God. I think of Moses doing the mundane work of tending a flock of sheep and being confronted by God appearing to him in the form of a burning bush that is not consumed. He heard the words, "take the shoes off your feet for you are standing on Holy ground". (Exodus 3:5) Later, in the Exodus account, Moses has spent time with God and returning to his people with his face radiating light from his holy encounter. (Exodus 34:29f) Or the prophet Isaiah falling prostrate trembling before his vision of God Almighty. (Isaiah 6) There are many such descriptions of encountering God's holiness.
In the fast-paced and event-crowded days we become calloused to a sense of the awe and wonder of the Lord God who appears to us in many and varied ways if we are willing to look around, to think, to meditate, to offer a brief prayer, to worship. The message in today's sermon at church was about a Jealous God who will not allow worship due to Him to be shared with any idols we may create. But this is not because He is a vain and egotistical lord. Rather, His jealousy is for us. We are His creation. He knows that our best good, our most joy-filled life, most secure and a life of peace, is only found when we are enfolded in the presence of His Holy Life. He is the source of life upon which we draw in worship, whether from the wonder of nature, or the setting of corporate worship. It is important for us to look for and enter into that sense of God's Holiness.
It is why we call the room for our worship a Sanctuary. It is why, in that room, we have an altar separated by a chancel rail. It is from this area that we hear the Word of God and receive the Holy Sacrament. There have been times at that rail that I have been unable to speak, and holy tears were the only response I could give. I don't expect everyone to respond the same way, but however you respond realize that you come into the sacred presence of Almighty God. Be humbled and rejoice in it!  It is in God's blessed presence you find your life.
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.   .......
“You, Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old like a garment Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” (Hebrews 1:1-4, & 10-11)
(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,
                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 
cell: 240-285-4472

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Beyond The Surface -- Rev Irvin Stapf, Christ Lutheran Germantown

 Don’t settle for surface comments, even mine!

An editorial recently printed in our Frederick newspaper asked the question, What is an American? It was by Fred Fransen, President of Huntington Junior College in W.Va. He pointed out that our country was founded on ideas or principles that have endured up until recent decades. It is again time for Dr. Fransen to take a hard look at those values.
It seems to me that this means looking beyond the surface declarations to the substance upon which declarations are made. This is what I was referring to last week on the issue of abortion rights which has become central in our current election cycle. I pointed out that several other moral issues precede the need to consider an abortion. This need to look beyond the surface is apparent, or should be, in most of what we hear and read.
I’ve said that my basis for writing is as a Christian seeking to base my judgments on the values and will of our Lord as understood through God’s Word in Holy Scripture. It is pointed out that much of Mr. Trump’s support is from a large block of Evangelical Christians. But again, this is a statement that needs to be examined.
An article in The Economist Weekly of March 2021 asked the question “What is an evangelical Christian?” After looking at recent history since Jimmy Carter’s presidency in 1976, the article noted that “white evangelicals have established themselves as America’s most cohesive and influential religious voting block. ... They have become “the bedrock of the Republican Party. After insisting throughout the 1990's that character mattered, and that Bill Clinton was morally unfit for the presidency, they threw their support behind Donald Trump, a thrice-married rake.” It was then asked, “So what do evangelical Christians really believe?”
A recent article in World magazine noted that “some Americans who self-identify as ‘evangelicals’ to pollsters do not actually attend church regularly. Increasingly, the term is used more in a “political, cultural sense than a theological church sense,” said political scientist Ryan Burge. He predicted these “cultural evangelicals” will make up about 12 percent of Trump’s self-identified evangelical voters in 2024. Others have said that they are willing to overlook Mr. Trump’s moral issues because he is the only one who can beat Mr. Biden.
Thomas Edsall of The New Times had an article entitled “The Deification of Donald Trump Poses Some Interesting Questions”. I’ll let the article’s title speak for itself. You can look it up on the internet if you care to. I’ve already declared my personal opposition to Mr. Trump for President. I’ve said enough about that and it is not my central issue. I’m looking at the shallowness of our evaluations and our need to stand firm on a foundation of well-considered values.
Jesus, on trial and standing before Pontius Pilate said, “I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38) That is our challenge, to determine what is the truth. I leave it with you to seriously consider. It is a very serious question and one that can lead to some personal sacrifice and pain. It certainly did for our Lord.
(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,
                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 
cell: 240-285-4472

Sony Walkman? -- Rev Irvin Stapf, Christ Lutheran, Germantown

 I am a grandfather and therefore about 40 years removed from raising our five children. But I still think a lot about that era and what my wife and I did with our kids. There were certain patterns in which both Audrey and I were raised, and certain values that we together felt were important. It was these values that guided our family life. I expect the same is pretty much true for other families of my generation. We could list several examples but I'd rather get to the central point at which I'm aiming.  The Walkman!

Of course, one has to be close to my generation to even remember what a Walkman is! They were a portable cassette tape player in the 1960s and '70s. Though they still exist but have graduated to playing CDs rather than tapes, and now even those are well outdated. In any event, it was a big thing with 1970s teens. They had headphones or earbuds and listened to their favorite music as loud as they wanted not bothering anyone else. But back to my parenting. 
I never allowed our kids to have a Walkman. I felt that it closed them in from the world and from others. I remember our vacations in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We would walk along the boardwalk, lots of people around, and many kids all in their own world. I know our children didn't like not having them. And it was not that their music was bad. It is just that when one is distracted in that manner they are not aware of, or more importantly looking for the beauty and interesting things around them in their present world. Or for that matter in conversations with those close by. 
Now move that image 30 or 40 years forward into our time and we can see how this has been multiplied many times over, and with adults included. I'm not opposed to technology. We are all immersed in it. It has its uses obviously, otherwise, I wouldn't be typing this on a laptop and sending it to you over the Internet. But I am opposed to those things that close us into ourselves apart from those around us, and make us unobservant of the beauty and interesting things in our world. ... Did you notice that little green sprout popping out of the ground in response to those few warmer winter days even when there was still some snow around?
Life has meaning. That life is around us all the time in the world God created. There is life in the clerk at the grocery store, and just maybe that clerk needs a bit of life that we might share with them. Life really doesn't come through a smartphone, but through one who learns that many things around us really are pretty neat, that that person really is important to me, and maybe I have a bit of life I can share with them.  Give it some thought. Life in this world God has given us really does have meaning.
(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,
                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 
cell: 240-285-4472

Monday, February 5, 2024

Politics-Rev Irvin Stapf, AALC

Observations on the American Political Climate


I have never gotten involved in politics except for my own voting preferences. But this year is different, at least in my making some comments about what is happening nationally. Our country is in total confusion and grabbing at straws, primarily because we have lost our central anchor point in our Judeo-Christian foundation. America has been the so called world leader, but we are now in a position where we don't even know how to lead ourselves. I know these are statements of an "old man" whose values are grounded in another era. I thank God for that, even though that other era was no utopia either. At least it didn’t have me submersed in an electronic screen, and it allowed me to use my imagination, look out at the world asking questions, and develop real relationship with people who became a part of me.


What does Make America Great Again mean? I wrote above that we have lost our central anchor point in our Judeo-Christian foundation. That doesn’t mean that we are not to allow other faiths to worship as they wish, but we have taken the whole aspect of inclusion to change the very foundation of our souls.


I can’t continue what I’m seeking to share by using veiled references to a candidate. I am totally opposed to Mr. Trump for President. But that doesn't mean I'm recommending another candidate. That's my own personal voting preference. Rather, I look at what is happening around our country in those promoting their favorite candidate.


Many have pointed out that President Trump appointed the conservative Supreme Court Justices who were the balance in overturning the legalization of abortion. For many the opposition to abortion has become a central determining issue. I’m opposed to abortion also, but there is far more to it than that. Abortion, presented as a women’s right over her own body, is only the end point of many other moral choices we’ve allowed to become normal and assumed values in today’s world. Consider the devaluation of marriage and family; an economy that requires the employment of both spouses in order to have the lifestyle they want; thus pushing off child bearing to a later age when it is more difficult or not at all; removing sexual intercourse from the bond of a covenant marriage and making it an assumed part of a longer term dating relationship; along with the easy availability of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. The affects of all of these and more are seen throughout western society.


Mr. Trump is hardly an exemplary leader in areas of sex, marriage, and family. And while that is not a political leaders primary function, if they have not sought to govern their own life in these fundamental areas I am not going to look to them as a good national leader. Making America great is meaningless without a solid and consistent moral base.


An LA Times article questioned whether humans can survive democracy. A better question is whether democracy can survive fallen humanity. ..... “A democracy can only be sustained if informed citizens operate within a moral framework. This, in turn, requires an understanding of the world as it actually is, especially what it means to be human. Elected representatives who can’t distinguish good from evil, or “man” from “woman” can hardly be expected to enact policies that allow men and women to seek the good.”


There is much more to say about our need for good leadership, but one must not look only at narrow issues that seem to satisfy surface policies and only give the appearance security, prosperity, and a good life. 



(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,

         & above all Romans 8:38-39)

Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.

Pastor Emeritus

Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC

Germantown, Md.

cell: 240-285-4472

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Sites I Like

Hey Team! It's ya boy Cam Swanson, right here on the Wittenberg Project! Check us out on YouTubeWittenberg Project YouTube, and feel free to email us here: Just wanted to highlight some websites that I utilize. Check em' out!