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