Happy Reformation Day

499 years ago today Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, unknowingly becoming the catalyst for the Reformation. Robert Gebel has written this song to commemorate that pivotal event in history.

The Reformation Polka
by Robert Gebel

[Sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious”]

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter’s profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints’ Bull’tin board:
“You cannot purchase merits, for we’re justified by grace!
Here’s 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!” Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
“Are these your books? Do you recant?” King Charles did demand,
“I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!” Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting “George” as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin’s model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Let’s raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh…

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!


A Little Wisdom from a Wise Coach


Since my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks are playing Auburn today on the plains of Alabama, my mind wanders back to an old story that I heard about longtime Auburn football coach, James Ralph “Shug” Jordan (pronounced Jer-dun, like it should be).

Shug was explaining to one of his assistant coaches the kind of players that he wanted him to recruit. He said, “You know those players that get knocked down and they don’t get up? Don’t recruit them. But, you know those players that get knocked down, and get up. Then, they get knocked down again, and they get up. Then, they get knocked down again and they get up?” The assistant said, “So you want me to recruit the players that keep getting up?” Shug said, “No. I want you to recruit the players that keep knockin’ them down.”

Go, Hogs, go!



Durke’s Burger and the Tarzan Yell


KOGT’s website announced yesterday:

“What’s going on at the “old Cody’s” near the corner of 16th and I-10? Yes the building is being torn down and land is being cleared.  TxDOT has been in the process of connecting the service road from 16th Street to Bob Hall Rd on both the north and south side of I-10.”

I understand calling it “old Cody’s” but for those of us who voted in the 1972 presidential election it was (and will always be), “Durke’s Burger.” They had great flame broiled burgers, onion rings, chicken and fish dinners, chocolate malts, and best of all, ice cream. Mr. Durke was a really nice guy (he lived close to my cousin in Lowe Addition) and put up with a lot from teenagers who would gather there after church on Sunday night (note: my view of the importance of the Sabbath is higher now than it was then).

The most memorable event that ever happened in that building in the mind of this humble observer was the time when we (the youth group) went from table to table collecting an offering to try to get our youth minister to hop up on a table, beat his chest, and holler like Tarzan. If I remember correctly, about a dollar and half was collected, and lo, and behold, Bro. ___________ did just that. Needless to say, that did not sit well with the powers that be where we went to church (and I still feel a little guilty about egging him on to do that, even after all these years). Needless, to say when I travel to Orange, and pass up that empty lot on 16th street, I will stop and listen, to see if the echo of that Tarzan yell still can be heard in the breeze rustling through the tallow trees.

“It’s that time again”


It’s that time again. The presidential election is only nineteen days away. To be frank, there are not many positive things that I can say about it, other than place in evidence the fact that our country has survived FDR’s decade long assault on the Constitution, Richard Nixon’s criminal behavior, Bill Clinton’s unseemly actions in the Oval Office and perjury conviction, along with his disbarment, and other Presidential misdeeds down through the years, so my hope is that it can survive four years of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Where do I fall when it comes to this year’s election? I think I am simply glad that it is a secret ballot. No good choices here.

I have never considered myself a one issue voter. I believe in limited government (the more limited, the better), fiscal responsibility (we haven’t seen that in decades), I look for someone that I can trust to have their finger on the button (haven’t seen that in a while), and it would be nice if the President actually meant that phrase in his oath of office that says that he will do his best to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I have voted for people who have been further down the continuum on these issues than I would have preferred, but I can live with that, because no candidate if perfect.

However, there is one issue that is a deal-breaker for me: if the candidate supports abortion in any form, he or she will not get my vote. I cannot in good conscience cast a ballot for anyone who is willing to allow the dismemberment and death of another human being, whether they have been born or not. It does not matter if they are fiscal conservatives, if they believe in limited government, or if I can trust them with “the button,” anyone who will not protect the right to life of our weakest and most helpless citizens, cannot be trusted to do the right thing in any other area. So if you consider me narrow minded and rigid, so be it. I can live with that. Life is precious.

Whatever happens, my trust will remain in God, and I will worship Him on His Day, for there is no President who will ever be able to take that away from me.

“When I find myself in times of trouble…”—Paul McCartney


Years ago I heard an apocryphal story about church life that always made me snicker (even before I retired), so for some goofy reason I thought that I would share it with the few people that check out this blog (If I could remember from whom I heard it first I would give him credit, or blame, but it was decades ago). I will give you the Presbyterian version:

A pastor was called to a new church and on the day he arrived he received a phone call from the former pastor. The former pastor said, “I have prepared three envelopes and left them in your desk drawer numbered 1, 2, and 3. Do not open them until a crisis occurs, and they will guide you through the challenging time, but do not open them until you have to, and be sure to open them in order.” The “new kid on the block” thanked the old pastor for his help, and let him know how much he appreciated him caring enough to help.

For several months church life went smoothly for the new pastor, but eventually a crisis popped up. He was at his wits’ end, and decided it was time to open the first envelope. It said simply, “Blame me.” So he did. He blamed the former pastor, and sure enough, things settled down and the church was able to move beyond the trouble.

For the next 18 months things went well until he came to another seemingly insurmountable problem. He went to the desk drawer and pulled out envelope number two. It said simply, “Blame the ruling elders.” (Baptist version: “Blame the deacons.”) So, since it worked so well with the first envelope, he took the advice. He blamed the ruling elders and once again the crisis blew over.

At the beginning of his third year at the church a really big problem arose. With much hope the pastor went once again to his desk drawer to find guidance to help him in a time of great need. He opened the third envelope and read the following words, “Prepare three envelopes…”

Tuesday Hymns: “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart”

Last night at our evening worship service we sang as an opening hymn, Edward Plumptre’s hymn, “Rejoice, Ye Pure In Heart,” which is this weeks, “Tuesday Hymn.” Plumptre was educated at King’s College in London, and then at University College at Oxford. He was ordained in 1847 and spent his life in academia and in preaching. This particular hymn is a wonderful reminder that all of us are called to sing praise and thanksgiving to our king whether we are young or old, in “gladness and in woe,” and that it will continue even when we “enter [our] heavenly home.” It is sung to the tune of Arthur Henry Messiter’s tune, “Marion.”

Rejoice, ye pure in heart!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing!
Your glorious banner wave on high,
the cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

With voices full and strong
as ocean’s surging praise,
send forth the hymns our fathers loved,
the psalms of ancient days.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Yes, on through life’s long path,
Still singing as you go;
From youth to age, by night and day,
In gladness and in woe.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

At last the march shall end;
the wearied ones shall rest;
the pilgrims find their heavenly home,
Jerusalem the blessed.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Then on, ye pure in heart!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing!
Your glorious banner raise on high,
the cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing!

On World Teachers’ Day


I noticed on Twitter that today is World Teachers’ Day. Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of ability. Like any other occupation there are good teachers and bad teachers, and we have all experienced both kinds during the course of our lives. All of us have teachers who made a marked difference in our lives. I have my list: from elementary school, Mrs. Nies; from Jr. High, Mrs. Pinki Riess and Mrs. Matthews; from high school, Mr. Lennie Dauphin; from college, Dr. Ralph Wooster; from seminary, Dr. Tom Nettles and Dr. Curtis Vaughn. Of course, we also have those who robbed the tax payers and had no business being called an educator such as…you really thought I would name names?

There are two requirements of a good teacher. First of all, he (or she) must have a mastery of the material. One can’t “teach” what one doesn’t “know.” However, that is not enough. I once had a geology professor who I am sure knew all there was to know about rock formations, sediments, salt domes, etc. but could never keep any of us awake long enough to pass the information along to us. He was similar to a certain preacher of whom it was said, “could go down deeper, stay down longer, and come up drier than anyone on the face of the earth.

A teacher must also have the ability to pass on his knowledge to his students. He (or she) must be able to communicate, and pass on his love of learning. The best example of such a teacher in my life as a student was Joseph Lambert, a history professor at Lamar University from the early 1970s until his death approximately twenty years later. There was no doubt that he knew the material, there was no doubt that he loved learning, and there was no doubt that he was able to pass on his love for learning to his students. He actually cared for and related to his students. I discovered this when I took his freshman World Civilization course. I had Spanish the hour before his class and often came in whining about Dr. Smith and the misery she was putting us through. So, lo and behold, when I received my blue book back from him after our first test, he had written all of his comments in Spanish (I later found out he took the time to get Dr. Pineda to translate what he wanted to say into Spanish so he could do that).

After two semesters of World Civ, he impressed me enough that I took him for two semesters of Russian history. He never tried to push his political views on us, or endeavor to become some great “change agent” (I am sure he would have been a great disappointment to John Dewey), he simply taught us the cause and effect of history, and taught us to desire to dig deeper, and go “ad fontes” (to the sources). Oh, by the way, you never came into his class late. If the door was shut, just head back to the Setzer Center and play spades because he wasn’t going to let you in.

So on this day that honors great educators, I tip my hat to one of the best, Joseph Lambert. May your tribe increase!

Tuesday Hymns: “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” (One day early)


At our Sunday evening worship service the congregation makes hymn requests and last Sunday night we sang, “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” by Johann Franck (You can always tell when a former Lutheran requests a hymn; right, Beth Poss?). Franck was not a pastor, but a lawyer, and politician (He was the mayor of Konigsberg) in early 17th century Germany. He wrote over 100 hymns, approximately half of them being paraphrases of the Psalms.

Franck’s hymn speaks of the comfort that one finds in Christ, even in the midst of a world filled with evil and suffering. It is sung to Johann S. Bach’s tune, Je¬su, Meine Freude .

Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.

In Thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great power guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

Evil world, I leave thee;
Thou canst not deceive me,
Thine appeal is vain.
Sin that once did bind me,
Get thee far behind me,
Come not forth again.
Past thy hour, O pride and power;
Sinful life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee now forever.

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whatever we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!