26 July 2014

Luther's first hymn

Flung to the heedless winds
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs' ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.
And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed
Of witnesses for God.

The Father hath received
Their latest living breath,
And vain is Satan's boast 
Of victory in their death.
Stil, still, tho' dead, they speak,
And, trumpet-tongued, proclaim
To many a wakening land
The one availing Name.

—TLH 259, Martin Luther, upon the death of the young Augustinian martyrs John and Henry, burned at the stake in Brussels. This is only a very small selection of the hymn (really a ballad), but they seemed particularly fitting, thinking of the many who are shedding their blood for Christ in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere. 

As images trickle out

of the horrid persecution of our fellow Christians under ISIS, the importance of remembering the persecuted in prayer comes to mind. Here is the paragraph that touches on this in LSB's General Prayer I:

Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity. Grant courage and steadfastness especially to those who suffer for Your name’s sake that they may receive and accept their afflictions in the confidence that You will acknowledge them as Your own.

This, though, is not exactly how the older prayer used to read. It was more audacious. If you look in your old The Lutheran Hymnal on pages 23, 24:

All who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are suffering for Thy name's and for Thy truth's sake, comfort, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Thy fatherly will.

And I ask myself, if I were under horrid persecution for the Gospel, which petition would I want my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ to pray for me? That I would receive and accept my afflictions in the confidence that God will acknowledge me as His own or that I would receive and acknowledge my afflictions as the manifestation of God's fatherly will?

To the world the older prayer makes no sense at all; seems an absolute affront to our notions about God. But when you're with Jesus in your own Gethsemane, I suspect the comfort of "Thy will be done" addressed to our precious Abba is what will carry the day for us. The older prayer, simply put, invited us into Jesus' prayer and in that there is an abundance of peace.

24 July 2014

Stopped in

again at St. Paul's as we headed up to Rich's to pick up Cindi's vehicle. The floors are both looking fantastic. I can't even begin to describe what it's like for our parish. We are all so very eager just to be able to pray again in that hallowed space, to sing before the altar, to receive from it our Lord's body and blood. Yes, we have been very blessed despite the fire. But the anticipation among us all is building to fevered pitch to be back HOME. That's the word. St. Paul's is our home. It's the place our pastors read the Word to us and preach the saving Gospel; the place we gather and sing the holy liturgy; the place we receive the most holy Eucharist and rejoice with new sisters and brothers in the baptismal waters; the place we gather to lay our dead to rest in the hope of the resurrection. I have been amazed at the emotional (and dare I say, spiritual?) difficulty of this past year, not having our church HOME to gather in. The renovations are all stunning and beautiful, and they are a very good stewardship of this place we've been entrusted with and will bless the next generations. And yet we all just want to "go home" - to be back in our beloved nave. It's very near, God willing.

23 July 2014

Today in Chapel

I ended up both playing and preaching. Well, sort of. I let Paul Gerhardt carry the heavy weight in both the message and in the music, but I got the pleasure of playing Stephen Johnson's remarkable tune for "Entrust Your Days and Burdens." A new Crüger, I tell you. What a match of text and tune!

21 July 2014

It hits me

every year. I sit and watch the pale sunlight fade in the ever quickening evenings of summer and a sense of sadness settles. How few are the summers of our lives! And the summers I hold in my mind now a memory and nothing more. The daisy fields at Aunt Emma's, the breakfast tables laden with tasty pork and fresh summer's fruit, the lazy afternoon dance of the dragonflies on the branch down the hill from the barn. It wasn't my home (it was my mom's) and yet the memories tend to gather there. And then a shift a few miles down the road: Sissy and I venturing to the spring house at Grandma Bess's in search of peanut butter. The little lizards that populated the spring itself and the water that tasted sweeter and better than any other on God's green earth. Fields of black-eyed susans. Driving past Ralph's old place in such a state of disrepair. Mom's dire warnings about the "black racers" that would chase you down if we ventured too near the run. Then suddenly back to the Old House.  One blessed evening when the cousins were all together and playing hide and seek in the woods as the lightning bugs flashed here and there and as it grew darker the whippoorwills singing  (but George and I were too little to participate and just heard their voices as we hung out on the front porch). Sigh. Blessed and wonderful memories. Faces long since vanished, or changed by the ravages of time. Random thoughts on the fading light of a summer's day.

20 July 2014

Baptized into Christ!

This morning at St. Paul's 7:45 Divine Service, our newest godchildren, Sammy and Joey, were baptized into Christ. Pr. Ball's use of the Alternate Order for Baptism, which is really a very clean adaptation of Luther's 1526 order, reminded me once again that this order is VASTLY to be preferred over the version that is printed in Lutheran Service Book.  It's so remarkably concise and straight-forward. None of that needless "explaining" that only ends up cluttering the liturgy. Rather, these boys were exorcised, signed with the cross, prayed over, renounced Satan and confessed the faith (through their sponsors), consented to Baptism, were brought into the family of God through the miracle of the water and Word joining them to Jesus in His death and resurrection, sealed with the Spirit, and illumined with the light of Christ. Pastors, if you've not considered the superiority of the alternate rite, check it out. It really is magnificent in its restraint.

Here are the proud sponsors with the lads following the liturgy:


17 July 2014

Was that a sigh of relief?

Yes, it was. Worship Book for Liturgical Institute FINALLY in hands of copy center. WHEW!

16 July 2014

Today's Chapel Homily

Reading:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Meditation:

You know something about the sufferings of this present time. You know them rather intimately and you’d really rather not. Suffering, particularly the suffering of those we love, has a way of consuming all our vision. Like a massive vacuum it sucks our vitality and energy right down. 

Today the Holy Spirit through St. Paul gives us a different way of thinking about suffering. You see, he holds all the pain and sorrow of this life up against the glory that waits for us. And he finds that the sufferings are simply outweighed. 

What’s coming, what’s headed our way, this renewal of all creation, this setting free of the entire cosmos into the glorious liberty of God’s children, this shining world that Isaiah foretold where there was no fear because there was no death. Lions and bears playing with children and even the poisonous vipers tamed and freed and playing with the little ones! Sufferings banished in bodies resurrected and made incorruptible. Futility and corruption, the falling apart of that which God joined together – body and soul – now forever banished. It's so huge. So immense. IT vacuums up the sorrows!

And St. Paul says that creation itself, then, waits on tiptoe for this unveiling of the sons of God. The creation itself groans along with us because it knows that this world as it is, is NOT this world as it shall be. It’s groaning in pangs of childbirth, waiting, longing, aching for the glory that IS surely coming.

How could Paul be so certain? It doesn’t look like there’s a great renewal coming. It looks like death wins the day. Over and over again. But you have been given the Holy Spirit, the firstfruits. This is the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Spirit of Him who has already in His Son begun the renewal of this entire creation. Already there is human flesh, descended from Adam, that has been raised in incorruption and seated in glory. Your Jesus is the promise and payment that YOU will be set free too. The Spirit witnesses this hope inside you. And when the sufferings are bad, and the strain is very heavy, the Spirit reminds you again and again that the new life that shone forth from the grave on Easter is not just something for your Lord Jesus, but a new life that He won for you and will give to you. It’s yours now in a hidden way through your baptism, but it will be yours opens openly and manifestly on the day of Christ’s appearing! 

Groan, then, but groan in hope. Throw against the sorrow and dread, the song of the promise of what will be. The glory that outweighs every suffering. And so pray with the Spirit and the whole Church: Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Hymn 342: "What Hope! An Eden Prophesied"