04 February 2016

Patristic Quote of the Day

 We have therefore even now begun to be like Him, having the first-fruits of the Spirit; but yet we are still unlike Him, by reason of the remainders of the old nature.—St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins Book I:10

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As for you, be content with God incarnate. Then you will remain in peace and safety, and you will know God.—Martin Luther on Isaiah 61

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the judgment, certainly, from one sin, if it is not remitted— and that the original sin— is capable of drawing us into condemnation; while grace conducts us to justification from the remission of many sins—that is to say, not simply from the original sin, but from all others also whatsoever.—St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Book I:16

03 February 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the New Testament there is no other sacrifice than the ministry of the church, those who by teaching the Word spiritually "kill" the animals, that is, people who submit to the Gospel. Then there is the second sacrifice, that each one privately presents himself as a sacrifice to God by cleansing his desires and by mortifying himself. These are the noblest sacrifices of the New Testament, prefigured in the Old Testament by outward and physical ones.—Martin Luther on Isaiah 60:7

Patristic Quote of the Day

While Adam produced sinners from his one sin, Christ has by His grace procured free forgiveness even for the sins which men have of their own accord added by actual transgression to the original sin in which they were born.—St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Book I:14

02 February 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

"Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," he says, and this he means, Now I shall depart with my heart filled with joy; I see no death, I cannot even call it a death but a peaceful journey. He does not say, Now I wish to die, but now I wish to depart in peace. This was a song not just in his mouth, on his tongue, on paper, but in his heart! May our dear God and Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Son, grant us His grace through His Holy Spirit that we may join to sing along with beloved Simeon and also depart in peace. Amen.—Martin Luther, Homily for the Purification (House Postils III:283).

Patristic Quote of the Day

No doubt all they imitate Adam who by disobedience transgress the commandment of God; but he is one thing as an example to those who sin because they choose; and another thing as the progenitor of all who are born with sin.—St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, I:10.

01 February 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Healing means progress, increase, and your growth in this life and the next. A generous hand never suffered want. God's mercy is wider than ours.—Martin Luther, On Isaiah 58:8

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is more serious to lose hope than to sin.—St. John of Karpathos (Philokalia II:318)

Ancient Wisdom

I love it when you see alignment in what Lewis called the Tao. So, in Confucian practice there is apparently the custom of whispering to one's self before eating: Hari hachi bu. It's a reminder to self to eat mindfully and stop when you are 80% full. It's rather the antithesis of the Hobbitlike "filling in the corners."

And then you pick up the Philokalia and check out the words of Blessed John Cassian summarizing the wisdom of the fathers when it comes to fasting:  "They (the holy fathers) have not given us one single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness, or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: avoid over-eating and filling of our bellies." (On the Eight Vices)

Science, of course, explains a bit of the physical wisdom in this: we simply don't register how full we are as we are eating. It takes time for the belly to send the message to the brain: Enough! And if you eat quickly and till you are full, the message will come along too late.

Fasting this Lent? How about that wisdom from the Fathers being the first and foremost goal as you train your body that you do not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God: slow down and take time as you eat (avoid eat standing or on the go) and don't eat till you're full. Stop before the sense of satiety kicks in.

30 January 2016

Unbelievable weather...

...for St. Louis in January. We've already ventured out for an hour's walk. It's now 64.  We have curried chicken stir fry to serve over basmati, some chickpeas roasting, and broccoli and cauliflower roasting also. After that delicious meal, we intend to walk again and then catch a bit more of Downton Abbey. 

Friday's homily

By Pr. Larry Vogel...gold, pure gold. 

January 29, 2016

Matthew 20:1-16 

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.

A love that makes you wonder (“What kind of love is this?” LSB 542, refrain)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I’ll call them Joni and Frank. 

Our congregation and school had regular work days several times a year—Spring and Fall cleanup, planting flowers and trimming hedges, touch-up painting, whatever. We’d usually end with pizza for lunch. 

You had to love Joni. One of the best! You could count on herShe would be there early, committed and ready to work, and stay until the end

Then there was Frank, who showed up sometime late morning and promptly started to . . . talk! He wasn’t a bad guy, but he had a condition—total inability to multi-task. He couldn’t do anything while he was talking—couldn’t rake, couldn’t pick up trash, couldn’t mop. He could hold a rake for an hour, while he talked. He could let all the paint run out of a paintbrush without ever hitting the wall, while he talked. The only thing he could do while talking was eat. Boy, could he eat pizza—as much as any two or three others

Joni was nice, but Frank made her crazy. At times she felt like feeding Frank a pizza box, he made her so mad. And Joni would have had lots of assistance in the force-feeding. We could all sympathize. As much as we loved him, there was always that time when you wanted to throttle him. 

If we’re anything like Joni, we can understand why 

A. Jesus’ stories make you wonder

Think about this parable about the workersSome work a full day—not an 8 hour day, either, but a long 12 hour day! And others work—how much? An hour! One lousy hour! 

And everyone gets the same pay!The Joni-types that day were mad! What in the world! Is this fair?

Is it? It really makes you wonder! What kind of parable is this, Jesus? 

And this isn’t the only bizarre thing Jesus has to say. He talks about being unworried when you’re poor or naked or hungry since sparrows have food and lilies are beautiful (whoop-de-do); about being unafraid of murderous kings because they can only kill your body (is that all?); about mourning and meekness and the like as blessings (really?); about his disciples having to hatehusband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter to love him (if you can believe it!). And after he tells parables, like this one, that leave many confused, he goes on to explain that he’s doing it for that very purpose—to befuddle peopleso that some will not see and not hear (13:13)! 

How can he say stuff like that? 

It really does makes you wonder—and maybe even a little angry.

But it’s not just what he says, because 

B. His ways make you wonder, too

He goes to the least, not the greatest. Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, scholars—these were good people in countless ways, impressive people. But he seems to avoid them, and he calls them a brood of vipersThe rich? Their money matters not at all to him, who has nowhere to lay his head. He has the temerity to tell an eager-beaver lawyer to cash in his wealth and give it away. No wonder the strong and healthy don’t want him or like him

And he doesn’t seem to notice, since he is surrounded instead by common, workaday men and womenand, yes, even the poor, and, worse, by the unclean, leprous, and demonic, by sick and blind and lame people reduced to beggars, by women (even though a man shouldn’t talk to them) and by questionable women at that, by traitorous tax men, and the like. 

Surrounded by fellow Jews, he praises a Gentile’s faith and heals his servant. He heals lepers and unclean women. This man eats with sinners! He occupies himself not with the righteous, but with the seemingly worst of humanity

What in the world? Is this fair? How can he do stuff like that? That really makes you wonder, too, and maybe even a little angry.

And that. . . that wondering. . . is the point. 

C. Because his love makes you wonder 

We should wonder about this Jesus—what he says and does. The real danger is that we won’t wonder—we’ll just scoff. Worse, we might explain it away and water it all down and refuse to see how this dear Man longs to make us wonder—how he longs to shock us into sensibility. He longs to force us to see him as he is, so that we can see ourselves as we are. 

We pride ourselves on being good, solid, dependable, and, yes, right. We believe rightly and we act rightly and we are right. . . with people and with God. Right? 

Well? Not when Jesus comes back into our ears, into the eyes of our heart, into the secrets of our soul and starts to make us wonder. 

Does he come to commend us? No, he comes to open eyes and unstop ears with stories that strike at our hearts and deeds that stun us, not with sweet nothings and pious pleasantries

So, back to the story. Am I Joni or Frank—the one who works all day and grumbles or the one who shows up late only to be treated so generously

I might prefer to think myself a Joni, who’s worked all day. But fat chance! Any work I’ve done is not for him, but for me! No, his probing truth makes me realize that I’m not the strong and holy worker who has done all for him, but the sick and troubled beggar who needs everything from him. 

In his parable, Jesus tells us only about the Joni-types—the hardworkers who are ticked off at the end of the day. What, I worked all day and you only paid me for working. . . all. . . day

He tell us about the Joni-rejoinder, but he also invites us—if we are not too put off—to see that we are fellow-Franks—the ones who came later, who hoped for a farthing or a few cents, and got. . . can you believe it?. . . a whole day’s pay! 

He helps us—if we’re not too ticked off—to realize the incredible surprise, the great joy of the screw up who discovers that this rich guy chose to be generous beyond belief! 

He welcomes us—if we’re not too full of the fire of unfairness—to realize how wonderful this is, how wonderful is this gracious, undeserved, utterly kind Lord! 

He begs us—if we’re not blinded by pride—to see and hear his words, because he is speaking to us, to us sinners, to us screw-ups, to us beggars. 

And so we beg: please, Jesus, we’re ready to listen, so say it again. “. . . ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. . . . Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Do you begrudge my generosity?'”

Do we? Do we begrudge his generosity? 

What is going on here with this Jesus? He is our Friend—and none is dearer. He is doing no harm to us or anyone in his great generosity. He is loving with a genuine love, a generous love, a stunningly wonderful love, rather than with our shallow kind of love that extends only as far as those who are good to us, those who benefit us, those who give to us. 

No, this is Jesus, the Savior, this is the God-Man. Did we expect a selfish man, like us? Would we want his love to be like our own, shallow, selfish version of love? 

Shall we begrudge his generous love—or luxuriate in it in wonder with joy and gratitude? 

He loves the sick, the sinner, the fallen, the hapless, the helpless, the foolish, the lost

Even more stunning: He loves so much He dies for us: “While we were yet sinners,” writes the sinful screw-up named Paul, “Christ died for us!” (Rom 6:8). 

He loves losers—people who have nothing going for them, and no excuses. He loves me, and he loves you!

Thank you, Lutheran High North Choir, you sang it: this is the One whose love quiets souls, who defends those without excuse, who steadies weak knees. This is the One whose name and love extend to all the nations. 

We will all sing it too in just a minute, a song of wonder (#542): “What kind of love is this?!”

What kind of love? The love of the “True God who died for me.” 

What kind? The kind that does this: “For me you gave all your love, for me you suffered pain.

What kind? This kind: “You had no sin, holy Lord. . . [but] “for all My sins you bled and died”. 

That’s the kind of love we will sing into eternity. That is Jesus! That is the God, who is love, made flesh. 

What kind of love? Love for the world! Love for me and you. 

A love that should make us wonder, because it’s the wonderful love that has saved us all.

29 January 2016

Yes, It's Possible!

Here are the scholars of St. Paul Lutheran School in Hamel this week when they visited the LCMS International Center in honor of Lutheran Schools Week. They provided us with a great deal of very nice music, vocally and with the strings (and with Anastasia Curtis on both organ and piano). This one, though, is my favorite: Soul Adorn. Most of these youngsters have only been playing for about a year. I wish I had had such an education when I was in Elementary School!!!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For when the Word and faith are lost, we soon slide into endless monstrosities. Therefore, learn the First Commandment according to which you are to trust in God alone, and then undertake these works by which you know that you are obeying God, but do not put your trust in that, and flee from self-chosen ones.—Martin Luther, on Isaiah 57:8

Patristic Quote of the Day

Now this is said, that men may not suppose that they derive no benefit, or but scant benefit, from the grace of Christ, seeing that they must needs die in the body. For they are bound to remember that, although their body still bears that desert of sin, which is irrevocably bound to the condition of death, yet their spirit has already begun to live because of the righteousness of faith, although it had actually become extinct by the death, as it were, of unbelief. No small gift, therefore, he says, must you suppose to have been conferred upon you, by the circumstance that Christ is in you; inasmuch as in the body, which is dead because of sin, your spirit is even now alive because of righteousness; so that therefore you should not despair of the life even of your body.—St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, Book I:7

27 January 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If you cleave to your Lord Christ, you are certainly one of those whom God has chosen from the beginning to be His own. Otherwise you would not come to Him, nor listen to such a revelation and accept it.—Martin Luther, Sermons on John xvi–xx.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who took upon Him to die for all, stretched forth His hands, not somewhere on the earth beneath, but in the air itself, in order that the Salvation effected by the Cross might be shown to be for all men everywhere.—St. Athanasius, Letter 22