29 September 2006

On Generations

Jon's thoughts (Beggar's All) on his generation and on anomalies in generations (those who "escape" the spirit of the age) has me musing. In my own case, it's simply a matter that I really don't belong to my own generation. My mother was 43 when I was born; my father 40. My grandfather was born in 1879, and HIS father was over 40 when he was born! My grandparents did not have indoor bathrooms - a visit with them entailed the use of the "John." Let me tell you: as a kid this I did NOT enjoy! Come to think of it, as a grown up I don't think I'd enjoy it either. They only had cold running water at one sink in the kitchen in the their very last years of their lives when my dad ran a pump and line from the spring where they got their water into the kitchen. They regularly ate food prepared on or in a wood burning stove (and let me tell you: no food I eat nowadays can even begin to compare with THAT food!). Heat in the house came from wood burning stoves, period. My kids are always a bit surprised that the "past" is so "recent" for me. My mom used to tell me stories she heard as a little girl from a relative that remembered what things were like before "the late great unpleasantness between the States" (aka, the utterly unwarranted war of northern agression!). Does this disjunction in generations - account in part for those who do not grow up "in the spirit of the age"? In fact, I didn't fit in with my contemporaries, most of whose parents were the age of my siblings!

Patristic Quote for the Day

And why does he say: I am the Resurrection and not "I raise him up"? Why is it? It is because he assumed man, and he assumed death, so that he who raises up one person by his command would by his own resurrection raise up everyone in himself; so that for those for whom Adam was the pit of death, Christ would be the fountain of life; and so that the following words of the Apostle would be fulfilled: "Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be brought to life." - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 63, par. 4

28 September 2006

Music

A posting over at Beggars All made me think a bit about music. I LOVE music. I have since I was a little child. I even used to love to listen my mom's album of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing hymns (I especially like his "Onward Christian Soliders"). But I realize that people who love music love all different kinds.

Me? I despise rock (sorry, Juhl!), I despise Jazz. I'd rather have silence than have to listen to either of those. I dislike country, but I do enjoy some real blue grass music. But my all time favorite music is Russian chant. Not the REAL stuff - the Znamenny chant. The stuff they produced in the Romantic era: Rachmaninov, Gretchaninoff. My first exposure to it was singing a series of Russian pieces at Concordia Bronxville with Gerry Coleman, and my favorite was the Ave Maria from the Rachmaninov All Night Vigil. That led me to purchase a recording of the whole vigil and to this day I still think it is the most sublime music ever composed.

But the music of Schuetz gives it a run for the money. Again, a huge thanks to Gerry Coleman for exposing us to some of Schuetz in college. It led me to exploring more of his music and I got to really love the peace of that music - so different from the "driven" music of today.

Bach I love too - but for the totally bad reason that he's a blast to sing. A Bach bassline is just fun. Think of "Break forth" and you've got the idea.

So, in sum: I love music that is primarily, if not exclusively, vocal. Music that is purely instrumental mostly makes me yawn. But the human voice and what it does in choir - well, that's MUSIC to my ear. Don't give me wild and crazy music (you can keep Stravinsky and his dove descending!); give me music that speaks the calm of heaven itself down deep to the soul. "Hail, O Virgin Mother, Bearer of God, Holy Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, Mother of God, for thou hast brought forth the Savior who redeemed our souls, who redeemed our souls." THAT is music to my ears and in more ways than one.

Gottesdienst

If you don't subscribe to Gottesdienst, you really should. This quarterly journal of the Evangelical-Lutheran liturgy never fails to delight. But this time Pr. Eckardt absolutely outdid himself. He has written an article "Memos to Pastors and Parishes in Trouble." It is fabulous. Words fail. He NAILS the situation and nails it precisely. Go and sell what you have and buy a subscription to Gottesdienst. And, yes, Fritz, I know I need to renew... : )

27 September 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

When God changed Himself from Lord into Father, he wanted to rule by love rather than power, and he preferred to be loved rather than to be feared. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 7, par. 1

26 September 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

He who encloses the world is enclosed in a womb; the Author of nature is born; the Creator of human beings and periods of time becomes the Firstborn of humanity; the Treasure of heaven is clothed with the swaddling clothes of the indigent; he who makes thunderbots fly gives an infant's cry; in a manger lies the One to whom all creation lies subject.

O man, do you realize by what means Christ pursues you in order to call you back? He enters the womb in order to refashion you in the womb; he is born in order to make you reborn to immortality; he becomes the Firstborn in order to offer you a share in the divine lineage.

- St. Peter Chrysologus, *Sermon 140A* par. 5

25 September 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

God's gracious favor toward us was so great that it is impossible for a creature to decide which deserves the most amazement: that God has lowered himself to our level of servitude, or that God has carried us off to the dignity of his divinity. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Homily 72, par. 3

24 September 2006

Doing the Happy Dance...

...did I happen to mention that two of my favorite people in the whole world happen to be moving to my town this week? Welcome to Hamel, Dave and Jo DeVries!!! That's my mom and dad (in-law, but they just seem like my mom and dad) and we are EXCITED! What day should we play Liverpool???

23 September 2006

This Afternoon

This afternoon I spent several hours transfixed by the new images in St. Paul's. The Good Shepherd is a very subtle painting. When you look closely at the face of our Lord is both very loving and tender, and unspeakably sad. After all, think of the rest of the words: "I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." He holds that lamb in His arms, and He loves it so much, but for love of that lamb His arms will be stretched out and nailed to the cross. He loves that lamb and all his sheep, and so for them He faces down the Wolf, Death, and lets it devour Him that He might destroy it for them forever. "I know my sheep and my sheep know me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish..."

Similarly, in the picture of our Lord knocking at the door. The grape-vine, dripping in grapes, frames the door. An Easter lily blooms at our Lord's feet. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" - but it is the look on our Lord's face that gives the rest of the verse, unspoken: "if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and dine with him and he with Me." His expression shows on what we will be dining: His very Body and Blood, yielded up on the cross, in order to be our life. Sadness, yearning, love. They shine from His eyes as He looks toward us.

This evening at our Saturday Eucharist we blessed these pieces of Sacred Art. The words that begin that rite are worth repeating: "Beloved in the Lord, in His great love for us the eternal God has taken on human flesh and joined Himself to His own creation. Heaven and earth are now filled with His glory as He uses the things of this world to bring us His blessing. 'He has made everything beautiful in its time' so that we may behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His holy temple." The prayer that sets them apart asks in part: "Bless and sanctify these murals, which are offered in honor of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that all who behold them may, by Your grace, be strengthened in the true faith and worship You with a steadfast heart." (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, page 306)

Glory to our Good Shepherd! Glory to Him who knocks upon our door that we might eat with Him and He with us! Glory to our Incarnate Lord forever and ever!

22 September 2006

A couple more...


Some pics of the murals...

...that now adorn St. Paul's walls:



Patristic Quote for the Day

"And truly, before God death is sleep; for God raises the dead to life more quickly than someone who is sleeping may be roused from sleep by someone else, and God restores life-giving warmth to bodily members cold in death sooner than a human being can invigorate bodies buried in sleep." - St. Peter Chrysologus, *Homily 34* par. 5

21 September 2006

When Was It Said, And By Whom?

"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And who is the sinner, except the one who denies that he is a sinner? In fact he himself is the greater sinner and, to put it more accurately, he himself is even sin, who does not even understand that he is a sinner. And who is unrighteous except the one who judges himself righteous? You have read, Pharisee: "that not any living person will be righteous in your sight." As long as we are in a mortal body, and frailty dominates us, even if we overcome sinful actions, we are unable to overcome and escape thoughts that are sinful and unrighteous. Even if we are able to avoid bodily evil, and if we can conquer any evil deliberations, how can we abolish faults of negligence and sins of ignorance?

Pharisee, admit your sin, so that you might be able to come to the table of Christ; so that you might have Christ as your Bread, and he the Bread might be broken in forgiveness for your sin; so that Christ might become your Cup to be poured out in remission of your offenses. Pharisee, eat with sinners so that you can eat with Christ. Acknowledge that you are a sinner, so that Christ might eat with you. Enter with sinners into the feast of your Lord, so that you can be a sinner no more. Enter the house of mercy with the forgiveness of Christ, so that with your kind of righteousness, you may not be shut out in punishment from the house of mercy. Acknowledge Christ, listen to Christ, listen to your Lord, listen to the heavenly Physician silencing your slander once and for all: "The healthy do not need a doctor, but the ill do." If you want a cure, acknowledge your illness. "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." If you desire mercy, admit your sin.

"Go," he says, "and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice." Christ desires mercy and not sacrifice. For what sacrifice will he seek who, in order to seek you out, became a sacrifice himself? "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." It is not that he has rejected the righteous, but rather that no one on earth is considered innocent without Christ.

"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." By saying this, Christ has not rejected the righteous, but rather he has revealed that all are sinners. Listen to the Psalmist: "The Lord has looked down from heaven to earth upon the sons of human beings, in order to see if there is anyone intelligent or seeking God. All have turned away, all together have become good for nothing; there is no one who does good, not even one." Brothers, let us be sinners by our own admission, so that with Christ's forgiveness we may be sinners no more.

It Happened At St. Paul's

[What follows was written by one of our members whom I buried last year - Albert Brandt. It's the story of his remembrances of the school and parish life from the early 20th century. The german song he remembers from his confirmation my wife sang at his funeral. Spellings are all Albert's, by the way.]

I started going to German American parochial school at St. Paul's New Gehlenbeck in 1921. The teacher then was John Schildt (1919-1934). He had twins and two daughters. The pastor then was Rev. H. H. Hansen, 1909-1934.

School opened daily with a greeting "Good morning dear teacher" in German "Guten morgan, Herr Laerer." We done a lot of singing, much of it out of a book called "Lieder Perlen." Luther's Small Catechism and the Bible were basically taught in the German language. If I remember right Catechism was taught in English one day a week only on Wednesday. All Bible study was in the German languish only and none in English. Reading and writing was taught in both languishes.

Sometimes an upper grade student, always a girl, would help the teacher by reading some class material out loud to the whole school like the "Luther Book" - a German book. She also read English material. It was always girls that done this, never boys. I guess the boys were too dumb.

We had no snow days then. School was never called off because of snow no matter how deep it got. We then would play Fox and Goose in the snow. Everybody walked to school. Northern students would catch a ride on a milk truck and ride part of the way to the school when milk trucks made their debut or first appearance. A ride with travelling vehicles on Hillsboro road was always accepted on our way treking homeward.

The only people we were afraid of was the gypsies travelling in enclosed wagon caravans with heating stoves and stove pipe sticking up thru the roof, pulled by horses. They would camp along the road, usually under a grove of trees. They were never lost and knew all the back country roads before road maps were available. When they ate their meals they used naptkins. They then were and probably still are a nomadic race of people. Their trades were fortune telling, tinkers, peddlers, hors traders, etc. They are still around today but you don't notice them because they now travel in automobiles and mobile trailers and campers.

Many male students at St. Paul's wore bib overalls. Some were home made by their mothers as were the girls dresses. You brought your own lunch to school. Many students carried it in a 1/2 gal. metal molasses tin bucket with a tin lid. I had a metal folding drinking cup. Paper, plastic, and styrofoam cups had not yet been invented.

My father was a trustee at St. Paul's in the 20's. At that time the state passed a law requiring that all doors had to open to the outside. Obeying this requirement, the trustees reversed a door opening on the old brick church on the east end where Rev. Hansen had a small study room. Below the door were 3 or 4 stone steps to ground level. Rev. Hanson was used to the door opening to the inside and as he grabed hold of the door knob the whole door pushed out ot the outside. Rev. Hanson went out with teh door and landed 3 or 4 steps down on top of the door. He said in German I could of fell to my death. "Ich kant zu mine Todes fallen." The door was changed back to open inwards.

The one room school had a big pot bellied stove for heat in the winter. One time at noon recess one of the boys put a shot gun shell in the hot stove. As the shell exploded the top stove lid blew up to the school ceiling. Another time us boys made wooden arrows out of wood shingles and shot them at the ball at the top of the church steeple. It was lots of fun while it lasted but was soon forbidden "for boten". What goes up must come down. It was a hazard.

When the weather was fair the boys played ball before school opening and during recess with a string ball. Then no student had a real baseball. We all played a ball game called scrub, every body advanced one playing position everytime someone made an out. We never played soft ball. I don't know, maybe that game wasn't invented yet. We had no soft ball beside a sponge ball which is much smaller than today's soft ball. I played some cork ball with St. Louis relatives but never at school. At that time I regarded it as a game for sissies.

In the twenties during my school days at St. Paul's when attending church services the ladies all wore wide brimmed hats. At that time all church goers arrived with teams of horses on Sunday. There were hitching racks on the north side of church to tie up your horses during church services. We were there in a buggy with a buggy horse named Bill. After services were over I distinctly remember a lady with a big hat walking past the hitching rack were Bill was tied to with a halter and rope. As she passed by so close our horse Bill grabbed the ladies hat off her head with his teeth and started eating her hat. Is that why the laides dont wear hats anymore?

I remember when all church goers arrived in buggies and surries to attend church services and there was not one automobile nary a one on the grounds. All transportation of people was by horse power or walking.

On another occasion there was an evening service. An elderly gentleman cam driving up to the church grounds with his family to attend services. He was driving a model T Ford with a a buggy like top and klaxton hand pushing horn. On top of the roof several chickens and a rooster were roosting on the top and got a free ride to church. They stayed on top of the roof all thru the service and got a free ride home. A little breesye.

When you would ask some of the old timers if they spoke English they would answer Yes, I speak American. They didn't call it English but always called it American. My own father called English "American" vs. German.

Once while walking home alone from school a car full of well dressed women stopped to give me a ride. Somehow I felt kind of suspicious about riding with them and declined their offer. When they insisted I ride with them and followed me, I decided it was time to get away from there. I ran and headed across the fields for my home. Maybe they had good intentions or perhaps it was my own imagination. Being all alone it was a traumatic experience. Some times to this day I think about it. I have been afraid of strange acting women ever since.

One school day in winter the students got permission to go on a rabbit hunt during recess. The congregation owned five acres of ground on the north side across the road. This 5 acres was used for pasture during the summer for Rev. Hansen's cow. The teacher had a pasture on the south side still owned by the congregation, now rented out. The students caught several rabbits by hand no gun allowed and gave them to the teacher and minister. They were happy to get some fresh rabbit meat as they both had families to support and their salaries weren't that great. In winter time when church members butchered hogs, they would fill the teacher and minister's larder with bacon, hams, and sausages.

At another time the Rev. Hansen's cow died. We students watched church members bury this cow on the N.E. part of the church ground. As the cow was lowered into the grave and hit the bottom a big chunk of mud splashed upward right in my face. Students razzed me about this for a long time. It had me worried for a while as a church member had a cow that died from hydrofobia. I can show you the spot where the cow is buried even today. To me it was a most embarrasing situation.

After the cow died and the horse was gone the Rev. Hansen was introduced to a new form of transportation. He became the reluctant owner of a new model T ford automobile. The old cowbarn was to be used as a garage and it had doors on both ends, front and back. The reverend took the car out for a trial run or spin. As he was returning from this first driving experience his daughter Elsie seeing him coming opened both ends of the garage and Reverend made his first try at parking or stopping his car. Driving into the garage, sure enough he went straight through the garage without stopping. He would of never passed today's stringent driving test.

At another time Rev. Hansen model T ford was stolen right out of his garage. It was found in St. Louis filled with pears but still in one piece.

Later on as more English was being spoken in St. Paul's parish a switch was made from having all services in German to having some services in the English language. I don't think that Rev. Hansen had any English language instructions at the cemenary. When preaching on the pulpit he gave it his best under the circumstances. It sounded like a Dr. Henry Kissinger brogue or accent crossed with pidgen English. Anyway leave it to "papa Hansen" he got the message across. He also sported a white "snow bart" or beard. He was held in high esteem and highly respected by parishneers of St. Paul. At the onset of the Great Depression of 1929 and 1930 he asked the congregation to lower his salary.

During school sessions for discipline control the teacher used a long leather whipping strap to chastise unruly students which he ocassionally used. I saw teacher use it on boys but never girls. They apparently were better behaved than the boys. During noon recess while teacher was home for his noon meal some boys would open the drawer on teacher's desk where he kept his wipping strap and cut off a couple of inches of strap. This happened more than once. Apparently teacher never caught onto the prank and by the time I was confirmed and left St. Paul's school there wasn't much strap left.

On another occasion a student was climbing up a young tree and Rev. Hansen came racing out of his house with a big switch and started switching this tree climber asking no questions, just kept on switching. That ended all tree climbing and also potential tree climbers for good.

Teachers then were very strick and believed in the old saying "spare the rod and spoil the child." This was acceptable those days. We did receive a good Christian education and I am thankful for that.

I was confirmed in 1928 and still remember the song the confirmands sang in German, "Vo findet de salla de Heimacht de Ru." For the confirmants, immediately after confirmation the school year was over for that year. At the end of the school day at St. Paul's we would sing "God be with you till we meet again."

And I would like to leave you with one last thought. I hope you never forget it.

Did you ever ask yourself the question: Who am I? What am I doing here? What is the purpose of my life or existance?

You are you and I am I. God's purpose for putting you and I in this world is to win souls for Christ. May God be with you till we all meet again.

Patristic Quote for the Day

For the Lord touched all parts of creation, and freed and undeceived them all from every deceit. As St. Paul says, 'Having put off from Himself the principalities and powers, He triumphed on the cross" so that no one could possibly be any longer deceived, but everywhere might find the very Word of God. For thus man, enclosed on every side by the works of creation and everywhere - in heaven, in Hades, in men and on earth, beholding the unfolded Godhead of the Word, is no longer deceived concerning God, but worships Christ alone, and through Him rightly knows the Father. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation of the Word* par. 45

20 September 2006

Collect upon St. Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist

O Almighty God, who by Your blessed Son did call Saint Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist, grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches and likewise to follow Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever.

Good Shepherd and Knocking at the Door

I confess that when my good friend, Roger Ernst, first suggested that St. Paul restore the murals that adorned her walls in the first part of the 20th century, my heart was NOT strangely warmed. I thought: oh, how sad to lose the Trinity!

Because if you walked into St. Paul's last Sunday and for any year since sometime in the 1970's, you would have seen the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit before your eyes (the Father and Spirit merely suggested, of course, being themselves indepictable). But that changed this week. Now there is nothing upon the front walls. By the end of this week, however, the Good Shepherd will adorn the south wall and Our Lord knocking at the door the north wall.

These images, though, invite us deeper than ever into the Holy Sacraments. There is little dispute that the image of the Good Shepherd was a favorite in the baptistries of antiquity. Danielou writes: "In the primitive Church, this symbolism was brought out by the decoration of the baptistries. Here we usually found Christ represented as the Good Shepherd surrounded by His sheep in a paradisal setting of trees, flowers, and fountains." (The Bible and the Liturgy, p. 36). Now the image of the Good Shepherd holding the lamb will be directly above our baptismal font.

And as for the Lord, knocking at the door, we have only to remember the rest of the verse: "And I will come in and sup with him and he with Me!" It is Eucharistic through and through. Binding the two images together is the Table. Psalm 23 speaks of the table set in the presence of my enemies. Revelation 3 speaks of supping together. So between the two images at St. Paul's stands the holy altar, the table at which our Lord feeds us His body and blood.

In short, I've swung round to Roger's way of thinking - and to that of the first artists who decorated the St. Paul nave. As soon as the new murals are up, I'll post some pics. We'll bless them on Saturday evening with the rite for blessing of sacred art included in the LSB Agenda.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Let not your souls be sorrowful, ye who were redeemed by the cross and called into the kingdom. The Lord's day shall come; He will give voice to the deceased and the dead will arise and give Him praise! - St. Ephrem, the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #149

Hmm, Gone Missing

I was looking over the rite for installing of servants of the congregation, and noticed a line missing. The LW Agenda said:

"You are to see that the services of God's house are held at the proper times, *in accordance with the order of our Church*, that the Word of God is purely preached and taught..." (LW Agenda, p. 281)

The LSB Agenda has:

"You are to see that the services of God's house are held at the proper times, that the Word of God is purely preached and taught..."

Now, I don't know about you, but *I* think the loss of the phrase "according to the order of our Church" is a sad loss indeed. Where did it go?

19 September 2006

Melvin, Rest in Peace!

I remember Melvin. He and his wife Peggy were members of the first parish I served. Melvin died of cancer recently. Oh, he was a hoot and half. He loved to laugh; he was kind of shy, but oh, so much fun. My all time favorite Melvin story is this:

He was taking a shower, and thought he and Peggy were home alone. Peggy dropped something in the kitchen with a loud bang and Melvin comes running from the shower to see if she is alright, only to find her talking to a lady friend in the kitchen. You guessed it, Melvin was wearing only his birthday suit!

How Peggy and Melvin laughed when they told that story. I swear, Melvin still blushed just thinking about it. He was so mortified!!! Lord, have mercy.

I remember something else about Melvin. He taught me that many people really don't care for their work. I was a naive 26 year old who assumed everyone did what they did because they loved doing it. He taught me differently. The look of pity in his eyes when he asked me if I *really* thought that.

Peggy, who has the coolest accent you've ever heard, is my youngest daughter's godmother. She and Melvin taught us a lot about loving others, serving without complaining or expecting recognition, just for the joy of being together and working side by side. Mel, we will ALWAYS love you. And Peggy, you are in our prayers.

Memory eternal, Melvin! Memory eternal!

Calling ANYONE with DATA on OP!

Okay, Fr. Shane Cota and I have been wondering together whether anyone has a clue about WHO the little girl was that O.P. Kretzmann "held...for a moment in 1937." If you've ever read the essay, "Rockaby, Baby" you know what I'm talking about. Surely someone out there knows who this child was (or does the child herself know - did her parents ever tell her?). I think a GREAT article could be written about this person, if still alive, and those haunting words:

"For a few more years you will know only tenderness - until one day you, too, will become aware of the world's seething cauldron of hate... And then you, too, will begin to wonder - and you will do one of two things... You will either putter around in life, content with building a wall and web around your little plans and small hopes and creeping ambitions - or you will, if you believe in God (as I think you'd better), make your heart a chalice for a few drops of the world's blood and tears..."

Did her life become encased in web or was it a holy chalice? Who are you, little one? You'd be, what? 69 this year? Are you alive with us or "sleeping with the pilgrim and his readers"?

St. Matthew's - A Few Days Early

Today's Winkel celebrated St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. The following was preached upon Matthew 9:9-13.

Homily for St. Matthew’s Day

When Jesus says “Go and learn” we’d best do what he tells us. He sends us and the Pharisees to school again. To relearn the basics. To relearn the a-b-c’s of God. The first thing he lays down is that what pleases God is mercy and not sacrifice. Now wait a minute, Lord, we cry out: the sacrifices weren’t our ideas, you know. God himself had laid them down and given some pretty strict rules about how they were to be carried out. Now you’re telling us that they are all worthless? How can that be?

But he didn’t say that sacrifice was worthless. He said that what pleases God is mercy. We are always wanting to let love for God come unglued from love for the neighbor. We wish we could have a relationship with God independent of our relationships with other people. Me and Jesus, you know, off doing our own thing. “I come to the garden ALONE.” Well, sorry, with Jesus there is no coming to the garden ALONE. With him there is no coming to the garden at all without the neighbor. Jesus reminds us that He who said: “love me with everything you got” is the same one who said “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, no, he won’t accept from our hands “sacrifice” - that is, anything we do for him and give to him - if our hearts are not merciful toward other people, toward all the people he has placed around us. It’s not that he doesn’t want the sacrifice, it’s that the sacrifice that pleases him is a sacrifice offered by a heart filled with mercy, kindness toward others.

They’re big beef with Jesus was that he was eating with the tax collectors. Sitting down and whiling away the hours together with all the wrong sorts. Even having a good time, laughing with them over food and drink, and telling them all the while about his Father. “Sacrilege!” they cry. “It’s a no no. You defile and demean yourself by associating with the likes of them! Jesus, what are you doing?”

Comes the answer: I’m the doctor attending to the sick. I don’t worry about catching something from them. My only concern is to heal them.

The Pharisees think: But you might catch something from them. You might. You might catch their uncleaness. You might die.

Comes the answer: Hmm. So I might. So I shall. Their disease will kill me. Yours too. I’ll catch “sin sickness” from you all. But that won’t stop me being merciful. Mercy doesn’t calculate the outcome in regard to self. Mercy only asks what the other needs, and then mercy acts. Mercy is being there for others, whether or not being there is a danger to yourself much less an inconvenience. I came among you in mercy, I came to heal. And so, yes, you’ll find me right here in the hospital, where the sick one are, they are my clients, the broken and the bruised and the battered ones. Those who’ve been hurt and torn up by sin. My heart is filled with pity for them and I have come to do something about their sorry state. I’ve come to heal them, set them free and raise them up.

And he looks at his detractors long and hard. He says: I am only come for the sick and the sinners. Will you admit to being such too? Will you admit to being in need of the healing I come to bring? Aren’t you tired of the sorrow of sin yet? Will you check in to my hospital? Go and learn: mercy, not sacrifice. Come, let me heal you too.

And the day came, surely came, when the sin-sickness seized hold of the heavenly doctor. The day came - a black day of wind and storm, when he was stretched out and fixed to a tree. And there all our uncleaness, all our sorrow, all our rebellions coursed through his veins and the sickness of our race, the sin that leads to death, it killed him. His contact with us, his breathing our poisoned air and touching our foul uncleanness finally took him down. Our Physician died. And there you see the mercy of God. Mercy and not just sacrifice. It was mercy and so it was the acceptable sacrifice. A sacrifice that the Father received and rejoiced in because it was given entirely and wholly from a heart of mercy. The heavenly Physician made the ultimate sacrifice out of mercy.

And so the Father raised Him up! Early that first Easter Day, death was undone. It’s power over the human race broken once and for all. Broken by the merciful sacrifice of God’s only Son.

And risen in glory He sent his own out with a message. Not a new message, but the old message He had lived before them and spoken to them all along. A message about how God welcomes sinners. A message about how he longs to sit down at table with them and eat and drink with them. A message about how he heals them from the sorrow of sin by his gentle touch and his kind words.

The doctor from heaven, Jesus, still spreads a table. Still invites the most disreputable sorts, even pastors, vicars, and deaconesses, to sit down with him and eat and drink. Still he touches us - and its the same body and blood that touched and healed Matthew and the others so long ago. It’s only a foretaste. A teasing anticipation of heaven, where the healings are final and the sorrows forgotten and the feast never ending.

“Follow me!” Jesus said to Matthew. Matthew got up and left everything to sit down at a table with Jesus. “Follow me!” he still cries. There’s room at his table, a place just for you. “Follow me! - and welcome the undesirable and the outcasts. Throw your arms open wide and welcome them home. Don’t be afraid of their sin. I’ve dealt with that just like I dealt with yours. All of it forgiven. Follow me into a life of mercy and so a life of acceptable sacrifice! Follow me and I’ll lead you all the way home.” Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ... that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, 'will I build My church.' I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon thee. - St. Augustine, expositing Matt 16:18, NPNF 1:VI;340.

Rest eternal

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him!

Asleep in Jesus + Professor Kurt Marquart

18 September 2006

Pope's Words

The bishop of Rome certainly placed himself on the firing line. The Byzantine emperor he quoted spoke some hard words - but were they false? The Islamic reaction across the world has seemed, if anything, to reinforce the veracity of what the Emperor said! Lord, have mercy. If Islam is this religion of peace that we constantly hear it is, where is a single Islamic voice being raised that condemns these "over the top" reactions?

Here's a link to an article on the topic that my brother-in-law sent me. I like it because it invites some thought about WHY the bishop of Rome quoted the Byzantine emperor - and I suspect this man's suppositions are correct.

http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=10368

Busy Days

Usual round of services and Bible class yesterday, circuit forum to elect delegates to the Synodical Convention, Youth Catechesis in the evening, and then writing the funeral homily for today. God rest the soul of his servant Dorothy Riechmann! This afternoon, the carpet cleaners arrive; tonight is voters. Tomorrow I teach in the a.m. and then go directly to the Winkel, which St. Paul's is hosting - oh, and did I mention that the painters showed up this a.m. to do the sanctuary in preparation for putting up our new murals and getting ready for the 150th? I had to ask them to come back after the funeral! Whew!

Dorothy's was the first funeral we did with the LSB. It worked *very* well; the changes in the funeral rite were few, and they were all good. There is something very powerful about laying your hands on the coffin as we pray together the Nunc Dimittis: "Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace..."

But it is not clear in the rubrics where the next part of the rite takes place. Does the pastor return to the altar for the final prayer and the blessing? Or does he stay at the head of the coffin? Perhaps the lack of direction envisions either position. Enough rambling - got a few things more to do before this evening's meeting.

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Our Redeemer's visible presence has passed into the sacraments." - St. Leo the Great, Homily on the Ascension

16 September 2006

First Look at the Lutheran Service Book - Agenda

On Thursday I had a hospital call over in St. Louis, so I stopped in at CPH and was able to pick up the LSB Agenda. Just a few initial thoughts...

WOW! AWESOME! INCREDIBLE!

Okay, okay, so I do tend to get a little excited. I admit it. But honestly, what a book! It's not just a collection of rites that a pastor needs to carry out everything but the Mass and the Daily Office, it is a veritable handbook of pastoral theology. Yes, extended introductions to each section of the Agenda remind the pastor of the theology of the particular section, and does so in an exceptional way. I have no way of knowing, but it sounds like Pastor Peter Bender had a hand in writing these introductions.

For example:

"The agenda rites are best seen in the light of the Divine Service, which stands at the center of the Church's life. The liturgy itself is the primary place for ongoing pastoral care as week after week Christians are called together in the name of the triune God to receive His gifts in sermon and Sacrament and are enlivened to live in Christ by faith and in love towards the neighbor. All pastoral care radiates from the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments and ultimately culminates in the reception of the Lord's gifts proclaimed and distributed in the liturgy. Just as the planets are in orbit around the sun, so the rites of pastoral care revolve around the Divine Service, reflecting the light of Christ's on our living and dying, hallowing grief and pain with His promises." (p. viii)

Or again:

"The liturgy has a cumulative effect in the care of the soul. Sure and certain gifts are going into people, strengthening and building them up for the long haul of life under the cross." (p. ix)

Yes, yes, and yes.

As to specifics in the rites, I am especially delighted to see the rite for First Communion Prior to Confirmation come into its own. Very well done, and may it substantially lower the age when the baptized children are given the Supper in our Churches!

More later, but I was studying the prefaces and introductions again this morning and was very, very impressed by the careful theological underpinings provided. Clearly written by those who 1) know that lex orandi equals lex credendi and 2) who take serious the lex credendi of the Lutheran Church. Kudos, Agenda Committee!

From the Funeral Liturgy

Speaking of praying for the dead, another petition of the Prayer of the Church at the funeral liturgy also embraces the "dead" Christians (truly an oxymoron!) as well as the living ones:

Grant that *all who have been nourished* by the holy body and blood of Your Son may be raised to immortality and incorruption to be seated with Him at Your heavenly banquet.

15 September 2006

Homily for Trinity 14

(Readings: Proverbs 4:10-23 / Galatians 5:16-24 / Luke 17:11-19)

I think we totally miss the point if we imagine that today’s Gospel is all about feeling thankful. No way. Can you really imagine that ANY of the ten lepers would feel in their hearts anything BUT gratitude toward Jesus Christ? I can’t imagine it. One minute living with a body that was grossly decaying before your eyes, forced to live apart from your loved ones, no future, no hope. But then calling out to Jesus for mercy and receiving from the Master that wondrous word of healing. Skin suddenly restored. Soft like a baby’s bottom. Beautiful and whole again. I’m sure any and all of them were as thankful as could be that Jesus had crossed their path and brought them healing. Indeed, they experienced the truth we heard in Proverbs that God’s words literally are “healing to all their flesh.”

But if the problem isn’t ingratitude, what exactly does Jesus find wanting in the nine and yet praises in that one Samaritan who came back? Well, let’s listen again to these words from the text:

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” And then what our Lord said: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner.”

Did you hear it? This text is not about feeling thankful, it is about giving thanks and praising (or more literally, giving glory to) God!

Maybe there is one lesson we learned too well: with us sinful human beings, it is possible for the heart to come disconnected from the mouth, so that the heart speaks one way and the mouth another. This is what God condemned through Isaiah the prophet condemned when he wrote: “This people draws near to me with their mouth, but their hearts are far from me.” We have mistakenly concluded from that that it’s just the heart that God is concerned about, as if if we are properly thankful in our hearts, that’s sufficient.

But that is to mistake His words through Isaiah. He is not only concerned about what goes on in your heart; He is vitally interested in what comes out of your mouth, in the words that come tripping from your lips.

That mouth of yours and those lips were created by Him so that you might sing His praises, celebrate His goodness, and tell the world what He has done. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise” – so David prays in Psalm 51. Created to praise – that’s what you were. And if there is a first commandment to guard against the sins of the heart going astray, there is also a second commandment to guard against the lips going astray in God’s direction (not to mention an eighth commandment to guard against those lips going astray in your neighbor’s direction).

Well did the lepers – all ten of them – begin: they knew that in their affliction, they should lift up their voices to the Master. And they did. Asking for mercy. How often we can relate to that. When times are bad for us, it seems far more natural to pray. After all, when you don’t have anywhere else to turn, then you rejoice that you have been given the name of God to “call upon in every trouble.”

But then there’s the joy of His answer. We call and He responds. He answers and delivers us – he does so that, as Psalm 50 says, “I will deliver you and you will glorify me.” And that’s precisely where we fall flat. We think it’s enough to be thankful to God in our heart – let’s leave our thanksgiving there and be spiritual about it all. But God isn’t into that kind of spirituality. He wants those lips to be opened and praise to be pouring forth.

Now – understand me aright – He doesn’t desire that because He’s insecure in Himself and needs someone to always tell Him how great He is. Nonsense. He wants it because that’s how we come into our own as true and full human beings. He created us to enjoy Him forever and what you enjoy, you praise. You glorify. You say: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! How blessed is the person who trusts in Him!”

It is the conviction of the Holy Church that in Jesus Christ each one of you has been given reason to open your lips and sing praise to God every moment of every day. We confess this week by week before the altar: “It is indeed meet, right, and salutary…at all times…in all places…through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What is meet, right, and salutary is not a feeling of thankfulness, hidden in your heart. What is meet, right, and salutary is an explosion of praise from your lips.

Mercy the lepers received, but how it pales in response to what He has given you. Upon the Cross, He suffers and dies in order that no sin might be able to accuse you, or hold you in its grasp. He destroys all your sin by forgiving it – every last bit. From the grave He arises in incorruption that death will never be the final word over you. In Baptism, He has adopted you as His own child. Named you His very own. For time and for eternity. Washed away your every sin. In the Absolution, He speaks to you personally a word of love and acceptance that is as valid and certain on earth as it is in heaven. He gives you His word as a shining light upon your path through this world. And in the Holy Eucharist He reaches you the unfathomable gift of His body and blood – nothing less than the sacrifice once offered for you upon Calvary’s tree, now given into your mouth for your forgiveness, for union with Him, the pledge of life undying. Think about it: the lepers got a few more years to live on this earth; you have been given eternity with the Father.

So in view of the huge mercy that is yours, the Lord Jesus invites and summons you today to use your mouth. To open your lips. To join the Samaritan in giving glory and praise to God incarnate in our flesh. The liturgy is there to help. It’s there to teach you how to train your lips to glorify God, that you might learn to offer the sacrifice of praise. “Glory to God!” “Holy, holy, holy” “Blessed is He!” “Lamb of God” and so on. We who have received through His holy Cross and Resurrection a life that death can never destroy, a pardon that sin can never deface, are learning to praise as we join the angels and archangels and all saints in falling down before Him and singing: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Indeed it will. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Be perfectly assured of this: although we can't understand why God ordained such troubles, the One who is wise and who loves us arranged them for us... God knows that He is appointing what is best for each person. He knows why the terms of life that He fixes for us are unequal." St. Basil the Great, Letter V:2

[This, by the way, reminds me of a quote from Chemnitz where he speaks of the crosses by which God conforms us to the image of His Son being crafted for us from eternity]

14 September 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

The cross has taken away sin; it was an expiation for the world, a reconciliation for the ancient enmity. It opened the gates of heaven, changed those who hated into friends; it took our human nature, led it up to heaven, and seated it at the right hand of God's throne. And it brought to us ten thousand other blessings. - St. John Chrysostom (Discourse III:IV:7 - Against Judaizing Christians)

Holy Cross Day

Readings: Numbers 21:4-9 / 1 Corinthinians 1:18-25 / John 12:20-33

"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

"It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross that, where death arose, there life also might rise again, and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying..." (LSB Preface for Holy Week)

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world's redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree:
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world's redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee! (LSB #454, 1, 4 - by Fortunatus, c. 530-609)

Today we celebrate the Cross. Today we celebrate the power of weakness, the wisdom of folly, the glory of disaster, the everlasting joy that has come into the world through suffering and death. The mystery and the majesty of the Cross.

What do we mean by singling out the holy cross? St. Paul gives the lead. Just a few verses after our second reading, he makes the bold declaration: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Similarly to the Galatians, Paul says: “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” And as we heard today in the Alleluia verse: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ.” In all his preaching, in all his teaching, the Apostle Paul (and all the Apostles) strove to do nothing else than to hold up before the people a verbal picture of the Son of God dying on the tree for the forgiveness of the world. Were they in danger of over-simplifying things? I don’t think so.

To recognize in Christ on the cross the sum and substance of the Gospel is not to slight any of the other events of our Redemption. It only means that you haven’t seen what they are all about until you have seen how they are connected to the cross. Take the incarnation, the enfleshment of our God. What is its connection to the cross? This is how Saint Athanasius put it: “For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all… It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and a sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren, by offering of the equivalent.” In short, God who cannot die became a human being precisely in order to be able to die for us. Athanasius saw in the manger already the shadow of the cross.

In just the same way, we must see the cross in the resurrection to understand what Jesus’ rising from the dead means. You see, the big deal about the resurrection is not merely that a man was raised from the dead. That had happened before--even under the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The big deal about the Resurrection of Jesus is that the One crucified for the sins of the world was raised to life again in a body that is incorruptible – thus becoming the source of eternal life. All those others were raised to die again, but the Crucified One was raised never to die again. Rather, by the grace of God, He tasted death for everyone so that He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery! (Heb 2:9, 14,15)

St. Paul calls the crucifixion the folly of God. That’s because it looks so ridiculous to those on the road to ruin. They cannot, they will not, see that the suffering and death of one innocent man has turned aside forever the wrath of God for all who believe. They cannot, they will not see that hidden under that battered, bruised, broken piece of flesh nailed to the tree is God the Almighty, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, through whom all things were made, destroying death by enduring it. They cannot, they will not see that God loves us so much that He himself would become a human being to give His very life in exchange for our own, that our bodies might be freed from death to live with Him forever.

The cross, though it appears to be God’s folly, is in fact the revelation of God’s wisdom. How else could he show us how wrong we are about every notion we have of power and wisdom? The cross of Jesus Christ is the message, written in God’s own blood, proclaiming that there is no wisdom wiser than love and no power greater than love. Behold, then, God’s wisdom! Human wisdom thinks nothing could look less like God than Jesus writhing in agony and shame on the cross. But that is where he reveals to us the very heart of the Father. It is the hour of glory that the Son of Man had prayed for, the hour of judgment, the hour of the casting down of the ruler of this world, the hour when Christ is lifted up to draw all people to Himself.

Lift up your eyes to the tree and see! In the horror of our death and abandonment, there is God! He is there for you. He thought you were worth that – worth the agony, worth the dying. He values you that much.

Look at him as his heart is revealed. A spear tears open the side and out flow water and blood. Look up at him and let them splash you clean. The water of His baptism, the blood of His Eucharist. There is not a soul here for whom that heart holds anything but love and the desire for healing. He wills eternal life for all those whose sins He bore and He bore the sins of all. Just look up and see! Believe and be healed!

But then don’t forget to look beside you! Over here and over there! You are surrounded by people who are equally so loved. Equally so valued. Each one loved for the individual that they are and yet each one loved the same way: by bearing the sin of all and dying the death of all, to give pardon and life eternal to all.

Though those on the road to destruction will always judge it a foolish message, the message of the Cross is the only message we have and by it we know the love God has for us, for them, for all. People loved by God, let us rejoice to lift high the cross and the love of Christ proclaim till all adore His sacred name! Amen.

13 September 2006

Rest in Peace

Speaking of prayers for the dead, my sister called tonight to tell me that my cousin, Debbie, has died. We've been praying for her for a couple weeks. She's been on life-support, and no one is quite sure what happened, but she was a diabetic and had numerous health problems. May the Lord have mercy upon Debbie and shine on her His unending light and fill her with peace! And may His comfort be with my Uncle Edgar, who has now buried his wife and is now preparing to bury his oldest child, and with Debbie's husband, her sister, and her brother. Debbie was 53.

"Into paradise may the angels lead you,
At your coming may the martyrs receive you,
And with Lazarus who once was poor,
May you have rest everlasting."

Prayer for the Dead

The Lutheran Symbols are unequivocal on the topic:

"Regarding the adversaries' quoting the Fathers about the offerings for the dead, we know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, *WHICH WE DO NOT BAN.*" Apology XXIV:94

"Epiphanius declares that Aerius maintained prayers for the dead are useless. He finds fault with this. *WE DO NOT FAVOR AERIUS EITHER...*" Apology XXIV:96

Read the whole in context and you'll see what the Lutherans unabashedly condemned was the notion that the Mass could be offered for the dead in such a way that it operated ex opere operato and so justified the dead, but they do not believe that this is at all what the fathers intended by "offering for the dead" and demonstrate as much by citing (favorably) the canon from the liturgy of the Greek Church.

Nor is it the case that our Churches fail to pray for the dead. For at every funeral liturgy, this intercession is offered:

"Give to your whole Church *in heaven* and on earth, Your light and Your peace."

We do not pray for the blessed dead to change their state, to get them out of Purgatory, or for any such thing. We pray for the blessed dead because we love them and we wish for them every good thing from God - and we know that those who die in the Lord are not in fact dead, but live in Him, and from His presence receive joys abounding. Just as with the words of the Small Catechism: "God gives daily bread without our prayers" yet we pray for daily bread that we might learn to receive these gifts with thanksgiving, so we pray for the dead that we might be comforted in the promises of God about eternal life in Christ and rejoice that such life has been given and will be given to those who die in the faith.

"Rest eternal grant them, and let light perpetual shine upon them!" - that's the ancient prayer for the dead of the Western Church and it very much lives on in the intercessions of the Lutheran liturgy for a funeral: "Give to your whole Church in heaven and on earth Your light and Your peace." Amen!

Patristic Quote for the Day

This is why Christ exposes himself to fleshly indignity, why he undergoes the abuse that he suffered, why he perseveres through various forms of punishment, and why he endured a very bitter death, because he willed to be condemned since he had such love for what he had created. But God's will in this instance is nothing new; the first words of the ancient Law insisted on this: "You shall love the Lord your God," it says, "with all your heart and with all your soul"; because that dominion is true which commands by love, not by fear; which subjects both bodies and hearts to itself by means of affection; which by loving furnishes servants for itself who are not unwilling, but willing. So this is the first reason for the Lord's Passion, whereby he wanted it to be known how much God loved humanity, since he wanted to be loved rather than feared. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 72B, par. 4

12 September 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

This Mediator, first through the Prophets, then by His own lips, afterwards through the Apostles, revealed whatever He considered necessary. He also inspired the Scripture, which is regarded as canonical and of supreme authority and to which we given credence concerning all those truths we ought to know and yet, of ourselves, are unable to learn. - St. Augustine, *The City of God* Book XI, chapter 3

11 September 2006

What Were You Doing?

My sister-in-law encouraged me to write what I was doing that day, when the attacks happened. First, let me say that I have some great and treasured memories of the towers. I remember only months after my brother was killed in that horrible auto accident, my mom and his girls came to visit Cindi and me. We were vicaring in Garfield, NJ. I remember that we looked out the towers toward New Jersey, and then later drove up into the hills in NJ and looked back at the towers. A few years later, I remember walking across the Brooklyn Bridge one magical summer evening with some dear friends, and passing beneath their gigantic shadows in lower Manhattan. I remember my first trip to the top and looking down when I was a student at Bronxville - I'm terrified of heights but leaning the head against the glass and looking down didn't scare me too much. They seemed so stable and secure, so immovable.

So, that day I went to school as I usually do to lead the opening and teach catechism classes - my two girls were home sick that day. The principal's wife called to say that one of the towers had been hit, and we started watching the coverage on TV. When word came out about Washington (and initially remember it was all confused - fires reported all over the place!), I rushed home to try to get the phone and call my sister, who works at the FBI to see if she was alright (turns out my niece gave birth that day, so she wasn't even at work!). But of course by then, you couldn't get through to anyone. I walked back to the school to see what we could do about comforting the children, and I remember they shouted at me when I walked through the door that one of the towers had come down. I remember blinking in astonishment. I told them that was impossible. They'd have to see the towers. There is no way one of them could come down. And then we watched in astonishment at the second tower fell.

And all I could think of was all the people. I knew that the Twin Towers were more like a medium-sized city than just a building. We turned off the TV after the images began to get too graphic for the school children. We prayed and read Scripture and tried to get on with the day. I don't remember if we succeeded or not. I seem to recall that maybe we closed school early because people just needed to be with their families. I'm not sure about that anymore. But I remember the numbness and just watching CNN and Fox non-stop in our family room and trying to make sense of it all.

And, like my sister-in-law, I remember the silence. We are not all that far from St. Louis, and it is not unusual to be able to spot several planes in the sky at any given moment. By noon that day the only sound from the sky came from the military jets that flew by a few times (Scott AFB is not far to the south). Even the traffic on I-55 seemed to lighten up enormously.

I thought about my friends who live in Manhattan - Pastors Brooke Swertfager and Bill Baum. I prayed for them. I prayed for those that they'd be ministering to. And then there was just the waiting to understand, to make some sense out of it all. I think I went into the church and just sat in silence for quite a while too, and I think I prayed the litany more than once as that day and the ones that followed wore on.

Those are my memories of the day.

Remembering...

The words delivered at St. Paul's in a special prayer service for 9/11 five years ago...

We're gathered tonight, people loved by God, in the spirit of Job. Our minds shrink from the staggering numbers of those who are dead; as well as from the horrible way so many of them died. Our hearts go out to the families who are now as torn apart and devastated as any of the buildings we saw in New York or Washington - families where a mother's voice will never be heard again or a father's face never seen or a child's hand never touched again. In the face of such terrible wreckage of human lives and the unimaginable tidal wave of human sorrow, we can only ask Job to move over for a bit so that we might sit with him for a while in the dust and ashes and learn from him to turn to God in worship, because there really is nowhere else to turn.

Today is not the time to theologize about good and evil in the world. It is too soon for such. Today is the time for us to get on our knees and pray. And to do so knowing that the One to whom we pray is no stranger to the terrible things that humans do to each other, to know that He to whom we pray became One with us in our tears and in our sorrows. He knows what it is to weep at death. He has felt in His own body the irrational hatred of those who think they serve God by dishing out violence and destruction. What a comfort that in our prayers tonight, we pray to the Crucified One. And above all to the Risen One.

For Job would go on to confess "I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth and that after my skin has been destroyed nevertheless in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and not another. How my heart yearns within me."

Our prayers rise tonight to Him who walked among us as the man of sorrows, who is acquainted with our grief, and who died to conquer and destroy death's power over his people forever. We pray tonight before the God who will make the ashes live again.


Prayer -

Hear us, dear heavenly Father, as we join our prayers to those of your children throughout the world in the face of the terrible events of yesterday.

For all the children who have lost parents, let us pray to the Lord. R.
For all the parents who have lost children, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all the husbands who have lost their wives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all the wives who have lost their husbands, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all whose lives have been shattered and whose hopes and dreams have been destroyed, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the families of those brave souls who responded to others' needs only to lose their own lives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the firefighters and policemen, the doctors, nurses and EMTs and all those who participate in the relief effort, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For any who are still alive in the rubble, that aid may be brought to them speedily and that they not lose heart, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For those who are dying, that they be given grace to have a blessed end and be brought from this world of sorrow to the heavenly homeland, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the Mayor of New York and all the people of his city; for the military and the families whose lives have been shattered in Washington, for our President and Congress, and for all who seek to restore order and to administer justice in our land, that they be given great wisdom and courage to meet the coming days, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For freedom from malice in the hearts of our people, that private acts of hatred and violence be thwarted and that no further suffering be inflicted on innocent lives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the people who have perpetrated these acts of terror and aggression, that they be swiftly located and brought to justice by duly constituted authority, and above all that their hearts may be turned from the path of hatred and violence by the gift of repentance, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the people of our nation, that God would use this terrible tragedy to strengthen and unite us and to lead us back into his ways, let us pray to the Lord. R.

10 September 2006

Joying in the Word...

What a joy this weekend was! Aside from preaching the three regular Divine Services and teaching the Adult Bible Class, I was privileged to begin the Adult Catechesis in the afternoon and the Public School Catechesis in the evening. Catechizing is one of the neatest things that a pastor gets to do - and there's no better way to hallow the Lord's Day than to spend it opening the Word and inviting others to taste its riches. And I'm greedy: with no vicar, this joy is all mine and I am LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT. It will be a bummer to give any of it back up again.

At St. Paul's the Adult Catechesis occurs twice each year and runs for 8 weeks each. The Public School Catechesis mirrors the Bender approach and uses his work; it runs for 24 weeks.

For both experiences we used a bit from the Service of Prayer and Preaching; boy, do I wish we had the music for that service!

Thinking of Carl...

I don't know why, but today I'm thinking of Carl Aufdemberge, long-time pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Edwardsville and husband to Jo, now a member at St. Paul's and a good friend. Carl died suddenly nine years ago last month. I was privileged to be with him in his final hours at the hospital and to deliver the homily for his funeral. Here's what I preached; I offer it today in memory of a man of God who is still sorely missed by those knew and loved him. Memory eternal, Carl!

Homily in Celebration of the Passover of Carl Aufdemberge into Life Eternal
William Weedon

This is Carl’s confirmation verse, Psalm 111, verse 10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Jo, Carla and Susan and Stephen, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, family and friends of Carl Aufdemberge, the praise goes on. If there was one thing Carl knew, it was that the praise of God does not, cannot and will not stop. “His praise endureth forever.”

It was a lesson he learned from his godly parents. They who had picked him up as a two day old child and rushed him into the arms of the Savior. They knew that he had been born into the sadness of sin and they wished for him to have eternal joys, to have a hope worth singing about all his life. The Savior reached out and received that little baby, took him into his arms, marked him with the holy cross, branded him from that moment as one of his own. A sheep of his own fold. A sinner of his own redeeming. And so at the ripe old age of two days by the power of Holy Baptism, Carl’s feet were set upon the path of praise, brought into the family of God where the song never ceases.

The Aufdemberges sing. I’ve heard Carl make that declaration more than once and always with joy and godly pride. The Aufdemberges sing. He grew up with the Lord’s song being sung in his home and into his heart. He was nurtured in Christ in an atmosphere of praise. His parents taught him well that praise of God goes on forever and it is by our very entrance into that praise and living from it that we will find the strength to go on too. “His praise endureth forever.”

From youth he was taught that when the times are good and big belly laughs are called for (and you know he had a big belly laugh), then it is time to praise. And so songs. And when the times are bad, when hearts are broken, when tempers flare, when disappointments break over us in waves, then it is time to praise. And so songs. With tears in the eyes if need be, but songs of praise nevertheless. “His praise endureth forever.”

Old Job had the hang of it. When he came face to face with the awful thing that death does to those he loved, when he sat down in the dust and the ashes and tore his clothes in grief, he opened his mouth and said: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.” “His praise endureth forever.”

This is what Carl taught his children. This is what he taught his students. This is what he taught his confirmands. This is what he taught his parishioners. This is what he taught his brother pastors. That in Jesus Christ, in the one who has marked us and sealed us as his own, the one who became one flesh and one bone with us, the one who died to forgive all of our sin and rose to destroy our death and returns to raise his people and take them home, in HIM we have cause for praise that does not end. “His praise endureth forever.”

And Carl praised all the louder because he knew he was a sinner who needed such a Savior and he was grateful that he had been given one. He was not perfect. He was, as we all are, the earthen vessel that holds the priceless treasure. Cracked pots one and all. Yet the treasure is the cause for all the praise: the eternal life, the everlasting joy which Jesus Christ gives to us. “His praise endureth forever.”

The nurses from the ICU need to be here today to tell you how it was. It was something that they will never forget. Me either. When the Lord called his sheep to bid him leave the earthly pastures, how could his passage to eternity be accomplished without song? It couldn’t. “His praise endureth forever.”

His family stood around his bed. They opened their hymnals and they sang. They sang in four-part harmony. They sang to celebrate Carl’s passing, his passover, his going home. They sang. They defied death with their song. They let death know that it had not the victory over Carl or over them. The song rang out. “Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoiceth, who from our mother’s arms hath helped us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is ours today.” The song rang out: “Then let at last thine angels come, to Abram’s bosom bear me home.” The song rang out: “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.” The song rang out: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” “His praise endureth forever.”

So much music at a funeral. So many songs. But not nearly enough. Not time enough in time itself to get all the singing in. It spills over to fill an eternity. For all the songs that Carl didn’t get time to sing enough of here, he has the joy of singing there. And Jo, and all who love Carl and all who Carl loved, when we lift our voices in praise, when we give thanks to the Lamb who has paid for the sin of the world and celebrate our joy before his throne, we are one, one family. The song of the Church is one. Carl rejoices on another shore and in a greater light, but the rejoicing is one. We sing and he sings, with all the angels and archangels and all the blessed dead, we sing together. And one day we will hear their song no longer by faith but also with our very own ears. We will hear them and join them, all we who place our faith in the same cause for all the heavenly-hoopla, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb for sinners slain, the Risen Joy of all his people. “His praise endureth forever.”

Amid the tears, amid the laughter, in the hard times and in the good, always and everywhere: “His praise endureth forever.” Amen.

09 September 2006

Collect for Trinity 13 / Holy Cross Day

Beginning with Vespers this evening, and until Matins next Saturday (excluding Holy Cross Day), the following collect may be prayed in the Daily Office:

Almighty and everlasting God, give to us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You promise, make us love that which You command; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

On September 14th, the following collect may be used:

O God, on this day You gladden us with the yearly festival of the Holy Cross; grant, we beg You, that we, who on earth have known the mystery of the redemption accomplished for us by Your Son, may attain to its reward in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He lies in swaddling clothes, but he reigns in heaven; he rests humbly in a cradle, but he thunders amid the clouds; he is placed in a manger, because it is evident that "all flesh is grass," as Isaiah says. This is the grass, brothers, whose blossom is transformed into heavenly Bread, and by feasting on it we reach life eternal. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 140b

08 September 2006

An Evening to Remember

So Robert Esch, my good friend and a parishioner at St. Paul's, sets the whole thing up. He and Candy, Cindi and I, drive over to St. Louis for a visit with Dr. Nagel and Betsy. (Dr. Nagel, incidentally, surprised me with a xerox copy of the Cassimiriana - the Saxon-Coburg Church Order revised by none other than Johann Gerhard. Unbelievable!) After we visited some in Dr. Nagel's office, we piled in our van and the six of us headed to Robert's "secret destination." Turns out to be a restaurant just north of the landing called Al's. Unbelievable place. Absolutely unbelievable. Sitting right on the edge of what was the warehouse district, with train tracks right to the west of the building, you walk through the doors and you are in another world. Well, maybe before you walk through the doors. The valet parking should have given a bit hint! How do you describe the ambiance? The waiters knew Robert by name and remembered what he did and where he was from. They seated us and when the waiter went through the appetizers, we knew we were in for an experience (not a menu in sight! The waiters did it all from memory). The appetizers sounded marvelous, but we declined them; Robert had talked us into foregoing appetizers, though, in order to save room for the dessert. More on that later. The cuts of meat we could order were presented to us, along with several fresh fish. We all ordered - and the Nagels ordered as a side a rare Belgian veggy that none of us could pronounce - salsify. It was a white root vegetable and the kitchen made up a few for all of us to try. Our table abounded with steak, rack of lamb, halibut, sole with shrimp and lobster, salmon and goodness knows what all. The twice baked potatoes were unlike any I've ever had before. I've been to good restaurants and I've been to nice restaurants (they're not the same!), but this one was an outstanding experience in every way: it was beyond nice and it was beyond good. Those words seem cheap to describe the experience.

And the banana foster for dessert! Words fail!!! But to give you a hint: it was only the fine atmosphere of the restaurant that kept me from picking up the dish and trying to lick out what my spoon was unable to extract. But I was a good boy. I refrained. Barely. Add to all of this, the joy of dinner with Besty and Norman, Candy and Robert, and my dear wife. It was truly an evening to remember. And God put a beautiful memory at the end of it all for us too - on the way home, the moon was huge and red.

So, thanks, Robert and Candy! We love you guys - and you really did give us all a night that we will remember all our days.

07 September 2006

Homily for Trinity 13 - Good Samaritan

It took the whole story to get him there, but at last Jesus drove the lawyer to speak the word that is at the very heart of the Law: mercy! Mercy - undeserved, unexpected, unlooked for kindness from our neighbor.

When the Israelites took captive their kinsmen in Judah, they were in danger of bringing wrath upon themselves – wrath, because that is how God deals with those who give themselves over to wrath against others, even as He is merciful to those who give themselves over to mercy (James 2:13). So Prophet Oded stands firm and calls the Israelites, who lived in Samaria, to repent. His call is heard, and the princes of Israel interpose. The captives are clothed, shod, fed, and anointed, and the feeble among them are even carried all the way back home to Jericho. This is mercy. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had been taken as the spoils of war and humiliated and you’d lost your home, your freedom and your future, only suddenly you find those you thought were your enemies clothing you, feeding you, giving you your freedom back, opening up a future you thought was lost, showing unexpected kindness – Can you imagine that? Behold! That is mercy.

Mercy is at the heart of the Law because the Law is the will of God for the human race. And mercy is the will of God for the human race precisely because humanity was created in the image of God and God himself is merciful. Do remember how God proclaimed His name to Moses? “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Ex. 34:6)

"Love your neighbor as yourself." "Do this and you will live." So spoke He who is eternal truth. It was no lie. The path to life is the path of love, of mercy. But immediately the lawyer is squirming. You know why. He hasn’t done it, anymore than you have. He is not on the path to life, but on the path to death, which seeks to deal with the neighbor by giving him his due, what you think he deserves, paying him back in kind. So to wiggle out of the implication of Jesus’ hard word, the lawyer asks: “And who is my neighbor?”

Wrong question! Totally wrong! Asked so that he could know whom he would be authorized to despise and treat with contempt. Whom he wouldn’t have to bother with because they weren’t really his concern. It was a “let’s get practical here, Jesus” kind of answer. “I can’t be loving everyone, so who should I spend the effort on? Who is my neighbor, who’re the people I really have to bother about?”

Jesus’ famous story flips the question. Not “who is my neighbor?” but “am I a neighbor?” “Who proved neighbor?” Jesus asks when He’s done. “The one who showed him mercy,” answers the Lawyer. And again Jesus pushes it: “You go and do likewise.” You go and show mercy. You go and prove yourself a neighbor. Go on! Get with it!

“How can I?” you wail, “when I fail so often to love. When I don’t love God with my all. When I don’t love my neighbor as myself. When I am such a wretch at being a neighbor?”

But that is the point of Jesus’ story. For who is this man tripping down from Jerusalem to Jericho? The fathers and Dr. Luther all agree: he is Adam. He is the father of our race, and look at what happened to him, for we are in him. He falls in among thieves who rob him and beat him and leave him mortally wounded along the roadside. The thieves being the devil and his evil angels. But then along comes someone who might help. The priest, the levite, which we should take as the law of Moses and its priesthood and sacrifices. But look! They can see and prove that the man is mortally wounded, that he is dying and in need, but what they cannot do is help him in any real way. They pass on by on the other side.

And then arrives the Samaritan. There’s a double meaning there. The Jews, of course, would have despised the Samaritans. If anyone did not deserve to be treated as a neighbor it was those pretentious half-breeds to the north! But if the Jew looked upon the Samaritan with contempt, that is not how THIS Samaritan looked upon the Jews or any of fallen humanity. Samaritan means “Keeper” or “Defender.” And so the Samaritan, moved with pity, rushes in to do for the stricken man, for the fallen human race, what no regulation or observance of the law could ever do. Instead of giving what is due to the one who regarded Him with contempt, He shows mercy. Our Jesus.

He tends the man, pours in the oil and the wine, which we may take as types of the holy sacraments, puts the man on his own beast, which the Fathers take as our Lord’s flesh, and so laden with us, carrying us on His back, He brings us to the inn. To the place where we are gradually healed, restored, clothed, cleansed. He brings us to the Church.

You see, God has shown this mercy to you! Jesus is your Good Samaritan, Your Defender and Guardian. He has not just passed by you in your need. He came to you who like to deal with everyone by the standard of “what’s fair” despite how you suffer from all the wounds of that way of dealing yourself. For you Your Jesus suffered, died and bled – all of which was not fair – but in mercy He did it to provide the healing medicines of His Word and Sacraments with their power. He has entrusted you to the keeping of the Church that you might be restored. A little better each day. A life that grows constantly towards the mercy you have received so that you become merciful too, and learn to lay aside the whole wrathful way of treating others that insists on getting your deserts and giving each man, woman, or child theirs. Instead you’ve been surprised by mercy, and now you’re growing in that way of living. As you are constantly mercied by God, He is transforming you into a mercy giver. The requirement of the law is thus fulfilled in you who live at the receiving end of His mercy. No need to justify yourself, then. Christ has justified you all on His own.

Mercy. The word at the very heart of the Torah, the Word of God. Mercy, the word at the very heart of Jesus, emblazoned on the Manger and theCross of Him who came into our flesh, suffered, died, and rose again to lift us up, clothe us, feed us and bring us home to God. The mercied people who learn the joy of living in such undeserved kindness every day and are tickled pink that they get the chance to share it with others – thanking God for His merciful forgiveness which covers even our flawed attempts at mercy with the blood of Mercy, the blood of Jesus, which He gives us anew today at this table of mercy. Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

We can never sufficiently thank Him for the gifts of nature: that we exist and are alive, that we have a reasoning mind by which we can seek HIm who has made all these things. Yet, for the greater gifts of grace there are not hearts enough or tongues enough in all the world even to try to thank Him. For, when we were burdened and broken by our sins, and our minds were turned from His light and blinded by the love of the darkness of iniquity, He did not leave us to ourselves but sent His Word, who is His only Son, so that by His birth and passion in the flesh He assumed for our salvation, we might learn how highly God esteemed our human nature, and that we might be cleansed from all sins by His unique Sacrifice and, by His Spirit, have Love poured into our hearts, so that, with all our warring over, we might come to everlasting rest in the supreme blessedness of gazing on His face. - St. Augustine, City of God, Book VII, Chapter 31

06 September 2006

Surrounded by So Great A Cloud of Witnesses

A particular joy of the LSB is the restoration of a richer sanctoral calendar. We now have 81 commemorations and 35 Feasts and Festivals, not counting the Sundays of the year, the Nativity, Holy Week or Easter. That means that on 116 days of the year, our Church's Order has set aside remembrances of various saints and important events in the life of Christ's Church. To some modern Lutherans this will seem quite a novelty, but it is really not at all. For an even fuller historic Lutheran calendar, click here

A feature that some have decried and others have welcomed, is the inclusion of numerous Old Testament commemorations. Among the OT saints we commemorate: Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Esther, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ruth, Elijah, Ezekiel, Isaac, Samuel, Joshua, Hannah, Moses, Jonah, Abraham, Noah, Daniel and the three young men, Adam and Eve, and David. Many of these days are assigned to correspond to the Eastern Orthodox Menaion, which has long observed OT saints, often highlighting their typological relation to various events in our Lord's life. Some were taken from the historic calendar of the Lutheran Church (see the above link, for example Job on May 9th). Some, however, are assigned new dates. I for one am glad again to see the saints of the Old Testament commemorated in our churches.

The list of NT saints has also been expanded: in addition to the Apostles and the Feasts associated with the Holy Virgin (Annunciation, Visitation, Dormition), these days are now also observed: Silas, Aquila, Pricilla, Apollos, Philemon, Onesimus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, Joanna, Mary, Salome (Myrrhbearers), Zacharias and Elizabeth, Philip the Deacon, Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe. Some of the dates assigned to these saints correspond to the current Roman calendar, many to the Menaion of the Orthodox and some are new. But what a wealth of Biblical stories come to mind with these commemorations! What joy it will be to remember and thank God for the multitude of ways that their stories connected with THE story!

The first millennium of the Church's history since the Resurrection is commemorated with a vast array of saints and events such as Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Valentine the Martyr, Polycarp of Smyrna, Perpetua and Felicitas, Martyrs, Patrick, Athanasius, Cyril and Methodius, Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena, Bede the Venerable, Justin Martyr, Boniface of Mainz, The Ecumenical Council of Nicea, Cyril of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyons, Lawrence the Deacon and Martyr, Monica and her son, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the Great, Cyprian of Carthage, Jerome, Ignatius of Antioch, Martin of Tours, Emperor Justinian, Clement of Rome, John of Damascus, Nicholas of Myra, Ambrose of Milan, and Lucia. If anyone knows Church history and the writings of the Fathers, you realize what richness these commemorations open up to the parish! What wealth of gifts the Lord has given His Church through these blessed saints and martyrs!

The second millenium of the Church's history since the Resurrection is commemorated with the following saints and events: J. K. Wilhelm Loehe, Philipp Melanchthon, Martin Luther, Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Duerer, Johannes Bugenhagen, Anselm of Canterbury, Johann Walter, Friedrich Wyneken, C.F.W. Walther, Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Barnes, Bernard of Clairvaux, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Philipp Nicholai, Johann Hermann, and Paul Gerhard, Johannes Staupitz, Martin Chemnitz, Elizabeth of Hungary, Katherina von Bora Luther. Obviously that set is weighted quite heavily toward the events surrounding and aftermath of the Lutheran Reformation, but there are some noticeable and surprising exceptions.

All in all, LSB offers a veritable course in Bible and Church History simply by observing the commemorations provided in the calendar. "Our churches teach that the remembrance of the saints is to be commended in order that we may imitate their faith and good works according to our calling." AC 21

Apostles, prophets, martyrs,
And all the noble throng
Who wear the spotless raiment
And raise the ceaseless song -
For these, passed on before us,
We offer praises due
And, walking in their footsteps,
Would live our lives for You! LSB 517, st. 4

Just had to share...

I come from a great family - I love them all. My oldest brother is Butch. Then my sister, called (surprise!) Sis. Then my brother Joe. Finally, my brother Maupin (usually called Maup or Mope). I come at the caboose - nine years after Maup. I am blessed to have three of them still alive, but my brother Joe died in a terrible auto accident on Palm Sunday in 1985. I was a vicar at the time. When I was in college, I worked for Joe in the summers. I still remember the day I brought the van back to the warehouse with the mirrors broken off both sides (hey, those D.C. alleys are narrow!) and Joe decided it was too expensive to send me out on deliveries anymore. I got to stay at the warehouse and answer the phone. Which was fine by me, because I got to spend more time with him that way. Yeah, I definitely idolized him. We could talk together by the hour - and argue and debate by the hour - and we usually did. I was always amazed at the man's mind: he could take his finger and trace it down a column of figures and know how they all added up. He thought about things - and even though we usually ended up on different sides of the issue, he was a powerful and difficult opponent to argue with. Anywho, here are some picks of Joe, Peggy, and the kids (Shannon, Kim, and Lisa) that my sister just pointed me to on the net. How these pics brought back memories! Anyway, this is Joe and family!



Patristic Quote for the Day

The heavenly City, on the contrary, knows and, by religious faith, believes that it must adore one God alone and serve Him with that complete devotion which the Greeks call latreia and which belongs to Him alone. As a result, she has been unable to share with the earthly city a common religious legislation, and has had no choice but to dissent on this score and so to become a nuisance to those who think otherwise. - St. Augustine, The City of God, Book XIX, chapter 17

05 September 2006

Zecharias and Elizabeth

Today our Synod commemorates the parents of St. John the Baptist: Zacharias and Eliabeth. Luke 1 recounts their story. My favorite line in that chapter is when Elizabeth greets her kinswoman, the most holy Virgin, and - I can't help but see it this way - cuts her eyes away from Mary over to the old man sitting silent in the corner and says:

"Blessed is she who BELIEVED (unlike you, you old goat!), for there will be a fulfillment of what was told her by the Lord!"

Okay, okay. So it's not EXACTLY put that way in St. Luke, but I think it is highly plausible - and IF she did cut her eyes over to Zacharias, I'll bet his shoulders were shaking with holy laughter and agreeing with his wife. The blessed Virgin believed the angel's words and spoke her fiat: "Let it be to me." Zacharias staggered at the angel's promise and asked for some sort of a sign to know it would be so. He received his silence as the sign. But I don't think he cared one little bit: God was keeping his promise to give a child to Zacharias and Elizabeth! And such a child! One who would truly "go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins."

Remembering holy Zacharias and Elizabeth, we join the Church in crying out to them:

Respond, ye souls, in endless rest,
Ye patriarch and prophets blest!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ye holy twelve, Ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant join the song.
Alleluia! Allelluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (LSB 670, stanza 3)

The Weedon Collect Series

Here you go: updated by yours truly from TLH and provided week by week. Any resemblance to LSB is actually purely accidental, since I'll be doing these right out of TLH. These collects are intended as a resource for those who are praying the Daily Office from LSB and need some form of the collect for the day.

Trinity XII

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by Your gift that Your faithful people render to You true and laudable service. Grant, we pray You, that we may so faithfully serve You in this life that we do not fail finally to attain Your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord...

Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs...

...with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Col. 3:16

And with the LSB, Psalm singing is a cinch! First, LSB got rid of the cumbersome method employed in LW of distinguishing between a three syllable and two syllable ending. Once a person starts psalm singing, it becomes purely intuitive.

LSB does not assign the Psalms printed in the volume with specific tones, but 11 tones are printed in the book and there's no reason one can't use other tones not in the book. Now, understand, the LSB tones are not the beautiful Gregorian tones of the Brotherhood Prayerbook. But they are much easier to master and so quite simple for a congregation and group of school children or a family to learn.

What I would suggest is picking out just two or three tones and thoroughly mastering them. The more solemn tones are E, G and H (LSB p. xxvi). They are very suitable for any Psalm, but especially for those expressive of contrition or distress. Of the more jubilant tones, my favorites are A, D and F. They are great for any of the Psalms that express overflowing joy at the presence and gifts of God.

I have to say that some strike me as clunkers - purely a subjective judgement, I know. I would not waste time on B or C.

The inclusion of two verse tones is a very nice feature. Of those, I think I is the better. Just make sure you have an even number of verses before embarking on one of those. And since they are a little trickier, I'd be inclined to leave the two verse tones (I, J, K) aside until having mastered a number of the single verse tones.

It's a great joy to sing Psalms to the Lord, and with LSB that great joy is simple to learn.

Patristic Quote of the Day

So it falls out that in this world, in evil days like these, the Church walks onward like a wayfarer stricken by the world's hostility, but comforted by the mercy of God. Nor does this state of affairs date only from the days of Christ's and His apostles' presence on earth. It was never any different from the days when the first just man, Abel, was slain by his ungodly brother. So it shall be until this world is no more. - St. Augustine, City of God, Book XVIII, Chapter 51

Kudos to CPH AGAIN

The LSB experience just keeps rolling along smooth as can be. I was dreading figuring out to do the memorial plates for the hymnals, and was relieved to see that CPH offered a solution. Well, today, our Memorial Plates arrived. We downloaded the Word template, and the secretary and I managed to print AND place all the memorial plates into the hymnals in under two hours. Simplicity itself. Way to go, CPH!

And don't all you cheapskates out there imagine that you can do it cheaper yourself. Maybe you can, but let me assure you that you cannot come close to creating something as fine looking and as easy to use as CPH has made it. The CPH plates match the hymnals beautifully, print flawlessly, and, besides, you know you don't need the headache of reinventing this wheel.

Go order yours today, dudes. You will not be sorry!