30 November 2006

And still it comes...

...the ice is weighing the tree limbs close to the ground in the backyard, the front yard, the driveway. If the snow comes, and piles on top, I'm thinking we'll definitely see limbs down and maybe power out. If you don't hear from us for a while, you know why...

An Icy Wonder

The world outside my window is covered in ice. It really is beautiful. The trees are coated, the sidewalk, the grass, the road. Treacherous to walk on, of course, but still beautiful. I am enjoying it from the inside with hot mugs of coffee and chocolate. My wife? My crazy, loony wife? She dons her sweat pants, her hat, and puts on sneakers and what does she do???? She goes for a jog in it. I am thankful I only found out that she was out running in it after she came back in. Her words: "Yeah, it feels like glass cutting your face when it hits you." And the look on my face says: "Don't you think you might just be overdoing this exercise bit a teensy bit?" Ah, Cindi, you are a nut - but I love you!

P.S. Did I mention that she already got up at 5:15 this morning to jog on the treadmill?????

Sequence for St. Andrew's

The following is the sequence hymn sung at (Lutheran) Magdeburg Cathedral after the gradual for St. Andrew's Day (1613):

O Holy Christ, Teacher of the Apostles, First of the world, Ruler of Your Kingdom, govern your Church’s behavior and life. You first called the rude fishermen and they brought all the world together before your royal throne. They vanquished the tyranny of Satan and sin not with carnal weapons, but by the ministry of Your Word, which is none other than the sublime and worthy office of Peter, Paul, Matthew, Thomas, Bartholomew, John, Philip, Simon and also James, Andrew, and Thaddeus, famous warriors of God! From east to west and throughout the whole world, they are fathers of joy in the teaching of the faith, therefore grant us to abide in the same teaching, we pray you, O Christ!

29 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Just as Christ God before His resurrection carried around our body as corruptible, and, encompassed and bound by it with respect to our soul, we cannot now accomodate receiving the entire glory which has been revealed to us. In reflecting on that glory, we believe we see a single drop of it, and for that reason say that for the moment we see in a mirror and obscurely, yet we do see ourselves spiritually like Him Whom we see and Who sees us eve in this present life. After the Resurrection, though, just as He Himself raised His own body from the tomb transformed by divine power, so shall we, too, all receive our body itself as spiritual, and, having first been likened to Him in our soul, we shall then become like Him in both soul and body. This is to say that we shall be like Him, human beings by nature and gods by grace, just as Himself is indeed God by nature Who in His goodness has taken on the nature of man. - St. Simeon, the New Theologian, *Tenth Ethical Discourse*

28 November 2006

A Back and Forth with the Pope

The current Bishop of Rome published these words in 1986. They have a familiar ring to them:

"Luther did not have in mind founding a Lutheran Church. For him the focus of the concept of the Church was to be found in the congregation. For relationships that transcended the congregation, in view of the logic of developments at that time, one depended as far as organization was concerned on the political structure, in other words on the princes. Thus there arose the *Land* or provincial Churches in which the political structure took the place of the structure of its own which the Church lacked. Much has changed in this field sinc 1918, but the Church continues to exist in provincial Churches which are then united in Church federations. It is obvious that when the concept Church is applied to this kind of accidental historical formation the word takes on a different meaning from that which is envisaged in the case of the expression 'Catholic Church'. Provincial Churches are not 'Church' in the theological sense but organizational forms of Christian congregations which are empirically useful or even necessary but which can be swapped for other structures. Luther was only able to transfer Church structures to the princedoms because he did not regard the concept of the Church as established in these structures. But for Catholics, on the contrary, the Catholic Church, that is the community of the bishops among themselves and with the pope, is as such something established by the Lord which is irreplaceable and cannot be swapped for anything else." (*Church, Ecumenism, and Politics* p. 114, 115)

What I think the present Bishop of Rome correctly understands in this is that to Lutherans polity is not a matter divinely mandated, not a matter on which the Church's existence hangs. Lutherans now are and have in the past lived in utterly disparate polities - and this does not hinder the recognition of a shared faith. Thus, for example, right now the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is in communion in sacris with the Archbishop of Latvia and the parishes and priests and bishops that he superintends.

What I am not sure the present Bishop of Rome understands is HOW for "Luther the concept of Church was to be found in the congregation."

For Luther and for the Lutheran Church first and foremost the Church "is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd." SA III, XII:2 This is in perfect accord with the Apology's assertion: "at its core, it [the Church] is a fellowship of faith and the Holy Spirit in hearts." Ap VII/VIII:5 Thus while the marks which locate the Church are invariably bound up with local congregations, the Church so understood is "no Platonic state, as some wickedly charge. But we do say that this Church exists: truly believing and righteous people, scattered throughout the world." Ap VII/VIII:20.

The Church is not then congregations, but congregation. The singular in AC 7 is vital. The Church is NOT in the Lutheran understanding a series of unrelated congregations. The Church is rather "the congregation of saints" among whom the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. Not enough thought is given to the force of that singular: *congregatio sanctorum* in Latin, but even more explicit auf Deutsch *die Versammlung ALLER Gläubigen.* This is to look at the Church from the view afforded in the Revelation of St. John.

The Church is the one assembly of all believers. It is not many local assemblies, but ONE assembly. And the reality that is confessed behind this is that what the local congregation manifests is never merely community with a broad spectrum of similar-minded folk alive now. No. The congregation manifests the assembly of ALL believers. When we worship together, gathered in the Divine Name and receiving the saving Gospel and interceding for the world, and partaking of the Lamb's Feast, we are not present with some piece, some miniscule fraction of the Church. We are present with the whole of it. Hebrews 12 bears this out when it describes what you have come to when you gather as Church, where there is the blood that speaks a better word than Abel's. But it is also shown in numerous other ways in the Sacred Scriptures. Find Jesus the Lord, the Head of the Body, and you will invariably find not pieces, but the whole of the Body with Him.

When Paul directs the Corinthians to excommunicate a man, he assures them that he will be there with them in s[S?]pirit. When John is worshipping on Patmos, the veil is drawn back and he finds that he is not worshipping alone, but with the whole Church. When in the confiteor at Compline we confess "to almighty God before the whole company of heaven and to you my brothers and sisters" you should not be thinking that "brothers and sisters" are only those you can see in the room. The Church remains whole, one, indivisible, and entire. It is the assembly SINGULAR, the congregation SINGULAR of all believers. To come together as Church [1 Cor. 11] and partake of the Eucharist is to be manifest that we are NOT one of many, but ONE Body.

This is a reality which by its very nature must be believed and cannot be seen. But it is confessed and manifested in the Scriptures and in the liturgy. "Holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd." What this means for the ecumenical task is not resignation to the mess that now is, but it does mean that we are given the responsibility of manifesting rather than creating this churchly unity, for the churchly unity always will be and remain a gift given by God the Holy Spirit as He binds hearts to Jesus Christ and so one another and brings us into unity with the inner communion of the Blessed Trinity.

In that sense, remembering the definition of Church that Luther was working worth, the congregation was indeed the locus of his thought on "church." How could it be otherwise?

27 November 2006

St. Andrew's Day is Coming!

And do you know why I love St. Andrew's day? Here's a hint:

Where was I baptized into Christ? The Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, Silver Spring, MD.

Where was I confirmed in the Spirit? The Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, Silver Spring, MD.

Where did I first taste our Lord's body and blood, the peace of God's loving embrace in the Eucharist? The Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, Silver Spring, MD.

Where did God nourish me for years and years with solid Gospel preaching and beautiful liturgical worship? The Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, Silver Spring, MD.

Where did God speak His blessing upon my marriage to Cynthia DeVries? The Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, Silver Spring, MD.

Where did God ordain me to the office of the Holy Ministry in His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church? The Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, Silver Spring, MD.

And through many of those years, St. Andrew's visage stared down at me from the great window on the front of the Church, and at his feet always the X, the St. Andrew Cross, upon which he gave up his earthly life, following his Savior into death, and thus entering a life that never ends.

The bulletins of St. Andrew's parish in my days there always said: "And Andrew found his brother Peter and said to him: We have found the Christ!" May it be so for all of us. St. Andrew's day is Thursday - I'm looking forward to the Vespers and Eucharist to celebrate the day!

True Celebrations of the Saints

For true celebrations of the saints ought to be reminders that the church may, in the saints, acknowledge and consider the examples of the presence, grace, goodness, wisdom, truth, and power of God, and may therefore by true thanksgiving praise God, who sets before us such glorious testimonies of His presence in His saints, and who distributes various gifts among the children of men, providing different people with different gifts, and wonderfully governing and defending them, that they may light the way for others through doctrine, confession, writings, miracles, martyrdom, constancy, shining deeds, and examples of other virtues. - Blessed Martin Chemnitz, Examination III:361

The Old Homeplace

This is a pic of my father's homeplace. My sister now lives on the hill from which this view was taken, and she owns the old house - what's left of it. Some of my earliest memories revolve around it. In particular, I remember Sissy going to the spring-house to get the peanut butter so that I could have a sandwich. I remember that she was NOT crazy about going there - snakes, you know. I went along with her and remember thinking how odd that stuff like that was kept so far from the house and kitchen!

I have always been told

by those who know that I am more like my mother than my father. But a very odd experience a few moments ago. Cindi seemed to have things under control in the kitchen for dinner, so I went into the livingroom and stretched out in the recliner. Hands cupped behind the head, and legs crossed at the ankles. And it was between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Wearing my green sweater.

Flashback. My dad would invariably assume the exact same posture in his recliner between 4:30 and 5 each day (he got home just after 4, having started his day at 7). And I realized that I always lay like that in the recliner. How weird is that?

26 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Who can describe the constraining power of a love for God? Its majesty and its beauty who can adequately express? No tongue can tell the heights to which love can uplift us. Love binds us fast to God. Love casts a veil over sins innumerable. There are no limits to love's endurance, no end to its patience. Love is without servility, as it is without arrogance. Love knows of no divisions, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship. It was in love that all God's chosen saints were made perfect; for without love nothing is pleasing to Him. It was in love that the Lord drew us to Himself; because of the love He bore us, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the will of God, gave His blood for us - His flesh for our flesh, His life for our lives. - St. Clement of Rome, *Epistle to the Corinthians* par. 49

25 November 2006

Homily for the Last Sunday of the Church Year 2006

My family is in the middle of planning a wedding. Let me tell you, there are endless discussions and preparations for the event. Caterers? Dresses for brides maids? Guest lists? It goes on and on and on. And all of it is part of “watching” – for watching here means by looking forward to and preparing for the glad event.

What our family is doing now on a small scale the Holy Spirit summons the whole Church to do on a much bigger scale. For there’s a joyful event coming in the future of this world. Oh, lots of folks don’t believe it any more. It just sounds too good to be true: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox.... They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” To many it sounds like a fairy tale and nothing more. But we know it’s NOT a fairy tale, and that it’s even better than any human words can make it sound.

Isaiah in the first reading was expressing very clearly that God’s original plan for this creation will NOT be side-tracked forever. God made this world to be a place of security and peace, where there was no death and so no fear, where humanity reigned over God’s world as His vice-regent. Where human beings could walk through the darkness of the night without any anxiety about anything. We’ve made it something else, something dark and terrible. We’ve turned this beautiful world God gave us into a horrible hunting ground and cosmic cemetery, where death reigns. But the Prophet Isaiah announces to us today that God’s work with this world isn’t done until He has created it anew – a new heavens and a new earth where joy fills all in all because the source of sadness and grief – death itself and sin – will be banished forever. Who could not look forward to that?

How to describe the joy of that future? Our Lord uses the image of a wedding. He speaks of His Church camping out in this age, waiting with joy for that moment to break when He will return in the clouds of glory and lead His people home and there will be light and laughter, dancing and singing, celebration and feasting forever. A new age where love is all in all.

And of all this joy, our Lord dares to speak during Holy Week. Hours before He will taste the fullness of the darkness of this world – bearing our sin in His own flesh on the cross, and dying the death that we brought into this age. But He knows that it is by doing so that He will bring forgiveness to destroy sin and life unending to destroy death. In His resurrection, the new age already has begun. In Him there is a human being who is forever beyond the reach of death, and whose tears have turned to joy.

But He also warns of the perilous danger of NOT “watching” for that day – that is, of not preparing for the long wait. The five foolish virgins think they can make it through to that day with what they already have in their lamps. Not so. They need the extra reserves of oil. They need what God constantly supplies through preaching of the Gospel and the celebration of the Supper. That’s where you get the “oil” – the Holy Spirit Himself– who will see you safely through to that joyous day by sustaining in you a living faith in Jesus Christ.

Those who think: “Well, I believe, I’m a Christian. I don’t need the Church” make the horrible mistake of trying to get by with a limited supply of oil. It won’t work. You are a cracked vessel, everyone of you. Me too. But thanks be to God that the Church’s jars are filled to the full and cannot run dry. Her supply flows from the Blessed Trinity into the vessels of grace that He has prepared. You will never exhaust the oil that God has placed into your Baptism, into hearing the preaching of Christ crucified and risen, into the absolution spoken over you, and into the life-giving Eucharist. Here is grace abundant, full, free. “My cup overflows!” says the Psalmist and indeed it does.

And here’s a point that you cannot miss today. The Blessed Trinity WANTS everyone of you to be at that glorious feast, to share in the new world where death will be gone and tears a thing of the past. He wants YOU there. It was in that utter confidence that St. Paul could write to the Thessalonians and to us: “For God has NOT destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”

Do you grasp that? God has NOT appointed a single one of you for wrath. He wants each and every one of you to receive the salvation that He appointed for you in Jesus Christ. The foolish virgins are foolish above all in spurning the gift of God; they try to get by with “enough.” It’s the old “What’s the least I have to do to be a Christian” mentality. Lord, have mercy on us for ever asking such a stupid question. “Lord, I want your salvation, but not much of it; wouldn’t want to get fanatical, you know.”

People loved by God, people, BE fanatics! Camp out by the rich vessels of grace, the means of grace, in the Holy Church! After all, if you’re watching for something, you ache and long for the joy of the day to arrive, and you want to make sure that when it does arrive you are there to enjoy it. That’s what this Sunday is all about:

“Zion hears the watchmen singing,
and all her heart with joy is springing,
she wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
the strong in grace, in truth victorious;
her star is risen, her light is come.
Now come, Thou blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God’s own Son.
Hail! Hosanna!
We enter all the wedding hall
to eat the Supper at His call.”

Amen! Let’s go!

Every Year the Same

Today was busy: we not only did some decorating, but I had a wedding, had to take the Eucharist to someone in the hospital, celebrated a Baptism, and offered the Holy Eucharist. So here I sit at the end of the day in the living room. A couple candles lighted and the tree. Some beautiful celtic harp music playing. And as I look at the tree, such overwhelming sadness.

You see, on the tree are ornaments that tell a story to me, because they remind me of those whose faces are vanished and whose voices are silenced. Ornaments on the tree from my great Aunt Gee (Julia Lee nee-Mastin Embrey). What a lady she was, and how very kind to me when my father died. I see the ornaments that were on our tree when my family lived on Munson Street - happy days when all of us were still alive. Joe and Peggy lived across the street; Sis and Jimmy just a few miles away; Butch and Bonnie not far away in Virginia; Maup and Nancy not far from where Sis and Jimmy were. Mom and daddy and I at home. How little we realized then how few and precious were the years, how fragile human life.

The tree recalls to me the trips down to Richardsville to hunt out our own tree, to gather holly and running pine and cedar. The frosty air on the backporch, and the warm furnace blast of Aunt Emma's kitchen with the woodstove and the wonderful smells. Hot coffee - black and strong in the morning - and toast with home-made butter melted in that oven. Or the warmth of Grandma Bess's kitchen on the day Daddy put up the plastic around the windows of their backporch to seal out just a little of the cold. The stories mom would tell of Christmases past. About how her daddy would get up extra early on Christmas to get all the farm chores out of the way so he could devote the whole day to playing with the children on Christmas. About how Aunt Fanny and Uncle Leon once visited with Aunt Ada and Uncle Archy and coming home a little tipsy from the eggnog. The family gathered in the living room of that old house and singing carols around the parlor organ.

Now Munson Street belongs to who knows, and the old house in Richardsville - always so full of children and life - sits empty. Likewise Grandma Bess' and Granddaddy Chance's place: empty and the wind howls through the broken windows. Peggy and her kids in MD, Joe long in the grave. Butch and Bonnie and children out in Montana. Sis and Jimmy and their kids and Maup, Nancy and their children, still holding forth in Richardsville on the same property that Grandma Bess and Granddaddy Chance used to live on, but in new houses up on the road, not down that long road into the little hollow. Gone are Grandma Bess and Granddaddy Chance, Mom, Daddy, Aunt Emma and Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Fanny and Uncle Leon, Aunt Ada and Uncle Archy, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Betty, Aunt Connie, Aunt Kitty and Uncle Al, and my beloved Joe. And I sit here in Illinois, miles and miles, years and years away from what was home. And from the people that I knew and loved so much.

It gets me everytime. And no amount of the joy in God's present gifts - my dear wife and children - can ever quite take away the sorrow and grief of this day. May God have mercy on the souls of my departed relatives and bring us all to the joy of a home that death cannot diminish ever. After all, that's what the tree is there to remind us of.

So We Bend the Rules a Little...

click here

24 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

O my friends, do let us accept correction; it is something nobody ought to resent. Mutual admonition is wholly good and beneficial, for it leads us into conformity with the will of God. - St. Clement of Rome, *Epistle to the Corinthians* par. 56

23 November 2006

Scenes from Thanksgiving - Part 2



Lauren attacked by David and Dean

Scenes from Thanksgiving - Part 1

Dave slicing the bird...


Dinner is served!

What happens...

...if you leave a chocolate pie on the sideboard with a chair nearby and a beagle in the house.


(She got caged)

Speaking of the Apocrypha...

...our sisters and brothers in the Roman communion today heard this reading from Sirach 50:22-24:

And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; who fosters men's growth from their mother's womb, and fashions them according to his will. May he grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; my his goodness toward us endure in Israel as long as the heavens are above.

Sound familiar? Yes, it is the basis of our great "Lutheran Te Deum" - "Now Thank We All Our God." Compare:

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mother's arms
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today.

I thought it rather typical that Lutherans around the country are singing it, while Roman Catholics are reading it.

Blessed Thanksgiving!

Patristic Quote for the Day

Grant us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, Thy help and protection. Do Thou deliver the afflicted, pity the lowly, raise the fallen, reveal Thyself to the needy, heal the sick, and bring home Thy wandering people. Feed Thou the hungry, ransom the captive, support the weak, comfort the faint-hearted. Let all the nations of the earth know that Thou art God alone, that Jesus Christ is Thy Child, and that we are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture. - St. Clement of Rome, *Epistle to the Corinthians* par. 59

22 November 2006

Thanksgiving Tapestry

For Cindi, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone,
For Lauren, and her mischievous little ways ("possibly...")
For David, and his unflagging humor,
For Bekah, and her unimaginable energy,
For Dave, who has always been a father and more to me - a dear friend,
For Jo, who has always been a mother and more to me - a dear friend,
For all my brothers and sisters and their spouses and their children - a greater family a man could never hope to have.
For Lucy, and her faithfulness,
For Pumpkin, and his companionship when I'm trying to type and he's trying to love on me,
For Katie, and her keeping my feet warm most nights,
For Cathy, and her constant reminding me of her relationship to lions,
For Big Paw, and her invitations to touch but not to hold,
For the new cat, and her swollen belly (hey, we are told to give thanks for all things...),
For the beautiful people of St. Paul's, who remain icons to me of God's gracious mercy and forgiveness,
For friends (both those who know how to play pinochle correctly and those who don't) and for laughter and for beer,
For the "inner sanctum" - whoever dreamed up that awful name?
For Dr. Nagel and all that he has given me over the years that can never be repaid,
For Fr. Schmemann and his amazing way of make me to see things I never saw,
For Lee and his constant friendship and kindness and for his absolutely zany collections of the Blessed Virgin,
For Randy and Rachel - both of whom know how to play pinochle correctly,
For all the brothers (and sisters) that gather on Wednesday morning: Tim, Heath, Brian, Big Brian (at least every once in a while), Stuart (even more seldom than Brian, but always a joy), Heath, Kirk, Sandy, Elizabeth, Lee, Keith, and Ryan and whoever else I am forgetting...
For my elders - men who never cease to amaze me in their sage advice to a stubborn and at times silly pastor,
For my Scottish Lutheran buddy who delights and exasperates me all at the same time,
For the beauty of our liturgy and the joy of our hymns,
And last but not least, for the gift of communion with our God through Jesus Christ, for the salvation Immanuel brought us, and for the joy of the Holy Spirit's indwelling, and for the unspeakable privilege of serving in Christ's Church; for these and for all that I have in my sinfulness neglected to mention:


Mildred Weedon's Cornbread Dressing

It's not too late! You can still make the best dressing for your Thanksgiving dinner that you ever put in your mouth. Okay, so I may be a bit prejudiced, but Thanksgiving without this dish just doesn't seem like a real Thanksgiving. Best part is that it is simple:

First, make up the cornbread:

1 cup of cornmeal (grind it fresh and it won't need sweetner!)
2 TBSP oil
1 egg
1/2 cup of CREAM
1/2 tsp baking soda

Heat your iron griddle and it's great if it has some left over grease in it (bacon fat works very well). Pour out as pancakes and when the pancake is set around the edges, flip. Should be golden brown in color. Set aside to cool.

Then chop up a stalk of celery and half an onion - chop them as fine as you can get them. Put them in a big ziplock baggie. Throw into the baggie 1 tsp poultry seasoning and 1 tsp sage, and lots of pepper, and some salt.

When bread has cooled, crumble it in the bag and mix thoroughly with the other stuff. Add in a few pieces of whole wheat bread crumbled also. My mom used white bread, but that stuff is nasty!

Now, let it sit all crumbled and mixed in the bag for a couple hours.

Grease a glass oven-proof dish and pour in the mixture. Now's the good part: as the turkey is cooking, just keep sucking up the drippings and drop them over the dressing until it is thoroughly drenched. Grease should be pooling on the top - that's the sign to stop adding it.

Now when the turkey comes out, slip it into the oven at 400 for 45 min or so until it begins to get brown and crunchy on top. Serve with more gravy on top of it!

(Good thing we ONLY eat this one day a year, eh?)

P.S. We sometimes cheat on Mildred and add in some garlic powder and Old Bay Seasoning. I don't think she'd mind TOO much.

What Makes Daddy Happy?

Having all his children home together - watching them interact now as adults, playful as ever. I came home from lunch to find David and Lauren assaulting Bekah, who was still a-bed. How? Well, aside from sitting on her and pulling at her, they were seranading her with music from different shows the two had been in together. And Bekah was actually pretty good-natured about it all. I think she was glad they were both home too. How do you ever get used to them flying the nest? I'm not sure I ever will. It still seems wrong when Lauren isn't here, and yet I don't worry about her. Commend her each day into God's protection and love, and thank God for Dean - the best son-in-law-about-to-be that a man could ever want. But I hate to think of the Thanksgiving that arrives when we won't be together. Ah, enough sad thought. Off to teach Hosea, chapter five!

Patristic Quote for the Day

How blessed, how marvelous are the gifts of God, my friends! Some of them, indeed, already lie within our comprehension - the life that knows no death, the shining splendor of righteousness, the truth that is frank and full, the faith that is perfect assurance, the holiness of chastity - but what of the things prepared for those who wait? Who but the Creator and Father of eternity, the Most Holy Himself, knows the greatness and beauty of these? - St. Clement of Rome, *Epistle to the Corinthians* par. 35

Cats: Part II

And WHY do pregnant mother cats keep showing up on my doorstep and making their home in my garage??? We've been through this twice before. Our two outdoor cats were spayed. And now ANOTHER one arrives. And she is not tame, she will not let you get near her. She just lives in our garage, eats our cats' food, and looks - well, positively needy. Sigh. Kittens. Grrr.

21 November 2006

Why Is It

that cats seem to have a psychological need to SHOW you what they have killed or are in the process of killing. Kathy will pitch a regular fit outside my office window until I come to the door and tell her what a nice little mousie she has caught today. THEN she goes away and leaves me alone. I do not like looking at mice after she's been torturing them for a while, but they are much better than the headless rabbits she likes to show off. WHY do we like these vile creatures????

On the Public Reading of the Apocrypha

If a lesson from the Apocrphya is read during a Lutheran liturgy these days, eyebrows are raised and heads are scratched. "Has pastor lost it?" the people wonder.

It shows how little we know our history, even our history within the 20th century. I have in my possession a Bible that CPH published around the turn of the previous century. Auf Deutsch, of course. It features not only the canonical Scriptures but also the Apocrypha. All CPH Bibles in German had the Apocrypha. Included in the back of the book is a list of epistles and gospels for the Sundays and major feasts, and then a separate table titled:

"Epistles and Gospels of the Apostles' Days and some Other Festivals which are celebrated in some places."

The "other festivals" includes among others "The Day of Nicholas the Bishop" (December 6), "The Day of St. Laurence" (Aug 11), AND "The Day of the Birth of Mary" (Sept 8). What's so interesting about this is the assigned reading for the day of Mary's birth:

Epistle: Sirach 24:22-31

So it was not all that long ago that a parish in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod might well celebrate the Day of Mary's birth and to add insult to injury actually read from the Apocrypha in the liturgy! Here's to hoping that our good friends at CPH will twist the arms of the ESV folk to translate the Apocrypha in the manner of the ESV and start publishing it again for our people to have in their hands, and maybe even to read from at Church!

Patristic Quote for the Day

For the controversy is not merely as regards the day, but also as regards the form itself of the fast. For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more, while others [do so during] forty: the diurnal and the nocturnal hours they measure out together as their [fasting] day. And this variety among the observers [of the fasts] had not its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors, some of whom probably, being not very accurate in their observance of it, handed down to posterity the custom as it had, through simplicity or private fancy, been [introduced among them]. And yet nevertheless all these lived in peace one with another, and we also keep peace together. Thus, in fact, the difference [in observing] the fast establishes the harmony of [our common] faith. - St. Irenaeus (Fragment of a letter)

The Advent Fast Approaches

Today many Christians remember the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the temple. Lutherans actually kept that day on their calendars for many years, but without special liturgical observance. It reminds us, though, that Advent is just around the corner, and in the mind of the Church Advent is a fast. Not so strict a fast as Lent, but a fast nonetheless.

A salutary preparation for fasting in the Lutheran tradition is to read the Augsburg Confession, Article XXVI to remind ourselves of our church's teaching regarding "the distinction of meats." First thing to be clear on: distinctions of meats is a human custom, and observance of human customs cannot justify or make satisfaction for sins. The Confession is clear that the medieval Roman practice had obscured the Gospel of the grace of God, hindered obedience to God's commands by elevating human precepts as more important, and ensnared consciences by teaching that such fasting was an act of worship that God required. St. Augustine's letter 54 to Januarius is cited to stress the freedom Christians have in these non-universal traditions which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God in His Word. A whole plethora of Scripture passages are enlisted to show that bondage to distinction of foods has no place in the freedom of the Christian. But then the most neglected part of the article comes into play.

The opponents accused the Lutherans of "being against discipline and subduing the flesh." The AC protests this vigorously. "They have always taught that Christians are to bear the cross by enduring afflictions." But further, "they teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors. Then neither over-indulgence nor laziness may tempt him to sin." And further: "Such outward discipline ought to be taught at all times, not only on a few set days." The conclusion: "Therefore, we do not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions that require certain days and certain meats, with peril of conscience, as though such works were a necessary service."

What a salutary reminder that the Church's "fasting seasons" are not intended to be blimps on the screen of our life, but training periods towards real control of our appetites at all times. God doesn't need us to fast; he isn't impressed by it, but fasting is indeed a "fine outward training" that should not be stranger among us. If we simply give to our bodies whatever they crave, whenever they crave it, is it any wonder we have so little strength to resist the allurements of the devil? The distinction of meats does not necessarily help in this battle. Recall Chemnitz' scoffing at the "fasting" of those who gorge themselves with fish on Fridays and think they are "fasting." Even if we do choose to forego a certain type of food, let us remember that the primary meaning of fasting is not abstaining from this or that, but going hungry, eating less, disciplining the flesh. Pigging out at Red Lobster on Fridays and calling this "fasting" is NOT the idea.

Let us in all Christian freedom, as we prepare to enter the season of Advent, remember the call to discipline our bodies, and then choose how this may best be done in our own lives. Let's forego the American pig-out that decrees from Thanksgiving to Christmas one long FEAST, and remember that the Church is actually calling us to enter a time of fast, and so we will come with bodies disciplined (and not sluggish from over-indulgence) and with sober joy to the Feast of our Lord's Nativity!

20 November 2006

Good Read

Dr. Tighe sent me the other day a copy of Dom Gregory Dix's *A Detection of Aumbries.* It makes for some fascinating reading. The information about the reservation of the Holy Sacrament which Dix assembled in these few pages challenges much of the conventional "story" about how and why reservation came to be, and how it was practiced in various places across the centuries. I am gratified to report that at St. Paul, the holy Eucharist is kept in a cabinet safe and clean and under lock and key. We are thus in compliance with Innocent III's decree; not like those rebellious ENGLISH priests. ; )

Of special interest to me was his section on the practice of kneeling to commune - a typically northern European practice. As a Lutheran communicant I have always taken for granted that one kneels to receive our Lord's body and blood as an act of reverence to Him before whom every knee shall bow. Anyway, a good read and highly recommended. Thanks, Dr. Tighe!

Patristic Quote for the Day

Lord Jesus, by the Father's plan and by the working of the Holy Ghost of Your own free will You died and mercifully redeemed the world from sin and from everlasting death. I adore and venerate You as much as ever I can, though my love is so cold and my devotion so poor. Thank You for the good gift of this Your holy Body and Blood, which I desire to receieve, as cleansing from sin, and for a defence against it. - Prayer before Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ by St. Anselm of Canterbury

19 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

In times past, He convinced us that our human nature by itself lacked the power of attaining to life; today, He reveals to us a Savior who has power to save even the powerless. - Epistle to Diognetus, par. 9

18 November 2006

Homily for 23 Trinity

[Proverbs 8:1-11 / Philippians 3:17-21 / Matthew 22:15-22]

Wisdom speaks in our first reading. “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.” Wisdom promises an inheritance to those who love her, filling their treasuries. In other words, wisdom offers to make you rich if you embrace her, but the riches she offers are not the riches of THIS world. Not gold or silver. Something more, something enduring, something lasting.

In the second reading, the Apostle warns against those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” As in the first reading, the warning is against setting your affections and loyalties on the things of this world: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

A mind that is set means a mindset: a way of thinking and believing that issues in practical outcomes. There is a variety of ways you can set your mind on earthly things. If you have a mindset that is essentially consumeristic – thinking happiness comes from possessing things – you’ll spend your time on earth collecting junk, and always adding to your collection. Big hint you’ve fallen into that is when your house can’t hold your junk and you’ve got to go rent or buy other places just to store it. If you have a mindset that is essentially hedonistic – thinking life is all about having fun – you’ll waste your time on earth searching for thrills and chasing passing pleasures with ever diminishing returns as you age, and you’ll end up shallow and dissatisfied, because there’s no way that pleasure for pleasure’s sake ever brought lasting joy to a single human soul. If you have a mindset that what really matters is family and you make an idol out of your kin, focusing on the family, you’ll discover that such a mindset doesn’t result in happiness. The family itself crumbles under the strain of making it an idol. St. Paul minces no words about what happens to those who set their minds on earthly things, even good earthly things: “their end is destruction.”

How could it be otherwise? You see, if you set your mind on possessing that which you are bound to lose in any case, you’re not walking the path of wisdom. Wisdom wants to give you something you will not lose – a treasure that can be yours even now, and that endures through all eternity. St. Paul spoke of that treasure when he wrote: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

In other words, to quote our Lord, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What you set your mind on, what you occupy your thoughts with constantly, that’s where your heart’s at, that’s your treasure. St. Paul urges the Christians of Philippi and us too not to occupy our minds, our hearts, our lives with earthly stuff of any variety, the stuff that passes away, but with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is in heaven and who will come again to raise the dead and change our lowly bodies, making them like His own – incorruptible! He’s our treasure – a treasure that lasts! And our citizenship, our loyalty is due to Him and to Him alone. In Him, we are free to love everyone and to use all the good things of this world without giving our hearts to them – money, pleasure, family, friendship. When our hearts are set on Jesus, all of these can be received from His hand as good gifts to enjoy, but never to grasp or to worship, never making them the center of our lives.

Our Lord drives home the same point when confronted by the plotting Pharisees and Herodians in today’s Gospel. They butter him up with compliments they don’t mean - but which are true - about how our Lord doesn’t mince words or kowtow to people of influence. He just speaks truth. So they try to trap him with the question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He asks for a coin and they produce one. He inquires: “whose likeness and inscription is this?” Well, they all know that it is Caesar’s. “Therefore,” says our Lord, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s!” Now think about that. For just as the coin bears the likeness of the emperor and his inscription, so humanity was made to bear the image and likeness of God. If the coins go back to the man who made them and authorized them; then our lives need to go back to the One who stamped His likeness on them and wrote upon them that we belong to Him.

But alas, though He created us in His image and likeness, when we fell into sin that likeness was obscured and damaged. We ceased reflecting who God is – LOVE – in all our thoughts, our words, our deeds. So He gave His Son into our flesh to trace the image and likeness anew. He who is the very Icon of the Father, came into our flesh to suffer and die on Golgotha to free us from our idolatries to the things of this world, forgiving our sin, setting us free, drawing us to love the things above, and thus bringing humanity home to the God who made us.

“Give to God the things that are God’s.” What else was our Lord’s whole life about? He was returning God’s own to Him. From His birth in Bethlehem to His glorious ascension on high, His whole life was one movement of rendering to the Father what was His own: humanity itself. He did it like no human had ever done before. And He did it so that in Him, our lives would belong again to the One who made and redeemed us and so that His likeness and inscription would again be traced upon our lives.

To walk in wisdom, to walk the path the Apostle walked, is to renounce and turn from every idolatry, every attempt to squeeze life out of the things or pleasures or people of this world, and to find your real life hidden in Him who is the Likeness of God, Jesus Christ. It’s to know that in Jesus you have a treasure that is more precious than any of the stuff that passes away; a treasure that will be yours forever.

Here at this table, you encounter Him as He comes to you with His own Body and Blood, and here you taste and receive the treasure that you can have forever – His forgiveness, love, mercy, His very self. Caesar can have his coins, but Christ, who by His cross and resurrection rendered to God the things that were God’s that the Image of God might again be stamped on humanity, He and He alone gets our hearts. May He bring us all safely to Jerusalem the Golden where with saints and angels we will forever praise Him together with His Father and His life-giving Spirit, forever and ever! Amen.

17 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Our goods are given us not as our own possessions but for use in GOD's service." - Sermon 10, St. Leo the Great

16 November 2006

Simply Stunning...

Pr. Starke's paraphrase of the Te Deum set to Gustav Holst' Thaxted. That's at LSB 941. The match of text and tune is powerful. If you've got an LSB, sit down and play this and sing through it. You will be blessed:

From stanza 3:

You, Christ, are King of glory, the everlasting Son,
Yet You with boundless love, sought to rescue everyone:
You laid aside Your glory, were born of virgin's womb,
Were crucified for us and were placed into a tomb;
Then by Your resurrection You won for us reprieve -
You opened heaven's kingdom to all who would believe.
(Copyright 1999 Stephen P. Starke, administered by Concordia Publishing House)

I think it is a far stronger paraphrase of the Te Deum than LSB 940, "Holy God, We Praise Your Name."

Patristic Quote for the Day

A very interesting passage that friend showed me sometime ago from St. Theodoret of Cyprus, from Eranistes, Dialog 2. Note that the Orthodox responder in this dialog confesses that the substance of bread and wine remain in the Eucharist, even as we confess that they become Christ's true body and blood:

Eran.--You have opportunely introduced the subject of the divine mysteries for from it I shall be able to show you the change of the Lord's body into another nature. Answer now to my questions.

Orth.--I will answer.

Eran.--What do you call the gift which is offered before the priestly invocation?

Orth.--It were wrong to say openly; perhaps some uninitiated are present.

Eran.--Let your answer be put enigmatically.

Orth.--Food of grain of such a sort.

Eran.--And how name we the other symbol?

Orth.--This name too is common, signifying species of drink.

Eran.--And after the consecration how do you name these?

Orth.--Christ's body and Christ's blood.

Eran.--And do you believe that you partake of Christ's body and blood?

Orth.--I do.

Eran.--As, then, the symbols of the Lord's body and blood are one thing before the priestly invocation, and after the invocation are changed and become another thing; so the Lord's body after the assumption is changed into the divine substance.

Orth.--You are caught in the net you have woven yourself. *For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form*; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they are become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be. Compare then the image with the archetype, and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality. For that body preserves its former form, figure, and limitation and in a word the substance of the body; but after the resurrection it has become immortal and superior to corruption; it has become worthy of a seat on the right hand; it is adored by every creature as being called the natural body of the Lord.

Eran.--Yes; and the mystic symbol changes its former appellation; it is no longer called by the name it went by before, but is styled body. So must the reality be called God, and not body.

Orth.--You seem to me to be ignorant--for He is called not only body but even bread of life. So the Lord Himself used this name' and that very body we call divine body, and giver of life, and of the Master and of the Lord, teaching that it is not common to every man but belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ Who is God and Man. "For Jesus Christ" is "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever."

A Great Hymn

I love LOTS of hymns. Very hard to choose which I love the most. But when it comes to the Distribution of the Holy Eucharist, I must confess that I don't think there's a hymn out there that packs more in such a small space as the four stanzas of the following:

Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor,
First-begotten from the dead,
You alone our strong defender,
You lift up Your people's head.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Jesus, true and living bread!
Jesus, true and living bread!

Though the lowliest forms now veil You
As of old in Bethlehem.
Here as there Your angels hail You,
Branch and Flow'r of Jesse's stem.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
We in worship join with them!
We in worship join with them!

Paschal Lamb, Your offering finished
Once for all when You were slain,
In its fullness undiminished
Shall forevermore more remain,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Cleansing souls from ev'ry stain;
Cleansing souls from ev'ry stain.

Life-imparting heavenly manna,
Stricken rock with streaming side,
Heaven and earth with loud hosanna
Worship You, the Lamb who died,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Risen, ascended, glorified!
Risen, ascended, glorified! (LSB #534)

Add to those awesome words the powerful Welsh melody of Bryn Calfaria and you have one splendid hymn to sing as our Lord's Body and Blood are given into us for forgiveness, life and immortality, and eternal salvation. Glory to You, Lord Jesus Christ! Glory to You!

So, Bekah and I were talking

the other day, and we were both positively giddy! You know why???



May the angels guard their way and bring them safely to us!

15 November 2006

I love this!

David did this for his art class at school. Believe it or not, this is entirely made of paper that has been cut out in various shapes to produce the image. I don't remember the famous artist who did the original this is based off of, but it is definitely my all time favorite piece of art David has done this year. "O sacred head, now wounded... Yet though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine!"

14 November 2006

One thing I love...

...about being a pastor: the incredibly diversity of tasks that I get to do. It's not the most rewarding thing about being a pastor, but it is one of the most FUN things about it.

Yesterday: Leading devotions at school; teaching 5-6 and 7-8 grade classes; funeral for a man I'll always miss; discussion with a brother pastor over lunch (a late lunch); pick up daughter #2 from school; clean up church for the next funeral; Vespers; Dinner; Visitation at the funeral home for today's funeral; elders' meeting.

Today: Matins; conducted and preached a funeral for a dear lady; Pastors' Winkel (Missouri-speak for the monthly pastoral gathering of the pastors in the "circuit" - or in our case, "bi-circuit") at which I got to give a presentation on Advent I, but really an apologia for returning to the one-year series and also engage in a discussion of the challenges of counter-acting the dangers of evolution in the task of educating our children; take our Lord's body and blood to a poor woman who has been hospitalized for 21 days; visit with a parishioner who is a relative to the woman whose funeral we celebrated today, and who continues to teach me the meaning of patient endurance as she cares for her husband, suffering from Alzheimers; praying Vespers (shortly); taking daughter #2 out to dinner and then to work; attending school board meeting where we'll look at some of the significant challenges facing our association school.

Think of all the different things that demand attention in a single day! What a hoot!!! I LOVE that about the office of the holy ministry. We always seek to bring the Word of God to bear, but the variety of situations where one is blessed to do so simply staggers the mind. One thing the office of the ministry never is: BORING! And best of all, you NEVER know what is right around the corner waiting - heartbreak oe joy overflowing, someone somewhere will be needing to hear the Message Christ has sent us to proclaim, the message of the overflowing love of God in Jesus Christ for this wacky and nutso race of men.

13 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Why is the Church called catholic? Here's St. Cyril of Jerusalem's answer:

It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts. (Catechetical Lectures 18:23)

Second LSB Funeral

Today we celebrated our second funeral from LSB. It really does work VERY well. I'm still adjusting to the slight differences from the LW Agenda. Something to beware of, however. I opened the LSB Agenda while sitting in the car, waiting for the move to the cemetery and quickly marked the page where I saw "Committal." I didn't look at the top of the page! Remember that there is a separate rite for the burial of still-born children - and that is where I started out. It starts the same, so it wasn't until the prayer spoke of "this child" that I knew something was amiss, and quickly turned back to the other page. Not a problem, of course, because every last one of us is buried as a child. "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I return." So, be sure to mark the correct page! At the committal, the singing of two verses of "Abide with Me" is an option. We did that today. Excellent. There is something very powerful about giving death a good solid round of Christian song!

12 November 2006

A Kind Review

If you'd like to read a kind review of the St. Paul's experience on Sausage Supper Sunday, check out Pastor Paul McCain's blog:


Homily for Trinity 22

[Texts: Micah 6:6-8 / Phil. 1:3-11 / Matt 18:21-35]

Lucy is our beagle. Cute and sassy! She likes all sorts of games. She fetches, she plays tug of war, she protects her family from “the evil thing” that lives in the hall closet – also known as the vacuum cleaner – and she loves for visitors to come to the house so she can give them reminders of their baptism with her tongue. Yuck. But the one thing Lucy just can’t seem to get the hang of is going for a walk. Lucy doesn’t go for walks. Put her on the leash and instead of walking with you, she thinks in a variant of the old tug of war game. She pulls this way and then without warning will take off that way. And she’ll circle – no doubt trying to trip you up. In short, she seems to resist with might and main wherever it is that you want to lead her.

“He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

Walking humbly is what Lucy doesn’t do. In her pride she thinks that she knows best and off she goes until she is hauled back in line by the leash. You and I are rather like Lucy, aren’t we?

Walk humbly with God, with that leash on? Not us! And so we take off this way and that, and God patiently yanks on our chain to get our attention and get us walking the way He would have us walk again. Not the way we think is best, but the way He knows is best, the way He leads us. Yes, even when we fear the way He’s leading, and we pull one of Lucy’s “I’m not going there and you can make me” with our legs braced against the direction He’s leading. But He gives a tug and off we go that way anyway.

When we will ever learn the joys of submitting to Him and letting Him take us for a walk? Of letting us lead us through this world to Himself in heaven? Of not questioning His ways, but giving ourselves over to them?

Peter was pulling a Lucy in today’s Gospel. He was willing to go for a walk with Jesus down the forgiveness path – but only so far. He figured after seven times, he’d plant his feet firmly and say: far enough down that path, thank you very much.

But Jesus doesn’t agree to do things our way; instead, He invites us to do things His way, to walk humbly with our God. And that means to walk all the way down the forgiveness path. Past mile marker seven or seventy-seven or four hundred ninety. To risk going down the forgiveness the path as far as He went Himself.

For surely He’s the one who is the King in today’s Gospel reading – He usually is. He’s the one who wipes out the debt of his servant – a phenomenally huge debt – a debt of proportions big enough to even catch the attention of a Bill Gates. And when the man has nothing to pay with and is facing certain slavery for himself and bringing sorrow and grief on all his loved ones, and all he can do is say: “Have patience with me and I will pay all!” Mysteriously the heart of the King is moved.

Patience? He gets something better than patience. He gets mercy, pity, forgiveness, the total wiping out of his debt. One moment he and his family faced poverty, shame, and slavery. The next moment he was a free man – all thanks to the mercy of the King. The King who assumed the debt to wipe it out. Who endured the loss rather than make the servant pay. We call that the cross. For there our King took to His own account all our debt and so wiped it out indeed. As St. Paul put it: “He cancelled the record of debt that stood us against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Between us and what we owe there now stands a payment so huge that it cannot be exhausted.

And our Lord wants us to live in that and celebrate it and rejoice in it and pass it on!

Oh, but look what happens! Instead of living in the forgiveness of the King, following Him all the way to the point where we too are forgiving those who sin against, blessing those who curse us, and doing good to those who spitefully use us – thus becoming like our Father in heaven – we pull a Lucy. Don’t want to go that way. Don’t want to walk down that path all that way. It scares us. We’re staying put.

Jesus won’t let us though. He gives a very solemn warning. When the fellow in the story won’t pass on the forgiveness that he has so freely received, when the pity and mercy of the King will not be allowed to govern his treatment of those who sin against him, a terrifying thing happens. It all works backwards. He ends up losing what the King had freely given. “So my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

It’s a relatively simple either /or. Either we pass on to others the joyful forgiveness that we have received so undeservedly from the hand of God, and pass it on as freely and lavishly as He dishes it out to us, or we insist that he deal with us by “playing fair.” If we give others only what is there due, we can count on our God to do the same for us. Which will it be?

In today’s Epistle St. Paul prays for the Philippians that they be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. How better may that fruit be shown in us than in our humble submission to the walk of forgiveness that God wants to lead us on?

Today we approach again the Holy Table and receive from it the very body and blood that once on Calvary’s cross blotted out all the record of our debt. We receive it as the pledge and guarantee of our forgiveness. Let us also receive it as the strength and power of God Himself entering into us so that we can share the mind of Christ, who humbly walked the way of forgiveness to its joyful end. Will folks take advantage of us? Certainly! Who cares?! Our God has shown us that this is the path of life. And He gives us the will and the strength to walk it.

So don’t be like my stubborn beagle, people loved by God. “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Now, are you ready to go for that walk? Amen.

11 November 2006

Why you shouldn't bother...

...with Series A, B, or C.

I know, almost everyone does, but really, what is the point?

The big dream when Mama Rome went to the three year cycle was for better Biblical literacy. Have we achieved that by using three year cycle? Given today's horrific attendance pattern, it might be possible to go for nine years without hearing a vital Gospel reading! That is an aid to memory? I don't think so.

Pastors, please explore the possibility as Advent arrives of adopting the historic, one-year series. The ancients were not wrong when they observed that "repetition is the mother of learning." It really is. You preach those same pericopes year after year and you will screw them down into your people's consciousness. You will give them a frame of reference and means of understanding the whole of the Scriptures.

Besides, it's cheaper! Buy one Lectionary for $70 instead of three lectionaries for $125 or whatever it is.

If you are still in doubt, find a copy of Maxwell's essay in *Through the Church the Song Goes On* and read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it. Then you too will discover the joy of hearing one of your parishioners say: "Oh, it's 'Wake, Awake Sunday!'"

Oh, and did I mention: if you do, you have Luther's postils to draw on, and if you do Deutsch also Walther's and Loehe's, and if you do English also sermons from Petersen and even, if you're absolutely stuck, from Weedon!

Oh, in case you were wondering...

...the altar book mostly behaved itself during tonight's liturgy. It helps when you turn to a new page to run your hand along the inside margin to help the big book stay in place. But it definitely works. Kudos, CPH! Kudos!

Repentant Joy

I remember once hearing a pastor object to this phrase in the post-sanctus prayer in our Hymnal. It used to be in DS 1 of Lutheran Worship. It is now included in the post-sanctus prayer in both DS 1 and 2 of Lutheran Service Book. He thought that it was a crying shame we couldn't just speak of joy without having to drag repentance in!

"With repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His body and His blood on the cross."

Is there a gulf between repentance and joy? I don't think so. I think they embrace each other. It is in repentance that we discover joy. Repentance is not primarily grief and sorrow, regret and pain. Repentance is first and foremost a return to joy - the real joy, the joy of God's presence.

"In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16

This also reveals to us the true nature of sin: which is turning away from God and what He would give. "But your inquities have made a separation between you and your God." Is 59:2

When we speak of repentant joy, we speak of seeking and finding the only lasting joy in all the world: the joy of the merciful presence of God, His coming to us in grace, His wiping out our sin but not wiping out US. Said most simply: repentant joy is what we have when we turn from chasing joy in all those other places, and find it in the most Holy Eucharist. As our living Lord puts into our mouth His precious Body and pours down our throats His life-giving Blood - there is joy. Forgiveness, for sins are wiped out and gone. Life, for though this Body and Blood are surely the one sacrifice once offered on Calvary's tree, He who gives them to us lives forevermore and so into us go the Body and Blood that death (our death!) can never destroy. Salvation, for living in the merciful presence of God IS salvation.

Repentant joy, then. Let it be so for us each time we approach the Most Holy Table.

Funeral Homily for Lenora Niemietz

[Texts: Isaiah 35:8-10; Hebrews 11:8-10; John 14:1-6]

Robert, William, Ruthanne, family and friends of Leonra Niemietz, it is a terrible thing to be robbed of your memories, and yet it is a grace of God when not all memories are erased. I would come to bring Lenora the Holy Sacrament and she would say: “Now, I know I should know you, sir. Tell me your name?” And I’d tell her: “I’m pastor. From Gehlenbeck.” And she’d smile that smile of hers and off we’d go to celebrate the Supper.

Not a word of the liturgy had she forgotten. “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner…” she confessed. And gave a hearty “amen” to the words of absolution. She prayed the “Our Father…” And always, she would thank me at the end for bringing her her Savior’s body and blood. And then, almost invariably, she’d say: “Pastor, before you go there’s something I want to ask you.”

And I knew what was coming. You guys know too. She’d ask: “My mother and my father. Have you seen them lately?” And no matter how many times I told her that her mother and father were with Jesus, that they’d been taken home to the Lord, she’d sigh and her face would drop a little. Your mother wanted to go home. But the home she was remembering had long since vanished. That didn’t stop the ache and pain, though. She wanted to go home so badly. I think if you gave her a pair of ruby slippers she’d be clicking them together and saying: “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Today’s readings remind us that there IS no place like home, and that no place in this world really is worthy of the name. Because home is the place where you’re together forever with those you love. Where the welcome is never tinged with the sadness of having to say goodbye. And so in the first reading, we heard about the Church’s journey through this life – about how we are walking together toward home. And how at last, “the ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing and everlasting joy shall crown their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Such was Lenora’s experience, my friends, when she closed her eyes in death and entered into the life that never ends. There she found that place we heard of in our second reading – the City with foundations, whose designer and builder is God! She was looking for that place all the days of her pilgrimage! There she found the words of her Savior true: “Let not your hearts be troubled…in my Father’s house are many rooms… I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to take you to myself, that you may be where I am.”

She rejoiced always in how the Savior prepared that place for her – how He went to the cross to forgive her sins, how He entered death to bring death to an end, how He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven to get her home ready!

The joy of that home Lenora’s soul knows already. Already she is with her loved ones whom she missed so much. Already she is home. But the joy of the Lord does not stop there.

He has more. For He will not be through with Lenora or you and me until He has returned in glory to raise this body and the bodies of all His people from the dead and make them immortal like his own – incorruptible, full of light and alive with a life that never ends. How your mom looked forward to that day! I wonder if that’s why she picked the hymn Charles sang today: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!”

She was a sinner who knew that she lived only from the forgiveness of her Savior. Forgiveness won for her and for all upon the cross. Forgiveness given her in the waters of Baptism. Forgiveness sealed to her every time she partook of the Eucharist. Forgiveness that told her in her heart of hearts that she HAD a home – a home that could never, ever be taken away from her.

Today amidt your tears, lift your eyes to home and remember that though we do not have any home in this world that lasts, all the baptized may look forward with joy to the home your mother now lives in. Amen.

Funeral Homily for Edward Ahrens

[Texts: Is 25:6-9 / Rev. 14:13 / John 10:27-30]

Cheryl, Gerald and Dennis, family and friends of Edward Ahrens, the first time I heard your father do his auction thing, my jaw was on the floor. I didn’t know it was possible for a person to talk that fast! And what a contrast to his usual speed of conversation! But a mouth going that fast has to be matched by a brain going faster – and you know it was.

How utterly sad, then, for him to be robbed of his voice. Not of his mind, but of his ability to communicate. He was as sharp as a tack up to the very end, you know that. But not to be able to speak anymore – at least with force or clarity, I imagine that must have been a singular trial for a man like him.

But if he could not use his voice terribly well, he still used his ears. And what he wanted to hear with his ears above all things were the words of His Lord. “My sheep hear my voice” said Jesus. So listening to Jesus is a mark of being one of His own sheep, one of the little lambs to whom He promises: “I know my own and my own know me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.”

Such a little lamb was Edward. Graven in my memory is the visit I had with him shortly after Jason’s death. I gave him the sacrament – he always hungered for that. And then we sat in silence for a while, and like a little child he asked me: “Would you read me some psalms.” I said, “Sure.” And remembering an incident with your mother I offered to read Psalm 23. You see, I shared a long devotion on sickness and death with Elsie and I’ll never forget how patiently and kindly she listened, only to end up by saying: “That’s so nice, Pastor, but you know what really helps is Psalm 23, would you mind reading it to me?” So I offered the Good Shepherd psalm to Edward that day. But you know, he didn’t want me to read that. Why? He said: “I can say that one to myself anytime. Read me another one.”

And so I did. Several psalms, and you could watch this man soaking up the words of God, drawing from the the strength that is faith. A faith in the goodness and mercy of God that is stronger than any of the darkness of death or despair we face in this valley of tears.

So of Edward today we shout for joy and say: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, for they rest from their labors and their deeds follow them.”

Note the follow. The deeds don’t go before to open heaven’s door to Edward anymore than your deeds go before you to open heaven’s door to you. No! Heaven’s door was opened once and for all by that Great Good Shepherd who gave Himself into death, shouldering the load of your sin and mine and Edward’s. And He took it away completely in His suffering and by His death and resurrection He has blown wide open the gates of the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Their deeds follow them, not precede them.

You know the deeds of this man. Oh, he was a sinner too and he freely admitted it – that’s why he hungered so much for that feast of the Eucharist that celebrated the overthrow of death itself. But he was also a man of incredible kindness and gentleness, a simple man whose life shown with love.

Today we mourn for all that we’ll miss of him. His warm smile, his little horses, his sharp mind and his kind words. But we rejoice that we have NOT lost him. For he is and remains in the arms of the Good Shepherd. And today we plant His body into the earth. As a farmer he would tell you what that’s all about. You can’t get a harvest without planting the seed. So into the earth his body – which was fed and nourished with the Body and Blood of the Savior – into the earth it goes. And as Christ stood alive again on Easter morning, so Edward’s body will rise when the Springtime of a New Age breaks upon this world. “They who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow will doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.” Amen.

Never rains but it pours...

This weekend is Sausage Supper at St. Paul's. We put on a great spread. Anyone in shouting distance, come on down and eat some of the best vittles in the state of Illinois starting tomorrow at 12 noon and serving until 6. Ostensibly, the men's club does this as fund raiser, but the truth is it is a fun raiser. The parish enjoys it. Everyone has a job they do and everyone really seems to have a great time - the best part for me is seeing old friends as I wait tables (setting aside Acts 6 for the day!).

But this weekend, the fun will be dampened a bit by the fact that we have two funerals coming up. On Monday we will lay to rest the body of Edward Ahrens and either Tuesday or Wednesday, the body of Lenora Niemitz. It is a blessed departure for both of these saints of God. Edward has suffered from those little strokes. He was an auctioneer and could talk faster than any person I'd ever known, but for the last several years, he has struggled to communicate at all. His mind, though, was sharp as a tack right up to the end. I prayed the commendation of the dying with him a week ago. I wasn't sure if he understood much, but when I asked him, and put my head down by his mouth, he said: "Yes, I understood." God bless his soul and grant him rest eternal! Lenora was a bit of a different case, her mind for present realities was not good. Oh, she never failed in speaking the words of the liturgy and always thanked me for bringing her communion, but she would invariably ask who I was. When I said: "Pastor, from Gehlenbeck." She'd smile and begin to ask how things were there and if I'd seen her mother and father. This happened sometimes more than once in a visit. I'd remind her that her parents were home with Jesus. She'd sigh and start to cry. She just wanted to go home, but the home she remembered was long since gone in this world. Now she IS home - gloria in excelsis Deo!

Our Son....We Are SOOOOO Proud of Him

Well, we actually are. But because we love him so much, we figured that you all would appreciate this little chronicle of his fun week...

So, Thursday David has an appointment with a counselor to plan his classes for the spring. Seems a tad late for that, you think. You think correctly. "But no one told me that I had to register for classes." "David, you are 18 and need to take care of things like this for yourself."

Thursday morning I'm ready to leave for a full day in St. Louis, and I think: "Hmm. Haven't heard David up yet. I guess his appointment is later than I thought." Out the door I go.

Sitting in Dr. Nagel's office, the phone rings. David. In a panic. "Dad, my car is smoking badly and the check engine light is on. What should I do?" "Stop and call AAA." "No, Dad, I can't stop. I'll miss my appointment with the counselor." "Okay, well, you could try to keep going to make it to school." "No, I can't go. It's smoking like crazy. What should I do?" "David, I'm in St. Louis. I can't get there soon enough to help you." And then, being the great dad I am, I remember the universal cop-out. "Call your mother." "Okay, bye."

Mother is called (she works only a few miles away) and drops her work and heads out to help son. However, she thinks about Opa (who used to work on cars) and tells David to call his grandfather. Which David does - sort of. You see, he started the call and got through, but then his battery ran out in his cell phone. Mother cannot figure out why David is no longer answering his phone. She arrives about the same time as Grandma and Opa and things do not turn out nicely. Mother discovers that said son 1) set but did not turn ON his alarm; 2) was in a panic because he was planning to get up early to finish his homework (which obviously didn't happen) and further was in such a panic at the time that he left his transcripts behind that he needed for the meeting he was now missing anyway; 3) had run out of the house without getting himself a thing to eat; 4) despite nearly daily admonitions to plug in his cell phone at night so it would be recharged, hadn't bothered AGAIN; 5) had not thought to put any money in his wallet (which might have had something to do with the fact that he didn't have any to put it in, but that is another story). At this point, understand, that it is not only the car that is steaming. A steaming mother is a frightening thing to behold. Good thing I was over in St. Louis! Whew!

Thank God for Opa and Grandma being local now! They arrive to sit with David and his car so mom can get back to work. Opa and Grandma figure out that David needs a woman who will organize and run his life for him. ; )

Is the saga over? Well, the car needed a new radiator; it was not David's fault that it sprung a leak. It was just David's fault that he overslept, had to have an appointment with the counselor because he hadn't registered, had a cell phone with no juice, and had to fed lunch and given a few bucks. BUT the next day, steam came out of Mother's ears once again. She walked into David's room to empty his trash (he wouldn't think of doing that himself - who cares if there's food in his trash a couple weeks old?), and she discovers his retainer with distinct marks of being chewed by the dog. Understand this is NOT the first retainer to suffer such a fate. It's not even the second; and I'm not sure it's the third.

The lad is brilliant, witty, and charming. Is there ANYWAY we could purchase for him some foresight about practical matters such as 1) classes don't fall into your lap automatically; 2) cars need gas and bodies need food and both cost money which needsd to be in your pocket; 3) dogs like the taste of retainers and retainers cost money; 4) cell phones need to be charged in order to work; and above all, how, how will we ever get him to understand the first and foremost rule of domestic tranquility?


10 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen." - St. Clement of Rome (Letter to the Corinthians, par. 32)

God Is Glorious!

The beautiful new Altar Book provides a fabulous resource from which to pray the daily offices. One feature that I didn't know or expect to be there is the number of invitatories (the antiphon before the Venite - Psalm 95 - in Matins) that were provided. During this season of the Church year, from Trinity 20-24, this invitational antiphon cries out:

Glorious is God with His angels and saints!
O come, let us worship Him!

And when we reach Trinity 25-27 the invitatory reads:

The Lord will come again in glory!
O come, let us worship Him!

All in all there are 15 invitatories provided in LSB Matins. (This, by the way, goes hand in hand with a greater expansion of "seasonal" propers in the book. For instance, if you look at the proper prefaces provided in TLH you will count up 9; in LW 13; in LSB 20!)

09 November 2006

On the term "High Church"

When I was a student at Bronxville donkey years ago, I had a friend who was an Anglican. He used to irritate me with reminding me that the Lutheran Eucharist is really only a fellowship meal in which we imagine we receive our Lord's body and blood because, alas, our pastors are not in "valid orders." One day he introduced me to a friend of his, a deacon in the church, I believe, and he made a curious comment that I've never forgotten.

"You all really are rather low, but I've checked out your hymnal and was surprised to see what a high church view it took on the Eucharist."

A "high church view"?

It then hit me that Anglicans, who were the first to use the terms "high church" and "low church" were not merely describing "lots of traditional ceremonies" and "minimal traditional ceremonies" by those terms. They were describing different DOCTRINES of the Sacrament (and of the Church and of the Ministry).

That's one reason why I think it's silly - even if Sasse does it and McCain quotes him - to use this term borrowed from the Anglicans to describe ANY Lutheran. Fidn't dit. ALL faithful Lutherans will be regarded as "high church" by the Anglicans when it comes to our *doctrine* of the Sacrament.

Far better than "high" and "low" and all the terrible epiteths that run with either one (chancel prancing etc.), let's just recognize that with Lutherans you have folks who make greater or lesser use of the church's ceremonies when it comes to the Eucharist, and that the greater or lesser use in no way impinges the truth that is taught.

At our altar, we elevate the sacred species, and I genuflect. I know plenty of places who do, and plenty more who don't. I'd argue that genuflection and elevation is fitting and reverent, but I wouldn't dream of saying that those who do not elevate or genuflect have shown irreverence to the Sacrament. Now, I *will* say that those who rush through the Words of Institution as if they were auctioneers trying to get it over with, impede reverence. But really, can't we let the Anglicans KEEP their language - it fits them and their doctrinal diversity. It is not fitting for us, who insist that we do not condemn one another for greater or fewer ceremonies not commanded in Scripture.

So, is Weedon "high"? Well, I've only had half a glass of wine, but I'd be tempted to say, "stupid question!" Better question is: "What is confessed at St. Paul's altar and how is that confession expressed in the Church's traditional ceremonies?"

Comforting Words

In our ongoing study of *Life Together* we read and pondered these words this morning in our men's study group. I found that I really needed to hear them. I thought you might too.

"Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather than God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given to us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together - the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mist of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship."

As an offending brother, I found those words pure Gospel this morning.

08 November 2006

A Table of Contents

What's between the covers of the Altar Book? Try everything but the kitchen sink. Well, I just may have overlooked it. It could be in there too!

The Church Year - both the Sundays, Feasts and Festivals and the Commemorations.
A brief lesson on how to chant collects, offering the LW method and the classic Western method.
The Psalter - all of it - pointed for chanting.
The Five Settings of the Divine Service (each with the Prefaces printed out for chanting - Prefaces are included for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Baptism of our Lord, Transfiguration of our Lord, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, Apostles and Evangelists, Presentation of our Lord, The Annunciuation / Visitation / St. Mary, Mother of our Lord, St. Michael and All Angels, All Saints Day, three Common Prefaces - the first from LW, the second loosely based on the Hippolytan Eucharistia, and the third of unknown origin, and a weekday preface).
Morning Prayer
Evening Prayer
Service of Prayer and Preaching (catechetical service)
Holy Baptism
Holy Baptism (Alternate form based on Luther's Baptismal rite)
Holy Matrimony
Entrance of the Body into the Church
Funeral Service
Responsive Prayer I (Suffrages)
Responsive Prayer 2
The Bidding Prayer
The Litany (spoken version, followed by the sung version)
Corporate Confession and Absolution
Individual Confession and Absolution
Prayers (some 216 of them)
The Athanasian Creed
The Small Catechism
Ash Wednesday Liturgy
The Passion of our Lord (five readings)
Passion Sunday with the Procession of Palms
Holy Thursday Divine Service
Good Friday Chief Service
Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers
Vigil of Easter
Entire set of Propers for Series A
Entire set of Propers for Series B
Entire set of Propers for Series C
Entire set of Propers for the Historic Series
Entire set of Propers for Feasts, Festivals and Occasions

Sasse Gem

And everywhere a congregation is gathered about her altar in the deep faith in the one who is her Lord and her Head because He is her Redeemer, where she sings the Kyrie and the Gloria and lifts her heart to heaven and with all angels and archangels and the entire company of heaven sings, "Holy, holy, holy" to the Triune God - there will her church be a true house of God, a place of the real presence of Christ in the midst of a boistrous and unholy world. And this text will apply to her: "The LORD is in his temple! Let all the world be silent before Him!" [Hab. 2:20] - Sasse, *The Holy Supper and the Future of the Church*

Patristic Quote for the Day

"When I was sick in the flesh, the Savior was sent to me in the likeness of sinful flesh, fulfilling such a dispensation, to redeem me from slavery, from corruption, and from death. And he became to me righteousness, and sanctification, and salvation. Righteousness, by setting me free from sin through faith in him. Sanctification, in having set me free through water and the Spirit and his Word. And salvation, his blood being the ransom of the true Lamb, having given himself up on my behalf. An expiatory sacrifice for the cleansing of the world, for the reconciliation of all things in heaven as well as on earth, the mystery hidden before the ages and generations, fulfilled at the ordained time." (St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 3.1:2)

07 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

"In order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by him who required it, the Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, so that, as with a ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of the flesh, and thus life being introduced into the house of death and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active." (St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, chapter XXIV)

Words Fail

Okay, so I lied. Words failed for a while. But now I have some words to share. I have spent much of the afternoon checking out the Altar Book for Lutheran Service Book. Wow. Facts:

1. It's big. Scratch that. It's huge. It's massive. Last page number is 1004.
2. It's beautiful. Gilded edges, four ribbons (burgandy, white, gold, and white).
3. It mostly stays open. This was a vital consideration and somehow, despite the huge size, it does hold its place when opened fairly well. With a little wear, I'll bet the whole thing will always lay flat open.
4. It's easy to read. I have the problem most folks do at my age (no, not that problem) - the EYE problem. And I can't see very well when things are printed too small. Especially when the altar book is to the side of the sacred species and I'm trying to read it. This will not be a problem.
5. If you like rubrics, you've got them - in red too, as they should be!
6. The propers are VERY well done, with each series (A,B,C and Historic) being listed separately. This is a HUGE contributor to the bulk of the book (propers run from page 553 to 994), but makes for a very easy to use book.
7. It's complete. What you looking for? Ash Wednesday? In there. Palm Sunday? In there. Maundy Thursday through the Vigil? In there. Litany? In there. Litany's music? In there. Prayers of the Church? In there. Small Catechism even? In there. Invitatories for various days and seasons with music? In there.


Well, what would an initial look-see be without something to complain about? I searched hard and one thing I did find: The historic series should have been put BEFORE the three year in the propers. There. See, contrary to what some say (who think I can find no fault with LSB) I have shown that I can nit-pick too.

Oh, and ONE more thing. The new Altar Book is more beautiful than the Lectionary. This should not be. I want to see those gilded edges on the next batch of Lectionary books, fellows! Our prayers to God SHOULD be in a beautiful book, but that book shouldn't outshine the Word of God - and currently it does. Can you fix that?

What astonishes me? How they are selling it for just $65!

06 November 2006

Another Patristic quote for the Day

You, however, admit that you are justified through Christ. Then do you object to your having received sentence through Adam? And do you complain that the penalty due to another man has also hurt you – you who see that the injustice of another man has helped you? Is not the whole tree contained in the seed? Therefore, a defect of the seed is a defect of the whole tree. If the nature itself had been able to help itself through its own power, the Creator Himself would never have assumed this nature to work its repairing...Therefore, brethren, let us acquiesce in the fact that death has reigned through one man and because of one man’s sin, if all of us wish to be set free through One Man, and to have our very being through Christ. For, he who lives owes it to Christ, not to himself; and he owes to Adam the fact that he must die. (St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 111, Original Sin, p. 178-180)

Patristic Quote for the Day

And so for our sake He submits to death and dies and offers Himself to the Father as a sacrifice for us. For we had offended Him and it was necessary for Him to take upon Himself our redemption that we might thus be loosed from the condemnation - for God forbid that the Lord's blood should have been offered to the tyrant! (John of Damascus: *The Orthodox Faith* Book 3, Chapter 27)

05 November 2006

You Go, Urbanus!

Gotta love Urbanus Rhegius. He's just the sort of person I'd love to have for my own pastor. He wrote a great little book on preaching the Reformation in which he chews up and spits out the blockheaded attempts of some preachers in preaching totally inaccurately about various subjects in the Church. One such subject he goes after is "ceremonies." He writes:

"On this basis we discern easily how one should think and speak carefully about ceremonies and festivals. The church militant in the flesh is not able to exist without ceremonies. If they are not plainly against the Word of God, therefore, and observed for the sake of good order without any impious notion of acquiring righteousness through them, they should definitely not be rejected but kept for the sake of peace, lest ordinary people be offended. Changing such ceremonies can produce great turmoil and scandals without end...."

Yup. Same thing we read in AC XV. And boy, don't we see it around us today! Kyrie, eleison.

04 November 2006

What Joy!

Tonight we not only were given the joy of All Saints and the commemoration of the faithful departed (remembering the members of our parish who have been gathered to the Lord since the last All Saints celebration by name and with the tolling of a bell), but we also got to see Hannah Victoria Huckleberry have her sins washed away in Holy Baptism and receive anointing and the laying on of hands. She has been made our newest saint!

Tomorrow, God willing, we will continue our All Saints celebration with the choir assisting on "For All the Saints" and at the late service confirm two adults: Antoinette Wood and Darlene DaCruz.

And as we gather at the holy table, we will feast together not only with those who have entered into rest this past year, but with all the faithful of every time and every place, worshipping the Lamb who was slain for our salvation and giving Him glory and praise with them. Truly, death has been destroyed and in Christ we have been given a life that never ends and a family that will be together in Him forever!

03 November 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ." - St. Basil the Great (Homily on Humility, PG 31.532; The Fathers of The Church vol. 9, p. 479)

02 November 2006

An Interesting Quote

"As it was God's will that humanity should persevere in its concreated holiness only so far as man's exercise of his free will towards the offered good and evil would not be interfered with, so it was God's purpose that all should enjoy redemption, provided the power of the decision of man's free will against the offered good be not destroyed. Grace has to do with persons, and their very personality implies, along with self-consciousness, self-determination. While man is helpless to deliver himself, or to prepare himself for divine grace, or even to respond to this grace as it approaches him, and thus his acceptance of God's grace comes from new powers which grace has brought, nevertheless, the freedom of the will is still preserved in man's ability to resist God's grace. All man's help must thus come from God; all his ruin comes from himself."

That's Jacob's again. *Elements of Religion.* p. 67 It uses language that Lutherans tend not to use, but I think the way he speaks is in accord with the Formula's presentation. What think ye?