31 January 2007

Hat tip to McCain

Check out this fascinating article from First Things:

First Things

Check out especially these words of St. Theresa:

I am very happy that I am going to heaven. But when I think of this word of the Lord, “I shall come soon and bring with me my recompense to give to each according to his works,” I tell myself that this will be very embarrassing for me, because I have no works. … Very well! He will render to me according to His works for His own sake.

And in her Offrande à l’Amour miséricordieux, she prays to Jesus thus:

In the evening of this life I shall appear before Thee with empty hands because I do not ask Thee, Lord, to count my works. All our just acts have blemishes in Thine eyes. Therefore I want to wrap myself up again in Thy justice, and to receive from Thy love the eternal possession of Thee Thyself.

Is that beautiful or what?

Shut-ins done!

It is always a joy when the shut-ins are finished for the month - even when it comes on the last day. Not as in "well, got through that again" but in the sense of joy that comes from visiting with these home-bound saints. I feel positively rejuvinated from spending time with them. I wish that it were possible to see them more than once a month, but I know better than to try. Too many other things come up that have to be dealt with. Still at least once a month I get the joy of visiting with them, sharing with them from the Word, and bringing them our Lord's body and blood.

Elva, Louis and Ella, Ruth, Wilma, Fred, Alma, Noel, Marvin and Agnes, Frieda, Frederick and Alfred.

Thirteen precious saints of God. They no longer can gather with us as part of the St. Paul's family in worship, but that worship comes to them, enwraps them, and reminds them they are STILL members of our family and that we love them. May God bless each one these home-bound saints!

Not an improvement

I've always loved singing TLH #292, st. 6:

The haughty spirits, Lord, retrain,
Who o'er Thy church with might would reign
And always set forth something new
Devised to change Thy doctrine true.

LSB #585, st. 5 lacks a bit:

Restrain, O Lord, the human pride
That seeks to thrust Your Word aside
Or with some man-made thoughts or things
Would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

We've lost the demonic element that resides in the "new" that seeks to displace the "true doctrine." Now, I've not checked the German, but it seems a weakening of the TLH version with its "Wir bleiben beim Alten!"

Patristic Quote for the Day

But a serpent by the wayside is watching the passengers; beware lest he bite thee with unbelief; he sees so many receiving salvation, and seeks to devour some of them. Thou art going to the Father of Spirits, but thou art going past that serpent; how then must thou pass him? Have thy feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; that even if he bite, he may not hurt thee. Have faith indwelling, strong hope, a sandal of power, wherewith to pass the enemy, and enter the presence of thy Lord. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Protocatechesis 16

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Notwithstanding, it is not untrue that, where the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments are administered by impure teachers, as Jesuists, priests, and monks, there the heavenly pearls are indeed offered in stained and unclean vessels, and the Kingdom of Christ can still be found there by its outward marks, but in thick fog and shadow, and laden with a heavy yoke and great burden of human laws. Yet the heavenly pearls are there, the voice of the Bridegroom and the Bride, the Christian Church, so that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, yet rules among his enemies, and ever keepeth for Himself seven thousand who do not bow the knee to Baal. - Philip Niccolai, from the first chapter of *History of the Kingdom of Christ*

30 January 2007

A Church is a Church

because of the Word of God that is proclaimed therein - whereby the voice of the Shepherd is heard, and little lambs and sheep are made who heed the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Many are vexed at how the Church can be among the heterodox. But the answer is clear: to the extent that also among those who teach falsely the voice of the Shepherd has not been entirely silenced, it remains divinely powerful to create faith in those who hear it.

Does that mean that heterodoxy is then not dangerous? By no means! The danger of heterdoxy is that that other voices are tolerated alongside the voice of the Good Shepherd and constantly threaten to drown Him out. When His voice can no longer be heard, what we have is not even heterodoxy but non-Christian cult.

There is no jurisdiction or communion upon earth where the danger is not present of other voices drowning the alone-saving voice of the Good Shepherd. I would never deny that the danger is a real and persistent one in the Churches of the Augsburg Confession. But I still maintain that in their Confession - where that Confession lives, informing actual preaching, teaching, and practice - there the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd sounds forth with a clarity not to be missed. There the Church comes into her own because His and His voice alone holds sway.

A vision? A dream? Yes. But more than either: a confidence in the Word of God to accomplish its end. "Those who believe on me through their words." "My sheep hear my voice." As our heavenly Father commanded at the Transfiguration: "This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: HEAR HIM!"

On Psalm Singing

"I don't like it." That's my wife. She doesn't like the Psalm tones in LSB at all. "They're just boring."

Actually, I agree. They ARE boring. But they are also easy. Goes hand in hand, perhaps?

Hang with me here, though. There is something about the simple tone that achieves a noble end. When I am singing the Psalms for Matins or Vespers, it doesn't take long before the Psalm tone itself has completely receded from consciousness. It's the words that take hold and pull you in. And there's always the regret when the Gloria comes along that the Psalm itself is over.

I think that in this instance, boring is good. Excellent even. Because the tones need to be transparent - it's not about beautiful music "moving" you, but the Word of God seizing hold and informing the Church's praying.

Don't get me wrong: I believe we COULD have learned the Gregorian psalm tones. They're not that difficult (and with a teacher like Ben Mayes chanting them all for you at the Lutheran Prayer Brotherhood website, they're that much easier!). But the ones in LSB suit the purpose well enough - they let us sing the Word of God and that's the big thing. So there.

It's Official...

...David is in mourning. The poor lad is unable to find any icecream in the house. He simply despises the depletion of the larder at the end of the month. Rumor is he may be heading to Opa's for a raid on his freezer.

FAQs on Pre-Lent and Lent in Historic Series

1. What is the color of the paraments? LSB prescribes green for pre-Lent; black or violet for Ash Wednesday; violet from Invocabit through Judica and either violet or scarlet for Holy Week, with the possibility of white for Maundy Thursday.
2. What preface do we use for Pre-Lent? LSB prescribes Epiphany's preface.
3. What changes in the Divine Service? From Septuagesima onward, the Alleluia is replaced by the Tract. The Gloria in Excelsis does not disappear until Ash Wednesday. The Gloria Patri is dropped from Judica forward.
4. What about the Creed? We use the Apostles' Creed for the penitential seasons so that our parish doesn't completely forget it - but this is an innovation. The traditional creed for the Eucharist is the Nicene. LSB doesn't prescribe the one over the other, but provides either, giving the Nicene first.
5. Which post-communion collect is appropriate during Pre-Lent and Lent? I suggest the first one: "We give thanks to You, almighty God..." At St. Paul's we reserve the second prayer ("O God the Father...") for Advent through Transfiguration.
6. How can I help the congregation understand the purpose of Pre-Lent? Use the analogy of Lent as a trip back to the Baptismal font (at the Easter Vigil) - a return to the life given us there. Pre-Lent is the time to make preparation for that trip. It's the time to decide how you will observe the fast (something each of you should discuss with your confessor - and yes, each of you should have a confessor!).

Patristic Quote for the Day

Christ takes on the appearance of each of the poor and assimilates Himself to all of them so that no one who believes in Him will be arrogant toward his fellow being. On the contrary, he will look on his fellow being and his neighbor as his God, regarding himself as least of all in comparison just as much with his neighbor as with his Creator, honoring his neighbor as if he were his Creator, and exhausting his all in his service, just as Christ our God poured out His blood for our salvation. - St. Symeon, the New Theologian, *Practical and Theological Texts* #114 (Philokalia, Vol. IV)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is a miracle above all miracles that the Word of the Apostles has abode in the world, living, creative, and mighty - and that ever and always, wherever it has appeared, the Church has gathered around it, so that it has remained the center of all rays, the Sun from which proceeded all the light and warmth in the world. Popes died, the places of the councils were forsaken, constitutions and polities of the Church passed away, all relations have altered; but the Word has remained in the world, and therefore the Church, the truly Apostolic! And so shall it be! The Church will be united forever through the Word of the Apostles, - and what is more, this Word, subject to none, will be the source of the one universal eternal Church to the end of days. Held and wielded by no one, it will itself hold and carry the Church - and, for her sake, the world! - Wilhelm Löhe, *Three Books* p. 27,28

29 January 2007

Weird how

the sadness come and goes in waves. Like a tide. Yesterday was very hard at Church. Though Marianne had not played the organ for a month, it seemed as though her absence yesterday was palpable. Transfiguration is always a joyful feast, but the joy was quite muted for me.

After finishing up the Adult Catechesis and the Youth Catechesis yesterday, the voice was nearly shot. Went to bed before ten and slept through till seven. Today is a busy day too: two confirmation classes in the School, and then off doing shut-ins this a.m. I have two more scheduled for this afternoon, and Bekah & co. to pick up at school at 3, and then two meetings this evening.

More going through the motions than anything else right now. I think that the flu thingy last week zapped more energy than I had first suspected. Talking particularly wears me out - and THAT is something I'm not used to at all! Just want to sit down and rest all the time. That is not me at all!

My SIL always jokes that we can tell we're getting old because we talk about our ailments! Well, dang it all, I guess I'm getting old.

Patristic Quote for the Day

To this Country we pleadingly invite you. Join its citizens, for it offers more than mere sanctuary, it offfers the true remission of your sins. - St. Augustine, *The City of God* Book II, Chapter 29

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Word of the Apostles ever has been the principle of the unity of the Church, and will be to the end of days. In the first age, when the Oneness of the Church shone forth brighter than at any time since, and was remarked by all the heathen, and was admired and feared, no oecumenical bishop, no temporal overshepherd held her together - no living man was her center; nor was it the universal dominion of one certain form of government, which produced the Church's unity; but the common Truth of the Apostles, known by all and acknowledged by all, made out of Jews and Gentiles, out of the most diverse men, one single universal Church of God on earth. - Wilhelm Loehe *Three Books* p. 25

27 January 2007

Gesimatide is Coming!

Next Sunday marks the arrival of Gesimatide. Think of it this way: if Lent is the journey to Easter, to the return to our Baptism into Christ, then the three Sundays of Gesimatide are the days when we begin making preparations for that journey. All three Sunday readings invite some thought about the coming Fast and its ultimate goal: the Paschal Feast.

The first week suggests that our fast include a refraining from complaining (against God and one another).

The second week suggests that our fast provide us more intensive time with the Word, that it may bear abundant fruit within us.

The third week reminds us that with eyes wide open to the mercies of God, Christ our Lord summons us to travel the road that leads to Calvary and beyond to the joys of the Resurrection.

Gesimatide invites some intentional thought and planning about how you will join in the keeping of the Fast (Lent auf Deutsch ist Fastenzeit) and practice the other Lenten disciplines of prayer and almsgiving, finding in Christ alone the bread which sustains our new life and which frees us to share our bread with the poor and to experience the joy of time in prayer with our Lord Jesus.

Transfiguration Joys

Lutherans were not very innovative when it came to the Church Year- they really only made two major changes. One was to set aside a day to remember and give thanks for the Reformation, and the other was to move the Festival of the Transfiguration from a fixed observance on the sixth of August to the last Sunday after Epiphany each year. It was a brilliant move!

For Epiphany is the season of our Lord’s manifestation – celebrating how He revealed His divine glory. From the star of the Magi shining over the place where the divine infant lay, to the Spirit descending upon Jesus in the waters of Jordan, to the water changed into wine at Cana’s wedding, in miracle after miracle nature joins in testifying that Jesus is more than just a man. Jesus is the Eternal Son of God in human flesh and blood. Nature testifies with the Divine Spirit: This is the Maker! This is the Master! This is the One all nature delights to witness to and serve!

And so how better to close out the season of manifestation than that awe-inspiring moment on the mountain, when the Lord manifested His glory by showing the disciples His humanity utterly illumined by the divine nature?

Make no mistake about it: it’s not like a huge spotlight was shining on Jesus. It’s like Jesus became a huge spotlight! Like an iron glowing in the fire, so the humanity of the Lord glowed that night in the radiance of the divine Light of His divinity. Even his clothes were transformed and began to shine, a sign that He had come to transfigure all of creation. To make it all new again. To suffuse it in the divine radiance.

As Peter and James and John gazed upon this astounding sight, they were looking at something they’d never forget. They saw Him glow! John put it like this: “We have seen His glory – glory that can only belong to the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Peter would write: “We were eye-witnesses to His majesty on the holy mountain!” James, of course, was martyred for his Lord before he could write anything.

To set this glorious Transfiguration of Jesus on the boundary between Epiphany and Lent was truly a stroke of genius. It reminds us each year of WHO we are following to Calvary, of WHO is hanging upon the Cross, trampling down death by death! It is the Only-begotten of the Father, the One who suspended the earth in mid-heaven who is now suspended above the earth. And this glory that He shows on Transfiguration is not just glory for Him – it’s the glory He came to give to us.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Christ, the Glory of God in human flesh and blood, has come to restore that glory to humanity through His suffering, death, and resurrection. He showed that glory on Transfiguration as a reminder to us all of where we’re headed, of how WE will look when He is through with us, when He brings His baptized people through their own Calvary to the glory of Resurrection morning. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” “He will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself.”

Transfiguration! The feast of our future glory in union with Jesus Christ! Glory to Him forever and ever!

26 January 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

What separates us then, who are pilgrims and fight the battle, from those who are at home and in triumph? Very little, indeed! If we could see ourselves in the connection with Zion in which the Apostle represents us, we would hold it a very little thing that we are pilgrims and in the battle. Yes, so much depends on seeing, that if we saw we would neither be pilgrims nor would we be in battle - as the angels , who make pilgrimage and do battle at our side, still behold God and His glory.

Therefore there is an eternal Church Here and There. Here it ever becomes less, There it ever becomes greater, because the pilgrim battling Church is ever being gathered to her people! Oh, that we might belong to this eternal Church! - Wilhelm Löhe, *Three Books on the Church* pp. 12, 13

Patristic Quote for the Day

God became true man and bestowed on human nature a new or second form of generation leading us through suffering to the pleasure of the life held in store for us. - St. Maximos the Great (Fourth Century of Various Texts, par. 44)

St. Titus

Today was the last of three days this week we gathered before dawn to sing Matins and then celebrate the Divine Service. I will not lie: I am looking forward to sleeping in a wee bit tomorrow.

And have you ever thought about how earthy our God is? I mean, St. Timothy, St. Paul, St. Titus. St. Timothy's foreskin gets the chop so that it would not get in the way of bringing the Gospel to the Jews. But when folks demand that St. Paul do the similar job to Titus, well, Titus remains intact: a testimony that what Love can freely give, Christian freedom can never yield to as a demand. There's the whole principle of adiaphora in a, well, foreskin.

Don't know about you, but I think St. Titus got the better end of the deal...

25 January 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

That is, if Christ has forgiven your sins and snatched you from the power of the devil and given you his Spirit, then you are not slaves, but free children and you will be able to live justly, that is, believe in Christ and show forth your faith in good works. - Urbanus Rhegius, *Preaching the Reformation* p. 63

Patristic Quote for the Day

Look at how He minaturized Himself so that He could lie in that manger. That doesn't mean He had to leave something behind in order to fit. He just received what He wasn't while remaining what He was. - St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermons to the People: Advent, Christmas, New Year's, Epiphany (p. 129)

Conversion of St. Paul

Today the Holy Church celebrates that moment on the Damascus road when everything turned around for Saul of Tarsus. Imagine what it was like to sit in that inky blackness for three whole days and be forced to see how you'd gotten everything wrong. How your zeal for the law had not produced righteousness at all - how instead your heart had been filled with hatred! The very opposite of what the law required. Worst of all, how your zeal for the law had found you not on God's side, but persecuting and attacking Him. To the man sitting in despair then of every getting anything right again, along comes the timid Ananias to tell him that Jesus, far from discarding him, has a use for him. Baptized, nourished (Eucharist?), and given sight, Saul the Zealot for the Law becomes the Great Apostle Paul, witnessing forever to this central fact:

"But now a righteousness apart from the Law has been manifested, to which the Law and the Prophets bear witness, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." Rom 3:21

The zealot of the law becomes the preacher of faith, who wishes only "to be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead." Phil 3:9-10

24 January 2007

Original Sin: A Terminal Illness

Over on the BOC site, I jotted down some thoughts about the fact that in AC II, original sin is not merely defined as man being spiritually dead, but as man being terminally ill, a hereditary disease that infects his whole self. I was struck that this sanitive metaphor was not merely accidental in AC II, a slip of the tongue. It remains in force in the Formula, SD I. We again hear of "that horrible, dreadful hereditary sickness by which the entire human nature is corrupted." (par. 5) and we hear the corresponding language of HEALING over in paragraph 14:

"Furthermore, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted by original sin, must and can be (ta-da!) HEALED only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit [i.e., BAPTISM]. However, this HEALING is only begun in this life. It will not be perfect until the life to come."

Which is to say that God is in the process of healing the disease of original sin in human nature, but that this process will be ongoing until the moment of death when it will be perfected in the life of the coming world.

It should go without saying that such healing is not and can never be the BASIS for our justification. No, it is our justification in the Sacrament of Justification (Baptism) which is the BASIS for God's work of healing. But it IS a work of healing, begun now, and brought to perfection in eternal life.

How utterly of a piece with Luther is the Formula! Remember his famous: "This life is not health, but healing, not being, but becoming!"

Whenever process language shows up, Lutherans get the hives these days. The Symbols can provide some good innoculation!

Patristic Quote for the Day

He who on account of his virtue or spiritual knowledge falls victim to self-esteem grows his hair like Absalom, to no good purpose. Outwardly he appears to pursue a moral way of life, but it is carefully contrived and mixed (like a mule) with conceit, and designed to deceive onlookers. - St. Maximos the Confessor, *Third Century of Various Texts* #59 (Philokalia II:225)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christian love is an uncommonly powerful virtue; it cannot keep from caring about the living and the dead. As a result, with heartfelt prayer it commends our fellow members who are leaving this world to Christ the Lord and to our God who is blessed forever. This remembrance of the dead, which was practiced of old and still exists in the catholic church, is an open testimony of charity and of faith in the glorious resurrection of the flesh. And since it is a fruit of faith that works through love, no one will reject it except for Epicureans and Sadducees. - Urbanus Rhegius, Confessor of Smalcald and Reformer of the Church of Lüneburg (*Preaching the Reformation* pp. 99, 101)

23 January 2007

In Convertendo

...Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
Shall come home with shouts of joy,
Bringing his sheaves with him.

Ps. 126:5,6

22 January 2007

I'll Sing On

[Texts: Isaiah 25:6-8 / Revelation 5:6-14 / John 11:17-27]

Delmar, Margaret and Joseph, family and friends of Marianne Altevogt, if we begin with today’s Gospel we can certainly put ourselves in the place of Martha, can’t we? When Lazarus fell ill, they sent word for Jesus. But He delayed, and as they sat by their brother’s bedside they watched him sink slowly into death. This past year has seen a lot of sitting at bedsides and praying to Jesus for healing and for a miracle. And like Martha, we’ve had a lot of experience with Jesus delaying and seeming absent. We prayed and we prayed, we hoped and cried, and death came all the same. But Jesus shows up in the place of death itself, and He speaks to Martha and to you a promise: “I am the resurrection and the life” He says. “Marianne believes in me, so even though she died, yet she shall live. And even more, she shall never die.” Yes, in the presence of this body – so clearly dead – Christ proclaims: “Not a problem! She lives in me now, and this body shall be raised from the dead in incorruption.” When He asks us: “Do you believe this?” let us say with Martha: “Yes, Lord, we believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the One who has given to Marianne a life that never ends."

He baptized her into that life as a little baby, bringing her into the family of God, and He nourished that life in her all her days through the Word and the Holy Sacraments. You know, how she treasured the Word. How she always did the KFUO Weekly Bible Quiz and won just about every week. And the Holy Sacrament that she always hungered for she received for the last time in this world just four days before she died. That undying Body and Blood of the Son of God went into her as the pledge and guarantee that wiped out her sins and that death would never be the end of her body and soul. She lived in that hope, and she died in that hope, and so she lives forever.

Before one of her recent surgeries she asked me to read her from Revelation 5, our second reading. She said how much she always loved that. I should have known. Not only is it about music, but about the angels. About one huge crescendo of praise as all creation joins in singing and playing the praises of the Lamb who was slain. Music was her passion. Not just any music, but the music of the Church, the music that sang about the One who came to us in unspeakable love to blot our sins and to destroy our death and bring us the bright hope of a future with the angels, singing and playing eternally His praises. She lived for her music. Around here we tended to think of Marianne first and foremost as the organist, but she was also an expert bell ringer and she had a beautiful alto voice. I still remember some of the pieces that she and Cindi sang years ago – we should have had her sing more, but we tended to keep her feet and hands busy on that organ. Well, when we weren’t keeping her busy in the office at the keyboard and rizo. You know, I’ve never met a better speller in my life. She finally even taught me how to spell, of all things, cemetery. Just remember it’s all “e’s” she said. And God forbid you ever let her ever catch you spelling altar with “e” when you mean the Lord’s table! Need a phone number or address of a parishioner? I didn’t need a phone book; I had only to ask Marianne. I’m not joking, it was phenomenal. She would hesitate and say: “Well, I think its…” and invariably it was! She ran this place, no two ways about it. I suspect our vicars learned from her than they ever learned from me. And she saw and knew that all of her work was always directed toward the worship of God. She was so clear on that.

And do you see the beauty of this? She lived for the joy of the one thing which the Church does now, that it will go on doing forever – singing, playing, and praising the Blessed Trinity. So, when on that morning her thoughts were turning to her own death – it was on her mind – she wasn’t thinking of death like so many people. She was thinking of it as the rehearsal is now over and the actual performance is about to begin. The worship that she had lived for and worked on her whole life, would now come to perfection and the music would be without flaw and she’d be singing and ringing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven and it would be the fullness of joy.

And don’t you forget that. When you come to this room you join in that same worship, and if you listen carefully some days you might just catch the echo of her voice and her music. It has NOT ceased, it has increased to the glory of God forever! “Steals on the ear the distant triumph song and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia!”

Which leads us to our first reading. The promise of the feast. You know a feast is what you throw when the family’s all home and you’re celebrating the joy of being together. You know how she loved being with you guys. As Joanie said: “just say ‘Delmar’ and watch her face light up!” That worked with any of your names. Margaret. Joseph. And the smile grew even brighter whenever the topic was Joshua, Lindsey or Cloe. Why, Steve and Cissy, you know were never inlaws. Just more of her children. And how proud she was her brothers! She thought the world of you all - and your families too.

And feast is where there’s always room and welcome for more. Marianne’s family was so big. Not only all of you her kin, but all of us she adopted along the way. Peggy and Joanie and Shirley and Lois and Norma were like the sisters she never had. And my children all thought of her like their own grandma – and God knows she spoiled them rotten. Come St. Patrick’s Day she’d bake that Irish Soda bread and she and Cindi and I would sit down with it to tea. She was our sister too. She opened her heart to anyone who came her way. They were all welcomed as family, and the family together and celebrating is feast.

But the best feast is when the family is together and it doesn’t end. That’s the promise of our first reading: the Feast to celebrate the overthrow of death itself. With death out of the way, the good-byes are gone. Together forever. That’s what all the singing is about. That’s the joy Jesus came to bring us.

And we are told that at this feast, God does an amazing thing. “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Tears there have been a plenty. The pain she had to endure this year – suffered without complaint, trusting that somehow, someway this was God’s purpose and plan. On Thursday the holy angels brought her to Jesus, where she experienced the touch of his nail-scared hand. He who shed his own tears at Lazarus’ grave, touched her face and gently wiped away all the tears, all the sorrows, all the pain. It was gone in an instant. And she looked at Him and said: “Behold, this is my God; I have waited for Him – HOW I have waited for Him – that He might save me. Now let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Home at last. Sitting down to the feast. Waiting only now for the resurrection of the body, but already beyond all the tears, all the sorrows, all the grief. Gathered to the family of God, safe in the Eternal Home, where there are no more good byes – but where she awaits some joyful welcoming! This is the feast that all our earthly feasts point towards.

And there she prays for you. Just like she always did. Her prayer now is even stronger. And her prayer is heard. She asks God that we would never forget what she has taught us, that we would remember that worship is our life, and that learning the praises of God is what we are here for, so that when we come to join her at the Feast, our hearts will be ready to enter the joy of the songs of our Jesus: the Lamb, the Resurrection and the Life, our Good Shepherd. Hear her voice in the children’s today: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on! I’ll sing on! And when from death I’m free I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free, I sing His love for me and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on. And through eternity, I’ll sing on.”

Marianne, we will love you always, and we can’t wait to see you again and never say good-bye, and join you in the song. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.


December 14, 1944 – January 18, 2007

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
Funeral liturgy is found on pages 278-281

In Paradisum –– Dan Pickett and Cindi Weedon
Invocation, p. 278
Remembrance of Baptism, p. 278
Hymn of Resurrection: “The Strife is O’er” #464
Kyrie, p. 278
Salutation and Collect, p. 278
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9 – Pr. GeRue
Psalm 23 – “Brother James Air” – Adult Choir
Second Reading: Revelation 5:6-14 – Pr. Holle
Verse, p. 279
Holy Gospel: John 11:17-27 – Pr. Weedon
Apostles’ Creed, p. 279
Hymn: “For All the Saints” #677
Homily – Pr. Weedon
Anthem: “What Wondrous Love” – Children of TSP,
Director: Kristi Schkade
Prayer of the Church, p. 280 – Pastor Rethwisch
Lord’s Prayer, p. 280
Nunc Dimittis, p. 281
Concluding Collect, p. 281
Benedicamus and Benediction, p. 281
Recessional: “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” #680
Pianist: Diane Schrader + Crucifer: Richard Rikli

Interment will be at Harris Cemetery in Alhambra. The family invites the congregation to return afterward for a time of fellowship and a light lunch in the church basement.

21 January 2007

Just read this...

...from Lauren's blog:



Basically been in bed with flu since night of Marianne's passing. Nasty stuff. Pastor GeRue kindly took weekend services. Conserving strength to do funeral. Prayers appreciated.

18 January 2007


"For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever!" Psalm 112:6

Forified by the Sacraments of the Church, asleep in Jesus, entering into the choirs of angels and archangels:


Organist + Secretary + Dear Friend

We love you and will miss you, Marianne. What on earth will we do without you?

17 January 2007

Luther and the Jesus Prayer

I couldn't help but think of the wonderful use of the Jesus prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" as I read today's portion of the Large Catechism:

"...children should be constantly urged and moved to honor God's name and have it always upon their lips for everything that may happen to them or come to their notice." (LC I:70)

"To confuse the devil, I say, we should always have this holy name in our mouth, so that the devil may not be able to injure us as he wishes." (LC I:72)

Always on their lips...always in our mouth...the holy name of Jesus:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!

Patristic Quote for the Day

All the achievements of the saints were clearly gifts of grace from God. None of the saints had the least thing other than the goodness granted to him by the Lord God according to the measure of his gratitude and love. And what he acquired he acquired only in so far as he surrendered himself to the Lord who bestowed it. - St. Maximos the Great, *Third Century of Various Texts* #29 (Philokalia II:216)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the Church we speak and sing of the glory of God, named love. Therefore in this Church is not only our happiness, but also God's perfect praise, God's glory. God's honor, like our happiness, is fulfilled in the Church. The Church is fulfillment, - here at length is all as it ought to be. The Church is fulfillment, - and what is fulfilled without it? Behold, the Church! It is the contrary of loneliness - blessed fellowship! Millions of the blessed and of believers - who are becoming blessed - and, in the midst of their songs of praise, the Lord! - No longer lonely, but permeated, satisfied, - yes, blessed is he who is one of the Millions, each of whom has Christ and with Him heaven and earth! - Wilhelm Löhe, *Three Books on the Church* page 7,8

16 January 2007

St. Innocent

This post by Ephrem Bensusan is simply a must read. With what clarity and beauty did St. Innocent speak the Gospel to the Aleuts - and still speaks it to us!

Ephrem\'s Blog

So David...

...waltzes out of his room this evening and announces:

"I think my chair decided it was done."

Yes, I'd say so.

His little sis inquired: "Did you fall on the floor?"

Indignantly: "Yes."

Trying not to laugh TOO hard...

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our works do not merit for us such immense, eternal things, nor do they make us righteous, but they are necessary in every way because they have their own purposes.

First, they are the obedience required and commanded by God that we creatures owe to our creator. They are like a giving of thanks for the goodness of God. They are also sacrifices acceptable to God for the sake of the faithful person of Christ.

Second, through them our Heavenly Father is glorified in us.

Third, through good works our faith is trained and enhanced, so that it increases and grows.

Fourth, good works are a witness of our faith to neighbors, who are edified by them, inspired to do the same, and find help through them with whatever they need.

Fifth, I become certain of my calling through good works [2 Peter 1:10]. As I love my neighbors and benefit them, I see that my faith is not false and that I am a Christian.

Sixth, although they do not merit ineffable treasures like forgiveness of sins, justification, liberation from death and the devil (for only Christ Jesus does that), nevertheless on the basis of God's freely-given promise they do merit physical and spiritual rewards, both in this life and after this life. Not that God owes us anything, but because he promised out of his mercy and is trustworthy, he will therefore give us these things for the sake of his glorious name, as it is written in the seventeenth chapter of Jeremiah: "I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings." And in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew: "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of the Father, and then he will repay everyone for what he has done." The same in Romans 2. Again Christ shows clearly enough in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew how pleasing to him are the good works which proceed from faith, because he says: "I was hungry and you gave me to...drink."

--Urbanus Rhegius, Confessor of Smalcald and Superintendent of Lüneburg, *Preaching the Reformation* pp. 49-51

Patristic Quote for the Day

On that account these things are so as we demonstrated that among the ancients presbyters and bishops were the same but gradually, in order that the emerging shoots of dissension might be plucked out, the whole responsibility was transferred to a single person. Therefore as the presbyters know that they are subject to the one who has been placed over them by an ecclesiastical custom, so the bishops should know that they are greater than presbyters more through custom than through verity of an ordinance of the Lord and that they all ought to rule the church in common. - St. Jerome, (MPL 26, 597-98, cited in *The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn*, p. 78)

15 January 2007

A Pastor's Annual Report

Pastor’s Annual Report

The year 2006 was the 150th year that the Lord Jesus Christ gathered to Himself a Church in New Gehlenbeck; and the 75th year that that congregation had worshipped in the “new Church.” It was a year filled with its own joys and sorrows, ups and downs, but through it all, the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus to His promises sustained and strengthened our parish.

As January was bringing us its Epiphany joys, the Shepherd of His sheep gathered into the arms of His mercy His servant William Prante and took him home. It was the result of a long and arduous sickness, throughout which William was strengthened by the Holy Eucharist and the Word of God. Towards the end of the month, Abigail Day was added to the Good Shepherd’s flock as her sins were washed away in Holy Baptism. Beginning in January and marking the last Sunday of each month, we began celebrating the many confirmations that had taken place at St. Paul’s over the years. We started with the most recent and worked our way backwards by decade. It wasn't long before FOOD became a mandatory part of the celebration - both before and after the late service!

February may have been chilly, but the Baptismal water continued to flow at St. Paul’s. On the 5th Abigail Buckner was baptized into Christ and a week later Sidnee Schwarz received the washing of regeneration.

March was a particularly difficult month. The Apostle Paul urged: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” So I shared with the parish some struggles I had been going through as to whether it would be possible for me to continue as a Lutheran pastor and to serve St. Paul’s parish. I shared this with fear and trepidation, but was overwhelmed by your loving words and support – as also by the many conversations where to a person who spoke with me, it was made clear that my time here was not through. The days and months since have convinced me that you all spoke both wisely and truly and with your help and by God’s grace I rejoice to continue as a Lutheran pastor serving a Lutheran parish. As we journeyed together through Lent, we sought to keep our eyes focused upon our Crucified Lord, to pray to Him and to seek His will. During March, the Lord called our brother Harold Brunnworth out of this vale of tears to Himself in heaven, and he was given Christian burial.

April brought the joys of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. During those great days we heard Trevor Engelke, Arianna Farmer, Laura Knezik, Jeffrey Madorin, Brittney Schrader, Jenna Stroh, and Zachary Thiems confess the faith into which they were baptized and be welcomed to the Lord’s table after receiving holy Confirmation. The day before, Karly Deist experienced the washing of regeneration. At the Vigil of Easter, our parish rejoiced as Jessica Hershey received the washing of regeneration and was then confirmed along with Jennifer Riepshoff, Amy Kostich, and Kevin Melcher. Easter brought all it’s “Joy to the Heart” and we celebrated the Passover of our Lord Jesus from death to the life unending. That unending life Rosella Lueker passed into also during Holy Week and toward the end of the month, Albert Brandt, and we rejoiced that they had been brought to that place where memories are healed and the joys never end.

May found us continuing to rejoice in Easter and in Ascension. On the 8th of the month, our Daycare and PreK opened its doors after many, many months of preparation. There would be too many people to thank if I had to name them all, but everyone is agreed that our chief trustee, Dan Steinmann, did an incredible job of organizing the work and getting that place open. Our vicar Charles Lehmann continued to deliver us outstanding sermons. Early in May, the Lord Jesus took home our brother David Engelke – well fortified by the Lord’s sacraments and firm in his faith. It seemed so wrong, but David would be the first to teach us not question the Lord’s ways. It was sometime later in that month that also his beloved mother, Leola, was gathered into the Lord’s keeping. Also during May, Paul Kostisch was welcomed to the family of God through holy Baptism.

With June we came to our first parish-wide celebration of the anniversary: our all-school celebration. Pastor Monte Haun spoke to us from St. Paul’s pulpit and many, many former teachers and students joined in the huge pot-luck in the gym afterwards. It was joy abounding! Also during the summer, the parish surprised Pastor with Dr. Nagel preaching at the late service in honor of the 20th anniversary of his ordination to the Office of the Holy Ministry. What a treat! Wedding bells rang for Jessica Hershey and Jeffrey Henke, and we rejoiced at their being united in Christ. VBS picked up the theme of the parish’s 150th anniversary and taught a wee bit of our own history along with the Bible stories. Come the end of July we said farewell to Vicar Lehmann and to Principal Richard Rikli and wife Peggy (Richard was headed off to the Seminary after ten years as our principal and our nextdoor neighbors!), but were busy preparing for a new servant of the congregation: Pastor Keith GeRue had accepted the call to serve as Headmaster of Trinity-St. Paul and associate pastor at both Trinity and St. Paul’s. It’s been a blessing beyond words having him and his wonderful family (Valarie, Katie, and Elizabeth) join our parish family. With Pastor GeRue at the helm, Trinity-St. Paul began her new academic year in August. Also at the start of August, St. Paul’s became the FIRST parish in the Synod to have and use the Lutheran Service Book.

September saw one of the Lord’s saints, Dorothy Riechmann, finish her earthly pilgrimage and be gathered home. On the 17th of that month the waters of Baptism were flowing again over Madison Lindley. In the middle of the month, the stunning murals were hung in place. As an Episcopal friend of Dicksie and Dave’s said: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Yes, you walk into St. Paul’s and there’s no question that it is all about Jesus: our Good Shepherd who receives us in Holy Baptism; the Lord of blessing who reaches us at His altar His Body and Blood; the Lord of kindness who ever knocks at the door of our hearts. The last day of the month found the parish family gathered together at the Knights of Columbus in Highland, feasting together in gratitude to God for his many blessings for the past 150 years. Pastor Todd Wilken was guest speaker that evening, but I think you will all agree that the real speaker that night was Albert Brandt. His memories recorded for us brought the past to life before our eyes, and reminded us how much we miss him.

The next day dawned beautiful, crisp and clear. With joy we packed St. Paul’s for our anniversary service. Pastor Ken Sievers reminded us of the many reasons we have to thank God – and brought back many wonderful memories of years past. At the end of the service we circled the Church and sang to God a mighty doxology and had a surprise fly-by and picture taking session - no telling what Robert Esch will pull. When it was all over, the 150th anniversary committee breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. They’d done a yeoman’s job, to be sure. The lasting memorial of the anniversary will be the huge quilt that tells our story and will hang in the sanctuary (one of these days).

October saw the waters of Baptism flowing again as both Brynn Steinmann, Cole Renken, and Nolan Schaeffer were brought into the fold of the Good Shepherd. You can’t miss the beauty of that Good Shepherd mural above the font of living water! Also in October, Christopher Loemker gave our organ a work out and a half with a special Vespers service offered in praise for the parish’s anniversary.

November began again with Baptismal waters flowing: Hannah Huckleberry washed in the saving flood, and towards the end of the month Tyler Golem as well. Wedding bells rang out for Amy Huber and Christopher Leonard. Back to back funerals were celebrated for Edward Ahrens and Lenora Nietmitz. We’ll miss them indeed, but what joy for each of them to be gathered into the home that they can never lose – they were both ready and eager for it! On thanksgiving Matins was sung, and then, well, then came the ice.

The ice was not good to our church. The damage in the north tower silenced the voice of St. Paul’s mighty organ. Christmas without the organ? It was almost as though we were IN the story of how Silent Night was composed. Still the joy of the incarnation went forward. Two giant Christmas trees graced the chancel during the waning days of Advent and through Christmas to Epiphany. Wrapped around the trees were paper chains bearing the name of every person baptized into Christ at St. Paul’s for the past 150 years. The only other ornamentation was the big blue ball we always hide on the tree and the lights. As our joy waxed great in the Lord’s incarnation, we remembered Marianne in our prayers – she was going and is going through a rough time, and her absence from the parish is felt by us all. The year came to a close with our special thankoffering on New Year’s Eve, to which the people of St. Paul’s responded with abundant grace and generosity.

At the end of the year, the membership of St. Paul’s stands at 751 baptized and 579 confirmed. We had an average church attendance last year of 316 per weekend, or 42%. Through all the countless joys and sorrows, tears and laughter, celebrations and mournings, the parish rejoiced to live from the pardon of Jesus Christ and in the assurance of His love and mercy. Glory to You, O Lord, forever!

William Weedon, Pastor of St. Paul’s
In the 14th year of his pastorate

14 January 2007

Patristic Quote for the Day

"There is one God, and we acquire knowledge of Him from no other source, brethren, than the Holy Scriptures." Hippolytus of Rome (Contra Noetum, 9.1)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Faith without good works is no faith. Works without faith are not good works. Therefore, these two things, believing and doing good works, must go together as long as we live. Those who do not improve their lives and do good works should know they are not Christians. But whoever is not a Christian will be damned. All people can judge themselves by this standard. God has decided it will be like this and in the end he will also bring it to pass. That is certain. - Urbanus Rhegius (signer of the Smalcald Articles, Reformer of Lüneburg), *How to Preach the Reformation* p. 53

[Note this wonderful book was frequently printed together with Chemnitz' *Enchiridion* as a complete pastor's "how-to" manual]

Another Papal Goodie

"What makes the Church the Church, accordingly, are those elements that do not derive from merely human activity. They alone distinguish the Church from all other communal groupings and accord her the quality of being unique, being irreplaceable. Division within the Church thus consists of a split in the confession of faith, the creed, and the administration of the sacraments themselves; all other differences do not ultimately count: there can be no objection to them; they do not divide us in the heart of the Church. Division within the central sphere, on the other hand, threatens the very real reason for the Church's existence, her very being.

From this basic understanding of unity arose two tasks for ecumenism. It had first of all to distinguish purely human divisions from the real theological divides. Purely human divisions, in particular, like to give themselves the importance of something essential; they hide themselves, so to speak, behind this: what is human, what we have made for ourselves, is declared obligatory, as being divine. The silent divinization of what is our own, which is the everlasting temptation for man, easily spreads. In a high proportion of church schisms, such divinizing of what is ours, the self-assertion of some human or cultural form, has played a significant role. Ecumenism demanded, and still demands, the attempt to free ourselves from which distortions, which are often subtle. Then it follows that the variety by no means needs to disappear, because it does not detract from the nature of the Church; this can be special in some way and that can be different, but these things do not have to compulsory for everyone. A tolerance for different things had to arroused, not founded on indifference concerning the truth, but on the distinction between truth and mere human tradition." [Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, p. 255]

Thus far Benedict XVI. What I find very interesting in his observation here is that it is this precise distinction which the Lutherans sought to make during the Reformation. Why, it could be taken as a paraphrase of AC VII almost! Our Churches saw, for example, in the elevation of the post-Biblical distinction between presbyter and episcopus to the status of a divinely instituted order upon which the very existence of the Church's sacramental life was built exactly the dangerous divinization of what was, in point of fact, merely human. Our Churches were all for keeping canonical order, of course, [sadly historical circumstance prevented this] but as a human tradition, not as something laid down for us in the "faith once delivered to the saints." This explains why there are Lutheran Churches with episcopal succession and Lutheran churches without it in complete Eucharistic fellowship. To us, it can never be more than a venerable human tradition. There were other examples, but that one comes to mind given the discussion under the other quote from Benedict.

Ordinary Time

There was something very wonderful in the Divine Service today: it was "back to usual." Ron, usher at our first service, asked (as he usually does): "Anything different today?" It was with a smile on my face I said: "Nope. Everything as usual."

Gone were all the Christmas decorations, the trees were down, no carols sung. Instead it was just, "back to normal" - the Church was returned to its normal state with the "ordinary" green gracing the altar, pulpit and lectern. The Christmas trees had been so large, that we were forced to use continuous distribution of the Sacrament through most of Advent/Christmas. Today marked the return of the congregation kneeling at the rail to receive our Lord's most precious Body and Blood. Another mark of "back to the usual." Of course, this year "back to usual" is precious short. Next Sunday will also be an ordinary Sunday after Epiphany, but then Transfiguration and the preparations for Lent begin. Lent!!! Already???? Yup.

[But that's nothing. Just wait till NEXT year (should our Lord not come before!): Easter falls on March 23. In that case, there will be NO ordinary time. We'll go from the Baptism of our Lord to the Feast of His Transfiguration and then at the tail end of January pre-Lent will begin. But let's not worry about that till next year...]

For now we have a couple of Green Sundays, and what a joy this ordinary time is! Cana's Wedding feast this week; next week, Naaman's washing in the Jordan and a couple healing miracles in the Gospel (Matthew 8:1-13). "Lord, I am not worthy..." The beauty of this pattern of the ordinary followed by the extraordinary gives the Church Year its inner energy: preparation, celebration, fulfillment (ordinary time) leading to preparation, celebration, fulfillment. That is how the Church leads us from this age to the Kingdom.

13 January 2007

A Most Interesting Statement

"Even a theology along the lines of the concept of apostolic succession, as is in force in the Catholic and the Orthodox Church, should in no way deny the saving presence of the Lord in the Evangelical [i.e., Lutheran] Lord's Supper."

Who said this? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in a letter to the Lutheran Bishop of Bavaria, Johannes Hanselmann in 1993.

It can be found in print in the volume *Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: the Church as Communion* by (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It is on page 248.

Thanks to Dr. Tighe for sending along this fascinating volume!

[Note that Fr. Hank had referred us to this quote some time before, but didn't have the reference handy.]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Where there is no true repentance, but the intent remains to continue in sins, there true faith cannot exist, and faith that does not work by love but remains without good fruits, is not true, but feigned and dead faith. - Martin Chemnitz, *Enchiridion* par. 163

Patristic Quote for the Day

The 'rough places' - that is to say, the attacks of trials and temptations suffered against our will - shall be made 'smooth', above all when the intellect, rejoicing and delighting in weakness, affliction, and calamity, through its unsought sufferings deprives of all their lordship the passions in which we deliberately indulge. For by 'rough places' Scripture means those experiences of unsought trials and temptations which change to smooth ways when endured with patience and thankfulness. - St. Maximos the Great, *Second Century of Various Texts* #54 (Philokalia II, p. 198)

12 January 2007

This Coming June 5th...

...my lovely Bride will have put up with me for 25 years. Where has the time fled? To celebrate, we decided we would do something we've never done anything like before. We're going for a week to Cancun in May. We made the reservations today. Cindi's sister Deb and hubby Doug will probably join us for part of that week. This is a great concession on Deb's part, because she happens to love the ocean as much as I enjoy listening to Country Music! Now to get pictures, passports, and the like. Hard to believe that a three hour plane trip from St. Louis lands you in paradise...

Patristic Quote for the Day

In His love for man God became man so that He might unite human nature to Himself and stop it from acting evilly towards itself, or rather from being at strife and divided against itself, and from having no rest because of the instability of its will and purpose. - St. Maximos the Confessor, *First Century of Various Texts* par. 47 (Philokalia II:174)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Another Walther gem:

"A Christian who will not continually fight against sin, earnestly strive after the virtues that please God, faithfully watch over his heart and life, and always pray for new power and grace soon ceases to be a Christian.... Many are also lost when, after they have been converted by the grace of God, they do not cooperate with the Holy Ghost. They think that, having fought through the difficult battle of repentance, they immediately enter the harbor of peace. Believing that grace does everything, they are deceived into the sleep of security, although that thought of grace should fill them with a desire to be godly. They do not watch, fight, or pray. They do not work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and behold, they are lost." p. 259 (God Grant It)

11 January 2007

More on *God Grant It*

The book I referenced below in the Old Lutheran Quote of the day is a daily devotional organized according to the historic calendar of the Western Church with meditations from the Sunday's Gospel and Epistle readings. I've only had the book in my hands for one day, but let me tell you, I am VERY impressed. It is the remedy to so much that ails us!

Walther is lavish in both Law and Gospel (duh!) and there is no question about the Gospel predominating. His language is vivid, simple and clear.

Tonight I was telling Chaz that I think it is better than Laache, which is saying a lot. And the more I thought about it, I think the basic reason is that Walther preached to Americans - and not matter what we like to think, we really haven't changed all that much.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you took my challenge and are reading the Psalms and Bible readings from LSB and the daily reading from the BOC, you can't go wrong by adding in a page or two of Walther. You'll be blessed. Promise!

Homily for Epiphany 2 - 2006

First, it was the case that people just started shacking up – living together without bothering to ask for God’s blessing upon their union in holy marriage. And of course, when things don’t work out, they dump each other and move onto others like barnyard animals. And folks who should know better pretended it was all fine. It’s not fine. Let me tell you: if I find out you are living together apart from marriage, I cannot commune you at this altar until you repent – because it is a sin, it damages you, and it brings God’s judgment.

Then, there’s the fact that even people who are married don’t think of marriage anymore the way that God intended – the life-long union of one man and one woman. Instead, they feel free to walk away from their commitments and promises whenever they don’t “feel in love” anymore – as though “feeling in love” is something any relationship could ever be built on.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, along comes this whole alternative life-style movement and we have all sorts of folks insisting that “marriage” and “family” mean whatever it is they want them to mean.

All this is pretty serious stuff because Satan knows that when he attacks marriage, he’s attacking the very institution which God established as the foundation of society itself. He knows that if he can destroy the foundation, it won’t take long for the building itself to crumble all around.

So when our Lord begins His ministry gracing a marriage with His presence and His blessing, He is showing us something vital about the whole of His work of redemption. It’s not that grace is opposed to nature; it’s that grace takes up nature and fills it up, and manifests what it was meant to be all along, when the things of this world are taken into God’s purposes.

Think about it: it is no accident that we are saved by water – water that is joined to the Word of God and so brought to completion, made saving and holy. Luther even calls the baptismal water “divine water.”

Similarly, it is no accident that Christ takes in hand our ordinary food, bread and wine, and by His word transfigures them, brings them to us as the gift of His own body and blood, as the gift of communion with Him, showing us that creation itself was given us to be the gift of communion with Him; that nature cries out for this fulfillment.

Now, it’s just the same with marriage. It’s a natural thing. God planted it in humanity right from the get-go of our human race. It was His idea and He gave Adam and Eve to each other and so instituted that holy estate where a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife so that they become “one flesh.”

Sin crippled nature. It crippled all the natural gifts of God and there is no end to the distortions that sinful man can do with them. God made wine to make man’s heart glad, but what do we do with it? Use it to foster sloth and drunkenness. God made voices to sing His praise and pray to Him and build each up in the holy faith, but what do we do with our voices? We lie and cut each other down, and stab each other in the back. God made all things good, but there is none of His goodness that we haven’t ruined if we got our hand on it, and marriage is included in that.

This union that God meant to be a blessing to husband and wife and to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children – let sin enter in, and look at what it can become! Think of the horrors of domestic violence and the abuse of spouse and children! Think of how marriage can become a horrible arena for the exercise of domestic tyranny and selfishness. This good and holy gift of God – it can be abused.

But there’s a great statement in the Church: abuse does not abolish, but establishes use. In other words, just because marriage can go wrong, that is no excuse for people abandoning it, and turning from God’s institution to some ideas of their own making.

Especially not when marriage is taken up into Christ. As you heard in today’s epistle, marriage really comes into its own when Christ Jesus is not just invited to the wedding ceremony, but welcomed into the feast that marriage is. Welcomed into the home. Let Christ come into a marriage and form a bond between husband and wife and look at how everything changes.

No more playing “who’s the boss?” and no room for the exercise of domestic tyranny. You can leave your “Go get me my beer!” at the door. Christ crowns both husband and wife as servants to one another. He places on the heads of each a crown – like unto his own – a crown of thorns. He invites marriage to become the place where husbands learn to deny their own wills and serve their wives, to honor them and seek their best interest. He invites marriage to become the place where wives abandon all griping and manipulation and in joy submit to their husbands as their husbands seek to serve them.

And because we fail again and again in living this out, He invites the married to live from the forgiveness of sins. For the husband and the wife to forgive one another daily – out from the rich resources of His forgiveness.

In this way, marriage and the family become precisely what God created them to be: nature transfigured, water into wine, mirrors of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. For He has shown husbands what it is to love by going to the cross that he might present His bride to himself without spot or blemish or any such thing, holy and perfect. He covers her sin with His holiness. And He loves her and that love transforms her, makes her be what He has already declared her to be. And the Church herself, shows wives what it is to be wife – for the Church seeks to listen to Christ, to receive from Him, to honor Him, to be loyal to Him, to serve Him, and to submit to Him in all things. It’s a battle, yes it is, against the will of the flesh that wants to assert: “Do it my way.”

Over against Christ, we’re all bride. We’re all Church. And today He comes to us again – the one who changed water into wine – He comes changing bread and wine into His body and blood, and giving Himself into us that He might change us. His love is given to us, and when we let that love find a home in us, His love is a fire that sets us on fire with love for others.

Marriage is under attack, but the best defense of marriage is to let it become all it was meant to be in Jesus Christ: an arena of love and self-sacrifice in union with the Giver of all good. That's how grace transfigures nature. This we learn at Cana of Galilee. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

If God suffers in the flesh when He is made man, should we not rejoice when we suffer, for we have God to share our sufferings? This shared suffering confers the kingdom on us. For he spoke truly who said, 'If we suffer with Him, then we shall also be glorified with Him.' - St. Maximos the Great, *Philokalia II: First Century on Various Texts* par. 24

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But how can a Christian sacrifice himself? He does this when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he daily and even hourly kills everything evil that is in and of him, and lays at God's feet everything that is good. When he notices in himself the desires of the eyes, that is, anything earthly, covetousness, and avarice, he immediately seeks to be rid of them. When he senses in himself the desires of the flesh - lust, craving for pleasure, and love for a comfortable life - he strives to root them out. When he finds arrogance in himself, that is, desire for his own glory, pride, haughtiness, and self-satisfaction, he takes great pains to rip this weed out of his heart. In short, when he is daily intent upon becoming free of all his sins, sinful longings, emotions and thoughts, then and only then does he live before God as a spiritual priest who sacrifices to Him. - C. F. W. Walther

[Commercial: this quote is from the absolutely outstanding *God Grant It: Daily Devotions from C. F. W. Walther* published by CPH last year. My friend, Pastor Paul McCain has been recommending this book for sometime. Well, you know how wacky he is about Walther, so I thought: well, can it be that good? He kindly sent me a copy and let me tell you: this is the Walther you never knew. Having seen it and read only a little, I would heartily recommend it to anyone. You can order it here:

click here

You won't be sorry!!!]

10 January 2007

Marianne Update

First, thanks to all of you who have been praying for Marianne, our parish's secretary and chief organist - please don't stop!

Second, Marianne is doing better and looks MUCH better. She's in the step-down unit from ICU. Her color is much better, and the ventilator is gone. She's just beginning to be able to talk, but it still takes a lot of effort. Coughing still looks very painful for her. No food yet, but she says she hasn't really wanted it up till now.

"O Lord, look down from heaven: behold, visit, and relieve Your servant, Marianne, for whom we pray..."

On Breaking the Rules

My wife and I have an ongoing dispute about the best way to play pinochle. I am rather convinced that the game is INFINITELY more fun if you allow passing to your partner four cards, after the partner names trump. My wife likes the boring way of just playing what you were dealt. Now, my wife's friends in this parish (on this question they are not MY friends) all agree with her: they call the passing game cheating, or breaking the rules.

We laugh about it and well we should - it's just a game, and the rules are made up. A totally different situation obtains when it is not "game" but God's holy law. You see, I think too often we've conceived of sin as "breaking a rule" - in other words, it violates the rules of the game set up by the Creator. What we miss is that sin doesn't just "break a rule" - sin "breaks" a person. Sin damages us. Damages our souls. Morphs us into what God never intended us to be; corrupts and distorts. In this morning's OT reading we had Ezekiel 18: "Repent and turn from your iniquities, lest iniquity be your ruin... Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn and live!"

Why does God hate sin? Because He's ticked off that we would dare to disobey His rules? No! Because He hates this satanic damage inflicted upon the creatures He made to share in His life forever.

So, the Christian can never not be concerned about sin in his or her life. Even as the Christian can and must rejoice in the forgiveness that God has reached us in Jesus Christ, the wiping out of the accusation of the law against our violations of it; we recognize that God not only wants to forgive us, He also wants to heal us. He calls for us to fight against sin by the power of His Holy Spirit. The person who can rejoice in and celebrate the wounds that sin causes and say: "But I'm forgiven!" is a person who has missed the point that Christ came to forgive sin *so that He might free us from it.*

Does that mean that we will ever be free from sin in this life? You know the answer from St. John. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But He goes on to add that if we confess our sins, God, the Faithful and Just, will forgive our sins *AND* cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In the words of the Blessed Apostle Paul:

"Since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." 2 Cor. 7:1

Lord God, we praise you for the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ our Lord. Cleanse us and heal us as we live under Your pardon and celebrate Your boundless mercy and love. Amen!

Speaking of Basil...

This was a version of the Basil Anaphora that the working group on the Lord's Supper liturgy had worked on, but which (sadly) did not come to see the light of day. Thought you guys might be interested in the great "what might have been..."

The Anaphora of St Basil the Great
Lutheran Hymnal Project, 007 Liturgy
(A Conflation and Redaction of Egyptian and Byzantine Basil
by the Lord’s Supper Working Group of the Liturgy Committee)

June 8, 2001

P The Lord be with you.
C And with your spirit.
P Lift up your hearts.
C We lift them up unto the Lord.
P Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.
C It is right to give Him thanks and praise.

P It is truly good, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, Lord of heaven and earth, Master of all creation, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Savior and true God, the image of Your goodness, the living Word, eternal Wisdom, and the true Light by whom the Holy Spirit is revealed. This is the Spirit of Truth and Sonship, the fountain of life and sanctification, by whom all creation offers You eternal praise. Therefore with angels and archangels, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

C Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of Sabaoth:
Heaven and earth are full of your glory;
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

P Holy indeed, and blessed are You, O Lord our God, for You formed us to share Your life forever. But when we disobeyed Your commandment and fell from eternal life, You banished us from Your paradise. Yet, in mercy, You did not cast us off forever, but sent Your holy prophets to proclaim Your promise to us. Now in these last days You have manifested Yourself through Your only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was made flesh and became man by the Holy Spirit of the blessed virgin Mary. He revealed to us the way of life and His means of salvation. He gave us new birth by His Word and Spirit in the water of Holy Baptism and so gained for Himself a special people, redeemed by His own blood. He loved His own who were in the world and offered Himself as a ransom to set us free from sin and death. Going forth to His voluntary and life-giving death, He handed Himself over and gave us this great mystery of godliness, for which we give thanks, now and forever.
C Amen.

P Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: Take, eat; this is my + body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.

In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: Drink of it, all of you; this is my + blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

The Confession may be concluded here as the pastor introduces the Lord’s Prayer with these words: “Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray.”

P As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, the holy body and precious blood of Christ,
C we remember His sacrifice and proclaim the His death until He comes.

P Therefore, heavenly Father, remembering our Lord's holy sufferings, His life-giving cross and three-day burial, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven, His enthronement at Your right hand and His glorious coming for judgment:
C We praise You, we bless You, and we give You thanks.

P And we unworthy sinners pray to You in Your mercy and grace that Your Holy Spirit would sanctify us, body and soul, in the one true faith. Make us worthy to receive the body and blood of Your Son, given and poured out for the forgiveness of our sins for the life of the world.

Unite all who receive this one bread and cup with Your saints of all times and places—patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, evangelists, and all the righteous spirits perfected in faith [including ________]. Receive us all into Your kingdom, bestow on us Your peace, and grant us with one heart and voice to glorify Your holy name with Jesus Christ and the life-giving Holy Spirit in Your one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, now and forever.
C Amen.

C Our Father...

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For it is true that it was not out of any necessity but out of spontaneous love that the Son of God became incarnate. - Martin Chemnitz, *Loci Theologici* I:109

Patristic Quote for the Day

As man I deliberately transgressed the divine commandment, when the devil, enticing me with the hope of divinity, dragged me down from my natural stability into the realm of sensual pleasure; and he was proud to have thus brought death into existence, for he delights in the corruption of human nature. Because of this, God became perfect man, taking on everything that belongs to human nature except sin; and indeed sin is not part of human nature. In this way, by enticing the insatiable serpent with the bait of the flesh, He provoked him to open his mouth and swallow it. This flesh proved poison to him, destroying him utterly by the power of the Divinity within it; but to human nature it proved a remedy restoring it to its original grace by that same power of the Divinity within it. For just as the devil poured out his venom of sin on teh tree of knowledge and corrupted human nature once it tasted it, so when he wished to devour the flesh of the Master he was himself destroyed by the power of the Divinity within it. - St. Maximos the Great, *Philokalia* II:167

The Cappadocians

Today is the day set aside according to the official calendar of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod to remember and thank God for the Cappadocians: Basil the Great of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Pastors and Confessors.

From the Commission on Worship website:

Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, together with their contributions to the liturgy of the Eastern Church, make them among the most influential Christian teachers and theologians of their time.

The reference to the liturgy recalls the Anaphora of St. Basil the Great. Talk about high octane Gospel. Whew! Beautiful!

08 January 2007

Book of Concord Discussion

Pastor McCain has pointed out that I've been remiss in plugging the BOC site on my blog. So here goes!

To read some discussion about the Book of Concord click the link below:

Book of Concord Discussion

Homiletical Study for Epiphany 2

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O most high. Psalm 66

Oremus. Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace through all our days; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Liturgical Setting:
The second Sunday after the Epiphany continues the theme of our Lord’s manifestation as God in the flesh. This is clear above all from the assigned Hymn of the Day: “The Only Son from Heaven.”

The only Son from heaven, foretold by ancient seers,
By God the Father given, In human form appears.
No sphere His light confining, No star so brightly shining
As He, our Morning Star.

O time of God appointed, O bright and holy morn!
He comes, the king anointed, The Christ, the Virgin-born,
Grim death to vanquish for us, To open heaven before us,
And bring us life again. (LSB #402)


Exodus 33:12-23 Moses begs to see God’s glory, but Yahweh tells him that no one can see His face and live. But God does this for Moses: hides him in the cleft of the rock, and passes by, and then taking his hand away lets Moses glimpse his back-sides. We remember Luther and Heidelburg – good stuff to review on this reading.

Amos 9:11-15 An alternate OT reason that picks up the Gospel theme of “overwhelming bounty” – the hills flowing with wine – as the sign of the Messianic age.

Eph 5:22-33 An epistle lesson obviously chosen to match the “marriage” theme of the Gospel and that points beyond marriage itself to what that institution signifies in Christ. The most important lines: “And I am saying it refers to Christ and the Church.” Augustine offers a unique interpretation of that in his homily on the Gospel for this day.

Romans 12:6-16 (Historic Epistle) The Blessed Apostle unpacks the life that is lived as sacrifice to the Lord. A truly fabulous text for describing what the uniquely Christian life (i.e., the life lived in union with Jesus Christ) looks like. MUCH good sermon fodder here if it is chosen as the text.

Holy Gospel: John 2:1-11

This reading introduces us to the very first of John’s famous “signs” and it has intimate points of tie-in with chapter 19. These two chapters should be read together – they illuminate each other. We note that the Blessed Virgin Mother appears only twice in John’s Gospel: here and in chapter 19. We note that the image of marriage (so important in John!) is connected here to “my hour” – i.e., to John 19. We see the first talk of “manifesting his glory” – a glory which is fully revealed only in the “lifting up” of the Cross in John 19.

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”


Third day? Third day from what? The last event was the encounter between our Lord and Nathanael. That could be the point of reference, or it may simply mean “on Tuesday,” or yet again, it may invite us to think of the most famous “third day” of all – the Day of the Resurrection.

Mary’s role as intercessor here has been much commented on through the years. Especially in noting how she prescribed to our Lord neither time, manner, nor means of answering. Instead, she informs Him of the need and leaves it entirely in his care how it will be answered.

Jesus’ words to her sound harsher in English than I think Greek warrants. “O Woman” may well ring in with Gal 4:4 and the whole idea that St. Ireaneus explicates of the new Eve. In John 19, from the Cross, He calls her by this title again, and there entrusts her to the Beloved Disciple, who is not named, perhaps precisely so that we might slip ourselves in there. This Woman is the one our Lord gives to every disciple He loves as their own Mother. Also note that if she is Woman, in John 19, our Lord is “the Man” – Ecce homo!

The response of our Lord to Mary’s prayer is idiomatic: “What to me and to you?” Does anyone know if it could possibly be rendered in English: “What does that have to do with US?” I didn’t have time to chase down the idiom.

“My hour” in John again is simply pregnant. Think of His words in John 12: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Think of His words in John 17: “Father, the hour has come: glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You.” Think of John 19: “from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Note then in John 19 itself “that hour” refers to the moment when our Lord “leaves” His mother to become the new Adam from whose side His bride will be created.

John 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.


St. Augustine has a great deal of fun with the six jars being six ages, but such fun we might want to forego. What six above all says is: “not seven!” Not fullness. Not completion. Waiting and expectation for the restoration of the fullness of creation. And so the six “water pots” are crying out like all of creation is to be made new. And so they are.

Our Lord who seemed to tell His blessed Mother “buzz off” in fact does not let her down. In response to her prayer, He performs His first miracle. And that miracle is to no circus trick. It is the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary. As both St. Augustine and Luther point out in their homilies, the Lord does it all the time, all around us. We just take it for granted because He usually does it more slowly; this time it was instantaneous. Following His instruction, nature became “super nature” and He gave not just wine, but the finest. So fine that the steward is perplexed at why the bridegroom kept the good stuff till the guests were already, well, “happy.” I’m sure the bridegroom is perplexed at well. The best is saved for the last. That’s a message in John’s Gospel too – the best is yet to come. It awaits the end of all signs, when all signs have their fulfillment. In chapter 19 it is not wine, but blood that pours out, and we cannot help but see in that pouring out of the blood from the side of Christ, by which His wife is created and made and sustained, an image of the Supper itself. Note the joy of this in LSB 408 “Come, Join in Cana’s Feast”

Come, join in Cana’s feast Where Christ is honored guest.
He welcomes all who come to taste The wine His hands have blessed.

The old wine now is gone From jars that stand apart.
No longer can it satisfy The yearning, thirsting heart.

But Christ, the Word made flesh, Bids water turn to wine.
He fills our empty cups again With grace and truth divine.

Come, friends, and share the Feast; Here drink the wine supplied,
By Him who is both guest and host – Our Lord, the Crucified.

For now He lives and reigns Through all eternity
With Father, Spirit, Three in One, The glorious Trinity.

So the “sign” of the Wedding Feast pointed to something bigger that God was up to, a Wedding Feast that was being planned for all eternity when our Lord, who had left His Father to seek His Bride, and then left His Mother, was joined to His wife and became One flesh with her. That One flesh going even into death and coming out alive – that One flesh and His Blood given us even to eat and to drink – the joy of union with Him, our Bridegroom.

Earlier Preachment

In John's Gospel there are no spare parts. Everything has full meaning. Nowhere is that clearer than in today's Gospel. The wedding in Cana is not just another miracle story - another demonstration of the Lord Jesus' power over creation. John's telling of it invests it with far greater meaning.

Consider: A wedding - the celebration of two lives being joined in one. And where such a union is being celebrated, there is joy and singing and gladness. Mary shows up at Cana. Jesus and his disciples are there too. Jesus speaks of "his hour" and says "it's not yet." At Cana there is water and wine. At Cana Jesus displays His glory. At Cana Jesus does what John calls His "first of signs."

The first of the "signs"? That leads us to aks what they were signs of? If this is the first, then what's the final sign and the greatest? And when does this hour of Jesus finally arrive? Where's do we meet Mary in John's Gospel? In fact, where are the only two places in John's Gospel where Mary shows up? Do we ever meet anything like water and wine again? And where is there next a wedding? Where and when and how does Jesus show His glory?

All these questions point from the story we just heard to the nineteenth chapter of John's Gospel. It's the nineteenth chapter which permeates the story of Cana's wedding feast and fills it to the brim with meaning.

So, what do we find in chapter 19? We find Jesus, bruised and battered, hanging on a cross, and dying. And what was that dying all about? Consider: There, in chapter 19, when Jesus is hanging on the cross, we meet Mary again. And Jesus leaves her. Gives her into the keeping of the beloved Disciple. But when is it that Scripture says a man leaves his mother? Why, when he's getting married! "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh." Is Calvary about a wedding, after all? Is Calvary a marriage?

Before you throw the idea as absurd, think! What did God do in Eden the first time round when he introduced the whole idea of marriage? Isn't it rather like what he's doing on Calvary? Then, the man was cast into a deep sleep and from his side was taken that from which his bride was made. So, it is as Jesus enters the sleep of death, that from his side flow water and blood and from that water and blood God fashions a Bride for His Son - the Church. The Church that is born again in water and nourished by her Bridegroom's blood in the Sacrament. Wedding feast supreme.

"Woman," he calls Mary at Cana. "Woman" he called Mary there on Calvary. "My hour has not yet come" he said in Cana. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" he said of Calvary. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself." This he said signifying by what death He would die. (John 12:32,33).

In Cana, Jesus takes the Jewish jars of purification and filled them to the brim with good wine. At Calvary, Jesus takes all the Old Testament pictures and types of the salvation of God and fills them to the full with His own suffering and death. And does it all to win a Bride for himself, the Church. Does it all to become one flesh with us so that all that is His might become ours even as all that is ours becomes His - there on Calvary. Ours the sin, the death, the darkness, the judgment. His the love, the light, the life, the glory.

And the glory that Jesus manifests at Cana is a hidden glory, the same kind of glory that shines from the cross. It is the glory of a God who is determined to go to the uttermost lengths because of His great love for His bride. It is the glory of love that no human hatred can destroy, that even death cannot wipe out. A love that ends in resurrection. That too is in Cana, for the first thing are told about Cana is that it happened "on the third day." Resurrection!

And so the Church has always celebrated the Eucharist as the wedding feast of Christ. For in the Eucharist the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, comes to His bride, the church, and unites Himself to her, so that she might live from His life. Here He who took our own flesh from Mary in order to carry our sins to death, places into our mouths that very flesh and blood in order to bind us to Him as "one flesh" - so that as He is risen, we will be raised. So that as He lives in the Father's glory, we will come to live in the Father's glory. All our sins, His. All His life, ours.

How well the hymn-writer Jaroslav Vajda understood this! Listen:

Now the silence, Now the peace, Now the empty hands uplifted
Now the kneeling, Now the plea, Now the Father's arms in welcome
Now the hearing, Now the pow'r, Now the vessel brimmed for pouring
Now the body, Now the blood, Now the joyful celebration
Now the wedding Now the songs Now the heart forgiven, leaping
Now the Spirit's visitation, Now the Son's Epiphany, Now the Father's blessing.
Now Now Now.

From Cana to Calvary, from Calvary to Hamel. Jesus' wedding feast! Amen.

Ah, Atkins!

I just love it when my wife whips up something new. She made us steak-burgers tonight. They were coated in egg and rolled in crushed pork rind and then fried. To add insult to injury, they were topped with melted sharp cheese and then a cream (yes, CREAM) sauce. In short: they were fabulous. I did eat my spinach salad alongside so that I could say that something green passed my lips today. Spinach isn't bad if you pour enough Greek Salad Dressing on top and then liberally sprinkle on the feta. I know those of you who are not persuaded by Atkins are imagining that you can see the arteries clogging even as I type. Not so. The Dr. has told us repeatedly: I don't know what you're doing, but whatever it is, keep it up! Make no mistake about it: I miss bread. But you know, I don't miss one little bit how eating carbs makes me feel AFTER I eat them. Seriously - no stomach aches with Atkins. Okay, okay, commercial over, but I'm telling you, those steak-burgers were tasty!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Now that the Messiah has presented Himself in this way, let us keep our eyes in our worship on this only-begotten Son of God and Son of Mary who "was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father," who gathers together His church out of the whole human race and cares for it, protects and defends it, and will save and glorify it in the eternal life to come. -- Martin Chemnitz, *Loci Theologici*, Vol. 1, p. 55

Patristic Quote for the Day

Let us contemplate with faith the mystery of the divine incarnation and in all simplicity let us praise Him who in His great generosity became man for us. - St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century of Various Texts, #13, Volume II Philokalia)

07 January 2007

Busy Day

Two Divine Services, with Bible Study in between, then off to the hospital to visit Marianne. Anointing of the sick, prayers and the Word. She still needs many prayers - still on ventilator, very puffy, and the ever-present danger of recurrent infection. But she was alert and nodded when I asked if I could anoint her and pray with her. Cindi came with me - a shock for her to see Marianne like this. Then home for a couple hours this afternoon to try to rest a little (woke up at 2:30 last night and not able to return to sleep). Helped Cindi make dinner (great new lo-carb soup - we love these books Cheryl gave us for Christmas!). Vespers in Church - and the Church was returned to it's pre-Christmas state. I'm enjoying the simplicity! Public School Confirmation - on the struggle of prayer when God seems against us (Matt 15:21-28). Then home to work on bulletins and stuff for next Sunday. Still up in the air as to whether we will go to MD for funeral of Cindi's aunt, which I have been requested to preside at. Both of us are quite hesitant to leave IL with Marianne still in critical condition. This week promises to be crazy, whether it includes a trip to MD or not. Lord, Thy will be done! Show us the path!

06 January 2007

Behold, the Lord, the Ruler has come!

So begins the Introit for the great Feast of Epiphany. What a joy to celebrate it today! In the Western Church, the Epiphany focuses on the star and the visit of the Magi; the Baptism of our Lord is celebrated usually the Sunday following Epiphany (in those who use post-Vatican II guidelines) or on the octave of Epiphany (in those parishes where the older tradition prevails).

Lutherans have never forgotten that the Baptism belongs to Epiphany, though, and that it is truly a great Theophany. In one of his sermons for the Baptism, Blessed Martin Luther speaks of the Baptism as the true "Drei Königs fest!" For at the Baptism of our Lord the heavenly Kings, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were manifested to all the world.

In the words of Luther's great Baptismal hymn:

There stood the Son of God in love, His grace to us extending
The Holy Spirit like a dove Upon the scene descending;
The triune God assuring us With promises compelling
That in our Baptism, He will thus Among us find a dwelling
To comfort and sustain us.
(LSB #406, st. 4)

"Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin!" - Liturgy of Holy Baptism (LSB p. 269)

The sanctification of all water to reveal to us the Triune God - what a glory is our Lord's Baptism, what a glory is His manifestation by the star!

The star proclaims the King is here;
But Herod, why this senseless fear?
For He who offers heav'nly birth
Seeks not the treasures of the earth.

The eastern sages saw from far
And followed on His guiding star;
And, led by light, to Light they trod
And by their gifts confessed their God.

Within the Jordan's sacred flood
The heav'nly Lamb in meekness stood
That He, of whom no sin was known,
Might cleanse His people from their own.

For this His glad epiphany,
All glory, Jesus, be to Thee,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore. Amen.
(LSB #399, st. 1,2,3,5)