31 May 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

And that is what this spiritual food does: when the body eats it physically, this food digests the body's flesh and transforms it so that it too becomes spiritual, that is, alive and blessed forever as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15, "The body will rise spiritually."

To give a simple illustration of what takes place in this eating: it is as if a wolf devoured a sheep and the sheep were so powerful a food that it transformed the wolf and turned him into a sheep. So, when we eat Christ's flesh physically and spiritually, the food is so powerful that it transforms us into itself and out of fleshly, mortal men makes spiritual, holy, living men. This we are already, though in a hidden manner in faith and hope; the fact is not yet manifest, but we shall experience it on the Last Day.

--Martin Luther, AE 37:100,101

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. --St. John Chrysostom, prod. Jud. 1:6 (cited in par. 1375 CCC)

It was unspeakably good...

...to see the Braun family again. Pastor Allen, Laura, Clarissa, Katherine, Sam, Christina, and Maria (Maria also happens to be one of our godchildren). They joined us for the afternoon today and it was absolutely wonderful to have the house full of little ones again - of course THESE little ones are so well behaved and quiet, you'd hardly know they were here! We miss you guys, and it was wonderful to spend the time together.

Best moment came when Allen asked me to sign the Catechism we'd bought for Maria, and he handed me a pen. I took one look at it and said: "This is made by Ed Wolfe." Ed makes the most beautiful pens! Allen was surprised, but anyone who has seen Ed's handiwork knows it.

Watching them all bundle into the van and head back to beautiful Mount Hulda was sort of sad. I remember those years with the little ones and what joy they were. Enjoy them, Allen and Laura! They grow up too fast.

Here are a couple pics:

30 May 2007

A Break In...

We had a horrific occurrence last Sunday night/Monday morning. Someone waltzed into the church through a door that I had left open and took the consecrated wine and the unconsecrated wine and our old communion set (silver), bypassing the new gold set and the wine sitting in the cabinet.

It changed everything for me. I decided it was far better not to have any consecrated wine left over, to put no one in the danger of such a temptation. Beginning this past Sunday all consecrated wine was consumed in the Divine Service or immediately afterward. I took the shutins this week bread and wine which I consecrated in their presence and which was consumed entirely.

The danger of sacrilege is too great. Using the new Pastoral Care Companion, I consecrated the sacrament in their presence, received with them, and every bit of the consecrated elements was consumed. Those old Lutherans, they were really onto something by insisting that nothing be left over. It took a break in for me to understand...

29 May 2007

VERY Worth Reading

Thanks to Dr. Tighe for sending this my way. I've enjoyed Fr. Hopko for some years, but the older he gets the hotter burns the fire within him. It's long, but it is worthwhile. Very worthwhile. Especially fitting for seminary graduates to hear and ponder...

SVS Commencement Address
May 19, 2007

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko
Dean Emeritus
St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

Your Beatitude Metropolitan Herman, Your Grace Bishop Antoun, Your Grace Bishop Titus, Father Dean Erickson, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and most especially the honored members of the Class of 2007: Glory to Jesus Christ!

I am delighted to speak to you at this commencement ceremony today. This honor is especially significant for me since I came to this school as a student exactly a half century ago, in September 1957.

For forty of the last fifty years I was officially connected with St. Vladimir's. I was a student for six years, and, after five years as a pastor in Ohio, I returned to the seminary where I served as a teacher and pastor for thirty-four years until my retirement five years ago. This school gave me my spiritual life and my spiritual family. It also gave me my wife, and our children and grandchildren, for which I am inexpressibly grateful.

Father Erickson and the seminary faculty asked me to tell you today what I believe to be the most important things that I learned in the last fifty years. They asked me to do this in about twenty minutes. So what can I tell you in my remaining nineteen?

The first and most important thing is that we are boundlessly loved by God who blesses us to love Him boundlessly in return.

I can also tell you that we can love God as He loves us only by faith and grace, by His own divine power, and that we prove our love for Him by loving everyone and everything, beginning with our worst enemies, just as He does, with the very same love with which He loves us, the very Love that He Himself is.

And I can tell you that being loved by God, and loving Him in return, is the greatest joy given to creatures, and that without it there is no real and lasting happiness for humanity.

And I can also tell you, alas, that such loving is always a violent, brutal and bloody affair.
The God who is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, who gives us his divine life and peace and joy forever, is first of all the Divine Lover who wounds His beloved, and then hides from her, hoping to be sought and found. He is the Father who chastens and disciplines His children. He is the Vinekeeper who cuts and prunes His vines so that they bear much fruit. He is the Jeweler who burns His gold in His divine fire so that it would be purged of all impurities. And He is the Potter who continually smashes and refashions and re-bakes His muddy clay so that it can be the earthen vessel that He wants it
to be, capable of bearing His own transcendent grace and power and glory and peace.

I learned that all of these terrible teachings of the Holy Scriptures and the saints are real and true. And so I became convinced that God's Gospel in His Son Jesus is really and truly God's final act on earth. It is the act in which God's Word is now not simply inscribed in letters on pages of parchment, but is personally incarnate as a human being in his own human body and blood. And so I became convinced of the truth of all truths: that the ultimate revelation of God as Love and the ultimate revelation of humanity's love for God, are both to be found in the bloody
corpse of a dead Jew, hanging on a cross between two criminals, outside the walls of Jerusalem, executed at the hands of Gentiles, by the instigation of his own people's leaders, in the most painful, cursed, shameful and wretched death that a human being -- and especially a Jew -- can possibly die.

So to the measure that we are honest and faithful, and try to keep God's commandments, and repent for our failures and sins, we come to know, and to know ever more clearly and deeply as time goes by, what we have learned here at St. Vladimir's. We come to know by experience that the Word of God (ho logos tou theou) is always and necessarily the word of the Cross (ho logos tou stavrou). And -- in language befitting a commencement ceremony at an Orthodox graduate school of theology -- we come to see that true theologia is always stavrologia. And real orthodoxia is always paradoxia. And that there is no theosis without kenosis.

Theology is stavrology and Orthodoxy is paradoxy: the almighty God reveals Himself as an infinitely humble, totally self-emptying and absolutely ruthless and relentless lover of sinners. And men and women made in His image and likeness must be the same. Thus we come to see that as there is no resurrection without crucifixion, there is also no sanctification without suffering, no glorification without humiliation; no deification without degradation; and no life without death. We learn, in a word, the truth of the early Christian hymn recorded in Holy Scripture:

If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;
if we endure with him, we shall also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful -
for he cannot deny himself. (2Tim 2.11-13)

According to the Gospel, therefore, those who wish to be wise are constrained to be fools. Those who would be great become small. Those who would be first put themselves last. Those who rule, serve as slaves. Those who would be rich make themselves poor. Those who want to be strong become weak. And those who desire to find and fulfill themselves as persons deny and empty themselves for the sake of the Gospel. And, finally, and most important of all, those who want really to live have really to die. They voluntarily die, in truth and in love, to everyone and everything that is not God and of God.

And so, once again, if we have learned anything at all in our theological education, spiritual formation and pastoral service, we have learned to beware, and to be wary, of all contentment, consolation and comfort before our co-crucifixion in love with Christ. We have learned that though we can know about God through formal theological education, we can only come to know God by taking up our daily crosses with patient endurance in love with Jesus. And we can only do this by faith and grace through the Holy Spirit's abiding power.

When we speak about "taking up our crosses" and "bearing our burdens" in imitation of Christ, by the power of God's Holy Spirit, we also learn by painful experience that the crosses we take up and the burdens we bear must be those that God gives us, and not those that we ourselves choose and desire. Thus we become convinced that when our burdens are unbearable and our crosses crush us in joyless misery -- and we become dark, depressed, despondent and desperate -- the reasons are evident. Either we are choosing our own crosses and burdens, and rejecting those sent to us by our merciful God whose thoughts and ways are not ours; or we are attempting to carry our crosses and bear our burdens by our own powers, and not by God's grace and strength given to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church.

And so we come to another conviction: The Church -- the communion of faith and love (as St. Ignatius of Antioch defined it: henosis agapis kai pisteos), the community of saints who are Christ's own very "members" as his body and bride -- is essential to our human being and life. We
cannot be human beings -- still less, Christians and saints -- by ourselves.

We need God and his wise and faithful servants. We need God's commandments and living examples of their fulfillment. We need the Church's scriptures, sacraments, services and saints. And we need one another. As Tertullian said centuries ago, "One Christian is no Christian." And as the Russian proverb puts it, "The only thing that a person can do alone is perish." Like it or not, we are "members of one another" in God. If we like it, it is life and paradise. If we reject it, it is death and hell.

So, in the end, because everything is about the true God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the Church's scriptures, sacraments, services and saints, and God's love, wisdom, truth and power, so too, therefore, is everything about the most important and Godlike reality of all, what St. John Climakos called "thrice-holy humility": the humility of God himself that cannot be defined but can only be seen and adored in the crucified Christ, and in those who, by faith and grace, are co-crucified with Him.

Thus, if we have become convinced of anything at all as Orthodox Christians, we are convinced that human beings are not autonomous. The proclamation and defense of human autonomy is the most insidious lie of our day, especially here in North America, and in the Western and Westernized worlds generally. Humans beings are by nature heteronomous. Another law (heteros nomos) is always working in our minds and members. This "other law" is either the law of God, the law of Christ, the law of the Holy Spirit, the law of liberty and life that can only
be recognized, received and realized by holy humility, or it is the law of sin and death. (cf. Romans 7-8) When the law within us is God's law, then we are who we really are, and we are sane and free. But when that law is the law of sin and death, then we are not ourselves, and we are
insane, enslaved and sold to sin.

More than fifteen hundred years ago St. Anthony the Great declared that "a time is coming when people will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'" (Saying 25)

It may well be that the time that St. Anthony foresaw is now upon us, or at least is rapidly approaching, at least in the West. And because of what we have learned, we know what we have to do about it. The same St Anthony, with all holy people, has told us. I urge you, and, if I could, I would command you, to read St. Anthony's thirty-eight sayings in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Everything we need to know in order to live is there for us in its simplest and clearest form.

Abba Anthony first tells us that when we are plagued by whirling thoughts (logismoi) and worn down by an overwhelming sense of meaninglessness and futility (akedia), which we will be in this sinful world, we must simply and diligently work and pray, by pure devotion and sheer obedience. We must pay attention to ourselves and mind our own business. We must do our work, and let God -- and other people -- do theirs.

He also tells us that whoever we are, we should always have God before our eyes; and whatever we do, we should always do according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures; and wherever we are, we should not easily leave that place.

He further tells us (with his friend Abba Pambo) not to trust in our own righteousness, not to worry about the past, and to guard our mouths and our stomachs. He tells us to take responsibility for our own behavior, and to expect to be ferociously tempted to our very last breath. He tells us that there is no salvation for us without trial and temptation, and that without being tested, no person can be healed, illumined and perfected. He tells us that each one of us has our own unique life, that no two people are the same, and that each of us has to be the person that God made us to be (as Fr Paul Lazor, my dearest friend, so often says) where we are, when we are, with whom we are, from whom we are, and such as we are, according to God's inscrutable providence.

Anthony also tells us, as do all the saints, that our life and our death begin and end with our fellow human beings. He insists that if we have gained our neighbor, we have gained our God, but if we have scandalized our neighbor, we have sinned against Christ. He says that all of our ascetical disciplines, including our scholarly studies, are means to an end; they are not ends in themselves. The end is discernment (diakrisis) and dispassion (apatheia) and the knowledge (epignosis) of God through keeping His commandments, the first and greatest of which is love (agape). And he teaches that our only hope to escape the countless snares of this world that seek to enslave us is found in one thing alone: Christ-like humility, with "a broken, contrite and humble heart," as the psalmist says, being our sole "sacrifice acceptable to God." (Psalm 51.17)

"I saw all the snares the enemy spreads out over all the world" Abba Anthony said, "and I cried out groaning, 'What can get through from such snares?' Then I heard a voice saying to me, 'Humility'." (Saying 7)

An extended explanation of St. Anthony's teachings, and those of our Christian saints generally, may be found in a book published in 1867 in Russia. It is by St. Ignaty Brianchaninoff, and is called in English The Arena: An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism. I am convinced that
every committed Christian, surely every seminary graduate, should feel obliged to read this book, meditating especially on its first part about the absolute necessity of keeping God's evangelical commandments (evangelskii zapovedy), accompanied by St Ignaty's dire warnings to religious people -- especially those with theological educations and ascetical inclinations and mystical desires-- who may fail to keep the commandments of the Gospel because they accept the lie that they are "not like other people" as they surrender to the delusion -- the fiercest and most destructive of all delusions for religious people -- that they are especially gifted, zealous and illumined. For, as my beloved Professor Serge Verhovskoy never tired of warning: "The worst of all sins is the lie, and the worst of all lies is the lie about God, and worst of all lies about God is the lie about God and me."

I would also recommend today, and, again, if I could, I would also insist that all thinking Christians, and surely all seminary students and graduates, be required to read one other book that contains, in my view, the most incisive analysis of what has happened to humanity in the last fifty years. It is C. S. Lewis's prophetic masterpiece written in 1944 called The Abolition of Man. This slender volume should be read slowly, methodically and carefully many times over. Parts of it, which I have read more than ten times, are still unclear to me. But its main point is crystal clear.

Lewis says that for human beings to see, know, love, adore and offer fitting thanksgiving for all that is good, true and beautiful in human life, and so to remain fully and truly human, they must possess and cultivate the uniquely human faculty that differentiates them from angels and beasts, and, we must also add today, from the artificial intelligence of electronic technology. Lewis calls this faculty the "Tao." He says that it may also be called the "image of God" or the "spark of divinity" or the Law or the Logos or the Heart. (Today, if he knew Orthodox literature, he might have also said that it may be called the Nous.) Whatever one calls it, it is the faculty whereby human beings intuit and contemplate the basic truths of human being and life that ground all ratiocination, discourse, conversation and disputation. Lewis claimed in 1944 that if the methods of education prevailing in the schools of his day prove to be successful,
this uniquely human faculty will be obliterated, and human beings as we have known them will no longer exist. It will literally be "the abolition of man."

I am convinced that what Lewis foresaw has happened, and is still happening with ever more catastrophic consequences, in our Western and Westernized worlds. It happens that men and women who once were human are simply no longer so. They have become nothing but minds and matter, brains and bodies, computers and consumers, calculators and copulators, constructers and cloners who believe that they are free and powerful but who are in fact being destroyed by the very "Nature" that they wish to conquer as they are enslaved to an oligarchy of "Conditioners" who are themselves enslaved and destroyed by their insane strivings to define, design, manage and manipulate a world and a humanity bereft of the God who boundlessly loves them.

Others have seen and said similar things to what C. S. Lewis saw and said: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Karl Stern, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Thomas Merton, the alleged atheist Anton Chekhov, and my most beloved Flannery O'Connor are among my personal favorites.

The challenge and joy -- and the pain and discomfort -- of reading such extraordinarily gifted people as these, whom the members of the Class of 2007 have most likely not read for their courses at St. Vladimir's (but who knows what the new curriculum will bring?), still lies before them. And this tells us why this present graduation ceremony is called a "commencement." It is a beginning of new things -- many wonderful and challenging and convincing new things -- that we wish for the men and women completing their studies at St. Vladimir's Seminary this day.

And this brings us to the last conviction that I may share with you today: Every day, by God's grace, brings us a new beginning. We are all always "commencing" a new spiritual adventure in living and loving as God lives and loves. It is never over. And it is never too late to start anew.

I congratulate the Class of 2007 for their remarkable achievements. I congratulate their families, friends and teachers, and all who cared for them during their time at the seminary. I pray that the Merciful Lord will bless, guide and protect them in every way as they "commence" this new stage of their lives. And I thank God and the seminary faculty for the privilege and honor of addressing them, and you all, here today.

"The Mysteries of God...

...are to be adored, not investigated."- Philip Melanchthon, First Edition of the Loci Communes.

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us! - Antiphon for Introit, Trinity Sunday

...You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith, and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty... - Collect for Trinity

...In the confession of the only true God, we worship the Trinity in person and Unity in substance, of majesty coequal... - Proper Preface for Trinity

Trinity blessed, unity unshaken, goodness unbounded, very God of heaven,
Light of the angels, joy of those forsaken, hope of all living. - LSBB 504:2

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

What did the church do about this? It had to defend against the heretics the faith regarding the article of the Trinity, the faith which the Holy Spirit had revealed in the Scriptures, which the apostles had handed down, and the martyrs had corroborated. But the Church could not do this with words of Scripture, because of the insolence of the heretics, who with their guile played games with all the Scriptural terms, so that these words could not be retained or used in debate; and meanwhile they were taking captive the minds of the simple with their lies. Therefore terms had to be sought by which the doctrine itself, as handed down in the Scripture concerning this article, could be expressed in a proper way, so that the heretics could not play games with some sneaky interpretation. - Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, I:71

Patristic Quote of the Day

For as the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, which no one doubts to be said in respect to substance, yet we do not say that the very Supreme Trinity itself is three Gods, but one God. So the Father is great, the Son great, and the Holy Spirit great; yet not three greats, but one great. For it is not written of the Father alone, as they perversely suppose, but of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, "You are great: You are God alone." And the Father is good, the Son good, and the Holy Spirit good; yet not three goods, but one good, of whom it is said, "None is good, save one, that is, God." For the Lord Jesus, lest He should be understood as man only by him who said, "Good Master," as addressing a man, does not therefore say, There is none good, save the Father alone; but, "None is good, save one, that is, God." - St. Augustine, On the Trinity, Book 5, Chapter 8

A Homily for Trinity Sunday

[Isaiah 6:1-7 / Romans 11:33-36 / John 3:1-15]

How often had Isaiah served in the temple? How often had he participated in its liturgy? How well he knew it! But then there came that day, that life-changing day, when the earthly scene in front of him melted away and he was left trembling, staring open-mouthed into the very heart of heaven. He saw God. And the sight terrified him.

He saw Yahweh sitting on his throne high above the earth, the train of his robe swirling down and filling the earthly temple. He saw seraphim, angels of fire, above Yahweh, six-winged, flying and calling. He heard their song: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

And he thought he was through. He cried out: “Woe is me! I am undone. I am cut off. I am dead meat.” He thought he was about to die. And so he made confession: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” He confessed that he was a sinner and that the sin showed up by what he said; and he was part and parcel of a people who sinned with their lips too. Suddenly brought into the presence of Truth Himself, every lie he’d ever told seemed to be filling his mouth with a polluted and foul taste and smell. He knew he was done for.

But then something he had never expected happened. One of the seraphim took tongs to the altar before God and took a live, burning coal and with it he seared the mouth of the Seer, he purged the mouth of the prophet. He told him: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt it taken away, and your sin is atoned for.” The angel did not tell him that his guilt and sin weren’t real. The angel told him that they had been taken away from him and atoned for by another, and the touch of the living fire of God delivered that gift to him. Isaiah that day became a new man, a man with a mission. A man with cleansed lips, dedicated now to speaking what they heard from God.

It is somewhat of a contrast when we move to the Gospel reading. Make no mistake about it: there sits the One before whom Isaiah trembled in fear. There he sits not on a high and lofty throne, but probably on a dining coach in a humble home, wearing not the great train that Isaiah saw, but clothed in our own flesh and blood. No seraphim in sight. And in comes Nicodemus. Blind to who is before him. As blind as Isaiah was all those times he worshipped at the temple without realizing the terror and awe of the unseen presence of God.

Nicodemus is ready for a theological chat. But Jesus tells him: “You must be born again.” And what does Nicodemus do with that? He argues whether or not it is possible. “Can an old man creep back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus doesn’t back down. He pushes it further: “Unless you are born of water and the Spirit, you cannot enter God’s kingdom. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”

Flesh born of flesh. The most a rebel human being can conceive is another rebel human being. Oh, the rebel may put on a good show. May try his hardest to live according to the law of God. But the problem is that God doesn’t look at the outward show. God’s eyes pry right down into the heart, they behold the inner most being, and what he inevitably sees there is the old Adam, singing his old song: “I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it; and I’ll do it too whenever I think I can get away with it. I want to be the one who calls the shots. I want to be the boss.” That’s what lives inside of everyone of us who is flesh born of flesh.

And so we need the new birth that the Spirit gives. The Spirit who gives birth to spirit within us. Who plants inside of us a new heart, a new will, a desire that marks us as true children of God, who pray: “thy will be done, Holy Father, thy will be done!”

This new birth comes in the waters of Baptism. That’s what Jesus was inviting Nicodemus to. That’s what he was inviting everyone to when he said: “You must be born again.” But it is not as though, God takes out the old heart and gives you the new one. No, he transplants that new heart in Baptism and it beats right alongside the other heart, not in peaceful coexistence, but in constant conflict and battle. Will we live from the old heart and it’s will to have it’s own way; or will we live from the new heart that the Spirit gave us in Baptism, the heart that wills and longs for God’s will to be done?

The premiere mark of living from the old heart is in how the old Adam thinks of God. He’s the joy-squelcher. He’s the rule-maker. He’s the one who demands this and that, and who is determined to make us miserable by not letting us do all the things we want to do. He’s the God who out to get us and make us pay for not keeping all his heavy demands.

That’s the God Isaiah was afraid he was meeting in the temple, and so he cried out: “Woe is me!” That’s the God Nicodemus had bargained with all his life, trying to butter him up by a fine display of outward obedience. Only problem is: that God doesn’t exist. Isaiah found that out with the touch of a burning coal and the gift of forgiveness. Nicodemus found it out too, when that God in our flesh said to him: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

For our God is not a God that deals with us by pay backs. “Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” as our epistle had it. He’s not a God who is out to take from you, but a God whose heart is set on giving to you. This is the only true God, the blessed Trinity, the Father who gives the Son into our flesh, the Son who pours out the Spirit, the Spirit who plants that new heart in us and brings us to faith in the Son, that the Son might present us before the Father, that God might be all in all for us.

Today you who have been baptized come to the Table. Today your lips are touched with the living flesh and blood of the Son of God. And suddenly you are there with Isaiah: “Behold, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has been taken away and your sin atoned.” That’s the gift of life from the God who delights in giving, the Most Blessed Trinity before whom we join with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, evermore praising and singing: Holy, holy, holy. Amen.

On Prayer and the Monarchy of the Father

First, the caveat: I confess the Athanasian Creed. I believe that in this Trinity none is greater or less than another.

And yet I also note that Scripture is very clear about the Monarchy of the Father - one thinks of 1 Cor. 15 among other passages.

What I have found striking is this: the Son prays, for He lives to intercede for us. The Spirit prays for us with groans to deep for words. To whom do they pray if not to the person of the Father? But Scripture nowhere depicts the Father as praying; the very notion makes no sense. He is the recipient of all prayer: both ours and the prayers raised by the Second and Third Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

Thus one is struck with how the Church quite naturally prays to the Father in the liturgy - overwhelmingly so. Not that there is not historic prayer to the Son (the "stir up" collects of Advent) or to a lesser extent to the Holy Spirit (the frequent plea for Him to "come" in the hymns for Pentecost) or even naming all three persons (the collect for this coming Sunday), but that these others have nowhere near the frequency of our liturgical prayers addressed to the Father.

In this the Church's prayer confesses the order of our salvation, for it was the Father who sent the Son into the flesh and it was the Son who sent the Spirit from the Father who brings us to the Son to receive His gifts that He might at last present us to the Father. The Father is thus source and goal, and we are then given the shocking and glorious insight that we are being invited into is nothing less than the inner-life of the Trinity, that our prayer be offered through the Son and in the Spirit (and thus with the Second and Third Persons) to the Father.

28 May 2007

Chemnitz Pentecost Joy

Likewise the fruits which the Holy Spirit produces in believers are directed either toward God or the neighbor or toward believers themselves, so that they might beware of sin, mortify their bodies, govern their thoughts and emotions, lest they grieve the Holy Spirit, so that they might have the testimony of a good conscience. (Loci Theologici I:149)

Thoughts on Praying Eucharistically

I've made no secret for years that my preference would have been for the trajectory set by our Synod's Worship Supplement to have been followed when it came to praying eucharistically. I do not agree with those who think that the Words of the Lord are so weak that they can be taken captive by merely human words and buried by them.

Setting three of LSB has followed the Common Service tradition. In many ways it is "the Latin Mass" of Lutheranism - the most faithful rendering in English of the prose liturgy of the Roman Mass. This is the regular service we use at St. Paul's. And this order follows the overwhelming majority of Lutheran Church orders in producing only the Our Father and the Verba at the heart of eucharistic praying. This is tempered in LSB somewhat by the expanded prefaces (far more in number than previously), especially Common II, which is a miniaturized version of Hippolytus' canon. If I can put it this way, even with Divine Service Three there is simply more thanksgiving going on in LSB than in our previous books - though, of course, this is true for all those orders that USE a proper preface.

Setting four lacks proper prefaces (using instead a preface that owes much to the 1531 Petri order from Sweden, which was truly a eucharistic prayer in its own right), but allows for seasonal post-Sanctus prayers, which (if taken together) approach something of the fullness of rejoicing in salvation that one finds in the Anaphora of St. Basil (which, I suspect, was largely their inspiration).

Setting five also lacks proper prefaces, and has transformed Luther's admonition to communicants into a post-sanctus prayer all on its own.

Which brings us to the first two settings: LSB does offer in these a bit fuller form of eucharistic praying than any LCMS book since Worship Supplement. We used it this morning for our spoken Divine Service for Pentecost Monday. It runs like this:

Blessed are You, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have had mercy on those whom You created and sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. With repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross.

Gathered in the name and the remembrance of Jesus, we beg you, O Lord, to forgive, renew, and strengthen us with Your Word and Spirit. Grant us faithfully to eat His body and drink His blood as He bids us do in His own testament. Gather us together, we pray, from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. Graciously receive our prayers, deliver and preserve us, for to You alone, O Father, we give all glory, honor, and worship, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

People: Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ...

As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
People: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

O Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, in giving us Your body and blood to eat and to drink, You lead us to remember and confess Your holy cross and passion, Your blessed death, Your rest in the tomb, Your resurrection from the dead, Your ascension into heaven, and Your coming for the final judgment. So remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:

People: Our Father...

It is not hard to see in this prayer several elements that the great 4th century anaphoras made standard. There is praise to the Father for the gift of the Son into our flesh. There is an epiclesis, at least upon the people: "forgive, renew, and strengthen us by Your Word and Spirit." There are the holy words of institution themselves, which unambiguously in LSB's rites stand as consecratory and the very heart and center of all eucharistia. There is an intercession for the whole Church with a doxology (placed at the end of the post-sanctus prayer, and of course the Lord's Prayer also functions this way). There is an anamnesis.

Whether what is presented here is really an improvement on the German prayer upon which it was based (and which exists in dismembered form in LW) is perhaps up for grabs. But I will say this: it works well. Just praying it is a joy, and the way it is constructed leads you up to and invites you into the quiet hush where our Lord Himself speaks and blesses the bread and wine with His own divine words and causes them to be what He promises. And the anamnesis prayer addressed to the One who is now present in His body and blood cannot be missed!

I know there are those who protest that even these short prayers are too much here, that they detract from the Verba. Two things must be said to that. First, in all kindness, balderdash! "It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks." If THAT is true, then there IS no place where or time when thanksgiving to God through Christ our Lord is out of place. Second, the prayer should be experienced before one is ready to toss it.

Some rambling thoughts on a topic dear to my heart...

Truly a Great Hymn

Doesn't this puppy just bring joy? I know it does to me. And the way the hymn kicks from 4/4 to 3/4 halfway through each stanza sets the whole thing dancing:

One thing’s needful; Lord this treasure
Teach me highly to regard.
All else, though it first give pleasure,
Is a yoke that presses hard!
Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving,
No true lasting happiness ever deriving.
This one thing is needful; all others are vain –
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain.

Wisdom’s highest, noblest treasure,
Jesus, is revealed in You.
Let me find in You my pleasure,
And my wayward will subdue,
Humility there and simplicity reigning
In paths of true wisdom my steps ever training.
If I learn from Jesus this knowledge divine,
The blessing of heavenly wisdom is mine.

Nothing have I, Christ, to offer,
You alone, my highest good.
Nothing have I, Lord, to proffer
But Your crimson-colored blood.
Your death on the cross has death wholly defeated
And thereby my righteousness fully completed;
Salvation’s white raiments I there do obtain,
And in them in glory with You I shall reign.

Therefore You alone, my Savior,
Shall be all in all to me;
Search my heart and my behavior,
Root out all hypocrisy.
Though all my life’s pilgrimage, guard and uphold me,
In loving forgiveness, O Jesus, enfold me.
This one thing is needful; all others are vain –
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain!
LSB 536:1,3-5

Pentecost Ember Days

Just a reminder for those who wish to observe them that this Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are traditional ember days. It is appropriate to observe them with fasting (eating less) and abstinence (especially from richer fare) and to supplicate God's blessings upon the crops and especially His blessing upon the spiritual harvest from this world by the spread of His Gospel.

Here are the appropriate prayers from the Brotherhood Prayer Book (and the Bidding Prayer):


We beseech Thee, O Lord: that the Comforter which proceedeth from Thee may enlighten our minds, and lead us, as Thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through the same, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...


Most merciful God, we beseech Thee, that Thy Church being joined together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, may be preserved evermore from all the assaults of the enemy; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...


O Lord, we pray Thee: that Thy Holy Spirit, who doth preserve us by His wisdom and govern us by His providence, may by Thy mercy be poured forth upon the hearts of us Thy servants; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...

For the Crops

O Lord, Father Almighty, who by Thy Word hast created and dost bless and uphold all things, we pray Thee so to reveal unto us Thy Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, that, He dwelling in our hearts, we may by Thy grace be made meet to receive Thy blessing on all the fruits of the earth and whatsoever pertains to our bodily need; through Christ, our Lord...

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

There is no little star, no tiny plant, no little animal so small that it does not witness to the love of God for the following reason: God created it out of love for mankind. - Johann Gerhard, Homily for Pentecost Monday on John 3:16ff. (Postilla, p. 467)

Patristic Quote of the Day

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives the moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul. - St. Irenaeus, *Against Heresies* (Christian Prayer, pp. 2008, 09)

26 May 2007

Vigil of Pentecost

Pentecost is the feast of overflowing joy! How could it be otherwise, when the Spirit who IS the eternal Joy and Love that exists between the Father and the Son is poured out upon the world?

At tonight's service, the Vigil of Pentecost, the entrance hymn will be this ancient hymn of Rabanus Maurus (d. 856):

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
And make our hearts Your place of rest;
Come with Your grace and heav'nly aid,
And fill the hearts which You have made.

To You, the Counselor, we cry,
To You the gift of God Most High:
The fount of life, and fire of love,
The soul's anointing from above.

In You, with graces seven-fold,
We God's almighty hand behold
While You with tongues of fire proclaim
To all the world His holy name.

Your light to ev'ry thought impart,
And shed Your love in ev'ry heart;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Drive far away our wily foe,
And Your abiding peace bestow;
With You as our protecting guide,
No evil can with us abide.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And You, from both, as Three in One
That we Your name may ever bless
And in our lives the truth confess.

Praise we the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, with them One,
And may the Son on us bestow,
The gifts that from the Spirit flow.
(LSB 489)

There is much in the liturgy of Pentecost that I dearly love, but above all the cry from the Alleluia Verse:

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your love!"

For, of course, the Spirit is not only Joy, but Love. Love as a person. And so the Blessed Apostle in Romans 5 speaks of how "the love of God is poured out in our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us." When you think then of the first and great commandment: "to love the Lord your God with all your heart" in connection with Pentecost we see what this commandment is demanding of us: to be filled with Him who IS that Love, to overflow with the Holy Spirit. And that is where Gift meets and fills the commandment to overflowing.

But it doesn't stop there either. For the Spirit comes not only to fill us up with love, but with faith. Faith in the Father, trusting the promises of the eternal Son - this is the Holy Spirit's gift to us also:

"In holy faith Your Church unite; from ev'ry land and ev'ry tongue This to Your praise, O Lord, our God be sung: Alleluia! Alleluia!" (LSB 497:1)

Indeed, this is the feast of Him who is given us as our Joy, our Love, and our Faith. Is it any wonder that the holy Church cries out in the Pentecost preface: "For all this the whole world rejoices with exceeding joy!"?

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We cannot think that the miracle of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost we celebrate today is something that happened to the apostles only. This is the especially glorious thing about the feast of Pentecost: the same thing that happened to the apostles, which we celebrate with a great festival, repeats itself each year... We, along with all people at all times and in all places, can share in the main gift the apostles receive: the gift of the Holy Ghost Himself. - C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It* p. 454

Patristic Quote of the Day

First of all, we know that God is the beginning, middle and end of everything good; and it is impossible for us to have faith in anything good or to carry it into effect except in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit. - St. Mark the Ascetic, *On the Spiritual Law: Two Hundred Texts* #2

25 May 2007

Fun day

Nothing to get up for especially early today (my day off), so the alarm this morning was Lucy. Her wet nose is somehow far more shocking than any sound from an electronic box. After breakfast, Cindi and I headed over to St. Louis. I had some shopping to do at CPH (picked up ANOTHER Pastoral Care Companion -- just to keep in the van, and the little booklet of collects Pastor Vieker referred to earlier), then off for lunch part one at Olympia. Yum! We split an order of flaming cheese (Opa!) and then a gyro salad. We got to eat outside and were highly entertained by some wrens who definitely were interested in their fair share of our food.

After enjoying Greek we hopped on the highway and headed to Galaria for the second half of lunch - and a belated birthday celebration for Cindi. We got the low-carb cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Sadly, the "coffee" they brought was SEE THROUGH. But the cheesecake made it not matter. Heavenly!

Then off to ANOTHER mall - West County - to pick up Lauren's computer. It had needed a brain transplant. And no, she hadn't backed it up. She's bumming. Then back home to start reinstalling software and updates etc. It is still updating itself beside me as I type.

Had a great discussion with Dean - near-future son in law - about commentaries. He wanted to know which ones I use. I had to tell him: I don't. In general I find them utterly useless. They tell me what I already knew and do not offer any real answers to the questions I have. I did suggest running through the Fathers and how they looked and thought about the text. I'll wait to give him the real key later: how does the Church's liturgy help us see what a text means. : )

In a bit Jo and Dave are coming over for cards. Liverpool, I suspect. Dean and Lauren might be back to join us (they're at dinner with Tim and Lynn) and David may or may not join in. He's at the movies with his sister now, but I suspect he'll be moving back into World of Warcraft and only visiting planet earth again sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Bekah is headed to "Bonifest" - the carnival that St. Boniface puts on each year down in Edwardsville. She's going with some friends.

On the Platonic Church

"The Church doesn't err. Never has and never will. Bishops may err. Priests may err. Christian people may err. Whole dioceses may err. But the Church never can err."

Hold that thought.

"The problem with you Lutherans is that you have a Platonic notion of what the Church is."

Um. Houston...?

Let's see: can anyone point to this "visible" church that cannot err? Oh, not that bishop! Oh, not his diocese! Oh, not this parish or that priest and certainly not that layperson!

I'm beginning to see that one cannot see.

It was a huge a-ha to me when I saw that Walther's true visible church was, well, invisible. It was just about as big of an a-ha when I realized that Orthodoxy's true visible church is invisible as well and in the exact same way.

What about Rome's? They sort of put all their "church cannot err" eggs into the papal basket, though they try to make it clear that it's not about the pope per se, but about the whole church, the infallibility given to the whole. But there sits Honorarius... Granted he didn't make his monothelite leanings an infallible pronouncement ex cathedra, but then again Rome didn't TALK that way then. But, wait a minute? Oh, never mind.

Luther's solution was rather simple. Worth reading too. You can find in AE 41:214 and following. His take? "Therefore the holy church cannot and may not lie or suffer false doctrine, but must teach nothing except what is holy and true, that is, God's Word alone; and where it teaches a lie it is idolatrous and the whore-church of the devil."

In other words, the Church by very definition is she who has and speaks the Word of God and it is that Word that *does not err, lie, or deceive.* When "church" presumes to speak what is NOT God's Word alongside God's Word, well, to the extent she does, she forfeits her claim of infallibility, because alongside of the inerrant Word she's mixed in stuff than can be quite fallible indeed.

All of which points us away from the sense of sight, to that of hearing, as Dr. Korby indicated long ago. Luther again: "The church must teach God's Word and truth alone, and not error or falsehood. How could it be otherwise? For God's mouth is the mouth of the church, and vice versa. God cannot lie, nor can the church." (AE 41:216) Find the Church in whose mouth is the infallible, inerrant Words of the living God and you have found the true Church. Oh, and as a bonus, she will be visible because she speaks through human mouths to human beings. But just remember her infallibility is not from this or that group that is speaking, but from what is spoken: the living oracles of the living God.

24 May 2007


Cindi and I are godparents to three precious children. Today I found out that ONE of them: Johanna Maria Braun, will be visiting us next week. Yeah! It will be a joy to see her and to see her daddy [bishop of Mt. Hulda], mommy [artist extraordinaire], and siblings too. Know, dear Johanna Maria (and also Lindsey Linea and Nathanael James) that we pray for you each day, that God would grant you "mercy, life, peace, health, salvation and visitation, pardon and remission of all your sins; that you may ever bless and praise His holy name." Can't wait to give Johanna a good squuzing! [Kirk & Lori, David and Melanie, I am WAITING!!!!]

Patristic Quote of the Day

The great mystery of the incarnation remains a mystery eternally. Not only is what is not yet seen of it greater than what has been revealed - for it is revealed merely to the extent that those saved by it can grasp it - but also even what is revealed still remains entirely hidden and is by no means known as it really is. - St. Maximos the Confessor *First Century of Various Texts* 12

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Yet in all this she is first and always, "the Mother of Our Lord." If in our hymns we call her - as we do - "most gracious" and "full of grace," it is because God has filled her with the grace of which His Son is the incarnate expression. And if we call her blessed, it is because we can imagine her bliss in bearing the Lord Jesus beneath her heart by reason of the operation of the same Holy Ghost in our heart. - A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* pp. 331,332

Komm, Heiliger Geist!

Homily for the Feast of Pentecost
[Gen 11:1-9 / Acts 2:1-21 / John 14:23-31]

Make no mistake about it: it had all been for this. To pour out the Spirit, He had first by that same Spirit taken flesh from the holy Virgin. To pour out the Spirit, He had lived that life of love, suffered and died, descended to Hades, and then rose in victory on the third day. To pour out the Spirit, He had ascended into heaven and assumed his seat at the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and dominion. And it was this day, 50 days after He rose from the dead, that He kept His promise. The Spirit rushed into human history like never before with a startling suddenness that was impossible to miss. Totally unlike the quiet way our Lord Jesus entered our world in Bethlehem. The Spirit makes, what we call, an entrance.

On Pentecost it was wind – not a nice gentle breeze, mind you. A “mighty rushing wind.” Think hurricane. Think tornado. Think the kind of wind that comes suddenly from nowhere and just about knocks you flat. THAT kind of wind. And in the wind? Fire! Flames! Flames that divide and rest on each of the Apostles. Whatever God was up to now was no secret. God Himself was announcing to anyone and everyone: These men have a message to hear! Listen up! You can’t miss them! They’re the men with flames dancing at their lips!

And the crowds who heard and felt the roar of the wind, came rushing together, utterly confused about what was happening. And what did they find? They found Babel reversed! Instead of language dividing this person from that, they heard each of the Apostles speaking and testifying to the great works of God – and each one of them heard them preaching in their own language. Just like native speakers. And they turned to each other and asked: “What on earth CAN it mean?”

But no matter how great a pyrotechnic show God puts on, some folks will just discount it. That’s the nature of our unbelief. “Aw, they’re just plastered!” some begin to say. But suddenly out of all the speakers, one stands forward. They may only have muttered it to themselves, but he knew what they said. He stood forward and said: “Not drunk. No way. No how. It’s only nine in the morning for Pete’s sake!” He had their attention now. And he told them: “This is it, folks. This is the promise God made a long time ago through Joel – to pour out His Spirit on all flesh! It’s happening. Right here before your very eyes. And that means the rest of the promise of Joel is true for you too: everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The time for God’s universal salvation has been begun! Let me tell you about that Lord right now.”

Our second reading stops there, but you remember how it went on. Peter preached and laid into them with both the Law (“this Jesus whom you killed!”) and the Gospel (“repent and be baptized everyone of you for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”), no less than 3,000 people took the plunge that very day. They got into the baptismal water and there received the exact same Spirit that had fallen on the disciples. What joy overflowed as the age of the Church dawned – God’s promises and work in Jesus Christ began to reach through Israel to bless an entire world! To bring together those who had been divided from each other into one family, one household.

God had been itching since the days of exile from Eden to pour out His precious Spirit on all flesh, the Spirit who is true God, proceeding from the Father and resting eternally on the Son. The Spirit whom Jesus called “The Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name.” Jesus promised: “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The Spirit is our great teacher. He is not focused on Himself, though, but on Jesus. “To bring to our remembrance all He said.” That’s why Peter, filled with the Spirit, only wanted to talk to the people about the Lord, crucified and then raised and triumphant, pouring out this gift of the Spirit and calling all people to receive Him freely in Baptism. That Jesus wanted them to receive this Spirit that would enable them to believe in Him and love Him and serve Him. This Spirit who would forever free them from the chains of sin and the power of death because the Spirit would show everyone Christ as the Atonement for ALL sin and Christ as the Victor over ALL death and the Spirit would whisper in their hearts: “And He did it all for you! Because He loves you! Believe it, child! It’s true!”

How Luther had the hang of that! Remember how the Catechism put it: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”

That's why we are dancing for joy on this day. To us who could never believe on our own, never come to faith in Jesus by all our struggling and striving, to us our Risen and Ascended Lord has sent a Helper! He has sent the One who not only gives faith, but keeps us in faith, and strengthens that faith until our last hour comes. And then our Helper will not leave us. No way. He will sustain us through death and bring us with Christ into the life that never ends. He will be the one who raises our bodies from the dead and transfigures them – “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come!” That's Spirit's work!

The Spirit poured out upon the chosen apostles on this day landed on YOU too. Happened in your Baptism (just as it did for the 3,000)! Your Baptism is your personal Pentecost. But there’s more. Christ doesn’t just pour out His Spirit once and that’s it. Not at all. A couple chapters after our second reading today, Luke records that the house where they were gathered was shaken and the Spirit descended afresh on the same apostles. You receive Him and all of Him and yet there is always more. Your Lord wants to keep pouring the Spirit into you. Not just through your Baptism, but through your hearing of the Word (where He is always at work to strengthen your faith) and through the Supper, where by the Spirit’s power Christ feeds you with His body and blood, constantly renewing the forgiveness of sins.

Because the Spirit is the gift Christ keeps on giving us, the holy Church rejoices this day to cry out over and over again – in hymns and prayers to the Blessed Third Person of the Trinity - “Come, Holy Spirit! Fill our hearts! Amen!"

Commenting on AC XIV

Marquart, from *The Church* p. 161, 162. He is speaking about the statement of the Augsburg Confession that our churches teach that no one is to preach, teach, or administer the sacraments without a regular call, or being called according to rite (i.e., called and ordained):

First of all it is necessary to understand that it is not here a question of "cannot" - in a sacerdotalist sense - but of "may not," in the sense of the divinely established evangelical order in the church. It is an evangelical axiom that the ministry derives its validity from the Gospel, and not vice versa (Phil. 1:15-18). The minister therefore does not "make" the sacrament by some occult powers inhering in his person or office, as distinct from the rest of the people of God. Rather, as his title, "minister," indicates, he merely serves Christ and His people by "administering" the sacraments Christ Himself makes through the continuing efficacy of His words of institution. The minister's function is strictly instrumental: "The person adds nothing to this Word and office commanded by Christ" (Tr. 26, German). Or, in Luther's famous remark of 1533:

For our faith and the sacrament must not be based on the person, whether he is godly or evil, consecrated or unconsecrated, called or an impostor, whether he is the devil or his mother, but upon Christ, upon his word, upon his office, upon his command and ordinance. (AE 38:200)

So long as Christ's words of institution are allowed to stand unperverted (see FC SD VII,32), the means of grace retain their own inherent validity and efficacy. Thus even where, as in the case of women, purported ordinations are null and void, because they are contrary to God's Word, sacraments celebrated by such persons are not to be regarded as invalid per se, but as disorderly and schismatic, that is, as having been done by private, uncalled persons.

23 May 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Word of God is to be spoken by each member of the community according to his competence and vocation, remembering that while the public and responsible proclamation of the Word of God is the task of the called and ordained servant of that Word, the witnessing of and to the Word of God is the common task of every Christian. This reaches into his daily life; God in His saving act in Christ in every political, domestic, economic, and social structure of which we become a part. - A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 130

Patristic Quote of the Day

After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give uup our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit. -- Cyril of Alexandria, *Christian Prayer* pp. 2006, 2007

Oh, one more thing

It is great the prominence given to the blessing of the home. Especially note 2:

Homes may be blessed annually. Usually this is done during the season of the Epiphany due to the connection of the visitation of the Magi to the home of the infant Christ.

I've blessed a number of homes in my ministry, but most folks think of it only when moving to a new home or such. What a beautiful things to encourage the annual blessing of the homes!


I'll not forget then-Seminarian Kalvin Waetzig holding in his hands my little copy of Lindemann's Daily Office, smelling it, making it wiggle, and then exclaiming in delight: "It's so packy!" I cocked an eyebrow and asked what he meant by "packy." He explained: "This. When a book smells nice, is small, and flexible like this, I call it packy."

So I am sure that Pastor Waetzig is in ecstasy over the Pastoral Care Companion. It is packy to the max.

How did CPH pull it off? It's so little - until you open it! And then it is packed full. Most pastors have, I suspect, at one time or another expressed dissatisfaction with the resources provided in LW's Little Agenda. The Occasional Services book (accompanying LBW) did a far better job of giving you concrete guidance of what Word of God to share with a person in difficult or joyful moments. But the Pastoral Care Companion? It's almost beyond belief what they packed in there! Helps for dealing with those struggling with homosexuality, addictions of various sorts, a still birth, wedding anniversaries, demonic oppression, moving, retirement. Goodness! Too many to list out. This section, which is the heart of the book, runs from page 160 to 534. YES, THAT MUCH! Psalms, Scripture readings, Prayers and Hymns for just about every pastoral care situation imaginable.

Packy and I mentioned page 534? Oh, but that's not the end of the book. It has a total of 708 pages. And it's little, you ask? YES. Oh, so I can't read the print, I guess. WRONG. The print is nice sized, very legible. The paper is thin, but doesn't "bleed through" the following page in any distracting way.

What else is cool? Well, it's great to have the rites handy: Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion, Marriage, Visiting of Sick or Distressed (with anointing), Divine Service for Shutins or the sick, Commendation of the Dying, Burial liturgies. Other goodies: a prayer section for pastors to use prior to many care situations (before a Baptism, before a Confession, etc.), a Beicht-tafel in preparation for Confession (why wasn't that in the HYMNAL?), a form for examining those to be admitted to the Lord's table, and essential liturgical prayers in both German and Spanish.

And all in that tiny volume that, I checked it out, FITS IN MY PANTS POCKET or easily into my jacket pocket.

Packy to the max. CPH, yet another homerun in the LSB materials. Thank you!

Reflection on the Net and Meddling

I love the net. I love the way that it has enabled me to "meet" and learn from so many different people. And I think in many ways it has been a huge blessing. But it has its dark side.

No, I'm not referring to the porn etc. That's dark indeed. But I was thinking of another aspect of its darkness: the way that it invites all of us to be busybodies. Over on LQ there's a raging discussion about whether or not a service held in a town devastated by a tornado was "unionism" or not. Before the advent of the net, none of us would likely have heard about it. If the neighboring pastors and people perceived it as a problem, they would have spoken to the pastor involved and dealt with the matter face to face, no doubt discussing it in the Winkel and extending charity and rebuking error together. Instead, the whole thing is broadcast on the net and we sit back as spectators and pass our judgments. It's just wrong.

We should not forget that the holy Apostle wrote:

2 Th. 3:11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

Attend to our own work: to the tasks God has given us to do and not presume to have the leisure to be checking out someone else's work.

The net is great, but we should not let it become an excuse for us of meddling in the affairs of others. I remember reading Lewis did not read newspapers or watch TV much. Said it only made him feel guilty about things he could not remedy. Instead, he turned to neighbors God has actually placed at his doorstep and realized that God put them in his life to be the objects of his Christian charity. Rather than rendering our verdicts upon those who are far distant from us and giving our $.02 about every action that we hear someone has taken, let's focus on doing the work God has given US to do while it is still day. Who has the time to be a busybody? The night is coming when no one can work.

22 May 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The function of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sacred Scriptures in the history of salvation, and in the faith and worship of the Church, is to point to her Son. - Arthur Carl Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 328.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The wrath of God is the suspension of gifts of grace - a most salutary experience for every self-inflated intellect that boasts of the blessings of God as if they were its own achievements. - St. Maximos the Great, Philokalia, Third Century on Various Texts, par. 10


...the parishes of St. Paul's and Trinity joined to sing and pray Vespers with the celebration of the graduation of the kindergarteners and 8th graders from Trinity St. Paul. A beautiful service in so many ways. But there I was listening to the valedictorian, Taryn, speak and she proceeded to thank the pastors, and began naming names: "Pastor Weedon, who's been here forever..." Everyone laughed. You know, it does not feel like forever. It seems like yesterday we arrived to this wonderful parish. The people here have simply become our own family. But one of the kindergarten children was the son of Josh who graduated at my first TSP graduation. I baptized one of the children who graduated this year: Trevor. I guess that means I HAVE been here a while. Oh, well, I can't imagine serving anywhere else.

Cancun Yet Again

Deb just sent me a disk with some of her pics. I especially liked these...

21 May 2007

Tagged for Seven Things

Pr. Hall over at This Side of the Pulpit has tagged me for seven things I have learned in life. Hmm. That is a bit of a challenge. Just understand that "learned" here means that I have come to realize their truth and blessing, not that I come close to achieving them. Well, here goes:

1. Before blowing the lid, ask honestly: "What will it matter ten years from now?" (Hijacked from O.P. Kretzmann - a great way of putting into practice the oft-heard "don't sweat the small stuff" - my brother Joseph's favorite saying)
2. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (To look at death from God's perspective and not our own: the bringing home of a beloved child into the joys He has prepared through Christ for them)
3. The Bible means what it says. (Source of several a-ha's - such "stay awake and pray" means, well, um, "stay awake and pray." Likewise "pray without ceasing.")
4. We were created and have been redeemed to praise God. (I love how Melanchthon put it in his Loci: "We have been so created and then so redeemed that we as the image and temple of God might celebrate the praises of God. For God wills to be known and worshipped.")
5. You do not have to agree with someone to love them, to honor them, and to pray for them. (Too much of Lutheranism is all about chewing each other a new posterior exit.)
6. Nothing smells worse than pride or better than humility. (And all the deodorants and perfumes of the world can't cover the stench of the one; nor can any sufferings cloud the beauty of the other)
7. The hardest but most blessed part of the Catechism is to take to heart the explanation of the 8th commandment that we should always "explain everything in the kindest way." (Which is really a corollary of "Judge not")

I suppose I'm supposed to tag people now?

How about:

Ben Johnson (author of the very fine blog on Western Rite)
Dave Juhl (he of preachment fame)
Ed Reiss (New York Lutheran Extraordinaire)
Keith GeRue (fellow servant of the Word here at St. Paul's)

[No, I'm NOT going to do all that HTML. You can google their names! ;)]

The Living Dead

Psalm 115 is assigned for Vespers on Mondays of the Easter season in LSB. Praying it tonight I was struck in a new way by these words:

The dead do not praise the Lord,
nor do any who go down into silence.
But we will bless the Lord
from this time forth and
forevermore. Praise the Lord! (vs. 17,18)

Naturally the first thought was that those who have ceased breathing do not praise God, but the more I look at it, the more that cannot be the meaning - look vs. 18! We WILL bless the Lord from now until forever. So that made me wonder and I saw that I had it backwards.

The dead are those WHO DO NOT PRAISE THE LORD! Those who do not praise Him, receiving His gifts and acclaiming them, are truly dead. And they are dead even if they are walking around. It made me realize that I am more than half dead myself. For how little of my life IS praise? But this is to be alive: to give God praise and thanks and glory and honor. And it seems obvious, doesn't it? I mean, I know when I am praising God in psalms and hymns I never feel more alive. And I know that I'm engaging in that one activity that I do now that I will get to go on doing forever - without end!

We are surrounded by the living dead. But it is our joy to waken them to life - to invite them into that life which we've tasted and known and which we long for more and more: the life that is praise to God. "That we should BE to the praise of His glory" as St. Paul said it, or "That we should declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" as St. Peter put the same reality.

The dead do not praise the Lord. But WE do! And so we can sing, even as we enter death:

There is nothing worth comparing
To this life-long comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring,
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising
Still my soul *continues praising*:
I am baptized into Christ,
I'm a child of paradise. (LSB 594:5)

More on Ascension

Who is this that comes in glory
With the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies,
He has gained the victory.
He who on the cross did suffer,
He who from the grave arose,
He has vanquished sin and Satan;
He by death has crushed our foes.

While He lifts His hands in blessing,
He is parted from His friends;
While their eager eyes behold Him,
He upon the clouds ascends.
He who walked with God and pleased Him,
Preaching truth and doom to come,
He, our Enoch, is translated
To His everlasting home.

Now our heav'nly Aaron enters
With His blood within the veil;
Joshua now is come to Canaan,
And the kings before Him quail.
Now He plants the tribes of Israel
In their promised resting place;
Now our great Elijah offers
Double portion of His grace.

He has raised our human nature
On the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heav'nly places,
There with Him in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne.
By our mighty Lord's ascension
We by faith behold our own.

LSB 494:2-5

Luther Gem

[Preaching on 'to you is born this day a Savior']

When I can say: This I accept as my own, because the angel meant it for me, then, if I believe it in my heart, I shall not fail to love the mother Mary, and even more the Child, and especially the Father. For, if it is true that the child was born of the virgin and is mine, then I have no angry God and I must know and feel that there is nothing but laughter and joy in the heart of the Father and no sadness in my heart. Homily for Christmas Day, 1530, AE 51:216

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God demands that everyone be guided by His Word, deviating neither to the right nor to the left. He expressly warns against following the heart and human opinions. When Christians fail to serve God according to His Word, even when their intentions are good, they fall short. They may demonstrate great zeal in their self-chosen service to God, but all such service is futile and rejected. The reason is that they are following a leader, a tempter, against whom God has repeatedly and expressly warned them in His Word.

It is on God's Word that we will one day be judged, so it must now guide our faith and life. If we allow it to light our path continually, we will not go astray. And if we have strayed from the path out of weakness, this light will always bring us back. Therefore, we must let the humble prayer of the faithful Samuel be our prayer as well: "Speak, O Lord, for Your servant hears." - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It*, p. 439, 440

Patristic Quote of the Day

There is nothing to prevent us from calling a doctor when we are ill. Since Providence has implanted remedies in nature, it has been possible for human experimentation to develop the art of medicine. All the same, we should not place our hope of healing in doctors, but in our true Savior and Doctor, Jesus Christ. - St. Diadochos of Photiki (d. circa 486)

20 May 2007

This Lord's Day

Today we celebrated Exaudi, the jubilant Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost. The readings straddled both - as did the hymns!

After the Divine Services and Bible Class, came home and had lunch and a quick nap and then off to St. Louis with eldest daughter and son. David and Lauren both needed to have their computers worked on at the Apple Store - it's a full hour's drive away. The consolation? There's a Cinnabon there and so I took a wee hiatus from Atkins to devour one. Well, maybe a little more. David and I woofed ours down and Lauren (typical girl!) played with hers and finally said: "I can't eat any more." David and I looked at each other, grabbed our forks, and that puppy was history before you could say: "Yum!"

David's computer got a relatively quick fix, but Lauren's needed a hospital stay. Maybe Cindi and I will run over and pick it up next Friday (we're looking for a chance to eat Greek and then do desert at the Cheesecake Factory - LO-CARB cheesecake, mind you! I need to do MUCH penance for Cinnabon).

We got home and had dinner - Cindi grilled up some steaks for us. I had not spoken to Imogene Kroeger in ages (she used to be a member here and I had the privilege of "whiskey slushes" at her house more times than I can count; she lives now in Texas), so I called and chatted with her for quite a while and we both caught up on all the news. Then my sister called and we talked for almost an hour. It was good to hear from her.

Back to Imogene. She told me the neatest story about this man she met at the beauty shop. He was waiting for his wife, and they started talking and Imogene started witnessing. She does it in the sweetest and most natural way. The man was utterly depressed. He believed in absolute double predestination and KNEW he was going to hell. She worked on him and got him to come to her little Lutheran Church and he met with the Pastor who counteracted his notions with the promises of God's Word and used them again and again, until the dear man finally acquiesced and received the comfort God wanted him to have. He's a confirmed Lutheran now! He comes regularly to church and tomorrow is facing some pretty serious surgery. He told Imogene that he was completely at peace. He hopes to live to be able to care for his wife, but if God calls him home, so be it. He is at peace. He knows His Savior has answered for all His sins and that God loves him with an everlasting love. Isn't that beautiful? The Gospel is such a comfort - beyond words sweet and wonderful.

If you want to pray for him tomorrow, his name is Dale.

Imogene also told me that they have the new hymnals and like them very much - except for how heavy they are! She tells me she's not as strong as she used to be. Hard for me to picture - she'll be 88 in September if the Lord grants it, and yet she is as full of joy in the Lord as ever. I miss her quite a lot at St. Paul's.

19 May 2007

A Lot of the Angst...

...that seems to afflict folks nowadays is about where final confidence is reposed. I think that those who take their faith seriously are faced with two options: you can rest your final confidence in the outward communion of some Church (and hope that you happened to pick the right one!) or you can rest your final confidence in the promises of God's Word.

God's Word says: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." God's Word says: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." God's Word says: "This is my body given for you, for the forgiveness of sins." God's Word says: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained."

Are these promises of God's Word reliable? Do they mean exactly what they say?, Or is there a hidden clause that runs behind them: PROVIDED you are in the communion of the one and only true Church of Christ, for only there do the promises of God's Word hold true for you.

To be a Lutheran means fundamentally to say: the promises of God's Word hold without any hidden clause. They mean exactly what they say and the Church is to proclaim and hold them out for all for the salvation of the world.

It always strikes me as odd how agnostic people become once they run in that hidden clause. Then they don't know who is not church. Then they don't know whether the promises of Baptism hold. Then they don't know whether the Body and Blood of Christ are eaten by those who venture out simply trusting the Words themselves. What I want to know is how do they know that they have chosen correctly about the Church??? Does their own capacity for self-deception not give any angst? I know it would give me a great deal of angst if an ecclesiastical reference had to be run into the promises of God's Word.

Instead I can with utter and joyful confidence open my mouth to receive the Body and Blood of the Eternal Word made flesh and know that it is given to me for the forgiveness of my sins (not a hoped for, possibly someday forgiveness, but a present and active forgiveness). Instead I can look at the font and recall the Word spoken over the water that promised me an eternal inheritance and gave the gift of union with Christ and daily death to sin. Instead I can confess my sins and feel the weight of the hand on my head and hear the joyful good news that is as certain on earth as it is in heaven: "I forgive you."

Dr. Nagel put it like this: "the church is at point number 2; it lives from the receiving end of God's giving." It's when the church gets moved to point number 1 that things begin to wobble - to become uncertain and ecclesiastical agnosticism ensues. My suggestion: just trust the promises of God's Word to you. They are the anchor of the Church. The Church is not THEIR anchor.

Technical Post - Prayer of the Church

LSB's Altar Book provides a slightly updated version of the beautiful Prayer of the Church that appeared in SBH - it's on pages 442, 443. But what it does not do is to note the paragraphs that were used invariably and those that could be added from time to time. A suggestion, if you use this prayer, is to mark in your Altar Book the optional paragraphs. They are (by paragraph):

the third: "Grant Your wisdom..."
the fifth: "In Your mercy..."
the seventh: "Take from us..."
the eighth: "Bless the schools..."
the ninth: "Sanctify our homes..."
the tenth: "Let Your blessing..."

That brings the prayer down to a slightly more manageable proportion: 7 petitions that form the basic framework.

Also, if it is used, I'd suggest that in paragraph twelve, the thanksgiving for the faithful departed, following the "especially" to add "the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph her husband, St John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul and all the saints."

Patristic Quote of the Day

And woe even unto the praiseworthy life of man, if, putting away mercy, You should investigate it. But because Thou dost not narrowly inquire after sins, we hope with confidence to find some place of indulgence with You. But whosoever recounts his true merits to You, what is it that he recounts to You but Your own gifts? Oh, if men would know themselves to be men; and that "he that glories" would "glory in the Lord!" 2 Corinthians 10:17- St. Augustine, *Confessions* Book IX: Chapter 13

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we understand the "forgiveness of sins" entirely in terms of the cancellation of the guilt of past transgressions, our conception of it is much too small. It is always much more. Let me recall to you the familiar words of the Small Catechism, "in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given us through these words, 'given and shed for you for the remission of sins.' For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation." The Large Catechism (V 70) puts it this way, "In the Sacrament you receive from Christ's mouth forgiveness of sins, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune." - Arthur Carl Piepkorn, *The Church* pp. 233, 234

Homily for Exaudi - the Sunday after the Ascension

[Ezekiel 36:22-28 / 1 Peter 4:7-11 / John 15:26-16:4]

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Allelulia!

And that is the witness the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father comes to bear: the truth that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. The Spirit, when He comes, isn’t interested in talking about Himself. The Spirit wants to talk about the Son, to bear witness to the Son. To bear such witness to the Son’s resurrection in the hearts of the disciples, that they will open their mouths and begin to bear witness too: telling everything that they have experienced of Jesus to the world.

“Because you have been with me from the beginning.” That is, you’ve seen it all. You know that I am a true man. You’ve seen that I’m creature of flesh and blood as you are. You’ve seen me get tired and sleepy. You’ve seen me cry real tears at the death of my friend, Lazarus. You’ve seen me eat and drink, laugh and play, work and toil. You know that I am truly a human being as you are – only so much more alive!

But you’ve also seen more. You’ve seen me command the wind and the waves and you were astonished as they yielded instant obedience. You’ve seen me walk across water as though it were ground. You’ve seen me feed vast crowds with tiny bits of food. You’ve seen me touch the lepers and drive away the uncleanness. You’ve seen me give the blind their sight, the deaf their hearing, and make the lame people to dance for joy. And you’ve seen what happens when death and I meet together. You know what it means that I am the Resurrection and the Life: think of Jairus’ daughter; the widow of Nain’s son; my friend Lazarus. When death and I come into contact, it may snarl and snap, but it always backs off and yields. There’s too much life in Me for it to hang around.

And now I’m ready to go meet it in myself. It won’t be long and I will be headed into death– and this I want you to witness. I want you to see that I die a true death. That my soul leaves my body. That my body lies before you, truly dead. You must see this. So that when the joyous moment comes and you see My body alive again, you will be able to bear witness. You will be able to say: “Here is a man who is truly man like us, and He died as die, but behold He lives. And not some piece of him, but the whole of Him. He’s alive in a body that now is forever beyond death. And He promises that it wasn’t for Him that He did this, but for us. For all who are baptized into Him and come to share His life, He promises that He is but the first-fruits, and we will follow. DEATH is not permanent, no matter how it seems. We’ve seen One who came out of it and HE SAYS that He will raise us too.”

That is the witness, says Jesus, that the Spirit will write in your hearts and you will proclaim throughout all the world. But notice the sad look then on our Lord’s face as He goes on. “I’ve said all this to keep you from falling away. They will toss you from the synagogues – even as you’re trying to give them this good news. Yes, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think that he is offering LATREIA, divine service, holy liturgy, to God. They do it because they haven’t known the Father nor me. When it begins to happen, remember that I told you.”

And so, when the Helper came, the witness began to ring out: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! His rising is the end of your death as His death is the end of your sin. You are forgiven for all – divine amnesty is reached to the entire world in Him. O, believe and be baptized and receive a life that will never end.

So the Helper helped the preaching of the Apostles. But soon Jesus’ words came true. Though they offered only overflowing joy to the world, they were hated. Though they brought the good news of repentance and forgiveness, they were despised. Though they called all to receive and live from the good gifts of the Crucified and Risen Lord, they were rejected. His love that they carried was turned aside and they themselves were killed – every last one of them but John shared the same the fate as their Lord.

But those who believed their witness with the Helper’s help, with the Spirit’s power, the power that lives in the good news of Christ’s resurrection – these continued to bear witness. The Apostles’ witness could not be killed. It lived on and lives on. And as much as the world tries to stamp it out, even more so does the good news spread. Not even the concerted effort of the world mightiest empire could stop the witness to the Man who had been raised from the dead as the firstfruits of a new creation. His Spirit-giving Baptismal flood reaches from the Jordan of almost 2000 years ago to the humble font here in Hamel, IL. His Holy Supper has been celebrated without cessation through all these centuries and His death proclaimed until He comes again, the Victor.

It would never have happened if the Holy Spirit, the Helper, had not given people new hearts through the good news of the resurrection. The Church remains and she remains a miracle of the Holy Spirit. She continues to bear witness and she will until the end of the world.

Peter reminds us that because the end of all things is at hand – and by End, don’t hear the wiping out of all things, but the fulfillment of all things – and so he urges us to be sober-minded for the sake of our prayer. To think straight, if you will. We’ve got a message to bear. It will be welcomed by some who will pass it on. It will be rejected by others, and with the rejection may well come what our Lord foretold, hatred that gets violent. So be it. We’re to keep to loving no matter what. No matter what hatred comes our way, our response is to be the Lord’s own: “love those who persecute you; pray for those who curse you.” Love, says Peter, covers a multitude of sin. As Christ’s love has covered our sins with His own blood, so now we cover our neighbors’ sins in love. And we do it in joy as the Spirit's witness fills our hearts and our mouths with this good news until it overflows and we shout out to each other, to our children, to all the world:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

18 May 2007

Former Vicar

Charlie Lehmann, graduating today from Fort Wayne Seminary and soon to be Associate Pastor at Peace in Christ in Fort Collins, CO, as of today


More details later, as they come available.

A Great Hymn for Ascension and Exaudi

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus;
His the scepter, His the throne;
Alleluia! His the triumph,
His the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion
Thunder like a mighty flood:
"Jesus out of ev'ry nation
Has redeemed us by His blood."

Alleluia! Not as orphans
Are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us;
Faith believes, nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received Him
When the forty days were o'er,
Shall our heart forget His promise:
"I am with you evermore"?

Alleluia! Bread of heaven,
Here on earth our staff, our stay;
Alleluia! Here the sinful
Flee to You from day to day.
Intercessor, Friend of sinners,
Earth's Redeemer, hear our plea
Where the songs of all the sinless
Sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluia! King eternal,
Lord omnipotent we own;
Alleluia! Born of Mary,
Earth Your footstool,
Heav'n Your throne.
As within the veil You entered
Robed in flesh, our great High Priest,
Here on earth both priest and victim
In the Eucharistic feast.

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus;
His the scepter, His the throne;
Alleluia! His the triumph,
His the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion
Thunder like a mighty flood:
"Jesus out of ev'ry nation
Has redeemed us by His blood."

(by William C. Dix)

LSB 821

Patristic Quote of the Day

And so our Redeemer's visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high. This faith was increased by the Lord's ascension and strengthened by the gift of the Spirit; it would remain unshaken by fetters and imprisonment, exile and hunger, fire and ravening beasts, and the most refined tortures ever devised by brutal persecutors. Throughout the world women no less than men, tender girls as well as young boys, have given their life's blood in the struggle for this faith. It is a faith that has driven out devils, healed the sick and raised the dead. - St. Leo the Great *Christian Prayer* p. 2005,6

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When we consider Christ's ascension according to the clear witness of Holy Scripture, we find a certain foundation for a joyful faith. He has not removed Himself from His Church. Instead, He is now, as God and Man, extending His grace, help and protection in all places. As Aaron wore on his breastplate the names of the tribes of Israel when he entered the Holy of Holies, so Christ, appearing as the true High Priest before God in heaven, wears the names of all believers on His heart. There, He prays without ceasing for His own, and He rules them, cares for them, and protects them so that the gates of hell cannot overpower them. - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It* p. 430

More on Vacation

Charlie has demanded more about the trip to Cancun. I'm not really sure what more to say! It was stunningly beautiful. The Mexicans are more relaxed than we are about nearly everything (which is actually quite enjoyable). I was fascinated by the language and it aroused in me a great desire to dust off my Spanish and really master it.

It may sound silly, but I wasn't looking at the jungle on our trip to Chichen Itza. I was looking at whatever road signs appeared. Salida - that must be exit. Returno - a u turn spot. And I can't for the life of me remember the word for seat belt, but it took a bit of seeing the sign (no icons on the signs, by the way) to connect the word with cincture and then it made sense. It was centuro de securidad or something like that, I believe.

Listening to the language was hopeless. The words flew by at such a pace that there was no way to take them in. But it was fun to speak what little we could to the staff:

Mas cafe, por favor! : )

No, no leche. Negro.


So, for a language buff it was a hoot and a half that way.

What did we do? Aside from the daylong trip to Chichen Itza with the opportunity to swim in that enormous sinkhole (Cindi, Deb, and Doug took the plunge while I took the pictures), we also went out one morning on "an ocean safari." That was 55 minutes of riding wave riders (my favorite part) and then snorkeling at the barrier reef (second largest in the world). I did not enjoy the snorkeling very much because I am not a terribly good swimmer, and I couldn't get the mask to stop leaking and continued to get salt water in my breathing tube. Nasty! But I DID get to see some beautiful purple fish, and some fish that were white with a stunning yellow stripe on the back, and some boring fish that looked just like the coral. As I looked at the fish I remember thinking how UNREAL they looked - just like Nemo in the cartoon.

The rest of the time was really devoted to swimming in that beautiful gulf - how can any water be such a color!; swimming in the pools; laying out in the sun; and enjoying way too many tropical fruit drinks. I think our new discovery was the Mango Margarita. That was very good.

That's about it. Oh, at Chichen Itza, the guide was very entertaining, but I was not at all convinced by his account of the Mayans. I bought a book there by a Spanish bishop who had lived among them in the 16th century and recorded their current life and oral traditions about their past. THAT is a fascinating read.

That's about it, Charlie et al.