28 August 2007

Random Thoughts

Random Thought #1

Praying in the Psalter the other day, it hit me why God would say that he "knows the proud from afar." He knows them from afar because He hangs out with the humble! He's not with the great and proud; He's in the cow's feeding trough and hanging on the wood of the tree and looking at us through the eyes of everyone in need. Our God ISN'T proud, and so the only way He can know the proud is from a distance.

Random Thought #2

Taught OT Catechesis this morning and it really hit me how utterly polemical Genesis 1 is. This is a tract that takes direct aim at the ancient idolatries. It refuses to name "sun and moon" and refers to these objects of ancient worship as "the big lamp and the little lamp" and it just throws in "oh, and the stars." Youch! A decent Zoroastrain would be screaming in anger. And then, all the idolatries of the beasties of the earth. I think of the snake worship in Cancun and the Mayan territories. The message from Genesis one is: Oh, yeah, all those things you worship as Gods OUR God made AND He put us in charge of all of them. We're so used to story that we no longer hear the real "in your face-ness" of that text in its original context. "In the beginning, GOD created." THEM be fightin' words!

Homily for Trinity 13 (Draft 1)

[2 Chronicles 28:8-15 / Galatians 3:15-22 / Luke 10:23-37]

“And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”

That little sentence contains the whole problem. We are capable of knowing what we “must do” to inherit eternal life. We know that to inherit such a life we must live in love. Love toward God, love toward our neighbor. But knowing isn’t doing. And there’s the rub.

Knowing what we ought to do, we so often, so dreadfully often, find ourselves doing exactly what we know we ought not to do. And just knowing what is right, what God expects of us, what our neighbor deserves of us, has never enabled us to DO that right, to fulfill the expectations of God, and render our neighbor the service that we know we owe him or her.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us either crying out for mercy, or putting on a show. The lawyer in today’s Gospel opted for the show. He sought to move the spotlight off of himself and his failure to live in love: “And who is my neighbor?”

The reason for the question is clear, isn’t it? If I am to love my neighbor as myself, it would certainly help if I could cut down on the number of my neighbors – if, for example, I didn’t need to worry about how I treated him or her or them, well, I might just stand a chance.

And it is this set up that elicits from our Lord his famous parable of the Good Samaritan. You know the story. The man journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho, traveling down a steep and windy road where he is set upon by robbers who take from him everything, even nearly his life. And there he lay, helpless on the side of the road. Injured beyond his own ability to take care of himself. If someone doesn’t help him, he will die.

The priest comes by and looks and goes on his way. The Levite comes to the place and looks and goes on his way. What is the Lord saying with that? He is obviously convicting us all for every time we walk by another person without concern, going our own merry way, without wanting to get involved, to dirty our hands, to share their pain, to help them carry their load. Yes, but something deeper.

Paul nailed in today’s Epistle: “If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin.”

The Law is embodied in the Priest and the Levite – and they can see and diagnose: “Yup, that fellow’s sick, even unto death.” YOU and I, WE are the man that has been beaten up by thieves and robbed. Adam is that man and we are in him. The Law can’t help Adam and it can’t help you or me – it can only show our sin, reveal our sickness, disclose our secrets and make us aware of our misery. But what it can’t do, what it has no power to do, is to help us, to heal us, to restore us. The Law of Moses simply can’t do that.

But Paul went on: “that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” And Jesus went on: “A Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him he had compassion. He went to him.” The others passed on, unable to help and maybe ashamed of the fact, but the Samaritan came to help and he comes to the man himself. Touches him. Washes and anoints him, binds us his wounds, and provides for his time of recuperation, paying whatever it costs to get the man back on his feet.

This is our Jesus, and this is the Gospel. Our God did not pass by and does not pass by. Our God came and comes all the way to where we are. Not only in our flesh, but even in our sin. That is what His cross was all about. Him reaching into the depths to bring us healing. He is not a God who heals from afar, but a God who comes all the way down and knows the sorrow of sin itself, as He carries it in His sinless body and endures every consequence of our every sinful choice, even to the point of tasting death for us. He is the One who “DID THIS” – His life WAS unending love – and so of course, He is the One who lives – lives in a resurrected body that death will never be able to touch and that becomes the source of eternal life for us, as we are tucked into it. He did it all so that we might be healed – that He might do for us what we could never do for ourselves. He sheds His blood and delivers His body into death in order to become for us the very medicine of immortality that a person may then eat and drink and not die, but live in Christ forever.

And the Church is His Inn. It’s the place where His medicine is dispensed and where the ravages of sin are constantly being healed and sinners restored. You don’t get to leave the Inn until He returns, for then the healing will be complete and final and full. But until that joyous day, the Church is commanded to go on giving out the medicine of forgiveness to sinners – using the weakness of the cross to destroy the power of the enemy. It’s here for you today. Your Jesus has provided for you the medicine of His body and blood at the cost of His very life.

“Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said: “The one who showed Him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” So He says to each of us today: having been mercied by Jesus our Good Samaritan, He sends us out to mercy others. True, the Law of God will go on condemning us for as long as we live in this flesh, for our mercy and our love never measure up to the standards that God requires, they remain partial and fragmentary. But living under the forgiveness of Christ, we are freed from the condemnation of the law, freed the inability of Priest or Levite to help us, and set upon the path to healing by our Jesus, our Good Samaritan. There’ll never be a day we live in this world where we won’t need to take our medicine and to exercise and seek always to grow stronger in the love that Christ has given us to share. But the path to our healing, is precisely learning to live in His love toward each other. This He sends us forth to do in the confidence that “the promise by faith in Jesus Christ has been given to those who believe” and to Him alone, who loved us to cross and empty grave, be all the glory now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

St. Augustine

Today our Synod remembers St. Augustine - arguably the most influential theologian of the Church since the Apostle Paul. He simply towers. And even when folks disagree with him, they still have to reckon with him. I first came to know him from reading his *Confessions* (which is the first spiritual autobiography in history - written mostly as an extended prayer!) and his *City of God* - another classic full of goodies. But I've really enjoyed lately the works available on the newadvent.org site that I'd not read before. My favorites have to be *On the Spirit and the Letter* and *On Nature and Grace*.

Here's the blurb from Synod's website about this great father:

August 28
Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church
Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin church fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in A.D. 354 in North Africa, Augustine's early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother Monica and the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (339–97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the 5th century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from A.D. 395 until his death in 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to the book Confessions, Augustine's book City of God had a great impact upon the church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

27 August 2007

Why Talk About Preaching?

Christopher - an internet friend who was once Lutheran and now is Orthodox - raises the question of whether we are making too much of preaching as Lutherans. I don't think so. Not for a minute! The Smacald Articles express the Lutheran conviction:

"God is superabundantly generous in His grace. First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in all the world. This is the particular office of the Gospel. Second, through Baptism. Third, throug the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourth, through the Power of the Keys. Also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren...." SA III:III:IV

Which is to say that the preaching of the spoken Word, the embassy of forgiveness, is for us a preeminent means of grace. "Go into all the world and the preach the Gospel to the whole creation" our Lord says in Mark 16. Thus, not only is the Sacrament a "visible Word" but the Word is an "audible sacrament!" Preaching does not play second fiddle to the Eucharist, but is conjoined to it, for in both "we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."

On Sermons

Pastor McCain has asked on his blog if we are not starving our people by shorter sermons. It is not a secret that preaching in the Lutheran Church has produced shorter sermons of late than in previous years. Is this a problem?

I think it CAN be a problem, but I don't think it NEED be a problem. I am a fan of concision in sermons. I do not think that if you can say something in ten words and get the message across, you should pad it out to a hundred words. I do not think that filling out a requisite 20 minutes or more will necessarily benefit the preaching of the Gospel.

I believe it was St. Augustine who made the observation: "If I had had more time, I would have written less." I think that is a good rule for sermon preparation. Take the time to review what is written and eliminate the excess pork. What I've found a good rule of thumb is if I go over the sermon in my mind and find there's a section I missed because I forgot it was there, that's usually the first section to eliminate. What hangs together in MY mind, I figure, stands a better chance of hanging together in MY PEOPLE'S minds.

My hero for concise sermonizing is St. Peter Chrysologus, fifth century bishop of Ravena. Let me tell you, HE knew how to pack some incredible punch into short sermons - I would think that by and large his sermons could not run more than 12-14 minutes. But what gold in those precious minutes! It is my hope, my prayer, my dream that one day I will be able to preach a sermon that comes close to what that great father routinely accomplished!

Patristic Quote for the Day

"He gave himself a ransom," he says, how then was He delivered up by the Father? Because it was of His goodness. And what means "ransom"? God was about to punish them, but He forbore to do it. They were about to perish, but in their stead He gave His own Son, and sent us as heralds to proclaim the Cross. These things are sufficient to attract all, and to demonstrate the love of Christ. Moral. So truly, so inexpressibly great are the benefits which God has bestowed upon us. He sacrificed Himself for His enemies, who hated and rejected Him. What no one would do for friends, for brethren, for children, that the Lord has done for His servants; a Lord not Himself such an one as His servants, but God for men; for men not deserving. For had they been deserving, had they done His pleasure, it would have been less wonderful; but that He died for such ungrateful, such obstinate creatures, this it is which strikes every mind with amazement. For what men would not do for their fellow-men, that has God done for us! - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Timothy 2

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In justification, as that person is declared by the heavenly Father to be His child for the sake of Christ's atonement, the Holy Ghost begins the work of sanctification in his heart. It may begin very slowly, but the transformation is real. The person who is justified becomes a completely different person. He begins to live for Jesus instead of for himself. Concern for the salvation of his soul busies his heart endlessly. He would rather speak about heavenly things than about anything else. Even when he performs his earthly business, he does so with a mind directed toward God. He begins to keep watch over his thoughts and desires. He can no longer be indifferent as evil thoughts go through his mind. If they arise, he sighs and prays against them. He is hostile toward every sin. - Walther, *God Grant It!* pp. 668,669

26 August 2007

My Two Girls

...at home, that is. Hey, Lucy IS a girl and so is Bekah.

Site Meter

My sister-in-law, Deb, is to blame. She taught me how to put a site meter on the blog. It's a hoot. It shows where folks come from (often) and what they look at while they're visiting the blog. It also tracks their numbers. Since I installed it last August, 100,000 visitors have dropped by ye olde blog. Thanks to everyone who visits, and to those who share their thoughts and insights. It's been a blessing and I hope it will continue to be. Visitor number 100,000 was from Milwaukee, the rival beer brewer to St. Louis!

Patristic Quote for the Day

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise thesse sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains make a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession. - St. Augustine, In ep. Jo. 1,6

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Indeed, each head of the household should see to it that there is reading the saying of prayers each morning and evening in his home. Nor should a day go by without calling upon God and giving Him thanks. For in this way, we who have been created and redeemed by God should honor Him as God, and these exercises are profitable for instruction and for arousing fear and faith in us. And in these exercises we must keep in mind the statement of Christ, "How much more will your heavenly Father give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" Therefore, we must be pray to be taught, guided, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. And whenever we pray, we must determine with certainty and remember that the Holy Spirit is effacious through our meditation on the Gospel. - Philip Melanchthon, *Loci Communes - 1543* p. 233

25 August 2007

Patristic Quote for the Day

For where peace is, there is Christ, for Christ is Peace; and where righteousness is, there is Christ, for Christ is Righteousness. - St. Ambrose, Letter 63

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Wherever there is true faith, there will also be the proof of a new life. If you were once arrogant, you will now be humble before God and man. If you were once money-loving and miserly, you will now be generous and heavenly-minded. If you were once vain and a lover of the world, you will now be self-denying and godly. - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It* p. 666

23 August 2007

ESV Thoughts

We've been using the Lectionary for LSB now for over a year, and this employs the ESV text. I confess that there are times I still stumble. My old ear is trained to KJV and I suspect it always will be. But I've grown quite fond of the ESV. It's rather faithful (though no version is perfect, including the Authorized Version!), and yet it seems to speak an English that most folks will have little trouble understanding. I am especially thankful for the Epistles in the ESV. St. Paul's grammar and syntax is at times torturous and KJV was all too faithful in reproducing it! I'm glad to read aloud the simplified syntax in the ESV to the congregation - especially breaking up the long sentences. In use for over a year now, I can honestly say it strikes me as a good liturgical text. It is a text that is dignified and yet accessible, and as the icing on the cake, it still seems to be overwhelmingly similar to the "flow" of the KJV (especially when compared, say, to NIV).

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our Church desires uniformity not as if it were itself unity, or could be made a substitute for it, but because it illustrates unity, and is one of its natural tendencies and its safeguard. If there be a High-churchism genuinely Lutheran, it is a very different thing from that which bears that name in other churches. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 142

Patristic Quote of the Day

As the body is united with the Logos, so also we are united with Him by this bread. - St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, IV:14

Homily for Trinity 12 (2007)

[Isaiah 29:17-24 / Romans 10:9-16 / Mark 7:31-37]

His tongue was tied so that he couldn’t speak, or at least, he couldn’t speak plainly. That tends not to be our problem. Rather, our problem is that our tongue is tied up in other ways. Instead of using the tongue for what it was intended for, we use our tongues to gossip about others, to complain and grouse, to speak lies, to lure one another into sin.

But the Lord never intended such a use for our tongues. They are there for praise. “O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall declare thy praise.” (Matins, Psalm 51) They are there for witness: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt Him name together – I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered from all my fears!” (Psalm 34)

The point of a freed-up tongue is that it is restored to the uses God intended – glorifying Him and building each other up in the faith. In today’s Gospel this is hinted at in that the man they brought to Jesus began to speak “plainly.” In the Greek, “orthos.” Ring any bells? Orthos flows into words like Orthodoxy. Right praise, right teaching.

And you hear their praises bursting out on all sides, despite Jesus’ telling them to hush it up: “He has done all things well! He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!” Words echoing back to Genesis 1 where God looks over the world and pronounces it “good,” indeed, “very good.” For Jesus is none other than that Word through whom all things were created now come into our flesh. For the world that He had created “good” and “very good” was soon spoiled and saddened. In place of His very goodness there came sin and all the sorrows that trail along behind it – every earthly misery, including deafness and muteness, and finally death itself. But He was not content to leave it so.

Thus He, the Eternal Divine Word, God the Son, came into our flesh, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that His “very good” might once more be spoken over his creation. And so He sets about His work of redemption, which includes the opening of deaf ears and loosening of mute tongues. He sets about restoring us to lives of praise and witness.

St. Mark shows us that this is what the story of the deaf mute is all about in his little geographical note at the beginning of the reading. Did you let it slip by you? He says: “Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.” That may not say much to you, but it said volumes to the original hearers. You see, Decapolis was Gentile territory. And yet even there people had heard about Jesus and consequently these folks carried along their deaf mute friend to the Lord that He might lay His hand on him and heal him. But HOW did THEY know about Jesus?

“How are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 9:14-15)

If you were reading straight through St. Mark’s Gospel you could easily guess at how they had heard. For back in Chapter Five Jesus paid a brief visit to the area of the Decapolis, to the Gerasenes. There he met a man who lived alone in the tombs, a man possessed by a legion of demons who had taken from him everything – even his name. And Jesus set that man free – drove the demons out and restored him to his right mind. And when Jesus got ready to leave that area, that man who had been set free wanted to go with him. Jesus wouldn’t allow it. He instead “sent” him! He said: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” (Mark 5:19) Off he went then and “began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 5:20)

Because he preached where he was sent, because he sang the praises of God in Christ to his friends, others came to faith. And when they heard that Jesus was near by, they did what only faith would do: they lifted up a friend in need and brought him to Jesus and used their tongues to ask Jesus to heal him. The result was that his ears were opened and his tongue was loosed and he spoke plainly, and everyone began to praise God and witness to others about what they had seen Jesus do.

Do you get it? You see, when Satan spoke his words to the woman in the garden -his lying words, his twisted words - he enslaved us to sin. And sin spoiled -no, ruined -communication between God and man. Sin put us under a burden, a handicap, and obstructed our ability to hear God’s word. And unable to hear God’s word, we could not speak to God, we could not rightly pray to Him, we could not rightly praise Him. And unable to hear God or speak to Him, we could not rightly speak to others about Him.

But then Jesus, the Son of God, came and spoke His words. His healing and restoring words, like His words to the man in today’s Gospel. But more importantly, He spoke His word from the cross: it is finished. With those simple words, He tells us that the burden of sin is lifted. The path of communication between God and man is open again. Words between God and man are restored, so that we can hear God’s word and praise His name and tell others of the wonderful things that He has done!

Hear, O ears, and understand, then, that all the sins of our deaf ears and twisted tongues have been laid on our Jesus with all our other sins. He bore them ALL to death on Calvary’s cross precisely so that in our Baptism He might speak His mighty Ephphatha over us and give us open ears and unshackled tongues. Speak, then, O tongue, and declare the praises of your Redeemer! Sing to Him and tell others about His resurrection victory - a victory He seals to you each time You open your mouth to let Him lay on your tongue the nothing less than His own very body and blood, the price of your forgiveness that gives eternal life to you! “Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of you!”

The folks in today’s Gospel He told to tell no one, but they did not heed Him. You, however, he tells to tell all, and call them to come to Jesus too, that He might also heal them – give them open ears and praising tongues. And what will YOU do? May your answer be: “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise – for to You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be all the glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

22 August 2007

Thank You God...

...for Marilyn coming through surgery...for Debbie looking so much better...for Frederick talking a wee bit today...for a long overdue visit with Clara... for Frieda, who can't seem to understand much of anything anymore, but whom You hold in Your hands... for invitations from Charlie's friends to speak on my favorite topic... for the faithful who gather on Wednesday evenings in the heat of summer to ponder the story of Joseph and what it gives us of our Lord... for the gift of compline and the peace its words bring... For hugs and greetings from the family of God... for Sandy, Darcy, and Candy, even when they are being utterly obnoxious because they were right (again)... for Bonnie and all who give so much to make our daycare/preschool a witness to the love of Christ... for a glass of wine at the end of the day... for children safe at home... for another day of Your presence, Your unfailing love in Jesus Christ!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Whatever, therefore, may be the relation of imputation to original sin, our Church holds it to be an impious opinion, that our misery and liability are merely the results of imputation. The primary point is, that we do actually participate, in our nature, in the corruption wrought by the fall. - Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 378.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore so far are the law and grace from being the same thing, that the law is not only unprofitable, but it is absolutely prejudicial, unless grace assists it; and the utility of the law may be shown by this, that it obliges all whom it proves guilty of transgression to betake themselves to grace for deliverance and help to overcome their evil lusts. For it rather commands than assists; it discovers disease, but does not heal it; nay, the malady that is not healed is rather aggravated by it, so that the cure of grace is more earnestly and anxiously sought for, inasmuch as "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life." 2 Corinthians 3:6 - St. Augustine, *On the Grace of Christ and On Original Sin* Book I, chapter 9

21 August 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In an approach that largely gives the Church of the Augsburg Confession her specific and distinctive character, the Reformation described the Sacraments as "signs and testimonies of the divine Will toward us, instituted to awaken and confirm our faith." Thus the Sacraments become the individual application of the universal promise in the fellowship of the Church, the conveyance to each single person in all his singularity and personal aloneness of the grace that is God's gift-in-common to the whole Mystical Body of Christ. - Piepkorn, *The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* p. 77

Patristic Quote for the Day

"That you may know," he says, "how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Not like that Jewish house. For it is this that maintains the faith and the preaching of the Word. For the truth is the pillar and the ground of the Church. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Timothy 3

20 August 2007

Chemnitz on Ancient Catechesis

The ancient catechetical instruction was such an introduction that by it the catechumens were first persuaded that those things which are contained in the Holy Scripture are true and divinely revealed. And a summary of the things contained in the Scripture was set before the catechumens and explained. And when they answered that they believed this and wanted to observe it, they were admitted to the sacraments. (Examen I:160)

Hunting for a Source

Martin Chemnitz in his Examination of the Council of Trent provides a stunning quote which he attributes to Chrysostom, but which is not in any writings of the good Father that I have been able to find. Chemnitz says that the quote is from a Homily on Matthew 24:15-16, Homily 49 (I assume from whatever collection he was citing).

"But why should all Christians at this time head for the Scriptures? Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to know the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures." (Cited in Examen I:156)

I would dearly love to know the source of it. Any ideas?

P.S. I know that Chemnitz cited from the Glossa Ordinaria, but the question is WHO actually said what that Medieval commentary attributed to Chrysostom?

Patristic Quote for the Day

Hades and the devil have been despoiled, and stripped of their ancient armour, and cast out of their peculiar power. And even as Goliath had his head cut off with his own sword, so also is the devil, who has been the father of death, put to rout through death; and he finds that the selfsame thing which he was wont to use as the ready weapon of his deceit, has become the mighty instrument of his own destruction. Yea, if we may so speak, casting his hook at the Godhead, and seizing the wonted enjoyment of the baited pleasure, he is himself manifestly caught while he deems himself the captor, and discovers that in place of the man he has touched the God. By reason thereof do the martyrs leap upon the head of the dragon, and despise every species of torment. For since the second Adam has brought up the first Adam out of the deeps of Hades, as Jonah was delivered out of the whale, and has set forth him who was deceived as a citizen of heaven to the shame of the deceiver, the gates of Hades have been shut, and the gates of heaven have been opened, so as to offer an unimpeded entrance to those who rise thither in faith. - St. Gregory Thaumaturgus "On All Saints"

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Over against the subjective experiences of sectarian enthusiasts, the visions of ecstatics, the decrees of prelates, the canons of councils, the creeds of the Church, the traditions of the fathers, and the systems of philosophers, the Blessed Reformers asserted their unqualified dependence upon the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the sole rule and standard by which all teachers and all teachings of the Church are to be judged and evaluated. - A.C. Piepkorn, *Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* pp. 76,77

19 August 2007

Thanking God

One of the most beautiful prayers of the Church in LSB (based on the original in Service Book and Hymnal, I believe) begins with a thanksgiving to God I think we would do well to pray every day of our lives:

Almighty God,
we give thanks for all Your goodness
and bless You for the loves that sustains us from day to day.

We praise You for the gift of Your Son, our Savior,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter;
for Your holy Church,
for the means of grace,
for the lives of all faithful and just people,
and for the hope of the life to come.

Help us to treasure in our hearts all that You have done for us,
and enable us to show our thankfulness in lives
that are wholly given to Your service.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Now there is much significance in that He does not say, "The wrath of God shall come upon him," but "abides on him." For from this wrath (in which we are all involved under sin, and of which the apostle says, "For we too were once by nature the children of wrath, even as others" Ephesians 2:3 ) nothing delivers us but the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. -- St. Augustine, *On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Infants* Book I, Chapter 29

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Reformation also makes clear that between immoral man and the holy God there exists a chasm which man cannot bridge. Man's unaided search for God likewise can lead him only into an endless labyrinth of blind alleys. The Reformation affirmed that God pardons the penitent sinner wholly on the basis of the Incarnation and Atonement of Jesus Christ, whose holiness the individual lays hold on by God-given faith. -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* p. 76

18 August 2007

"More than we desire or deserve..."

Such is the collect for this week. Here I was in doubt about what on earth would happen to Trinity-St. Paul Lutheran School as our Headmaster and my associate pastor (and Pr. Curtis'), Pr. Keith GeRue, was called up to active duty by the Army. And what did God do? He brought us a person who will step right in and keep everything going for this year (and longer, if needed, I hope!): Myra Farrell. Myra used to teach at St. Paul's years ago, and she is a huge advocate of classical Christian education, knows Latin, does Math, and is trained in remedial reading. Like the women on the way to the tomb, fretting for nothing over a stone that had been rolled away, I've been fretting over what will happen. Dennis (our 5-6th grade teacher) told me to stop worrying, that it would all work out well. But I am so bad at heeding that good advice! God worked it out, as He always does. He always gives us more than we either desire or deserve and He forgives us those things of which our conscience is afraid! Praise to Him forever!

On Pools

Ya know, we got that pool for Bekah, but I think Cindi and I spend most of the time in it. The odd thing is that it becomes a fight, a challenge.

At the end of July, beginning of August, we were so busy we didn't have time to vaccuum as we ought to have done, AND the hard water had clogged the salt-water system. The result was that when we vaccuumed we ended up having nasty stuff pour back into the pool through the filter system. It took WEEKS to get the thing really clean again. Now it is crystal clear. You can see the bottom as through glass.

This was the result of running the filter continuously for almost 24 hours at a time and constantly cleaning it and running the chorinator for 7 hours a day and more. It was a LONG battle, and we almost were ready to throw in the towel, but now it is looking fabulous again.

It is silly, but I feel downright proud of how clear the water is. Who wants to come over for a swim?

A Prayer for the Church

O God, Your infinite love restores to the right way those who err, seeks the scattered, and preserves those whom You have gathered. Of Your tender mercy pour out on Your faithful people the grace of unity that, all schisms being ended, Your flock may be gathered to the true Shepherd of Your Church and may serve You in all faithfulness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. - Pastoral Care Companion, p. 618

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ultimately the real relevance of the Reformation for the twentieth century lies in its common *doctrinal* emphases. Against the optimistic view of man's capacities which the Renaisaance and some of the late medieval theologians affirmed, it asserted a native and radical sinfulness in man. It recognized that man can perceive, learn, know, reason, decide, will, and create; but it limited the level of these operations to this transient world, and to human society. Thus it took no dim and pessimistic view of man's social potentialities, but it saw clearly the mortal organic defect in man's moral construction. Therein it furnishes a realistic basis for understanding man's perennial inability to achieve in practice that standard of virtue which he correctly senses exists objectively and which he approves even when he violates it. -- Piepkorn, *Sacred Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions* p. 76

Patristic Quote for the Day

Let, then, nothing call you away from penitence, for this you have in common with the saints, and would that such sorrowing for sin as that of the saints were copied by you. David, as it were, "ate ashes for bread, and mingled his drink with weeping," and therefore now rejoices the more because he wept the more: "My eyes ran down," he said, "with rivers of water." - St. Ambrose, *On Repentance* Book II, Par. 93

17 August 2007

WHEW!

That was a whirlwind trip. On Thursday morning, Cindi, Bekah, and I were up by 4:30 and on the road to Seward (8 hour drive!). We unpacked the van and car, visited with Lauren and Dean, ate pizza, played liverpool (can you tell we're addicted?), went to bed. This morning Cindi got up and hijacked Lauren's bike for a ride around town, Lauren and Dean made us breakfast, and then after a little more visiting, we left at 11 ish and arrived back in Hamel at 8 p.m. tonight (we took a long break for a late lunch/dinner). BIG thanks to Dean for the fresh thermos of coffee to keep me awake for the drive home (fresh ground and all - delish!)

Dean and Lauren's apartment is very nice. HUGE! And because its part of a divided up mansion, the rooms have some really beautiful woodwork.

Sadness, though. We don't get to see them again until Thanksgiving. :(

Here are a few pics...




15 August 2007

Patristic Quote of the Day

To-day the living ladder, through whom the Most High descended and was seen on earth, and conversed with men, was assumed into heaven by death.

To-day the heavenly table, she, who contained the bread of life, the fire of the Godhead, without knowing man, was assumed from earth to heaven, and the gates of heaven opened wide to receive the gate of God from the East.

To-day the living city of God is transferred from the earthly to the heavenly Jerusalem, and she, who, conceived her first-born and only Son, the first-born of all creation, the only begotten of the Father, rests in the Church of the first-born: the true and living Ark of the Lord is taken to the peace of her Son.

The gates of heaven are opened to receive the receptacle of God, who, bringing forth the tree of life, destroyed Eve's disobedience and Adam's penalty of death.

-- St. John of Damascus, Homily 3 on the Assumption

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As long as the focus of the spotlight is on the Lord Jesus Christ, the richer the radiance that reflects upon His Mother, the better. We are not offended that Gabriel addressed her, "Hail, O favored one," or that St. Elisabeth by divine inspiration twice calls her blessed, while expressing humble amazement that the favor should be granted her of entertaining in her home the Mother of her Lord; or that by the same inspiration the Holy Virgin herself should say: "All generations will call me blessed." - Arthur Carl Piepkorn, "Blessed Among Women" a homily preached at Concordia Seminary, *The Church* p. 329

St. Mary, Mother of God

My good friend, Dr. Rick Stuckwisch provides a most edifying preachment for this feast day:

Excellent Homily

14 August 2007

First Draft - Homily for Trinity XI

[Genesis 4:1-15 / Ephesians 2:1-10 / Luke 18:9-14]

Ask Cain and he would tell you: the problem with God is that he’s too darned picky about worship. Cain, together with each of us, thinks that God should be happy with whatever we throw his way, provided we offer it sincerely. And yet God had the effrontery to have “regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” He accepts this and rejects that. We find it rather intolerable. Why shouldn’t He just be happy that we offered Him anything at all!

God seeks to correct Cain: “Why are you angry? Why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it!”

Cain did not rule over sin; sin ruled over Cain. His anger at God turned into bitter hatred toward his brother and so he betrayed and killed him – the one who had offered to God an acceptable sacrifice. Hold that thought.

And there Jesus is telling the story about the Pharisee and the tax-collector. The Phariseee wants his worship accepted – especially the stuff he thinks he’s done for God that puts him miles ahead of those who are not serious about the law – folks like the tax-collector. The Pharisee stands apart. He prays, sort of. He doesn’t really ask anything. He just reminds God of what a lucky bloke God is to have such a devoted follower as he.

But the tax-collector is different. He stands far off, knowing his unworthiness to approach the All-Holy. Beating his breast, he cries out: “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

What is striking is the word in the Greek for “merciful.” Not the word we are familiar with when we sing Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy! Not eleison at all. Instead a bloody word. “God be gracious to me on account of the sacrifice.” He was not appealing for mercy on the basis of God’s attributes – that He is merciful and loving and so on. He appealed for mercy on the basis of a death, a bloody substitute for his own forfeited life. He knew he wasn’t due that mercy, but he asked for it nonetheless. God, “look upon the victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself” (Roman Canon) might be a good paraphrase.

Jesus tells us that this man went down to his home “justified” rather than the Pharisee. Once again, God is being picky about the worship He accepts. He rejects the proud man who stands before Him and presumes to offer his own doings; He accepts the humble man who stands before Him and pleads for mercy because of a bloody sacrifice.

And what was that sacrifice? Think of Him who tells the tale. Think of Jesus, who alone of all the human race stood before the Father and offered to Him deeds that were acceptable wholly – and they were so because they were all love. There was no self-interested motivation behind a single act of His life. He was the man who lived for others, who came into the flesh born of the Blessed Virgin to be their ransom. His life of love was a fragrant and acceptable sacrifice to the Father. And it was in love that He consented also to become the bloody sacrifice.

Cain killed Abel because God accepted his sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. So the brothers of Jesus, his own fellow human beings, we, consign Him to the wood of the cross. And why?

The Wisdom of Solomon describes in shocking detail the why: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” (2:12-20)

Shocking, isn’t it? It all comes down to this: we hated Him because the light of love that shone from His life as He offered to God the Father endless worship exposed the sham of our lives and made us realize that we are all counterfeits and that none of us can dare to stand before His Father and plead for justice; we can only ask for bloody mercy.

And then we see that HE is the bloody mercy for which we plead. Our hands are stained with the blood of the Son of God. This week in our daily readings we read what happened when word was carried to David by an Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul and brought David Saul’s crown. David’s own words sound familiar: “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sam. 1:16) Echoes of the people crying out: “His blood be on us and on our children.” The blood of the Son of God staining humanity.

But lo! Not death, but life is offered through the deed. Not the punishment we have deserved, but instead, by His dying, the death of death. By His bloodshed, the blotting of sin. For our hatred, He gives love. For our murder, He gives life. This is the shocking news of His resurrection: PEACE! Not “now you all are really in for it.” But “believe and trust that my blood has secured your peace with my Father. You see, I AM the answer to every plea for bloody mercy. I AM the propitiation, I AM the taking away of the world’s sin – yours too.”

And so we joy with St. Paul in our Epistle that it is by grace we are saved through faith, and not even faith gets to be our doing, but the gift of God, not of works so that no one can boast. Instead of what we offer to God in our works, comes what God offers to us through His works, even His works in us, so that we get to be His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the good works He has prepared for us to walk in.

God is picky in worship. He wants the directionality clear: not your doings toward Him, but His doings toward you, to give you the life that is in His blood. Come, then, and humbly join in the worship where the Lamb of God is upon the altar and all is enlivening gift, bloody mercy given from the hand of God, and so you are alive under the blood, taken up into mercy, into love, joined to His sacrifice and made acceptable in the Beloved. Amen.

On Preaching

From a letter to a friend about preaching:

A real problem - which the much-maligned Caemerer noted - is that you cannot preach the Gospel without preaching the Kerygma. The Gospel is not just the results of the Kerygma: the sinner's justification. Remember Walther's point about preaching on faith without ever mentioning faith, because you preach faith into people by proclaiming Christ? Same point about justification. God justifies sinners not through preaching on justification but through the faith engendering preaching of Christ - He for us men and for our salvation was born of the blessed, glorious, and ever-Virgin Mary, who in that flesh offered up to the Father a ransom for the whole race of men, and in His risen body has become the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, that is, for all who are joined into union with Him through saving faith and so are covered with His wrath-of-God-shielding-blood and who grow constantly in their union with Him via the gift of the Spirit (Luther's grace and gift in grace).

I have said for some years that what we face in the LCMS is not actually at root a liturgical crisis. The liturgical crisis is the result of the preaching crisis. Fix the preaching of the Gospel - have a real renewal of the proclamation - and the liturgy literally fixes itself. A certain proclamation naturally calls for a reverent and joyful Eucharistic celebration.

St. Paul could insist that He knew only Christ and Him Crucified as the content of His preaching and yet could preach that Crucified Christ in such a way as to gather up all of life and let it be illumined by Him so that from marriage to master-slave relations, from fights in the churches to rank heresy, he learned to counter everything by simply seeking one thing: "that Christ be formed in you" and travailing until it happened. We pastors need some more travailing and greater clarity on what the preaching is seeking to accomplish. If we remembered every time we stepped into the pulpit that the final goal of every sermon is that Christ be formed in the hearers, that they come to find their life in Him and learn to live their lives with Him as fragrant offerings and sacrifices to God - I think we'd have a genuine renewal of proclamation among us!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This is certainly a great, miraculous, and truly divine change, since before it was simply and only ordinary bread and common wine. What now, after the blessing, is truly and substantially offered and received is truly and substantially the body and blood of Christ. Therefore we grant that a certain change takes place, that it can be truly said of the bread that it is the body of Christ. But we deny that it follows from this that we must therefore assert the kind of transubstantiation which the Papalists teach -- Martin Chemnitz, Examen II:258

Patristic Quote for the Day

For you have the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. What can be briefer to hear or to read? What easier to commit to memory? When, as the result of sin, the human race was groaning under a heavy load of misery, and was in urgent need of the divine compassion, one of the prophets, anticipating the time of God's grace, declared: "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered." Hence the Lord's Prayer. But the apostle, when, for the purpose of commending this very grace, he had quoted this prophetic testimony, immediately added: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" Hence the Creed. In these two you have those three graces exemplified: faith believes, hope and love pray. But without faith the two last cannot exist, and therefore we may say that faith also prays. Whence it is written: "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" - St. Augustine, Enchiridion, Chapter 7

13 August 2007

So,

how long did it taken these two to open all their loot? Please notice the sunlight outside in picture one as they started opening and the darkness outside in the picture two by the time they finished!!!




Good gravy, Charlie Brown!

Using two words

where one would do. I think that sums up so well a key aspect of the difference in liturgical sensibility between East and West. Western Rite, at least as far as it is influenced by the Roman rite, tends to be spare and even sparse in verbiage, in utter contrast to the East, which revels in word plays and complex imagery. The idea in Western liturgy by and large is that to repeat yourself is to lessen what is said. I think this is why most Western Christians will prefer the Apostles' to the Nicene Creed. In the one there is straightforward this after that, and not a Word to cut! In the other there is joyous reptition: "God of God, Light of Light, begotten, not made" and so on.

And if the original Roman rite is spare, the Lutheran recension tends to be even sparer! Just think of the enormous restraint where the old Roman canon was. Lutherans seem to have come up with the "less is more" slogan first - or rather, they lived it out.

But is it impoverishing? I don't think so. I think you have to experience the beauty of the old Lutheran practice where the Words of Christ are sung out over the elements to understand. Even though the Words stand all alone, yet the music joins them and fills out the space, if you will, and sends them right into the people's ears and hearts. All human voices fall silent before the narration of what happened that night and before the almighty voice of the Eternal Word who speaks and causes to be what He says: the bread becomes His body; the wine, His blood; and then all reached us, "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." What is lacking here? Not a thing. The Church's thanksgiving is her SINGING of the very words from which she lives. I am not at all surprised that in the old Lutheran Church orders the pastors were at times exhorted to tell the people to stop singing the Words of Christ with them!

Keep us in fellowship...

One of the most beautiful prayers of the Church in LSB (picking up on SBH and LW) offers this petition near the end:

We remember with thanksgiving those who have loved and served You in Your church on earth, who now rest from their labors (especially....). Keep us in fellowship with all Your saints, and bring us at last to the joys of Your heavenly Kingdom.

Taking advantage of the elipsis last week, Pastor Mayes commemorated the saints we usually remember by name:

The blessed Virgin Mary; Joseph, her husband; John the Baptist; the holy apostles Peter and Paul; and all Your martyrs.

The Church as the body of the LIVING Christ is a communion with these saints of old, and indeed with so many more than we could ever name. But we remember each week at the altar *some* of these as a reminder that they are *all* part of the koinonia in which we are given a share, and our great petition then is that sharing this koinonia with them, God would finally bring us His heavenly Kingdom. Together we have received in Christ Jesus a share in the life that death cannot destroy, and so when we gather together around His throne, we always gather with them - "the spirits of the righteous made perfect" as Hebrews 12 puts it.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification. He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and God has laid on Him the iniquities of us all. -- Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles, II, I:1-2

Patristic Quote for the Day

This grace hid itself under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament according to the most perfectly ordered dispensation of the ages, forasmuch as God knew how to dispose all things. - St. Augustine, *On the Spirit and the Letter* par. 27

12 August 2007

Wierdly Wonderful

Today I sat in the congregation with my family as Pastor Ben Mayes preached and celebrated the Sacrament. He delivered a very thoughtful and thought-provoking homily on the Destruction of Jerusalem (today's Gospel). But what I enjoyed most was his reverent and yet comfortable manner of presiding. He was very reverent and conveyed peace and calm as he led us to join with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Sitting with the family is always a joy - though a joy I rarely experience - and it was great to sing bass with all the harmonies floating around the pew. A huge thank you to Pr. Mayes for serving at St. Paul's today!

11 August 2007

You Preach It, Pastor!

[what follows is Pastor Randy Asburry's excellent homily on the texts for Trinity 10]

Trinity 10
Luke 19:41-48; Jeremiah 8:4-12; Romans 9:30-10:4

In the Collect for today we prayed to our God who declares His “almighty power above all in showing mercy and pity.” What a strange-sounding combination! “Almighty power” sounds so very strong and assertive, even forceful. And, to our modern, American ears, “showing mercy and pity” sounds, well, so wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. After all, when someone tells us to show mercy and pity, we typically fear that we will get walked on, taken advantage of, and passed over for promotion. And, come on, how many “manly men” do you really expect to shed a single tear let alone openly weep?

But not so with our gracious God! He weeps. He weeps with great strength. In fact, His weeping shows the great, almighty power of His loving mercy and pity.

We can almost see the tears flowing down God’s face in our first reading. As God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah, He truly laments the “perpetual backsliding” of His holy people. “They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return,” God says. He has paid attention to them, but they returned the favor by ignoring Him. As God says, with tears streaming down His loving face, “Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the just decrees of the LORD.” And His “just decrees” are not just His holy Commandments, His divine design for all of life. His “just decrees” also include His message of victory over sin, death, and the devil; they include His message of justice in forgiving our sins. But His tears flow because His own people don’t pay attention. They don’t live in repentance and faith!

And our Lord weeps not just for His people in the pew who may pay little attention to His words of justice in forgiveness; He also weeps for those He calls to proclaim His words. “From the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.” Yes, our Lord weeps when His pastors and preachers heal “the wound of [His] people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” You see, there is no peace – no true and genuine peace – when sins go unconfessed, when tears of repentance refuse to flow. There is no peace when God’s people, both in the pew and in the pulpit, don’t cling to His gracious promises in faith.

In our Gospel reading we most certainly see our almighty, powerful God-in-the-flesh weeping with freely flowing tears. “When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city – that is, Jerusalem, the holy city – he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!’” Oh, how He wants His people to have Him for their peace! Oh, how He longs to shower them with His mercy and pity! But their rejection of Him, their lack of repentance, and their unbelief – they all forecast certain doom. For Jerusalem that meant an invading army surrounding the city and tearing it down to the ground. September 11th was child’s play compared to that! Yes, God would orchestrate the destruction of His own “holy city.” Why? “Because [they] did not know the time of [their] visitation.” They did not know that the peace of God – peace almighty and powerful, peace of divine mercy and pity – had come to them all wrapped up in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The people in Jeremiah’s day refused to return to the God who loved them and wept for them. The people in Jesus’ day refused to receive Him, the Son of God, as their peace with God. What about us, the people of God today? Do we turn away from God in a perpetual backsliding? Yep. At least every day, even every time we think we matter most and God, as well as other people, matter least. Do we not know the time of our gracious visitation? Nope, not all of the time. Think of the times we neglect to thank God for the food on our table, the money in our wallet or purse, the car we drive, the house where we live. Even more, we forget our gracious visitation when our mind wanders during the sermon, or when we come to the Lord’s Table more out of habit than hungering for our Lord to come and show mercy and pity. And what of God’s “just decrees” in teaching us to be content with the spouse, the family, and the goods that we already have? What of God’s “just decrees” that tell us to protect the reputation of others, or to protect their money and possessions? What of His decrees to keep the marriage bed pure, to protect all human life from womb to tomb, and to honor every authority that He has so graciously given us? And most importantly, what of His “just decrees” to gladly hear and learn His Word of forgiveness and life, to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks, and to fear, love, and trust Him above all things?

Yes, our Lord weeps. He weeps because He gives Himself so completely to us in mercy and pity, even in showing us how life works best according to His design. He weeps and says, “Oh, how I long to enjoy life with you now and into eternity! Oh, how I long to shower you with My promises and heavenly treasures!” And do you know what? That’s exactly what He does to bring you back to Himself – each and every day, each and every Lord’s Day.

Thank God that your Lord weeps over a Jerusalem that had gone astray! His weeping shows His almighty, powerful love and mercy. It’s the same love and mercy that led Him to weep over the grave of Lazarus. “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35) because of death’s cruel, suffocating tyranny – not just for Lazarus, but also for us and all people. Oh, how He longed to free Lazarus and all people – including us – from the clutches of sin and death! And Jesus would do just that as He hung nailed to the cross, and as He burst forth from the grave. Perhaps we can picture Jesus on the cross with tears freely flowing as He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Yet our Lord of almighty power would transform that cross of bitter rejection into His greatest tool for showing mercy and pity! And what happened when Jesus burst forth victorious from the grave? His tears did not cease. No, they changed. In His almighty, powerful mercy and pity His tears changed from tears of lament to tears of joy, eternal joy, that is. They are the joyful tears of Him who says to you, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5), both now and on the Last Day. In His death and resurrection, our Lord Jesus makes us new, because “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

So, let the tears of Jesus weeping be your source of comfort, strength, renewal, and hope. He wants you to know the day of your visitation even here today, at His Table. Yes, He comes yet again in His almighty power to visit you and show you His mercy and pity. Just as He entered the Temple to cleanse it of the buyers and sellers, He enters you with His Body and Blood to cleanse you from sin and death. Just as “all the people were hanging on his words,” you can also hang on His words: “Given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” It’s how He brings you back from your backsliding. It’s how He shows you the things that make for peace – true peace, peace with Him, the peace of His mercy and pity.

Remember, almighty Jesus weeps for you – showing mercy and pity. And remember this as, in just a moment, you sing these words:

Once you were an alien people,
Strangers to God’s heart of love;
But He brought you home in mercy,
Citizens of heav’n above.
Let His love flow out to others,
Let them feel a Father’s care;
That they too may know His welcome
And His countless blessings share.
(LSB 646:3)

Lord, Jesus, “mercifully grant us such a measure of Your grace that we may obtain Your gracious promises and be made partakers of Your heavenly treasures.” Amen.

Invariable Prefaces

Both the liturgies of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom contain "invariable" prefaces leading up to the Sanctus. LSB similarly offers such a preface in Divine Services 4 and 5.

The preface in DS 4 is based largely on the traditional Swedish rite (took classic shape in 1531, but probably had medieval precedents). The preface in DS 5 is Luther's exhortation to communicants from the German Mass turned into a prayer. Today I want to look only at DS 4's preface.

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O Lord, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God...

Up to that point, the Preface is of a piece with all Western prefaces. But what is interesting is how it continues:

...for the countless blessings You so freely bestow on us and all creation.

God is the Giver of good gifts - too many to count - and they come to Him in absolute freedom. He bestows them on us because He loves to give - and so all creation is confessed as graced from God. Salvation is ultimately cosmic - and we dare not forget it.

Above all, we give thanks for Your boundless love shown to us when You sent Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into our flesh and laid on Him our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally.

If thanks is due for creation, what can we say for the unspeakable gift of our redemption - a redemption that encompasses both our Lord's incarnation and His paschal mystery? What greater proof of the Father's love could there ever be than this gift of His Son into our flesh and this laying on Him of all our sin to free us from eternal death?

Because He is now risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, all who believe in Him will overcome sin and death and rise again to new life.

As the Apology confesses so powerfully, when we speak of the Eucharist, we speak of the living Christ, for we know that death has no more dominion over Him! It is the Body that WAS crucified but that IS NOW risen which we receive and when we do so in faith, neither sin nor death will ever be able to hold us.

Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying...


The cause of our endless joy and joining in the angel's song then is ultimately this: that the Crucified and Risen One comes to us to free us from sin and death. Here is why we dare to join the Cherubim and Seraphim in their unending hymn!

What we may regret is that more of the Swedish original did not make it in. "When we were in such a bad case that naught but death and eternal damnation awaited us and no creature in heaven or on earth could help us, then You did send forth Your only-begotten Son who is of the same divine nature as Yourself, to take our flesh of the Virgin Mary, did permit Him to undergo death and laid on Him our sin..." But still, what is actually in LSB is a beautiful confession that could be heard and confessed and prayed week in and week out with great joy.

Go, Fasts!

My good friend Pastor Tom and (his wife) Carla Fast have written a wonderful little book, titled "The Baptism of Your Child." CPH recently sent complimentary copies to the parishes. The goal of the book is to lead the parents and their child(ren) into a living apprehension of what God has done for them in the gift of Holy Baptism. It's hard to describe. A workbook. A prayerbook. A theological primer. All these rolled into one. It will make a great gift for a parish to give to each new parent. You can find the book here and if you've not seen it, and have youngsters, I'd encourage you to order your copy today:

Baptism Book


CPH just keeps pumping out good stuff!

Dormition

As the Day of the Dormition (the falling asleep) of the Mother of God approaches (August 15th), I was looking at the resources in the Brotherhood Prayer Book and came across the hymn that is used for the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It really is a lovely piece. You can listen to Pastor Mayes sing it here:

Hymn for Dormition

As we remember the close of her pilgrimage, we join all nations in honoring her from whom our Lord took on human flesh and blood:

O God, who hast taken to Thyself the blessed Mary, mother of Thine only Son: Grant that we who have been redeemed by His blood may share with her the glory of Thine eternal kingdom; through the same, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. (Brotherhood Prayer Book, page 362)

David must have...



...told Opa a funny! These two Davids share the same birthday, but a few years apart!

If you're in the St. Louis area...

...here's a GREAT opportunity. Cindi and I will be there, I believe. Any other takers?

GREGORIAN CHANT CLASS
AND
SOLEMN VESPERS FOR THE FEAST OFF THE HOLY CROSS
FRIDAY, SEPT. 14

Learn the ancient form of Christian choral music, Gregorian Chant, at the Gregorian Chant Class and Solemn Vespers service to be held Friday, September 14 at Emmaus Lutheran Church, 2241 S. Jefferson Avenue, St. Louis. The class will be led by the Rev. Benjamin T. G. Mayes, editor of The Brotherhood Prayer Book.

The class will focus on the best of western Christian liturgy, prayers, and music—especially the ecclesiastical choral music known commonly as Gregorian Chant—as it has come down to us in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. We will examine ancient forms of Christian prayer and song, rehearse this time-tested manner of worship, and then put our skills into practice as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Cross.

Schedule
5:30 p.m. Gregorian Chant Class
7:00 p.m. Solemn Vespers (Open to the community)
8:00 p.m. Supper

R.S.V.P. to Rev. Benjamin Mayes (brmayes@gmail.com).

The Solemn Vespers service is free. A fee of $10 covers the class, supper, and all materials, except for optional book purchases. Please bring the Brotherhood Prayer Book if possible (see www.llpb.us). Copies will be available at the class.

This is an educational effort of the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood (www.llpb.us) and Emmaus Lutheran Church ( www.emmaus-stl.org).

ACK!

I just realized what today really means. It means my little girl, my recently married daughter, is no longer a TEENAGER. Now, I had realized that she wouldn't be a teenager after today before today, but what I had not pondered was what that means about Cindi and me. Not only is our daughter married, but we are now the parents of a 20-something year old! Is this the official move into middle age? Or old age? Or something??? I am feeling the need to recite the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock...

Of course, Cindi just reminded me, Debbi, who is younger than we are, crossed this threshold back in May.

Oh well, in any case, Lauren Elizabeth Herberts, happy birthday! And a safe journey home!

Patristic Quote of the Day

Accordingly, by the law of works, God says to us, Do what I command you; but by the law of faith we say to God, Give me what Thou commandest. -- St. Augustine, *On the Spirit and the Letter* chapter 22

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is the task of those whose ordination to the Lutheran ministry gave them authentic apostolic succession. This is no mysterious something that rests on a myth of consecrations. Rather it consists in the clear commission which our Lord gave to His whole church, to proclaim the pure apostolic doctrine and administer the sacraments according to the Gospel. That is the great responsibility which today is given to the Lutheran pastor. It cannot be taken from him by any bishop, any church government, or any ecumenical organization. We may and can confess, also if those remain silent who in the first instance are called to do this. In faithful confession lives the whole glory of our office, even when this glory is hidden under the cross. - Hermann Sasse, *We Confess: The Church* p. 107

10 August 2007

Technicolor Dreamcoat

Tonight Opa (Dave), Bekah, Cindi and I went to watch and listen to David perform in *Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.* David was outstanding - as usual (honestly, even laying aside a father's prejudice). It was community theatre and so challenged at numerous points, but the boy just shone. He sings, acts, and (this was the surprise to me!) dances flawlessly. His sola was "One More Angel in Heaven." I think he missed his calling - he should sing country music. What a hoot! Great job, son!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Yet we cannot dispense with these dogmatic definitions, if for no other reason than that they describe the only kind of Savior Who can really save us - a single Redeemer Who is very God and Who is truly man. May God the Holy Ghost, the Lord and the Life-Giver Who led the Fathers at Chalcedon into the fullness of revealed truth, conserve that saving Faith in all members of Christ's whole Church Militant! - A.C. Piepkorn, *The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* p. 71.

Patristic Quote for the Day

The righteousness of the law is proposed in these terms,—that whosoever shall do it shall live in it; and the purpose is, that when each has discovered his own weakness, he may not by his own strength, nor by the letter of the law (which cannot be done), but by faith, conciliating the Justifier, attain, and do, and live in it. For the work in which he who does it shall live, is not done except by one who is justified. His justification, however, is obtained by faith. --St. Augustine, *The Spirit and the Letter* chapter 51

Woof! Woof!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Today's featured article (and it will only be on the front page today) is on the beagle! I love beagles. Lucy [seen in the pic resting on my brother-in-law's leg] is only the second one I've had the privilege of living with, but I will never forget the day my dad brought home our little Queenie. She only lived seven years, but she was a great companion. He loved beagles too. From reading the whole article (don't forget to click for more at the bottom of the initial article), I am happy to report that Lucy is a typical beagle in every way except for being a tad shorter than usual and unusual in carrying so much black coloration. There's a picture in there that could be her with the note that beagles do not require exercise to exhaustion to enjoy resting - HA! The story of her life. After getting up and going potty and eating breakfast, the little wretch is so exhausted that she has to sleep for the rest of the morning in the sunlight. Then she wakes up long enough to go potty and will generally sleep the rest of the afternoon. She does like to play in the evening, but come nightfall, she's more than ready for her bed again. Despite this "heavy" regimine, Lucy is not overweight - maybe all that sleeping counts as exercise??? And she is downright grumpy when she is sleeping. You nudge her and she will growl. Clearly "rest" is something she guards as vigilantly as her food!

Our good friends, Randy and Rachel Asburry, solved the beagle exercise problem by providing a companion: they have TWO beagles! Cindi ain't buying it, though.

09 August 2007

A Quiet Day...

...after all the craziness, we had a quiet day today. I slept in, but Cindi was up at the crack of dawn, saying goodbye to our guests, throwing in laundry, vacuuming both the pool and the carpet, and cleaning and getting the house in order. I got up and made breakfast for us and then we leisurely read blogs and sipped coffee and tea for a while. The Maytag repairman came before noon and worked on our dishwasher - all up to snuff, Deo gratias! - and then after lunch, we spent some time in the pool. This afternoon we read a bit, and then Cindi made us some salsa chicken for dinner. Dave joined us (since Jo was on her road trip down Route 66 with Aunt Sandy). David was off to play practice and Bekah to clarinet lessons. Dave, Cindi and I enjoyed some games of sevens and then when Bekah got home we did a round of liverpool. All told it was a very restful day - just what was needed following the busy time with the wedding and visiting with family.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Let no Christian then stray from this faith, which alone is the Christian one; nor let any one, when he has been made to feel ashamed to say that we become righteous through our own selves, without the grace of God working this in us,—because he sees, when such an allegation is made, how unable pious believers are to endure it,—resort to any subterfuge on this point, by affirming that the reason why we cannot become righteous without the operation of God's grace is this, that He gave the law, He instituted its teaching, He commanded its precepts of good. For there is no doubt that, without His assisting grace, the law is "the letter which kills;" but when the life-giving spirit is present, the law causes that to be loved as written within, which it once caused to be feared as written without.-- St. Augustine, *The Spirit and the Letter* chapter 32

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

With the spoken and written Word is always coordinated as a constitutive element of the Church the ministry of the Sacraments, in which Our Blessed Lord and His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit Who is the personalized Bond of Love between Them comes to us and abides with us and enlightens us and fortifies us and incorporates us into Himself. -- Piepkorn, *The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* p. 88

[Ordering info: write to Dr. Phil Secker at psecker@snet.net ]

Just in case...

...you all are not tired of wedding pics and such, you can find some more at my mother-in-law's blog:

Jo\'s Blog

08 August 2007

Slowly Fading Away...

...been a great time with the family, but folks are beginning to leave. Sis and Jimmy and their grandchildren left Tuesday morning (we had breakfast with them before they left). Today Dee and Savannah flew home - though they missed their first flight due to construction on the highway. Tomorrow the Dillons head for Maryland and Jo and Sandy hit Route 66 in the Jaguar for the trip to California. Then it will just be Bekah, David, Cindi and I at home. That will seem really strange after all the family time this week. Lauren and Dean will be home this weekend for a few days and then they'll be off to Seward.

One of the things that is really depressing is counting the hours that you get to spend with your extended family when you live far away. I envy the folks here who have their children and grandchildren nearby. I doubt that will be the case for our children, even as it has not been the case for us. We get only hours each year - and maybe every other year - to spend with folks we love very much. I am very thankful for the internet and cell phones that make the distance seem a bit less and the time between not quite so separate.

Interesting piece

One of the interesting pieces in the new Piepkorn volume is titled "Why Still Be Lutheran?" Given so many blog discussions of the topic these days (and even a conference dedicated to it!), it is a timely piece. Of course, we do need to beware of ignoring the context in which Piepkorn wrote. This particular writing dates from 1965, and the Lutheran horizon at the time was significantly different from today. Who would even be able to conceive then the disasters that have wrecked havoc on the Lutheran scene in the nearly half century between? Also striking is the way he completely ignores the Orthodox - yet remember the state of Orthodox communions in the US back then! They were mostly locked up in their own little ghettos (much as the Lutherans had been a century before).

Yet with these caveats, I particularly appreciated his three points each of "mission opportunity" that he spoke directed on the one side to Rome and on the other to the Protestant jurisdictions.

Lutherans would seek to witness to Rome:

* That nothing should be allowed in teaching or practice that obscures Christ's saving work.
* The primary authority of Scripture in determining dogma and doctrine.
* A clear distinction between what is of human institution and what divine in matters of church government.

Lutherans would seek to witness to other Protestants:

* The role of the Church as interpreter of the Scriptures.
* The importances of the church's historic dogmas and the necessity of holding a true confessional position.
* the true meaning of the sacraments and their central place in the Church's life as acts of God.

He closes this little piece with noting that there may come a time when another answer needs to be given to "why be Lutheran?" "But that time will come only when the other families of Christians will be sharing in all that it has meant and still means to be Lutheran." (The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, p. 197)

I realize in writing this that the snippet comes across as triumphalistic, but if you know Piepkorn nothing could be further from the case. The whole essay - and of course the whole book - is highly recommended.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Now, having duly considered and weighed all these circumstances and testimonies, we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by faith in Jesus Christ,—in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by free grace. -- St. Augustine, *On the Spirit and the Letter* ch. 22

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

To be Lutheran means to stand for a certain point of view or attitude concerning the central teaching of the church. To be Lutheran means to elevate the Gospel, the good news of God's great work of rescuing men from death for life, accomplished by the atoning work of Jesus Christ, imparted through the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was the Gospel which the Lutheran Reformation proclaimed in opposition to certain teachings and practices of the sixteenth century church which negated or obscured God's saving work. It was primarily because the Lutheran reformers felt some teachings of other reforming groups did not adequately present the Gospel that they remained distinct from them. To be Lutheran means to see the church's teachings in terms of the Gospel. -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* p. 195

07 August 2007

Und Wieder




More Again




06 August 2007

More Wedding AGAIN (Get used to it!)



More Wedding



Some Wedding Pics




A Great Weekend

Wow..it's like a collage of images:

dinner with Sis, Jimmy, Nicole and Hannah and getting to meet Sarah...setting up the hall...Lauren dancing around like a giddy teenager (oh, wait! SHE is a giddy teenager for at least a few more days!)...Angus' interesting outfits and humor...Lauren beaming as we practice walking down the aisle...Joe and Eric making wonderful music as they practice...Anna and David practicing and laughing together in the balcony... The Herberts' gracious hospitality after the rehearsal dinner and visiting with family and friends... The dawning of the actual day finding Cindi biking six miles, doing laundry and grocery shopping... All the teens gathered around the piano and us singing Christmas carols, Easter hymns, and assorted favorites - harmonies breaking out everywhere!... David gracefully leading us through picture after picture after picture after picture after picture... Lauren looking beautiful beyond belief... Dean beaming... Rebekah with her hair up and curled looking shockingly like Lauren!... The nave filled and walking that beautiful daughter down the aisle as she says: "Don't step on my veil!" (how well she knows her dad is a clutz!)... A bunch of Lutherans doing what Lutherans do best of all: BELTING out the hymns!...Lauren and Dean exchanging vows, kneeling, being blessed... Oops, where are the flowers for the mothers? No matter, go give them a kiss anyway... Tears breaking out... Following the Cross down and out... Jeaux... MORE pictures... Lauren nearly passing out!... Off to the reception... Mr. and Mrs. Dean Herberts making their entrance... Getting through "the dance" and then being FORCED to do two others - thank heavens that is over!... Not enough time to see all the family and friends that gathered... Food, food, and more food left over... Stumbling into bed by midnight... Confirming Dave and Jo and the joy of giving them the Holy Eucharist... Lunch after Church with whoever could hang around... Dinner at Bully's and the unbelievable mess for sorting out tickets... An evening of laughter and visiting... Sigh...Joys abound and abound.

Wedding Homily - Walking in Love

[Text: Ephesians 5:1-2; 22-33]

Lauren and Dean, to walk in love as Christ loved us is to offer up your life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The marriage that you will enter today will provide you with ample opportunity for such sacrifice.

Unfortunately, when people hear “sacrifice” they think of death and suffering and such. But that is not the nature of the sacrifice. That is the nature of this fallen world which rejects God’s love. Sacrifice at its heart is just love, self-giving love, pouring out self for the other, seeking the best for the other, giving one’s heart to another. This is what Christ has done for us.

And that is what you both get to do in marriage: to give of yourself to the other, or rather, to give yourselves to each other, and as God wills, to give yourselves together for the sake of your children.

But the shape of the sacrifice that each of you will offer is determined by the fact that marriage is to portray the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.

So, Dean, in union with your Lord, who named you His very own in the waters of Baptism and feeds His life into you with His body and blood, and seeks to transform your thinking by His Word, in union with Him, He calls you today to love Lauren. To nourish and cherish her, as He cares for His body the Church. He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. He covers over the church’s faults and failings with the garment of His own righteousness. He does not accuse His bride, but summons her to live from the gifts He gives. So He would have you be to your bride.

So, Lauren, in union with your Lord, who named you His very own in the waters of Baptism and feeds His life into you with His body and blood, and seeks to transform your thinking by His Word, in union with Him, He calls you to submit to Dean and reverence him in the same way that the Church seeks to submit herself to her Lord. This submission is not the destruction of freedom, but its very condition. As we submit ourselves to the Lord we find ourselves truly free, and as we resist such submission we end up slaves to our own passions. Christ would free you from your sinful passions and teach you to trust in Him by your submission to your husband, whom He has commanded to love and cherish you.

Dean, I confess that I do not know the extent of your sinfulness nearly to the extent that I am familiar with the sinfulness of my own daughter or as well as she knows my own – but since you share the same flesh and blood that we have, I know full well that one of the chief shapes that love will have to take in your marriage is the determination from the start to live in the forgiveness of Christ – that when Lauren sins against you, and Lauren, when Dean sins against you, then you must recognize from the start that all such sin has been answered for completely. You both have a Lord who went to Calvary’s cross to answer for every sin, and there’s not one that He’s not covered with His blood and forgiven. Thus, your calling as husband and wife is to learn to share this forgiveness with each other every day as richly and as fully as Christ has given it to you. That’s not an excuse for either of you to hurt the other with sin, but it is the recognition that the grace of God in which you both are called to live is stronger than anything either of you can do to hurt the other.

When you have lived your married life “walking in love” – that is, as the joy of the fragrant offering of your lives to the Lord – covered by the precious blood of Christ, alive in His forgiveness, then you will find that not even death itself, when it comes – and it will come – will be able to quench your joy. For those who walk together in the love of Christ know that death cannot separate them. It is true that marriage as we know it, comes to an end at death, but what follows in the life to come where the Risen Christ fills all with joy is not less than what you have shared together here in this world – it will be more.

Living in the forgiveness of God toward one another, seeking always to pour out your lives for each other, and together for your children, you will find that walking together in love has made your marriage be an image, an icon of the love of Christ and His bride, the Church, and that THIS is the only way to have marriage be all that it was meant to be from the beginning. Walk in love, as Christ loved us. Amen!

04 August 2007

You know...

...there is something seriously wrong with a woman whose daughter is getting married this very day and so who:

goes for a six mile bike ride
does some laundry
goes grocery shopping

Can't she just sit still and be nervous???

01 August 2007

Primarily a catechetical service

Easy to miss the first rubric under Service of Prayer and Preaching in LSB:

1. This order is primarily intended as a catechetical service, which could be used for new member classes.

This fall, St. Paul's will take this rubric to heart and begin to offer the new member and catechism class for public school children as a unified experience, using this liturgy from LSB. As observed earlier on this blog, it's the old Catechism service of the early Missouri Synod with a few additions.

Benefits to using this liturgy?

* It teaches the faith in the context of worship, prayer, and song.
* It provides a unified experience of catechesis for both youth and adults.
* It teaches the "core texts" of the Catechism by weekly repetition.
* It dovetails beautifully with the Lutheran Catechesis series by Pastor Peter Bender.

We're giving it a whirl at St. Paul's beginning this September. 24 times the service will be offered, and we'll use Lutheran Service Builder to provide a complete worship folder for each week with the assigned catechism for daily recitation included.

Of course, the rotten rubric is number 2: "This order may also be used at Sunday services when the Lord's Supper is not offered." EXCUSE ME! WHY should there EVER be a Sunday service where the Lord's Supper is not offered? If a single person in the parish wishes to receive on the Lord's Day, we have no right to deny them! I'm glad that so many of our parishes have restored the weekly Eucharist. This service makes sense under rubric 1, but under rubric 2 it is pure nonsense! What parish is there among us where there is no Christian hungering for the Lord's Body and Blood on a given Lord's Day???