31 January 2008

For Olympiada


A close up picture of the altar (from my daughter's wedding) and a picture of the inside of St. Paul's - preparing for Advent a year ago. Notice the open arch, which confesses the same thing as the iconostasis in an Orthodox sanctuary.

Snow!





Can you tell who likes to play in the snow and who doesn't???

Two Days Early

Tonight we celebrated the Divine Service for the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord - it was two days early - and it's a good thing we had the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven joining in our worship, or it would have been rather lonesome. Three of us gathered in the sanctuary as the snow continued to fall from the sky and the wind blew. I thought how wonderful that we prayed for travelers tonight in the Prayer of the Church, for it is surely a treacherous night out. May the Lord grant to all a safe homecoming - including my David who is at work till 10 tonight.

Patristic Quote of the Day

God has made us and given us life not that we might see the sky and sun, as Athenagoras thought, but that we might, with a pure and complete mind, worship God, who made the sky and the sun. - Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book 6, Chapter 1 [cited in Gerhard, On the Nature of God and on the Trinity, p. 3]

Homily for Quinquagesima - 2008

Isaiah 35:3-7 / 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 / Luke 18:31-43

Jesus tells the Twelve of His impending sufferings. "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise."

St. Luke underscores three times how this made absolutely no sense to them. He writes: "They understood none of these things. The saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said." Thus the Holy Spirit teaches us that no one can begin to grasp the glorious meaning of the Passion, Cross, and Resurrection of our Lord without His illumination, without the Spirit opening up the depths of the Cross and the triumph of the Crucified.

To get it, I think we need to go back and recall an earlier word. Remember how He had taught before: "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either."

Human reason stumbles at these words again. Even as you hear them, you raise in your minds all the "yes, well, but…" But what? If we live that way, you think, you fear, you will be taken advantage of. People will see it as an opportunity to abuse you. In fact, you may end up dead. Killed. Surely the words can't mean what they say? Surely He didn't really mean it, did He?

It is the exact same point of stumbling that the disciples tripped over when Jesus spoke about His suffering, His cross, His death AND His resurrection. You see, what Jesus was teaching them, what He tries to teach us, is that such a life, a life where honest-to-God enemies who are out to hurt you and damage you and destroy you, are loved, forgiven, blessed and prayed for - that THAT life is such a life that no death can hold it, that death has no power over it ultimately.

And so He goes to His Cross in the utter confidence that on the other side of the suffering, on the other side of betrayals, the mockery, the spit, the whip, and the nails, is a life that will never end because no pain that He suffered could turn Him from loving, no agony He went through could stop His thirsting for the salvation of the very ones at whose hands He was being tortured.

We're so cowed by suffering and death that we think: "No way." He comes along and says: "Way." I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the LIFE. You will see. I will shatter the hatred and bitterness and anger of this world, its violence and cruelty, by enduring it without ceasing to love. And that is how I will open the way into the Kingdom, for you and for all. I will send forth an embassy of forgiveness, of divine amnesty, for all, a message of my love that has overcome all sin and even the power of death.

Do you see, then, my friends, that what Jesus is reaching us, what He is giving to us and calling us to make our own when He speaks of us having "eternal life" is nothing less than love? HIS kind of love? Love that is stronger than all the hatred and darkness of this age. Love that laughs at death as powerless to harm it. Love that, in the words of the Epistle, "never ends."

If the disciples are the picture of all whose eyes are blinded by the fear of death and the weight of sin, the blind man is the picture of all whose eyes are opened by faith. Certainly our Lord shows His almighty power in opening that man's blind eyes, but look at what the man did with his newly opened eyes! "Immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God."

And there you see the goal. Jesus tells the disciples "WE are going up to Jerusalem." He wants you to come with Him into the love that will never cease, to share in His life that cannot and does not come to an end, by sharing in His love - dishing it out to others as richly as He has to you.

Saul was a bit of wolf. Remember how in his zeal for the Lord he was willing to kill, to imprison, to inflict all kinds of suffering. When the Lord Jesus flicks him off his horse and blinds him so that he can begin to see, one of the things he wants his new apostle to see is "how much he must suffer for my name." And so Saul the persecutor became Paul the Persecuted. From wolf to lamb. But it's not his sufferings that are so astonishing, it's how he gets what it means to follow the Lord up to Jerusalem, glorifying God. He writes in Romans 12: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." What good is that he is referring to? The good that is love, patient and kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not insisting on its own way or irritable or resentful, not rejoicing in wrongdoing, but in the truth, bearing all things that comes its way, believing in God's mercy through it all, and so hoping through all circumstances - the love that never ends.

Such is the love that Christ reached you upon Calvary's tree where He bore all your sin - all your raging against Him and insisting on your own loveless way - He bore it and went on loving you and so He is risen in a life that can never end, to become for you the source of eternal salvation.

When He reaches you His love in the bread that is His body, in the chalice that holds His blood, and tells you that it is for your forgiveness, for the wiping out of your sin, He comes to unite you to Himself, so that His life can be your life, so that His love can be your love. You, on your own, will never find the strength to do what Divine Love does - and with your mind it will never make sense. But when once the Holy Spirit opens blind eyes and enlightens darkened minds, you will see and rejoice that you never have to rely on your own strength. You can rely on His, and then you'll join all the blind the Lord has healed across the ages, as you dance up the road with your Jesus to whatever Calvary awaits you - glorifying God for the gift of a life that does not end, because it IS love. Amen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our changeable goodness sets before itself the unchangeable goodness of God for imitation so that the mutability and instability of our goodness may be absorbed, as it were, by that immutability. -- Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of God and the Trinity* p. 121

30 January 2008

Juicy!

Pastor Ted Mayes just let me know that he's updated his Cyril of Alexadria page with some new goodies. You can check them out here:

Cyril

A Meme

Anastasia tagged me for this one. It goes like this:

The rules are:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

The nearest book happened to be *Ragman and Other Cries of Faith* (from which I'd selected a story this a.m. to share with the chapel) by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

On page 123 we're in the middle of his wedding sermon for his brother Gregory.

And here are the next three sentences after the first five:

I smile, I say. "That's only the game-plan, but half of the truth, and none of the power. Let me finish your sentences for you."

And who to tag?

Pastor Paul McCain. Pastor Tim May. Pastor Lehmann, Dan and Maria

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Those who forsake the task of proclaiming the gospel of the forgiveness of sins in order to devote themselves to a different message are in the process of rendering themselves quite useless and irrelevant as church leaders. -- Dr. Henry Hamann, *On Being a Christian* p. 121

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thus it is blasphemy to search into divine things by our own reasonings. For what have human reasonings in common with them? - Chrysostom, Homily 5 on 1 Timothy

29 January 2008

Privilege

Pastor Lehmann had an interesting meme on the concept of privilege. You can click here to read it. It lists some 34 items to determine "privilege" and the higher your score, the more privileged was your upbringing, I suppose. I scored a meager 11 out of the 34. My wife was a bit higher at 18 out of the 34. What amazed me was in scoring my children: they scored a whopping 26 out of the 34! Ha - they'll not believe how privileged they are. :)

I noted to Pastor Lehmann that what doesn't seem conveyed is the sense of privilege from land, which is inherent in the southern mindset, I think. My family was not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we knew that we owned, in addition to our home and property in Maryland, my father's family farm in Virginia. Not a big farm - laughably small by Midwest standards - just 40 odd acres. But it always provided a sense of groundedness. When my father died in 1980, I don't think it was an accident at all that within six months my mother was living again in Virginia on that parcel of land, or that my sister and her family and my brother and his family still live there to this day.

So check it out: how privileged are you? Are you a hick like me?

Related to the Last Post

But if the life to come were to admit those who lack the faculties and senses necessary for it, it would avail nothing for their happiness, but they would be dead and miserable living in that immortal world. The reason is that the light would appear and the sun would shine with its pure rays with no eye having been formed to see it. The Spirit's fragrance would be abundantly diffused and pervading all, but one would not know it without already having the sense of smell. -- St. Nicholas Cabasilas, *The Life in Christ*

Cf. to *The Last Battle* in the scene with Lucy and the Dwarfs.

Eternal Life and Love

I have become more and more convinced that what makes eternal life, well, eternal, is that it is LOVE. "Love never ends" says St. Paul. The life that is in Christ and which He reaches us as His own IS love, and thus it is true life, life forever. Song of Solomon knows of a love that is as strong as death, but in Christ our Lord we've encountered a love that is STRONGER than death.

In his homilies on John XVII, Luther remarks on the nature of our unity in Christ:

For to everyone who believes through the word of the Apostles, the promise is given for Christ's sake and by the power of this prayer, that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that what happens to him as a member for good or ill , shall happen to the whole body for good or ill, and not only one or two saints, but all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, and afflictions and he partake of all their blessings, comfort, and joy.

How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him? [Sermons on John XVI-XX, 1528]

So far Luther. But what he describes here is exactly love. And such love as is in Christ and which Christ our Lord gives to us to be our life, our life together. The communion of saints is the communion of love!

At the Last Supper, Judas went out alone. He left the light, the life, the LOVE that is Christ and wandered into the darkness. A sign that this is the alternative: the love of Christ offered at His table where He makes His own one body and one loaf with Him and with each other, or going one's own way, doing one's own thing. The darkness.

I write about all of this tonight because of a conversation with Dr. Herl this afternoon. He was asking the question of how to address someone who argues that if I as a pastor stand in the way of using rock music or whatever, to get them into the church and so save them, then I am responsible for their loss. We talked a long while, and it was very clear to me that the matter is not one of music or style or adiaphora or any such thing. It is a matter of salvation. What do we mean by "saved"?

The person who insists on their own way and would have everyone go along with that or else they take their marbles and go home, is precisely a person who is NOT saved. We are saved not by demanding and getting our own way; He saves us literally by liberating us from that. From the way of Judas walking out in to the darkness to do his own thing; into the community where what any of us will is only and always to love the other, and the thought of insisting on one's own way is seen as something we must shrink from in horror and ask forgiveness for. Salvation that can be conceived of apart from the healing embrace of love (both Love in His embrace of us and our embrace then of each other), is NOT the salvation that Christ has prepared for His people. The eternal life He gives us IS love. And it is life and it is eternal precisely because it is nothing less than love.

Do these ramblings make any sense at all?

In case you were wondering...

...at 2 p.m. here in Hamel it was 64. By 3 p.m. it was 33. Though most of that drop occurred in 1/2 hour's time. And the temp is still dropping. Wild and wooly wind out today!

On the Oddities of Calendar

This past Sunday, our Synod commemorated St. John Chrysostom. We were not alone in that commemoration. Our sisters and brothers in the ELS commemorated him that day also, as did the Eastern Rite and Western Rite Orthodox and the Anglicans and I believe any observing the "exceptional" Latin rite in the Roman Church. However, our counterparts in the ELCA will observe his day September 13th, together with most Roman Catholics around the world. September 13th is the actual day of the great saint's death as he was traveling to Pityus on the distant shores of the Black Sea; but January 27th marks the day in 438 when his remains were returned to the city of Constantinople from which he had been exiled some 34 years before. His final words are rumored to have been: "Glory to God for all things."

The liturgy that bears his name contains some beautiful words:

"Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven and hadst endowed us with thy kingdom which is to come."

He was a great preacher of God's grace and of the free justification of the sinner by faith alone. But he wanted nothing to do with a so-called faith that didn't blossom forth into works of love and mercy - and he was especially concerned with care for the poor. In that faith that shows itself alive in love, he found great joy and comfort for the many hardships he had to endure.

God willing, I'll be speaking a bit about the great saint today on Issues, Etc.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Because the attributes of God are not a changeable accident in God, but His very essence, therefore the love and affection by which He embraces the devout must be more ardent than we can grasp with our thought. Sirach 2: "As great as God is, so great is His mercy." But He is infinite, immeasurable, invariable, eternal, therefore so also is His mercy, which "prevails over us forever." (Psalm 117:2) It does not vary or change unless we are changed, just as the sun remains unchanged, though people who turn away from its light and heat deprive themselves of the benefit of the sun. -- Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of God and On the Trinity* p. 120, 121

Patristic Quote of the Day

And consequently, when God is said to change His will, as when, e.g., He becomes angry with those to whom He was gentle, it is rather they than He who are changed, and they find Him changed in so far as their experience of suffering at His hand is new, as the sun is changed to injured eyes, and becomes as it were fierce from being mild, and hurtful from being delightful, though in itself it remains the same as it was. -- St. Augustine, City of God, Book 22, Chapter 2

27 January 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Paul does not say that we who believe in the Cross should crucify our sins in general. Our lusts should be crucified. This is why the true saints are so much different from many church members. They know that there is a Devil because they have done business with him. -- Von Schenk, *The Presence* p. 75

Patristic Quote of the Day

These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, 'You err, not knowing the Scriptures.' And He reproved the Jews, saying, 'Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me Matthew 22:29; John 5:39.' - St. Athanasius, Letter 39 (After he listed out the Canon - basically the so-called Protestant canon, the exceptions being excluding Esther, and including Baruch).

Baptized into Thy Name Most Holy

What joy today for Lucas Mitchell Day - child of Mitch and Deaconess Sarah Day - to receive the laver of regeneration, the renewing in the Holy Spirit at the start of the liturgy in our late service. I do not know how many Baptisms we have done with LSB, but we are becoming comfortable with it as a congregation. It's great to have the people and sponsors join in because the order is in the book. We make one alteration of the service, though, and have done so for many years: the rite calls for a spoken "Amen" upon the act of Baptism. In our parish we always sing a three-fold Alleluia upon the completion of Baptism, before the anointing with the chrism. We do this regardless of when a Baptism is celebrated, a way of confessing that Baptism is ALWAYS Easter. And, as one of my members told me years ago, "it just seems RIGHT." "From death to life eternal, from sin's dominion free, our Christ has brought us over, with hymns of victory." (LSB 478:1)

26 January 2008

Yet More Catechism Services

Pastor Lehmann has been busy at work, loading these up to Youtube. Here you go:

Services 5-12. And no, I didn't get a lot taller and heftier - that was former Vicar and now Pastor Brian Holle filling in for me while I was on vacation - and doing a great job, I might add!

Catechism Service 5
Catechism Service 6
Catechism Service 7
Catechism Service 8
Catechism Service 9
Catechism Service 10
Catechism Service 11
Catechism Service 12

25 January 2008

A New Blog to Check Out

LCMS and academic, Virgil Hoffman:

http://virgiliusblog.blogspot.com/

He's already linked to a rather interesting conversation on the ALPB site.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As Paul, now, pursued the matter so earnestly and conceives the idea of suppressing this new sect in other regions beyond Jerusalem, our Lord Jesus has other plans for him and says, Halt! This is a man I want! Whatever he sets his mind to do, he does with determination and resolve; and this resolve which he now manifests in an evil way, I will turn around with my Spirit and utilize for a good purpose. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *House Postils* 3:269

Patristic Quote of the Day

On the writings of St. Paul: "For his writings fortify the churches all over the world like a wall of steel." - St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, IV.7

Conversion of St. Paul (Part II)

Praise for the light from heaven
And for the voice of awe;
Praise for the glorious vision
The persecutor saw.
O Lord, for Paul's conversion,
We bless Your name today;
Come shine within our darkness,
And guide us on our way. (LSB 517:12)

O God, who through the preaching of the blessed Apostle St. Paul has caused the light of the Gospel to shine to the Gentile world, give us grace ever to joy in the saving light of Thy Gospel and to spread it to the uttermost parts of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. (TLH)

"This, then, is the account of Paul's conversion, a truly wonderful story! It demonstrates for us the wondrous working of our Lord God as he converts this foremost persecutor of Christ and his church, and out of a wolf makes a gentle lamb for our salvation's sake and consolation, so that we heathen might acquire a truly great master and teacher. Let us thank God for such grace with all our hearts!" - Blessed Martin Luther, House Postils 3:273

24 January 2008

A Study for Sexagesima (A bit late and from yesteryear)

Oremus. (The old way)
O God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that by Thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. (TLH)

Oremus. (The new way)
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (LSB)

Liturgical Context

This period of the Church Year is our “narthex,” our entrance, into the season of Lent, a time for us to pause before we begin our pilgrimage to Calvary and the empty tomb. The names of the three Sundays in this mini-season are markers telling us about how many days there are before our celebration of Easter: Septuagesima (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquagesima (50). Each of the three Sundays focuses on one of the three Sola’s of Lutheranism. The first week we will hear how we are saved by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia), the next week of Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura), and finally we consider the importance of Baptism and how we are saved by Faith Alone (Sola Fide). With our eyes focused on how God works to save us, we are prepared to enter the penitential season of Lent. -- Bishop Laache, Book of Family Prayer, p. 162.

Readings

Isaiah 55:10-13 / Hebrews 4:9-13 / Luke 8:4-15

The theme of the day is clearly the power of the Word of God! The old introit sounds the theme in the verse: “We have heard with our ears, O God: our fathers have told us what deeds You performed in their days!” Isaiah reminds us the Word that is sent forth from God’s mouth does not return empty, but accomplishes the purposes for which He sent it. Should the Word be taken here as in the sense of John 1? For surely the Eternal Word did not return empty! He accomplished the work His Father gave Him to do – John 17! On the other hand, the words of the disciples (also John 17) is precisely what God will use to bring to faith – thus the Word also in the sense of the proclaimed message gets the job done. Hebrews 4 speaks of the Word of God as living and powerful and sharp – ouch! – it cuts right through to expose the thoughts and intents of the heart. No hiding from the Lord who wields this powerful Word, but all are “naked and open” to Him (“O God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from Whom no secrets are hid…” – Collect for Purity). These readings all set us up for the Gospel for the Day, which challenges us as we prepare for Lent and Easter to ask: how are we doing at hearing the Word of the Lord?

The Gospel Reading (slightly rearranged)

Context: Luke has just had the confrontation in the house of Simon over the “sinful woman” who had been “forgiven much” and so “loved much.” He also had mentioned that Jesus was accompanied in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom not merely by the disciples, but by women he had “healed” of evil spirits, including Mary Magdalena, who provided for him. This picks up a theme in Luke about the eagerness of the women to hear the words of Jesus – as in Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Immediately following the parable of the sower is the parable of the lamp under a jar, and then the account of Jesus’ mother and brothers – where again, the Word of God is paramount: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it!” (8:21)

The TEXT:

Luke 8:4 ¶ And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable:
Luke 8:5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Luke 8:12 The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Seed and Word are joined together already in Isaiah 55. Luke alone has “of the air” attached to the birds. Literally “of the heavens.” That the Lord then identifies the birds with Satan fits with him being “the prince of the power of the air.” Eph 2. Our wrestling is against “spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph 6. Thus the battle is joined against the devil, who has but one objective: to steal the Word from those who hear it lest it bear fruit, and they believe it and be saved! Note that the fruit of the Word here is faith and salvation – thus we are dealing with the Gospel in the narrow sense. Important point for later.

Luke 8:6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.

Luke 8:13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Psalm 1 in reverse: there moisture in abundance and so deep rooted drinking of it. Here the opposite, the Word received and even rejoiced in, but it isn’t permitted to sink its roots deep within the heart. When the kairos of testing comes, these hearers fall away – that is, they let go the Word that alone could see them through the time of testing! Would it be going too far to see in the time of testing, especially the temptations of the flesh?

Luke 8:7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.

Luke 8:14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

We’ve had the devil and our sinful flesh, what else should we expect here but the world and its allurement? The hearers in this case allow the Word to be choked (literally, drowned – same fate as the swine that rush down the hill), and so to be unfruitful, not to yield salvation.

By now we are confronted by a bit of a problem, are we not? The Word, we were told, always prospers in that for which it was sent. But here the Word has failed three times and in three different instances. This shows us that we are dealing with the Gospel Word of God, which to remain Gospel must be rejectable. It has force and power indeed! But God will not allow its force or power to be other than gift. And gifts can be returned to sender, or opened and despised, or opened and rejoiced in, but then forgotten. Such is the way God chooses to bring us salvation in Jesus: a Word that shares the weakness of the cross: a rejectable, even a despisable Word! For this Word IS the Word of the Cross – of the Man who loved us unto death and through death unto resurrection!

Luke 8:8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

Catechesis at last – sorry Dale, but there it is! Those who are called “good soil” (“beautiful”) are those who hearing the Word “hold it fast:” kate÷cousin! Louw and Nida offer these comments:

kate÷cwb: to continue to believe, with the implication of acting in accordance with such belief — ‘to continue to believe and practice, to continue to follow.’ kaqw»ß pare÷dwka uJmi√n ta»ß parado/seiß kate÷cete ‘you continue to believe and practice the traditions as I passed them on to you’ 1Cor 11:2; di∆ ou∞ kai« sw¿ˆzesqe … ei˙ kate÷cete ‘by which you are saved … if you continue to believe and practice it’ 1Cor 15:2.

Thus is seems possible to translate “hold fast” as “continue to believe.” The source of their believing it is not in their having a “beautiful and good heart.” Rather, the beautiful, good heart RESULTS from their having believed (held fast to) the Word: Acts 15:9 “cleansing their hearts by faith.” So faith does the beautifying job, but that faith comes precisely from “hearing the Word” Romans 10:17.

What Jesus is after he tells us at the tail end of the parable: You got ears? Use ‘em! One is reminded of the 3rd Commandment in the Large Catechism: “It is also violated by that other crowd who listen to God’s Word as they would to any other entertainment, who only from force of habit go to hear the sermon and leave again with as little knowledge at the end of the year as at the beginning!” (I:96) What a contrast with this: “On the other hand, when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understandings, pleasure, and devotion, and it constantly creates clean hearts and minds. For the Word is not idle or dead, but effective and living.” (1:101).

Luke 8:9 ¶ And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant,
Luke 8:10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’

AC V: “For through the Word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the gospel.” The question is whether or not the phrase should be taken as a whole, or whether the second part is a clarification of the first part. In other words, is “where and when it pleases God” to be understood precisely as “in those who hear the gospel”? I think a case could be made! AC V goes on: “that is to say, in those who hear that God, not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace on account of Christ.” THIS is alone is the key that unlocks the parables, and without this key, it’s a matter of seeing and not seeing, hearing and not hearing. This is the Mystery of the Kingdom that the disciples were given that those outside did not have. The Word that is planted is the Gospel Word and its fruit is FAITH in God! The temptation is to make this parable of Jesus into a parable of the Law: the Word then being God’s instructions and the fruit being our actions of obedience to the same. Rest assured that is the native hearing it will receive. But it’s not about the Law Word; it’s about the Gospel Word. A Word of forgiveness that Satan desperately wants us not to really hear and take to heart; a Word of forgiveness that our sinful flesh can’t bring itself to trust; a Word of forgiveness that the world strives with might and main to shout down so that it will not be heard and believed, but a Word that when it is heard and held onto by faith, bears this abundant fruits: it cleanses the heart and makes it beautiful and good in the eyes of God.

Homiletical Considerations:

Who is the Jesus that is given us only in this parable? He is the Jesus who has seed to sow, a Word to plant, a message of forgiveness to be heard. He is the Jesus who suffers Himself in His Word to be rejected, for what He is giving here comes as gift alone. He is the Jesus whose Gospel, forgiving Word is assailed directly by Satan lest it be believed! He is the Jesus whose Gospel, forgiving Word is burned up by the sun when our stony hearts simply think it is too good to be true and so not to be trusted! He is the Jesus whose Gospel, forgiving Word is choked and drowned, shouted down by the distractions of worry or of pleasure in the world. He is the Jesus who is enemy of Satan, flesh, and world, and whose only weapon is the weakness of His Word of forgiveness that when it is heard, and so believed, brings forth the fruit of God’s own indestructible life inside us! What is this Word? It is the “I love you and you will be mine forever” that He shouts over you in the font! It is the “I gave myself for you” that He whispers to you with the gift of His own Body and Blood! It is the “I forgive you” that He never tires of speaking to you in the Holy Absolution. THIS is the Word that he exhorts us to use our ears to hear, for only this Word can cleanse our hearts by faith and make them “beautiful and good.” Fruit a hundred-fold indeed! You got ears? Use ‘em!

Conversion of St. Paul

Tonight we anticipated the Festival of St. Paul's conversion with the Divine Service. I stole the main thought of the sermon from St. Augustine - a beautiful thought. He points out that by his conversion, our Lord transformed Saul from wolf to lamb. And he reminds us that Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, about whom the Patriarch Jacob had prophesied:

Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning devouring the prey;
in the evening dividing the spoil. (Gen 49)

Thus Saul, in "the morning" of his life was a wolf - devouring the prey. One thinks of his role in St. Stephen's martyrdom and remembers that he was on his way to Damascus, breathing threats and murder against the Lord's disciples. But when Christ our Lord gets hold of him "in the evening" of his life - look what happens! He goes from being devouring wolf to gentle lamb. Instead of bloodying up others with their blood, he begins bloodying them up with Christ's! He spreads the spoils that our Savior obtained by His suffering, death and resurrection, preaching the Gospel and celebrating the Sacrament.

Thus Saul, the one-time wolf, would become Paul the Apostle, exhorting us to "bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse...do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good."

Even so he was once overcome by the goodness of His Lord and thus utterly transformed. May it also be for us! Thanks, St. Augustine. That was juicy.

Catechism Services

Anyone interested in our catechism services, Pastor Lehmann has been youtubing them:

Catechism Service One
Catechism Service Two
Catechism Service Three
Catechism Service Four

Festival of St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor

Today our Synod remembers, and gives thanks to God for, St. Timothy. He joined the apostolic mission in Acts 16:1-5. It is striking that it is AFTER the Jerusalem Council where the Apostle Paul fought against those who insisted that a person be circumcised to be a Christian, St. Paul has St. Timothy circumcised to further his mission among the Jews. What he would not and could not give into as a demand, he freely employed when it served the purpose of spreading the Gospel of Christ.

St. Paul refers to St. Timothy as "my beloved child" and "my true child in the faith." He praises St. Timothy's grandmother Lois and mother Eunice for passing on the faith to him, and he reminds St. Timothy that from childhood he has been familiar with "the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

The collect for this day asks God always to give His Church pastors like St. Timothy to guide and feed the flock, making those pastors diligent in preaching the Word and administering the means of grace, and giving to the people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to eternal life.

"Therefore with patriarchs and prophets, apostles and evangelists, with Your servant Timothy, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name..."

23 January 2008

Patristic Quote of the Day

Believe on Christ, for you made mortal, that you may receive Him, the immortal; and when you shall have received His immortality, you shall no longer be mortal. He lived, you were dead; He died that you should live. He has brought us the grace of God, and has taken away the wrath of God. God has conquered death, lest death should conquer man. - St. Augustine, Homily on John 3

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let us not only hear God's Word, but also seek to understand it and to let it penetrate deeply into our hearts. Let us also lay a deep foundation in true, earnest, and daily repentance so our faith does not wither and dry up in the heat of temptation. -- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 217

For Darian

My friend, Darian, has asked me to share specifics of my practice for daily prayer. It's really quite simple:

My general rule is Matins from LSB, using the Psalm chart (p. 304) and the daily lectionary's first reading (pp. 299-304) in the morning; and using the same Psalm chart and the daily lectionary's second reading for either Vespers or Evening Prayer.

For office hymns, I frequently use the ones provided in the Brotherhood Prayer Book, and also use its form of commemorations following Matins, though I also use those traditional office hymns that are included in LSB. For example, all during Advent at Matins I sang: "Savior of the Nations" and at Vespers "Creator of the Stars of Night."

At either Matins or Vespers I will include an extended time for intercession for those who have asked me to remember them (I have to keep a list of them or I would forget!), and I generally use the form provided here:

http://www.stpaullutheranchurchhamel.org/DailyIntercessions.html

I include that after the collect of the day and before either the collect for grace (Matins) or peace (Vespers).

A few other points:

* There are days that I miss one office or the other because of unpredictable changes in my schedule, and when I do, I never obsess about "catching up" - I just pick up with where I should be for that service and go on from there. If you're praying them regularly, you'll pick up with those psalms and readings next time round. Don't sweat it; the goal is to be faithful in praying, not to "keep score."

* In general, I find that I pray the office with greater attention and care if I chant the psalms, sing the hymn, and read the lesson out loud, and sing the canticles, and so on. It slows down and then I'm not flying through things without really praying and listening.

* Hand in hand with that, I seem to pray with less distractions at Church than elsewhere (that's sort of a "duh" but needs saying), and sometimes folks surprise me by joining me when I'm praying at Church - always a blessing.

* What about Compline? Sadly, I haven't built Compline into my regular daily prayer. It is a service that I love and that we pray on Wednesdays together, but that most nights I do not pray. I do, however, try to pray it daily during Lent.

* When the Treasury of Daily Prayer comes out from CPH, it will be even easier to follow the Office as in the LSB because it will have readings printed out, the entire Psalter available, and other readings from various church fathers across the centuries provided in one volume. Also some hymn verses for each day, I believe. Keep your eyes out for that gem!

22 January 2008

Sometimes

the mind isn't what it should be. I was thinking: Jan. 22. Why is that ringing a bell? It was a tolling bell, of course, only I had forgotten for a moment. Roe v. Wade. May the Lord have mercy on us! Here's a sermon I wrote I for the Synod's "Life Sunday":

Life Sermon

Okay

I admit it. I miss them. My mother and father-in-law. They've been gone TOO long. They need to come home. Seeing them several times a week is like an anchor to my life. And when they're not around I feel adrift. Come on, Jo and Dave, you KNOW you want to beat me at Liverpool again. Hurry home now, y'all hear?

Patristic Quote of the Day

For see what He says; "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 John 1:8 Consequently, if you have confessed yourself a sinner, the truth is in you: for the Truth itself is light. Your life has not yet shone in perfect brightness, because there are sins in you; but yet you have already begun to be enlightened, because there is in you the confession of sins. -- St. Augustine, Homily on 1 John 1

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let us never forget that we are saved, not merely by coming to faith, but by persevering in it. We do not reach our heavenly goal because we once were zealous to avoid the sins of the world, but because we remain on that path all our days. We are not heirs of eternal life because we were once united with Christ, but because we maintain fellowship with our Savior until our death. - C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 215

And a Gerhard Tidbit for the Same

Won't type out all the good stuff in Gerhard, but I really appreciated what he said here:

In His Creation, God the Lord not only made the earth fruitful with various and multitudinous seeds, but He also sowed a noble Seed into the heart of the first two people - it was, of course, the image of God. From this Seed within their hearts there was supposed to sprout up and grow forth the noble fruits of divine knowledge, as well as perfect love for, and heartfelt praise to, God. Indeed, the fruit of eternal life was to grow forth from this Seed in their heart.

[One notes here the perfect potential, not the perfect actualization, from which humanity fell, and thus a bit of a connection with the distinction between image and likeness that the Cappadocians used to make the same point. AT times one hears that such thoughts are foreign to Western theological endeavor, but I think this is not the case.]

Luther Tidbits for Sexagesima

From the House Postil, a Homily on Luke 8:4-15

We should very carefully study this Gospel so that each of us may examine himself to determine to which group he belongs.

We would like to think that there is no particular danger involved in heedless hearing and not retaining the Word, and that those who act thus are simple, inattentive people, with a natural trait of forgetting what they heard preached. But Christ assesses things differently here, stating it is the devil who takes the word out of their hearts.

They are of the opinion that nothing much is lost when they let the Word in one ear and out the other.

This group that hears the Word and pays no heed is the largest.

But as soon as tribulation comes along, they grow terrified and are unwilling to endure suffering. As a result, the fruit of eternal life will also remain beyond reach.

For whoever is obsessed by worldly cares, whose sole concern is how high he can climb and how rich he can become, will have a heart that is encumbered, as Christ says, and as a result the Word is choked within him, like the seed among the thrones.

However, to this, as Christ says, we must add a good and honest heart, that is a heart which, in the first place, is not listless, but really intent on the Word of God.

This heart must be purged and swept clean so that no thorns remain in it, that is, we must no longer love possessions, money, fame, and pleasures more than God's Word and the life which is to come, nor be more concerned with secular affairs than with God's Word.

We need to be on guard against the weakness and infirmities of our nature, against succumbing to false security, but petitioning God for His Holy Spirit, to remove such obstacles, to sweep out those thorns and thistles from our hearts, so that we can continue to hear and retain God's Word, and bring forth the good fruit, by faith in Christ, through which faith we not only live in obedience to God, but become God's children and heirs. The main reason this seed is sown, that is, the gospel is proclaimed in all the world, is to create and work fruit in us which endures into eternity.

Listen to God's Word while you have it; the time may come when you would like to hear it, but it may not be there for you. Therefore, give ear diligently while you have it.

A Very Worthwhile Blog Entry

by Pastor Rick Stuckwisch on practicing your music and your catechism. :)

click here

21 January 2008

Have you ever noticed

that a "holiday" actually means you have the same amount of work to do with one less day to get it done in?

Days and Hymns

Pr. Lehmann made me write this one. It's just my notion of what days you HAVE to sing certain hymns on. It's not a complete list, but it is a start, and I'd welcome other thoughts. It's not that these hymns are necessarily the best or the greatest for a given day, but that (at least at St. Paul's, Hamel) these hymns are EXPECTED on a given day, remembering we use the historic or one-year lectionary:

Easter - don't even think about skipping "Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Alleluia" or "I Know that My Redeemer Lives."

Easter II - you have to do "O Sons and Daughters" and use the Vulpius tune - the other one won't fly here.

Easter III - "The King of Love" with the tune from LW.

Ascension - "On Christ's Ascension" is a must.

Pentecost - "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" simply HAS to be the hymn of the day.

Trinity - "Glory be to God the Father" better be in there somewhere.

Trinity I - Who could think of skipping "Lord, Thee I Love"

Last Sunday after Trinity - "Wake, Awake," what else?

Advent I - "Savior of the Nations" reigns supreme

Advent IV - "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" must NOT be monkeyed with

Christmas Day - if you get in "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Joy to the World" you are playing it safe. If you can convince them that a Christmas without "Of the Father's Love" is unthinkable, blessed are you!

New Year's Eve - you MUST sing "Our God, our Help" and "Across the Sky" - and on the last one LSB really improved the words.

Epiphany - I HATE the hymns for Epiphany, but you have to sing them: "Brightest and Best" and "As With Gladness" - but I put up with them because the Hymn of the Day has to be "O Morning Star" and that more than makes up for sentimental 19th century tunes and text.

Epiphany I - "The Star Proclaims" is a must.

Transfiguration - here is one that I insist on: "O Wondrous Type" - congregation is still in the learning to love it phase. But they WILL love it; it's not really an option. Such a great text wedded to that great Agincourt tune.

Lenten Services - the great chorales "Jesus, I will Ponder Now," "A Lamb Alone" and "Ah, Dearest Jesus" are all musts somewhere along the line.

Palm Sunday - besides the opening "All Glory" you HAVE to get in there "Ride On, Ride On" with the old TLH/LSB tune.

Good Friday - "O Sacred Head" is not optional

And we're about where we started. There are others, but those are the "must sing" hymns that come to my mind for the Church year. Do you have others?

Patristic Quote of the Day

You see again how it is from faith that the boldness comes, and the gift is universal; since it is not of the Jews only that this is said, but also of the whole human race. For every one, he would say, whether Jew, or Grecian, or Scythian, or Thracian, or whatsoever else he may be, will, if he believes, enjoy the privilege of great boldness. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans (IX)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God hath given thee the treasure of faith, but thou carriest that treasure in a an earthen vessel. God hath given His holy angels to guard thee, but the devil waits not far off for thee to go astray. He hath renewed thee in the spirit of thy mind, but still thou has the oldness of the flesh to struggle with. Thou has been established in the grace of God, but art not yet confirmed in eternal glory. A heavenly mansion is prepared for thee, but first thou must struggle with a wicked world. - Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXIX

Annual Report - 2007

The year 2007 was the 151st year that our Lord Jesus gathered to Himself a community of Lutheran Christians in New Gehlenbeck, who journey in company together toward the light of home, toward the Kingdom of God, where the reunion is eternal, and the goodbyes are forever bidden good-bye.

January found us celebrating Epiphany with great restraint. Our organ was damaged and silenced and was almost a mirror image of our organist's condition - Marianne lay sick at Anderson hospital, and our prayers rose on her behalf. We asked for God's good and gracious will to be done, and we accepted that will with tears in our eyes when He called her from the struggles of this life to the glorious and unending music of the Kingdom. Her funeral was celebrated here with much music amid tears of joy and heart-ache. It was only a few days later that we were privileged to watch Giana Hanvey begin her life-long journey toward the kingdom by receiving the washing of Holy Baptism.

February was a relatively quiet month. The Church continued to prepare pilgrims for the kingdom by instruction in the faith (both youth and adults) and together solemnly began walking toward Easter on Ash Wednesday, and continued our Lenten pilgrimage throughout March.

When April arrived so did Palm Sunday - April 1st - this past year. That day we saw nine young people examined in the faith, and welcomed to the Lord's altar: Veronica Bartony, Abbey Boeker, Caleb Braasch, Taryn Coolbaugh, Andrew Hellmann, Jacob Reising, Katy Reising, Samantha Steinmann, and Erin Wagner. We rejoiced with the disciples in the Upper Room on Thursday as we celebrated our Lord's institution of His Holy Supper. We stood in silence before the Cross on Good Friday and beheld the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When the Vigil of Easter arrived, our joys overflowed as we were honored to welcome into our parish the adults instructed during that Lent: Kelly Krausz, Megan Miller, and Stephanie Renken. And then our full Easter joy sounded on April 8th - well, not quite full. Easter without an organ. A bit of a downer. And yet, the overflowing joy of the Resurrection could not be quenched. Toward the end of April, as the Church was still rejoicing in Easter, the Lord brought his servant Marvin Behrhorst home to himself. What a funeral that was - with fire fighters from hither, thither, and yon gathering to honor a man they loved and respected.

May brought a change to Hamel! I was blessed to offer the prayer at the opening of our very own DK's - we had a grocery store again. It had been many a year, and was a welcome addition to our community. May also brought at change to St. Paul's! Our organ was back. In the middle of May we celebrated our Lord's Ascension and in the week following graduations from both our TSP and Metro East. And we learned to sing again with gusto as the organ trumpeted forth with Diane Schrader at the organ bench.

June was another quiet month except for the last week, when the place was swamped with little people celebrating Vacation Bible School together. Earlier that month Cindi and I had hosted at the parsonage a gathering for all the pastors and vicars in our circuit. They were almost, but not quite, as noisy as the little ones.

With July, the Weedons had their attention drawn more and more to a certain upcoming event that suddenly was less than a month away. And how could we forget it when other marriages were staring in the face? Heather Braasch and Jon Baumberger pledged their vows on July 6th and then again at the end of the month, Jennay Welling and Matthew Haarmann were united in holy marriage before St. Paul's altar. Early in the month, we also laid to rest our sister in Christ, Doris Meyer. She'd been living down in Florida since Lester's death, but she came home to St. Paul for one last time in Church as we celebrated together God's promises over her life and laid to her rest beside her beloved husband. Later in the month we got to see yet another little pilgrim begin to walk the path of the Kingdom: Joshua Krausz, Kelly's son, was baptized in the Triune name on July 21st. And at the very tail end of the month, word came that the Army had activated Pastor GeRue and that he'd be shipping out within weeks. And within weeks, school was due to start. Time to pray - for him and for his family and for our school. God is good and answers the prayers of His people.

August was a crazy month for us - that wedding thing! A great and joyous day for the Weedon family as Lauren Weedon and Dean Herberts were married here. Our only regret was that St. Paul's and the Hamel Community Center were too small to hold ALL the Saint Paul family and the Holy Cross family. The day after the wedding, it was my distinct joy and privilege to confirm David and Joanne DeVries, my mother and father-in-law. Back to that answered prayer matter - the Lord sent us Mrs. Myra Farrell, and Pastor GeRue had his heart set a bit at rest before he left us, knowing that he was leaving the school in good hands. School began and we had a full faculty.

In September, wedding bells rang again for Maggie Meyer and Craig McCalla. And someone forgot to turn off the baptismal water that month! Goodness, a spate of Baptisms was beginning: Welcomed to the family of God and the life of pilgrimage were: Logan Arnold Miersch (September 8), Emma Nichole and Cooper Michael Wagner (September 23), and Nathan Edward Meier (September 30).

October was a quieter month, though our anxiety grew for Paul Steinmann during those days. We did have also a Baptism. On October 14th, we celebrated the new birth of Tyler Lee Perry. Pilgrimages beginning, pilgrimages ending, and always the Church continues on her way, helping new pilgrims and old to walk toward the light of the Kingdom. Also that month Tom Martin and Darlene DeCruz pledged their vows before the altar.

Two Baptisms fell in November: on the 10th Matthew Jacob Overby had his sins washed away and a couple weeks later on the 25th, so did Winifred Faith Shashack. And on November 26, the Lord called his servant Paul Steinmann out of this age to the joy and light of the Kingdom. His visitation and funeral will not soon be forgotten - the long lines, the joyful singing, the bringing to rest of a child of God, a Rock Man.

Come December, we were celebrating Advent and looking for our Lord's return and still the waters of Baptism flowed: On the 2nd, Ayla Tyler Long; on the 8th, Damon Theodore Roosevelt; and on the 22nd, Evan Leon Notter. And so we came to Christmas, celebrating the joyful birth in the flesh of Him who has made all of our life a pilgrimage and journey to His Father's home. With all the ups and all the downs, with all the struggles and all the joys, with Him we go home to the Father.

At the end of 2007, the membership of St. Paul's stood at 748 Baptized; 585 Confirmed; an average attendance of 304 per weekend, which is just over 40% of the membership in Church on average. All in all, St. Paul's baptized 12, confirmed 14, married 6 couples, and buried four of our dear members.

Respectfully submitted by Pastor William Weedon in the 16th year of his pastorate at St. Paul's

20 January 2008

On the Church

[I repost this comment from the Blog of Concord site in answer to some questions my brother-in-law inquired about upon reading AC V. I hope they will be helpful to others too.]

The current Bishop of Rome published these words in 1986. They have a familiar ring to them: "Luther did not have in mind founding a Lutheran Church. For him the focus of the concept of the Church was to be found in the congregation. For relationships that transcended the congregation, in view of the logic of developments at that time, one depended as far as organization was concerned on the political structure, in other words on the princes. Thus there arose the *Land* or provincial Churches in which the political structure took the place of the structure of its own which the Church lacked. Much has changed in this field sinc 1918, but the Church continues to exist in provincial Churches which are then united in Church federations. It is obvious that when the concept Church is applied to this kind of accidental historical formation the word takes on a different meaning from that which is envisaged in the case of the expression 'Catholic Church'. Provincial Churches are not 'Church' in the theological sense but organizational forms of Christian congregations which are empirically useful or even necessary but which can be swapped for other structures. Luther was only able to transfer Church structures to the princedoms because he did not regard the concept of the Church as established in these structures. But for Catholics, on the contrary, the Catholic Church, that is the community of the bishops among themselves and with the pope, is as such something established by the Lord which is irreplaceable and cannot be swapped for anything else." (*Church, Ecumenism, and Politics* p. 114, 115)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Body of Christ

I am always amazed at how the Holy Spirit works things. Wednesday night, Amelia asked for prayers on Sunday for the family of Pastor David Reimann, who fell asleep in the Lord after a battle with cancer. So we gathered this morning and remembered his family among many others we were praying for.

And who would show up at St. Paul's this Sunday? Pastor Robert Schaibley and his wife, Eunice (nee Reimann). Pastor Reimann was Eunice's younger brother. They were on the way back from the funeral to their home in Colorado Springs. And here they discover their sisters and brothers praying for them. And we didn't even realize we were doing so.

Such is the way of the Body of Christ. We're linked together in so many ways that we can't even begin to fathom it. Marvelous are the works of the Lord, indeed, as we bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

19 January 2008

All You One Year Folk!

A new blog resource for you:

Historic Lectionary

Check it out!

A New Adventure!

Gulp. I have started giving piano lessons tonight. To Rebekah! We worked together for the first half hour and I've been listening to her practice for the last half hour and yes, she has the ear. I'm praying she doesn't depend on that as much as I do. Great to have it as an extra, but a very poor substitute for reading the notes. Thankfully, she's done the clarinet now for a few years and so reading the notes and the timing is not too much of a challenge for her - at least in the right hand. I'm hoping she sticks with it and really takes off.

A Collage from the Week

Baptismal hymns ringing loud and joyful... Bells playing "Be Thou My Vision" with a surprise bit of Thaxted in there... Groans from the confirmands receiving their 104 questions... The shock of Alice's phone call after I got home from an elders meeting, telling me Adolph had passed on... Visiting with Mary and Adam and Mary's nephew and blessing the house, as we sang together Magnificat... Talking to Scott and Kelli about the joys of Baptism... Bekah, waiting alone in the darkened Church for us to join in Compline, as we trooped up from Bible Study... A frosty cold morning for studying what the AC teaches about Christ's return... The joy of celebrating Transfiguration on Thursday evening - and having the handful of folks there sing "Alleluia, Song of Gladness" to bid farewell to that joyous word till Easter arrives... Meeting with the joint-elders and spending much of the time distracted by looking at Harold's face and thinking how utterly like his face and expressions are to those his son used to show in Confirmation class many, many moons ago... Seeing Adolph laid out in Church for the visitation... Alice's strong and serene face, the joy of her faith transfiguring the grief and sorrow before our eyes... The emergency room at Anderson and the look on Norma's face... Udell bundled up for his helicopter journey to St. Louis... Visiting comfortably with Norma in the van as we headed toward SLU, sharing memories of this and that... The relief of seeing Udell smiling and even joking with us, and the conviction: this is going to be okay... The singing at the funeral for Adolph - from the lovely solos and choir work on "Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree" to the roaring of faith in the face of death with "For All the Saints," from the quiet lullabye "Müde Bin Ich, Geh zu Ruh" to the jubilant ringing of the bells: "The Lord's My Shepherd, leading me!"... The bitter cold in the cemetery and watching Adolph's brother, Bill, hand over the folded flag to Alice... The packed basement and the warmth, the table of steaming food, and the laughter and love of a family and friends gathered together under the hope of the resurrection... And now looking forward tonight to Septuagesima Divine Service and then two Baptisms... For the joys, for the sorrows, for the challenges, for it all: Glory to You, O Lord! Glory to You, who hates nothing You have made!

Homily for Septuagesima

[Exodus 17:1-7 / 1 Cor. 9:24-10:5 / Matthew 20:1-16]

Never was context so important as with today’s parable of the grumbling workers! What had just happened in the verses preceding our Gospel is this: a rich young man had come to Jesus and called him “Good Teacher,” asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus had asked: “Whoa! Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” He was asking: Do you realize what you’re saying when you call me good? That you are calling me God? Then Jesus had gone on to say: If you want to know what you have to DO to have eternal life, you know the answer: keep the commandments. “Oh, I’ve done that,” the rich young man answers. Then Jesus said: “If you would be perfect, go sell all you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.” Jesus and the disciples watched the rich young man’s face fall, and turn and walk slowly away; he wouldn’t give up his possessions.

Jesus, thus showed that the rich man was breaking the first commandment after all: he had another God besides the true God. He worshipped and treasured His money and possessions.

As Jesus and the disciples watch the man walk down the road, Jesus says to them: “How difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person with riches to enter the Kingdom of God.” And the disciples say in amazement: “Who then can be saved?”

And do you get the answer they expect? “Who can be saved? Why, only those who have left everything and followed Me, just like you all have.” But that is NOT the answer they get. Instead Jesus smiles and looks at them and says: “Oh, with man, this is impossible, but not with God! With God all things are possible! Yes, even the salvation of the rich!”

Watch Peter’s face cloud over as it sinks in. “Wait a minute here, Jesus! We have left everything to follow you! What shall we have? Are you telling me that you’re going to work some miracle and bring in those who have not sacrificed and worked like we have? Then why did we bother to do it?” Jesus assures them that by following Him they have not lost a thing, but rather only gained. And then he launches right away into the parable that is our Gospel.

Do you see it now? It is a parable aimed at the sin inside of the disciples of Jesus (then, and now) who are inclined to think too highly of all they do for the Lord and not highly enough of God’s grace. This parable is a missile aimed at our pride and at our grumbling. Whenever we’re tempted to think that God owes us because of our work in His kingdom; whenever we’re tempted to get angry that God would give the same eternal life to those who have not sat through hours of school board meetings and call processes, who haven’t taught Sunday school, who haven’t known the anxieties of taking care of church property, who haven’t “borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat!” Or maybe it’s even you who think like the Rich Young Man, that you’ve tried their whole life to live according to God’s commandments; you’ve denied yourself and really tried to please God, and then God goes and brings in some notorious sinner who wasted their whole life long in open rebellion and sin and had all the pleasures that this life has to offer, and God saves them in the end and gives them the same gift of eternal life that He gives to you. Ouch. Yes, this parable is a missile aimed at our grousing and grumbling and it exposes our pride. We are right there with Peter and the disciples, aren’t we? Imagining that God owes us! What delusion.

And the answer of the Owner stings: “Am I not allowed to do what I please with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” Now that last bit is a paraphrase. The Greek says: “Or is your eye evil, because I am good?” That puts us right back to the statement Jesus made to the Rich young man: “Why do you call me good? None is good except God alone.”

None is good, except this gracious Owner who likes to give! Not without reason does the Large Catechism call Him: “An overflowing fountain of goodness!” So we are all in the position of being beholden to Him, because if it depended upon our perfect keeping of the commandments, we’d all be toast! Yes, even those of us who think we’ve kept them. Because if we haven’t been serving God freely and joyfully, GLADLY doing what He commands, we’ve only been offering the begrudging service of those who complain about having “borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

But not so with our Jesus! He is the One who kept those commandments with gladness and joy in His heart. He didn’t only outwardly conform. His heart desired to do them and to please His Father. He is the only Good One! And this Good One is generous. He gives to us – the grumbling, grousing ones – He gives to us His own goodness to wear, to live in, to grow in, to cherish.

That’s the goodness He wrapped around you in the font. That’s the goodness He lays in your mouth at the Altar, where you “taste and see that the LORD is good!” That’s the goodness that sounds in your ears from the Word. The goodness of One who is generous to all who will but in humility believe in Him and set aside all claims of what God owes them, and receive instead from His hand the GIFT of eternal life.

The parable puts us all on the same level when we’re standing before God: all of us have failed to be good; all of us have been given the gift of goodness through the generosity of Him who is telling this parable: the One who was headed to Calvary to assume a debt He did not owe that His generosity might cover our sin, and reshape us in the image of His goodness. No longer proud grumblers, but a humble people who rejoice only in the mercy of God in Christ. Amen.

Funeral Homily for Adolph Sievers

And how many times did he say it, Alice, Ken, Judy, and Allen; Bill and Erna: "I'm ready to go!"? Like old Simeon Adolph knew not only that there was a Savior, but that he'd touched, seen, and known him. And so he looked at death the way one looks at a dead enemy on the battle field. Kind of gruesome to be sure, but powerless against him. Such confidence comes from a lifetime of living in the Word of God and being nourished by the sacraments of Jesus.

Born in 1919, he shared a birthday with Martin Luther. His godly parents Wilhelm und Clara knew that their little one needed the forgiveness and the life that are only in Jesus Christ, and so when we was but six days old, Pastor Hitzemann poured the water over little Adolph's head in their home and said: "Ich taufe dich im Namen des Vaters und des Sohns und des Heiligen Geistes. Amen." I wonder if he were baptized at home because the influenza was still raging? No matter, eternal life is eternal life wherever God sees fit to give it. The pastor went on to gently lay his hand on that little head that now belonged to an heir of heaven and prayed: "Der allmächtiger Gott und Vater unsers Herrn Jesu Christi, der dich wiedergeboren hat durch das Wasser und den Heiligen Geist, und hat dir alle deine Sünden vergeben, der stårke dich mit seiner Gnade zum ewigen Leben. Amen!" The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has birthed you anew through water and the Holy Spirit, and has forgiven all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to eternal life."

How God mightily answered that prayer! In 1933 he stood before his beloved little Braunschweig Church and confessed his faith in the God who had claimed him some 13 years prior. This time it was another servant of the Lord, Pastor Benning (whom some of you may yet recall), who put his hands on Adolph and gave him this Scripture to hold onto for life: "Gib mir, mein Sohn, dein Herz, und laß deinen Augen mein Wege wohl gefallen." Give my, my son, your heart, and let your eyes delight in my ways. Proverbs 23:26.

He took those words to heart. His heart would belong to the Lord and his eyes would delight in the Lord's ways all his days. Shortly thereafter Adolph received for the very first time, the Body and Blood of His Redeemer. He sang the Nunc Dimittis with a new joy then! Countless were the times in the years since that he knelt before the altar and received that gift - even unto the last time, some six days before his death. He and I were alone for that communion, but he sang along with gasping breath the words of the canticles. He was a bit confused about things when I got there - you know how it gets in ICU after a while - but he wasn't the least bit muddy on what he was receiving then. He was ready to go. "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…" we sang together.

How could we not sing? The Sievers were a musical bunch and it turned out well for Adolph that they were - for he married Mrs. Music herself - and in the long years God granted you of growing into one, the joy of music filled your home and overflowed your lives - as you, their children, well know.

People wonder what on earth we Christian can find to sing about all the time. Ask Adolph and he'd have told you. He sang because he knew that his Redeemer lives and that at the last that Redeemer would stand upon the earth and even after his skin had been destroyed, God would raise him from the dead and with his very own eyes he would see his Redeemer and how his heart burned within him at the thought. Who could keep from singing about that?

But there's more. A Christian also thrills to sing about the home that Christ has prepared for us in heaven. A home where God dwells with us and we with Him and He wipes away all the tears from our eyes with a hand scarred by the nails. The hand of Him who loved us so much as to go all the way to Calvary's cross, shouldering the entire load of all sin and shame, so that He could make "all things new" for us. He gives the water of life freely - no payment asked or allowed - and by His gift we get to be the children of God. Who can keep from singing? Not Adolph! And he knew that he'd be joining his parents, brother Otto, Sisters Laura and Elsie, not to mention the apostles, and prophets, and patriarchs and the whole family of God. Adolph knew that great as his family on earth was - both his birth family and his marriage family, the wonderful get togethers with children and grandchildren and great grandchildren - yes, even as it was this past Christmas - oh, it was all only a teasing of taste of what it would be like when that great reunion begins that will never end. "Behold, I make all things new," indeed!

It was in that newness of life in Christ that Adolph lived his life, served his country in World War II (and how he loved to talk about his time in Alaska!), married his wife, raised his children, served his community as a fireman, worked hard and loved his neighbors and enjoyed all the little blessings that God sent his way - and humbly accepted also all the hardships. The key to the contentment and the joy that ran through this man's life was simply that he had a Savior and he was always ready to depart in peace whenever that Savior called him to the Feast of Joy that never ends. Such peace can also be yours today too, even amidst the tears, in the same Lord Jesus, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be all glory and honor, world without end. Amen.
Adolph H. Sievers, age 88, of Hamel, died at 8:18 p.m., on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, at Anderson Hospital in Maryville.

He was born on Nov. 10, 1919, at his parents home in Olive Township near Livingston, the son of the late William F. and Clara Hering Sievers.

He married Alice Marie Blase on Feb. 24, 1946, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. She survives.

Along with his wife, he is survived by two sons: Rev. Kenneth W., and wife Phyllis, Sievers of St. Louis, and Alan R., and wife Luanne, Sievers of Batavia; one daughter: Judy A., and husband Rev. Mick, Roschke of Milwaukee, Wis.; a brother: William, and wife Bertha, Sievers of New Douglas; a sister: Erna Knackstedt of Worden; six grandchildren: Jason, and wife Melba, Sievers of Maryland Heights, Mo., Jan, and husband Wade, Foster of Kansas City, Mo., Melissa, and husband Jeremy, Mauthe of Aurora, Micah, and wife Gloria, Roschke of Milwaukee, Wis., Zachary Sievers and Jaime Sievers, both of Batavia; and seven great grandchildren: Austin Sievers, Megan Sievers, Shelby Sievers, Avery Foster, Jenna Mauthe, Josha Mauthe, and Analiyah Roschke.

Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a brother: Otto Sievers; and two sisters: Laura Brunnworth and Elsie Ahrens.

Mr. Sievers was a WW II Veteran and served in the Medical Corps with the 128th Station Hospital at Attu, Alaska.

He first worked for Hamel Lumber Company as a bookkeeper and truck driver; he later worked for Illinois Lumber Company and retired in 1980; and later retired from Wal-Mart in 1990.

He was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, the church's Men's Club; Worden American Legion Post #564, retired Hamel Volunteer Fire Department, member and chairman of Southern Illinois District Scholarship Committee of LCMS for 20 years, and the Lutheran Laymens League.

18 January 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

From this it is clear that by the building of his church on the rock, Christ meant nothing else but (as was said above, from the apostles Peter and Paul) the common Christian faith, that whoever believes in Christ is built upon this rock and will attain salvation, even against all the gates of hell; whoever does not believe in Christ is not built on this rock and must be damned, with all the gates of hell. -- Blessed Martin Luther (AE 41:315), 1544

Patristic Quote of the Day

What then is this truth, which the Father now reveals to Peter, which receives the praise of a blessed confession? It cannot have been that the names of 'Father' and 'Son' were novel to him; he had heard them often. Yet he speaks words which the tongue of man had never framed before:—You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. For though Christ, while dwelling in the body, had avowed Himself to be the Son of God, yet now for the first time the Apostle's faith had recognised in Him the presence of the Divine nature. Peter is praised not merely for his tribute of adoration, but for his recognition of the mysterious truth; for confessing not Christ only, but Christ the Son of God. It would clearly have sufficed for a payment of reverence, had he said, You are the Christ, and nothing more. But it would have been a hollow confession, had Peter only hailed Him as Christ, without confessing Him the Son of God. And so his words You aredeclare that what is asserted of Him is strictly and exactly true to His nature. Next, the Father's utterance, This is My Son, had revealed to Peter that he must confess You are the Son of God, for in the words This is, God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, You are, is the believer's welcome to the truth. And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, Divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. Was it only the Divine name; was it not rather the Divine nature that was revealed to Peter? If it were the name, he had heard it often from the Lord, proclaiming Himself the Son of God. What honour, then, did he deserve for announcing the name? No; it was not the name; it was the nature, for the name had been repeatedly proclaimed. This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. - St. Hilary, The Trinity VI:36-38

Confession of St. Peter

Today our Synod celebrates the Confession of St. Peter. You can read the account in Matthew 16:13-20. It is a great day to remember these words from the Tractatus:

"As for the declaration 'on this rock I will build My church' (Matthew 16:18), certainly the Church has not been built upon the authority of a man. Rather, it has been built upon the ministry of the confession Peter made, in which he proclaims Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). Therefore, Christ addresses Peter as a minister: 'On this rock,' that is, this ministry." (Par. 25)

Today we sing:

Praise for Your great apostle,
So eager and so bold,
Thrice falling, yet repentant,
Thrice charged to feed Your fold.
Lord, make Your pastors faithful
To guard Your flock from harm,
And hold them when they waver
With Your almighty arm. (LSB 517:10)

In the collect for this day we especially ask: "strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else." "This truth" being that our Lord is indeed the Christ, the promised Messiah.

17 January 2008

Ramblings on Liturgical Worship

What is liturgical worship? I think we have to start with the recognition that God is not safe. As Lewis so famously put it "Aslan is not a tame lion." We die apart from Him, for He alone is life, but He's like electricity. He can fry us when handled carelessly. And there is nothing more careless than ignoring HIS instructions and dreaming up some notions of our own and thinking they should serve just fine. Try that out on Uzzah, or Nadab and Abihu. Israel dreamed up her golden calf and thought it should work as well as any other way. God zaps the lot. He's not tame.

But HE is life and He is loving, and so HE provides the way for us to approach Him and live in His presence and to find that presence to be the very gift of everlasting life. And the way He provides is always through the Lamb. Find the Lamb on the altar and you've found access, a way to live in the presence of Him who is all-holy in such a way that His holiness wipes out your sin without wiping you out with it. Find the Lamb. That's the key - all the way from Eden, where the garments that Adam and Eve made up for themselves wouldn't do, and GOD clothed them with skins; to Abel's offering that was accepted; to the Passover and the Scapegoat, and the daily Lambs at the temple; everywhere you look through the OT it was all about the Lamb.

So when John points to Him and says: "Looky there! The Lamb of God!" He was saying: "There's the access to the Holy One who will be your life; there the untamable God, the Live Wire, comes down to you to give you Himself in such a way that you won't be destroyed, but filled with Light!

Find the altar where the Lamb is, where His blood is poured out yet (into mouths) and you've found liturgical worship. I'd posit that liturgical worship from start to finish is all about the access to God provided via the Lamb. It's not our dreamed up way of offering stuff to God; it's God's own appointed way of giving life, forgiveness, HIMSELF to us. "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it" He declares (Psalm 81). Or said another way: "Take and eat, this is my Body."

Oh, and let me add that it is my belief that nonliturgical worship is worship where the Lamb on the altar in His completed sacrifice of love is not the center - but something else is. And it doesn't much matter WHAT that other thing is, if it's not the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and dishes out His peace with His blood, you've got something other than liturgical worship happening.

A Salt Addict

I confess: the hardest part of low-carbing for me is the salt. Cindi's a sugar addict; but I love the salt. As in chips. I love chips. And speaking of chips, the laddie must be a chip off the old block. Because when I peeked in his room today, this is what I found:




Yes, you are seeing correctly. He has not one, not two, not three, but FOUR open bags of chips gracing the room (you know, the BEDROOM about which we always said: "No food in the bedrooms!"). And the little pig even has the gall to have my favorites of all time in there: Jalapeño Crunchers. NOT FAIR. Oh, and did you happen to count how many glasses, gone AWOL from our kitchen, are gracing his desk???

P.S. And he wonders why Lucy is always trying to sneak into his room!

Patristic Quote of the Day

During Lent we ought to add to our customary servitude: private prayer or abstinence from food and drink. Everyone, according to his own will, should offer up to God, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, more than is normal. -- Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 49

[Note: though each monk was to determine for himself how he would observe the fast, he was to report this to the Abbot for his blessing and consent]

A Different Sort of Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[Note: "old" here is a relative term, but I've used it for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, so in that spirit I offer today's quote]

First, some context. John Neunaber was musician at a neighboring church, and we used to work out at the Y at the same time. We'd often strike up a conversation. One day, the subject fell to the use of so-called contemporary Christian music that has infiltrated many a Lutheran parish, including his. John shook his head, looked me in the eye, and asked in all seriousness:

"What will they sing when they're dying?"

I know what John sang. He sang the hymns of the church together with the canticles of the liturgy. He entered glory praying: "Create in me a clean heart...Lord, have mercy...Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace...O Christ, thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world...Lord, let at last thine angels come...The King of Love my shepherd is..."

What will you be singing when you die? What a great thought to think about!

16 January 2008

Builder: Friend or Foe?

There's been a lot of buzz in some circles about the potential EVIL of the Lutheran Service Builder, letting pastors play fast and loose with the ordo of the Divine Service and producing all kinds of oddities. I think, though, that whatever is good can be corrupted and that's just a case in point. The Builder is, in my opinion, good and on the way to becoming "tov maod" indeed!

Four ways that we've put it to use:

1. Compline

Compline doesn't vary, but sadly the rite as printed in the hymnal didn't include the appointed three psalms or the regular hymn. So there was more than a bit of page calling and paging around when we used to use the hymnal itself. A couple weeks back I remembered that I could do this in the Builder, and within minutes we had a fabulous and easy to follow ordo, ready to be printed up, collated and stapled. We've been using the printed ordos ever since and they make is so easy just to pray, to sing, to listen, and not to think: "where are we supposed to be now?"

2. Catechism Services

On Sunday evenings, we hold a Catechism Service using the Service of Prayer and Preaching. Here I've got a mix of adults new to the Lutheran faith and younger children. Having the whole thing printed out in an ordo that they can all follow along with, pray and sing from, and take home to work on memory - well, it was a God-send indeed. It takes mere minutes each week to ready the service.

3. Evening Prayer

We use this service in Advent and Lent during the midweeks. Again, this is a service where the flow of the liturgy is interrupted if we have to call out Psalms, or wait for folks to find them. It just makes sense to print it out and give the people the service entire in their hand, so that they can simply worship without worrying about where to turn next. Builder makes it a cinch not only to give them the words, but even the service music.

4. Divine Service Five

Whenever we use the chorale service, Divine Service Five, (pretty rarely for our parish), it again BEGS for printing out the music of the chorales instead of waiting for the people to catch up with paging through the book. Since the chorales used are only referenced in the liturgy itself in LSB, the Builder seems almost a necessity if the flow of the service is not to be disrupted.

Does this mean we print out every service? No. Divine Service, Setting Three, is our parish's chief service and it will always be such, I imagine. That liturgy the people know and hardly use the book for anyway. But we don't print it out. It's referenced in the bulletin, but no more than that. I was VERY hesitant to move to the Builder and thought it was really just a money-making gambit from CPH. More fool I! It has proven a great tool in our parish, and I'd recommend it to anyone. Is it perfect? No. Does it have a way to go? Yes. But Ryan Markel and team are constantly working to improve it. I hate it when Paul McCain is right, but he told me a long time ago: "get it, you won't be sorry." So I'm admitting it: he was right. I haven't been sorry at all.

A Milestone

Visitors crossed the 150,000 threshold today. I only started a site meter a year ago in August, and have no idea how many visitors came before that. It just so happens that #150,000 today was from Wichita, using Coxnet, and a mac user (yes!). I don't know for certain, but suspect that might be my friend, Trent.

In any case, just wanted to thank ALL the folks who drop in from time to time, either to read or to comment. I've enjoyed getting to know many of you, and appreciate very much what I've learned and continue to learn from and with you.

What a glorious thing is the family of God - indeed, "you give marvelous comrades to me."

Fastenzeit kommt!

We call it Lent in English. Good to remember, though, what it is called in our old service books (and still in the service books of Germany today): Fastenzeit, that is, Fasting Time.

And fasting is not first and foremost about avoiding mechanically a certain kind of food while stuffing yourself with other tasty treats. Recall the words of Martin Chemnitz about such fasting:

"A well-filled or richly treated belly, whether it is done with fish or vegetables, certainly is not fasting." (Examen IV:275)

He reminds us that fasting can be like this:

"When we do not abstain altogether from lunch or from dinner, but remove something when we lunch or dine, either in the quantity or the quality of the food, or do not take as much or also as rich as could be done even while maintaining temperance." (IV:259)

There is also, of course, abstaining totally from lunch or dinner:

"It is that that is most properly called fasting." (IV:260)

Anyway you slice it, real fast simply involves hunger. It involves not stuffing one's self and so letting the hunger of the body discipline us. For we are sad creatures who are used to filling our bellies with the first grumble. Or even worse, I think of mother's motto (truly the very opposite of fasting!): "You don't eat because you're hungry; you eat to keep from getting hungry!" She meant it humorously (I think!), but of course that's the pathway to gluttony and indulgence. Rather, the fast, the hunger, helps us train the body and keep it under subjection. For there is a hunger greater than the hunger of the body, and that is the thirst and hunger of the soul for God. And while food and drink can mask that inner hunger and help you to ignore it, there is nothing like the fast itself, going hungry, to unmask the inner hunger and remind us that in the end there is nothing that satisfies the ache of the human being, but God alone. "One thing have I desire of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple." Psalm 27

One way that the Church has guided her children in fasting is to suggest that the days of Lent, during Fastenzeit, food be significantly pared down. Nothing for breakfast, a regular but plain meal for lunch, and a very light meal at supper. Each Lent I am always amazed at how little it takes to keep the body going, how it is possible by God's grace to go hungry and NOT obey the stomach's dictates and orders, and how freeing it is to have more time for prayer and Scripture and acts of love. This is possible when food is intentionally and joyfully set "on the back burner" of one's life.

Fastenzeit kommt! Now is the time to begin planning on how you will observe it yourself and to discuss the implications of observing it for your home life.