29 February 2008

Patristic Quote of the Day

For every word of divinely inspired Scripture looks unto Him, and refers to Him. And whether it be Moses who speaks, he, as has been shown, was typifying Christ; or be it the holy prophets that thou namest, they too proclaimed to us in manifold ways the mystery of Christ, preaching beforehand the salvation that is by Him.-- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 86 on Luke

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[For Jay!]

The Lutheran Church has never despised or even disregarded the traditions that have come down from the ancient fathers of the Church. What has been preserved by the teachings and doings of Christian men from the apostles'
time down to the present day is precious. The light which it gives in regard to the faith and the labors of love which the Holy Spirit wrought in other days, the lives which were rendered luminous by rays from heaven, as others were rendered dark by obscuring blackness from hell, in its rage against the Anointed of the Lord, the Church is not willing to forget. She desires to learn the lessons of history and rejoices in her fellowship with men of God who lived and suffered in the same glorious cause in which she is still engaged with the same assurance of faith which made believers strong in other days. But she knows that some professed to be Christians who were not such, and that Christians could err in the past as in the present, and therefore she applies to the Christians of other times the same unerring rule that she applies now, and holds fast as God's truth only what is declared in God's Word. (Matthias Loy, The Augsburg Confession [Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1908], p. 179)

28 February 2008

Bet you'd never guess...

...that we're getting snow AGAIN.

Glossa Ordinaria

Does anyone know if there is a critical edition of the Glossa Ordinaria that has chased down the origins of the citations therein? I ask because a friend reminded me the other day of a nagging problem I've been wanting to solve, and that was actually WHO originated this citation which the GO assigned to St. John Chrysostom, but which is not found in any modern collection of his work:

When you shall see the wicked heresy, which is the army of the Antichrist, standing in the holy places of the church, then let those who are in Judea head for the mountains, that is, those who are Christians should head for the Scriptures. For the true Judea is Christendom, and the mountains are the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles, as it is written, 'Her foundations are in the holy mountains.' But why should all Christians at this time head for the Scriptures? Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures. Earlier we showed in many ways which is the church of Christ, and which heathenism. But now there is for those who want to know which is the true church of Christ no way to know it except only through the Scriptures. Why? Because heresy has everything just like the church. How, then, will any who wants to know which is the true church of CHrist know it in the midst of this great confusion resulting from this similarity, except only through the Scriptures?

So anyone know if the Glossa exists in critical edition?

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God the Lord created the first man so that he should be a temple and residence of the Holy Trinity. However, since he turned himself away from God, through this he became a dwelling of the Devil - even as Christ says of the evil spirits in Luke 11, that they reside in brutal, malicious criminals. For this misery to be averted and for the great grace to be achieved for us, so that God the Lord might once again set up residence within our hearts, Christ here allows Himself to be accused as a destroyer of the temple in Jerusalem, in which God the Lord dwelt among the cherubim and in which He had His fire and flock. -- Johann Gerhard, *Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ* p. 132

Patristic Quote of the Day

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world." 1 Corinthians 2:6 And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself. -- St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 2, Par. 1

27 February 2008

Passion History

This is the second year we've read the Passion history from the Altar Book as our lesson for our Lenten Evening Prayer. Each time I think I like it better - this gathering together of all the accounts and letting none of their details escape our attention. We cannot immerse ourselves in this story enough.

Pentecost 2007 Divine Service from St. Paul's

Well, I started on this project a couple days ago and it's finally done. I wanted to prove to myself that I am not a ninny and that I CAN upload a video to the net. Well, I was a ninny and required help from Pastor Lehmann and made numerous false starts. But the end result is here on Google videos:

Pentecost Divine Service

Another interesting passage

from our beloved St. John Chrysostom, from his homily on Hebrews 9:15ff:

So then also here: The Son became Mediator between the Father and us. The Father willed not to leave us this inheritance, but was angry against us, and was displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He accordingly became Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him.

And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him] and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament.

Homily for Oculi Midweek

We have seen our Lamb, our Lord Jesus, willingly and intentionally giving Himself up for the life of the world. We have seen from His struggle in the Garden, His wrestling in prayer, what a fearful thing the sin is that we choose so easily, how terrifying the cup He had to drink, and yet how peace came to Him as He prayed: “not my will, but Yours be done.” Tonight He stands as the Lamb before the High Priest, whose job it is to offer the sacrifice, to present the atonement. The Lamb must be pure and without blemish - and we know that He is.

Alone of the children of Adam and Eve, this Man fulfilled all that the Law ever required. His life was love - pure, unadulterated, and unbroken. Here for the first time stood a human being as God had intended all human beings to be. Here is the Image of the Father in human flesh and blood. Here is love made flesh, love preparing to be offered, love willing to spill His own blood to cover the sins of the world.

And so it was an utterly fruitless exercise that the chief priests and the whole counsel engaged in - seeking evidence against Him that would enable them to kill Him. For there was none. And when all else has failed, the High Priest puts to Him the question that He cannot deny and will not turn from: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

If He speaks the truth now, He will sign His death warrant. And no quick and easy death, such as came to the many lambs who were types, picture prophesies of Him. But He is not afraid to speak the truth. He never was. Love Incarnate has no falsehood in Him. And so He speaks. “I am. You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” YOU will see. He says that to the High Priest, for so he will see - and every one of us too. No one will escape seeing either. For all will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ upon death; and all will see the return of the Son of Man when He raises the dead and gives eternal life to all believers.

But to the High Priest our Lord has given sufficient grounds now for the death penalty. “Blasphemy!” they cry. He has made Himself the equal of God and they don’t misunderstand His claim at all. Instead, the torture begins. The spitting in His sacred face. The blindfold and game of blind man’s bluff as they rain down their blows on His head and His body, jeering at Him: “Who struck you, O Christ! Tell us!” And the guards, who earlier had fallen down before Him when He pronounced the divine name: “I am” in the Garden - these guards now begin to beat Him as they lead Him away.

The Lamb, the Love of God incarnate, speaks truth and for such truth is tortured and condemned to death. But the Lamb of God does this with courage and confidence, because He knows that what He says IS truth, and that no suffering humanity inflicts upon Him will be able to change His love for the race of men into bitterness; and no death they deal out to Him will be able to end His life. For in Him is a love that is stronger than all hatred; and in Him is a love that is stronger than death itself.

But this confidence and faith, it is not yet in Peter. The Lord had told him what would happen, how his fear would win the day, how it would master him and drive him to deny not once, not even twice, but three times that he even knew Him whom He called “Lord.” Yet the Lord had comforted that He would pray for him that his faith would not finally fail, and that when he turned he was to strengthen his brothers.

Three times he had the chance to confess the truth, as His Lord had confessed the truth, but each time he fell flat on his face - they were beating his Lord in there and he was afraid. More afraid of suffering, more afraid of death, than he was convinced that in his Lord, in the Lamb, there was a life that no suffering or death COULD destroy. And so he caved.

And it no sooner happen, no sooner were the words out of his mouth, than the look came from the Lord. It was a tender look, not a condemning “I told you so” look. It was a look of love, of mercy, of compassion that brought him to repentance that moment. Peter dashed from the horrible scene of torment and went out to his own place of inner torment and wept bitterly.

With Judas there was also bitter weeping, but not repentance. Instead despair. He imagined that he had done something so evil, so awful, that it could never be forgiven. How little Judas understood of the Man he betrayed - as though in that divine heart there could ever be anything other than love for him! But Satan convinced Judas it wasn’t so - and he’s not the first or the last to believe that lie above all lies. And he ended his own life in that despair.

The chief priests are fastidious about the money that had betrayed the Lord, but they seem to recognize no culpability in themselves for either Judas’ suffering or his death - as they said “what is that to us?” There you see sin in action: it causes untold damage to others and then pretends that the damage is all their fault! But the Lamb who is headed now to Pilate - He knows differently. He is truth and sees the truth - the damage we do to ourselves when we live in fear like Peter; the damage we do to ourselves when we despair of His forgivenss and mercy and love and imagine that our sin is just too great, the damage we do to each other when we pretend that our leading them to sin is no big deal and not something we ourselves must answer for.

The Lamb sees and knows all this - just as He knows your life through and through. He knows you in all your betrayals, denials, and abdications of responsibility. And here is the miracle beyond all miracles: He goes on loving. Loving you. And for love of you, He will let nothing deter Him from His cross, where His blood will blot out the accusation of the law that stands against you, where His body will be yielded to the Father, a sweet smelling savor, to destroy the power of death forever. Your Lamb goes forth to do this for you - that you too may come to live by faith in Him, by faith that the pardon that God reaches you in Him is mightier than a world’s sin, let alone your own, and that the life that God reaches you in Him not only can, but has, will, and must overcome death itself!

Your Lamb. He tells you the truth. And He shows you the truth. And about that truth He will speak to Pilate. But that is for next week. To Him, our Lamb, our Jesus, be all the glory, honor, and power, forever and ever! Amen.

Thoughts on 1 Timothy 3:14

There is a tendency among Roman and Orthodox apologists to use this passage as a way of showing that anything that the Church has accepted and approved over time must be God's truth and acceptable, because she cannot finally err.

What I'm curious about is how the passage was used in the Fathers? Does anyone know of a father who treated the passage in a similar way? The reason I ask is because I only can think of two places where it is treated, and each of them deal with it quite differently than what one hears today.

St. Irenaeus speaks like this: "We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith." (Ad Haer Book 3, Chapter 1)

Here a great father of the Church describes the writings of the holy apostles as the "ground and pillar of our faith."

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

Here again, the passage is understood in such a way that the terms are even inverted: the truth is the pillar and ground of the Church - that truth being the faith and the preaching of the Word.

So both of these fathers explicitly link the Word to the "ground and pillar of faith" that is the Church.

Luther had occasion to speak of this in Wider Hanswurst, and there he makes this point: "Therefore, the holy church cannot and may not lie or suffer false doctrine, but must teach nothing except what is holy and true, that is, God's Word alone; and where it teaches a lie it is idolatrous and the whore-church of the devil." AE 41:214

In other words, it was because she clung to Him who alone is truth, allowed His Word to judge everything she taught and submitted herself to Him, Truth Incarnate, the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. It is not that her saying so makes things so; it is that she speaks the words of God faithfully.

But to return to the prior question: does anyone know of a place in the fathers where 1 Timothy 3:14 is treated of that skates close to the way it is used today by the Roman and Eastern Apologists?

One of the Greatest Meditations on the Passion

1. O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what great crime hast Thou to make confession, --
What dark transgression?

2. They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite, they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee;
They give Thee gall to drink, they still decry Thee;
They crucify Thee.

3. Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;
Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,
This I do merit.

4. What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
Who would not know Him.

5. The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted, --
God is committed.

6. There was no spot in me by sin untainted;
Sick with sin's poison, all my heart had fainted;
My heavy guilt to hell had well-nigh brought me,
Such woe it wrought me.

7. O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded,
That brought Thee here, by foes and thieves surrounded!
All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying
While Thou wert dying.

8. O mighty King, no time can dim Thy glory!
How shall I spread abroad Thy wondrous story?
How shall I find some worthy gifts to proffer?
What dare I offer?

9. For vainly doth our human wisdom ponder, --
Thy woes, Thy mercy, still transcend our wonder.
Oh, how should I do aught that could delight Thee!
Can I requite Thee?

10. Yet unrequited, Lord, I would not leave Thee;
I will renounce whate'er doth vex or grieve Thee
And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly
All fires unholy.

11. But since my strength will nevermore suffice me
To crucify desires that still entice me,
To all good deeds, oh, let Thy Spirit win me
And reign within me!

12. I'll think upon Thy mercy without ceasing,
That earth's vain joys to me no more be pleasing;
To do Thy will shall be my sole endeavor
Henceforth forever.

13. Whate'er of earthly good this life may grant me,
I'll risk for Thee; no shame, no cross, shall daunt me;
I shall not fear what man can do to harm me
Nor death alarm me.

14. But worthless is my sacrifice, I own it;
Yet, Lord, for love's sake Thou wilt not disown it;
Thou wilt accept my gift in Thy great meekness
Nor shame my weakness.

15. And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven
To me the crown of joy at last is given,
Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,
I, too, shall praise Thee.

LSB 439 - Johann Heermann

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God has no stillborn children. If someone is a true child of God, he is not only obligated to walk in holy love, he also has the desire and power and grace to do it. - C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 289

Patristic Quote of the Day

For before the coming of the Savior we all were in sin: there was no one who acknowledged Him Who by nature and verily is God. There was no one doing good, no not one; but they all had turned aside together and become reprobate. But because the Only-begotten submitted Himself to emptiness, and became flesh, and was made man, sinners have perished and exist no longer. For the dwellers on earth have been justified by faith, have washed away the pollution of sin by Holy Baptism, have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have sprung out of the hand of the enemy; and having bidden, as it were, the hosts of devils to depart, dwell under the yoke of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 40 on Luke 7

26 February 2008

From the Prayer of the Church

This Lent our form of intercession has been General Prayer 2 (LSB Altar Book). I've been particularly struck by the final petition:

As we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, help us by true faith and godly life to prepare for the world to come, doing the work You have given us to do while it is day before the night comes when no one can work. And when our last comes, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

It's that first sentence that is so great! By a true faith and a godly life what are we doing? We're preparing for the world to come. We're practicing for that life where LOVE will be all and the praise will not end and the joys will never cease, but only grow on and on. Faith and godly life prepare us for that world, where the joys we glimpse even now through our feeble and constantly failing efforts, will be steady and sure and ever increasing.

Practicing for the future. What a grand and holy prospect!


Enough already!!! I'll just have to watch a slide-show of our trip to Cancun last May and THINK myself back into being warm and walking in the sun.

Revealed and Given

From today's reading from the Larger Catechism:

"Let us not doubt that Baptism is divine. It is not made up or invented by people. For as surely as I can say, 'No one has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer out of his head; they are revealed and given by God Himself.' So I can boast that Baptism is no human plaything, but it is instituted by God Himself." (IV:6)

What is so fascinating there is not the point he's making about Baptism, but the incidental comment on the Creed. Not spun from someone's head but "revealed and given by God Himself." What a beautiful confession that the Rule of Faith is not of human origin, but of divine, and that the Holy Spirit has given this gift to the Church and preserved it in her midst: "even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth."

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God does not just have and practice love; He is love itself. His whole being is love. He is a fire of love that is red-hot and blazing, both in heaven and on earth. He is a sea of love that is constantly flowing over everything. He has shown Himself, in particular, as an inexpressibly loving God of people. He loved us even before we existed. He loved us from eternity, and had already decided in eternity to pour all His sweet love over us. He created us, and when we fell into sin and became His enemies, He did not take away His love. Instead, He gave us His only-begotten Son on our behalf. -- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 287,288

Patristic Quote of the Day

What is the cause of this festival? It is that the Savior hath newly constructed for us a way of salvation, untrodden by them of old time. For the law, which the all-wise Moses ordained, was for the reproof of sin, and the condemnation of offences; but it justified absolutely no one. For the very wise Paul writes, Whosoever rejected the law of Moses, was put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses. But our Lord Jesus Christ, having removed the curse of the law, and proved the commandment which condemns to be powerless and inoperative, became our merciful High Priest, according to the words of the blessed Paul. For He justifies the wicked by faith, and sets free those held captive by their sins. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 40 on Luke

25 February 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ compels no one by an irresistible grace, and He doesn't retrieve anyone from Satan's kingdom by outward power. Rather, He says, "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!" This shows that the means He uses to rescue souls out of Satan's kingdom is the Word of God, for alone by this is the finger of God, the Holy Ghost, inseparably bound. A person must, then, hear and keep the Word of God. If a person does this, the Holy Ghost omnipotently pulls him with divine power out of the devil's cords. The Holy Ghost first convinces the person that until then he has stood under the authority of darkness. He then works in him a holy horror over it and a deep longing to be rescued from it. He allures him to faith in Jesus Christ, brings him to the forgiveness of sins, and finally fills him with power to hate all of the devil's works, even the subtlest of sins. This allows him to break off obedience to the devil completely and eternally, to fight victoriously against him, and to walk with a new heart in a new life.-- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* pp. 281,282

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the law was instituted because of transgressions, as Scripture declares, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God, because by the works of the law no flesh is justified. For there was no one so far advanced in virtue, spiritual virtue, I mean, as to be able to fulfill all that had been commanded, and that blamelessly. But the grace that is by Christ justifieth, because, doing away with the condemnation of the law, it frees us by means of faith. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 40 on St. Luke

24 February 2008

Homily for Oculi

Today I’d like to direct your attention to just a portion of the Gospel reading, these words: “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest; and finding none, it says: I will return to my house from which I came. And when it comes it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)

In these words the Lord Jesus issues to us a most solemn warning, and it is a warning that we Lutherans need to take to heart because of the way we misuse the comforting doctrine of God’s Word about Baptism.

We are correct to teach that in Baptism God saves us. His Word says so: “Baptism now savse us.” 1 Peter 3:21 We are correct to teach that in Baptism God gives us a new birth. His Word says so: “He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:6 We are correct to teach that in Baptism God saves also the little children. His Word says so: “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children.” Acts 2:38,39

Where we get into trouble, though, is where Baptism does not lead us to daily contrition and repentance, but into what the theologians call “carnal security.” That’s the idea that Baptism is a “get out of hell free” card and so we can live our lives however we like and then on the great day of judgment announce: “But I am baptized” and God will automatically order the gates of heaven to swing wide. If we think like that, we are only deceiving ourselves.

What Baptism introduces us into is a life of penitence, a life of sorrow over sin, fighting against it, and by the power of the Holy Spirit conquering it. Not to fight against the sin in our lives, to make peace with it, to even coddle and nurture it, is to resist our Baptism, not to put it to use.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus warned that once a devil is driven out of a person, the devil is in torments and restless. He wanders at a loss, until he thinks: “Maybe I can go back home now. Maybe there’s room inside that person’s heart for me again.” And if the devil comes back and finds the heart swept and put in order, but unoccupied by the Lord, then the devil shouts a big “yippee” and runs and grabs a pile of his friends and they move right back in again, leaving the person worse off than they were before.

Now Baptism clearly shows Satan the door. Not by accident are the words of the Baptismal order: “Do you renounce the devil, and all his works, and all his ways!” Baptism truly does drive the devil out of human hearts and lives. But, and this is a HUGE but, for Satan to be kept out, Baptism itself must be put to use, else just as Jesus said, the evil spirit is tossed out the front only to enter by the back, and with a bunch of his buddies.

Do you see now why the Church asks the parents and sponsors at every Baptism of a child that they are to "pray for them, support them in their ongoing instruction and nurture in the Christian faith, and encourage them toward the faithful reception of the Lord's Supper”? That admonition is not a sweet nothing! It is the Church’s earnest charge to parents and sponsors that for Satan to be kept at bay in this little one’s life, they must teach them how to USE their baptism against him.

As for the little children, so for all adults. When someone is baptized or received into the Church by confirmation, we always lay the same solemn charge on them: Will you make faithful use of the means of grace? That’s not to fulfill some sort of law, but the Church’s way of confessing that only by the faithful, continual use of these means can Satan’s power be broken over human lives.

And do you know why they are powerful to do this? Because in each of the means of grace, in Baptism, in the preaching of the Word, in the holy Absolution and in the Supper, the Gospel – which is the power of God for salvation – is given. In each one of them sinners are given a Savior who has taken from off their shoulders the horrible burden of all their sins, and carried it Himself. In each of them sinners are given the gifts which that Savior won when He shed His blood on behalf of the human race: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. In each of them, Jesus doesn’t just tell us that such forgiveness, life, and salvation exist; He actually impart them to us. And Satan flees before such gifts!

Dr. Luther once made the most awesome observation: On Calvary, salvation was won, but it is not there bestowed; in the Supper it is bestowed, but it is not there won. If you want your sins forgiven, then, you don’t run to Calvary. You can’t get there anyway. It’s long ago and far away, and if you were to go there, your Lord is long since gone from it. But if you want your sins forgiven, you go to the Supper. There your Lord will give you what was offered on Calvary: the Body that carried your sins and the judgment that was against you; the Blood that spilled for your pardon and acquittal. It’s there. And it’s all yours. And He comes with them.

So the point of the Lord’s words about the demons trying to come home are words we Lutheran Christians need to take to heart, lest our rejoicing in Baptism be perverted to a rejoicing in the delusion that we are free to sin without consequence and thus our Baptism become a judgment upon us instead of salvation. Our Jesus would not only drive the devil out through Baptism, but in His Word and Absolution and the Supper would keep him out by Jesus Himself taking up residence within us, constantly forgiving us our sins, and freeing us from their dominion. To whom be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Ick. Forget that post on the snow melting - we got some more last night and throughout the morning. The winter of our discontent. I am SOOOOOOO ready for Spring (but I'll bet you folks up north are even more ready than we are!).

23 February 2008

One of the nicest things about LSB

is having the Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Funeral and Individual Confession and Absolution services readily available in the Hymnal. I've appreciated them all so very much since we've begun using the book. Truly, conducting the occasional services has never been so easy for the pastor or so blessed by congregational participation!

Pastor McCain

has provided this meditative look at the Cranach Weimar altar piece on his blog:

See Salvation

I confess that my love is the musical arts, not the visual. But every once in a while, a picture sings. This one does.

On Canon

Meaning, the rule of faith that encompasses the Sacred Scriptures. I was thinking the other day about how well Piepkorn nailed this:

"The term "Canonical" in Christian tradition is always relative; it refers to the actual canon in use in a given diocese or province at a given time. The content of the canons varies from time to time and from place to place. The canon was never fixed for the whole Church by an ecumenical Council." (The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, p. 4)

At times, you will hear criticism of Lutherans appealing to the Fathers as ignoring the context in which those Fathers operated, including their "canon." But that is a particularly interesting point.

The canon that the Cappadocian fathers operated with (assuming, as I am, that St. Gregory of Nazianzus represented the same approach as Sts. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa) was closer to the typical "Protestant" canon of today than to the typical Roman or Orthodox canon. He enumerated basically the same books that canon, leaving out Esther and Revelation. Regarding anything other than those books, he says: "If there's anything else besides these, it is not among the genuine." (On God and Man, p. 86)

A few years before the time of their ministry, a canon is provided for us by St. Athanasius the Great in his festal letter #39. He lists basically the OT canon of Protestants today, with the exception of including Baruch among the genuine books. For the NT he lists the common canon. Of these books he says: "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.'"

He goes on to speak of more books, though, which he describes as follows: "there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read"

Does that sound familiar? Luther introduces the Apocryphal books with these words: "Apocrphya: that is, books, which though we do not hold to be like Sacred Scripture, yet are useful and good to read."

Meanwhile, in the West, Canon 24 of the Council of Carthage (with which St. Augustine's writings also concur), lists the broader canon including the so-called Deuterocanonical books as canonical books to be read in the Churches and forbidding the reading of non-canonical works in the Churches.

As you can see, I think Dr. Piepkorn's point is amply substantiated. Speaking as a Lutheran Christian, one of the sadder things to happen in the transition to the English language in the Missouri Synod was the loss of the Apocrypha from our Bibles. Every Bible CPH printed in German had them (with Luther's introductory words cited above), I believe, and in the lectionary listing in the back, even appointed them for reading on certain festivals. A pity that at that time the form of the AV that had become popular in the US didn't any longer have the full set of books, as the original AV had had.

I keep hoping that there will be a version of the ESV that will provide us with a decent translation of the Apocrypha. Someday, maybe?

Hymn to the Cross

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

Tell how, when at length the fullness
Of the appointed time was come,
He, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us His Father's home,
Blazed a path of true obedience,
Shone as light amidst the gloom.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
He went forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Did His work and met His death;
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
On the cross His dying breath.

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world's redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!

Unto God be praise and glory;
To the Father and the Son,
To the eternal Spirit honor
Now and evermore be done;
Praise and glory in the highest
While the timeless ages run.
(LSB 454; Venantius Honorius Fortunatus, c. 530-609. Used in the Good Friday Chief Service after the reproaches)

Lenten Snow Melt

Yesterday was still very cold. The snow and ice lay on the ground. Today the snow and ice are melting under a warming sun, and slowly but surely being forced to retreat. Is not this the picture of Lent itself? Under the bright sun of our Lord's Passion, under the warmth of His loving embrace, the sin in our hearts and lives is forced to retreat, to back off. Hardened hearts begin to melt under our glorious Sun of Righteousness, and life begins to stir. I am reminded of St. Augustine's wise words: "Brethren, that we may be healed of sin, come let us fix our gaze upon Christ crucified."

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God is just; therefore when He chastens and rebukes us, let us acknowledge that His judgment is just and let us put our mouth in the dust. -- Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of God and on the Trinity* p. 224

Patristic Quote of the Day

To deny Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is to be Antichrist. To contradict the evidence of the Cross is to be of the devil. And to pervert the Lord's words to suit our own wishes, by asserting that there are no such things as resurrection or judgment, is to be a first-begotten of Satan. So let us have no more of this nonsense from the gutter, and these lying doctrines, and turn back to the Word originally delivered to us. -- St. Polycarp, Epistle, par. 7

Commemoration of St. Polycarp

Today our Synod commemorates Saint Polycarp. From our Synod's website:

February 23
Polycarp of Smyrna, Pastor and Martyr

Born c. 69, Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. A disciple of the evangelist John, he linked the first generation of believers to later Christians. After serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on February 23, c. 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution.

And from the Brotherhood Prayer Book:

Precious in the sight of the Lord; Is the death of His saints.
Jesus Christ the same; Yesterday, today and forever.

Almighty God, who didst give Thy servant Polycarp boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we likewise may ever be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for His sake; through the same, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. (BPB)

22 February 2008

Oculi's Hymn of the Day

Lord of our life and God of our salvation,
Star of our night and hope of ev'ry nation;
Hear and receive Your Church's supplication,
Lord God Almighty.

See round Your ark the hungry billows curling;
See how Your foes their banners are unfurling
And with great spite their fiery darts are hurling,
O Lord, preserve us.

Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us;
Lord, be our shield when earthly armor fails us;
And in the day when hell itself assails us,
Grant us Your peace, Lord:

Peace in our hearts, where sinful thoughts are raging,
Peace in Your Church, our troubled souls assuaging;
Peace when the world its endless war is waging,
Peace in Your heaven.
(LSB 659)

Relaxing Day

What a wonderful, relaxing day. Kids were off school. Got up a little later than normal and enjoyed the usual pot of coffee. Then we decided to use up a Cracker Barrel gift card, and invited Dave and Jo to join us for lunch. After lunch we all returned here and spent the afternoon playing Tripoli and Liverpool. Dave and Jo headed home around dusk, David went to Meaghen's, and Cindi and Bekah are watching some flicks. I'm enjoying a fine glass of Franzia boxed wine and mindlessly surfing the net. And best of all? I think Cindi just MAY come up and give a gander at the latest Lara Croft game I downloaded for her - she used to entertain us by the hour figuring those things out. Only thing that could have made the day more perfect would be to have Lauren and Dean here with us. Well, hopefully Spring break isn't too far away.

21 February 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

While it is impossible to obtain salvation by holiness, it is entirely possible for a person to lose his salvation again by the neglect of his holiness. -- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 277

Patristic Quote of the Day

And this too was for the benefit of Jairus, though it was indeed a hard lesson. For he learns, that neither legal worship, nor the shedding of blood, nor the slaying of goats and calves, nor the circumcision of the flesh, nor the rest of the sabbaths, nor ought besides these of temporary and typical matters, can save the dwellers upon earth: faith only in Christ, can do so, by means of which even the blessed Abraham was justified, and called the friend of God, and counted worthy of special honors. -- St Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 45 on St. Luke

More Art

Here is a painting by Bekah of her wondrous hound dog, Lucy, and a still-life from David. They definitely get their genes for this stuff from their mother's side (as in from Jo) because I couldn't paint a darned thing. I even make a mess trying to paint the walls!

20 February 2008

Words and Images from Evening Prayer

The Candle brought in... Now is the time of God's favor... As lamps are lit and children nod... O loving Lord and source of all that is good, accept now our evening sacrifice of praise... Let my prayer rise before You as incense... The Lord is my light and my salvation... Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love... Jesus, I will ponder now on Your holy passion... The struggle in the garden, and the peace afterward... A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth... Standing and singing "Holy is Your name" - Cindi's voice rising as the cantor... Remembrance of Carl A. asking her: "And who is the angel?"... The litany sung with joy... In peace, let us pray to the Lord... Rejoicing in the fellowship of all the saints... being defended from the fear of our enemies... Our Father... The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit... Who dieth thus dies well.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy On Me a Sinner

Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Word of the Father, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Word through whom all things were made, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, foretold by the prophets in signs and words, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, in the fullness of time conceived by the Holy Spirit, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Holy Virgin, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, hymned by the angels, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, adored by the shepherds, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, worshipped by the Magi, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, held by St. Simeon, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praised by St. Anna, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, obedient to your parents, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to a sinner's baptism, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, fasting in the wilderness, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, driving out demons, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, cleansing the lepers, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, teaching the precepts of the kingdom, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, raising the dead, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, walking on water and changing water into wine, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praised by the little children, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, riding into Your city as the sacrifice appointed, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, giving your body and blood to be eaten and drunk, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praying in the garden, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, bound and mocked, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, stripped and beaten, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, innocently condemned to death, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, opening Your hands upon the cross to embrace the world, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the loneliness of our exile and our sin, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, trampling down death by death, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, pouring forth water and blood to save the world, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, sanctifying our graves by lying in a tomb, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, harrowing hell and releasing the prisoners, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, rising in victory over death and corruption, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, appearing to the disciples in the broken bread, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, ascending in triumph, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, coming on the clouds of glory to renew all things, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, dread Judge at the Last Day, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Homily for Reminiscere Midweek Lenten Evening Prayer

GETHSEMANE - Part II of the Passion History

Last week we saw that our Lamb, our Jesus, was no unwitting victim, but that He choose to give His life as the ransom for all. In tonight's Passion account we see the Lamb struggling in prayer. Set before his very clear vision is what He terms "the cup." If you would understand the cup you must go back to the Old Testament.

David sang: "For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs." Psalm 75:8

Isaiah (51:22) foretold of a time coming when the cup would pass from the people: "Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of his people: 'Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more.'"

So the cup set before our Lord, our Lamb, for Him to drink and empty down to the bitterest dregs was the cup that held the wrath of God, the wrath of God against all your rebellions, all your lovelessness, all your passing of judgment upon others, all your selfish acts, and your indulging the flesh. It was set before Him and He saw it. And He knew exactly where it would lead. He quotes from Zechariah "I - that is the Lord - will strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered." Make no mistake about it: our Lord receives His passion as entirely from the hands of His Father.

But how he struggled with it! None of us is nearly as frightened of hell as we should be. None of us has the first clue about the real terror of its empty and eternal loneliness. None of us can begin to fathom either its icy coldness or its ever burning and unsatisfied hunger and thirst. But He, the Eternal Word of the Father, made flesh of the Virgin - He knows. And before it, looking into that ultimate and eternal poison in the cup, He trembles.

He trembles and He begs the Father that if possible some other way be found, some different approach, something other than what is in this cup before Him. He looks over the brim of the cup into its fathomless depths and He shakes in terror.

We sin so blithely. "God will forgive" we say. "He is loving and merciful and kind. It's really no big deal." Go with the Lamb to Gethsemane tonight and see with your own eyes whether or not it is a "big deal." Look at Him as he shakes before the very portion that we foolishly choose for ourselves time and again. And see Him, as He lifts His eyes from the cup to His Father and pleads for some other way. But then see Him manifest that radical and ultimately difference between Himself and all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. See Him lower His eyes to the cup again and say: "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done."

Watch the sweat fall from Him in great drops like blood under the pressure of His "yes" to the Father's will. He will do it. He will go forward to meet this. He will do so trusting that having imbibed the poison of our whole race and experiencing in Himself the penalty of our disobedience, that His Father will not abandon Him - the Innocent Sufferer. See Him as He goes forth to meet His betrayer and face all that is in front of Him. Look into the face of the Lamb and what do you see there? You see peace.

The peace came from His prayer. The peace came from His trust in the Father. To submit to the One who has loved you with an everlasting love is not terror in the end, but joy. He knew that and so His head was held high as He went to hand Himself over. After Jesus prevents Peter and the others from fighting, their fear takes charge and they run away. But He strides on. "The cup my Father has given me" - he says - "shall I not drink it?"

Thus THE Lamb was led to the High Priest, in preparation for His slaughter. For the High Priest was to inspect the animal for faults before the offering - only unblemished Lambs were to be offered. But that is for next week.

For this week, let us learn from our Lord what it means to take with trembling hands whatever cup that our Father reaches us. This much you now know: "No poison can be in the cup that your physician sends you." You can know that it will not ever be what was in the cup He took and drank - that He did alone and for you and for me and for us all. None of us could have consumed that without being utterly destroyed. But He, true God and true Man, He could, and He did. That wrath is swallowed up in Him forever. Thus, when the cups come our way, when they are hard to swallow, remember the beautiful words of the hymn:

What God ordains is always good;
Though I the cup am drinking
That savors now of bitterness,
I take it without shrinking.
For after grief,
God gives relief,
My heart with comfort filling
And all my sorrow stilling.

The Lamb on the way to the Cross teaches us how to pray not just with our lips but with our very lives, and that prayer always begins and continues and ends with the words: "Father, not my will, but yours be done." Amen.

A beautiful post

by Emily. Check it out:

Children of God

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Woe, therefore, to those who, after they come to faith in Christ, think they have now received a license freeing them from the earnest pursuit of sanctification. -- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 274

Patristic Quote of the Day

Those who utter to God the petition Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth, pray that they may see the cessation of sin. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 74 on St. Luke

Why I Like Wednesdays

+ Matins with School Children + Confession + Pericopal Study Group (Pr. Asburry did a great job today on Laetare) + Lunch with Pastors and Deaconess and Seminarians and prospective Seminarian + Visit with the Ladies Aid celebrating biannual birthday party + Another Confession + Divine Service + Hymn Sing + Evening Prayer +

Singing, praying preaching, absolving, studying, catechizing, teaching and visiting - what a life! I honestly love being a pastor. Even when the hassles come along (as they inevitably do), still dishing out the gift of eternal life in the Gospel and Sacraments is joy itself.

19 February 2008

On Sanctification

The danger is in thinking that the holiness given you in Christ is not whole, perfect, complete. It IS. It is not at all so much the case that holiness grows in you, but that you grow in holiness. The gift is given: now we make progress in learning to live from it, so that love becomes ever more our life. "Progress" is okay concept in such a scenario. Old Martin Chemnitz used it:

"The healing and renewal itself is not such a change that is immediately accomplished and finished in a moment, but it has its beginnings and certain progress by which it grows in great weakness, is increased and preserved." Examen I:424

"The renewal of the new man, as also the mortification of the old, is not perfect and complete in this life but that it grows and is increased day by day until it is perfected in the next life, when this corruptible will have put on incorruption." Examen I:538

"But men are to be admonished that they should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh and firmly adhere to Christ by faith and through the use of the Word and of the Sacraments become more and more united with Him and seek from God the gift of perseverance, and wrestle, lest the wantonness of the flesh drive out the gift of perseverance." Examen I:607

More and more united. With Christ. So that repentance means turning away from the life that is in Adam (a dead end road if ever there were one) and growing into the freedom given in Christ. "Unbending" us, if you will, and opening our eyes to believe and live from the gift.

I think that's why St. Peter said after that long list of virtues that need to be ours and increasing, that if they are not, the problem isn't with our good works, but with our faith: "Whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins." (2 Pet 1:9)

This particular point is one that Schmemann nailed:

"And the holiness of the Church is not our holiness, but Christ's, who loved the Church and gave Himself for her 'that He might sanctify her...that she might be holy and without blemish' (Eph 5:25-27). Likewise the holiness of the saints as well is but the revelation and the realization of that sanctification, that holiness that each of us received on the day of baptism, and in which we are called to increase. But we could not grow in it, if we did not already possess it as a gift of God, as his presence in us through the Holy Spirit." (Schmemann, Eucharist, pp. 23, 24)

The gift is given whole: the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of Christ Himself to be our all - sanctification is the life of appropriating that gift ever more and more, turning away from the old self and finding life in union with Him who is our Life. Thoughts?

Lucy and her favorite things...

her goose and the heater!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Christian should be a person of progress. He should never stand still, but always seek to go forward. He should always be found actively doing the will of God, always in battle for the treasure, always in the race for the crown of glory. With each day he should come closer to the goal, that is, seeking to become holier and more like Christ. -- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 271

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the wisdom that comes from above, from God, is an incomparable blessings; and when we attain unto it by means of the holy Scripture, inspired of God, and gain the divine light to dwell in our minds, we then advance without wandering unto whatsoever is useful for our spiritual profit. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 133 on St. Luke

18 February 2008

My elders

are amazing. They never cease to astound me. Even when I'm being a regular pompous ass. They correct me, forgive me, and even hug me. I love these men.

No one wants to do a funeral...

...but if you have to do one, you really want to do an Aufdemberge funeral. They are the singingest bunch of folk you'll ever meet. They gather in the basement of the Church and PRIOR to the funeral, they sing hymn after hymn. And in Church! I have the bad habit of bellowing at the top of my lungs (yes, I should know my Piepkorn better than that) - but Eunice told me that today she couldn't even hear me. Crown Him with Many Crowns. Our Father's God. Lord, Thee I Love. Jesus lives! The victory's won. And at the graveside Abide with Me. What a witness that family is to the joy of Christ's resurrection victory even in the midst of tears.


I love the net. Pastor McCain just pointed me to this treasure trove:

Greek Fathers

Martin Luther

Today, upon the day of his death, our Synod commemorates Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor. He died in Eisenach, the town he was born in, in 1546 and he died attempting to settle a dispute between two feuding brothers. Most appropriate. He had been in poor health for a number of years, but persisted in his duties and produced a really stunning amount of writings - and many people (I among them) think the writings from the close of his life were his very best. Yet in his honor today I'd like to give what I think of as his most beautiful writing about the Christian life, and it came earlier in his career. He wrote:

  This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness;
  not health, but healing;
  not being, but becoming;
  not rest, but exercise.
  We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way;
  the process is not yet finished, but it has begun;
  this is not the goal, but it is road;
  at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being
    - Martin Luther, A Defense and Explanation of All Articles (AE 32:24)

I have to say once more

that despite its shortcomings, the Lutheran Service Builder really is an amazing product. Catechism Service, Evening Prayer, and next Sunday's Divine Service, all finished up in under an hour. Well, ready for press in under an hour. If only the danged thing would copy and collate for us...

Patristic Quote of the Day

The God of all then created man upon the earth with a mind capable of wisdom, and possessed of powers of understanding. But Satan deceived him, though made in the image of God, and led him astray even until he had no knowledge of the Creator and Artificer of all. He humbled the dwellers upon earth down to the lowest stage of irrationality and ignorance. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 130 on St. Luke

Funeral Homily for Julana (Jo) Aufdemberge

[Isaiah 43:1-4 / Romans 8:31-39 / John 11:21-27]

Steven and Carla, Carla and Michael, Susan, family and friends of Jo Aufdemberge, what a difference it makes when you live your life and die your death in the faith that you are precious in the eyes of God, known, honored and loved by Him! It sets your heart and your mouth singing for joy. Do I need to tell you that your mother was a shining light that way? And that she spent so much of her life and her energy in helping others to discover that same truth, and to rejoice with her in making music to the One who had so loved her and all our fallen race?

Jo never forgot she was a sinner. There were things she really struggled with. She certainly didn't approve when God took your dad home - and left her alone. She struggled with that and yet finally found her peace in recognizing that she could receive all things, even that, as a gift from the hand of the God who loved her all the way from the manger to the cross to the empty grave, and all the way from her baptism until the moment her baptism was completed last Thursday, even as she was cross-stitching a baptismal cross for another child of God.

To Jo, living as a baptized child of God was one of the greatest joys of life. It meant that you had a heavenly Father who never turned his back on you or abandoned you, whose love for you was guaranteed, just like we heard in the words from Isaiah: "Thus says the Lord who created you and formed you: Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel your Savior...You are precious in my eyes and honored and I love you." Those are words that get you through the sundry waters and fire that come your way in life. Jo knew plenty of those in her pilgrimage. And yet it was that constant love of God that was her anchor. She sought to make that love be the anchor for the all the children she taught, all the young folks that sang in the cantata she used to conduct, all the members of her family and her countless friends. Here's a love you can count on, her whole life seemed to say: trust in Him!

Such a love she knew to be in the heart of God for her because of the Cross. "He who did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" She looked to the Cross and saw the One who had taken all of her sin and the world's sin upon Himself to set her and the world free! To forgive, to pardon, and to renew the whole creation.

But her faith and her joy didn't stop with the Cross. Much as she rejoiced to sing about the Savior who had loved her to death, she rejoiced even more to sing about the Savior whom death could not hold, and in whose love she was more than a conqueror!

In today's Gospel Martha had the idea that at the end of time there would be a resurrection. That was true, but she was missing the joy standing before her: "I am the resurrection and the life" says her Jesus. "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." The Jesus who marked Jo as his own in the waters of Baptism is not merely the One who WILL raise the dead. He IS the destruction of death. He IS the gift of eternal life. And she knew this. She knew it in the depths of her soul. And she clung to Him tightly.

Countless were the times she knelt before this Lord and let Him feed into her the very Body and Blood that were on the cross for her, and in the tomb for her, and rose again from the grave for her. Countless were the times He fed into her a forgiveness greater than all her sin and the world's sin, a Life stronger than any death she or you or I will ever meet.

And so she sang and rang! Who could keep from making music of praise to a God who loves like that? A God whose mercy never ends. The dearest desire of her heart was always that you, her children and grandchildren, know this unending love and mercy of God; it was her desire that her little scholars know it; the children she sang with in VBS know it; the teens she loved and spent time with know it; that you her friends and family and everyone she met, know it.

We're sad today that God has seen fit to take her joyful presence from us. But then, when we think about it, we realize that nothing of the sort has happened. Oh, it's true that we'll take this body out to the grave and plant it in the certain hope of the resurrection. Our eyes won't get to see her again in this age. And yet we know that every time we gather at the Lord's altar, at His table, and the Feast of life is spread before us, the Lamb reigning in His sacrifice of love, that Jo will be there. With Carl. With your grandparents. With all your loved ones who have died in the faith. They meet us at the table where the Lamb is, until the day comes for each of us when faith gives way to sight, and we will see what she now enjoys and join her in forever singing praise of the One who has loved us with an everlasting love, to whom be glory forever! Amen.

Julana L. Aufdemberge, age 76, of Edwardsville, died at 12:50 p.m., on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, at her residence.

She was born on Oct. 20, 1931, in Lincoln, Neb., the daughter of the late Arthur and Irene Schwartz Knispel.

She married Carl E. Aufdemberge on July 19, 1953, in Omaha, Neb. He preceded her in death on Aug. 9, 1997.

She is survived by one son: Steven, and wife Carla, Aufdemberge of Columbia, Mo.; two daughters Carla, and her husband Michael, Kramer of Columbia, Mo., and Susan Aufdemberge of Edwardsville; four grandchildren: Jason, and wife Stacey, Kramer of Columbia, Mo., Sarah Kramer of Denver, Colo., Hannah and Carah Aufdemberge of Columbia, Mo.; and two sisters: Christine Lehl of Gardner, Kan., and Elaine, and husband Ed, Luethge of Omaha, Neb.

Mrs. Aufdemberge retired after 35 years as a teacher in Texas and Wisconsin. She also taught in Edwardsville at Trinity Lutheran Church for a number of years.

Her memberships include St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, past member of Lutheran Education Association, the Homemakers Extension Group of Edwardsville, and Trinity Lutheran Choir and St. Paul Lutheran Choir. Current member of Lutheran Women's Missionary League and St. Paul Church Bell Choir.

[Yes, she'd smack me one for putting that picture up, but I LIKE it!]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

All our shelter and protection rest in prayer alone. - Blessed Martin Luther, The Larger Catechism, III:30

Freedom and the Phone

I had been raised that whenever the Master calls (the Master being the phone), absolutely everything is dropped and one runs - literally at times - to serve it (that is, to pick it up and see what it wants). For many years we've had an answering machine, but I never once thought of its real usefulness, and continued in my servitude. Lately, though, I've really decided to dethrone this Master from my life. If I'm busy working on something and the Master rings. I smile and keep on working. If it's important, a message will be left and usually I'm in a position to be able to HEAR the message and decide then and there if it's something I need to interrupt what I'm working on to deal with. I'm sure that it must aggravate some that the phone doesn't INSTANTLY put them in touch with me, but I'm totally enjoying the freedom of not being at former Master's beck and call. Leave a message, folks - because my days of running when Master calls are over!

17 February 2008

It still seems wrong...

...even after seeing Jo's body at the funeral home tonight. It seems wrong. Today at church I kept expecting to see her, sitting by Ruth for Bible class. Reading along with the sermon during service. Up with the bells practicing after late service. Worse of all, I think, is the sadness for all of us of not being able to say a proper good-bye, not being able to tell her how much we love her and thank her for the blessing she's been to us. It still seems wrong.

O God, her soul is in your keeping. May it please you to let her know how very much she is loved and missed here. And thank you for the years you shared her with us. We were not deserving of her smile, her kindness, her gentle and tender words, but we rejoice that through her your love touched us and to you we give praise, even in the midst of tears. Amen.

Another Patristic Quote of the Day

We are then righteous when we confess that we are sinners, and our righteousness depends not upon our own merits, but on the mercy of God, as the Holy Scripture says,"The righteous man accuses himself when he begins to speak," and elsewhere,"Tell your sins that you may be justified." -- St. Jerome, *Against Pelagius* Book I:13

Ah, Pinochle!

Such a delightful game, don't you think? It's a wonder more folks don't play it. But of course, if they played like Crys and Cindi did tonight, it MIGHT not be so enjoyable after all. But I think they should be grateful that we let them win THREE out of the nine games. It might have been worse. Tonight, in any case, Scott and I wholeheartedly recommend the game.

If you haven't seen this yet...

...you really should. Go, Bach! Go, Virgil!

Gigue Fugue

Yeah, just some more of that boring Lutheran Church music.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Many think that once a person has been converted, he is finished with the difficult work of repentance and he can rest. He is like one who, after a story voyage at sea, has finally arrived in safe harbor; the danger of perishing is happily past, and the soul of such an individual is safely brought in and need no longer fear shipwreck. However, this is an extremely dangerous deception. It is precisely at the point of conversion that the true fight begins in him. When Christ says, "Strive to enter by the narrow gate," He is referring not just to the initial act of repentance but rather the entire progress of the Christian life until death. All of this, taken together, is the narrow gate and the narrow path that lead to life. -- C.F.W. Walther *God Grant It!* p. 263

Patristic Quote of the Day

But Christ rules over us as King, and we have a good hope, that we shall also be counted worthy of the portion of the saints, and twine around our heads the crown that becometh the steadfast; for this also is the gift of Christ, our common Savior. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 129 on St. Luke

This Storm

bypassed us this morning, but David captured this picture of it:

"See this wonder in the making..."

"...God Himself this child is taking." We were blessed to welcome Brooke Lydia into the holy Church today through the Sacrament of Baptism. "Here we bring a child of nature; home we take a new born creature." I don't remember how many Baptisms we've celebrated this year, but it's been a few. And the water of life keeps flowing. What a blessing in Lent to see and remember where we're headed: back to the font. As we move from the center of the chancel to the font, the words spoken are: "The Lord preserve your coming in and your going out from this time forth and forevermore." All of Brooke Lydia's earthly pilgrimage, as also our own, will be a constant coming back to the font, to the gift given there. Absolution is never a new or a different forgiveness, but always a return to the forgiveness given at the font. Dr. Korby used to pronounce the absolution, touching the Baptismal font. The gift of forgiveness, rescue from death and the devil, and everlasting salvation - the gifts the Holy Spirit brings to us with Himself in the waters - these are ours for so long as "it is called today." Lent calls us to come home to the font. What are we waiting for?

16 February 2008

Lenten Reflections

Today we celebrated the Divine Service for Reminsicere (and we'll celebrate it also tomorrow twice). The somber readings, the loss of Gloria in Excelsis and of Alleluia, the long tract, the Lenten preface and the hymns - it all reminds me of a the soberness of the battle in which we are engaged. How serious this battle is, and how vital its outcome. So in the Collect we pray for God to defend us both outwardly and inwardly: for all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul.

I told the folks at the beginning of Advent that we needed Advent precisely because - see the collect for Advent one - Satan has lulled us into thinking that our sins are no threatening danger at all. Advent reveals otherwise; and so does Lent. It's a battle indeed - a battle not of the will, but of faith. A battle not of our strength, but of our trust in God's mercy and His promises.

"For Lutherans it's always Lent" (Keiler) and I won't argue with that except to say: for Christians this LIFE is always Lent. Always a preparation and a battle. But Easter comes and its joy is everlasting.

But in the meantime:

On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life's riches, cares and pleasures
Never may Your work erase.
This the clear inscription be:
Jesus crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope's foundation
And my glory and salvation. Amen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christian believers holding the faith Catholic we are - but we are, besides, Protestant, rejecting the authority of the Papacy; Evangelical, glorying in the grace of the Gospel; and Lutheran, holding the doctrines of that Church, of which the Reformation is the child - not only those in which all Christendom or a large part of it coincides with her, but the most distinctive of her distinctive doctrines, though in the maintenance of them she stood alone. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 168

Patristic Quote of the Day

He gives those who love instruction the assurance, that whatsoever is said respecting Him by the holy apostles or evangelists, is to be received necessarily without any doubt, and to be crowned with the words for truth. For he who heareth them, heareth Christ. -- St. Cyril, Homily 63 on St. Luke

What does the Eucharist mean?

My mother-in-law, Jo, has written a rather beautiful blog post celebrating the "for-you-ness" of the Eucharist from the perspective of a person struggling with God's reign over her life. Thanks, Jo, for sharing your thoughts on this. You can read it here:

Jo's Blog

15 February 2008

Reminiscere Homily

Last week, it was the battle against the devil that we spoke of. That we can readily understand. But what are we to do when it is God that we have to fight against? When He puts our faith to the test? When He appears to us in the guise of an enemy, as one who opposes us or who acts as if He doesn’t care one bit about us? What then?

Jacob in today’s Old Testament reading knew something of this. He discovered it the night when he knew that his brother Esau was coming against him with a small army, and he stayed behind on the far bank of the River Jabbok and wrestled with a Man all night long. When morning was breaking, Jacob cried out: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” That night Jacob got a new name: Israel. The one who wrestles with men and with God and wins.

The Canaanite woman in today’s gospel is also struggling with God, wrestling with Jesus and, like Jacob, she holds on with the tenacity of a bull-dog - won’t let Him go until He blesses her by setting her daughter free. “Kyrie, eleison! Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, for my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” His response? Silence. He ignored her, just like she wasn’t even there. Just like she didn’t even count for anything.

But as He walks on, so does she, shouting and pleading more loudly. In fact, she becomes downright embarrassing. The disciples are befuddled. Why won’t He help her? He always has helped anyone who asks for His help. And yet He just keeps walking on as though His heart were made of stone. What has happened to Jesus?

They say to Him: “Lord, send her away, for she cries out after us.” His answer? “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” As though He had said: “She’s not one of Mine; her trouble has nothing to do with Me.”

Have you ever been there? Have you ever come to Him in prayer and received the stony silence of heaven as your answer? And what did you do then? The thing we’re tempted to do is to walk away in despair. Satan whispers in our ears: “See, it’s just like I’ve been telling you. He doesn’t care about you. You can’t count on Him. You’re going to have to handle it on your own.” Words bidding us despair, when we know we can’t handle it on our own at all.

But this woman won’t listen to the lies of Satan. She keeps up the asking, the seeking, and the knocking. She won’t give in until Jesus opens the door of His heart and hears her request. She grovels on the ground before Him, worships Him, and begs: “Lord, help me!”

Surely now He’ll give in. Surely. What does He say to her heart-felt plea? “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to a little dog like you.” Ouch! And if He had spoken so harshly to you? If He called you a dog unworthy of His assistance, when you were bowed in the dirt before Him, your tear stained face pleading for His help?

But listen to this woman’s words and learn! They are words of faith. Faith is being given to by God. Faith is receiving from His hands what He gives you, accepting it from Him as from a heart of love. Jesus gave her the gift of being a dog – and after all, she HAD been holding on like a bull-dog. In faith, she receives that gift and asks for nothing more than a dog’s due: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

See the joy in His face as He looks at her and exclaims: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” “Great is your faith” means “Great is your givable-to-ness.” What He dishes out, she receives. And yet she won’t let Him not be for her. Under His harsh words, she heard a deep and hidden “yes,” the answer to her prayer. He did indeed remember His great mercy and love and had pity on her.

Now what about you? In the great struggle of faith, there is only one thing to do: to cling to Him all the tighter. To hold to Him and say: “Lord Jesus, you may treat me as harshly as You like, and yet I will not let go of you or doubt your love for me. You only are my Help and my Hope. On You I will rely. After all, You went to the cross for me and died so that I might be Yours forever. Do with me as You will. But I am Yours.”

So you may speak to Him when you are going through the rough and discouraging times of trial. But where may you find Him then so that you too can sink your teeth into Him with the holding-power of a bull-dog? Where else but here at His Table. When everywhere else it seems that He is against you, you can come here and find out the truth. Here He shows how much, how deeply, how beyond all measure He is FOR you, as He place His body and His blood in your mouth with His promise that says: “Given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.”

So this is what it means to belong to Him, you who have been branded with His name in Baptism. This is His way of training you to rely on His Words and promises and not on your feelings. Through the constant putting of your faith to the test, He drives you ever back to where He speaks His sure and certain words of life, and thus He strengthens you all the days of your pilgrimage.

God grant each of you a bull-dog like grip on your Jesus - faith like this Cannanite woman had - and you too will discover that even the crumbs from His table supply us with more than we could ever ask or imagine. To Him with His all holy Father and life-giving Spirit be all glory and dominion, now and ever and unto the ages of ages! Amen.

Patristic Passages of Interest for Lutherans

Note, I've offered many of these before but I put it out there now as a resource for folks who are interested. As always I encourage not merely to read the section I quote but to read the document as a whole. I don't believe at any place I've ignored context, but you should check that nonetheless - and there are a couple listed here that I gleaned from a secondary source (and so didn't read the original in context), but that will be clear in the citation.

Many times, Lutherans are challenged with: “Well, where was Lutheranism before Luther?” The implication is that Rome or the Eastern Orthodox have some sort of “corner” on the great church Fathers. But Lutherans have never believed this to be true. The Fathers repeatedly present the same or quite similar approaches to doctrine as the Lutheran Confessions do. Here are some citations from the Fathers that may be of help in dispelling the notion that “Lutheranism” is a johnny-come-lately to the Church scene:


“Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.” St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

"Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327).

"We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

"It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments." St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2

"Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8


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

“To this end has His Grace and Goodness been formed upon us in Christ Jesus, that being dead according to works, redeemed through faith and saved by grace, we might receive the gift
of this great deliverance.” (Ambrose, Letter 76 to Irenaeus, a layman)

“But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.” (Ambrose, Letter 73, to Irenaeus, a layman)

“Human beings can be saved from the ancient wound of the serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead.” - St. Irenaeus (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)

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

“But we all escape the condemnation for our sins referred to above, if we believe in the grace of God through His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who said: ‘This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.’” – St. Basil the Great (Concerning Baptism, TfoTC vol. 9, p. 344)

"They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed." - St. John Chrysostom (Homily on Galatians 3)

“But he calls it their 'own righteousness,' either because the Law was no longer of force, or because it was one of trouble and toil. But this he calls God's righteousness, that from faith, because it comes entirely from the grace from above, and because men are justified in this case, not by labors, but by the gift of God.” – St. John Chrysostom (Homily 17 on Romans 10:3)

“Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.” Homily 7 on Romans – St. John Chrysostom

"For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law." - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)

“'To declare His righteousness.' What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores (katasapentaj) of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is "declaring," that he has added, "That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to all men. And be not abashed and shamefaced. For if He Himself openly declareth (endeiknutai) Himself to do so, and He, so to say, findeth a delight and a pride therein, how comest thou to be dejected and to hide thy face at what thy Master glorieth in?” - St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 3

“But what is the 'law of faith?' It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 3

“For the Law requires not only Faith but works also, but grace saves and justifies by Faith. (Eph. ii: 8)
You see how he proves that they are under the curse who cleave to the Law, because it is impossible to fulfill it; next, how comes Faith to have this justifying power? for to this doctrine he already stood pledged, and now maintains it with great force of argument. The Law being too weak to lead man to righteousness, an effectual remedy was provided in Faith, which is the means of rendering that possible which was "impossible by the Law." (Rom. viii: 3) Now as the Scripture says, "the just shall live by faith," thus repudiating salvation by the Law, and moreover as Abraham was justified by Faith, it is evident that its efficacy is very great. And it is also clear, that he who abides not by the Law is cursed, and that he who keeps to Faith is just. But, you may ask me, how I prove that this curse is not still of force? Abraham lived before the Law, but we, who once were subject to the yoke of bondage, have made ourselves liable to the curse; and who shall release us therefrom? Observe his ready answer to this; his former remark was sufficient; for, if a man be once justified, and has died to the Law and embraced a novel life, how can such a one be subject to the curse?” - St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 3

“God does not wait for time to elapse after repentance. You state your sin, you are justified. You repented, you have been shown mercy.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7 On Repentance and Compunction, p. 95 in FOTC, vol. 96.

“Gain for yourself the pardon coming from faith, since he is his own worst enemy who does not believe that he is given what the very generous Bestower of mercy promises in all kindness.” St. Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 58 (On the Creed), par. 13 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 224)

“Give yourself, O man, pardon by believing, since you fell into all the sins by despairing.” St. Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 62 (On the Creed), par. 16 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 245)

“We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits.” - Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 4

“And he well said, "a righteousness of mine own," not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.” Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians 3

Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned.

Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo
punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find
justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. Chrysostom on Justification, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse I:6-II:1:

"Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of His incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says, 'He will reward every man according to his works' (Matt 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but our Creator and Redeemer." St. Mark the Ascetic (ca. 425), On those who think that they are made righteous by works.

"Confess Jesus Christ, and believe that He is risen from the dead, and you will be saved. For indeed righteousness is only to be believed; but a complete salvation must also be confessed and knowledge must be added to confidence." - St. Gregory Nazianzus (On Moderation, PG 36.204)

"While I was sick in the flesh, the Savior was sent to me in the likeness of sinful flesh, fulfilling such a dispensation, to redeem me from slavery, from corruption, and from death. And He became to me righteousness, and sanctification, and salvation. Righteousness, by setting me free from sin through faith in Him. Sanctification, in having set me free through water and the Spirit and His word. And salvation, His blood being the ransom of the true Lamb, having given Himself on my behalf." - St. Epiphanios (Against Heresies 3.1,2 PG 42.477)

Where Christ enters, there necessarily is also salvation. May he therefore also be in us: and He is in us when we believe; for he dwells in our hearts by faith, and we are His abode. It would have been better then for the Jews to have rejoiced because Zaccheus was wonderfully saved, for he too was counted among the sons of Abraham, to whom God promised salvation in Christ by the holy prophets, saying, There shall come a Savior from Zion, and he shall take away iniquities from Jacob, and this is my covenant with them, when I will bear their sins. Christ, therefore, arose to deliver the inhabitants of the earth from their sins, and to seek them that were lost, and to save them that had perished. For this is His office, and, so to say, the fruit of His godlike gentleness. Of this will he also count all those worthy who have believed in him. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 127

What is meant by mercy? and what by sacrifice? By mercy then is signified, Justification and grace in Christ, even that which is by faith. For we have been justified, not by the works of the law that we have done, but by His great mercy. And sacrifice means the law of Moses. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 23

Be not troubled when thou meditatest upon the greatness of thy former sins; but rather know, that still greater is the grace that justifieth the sinner and absolveth the wicked. Faith then in Christ is found to be the pledge to us of these great blessings; for it is the way that leadeth unto life, that bids us go to the mansions that are above, that raises us to the inheritance of the saints, that makes us members of the kingdom of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 40 on St. Luke.


“Why then are you afraid of drawing nigh, since you have no works demanded of you? Why are you bickering and quarrelsome, when grace is before you, and why keep putting me the Law forward to no purpose whatsoever? For you will not be saved by that, and will mar this gift also; since if you pertinaciously insist on being saved by it, you do away with this grace of God.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on Romans 10,11

“After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of blessings, he has not kept to the same order: for he does not say, the wages of your good deeds, but the gift of God: to show, that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but by grace all these things came about. And so there was superiority for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their condition for the better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them more than before, and that through His Son.” - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to the Romans, Homily 12, Rom 6:23)

“And if any were to cast in prison a person who owed ten mites, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the king’s courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honour and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been. For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop.” - St. John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily X, Rom 5:17

“Is it possible, Scripture says, for one to repent and be saved? It is absolutely and most certainly the case. What, though, if I have wasted my life in sins and then repent: will I be saved? Yes, indeed! What source indicates this? The philanthropy of your Master. Can I take courage from your repentance? Could it be that your repentance has the power to wipe clean so many evils? If it were only up to repentance, then assuredly be afraid. However, since repentance is mixed together with the philanthropy of God, take courage. For God’s philanthropy is immeasurable, nor can any word provide the measure of his goodness. Your wickedness is measurable, but the medicine is immeasurable. Your wickedness, whatever it may be, is human wickedness; but God’s philanthropy is ineffable. Have courage because it surpasses your wickedness. Just think of one spark that fell into the sea; could it stand or be seen? What one spark is in comparison to the sea, so wickedness is before the philanthropy of God; not even this much, but much more so. For the sea, even though it is vast, has limits; but God’s philanthropy is unlimited.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church FOTC: vol 96, p. 112,113

“Well done, O Christ, O Wisdom and Power and Word of God, and God almighty! What should we resourceless people give Thee in return for all things? For all things are Thine and Thou askest nothing of us but that we be saved. Even this Thou hast given us, and by Thy ineffable goodness Thou art grateful to those who accept it. Thanks be to Thee who hast given being and grace of well-being and who by Thy ineffable condescension hast brought back to this state those who fell from it!” - St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 4

“And so the power is conquered in the name of him who assumed human nature and whose life was without sin, so that in him, who was both priest and sacrifice, remission of sins might be effected, that is, through the ‘mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’, through whom we are purified from our sins and reconciled to God. For it is only sins that separate men from God; and in this life purification from sins is not effected by our merit, but by the compassion of God, through his indulgence, not through our power; for even that poor little virtue which we call ours has itself been granted to us by his bounty.”– St. Augustine, City of God, X, Chapter 22


Of faults thus grievous, Christ proved them guilty who professed to be skilled in the law; the scribes, I mean, and lawyers; and for this reason he said unto them, Also to you lawyers, woe! who have taken away the key of knowledge. By the key of knowledge we consider that the law itself is meant, and justification in Christ, by faith I mean in Him. For though the law was in shadow and type, yet those types shape out to us the truth and those shadows depict to us in manifold ways the mystery of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 86 on St. Luke


And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: "All our days are passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told." Of which wrath also Job says: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: "He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." He does not say it will come, but it "abides on him." For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: "We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. Wherefore the apostle says: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name "anger," a word transferred by analogy from human emotions. But our being reconciled to God through a Mediator, and receiving the Holy Spirit, so that we who were enemies are made sons ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"): this is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. – St. Augustine, Enchiridion 33

“The psalmist does not suppose that he is living this life, for he had said, See, I was conceived in iniquities and my mother bore me in sins. He know that he was born from a sinful origin and under the law of sin.” - St. Hilary (Commentary on Psalm 118, 22)

“The words ‘the Jordan turned backward’ (Ps 114:3), signified the future mysteries of the bath of salvation through which the little ones who have been baptized are changed from wickedness back to their original state.” - St. Ambrose (Commentary on Luke 1, 37)

"We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen." - Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

And if you like to hear what other saints also have felt in regard to physical birth, listen to David when he says, I was conceived, so it runs, in iniquity and in sin my mother hath borne me, proving that every soul which is born in the flesh is tainted with the stain of iniquity and sin.  This is the reason for that saying which we have already quoted above, No man is clean from sin, not even if his life be one day long. To these, as a further point, may be added an enquiry into the reason for which, while the church's baptism is given for the remission of sin, it is the custom of the church that baptism be administered even to infants. Certainly, if there were nothing in infants that required remission and called for lenient treatment, the grace of baptism would seem unnecessary.  (R.B. Tollinton, Selections From The Commentaries And Homilies of Origen, 1929, p. 211)

Brethren, the selection (rom 5:12-14) from the Apostle for today tells us that through one man the whole world received its sentence… The downfall of one man has flowed out to become a punishment of all, and the vice of the parent has brought a sad catastrophe upon the whole race. (Chrysologus, Sermon 111, Original Sin, p. 175 vol. 17 FOTC)

Through a man sin came and clearly through this sin we are seen to have come under the control of death. O sin, you cruel beast – and a beast not content to vent your fury against the human race from merely one head. We have seen this beast, brethren, devouring with a triple head all the highly precious sprouts of the human family. Yes, brethren, with a mouth that is triple: as sin this beast captures, as death it devours, as hell it swallows down. (ibid, p. 176, 177)

For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke


If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?…Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?…Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also…These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness.--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII

“And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” - Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1

“A sacrifice was needed to reconcile the Father on high with us and to sanctify us, since we had been soiled by fellowship with the evil one. There had to be a sacrifice which both cleansed and was clean, and a purified, sinless priest…. God overturned the devil through suffering and His Flesh which He offered as a sacrifice to God the Father, as a pure and altogether holy victim – how great is His gift! – and reconciled God to the human race…Since He gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil’s tyranny." --St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31

For the wrath of man reaches at most the body, and the death of the flesh is the utmost that they can contrive against us, but when God punishes, the loss reaches not to the flesh alone – how could it – but the wretched soul also is cast along with it into torments. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 87 on Luke

For it was by reason of Adam's transgression of the commandment that we, having our faces turned away from God, returned to our dust; for the sentence of God upon human nature was, Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return; but at the time of the consummation of this world, the face of the earth shall be renewed; for God the Father by the Son in the Spirit will give life to all those who are laid within it.--St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 36 on St. Luke