30 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We pray, therefore, that God would give us the spirit of regeneration and sanctification that may create in us a new heart, take away our stony heart, and subdue and abolish our carnal stubbornness and impatience. This is done so that we may think upon, desire, will, and do such things that please God. - Martin Chemnitz, *The Lord's Prayer* p. 52

Patristic Quote of the Day

When I read the Gospel and find there testimonies from the Law and from the Prophets, I see only Christ; I so see Moses and the Prophets and I understand them of Christ. Then when I come to the splendor of Christ Himself, and when I gaze at that glorious sunlight, I care not to look at the lamplight. For what light can a lamp give when lit in the daytime? If the sun shines out, the lamplight does not show. So, too, when Christ is present the Law and the Prophets do not show. Not that I would detract from the Law and the Prophets; rather do I praise them in that they show forth Christ. But I so read the Law and the Prophets as not to abide in them but from them to pass to Christ. -- St. Jerome, Tract. in Marc., 9:1-7.

Commemoration of St. Jerome

From our Synod's Website: Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture

Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around the year A.D. 345. At a young age he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament . After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church world for over 1,000 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem but his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

Chemnitz says of him: "The genius of Jerome was most outstanding. His unique work entitles him to eternal praise, because he translated the Bible from its original languages." (Loci I:32) In the Lutheran Symbols, St. Jerome is quoted for his witness to the Biblical teaching that there is no divine distinction between a bishop and a priest (Tractatus 61-64), but that in the Sacred Scriptures the terms were interchangeable.

In honor of St. Jerome's devotion to the Sacred Scriptures:

God's Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way,
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while world endure
We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations.
LSB 582

28 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When Zecharias was executing the priest's office in the sacred courts of the temple, the angel of the Lord came to him; so if thou dost rejoice in the use of God's Word and in the exercise of thy devotions, thou, too, shalt rejoice in the blessed ministry of the angels. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXVI

Patristic Quote of the Day

Yes, for a word from the divine Scriptures, made to sound in the ear, does more than fire soften the hardened soul, and renders it fit for all good things. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 1

I love Deb...

...she totally cracks me up. I think you'll enjoy this! What a hoot!!!

Homily for St. Michael's

They thought the big thing was that they could boss the demons around in the Lord’s name. They could make Satan yield: “Back up and back off, Jack!” And back up and back off they did. The demons trembled at that name and fled before it – for the Lord always goes with his name. Where it is, there He is. Why do you think we begin the liturgy “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”? Where His name is, you’ll find Him and the Him you’ll find is one that NO demon wants to meet. They yowl and yammer in terror before Him.

Do you see then what idiots we are when we treat His name as a nothing? When we take it in vain? “Jesus Christ!” someone mutters under his breath in a moment of disappointment or disgust. The demons turn tail and run at the name, recognizing who is present in it, but we foolishly utter it as though He were not there in it. Do you know they tremble at that name? They know “that the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

If we can’t see who meets us “in the name of the Lord” they do. They know that the One who owns that name is no mere mortal. THAT flesh and blood belong to the Only-begotten Son of God through whom they were made, against whom they rebelled, and whom they still hate and fear. The name comes striding in and they turn tail and go running out.

Admit it, that’s pretty heady and nifty stuff - you agree with the disciples. And Jesus does not tell them its wrong to have all this joy at the power that is inside of His name. He rejoices with them when He says: “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven! Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall hurt you.”

That is one huge promise. Nothing shall hurt them. Satan shall never be able to overcome them. This does not mean that they would not suffer – you know they did! You know you do. It means instead, that as they live in the name, they are safe from evil being able to damage them. They cannot be hurt by it, taken into it and swallowed up by it. For it is the name of the Crucified and He is the one whom no evil could conquer. His cross cries out: You can’t make me hate you! I love! I forgive! And thus He overcomes evil with good. The hatred and envy and evil of the world cannot own you then as you live in and through the name.

You remember Proverbs 18:10? If you don't, you should. That's one you want to keep in your spiritual arsenal: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runs into it and is safe.” No power of the enemy can touch the person who lives in that impregnable tower. It cannot be breached. It cannot be overcome. The name of the Lord is strong, secure, and certain, and it’s where our help is. “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

The only way we can be defeated is if Satan seduces us into leaving the name, the name into which we were baptized, the name in which our Catechism teaches us to begin and end each day, the name in which we gather week by week, and by which the holy absolution is placed upon us and the benediction given to us. The name in which we pray and by which we are assured of being heard. The name that alone can rout the enemy. The name of the Triune God, the holy, holy, holy. Live in it and you live in safety. Exit it and you’re open prey to the evil one.

But Jesus has more that He wants them to be joying in than just power over the demons. And so He says: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Joy to live inside of God’s name, but to live inside of the name of God is to realize the unspeakable, unfathomable joy that God knows you. By name. And not only knows you, but has written down YOUR name as belonging to Him. You are His.

In all your sin, in all your failure, in all the mess you’ve made of your life, you are His. He insisted on having you before you could move a hand to help or prevent Him. He knew you – the bright shining moments of your life, and the dark miserable secrets you hope no one will ever see. He knew you in it all. And He loved you.

Unthinkable! Who can get their mind around it? God loved you in His Son and in His Son wrote down your name in heaven, written in the spilled blood of the Eternal Son, the blood that proclaims you forgiven, loved, and His.

And when you are long turned to dust and ashes, you will not be forgotten. Not by the only One that ultimately matters. How could He ever forget you? Your name is written down in heaven in that precious blood. So rejoice!

And as if that all were not enough, there is the more that we celebrate today: St. Michael and All Angels. Today we rejoice that God turns to his servants, the holy angels and he says: “See these names I’ve written down here. They belong to me. You go and protect and serve them.”

And off they go, eager to do His bidding, ministering to the heirs of salvation. They know you both by the fact that God has written your name in heaven and by the fact that His name is on you. Oh, the water is long since dried and gone, but they still see the sign of the cross that once was placed upon your forehead and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by the Crucified. They see it and they know: Here’s the one I must tend to and protect. Here’s one that belongs to My Master in heaven.

And their job is not done until they bring your soul from your body into paradise. “Into paradise may the angels lead you” the Church sings. Or, in another version: “Lord, let at last thine angels come, to Abraham’s bosom bear me home that I may die unfearing.”

And there you will join with them in their songs of praise, and you and they will wait together for the joyful moment when your flesh will be raised, and when the demonic menace will be once and for all time banished, when the joyful feast begins that has no end.

Meanwhile, you’re rejoicing here and now in the name of God and in your name written in heaven and in the angels who keep watch over you. All God’s ideas and for all of which we send up glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, in whose name we live, and in whose name we die, and in whose name we shall live forever! Amen and Amen!

St. Michael's Joy

What unspeakable joy to celebrate St. Michael's today! It actually falls tomorrow, so we transferred it to this Sunday as is our wont. White paraments gleamed upon altar, lectern and pulpit (we haven't seen them, I don't believe, since the Nativity of St. John the Baptist). The timpani boomed with the organ on the Sanctus and the closing hymn. The nearness of the angels was palpable as we sang with them today.

Outstanding to me were the various ways the LSB has enhanced this celebration. We sang as the Entrance Hymn, the sturdy "Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken" by Peter Prange: "Conquers sin and death forever; slams them in their steely cage." The assigned Hymn of the Day is Melanchthon's "Lord God, To Thee We Give All Praise" - which is not new to us - but which truly captures the joy of this day in poetry. The Proper Preface is new to LSB (at least not part of the Common Service heritage - though the Saxons retained it as the normal preface for any day not assigned another preface, it hasn't been around in an official Missouri hymnal since the adoption of the Common Service - before LSB, the last time our sanctuary heard it was when it rang out auf Deutsch!):

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Him Your majesty is praised by all the holy angels and celebrated with one accord by the heavens and all the powers therein. The cherubim and seraphim sing Your praise, and with them we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy...


Best of all during the Distribution was the joyful singing of Loehe's great hymn "Wide Open Stand the Gates Adorned with Pearl." That text is simply amazing at confessing what the Holy Eucharist does:

This Sacrament God gives us
Binds us in unity,
Joins earth with heaven
Beyond us,
Time with eternity.

Amen! The angels, the saints, the whole of the Church gathered as one at the throne of the One Lamb of God, whose wounds are yet visible above in beauty glorified. We gather as ONE before Him and rejoice that the angels are our companions in worship and attend all our days and ways.

As the invitatory for Matins in these days reminds us: God is glorious in His angels and saints! O come, let us worship Him!

27 September 2008

BIG Thank You

To ALL the folks who turned out today to help us move Dave and Jo to their new home. We'd never have gotten it done without you all - God bless each of you! When I left the house on Hamel Ave. this afternoon, some counter space was visible, and you could even walk around in the dining room and living room. A thousand and one things left to do (that might be a low estimate!), but at least they are IN. Deo gratias! Cindi took some pics, I think, and I'll post some of those later, God willing. Now to hit the shower and head over for Confession and the Divine Service! Bedtime tonight cannot come early enough...

25 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As the Creed is the rule of faith, so the Lord's Prayer is the rule of all prayers. -- Martin Chemnitz, *The Lord's Prayer* p. 21

Patristic Quote of the Day

We do not in those shrines raise altars on which to sacrifice to the martyrs, but to the one God, who is the martyr's God and ours; and at this sacrifice [the Eucharist] the martyrs are named, in their own place and in the appointed order, as men of God who have overcome the world in the confession of his name. They are not invoked by the priest who offers the sacrifice. For, of course, he is offering the sacrifice to God, not to the martyrs (although he offers it at their shrine) because he is God's priest, not theirs. Indeed, the sacrifice itself is the Body of Christ, who is not offered to them, because they themselves are that Body. -- St. Augustine, *City of God* XXII:10

Moving Day!

Any folks around who are bored and wondering how to spend Saturday - you'd be more than welcome to come and help us move Dave and Jo from their old home to their new one! Take a DEEP breath, Jo. It's almost over. And then you can relax in the new house and put your feet up for a week or two. :)

24 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We seek the Holy Spirit where He is not to be found when we take it as self-evident that the way our church is developing is altogether due to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. - Hermann Sasse, *We Confess: the Church* p. 20

Patristic Quote of the Day

Yea, for it was removal of punishment, and remission of sins, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and an inheritance of Heaven, and a relationship unto the Son of God, which he came declaring unto all; to enemies, to the perverse, to them that were sitting in darkness. What then could ever be equal to these good tidings?

God on earth, man in Heaven; and all became mingled together, angels joined the choirs of men, men had fellowship with the angels, and with the other powers above: and one might see the long war brought to an end, and reconciliation made between God and our nature, the devil brought to shame, demons in flight, death destroyed, Paradise opened, the curse blotted out, sin put out of the way, error driven off, truth returning, the word of godliness everywhere sown, and flourishing in its growth, the polity of those above planted on the earth, those powers in secure intercourse with us, and on earth angels continually haunting, and hope abundant touching things to come.

- St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 1

Paper from Symposium

[Nothing new here, but putting thoughts together that I had scattered around a bit before. I delivered this this morning at Concordia Seminary's Theological Symposium on the Church; it was quite refreshing to walk from delivering this to Morning Prayer where Prof. Bartelt said it all again, far better and more eloquently and we got to JOIN in the praises around the throne!]

Ecclesiology in Eschatological Perspective

I believe that to understand the Lutheran perspective on the Church, one must recognize that the Lutheran Church – together with Scripture – sees the Church primarily as an eschatological reality. Said most simply, she’s a product of the future age butting back into the present age. And any way of speaking about her or describing her that does not take cognizance of this, will ultimately fail to be faithful to the Scriptural teaching about her.

St. Paul once wrote that “we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transitory, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Is the Church transitory or eternal? The answer I would propose is eternal. And so the visible of the Church is merely where the invisible butts into the visible; the eternal shows up in the transitory. The Church as she is in Christ, that is, as she ultimately is in herself, is not in this age an object of sight, though she does mark her presence in certain ways. Let me see if I can get at this by another route.

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

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

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

For Luther and for the Lutheran Church first and foremost the Church "is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd." SA III, XII:2 This evokes, of course, John 10:16 with the great promise of the Lord: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” This is in perfect accord with the Apology's assertion: "at its core, it [the Church] is a fellowship of faith and the Holy Spirit in hearts." Ap VII/VIII:5 Thus while the marks which locate the Church are invariably bound up with local congregations, the Church so understood is "no Platonic state, as some wickedly charge. But we do say that this Church exists: truly believing and righteous people, scattered throughout the world." Ap VII/VIII:20.

The Church is not then congregations, but congregation. The singular in AC 7 is vital. The Church is NOT in the Lutheran understanding a series of discrete congregations. The Church properly speaking is rather "the congregation of saints" among whom the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. Not enough thought is given to the force of that singular: congregatio sanctorum in Latin, but even more explicit auf Deutsch die Versammlung ALLER Gläubigen. This is to look at the Church from the view afforded in the Revelation of St. John; it is to look at the Church eschatologically. To see in faith from the End, from the Age to come, what the Church in this age is Рsomething that we can only know in faith.

The Church is the one assembly of all believers. It is not many local assemblies, but ONE assembly. And the reality that is confessed behind this is that what the local congregation manifests is never merely community with a broad spectrum of similar-minded folk alive now – not even if those similar-minded folk are finding their unity in their bishops and their submission to the Roman Pontif. No. The congregation manifests the assembly of ALL believers.

When we worship together, gathered in the Divine Name and receiving the saving Gospel and interceding for the world, and partaking of the Lamb's Feast, we are not present with some piece, some miniscule fraction of the Church. We are present with the whole of it. The words of the Preface point us this way: “Therefore with angels, and archangels, and with all the company of heaven.” This is but some reflection upon the entire New Testament picture of the Church.

Hebrews 12:22ff. bears this out when it describes what you have come to when you gather as Church:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering (angels whooping it up might be a modern paraphrase), and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than that of Abel.”

Find Jesus the Lord, the Head of the Body, and you will invariably find not pieces, but the whole of the Body with Him. This no one can see with the eyes of the body, but it is the faith of the Church that when we gather, we never gather with less than the whole family of God – with all believers alive now, yet to come, and those who have gone ahead, and all the angels and heavenly critters of Revelation. They’re all there. And we’re there with them.

So John, when exiled on Patmos, and “being in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day suddenly finds himself not alone. There is Jesus showing Himself to Him and the saints across Asia minor right there and then the vision opens up bigger and wider and its not just them but all creature in heaven and earth and under the earth, and the martyrs are there, crying from under the altar, the twenty four elders (patriarchs and apostles) are offering up the prayers of the saints and glory is everywhere. You just can’t see it yet. But that’s the reality that the Church lives in.

It shows up in other odd places too. Check out St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he had to deal with the excommunication of the man who had taken his father’s wife. What does he say? “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of the Lord Jesus you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:4-5). When Paul directs the Corinthians to excommunicate a man, he assures them that he will be there with them in s[S?]pirit.

Does it begin to click? Find the Church and you find not pieces, but the whole. Jesus with all his angels and saints, the one assembly of believers. This shows up also in the liturgy. I’ve mentioned the preface’s conclusion. There are a number of other spots worth considering.

When in the confiteor at Compline we confess "to almighty God before the whole company of heaven and to you my brothers and sisters" you should not be thinking that "brothers and sisters" are only those you can see in the room. We admit that coming together as we have in Jesus’ name, we are present with the whole Church and thus confession is made before the whole company of heaven with whom we have gathered.

We sing it in hymns such as “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” – LSB 670. Verse one rings in the choirs of angels – all the titles for angels that roam the Scriptures – as we urge to raise the glad strain and cry out with us. Then there’s the stanza to the Blessed Virgin, verse 2, in which we ask her who is higher than the cherubim and more glorious the seraphim, to “lead their praises” for she, after all, is Bearer of the Eternal Word. But we don’t stop with her. Then there’s the souls in endless rest, the patriarchs, the prophets blest, the holy twelve, the martyrs strong, and finally all saints triumphant join the song. It swirls upward like the visions of revelation, opening a picture bigger and bigger with every verse as together as ONE assembly we sing supernal anthems to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, Three in One. Alleluia!

It shines in the new-to-us hymn from Loehe for communion. If you’ve not learned it yet, put it on the top of your to do list! “Wide open stand the gates adorned with pearl, While round God’s golden throne, The choirs of saints in endless circles curl, And joyous praise the Son! They watch Him no descending To visit waiting earth. The Lord of life unending Bring dying hope new birth. He speaks the Word the bread and wine to bless: ‘This is My flesh and blood!’ He bids us eat and drink with thankfulness This gift of holy food. All human thought must falter – Our God stoops low to heal, Now present on the altar, For us both host and meal. The cherubim, their faces veiled from light, While saints in wonder kneel, Sing praise to Him whose face with glory bright No earthly masks conceal. This Sacrament God gives us Binds us in unity, Joins earth with heav’n beyond us, Time with eternity.” You don’t get it any more clear than that.

Our Eastern brothers and sisters have this one down pat and so they plaster their worship space with their icons to manifest, to show, that the Church is gathered as a whole. We Westerners used to do a similar thing with stained glass and statuary. We’re always the whole family together.

That’s why Walther’s insight was quite profound: the smallest congregation is on a perfectly equal footing with the most grand cathedral parish – for each is only the smallest visible piece of the one great reality that we cannot see – you can’t see most of the worshippers at ANY service! Glorious! The tiniest parish is a megachurch for the Church remains whole, one, indivisible, and entire. It is the assembly SINGULAR, the congregation SINGULAR of all believers. To come together as Church [1 Cor. 11] and partake of the Eucharist is to be manifest that we are NOT one of many, but ONE Body.

How live was that to Luther? Consider these words of Luther cited in Day by Day (that splendid devotional from the old Fortress Press):

“And to everyone who believes through the Word of the Apostles the promise is given for Christ’s sake and by the power of this prayer, that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that what happens to him as a member for good or ill, shall happen to the whole body for good or ill, and not only one or two saints, but all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, and afflictions, and he be partaker of all their blessings, comfort, and joy. How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels with the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him? “ (Day by Day, p. 353, Luther’s exposition of John xvii 1528)

And so in the Divine Service this comes to such beautiful fruition in the Prayer of the Church, where the scope of the prayer reaches from one end of the earth to the other and we remember as well the saints in heaven with whom in Christ we are one, and we ask the mercy of God for all sorts and conditions of men. [And how utterly sad when parishes allow the scope of the prayer to dwindle to the concerns only of that parish community! How utterly contradictory to everything we believe about the Church!]

All of this is a reality, which by its very nature must be believed and cannot be seen. But it is confessed and manifested in the Scriptures and in the liturgy. "Holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd."

What this means for the ecumenical task is not resignation to the mess that now is, but it does mean that we are given the responsibility of manifesting rather than creating this churchly unity, for the churchly unity always will be and remain a gift given by God the Holy Spirit as He binds hearts to Jesus Christ and so one another and brings us into unity with the inner communion of the Blessed Trinity.

In that sense, remembering the definition of Church that Luther and we Lutherans work with, the congregation is indeed the locus of our thought on "church." How could it be otherwise? The ONE congregation, which manifests itself mostly invisibly in countless parishes across the face of the globe as they all assemble at the ONE altar where the Lamb of God reigns in love.

23 September 2008

Tagged!

Fr. Heinz has tagged me (and also very kindly included me in his list) for this meme:

What five people - past or present - inspire your spiritual life??

Hmmm...

OK, we know that our Lord Himself has to be at the top of the list, so He is assumed. Your five simply follow Him. In Lutheran circles, we will also presume "Fr. Martin of Wittenberg" as well. :-)

So the five would be additional people who (humanly speaking) have greatly impacted your life of faith and love on this earth.

For me:

Norman Nagel - he opened a world that I never dreamed of as he taught us to be "nothing but given to" by the Lord.

Kenneth Korby - as Cwirla once said, if Nagel taught us the Gospel, Korby taught us the Law. YOUCH. Great insights.

Thomas Nelson Green - Dean of Students at Concordia, Bronxville, whose love for our Lord and His Eucharist was positively infectious.

Alexander Schmemman - only known through reading his writings (though I was at one service with him at St. Vlad's - Holy Cross Day 1980), yet whose insight into Christ and His Church never ceases to delight and astonish. He's the master of stepping outside the question to let you ask a bigger and better one.

Arthur Carl Piepkorn - again, known only from his writings, who enabled me to remain a Lutheran Christian by showing the true catholicity of Lutheran doctrine (and with him, I have to also mention, though only a "recent" friend, Charles Porterfield Krauth).

Now I have to tag some others. I tag Fr. Asburry; Fr. Brown; Mrs. Heath Curtis; and Fr. Michael Keith

An Interesting Observation

[After observing that the thing really took off in the 4th century:] The story of the rise of the cult of the saints and its development into an identifiably Christian phenomenon is one of the adoption and transformation of a number of related concepts and practices that already existed in the ancient Mediterranean world. *That is, few of the elements of the cult are unique to Christianity. Many, in fact, were already present in the society out of which Christianity grew and were familiar to people of all religious backgrounds.* -- from the introduction to The Cult of the Saints: St. John Chrysostom, Select homilies and letters introduced, translated, and annotated by Wendy Mayer with Bronwen Neil (SVS Press, 2006)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let the sad fate of those on His left hand strike fear in thy heart, because they are there not for doing evil so much as for not doing good. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXXV

Patristic Quote of the Day

Beloved, our condition needs much endurance; and endurance is produced when doctrines are deeply rooted. For as no wind is able by its assaults to tear up the oak, which sends down its root into the lower recesses of the earth, and is firmly clenched there; so too the soul which is nailed by the fear of God none will be able to overturn. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily on John 8

22 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Great indeed is the honor put upon our bodies, inasmuch as they are the dwelling places of our souls redeemed and fed by the body of Christ, and are the temples of the Holy Ghost and the abodes of the adorable Trinity. It cannot be that they should ever remain in the grave, since they are thus nourished with the body and blood of our Lord. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XVIII

Patristic Quote of the Day

The adversary has deceived me; he has stripped me of my garment and stolen it away. Because of him I remain fruitless and must go to the judgment entirely naked. May Thy mercy be for me a robe in the day of judgment! -- St. Ephraim, the Syrian *A Spiritual Psalter* #42

Commemoration of Jonah

From our Synod's website:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour's walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:1). His reluctance to respond and God's insistence that his call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah's name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately sinners. Jonah's three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of his own death, burial, and resurrection (Mt. 12:39–41).

All the earth with joy is sounding:
Christ has risen from the dead!
He, the greater Jonah, bounding
From the grave, His three-day bed,
Wins the prize, Death's demise -
Songs of triumph fill the skies. LSB 462:1

O God, as the prophet Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great fish, so Your Son spent three days in the heart of the earth. Grant us repentance to embrace our death in Him through Holy Baptism and to proclaim His victory over sin and death to all the world; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. - Collect from the Vigil of Easter

21 September 2008

iPhone

Continuing to learn and to be amazed. I'm not sure I'm READY for my life to be made this simple. I think I've just lost my prime excuse: absentmindedness. The danged thing almost THINKS for you. Amazing.

So it's a camera. It's a phone. It's an iPod. It allows me to check and respond to email and surf the web. It's a GPS device and can recommend nearby restaurants when on the road. It's a portable photo album. It's a calendar/appointment book. And it's all these all at once. If I'm listening to my ipod and a call comes in, the music stops and a squeeze of a button on my earphone lets me answer the call. When I'm done, the music picks up exactly where I left off. Unbelievable! If I mark down an appointment in my iPhone, it shows up on my computer's calendar app without me doing a thing.

Sweet, sweet, sweet. The word keeps escaping my lips as I keep finding out NEW things it does. The Apple Video is worth watching - at least two or three times. Too many tricks and tips to take in all at once. I think my laptop may end up sitting at home more than it ever did before... [And my laptop is the hands down, best computer I've ever owned - a MacBook].

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Great are the wounds of thy sins, but precious is the balm of Christ's blood. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditation* VII

Patristic Quote of the Day

My Savior cries out to me, to His disciple: do not despair of thy salvation; I will restore thee and forgive thee thy sins. I have found thee and I will not leave thee, for I have redeemed thee with My very own Blood. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* 26

20 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[Watching his puppy beg at the table]: Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope. - Martin Luther, Table Talk #274

Patristic Quote of the Day

The dog is not gifted with a share of reason; but with him instinct has the power of reason. The dog has learned by nature the secret of elaborate inferences, which sages of the world, after long years of study, have hardly been able to disentangle. - St. Basil the Great, Hexameron, Homily 9

19 September 2008

It's All Asburry's Fault

...and boy is Cindi eager to have a chat with him!!!



[And me? I'm saying: SWEET! about 20 times an hour at the moment...]

18 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Harmony in the Church cannot last unless pastors and churches mutually overlook and pardon many things. - Melanchthon, Ap V:122

Patristic Quote of the Day

Are you wounded? Despair not. Have you fallen? Get up and say bravely: now I have begun. Fall down before your merciful Master and confess your sins... You will not be able to say, "I have sinned," before you see Him stretch forth His hands to embrace and receive you. - St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #122

Happy Expression

"This 'making alive' should not be understood as a Platonic fancy, but as comfort that truly sustains life that flickers in contrition."

Life that flickers in contrition. How true!

Apology XII:46

17 September 2008

On Cathy

She's the mother cat that lives outside. Fixed long ago, but she had two litters and one of her daughters still lives with her: Big Paw. But Cathy is the one who did it. Anastasia, you probably want to stop reading here. I walked outside the door and there it was. A bird. Dead. She'd left it on the doorstep, one of her infamous cat offerings. Now, I'm not squeamish about the ones she EATS, but it the useless death that tears at my heart. She obviously wasn't hungry. When hungry she will meow to high heaven until someone comes and comments on her offering, and then she will proceed to devour it. But there was no devouring the little sparrow. It lay there, an offering unused.

I wondered if people aren't too often like cats. We act as though GOD needed the sacrifice. It's the other way round, folks. WE need the sacrifice. From that death can come life. But only when that life is taken, received, and used. How often do we see the offering of our Lord running in the wrong direction? It's not GOD that needed that offering. It is we.

In the garden already animals died that Adam and Eve might be clothed. Vegetables wouldn't do in the Garden as they wouldn't do on Cain's altar. Life is in the blood. And we need that life. We live from the blood. So the offering of our Lord isn't first and foremost about the Son giving Himself to the Father as it is about the Father giving us the Son so that we can LIVE in Him. WE need that blood, not God. And how it must grieve Him when the gift of the Father, the sacrifice of His Son, is left unappropriated. When the life that He reaches us is rejected. When the pardon that is in the blood is regarded as unnecessary and unneeded and even unwanted. Like Cathy's abandoned sparrow.

Our Father gave us His dearest treasure, His beloved Son. And He gave Him to us that we might find life through His death, pardon through His blood, healing through His body. Folks, let's never dream that HE needed that somehow; WE needed it. Thus the Holy Eucharist remains in the world; His body and His blood, His sacrifice; present to give us His pardon, His life, His love. Yes, He loves us that much.

Poor Cathy has it all wrong. If no sparrow falls to the earth apart from the Father, then the sparrow is a gift given her not to play with, but to be thankful for and nourished by. Silly cat to think that it came from us or that we needed it.

16 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

O Lord Jesus Christ, look upon me, a poor sinner, with Your eyes of mercy, the same eyes of mercy with which You looked upon Peter in the assembly-room, upon Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and upon the malefactor on the cross. Grant to me also, O You, almighty God, that with Peter I may bemoan my sin from the heart, with Mary Magdalene sincerely love You, and with the malefactor on the cross may live eternally with You in Your kingdom. Amen. - Blessed Johann Gerhard, *An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ* p. 123

Patristic Quote of the Day

Many and great, beloved brethren, are the divine benefits wherewith the large and abundant mercy of God the Father and Christ both has laboured and is always labouring for our salvation: that the Father sent the Son to preserve us and give us life, in order that He might restore us; and that the Son was willing to be sent and to become the Son of man, that He might make us sons of God; humbled Himself, that He might raise up the people who before were prostrate; was wounded that He might heal our wounds; served, that He might draw out to liberty those who were in bondage; underwent death, that He might set forth immortality to mortals. These are many and great boons of divine compassion. - St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 8

Commemoration of St. Cyprian

From our Synod's website:

Cyprian of Carthage, Pastor and Martyr
Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248. During the persecution of the roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258.

O blessed saints in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord, Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God.
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice; Let heav'n rejoice
In our Redeemer's song! LSB #676:3

15 September 2008

Patristic Quote of the Day

For Thou verily, O Lord, art the pure and eternal fount of goodness, Who justly turned away from us, and in loving kindness had mercy upon us. You hated, and were reconciled; You cursed, and blessed; You banished us from Paradise, and recalled us; You stripped off the fig-tree leaves, an unseemly covering, and put upon us a costly garment; You opened the prison, and released the condemned; You sprinkled us with clean water, and cleanse us from our filthiness. No longer shall Adam be confounded when called by You, nor hide himself, convicted by his conscience, cowering in the thicket of Paradise. Nor shall the flaming sword encircle Paradise around, and make the entrance inaccessible to those that draw near; but all is turned to joy for us that were the heirs of sin: Paradise, yea, heaven itself may be trodden by man: and the creation, in the world and above the world, that once was at variance with itself, is knit together in friendship: and we men are made to join in the angels' song, offering the worship of their praise to God. - St. Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the Baptism of Our Lord

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Tridentine fathers, however, in Chapter 5, decree against the opinion of all antiquity that the minds of the faithful are incited and sustained for meditating and contemplating divine matters if the words of consecration are uttered with silent voice, although Paul declares that faith comes not from silence but from hearing the Word of God. - Blessed Martin Chemnitz, Examen II:548

Thoughts on EWTN'S Mass for Exaltation of the Holy Cross

[TERRY WARNING: I'm going to say something nice about Vatican II - continue reading at your own risk! ;)]

I suppose it ill becomes a Lutheran to comment upon a Roman Mass, for I'm not a Roman Christian and have no intention of ever becoming one. But I can't pass up the opportunity.

Pope Benedict XVI restored a year ago the right to celebrate the extraordinary rite - the Latin Mass - to any priest. I've not watched the whole before and was curious, so I checked out the service. The music was, of course, beautiful. The ceremony was, for this Lutheran pastor, a bit over the top - now I know what Chemnitz referred to when he criticized the Roman high mass as "theatrical." But the most deeply disturbing moment for me as a Lutheran Christian came during the consecration. This was accomplished with the priest speaking under his breath. The result was that no one assembled got to hear the Verba Christi, the great promise which stands at the heart and center of the Holy Eucharist. I've known for donkey years that that's how the Mass used to be; but knowing it is different from observing it. The observation was downright painful.

Watching during this gaping silence made me quite sad for my fellow Christians in the Roman jurisdiction; and it made me profoundly thankful for the Lutheran Reformation. In all our services, no matter what poverty of ceremony they may have (from a Roman viewpoint), the very words of Christ ring out (and are often SUNG out) as the very heart of the Divine Service. "My Body, given for you...My Blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins!" Surely if Vatican II did ONE thing right with the Roman liturgy, it was putting the canon into the vernacular and having it said aloud so that Christ's people can hear and hold in faith to the wonderful words of our Savior.

Don't get me wrong; the Latin Mass is very beautiful, but its beauty simply pales when you think about taking away from Christ's people the hearing of His Testament. There is no beauty on earth more beautiful than the words, spoken on the night of His betrayal, by our Savior, and repeated now and until the Parousia in the Savior's stead and by His command, for the joy of His people.

14 September 2008

For Holy Cross Day

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!

Patristic Quote of the Day

Take therefore first, as an indestructible foundation, the Cross, and build upon it the other articles of the faith.
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 13:38

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

His sacred soul actually departed the body while at the same time the personal union of the divine and human nature was in no way torn apart, since both body and soul remain united with the person of God's Son. This, then, is a great and (for us humans) an incomprehensible mystery. -- Johann Gerhard, *An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ* p. 286

Early vs. Late

Today the remnants of Hurricane Ike whipped through our area. It was at its worst during early service - which was as full as normal. It was manifestly dying away by the time of late service - which was rather sparse. Go figure. It seems that it is invariably this way: the 7:45 crowd attend Divine Service come hell or high water; the 10 crowd, not so much. Why is that???

13 September 2008

Homily for Holy Cross Day - 2008

I hate fruit flies. And they’re all over the place this time of year. We finally figured out a way to deal with them, though. I filled a glass with some wine, covered it with plastic wrap, poked a few holes in it. The fruit flies make it through those holes to get the wine, but they can’t figure the way back out. A swirl or two every now and then they are trapped in the liquid that they were after. Drowned dead. I’ve got scads of them floating motionless now in the wine and leaving the glass of wine I’m drinking alone. It is a trap and it works marvelously. They keep falling for it.

Today we celebrate Holy Cross day. We might well call it Holy Trap day. For the Cross is a trap too. On it, the bait was raised: our Lord Jesus Christ. And Satan and Death took the bait and swallowed it down before they realized what they were doing. For, if they had, St. Paul points out they would never have crucified the Lord of Glory.

Our Lord is the bait and they come after Him just as they have swallowed down every other human being alive. They have Him, they think, locked up now in among the dead. But the One they have swallowed down was not just a human being. This human being was not only innocent of all sin, but He also happened to be God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

“Death seized a body, and lo! It discovered God. It seized earth, and behold! It encountered heaven. It seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.” [St. John Chrysostom] The trap was sprung when Christ gave His body into Death, and Death greedily and willingly swallowed Him down. He turned out to be Death’s poison pill and by the third day Death was retching and tossing out all that he had ever swallowed along with Him.

Behold, then, the wisdom of God and His strength! Behold, the cross! Behold, how God outsmarted and outmaneuvered them all. On a tree He suffers. On a tree He dies.

Death came to us as the fruit of a tree, and now God in the flesh hangs upon a tree to be our life-giving fruit, that partaking of His flesh and blood – flesh and blood that went into death for us, in our place – we might be set free from death with Him forever.

The Cross as our message to God is: We don’t want you. We don’t need you. Go away and leave us alone. We’re perfectly fine on our own. Get out of our world. Get out of our lives. Stay away!

The Cross as God's message to us is: But I want you, though I don’t need you. I’ll never just go and leave you. You’re not perfectly fine on your own – your broken and damaged, hurt and dying. You need the healing I alone can bring you. You can’t make me hate you. I love you and I give my life to give YOU life. I pour out my blood to wash you clean of sin. I yield myself as the sacrifice in YOUR place so that you will never have to be alone again. For I will be with you every step of the way – through death now and into a life that never ends.

The Cross is how God destroys Satan, exposes his lies. Here is love that is stronger than all the hate of the world; Here is mercy mightier than all bitterness; Here is compassion that outshines the sun in warmth. God allows Himself to be killed so that YOU might be set free.

“If you take Me, you must let them go.” And as He is dying, Satan is whispering in his ear: “Now I’ve got you and if you think I’ll let them go – more fool you! I’ll destroy you and then I will go on destroying them.”

So hatred led the devil to fall into the trap that divine love had set. Thinking he was destroying Christ and with Him all of us, Satan’s dominion of death was wiped out from the inside. For suddenly within Death itself was Him who is Life Unending. Death quailed; Hades trembled; and Light Eternal shone upon the dead and led His faithful forth from that place into the Paradise He had prepared. “Christ risen from the dead has become the leader and reviver of them that had fallen asleep!”

“Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world is cast out. And I, when I am lifted from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

All people. Not just the Greeks who had come to see Him that day. But all people. You, me, everyone. For as we look upon the Holy Trap, the Cross of Christ, we see the incredible lengths to which God would go to have us as His own, to rescue us from the trap Satan had laid for us and which we foolishly fell into!

Here at His Table, He serves up the riches of His cross. Here we toast week by week the Holy Trap by which Satan and death were snared, by which our sins were wiped away and the hope of eternal life given to us. “My body for you, my blood for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” Again and again He reaches you the bait He offered in exchange for your life as the sign and seal that neither sin nor death not Satan can conquer you who shelter beneath the Holy Trap, beneath His cross.

I hate fruit flies and so I’m thankful for the trap that tricks them, and allows me to drink a glass of wine in peace without their interruptions. How much incomparably beyond compare better is the cup of wine that is His blood, the trap He sprang on our enemies, setting us free, so that we could lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord? Amen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We ask that he would strengthen us that we may not fear to die, nor be afraid of death. We ask that when we taste death we may depart in peace and be truly delivered from all evil. - Martin Chemnitz, *The Lord's Prayer* p. 94

Patristic Quote of the Day

"Be perfectly assured of this: although we can't understand why God ordained such troubles, the One who is wise and who loves us arranged them for us... God knows that He is appointing what is best for each person. He knows why the terms of life that He fixes for us are unequal." St. Basil the Great, Letter V:2

12 September 2008

49 Years

Today Jo and Dave celebrated their 49th anniversary. They invited us to celebrate with them, so we went to Porter's in Collinsville and enjoyed some steak, and then home for some cards. The only game we completed *I* won; but Jo did win the game we played five hands of. :) Happy anniversary, you two! We love you!!!

Texans...

...you are in our prayers.

11 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This is clear from the nature of mysteries, for they are beyond reason, beyond the mind, beyond all comprehension. They are set forth in the light of grace, not in the light of nature. They are taught in the school of the Holy Spirit, not in the school of the wise men of this age. They proceed from the spring of God's infinite wisdom, not from the little streams of human knowledge. - Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of God and On the Trinity* p. 296

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us then at length come to our sober senses again, let us watch. For I fear not so much the battle without, as the fight within. - St. John Chrystostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 12

Thursday Chapel at St. Paul's Preschool



A big thanks to Leroy Langendorf for making the beautiful altar, candle stands, book stand and cross!

Changing of the Guard

LEW, can you believe that this is your old room??? Even more incredible, can you believe that David's room is neat and tidied up??? Let's take bets on how long it will last. I'm thinking it MIGHT make it this way till bedtime tonight.

10 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God himself also says in Ezek. 3[:18] that if the preacher does not condemn the error and sin of those whom he teaches, God will lay the loss of their souls to his account. Such a verdict God pronounced upon that kind of preacher who comforts the people and says much about faith and the forgiveness of sins but nothing about penitence or the fear and judgment of God. - Blessed Martin Luther Instruction to Visitors of the Saxon Churches

Patristic Quote of the Day

But nothing is so like the devil as to do things for display. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 11

09 September 2008

Winkel Joy

I should have known! Today at Winkel, Pastor Curtis celebrated the Nativity of the Virgin and gave a wonderful homily based on the St. Matthew reading. And for dessert I got to hold Peter Curtis!!!

Go, Bekah Boo!





[Pics courtesy of Grandma - thanks Jo!]

Sadness

Just found out that for the third year in a row, St. Paul's will not be assigned a fieldworker from Concordia Seminary. We've had students off and on help out here in their free time, and we've appreciated it a great deal, but we miss the long-term relationships that our parish has enjoyed with seminarians (we've been in the fieldwork program since it began). I wish I understood the rationale - for I know that we've had students REQUEST St. Paul's and they have been denied. Still, I'm glad my former vicars are receiving fieldworkers, and I know that they will train them in the same love and devotion for our Lutheran Confession and our Lutheran liturgy that they experienced here at our parish.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For it was not of human power that so great things could be done, but the Might of the Crucified, breathing on him, made him [that is, St. Paul] such as he was, and showed him more powerful than orators and philosophers and tyrants and kings and all men. He was not only able to arm himself and to strike down his adversaries, but to make others also such as himself. Therefore in order that we may become useful both to ourselves and to others, let us continually have him in our hands, using his writings for a meadow and garden of delight . For so shall we be able both to be delivered from vice and to choose virtue, and to obtain the promised good things, whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 10

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is a far more perfect freedom to be unable to will evil than to be able to will good and evil. - Johann Gerhard, On the Nature of God and On the Trinity, p. 247

08 September 2008

Commemoration of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

....which our Synod at present seems to be ignoring! Nevertheless, if you check out the 1731 Lutheran Almanac that the good deacon has posted on the Net (www.lexorandi.org then go to Calendars), you'll see September 8th commemorating this day. But how long into Lutheranism did this day persist? Well, if I pull out my handy-dandy Die Bibel order die ganze Heilige Schrift Alten und Neues Testaments which CPH published into the 20th century, and look in the back where it gives assigned lectionary readings, we discover:

Am Tage der Geburt Mariä - on the Day of the Birth of Mary.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, we note that our Lutheran fathers included as the Epistle reading on said day:

Sirach 24:24-30.

When they said "ganze," they were not joking!

The Gospel for the day is the geneology of our Lord from St. Matthew: Matthew 1:1-16.

Where, oh, where did the observance of Mary's Birthday go - not merely as a commemoration, but as a celebration with Eucharistic propers?

Sadly, you won't find it in Treasury of Daily Prayer because of the (laudable) commitment to completely reflect the LSB appointed propers and rubrics. BUT you will find it in The Brotherhood Prayer Book, where in addition to the readings given above, the following collect is supplied:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, unto Thy servants the gift of Thy heavenly grace that as the child-bearing of the blessed virgin Mary was the beginning of salvation, so the joyful festival of her nativity may bring us an increase of peace; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...

Here's the lovely hymn Quem terra, pontus sidera by Fortunatus, sung by Pr. Mayes. Fitting for this day:

HYMN

I know it's going to be...

...a great day when it's only 7:30 and I have already prayed Matins, read from the Book of Concord, posted on the blog, AND eaten for breakfast my all time favorite - courtesy of Sam and Lisa (thank you, thank you, thank you!) - some delicious country ham, pan fried. Now if only I can figure out a way to make lo-carb light rolls to go with...

Patristic Quote of the Day

Do you see Paul's wisdom, how after having exalted them, he ascribed the whole to God by calling the thing grace? For seeing he had spoken great things of them, in that he called them ministers and exalted them unto a great height, (since they offered service while he himself did but administer ,) and termed them 'proved ,' he shows that God was the Author of all these things. And he himself again, along with them, sends up thanksgiving, saying, "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!" - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 9

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

True freedom is to serve God and to imitate Him. It is wretched slavery to want to be free to do evil. -- Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of God and on the Trinity* p. 249

06 September 2008

"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..."

Tonight we celebrated three adult confirmations - a great joy indeed.  Welcome to the St. Paul's family and to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Maggie, Lisa and Dustin!

Fitting somehow that summer's Catechesis wrapped up with Confirmations today and that tomorrow we begin Catechesis again - 5 p.m. in the Church sanctuary we'll start our Catechism Services.  Up for tomorrow: Commandments 1 to 3 from Luke 16, Lazarus and the Rich Man.

The Christian is never done learning because Christ our Lord is never done teaching.  Always more gifts He has for us as we learn together to live under His grace, in His mercy and forgiveness, to be shaped by His love.

Treasury of Daily Prayer Update

Time's getting close for you to have it in your hands, but the good folks at CPH went one better. Did you know that you can start using your Treasury of Daily Prayer before it is physically in your hands? The marvels of modern technology. Check this out:

Treasury

How sweet is that, I ask you? Beginning with September 11, you can use the Treasury online right up to October 7th, I believe. And with one click, you can be taken to the page where you place an order for your own copy.

What a rich opportunity for us all to grow in the Word, in prayer, in the communion of saints! Excited doesn't even BEGIN to describe my thoughts about the Treasury. I hope every family in my parish orders a copy.

05 September 2008

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us then think with shame on the great benefits we have already received, the great benefits we are yet to receive. And if a poor man come to us and beg, let us receive him with much good will, comforting, raising him up with [our] words, that we ourselves also may meet with the like, both from God and from men. For whatsoever ye would that they should do unto you, do ye also unto them. Matthew 7:12 - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Cor. 8

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Nor is it affirmed that where the preaching is deficient in purity, it is absolutely destitute of efficacy. There are degrees of purity; and we cannot determine how small the amount of truth may be through which God exerts His saving power. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 211

And you know...

(those are to irritate Fr. Eckardt, on the off chance he's reading)...when you've not been to the gym for 4 years and then you start back up again - IT HURTS. As in trying to put on my seat belt (Jo, I can really sympathize now!), put on a shirt, anything that requires LIFTING these arms. YOUCH.

Elliot knew what he was writing about: "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled. Do I dare to eat a peach?" No I do not dare. They are not on Atkins! :)

You know...

when you're running water through the tea maker, it is sometimes helpful to put the POT underneath the basket so that the hot water doesn't spread all over the counter. Someone should write Cindi about the proper procedure for this... ;)

Commemoration of Zacharias and Elizabeth

Today our Synod commemorates the parents of St. John the Baptist. From the Synod website:

Zacharias and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord” (Lk 1:6). Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel who announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially Zechariah did not believe Gabriel's announcement because of their old age. For his disbelieve, Zechariah became unable to speak. After their son was born, Elizabeth named her son John. Zechariah confirmed his wife's choice and his ability to speak was restored. In response, he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God's promises in the Old Testament and a prediction of John's work as forerunner to Jesus (Lk. 1:68–79). Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety.

Sing praise to the God of Israel!
Sing praise for His visitation!
Redeeming His people from their sin,
Accomplishing their salvation,
Upraising a mighty horn within
The house of His servant David.

A bright, rising Sun now shine on us
In need of illumination;
Come, scatter the shades of sin and death
And shatter their domination.
Be guiding our footsteps on the path
Of peace, in Your presence dawning! LSB 936

04 September 2008

Anointing of the Sick

When I went to the hospital today to see Glen and bring him the Sacrament, I also brought him another gift from God and His Word: the anointing of the sick. The Pastoral Care Companion has a beautiful rite for visiting a sick person that loads them down with gifts from God.

It begins with the greeting of peace, moves to confession and the priceless absolution, God's Word (James 5) is read and the sick person addressed and then anointed with the words used in the Baptismal order: "The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given you the new birth of water and the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting. Amen." What a perfect blessing to accompany the anointing! Prayers are offered and lastly the Eucharist dispensed and a final blessing given.

Absolution, Anointing, Prayer, Eucharist, Benediction - gifts abounding for those in need, mighty medicine from God's treasure chest, and all of them routing that deep fear that Satan would plant within: "He doesn't love you; You've done something that angered Him and now He's paying you back." "Lie, lie, lie" announces the Church's ministry to the sick! "That's a lie from the evil one. Don't listen to him. Listen instead to God and His promises for you. Despite what you have done, He loves you, and He hates death even more than you can imagine. Trust in Him for He will not abandon you; He will stay with you until you are delivered - either raised from your bed in this world, or raised from it in the age to come. Either way, He is yours."

Purely incidentally, CPH offers for sale some anointing oil that has a wonderful fragrance. I recommend it:

click here

Homily for Trinity 16

[1 Kings 17:17-24 / Ephesians 3:13-21 / Luke 7:11-17]

Bishop Laache, the famous Norwegian Lutheran bishop, hit the nail on the head when he wrote: “Here on this earth we carry one another to the grave; it is one continuous funeral that no one can stop…The whole earth is a graveyard, and the whole race of humanity a funeral procession. We don’t simply follow the dead when we walk behind the coffin; we carry death in ourselves and hasten to our own graves. These eyes, this tongue, these hands will decay, dry up, and turn to dust…”

How the widow of Nain tasted the bitter truth of those words! Death, that hideous monster, had already devoured her beloved husband, and now it had just eaten her one and only son. She knew as she trudged behind that coffin that death itself would always be the winner and that she was headed to that same darkness, that same grave.

Some of you have literally walked where she walked. Almost all of you have walked behind a coffin bearing someone you loved. And if you haven’t yet, you will. Truly we carry death in ourselves and we hasten to our own graves.

But that day something happened in Nain that shook the kingdom of death to its foundations. For one procession met another. A procession of Life (Jesus and His followers) met up with that sorry procession of death. And look at what happened.

First, Jesus sees her. And with the omniscience that is given him, one look told him the whole story. He knows that she has seen death devour her husband and now her heart is broken as she goes to bury her only son. But He doesn’t just know all this about her; knowing, His heart is touched with pity, with compassion.

He was sent into this world by His Father because His Father loves us and His heart of love was breaking at what we were going through. He never intended, never wanted, any human being to know the unbearable pain of grief. Even though WE were the ones who brought death into the world through our disobedience, He came to deal with it, to destroy it for us. And so His heart is moved by pity and he speaks to her: “Woman, do not weep.”

What He says to her, he says to every grieving heart. “Do not weep.” How could she not weep? How can we not weep? Death is a fearsome foe and we have no strength whatsoever to fight it off. And once one is swallowed down by death, we are left alone and frightened, knowing that we will become death’s prey all too soon and at a time we may not even expect. And yet Jesus dares to say: “Do not weep.”

And then He shows how He dares to say this to us. He goes up to the coffin, grabs hold of it, arrests its movement to the grave, and stops Death dead in its tracks. Then He does the astonishing. He speaks. He speaks and His voice reaches even into the gaping pit of death. He speaks and says: “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Notice the contrast with Elijah from our first reading. Great man of God that he is, Elisha does not have life in himself to give away. He is just another poor sinner. But he knows that he serves the God of life and so he prays and begs God, and the God of life answers his prayer. But Jesus speaks no prayer. LIFE is His to give. He shows that now for all to see.

“Young man, I say to you, arise” The young man sat up, and I’m sure the bearers dropped the coffin in their shock, but Jesus was there to take his hand and give him back to his mother. Unspoken are the words, “See, I told you not to weep.”

Do you remember when Jesus was comforting His friend Martha, how she said: “I know that my brother will rise at the last day”? And Jesus told her: “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” That’s WHO He is. He is the Defeat of death. He is the Raiser of the Dead. He is the One who is so bursting with LIFE that His voice alone has the power to waken the dead and call them from their tombs. Did He not say it of Himself: “Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live”? (John 5:25)

Death is not stronger than His voice. Death is forced to give up its prey when Jesus commands. And that was only a brief skirmish; the real battle was still ahead. For Jesus’ war with Death would not be over until He himself had tasted it for every man, and by enduring it, would destroy its power forever. Transforming it, making it something it never was before - now an entrance into life!

Look at what happened just as a result of this little skirmish. Jesus took that funeral procession and brought it to an end. Instead of ending where every funeral ends, with tears of sadness, it ended with tears of joy and with worship. People glorifying God and telling each other that a great prophet has arisen and that God has visited His people. The procession of life grew that day, as those who had witnessed the miracle joined in following the Man in Whom is LIFE.

Think of what that means for death! Are you afraid of your bed? Does it make you tremble to think of lying down in it? No more so should you be afraid of death, you who trust in the Redeemer and have been baptized into Him and into whom has been fed the immortal body and blood of the Son of God! He will rouse you from that sleep on the last Day and you will open your eyes to see your Redeemer face to face, just like that young man did when Jesus took him by the hand and gave him to his mother. What’s to fear then, about death?

And because this is so, how can we not be glorifying and praising God? How can we not be worshipping and singing and telling one and all that in Jesus we have met the One who alone stops the sad funeral procession of human existence and changes it into a procession of life – life with Him now, and life with Him when our soul departs to heaven and our body sleeps in the earth, and life with Him forever when He wakens us body and soul, and raises us to the Day without evening in the Kingdom of His Father. Amen.

Commemoration of Moses

From our Synod's website:

Moses was born in Egypt several generations after Joseph brought his father Jacob and his brothers there to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. The descendants of Jacob had been enslaved by the Egyptians and were ordered to kill all their male children. When Moses was born his mother put him in a basket and set it afloat in the Nile River. He was found by Pharaoh's daughter and raised by her as her own son (Exod 2:1–10). At age 40 Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled to the land of Midian, where he worked as a shepherd for forty years. Then the Lord called him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” (5:1). Eventually Pharaoh gave in and, after the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, Moses led them out. At the Red Sea the Egyptian army was destroyed and the Israelites passed to safety on dry land (Exodus 12-15). At Mount Sinai they were given the Law and erected the Tabernacle (Exodus 19-40). But because of disobedience they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, although God allowed him to view it (Deuteronomy 34). In the New Testament Moses is referred to as lawgiver and prophet. The first five books of the Bible are attributed to him.

These are the holy ten commands
God gave to us through Moses' hands
When high on Sinai's mount he stood,
Receiving them for our good. Have mercy, Lord!

You have this law to see therein
That you have not been free from sin
But also that you clearly see
How pure toward God life should be. Have mercy, Lord!

Our works cannot salvation gain;
They merit only endless pain.
Forgive us, Lord! To Christ we flee
Who pleads for us endlessly. Have mercy, Lord!
LSB 581:1,11,12

Addendum: we also can note the whole of Baptism's grace in Moses' early life. Being condemned to die, he was cast into the water, from which he was drawn out and adopted as a royal prince; even so in Baptism we are sent into the water to die, but are drawn from it and adopted as the royal kings and priests of God in Christ.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The one who takes pleasure in sin or is indifferent toward it thereby lives in the flesh. However, the one who walks in the Spirit daily bears sorrow over his sin, is filled with anguish and grief, and often laments his sins with a thousand bitter tears of repentance. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 711, 712

Patristic Quote of the Day

Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learned what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things; which may we all obtain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.--St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 7

03 September 2008

Neglected Rubrics One More Time

"While the offerings are being gathered, the presiding minister or an assistant prepares the altar for the celebration of the Sacrament."

No, it's not a rubric to fill dead time; it's a rubric to confess the deep inner connection between the offerings being gathered and the bread and wine that will be offered to God - first confessed as His gifts to us - so that He will give them back to us as the Body and Blood of His Son. Bread and wine do not magically appear. We remember that in the ancient Church the faithful brought gifts of bread and wine - most of which went to the poor and the support of the clergy, but some of which the deacons set aside for the Eucharist on that day. From what the people gave, the earthly elements were set apart for offering to God's holy purposes. Nowadays, the people bring monetary offerings usually, but the principle is the same. Nor does He ask from us grain and grapes - which would be His gifts directly. He asks us to present bread and wine - that is His gifts taken and worked with human hands, and then offered to Him. You begin to get the pattern: it's an W not an M. It starts up at the top with Him, and includes a bounce up to Him of the gift received, which He then sends back as more than we could imagine, and then we send up thanks and praise and service to the neighbor. The W instead of the M keeps it from being idolatry. It begins always with the downward gift and that is where the accent remains - only each time He ups the ante and gives more than we can either desire or deserve.

So Sunday as the plates are being passed, remember that the offering is made by those who have received good gifts from God and who are about to witness the miracle of what happens when God's gifts gifts are taken and offered back in thanksgiving to Him. He to us. We to Him. He is to us. We to Him. This little rubric about preparing the table as the offerings are being gathered reminds us that this is the pattern of life with our Giver God.

Stray Thought on Sanctification

I was speaking to some friends today about how often sanctification is viewed in moral terms (doing "better") rather than ontological terms (becoming one with Christ). It led me though to wonder if love were not the nexus of the two? The very nature of the Divine Logos in the flesh was love, "for God is love" as St. John teaches us. As we are united to Him, we are united to Love Enfleshed. Was it not Love precisely which worked all the miracles, most especially the miracle of the Cross and Resurrection? To be held by that Burning Love which destroys in us all that is NOT love is indeed to be made "better" - to be healed, if you will. But the being made better is not the content of the sanctifying love, but the result of that Love's presence. "We love because He first loved us." He doesn't love us because we first love. Producing a crop of good works (a wholly desirable thing!) comes not merely, then, from exhortations to good works - which surely have their place - but above all from union with Christ, which union we must seek always to guard. Well did Martin Chemnitz hold these together, then, when he wrote: "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 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 And running through my mind the new Christmas hymn by Schalk:

Can I, will I forget how Love was born,
And burned Its way into my heart -
Unasked, unsought, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live and not alone for me? LSB 369:3

Commemoration of Gregory the Great, Pastor

Today our Synod commemorates one of the greatest bishops to serve the city of Rome, Gregory the Great (also counted as the fourth among the four doctors of the Western Church: Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome being the others). From the Synod's website:

One of the great leaders in Europe at the close of the sixth century, Gregory served in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. As mayor of Rome, he restored economic vitality to his native city, which had been weakened by enemy invasions, pillage, and plague. After he sold his extensive properties and donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church. On September 3, 590 A.D., Gregory was elected to lead the church in Rome. As Bishop of Rome he oversaw changes and growth in the areas of church music and liturgical development, missionary outreach to northern Europe, and the establishment of a church-year calendar still used by many churches in the western World today. His book on pastoral care became a standard until the 12th century.

The classic form the of the Western eucharistic rite is generally attributed to the work of this great saint. He definitely introduced the Kyrie into its current location and the Lord's Prayer at the end of the great Thanksgiving; Bede also says that he introduced into the canon the petitions: "Order our days in Your peace, preserve us from eternal damnation, and count us among Your chosen flock, through Jesus Christ, our Lord." [Bede, *A History of the English Church and People* Book II, Chapter 1]

From LSB, a hymn attributed to St. Gregory for singing at the morning office:

Father, we praise Thee, now the night is over,
Active and watchful, stand we all before Thee;
Singing, we offer prayer and meditation:
Thus we adore Thee.

Monarch of all things, fit us for Thy mansions;
Banish our weakness, health and wholeness sending;
Bring us to heaven, where Thy saints united,
Joy without ending.

All-holy Father, Son, and equal Spirit,
Trinity blessed, send us Thy salvation;
Thine is the glory, gleaming and resounding
Through all creation. LSB 875

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

All agree that when the humiliation was finished and the infirmities had been laid aside in the glorification, these gifts which had been infused or given to the human nature of Christ because of the hypostatic union were now made the highest, the greatest, and completely perfect in supply, number, and degree, both in attributes as well as in activity; that is, in itself and and according to itself the humanity of Christ was augmented and adorned formally and habitually above all creatures in ineffable and incomprehensible light, wisdom, power, strength, courage, glory, honor, immortality, incapacity for suffering, brilliance, happiness, blessedness, and the other gifts of glorification. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Two Natures in Christ* p. 251

Patristic Quote of the Day

"The hour of the mysteries opens heaven, the choir of angels is present, the lowest things are joined with the highest, earthly things are joined with heavenly, and the visible and invisible are made one." Gregory the Great, Dialog 4, chap. 58 (MPL 77, 428)

02 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As we commonly say, the Holy Spirit produces in believers such actions as He Himself is. Thus Scripture calls this gracious indwelling of the saints the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Thus also the believers are called partakers of the divine nature, as those who have communion with the divine nature. But these gifts which have been conferred upon the saints through the gracious indwelling of the Deity are not themselves the essential, uncreated, and infinite attributes of the Deity, but they are gracious finite gifts, in a sense, the effects of the Deity, which are given to the saints in such a way that they inhere in them formally, habitually, and subjectively, and in this way they differ in their nature and are distinct from the essential attributes of the divine nature. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Two Natures in Christ* p. 247

Patristic Quote of the Day

"The acceptable time." What is this? That of the Gift, that of the Grace, when it is appointed not that an account should be required of our sins nor penalty exacted; but besides being delivered, that we should also enjoy ten thousand goods, righteousness, sanctification, and all the rest. For how much toil would it have behoved us to undergo in order to obtain this "time!" But, behold, without our toiling at all it has come, bringing remission of all that was before. Wherefore also He calls it "acceptable," because He both accepted those that had transgressed in ten thousand things, and not acceded merely, but advanced them to the highest honor; just as when a monarch arrives, it is a time not for judgment, but for grace and pardon. Wherefore also He calls it acceptable.--St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 6

01 September 2008

Nice

Yesterday we attended Church in Wartburg, IL, and were blessed to receive the gifts from the mouth and hands of (former vicar) Pastor Rethwisch. We also go to see his Elijah Joseph baptized into Christ (he was also anointed - a beautiful testimony to the purpose of Baptism being the Holy Spirit's taking up residence within). What struck me as quite comforting was simply going to another Church and finding the same hymnal, same service. Those who are LCMS old timers remember when you could travel just about anywhere and find it so. We're not nearly back to that (given the number of parishes that simply have abandoned the liturgy), but it seems we are a long way now from a three hymnal Synod. At every parish we visited this year when away from St. Paul's on vacation, the familiar LSB has welcomed us from the pew rack, and we happily picked it up and sang the liturgy and hymns.