30 November 2008

Ad Te Levavi

A wonderful first Sunday in Advent. We awoke this morning to a dusting of snow - nature announced: "Advent's here!" At both Divine Services, Cindi, David, Bekah and I did some work with chimes and the 2, 4, and 6th verses of "Savior of the Nations" - a lot of fun. Cindi, Sharon and Millie also sang a stunning Kyrie at both liturgies. At early service we were surprised that Pastor Asburry joined us - we were quite blessed that the first Sunday of his Sabbatical found him at St. Paul's! At Bible Class and late service, we were also blessed to have Pr. Gleason and family - he assisted at late Divine Service. They joined us at the parsonage for lunch, then moved some things into the teacherage garage. Lauren and Dean arrived as they were heading out and we set up the house for the holy days - and yes, I made the requisite molasses cookies. Then with all the kids home, Jo and Dave joined us for dinner (okay, well, BREAKFAST: eggs, bacon, toast, muffins). No cards today. Bekah had a paper to work on and Lauren and Dean needed to get going. She's driving back to Seward tomorrow. Sometime in the afternoon I finished next weekend's services and shipped those off to Joanie. All in all, a wonderful welcome to the joyous fast. May it be a blessing to each and every reader of this blog!

O Savior Child of Mary
Who felt our human woe,
O Savior King of glory
Who triumphed o'er the foe,
Bring us at last we pray
To the bright courts of heaven
And to the endless day.

Saint Andrew, Apostle

Today we commemorate St. Andrew, the Apostle. The Treasury of Daily Prayer has a beautiful devotion on this day from a homily of Valerius Herberger. Just a snippet: "Then when he saw the cross, he [Andrew] spoke: 'Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you." The collect for St. Andrew asks: "grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus in heart and life" whom St. Andrew followed when he obeyed the Lord's call so long ago. The Sunday nearest St. Andrew's day always determines the start of Advent.

29 November 2008

Commemoration of Noah

Today our Synod commemorates Noah. From our Synod's website (and Treasury of Daily Prayer):

Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.

The prayer for this day is from the great flood prayer of Dr. Luther:

"Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. Grant that we be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." (TDP, p. 966)

Two Gifts - Wonderfully Restored

Years ago, one of my dearest friends, Karl Bachman, gave me a Watanabe of the Lord's Supper. He asked only that I have it professionally framed. Well, I put it up in a simple frame and postponed getting it properly attended to. And several years back, our dear friend, Barb Brase, gave us a lovely winter picture, but the frame came apart, and it's been missing in action for a long while. This year, we asked Dave (my father in law) to fix both and he did - far surpassing our expectations. They both look beautiful now. We took down the ocean picture that Joanne had painted for us (we're going to keep it for summer) and subbed the winter scene. And the Watanabe now hangs beautifully in the living room. Amazing, absolutely amazing, what a proper frame and matting can do for a painting!

Homily for Ad Te Levavi (2008)

[Jeremiah 23:5-8 / Romans 13:11-14 / Matthew 21:1-9]

Why Advent? Why does the Church insist not only that we shouldn’t, but that we can’t, simply jump into Christmas like the world is trying to do right now? Why does she instead inaugurate a season of repentance – focusing on watchfulness in prayer, almsgiving, and fasting - all the while inviting more attention to hearing the Word and receiving the Eucharist? Why does she direct our attention again to the struggle against the flesh – as we just heard in today’s epistle: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH, to gratify its desires.” Why such a somber, serious tone?

I think today’s Collect nailed it. We ask in that prayer that our Lord would stir up His power and come and save us from the threatening perils of our sin. You see, we need Advent because we forget that our sins are threatening and are perilous. We forget that the only joy possible in this age is repentant joy. We forget why God hates sin so much.

Do you realize why? Not because it is some affront to His holiness, as though He were Felix Unger and can’t stand something out of place. No. He who is burning Love Himself hates sin with every ounce of His being because of what sin does to the creatures whom He loves. We think sin only affects Him. But it never affects Him – it always and only affects each of us and those we hurt in the process. Sin does damage. If we can come to believe that again, we can see why we need Advent.

Each season of penitence observed in the Church is observed with one goal in mind: to make you discontent with your life as it now is. To show you that there is so much more that your life can be in Christ. To stir up in you a hunger and thirst for change – change inside of you. Instead of settling for what always has been, the Church wants to entice you by the Holy Spirit’s power to dream for, reach for, and hope for what may yet come to be.
That’s why St. Paul’s epistle today begins by telling us that it’s time to wake from our spiritual drowsiness and slumber that is content with the way things are. “Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed,” he says.

Time to be rid of works of darkness. You know what they are. You have only to think about the things you do that you want no one to see, that you want covered in darkness. You have only to think of the things you think, that you want never to be exposed to the light of day. You have only to think of the things you WANT, that you hope no one ever knows were the objects of your desire. THESE are the works of darkness that St. Paul urges us all to cast off – dumping them from our lives and instead moving into the realm of the daytime, of Christ’s light. The key is always to put on Christ and to make no provision for the flesh to scratch its various itches.

Hence, a time of prayer, a time of fasting, a time of almsgiving – all three disciplines are gifts of the Spirit to crucify the flesh with its constant demands of putting itself first. Advent comes as liberation from servitude to the old Adam; it comes as a gift of the Spirit who can enable us to live in Christ, to live as new men and women. No longer slaves, but free.

But how can it happen? We’ve tried the path of will power. We know how far we get when we try. The Church sets a mystery before us today. She shows us Jesus, entering into Jerusalem as King, riding on a donkey. Do you see it? What you can never do to tame the beast that is your flesh, He can and does do. He rides the beast and even the one never ridden, and it does HIS bidding. It carries Him in to His City where He will not only be greeted as King, but where He will give His life as the ransom that will set all people free. What we can never do in the conquering of our own flesh, Jesus Christ CAN do. He who always prayed “Thy will be done” even when that will brought Him to Jerusalem to die as King upon a cross – He can do inside of you what you could never do on your own. HE can tame your flesh and make it Christ-bearing.

The first Palm Sunday they greeted Him as He rode into town, and as they sang their songs of praise to Him, they most likely had it all wrong about what He was coming to do. They were thinking that freedom from the Romans would be pretty nice. He was thinking all along that freedom from their sin would be even better. And that’s why the throne of King Jesus ended up being made of wood – a cross; His crown made of thorns; His life yielded as the sacrifice that atoned for the sin of the world. The enemies He came to defeat bigger by far than anything His people imagined.

Why Advent? Because the only life worth living is the life where Christ rides the donkey – the life where He controls our flesh and so sets us free from being slaves to our own appetites and desires. The donkey isn’t bad; it just needs someone to be its master. And He has come to be that. He is born in Bethlehem, laid in the donkey’s crib, to be the bread of life for the world. We need Him, for He alone can bring us forgiveness for all our sins of yielding to the flesh. He alone can wipe them out and break the chains that hold us in bondage. He alone can tame the donkey that is our flesh and bring it into subjection to the will of His Father. And each Advent the Church proclaims not only that He CAN do this, but that He WILLS to do this for us.

As He comes to us anew in the Holy Sacrament today, let us cry out to Him in joy the ancient song: “Hosanna!” That is, “Save us now, O Lord! Save us from our bondage to the flesh! Save us and be Yourself our Righteousness (OT reading) and to You alone with Your Father and Your Holy Spirit be all the glory, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!” Amen!

From the Ad Te Levavi Divine Service

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in You I trust... Kyrie eleison, Kyrie, eleison, Kyrie eleison... Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come that by Your protection we may be saved from the threatening perils of our sins... I will raise up for David a righteous Branch...and this is the name by which He will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."... None who wait on You shall be put to shame... The night is far gone, the day is at hand... Show us Your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation... Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!... Virgin's Son, make here Your home! Marvel now, O heaven and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth... Whose way John the Baptist prepared...calling sinners to repentance that they might escape from the wrath to be revealed when He comes again in glory... O God the Father, the Fountain and Source of all goodness, who in lovingkindness sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh... All praise, eternal Son, to Thee, Whose Advent sets Thy people free, Whom with the Father we adore And Holy Spirit evermore.

Advent Arrives

today with the setting of the sun. As the darkest days of the year creep up on us, the Church celebrates the Sun of the Righteousness who rises with healing in His wings. The Divine Service for the first week in Advent always features one of my all-time favorite hymns: "Savior of the Nations." It was a hymn that St. Ambrose (whose commemoration is fast approaching) originally wrote, and which Luther loved so much he put into German. We have it, thus, from Ambrose through Luther and finally Englished. Here are some of its beautiful stanzas:

Then stepped forth the Lord of all
From His pure and kingly hall,
God of God, yet fully man,
His heroic course began.

God the Father was His source,
Back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down,
Back then to His throne and crown.

For You are the Father's Son
Who in flesh the victory won.
By Your mighty power make whole
All our ills of flesh and soul.

From the manger newborn light
Shines in glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides,
In this light faith now abides. (LSB 332:4-7)

You can hear a stunning organ rendition of the hymn here:

Funeral Homily for Doris Lueker

[Job 19:23-27 / 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 / John 10:27-30]

Shirley, Dale, Karen and Roger, Jill, family and friends of Doris Lueker, I think it was exactly the week before Doris died that I read some words of Dr. Luther to her. They were based on the epistle we just heard, especially this verse: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” Luther wrote: “Let each man meditate upon this promise diligently and find in it comfort in all afflictions and especially in the pain of death. From that day, we shall be no more tempted, but shall be delivered from all evil. From that day, there will be no more death. From that day, there will be no more pain. From that day, there will be no more sin dwelling in our flesh, but our flesh will be pure and clean from all that is foul, from all evil desire and lust.” And when I finished reading those words, you remember what Doris did – Dale and Shirley? She said her “amen” in the only way she could. She clapped. And the look on her face was as clear as could be: “Let it come! I’m ready. I long for it.”

Hers was the faith of old Job that we heard in today’s first reading: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and not another. My heart faints within me!” She knew that she had a Redeemer and that Redeemer lived and because He lived, she would live too. Hers was a simple faith of trusting the words of Jesus.

And thus we lay her to her earthly grave as to a bed, knowing that she was one of the sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice. I ask you: how often did she miss Church when she was physically able to be here. It was not an option in her life. It was simply the way to live. God had given a commandment, after all, about remembering to keep the Sabbath day holy, and she knew she kept it holy by gathering with other sheep of the Good Shepherd and hearing His words. Countless were the times she came here and confessed herself a sinner deserving both temporal and eternal punishment. Countless were the times she bowed her head and heard from Jesus through the mouth of a long series of pastors the promise that her sins were forgiven. And countless were the times when she came forward and knelt at this altar and had placed into her mouth the undying Body and Blood of the Son of God. Thus He sealed to her His promise that not only were her sins forgiven, but that He had given her eternal life and that she would never perish and that no one, absolutely no one, could ever snatch her from His strong, nail-scarred hand. She belonged to Him.

And I think that’s what fortified her all her days – the hard days of working on the farm, the joyous time when all has been gathered in, the evenings of pinochle and enjoying company with friends, the afternoon pinochle games with the Golden Agers. She was always friendly, invariably had a kind word for folks, and you know how easily she laughed. I don’t think I’d be wrong to say that hers was truly a life of joy – quiet joy in the Lord. It’s what sustained her through your father’s death; what sustained her as this last sickness came on and accelerated these last months.

It just changes how you live your life when you know that you live under the promise of forgiveness and that God has provided you a home that you can never lose. As sad as it is for those who are left here, she knew she was going to join a greater crowd there – the spirits of the just gathered to the throne of the Lamb eagerly awaiting the day when He would return, that trumpet would sound and the dead be raised. So her life was one big: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Enfolded into that Savior’s arms from infancy and growing up attending His Word and sharing His meal, she was ready and more than ready to meet whatever came her way – she knew that somehow He would use it to bring blessing. And He has. He has brought her home. And I’ll be she clapped her hands for joy on Tuesday as her eyes shut to this world, but opened to the rest He has prepared for His people. And for that be all glory, honor, and praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[The Christian] fears not the power of the devil, because he is sensible of God's forbearance toward him. Christ who lives in him and is the all-powerful conqueror is stronger far than the devil, who busies himself in vain to conquer him. He yields not to the enticements of the flesh, because living in the Spirit of God he experiences the riches of His grace, whose quickening power crucifies and puts to death the sinful flesh. He feels no dread of the accusations of Satan on the last day, because he is assured of the intercessions of Christ on his behalf. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXXII

Patristic Quote of the Day

Christ was not born because the star was there; but the star was there because Christ was born. If there was any fate, it was in the birth, and not in the star. The word fate is derived from a word which means to speak; and since Christ is the Word of God by which all things were spoken before they were, the conjunction of stars is not the fate of Christ, but Christ is the fate of the stars. The same will that made the heavens took our earthly nature. The same power that ruled the stars laid down His life and took it again. - - St. Augustine, Against Faustus, Book 2

28 November 2008

The Day After

Cindi and I were up first thing and off to the Y. I figure if we were able to faithfully maintain our exercise routine THIS week, we'd be able to do it through anything! We got home and visited a bit with Sis and Jimmy and then gave some serious thought to lunch. We decided on breakfast. Bekah made the pancakes. I did the sausage. Cindi made the eggs and fixed some low-carb pancakes for us. The afternoon was entirely leisurely - just visiting and talking or resting. Then to visitation for Doris - still so hard to fathom she's gone. On the way home we decided to eat out. We ended up at Zapatas and I had an excellent dish of shrimp in very hot sauce; Cindi stuck with our usual standby - fajitas (we just don't use the tortillas). Back home we spent the evening finishing up some pies and visiting more around the table. It's only nine and yet we're all pretty wiped and thinking about bed. Sis and Jimmy are leaving tomorrow (a day earlier than they had planned originally) because of Jimmy's work. Bummer. Still, we've been so blessed having this time with them.

27 November 2008

Thanksgiving Pics 1

Thanksgiving Pics 2

Thanksgiving Pics 3

Happy Thanksgiving!

A happy Thanksgiving Day to one and all. Sis and Jimmy made it in just after 4, and they brought along the desk in the picture. That was my dear Aunt Fanny's - I remember her writing at it when I was a wee thing. She was such a character! I'm thankful to have a remembrance of her in our living room.

Turkey is in the oven, pies are all baked, and the only big thing left on my "to do" list is the light rolls. Promises to be a feast and a half! There will be twelve of us sitting down for dinner - pictures to follow, God willing!

26 November 2008

Productive Day

Matins and then hit the Y; stopped to shop on the way home. Met with the Luekers, drew up funeral bulletin and homily. Ordered flowers. Bite to eat for lunch. Made cornbread and chopped veggies for dressing - all safely stowed in fridge (this year, used the cuisinart and boy did that save a LOT of time - chopped my celery, onion and ground up the cornbread nice and fine) . Fixed mushroom caps and they are ready to pop in the oven tomorrow for appetizers. Sliced the cheeses and the summer sausage and stowed away, ready to spread on platter tomorrow. Cleaned up kitchen. Prayed Vespers (a wee bit early). Now, just waiting for my sister and brother-in-law to arrive. Impatiently waiting! After dinner tonight I think we're baking some pies and I'll get the stuff ready to go for the light rolls tomorrow.

25 November 2008

Check Off List

Mopped kitchen floor
Vacuumed living room, study, bedroom and entry
Dusted upstairs
Polished brass
Pumpkin cheesecake cooling in oven (Cindi's specialty)
Pecans and Sweet Nuts made (thanks, Darlene!!!!)

Tomorrow (God willing) my sister and brother-in-law will arrive to share the holiday with us. I'm psyched! Still more to do Wednesday to prepare for Thursday's feast, but it looks decidedly under control. Tomorrow will find us making cornbread for the dressing, baking pies, slicing cheese and meats, and mixing ingredients for the stuffed mushroom caps (which my sister will not touch with a ten foot pole!). I will also meet with the Luekers tomorrow to discuss funeral preparations for Saturday. Sadness and joy intermingled together. Such is life in this age, as we eagerly and thankfully look forward to the Age to come.

This Sunday

a trio of three women will sing the nine-fold Kyrie, LSB 944. This Russian setting is simply stunning. I can't WAIT to hear it in the Divine Service and pray along with it. I heard the ladies practicing tonight and was blown away. Simple, yet elegant, harmonies that totally serve the text's plea for divine mercy. And yes, it will be sung in Greek!


is there a cat in heat on my front porch??? It needs to GO AWAY!

Doris Lueker +

Asleep in Jesus, this afternoon.

Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her!

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore as the presbyters know that they are subject to the one placed over them by an ecclesiastical custom, so the bishops should know that they are greater than the presbyters more through custom than through the verity of an ordinance of the Lord and that they all ought to rule the church in common. -- St. Jerome, Commentary on Titus (1:5)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[This was reportedly said by A. C. Piepkorn in defiant response to hearing about Lutheran conversions to Rome. John Damm reported it to Dr. Secker]:

"I will march to the gates of Rome and stand and plant my banner."

24 November 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is true that it was not out of any necessity, but out of spontaneous love that the Son of God became incarnate. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, p. 109

Patristic Quote of the Day

Where are they who reproach us with our poverty, and boast themselves of their own riches; who define the Church by numbers, and scorn the little flock; and who measure Godhead, and weigh the people in the balance? - Gregory of Naziazus, Oration 33

Round Table

Today I joined Pr. Todd Wilken and Pr. Randy Asburry for a pastor's round table on the topic of the first petition of the Our Father. Pirate Christian Radio will air the episode on Thanksgiving Day (a fitting day to think about the holy name!). Check her out by clicking the Issues, Etc. button on the sidebar.

23 November 2008

Advent Preparations

The season of Advent is almost upon us. Soon the Advent wreath will appear and be lighted prior to the services. In our liturgy, the hymn of praise, the Gloria in Excelsis, will fall silent. The solemn Advent Preface with its commemoration of the Baptist will trumpet forth: "...calling sinners to repentance that they might escape from the wrath to be revealed when He comes again in glory." Our post-communion collect (Lutherans tend to have this as a non-proper) will shift to "O God the Father, the Fountain and Source of all goodness..." Instead of the "ordinary" green, blue or violet will bedeck our altars. All of this reminds us that we are entering a season of penitence, a season of fasting and prayer and almsgiving.

How we need Advent! The collect for the first Sunday shows us why: "that we might be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance." We need Advent because we don't think our sins ARE that threatening or perilous. How wrong we are! Advent is the season when we prepare not merely to welcome the Savior in His incarnation, but when we prepare to welcome the Judge who will return on clouds of light, and to whom all desires are known and from whom no secrets are hid. The only way to meet Him is in penitence and faith, and in Advent the Church seeks to prepare us for this.

Historically, Western Christians observed the Advent fast by restricting themselves to a single meal (not before noon) and a small snack in the evening each Wednesday and each Friday, except on the Fridays also abstaining from flesh meats and such. Additionally, on the three ember days during Advent (this year: Wed, the 17th; Fri, the 19th; and Sat, the 20th) it is traditional to both fast and abstain. Finally, the Vigil of the Nativity, the 24th, was also kept with both fasting and abstinence.

As Lutherans, we are, of course, free to observe these traditional days for the sake of disciplining our flesh (though in the spirit of St. Paul and the Augustana we may wish to dispense with the distinction of meats, but observe in its place a simplified way of eating).

A sidebenefit of going without meals is that it frees up money that can be given to the poor. In a sense, we join in solidarity with the hungry of this world when we fast. We stand with them. You may not think saving $10 a day on Wednesdays and Fridays can make a difference - but it can! There are many places you can direct those funds. LCMS World Relief is always a worthy place to send them, if nothing else presents itself.

Advent is a great time to push back against the busy, crazy schedules that the world would impose on us at this time. If you are using the Treasury of Daily Prayer, it might be a great time to add an office or two to your daily praying. Above all, don't neglect the extra services provided in these days. In our parish, Wednesday night finds us holding a hymn sing and then singing together Evening Prayer. The peace and joy of that liturgy go the very heart of what the Church calls us to enter as we turn from the hectic schedules of our lives and find in the offering of prayer and praise, the singing of hymns, the reading of Scripture and the preaching of the Gospel the refreshment that alone answers our spiritual thirst. Advent reminds us that any other attempt to answer that thirst is doomed to fail.

As the season begins anew, let us welcome it with joy and seek to grow through it in our faith toward God and in burning love for one another!

Commemoration of Clement of Rome, Pastor

From our Synod's website: Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church's worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr's death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God's redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone.

Treasury of Daily Prayer offers a beautiful collect for this commemoration, asking: "Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (p. 944)

My favorite quote from St. Clement of Rome is from his first letter to the Corinthians:

"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)

There is nothing this papa love quite so much...

...as having a table-full at home. Today we feasted on breakfast after the services. Lauren and Dean, Adam, Bekah, Meaghan, Dave and Jo, Cindi and I. Bacon and pancakes (including a low-carb variety), eggs, and fresh fruit. Yummy! I WOULD normally mention the card game afterwards, but since SOMEONE ended up with more than 700 points I think the whole thing is best forgotten. Agreed?

Homily for the Last Sunday of the Church Year (2008)

[Isaiah 65:17-25 / 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 / Matthew 25:1-13]

Pastor Nicolai’s parish in Unna, Westphalia (near to where so many founding members of St. Paul’s parish originated) was being destroyed. Plague had arrived. Between July of 1597 and January of 1598, Pr. Nicolai buried no less than 1,400 of his parishioners– 300 in the month of July alone. He could have fled the plague, but he didn’t. He stayed put. He preached. He celebrated the Sacrament. He prayed. He buried, and he prayed some more. And he did one more thing. He wrote a book. A book he called The Mirror of Joy. It was all about the joy that filled his heart as he thought of the heaven his Savior had won for all upon His cross and to which He would one day bring His people as they share His risen life in the New Heavens and the New Earth. At the tail end of his little book, he put three poems he wrote, two of which he also set to music. One is called: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How Lovely Shines the Morning Star) and the other? Well, you just sang it: Wachet Auf, Ruft uns die Stimme. Wake, Awake! For Night is flying.

In the face of unspeakable tragedy, to families where mothers had lost their sons, daughters their fathers, sisters their brothers, brothers their sisters, husbands their wives - with no family left untouched by the horror of death- faithful Pastor Nicolai sang the hope of heaven into his people as they waited for the day of the Savior’s return and learned to sing in hope along with him even with tears in their eyes.

Isaiah in today’s first reading spoke of how that Day will be a new creation –how all that’s awful and wrong in OUR world will be done away. Gone the weeping, gone the death, gone the sorrow, gone the pain, gone the loss. It will be a world where family is never gathered around a coffin ever again. A world where the Lord is nearer than our own voices and where there is no more blood-dyed tooth or claw, for “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” It’s not a fairy tale. It’s God’s promise that His original plan for this creation will not be sidetracked forever. What He intended it to be, it will become again: a world without fear, without sin, without death.

Any wonder that the Church prays so often, then: “Come, Lord Jesus!” When the sorrows of this world press hard, and we don’t know if we can take it, we fall to our knees and pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” When the darkness grows and the cold steals across our heart, we fall to our knees and pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” When change and decay in all around we see, we fall to our knees and pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

We long for that Day, but we know that that Day will not be joy to all. Those who are unprepared for it, who really don’t welcome it and who rather relish THIS age as it is, for them that Day will come like a thief in the night bringing sudden destruction, and there will be no escape. To meet that day without faith in the Savior, is to meet that day as the Day of Doom, of irretrievable loss.

Faith in the Savior is the key. That’s the whole point of WHY the five wise virgins couldn’t share the oil with the five foolish. Faith in Christ is something that God longs to give to each and every person in the world, so that they might escape the destruction that is coming. But only God can give that faith. No one can believe for another. On that day, my faith won’t help you; your faith can’t help me. Each must receive the gift of faith for her or himself.

The five foolish with their lamps going out did not have the faith that made it through to the end. They thought “good enough” was “good enough.” But it never is. God wants you to have faith through to the end – and He can and will supply it to you, if you will but let Him. He is eager to. After all, there is not one soul for whom His Son did not shed His blood. There is not one human life whose sins were not atoned for on Golgotha’s wood. There is not one human being whose death was not destroyed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Your heavenly Father longs to give you the faith that this is so; He delights to do so.

Extra oil in the flasks? That means that you live your life at the receiving end of God’s giving. People loved by God, as your pastor I can't say anything more important to you than this: You can’t keep faith going on your own. It never was something you came up with by your own doing and it won’t last in you by an effort of your will or trying. Only God’s Word can give you faith in the first place ("faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ"); only God’s Word can keep your faith alive and burning bright until that joyful day arrives so that you will be ready to enter with Christ into the marriage feast.

When St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he told them that he knew that God did not destine them for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we might live with Him. That holds for you too. You are not destined for wrath; you are destined for life with Christ. The key to your faith staying alive and growing ever stronger, ever brighter in the growing gloom and darkness, is to let HIM be pouring that faith into you as you give your ear to His promises and let Him even pour His body and blood down your throat as the guarantee that His life triumphs over all your sin and and all your death.

That’s why Pastor Nicolai wrote his little book and composed his hymns – he wanted the people to know that in Christ God had given them a life that no plague could rob them of. Not now. Not ever. And so:

Zion hears the watchmen singing
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all-glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her star is ris’n, her light has come.
Now, come, Thou blessed One!
Lord Jesus, God’s own Son!
Hail! Hosanna! We enter all
The wedding hall
To eat the Supper at Thy call.

What are we waiting for? Let’s go! Joy awaits! A foretaste of the Feast to come! Amen.

21 November 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

How can Satan gain the victory over us when we are strengthened and made meet for our spiritual conflicts with this bread of heaven? - Blessed Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XIX

Patristic Quote of the Day

Blessed is he who reverently approaches the most pure mysteries of the Savior with fear and trembling, knowing that he receives into his body indestructible life. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #36

20 November 2008


is a week away! What are you thankful for?

Here's a start of a list (in no particular order):

my wife
my children (yes, that includes you, Dean)
my brothers and sisters and extended family
Jo and Dave
the gift of music (and especially piano lessons - thanks, Daddy!)
The Word
The Liturgy
The Treasury of Daily Prayer - the Daily Office
my parish family
Technology (that lets family and friends stay in touch)
My brother pastors in Synod
Deaconesses (Yeah, even YOU Sandy!)
Evening card games
The amazing faculty of TSP: Myra, Candy, Dennis, Kristi, Cindy and Cindy
Good writers
Fellow low-carbers (especially Philip and Darlene - who are also good friends to boot!)
Pinochle partners and adversaries (Crys and Scott, Rachel and Randy, Dave and Sharon, Peggy and Richard, Stu and Jenn!)
The sound of St. Paul's great bell summoning to worship
The frost on the roof on a cold morning
All my shutins - who always make me joyful in the Lord
The privilege of teaching the Catechism, handing on the faith
The writings of the holy fathers
St. Paul's musicians
Singing "Now Thank We" around the Thanksgiving Table
Fresh brewed coffee
Green tea and Irish Breakfast tea
Christmas trees and Christmas carols and Lucinda's cookies
Cindi's almond cookies
Almonds and pecans
Family gathered around the piano singing

Your turn!!!


What a perfect November day! A few flakes on the wind, leaden sky, dark most of the day. I don't know what it is about this weather, but when it arrives I always treasure it. Memories of gathering in my grandmother's kitchen where the wood stove drove away the chill, and the cornbread came out of the oven pipping hot and fresh. And stepping out onto the back porch to cool off after a few minutes, because the stove made it like a sauna. Memories of walking through the woods to gather in running pine and running cedar and holly to decorate for the holidays. The warm glow of the lights inside the house a beacon against the early dark of evening and the wind whistling through the cracks and crannies. Or at my other grandparent's with the oil stoves burning a bright fire in Aunt Fanny's sitting room as she sat at the table writing Christmas cards. Or later when the lights were out and the light from the stove cast odd shadows against the walls. Maybe its all those together and so many more, but when this weather hits, my mind goes right back to Virginia and both houses.

[Cindi, of course, is depressed and hating this weather and wishing for spring. SADD is sad. It doesn't compute with me, but I do see the deep sadness creep up on her.]

Patristic Quote of the Day

Implant in me Thy perfect love, O Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world; and write the name of Thy servant in the book of life. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #107

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

How pleasant it is to hear that you have so truly been accepted by God the eternal Father, because the benefits of the Son have been given to you, that God wants to rule you through His Holy Spirit, that He has rescued you from eternal death and from the chains of the devil! The more attentively you will consider the words of Baptism, the more will your mind be kindled with the knowledge of the mercy of God and strengthened by faith and moved to prayer. -- Philip Melanchthon, *Loci Communes* p. 1142

19 November 2008

A District President Speaks On Treasury of Daily Prayer

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I must make a confession to you. I struggle at being faithful at my own personal daily devotions. Does that surprise you? I could perhaps make excuses referencing my schedule and the daily pressures – but those are actually all the more reason I need to be in the Word of God and prayer even more. Actually, the only reason for my struggle is my own fault, my own sinful flesh, for the flesh is always lazy, weak, and constantly ignores my need for the Word of God and prayer.

But now Concordia Publishing House has provided me (and all of us) with a wonderful resource to help in this daily battle against the flesh. It’s called a Treasury of Daily Prayer. Since I received my copy it has become a great tool for me in my struggle against the flesh (see also the editor’s preface). I leave my copy open on my desk so that the first thing when I come in each morning I can use it right away. It is always open to each day’s readings and prayers. When I travel, I also have a copy on my laptop right there on the Windows desktop.

How is Treasury of Daily Prayer such a great tool? Under one cover you have Old Testament, New Testament readings, a reading from Luther, one of the church fathers, or other orthodox theologians. Psalms, prayers, brief explanations of festivals and saints days round out the daily fare. At the center of the book, you will find all the prayer offices of the church, ready for us. The book includes the whole Psalter, the Small Catechism, confessional readings and a whole lot more. Under one cover, then, you have all you need for a daily regimen of Scripture and prayer. In the short time I have used it, I have grown to appreciate it more and more.

I say all this after a number of years using the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau’s four volume set, For All the Saints, a resource I found mostly good and helpful, but occasionally the writings are less than helpful. In the case of Treasury of Daily Prayer, the writings included have been researched by LCMS pastors, edited by Scot Kinnaman (who started as pastor in SID) and his staff at CPH. Thus far, I have found the writing very helpful, connected to the lessons of the day, and centered in Christ and His Gospel. In short, Scot Kinnaman and CPH have done a great service to the church. Look it up on CPH’s web site, www.cph.org. Use it! Try it! I think you’ll enjoy it.

Is this just for pastors? NO! Anyone who can read will benefit! Fathers and mothers leading their families in devotions will profit. Students and anyone who will benefit from a structured approach to prayer and the devotional life can use this great resource. Tell your people about it – let them try it.

Rev. Herbert C. Mueller, Jr
District President
Southern Illinois District

Commemoration of Elizabeth of Hungary

From our Synod's website (and the Treasury of Daily Prayer):

Born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given as a bride in an arranged political marriage, Elizabeth became the wife of Louis of Thuringia in Germany at the age of 14. She had a spirit of Christian generosity and charity, and the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was known for its hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy and even gave up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at the age of 20, she made provisions for her children and entered into an austere life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

The Treasury offers a beautiful prayer for the day, asking God to "inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary." (p. 929) She is a shining light for Christ's people, pointing the way to live welcoming every person as Christ, and every need and suffering as His own.

18 November 2008

Thoughts on Preaching...

...if you don't mind countless "ums" and stuttering...from this summer's St. John Chrysostom Lutheran Preacher's Retreat:

click here

And just when I thought...

...I had dug up all the prayer gems in Treasury of Daily Prayer, along comes another:

A Prayer of One Preparing for Confession and Absolution

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path. It has laid bare my sin, for which I deserve nothing but punishment; yet, it has also declared to me Your grace and mercy and forgiveness.

As You have taught my heart to believe and to trust in You, so shall I also confess with my mouth. Grant me the honesty to examine my life according to Your holy Ten Commandments, especially as they address my vocations in life. Discipline me as Your beloved child. Enable me to recognize my sin, to know and feel it in my heart, and rightly to bemoan and lament my iniquity and offenses. Give me both humility and courage to confess my sins and to receive from my pastor Your Holy Absolution, according to Your good and gracious will. Invigorate my faith, through this same word of forgiveness, to have no doubt, but firmly to believe that by it all my sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

You have called and sent my pastor, in Your name and stead, to hear my confession with Your ears of mercy and to forgive me with Your own voice. Since You have chosen to deal with me in this way, allow me not to neglect Your gift but to lay hold of it with eager confidence. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and restore to me the joy of Your salvation; for Your name's sake. Amen. [page. 1462]

This beautiful prayer (which begins with the Jesus prayer) follows hard on the Preparation for Confession and Absolution According to the Ten Commandments.

Dr. Korby, I know you are celebrating this in heaven as you continue to pray for us here below!

Patristic Quote of the Day

Meet it is to worship the Father Who sent us His only-begotten Son, Who saved our race from death and Satan, and sits at the right hand of His Father entreating His compassion on behalf of all of us. - St. Ephraim, the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #150

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The world was created, in order that, in Redemption, it might be the display of God's love. -- Henry E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 65

17 November 2008

Patristic Quote of the Day

O sinless Lamb, slaughtered for the salvation of the world and Creator of heaven and earth, Thy slave whom Thou hast saved and given cause to rejoice shall ever praise Thy grace. -- St. Ephraim, the Syrian *A Spiritual Psalter* #78

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

AND it's my tribute to the Treasury of Daily Prayer for the day. An unbelievably powerful quote from none other than C. F. W. Walther, on the Cross:

On account of this, the cross is both holy and blessed! Once nothing but a dry piece of wood, it was changed, like Aaron's staff, into a green branch full of heavenly blossoms and fruit. Once an instrument of torment for the punishment of sinners, it now shines in heavenly splendor for all sinners as a sign of grace. Once the wood of the curse, it has now become, after the Promised Blessing for all people offered Himself upon it, a tree of blessing, an altar of sacrifice for the atonement, and a sweet-smelling aroma to God. Today, the cross is still a terror - but only to hell. It shines upon its ruins as a sign of victory over sin, death and Satan. With a crushed head, the serpent of temptation lies at the foot of the cross. It is a picture of eternal comfort upon which the dimming eye of the dying longingly looks, the last anchor of his hope and the only light that shines in the darkness of death. (Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 922 - SEE! You know you WANT this book!!!)

16 November 2008

What a Sunday Brings...

Matins (privately) + Divine Service + Breakfast for MEHLS + Divine Service + Lunch + Finishing up bulletins (thank you, God, for Builder!) for next week and shipping off to the never-complaining Joanie + Hospital Visit (Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! - pray for Doris, please) + Vespers (privately) + Catechism Service on Third Article of the Creed + Dinner + More Connelly reading (God willing!!!) - wow, he's got Bosch, McEvoy and Haller in the same novel! + Compline (privately)

For the gift of Your Word, Your Eucharist, Your people, Your never-failing love and the joy of praying to You, the Giver of every good and perfect gift: Glory to You, Blessed Trinity! Glory to You!

Swahili, Latin, and English

Those were the languages at St. Paul's this morning! No joke. The choir from our local Lutheran High blessed us with "Ubi caritas et amor," "Christ is With Us," "Old Irish Blessing," and "O Sifuni Mungu." I think the "Ubi caritas" was my favorite. And a huge thanks to the parents and alumni support from St. Paul's who provided a nummy breakfast between the Divine Services this morning.

15 November 2008

"Not Simply a Lutheranized Breviary"

Is how Pr. Kinnaman describes the Treasury of Daily Prayer in his white paper on the selection of the writings for the Treasury. That is, the Treasury is MORE THAN a Lutheran breviary, and yet it is also that - the chief daily offices may be prayed entirely from this single volume. But there's more there than simply the daily office. It's intended to be a complete Lutheran devotional work - families can use it for daily devotions, it introduces our people to great writings from across the centuries of the Church's life, providing helps for preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist or to make confession and receive Absolution, and provides a deepened connection to our observances of the sanctoral calendar. I honestly do recommend the book to every family in our Synod. Looking for a Christmas gift that will actually strengthen a loved one's faith if used? Here it is!

From Saturday's Prayer

from Treasury of Daily Prayer:

We pray You to forgive us for the sake Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son. Through Him, grant us the power to hate our sins, so that we may lead a life well-pleasing to You in true humility and in the knowledge of Your holy will. O Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (p. 1309)

Patristic Quote of the Day

The life of each person who enters the world is already weighed and measured - he has neither the means nor the ability to step beyond the appointed limit. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #137

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We must not determine the status of our faith on the basis of of our feeling of comfort or spiritual joy. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Justification* p. 106

14 November 2008

Sorting Out Calendar Questions

Using the Weedon handy-dandy color rule will get you right the vast majority of the time: Green is the only color that can be trumped.

St. Andrew falls on Advent I - which should I observe?

Advent I. You can add the collect for St. Andrew's Day after the appointed collect for Advent I if you wish. Red does not trump violet/blue.

Holy Innocents, Martyrs falls on First Sunday after Christmas - which should I observe? First Sunday after Christmas, again praying the Holy Innocents collect as a second collect if you wish. Red certainly does not trump white.

The Confession of St. Peter falls on Epiphany 2 this year - which should I observe? Here there may be disagreements, but I would argue that you MAY observe Confession of Peter on that Sunday, and likewise the Conversion of St. Paul on the following; however, if you are one of those "Epiphany is ALL WHITE" then no dice. Stick to the Sundays!

That's my counsel on the upcoming months.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Through Baptism, O eternal God, You established an eternal covenant with me. The return to Baptism always stands open, a return made by true and earnest repentance. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, *Meditations on Divine Mercy* p. 84

Patristic Quote of the Day

But why is He not satisfied with the faith in the mind, but requires also the confession with the mouth? To train us up to boldness in speech, and a more abundant love and determination, and to raise us on high. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 10

From Friday's Prayer

in Treasury of Daily Prayer: We pray You, let Your holy, bitter sufferings and death not be lost on us, but grant that they may be our comfort, and that we may boast in it; and that as we ponder it, all evil desire in us may be snuffed out and subdued, and all virtue may be implanted and increased, so that we, having died to sin, may live to righteousness, following the example You have left us, walking in Your footsteps, enduring evil with patience, and suffering injustice with a good conscience.

Commemoration of Emperor Justinian, Christian Ruler and Confessor of Christ

From our Synod's website (and also Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 912):

Justinian was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565 when the Roman Empire was in decline. With his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored splendor and majesty to the Byzantine court. During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions. Justinian also attempted to bring unity to a divided church. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity and sought agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day who were disputing the relation between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in A.D. 533 was held during his reign and addressed this dispute. Justinian died in his eighties, not accomplishing his desire for an empire that was firmly Christian and orthodox.

St. Justinian is credited with a hymn to our Savior that is regularly sung in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

Only Begotten Son and Immortal Word of God,
Who for our salvation didst will to be incarnate of the holy Theotokos and ever virgin Mary,
Who without change didst become man and wast crucified, O Christ our God,
Trampling down death by death, Who art one of the Holy Trinity,
Glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us.

Friday Running

Cindi and I were up and off early this morning - had to drop the van off for a bit of work. Then to the Y, after which we met Lauren and headed to the new Apple place (TechSpot) in Edwardsville. Having an authorized Apple dealer in our own backyard: very nice. Then lunch at Cracker Barrel. I LOVE their country ham, bacon, sausage and eggs breakfast, and getting to eat it with Lauren was super nice - only she still mumbles so I missed much of what she was saying! Then to Aldi's and home. Lauren's going to take a second load of extra meat from the sausage supper to the Sem food bank (I ran one over earlier in the week). When we go back to get the van, I'll stop in at the library and pick up the latest Michael Connelly novel from the library (I've had it on order for a couple months!). TSP Patriot's Night Out Auction is tonight - I'll just be saying the prayer for the meal, though, and then headed back home for some cards, I hope. And that's about a wrap for the day's plans.

13 November 2008

Thursday's Prayer

from Treasury of Daily Prayer includes this beautiful petition:

"We implore You, O Lord, for our altar, that it may ever be a place where the medicine of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, strengthens us in body and soul; that disbelief and impenitence may stay far from all who come there so that they may not eat and drink to their own judgment." (p. 1308)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

May a blessed resurrection also follow a blessed death. In that day of severe judgment, exempt me from a harsh word, You who have protected me with Your assistance. May my sins remain hidden by the umbrella of Your grace and be cast into the depths of the sea. May my soul be bound up in the bundle of the living God so with all the elect I may reach the eternal fellowship of joy. -- Johann Gerhard, *Meditations on Divine Mercy* p. 127

Patristic Quote of the Day

O Christ the Savior! Grant my heart's request, that my tongue might become like unto a sweet-sounding flute; that by comforting, enlightening and educating others I might pay off a small portion of my great debt and, protected by Thy mercy, I might be saved when every soul is set trembling before Thy terrifying glory. Verily, O Master, only-begotten Son of God, hearken unto me and accept the petition of Thy servant as an offering. I, a sinner, am saved by Thy grace. To Thee who savest a sinner by Thy compassion, is due all glory unto the ages. -- St. Ephraim, the Syrian *A Spiritual Psalter* #109

12 November 2008

I Just Found Out Today

that I get to see my LEW on Friday! Yeah!!! She'll be in town for a wedding and I *think* she'll be joining Cindi and me for lunch on Friday. Then Dean will go back with her and help her move down this way right before Thanksgiving. We also need to take her iBook to the computer hospital. Not good...

On Wednesdays

Treasury of Daily Prayer offers prayers for the dying, that we might ever be mindful of those whose earthly pilgrimage is coming to an end:

In the hour of death;
On the Day of Judgment: Help them, good Lord.

We poor sinners implore You: to hear us, good Lord.

To comfort all the dying;
To forgive them all their sins;
To lead them out of this misery into eternal life:
We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

[from Prayer for Wednesday, pp. 1307, 1308)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For the ship of Baptism never breaks, because (as we have said) it is God's ordinance and not our work. But it does happen, indeed, that we slip and fall out of the ship. Yet if anyone falls out, let him see to it that he swims and clings to the ship until he comes into it again and lives in it, as he had done before. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *The Large Catechism* IV:82

Patristic Quote of the Day

May Baptism be for me an unsinkable ship. May I behold Thee, O our Lord, in that place in the day of resurrection. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* 145

11 November 2008

At Winkel today

Pr. Walther made mention of the words of Sasse that were featured on November 10th in Treasury of Daily Prayer. One of the HUGE side benefits I see to this wondrous volume is having our pastors and our people reading, pondering, meditating together upon the same passages God's Word and upon the same writings of those who have walked this way before us. I think that of all the recent publications from CPH that have done so much for the Church, this one has the potential, if we use it, to bring about the godly unity we so desire in our Synod - for we'll be put exactly in the position we belong in: hearing the Word, repenting of our sins, interceding for the world and for our churches. Why just today we had some quite hefty fare from Jeremiah, from our Lord in Matthew 25, and from Blessed Martin Chemnitz - and we got to remember St. Martin of Tours as a bonus!

Let the Sacrament

(from Prayer after Holy Communion in Treasury of Daily Prayer): "...Let the Sacrament be in me a power overcoming unbelief and doubt, conquering temptations and evil desires, and producing good works and humble service." p. 1470

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Protect those who are with child; support those who are giving birth. It is You who bring infants from the confines of their mother's wombs and enlarge the human race by Your blessing. Be with all those who are in the pains of labor, O Lover and Giver of life, so that they are not oppressed with excessive pain. -- Prayer for those who are suffering, by Johann Gerhard, *Meditations on Divine Mercy* p. 149

Patristic Quote of the Day

Make me worthy to exclaim together with the righteous ones this song of benediction: Praise to Him Who had mercy on me! Glory to Him who has forgiven me! - St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #49

Martin of Tours, Pastor

I remember my first encounter as a young teenager with the story of St. Martin of Tour at St. Andrew on the Sunday nearest to Veteran's Day, when the LLL (or was it the LCMS chaplaincy ministry?) gave out St. Martin of Tours crosses with a bit of the story of this fourth century solider saint turned monastic.

From our Synod's website, and also from the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary around the year A.D. 316, Martin grew up in Lombardy (Italy). Coming to the Christian faith as a young person, he began a career in the Roman army. But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was “Christ's soldier.” Eventually, Martin was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France). He is remembered for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul. Incidentally, on St. Martin's Day in 1483, the one-day-old son of Hans and Margarette Luther was baptized and given the name “Martin” Luther.

The Treasury offers this prayer upon the commemoration of St. Martin of Tours:

Lord God of hosts, Your servant Martin the soldier embodied the spirit of sacrifice. He became a bishop in Your Church to defend the catholic faith. Give us grace to follow his steps so that when our Lord returns we may be clothed with the baptismal garment of righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 903)

It's a long read, but worthwhile

Here's a link to the best response yet I've seen to the proposals for restructuring in our Synod. It was drawn up by Pr. Matt Harrison at the request of my District President, Herbert Mueller, to present to our Southern Illinois District circuit counsellors. Rather than "heal the wound of my people lightly," Pr. Harrison goes to the heart of how we might as a Synod experience genuine healing from the Word of God. Enjoy!

10 November 2008

Attempt Number 2

Well, for the second year I'm going to ATTEMPT to sing the Christmas Concert with the Collinsville Chorale. Cindi and Dave are singing, as usual. David has also joined in, and our friend Robert Esch. My voice already went out this season, I'm figuring, so I just MIGHT squeak by. I'm not sure how much I'll be able to sing tonight, though!

09 November 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Therefore, whoever has trusted in a Christ who would allow him to remain in his sins yet come into heaven without repentance, without conversion, without sanctification, and without self-denial needs to know that there is no such Christ. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 889

Patristic Quote of the Day

For indeed there are many things to bind us together. One table is set before all, one Father begat us, we are all the issue of the same throes, the same drink has been given to all; or rather not only the same drink, but also to drink out of one cup. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 9

O Merciful Lord,

where You in the mystery of the Sacrament of Your body and blood make an entrance among Your people, there grant that all the faithful may bow in holy fear and humility before You, and that all whom You Yourself feed may receive the sacred gift not impenitently to their judgment, but as a medicine of eternal life. - Treasury of Daily Prayer, 1306

Celebrating Sausage - Part 3

Celebrating Sausage - Part 2

Celebrating Sausage - Part 1

08 November 2008

Ready for the Liturgy...

Prepare our hearts that we may take part in the eternal liturgy sung before Your throne, and grant that in the Sacrament we may join the never-ending feast, until that final day comes. Hear our prayers for the sake of the Lamb, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. -- Treasury of Daily Prayer, 1309

Homily for Trinity 25

[Job 14:1-6 / 1 Thes 4:13-18 / Luke 17:20-30]

The Pharisees were hunting around for signs of the coming Kingdom of God. How would they know when it was breaking it? What cataclysms would mark its advent? Jesus bursts their bubble.

“That’s not how the Kingdom is,” He says. “You won’t look at it and say: here! Or there! You want the proof? I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Kingdom of God is – this very moment – right smack dab in the midst of you.”

Can you see the confusion on their faces. In our midst? How could that be? The Kingdom that all the prophets had foretold? The Kingdom that would bring such joy and peace to sorrowing humanity? In OUR midst? HUH?

Ah, but what IS the Kingdom except the place where the King rules? And the King was standing right in the middle of them all. The King who rules in love. The King who triumphs in mercy. The King who needed absolutely no mark of earthly pomp to validate Himself. The King who reigns by being Servant of all. Jesus.

HE is the presence of the Kingdom of God, plopped right down in the midst of folks who haven’t got eyes to see what’s staring them in the face. The future that He will bring in is already present in Him. Love triumphing over everything – He’s right there, looking them in the eye.

He’s not long now from the Cross, where as King He will sit enthroned on the tree, crowned with thorns, and bestowing the Kingdom on a thief who asks only to be remembered. It’s not far away from today’s Gospel. And Jesus knows that after that and His resurrection and ascension, it won’t be long before even His visible presence is removed from the earth. He tells His disciples how they’ll long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but it won’t be like before anymore. And they shouldn’t let anyone deceive them – as though when He finally reveals the Kingdom it will be in some hidden and obscure way. “Look, there!” “Look, here!” He tells His own: “Don’t waste your time. When I come back it will be as subtle as the lightning that flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. You won’t and can’t miss it. When my day of unveiling comes it will be THAT obvious. On that day the Kingdom that I have brought into this world will no longer hidden, but revealed, exposed, shining for all to see.”

And He goes on: “Won’t they be amazed when it happens. They’ve fallen into the trap of the people at Noah’s time or at Lot’s. They think life just goes on the way it always has. They ignore the creaking and tottering of THIS age as it prepares to collapse and the new age that I alone can bring at My appearing finally is disclosed. Revealed with Me.”

St. Paul taught us in today’s epistle that when that joyful day arrives, the saints who have already fallen asleep in faith in the Redeemer – they’ll rise first and we who are left will be changed and together we’ll join them to meet the Lord in the air. It will happen at that wonderful moment when the trumpet sounds and the Lord descends from heaven with a cry of command.

And His appearing doesn’t just involve HIM being disclosed at last openly to all the world. When He appears, we too will be disclosed. Everyone then will see the glory that now is hidden in us – the glory baptism gave us, the glory of being children of God, heirs of a heavenly kingdom.

The world looks at us and thinks we’re a pretty sorry lot. They think we’re loony for all our faith in things that cannot be seen – this Kingdom we live from even though no one can see our King. But on that day, the Church will be revealed AS the Church, the one assembly of all believers, whom the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, purchased on Calvary’s cross with His holy blood to be His own bride, His own body, His own kingdom forever.
That day, the unbelieving world will wake up in horror to discover that everything we always told them was true, well, actually is! The Kingdom truly was right there under their nose. The King was present dishing out gifts beyond all the wealth of this world, begging them to let Him serve them up life eternal and everlasting forgiveness. The bread and wine may have masked His presence, but He was there and His people lived their lives in fellowship with Him.

How far removed, then, from the somber, but true, words of Job in our first reading. He was pretty down. He knew that man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble; withering like the grass. He knew that no human being had power to bring something clean from something unclean. Our days are determined for us and the best we can hope for is that God goes away and leaves us alone, since none of us can stand before His judgment. Ah, but enter Jesus. Enter the Lord whom, we have come to know, is a man born of woman and yet whose days, whose Kingdom, never ends. In Jesus we came to know that what humans could never do, God the Holy Spirit did, and so that from our unclean race has come One who is clean through and through. We have met in Him One who is determined to crash through the barrier of death in order to provide all His baptized, believing children with a life that has no end – for their sins have been forgiven and His Kingdom has been given to them. The best hope turned out not to be that God would go away and leave us alone, but that He came into our flesh and bore our sin to death that we might never be without Him, His pardon, His love, His grace, His kingdom.

People loved by God, the Kingdom IS in our midst, for the King, the Risen and Ascended Lord, is among us. He sustains us with His promises, His sacraments, His life until the joyous day when He is revealed in glory, and we with Him. As Job would LATER say: “How my heart yearns within me!” Even so, come Lord Jesus! Amen.

Poetry, anyone?

Pr. Petersen was kind enough to send me a most consoling volume of poems by Canadian pastor, Kurt Reinhardt of the LCC: My Light and My Salvation. First, it's downright beautiful. A hardback book, sporting that arresting image of Christ on the cover. The image was created by none other than famous Catholic novelist Michael D. O'Brien (of Father Elijah fame - if you haven't read him, you need to!). There's a fine forward by Dr. Stephensen and then a preface by the author himself that begins:

"As a child I was always afraid of the dark. I was sure that something was waiting to get me at the top of the dark staircase in my childhood home; the only thing that made the journey possible was to have someone with me. Now that I am all grown up I am terrified of the dark. For I know what it is that waits for me in the darkness, prowling around like a roaring lion looking to devour me. The only thing that still makes the journey possible is to have Someone beside me."

And it just gets better from there.

Here's the sample that Pr. Petersen posted up on his website:

Lost in the Terror of the Night
by Kurt Reinhardt c. 2008

Lost in the terror of the night,
The thorns had caught me in my flight,
My bleating cries would soon be still,
The wolf was circling for the kill.

But then His voice came on the wind:
“My precious Lamb, I know you’ve sinned,
Yet I have come to seek the lost,
To rescue them at any cost.”

He traced my path into the wild,
His heart set on His wayward child,
Until He found me where I lay,
His foolish sheep that went astray.

Into the thorns He stretched His arm
With boundless love, enduring harm,
His hands were cut and pierced for me
To break the snare and set me free.

With tender mercy I’m held fast;
Around His neck, now safe at last,
My shepherd bears me through the night
Towards the joy of dawning light.

Is that powerful or what? It's poetry like the above that fills this volume. I've not read it all yet, but every piece I've read has breathed the same Gospel comfort to troubled, frightened people. If you're thinking about a gift for someone for this Christmas that will help them face whatever darkness is upon them at present, this little volume opens their eyes to see that they don't journey into the dark alone. There is Someone beside them indeed.

"I've lived the trials of the night,
So child, you need not fear;
I'm your salvation and your light
And I am ever near.

"I've climbed the grievous mountain way,
Your help through life to be;
I will not slumber night or day
Until you're home with me."

You'll want it. I know I need to order some. Check for more info at:


Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Love is a sort of fire; for thus the Church prays, 'Come, Holy Spirit, kindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of thy faithful people.' - Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXXI

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let no man therefore beat himself any more, nor wail, neither disparage Christ's achievement. For indeed He overcame death. Why then do you wail for nought? The thing is become a sleep. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 9

07 November 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The fathers preached much about the use and benefit of communing at the Lord's Supper, because there the sacrifice which is the satisfaction for our sins and the price of our redemption is dispensed to those who take it. - Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* II:513

Patristic Quote of the Day

"Why, I am so far, says He, from loathing sinners, that even for their sakes only am I come." Then, lest He should make them more careless, He stayed not at the word sinners, but added, "unto repentance". "For I am not come that they should continue sinners, but that they should alter, and amend." - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 9

It Really Does PAY OFF

Exercise and diet, I mean. Here I am, a 48 year old man who had to buy a new pair of jeans. I hate buying jeans. I like to keep the old comfortable pair for years. Be that as it may, I am now the proud owner of a third pair. Why did I need them? Waist no longer fit. Too big. Back when I was in my early 20's, I was a 32 width and 32 length (yeah, short legs). But now it's down to 31 waist 32 length. And they're comfortable!

It's only been two freaking months of exercise so far, and diet control. What I'm doing for exercise is simple. Three times a week, I head to the Y and do 35 minutes of cardio first. I've been sticking to the elliptical - I set it to random and level 15, and whenever it gets to the highest or second highest intensity, I pour out everything I've got. This intense burst usually only lasts for 10 seconds, but every once in a while that sucker will put THREE together and so I'll have to go for 30 seconds all out. After the initial cardio, I do whichever machines for the day (one day chest/arms; one day legs; one day back). I top it off with 15 minutes of stair climbing. Just over an hour usually to get finished. It is one powerful stress-buster - and just three times a week makes it not TOO crazy.

And then the diet. Not just eating Atkins, but making four adjustments: 1) eat ONLY at meal time (except for #2); 2) eat one apple each afternoon; 3) only one glass of wine per day - and not before 7 and (here's the hard part) NO BEER. Sundays I ease up somewhat on these, but basically stick to it even then. 4) Drink no less than 96 oz of water per day. The result has been dropping five pounds in these two months - and generally FEELING great!

I know I've thanked him several times before, but let me say it one more time: Christopher Hall, God bless you for challenging me to get back to it! Fabulously fit by 50 is our goal; and with two months under the belt, I'm thinking it's actually going to happen. Sweet.

06 November 2008

"But Christ has a VISIBLE body"

Hijacking some words from David Schütz (and frequently bandied about by RC or Orthodox apologists as the argument that the corpus mysticum must then correspond to the visible corpus verum). And it is perfectly true: our Lord HAS a visible body. Do you see the body of the incarnate Lord now? No, you don't. What do the Apostles say?

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory." 1 Peter 1


"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that *when He appears* we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3

Our Lord's very real body, born of the Most Blessed Virgin, is to us at the moment invisible, an object of faith. And this is so even in the Holy Eucharist. That will, of course, cease to be the case at the Parousia. Then we shall indeed "see Him as He is" and such seeing shall utterly transform us so that we shall be like Him. And, as St. Paul said in Colossians, "THEN we shall appear with Him in glory." (Col 3)

The Church, as an eschatological reality, remains in this age - the age that is coming to an end - essentially something UNSEEN. Hence, "I BELIEVE in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." You can't see it. No Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox can see it. The Church isn't fractions; she's never less than the whole. And that's the vision of Church that we WILL see on the Last Day - the one assembly of all the saints, the people of God, gathered before the throne of God and of the Lamb. Think Revelation. Even for a Roman Catholic or an Orthodox Christian, the overwhelming majority of the Church remains NOT SEEN - for so many have died and been gathered to God's nearer presence awaiting the day of resurrection - and they, whom we do not see, are no less Church than we who continue to journey here below.

So don't give in to the apologists' argument on this one, dear Lutherans. The Church, as something eternal, is by very definition NOT SEEN (see 2 Cor. 4:18). The Church, as an object of faith, is by very definition NOT SEEN (Hebrews 11:1). And what saves this from falling into Platonism and the realm of mere ideas is the simple fact that to both of the above, the NT teaches us to add: YET. NOT SEEN YET, NOT SEEN FULLY IN THIS AGE. But she will appear - and it will correspond exactly to the appearing again of our Lord Jesus in the body He received from the Blessed Virgin - and what a glorious and joyous Day that will be!

05 November 2008

Three Times

Three times today I got to pray the Nunc Dimittis:

First, at Wilma's funeral. Our liturgy calls for this as the final canticle, with the antiphon from John 11: "I am the Resurrection and the Life..." The pastor may lay his hands upon the coffin as the canticle is being prayed. I always do. It's our way of connecting the words we are praying with this particular body and person: Wilma is the one who has departed now in peace, having seen the Lord's salvation. As Simeon held the Child and prayed: "Okay, I can die now" so she did too.

Second, at the Divine Service. Once we've received the precious body and blood of the Savior, we sing with Simeon: "I'm ready; take me!" For truly the very One whom Simeon held and to whom he prayed, has come among us in the self-same body and blood to give us His life that never ends.

Third, at Compline tonight. It's the end of the day. I'm exhausted and ready to go to bed. And the prayer we pray together is: Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace. Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace... The church's old way of saying: "if I should die before I wake..."

Three different settings for those words, and each filled with its own meaning. What a gift God gave us when the old saint took the Child in his arms and blessed God for the nations' Light and Israel's Glory!

Funeral Homily for Wilma Henke

[Job 19:23-27 / 2 Cor 5:1-9 / John 11:21-27]

Lucille and Bernice, Family and friends of Wilma Henke, I hardly need to tell you that to us at St. Paul’s your Wilma Henke was a well known and much loved character. From the day I left the mess with the coffee in the kitchen and she let me know in no uncertain terms that “we don’t have maid service at this church, Pastor” I knew she was one special woman. When there was a hard task at hand to communicate, who got to do it but Wilma? SHE got to tell Florence that her stitching wasn’t what it used to be and that she shouldn’t quilt anymore! Who else but Wilma could have pulled that off? A woman that minced no words about what she thought about anything, but who had a heart of gold – the gruff words were the slightest covering over a heart that was tender, kind, and always ready to love. She had been touched by Jesus Christ and anyone who knew her knew that.

Whether she was washing up dishes after a ladies aid luncheon or keeping the silver ware and plates flowing at the sausage supper, those bright blue eyes twinkled with merriment and the joy of being with God’s people.

So it was quite something when Wilma began to change a bit. “In this tent we groan,” said St. Paul, “longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.” Her tent began to fray and tatter. First the whole business with her heart (who can forget holy week THAT year???); then the progress of the macular degeneration; and what zapped her merriment more than anything else – how could it not – the loss of her beloved Marvin and Bill. Add that to the long ago loss of Harold and of her sister. It weighed on her something fierce. And so she knew something about the groaning that St. Paul spoke of.

Yet for all that, her faith did not waiver. Like old Job she looked death square in the face and defied it. She too knew that she had a Redeemer who lived, who had answered for her every sin (and she’d be the first to tell you that she was but a poor miserable sinner) and who would raise her body from the dust on the last day when she would see Him face to face. She believed this, and so – well, you know – she was rather impatient with Death. Already years ago, I remember her sitting here in church and sobbing quietly before a funeral of a friend. When I sat beside her she asked: Why can’t it be me?

Wilma, busy, active, and as bustling in the kitchen as Martha – it did not sit well with her to be sidelined. To have to sit back and be waited on. To have to depend on others. SHE was the busy one, the one in charge. We talked about it, though, and she confessed that it wasn’t hers to decide. She would have to wait upon the Lord. But the Lord she waited on was the One who had spoken His promise to her years before: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Jesus asked Martha if she believed that; he asked Wilma too. And they both answered the same way: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

So Jesus got to be Lord, not Wilma. And Jesus had His way, which she learned to endure. A heavy burden for such an active doer. But even when it weighed her down, there were other times when the old Wilma just positively shone. Those bright blue eyes of hers twinkling and her “Oh, go on.” She continued to bring joy to so many of us right up to the end.

And we know that she was past ready to go; but we weren’t ready to lose her. You either, I’m sure. But one thing we always rejoiced in together: that whenever we shared the Supper, the Body and Blood of her Redeemer, the Victory Meal of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, we knew we weren’t alone. We were with them – the ones that have gone one before in the same faith in the same Redeemer. We sat on one side of the table and they on the other, but we were together with them. And, my friends, that’s true for you still. When you really miss Wilma, don’t think of her grave; think of her at the Lord’s Table. I’m sure He’ll have His hands full making her sit down and eat and letting Him take care of the serving and clean up, but anyway we look at it, when we share the Holy Eucharist together, we’re with Wilma and she’s with us. “With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” As she feasted regularly at that table on this side, you do the same, and you’ll know the comfort she found there. For no matter what tears had come before, almost always afterwards it was time for stories and laughter and the old Wilma.

She wouldn’t like me calling her that, would she? Well, you know what I mean. We’ll miss her right along with you – you whom she loved so very, very much and of whom she was so proud. Her earthly tent we lay to rest today; but it will be raised and made new. She was utterly confident of that. And you can be too. Amen.

Wilma L. Henke, age 91, of Staunton, died at 6:25 a.m., on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008, at Community Memorial Hospital in Staunton. She was born on July 10, 1917, in Livingston, the daughter of the late Herman W. and Wilhemina Schoenemann Sievers. She married Harold William Henke on May 16, 1937, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Staunton. He preceded her in death on Nov. 11, 1978. She is survived by a daughter: Lucille W. Otto of Olney, Md.; a daughter-in-law: Bernice Henke of Worden; a brother: Herman Sievers of Glen Carbon; two sisters: Alma Schmidt of Glen Carbon and Leona Sewing of Mount Olive; two grandchildren; three step grandchildren; two great grandchildren and seven step great grandchildren. Along with her parents and her husband, she is preceded in death by a son: Marvin H. Henke on May 7, 2006; a son-in-law: William C. Otto on March 1, 2003; and a sister: Esther Sievers. Mrs. Henke was born in Olive Township near Livingston. She and her husband lived at her family farm from 1948 to 1968. They lived in Hamel from 1968 to 2006. She cooked for a short time at the Galaxy Restaurant in Alhambra. She enjoyed Cardinals Baseball, sewing, quilting and playing cards.