31 January 2009

Pastor Gleason's Homily upon the Transfiguration

Everywhere you turn there are countless voices in the world claiming authority, both in the religious and secular world. Whether its political pundits spouting out their opinions, or psychics making predictions about the future, or TV prophets preaching their visions and dreams—all of them claim to be an authority to whom we should listen. Some of these voices even claim to be God’s Christ, or Messiah. The Korean cult leader Sun Young Moon has made this claim for years. Not long ago a Jewish sect hailed a Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as their messiah. Some have even given this title to our new president.

However, when it comes to the One whose word is truly divine and authoritative, the voice of Jesus must be heard above all others. On the Mount of Transfiguration, God placed divine authority upon Jesus of Nazareth when He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

We Christians are not surprised by all the noisome rabble who claim to speak for God. On the other hand, neither do we deny that God speaks through men. Why two of God’s greatest spokemen that ever lived were mentioned in our Gospel lesson—Moses and Elijah. They were true prophets, both chosen and appointed by God to be His voice amongst men.

But in our Gospel lesson, we hear how even Moses and Elijah must take a back seat to One who is greater than both of them, Jesus Christ! The opening words from the book of Hebrews describes Jesus’ supremacy over the prophets of old:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Heb. 1:1-5

Yes, in the past God spoke through the prophets; they were His spokesmen, and their word is God’s word. But now the Son of God, who is the Eternal Word of God, has come into the flesh, and through this Son, this Jesus of Nazareth, God now speaks; and all mankind is to hear Him, and Him alone!

Why is this singular and specific authority bestowed upon Jesus? Well, again, the words from the book of Hebrews say it all very clearly: It is because this Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, is also the Son of God, the “appointed heir of all things.” He is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,” who “sustains all things by his powerful word.” And who “after he had provided purification for sins” by His death on the cross, “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” where He lives and rules heaven and earth forever! That is why we listen to Jesus. Of course our heavenly Father put it all very succinctly when He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

It is no coincidence that false Christs and phony prophets should rise up today. Since Christ has ascended to heaven, many think they can play any religious game and make any spiritual claim to win followers. In fact, Christ predicted that this would happen when He warned His disciples in Luke 21:8, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”

And yet, the very fact that Christ has ascended means that we must “listen to Him” through representatives. Indeed, that is how Christ wants to be heard. However, it is not through just anyone who claims to be speaking for Him. Rather Christ wants to be heard through His own appointed representatives, namely His chosen Apostles. Just before Jesus ascended on high, He said to the eleven Disciples:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Jesus gave the Authority to teach God’s word to His Apostles. This is very clear from Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:40, where He says the Apostles’ authority is also from the Father: “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.”

St. Peter also established the authority of the Apostolic word when he said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.... Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:16, 20-21). And that same Holy Spirit who moved the prophets and apostles to speak also moves the whole Church to follow their teaching and to pass it on, as Paul says in I Thessalonians 2:13, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” And as Luke writes in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching....”

Now, where do we find this Apostolic Word today? We find it embodied in the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. This is the sole rule and guide by which all teachers and all doctrines are to be judged!
Furthermore, the Church has many faithful witnesses to the apostolic word in the creeds of the Church, as well as the writings of the early Church Fathers, and many other Christian theologians and defenders of the Faith. And as our own Lutheran Confessions say concerning the word of the Church when it proclaims the Apostolic Faith: “This Church is properly called [by Paul in I Tim 3:15] ‘the pillar of truth’ for it retains the pure Gospel and what Paul calls the ‘foundation’ (I Cor. 3:12) that is, the true knowledge of Christ and faith” (Apo, Art. III & VII.20).

Now many of you may be asking, What does all this mean to us? Well, much really, for the authority of God’s Word is a great consolation and strength for Christians. You see, the strength of our faith is not in ourselves, nor in our opinions about where God’s authority rests. The strength of our faith is found where God’s power and authority is truly found: namely, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the Word of God made flesh. And when we listen to Christ’s word recorded for us in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, and as it is preserved, preached, and taught in a true and faithful witness to that Apostolic word in the Church, then we can be sure, as was Peter, that “we have the words of the prophets made more certain.” And when we believe that word, we can say in truth and with confidence that we listen to Christ! Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?— even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. Ephesians 5:30 - St. Irenaeus, Ad Haer. V.2.3

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The doctrine of the Lord's Supper is the most vital and practical in the whole range of the profoundest Christian life - the doctrine which, beyond all others, conditions and vitalizes that life, for in it the character of faith is determined, invigorated, and purified as it is nowhere else. It is not only a fundamental doctrine, but it is among the most fundamental of fundamentals. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 655

How to Think of the Sacrament

[from today's BOC reading from Treasury]:

We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved... They should regard and use the Sacrament just like a precious antidote against the poison that they have in them. Here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin. It contains and brings with it God's grace and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death, the devil, and all misfortune. (LC V:68, 70)

On that Private Judgment Thingy

Wisdom from Krauth's *Conservative Reformation* - the entire section worthy of being read, studied, and pondered. I produce it here because "private judgment" is a key to understanding how one becomes a Lutheran in fact and in deed, and not merely in name. The person who would be a Lutheran is the one who has studied and read prayerfully the Sacred Scriptures; who has studied and read prayerfully the Augsburg Confession; who through the exercise of his private judgment confesses that these two agree with one another, that they say the same thing. When people are inquiring into the Lutheran Church, this is how we should encourage them to prayerfully and sincerely engage the Scriptures and the Augsburg Confession or the Small Catechism:

"In freely and heartily accepting the faith of our Church, as our own faith, and her Scriptural Confession of that faith, as our own Confession, we do not surrender for ourselves, any more than we take from others, the sacred and inalienable right of private judgment. It is not by giving up the right of private judgment, but by the prayerful exercise of it, not by relinquishing just investigation, but by thoroughly employing it, that we have reached that faith which we glory in confessing." (169)

"As the individual, in exercising the right of private judgment, is in peril of abusing it, the Church has the right and is bound by the duty, of self-defence against that abuse. The right of private judgment is not the right of Church-membership, not the right of public teaching, not the right of putting others into an equivocal attitude to what they regard as truth." (170)

"When we confess, that, in the exercise of our private judgment, our Bible has made us Lutherans, we neither pretend to claim that other men shall be made Lutherans by force, nor that their private judgment shall, or will, of necessity reach the same results as ours. We only contend, that, if their private judgment of the Bible does not make them Lutherans, they shall not pretend that it does. We do not say, that any man shall believe that the Confession of our Church is Scriptural. We only contend, that he should neither say nor seem to say so, if he does not believe it." (171)

"We concede to every man the absolute right of private judgment as to the faith of the Lutheran Church, but if he have abandoned the faith of that Church, he may not use her name as his shelter in attacking the thing she cherishes, and in maintaining which she obtained her being and her name." (172)

"It is the doctrine of the Reformation, not that there should be no checks upon the abuse of private judgment, but that those checks should be moral alone. The Romanists and the un-Lutheran elements in the Reformation were agreed, that the truth must be maintained and heresy extirpated by the sword of government. Error is in affinity with the spirit of persecution." (173)

"It is not the right of private judgment which makes or marks a man Lutheran. A man may have the right to judge, and yet be simpleton, as he may have the right to get rich, yet may remain a beggar. It is the judgment he reaches in exercising that right which determines what he is." (175)

"The right of private judgment and the right of Church discipline are co-ordinate and harmonious rights, essential to the prevention, each of the abuse of the other." (175)

"The faith of the Church, drawn from the rule by the just exercise of private judgment, illumined by the Holy Ghost, has been tested and developed in three ways: First, by science; next, by history; and thirdly, in the practical life of the Church." (175, 176)

"But the object of the Creed is not to find out what God teaches, (we go to the Bible for that,) but to show what we believe." (184)

"The Bible is the rule of faith, but not the confession of it; the Creed is not the rule of faith, but is the confession of it. A Lutheran is a Christian whose rule of faith is the Bible, and whose creed is the Augsburg Confession." (185)

Sis just sent...

...me this pic of mom and dad. I'm guessing it is from the early 1940's. One of the FEW pics we have of them together (my mother despised getting her picture taken):

30 January 2009


is an EXCEEDINGLY stupid game. I just don't get why people play it...

[Okay, okay, so it WAS fun to watch Dave stomp Jo all three games - she wasn't in the best of moods. Fancy that!]

Speaking of Working Out...

Today completes five months since I started again. Thus far, not one day missed. I've enjoyed it immensely, surprised at how my almost 50 year old body is responding, and holding steady in the weight at around 148. Waist size has definitely shrunk though. Size 30s are just fine; size 31s (what I am wearing today) a bit loose. Who'd have ever thunk it? I'm itching like crazy for spring and summer, though, because I want to add in a bike ride each day that I don't do the regular workout at the Y. OH! I was fretting about the conferences I'll be doing this summer and wondering how I could manage to keep up with the exercise. I forgot all about the Y card having "Away" on it, so we can go to ANY Y and still workout. I'm psyched. I've worked out before, but I don't think I've ever seen the results as clearly as this time, and I know I've never worked so hard before. My sessions at the Y are some of the big highlights for me of my week (yeah, I know what that says about my life - but I like BORING!).

Fun Friday

A bit of a lazy start...bacon and eggs and half a slice of Cindi's whole-wheat toast...finished up coffee and read a bit...Cindi cut my hair (yeah!)... off to Y for a GREAT workout (burned 681 calories in cardio in 50 minutes and did weights too for shoulders and back)... we lunched at Red Lobster and split a meal, marveling at how ANYONE could eat a whole meal by themselves (had stuffed mushroom caps, caesar salad, scallops, a split lobster tail and some shrimp with lots of delicious broccoli)... we talked about how great it is to see ALL the kids being regular in exercise (Bekah with rock climbing and gymnastics with Meaghan; David with Tae Kwon Do and working with the weights at home; Lauren and Dean with their biking, running, and she especially with volleyball)... shopping for some more workout clothes... home for a leisurely afternoon, dinner, and then cards tonight with Jo and Dave... MY turn to win!!!

Patristic Quote of the Day

The righteousness of man is as nothing accounted. The work of men, what is it? His labour is altogether vanity. Of You, O Lord, of Your grace it is that in our nature we should become good. Of You is righteousness, that we from men should become righteous. Of You is the mercy and favour, that we from the dust should become Your image. Give power to our will, that we be not sunk in sin! - St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Homily on Repentance*

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

She [the Church] should lead men, not to the least faith, the least holiness which makes salvation possible, but to the very highest - she should not encourage the religion whose root is a selfish fear of hell, a selfish craving for heaven, but she should plant that religion to which pure truth is dear for its own sake, which longs for the fullest illumination, which desires not the easy road, but the sure one. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 191

29 January 2009

From Lectio Divina

"May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesphorus...may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!" [2 Timothy 1 - reading for today in the Treasury]

Here is probably the sole NT instance of a prayer for the dead and, surprise!, it is a plea for mercy. So the Church on pilgrimage remembers also the Church at rest and asks for all our sisters and brothers whose bodies sleep in the dust and whose souls are in the hands of the Lord, the gift of mercy on the Last Day, when we shall all - body and soul - be raised in incorruption. Kyrie eleison - it's our constant prayer, our ever-fitting plea. "Give to your whole Church, in heaven and on earth, Your light and Your peace..."

Patristic Quote of the Day

The sign that you love God, is this, that you love your fellow; and if you hate your fellow, your hatred is towards God. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, Homily on Repentance

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Strictly speaking, there is no other satisfaction for the sins of the world than the precious death of Christ. It alone has satisfied the divine justice on our behalf and reconciled us to God. But no one shares in that satisfaction except believers in the Gospel of Christ. Moreover, no one is counted among believers unless they change their godless lives and bear witness to their faith through good works. -- Urbanus Rhegius, *Preaching the Reformation* p. 73

I put this

in one of the com boxes down below, but I think it's important enough to be in a post of its own. Check it out:

1970 Press Release

It's a piece of the history of the dialog between Rome and the Lutherans in the US that I was wholly ignorant of until Fr. Beane mentioned it. Rome's hierarchy never acted upon it, of course, but I find it of great interest that a number of bishops and theologians on the Roman side would actually recommend it at all.

What a Hoot Wordle Is!

Here's last Sunday's homily on the Conversion of St. Paul after it has been "wordled":

Wordle: Conversion of St. Paul sermon

28 January 2009

Today has been

...rather hectic, but in between other duties, I've squeezed some more time to study Krauth in. I know our Lord's wisdom and timing are perfect, but in my foolish "what if" moments I can't help but wish I'd encountered his writings years ago. So much agony spared; so many points clarified; such depth of insight combined with fervent love and kindness. I have a list of Krauth books I intent to xerox when next I'm at the seminary library. I read and reread *Conservative Reformation* and still I go on learning from him. I recommend him highly to any who are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in our Synod and of our beloved Lutheran Church in general - and especially to those who are tempted to abandon our Lutheran Confession itself due to our generally abysmal condition. You owe it to yourselves to read and study this man before you make such a move. I think you'll be heartened and amazed. I know I have been.

If you care to hear...

...an Issues, Etc. discussion On St. John Chrysostom, just click his name.

Another Good Krauthy

No particular Church has, on its own showing, a right to existence, except as it believes itself to be the most perfect form of Christianity, the form which of right should be universal. No Church has a right to a part which does not claim that to it should belong the whole. That communion confesses itself a sect which aims at no more than abiding as one of a number of equally legitimated bodies. That communion which does not believe in the certainty of the ultimate acceptance of its principles in the whole world has not the heart of a true Church. That which claims to be Catholic de facto claims to be Universal de jure. - Intro, *The Conservative Reformation* [emphasis added]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[HT to Pr. Webber]

APOSTOLIC AND MINISTERIAL SUCCESSION. 1. In their extraordinary powers and functions the Apostles had no successors. 2. In their ordinary ones all true ministers of Christ are their successors. 3. There is a ministerial succession unbroken in the Church; but, there is no personal succession in a particular line of transmission. The ministry that is, ordains the ministry that comes. The ministry of successive generations has always been inducted into the office by the ministry preceding; but, the so-called Apostolical succession or canonical succession does not exist, would be incapable of demonstration if it did exist, and would be of no essential value even if it could be demonstrated. (1 Tim. i. 18, iv. 14, v. 22; Acts xiv. 23; 2 Tim. ii. 2; Titus i. 5.) -- Charles P. Krauth, *Theses on the Ministry*

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let no one, let no one, I say, be so glad about his illness that he wishes to continue in his wounded state. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 113, par 3

27 January 2009

And speaking of Chemnitz' Church Order...

...it is striking to me that the Prayer of the Church in this particular order consists entirely of bids to pray for this or that need (for the church, for the state, for the needy, and against various catastrophes), and then wraps up:
Let every one present to God his own need and pray in the name of Christ at his command, where he said, "Everything which you pray in my name, believe, and it will be yours" and speak heartily the Our Father, etc.

This is quite like the bidding prayer that begins Lessons and Carols in the Anglican tradition and concludes with something like: Let us offer up these petitions to the throne of heaven in the words our Savior taught us. Something like that.

What I particularly like about this form of praying is that it shows how all the things for which we might ever need to pray are given us in the Lord's own "Lex orandi" - the prayer of all prayers, the Our Father.


From Saturday's prayer in the Treasury:

We pray you not to look upon our guilt; forgive us every sin of thought, word, and deed; forgive our inner blindness, disbelief, doubt, feeble-mindedness, impatience, arrogance, evil desires, lust, secret envy, hate, resentment and our other sins.

From Chemnitz' Braunschweig Wölfenbüttel Kirchen Ordnung (1569):

I, a poor sinner, confess to God my Heavenly Father, that I (sad to say) have sinned terribly and repeatedly, not only committing external, gross sins, but much more inner, inborn blindness, faithlessness, doubt, faintheartedness, impatience, arrogance, evil lusts, covetousness, secret jealousy, hatred and discontentment, also other sins with which I in many different ways have trampled the most holy law of God with thoughts, gestures, words and deeds. My Lord and God knows my sin and I sadly cannot recognize them so completely. Therefore I am sorry for them and heartily desire grace from God through His dear Son Jesus Christ, and plead that he would grant to me his Holy Spirit for the improvement of my life.

Sehr interessant, nicht Wahr?

The Snow

At last it comes...beautiful.  But can it be gone by tomorrow morning???

On Kneeling at the Words of Christ

During the chanting of the Holy Words of Christ that consecrate the Sacrament, it is my custom to kneel before the Lord's body and blood. I'd never before thought how this is precisely the practice Dr. Luther describes in the Larger Catechism (the assigned reading for today in Treasury):
Now it is not the word or ordinance of a prince or emperor. But it is the Word of the grand Majesty, at whose feet all creatures should fall and affirm that it is as He says, and accept it with all reverence, fear, and humility. [V:11]
Is not this exactly what the genuflection does? What it confesses?

"You, O Lord, have said it, and it is so; This is Your body and This Your holy blood! Glory to You! Glory to You forever!"

Neglected Rubrics, Litany

"4. The Litany may replace the prayers in the Daily Office (Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer) or the General Prayer in the Divine Service. It may also serve as an entrance rite in the Divine Service, replacing the Introit, Kyrie, and Hymn of Praise." Lutheran Service Book Altar Book, p. 410

If combined with rubric 6, that it is especially appropriate for penitential times, whether seasons (Advent and Lent) or days (Wednesday, Fridays, Days of Repentance and Prayer), it would seem to lend itself to the possibility of using the Litany in the Passion Vespers of Lent and the Prayer of the Church during at least some of the Sundays of Lent. A good time to teach the singing of this prayer - rather easy and hauntingly beautiful.

The Bright Light of Transfiguration

This coming Sunday, the parishes of the LCMS that use the historic One-Year Lectionary will celebrate the joyous feast of the Transfiguration (the rest of us will celebrate the Sunday before Ash Wednesday). It is one of my favorite liturgies of the entire year - especially the stately and joyful Hymn of the Day (O Wondrous Type!) set to the Agincourt hymn:

Your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise (Introit)... O God, in the glorious Transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us coheirs with the King in His glory (Collect)... Alleluia! Sing to the Lord; tell of His salvation from day to day; declare His glory among the nations, His marvels among all the people! Alleluia! (Verse)... O wondrous type! O vision fair! Of glory that the Church may share Which Christ upon the mountain shows Where brighter than the sun He glows!... And faithful hearts are raised on high By this great vision's mystery For which in joyful strains we raise The voice of prayer, the hymn of praise... We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace To see Thy glory face to face! (Hymn of the Day)... through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who at His Transfiguration revealed His glory to His disciples that they might be strengthened to proclaim His cross and resurrection and with all the faithful look forward to the glory of life everlasting (Proper Preface)... A light to lighten the gentile and the glory of Thy people Israel (Nunc Dimittis)... The Lord make His to shine upon you and give you peace (Benediction)... Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die... At the last to keep Thine easter with Thy faithful saints on high, there to Thee forever singing Alleluia joyfully (Closing Hymn)...

A Thought on Restoration of the Feasts

The LSB, when listing Feasts and Festivals, lists eight of them in boldface, with the explanatory note that these are "principle FEASTS of Christ." The suggestion is that they may replace the Sunday propers should they fall on a Sunday (with special precautions about Annunciation - see the additional note on page 960 of the Altar Book). However, if these are indeed principle feasts of our Lord, why on earth not encourage our parishes to actually hold Divine Service on these days? Granted, if they are work days, Divine Service will need to be at either an early hour or a late one, and yet why should we deprive our people of the joy of these feasts except for the odd years one or the other of them happens to fall on a Sunday?

The principle feasts of Christ, besides regular Sundays, Christmas, Holy Week, and Pentecost are:

Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus - Dec 31
Circumcision and Name of Jesus - Jan 1
Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord - Feb 2
Annunciation of Our Lord - March 25
Nativity of St. John the Baptist - June 24
Visitiation - July 2 (new calendar, May 31)
St. Michael and All Angels - Sept 29
All Saints' Day - Nov 1

It strikes me that this is a good beginning for renewal of a richer calendar among us. At least on these days, is it too much to ask that we OFFER the Divine Service and encourage our people to partake of the riches each of them unfolds for us in our Lord Jesus Christ?

"Glory to God for All Things!"

Today our Synod commemorates St. John Chrysostom, Preacher and Patriarch of Constantinople. From our Synod's website:

Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means "golden-mouthed" in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: "Glory be to God for all things. Amen."

The Treasury contains a beautiful selection from this dear father. My own favorite words from him are this selection:

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

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

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

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

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

The prayer that Treasury assigns for this day:

O God, You gave to Your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to all bishops and preachers such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

And I would be remiss not to cite also from the Anaphora which antiquity attributes to him, and which we have no reason to question, came from his hand:

Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven, and hadst endowed us with thy kingdom which is to come. For all these things, we give thanks unto thee, and to thine Only-begotten Son, and thy Holy Spirit; for all things which we know and which we know not, and for all the benefits bestowed upon us, both manifest and unseen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Here at the command of the world's Redeemer, His Body and Blood become the food of Christians for the forgiveness of their sins, for the gift of God's own divine life, for their everlasting salvation, for the increase of their faith and for the heightened fervency of their mutual love. -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* (The Life of God in the Life of the Parish), p. 124

Patristic Quote of the Day

This trumpet is not a horn of wood or bronze that gives a grim bellow to soldiers by a breath compressed through its hollows, but from the heart of the Father and the mouth of the Son it peals forth a summons to life both to those in the underworld and to those up above simultaneously.... The trumpet which in the beginning raised the human being out of mud, is the same one that in the end will raise the human being up again out of dust. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Semon 103 par. 1

26 January 2009

Exhortation to Communicants

Since from the fall and trespass of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we have all fallen into sin and are guilty of everlasting death, and through such sin have grown weak and corrupted in both body and soul, so that we of ourselves can do no good thing, much less keep the commandments and will of God, and since according to the Law we are cursed and ought to be eternally damned, as it is written in the book of the Law, and though neither we ourselves nor any other creature in heaven or on earth could help us out of such sorrow and condemnation, God the Almighty has had mercy upon us.

Out of his inexpressible love, he has sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to take our nature upon Him, taking flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary. On Him were laid our sins and those of the whole world. He bore them for us as on the gallows of the cross He died, and on the third day he rose again, having atoned for our sin and that of our parents, again reconciling us to God the Almighty, so that we are now justified, made children of God, and will have eternal life and salvation.

That we may be sure of this and never forget His great, inexpressible love and kindness, Jesus Christ, as He was about to begin his sufferings, instituted His Supper, giving to His beloved disciples His own body to eat and His blood to drink and said to them - and to all Christians - that it is His body given for them and His blood shed for them, for the forgiveness of sins, and that as often as they eat and drink of it, they should do so for His remembrance and, as St. Paul says, to proclaim His death until He comes again on the Last Day as judge of the living and the dead.

Therefore we are to do as he has commanded us, that is, to eat his body and drink his blood, remembering and giving thanks for His great kindness in reconciling us to God the heavenly Father, and rescuing us from sin, death, and eternal damnation. We ought also believe what He has said. Namely, "This is My body, given for you; This is My blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins." When we do as He bids us and believe, we receive according to His word His true body with the bread and His true blood with the wine, and with them all His merits and righteousness: that is, forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the adoption as children, and eternal salvation.

But let only those who who hunger and thirst for righteousness go to this most holy sacrament; that is, those who confess their sins, are sorry for them, and who have the intention to do better, and as far as possible live according to God's will. Therefore, let a man examine himself, and if he finds such a disposition go the sacrament boldly, for he receives it worthily. And though he is weak, yet still believing, let him go to the sacrament. God will have patience. "A bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not quench." He is pleased with but the beginning of faith. Yet we should pray as in the Gospel: "Lord, I believe! Help thou mine unbelief." But whoever is not sorry for his sins and has no intention of bettering himself, but plans to continue in open sin and lust, let him stay away from the sacrament, for he receives it to his judgment, as St. Paul says.

Now then, as we are gathered together to observe the Supper of our Lord and to receive His body and blood, in order that we may do so worthily, that our faith may be strengthened, that we might live more according to God's will, that we might forgive our enemies and love our neighbors and do good to all, let us call on God our Father through Jesus Christ and pray together the holy Our Father.

[Braunschweig-Wölfenbüttel Kirchen Ordnung, authored by Chemnitz and Andreae]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The life of God does not come through a new program, but through repentance, that is, through contrition and faith. -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 133

Patristic Quote of the Day

To be pleasing in the judgment of human beings derives from superior human virtue and achievement; in the sight of God, who examines hearts, to be righteous does not derive from human achievement, but from a divine gift. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 89, par. 5

Lectio Divina

Today's reading from Zechariah held three precious verses to me:

And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. (2:5)

And so the people lived in a place with no man-made walls, for the Lord alone suffices to protect His people. They need have no fear of those around them, for the Lord IS their protection.

And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (2:11)

Join themselves to the Lord and thus are His people. Strikes me that this is quite a LUTHERAN way of talking - the Church results from faith's joining a person to the Blessed Trinity and thus she is the company of all those who have done so. To be "in" the Church without this faith "joining" to the Lord is to to be dead in the company of the living!

I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. (3:9)

And not just of that land, but of all lands, and all in a single day, a single dark and stormy Friday when total sin was upon the Son of Man and total forgiveness was given to our fallen race.

You know...

...there really IS a difference in coffee made in the french press. David gave me one for Christmas and I've been putting it to good use. I usually make up a batch in the afternoon and it is doubtlessly the best tasting coffee of the day.

25 January 2009

IF I Could Start A Mission Congregation...

...here's what it would look like:

A single Divine Service Sunday a.m., with Matins preceding it (no sermon). Additionally, I'd have Saturday Evening Vespers with opportunity following it for Confession and Absolution each week.

The people would be encouraged in a life of prayer - so we'd offer Matins and Vespers at regular set times during the week, employing material from Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Eucharist would be celebrated on every Sunday and every feast and festival in our LSB calendar.

Sunday afternoons from September through Easter would offer the Catechism Service.

We'd get together for the joy of sharing food and friendship no less than once a month.

No individual cups.

Bible Study/Sunday School would follow refreshments and visiting after the Sunday Divine Service.

It's name would, of course!, be St. Mary, Mother of God, Lutheran Church.

We'd make rich use of the artistic traditions of the Christian Church, but especially of our Lutheran forebears in adorning the nave and chancel.

We'd make clear from the get-go that the parish has but one mission: to BE the Church of God in this place, a colony from the future, a haven of rest for an exhausted world.

We'd implement a catechumenate from the start as our normal way of outreach and bringing folks into the parish's life.

We'd only form committees as needed on an ad hoc basis and evaluate each year if they should continue or if we can do the work better another way.

Above all else, we'd try to foster a community at prayer, in the Word, and feasting sumptuously on the Eucharist and so empowered to love and serve the unbelievers around us, bringing them into our joyful communion.

There's my dream. Mostly taken, I freely admit, from the old Church Orders of the Lutheran Church. What did I leave out? What would you do differently?

Patristic Quote of the Day

He becomes man, He enters the servile condition of humanity, in order to establish for the world that Christ is God by his miracles, and that He is man by His obedience and by His sufferings. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 178 par. 4

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When the inspired writers call the moral taint of our nature sin, they give evidence in this, that as they define the term, it is applicable to that taint.  Their idea of sin is of something which man has; something which dwells in him; something is separate in ideal from his consciousness not only of his own essence, but from the consciousness of his truer nature, his more real self.  This sin is something that is inborn, which is first to be pardoned, then controlled, and finally annihilated by a new birth, by the grace of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit, by the entrance on the glory of heaven, by the mighty power by which a risen Savior is to raise these vile bodies and make them like His own body. -- C. P. Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 406

Conversion of St. Paul

What a joy to celebrate this feast today!  For many Christians throughout the world, this brings the end of the week of prayer for Christian unity.  Our intercessions today took some note of this, with the petition:

Father of our Lord, You would gather Your family as one around Your holy table. Heal the sad divisions of Your church, and grant the day to come when Your whole Church, sharing a common faith, may feast as one at the table of Your Son’s body and blood. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Truly a giant among the holy apostles, St. Paul's conversion was one of the greatest gifts the Church could ever have received from her risen Lord - through him, our Lord has given us so very much. Just think of how his words accompany us through our pilgrimage and give us the strength to face death itself: "For I am persuaded..."

24 January 2009

Enjoying the Fruits

For a couple of years, Pastor Curtis and I have been working hard at TEACHING the children of our school the liturgy.  Regular Wednesday chapel is Matins - only we switch around the Canticles so that they end up learning them all.  They sing Venite et al. by heart!  

Tonight the children of TSP sang at our Saturday evening liturgy.  Wow!  It was glorious to hear those young voices lift up and carry away the song.  They did it repeatedly.  Throughout the Divine Service, their voices rang out with clarity.  And when they sang both during the Offering and the Distribution, what energy and joy.  They KNEW their stuff and belted out it out with joy.  For Distribution they sang:  "From God the Father, Virgin Born."  I haven't taught it yet to the parish as a whole, but the children already have it down pat.  

Anyone who tells you that kids can't learn the Church's music and lead the liturgy is just full of bunk!  Luther was right.  We need to work on the children - and leave the boomers to their hopelessly trite and dated "contemporary" songs.  The kids will long outlast them, singing:

From God the Father, Virgin-born,
To us the only Son came down
By death the font to consecrate
The faithful to regenerate!

Homily upon the Conversion of St. Paul (2009)

[Acts 9:1-22 / Galatians 1:11-24 / Matthew 19:27-30]

Fraud. That's what he was convinced the whole business was: one massive deadly, dangerous deception. It's not that he denied the resurrection of the dead; oh, no. He'd go to the bat for that. But what he specifically denied was that this Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead and then glorified at God's right hand. Nonsense and downright evil, that's what he thought. He was neither the first nor the last to think so. And so he worked with might and main to stamp out the fraud by arresting and destroying those who persisted in perpetrating it upon his own people.

Until. Until that moment we heard about in our first reading. The light from heaven flashing around him, the glory knocking him to the ground. Utterly bewildered, he met the Fraud face to face. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city and you will be told what to do.”

In that moment everything, but everything crumbled for Saul. All that he was certain of became uncertain and one thing became more certain than life itself: the story about Jesus wasn't a fraud at all. He had seen Him with his own eyes in the bright light, had heard His voice, had discovered in that moment the truth beyond all truths: Jesus, the man who was murdered, crucified for the crime of claiming to be God's Son, had in fact been raised from the dead. And not just raised, but raised in glory and incorruption.

As he sat, blinded by the vision, his whole world left in shambles, he must have gone over it a thousand times. He'd had it all wrong. These followers of Jesus had it right. This Jesus' claims were, then, all true. The entirety of the Scriptures of the Prophets then were about HIM and about how anyone, anyone at all, can receive forgiveness of sins through faith in His name.

But, but, but, he'd want to argue with himself, but all the buts died before the reality of what had happened to him on the road outside Damascus. And as if that wasn't enough, another vision. A man named Ananias entering, laying hands on him, giving him his sight back. And then the knock at the door. Reluctant Ananias who knew exactly what Paul had come to Damascus to do, embodying the very spirit of Jesus as he calls him “brother” Saul, lays on hands, baptizes, and gives a new life. “You are his chosen instrument, Saul. He told me. You will carry His name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. He told me. He will show you how much you must suffer for the sake of His name, but be heartened my brother! He HAS triumphed over death, and He is the forgiveness of all your sin.”

And so it began. Yet he had need of more schooling, more time to grapple with what it all meant. More time to run through the Scriptures he had long since committed to memory and to see how they were all about this Jesus who revealed Himself to him and who made him an apostle. So off to Arabia and then back to Damascus and at last up to Jerusalem to meet his fellow apostles.

Paul, as he would come to be called, saw his whole life then as a grace. That God's mercy and love in Christ would be big enough to reach out and pluck up someone like HIM and use HIM to be an apostle! Who but the Risen Lord would have come up with such a brilliant and grace-filled notion? The chief opponent sent out to “preach the faith he once tried to destroy” and everyone glorifying God because of the turn-around everyone could see in the Apostle Paul. His whole life turned upside down by the revelation that the Crucified One lived and lived in unspeakable glory, ruling over all things for the well being of His people and calling one and all to share in the life He came to bring – even those who hate and persecute His own.

In today's Gospel, our Lord speaks of how the Apostles cannot lose with Him. Oh, they may leave “houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, lands” for His sake. But they can't lose them. Instead with Him they receive these a hundredfold and they inherit a life that is eternal. He speaks there of the Church and the blessings we have already in each other as family of God. But to the Apostles he speaks specifically of 12 thrones. That produces a bit of a conundrum for, of course, Judas departed the number of the twelve, vacated his throne and chose rather the things of this world, and the despair and death they bring. But whose then was that throne?

Jesus told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promised Holy Spirit. Before the day of Pentecost arrived, though, Peter leads the others in replacing Judas with Matthias. For many years the Church has wondered about this – no ill reflection upon Matthias, mind you, but has wondered if the 12th throne did not belong ultimately to the last of the Apostles, to St. Paul himself, hand-picked by the Risen Lord and appointed to be His chosen instrument. And here truly, the last has been made first.

Think, my friends, of the use to which our Lord put St. Paul. Not only that which St. Luke chronicles in the Book of Acts. But above all, the use of St. Paul to write the bulk of the New Testament itself. And is not this how the Apostles DO sit on thrones still, judging the Israel of God? Their witness to the Risen Christ, what we call the New Testament, is the irreplaceable foundation upon which the Church rests. Their words settle matters among us to this day. Peter and Paul are not long ago and far away. Their witness, inspired by the Spirit of God, is as close to us today as it ever was. They still speak, and their witness, their words, still bring people to faith in what they saw and experienced: the Crucified Lord risen in triumph over death, the Forgiveness of Sins appearing before them as their eternal justification.

No, it was no fraud. This Saul learned on the road to Damascus. And this the great Saint and Apostle Paul proclaimed and proclaims throughout the length and breadth of the entire world: “Jesus is the Son of God!”

On this feast of his conversion, we join in his confession even as we kneel before the same Crucified and Risen One and receive from His living hands the gift of His own body and blood, promising us the same forgiveness that embraced and converted Paul. May it transform us as well that we, too, may be joyful witnesses to the life that never ends, the life that is God's free gift to all in Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory, honor and dominion with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

We assemble to read our sacred writings, if any peculiarity of the times makes either forewarning or reminiscence needful. However it be in that respect, with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast; and no less by inculcations of God's precepts we confirm good habits. In the same place also exhortations are made, rebukes and sacred censures are administered. For with a great gravity is the work of judging carried on among us, as befits those who feel assured that they are in the sight of God; and you have the most notable example of judgment to come when any one has sinned so grievously as to require his severance from us in prayer, in the congregation and in all sacred intercourse. The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honour not by purchase, but by established character. There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. --Tertullian, Apology 39

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

By this public rite we testify that though this act is mediate, yet it is truly divine, for the person is presented to God and it is pointed out that this person has been sent through lawful means by God Himself.  For it is not our work, but God's which we do; through us He calls and ordains this person.  And he who is thus called is presented to God.  In a sense he is delivered over to God for the ministry, just as when of old in Old Testament times hands were laid on the sacrifices, they were then devoted, as it were, to the service of God alone. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz on Ordination in *Loci Theologici* p. 705

23 January 2009

It strikes me

that so many of the disconnects between Lutherans and EOs or RCs in discussions boil down to whether the Holy Spirit's gift of the Sacred Scriptures THEMSELVES are the light that illumines our path or whether they NEED illumination from another source (i.e., the Church). Loehe must have sensed this too, for in his Three Books on the Church he wrote:

His Word and His Apostles' Word is intelligible to all. This is the most important point in the doctrine concerning the Church. Everything said in this little book is nothing, if the Apostles' Word, if Scripture, is not clear. Here is all danger. If here we conquer, we have won; if here we lose, then all is lost, and lost not for this or that particular Church only, but for the whole Christian Communion on earth. For if the Scriptures cannot be the point of union of the Church, then there is no point of union, because every other, in itself, without backing of Scripture is less than vanity. (pp. 29,30)

The rest of the chapter is well worth reading. It explains so well why the attack upon our Church and her confession must always begin with attacking the Scripture as the light that it is.

Prayer of the Church

LSB Altar Book offers a number of Prayers of the Church that may be used in the Divine Service.  The one beginning on page 442 is particularly strong.  It comes from the old Service Book and Hymnal.  What is NOT noted in LSB is the way that this prayer could be shortened by dropping petitions to provide you with the "core" of the prayer.  SBH indicated this by setting the following paragraphs against the outer margin and indenting the optional ones (which I simply here omit).  Thus, in its most basic form this prayer would be prayed as follows, which is how we often pray it at Weekday spoken Divine Services:

Almighty God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and bless You for the love that sustains us from day to day.  We praise You for the gift of Your Son, our Savior, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  We thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; for Your holy Church; for the means of grace, for the lives of all faithful and just people, and for the hope of the life to come.  Help us to treasure in our hearts all that You have done for us, and enable us to show our thankfulness in lives that are wholly given to Your service.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Save and defend Your whole Church, purchased with the precious blood of Christ.  Strengthen Your faithful people through the Word and the Holy Sacraments, making them perfect in love, and establishing in them the faith once delivered to the saints.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Send the light of Your truth into all the earth.  Raise up faithful servants of Christ to advance the Gospel both at home and in distant lands.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Preserve our nation in justice and honor that we may lead a peacable lifewith integrity.  Grant health and favor to all who bear office in our land, especially the President and congress of the United States, the governor and legislature of this state, and all who make, administer, and judge our laws.  Help them to serve this people according to Your holy will.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

By Your Word and Holy Spirit comfort all who are in sorrow or need, sickness or adversity (especially...).  Be with those who suffer persecution for the faith.  Have mercy on those to whom death draws near (especially...).  Bring consolation to those in sorrow, and grant to all a measure of Your love, taking them into Your tender care.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

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

All these things and whatever else You know that we need, grant us, Father, for the sake of Him who died and rose again and now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Eucharist is not an end in itself; it is rather a means to participation in the life of God that we may be better able to share this life with others.  -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 132

Patristic Quote of the Day

God receives sinners, but God does not allow those whom He receives to remain sinners.  The approach of a sinner does no harm to God.  God sanctifies the sinner when he draws near to Him.  -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 168, par. 3

At the Deathbed

There is no moment of a pastor's calling more blessed than when he stands beside the deathbed, with the family gathers, and prays the prayers for commendation of the dying, and sees a Christian off to the joys of the Eternal Kingdom.  Yesterday afternoon I had this privilege once again.  The breath coming ever more slowly, the eyes already fixed on what we cannot see here, and then the peace at the end.  And through it all the Words of Scripture, the prayers of the Church, the songs of the people of God:

Psalm 23 sung
John 10 - "And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish and no one can snatch them out of My hand..."
Rev 21 - "For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their Shepherd..."
Litany - O Lord, have mercy... That You forgive all his sins... That You give him refreshment and everlasting blessing... That You give him joy and gladness in heaven with Your saints...
Our Father
Commendation:  Go in peace, N.  May God the Father who created you, may God the + Son who redeemed and saved you with His blood, may God the Holy Spirit, who sanctified you in the water of Holy Baptism, receive you into the company of saints and angels to await the resurrection and live in the light of His glory forevermore.
Singing of Nunc Dimittis:  "Lord, now lettest Thou..."
Singing of "Lord, let at last Thine angels come..."
Benediction:  "The Lord bless you and keep you..."
More hymns of the resurrection:  "The Strife is O'er!" "I Know that My Redeemer" "Jesus Lives!" and other favorites and finally, the last breath. 

O God, for the glorious privilege of attending your people as they depart this age, Your unworthy servant gives You glory and praise!

21 January 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The scimitar that pierced the Virgin's soul is still the occupational hazard of all who walk in the company of her Son.  If you belong to Him, it will be alternatively poised over you and pressed into your soul as long as you live.  It has no saving value in itself; our salvation, like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, rests wholly upon the atonement wrought by her Son.  But when you feel the pain of the scimitar's piercing, rejoice, for this is one of the ways in which God is telling you that you are His. - A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 212

Patristic Quote of the Day

And there is no other way of becoming righteous in the Law save by fulfilling the whole of it. But this has not been possible for any one, and therefore this righteousness has failed them. But tell us, Paul, of the other righteousness also, that which is of grace.  -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 17 on Romans

20 January 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This sacrifice, this oblation, this offering is for the whole world. It is retroactive to the first human being, and it thrusts forward in its saving effect to the end of the age. Although the essential historical moment of His once-for-all sacrifice is chronologically in the past, the one priest is Christ and the one victim is Christ.... He is offering Himself and us in Him. -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 192

Patristic Quote of the Day

Brothers, one's status is prepared here, ranks are determined here, honors are assigned here; the one who has not received a testimonial letter from putting his faith in the Gospel here, will not possess there the insignia of eternal dignities. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 144, par. 9

19 January 2009

Upon the Inauguration

For Barack, our President, for all public servants, for the government and all who protect us, that they may be upheld and strengthened in every good deed, let us pray to the Lord:

Lord, have mercy!

For those who work to bring peace, justice, health and protection in this and every place, let us pray to the Lord:

Lord, have mercy!

[Litany for Evening Prayer, LSB, p. 250]

The Marvelous Jen

Is the one to thank for that beautiful banner that now resides at the top of this page. From incarnation to crucifixion to resurrection - it's only all about Jesus. Thanks a BUNDLE, Jen!!!

So Close, So Close...

...and yet so far. The good Deacon Muehlenbruch forwarded to me this link after reading my paper on revisiting the sacrifice of the mass:

click here

One, two and four are fine and peachy. But that #3 has it backwards. The Mass is not for the propitiation to be offered to God, but for the propitiation that WAS offered to God to be received by us. How on earth could one speak of the "ends" of the Mass and NOT get its most basic end of all: so that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ that have atoned for the sin of the world and by receiving them become one Body in Him? Amazing. Simply amazing. 

Granted, it was a "quick liturgical catechesis" but I am still staggered at what has happened to our Lord's own words that TELL us the chief action.  How has: "Take and eat; take and drink" been transmuted to "take and offer?" with NO mention of receiving???

This Lutheran is left scratching his head in puzzlement...

O Higher than the Cherubim!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, alleluia!
Thou, Bearer of the Eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
--LSB 670:2

[We sang it during Distribution on Sunday]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

However the term is explained, communio must be taken in a dynamic rather an a static sense. It is a sharing, a taking part with other Christians, in the holy things that make them one, rather than a mere abstract being in association with other individuals. -- A. C. Piepkorn, The Church, p. 25.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Blessed is the one who always accuses himself before God so that God might excuse him. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 123, par. 5

17 January 2009

I Think Bill and Cheryl Did a BAD Thing...

...by taking us to Trader Joe's! Wow. We've been enjoying the food we brought home yesterday. GREAT STUFF! Pity it is so far away. Or maybe, just maybe, a good thing...

And, Oh, What Miracle!

And, oh, what miracle divine,
When water reddened into wine!
He spoke the word, and forth it flowed
In streams that nature ne'er bestowed.

For this His glad epiphany
All glory, Jesus, be to Thee,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore.

--The Star Proclaims, sts. 4,5 by Coelius Sedulius, 5th cent.
LSB 399

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He revealed His glory and His power as Creator in that, when the wine was gone, He turned water into excellent wine. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 131

Patristic Quote of the Day

Today Christ produces the first of His heavenly signs by changing water into wine, so that he whom the Father through His voice already pointed out as His Son would Himself confirm that He was God through His miracles, because He who transforms the elements is the Author of the elements, and He who has no difficulty contravening nature has created nature Himself. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 160, par. 6

Funeral Homily for Carl Steinmann

Betty, Kirk, Gary and Robin, Dan and Sue, family and friends of Carl Steinmann: Here in this holy place, Carl's handiwork surrounds us. From the altar rails at which we kneel to receive our Lord's body and blood; to the cabinet in the sacristy where the Sacrament is prepared and the sacred vessels stored; from the credence shelf on which we place our offerings and the extra service books to the shelves and cabinets in the balcony where organ and choir music is stored; from the corner cabinet in the Narthex with St. Paul memorabilia to the fact that I have a place to put my hymnal in the clergy seats in the chancel. His workmanship, his craftsmanship surrounds us here in this room.

Carl understood wood and what it could build. I suppose it is no surprise at all that he devoted so much time and energy toward using that gift to serve a Master who also knew a thing or two about wood and in fact used wood to build a home for Carl and for you that will last forever. I speak of our Lord Jesus, of course, called the Carpenter in Mark's Gospel, who used the wood of the cross to build an eternal home for Carl and all His people in the heavens.

Carl was all of what? All of 18 days old when Martin and Elsie carried him to this room (it was barely older than Carl at the time) and in that font right there put him into the hands of the Carpenter from Nazareth. They knew already then that Carl needed what only our Lord Jesus could give him. Conceived and born in sin, he would remain a sinner till death. He needed the washing of rebirth and adoption into the family of God. And that is precisely what he received here November 20, 1932 as Pastor Hennig marked him with the holy cross and poured the water over his head. From that day forward, Carl Steinmann lived under the forgiving love of Jesus Christ.

What hope that gives a soul! It sustained Carl through his years in the service. It enables him to look death in the face and say: “I know that my Redeemer lives” as Job did in today's first reading. You see, he know that even though his body turn to dust, yet at the Last Day HE shall stand again upon the earth and the great Carpenter shall build again the temple of that body, this time, utterly incorruptible, and bring him – body and soul – into the joys of His eternal Kingdom.

But if Carl's body awaits the day of resurrection, his soul already has the comfort we heard described in our second reading: a home in the New Jerusalem, where God dwells with His people and wipes away every tear, and death is no more, nor crying, nor pain. All that is past. The One around whom the souls of the faithful gather is the One who proclaims: “Behold, I make all things new.” He's the supreme Artificer, the Master Builder, who can restore what has fallen and repair what is ruined and make it eternallyk new. And He gives the water of life without payment – you can't pay for it, because HE has already obtained the right for every single human being to drink from it richly.

In the Gospel, Jesus spoke as the Builder again. He tells the disciples that they must not be afraid; they must trust in God and also in Him. He is going to His Father's house to ready their mansions and then He will bring them home. We know how He did that: by letting His hands be pounded to the wood with the nails for the sins of Carl and of you and me and every single human being, thus forgiving them all! Blotting them all out with his holy blood! And by His resurrection, He flung wide open the hallowed halls of heaven to all believers.

Thomas, though, was confused and didn't understand. He said: “We don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him flat out: “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me.” Only through Jesus can anyone come to the Father, to the mansions above that our Lord has readied for all and to which He summons us all. But He is the only way in. Carl knew that.

Thus he lived his life at the receiving end of the Lord's good gifts. He was a regular communicant from the time of his confirmation. He received the Lord's body and blood for the last time some two weeks before his death. Into his dying body went the undying and incorruptible body and blood of the Son of God, carrying with them the promise to him one last time, as they had brought him countless times before, of forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation. It was the Lord's guarantee to him that the Carpenter had built him a home that he would always be welcomed into. It was in that faith that he fell asleep in Jesus, ready to lay down the toils and struggle of this world and enter peace.

A wise man once said that the faithful departed are not gone, but gone ahead. We tarry only a little space until it is time for us to join them. As we wait, though, their service to the Lord continues to bless and to serve, even when their names are long forgotten by those on earth. Though, if our Lord does not return before then, it may well be that St. Paul members fifty years hence, will kneel at this altar to receive into their dying bodies the unending life of the Son of God, and they may well have not the first clue who Carl Steinmann was. Yet they'll be kneeling at the rail that his hands labored over, and their offerings placed upon the credence that his hands fashioned in love for his Jesus. He will continue to serve them by the joyful service he rendered the Master Carpenter whom he called his Lord. Best of all, when they kneel down at this table, they'll still be feasting with him and the others who have gone ahead until the joyful day when faith dissolves to sight and we're all together as one family forevermore. May God graciously preserve us all in saving faith to that day that we may with Carl and all the faithful departed sing eternal praises to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Carl W. Steinmann, age 76, of Hamel, died at 8:32 a.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, at his residence. He was born on Nov. 2, 1932, in Litchfield, the son of the late Martin F. and Elsie Wolf Steinmann. He married Betty Lou Deist on Dec. 26, 1953, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mount Olive. She survives. Along with his wife, he is survived by tree sons: Kirk A. Steinmann of Phoenix, Ariz., Dan L., and wife Sue, Steinmann of Hamel and Gary D., and wife Robin, Steinmann of Hamel; and five grandchildren: Jerad Steinmann, Cortney Steinmann, Jenna Inmann, Jay Steinmann and Becky Steinmann of Illinois. Mr. Steinmann was raised in Hamel. He enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps. and served from 1952-1955. He worked at Klaustermeier Ford in Alhambra from 1950-1965. In 1963, he built their house on his family’s farm. He worked for Opel Construction as a carpenter from late 1963-1965. He farmed from 1963-1998. In late 1976, he purchased a saw mill, assembled it across from his home and ran it until 2005. He enjoyed wood-working. His memberships included St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, the American Legion Post 1147 in Alhambra, and was a former member of the Hamel Volunteer Fire Department.

Homily for Confession of St. Peter (2009)

[Acts 4:8-13 / 2 Peter 1:1-15 / Mark 8:27-35]

Poor Peter went from being the star pupil to the class dunce – and all in a matter of minutes. When Jesus asked: “Who do people say that I am?” the disciples gave the usual answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets. But then our Lord turned to them, the disciples who had been with Him now for some time. “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter speaks for them all when he answers: “You are the Christ.” Right answer. Totally right answer. And yet. It is one thing to KNOW the right answer and another thing to realize what this answer means.

Jesus begins unpacking it for them: The Son of Man will suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and after three days rise again. He put this plainly in front of them. Peter listens with increased anxiety, thinking: “No, that can't be right. He's the Christ, the Messiah.” So he takes our Lord aside and he begins to rebuke him! Peter dares to tell Jesus that Jesus has it all wrong. The Messiah can't be rejected, can't suffer, can't die! He's to a have a kingdom and live and reign through endless years bringing joy and peace to all. Not this death and resurrection talk!

Jesus turns and looks at His disciples, these men he loves so much, and it is looking at them that HE rebukes Peter with the harshest words He ever spoke to anyone. “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” You can look at the hurt in Peter's crestfallen face. From being the favored student to the class dunce in a matter of minutes. He knew that Jesus was Christ, but he hadn't the foggiest notion of what being the Christ entailed. And so Satan spoke through his lips – for anything that would turn our Lord from the triumph of His cross is Satanic pure and simple.

But it's even bigger than our Lord's cross. He says plainly: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the Gospel's will save it.”

Peter and the others must have looked at Him with perplexity and fear. What did He mean? “Take up a cross.” Was Jesus inviting them to die? Was He calling them to lose their lives? That's not the rosy picture they had of fellowship with this Man who had done such great miracles and whose company was joy itself. What could He mean?

If they didn't understand then, they came to understand. We meet the same Peter again in our first reading. This is the Peter who denied that he knew the Lord Jesus at all, out of fear of suffering and death. Now he stands in the presence of those he had once cowered before, and boldly confesses: “Let it be known to you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom YOU crucified, but whom God raised from the dead – by Him this man stands before you well.” No fear anymore. He'd seen his Lord suffer, he'd seen his Lord die, and he'd seen his Lord triumphant over death and the grave, alive again and promising him and all believers a share in that life that no death can ever take from them. What's to fear a anymore? He plows on: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” So the cowering Peter, Peter the Dunce, now Peter the Apostle and bold confessor. He now understands what eluded him before – that for Jesus to BE Messiah meant precisely that He would go to the cross, shouldering the sin of the human race, stretching out His holy hands to be nailed to the wood, to spill the blood that would cover the sin of our race, and then to die so that Death might die itself, and to rise again in a body incorruptible as the first-born of many brothers and sisters. His is the Name that saves – for baptized into that name we have the fruits of all His bitter sufferings and death given to us as our very life.

When Peter knew that his own end was fast approaching, the moment when he literally would take up his cross and follow his Lord into death and through death into life, he wrote one more time to his beloved churches. He reminded them that Christ's divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. That He has given us precious promises to make us partakers of the divine nature. That He gives us a brand new life characterized by faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. That these qualities are to grow in us and keep us from being ineffective or unfruitful in our knowledge of the Lord. That whoever lacks them, lacks them not because he's not trying hard enough, but because he's forgotten the sufferings of Christ have cleansed him from his former sins. That through those qualities growing in us we begin to live already in this life the joy of the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior. Peter knows that we know all this already, but he writes again before he dies to stir us up by way of reminder so that we may be established in the truth that we have in Jesus.

And so from star pupil to class dunce, from fearful denier to bold confessor, from reluctant sufferer to a willingly being crucified for his Lord, Peter shows the transformation which faith in the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus brings about. When he lay dying, Jaroslav Pelikan, famous scholar and theologian, whispered these words: “If Jesus is risen from the dead, then nothing else matters; if Jesus is not risen, then nothing matters.” Peter would have “Amened” that all the way! But in fact, Christ has risen from the dead, and so THAT is what matters above all.

Today as you come to feast at His Table, the Messiah who travelled the path from suffering to death, from death to the grave, from the grave to the resurrection and from the resurrection to the Ascension, reminds you that you have nothing to fear: His body and blood have taken away your sin and destroyed your death and He gives them into you that you with Peter and all the others might be a partaker of the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through sinful desire. Kneeling before Him we confess with Peter that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved than the holy name of Jesus, to whom be glory with His unoriginate Father and all-holy and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen!

15 January 2009

Jen B

has taken some beautiful pictures of the installation of Pr. Mark Braden at Zion Lutheran Church, Detroit. Pr. Petersen featured them them on his blog, but I didn't realize that Jen took them. They show the beauty of Zion and a parish that does not believe in "least common denominator" liturgics. Enjoy!

click here

Superior Scribbler

My dear friend, Christopher Orr has name me as a superior scribbler. I am honored, indeed. Here are the rules of this meme:

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass the award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the Award.

Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains the award.

Each Blogger who wins the Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List (scroll down). That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honor!

Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

My list:

Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Partuition
Cruising Down the Coast
Sentire Cum Ecclesia


Pleasures of the Palate

Cindi's been hitting them out of the ballpark. In the last couple days, we've had cinnamon flax muffins, loaded with butter; curried chicken and veggies - hot and spicy!; "induction chili" and low-carb cheesecake topped with whipped cream and drizzled with sugar-free chocolate sauce. Have I ever told you guys how great it is to be married to a fabulous cook??? The idea that low-carbers are depriving themselves...yeah, you guys just go on believing THAT one!

About that Treasury and Youngsters...

Received this from a member today:

So N. and I were praying from the Treasury today. Some according to schedule. Some according to what she picked out. Anyway, there was one part that was listing out the fruits of the spirit, but it ended with chastity instead of self-control. She automatically said self-control, and then asked if that other word meant the same thing. I know I list them out all the time for X so it wouldn’t have surprised me if they knew it, but I was surprised that she did. That’s neat! And she wanted to read additional Psalms. Then we started Matins (she wasn’t there when I originally started, so that’s why everything kind of got turned around) and during the middle of it she requested that we turn to page o-39. She said, “I just love this!” Again, my heart was warmed. So we prayed the Litany together. She was especially excited that I let her do the “L” parts which she really wanted to do. And she likes doing the Psalms by whole verse. She was upset that the hymns aren’t in here. I showed her that they were, but that I just didn’t know the melodies so I just read them. So we got the hymnals and tried some from there.

Anyway, she came in on the end, so I was pleasantly surprised when she wanted to keep going. I just kept letting her pick different things until we were done. Maybe not the most structured, but it kept her interest. And it gives her good reading practice at the same time.

[The child N. is a third grader...]

I'd be interested in hearing about any other experiences with youngsters and the Treasury - anyone care to share?

Free Oil Change...Sort Of!

So I take the Honda (which I still think is the best car I've ever owned) in for an oil change. When I get back they tell me they've had a slight problem. They backed an SUV into it!!! It's barely scratched, but they were quite embarrassed and scheduled me to get it repaired for free and threw in the oil change gratis on top. I'm just very glad that the damage was so slight (mostly scraped the passenger side head light).

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ultimately this insight must characterize all our sacrifices, our works and our gifts as well as our faith and our worship. Because God is the Creator, Redeemer and Transformer and because we are always only the recipients of His bounty, whatever we plead before Him, whatever we give Him, whatever we do for His sake is always under the signature, "All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee." -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 241

Patristic Quote of the Day

Do you see what a ground this topic affords for hope? For before this there were two difficulties in the way of our being saved; our being sinners, and our salvation requiring the Lord's Death, a thing which was quite incredible before it took place, and required exceeding love for it to take place. But now since this has come about, the other requisites are easier. For we have become friends, and there is no further need of Death. Shall then He who has so spared his enemies as not to spare His Son, fail to defend them now they are become friends, when He has no longer any need to give up his Son? -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 5

14 January 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As long as a person preserves his baptismal grace - or, having lost it by unbelief, he obtains it again by true repentance - he is and remains adorned with the holy privileges of a priest of God. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 122

Patristic Quote of the Day

A child of God who is good to evil ones gives love to those who do not love him. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 178, par. 3

+ Carl Steinmann

Asleep in Jesus this morning at 7:30. "Into paradise may the angels lead you; at your coming may the martyrs receive you; and with Lazarus who once was poor, may you have rest everlasting..."

Visitation: 4-8 on Friday at St. Paul's
Funeral Liturgy: 10 on Saturday at St. Paul's

13 January 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ's humility is worthy of all worship in that He, to whom all creatures are subject and before whom all angels and men must bow, was subject to His parents. Let all children resolve to imitate this glorious example and to follow the guidance of their parents. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* pp. 118,119

Patristic Quote of the Day

Salt is indeed a healthy seasoning for all food, if it is used in limited amounts; otherwise, used immoderately, both the salt itself is ruined, and it destroys what it seasons... So too the reasoning faculty that is in us, if it should have moderation, provides flavor, gives birth to understanding, produces prudence, enlarges the heart, increases ability, gives mature expression to what must be said, puts eloquently what must be heard, becomes delightful to itself, and becomes perfectly delightful for those who partake of it... We have made these introductory remarks, so that our reasoning may be kept within the bounds of moderation in interpreting the Gospel, so as not to ruin the food of life, the divine nourishment, the heavenly flavor, but so as to preserve them for us with most judicious sobriety, according to the words of the Apostle: "To know no more than it is right to know, but to know with sobriety." -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 125, par. 1,2

Challenging Words from Krauth...

We must also look with different eyes on those bodies whose historical record and present acts are in accordance with their official principles on which they rest their right to exist; and those which desert the principles which gave them name, creeds, and position - these bodies which exist on one principle and act on another, which lengthen their lives by abandoning what they once considered sacred, ignoring their history, concealing their confessed doctrines, or evading the necessary consequences of them, and who make their name and their very right to existence a fraud, - and whose intensest hatred is inflicted on those who remind them of their history, and of the doctrines which gave them their original being. [The Relation of the Lutheran Church to the Denominations Around Us]

12 January 2009

From Lectio Divina

Just a note in passing from yesterday's Ezekiel reading:

"And the people of the land take a man from among them and make him their watchman..." 33:2

"So you, son of man, I have made a watchman..." 33:7

No contradiction between the two. The Office of the Ministry may well arise from the choosing of the people and yet be God's doing and thus it is to fulfill His bidding - speaking to the people the warnings and the promises.

Cf. Didache 15:1-2

Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. 2 Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He wanted to be a child, and by His holy childhood, He wanted to redeem us from the sins of our childhood and to provide all boys and girls with a model of godly childhood they should follow. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p; 117,

Patristic Quote of the Day

There will come, yes, then there will be come true forgiveness, when even the tendency to sin will be abolished, when uncleanness will perish and the world will then be truly called clean, when life will return and death will not exist, when Christ will reign and the devil will perish. Pray, brothers, that the Lord will also increase our faith so that we can believe and possess these realities. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 139 par. 8

11 January 2009

The Hymn We Should Have, But Didn't Sing Today

To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord,
To do His Father's pleasure;
Baptized by John, the Father's Word
Was given us to treasure.
This heav'nly washing now shall be
A cleansing from transgression
And by His blood and agony
Release from death's oppression.
A new life now awaits us!

O hear and mark the message well,
For God Himself has spoken.
Let faith, not doubt, among us dwell
And so receive this token.
Our Lord here with His Word endows
Pure water, freely flowing.
God's Holy Spirit here avows
Our kinship while bestowing
The Baptism of His blessing.

These truths on Jordan's banks were shown
By mighty word and wonder.
The Father's voice from heav'n came down
Which we do well to ponder:
"This man is My beloved Son,
In Whom My heart has pleasure.
Him you must hear and Him alone
And trust in fullest measure
The word that He has spoken."

There stood the Son of God in love,
His grace to us extending;
The Holy Spirit like a dove
Upon the scene descending;
The triune God assuring us,
With promises compelling
That in our Baptism He will thus
Among us find a dwelling
To comfort and sustain us.

To His disciples spoke the Lord,
"Go out to ev'ry nation,
And bring to them the living Word
And this My invitation:
Let ev'ryone abandon sin
And come in true contrition
To be baptized and thereby win
Full pardon and remission
And heav'nly bliss inherit.

But woe to those who cast aside
This grace so freely given;
They shall in sin and shame abide
And to despair be driven.
For born in sin, their works must fail,
Their striving saves them never;
Their pious acts do not avail
And they are lost forever,
Eternal death their portion.

All that the mortal eye beholds
Is water as we pour it.
Before the eye of faith unfolds
The pow'r of Jesus' merit.
For here it sees the crimson flood
To all our ills brings healing;
The wonders of His precious blood
The love of God revealing,
Assuring His own pardon.
LSB 406

Yesterday's Commemoration

Yesterday our Synod commemorated the Cappadocian Fathers, Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa. I thought the prayer appointed for the commemoration was especially wonderful:

Almighty God,
You revealed to Your Church Your eternal being
of glorious majesty and perfect love
as one God in a Trinity of persons.
May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,
Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa,
receive grace to continue steadfast
in the confession of the true faith
and constant in our worship of You,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
who live and reign, one God, now and forever.
[Treasury, p. 1105]

Isn't that a wonderful prayer? "Steadfast in confession" and "constant in our worship." Amen and amen!

Homily upon the Baptism of Our Lord

[Isaiah 42:1-7 / 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 / Matthew 3:13-17]

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” (Today’s Epistle)

And what is more foolish, I ask you, than the belief that a handful of water splashed on the head of a child or an adult makes the difference between life and death, between heaven and hell? And what is so weak as a little child who can do nothing for itself and cannot make any choices of its own, but who can only receive this dousing and promise? Yet it is precisely through such foolish and weak things of the world that God chooses to work His wise and saving deeds. You have to be a fool to believe it – a fool for Christ. How foolish are you?

John the Baptist thought Jesus was pretty foolish when he came to him for Baptism. John was the in the business of calling sinners to repentance, inviting folks who had made a mess and muddle of their lives and of those around them, to turn from their own ways and to accept a new life from the hand of God. John knew that that life, contrary to what the eyes beheld, was actually imparted in the waters where he stood. So when Jesus shows up, drops his clothes and enters the water with all the other sinners, John is befuddled.

“Get out of town! You don’t belong here. You’re the only one who DOESN’T belong here! I mean, I’m doing this because God told me to, but you know as well as I do that I need it as badly as any of these folks here. But you – you don’t need it at all. What sins have you got to turn from, Jesus? What mess have you made of your life or others’ lives?”

Foolish, it seemed to John, that Jesus should be there. But the ways of God can look foolish even to the people of God. Jesus sets John straight:

“Cousin, don’t argue. Just do it. It’s the way we’ll fill up all righteousness.”

And what did THAT mean? How is Jesus, being baptized with a sinner’s baptism for repentance and forgiveness, going to fill up and overflow all of the righteous demands of God in the law?

Well, remember that what the Law demands is really simple: love! Complete and total and unbroken love. Unfractured, whole, 100% pure love. Not some of the time, but all of the time. And that is how Jesus fulfills all righteousness. He loves. Not with some piece of Him, some part of His being, but with all His heart. Not now and again, but always. Not just this or that person, but every single human being. Not just them, but you and me.

And so he fulfills all righteousness by stepping into the water with us in our sin, in the mess we’ve made of our lives. He gets into the water with us sinners because He loves us and wants to shield us with His own perfect love, to enfold us in that love, and to grant to us all the privileges that are His because He lives that love to the full.

See, the Baptism of Jesus is intimately connected to what happened on Calvary. When He takes our sinner’s baptism on Himself, He’s promising us that He will one day go on to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21). He’ll let the judgment of the Holy One against all unholiness strike Him down as He takes all our sin into Himself. And just as surely as on the Cross He took our place, so in Baptism we get to take His place. It’s the great reversal, the sweet swap! Him getting our deserts while we feast on His deserts! That’s the depths of the love He showered on us when He was baptized.

So think of the three-fold miracle that happened: heaven was opened, the Spirit descended, and the Father said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Do you realize, do you get it, that this happened to Jesus in order that it might be EXACTLY what happens to you and everyone who receives the Baptism which Jesus commands?

Water is poured and with the water, the word and promise of God. Jesus himself in that water – making it a life-giving, holy water. And so in that water heaven itself is opened to you. What was closed from the fall, when we were driven from our true home into exile, is now given again! And so in that water the Spirit of God is poured out on your life. God himself comes to live in you, to make you be His temple! And so in that water the Father beams down on you from heaven a look of love and pride that says: “Would you look there? That’s my child. I am so proud of my child. I love my child so!” Just as the Father beamed His love on Jesus when He was baptized, so He does for you.

All of this Jesus has in mind as “fulfilling all righteousness” when he steps into that water with John and takes the sinners’ baptism as His own.

All of that in a handful of water? You’d have to be a fool to believe it, wouldn’t you? That’s right. A fool for Christ, one who knows that the One who went to Calvary with our sin and who trounced on our death and left it trampled behind in an empty tomb is the One on whose Word we can rely with absolute certainty. For God has indeed chosen the foolish and the weak things of the world to put to shame the smart-alecks and the bullies. And He’s prepared a table in the presence of our enemies for us to celebrate the victory of His folly over our wisdom! His weakness over our strength! Glory be to Him! Glory be to Him forever! Amen.