28 February 2009

Very Fine Reading

In between groaning and holding the pillow, I spent the afternoon reading much of *Orthodox Readings of Augustine* - a collection of essays that trace out some of the interactions of Orthodox readers to Augustine and some insights into Augustine himself by various contributors. It's a must read for those who think Romanides, Yannaris and Zizioulas get Augustine right. It's published by SVS 2008. Among the essays I particularly thought well done (aside from the introductory tracing of how Augustine fares among the Orthodox), were Flogaus' essay on the use of St. Augustine in the Hesychast Controversy (outstanding!); Daley's essay Making a Human Will Divine: Augustine and Maximus on Christ and Human Salvation; and the really outstanding work by Lewis Ayres on Augustine's Pneumatology and the Metaphysics of the Spirit; and last but not least Andrew Louth's "Heart in Pilgrimage:" St. Augustine as Interpreter of the Psalms [happy to note that Augustine's words on Psalm 101 - the example Louth uses - are printed in the footnotes of the Lutheran Study Bible. Sweet!]. Kudos to St. Vlad's for publishing these essays!

I think...

...I might just have had my first gall-bladder attack. I don't want a second one. YOUCH!!!

Patristic Quote of the Day

Why did the Origin of the universe, the Author of nature, will to be born, except that He willed to die? -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 72B, par. 1

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

And indeed, we are reborn not only for life but also for righteousness, because faith acquires Christ's merit and knows that through Christ’s death we have been set free. From this source our other righteousness has its origin, namely, that newness of life through which we are zealous to obey God as we are taught by the Word and aided by the Holy Spirit. But this righteousness has merely its beginning in this life, and it cannot attain perfection in this flesh. Nevertheless, it pleases God, not as though it were a perfect righteousness or a payment for sin but because it comes from the heart and depends on its trust in the mercy of God through Christ. Moreover, this also is brought about by the Gospel, that the Holy Spirit is given to us, who offers resistance in us to unbelief, envy, and other vices that we may earnestly strive to glorify the name of the Lord and His Word, etc. In this manner this image of the new creature begins to be restored by the Gospel in this life, but it will not be finished in this life. But when it is finished in the kingdom of the Father, then the will will be truly free and good, the mind truly enlightened, and the memory persistent. - Blessed Martin Luther, On Genesis 1:27

What We Were Treated to At SID Convention

One Sure Hope

27 February 2009

Luther Gem

And so the Gospel brings it about that we are formed once more according to that familiar and indeed better image, because we are born again into eternal life or rather into the hope of eternal life by faith, that we may live in God and with God and be one with Him, as Christ says (John 17:21). - Luther on Genesis 1:27 (emphasis added)

Patristic Quote of the Day

There are other things, however, which are different in different places and countries: e.g., some fast on Saturday, others do not; some partake daily of the body and blood of Christ, others receive it on stated days: in some places no day passes without the sacrifice being offered; in others it is only on Saturday and the Lord's day, or it may be only on the Lord's day. In regard to these and all other variable observances which may be met anywhere, one is at liberty to comply with them or not as he chooses; and there is no better rule for the wise and serious Christian in this matter, than to conform to the practice which he finds prevailing in the Church to which it may be his lot to come. For such a custom, if it is clearly not contrary to the faith nor to sound morality, is to be held as a thing indifferent, and ought to be observed for the sake of fellowship with those among whom we live. -- St. Augustine to Januarius (Ep. 54)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let us get off that pedestal of respectability and fall on our knees and learn to be saints! -- von Schenk, *The Presence* p. 125

Six Months Done

One fourth of the way toward the fabulously fit by fifty goal! Observations along the way:

Working out 3 times a week is perfect - fits into the schedule without overburdening or burning me out.

High intensity interval bursts really pay off - I've taken to doing them mostly on the stair-stepper. At each even number of minutes I will go all out for 30 seconds, then back to normal for 1.5 minutes and then repeat. Really works up a sweat and seems to be a true fat buster. Do 35 minutes of cardio first and invariably intervals; then 15 minutes of cardio to finish up after weights, often but not exclusively with interval bursts.

I seem to NEED to do this at the Y - I just couldn't be motivated at home. Might have something to do with a bright sunny room vs. a dark and dingy basement?

Discovered recently a simple machine that helps with ab crunches; was up to 100 today and felt like I could keep going. The ab workout each time I go in seemed a bit excessive at first, but I've come to really look forward to it. Three ab exercises each time.

Mostly I've stayed with the nautilus machines; I am venturing more into free weights though.

All in all, a great decision, and I'd recommend it to anyone. Am curious what will happen to weight during Lent???

P.S. Should have mentioned that part and parcel of this was the decision to eat only at mealtime, except for an apple in the afternoons, and with Sundays as "free days." Of course, I am sticking with Atkins because it's done so very well by me.

26 February 2009

Sophia Lorene

Cindi and I are blessed to be godparents to Sophia Lorene (in the white), twin sister to Erin Rose Marie. Baptism into Christ will be a week from Sunday. We are honored and delighted to add Sophia to our prayers for our other godchildren: Nathaniel James, Maria Johanna, and Lindsey Linea. Thanks, Jimbo and Laura! May God grant Sophia to grow to lead a godly life to His praise and glory!

Here's the whole family:

It's Lent and We Shouldn't Have to Be Dealing with THIS...

...but you really need to check out Issues, Etc. for their response to Dr. Kieschnick's latest memo...

Pr. Wilken on President Kieschnick's Memo

Trademark Timeline

Angela Sent Me This

after reading my words last night about marking my children with the ashes when they were little...

I share this pic of Thea with Angela's permission.


Psalm 119

It arrives in the evening of the 24 and hangs around until the evening of the 26 (cf. page 1437 in Treasury of Daily Prayer). I used to dread its coming. So repetitious, it seemed. More fool I! The longer I have prayed it, the more I ache for the days when we do pray it. Countless treasures packed into those days. This month I was especially grabbed by vs. 71 on the morning of the 25th: "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." But so many other goodies besides. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever! Amen.

Christ's Yes

"Go forth, My Son," the Father said,
"And free My children from their dread
Of guilt and condemnation.
The wrath and stripes are hard to bear
But by Your passion they may share
The fruit of Your salvation."

"Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I'll bear what You command Me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I'll do what You have asked Me."

O wondrous Love, what have You done!
The Father offers up His Son,
Desiring our salvation.
O Love, how strong You are to save!
You lay the One into the grave
Who built the earth's foundation.

--LSB 438:3

These hymns of Lent - they knock the wind right out of you.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The divine nature of Christ could not have suffered on its own; therefore, God's Son assumed a human nature and personally united Himself with it so that through it He could suffer and thereby achieve a perfect sacrifice for all the sin of the world. -- Johann Gerhard, *An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ* p. 19

Patristic Quote of the Day

If in the remission of sins the Trinity is united in showing mercy, how is the whole Trinity not one in will in the Passion of the Son? -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 72a, par. 4

25 February 2009

Boot Camp

I was talking to a friend tonight about Lent, and a most important point came up that I think I've failed to mention here before. Lent is NOT about making changes to your life for six weeks and then reverting to your previous ways come Easter. That's exactly wrong. Lent is about making changes that become HABITUAL (six weeks worth) and are intended to strengthen your discipline in those areas. Think of it as a boot camp. You're being trained in the disciplines of fasting, prayer, almsgiving so that these become EVER GREATER parts of your walk with God. And because you do this all under God's grace, you are set free from fretting that if you fail, God won't love you or some such. Rubbish. His love in Christ for you is already unshakeable. God's not impressed by the disciplines; YOU need them, not He. They are blessings for you. So don't think of Lent as temporary fix, but as life-transforming, habit-forming boot-camp for life in the Church Militant.


that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I remember speaking those words over my children when they were little and the ashes smudged their forehead. Little, vibrant, full of life - so they seemed - but they too were destined for the grave. Same with me. Same with you. "All of us go down to the dust" as a beautiful Russian hymn has it.

And yet. We remember not only that we are dust and returning to dust. We remember something more. We remember Who became dust for us, Who laid His head into the dust, in order to make the dust incorruptible - alive with a life that cannot end. The ashes are received under the sign of His cross as a token of victory.

Yes, all of us go down to the dust. But the dust will never be the end of any who have been baptized into Him and draw in saving faith from union with Him the life that no death could hold. Remember the first thing, but also remember the second. [Yes, it's substantially the same as the post below it. But I wanted to say it again. And I can. It's my blog. ;)]

Yearly Reminder (Another Rerun)

The Ash Wednesday Gospel speaks against disfiguring faces to show others that you are fasting. People sometimes mistakenly think that's what the ashes for which this day is named are all about. Wrong.

The ashes are put on with the words from Genesis 3: "Remember, O Man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." The ashes show not fasting, but DYING. They are sign not of practicing piety, but of the rock bottom reality of life in a fallen world. They announce to us: "I am dying...and so are you."

But the ashes are always placed on in the form of a cross to remind us that there is a reality that is even more rock-bottom than death: there is One who became our dying Dust for us and took that Dust through death upon a cross and burial into a glorious resurrection and a life that never ends. We are dying; we are headed to death indeed, but we do so in faith in Him who shared our nature to make us divine, who became a child of man doomed to dust, that we might become the children of God, destined for heavenly glory in union with Him.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Even if a man lives uprightly, he will daily perceive how his conscience accuses him and declares him guilty. If a person examines himself according to the Law of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures, he will see countless flaws and weaknesses. If he fails to see them, he must be completely blind, wantonly closing the eyes of his soul to the mirror God holds before us. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 235, 236

Patristic Quote of the Day

Our righteousness in this pilgrimage is this— that we press forward to that perfect and full righteousness in which there shall be perfect and full love in the sight of His glory; and that now we hold to the rectitude and perfection of our course, by keeping under our body and bringing it into subjection, 1 Corinthians 9:27 by doing our alms cheerfully and heartily, while bestowing kindnesses and forgiving the trespasses which have been committed against us, and by continuing instant in prayer; Romans 12:12 — and doing all this with sound doctrine, whereon are built a right faith, a firm hope, and a pure charity. This is now our righteousness, in which we pass through our course hungering and thirsting after the perfect and full righteousness, in order that we may hereafter be satisfied therewith. - St. Augustine, *On Man's Perfection in Righteousness*

Rerun from Last Holy Week - Is There a Lutheran Way to Fast?

Yes! The Augsburg Confession disdains the distinction of meats, and does so solidly based on Colossians But that doesn't mean that Lutherans didn't and don't fast. If we remember that fast mean "to go hungry" the solution is apparent: skip meals! It's not a matter of what FOOD you give up for Lent, but a matter of what MEALS and feeding (as in snacking!) you set aside. If one follows the typical Western fast, one eats but 1 and 1/4 to 1/2 meals per day. This is not done to impress God, but to train our bodies (that our belly is not our boss) and to free up time for prayer and money for charity. I bring this up again because we are preparing to enter Holy Week. During this week as we give time to specially contemplate the Passion of our Lord, the discipline of fasting is highly appropriate for all who can safely do it. A complete fast on Good Friday suggests itself to allow for total concentration upon our Lord's self-immolation for our salvation. Fasting is such a blessed discipline and is a bodily form of prayer - as we are reminded that no earthly food can satisfy the hunger of the human being, which is ultimately a hunger for the Blessed Trinity - to whom be glory forever!

24 February 2009

A Full St. Matthias Day

Breakfast with Cindi and Bekah (cereal) + Matins + Visit to Ryton (looked 1000% better; the "good" kind of Leukemia; keep prayers rising; chemo started today) + An unsuccessful hospital call (patient undergoing tests) + Lunch at home with Cindi (lo-carb wraps filled with deli meat and cheese) + Communion to Ruth and a good visit (Delmar was her son-in-law, but we rejoiced that he died a blessed death and that in the Eucharist we still feast together) + Changed Church Sign (YIKES! Last changed during ADVENT) + Prepared Nave for Lent + Vespers + Dinner (traditional pancakes, sausage and eggs) + Communion to Debbie and a nice visit with Janet + Home and a touch of blogging and web surfing.

I still have three communion calls to finish for my shutins; hopefully in the afternoon tomorrow. Thanks be to God for Pastor Gleason's assistance!

Tomorrow the Fast begins. May it be a most blessed time for all the readers of this blog! During these days, the Divine Service at St. Paul invariably ends with this hymn. I leave it with you as a worthy prayer for each day of holy Lent:

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


After Vespers today, move your book mark in your Treasury of Daily Prayer to page 24. Today we bid farewell to Job (hey, at least we made it to the joyful words of chapter 19) and John (ending with the woman caught in adultery and Luther's great thoughts on that); tomorrow we plunge into Genesis and Mark.


I changed the paraments today; the green is gone. Purple is here for a while. Cindi helped me put up the large, rough hewn cross, adorned with a purple hanging and topped with a crown of thorns. A crucifix hangs before the lectern. The room changes as the cross comes into prominence and the purple adorns the altar, lectern and pulpit. Purple such as He was clothed in that fearful night when He went out to offer His body and spill His blood to be the sacrifice that forgives the sin of all his sisters and brothers. Then the purple was mockery. Today it is confession of His true Kingship. Already the Church summons us into the stillness before the Cross where Love reigns triumphant. O come, let us adore Him!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The whole sacrifice of Calvary is focused to a point at the Altar. It is brought home and made a reality as I kneel to receive the true Body and Blood given and shed for me. Then it was offered on the Cross, now, in heaven triumphant - through bread and wine. Here I truly touch Calvary, which is now being pleaded by my High Priest. Here I find the secret whereby I can touch my God, the secret whereby divine love can also be born in me and thus radiate through me into the lives of my fellow-men. -- Berthold von Schenk, *The Presence* p. 91

Patristic Quote of the Day

No man, therefore, can be without sin, even if he wish it, unless he be assisted by the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And that this perfection may be attained, there is even now a training carried on in growing [Christians,] and there will be by all means a completion made, after the conflict with death is spent, and love, which is now cherished by the operation of faith and hope, shall be perfected in the fruition of sight and possession. -- St. Augustine, *On Man's Perfection in Righteousness* Chapter 7

23 February 2009


I love my parish, but there are moments when my joy in them overflows. I rejoice with all my heart to see how they open their hearts in love and compassion when responding to a need. "If we love one another, God lives in us." How utterly true!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[hijacked from Treasury of Daily Prayer for this day]

This Polycarp was a disciple and diligent hearer of John the apostle and evangelist, and he called the heretic Marcion, who met him once, a "child of the devil" without any fear. You see, no one should betray the truth with silence. -- Valerius Herberger (TDP, p. 1232)

Patristic Quote of the Day

[On this day when our Synod commemorates Saint Polycarp]:

It was the second day of the first fortnight of Xanthicus, seven days before the kalends of March, when our blessed Polycarp died his martyr's death two hours after midday on the Greater Sabbath. The official responsible for his arrest was Herod; the High Priest was Philip of Tralles; and the proconsul was Statius Quadratus - BUT THE RULING MONARCH WAS JESUS CHRIST, WHO REIGNS FOREVER AND EVER. To Him be ascribed all glory, honor, majesty, and an eternal throne from generation to generation. Amen. - Evarestus, the Scribe *The Martyrdom of Polycarp*

22 February 2009

+ Delmar Monken

Asleep in Jesus. Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Prayers Please

I would be ever so grateful if blog readers would remember in their prayers one of my little parishioners, Ryton. Today he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. And remember his parents in your prayers too, please. Thank you.

21 February 2009

Babylon's Sad Waters

"But by Babylon's sad waters
Mourning exiles now are we."

Lent begins with this realization. That we are a people in exile. That we are wandering far from our true home. And thus the beginning of repentance isn't merely the terror that one finds in wandering in a strange land; the beginning of repentance is homesickness. Something that the Holy Spirit stirs up inside us to make us long for home. And when at Church sometimes we glimpse that homeland in a way that we experience nowhere else, the Spirit stirs up the hunger for it within. We ache for it, we long for it. Home. Communion with the Blessed Trinity in the company of the holy angels and all His redeemed. Lent teaches us to fess up to how often we settle down in the land of our exile as though it were our true home; attempting to still the yearning the Spirit has created by throwing at it physical or psychological pleasure, and how it never works. Everything, but everything, about the Church's existence stirs this homesickness in us, and through her hymns, her liturgy, her readings, her disciplines, she seeks to help us ache and long for that which can never be satisfied wholly this side of heaven. Why, even the Supper causes the ache to grow more in us, as we realize that this IS what we long for - only not for a moment on our knees at the rail, but forever - to become one with Christ; His life our life; His joy our joy; His peace our peace. But the brief taste is enough to assure us: we HAVE a home; and we should settle for nothing less.

"Only Thee, only Thee."

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

These are the first two elements of the Christian life: Repentance or contrition and grief, and faith through which we receive the forgiveness of sins and are righteous before God. Both should grow and increase in us. The third element of Christian life is doing good works. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *Instruction for the Visitors of Parish Pastors* AE 40:277 (1528)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore so far are the law and grace from being the same thing, that the law is not only unprofitable, but it is absolutely prejudicial, unless grace assists it; and the utility of the law may be shown by this, that it obliges all whom it proves guilty of transgression to betake themselves to grace for deliverance and help to overcome their evil lusts. For it rather commands than assists; it discovers disease, but does not heal it; nay, the malady that is not healed is rather aggravated by it, so that the cure of grace is more earnestly and anxiously sought for, inasmuch as The letter kills, but the spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. Galatians 3:21 -- St. Augustine, *On the Grace of Christ* chapter 9

Elijah was a Lutheran

The thought irreverently came to me during the reading at the closing service today. 2 Kings 2, especially verse 9. "Ask me...BEFORE I am taken from you." Not "pray to me afterwards and I'll do it for you." Go figure.

One Other Convention Thought

As far as efficiently carrying out business, this is (hands down) the best convention I've ever attended - District or Synod. I don't know what's gotten into the SID lately, but the Pastoral Conferences continue to amaze by edifying topics and wonderful worship and now the District Convention even goes so well that my lay delegate (Kevin) tells me he ENJOYED himself and looks forward to serving again! Can't get better accolade than that, I'd say. So, congrats for the new format!

Pr. Gallas Is Up to His Old Habits

Let It Be

This-n-That from the District Convention

Well, it's all over for another three years. Some of the more important highlights:

* SID overwhelming re-elected our beloved District President, Herbert Mueller. First vice-president is Pr. Timothy Scharr; second vice-president is Pr. George Gude (our constitutional expert and Synod historian in residence).
* SID rejected a resolution that would have had our District participate in Fan into Flame Initiative and adopted a substitute resolution built on the idea that we could be better stewards of the Lord's money by funding mission project through our District with near zero overhead (as we have done before; and as we resolved to continue to do) and without thus underwriting some of the goofiness that this campaign has produced (such as the Jefferson Hill's Church Sucks billboards that disgraced Lutherans in St. Louis or the Sex Series during Lent up in Michigan).
* SID petitioned the Synod in convention to finally FIX our straying from AC XIV and make sure that only those who are publicly placed into the office of the ministry are to be doing Word and Sacrament ministry.
* SID renewed her mission commitments to the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (we were blessed to have Bishop Tswaede and a layman from his church present); to Unity Lutheran Mission School; to Prison Ministry (SID runs the biggest ministry to prisoners in the LCMS, I believe); to the Ex-offenders Re-entry Program called "Freed in Christ"; to the recent mission start in Saline County.
* SID sent numerous resolutions onto Synod in response to the Blue Ribbon task force, mostly asking that they leave things as they are (one pastor, one lay vote per circuit; circuit counsellors chosen by the churches; no redrawing of District boundaries, and so on).
* SID encouraged all member congregations (and their members) to examine the Blue Ribbon task force's report on the Synod Website and provide respectful feedback.
* SID voted overwhelmingly to send a resolution to the Board of Directors of Synod asking them cease and desist from the opposition to Pr. Wilken and Jeff being given the trademark "Issues, Etc." The President told the convention the day before that Synod had never threatened to sue them. He's technically correct; it was the Synod's legal counsel that threatened that. But we wanted to go on record as a District that such was a ridiculous waste of money and energy; they need to stop opposing the registration of the TM and be done with it.
* SID resent to the Synod two resolutions that it ignored at the last convention: one dealing with closed communion and the other with rejection of unionism and syncretism of every description.
* SID was blessed to hear a FANTASTIC presentation by Pr. Matthew Harrison on Our One Sure Hope. When he finished some of us wanted to stand up and chant: "Yes, we can!" :) Many, many of us hope that he will be our next Synodical President. The contrast between him and President Kieschnick was marked and many folks commented on it.

I *think* that's about a wrap. I'm sure if I forgot anything of great import someone will mention it in the comments. Overall, a very fine convention, as they go. But as Pastor Scharr reminded us in the closing homily the future of the Church is NOT in conventions, resolutions, votes and elections. The future of the Church is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, received in repentance, lived out in faith. HE is our One Certain Hope; He and none other.

19 February 2009

District Convention

Began tonight with the Divine Service and will run through tomorrow and noon Saturday. Blogging will be scarce to non-existent, but I do covet your prayers for the pastors and parishes of the Southern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod as we meet together.

Homily upon Quinquagesima (2009)

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

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” To this prophesy of our Lord about His impending Passion and Resurrection, St. Luke records of the twelve: “They understood none of these things. The saying was hidden from them. They did not grasp what was said.”

There were, if you will, living in Isaiah 35 - rejoicing in the eyes of the blind being opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame running a deer, and the tongue of the mute singing for joy. They got Isaiah 35. What they didn’t get was the inversion of the numbers. Not 35, but 53. Isaiah 53 they were not understanding: the Servant of the Lord, led as a sheep to the slaughter, the sins of all laid upon him, the chastisement that makes us whole falling on his back, and His certain vindication, seeing the light of life after the suffering of His soul.

We, too, enjoy living in the world of Isaiah 35 where all the wrongs of this world are set right by the presence of the Son of Man. Healings like that of the blind man in today’s Gospel are always causes for joy and celebration. But our Lord Jesus reminds us that life isn’t all about such moments. “We are going up to Jerusalem.” We all have our Jerusalem to face. The moments of mistreatment. The challenges posed by hatred and violence and vindictiveness. The betrayal of a friend. The scorn of our faith. The final horror of death. “We” says our Lord “are going up to Jerusalem.” Not just “I” but “we.”

Ah, but what joy in the “we.” We do not go up to our Jerusalem alone. We go with our Savior. We face the horrors that this world and our life in it can bring with the One who faced them all too - and who came out alive - alive forevermore.

But have you ever pondered WHY it is that our Lord has a life that no death can take from Him ever again? The key is in today’s epistle, where love is not a verb, but a noun. To have everything else, but this love, St. Paul teaches, is to have nothing in the end. But to have this love is to have everything. “Love is patient and kind; Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

And this Love has a name: our Lord Jesus. HE is this love. And He remained this love even while His own people betrayed and handed Him over to the Gentiles. He remained this love when the soldiers mocked Him, beat on Him, and spit on Him. He remained this love when they flogged Him and took off the skin of His back. He remained this love when they condemned Him to die and He was forced to stumble under the weight of His own cross. He remained this love when they lifted the hammer and pounded in the nails through His holy flesh, crying out “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He remained this love when they hoisted Him up on the gallows tree and His blood ran down upon the earth, the blood of God washing away the sin of the world. He was there because He loved. He loved and wanted even those (and we) who so misused Him and treated Him vilely to receive divine pardon, to have their sins covered over in His blood, to be freed from the bondage and the guilt of sin’s dead-end, to live with Him in love forever.

Love isn’t just about Isaiah 35 - the healing of the blind and the deaf and the mute and the lame. Love is about Isaiah 53, about how the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all for our full, final, ultimate healing.

But “we” are going up to Jerusalem. And it is in union with Him, with your Lord whose love no hatred could destroy; whose love proved stronger than all the darkness of the enemy; whose love led Him not only to the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins, but to the glories of Easter morning for the destruction of your death - in union with Him, He calls you to face your Jerusalems as He faced His. With love.

Love that prays for those who persecute you. Love that blesses those who use you. Love that doesn’t know a stranger, but welcomes all - and embraces them, accepts them, without legitimizing or accepting their sin. Love that acts the way St. Paul described at the end of Romans 12: “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Love that can walk into the darkness of death confident that it will never be able to triumph.

Lent is almost upon us. Ash Wednesday and the Wednesdays following, we’ll be pondering again the miracle of a wounded Savior for a wounded world. Like the blind man with our eyes wide open, we will follow the Lord up the road to Jerusalem, giving glory to God. And all who make that pilgrimage with Him are changed, transformed. All that He has done for us leads us to sing His praises. And as we go up to His Jerusalem with Him, we know that when the time comes for us to go up to our Jerusalem He goes up with us too. That the end is resurrection and life everlasting.

Today in the Eucharist, Love Incarnate, Love Crucified, Love risen in glory, Love reigning in triumph comes to you. He who went up to Jerusalem for you, now would enter you, to be in you love unending. He comes to bring you all the fruits of His self-oblation. He comes into you to fill you with His divine and unending life. No more saying, then, “I can’t” when the call is to love. Inside of you will be Him whose love no hatred, no suffering, no mockery, no scorn could ever destroy; the light no darkness can overcome.

And so to Him be glory with His unoriginate Father and all-holy good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages! Amen.

That time again...

Sometime today this blog slipped over the 400,000 visits (at least since I posted the site meter - which was after a year or more of blogging). I am honored indeed to have you all visit! Whenever the meter crosses a significant new number I invite the various readers of the blog to introduce themselves. It seems quite unfair that you guys know all about me, but I know so little about you! :) So please, you might tell us your first name, your general location, your jurisdiction in the Church and anything else you might want to share. Let's hear it, who are you?

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the Apostle says, With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For this is the Creed which you are to rehearse and to repeat in answer. These words which you have heard are in the Divine Scriptures scattered up and down: but thence gathered and reduced into one, that the memory of slow persons might not be distressed; that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes. -- St. Augustine, *A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed*

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In maintaining the teaching that salvation is all of grace, and that man is forgiven his sins and admitted into everlasting life solely because of what Christ has done for him, we must be careful not to exclude the most clear and emphatic teaching of Holy Scripture, that there are rewards, both in this life and in the life to come, promised to good works. -- H.E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 196

18 February 2009

Last Compline until Easter

Tonight we sang together Compline for the last time till after Easter. Wednesday nights will comprise Vespers and then refreshments (rather than Eucharist, Bible Study, Compline) during Lent, except that next Wednesday - Ash Wednesday - the Divine Service will be celebrated in the evening instead of Vespers. It feels downright weird to "give up" Compline for Lent, but I AM looking forward to the Passion Vespers. Still, I'll be eagerly waiting until we sing: "Guide us waking, O Lord..." once again.

For Jason

Jason asked for a collection of 10 "must reads." I've restricted myself to Lutheran theological and devotional literature. If I were to expand this to include other confessions, then Schmemann and Pope Benedict XVI would be listed too.

Jacob's Elements of Religion (note: weak on the Supper; only fault I see in the book - well, aside from its horrible title. A patristically informed setting forth of a complete overview of Lutheran theology)

Krauth's Conservative Reformation (note: DENSE writing, but worthwhile. Any reader of this blog knows he's my favorite)

Gerhard's Sacred Meditations (The Lutheran classic devotional writing for all time; great way to spend Lent!)

Piepkorn's The Church (I wouldn't be a Lutheran today without Piepkorn's work - I'm very grateful for this collection of his essays)

Piepkorn's The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions (Ditto)

Sasse's We Confess Series (This is an essential collection; wonderfully translated by Dr. Nagel)

Sasse's Here We Stand (You'll never confuse Lutheran and Reformed again after reading this work)

Sasse's This is My Body (The definitive volume on Luther's contention for the Real Presence of our Savior's body and blood in the Eucharist)

Chemnitz' Ministry, Word, and Sacrament: An Enchiridion (In the Reformation, this and Rhegius were bound together to provide pastors a sort of workbook for doctrine and for preaching)

Rhegius' Preaching the Reformation (THIS is what they should be using to teach preaching at the seminaries!)

That's my list for the moment. If any others have "must reads," by all means, tell us about them in the comments.

If I Were Teaching Seminary...

...aside from Krauth, of course, I'd make sure that each and every student had read and digested the presentation of the faith laid out in Jacob's Elements of Religion. I'd put that book near the top for introducing dogmatics. I can't encourage folks strongly enough to read it. You can get it from Repristination Press (God bless them for bringing so many of these gems BACK to use for us). Here's a snippet:

Sin is to be otherwise than God means us to be, and to do otherwise than God means us to do. It presupposes freedom. For whatever be God's will with respect to angels and men, He does not will that, against their own will, they shall comply with His will. The holiness of the creature consists alone in the harmonizing of his will with that of God. Sin has its root and nature in the determination of the free will away from God. If angels or men ultimately attain a stage of perfection, in which they are removed from the possibility of doing otherwise, or being otherwise than God desires, such impeccability is not an original endowment, but is the fruit and reward of effort and struggle. The holiness in which men and angels were created was an undeveloped holiness, viz., a potential, but not an absolute impeccability. (p. 54)

Patristic Quote of the Day

For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. -- Letter of St. Augustine to St. Jerome, Letter 82, Par. 3

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[A fitting reminder upon the Commemoration of Martin Luther, for there are too many who think that because Luther wrote or taught something, that is the position of the Lutheran Church. On the contrary, the distinction between the Church's dogma and theological opinion is to be carefully preserved:]

The private opinions of individuals, however influential, can in no sense establish or remove one word of the Creed of the Church. Any man who, on any pretence, gives ecclesiastical authority to private opinions, is robbing the Church of her freedom. She is to be held responsible for no doctrines which she has not officially declared to be her own. -- Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 265

Commemoration of Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor

Today, upon the date of his death, our Synod commemorates and gives thanks to God for Blessed Martin Luther. From the Treasury and Synod's Website:
Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly-established University of Wittenberg, his scriptural studies led him to question many of the church's teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ's sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.
He was in that town, by the way, as a peace-maker, seeking to settle a squabble among the nobles.

I was talking with my friend, Paul McCain the other day about the way Luther wrote. He drops these jewels along the way in the midst of rather mediocre stuff, and it's for hunting and collecting the gems that we delight to read him. Here's one of my favorite gems from him, a relatively early work, but accurately reflects his teaching until death:
This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness;
  not health, but healing;
  not being, but becoming;
  not rest, but exercise.
  We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way;
  the process is not yet finished, but it has begun;
  this is not the goal, but it is road;
  at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being
    - Martin Luther, A Defense and Explanation of All Articles (AE 32:24)

The collect for the day: O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ's faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin, through Jesus Christ, our Lord... (Treasury, p. 1219)

17 February 2009

Static Heaven?

I remember once hearing a fellow explain that Lutherans and Western Christians in general have a static view of heaven. I disagreed. I thought immediately of the passage in the Larger Catechism (second petition) where Luther speaks of daily grow here and in heaven! None has explicated this more beautifully than the great Lutheran theologian (and hymn-writer) Henry Eyster Jacobs in his *Elements of Religion.* He there writes:

"The eternal world is not one of simple attainment, without the prospect of progress. When the Children of God are said to 'rest from their labors,' it is the toil and trouble of this life that are referred to, and not the cessation of works of love or of constant progress in ever new enjoyments of Life Everlasting. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, 2 Cor. 5:8, and to be with Christ in Paradise, Luke 23:43, and in this presence, to be holy and unspeakably happy. But the state into which man is then ushered is one of expectancy of still greater blessings.... With man's constantly expanding capacity to know and love and admire, there will be incessant revelations of what Christ, and of what God in Christ is; and with every new revelation, there will be the development within man of new capacities for knowing and loving and admiring. Thus, while the negative side of holiness, freedom from sin, is complete with his entrance into another world, its positive side, or the ever-increasing growth of capacities for new bestowals of grace, ever advances." (Elements, p. 199, 200)

Heaven is not static. Not static at all. There will always be room for growth in love and in perception of God's love and so growth in His praises. When the Church on pilgrimage intercedes for the Church "at rest", she asks for this ongoing growth in the love of God, which is bliss itself. And when the Church "at rest" prays for the Church on pilgrimage, they ask that we might join them in their ever-growing joy, peace, and love, streaming from the Lamb.

Lectio Divina

The tail end of today's second reading (John 6:16ff.) Our Lord walking on water. I don't think this was so much a manifestation of His true divinity as He, the new Adam, revealing what glory and mastery of the creation true Man was intended to enjoy. His presence upon the water at first caused fear, but it melted to joy when He spoke: "It is I; do not be afraid."

For fallen man lives in fear. Fear of things beyond his control - the fear of being in a wee boat upon a fast sea with the storm winds rising. Fear of the inexplicable - like men walking on water. But with Him, with our Lord, the fear is driven away by His speaking, His presence, His being with us. He shows us what life is like without fear; for His is a life of complete trust and surrender to His Father. In such trust He triumphs over all nature; He shows us what our future will be.

On Preparation for Receiving the Holy Eucharist

The other Wednesday I had opportunity before the spoken Divine Service to spend some extended time in prayer before the liturgy commenced. I did something I'd not done before. I turned in my LSB to the Communion Hymns and simply began praying them, one after the other. What a wonderful preparation for the Sacrament! LSB contains no less than 26 hymns (617-643) that provide a richly rounded preparation for receiving the Holy Gifts.

Word made flesh, the bread He taketh
By His word His flesh to be;
Wine His sacred blood He maketh
Though the senses fail to see;
Faith alone the true heart waketh
To behold the mystery.
LSB 630:4

Some of the Gems

contained in LSB are recent hymns singing the ancient faith. One of these that I've come to particularly treasure fits the Lenten call of God for us to come home. It's by Pr. Stephen Starke:

As rebels, Lord, who foolishly have wandered
Far from Your love - unfed, unclean, unclothed -
Dare we recall Your wealth so rashly squandered,
Dare hope to glean that bounty which we loathed?

Still we return, our contrite words rehearsing,
Speech, that within Your warm embrace soon dies;
All of our guilt, our shame, our pain reversing
As tears of joy and welcome fill Your eyes.

A feast of love for us You are preparing;
We who were lost, You give an honored place!
"Come, eat; come, drink, and be no more despairing -
Here taste again the treasures of My grace."
LSB 612

Isn't that exactly Lent unto Easter? With the prodigal, it's time for us to say: "Enough. Enough of the old way. Enough of the indulgence of self. Home to the Father!" In the warmth of His embrace, in His divine forgiveness, in the Holy Eucharist, we taste a grace so rich and full that His tears are matched by our own.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Before he comes to the door, Thou dost open it for him. Before he falls at Thy feet, Thou dost stretch out Thine hand to him. Before he sheds tears, Thou bestowest upon him Thy compassion. Before he confesses his debt, Thou grantest him forgiveness. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #70

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We are surrounded [in America] by the children of those Churches, which claim an origin in the Reformation. We sincerely respect and love them; we fervently pray that they may be increased in every labor of love, and may be won more and more to add to that precious truth, which they set forth with such power, those no less precious doctrines which, in the midst of so wide an abandonment of the faith once delivered to the saints, God has, in our Confession, preserved to us.

But how shall we make ourselves worthy of their respect, and lift ourselves out of the sphere of that pitiful little sectarianism which is crawling continually over all that is churchly and stable? We must begin by knowing ourselves, and being true to that knowledge. Let us not, with our rich coffers, play the part of beggars, and ask favors where we have every ability to impart them. No Church can maintain her self-respect or inspire respect in others, which is afraid or ashamed of her own history, and which rears a dubious fabric on the ignorance of her ministry and of her members. Whatever flickerings of success may play around her, she will yet sink to rise no more, and worse than this, no honest man will lament her fall; for however such a moral dishonesty may be smoothed over, every reflecting man sees that such a Church is an organized lie, with ministry, congregations, churches, and societies united to sustain a lie. -- Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 208, 209

David's Latest

A self-portrait he had to do for one of his art classes. He informs me that this is in a "Rembrandt" style (not that I've got the first clue what that means!). But I liked it and thought I'd share:

The Silliness Knows No Bounds

And who better than our beloved Mollie to serve it up?

Mollie on Threats

Mollie on Money

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

16 February 2009

A worthy prayer for Lent

We pray You, O Lord, to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit, that as Your holy angels continuously sing praises to You in heaven, so may we at all times glorify You on earth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (LSB p. 312)

Eating My Words

Okay, okay. So I spent some time this week with the Lutheran Study Bible material that CPH has available for perusal. I said I'm not the sort to get excited about study Bibles in general, but holy cow! The notes are DIFFERENT from so many study Bibles. I can't tell you the number of times I was reading pertinent commentary by my favorite St. John Chrysostom in the notes - not to mention goodies by Luther and others! The more I've looked at it (I spent some time in the Job selection), the more astonished I became. Sadly, Reformation Day is a LONG TIME away! I can't wait to get my hands on it. CPH, I don't know what's gotten into you, but from LSB to Concordia to Treasury to Lutheran Study Bible - WOW. I can only say: Thank God for your hard work and your faithfulness. If you've not explored the latest offering, you can check it out here:

Lutheran Study Bible

P.S. Hey, Lucciola, note the lovely MAUVE!


One of the joys of living next to St. Paul's is when folks stop in to see the Church. Sitting right along old Route 66 and current Highway 55, St. Paul's has been a landmark for years. Today a retired Baptist minister and his wife stopped and asked to see inside. The bright afternoon sunshine pouring in through the opal stained glass windows filled the room with a warm, almost summery light. The two images of our Lord dominate the room, for the altar area is actually a little dark (its stained glass windows were blocked by a wall put up in the 1950's). The room, especially in the afternoon, bespeaks peace, calm, joy, prayer. I never pass through it this time of the day without stopping to soak in the atmosphere. A pity that so many of our members have never been in the room when the light is shining in like that. The Baptist minister and his wife commented on how beautiful the nave and the church were, and then they headed on down the road toward Springfield, Missouri. I'm glad God brought them to my door this afternoon, and that I got to spend some time enjoying the Church with them.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As one cannot deny the fact that she [the Blessed Virgin] becomes pregnant through the Word, and no one knows how it comes about, so it is in the sacrament also. For as soon as Christ says: This is my Body, his body is present through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. - Blessed Martin Luther, AE 36:341 [1526]

Patristic Quote of the Day

We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet's blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created. Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them. -- St. Ambrose, *On the Mysteries* par. 52

The Intercessions

The original form of the intercessions in the liturgy were quite different from the normal pattern today. A deacon would call out the bid, and invite the people to kneel. Silence would be observed as each member of the royal priesthood would offer their intercessions privately. The subdeacon would then call the people to stand. The priest would "collect" the prayers of the people into a single prayer, which came to be called the collect, and they would all "Amen" this. The pattern would be repeated. Bid. Kneel. Private prayer. Stand. Common Prayer. Amen!

This pattern still survives in the liturgy for Good Friday with the so-called Bidding Prayer. Dix notes the sad consequence of its loss as a regular feature of the Divine Service:
"But all Christendom was then still at one on the way in which the public intercession should be offered - by a corporate act involving the whole church, in which nevertheless each order - laity, deacon and officiant (bishop or presbyter) - must actively discharge its own separate and distinct function within the fulfilment of the 'priestly' activity of the whole Body of Christ. It offers to God not only itself in its organic unity, but all the world with its sorrows and its busy God-given natural life and its needs. There is here a very revealing contrast with our own practice in this matter of liturgical intercession - the long monologue by the celebrant in the 'Prayer for the Church Militant' and the rapid fire of collects at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer. With us the deacon's part has completely disappeared, and the people's prayer and biddings - originally only led and directed - has been reduced to a single word, 'Amen.' If the truth be told, many of the more devout of our laity have come to suppose that intercession is a function of prayer better discharged in private than by liturgical prayer of any kind, so unsatisfying is the share which our practice allows them. The notion of the priestly prayer of the whole church, as the prayer of Christ the world's Mediator through His Body, being 'that which makes the world stand,' in the phrase of an early Christian writer, has been banished from the understanding of our laity." (Shape, p. 45)
LSB did not print the Bidding Prayer in the hymnal, but it is included in the Altar Book (page 406-409). The rubrics before it note:

The Bidding Prayer may replace the Prayers in the Daily Office or the Prayer of the Church in the Divine Service.

The assistant's bid invites the congregation to silent prayer, and the presiding minister is advised to pause briefly before collecting the thoughts of the congregation in each collect.

Our order does not include anymore the instructions to kneel and to stand. But the "brief pause" is actually essential for the prayer to return to the fullness of its ancient form: the people's intercession. Thus "brief" here must mean more than simply a few seconds. It means long enough for the people to intentionally frame and offer their intercession for the thing just bidden.

We have grown weak in prayer. We must own up to it. But here in the liturgy is hidden a prayer that itself unlocks the key to the unity of corporate and individual prayer and binds them together as one. What joy it would be to recover its fullness among us, that of us too it might be said: Ecclesia orans!

15 February 2009


This especially for members of St. Paul or the Southern Illinois District. President Kieschnick has offered to answer questions that are written down and turned in at our District Convention. If you have a question you'd like to ask our Synodical President, you can post it in the replies and either I or our lay delegate, Kevin Reiseck will see that it gets turned in.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Scriptures, although they too are written by men, are neither of men nor from men but from God. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *Avoiding the Doctrines of Men* AE 35:153

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is not therefore possible to serve Him acceptably without a sense of gratitude to Him for all things, both for our trials, and the alleviations of them. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on Hebrews

Lent Fast Approaching

Fast in BOTH meanings! Now it's only a week and half away. One of the sad things about the arrival of Lent is the abandonment of Job in his sufferings - as Pr. Leistico pointed out, for those of us reading with the Treasury and LSB Daily Lectionary, we only get the rest of the Job story in those years when Easter falls quite late. He suggests that folks might wish to continue reading the Job portions along with the assigned readings for Lenten tide. Not a bad idea. In any case, though, remember that the SKIP is about to happen, and on February 25 we will switch from the calendar year (just looking up the day's date) in Treasury to the Lenten portion (using the Church Year designations), beginning on page 24. In case you are wondering, from Ash Wednesday to the arrival of Easter Day is 157 pages worth of reading, and some quite choice selections, I might add. Unique to the Lenten portion of Treasury is daily Lenten Catechesis.

14 February 2009

Pastor Gleason's Homily upon Sexagesima

Sermon for Sexigesima Sunday
Luke 8:4-15
Rev. William L. Gleason

The parable of the Sower and the Seed shows us the value of having God’s Word rooted within us. Jesus teaches us how grace comes to us through His Word like seed sown in the harvest field of the world. Our Lord scatters the seed of His Word by his Holy Spirit who, moving like a wind, carries the seed to receptive hearts.

But the parable also illustrates hindrances to that Word. We find that people can reject the Word of God. Instead of listening to it, as one would expect, we mock it, pervert it, or simply ignore it. The devil, too, is busy tampering with God’s Word, plucking it from the hearts of those who hear it. On top of that there are anti-Christian forces in the world and the evil intents of our flesh that are constantly fighting against God’s Word. This is all found in the parable of the Sower, illustrating how the Gospel fares in the world.

Jesus begins by teaching about three barriers to the Gospel. These are the spiritual forces against which we Christians struggle. They include attacks from the devil, persecution, and worldly temptations. We might say that every spiritual battle we face comes from one of these three enemies. But note the goal of each. They are not out to get the heart directly; rather, they are out to get the Word that has been sown in the heart! The common characteristic of each of these forces is to steal the Gospel away from us and keep our devotion focused on something other than God. Jesus warns us to watch for these hindrances to the Word because they are forces that would rob your heart of the Gospel. And when the Gospel is gone from your heart, then the light and life of God is gone from your soul.

What I want to look more closely at today, however, is the success of His Word that Jesus pictures for us here. He says the one who hears the word and receives it is like one in whom the seed takes root and bears fruit. It is how we get from the root to the fruit that I want us to focus on.

The first thing to learn from this parable is that we do not get rooted in the Word; rather the Word gets rooted in us. From that it follows that that we do not bear the fruit, but rather that the Word of God bears fruit in and through us. That’s an important point to bear in mind lest we kid ourselves into thinking that we can live holy lives by our own strength and efforts. On the contrary, we must rely solely on Christ and His strength. That’s what St. Paul meant when he wrote in Galatians 2:20, “...it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” So the Word of God must be rooted in us to bear fruit in us!

Now for the Word to be rooted in us, it must be sown in our hearts by God; and He does this through very ordinary means. First, He sows the Word by the preaching of the Gospel. Then, through the Word sown, He plants His Church by gathering believers around the Word. Finally through the Church planted He bears fruit in the world by calling and gathering more believers into His Church. This is the progression—the propagation, if you will—of God’s Word; and nothing can stop this movement of God because His power is behind it. Thus by the movement of the Spirit, the Word of God is sown through the world. It is scattered into the hearts of people by the preaching of the Gospel, so that by hearing they may believe. The Spirit breaks through the barriers of the world and the attacks of Satan. He bears fruit when souls are saved and troubled hearts are given assurance of eternal life and hope in the kingdom of God.

That fruitfulness of the Word is illustrated in the last part of Jesus’ parable when He speaks of the seed bearing fruit a hundred-fold. This fruitfulness is also the work of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit plants in our hearts the Gospel of our blessed Savior, who suffered and died for our sins and rose from the grave to give us life, He causes that Word to sprout forth with faith. By God’s gracious love and working we believe that message of grace. From that point on, our faith must be cultivated continually—cultivated by devoting ourselves to the Word through daily scripture study and prayer, through Sunday school and worship, through every opportunity to “serve and obey, pray, praise, and give thanks” to our Lord. Again St. Paul said, “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you.” That’s sound advice because Christ’s Word is the seed of our faith. Without his Word there is no root; and without devotion to that Word we have no defense against the evil forces of the world and no shield against the attacks of Satan. It is spiritually vital for us to cultivate that divine Word within us.

Another aspect of the fruitfulness of the Word is the work of the Spirit spreading the Gospel throughout the world— beginning in our own homes, church, and community. What an amazing process of growth we see in the movement of the Holy Spirit! He carries the Word into the hearts of people “when and where He pleases;” and He creates faith in those hearts. Then, when He has gathered His people together, He establishes the Ministry among them. He gathers His people together so that through this Ministry they may sow his Word and his grace to another place and another people. Then they in turn go with Him through the same Ministry of proclaiming the gospel, sharing the sacraments, and caring for one another. That is the fruit of the Spirit moving through the church into the world.

The final fruit of the Word will be seen when God’s sons and daughters are revealed at Christ’s return. Until that day, the church will continue to grow with the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of our spiritual growth stems from the Gospel rooted in our hearts. The Gospel is cultivated by our devotion to that Word producing the spiritual fruits of repentance, faith, and works of love. Martin Franzman puts this hope in poetic form in his hymn, “Preach You the Word,” which concludes with God’s promise to be with and bless His Word wherever it is sown:

Preach you the Word and plant it home

And never faint; the Harvest Lord

Who gave the sower seed to sow

Will watch and tend His planted Word.

Wisdom! St. Augustine on Scripture and the Right of Judgment

5. As regards our writings, which are not a rule of faith or practice, but only a help to edification, we may suppose that they contain some things falling short of the truth in obscure and recondite matters, and that these mistakes may or may not be corrected in subsequent treatises. For we are of those of whom the apostle says: "And if you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." Philippians 3:15 Such writings are read with the right of judgment, and without any obligation to believe. In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind. If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. In other books the reader may form his own opinion, and perhaps, from not understanding the writer, may differ from him, and may pronounce in favor of what pleases him, or against what he dislikes. In such cases, a man is at liberty to withhold his belief, unless there is some clear demonstration or some canonical authority to show that the doctrine or statement either must or may be true. But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion. -- St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, XI

Fitting Reading before Lent

I heartily commend Dr. Luther's *Avoiding the Doctrines of Men* in AE 35 as fitting reading prior to the Lenten fast. A salutary antidote to those who would make too much traditions of men regarding distinction of foods and such. Yet he makes it clear: "I here give notice to the insolent, undisciplined, whose only evidence of being Christian is that they can eat eggs, meat, and milk, stay away from confession, break images, and so forth, that it is not my purpose here to have served them." So while exhorting to Christian discipline and yet refusing bondage over these matters, Luther walks a golden mean that we'd do well to learn from. It's not a very long writing, but totally worthwhile.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God's body and blood . But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out. -- St. John of Damascus, *On the Orthodox Faith* IV:16

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Note well, that the power of Scripture is this: it will not be altered by the one who studies it; instead, it transforms the one who loves it. It draws the individual in--into itself--and into its own powers. WA (Weimar Ausgabe) 3:397,9-11, Blessed Martin Luther

Let Solemn Awe Possess Us

O let the people praise Thy worth,
In all good works increasing;
The land shall plenteous fruit bring forth,
Thy Word is rich in blessing.
May God the Father, God the Son
And God the Spirit bless us!
Let all the world praise Him alone,
Let solemn awe possess us.
Now let our hearts say, "Amen!"
--LSB 824, st. 3
Hymn of the Day for Sexagesima

13 February 2009

I don't know

if I've ever mentioned what a SPLENDID game LIverpool is? It takes just the right skill to come out the winner, I'd say. Great game, indeed. Better luck next time, Jo... ;)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We need to be on guard against the weaknesses and infirmities of our nature, against succumbing to false security, but petitioning God for His Holy Spirit, to remove such obstacles, to sweep out those thorns and thistles from our hearts, so that we can continue to hear and retain God's Word, and bring forth the good fruit, by faith in Christ, through which faith we not only live in obedience to God but also become God's children and heirs. The main reason this seed is sown, that is the gospel is proclaimed in all the world, is to create and work fruit in us which endures into eternity. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Homily for Sexagesima (HP I:290)

Patristic Quote of the Day

"Is it not strange that those who sit in the marketplace tell the names, and races, and  cities and talents of charioteers and dancers, even accurately state the good and bad qualities of horses, while those who assemble in this place [the church] understand nothing of what is taking place here and even are ignorant of the number of the [sacred] Books?" (Hom. 32 On John) - St. John Chrysostom

12 February 2009

On Hymnals and Humility

[I posted substantially what follows on a list I'm on; I offer here for further discussion in a wider audience if any care to comment.]

The Church Catholic is not the Missouri Synod and the Missouri Synod is not the Church Catholic; that is true. But the Missouri Synod (for good or ill) is my current jurisdiction within the Church Catholic.

"Submit to one another" the Apostle enjoined. He did not enjoin this merely for those we are always in agreement with (for then there is no submission in the strict sense of the word), but precisely to those we might disagree with. I'm not speaking of doctrinal disagreement, but of those areas that are truly in the realm of adiaphora (I use that word in its proper sense - not as it is bandied about today). We haven't bishops to submit to, but if I had a bishop and he mandated what I thought was a silly practice, I'd be sure to tell him so, but would also do it. We don't have bishops, but we do have a committee that struggled with the charge given it to produce a hymnal and
liturgy that was truly catholic and truly evangelical. This resulted in some compromises; indeed some practices that in my opinion leave much to be desired.

I'm glad there's stuff in the book that *I* am not in favor of; it helps me to die to myself. So what if I don't like X and happen to know that X is not the best of the catholic tradition? A more important part of the catholic
tradition which we Lutherans are in desperate need of recapturing is the humility that submits to someone besides ourselves. I'm not talking about submission in false teaching or in heterodox practice; I mean submission in what I - as a liturgical scholar (to give myself those airs) - know to be "inferior." It's downright healthy for that prideful "expert" to be crucified and to accept for the sake of unity in the Synod the shape of the liturgy we have been given. Is it perfect as Weedon would have it? By no means. But all the better.

My confidence is that the committee that worked to put it together finally did not compromise the Lutheran Confession at any point, and thus even when I don't like, I will silently endure without offering my critique of how it could be so much better. At least when I'm having a good day... ;)

Open Letter

Chris Rosebrough has written an open letter to the Synod Board of Directors. Good stuff.

More on Synodical Silliness

Steadfast Lutherans
Pr. Asburry


"I can't find my keys" - David
"They're in your car. You're warming it up." - Cindi
"Oh, yeah." - David
"I feel a blog post coming on." - Me
Makes a face - David

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

One day there will be another dawn, shining and eternal... Breathless, humanity will wait for the final verdict on history... It will not be, I know and believe, in terms of war and bloodshed, dictators and death, fear and hate... There will be a voice speaking of forgiveness, a cup of cold water, of enduring until the end... And the headlines of time will become the footnotes of eternity... -- O. P. Kretzmann, *The Pilgrim* p. 66

Patristic Quote of the Day

If a man should come here with earnestness - even though he does not read the Scriptures at home - and if he pays attention to what is said here, within the space of even one year he will be able to  obtain  a  considerable  acquaintance  with  them. For we do not read these Scriptures today, and tomorrow others that are quite different, but always the same section and consecutively. However, in spite of this, many have such an apathetic attitude that after such reading they do not even know the names of the books. And they are not ashamed, nor do they shudder with dread, because they have come so carelessly to the hearing of the word of God. On the other hand, if a musician, or a dancer, or anyone else connected with the theater should summon them to the city, they all hurry eagerly, and thank the one who invited them, and spend an entire half-day with their attention fixed on the performer exclusively. Yet when God addresses us through the prophets and apostles, we yawn, we are bored, we become drowsy. (Hom. 58 On John) - St. John Chrysostom

11 February 2009

Attempt #2

So I tried to give up Microsoft Word last year for Pages 08. It was a near thing, but finally Pages then had a few too many problems that only became apparent with use. [David, you can shut up now.] When Pages 09 came out, I read and studied a bit about it, and numerous sources said: "Yup, it's arrived; a REAL replacement for Word." I decided to plunk down the money for it. I've been living with it now for almost a week, and I'm ready to offer an unqualified "'ppears to be so." Numbers and Keynote have also improved, and I'm continuing to learn the ins and outs of them. Any users of Pages 09 that want to chime in? I'm thinking it's wonderful indeed.

On Atonement

I've been having a back and forth with my friend, Christopher Orr, on the atonement. I disagree with the notion that Lutherans hold to a single view of the atonement to which they subordinate all the others. I think this can be demonstrated not only from our hymnody but also from classic Lutheran preaching of the resurrection itself. A few examples:

First, Dr. Luther: "Death and the devil look upon Christ as though he were another Lazarus, Isaiah, or one of the other prophets, and contemptuously think: we have devoured and swallowed up these individuals, no matter how high and mighty they were; we will devour and gulp down this one, too - he shouldn't be more than a snack. But here death and the devil ran against a wall as they smash headlong against this man who could not die. He could not die because of His divinity, for it is impossible for God to die. Nor ought he to have died according to His human nature, for he had no guilt, and therefore death had no claim on him. Death has a claim on all mankind, even John the Baptist and all the other saints... But death has no claim on Christ. For this reason it seizes him wrongfully and blunders. Death and the devil at first are not aware of this, that they are confronted with an individual who cannot die, nor ought to die. Death and the devil conspire together to devour the world, and then also Christ, whom they cannot devour. Death and the devil come with all their might and try their best. Christ takes neither sword nor armor; neither gun nor ammunition, but remains altogether quiet and permits sin and death to rush and strike against him without lifting a finger, and lets himself be floored as they will. By such a quiet strategy he overcomes sin, death, the devil and hell." House Postil II:9,10

Second, Dr. Gerhard: "When Christ was born, the angels hovered in the air and let themselves be seen as a heavenly host, while their Price and Ruler, Christ, still had to strive against the devil and his entire kingdom. Here at the resurrection of Christ, however, the angel seats himself. He shows that the battle has ended and the victory over all our enemies has been achieved through Christ - in the same way that a valiant hero and warrior usually stood tall as the slaughter raged on, but sat down and rested when the strife had ended and the enemy had been subdued." Postilla I:316

Third, Dr. Walther: "Holy Scripture presents the resurrection of Christ as absolutely necessary for the work of the redemption and salvation of man. The apostle Paul clearly says, 'And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith in vain... Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.' From this, we must conclude that Christ's resurrection is not only a stone in the building of our salvation, but the keystone of it. It is not a shining jewel in the crown of redemption, but the crown itself. Without Christ's resurrection, the world would still not be redeemed. With the resurrection of Christ, a person can rejoice in His birth, be comforted in His suffering and death, and boast in His cross.... In His suffering and dying, Christ began, as our army leader, as the Prince of our salvation, and as our David, the great struggle with our enemies: the Law, sin, death, and the devil. When He rose, He fulfilled the Law, conquered sin, stripped death of its power, and crushed the head of the devil." God Grant It, p. 344-347

Fourth, Dr. Nagel: "If you let go of Jesus, treat Him as dead, regard anything as more sure than He is, you are back in the prison of sin and death, the big cemetery, the same old story, on the way to the grave. Whenever there is anything that tempts you to despair, to conclude that God has quit, that He doesn't care, that it is all a bucket of ashes - between that and you stands the Lord Jesus, crucified for you and risen for you. Before they can destroy you, they have to destroy Him first, and they've already done their worst. This is not just head stuff, it is life stuff. You will know how sure, how true, how freeing, and enlivening those words are in the doing and living and telling of them. Jesus lives, and by His Words and Spirit He puts His death and His life into you. You are baptized. 'Your life is hid with Christ in God.'" Sermons of Norman Nagel, p. 120

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

You will either putter around in life, content with building a wall and a web around your little plans and small hopes and creeping ambitions - or you will, if you believe in God (as I think you'd better), make your heart a chalice for a few drops of this world's blood and tears. -- O. P. Kretzmann, *The Pilgrim* p. 7

Patristic Quote of the Day

"From this  it is that countless evils have arisen - from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this it is that there are negligent lives; from this there are labors without advantage. For  as men deprived of this daylight  would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures  must be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking in the worst darkness."  (Intro. Hom. On Romans) - St. John Chrysostom

10 February 2009

With the Lord There Is Mercy

He can no longer speak with his mouth; the cancer has taken that from him. His eyes still communicate, though. I ask when I arrive how he is doing. He gives me the non-committal shrug. I ask if I can read him some Scripture and pray. He nods yes. The prayers and readings for the Commendation of the Dying are drenched in mercy. That's as it should be. After praying briefly for forgiveness and comfort, I read Psalm 130 and its Gloria Patri and prayer, then the account of Easter from John's Gospel, the one we read at Easter Matins: "My Father and your Father; My God and your God." The Creed and then the litany for the dying with the cry for mercy ringing through like the tolling of a great bell: have mercy! have mercy! have mercy! have mercy upon us! grant us Your peace! have mercy! have mercy! have mercy! Then Our Father and Nunc Dimittis. Through much of this he is too weak to keep his eyes open and focused. But at the Our Father he stirs again and opened eyes fix on me. Last I sing "Lord, let at last" and then the Benediction: "give you peace." The look in his eyes speaks his "Amen" for him. He's ready to go. He knows his past is under the blood; his present is in the hands of the Risen One; his future is bright with mercy.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God speaks most clearly to the heart that is silent before Him. - O.P. Kretzmann, *The Pilgrim* p. 28

Patristic Quote of the Day

"They think that when they enter in here [the church], that they enter into our presence [the clergy], they think that they hear from us. They do not lay to heart, they do not consider that they are entering the presence of God, that it is He who addresses them. For when the Reader standing up says "Thus says the Lord", and the Deacon stands and imposes silence on all, he does not say this as doing honor  to the Reader but to honor Him who speaks to all through him [the Reader].  If they knew that it was God who through His prophet speaks these things, they would cast away all their pride.  For if rulers are addressing them, they do not allow their minds to wander, much else would they when God is speaking. We are ministers, beloved. We speak not our own things, but the things of God. Letters coming from heaven are read every day.… These letters are sent from God; therefore let us enter with becoming reverence into the churches and let us hearken with fear to the things here said." (Hom. IX  On Thessalonians.) - St. John Chrysostom

09 February 2009

More Trouble for Issues from LCMS Inc?

Check out Pr. Asburry's blog for the latest:

click here

Thoughts from Septuagesima's Epistle

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:25-27)

Our Lord calls for bodily discipline and self-control. It seems to me that this falls into a variety of areas:

* Food - he calls for us to be disciplined in our use of the good gifts, the tasty treats, He sets before us in creation. Lent is coming in a few short weeks, providing a great time to work on this not as individuals, but as a community of faith. My suggestion is to observe the Lenten fast by 1) simplifying your food (if you will, more hamburger less filet mignon); 2) eating moderately every time you eat (consciously avoid pigging out); John Cassian wisely observed that the Father's had only one rule of fasting: "stop eating before you are full"; 3) plan to regularly skip meals and use the time saved for reading, prayer, or service. A discipline I've adopted in my own life that I've come to treasure is that I don't eat outside of mealtime, save for an apple in the middle of the afternoon. I treat each Sunday, though, as a little feast and allow snacks on that day.

* Drink - by which I mean alcohol. Again, moderation is the key. Drunkenness is never fitting for the child of God, but people differ significantly on how much alcohol they can consume before they cross that line. The discipline I try to follow is no more than one alcoholic drink per day - almost invariably a glass of wine. Sundays I allow myself a bit more, as with the food. I am not suggesting that as what any given reader of the blog ought to do, but just to provide an example.

* Sex - which is the real taming of the beast. The discipline to which the Lord summons us there means that sex is reserved pure and simply for marital intercourse and that there are no exceptions - within or without marriage. Gentlemen, you know what that means. I've written before that the problem with porn is not porn per se, but the behavior that accompanies it and if that behavior is changed, the problem with porn doesn't even exist.

* Exercise - I'll quote my good friend, Todd Wilken: "The old Adam hates cardio." Does he ever! But pushing the body into subjection is, as the Apostle said, "useful for this life."

* Tongue - hey, it's part of the body. I'm talking about talking, especially about grumbling about and criticizing the folks around us. We need a fast on that. I wonder what would happen if we promised that we'd not open our mouth to speak to our spouse, child, co-worker, whatever in harshness or judgment before we opened our mouth to speak to God about them in prayer? I think we'd have a bit more silence, and I think that would be a good thing.

These five areas supply most Christians, especially Christian men, with plenty of trouble. But in the great power of the Christ who lives within us, by whom we "can do all things through Him who strengthens me" even these areas of bodily indulgence can be disciplined and brought under control. And that discipline is, I would argue, pure freedom. And if you've managed by Christ's power to overcome in one or more of these areas, you know exactly what I mean when I say that it is not and can never be a source of pride - it's perfectly clear WHO gave the power and the strength, and who alone supplies it every day. And the warning of the Apostle is always apt: Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall. The "way of escape" that St. Paul mentions is given a few verses later: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" He enters us to forgive us when we fall and to give us the strength to do what is impossible by human effort alone - for He alone can change our desires.

Hope the thoughts are of some help as you prepare to enter Holy Lent and give thought to how you will observe this time of bodily and spiritual training, "for the present form of this world is passing away."

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Pride is the seed of all sin. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditation* XXXIV

Patristic Quote of the Day

"Great is the profit to be derived from the sacred Scriptures and their assistance is sufficient for every need. Paul was pointing this out when he said, 'Whatever things have been written have been written for our instruction, upon whom the final age of the world has come, that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the Scriptures we may have hope.' (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) The divine words, indeed, are a treasury containing every sort of remedy, so that, whether one needs to put down senseless pride, or to quench the fire of concupiscence or to trample on the love of riches, or to despise pain, or to cultivate cheerfulness and acquire patience - in them one may find in abundance the means to do so."  (Hom. 37  On John.) - St. John Chrysostom

08 February 2009

It's Just Strong

I'm referring to Divine Service 3 in the Lutheran Service Book, also known as TLH, p. 15. There is simply no question that this particular liturgy is the hands-down favorite of St. Paul's parish. I don't think it's because we're just a bunch of stick in the muds. There's rather a recognition of something solid, lasting, sturdy in this particular liturgy. We sing it with gusto, and many people sing it in the appointed harmonies. It is, despite the truncated Eucharistia, the most faithful version of our settings when compared to the old Mass of St. Gregory on which it is based. Even the Eucharistia is lifted up in a wonderful way by Luther's tone for chanting the Verba. The whole just wears well. Sunday after Sunday, decade after decade, yes, century after century. I'm very thankful that the LSB editors left the music to this service intact and brought it forward for continued use in our churches in a new generation. "...as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen" - yes, that captures the glorifying of God we do in this ordo.

Patristic Quote of the Day

"Listen, I entreat you, all that are careful for this life, and  procure books that will be medicines for the soul…get at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befalls you, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from there comfort for your trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather do not merely dive into them but take them wholly to yourself, keeping them in your mind."  (Hom. IX  On Colossians) - St. John Chrysostom

A Primer on Mystical Union

Offered at Pr. Wilken's suggestion, for those who wish to explore the role of mystical union in early Lutheran theology, a beginning by offering some citations from Blessed Martin Luther, Blessed Martin Chemnitz, and Blessed Johann Gerhard:

What great honor and glorious worship that is has been said above, namely, that the divine glory is upheld and God is made to be the true God. In return, God will doubtless bring that person to divine honor and as a result make him a god and a child of God. Who can even estimate what good things such honor and worship of God produce? (Admonition Concerning the Sacrament, AE 38:111), Martin Luther

To give a simple illustration of what takes place in this eating: it is as if a wolf devoured a sheep and the sheep were so powerful that it transformed the wolf and turned him into a sheep. So, when we eat Christ's flesh physically and spiritually, the food is so powerful that it transforms us into itself and out of fleshly, sinful, mortal men makes spiritual, holy, living men. (This is My Body, AE 37:101), Martin Luther

Christ, therefore, saith he, thus joined and united unto me, and abiding in me, liveth this life in me which now I live; yea Christ Himself IS this life, which now I live. Wherefore Christ and I in this behalf are both one. This union or conjunction, then, is the cause that I am delivered from the terror of the law and sin, am separate from myself, and translated unto Christ and His kingdom, which is a kingdom of grace, righteousness, peace, life, salvation and eternal glory. Whilst I thus abide in Him and dwell in Him, what evil is there that can hurt me? (Great Galatians 2:20) - Martin Luther

As concerning justification, Christ and I must be entirely conjoined, and united together, so that He may live in me and I in Him. And this is a wonderful manner of speech. Because Christ liveth in me, look now what grace, righteousness, life, peace and salvation is in me, it is His, and yet it is mine also, by that inseparable union and conjunction which is through faith by the which Christ and I are made as it were one body in spirit. (Great Galatians 2:20) - Martin Luther

Men are to be admonished that they should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh and firmly adhere to Christ by faith and through the use of the Word and Sacraments become more and more united with Him and seek from God the gift of perseverance, and wrestle, lest the wantonness of the flesh drive out the gift of perseverance. (Examination of the Council of Trent, I:607) - Martin Chemnitz

Christ instituted that in the Lord's Supper bread and wine should be the means or instruments through which He wishes to offer and communicate His body and blood to those who eat, in order that He might be and remain in the believers not only through faith and Spirit but, as the ancients speak, also by natural or substantial participation and might thereafter be united to them more and more." (Examination of the Council of Trent, II:251) - Martin Chemnitz

In the Supper of the new covenant the same victim which was sacrificed to God for our sins is also given to us in the Lord's Supper and shared in by the communicants, so that through this participation in this same victim we are joined to Christ and made partakers of all His merits. (The Lord's Supper, p. 146) - Martin Chemnitz

Therefore, in order that we might be able to lay hold on Christ more intimately and retain Him more firmly, not only did He assume our nature but He also restored it again for us by distributing His body and blood to us in the Supper, so that by this connection with His humanity, which has been assumed from us and is again communicated back to us, He might draw us into communion and union with the deity itself. (The Lord's Supper, p. 188) - Martin Chemnitz

Theology takes its name from God: first, by reason of its principal effective cause, that is, that it is a divinely revealed teaching; second, and indeed especially, by reason of its subject or object, that it makes men divine or "partakers of the divine nature." (On the Nature of Theology and Scripture, p. 27) - Johann Gerhard

Thus this Holy Supper will transform our souls; this most divine sacrament will make us divine men, until finally we shall enter upon the fulness of the blessedness that is to come, filled with all the fulness of God, and wholly like Him. (Sacred Medtiations XX) - Johann Gerhard

The glory of the Head is the glory also of the members. Where our flesh reigns there let us believe that we too shall reign. Where our blood rules there let us hope that we too shall be glorious; though our sins forbid this, yet our participation in His holy nature makes it possible. (Sacred Meditations XXI) - Johann Gerhard

It is by faith alone that we are made partakers of this blessed spiritual union, as it is written, "I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness." By faith we are engrafted as branched into Christ, the spiritual vine, so that we derive all our life and strength from Him; and as those united in marriage are no longer twain, but one flesh, so "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" because Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. (Sacred Meditations XIII) - Johann Gerhard

Our spiritual Head is Christ and He submitted to holy baptism that the members of His mystical body might enjoy its saving benefits. (Sacred Meditations XVII) - Johann Gerhard

Great indeed is the honor put upon our bodies, inasmuch as they are the dwelling places of our souls redeemed and fed by the body of Christ, and are the temples of the Holy Ghost and the abodes of the adorable Trinity. It cannot be that they should ever remain in the grave, since they are nourished with the body and blood of our Lord. He is the wonderful bread of life. We partake of it and become one body with Christ. We are members of Christ; we are animated by His Spirit; we are nourished with His body and blood. (Sacred Meditations XVIII) - Johann Gerhard

We are united to Him not only because He hath assumed our nature, but also because His body and blood are communicated to us in the Holy Supper. (Sacred Meditations XVIII) - Johann Gerhard

Nor does Christ simply speak the word of comfort to our souls, He also takes up His abode in us; He feeds our souls not with heavenly manna, but, what is far better, with His own blessed self.... What can be more intimately united to our Lord than his own human nature, which He hath taken, in His incarnation, into fellowship with the adorable Trinity, and thus made the treasury of all the blessings that heaven has to bestow? What is so intimately joined to Him as His own body and blood? With this truly heavenly food, He refreshes our souls, who are as miserable worms in the dust before Him, and makes us partakers of His own nature; why then shall we not enjoy His gracious favor? (Sacred Meditations XIX) - Johann Gerhard

But behold, in this holy Supper, more than a paradise; for here the soul of the creature is spiritually fed with the flesh of his almighty Creator. The conscience is cleansed from all its guilty stains in the blood of the Son of God. The members of Christ, their spiritual Head, are nourished with His own body; the believing soul feasts itself at a divine and heavenly banquet. The holy flesh of God, which the angelic hosts adore in the unity of the divine nature, before which archangels bow in lowly reverence, and before which the principalities and power of heaven tremble and stand in awe, is become the spiritual nourishment of our souls! (Sacred Meditations XIX) - Johann Gerhard

Come, heavenly Bridegroom, Light divine,
And deep within my soul now shine;
There light a flame undying!
In Your one body let us be
As living branches of a tree,
Your life our lives supplying.
Now, though daily
Earth's deep sadness
May perplex us
And distress us,
Yet with heavenly joy You bless us!
(LSB 395:2)