30 July 2009

Today's Ups and Downs

Matins, then off to the hospital to be with Clara and family while the doctor attempted to shock her heart back into rhythm. Thanks be to God, it appears to have worked! Keep her and Roy in your prayers though. Then to visit Heather & Nathan, bringing Heather communion, and offering prayers of thanksgiving for the safe arrival of Aubrey Annetta and make arrangements for the little one's Baptism into Christ. Home to work on prayers for Sunday before a bite for lunch. Then a trip to Highland to visit with Janet and bring her communion; she looked better than last time by far. Over to Rolene's for the anointing of the sick and prayers - her last days are definitely upon us. I'll likely drop in to pray Commendation of the Dying with her tomorrow. May the Lord grant her a peaceful end to her earthly pilgrimage and great consolation to her family. Home to blog a tad and attempt to wrap up Bible studies that are due to CPH by tomorrow (four down, three to go!). In the middle of those enjoyed one of Cindi's fine dinners (sloppy joes with cole slaw on top - we love that and David wondered if others ate the combo that way? - and then some of her fabulous black berry cobbler!), skipped bootcamp to keep on writing, and then finished up with Vespers. Now enjoying a glass of wine and trying to figure out how to get everything done that needs to get done tomorrow. Deep breath. Vacation just around the corner...

The Dead Do Not Praise the Lord...

...neither do any who go down to silence. Psalm 115:17

And yet the Church joyfully sings in her Te Deum:

The glorious company of the Apostles praise You,
the goodly fellowship of the prophets praise You,
the noble army of martyrs praise You.

Which is right?

Is it just Old Testament vs. New Testament? I don't think so. I think the Psalmist meant that the mark of being DEAD (whether you are breathing or not is irrelevant to the state of being dead) is that the dead do not praise the Lord. The living do! The next verse of Psalm 115 is this:

But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!

The living, those alive in God by the work of His Spirit within, they manifest their "aliveness" in the fact that they praise God, that they extol and glorify Him forever. Which means that they go on praising Him whether breathing or not! (Cf. Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising, I am baptized into Christ, I'm a child of paradise. LSB 594:5)

This explains so much of the Church's life that the world doesn't get. We spend so much time just singing to God - psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. The vast majority of Western music historically was employed in just such a cause. To stand in the congregation and give voice to the praises of God is to have a foretaste of heaven and to realize that this is what we were created for; this is the very joy of life itself.

When we gather together and sing His praises; when we are alone (by which I mean away from the visible congregation - the invisible congregation and the angels are ever with us) and sing His praises on the tractor or in the car; when we sing around the table or piano at home and extol Him, the Blessed Trinity, we show that we are among the LIVING, of whom our Lord declared: "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."

The sad thing about the zombies, the walking dead, is that they live their lives apart from this glorious praise which is Church's joy and delight beyond words. We come home to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on our heads, and sorrow and sighing flee away (Is 35). But as we walk home together, we never stop calling to the walking dead as we invite them to leave their praiseless death and to find in singing the endless Glorias of the Church, her Alleluias and Kyries and Sanctuses, the very purpose of creation. "That we might BE to the praise of His glory." Indeed, we WILL bless the Lord both NOW and FOREVERMORE...with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.

Alleluia! Let praises ring!
Unto the Triune God we sing;
Blest be His name forever!
With angel hosts let us adore
And sing His praises evermore
For all His grace and favor!
Singing, ringing:
Holy, holy, God is holy;
Spread the story
Of our God, the Lord of glory! (LSB 822:4)

Commemoration of Robert Barnes

Today our Synod commemorates the holy martyr, Robert Barnes. From Synod's website and the Treasury:

Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled "Sententiae." Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes "our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus."

The Treasury has a particularly beautiful writing of Luther on the joy of this martyr's death for the Gospel.

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

What God ordains is always good:
This truth remains unshaken.
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
I shall not be forsaken.
I fear no harm,
For with His arm
He shall embrace and shield me;
So to my God I yield me. LSB 760:5,6

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

By joining Himself to us in this sacred meal of holy food, we are now joined to all the saints who have died and risen in Christ. This communion of saints is where heaven and earth are joined together in Him. We are members of this eternal community, a community that even now participates in the heavenly things as a foretaste of the feast to come. -- Arthur Just, *Heaven On Earth* p. 14

Patristic Quote of the Day

I beseech you who are entrusted with the care of souls to keep each and all together, and to cherish them like beloved children. I beseech the people to continue to show you the respect and honour due to fathers, that in the goodly order of your Church you may keep your strength and the foundation of your faith in Christ; that God's name may be glorified and the good gift of love increase and abound. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 222

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For this makes the difference between those who are Christians and are holy, and the others who are without faith and the Spirit, or have ceased to care and have lost them. For, though the faithful still suffer from sinful lusts of the flesh as the others do, yet they continue in repentance and in the fear of God and keep their faith, so that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, because they resist and do not give way to sin. Therefore they continue in forgiveness, and their weakness is not unto death and condemnation as with the others, who without repentance and faith go wilfully in their lusts, contrary to their conscience, and thus thrust away both faith and the Holy Ghost. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Sermon for Trinity 8, 1535 (*Day by Day* p. 285)

29 July 2009

Swine Flu and the Chalice

Wise words from Pastor Esget (as usual).

Commemoration of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

Today our Synod commemorates Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany. From the Treasury and our Synod's website:

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. John's Gospel records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:15). On one occasion Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:38–42). When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he life? (John 11:25–27). Ironically, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the death, the Jews became more determined than ever to kill Jesus (John 11:39–54). made Jesus' enemies more determined than ever to kill him (John 11:39–54). Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed his feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for Jesus' burial (John 12:1–8; Mt 26:6-13).

I was especially blessed at this morning's Matins by the prayer in the Treasury for this commemoration with its petition:

Teach us to be like Jesus' dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus.

Is that not a beautiful prayer? For Your friends, Lord Jesus, Martha, Mary and Lazarus we bless Your name!

The Premiere Lex Orandi...

...is simply the Our Father. We can never exhaust its depth. Thanks be to God for the rich way it goes on living in our Lutheran liturgy! So many people think no further than the Catechisms when it comes to the Our Father - and they are rich beyond imagining - but the prayer itself exists in a three-fold shape for us in our services.

First, of course, the literal words our Lord taught us to pray. We use them at the consecration of the Sacrament; we use them at Baptism; we use them each time we gather for Matins or Vespers or Compline. We pray them in our morning and evening prayers. Our Catechism teaches us to pray them before and after each meal (observed far more in the breach than the keeping, I'm afraid). We pray them at Holy Marriage. We pray them at sick bed and death bed. We pray them for the Funeral liturgy and at graveside. They accompany our whole journey in Christ.

Second, we are blessed with the expansion of the Lord's Prayer that constitutes the Prayer of the Church in Divine Service 5, based on the German Mass of 1526. Here the Lord Prayer has this form:

Friends in Christ, I urge you all to lift up your hearts to God and pray with me as Christ our Lord has taught us and freely promised to hear us.

God our Father in heaven, look in mercy on us, Your needy children on earth, and grant us grace that Your holy name be hallowed by us and all the world through the pure and true teaching of Your Word and the fervent love shown forth in our lives. Graciously turn from us all false doctrine and evil living whereby Your precious name is blasphemed and profaned. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

May Your kingdom come to us and expand. Bring all transgressors and those who are blinded and bound in the devil's kingdom to know Jesus Christ, Your Son, by faith that the number of Christians may be increased. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Strengthen us by Your Spirit according to Your will, both in life and in death, in the midst of both good and evil things, that our own wills may be crucified daily and sacrificed to Your good and gracious will. Into Your merciful hands we commend (names) and all who are in need, praying for them at all times Thy will be done. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Give us our daily bread, preserve us from greed and selfish cares, and help us to trust in You to provide for all our needs. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Forgive us our sins as we also forgive those who sin against us so that our hearts may be at peace and may rejoice in a good conscience before You, and that no sin may ever frighten or alarm us. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lead us not into temptation, O Lord, but help us by Your Spirit to subdue the flesh, to turn from the world and its ways, and to overcome the devil with all his wiles. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

And lastly, O heavenly Father, deliver us from all evil of both body and soul, now and forever. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We trust, O Lord, in Your great mercy to hear and answer us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(LSB 215, 216)

The third form in which the prayer lives in our liturgy is in Luther's great hymn and majestic tune on the Our Father, LSB 766. Here again, the Our Father is paraphrased, but this time also rimed. So, for instance, the fifth petition (stanza 6) ends up as:

Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore
That they may trouble us no more;
We, too, will gladly those forgive
Who hurt us by the way they live.
Help us in our community
To serve each other willingly.

In all three forms, the prayer continues to permeate and pervade our worship and life in Christ. We can't pray this prayer or dive into its contents often enough. It is indeed THE law of prayer, the pattern and shape by which the child of God in union with Christ, his Lord and brother, draws near in the Spirit to the Father to obtain all good things for the church, the world, his neighbor and himself. Issues, Etc. will soon be beginning a series on the Our Father. Be sure to listen in!

For the gift of this Your prayer, dear Jesus, all glory to You!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The core value of holiness in the first-century world of Jesus and the apostles is still our core value today as our people enter into the bodily presence of Christ in His Word and Meal. The temple had its boundaries that kept those who were not worthy or prepared from entering God's holiness; we today also enter God's holy presence, confessing our sins in repentance and faith and hearing God's absolution. Public confession and absolution are not part of the Divine Service but preparation to enter Christ's bodily presence and receive the gifts from that presence. -- Arthur Just, *Heaven On Earth* p. 184

Patristic Quote of the Day

Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 189

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But do good to all men. Help them and promote their interest - in every way and wherever you can - purely out of love for God and to please Him. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Large Catechism I:328

28 July 2009

Yet Another Bach Goodie

Thanks, Erma (from ALPB)!

New Birth!

The Baptism of Meila Jo at late service on Sunday:

Baptized into Your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among Your saints, Your chosen host.
Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
Your Spirit now shall live within.

My loving Father, here You take me
To be henceforth Your child and heir;
My faithful Savior, here You make me
The fruit of all Your sorrows share;
O Holy Spirit, comfort me,
When threatening clouds around I see.
LSB 590:1,2

Commemoration of Johann Sebastian Bach

Today our Synod commemorates Johann Sebastian Bach, beyond dispute (so don't try to argue with me on this) the greatest musical gift that Christ's Church has EVER known. From our Synod's website and the Treasury:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted of all composers past and present in the entire western world. Orphaned at the age of ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at the age of 19 in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last 27 years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city's four Lutheran churches. In addition to his being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach's vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the church to glorify God and edify his people.

Learning to sing Bach's music is WORK - and more joyous work you'll never engage in. I still remember the joys from Concordia Bronxville: The motets "Jesus, Priceless Treasure" and "Be Not Afraid"; the fabulous Christmas Oratorio. How he painted the words in the music - and wrote them on our hearts forever. Here's a taste that I picked up from my internet friend, Norman Teigen's blog:

HT: Norman's Demesne

And the Dona Nobis Pacem:

My Favorite Part of the Liturgy...

...The Our Father and the Words of our Lord. Pardon the bellowing during the Our Father's doxology. Sometimes I get carried away...and forget that I've got a mic on! Also, Youtube continues to not get the audio and video tracks correctly. The chime is heard at the elevation, not before it.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Angel and Cindi blessed is with this during the Offering on Independence Day weekend:

By Grace I'm Saved

Listen to the Kids from Higher Things sing it here:

By Grace

All Right, Ladies

You have to read Today's Laugh from Susan.


Gents, I think they have us.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Faith has to do with daily reception from God. Daily discipleship therefore involves daily prayer. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 179.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The fact that no one is so pious as not to have in himself some odor and leaven of the old Adam is enough reason for God justly to reject man. Humility alone, therefore, will preserve even those who live in grace. Their sins will not be imputed to them if they denounce their sins, ask for mercy, and forgive their debtors. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Exposition of the Lord's Prayer (AE 42:70)

Patristic Quote of the Day

The Creator, in the fullness of His love and wisdom, did not confine our minds within our bodies, nor the power of speaking to our tongues. Ability to profit derives some advantage even from lapse of time; thus we are able to transmit instruction, not only to those who are dwelling far away, but even to those who are hereafter to be born. And experience proves my words: those who lived many years before teach posterity by instruction preserved in their writings; and we, though so far separated in the body, are always near in thought, and converse together with ease. Instruction is bounded neither by sea nor land, if only we have a care for our souls' profit. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 294

27 July 2009

From Today's Treasury

Wise words from St. Ephraim the Syrian:

"The sign that you love God is this: that you love your fellow man; and if you hate your fellow man, your hatred is toward God.... Endure scorn from your brother, that you may be the companion of Christ. Show no anger against man, that you are not separated from your Redeemer."


Cutting Short the Conversation with the Anabaptist

Anabaptist: But a baby can't believe!

Lutheran: Right. And neither can an adult.

Anabaptist: HUH?

Lutheran: Faith is something GOD gives; His work within us. Always a miracle when it happens! We can't come up with it on our own. And HE doesn't have any more problem dishing it out to babies than to adults; in fact, babies are likely easier, cause their fallen thinker isn't running interference with all its "but, but, buts."

Anabaptist: But, but, but.

Lutheran: Exactly. Want to sing a hymn together? How about: "Lord, 'tis not that I did choose Thee?"!

Confession vs. Evangelism

Sometimes it takes a while to sink in. I've been praying the Tuesday prayer in Treasury for months. It asks, among other things:

Teach us through their example and the example of so many holy martyrs to be ever watchful of the confession of Your Son's name.

Confession. We're used to speaking of "evangelism" but sadly the word itself is rather tainted with the hucksterism of the American religious marketplace. But to be watchful for the confession of Christ's name... Now, that's a bit of a different ball game. We pray that through the example of those now suffering and those who have suffered in the past, that we'd be strengthened to look for and seize every opportunity presented us to confess Christ, and to do so regardless of what suffering may come our way.

I'd suggest we'd be better off if we thought of our task vis-a-vis the world in such terms, rather than "evangelism." Evangelism has about it the scent of "result" whereas confession is utterly innocent of that odor. What those who HEAR Christ confessed will do with that confession is completely out of our hands and it always will be. Our task is to simply confess Him. And it's a HIM we're confessing, then, not a strategy of "soul winning" we're working on! That's what He demands of us, after all:

Whoever confesses Me before others, I will confess before my Father in heaven; whoever denies Me before others, I will deny before my Father in heaven.

The Holy Spirit loves to use the confession of Christ's name to bring people to faith! I still remember those young catholic boys who confessed Christ to me (a young teenager at the time myself) - basically reciting the Apostles Creed to me and telling me that this was what I needed to believe to be saved. It set me on the path to Christ! And as Lutherans, we're resourced not only with the ecumenical Creeds, but with the wonderful explanations to the Creed that are part of our own catechism.

What does it mean to confess Christ? Try this on for size:

"I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true!"

What better confession of Christ could we place onto the lips of God's people? I think Higher Things should make a T-shirt with THAT on it! Can't you see a bunch of Lutheran young people running around with such a confession not only on their lips, but on their backs for everyone to read?

P.S. I bring the T-shirt up because I wore my Sola T-shirt to work out in today and one of the employees at the Y struck up a conversation with me about where I go to Church. He's drifted from going to Church at all; I invited him to come out to St. Paul's!


Carl dropped by some blackberries this afternoon (THANKS! And Tom dropped by some by later too!). Cindi decided it was time to create a lo-carb cobbler. Oh, baby! FABULOUSO! An almond crust for the topping and some no sugar added ice-cream on top. Nummy, nummy.

And that was AFTER we stuffed ourselves at dinner: barbeque chicken and clam kabobs with assorted veggies betwixt and between. Summer eating at its best.

Oh, and for lunch we feasted on some fresh tomatoes on our sandwiches (thanks Louie and Marilyn and Lynn). Summer time and the eating is TASTY!

A Different Amazing Grace

Sung during distribution yesterday at St. Paul's (and a big thanks to Andy for introducing us to it):

Correcting a Misperception

Some former Lutherans persist in slandering our faith by saying that it is spiritually damaging - pointing especially to the teaching that we are simultaneously just and sinner. Thus, to their way of thinking, Lutherans teach that one may intentionally and willfully persist in sin and rejoice in forgiveness. But this is a complete falsification of our teaching.

Lutherans state unequivocally:

Nor indeed is this faith idle knowledge, nor can it coexist with mortal sin. Ap. IV.115

For through one's entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members, not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy...The Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so that it is carried out, but represses and restrains it from doing what it wants. If sin does what it wants, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present. SA III, 3, 40, 44.

The person who dares to say "God loves to forgive; I love to sin; what a deal!" is no Lutheran and no Christian.

What simul justus et peccator is rather seeking to confess is that to be a Christian is to be in a life-long struggle against the flesh and its lusts. You will never advance to a point where the struggle is ended. It goes on to the very end. The fact of the struggle doesn't mean one isn't a Christian (the absence of the struggle does!). As St. Paul wrote of himself to the Romans: "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh, for I have the desire to do what it right, but not the ability to carry it out." (7:18)

Such is the sad experience of every Christian: we can and do make progress in following our Savior, and yet we find that there is inside of us a wretched fountain of corruption that continues to pollute us. It drives us to the joy of grace. The joy of simul justus et peccator is that we are not condemned before God for this fountain of corruption in our flesh; we fight it with every weapon of the Spirit and resist it to the grave, and we rejoice that it will finally be extinguished and removed from us on the day of our death, when our Baptism into Christ is completed, and we put off this body of death. When we are resurrected, this fountain of corruption will not be resurrected within us. And for that all glory to God!

To confess simul justus et peccator is thus the exact opposite of saying "don't worry; do what you want; you're forgiven." It's rather saying: "Since you are forgiven, you have the Spirit to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end against this sin which inheres in your flesh and to be assured as you battle that you will win the final victory if only you remain under the forgiving blood of the Lamb of God."

Such a teaching is anything but spiritually damaging; it is in fact the only comfort and source of peace you can find when confronted with the ongoing wretched flood of filth from the flesh. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The harvest comes from patient persistence in meditation on God's Word. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 114

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

While God's nature is not the sum of His attributes, our knowledge of His nature is the sum of our knowledge of His attributes. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 36

Patristic Quote of the Day

The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 234

26 July 2009

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As our anger and desire for justice expose the spiritual fallout from the bad things that others have done to us, we learn, by God's grace, to face what has happened, seek healing from the damage that has been done, and forgive as we ourselves have been forgiven. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 236

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Faith is truly no simple matter, but it demands much struggling, testing and suffering if it is to be properly grounded. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, Homily for Trinity VII, Postilla p. 82

Patristic Quote of the Day

And what is our condition? Love is grown cold; the teaching of the Fathers is being laid waste; everywhere is shipwreck of the Faith; the mouths of the Faithful are silent; the people, driven from the houses of prayer, lift up their hands in the open air to their Lord which is in heaven. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 164

What Overflowing Joy Today...

...the Lord's people gathered, little Madelyn Marie and Meila Jo gathered into His family, His precious Words read and proclaimed, the stunning vocal on Amazing Grace that Amilia, Stephanie, Lauren and Cindi offered during the Distribution, the gifts of our Lord's Body and Blood, and Dr. Coan's incomparable musical offerings (we're going to miss him big time!) crowning the whole. Thank you, Lord, for such a joyous day in You!

Pastor Olson, a justly proud grandpa, after baptizing grandchild #1!

25 July 2009

From Our Savior's

The beautiful processional cross that Lutheran artist Edward Riojas designed for Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. Our Savior's sanctuary is full to overflowing with his fine work. There is a visual Te Deum Laudamus that enwraps the room, with every face of every saint directing our attention to the image of Our Lord. Here are some of the goodly fellowship of the prophets praising God:

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Like beggars we receive everything from Him; nothing depends on us. As we come before Him with empty hands and hearts, ready to receive whatever He wishes to give us, we discover that He does not withhold Himself from us.... Then, little by little, we begin to notice the hand of Christ everywhere and in everything. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* pp. 144, 145

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The task of every Christian Church that rightly bears this name is to provide eternal comfort. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It* p. 582

Patristic Quote of the Day

The devil is always at hand to oppose good works. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 141

24 July 2009

Homily for Trinity 7

[Genesis 2:7-17 / Romans 6:19-23 / Mark 8:1-9]

Doesn’t get much more basic than breathing and eating. That’s what we meet in the first reading - the Creator God who forms man from the dust of the ground and then breathes into his nostrils the breath of life so that man becomes a living creature. But living creatures are hungry - they have to eat to live - and so God plants a garden and spreads the earth before man as his banqueting table. Only one tree of the garden is forbidden, and of that one God notes: “The day you eat it, you shall surely die.” For as Paul says in our second reading: “The wages of sin is death.”

Satan, of course, would go on to insist: “You will not surely die.” I like to ask the confirmands who was telling the truth: God or Satan? They immediately say “God.” I tell them to read it again.

Who was telling the truth? Truth is that the day man ate of it, he didn’t die - not if you mean stop taking air in through his nose, stop breathing. He didn’t keel over. The man and the woman went right on breathing for a long time after that. But since the confirmands were right after all, and God doesn’t lie, we see that death is something more than not breathing. That you can walk around inhaling and exhaling and yet be dead. The walking dead - zombies as Pastor Peperkorn referred to natural man at Higher Things this past week. And the walking dead have only postponed their meeting with the not-breathing sort of death. It’s coming - that day when we draw in our final breath and there is no exhale. And to meet that day as a zombie - as one of the walking dead, is to discover another dimension of death more horrible than any met so far.

To stave the not breathing off, though, we know we have to eat. And so eat we do. Shoving in food as a way to push back that day. We can even come to think that food is what is keeping us alive; it may be what keeps you breathing, but it’s not what keeps you alive.

St. Paul reminds the Romans in today’s epistle that what keeps them alive is the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s the gift signed, sealed, and delivered on the day of Baptism - an utter grace - to us zombies by nature, dead in the sense of being separated from God and His life. With the splash of the water, his enemies are made friends, the dead are brought to life, sins are wiped out, the gift of the Holy Spirit dumped on us, and a new birth begins a new life stirring within us. A person begins to live in the real meaning of the word - to live in fellowship with Christ the life that never ends. To share in the communion of the blessed Trinity. And that sets us free. Instead of being the slave to our own appetites and desires, and the dead end that THAT is, we get to die to all those and become slaves of God and so receive all the blessings that come from belonging to Him.

But the life given in Baptism is a life that needs to be fed and nourished; and it’s not nourished with ordinary food. It’s nourished by the Words of God. The baptized are put into a life of hearing those Words, and receiving from them constantly the nourishment needed to go on living forever in the new life Baptism began in them and that God promises to bring to completion in them.

So there’s the crowd in today’s Gospel reading. Three days - three whole days - they’ve been hanging with Jesus. Why? To listen to Him as He taught the Old Testament Scriptures and opened their eyes to see God like they’d never seen or guessed He could be - a loving heavenly Father who sends His Son to them to blot out their sins and to give them a life that no death can ever take away from them. They hang on His words! But three days is three days. Their snacks long since eaten up. They’re hungry now and weak. And the One who has been their teacher isn’t oblivious to their need. He says to His disciples: “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

Is that wonderful or what? He who has been supplying them with bread of the first order - bread of life, words on which to live eternally - He is also concerned for bread of the second order - the bread of this world, food to put in your body to keep it going as long as God would have your earthly pilgrimage continue. It wasn’t too long before this that the disciples had seen him take five loaves and two fish and feed a massive crowd. When He says: “I have compassion” did they think right away of the last time?

No. Of course not. They’re like you. And me. Always forgetful that the Lord IS compassionate and abounding in steadfast love. They forget that, in the words of today’s Gradual, “those who look to Him are radiant and their faces are never put to shame.” Instead of looking to Him, they think he’s laying the problem on them to sort out. They freak. Absolute panic: “How can one feed all these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Just like you and I freak when we let the size of the problem divert our eyes from His face.

He doesn’t scold, but I do wonder if He sighed. In any case, He does it again. Same miracle. Bread taken, thanks offered, loaves given into the hands of the disciples with some small fish to feed the crowd. And, just like before, what Jesus takes in His hands to bless is enough and more than enough. Seven baskets full of left overs gathered up after everyone had eaten and was satisfied. To this crowd who had sought first the kingdom of God, how true it was that everything else they needed was added unto them.

Now those who first heard Mark’s account would have been nodding their heads. They’d get it, because Jesus still is up to the same verbs. He still teaches and then takes bread and gives thanks, breaks it and puts it into the hands of His ministers to give away. Bread that is so much more than mere bread - not bread to keep the breathing going for a little longer before death inevitably comes. Rather the bread that is His Body. His Body that once tasted death, stopped breathing, as He died to pay the wages of your sin: “the wages of sin is death.” To pay those wages for every last one of you. And it’s the same Body that the Father raised on the third day and released from death - never to die again to be the “free gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now He comes to you in that Body to give you anew all that He won for you - His forgiveness way bigger than all your sin, His indestructible life way stronger than any death you’ll ever face, and His promise of a place with Him forever.

St. Isaac the Syrian once said that at the Lord’s table, we breathe already the air of the resurrection in which the righteous will exult. Come, then, and feast with Christ - here’s food that by His Words and promise will keep alive in you the life He freely gave you at Your Baptism. Here’s food that will keep you breathing the sweet air of the resurrection and make the moment when your body stops breathing no big deal; no big deal at all - not to any who trust His Words and promises, not to any who are in Christ. And for that be all glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages! Amen.

Gotta Luv It!

Today we got Lauren's new iPhone (happy graduation to you!). When we got MY iPhone from Best Buy, they told us they didn't have any way to sync my data from my old cell phone. AT&T store said the exact same. I did a lot of updating on Address Book to enter the data from my old phone. Today at Apple, they just pop her card into the iPhone and copy everything over and then put in the new SIM. Good gravy!!! Someone needs to talk to the folks at Best Buy and AT&T... Also her whole transaction was done in a fraction of the time it took me at Best Buy. I think that store is misnamed.

23 July 2009

What Is It About Luther's Hymns?

So rugged, so strong, so beautiful. I'm listening again to CPH's offering on his hymns and they just bless the socks off me! Isaiah right now:

Holy is God the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God the Lord of Sabaoth!

Great stuff.

Sideways but Still Unbelievably Sweet

The Te Deum at Grand Rapids this morning. HT: The Amazing Sandra O!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Here [in the Holy Eucharist] the high holy God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, comes to reside in us so that our bodies become holy places, living temples of the living God. Here the risen Lord Jesus comes to live bodily in us (John 6:56). That simple mystery is the heart of our spiritual life, its secret center. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 282

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He *bought* them for God. They were gone, lost from God Himself. There was something about them that could never, not in eternity's eternity, unite them with the Lord God. If God took them to His breast, they must perish. Christ, however, *bought them* with His blood. He paid what it cost to fuse God with the sinner: death. The sacrificial Lamb was slain. God willed it! This is the essence of the nature of God. -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *To Live with Christ* p. 487

Patristic Quote of the Day

As we were baptized, so we profess our belief. As we profess our belief, so also we offer praise. As then baptism has been given us by the Saviour, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, so, in accordance with our baptism, we make the confession of the creed, and our doxology in accordance with our creed. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 159 [One might ALMOST be tempted to accuse of the good Father of the dreaded and denounced inversion of the old lex orandi, lex crendendi here... Think he could mean it? Nah... ;) ]

Dare to Be Lutheran...Double Dare Ya!

So the lively Pr. Cwirla to the youth in San Antonio and Grand Rapids. It occurred to me as I thought back to the great singing that we should come up with t-shirts along the lines:

Real Lutherans Stand to Sing
"Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice!"
...with no stanzas cut.

Good Article on Sola

Sola Grand Rapids

Funeral Homily for Larman Engelke

Phil, Jeannie, Richard, family and friends of Bud Engelke, I hardly need to tell you how much Bud was loved around this place. Such a gentleman. Always kind, even if he was disagreeing with you; ready to tell a story, “well you know, that kind of puts me in mind of…” and off he’d go and it would always be worth the hearing. The phone would ring at the parsonage and it would be Bud. “You gonna be there for a little bit. I have something I want to bring up to you.” Over the years we were the happy recipients of cracked pecans from his pecan trees; apples from the apple trees; and even one year of delicious box of peppermint icecream, just because. And how the kids delighted in watching Shotsy do his tricks! He and Stella were the first members of St. Paul to invite us to a meal in their home - and for us it was the start of years of friendship and affection. Yes, Bud was a man generous and kind, loving and according to every earthly standard we use, good.

And you better believe that he’d be scolding me right now for saying that. For though Bud was good in the eyes of other people, the eyes of other people wasn’t the standard of measurement he used. He used the standard of God’s law, and so he knew that in his heart he lacked the perfect goodness that God requires of all. And that’s why he was so thankful that he had a Savior.

When he was just a wee little thing - barely over a month old, the pastor came to Fred and Lillian’s home in Prairietown and baptized him. You see, it was 1919 - and the Spanish Flu epidemic was at its height; it kept people away from gatherings like church. But it couldn’t keep the Lord Jesus from finding His little sheep and marking him as His own through the hands and voice of Pastor Iben. “Ich taufe dich im Namen des Vaters und des Sohns und des Heiligen Geistes” he said as the water flowed over his little head and Fred and Lillian would have answered: “Amen!” One little sinner now enfolded in the arms of the Good Shepherd, and so began a life lived with Christ.

He grew up learning to confess his sins, to seek God’s forgiveness and to live in His mercy. It was March 29th in 1931 that little Larmen stood nervously before the altar of Old St. Paul’s church and made his confirmation vows - his class was the last confirmed in the old building. German still reigned supreme. And Pr. Hansen laid hands on young Larmen and he prayed that God would keep this child His own and faithful to his baptism until death. That prayer was heard and answered. A few days later for the very first time the body and blood of Jesus Christ went into Larmen’s mouth with the promise that his sins were wiped out and gone and that Christ put into him a life stronger than the grave.

As Larmen grew in years the joys blossomed. He found the beautiful Stella Kuethe and in May of 1943 there was a joining together of the Kuethe and Engelke clans. There were joys on the farm with mom and dad, and you kids coming along with your laughter and your playing. Certainly joys abounded with children and grandchildren. But with the years also came sorrow. The tragic death of your grandfather. Later, the illness that befell your mom and took her so early from us. The loss at last of your grandmother. So many losses. They weighed upon him; and some of his own health struggles to - especially the fits with that back!

Yet he faced these challenges with the confidence of Job in our first reading. Larmen knew that death was not the end for anyone who was in Christ Jesus. He knew that the One who had claimed him as His own and marked him with His cross could be counted on to raise the dead, and so the tears and the sorrows were always tempered by faith in the future triumph. There are no goodbyes in Christ, only “see you laters.”

And I think he specially clung to that promise from Romans 8, that all things finally DO work together for the good of those who love Christ Jesus and that there is nothing that is able to separate us from the love we have tasted in Him. Nothing. Not sorrow. Not suffering. Not death itself.

He continued even in these last years steady in his feasting with the Lord, studying His Word. He was so often here in this room or downstairs at Bible Class, giving an attentive ear to the Lord’s Word, and coming up to receive His Supper. I mentioned to you the other day that there was hymn we often sing that seemed invariably to choke him up: “What is this bread?” He’d start the sniffling when the words rang out: “And who am I, that I should live and You should die under the rod. My God, my God, why have not forsaken me? Oh, taste and see, the Lord is free.”

You see, Bud never forgot that his sins were forgiven because his Savior had taken his place and paid his debt. He knew that he had no hope except for Jesus, for as Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” No one. For no mere human goodness however spiffy it may look to the outside can pass muster before the all-seeing eyes of Him who looks down into the depths of our souls and sees not merely what we do or fail to do, but what we desire, what we want, and what we think. Yup, we need a better righteousness than anything we can come up with - and Bud rejoiced that he had that righteousness as a free, undeserved gift in Jesus, His Savior.

Even though he was ready to go whenever the Lord would call, he still lived his life to the full. He may have been 90, but you’d never know it by his activity. Even the day before his death, he’s visiting and celebrating with you guys and enjoying a big meal and fireworks. Go, Larmen! When the moment came, though, the God who had named Larmen his own in Baptism all those years ago, reached out his hand and stilled his heart and said: “Child, come home.”

It wasn’t a moment of sadness. It was a moment of overflowing joy - something that he had long contemplated and to which he looked forward with hope. Home, home to Jesus, and that meant as well home to Stella, to mom and dad, to all his beloved who had passed before him. Now he stands with them around the throne of the Lamb, singing the praises of the One who forgave him all his sins and is his perfect righteousness. And together with all the saints in glory, he waits for the joyful moment when his body will be raised from corruption and made incorruptible like Christ’s own. To that Savior, Christ our Lord, with His unoriginate Father and all Holy Spirit be the glory now and ever and to the ages of ages! Amen.

Larman "Bud" Frederick Engelke, age 90, of Hamel, passed into eternal life on Sunday, July 19, 2009, at his home. Born on Dec. 19, 1918, in Prairietown, the son of the late Fred C. and Lillian Thomae Engelke. He married Stella Mae Kuethe on May 16, 1943. She preceded him in death in 2000.

He graduated from Edwardsville High School and worked briefly at the Hamel Creamery. He became a journeyman machinist, retiring after 45 years from The Owens Illinois Glass Company in Godfrey. His memberships included St. Paul's Lutheran Church at Hamel, The Owens Illinois Machinist Union, The Illinois Nut Growers Association, The Golden Emblem Club, The Kiwanis Club, The Municipal Band of Edwardsville, playing a trombone for several years.
He also served as a volunteer fireman in Hamel. His hobbies included woodworking, golf, trout fishing, boating and he was an avid gardener.

He is survived by two sons, Charles Phillip Engelke (Vicki) of Edwardsville, Richard Clark Engelke (Charlotte) of Dana Point, Calif. One daughter, Jean Ann Harper (Steve) of St. Louis, Mo., five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Also, surviving are two sisters, Flora Lee Renken (Harry) of Hamel, and Genevieve Heepke (Paul) of Edwardsville.
He was preceded in death by one, sister, Virginia Engelke Geers and one brother-in-law Robert Geers

This-n-That from Sola Grand Rapids

Chapel - WOW! Totally different acoustical experience. To say that the sound was "alive" is an understatement. In the auditorium in San Antonio we belted music out, but the room ate it almost as fast as we sang it. In GR, the chapel gave the sound back to us and the result was simply mind-blowing.... Same story with the real organ - and both Mr. Loemker's playing and the young man who played (anyone know his name? I am still amazed at the pedal work on "Dear Christians")... GR is like 1,000X easier to navigate than SA... There were TWO Starbucks between our hotel and the campus (civilization used to be known by the presence of a church; I've decided that's rather iffy these days, but a Starbucks!)... Again the frustration of too many good things that get missed out on in the sectionals - you have to choose only a handful of a plethora of goodies! (p.s. - three prepositions in a row... and they make sense!)... I attended sectionals/break outs on music and on prayer and I'm still digesting some of the good words I heard... On the way home we listen to a CD of the young folks singing with Kantor Resch and the line that struck me: "Come, celebrate your banners high unfurling; Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling. To all the world go out and tell the story Of Jesus' glory!" (LSB 825:3). I thought, yup. That's what is happening RIGHT NOW in Grand Rapids and what happened earlier in San Antonio. Songs and prayer hurled against the darkness. The sound in that room of the organ and all those voices uniting in "Dear Christians, One and All!" and "Salvation Unto Us Has Come!" Sola, dudes! Christ alone! Grace alone! Faith alone! Scripture alone! Sing and pray it: our Lord Jesus is enough and more than enough together with His Father and the Life-giving Spirit!!!
[Pics hijacked from Pr. Peperkorn's facebook]

22 July 2009


Cindi and I just pulled in (right before 11 p.m.). What a whirlwind! Up by 4:15 on Tuesday to get up to Michigan and speak at Higher Things in Grand Rapids and then as soon as I finished speaking today, we jumped in the car and headed back to Hamel so I could officiate at Larman's funeral tomorrow. Head is still spinning from the travelling. Cindi and I added it up and since May 10 (heading out for Lauren's graduation at Seward) we have put over 9,000 miles on the car!!! I was very bummed to miss the rest of the conference, but happy that I could be here to preach and serve the funeral liturgy. More on Higher Things--Grand Rapids tomorrow!

21 July 2009


So, David calls his mommy. He’s having a bummer of a day. He’s locked his key in the car. His SPARE key. Can’t find the other one, of course! His mommy tells him to call AAA - that’s what we have it for. But you see, he needs to get to DK’s before they close because he hasn’t had any dinner (and heaven forbid he actually FIX himself something!). But he ALSO needs to get back to the BP in Edwardsville to pick up his laptop. What’s his laptop doing at BP? Funny you should ask. Well, he needed gas and of course he hadn’t brought any money with him, let alone his wallet. So he had to leave the laptop as a ransom for the gas pumped into his car. Sigh. What are we going to DO with my laddie???

P.S. Wally, if you're looking for your student I.D. and can't figure out what happened to it, it's in MY wallet!!!

20 July 2009

What's Going On With the Antiochians?

Scandal and trouble plague the entirety of the Church. Always have and always will. Lutheranism is no exception, and neither is Orthodoxy, of course. One thinks of the crisis of late in the OCA over the financial shenanigans of the hierarchy and the demands of the laity for a real accountability. But that pales in comparison to the unheard of innovation (!?!) among the Antiochians, as Metropolitan Phillip "demoted" all the bishops in the Independent Archdiocese to being "auxiliary bishops" leaving himself as the only "real" bishop of the Archdiocese. Apparently particularly under the gun is Bishop Mark of Toledo, a convert himself, and forced to deal with a rather vociferous enclave of Arab nationals who are pushing for his removal over them.

It is, I believe, unfair to suggest that those who left our jurisdiction to head East did so with the notion of escaping the trials attendant to the Church militant in her pilgrimage through this world. They knew they would have to face them wherever they sojourned. In fact, this strife was looming on the horizon before many of them converted. They simply believed that they could better be faced under a canonically ordered hierarchy. Yet it must be entirely disheartening when the office of bishop can be unilaterally yanked from its incumbents and made a political football of sorts. The very advantages to the episcopacy rising above such power plays is horridly compromised by it; and the mission of Christ's Church across the board is damaged.

I pray that the political machinations and injustices may come to an end among the Antiochian Archdiocese in a God-pleasing way, even as I pray they come to an end in my own Synod. May the Lord of His Church strengthen and uphold all incumbents of the Office of the Holy Ministry in their varied callings to proclaim His Gospel and administer His life giving sacraments to the upbuilding of His people, and may repentance be granted to all who would oppose and DEPOSE those whom Christ has called to administer His gifts for the building up of His body!

Crazy Day

Started with exercise - did it at home and then off for a long bike ride with some interval training. Then shower and work. The funeral director miscommunicated and I thought Larmen's funeral was Wednesday, and horribly disappointed at missing it, but glad to be at Higher Things for the whole time; then Pr. Curtis called to tell me it was Thursday, and I was thankful to be at the funeral on Thursday, but disappointed about missing the final two days of Higher Things. Lined up organist for funeral. Finished up bulletin and homily for the same. Got Church set up and ready to go. Still to finish tonight: packing for trip. Coffee made and set to go off at 4:15. Thermos washed and waiting. Cindi's got snacks prepared. David is holding down fort while we're headed north. No homily yet for Sunday. Hopefully some time on Thursday afternoon or evening? Never rains but it pours. Right now, feeling kind of drenched...

A Sermon Review

on Issues for my homily from Trinity 5: Review.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The saying the Invocation is accompanied by making the sign of the cross at the mention of the name of Jesus, just as it was first made on us when we were baptized. It reminds us that because Jesus has redeemed us by His death on the cross, we now belong to Him - branded and copyrighted, as it were. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 79

Patristic Quote of the Day

Above all, pray, and pray again, that my reason be not whelmed by the waves of my troubles; pray that all through I may keep a heart pleasing to God, that I be not numbered with the wicked servants, who thank a master when he gives them good, and refuse to submit when he chastises them by adversity; but let me reap benefit from my very trials, trusting most in God when I need Him most. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 123

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The only ones who can endure are those who become a part of Christ and in Him receive complete forgiveness. What happens through Christ is that the right to be a child of God is no longer conditional on the Law. However, as an expression of what's right, the Law hasn't been abolished. It's a reflection of God's nature. -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *To Live with Christ* p. 469

19 July 2009

A Poll!

Given the discussion below, I just wonder if the blog readers would mind indicating whether or not you elevate and genuflect during the Consecration (if you are a pastor) or whether the practice is found in your church (if you are a lay person); oh, and include your state or country, if you would.

Here: we elevate the Lord's body and blood and genuflect before them.


+ Larmen (Bud) Engelke

Asleep in Jesus today. Found at home; probably a heart-attack.

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

[Still in shock over this one...My most vivid memory of Bud is watching him choke up every time during communion when we sang: "What is This Bread" and got to the line: "My God, my God, why You not forsaken me?"]

Liverpool awaits...

...I wonder if Jo is ready to lose? By the way, *I* won last time we all played. About time too!!!

18 July 2009

Something I Don't Understand

from my friend PE is his acceptance of various developments beyond the medieval rite present in the Common Service (DS 3) in view of his rejection of the further developments found in the work of the ILCW (DS 1,2).

For example, in DS 3 the loss of a proper offertory; the moving of the offertory to right after the homily and making it an ordinary; making the Nunc Dimittis an ordinary; the use of the Aaronic benediction instead of the traditional blessing at the close of Mass; the loss of the "Ite MIssa"' the loss of the final Gospel; moving the Our Father to a place between the Sanctus and the Consecration. All of these are not simply a removal of objectionable material, but developments of the rite itself.

Terry, my friend, help me understand how to your thinking these developments and alterations are of a different nature than permitting an expanded Kyrie (borrowed from the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom), an optional Dignus Est Agnus for the Gloria in Excelsis, or a "Thank the Lord" in substitution for a Nunc Dimittis?

I note that both DS I/II, and III (and IV and V) have added an Old Testament reading back in. DS I/II actually keeps closer to the old pre-Reformation Mass in its ordering of a thanksgiving, consecration, anmanesis prior to the Our Father.

I'll stick my neck out to observe that all the Divine Services provided in LSB strike me as quite faithful to the intention of the Lutheran Reformation. My own parish still GREATLY prefers DS III and I agree, it wears incredibly well over time, but I just cannot bring myself to condemn or even to look down on any parish using any of the other Divine Services provided. My good friend, Fr. John Fleischmann, has taught ALL five settings to his parish and they are comfortable with them all.

So, Terry (or whoever else cares to respond), help me understand better your objection to anything but DS III!

Seems each time

we ride along the bike trail we end up seeing something wonderful. Today, as we were headed back from Decamp and just about to ride through the swamp bisected by the trail, I noticed a strange looking thing standing by the trail. At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me. But no, as we got closer we could plainly see it, and then it took off up into the trees. A HUGE heron of some sort. Must have stood 3 ft. or more tall, and when it flew it had an enormous wing span. Absolutely beautiful. I hope we get to see it again.

In reading the letters of St. Basil...

...I also found it of interest that when writing the Prefect Modestus (Letter 104) about recent changes in taxes, he begs him to stand by the old order:

"By the old census, the clergy of God, presbyters and deacons, were left exempt."

Hmm. Interessant, nicht Wahr?

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As soldiers of Christ, we engage in defensive rather than offensive warfare. Therefore, we are appointed to guard duty. That's how Paul envisages our involvement in the cosmic battle. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 259

Patristic Quote of the Day

You have professed your faith in Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Do not abandon this deposit; the Father— origin of all; the Son— Only begotten, begotten of Him, very God, Perfect of Perfect, living image, showing the whole Father in Himself; the Holy Ghost, having His subsistence of God, the fount of holiness, power that gives life, grace that makes perfect, through Whom man is adopted, and the mortal made immortal, conjoined with Father and Son in all things in glory and eternity, in power and kingdom, in sovereignty and godhead; as is testified by the tradition of the baptism of salvation. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 105

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The question is no longer if we have kept His commandments. The question is: Do we believe in Christ and go to Him? If we do, we will also follow Him, be like Him, and do God's will. -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *To Live With Christ* p. 465

17 July 2009

On Walter

He was a fixture in our household, as in countless others. And yes, the most trusted man in America. My parents thought the world of him. I think one of the reasons was that he rose above the ridiculous spin that we have all but come to take for granted. And unlike the rude anchors of today, he was unflaggingly courteous. You never knew HOW he felt about some of the most controversial matters he reported on. Yes, I do think he embodied objectivity in his reporting, as much as can be accomplished through a visual media, and that that was a good thing. It's loss is damaging to us indeed, turning news reporting both left and right more into propaganda and smear campaigns than anything useful. Walter was one of the greats. May God's eternal slight shine upon him, and may his family experience the comfort Christ alone can give!

David and Anna

did a bang up job in Wonka tonight. Kudos to both. David not only sang beautifully; he also danced. At least to those of us who knew him we could feel him counting the steps - he's only started dancing on stage lately - but he did a fine job. Anna coming out in a huge blonde wig as a southern belle - well, it wasn't till she spoke and sang that we realized that was she beneath that Dolly Parton look!

Last Week

I attended a break-away session with Pr. Keseman on evaluating music for church. He asked the group: How many of you would like to have the kind of music you listen to at home be what you hear in church?

I didn't raise my hand, because I knew I was a total weirdo on this. But I DO listen to the Church's music pretty much whenever I am listening to music at all. When I do my workouts, I've been playing over and over again CPH's fabulous Heirs of the Reformation on my iPod; I can't seem to get enough of it. I'd do the same for the Luther Hymns, except for the annoying interpolation of quotes from Luther on the topic of music. They need to re-release that WITHOUT the yacking.

So, don't tell Pr. Keseman, but yeah, I DO want the music I hear at Church to be the same as what I listen to at home... :)

Reminder to St. Paul's members

No midweek Eucharist, Bible Study or Compline until August 19th.

Joyous Words

Praise God with acclamation
And in His gifts rejoice.
Each day finds its vocation
Responding to His voice.
Soon years on earth are past;
But time we spend expressing
The love of God brings blessing
That will forever last!
LSB 713:5

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We learn to pray regularly, by ourselves or in our families, by beginning and ending each day with the Lord's Prayer. That's our family prayer. Nothing could be simpler than that. None of us can say we don't have enough time for this prayer. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 180

Patristic Quote of the Day

Just as athletes win crowns by their struggles in the arena, so are Christians brought to perfection by the trial of their temptations, if only we learn to accept what is sent us by the Lord with becoming patience, with all thanksgiving. All things are ordained by the Lord's love. - St. Basil the Great, Letter 101

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We get something for nothing every moment of our lives. Teach us to give something for nothing and be joyous and happy to do it! -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *To Live with Christ* p. 464

July 17

and it feels like June 1. What gives? No pool today, that's for sure. Went to the Y for my workout this a.m. after Matins. Great burn! Walked off 1100 calories in an hour's worth of walking at 20% incline at 4 mph. Then Cindi and I headed out for a bit of shopping and for lunch - El Maguey's, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Edwardsville. They have a dish called pollo feliz that we both love and invariably it's what we order. Also best salsa around. We got home and jumped on our bikes. Did about 8 miles but felt like a lot more - 1/2 of the way the wind was strongly blowing against us. Have I ever told you guys how much I LOVE our new bike trail???

Came home and began finishing up a birthday dinner now for Opa - he, Jo and Sandy will join us tonight to celebrate his 72nd birthday, a few days late. Cindi's had the beef marinating in barbeque sauce since last night (she throws it on the grill even though it's a roast; comes out fabulous!). She's also planning some creamed corn, a salad, and a french apple pie for the non-low carbers and Cindi and I have a coconut pie with almond crust (that almond crust is TASTY!). Then after dinner its off to see David and Anna in Willy Wonka at the University. Must be a great show - David said they've had standing ovations for the last two performances.

Pity we'll be back so late, because I'll bet it would be a great evening for a fire and enjoying our wine outside. Wonder if this very mild and wet summer portends anything for what we can expect this year with winter?

So, David's ready to walk out the door...

...and I say to him: "You're leaving awful early this morning! It's just 6:30." He asks: "WHAT time is it?" I tell him again. The look on his face is priceless. "I thought it was 7:30. I was rushing because I was late. I could have slept for another hour!!!"

Well, that's okay. This way he can take Lucy potty, feed her, AND get himself a shower after all! He might even discover the truth hidden in "the early bird gets the worm"?

16 July 2009

Bless what?

The Lutheran Service Book Agenda is a book full of blessings. Literally. You'll find blessings for:

Laying a Cornerstone
Dedication of a Church
School or other educational facility
Parish Hall or other facility
Church Bells
Baptismal Font and related Vessels
Communion Vessels
Paraments and Altar Linens
Lectionary or Bible
Sacred Art
General Rite of Blessing
Advent Wreath
Bible for use in a Home or School
Cross in a home
Sacred Art in the home
Advent Wreath in the home
Creche in home or school.

The introduction to this section of the Agenda teaches us: "material possessions are gifts from our good and gracious God to be used in service to others and for the praise of His holy name. Every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). All that God created is good (Genesis 1) and is to be received from Him with thanksgiving, being sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (1 Tim 4:4-5). In the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer we pray that our Father in heaven would lead us to realize this and to receive these gifts in faith with thanksgiving to God (Small Catechism)." (Agenda, p. 255)

Just Thinking About It...

...fills me with joy:

The Lutheran Study Bible!

We're adding this wonderful resource to Lutheran Service Book, Treasury of Daily Prayer, Starck's Prayer Book (which I think will be available ahead of the TLSB) and Pastoral Care Companion.

My fellow Lutherans, the resources astound, simply astound me. I think back to the beginning of my ministry when we were divided into three hymnals (LBW, TLH, LW), the NIV Study Bible with its lightly revised Reformed notes reigned, and the best we could offer for the Daily Office was Sauer's work (a fine work in itself in many ways, but not able to touch Treasury for comprehensiveness) and the "Little Agenda" offered a meagre fare of Scriptural help to set before people in crises of various sorts.

Wow, oh, wow! We've come a long way, baby! I'm so thankful to CPH and our Synod for making these wonderful resources available. And just as the LSB should be in every Lutheran home, so also The Lutheran Study Bible. You're reading along in the Treasury and you come to something that really causes the brow to furrow? Pull out your TLSB and check out what the Fathers (ancient and Reformation) have to say on the matter and more importantly what other Scriptures shed light on a given passage.

Yeah, I'm PSYCHED. I can't wait to get my hands on it!

The Path

Thanks to Fr. Lyons for pointing this out to me - it's originally from a super little paper back tract that CPH put out on how we worship. I didn't know anyone had digitized it!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Being free for God's Word and prayer is communicated to Christendom. This is how the 'Christian's feast day' goes beyond Sunday and penetrates the entire life. It is carried out in tireless meditation on the Word and in the constant prayer of the heart. -- Albrecht Peters, *Ten Commandments* p. 180

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Once again we learn what the Gospel is about. It comes to us as a gift, but a gift that has radical consequences in every aspect of our life. We don't make ourselves pure, worthy, sincere, and loving. It begins with Jesus loving us, regardless how impure and unworthy we may be. That love takes hold of us. We come to faith in Him. We become His. Now that whole life - the life we live with Him - begins in earnest. -- Bishop Bo Giertz *To Live With Christ* p. 460

Patristic Quote of the Day

We live in days when the overthrow of the Churches seems imminent; of this I have long been cognisant. There is no edification of the Church; no correction of error; no sympathy for the weak; no single defence of sound brethren; no remedy is found either to heal the disease which has already seized us, or as a preventive against that which we expect. Altogether the state of the Church (if I may use a plain figure though it may seem too humble an one) is like an old coat, which is always being torn and can never be restored to its original strength. - St. Basil the Great, Letter 100

A Very Fine Post

by Pastor Hemmer on Catechesis, First Communion, and Confirmation. I commend it to you!

15 July 2009

I'm Loving

Galatians and Luther's commentary (mostly from his Great Galatians commentary) in Treasury. And how ingenious to insert Galatians into the Acts reading at this point!

Samson always leaves me scratching my head...

Happy 21st, Son!

He chose a piña colada as his first legit alcoholic drink.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Wherefore the first boon is, that he who stands in his sin should fall and die, and then should live in righteousness and rise, both of which graces our faith in Christ confers on us. -- St. Basil the Great, Letter 260

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Being open to whatever God sends us must not be blocked by self-chosen ties. -- Albrecht Peters, *Ten Commandments* p. 194

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The surest sign of repentance is never the sorrow over sin but rather my desire to be freed from it. -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *Life By Drowning* p. 13

14 July 2009

A Beautiful Selection from a 19th Century German Homily

by Max Kommet, Superintendent of Lüneburg-Celle. Dr. Herl pointed this out to me and we both found it striking on a number of points:

"The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so full of burning love, its reception so full of grace and righteousness, but then also its celebration the highpoint in the life of the congregation. According to the thinking of Christian antiquity, every complete Congregational divine service culminates in the celebration of Lord’s Supper, to which according to the old Christian practice the whole congregation went every Sunday. They viewed the celebration of the Supper as the high point of their congregational life.…..

They built their chancel so that the altar was the summit. Our Divine Service is as the climbing of a great mountain. It begins with the cry from the depths: “Lord, have mercy!” and lifts itself up to the confession of redemption in the Angel’s song: All glory be to God on high! Then it climbs higher with the epistle and the gospel, to which the Creed echoes back. After the sermon comes intercessions for all troubles and estates upon earth. Then after the bidding of prayer, the giving of thanks proceeds, with the call: Hearts on high! And the course climbs onward. In the thanksgiving we mingle voices with the choirs of the Church triumphant, as we sing with them the thrice holy hymn, and with the Hosanna greet Him who draws near in His Supper. On our knees we pray the Our Father and receive the Words of Institution. From one level to the next we have ascended, and now the congregation has arrived at the summit of the mountain: above her, heaven is open, before her a divine table spread with one bread and one cup for all, she herself one family of the children of God. A household of brothers and sisters in Christ. There is something deeply moving about this journeying of the congregation to the altar, as if it called out in our hearts: “I will arise and go to my Father,” and now the dancing begins in our Father’s house, and the the Kingly feast commences and the angels rejoice, and the Father frolicks over having found again his sons and daughters gathered at the table. They receive Christ’s body and blood, confessing this is nothing else than was upon the Cross. As Paul said: “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death,” and so it is. For every celebration of the Supper is a great proclamation of Christ’s death before God and the world. Here is the high point of the Divine Service, which then draws quickly to a close with the Canticle of Simeon: “Lord, now you let Your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” For at the summit of the mountain the Lord has met us in the mystery of the Sacrament, as near as we can draw to Him in this pilgrimage."

As a sort of visual, check out this (HT: McCain):

Darcy said...

that this picture made her think of me. I confess, I LIKE it! My kind of riding lawn mower.

Summary from Giertz

More for my own benefit of learning than for yours in reading!

Giertz in that article referenced below speaks of three obstacles to salvation delineated by the old soul-curers:

* The aversion in man's fallen nature to the Word and to prayer (through which alone salvation is possible, and which is, of course, an aversion to the God whom one meets through them - "we heard the sound of thee...")

* The love of sin

* The struggle that a person experiences, acutely brought to an awareness of the fountain of sin in his fallen nature, to believe that God actually loves HIM and has provided atonement for HIM.

Similarly, he speaks of how God works upon us to remove the obstacles that would keep divine grace from pouring over and through our lives:

First, the call by which one begins to encounter God in his Word, in the Divine Service, in prayer. One knows one's self addressed by God! And which, when it is answered, leads to:

The enlightenment of the Law, leading to repentance and especially outward remedying of sin, which leads to:

The awakening through which one realizes the hopelessness of our fallen state wherein we continue to have a fountain of sin arising from within us that we cannot stop up or cause to cease [one thinks especially of the great Spiritual Psalter of St. Ephraim the Syrian], leading at last to

The conversion by which one comes to the joy of truly believing in Christ as the Savior and Atoner and finding in Him a righteousness that is complete and whole and OURS as gift.

He also presents the dangers that await at each turn: at the call, relying on feelings and not forming the habit of listening to the Word and praying; at the enlightenment of the law, developing a judgmental attitude toward others; at the awakening, despair and thinking that Christianity is impossible; at the conversion - the ongoing struggle to believe the "for me" of the Gospel.

His remedy to each danger is the same: persistence in the Word and in prayer.

In reading this, it strikes me that this is PRECISELY a description of what Catechesis is all about! Bender's material so nails that. Giertz, as quoted yesterday, beautifully describes the whole thing as a "descent," a way God has of striping away every false reliance for comfort until we come to rest in Jesus and in Him alone.

That's Weedon's brief summary of the Giertz reading.

P.S. It also strikes me as vital that Giertz does not treat these as successive stages; they are cumulative stages. One never leaves behind the calling, when one goes onto the earnest struggles against sin; nor does one leave the earnest struggles against sin, when one is forced to a recognition of the foul fountain of rottenness within; and so when one comes to rest in Christ alone it is as one who hears God's address, struggles against sin, and knows one's self the person described in Romans 7. This preserves the above from falling into a form of antinomianism that celebrates instead of deploring sin.]

There Are Difficulties...

...in the walk of faith that are so personal that they can never be treated from the pulpit. There are conflicts that are so intimate and at the same time so devastating that they require both a more radical and more merciful treatment than the public proclamation can ever given. Therefore, the Church invites troubled souls to seek advice and help and absolution in confession. Even here she is the merciful mother, who has a heart for her children's troubles, both the smallest and the largest. -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *Life by Drowning* p. 17

Patristic Quote of the Day

So once more my complaints have come back to me; once more I am confined to my bed, tossing about in my weakness, and every hour all but looking for the end of life; and the Churches are in somewhat the same condition as my body, no good hope shining on them, and their state always changing for the worse. - St. Basil the Great, Letter 30 (the more things change...)

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

This spiritual wrestling for chastity of the heart and purity of the body is laid on all Christians in all estates; all estates are estates of chastity. -- Albrecht Peters, *Ten Commandments* p. 246

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As Christians we live in the kingdom of forgiveness, where retaliation and the common order of justice no longer apply. -- Bishop Bo Giertz, *To Live With Christ* p. 456

On Awkward Social Gatherings and Odd Deficiencies

For me, they've just about ALL become awkward. The problem is with my ears. And so when I sit down with a bunch of people, I am almost invariably on edge. At my niece's wedding (sitting directly in front of the band!), there was plenty of table conversation, but I just smiled and nodded and hoped that I nodded at the right times. I noticed it several times during the recent Higher Things. I just have trouble in any kind of a crowd where there's hubbub or background noise or a bunch of folks seated together at a table. I get a lot of what is being said, but there are clearly times I totally miss what is being said. I think poor Pr. Borghardt thought I was a total ninny when I missed his jokes, but most of the time I just couldn't process the words.

If Cindi is at my side she usually helps me through. Her favorite is telling me: "That wasn't a yes or no question" when I've just totally missed someone's point. What's truly hysterical is what my brain makes the words I hear into. Yesterday, we were riding our bikes and Cindi said something that I heard as: "The beans are really sore." I knew that wasn't right, so I asked her to repeat herself. Her KNEES were really sore. Knees to beans? How on earth???

Anywho, for those of you have been puzzled by my puzzled look or inappropriate response to something you said, you now know what's up. Fabulously fit by 50 doesn't fix the hearing!!!

Oh, and one other funny. There Pastor Kesemann was giving his fine presentation on Sola Fide at Higher Things, and unlike me, he's good with powerpoint and has a neato presentation underway. Except he kept omitting the verses from Scripture that he was emphasizing. The rest of the verse was on the screen, but there were these odd blanks right at everything he was stressing. Finally it hit me. I asked the lady next to me what color the missing words were - they were red. She smiled and said: "A little color blind?" Yup. That too. Red on brown or black just doesn't want to show. Go figure.

13 July 2009

A Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, we adore You as the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus, and with the whole Church on earth and all the hosts of heaven we ascribe to You honor and blessing, thanksgiving and praise. Holy, holy, holy are You, Lord God Almighty; heaven and earth are full of Your glory. You created us in Your own image and redeemed us with the precious blood of Your Son. By Your Spirit You sanctified us and called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light.

Grant that we may with thankful hearts receive these great mercies and express our gratitude, not only with our lips but also in our lives as we give ourselves to Your service and walk before You in holiness and righteousness all our days. Deliver us from sin and error, from the frailties of the flesh, the allurements of this present age, and the temptations of the devil. Give us faith that works in love, hope that never disappoints, kindness that never fails, confidence in You that never wavers, patience that does not grow weary, and courage always ready to confess Christ, that we may live in Your mercy and die in Your peace; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (LSB Altar Book, p. 439)

Have I Posted Lately

on how the good people of St. Paul's never cease to amaze me with their generosity? With a bit of fear and trepidation, given the current economy, we put forward a request for new altar linens (ours had holes!), and a gold parament and vestment set for Easter. The response of the people was overwhelming. We've not only ordered the gold for Easter, but the scarlet for Holy Week, replaced our acolyte robes (ratty albs replaced with cassocks and cottas), AND ordered six new fair linens for the altar - effectively replacing all our old ones. And there's still a bit left over. Where are we getting the paraments, you ask? D. K. Brunner and Son! Where else? Why pay more when you can get more bang for your buck!

I Glanced Through

this document earlier today (and drew a quote from it), but now that I've read the whole thing in detail, I heartily commend it to all blog readers - what profound insight Bishop Giertz evidences! Any who want to understand Lutheran spiritual guidance should begin right here; and all pastors who hear confessions should take his teaching here, drawing on the spiritual masters of our tradition, to heart. It's a long read, but totally, totally worth it.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Sunday regains the character of the Lord's Day as an eschatological sign when the celebration of the Lord's Supper is again at its center. -- Albrecht Peters, *Ten Commandments* p. 183

A Taste of Sola...

HT: Pr. Borghardt

Patristic Quote of the Day

For there is no one else that will save us, except He Who so loved us when we were sinners, as even to give Himself up for us. -- St. John Chrysostom on Romans 5

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

One must be careful not to make the Order of Grace a staircase on which one gradually moves up to God. Likewise, it is not a school with definitively separate classes, where one takes one course at a time, one after the other, in order then to graduate and be moved up to the next level. It is rather a descent, a process of impoverishment, in which God takes away from man one after the other his false grounds of comfort. At its heart it is a description of how God’s love overcomes the obstacles and breaks down the dams which prevent the divine grace from freely pouring itself over a life. - Bishop Bo Giertz, *Life By Drowning* - choice reading available here. Thanks so much, Tapani!

12 July 2009

Speaking of getting BACK to low carbing...

...down in San Antonio I absolutely LOVED the borracho beans, with the rice. I could easily eat those puppies all day long. Cilantro was clearly a spice in the beans, but there were other flavors in there not so easy to discern. Neither Cindi nor Bekah (nor David) are big bean eaters - I think only Lauren and I are, truthfully. These were beans for a bean connoisseur. Fabulous!

De Carbing

after our trip to San Antonio has been totally enjoyable. Cindi's made delicioso after delicioso. Tonight's though was particular scrumptious. She fried up some chicken breasts in left over bacon grease, and topped them with a splash of salsa, some sautéed onions and cheese (basic salsa chicken). Most intriguing, though, was the veggie dish. She threw together some left over fresh broccoli with some frozen cauliflower and some leftover frozen sea food (shrimp, squid, clam, scallop), heated the whole thing and served it covered in a melted cream cheese and cream sauce. Oh, my. Talk about out of this world! There were NO leftovers of that one, let me assure you...

Talk about Christmas in July...

...SWEET! Luther's Works - Weimar Ausgabe in Google Books! HT: McCain.

Luther Gleanings

from House Postil for Trinity 7:

Aren't these eyes of our dear Lord Jesus Christ the friendliest and most loving eyes you've ever seen? They gaze right down into the hearts of these people, and his whole heart goes out to them, so hopelessly lost without a shepherd...

In short, there is no other task so difficult, as to train people to live piously, nor is there greater service we can render to God...

Spiritual food is far more precious than physical food, because it enables man to live eternally...

This is an example that fathers, mothers, lords, and ladies should follow, for by such service they can merit heaven for their own children and their household. What I mean is: The greatest, most God-pleasing work of faith a person can do, is to follow the example of Christ by helping people's souls, so they don't end up going to the devil...

The second lesson is that we get our priorities straight and make the searching of God's Word our first priority...

So then today's Gospel lesson is intended to teach us to recognize our dear Lord Jesus Christ as a gracious Lord and Father, who is anxious to help us both physically and spiritually.