31 January 2010

You know that I'm not

very "up" on current culture. But I kept thinking about "Blind Side" and how the NCAA lady had planted those doubts in Michael about why the Tuohys had befriended him. That's EXACTLY how Satan works in planting doubts about God, His commandments and His promises. He suggests that He doesn't want us out of love, but to use us. He plant the seeds of doubt that blossom into our full-blown suspicions and fears about Him. But in our Blessed Trinity there IS no ulterior motive. His love is His love and it is uncaused in us. He can't benefit from us sharing His joy and peace and Kingdom. Only we can. And so it is such a LIE that Satan sells us. "God knows that in the day you eat it..." See what he implies: "God's holding out on you; God's cheating you; God's using you." Okay, that's as far as I'm willing to venture into modern culture. Back to my time machine... [Thanks to Jim for correcting me on the organization that was questioning him]

A Day of Blessings

First, Zach and his girlfriend and mom showed up at St. Paul's - sweet!

Then, Pastor Hal Senkbeil joined us for the late service - sweet!

Then, Pastor Senkbeil joined us for a post-service breakfast - sweet!

Then, I got to hear Pastor Senkbeil hold forth to the SID (and assorted St. Louis) pastors and elders - double sweet!

THEN, Pr. Fritz Baue joined us for our Catechism service, and he agreed to share some thoughts with us on Baptism - and that was triple sweet!

Now I'm enjoying a mug of beer and thinking what a blessed day it has been...

P.S. Aside from the "spiritual" blessings, I also got to hold my dear god-daughter Sophia for a few minutes...she and her sister were drinking beer over at the parsonage during Pastor Senkbeil's presentation... Ask her mommy!

Great Pics of St. Paul's - by Meaghan

Pastor Elder Workshop at St. Paul's

Homily upon Septuagesima (2010)

[Exodus 17:1-7 / 1 Cor. 9:24-10:5 / Matthew 20:1-16]

When we start to head for the Lenten fast, we must remember that a fast is of no good at all if we are intent only on fasting from food, missing some meals; rather, we must above all fast from sin. And here is one sin that needs turning from in our lives: the sin of grumbling. Grumbling which is but the putrid odor of our distrust in God.

So the Israelites in today’s first reading. The people whom God had taken for himself from Egypt by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm - they were not happy. They wanted water and there was no H2O in sight at the place where God had instructed them set up camp. And so the grumbling starts, the quarreling with Moses and the testing of the Lord. The sad thing? God had the situation covered, as He always does. He wasn’t leading His people into a trap. He had taken thought for provision - miraculous provision, water from the rock. Streams pouring out in the desert. Their grumbling ended up looking pretty silly when that water began bursting from the rock.

But, of course, it wasn’t an isolated instance. Over and over again, in their journey to the promised land the people of Israel blew it - fell into grumbling because they kept doubting the goodness of the Lord and His provision. And they’re not alone in that, are they? We join them in it. We fear that God won’t take care of us or those we love, we fear that He’s playing some sort of game with us. And so we gripe and moan, we fear and question. And still He provides again and again and again. The fast is coming. With denying yourself some food, why not deny your mouth the words of complaint and your heart the agony of distrust that Satan would plant there? Not just for a few days, but let’s seek to fast from these for the rest of our pilgrimage.

In the epistle Paul speaks of our pilgrimage as a race - and how we need to run that race in such a way as to win the prize, disciplining our bodies, keeping them under control. Fasting again? Yes, but your tongue is also a part of your body and it cries out for disciple and control. How did James put it? With it you bless the God and Father who made you and with it you curse man made in the image of God? How did he describe it? A little member causing great trouble, set on fire from hell!

And in the epistle Paul warns against a faithless use of the Sacraments. A use of them as a sort of “get out of hell free” card when there is no repentance, no change, no disciplining of the body and no keeping the tongue under control. He warns: Look, the Israelites tried that route and you saw where it landed them. They were baptized in a sort of way - passing through the sea. They were communed in a sort of way - manna and the water from the rock. But “with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

So don’t fool yourself and say: it doesn’t matter if I don’t control myself, I can grumble as much as I please, thank you very much, I’ve got the sacraments to guarantee me forgiveness! People loved by God, it doesn’t work that way. Never has. Your Lord loves you and He wants to both forgive you AND set you free from sin’s power. To try to have forgiveness with no repentance for sin, is to fool yourself. Or, rather, to be fooled by Satan.

As we prepare for Lent, think about these things. Let’s repent for the sins of not controlling the tongue, and above all for the sin of not trusting in God’s good intentions toward us - He may lead us through a dry and barren land, but He will provide all the way along for us to reach the end of our pilgrimage and enter into His promised land. We may falter and we may fail, but HIS promises never do. We can count on them to the end!

But we're not done with the grumbling yet. In today’s Gospel there's more! The workers think that the owner of the vineyard is totally unfair. Everyone ends up with the same pay, even though some worked only the smallest piece of the day. “Not fair!” they cry. “You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” The owner is not impressed with the grumbling: “What just a second here. Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? I didn’t cheat you. I gave you what I promised. And I gave them what I didn’t promise. Why is your nose getting bent out of joint over that? Can’t I do what I want with my own? Or do you begrudge my generosity.”

The goodness of the master didn’t compute for the grumbling workers with their focus on fairness. They looked at His kindness as being wretchedly unfair, which of course it gloriously is! You been there? You ever thought that the Lord owed you because of your hard labor for Him? And have you ever grumbled in your heart when His mercy and kindness reach out to give the same gift to a person who repents at the very last hour after living a completely wretched life?

God dishes His gifts out without measure. He doesn’t play the “keeping track” game. He has more forgiveness than you have sin; more life than you have death; more mercy than you have misery. And He dumps it out lavishly. And the cross is the measure of His generosity. Your Lord went to the cross to answer for all our grumblings, for all our lack of self-control, for all our refusal to discipline that body of yours including your tongue, for all your neglect of your own soul, for all your standing idle. He bore those sins in His body upon the tree to death. He poured out His blood to blot out those sins and to free you from their power forever. He calls all to the discipline of work in the vineyard - working for His kingdom and trusting in the goodness of the Master to take care of our every need as we go about the work He’s given us to do. We don’t need to worry about the accounting at the end of the day - it will not be fair. It will be generous, generous beyond our deserving or imagining. The God who sends His Son to win salvation for all upon the cross - even for those who despise Him and grumble against Him - the God who raised His Son in triumph to destroy death, how will He not with Him freely give us all things?

So Lent comes, people loved by God. Let’s decide right now to fast and not only with our stomachs. Let us resolve to fast from using our tongues to grumble against each other and against our God. Let us resolve not to allow Satan to plant doubts about God’s goodness within us. Tasting the love lavished on us by the Crucified and Risen Lord, let our lips instead be filled with the praises of Him who labored tirelessly in His Father’s vineyard to provide for us the water of everlasting life. Let our mouths, fellow baptized, receive in His body and blood pardon and the strength to forsake the old way of grumbling and griping. So we will find in communion with Christ a generous and loving Father whose unfairness, whose GRACE, is our joy and delight, and to whom be all glory, with His all holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen.

30 January 2010

Just to Say It Again...

...LSB is one very solid and good book. Tonight (and tomorrow) we use Divine Service 4 (5th Sundays; DS 3 for all the rest). No, it's not my own preference, but it is nevertheless a quite solid and fine liturgy. I think the congregation is also growing to appreciate it a great deal; at least, they belted it out (even with a relatively small attendance).

Reminder: The Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord

This Tuesday at St. Paul's:

Vespers - 5:45
Divine Service - 6:15

The Presentation will also be the theme of Wednesday Matins with the school - 8:30

In peace and joy I now depart
Since God so wills it.
Serene and confident my heart,
Stillness fills it.
For God's promised death would be
No more than quiet slumber.


The Cases brought along Pr. Robert Baker tonight to Divine Service. Always a joy to see all three, but Kim and JW we do get to see rather often, Robert not so much. Glad to have them all there tonight for Septuagesima.

Jenny's Wonderful Tribute to Dorothy

She read this to us before we blessed the food at the wake:

On Wednesday I rode the train from Chicago to Alton and spent the trip remembering and celebrating Grandma. If you didn't know, Grandma was very fond of this trip. She'd come to Chicago several times a year and this was her way of getting there. A friend at work sent an email to let me know how sorry he was to hear about Grandma. He knew that she loved riding the train and said that I should ride the train down to honor her. I did just that.

When I think of Grandma so many special things come to mind. Here are a few:

Beauty Both Outside and In: Grandma not only looked like she could be my mom even at 80, people called her my mom. When we corrected them by saying she was my grandma their mouths hit the ground. So either I look older than I am or she looked extremely young - I think, and hope, it was the latter! Grandma always put everyone else first. She was selfless, thoughtful, caring, nurturing. The list goes on and on. If others were happy, she was happy.

Hair: Grandma was always fussing with her hair. Every time I saw her she asked me if I thought she should do something different with it. Truth be told, I never really thought it looked any different from the last time, but I played along. One of her favorite memories of me as a little girl was rolling my hair the night before church. Then she would take me and my curly locks to church and we would sit right in the front row. I guess she wanted to show of her good work.

Youth and Energy: Grandma always told me that she never wanted to slow down and if you ever saw her calendar you would know she didn't. I think she had more on her social calendar at 80 than I do now with two kids! Golf, Bowling, Choir, Ladies Aid, Bible Class, Going to see Adam and Jack's Games, Vacations, Shopping, Playing Upwords and Cards. You name it, she did it!

Love of Her Grandchilden: Grandma had such a special way with kids and babies. I recently called her the Baby Whisperer. She was the only one that could calm my screaming son, Trevor, which my husband and I were convinced had colic, and get him to fall asleep by holding him close and singing. She would have sat in the chair rocking him for hours had we let her.

My daughter, Abby, adored her. Despite having knee surgery, Grandma would get down on the floor and play with Abby for hours. She loved to read to her, often interjecting her own stories into the books that they were looking at. I'm not sure if her stories even matched the pictures but Abby didn't mind. And the goofy voices she used made Abby laugh and laugh.

Adam and Jack kept Grandma young. She always looked forward to and loved going to their activites and always told me how important it was for her to be close to them. Every time we were on the phone she talked about how big they were getting and the different things they were involved in. She had planned on bringing them up on the train to Chicago this summer so we could all be together.

And me, well I got to share 35 unforgettable years with her. She was always there to lend an ear and shoulder to lean on, to laugh with, to confide in, to share stories with and, most recently, help me out with my 2 small children. And, boy, a help she was! I knew I could always count on Grandma. We had a special bond and so many memories that will last a lifetime. She wasn't only my grandma but also my dear friend who filled my life with joy.

She was so proud of her family.

Love of the Church: As you know, Grandma was so involved with the church. She put God first in all that she did and lead by his example.

One of the last conversations I had with her was on Saturday after my son, Trevor, was baptized. She wasn't feeling up for making the trip and I know how important this day was to her. She told me she had been watching the clock for 11, which was the time of his baptism, and she cried when 11 came. I thought she was crying because she missed it, which I'm sure was part of it, but more importantly she was crying because she was so happy that Trevor had been reborn and saved.

My husband, Kevin, and I were talking after we found out and he said, "we can take peace in knowing that before Grandma went to bed on Monday night she said the Lord's Prayer and a special prayer for her family. And I'm positive she did just that.

The morning we heard about Grandma I walked into the kitchen where my daughter Abby was who's almost 2. She looked at me and said "Mommy's sad." I said yes, Mommy's sad because Great Grandma isn't here any more. She thought about that and said "Grandma's home." I said yes, Grandma's home now in heaven. She looked up, put her hand in the air and said "Hi Heaven."

Even though we weren't ready for Grandma to go, she was ready for Heaven just as soon as God wanted to call her home. Now she is at home with Grandpa.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is the Holy Spirit who conforms us to Christ and shapes our will to harmonize with the will of God. -- Earnest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 52.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As universal as is man's sin, just so universal are the provisions for man's redemption. -- H. E. Jacobs *Elements of Religion* p. 110

Patristic Quote of the Day

What does it mean to receive unworthily? To receive in mockery, to receive in contempt. Let the Sacrament not appear of trifling value to you because you look upon it. What you see passes; but the invisible, that which is not seen, does not pass; it remains. -- St. Augustine, Homily 227

So there we were

sitting at lunch - and a fine lunch it was too: leftover barbecued beef topped with coleslaw - and Cindi proceeds to tell David and me a story. She prefaces it with: "Oh, something funny from yesterday..." It was a rather long and involved story during which David looked increasingly perplexed and at the end of which David blurts out: "That wasn't funny. That wasn't funny at all. I demand my money back." I just wish he hadn't said it when I had a mouthful of food...

29 January 2010

Ah, Liverpool

is such a SPLENDID game. What did Cin say last week? "Knowledge and skill," I believe "is all it takes." What can I say? Both games tonight were mine. I had contemplated splitting the victory with Jo, but ended up greedily devouring the WHOLE DARNED THING. Ah, sweet. Randy, you need to come back for Pinochle - I think we played the wrong weekend...

Even though I try to keep US Politics

off of this blog, I must confess that this particular opinion piece nails a very embarrassing moment in our common life.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The life of the Christian is always directed, whether in intercession or praise, to the Father. So the individual life as well as the communal worship of the church is directed to the Father through Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Ghost. -- Earnest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 52.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The treasury of divine grace and blessing is always at hand, but oh, how languid and weak oftimes becomes the hand of faith to lay hold of its gifts! -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XLII

Patristic Quote of the Day

At first, after the prayer, you are admonished to lift up your heart. This befits the members of Christ. For, if you have become members of Christ, where is your Head? Members have a head. If the Head had not preceded, the members would not follow. Where has your Head gone? What did you recite in the Creed? 'On the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sits at the right hand of the Father.' Therefore, our Head is in heaven. Hence, when the 'Lift up your heart' is said, you answer: 'We have [them lifted up] to the Lord.' Then, because this lifting up of your hearts to God is a gift of God and lest you should attribute to your own strength, your own merits, and your own labors the fact that you have your hearts thus lifted up to the Lord, after the answer, 'We have our hearts lifted up to the Lord,' the bishop or priest who is officiating also says: 'Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because we have our hearts raised up to Him. Let us give thanks to Him, because if He did not give [the grace], we would have our hearts fixed on the earth.' And you bear witness to this, saying: 'It is right and just for us to give thanks to Him who caused us to raise our hearts up to our Head.' -- St. Augustine, Homily 227

Funeral Homily for Dorothy Behrhorst

[Isaiah 25:6-9 / Revelation 7:9-17 / John 11:17-27]

Ron and Lynn, Marc and Linda, Jenny, Adam and Jack, family and friends of Dorothy Behrhorst. It does not seem possible that we’re gathered in this room, doing what we’re doing, does it? As you said, Marc, it was so easy to forget that Dorothy was 80, after all. She never seemed to grow older - always effervescent, full of energy and enthusiasm, living life full steam ahead. And when was she ever NOT that way? When did the promises of God in Christ ever not seem to fill her with joy?

I’ve been with her as her husband was dying, as her mother and her mother-in-law passed, and as both her sisters died. One sorrow piled on top of another. But she never looked at them that way, did she? “Another one gathered home! I can’t wait!” To Dorothy the promises of God in Christ simply outweighed the sorrows and filled her life with that bubbly hope that she was so good at sharing.

She believed with all her heart in that promise Isaiah spoke. That on the Lord’s mountain, the Lord had a feast for His people - a feast to celebrate death’s destruction and overthrow. A feast of joy as the Lord wiped away tears and took away the reproach of His people. She knew all about that feast. She literally lived from it. Time and again, she presented herself before the Lord’s altar and opened her mouth to receive from the Savior’s hand the promise and guarantee that her sins were forgiven, covered in Jesus’ blood, and that she had in her Savior a life bigger than death - a life that death would never be able to take from her. And the Table, I believe, became more dear to her as the sweet trysting place with her beloved family that had gone on before. She knew that she gathered with them - a forgiven people sharing a life beyond the grave’s grip. Her face beamed as she received the promise of the Lord’s body and blood.

And how she delighted in being in the Lord’s house and worshipping with His people, singing in the choir, listening to His words and promises, knowing that she was part of that great gathering that St. John saw in Revelation 7 - her robes might white in the blood of the Lamb the day she was baptized - a mere 11 days after her birth. You know how this past week she was celebrating that her youngest great-grandson had received the washing of rebirth in the Lamb’s blood and been clothed with the same white robe of Jesus’ righteousness that was her joy and delight. You know how eager she was for EVERYONE to get in that water with Jesus and get those glory robes. She didn’t want a single soul to miss out on the joy of standing before the throne of God and serving Him day and night in His temple, living in the shelter of His presence. She couldn’t imagine what life would be like without that comfort and joy - and so she witnessed about it to everyone. Yes, even when the Baptists came by and invited her to come with them to church, SHE invited them to join HER!

Dorothy was able to say good-bye to her family and friends as they left this world with tears, but yet with that unquenchable bubbly joy, because she trusted above all the promise of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Our Lord asked Martha whether she believed that. He asked Dorothy the same thing too. Before this altar in 1943 as she was being confirmed. And she gave her joyous “yes!” and gave it time and again ever since. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”
So she lived her life free. Free from the corrosion of despair. Free from the anxiety of fear. Free from the dread of death. What was death to her? Her Lord had blasted a hole right through it and promised her the gift of eternal life with Him. She could speak of that promise with glowing confidence and joy - and so she strengthened all of us.

And because she was free in Christ, she could live her life here just loving others. What joy she had in the trips she got to take! What joy in that little puppy dog in these last years! What joy with friends at the card table! What joy in you, her beloved sons, and Linda, and you grandchildren, Jenny and Abigail and Trevor and Adam and Jack - you were what she was always bragging on. Cindi told me yesterday about how she always had a story or a picture of something you’d been up to share with her fellow choir members - and I’ll bet it was the same with the card club.

I hope I haven’t made her sound unreal - as though she weren’t a sinner. She knew she was. She knew that she needed and lived from her Savior’s pardon. But she really was a shining example to us of what joy in Christ looks like when the promises of Christ have taken hold of a heart and joined it eternally to the Blessed Trinity.

In the days to come I know you’ll miss her. Trust me when I say that a lot of people will be missing her. Will find it hard to comprehend a life without her. But she’d be correcting me right now and saying: “What do you MEAN a life without me? Don’t you believe His promises? I am not dead, but living in Him. And you will be too. Just wait. You’ll see!”

And she’d be so right. Dorothy, we love you and we’re very glad that we haven’t really lost you at all. And for that we give glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dorothy H. Behrhorst, age 80, of Hamel, died at 7:10 a.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010, at her residence in Hamel.

She was born on June 5, 1929, in Hamel, the daughter of the late Arthur H. and Olga M. Brunnworth Uelsmann.

She married Wilbur E. Behrhorst on June 11, 1950, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. He preceded her in death on July 31, 1994.

She is survived by two sons: Ronald L. Behrhorst of Hamel and Marc A. and wife Linda Behrhorst of Edwardsville; three grandchildren: Jennifer and husband Kevin McCarthy of Chicago, Adam Behrhorst of Edwardsville and Jack Behrhorst of Edwardsville; and two great-grandchildren: Abigail and Trevor McCarthy.

Along with her parents and her husband, she is preceded in death by two sisters: LaVerne Halbe and Eileen Schwalb.

Mrs. Behrhorst was born and raised in Hamel, on a farm north of Hamel. She worked for Famous Barr in customer services in Alton. She worked for Hamel Township doing clerical work.

She enjoyed cards, golf, bowling, traveling and church activities.

Her memberships included St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, the Church Missionary League and the church choir.

28 January 2010

She IS David's Mommy...

...so I start to pull out for Cindi and I to head to town for a bite of lunch. She says: "Stop! I can't find my phone." She's looking here and there. She decides it must be inside. So I back up and she prepares to get out of the car, and puts down the things in her hand... including her phone. Right. And she always blames ME for being where David gets his dingy genes from. Uh, huh...

News Covers LCMS Relief Efforts

in Haiti.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is the nature of the sacramental action that the past, historical event of God's act in Jesus Christ, the end set to this present age, and the present celebration of the Eucharist coalesce into this single event. -- Earnest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 51.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The provisions of Redemption, therefore, are ample for all. Not only do the Holy Scriptures declare that they are sufficient for all, but directly and explicitly that they have been made and are intended for all. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 67.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He who wishes to advance has the source of advancement. When you come to church, put aside empty talk; concentrate your attention on the Scriptures. -- St. Augustine, Homily 227

27 January 2010

You know...

I love teaching Ephesians. It is my hands-down favorite book in the New Testament. At least this week...

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Here we are concerned with an action of God. God is at work today, also in this service - however humble the circumstances in which the celebration occurs - in bestowing on us the riches which are Christ's. Here the fullness of His grace, the full and free remission of our sins, is granted us. The note of the hodie, today, runs through each celebration. -- Earnest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 50

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Resurrection is the miracle above all other miracles. -- H. E. Jacobs *Elements of Religion* p. 101

Patristic Quote of the Day

That Bread which you see on the altar, consecrated by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what the chalice holds, consecrated by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. -- St. Augustine, Homily 227


Looks very much like Apple has just done it again. Amazing...

Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom

From our Synod's website and the Treasury:

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

A snippet of the writing assigned to today by St. John:

And what does "ransom" mean? God was about to punish them, but He did not do it. They were about to perish, but in their stead He gave His own Son and sent us as heralds to proclaim the cross. These things are sufficient to attract all and to demonstrate the love of Christ. [Treasury, p. 1157]

Collect: O God, You gave Your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature... [Treasury, p. 1158]

26 January 2010

I hope you've been keeping up

with Pr. Harrison's Mercy Blog. Here is the latest installment.

Words that Become More Dear

with each death:

Death, you cannot end my gladness;
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this life-long comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring,
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ,
I'm a child of paradise!
LSB 594:4,5

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The whole liturgy is a response, now full of hope or supplication, now joyful or full of thanksgiving, to God's revelation in Christ. It is a remembrance of Christ, reliving with Him now in the Eucharistic celebration the events of His earthly life. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 48.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As faith grows, so contrition grows. -- Henry E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 165

Patristic Quote of the Day

If we ourselves forgive, we seek to be forgiven with the utmost confidence; but if we do not forgive, let us not think that our sins are forgiven; let us not deceive ourselves. -- St. Augustine, Homily 211

+ Dorothy Behrhorst

Asleep in Jesus last night. Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her!

25 January 2010

The Conversion of St. Paul


Vespers 5:45 this evening
Divine Service 6:15

Saul thought it was a lie, a fraud, a trick and a cheat. Then our Lord revealed himself to him in His Risen and Ascended glory. In an instance Saul's life was changed as every assumption he'd ever made about Jesus and what His followers said about Him crumbled to dust. From the ashes, a new man arose. A man destined to be the greatest of the Apostles and the mighty teacher of the nations: St. Paul. How utterly like our Lord to take a fervent enemy and transform him into a dear friend! Join us as we celebrate the story of the man who found out the truth...

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Yet it is not enough that one be confronted with Christ as an external reality or as an historical figure. He must be Christus pro me; He must be my Christ. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 47

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

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. -- Henry E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 200

Patristic Quote of the Day

Be particularly mindful of the poor, so that what you take from yourself by living sparingly you may lay away in heavenly treasures. - St. Augustine, Homily 210

24 January 2010


is an even MORE STUPID game than liverpool. Don't listen to ANYTHING Rachel or Cindi write...

Not A Point

I think sometimes when we discuss the liturgy, we can give the impression that the eschatological reality that is the Church "happens" only in the liturgical assembly around the Words of God read and preached and the Holy Eucharist celebrated. But this is a very grave misunderstanding.

The Church as eschatological reality does not exist solely in the Eucharistic Assembly. Rather, her particular mode of existence in Eucharistic assembly is the source of her strength for her perpetual task in this world: the invasion. We are part of an alien invasion, make no bones about it. We are here to rescue as many "earthlings" as we can for the joys of that heavenly life that we certainly taste in Eucharistic assembly - our secret "visit home" each week. Strengthened to orient our lives toward the unseen realities that our Master Invader has revealed to us, He sends us out to BE His Church in this world.

A friend of mine used to speak of Church gathered and Church scattered. Perhaps we should say: Church assembled and Church deployed. Deployed by the Master Invader, pulsing with His divine life, and dispatched into this world to BE to the praise of His glory, to show in this world a way of life that is utterly freed from the terror of death, from the power of hatred, fueled by a love so astonishing, by a life so indestructible, that it shines and draws the mere earthlings to itself.

Each time Pre-Lent and Lent swing around, it is the Church's corporate confession that we haven't very well lived that way. It's not that the new life has not been richly dumped on us in the Divine Service, but that we've failed in the deployment. We've failed to orient our lives toward that Easter life that Baptism made our own and that the Eucharist weekly renews in us. And each year, it is the opportunity to become in this world, who He has both declared and made us to be when He brought our lives under His sway. So that Church isn't a point. It's not what happens merely when assembled, but becomes who we are when we're taking out the trash, working out at the Y, dining out, finishing the project, sawing the beam or writing the contract. We do all the stuff of this world as Church, as those who have been brought back from death to life and whose sins are simply buried under the blood of the Cross.

"You shall be my witnesses." It's not a command. It's a promise.

After Transfiguration Joys...

...coming home to a table full: Lauren and Dean, Meaghan and Bekah, Cindi and I. We polished off a ton of bacon and sausage and eggs and toast. Delish! Still ahead for the day, Catechism Vespers and then Randy and Rachel are coming over for REAL pinochle (passing!) and the men fully intend to whoop up good on the ladies. Yeah, yeah.... the best laid plans... We can but try.

23 January 2010

Waiting Impatiently...

...for this:

[taken last spring in Missouri]

Musikalische Exequien

During a chat with my dear friend, Joe Herl, he mentioned that I HAD to get this recording of Schütz by La Chapelle Royale. It is a gem indeed. Aside from the superb vocal performance, the one thing that Schütz's music conveys is the utter peace with which a Christian can face "the last enemy" when securely tucked into Christ via Baptism into Him, nourished by His body and blood, and fortified by the promises of God's Word. Among the many promises Schütz has set to music:

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die in the Lord; thus whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

God so loved the world... (2 settings of this, actually).

The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.

Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we await a Savior, Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.

Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

There are also some Lutheran chorale settings that will amaze. From "Dear Christians" the lovely stanza: "God said to His beloved Son, It's time to have compassion" and from "In peace and joy" we get "Christ is the Hope and Saving Light."

Schade, alles ist auf Deutsch! But even if you don't do Deutsch, the music is simply stunning. I highly recommend it: Musikalische Exequien

From the Transfiguration Liturgy

Your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!... O God in the glorious transfiguration of your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in His glory... You are the most handsome of the sons of men... Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! Alleluia!... O Wondrous Type! O vision fair Of glory that the Church may share Which Christ upon the mountain shows Where bright than the sun He glows!... It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who at His transfiguration revealed His glory to His disciples that they might be strengthened to proclaim His cross and resurrection and with all the faithful look forward to the glory of life everlasting... Fulfiller of the past, Promise of things to be, We hail Thy body glorified And our redemption see... Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die...

Transfiguration Homily

Transfiguration is a feast for the eyes and for the ears. What the eyes see is awesome. Jesus suddenly changed. His face, shining like the sun! His clothes, dazzling in their whiteness! Glory beams in bright rays from his body. What the ears hear is the Father's voice proclaiming this glorified and shining person His beloved Son to whose words we must give our attention. Moses and Elijah, Lawgiver and Prophet, witness to His glory as the Only begotten Son of the Father.

Now, let's be clear: Jesus didn't get another body there on the mountain; it was his same Body, the very flesh that he'd received as his own in Blessed Mary's womb. That's what glistened and glittered on the mountaintop. It's very important to remember that, if we are to unlock the full joy of this feast today.

Because, you see, what Peter, James, and John witnessed, what they saw on the mountain, was a glimpse into their own future - and yours and mine too. "Beloved," wrote St. John to the community of the Baptized, "we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is!" (1 Jn 3:2) "When Christ, who is your life, is revealed" wrote St. Paul, "then you also will be revealed with him in glory!" (Col. 3:4) At the Second Coming of Jesus, all who have lived and died trusting in Him will be raised in bodies that will be like his, shining in glory. That's exactly what the angel told the prophet Daniel about the last day when those asleep in the dust of the earth awake - some to shame but some to everlasting glory: "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky!" (Dan. 12:3)

So on the Mountain Jesus gives the favored three (and us through them) a glimpse of what his finished work in us will look like! It was a vision meant to comfort and sustain them, to remind them of why Jesus was doing what he was getting ready to do. "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead" he orders, as he leaves one mountain behind and journeys toward another: Mount Calvary.

If the vision on top of the Mount of Transfiguration reveals what Jesus wants to accomplish in us, it is Calvary that reveals how he will do it. He will lift you to his glory by entering into your shame. He will clothe you in his brightness by letting his Father clothe him with your sin. He will gain access to the Father for you as beloved sons and daughters of God by being denied that access Himself - "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" And having accomplished the Father's will, having suffered for you and died for you, He was raised to life again, clothed once more in the divine glory that He has given you the right to share with Him forever, clothed in a glory that He will never again hide or take off. And in that we are given the pattern of God's work in our own lives.

You see, your moment of transfiguration happened on the day of your Baptism, when you were clothed with Christ. That, of course, is the day God looked at you and said: "This is my Child! This is the one I love and in whom I am delighted!" That your baptism is your transfiguration is also shown by the gift of the white garment. We don't do it here at St. Paul- we only give a white napkin - but many churches do actually clothe the newly baptized in a white robe. Your transfiguration robe! A confession that by Baptism into Jesus your life is headed for the everlasting glory He revealed on the mountain.

But after the transfiguration comes the journey to the other Mount. The journey toward death. For the final glorification of our bodies does not happen without death (except for that generation alive at our Lord's second coming). Suffering and death with Jesus come first; the glorification with Jesus comes afterward. But do you see how the promise of the glorification gives us the courage to face the inevitable deterioration of our bodies?

In our more sane moments we know that we can do nothing to stop our bodies from falling apart. Not the best diet, not the best exercise program in the world, not the finest clothes or the best makeup will be able to prevent the moment arriving when we can't do some of the things we always took for granted before, because our bodies are simply giving out on us. But when we remember that these decaying bodies of ours have been marked and tagged by the Redeemer with the promise and guarantee of sharing in his Resurrection glory, we can face our own physical demise and, yes, our deaths with a hope that cannot be quenched!

It's just like St. Paul wrote: "So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…. So we are always confident." (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1,6)

And as if the promise of our Father regarding Baptism were not enough, we have our Lord's promise: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day." (Jn 6:54) As often as that Table is spread before us, Christ strengthens and sustains the inner nature, and comforts us with the promise of the resurrection for the outer nature. What more could we ask?

Transfiguration - the feast of a glory that will be yours and mine! Let us keep our eyes trained on the vision of that future that we may walk unafraid and confident through the valley of death's shadow, until we stand shining with Christ on the mountain top, singing all the way: O Father, with the Eternal Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace to see Thy glory face to face. Amen!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Worship is either an encounter with the reality of God, or it is some kind of attempt by man to raise himself by his own bootstraps. It then becomes an occasion for moralizing, a theatrical show, or a sort of pep rally. On the contrary, in the ancient church, the reading of the Gospel was surrounded with festive splendor because here Christ addresses His faithful followers. As the exalted Lord of the Church He today still exercises His prophetic function through His preachers and teachers. We still bear witness to His presence in the acclamations before and after the Gospel. We sing: "Glory be to Thee, O Lord!" and "Praise be to Thee, O Christ!" - Earnest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 47

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The center of this revelation is Christ; since all that God is to us, He is in Christ, and all that we know of God, we know through Christ. -- H.E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 170

Patristic Quote of the Day

We have received the Holy Spirit, the gracious and gratuitous pledge of this hope, who stirs up in our hearts the indescribable pains of holy desires. -- St. Augustine, Homily 210

22 January 2010

I hate to say it...

...but my wife is a dog and a half. And so is my father-in-law. Jo and I agree: we don't like either one of them. Wait till next week!!!

Sunshine would have been nice...

...but still a great day off. Started out nice and slow with a call for breakfast. Cin, Bekah and I enjoyed some sausage, eggs and toast (I had made fresh bread last night and it actually worked). After Bekah headed out to school. Cin and I took our time drinking coffee (I still can't believe she's drinking coffee with me - proof of miracles, I tell you!) and doing morning prayers and then some web surfing. She gave me a hair cut (she does this for me every two weeks - I keep trying to twist her arm for each week - and the weird thing is she cuts my hair now exactly how I had it cut when I was like four, which if you have hair like mine that grows in more directions than are on the face of compass is a very good thing!) and then we headed into town to workout. Nice long workout this morning for both of us. I did the treadmaster for an hour (1000 cal burn at 4 miles and 3,000+ foot climb) and then hit the machines for back and arms. Cindi stuck with bike and stepper and the usual assortment of tortures that Kevin taught her last year. After our workout we went to 54th Street Grill - too late. A 20 minute wait. I'm not into waiting. We switched to Applebees and had a great meal. We usually share a meal together - always just the perfect amount. Then a quick trip to Walmart and finally to the movies. Saw Blindside, and that was a very good movie. The mom character was unbelievable. Home now and planning on a light supper and then cards with Dave and Jo (at which I intend to kick posterior - hey, I can at least hope). And yeah, it would have been nice to see some sun. I believe you're still up there, big guy, but I wish you'd stop giving us the cold shoulder.

21 January 2010

One the MOST important and MOST neglected...

...statements in the Lutheran Symbols (Confessions):

"They abolish true divine services (i.e., the exercises of faith struggling with despair)." Tr. 44

True worship = exercising faith [to strengthen it] as it struggles with despair.

Welcome to the Christian life! Faith struggles to hold tight to (and live from) the promises of God in the face of what appears to be their utter foolishness and negation by this world.

You are holy? Sure, you are! God will provide for all your needs? You have GOT to be kidding! You know that your rotting flesh is going to rise from the dead in glory? What have you been smoking! You believe that there is plan, meaning, and purpose behind the events of this world and your life? Baby, you are just a speck of dust on this speck of dust we call earth floating in the middle of one vast, cold and empty universe - and there is NO meaning to your life or to any of this. Deal! Bread and wine are the body and blood from some dude who walked this earth 2,000 years ago and give you a life that never ends? Uh, huh. Where are the men in the white suits, already?!

And so on and on the battle goes. The Christian will come to live by the story told by the promises of God's Word and so be transformed by them (and of course find them utterly and blessedly true) or he will succumb to the enemies design's and despair of the promises by believing Satan's lies.

Divine worship is a battle to strengthen faith for holding onto the promises. We know faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God. Faith comes from the promises - they are what the Holy Spirit uses to give and to strengthen faith! So we hurl the promises at each other, drench each other in them, wrap each other up in them to help one another in the struggle as we live in this very broken and damaged world, stumbling on, crawling toward the joys of the Age that is to come - where everything that is not Love will at last and blessedly be history!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As the seasons of the church year make their annual circuit, the preacher has no other task than to unfold the mysterium Christi, the mystery of Christ. He makes it known in all its splendor, with a sense of awe and wonder and with all its meaning for the faltering lives of Christ's little ones. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 46

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Pelagianizing Romanist says, Lust, or concupiscence, brings forth sin, therefore it cannot be sin, because the mother cannot be the child. We reply, Concupiscence brings forth sin, therefore it must be sin, because child and mother must have the same nature. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 389

Patristic Quote of the Day

Our King, however, portraying in Himself alone the four figures of animals mentioned in the Apocalypse of John, was born as a man, rendered service as a lion, was immolated as a calf, and flew upward as an eagle. - St. Augustine, Homily 209

20 January 2010


Written in red in the Altar Book and hymnal (many more in the Altar Book than the hymnal). They are everyone's favorite whipping boy. But they get a bum rap. I love how the intro to the Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book puts it:

Rubrics are never to be seen as an end in and of themselves. Their purpose is not to call attention either to themselves or to those leading the service. The purpose of the rubrics is to promote reverence toward God, thus freeing the worshiper to receive God's gifts offered through His means of grace, and to offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. A genuine and authentic use of the rubrics allows the focus of the service to be on the grace and mercy of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (p. x.)

In other words, they delineate good habit. So you don't have to think about them. So you don't have to think about what to do at this point or that, which way to turn, what gesture to make with your hands. They become second nature and instead of looking like a "performance" they become simply how we live together in the Divine Service.

When rubrics are all made into "may" rubrics - when everything is treated as optional - the result is that no one knows what to expect or how to act. The pastor moves onto "center stage" and he holds the service together by his antics. Rubrics are there so that you don't have to think about such things - the focus is solidly on the Lord, His Word, His gifts. For the parish that respects and observes them, the pastor's actions become totally unremarkable.

Rubrics. They're all about getting the spotlight off the presider and letting it stay fixed on our Lord who comes among us with His gracious words of life and with His body and blood for our forgiveness, our life, and our salvation.

19 January 2010

Last Sunday's Hymn of the Day

was a true gem. I especially loved this stanza:

O time of God appointed,
O bright and holy morn,
He comes, the king anointed,
The Christ, the virgin-born,
Grim death to vanquish for us,
To open heav'n before us,
And bring us life again.

LSB 402:2

It is one of the few hymns in our hymnal written by a woman: Elisabeth Cruciger.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Certainly it is the praying, worshipping, sacramental, inclusive fellowship that presents the most convincing answer - and ultimately the only answer - to modern individualism. -- Earnest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 44.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Scripture censures the abuse of fasts, not that it may simply condemn fasting itself, but that it may show its true manner and godly use and approve and confirm it by many godly examples. For whatever has clear examples in the Word of God and approved examples of the saints in Scripture must not be numbered among human traditions; but if human traditions have patched any superstitious abuses or wrong opinions onto fasting, these must be discerned and separated from the exercises of fasting as they are taught in testimonies of the Word of God and approved by examples of Scripture. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, Examen IV:255

Patristic Quote of the Day

Those who refrain from flesh meat in order to seek other kinds of food more difficult to obtain and more costly make a great mistake. For this is not undertaking abstinence, but simply varying one's luxury. -- St. Augustine, Homily 209

18 January 2010

Transfiguration and Following

For those of us using the one-year lectionary, this coming Sunday will be observed as Transfiguration (one of the Lutheran changes to the historic calendar - moving it from August 6, though many still observe it upon that day - see Hammer of God). After Transfiguration the little season of pre-Lent begins. Here I always think of the unfortunate Bilbo Baggins being hurried out of his hobbit hole by Gandalf with not even time to pack an extra kerchief. We're far more comfortable heading off on a journey when we have time to think about where we're going, how we'll get there, and what we'll need for the journey.

Lent itself is the journey to the Paschal Mystery: to our Lord's lifting up through Cross, Descent into Hell, and Resurrection from the dead. It is a journey to the new life into which Baptism placed us, and which our own lives continually betray and ignore. Lent, then, is not an exercise in disciplines needed only for six odd weeks of our earthly pilgrimage each year. What a waste that would be! Lent is rather the boot-camp wherein we practice toward that life which will be ours fully and finally on the Day of the Resurrection of all flesh.

But if Lent is such a journey, then pre-Lent is the preparation for such a journey each year. How may one prepare for this journey? The Gospel readings point the way: by grace alone (Septuagesima's Gospel: no credit to us - working in the vineyard is a gift); by the Word alone (Sexagesima's Gospel: the operative power for the new life comes from God's own Words to us, not our ascetical efforts); by faith alone (Quinquagesima's Gospel: which is the joy of companionship with Jesus as with eyes now wide open and healed we follow Him up to Jerusalem). Pre-Lent, in other words, strips from us the illusion of "He does His part and we do ours" and shows us our total dependance upon our Lord; this change we seek is wrought freely by His grace at work through the power of His Word as He strengthens our faith to walk with Him through our own Calvarys and out of our tombs. If I may put it so, with Pre-Lent the Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism are cleansed out of Lent for us, and we can approach the Day of Ashes totally dependent upon our Lord. As we pray on each of the Sunday's of this little season:

may we mercifully be delivered by YOUR goodness (Sept.)...by YOUR power may we be defended against all adversity (Sex.)...having set us free from the bonds of our sins, deliver us from every evil (Quin.)!

Right before sunset

I noticed some color in the sky (other than leaden gray). But it rapidly disappeared. Now we're swathed in fog again. This has been one of the dreariest winters I EVER recall. Where is the powder blue sky of winter that we associate with these days? It's been like November gray from October till now. Still, Cindi got a treat today. She pulled in from her workout to see a splash of color in the yard: two red foxes. They hung around a bit and eventually headed down the Church road toward a neighboring farm. I remember several years back watching one trot down the road in broad-daylight. Well, there was no "broad daylight" today in the St. Louis area, but the foxes were out all the same. Wish I'd seen Mr. and Mrs. Maynard myself.

Celebrating 70 Years: Happy birthday, Jo!

All the gang gathered at Ravanelli's in Collinsville to help Jo celebrate passing her milestone. We remembered back to when Dave had his big party turning 60 and it sure didn't seem that long ago, but looking at the "young" people gathered around the table, we realized it was quite a while. Well, Joanne, we dearly love you and we sure hope that THIS year will be better for you than last: may the Lord keep you in good health. Oh, and I still on plan on beating you Liverpool on Friday, birthday or not (hey, a guy can hope, can't he?).

Confession of St. Peter

Will NOT be observed at St. Paul's today, but TOMORROW (Tuesday) with Vespers at 5:45 and Divine Service at 6:15. Note that this is different from the published calendar. Let's just call it "operator error" and let it go at that... :)

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Lutheran Church today, in maintaining the practice of close Communion, witnesses to the corporate character of Christ's body and to the requirement that the member examine his life. It sees a danger in precipitously conferring the privileges of fellowship upon those who are as yet unaware of the responsibilities of that fellowship. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 42.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Therefore the ranks or orders were distinguished, not by empty titles, but according to certain duties that belonged to the ministry of the church. The bishop taught the Word of God and had charge of the church's discipline. The presbyters taught and administered the sacraments. The deacons were in charge of the treasuries of the church, in order from them to provide sustenance to the poor and in particular for the ministers of the church. -- Martin Chemnitz, Examen II:686,687

Patristic Quote of the Day

For, when the body is chastised and brought into subjection, pleasures are to be limited, not merely changed. What difference does the kind of food make when it is immoderate desire that is censured? -- St. Augustine, Homily 207

Pastoral Report for 2009

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

2009 was the 153rd year that the Holy Spirit through the blessed Word and Sacraments gathered to Christ our Lord a congregation of sinner-saints here at St. Paul’s New Gehlenbeck. As I thought over this year, the words of Ecclesiastes haunted my mind:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecc. 3:1-8)

A time for every matter under heaven - and it seems we had all those times this year. The Feast of our Lord’s Baptism brought the joy of seeing Ian Nathaniel Peter Wood embraced in the font of living water; and the very next day Wyatt Ray Buckner was named as Christ’s own. Joy overflowing. But as the little pilgrims were beginning to walk the path, an older brother was completing his pilgrimage. Carl Wilfred Steinmann passed from this age on January 14th. He, who had so blessed this parish with his carpentry work, was gathered into the arms of the Carpenter from Nazareth who had built for Carl and for us an eternal home in the heavens (2 Cor. 5).

Through the remainder of January and February we fed on the Scriptures that celebrate our Lord’s epiphany and we were comforted by the promise of the glory that shines in Him who is our brother and our God. A time to plant, a time for peace. On the 14th of February we were blessed to celebrate the union of Nate Hartley and Andrea Braasch. A time to dance - and Cindi made me at their reception. But with the joy also a time for tears: Delmar Monken fell asleep in Jesus on February 22nd, fortified by the Sacraments of the Holy Church and in the sure hope of the resurrection to life everlasting. Also I think it was sometime that month we heard word of Bev Vallow had experienced a return of the cancer that everyone thought was gone. It was the start of some very difficult times for that family.

March found us walking the path of the Cross with our Lord, step by step through His Passion and toward His triumph on the tree. On the 22nd of the month, little Alexander Michael Schwarz was born and he was baptized into Christ that very day in the hospital. Just a tiny bit of water and the holy name of God, and he was united to his Lord forever. Seven days later, we had the joy of another Baptism: Matthew Michael Kostich had his sins washed away and was named as the Lord’s own and made his holy temple.

April brought us Palm Sunday confirmations and Easter joys. On April 5th Jenna Inmann, Jonathan Klinger, Chelsey Lippoldt, Alex Micnheimer, and Austin Werner were examined in the faith, confirmed and welcomed to the Lord’s table. It was a day of great joy and the Church was packed. A few short days later, the Vigil and we welcomed Lisa and Neil and Sam Micnheimer and Maxx Webb to the Lord’s table and confirmed them in the faith. The next day was Easter and as always the services were beautiful with the joy of God’s people belting out their alleluias to celebrate Christ’s victory over death and the grave as their victory in Him. Before the month was out, baptismal water was flowing again and we had the joy of Christina Phipps rebirth. She positively shone with joy that day. Not so joyous, during the month we also entered into an organist vacancy that was to last until the end of October.

May kicked off with a wedding: our beloved Darcy Huckleberry - with that bubbly personality that always brought smiles to our faces - married Matthew Geu. He is one lucky dude. The next day, saw Collin Robert Meier brought into the Holy Church. The Weedons exited town to attend Lauren’s graduation from Concordia Seward, and as we left Beverly Vallow finished the good fight and entered eternal glory. Pastor Gleason had her funeral here at St. Paul’s. What an up and down of joy and sorrow. I got to address the Augustana Ministerium in its meeting that month over near Kansas City. I no sooner got back, than Frieda Jones ended her pilgrimage. She’d been so lost in a fog over these last few years - being with Christ and having her memories restored and healed - that gave hope to those who mourned her passing. School wrapped up that month and we had the joy of Metro’s baccalaureate (barely fit!) and TSP’s graduation - back to back!

June brought wheat harvest and in the midst of one torrential downpour, the Lord harvested one of his own children too: Alfred Wehrend. Another one long robbed of his memories. He fell asleep in Jesus and it was with sorrow and yet joy that Clara and I sang together over his body the promises of the resurrection in the hymns of the Church. Her faithfulness in caring for him through all these years is a shining witness to us of what marital love is to be. As one of our vicar’s said of years ago: That is one brave lady. Indeed, she is and remains and inspiration to us all. June also brought us the joy of marriage: Pastor Larry Meinzen and Peggy Sachtleben were united in holy matrimony on the 7th - and all the Meinzen and Sachtleben crew joined us for worship that day (with the wedding immediately following late service). What joyful singing!

July began with joy again. Baptismal streams overflowing little Clara Rolene Hemann. She was just starting her life in Christ; her grandmother’s pilgrimage was already drawing to a close. To our shock, Larmen Engelke passed away suddenly on July 19th. So vibrant and alive he always was that we found difficult to believe he could be gone - surely no 90 year old was ever more active! In the middle of all that, Cindi and I travelled to San Antonio to speak at Higher Things Youth Gathering and then a week later to Grand Rapids Michigan - from which we rushed home to do Larmen's funeral. Toward the tale end of July we had two more Baptisms to joy in: Erik and Bethany Preus’ little Madelyn brought into Christ and the same day Meila Jo Robinson was given new birth in the waters. A time to plant - the new life in Christ.

With August, a time to embrace. Lauren Nichole Gerber given in marriage to Kyle Anthony Fuhrmann. Joys abounding! And right in the full sunshine of joy, the shadow of death. Rolene Hemann’s earthly journey reached its end on August 3. A woman of great faith and at peace with whatever the Lord willed - just don’t mess with the cat, for he was king of the house! She was my poster child for older folk using email and the web. She always kept up on things that way. But she was so ready to go and so peaceful in her leaving. She knew where she was going and had long prepared for it. And from a time for tears to a time for joy: the baptism of little Aubrey Anenetta on the 8th and Jacob Richard Spencer on the 22nd. And more joy as a new school year kicked in too. So wonderful to see the children back again.

September was mostly sorrow. It seemed as though there were a death in our parish every week. And such unthinkable loss for us. September 7th, unexpectedly, Hilbert Schumacher’s soul was gathered into the heavenly mansions while his body was laid to rest in the hope of the resurrection. Hilbert was the president of St. Paul’s when I came here as your pastor and through all the ups and downs of the years, he was like a rock, not just to me but to this parish. A St. Paul’s without Hilbert Schumacher and his laughter and joy in the Lord? It seemed and seems unthinkable. Three days later, Alfred Andersen fell asleep in Christ. Though Alfred came to us in his old age, he was so much a part of this place. Whenever did we have the doors open and he not be here, often with the tin of cookies that he excelled at making, always with a story and a smile. Ten days after Alfred died, we lost our Albert Ernst. Albert was yet another pillar of St. Paul’s - a man who had fought the hard fight in the battle for the Bible and whose zeal and joy in his Lord were downright infectious. Oh, he could be handful and half. There was NO winning an argument with him, and the sooner you realized it the better. And we all loved him because when all was said and done, he was just happy to be a child of the heavenly Father and so grateful for the gift of the Lord’s Scriptures. A week after Albert’s death, Sue Vaughn also passed. That was a shocker for me, for I’d not even known of her sickness. It was, I think, the most painful funeral I’ve ever had to lead. And with all this sorrow, the Lord gave us a ray of joy: September 27th Rachel Barton, new student in our school, was washed in the baptismal flood, marked with the cross of the crucified forever. That reminded us what the school is all about.

October began with a wedding: a time for joy. Lisa Bishop and Jimmie Spencer were married before the Lord’s altar. That month we also - with enormous gratitude to God - brought an end to the vacancy at the organ bench. We rejoiced that the Lord had answered our prayers in ways that we hadn’t even dared to hope. We welcomed Carlo Van Ulft and we have been utterly blessed by the music he has brought us ever since. A time to laugh and a time to dance, and how on earth did the writer of Ecclesiastes manage to leave out: a time to sing! The end of the month brought the very sudden death of Larry Gihring. Another saint of the Lord - marked by his kindness, his humility, and his gentleness. He is sorely missed too.

November we got to celebrate All Saints and its joys this year seemed even more potent than usual because of all the deaths we endured. But before the week was out, we had two more. Our dear brother in Christ, Roy Heinrich Theodor Henkhaus, asleep in Jesus. Like Larry, a man of great gentleness and kindness, and then our Alma Schmidt, our oldest member, reposed in Christ. A time to weep, a time to mourn. But it wasn’t all mourning. For also on All Saints Day, Albert’s great grandson was welcomed into this world: Henry Albert Reiseck. Baptized the day he was born - water and the word doing the job and bringing him into Christ’s kingdom. And later in the month, the same joy for little Caleb Allen Steinmann - “the splash of the water, the power of the word, the Spirit now binds you to Jesus your Lord and wonder of wonders, though by sin defiled, the Father in heaven now makes you His child.” A time to keep, a time to laugh. Thanksgiving was a particular joy with a packed church and hearty singing to the Lord of harvest for His unfailing mercy and love.

December brought the joys of Advent and Christmastide and one final baptism for the year: Dylan Brooke Pechulat coopted to Christ’s kingdom and made His beloved sister and heir of all His heavenly riches. Christmas Eve was the wettest Christmas I have ever experienced - what a downpour! And yet it couldn’t dampen our spirits as the children led the parish in celebrating the birth of the Savior. Yes, a year with a time for everything in it. But through all the times, both the joyous and the sorrowful, through the bitter and the sweet, through the tears and the laughter, it was a time of grace because we lived it in and with and through our Crucified, Risen, Ascended, Reigning and Returning Lord - to whom be glory forever with His all-holy Father and the life-giving Spirit! Amen.

At the conclusion of 2009, the baptized membership at St. Paul's number 747 souls; the number of confirmed 586 souls. The average attendance for a given week was 307.

Respectfully presented by William Weedon, Pastor of St. Paul's in the 18th year of this pastorate

16 January 2010

The Quiet in the House

So while Cin and Bekah were basking in Florida sunshine and catching up with dear friends and checking out a school, David and I were kicking around the house by ourselves. I was struck by the silence. Not that we didn't talk; we did. But only when we had something specific to say. We had a long talk Wednesday evening. I don't even think we said a word to each other on Thursday - running on different schedules. Most of the time we went around in the house in silence and it was companionable enough. Still, I think we both welcomed back the bustle and noise today as Cin and Bekah arrived home. Lucy sure was glad to see the loves of her life return...

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Today an interest in one's individual needs and in the work of the local congregation threatens to displace the strong intercessory concern for the universal Church of the ancient litanies. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 42.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We first rightly recognize the glory of marriage in the light of the divine Word. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 130.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Finally, while we are refreshed by taking food at regular and suitable times, let us never distract our prayer by such feasts. Rather let it endure perpetual fasts because there is a food proper to prayer which it is commanded to take without ceasing. Therefore, let it always fast from hatred and feast upon love. -- St. Augustine, Homily 207

More Meditation on Worship Conference

Before the conference was ever held, Pr. Asburry noted that the question that is ultimately behind all the discussions will likely not be addressed: the question of authority. He was prescient. It is the "white elephant" in the room of American Lutheranism. Granted that many of the questions before us do indeed fall into the category of adiaphora (neither commanded nor forbidden); granted that not all adiaphora are created equal (Arand); WHO regulates adiaphora or church ceremony?

Our Symbols are not silent on this, but neither are they entirely helpful, for they propose a solution within a framework that is no longer in existence for us. The AC says this is the task of pastors and bishops and that within certain carefully defined parameters, the congregations owe them obedience in such matters, even though these are not matters of salvation or anything close. The FC says that the Church in every "land" (the territorial church) has the authority to increase or decrease such ceremonies. Notice that in both references to the Symbols, we have a transparochial recognition: bishop and the territorial church.

How that worked out you can see from studying the Church Orders. Take the order promulgated under Duke Julius for Braunschweig-Wölfenbüttel and authored by the two principal writers of the Formula: Chemnitz and Andreaea. Its corpus doctrinae makes it utterly clear that uniformity in ceremonies is not necessary to true churchly unity and that in no way should humanly instituted ceremonies be thought of as salvific. And yet, the order extols the benefits of uniformity for the sake of a united confession of the truth and to avoid needless controversy. It mandates by force of law the use of the ceremonies as prescribed within the territory. Nor do they look only to themselves; but they weigh the practice of neighboring territories as they formulate church ceremony. The end result is a legally binding standard by which Superintendents could hold pastors and parishes accountable, yet equally clear was that this standard did not descend on gold plates from heaven. It was not intended to be irreformable, but it was intended to be used and any deviation from it was to be remedied. Uniformity was not extolled as constituting the Church's unity, but as being of service to that unity.

Fast forward several hundred years and across the ocean. We have now lived as Lutherans in America for a long time. Here there is neither bishop nor territorial church. What has happened? We have an atomization of the Church whereby each parish and each pastor become the equivalent of the bishop and the territorial church - and each fiercely guards his respective turf no matter which side of the question of worship one comes down on.

It there a way out of the impasse without addressing head on the question of authority in an honest and open way? The Synod repeatedly frames her convention resolutions as "encourage the congregations of Synod to..." Is it even possible for there be a true transparochial solution to the disarray in worship practices? I fear the answer is no, unless we are able to address the matter of authority and to learn again the virtue of humble submission to one another in the joy of the Gospel.

15 January 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The new Israel of God, reflecting the corporate character of the old Israel, is a living organism, pulsing with the life made ours by Christ. Into this body, represented in all its fullness of saving grace by this local congregation, one is incorporated by Baptism. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* pp. 38, 39

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The gates of hell cannot shake the faith of the Church, that our Lord Jesus Christ with the true body and true blood which He gave for our redemption on the Cross, is truly present in the Holy Supper, to apply the redemption through the very organs by which it was wrought out. The sacrifice was made once for all - its application goes on to the end of time. The offence of the Master's Cross now rests upon His table, and thither the triumph of the Cross shall follow it. On the Cross and at the table the saints discern the body of the Lord, and in simple faith are determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 619

Patristic Quote of the Day

Moreover, what mercy could be greater, so far as we poor wretches are concerned, than that which drew the Creator of the heavens down from heaven, clothed the Maker of the earth with earthly vesture, made Him, who in eternity remains equal to His Father, equal to us in mortality, and imposed on the Lord of the universe the form of a servant,
so that He, our Bread, might hunger; that He, our Fulfillment, might thirst; that He, our Strength, might be weakened; that He, our Health, might be injured; that He, our Life, might die? - St. Augustine, Homily 207

14 January 2010

Material Donations Needed for Haiti Relief

Material donations are requested within the next two weeks by LCMS partners for shipment to Haiti in response to Jan. 12 massive earthquake. Two 40-foot shipping containers will be loaded with donated supplies and shipped to an intact Port-au-Prince depot, to arrive within three weeks of the earthquake.

The following material items have been requested:

Bottled water
Canned food with pop tops
Peanut butter
Dry rice
Dry beans
Dishwashing liquid
Bedding (sheets, pillows, etc.)
Shovels and tools for rebuilding
Antibacterial ointment
Band aids
individual packets of disinfectant wipes
Tooth brushes
Tooth paste
First aid ointment
Clean, used clothing in good condition (Must be sorted by type such as women's clothing, children's clothing, etc., and boxed and labeled).
Items may be sent to:

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
7601 SW 39th St.
Davie, FL 33328

St. Paul Lutheran Church
801 West Palmetto Park Rd.
Boca Raton, FL 33486

This effort is a partnership of LCMS World Relief and Human Care (LCMS WR-HC), the LCMS Florida-Georgia District, MISSION: HAITI, and Orphan Grain Train (OGT). Through grants, LCMS WR-HC will assist with shipping charges. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Haiti (ELCH) as well as OGT and MISSION: HAITI partners in Haiti will receive the containers of donations in Port-au-Prince and oversee their distribution.

Financial donations are also urgently required for the long-term Lutheran response in Haiti. To make a gift, click the Give Now button below, call toll-free 888-930-4438, or mail checks marked "Haiti Earthquake Relief" to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.

More on Haiti

here at Pr. Beane's blog. What he said. Kyrie, eleison!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is within Christ's body that true fellowship is possible, for this fellowship is grounded in communion with Christ. It is Christ's headship as described in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians that constitutes the unity and harmony of the Church. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 38

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In a word the advances are wrought, not by change in the Church's faith, but by the perpetual activity of that faith, a faith which because it is incapable of change itself, assimilates more and more to it the consciousness of the Church, her system of doctrine, her language, and her life. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 270

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore, let those enmities which have lasted even to this day be broken up and ended. Let them be ended lest they end you; let them be no longer held lest they hold you; let them be destroyed by the Redeemer lest they destroy you, the retainer. -- St. Augustine, Homily 206

On Totally Inappropriate Responses...

...so if you said something to me at the conference and I responded in a way that simply didn't make sense, remember: I probably didn't hear correctly what you said. I know it happened at least once, and I'm suspecting more than once. And that is one reason why I *despise* it when a person speaks with mood music playing in the background (happened more than once at our worship). I simply cannot make out much of what the fellow is saying. I don't know why SINGING the words makes a difference, but it does. I can often follow that. But speaking with music underneath and that weird distortion that electronic amplification brings - well, "does not compute" in this brain.

13 January 2010

Special Mention

Of all the enjoyable meetings with this person and that, catching up and what not, I must confess that an absolute highlight to me was Pastor Larry Peters. I'd already come to love this man from his writings on ALPB, but then he started a blog that is the best out there, bar none. Just to chat with him, soak up a bit of wisdom from his experience, and listen to how he slices through the Gordian Knot in an utterly Piepkornian way - wow. I remember once hearing a friend ask: "But where are our fathers in the faith? We're all brothers, but we have no fathers." I can't say that. Not now. I thank God for this dear father in the faith and for his pastoral heart and uncompromisingly Augsburg Catholic witness. Larry, you are one great GIFT of Christ to His church and we thank God for you!!! Keep up the great work!

I was unaware

of the horrible situation in Haiti until our Synodical President announced it this morning for prayer at the conference. Coming home and reading the news reports - just devastating. Kyrie, eleison!

Here is a message from our director of LCMS World Relief:


New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The unity of the early Christian community was grounded in its common worship, and this worship was grounded in Christ's presence in the worshipping community. -- Ernest Koenker, *Worship in Word and Sacrament* p. 37

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God is not far from any one of us, yet none but the believing realize the benefits of His presence. The multitude thronged and pressed upon Jesus; His presence was equally real in its essence to all, but the saving efficacy of it went forth in virtue only to the women who touched His clothes in faith. (Mark V.30) So Christ is present in the sacramental drapery alike to all communicants, but the touch of faith is needed to participate in the virtue of His healing. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 646

Patristic Quote of the Day

Above all else, my brethren, fast from strife and discord. - St. Augustine, Homily 205

Wiped and Still Contemplating

Just got in from the Synodical Conference on Worship sponsored by the CTCR and COW. I'll write some more about my experiences in the next couple days, but for now just a few rather personal reflections:

1. This boy is not made to endure long conferences. I CAN'T SIT STILL. It slays me. Call it ADD or whatever, but physically enduring long bouts of "not moving" (and I mean more than "stand and stretch" for a few!) sends me round the bend. I start jiggling, shaking, fidgeting. It's awful.
2. The introvert factor - the need to be alone in order to get some energy and restoration? - there was NO time for it. Too much to do - with the conference, with visiting with friends both old and new. We're all aware that we are only together for a short time and so there's the need to squeeze so much out of it.
3. Seeing old friends was a treat indeed - folks I'd not had much contact with since seminary - and above all, my old college room mate, Pr. Gregory Walton. Pray that his house sells! I can't remember them all: today got to see Aaron and Dennis, Douglas and I caught up a bit yesterday, and had a nice conversation with Bruce the first day.
4. "Meeting" "new" friends - all those folks one's come to know and love through the net: was great to visit with Dan and Nathan and Mason.
5. And then there is the unspeakable treat of catching up with folk that I do get to visit with now and again: David and Ben and Paul (I was too tired to tell you, Paul, but you did a great job at the chanting in our little compline - beautiful) and Jon and Phil and all the rest.
6. Rachel was an angel and a half - she took care of low carb meals so that I didn't go off plan at all! Super. I love you, Rachel! And I look forward to thanking you by trouncing you at the next game of pinochle... ;)
7. I was very struck by an observation Phil made to me today over lunch: the difference between those who operate and are comfortable in the realm of ideas (again, the introvert often) and those for whom relational stuff is the absolute key (usually the extrovert). At the conference, we experienced time and again that there had to be a way for those two things to "meet" before you could hear or be heard.
8. Thoughts on the worship experiences:
a. I can watch a Latvian Divine Service and not understand a single word, and yet recognize and be at home with what's happening there. Same with a service from our sister church in Southern Africa. It's literally "home." In some of the worship at the conference, I was "at home." One particular service that was called Morning Prayer (second day), the only way I knew how to describe it would be to say: "it wasn't home." The Divine Service that evening, however, was "home" - even if I happen to think that the musical presentation was rather like being forced to listen to bad music blaring from the radio. Icky musical presentation aside, however, it was truly home. I just couldn't yell out: "Turn that dang thing off!" ;)
b. What does it mean, though, if we have two groups in our Synod who recognize two different "homes"?
c. I intend to write this up as a suggestion for improvement: it would have been MUCH more interesting to have had a traditional service observed entirely according to the rubrics with maximal ceremony and well done; and a full contemporary worship worship done with the maximal ceremonies used (which may be removal of all traditional ceremony, but it will be replaced with something - with what?) and according to those who would are experts in such things, well done - and then to have allowed a discussion about specifics based on that. The worship that we were given did NOT represent what I would call "traditional" and I heard numerous folks comment that it did not at all represent what they do as contemporary in their parishes.

That's it for the time being!

10 January 2010

What's with the antiphons?

These little verses sung before (and often, after) a given Psalm or Canticle are sadly rare in the experience of the 21st century Lutheran. But one cannot spend any time with the old Lutheran Cantionals without marveling at the inordinately huge space that is devoted to them and giving them their proper chant tones. In contrast to the relatively simple Gregorian Psalm tones employed for the Psalms and Canticles, the music for the antiphons is more complex and varied. As you can see from the ones I provided for the Baptism of Our Lord, they contain in themselves a liturgical key to unlocking the meaning of the Feast - doing a similar task in the Daily Office that the Introit, Gradual and Verse do in the Divine Service. But unlike these, there was never a compunction that the Antiphons should be simply the words of Scripture (though we note the occasional use of the Apocrypha in the propers for the Divine Service - the tell-tale giveaway in LSB is when they use the term: "liturgical text" - which comes across as a rather chicken way of saying: you don't want to know where this is from...). Rather, you see something approximating the way that the eastern liturgy expounds on the images for the given day and emotionally unpacks them, often giving details that are not in Scripture but that teach a Scriptural truth. Hence, John's trembling as he thinks to touch the head of God Enfleshed and begs Him for salvation. I marvel at how much richness would be restored to our Western liturgy if these little treasures from our spiritual forebears were learned and sung and so set before our people again - I wonder if anyone is up for the publication of an English language Antiphony Book that offers these in standard musical notation?

Antiphon for Fifth Psalm at Vespers on Baptism

A great mystery is declared today,
for the Creator of all
in the Jordan
washes away our wickedness.

Antiphon upon the Third Psalm

at Vespers for the Baptism:

The Baptist shakes
Not prepared to touch the crown [of the head] of the holy God,
But cries out with trembling:
Sanctify me, O Savior!

Antiphon upon Benedictus

for the Feast of the Baptism:

John the Forerunner exults with the Jordan.
The Lord, being baptized, makes the whole world exult,
Making for our sins remission and sanctifying the water.
To Him all things cry out: Have mercy on us!

What overflowing joy this morning

as Geoffrey and Melony received the gift of Holy Baptism! We sang the joy of Baptism in hymn after hymn. And, relating to that earlier post, the congregation really picked up and sang Luther's baptismal hymn very well (alternating with Jonathan on Saturday and Cindi on Sunday as cantors).

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

09 January 2010

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

And it all started with John, charging out of the water: "No! No! No! This isn't right. You? Here? For this? This is a baptism of repentance, Jesus! This is a sinner's baptism! This is for people who need their lives turned around and transformed. I need you to administer it to me." But Jesus won't be put off. "Allow it to be so now, John, in order to fulfill all righteousness."

And what did John make of that? What do we make of it? Jesus stands on the banks of the Jordan and strips off his clothes, and descends into the water for John to baptize him, just like all the other sinners there were baptized. Jesus says that's how he will fulfill all righteousness, that's how he will make his righteousness available for all people. His uprightness, His holiness, His worthiness, His unbroken "yes" to the will of the Father brings him down to the water to stand together with us bunch of sinners who have spoken countless "no's" to the will of God.

The incarnation was a great marvel, to be sure: that God should take on human flesh and blood. But here is a greater marvel, that God the Son in that human flesh and blood should stand together with us sinners. He stands with us in the water under the verdict of condemnation that we might stand with Him in the water and hear the verdict of righteousness, the announcement that in and with Him we are beloved children of the Father. In the water already there looms the shadow of the cross and the sweet swap.

So what happens, then, as Jesus comes up, dripping wet? John is astonished. There above Jesus in the water, heaven itself is opened, and as John looks up, he sees far more than sky. He gasps as he is given an unfathomable glimpse into the overwhelming love and joy of heaven itself. He sees the Spirit coming down from heaven with the gentleness of dove and lighting on Jesus. He hears the Father's voice speak words of tenderness and unimaginable love: "This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well-pleased." Luther adds that there would certainly have been all the angels present too, for where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are there is all of heaven itself.

Such shining glory God imparts to the waters of Baptism not merely to grace the occasion of the Son's standing in solidarity with the plight of a sinful human race, but above all to show us what He gives and imparts in every Baptism; what He gave you on the day of your baptism. An open heaven. The gift of the Spirit. The joy of being a beloved child of the Father.

Yes, on the day you are baptized, heaven itself is open to you. Above the water that poured over you, the Cherubim sheathe their swords and the gates to paradise swing open wide. Heaven is not barred and sealed to the baptized. It stands open wide to you - your true home.

Yes, on the day you were baptized, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and lighted on you. To live with you and never leave you again. He who is the personal Joy and Love that has always existed between the Father and the Son, He made an entrance into your life and promised to be with you for all time, imparting to you His endless Life which is Love and Joy. He brings and keeps alive in you the gift of faith.

Yes, on the day you were baptized, God the Father peeped down from heaven and said before all his angels and all the world: "Look! This is my own child! This is my beloved! How pleased I am with this one!"

And you say: "Oh, pastor, come on. A little bit of water and few words and all of that is the result? How can water accomplish all of that? How can water do such great things?" Ah, you know the answer to that, don't you? "It is not the water that does them, but the Word of God which is in and with the water and faith which trusts that Word of God in the water." So God makes foolish the wisdom of the world! “The splash of the water, the power of the Word, and the Spirit now binds you to Jesus the Lord. And wonder of wonders, though by sin defiled, the Father in heaven now makes you His child.” (Coleman)

That you might never doubt that the events of Christ' baptism were the guarantee of what God does for you in your own Baptism, Christ gave a command in the last chapter of Matthew's Gospel. "As you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show up again, don't they? This time not at the Jordan, but wherever the water landed on you.

Where God's name is, there is God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In and with the water, And so that water becomes far more than H2O. With the Triune God thrown in as the seasoning (Luther), it is truly a life-giving water, because He is a life-giving God. It drives away death and hell and makes eternally alive, because He is there.

All this we celebrate today on the Baptism of Our Lord. In the joy of faith you cling to the events of Jesus' Baptism and know that they for you too, that on the day you are baptized, heaven is opened for you, the Spirit given into you, and the Father owns you as his own much-loved child. Know that the gifts given you in the water are irrevocable. You may leave them, but they will never leave you. And if you have wandered away from your Baptism, you need only return to it again. It remains in all its fullness - an open heaven, the gift of the Spirit, divine sonship all in and with Jesus Christ in the water. And for that all glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen!