31 March 2010

Expanding the Ordinary

Lutheran Service Book provides many resources for expanding the Ordinary (the chants usually sung in the Divine Service). From #942-963 alternate settings of the Ordinary are provided. Here you can find different chants for Kyrie, Gloria, Dignus Est Agnus, Alleluia, Creed, Offertory, Our Father, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. If your congregation has completely mastered one of the settings of the Divine Service, and would like to expand their musical options a bit, I highly recommend seasonally substituting some of the alternative chants/pieces provided here. It will enrich your liturgical experience by adding a bit of "new" in the midst of a quite familiar structure.

I must confess

that I am looking to a return to "regular" schedule after Easter. Just the Divine Service upon the weekend with a Bible Study and also a midweek Bible class (excepting, of course, the church's feasts and festivals). It will be entirely welcome. Yes, by about July I know I'll be itching for catechesis to kick in again, and gearing up already for the winter festivals. At least next year there is a nice break between Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter (and we'll have ALL the Epiphany readings in the One-Year Series); easter will be quite late. But right now the thought of a return to normal is utterly welcome. One week and few days and counting...

Superb Article

Anyone who has been reading the news cannot but note the attacks upon Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome. Lutherans, of course, see many of the problems Rome faces in this regard as self-created by the insistence on clerical celibacy of men who manifestly do not have that gift. We rightly condemn the forbidding of priests to marry as a human tradition, contrary to the express witness of the Sacred Scriptures, indeed "a doctrine of demons." And yet, there is something rabid and hateful about the way that the Press has it in for the current pastor of St. John Lateran. My dear friend and colleague, Dr. John Stephenson, has written powerfully about this in a recent Logia article. It is long, but quite worth the read and the pondering:

The dictatorship of relativism

Sober holy week reading.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

He brings eternal, supernal joy only through cross and trial. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 140.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The phrase "for you" is therefore the key to the mystery of grace embedded in the Lord's Supper. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 335.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Death there had to be, and death for all, so that the due of all might be paid. Wherefore, the Word, as I said, being Himself incapable of death, assumed a mortal body, that He might offer it as His own in place of all, suffering for the sake of all through His union with it, "might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver them who all their lifetime were enslaved by the fear of death." -- St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation* par. 20.

Silent Wednesday - An OP Rerun

Holy week... The most important seven days in the history of man... Although the exact sequence of events is not always clear to us, we can discern, even now, the straight lines of divine order... Sunday: The garments in the dust - the Hosannahs as the prelude to the "Crucify."... Monday: Sermons with the urgent note of finality - the withered fig tree - Caesar's coin... Tuesday: The terrifying wrath of the Lamb over institutionalized and personal sin among the Scribes and Pharisees - the fire and color of His last sermon to the city and the world - the sureness of justice and the coming of judgment... Night and prayer in the light of the Easter moon on the Mount of Olives...

Wednesday is silent... If anything happened, the holy writers have drawn the veil... Everything that God could say before the Upper Room had been said... It was man's turn now... Perhaps there were quiet words in a corner of the Garden, both to His children who would flee and to His Father who would stay... Wednesday was His... The heart of that mad, crowded Holy Week was quiet... Tomorrow the soliders would come, and Friday there would be God's great signature in the sky... Thursday and Friday would belong to time and eternity, but Wednesday was of heaven alone...

Silent Wednesday... If our Lord needed it, how much more we whose life is the story of the Hosannah and the Crucify... Time for prayer, for adoration... Time to call the soul into the inner court and the Garden... In our crowded world we are lonely because we are never alone... No time to go where prayer is the only sound and God is the only light... We need more silent Wednesdays... In the glory of the Cross above our dust our silence can become purging and peace... God speaks most clearly to the heart that is silent before Him... [The Pilgrim, pp. 27, 28]

30 March 2010

The weather forecast...

...looks WONDERFUL. Cin and I went on a run today, but it looks like beautiful weather for the next few. A pity that it is going to be rather windy tomorrow and Thursday. Running into wind=not so much fun. I'll bet this warm weather really pushes the trees along. Lilacs look like they're ready to burst. Willows have already given us a taste of "nature's first green is gold." Daffodils are "fluttering and dancing in the breeze." Spring is definitely sprung - and last night walking home from Financial Peace University, we noted the Easter moon - "big, round and golden" (any takers on where THAT line is from? Lew, you can't compete). All in all, it is shaping up to be a wonderful Holy Week and Paschal Feast - old creation celebrating right along with the new creation: "All the fair beauty of earth from the death of the winter arising; every good gift of the year now with its Master returns!"

Enjoying Proverbs

So much to learn from that neglected book! I've really enjoyed studying it in more detail. A proverb that caught my attention last night was this:

Cease to hear instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (19:27)

It reminded me of the wonderful words of John Kleinig - we can't possess this life, we can only always receive it. And so when a person ceases (for whatever reason) to hear and be shaped and informed by the Words of God, he or she doesn't stand still spiritually, retaining what they had. Rather, they began to slip into all sorts of folly. We must ALWAYS give our ears to the Lord's instruction and when we do the reverse of the Proverb is true: we will NOT stray from the words of knowledge. They will keep us on the Lord's way.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The gravitational pull of Christ draws us to Himself for grace and mercy and peace and joy and then hurls us into the world around us. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 157

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we are burdened with sins, let us carry them to Christ, He has nailed them to the cross, and will forgive us, and subdue death and the devil. Thus we are made partakers even of the death of Christ. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *Day by Day* p. 165 (Commentary on John 19:30)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He Who suffered there on in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Saviour of all. -- St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation* par. 19

28 March 2010

What a Boat-load of Scripture Readings

from Passion Sunday through Easter Wednesday! Simply ENORMOUS. In the Lectionary there are more than 100 pages to read aloud from today till Easter Wednesday. Granted, we won't use everything there, but we do use most of it. By the time the week is through, we'll have listened our way through the Preparation for the Passion in St. John and his telling of the Passion itself (Processional Palm Sunday Gospel; Holy Monday; Good Friday); the Passion according to St. Matthew (Palmarum); the Passion according to St. Mark (Holy Tuesday); the Passion according to St. Luke (Holy Wednesday); Creation, Flood, Abraham, Deliverance at the Red Sea, Gathering of God's people, Fiery Furnace; all of Isaiah 53 and a number of other OT readings and heard five of the Resurrection accounts.

What shines through these liturgies with such long readings is the Church's great trust in the Sacred Scriptures: as people hear God's Word, the Holy Spirit is at work to impart and strengthen faith and to fire us for love and service and praise.

So stop looking at your watch, let the Word swirl around you and sink into you and do its job, and be amazed at the great things our God has done, still does and will do FOR YOU!

"We bless You, O God, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection, for behold by the wood of the Cross joy has come into all the world!"

Homily for Palmarum (2010)

I think it must have been in second grade. I remember it like it was yesterday. A classmate of mine wanted me to do something and I refused. His solution was to go to the teacher and tell her that I had called his brother a “retard.” Understand, Theron’s brother was developmentally disabled, but I’d never said that and at that point didn’t even know Theron HAD a brother. I protested my innocence to no avail. The teacher still insisted I had to write a report on mental retardation. I appealed to my parents, and shockingly to me, they said: “Do what the teacher said; even if you didn’t do it. It won’t hurt you and you need to obey your teacher.” I remember being about as angry at my mom and dad as I was at my teacher and most of all at Theron. How DARE he get away with it? And after I turned from turning in my little piece on mental retardation and he gave me that smirk I was ready to punch him one. “Not fair!” my little second grade mind screamed out. “It’s not fair at all.”

We are all, I think, born with a rather keen sense of what’s “fair” and we get rather upset when we think we’re not getting a fair shake and often we are quite vocal about it, and when we're not vocal, we still stew and simmer.

But then there is the Man in today’s Gospel reading. He stands there silently as the accusations shower around Him. He doesn’t look the least bit angry or upset. If anything He looks sad. He stands there and takes it. The abuse heaped on Him.

The Governor is astonished. “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But all he got in response was silence.

Pilate, the Governor, is not a bad sort. A weak man, it’s true, but not malicious. And he has been deeply troubled by the manner of this Man before him. He knew the crowd smelled blood and he could see no reason for it. He offered an exchange. He’d let go Barabbas (whose name, by the way means, Son of a Father) or Jesus (who, of course, is THE Son of the Father). Take your pick - either one, he tells them.

He purposefully had picked a notoriously wicked man, thinking that they’d certainly relent and NOT want a known criminal walking their streets again. But no. They insist: Give us Barabbas.

Even more astonished the Governor asks: “But what about this Jesus? What about his man called Christ?” Their answer is vehement: “Let him be crucified!” Pilate is aghast: “Why, what evil has He done?” The answer, of course, is none. But they cry out the louder: “KILL HIM!”

Pilate, as I said, was a weak man. He bowed to their pressure. The pitiful water could not wash the blood from his hands. He ordered the execution of a man he knew and confessed to be innocent just to please an unruly crowd. In vain he protested: “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” The crowd shouted back: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

Still He stood there silent. Silent as the governor’s soldiers took him to the headquarters and scourged Him. Silent as they dressed Him up in scarlet, and mocked Him with false honor. Silent as they spit in His face, as they struck His head, as they led Him away to be crucified.

The silence of our Lord is the great feature of Saint Matthew’s telling of the Passion. He is silent as He is crucified and His garments divided. Silent as the passer-bys jeer at Him: “You, who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Silent as the chief priests and scribes mock Him: “Others He saved; Himself He cannot save.” Silent as the robbers nailed beside Him mock Him.

Silent until the sorrow burst out of His heart and then He doesn’t offer the protest: “It’s not fair! I haven’t done anything to deserve this! I’m not guilty!” Instead the sorrow of His fathomless loneliness as He had been left alone with the sum total of human sin: “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” The only cry from the Cross that Matthew records. Words of Psalm 22, being fulfilled as He prayed them from His sacred lips. And then with a loud voice He shouts and yields up His spirit.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why? So that the curtain that divides the most holy place from the holy place can be torn open - so that sinful men like you and me could have access again to the Most Holy God. Why? So that the earth would groan at death’s destruction and the dead themselves be raised and set free - appearing after His resurrection - the promise and foretaste of OUR resurrection. Why? So that the unbelieving can be brought to faith and confess: “Truly this was, rather, this IS the Son of God!”

So, you can be like William Weedon as a fuming second grader, and knuckle under with resentment and smoldering anger and a grave sense of injustice - and you four must know that there are grave injustices you will experience in this world, things that are not your fault or your responsibility in any way, and yet you will suffer them. Or you can receive the life that the Silent One, that Jesus gives you - a life where there is no need to defend self, for You have a heavenly Father's who got your back. Where suffering may be injust and evil and downright awful, but yet a merciful and loving heavenly Father can overrule it and make it to serve His purposes and use it astonishingly to bring unexpected, unguessed blessings from His hand.

You four, today I strongly suggest that you follow the way of the Nazarene, the way of your Jesus, and learn through His silence His trust in the Father, so that you can rejoice to stand with the Centurion beneath His cross and join in confessing “Truly, You are the Son of God” - as you will shortly do before this His altar. As you do, you’ll discover that His mercy is infinitely more than “fairness” and that He has gifts for you that far, far exceed anything you could ever imagine or desire or certainly deserve. Amen.

27 March 2010

And so it begins...

... Holy Week is upon us. The sacrifice is before us. The triumph of the cross, the vindication of the resurrection, the joy of a life that never ends and the sins of the world washed away in the blood of God's chosen Lamb.

Have you ever pondered how few of these Holy Weeks, Triduums and Easters we get to celebrate in our earthly pilgrimage? It makes me cherish each one I am privileged to share in all the more.

"We implore You, O Lord, that Your abundant blessing may be upon Your people who have held the Passion and death of Your Son in devout remembrance, that we may receive Your pardon and the gift of Your comfort and may increase in faith and take hold of eternal life..." - Good Friday, Chief Service, Concluding Collect

Palm Sunday Scenes at St. Paul's

Thanks to Kenny and Sharilyn for the Palm Sunday scene. It will change throughout Holy Week. The mirroring of the Nativity with the Sepulchre is right in line with historic church art. Oh, and thanks to Lauren for getting these pictures and those of the paraments and vestments.

Pics of Scarlet Paraments

26 March 2010

Happy to report...

...that Liverpool turned out as it should tonight. I WON. That will teach Jo to go to Maryland and leave us to our own devises!

From Palmarum's Liturgy

It's been one of my favorite Sundays since I became a Lutheran. I still remember the wonderful services at the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew in Silver Spring, MD on this day. Overflowing joy!

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the Son of David.... Most merciful God, as the people of Jerusalem, with palms in their hands, gathered to greet Your dearly beloved Son when He came into His Holy City, grant that we may ever hail Him as our King, and, when He comes again, may go forth to meet Him... All glory, laud, and honor to You, Redeemer King... Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection... Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus...even the death of the cross... My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning... His blood be on us and on our children... This Lamb is Christ, the soul's great friend, The Lamb of God, our Savior... who accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross that, where death arose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome... Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, then take, O Christ, Thy power and reign.

I've blogged on this before...

...but the realization hits me anew: how unbelievably blest we've been with the recent publications from CPH. I compare to when I started in the ministry. We had a Synod quite divided over the hymnal (which, to be fair, had some very good points; and some very bad ones). We had an essentially Reformed Study Bible that we tried to "tweak" with a few "Lutheran" notes. We had a "daily prayer" office that relied on the NIV, featured no writings from the Fathers or the Confessions, used generally but two psalms A WEEK and was completely geared toward pastors only. There was no lectionary option for those who wanted the historic lectionary in the hymnal; the published lectionary was only three year, and was - pardon my crassness - as ugly as the hymnals themselves. Blue and spotted.

Look at what we have now, all of which is beautifully bound and presented:

A hymnal that is (for all its weaknesses) the best hymnal Lutherans in America have ever produced.
A complete and wonderful Altar Book.
A complete Agenda that makes the previous Agendas look sparse.
A Reader's Edition of Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions
Treasury of Daily Prayer - designed for ALL the baptized and replete with the daily Scripture readings AND writings from the history of the Church
A Pastoral Care Companion that is so rich a pastor in his ministry will never wear out its resources
A Study Bible that is one of the best available for its rich blending of Patristic, Confessional and modern scholarly insight into the Word of God.
And last but not least: Lutheran Service Builder that is top notch software for utilizing the full resources of hymnal AND Altar Book/Agenda with unprecedented ease and speed!

I can't imagine it has ever been a more joyous time to be a Lutheran pastor. In liturgy, Bible study, prayer, and pastoral care we have been resourced in a way that our spiritual forebears would be astonished at. And just today I read that CPH is coming out with an updated reader's edition of Dr. Walther's classic *The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel* that takes the "King Jamesy" language out of Dau's rendition of Walther and gives us the real and rugged Saxon at his best. Looking forward to it.

Oh, and did I mention the Gerhard volumes available now in his classic Loci Theologici? And Starck's Prayer Book? And Walther's *God Grant It!*? It goes on and on. And still the goodies are rolling out.

Thank you, heavenly Father, for these resources and for the opportunity to serve Your people in these days!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Church endures because Christ endures, and he will never let his gospel go un-believed, until the end of time. That's worth rejoicing over, especially in the times in which we live. And there is also comfort in knowing that because the Church exists well beyond the genuine Lutheran Church, we will also find truth spoken by others. And when we do, we are free to heartily and gladly acknowledge it as such. -- Matthew Harrison *A Little Book on Joy* p. 164

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

So, because of this complete obedience, which He rendered to His heavenly Father for us by doing and suffering and in living and dying, God forgives our sins. He regards us as godly and righteous, and He eternally saves us. -- SD FC III:15

Patristic Quote of the Day

[from the Treasury reading appointed for Annunciation] Come, then, you, too, dearly beloved and let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David and say, "Arise, O Lord, into Your rest, You and the ark of Your sanctuary." For the holy Virgin is truly an ark, made with gold both within and without, who has received the whole treasury of the Holy of Holies. - Gregory Thaumaturgus, Treasury, p. 1287

25 March 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

There is a dark side to every great story of faith. Studying the great saints of the Bible or in the history of the Church, in more than just a cursory fashion, reveals joy in the midst of weakness and failings. The deeper the failings and the weakness, the more profound the joy. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 148

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We desire that grace be retained in order that the Son of God, our Physician, may be given the glory due Him, for the greatness of His benefits can neither be understood nor considered, unless we learn to know our wretchedness, which we cover with fig leaves but which is revealed in the Word of God. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* I:438

Patristic Quote of the Day

Glory to Thee, Who didst descend to save our souls!

Glory to Thee, Who didst take flesh in the womb of the Virgin!

Glory to Thee, Who didst suffer bondage!

Glory to Thee, Who didst accept scourging!

Glory to Thee, Who wast made an object of humiliation!

Glory to Thee, Who wast crucified!

-- St. Ephraim, the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #2

Brief Homily on the Annunciation

Today the Angel says to the Holy Virgin: “For with God all things are possible.” A week from today, the Virgin’s Son will say: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.”

Today His Mother prays: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” A week from today her Son will pray: “Nevertheless not my will by Yours be done.”

To serve the God for whom nothing is impossible is to learn the joy of submission to the Father and His will.

Mary’s “yes” brought her temporal shame.

You know what the neighbors said and thought about her - you know the pain that went through her heart at first when even her beloved Joseph looked on her with troubled eyes.

She was willing to endure temporal shame for she saw that she had a task to accomplish in bringing about the great rescue of all people. With a mother’s love she loved us so much as to give us a Redeemer. When she danced before her kinswoman Elizabeth, eyes flashing, and declared: “from now on all generations will call me blessed” - those were the words of a girl that was scorned and shamed in her own village. They were words of great faith. And they have come true.

As the Mother, so the Son.

Our Lord also - as we will celebrate next week - was willing to walk the way of shame, the way of the cross, in order to bring blessing to His brothers and sisters, to the whole human race.

Our first father, Adam, had taken humanity and given it to the devil and the heritage was death. Our blessed Lord came to take humanity from the devil and give it back to the Father and the heritage is a life that never ends.

So for the joy that was set before Him, the joy of returning YOU to the Father, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and now is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Your Brother, the Virgin’s Son, exalted and reigning over all - just as Gabriel had promised. This came about because He prayed and lived: “Thy will be done.” As we heard in tonight's epistle: "I have come to do Your will, O God!"

Will you join in the prayer?

Will you say that you are the Lord’s servant and that it can be to you as He wills?

Will you tell him to take your own will, your plans, your dreams, your ambitions and crucify them so that His perfect will instead be done in your life?

To offer that prayer is to say “yes” to the path of shame and suffering, of grief and sorrow.

Adam’s children flee that path, believing they were born only to satisfy their own desires, to be happy and content themselves. And so fleeing misery, they fall head-long into it. For the path to joy leads through suffering, even through death, but the end is life everlasting.

Everlasting Life that the Virgin’s Son brought down into our flesh.

Life that the Virgin’s Son won for us all the opportunity to share by His unbroken “yes” to the Father’s will.

Life that the Virgin’s Son showed to be stronger than death itself.

This is the Life that He would feed into you today at His table. It is not a life of release from suffering; it is not a life of release from shame in this world. But it is far more - a life of communion with the Father in the power of the Spirit through the presence of the Son - a life that will finally be vindicated in you as it was in Him, Your Brother.

Come to His table today and receive the gift that enables you to continually pray with the Blessed Virgin and through her sinless Son:

“Behold, the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your word. Not my will, but thine be done!” Amen.

Prayer of the Church: Annunciation

Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.

Father in heaven, on this Day Your people celebrate with great joy the incarnation of our Lord in the Virgin’s womb. Receive our praise and thanks for this manifestation of Your fathomless love toward us. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

King of Kings, You gave Your Son to rule over the house of David forever and to have a kingdom that never ends. Bless the work of Your church as she proclaims His gospel and work mightily through the Word to bring faith those who do not know You. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Ruler of all, remember in Your kindness all who hold positions of public trust in our land. Preserve them in health and endow them with wisdom, courage and honor to serve our nation according to Your will. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Lover of the human race, we commend to Your merciful love all those who are sick or suffering, the mourning, the poor, the needy, the imprisoned and all who struggle against addictions. Grant to each the healing and hope that can come only from You, learning to pray at all times: “Your will be done.” Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Giver of life, receive our thanks and praise for all the saints who have trusted in Your mercy and passed from this age to Your nearer presence, remembering especially today the holy, blessed ever Virgin Mary. Bring us to share with all Your saints the joys of the unending feast. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Join our prayers with those of Your servants of every time and place and unite them in the ceaseless petitions of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, our Lord, until He comes in power and great glory as victorious Lord of all. Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen.

Helping a Teen Ager Use the Treasury

I have frequently commented that Luther really didn't get rid of monasteries; his idea was to move the monastery into the home! I mean, he PREACHED at home, for heaven's sake. Not to mention hymns and prayers and Bible reading and such.

But it is true that most people are not called the monastic life and cannot actually pray the daily office, even in the sense of three offices of Matins, Vespers and Compline that comprise the heart of the office for Lutherans.

So what can a young person do who laments that they just don't know how to pray? I had this conversation last night. "But I always only think about myself. My prayers are so narcissistic."

My answer is: "take up the Treasury." A very simple discipline can be made of praying each day the Psalm (printed out for the day) and one of the Bible readings and the prayer for the day and then the prayer for the day of the week (pages 1306ff.) and wrap up with the Lord's Prayer. Simple, really. It does NOT need to be elaborate. It does need to be consistent, but even with when you fail to pray on a certain day, remember - as Pr. Kinnaman wrote so beautifully in the intro - that others of the Body of Christ are praying that day and you are not alone; you are joining a vast company who bear your weaknesses. Doing this much will keep you praying for all sorts and conditions of people, will draw you out of yourself into the Word and into the world as you bear the burdens of others. Yesterday was Wednesday, and I pointed out that by praying the week day prayers we remembered all those whose pilgrimages are coming to an end, and asked God's grace and mercy on them.

Making disciplined, daily prayer a part of one's life is a battle - and Satan wants nothing more than to see you go for days without being fortified by the Word or calling on God. Remember above all: the discipline of prayer is FOR YOUR BENEFIT. It doesn't make God love you any more than He already does (His fullness of love for you can never be diminished). He doesn't NEED your prayer; YOU need Him, and that's why you pray. He comes to you in His Word (and that's why praying the Psalm and the Bible reading are vital to the discipline). Treasury simply makes these much easier.

Too many start out trying to do too much in prayer. It's a formula for failure. Start out small, do so consistently, and it will grow. It can't not.

My two cents on the topic.

The Feast of the Annunciation

Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes." (Introit)

O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection... (Collect)

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever (Gradual)

My eyes have seen Your salvation (Verse during Lent)

It is truly good, 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; for by the Holy Spirit Your only-begotten Son was conceived in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary and brought forth in the substance of our human flesh that we might partake of His divine life... (Preface)

Reminder: Divine Service this evening at St. Paul's at 6:15. If you can join us, please do so!

Another Mozolak Gem

Fellow Lutheran pastor, Harvey Mozolak, penned these lines on the Centurion. He sent them to me and I was quite blessed by them. Thought you might be too. I think his poetry hangs somewhere between Whitman and Cummings for style; but insight is all Elliot.

officer's report
Harvey S. Mozolak

the name
Longinus in Latin
like the soldier
you might call Gunner or Tank
I do not carry a spear
any longer
Centurions wear a short stabbing sword
and the brass plate that holds
our scarlet cappa
at the shoulder bears the Roman eagle
holding a shield
but the detachment knows who I am
and the crowd backs away
when I near them
this is not my favorite duty
orders are orders
and we must take our turn
among the executions
the ones on the road
are like barbed fence
and these more like signs
for warning
some speak others cry
most moan and plead
for the javelin
the dogs are always underfoot
more like wolves we meet in the mountains
the ravens as brazen as vultures
here near Jerusalem
we followed the authorized commands
dragging them through the streets
past wailing women and children throwing stones
to the hill of hanging
we had to force another to help
the weak one everyone
with interest cursed
tied and nailed them neatly
with some dispatch
for the sky was turning ugly
as oddly this Jesus spoke some pardon
to us for not knowing or doing our jobs
there was the inscription
in several tongues posted
something about royalty and the Jews
then the squad of four played their games
with the seamless robe of the rabbi
and their marked gambling bones
without the usual arguments
the one some called Master
had his mother there
some women and a friend
beneath the timber trembling
at his blood and pain
then later my men had their fun
with a vinegar sponge
pushing into that one's face
more banter from one bloody bar
to another between the thieves
with their taunting the one for perfection
and hopes for some better garden of glory
than this what did he call it
God-forsaken mound
next the thunder that shook the ground
some said it was an earthquake
the mob moved away quickly toward the city
it was at the time
this Christ of the Jews
heaved his last heavy gasp
the grasp of air now gone
his spirit left the body limp
a mass of flies now undisturbed
to lord his body
witnesses bring their cases
the courts condemn
judges like the governor order punishments
crowds affirm the fairness
but this one's cross-death rocks
the solid earth of justice
as I know it and hear his pardon
spoken peace and promise
proclaimed crowned by thorns
to those who hurt him
and are hurt by these sticks
in this placed called fallen Skull
we were to break their legs
so they could no longer lift their lungs
we did and robbed the robbers
of their tattered hold on life
but this one
you cannot blame me for wondering why
I grabbed a handled spike
we use to goad the crowds
and since he was dead
to be certainly truly sure
opened the cask of his chest
with a thrust
from which flowed clear water
and the dark blush of death's wine
my arms felt connected to the spear
as to a branch
touching even grafted to his innocence

I asked off going to the tomb
they will find a replacement
for some reason carrying home
under my tunic
next to my racing heart
a blood soaked sponge
trophy of a strange war
won by a victor in defeat

24 March 2010

Tonight's Homily

The Centurion, Longinus

I was no stranger to death. Dealing it out was part of my job. I was a Roman soldier. I had seen death come swiftly and unexpectedly on people - dying with the surprised look on their face that it could possibly be happening to them. Fools. I had seen death come slowly and with much agony - so that when it finally came it was a relief and answer to prayer. I had seen death inside and out, and the stench of it was something I never grew accustomed to. But I had never seen a death like the one I witnessed that day. A Friday it was.

He was a Jew - and that usually meant trouble. Better to be almost stationed anywhere else in the empire than in that land of Palestine where rebellion constantly boiled just beneath the surface. They were a handful, these Jews. But from the moment I laid eyes on the man whose execution I was to supervise, I knew here was something different.

He was in worse shape than the others. He’d been flogged to within an inch of his life. He couldn’t even make the climb with the cross-beam on his back. Some stranger had had to help him. As they spread his hands and tied them, placed the nails, lifted the hammer and let it fall, no curse, no venom came from his lips. Instead the oddest cry: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

It startled the men who were hammering, and they hesitated, shrugged and went back to work, but I kept my eye on Him. They hoisted the cross up into the air and there he hung, a dead man for all intents and purposes. He had only a short while yet, and it would be agony for him with that torn up back. How would he breathe?

I was curious as to the charge against the man, so I read the titular above his head. His crime? “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” My brow furrowed as I wondered what that meant. Had he attempted rebellion against Caesar? He didn’t look the part of some zealot terrorist, fomenting anarchy and violence.

The people began to jeer at Him. “You! You who would destroy the temple and raise it three days! Save yourself. If you are God’s son, get off the cross.” God’s Son, did they say? Ah, I thought, that’s why He cried out: “Father, forgive.” He thinks He’s divine? My thoughts were interrupted by more mockery hurled His way: “He saved others. Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross and we will believe.”

The Christ! That mythical rescuer the Jews were always yammering about. THAT’S who He thinks He is? Their Savior? The One who will rescue them from their enemies. I wanted to laugh myself, it seemed so ludicrous. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. There was something about Him, about the way He hung there.

One of the criminals crucified next to Him joined in the jeering: “If you are the King of the Jews save yourself AND US.” But his fellow criminal shouted back: “Do you not fear God, man? Look we are under the same condemnation; we’re getting what we deserve. But He’s done NOTHING wrong. Nothing. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I looked up startled as I heard His voice promise: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was getting darker by the minute. A storm felt like it was brooding. I drew my cloak tighter about me and waited and wondered, drawn again and again to the man hanging in the middle.

A woman was silently weeping near the bottom of the cross. His mother, I supposed. A man stood there beside her, young and heart-broken. From the depths of His pain, He called out to His mother and gave her to that young man and the young man to her. Even in His horrible suffering, He was still loving, still providing… I was amazed.

As the darkness enveloped us entirely and the lightning flashed I heard Him cry out in a language I could not understand: Eli, eli, lama sabachthani? I thought I’d never heard sadder words in my whole life, even though I didn’t know what He was saying. I knew He was very sad. He said plainly: “I’m thirsty.” They gave him some vinegar on a stick and then He did the most shocking thing. Gathering up all His strength He cried out: “Tetelesthai! It is finished!” A victor’s shout of triumph. And then He whispered softly: “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” His head bent down and the life went from His eyes. He died. He ended the crucifixion as He had begun it: crying to His Father.

He’d no sooner breathed his last than the earth rolled beneath our feet, the rocks crying out, the temple veil, they say, split that day from top to bottom. As I watched it all, I became convinced in a way that I’ve never forgotten: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” When He called on His Father, it was because God WAS His Father. And He didn’t just die, He wasn’t killed, He gave Himself into death, He gave up His Spirit, He died of His own volition. I’ve never seen anything like it ever, and never would again.

They wanted me to make sure He was dead. I had one of the soldiers run him through with a spear, and would you believe it? Out of that dead body streamed blood and water. Not trickling, gushing. It splashed on me and I knew in that moment that I had been made clean.

My name is Longinus. I saw what I have told you. I wanted you to know and to believe with me and to confess that the One who died on that center cross truly is God’s Son. I had seen death, but I’d never seen a death like His - a death by which, I came to understand, death itself had just died, and so it would lose all power over those splashed in the water and the blood from His side, those bathed in His forgiveness. I was no stranger to death, but a stranger death than His I’d never seen, and death now held no fear for me anymore.

Wow, where did Lent go?

Tonight was the last Passion Vespers of the Lenten Season. Where did it go? Remember that next week, the extra readings in Treasury are from Lamentations - wonderful stuff to add to the regular OT reading. And how wonderful it has been to soak in the penitential psalms this Lent. One of my goals is to have them all memorized. In the yard, the crocuses are up, and the daffodils on the south side of the Church; the lilacs are budding nicely. Today doing shut-in calls I saw some trees beginning to bloom. The Lenten Spring is enveloping us!


I must confess: I'm quite addicted. In the last two weeks, I've run 50 miles (35 on the cruise and 15 since getting home). The weird discovery for me (besides that I can do it!), is that I find it relaxing. Remarkably so. So if you've ever wanted to run, but thought you just couldn't - don't buy it. No one who knew this couch potato at 20 would ever guess that at almost 50 I'd be a runner. No one. One suggestion: buy or borrow and read *Born to Run* before you start. It will provide a very different take on running, and it is simply a fascinating work. Oh, and all those 50 miles were in my funny running shoes - my vibram 5 fingers (thanks again to *Born to Run*).

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

These trembling women know, what every disciple of the Risen One comes to know, that in this Son of God all the compassion and power of God is present, that there is only one thing to do - to fall down before Him and own Him as Lord and God, and serve Him, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for here in Him God is at work giving men the will and the power to work according to His good pleasure. -- Martin Franzmann, [Concordia Self-study Commentary, p. 54]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He offered Himself once for all, so that He is Himself both Priest and Sacrifice, and the Altar is the Cross. No more precious sacrifice could He offer to God than that He gave Himself to be slain and consumed in the fire of love. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *Day by Day* p. 151

Patristic Quote of the Day

Glory to Thee, O Lover of mankind! Glory to Thee, O Merciful One! Glory to Thee, O Longsuffering One! Glory to Thee, Who forgivest every fall into sin! -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #2

23 March 2010

Observing Holy Week and Easter at St. Paul's

March 27: Passion Sunday, Divine Service 6 p.m.
March 28: Passion Sunday, Matins at 7:45 with examination of catechumens / Divine Service at 10 with Holy Confirmation (youth)

March 29: Holy Monday, Divine Service (spoken), 7 a.m.
March 30: Holy Tuesday, Divine Service (spoken), 7 a.m.
March 31: Holy Wednesday, Divine Service (spoken), 7 a.m.

April 1: Holy (Maundy) Thursday, Divine Service (sung) 7:15 p.m.
April 2: Good Friday, Chief Service, NOON / Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers, 7:15 p.m.
April 3: GREAT VIGIL OF EASTER (with Holy Confirmation of adults), 8 p.m.

April 4: Matins, 6:30 / Easter Breakfast, 7:30 / Easter Egg Hunt, 8:00 / Divine Service, 9 a.m.
April 5: Easter Monday, Divine Service (spoken) 7 a.m.
April 6: Easter Tuesday, Divine Service (spoken) 7 a.m.
April 7: Easter Wednesday, Divine Service (spoken) 7 a.m.

Intercessions for Palm Sunday

Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.

Heavenly Father, Your Son entered Jerusalem to shouts of hosanna and acclamations of praise. Receive our thanksgiving now for the salvation that His passion has brought us. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Lord of glory, look in compassion on the people of Your Church. Strengthen their faith and make them bold witnesses to Your forgiving love. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

King of the nations, You have exalted Your Son to Your right hand and given Him all authority in heaven and earth. Remember in kindness those who bear office in our land and all who serve in our armed forces; and grant that our life together may be conformed to Your holy will. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Eternal Lord, Your Son embraced the way of humility and showed it to be the path to eternal life. Grant that our confirmands may share in the mind of Christ and follow in the footsteps of their Savior. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Healer of our diseases, Your Son bore all our sickness in His body on the tree. Remember those who suffer and are afflicted, especially .... and grant them restoration according to Your gracious will. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Master, Your Son has prepared a feast for His family that we might partake of His body and blood in faith and not die but live in Him forevermore. Grant to all who come to the Altar today a sure confidence in Your mercy, a firm resolution to turn from sin by Your grace, and the joy of Your salvation. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Giver of life, receive our praise and thanks this day for all who have closed their eyes to this age, and yet who still live in You, and eagerly await the day of resurrection. Bring us to share with them and all Your people the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Join our prayers with those of Your servants of every time and place and unite them in the ceaseless petitions of our great High Priest until He comes again in power and great glory as victorious Lord of all. Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, almighty Father, forever and ever! Amen.

Neglected Rubric

Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, p. 530:

8. The biblical gesture of hands uplifted and outstretched is appropriate for the pastor during the chanting of the Easter Proclamation. An assistant may hold the Altar Book for him. To convey the spirit of exultation, it is preferable that the entire Easter Proclamation be chanted. [emphasis added]

The Exsultet (pages 533 and following) is not an easy chant to master, and since it is only used once during the course of the whole year, this is your reminder, dear pastor (or assistant), to begin PRACTICING even now. It is *almost* like the normal Preface tones, but note that unlike any other Preface of the entire year, this Preface uses FIVE notes (instead of four). If you practice it a bit, you'll get a feel for that unexpected C - it is that unexpected note which gives this piece such a festive sound and, I believe, occurs only at the Vigil.

Don't wimp out, gentlemen. Sit down with your organist and or musician and have them TEACH you how it goes. You will NOT regret it.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

In this life, Jesus takes us through the valley. He even "rejoices" to know that the afflictions that he sends us are all purposeful, even though they give us great sorrow and pain (Romans 5:3ff.) That is the most profound secret of living a good news life in a bad news world. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* pp. 140, 141

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Once we have the gift, we are then to proclaim it, so that we may bring other persons to it also. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *The Sacrament - Against the Fanatics* AE 36:350

Patristic Quote of the Day

The Father gave up His Son to death on the cross, and through His death sinners obtained life. And if He gave away His greatest treasure, can there by any obstacle to prevent a man who asks such a Lover of mankind from receiving all that he needs? -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #138

22 March 2010

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Priest is a strong and lovely word. There is no lovelier or sweeter name on earth. It is much better to hear that Christ is called 'Priest' than Lord or any other name. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *Day by Day* p. 151

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

But one by one, Jesus bursts the bonds of our fettered hearts and drags another Pharisee kicking and screaming, through confession and absolution, to joy. The result is a cheerful generosity! -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 129

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us rouse our bodies with psalms and spiritual hymns that we might join the wise virgins whom our Lord praised, and in vigilance behold His glory in the night that will cause the world to tremble. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #94

21 March 2010

Final Catechism Vespers for the Season...

...this afternoon. Next time we'll meet again will be in September, God willing. I love teaching the Catechism, but I also love the time when Sunday afternoons are free for family activity! Come Vigil of Easter, we will confirm 4 adults; the youth will be confirmed on Palm Sunday - also four of them this year.

20 March 2010

Homily for Judica (2010)

When you trust in the God for whom nothing is impossible, people will always think at best you’re a bit off and at worst that you are totally deceived and a fool. Can you imagine what Abraham’s neighbors would have said if they knew, when they waved good-day that fateful morning, exactly what the old fellow was planning on doing to the child he’d waited a century for? Can’t you hear it? “You’re going to do WHAT to Isaac?! He’s out of his mind; the heat has addled his brains. Lock him up till he comes to his senses!”

How could Abraham even begin to make them understand? The God who had never lied to him or deceived him, had given him a promise - had given the world a promise, actually. Through Abraham’s son, Isaac, blessing would come to every family of the earth. This child’s very existence was a miracle that God had brought about. If God could create a child out of a 100 year old man and a 90 year old woman, he’d have little difficulty in raising that child from the dead in order to keep his promise. Abraham knew that he owed everything to this God whom he had come to know and delight in and so if God demanded the child back, then back to God the child would go! No matter how crazy it appeared to the world.

And if Abraham appeared crazy, how much more the Lord Jesus! He just spoke truth. And the truth was like salt in the wound of our self-deception. “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” THAT’s the question. For if one could convict Jesus of sin, then it would really matter much what He had to say about anything else. But no one has ever yet been able to do so. In Christ there is no sin, and so the big question remains: “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?”

His answer is that we don’t believe Him because we’re not of God. Earlier he’d said that we were of our father, the devil, since he was a liar from the beginning. We’re just like him; for “all men are liars.” You too. But not Him. He’s the one man in whom you will find NO lie, no sin, and so to a world accustomed to lying and sin, He seems positively loony.

We should not be surprised then when the Jews answered: “Are we not right in saying you are a Samaritan and have a demon!” He again counters the lie - which it is - with truth. “I honor my Father and you dishonor me; yet I do not seek my own glory. There is one who seeks it; and he is the judge. Amen! Amen, I say to you, if anyone keeps my words he will never see death.”

Well, you can imagine how THAT set. “Who do you think you are?” they scream at Him. “Abraham died, and so did the prophets, and yet YOU say that whoever keeps MY words will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham??? And the prophets who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?”

But the Lord wasn’t making Himself out to be anyone. He simply spoke truth. And the truth sounded utterly insane in a world where everything is upside down and insane and nothing is as it should be.

“If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, that he is your God. But you have not known Him. I know Him. If I said I didn’t, I’d be the same as you: a liar! I do know Him and I keep His words. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

Now they go absolutely ballistic. “You are not even 50 years old! And you have seen Abraham?” He’d saved the best for last: “Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham WAS, I AM!”

You can only imagine the shock that set in and the silence before they begin to grab the stones. He’d spoken blasphemy to their ears like they’d never heard before. He just claimed to be “I am” - the God who is the source of all being, the Eternal Word of His Eternal Father.

But before they can kill Him - it wasn’t His time then - He cloaks himself and disappears from among them. As in, He was there, and then He wasn’t. They couldn’t find Him. More proof that He was who He said He was.

Still the time was fast approaching when the absolute craziness of God would shine forth like never before. The writer to the Hebrews described it. The moment when Christ as the High Priest of the Good Things to come would take His own blood and enter into the Most Holy Place in heaven itself, thus securing an eternal redemption. Who could believe or ever guess the mercy and kindness of God in providing such a perfect, final sacrifice for sinners, that purifies consciences from dead works to serve the living God? Who would ever have dreamed that the Eternal Son would become flesh in order to be the mediator of a new testament so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance - an inheritance that is made their own and secure by a death that releases them from the transgressions committed against the first covenant - against the Law?

Who would be crazy enough to believe such a thing? Only those who by the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment discover the absolute trustworthiness of God and the correspondingly worthlessness of men’s promises. The Apostles go forth into the world proclaiming that while every man is a liar, God is true and truth itself. Crazy as it sounds, the One who commanded the Sacrifice of Isaac would Himself provide the Lamb for the offering, His only Son, so that not just Isaac, but all people, might live through Him.

As often as you come to the altar, you partake of the Lamb of God and God bequeathes to you His own eternal inheritance, the redemption Christ won for you. Yes, if you believe it, the world will think you’re crazy, silly, deceived, whatever. But the truth is, His truth will set you free. It always does. Amen.

How utterly wonderful...

...to be back to Divine Service at St. Paul's this evening for Judica. AND to be able to show the scarlet paraments and vestments to Clara AND Shirley (she's not often here, choosing instead to play the organ and worship with her husband the pastor down in AK!) that were given in Alfred's memory and to God's glory. AND Katie Schwarz sang two stanzas of "My Song is Love Unknown" (Hymn of the Day) tonight. AND Cindi sang a beautiful Stabat Mater. AND Carlo gave us numerous variations of "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth." Best of all, the Savior gave us His Gospel, His body, His blood, forgiveness of sins, everlasting salvation, His own divine life. JOY ABOUNDING! We truly missed the Sacrament last Sunday and were hungering for it.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

A good, round belly laugh with our friends or family or rank strangers reminds us that ultimate joy comes to us from without, from Christ; and penultimate joy comes from the wonderful, interesting and sometimes crazy people with whom he surrounds us. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* pp. 76,77.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If God did not dwell with the saints in the New Jerusalem they would not be blessed even in that beautiful heavenly city. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 310

Patristic Quote of the Day

What difference does it make to you when [His Appearing] will come? So live as if it were to come today and you will not be afraid when it does come. -- St. Augustine, Homily 265

More this n that

Memorable moments from our vacation:

Sailing in Acapulco bay under the stars with two other couples... trying escargot and finding that snails aren't bad at all when you drown them in enough garlic... getting David's text that our basement had flooded, and thanking God for Louis and Steve coming to the rescue again... our Indonesian waiter telling me he liked my style: "forever young"... watching the sun rise and set over nothing but water on the same day... the rude fellow in the sauna who said: "well, with your gray hairs at least you won't be around to see the worst of what we're heading for in this country" (and he was all of 41, mind you)... getting carded in San Diego's airport (take that, sauna boy!)... finding out that running 10+ miles is no big deal and not nearly as hard as I thought it might be... answering many questions about those silly vibrams... spending time with Carlo and Stephanie and listening to some of their fascinating anecdotes and talking about music... listening to some remarkable piano playing and singing... discovering how awkward the conversation can become when the second question is answered (first: where are you from; second: what do you do)... drinking beer on the beach in Ixtapo... best of all - time away with my beautiful wife.

[Pic is sunset in Manzanillo]

Blown away!

St. Paul's paraments and vestments by D. K. Brunner and Son have arrived: scarlet for Holy Week and gold for the Easter Feast. WOW and WOW. I am blown away. They were a fraction of the price that we'd have had to pay from one of the major church goods company and way more beautiful. Pics will no doubt follow when we put them up.

19 March 2010

Back to Normal...

...we enjoyed a wonderful cruise from San Diego to Acapulco and back. I am happy to report that I actually read NOTHING (except Treasury) and wrote NOTHING. Felt fabulous. I did run. Three and half times around top deck was one mile. I ran on ship Friday for 5 miles, Sunday for 7 miles, Tuesday for 10 miles and Thursday I met my goal for this summer: I ran 13 miles for a 1/2 marathon. That's 35 miles running for the cruise itself. New goal? I might have to run a marathon! And yes, I ran in the vibrams the whole time. I have decided running on the deck of a ship under the sun with mountains and ocean sailing past is the perfect running situation. Oh, and that drink Cindi is holding below...MMMMMMM! We call it "an adult milk shake." Chocolate Mocha Getaway. Not for every day... Most wonderful memory? A night time sail around Acapulco bay under the stars, sipping a beer (or two) - Cindi sipping a glass of wine (or two). Thanks to the Van Ulfts (pictured below on first dress up night) for suggesting the idea of a cruise and taking us virgin cruisers under the wing, as it were.

Some random pics...

09 March 2010

On Hiatus

Dear Friends,

Weedon's blog will be on hiatus for several days. God willing, we'll pick up again in a week and a half or so.

08 March 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Freedom exercised in love is the hallmark of Lutheran worship. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 85

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For the key which binds carries forward the work of the law. It is profitable to the sinner inasmuch as it reveals to him his sins, admonishes him to fear God, causes him to tremble, and moves him to repentance, and not to destruction.

The loosing key carries forward the work of the gospel. It invites to grace and mercy. It comforts and promises life and salvation through the forgiveness of sins.

In short, the two keys advance and foster the gospel by simply proclaiming these two things: repentance and forgiveness of sins [Luke 24:47]. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *On the Keys* AE 40

Patristic Quote of the Day

To give your attention to what you should not heed is a sin; to listen gladly to something which you should not hear is a sin; to think of something upon which you should not dwell is a sin. -- St. Augustine, Homily 261 (pointing out the less obvious sins that still afflict the Christian in our daily walk)

06 March 2010

Have You All

discovered this resource? Beautiful lectionary summaries for each Sunday and Feast, courtesy of the LCMS' Commission on Worship! I had a member tell me just the other day how much he appreciated these (we print them in the weekly bulletin).

Neglected Rubrics for Maundy Thursday

LSB supplies a service of corporate confession and absolution to begin this day. It is found in the Altar Book, pp. 507ff.

Note that the Service of the Word would then begin directly with the salutation and collect, and that it is permitted to omit the Creed, the Offertory and the Offering. See p. 510.

At the conclusion of the Service of the Sacrament, there is simply the Post-communion collect and the solemn chanting of Psalm 22 as the altar is cleared and then stripped. See p. 510.

*Note: LSB Altar Book takes cognizance of another way of celebrating the day, employing the full Divine Service liturgy. I'd argue that if you use the full Divine Service liturgy, it makes sense to use the white paraments and vestments; if you use the modified liturgy from the Altar Book, it makes more sense to use the scarlet paraments and vestments. At St. Paul's we will use the modified liturgy and the scarlet.

What We Ask For

during Lent. Just looking at the actual request part of the collects, we find:

"Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness" (Ash Wednesday)

"Guide the people of Your Church that following our Savior we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come" (Lent I)

"By Your might power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul" (Lent II)

"Be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word" (Lent III)

"Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience" (Lent IV)

"Mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul" (Lent V)

"Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection." (Lent VI)

What a season of bold requests to present at the throne of grace!

Homily for Oculi (2010)

Exodus 8:16-24 / Ephesians 5:1-9 / Luke 11:14-28

Pharaoh’s magicians knew when they had met their match. They could not mimic the miracle of the gnats, for they did not serve the God who gives life and who calls into being which does not exist. They tell their master flat out: “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh will not listen to them; his heart was hardened. He would persist in resisting the will of the God of Israel, even to his own great hurt and the near ruin of his land.

Even as in today’s Old Testament reading, where a miracle brought some to faith and others persisted in their unbelief, their refusal to heed the words of God, so in today’s Gospel. Our Lord Jesus performs a great miracle, releases a man who had been kept mute by a demon by driving the demon out and setting the poor man free.

As the formerly mute man begins to speak, some marveled. No doubt their thoughts ran to the prophet Isaiah and how he had foretold that when God would come to save his people, “then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped, them shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.” Surely, they said to each other, we are living in the days the prophet foretold. Listen to that mute man now sing for joy to the Lord, his Healer!

But others, seeing the miracle, did not smile and rejoice; they frowned and scowled. “You know how he’s able to cast out demons?” they asked. “I’ll tell you: he’s in league with them! He’s made a pact with Beelzebul, the Lord of the flies, the prince of the demons. He’s Satan’s pawn.”

Others, then, thrown into perplexity by the contradicting opinions begged him to make it all clear by some sign from heaven, something to show that he really was on the side of God and not the demons.

Our Lord is positively amazed that folks can even think such thoughts. “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” As though he said: “Open your eyes people. Does it look to you like Satan has a civil war going on? No way. He’s got you just where he wants you. He wants you miserable, afflicted, torn down and discouraged. He wants you fearful and doubting and fighting each other as though YOU were the enemy. His army is in lockstep formation; they’re not about to break ranks with him.”

“And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

No, it’s not a civil war in the demonic realm that Jesus’ coming among us has triggered. Rather, it is the case that Satan, that strong man, fully armed with his lies that he has sold us completely, was guarding his palace, and thinking that we were all safely his. Until one day a stronger than HE showed up on his doorstep - that would be our Lord - who proceeded to attack him, to overcome him, to take from him the armor of his lies and expose them for what they are, and then to divide his spoil - to release those he had kept in prison. No, not civil war among the demons, but a divine invasion of demonic territory by the Stronger Man. St. John would put it like this: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8

But Jesus warns that the unclean spirits do not easily give up their prey. Rather, when driven forth, they are in misery and seek a way to return to their human host. And should they come back and find their host with house swept and put in order, but not filled with the Stronger Man, they bring a bunch of their buddies and move back in with a vengeance. “The last state of that person is worse than the first,” Jesus said.

No, it is not enough that Satan be driven out. Baptism surely accomplishes that, as its liturgy confesses and the Word of God promises. But Satan must not only be driven out, he must be kept out. And the only way for that to happen is when the demon rings the doorbell, for you to ask the Stronger Man to go answer the door. If the Stronger Man, the Lord Jesus, dwells in you, then you have nothing to fear from the demons.

A woman in the crowd cried out: “Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” She was thankful for the Lord and His teaching. But the Lord comes back with a surprise answer: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” That was no put down of the Blessed Virgin - for if there is one thing St. Luke reveals about Mary it is that she loved, treasured and kept the Words spoken to her. The Lord is rather pointing the way to how HE may dwell within us: He comes with His words.

Where the Words of God find a home inside of you, the Lord Jesus finds a home in you, and His Father. Did He not say: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”? Jn 14:23 So on this Third Sunday in Lent, the Church would remind her children that only when the Stronger One lives within us can the evil one be kept at bay. Then we will not be like those Paul spoke of in the epistle, who lose the inheritance that was given in Christ because they invite the demons back in through their sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness. Instead, we who once were darkness get to be light in the Lord, walking as the children of the light, as He who is the Light makes His home within us.

Here at the Eucharist He who loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God upon Calvary’s tree [epistle], comes to us to fill our lives with His own forgiveness and divine life. Here the finger of God touches us still. Here the Kingdom of God comes upon us, and the Stronger Man whom Satan is no match comes to dwell among sinners to set us free, to keep us free, to keep us His. Forever. Amen.

Proclamation of Christ

As often as eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

C: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

O Lord Jesus Christ,
only Son of the Father,
in giving us
Your body and blood to eat and drink,
You lead us to remember and confess
Your holy cross and passion,
Your blessed death,
Your rest in the tomb,
Your resurrection from the dead,
Your ascension into heaven,
and Your coming for the final judgment.
So remember us in Your kingdom
and teach us to pray:

Our Father...

--Divine Services I & II, LSB

Sunshine, Beautiful Blue Sky...

...and a 4.5 mile run to Hamel and back. Thank you, Lord, for beautiful (almost) Spring days!

05 March 2010

The sun is shining

into the office (I've got all the blinds open) and the sky is blue and I could do with about 90 days of this.

What kind of an idiot

puts on his shorts and a hoodie and his vibrams to go for a bike ride when it is barely 50 degrees outside just because the sun is shining brightly? Never mind, don't answer.

04 March 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Word of God confronts us with a reality quite at odds with anything we might stir up within ourselves. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 50.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God's own appointments limit us, but do not limit Him. -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 431

Patristic Quote of the Day

Certainly the whole Law depends on two precepts: Thou shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind; ...and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two com- mandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. In Christ you have the Entirety. -- St. Augustine, Homily 261

A Friend Recently Posted

on his blog about trying a new method of being productive. I shared that I have become completely sold on the Cindi method, utterly simple (though it took her years to get me to DO it).

Come the start of a week, I review everything that needs to get done that week. I assign each task to a day, and then I save my list. I modify and review it and update it as necessary (new things get added in, or assignments fail to get done and need to be moved). I review the list first thing each day.

But the real joy of the list comes in highlighting an item and selecting: "strikethrough." Productive days get lots of strikethroughs and childish as it sounds, I absolutely love those days when everything gets a line through it. Those are my home-run days.

Today was a good day for it. I started the day with this:

Proof Bulletin
Materials for Kristi for choir (Psalms for Maundy Thursday; Psalms for Matins on Easter; Chants for Easter DS)
Hymns for April to Carlo
Sermon for Sunday - Oculi
Sermon for Centurion, Fifth Lenten Vespers - "I had seen death before."
Bible Study for Sunday
Prayers for this Sunday
Set up sanctuary for Sunday (bulletins, prayers, sermon on pulpit, hymn board)
Elders Meeting

Everything but Elders Meeting is now scratched off; when I get back from elders I can eliminate that too and look forward to tomorrow, when the only big items on the list are Matins, go the Y, clean house, and prepare for teachers' wine and cheese gathering tomorrow evening here at the parsonage.

Nothing fancy, but I find that it really works to keep me motivated because like a little kid I love to scratch off items that are finished. What do you MEAN you think I'm obsessive compulsive???

P.S. Before someone asks: of course I do NOT finish all my lists each day, let alone each week.

03 March 2010

Once again we gathered

for Passion Vespers. Such a beautiful and comforting service in hymns, psalm, canticle and prayer. Tonight was the Gethsemane reading, and Malchus preached the homily. We wrapped up with Responsive Prayer I:

Holy God,
holy and most gracious Father:

have mercy and hear us...

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

When we confront God, he says to us: "I didn't come to kill you; I came to forgive you." -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 47.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Scripture testifies, in countless places, that all people without exception are sinners and remain so until their death. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 269

Patristic Quote of the Day

As a matter of fact, His bones were real bones; His sinews were real sinews; His wounds were real wounds. Whatever was touched was real; whatever was perceived was true. Man was touched; God was perceived. Flesh was touched; Wisdom was perceived. Weakness was touched; Power was perceived. He is all Truth. -- St. Augustine, Homily 261

One of the Fun Things

I get to do as pastor of St. Paul's is to lead weekly chapel for our preschool. I love these little guys!

02 March 2010

Ah, a clean desk...

...at last. That's the way life should be. Isn't it amazing how empowering a cleaned desk is? I love it.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The righteousness of Christ, credited by faith, is transformative. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 45

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As God alone knows what is good and needful, it behooves us to place His will before our will and to prove our obedience in patience. -- Blessed Martin Luther, 1545 (Day by Day, p. 132)

Patristic Quote of the Day

For, just as He ascended into heaven without departing from us, so we, too, are already there with Him although that which He promised us has not yet been accomplished in our body. -- St. Augustine, Homily 263

I had a friend ask

my thoughts this a.m. on the matter of the intercession of the saints as described in Apology XXI:9 as "for the Church universal in general" and how this might or might not preclude their intercessions for specific persons.

I opined that "general" does not of itself preclude the personal. The place to look for this in Scripture is actually 1 Cor. 12:26: "If one member suffers, all suffer together." This does not exclude the glorified in heaven, for even our Lord in His risen glory could say to Saul: "why are you persecuting ME?" To touch His holy Church was to touch Him. Thus, I'd argue, the body as a whole experiences the suffering of the individual member and cries out in intercession. How beautifully did Luther put this in his sermon on John XVII:

"For to everyone who believe, through the word of the Apostles, the promise is given for Christ's sake and by the power of this prayer, that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that what happens to him as a member for good or ill, shall happen to the whole body for good or ill, and not only one or two saints, but all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth, and with God in heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, and afflictions and he partake of all their blessings, comfort, and joy....For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him?"

The emphasis on "in general" I think is due to this: here on earth, we pray especially for those we know and have been bound to by ties of affection; yet the state of the blessed dead is already perfected in love, so that their love for each is as great as their love for any particular human being. This would certainly be reflected in their intercessions so that their prayers would, of that very reality, be general without ceasing to be highly personal.

"Then I will know fully..." and knowing Him fully embraces knowing Him in "the least of these" fully. One body, one loaf.

01 March 2010

I *think* the insane month...

...is drawing to a close. I've had writing projects out the kazoo, and (if things go as planned) tomorrow I'll finish up and ship off the very last assignment to CPH. WHEW! Then I plan to clean up the piles of stuff on my desk and scattered throughout my office. I am definitely not taking on any new assignments till Easter is DONE - as in all seven weeks of it!

P.S. Yes, that's why I've not been writing much of my own stuff here; just too much writing elsewhere.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

There's always room for another sinner in church. -- Matthew Harrison, *A Little Book on Joy* p. 50

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For reconciliation with God and forgiveness of sins is not like color or some other quality which inheres immovably, indivisibly, and inseparably in a subject, so that once it has been accepted there is no longer any need to give it thought. But the perpetual action and daily exercise of faith in this life is to lay hold of Christ more and more, and ever more firmly to abide and continue in Him, lest the remission of sins be lost - but that it may be retained more firmly and surely. Indeed, in the present corruption of our flesh, in the midst of so many kinds of stratagems of the devil and offenses of the world, there is never a moment when it is not necessary for us to seek, lay hold of, and embrace the grace of God, reconciliation, and the remission of sins. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* II:239

Patristic Quote of the Day

He rose again to give us a token of our resurrection; He ascended in order to protect us from heaven above. Hence, we have our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ hanging on a cross, now enthroned in heaven. He paid our price when He hung upon the cross; He gathers what He purchased when He sits enthroned in heaven. -- St. Augustine, Homily 263