31 December 2010

Starck's Prayer upon New Year's Eve

EVENING PRAYER.

For the last time in this year I now bend my knees before You, O my God.  You have had mercy on me, and now I seek nothing but Your grace and peace.  I know that I have many times angered and grieved You in the past twelve months.  I know that I have often transgressed Your commandments, and have not always walked before You as I should.  I know that by my disobedience I have justly deserved Your wrath, displeasure and punishment.  But I also know that You graciously receive penitent sinners for Jesus’ sake and forgive them their iniquities, rebellions, and sins.

And so I now cast myself before Your throne and plead for mercy.  O Lord, remember not the sins of my youth; according to Your mercy remember me for Your goodness’ sake.  Enter not into judgment with me; for I can no more be justified before You than any sinful being.  Cleanse me from all sins, also my secret faults.  If during this year I have failed to listen as devoutly and attentively as I ought to have to Your revealed Word, which makes me wise unto salvation, forgive my inattention, and let me from now on be changed from being a mere hearer into a doer of Your Word.  If I have not loved You and my neighbor as I should have, remove from my heart all coldness and kindle the fire of divine love in my soul so that I can love You with my all and my neighbor as myself.  If in my vocation and in the works of my calling I have not shown proper faithfulness, forgive me in Your great mercy, and grant that in the future I may better apply the talent You’ve entrusted to me.  At all times may I be found a good steward, ready to face You when You shall call me to render an account of my trust.  There is forgiveness with You, O God; and so I seek forgiveness with You.  Now that the year is closing, blot out the record of my guilt, which is great indeed.  Cancel it with the precious blood of my Savior, which I make my own by faith.  Let my sins vanish like mist from before Your eyes.  Remove them far from me and remember them no more ever again, lest in the new year I should have to appear in Your sight as a debtor.

Further, take me under Your gracious protection this night and be a wall of fire around me, that no harm befall me.  Should this night prove the last for me in this dark vale of tears, then lead me, Lord, to heaven to You and to Your saints in glory.  May I thus live to You and die to You, O Lord of hosts!  In life and death You help me from every fear and need.  But if according to Your counsel I am appointed to live on for more years; if on waking, I am to enter a new year, let Your goodness accompany me.  Lead me in Your paths.  Make me godly in word and deed.  Guide me in an even way, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me, that I may live for You, serve You, and obey You.  Yes, my God, this is the only thing I ask of You before I fall asleep:  give me a new mind and spirit in the new year, a spirit which shall unhesitatingly perform what Your commandment bids me do, that my spirit, together with my soul and body, may remain the abode of Your Holy Spirit.

Jesus, guard and guide Thy members, Fill them with Thy boundless grace, Hear their prayers in every place.  Fan to flame faith’s glowing embers; Grant all Christians, far and near, Holy peace, a glad new year!  Joy, O joy, beyond all gladness, Christ has done away with sadness!  Hence all sorrow and repining, For the Sun of Grace is shining!  LSB 897:4

30 December 2010

The Prayer of the Church and the Roman Canon - Some Musings...

In one of the comment threads below, I proposed that the "radicalness" of the Lutheran liturgy in abandoning the Roman Canon is actually in practice not quite so radical as it may appear if one looks not from the Preface forward, but from the Preface backwards, because the Lutheran liturgy restored (often immediately before the Preface) the ancient practice of the Prayer of the Church (of which the survival of the Bidding Prayer on Good Friday is perhaps the best example).  When the Roman liturgy lost the regular use of this Prayer of the Church, the content of its intercessions, thanksgiving, remembrances, prayer for a beneficial communion and oblations were folded into the Roman Canon.  The Canon asks God to bless the gifts presented, intercedes for the holy universal Christian Church and her clergy; remembers various needs; commemorates the saints; intercedes for the gathered assembly; commemorates the Lord's passion, death, resurrection and ascension; begs His acceptance of the sacrifice; prays for a worthy communication in the sacred mysteries; intercedes for the departed and again commemorates a number of saints, begging God not to weigh our merits but to pardon our offenses; and asks all these things through Christ from whom it confesses all good comes.

The Lutheran liturgy indeed prayers exactly for many of these (and a number of other intentions, as well), but does so in the General Prayers or Prayers of the Church.  Here are some brief samples from the Altar Book of Lutheran Service Book:

We give thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace... We humbly implore You to rule and govern Your Church throughout the world... Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit, all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death or anything adversity... Receive, O God, our bodies and souls, and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring before You, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us to be Your own that we may live under Him in His kingdom... These and whatsoever other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant us for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (GP 1)

Almighty and eternal God, worthy to be held in reverence by all people everywhere, we give You humble and sincere thanks for all the innumerable blessings, which You have bestowed upon us without any merit or worthiness on our part.  We praise You especially for preserving Your saving Word and the holy Sacraments... Grant and preserve to Your holy Christian church throughout the world purity of doctrine... Protect and defend Your Church in all tribulation and danger.  Strengthen us and all fellow Christians to set our hope fully on the grace revealed in Christ, and help us fight the good fight of faith that in the end we may receive the salvation of our souls... Bestow Your grace on all nations of the earth... Accept, we implore You, our bodies and souls, our hearts and minds, our talents and powers, together with the offerings we bring before You as our humble service... Grant Your Holy Spirit to those who come to the Lord's Table this day that may receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ in sincere repentance and to their abundant blessing... And when our last hour comes, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ... (GP 2)

Almighty God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and bless You for the love that sustains us from day to day.  We praise You for the gift of Your Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  We thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; for Your holy Church, for the means of grace, for the lives of all faithful and just people, and for the hope of the world to come.... Save and defend Your whole Church, purchased with the blood of Christ... By Your Word and Holy Spirit comfort all who are in sorrow or need... We remember with thanksgiving those who have loved and served You in Your Church on earth who now rest from their labors (especially...).  Keep us in fellowship with all Your saints and bring us at last to the joys of Your heavenly kingdom.... All these things and whatever else You know that we need, grant us, Father, for the sake of Him who died and rose again and who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Church, Responsive)

For the holy Christian Church throughout the world and for all who confess the name of Christ... For all who partake this day of Christ's holy body and blood, that in their eating and drinking they may receive the blessings of forgiveness of sins and renewal of life and have a foretaste of the feast to come... O Lord, heavenly Father, we gratefully remember the sufferings and death of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation.  Rejoicing in His victorious resurrection from the dead, we draw strength from His ascension before You, where He ever stands for us as our High Priest.  Gather us together from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.  Graciously receive our prayers, deliver, and preserve us, for to You alone we give all glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Church, Ektene form)

I would argue that rather than our liturgy being devoid of the Eucharistic prayer, we simply moved the vast majority of the content of the intercessions, thanksgivings and such to a very slightly earlier position in the Prayer of the Church (agreeing with much of the content of the Canon, but not following its wording), and thus left the way clear for the Our Father and the Words of Christ to stand as the consecration itself after the Preface and Sanctus.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We are invited to rejoice in the many ways the Lord has of giving His gifts. This excludes the logic which concludes that since the forgiveness given a fellow Christian by a royal priest is no other forgiveness than given by a pastor in Holy Absolution, royal priest and pastor are the same or differ only in degree. To measure degrees and quantify is the way of the Law and turns away from the Gospel and the gift given. Each gift is each its own precious gift gladly to be received and not to be measured or diminished by its likeness or unlikeness to another gift. Most precious is what can only be confessed of each gift, its proprium. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CJ 14, no. 3, p. 295.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Oh Lord Jesus, grant grace that I may not be a fruitless rhizome, a worthless Christian of the tongue only, who steals comfort from others' tongues, boasts highly of his Christian faith, and has nothing to show for it in deed. -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 339.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us show forth then a new kind of life. Let us make earth, heaven; let us hereby show the Greeks, of how great blessings they are deprived. For when they behold in us good conversation, they will look upon the very face of the kingdom of Heaven. Yea, when they see us gentle, pure from wrath, from evil desire, from envy, from covetousness, rightly fulfilling all our other duties, they will say, If the Christians have become angels here, what will they be after their departure hence? If where they are strangers they shine so bright, how great will they become when they shall have won their native land! Thus they too will be reformed, and the word of godliness will have free course, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 not less than in the apostles' times. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 43 on St. Matthew

29 December 2010

28 December 2010

Puer Natus Est - Christmas Eve Divine Service

Upon the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

The wonder of the Magi’s visit vanished into the terror of the night.  Joseph is suddenly shaking Mary, arousing her from sleep.  He’s shaking and impatient.  “Come on!  Get up!  We’ve got to move, we’ve got to get out of here now. I’ll explain later.”  

And so it was in the dark of night, with only the dogs to sound their passing, that the holy family fled from Bethlehem.  When the sun’s light crept over the Eastern hills, Mary and Joseph were well away and still travelling onward and southward.  And so they didn’t hear the horror of the cries that filled the streets of Bethlehem that day when Herod’s soldiers rushed in to do their butchery.  They didn’t see the look of anguish on the face of unsuspecting parents suddenly bereft – Rachel weeping for her children.  But Joseph trembled all the same and it seemed to him that he could feel the long hand of Herod reaching out after them, seeking to destroy the Child, and so weary as they were, he pressed them to keep walking through the day and on into the night. 

As the miles between the Child and Herod grew, Joseph breathed somewhat easier.  Again and again in his heart he blessed God for the gifts the Magi had brought.  Those precious treasures would finance this unexpected journey and indefinite sojourn.  No thieves or robbers would likely bother them on that road – they looked too slim for the pickings.  No one would ever guess what treasures they carried; or even more, what treasure they bore in the gift of the Child.  

As they briefly paused for Mary to nurse, Joseph told her the story.  The same angel that had appeared before and told him the secret of who and what was growing in Mary’s womb, had appeared to him again that night.  The angel was urgent in his warning.  He was to flee.  He was to get up and take the Child and his mother and run for the border as fast as they could go, for Herod was looking for the Child to destroy it.

They looked down at the little baby in Mary’s arms.  So helpless, he was.  So frail.  So unaware, he seemed, of the malice and hatred that fills a world gone wrong.  And why would anyone want to do him harm?  He had come from God only to do good for the world, to right its horrible wrongs.  Why would anyone want to stop him from doing that?  Mary hugged him tight and tighter till he began to squirm in her arms.  Joseph was beckoning her to move again, but she was so tired.  Still, with another look at the babe, up she gets and on they go.  On and on for day after day until they cross the borders into Egypt and find a place of sojourn there among the large Jewish community who chose to lived in exile in Egypt rather than in the Promised Land under the capriciousness of Herod.

Herod had decided to play it safe; a shot-gun approach if you will.  When he realized the Magi weren’t returning with an exact ID of the Child, he ordered the murder of all the boys in Bethlehem, two years old and younger.  Later when his soldiers reported back to him that his orders had been carried out and not one baby boy left alive in Bethlehem or its environs, he nodded.  That night as he laid his sorry self down on his bed in what little peace his old decrepit body could give him.  He chuckled to himself:  “So much for the King of the Jews, eh?  So much for anyone who tries to steal MY crown!”  

But there was someone coming close to Herod, ready to steal not only his crown but everything that he had ever called his own, everything, that is, but his sins.  That someone is called the Grim Reaper, death personified.  Death visited Herod not too long after the Bethlehem atrocity and indeed took everything and everyone from Herod but Herod’s sins.  Those Death placed squarely into Herod’s arms and then trotted him off weeping and wailing to the judgment seat of the God of Israel.

Herod had wanted nothing to do with the coming King and that would be the greatest mistake of his much mistaken life.  The coming King was not interested in toppling him from his petty little throne that had to answer to Rome (some fine King Herod was – safeguarding with murder a puppet kingdom!)  The coming King was interested only in defeating and destroying the real enemies that bound Herod and that would one day track him down and wipe him out.  The baby was born to do battle with the Grim Reaper, to destroy the Destroyer’s power.  The Child had come to defeat the power of hatred, the power of indifference to suffering, the power of self-centeredness and whatever other name can be given to the sorry interior state of fallen humanity.  The Child had come to destroy sin’s power to accuse anyone who will but trust in him.  But Herod was full of distrust of the Child King and of his intentions.  So Herod died in his delusions and had to face the Judge of all, unprepared.

Meanwhile in Egypt, as Joseph watched the child play and laugh, grow and learn to speak, he pondered over and over again in his heart the words the angel had spoken:  “He will be called Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.”  Joseph’s brow would pucker at that, and he’d wonder:  “How?”  A sense of foreboding seized him.  He had rescued the Child from slaughter this time, yes indeed.  But why did he feel that the import of the Angel’s words to him were “Not yet.”  It was not yet the Child’s time.  Not yet for what?  For kingship or for slaughter?  He reached out and held a giggling lad, who then toddled away and smiled back at his Protector.  Joseph felt as if his heart were breaking in two.

One day the shout went out on the streets:  “At last!  God be praised!  The Usurper is dead!  My Daniel heard it himself in the Marketplace.  Herod is dead!”  A cry of joy went up across the Jewish ghetto.  Mary rushed home with the news only to meet Joseph already silently packing up.  “Herod is dead!” she cried.  “I know.  The angel of the Lord spoke to me again in a dream.  We can go home now, Mary.”
  
At the very borders of Judea, however, word reached them that Archelaus was now confirmed as Ruler – the house of Herod still survived despite the best attempts of the Jewish populace to block it.  The House of David was not yet safe for the Son of David.  Joseph had another dream and turned away from his ancestral home and went back to the land around the Lake, to Galilee of the Gentiles.  It was there, in Nazareth, that Jesus would grow to manhood.  And after a number of years begin to manifest the great work that he had come to achieve for all.  

Did Joseph think of it often as he labored in the Carpenter shop beside the Child becoming a man?  Did he ever catch a glimpse of how the Child would accomplish his great work of being King?  His great work of defeating the real enemies – not just of Herod, but of all of us, including Joseph?  Did he ever know that it would be nailed to a piece of wood that Jesus would reign as King and topple once and for all the power of sin to accuse and death to destroy the human race?  Whether he ever guessed the “how” of Jesus’ saving, he certainly knew and believed the “that.”  And we are privileged to know and believe both!  Unlike poor Herod we know that Jesus is no threat to anything but the power of sin and death – they had better watch it when He is on the scene – as He is for us today in the Word and in the Supper – and for that: Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Note to self:

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER let Robert try to cure you of fear of heights ever again.  NEVER!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We can hardly be understanding the Confessions rightly, if that understanding runs counter to what what was then being done in the churches. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CJ 14, no. 3, p. 291.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

By tradition, painters paint a skull at the foot of Your cross, showing thereby that Your blood has the power to blot out our death and take it away.  This then shall be my armor against danger and death. -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 326.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us flee vice, let us choose virtue, that we may attain both unto the good things that are present, and unto those that are to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 42 on St. Matthew

A Good One

from Fr. Peters (and from Pr. Peperkorn) for all you incense grumps out there - get over it and inhale deeply!  You'll feel better.  Honest you will.  LOL.

Incense

27 December 2010

Every Lutheran Pastor...

...should spend much time reading Luther's sermons.  Period.  Enough excuses.  Just do it.  Seriously.  You and your hearers will be blessed.

EWTN Thoughts...

...I had recorded the Christmas Service from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Just got around to watching it.  There is nothing like a little time with the Roman canon to make me very thankful to be a Lutheran Christian.  I mean no offense to my Roman readers, but sheez!  Luther was so right about how this prayer accents the wrong sylLABle, if you will.  We offer, we present, we, we, we!  The accent is so much on our action that the Lord's action and gift is shoved to the back ground.  It is striking to me how the Lutheran Divine Service can be so similar in outward form and yet so utterly different in what is accented.  Give me the Lutheran Divine Service ANY day.  I think the Roman Canon by and large makes for a wonderful Prayer of the Church, but that it obscures the gift of the Testamental Words seems a no-brainer.  After all, our blessed Lord did not say:  "Take and OFFER" - He took care of the offering! - He did say "take and eat!"

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The church does not make itself church.  The disciples do not make themselves disciples.  Ministers do not make themselves ministers.  They are all given to be what they are from the Alpha Christ by the Omega of His forgiveness, surely delivered by the called ministers of Holy Absolution with the words given them to speak by the Lord Jesus.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CJ July 1988, p. 287.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Oh Lord Jesus, how comforting it is that You are true man, our brother and kinsman by blood!  Oh, how honored we shall be forever and ever because You have brought our flesh and blood into the secret council of the Father and the Holy Spirit! -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 230.

Patristic Quote of the Day

What greater thing is there, than that God should become man?  And the Word became flesh without being changed, of the Holy Spirit, and Mary, the holy and ever-virgin One, the mother of God.  And He acts as mediator between God and man, He, the only lover of man, conceived in the Virgin's chaste womb without will or desire or any connection with man or pleasurable generation, but through the Holy Spirit and the first offspring of Adam.  And He, who is like us, becomes obedient to the Father and finds a remedy for our disobedience in what He assumed for us, and became a pattern to us without which it is not possible to obtain salvation.  -- St. John of Damascus, cited in Treasury, pp. 1053, 1054.

26 December 2010

Remember, O Lord,

all those who feel lonely in these days, who have no family surrounding them with love and bringing them joy, or who live and serve far away from their family.

Remember all who grieve for beloved faces long since vanished and voices stilled forever in this age.

Remember all who endure persistent pain and can find no relief.

Remember all who struggle with failing bodies, decreased abilities, tattered memories.

Remember all who have never known true love and who fear that it may not even exist.

Remember all who have been assaulted and to whom fear is a constant unwanted guest.

Remember all who suffered tremendous loss of earthly goods through fire or flood.

Remember them all, O Lover of Mankind, and bring to each hurting, troubled, aching heart that peace and healing which Your boundless love in Jesus Christ alone can bring,  for we ask it in His name, Who came among us to know our human woe and to free us from its power to destroy us, Who has loved with "a love everlasting, deep, divine." (Akathist of Thanksgiving)  Amen.

Good Gifts the Church Asks for at Christmas

The following are from the Collects of the Day for the Christmas Feast:

Nativity - Christmas Eve:

...grant that as we joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to be our Judge.

Nativity - Christmas Midnight:

...grant that as we have known the Mysteries of that Light on earth, we may also come to the fulness of His joys in heaven.

Nativity - Christmas Dawn:

...grant Your people grace to put away fleshly lusts, that they may be ready for Your visitation.

Nativity - Christmas Day:

...grant that the birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the bondage of sin.

First Sunday after Christmas:

...grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us.

Second Sunday after Christmas:

...grant that this Light may shine forth in our lives.

From the Credal Hymn (DS V)

We all believe in Jesus Christ,
His own Son, our Lord, possessing
An equal Godhead, throne, and might,
Source of every grace and blessing;
Born of Mary, Virgin Mother,
By the power of the Spirit,
Word made flesh,
Our elder brother
That the lost might life inherit,
Was crucified for all our sin
And raised by God to life again.
(LSB 954:2)

Reminders!

Monday, December 27, 6 p.m. - Divine Service for St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

Tuesday, December 28, 6 p.m. - Divine Service for the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Friday, December 31, 7:15 p.m. - Divine Service for New Year's Eve

Saturday, January 1, 9:00 a.m. - Matins for the Circumcision of Our Lord

Sunday, January 2, 9:00 a.m. - Divine Service (anticipating) the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ - with installation of Officers

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The gulf between Creator and creature is joined in Christ, and this can never be denied.  That He is God may not be separated from His being man, and one dare never speak of His being man apart from His being God.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Seven-headed Luther, p. 46.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If you would define Christ and properly describe who and what He is, mark well the angel's word, how he defined and describes Him, saying that He is and is called:  'Great Joy.'  O, blessed is the man who can well understand the meaning of this word, and hold it truly in his heart; for therein dwelleth strength. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Homily for Christmas Day, 1531.

Patristic Quote of the Day

All men have an equal part in the reason why we are joyful, for our Lord who is the destroyer of sin and death, finding that all are bound under condemnation, is come to make all free! -- St. Leo the Great, Christmas Homily

It may be St. Stephen's Day...

...but Praetorius' Mass for Christmas Morn is definitely what the doctor ordered (thanks for the reminder, Pr. Nilsson) and so I'm enjoying that a great deal at the moment.  Ah, that is one musical feast!  [And having finished that, have moved onto the equally incomparable Sch├╝tz Christmas Vespers].

25 December 2010

Christmas This and That

Yesterday, Cindi and I were up by 5:30 and out to the gym.  Home to fix breakfast.  Dave and Jo, Lauren and Dean, David and Meaghan, Bekah and Cindi and I sat down to a meal of cinnamon rolls, Christmas kringler, cinnamon bread (thanks, Steph and Carlo!), bacon and fried ham.  Then we opened our presents (morning of the 24th has become our family tradition).  Yesterday evening was the Children's service (at which they did OUTSTANDING - way to go Beth!), a time of visiting back at the parsonage and then the Candlelight First Divine Service for the Nativity - with some very great music (thank you Quartet, Cindi and Amilia and of course Carlo).  Finally to bed around 1:30 or so.  This a.m., Divine Service was at 9 - much, much joy as the bells rang, the choir sang, and the congregation greeted the Nativity with exuberant joy.  A quick hospital visit to Ray and then off to St. Louis for Christmas Dinner with Dean and Lauren, Tim and Lynn, Brad and Jessica, and all of us (including Dave and Jo).  We were very thankful Jo could make it - brave lady, venturing out in the mess.  A wonderful, hectic and crazy couple days!

Venite Adoremus!

Adeste fideles,
Laeti triumphantes;
Venite, venite in Bethlehem;
Natum videte,
Regem Angelorum:

Refrain:
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus Dominum!

2. Deum de Deo,
Lumen de lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera;
Deum verum,
Genitum, non factum:
Refrain

3. Cantet nunc hymnos
Chorus angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula caelestium:
Gloria, gloria,
In excelsis Deo!
Refrain

4. Ergo qui natus
Die hodierna,
Jesu tibi sit gloria;
Patris aeterni
Verbum caro factum!
Refrain

24 December 2010

Couple + Gerhard Joys

The redemption of the human race includes not only privative goodness - that Christ freed us from sin, the wrath of God, from death and hell - but also positive goodness:  that He brought us perfect righteousness, the grace of God, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life.  (p. 138)

He whom the serpent has wounded mortally cannot prepare a medicine for himself.  Thus we could not have prepared a cure for ourselves after we were struck by the infernal serpent.  However, in the womb of Mary, God prepared the most precious medicine, healing the wounds of our soul, soothing our pains, restoring our health.  (p. 143)

You see, because Christ is consubstantial with the Father according to His divinity and with us according to His humanity, therefore in Him the highest is united with the lowest, heaven with earth, God with man.  Through this mysterious and intimate union, He descended to us from heaven by assuming flesh, that we might be able to ascend into heaven to Him by clinging to Him through faith. (p. 144)

from On Christ

What Child Is This?

A Hymn Study:  here.

23 December 2010

From the Blessing of the Creche - Lutheran Service Book Agenda

Almighty and everlasting God, on this night You caused Your only-begotten Son to be born of the blessed Virgin Mary for our salvation.  Bless this creche, which shows the wonder of that sacred birth, that all who behold it may ponder and adore the mystery of His holy incarnation and may joyfully partake in His divine grace unto life eternal; through the same Jesus Christ...  p. 311.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The data of faith are simply given; everything follows and nothing may be set above or before such data.  Divine initiative and freedom may not be infringed.  The living God cannot tolerate any a priori; if there is to be a definition only he can give it.  This he has done in His and Mary's Son.  This is without necessity and analogy.  He did it; it happened, there it is. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Seven-Headed Luther, p. 42, 43.

[This citation, by the bye, represents the core insight, I believe, into the way Dr. Nagel so fabulously does theology.  It explains how he sees all that he sees the way he does.]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

O Lord Jesus, comfort me in my wearisome misery, that I may not despair, but await with Christian forbearance the joy of that final hour when You shall say to me:  "Go forth from your long-suffered cross."  Oh, Lord Jesus, speak this gracious message today to every oppressed and worried heart! -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 311.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For it is not, it is not indeed, a small step towards amendment, to lay together all our sins, and to be continually revolving and reckoning them up with their particulars. For he that is doing this will be so heart-broken, as not to think himself worthy so much as to live; and he that thinks thus, will be tenderer than any wax. For tell me not of acts of fornication only, nor of adulteries, nor of these things that are manifest, and acknowledged among all men: but lay together also your secret crafts, and your false accusations, and your evil speakings, and your vain gloryings, and your envy, and all such things. ... Account not then these things to be little, but put all together, and write them as in a book. For if you write them down, God blots them out; even as on the other hand, if you omit writing them, God both inscribes them, and exacts their penalty. It were then far better for them to be written by us, and blotted out above, than on the contrary, when we have forgotten them, for God to bring them before our eyes in that day. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 41 on St. Matthew

What a blessed way

to spend the last day of Holy Advent!  Pr. Gleason lent me a DVD of Advent music from J. S. Bach performed at the Benedictine Monastery in Melk conducted by Niklaus Harnoncourt.  Beautiful and amazing.  What a delight - the fifth evangelist simply does not ever disappoint.

The Sequence for Holy Christmas Day - Magdeburg 1613

Born before the world, 
the Son of God, without limit,
Through whom heaven, earth, and sea were made, 
and all things that dwell therein,
Through whom the days and hours 
flicker and are rekindled,
Whom the angels in the celestial realm 
continually proclaim with harmonious voice,
He had taken on a feeble body
-without the stain of original sin, 
from the flesh of the Virgin Mary-
through which the guilt of the first parent 
and the lust of Eve might be wiped clean.
Hence the present short day, 
this day of brilliant light, 
speaks forth, 
growing in length, 
because the true Sun, 
the newly begotten Son, 
by the rays of its light, 
has expelled the long-standing darkness.
Neither did the night lack the light of the new star, 
for it struck fear in the knowing eyes of the Magi
Nor was the light invisible to the shepherds, 
for they were awestruck 
by the glory of the heavenly host.
Rejoice, O Mother of God, 
whom, in place of a midwife, 
angels surround singing of God's glory.
O Christ, only begotten of the Father, 
who has taken human form for our sake, 
restore your humble servants;
And as you, clement Jesus, 
participated in their lot and deigned to receive their prayers,
so deign also to make them participants in your divinity, 
O only begotten of God!

22 December 2010

I don't know if I have mentioned lately...

...what a fricken STUPID game Liverpool is.  What a waste of time!  Why bother???  No, not Jo.  Cindi.  TWICE.  We don't like her anymore.

Yet another beautiful

antiphon for Lauds on Christmas morn, framing Psalm 100, in the Magdeburg Cathedral Book:

Genuit puerpera regem, 
cui nomen aeternum
et gaudiu- matris habens 
cum virginitatis pudore,
nec prima- similem visa est, 
nec habere sequentem, Alleluia.

A young Maid has brought forth the King Whose name is Eternal:
to the honour of virginity she unites the joys of motherhood;
before her, the like was never seen, nor shall it ever be so again, Alleluia.

Also interesting

that the Magdeburg Book calls them First Christmas Day, Second Christmas Day, and Third Christmas Day, but the readings reflect Christmas Day, St. Stephen's Day, and St. John's Day.  The "epistle" for St. John's Day comes from Sirach 15:1-6.  The collect for Christmas Day continues to be used, along with the Christmas Sequence (Grates nunc omnes) and the Preface for Christmas.  The Day of the Innocents is also indicated as Fourth Christmas Day, but upon this day the Mass was not celebrated, just the Office was sung.

Magdeburg Gems for Christmas

from the Lutheran Magdeburg Cathedral Book, for Matins on Second Christmas Day:

Beata Dei genitrix Maria, cujus viscera intacta permanent.
Hodie genuit Salvatorem seculi.
Beata et venerabilis virgo, quae sine tactu pudoris inventa es Mater Salvatoris.
Hodie genuit Salvatorem seculi.

Blessed Mother of God, Mary, whose womb remains untouched,
Today bore the Savior of the world.
Blessed and venerable Virgin, who without a touch of shame art found the mother of the Savior,
Today bore the Savior of the world.

[Translation assist by Matt Carver]

Antiphon before the Suffrages at the same service:

Virgo verbo concepit,
Virgo permansit,
Virgo peperit regem omnium regum.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut erat in prinicipio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

A virgin has conceived by the Word;
A virgin she has remained,
A virgin has brought forth the King of all kings.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen!

[Translation assist by Matt Carver]

Beautiful!



HT:  Deb DeBoer

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

What is wrong with us is not that we are human, but that we are sinners.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Seven-Headed Luther, p, 41.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, You are the bane and death of death, You are the sword against death and all calamity, You are my life.  You preserve my temporal life, and assure me of the eternal.  Oh, be my gracious patron, protector, and fortress.  Strengthen me with Your power, that I may conquer death and every distress, and inherit eternal life.  -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 272,3.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Such a thing is envy, than which no worse evil can exist. For the adulterer indeed enjoys some pleasure, such as it is, and in a short time accomplishes his proper sin; but the envious man punishes himself, and takes vengeance upon himself more than on the person whom he envies, and never ceases from his sin, but is continually engaged in the commission thereof. --St. John Chrysostom, Homily 40 on St. Matthew

21 December 2010

And Another Favorite Poem

for this time of year.  Pr. Wilken and I were talking about Britten's setting of this the other day:


This Little Babe

This little Babe, so few days old,
Has come rifle Satan's fold.
All hell doth at his presence quake
Tho' he Himself with cold doth shake.
For in this weak unarmed wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights, and wins the field
His naked breast stands for a shield
His battering shot are babish cries
His arrows looks of weeping eyes
His martial engines Cold and Need
And feeble Flesh his warrior's steed.

His camp is pitched in stall
His bulwark but a broken wall
His crib his trench, haystacks his stakes;
Of shepherds He his muster makes
and thus, as sure his foe to wound,
the angels' trumps alarums sound.

My soul with Christ, join thou in fight,
Stick to the tents that he hath pight,
Within his crib is surest ward,
this little babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
then flit not from this heavenly Boy.

Robert Southwell (1561-1595)

Can't let the day

go by without this:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


BY ROBERT FROST

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Feast Day of St. Thomas, the Apostle

I trust in You, O Lord, I say:  "You are my God." (Introit) ...  Almighty God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son (collect)... It was dry on the fleece only and on all the ground there was dew (OT)... Their voice has gone out into all the world (Gradual)... That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fo by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine (Epistle)... Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Alleluia / Gospel)... For You, O resurrected Lord, Are found in means divine; Beneath the water and the Word, Beneath the bread and wine (Hymn of the Day).

The old Sequence for the Day (Magdeburg, 1613):


O Holy Christ, Teacher of the Apostles, Firstborn over all creation, Ruler of Your Kingdom, govern Your Church’s behavior and life.  You first called the rude fishermen and they brought all the world together before your royal throne.  They vanquished the tyranny of Satan and sin not with carnal weapons, but by the ministry of Your Word, which is none other than the sublime and worthy office of Peter, Paul, Matthew, Thomas, Bartholomew, John, Philip, Simon and also James, Andrew, and Thaddeus, famous warriors of God!  From east to west and throughout the whole world, they are fathers of joy in the teaching of the faith, therefore grant us to abide in the same teaching, we pray you, O Christ!


Divine Service this evening:  6 p.m.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we can be glad before God, if we are not afraid of God, there is not much else that can take us captive to fear.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Dialog, Winter 1977, p. 141.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Many times the evil one has told my weary heart, "Don't you know that your sins have earned you a sad descent into hell?"  But now I know my firm consolation against such fearsome words:  instead of a descent into hell, O Lord Jesus, You have won for me a certain ascent into heaven.  As surely as I deserve the penalty of hell for my sins, so certainly and truly have You cleared the road to heaven for me with Your merit.  You took the prince of the air, the evil one, captive and defeated him.  I can confidently say with Tertullian, "Rest easy, dear flesh and blood!  In the heavenly ascension of Christ, your forerunner, you already possess clear proof that you too shall ascend into heaven." -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 266.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Death is trodden under foot, the devil has fallen, the law of sin is extinguished, the grace of the Spirit is given, life is contracted into a small space, the heavy burdens are abridged. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 39 on St. Matthew

20 December 2010

To the Glory of God

and in loving memory of Glenn Schumacher:  St. Paul, the Apostle

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Love is not the enemy of knowledge, but of the puffing up.  Love does not say, "you mustn't know about that."  Love is not afraid of knowledge. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Dialog, Winter 1977, p. 139.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If the evil one should try to frighten me with my heaven-crying sins, I will say, True, I cannot excuse my sin before God, but the blood of Jesus Christ also cries to heaven.  If my heaven-crying sins are great, the power of Jesus Christ's heaven-crying blood far excels and outweighs them, for the blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sins and obtains for me certain forgiveness of all my iniquity. -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 250 [the entire section on the Abel's sacrifice is beyond good and comforting - highly recommend it!]

Patristic Quote of the Day

Next, having brought them by His words to an earnest desire, and having signified His unspeakable power, He after that invites them, saying, Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 Not this or that person, but all that are in anxiety, in sorrows, in sins. Come, not that I may call you to account, but that I may do away your sins; come, not that I want your honor, but that I want your salvation. For I, says He, will give you rest. He said not, I will save you, only; but what was much more, I will place you in all security. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 38 on St. Matthew

Speaking of Koinonia...

...Deo gratias that Koinonia, Church fellowship, has been declared between our Synod and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  More here:  SELC Fellowship.

And for information on how to tangibly express our koinonia in gifts of love to our brothers who labor so tirelessly for the Gospel, see here.

19 December 2010

Reminder: St. Thomas Day Divine Service

on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.  Join us if you can!

So THAT'S the secret...

...we picked up some fresh bacon from the butchers - never been cured - and we cooked it the other day.  Bleh.  It looked beautiful.  It SHOULD have been tasty, but it was bland.  We had another package.  Cindi liberally salted the thing before frying.  AH!  THAT'S the key!  Absolutely delicious.  We gobbled it up after Church today.  Some of the best bacon I've ever eaten.  So like bread, bacon sans salt is, um... well, not so much.

18 December 2010

Home Alone Tonight

and for some reason, looking at the tree and remembering and missing those who have long since gone:  Mom and Daddy, Joe, Grandma Bess and Granddaddy Chance, Aunt Gee, Aunt Hattie, Sidney and Pete, Ruth, Virginia, Becky, Loretta, Aunt Fanny and Uncle Leon, Aunt Emma and Uncle Jim, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Betty, Aunt Kitty and Uncle Al, Aunt Ada and Uncle Archie, Aunt Connie, Granddaddy Mastin, Nana, Aunt June and Uncle Bill, Grandma and Grandpa DeVries.  The ghosts of Christmases past, I suppose.  They always seem so near at this time of the year, and I am saddened to think my children (now grown) will never know so many of these wonderful people who shaped my life and Cindi's life and showed such kindness to us across the years.  I think of so many Christmases past and remember...God rest them each and every one, and may we meet again in the joys of that Kingdom where death is gone and the goodbyes are forever over.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Christian life is shaped by the giving love of Christ and in the Scripture we have his bidding and descriptions of that shape.  We would please him.  Yet in nothing of our achievements, in no factor in us, do we place our final reliance.  That is in his body and blood given and shed for us, in our Baptism, and in his forgiving and life-giving word of the Gospel, which does not merely tell but bestows what it says. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, The Springfielder, Sept. 1973, p. 119.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We are His dominion and by His grace we ourselves have dominion over sin, death, devil, hell, and eternal damnation.  This is sublime, for it really is true. -- Valerius Herberger, On the Great Works of God, p. 238.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He [St. John the Baptist] so lived as though he were in heaven. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 37 on Matthew

Homily upon Rorate Coeli - Advent IV - 2010

[Deuteronomy 18:15-19 / Philippians 4:4-7 / John 1:19-28]

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  So in the days of St. John the Baptist, the great forerunner of the Lord announces that the Coming One is among the people and they don’t even realize He’s there.  John had, in fact, been sent on the mission to prepare the people to meet the Coming One when He arrived, to point Him out and to help them greet Him in repentance and faith.  So John’s big calling in life was to be the voice and the finger.  The voice that Isaiah said would cry out in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord.  The finger that would unerringly point the crowds to the unremarkable Man who stood among them, looking so much like an ordinary Joe, but who was in fact the divinely appointed Lamb of God who had come into the flesh to take away the sin of the world.  John witnesses to what is not apparent to our sight.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  How blind we may be at times to the presence of the Coming One among us.  We gather week by week and listen to words from a book.  We stand and sing to One whom no one can see, and we confess thereby that He is speaking and among us.  We cry out to Him, glory to thee, O Lord and praise to thee, O Christ.  We offer our petitions and bring the needs of those we love and know and of those we love and don’t know, and lay them all down before the feet of the One no one sees.  And then He takes to His use bread and wine, speaks His words of promise over them, and reaches them back to us as His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  But all you see is a bit of unlikely bread and entirely too sweet wine.  And yet He is there, the Coming One who is in the midst of us.  Do you dare say to yourself:  “Oh, it’s just communion.”  As though communion were a THING and not a WHO, not the body and blood of Him who came among us as Mary’s little boy, larking about the streets of Nazareth, and one day taking off his sandals and clothes to stand before John in the flowing waters of Jordan, clothed only in His unblemished “yes” to the will of His Father,.  Then going in the strength of that will to free those held captive by Satan, to heal those ravaged by disease, to raise those devoured by death, and finally in His “yes” to His Father’s will, taking off His sandals that we are not worthy to untie, and being fixed to a tree and raised upon it to die.  

If you think He is hidden among us as Mary’s little baby boy, how much more is the Coming One who makes all things new, hidden in the dead body, strung up like a piece of meat upon Golgotha’s tree?  

We may be blind, but creation wasn’t.  It shook.  It trembled before what it saw.  The curtain of the temple torn right from top to bottom.  For creation knew that in the death of that Man, who is also God, death itself has been undone, sins forgiven, the cherubim sheathing their swords, as at long last the Children of Adam and Eve are welcomed back to the home from which they had been in exile for all the centuries since the fall.  

Creation confesses what we cannot see:  that the Coming One – the One will appear in the clouds of glory on the Last Day – truly came among us in the flesh assumed from His holy Mother that in that flesh He might suffer and die and be raised in incorruption to be your everlasting salvation.

And so He had to teach them about being the Coming One and so hidden among them, even after He had defeated death and been raised in incorruption.  So He sneaks along with the two Emmaus disciples and leads them through a joyous hunting through the Scriptures so that they might come to understand that the Christ HAD to suffer and die and be raised from the dead so that repentance and forgiveness could be given to all in His name.  And with hearts strangely warmed by His words, unpacking for them the familiar Scriptures and showing them all to be about Him, He proceeds to take bread, bless it, break it and suddenly they see.  The Coming One is among them – and they didn’t even realize it.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  He was there all along in Word and in Meal.  It begins to click.

And out of nowhere He appears to the disciples gathered in the upper room.  Asks for some food.  Speaks His peace, sends them forth with words of forgiveness and thus reminds them that He is with them always, yes, to the end of the Age.

The Coming One, right in the midst of their existence, and they can’t even see that He’s there, but He promises:  “I will be with you always” and they know now that He never lies.  

It was in that glad confidence that they marched out into all the world and those after them and those who came after them, all the way down to today.  So you’ve got a preacher up here, jawing away about the Coming One and telling you:  Don’t surprised, but He’s here.  He’s among you.  Yes, we eagerly await the Day of His appearing, but it will be that – an apocalypse, an unveiling.  Suddenly He will reveal the truth that He has always been here with us, and we’ll see and know and give Him glory and praise forever.

Moses gave the big hint:  the prophet would be like us, he’d come from among the brethren.  Raised up to do a bigger job that poor Moses could ever accomplish.  This One will speak words that bring us everlasting life, and He will be revealed right in our midst.  One of us.  

So Paul in today’s Epistle tells you to rejoice always, and let your moderation, your gentleness be known to all.  Why? Because the Lord is at hand.  At hand doesn’t mean, about to come.  It means HERE.  And here to receive all our prayers – so no anxiety needed in our lives when we remember that among us is the One to whom we can turn in prayer at anytime - the Defeater of Death and Lover of Mankind.  The Coming One – He STILL stands in our midst and still speaks His word of Peace – a peace that passes understanding.  

Christmas is almost here.  It is the feast of God’s hidden presence, right smack dab in our midst – may the Holy Spirit open the eyes of our hearts to see and rejoice with St. John the Baptist in the Coming One’s presence.  Not just future.  But here.  Now.  And forever.  

O come, O come, Emmanuel – and He does and He will.  AMEN! 

17 December 2010

O Antiphon Series

can be heard here.

16 December 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The magnitude of the Gospel is recognized by contrast with the Law, and particularly in its function of disclosing sin.  When the Law has demolished every ground in man for making any claim on God, then the Gospel is received as sheer gift.  Because of Calvary there is forgiveness and this is bestowed by the absolving "word of the cross." -- Dr. Norman Nagel, The Springfielder, Sept. 1973, p. 118.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the High Mass, moreover, the Christian Church always sings:

Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord;
Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost
Art most high in the glory of God the Father.

--Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 234.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Because of this, when we are judging others, we search out all things with strictness, but when we are sitting in judgment on ourselves, we are blinded. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 36 on Matthew

Reminder: the Great O Antiphons

The Great O Antiphons, used to frame the Magnificat in Vespers in the days before Christmas, begin tomorrow evening with O Wisdom.  The Treasury includes them in the daily propers section.  As each of these Old Testament names for God is prayed, and Christ is invoked to come to us, the clarity of whom the Blessed Mother bore is driven home in an unmistakable way, climaxing in the confession that He is Emmanuel, God with us.  The Latin titles read backwards announce:  ERO CRAS - I'll be [here] tomorrow, which is very fitting as the O Antiphons conclude upon December 23.

14 December 2010

A Random Luther Gem from Church Postil for Christmas

Grace does not interfere with nature and her work, but rather improves and promotes it.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

You can only become human His way; never so long as you make your humanity the ultimate goal; only by losing our lives is life given to us.  Come now to Christ giving to you.  Come with all your hopes and aspirations, your piecemeal humanity, your uncertainties and your fears, your sin.  Come to be totally embraced in His forgiveness, His accepting and enlivening you, so that means may never be mistaken for ends, becoming idols that enslave and destroy.  Come to be made free and to receive the resources for living out your lives as Christ's men and women in the world.  "If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CTM, XLII, No. 8, p. 552.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Man was separated and wrested from God, so You took on a human nature, that man might thereby be reunited with God.  For as certainly as God and man are united in Your person, so certainly have God and mankind been joined, reconciled, connected, bound, and united in eternal friendship through Your merit.  -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 230.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Concord is not in every case a good thing, since even robbers agree together. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 35 on Matthew

13 December 2010

Something I absolutely HATE

about our current polity at St. Paul's is that I lose wonderful elders each year, when they have filled out their two terms.  Tonight was our last meeting with Gary and Doug, both of whom have been invaluable to me as pastor of St. Paul's parish.  The good thing is that I can still rely on them for their counsel; the bad thing is that we won't have that face to face meeting each month to receive it.  Still, I welcome our "new" (returning) elder Bill and brand spanking new elder, Scott.  Glad to have them on board, and pray the Lord's richest blessings upon their time of service to St. Paul's (and I'll be grousing when they have to leave the board too - be warned).  And yes, Scott fits into Marc's old alb - Deo gratias!

What a couple inches of snow looks like...

...when it blows across open fields to wind up in the parsonage backyard:

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

God binds Himself to our humanity, wine and bread, through His Word and words to give Himself and His salvation into our grasp.  Luther's basis for this is simply the fact that this is what God has done and does.  He will therefore allow nothing that he sees as a diminution or disruption of this.  The heart of his concern is not some notional omnipresence, but what God has said, done, and gives.  Here is the contingency of what God does and says which cannot survive in any philosophical system.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CTM 1968, p. 229.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When Mary consented to God's plan, nothing but joy and bliss ensued.  -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 205.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Do you see how again He does not promise them deliverance from death, but permits them to die, granting them more than if He had not allowed them to suffer it? Because deliverance from death is not near so great as persuading men to despise death. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 34 on Matthew

12 December 2010

NOTE: Preschool/Daycare Christmas Program CANCELLED

today due to the weather conditions.  Please pass the word on!

Whew! What a cold and snowy Gaudete!

Still, unlike many to the north, I suspect, we were able to hold Divine Service and receive the Lord's good gifts.  Ladies Aid/LWML Christmas party is this afternoon at 1:30 - I doubt if many of our older ladies will make it out in this.  Still ahead is Catechism service (we'll see who if any can make it) and the Daycare/Preschool Christmas program (again, we'll see who makes it).  Wind is driving the snow every which way out there.  Traffic is moving fairly slowly along the highway.

11 December 2010

'Twas sort of a Christmas tradition...

...when I was growing up.  About this time in December, we'd make the trip from Maryland down to the family place in Virginia.  Daddy and I would go out in search of the perfect Christmas tree - always a cedar.  He'd chop it down and haul it back to the house. Later, mom would even venture into the woods (a feat for her with her crippled legs from polio) and we'd hunt up some running pine, running cedar, and clip some holly branches with bright red berries.  Then we'd haul it all back to Maryland to decorate the house.  We often came home too with some delicious country butter and some sausage and scrapple from Aunt Emma, and maybe even some country ham.  Mom liked to put the holly in an old milk crock that used to belong to Grandma Bess, and she'd arrange some of the running cedar in a heavy glass pitcher (it also was Grandma Bess's - and we still have it).  Sadly, around these parts I've never noticed either running cedar or running pine, but I'm delighted we can still get a cedar tree for decorating.  Amazing how the smell of the cedar brings back memories of long gone days like nothing else can.

We have a house

that smells deliciously of our cedar Christmas tree.  We were bummed yesterday when we called out to Daniken and they said "no cedars."  We were resigned to a pine, but when we got there, we asked again and they asked the owner and, to our delight, he had three and we chose a splendid one for the house.  Hopefully David and Bekah will get home here before too long and we'll decorate it.  Cindi has put up the lights already.  It's drinking water like no tomorrow.  Cookies for tree decorating are freshly baked and waiting for the kids.  I'll put up the icicles when they're done with the ornaments.

10 December 2010

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Mary was not meant to be the only one called "full of grace."  Rather, every one of us who believes in You is full of Your grace, love, faithfulness, and favor too. -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 204.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us then be ashamed, who do the contrary, who set like wolves upon our enemies. For so long as we are sheep, we conquer: though ten thousand wolves prowl around, we overcome and prevail. But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep: and He forsakes you, and retires, for neither do you allow His might to be shown. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on St. Matthew

09 December 2010

Hymn Study on "Creator of the Stars of Night"

that I was privileged to do yesterday:  here.

What I really like about

this rendition of Magnificat is how it unpacks the really radical things that the Blessed Virgin is proclaiming and singing about.  Indeed, the world IS about to turn!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar is the place where the divisions of Christendom can alone be finally healed. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CTM 1968, p. 227.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[The Lord Jesus speaking to Adam and Eve]:  "I shall offer myself up to death that I might take your death away; yet I will not remain in the tomb, but will survive, subdue and subjugate all our enemies.  And finally on the last day I will come and crush the serpent's head, cast all our foes into hell's abyss, and restore you to a perfect estate, and honor you more highly than you were ever honored before the fall."  -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 195.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Do you see the greatness of their ministry? Do you see the dignity of apostles? Of nothing that is the object of sense are they commanded to speak, nor such as Moses spoke of, and the prophets before them, but of some new and strange things. For while the former preached no such things, but earth, and the good things in the earth, these preached the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever is there. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 32 on Matthew

It struck me...

...in the middle of the homily last evening how powerful it is that the Catechism puts the benefits of Baptism, not in the past tense, but in the present.  The question:  "What benefits does Baptism give?" is present.  And each of the benefits' verbs is also present:  "it works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare."  For many years, I've taught toward saying:  "I am baptized" (not WAS baptized) and yet never noticed how the Catechism's present tense underscores that.  Baptism - the gift that keeps on giving!

07 December 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

A Christian follows the example of Christ, but this does not make a Christian.  He is a Christian who has the gift which is Christ. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Luther for an Ecumenical Age:  Essays in Commemoration of the 450th Anniversary of the Reformation, p. 191.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Evil comes from the devil; good from Jesus Christ. -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 185.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let no man therefore beat himself any more, nor wail, neither disparage Christ's achievement. For indeed He overcame death. Why then do you wail for nought? The thing has become a sleep. Why lament and weep?  -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 31 on Matthew

06 December 2010

For the Joy of It

listen!

Monday's Summary

after Matins and pot of coffee, the joys of leading opening devotions in the school, teaching Luke 1:1-25 to 7-8 and then 5-6 grade, chapel at the daycare/preschool on the Annunciation with some special work on the Christmas program, workout at Y (lots of work on the stepper today - I HATE that machine!), ran off materials for pre-school Christmas program (Joanie kindly volunteered to put them together for me), grabbed a bite of leftovers (Chicken a la Shannon) for lunch and started second pot of coffee, prepared bulletin for Epiphany, touched up and resent bulletin for Christmas Day, finished off January calendar (thank you, Google Calendars!) and shipped to Joanie, worked a little on hymn-study for "Creator of the Stars of Night," and did an impromptu interview on St. Nicholas for Issues, Etc., a tad of blogging, and some work on homilies for Advent III and IV.  Will feel much better when those sermons are all finished...Luther is so unbeatable on them, though.  He just nails them both.  I didn't get a single one written today.  Grr.  Also wondering if Gary and Marilyn made it home safely, and how Clara is doing.  Need to check up on them tomorrow.

Working on a Hymn Study

for Issues, Etc. on "Creator of the Stars of Night."  This hymn was HUGE in the Advent hymnody of the Lutheran Church in the 16th century.  They didn't translate it into German, just kept singing it in Latin (the original, mind you, not the way it was almost unrecognizably altered in the breviary revision under Urban VIII in 1632).  Lossius' Psalmodia surrounds the piece with copious notes, and I found his comments on the second stanza interesting.  Here's the original:

Qui condolens interitu
Mortis perire seculum,
Salvare mundum natus es,
Ferens reis solatium.

LSB, largely following Neale, renders this as:


Thou grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the healing, full of grace,
To cure and save our ruined race.

More literally, though (remembering the Latin is a challenge for me - if I get it wrong, please correct!):

Who suffering greatly with the destruction
death wasted upon the universe,
was born to save the world,
bringing solace to the guilty.

Regarding this stanza, Lossius notes:  

Here this verse teaches concerning the causes of the mission of the Son of God.  And these are of three sorts.  First, the magnitude of the divine wrath against sin, which is not possible for any creature to placate.  Therefore the decree of redemption for the Son of God is made.  Second is the immense mercy of the Eternal Father in permitting His Son to become man, not wishing all to perish.  Third is that the same Son of God works for love of us, intercedes against the great and horrific wrath of God, and afterwards submits to punishment for us and is perpetually the propitiator. 

It strikes me how he holds together a very lively sense of divine wrath and yet can speak precisely "of the immense mercy of the Father" in allowing the Son to become man so that all do not perish.  Lots more work to do on it, and tomorrow Pr. Curtis has promised to help me with some of the trickier Latin notes.  What an absolutely lovely hymn, though.  Pr. Roemke just posted this link to it up on his Facebook page:



And here Pr. Mayes sings the English for you.  

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Luther said that if he had to choose between Rome and the Enthusiasts, as he called them, he would choose Rome, for there there was certainty of the body and blood of Christ, while with the Enthusiasts there was certainty only of bread and wine, with the body and blood spiritualized away from the bread and wine.  Luther's teaching on the Lord's Supper, however, is not a choice between alternatives but an insistence upon the whole.  Body and blood may not be separated from bread and wine to fit the demands of reason.  Christ simply does and gives what He ays and in Him and His Supper there is no gap between earthly and heavenly. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, The Springfielder, Fall 1963, p. 48.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Lord Jesus, the Second Adam, also fell into a deep sleep of death on the cross.  His side, too, was opened; and from it flowed blood and water, which, it is preached in the Church, are distributed in the Sacraments.  Christian hearts receive this treasure by faith.  Thus the Christian Church is built.  Thus our hearts are brought to Christ.  Thus we are washed of our sins by the Lord's Jesus true holy water, and hallowed by His blood.  And just as Adam's heart poured itself out in beautiful love for Eve, so the love of Jesus Christ also burns for our heart.  -- Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God, p. 175.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For that no man on earth was righteous, Paul declared, saying, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 And by this too the others were comforted, I mean, the guests. Why, I am so far, says He, from loathing sinners, that even for their sakes only am I come. Then, lest He should make them more careless, He staid not at the word sinners, but added, unto repentance. For I am not come that they should continue sinners, but that they should alter, and amend. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 30 on Matthew

Commemoration of St. Nicholas of Myra

Today our Synod (together with the Church both East and West) celebrates the day of St. Nicholas.  From the Treasury and our Synod's website:

Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. A.D. 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, although there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of Turkey today) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of “Sinte Klaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas, in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.

We pray:

Almighty God, You bestowed upon Your servant Nicholas of Myra the perpetual gift of charity.  Grant Your Church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt and grief.  We ask this for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ... (Treasury, p. 989)

You can listen to Issues, Etc. interview on the topic of St. Nicholas here.

05 December 2010

Wolcum Yole!

The Holy Days at St. Paul's this Advent-Epiphany Seasons:

St. Thomas, Tuesday, Dec. 21st - Divine Service:  6 p.m.
Children's Christmas Service, Dec. 24th - 7 p.m.
First Divine Service for the Nativity, Dec. 24th - 11 p.m.
Second Divine Service for the Nativity (the Christmas Dawn Service), Dec. 25 - 9 a.m.
First Sunday after Christmas, Dec. 26 - 9 a.m.
St. John's Day, Monday, Dec. 27 - Divine Service: 6 p.m.
Holy Innocents Day, Tuesday, Dec. 28 - Divine Service: 6 p.m.
New Year's Eve, Friday, Dec. 31st - Divine Service: 7:15 p.m.
Circumcision of Our Lord, Saturday, Jan. 1st - Matins: 9 a.m.
Epiphany (observed), Sunday, Jan. 2nd (with Installation of Officers) - Divine Service: 9 a.m.

Thereafter, we resume our normal schedule.

Bulletins

New Year's Day
New Year's Eve
Christmas Day
Christmas Midnight
Children's Christmas Program
Advent IV
Advent III
Advent Midweek II
Catechism Service 13
Catechism Service 14

Still to go:

Epiphany (observed)
Christmas I

Then the sermons... The goal is to have everything done by Advent IV so that there will be some time to enjoy the holidays with the family.

Sabotaged!

Cindi made pancakes for dinner tonight, along with some sausages.  She told me which pancakes where which when she set them on the table - lo-carb for her and me; regular for the kids.  So I took my pancakes and prepared them.  David started squawking:  "Mom, these don't look right.  What did you do to them?  Are you sure that THOSE aren't ours?"  "No," she said, "I kept them separate.  Those are ours, these are yours."  So we all got our pancakes buttered and put on syrup (lo-carb for us; regular for the kids).  David takes a bite and says:  "Mom, these are not right.  What did you do to them?"  "I made them out of the mix just like I always do.  Maybe I got a little too much water.  They're flat and I'm not sure why."  I made fun of David for putting up such a silly fuss.  Then Cindi takes her first bite of her pancake and she looks confused.  She was SURE which were lo-carb and which were not.  NOT SO MUCH.  And this after I had eaten all my pancakes (I woof food down so fast that Lucy can't even keep up - so yes, Cindi's first bite was after mine were all gone), I find out that I ate the WHITE FLUFF pancakes!!!  Sabotaged!!!  By my own wife!!!  ACK!  Major Atkins Sin!  I said with great chagrin:  "I'm gonna wake up fat!"  Cindi asked:  "How could you not taste the difference?"  Bekah said:  "He doesn't have the food in his mouth long enough to taste anything."  We all apologized to David, whose belly-aching was actually right on target.

P.S.  AND THEN she had the nerve to serve me lo-carb pumpkin pie.  Was it really???

Happy Birthday, Sis!

She was born in 1946 on December 5.  So many of my childhood memories are associated with her.  I remember her running to the springhouse to fetch some peanutbutter for a sandwich for me at Grandma Bess's.  The springhouse was not her favorite place. Snakes.  So she made me go right along with her.  When I was not quite, but almost, five she married Jimmy Cooke, who was our mailman and also our neighbor - he lived across the street and up one house with his widowed mom.  That was in 1965.  I remember the wedding well and visits over to the Cookes before Sis and Jimmy moved to a new subdivision in Aspen Hill. Sis and Jimmy took me with them quite often on vacations (mom and daddy really didn't "do" beach trips and such).  Even after their own children came along, they always made me totally welcome and a part of the family - I still think of her children almost more as my brothers and sister than my niece and nephews.  Our lives were very intertwined for many years.  One of the really wretched things about living so far away from Virginia is how little time we get to spend together anymore, but whenever we do, I always absolutely enjoy it.  She worked in Robert Kennedy's office before the assassination.  She ended her working career as a secretary for the Director of the FBI. She's my one and only sister - well, except for all my sisters in laws, each of whom I dearly love, but the relationship with Sis is definitely different.  Sis, I thank the good Lord for you every day and ask His blessing on you and yours!  Thanks for all you've given to me and to all our family across the years.  God grant you many more!

Remember the blue long dress with cape you wore for prom, with the necklace of pearls?
Remember the red car and trips to the Bay or Ocean City?
Remember the days you and mom went grocery shopping and came home to make big fat tuna sandwiches with juicy tomatoes on them?
Remember the swimming lessons at the pool near your house?
Remember a tableful of little Cookes in the basement kitchen, munching on breakfast at night?
Remember the horrible day when you and I had to take care of Daddy and neither of us knew what to do?
Remember the trip to Rachel's daughter's house?
Remember picking out what mom would wear in her coffin, knowing that she couldn't argue with us about it this time?
Remember the various meals together at Cracker Barrel?
Remember?


That's Sis in the red skirt at a family reunion at Granddaddy's in the mid 1960's

That's most, but not all, of Jimmy and Sis's family at a family reunion at their home in June of 2005

Sis, Maupin and I

04 December 2010

Reminder on December Ember Days

This year they will fall December 15, 17, and 18.  These are marvelous opportunities to observe fasting, prayer, and almsgiving during the season of Advent.  The use of the Litany commends itself for these observances.

From An Advent Prayer from Starck's Prayer Book

Through sin we had become aliens, yes,
prisoners of Satan and enemies of God.
But by Your most holy Advent
all our losses are made good.
O grace abounding!
Love unspeakable!
For Your sake, O Jesus,
the strangers are made friends,
the prisoners are set free,
the enemies of God are made His beloved,
sinners become God's children,
the fallen are raised.
O holy Advent,
by which we who were condemned to death obtain life,
by which we who were fallen from grace
are clothed with glory and honor on Your account.
For this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance:
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (p. 50)

Commemoration of St. John of Damascus, Theologian and Hymn-writer

Today our Synod rejoices to commemorate St. John of Damascus.  From the Treasury and our Synod's website:

John (ca. 675–749) is known as the great compiler and summarizer of the orthodox faith and the last great Greek theologian. Born in Damascus, John gave up an influential position in the Islamic court to devote himself to the Christian faith. Around 716 he entered a monastery outside of Jerusalem and was ordained a priest. When the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 issued a decree forbidding images (icons), John forcefully resisted. In his Apostolic Discourses he argued for the legitimacy of the veneration of images, which earned him the condemnation of the Iconoclast Council in 754. John also wrote defenses of the orthodox faith against contemporary heresies. In addition, he was a gifted hymnwriter (“Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) and contributed to the liturgy of the Byzantine churches. His greatest work was the Fount of Wisdom which was a massive compendium of truth from previous Christian theologians, covering practically every conceivable doctrinal topic. John's summary of the orthodox faith left a lasting stamp on both the Eastern and Western churches.

My all time favorite hymn by St. John with an absolutely haunting melody is this one:



What earthly joy remains untouched by grief?
What glory stands forever on the earth?
Frail shadows - all, delusive dreams;
Which death will one day sweep away.
But in the light of Your countenance, O Christ,
And in the enjoyment of Your beauty,
Give rest to those whom You have chosen and taken
For You are the Lover of mankind.

Today we pray:

O Lord, through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith.  Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true Man, singing the praises of the risen Lord, and so that by the power of the resurrection we may also attain the joys of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord...

A Little Luther for Populus Zion

So also, when the sky grows dark, you should say, the trees are budding, and when the sea and waves roar, the trees are blooming beautifully.  Why?  Because we are to be set free forever.  The signs which will occur in sun, moon, sea, and earth, the world will regard as threatening pikes and halberds.  But you, my disciples and Christians, are to think of them as beautiful blossoms.  You ought to rejoice, for the kingdom of God is coming to you because you believe and are baptized, because you suffer and because you petition and pray. -- House Postil I:43 (Homily from 1532)

How could I forget...

...to mention this vital fact about yesterday?  I won at Liverpool, that splendid game.  Now, if I were the boastful sort, I'd point out that I not only won the game, but actually was ahead in every hand.  But I won't do that.  I would be unseemly to mention it.  Salt in the wound and all that. ;)

Intercessions for Populus Zion

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

For the Church of Christ, that amid the tumult and trouble of these days, we be a people with uplifted heads and hearts, looking for the day of our redemption.  Lord, in your mercy, R.

For our nation and armed forces, and for all the nations of the world, that those entrusted with positions of public service might serve honorably and well for the benefit of others.  Lord in your mercy, R.

For our parish, that in the Word of Christ that does not pass away we find the strength to endure whatever trials our Lord sees fit to send us.  Lord, in your mercy, R.

For our daycare, school, high school, and all the schools of the Church, for all our baptized children, that our young people may constantly be nurtured in the hope of our redemption at Christ’s appearing.  Lord, in your mercy, R.

For all who are ill or in need, the sick, the imprisoned, the lonely and the grieving, especially ...that they be given patience to endure and hope for the future, looking always for healing in the hands of Christ.  Lord, in your mercy, R.

For a worthy reception of Christ’s body and blood, that all who come to the altar today may greet the Lord in repentance and faith. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Let us commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph her husband, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul and all the faithful gone before us, asking God to give us grace that we may join them in the feast that never ends.  Lord, in your mercy, R.

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Homily for Populus Zion (2010)

[Malachi 4:1-6 / Romans 15:4-13 / Luke 21:25-36]


I don’t know about you, but I love to read a good novel. I especially love mysteries and thrillers. But there are times in the middle of a book when things are looking so bad for the hero, that I just need a sneak peak at the back pages to assure myself that they make it through. Then I can happily go back to reading the scary stuff.

Today’s readings, people loved by God, are a divine peek at the end of the story of this world, and our lives in it. And when what God is teaching in them sinks into our souls and hearts, it fills us with hope. Not the wishy-washy kind of hope that says: “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” Rather, the rock solid kind of hope that simply knows how it all ends, and thus gives us the strength to weather whatever may come our way before that ending arrives.

In the first reading from Malachi, the prophet speaks of the coming of the Day of the Lord. Is it bad news or good news? Depends on whether you are arrogant and an evildoer, or whether you are among those who fear the Lord’s name – that is who worship Him in humility. For, make no mistake about it, the End of this earth’s story is some kind of bad news to those who, filled with pride, embrace evil and hold onto it. Because that Day, when it comes, will wipe out everything that is not love – wipe it out forever: leaving neither root nor branch. But that same fire that is death to all that is not love, arises as the Sun of righteousness with healing for those who fear God’s name. For them, when that glorious light breaks upon this earth it will be joy like the Springtime when the calves kick up their heels and play in the newly green fields of Spring. They know that all the evil that they still struggle with and long to be freed from will be destroyed in them, and only that which is good and holy and pleasing to God will remain. When they think of that Day, when they pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” they know they are asking for their own full and final healing from the wounds of sin and death.

Our Epistle simply brims with this hope. We are told that the Scriptures were written down precisely for this purpose: that we might have hope! And here is the hope they give: the gift of living in harmony with one another, and raising together a united voice of praise to the Father of our Lord Jesus, welcoming each other with the same joy that each of us has been welcomed by the Lord, abounding together in the praise of the Lord who has made us all one in Jesus Christ. Do you see, then, that this is what the Church is called to be? A little foretaste here on earth of our blessed hope? The Father’s one family gathered through His Son, filled with the joy and peace that come from the Holy Spirit, and abounding in hope. Living already the joy of the Age that is to come. The Church is the people who live in this world already the life that is on the other side of the Last Day. Oh, we live it poorly, that is true. We continually forget our hope, forget that we are one family, forget that we are created to sing the praises of the Blessed Trinity. But the ongoing existence of the Church as a people reminds us forever of the life God really and truly is reaching each of us in His Son. Jew, Gentile, all of us called to glorify God for His great mercy: the hope that is ours in Jesus, who has forgiven our sins upon His Cross and defeated our death by His resurrection and who ascended to rule over all things until the glorious moment of His appearing. God gave us the Scriptures to fill us with that hope that we might live in this world as colonists of that age that is to come.

And in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about how this age comes apart and how frightening it will be. “People fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” Yet His people don’t see the events in the same way. When everything seems to be coming apart, and it looks like there is no future, that’s the moment when Jesus says for His people to “straighten up and raise you heads” – to look to the skies – “for your redemption is drawing near.”

And so He uses that lovely parable of the fig tree and all trees. When we see them bud, we know it’s not long before the warm days of spring and summer will embrace us. So too, when we see these things taking place – and terror is on every side – our hope sees us through. We know it’s not the END. It’s the beginning. Holding tight to His words that cannot and do not fail, we await their final fulfillment when He will make all things new.

And do I need to tell you that before the big universe falls apart, many times our private universes fall apart. Sickness, suffering, depression, death. They come. Oh, but people loved by God, hold tight to your HOPE. They cannot destroy you. They cannot rob you of peace. You know the end of the story. You know that what you have tasted here in this world in His Church is only the appetizers of the feast. Baptized into your Jesus, you have been given forgiveness more than the sin of the world, let alone your own. Fed by His body and blood, into you has gone the Life that defeated death. He holds you in His hand and when events turn more terrible than you can imagine, when your universe is shaken to its core, He is still there, and His promises to you will hold and will see you through the darkness into the Light of that Sun that never sets.

And so our Lord warns us one and all to watch ourselves, and not get weighed down with the partying, the drunkenness, the cares and worries of life. As Pastor Gleason said last week: living as though that final Day were never going to come. But come it will. And so we pray for the strength not to be overwhelmed by what precedes it, that we may have strength to escape and to stand before our Jesus, the Son of Man.

When that is the joy of your heart, the desire of your life, to stand before Him, to sing His praise with the holy angels, to gaze in wonder and awe upon the scars He bears that testify forever to His love for you, and so for you to love Him forever with a love that is pure, undefiled, and ever growing – well then what do you really have to fear from that Day’s arrival? Nothing at all. The cry and prayer of your heart can be the unalloyed joy of: Come, Lord Jesus! Come, Forgiveness of my sin! Come, Defeater of death! Come, Resurrection of my body! Come, Giver of the Feast! Come, dearest Brother who has made us your sisters and brother and coheirs with You of Your Father’s kingdom! Come, and set us free!

You see, when you've had a peek at the end of the book, when you  know the end of the story, it gives you a hope that sees you through whatever you have to go through; a hope that sees you home. Amen.