30 September 2012

I think it must be

one of the most beautiful churches in the LCMS:  Grace Tulsa.






27 September 2012

Today these words

from the funeral liturgy have been echoing in heart and mind:

Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand to believe and find comfort in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

"Things we cannot understand."  Yes, there is faith and comfort smack dab in the middle of utter bewilderment, anger, and frustration.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The koinonia of the mystical body of Christ finds its supreme objective expression in the koinonia of His sacramental body.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 45.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This refutation of heretics is a very necessary and very difficult part of the ecclesiastical office, especially in these exhausted latter days of the world, which are so ripe with various heresies.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Ministry II, p. 279.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Repentance is good. If there were no opportunity for it, everyone would defer until they were old the grace of cleansing by Baptism. A sufficient reason is that it is better to have a robe to mend, than none to put on.—St. Ambrose, On Repentance, 2.11.98

Axios!


Was privileged to play last night for the Ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry of James Ambrose Lee. Pastor Lee will serve as an assistant pastor at Trinity and Zion Lutheran Churches (Worden/Carpenter Illinois). Pr. David Petersen preached a stunning homily that was dripping in grace and I especially appreciated his contrast between an angel (the devil) coming with words to deceive Eve and lead her away from God with God's inversion of this in the Office of the Holy Ministry: sending His messengers (angels in Revelation) with words to speak God's gracious and surprising truth and to lead His beloved bride to receive as a gift the very thing Eve reached for in the Garden: to be like God, only better, to be one with God in the Holy Eucharist. I'm not saying it nearly so well as he did. It was powerful, comforting and utterly right on. 

26 September 2012

Apocrypha Gem

God did not make death and He does not delight in the death of the living.—Wisdom 1:13

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Because the Sacrament of the Altar is the communion of Christ's body and blood, the very Holy of Holies of the New Testament, it expresses the communion or fellowship of the church par excellence.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 43.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When the faithful minister of the church sees that the hearts of his hearers have become so alienated from him that they hold in contempt his very teaching because of their hatred of his person, it is better, after publicly and solemnly explaining the reasons for his departure, that he resign rather than be worn out by the difficulties and daily annoyances caused by the loathing of his hearers. Thus God Himself led Lot out of Sodom, "for his hearers vexed his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds." (2 Pet. 2:8) Yet all rashness and haste must be avoided in the matter of a voluntary departure.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Ministry II:144.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Where he [the devil] received outwardly the power of slaying the Lord in the flesh, there his inward power, by which he held us, was slain. For it was brought to pass that the bonds of many sins in many deaths were loosed, through the one death of One, which no sin had preceded.—St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 4.17.

25 September 2012

Gem from Apocrypha

For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied, O Lord, they are multiplied! I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities.—Prayer of Manasseh, vs. 9.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is through the Word-made-flesh, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14) and in Whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9), that we actually become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4) Since God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), the fellowship of the church arises out of the divine love and grows toward ever fuller participation in it and ever greater exercise in that responding love, which the divine love kindles in us.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 42.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This preservation [of rites] is correctly assigned to ministers, lest they either change or abrogate the rites accepted by the public authority of the church on the basis of their personal whim. Rather, they should preserve them in order to protect harmony and good order. For though church rituals by nature are adiaphora, since God's Word neither commands nor forbids them, and though they do not of themselves constitute a part of divine worship, nevertheless they should not be abrogated merely by one part of the church.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Ministry, Part II, p. 137.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Like a good servant, Job counted the will of his Lord his great possession, by obedience to which his soul was enriched; nor did it grieve him to lose, while yet living, those goods which he must shortly leave at his death.—St. Augustine, City of God, 1.10

21 September 2012

Theological Education

An observation that my good friend Heath Curtis has made lately more than once needs to be underscored: our theological education had huge gaps, and if you are looking to fill those gaps, there is hardly a better person to be reading than Johann Gerhard (and above all his Loci that CPH is now publishing).

There is literally almost NO controversy that we think of as "modern," no crisis in practice, no challenge from the polemics of others, that he has not already visited, prayerfully thought through, listened to the Sacred Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and canon law on, and provided a genuinely Lutheran answer to. Seriously. He continually blows me away.

Pastors and theologians: put some more Gerhard in your diet. You will be utterly amazed. Just a page or two a day! It's the education in God's Word, Church History, and practical application that you've been looking for.

And I'd add that one thing I LOVE about Gerhard is that his rich dogmatics do not come unglued from a fervent commitment to prayer and to clear, practical preaching. Pious, yes, without "pietism." Profound insight, with no sense of theological showmanship. You just can't do much better than reading him and let him bring you into the depths of Scripture!

Special thanks to Bishop Heiser's Repristination Press and to our own Concordia Publishing House for making so many of his works accessible to this generation!  May it continue the renewal among us English speakers that began with the bringing of the great works of Chemnitz into our language a generation or two ago.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Unlike all the relationships and sociabilities we know from human nature and culture, the fellowship of the church is uniquely shaped by the unity of the Divine Persons within the Holy Trinity.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, pp. 41,42.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Of course, the application of Scripture, explained legitimately and with a sound meaning, is either theoretical or practical. The theoretical application involves the knowledge of the truth, from which there is "teaching," and a refutation of falsehood, from which there is "reproof." The practical application involves: doing good, from which there is "training"; fleeing the evil of fault, from which there is "correction"; and enduring the evil of punishment, from there is "consolation."—Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry II, p. 104.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore holy leisure is longed for by love of truth, but it is the necessity of love to undertake necessary business.—St. Augustine, City of God, 19.19

19 September 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Church fellowship is the fellowship of the church. It is first of all a "vertical" but then also a "horizontal" relationship among holy persons, mediated by "holy things."—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 41.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the exercise of divine worship, certain solemn, public rites should be preserved that aim at good order and decorum and were introduced by the pious consensus of the whole church. Therefore the protection of ecclesiastical rites, which were approved by serious consideration and which give useful instruction concerning many topics in public assemblies, also pertains to the ecclesiastical ministry. Nor should a minister change them, leading to scandal in the church, because of some private desire of his mind. Consequently, the sixth duty of ministers is the preservation of ecclesiastical rites.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry II, p. 101.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He pleads even now as man for my salvation, for He continues to wear the body that He assumed, until He makes me God by the power of His incarnation. And although He is no longer known after the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16)—I mean, by the passions of the flesh—His flesh is still the same as ours, except in regard to sin.—St. Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Orations, 4.30.14

18 September 2012

A friend sent me these

ruminations and with permission I repost them:


Ruminations

Lutherans are crystal clear on their understandings of Church and Ministry . . . at least . . . until they begin reading the works of the Lutheran Church Fathers, and inevitably therein, the Early Church Fathers.

Then we begin to get the "We never did it that way before" response, which pretty much tells the tale.

We swerved.  We deviated and/or, we maintained deviations.  We sought, high and low, for some Words of Scripture that seemed to justify our deviations, that we might rest easy in our conclusions.  Our Lutheran forefathers sought no deviations - they sought a return to what the Church of all ages had always taught and believed.  They rejected and tried to prevent the dominance of . . .

Law.  Self-justification for our self-induced changes to the faith.

Apostolic Succession has to do with one thing, and one thing only - the transmission of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Church down through the ages.  Apostolicity has to do with the διδαχή of Jesus, plain and simple, once authorship is established.  The authority is not to the given Apostle, nor is it even given to the Church.  It is the Gospel which is the source and means for upholding both the Church and the Apostles in every way.  The Gospel belongs to God, in Jesus - period.

Now, this is my personally-held belief, hardly to be elevated to any kind of doctrinal standard, but nonetheless, it is pertinent, I do believe.

We MUST think of the Faith and the Church as being "sacramental" by their very nature.  They are both the repositories of grace.  For the individual, faith receives the full benefits of the atoning work of Christ in all ways.  The Church, then, consisting of those in faith, cannot be anything but the same as well, and both together, work to safeguard and spread the same.

We say we are of the Gospel, when instead, we employ the Law to describe the actions of the Gospel in virtually every circumstance.  You must do it this way as a believer or the Church . . . well, okay, if the "Royal Law" is involved as per James 2.  But the swervings and the deviations from the actualities of Scripture are not hardly part of anything, really - just swervings and deviations from what it is we should be about believing and doing.

Some will understand what follows, some will not.  I have traveled from the Seven Hills to Wittenburg; then to the western shore of the Bosporous, where for some time I sat, transfixed with a longing for a return to roots.  Only one who has traveled such a path knows what I mean.  I left the first for deviations; and I sat on the banks of the Bosporous because of a misplaced longing to have the touch of the Apostles in some physical form.  That probably makes no sense to anyone except one who has journeyed as have I.

But I went back home to Wittenburg, in the end, because Luther and the Church Fathers had really done their homework, and both Rome and Constantinople were given proper responses.  Those response were not "Law" -

They were of the Gospel.

Saying so, believing so, might make me seem, in the minds of some, a crypto-antinomian.  I understand why such a charge might be leveled - 'cause I really am a Gospel sort of guy.  But there is far more to it all.

Ole Mo is a pert good girl.  She has had to endure every one of the duckings and weavings spoken of by Chesterton in Orthodoxy (maybe even more than her share).  She has endured virtually every heresy, yet emerged - not unscathed, but wiser and the better for it all, and she is STILL learning.  My Church has warts; my wife has warts; I deeply love them both, warts and all, and would not trade either.  It is not inside me, nor within the Royal Law, to do so.  And I, too, have warts - far too many for my liking.

How can I change things that are not up to par in the Church?  I need to change "me" first of all.  I need to be willing, as was the Good Samaritan (Jesus), to scoop up the wounded man, place him on my donkey of limited faith, and transport him to the hotel/place/hospital/sanctuary (Church)  of "getting better" - and I must be willing to pay the freight.  If I, the single most individual member of the Synod/Church, am not willing to be what the Gospel says I must be in Christ, Who has relieved me of the burdens of the Law, how can I possible pontificate about the wrongs of the Church?  Cue Chesterton again:

"What's wrong with the world?  I am!"

Because I harbor no illusions about my own sinfulness, I am able to see the warts of myself and the Church and even further, see the need of the Gospel and the Great Commission and absolution pronounced copiously and a good pop from the pulpit and a serious kneel-down at the very altar of God to take in the Lord of the Universe to try again to get it right - week in and week out.  If we who demand faithfulness of Synod, even as we look in the mirror and see that the Old Adam keeps re-surfacing from the waters of Baptism, are not willing to demand the utmost of our own selves and faith, then we best not be very quick to cast stones in any direction.

Sweet Mama Lou calls it "poop-patrol."  Three dawgs, lotsa poop.  Yet in a way, even though we have to clean up after "Mah Bubbies" - my pups hear my voice and heed me almost instinctively.  That is not something I, the most individual member of Synod/Church, is "inclined" to do for my Master.  I have to have the Law smash down on this thick Irish skull, and being the preacher down yonder here, I have to beat myself first, so I can again realize and appreciate and glory and wonder in the mercies of God, and see His Kingdom yet again - even if from afar.  But I also know it descends upon us at the altar - together with the angels and arch-angels and all the company of Heaven . . .

The dogmaticians might come out in force against this cri de coeur.  So be it.  Been shot at by really big guns, so BB's ain't gonna kill me.

I'll put it this way:

If you wear the backwards collar and lead from on high (altar and pulpit), then speak always the truth of God.  Your opinion will not get a single soul to Heaven - it's God's opinion that matters!  Work that Bible Study to death!  Do not pound the pulpit . . . pound those words of your sermons until they are a pleasant sound to God Himself - which will ensure they are also a pleasant sound to your flocks, which have been entrusted to your care.  Realize how huge a deal that is!

If you lack collar, but have the sincere love of God for the Holy Church/your Synod/your congregation - put on your best suit and tie of faith, and don't try to be boss, or come with the"ideal" solutions for the Holy Church/your Synod/your congregation - just scoop up the wounded man, place him on your donkey of limited faith, and transport him to the hotel/place/hospital/sanctuary (Church)  of "getting better."  Pray for him.  Pray for yourself.  Pray your pastor will bring good news.  Pray God to love you.  The last most of all!

Do that, and your Synod will be the best it can be in this world.  We are still the Church Militant, and that we have the problems we do is proof-positive that the devil is really pissed off at us for still getting the Good News as we do.

That is a very good thing.

Work out your faith with fear and trembling - because you have to, anyway.  But do it unto the Lord.  Leave the results to Him.  He's a big boy.  He knows what He is doing.

Last I checked, He was quite reliable about following through on His promises.

Solus Christus . . . pb

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ultimately it is a question of the right distinction between Law and Gospel. Where that distinction is denied in principle or abolished in practice, the church will either be reduced legalistically to a particular visible, juridical structure, or else it will evaporate into an abstract, universalistic invisibility, projecting upon mankind, in false magnanimity, the cruel illusion of salvation through Law, nature knowledge, and sincere self-disposition.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 37, 38.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We freely admit that, as regards the power of order, there is a difference between bishops and presbyters, and that with respect to it, bishops are above presbyters. As regards the power of jurisdiction, however, we do not acknowledge that there is by divine right some inequality between bishops and presbyters, because we can conclude the opposite from Scripture.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry II, p. 48.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Adam by the tree fell; you [the robber] by the tree are brought into paradise. 'And and I do not say to you, "This day you shall depart," but, "This day you shall be with Me." Be of good courage. You shall not be cast out. Fear not the flaming sword. It shrinks from its Lord'.—Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.30

17 September 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

In other words, apostolic appearances apart from apostolic doctrine are a hollow mummery. They differ from true apostolicity as the fossil of a fish differs from a fish. But the apostolic doctrine, that is, the Gospel, is full of healing and regenerating powers for the church of all times and places, and also creates fitting external vessels for itself.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 30

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Church has been given freedom according to circumstances—namely, of time and of size—to establish more or fewer grades among ministers in any assembly.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Ministry II, p. 20.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But now by distinguishing the two, he shows that practice is one thing and doctrine another. Each needs the help of the other in order to complete edification.—St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, 4.8

15 September 2012

A great read...

...HT R. Curtis: Hymns

14 September 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the last analysis there is no reliable test of apostolicity except the apostolic truth itself, as it is laid down in the apostolic-prophetic Scriptures of God. Everything else is ambiguous and may be counterfeited.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 30.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

However, to nurture good order and concord in the church, there formerly was established the sort of distinction among those pastors that some were entrusted not only with oversight over the flock entrusted to them but also over other pastors and presbyters. As a result it happened that "bishop" was attributed in a specific sense to those pastors who had oversight over other teachers.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry II, 46.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The great "glory of this mystery" (Col. 1:27) is apparent among others also, but much more among [the Gentiles]. Suddenly to have brought men more senseless than stones to the dignity of angels, simply through bare words and faith alone, without any great labor, shows indeed the glory and riches of mystery.—St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians, 5.

13 September 2012

If you'd like to

keep up with Lauren and family, her new blog is here.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

In their place, good ancient customs are of course valuable as symbols, badges, and reminders of continuity with apostolic truth. They must never be allowed to carry independent weight, however, which can then be exploited against the truth. Once apostolic truth has been ascertained, then no incantations to the contrary of "Church! Church!" by mitred dignitaries or democratic mobs may be allowed the slightest standing. That is Luther's true, evangelical apostolicity and catholicity or "sobornost."—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 29.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Although there are diverse orders in the ecclesiastical ministry, nevertheless the power of ministry in the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments and the power of jurisdiction, which consists of the use of the Keys, belong to all ministers equally. Consequently, the Word preached, the Sacraments distributed, and the absolution pronounced by him who has been legitimately called to the ecclesiastical ministry—even if he is in the lowest rank of the ministry—are just as valid and effectual as if they had been preached, distributed, and pronounced by the greatest bishop, prophet, or apostle.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Ministry II, p. 20.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Those that were His enemies, those that were in darkness, as it were He had suddenly translated to where the Son is, to the same honor with Him!—St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians 2.

12 September 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

There is of course a true apostolic succession, but it has little to do with external connections (Mark 9:38–40!) to privileged places, persons, or hands. Instead it has everything to do with the faithful transmission of evangelical, sacramental substance—and only with that.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 28.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We vehemently disapprove of the anarchy and disturbance of those who remove ranking (ordo) from the ecclesiastical ministry, since it is a source of discord and of every evil. In our churches we retain ranking among ministers and decree that this must be retained, so that some are bishops, some are presbyters, some are deacons, etc.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry II, p. 19.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Where affliction is, there truly is salvation also, there truly is solace, and there truly are great achievements. When the devil kicks, then doubtless he is hit. When he binds God's servants, then most of all does the Word gain ground.—St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians, 8.

11 September 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

When Thomas Aquinas and Luther both trace the church back to Abel, they stand on common patristic ground. In this sense catholicity is but the oneness of the church throughout time and space. The church triumphant in heaven and the church militant on earth are one festal throng or ecclesia (Hebrews 12:23).—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 27.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let us take careful note of that, so that we too learn to trust God's goodness implicitly, never letting our hearts waver, but patiently expect what we pray for, be it health when we are sick, food when we are poor, righteousness when we are unrighteous and full of sin, or life instead of death, because God dearly loves to give everything, except that he sometimes makes us wait, to see if we continue believing and praying.—Dr. Martin Luther, House Postils II:424 (Trinity 14)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore, the Word, being God, became flesh, so that, being put death in the flesh, He gives all men life by His own power.—St. Athanasius, Four Discourses against the Arians, 1.44.

10 September 2012

My paternal grandmother's maternal grandmother

was born Ann E. Bullard. She married Thomas Pemberton. You can see her here:

This picture hangs in our bedroom. I have been blessed to inherit some interesting items from her. Here you can see a few of them:

One of her school books (I have several).

A bench made by her husband.

Her washstand, also crafted by her husband.



Finally, a pic of her tombstone, behind Richardsville United Methodist Church.


A Few More

Pastors at the Installation

Friends from Burlington

My beloved Bishop, Pr. Plvan

Random Pics from NC and VA

Screened porch on the Old House (my mother's family home)


Front porch of the same; this section of the house was built by my grandfather's father: James Henry Mastin

This section shows the oldest part: it was originally the miller's house on the family's planation. When the main house was burned during the Unwarranted War of Northern Aggression, my family moved here. 


The parsonage of St. Paul's, Ridgeway NC, where Pr. Dean, Lauren and Sawyer Herberts now reside

Rather surprised to find a statue of our Lord's sacred heart gracing the grounds

The lovely altar at St. Paul's


Sawyer conked out while we enjoy a dinner of some NC pork barbecue 

Richard, Marianne and Ruthy from Burlington



our friends Jim and Amy

One of my favorite windows in St. Paul's
A lovely September afternoon at the Old House

"Frances, Cut Down that Tree!"

One of the last times I got to visit with Aunt Fanny (my mom's oldest sister, born in 1910 and the last of her siblings to pass away) when she was still mobile, we went for a walk around the yard, reminiscing about this, that, and the other. When she saw this old locust tree, she burst into laughter. She reminded me how my dad had told her long ago:  "Frances, cut down that tree! It's dead." She said: "He's been gone how many years? [He died back in 1980] And that tree's still here and still has leaves." She's been gone some six years or so, but when visiting my brother who is currently staying at the old house, I saw the tree and remembered. It's still standing—which is a miracle indeed given how hollowed out it is.

Homily for Installation of Pr. Dean Herberts

Joshua 1 / 1 Cor 3 / Luke 24

Dear saints of St. Paul’s Ridgeway or Norlina or wherever we are (the GPS doesn't seem to know either!), what joy today!  Today you receive a new pastor. That’s the Lord’s idea, you know, not something you or anyone else came up with on their own. The office of the Holy Ministry is all Jesus’ doing. Jesus sends Dean Zachary Herberts to you today and He gives him his marching orders.  He’s to be Jesus deliveryman in this place, forking over to you and to all those whom the Lord of the Church will call into everlasting life in this place, the good gifts that He won for you and for all by His suffering and death on Calvary’s tree and by His glorious rising from the dead, forgiveness bigger than all your sin and life bigger than any death you will ever have to face. Your Jesus loves you and so He sends His deliverymen to bring you His gifts.
Homily for Installation of Dean Herberts 

That means, of course, that you are not his boss. For if you were his boss and he had some hard things to say to you, you might just ditch him. Run him off. Many is the church that tries to live like that. But that’s not the Lord’s way. You see, Jesus sends him to you to speak the hard word at times. To call you to repentance when you are tempted to be playing “I’m the boss” or when you’re wandering off into the byways of sin and death, away from the Lord and His good gifts. He sends this man to call you back, to call you home. So Dean answers first and foremost to His Lord and only secondarily to you.

Now, Pr. Herberts, you know perfectly well that doesn’t leave you the boss anymore than it left them the boss. The whole bossy way of being and doing church is of the devil through and through. He’s into slaves. God’s into free children. And Jesus doesn’t want you to be a slave to your own selfish desires anymore than he wants them to be slaves to their desires. Jesus is all about freedom.

So Joshua in the first reading today. What a task! The folk who’ve been wandering in the wilderness all those years. It’s his job, laid on him by the Lord, to get them into the promised land. Youch. You see where this is heading, don’t you? You’ve got a similar task laid on you: bring them into the promised land. But how? Same way Joshua was to:  “This book of the Law, of the Instruction, the Torah of God, shall not depart from your mouth.” Ah, THAT’S how: you will speak the Word to them that brings faith and faith will see them home. The Spirit of God who inspired the words lives in the words, living and active, giving trust in them and so freeing people from slavery and bringing them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. He sends you with the word that sets free!

But you can’t be speaking that word if you’re not letting live in you. For it to come tripping out lips it needs to be planted deep in your heart and in your mind. Oh, there are many ways that Satan would trip up the ministers of Christ’s church, but none is so effective as keeping them busy. So busy with this meeting and that meeting and the other that they no longer live in and from the words of Jesus. You hear me out, my beloved Dean: do not let one single day pass in your ministry when the Word of God is not opened, read, prayed, meditated on, munched on, devoured and lived from! Then you will not be afraid. You will have good success.

NOT success in the way of the world, maybe. Numbers and such. You may, but you may not. Penecost moments do happen: from 120 to 3,000 in a matter of hours. But as often as not, it's more like we heard lately from John 6, where the crowds all left Jesus until it was only the 12 and He asked them if they didn't want to leave too. You remember how Peter answered:  "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!" So growth, then, that’s none of your business. The numbers are His job. Your task is to let the Word live in you and to speak it early and often to those who are already members of your flock that they may remain in faith AND to those outside too, so that “all those who were appointed to eternal life” may believe according to the Lord’s will. 

You did catch that in the second reading, didn’t you? When Paul is shifting the focus from personality, from the greatness of this pastor over that pastor, Paul or Apollos, he asks what a pastor is that someone would build on him? What are they? Diakonoi di hwn episteusate— ministers through whom you have believed. Each one gets the assignment they have from the Lord. One is sent to plants, another to water. But if anything is going to come to fruition, the Lord gets all the credit for that. “but God gave the growth.” So get your hands and mind off thinking the growth comes from you or from some clever District or Synodical program or the latest and greatest methodology that the worldly wise would try to sell you (yes, it always comes at a price - inviting you just to compromise the truth a little on this or that point of doctrine or practice). No. Growth isn’t YOUR job. Let me say that one more time for you to hear it. For the people gathered here to hear it. Growth isn’t HIS job. It’s not YOUR job. It’s God’s. Get your hands off that verb. It’s HIS. He jealously guards that one. He gives the faith “ubi et quando visum est Deo” —where and when God pleases in those who hear the Gospel, as we confess in the Augsburg Confession. And there’s no clever marketing or packaging that can circumvent that simple fact.

So then what is HE to do? Ah, people loved by God, he is put in place, the Lord sends Pr. Herbert to you, to do the task you heard in the Gospel for today: To proclaim from the Scriptures how the Christ was appointed to suffer for you, to die for you on Calvary’s tree, spilling His blood to blot out your every sin, to be raised on the third day for you in a body incorruptible as the promise and guarantee of your own resurrection, and all so that you might be blessed with the gift of repentance (a brand spanking new way of looking at yourself, your life, your world) AND receive the gift of forgiveness for all your sin, proclaimed in His name and so at His command to all nations.

I told you at the start. He’s the Lord’s deliveryman. He’s sent with gifts for you. He’ll be delivering them at the font over your head, at the altar into your mouth, in the pulpit, at the lectern, at your hospital bed, in the classroom into your ears, and at your deathbed. He’ll be there to serve up for you God’s Law to expose and kill your sinful pride and desire to have things your way, and God’s sweet promises to give and sustain in you faith and see you through the darkest days until you shine in the glory prepared for you by your Lord Jesus. What a wonderful Lord you have, people loved by God! What a kind and giving Master! He takes thought to provide you with everything, absolutely everything, you will ever need as you travel through the wilderness of this age to the shining light of His promised land, into the Kingdom that is to come.

That’s what we celebrate today as we receive with thanksgiving from the nail-scarred yet ever living hands yet another in the long line of those He sends to hand over the gifts, and for that all glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages!  Amen.  

06 September 2012

Homily upon Ephesians 6:10-20 for IC Chapel


It is a battle and you are under assault. But you totally misunderstand if you think it is about your will power. Heavens! Your will power never will get you very far in this struggle. For you do not wrestle against blood or flesh. Not even, really, your own. You wrestle instead against spiritual forces of wickedness, and they assault you by attacking your faith. They go for the spiritual jugular.

Think for a moment of Abraham when he is told to sacrifice his son. Can you hear the demonic conversation running through his head? “He told you WHAT? Abraham, Abraham. You are being a fool to believe such a thing. Or if it is true that He really did say to do that, well, it shows what an ogre He is, doesn’t it? He doesn’t love you, you see. There’s the proof. He’s vicious. Cruel. Hateful. Might as well give up on Him; He’s clearly given up on you.”

Familiar, aren't they? These fiery darts, aflame with the hatred and distrust of hell itself. You know them. They’ve been hurled into you a time or two.

Stand therefore. Abraham stood. He stood up and did what God had said even when it made not the least sense to him. He took in hand the shield of faith and with it he extinguished the flaming missiles of the Evil One. He received what God gave and by the miracle of God Himself remained trusting that somehow, someway God would keep His promise. You remember what he told the servants, don't you? "You wait here. The boy and I will go over there and worship and we will come again to you."  Or what he said to Isaac when he asked: “Daddy, we have the fire and the wood... Where is the Lamb for the burnt offering?” and in faith Abraham replied:  “God will provide Himself a lamb for the offering, my only Son.”

Abraham battled despair by taking hold of the promise of God and hurling it at the lies of the devil. He took the Word of God in hand and used it as his defense. He had no other.

You, too, you take it up with prayer. Just like the Apostle urged you. You grab tight to His promises and you hold them for they are both your sword and they are your mighty shield. Faith lives from them.

You see, you are soldiers of the Crucified and Risen One. He has laid on you His righteousness. It is a breastplate impenetrable - when it has been laid over you nothing else can reach your heart, for it is Your Savior’s flawless “yes” to the will of His Father, “yes” from birth to grave and from grave to resurrection. It is a “yes” He spoke in the flesh for YOU. A perfect human righteousness, laid on you, given to you as your very own,  to guard your heart. It bears His ensign, the bloody cross. It marks you as His own.

You do not need to fear, people loved by God. As I always told my congregation: “Don’t worry, it will only get worse.” It’s true, of course. He takes away one thing after another, until He even takes away our breath. But He leaves us His promises. And we find out that having them, we have enough and more than enough. They will not fail us. They will see us through.

Yes, you can stand strong. His cross has forever shown the devil’s lie to be that. He is not against you. He joins you in suffering so that suffering might not be the end of you. You triumph then. Not in your own power, but in His. Not in your strength, but in the Lord. You can seize with joy the promises He has wrapped around you and hurl them into the teeth of Satan when he bids you despair and die. Why you can even dance into death itself, and say: “You have not won! You have lost! I belong to Him who is YOUR death, O death! I belong to Him who is the Forgiveness of all sin. You cannot hold me. You will not hold me. You have lost me because you could not hold Him and I am His.”

That’s how you battle. That’s how you stand firm. That’s how you fight the good fight with all your might because Christ is your strength and Christ your right! Lay hold on life and it shall be your joy and crown eternally.


Collect:

Mighty Lord, it is only by Your gift that we can withstand the assaults of our demonic foes and remain faithful to You. Rouse us for the battle and help us see how very much is at stake that we may never give up the fight, but finding our strength in Your mercy and grace alone may finally prevail to Your glory; we ask this in Your name, O Risen and Victorious Lord, for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Certainly the holiness of the church is due entirely to her salvific unity with Christ, not to any imagined eruptions of excellence from within the "human material" of Adam's fallen race. The unity with Christ and with others in His body, moreover, is mediated by His holy and "holy-making" instruments of salvation.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 25.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The mysteries of faith must be judged not on the basis of reason but on the basis of God's Word.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Church, p. 556.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thus every bestowal of good works is of God's preparing, because a man is justified by grace rather than by his own excellence.—St. Leo the Great, Letter to the Bishop of Aquileia, 3.

05 September 2012

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

There is only one Church because there is only one Lord.—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 25.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Furthermore, whenever the Law and works are mentioned [in Scripture], we must know that Christ cannot be excluded as Mediator. He is the end of the Law, as He Himself says, "Apart from Me you can do nothing."—Apology V:251

Patristic Quote of the Day

He truly had no sin, yet He died for our sins, and shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. He took upon Himself for our sakes what was not His due, so that He might deliver us from what was due to us.—St. Augustine, Sermons on Selected Letters of the NT, 64:3.

04 September 2012

Aspiring Hymnwriters out there

TAKE NOTE!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Lutherans themselves have often paid insufficient attention to what the Apology actually teaches in VII/VIII.5. This crucial sentence does not say that the church is not a fellowship of outward things and rites, etc. Rather it says this: "The church is not only a fellowship of outward things and rites, like other polities, but it is chiefly a fellowship of faith and the Holy Spirit in the heart..."—Prof. Kurt Marquart, The Church, p. 24.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We also affirm what we have often said, that although justification and eternal life go along with faith, nevertheless, good works merit bodily and spiritual rewards and degrees of reward.—Apology IV:366 (V:245)

Patristic Quote of the Day

In it carry out the Lord's commands, because "without faith it is impossible to please God," and without it nothing is holy, nothing pure, nothing alive, "for the just lives by faith," and he who by the devil's deception loses it is dead though living, because as righteousness is gained by faith, so, too, by a true faith is eternal life gained, as our Lord and Savior says.—St. Leo the Great, On the Feast of the Nativity IV, Sermon XXIV.6

03 September 2012

Cortisol

Mark Sisson talks about how the stress of modern life causes our bodies to overdose on that hormone. Cindi and I have dubbed 2012 the Year of Cortisol for the Weedon family. So many changes, and affecting almost every aspect of our lives, have come upon us. Our life is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was.

We left St. Paul's parsonage and I left the office of pastor of St. Paul's parish (heart-breaking for me) and have been attempting to learn my new duties at Synod as Worship Director and IC Chaplain; we bought a house in Hamel (during Lent, no less!) and took possession on Cindi's birthday; Bekah moved back in; David moved out and got married to the lovely Meaghan; Lauren and Dean moved next-door for the month of August (for which we were very grateful, especially when they brought Sawyer home), while their animals moved in with us (for which we were not quite as grateful); they have now all moved into their new home in North Carolina; Meaghan graduated and became a Dr.; Dean graduated, was ordained and will shortly be installed—I'm no longer the only Lutheran clergy in the family; we've become grandparents and now have to learn to be long-distnace grandparents; Cindi fractured her foot with her mom's scooter; our regular liverpool games have been more often than not disrupted and we won't even talk about getting together with friends—has been next to never this whole year.

I'm sure there's more I've left out. I only know it leaves me kind of numb emotionally. Cindi said back in February that we'd not settle into a new "normal" until October sometime. I think she was right. I'm ready for things to settle down, painful as they may be. As I like to say, I am thoroughly a Baggins and this year has been all Tookish and so highly uncomfortable. Time to settle down in our new Bag-end and to sip some tea in peace with my wife, sitting beside the fire in the evening. Ah, I can feel the cortisol draining away just thinking of it.

01 September 2012

There's an old joke

about how Lutherans don't like change. I totally get it. I hate it.

Today I put my eldest daughter, my only grandson and my wife on a plane for NC. True, I'll see her in a few short days, but the fact is she, Dean and Sawyer have moved on. We raise them for this, of course, but it doesn't ease the pain of their leaving one little bit.

Don't get me wrong—I'm delighted for them, for the parish in Norlina that will be blessed by them, and for the chance to settle down after all the years of moving. But the thought of the long stretch of months without seeing and hugging my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson truly tugs at the heart.

In the midst of this pain, there are three things I am so thankful for. I am thankful we share together faith in the promises of God; I am thankful for the amazing gift of the Holy Eucharist and how distance simply dissolves when we share it together; I am thankful for the gift of prayer, and how when we lay our loved ones before the throne of God in prayer, we are simply together in the most profound and joyous way.

Dean, Lauren, and Sawyer, I will miss you more than words can ever begin to say. But this I promise: as often as we come to the Lord's Table, we'll be eating together still. And there will not a day go by when I will not remember you in prayer to Him whose love for you has no limits, no end. And when I leave this earthly pilgrimage, I do not believe that the prayers cease. They continue with greater fervor until we are gathered home together. Home into that true and lasting home where there are simply no goodbyes. Forever together!

Thank you, Lord, for bringing them each one into my life. Keep them safe and keep them yours. Amen.

Great Homily by Dr. Leo Sanchez

which he delivered at the International Center on Thursday, on Ephesians 5:22-33:

LCMS International Center Chapel
Scripture Text: Ephesians 5:22-33
Homilist: Leopoldo (Leo) Sánchez
President, 5th Hispanic National Convention (LCMS)
Director, Center for Hispanic Studies, Concordia Seminary

"This mystery (i.e., marriage) is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." (ESV)

Greek: Mysteryon. Latin: Sacramentum. Esp: Sacramento. Eng: Sacrament.

So marriage is a "sacrament," after all. But we have little "s" sacrament and big "S" sacrament. Big "S" sacraments are signs of God's grace that deliver the forgiveness of sins to you in the here and now:

Baptism: "I baptize you in the name of the F, and of the S, and of the H.S." And it is done! You are brought into the saving name of the Triune God.

Lord's Supper: "Take and eat, this is my body given for you. Take and drink, this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins." And it is done for you!

Absolution: "In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the F, and of the S, and of the H.S." And what God says, God does for your spiritual good, to console and comfort guilty consciences with the Gospel.

Now, there are other signs of God's grace that do not deliver the forgiveness of sins, but serve to teach us about the Gospel and how to live in accordance with the grace of God given to us freely in Christ Jesus. These signs are not means of grace, but like the means of grace, they are instituted and commanded by God for our good.

Marriage is an example of such a sacrament, a sacred thing, a divine sign in the world instituted for our own temporal good. The Lutheran Confessions state: “Marriage was not first instituted in the New Testament but in the very beginning, at the creation of the human race. It has the command of God as well as certain promises that pertain…to the bodily life (KW, Apology, XIII:14). Here is a benefit of marriage for this life: Marriage is a divine sign of Christ's sacrificial love for His bride the church, but also of the church's submission to her Lord Christ. Lordship. Submission.

After the Fall, it is, of course, difficult to grasp what joyful submission and gracious lordship are supposed to look like. In the world, submission and lordship are synonyms for oppressive language. The history of Christianity, including that of the conquest and colonization of the Americas, is full of bad examples of submission and lordship, disfigured faces of lordship and submission, power games of struggles between the oppressed and the oppressor. We do not have to go that far back or that far south in history. We see plenty of submission and lordship—all justified in the name of Jesus and the Bible—in the painful history of slavery in U.S. We see it to some degree in the ambiguous history of migrant workers and “patrones” (bosses) in the U.S. that, under the leadership of civil rights activities like Cesar Chávez, led to the rise of farm workers’ unions, safer working conditions for farmers, and so on.

And of course, we can all see this disfigured state of affairs by looking in the mirror. Each and every one of us has attempted to lord it over others, or has been oppressed by another. At times, we also want to live for ourselves and do what we want without submitting to anyone. We do this in our congregations, in our institutions. And in our own house, we are oppressor and oppressed in our own marriages all the time, in subtle and unfortunately even in crass ways.

I had a good, responsible father, and a caring, loving mother. But they did not have a good marriage. So I had to find that somewhere else, and I did in the church. But even the church has never been immune to the attacks of the devil against marriage, to the pain of hurt and divorce. And yet the church is still a great place to look for good examples of marriage because there Christians learn to bear their crosses for one another. And nowhere in the church is bearing the cross for another practiced more than in marriage.

Through the cross, Christ redefines what lordship and submission are. Through Christ, we learn that lordship is exercising one's power not to lord it over others but by sacrificing for them. And submission is exercising one's freedom, but not for oneself as freedom is often understood today. Rather, submission is the exercise of freedom in service to another. Both are acts of unselfish love where you die to self in order to make room for the neighbor. Sounds like Jesus, who submitted to His Father even unto death for us, who did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life for us.

Right away we see one of the benefits of marriage for each of us, and even for the whole world that peeks in every so often to see what the church is up to. Marriage is the place to go to learn from the Holy Spirit what true lordship and submission are. In marriage, we learn what it means to bear the cross of lordship and submission. Indeed, we are not given in Scripture any other human relationship to go to in order to learn what it means to love like Christ loves the church and to learn what it means for the church to love Christ back. Not the dad-son relationship, not the mother-daughter relationship, not the relationship between best friends, not the relationship between pastor and deaconess, not the man-pet relationship, and, of course, not the relation between two persons of the same sex.

In his Marriage Booklet, Luther offers this prayer for the newly married couple: “Lord God…we beseech your never-ending goodness that you would not permit this your creation, ordinance, and blessing to be removed or destroyed, but graciously preserve it among us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (KW 16) Why such prayer? If marriage is destroyed, the fabric of human life, the great school of godly relationships, is gone. This sign of Christ’s love for the church, and the church’s love for Christ, would not be around for the world to see either.

Only the husband and wife relationship, and no other, is the great sacred sign, the magnum sacramentum, the mega mysterion, the profound mystery and sacred thing, the go-to place, instituted by God to admonish us against our sin and to teach us again and again to bear the cross by exercising our power and using our freedom to serve others.

How should we use the power and authority handed over to us in our church offices as we relate to one another? How should we exercise the freedom we have been given in the Gospel as we relate to others? Return to your marriage. In and through marriage, the Lord has given us a sign and a way to learn lordship and submission the right way every day, the way Christ serves the church and the church serves Christ, the way of the cross.

So avail yourselves of this great gift that is marriage, enter that mystery with fear and trembling, but also with faith, trusting that God will bless you, and even others watching from the outside, through this divine sign. For the Christian, marriage is a great school of the Holy Spirit to go back to over and over again. What you learn in marriage, the cross of Christ you learn to bear for your closest neighbor there, will shape your service to others in this place, in the church and the world. What a blessing! Amen.

Enjoy!

A beautiful recording of "Let All Mortal" by my friend Eric Rodgers.  Thanks for sharing, Eric!