30 March 2013

He Descended into Hell...

Our Lord Christ did descend into hell, battered hell open, overcame the devil, and delivered those who were held captive by the devil. (Blessed Martin Luther: House Postil I:480)

Christ has crushed hell, opened up heaven, bound and taken captive the devil, and delivered the prisoners. (Blessed Martin Luther: House Postil I:480)

The soul, having obtained union with the Word; descended into hell; but using its divine power and efficacy, it said to the ones in bondage, "Go forth!" (St. Cyril of Alexandria, as cited in Catalog of Testimonies VI)

Jesus has come as the mighty Redeemer.
See now the threatening strong one disarmed.
Jesus breaks down all the walls of death's fortress,
Brings forth the prisoners triumphant, unharmed.
Satan, you wicked one, own now your master!
Jesus has come, He the mighty redeemer! LSB 533:3

Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrows the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all." Christ answered him: "And with your spirit." He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

I am your God, who for your sake has become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on a cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by the cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

--An Ancient Homily, read at Matins of Holy Saturday

29 March 2013

Chief Service

We went in weary and depressed. We've had trouble just focusing on stuff that needs doing. Somehow the first part of the liturgy was hard to concentrate on. It was a chore to sing through O Sacred Head interspersed between the Passion reading from St. John. But Pastor preached us a powerful sermon on the mighty tetelesthai and the service became easier thereafter. The great Bidding Prayer was followed by the adoration of the cross. Then both pastors stepped out to set the altar, and Pastor Ball returned with a beautiful black chasuble and the very simple celebration of the Supper commenced. Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book provides for a spoken preface, and the proper preface for Holy Week moving directly to the Our Father and then the Words of Christ and the peace. Distribution takes place without singing. A collect and then "The Royal Banners" close out the liturgy. We left still quite sad, but not nearly so weighed down. "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows..."


from ALPB, but touching on one of the key liturgical songs of this day:

A child of a Lutheran parsonage who ended up an atheist and died in a lunatic asylum, Nietzsche, once observed essentially the same: "You Christians lost the world when you lost your joy." Schmemann thought this profound and cited it more than once. For the Christian faith came into the world as good news of a great joy; and it spread throughout the world as the message and gift of a joy that the world cannot give. Again to the words of this day: "For behold! By the wood of the cross joy has come into all the world!" Without becoming anew witnesses to this great joy, the Church's inner life withers and dies; but when her children again taste it, when her pastors are again witnesses to it, when her entire liturgical life is the very gift of it to the sad and weary world, then renewal comes to the Church. The shower of the Gospel, pregnant with the new life of God, rains upon the earth and joy springs anew in the hearts of men. "What joy to know when life is past, the Lord we love is first and last, the end as the beginning; he will someday, O glorious grace!, transport us to that happy place beyond all tears and sinning."

Pastor Curtis

cited this in his Maundy Thursday sermon last night, from St. Augustine. He noted how the liturgy described here in the Roman province of Africa some 1600 years ago is still quite familiar to the family of God at Trinity, Worden. Good stuff:

I haven't forgotten my promise. I had promised those of you who have just been baptized a sermon to explain the sacrament of the Lord's table, which you can see right now, and which you shared in last night. You ought to know what you have received, what you are about to receive, what you ought to receive every day. That bread which you can see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with his body and blood, which he shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins. If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive. You see, the apostle says, We, being many, are one loaf, one body (1 Cor 10:17). That's how he explained the sacrament of the Lord's table; one loaf, one body, is what we all are, many though we be....

Now you have the sacraments in the order they occur. First, after the prayer, you are urged to lift up your hearts; that's only right for the members of Christ. After all, if you have become members of Christ, where is your head? Members have a head. If the head hadn't gone ahead before, the members would never follow. Where has our head gone? What did you give back in the creed? On the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father. So our head is in heaven. That's why, after the words Lift up your hearts, you reply, We have lifted them up to the Lord.

And you mustn't attribute it to your own powers, your own merits, your own efforts, this lifting up of your hearts to the Lord, because it's God's gift that you should have your heart up above. That's why the bishop, or the presbyter who's offering, goes on to say, when the people have answered We have lifted them up to the Lord, why he goes on to say, Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because we have lifted up our hearts. Let us give thanks, because unless he had enabled us to lift them up, we would still have our hearts down here on earth. And you signify your agreement by saying, It is right and just to give thanks to the one who caused us to lift up our hearts to our head.

Then, after the consecration of the sacrifice of God, because he wanted us to be ourselves his sacrifice, which is indicated by where that sacrifice was first put, that is the sign of the thing that we are; why, then after the consecration is accomplished, we say the Lord's prayer, which you have received and given back. After that comes the greeting, Peace be with you, and Christians kiss one another with a holy kiss. It's a sign of peace; what is indicated by the lips should happen in the conscience; that is, just as your lips approach the lips of your brothers or sisters, so your heart should not be withdrawn from theirs.
So they are great sacraments and signs, really serious and important sacraments.


27 March 2013

Jo Left Cindi and Me Her Journal

and all I can say is: Wow. Such a wonderful read. She wrote in the beginning that I could use it as I saw fit in preaching or teaching. I think I might share some excerpts on this blog. It is very moving, as a faithful Christian woman wrestles with the promises...waiting for a healing that would not come in this life. More later, but some appetizers:

"I really hate it when I miss church and communion. I feel like something is amiss. My healing comes at the communion feast. There is something very personal and uplifting when I take of God's body and blood. I'll ask Bill to give me communion this week - very important to me."

"As I sit in church a peace comes over me, a quietness, communion with the Lord, the lighting of the candles. I wish it was Christmas every day of the year."

Joanne's Funeral

will be at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Hamel IL, on Easter Tuesday at 10 a.m. Visitation will be Easter Monday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Easter Tuesday from 9 to 9:45 a.m. also at St. Paul's.

26 March 2013

I think it was back in 1972

It was a Spring day. We were still in school. I was in seventh grade. My friend Donald insisted we ride our bikes over. "You've got to meet Mama Jo." Cindi I knew from school, but I'd not met her mom. Off we rode and I was kind of shy - I mean, why would I go meet Cindi's mom? Cindi and I didn't even get along that well! It was the start of a long, long friendship, though. Donald was right. She was something else.

Unlike so many adults: she actually seemed interested in what we thought. She talked and laughed and before long I was hanging out at the house whether Donald was along or not. The friendship grew and deepened.  I often hitched a ride with Jo and Dave down to T.A.G. (Take and Give - a huge Charismatic prayer meeting in D.C. on Tuesday evenings). We'd squeeze a boatload of kids into a small Volkswagen and off we'd go.

With hormones popping, Jo was nonchalant and funny. "Hand check!" she'd shout out and we'd have to show that our hands were not where they had no business being.  She and Dave did the youth group at their church for a while. Lots of fun times. I remember one winter's day spent at the toboggan run in Potomac with them.

The first real trip away from my parents that I ever recall, they took me with them to Jesus 77 down in Orlando, Florida. Sometime around then we started a Wednesday night study group at their house (or at a friend's - Patty Brown's) and we just studied and prayed and sang. I began playing piano for that gathering and doing some occasional teaching of the Scriptures. I shudder to think what I must have taught back then!

But the Word of God was a great discovery for us all - and many, many was the night that Jo and I would sit up till the wee hours of the morning talking about God, about His Word. She loved her Lord and she loved to teach.

Memories just cluster right now. The trip to Prince Edward Island (and David walloping her upside the head with the rock - "Hey, grandma! Watch me throw this!" - THUD and her dropping Sandy's camcorder into the sound!)... Fun days with Dave's whole crew at the Purple Pad in Ocean City... Times together at Bethany Beech... Visits to North Carolina and later to Illinois... Finally, them moving out here. We were SOOOOOOO excited to have them close by.

Even with the health problems that plagued her, her spirit didn't flag until these last years. And even then FEISTY is an understatement to describe our Jo, especially when she was winning at cards. So obnoxious the way she'd rub it in!  Oh, we're going to miss her at cards so much.

Can't write more now, but just wanted to put up something about this wonderful woman that I was privileged to know as my friend for over 40 years...this crazy woman who would befriend a bunch of teenagers and teach us about the Lord. Thank you, Mama Jo, for everything...

Words from Emily...

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, -

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

+ Joanne DeVries

Asleep in Jesus, awaiting the joyous resurrection. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Ps. 116.

22 March 2013

A Beautiful Rendering

Check out Matt Carver's latest offering.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We cannot determine the moment of the beginning and the end of the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar with watch in hand... We may never forget that the presence of Christ, His divine and human nature, is always an eschatological miracle in which time and eternity meet.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Sacraments, p. 137.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Man offers to God; this is sacrifice. God gives back to man; this is sacrament. The oblation, or thing offered, supplies both the sacrifice and the sacrament, but with this difference, that under the Old Dispensation God received part and man received part; but under the New, God receives all and give back all: Jesus Christ, in His own divine person, makes that complete which was narrowed under the Old Covenant, by the necessary limitations of mere matter.—C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 591.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Is it, then, fitting for us to say, that to mortify the deeds of the flesh is not a gift of God, and not to confess it to be a gift of God, because we hear it required of us, with the offer of life as a reward if we shall do it? Away with this being approved by the partakers and champions of grace! This is the condemnable error of the Pelagians, whose mouths the apostle immediately stopped when he added, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God; Romans 8:14 lest we should believe that we mortify the deeds of the flesh, not by God's Spirit, but by our own.—St. Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, Book I, Chapter 22.

This was too fascinating...

...to let languish in a comment box. See if you agree!

Pr. Matthew Johnson made this observation:

Pr. Weedon-

This past Wednesday our congregation covered the Table of Duties, noting that it follows immediately upon the Daily Prayers. I noted that prayer and work belong together and that we ought to give at least as much attention, preparation, and energy to our prayers as to our work and callings (and then made the Lenten connection to Christ's High Priestly Prayer and the prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane before He undertook is great work and calling).

In commenting on the Table of Duties I noted that in the Large Catechism Luther underscores the household estate as the foundational estate of the three, so then we pondered on why the order is this in the S.C.: ecclesiastical, political, household (though Arand notes that the majority of Scripture passages are found under the foundational household estate in his "That I May Be His Own"). Is it possible or even likely that because of prayer Luther ordered the Small Catechism in this way? Consider the Prayer of the Church, in which we pray first for the Church/churches/ministers (as in the old diptychs), then for the government/military, and then for the married/children/youth/industry/commerce/arts/the sick, etc. Perhaps prayer (the Prayer of the Church) served as the basis for the ordering of the table of duties/work? 

Well, the typical prayer form used after the sermon can be found at the end of the third volume of the House Postils, on page 390.

The order of the bids?

[For pastors]
So let us pray first of all for the spiritual government and the beloved office of the holy ministry...

[For hearers]
That He would give us a grateful heart so that we might love his Holy Word, have great regard for it, and by hearing it, bear fruit and amend our lives, so that we not only understand it correctly, but also live in accordance with it and do good works and daily grow in faith and good works...

[For civil authority]
Let us pray also for the civil government... the emperor... our prince.

[For citizens]
the common weal governed well that we may be obedient and upright.

May each pray for himself.

his wife.

and children.

and for whatever is entrusted to him.

for all who are distressed in body and soul.

Now, whether the Table of Duties shapes the prayer or the prayer shapes the Table of Duties, I think Pr. Johnson's "aha" is most helpful. In it we see something of the symbiosis of lex orandi, lex credendi. So, thanks, Pr. Johnson for the insight!

21 March 2013

On the way to work this a.m.

I wish I had had the forethought to stop and get a picture. Bob Esch told me years ago that 140 was originally an Indian trail and it ran due east-west and at the time of the equinox the sun rose and sat on the road. This morning it was just peeping directly in front of me as I turned onto 140 and it sure was beautiful. [Updated - snapped the photo this morning!]

Easter Lessons and Carols

I had an inquiry come into the office about such a resource. I don't have one, but the more I thought of certain hymns in our LSB, the more I realized how simple it would be to construct such a service. Here is a suggested outline of the core part of the service:

Hymn: LSB 475 Good Christian Friends, Rejoice and Sing

Psalm 118 prayed responsively or antiphonally

Matthew 28:1–8 LSB 478 The Day of Resurrection

John 20:11–18 LSB 459/460 Victimae Paschali

Luke 24:13–35 LSB 476 Who Are You Who Walk in Sorrow

John 20:19-31 LSB 470/471 O Sons and Daughters of the King or LSB 472 These Things Did Thomas

John 21:1–14 LSB 485 Long before the World is Waking

John 21:15–25 LSB 681 Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit (a prayer for your pastor)

Luke 24:36–53 LSB 466 Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia

Meditation (Homily of St. John Chrysostom or some such)


Our Father



Hymn: LSB 482 This Joyful Eastertide

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The consecrated bread is the body of Christ also when it lies on the altar or when the pastor holds it in his hand. This is the Lutheran view.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Sacraments, p. 136.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The cross of Christ is the tree of life, and He the precious fruit borne by heavenly grace upon it. The cross is the centre of Paradise Regained, as the tree of life was the centre of the first Paradise. Christ's body is the organ of life purchased by His obedience and death. The Holy Supper is the sacrament of that body, and, through that body, the sacrament of life which that body brings.—C. P. Krauth, Conservative Reformation, p. 586.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Further, between grace and predestination there is only this difference, that predestination is the preparation for grace, while grace is the donation itself.—St. Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, Book I, Chapter 19.

20 March 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

But the people's hunger for the bread of life remains unsatisfied. The yearning for Christ, who according to His true divinity and humanity is present with His Church in His means of grace for all time to the world's end, remains unappeased. For our theologians do not know whether that is the case, and if they do know it, they talk as if they were not quite sure. The Christian congregations and the people who are today looking longingly to the church want to know. They do not want to know whether the Catechism speaks "too directly," "too unguardedly," or "not dialectically enough," but whether what it says is true.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Sacraments, pp. 101, 102.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Whatever, therefore, may be the relation of imputation to original sin, our Church holds it to be an impious opinion, that our misery and liability are merely the results of imputation. The primary point is, that we do actually participate, in our nature, in the corruption wrought by the Fall.—C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 378.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But why He delivers one rather than another—His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out. Romans 11:33 For it is better in this case for us to hear or to say, O man, who are you that repliest against God? Romans 9:20 than to dare to speak as if we could know what He has chosen to be kept secret.—St. Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, Book I, Chapter 16.

19 March 2013

Patristic Quote of the Day

Believers ask that their faith may be increased; they ask on behalf of those who do not believe, that faith may be given to them; therefore both in its increase and in its beginnings, faith is the gift of God.—St. Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, Book I, Chapter 22.

You know...

...THIS should be required reading for every District President and Circuit Counselor. Wouldn't hurt if seminary presidents read it too.

13 March 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Lord's Supper has kept this memory so deeply alive precisely because it is even more than a memorial meal. It is not only a celebration of reminiscence like the Passover, in which the human spirit recalled the past for itself, but it is a genuine, actual bringing into the present of God's redeeming act through the gift of the body and blood of Christ.—Dr. Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Sacraments, p. 91.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Take away Christ, and every human creature dies in Adam; take away Adam, and every human creature lives in Christ. But though the range of Adam's work and of Christ's work be the same, the power of Christ's work transcends that of Adam's. God's love in Christ outweighs all.—C. P. Krauth, Conservative Reformation, p. 414.

Patristic Quote of the Day

May Thy grace, O Lord, accompany us and lead us to the great morning.—St. Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter, #95.

As Cindi read

today's second reading from Treasury in our morning prayers, it occurred to me that maybe I've misunderstood it. The scribe drawn to Jesus by the controversy over the resurrection with the Sadducees asks Him about the Great Commandment. Jesus answers with the twin commandments. And the scribe approves: "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said HE is one, there is no other besides HIM. And to love HIM with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as one's self is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Jesus responds to this with: "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

The distance, though, is in the pronoun. For the kingdom of God was closer than the scribe imagined. It was there in the flesh standing before him. Oh, if only the scribe had had the eyes to see. NOT "HE is one" but YOU are one. Not "there is no other besides Him" but "there is no other besides YOU." Not "to love HIM with all the understanding..." but "to love YOU with all the understanding!"

And to drive to this point, Jesus asks the next question: the Christ, whose Son is he? David calls Him 'Lord' so how is He his son?

When we come to Jesus, we stand before the God who became our neighbor, who came into the flesh because we COULD not love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. Nor our neighbor as ourself. He came into our flesh to accomplish this. God becomes man in order that there might be a perfect and complete human righteousness - which is just the exact same thing as saying a human life in which there was nothing but love. And the gift of that love to us to be our very own, that gift IS the gift of the kingdom.

Yes, the kingdom of God was nearer to the fellow than he expected. For the King of the kingdom was standing right before Him, and would soon take up His throne upon a cross.

12 March 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The question they [the Confessors] then had to answer was wherein the true unity of the church consists. On the basis of God's Word they confessed that it is not to be found in unity of traditions or ceremonies, but in the one God and in the sacraments instituted by our Lord. They declined the false view of the church's unity which sees this unity in what human beings have arranged or devised, such as a great constitution or a uniform liturgy. Our church has never taught that in areas such as these there have to be differences. On the contrary, there have always been efforts to preserve unity also in these area.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Church, p. 56.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It might be as well said, that because the Romanist does not discern the bread in the Supper, he receives no bread, as that the unbeliever, because he does not discern the body of the Lord, does not commune with it sacramentally... The Sacramental communion rests on His person, not our ideas.—C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 492.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He has already shown His great love for you; He has broken His body for you and given you His blood to drink.—St. Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter, #60

08 March 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

And when here on earth the tragic case occurs, which happens again and again where the question of truth is earnestly engaged, that one confession of faith is set against another, conscience against conscience, then we must leave the decision to Him who in the Last Judgment will finally separate truth from error. We do not know God's judgments, and can and may not anticipate them. Also when we speak the "condemned" against a false teaching, God's forgiving grace may bring the erring sinner into the church triumphant, where there is no more untruth. On the other hand, this door will be shut to many a one who has done battle for the truth in perfect orthodoxy but forgotten that he too was only a poor sinner who lives only by forgiving grace.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Church, pp. 57, 58.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

They [the words of institution] are an immovable foundation for faith in the Sacramental mystery, and the gates of hell cannot shake the faith of the Church, that our Lord Jesus with the true body and true blood which He gave for our redemption on the Cross, is truly present in the Holy Supper, to apply the redemption through the very organs by which it was wrought out. The sacrifice was made once for all—its application goes on till the end of time. The offence of the Master's Cross now rests upon His table, and thither the triumph of the Cross shall follow it.—C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 619.

Patristic Quote of the Day

If you are an ardent reader, seek not brilliant and erudite texts; otherwise the demon of haughtiness will strike your heart. But like a wise bee that gathers honey from flowers, through your reading obtain healing for your soul.—St. Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter, #57.

07 March 2013

The Last Day

No, not THAT last day: just the last day of the Historic Liturgy Series on Issues, Etc. (or as Todd has taken to calling it "classical Christian worship").  You can listen to the series here: Historic Liturgy.

06 March 2013

Chapel Homily on the Ninth Commandment

[Text was 1 Kings 21:1–16]

Like pouting Ahab and his bloodthirsty wife, Jezebel (the mafia queen of the Old Testament!), you think you have to have THAT (whatever your that may be) in order to be happy. As though your happiness, your life itself came from the stuff you possess. But hear your Lord’s words loud and clear: “A man’s life does NOT consist in the abundance of his possessions.” You are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and deep down you know it. I know it. I’ve been there.

We were visiting my cousins and they had KNIVES. Brand new, big honking hunting knives. Of course, they HUNTED. They lived on my family’s farm in Virginia and they actually killed animals and skinned them. I, by way of contrast, lived in suburban Maryland. I had never hunted an animal in my life. But I saw the big new knives. They were so bad. I just had to have one. It is at least an hour and half trip from Richardsville Virginia to Wheaton Maryland, and I used the entire trip home to work on my daddy. I NEED a knife. I JUST HAVE to have one. Now, understand, I am the youngest. I knew how to work my parents. I don’t think we’d made it to the Beltway yet before my dad exploded with: “All right, if you just shut up, I’ll get you a knife.” To which I responded: “Today? Can we go today?”

Off we went to sears and I picked out my new knife. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the odd sort of sinking feeling that I got in the very moment of possession. Oh, I have my knife. Hmm. Isn’t life grand? I still have it, you know. And how many times do you think I have used it to skin anything? Yeah, that’s right. Still, I keep it around to remind Weedon of the folly of thinking that happiness comes from things.

Your Lord would open your eyes to see that happiness, joy, contentment, that which makes life worthwhile, it just isn’t found in stuff no matter what the stuff is: new tractors or combines, new motor homes or furniture, new cars, the boat and place at the lake or even new eletronic toys. None of those things can deliver what you’re actually aching for, dying for inside. Because finally what you ache for isn’t a possession. Not an "it" at all. He’s a person, a who, and a gift. “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our souls are restless until they rest in you” is how St. Augustine finally saw it.

Your Lord, Your Jesus, His embrace, His forgiveness, His love, His Spirit, His Father, His LIFE. You were made for Him, people loved by God. Without Him you miss out on your life’s very meaning. So repent. Stop giving your heart to stuff and realize that absolutely none of it can ever satisfy your longing or still your spirit. For, of course, you will take absolutely none of it with you when you leave this world. You can’t take it with you anymore than Naboth or Ahab could take that vineyard or I my knife when the breath departs and we were laid low in the dust.

But Him, Him you can take. Or rather, He will take you. Think of it: to give you Himself and to impart to you His own inheritance, He lived a life of poverty. Not owning a blasted thing but the clothes on His back (though all the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof). You see, He was not out to take things from you (well, except your sin) but only to give Himself to you. He proved that a man’s life consists in the relationship he has with the Father through the Son and in His Spirit and in that alone. He didn’t only show it. He died and rose again to give it away to you. To make all that is His your very own. To impart to you His inheritance and house, a life with Him forever that is beyond all the wealth this world can offer.  And it is all wrapped up in the gift of His forgiveness in His blood, His kind embrace, a resurrection from the dead, and a life that never ends.

That sets you free from trying to get your neighbor’s stuff; you can rather gladly help him to keep it. You have been set free from thinking happiness will come to you in the new knife or new whatever. You are free to help the neighbor instead, because you have Jesus and knowing He is yours and you are His is enough and more than enough. To Him be the glory! Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The catechism shapes the piety of Lutheranism as it not only provides a compendium of Christian doctrine, but a pattern for praying.—Pr. John Pless "The Triangular Shape of the Pastor's Devotional Life" in Lord Jesus Christ, Will You Not Stay?, p. 329.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We repeat the proposition, confirmed by the whole history of the Church, that moral repugnance to the doctrine that the body and blood of Christ are the medium through which redemption is applied, has its root in a moral repugnance to the doctrine that His precious body and blood are the medium through which redemption was wrought.—C. P. Krauth, Conservative Reformation, p. 657.

Patristic Quote of the Day

I shall sing of the glory of the Master of heavenly powers and shall magnify Thy grace, O Christ, our Savior, and my tongue shall not cease to chant of Thy love.—St. Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter, #7

04 March 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Evangelical Lutheran pastor uses three primary books for the life of study and prayer. He uses the Scriptures, the fountain and source of all true doctrine; the Small Catechism, which confesses the doctrine drawn from the sacred Scripture; and the hymnal as it expresses this doctrine liturgically and doxologically.—John. T. Pless "The Triangular Shape of the Pastor's Devotional Life" in Lord Jesus Christ, Will You Not Stay?, p. 328.

[To which I must note the wonderful gathering of the three into one in the Treasury of Daily Prayer...]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our [Lutheran] Church in common with both the Roman and the Greek Churches, does hold to a true presence of the whole Christ, the factor of which is not our mind, but his own divine person... Faith does not put him there, but finds him there.—C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 343.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thou knowest, O Master, the failings of human nature. Remember that from his youth evil thoughts press diligently upon a man and be not wroth with me to the end, but open to me Thy hand and the door of Thy loving-kindness.—St. Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter, #123.

Where angels fear to tread...

I got an interesting phone call today from a friend about screens. Some folks at her church are wanting to put one up in the nave. She wanted my thoughts.

Well, for what they are worth:

1. First of all, let's recognize that screens are neither commanded nor forbidden in God's Word. That seems like a huge "duh" because they're a result of technology moving in ways that the folks back then couldn't even begin to imagine. Which means they fall into the technical category of adiaphora.

2. That should lead us to the next question: is their use wise? For not all things are wise which we are free to do. And that's where I'd invite us to do a bit more pondering than we are wont to do in such matters.

Here I'd ask a few more questions: What does the use of a large screen suggest about context? It's not a neutral thing. It, like most everything else, has associations in our culture. What are those typically? I would think we could agree that they tend to fall into that form of media consumption we call "entertainment." Is that a context we want carried into the Church?

Nothing against entertainment, mind you. It has its place in our lives. But is that place in that wondrous transaction where God assembles His Holy Bride to lavish upon her the gifts His Son died to win for her and lives to deliver to her?

Looking at Hebrews 12 is always helpful. Check out the summary of the Chapter: our God is an all-consuming fire. Let our worship be acceptable, therefore, that is, offered with reverence and awe. Is it possible to extricate the screen from its cultural setting (think Theatre or Man Cave) and bring it into that holy assembly without carrying along with it something casual, something bordering on the frivolous? Not saying that it cannot be done; but I am saying that it's a lot harder to do than we imagine. Somehow, it shouldn't surprise us that folks are in the theatre type seats, sipping their lattes that they bought (!) in the "narthex" and evidencing no sense of actually being in the presence of the One before whom angels veil their faces in awe; in the presence of the Lord Jesus, before whom John fell at his feet as one dead.

One final reflection: idols. The people of God have always struggled against them, these things. These creations of our own hands from which we expect every good. Surely to any impartial observer in this day and age, technology is our idol. We lie to ourselves when we talk about just "using it." No, the way our kids are with the texting on their phones, staring into screens, isn't just "using" their phones. Watch the panic when you can't connect to the net! YIKES. Hey, I know whereof I speak because I have passing familiarity with that idol too (just not the texting variety - ugh! I HATE getting or sending texts. There. I said it.). But many times when the arguments for the screen are bandied about, what runs beneath the surface is exactly idolatry over technology: "If only we could get a nice with-it screen and projector, we might get folks back...or keep the kids...or..." well, you get the idea. It's looking for from technology what we no longer trust the Word of God, simply spoken, to deliver. And we need to repent of it. It's a silly as thinking that reproducing the perfect museum piece liturgy from 17th century Magdeburg is the cure to what ails us. Um, no. That's not the solution to anything (and you know that I LOVE 17th century Magdeburg). Still I can't help but wonder if there isn't ONE place left on God's green earth where I can go and NOT be assaulted by a screen (where, underneath the entertainment, someone is usually trying to sell me something!)?

Going forward, let's have some of these conversations about screens and such. Let's affirm Christian freedom and mean it, and yet because it's Christian freedom it doesn't mean "no one can tell me what to do!" (that's old Adam's idea of freedom) - rather it means, God's Word doesn't tell us one way or the other about this, but it sure gives us some helpful questions to ask in evaluating whether or not using our freedom in this or that way would be beneficial to worship in the Church.

I hope the above might move the discussion beyond the usual:

But *I* like screens! Yeah, well *I* don't.

But I have my doubts... What are your thoughts?

01 March 2013

From Sirach 5

Do not be so sure of forgiveness that you add sin to sin. And do not say, "His compassion is great, and he will forgive me my many sins"; for with him are both mercy and wrath, and his rage bears heavy on sinners. Do not delay your return to the Lord, do not put it off day after day; for suddenly the Lord's wrath will blaze out, and at the time of vengeance you will be utterly destroyed. 

What a stunning warning against what our old theologians called "carnal security." The Weedon version is shorter: "God loves to forgive; I love to sin; such a deal!" Rather, remember the terrifying nature of divine wrath, of pure holiness and absolute love, and cry out:

Lord, have mercy upon me! Set me free!

I so often think of Luther's Ad Te Levavi homily: the person who longs to be set free from sin has nothing to fear from the Last Day. It comes as the answer to his prayers. Lord, give us such hearts as long to be freed from the chains of sin and enter into the liberty of the sons of God. Amen.