26 August 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we make our sins look small, we make Christ look small. That would be the same thing as saying: He is capable of forgiving small sins, but not big ones.—C. F. W. Walther, Proper Distinction

Patristic Quote of the Day

He, moreover, who says that any man, after he has received remission of sins, has ever lived in this body, or still is living, so righteously as to have no sin at all, he contradicts the Apostle John, who declares that If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Observe, the expression is not we had, but  we have. —St. Augustine, On Man's Perfection in Righteousness, Chapter 21

25 August 2016

Today's Catechesis on Amen

Reading: 1 John 5
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
This is the Word of the Lord. R.

Catechism: p. 325
The Conclusion
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.* Amen.
What does this mean? This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen means "yes, yes, it shall be so."
*These words were not in Luther's Small Catechism.

Catechesis

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Confirmation exam (art not my thing)

I remember well the day of my public examination in confirmation. It was the 70's so of course they didn't ask us questions and expect you to know any answers. Instead, they expected us to do presentations and talk about what it meant to you. Lord, have mercy. I was assigned the portion of the Catechism that we just reviewed, and had to do an art project on it and talk about it. I am not in any way gifted when it comes to the visual arts, and so I remember the wretched poster that I threw together to convey something about how I felt about the glory of God, His power and kingdom.

Focused on exactly the wrong thing: "for thine..."

Yup, I focused exactly on what the explanation to the Catechism ignores. If you are a footnote reader, you'll have noted the asterisk and the fact that the words "for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever" and I quote "were not in Luther's Small Catechism."

Church's doxological addition, not part of the prayer

A bit of research shows that they are only tenuously in manuscripts of the NT. In fact, they most certainly crept into the text from the church's liturgy. They were the response of the people to the beauty of the Lord's Prayer, but they were not part of the prayer he gave us.

But AMEN is

The little word "Amen!" however was very much a part of that prayer that the Lord taught us to say. That is, when you've asked the kind heavenly Father for all these things that we've reviewed in the petitions of the prayer, Jesus you to add this little word: "Amen." And notice like so many of our liturgical words, we don't translate it. It simply comes to us from the Hebrew like alleluia or hosanna. It's a bit of Hebrew that everybody speaks. But, of course, it doesn't mean "Prayer over time to move on." If we were to English it we couldn't do much better than the Catechism taught: "Yes, yes, it shall be so."

Faith's word

Amen, then, is faith's word. It's called forth by the Word of God. And never forget that when you pray the Lord's Prayer you are not just praying human words, but words taught you by the God-Man, our Lord Jesus. They are first God's Word and then they become your words, and that's why they are so powerful that you can know that what you ask in them is nothing that God is going to say: "Well, let me think about that and I'll get back to you." No. These are the words that when the Father hears them, HE says: "You got it, child. It's yours."

I can't help but wonder if John were thinking of the Our Father when he wrote the words of our text today:

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

We KNOW that what we just asked we are guaranteed to receive precisely because we asked according to His will. His Son taught us to pray this way AND promised to hear us!
So here's the challenge: to learn to fit every prayer you pray into the Our Father. In it's seven petitions, you cover the gamut of human need while we live in this world and journey toward the home of our Father that Jesus has prepared for us by His passion, death, and resurrection. It's all there, and when you pray this way, you can shout or sing your hearty Amen and walk away in utter peace and confidence. No, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe, maybe I don't know. Now with this prayer. With this prayer it is a solid: Yes, yes, it shall be so.

The confirmation kid I was fixated on the beautiful words (and they are beautiful) of the doxology, but solidly missed the point. For better than any of our praises is the Amen Jesus teaches us to speak to a prayer that's been tucked into the prayer He gave us. Yes, yes, it shall be so.

24 August 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The proverb has it that Hunger is the best cook. The Law makes afflicted consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts appreciate Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Christ's benefits are so precious that He will dispense them only to those who need them and really desire them.—Martin Luther, Church Postils, Homily on the Epistle for Trinity XIII

Patristic Quote of the Day

And every man that has this hope towards Him purifies himself, even as He is pure,— purifies himself, not indeed by himself alone, but by believing in Him, and calling on Him who sanctifies His saints; which sanctification, when perfected at last (for it is at present only advancing and growing day by day), shall take away from us for ever all the remains of our infirmity.—St. Augustine, On Perfection in Righteousness, Par. 18

23 August 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As long as a person thinks he is right he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He is going to hate God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ. The Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous.

This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big axe. And that is what the Law is, a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and function of the Law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.—Martin Luther, Homily for Trinity XIII (Epistle), Church Postils.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For there is interposed a certain gravity of glowing pleasure, when in that wherein husband and wife cleave to one another, they have in mind that they be father and mother.—St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, par. 3

22 August 2016

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Now here we have the substance of the Gospel. The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of mercy and grace, in which there is nothing but a continual carrying of the lost. Christ carries our infirmities and sicknesses, he takes our sins upon himself and has patience when we fail. We still always lay about his neck, and yet he does not become weary of carrying us, which should be the greatest comfort for us when we are in conflict with sin. —Martin Luther, Homily on Trinity XIII, Church Postil, par. 36

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk.—St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, Par. 1


21 August 2016

Another Great Luther Quote

To love God, as the Lord says in another passage, means to love the neighbor. God puts it this way, If you want to love me, then love your father and mother, your child, your husband, your wife, your master, your mistress; that is what I want from you. Accordingly, I say: Look around yourself to see if you are doing these things, and you may then know whether you love or hate God.—Homily for Trinity XIII, HP II:408

Lord, let me know mine end

There is a striking moment in The Nine Tailors when Lord Peter is attending a funeral, studying the suspects, and notes in passing the genius of Cranmer in putting together the Anglican funeral rite. He marks especially the reading of Psalm 39, Dixi Custodium (anyone miss the old Latin titles like used in TLH?), and particularly these lines:

LORD, let me know mine end, and the number of my days; * that I may be certified how long I have to live.

An interior dialog ensues in which Lord Peter expresses a very modern thought: "Certify me no such thing!" And why not? Better not to see the monster creeping up to devour you; better not to know how close he is standing to you, your spouse, your parents, your child, your neighbor, your friend. The thought is that if you knew how close he was to you, it would spoil all enjoyment of life itself. That's what Lord Peter was thinking and it's quite the way folks operate these days.

Cindi noted a picture she had from a happy event in our lives not too long ago. In the picture were two dear people who have since died. Would it be better to enjoy the happy moment, blissfully oblivious of the beast stalking you? Is that the only real way to enjoy life?

The Scriptures think differently, and therefore so does the Church. No, we may not know the moment that the monster will begin munching us down, but the Scriptures and the Church are quite certain that we do very well NOT to ignore the reality of the end that awaits. We do well to actually ponder it. For then we can stare the monster in the eye each and every day that we live. And far from impoverishing the days we have here on pilgrimage, it actually sets those days utterly free, fills them with laughter and joy!

To pray with the Church in the Litany "from a sudden and evil death: Good Lord, deliver us!" is to pray with the Psalm: "let me know mine end, and the number of my days." For, of course, when you know your end to be "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" it is the promise THAT end that fuels the fight against the monster. It is true, "I had fainted; unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." But since I HAVE believed that, I can turn to face the snarling beast.

I can stare him in the face and say: I know not the day you will make your move, but I know that when you've finished with me and think I am done, you will have to taste the same bitter defeat you tasted in Palestine so long ago. For He lives and He has promised me that my end is not to be turned by you into worm food. My end is to sit with Him in His Father's house as His beloved brother, and to feast in joy forevermore. Yes, He will raise this flesh which you, foul beast, will devour but which you will not and cannot hold. It has partaken of the medicine of immortality, into it has gone the undying Body and Blood of the Savior who defeated you long ago. I am baptized into Him. His life is my life! His blood covers all my sins! Come when you will, do what you must, but YOU are not my end. No, "I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord" (Psalm 118, Luther's only motet).

With all due respect to Lord Peter, he missed Cranmer's true genius, for he mistook what is "mine end" and the wondrous marvel of my days being without end. So comforted, you can stare the monster down and sing it a cheerful round or two of the song of victory every single day; it's all practice for the moment when you hear your song blend with angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven. The Church's hymnody is ammo for that fight!

So we did it!

We actually got up and rode our bikes to church this morning. It made all the sense in the world on such a beautiful morning. It felt like we were kids. We even ditched the safety helmets. No wallet, no keys. Just us on our bikes and off to sing God's praises, hear His Word read and preached, and receive the Eucharist with a bunch of people we dearly love. Pr. Gleason preached a very fine homily. He kicked off on the Epistle and then swung us into the Gospel, and then wove back and forth a time or two. "Who is my neighbor?" And the answer? JESUS is your neighbor! He comes to be true neighbor to you. And the icing on the cake? Receiving the Eucharist while we sang 708: "Lord, Thee I Love with all My Heart."

We got home by 10:10 or so, and began fixing lunch. Small crowd today: Opa, and the David Weedon family, Cindi and I. Still, we sat down to a scruptious brunch and Lydia ate an entire container of blueberries nearly on her own!

I'm definitely game for trying to make a habit of the bike trip to church, but Cindi is still to be convinced. Apparently there would be difficulties with clothes, hair, women-type things that the male of the species just doesn't think about so much (though we surely appreciate the final result!).


18 August 2016

My ever resourceful wife

has really reaped a bountiful harvest this summer. We used to try to do all sorts of things, but realized that what we REALLY use tons of is tomatoes. So this summer that's what we concentrated on, though earlier we had lettuce and we do have an eggplant or pepper plant or two. Tomatoes, though, are king. We use them in so very many things, and love just munching on the cherry or grape tomatoes all by themselves. She's canned quite a bit already and this is what's sitting on the counter:

And there's more and more ready each day. We realized last year that we actually use more salsa than anything else, so we've mostly made that. Do you like the "we" there? Hey, I help carry the cans downstairs to the pantry and occasionally bring in the tomatoes. But Cindi is the chief gardener and cook. She does all the magical work of turning these already tasty critters into even more tasty sauces. I just love her salsa on an avacado at breakfast. Talk about the perfect combo of flavors.

And after the initial investment of paying for the materials and stuff for the square foot garden box, the next years the garden has ended up saving us a bit. It's fun and helps you realize up close and personal that food really is a gift of God: "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." True, dat.

A blog I've been reading lately

On finance (of all things!) has been encouraging the bike. As in, whenever you can (and you can a lot more than you believe), leave the car parked and just pedal off. I happily recommend Mr. Money Mustache's writings, but note that he can be a bit, well, salty in his language. The proverbial sailor will feel at home. You have been warned.

The man advocates a radical idea: living on less than you make. As in a LOT less. As in, you can't buy happiness and should stop trying. Lots of good wisdom in there, as I remember our Lord's beautiful saying: "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

So true. Anyway, off on my bike this morning (Cindi was working) and I headed up the road, stopping to do pushups till I met my quota and then just enjoying the sun, the clouds, the birds, the train, the children with their mom, the trees, the gardens, the swamp, the cardinal, the groundhog, not so much the skunk (the smell crept up on me as I was doing a set of pushups; form went out the window and I hurried to finish the set and get on the bike and out of the vicinity!). I think it was probably just shy of a 20 mile ride, up to Staunton and back and then around town.

One of our friends used to ride his bike daily between Staunton and East St. Louis where he was principal for the local Lutheran school. I'm still in awe of that.

A trip over the river? Someday, maybe. But for now, I think I'll stick to pedaling around the village or one of the neighboring towns and count a trip up to Staunton and back from Hamel a decent run. And I have definitely decided no trips in the car to the post-office or our local grocery. I'm even thinking about trying to get in the habit of just biking the 15 minutes up to the church.

Text to Cindi at work: Staunton. Yeah, you can hate me...