21 May 2018

Getting Real

This weekend, God willing, my youngest will wed her beloved, Andrew Ibisch, at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Hamel. It's all getting real. Today they got keys to their new home and we helped them start moving stuff in. Andy will be staying there after Tuesday. Family begins arriving tomorrow: Lauren and children, first. Wednesday brings Dean and possibly Aunt Sandy. Friday Aunt Dee, Uncle Keith, Savannah and Aunt Debbie and Uncle Doug. Not sure when cousin Russ and his fiance arrive. 

This wedding will be different for me (and I'm loving it): I just get to be the dad! Son-in-law Dean will preach and Pastor Ball will be liturgist. Carlo will return to St. Paul's organ bench for the service (and there'll be a LOT of Bach and one Bish). David is singing Starke's lovely "Gracious Savior, Grant Your Blessing."

The wedding is rather small, as per Bekah's and Andy's preference. We'll only be about 75 all told. And for the reception? How fun is this: we'll be doing salad, pizza (Bekah: "Who doesn't love pizza?"), beer and wine and lemonade and water. There'll of course be cake and some personal pies. AND we'll have a whole parcel full of the bride and groom's nieces and nephews (eleven children six and under!) to keep things lively. 

18 May 2018

Chapel Homily (Exaudi Nos Gospel)

Chapel 5.18.18

Welcome to the Board of Directors.

The Order of Matins begins on p. 219ff. Please Stand.

Hymn of the Day: 539 Christ Is the World's Redeemer

Reading [EHV]

26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27And you also are going to testify, because you have been with me from the beginning."

16:1"I have told you these things so that you will not fall away. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who murders you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do these things because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have told you these things so that when their time comes, you may remember that I told them to you."

Easter Responsory, p. 222

Homily:

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

I think in our day it is easy to hear a reading like this and to think right away of the growing hostility that the world shows to our faith. But I don't think in that case we'd really be grasping what Jesus is getting at here. You see, the world never puts anyone out of the synagogue, the gathering of people to hear God's Word read and preached. The world may well murder Christians (and it has and does), but it doesn't think that doing so is in any way offering some sort of service, latria, liturgy, to God. The world doesn't care about offering anything to God. No, to take the words of today's Gospel and apply them to opposition from the world is to miss something vital.

From the get go, the hatred was on two fronts. The pressure of the world to conform to its ideas, to be governed by its values, to validate its lies. And yes, Caesar still can get testy on this point as we readily see and shouldn't be the least bit surprised about. But the other front is the one Jesus was dealing with in today's reading. The opposition that arises from within the assembly of those who gather to hear and ponder the Word. One name comes to mind right away, doesn't it? Saul of Tarsus.

Here's a man who put folks out of the synagogues, consented to the death of Christ's witness, His martyr, St. Stephen after Stephen courageously testified about Him, and who zealously absconded with Christians property, threw men and women into jail, and decided they deserved the death penalty. And he did it all for the glory of God. All in good conscience and with the conviction that God was pleased with Him and delighted in such zeal for His law, such repudiation of a manifest fraud.

"He came to His own and His own received Him not." And they THEY came to their own and their own received them not either.

But have you ever wondered what it was about Jesus and about the message He gave His apostles to carry that could produce such a visceral and vicious reaction from people who loved and listened all the time to God's Word? What is it about Jesus that ticked off those like Saul? What could possibly produce this murderous hatred?

I don't think we need to hunt further than the story Jesus told in Luke 15. "This man receives sinners and eats with them…" The love of the Father for the son who had gotten lost and so was dead, but who came back and was welcomed, embraced, and all without asking him to make reparations or do anything. Just welcomed back because he was his son and he loved him. And then the old brother. Here's the opposition in today's reading. The older brother who is ticked off. "Look, these many years I have served you and never disobeyed your command." He feels so angry, so taken for granted, so presumed on, when his life of trying to please his father and do his father's will is, apparently, no better than that of his father's other son who broke every commandment with impunity and crept back home with his tail between his legs only to be welcomed? Loved? Celebrated? Seriously? NO WAY.

Have you ever dwelt on the tenderness of the Father's response? He doesn't yell at the older son. He doesn't shame him any more than he shamed his younger brother. He speaks to him with such tenderness: "Son, you are with me always. All that is mine is yours. Share my joy. It was fitting for us to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found."

Just like he dealt in mercy with Saul in all his self-righteous blindness. Just like he deals with you and me. Jesus really does welcome sinners and eats with them. And he pats the seat beside himself and says: "You too. Come on, join in. Let it go. You qualify" And when you imagine: "But wait a cotton pickin minute. They need to repent. They need to at least try to turn their lives around. It's not fair." He responds with kindness and love: "No, not fair at all. Come and enter into my joy. Here's the gift of a brother or sister for you to come to know and to treasure. And I want you to be a free son and not a slave."

Maybe if the Church has stopped having opposition from the religious, from hearers of the Word, I wonder if its because we've stopped following our Lord and have sounded a false gospel; at least if people have heard from us a false gospel. "You have to at least try. You have to repent, you have to give it your best at going and sinning no more, then the Lord will forgive you." Whereas the gospel that upset Saul, together with all the lovers of the Law among the first century Jews, was rather: "Where are you accusers? Neither do I condemn you; now go and sin no more. Take heart, your sins are forgiven!" Do you hear the vital difference?

People loved by God, I dare say that if WE honestly proclaimed the Christ whose love upon His cross simply reaches out and continuously embraces each of us and absolutely everyone else, just as we and they actually are, and without any conditions or limits; if we learned from Him to embrace and welcome each fellow sinner and not imply to that person how they need to change or at least try, in order to be loved, but trust that the love of Christ in which we hold them tight is the power — the ONLY power that ever changes a person, then it wouldn't be long before the outcries would happen again: "What are you all up to!?! You're not taking sin seriously! You've got to fix people; you can't just love them. What are you thinking!" Wouldn't that be a blessed thing? Not merely to have the opposition from the world that arises when we proclaim God's Law, but to have the opposition from the religious that arises when we preach the authentic Gospel? May God grant us such troubles and may they come soon! Amen.



Please stand. We continue with the Kyrie on page 227

16 May 2018

An Interesting Piece on Gottesdiesnt

By Dr. Stephenson, addressing why Lutherans (who stand with our Confessions) ought to care and care a great deal about the trouble that is brewing among our Roman brothers and sisters. Give it a read and let Dr. Stephenson know your thoughts in the comments section:

13 May 2018

Action packed



That's how the weekend was around here. Friday afternoon, soon-to-be son-in-law, Andrew Ibisch became Dr. Andrew Ibisch. I missed the festivities with work, but Cindi and Bekah were there, as well as all Andy's family. That evening we headed up to Springfield Illinois for our usual pinochle evening and dinner with the Van Ulfts and Klingers. Saturday, David and kids arrived early, and work commenced on a dinner. All Andy's family (except for Becky) came over in the afternoon. I think we had 17 here that day for the meal. David worked on the meat (brats, burgers, hotdogs), Cindi and Bekah prepared several side dishes. Yours truly helped entertain grandchildren and was appropriately decorated:


After the meal, I ran to town to do some last minute shopping for Mother's Day. We finished the day with some Downton. Today we headed to Church for Exaudi (LOVE the hymns for this last Sunday of Easter). We got home and David set to work again, with Bekah helping. He made fish tacos. We were all skeptical, but he swore they were amazing and Meaghan backed him up. Long story short: amazing is too weak a word. We devoured them! Here's the feast set in honor of the mothers: Cindi, Meaghan, and Lois.


(And please, notice David's tongue. This is surely an odd genetic quirk. He is just like his great grandma, Nana, who always stuck her tongue out when she was concentrating on any work at hand!). 

Bekah worked hard at the cleanup and then we headed out to the pool


Oliver and Meaghan, Opa and Lois, opted to stay inside, but the pool was really great. A bit more quiet pool time for Cindi and I after everyone left (you know it's bad when you wake yourself up snoring in the pool), and then we watched a bit more Downton. Sadly, it is coming to the end again. 

So it was a busy, crazy, wonderful weekend. And I still can't believe we got to enjoy the pool the first and second weekends of May. And the craziness ratchets up as we head toward the weekend of the wedding and the arrival of out of town guests. So very much to thank God for!

02 May 2018

Today’s Chapel Homily: Ephesians 5:15–21


Chapel 5.2.18
Commemoration of St. Athanasius, the man who stood against the world to proclaim that Jesus is one with the Father, of the same substance, God of God and Light of Light, who suffered much for that confession and refused to compromise it, thanks be to God! And today we have the joy of welcoming the participants in the LCEF High School Entrepreneur Competition. Welcome and best wishes to each of you as you persuasively share your bright ideas and good solutions!
Our liturgy today is the Service of Prayer and Preaching. Hymnals are under the chairs in front of you. We turn to page 260. Please stand.

Reading:
Ephesians 5:15–21 (ESV): 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Homily

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

I hope you will pardon a redo of the text, but if I were trying to get its meaning into English, it would run rather along these lines:
Watch out how you're walking, not like blind lost fools who don't know where they're headed, but as people with smarts who know exactly the destination of this trip called life. So don't get side-tracked in all the diversions, because these days the diversions are massively enticing and they meet you at every turn. So don't be dummies. Grasp what the Lord's will is. And it's not getting plastered with wine (or anything like that), because that never furthers the journey, that's just a waste and you know it. Instead, let God intoxicate you with His Spirit as He keeps pouring Him into you and as a result you open your mouths and talk to each other and all kinds of music erupts: psalms and hymns and spirit songs, singing with your mouths but above all tuned in to the vibe of the Lord in your heart, so that thanksgiving resonates, literally rings out from you all the time and for every last thing to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and remembering in the fear of Jesus, —because He's the Lord, not you—to be humble and so dump your own agenda for others and adopt His.
Okay, so that's not a good translation. It's not even a paraphrase, but it's my best shot at getting us into the mind of Paul this morning.

Watch how you walk. Don't know about you, but I love walking, and do it most every single day. And I have a goal. Gotta get meet my vitality numbers. If I don't hit 10K, the wife and I will walk around the inside of our house in circles. Yeah, we're that silly. And Paul's pointing out how easy it is to do that in life itself. We forget where we're headed and end up going nowhere. Isaiah 35 is one of my favorite passages. It talks about where we're headed as coming home to Zion. And that's sweet. But there's more. I think Paul wants you to see the open arms of your Jesus, waiting for you. Waiting to hold you. Waiting to show you all that He died and rose again to give you. He's your goal. Those open arms. Stay focused on them, Paul is saying. And he knows how easily it is to forget that. To get distracted, diverted by all the sideshows, and so to waste what life is here for. Life is not here for you to down the third martini or smoke the fourth bowl of weed. You ever watch a person who's high or drunk try to walk, let alone dance with rhythm and grace? Me either. The Father's got something bigger and better for you than that or any other diversion of this life. He's given you Jesus. And to get you to your Jesus, the Father pours out the Spirit. Get drunk on Him, Paul says, swallow Him down again and again.

Can't help but wonder if Paul was thinking about the story that John tells in chapter 7, when the great day of the feast arrives and Jesus disrupts the liturgy right as they're pouring out the water. Are you thirsty? Then you need to come to me and let the one who believes in me drink, for as the Scripture say, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water. John adds: This He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.

Drink down some Spirit then. In the LXX of the 23 Psalm, the text doesn't say that my cup overflows, it says, and His cup of inebriation, how sweet it is! That's the Spirit!

And the Spirit he gets us going, moving, walking in step with Jesus and toward Jesus with music. He wants us sing it to each other. So don't be one of those lame Christians who plants their posterior in a pew and scowls in silence at the hymn book as music is coaxing you to move. Music is a we thing, not a me thing. All the verbs here are running in the second person plural. Y'all open those mouths and use them to sing God's Word into each other. Yes, you. You know who you are. The Spirit's vibes attune us to the beating heart of God Himself. You know, I said I like to walk. I've lately discovered Lindsey Stirling and her magic violin and now she's what I walk to most days and have you ever noticed how when you're walking with music, the music changes how you walk. You move your body in synch with the vibes that are washing over you. Paul says that's how it is with the Spirit and it shows up not just in what we say to each other and sing to each other, but he mentions two things that mark the person who is grooving with the Spirit:

Thanksgiving. Everything is gift. All the time. Never stops. The person whose heart beats with God and in whom the Spirit sings, that's a life that's got eyes open to see the gift that is Jesus to whom we're headed AND how all encompassing He is. In the twin letter to the one we read from today, in Colossians, Paul says everything hangs together in Him and that He is everything and in everything. The point of it all. The heartbeat of Jesus is the music of the cosmos; it rings through it all and was opened right there on the tree when He poured out His blood: I love you. I forgive you. You are precious to me. You are mine. Forever. I will never let anything separate you from me. It's the most amazing love song ever sung, and when you hear it and your heart begins to beat with its rhythm, you realize that His gifts shower down on you nonstop. And your life fills up and overflows with gratitude. If He did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not along with Him freely give us all things? Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

So thanksgiving, but also humility. The vibe of Jesus is humble. It puts the kibosh on using others, manipulating them, insisting on your own will and getting it by hook or by crook. That gets to die in the fear of Christ (which for some unknown reason the ESV softens to reverence; it's not reverence, it's phobos; fear like a phobia), in the fear of Christ we put ourselves in service to others and ask them: Tell me what I can do to help you here, what would be a blessing to you now? There's no fear here of being turned into a doormat. There's only the fear of not pleasing the One who went to the Cross for us, the One who is the Lord and who invites our lives into doxology also in the way we treat each other.

I think in this passage from Ephesians 5, Paul was hearing the melody and beat of Isaiah 35. We're marching to Zion. Marching home. Home to Jesus with His wide open arms. So no getting distracted by what's going on beside the way, all that's beside the point. And for heaven's sake, help each other along as we walk arm in arm by singing the songs that vibrate with the heart-beat of God in human flesh. A heart that began beating in the Virgin's womb, felt silent on Golgotha, but that now beats forevermore, filled with a love that animates this universe, inspires our song and calls us home to endless thanksgiving and humble service.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Hymn: 669 "Come We That Love the Lord"

For all who cry out for the healing of Christ upon their bodies especially Roger, Ruth, Allen, Jan, and those we name in our hearts…. Let us pray to the Lord: R.
For Pr. Roger and Amy James in Sri Lanka and for all missionaries that Christ would sustain them in the difficulties they encounter, fill their hearts with His joy, and make them lively witnesses to His resurrection, let us pray to the Lord: R.
For the work of LCEF in fostering a spirit of innovative service among the young people of the church, let us pray to the Lord: R.

26 April 2018

Today’s Homily

Service of Prayer and Preaching, p. 260ff.

Reading: 1 Cor. 15:12–28

1 Corinthians 15:12–28 (ESV): 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 

Responsory: p. 263

Homily

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

A couple months ago someone said it to me again. I'd heard it a thousand times before: "I just don't know how those without faith get through it." And I remember that it hit me rather like a ton of bricks that I don't believe what that implies. I don't believe that our faith makes facing death easier. In fact, I think our faith makes it harder. 

We are surrounded by people who are convinced that death is simply the last stage of life. That it may send you off on a journey or it just may be the end of you. Either way, it's fine. To have lived and loved and breathed and known others and been loved, hey, what more could you ask for? Like Socrates sipping the hemlock in complete equanimity, like those who have been catechized by John Lennon's song Imagine. Death happens. It's natural. It's all good. That's NOT hard. That's easy.

You want hard? You stand by the coffin of someone you love and you look long and hard at that body which no amount of makeup from the undertaker can disguise as being, to quote the Munchkins, not just really dead, but really most sincerely dead. To stand by that and say: Nevertheless this body will be raised again. And to believe that. That's not just hard. That's impossible. That's crazy. 

You want the proof? Read the New Testament. That entire collection of documents is about a bunch of guys having their minds blown by seeing a man they knew and loved die, really die, dead and buried dead, and then encountering him again. Not his spirit, not his mind, but his body. Yeah, doing weird stuff with that body that they couldn't begin to fathom, but THE fact that just seemed so impossible was that it was his real body, the one with the prints of the nails and the hole in the side. His body, not just animated like a zombie, but incorruptible. Alive forevermore. Yeah, they KNEW it sounded crazy. They KNEW it sounded impossible. They KNEW it was hard, not easy. And none better than the man who wrote the words of our reading today.

He was convinced it was all fraud. Pure and simple. A lie. But then he too had the experience. Saw him. Heard him. Alive, not dead. In that body. And everything he'd ever thought about God, himself, the world, it flew out the window in that instant when the formerly dead Jew, in shining glory, knocked him off his high horse and made him with the others a witness to the resurrection.

Okay, so Jesus is raised from the dead. But what does that mean? What are its implications? What it mean for the dead body of the one you love? What does it mean for you in your failing flesh? That's where the Corinthians were. Apparently the idea had even taken hold that those who died before the glorious Appearing of Christ again, they were just lost. Too bad, so sad. As though there were no resurrection of the rest of the dead. Paul's like: No, No, NO! Look, if there is no resurrection, then Jesus Himself is not raised and the witness we've been giving about God raising Him from death is a LIE and we are then of all men most to be pitied, going around lying about God. Heaven's sake! No resurrection of the dead, no resurrection of Jesus. That's Paul's point. 

And then BUT. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. So sins forgiven, death destroyed. And he's just the first fruits. The start, there's more to follow. Cause just like everyone died in Adam, everyone's going to live in Christ. But we won't see it until that appearing, and then we'll see. Christ, those who died in Him alive forevermore, and the generation alive at that moment changed, as the "last enemy" is destroyed forever.

Not easier. Harder. Crazy! Who can believe it? Even the Apostles struggled. Don't you love that bit in Matthew 28. When they saw Him, they worshipped, but some doubted, right before sending them out to make disciples of all nations with the news of His resurrection and all it brings? Wrapping your mind around the resurrection IS the New Testament. The Apostles and Evangelists, they are not writers of fairy tales. They didn't shed their blood for some silly story they concocted after too much wine. They shed their blood in the conviction that they had encountered the supreme instance where truth was stranger than fiction. Christ lives. In His body. Forever. You will live. In your body. Forever. Death has been destroyed; death will be destroyed. 

Their proclamation still resounds. No, our faith doesn't make death easier. Won't let you make it easier. Death is never your friend. Don't try to make peace with it. It's not natural and not a part of life. It's the invader, an enemy but an enemy that Christ has already destroyed in Himself and will destroy in you on the day of His appearing. The New Testament proclaims something like this: Christ's resurrection has chopped the head off Death and it's running around like it's still got a head, but you'll be there when it keels over. And you'll see it. With the eyes of your body. For yes, it is true: alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia. 


Hymn:486 "If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death"

Prayers: Ruth, Roger, Allen, Jan, Military Chaplain Paul Weber