09 September 2018


Has it really been that long? This year, it falls on a Tuesday again. The attacks were on a Tuesday. The congregations of Trinity and St. Paul's gathered at St. Paul's on Wednesday evening for a brief service of prayer. Pr. Gross spoke and reminded us who it is who comes to steal, to kill and to destroy and that it was to destroy the devil's works that the Son of God appeared among us. Then I spoke briefly and led some prayers. Here are my brief words:

We're gathered tonight, people loved by God, in the spirit of Job. Our minds shrink from the staggering numbers of those who are dead; as well as from the horrible way so many of them died. Our hearts go out to the families who are now as torn apart and devastated as any of the buildings we saw in New York or Washington - families where a mother's voice will never be heard again or a father's face never seen or a child's hand never touched again. In the face of such terrible wreckage of human lives and the unimaginable tidal wave of human sorrow, we can only ask Job to move over for a bit so that we might sit with him for a while in the dust and ashes and learn from him to turn to God in worship, because there really is nowhere else to turn.

Today is not the time to theologize about good and evil in the world. It is too soon for such. Today is the time for us to get on our knees and pray. And to do so knowing that the One to whom we pray is no stranger to the terrible things that humans do to each other, to know that He to whom we pray became One with us in our tears and in our sorrows. He knows what it is to weep at death. He has felt in His own body the irrational hatred of those who think they serve God by dishing out violence and destruction. What a comfort that in our prayers tonight, we pray to the Crucified One. And above all to the Risen One.

For Job would go on to confess "I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth and that after my skin has been destroyed nevertheless in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and not another. How my heart yearns within me."

Our prayers rise tonight to Him who walked among us as the man of sorrows, who is acquainted with our grief, and who died to conquer and destroy death's power over his people forever. We pray tonight before the God who will make the ashes live again.

Prayer -

Hear us, dear heavenly Father, as we join our prayers to those of your children throughout the world in the face of the terrible events of yesterday.

For all the children who have lost parents, let us pray to the Lord. R.
For all the parents who have lost children, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all the husbands who have lost their wives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all the wives who have lost their husbands, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all whose lives have been shattered and whose hopes and dreams have been destroyed, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the families of those brave souls who responded to others' needs only to lose their own lives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the firefighters and policemen, the doctors, nurses and EMTs and all those who participate in the relief effort, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For any who are still alive in the rubble, that aid may be brought to them speedily and that they not lose heart, let us pray to the Lord, R.

#9-11, #NeverForget

Giving Twitter a Try

At my son's suggestion, I'm moving to Twitter. I'll link from there to longer stuff on this blog. FB will largely become inactive; please don't try to contact me there. You can follow me here:


08 September 2018

What a great Staycation

So many things I wanted to attend to, and I think I crossed every single one of them off the list:

Oil change
Order wood, restack pile with older stuff toward the house.
Clean garage
Car wash and vacuum
Clean grout in kitchen floor and in front of fireplace
Setup appointment to have chimney sweep come
Keep up exercise routine
Go through clothes and weed again
Mow the yard (and incidentally replaced the mower - THAT was not on the list!)
Find new primary care physician and set up appointment (our old one retired; how rude!)
Vacuum the pool thoroughly
Do a couple of personal writing projects
Simplifying kitchen cabinets and fridge
Out for a nice lunch one day with Cindi
Thoroughly clean the family room and home office
Put stabilizer in gas for the Generator
Recharge battery backup for car

All done with plenty of time for sunning in the pool, walking and even a game or two of that stupid liverpool. I think we're ready for fall and what invariably follows...

05 September 2018

Requiem for a Lawnmower

We bought it the year we moved into this house: a Black and Decker battery powered lawn mower. And we loved it. Light, relatively quiet, and never needing to mess with gas. It was getting long in the tooth, though, and had been patched a time or two. Today, as I was trying to finish up the front yard it quite literally came to pieces on me. I figured I'd just run to town and pick up the same mower again, since I had two nice batteries that enabled us to do both our yard and Dave's on the same day if we want.

No go. No longer made. Of course. And the batteries are different. And then I read the reviews of the new Black and Deckers. ACK.

So I ended up with a Greenworks Pro 21 inch deck and 60v. Got it home and Cindi and I got it up and running. I set out to finish what I had started and immediately noted the huge difference. The bigger deck, the lighter battery, I was just zipping along and finishing up faster. I did have to stop as the partially charged battery had to be recharged; I'm eager to see how far it will go with a single full charge.

I still like the IDEA of the quiet reel mower; but when you're “blessed” with Bermuda grass all over the place... the Greenworks Pro is a lot less stressful. So farewell, Black and Decker. You served us well for nearly seven seasons.

03 September 2018

They call it labor day for a reason!

So we set off to work today. We got up our usual 6 and had coffee and prayers, did a stroll around the neighborhood, and then tackled the garage. Threw things away left and right. Swept and straightened and even washed down some doors. We came in and had a bit more coffee and then decided we needed a bike ride. Down to Maple and back, not too far. About 10 miles round trip from the house, and such a beautiful day. This is our favorite stretch: 

Put some stuff up for sale on FB. Enjoyed an hour siesta in the pool. Then I restacked the wood pile and recovered it (ready to stock up on extra wood this week or next), while Cindi tackled some pruninng on Dave's maple, other yard work and weeding. Some sorting out of clothes and drawers, simplifying bathroom closet and tossing stuff, rearranged fridge and simplified spice cabinet. Cindi did three loads of laundry. Then Cindi dusted bedrooms while I tackled the family room / home office, vacuuming, dusting, and doing wood floor. So it was a most productive day of labor. And no, we still didn't get it all crossed off our list... But tomorrow is another day.

01 September 2018

That irritating collect for Trinity 14

Each year it grates:

O Lord, keep Your Church with Your perpetual mercy; and because of our frailty we cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all things hurtful and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation...

The sentence hurts the ear. It needs at least a "since" - "since because of our frailty we cannot but fall." Better yet, return to the form that it had in old TLH:

"And because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall..."

The "without Thee" ("sine te") is very much present in the Latin original (Tridentine, Pentecost 14): 

"at quia sine te Iábitur humána mortálitas; tuis semper auxíliis et abstrahátur a nóxiis, et ad salutária dirigátur."

It's just a messed up collect in LSB and needs repair in someway. I'd fix it along these lines:

O Lord, keep Your Church with Your perpetual mercy; and because human frailty without You cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all things hurtful....

31 August 2018

Eye Noise

A couple years ago, Cindi and I jumped on the Konmari bandwagon, and it stuck. We love it! The result has been that we have very little "eye noise" in our home. Our home is rather spare, but everywhere we look is something that "sparks joy" for us. We ended up getting rid of tons and tons of stuff: clothes, etectronics, books, papers, even memorabilia that meant something to us, but won't to our children. We were thankful for the memories they brought, but know we'll have those for as long as we have our mental facility. Clothes were pared down dramatically (we share a closet and we have lots of room in it). It's been amazing to me how this really allows the home to be an anchor of calm, a haven of serenity. We got rid of records and cds and the surround sound stereo (now we use a homepod with Apple's vast library available with a command). We simplified the kitchen, and as our way of eating got ever more simple, so did the kitchen cupboards. We do have some family pictures up that the kids gave us, but mostly we just load pictures onto a digital picture frame and enjoy the slide show. 

Recently the itch was upon us again, and we went through many more things (and we're still tweaking). Cindi gathered up all the old iphones; I erased them;  Dave kindly agreed to drop them off for recycling. The perfectly good laser printer on the shelf bothered me a bit. I tried to sell it, but then Bekah and Andy came by to print something. Aha! Perfect. They took that and hopefully will enjoy it. Cindi went through old music we had and purged a lotof that. She's in process of getting rid of some cookware we don't use anymore. And I'm looking forward to just revisiting some of what sparked joy in the past to see if it still does, or if it's time to let it move on.

If you've never given it a try, the Konmari method works amazingly well; provided you stick to it and do it Marie's way. It's kind of like Financial Peace University: the folks who follow Dave's counsel to a T are the ones who have no debt; the ones who modify it because they're smarter than he, end up carrying debt still. Same with Konmari. The temptation is to "tidy" the old way by room, rather than across the board by category; the temptation is to think, "but I might need this someday" rather than to ask "does this spark joy?" 

My buddy Kevin thinks my love of order borders on the neurotic. I'll plead the fifth. But if you find order to be peaceful and reductive of stress, then literally going through your stuff and soberly evaluating each piece is the key to being able to maintain a cleaned, straight and peaceful environment at home or at work. Less, in this case, really is more. The less eye noise, the more space for calm, the more space for beauty, the more space for delight and gratitude. 

30 August 2018

Today’s Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260

Reading: Galatians 3:15-22 (J. B. Phillips)

15 Let me give you an everyday illustration, my brothers. Once a contract has been properly drawn up and signed, it is honoured by both parties, and can neither be disregarded nor modified by a third party.

16-18 Now a promise was made to Abraham and to his seed. (Note in passing that the scripture says not "and to seeds" but uses the singular 'and to your seed', meaning Christ.) I say then that the Law, which came into existence four hundred and thirty years later, cannot render null and void the original "contract" which God had made, and thus rob the promise of its value. For if the receiving of the promised blessing were now made to depend on the Law, that would amount to a cancellation of the original "contract" which God made with Abraham as a promise.

19-20 Where then lies the point of the Law? It was an addition made to underline the existence and extent of sin until the arrival of the "seed" to whom the promise referred. The Law was inaugurated in the presence of angels and by the hand of a human intermediary. The very fact that there was an intermediary is enough to show that this was not the fulfilling of the promise. For the promise of God needs neither angelic witness nor human intermediary but depends on him alone.

21-22 Is the Law then to be looked upon as a contradiction of the promise? Certainly not, for if there could have been a law which gave men spiritual life then law would have produced righteousness (which would have been, of course, in full harmony with the purpose of the promise). But, as things are, the scripture has all men "imprisoned", because they are found guilty by the Law, that to men in such condition the Promise might come to release all who believe in Jesus Christ.

This is the Word of the Lord, R.


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

It's just a tossed off comment, but it illumines everything about the way a humbled Saul (turned Apostle Paul) had learned to hear anew the sacred writings of his people. He says: "Note singular seed, not plural, meaning Christ." The promise that has the priority over anything that came later with the Law was made to Abraham and to Abraham's SEED. Not seed as in all the descendants of Abraham, and in particular the Jewish people. Rather, Seed as in a singular descendant of Abraham: our Lord, Jesus Christ. Now, grammarians will argue with Paul about the way language works and that collective singular nouns are a thing, but Paul's whole horizon has been filled with the Man crucified and yet alive forevermore, ruling all things and coming agin in glory as the judge of the living and the dead, and in light of HIM and His singularity, grammar be damned.

All this in the context of Paul pointing to a well understood social construct to help us get the unalterable nature of the promise. After you shake hands, you can't start monkeying with the terms. You can't take a signed contract and scribble in some provisos or conditions and think that's okay and binding. Not how things are done with us, and we're a bunch of sinners who lie to each other constantly. But even we get the binding nature of a contract.

So how much more, a fortiori, when God makes a promise and that has no conditions, how much more can you bank on it? You can bank on it 110%, Paul is saying. There are no conditions in the original Abrahamic covenant or contract. It's just: "This is what I'm going to do for you, in you, that is, in Your Seed, that is in Jesus, all the families of the earth will be blessed."

But then the Law? I mean, Israel didn't dream up the law. It's something God gave. The same God who signed, sealed and delivered the unilateral promise to Abraham and his Seed. Paul's big aha was this: you don't fit Abraham into Moses. That's not how the story goes. You have to fit whatever God was up to with Moses and Sinai into the bigger picture of what God is up to with Abraham and His Seed who blesses all the families of the earth. The law has a jurisdiction, to be sure, but its writ ceases at the boundary of the Seed shows. Yes, it shows in uncompromising clarity "the existence and extent of sin" and that above all when the Seed, Jesus, grabs hold of it and starts helping us hear what it really demands in all its rigor. He won't let you get away with outward restraint of the hand from murder, when murder is still raging in your heart and given voice on your lips. And so with all the commandments. This is, of course, the great task of the Sermon on the Mount. When you're done with it, if you really listened, you can only say: Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner. And that Mercy is the Seed who unites the demands of the Law with the blessing promised by fulfilling the law in His own flesh and doing so for you, to bring you blessing.

Paul, had to deal with the Galatians and their flirtation with new teachers who wanted to make Moses an ongoing lawgiver for everyone. The Apostle argues that this is to misunderstand Moses and in fact to sell out everything Moses himself taught us about Abraham and faith and how God counts us righteous.

God made Abraham the promise that in his Seed, which, remember, is Christ, all the families of the earth will be blessed. And there was no one between God and Abraham when that promise was made, unlike Sinai with angels giving and Moses receiving and passing on to the people. The One God, the God who is One, He makes the promise and delivers on the promise, which mysteriously He is not only the Promiser, but the Promised One. He is the blessing-bringing Seed of Abraham releasing from condemnation those who, hearing the law, knowing themselves imprisoned with all of mankind in doing exactly what God has told us not to do and not doing exactly what He has told us to do, and especially when we're trying super hard. To men locked up in their own sinfulness and blindness and unable to find a way out by their own moral efforts and struggles, comes blessed release in a Promise for all who believe in Jesus.

Law: you do this.
Promise: I will do this for you.
Law: love and love perfectly, not with some piece of you, but the whole of you, from the inside out, through and through.
Promise: I have loved you with a perfect love, that springs from the heart of God before time began, and that appears in time with the Seed of Abraham. And this perfect love, the only real righteousness in this world, is my gift to you; believe it! It's yours!

So Abraham, long before the law, was saved simply by believing a promise, impossible though it seemed. It was a promise that reached fulfillment through his Seed, through Jesus. You, long after the law's perfect fulfillment in Christ, are saved by believing a promise, that Jesus is Abraham's Seed; that His obedience to the Law is alone without flaw; that He even became a curse to free you from the cursed condition of not having kept the law in its wholeness; and all this God promises to simply credited to you as you believe it, as you are baptized into Christ and put on Christ, and so become Abraham's heir in Him. 

Luther was right: the proper distinction between Law and Gospel really is a bright light. Not that it shines UPON the Scriptures to illuminate them, but that it shines FROM the Scriptures to illuminate our lives. And it's the light that Paul was shining in today's reading to help you and me hear and understand: the Scriptures are all about Jesus, who is Abraham's Seed, and in whom God made a unilateral promise to bless you, to give salvation to the one who believes in Him, quite apart from any works of the law. Grant us, O Holy Spirit, such faith, such joy! 

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

Hymn: 567 "Not What These Hands Have Done"


Missionaries Krista Young, Pr. Shaun and Beth Daugherty and Mr. Carl and Karen Cecil for protection and to prosper their service; Ezariah, Amy, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan, Nirmala, and Ana for healing, peace and comfort. 

Thanks to Tim Frank, guest musician today. 

The Personal Text Only Edition Print Edition of LSB

I am getting old. So bear that in mind. I honestly could not comfortably read the text in the new text only edition. I mean, I could make it out if I took off my glasses and held it inches from my nose. The too small text (to these eyes) made me sad, because it is a remarkably beautiful book. “Packy” is how my buddy Kal Waetzig described such books to me years ago. They feel good in the hand, they flex beautifully AND they smell nice! This little guy does all of that. The entire Psalter is a win. The lack of the services (a necessity to keep the size down and match up with a tradition where the liturgy was only given in outline) is a loss. The thing I can't get over is how much BETTER the electronic version in my iBooks is. It’s even smaller, yet I can read it with ease (probably because I can make the text as big as I need!), it has all the liturgies, and well, it eliminates another book. I already do almost all my Bible work in my iPad or iPhone; and here is the complete hymnal there as well. Bonus? It keeps poetry lines!

I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around looking at another screen in church, even the one that's usually in my pocket. I mean, I generally loathe the fact that our lives are filled with these little screens. Just driving from LCEF to IC today I noticed every single person at the bus stop had their eyes fixed on a screen. To introduce that to the Church assembly too? I'd be far more comfortable if I had the personal text edition in hand and used that (and it would work, because next to no one at our church ever looks in the book for the liturgy - that's down in our hearts). Still, this past Sunday I gave the iBooks version a whirl, and I've been giving it a whirl at the IC in our daily chapels. I can definitely get used to it.

But that wonderful and cute little book is out of the running for these old eyes like me. Has anyone had a different experience with it?