26 August 2005


This blogger will be on vacation beginning now until after Labor Day weekend...


Patristic Quote for the Day

He granted to mortals a double purification, that of the Spirit, ever-flowing, who has cleansed my former evil born with the flesh and that of our blood. For this, too, is mine, this blood which Christ my God poured out in restitution for ancient longings, and as a ransom for the world. - St. Gregory of Nazianzus (On God and Man, p. 74)

25 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Lately I've been reading through a couple of books. Evagrius Ponticus' *The Praktikos & Chapters on Prayer* and a collection of Nazianzus' poetry *On God and Man*. A few gems from the first today...

60. If you are a theologian you truly pray. If you truly pray you are a theologian.

89. Do not set your heart on what seems good to you but rather what is pleasing to God when you pray. This will free you from disturbance and leave you occupied with thanksgiving in your prayer.

121. Happy is the man who thinks himself no better than dirt.

24 August 2005

A Thought

I've often wondered if much of the confusion in Lutheran ecclesiology is due to the fact that we tend to identify two distinct but related entities: the Kingdom and the Church.

The Kingdom is by its very nature "invisible" - "within you" as our Lord put it, or "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" as St. Paul expressed it. In "this world" it is not seen, but consists in the union accomplished in faith between persons and the Blessed Trinity.

The Church is by its very nature "visible" - that is, it is the manifestation and sign of the Kingdom in this world. Schmemann once said it like this, I think, "the Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom for the world." The Church is the "x marks the spot" of the Kingdom in this world. Find her and you'll find an entry point into the invisible Kingdom of God.


Patristic Quote for the Day

(Continuing the Anaphora of St. Basil...)

For Thou didst not turn Thyself away forever from Thy creature, whom Thou hast made, O Good One, nor didst Thou forget the work of Thy hands. Through the tender compassion of Thy mercy, Thou didst visit him in various ways; Thou didst send prophets; Thou didst perform mighty works by Thy saints, who in every generation were well-pleasing to Thee; Thou didst speak to us by the mouth of Thy servants the prophets, foretelling to us the salvation which was to come; Thou didst give us the law as a help; thou didst appoint angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time had come, Thou didst speak to us through Thy Son Himself, by whom Thou didst also make the ages; who, being the Radiance of Thy glory and the Image of Thy person, upholding all things by the word of His power, thought it not robbery to be equal to Thee, the God and Father. He was God before the ages, yet He appeared on earth and lived among men, becoming incarnate of a holy Virgin; He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being likened to the body of our lowliness that He might liken us to the image of His glory. For as by man sin entered the world, and by sin death, so it pleased Thine only-begotten Son, who was in the bosom of Thee, the God and Father, who was born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, who was born under the law to condemn sin in His flesh, so that those who were dead in Adam might be made alive in Thy Christ Himself.

23 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Anaphora of St. Basil (continued)

When Thou didst create man by taking dust from the earth, and didst honor him with Thine own image, O God, Thou didst set him in a paradise of delight, promising him eternal life and everlasting blessings in the observance of Thy commandments. But when man disobeyed Thee, the true God, who had created him, and was deceived by the guile of the serpent, becoming subject to death through his own transgressions, Thou, O God, in Thy righteous judgment, didst send him forth from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Thy Christ Himself...

22 August 2005

Homily for Trinity 13 (Good Samaritan)

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

That question was right at the heart of everything Jesus was up to! You see, He was throwing wide open the gates of the kingdom of heaven and all sorts of people were crowding in through them. He befriended tax collectors, prostitutes, other notorious sinners. He welcomed them with open arms, forgave their sin and sat down to eat with them! And all without them doing anything but coming to Him seeking mercy! It perplexed and angered the Pharisees and their friends, the Lawyers. It seemed to them that Jesus was making light of the holy law. So to test Jesus’ orthodoxy, the lawyer asks him the question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus in effect answers: “You’re the expert. You tell me.” Not the answer the man expected. Still, he knew his law and knew it well. “Love God with your all. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Can you see Jesus smile and respond: “Yes! Exactly! Now, do that and you will live, you will have eternal life.”

Can you see the smile fade to a frown on the lawyer’s face? “Do that?” he thinks. “Jesus has just implied, in front of all these people, that I haven’t been.” And so, feeling the smart of Jesus answer, and wanting to justify himself, the man said: “Well just who is my neighbor?”

The lawyer asks that because he wants to change the subject. You see, Jesus had answered his question. If you want to do something to inherit eternal life, the only thing you can do is to live a life of love. Perfect love for God and perfect love for the neighbor. No slip ups. No failures. Totally committed, burning love. That’s what you have to do if by your doing you would win for yourself eternal life. Moses cuts no deals. But isn’t it obvious to anyone with a conscience, that we haven’t and that we can’t?

So Paul was right in today’s second reading. “If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would be by the law. But the Scripture has imprisoned everyone under sin so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

We can’t love the way God demands in His law. Each of us has failed again and again to be a neighbor, to show mercy and love. But as Gomer Pyle like to say: surprise! surprise! That perfect life of love that God demands of us -- that is the life that our Savior lived for us. His love for His Father never faltered. Not once. Nor did His love for his sisters and brothers in the human race ever fail. He loved us all perfectly. Did then and does now. And it is His perfect love which God make our own by faith.

And so the story of the Good Samaritan. You know it well. The man who fell victim to the robbers. The man lying, naked, bleeding, in pain and dying. The priest who walks by. The levite who walks by. Then the Samaritan – and you must remember the enmity between Jews and Samaritans - the Samaritan, who does not walk by. Who had every reason to keep on walking, but whose heart is moved by pity. Who helps. First aid, then being transported to an inn and tended at the Samaritan’s expense until the man was restored. Jesus tells the story and then asks: “So, who proved a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?”

“The one who showed mercy” the lawyer answered quietly. Jesus had driven him to confess what was at the heart of God’s Torah, God’s law. Hosea summarized what all the prophets before had tried to say: “For I desire mercy – steadfast love - and not sacrifice.”

Do you see that the parable of the Good Samaritan is all about the mercy in the heart of God? We are the one beaten by the thieves and robbed. Oh, yes. Satan and his gang waylaid and pounded on us. Stripped us of the glory God had clothed us in. Besmirched the beautiful Image in which God had first fashioned us. Left us for dead in the dust from which we had been taken. And the Law of God – signified by the priest and the Levite - was no help. It could show us that we were wounded and dying, but it couldn’t heal us. Yet God saw our state, and He wasn’t content to walk on by. No. At the heart of God is mercy, is pity, is love. Even when we thought of Him as the enemy.

Our Good Samaritan didn’t just happen down the road. Our Jesus was sent because of the Father’s love. In mercy He came to heal us – He who had every right to walk on by us. Instead of walking by, mercy led Him to the cross, forgiving our sin. Mercy led him to the grave, dying our death. Mercy led him to the glories of Easter morning, shattering the power of sin and death over all who trust in Him, all who are baptized into Him.

His healing work he still carries on in the Inn of his church. Here he pours out the saving water of Baptism. Here He still reaches out to you His healing touch in the bread and wine that are his own body and blood. Here He still speaks to wounded consciences the Word of absolution that salves the broken heart.

That means that the church is a hospital. It’s a place where hurting, broken people are touched, held, loved, and healed at the direction of the Son of God. A place where the balm of divine forgiveness is poured out liberally – for our Good Samaritan has commanded that every soul be cared for richly and He has paid the price in full.

The lawyer asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies that eternal life is the gift of God for the taking and the living, right here and right now – for life everlasting IS the life of mercy, it is pouring of self out for others. It is the life of Christ! Jesus invites us all to taste and celebrate it with him. Why wait for heaven to taste eternal life? It can be yours today. “Mercy.” “Go and do likewise!” Which is just to say: come and live in my love now! As I pour out more life for you and into you than you’ll ever be able to hold, you pour out yourself for others and so taste the joys of life unending, heaven itself, the love of my Kingdom, to which may He grant us all to attain by His grace and love for Mankind. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

(Continuing the Preface from St. Basil)

He (Christ) is the image of Thy goodness, the seal of Thy very likeness, showing forth in Himself Thee, O Father - the living Word, the true God, the eternal Wisdom, the Life, the Sanctification, the Power, the true Light, through whom the Holy Spirit was revealed - the Spirit of truth, the Gift of sonship, the Pledge of future inheritance, the First-fruits of eternal blessings, the life-creating Power, the Fountain of sanctification, through whom every creature of reason and understanding worships Thee and always sings to Thee a hymn of glory, for all things are Thy servants.

20 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

from the Preface to the Liturgy of St. Basil:
O You who are Being, Master, and Lord, God, almighty and adorable Father: it is truly fitting and right and worthy of the immensity of Your holiness that we praise You, sing to You, bless You, adore You, give thanks to You, glorify You who alone are truly God; that we offer You a spiritual worship with a repentant heart and a humble spirit, for it is You who granted us the favor of knowing Your truth. How could anyone tell Your might and sing the praises You deserve, or describe all Your marvels in all places and times, O Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth and of all creatures visible and invisible, who are enthroned upon a seat of glory, who plumb the depths, who are eternal, invisible, beyond comprehension and description and change, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the great God and Savior, the object of our hope!

19 August 2005

Nice addition

Our web-master, Candace Esch, has added a real neat set of links and pages to the St. Polycarp site. Check it out:


Patristic Quote for the Day

Chrysostom on Justification (Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse I:6ff.)

Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and
the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose,
next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and
that he would be condemned.

Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from
the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination
all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse
to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose
to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo
punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of
the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to
the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own
accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it
is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All
have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a
prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The
sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A
letter from the King came down from heaven.

Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without
exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of
their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and
profit from his gift. But those who wish to find
justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They
will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because
they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts;
they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law
because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

18 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

From the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Preface:

Out of nothing, You brought us into being, and when we had fallen, raised us up again; and You have not ceased doing everything until You brought us to heaven and graciously gave us Your future kingdom. For all these things, we thank You and Your Only-begotten Son, and Your Holy Spirit; for all these blessings, both known and unknown, manifest and hidden, that were lavished on us.

Sad Day

Well, it's a sad day in the Weedon household. Our oldest, Lauren, left for college early this morning. Her mom is driving her out to Concordia Seward because I have a wedding rehearsal Friday and a wedding Saturday. I think David, Bekah and I are all feeling a bit down. I can't believe it will be months before we see her again. But she is a very mature young lady and I am sure she will do well at school. We will hold her in our prayers each day.

16 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

He [The Holy Spirit] is divine in nature, infinite in greatness, mighty in His works, good in His blessings; shall we not exalt Him; shall we not glorify Him? I reckon that this 'glorifying' is nothing else than the recounting of His wonders... To describe His wonders gives Him the fullest glorification possible. The same is true for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Only-begotten Son Himself: we are only able to glorify them by recounting their wonders to the best of our ability. - Saint Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 54

Patristic Quote for the Day

Okay, okay, so it's more like a LUTHERAN patristic quote for the day. But it's still great:

"O that blessed city of God, into which so many children, virgins, and martyrs have been received, where we will see for eternity apostles, apostles, prophets, patriarchs, and all the righteous who have believed in Christ, from Adam up to the last Christian on earth! We will see choirs of angels, and the most blessed Mother herself who is the noblest member of the mystical body, finally the only source of eternal joy for angels and humans, Jesus Christ the King of glory, and God who is all in all."- Urbanus Rhegius, Preaching the Reformation, p. 97

15 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Today is the Dormition of the Mother of God. From a homily by St. John of Damascus:

How could one taste death from whom the true Life flowed out to all? Yet she did fall under the law inflicted by Him whom she bore, and as a daughter of the old Adam she suffered the sentence of death, even as her Son who is Life itself. But now as Mother of the living God, she is fittingly taken up to heaven by Him. For how could death feed on this truly blessed one who had eagerly listened to the word of God? who at the Archangel's salutation, filled with the Holy Spirit, conceived the Son of God? who without pain gave birth to Him? whose whole being was ever consecrated to her Creator? Could hell receive such a one? Could corruption destroy a body in which Life had been brought forth? For her, beloved brethren, a way is prepared to heaven - a way that is straight and fair and easy. For if Christ, the way and truth, has said: Where I am there My servant shall be, does it not follow that His Mother is surely with Him?

14 August 2005

In your prayers...

We heard last night that one of the students at our local Lutheran High was killed in a jetski accident yesterday: Holly Reeb. Another student was seriously injured: Nick Dawdy. If those who read this would add them to their prayers, it would be appreciated. Holly was friendly, cheerful, beautiful and kind. She was setter on the girl's volleyball team and on the school dance team. It's going to be a difficult opening of school at Metro this week. May the comfort of Christ's resurrection bring peace and healing to the hearts of all - especially Holly's family.

I kept thinking: Life is so fragile, so precious. "In the midst of life, death has surrounded" and yet "even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"

"Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting!"

Patristic Quote for the Day

"There is one God, and we acquire knowledge of Him from no other source, brethren, than the Holy Scriptures." Hippolytus of Rome (Contra Noetum, 9.1)

13 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Even while we wait for the full enjoyment of the good things in store for us, by the Holy Spirit we are able to rejoice through faith in the promise of the graces to come. If the promise itself is so glorious, what must its fulfillment be like?" St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 36

12 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

I owe this quote to my good friend Duane Osterloth, a scholar currently working on his doctorate at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have sadly not yet had the opportunity to read the document he references, but given this particular citation, I'm eager to (too many books, not enough time...)

Theodoret of Cyrus writes, "But he [Christ] came in, even though the doors were closed, just as he came out of the womb, although the bars of virginity were locked, and just as he walked on the sea." Eranistes, FC 106, 126.

Careful readers of the Formula of Concord will notice why the citation is of interest...

11 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments." St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2

Special Day

Today is the Day after St. Laurence, and 18 years ago on this day, our first child was born: Lauren Elizabeth. I can't believe how she's grown up. She's planning on attending Seward this fall and wants to be a Lutheran school teacher, and will be leaving home next week. Of course, she hasn't been living at home all summer. She's been a camp counselor at Wartburg. I'm missing her already and thinking that this turning kids loose is no fun! In any case, happy birthday, LEW! Your parents love you and are proud of you.

10 August 2005

Prayer at the Close of the Day

We're doing a new thing in our parish. After the Wednesday night Bible Study, we're inviting any who wish to come upstairs to the nave and pray Compline, the Church's Prayer at the Close of the Day. This stunning prayer office, written by St. Benedict of Nursia, is the perfect: "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" prayer to cap off the day. Today I think we had 10 or 11 people come upstairs and join in this ancient office. I am more convinced than ever that our people HUNGER for prayer and the disciplined life of prayer that the Church's Daily Offices offer. "Guide us, waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace..."

Book Recommendation

Last week at Archangel Bookstore in Maplewood I picked up St. Ephraim the Syrian's *A Spiritual Psalter.* Cannot recommend this little volume highly enough. Have taken to reading a section from it at Lauds and Vespers each day. Talk about a superb exercise in law and gospel...

Patristic Quote for the Day

"In this life we aren't cleansed from sin by our own good deeds or our own power, but by God's compassion and forgiveness. For God, in His goodness, has given us any holiness we might have. While in the flesh, we might tend to attribute too much to ourselves if we don't live under God's pardon until the end." St. Augustine, City of God 10.22

09 August 2005

Homily for Trinity 12

Might provide some fodder for anyone preaching the historic lectionary...

Homily for Trinity XII

Can you put yourself just for a few minutes into the place of the deaf-mute
in today’s Gospel? Imagine what it would be like to live in a world where
there is no sound. You can SEE others talking, but you do not know what
they are doing. You can never tell another person why you’re crying or why
you’re happy. You can never ask “what’s going on? why are you acting the
way you are?” You can never hear nor speak the words “I love you.” Even
though you live surrounded by other people, you are locked up in a little
world all of your own. People who eat with you and who touch you, but whom
you can never really come to know.

When our God created the world and declared it “good” and “very good,” there
was one thing he saw later that was NOT good. Do you remember? He said:
“It is not good that the man should be alone.” Loneliness wasn’t good in
the beginning, and it never has been and it never will be. God did not
create a single human being to live locked up in a little world of their
own. He created each one of us for union and communion with Himself and
with each other. He created us to live together in love. In last week’s
reading when Cain cried out in bitterness to God at his punishment, what
rang behind his wail was the fear of the loneliness of the imposed exile.

The deaf-mute in today’s Gospel knew something of Cain’s misery, of his
exile. And don’t we know something of it too? For it is not only those who
are deaf and mute who know loneliness; who sometimes feel as though they are
looking at the world from the outside and are left alone on the sidelines.
The deaf-mute is not the only one who can be in a crowd and feel utterly

But look at what happened to the deaf-mute. Suddenly those who talked to
each other and who tried in vain to break through the walls of his isolation
were dragging him along. The Greek text seems to imply almost carrying him.
And he hasn’t got a clue about what is happening, but he can see from his
friend’s faces that they are excited. He wants to ask: “Why? What does it
mean?” But he can’t ask a thing.

And suddenly he sees these people that he lives with talking to a stranger,
they’re point to him. And the stranger walks up to him and takes his hand,
looks at him in a way that told him suddenly he was not alone. The stranger
takes him aside from the others. The stranger’s eyes never leave his as
this man gently pokes his fingers into his ears, as he spits and touches the
man’s tongue. He was breaking through the barrier of isolation; he was
saying to the deaf-mute: I’m here for you and I’m going to open your ears
and I’m going to loose your tongue. And then the stranger sighed and looked
up to heaven – “I’m praying for you because my heart is grieved that you
have to live in such loneliness. I’m praying that it comes to an end.” The
deaf-mute understands that he is no longer alone. And then the miracle.

As God’s Word at the beginning spoke all things into being and they were
good because they were united to Him and to one another, so God’s Word come
into our flesh, Jesus Christ, speaks and His speaking causes to be what He
says: “Ephphatha!” That is, “Open up!” And those were the first words
that the deaf-mute heard. We’re not told what he said in response, but I’ll
bet it was: “Wow! I heard that! You spoke to me! I heard what you said!”
And of course, he didn’t even realize at first the second part of the
miracle, that his tongue had been set free and he was speaking with clarity.

Jesus had broken through the walls of isolation and brought the man out of
his little prison of loneliness and into the joy of communion with Himself
and with all His followers. And this miracle happened because his friends
brought him to Jesus.

People loved by God, you see the point, don’t you? Our Lord Jesus came into
this world to bring us out of our lonely prisons and to bring us into joy –
the joy of communion with Him, His Father, the Holy Spirit and so of union
with one another. And how did He do it? By entering into the very
loneliness of exiled humanity. By going into the isolation into which Cain
was driven. By entering into all our deaf-muteness. You remember how he
cried from that horrible loneliness as He hung upon the cross: “My God, my
God, why have you forsaken me?” There is no place where you will have to go
that your Jesus has not gone and so no place where you find yourself where
He is not. He is there in our sufferings and even in our dying – “for this
reason He both died and was raised again that He might be Lord both of the
dead and of the living.”

Here in Christ’s Church, then, we’ve found a place where God’s Word has
opened our ears and our eyes and loosed our tongues for praise! Here we
live in a family where Words of forgiveness, of absolution, are continually
spoken to free us from loneliness and give us a life lived together, where
the burdens and the joys are shared, where we taste week after week heaven
on earth, where there’s REAL LIFE.

And our Jesus sends us out - the baptized - out from this place into a world
where loneliness reigns. Where ears are deaf to God’s voice and tongues are
tied to bitter complaining and arguing and every other kind of behavior that
ends up driving people apart and leaving hearts broken and lonely. Our Lord
Jesus sends us to do for others what that man’s friends did for him. To
bring them to Jesus. To bring them here to only One who can break through
and end all isolation and let HIM unite them to a family, a family that is
born from one womb, the baptismal font, and always growing and never
destroyed by death. A family that never stops gathering around one table to
eat together one holy food. A family that is God’s answer and God’s gift to
every loneliness of the human heart. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Saint Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 The Fathers Of The Church).

08 August 2005

Just so you know...

We are in mourning this week. It is so true that you take people for granted. Well, twice a year I get to remember someone whom I take for granted way too much: the church secretary, Marianne Altevogt. She is on vacation this week. So Vicar and I get a first hand experience of what life would be like if we didn't have faithful Marianne on hand all the time to schedule appointments, draw up and publish and run off and assemble the bulletin, answer the incessant ringing of the phone, and too many other things to mention. Pray for us that we don't flub it up this week. We're just amateurs standing in for the pro. May God send every parish a secretary like unto Marianne Altevogt!!!

Patristic Quote for the Day

Every action of Christ and all His working of miracles were truly very great and divine and wonderful, but of all things the most wonderful is His honorable cross. For by nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low, the sin of our first parent destroyed, hell plundered, resurrection bestowed, the power given us to despise the things of this world and even death itself, the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, the gates of paradise opened, our nature seated at the right hand of God, and we made children and heirs of God. By the cross all things have been set aright! – John of Damascus, Book IV: Chapter 11

07 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

To Thee, O Victor pierced by nails on the cross Who calleth out to sinners saying: come, receive forgiveness freely - to Thee I unrelentingly pray, O my Savior: turn Thine eyes away from my lawlessness, and by Thy sufferings heal my sores that I may glorify Thy kindness.

O All-good One, Whose kindness is immeasurably greater than the deceit of the world, strengthen my miserable soul with hope in Thy kindness, for it has been weakened and has become exhausted to the extreme by the crushing infirmities of deceit and sin, and it holds on only by relying on Thee, for it hopes to find comfort in Thee!

--"The One Hope for Fallen Sinners is the Crucified Lord" - St. Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter

06 August 2005

Homily for Trinity 11 (2005)

St. Augustine nailed it when he wrote: "For while all vices manifest
themselves in wrongdoing, pride lurks also in our good works, seeking to
destroy even them.” Thus the parable our Lord told in today’s Gospel to
“certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”

Look at the Pharisee for a moment. The fellow has oodles of good works:
first of all, he is praying in the temple of the Lord. That is a good work;
didn’t the Apostle command “pray without ceasing”? Then he is thanking God
in his prayer. That is a good work, for did not the same Apostle command
“in everything give thanks”? Then he rejoices before God that he is not
living in open and manifest sins of the flesh – he’s no extortioner or
unjust or adulterer! All of which is very good. He rejoices that he fasts
twice each week – fasting is a good work, one which our Lord Himself assumes
all His followers will practice. He showed that when He said: “When you
fast…” And this Pharisee gives a tenth of all he receives to God, for the
support of the temple and the care of the poor. Again, very good works. And
yet, despite all that good, all that striving to fulfill what God commands,
he let pride slip in, and with pride, contempt of others, and thus he blows
the whole thing.

Do you remember the story of the father whose daughter wished to go to an R
rated movie? She told her dad, it really wasn’t so bad. Just a little
gratuitous sex and violence. He told her he’d have to think about it and
then get back to her. That evening there was a plate of brownies sitting on
the table. He told his daughter that yes she could go to the movie,
provided she ate one of those brownies. You see, they were made of mostly
good stuff, and he was sure the dog droppings he stirred into the mix
wouldn’t affect the taste too much!

Pride is like the dog droppings stirred into the brownies of good works! It
ruins them. So despite all the good things that he did, the prideful
Pharisee walked out of the house of prayer without the greatest gift of all;
He left without the mercy of God. He didn’t even think to ask for it!

But consider the publican, the tax-collector. He too comes to God’s house,
but what a different prayer he raises. Standing afar off, unwilling to lift
his eyes to heaven, beating his breast, he says over and over again: “God,
be merciful to me the sinner!” “A broken and contrite heart, O God, these
you will not despise.” Jesus tells us that the publican walked out of the
temple justified. Vindicated by God. That is, he received what he asked
for: divine mercy.

When you come to pray, do you come as the Pharisee or as the Publican? Do
you come to boast or to beg? To celebrate what a terrific person you are or
to confess your sin? To remind God that He owes you or to plead for mercy?

One of the Fathers said: “If I abstain from indulging my foolish desires, I
praise myself vaingloriously. If I succeed in vigilance, I fall into the
snares of conceit and contradiction. If I refrain from eating, I drown in
pride and arrogance. If I am wakeful in prayer, I am vanquished by
irritability and wrath. If I see virtue in someone, I studiously ignore
him… To all appearances I am wise in humility, but in my soul I am haughty.”
(St. Ephraim, A Spiritual Psalter, p. 95)

Ouch. Sound familiar? But that is how a true saint of the church speaks!
He strove to do good works and to live a life that pleased God, and yet the
more he strove, the greater grew his awareness that he was but a poor,
miserable sinner who could live only by the mercy of God. Especially, when
he succeded in outward works, he had to acknowledge the corrupting power of
pride, and beg for mercy. This is always the case, my friends: the closer
you draw to the Holy One, the greater grows your awareness of your sinful
pride. There’s always an unpleasant smell wafting from the brownies, and so
we ask forgiveness even for the good works that we do.

You have come today to God’s house of prayer. The prayers, the hymns, the
readings, the sermon, yes the Eucharist all aim at one goal: to help you
learn to pray aright. They put into your mouth the words of the publican
and teaches you to beg mercy with him: “I, a poor miserable sinner… and I
pray you of your boundless mercy… Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy… Thou that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy
upon us… Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer… Create in me a clean heart… O
Christ, thou lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy
upon us…” From start to finish the liturgy is the prayer of the Publican,
the prayer of those who know their prideful hearts and seek and beg
forgiveness. Is it the prayer of your heart?

Think of Him who told this parable. He is in every sense the answer to the
publican’s prayer. Jesus is God’s mercy in flesh and blood. And He alone
had the right to say: “I thank thee God, that I am not as other men…” – for
He alone is sinless. And yet He is the exact opposite of pride. From His
humble birth in Bethlehem and his life as an Israeli refugee in Egypt; from
his accepting a sinner’s baptism to mounting the cross of shame, where our
pride nailed Him to a tree and His humility accepted it and so overcame and
destroyed pride. From His humble prayer: “Father, forgive” to His glorious
resurrection when He who abased Himself was exalted by His Father to the
highest place. Through it all, Jesus is the mercy of God!

And He established His Church as the house of mercy, the hospital for
sinners, where His Holy Spirit constantly pours out the oil of divine mercy.
Mercy in the font that washes away sin. Mercy in the absolution that
restores us when we wander. Mercy in His Gospel proclaimed to comfort the
hearts of His sin-weary people with the promise of the resurrection and the
hope of eternal life. Mercy above all at the table where He joins us to His
own divine life in the here and now, forgiving all sins, including our sins
of pride.

If pride lurks in all our good works to destroy even them, humility is what
lurks in all His works. In them all He who is the Divine Mercy comes to us
to deliver us from our foolishness and lift us up to the heights of humility
that we might go with Him to our Father’s house, a people justified. Amen.

05 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Well, not quite a patristic quote, but close. Every once in a while, one hears a Lutheran opining that the Orthodox do not have a very deep understanding of sin. This famous "beichtafel" (confessional mirror) from *The Way of a Pilgrim* just MAY lay such notions to rest... Uncomfortable, but blessed reading it is - and a good preparation for going to the Holy Eucharist! (Oh, the pic is of a chotki, a prayer rope, upon which is prayed the Jesus prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner!" - you'll feel the need to pray that after reading what follows. Promise.)

A Confession Which Leads The Inward Man To Humility

--Turning my eyes carefully upon myself and watching the course of my inward
state, I have verified by experience that I do not love God, that I have no
love for my neighbors, that I have no religious belief, and that I am filled
with pride and sensuality. All this I actually find in myself as a result of
detailed examination of my feelings and conduct, thus:
1. I do not love God. For if I loved God I should be continually thinking
about Him with heartfelt joy. Every thought of God would give me gladness
and delight. On the contrary, I much more often and much more eagerly think
about earthly things, and thinking about God is labor and dryness. If I
loved God, then talking with Him in prayer would be my nourishment and
delight and would draw me to unbroken communion with Him. But, on the
contrary, I not only find no delight in prayer, but even find it an effort.
I struggle with reluctance, I am enfeebled by sloth and am ready to occupy
myself eagerly with any unimportant trifle, if only it shortens prayer and
keeps me from it. My time slips away unnoticed in futile occupations, but
when I am occupied with God, when I put myself into His presence, every hour
seems like a year. If one person loves another, he thinks of him throughout
the day without ceasing, he pictures him to himself, he cares for him, and
in all circumstances his beloved friend is never out of his thoughts. But I,
throughout the day, scarcely set aside even a single hour in which to sink
deep down into meditation upon God, to inflame my heart with love of Him,
while I eagerly give up 23 hours as fervent offerings to the idols of my
passions. I am forward in talk about frivolous matters and things which
degrade the spirit; that gives me pleasure. But in the consideration of God
I am dry, bored, and lazy. Even if I am unwillingly drawn by others into
spiritual conversation, I try to shift the subject quickly to one which
pleases my desires. I am tirelessly curious about novelties, about civic
affairs and political events; I eagerly seek the satisfaction of my love of
knowledge in science and art, and ways of getting things I want to possess.
But the study of the law of God, the knowledge of God and of religion, make
little impression on me, and satisfy no hunger of my soul. I regard these
things not only as a non-essential occupation for a Christian, but in a
casual way as a sort of side-issue with which I should perhaps occupy my
spare time, at odd moments. To put it shortly, if love for God is recognized
by the keeping of His commandments ("If ye love Me, keep My commandments,"
says our Lord Jesus Christ), and I not only do not keep them, but even make
little attempt to do so, then in absolute truth the conclusion follows that
I do not love God. That is what Basil the Great says: "The proof that a man
does not love God and His Christ lies in the fact that he does not keep His
2. I do not love my neighbor either. For not only am I unable to make up my
mind to lay down my life for his sake (according to the gospel), but I do
not even sacrifice my happiness, well-being, and peace for the good of my
neighbor. If I did love him as myself, as the gospel bids, his misfortunes
would distress me also, his happiness would bring delight to me too. But, on
the contrary, I listen to curious, unhappy stories about my neighbor, and I
am not distressed; I remain quite undisturbed or, what is still worse, I
find a sort of pleasure in them. Bad conduct on the part of my brother I do
not cover up with love, but proclaim abroad with censure. His well-being,
honor, and happiness do not delight me as my own, and, as if they were
something quite alien to me, give me no feeling of gladness. What is more,
they subtly arouse in me feelings of envy or contempt.
3. I have no religious belief. Neither in immortality nor in the gospel. If
I were firmly persuaded and believed without doubt that beyond the grave
lies eternal life and recompense for the deeds of this life, I should be
continually thinking of this. The very idea of immortality would terrify me
and I should lead this life as a foreigner who gets ready to enter his
native land. On the contrary, I do not even think about eternity, and I
regard the end of this earthly life as the limit of my existence. The secret
thought nestles within me: Who knows what happens at death? If I say I
believe in immortality, then I am speaking about my mind only, and my heart
is far removed from a firm conviction about it. That is openly witnessed to
by my conduct and my constant care to satisfy the life of the senses. Were
the holy gospel taken into my heart in faith, as the Word of God, I should
be continually occupied with it, I should study it, find delight in it, and
with deep devotion fix my attention upon it. Wisdom, mercy, and love are
hidden in it; it would lead me to happiness, I should find gladness in the
study of the law of God day and night. In it I should find nourishment like
my daily bread, and my heart would be drawn to the keeping of its laws.
Nothing on earth would be strong enough to turn me away from it. On the
contrary, if now and again I read or hear the Word of God, yet even so it is
only from necessity or from a general love of knowledge, and approaching it
without any very close attention I find it dull and uninteresting. I usually
come to the end of the reading without any profit, only too ready to change
over to secular reading in which I take more pleasure and find new and
interesting subjects.
4. I am full of pride and sensual self-love. All my actions confirm this.
Seeing something good in myself, I want to bring it into view, or to pride
myself upon it before other people or inwardly to admire myself for it.
Although I display an outward humility, yet I ascribe it all to my own
strength and regard myself as superior to others, or at least no worse than
they. If I notice a fault in myself, I try to excuse it; I cover it up by
saying, "I am made like that" or "I am not to blame". I get angry with those
who do not treat me with respect and consider them unable to appreciate the
value of people. I brag about my gifts: my failures in any undertaking I
regard as a personal insult. I murmur, and I find pleasure in the
unhappiness of my enemies. If I strive after anything good it is for the
purpose of winning praise, or spiritual self-indulgence, or earthly
consolation. In a word, I continually make an idol of myself and render it
uninterrupted service, seeking in all things the pleasures of the senses and
nourishment for my sensual passions and lusts.
--Going over all this I see myself as proud, adulterous, unbelieving,
without love for God and hating my neighbor. What state could be more
sinful? The condition of the spirits of darkness is better than mine. They,
although they do not love God, hate men, and live upon pride, yet at least
believe and tremble. But I? Can there be a doom more terrible than that
which faces me, and what sentence of punishment will be more severe than
that upon the careless and foolish life that I recognize in myself?

Patristic Quote for the Day

"In order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by him who required it, the Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, so that, as with a ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of the flesh, and thus life being introduced into the house of death and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active." (St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, chapter XXIV)

03 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"I learned from the example of the three children in Babylon that when there is no one to support the cause of true religion, we must accomplish our duties alone. They sang a hymn to God from the midst of the flames, not thinking of the multitudes who rejected the truth, but content to have each other, though there were only three of them." St. Basil, "On the Holy Spirit"

Catholic Principle

Some assert boldly: "There is no such thing as a catholic principle."

I cannot agree with this. Not when reading the Lutheran Symbols and the history of the Churches of the Augsburg Confession.

Long have Lutherans been aware of the liturgical effects of the catholic principle - for it is ennunciated with utter clarity in AC XV. "Our churches teach that ceremonies ought to be observed that may be observed without sin. Also, ceremonies and other practices that are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church (in particular, holy days, festivals, and the like) ought to be observed." The fact that this is in the doctrinal section of the AC (not the abuse section) and begins with "our churches teach" elevates the contained liturgical catholic prinicple to a doctrine of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.

But does it stop with the liturgy?

What meaning do those who deny the catholic principle attribute to the words that close out the doctrinal section of the AC? "As can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scripture, or from the Church universal, or from the Church of Rome, as known from its writers." (Summary 1)

I think that the trouble arises for these folks because they persist in conceiving of Scripture and Tradition in the Roman terms: two related but differing sources from which doctrine may be drawn. They are afraid that what is not in Scripture but is found in some Tradition will be foisted upon the Church in the manner of Trent. But this is to miss the true understanding of Tradition, which is not a separate and independent source of doctrine, but is precisely *the correct understanding of the Scriptures* which is given by the Holy Spirit and lives within the Church.

To read the Scriptures *with the Church* and according to her own understanding of them - this is Tradition. And this is something that the Lutheran Confessors never conceived of the Church being without. "Even as He calls, gathers, *enlightens*, and sanctifies *the whole Christian Church* and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one, true faith."

The bugaboo is always the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The simple fact is that the Church's read of the Scriptures sees this as completely in harmony with the Sacred Scriptures and hinted at in them by numerous types. The Lutheran Symbols assert this doctrine not only in the famous Latin of the SA from the BOC of 1584, but also in the German BOC of 1580, under SD VIII:24, where we read: "Therefore she is truly the Mother of God and yet has remained a virgin." Even Sasse freely admits that the Symbols here confess the perpetual virginity.

Walther, holding firmly to the catholic principle that recognizes in the Lutheran Symbols a definitive form of the Tradition - that is, the church's correct understanding of the Sacred Scriptures - affirmed in the Colloquey with Iowa, that this is a doctrine and that he holds to it. When challenged for his Scripture to back it up, he ruled the question out of order. Why? Because to him a Lutheran by definition is one who accepts the Symbols as a correct exposition of the Scriptures.

So the whole notion of the "catholic principle" is but another way of saying "quia." A whole and complete quia, mind you, and not the broken quia that says: "I believe everything in the Symbols for which *I* happen to find a justification in the Scriptures" for that of course confesses nothing at all.

Litany Thoughts

Just finished up a series for Issues, Etc. on the Church's offices of prayer, and we concluded with that grandest of all prayers after the Our Father, the Great Litany.

I think there's a Russian proverb that speaks of prayer as taking the whole world in your hand as if it were an apple, and giving it to God. So the Litany does. By the time one has prayed it, there is no one on earth who has not been remembered before the throne of God. And the Church remembers all because the Church is the communion of love in the Holy Ghost. Here is the prayer for those who are not familiar with it:

L O Lord,
C have mercy.

L O Christ,
C have mercy.

L O Lord,
C have mercy.

L O Christ,
C hear us.

L God the Father, in heaven,
C have mercy.

L God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
C have mercy.

L God the Holy Spirit,
C have mercy.

L Be gracious to us.
C Spare us, good Lord.

L Be gracious to us.
C Help us, good Lord.

L From all sin, from all error, from all evil:
From the crafts and assaults of the devil; from sudden and evil death:
From pestilence and famine; from war and bloodshed; from sedition and from rebellion:
From lightning and tempest; from all calamity by fire and water; and from everlasting death:

C Good Lord, deliver us.

L By the mystery of Your holy incarnation; by Your holy nativity:
By Your baptism, fasting, and temptation; by Your agony and bloody sweat; by Your cross and Passion; by Your precious death and burial:
By Your glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:

C Help us, good Lord.

L In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death; and in the day of judgment:

C Help us, good Lord.

L We poor sinners implore You
C to hear us, O Lord.

L To rule and govern Your holy Christian Church; to preserve all pastors and ministers of Your Church in the true knowledge and understanding of Your wholesome Word and to sustain them in holy living:

To put an end to all schisms and causes of offense; to bring into the way of truth all who have erred and are deceived:

To beat down Satan under our feet; to send faithful laborers into Your harvest; and to accompany Your Word with Your grace and Spirit:

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

L To raise those that fall and to strengthen those that stand; and to comfort and help the weakhearted and the distressed.

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

L To give to all peoples concord and peace; to preserve our land from discord and strife; to give our country Your protection in every time of need:

To direct and defend our president and all in authority; to bless and protect our magistrates and all our people:

To watch over and help all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation; to protect and guide all who travel:

To grant all women with child, and all mothers with infant children, increasing happiness in their blessings; to defend all orphans and widows and provide for them:

To strengthen and keep all sick persons and young children; to free those in bondage; and to have mercy on us all:

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

L To forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers and to turn their hearts; to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth; and graciously to hear our prayers:

C We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

L Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
C we implore You to hear us.

L Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
C have mercy.

L Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
C have mercy.

L Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
C grant us Your peace.

L O Christ, C hear us.
L O Lord, C have mercy.
L O Christ, C have mercy.
L O Lord, C have mercy. Amen

Patristic Quote for the Day

The cross has taken away sin; it was an expiation for the world, a reconciliation for the ancient enmity. It opened the gates of heaven, changed those who hated into friends; it took our human nature, led it up to heaven, and seated it at the right hand of God's throne. And it brought to us ten thousand other blessings. - St. John Chrysostom (Discourse III:IV:7 - Against Judaizing Christians)

02 August 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"How surpassing is the love and tenderness of God! In that hour, instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickedness against us, He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in ptiy He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us - the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for the sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! - that the wickedness of the multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!"

Epistle to Diognetus, par. 9 (circa 124 A.D.)

Musings on LC I and the Saints

Getting ready to do our men's Bible study (Thursday morning at 6:15 at the InnKeeper restauarant in Hamel - join us!) and we're starting to study the Large Catechism. As I was reading through the section on the first commandment I was struck by a thought I'd not had before.

Luther, of course, abominates replacing calling upon God with calling upon the saints: "For all such people place their heart and trust elsewhere than in the true God." Yet I wonder if there is a way to understand this differently than he does, based on his later comments:

"So we receive these blessings not from them, but through them, from God. For creatures are only the hands, channels, and means by which God gives all things." This he says of parents, etc. God uses human beings to give us His goodies.

I wondered if this could be applied to the intercession of the saints for us as well? I don't mean our calling upon them per se, but their intercession in heaven for us. They remain very much creatures, but may indeed serve as "hands, channels, and means" for God to give us.

I know part of this touches on the whole mystery of prayer and how it "works" and I've decided I'm never going to understand that and so I've stopped trying. It suffices to know that God commands us to prayer, promises to hear us, and has given us the pattern and words. But I do not doubt that God makes use also of our earthly prayers to grant us both temporal and eternal blessings. Why on earth would we not assume he makes use of heavenly prayers to accomplish the same?

Does the problem with invocation of the saints occur when one crosses over from seeking help through them to seeking help from them? When they are in fact the ones we turn to as though we didn't have a Father who loves us, a Savior who never ceases to plead for us, and the Holy Spirit who prays within us with groans too deep for words? And yet knowing all of that, I do not cease to ask those on earth to pray for me also, and I know that is not problematic at all. I'm not worshipping them by asking for their intercessions. So the saints? Is it possible for this practice to exist WITHOUT it becoming the idolatry that Luther rightly abominates?

Okay, boys, fire away. I'm ducking.

(Oh, and a p.s. - I notice that in the traditional Western mass, the so-called invocation of the saints appears to be non-existent. It seems rather that God is petitioned to have mercy on us through their prayers. I'm thinking of the Canon and the Embolism of the Our Father. Odd, but I'd not seen that before.)

01 August 2005

First Day of Charles I

Today was the first day with my new Vicar, an extremely bright young man named Charles Lehmann. It was a joy to take him around this afternoon and introduce him to some of our shutin members. It's always sad to see a vicar leave - and we will all miss Karl and his "rigid flexibility" - but I think God has given us another "home-run" vicar in Charles. How on earth has this parish managed to acquire six absolutely stellar men as vicars?

Speaking of past vicars, got a note from Grace Drews the other day - she's happy to report that mom and dad are both doing well. She's cute as a button!

As for weird experiences... last week Cindi and I got to be Godparents to Nathaniel James (born on July 25!) Clayton, Pr. Kirk and Lori Clayton's little son. And we attended his Baptism - via phone! Nathaniel was having some difficulties after birth, and so Pr. Clayton baptized him and invited us to take part in the liturgy over the phone. It was super to be there. We're remembering Nathaniel in our prayers each day, together with our other godchild, Lindsey Ritoch.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Weedons ran a hotel this month. Out of the 31 days of July, we had guests in our house for 24 of them. The last week was a hoot with all but one of Deb's (Cindi's sister) family with us - so we had an extra seven folks!

Sadness is coming up: only a couple of weeks before Lauren leaves for Seward. I don't think I like her leaving one little bit, but I haven't been worrying about her. Just commending her into the Lord's keeping each day - as we do also for David and Bekah.

All my kids in HS or at college. "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled. Do I dare to eat a peach?"