30 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Objects placed near something brilliantly colored themselves become tinted through reflected light; likewise he who fixes his gaze on the Spirit is transfigured to greater brightness, his heart illumined by the light of the Spirit's truth. - St. Basil the Great, *On the Holy Spirit* par. 52.

29 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) resurrection: gentleness, endurance, freedom from the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of what the resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned. - St. Basil the Great, *On the Holy Spirit*, par. 35

Note that this expresses powerfully the patristic insight into ethics: living the values of the age that is to come in this present age!

27 September 2005

Paper at St. Michael's

I was very honored this year to be asked to present the keynote to the St. Michael's Liturgical Conference. Here's the paper I presented - sorry for the typos and bad grammar. I haven't really "fixed" it yet for publication, but it will appear in an upcoming issue of the bride.

Paper: Ministering the Medicine of Immortality

It was about three years ago that I walked into the sacristy following the Sunday mass and Brian, our vicar at the time, was giggling. You must understand how alarming this was! Brian is 6’5” tall and just about as broad – built like a football player – and there he stood, giggling. “What is up with you?” I asked. And his response astounded and amazed me. He said: “What a job I have! I get to pour eternal life down people’s throats! Is that great or what?”

I get to pour eternal life down people’s throats. Now we won’t ask for Fr. Fenton’s opinion of vicars assisting in distributing our Lord’s body and blood – we all KNOW what Himself thinks of that! But Brian’s observation is one we want to dwell on as we ponder the topic of ministering the medicine of immorality to the sick and the shut-ins, to those who are at death’s door and those who have simply been given a solid reminder that death is coming for them one of these days. What greater gift can be given to those who live in the valley of the shadow of death than that very body and blood which once went into death, beat the stuffings out of it, and came out again alive and immortal, made incorruptible, imperishable, full of glory, goes into them? To place that Body and that Blood into the mouths of the sick and dying is to impart to them the life that does not end.

John six obviously looms large in this whole way of thinking. We recall how our Lord in that chapter kept pushing the envelope. When asked: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” He didn’t say: “Oh, you misunderstood me. I was speaking metaphorically.” No. He pushed back: “You think that’s bad, what about this: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” Right there would be enough to scandalize a Jew forever, but He pushes further yet: “My flesh is real food; my blood is real drink.” And then further: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so He who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died. He who eats this bread will live forever!”

I don’t care to get into the whole John 6 debate, but merely to note that anyone who thinks John 6 is not Eucharistic is blind and deaf and should be dumb! The point, however, that Lutheran theologians would make about John 6 should be kept in mind: the passage cannot merely be taken to speak of the oral eating and drinking of the Eucharist, for surely it is possible to eat and dink not unto eternal life, but unto condemnation – 1 Corinthians 11, you know. To conclude that John 6 is not Eucharistic is not the answer; the answer is that John 6 refers to a faithful eating and drinking of the life-giving flesh and blood of the Eternal Word made flesh.

From John 6, it seems the most natural thing in the world that St. Ignatius, himself a disciple of St. John, would pick up the image and give it the form that remained constant in the Church’s heart and mind ever since. Writing to the Ephesians, he said: “I will continue this preliminary account for you of God’s design for the New Man, Jesus Christ. It is a design which provides for faith in Him and love for Him, and comprehends His Passion and His Resurrection. I will certainly do this if the Lord reveals to me that you are all, man by man and name by name, attending your meetings in a state of grace, united in faith and in Jesus Christ (who is the seed of David according to the flesh, and is the Son of Man and the Son of God), and are ready now to obey your bishop and clergy with undivided minds and to share in the one common breaking of bread – the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ forevermore.” (Ephesians 20, St. Ignatius of Antioch)

Here the Eucharist is denominated as “the medicine of immortality, the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ forevermore.” John 6 pushed to the max. Eternal life put in the mouth and poured down the throat. But Ignatius points up the problem that we must look at today. He speaks of this medicine and remedy being distributed in its normal setting: the meetings, where united in faith and subject the bishop and presbyters and deacons, the one common bread is eucharistized and thus transformed. The setting for the giving of the medicine was in this case the Holy Liturgy, the Divine Service. But what of those who are too ill to attend? What of those who are absent from the Divine Service and yet craving its gifts? How are they to be served?

It was an enormous difficulty in the earliest church because the very nature of the Eucharist itself was that it was the manifestation and gift of Church as Church. By the reception of the Body of Christ, the many were made into one body, because all ate of the same bread and all drank of the same cup. The unity of the Church was manifested, her nature as a communion of love was shown by the exchange of the peace. And a point often overlooked is that no one who could commune ever considered it a private matter. Communion by its very nature was NOT private, even though it always was intensely personal. Schmemann notes that St. Paul commands: ‘let a man examine himself and…” – well, and what? Decide whether or not to eat? Not today, Lord. I’ve got this sin I’m holding onto. No! “Let a man examine himself AND SO EAT.” The practice that became common place in later centuries - the baptized attending and not communing - would have been utterly incomprehensible in the earliest Church. You might recall how in the Didascalia, if the peace gets stopped because brothers won’t share it, and the priest cannot then and there resolve the difficulty, the brothers are tossed out. Excommunicated in every sense of the word, until the difficulty has been resolved, because you can’t bring into the Sacrament of the Church’s unity as the Body of Christ and the Gift of Forgiveness, disunity and unforgiveness. And all those who stayed after the Peace were those who received the Body and the Blood of the Savior and so constituted the Church.

So, if everyone who can, did commune, was expected to commune, wouldn’t imagine NOT communing, the problem of those unable to be there but yet truly part of the community that that Sacrament realized, becomes acute. We get the first hints in Justin Martyr of how the Church sought to address this difficulty:

“Then we all stand up together and offer prayers; and as we said before, when we have finished praying, bread and wine and water are brought up, and the president likewise offers prayer and thanksgivings to the best of his ability, and the people assent, saying the Amen; and there is a distribution, and everyone participates in the elements over which thanks have been given; and they are sent through the deacons to those who are not present.” (First Apology 67:5)

So in those days, if sickness kept you from the Holy Eucharist, you could count on sharing in the Service. Sometime after the liturgy was wrapped up in the gathering, you’d have a knock at your door and Brother So and So would be there with the “elements over which thanks had been given” to give them to you, to manifest your unity with the Church in the one body of Christ, and to impart to you in your hour of need the hidden riches of the living Christ, imparting to your body, frail or diseased or even dying, the undying Body and Blood of the Son of God, bringing you communion with Him who is living and who is Life.

Sadly, a change began to creep into the Church’s practice, a change quite contrary to her lex orandi. A change I alluded to earlier. It became customary for the faithful NOT to commune at every Divine Liturgy, and with this grew the notion that the Sacrament was especially important upon the deathbed. It was to be one’s viaticum, the food of the pilgrim eaten to assure the way home. Natural, in a way, to highlight its nature as “medicine of immortality” but what a tragedy to think of it largely as restricted to the end of one’s struggle with sickness and death. And with this grew a fear of missing out on the viaticum – much of which lies behind even the phrase in our litany when we ask to be spared “a sudden and evil death.” Sudden, because then no time to prepare and evil if deprived of receiving the Holy Eucharist to bring us safely home.

Luther and the Lutheran Symbols responded to the problem of infrequent communion, but sadly did little to remedy the problem of thinking of communion as an individual choice. Certainly the notion of the medicine of immortality is abundantly witnessed to in early Lutheranism. We don’t have time this morning to cover everything, but I do want to look at a number of important passages, both from the Symbols and from the chief dogmaticians that show how lively remained the teaching about the remedy of immortality among the Lutherans of those days.

First, we should note how the Apology speaks in Article X. Contrary to certain Nestorianizing pastors from Texas, we find there this stunning declaration: “In the Lord’s Supper Christ’s body and blood are truly and actually present. They are administered with those things that are seen, bread and wine. We speak of the presence of the living Christ, for we know that ‘death no longer has dominion over Him.’” That is, the body and blood that we receive are indeed the body and blood of the Crucified who was taking away the sin of the world, but they are also at the same time the body and blood of the Risen One over whom death has lost all its dominion. He can never die again. And so what is put into the mouth of the communicant is a body and blood that long ago conquered sin and trounced on death. It is a pledge of resurrection.

This theme is even more apparent in the Larger Catechism:

“For St. Hilary also has said, ‘If anyone has not committed sin for which he can rightly be put out of the congregation, he ought not stay away from the Sacrament, lest he should deprive himself of life.” LC V:59

“We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved. Why, then, do we act as if the Sacrament were a poison, the eating of which would bring death?” LC V:68

“They should regard and use the Sacrament just like a precious antidote against the poison that they have in them.” LC V:70

A gift of life, then. A wholesome remedy that cures and gives life to body and soul, and a precious antidote against the poison of sin and death.

How important this Sacrament is, then, to those who are experiencing sickness and facing death! What is the thought that comes immediately to mind in such a case? I am reminded of, well, let’s call him John. John all his life has been stalwart Lutheran. He knows his doctrine and he knows it well. He understands the Catechism down pat. Yet when sudden stroke came to him, do you know what he told his wife? “I guess God doesn’t love me anymore.” Certainly the sick and homebound are profoundly susceptible to this temptation of despair. Running right with it is the fear: “What sin have I done that has brought this upon me?” And Satan is only too happy to remind them of all the likely candidates.

So here another aspect of the Sacrament kicks in that is vital for those in such peril. This is how the Augsburg Confession puts it:

“They are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us. They were instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them.” (Article XIII:1,2)

God’s will toward us means “God’s good will toward us!” I have a confession to make. For the longest time I have misunderstood John 3:16. You see, I have thought of it like this: “God loves me BECAUSE of what Christ has done for me.” Which means, of course, that God doesn’t really love me. He loves His Son, and as long as He keeps me tucked into Son, well then, He can love me because He looks at His Son and not at me. Me, when He looks at, He hates. This summer I saw how wrong I was about it and it was such a glorious “a-ha!” John 3:16 does NOT say that God loves me because of Christ did for me. It says the exact opposite. It says God loves me and THAT IS WHY Christ did what He did for me. It is the REAL me that God loves, and the manifestation of that love is in the gift of His Son.

Hand in hand with that went the awesome recognition that the Cross of Jesus Christ did not CHANGE how God felt toward me; as though God could change! Rather, His cross MANIFESTED how God felt toward me. It showed in an undeniable way that I am an object of the divine love, that He would go so far as to shoulder my sin to forgive it and to die my death to destroy it.

Now, take all of that and bring it to the Sacrament and you get what was a joyful “a-ha!” to the early Lutherans. The Sacrament of the Altar does not CHANGE how God feels toward you; it MANIFESTS God’s love to you. It shows you His great good will toward you in the gift of His Son’s body and blood for you! So when the pastor brings the medicine of immorality to the sick and the dying, he is bringing to combat their doubt of His love and their fear of their sin, an irrefutable testimony that God is FOR that sick or dying person. That He LOVES them and loves them with a love that is stronger than any of their sin and certainly stronger than death, the love manifested in sending the Savior into flesh and blood that He might give them life through the offering of that flesh and blood. The Sacrament is the testimony of Romans 8: “Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This body and blood, this medicine of immortality, was a theme especially beloved of the great Lutheran dogmaticians. I only intend to reference three of them, but that should be enough to put to flight the nonsense that the imagery of medicine of immortality is somehow less than Lutheran.

Martin Chemnitz first. Consider these words: “But we teach that because we have been so alienated through sin from the life of the Deity that our weakness cannot bear Him to be dealing with us except through a medium, therefore He assumed our nature in order that through that which is related to us and consubstantial with us the Deity might deal with us. And thus the humanity of Christ is the connection between us and God Himself, as Cyril says, and as we shall demonstrate more fully later on in the book cconcerning the hypostatic union. Therefore, in order that we might be able to lay hold on Christ more intimately and retain Him more firmly, not only did He Himself assume our nature but He also restored it again for us by distributing His body and blood to us in the Supper, so that by this connection with His humanity, which has been assumed from us and is again communicated back to us, He might draw us into communion and union with the deity itself. And from this it is possible to understand what is involved when by disputations the substance of Christ’s flesh is carried from the Lord’s Supper out of the world.” (Lords Supper, p. 188)

So Christ’s flesh being removed from the world, taken out of the Eucharist, would be the loss of life itself, because His flesh and blood are the connecting point between us and the life of God Himself.

Further, Chemnitz writes: “The human of Christ, its limitations having been set aside, has been removed from all the miseries and injuries of this world and now resides in the glory of the Father. But our nature, although according to the promise we have the hope of glorification, is still befouled with uncleanness, oppressed with miseries, and exposed to all the darts of Satan, the world, and the flesh. As a result our faith is under the cross and still terribly tossed about by temptations. Therefore in the Supper Christ offers us His own body and blood which have been exalted above all miseries into the glory of the Father. He does this in such a way that through them He joins Himself to this miserable nature of ours, so that with this most present and sure guarantee and seal He may give us the certainty that He does not wish us to remain in these miseries forever but that we shall someday be conformed to His glorious body which He offers to us now in the Supper a seal of our own coming glorification….The canon of Nicea calls the body and blood of Christ we receive in the Supper symbols of our resurrection – a most appropriate name, for the ancients spoke of identifying tokens which were given to guests so that they might possess them, carrying them around with them, and show them so that they might be recognized as a guest and thus be received and treated in a friendly and hospitable way under the legal right of need and hospitality. Thus the Son of God willed that in His Supper there might be certain symbols to identify our flesh, by which we might be recognized and posses the right of need and hospitality in the heavenly fatherland, so that we might be received there and treated in the a friendly and hospitable manner. Further, this identifying symbol is not only the bread and wine which the ancients knew were consumed and then cast out into the drain, but the very body and blood of Christ,by which we are admitted to the heavenly fatherland, which our Lord now holds and governs, and they are the surest symbols of our own resurrection and glorification.” (Lord’s Supper, p. 191)

What comfort then to be given these most certain tokens – I think of them like the buzzer at Red Lobster that tells you, your table is ready and assures you a place and a meal – by which we are recognized as Christ’s own and welcomed in the end to His marriage feast!

So much for Chemnitz, let’s our turn attention to Gerhard. The medicine of immortality was a favorite theme of his. He wrote of it extensively in both Sacred Meditations and in Meditations on Divine Mercy. I might note that he’s positively schizoid when it comes to his dogmatic treatment of the Supper. Give me Gerhard the contemplative and man of prayer, but you can keep his dogmatic works!

First, from Sacred Meditations:

“So in this Holy Supper we have the true tree of life again set before us, that sweet tree (Ez. Xlvii.12) whose leaves are for medicine and whose fruit is for salvation; aye, its sweetness is such as to destroy the bitterness of all afflictions, and even of death itself.” Sacred Meditations, p. 103,104

“This is the only sovereign remedy for all the diseases of our souls; here is the only efficacious remedy for mortality; for what sin is heinous but the sacred flesh of God may expiate it? What sin is so great but it may be healed by the life-giving flesh of the Christ?” Sacred Meditations, p. 105, 106

“Marvelous is the goodness of our Saviour, that He not only assumed our human nature in His incarnation, and carried it with Him to His throne of heavenly glory, but that He also gives us His own body and blood to nourish our souls unto eternal life.” Sacred Meditations, p. 98

“How can the Lord ever forget those whom He hath redeemed, those whom He hath nourished with His own body and blood? He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in me and I in him. (John 6:56) Sacred Meditations, p. 99

“Great indeed is the honor put upon our bodies, insomuch as they are the dwelling places of our souls redeemed and fed by the body of Christ, and are the temples of the Holy Ghost and the abodes of the adorable Trinity. It cannot be that they should ever remain in the grave, since they are thus nourished with the body and blood of our Lord. He is the wonderful bread of life. We partake of it and become one body with Christ. We are members of Christ; we are animated by His Spirit; we are nourished with His body and blood. He is the bread of God which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world.” (John 6:33) Sacred Meditations, p. 99, 100

“This is the bread of grace and mercy, of which, if any man eat, he tastes and sees that the Lord is good and, of His fullness receives grace for grace. He is the bread of life, not only living, but life-giving (John 6:58); so that he that eateth of Him shall live forever. This is the bread that came down from heaven, nor is it only heavenly in its own nature, but to all who partake of it, in the spirit and with saving faith, it will give a place among the heavenly guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb; aye, heavenly guests they shall be, because they shall never die, but be raised at the day.” Sacred Meditations, p. 100

“Thus this Holy Supper will transform our souls; this most divine sacrament will make us divine men, until finally we shall enter upon the fullness of the blessedness that is to come, filled with all the fullness of God, and wholly like Him. What we have here only by faith and in a mystery, there we shall enjoy in reality and openly. These bodies of ours which are now the temples of the Holy Spirit, and are sanctified and quickened by the body and blood of Christ dwelling in them, shall be crowned with this glory that in them we shall see God face to face. This holy remedy heals all the gaping wounds that sin hath made; this life-giving body of the Son of God overcomes every deadly sin; this is the sacred seal of the divine promises, which by God’s grace we may exhibit at the great judgment; in the sure and sufficient pledge of eternal life thus given to us do we glory.” Sacred Meditations, p. 111

Note the thorough Theosis of Gerhard’s theology here! And the theosis doesn’t link to human exercises of piety, but to the divine gift of the Supper as a holy remedy! Just two short citations from Meditations on Divine Mercy:

“Life itself dwells in this body, and this life restores me to eternal life and makes me alive.” Meditations on Divine Mercy, p. 86

“True faith is absolutely necessary when approaching the Supper for the sacramental eating so that which was instituted for life is received by us for life. Therefore, I approach this heavenly Meal with true faith, firmly convinced that the body I eat is the one given into death for me, that the blood I drink is the blood shed for my sins…. The Good Shepherd will not allow the sheep, fed by His body and blood, to be devoured by the infernal wolf.” Meditations on Divine Mercy, p. 87

I love that last imagery. The wolf has a hole in his belly and we are given the proof of it every time we receive the body and blood that punched that hole right through death and with the body and blood the promise that we too shall walk out of that hole – not some piece of us, but the whole of us, healed, transformed, and glorified!

The last dogmatician I’d like us to hear from is David Hollaz, and the remarkably prayer with which he ends his chapter on the Eucharist:

“Almighty Lord Jesus Christ, source of life and immortality…I pray You to make me, unworthy as I am, worthy through Your grace; impure as I am to make me clean; naked as I am to clothe me, so that Your Body, so full of divine power, and Your most precious Blood may not become for me, Your servant, the occasion for judgment or punishment, but a memorial of the death You underwent for me, a strengthening of my faith, a proof of the taking away of my sins, a bond of closer union with You, an increase of holiness, the basis of a glad resurrection and a pledge of everlasting life. Amen.” (Translation by A.C. Piepkorn in The Church, p. 136)

Here Hollaz confesses the Lord Jesus in the sacrament to be the source of life and immortality and the sacrament itself to be the proof of the taking away of sin, a bond of closer union with Christ and the basis of a glad resurrection and a pledge of life that does not end.

Given such a Lutheran understanding of the medicine of immorality, we must turn to the practical question we hinted at in the beginning of how to provide this sovereign remedy for those who cannot be present in the offering of the Divine Service. The ancient Church had the answer that the Sacrament was immediately carried from the altar to the sick, and this was the ministry of the diaconate. Over time this changed a bit and the Sacrament instead of immediately being carried to the sick after the divine service was instead brought from the reserved sacrament to those who asked for it, usually at death’s door, and by then it was administered by the presbyters since the diaconte all but vanished in the West as a discrete order, becoming instead the penultimate step to the priesthood.

The Reformers did not recover the notion that all present who can commune should commune at every celebration to constitute the Church. What they did recover was a lively sense that this Sacrament should not be received just a few times a year and upon the death bed, but that its frequent use is vital to strengthen the faith of Christian people under the trials of life, and among the trials we face sickness and death loom large. So it was inevitable that the Reformers would take thought on HOW to bring the Sacrament to the sick.

Two approaches arose. And advocates of either approach saw difficulties with the other approach, but did not feel justified in condemning the other side. The first approach, it was largely a return to the practice of the ancient church, and it took shape in Mark Brandenburg. Reed gives a synopsis of the Brandenburg Church Order of 1540: “A sick person, unable to be present at the Mass, may be communicated in church at another hour if notice has been previously given; or if he be quite ill, the minister, wearing a surplice, and preceded by a sacristan with lantern and bell, shall take the sacrament to him directly from the altar at the conclusion of the congregational service and communicate him at home, after receiving his confession.” Reed, p. 101

Obviously the debates of “extra usum” reared their ugly heads. For those who defined the “action” of the Supper as confined to the moment of reception in the service, the Brandenburg approach was pure catholicizing, opening the door to Corpus Christi processions and the like (probably not aided by the fact that in Brandenburg Corpus Christi – sans procession – was retained in the Church calendar).

Luther offered his opinion about this one day at the table. As always, one has to take his words with a healthy recognition that we don’t know how beer he had consumed before spouting off. In any case, it was shortly after the publication of the Brandenburg Order and in the presence of Cordatus, a preacher from Brandenburg (perhaps BECAUSE of the presence of preacher from Brandenburg) that Luther was asked for his opinion on the Sacrament being carried to the sick. He opined:

“We don’t think it should be done. To be sure, one must allow it for a while. The practice will probably be dropped, if only because they have no ciborium. What should be done about it? In our churches, too, there’s a debate about whether [elements of] the sacrament should be carried to another altar for consecration. I put up with it on account of several heretics who must be opposed, for there are some who allow that it’s a sacrament only while it’s in use; what is left over and remains they throw away. That isn’t right. We let somebody consume it. One must never be so precise four or five steps or when kept so-and-so many hours. What does it matter? How can one bless the bread for each and every one? We also retain the practice of elevating the sacrament on account of several heretics who say it must be done so. It must not be done so, for as long as one is engaged in the action even if it extends for an hour or two or even if one carried it to another altar or, as you do (he said this to Cordatus) across the street, it is and remains the Body of Christ.”

So Luther bears testimony to the fact that although he doesn’t like the practice and hopes it doesn’t last, it’s still the Body of Christ when “carried across the street.” What developed in Saxony and in most places where the Reformation came was instead the practice of consecrating fresh bread and wine with the Words of Institution in the presence of the sick person. The Church Orders usually provided an exhortation to the sick person providing a theology of sickness and death (really pretty horrible when you read them) and then time for confession and absolution followed by the Our Father and the recitation of the first half of the Words of Institution, which serve not only to consecrate but as a distribution formula, and then the second half of the Words and distribution of the holy Blood. The rite frequently concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving, a psalm (23 was big) and the Aaronic benediction.

Let’s ponder for a moment or two the strength and weaknesses of either approach of ministering the medicine of immortality. The strength of the first approach, that of the Ancient Church, is first off that it IS that of the Ancient Church, and such an argument should carry huge weight with those who insist that they have received NOTHING in doctrine or ceremonies contrary to Scripture or the ancient Church. Second, because it comes from the ancient Church it bears witness, perhaps unwittingly, to that prime concern of those days that the Sacrament of the Altar constitutes the very Body of Christ: by placing that Body into us it makes us one with that Body. And third, it avoids the difficulties inherent in “establishing a second altar” in a parish, if you will. Fourth, it clearly confesses that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable, not just over Israel, but over every gift and naming that He performs. So when He has called the bread is Body, He doesn’t take stopwatch in hand and announce when He plans on yanking the Body out again. The weakness of this approach is the strength of the other: the communicants would not necessarily hear the holy Verba, the Words that give the sacrament. The Lutheran answer, I believe, would simply be that the Words of Institution should be recited to the sick and shutins as the formula of distribution.

As to the other approach, the one that actually predominates in Lutheranism and always has, its great strength is simply that the sick are permitted to hear the Verba and to witness the consecration for themselves. Another plus is that the sick usually got a bit more of the Divine Service to participate in too. How much varied from place to place, and likely from pastor to pastor depending upon the actual physical state of the sick. Its weakness above all is that it disconnects the sick’s communion from the communion of all the faithful in that place. It gives them comfort and blessing, to be sure, for it remains the medicine of immorality, but it has no apparent connection with what the parish did that day, or if during the week, that previous Lord’s Day. Finally, the refusal to reserve is not a problem in the face of consuming all the elements, but it is certainly a denial of the Sacrament itself when the elements after the celebration are treated as mere bread and wine – when the Lord’s blood is tossed into the trash in dozens of plastic abominations and when the consecrated hosts are mixed back in with the unconsecrated as though they were just bread. At bare minimum, the Body and Blood that remain should be set aside in discreet containers against the next communion, when they should be distributed first to the people, and by no means “consecrated again.”

My preference is obviously for the first, and using the Verba as the formula for distribution. If the size of one’s parish permits, it would be a glorious practice to carry the Sacrament from the Altar to the sick and shut-ins each and every Lord’s Day and on other festivals. They would soon realize that they are not alone, but part of a Body, the Body of Christ, and that their fellow members care for them so much that they would not see them deprived of the LIFE that is in Christ’s most holy body and blood.
You will recall my mentioning Vicar Brian Holle at the beginning of this paper. I’d like to return to the thought he expressed: “I get to pour eternal life down people’s throats.” Alexander Schmemann, in his absolutely awesome little book, For the Life of the World writes about bringing the church’s sacrament of healing, which includes the communion of the sick. It’s a longish quote, but utterly worthy to be heard in full. Wisdom! Let us attend!

“A sacrament – as we already know – is always a passage, a transformation. Yet it not a ‘passage’ into ‘supernature,’ but into the Kingdom of God, the world to come, into the very reality of this world and its life as redeemed and restored by Christ. It is the transformation not of ‘nature’ into ‘supernature,’ but of the old into the new. A sacrament therefore is not a ‘miracle’ by which God breaks, so to speak, the ‘laws of nature,’ but the manifestation of the ultimate Truth about the world and life, man and nature, the Truth which is Christ.

And healing is a sacrament because its purpose or end is not health as such, the restoration of physical health, but the entrance of man into the life of the Kingdom, into the “joy and peace” of the Hoy Spirit. In Christ everything in this world, and this means health and disease, joy and suffering, has become an ascension to, and entrance into this new life, its expectation and anticipation.

In this world suffering and disease are indeed ‘normal,’ but their very ‘normalcy’ is abnormal. They reveal the ultimate and permanent defeat of man and of life, a defeat which no partial victories of medicine, however wonderful and truly miraculous, can ultimately overcome. But in Christ suffering is not ‘removed’; it is transformed into victory. The defeat itself becomes victory, a way, an entrance into the Kingdom, and this is the only true healing.

Here is a man suffering on his bed of pain and the Church comes to him to perform the sacrament of healing. For this man, as for every many in the whole world, suffering can be defeat, the way of complete surrender to darkness, despair, and solitude. It can be dying in the very real sense of the word. And yet it can also be the ultimate victory of Man and of Life in him. The Church does not come to restore health to this man, simply to replace medicine when medicine has exhausted its own possibilities. The Church comes to take this man in to the Love, the Light, and the Life of Christ. It comes not merely to ‘comfort’ him in his sufferings, not to ‘help’ him, but to make him a martyr, a witness to Christ in his very sufferings. A martyr is one who beholds ‘the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:56). A martyr is one for whom God is not another – and the last – chance to stop the awful pain; God is his very life, and thus everything in this life comes to God, and ascends to the fullness of Love.

In this world there shall be tribulation. Whether reduced to a minimum by man himself, or given some relief by the religious promise of a reward in the ‘other world,’ suffering remains here, it remains awfully ‘normal.’ And yet Christ says, ‘be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (Jn. 16:33). Through His own suffering, not only has all suffering acquired a meaning but it has been given the power to become itself the sign, the sacrament, the proclamation, the ‘coming’ of that victory; the defeat of man, his very dying has become a way of Life.” For the Life of the World, pp. 102-104.

To make this man a martyr, a witness. The Church makes this man a witness by her own witness to what she feeds into him: a medicine stronger than death; a remedy that wipes out sin; a Life that can never end and is the promise of glorification. Christ will not forget the one into whom He has entered with His body and blood. The Church witnesses that the end of such a person will be resurrection and joy without end. “I get to pour eternal life down people’s throats.” Amen and Amen!

William Weedon
23 September 2005

24 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

More Augustine:

My life in You I kept on putting off from one day to the next, but I did not put off the death that daily I was dying in myself. I was in love with the idea of the happy life, but I feared to find it in its true place, and I sought for it by running away from it. - Book VI, Chapter 11 of Confessions

22 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

If a man recounts to you all the real merits he has, he is only telling you of your gifts to him. - St. Augustine, Confessions IX:13

21 September 2005

Another question

So, am I totally missing it or does Scripture really NEVER say that Christ *reconciled God* to us? I've just been over the passages using reconcile in the NT and it appears to me that in every blasted one of them it is confessed that Christ's death has reconciled US to God and NOT that it was what reconciled God to us! Again, it appears that in the Scriptural witness, although we may have been HIS enemies, HE was never ours! Thoughts?

Patristic Quote for the Day - sort of!

"A monk's life should always be like a Lenten observance" - St. Benedict of Nursia, The Rule, par. 49

"For Lutherans, it's always Lent" - Garrison Kieler, Commedian


Lutherans are all closet monks?

20 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed froma virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus it happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord's body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation of the Word of God*

19 September 2005

An A-ha?

"The wages OF sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life."

I think we hear this as "the wages FOR sin" - in other words, death is the wages paid out *by God* as the price of our sinning. But the text doesn't say that. It says that the wage SIN pays out is death. In contrast to the wage that sin pays, there is the gift that God gives: eternal life!


Patristic Quote for the Day

Therefore it is clear why water is associated with the Spirit: because of baptism's dual purpose. On the one hand, the body of sin is destroyed, that it may never bear fruit for death. On the other hand, we are made alive by the Spirit, and bear fruit for holiness. The water receives our body as a tomb, and so becomes the image of death, while the Spirit pours in life-giving power, renewing souls that were dead in sin the life they first possessed. This is what it means to be born of water and Spirit: the water accomplishes our death, while the Spirit raises us to life. - St Basil the Great, *On the Holy Spirit* par. 35.

18 September 2005

Homily for Trinity 17

What drives us to want the best seats? What motivates us to put ourselves forward? What impels us to exalt ourselves? An honest look at those questions reveals a profound truth: we are very afraid, deep down, that we’re a nobody, that we are ultimately unimportant, and so we do whatever we can in the game of musical chairs we call life NOT to be the person left standing all alone.

Sometimes the cry “I’m a somebody!” is what ultimately lies behind bad behavior. Posturing and pretending to be tough or the sort of “You don’t want to mess with me” kind of person. Sometimes the cry “I’m a somebody” is what screams behind the drive to do the cool thing: to smoke the joint or to sniff the coke or to down the whole pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea. Sometimes the cry “I’m a somebody” results in staggering consumer debt as we try to keep up with the right clothes, the right car, the right computer, the right ipod, the right cellphone the right house. All to proclaim: See, I AM a somebody!

As our Lord watched the whole sad charade, how we claim the best for ourselves and shove others out the way, He told a parable about a wedding feast. It’s message was simple: When someone invites you to a wedding, take the lowest place. Then when the man who invited you sees you seated there, he’ll call you up front and you’ll have glory in the presence of the others.

WHAT? We want to say! Is Jesus giving us rules for wedding etiquette? Is He teaching us how to manipulate people to get the response we want?

No. Jesus is telling a parable. And it’s a parable about a wedding feast. And its message is one of joy: You are a somebody! You’ve been invited to the wedding. And there’s a place for you in the wedding hall, a welcome and a feast that will knock your socks off.

And that is what gives you your worth. You are a somebody. Not only has your God created you, but when you fell from the Life that was His gift, He was not content to lose you. He sent His beloved Son into the flesh that there might be a wedding feast for you, that you might have a place at His table forever. He loved you that much. The incarnation of the Eternal Word of the Father in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin shows you how much you are worth to God, how much of a somebody you really are.

But if you’re a somebody, then why aren’t you entitled to one of the best seats? Why not push ahead of others and take your due? Because you know no matter how greatly He regards you, it's not your due – no way, no how. It’s a gift. It’s the worth your Host has ascribed to you. And so to be at this wedding feast is to confess that you are not worthy and to look upon all the others here and to think of each one: He is worthy, she is worthy, but I am not.

Sounds strange, I know, but it is the way of Him in whose honor we celebrate the Feast. Think of it: when He came among us, He always chose the low seat. Born in an occupied land to refugee parents, laid in a cow’s feeding trough at birth; humbly obeying his mother and foster-father, learning to work with his hands as a carpenter; no home to call his own in adulthood, no place to lay his head; standing in solidarity with sinners in the waters of Jordan; struggling alone with Satan in the desert; walking resolutely toward the cross and finally being nailed to it and raised like a hunk of human carrion to destroy the loneliness of sin and the power of death over the children of Adam. From start to finish, our Lord Jesus took the low seat.

How could He do it? The One who created all that is! The One who sustains the universe by His all-powerful Word! How could He always choose the low seat? Because that’s the kind of God He is. The kind of King who reigns over you not by shoving His will down your throat, but by suffering and dying for you, serving by forgiving your sin and wiping out your death to give you life. A humble God, a God not ashamed to take the low seat.

It brings to mind the stunning passage in John 13. When Jesus knew that His hour had arrived at last, that He had come forth from the Father into the world and that He was going back to the Father, He rose from Supper, took off His garments and girded Himself in a towel, and began to wash his disciples feet. You see, that's the kind of God He IS! And that's the true image of humanity as God created it to be. And He goes on being that kind of God even after His glorious resurrection– the One who serves as He washes away sins in the Baptismal water and serves as He offers us His own body and blood to give us life.

Jesus invites us to join Him in taking the low seat. To look at every other person in this world and think of ourselves as less than them, to find joy in honoring and serving others. To delight in doing the Father’s bidding, overjoyed at the invitation to the wedding feast of eternal life. And Jesus promises that God never forgets those who spend themselves for others. He honors them as His friends, and He will invite them to come up. When He raised His Son from death on the Third Day, He vindicated our Lord’s life of mercy and love. When the Father exalted the human nature of His Son to His right hand at the Ascension, imparting unlimited glory, He vindicated that life of taking the lowest seat by giving Him the highest. And when our Lord comes again in glory, He will say to all who have joined Him in His way of humility: Come, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from before this world’s foundation. Then indeed, you will have glory in the presence of all.

What is your worth? To Him you are priceless. He shows that to you week by week in the gift of His body and blood. You ARE a somebody, and because you know that and believe it with all your heart, it frees you from having to prove it to anyone. It frees you to take the low seat. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

To the table of thy most sweet Feast, O loving Lord Jesus Christ, I, a sinner, presuming nothing on my own merits, but trusting in thy mercy and goodness, approach with fear and trembling. For my heart and my body are stained with many and grievous sins, my throughts and my lips have not been carefully kept. Wherefore, O gracious God, O awful Majesty, I, in my misery, being brought into a great strait, turn to thee, the Fountain of mercy, to thee I hasten to be healed and flee under thy protection. And thee, before whom as my Judge, I cannot stand, I long to have as my Savior. To thee, O Lord, I show my wounds, to thee I discover my shame. I know my sins, for which I am afraid, are many and great. My trust is in thy mercies, of which there is no end. - St. Ambrose

17 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL. If *Lead us not into temptation* had implied the not being tempted at all, He would not have said, 'But deliver us from evil.' Now the evil is the Wicked Spirit who is our adversary, from whom we pray to be delivered. Then, after completing the prayer, Thou sayest, AMEN; by this Amen, which means 'So be it', setting thy seal to the petitions of this divinely taught prayer. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis V:18

16 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, O LORD. Does then the Lord teach us to pray thus, viz. that we may not be tempted at all? And how is it said elsewhere, 'the man who is not tempted, is unproved'; and again *My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations*; or rather does not the entering into temptationmean the being whelmed under the temptation? For the temptation is like a winter-torrent difficult to cross. Some then, being most skilful swimmers, pass over, not being whelmed beneath temptations, nor swept down by them all; while others who are not such, entering into them sink in them. As for example, Judas entering into temptation of covetousness, swam not through it, but sinking beneath it was choked in both body and spirit. Peter entered into temptation of the denial; but having entered it, he was not overwhelmed by it, but manfully swimming through it, he was delivered from the temptation. Listen again, in another place, to the company of unscathed saints giving thanks for deliverance from temptation: *For Thou, O God, hast proved us; Thou hast tried us like as silver is tried. Thou broughtest usinto the net; Thou laidest affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but Thou broughtest out into a wealthy place.* Thou seest them speak boldly, because they passed through and were not pierced. But Thou broughtest them out into a wealthy place; now their coming into a wealthy place is their being delivered from temptation. - St. Cyril of Jersualem, Mystagogical Catechesis V:17.

14 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS. For we have many sins. For we offend both in word and in thought, and very many things do we worthy of condemnation; and *if we say that we have no sin* we lie, as St. John says. And we enter into a covenant with God, entreating Him to pardon our sins, as we also forgive our neighbors their debts. Considering then what we receive and for what, let us not put off, nor delay to forgive one another. The offences committed against us are slight and trivial, and easily settled; but those which we have committed against God are great, and call for mercy such as His only is. Take heed, therefore, lest for these small and inconsiderable sins against thyself, thou bar against thyself forgiveness from God for thy most grievous sins. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Mystagogical Catechesis V:16

Patristic Quote for the Day

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR SUPERSUBSTANTIAL BREAD. This common bread is not super-substantial bread,but this Holy Bread is super-substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul. For this Bread goeth not into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but is diffused through all thou art, for the benefit of body and soul. Buy by *this day* he means *each day*, as also Paul has said, *While it is called today.* - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis V:15

13 September 2005


My David is coming home today!!! We're off to get him at the airport in a few minutes.

Patristic Quote for the Day

THY WILL BE DONE AS IN HEAVEN SO ON EARTH. The divine and blessed Angels do the will of God, as David in a Psalm has said, *Bless the Lord, ye His Angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments.* So then, thou meanest by thy prayer, 'as Thy will is done by the Angels, so be it done also on earth by me, Lord.' - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis V:14

12 September 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

THY KINGDOM COME. The clean soul can say with boldness, 'Thy Kingdom come'; for he who has heard Paul saying, Let not sin reign in your mortal body, but has cleansed himself in deed, thought, and word, will say to God, 'Thy Kingdom come.' - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis V:13

11 September 2005

A Profound Meditation

Metropolitan Anthony is one of my favorite writers. I wish I could have known him, but reading his writings I feel like I do know something of his intensity and fervor. This morning Vicar alluded in his homily to Mary as the image of the Church. Metropolitan Anthony picks up the thought and runs with it in this essay:


Patristic Quote for the Day

Hallowed be Thy Name. The name of God is in its own nature holy, whether we say so or not; but since it is sometimes profaned among sinners, according to the words, *Through you my name is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles*, we pray that in us God's name may be hallowed; not that it becomes holy from not being holy, but because it becomes holy in us, when we become holy, and do things worthy of holiness. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Lecture V:12

10 September 2005


[posted on Orthodox-Lutheran dialog in response to some wise words by Fr. Alan Ludwig]

A bit of further meditation on Fr. Ludwig's wise words. I have operative within me two wills, not unlike our Lord. But in my case the two wills are not operating in perfect synergy. Rather, I have the will that strongly insists: "My will be done" and this will is ever seeking the gratification of the passions because it wants no part of communion with God. I have also within me the will that strongly insists: "Thy will be done" and this will is ever seeking the death of the passions because it desires to live in communion with God.

Baptism is the gift of death to the first will and the birth of the second will in me. The Baptismal life is the constant battle to live in both that death and that life, to live from the will that is in synergy with God and against the will that is not. So Baptism is both gift and unending battle.

And thinking about Baptism really leads me to wonder about the interminable arguments regarding free will in which I, at any rate, am convinced both traditions talk past each other. The Orthodox do not deny that God is at work saving in Baptism, no? Saving even the little children who are without the exercise of their will, enfolding them in His love and in His covenantal mercy. I am reminded of the words that Fr. Coniaris penned long ago in his little work on the sacraments, in which he provides the sample of a letter written by a Godparent to a godchild:

"Dearest Mary,

Today God has chosen you to be part of His family. Through your baptism, our Lord has come to you in the water and declared that you are His child and that He will be your God. A greater day than this shall never be for you, because today you have become one of God's saints.

As you grow in years, you will be assaulted on all sides by people who will want to change your faith in the God who has chosen you today. There will be unbelieving people who will tell you that God does not exist or that He has abandoned this world and left us to fend for ourselves. There also will be people who strongly profess Christianity and who try to persuade you that you must accept God into your life - as if you had never known Him or had ever been accepted by Him. They will urge God upon you as though He were some product you must possess before any of His mighty acts become effective for you.

Our dear Mary, because of what has happened in your life today, you will be able to tell these people: 'God does exist, and He has shown Himself to me by coming to me in my baptism and graciously claiming me as His own.'

Rejoice and be glad, Mary, for God has promised to love you always. Each day of your life, He will be with you through prayer and through the Sacraments of His Church. So we pray that God's Spirit will guide you as you grow in faith and live in hope.

Your Godparents" (p. 48,49 *These Are the Sacraments*)

When Lutherans object to the language of free will in the conversion of the sinner, they mean essentially what is objected to in that second paragraph; in Baptism (for children) or through His Word (for adults) God Himself is at work, imparting the gift of a freed will, planting within a person the "second will" spoken of above, the one that is truly freed because it is perfectly submitted to the will of God. What Orthodox and Lutheran Christians agree on is that the Christian life itself is the learning to live from that freed will which seeks ever greater union with God in Christ, and that the closer that union becomes the greater becomes the pain and consciousness of that "alien" will that still is active within us and from which we long to be completely freed. I think in that regard of the outstanding meditations of St. Ephraim the Syrian in *A Spiritual Psalter.*

Patristic Quote for the Day

Then, after these things, we say that Prayer which the Saviour delivered to His own disciples, with a pure conscience styling God our Father, and saying: OUR FATHER, WHICH ART IN HEAVEN. O most surpassing loving-kindness of God! On them who revolted from Him and were in the very extreme of misery has He bestowed such complete forgiveness of their evil deeds, and so great a participation of grace, as that they should even call Him Father. 'Our Father, which art in heaven'; they also, too, are a heaven who bear the image of the heavenly, in whom God is, dwelling and walking in them. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis V:11

09 September 2005

Our church is putting together a directory for our anniversary year. This is the Weedon family photo.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Therefore with fullest assurance let us partake of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine is given to thee His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mightest be made of the same body and blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are diffused through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature.... Contemplate therefore the Bread and Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for though sense suggests this to thee, let faith stablish thee. Judge not the matter from taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that thou has been vouchsafed the Body and Blood of Christ. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystogogical Catechesis IV, par. 3, 6

07 September 2005

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The collect assigned in The Brotherhood Prayer Book is:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, unto Thy servants the gift of Thy heavenly grace that as the child-bearing of the blessed virgin Mary was the beginning of salvation, so the joyful festival of her nativity may bring us an increase of peace; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...

On this day it seems fitting to offer for meditation a medieval English Carol:

Mary the Dawn, but Christ the perfect Day:
Mary the Gate, but Christ the heavenly Way.
Mary the Root, but Christ the mystic Vine:
Mary the Grape, but Christ the sacred Wine.
Mary the Corn-sheaf, Christ the living Bread:
Mary the Rose-tree, Christ the Rose blood-red.
Mary the Fount, but Christ the cleansing Flood:
Mary the Chalice, Christ the holy Blood.
Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple's Lord:
Mary the Shrine, but Christ its God adored.
Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven's Rest:
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision blest. Amen.

In case you were wondering...

...our David DID make it safe into his Uncle's keeping yesterday, despite having to switch flights. Whew. Now, if he can just avoid the bears and mountain lions, not get lost in San Francisco, and manage the switch on the flight home...

Patristic Quote for the Day

Since Chris referred to St. Gregory's take on this yesterday, it seemed good to put up a few more of his words on the topic:

Shall I ask to whom went the blood which Christ shed forth?
If to the wicked on - alas, Christ's blood for him who is evil!
But if to God - why, when we were under another's power?
For it's always to one who holds power that a ransom is paid.
The truth is this: he offered himself to God,
so as to snatch us from him who had us in his power,
so that, in exchange for him who fell, he might take
the Christ: but he who christens cannot be caught.
This is our opinion. We respect, however, the typologies.
The sum of it is this: worship the Trinity. (Poem 1.1.10, De Incarnatione, adversus Apollinarium)

06 September 2005

Questions for the Day

Did the cross *change* God's disposition toward us or *manifest* His disposition toward us? Think of the difference it makes.

Did our Savior die to reconcile God to us or to reconcile us to God? What does 2 Cor. 5 actually say in that regard?

Is the problem that God was our our enemy or that we were HIS enemies?

Patristic Quote for the Day

From St. Ephraim the Syrian:

"Fire threatens my members, O Lord; but concealed within me, O my Deliverer, is Thy reconciling blood. Gehenna awaits to torture me, but Thy life-creating body is intimitately united with me. I am clothed in the garment of the Holy Spirit, and I shall not even be singed. When the river of fire begins to rumble, threatening vengeance, then will the fire be extinguished in me, smitten by the scent of Thy flesh and blood. Thou, O Lord, art the hope of the penitent. Thou art the friend of all sinners." - A Spiritual Psalter, Meditation 65

Nervous Dad

I'm just not ready for all this! Not only is my daughter eight hours away at College, but today my son is flying alone out to California to meet his Uncle and cousins for a backpacking venture in the Sierras - and he has to change flights (both there and on the way home)! You have to know how directionally challenged our David is to get why I'm so nervous. Into the hands of God! May the Lord direct his coming and going and grant him a great trip. So for this whole week we'll just have our baby at home, our Bekah. Whew. Hard to believe.

05 September 2005

Deaconess Consecration and Installation

St. Paul's was privileged to host the consecration and installation of Sister Sandra Bowers as Deaconess for Prison Ministry of the Southern Illinois District of the LCMS this past Sunday. A few pics taken after the service.

Sandy with sister deaconesses who attended the service.

Sandy and her husband, Matt, and daughter, Katie, with me, Vicar Lehmann, and President Mueller.

Sandy wtih me, Vicar, and President Mueller.

Vacation Over

President Mueller preached at St. Paul's yesterday and did a marvelous job. The historic lectionary's Gospel text was just perfect for this week: Matt 6 - Consider the lilies, consider the birds, are you not worth much more than they, your heavenly Father knows you need all these things, seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, sufficient to teh day is its own trouble.

As I looked at the horrific images this week from New Orleans I felt so ashamed and so helpless. This is America? It's no good parcelling out the blame to this or that one, but we all have to face up to the fact that we are part of a society that left the elderly in wheelchairs to die, the poor to die, the helpless to die. It was so disheartening, but maybe some real good will come out of this mess.

I kept thinking about how good it is to know that our God hates death and its attendent misery more than we ever could. He sends His Son to be with us in this misery and death so that he might sanctify our sufferings and open a way right through them and through death to life itself. "When Thou didst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers!" So the Church sings in her Te Deums, even amid the ruin and the rubble, the chaos and the confusion.

May the Lord who is a great Lover of Mankind use us to bring His love and compassion to all the victims of the storm - both the storm of nature and the storm that results from our sin and rebellions!