28 February 2007

Drawn from the Four Gospels

For years I have eschewed the thought of using the conflated Passion. It just goes against everything I ever learned exegetically to throw the Passion accounts together and tell them as a single story. We've read during Lent the Synoptic Passions, but read them one a year.

But this year I threw caution to the wind and used the conflated Passion as found in the LSB Altar Book. Reflecting on that reading, I keep thinking of John 6: "Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost." And that's what the conflated Passion does: it gathers all the the accounts into a single whole - not a seamless whole, there are plenty of rough edges - so that nothing of the Passion is neglected to serve up to the people. John, Luke, Matthew, and Mark. I think we had them all tonight.

Maybe those old Lutherans were onto something after all with this conflated Passion. Maybe there's a wisdom there that the modern exegetes miss out on. Maybe.

Words from Passion Vespers

Joyous light of glory... For You are merciful and You love Your whole creation... Let my prayer rise before you as incense... In the land of the living... Create in me a clean heart, O God... Jesus, I will ponder now on Your holy Passion... I am among you as one who serves... Pride dies and humility rises in union with Christ, who wears the towel... Holy is Your name... Have mercy and hear us... I thank You, my heavenly Father... On my heart imprint Your image...

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In this the papists berate Luther with the charge of removing the word "catholic" from the creed in the German language, in order that he might impose his own name also on the assembly of the church. But I reply that it is true that even before the time of Luther here and there this article of the Creed was recited thus: Ich glaube ein heilige Christliche Kirche. Here the word "Christian" has the same meaning as "catholic," because the name "Christian" was spread throughout the whole world. And it is found this way in ancient manuscripts. Since Luther left the matter as he found it, he is falsely accused of fraudulently rejecting that word "catholic." - Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, Vol. 2, p. 694

Patristic Quote for the Day

The thief who received the kingdom of heaven, though not as the reward of virtue, is a true witness to the fact that salvation is ours through the grace and mercy of God. All of our holy fathers knew this and all with one accord teach that perfection in holiness can only be achieved through humility. - John Cassian, as cited in the Philokalia I:93

An Interesting Piece from Dr. Steven Hein

I post it here with his permission. I cannot and will not presume to speak for others, but I will say that I found his words quite insightful in reflecting some of my own inner turmoil on the question. If I have a caveat to what he's written here, it is simply this: I do not believe that the East gets justification wrong per se, but I do believe that it is not given the place in their doctrinal schema, liturgical and prayer life that it has among the Lutherans, and that its prominence in both the Sacred Scriptures and in the preaching of the Fathers warrants. The result is that it can come across as rather unimportant for our sisters and brothers in the Eastern churches. So with that caveat in place, here's Dr. Hein:

Going East?

There is an important lesson to be learned when we hear of another faithful servant of the Word vacating his ordination vow to join some heterodox communion. There is an unfortunate, but familiar pilgrimage that entirely too many have taken – men who have offered strong confessional Lutheran service in the Gospel - but who then have doctrinally gone astray. How does this happen? When the chief article of justification begins to wane in one’s thinking as the chief article; when it becomes just one among all the other articles of faith, the Devil can use whatever articles make up one's doctrinal passion (good in their own right) to replace it. Just because you are against the false teachers about whatever articles of faith are near and dear to you; this is no guarantee that the Devil must thrown up his hands and raised the white flag in seeking to separate you from a right faith and ministry in the righteousness of Christ. He has demonstrated ample ability to use your passions, your commitments against the false teachers, and your zeal, to dethrone the central significance of the forgiveness of sins in an all-sufficient cross of Christ.

Once dethroning the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ as the chief article, he then works to drive a wedge between those articles of faith and issues of praxis that stir your passions, and the pure milk of the Gospel. When other heterodox traditions hold your views on your passionate articles of faith, the Devil will be at work to have you view their doctrinal errors as not so bad . . . even when they involve false understandings of justification, the central article of the Gospel.

Those who have been around a while have observed well how this played out over time with many champions of an inspired and inerrant Bible in the 1960s and 70s. Tragically over time, many of these faithful confessors sold out the pure Gospel in the name of passion and zeal for evangelism and the mission of outreach. Let’s get on with the mission of the Church was their cry. And they believed that the Baptists, Campus Crusade, and the church-growth authorities had what was needed to successfully undertake the Great Commission. Since these Protestants had it right with mission and evangelism, it could be minimized that they had faulty understandings of how sinners are justified before God. In the midst of their narrow-minded passions; the Church and her Ministry, the Means of Grace, the historic liturgy, and a totally monergistic understanding of the saving work of Christ could be compromised for the sake of an all encompassing, passionate vision of effectively saving souls.

But this is only the half of it. Many who entered the Ministry some time after the Battle for the Bible and the compromise with Protestantism in the name of evangelistic mission - members of the next generation – These men were especially nurtured to cherish the treasures of the Church, its Holy Ministry, and its historic liturgy. And many through the teaching they received came to appreciate these articles and practices as confessional Lutheranism historically retained and expressed them. But I believe that we are witnessing how the Devil can use a passion for the catholicity of the Church, its historic liturgy, and the Holy Office of the apostolic Ministry, to rend asunder the crown jewel of the Church - justification by grace through faith alone. The Devil can do it just as easily as he can use and pervert passions for an inerrant, fully authoritative Bible. The point that Jesus makes about he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me (Matt.10:37) has application also for we who would hold and cherish the articles of faith in the Gospel of our Lord. If we miss-order these articles, cherishing any article more than the chief work of the Savior on the cross and in the Gospel; if we treat any other article of faith in our minds as the central article upon which the Church stands or falls . . . then we become vulnerable to a form of doctrinal idolatry that the Devil can use to wrench the righteousness of Christ from us and our ministry to others. Good Lord, deliver us!

27 February 2007

Looking East

There's a new discussion list out specifically for Lutherans who are "looking East." You can read about it here:

click here

I see from their public page that some of my good friends are hosting the list. Yet, make no mistake about it: this is no open forum. Specifically excluded is the possibility of any Lutheran rejoinder to Orthodox apologetics. It's for hearing THEIR side of the story. Period.

What is a great shame is that Orthodoxy would seek to grow at the expense of converting Lutherans. Are there not more than enough who have never even heard the saving name of Christ that we should fill our churches with Christians lured from other confessions? Yes, I know that condemns Lutherans as well. Look at the people who tend to make up any adult catechism class among us!

There was a time when the Orthodox AND the Lutherans both took Romans 15:20,21 seriously: "and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'" May God grant both our Orthodox sisters and brothers and we ourselves the grace of repentance, that we might not confuse proselytism with the task of evangelism which the Lord of the Church has laid upon us.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Theology takes its name from God: first, by reason of its principal effective cause, that it is a divinely revealed teaching; second, and especially, by reason of its subject or object, that it makes men divine, or "partakers of the divine nature." - Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of Scripture and Theology* p. 27

Patristic Quote for the Day

We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet's blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: "He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created." Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them...The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This is My Body." Matthew 26:26 Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name,after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks. - St. Ambrose, *On the Mysteries* Chapter 9

Homily for First Passion Vespers - 2007

If Lent is all about a return to the life God gave us in the font, then we must realize that that life is nothing other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is given us to be our life. That is why St. Paul could say: "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

And as our Baptism always has two aspects: drowning and emerging, dying and rising, so our return to Baptism, that is to having Christ as our Life, always involves the death of something in us, and the rising up of something new - a gift of God to us in Christ.

If we think about Judas and we think about Peter, it becomes pretty clear what needs to die in us, doesn't us? This impulse to think WE know better than God. It's ancient. Goes right back to when Eve decided that she knew better than God about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and Adam decided Eve knew better too. And despite all the evidence that has accumulated in the centuries since that we do NOT know better than God, it is something that is born and bred in us to think we do.

And so Judas agrees to hand Jesus' over. Jesus was not turning out the way Judas thought he should when he signed up with the disciples. And so Peter says: "You shall never wash my feet." And why not? Because Peter thought it beneath the dignity of the Lord to do so such a thing. Didn't fit with his idea of Messiah at all. It's the same spirit in which he once rebuked Jesus for speaking of his cross and passion, saying: "May it never be." And that happened right after he had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. To be the Son of the Living God, to Peter, could not be made to fit with washing dirty feet or being nailed to a tree, with suffering and dying.

Thinking they knew better than the Lord. Thinking we know better. Sure God said, but.... And in such pride we continue to wreck the havoc of betrayal, of impeding God's grace, of dishonoring one another and God. This pride needs to die inside of us this Lent. It needs to be drowned in the water and left there. This pride, this strutting about as if WE were the ones who had it all figured out. This dealing with God and with others as though: If only they'd agree with US, we'd soon get things straightened out around here.

In utter contrast to the pride seated at the table, let your eyes drop to the man who is busy washing feet. He takes in hand dirty foot after dirty foot, touches them, cleanses them, pats them dry, moves on to the next. And who is this who is washing feet, doing the task of a slave? It is the Lord of the Universe, the Eternal Word through whom all things were made. If ever there were anyone who had reason for pride, it would be He. But see! He is not proud, He is humble. You've never come to understand the first thing about the true God until your eyes have been opened to see that about Him: the astonishing truth about our God is that He is humble.

He humbled Himself and did not abhor the Virgin's womb. He humbled Himself to be laid in a cow's feeding trough for a cradle. He humbled Himself to be the child of refugee parents. He humbled Himself to obey his Mother and foster-Father even though He was their Creator. He humbled Himself to labor as a carpenter and to regularly go to Synagogue and hear and learn and love the Scriptures. His Holy Spirit is the AUTHOR of the Scriptures, and yet He listens and learns as you and I do. He humbled Himself to hunger and thirst in the wilderness, to endure the sneers and trickery of Satan. He humbled Himself to spend His life for others: teaching, healing, loving and giving. And now He was on the doorstep of the greatest act of humility that would ever be known for He was preparing to yield his life to torture and to death that He might give forgiveness and life. And His prideful disciples STILL don't get it. So he takes off His clothes and dons a towel to give them one more lesson before THE moment arrives.

"You call me master. You call me the Lord. It is good that you say that. That's what I am. And if I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. I have done this to show you the way to do as I have done to you."

To show you the way. The way of humility. The way of love. The way that Jesus gave you at your Baptism to live. To live united to the One who alone has reason for pride and yet who is filled only with humility, with serving, sacrificial love.

The almighty is among us as One who serves. And so He reaches His body and blood even that night - for this would be His greatest service of all. That He would sacrifice Himself, offer His body and blood into death to obtain forgiveness for them and for us and for all the world. Forgiveness for all the silly pride we dress ourselves up in. Forgiveness for all the betrayals of His love. Forgiveness for all the things we think we know best and presume even to correct Him. For it all, He goes to the cross so that in Him we might die to sin and live for righteousness. That is, that we with Him might die to pride and live with Him in humility.

If we are returning to the font, to the life that God gave us there when the water was poured over us in the name of the Triune God, then that life which is Christ is death to all pride and the rising up of humility. He would raise us to be servants with Him. He would crown us with a servant's crown of thorns. He would love us that we might become lovers of each other.

"Lord, where are you going?" Peter asked. "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but afterwards you will follow me." Not merely a prediction of Peter's martyrdom. But rather, that where Jesus goes: into the uttermost depths of humility, Peter will follow - and so will you and I, as we are united to His death and resurrection in Baptism, strengthened in humility by His self-giving in the Eucharist, lifted to loving and serving. We will follow Him and it will be joy indeed. Amen.

26 February 2007

What's an Ember Day?

When's an Ember Day is easier to answer. This coming Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are Ember Days. On these days Western Christians traditionally fasted (ate only one meal, no earlier than midday, and 1/4 of a meal at night) and abstained from all meat products and from wine.

The Christian Cyclopedia observes:

Four periods, of 3 ember days each, set aside for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in the 4 seasons (Lat. ieiunia [“fasts”] quatuor temporum). The pattern followed in modern times was est. in the 11th c.: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after (1) 1st Sunday in Lent; (2) Pentecost; (3) Holy Cross Day, September 14; (4) St. Lucia's Day, December 13.

In the Reformation times, these days were especially devoted to preaching on the Catechism. Although connected with the natural seasons and seeking God's blessings upon the fruits of the earth and acknowledging that all food comes from him, the Church thought of the words of our Lord: "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few." In the medieval Western Church, therefore, these days were set aside as times for the ordination - to dispatch men into the office of the ministry that through preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, God might gather His harvest from the children of Adam.

For those who use The Brotherhood Prayer Book, the Ember days are provided with the following readings and collects:

Wednesday: Matthew 12:38-50 / 1 Kings 19:3-8
We beseech Thee, O Lord: that Thou wouldst graciously hear our prayers, and stretch for the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defence against all adversities; through Jesus Christ...

Friday: John 5:1-15 / Ezekiel 18:20-28
We beseech Thee, O Lord: mercifully to have compassion on Thy people, that they, which by Thee are enabled to serve Thee, may be comforted by Thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ...

Saturday: Matthew 17:1-9 / 1 Thes 5:14-23
We beseech Thee, O Lord: Graciously to hear the prayers of Thy people and of Thy great goodness turn aside from them the scourges of Thine anger; through Jesus Christ...

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Finally, to deny one's self is to renounce one's own will.... Hence, the true disciple of Christ, renouncing his own will, follows the desires of God. Behold Christ, thy Savior; in the agony of His awful passion He lays His own will on the altar as a most pleasing sacrifice unto God; and so do thou offer up thine own will unto God, and thou shalt indeed accomplish that which Christ requires of thee as a disciple, the denial of thine own self. May Thy holy will, O Lord, be done on earth as it is in heaven. - Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXXI.

Patristic Quote for the Day

If God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined. Any time is the right time for works of charity, but these days of Lent provide a special encouragement. - St. Leo the Great, Sermon

25 February 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But anxious and fearful minds, when they consider their sins, their unworthiness, their weaknesses, and their many temptations, become so terrified and disturbed that dangerous doubts arise concerning the individual application, that is, whether I myself have with sufficient certainty grasped the benefits of Christ and so faithfully cling to them that my conscience can stand before the judgment of God. For this reason Christ in His Supper willed to confirm and seal to His disciples the demonstration and application of the promise of the Gospel with a certain and firm guarantee, so that in the face of all temptations faith can stand strongly and firmly in the assurance that it is a participant in Christ and all His benefits unto salvation. - Martin Chemnitz *The Lord's Supper* p. 189

Patristic Quote for the Day

God could give no greater gift to men than to make His Word, through whom He created all things, their head and to join them to him as his members, so that the Word might be both Son of God and Son of man, one God with the Father, and one man with all men. The result is that when we speak with God in prayer we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Savior of His body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is Himself the object of our prayers. - St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms

Confusing the how with the what

I'm speaking of mission, specifically the mission of Christ's Church. Ask people what the mission of the Church is and the typical answer is: "to spread the Gospel." But that is incorrect. That's HOW the Church accomplishes her mission. It is not the mission itself. WHAT is the mission? Nothing less than rescuing sinners from idolatry (which is trying to squeeze life out of the dead stuff of this world) and bringing them into the worship of the one true God, the blessed Trinity. THAT is the mission of the Church. If we remember not to confuse the how with the what the entire mission takes on a much sharper focus.

"For the Father seeks such to worship Him!"

"We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God!"

"Let the peoples praise You, O God, let all the peoples praise You!"

"So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory!"

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

24 February 2007

Good Gravy!

Talk about lunatic science, check this puppy out:

click here

I suggest that instead of going to see this movie, folks check out "A Skeleton in God's Closet!" No doubt, the same sort of story, but with the TRUTH at the ending!

Pelikan's last words, reportedly: "If Jesus is risen then nothing else matters; if Jesus is not risen then nothing matters."

Stark's Prayerbook: On Entering Lent

This present season, which Your infinite goodness has again permitted to me reach, reminds me of the bitter sufferings to which You willingly submitted according to the plan of Your heavenly Father, in order that as the Lamb of God You might take away the sin of the entire world, and render satisfaction for them. No one can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their souls is costly and it never ceases. Therefore You took pity on those whose flesh and blood You assumed in the fullness of time, and by Your bloody atonement You regained for them that peace which their sins had broken and lost.


Among the early Christians the holy season of Lent was a season of devotion and prayer, and it was spent in special meditation upon the sufferings of Jesus. This custom is observed among Christians to this day. While Satan has induced the children of the world to enter upon the season of Lent, not with prayer and devotion, but with drunkenness, masquerades, gluttony, dissipation, and wickedness. And by this they show that they care nothing for the crucified Lord Jesus, and trample His blood under foot. On the other hand, the children of God have a different spirit: they regard these things with horror.

They begin this season with prayer and singing, thus preparing their hearts for the contemplation of the sufferings of Jesus. They place before their eyes the entire passion of Jesus: from Gethsemane to the trials before the high priest and later Pilate, to Golgotha and the cross. As they contemplate each detail, they say: "And He did all this for me." While persuing these sacred meditations at home or at church, they do not stop with the mere history of the events, nor do they let their devotion vanish with the ending of Lent. Rather, they intend to draw comfort from the wounds of Jesus throughout their earthly pilgrimage, and especially in their dying hour they wish to remember the crucified and risen Christ. This remembrance prompts them to crucify their sinful desires, so that they no longer live after the manner of the world, or sin purposefully, but so that they die to sin and rise to new life with Christ. God blesses such diligence, zeal and desire for sanctification in their lives.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We have shown above that since gluttony and drunkenness hinder, disturb, and choke the spiritual actions of the soul, and on the contrary excite and inflame the lusts of the flesh, Scripture, according to the nature of persons and ages, proposes not only fasting, but also temperance and sobriety. Thus also the ancients, granted that they make many words commending fasting, nevertheless ascribe the same fruits and effects for mortifying the flesh and arousing earnest exercises of repentance and prayer also to temperance and sobriety, even as to fasting. - Martin Chemnitz, Examen IV:308

Patristic Quote for the Day

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations. - St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms (cited in Christian Prayer)

St. Matthias, Apostle

Today we commemorate the holy Apostle, Matthias. Though little is said of him in the Sacred Scriptures beyond his election by the apostles to fill up the number of the 12 left by Judas' death, the tradition of the Church teaches us that he labored as a missionary in Ethiopia, and also laid down his life in witness to Christ's victory over death.

His day is observed on August 9th by the Eastern Rite, on May 14 in recent times by Rome, and on this day by the Lutherans, Episcopalians and Western Rite Orthodox - the traditional date of his commemoration in the Western Church.

For one in place of Judas,
Th' apostles sought God's choice;
This lot fell to Matthias
Form whom we now rejoice.
May we like true apostles
Your holy Church defend,
And not betray our calling
But serve You to the end. (LSB 517, stanza 13)

"I will speak of your testimonies before kings, O Lord, and shall not be put to shame. I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth will I make known your faithfulness to all generations." (from the Introit for his day)

23 February 2007

Commemoration of St. Polycarp, Pastor and Martyr

Today we remember St. Polycarp, giving thanks to God for his faithful service to his flock and for his witness to the resurrection in giving up his life - in which the universal Church rejoices.

Some choice quotes from this saint who was martyred this day in the year 155:

"Though you never saw Him for yourselves, yet you believe in Him in a glory of joy beyond all words (which not a few others would be glad to share), well knowing that it is by His grace you are saved, not of your own doing but by the will of God through Jesus Christ."

"Faith is the mother of us all; with Hope following in her train and Love of God and Christ and neighbor leading the way. Let a man's mind be wholly bent on these, and he has fulfilled all the demands of holiness; for to possess Love is to be beyond the reach of sin."

"To deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is to be Antichrist. To contradict the evidence of the Cross is to be of the devil. And to pervert the Lord's words to suit our own wishes, by asserting that there is no such things as resurrection or judgment, is to be the first-begotten son of Satan. So let us have no more of this nonsense from the gutter, and these lying doctrines, and turn back to the Word originally delivered to us."

"Let us never relax our grasp on the Hope and Pledge of our righteousness; I mean Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in his own body on the tree."

"Pray for all God's people. Pray too for our sovereign lords and for all governors and rulers; for any who ill-use you or dislike you; and for the enemies of the Cross. Thus the fruits of your faith will be plain for all to see, and you will be perfected in Him."

Don't know about you, but I sure would love to have had him as MY pastor!

22 February 2007

Homily for Invocabit

[Genesis 3:1-21 / Hebrews 4:14-16 / Matthew 4:1-11]

You have an enemy who likes to parade around as your friend. He's slick and he's dangerous. He doesn't just wish you pain - he wants you to have pain that never ends, suffering eternal, agony untold. He wants to devour you - inside and out. And he's not some fictitious monster dreamed up from someone's fancy. You can take all the fantasy monsters, roll them into one, and you don't even begin to touch the evil of this enemy of yours.

Appearing as Eve's buddy, the serpent said: "Did God really say?" Appearing totally on her side he said: "You will not surely die. God knows the day eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you'll be like him, knowing good and evil." Slick. He never told her to eat it. He never handed it to her and coaxed her. He just planted the seeds of doubt. Did God really say? And more dangerous: the subtle suggestion that God doesn't really love you and is trying to hold you back. And with hook firmly set, he just waited for the play on the line and then he had them.

Scratch the them, though. Then he had US. For we are in them, in our first parents, and the disease of their doubt, their faithless distrust, the death that they embraced that day in the Garden is the inheritance we receive from them.

Driven from the garden, riddled with conflict between themselves, blaming each other, blaming God, blaming the serpent, anyone would do, and struggling then through the days of their life knowing where they will end up and terrified of it: "Dust you are and to dust you will return." And the real terror of those words when you remember what God said to the serpent: "On your belly you shall go and DUST you shall eat." Eat dust? They're dust. They're serpent food. And we with them. We're headed to the dust from which we first came.

But then comes today's Gospel. Imagine what it was like for our ancient foe when he first met flesh and blood that wouldn't cave in to his insinuations. "If you are the Son of God..." clearly implying that he couldn't be God's beloved, left out there alone in the wilderness, hungry, starving. Three times the tempter assaults him - with hunger, with pride, with riches; three times the tempter is rebuffed; three times the "it is written" rings from the mouth of Him who is Word of God made dust for us. Stung by his defeat, the devil withdraws from Jesus for a time. He'll be back, inviting Him to distrust the Father even as He hangs upon the tree: "If you are the Son of God, save yourself!" he will hear. Different voice, but same mind, same suggestion: "You cannot trust the benevolence of Your Father; He has abandoned you! You cannot trust His Word, His promises to you. See where they land you. Despair and die! You will be my food too!"

But despair is what He does not do. Even from the cross, and certainly not in the wilderness. Instead, trust. Absolute trust that the Father's will is good, that He is beloved of the Father, and that the Father will not abandon Him to death but through His death will bring the children of dust to the immortality that He had planned for them from the beginning. "You will not abandon me to Sheol" the spirit of Christ had prayed through David centuries before. And He wasn't left there either!

But that's getting ahead of today's Gospel. Armed with the Word, though tempted, He did not give in. Unlike Adam and Eve and all of their other children - including us. He stood firm and endured the test to its end. Only the one who doesn't give in to temptation at all comes to knows its full and cumulative weight pressing down. We usually cave long before we ever feel the half of it. But He knew it all.

And so our second reading reminds us that we have a High Priest, Jesus, who truly is the Son of God even as He is the Son of Mary. He has passed through the heavens and appears for us before the Father as our Righteousness. Look to Him, for He knows everything you go through, all the temptations you experience, by which Satan would lead you away, promising you all sorts of fun and good times and then laughing in your face as he devours you for eternity. Look to Jesus, for He has known those temptations through to the bitter end and He has said "no!" to them all for you. Look to Him, for He can sympathize with your every weakness, your every impulse to distrust the Word of God and to rely on yourself. He understands, but He also reveals that it is a dead-end road and that the one who attempts to seduce you to take it wants only to destroy you.

Instead, He calls you to come to Him, to His "throne of grace" where you will find mercy and grace to help you in your time of need. Where is His throne of grace? Behold, the holy altar. Behold, here the High Priest reaches to you the sacrifice which He once offered to His Father as the ransom price of your soul and body. He reaches it to you that He might give you forgiveness, that He might enter you and fill you. Flee to Him and you flee to the One whom no temptation of Satan could fell. Think of that, my friends! In Him and only in Him there is full and free forgiveness for all the times you have fallen, have yielded to the Tempter. In Him and only in Him there is strength for the ongoing battle and, yes, in Him and only in Him there is full, final and lasting victory.

But I skipped over what is perhaps the most important expression of all: "Let us then with confidence draw near." With confidence? Yes. For He does not call you to Himself as slaves who cringe and cower, but as His beloved sisters and brothers whom He calls to Himself to receive the heavenly inheritance He has obtained for our race by sharing our own flesh and blood.

You DO have an enemy. You DO have a malevolent spirit intent on destroying you. He is mightier than you and full of wickedness. Never underestimate him! But stronger than your enemy is your Savior Jesus Christ, who knows you inside and out, who sympathizes with you in your weaknesses and who calls you to His throne of grace to receive help that positiviely dwarfs the power of your enemy. Your Savior's help is like the ocean and the devil's temptations, like a little spark that falls in and is readily extinquished. In yourself, you don't stand a chance against him. But in your Savior, united to Him in trusting the promises of the Father, you will be able to stand firm against the enemy and having done all, to stand.

Here's the throne of grace. What are we waiting for?

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Although our dear Lord Jesus Christ did not institute His holy Supper for the purpose of adoring it and worshipping it, nor yet is it forbidden nor to be accounted an excess or as idolatry, but much rather just and right, that this holy Supper might be administered according to its institution by our Lord Jesus Christ, one attended with complete devotion and adoration, and worship our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, true God and Man, who is present in this excellent sacrrament, not only according to the nature of His divine omnipotence and spiritual nature, but also bodily, truly and essentially, yet nevertheless unseen, as the one who sits at the right hand of the divine majesty, and who has been exalted by God and given a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those in heaven and on earth and under earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. - George of Anhalt, Lutheran preacher, 1553 (cited in *The Lord's Supper in the Theology of Martin Chemnitz* by Bjarne Wollan Teigen, p. 110)

Patristic Quote for the Day

God's will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God's desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness. It was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God's heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and died, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God the Father, when we were at enmity with him, and to restore us to the life of blessedness from which we had been exiled. He healed our physical infirmities by miracles; he freed us from our sins, many and grevious as they are, by suffering and dying, taking them upon himself as if he were answerable for them, sinless though he was. He also taught us in many different ways that we should wish to imitate him by our own kindness and genuine love for one another. - St. Maximos the Confessor, from a letter, cited in *Christian Prayer*

David's latest art project

EWTN Ash Wednesday

Was it surreal or just me? EWTN began their Ash Wednesday liturgy with the choir singing Luther's haunting: "From Depths of Woe" including "therefore my hope is in the Lord and not in mine own merit." Beautiful.

21 February 2007

St. Paul's - Ready for Lent

Worshipping in this place is always a joy. It is downright iconic: the muted rush of the highway against the calm peace of eternity. An inviting place for weary pilgrims to come in, pray, rest, and be refreshed with heavenly gifts.

Okay, it's here

I know it's here at the start of the day, but it never seems to be here until we finish the Ash Wednesday Divine Service. The litany, the ashes to remember our mortality, the beautiful words of the Introit and the Collect of the Day calling us home, the nine-fold Kyrie, the reading from Joel ("Even now...") and from Peter and the words of our Lord - the joy of preaching that God is waiting anxiously for everyone to return - even now, despite all. The offertory: "Create in me" - we pray it every week, but tonight we prayed it like we meant it. The choir singing: "See in Him God's love revealed." The Eucharist itself, somewhat subdued but still brimming with joy. "In Adam..." and "Lord, now lettest..." The final prayer we sing: "On my heart imprint Your image, blessed Jesus, King of grace..."

NOW Lent is here. Here is earnest. As a community in Christ we have entered it together, and together begun journeying with the whole Church toward the joys of the Easter Feast.

The sadness? Only 190 pilgrims began the journey together tonight - on Sunday we usually count over 300. Oh, people loved by God, make room in your lives for Lent! For giving, prayer and fasting, for return! Come and let the Word unfold its gifts and show you a Savior beyond all imagining - a love that will humble you, fill you, transform you and delight you. Not for a few minutes or hours. Eternally. Come and receive the bounty of the Lord!

Patristic Quote for the Day

When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others. - Sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus (Office of Readings: Christian Prayer)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But certain traditions do serve a good purpose in the Church, namely, to preserve order. For not in vain did the Apostle admonish the Corinthians that in the church all things should be done decently and in order. We do not strive for righteousness in these matters; instead, we are trying to educate those who do not know any better, so that they learn to treat sacred things with reverence. We observe Sunday. The bishop prescribes fasting so that prayer can be celebrated more fervently. A day is set aside on which the people are to gather to hear the Word of God and receive the Sacraments. - Urbanus Rhegius, *Preaching the Reformation* p. 79

Ash Wednesday

Ashes. Dust. Death. "You are dust," God told the man on the day that Eden was lost "and to dust you shall return."

Earlier he had said to the serpent: "Dust you shall eat."


"Like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

To eat that is.

Lent reminds us that we have an enemy who is intent on devouring us. Lent reminds us that we have a Savior who became dust and ashes for us, to make our dust immortal. Lent reminds us that at the end of the journey, at the end of return, there awaits the God who has mercy on and abhors nothing He has made and who looks past the sins of men that they may repent (Ash Wednesday Introit).

Memento! You are dust to dust you shall return.
Memento! Dust you shall eat.
Memento! He took upon Himself not the nature of angels, but the Seed of Abraham.
Memento! He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Memento! Resist him, firm in the faith!

20 February 2007

Patristic Quote for the Day

Do not think that there is only deity or only humanity in Christ, but faithfully believe in both and humbly adore both, so that there is no division in the unity of the Logos with His flesh. But since the inviolable Logos is not separated from the suffering flesh, the deity must be understood to be a partaker with the flesh in all things and the flesh as a participant with the deity in all things. - St. Leo the Great, De Quadragesima Sermo 46 MPL 54, 293

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Moreover, let us not show a lust for controversy, nor an inclination for disputing, an impudence to argue, a desire to win, nor a foolish longing to show off one's wisdom, but rather a mind desirous of the truth, a humble spirit, and a heart which fears God, so that in God's sight and with His Word leading us we may depend on the word of His mouth alone and not pervert the things which He has revealed to us in Scripture according to the norm and measure of our reason, but humbly and firmly embrace them in the obedience of faith. - Martin Chemnitz, *Two Natures* p. 258

19 February 2007

Horatio's Journey

It was a couple years ago that Bob and Candy Esch gave us the beautiful DVD of Horatio Nelson Jackson's journey across the US from San Fran to NYC. It's a great story. Tonight while Bekah and David were out, and Cindi was at choir in Collinsville, Dave (Cindi's dad) and I enjoyed the story again. Really makes you itch to just get out in the car and start driving. If you've not seen it, it's a fabulous experience. I dare say, you'll not be disappointed.

Blame Doug and Debbi...

...they got me started on Wodehouse and I've been chuckling ever since. This site is a delight and should be clicked upon at least once a day.

Wodehouse Joys

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

I have cited a good many statements from the ancients on this subject. First, that there might be public testimony that in our churches when we explain this doctrine [the communication of majesty] we have not given birth to any new ideas, nor have we introduced into the church any strange, monstrous, erroneous, dangerous, scandalous expressions or forms of speech; but rather we are simply imitating the thinking and language of the ancient orthodox church in a reverent and devout way. - Martin Chemnitz, *Two Natures* pp. 302, 303

Patristic Quote for the Day

The flesh of Christ was not holy of itself, but by the union with the Logos; and by the power of the Logos it was formed in such a way that it becomes for those who partake of it the cause of their salvation and sanctification. Thus we do not attribute to the flesh as flesh the power of divine activity, but rather we attribute it to the nature of the Logos. - St. Cyril of Alexandria *In Johannem* book 11 (cited by Chemnitz in *Two Natures*

Ash Wednesday Homily

[Joel 2:12-19 / 2 Peter 1:2-11 / Matt 6:1-6, 16-21]

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me." That is the heart of Lent. The utterly gracious invitation to come back home to the Lord. And what keeps us away? The passing joys of sin? The weight of shame, thinking there's no way He means me. Not after all I've done.

But no. He does mean you. He means exactly you who are hiding in shame like Adam and Eve among the trees of the garden with their fig leaves. He calls you and says: "Even now, return!"

We were kids then. My cousin Gary was maybe 10 or so. That would make me seven. And we were doing a dumb kid game. The driveway had rocks. Pretty gray rocks. Big enough to hurt if you got walloped with one. So we were walloping each other. And I'm not a very good aim. Never have been. I walloped Gary with a rock right in the mouth. Oh, boy. Blood, tears, and running to the house. Gary, I mean. Not me. I stayed outside for the longest time. Why? Because I was ashamed of what I had done. And I was proud too, and didn't want to say "I'm sorry" when I wasn't the one who thought up the game; just the one with the bad aim. And in pride and shame - weird how often they mix together - I tried to avoid the house.

But I was hauled in, nonetheless, to both apologize, be exhorted not to play stupid games, and to find out that after all I was still WANTED, still a member of the family after all. "Even now."

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me." What's the content of your "even now"? What are the sins that you've been clinging to in pride and shame? Who've you hit lately with the stones you've been throwing about? What damage have you caused others? Sending them bleeding inside and crying out in pain? Where have you been lurking, trying to avoid the moment of accountability, the moment of confession and forgiveness?

Wherever you've been, whatever you've done, your God says to you tonight: "even now, return." But how does one make the return? The prophet told you: "with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" and to safeguard you from any sort of externalizing of the return, he adds: "and rend your hearts and not your garments." That last bit is very important. If Lent becomes about externals - about the ashes and the going without food - while the heart continues cheerfully in sin not returning by repentant faith to God, then it's a waste of your time. Not that the externals don't matter, but that you know as well as I do how easy it is to observe the external and leave undone the matters of the heart.

And so when Jesus picks up the call to return in today's Gospel he warns precisely against the externals as show, of "practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them." Then their admiration is what you're seeking, and that's what you get as your reward. Enjoy it, it doesn't last long. To avoid the temptation and to allow the externals to remain connected vitally to the internal, Jesus invites a cloak of secrecy to fall upon them all. Notice that our Lord doesn't say that giving, praying and fasting can be abused, so don't do them. Rather: Give, but don't let your left hand know what your right is up to, and Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Pray, but don't do it out on the street corner or standing up solo in church for folks to admire you, rather do so in private, speaking to your Father who will meet you in the secret place and reward you. And when you fast don't make a big do of it, so that folks can admire your self-control. But keep it to yourself, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. In each of the Lenten disciplines: giving, praying, and fasting, Jesus invites real return internally by taking them off the stage so that you're not playing for an audience, but in the secret place, in your heart, you are returning to God: for He is the one who meets you in the poor, in prayer, and in the hunger of body and soul.

Such return the baptized constantly need, for we constantly fall from this life that God has given us in Christ. Peter reminds us of the riches God has given in Christ: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." He's given you His promises, says Peter, and in them is everything you need for life and godliness for God is in them and through the promises you find Him, you return to Him.

But promises are meant to be used, and you use them by trusting them. And that's where the heart comes in. The return of the heart to God happens through trusting His promises. He calls you to come out of the shame and come home. Yes, even to face up to the fact that every stone you've thrown that hit and hurt someone else was ultimately aimed at Him, and that He in love took all the stones you've tossed in your life and He endured them all. His cross was all about that. "Against you, you only have I sinned and done this evil in your sight" said one repentant sinner coming home to God. He said that not to minimize or deny the hurt that he had in fact inflicted on Uriah, on Bathsheba, on the child, on his whole family, but it was the gift of divine wisdom to see that behind all sin is the rejection of God himself. And that to turn from sin is therefore always to turn to God. His promises enable that return to be made. So we kneel before the Crucified and confess our many sins and ask His forgiveness - for they've all fallen on Him and He's carried them in His body to death so that they would not be the death of us. As the proof of this, He gives us the body and blood that bore them all. Forgiveness beyond imagining - promise and so participation in the divine nature.

"Even now, return." Trusting in His promises, in His forgiveness, His mercy, we heed the Apostle Peter's call to make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. We know that if these qualities are ours and are increasing they do not leave us ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We don't want to be among those who lack these qualities, for that can only mean that we have forgotten that Christ has cleansed us from our former sins. Not forgetting, but remembering, even now, we return to the Lord. Giving, praying, fasting, He meets us, bestowing upon us unworthy sinners the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever with His unoriginate Father and all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit. Amen!

18 February 2007

Patristic Quote for the Day

And therefore the action of God must not be canvassed by human faculties; the Creator must not be judged by those who are the work of His hands. We must clothe ourselves in foolishness that we may gain wisdom; not in the foolishness of hazardous conclusions, but in the foolishness of a modest sense of our own infirmity, that so the evidence of God's power may teach us truths to which the arguments of earthly philosophy cannot attain. For when we are fully conscious of our own foolishness, and have felt the helplessness and destitution of our reason, then through the counsels of Divine Wisdom we shall be initiated into the wisdom of God; setting no bounds to boundless majesty and power, nor tying the Lord of nature down to nature's laws; sure that for us the one true faith concerning God is that of which He is at once the Author and the Witness. - St. Hilary of Poitiers *On the Trinity* Book III par. 26

17 February 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For Paul, in Romans 5, clearly distinguishes between "grace" and "the gift of grace," as grace and truth are distinguished in John 1. Both are indeed the gift of the Son of God, the Mediator. However, when Paul says that we are justified and saved by grace, he understand that grace which the Scriptures distinguish from the gift of grace, that is, he understands not our newness but the mercy of God, or the gratuitous acceptance. - Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* I:494

Patristic Quote for the Day

"I am not bound by the authority of this epistle because I do not hold the writings of Cyprian as canonical, but I consider them according to the canonical, and I accept whatever in them agrees with the authority of the divine Scriptures with his approval, but what does not agree I reject with his permission." - Saint Augustine, *Contra Cresconium* Book 2, chapter 32 (cited by Chemnitz in *Examen* I:174)

Lord, to whom shall we go

Have you ever pondered what a miracle the Church is? I mean, that there should continue in this world the community of the baptized who gather regularly around the read and preached Scriptures and feast ever and again on the Holy Eucharist? And it's been this way since Pentecost. Some marvel that the Church can go on, doing the same old thing over and over again. We know the secret of the Church's going on is exactly BECAUSE she does the same thing over and over again. She literally LIVES from the Words that are read and preached, from the Words that give her a washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit, from the Words that cause the bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist to be the very body and blood of the Eternal Son of God, once sacrificed upon the cross, and now eternally alive and glorified. She lives from the Words. Truly "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to know and to believe that You are the Holy One of God!"

16 February 2007


Tossing the ransom price for the sins of this world in the trash? The blood of Christ treated as garbage? More than one person has raised this criticism against LCMS parishes with the rise of those little plastic cups that you can toss. (Note that when individual cups were introduced they were many times made also of precious metal - my home parish had miniature silver chalices! - or glass. That would still seem to be the preferred way to go if you absolutely HAVE to keep them, but better far, in my opinion, is to do what the Churches of the Augsburg Confession did from the beginning of the Reformation: drink from the one chalice.)

In later Lutheran Orthodoxy, the teaching of receptionism took hold: namely, that the Lord joins His Body and Blood in sacramental union only to that which is actually consummed. Thus, if you spill from the chalice, all you've spilled is wine. For the Lord's blood joins itself only to what goes down the gullet. This shows up, for example, in Loehe's Catechism at question 863:

"Why is there no danger of spilling any of Christ's blood?

Answer: Because the Almighty Lord unites His Blood with the wine that is drunk, but not with the drops of wine that are spilled. The error of the Romanists is a consequence of their wrong teaching that there is only Blood, and nerely the appearance of wine, in the Holy Supper." (p. 174)

This sort of thinking is what has led to the sloppy practice that shows up across our Synod. What a contrast with the Blessed Reformer, Dr. Luther, who when the chalice was spilled during distribution in his later years, actually cut out the part of the lady's dress on which it was spilled and had the chair where the drops fell also planed and then both fabric and wood shavings burned. Or consider how, when he spilled the chalice and it fell to the floor, he carefully set the chalice back on the altar and got on his hands and knees and lapped it up off the floor like a dog - upon which the congregation burst into tears.

Was Luther merely retaining his catholic piety and Loehe expressing the true Lutheran view? Or was it vice-versa? And which approach accords with the actual words of institution? Did the Lord say: "What you drink, that is my blood?" Or did He say: "Drink from it all of you - this cup is the new testament in my blood?" If you confess that our Lord's Words accomplish what they promise, it seems to me that we must confess that not merely what is received, but also what is on the altar and consecrated by the Words, is our Lord's body and blood - just as He himself declared.

All of which then brings us to the question of the disposal of the reliquae, the sacramental "left-overs". Obviously, the very best Lutheran precedent (witnessed by both Luther and Chemnitz) is to remove the question by making sure that ALL the reliquae are consummed immediately following the Divine Service. Who can argue with such practice? For surely of everything that our Lord declared His body and blood, of that He told us: "Take, eat, and drink."

But if your parish uses the disposable individual cups? Should they just be thrown into the trash? Reverence dictates: NO WAY, JOSE! At bare minimum the cups should all be rinsed and then that water reverently consummed or poured out upon the earth (not put down the sewer!), preferably through a piscina. This is a bit of a hassle, of course, but so are the individual cups from the get go. But it confesses with great reverence that what our Lord has said is most certainly true, and that we do not doubt His Word.

And if there are any avowed receptionists who read this (Dr. Strickert, are you still out and about?), I would argue that reverence for our Lord's Holy Supper would still dictate not allowing anything that was given over to the Lord's holy use to be treated as "common" and so "trashed."

Patristic Quote for the Day

Everything that partakes of [the Holy Spirit's] grace is filled with joy according to its capacity - the capacity of its nature, not of His power. - St. Basil the Great, *On the Holy Spirit* par. 22

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The highest purpose of the church is the glory of God. For God gathers the church to this end, that He might have a special assembly by which He would be acknowledged, praised, and glorified, Eph 1:11-12. The subordinate purpose of the church is the turning of people from darkness to light, their translation out of a state of wrath into the state of grace, and their inheritance of eternal life. - Johann Andreas Quenstedt, *The Church* pp. 14,15

15 February 2007


My brother-in-law, Doug, sent this link today. It shows the economy of the various states and how they are roughly equivalent with the economy of other countries in the world.

click here

I note with interest that Illinois' economy is about the size of Mexico's. I think it is positively providential, since Cindi and I are headed from Illinois to Mexico, God willing, in three month's time. That's IF the passports ever make it back here!

First Draft for Quinquagesima (2007)

People loved by God, we have heard in the last several weeks the call to repentance. In today’s second reading we hear with unmistakable clarity what that life is to which we are called back, what that life is into which God placed us when the water was poured over us in the font:

“If I have not love, I am nothing.
Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.”

THAT is the life to which God calls us to return. The life whose content is love. How could it be otherwise when love is WHO He is, and He calls us to Himself?

In today’s Gospel we learn about Him who is love and who loves us. We see that our Lord Jesus is both true man and true God. You’ll never get Lent right, you’ll never probe the deepest joy of His Passion, until you see that, hold it tight and never let it go.

He shows us both natures in today’s Gospel. First, He shows His humanity by announcing His passion: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of the Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” He foretells horrible suffering awaiting Him. Such suffering only a human being could experience. Only as man can He go through those horrors and only as man can He die and so be raised. His passion, the trauma to his body, the bleeding out of His life – all these show in the most profound way His true human nature.

But look at the second half of the Gospel and ask yourself: Who but God could hear that cry for mercy and give to a blind man his sight? No one! Is this not the One that Isaiah spoke of in our first reading? “Behold your God will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened.” Then? Then when? Then, when your God comes to you.

So as we are on the doorstep of Lent, ready to enter into the Fast and to focus our eyes on WHAT Jesus is going to Jerusalem to do, the Church in her wisdom reminds us on this day – Quinquagesima, some 50 days before Easter - not to forget WHO He is who does all these things. He is at the same time true Man – that He might suffer and die – and true God – that His suffering and death might forgive the sins of the whole world and crush death itself to death.

So Lent is not a time for you to work yourself up to feeling sorry for Jesus and all that He had to do. Remember, “for the JOY that was set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He does what He does not to win your pity, but to give you His love that it might be your life. When you follow Him through His passion, do not be like the disciples who “understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” They didn’t get the WHAT because they were in constant danger of forgetting the WHO, and especially that this Man before them was also fully and completely God.

When you remember the WHO, then you follow the Lord along the path to Golgotha and the joys of Easter morning, marveling at the wisdom of God, which none of the rulers of this world understood – or they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.

When you know that it is the Lord of glory who is standing there, not answering a word, as He is beaten and slapped, and you know that all it takes from Him is a single word – no, even a single thought – and his abusers would be struck down dead, you fall down in worship and praise.

When you know that the One fixed with nails to the wood, praying for pardon for his persecutors, and then raised up on the cross, whose blood stains the wood and the earth, is the One who fixed the world in place and who stoops so low to raise up all the fallen children of Adam, you fall down in worship.

When you know that the One who closes His eyes in death and is laid in the tomb is the One who breathes life itself into everything than lives, then you fall down in worship.

When you know that the One who was raised on the third day in a body incorruptible and made the source of everlasting salvation to all who believe in Him is the One who was with the Father from the beginning and who is Himself truly and always God, then you fall down in worship.

Before the great journey into the Passion begins the Church opens our eyes to see WHOM we follow up the road to Jerusalem that we might marvel at the love He reveals to exist for us in the heart of God, and so welcome Him who is that gift of love, to live within us too. To accomplish His incarnation also within us. That we might bear in our bodies His body and so become also in our lives living sacrifices - living because we are united to Him who is that holy love St. Paul described in our epistle. And that love is the only true LIFE, eternal life.

Today as we gather at His table again, the body that was so mistreated, so abused, but which was raised in eternal glory, He feeds into us. The blood that ran down the cross and covered all of our sin, answering every accusation of the law against every last human being, He pours down our throat. He gives these gifts to us that we might share in His salvation – a salvation which can truly be described as the restoration to love. That is what He created us for: love. What we fell from in our first parents. What He went to the cross to restore us to. It's the life He gave us in the waters of Baptism and to which He constantly call us to return. The life that IS in Him, for God is love, and He IS God. God in our flesh. Love in our flesh.

“And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Shall we not join them, and follow Jesus up the road to Jerusalem and beyond to our heavenly home where Love alone reigns? Lent awaits: "We adore You, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection. For behold, by the wood of Your cross joy has come into all the world!"


The mercury read 3 degrees as I drove past the bank on the way to our Men's Bible Study at the InnKeeper at 6 a.m. Don't know about you, but that spells BRRRRRRRRRRR to me. It was a joy to warm up inside with some fresh coffee and breakfast, prayer and conversation (we're reading through *Life Together*). What an image of the Church as God calls her to be: a haven of warmth, peace, and friendship, beckoning those who are wandering in the frigid wasteland to come in and come home.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Another goodie posted to O-L Discussion list by Pr. Webber from his favorite, St. Ambrose:

"On consideration...of the reason wherefore men have so far gone astray, or that many - alas! - should follow diverse ways of belief concerning the Son of God, the marvel seems to be, not at all that human knowledge has been baffled in dealing with superhuman things, but that it has not submitted to the authority of the Scriptures." ("Of the Christian Faith," IV:1, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. X, p. 262)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

What, then, should a poor man say about himself, even if he is the best of Christians? Instead of boasting of his wisdom, he recognizes his blindness. Instead of pointing to his virtues - his good works, his tender heart, and his righteousness - he freely admits his sinfulness. Instead of extolling his power, skills, and wealth, he focuses on his nothingness! He remembers the words of the apostle Paul, who said: "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" Whoever is pleased with himself and seeks to glory in this is certainly no true Christian. - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It* p. 222

14 February 2007

From Agape to Eros...

...or the devolution of St. Valentine's day. According to the experts, blame Chaucer. In his Parliament of Fowls (remember how Lewis borrows that?), he writes:

For this was on St. Valentine's Day, 
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

And from that little line in a poem few remember came the shift from agape to eros on this day and the booming commercial success.

St. Valentine used to be remembered (before Rome axed the poor man in 1969) for this: that he was a priest who gave up his life rather than renouncing his Savior. This happened under Claudius II in 270. Thus, St. Valentine witnessed to the love that neither hatred, torture or death can destroy. "For the present sufferings are not worth being compared with the glory which shall be revealed."

Nowadays, as near as I can tell, the only folks commemorating St. Valentine (for Agape, not Eros) are the Missouri Synod Lutherans (hey, at least it is the Commemoration listed for today in the LSB calendar) and the Western Rite Orthodox - maybe also the Anglo-catholics, but I don't have the resources to check that one out.

If you want to hear more thoughts on the day, check into Issues, Etc. (www.kfuo.org) tomorrow when they post the 1/2 segment that Pr. Wilken and I did this afternoon.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ponder especially here the wisdom of God. The Lord Christ took upon Himself flesh and blood from our nature. He exalted and embellished it in His personal union with divine, incomprehensible attributes. He now gives that back to us again in the Holy Supper so that our nature no longer need be distanced from Him; but, on the contrary, through this eating and drinking of the Supper we again have restored to us that which Adam had lost in his forbidden eating. - Johann Gerhard *An Explanation of the Sufferings and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ* pp. 40, 41

Patristic Quote for the Day

"I do not wish that credence be given us; let the Scripture be quoted. Not of myself do I say: 'In the beginning was the Word,' but I hear it; I do not feign but I read what we all read..." Saint Ambrose ("The Sacrament of the Incarnation of our Lord," 3:14, The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 44, p. 224)

[Thanks to Pr. Webber who posted the above on the Orthodox-Lutheran Dialog]

13 February 2007

From Luther's Postil

Only see to it that you don't grow weary in prayer because God does not grow weary in giving. - House Postils, Sermon for Estomihi (Quinquagesima), par. 21.

Es gibt Schnee!

Snow is coming down - finally! We'll see how long it lasts and how much. Right now it's really snowing and blowing. School was cancelled today. Winkel was cancelled today. School board was cancelled tonight. David had to go to the University, but he called a bit ago and said he was coming home. He just pulled in so I'm breathing a sigh of relief. Guess we'll huddle together at home against the cold - delightful.

With the day and evening opened up, I think I'll take some time to read Luther's and Gerhard's homilies for this Sunday, and also read more in Gerhard's *Explanation of the Sufferings and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ* in preparation for preaching the Passion during the Lenten midweeks.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Sin has become a habit and has led me into utter ruin. Although I myself recognize my error and cease not to utter confessions, still I remain in sin. I look and do not see, because I sin even in repentance, for I do not endeavor to scrutinize my deeds. - St. Ephrem, the Syrian *A Spiritual Psalter* p. 118

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Among all God's works, the foremost one is the humanity of Christ. He is the singular holy Man who is called the "Door," through which we enter into the Godhead. - Johann Gerhard, *An Explanation of the Sufferings and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ* p. 29

12 February 2007

"Return to me...with fasting" Joel 2

Auf Deutsch, Lent is Fastenzeit. Fasting-time. And the readings for Ash Wednesday invite us to this discipline as part of our "return," our repentance.

But how does one fast? As Lutheran Christians we know that there can be no laws about HOW to fast in the Church for the simple reason that neither our Lord nor the Holy Apostles have given us any. There have always been divergent practices on fasting in the Church. Not without reason did St. Irenaeus confess "differences in fasting do not destroy the unity of faith."

Further, we know that fasting is not pleasing to God when it is offered in any way as a propitiation for sin; then, in fact, it becomes an abomination. There is but one propitiation for the sin of the world and that was offered once and for all by the Lamb of God upon the cross.

So why should we fast? We have to think no further than our Catechism: fasting is "a fine outward training." Now, that was spoken in regard to the Eucharistic fast, but it applies to fasting as a whole. On Septuagesima we heard St. Paul speak of how he disciplined his body, kept it under control, lest he end up being "disqualified" after preaching to others.

Well, if we can admit that fasting is a "fine outward training" the question still arises of what to do?

Many people confuse fasting and abstinence. To fast is to be hungry; to abstain is forego certain kinds of food. The traditional fast of the Western Church was 1/4 meal for breakfast and lunch, with a simple dinner. In other words, for breakfast maybe half a slice of toast, for lunch an orange. Then a regular dinner - but nothing fancy. Something like that was observed throughout the days of Lent. Further, Western Christians have traditionally abstained from meat and wine on the Fridays (and sometimes the Saturdays, and some would say the Wednesdays - all depend on whom you ask) of Lent.

Now, fasting was never meant to live by itself. It is joined to the other two Lenten disciplines: almsgiving and prayer. An increased giving to the poor and an increased time of prayer can go hand in hand with fasting: by not eating so much, you actually have more money to give to others who have less than you, and by not fixing elaborate meals, you also have more time to spend in the Word and prayer. Further, by going hungry each day you experience solidarity with those many members of the human race who also go hungry each day. Above all, we teach ourselves that the hunger behind all hungers is the hunger for God Himself.

In the freedom of the Gospel, we can discipline our wayward flesh by not letting it dictate to us what and when to eat. Give it some thought and prayer and then rejoice in the truth that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Wishing one and all a joyful time of renewal during the upcoming Fastenzeit!

Good Thought from Chemnitz...

...upon the approach of Lent: "But men are to be admonished that they should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh and firmly adhere to Christ by faith and through the use of the Word and the Sacraments become more and more united with Him and seek from God the gift of perseverance, and wrestle, lest the wantonness of the flesh drive out the gift of perseverance." Examen I:607

What I found absolutely delightful in that was the language of "becoming more and more united with Christ" and that this happens through the faithful use of the Word and Sacraments. What on earth does Chemnitz mean by the phrase? I'd suggest simply this:

that Christ's will becomes more and more our will;
that Christ's "yes" to the Father becomes more and more our "yes"'
that Christ's joy becomes more and more our joy;
that Christ's peace becomes more and more our peace;
that Christ's love becomes more and more our love;
that Christ's LIFE becomes more and more our life.

The gift of Christ has been given to us entire and whole, but we've only just begun to discover the joys of living from that life as our own. Lent is all about God through the Church calling us back to THAT life which was once given in the font, renewed ever by absolution and the Eucharist, and fed daily by the Word. That we might live from it, rather from HIM, more and more.

Patristic Quote for the Day

All your sins are forgiven you. Therefore do not trust in your own work but in the grace of Christ. For the Apostle says: 'By grace you are saved.' Therefore there is here not arrogance but faith; to declare that you have been accepted is not pride, but consecration. - St. Augustine (Semon 28, De Verbis Domini, cited in Examen II:602 - haven't had time to track it down!)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Those who have been reconciled to God through faith for the sake of the Mediator are endowed with the Holy Spirit, who renews them. And in this incipient newness there is in this life some degree of good conscience for the regenerate, namely, that they present their members to God as instruments for righteousness and do not grant entrance either to errors contrary to the foundations of the faith or to sins against conscience. But what is lacking from perfection, and the filth that is spattered on them from the law of sin in their members, likewise the evil which lies close at hand - faith prays that these be covered for the sake of Christ and not imputed. - Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* I:647

Why AC VII Is Not Addressing "Transparochial Realities"

Okay, I was going to let go Fr. Gregory's comment on the other thread, but I can't. I may be completely wrong on this - I know he thinks I am - but I don't buy the reading he's giving to AC VII (see his comments under "You Do Not Have the Right To Exist" from yesterday). When it is maintained that for the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, I do not think what is in view is anything less than this:

It is the Gospel and the Sacraments through which believers are formed, joined to the Son and the Father by the Spirit, and so joined to one another. "What we have heard and seen, we proclaim to you that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." 1 John 1.

What AC VII rejects completely is that this fellowship with the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit wherein the unity of the Church consists are in any sense maintained by "human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men." Thus the quote from Eph. 4: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." (Among such human ceremonies is the distinction between presbyter and bishop - that's much of the point of the Tractatus)

The oneness comes from the one Lord and through His means. Through them God the Holy Spirit forms and joins believers to the one and only Church, which is described in the following article as "the congregation of saints and true believers" among whom hypocrites will always be mingled in this life, but those hypocrites in either the preaching office or the congregation do NOT make of no effect the means through which Christ gathers to His one Church.

Thus, I do not think that "transparochial reality" was even in view in discussing the Church in this passage (i.e., churches in particular), but what WAS in view was Rome's contention that the Lutherans were no longer church because they no longer said the Roman canon or followed Rome's dietary laws, etc. Their response is that the Gospel and the Sacraments keep them united to the true Church because they keep them united in faith to the One Lord. And the further implication is that in Rome (and in the East) it also only the Gospel and the Sacraments which keep folks united in faith to the One Lord and so part of the One Church.

Dr. Korby long ago said it was all about authority: does the Word of God, do the Sacraments of Christ, have the authority, the inherent power, to keep the Church the Church?

11 February 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The testimonies of Scripture are clear, that the renewal of the new man, as also the mortification of the old, is not perfect and complete in this life but that it grows daily and is increased day by day until it is perfected in the next life, when this corruptible will have put on incorruption. Profitable also and necessary in the church are exhortations that the regenerate should not neglect, extinguish or cast away the gifts of the Spirit which they have received, but that they stir them up with true and earnest exercises, calling on the help of the Holy Spirit, that He may give an increase of faith, hope, love and of the other spiritual gifts; for what the punishment of spiritual negligence is the parable of the talents shows. - Martin Chemnitz, Examen I:538,539

Patristic Quote for the Day

For to faith and hope shall succeed at once the very substance itself, no longer to be believed in and hoped for, but to be seen and grasped. Love, however, which is the greatest among the three, is not to be superseded, but increased and fulfilled,—contemplating in full vision what it used to see by faith, and acquiring in actual fruition what it once only embraced in hope. Then in all this plenitude of charity will be fulfilled the commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." For while there remains any remnant of the lust of the flesh, to be kept in check by the rein of continence, God is by no means loved with all one's soul. - St. Augustine, On Man's Perfection in Righteousness, 19

What a Busy Sunday!

Today it seemed like I ran from one thing to another. But all was joy!

Eucharist at 7:45 and again at 10 (emphasis on the hearing and holding to the word of God) with Bible Study in between - we're beginning a series on the liturgy in Bible Study that first lays a foundation of worship. I offered today the thought that worship is really in a shape of a W.

God first gives to us - grapes and wheat - which we then work into wine and bread and at His command give again to Him. But you can't outgive God. He then gives the bread and wheat back as His body and blood for the forgiveness of all our sins. And then we give our thanks and praise back to Him. See the W? God to us, us to God, God to us, us to God.

This afternoon I had a premarital session, and then my Adult Catechism class. We did the Ten Commandments today. Always a shocker to realize HOW FAR we fall from the love which God calls us to! But we always end up pointing to the Savior as a preview for next week - showing how HE has lived that life we failed to live, answered for all our sins, and now reaches to us a share in His own endless life of love.

Then the Public School Catechism class. We had the joy tonight of Bender's Lesson 13 - Holy Baptism. We saw how everything that the Father speaks to the Son in the waters, He also speaks to us when we stand with the Son in those waters: heaven opened to us, the Holy Spirit given to us, and the Father delighting to call us His beloved children, in whom He is well-pleased. We also spent some time exploring the joys of Baptism contra the Baptists et al., that Baptism is for children (Acts 2:39); that it saves us (1 Peter 3:21); that it clothes us in Christ (Gal. 3:24ff); that it gives us forgiveness of sins AND the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); that it joins us to the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:1-11) and that it cuts us off from our old life and gives us a brand new one in union with Christ (1 Cor. 6:11ff).

After meeting with a parishioner about some concerns, I came home.

Long day, but joyful day. The old voice is very tired, and maybe not quite recovered from the flu from last month. Still, may the Word that this unworthy sinner planted in these many settings today bring forth an abundant crop to the glory of Jesus Christ!!!

10 February 2007

It Was Like Deja Vu All Over Again...

...tonight, Seminarian Charles Lehmann (former vicar) was back at St. Paul's and assisted in the Divine Service. (Only we must be doing something wrong, because he kept saying: "That's what we do at Redeemer." Shoot! Since when did we get THAT "high church"? We're only doing what's in the Altar Book for LSB. Hey, Dave, you know I love you...) He's on the way tomorrow to a wedding of a friend in Missouri. It was good to have him again as an assisting minister in the Divine Service.

Rumor also is he's not only going to a wedding, but himself has acquired a young lady. About time too. And we're all praying she says "yes" if the moment comes to that. And we're hoping it does. Pastor and Mrs. Charles Lehmann. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Therefore on account of the satisfaction and obedience of Christ, imputed to us by God through faith, the believers are justified, that is, they receive remission of sins, are absolved from the sentence of damnation, are received into grace, adopted as sons, and accepted to everlasting life. - Martin Chemnitz, Examen I, p. 500

Patristic Quote for the Day

We are then righteous when we confess that we are sinners, and our righteousness depends not upon our own merits, but on the mercy of God, as the Holy Scripture says,"The righteous man accuses himself when he begins to speak," and elsewhere,"Tell your sins that you may be justified." - St. Jerome, *Against the Pelagians* Book I, 13A

Returning to My Roots...

...yes, as of yesterday. I am now the proud owner of FIVE vehicles, and all of them with over 100,000 miles. I figure that they'll look real purty sitting up on blocks around the yard. Just like at certain of my relatives who shall remain nameless...

Seriously, my good friend Robert Esch went car hunting with us yesterday and sacrificed a whole day to help two rather helpless car shoppers. He agreed: I have the word "sucker" emblazoned on my forehead. They start salivating when I walk through the door. He doesn't have such problems, though, thanks be to God. And he helped us pick up a car that, God willing, will get Bekah through high school when she starts driving next month (thank you, Lord! Come on March 21st!!!!).

So, now the Weedon car collection consists of:

1991 Ford Taurus
1995 Buick Century
1995 Ford Windstar
1998 Ford Escort
2001 Fod Windstar

But the good news? They are all ours - no car payments. Which means that we get to save up money to have them repaired every other month or so, remembering what FORD is an acronym for.

Motorized vehicles. I HATE them. Was life really so bad with a horse or a bike?

08 February 2007

Sexagesima Homily

Last week, people loved by God, we heard the Church’s call for us to begin our preparations for Lent, and we were reminded that those preparations do not earn us eternal life. That always remains a gift of God’s grace. Thus, we might think of last week, Septuagesima, as “By Grace Alone” week.

Today, Sexagesisma, some 60 days before Easter, the Church is still intent on preparing us for a real conversion during Lent, a turning from all that is sin and death to the new life that was poured out on us in the font and which we constantly fall away from and God constantly calls us back to. Today’s readings remind us that such a return is possible only “By the Word alone.”

You see, the Word of God is not inert. It isn’t just data or information. It’s not something that depends on people’s interpretation. No! Listen to how the Word is described in today’s readings.

In Isaiah we heard that just like the rain and the snow descend from heaven and don’t return without doing what they were sent to do, causing the earth to bud and supplying seed for the sower and bread for the eater – so is the Word that goes forth from the mouth of God. Listen to His promise: “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”

What a promise that is, people loved by God! His Word has the power to do what God sends it to do. And what He sends it to do is to bring us to repentance and awake and keep us in saving faith. The Word of God has the power in itself to do that.

Think of how the Word is described in our second reading from Hebrews 4. After telling us that we need to strive to enter God’s rest, so that we cease from our works as He ceased from His, the Apostle points the way for this to happen: “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word of God, when you let it down inside of you, slays you. Kills you by revealing your sin in a way that you never dreamed possible. After all, “no creature is hidden from his sight but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” There’s no dodging that fact when you listen to God’s Word. And so we drop to our knees constantly and plead for mercy. Mercy that God is also eager to pour out on you through the Word. The grace of forgiveness wipes out your debt of sin entirely; the grace of renewal begins to give you a share in the life of Christ.

And so onto today’s Gospel. Jesus, of course, is the sower. He plants His Word into all kinds of soil, throws it out for whoever will bother to hear it. But here’s the kicker: not all who hear it end up being saved. How does that fit with the first reading that the Word of God always the power to accomplish what God sends it to do?

Make no mistake about it: the Word of God you hear has that power. Every time it is preached, read, heard, God the Holy Spirit is present and seeking to give the gift of repentant faith.But the gift is always a gift. And as a gift we can reject it. In today’s Gospel Jesus warns against that rejection. It can happen in a variety of ways.

First, by the inattentive listening. We spoke about that last week too: just sitting in church and letting the Word float in one ear and out the other. What’s really going on there, Jesus says, is that Satan snatches the Word away before it can bear fruit, before it can do what it has the power to do. If Satan can keep you day-dreaming during church, he’s already won.

Then there’s the listening that hear and rejoices, believes and thanks God, and yet it’s only a good-time faith. When the bad-times come along – and they always do – the person lets go the Word and their faith withers and dies. One of the purposes of hearing the Word is to store up in your heart and mind those passages that will get your through the terrible times with your faith intact. The Word has the power to do it, provided we don’t let it go. So often this happens when tragedy comes – people stop going to church, stop listening to the Word, and then they’re surprised when their faith grows weaker and weaker and finally dies. Remember: faith is NEVER something you can keep alive inside yourself. It only comes from hearing and holding the Word of God.

Next, our Lord reminds us that even folks who listen to the Word attentively, can still lose it, and so their faith, if they let it get crowded out of their lives. Crowded out by what? He speaks of cares, riches, pleasures of life. Cares and riches often go together: “Gotta finish that project for work. No time for the Word this week.” Pleasures? “But pastor, you know that we spend the weekend at the lake; our kids had ballgames; we have so little family together that we like to keep Sundays just for us.” "No time to read my Bible today; too busy shooting bad guys on the computer, or watching T.V., or whatever." What do they all have in common? This: the choking of the Word of God, squeezing it into an ever smaller place in our lives until at last we don’t hear it at all. Treating the third commandment as though it were optional, instead of the express will of God!

And then our Lord reminds us that it is possible to hear His Word in such a way that it bears abundant fruit. He describes those hearts that hear and hold fast the word as honest and good. How did those hearts get to be honest and good? Precisely by hearing and holding the Word. If, as the Apostle says, faith is what cleanses the heart, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God, then our hearts will be “honest and good” in no other way than by letting the Word live inside of us, find a home in us, and there give us all its rich bounties.

Lent comes: we will be walking with Jesus up to Jerusalem. We will stand at the foot of the Cross and behold Him as He takes the sin of the world on His back and bears it before His Father– including the sin of our not hearing the Word, thinking other things in life are more important that what the God who created us has to say to us. He will bear that sin and all sins in His body. And He does it NOT so that we can rejoice that He forgives us and go on then ignoring God’s Word. He does it so that we might be forgiven and so grow into grateful and faithful hearers of the Word. That’s what the Lenten Midweek Vespers are here for: to give even more opportunity for the Word to come to you.

And when you listen to the Word that is whispered to you from from garden, from the cross, from the empty tomb, and from the glorified body of your Lord at the right of the Father, the Word that He always speaks is a word of His eternal love. The God who created and formed you wants you with all His heart to share in His unending life, to enjoy Him and His presence forever. The Word already can give the gift of that presence now– just as it does when the almighty Word of Jesus causes the bread and wine to be what He declares them: His body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins.

God speaks His Word. Only by His Word comes renewal. Will you listen when He speaks? Will you let His Word be planted inside of you and grow inside of you that you may abide in Your Savior until death and through death to the life that never ends? That’s what He wants and His Word has the power to do it. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Amen.