29 September 2007

St. Michael's

Tonight we celebrated the feast day of St. Michael and All Angels. We'll continue our celebration tomorrow. Saturday Divine Service tends to be a bit austere, but tonight we were blessed by St. Paul's choir joining us. They sang a paraphrase of Psalm 23 (The King of Love) and did an outstanding job. It was a great joy to me to hear their song tonight - especially given a rather sad and trying day. And it was joy beyond words to take all the day's anxieties and lay them down before the throne of the Lamb and know that He would do what is always best, what is good beyond our knowledge and right beyond our hopes. To rest in His love is the only peace this poor world has, but such love He has given us! The angels delight to adore it, and when we join their adoration, their peace is ours too.

"Through Him Your majesty is praised by all the holy angels and celebrated with one accord by the heavens and all the powers therein. The cherubim and seraphim sing Your praise, and with them we laud and magnify Your glorious name..."

Lieber Paul

"Fürchte dich nicht, denn ich habe dich erlöset; ich habe dich bei deinem Namen gerufen; du bist mein. Denn so du durch Wasser gehest will ich bei dir sein, dass dich die Ströme nicht sollen ersäufen; und so du ins Feuer gehest, sollst du nicht brennen, und die Flamme soll dich nicht anzünden. Denn ich bin der Herr, dein Gott, der Heilige in Israel, dein Heiland." Jesaiah 43:1-3

28 September 2007

Patristic Quote for the Day

Now if it [the Law] works wrath, and renders them liable for transgression, it is plain that it makes them so to a curse also. But they that are liable under a curse, and punishments, and transgression, are not worthy of inheriting, but of being punished and rejected. What then happens? faith comes, drawing on it the grace, so that the promise comes into effect. For where grace is, there is a remitting, and where remitting is, there is no punishment. Punishment then being removed, and righteousness succeeding from faith, there is no obstacle to our becoming heirs of the promise. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 4

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Unlike justification, sanctification is gradual, and has its degrees. The old man is more and more put off, and the new man more and more put on. "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." 2 Cor. 4:16 The power of grace more and more subdues the remnants of natural depravity, which constantly tempt to sin. Through this struggle, the child of God constantly advances toward perfection. He works out his salvation, while God works in him, Phil. 2:12,13. - Henry E. Jacobs, *Elements of Religion* p. 191

27 September 2007


It's not even 8:30 and everything I wanted to get done today was finished. Yeah! Well, almost everything.

Today was a huge variety: It started early with the Augsburg Confession Study with the Men (6:15 over breakfast - Article IV and some fascinating discussion); then Matins, BOC Reading and a tad of Blogging; Chapel at Daycare where I spoke about the Baptism of Jesus and taught the little tots to sing in Greek: Kyrie Eleison! (LSB 944); Last minute stuff for bulletin - thanks be to God for Joanie!; Shutin communions and visits (Wilma, Ella, Fred, Alfred and Frieda); Vepers; Divine Service; Sermon and Bible Class preparation for this coming Sunday; Preparation of Bulletins for next week - next week's Catechism service is hot off the press and waiting for Joanie to work on.

So tomorrow, as of this moment, is wide open - Deo gratias! - and my beloved bride and myself will escape for a bit and eat out. And I'll just BET you, we'll end up going to Walmart shopping. Sigh. It seems that never a Friday goes by that we don't end up in that store. Hopefully tomorrow will wind up with a game of liverpool - and this time it's MY turn to win!!!

Saturday will require a bit of work on both piano (in prep for pastoral conference) and on the puter (also in prep for the pastoral conference). Looking forward to the conference if for nothing else than getting away for a few days and praying the daily offices and visiting with friends.

A Homily upon St. Michael and All Angels' Day

[Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3; Revelation 12:7-12; Matthew 18:1-11]

Our Catechism teaches us to pray every morning and every night: “Let Your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me.” And then in the morning, we are to go off to work singing a hymn; and in the evening, we are to go to sleep at once and in good cheer.

Where does such a prayer come from? This asking of God to let His holy angels be with us so that our evil foe can have no power over us? It comes from today’s Gospel. In today’s Gospel Jesus is not teaching us about angels. He is teaching the importance of humility. But he throws in – almost as an afterthought – a strange saying towards the very end. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 18:10)

“Their angels.” Theirs? It is not as though the angels belong to them. They are called, after all, the holy angels, and holy means (as it always does) “belonging to God.” When God calls something holy, when He qadoshes it, he is simply marking it as His own in some special way. So why are they called “their” angels? Not because they belong to them, but because they have been assigned to them. This is what the Psalmist said: “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” Jesus said that goes not just for the spiritually mature and advanced, but above all it goes for the little ones that the disciples were tempted to overlook as being rather unimportant. Best not be overlooking them, Jesus warns! They are so important that they have an angel assigned to them, every one of them his own assigned angel. The angels, whose joy is to gaze upon the face of the Father, also delight in serving Him by looking out for the little ones.

And so when you see a child in church, you mustn’t think poorly of them – no matter how noisy and squirmy they may be. You must learn to see them as God sees them, as so precious and important to the King of heaven that to each one has been assigned a big, burly heavenly body and soul guard.

But by “little ones” does Jesus mean only children? No. He means those who, becoming as children, enter the kingdom. To become as a child does not mean to become childish. It means to be nothing but given to, a crying need that calls out to be tended and cared for. Such a little one you were made when you were baptized into Jesus. You only received, you had nothing to give. He did all thee giving. Baptized, He gave you the forgiveness of all your sins (for a life-time and more!). Baptized, He gave you His Holy Spirit to live inside of you and fill you with God’s own joy and peace. Baptized, He clothed you in the garment of His own holiness so that the Father sees you as pure and righteous in His sight, for you have been tucked into Christ by your Baptism. And yes, baptized, He assigned to you an angel to watch over you and keep you. Angels are no myth of childhood, but a solid promise of God. All wrapped up in a single word “their.” “Their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

And thus your angel is always doing the will of the Father in heaven. That will is above that His holy angel be with you so that the Evil One may have no power over you.

The Evil One wants you to distrust God and His Word and promises even as he does. The Evil One wants you to be drawn into his bitter life of complaining and griping and railing against God and how utterly unfair He is. The Evil One wants you to share his misery not just here in this life, but eternally in hell. And make no mistake about it, the Evil One has set his sights on you, not just people in general, but on you. He hates you with a passion and he wants to bring about your ruin, to destroy your faith. And do you know why? Because he is filled with pride – the pride that thinks himself something special, and who looks down on you – you little pip-squeak – with utter scorn because God thinks you are so important that He would even assign His angels to guard and protect you. The Evil One rages against the very thought that angelic beings should stoop to serve the likes of flesh and blood.

Whatever shall we do against such a foe? Think of how weak we are, how prone to doubt God’s goodness, to question His wisdom, to complain about how He governs our lives and this world! How prideful we can be, despising and looking down on the little ones and forgetting how precious they are to God! Forgetting that we must all become nothing but such little ones, nothing but given to, if we are to be saved.

Jesus reveals to us in today’s Gospel that the Father knows our weakness and therefore sends the holy angels to guard and protect us. They seek to keep us from the evil one. They seek to keep us with them, living lives of praise to the Father; living lives of trust in His goodness; living lives of joy in His presence. Their delight is to sing His praises and especially to sing the praises of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus. They delight to stand in amazement before what drives Satan batty! They celebrate the love He showed for us poor creatures of flesh and blood when He took on our flesh and blood in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and came and lived among us. They delight to remember and rejoice in how He allowed Himself to be taken and crucified, trampling down death by death, out of love for us, and how He rose again to destroy the power of death for all who are joined to Him. His is the story they delight to tell, His the praise they delight to sing, and in Him they have found the cause of endless adoration and joy.

The big job of your holy angel, in keeping you from the evil one, is to keep you rejoicing in your Savior. The big job of your holy angel is to bring to your mind again and again the remembrance of His sufferings for you. To call you to unite with them in their praise that does not cease as you stand with them at the Holy Table, where the One they serve continues to serve you by giving you His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

So when you pray tonight: “Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me,” remember what you are asking for. You are asking that your angel, assigned to you when you were baptized into Christ, would always guard and keep you so that the evil one does not seduce you into his empty, unbelieving, complaining and prideful ways. But that you be kept by the holy angels in the way of your baptism, being a little one who is nothing but given to, and so has no room for pride, yet a little one who delights in joining with angels and archangels in their endless doxologies to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Is that

Thing One or Thing Two?

Patristic Quote for the Day

Hence, in the order of the Creed, after the mention of the Holy Church is placed the remission of sins. For it is by this that the Church on earth stands: it is through this that what had been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again. - St. Augustine, *Enchiridion* 64

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We do not hold that there are two churches, one true, real, and inner, the other nominal and outward, but we say that one and the same church, namely the whole assembly of the called is considered in two ways, namely inwardly and outwardly, or in respect to the call and outward fellowship consisting in profession of faith and use of the Sacraments, and in respect to inner regeneration and inner fellowship consisting in the bond of the Spirit. We grant that in the former way also hypocrites and unholy persons belong to the church, but we hold that in the latter way and respect only they who truly believe and are holy belong to it. -- Quenstedt, *The Church* p. 37

26 September 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Evangelical Lutheran Church regards the Word of God, the canonical Scriptures, as the absolute and only law of faith and of life. Whatever is undefined by its letter and its spirit is the subject of Christian liberty, and pertains not to the sphere of conscience, but to that of order; no power may enjoin upon the Church as necessary what God has forbidden, or passed by in silence, as none may forbid her to hold what God has enjoined upon her, or to practice what by His silence He has left to her freedom. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* page 128

Patristic Quote of the Day

They declare also that the people have been led astray by the strains of my hymns. I certainly do not deny it. That is a lofty strain, and there is nothing more powerful than it. For what has more power than the confession of the Trinity which is daily celebrated by the mouth of the whole people? - St. Ambrose, Sermon Against Auxentius, par. 34

25 September 2007

I have posted this before...

...but I think it is so beautiful, and its music is downright haunting:

What earthly joy remains untouched by grief?
What glory stands forever on the earth?
Frail shadows - all, delusive dreams;
Which death will one day sweep away.
But in the light of Your countenance, O Christ,
And in the enjoyment of Your beauty,
Give rest to those whom You have chosen and taken
For You are the Lover of mankind.

--St. John of Damascus, Friday Evening Aposticha Verse

Isn't that just beautiful with the beauty of truth itself?

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Consider, O my beloved soul, the excellency of Faith, and then give thanks to God, from whom alone it comes. Faith alone unites us to our Saviour, so that we derive our spiritual life, our justification, and our salvation, from Him, as the branches draw all their sustenance from the vine. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditation* XII

Patristic Quote of the Day

I ask you to consider the example of the tree in paradise and the wood in the cross. My point is that just as the first tree, though green, bore death, the wood of the cross, though dry, gave birth to life. -- St. John Chrysostom, *On Saint Phocas* par. 5

Our Father

A strong sense has come to me lately when praying the Our Father of standing as one with the whole people of God. We ask these petitions not first for ourselves and then for others. We ask them as the one people whom God has made His own by naming them His in Baptism. Whenever we pray the Lord's Prayer we are interceding for the Church and for the world and by the time we're done there's not a person forgotten or a good thing left unasked for.

Thinking more fully into the Lord's Prayer, we have the Prayer of the Church in LSB, Divine Service, Setting Five on page 215-216. When praying it and thinking that "us" is never less than the total company of the baptized (and yes, I'd include those in heaven who go on struggling and praying for us who are still walking by faith and not by sight and who are one body with us), you get the feel for how vast this intercession truly is. This particular form is a turning into prayer of Luther's form from the Deutsche Messe of 1526.

24 September 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When as yet thou hadst no being, God created thee;
When through Adam's fall thou wast condemned to eternal death, He redeemed thee;
When out of the Church thou didst live in the world, He called thee;
When thou wast ignorant, He instructed thee;
When thou didst wander away, He led thee back again;
When thou didst sin, He corrected thee;
When thou stoodest, He held thee fast;
When thou didst fall, He raised thee up again;
When thou didst go forward, He led thee;
When thou camest to Him, He received thee;
In all this He showed His long-suffering in waiting for thee and His readiness to pardon thee.

--Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXIV

Patristic Quote for the Day

The City of God believes the Old and New Testaments accepted as canonical. Out of these she formulates that faith according to which the just man lives. And in the light of this faith we walk without fear of stumbling so long as "we are exiled from the Lord." This perfectly certain faith apart, other things which have not been sensibly or intellectually experienced nor clearly revealed in canonical Scripture, nor vouchsafed for by witnesses whom it is reasonable to believe - these we can doubt and nobody in justice can take us to task for this. -- St. Augustine, *City of God* Book XIX, Chapter 18

The Question

On which so many discussions turn is simply this: "What IS the Church?"

How one answers that determines so much! The Lutheran Symbols provide our answer to the question in the Apology. "But the Church is not only the fellowship of outward objects and rites, as other governments, but at its core [principaliter], it is a fellowship of faith [societas fidei] and of the Holy Spirit in hearts." Ap VII/VIII:5

If one grants this, then it is clear why the so-called canonical boundaries [societas externum rerum] are only proximate. There are those within given canonical boundaries that do not partake of the Church's true inner life, her society of faith and the Holy Spirit in the heart. And there are those outside given canonical boundaries who do partake of her inner life, her society of faith and the Holy Spirit in the heart.

This means, it seems to me, that a Lutheran cannot and will not identify the Church itself with any canonical jurisdiction. The Church herself, to whom the promise has been given that the gates of hell will not prevail against her and that she is the pillar and ground of the truth, is not principally this or that jurisdiction, but: "people scattered throughout the whole world. They agree about the Gospel and have the same Christ, the same Holy Spirit, and the same Sacraments, whether they have the same or different human traditions." [Ap VII/VIII:10]

When the charge is leveled against this notion that it's mere "idea" - the Apology answers: nonsense! It's not an idea, a platonic state, "But we do say that this Church exists: truly believing and righteous people, scattered throughout the whole world. We add the marks: the pure teaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments. This Church is properly the pillar of the truth. For it keeps the pure Gospel." [Ap. VII/VIII:20]

So when the talk of Church arises, the very first question is NOT "visible or invisible" or any other such thing. The first question is: what do you mean by Church? Until we get that through out heads, we're just talking past each other.

22 September 2007

Lucy is so smart...

...that she knows what E V I L Thing is (spelled out) and what das Übel Ding ist auch. Sie ist eine sehr klüge Hunde.

Each Fall

I experience the same thing: there is something WRONG about preaching in the evening. Don't ask me what this is. But the same homily delivered in the morning light comes across differently than in the growing gloom of evening. I love our Saturday service, but I do not like how the preaching comes across then. And I don't think it's my imagination. Because it feels about the same as the light is growing in the Spring and in the Summer, but Fall and Winter produce a quite different experience. Almost like they are demanding a separate homily! Will have to give that some thought.

My List

of things that aggravate me about previous generations of Lutheran pastors grows long:

Why didn't they teach their people the Symbols?
Why didn't they encourage private absolution?
Why didn't they encourage weekly Eucharist?
Why didn't they study Luther more?
Why did they ignore the Church Fathers?
Why didn't they work to engender a love and understanding for the liturgy among the people?
Why did they tolerate the abolition of our church's art (both visible and audible)?
Why did they pretend that Lutherans were mostly like other Protestants?

Oh, the list could go on and on and on. BUT, it led me to wonder: what are the blind spots today? What are the things that the next generation of pastors is going to scratch their heads in wonder over and ask "how could those duffuses have missed THAT?"

My friend, Paul McCain, would no doubt head off the list with:

Why were they afraid to instruct their people in good works?

But there's got to be more. What do YOU think folks will come up with? Where are WE being blind in our day? What am *I* totally missing?

Second Old Lutheran Quote for the Day

The Word is not the Word of God, because the Church says it, but the fact that the Word of God is preached constitutes the Church. The Word is not created by the Church, but the Church is created by the Word. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *On the Misuse of the Mass* 1521.

The Saints

What a pity that so many Lutherans seem to think "saints" talk is alien to their faith. Certainly can't square that with the Book of Concord (AC and Ap XXI)! Nor with Dr. Luther! How vibrant was Luther's grasp on this. In 1539 he wrote a stunning work that deserves more attention than it gets called *On the Councils and the Churches.* In this, he confesses:

"See that you exercise and confirm your faith, so that when you are troubled or when sin is besetting you, you go to the Sacrament and heartily desire it, and what it signifies, and do not doubt that it will be done unto you as the Sacrament declares, that Christ *and all His saints* will draw near to you with all their virtues, sufferings, and graces, to live, work, rest, suffer, and die with you, and be so fully yours that they have all things in common with you. If you are willing to practice this belief and confirm it, you will experience what a rich and joyful wedding-meal your God has prepared for you on the altar."

You see, if all who share the bread are one body in Christ, then the bread that is Christ's body unites us together as a whole: all the saints are there where Christ is. And so they constantly pray for us too. Dr. Luther again on the subject a few years earlier (1528, Sermon on John 17):

"For to everyone who believes through the word of the Apostles, the promise is given for Christ's sake and by the power of this prayer [John XVII], that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that what happens to him as a member for good or for ill, shall happen to the whole body for good or ill, and not only one or two saints, but all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, and afflictions and he partake of their blessings, comfort, and joy. What man could wish for a anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befall him?"

Where Christ, there His saints. This is the confidence in which Christians live out their lives. When we gather for the Eucharist we know that the biggest part of the gathering is never seen. Hebrews 12 has opened our eyes. We need not ask them to intercede for us - they are already doing that. We can rejoice that together we form a single body and that all of us have our life only in Him who is the Lamb once slain.

More Than We Either Desire or Deserve...

Busy weekend at St. Paul's!


Craig and Maggie's wedding - 4 p.m.
Divine Service - 6 p.m.


Divine Service - 7:45 (with MELHS' choir)
Breakfast for Metro East Lutheran High School's Choir - 9:00
Divine Service - 10:00 (with MELHS' choir)
Baptism of Emma and Cooper - after 10:00 liturgy
Open House for Irma's 80th birthday - 2-4
Catechism Service - 5 p.m.
First Chief Parts Party - Celebrating the 10 Commandments! 6:15 p.m.

What a lot of joy to fit into a single weekend! The Lord's gifts abound, and to Him be the glory forever!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Whatever, therefore, may be the relation of imputation to original sin, our Church holds it to be an impious opinion, that our misery and liability are merely the results of imputation. The primary point is, that we do actually participate, in our nature, in the corruption wrought by the Fall. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 378

Patristic Quote for the Day

But what do you say, O man? Christ became a slave for you, "having taken the form of a slave," (Phil. ii. 7.) and was crucified, and rose again. And when you ought for this reason to adore Him risen and admire His loving kindness; because what neither father, nor friend, nor son, did for you, all this the Lord wrought for you, the enemy and offender—when, I say, you ought to admire Him for these things, do you call that foolishness, which is full of so great wisdom? Well, it is nothing wonderful; for it is a mark of them that perish not to recognize the things which lead to salvation. Be not troubled, therefore, for it is no strange nor unaccountable event, that things truly great are mocked at by those who are beside themselves. Now such as are in this mind you cannot convince by human wisdom. Nay, if you want so to convince them, you do but the contrary. For the things which transcend reasoning require faith alone. Thus, should we set about convincing men by reasonings, how God became man, and entered into the Virgin's womb, and not commit the matter unto faith, they will but deride the more. Therefore they who inquire by reasonings, it is they who perish. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily IV on 1 Corinthians

Homily for Trinity 16

[1 Kings 17:17-24 / Ephesians 3:13-21 / Luke 7:11-17]

“What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

Holiness is death to sin; it strikes sinners down. They cannot breathe its air; they find no room to live in its presence. Holiness is terrifying, and the woman felt such holiness in the man Elijah and so she thought: “My sin has been found out and now I am being punished. That is why my son has died.”

Yes, this is the same woman we met last week. The woman to whom Elijah came and brought the gift of life. She was preparing then for her last meal, recall. She and her son. They would eat it and die. But Elijah came to her, sent from God, and life came to her house – the flour and oil on which they lived for many a day. How can she imagine, then, that the God of life would now bring her death?

You know how. You’ve thought the same. When the horrible things happen, you begin to think that God is against you, that He in His terrible holiness is out to get you and punish you for all that you’ve done. You know that He is the one before whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid. And when you think about that – it scares the hell into you.

Did the woman in today’s Gospel experience a similar terror? She also had lost not only her son, but her husband, and now she was all alone. Did she look in fear and terror at the God who had discovered her secrets and brought to her the judgment that she deserved? Did she say in her heart of hearts: “My sin has been found out and now I am being punished. That is why my son has died.”

If so, she found out something different about God that day, didn’t she?. “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

Compassion, not punishment, is the Eternal Word, God made flesh, our Lord Jesus. He comes to you not scare the hell into you and make you terrified for all that you’ve done and that you might justly be punished for. He comes to you to comfort you, to dry your tears, to speak to you a word of life, a word of hope.

His hand halted the funeral procession. His voice reached into death and the dead awoke. “Awake, O Sleeper, rise from death and Christ will give you life.” And life He gave indeed. As the young man sat up and breathed again and spoke, his mother was overjoyed and he handed him down to her. He hadn’t come into the flesh to judge our secrets and destroy our lives; He had come into the flesh to carry our sins and destroy our death.

There would come a time – not too far away – when another mother would be following her son to the grave, her only son, and she a widow. Her name would be Mary. But she would not be saying: “My sin has been found out and now I am being punished.” Rather, she would know that it was so that the sin of the world – all of ours – might be covered and the punishment that was our due might be borne entirely by her Son, that He chose in His freedom and love to bear the burden even into death itself. That death might be destroyed and sins might be forgiven.
The only way you get the God who pays you out for your secret sins is to turn away His cross, to reject it and say, I don’t need that. I can handle things on my own. Then the holiness is pure terror and death, because you’ve rejected the only way you can live in His presence, you’ve rejected the only means of life. God forbid you do it!

As death was not the end for the son of the widow of Nain, neither would death be the end for the Son of the widow of Nazareth. Raised on the third day, He would speak to a world in sorrow His joyous: “Do not weep! Do not weep, for sins have been forgiven and your death has been destroyed! When you go to the grave, it will be no more than a little sleep and slumber of the body until I raise you in your flesh and bring you into my Kingdom. You need not fear death, for I have destroyed it by enduring it; and you need not fear that I am out to “get you” save in this sense: I am out to get you that you might be my own, and live under me in my kingdom, and serve me in my very own everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. Just as I am risen from the dead and live and reign to all eternity, so shall you, when once I have gotten you. So do not weep!”

But the God of mercy, who came into our flesh, He knows how hard it is for us in our great weakness to hold onto this. He knows how we struggle to believe it when the horrible things happen, and the old fear rises up inside us: “He’s punishing me now for all my sins – he’s paying me out for what I deserve.”

And to strengthen you in this battle “with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – and you rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” – that this strengthening may be yours, He gives into your mouth the gift of His body and His blood. Here is strength for your battles against all fears. Here is proof positive that your God is not out to get you nor to remember your sins against you. In the Eucharist He says to you anew: Do not be afraid; I have not come to destroy you but to forgive you, and do not weep, for You shall live in me forevermore. I am the Defeat of Death.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly more than we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” Amen!

21 September 2007

A Shadow of Our Old Self

An earlier post raises the question of how the Lord's Day and Festivals were observed in early Lutheranism. In brief, here's the schedule:

Day Prior to Sunday or Feast:

Vespers (Confession following)

Day of (Sunday or Feast):

Matins (Early Morning)
The Mass - The Divine Service (about 9 or so)
Catechism Service/Vespers (After 1)

This was the normal pattern in Lutheranism for quite some time. Frequently only the choir boys and servants were present for the Matins service, but it was held. Preaching at the Mass was on the Gospel for the day. Preaching at Vespers often was on the Epistle. How far we have fallen from those joyful days - now people often grumble at the Divine Service itself going over an hour. In those days it was taken for granted that Divine Service lasted from 2 to 3 hours and the others services at least an hour a piece!

Speaking of Evening Prayer...

...in addition to the Thanksgiving for Light included in the Hymnal, there are two more in the Altar Book. The first from the Apostolic Constitutions (ca. 380) and the second from the Apostolic Tradition according to Hippolytus (ca. 215). Each is pointed to be sung. Either of these ancient prayers praises the Triune God for the true light that has shone into the world through our Lord Jesus and asks him to accept our evening sacrifice of praise through Jesus Christ, our Lord. My suggestion is to use the one in the hymnal outside of Advent and Lent, to use the 2nd during Advent, and the 3rd during Lent.

The Beauty of Evening Prayer

Ah, Vespers or Evening Prayer? That is, LSB offers two settings of the sunset service. One, Vespers, following very closely the traditional Vespers of the middle ages, and which was extensively used and loved in Lutheran parishes of the 16th and 17th century as the usual way to begin a Feast or the Lord's Day. People gathered the day prior to the Feast and on each Saturday, prayed Vespers, and afterwards those who would commune the next day went to confession.

Vespers in LSB is quite faithful to the old ordo, by and large, though it does move the office hymn up to right after the Psalmody.

But it is Evening Prayer that I dearly love. The opening versicles affirming that in Jesus Christ we have a light that no darkness can overcome - doesn't matter WHAT darkness is threatening to engulf you at the moment. Then the glorious Phos Hilaron. That hymn was already so old in St. Basil's day that no one knew who first composed it, just that Christians regularly used it to greet the evening light.

The Psalmody in Evening Prayer begins with Psalm 141 set to a very haunting melody. LSB Altar Book notes that incense is fitting with the singing of this Psalm that asks that "let my prayer rise before You as incense." Two more psalms follow. Then the Office Hymn. Tonight's was "O Christ, Who Art the Light and Day."

Then the Scripture reading(s) and response. A new setting of the Magnifcat has been included in this rite. Get to know it, because it's a winner. The main body of the Magnificat is set to chant in the style of Anglican chant with a refrain of the first verse of Magnificat that occurs at the beginning, in the middle, and after the Gloria Patri.

Evening Prayer closes with the Ektenna, a litany that leads us to pray for many, many things, asking for them all the mercy of God; the collect for peace; and the Lord's prayer. Benedicamus and Benediction bring it to a close.

The Collect for Peace is a gem shared by both Vespers and Evening Prayer, and it asks the most wonderful thing. Peace, yes, but peace that is "free from the fear of our enemies." Get it? Not peace by God eliminating our enemies, but by Him eliminating in us the fear of them! In other words, real peace, the peace that passes understanding, that comes not from external things being set in a way that we prefer, but our hearts being set at rest in God.

Yes, Evening Prayer is truly one of the great treasures of LSB, and much as I love Vespers, I think I prefer Evening Prayer to it! What about you?


Linking a bit to the Krauth quoted earlier. This from Three Books. I apologize that it is rather lengthy, but I wanted to give major portions of the two sections where Father Loehe runs down the same challenges as Krauth and provides the Lutheran Church's answer to them. So, here you go:

The Church is grounded in the Word of the Apostles - and all parts of the Church have access to this Word. But is its sense intelligible to every man? Is the sense of the letter so plain, that it can become the property of every man? If it can, then good! But if it cannot, of what use is it to the Church? An obscure, unintelligible Word cannot become the possession of the whole Church. An unknown x, an interrogation without an answer, a word without meaning, because its meaning is too great, too obscure a word, a spring of living water, but water no one can get at, - can the millions of the universal Church gather around such a Word? It were a fearful mockery of poor mankind, if they were called to such a Church. But the Allmerciful is not a mocker. His Word and His Apostles' Word is intelligible to all. This is the most important point in the doctrine concerning the Church. Everything said in this little book is nothing, if the Apostolic Word, if Scripture, is not clear. Here is all danger. If here we conquer, we have won; if here we lose, then all is lost, lost not for this or that particular Church only, but for the whole Christian Communion on earth. For if the Scriptures cannot be the point of union of the Church, then there is no point of union, because every other in itself, without the backing of Scripture, is less than vanity.

But God be praised, the Scriptures are clear and can be understood by all. No true Christian denies that the Scriptures were given by the Holy Ghost. If so, then the question is suggested, Were they given and written to be understood or not to be understood? Every one will answer, In order to be understood, for they were written for men and for their salvation. If this is the case, and the Scriptures still are obscure and unintelligible, there are only two ways to explain it, namely, the Holy Ghost either could not find a clear and intelligible way to express His meaning, or He did not wish to. The latter is as foolish as it is godless, after it has once been conceded that He wrote for men in order to be understood by them. The former is blasphemous, and, like all blasphemy, silly. For He, Who gave word and speech to the whole world, shall He not be able to speak? He, who leadeth into all truth, Whose Word moreover has this testimony - that it maketh wise the simple, He, Who if we know not what to pray for as we ought, maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered - should He not be able to find, if He wished to find, words which His readers and hearers can understand? Did anyone ever write a letter in order NOT to convey his meaning? Would a wise and pious man, in letters written for the salvation of his friends, use words which they would read over and over again in vain? And the Lord, the Holy Ghost, wrote to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, the Thessalonians, so many letters, which yet could not be understood, because they had not then a Pope at their side to interpret them? and which could only amaze and frighten them, because they could not understand the will of the Apostles and of the Spirit? And like the letters is the whole Bible, whose style also from of old has been so famous for its simplicity!

It is true that the OT does need exposition, and, without exposition, a good part of it is obscure. But the exposition is furnished: the NT is the explanation of the Old, and because it shows the fulfillment of all the prophesies in Jesus Christ, it throws an irresistible light on every obscurity.


But it is not necessary to go so long a way. First of all, compare the Confession of that Church of which you are a member with the Word of God. If you find it confirmed, your work is done; for no Confession can do more than agree with the clear Word; and if you find that your Confession agrees with it, it is clear that if you remain faithful to it your soul will run no risk. And that will bring you great peace.


It would be otherwise if the Scripture were not clear, if the touchstone were of no worth. But this has been answered; the Scriptures are clear; in matters of faith they do not depend on the explanation of the learned, but their light is right for every eye. Yes, even if they were not clear in and for themselves, they would be clear if theh antithesis were proposed or a question was asked. Just as when flint and steel are struck together they give forth a bright spark, so in comparison with a doctrine of men the Scriptures give forth bright sparks of light. Only look into the Bible and you may not find much; compare what others, what men say on the same subject, and you will see what a difference there is between men's words and God's Word. ... Therefore we venture a delcaration and are ready to defend it if necessary: To compare a human doctrine in a prayerful spirit, an article of a Confession with the appropriate passages of Holy Scripture, is to ask a question of God, and the Lord will not refuse to it light and right and answer. If one does not know, anyone can ask, without offense, WHERE the Scripture speaks on any point. And one can learn WHAT the Scripture says, if he compares one point with another.

[Weedon comments: thus the matters we've been discussing on this blog were very much alive to the Lutheran Church in the 19th century - both Krauth and Loehe tackled them - and thus our Church gave her answer. I think it was a good one.]


A couple weeks ago we managed to have all our ACs at Church go on the fritz. Two required some minor repairs, but one needed to be replaced. And replaced it was. But it wasn't the only thing!

We used to have thermostats in the Church that were idiot proof (in other words, I could work them). You know, you pushed a lever to Heat-Off-Cool. And you slid a bar to set the temperature. Sigh. THEM were the days.

NOW? NOW there are two computerized thingies on the back wall. Touchscreens, no less. I haven't the foggiest clue. I keep pushing buttons until I hear the AC come on, but I'm not sure how to turn it back off or how long it will run for. GRR. Roger, I know you're laughing about this, but you are going to HAVE to show me how to work them hands on. Thanks for leaving the manuals, but.... I work on Mac. I don't read manuals and I can't understand them when I try to. Sometimes "improvements" are for the birds.

When My Brief Course

When my brief course on earth is run
And I this world am leaving,
Grant me to say, "Your will be done,"
Your faithful Word believing.
My dearest Friend, I now commend
My soul into Your keeping;
From sin and hell,
And death as well,
By You the vict'ry reaping.
LSB 758:4

[This Sunday's hymn of the day for those who use the One-year series]

Go Kesemann!

HT to Gottesblog. An article in the Wall Street Journal mentions Synod's resolution this summer about confession and absolution and notes the revival of the practice in the Lutheran Church, quoting our very own Pastor Bruce Kesemann:

Go Kesemann

Speaking of Expate Lutheran Bloggers

another you might wish to explore is Bryce Wandrey's:


Bryce was a Lutheran pastor in NC for a number of years and recently resigned his call.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The blood of the Lamb is now upon the side-posts, when it is drunken not only with the mouth of the body, but also with the mouth of the heart. - St. Gregory the Great, Homily XXII.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[Regarding the presence of our Lord's body and blood in the Eucharist:]

Faith does not make it, but finds it, unto life; unbelief does not unmake it, but, to its own condemnation, fails to discern it. The sacramental presence is fathomless, like the Incarnation; like it, also, it is in the sphere of supernatural reality, to which the natural is as a shadow. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 647

20 September 2007

Wish I lived in Michigan...

...because they have a neat conference coming up. Check this out:


Hey, Jon, that's ANOTHER Ultra you owe me, dude. ;)

A Homily for St. Matthew's

On September 21st, our Churches remember and give thanks for the Blessed Apostle and Evangelist, St. Matthew. His dual title is worth some pondering. You see, Matthew was not only one of the twelve who lived those three years with our Lord, following Him up and down Palestine and witnessing His miracles and His teachings, especially His death and resurrection. He was even more importantly one of the four evangelists, one of those specially chosen by the Holy Spirit to write down an inspired record of our Lord’s life and words. Of the Twelve, only St. Matthew and St. John were so chosen, and so we have the Gospels that bear their names.

That means that much of what we know of our Lord Jesus we owe, speaking in earthly terms, to the man we meet in today’s Gospel: a Jewish tax-collector whom Jesus called from a life of raking in the dough to a life of giving away the Good News.

Only from St. Matthew’s pen do we learn about Joseph’s difficulty coming to terms with the Virgin Brith. Only from his pen do we learn about the visit of the Magi. Only from his pen do we have the full form of the Lord’s Prayer that we are accustomed to use in the Divine Service. Only from his pen do we have the giving of what is called “the Great Commission.” The Church has been immeasurably enriched by St. Matthew’s witness to the Savior – and the frequency with which His Gospel is the one chosen for reading in the Church’s worship is a testimony to how much the Church values and thanks God for the longest written record of the Savior’s life that flowed from St. Matthew’s pen.

But maybe it is most of all in the reading we just heard that we see what is most awesome about the picture Matthew paints of the Savior as he writes his Gospel. The Jesus he is at pains to introduce us to is the Jesus who is the friend of sinners, the Jesus who hasn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, the Jesus who describes Himself as the heavenly Physician who is here for those who are sick with sin, who even dares to eat and drink with them.

The salvation of Jesus is marked with the sign: “For sinners only, the righteousness need not apply.” The Jesus that Matthew came to know and love was a Jesus who wasn’t much good to folks who thought they had their act together, to those who imagined that they were good and lived lives that pleased God. The Jesus that Matthew came to know and love was a Jesus who was sent from His Father into our flesh precisely to be a Savior for those whose lives are a wreck, who have disregarded the Law of God, and who know that their disobedience has hurt and damaged others, and who know that they can do nothing to fix themselves. The people that Jesus can help are those who have stopped trying to fix their own lives, who have given up looking for ten easy steps to holy living or 40 days to a purpose-driven life.

Luther was such a one. Can I share with you one of the most beautiful things ever to come from his pen? It is probably my favorite piece of Luther that I’ve encountered. It’s a little long, so bear with me. It’s a letter he wrote to his friend, Friar Spenlein. Listen:

“I wish to know the condition of your heart, whether you have at last come to loathe your own righteousness and desire to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ and to be of good cheer because of it. For in these days the temptation to presumptuousness is very strong, particularly in those who strive with might and main to be righteous and godly and do not know of the altogether immaculate righteousness of God which is freely given in Christ. As a result of this they are searching for something good in themselves until they feel they can pass muster before God as people who are properly adorned with virtuous and meritorious deeds – all of which is impossible. While you were with us, you held this opinion, or rather this error, just as I did. For my part, I am still wrestling with this error and am not quite rid of it yet. Therefore, my dear brother, learn Christ – Christ Crucified. Learn to sing praises to Him and to despair utterly of your own works. Say to Him: Thou, my Lord Jesus, art my righteousness; I am Thy sin. Thou hast taken from me what is mine and hast given me what is Thine. Thou didst become what Thou were not and madest me to be what I was not. Beware of your ceaseless striving after a righteousness so great that you no longer appear a sinner in your own eyes and do not want to be a sinner. For Christ dwells only in sinners. He came down from heaven where He dwelt in the righteous, for the very purpose of dwelling in sinners also. Ponder this love of His and you will realize the sweetest consolation.”

Isn’t that simply beautiful? This is the Lord Jesus that Matthew’s Gospel reveals to us! The Lord Jesus who came down from heaven precisely in order to dwell among and in sinners: the Jesus who receives sinners and even eats with them. The Jesus who loves each sinner so much as to go the Cross bearing the very curse of God against all sinners in His own flesh. The Jesus who, raised from the dead, sent forth His apostles to bring and call ALL sinners into the fellowship of His Church through baptism and teaching them to hold onto all that He has commanded.

And if you check out, in Matthew’s Gospel, what the last command was that Jesus had given before the Great Commission, you will discover it is His command at the Table: “Take, eat, this is My body; Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins.” This, above all, we are to hold onto and treasure. For the Jesus who ATE with sinners is the Jesus who goes on EATING with sinners right here at this Table, where He goes on imparting the forgiveness He won by imparting to us His very Body and Blood for our forgiveness.

Isn’t that marvelous? The very same Jesus who called St. Matthew and made him an apostle and evangelist, is the Jesus who yet calls us sinners to His table and receives and welcomes us! And this IS what the Christian life is all about: not keeping someone’s list of rules (not even God’s!), but eating and drinking with Jesus in His kingdom, letting His life flow into us, and us enjoying His presence and His gifts. THIS is real life. This is what we were created for. This is what we were redeemed for. This is the joyful news that St. Matthew’s Gospel announces to all: Jesus sinners doth receive! And for that, all glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, forever and ever. Amen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

See that you exercise and confirm your faith, so that when you are troubled or when sin is besetting you, you go to the Sacrament and heartily desire it, and what it signifies, and do not doubt that it will be done unto you as the Sacrament declares, that Christ and all His saints will draw near to you with all their virtues, sufferings, and graces, to live, work, rest, suffer, and die with you, and be so fully yours that they have all things in common with you. If you are willing to practice this belief and confirm it, you will experience what a rich and joyful wedding-feast your God has prepared for you on the altar. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *On the Councils and the Churches* 1539

Patristic Quote for the Day

All the achievements of the saints were clearly gifts of grace from God. - St. Maximos the Confessor *Philokalia* II:216

Personal Reflection

When I look East or to Rome, I am struck by certain things that I simply cannot see being grounded in the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures. I hope that this is not caricaturing, but what proponents of either side *sound* to me to be saying is:

1. The Church cannot err, but you can.
2. The Church teaches X.
3. Therefore X is the truth, regardless of whether YOU can see how it is taught by Scripture.

And thus the fallibility of the interpreter is set against the infallibility of the Holy Church. Both Rome and the East seem to me to speak this way.

Over against this, Krauth writes a stunning section in *The Conservative Reformation* that I think is worthy of consideration:

"In freely and heartily accepting the faith of our Church, as our own faith, and her Scriptural Confession of that faith, as our own Confession, we do not surrender for ourselves, any more than we take from others, the sacred and inalienable right of private judgment. It is not by giving up the right of private judgment, but by the prayerful exercise of it, not by relinquishing a just independent investigation, buy by thoroughly employing it, that we have reached that faith which we glory in confessing." (p. 169)

Which means that it simply will not do to "punt" to whatever is proclaimed in the name of the Church when God has given to each and every Christian the Sacred Scriptures to be "a lamp to our feet and a light to our path." To each of His children God commands: "Beware false prophets." To each member of the Church the Apostle gives the exhortation: "Test all things; hold fast what is good."

This cannot be done without each Christian asking: "Where in Scripture does this teaching arise?" To ask for the Scriptural grounding of a doctrine should never be taken as an affront, but should be the very delight of the Church, for it shows her children taken the quest for truth seriously and know that "many deceivers have gone out" and in the Word they have a foundation which will not be overthrown.

So my encouragement to any and every Christian is always to ask for where the Bible teaches X? This is no Reformation novelty, but the very advice of the greatest fathers of the Church themselves!

“Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.” St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

"We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

And as I've pointed to before, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, offering his words to the catechumens that they should not believe even him, if he fails to prove his point from the Sacred Scriptures:

"For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

The Fathers thus also invite the private judgment of weighing their witness with the infallible words of the Sacred Scriptures.

Honorable Mention

My eldest just sent me this link - seems that the students from Concordia Seward know their stuff when it comes to government. Congrats!


19 September 2007

An Old Friend

has started a new blog. Former Lutheran pastor, now a member of the Greek Church, Edward Wolfe (aka Ezekiel) writes about what led him into Orthodoxy. I recommend his blog to my readers. No, I don't agree with everything you'll read there, but it is worthwhile respectfully hearing another person out and pondering the direction their experiences led them. You don't have to agree with someone 100% in order to love them, and I will always love my friend, Ed Wolfe, and his lovely wife Karon. "Many years" dear friends. Here's the location:


From OT Catechesis Tonight...

...so Moses went into the waters a three month old infant, a slave and son of slaves, condemned to death. And he comes out of the water a member of the royal household, adopted and loved. Hmm. You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?

Reporting on a Fun Moment

So, there we sat, waiting for the ringing of the bell. Then we'd exit the sacristy and the marriage liturgy would begin. But as we're waiting, one of the groomsmen looks out the window and his gaze is captivated. A young lady is walking to the church. He turns around and says: "There's a hot chick out there." I look and then respond with as much gravitas as I can muster: "That 'hot chick' happens to be my daughter. And she's not 18 yet. Hands off." It was a JOY to watch the young man turn all shades of red and then to keep making him turn red by giving him the evil eye off and on during the evening. Such fun shouldn't be allowed a pastor!

Why I Like Wednesdays!

Chapel at Trinity-St. Paul - boy, do the kids do a GREAT job of singing Matins!

Pastors' Study Group - used to meet here at St. Paul, but we recently moved this to Maryville (St. John's) to make it easier for those who come from St. Louis (cuts the distance quite a bit). This weekly gathering of pastors (and deaconess) has remained one of my greatest comforts and supports over the years. Any of you in the area who can make it, join Curtis, Landskroener, Asburry, Maxwell, Feicho, Bowers and me! That's at 10 a.m. and we follow it with going out to eat.

Old Testament Catechesis - I just LOVE teaching the Old Testament. I never cease to be amazed at how it unfolds for us the joy of our salvation in Christ. It's all right there before us, if we have the eyes to truly see it. Tonight we'll be covering the opening chapters of Exodus.

Compline - what is it about standing together in the darkening church, confessing our sins, singing psalms and ancient hymns, drinking in the promises of God's word, and interceding that makes a day end so utterly perfectly? I always walk home from Compline with an extra spring in my step - those haunting melodies and peace-engendering words! "Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping..."

Yup. Wednesdays are wonderful. No two ways about it.

25 Top Books for Theology

My sister-in-law, Deb, wrote asking which are the 25 top books for theology from my perspective. So here goes, rather off the top of my head and not in any particular order, excluding the Sacred Scriptures and the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church, these are theological works that have had a significant impact upon me and my theological thought (such as it is!):

1. The Conservative Reformation by Krauth
2. The Eucharist by Schmemann
3. For the Life of the World by Schmemann
4. The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel by C. F. W. Walther
5. Examination of the Council of Trent by Chemnitz
6. The Two Natures in Christ by Chemnitz
7. The Loci Theologici by Chemnitz
8. This is My Body by Hermann Sasse
9. Spirit of the Liturgy by Ratzinger
10. The Church by Piepkorn
11. Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions by Piepkorn
12. On the Incarnation of the Word by St. Athanasius
13. Sacred Meditations by Johann Gerhard
14. City of God by St. Augustine
15. Confessions by St. Augustine
16. The Life in Christ by St. Nicholas Cabasilas
17. Preaching the Reformation by Urbanus Rhegius
18. The Church by Marquardt
19. The Lord's Supper by Stephenson
20. Eschatology by Stephenson
21. Grace for Grace: the Psalter and the Holy Fathers (a collection by various authors)
22. Great Galatians Commentary by Martin Luther
23. In the Image and Likeness of God by Lossky
24. On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great
25. The Structure of Lutheranism by Elert

Thoughts? And what would YOUR list be?

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. -- Blessed John Cassian, *Philokalia* 1:93

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Thy body, Thy blood, and all that Thou hadst, Thine own self, Thou didst give for my salvation, and shall death then deprive me of that which was purchased with so costly a ransom? -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* V

18 September 2007


...the dear son calls home tonight and begins his conversation with his mother (imitating Borat): "I am retard." We knew it would be interesting.

Seems he left his keys IN the store before the store closed, and now the store was completely closed, everyone gone, and David left in the parking lot with his car. How this could happen I haven't yet heard.

So DAD trucks down to Edwardsville (having to get gas before he can make the trip) and drops off a spare set of keys to our dear David.

He SOOOOOOOOO much is going to scratch my back before he even thinks of going to bed. Oh, yeah. The dingbat. He's been talking on the phone since he got home, so I still don't have the story of HOW it could happen. Sigh.

Interesting Article

Any regular readers know I'm an Atkins fan - as is my dear wife, Cindi. Here's an interesting article about German experiments with high fat/low carb eating for, of all things, cancer patients:

click here

Searching Words from Henry Hamann

How many Lutherans live as men who know themselves forgiven by God, as His friends in Jesus Christ, as His children and heirs; as men who need fear no future, no foe, no catastrophe since the God who has redeemed them has also created them and still preserves them; as men who can freely serve their fellows, and are glad to do it especially in their respective callings, since in Christ they are masters of this world and universe: as men who can enjoy all that this world has to offer, while being alive to the dangers in it which may entrap their souls? My experience seems to suggest that men like this are few and far between and that the great majority of Lutherans, too, live as though
the Law were God's final word to men, and not his Word in Christ Jesus.

From here:


Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ died that sin might die in us; and can we willingly let it live and reign in our hearts, since the Son of God Himself gave up His life to destroy its power in us? - Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* III

Patristic Quote for the Day

[In light of tomorrow's Ember Day fast]:

Fasting, while of value in itself, is not something to boast of in front of God, for it is simply a tool for training those who desire self-restraint. - St. Diadochos of Photiki, *Philokalia* I:267

Thought from Matins

The reading this morning was from Nehemiah 1:1-2:10. You know, Nehemiah had rather a cushy job. Life wasn't bad, not bad at all. But he lived the truth of the body of Christ. He wasn't and couldn't be separated from his people and their sorrows and hardships. And so for them he prayed. And he didn't pray as one standing outside of them, but one of them. He confessed their sins as his own. He acknowledged their burdens as his. And he finally speaks to the King about doing something for them - sending him right into their midst to restore their city and give them a lasting home.

Hmm. Kind of sounds like our Lord, no? His act of intercession was to stand with us as one. And our burdens became His own and He is sent to provide us that city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

And it leads me to think about the importance of being "one loaf" with all my sisters and brothers in Christ. Earlier I posted a quote from Luther where he spoke of the joy of knowing that all the saints and angels cry out for us as soon as any suffering befalls us, that we are so much one body that all the saints on earth and in heaven "shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, and afflictions and he partake of their blessings, comfort, and joy."

What is this but living the life of our Lord, the life in which He brings us into such unity with each other? Nehemiah prefigures this in his taking the pains of his fellow Jews upon himself. And wasn't this what Paul urged in last Sunday's epistle? "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Did any ever say this better than O.P.?

"For a few more years you will know only tenderness - until one day you, too, will become aware of the world's seething cauldron of hate... And then you, too, will begin to wonder - and you will do one of two things... You will either putter around in life, content with building a wall and a web around your little plans and small hopes and creeping ambitions - or you will, if you believe in God (as I think you'd better), make your heart a chalice for a few drops of this world's blood and tears... And when you know, finally, that the ultimate Good begins in Is. 53:6 and ends in John 3:16, you will be wise beyond man's knowing and strong beyond man's hope..." (The Pilgrim, p. 7)

Nehemiah wasn't content to putter around the palace; he made his heart a chalice. He brought the sorrows of his people to God in prayer and acted on their behalf. Lord God, help us to love one another in union with Your Son. Amen!

17 September 2007

An Opportunity...

...to introduce yourself.

I look at the sitemeter on this blog some days and marvel: "Who ARE all these people? How did you find out about this blog? What church do you belong to? Do you have a family? Etc." This is YOUR chance to speak up.

My challenge to the readers:

INTRODUCE yourself! Tell your fellow blog readers who you are and something about your background. I confess that I am very curious to know who you are. Some of you, I can guess. I see Richmond and I think Anastasia. I see Atlanta and I think Rose (or Dixie or whatever she's going by these days!). But many of you, I haven't a clue about! So, come on. Be bold. Let's see WHO you are!

Patristic Quote for the Day

Brothers, how wrong those authors have been who have tried to write about the good of death. And what is so surprising about that? In this case the worldly-wise think that they are great and remarkable if they convince simple folks that the thing that is the greatest evil is the greatest good…. But these things, brothers, truth dispels, the Law banishes, faith attacks, the Apostle censures, and Christ blots out, who, while restoring the good that life is, discloses, condemns, and banishes the evil of death. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Homily

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

You may think that you do not fear death, but have you ever looked directly into its smirking face, its hollow, staring eyes? Truly, it is not the might of man, but God's grace alone, that can overcome this king of terror. - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 738

16 September 2007

The Incredible Julie Johnson

So right before our Catechism Service this evening, Julie says "We need to have a Chief Parts Party." I cocked an eyebrow after asking to please repeat herself. She explained: after we finish each Chief Part, we should have a party to allow folks to get together and know each other better.

Splendiforous! The kids definitely liked the idea. So next week, after we finish the first Chief Part: The Ten Commandments, we will recess to the basement for pizza and other yummies allowing a time for all those attending the service to visit with each other and become better acquainted. I think we ended up with 34 folks in attendance tonight.

How does Julie come up with these great ideas???

Words of Beauty and of Joy

Kontakion 11

Through the icy link of the ages, I feel the warmth of Your Divine breath; I hear the flow of blood. You are already near; time has partly vanished. I see Your Cross; it is for my sake. My spirit is in ashes before the Cross, where there is a triumph of love and salvation, and unceasing praise unto all ages: Alleluia!


Blessed is he who will have supper in Your Kingdom, but You have already admitted me to this bliss. How many times have You extended to me with Your Divine Hand, Your body and blood; and I, such a sinner, have taken this sacred gift and felt Your love - unutterable and beyond all being:

Glory to You, for the unfathomable, life-giving power of grace,
Glory to You, Who have raised up Your Church as a refuge of peace for an exhausted world,
Glory to You, Who breathe new life into us with the life-giving water of Baptism,
Glory to You, Who restore the purity of immaculate lilies to those who repent,
Glory to You, inexhaustible abyss of forgiveness,
Glory to You, for the cup of life, for the bread of eternal joy,
Glory to You, Who led us to heaven,
Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.

(From the Akathist of Thanksgiving)

15 September 2007

The Third Commandment

Why this commandment? Why "remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy?" The Lutheran Symbols give a unique spin to this commandment - it's not about resting, but about sanctifying. And the Word of God is what sanctifies, what makes holy. It's about giving time to the Word so that the Word can do it's faith-delivering and faith-strengthening job.

The sad fact of our fallen condition is that no one can sustain saving faith on their own. Simply can't do it. We don't have the power to keep our faith alive, let alone strong! "Faith comes from hearing." This is not only true at the beginning, but it remains true throughout the Christian's journey. Cut off from the Word of God, a person's faith grows weaker and weaker and finally dies.

This has import, then, for both how we deal with delinquents (AWOL Christians) and how we deal with those who don't know if they believe at all. To the AWOLs who use their own freedom of will to turn away from the Word of God and the Sacraments of Jesus, we are called to speak a Word that they don't want to hear: WATCH IT! You are endangering yourself - body and soul - by cutting yourself off from the Words of Jesus that alone can keep you in repentance and faith. They don't want to hear that. They want to discuss whatever it was that led them to dislike pastor or parish. Utterly irrelevant! It's not a matter of shaping the congregation up to fit the tastes of every last person who walked away. It's calling those who walked away to repent and come back to hearing the Words of Jesus that give and sustain faith. Without those words, faith dies and so hope dies. For it is only faith that holds onto Christ, His forgiveness, His life unending.

And when we are dealing with those who are inquiring into the faith, the temptation is to turn the spotlot on themselves and to ponder: "Do I believe? Really? How do I know?" But we want them to stop looking at themselves and to keep them looking at our Lord and His sure and certain giving. So the best answer to give to a newby wondering about their faith is to say: "Listen to what Jesus says to you!" Listen to His promises. They'll give you faith. His Spirit is at work in them and wants to sustain you.

The third commandment is vital, then, for it is by hearing that faith comes, hearing the Word of God. Time to lose the excuses; time to cease the internal scouring for proof of faith; time to listen up to Jesus and let His Words do the job that His Spirit empowers them to do.

A Most Interesting Take...

...on the latest Synodical Convention:


Hat tip to Pastors Esget and Alms.

First Draft - Homily for Trinity XV

[1 Kings 17:8-16 / Galatians 5:25-6:10 / Matthew 6:24-34]

You either serve God with the liturgy of faith or you serve money with the liturgy of anxiety. We meet the widow of Zarephath on the cusp of the famine. She’s out collecting sticks to go make a last meal for herself and her lad, and then she figures they will die of starvation. Elijah has other plans. He tells her to go make that last meal, but not to keep it for herself. To give it away – to him! But he hands over to her a promise from the God of Israel: “The jar of flour shall not be spend and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”

Now there’s a pattern there. God doesn’t bury her house under mounds of flour and rivers of oil so that she can see the abundance that is hers. No. There’s never more than fits into that little jar and jug. That’s it. But it’s always enough and more than enough, as it is poured out and given away. Like the manna, you don’t get to see huge stores. You have to trust that each day there would be some. Like when the Lord sent out the 12 to give away the loaves and they never felt like they had more than a little in their hand. He would teach us to trust that the little we have is always enough and more than enough when we put it to the service of love for our neighbor. Love that is set free by faith trusting that God will provide.

The liturgy of anxiety offered to mammon is always running to check the jar and jug, the bank account and portfolio, and always fretting that it doesn’t quite seem enough for us – and it rarely is. Not enough to share with others in need – how can we do that and have enough for ourselves? Such is the way of unbelief. There isn’t ever enough when we serve money. The liturgy of faith doesn’t look at the container of whatever sort. The liturgy of faith, looking to the promise of the God who has always more than we either desire or deserve, is free to serve the needs of the neighbor, knowing that God will provide.

And so St. Paul in today’s epistle can urge us not to grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. And he wraps it up with: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” That’s the liturgy of faith talking there. Freed by faith from focus on ourselves – for God has promised to provide for our every need – faith gives birth to love where the focus is on the neighbor. And we are certainly called to do good to all people, but note the especially. Especially to those who are of the household of faith – those who are our sisters and brothers in Christ. Their need is our need. Their hurt is our hurt. Let our joy become their joy. We’ve been baked together as one loaf in Christ and so there is a complete community between us, a sharing that flows from the heart: “What is mine is yours!” the liturgy of faith cries. “Let me bless you.” Do you see how that is the reverse of the bend in on one’s self that characterizes the anxiety and fear of the service of money?

Jesus will not let us have it both ways. We’d like to imagine it were possible to serve God and still to be in service to money. We’d like to think surely here we can have our cake and eat it too. Jesus shows that this is an illusion. You cannot be bent in on yourself in fear and anxiety and at the same time be set free, turned away from yourself and living in faith toward God and love for the neighbor, concerned only about showering blessings upon those who are in need. You can’t be both people at once. You can’t serve God and serve money.

Jesus invites us to leave the liturgy of anxiety behind. To die to it! He invites us into His liturgy, the liturgy of faith in the Father. And He invites us to see that the world around us lives in the joy of this liturgy. The little bird up in the air, who never worries about where his food is coming from, but first gets up in the morning and sings his little heart out in praise to the creator, and then flies off to find whatever the Creator has given. He points to the flowers, the lilies of the field, scattered in extravagant profusion, clothed in a joyful clothing that Clinton and Stacy could only dream of. They’re here today and gone tomorrow, and yet God takes care of them, and they live without anxiety, without fear. The heavenly Father watches over them and gives them all they need to be the flower He made them to be.

“Will he not much more clothe you? O you of little faith! Are you not of more value than they?”

Jesus notes that the Gentiles – those who don’t know God – offer the liturgy of anxiety – that they obsess over making sure they’ll have enough and more than enough and yet they fear they never will. They do this because they know nothing about the heavenly Father who knows you need all these things. And even more.

Jesus is standing there. The witness to the Father’s love. Look, He seems to say, the Father thought you were worth sending ME into your flesh to forgive your silly worries and to set you free from your endless anxieties and to rescue you from that false worship of money – which will never be able to add a single hour to your life and which leaves you in the death of being focused upon yourself. He sent me all the way to Calvary’s cross and to the glories of Easter morning to bring you into the true worship which receives from God all things as gifts in Me and so transforms your lives, unbends you, focuses you outward in faith toward Him and in love toward others. He sent me into your flesh, bearing your sin, destroying your death, and pouring into you a life that death cannot destroy and all because He thought you were worth more than the birds and the flowers. The value He placed upon you is shown in the ransom He paid to win you for Himself. If He gave ME for you, do you really think He would let down on anything?

To move from the liturgy of anxiety in the service of money to the liturgy of faith that frees you to serve your neighbor, today the Savior reaches you anew the Sacrifice of Calvary. He, like the widow of Zarephath, gave His all that you might have a meal to live on. He gave His all and showed that giving away everything for love of the neighbor does not impoverish, but enriches. He is risen as the Lord to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given – including the power to set you free from the fretting and the worry and the bend in on one’s self, power to unbend you and free you to offer the liturgy of faith – He does this with the gift of His love, and to Him alone be the glory, honor and dominion, together with His Father and the All-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages! Amen.

14 September 2007

What a Glorious Holy Cross Day!

This afternoon Cindi, Darcy, and I headed to St. Louis for a Gregorian Chant class led by Pastor Ben Mayes (of CPH). It was great - and it was all preparation for leading the celebration of Emmaus Lutheran Church's observance of Holy Cross Day.

The liturgy began with "The Royal Banners" and a procession with incense and Crucifix and Pastor Baker entering with a red cope. The cross was honored as it passed through the congregation. Then Vespers proper began. Four psalms were chanted, the last one - Psalm 113 - was chanted in Latin by Pastor Mayes. I got to ring the bell that announced when we stood - and only screwed up once!

The two readings were both chanted according to traditional tones and then Pastor Robert Baker (also of CPH and vacancy pastor at Emmaus) preached a stunning sermon on this day. He told the story of St. Helena's journey to Jersualem and the finding of the true cross and how it was identified by a healing miracle, and he pointed us to the fact that a "yes" to our Lord's cross inevitably entails a "yes" to our own. He spoke of how we must never be ashamed to proclaim the Crucified One and to find our comfort and joy in Him and in His sacrifice - given in love so that we might have forgiveness of sins. It was really a fine homily dealing with both the 1 Cor. 1 reading and the John 12 reading.

Then a Gregorian office hymn:

Lo, the blest cross is displayed,
Where the Lord in the flesh was suspended,
And by His blood from their sins
Cleansed and redeemed His elect;

Where by His hands transpierced
He redeemed the world from its ruin,
And by His lifegiving death
Closed the path of the grave.

Strong in its fertile array,
The tree of sweetness and glory,
Bearing such new-found fruit
'Mid the green leaves of its boughs,

Stately it reareth its head
By the streams of the clear-running waters,
Shedding from flower-decked boughs
Leaves for the healing of men.

Come let us worship the King
From the cross in His majesty reigning,
Who by the pain of His death
Joy hath restored to the world. Amen.

Then, during the singing of the Magnificat the altar was censed, and the liturgy concluded with Kyrie, Our Father, Collects, and (3x) Benedicamus and Benediction. The exit hymn was "Sing My Tongue."

Afterwards we had the joy of meeting and visiting - and a wonderful dinner prepared by the good folks of Emmaus. More visiting and then heading for home.

It was a beautiful and dignified liturgy - an unabashedly Lutheran service that whole-heartedly embraced the catholic tradition. I am very thankful for the whole experience! Thanks go to Pastors Mayes and Baker for providing the opportunity to adore the Crucified and His cross on this holy feast.

Anyone who wants more info on The Brotherhood Prayer Book and Lutherans using Gregorian Chant should visit:

Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood

Also, a reminder that the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following Holy Cross Day (that would be NEXT week) are days of fasting and abstinence: the Church invites her children to avoid flesh-meats on those days and to restrict food intake to 1.5 meals on each day, and to spend those days in more intense prayer.


The Antiphons for Holy Cross Day are really beautiful. From Brotherhood Prayer Book, page 363:

O mighty work of mercy! Death died when Life died on the Tree.

Save us, O Christ our Savior, by the power of the Cross: Thou who savedst Peter perishing in the sea, have mercy upon us.

Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch.

God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

For Holy Cross Day...

...which we anticipated and so celebrated yesterday:

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

Patristic Quote for the Day

For he didn't shave off a bit of Godhead, and still he saved me, stooping as a doctor over my foul-smelling passions. He was a man, but God. David's off-spring, but Adam's Maker. A bearer of flesh, but, even so, beyond all body. -- St. Gregory of Nazianzus, *On God and Man* p. 41.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Because You were given to me, so also shall all things be given to me. My nature is glorified more in You than it was disgraced in Adam through sin. Because You assumed into the unity of Your person that which was only tarnished by Satan, You truly are flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. You are my brother. What can You deny to me, the person to whom You are most intimately joined by the same essence of flesh and by the feeling of fraternal love? -- Johann Gerhard, *Meditations on Divine Mercy* pp. 65,66

13 September 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

That tomorrow shall come is not certain, but that everlasting destruction shall overtake the impenitent is certain. God has promised grace to the penitent soul, but He does not promise a tomorrow. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* III

Patristic Quote for the Day

God the Father, You are this good; this good is Your Word, that is, Your Son.

For in the Word which You Yourself utter, there can be nothing other than Yourself, or anything greater or less than You.

For Your Word is true just as You are true, and so it is the Truth that is You Yourself and no other.

You are one, and from You nothing can be born except Yourself.

And this is the One love, between You and Your Son - the Holy Spirit which proceeds from You both.

This Love is nothing less than You and Your Son; for Your love for Him and He for You are as great as You are.

That which is no different from You and Him is not something other than You and Him, for there cannot proceed from the height of Your oneness anything that is not Yourself.

So Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is wholly as Trinity what each is in Himself; for each is none other than the highest single unity and the highest unity of persons, which can neither be multiplied nor made other.

-- St. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, Chapter 23

12 September 2007

Digging up from Comments...

My dear Christopher and I had a discussion on a patristic quote below from St. Cyril in which I posited a distinction that I think it helpful and meaningful. I used it again tonight in teaching the story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers. I offer it here for consideration.

It is the difference between speaking phenomenologically and speaking theologically. It's really the diff between sight and faith.

To speak phenomenologically is to confess the truth as it appears to us. For example, "the sun rises." Well, not actually we know. But that's what it looks like to us. Similarly, to describe the events of Joseph's life phenomenologically, we'd say:

Joseph's jealous brothers betrayed him, sold him as a slave, handed him over to gross injustice.

That would be true as far as it goes. There's nothing there that's not factual, but it doesn't exhaust, doesn't begin to exhaust the truth. The truth, the theological truth, which Joseph himself confesses is this:

"God sent me before you to preserve life... God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive many survivors. It was not you who sent me here, but God." (Gen 45:5,7,8)

The very essence of our Lord's cross is captured then in this distinction. Phenomenologically, our Lord was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, renounced by His own people, suffered under Pontius Pilate and made to suffer an utterly unjust death. That's what we see. But faith, seeing theologically, sees that what we meant for evil, God meant for good, for the saving of many lives alive.

And St. Paul invites us to step out with this distinction even in our own lives. To know and believe that whatever injustice, hatred, persecution we experience in this life, that through it all "God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him." Romans 8:28

We can live our lives on the phenomenological perspective - and I suspect we'll end up bitter, angry, disillusioned and despairing. Or we live our lives from the theological perspective - and we'll end up a peace that nothing in this world can shake, a peace rooted securely in the God who is expert at the "great reversal" to whom be the glory forever and ever!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

An inevitable corollary of the Atonement is a tremendous respect for the worth and dignity of the individual human soul... If Hans and Jan and James are so important that God remembered them in eternity and for eternity, we must remember them in time... They are not pawns on the chessboards of madness... They are not units in an army... If they are Christians, they are sons of God; if they are not, they are still men for whom Christ died... Their importance is absolute and ultimate... O.P. Kretzmann *The Pilgrim* pp. 21, 22 (Reflecting on war)

Patristic Quote for the Day

Who will cure my soul if not Thou, O Christ, the only Physician of souls! Where will I find a remedy for the diseases of my soul, if not with Thee, O fountain of healing! Thou who didst cure the ailing women, cure also my soul from the ruin of sin. -- St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #74

Pondering the life of a dog...

So, Lucy gets up with Bekah, at what? 6:15 or so. Before that she's been sleeping on Bekah's bed since 10 at night. But she's bright eyed in the morning. Potty time and then the real treat: her one meal of the day, three small scoops of food, which she gobbles down so fast she consistently chokes as she eats it. Then the hopeful lurking around the breakfast table. But come 7:45 or so, poor thing is exhausted. She always takes aim for the blue chair in the living room - leather-like and warmed by the morning sun pouring in the front window. She contentedly snoozes off again. And there are days she basically stays there or will move to the sofa after the sun passes overhead and sleep ALL day. She stirs again when the kids get home and she expects a wee bit of play time in the evening and again, another hopeful hunt around the table for anything we might let drop. Then she settles down for her pre-night time nap and sleeps for several hours. Right around 10 she gets her bed time potty and then off to Bekah's bed. This is our dog's life. Most of it is sleep, but no sleep seems to suit her so well as the drowsy basking in the morning sun.

11 September 2007

"Teaching them to observe all things..."

School year is back full blast, and the variety of subjects I get to teach is both a challenge and delight.

Sunday mornings, we continue ploughing through Isaiah. Late Sunday afternoon, I teach Lutheran Catechesis (using Pastor Peter Bender's excellent outline). I also teach Lutheran Catechesis on Monday mornings in two sessions in Trinity-St. Paul Lutheran School: the first to the 5-6 grade; the second to the 7-8 grade. Then on Tuesdays every other week, I teach Old Testament Catechesis to the same configuration: 5-6 and then 7-8. On Wednesday evenings I am also teaching Old Testament Catechesis in the parish. Then on Thursday a.m. we have an early morning men's study group that meets at the local greasy spoon - and we have just begun a romp through the Augsburg Confession.

"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" exhorted the Apostle Paul, and thanks be to God, we have the opportunity to let that happen. God has gifts to give His people, and may He grant us open ears and hearts to receive them!

From the Responsory: Teach me Your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth!

In Memoriam +

The homily delivered at St. Paul's, the Sunday after the terrorist attacks six years ago:

People loved by God, as I have listened to the discussion of Tuesday's events on TV this week, I've noticed a tension and a discrepancy. The President has said that not only the terrorists who did this heinous act must be held accountable for the devastation, but also any who gave them aid or support; anyone who knew it was going to happen and did not speak out to stop it will be held equally and fully responsible. And we all understand and agree with that. We remember last Sunday's Gospel - that the fifth commandment can be broken not only by actively hurting and harming our neighbor in his body, but also by not preventing harm and not protecting him.

But then the Media has to turn in anguish to God. He cannot be ignored in all of this. For decades they've all but pretended that he wasn't there and that normal life in America is life without God. Now suddenly God is back in fashion and even more is in the dock, as it were, and people are asking in anguish: "How could you, a God of love, allow this to happen?" And the answers that have arisen from the religious leaders of America I have found profoundly disturbing. Because there is a concerted effort to "get God off the hook." I have been cheered somewhat that the press hasn't allowed that. I watched Larry King Live the other night and he pressed home the point: but you say He's almighty. Then why?

The only answer that I have heard given was to skirt the question. To take dodges in the doctrine of man's free will. Well, of course, we believe that in matters like this people have free will. God did not force the terrorists to drive those planes into the Trade Center or the Pentagon. But if he did not force them to do that, if they did that of their own perverse and evil wills, is it not equally true that he could have thwarted their desire and that without violation to their free will he could have brought to nothing their action? Of course it is. And there's the rub, people loved by God. There's the rub.

We cannot and we dare not take the out offered by Rabbi Kushmann, that our God is indeed all loving, but - what a shame - not all powerful. We bow the knee before Him who said without equivocation: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." We bow the knee before Him who not only created all things, but who sustains them. We will not "let God off the hook." We need not. We know in our hearts the truth that our God did abandon the throne of the universe on Tuesday morning. We know in our hearts that He was then as ever governing all things. And we add in faith, governing them for the well-being of His people, of His Church, and of His world. And we know that our God knows how to use suffering to bring blessing, to take evil and turn it to good.

But we know this only by faith, which is always the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. There will never be a time when the way God governs the world appears to be wise to our eyes. It will always appear weak and foolish. That was true Tuesday as it was true two thousand years ago, when another act of terror was perpetrated - when the Lord of creation freely chose to let himself be crucified for the sins of the world. It will always appear foolish and weak to us that when God would choose to save the world, he would do so by utterly and completely entering into its pain and its sorrow and its anguish. That when God would rescue us from the horrors of hell, he would do so by sending His only Son into hell for us. That when God would lift up the fallen, he would do so by letting the load of sin fall upon himself so that he might bear a burden that none of us could bear.

Another thing that I find disturbing in the public discourse is the absence of that all important "r" word - repentance. That God in His wisdom and omnipotence would permit such a tragedy to come to our nation and to our people, surely ought to invite some self-examination on our part. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon - money and might. Have these been the gods we have been trusting in in this country? If so, we've been shown once and for all what frail and fragile gods we have taken for ourselves. How utterly incapable of helping in time of need. How did the Psalmist put it: "No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy, To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You. (Ps 33:16-22)."

Today the Church of Jesus Christ gathers and speaks those awesome and unbelievable words. We will stand today before the altar and we will assert once again - with tears in our eyes if need be - that it is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The world wants to ask: "Are you nuts? What is there to give thanks for in all of this?" We are free to answer: in all of this we give thanks to God through Jesus Christ. Because He gave His life to free us from the consequences of our sin, from eternal death - so that death isn't the end. We give thanks to God for all those who were taken home to himself, who were delivered in an instant from this valley of sorrow. We give thanks to God for the wonderful image of His own goodness when men and women rescued others only to sacrifice their own lives. We give thanks to God for the fact that He has not and will not abandon us, but that in every sorrow He constant will remain. We give thanks to God for those who were rescued and for the incredible outpouring of love and service and courage. We give thanks to God that we can come before His throne and pour out our sorrows and confess our sins and idolatries and receive His forgiveness and strength to go on. We give thanks to God above all for the Body and Blood of our Lord which goes into us as the defeat of death and the promise of everlasting life - even as it went regularly and often into many who died on Tuesday.

In today's Gospel Jesus said: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Our treasure is nothing else than Jesus himself, our Living Lord who holds the universe in His hands - hands are marked forever with the scars of suffering. He does not owe to us nor has he promised to give to us an explanation of the ways He governs His world, but He has promised us that all things, all things, work together for the good of those who love him, whom he has called according to His purpose. Amen.