30 November 2007

I Blame It On Pastor Allen Braun

HE'S the one that got us hooked on Peace Lutheran's Boar's Head Christmas Festival. Then we found our old friend, Donald McKetchnie's Aunt Vera (we knew Don in Md) is a member of Peace and she calls us up each year to ask how many tickets we need. This year six of us went out to dinner then headed over to Peace to enjoy the pageantry and music. I don't really have a favorite part, because each part is so good, but I confess that each year I choke up over these words of the Boar's Head Carol itself:

The mightiest hunter of them all
We honor in this festal hall
Born of a humble Virgin mild,
Heaven's King became a little child:
Caput apri defero, reddens laudes Domino.

He hunted down through earth and hell
That swart boar Death until it fell.
This mighty deed for us was done,
Therefore sing we in unison:
Caput apri defero, reddens laudes Domino.

Let not this boar's head cause alarm,
The huntsman drew his power to harm.
So death, which still appears so grim,
Has yielded all its power to Him!
Caput apri defero, reddens laudes Domino.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Enter not into judgment with me, O our Lord, for no living creature can be justified before Thee. Thou alone, O Lord, art pure. Spare me and cleanse me of my sins by Thy grace. Vouchsafe me, O kind-hearted One, Thy great compassions, that they might make me rich and that I might receive forgiveness, and Thine angels might rejoice according to Thy word, O Thou who art kindhearted toward sinners. --St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #66

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When he [the devil] would lead us into sin he magnifies the great mercy of God. When he has succeeded in leading us astray, he enlarges upon the rigorous justice of God. First he would lead us into presumptuous sin, and then attempt to drag us down into the depths of despair. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXVII

Advent Hymn

"One generation shall proclaim Your works to another." And so the hymns and songs of Christians who have long since gone to their eternal rest, continue to live on in the Church and to bring blessing to new generations. There are so many beautiful hymns to welcome the growing Advent light, but one that I've become especially enamored of in recent years is this ancient office hymn: Conditor Alme Siderum. In some Lutheran orders it was sung and prayed daily at Vespers during the days of Advent. Its tune is as peaceful as its words:

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people's everlasting Light:
O Christ, Redeemer, save us all
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the healing full of grace
To cure and save our ruined race.

Thou cam'st the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to eventide,
The spotless Victim all divine
Proceeding from a virgin shrine.

At whose dread name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou whose coming is with dread
To judge the living and the dead,
Preserve us from the ancient foe
While still we wander here below.

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might and glory be
From age to age eternally.
(LSB 351)

P.S. It is sad to note, though, that the words of verse three have not been fairly translated. The Latin (from the Lutheran Magdeburg Book of 1613): Vergente mundi vespere / Ceu Sponsus ex cubuiculo / egressus escastissima / De Matris almae clausula. Thus, confessing the closed womb birth. The Lutheran Magdeburg Book of 1613 has the hymn provided for Vespers in this form and with a series of Scriptures listed in the column. When you get to "De Matris almae clausua" we find Ezekiel 44:2. Fancy that! Back to the old Lex Orandi observation - even though confessed in FC SD VII:100, what is not prayed and sung, does not maintain itself in the people's faith.

St. John Chrysostom

Pastor David Jay Webber just sent me the link to this stunning fresco of St. John Chyrsostom - who is certainly one of my all time favorites among the Fathers. Pastor Webber writes: "This is from Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine. This cathedral, built by my ancestor Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise in the 11th century, is one of my favorite places in the world." I think I can see why! Beautiful!

29 November 2007

Hymn for Saint Andrew's Day

All praise, O Lord, for Andrew
The first to welcome You,
Whose witness to his brother
Named You Messiah true.
May we, with hearts kept open
To You throughout the year
Confess to friend and neighbor
Your advent ever near.
LSB 517:5

It was a long day...

all week! :) Today began with our men's Bible study at 6:15 and we covered Article X of the AC. Then home to prepare for the funeral, which was at 10. Place was packed, as we knew it would be. After the funeral, committal and a while at the luncheon, off to the hospital to see Brum. He was looking very good. I just hope they can figure out what's going on there. Then finishing up the shutins in Alhambra and Hamel. Sadly, Alfred was sound asleep and I couldn't rouse him. But Shorty actually said "Hello!" back to me when I walked in the room and greeted him. That was a first for me. Had a nice visit with Debbi and Janet, and then back home for a wee bit of rest to catch my second wind for the Divine Service - tonight we commemorated St. Andrew (whose day falls tomorrow). I particularly love the vividness of the new preface for Apostles' days:

"It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God: for You have mightily governed and protected Your holy Church, in which the blessed apostles and evangelists proclaimed Your divine and saving Gospel. Therefore with patriarchs and prophets, apostles and evangelists, with Your servant Saint Andrew, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy..."

Yup, we join with St. Andrew and with all of God's holy saints in the endless doxologies that swirl about the throne of the Thrice-Holy One!

With the end of the service, my day was done, but Cindi has headed over to choir. What a crazy week! Who would have anticipated all its joys and sorrows? Only our Lord who always knows and does what is best, and to whom we give glory with all His saints to the ages of ages.

28 November 2007

Paul Steinmann's Funeral Homily

[Job 19:23-27; 1 Peter 2:4-6; Matthew 16:13-18] Lynn, Dana, Debbie, David, family and friends of Paul Steinmann: Stein-mann - Rock- man! Did ever a fellow have a more appropriate surname? No, I’m not talking about all the years he spent hauling rock around. I refer to the fact that this man built his life upon the Rock, our Lord Jesus Christ, and so became a living stone himself, and thus was a true rock for his family and his friends.

When he was but a little bundle, not even two weeks old, his godly father and mother brought him to the Rock, to Jesus Christ. “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling, naked, come to thee for dress, helpless look to thee for grace, foul, I to the fountain fly. Wash me, Savior, or I die!” And washed he was.

As Pastor Hansen poured the water over his little head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ, cleft for Paul, and Paul began his journey through this world of being conformed ever more closely to his Lord, the Rock. He was in process of becoming a living stone.

It was some 13 years later that he knelt before this very altar and promised that his life would belong to the Lord Jesus and not to himself. And he opened his mouth and received into it for the very first time the body and blood of the Rock of Ages. “For you” said Pastor Hennig as he poured the blood that ran from Christ’s riven side down Paul’s throat. “For the forgiveness of your sin.”

As he grew in years his distinctive character took shape. A man of great integrity, good hearted and kind, loving and - we must say it - fun. Blue eyes that twinkled in merriment as he told his stories and laughed and led those who struggled to get along to find peace in Him who was the Rock of his life. He had the gift.

And when he laid eyes on that young teacher, Lynn Cowell, well that was the end of that. He knew what he was after and went after her with all the grace and humor that always characterized his life. And what a life you two had together - how it blessed so many people - not the least of which are your children and grandchildren, whom he loved so much. But also all those you two made feel part of your family - a family without limit, always open and welcoming to others. Truly it is said, Paul Steinmann never met a stranger.

In our second reading, we heard St. Peter (another Rock man) give an invitation: “Come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, and you yourselves like living stones be built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Paul never tired of inviting others to become living stones like himself. To build their life on the Rock that is Jesus Christ. Even during his sickness, Lynn, you told me of his witness to a woman who just couldn’t understand his contentment, his joy, his peace. He told her that he went to church where God supplied him with everything he needed for time and for eternity and he told her she should give it a try. She did, too! Her life is changed because Paul spoke up in witness to His Lord.

Paul, you see, knew how utterly precious is what goes on in this room. We who love him have a hard time remembering that he was sinner - he was to so many of us such an icon of God’s goodness. But he was that because he never forgot or underestimated his own sin.

Just three days before his death, through great pain, he spoke the words of the confession: “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.” No matter what we might think, he knew that of himself he had deserved nothing from God but wrath, and yet he trusted wholly that His Lord loved him and had suffered and died for him, His Jesus, the Rock in which he always sought refuge. As the body and blood of Christ went into him for the last time, it brought him as it had across the last sixty-seven years, the promise and guarantee that his sins were answered for completely, and so death would never, ever be the end of him. He would live in Christ forevermore. To know that is to know a peace unshakable. You could see it on his face.

Having communed, he joined his feeble voice in the song of Simeon for the last time. He sang in a way that he had been practicing for these many years: “Lord, NOW lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thine salvation.” Which is to say: “It’s okay, God. I can die now. I know I have peace with you and life that never ends. Take me home.”

And so came that moment when, with his family gathered around him, the hymns the church on earth ringing in his ears, his eyes closed to this world and opened to heaven, and - just as you said Lynn - his voice was set free to join in the hymns of the saints who behold the Rock of Ages. It was heart-breaking, and it was devastatingly beautiful at the same time. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

We, as is natural, have the tendency to look on this from our perspective. Paul was blessed in that moment to see things also from God’s. Here was a moment that God had been waiting for since before time began. He got to bring His beloved Paul, His little Rock, His Steinmann, home to the Kingdom He had prepared, joined him to his loved ones who had gone ahead of him, and showed things that we can’t even begin to dream of now.

This is the joyful and blessed end of all who build their life upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. Against them, the gates of hell will never prevail. Joined to Christ, their souls live now in His light and rest, beyond all pain and heart-ache, and they await with us the joyful moment of the resurrrection of their bodies.

“Oh, that my words were written, that they were engraved in the rock for ever. I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job’s words were Paul’s as well. May they be yours and mine throughout our days of pilgrimage and whenever our last day finds us. May we live and die with the confidence of a Paul Steinmann in his everlasting Rock, and so join him in praising our Redeemer unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Grant me, O my Savior, to contemplate the life to come that I may perform Thy will. - St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #136

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As the little vessel of thy soul is being overwhelmed with the waves of temptation, arouse Christ with thy prayers. Our visible foes we subdue by striking and slaying them; but this invisible enemy of our souls we conquer by pouring out our prayers to God. O blessed Christ, do Thou fight for us and in us, that in Thee we may have the victory! - Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXVII

27 November 2007

Attention St. Paul Members

The Wednesday Night Bible Class and Compline are CANCELLED this week, due to the Visitation for Paul Steinmann. This will be held at St. Paul's on Wednesday from 4-8 in the Nave. The funeral for Paul will be celebrated on Thursday morning at 10 a.m. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

Experiment with Pages '08

A couple weeks ago I decided to drop Microsoft Office and see how well iWorks suite did in its place. In my case, that means using Pages '08 - because I really don't use powerpoint or spreadsheets for anything. Thus far, it's been really great. I love the speed that Pages has on the Mac, the integration with iPhoto, the ability to save in Office '07 format (something even Office for the Mac can't do yet), and the streamlined features. As a word processing tool, Pages has really come into its own. At least as things look now, I think it's adios to Office!

Multiple Homilies

I spent the evening writing. I was able to write not only Paul's funeral sermon (I'll post that later), but this Sunday's homily and next Wednesday's homily for Midweek Advent Evening Prayer.

Here's a wonderful trick my friend, Dr. Lee Maxwell, taught me years ago: when you are pressed for time and have a number of homilies to prepare, write the LAST one first, and then work back in reverse order.

This method works so well because it keeps the pressure on - you've still got the nearest one that needs writing, but you can't begin to work on it until the more distant ones are completed.

I hope to do something similar throughout all the weeks of Advent/Christmas.

I don't think

that there's a better tonic in all the world than a wee chat with Wilma Henke. It brightens the whole day.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The kindhearted God gives us what we ask for not because of our prayers; rather does He nourish us according to His compassion, for it is He Who created us... For who asked the Father to give His own Son up to death on the cross? Or who entreated the Son to die for sinners? To which righteous man did the thought occur to ask the Father to give up His Son for transgressors? It is truly an unprecedented event, and the thought occurred to no one. The Father gave up His Son to death on the cross, and through His death sinners obtained life. And if He gave away His greatest treasure, can there be any obstacle to prevent a man who asks such a Lover of mankind from receiving all that he needs? -- St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #138

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In all circumstances and conditions of life we need to fear the wiles of the devil. In prosperity he puffs us up with pride; in adversity he sinks us into despair. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations* XXVII

26 November 2007

Making Music

is most definitely balm to the soul and rest to the weary heart. It was with heavy hearts we went to practice tonight - I don't think either Cindi or I felt the least bit like going. But we needed to. And I'm glad we did. It has a way of washing the sorrows out, or better, setting them into perspective. I missed two meetings tonight to do so, but it's only for this one concert and so I figured it was worth it - and it was. I'm ready now for whatever tomorrow brings, either in joy or sorrow, for:

Oh come, ye people, gather here
To hear the new of good cheer,
The King of kings, the Lamb of God,
Is born today in Bethlehem!
Sing Noel!

Patristic Quote of the Day

When Thou didst see, our Lord, that I had lost Thy glory, Thy love did not suffer it to be so. Thou Who descendest in Thy birth hast delivered me from Satan by Thy suffering and Thy death on the Cross. -- St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #79

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He came as Physician to the spiritually sick, as the Redeemer to the captives of sin, as the Way to those who had wandered afar off, as the Life to those dead in trespasses and sins, as the Savior to the lost. -- Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditations XV*

Requiem in Pace, Paul!

This morning our Lord brought His servant Paul Steinmann through suffering and death with Him into the life that never ends. Steinmann - Rock Man. He was indeed a man who built his life upon the unshakeable Rock, our Lord Jesus Christ. It was beautiful as well as heart-rending to surround Paul's passing with the music of the Church. We sang him to sleep with Gloria in Excelsis, Agnus Dei, Nunc Dimittis, What a Friend, Just as I am, Hark the Herald, For all the Saints, The Lord's My Shepherd, Blest be the Tie, Lord Let at Last, and so many more. "And did not Jesus sing a hymn that night, when utmost evil strove against the light? Then let us sing for whom He won the fight! Alleluia!" Rest in peace, dear friend! We love you. "The Strife is O'er, the Battle Done."

25 November 2007

Vacation Done and Busy Week Ahead

I confess: I'm eager to get back in the saddle. Two weeks of vacation is great - but by the end I'm going stir crazy.

This week I will be doing our shut-in calls (I actually got a couple done last week!), numerous meetings, and several sermons to finish up. I'm teaching three days at Trinity-St. Paul Lutheran School this week. There's Golden Agers on Tuesday, our regular Wednesday class and our Thursday a.m. men's group and a meeting with our beloved District President on Thursday. And Advent looms with its extra services and sermons.

The key to peace (I preach to myself) is to look at one day at a time and to spend it in the presence of God, asking His blessing upon all that is thought, said, or done. Also allowing nothing to crowd out time in the Word and for praying the daily offices. That means getting up early tomorrow morning, and so I'm off to bed tonight.

"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping..."

Preparing for a Psalm Shift

For those who pray the Psalter in the Daily Office from the table provided in LSB, this is the final week of the "General" or four week psalter until after the Feast of Epiphany. Beginning this coming Saturday evening, the Psalms shift to the Advent Psalms for Morning and Evening.

The shift to these Psalms will be accompanied in the Divine Service with the loss of the Greater Gloria (Gloria in Excelsis), but NOT of the Alleluias, which continue during Advent. At St. Paul's during the penitential seasons (Advent and Lent) we also use the Baptismal Creed, the Apostles', in the Divine Service rather than the customary Nicene Creed.

Homiletical Aphorisms

1. Speak what needs to be said, and then be silent; there is no virtue in rambling and it is rude to your hearers.

2. Never lose sight of your goal: that Christ be formed in the hearer.

3. Begin with the readings and feed the people of God from them.

4. Honor your fathers - study how the readings have been proclaimed in the Church - this is far more helpful, interesting, and important that spending time in modern commentaries. Pride of place should be given to Luther's Postils in your reading, but don't forget that HE got much of his insight from the fathers who came before him, especially St. John Chrysostom.

5. In honoring your fathers, pay special heed to the points at which they seem to be silly; be silent before them and listen, think and ponder what they say. Their folly may be the wisdom of God.

6. A sermon that does not get the hearers to the Cross has been worthless, for the Cross is the prism from which we view all things, and is it the key to unlocking the Sacred Scriptures.

7. Pay special heed to the Jesus "proprium." That is, what do these readings give you of Jesus that they alone give?

8. If you think you understand the OT without referring it to Him who said that the Moses and the Prophets testify of Him, you have not understood it at all.

9. The pulpit is not the place for your bright ideas, it is for speaking the Words of the Lord.

10. The pulpit is not the place for being polite: do not hesitate to call sin what it is and to call people to repent.

11. Never step into the pulpit without having prayed for God to open your lips that your mouth may declare His praise.

12. By the time Sunday evening has fallen, you should already have read the pericopes for the upcoming Sunday, and you should reread them frequently during the week, to live with and truly hear the Words of God before you try to speak them.

13. If you use "you" law (and it is law at its most potent), do not neglect to find ways to indicate to the congregation that you are very much under the same condemnation.

14. Avoid "we" gospel - for the Gospel's very essence is in its "for-you-ness."

15. Forgiveness is not a "thing" and you shouldn't make it sound like it is some kind of "get out of hell free card" that you hand over; rather make sure that forgiveness comes across as God finding the way to come to your hearers in mercy and love so that His very presence does not destroy them in their sin, but destroys their sin in them.

16. Don't waste time on telling folks how to live the blessed life before you've taught them inside and out how to die the blessed death; if they know how to die in faith, living in faith is sort of a "duh."

17. Don't preach Law - Gospel - Law. Instead preach Law - Gospel - Mystical Union.

18. Remember that preaching the Gospel is not only a means of CREATING faith; but it is one of God's prime means of SUSTAINING faith.

19. You cannot remind your hearers too often that they are "people loved by God."

20. Eucharistic preaching does not mean tacking an irrelevant reference to the Eucharist to the end of your sermon; it means to summon the baptized to that the Blood that cleanses the world from sin and the Body that belongs to God enfleshed as our brother; gifts which are not distant and imaginary, but real and will be shortly be upon the altar, in the pastor's hand and in their mouths.

Patristic Quote of the Day

To Thee, O Victor pierced by nails on the cross Who calleth out to sinners saying: come, receive forgiveness freely - to Thee I unrelentingly pray, O my Savior: turn Thine eyes away from my lawlessness, and by Thy sufferings heal my sores that I may glorify Thy kindness. -- St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #8

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He is born among the beasts of the stall that He might restore to their former dignity and honor sinful men, who through their sins had made themselves little better than the beasts. - Johann Gerhard, *Sacred Meditation XIV*

24 November 2007

A Real Joy

is being able to go into fellow Missouri Synod parishes and find the same Hymnal in use that one uses at home. As the adoption of LSB spreads, this joy continues to grow. Tomorrow, I believe, we'll be worshipping in yet another LSB parish in our District. After the generation of separation (LBW, LW, or TLH), what joy it is to find LSB popping up nearly everywhere! I think it was already in the majority of our District's parishes just over a year after publication.


HT to Chris Orr who at least ended up with an Orthodox prototype!

You’re Origen!

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Another Old Lutheran Quote for the Day

Here [Col. 1:11] the apostle gives us the second result of a living knowledge of God in Christ: the might and patience for the glorious perseverance in the cross. The person who has not yet learned to know God as his Father in Christ will find it impossible to joyfully endure many, great, and lengthy sufferings and afflictions. But how completely different it is with those who vividly recognize that God is their dear Father and they are His dear children! People with this knowledge have a firm staff that will not let them fall. They have an unconquerable faith that God intends good for them and that their afflictions are fatherly disciplines rather than punishments, disciplines that lead to salvation, heaven, blessedness, and glory. - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 881

Mega Cool

I've made no secret that - unlike some - I rather like the ESV and the longer I've used it, the more I find myself drawn to it. Here's a wonderful portion of the ESV site on the net that allows you to have the Bible read to you from this edition according to numerous lectionary schemas. Why on earth isn't the LSB's daily reading schema up there?

Bible Reading

Homily for the Last Sunday

[from yesteryear]

Five foolish and five wise - and the only thing that separates the two in Jesus' story is that the wise had extra flasks of oil and the foolish did not. A costly mistake. The foolish lose out on the Wedding feast they had been waiting for. "The door was shut." And when the come late, asking for admittance, all they hear is: "I do not know you." So what does the extra oil stand for? What is Jesus tell us that the wise have and the foolish lack?

We could speculate on all kinds of things, but better than guessing is to go to the Scriptures and chase down "oil." Images begin to coalesce.

Noah putting forth his hand from the ark and taking in the dove, with an olive branch in its mouth - sign that the judgment had passed and that it was safe to leave the ark. Olive branch, olive oil. Water and a dove.

The anointing of Saul - oil poured by old Samuel upon the young man's head and the Spirit suddenly coming on him in power and he prophesying, so that they asked: "Is Saul also among the prophets?"

Isaiah uttering the prophesy: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."

And all the images uniting as Jesus stands in the water, and the Spirit descends "like a dove" "anointing" him. Thus He enters His office as Christ! When we speak of our Lord as the "Christ" we are calling Him the Anointed One, and confessing that the Spirit of God rests on Him.

From start to finish the Bible unites Spirit and oil together; so much so that the verb used of pouring out oil is also the verb used of pouring out the Spirit: "anoint!"

So the five wise virgins were those who kept by them the supply of oil, that is the supply of the Spirit? What does that mean in practical terms?

We know that in Baptism God richly pours out His Spirit on His people: "Be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit - the promise is for you and your children." Acts 2. But the sad fact is that our lives are very much jars of clay, cracked pots. The Spirit poured in only once, drains out. He must be constantly and freshly poured into us if the lamp of faith is to keep burning bright in our lives. Thus Paul writes: "Do not quench the Spirit!"

But where is He being poured out? Where are the extra flasks filled with the oil of the Spirit we'll need for our faith to burn brightly until the Day of Christ's return?

In the Church! The full flasks are simply the means of grace - the Word and the Sacraments of Jesus. To live our lives near them, constantly being replenished by them, letting the Spirit be poured into us - that is to be a wise virgin.

To say: "O, I'm a Christian" and then wander away from them, not to give a listen to Jesus' words, not to come often to hear His absolution, not to eat often of His body and blood, is to live foolishly indeed. For what was once poured in, drains out through the cracks of our lamp, drains out through our sin. That's to live in the danger of being caught out empty on the Last Day!

So when the Lord says: "What I say to you, I say to all, watch!" He is urging us to camp out by the spiritual flasks of the Church.

The flasks of the Church are truly full to overflowing, for they are supplied from the Lord Jesus Himself, who fills them to the brim with His Spirit and His life. This is the life He came from heaven to give us. This is the life He brought into our flesh and blood when He assumed it from Mary's womb. This is the life He died on the cross to pour out into us - the gift of forgiveness, the Life of the Trinity, the Joy that is the Holy Spirit, the Peace and the Love that the Spirit brings with Him because that's who He is. All of these located for us richly in the flasks of the means of grace.

But no one else can camp out at the means of grace for you - no one else can receive the Spirit for you, and so no one can believe for you. So the wise cannot give their flasks to the foolish - impossible. Each must have their own. So it's not a matter of your mother being in church or your sister or your father or your brother. It's a matter of YOU being where the flasks are full and letting the overflow keep your lamp of faith burning bright.

Thus the only way to be prepared for that day is to make a habit of truly listening to His Words, to make a habit of hearing the absolution and trusting it, to make a habit of coming to His altar and letting Him give His body and blood into you for the forgiveness of all your sins; this is how you "watch." This is how you can have the certainty Paul spoke in our second reading that "God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." Thus you'll be a people prepared and ready for whenever your Lord shall return and with joy, your lamp of faith will burn brightly in the night as you greet him and enter with Him into the feast of joy that never ends. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Thanksgiving 2007

A few more pics for any who are interested:

click here

Vacation Winding Down; More on Fasting

Vacation days are winding down, and Advent is awaiting. As usual with vacations, by the end of them I'm bored to death with vacation and eager to get back to work again. I think that's one of vacations greatest values: they teach us to long for work!

I've spent part of the afternoon reading some sermons on Advent I. Johann Gerhard and Martin Luther are quite different in homiletical approach. I enjoy them both for very different reasons. Gerhard seems always to have in mind the way that Scripture as a unity calls to itself from one passage to another, and by the time he's done with a text you've seen that text in the light of the whole of creation, redemption and eschatology. Luther tends to focus a bit more on the text. Oh, he definitely uses "scripture to interpret scripture" but he rarely moves far afield from the point of the passage under consideration. Though Gerhard is a century after Luther, Gerhard's approach is far more reminiscent of the Church fathers that he loves so much. Luther is actually more modern.

I am far more familiar with Luther's Gospel sermons than those on the Epistles. Today, though, I decided to read the sermon in the Church Postil on the Epistle for Advent I. I couldn't help but think what a fine preparation for Advent itself - the exposition of St. Paul's words in Romans 13. What is the call of the Holy Church in Advent-tide? Naught but "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

Luther proclaimed:

"Now in Christ we behold only the true armor of light. No gormandizing or drunkenness is here; nothing but fasting, moderation, and restraint of the flesh, incident to labor, exertion, preaching, praying and doing good to mankind."

"Now, the armor of light is, briefly, the good works opposed to gluttony, drunkenness, licentiousness; to indolence, strife, and envying: such as fasting, watchfulness, prayer, labor, chastity, modesty, temperance, goodness, endurance of hunger and thirst, of cold and heat."

"The flesh must be restrained and made subservient to the spirit."

"All foods are good creations of God and to be used. Only take heed to be temperate in appropriating them and to abstain when it is necessary to the conquest of the works of darkness. It is impossible to lay down a common rule of abstinence, for all bodies are not constituted alike. One needs more, another less. Everyone must judge for himself; and must care for his body according to the advice of St. Paul: 'Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.' Had there been any other rule for us, Paul would not have omitted it here.'"

Luther's last bit there reminded me of the wise words of Blessed John Cassian about the fathers' rule for fasting. He says there really was only one that was universal and that was simply to stop eating before you are full. I think Luther would have said an "Amen" to that one too.

Patristic Quote of the Day

I glorify Thee, O Christ; for Thou, O Only-begotten Master of all, O Only Sinless One, wast, for the sake of me, an unworthy sinner, given up to death on the cross in order to free the soul of a sinner from the bondage of sin. And how shall I repay Thee, O Master? Glory to Thee, O Lover of mankind! Glory to Thee, O merciful One! Glory to Thee, O longsuffering One! Glory to Thee, Who forgivest every fall into sin! -- St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #2

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

A Christian ought to live as he would be found on the Last Day before all men. - Blessed Martin Luther, Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent (Epistle), Church Postil, par. 26

23 November 2007

Patristic Quote of the Day

On account of the first creation Christ is Master of our nature, but because of the new creation He gained power over our will. This is truly to rule over men as king, since He has bound and subjected to Himself the authority of reason and the freedom of the will which make man what he is. -- St. Nicholas Cabasilas, *The Life in Christ* p. 144

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If you want to learn to know God's heart and will towards you, look at Christ in the manger, in the circle of sinners that surrounds Him, in Gethsemane, and on the cross. There you can read God's heart as in an open book. For whoever sees Christ also sees God the Father. As you find nothing with Christ but kindness, love, and grace, so you can be certain that you will find all of this with the Father. Christ calls sinners to Himself; and He does not condemn them; instead, He forgives them all their sins. And this is also what God does. He, too, wants to have mercy on you. Christ desires to take you up into His heavenly Kingdom, and so does the Father. To know the disposition of God's heart, you need only to look at how Christ is disposed toward you. -- C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 879

22 November 2007

A Thanksgiving Postscript

David gets ready to take out Lucy and he stops and says: "It's snowing." It really is! I'm sure it won't last long, but it IS the perfect wrap up to a Thanksgiving Day, don't you think?

O Give Thanks to the Lord

for He is good; for His mercy endures forever!

I am still amazed that in this day and age we have a Church full on Thanksgiving morning, 9:00. I think for so many in our parish it would be unthinkable to start the day without gathering as a parish family and offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God and hearing His Word.

We're still learning the Matins out of LSB. A few little bumps along the road with that - but we're definitely almost there.

Seminarian Richard Rikli stood in St. Paul's pulpit for the first time and delivered a homily that invited us into true thanksliving as he extolled the great things that God has done for us not only in what we normally think of as "first article" gifts, but also "second and third article gifts." As he was preaching this, my mind was drawn to the beautiful thanksgiving prayer that begins the Prayer of the Church many Sundays:

"Almighty God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and bless You for the love that sustains us from day to day. We praise You for the gift of Your Son, our Saviour, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; for Your holy Church, for the means of grace, for the lives of all faithful and just people, and for the hope of the life that is to come. Help us to treasure in our hearts all that You have done for us, and enable to us show our thankfulness in lives that are wholly given to Your service."

A visitor remarked on her way out how much she enjoyed the service, singing the old hymns and that wonderful Matins service.

We headed home and prepared the pre-feast. The gamble was the stuffed mushrooms. I tried something new. I emptied out the stems as usually, threw them in the microwave and heated them. Meanwhile I fried up some sausage patties and chopped them up. Then in the blender I put the stems, the sausage, some parmesan and some Merlot. I worked it to a fine mush and then stuffed the caps with that and topped with swiss cheese. They were really good!!!

After the pre-feast, we sang. We pretty well covered the Advent and Christmas sections of the hymnal, I believe. Lots of fun!

Then the feast. It wasn't the turkey that gave trouble. Cindi has mastered the art of the quick cook turkey. It was the potatoes. Or more precisely, the stove. It has a little button we'd not noticed before that allows a certain burner to be set to simmer! And that's where we were trying to cook the potatoes! Once we realized what was wrong, and fixed it, and finished up the taters, we were 1/2 hour behind the rest of the food. Ah well, it was still all plenty hot and tasty.

We did some clean up, some more singing, and then had room for the pie - this was a true Weedon thanksgiving. Only nine people present, but no less than four pies AND a cheesecake. Reminded me very much of our gatherings at home - we each had a different favorite pie and mom would bake one for each of us!

After our guests departed, we rested, ate a bit more, and rested more. A totally enjoyable day indeed. We're also very much looking forward to Christmas this year when Cindi's Aunt Sandy and her son and daughter-in-law will join around the table. Our dining room table used to belong to Cindi's grandmother, Nana, and we have so many wonderful memories of gathering around it at her house in Bethesda, Maryland for different holidays or just to play games. It's neat to think that at Christmas many of those who used to feast regularly at that table with feast there again. Well, enough rambling. A blessed thanksgiving to you all!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Faith also determines one's action. Faith, we may say, is action, not mere talk. That a person has faith can be demonstrated to others and to self only by the fact that the person lives and acts as though the faith professed is really right and true. A claimed faith, which is not matched by a life in keeping with that faith, is not faith at all; it remains a claim and nothing more. This is the important fact about faith insisted on by Saint James in his New Testament letter, and also by Saint Paul when he speaks about the judgment of God according to works in Romans 2:6. - Henry Hamann, *On Being a Christian* p. 108

Patristic Quote of the Day

In the heart, contrition; in the mouth, confession; in all things, humility. - St. John Chrysostom (Ap XII:74)

More Thanksgiving Again

More Thanksgiving Pics

More Thanksgiving Pics

21 November 2007

Here's what I wrote

to my children on the day mom passed:

25 November 1994

Dear Lauren, David, and Rebekah,

Your grandmother died today. She was a wonderful woman. I only wish you could really have known her. She would have loved you so. She always loved babies, especially her grandbabies. Children, she didn’t have an easy life. Not ever.

When she was your age, Rebekah, about three, she got very sick with a disease called polio. It used to be a very dreadful thing. In the worst cases, it killed people outright. It crippled mom. It caused her one leg to be shorter than the other. The doctors actually sowed some lamb-skin onto her heel, but it didn’t help much. So, as a little girl she could never run and play like the other children. Instead, when they would want to do things she couldn’t do, she’d take a book and sneak away into the living room. She loved to read! Her Aunt Annie always told her: “With a good book you can go all around the world and never leave your chair.”

She loved all sorts of books, but especially poetry. Not high brow and sophisticated stuff, you know. Just your garden variety - Robert Louis Stevenson and Eugene Field and such.

She was her daddy’s little girl. She idolized him. He meant so much to her. I remember so well when he died and how sad she was. Now I know something of what she was going through, little ones. She told me many stories of what a wonderful father he was. He worked very hard, as both a farmer and (I think) a carpenter. But he took time every night to help his children with their homework around their dinner table. And Christmas was a day devoted entirely to the children. No work that day! Well, not exactly. He’d get up extra early to get the cows milked and all, but then the rest of the day was theirs. He’d get down on the floor and play right along with them.

She must have partaken alot of her father’s spirit, because when I was little she was my toy. Oh, we played every game imaginable. Even though she was crippled, she’d still get outside and try to play hopscotch and ball with me. She taught me a fun game called “One, two, three, O’Leary.” I want to teach it to you guys. I’d forgotten all about it til today.

She was very proud of her family background. Her last name was Mastin, but the heritage she treasured was the Field line. The Field family had come over from England in the 1600’s. Your grandmother grew up on the property that had been their's. In fact, you still have two great aunts that live on that property. She learned all about the Fields from her dear Aunt Annie, or Nannie, as she most often called her, and also from her Cousin A and A’s daughter Ruth. Cousin A actually remembered the family plantation house before it was burned down in the Civil War. A remembered sitting on the stairs and peaking downstairs as they had dances in the ballroom (with a marble floor, no less!).

I wish I could remember all her stories about the Fields and pass them on to you. She told of Grandpappy Joe, and how after the mansion had burned down, he had a special brick in the fireplace at a place called Speaks where he’d hidden his gold coins. He’d pull them out at night and count them. He even let A play with them. But they were kept hidden so that the Yankees wouldn’t get their hands on them.

Grandpappy Joe had many children, and one of his sons was named Daniel. We have his box sitting in our living room! Almost impossible to read it anymore, but on the bottom of the box is Daniels’ name and infantry number. Daniel was killed at the battle of Chancellorsville. The old black slave who was the blacksmith took the wagon and went to get Massa’ Daniel’s body and bring him home. In the family Testament we have you can still read about Grandpappy Joe’s and Uncle Daniel’s funeral.

Your grandma had a lot of sorrow in her life. She had many sisters: Francis, Ada, Kitty, and Emma. Also three brothers: William and Jimmy and Seldon. William and Jimmy were twins, and when they were born everyone expected William to live and Jimmy to die. You see, Jimmy was scrawny and sickly, but William looked healthier. So, they spent all their time on William, making sure he’d make it. But would you believe it? William died. Jimmy lived. And what a character he grew up to be. But your grandma lived to see him die too. He died right about the time that David was born. And then Seldon - how that broke all their hearts. He was only 16 years old. And was the sweetest kid, by all accounts. One day (it was thanksgiving time) he went out into the woods hunting, and tripped as he jumped over a stream. His foot got caught in a root, near as they can figure out, and his gun went off. He was shot through the head. Her dad was never the same, she said. Seldon’s dog used to wait for him to come home, and it just sat there, lost and lonely for days, not understanding what had happened. I think the dog’s name was Tippy.

Your grandma’s mother died in our house in Maryland in 1951, right before Uncle Maupin was born. When the ambulance pulled up and they took your great grandmother out, covered with a sheet, they thought it was your grandma who had died in childbirth! She missed her mom, but she was always closer to her dad. But this was an added sorrow to him. I remember him most as a very sorrowful man. He died when I was only six or so.

Your grandma and grandpa were really cute together. Every night when he got home from work, he’d yell downstairs: “I’m home sister!” To which she’d respond: “Yea, well what do you want me to do about it?” When I was still fairly little, my brothers and sister had moved out and gotten married, so I remember a lot of time spent with my mom and dad by myself. We loved to watch T.V. together. My daddy and I watched a lot of detective shows - Hawaii Five O and Cannon. Mom loved the game shows - Jeopardy and such. We also loved to play cards together. We went through one winter when I think we played Rook darn near every night.

What else can I tell you about your grandma? Let me tell you the stories that went with some of her things. The two old bricks we have in our house were part of the family plantation house. They came over from England as the ballast in Governor Spotswood’s ship. The plantation house is off the old Kelly’s Ford road outside of Richardsville. Mom collected and treasured these bricks for the story they told of the past. The Yankees were camped out on the white rocks on the Kelly’s Ford road when they burned down the big house. It was being used as a confederate hospital.

The daguerreotypes we have in mom’s doll cabinet are pictures of the Fields. Uncle Daniel is the young man with his fiance. He was only 19 when he died. He would be your great, great, great, great Uncle! And the other is your great, great, great, great Uncle William. He never married, but pretty much became the family head after Grandpappy Joe’s death. When my Grandma Bess heard what my mom and dad had named me (William Chancellor), she said: “Might have known you’d name him after one of those damn Fields. Mom said she hadn’t even thought of Uncle William Field!

Let me see, what other treasures are there? The little blue plate with the crack in it. It was also a Field possession, and I believe it also came from England. The salt cellar likewise. The old teapot was my mother’s grandmother’s wedding gift. Bette Hume Mastin, she was. Mom had her middle name.

There’s a little purse in your mom’s doll cabinet. It’s made of something like straw. It’s from Hawaii. It was sent to your grandma by her great Aunt Harriet. Aunt Harriet was actually your great grandma’s aunt. Aunt Harriet met her husband at the great World Exposition in St. Louis, 1904. They got married and moved to Hawaii. Aunt Harriet wrote to mom about being able to lie in bed in the morning and reach her hand out the window and pluck a bananna for breakfast!

The two brass candlesticks are treasures from your grandmother’s mother’s side of the family. I believe that they came from Europe too, from Scotland. On that side, if you go back several generations, your ancestors were actually Stuarts, and born in the castle in Edinburgh. But that was a long, long time ago! I’m just not sure how old the candlesticks are. When I was a little boy they sat on the parlor organ in Aunt Fanny’s living room. But my mom really wanted them so that she would have something to pass on to us from her mother’s family.

Part of her mother’s family was rather poor, and lived in West Virginia. Your grandmother’s Uncle Seldon worked at the mining village’s store. Your grandma went to visit him and Aunt Louise when she was a young woman and never forgot it! The mountains were so steep and the village was perched right on its side. The miners had a hard life, but they sure did seem to live it up. I wish I knew where in West Virginia they lived, but if mom ever told me, I have long since forgotten.

Your grandmother was deathly afraid of snakes and of fire. When she was little girl, one of their neighbors was burning sagebrush out in the field in the autumn, and their little daughter somehow got caught in the fire, and burned. Mom never seemed to forget it. I don’t know why she was so afraid of snakes, but she certainly was. Once my cousin George and I killed a poor, little garter snake down in Buzzard’s roost and we took it back to the house and we chased mom all around with it! Very naughty because mom couldn’t run very fast. Another time I remember George and I found a little shrew out in the yard, dead. My cousin Gary emptied its insides out and stuffed it with cotton. We then told Aunt Fanny to close her eyes and we rubbed it all over her face. She thought it was the softest powderpuff she’d ever felt, but then did she hollar when she realized what it was!

Other treasures: my father’s grandfather (Thomas Pemberton) made the little walnut washstand in moma and papa’s room. That used to stand in Grandma Bess’s hall, and I asked her if I could have it when I was about your age, David. She said yes, and mom was so glad, because mom loved little tables and always admired that one. If you look at it carefully you will see that the legs are each a little different in size. It was all handmade! He also made the table with the two big planks and the big white bench we have on the front porch.

From mom’s family also is the little table in the library with the shelving for books underneath. That belonged to your great Aunt Gee. She was really named Julia Lee and was my mom’s aunt, her father’s sister. She was a lady if ever there were one! I still have the sweet letter she wrote to me when she heard that Daddy had cancer. The table had been hers, but she had given it to mom long ago. It was always in our house on Munson Street. When I was little it used to have a whole pile of golden books in it! Mom loved books. Our house on Munson Street had a redwood bookcase my dad made for my mom (she loved the wood, and it was only after they made it they realized how soft it was and not suitable really for a book case, but pretty!!!) and it was always filled with books. I’ve only managed to collect a few of them. I remember it had two sets of encyclopedias, one Funk and Wagnel and the other I can’t recall, a little red set, and on the other side of the room there’d be the World Book Encyclopedia. Mom and I used to read these as regular entertainment! Just turn the pages, look at the pictures and read the articles.

Your grandma spent a lot of time in the kitchen. She didn’t believe in forcing a child to eat what they didn’t want, so she’d take orders for what everyone wanted for dinner and then make it up. Sometimes we’d end up eating three different things. Breakfast was a big deal with her and not just in the morning. She’d whip up a batch of pattycakes (never called pancakes) faster than anyone I’ve ever seen and they were always delicious. Her corn-bread likewise. She liked to make sure her meat was done, which really means black! She made phenomenally good pie crust and every once in a while she’d make us light-rolls. Divine!!! [I broke off here and never finished these ramblings, but they were on my mind the day mom died.]

How odd

to think that this coming Sunday will mark the 13th year since my mother's passing. Can it have been that long already? Amazing.

She was such a wonderful woman and I miss her very much. One of the sadnesses of being born to a woman of 43 and a man of 40 is that you have every chance of growing up without your parents. My father was gone when I was but 19. My mother lasted a bit longer, but Alzheimer's took her from us long before death did.

She was a tease, a true introvert (she really disliked public gatherings, probably more than I do!), a cross-word puzzle whiz and she loved to do jigsaw puzzles too. She read and delighted in poetry. She was crippled from the age of three by polio and taught us by her silent suffering that we were not to complain of pain or ask for sympathy. She loved her family with a great devotion and she gave us the gift of love - unconditional and constant.

I think with shame of the things we did to her. I remember chasing around Aunt Emma's with the snake George and I killed. She was terrified of them, and she could barely hobble at the best of times, but we made her move with that poor garter snake we killed down in Buzzard's Roost.

Thirteen years. And in that time my children have grown up and known only one grandmother. I wish they could have known the other too. She loved them as babies, and she would have loved them adults. Dearest Mom, God grant you the joy of His presence, the peace of His love!

As Prepared as Prepared Gets

Turkey is still defrosting. The dry ingredients to the dressing are melding flavors in a baggy in the fridge. The cheeses have been cut up. Mushroom caps have been readied for baking. Potatoes are peeled and sitting upon the stove in a pot of water. Pies have all been baked, and also the pumpkin cheesecake. Cocktail sauce for the shrimp is chilling. Floors are mopped, vacuumed, and furniture dusted. Choir is done practicing for Matins tomorrow. Prayers are upon the altar. All is ready to give thanks to God and then to enjoy a wondrous time of friendship and family. As the Psalter teaches us to cry out: "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!"

My "thanks be to God" list this year:

Thanks be to God for the Holy Eucharist!
Thanks be to God for Holy Baptism!
Thanks be to God for the Divine Service!
Thanks be to God for the gift of music!
Thanks be to God for the unspeakable gift of His Son and His Spirit!
Thanks be to God for our parish family!
Thanks be to God for the heartaches and troubles that teach us to turn to Him!
Thanks be to God for friends and acquaintances, including those we get to know on the net!
Thanks be to God for my wife, and each of my children (including Dean)!
Thanks be to God for Jo and Dave, who are like the best "inlaws" in the whole world!
Thanks be to God for all my brothers and sisters: Butch and Bonnie, Sis and Jimmy, Peggy, Maup and Nancy, Deb and Doug, Dee and Keith!
Thanks be to God for nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews - too many to count, but each a precious gift!
Thanks be to God for giving us HIs Sacred Scriptures!
Thanks be to God for the clarity of the Lutheran Symbols!
Thanks be to God for the joy of being together as His family - a foretaste of an eternal "homecoming"!
Thanks be to God for everything and everyone!
Thanks be to God forever!

Mission Accomplished

The candlesticks are from my mother's (Mastin) mother's (Collins) mother's (Sparks) side of the family. They supposedly came from Scotland. Have no idea how old they are, but they are beautiful. The box came from my mother's father's side of the family - and was a wedding gift to Cindi and me from my mother's second cousin, Loretta.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The world needs saints; men who free themselves of self, who love with the divine love. Church leaders are looking for something to save a declining Church. They start all sorts of campaigns, drives, calls of the Cross. And while the Church is deliberating, men's hearts are aching, are hungering for the supernatural, for saints, for glimpses of heaven, for romance. Conferences, synods, arguments, eloquence, committees, campaigns are merely stopping leaks in a weak dam. The world needs saints; it needs the mad vision of saints, which alone can keep us sane, the supernatural vision which will turn the world, which is upside down, back to where God wants it today. -- von Schenk, *The Presence* pp. 126-127

Patristic Quote of the Day

For this is [the righteousness] "of God" when we are justified not by works, (in which case it were necessary that not a spot even should be found,) but by grace, in which case all sin is done away. And this at the same time that it suffers us not to be lifted up, (seeing the whole is the free gift of God,) teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the Law and of works, but this is "the righteousness of God." - St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Corinthians 5:20

20 November 2007

Worth Reading

I'm referring to David Sch├╝tz's reflections on the latest discussions between Rome and the Eastern Churches. You can read here. What David notices particularly is the notion of regional churches. The Reformation implications of this, one would think, would be obvious. How much does this discussion differ from the Lutheran Symbol's willingness to grant a de jure humano primacy to the Bishop of Rome?

Certainly Fine Outward Training

Emily over on Children of God touches a rather sad point about her experience of Lutheranism: the lack of the Eucharistic fast. I confess to being more than a little astonished that something that is praised as "certainly fine outward training" in our Small Catechism has come to be so neglected among us. The Catechism couldn't be clearer that fasting does not render a person "truly worthy and well prepared." Faith alone in our Lord's promise: "for you, for the forgiveness of sins" does that. Yet the Catechism DOES speak highly of fasting precisely as what it is: "a fine outward training."

What does this "outward training" refer to? As usual, if we go to the Large Catechism it can give some help: "Since this treasure is entirely presented in the words, it cannot be received and made ours in any other way than with the heart. Such a gift and eternal treasure cannot be seized with the fist. Fasting, prayer, and other such things may indeed be outward preparations and discipline for children, so that the body may keep and bring itself modestly and reverently to receive Christ's body and blood. Yet the body cannot seize and make its own what is here given in and with the Sacrament. This is done by the faith in the heart, which discerns this treasure and desires it."

Now by mentioning, "for the children" Luther by no means suggests that as adults we give it up! He means that we train the young people that in this way we discipline our bodies to reverence the great gift of the Supper. It is a way of confessing bodily that "all we need is the Eucharist - the very Body and Blood of our Savior, given for our salvation." Coming hungry to the table we remember the Beatitude He once spoke: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."

And yet no amount of calling for the reverent and appropriate use of fasting can ignore the words of our Lord Himself that calls us to eat and to drink His body and blood for our forgiveness. He does not add "you who have kept the fast." His forgiveness is for all and is received by all who approach the Holy Sacrament in true faith. This ought not in any way lead us to neglect the "bodily training," but rather to put it in its place. Our body can use this reminder that the hunger behind all hungers is ultimately the hunger for Christ Himself.

Surely, surely it is possible to exhort our people to the discipline of the flesh without in any way falling into the error of assigning merit to our "fine outward training."

A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

This is one of those gems that sadly did not make it from Lutheran Worship into Lutheran Service Book. Yet, if one is using the order of Matins, as we are, that morning, this makes a fine collect (well, using a rather elastic definition of collect!). As do so many of our great prayers, this one comes to us from the Eastern liturgy, where the priest prays it quietly (fourth of a series of 12 prayers) as the choir is singing the six psalms during Orthros [Matins]. What is sad is that means very few people get to hear and join their amen to these glorious words of praise, thanksgiving and intercession:

O Lord our God, You have commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and You have again brought us to Your house of prayer to praise Your goodness and ask for Your gifts. Accept now in Your endless mercy the sacrifice of our worship and thanksgiving, and grant us those requests which will be wholesome for us. Make us children of the light and of the day and heirs of Your everlasting inheritance. Remember, O Lord, according to the multitude of Your mercies, Your whole Church, all who join with us in prayer, all our sisters and brothers wherever they may be in Your vast kingdom who stand in need of Your help and comfort. Pour out upon them the riches of Your mercy, so that we, redeemed in soul and body and steadfast in faith, may ever praise Your wonderful and holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always through all ages of ages. Amen. (Lutheran Worship, page 195)

On the Elevation

I had a question posed to me from our Church's website about the practice of the elevation, that is lifting up the Lord's body and then genuflecting before it; and then our Lord's blood and genuflecting before it. The young man wanted to know a bit about the origin and meaning of this ceremony. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my answer:

Where the Lutherans continued the elevation it had the meaning of a confession of the real presence of our Lord's body and blood. Dr. Luther spoke of it this way: "We do not want to abolish the elevation because it goes so well with the German Sanctus and signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember him. For just as the sacrament is bodily elevated, yet Christ's body and blood are not seen in it, so he is also remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the Sacrament. In each case he is apprehended only by faith; for we cannot see how Christ gives his body and blood for us and even now daily shows and offers it before God to obtain grace for us." AE 53:82.

The practice was abolished in Wittenberg before Luther's death and he speaks of it differently at different times. Where it really came into force and into its own was in Lutheran Brandenburg, where in the 17th century the prince tried to smuggle in Calvinism. The Lutherans there insisted on the elevation as a vital confession of the real presence of our Lord's Body and Blood and even added some words to the action: "Dear Christian, this is the true body of your Lord, born of Mary, and this is the true blood of Christ, poured out for you upon the cross." This was called the Ostentatio. The Calvinists, of course, screamed bloody murder over the practice.

In our day and age, the elevation with the adoration of the Lord's body and blood, is a fine protest against "receptionism" which would teach that our Lord's almighty words do not effect His presence until the bread and wine are bodily tasted. Rather, the Lutheran Symbols, quoting St. John Chrysostom, speak of our Lord's body resting upon all the altars of Christendom! Thus, we kneel before Him to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, and we confess - as Luther says - that though hidden from our eyes, He is present in His body and blood among us, just as He has promised.

By the way, the practice really isn't ancient, but medieval. It arose in the centuries before the Reformation, where it was regarded as THE high point of the Mass - the moment at which the "sacrifice" was offered to the Father. This explains the Lutheran ambivalence to the practice. If I may put it so, we do not elevate in the Lutheran Church so that the sacrifice is lifted for God to see (Christ presents Himself to the Father ceaselessly as our sacrifice), but so that the people may see, adore, and confess Him who comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine.

Patristic Quote of the Day

In this way the saints are holy and blessed because of the Blessed One who is with them. Through Him they become alive instead of dead, wise instead of unwise, holy, righteous, and sons of God instead of polluted, wicked, and slaves. From themselves and from human nature and effort there is nothing whatever that enables them to be justly so called. Rather, they are holy because of the Holy One, righteous and wise because of the righteous and wise One who abides with them. -- St. Nicholas Cabasilas, *The Life in Christ* p. 138

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If the Christian faith were nothing but a dead adherence to certain mysterious doctrines as true, if a person could have the Christian faith and remain in his sins, then we could understand why many people think it makes no difference whether one's faith is Christian or Jewish or heathen or Turkish. But the true faith, to which the Holy Scripture attributes salvation, is something completely different. This faith has such great power that the person who carries it in his heart is completely changed by it. He becomes a new person, who leads a truly pious life. True faith works what nothing else in the world can work in a person. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 873

19 November 2007

Ah, Preparing for the Thanksgiving Feast

Well, I tried to do a bit of clean-up today but was unsuccessful. The brasso that usually brings up the shine on our old brass candle-sticks and brass box, doesn't seem to want to work. I'm wondering if we need a new can. That stuff has been around for a long time.

The glasses from kitchen light and dining room chandelier are in the dish washer for their holiday shine up.

I've still got some more clean-up chores today, and then the cooking will start in earnest. This year we'll be joined by Dave and Jo (Cindi's mom and dad) and a friend of theirs, plus all the kids (Lauren and Dean are eating here for lunch and then the Herberts for dinner). Everyone will come over just after we sing Matins at St. Paul's - where we will also get to hear our former principal, Richard Rikli, preach for the first time. Matins usually is only about 45 to 50 minutes max, and the service starts at 9 a.m.

What's on the menu? Appetizers: shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers. Main course: Turkey (23 lbs, I believe, and Cindi found a great "fast cook" method for it last year), mashed potatoes (for non-Atkins) and mashed cauliflower (for Atkins), gravy, southern "cornbread" dressing (an experiment to make it Atkins friendly will substitute almond "cornbread" for the usual cornbread - we'll see! No promises on that one!), cranberry sauce, sweet potato souffle, biscuits (non-Atkins), coconut muffins (Atkins again), and what we call "Jenn's Salad" (a great layered salad that we first gobbled up when Jennifer Rethwisch served it). Desserts: Pumpkin pie, cherry pie, chocolate pie, pumpkin cheesecake. Yeah, I think it SHOULD feed 9 people. ;)

Of course there also be coffee, tea, various wines and beer, and soda (ick!). I trust it will be joy-filled feast indeed. Hoping that everyone else also has a great day for singing thanks to Him who supplies us with such an abundance of food and drink, and the good company and family with whom to enjoy those gifts!

Thursday Eucharists

This Advent season, we'll observe the following saints' days during our Thursday Eucharists:

November 29 - St. Andrew, Apostle (transferred)
December 6 - Commemoration of St. Nicholas of Myra, Pastor
December 13 - Commemoration of St. Lucia, Martyr
December 20 - St. Thomas, Apostle (transferred)

After Christmas, we'll observe:

December 27 - St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
January 3 - Commemoration of Blessed Wilhelm Loehe, Pastor (transferred)

After Epiphany, we'll observe:

January 10 - Commemoration of Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, Pastors and Confessors
January 17 - The Confession of St. Peter (transferred)
January 24 - The Conversion of St. Paul (transferred)

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

As Advent Approaches

Remember that Lutheran Service Book Agenda includes a rite for "Blessing of the Advent Wreath" on pp. 309-310 for use on the First Sunday in Advent. It includes these words:

"Beloved in the Lord, as we begin the season of Advent, let this wreath remind us that Jesus Christ came to conquer the darkness of sin and to lead us into the light of His glorious kingdom. As the prophet Isaiah says, 'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.'"

The prayer in the rite includes the petition:

"enkindle in our hearts the fire of Your love that we may receive You with joy and gladness."

Patristic Quote of the Day

By this same means God from the beginning vindicates His laws when they have been violated, in that He punishes him who has broken them by means of pain and suffering. He would not have seen fit to exact this penalty were it not the opposite of the offense and capable of delivering from judgment. This was the method He Himself finally employed against sin when He entered into human nature. Because it was necessary to cast out sin from our nature it was by suffering that He cast it out. - St. Nicolas Cabasilas, *The Life in Christ* p. 202

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ wants to cover our sins, but He also wants to take them away. He wants to clothe us in His righteousness, but He also wants to take shape in us, to be the High Priest who reconciles us with God, and to be the King who rules over and in us. He suffered and died to atone for our sins, but He also rose and ascended into heaven that He might live in us and we in Him and so we might walk in a new life. - C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 888

18 November 2007

Happy to Report

that the preaching of the saving Gospel and a most reverent celebration of the Holy Sacrament is alive and well at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Worden. We worshipped there this morning and were blessed to hear Pastor Curtis' proclamation. It was a blast to have all five Weedons (well, we'll still count that Herberts as an honorary Weedon) sitting together in a pew and making all kinds of harmony. We sat behind the Gilberts (DP of Northern Illinois District and father to Rebekah Curtis; they were in town for a wedding); and they were singing harmony too. So we had our little choir section right out in the nave. :)

17 November 2007

Meet Darius

Pastor Curtis shoots them and names them before stowing them away in the freezer. This one is Darius and he informs us that he'll be on the shelf in the freezer next to Doris. Tell me again why I am friends with this man??? ;)

Well, I WAS

going to write about Pinochle, but my good friend and pinochle partner, Randy Asburry, already did SUCH an outstanding job, that I'll just link you to his posting. :)

16 November 2007

Church Visits

We dropped into the Roman Catholic Church (bet you can't guess its name!), and it was absolutely beautiful. Even though its main altar had been rendered free-standing there seemed precious other little monkey business with the building. The best of old Roman Catholic design, if you take my meaning.

We were unable to get into historic Holy Cross Lutheran Church, but it looked like it had an interesting, if much more humble, interior. Ah well, perhaps next time. It's funny, I couldn't find a sign identifying it as LCMS, but the board outside announced the schedule for "Divine Service" and I told Cindi: "That's LCMS." Funny how "Divine Service" has become an identifying term - the old Gottesdienst made a revival under LW and now LSB.

Jewel-T and Bayberry

On our little jaunt down to Ste. Genevieve, we shopped the historic district. It was fun looking at all the antiques and such. In one store I noticed some dishes with a distinctive pattern. I exclaimed to Cindi that WE used to have those and that they came from Jewel-T, and the old lady who was in the shop said her mother had bought them off the truck years ago. I said "My mother had bought them from Jewel-T too." Weird to think of that lady's mother and my mother buying the same stuff - I mean, this lady was OLD. The more I thought about it, the less I liked its implications. No rude comments, please.

As we were wandering the streets, we found a candle store that had some bayberry scented candles. We've noticed they are harder and harder to find. We picked some up. To me that is THE way a candle should smell - my mother (of blessed memory) always had bayberry candles in the house. She loved the scent too, and so it always is to me the smell of the holidays at home. Give me that combined with the pungent scent of a cedar Christmas tree and I can close my eyes and hear all the old voices again. Isn't it odd how smell does that for faster than any other sense?

Ste. Genevieve Trip

Lauren and Dean had given us a night's stay at a bed and breakfast. We chose to visit Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. We stayed at "Somewhere Inn Time" owned and operated by Gary and Mary Scheel. Nice place to stay! We toured the town and enjoyed the local wineries. Here are some pics: the place we stayed; the high water marks of various floods, and 1993 is at the top - no surprise there; and some scenes from the Cave Winery.

15 November 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Even in death the Church does not lose its members. Instead, in death, each of its members is recognized as one who cannot be lost eternally. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 861

Patristic Quote of the Day

These are therefore the effects of Baptism: to set free from sins, to reconcile man to God, to make man one with God, to open the eyes that souls might perceive the divine ray - in sum, to prepare for the life to come. -- St. Nicholas Cabasilas, *The Life in Christ*

14 November 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Death cannot separate the members of the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church on earth knows of no separation from the Church beyond the grave. What is this bond of union? Why, the Communion. At the Altar we link ourselves with the saints. Here we are caught up with them. The Blessed Sacrament is the link that binds us with our risen and ascended Lord, and the whole company of Heaven. Here at the Altar I get a glimpse of the saints. Here I am united with them, and here heaven is made real to me as my faith is nourished. -- von Schenk, *The Presence* p. 127

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is the Father who is reconciled, the Son who reconciles, while the Holy Spirit is bestowed as a gift on those who have become friends. --St. Nicholas Cabasilas, *The Life in Christ* p. 74

I Am Honored Indeed

I've just been invited to be the speaker for the St. John Chrysostom Lutheran Preacher's Retreat up in Canada in June. That will make for a full June! We'll be out East to visit with family, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Redeemer Lutheran in Burlington NC (where I first served) and then a week at the beach in NC, and then back to St. Louis in time to head out to Canada for three days. Ah, but what a way to wrap up vacation: praying the office with the brothers, and thinking together about the noble task and the joys of bringing the best news the world could ever hear into the ears of poor sinners!

Earlier in the year I'll be doing two other seminars: one for a circuit in Colorado on the liturgy (February) and one in Kansas at Pastor Brockman's church, Christ Lutheran, in Hutchinson.

Have I ever told you how much I hate flying???

13 November 2007

I am convinced

that no one will ever understand Lutheran liturgy who forgets the central role the Lutheran chorale plays in Lutheran liturgical thinking.

I am thinking particularly of how it is the chorale "Wake, Awake" that sets the tone for the liturgy in the Lutheran Church for the Last Sunday of the Church year in a way that only touches upon the Gospel reading (Ten Virgins) but transforms it into a message of utter joy.


Darcy stopped by to practice on Cindi's back tonight (working on becoming a massage therapist) and she dropped off for me some Caefael to watch. I'm psyched. I LOVE Cadfael and the way Ellis Peters can bring the monastic world to life (even if she makes the Welsh Cadfael a tad too modern for my likings). Jacoby never seemed the right "look" for a Welshman, but boy, oh, boy can he act. I'm hoping to watch all four on vacation.

Christmas Shopping? Done.

Bwahaha! I love being organized! :)

Jo (my mother in law) and I headed out shopping today. We left at 9:30 and didn't get back till after 3. We had a very successful trip. We ended up crossing the river and shopping in St. Louis. She got a few things she has been looking for and I basically finished my Christmas shopping - thanks to her input. I'm going to make it a tradition to bring her along each year - she really helped! We lunched at Olympia's - my favorite Greek restaurant in St. Louis. She tried their spanikopita and I munched on saganaki, flamed right there at the table. Opah! I am so thankful to have the shopping taken care of before the madness breaks loose after Thanksgiving. Just stocking stuffers left to tend to and for that, there's always Wallyworld.

Objective #1 for vacation: checked off.

12 November 2007

My Sister-in-law reminded Me...

...that our Orthodox sisters and brothers have already [note: she corrected me - I need to read more carefully - are preparing to enter - November 15] entered the Nativity Fast. This begins for Western Christians only after the first Sunday in Advent (December 2nd this year). But it is very good to think through the fast ahead of time and to fight (yes, it will be a fight) against the annual cultural pigfest that starts on Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas in our culture. In Western tradition, the fast is observed on Wednesdays and Fridays of Advent, with eating only 1.5 meals on those days, and additionally refraining from flesh meats and wine on Fridays. Also, during Advent, the winter ember days fall, which (I believe) will be Dec. 19, 21, and 22nd this year. These are all days traditionally observed by fasting (1.5 meals) and abstinence (no flesh meats or wine). Although the Advent fast is nowhere near as popular as the Lenten fast, it is still a beautiful practice to train our flesh in "denying fleshly passions" and training ourselves to be ready for the joyous Advent of our Lord Jesus.

In summary, that would mean eating 1.5 meals on Dec. 5 and 7, 12 and 14, 19, 21, and 22; and on the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st and 22nd, refraining from all flesh meats and wine. As Lutherans we remember that this fasting is not something done to curry favor with God (favor already freely granted us in His Son), but something we may freely join in doing to help subjugate our sinful flesh and teach it that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

You know, I DO like St. Paul Sausage...

...and I like it a lot, but I am still flabbergasted that former Vicar and now Pastor Karl Gregory drove down from South Dakota today to pick up his order of sausage. Amazing.

But it was delightful to see him. I miss the times that Karl, Nancy, Cindi and I got to sing for church. We sang together "E'en So" by Manz and also the beautiful Easter hymn "The Angel Cried to the Lady Full of Grace." The Gregorys were so much fun to sing with.

Karl told me today that they've got another grandchild on the way - this time from his son's wife. He's serving a couple vacancies now. May the Lord grant them a full-time call soon!

Ah, Music!

Wow. Tonight went to first rehearsal of Collinsville Chorale's Christmas Concert (to be performed in Holy Cross Lutheran Church). Andy, the choir's director, commented to me during tryouts that he was surprised I had time for it (he remembered that Cindi's hubby was a pastor) during Advent and Christmas. I shared that I didn't really, but that I needed it. He said he knew exactly what I meant and that HE felt the need to be singing too (he's a fabulous conductor). As the music soared tonight - and let me tell you, Andy keeps the pace moving - it was like coming back to life again. It brought back all the great memories - singing in Lincoln Center with our choir from Concordia Bronxville, tours, chancel choir at the Sem and community chorus in Greensborough, NC under Bill Carroll. Yes, it's a sacrifice to give up the Monday nights but boy, oh, boy did I need it. I am positively itching to practice all the pieces for the concert. I'd love to walk in there next week with every note under my belt. We'll see! And silly as it may seem, I was nervous of the audition. I have sung in choirs and choruses before, but I still remember in Junior High School some folks making fun of me for missing the pitch on a song. And THAT is what makes me nervous about singing to this day: am I screwing up totally and not hearing it? At Church I've almost overcome the fear, but when I'm with a group and doing parts work, it comes back. In spades. Ah well, I'll just practice that much harder to make sure I'm NOT screwing up - and if I am, I think Andy will not hesitate to tell me.

The Perfect November Day

The rain striking the window, the last of the leaves being washed out of the trees, gray and drear, a candle burning and the sound of Christmas music (I listen to it year around, I'm afraid). No one home but me and Lucy (and she sound asleep, curled up on the couch). This is November as it should be.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

How completely different is the wealth of the Church, which possesses glorious things that are preached in it and believed by it. It has a gracious God and Savior, forgiveness of all its sins, a peaceful conscience, the hope of eternal life, heavenly comfort in all its earthly distress, and true joy of the heart. The Church does not seek happiness, like the world, for it already has it. Even the poorest member of the Church knows he is richer than all the kings of the earth, and therefore he does not exchange his earthly want for all of the world's wealth, his lowliness for all the world's grandeur, and his suffering for all the world's joy. - C.F.W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 858

Patristic Quote of the Day

O unspeakable kindness! Not only does He love so greatly, but also He so highly esteems being loved by us that He does everything for the sake of this! What was the reason that He created heaven and earth, the sun and the visible world, and the beauty of the unseen world, and caused them to exist by His mere divine command? Does He not teach us the whole philosophy which derives therefrom in order that He may turn us to Himself and persuade us to love Him? -- *The Life in Christ* St. Nicholas Cabasilas

Totally Sweet!

Former vicar and now Pastor Charles Lehmann pointed me toward this unbelievable site:


Check this puppy out and enjoy YOUR music YOUR way.