31 March 2009

As We Prepare

to enter Holy Week, I want especially to commend attention to the extra OT readings mentioned in the Treasury of Daily Prayer, which are from Lamentations. These laments juxtaposed with the events of this week are a spiritual treasure trove.

A Little Luther

Priest is a strong and lovely word. There is no lovelier or sweeter name on earth. It is much better to hear that Christ is called 'Priest,' than Lord, or any other name. Priesthood is a spiritual power which means no other than that the priest steps forth, and takes all the iniquities of the people upon himself as though they were his very own. He intercedes with God for them and receives from Him the Word with which he can comfort and help the people.... He offered Himself once for all, so that He is Himself both Priest and Sacrifice and the Altar is the Cross. No more precious sacrifice could He offer to God than He gave Himself to be slain and consumed in the fire of love. That is the true sacrifice. -- Exposition of Genesis XIV (Day by Day, p. 151)

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the blessed Cyprian also understands this in this manner, inasmuch as, in his exposition of the same prayer, he says: "We say, 'Hallowed be Your name,' not that we wish for God that He may be hallowed by our prayers, but that we ask of God that His name may be hallowed in us. But by whom is God hallowed; since He Himself hallows? Well, because He said, 'Be holy, since I also am holy;' we ask and entreat that we who have been hallowed in baptism may persevere in that which we have begun to be." Behold the most glorious martyr is of this opinion, that what in these words Christ's faithful people are daily asking is, that they may persevere in that which they have begun to be. And no one need doubt, but that whosoever prays from the Lord that he may persevere in good, confesses thereby that such perseverance is His gift. -- St. Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace, II:10

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

What is Calvary? That God Himself was torn and mangled and battered and bleeding to bring me back to Him. Calvary is Love, which is the only force that bring back this prodigal world. -- Be. Von Schenk, *The Presence* p. 88

Matins Thoughts

Praying the Venite before the image of the Crucified Lord brings the whole of the faith into focus. To say before the Crucified: "O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation... The sea is His for He made it and His hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker."

Also in singing Benedictus, that St. John the Baptist giving knowledge of salvation to God's people in the forgiveness of their sins, that perhaps it should be capitalized: "in the Forgiveness of their sins." For that is who Jesus is as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; He IS Forgiveness. Also, is the reference to "light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death" meaning the harrowing of hell?

Passion (Palm) Sunday Words

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the Son of David. Let us pray, Most merciful God, as the people of Jerusalem, with palms in their hands, gathered to greet Your dearly beloved Son... Let us go forth in peace in the name of the Lord... All glory, laud and honor To You, Redeemer King, To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring. To You before Your Passion They sang their hymns of praise, To You now high exalted, Our melody we raise... [Silence]... Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection... Have this mind among yourselves... His blood be on us and on our children... Go forth, my Son, the Father said, and free my children from their dread of guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, but by Your passion they will share the fruit of Your salvation... Who accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross, that where death rose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome... No tramp of solider's marching feet with banners and with drums, no sound of music's marshal beat, the King of glory comes... Ride on, ride on in majesty, the angel armies of the sky look down with sad and wondering eye to see the approaching Sacrifice. Ride on, ride on in majesty, Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh, The Father on His sapphire throne Awaits His own Anointed Son.

30 March 2009

We Sing the Praise

We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross,
The sinner's hope let all deride.
For this we count the world but loss.

Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters "God is love."
He bears our sins upon the tree,
He brings us mercy from above.

The cross! It takes our guilt away;
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day
And sweetens ev'ry bitter cup.

It makes the coward spirit brave
And nerves the feeble arm for fight;
It takes the terror from the grave
And gilds the bed of death with light;

The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love,
The sinner's refuge here below,
The angels' theme in heav'n above.

To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevemore.
LSB 429

Neglected Rubrics for Passion Sunday

from Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, page 501

4. During the silence before the Collect of the Day, the crosses may be veiled.

6. If the full passion narrative is read, other portions of the Service of the Word may be omitted, such as the Old Testament Reading, the Psalm of the Day or the Gradual, and the Creed. The sermon may also be abbreviated.

7. In order to assist the congregation better to hear the lengthy passion reading, the narrative may be divided into sections. Appropriate hymn stanzas or choral music may be inserted between some or all of the divisions. A fitting hymn introduction to the passion reading is stanza 1 of "Jesus, I Will Ponder Now" (Hymn 440).

8. To assist the congregation further, the Gospel narrative may be read by several readers. Suggestions for the division of parts are provided in the Appendix to this service. [Weedon's note: historic practice is the second option - three readers; this was traditionally chanted and the so-called "Gospel tone" that we use to chant the Verba was of a piece with the traditional chant formula.]

Now this is FAST Bread

In a bowl mix 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 cup of almond flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, some cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and 4 packets of splenda, a tsp of vanilla extract and splash of cinnamon davinci syrup. Stir till clumps are gone. Pour into two greased bowls. Microwave for 2 minutes. Split in half, butter and enjoy!

You can make a savory version by dumping those spices and cutting the splenda to a single packet and stirring in some Parmesan cheese and garlic powder and a splash or two of Tabasco.

I love almond flour...

The Pastoral Element

is never far beneath the surface of the Lutheran Symbols. This is so beautifully driven home in many places, but today I noted it especially in Article XI:91

"If anyone presents the teaching about God's gracious election in such a way that troubled Christians cannot get comfort out of it, but are pushed to despair; or if anyone teaches it so that the impenitent are confirmed in their sinfulness, then it is undoubtedly sure and true that such a doctrine is not taught according to God's Word and will."

The concern is not that it "makes sense" logically; but that it "makes sense" pastorally. The goal of this doctrine as of every doctrine is to keep the Christian in repentance (godly fear) and in faith (trust in God's mercy that comforts the heart). May God grant it!

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord must be apprehended,— as that by which alone men are delivered from evil, and without which they do absolutely no good thing, whether in thought, or will and affection, or in action; not only in order that they may know, by the manifestation of that grace, what should be done, but moreover in order that, by its enabling, they may do with love what they know. -- St. Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace, II.3

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

By the cross, however, all sin is swept up and placed on a hill beyond Jerusalem... Here totals meet... All sin, total sin; and all forgiveness, total forgiveness... The sum of man's years and man's shame and the greater sum of God's forgiveness and God's love... A religion without forgiveness is only the ghost of a religion which haunts the graves of dead faith and lost hope... No wisdom, no culture, no philosophy can give answer to the first need of man, the need of a hand so strong that it can break down the wall of separation between the two worlds in which we must live and the need of a heart so great it can take all sins into itself and still have room for forgiveness... -- O.P. Kretzmann, *The Pilgrim* p. 44,45

Nah, he's not dingy...

...just because Cindi walked in and said: "Why is David's car in my spot and why is it running?"

I've only been home for about 1/2 hour, so I really don't know how long he's had it sit there wasting gas.

Silly boy.

Need a Bit of Help with Your Exercise Plan?

Are you ever in luck if you happen to live in the St. Louis area. You just need to check out this:

Your Gateway to Results

It's a new company run by one of my members, Kevin Reiseck. For Christmas this year I gave Cindi five workout sessions with Kevin - she swears by him! I think her favorite was the day when he said: "Today you're going to hate me. I'm going to bust your butt." And he did too! She was in agony. It was great! So if you're local and looking for that boost up with your exercise or diet plan, check out Kevin. You'll be glad you did! (Oh, and David made the logo for the company!).


Note that Cyberbrethren, Pr. McCain's blog, has moved. It's new location is:


29 March 2009

Try it!

Spray a glass plate with Pam. Slice up some cheddar cheese (about six pieces or so - enough to lay around the rim of the plate). Microwave on high for 2 and a half minutes. Take out and gently loosen from plate. Let cool. Break into pieces. Eat plain or use to hold dip (crab dip is very good with this)!

Tell me that it's not wonderful. Dare you.

[Note: microwave ovens may vary; the key is to make sure that the cheese has hardened; that means it is getting done. It will totally crisp up after you let it cool a bit]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The key to receiving Christ's Gospel is a change in the corrupt heart. Whoever wants to accept that Gospel regards his own wisdom as foolishness and his own righteousness as a filthy garment. He gives God alone the glory in everything and becomes a fool before the world. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 313

Patristic Quote of the Day

Who ever saw a bridegroom sacrificed at the marriage supper, or brides eating their betrothed? The Son of God has done a new thing in the world, which no man ever did but He alone. His Body and His Blood He has set forth at the feast before them that sit at table, that they may eat of Him, and live with Him without end. Meat and drink is our Lord at His marriage supper: blessed is He who has given us His Body and Blood, that in Him we may delight. -- Jacob of Serug, A Homily upon the Supper

Matthew Michael

was brought today into Christ's kingdom via the waters of Holy Baptism. What joy for us to see that little one joined to the fruits of Christ's Passion as we enter Passiontide! For his whole life, now, he will be marked with the sign of the Holy Cross and claimed by the Savior as His own little lamb, to whom eternal life has been given. Glory to You, Lord Jesus, for baptismal grace!

28 March 2009

Upcoming Holy Days Schedule - St. Paul's, Hamel

Here's what we have scheduled at St. Paul's:

April 5 - Palm Sunday
Matins with Examination of Catechumens - 7:45
Reception for Catechumens - 9:00
Divine Service with Rite of Confirmation - 10:00

April 6 - Holy Monday
Divine Service (spoken) - 7:00 a.m.

April 7 - Holy Tuesday
Divine Service (spoken) - 7:00 a.m.

April 8 - Holy Wednesday
Divine Service (spoken) - 7:00 a.m.

April 9 - Holy (Maundy) Thursday
Divine Service with stripping of altar (sung) - 7:15 p.m.

April 10 - Good Friday
Chief Service - Noon
Tenebrae Vespers - 7:15 p.m.

April 11 - Holy Saturday
GREAT VIGIL OF EASTER (with Adult Confirmations) - 8 p.m.

April 12 - The Resurrection of Our Lord
Matins - 6:30 a.m.
Easter Breakfast - 7:30 a.m.
Easter Egg Hunt - 8:00 a.m.
Preservice Music - 8:30 a.m.
Divine Service for the Resurrection - 9:00 a.m.

I'll be on vacation after Easter Divine Service, but Pastor Gleason will be on call for anything that comes up during that week, and he will also preside for Easter 2 - Quasimodo Geniti Sunday.

The Last Catechism Vespers

of this season will be tomorrow afternoon - hard to believe that we've reached that point already! We won't pick up with them again until the Sunday after Labor Day. I confess that I am looking forward to Sunday duties being over after Late Service, thus allowing more family time on that day. Still, I know it doesn't take long before I'm itching to teach Catechism again.

A Prayer Before Communion

Know, O Lord my God, I am unworthy that You should enter beneath the roof of the temple of my soul, because it is all empty and dead. There is in me no worthy place where You may lay Your head. But since from Your loftiness You humbled Yourself for our sake, please humble Yourself now toward my humility. And as it seemed good to You to lie down in the cavern and in the manger of dumb beasts, so also now graciously lie in the manger of my dumb soul, and enter into my defiled body. Just as You did not refuse to enter into the house of Simon the leper, and there to sit at meal with sinners, so also graciously enter into the house of my humble soul, which is leprous and sinful. Just as You did not feel loathing for the polluted lips of a sinful woman who kissed Your feet, so also do not loathe my even more defiled and polluted lips and unclean tongue. Amen. -- of St. John Chrysostom, Treasury, p. 1441


Some pics from our Evening of Theological Reflection at the Taproom in St. Louis - the Irish Ale was outstanding! Present were Pr. Gregory Schultz, Pr. Timothy Landskroener and his dear wife Kathy (don't bring her any snakes, please!), Pr. Timothy Hahn, Pr. Charles Henrickson, Seminarian Dean Herberts and wife Lauren, and Cindi and I. [And note, Lauren and Dean I said not one word about how long it took you to travel from Richmond Heights to downtown...]

Patristic Quote of the Day

In every possible way God shows that He is a merciful Giver of gifts; He bestows upon us His love and shows us His kindness. And this is why He will not answer even one inappropriate prayer if its fulfillment would bring us death and ruin.--St. Ephraim, the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #133

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

How blessed is the state of those who have finally gone home out of the vale of tears into the eternal house of the Father! Through death, they have entered into life, for there is no longer any death or sickness and their crying has ceased forever. There, no one is humbled by age; instead, there exists an eternal youth. No one groans on a sickbed. No one stands mourning at a coffin of a loved one since there is no longer any separation. Poverty, scarcity, and hunger are things of the past; all who dwell in God's house hold the key to His inexhaustible treasury. There, no icy winters and cold nights intrude; they are replaced by the eternal spring of heaven.-- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 311

Those Additional Chapters

Yesterday's reading from the Treasury in Genesis noted that one could add chapters 48-49:28. I confess that often I have not generally read the extra chapter(s) indicated, but this time I really missed the Messianic prophesy in Genesis 49 about Judah. I just read through them this morning. Very good stuff there. I think I need to make this a habit - to read the additional readings wherever indicated, for with our gracious Lord there's always more. His gifts never end.

27 March 2009

My Rib

So, we're enjoying lunch (breakfast, actually) at a local restaurant (our Friday treat), and Cindi says:

"Oh, and we need to stop by Green Earth."

"What for?"

"I need to buy another vanilla bean."

"A vanilla bean?"


"Just one???"

"Yes. Do you know how big they are? And they cost $3.00 a piece."

"But why do you need a vanilla bean?"

"I'm making vanilla."

"You are?"

"Yes. Read about it on Cheapskate Website. You take the bean and put in some vodka...."

"You bought vodka?"

"Yes, it's in the cabinet. You put the bean in the vodka and shake it every once in a while and leave it for a month."

She showed me when we got home. It's making a LOT of vanilla and it smells wonderful. And it only cost a cheap bottle of vodka and $6.00 for two vanilla beans. I mean, it makes A LOT.

She never ceases to me amaze me with the stuff she comes up with!

Utterly SWEET!

Pr. Kinnaman reveals that recording of the music for TSP's services will soon be released. This is not a big deal for those who read music, but I've had several people ask me where they can get a recording to learn it. Now we know.

HT: Pr. Heinz

On Discipline

There are those who would suggest that disciplines are a form of legalism; I have to heartily disagree. Discipline, at least as I have experienced in my life, is rather the condition in which freedom becomes possible. Let me explain.

My lazy body does not wish to exercise. Never has and I suspect it never will. But when the body's desire is over-ruled and I force it three times a week to do what it does not want to do, I suddenly see that I am free and no longer in bondage to my body's inherent laziness.

My heart does not wish to pray. Not as it should, and my mind can always come up with other things that I need to be doing instead. But when the heart or mind is told: Hush, now is the time of prayer, and I follow the discipline of daily matins and vespers, I find myself free again. Freed through the Word that is heard and free to pray, even when I don't feel like it - and just like the exercise, when it is done, I find that I ended up feeling like it a great deal!

My palate never thinks that a single glass of wine is sufficient. Hasn't done so for a long time. I'd like two or three. But when that desire for more is overruled and the thirst is told: this much you get, no more, I suddenly find myself free again. I didn't HAVE to have those extra glasses at all.

I have no idea if this makes any sense to anyone else, but to me in my life disciplines have been anything but legalisms. I don't pretend for an instant that they make me more pleasing to God - how can anyone be more pleasing to God than one already is through the self-oblation of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, our Eternal High Priest? Instead, I see that these disciplines have freed me from behaviors that used to trap me and hold me in bondage. This holds in so many areas of life that I can't even begin to enumerate them all.

My plea: do not mistake disciplines for legalism and leading to bondage. In fact, they lead to the opposite.

Patristic Quote of the Day

In behalf of this grace let us glorify the Father, who has given His only begotten Son for the life of the world. Let us glorify the Holy Spirit that works in us, and quickens us, and furnishes the gifts meet for the fellowship of God; and let us not intermeddle with the word of the Gospel by lifeless disputations, scattering about endless questionings and logomachies, and making a hard thing of the gentle and simple word of faith; but rather let us work the work of faith, let us love peace, let us exhibit concord, let us preserve unity, let us cultivate love, with which God is well pleased. -- St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Twelve Topics

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Christian faith would have died long ago if a miracle had no repeated itself - a miracle which remains just as great and incomprehensible as it was 1,900 years ago... The miracle is that a human soul in the face of death, loaded down with guilt which it can never make good, finds rest and immortality in an Eternal High Priest who loved the dying world even unto death... This is the one unshakable foundation for our faith in immortality and eternity... -- O. P. Kretzmann, *The Pilgrim* p. 106

26 March 2009

Homily upon Judica

[Genesis 22:1-14 / Hebrews 9:11-15 / John 8:46-59]

I think it amazes us that Abraham would actually be ready to do it. We wonder: “how did he know it was God and not the devil telling him to sacrifice his son?”

God did communicate with Abraham in a way that we cannot fathom. He knew that it was the same voice that called him from Ur of the Chaldees, the same voice that promised him a child, the same voice that told him he would have offspring as numerous as the stars and the sand and that through his seed blessing would come upon all families of the earth – it was that same voice that told him now to take the child of his old age, and to give him back to God – a sacrifice.

There are hints in the first reading today, that Abraham’s faith in God’s promise was not shaken by this demand for sacrifice. After all, he told the servants: “You stay here. The boy and I will go over there and worship, and we will come back to you.” The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham simply believed that God’s promise would come true, no matter what. So if Isaac had to be killed, well, God would have to raise Isaac from the dead in order to keep His promises, for God, who does not lie, had clearly identified Isaac as the child of promise. Such was the faith of Abraham. We rightly stand amazed at it.

But if Abraham’s actions are amazing, doesn’t it trouble us that God should ask such a thing in the first place? It seems so cruel, doesn’t it? We are very quick to think that God would never ask us to sacrifice anything we truly cared about. What good is a God who asks you to give up stuff? We want a God who will give us what we want when we want it. A vending machine God, if you will. But that’s not the God that Abraham had, nor is that the living God. The living God can and does make demands upon His people, and sometimes He asks them to give up what is most dear to them, and it just about tears them to pieces. You can go one of two ways then. You can either say to God: You are ogre and I hate you and I want nothing to do with you ever again. Or, you can say: I don’t understand, I don’t understand at all, Father, but this much is true and certain. You will for me and for mine only good, and I believe that in the end I will even be able to see this as good, which now appears anything but. Holy Father, I believe, but help thou mine unbelief.

I find it fascinating that Scripture nowhere lets us in on what Abraham was thinking about God’s command here. We are not told anything about it. But I can’t help but wonder if the heart-break and agony that Abraham endured, and that Isaac must have felt too, when his father bound him and laid him on the wood, were not terribly important.

Scripture does call Abraham a friend of God, and a friend is someone who can empathize with you, who can know a bit of what you’re going through, who cares. Is Abraham called the friend of God because at the sacrifice of his beloved son he tasted something of what God would go through?

“Take your son, your only son, the one named laughter, whom you love, and offer him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will show you.” “Abraham saddled his donkey.” “Abraham took the wood for the offering and laid it on his son.” “Abraham bound his son to the wood.” “Abraham lifted his knife to slay his son.”

How can we not think of the Lord Jesus, whom the Father from heaven called “my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased”? How can we not think of the donkey and her colt that He rode into Jerusalem? How can we not think of the wood that was laid on him to carry, his very own cross? How can we not think of the binding of his limbs to that tree? How can we not think of the raising of the cross and how this time the Father bade the angels to furl their wings and stand back as the dreadful sacrifice was raised up and offered?

How could God ask such a thing of Abraham? How dare He ask sacrifices of you? Well, He only asked what He Himself was preparing to do. For the day would surely come, the day that Abraham foresaw, when the Lamb of God would stand a man among men. The day would surely come, the day that Abraham foresaw, when all we, who like sheep had gone astray, would discover that on Him the Father has laid the sins of us all. (Is 53:6). And that is why it was a day that Abraham rejoiced to see, that he saw it and was glad. For Abraham saw that this is the measure of the Father’s immeasurable love for this fallen race of men, for him and for Isaac, for Sarah and for Ishmael, for you and for me, that He would send His Son to be the Lamb, our Lamb. That He would die that we might live. That He live again that we might never die.

The writer to the Hebrews described what happened when the Lamb offered Himself upon the cross. In a collision of Old Testament imagery, the Great High Priest actually enters into the heavenly holy of holies, but not with the blood of some other, but with His own blood. He brings the sacrifice of Himself. He does the whole salvation, and so it is certain and for sure. He obtained an eternal redemption that those who are called may obtain the promised eternal inheritance.

“Before Abraham was,” says Jesus “I am.” They were ready to kill him for that. He was unmistakably laying claim to being Yahweh. It was as though He said: Yes, I am the one who called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. Yes, I am the one who made him the promises. Yes, I am the one who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. Yes, I am the one who led the children out of their bondage. Yes, I am the one who fed them with manna from on high. Yes, I am the one who drove out the nations and gave them an inheritance. Yes, I am that one. But now I’ve come among you to do something far greater than anything I’ve ever done before. For I’ve come to BE your Lamb, to be offered in your place. Do you see how much I love you? Can you keep from rejoicing then with Abraham when you see my day?”

The God who asked of Abraham the unthinkable, is the God who came to do the unthinkable Himself. He goes right on being your Lamb, just as you sing to Him when you come to the table. His Body and Blood there are unquestionably “for you.” And so He is “for you.” That can be a priceless comfort, especially when the sacrifices he asks of you are great. Amen.

On Ritual

Not THAT kind of ritual. Ritual in drinking. I know there are people who thrive on variety. Me? I thrive on sameness.

Ordinarily, the day begins with a pot of coffee, enjoyed with Matins and surfing the web or dealing with email. The grinder goes off at 6 and the coffee is hot and ready to go by the time I wander into the kitchen.

Come mid-morning and throughout the afternoon, it's tea time. We have a coffee maker we use for nothing but hot water, and we go through several pots of hot water a day. I usually alternate between Irish Breakfast and Green Tea - my two favorites. Though I do enjoy Darjeeling, which is Pastor Gleason's favorite.

Lunch and dinner invariably feature drinking large amounts of water.

Sometimes in the afternoon or evening, I'll make up a second round of coffee using the french press - which only makes about 2 and half cups.

I keep my eye on the clock for 7 p.m. That's when I get to enjoy my glass of wine. I've been sampling a variety of "Two Buck Chuck" vintages, and they've all been good, but to my Philistine palate the Franzia in the box is in the same league.

A day spent quietly at home, reading, praying, studying, writing - and punctuated by the arrival of the different beverages is my "perfect day."

So, now you know how boring my life is...but I like it that way!

Warning: Computer Stuff

I have definitely decided: the iPhone is amazing. The whole "smart phone" concept took a lot of selling for me, because I really just wanted a phone to be, well, a phone. But I didn't have the first clue about how absolutely useful it would to have the rest of the features all in the same device. Keeping organized has never been so easy! Most useful for forgetful me is that little ding going off to let me know about a meeting or appointment (that, of course, I'd forgotten all about). It's my camera, my alarm clock, my calendar, my entertainment (Wurdle, anyone?), my contact manager, my calculator, my email reader (in a pinch), my text messager (usually from family), my iPod (which I use mostly when working out) and yes, my phone. And all of that inside such a tiny device! It does much more besides, but those are the ones I've been using it for. The $30 extra a month was a bitter pill to swallow, but I think over all it has very worth while.

And I'm absolutely in love my MacBook again - I upped my RAM the other day (and Cindi's on the iBook). WOW. It needed that. I'm at 4 gigs now, and it is flying - even in Parallels. Why do I have to use Parallels, you ask. Only one reason: Lutheran Service Builder. With the publication of the Mac engine for Libronix, I've migrated both Luther's Works and Concordia over to the Mac side and the program has worked flawlessly for me. If only Builder came in a Mac build! Pr. McCain tells me it would be too costly. Sigh. So for the meantime, I've got Parallels up and running and I've basically been able to leave it on constantly - the speed penalty for having it open is entirely gone now. Sweet indeed!

Okay, enough Geeky nonsense. Except for one final word: Apple, you are amazing!

Next Week: Commemoration

This coming Tuesday we will commemorate Joseph, the Patriarch. Quite fitting as we are winding up the Joseph cycle in Genesis at the moment in our daily lectionary. Treasury offers a fine Writing by St. John Chrysostom that you'll not want to miss on page 1288.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The tranquility of the heart is often sustained much sooner and better by silence than by rambling, long-winded defenses. For who can stop all the slanders of the mouth? -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, *An Explanation* p. 1268

Patristic Quote of the Day

O Master, summon me, a captive who is held and bound by his deeds as with chains, for Thou alone knowest how to free those who are bound and how to heal the invisible sores that are known only to Thee Who knowest all mysteries. Show Thy favor and stretch out Thine hand to me. Draw me out of the mire of mine iniquities, O Thou Who dost not rejoice at the destruction of man, and Who dost not turn from those who cry to Thee with tears. -- St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* 19

Petersen on Church

This is a wonderful and classic Petersen - I highly recommend it.

Kyrie, eleison

My sister Deb sent this to me this a.m.:

Plane Crash

Lord, have mercy!

25 March 2009

The longer days

are wonderful. Sunlight is still pouring into the study window and we've already taken our evening collations and are enjoying some tea as we await the time to go to Vespers. I can scarcely believe that we're already at the Fourth Passion Vespers, the Praetorium. Lent is rapidly drawing to its close. A pity. I love these days and treasure them.

Patristic Quote of the Day

By being born he had remade the nature which he had made through creation, because that nature which had been made to propagate life was propagating death. Through the sin of the first man nature received a lethal wound, and what was the beginning of life began to be the origin of death. So this is the rationale for the Nativity, this is what compelled Christ to be born, that the Nativity of the Creator would provide nature with a cure, and nature's healing would bring her children life. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 143, par. 11

A Little Luther for Annunciation

It almost seems as though God is at enmity with the world. Present conditions are so shameful all around us in the world, as God allows murderous mobs and rabble, so much violence and so much misfortune to prevail, so that we might think God is only Lord and God of the angels and that he has forgotten about mankind. But here in our text (Luke 1:26ff) we see that he befriends us humans like no other creatures, in the very closest possible relationship, and in turn, we humans have a closer relationship with God than any other creature. Sun and moon are not as close to us as is God, for he comes to us in our own flesh and blood. God not only rules over us, not only lives in us, but personally became a human being. This is the grace we celebrate today, thanking God that he has cleansed our sinful conception and birth through his holy conception and birth, and removed the curse from us and blessed us. (HP III:292,293)

24 March 2009

Have you ever thought

how the story of Judah and Tamar actually heightens the contrast with the story of Joseph's refusal to commit adultery with Potipher's wife? Pity that Treasury skips it. Still, I love the Joseph cycle and all the Christological freight it brings. Great mercy Joseph shows the other brothers because of "Son of my right hand" and so great mercy is likewise shown us through the Son who sits at His right hand!

That we may give thanks

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise.  Psalm 106:47 [Pic from the beautiful sanctuary of St. Stephen's in Milwaukee where Fr. May serves]

Random Thoughts about Internet Conversations...


1. I don't have to agree with you to love you and be kind to you; nor you, me.
2. When another points out my sin, I should listen and consider his words in my heart and thank God for an opportunity for repentance.
3. Explaining my neighbor's actions and words in the kindest way is always in order - did Luther ever say anything better than that explanation to the 8th commandment?
4. Looking for an opportunity to confess Christ is also always in order - it's not about being right or wrong; but about confessing Him who is the Forgiveness of our every sin and the Destruction of death itself for that Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
5. Snarkiness does not become any baptized child of God, but most especially not those who confess the Augsburg Confession.
6. Pride is always a fundamental demonic assault upon that truth confessed in Article IV of the AC.

Reminder: Feast of the Annunciation

St. Paul's will observe the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord tomorrow (Wednesday) morning with the Divine Service at 7 a.m. From tomorrow's Writing in the Treasury (p. 1286, 1287):

Only to Mary the pure virgin did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself in brilliant light, bringing her the glad address, "Hail, you who are highly favored!" And thus she received the Word, and soon, in time, through the body's natural process, she gave birth to the dear Pearl. Come, then, you, too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, "Arise, O Lord, into Your rest, You, and the ark of Your sanctuary." For the holy Virgin is truly an ark, made with gold both within and without, who has received the whole treasury of the Holy of Holies. "Arise, O Lord, into Your rest." Arise, O Lord, out of the bosom of the Father, in order that You may raise up the fallen race of the first man. (St. Gregory Thaumaturgus)

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said.
"My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name!"
Most highly favored Lady, Gloria! (LSB 356:3)

...as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection! (from the Collect)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Judgment Day does not settle to the child of God the question of his forgiveness, or his righteousness in Christ, but it does decide his relative position among the forgiven, as high or low, according to his use of the opportunities God has given him. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 201

Patristic Quote of the Day

For there are three points, as you know, which the catholic Church chiefly maintains against them [the Pelagians].

One of these is, that the grace of God is not given according to our merits; because even every one of the merits of the righteous is God's gift, and is conferred by God's grace.

The second is, that no one lives in this corruptible body, however righteous he may be, without sins of some kind.

The third is, that man is born obnoxious to the first man's sin, and bound by the chain of condemnation, unless the guilt which is contracted by generation be loosed by regeneration. -- St. Augustine, *On Predestination of the Saints* Book II:4

To Rose or to Violet - that is the question

that seems (astonishingly) to have captured some corners of the Lutheran Blogosphere. Being an LSB man myself (that is, one who believes in allowing our official liturgy to put a check on Weedon's own personal preferences), I'd note that it is not a slam dunk either way. For, though the Altar Book ignores the use of rose for Gaudete and Laetare, it IS mentioned as an option in *The Altar Guild Manual* (see page 27).

My brothers, this is truly a "machts nichts" matter. The very manner in which the colors were employed across Church history (including centuries in Lutheran history) is anything but uniform. If your brother uses rose paraments and vestments upon Laetare and Gaudete, rejoice with him - and remember not to call them pink! If your brother retains violet (or in Advent, perhaps blue) paraments upon those days, rejoice with him! Surely THIS is the very definition of an adiaphoron? "And whatever you do in word and deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving glory to God through Him."

23 March 2009

What a Day Brings

Matins + Opening Devotions in school + NT Catechesis on Palm Sunday (5/6 and then 7/8) + Daycare Chapel on Washing the Disciples' Feet + Workout + Double Quarterpounder sans bun at McD with a cup of coffee + Hospital visits in St. Louis to Alexander and Ryton + Home to catch up on correspondence, blogging, and stuff for office + Vespers + Dinner + St. Paul's Early Childhood Learning Center Board + Glass of wine and surfing + BED (as in now - Müde bin ich, geh zu Ruh!).

Craig's List

WHY do we still pay for advertising anymore? I just put up an add for our Daycare/Preschool on Craig's List. I'm curious if it will find any takers. It occurred to me at our board meeting that that is where *I* first look for classifieds - and maybe others in our community do as well. So now St. Paul's Early Childhood and Learning Center featuring both daycare and pre-K is on the list!

From Treasury...

Wasn't today's Writing right on? I loved this:

These things I continually see and feel and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God orders them for my good.

1) They make me abhor myself. 2) They keep me from trusting my heart. 3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness. 4) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus. 5) They press me to pray to God. 6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober. 7) And they provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry me through this world.
-- John Bunyan

If You Don't Agree

with EVERYTHING in the Fathers, then YOU SHOULDN'T QUOTE THEM.

Well, I think that's problematic.

There is NO COMMUNION that agrees with everything in the Fathers. And that's not surprising, is it?

But there is a rather tiresome tendency on the part of some to insist that Lutherans just have no business with them at all, and that when we point out what they say, we are invariably "taking them out of context" - by which they mean more than ignoring the context of a given writing, but instead ignoring the context of the Fathers' lives. The assumption of these folks is that the Fathers were Orthodox or Catholic (in the sense of what those jurisdictions currently teach).

But that is to assume a priori what the very appeal to the Father's writings was intended to examine. When the Lutherans read the Fathers they heard and saw in them things that didn't actually FIT with the teaching and practice of the Roman Church in their day. They found at many points the Fathers could be witnesses to an understanding of the Sacred Scriptures that could correct and help renew the Church, and which they recognized as utterly congruent with the conclusions they had themselves drawn from Scripture.

As a Lutheran I do not grant the premise that "we are NOT the Church of the Fathers." Rather, the exact opposite. We regard St. Augustine as a father in the faith, so too St. John Chrysostom, so too St. Irenaeus, and so on and on. And here's the key: we treat them no differently than we treat Dr. Luther or Dr. Walther. Do we subscribe to everything Luther said about anything? Was he never wrong? No, of course not!

I've been hammered for inviting personal judgment, but I'll risk it yet one more time. Folks, don't buy into the Roman or Orthodox assumption that the Fathers are THEIRS. Do some reading on your own. You'll find some odd things; some things you wonder how they could have thought that; and some things that will delight and amaze you. They are not infallible and they never pretend to be and surprise, surprise! They even tell you to disregard what they say if they don't show you what they teach from the Scripture. Fancy that!

I've personally read from them every day for years; they've done anything but persuade me that the Orthodox and Rome have the corner on them. I think that just as the Lutheran Church is strengthened by learning from them, so too the Roman and Orthodox Christian would be. And all of them will find things that they disagree with, but pondering over what the Fathers pass on is a profitable exercise for any Christian. Sasse: "A Church without patristics is just a sect." Amen!

P.S. If you're Roman or Orthodox, you REALLY don't need to write to tell me how I've got this all wrong. We already know you think that. :)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Even then, when God was reconciled to all men in Christ, He was reconciled to none outside of Christ. All were forgiven in Christ; none were forgiven outside of Christ. That Redemption should be realized, those for whom it was intended had to be brought to such relation to Christ that they could be said to be "in Christ." -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 70

Patristic Quote of the Day

Death, which had been ordered to seize the guilty, presumed to capture the Author of innocence Himself, so that just as the guilt of the human being resulted in death, so innocence would return to the human being. Consequently, having become a transgressor, death would be delivered over to Christ, death to which Adam previously had been delivered over as a result of his transgression. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 72B par. 5

Inspired by Dixie

who did this for the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, I tried out a Wordle of Divine Service III (the Common Service) of the Lutheran Church:

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alt="Wordle: Common Service Wordle"
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22 March 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Every child is born both a child of wrath and a child of grace. It is a child of wrath, since by inheritance its state is that of spiritual death. It is a child of grace, in so far as it has been comprised in the Scheme of Redemption and the love and mercy of God that devised that scheme go forth in efforts for the application to it of Redemption. It remains a child of wrath so far as the efforts of divine grace to aid it are defeated by the persevering resistance of its will. It becomes a child of grace, not only potentially, but in reality, when divine grace overcomes the natural resistance of its will, and it submits to God; the state of regeneration succeeding that of spiritual death. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* pp. 67,78

Patristic Quote of the Day

They who, he says, have been called by faith in Christ unto sonship with God, put off the littleness of their own nature, and adorned with the grace of Him Who honoureth them as with a splendid robe mount up unto dignity above nature: for no longer are they called children of flesh, but rather offspring of God by adoption. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on John 1

Prayers Please

At the end of Catechism Vespers I noticed a phone call I'd missed. Off to the hospital to bring the waters of Baptism to little Alexander Michael. Born in the wee hours of the morning, he was being transferred from Anderson to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital due to difficulties with breathing. Please keep little Alexander Michael and his dad and mom (Mike and Sara) in your prayers.

For a Lad

who failed at being a cub scout and never got to be a weeblo, it was a distinct honor today to be asked to lead the invocation and the benediction at Justin's eagle scout ceremony:

Jesus, Priceless Treasure

Laetare brings "Jesus, Priceless Treasure" as the hymn of the day. It is a text that I can never get enough of. And I never sing it without remembering...

I was a Junior at Concordia Bronxville, and the choir was touring southward. We had a concert at a Lutheran Church in Miami. We spent part of the day at the beach. Maybe that explains it? President Ralph Schultz flew in for the concert that evening. We sang Bach's motet: "Jesus, Priceless Treasure." We'd sung it many times. We had it memorized. No problem. Understand, it is 20 minutes worth of unaccompanied music. The unthinkable happened: we started to slide. It reached a point where the second basses could no longer hit the notes (not even Steve Sill - our LOWEST second bass). Gracious! And there was nothing to do but plough on. The look on Gerry Coleman's face (our conductor) was one of despair - no way to fix it. It was the worst concert we ever gave, I believe...

Still I love the hymn and wish that folks would sing it the way Bach wrote it with those sharp addresses to Satan, Sin, Death, and Fear!

Here's the final stanza:

Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate'er
I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure!

21 March 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is not anything I did which places me in a sorrowful world, with a frail body, a clouded mind, a sad heart, and under subjection to death; it is not what I did, but what I am that subjects me to these, and I am what I am because I spring from Adam, and because he fell. --Krauth, CR p. 413

Patristic Quote of the Day

It [the catholic faith] says to the Pelagians, "The infant that you look upon 'was conceived in iniquity, and in sin its mother nourished it in the womb.' Why, as if in defending it as free from all mischief, do you not permit it to be delivered by mercy? No one is pure from uncleanness, not even the infant whose life is of one day upon the earth. Allow the wretched creatures to receive remission of sins, through Him who alone neither as small nor great could have any sin." -- St. Augustine, Contra Julian, IV:4

Crazy Time

So David's auto was smoking from under the hood. Rich (our friend and mechanic) let us know that it was time to bid farewell to the vehicle; it just wasn't worth repairing. So we spent some time car shopping of late. This morning is the way it should always go: we had an appointment with a friend (and member of St. Paul's), Bob. I had given him our parameters earlier. He showed us what he had. One stood out right away. Appointment was at 9 and by 11:30 we're driving away with David in his "new to him" car: a very sporty looking 2005 Neon with a killer sound system. Only drawback was the burnt orange color, but it actually grows on you. So, God willing, the lad is set for a several years. Bob sternly charged him to change the oil on time - and I reiterated that message (a lesson learned the foolish way, I'm afraid, for me). And the REALLY cool thing? David's car is SOOOOOO much sportier than ours, that I'm just betting Bekah will be pestering him to allow her to drive it to prom. I can hear the wheedling starting already!

20 March 2009

I Like It!

Read this in MacWorld - a way to organize your email. Just use three boxes:


Action includes stuff you need to deal with a.s.a.p.
Filed, stuff you want to keep.
Later, stuff you that may or may not require attention but doesn't need it right this moment.

That's it! The way filters work nowadays you can easily locate an email and so no need for putting a file from X person in X file. I'm going to give it a whirl. Sounds promising!

Okay, I admit it...

...they've only been away since Wednesday, but I miss Cindi and Bekah.  Yes, I am enjoying the relative silence in a house inhabited only by men (David and myself), but I have to confess that a noisy interruption would be welcome now and again - Bekah bursting in with the latest drama - and the sounds of Cindi at work in the kitchen (hey, I told you before about the way to a man's heart...).

For the Unity of the Church

From the Augsburg Confession:  "For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments."  VII:2

Why?  Because the unity of the Church is nothing else and other than the unity which that Gospel and Sacrament effect when through imparting and strengthening saving faith they unite a human being in saving faith to Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit and so to the Father.  The Church is the company of those so united to the Triune God - hence, "die Versammlung aller Gläubigen."

The unity of the Church is not another thing distinct from the unity of all believers with the Triune God; it is one and the same.  No one is part of the Church strictly speaking who is not united by the Spirit's work in saving faith to Jesus Christ and in Him to the Father.  "What we have heard and seen we proclaim to you that you also may have fellowship (koinonia) with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ."  So when our Lord prays for the unity of His Church, He prays:  "that they may be one even as we are one.  I in them, You in Me, that they may become perfectly one." 

What preserves the unity of the Church is that which alone unites in saving faith to the blessed Trinity - the Word of the Gospel preached, the blessed sacraments administered and received.  "I pray for those who believe on me through their Word..." To focus on anything else is to focus on window dressing.

Random Laetare Thoughts

And what would have happened if they had held onto that little chunk of bread and of fish that Jesus handed them? How much would they have had at the end of the day? That little bit. That’s all.

But because they dared to do what He commanded, because they gave away from what they had - and what they never felt to be more more than a handful - they ended up the day not with a handful of bread and fish, but each carrying a basket.

There’s more here than just a lesson to trust in divine providence. Jesus is, instead, opening up to you the very secret of life - real life, His life. It’s not found in keeping and guarding and protecting, building a wall around, you and your stuff. It’s found instead, quite unexpectedly and counter-intuitively, in giving away - stuff, to be sure. But more than stuff, self.

This is the crazy life into which our Lord was calling them - and into which He calls us. The miracle of the loaves and fish is like a living parable of the truth of His words later in John’s Gospel: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (12:24,25)

Give your life away, He dared them, and you’ll be given an abundance of life that you can’t even begin to imagine. Hold onto your life here, and hold it tight, and never let it be taken away, and you’ll end up losing the thing you’re trying to guard.

These are not just words or ideas. These are the key to unlock the miracle of His own life!

That bread in their hand that they gave away - it was a sign of Him. For He is the bread of life, and He came down from heaven to give life to the world and to do by giving His own life away - and thus He brought our human nature into an abundance that could never be imagined before. He has indeed borne much fruit!

Glory to You, self-giving Lord! Glory to You! Grant us the joy of losing our lives that we might truly find them - in You alone.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This sin is something inborn, which is first to be pardoned, then controlled, and finally annihilated by a new birth, by the grace of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit, by the entrance on the glory of heaven, by the mighty power by which a risen Savior is to raise these vile bodies and make them like His own body. -- Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 406

Patristic Quote of the Day

On consideration, your Majesty, of the reason wherefore men have so far gone astray, or that many— alas!— should follow diverse ways of belief concerning the Son of God, the marvel seems to be, not at all that human knowledge has been baffled in dealing with superhuman things, but that it has not submitted to the authority of the Scriptures. -- St. Ambrose, On the Christian Faith, Book IV

19 March 2009

Yesterday Marked

the one year anniversary of what I dubbed the "Holy Tuesday Treachery" - Synod's abrupt and inexplicable cancellation of Issues, Etc. Today I got to do an Issues, Etc. roundtable with fellow Lutheran pastors on Articles VII/VIII of the Augsburg Confession. Like the proverbial phoenix, from the ashes new life has sprung, stronger and bolder than ever in witnessing to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who'd have ever dreamed it? Thanks to everyone who supported Pr. Wilken and Jeff through those most difficult of days. Thanks to everyone who supported them through the silliness of Synod's threats about a lawsuit over the trademark (I think that chapter is over). May Issues, Etc. continue for many a year to strengthen Lutherans in the faith once delivered to the saints. Pr. Wilken and Jeff - we rejoice with you! God bless your service to the Church! Check them out here:

Issues, Etc.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If God did not dwell with the saints in the New Jerusalem, they would not be blessed even in that beautiful heavenly city. This city, with its heavenly splendor and fountains of joy, would be a lonely, bleak house of sorrow. But God will dwell with His saints as a dear Father in the midst of his children, and this make their condition perfectly blessed. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 310

Patristic Quote of the Day

For to those who wish and strive and worthily pray for this result, whatever sins remain in them are daily remitted because we sincerely pray, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12 Whosoever shall deny that this prayer is in this life necessary for every righteous man who knows and does the will of God, except the one Saint of saints, greatly errs, and is utterly incapable of pleasing Him whom he praises. Moreover, if he supposes himself to be such a character, he deceives himself, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 1:8 — for no other reason than that he thinks what is false. -- St. Augustine, *On Merit and the Remission of Sins* Book III:23

Korby Goodies - Thanks to Pr. Tom Fast

"Wood, Hay, Stubble"
by Kenneth F. Korby

Death is not a real foundation for living. Nevertheless, most individuals and civilizations build their lives on avoiding, evading, or postponing death. By a strange and reverse worship, they assert and confess the lordship of death. To them it seems to be the only sure foundation of power. The power to kill is fundamental, and apparently sure. The threat of death is the ultimate fear, and apparently viable.

When hosting the Lord of Life, full God manifest in the vulnerable and weak flesh, the builders of civilizations and religions did what they had to do to insure the edifice they had built. They exercised sure and necessary power to kill Jesus, using the power of God against God!

Death may be painful, but, culturally seen, it is at least sure. Almost. Although the nature of death is such that it dulls its victims, there are still uncertainties. Notes from the underground, as it were, disquiet the illusion that death might be an easy slipping into nothingness. The preludes of the absolute terror and loneliness may be quieted by devices of culture and religion, but some uncertainties remain.

Hence, a rock was put in front of Jesus' grave. It seemed a fundamental guarantee of the finality of the power of civilization and religion to make death sure. But the death of Jesus was not merely the revelation of the mystery of iniquity. It was also the revelation of the mystery of the will of God to destroy death by dying it. Death did not shatter Jesus. Jesus shattered death. Death is not lord. Jesus is Lord. By his death and resurrection from the dead, in a body of glory that cannot die again, Jesus is the foundation for living a life that does not evade death or end up in death, but one that ends in life.

The consequences of this work of Jesus is the building of a new race, a new humanity, the Church. Mortified with him in his cross, vivified with him in his resurrection, this new people is a living, growing organism. Created by the Holy Spirit, she is the carrier and agent of that life-giving spirited word. Even while she lives in the wilderness, pursued by death, she is nurtured and built on the foundation. Living in the midst of cultures and civilizations that are built on the deceit of evading death, she is built in truth with wisdom. Such building activity is a delicate business.

The temptation of the craftsmen who are charged with building her is to use materials that are shoddy and cheap. The Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 3) calls them "wood, hay, stubble." The enticements of the temptation contain the threat and promises of the deceits of civilizations and religions: "You will not die; you will be as gods." The promise is an invitation to mistrust the Lord. The threat is the pressure: if you want to be something, buy our wares. And so, many who build on the foundation advocate proposals with variety and enthusiasm, promising new keys to success, guaranteed formulae for church growth. Renewal is promised through ritual. Effectiveness goes with certain evangelism programs and techniques. Church growth is worked out with scientific and business-like acumen and industry. These things have become as popular as the New Measures of the nineteenth century. Added benefits increase the allurements: there will be effective and influential ministry, authentic and supportive communities. And who, in God's name, can be against these? And then, the best of all worlds: these various building materials will be promoted from a "Lutheran point of view!"

Meanwhile, a hidden, alien catechesis works quietly to shape a different spirit and form, a different content and pattern of life. The Apostle warns against using wood, hay, and stubble, noting these materials are flammable. They are fuel in the fire of judgment and the day of the Lord. The smallest piece of wood will ignite, even if it has been tinkered with! Those who build on the foundation with such materials will indeed escape with their lives, but their work will be consumed and they will be left naked.

The apostolic master-builder suggests "gold, silver and precious stones"--very poor fuel for fire--as the building materials. There is a simplicity about these materials, as there is a simplicity in the way the church is built on the foundation. It is the simplicity of the new life by the Spirit in the water and word of Baptism, or nurturing the life of faith and love on the vitalities of the Lord's Body and Blood, of reordering the relationship of the sinner to God by the word of forgiveness of sins spoken into the ear from the mouth of another. The simplicity of the catechesis is the handing of this word from mouth to ear in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Our Father. The shape and content of the word are the shape and content of the life: repentance, faith, holiness.

The celebration of Easter--with its participation in eating our Passover Lamb--is the call to purge out the influence of malice and wickedness, the call to keep the feast with the simple bread of sincerity and truth.

The Church is God's temple. Those who desecrate her will be desecrated.

18 March 2009

Reminder: Annunciation

Tomorrow is St. Joseph's, and that means that next Wednesday (March 25) we will have joy of celebrating the Annunciation of Our Lord. Divine Service will be at 7 a.m. at St. Paul's. Please join us, if you can! "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your salvation comes'" (Introit).

What Is It

about the Passion Vespers that is so peaceful, so joyous, and yet so full of contrition? We gather, we sing, we listen, we pray. But it's different.

Homily from Yesteryear in Honor of St. Joseph

Tomorrow is the Day of St. Joseph, Guardian of our Lord. Here's a homily to provide some meditation upon this beloved Saint:

He sort of lurks in the background, Joseph does. We know that he’s there, but we tend to forget him. It’s a role fathers are accustomed to at the time of child-birth, and one – truth to tell – that we’re rather comfortable with. After all, the star of the show is the little baby, and if there’s a first-runner-up, it’s the mama. The papa’s joy comes from just standing there in awe and staring at the miracle in front of him.

Of course, for Joseph, it was different. The child wasn’t his. He’d been hurt, of course, dreadfully hurt when he found out that Mary was pregnant. You see, they were betrothed, not married. But in Jewish society of that day, betrothal was so serious that it could be broken only by divorce. And it sure seemed to Joseph that Mary had broken faith with him.

Joseph was a good man. He was torn, as all good men are, over the horrible conflict between justice and pity. His sense of justice wouldn’t let him even consider marrying her. She was just not the sort of person he had been led to believe her to be. She evidently didn’t hold God’s commands in the same high regard that he did, and what kind of a life could be built out of two people who lived by such different values. And yet, in pity, he didn’t want to make a public spectacle out of her. He wasn’t the least bit vindictive; he wouldn’t enjoy abandoning her to public shame. He was just very sad.

And no doubt people were already talking, and given the normal behavior of human beings the obvious answer to Mary’s condition leapt to the mind. Probably there was a good deal of speculation as to who the papa was. Some held out for Joseph. Others said: “That old priss! He wouldn’t touch her until after the ceremony. Trust me, my friend, Mary just couldn’t wait.”

Many were the nights that Joseph lay awake and stared at the ceiling, wondering what to do. Wondering what God’s will was for him in this situation. Asking: “Why me, God? Why have you let this happen to me?” And then it happened. One night after he had finally fallen into a fitful sleep, God answered. You see, there was someone who saw Joseph’s pain and hurt and knew his struggle. There was someone who saw the hurt and fear in Mary’s eyes as well. And that someone in his own time and in his own way did something about it.

It was a dream Joseph had, but as real as could be. The Angel of the Lord stood there, shining and glittering and somehow terrifying in his holiness, and spoke gentle, unbelievable words of comfort. “Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son and you are to give him the name JESUS because he will save his people from their sins.”
And suddenly as the dream had started, it was over. Joseph was wide awake again. But now his eyes were filled with tears and his heart with peace. “Why did I ever doubt her, God? And why did I ever doubt you?” Bet he got out of bed and made himself a pot of coffee or some such and waited impatiently for the light of dawn.

As soon as it was light, he ran out of the house and over to Mary’s parent’s home. When she saw him, saw the look in his eyes, saw the smile on his face, she knew that he knew the truth. At last. Old Elizabeth had shared her secret joy, but no one else up to that point. Now Joseph did. Joseph understood – and that meant the world to Mary. No doubt there were awkward attempts at an apology from Joseph, but Mary just brushed them all away. None of that mattered anymore – now that Joseph knew the secret of what and who was growing in her womb.
“I see his plan now, Mary. I am not to be this baby’s father, but his protector and provider. The protector and provider of the Messiah, Mary! The Promised One, the One whose name is JESUS – who saves his people from their sins. The One promised by Isaiah as God with Us – the Virgin-Born. Oh, Mary! God is so good! How could I have doubted?”

Now please note: the sneers and the knowing looks in Nazareth did not cease. If anything they increased when the people saw that Joseph was determined to stand by Mary. And no doubt, half of the people said: “See, I was right. He is the father.” And the other half said: “See, I was right. He doesn’t have the guts to throw her over even after what she did to him.” But Joseph and Mary were beyond being bothered by such comments and looks. They just looked at each other and smiled. A marvelous secret!

Jesus was the name the angel gave. “Because he will save his people from their sins.” As Mary came nearer to term and the child bulged in her womb, Joseph would place his hand on her tummy and feel the baby kick, and say to himself: “This is my Savior. This is the one we have prayed for and hoped for all our lives. He comes to set us free!”

Old Joseph didn’t live to see how that redemption would take place. He’s last mentioned in the temple with Mary and Jesus when the lad was 12. Sometime between then and Jesus’ baptism at the age of 30, he died. He didn’t live to see the shame of the cross, when only Mary and her friends had the courage to stand by him. He didn’t live to see the joy of the empty tomb when Jesus would begin spreading the joy of death’s defeat into all the world. He probably never saw Jesus work a miracle, but that didn’t matter.

He still died full of faith and hope because he knew that in that child, learning to walk, learning to talk, in that child who hugged him and liked to rub his face in Joseph’s rough beard, in that child who ate at his table and looked so peaceful sleeping under his roof, in that child who played with abandon and prayed with glee, in that child God had come to be with us, to save us. And so Joseph closed his eyes in peace and opened them in heaven’s light only to be embraced by his child, his Jesus. While on earth, Joseph had cared and provided for the Child and now in heaven the Child of Mary would forever care and provide for him.

Joseph lurks in the background, true. But how our Lord loved his earthly protector and provider! You and I often know what Joseph felt like. We’re background people, too, for the most part. Maybe often overlooked and forgotten, just doing the tasks the Lord has given us to do. That’s okay. There’s one who doesn’t overlook or forget. One who loves us. One who is waiting to welcome us home. The Child who was born of Mary, nurtured by Joseph; the Child who by his cross and resurrection has opened for all who trust Him – great and small alike – an eternal home. Amen.

A Bit of Donne

This always grips my heart:

by John Donne

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done ;
I fear no more.

Wish I Had Been There

Fr. Hollywood's Parish gets a visit from Fr. Andrae and a discussion of Lutherans worldwide!

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The children of God here below have still not been perfectly delivered out of the bonds of their natural corruption. The old, loveless heart often continues to stir in them bad thoughts, to cling to its love of the creature, and even to break out in loveless words and deeds. But all of this cannot rule the one who is a true child of God. When he succumbs to it, he at once falls on his face in the dust, sighing and crying, for grace and forgiveness. God has no stillborn children. If someone is a true child of God, he is not only obligated to walk in holy love, he also has the desire and power and grace to do it. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!*

Patristic Quote of the Day

And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: "All our days are passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told." Of which wrath also Job says: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: "He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." He does not say it will come, but it "abides on him." For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: "We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. -- St. Augustine, Enchiridion 33

What to Make of This?

"My daughter just had a child. Holding him, I thought, "It is so difficult to believe that an infant's heart is sinful." Many teach this, but not Orthodoxy. We do not believe that we are totally depraved, as many Protestants do. Nor do we believe we are born with the guilt of sin, as the Romans teach. Instead, we are born in innocence and our heart is pure. To be sure, we all sin. Yet some, as did our Lady the Birthgiver-of-God, continue in purity of heart the rest of their lives, as blameless. Mary was as human as we are, yet morally pure throughout her life. We are all born in the same condition and we have the choice to keep our hearts pure and directed towards God, or to sin and rebel against the purity of a loving heart. Our lives become a continual struggle to conform our hearts to purity and holiness. Recognize this, and we are on our way to becoming Orthodox."

A friend recently pointed out these shocking words. They come from here:

Ukrainian Orthodox

And are on page 16. Yes, the Ukrainian Orthodox are canonical. And they tolerate, if not actually teach, that "we are born in innocence and our heart is pure." One of my parishioners attended a Baptism in an Orthodox Church (OCA) where the priest hammered home the same point: we are not baptizing this baby because it is a sinner!

Striking the difference between this blatant Pelagianism and the piece I've been working through by St. Augustine called *On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins.* Striking too how anyone who was once Lutheran can embrace this, let alone pray Psalm 51 anymore.


Seems everyone's doing it. Even the Orthodox. Word is that folks are not happy with the Patriarch's latest move.

17 March 2009

I suppose

it would be rude for the men to boast about winning both games of pinochle tonight - played once without passing, and once with - so if you hear ANY rumors about Dean and I beating the daylights out of Cindi and Lauren, just know that we're too genteel to confirm the truth of such an embarrassing outcome for our dear ladies... yuk, yuk yuk!

The Way to a Man's Heart...

...Irish Soda Bread (low-carb even!), Corned Beef (so tender, it's falling apart), Cabbage and Turnips, Green Beans, and Strawberries and Grapes for dessert - a wee break from the Lenten fast in honor of St. Patrick and all things Irish. Oh, and for the kids mashed taters and gravy. The Soda Bread was really outstanding - and I ate too much of it. LOADED with butter! What a cook my dear wife is, what a cook!

Patristic Quote of the Day

Now, undoubtedly, he who is still renewed day by day is not as yet wholly renewed; and in so far as he is not yet wholly renewed, he is still in his old state. Since, then, men, even after they are baptized, are still in some degree in their old condition, they are on that account also still children of the world; but inasmuch as they are also admitted into a new state, that is to say, by the full and perfect remission of their sins, and in so far as they are spiritually-minded, and behave correspondingly, they are the children of God. -- St. Augustine *On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins* Book II, Chapter 9

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Everywhere we see the traces of an unseen Hand; everywhere we hear the voice of an unseen Speaker. Wherever we go, we are limited by His power and controlled by His wisdom. He breathes in every breath that we draw, acts in every act we put forth, and lives in all our lives. We know His existence and presence just as certainly as we do that of our very nearest friend. - H. E. Jacobs *Elements* p. 32

Glory to You, O Lord, for Your Servant Patrick!

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The Word of God to give me speech
His heavenly host to be my guard.


Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

--from St. Patrick's Breastplate (Treasury, p. 1284,1285 - the whole is worth reading and rereading - a powerful and joyous prayer)

Here's an interview yesterday from Issues:

St. Patrick

16 March 2009

The Opening Line

of the Treasury is pure gold:

"The life of the Church is centered around the Church's worship." p. 7

Like a helix it lifts us ever upward and onward into the life of Christ; it swirls around that life and from it draws all its force and vigor.


Growing right outside the door to the Church basement.

Which doth call forth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

15 March 2009

Patristic Quote of the Day

As, therefore, it then came to pass that whoever looked at the raised serpent was both healed of the poison and freed from death, so also now, whosoever is conformed to the likeness of the death of Christ by faith in Him and His baptism, is freed both from sin by justification, and from death by resurrection. For this is what He says: That whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:15 -- St. Augustine, *On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins* Book I:61

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Holy Scriptures are the infallible and inerrant record of God's revelation of His saving grace to men. Since the revelation was made long before it was committed to writing, the record is not the sole source of the truths which it contains. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 23

Pathways of Growth

My friend Doug and I were talking today about pathways of growth in the faith. Does the Church have a way to help folks mature in the faith? We acknowledge that the Sunday Divine Service is vital - the Table of the Lord's Word and His Supper are at the very heart - but they cannot do the whole job, nor were they ever intended to.

Yet they are a good beginning. I remember reading in Neuhaus once that he insisted on this as the starting point: No Sunday without the Divine Service. You may not feel like going. It may be too rainy, too sunny, too cold, too hot. Doesn't matter: let this be the start of discipleship, a habit of weekly hearing of the Word and receiving the Holy Eucharist with no excuses for not being there save for serious illness or death.

Another place where I believe our people need to grow is in giving. First, the tithe (the 10%) which is not ours to manage, but which is the Lord's (given over to the Church and to charity). But beyond that, the grace of giving. We need to learn such a loose hold on money that we constantly give it over to bless others. It returns to us a hundredfold and in countless ways. But it's not enough to know about it: our lives need to become lives of giving. And not just giving the money - though that is always a part - but giving of ourselves to others, especially in serving them in need.

Yet another place that needs attention is our growth in prayer. Here I think our Catechism helps us. To begin with, make yourself say the Morning and Evening Prayers in the Catechism. Never open or close a day without them. Once they are habit, we turn for more help to a wonderful resource like the Treasury to grow in daily prayer - its introduction provides so much help on this that I need only refer to it. It's a blessing indeed.

Control of our body is yet another place for growth. I think of fasting (in whatever capacity you are able), bodily exercise that helps you to rule the body by the mind, and reserving sexual activity solely to the marriage bed.

Learning to seize the opportunities God presents us to "give an account of the hope that is in us" is certainly an area where we can daily grow. God brings us people every day. Can we love them in Him? Serve them in Him? Witness to them of the hope and life that is ours in Christ? Invite them to join us in the Divine Service and let God richly serve up to us His gifts?

Can a Christian grow in such areas? Unquestionably we can. Our growth does not mean that God loves us more or is somehow more pleased with us than before - His love is whole and entire and cannot grow since it is full always. But we can grow in the apprehension of His love, we can grow in allowing His life to be evermore ours. For is not this the life of Christ Himself? To devote ourselves to hearing God's Word, to giving to others, to praying more and more, to controlling our flesh and constantly seeking ways to draw others into God's Family? What is this but growing in Christ Himself?

Homily upon Oculi

[Exodus 8:16-24 / Eph 5:1-9 / Luke 11:14-28]

Last week we observed that Lent is a training period for those new to Christ - and so a great refresher for those who are not so new. The first week prepared the catechumens for the fact that they have an enemy to guard against, who likes to parade around like a friend – the devil. The second week prepared them for those moments of trial when it seems God Himself is against them and sought to strengthen the catechumens to persevere in prayer. This third week continues the pattern. For you see, another obstacle you will face if you are at all serious in following Christ is this: people will bad mouth you. They will speak against you, attribute false motives to you, and suggest that far from following the true God, you’re actually doing the work of the devil. Our Lord made it clear that we should expect nothing less: “Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.”

Our Lord performs a great miracle. Frees a man from a demon that had tied his tongue and locked him away from others, shackled in silence. The people marvel at this wonder, but soon enough, some start attacking Jesus’ works. They say that the awesome power undeniably at work in Him comes from Satan, not God. They bad-mouth Him in the worst way. Here His heart was filled only with love and compassion for lost humanity and yet those He came for, viewed His intentions with suspicion and fear. So they talked trash about Him. How could He get through to them?

Jesus describes the battle in which He is engaged for human souls. He’s perfectly clear that human beings, good creations of God in themselves, since the Fall are in big trouble. They’ve got a parasite living inside. And that parasite is no weakling. Rather, a strong spirit, who has taken up residence and plans to stay put inside of us, until, like all parasites, it finally destroys its host and move on to another victim. Jesus says: “That parasite is strong, but I am stronger. And I have come to attack him, overcome him, and throw him out.”

That of course is what His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead was all about! Overcoming the enemy in seeming weakness and then breaking his stranglehold on human lives with the splash of baptismal water and the power of the Word of God.

But Jesus warns: tossed out, that parasite, that demon, is in agony, searching restlessly for another host, and he keeps searching, and finally goes back to check out the one he’d been driven from. Should he find that host open and empty, the creature moves back in along with seven other spirits worse than himself and the host, the human person, ends up more wretched than he was at the get go.

So just because he’s been sent packing once doesn’t mean that the demon loses interest in you. If anything, you become even more desirable to him, tastier than ever. The message of the holy Church this Sunday then is clear: To cave to the pressure of getting along with others just so they won’t bad mouth you and your faith is to turn away from the Stronger Man, Jesus Christ, leaving your body and soul with a “for rent” sign that the demons soon notice, and then move back in with a vengeance, and the misery really begins. Real misery that St. Paul described in detail in today’s Epistle: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolator), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Do not tell yourself: “My sins are forgiven!” if you are living in such; the Scriptures tell you they are not. For your sins are forgiven only IN CHRIST and no such things rule where He lives. As the Apostle said: let no one deceive you in this. Such things take you from the Kingdom; and bring misery upon misery.

If today’s Gospel started with bad-mouthing, it ends with blessing. A woman from the crowd cries out: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus responds: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Now, He was not putting down His mother. He was pointing out the truly amazing thing about the holy Virgin. St. Luke underscores it time and again.

She not only listened to God’s Word, but she kept it, hid it deep in her heart. She held fast to what the Angel Gabriel told her and the report of the shepherds and the mysterious words Simeon spoke to her in the temple, and the hard words her Son said as a twelve year old lad in the temple. No one and nothing could take that Word from her; she built upon it her faith, her hope, her life. And even when she didn’t understand what she heard, and her brow puckered, she still took those words and hid them deep in her heart and kept them there, and so she was able to open her heart and give those words to St. Luke when he came asking. Do you see then how that way there was no room in her for Satan and his parasites? Because she held to that Word people said some horrible things about her. They still do. But she held to it, nonetheless. She would not let go.

What about you? Have you caved to the pressure of people’s words? Has fear paralyzed you and kept you from doing and speaking what you know is right and God-pleasing? Have you embraced the sin which the Savior died to free you from? Repent! Repent and turn from it!

Today, your Lord stands ready to forgive and renew you by the Spirit of God, the Spirit who drives out the demons as the finger of God (OT lesson) and strengthens people for bold, uncompromising witness to Jesus Christ. He Himself wishes to take up residence within you through His Holy Body and Blood, once offered for you as that "fragrant and sweet-smelling sacrifice to God." (Epistle) Yes, Christian, people will talk trash about you; expect it. They will say: “you think you’re such a do-gooder and that you always think you’re right and everyone else is wrong.” Yes, Satan will tempt you to believe that sexual sin is no big deal - and that life really is about the accumulation of possessions. Don't believe him. He's a liar! Instead, you hold tightly to the Word of God, hear it, keep it, confess it! Satan will then find no more of a hold on your life than he found on the life of the blessed Mother of God. And on the Last Day, the Son of Man will delight to confess you together with His Mother and all who have held to His Word regardless of the cost. He will confess with joy that you are His before the Father and all the Holy Angels; and to the same Lord Jesus with His holy Father and the life-giving Spirit be all the glory now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.