28 May 2009

With You and Will Be In You

From the Gospel for the Eve of Pentecost. I don't think I got that verse till this year. The Holy Spirit is WITH the disciples because Jesus - He who is full of the Spirit and overflowing with Him - is with them. But the Spirit that is inside Jesus will be poured out into them. This is the very goal and meaning of life itself: to acquire the Holy Spirit, to breathe Him in more and more, to live in His life as He imparts to us the life that is koinonia with Christ and with the Father. This is a gift given not once, but which the Lord Jesus continually lavishes on us. If at our baptism we first start to "breathe" Him in, He continually imparts Him to us. As little as a person could say: "Oh, I breathed when I was first born; I don't need to breathe anymore" or "I was thirsty once, but now I don't thirst anymore" - so little can a Christian say: "I have the Spirit; I don't need Him anymore." As Kleinig said so memorably, we can ever receive Him, but never possess Him. Jesus, the Fountain of the Holy Spirit, pours Him out upon us ceaselessly that we might live in and through Him!


What an amazing and wonderful video! I'm ready to move to Tulsa. :)

Lectio Divina

In the Psalms for this morning's office (specifically the last one, Ps. 135), I noticed something I'd not before. Verses 6-11 confess the Lord's work through the length and breadth of the world. He makes the clouds rise, the lightnings flash, the rain and the wind he takes from his storehouses; He strikes down the firstborn of Egypt, etc. Notice the seamless passing from what we'd call first article to second - his works of preservation of the world and his work of rescuing his people. It's helpful to distinguish the two, but they are not divided, for the Doer is the same. How we need to recapture this worldview. To see the rain as coming from His hand; the wind as His; the clouds arising at His summoning. We've come to restrict His presence in our thinking to the places where He manifests His second-article grace, but we should always remember that the One who washes us in Baptism and feeds us in the Eucharist and speaks to us in His word, He surrounds us constantly so that indeed "in Him we live and move and have our being."

27 May 2009

Homily for Vigil of Pentecost

From tonight’s epistle: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”

I used to think that mean that if you live according to the flesh – giving into what whims the flesh suggests (more food, more drink, more sex, more drugs, more porn, more entertainment, more whatever), then God would pay you back with death! There was a price tag attached to doing such things. Similarly, I used to think that if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, then God would one day reward you with life – the gift of heaven.

It was quite an aha, then, when I realized that that is NOT what the text was saying. It was not talking about verdicts rendered on judgment day. It was talking about NOW. To give into the whims of the body now is to die – not in the sense of ceasing to exist, but in the sense of missing out on life itself. Life is to be had when by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body. Not in the future, but now.

You want to live? To really live? The way to live is not to be animal – if it itches scratch it. To graze through the world gratifying whatever desire arises, pleasing no one but yourself, pleasuring yourself to the max. Such life isn’t life – it’s living death. It’s the boredom that ultimately suffocates those who devote themselves to it. But life, now, life is putting to death those animal desires, those itches and cravings that would have you obey the whims of your flesh, to execute them.

Which means, I’m afraid, to say “no.” No to the impulse to gorge yourself. Gluttony still is a sin, my friends. No to the impulse to gratify any sexual desire regardless of what God’s commandment declares. No to the impulse to gratify your itching ears by listening to the latest juicy gossip. No to the impulse to go into further debt because you just have to have whatever it is that is calling your name. No to the impulse to embroider the story to make yourself appear better than you know you have a right to. No to the impulse to abuse any of the good gifts of God’s creation.

But, but, but, you say. I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can just say “no.” It’s become such a habit, such a routine with me. Well, make no mistake about it, you don’t begin to live till that junk – the old Adam and all his works and ways – begins to die.

The glorious good news of Pentecost, though, is that you who cannot stick to the “no” in your own strength the Father sends you a Helper. A Helper that Jesus says will be with you forever. The Holy Spirit.

And it is by the Holy Spirit and His power alone that the death of the old Adam occurs, which is then replaced by real life, the life of the new self. The Spirit comes to give you the gift of death to that whole old way of living – that if it itches, scratch it way of existing. He gives you the gift instead of communion with the Holy Trinity. He comes to bear His witness inside of you that you are God’s own child. And not just a child, but an heir. A fellow-heir with Christ. “Provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him.”

Suffer with him? What is that all about? THAT’S the death to the old Adam that the Spirit gives you. You can’t have the Spirit and still go on doing the old sins and living your life as you please. The Spirit won’t have it. He’s a jealous Spirit who yearns for you intensely. The Spirit wants so much more for you than that old deathly way of existing. And so the Spirit comes to you as the very gift of putting to death that whole animal way of living, calling us into the freedom of being the children of God. One who by His power can rule over your animal instincts and put them to death with joy.

Our Lord goes to His cross that all those sins might be able to die within us. He goes to His cross that their hold upon us might be shattered, broken forever. He is bound to the wood that we might be bound to Him in love. That His death in the flesh might be given to us as our daily dying to sin. And the Spirit comes to us that our Lord’s resurrection might be given to us as our daily rising to a new life, lived in communion with Christ.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’ll never reach the point where we cease to need the Spirit’s help to put to death the impulses of the flesh. Much to our chagrin, they keep on popping up as long as we carry the flesh with us. But thanks be to God, they are no match for the power of God the Holy Spirit, who comes not merely to be with us, but to dwell within us.

It is only by the Holy Spirit’s power that we can hear the words of Jesus without dread: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” The keeping of the commandments will not be perfect in us for the whole of our earthly pilgrimage, but when we are walking by the Spirit then what is not kept is forgiven, as we go on living in the Spirit and constantly putting to death the deeds of the body. We begin truly to live. It’s only a beginning, but having tasted it, who could want anything else? And the Supper is here to strengthen us in the task, to refresh us for the slaughter of that old man within us by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in us the fire of Your divine love. Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But if temptation assail us, and so it chance that we prove but weak, let us weep bitterly; let us ask forgiveness of God: for He heals those that are contrite; He raises up the fallen; He stretches out His saving hand to those who have gone astray: for He is the Saviour of all, by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 22

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We were villains, but nonetheless He sent Christ to such villains. We were enemies of God, yet He sent Christ, His most precious possession, for the sake of such enemies. -- Johann Gerhard, Postilla II, p. 19

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It [sign of the cross] reminds us that because Jesus has redeemed us by His death on the cross, we know belong to Him - branded and copyrighted, as it were. We therefore live our whole life under the sign of the cross. As we get up each morning, we, in a small way, share in the resurrection of Jesus; as we go to bed each evening, we share in His death. So all we do and all that happens to us is done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 79

Gesture in Worship

There's a rather disappointing discussion going on on a liturgy list I'm part of about the sign of the cross. But the discussion did get me thinking about gesture in worship. The most neglected part of thinking about gesture is recognizing that everything we DO confesses SOMETHING about what we BELIEVE. I know I may be a bit of kook on these matters, so take it for what it's worth...

Whenever I approach the altar or cross the midst of it, I will stop and bow to reverence the altar. Why? Because this is the table from which my Savior feeds me His own body and blood for my salvation. I never want to take that gift for granted.

At the invocation, benediction, and at several others spots in the Divine Service I cross myself. Why? Because I belong to the Crucified and need to remind myself of it constantly: every good in the world is wrapped up in the Crucified and Risen Lord and He has marked as His own with the cross.

At the reading of the Gospel - we almost always read this in the midst of the congregation confessing that Christ Himself is among us and speaking to us through these words. Before reading His holy words, I sign myself with the cross upon forehead, mouth and heart asking Christ to be in my mind, on my mouth, and in heart as I read to His people His holy words. When the Gospel reading is over, I lift the book above my head and announce "This is the Gospel of the Lord" - so that all can see it, and then I kiss the Gospel reading and close the book and it is returned to the lectern. Why kiss it? Because I love the Lord's words and am grateful for them - by them we live in hope and through them we can die in confidence. There are no words on earth so precious! I kiss what I love. It just seems natural.

At the intercessions, I raise empty hands to heaven, for we come before God always as beggars, as those seeking from Him His mercy for our needs and for the needs of the whole Church and indeed the whole world.

During the consecration, I elevate the host so that the people can see it. It is a visual proclamation as Dr. Luther described in German Mass. Then I genuflect before the One who has sacramentally united His crucified and risen body to that host, for "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Similarly with the chalice.

These gestures - every one of them - fall within the category of adiaphora. I am not suggesting that everyone should do as I do. I am suggesting that everything we DO do in the Divine Service confesses SOMETHING. And most of it isn't rocket science. If you just stop and ask yourself: what does kneeling down before the Sacrament confess, it becomes pretty clear, doesn't it? Lutherans should never get their knickers in knots over such things; they are free. Free to be used. Free not to be used. But Lutherans should always press deeper and ask themselves: what do my gestures confess, for they surely confess something.

[Pics showing some of the ceremonies we observe here provided by Jen - many thanks!]

26 May 2009

A Pentecost Homily

I'm going to be in Alexandria Virginia at Immanuel Lutheran for the feast, God willing, but here's a homily from years gone by:

What you do with the words of Jesus matters. For those words are not merely the words of Jesus, but above all the words that He brought to us from the Father, the Words that are alive with His Spirit. Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His words. To do so is to be loved by the Father and to be given the promise that the Father and the Son will come and make their home within us.

Conversely, Jesus states that whoever does not love him does not keep his words. So you can easily check it out for yourself: do you love Jesus or not? The answer is not in how you feel (for feelings can deceive you). The answer is simply in this: do you keep his words? Do you guard and treasure them, hold onto them, reflect on them, and let them shape how you believe and how you act? If you don’t, then says Jesus, you do not love him -And not to love Him is the greatest tragedy of life.

You can well imagine how the disciples must have been feeling when Jesus said this. Jesus had taught them so many things and they had tried to remember His Words, but they kept on forgetting! Forgetting the words of Jesus, and so not living in Him, not letting His words shape their way of thinking, of interacting with each other and the world. So when he says that the measure of loving Him is in whether or not they keep hold to His words, their hearts sink. As do ours. But Jesus knows that and so He promises more.

The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name, HE will work a miracle within those apostles. He will teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all the words that Jesus said. Do you realize that we have the fulfillment of that promise to the apostles sitting up there on the altar in the Holy Book of the Gospels? There we see how faithfully Jesus kept His promise, how the Spirit came to them to help them, how the Spirit brought again to their minds with crystal clarity the words that Jesus himself had given them. And by that same Spirit they were written down for us!

But there is a danger there. Stop and think for a second about the way you operate. Why do you tend to write things down? You might say: “So that I will remember them.” But think about that. Is that really so? Isn’t it in fact the exact opposite? We write things down so that we do not have to remember them, so that we can put them out of our minds and not have to think about them. Do we bring that attitude, then, to the Holy Scriptures? To the way we listen to the words that Jesus brought from the heart of the Father to give away to us? Do we think that because we have the Bible in written form, we need not bother with putting its contents inside of us in living form? The answer to that is found by asking yourself, when is the last time you worked on learning a portion of God’s word by heart? “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”

And do you know why Jesus wants you to keep His Words? He tells you: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Jesus wants you to have His peace within you, and His peace is the presence of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who came on the Apostles today in flames of fire and opened their mouths to witness to Christ Jesus IS the Personal peace and love and joy that eternally proceeds from the Father and eternally rests on the Son. That means that Peace is a Person! Love is a Person! Joy is a Person! And that Person, the Holy Spirit himself, which Jesus receives from the Father, is His gift to you in His words so that the Spirit can live and dwell within you – that is what Jesus wants for each one of us!

Now, the peace that flows from the Holy Spirit’s presence is different from the world’s peace. Luther said that the world’s idea of peace is getting you out of trouble, while God’s peace is getting trouble out of you. Get the difference? The peace that Jesus would impart to you, the peace that comes from His Words, because the Spirit is in His Words, that peace can exist even in the midst of all kinds of heart-aches, trials, troubles, sufferings and pain. That peace flows to you from the Holy Spirit’s promises to you in the Word of God.

Peace that comes from your sins being forgiven: “And Jesus breathed on His disciples and said: Receive the Holy Spirit; if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven!” (John 20:19,20)

Peace that comes from your death being defeated: “Whoever believes in me, even if He die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25,26)

Peace that comes from having a home that no one can take from you: “In My Father’s house are many mansions, and I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself that you may be with me where I am.” (John 14:3)

Peace that in the Eucharist your Lord Himself dwells in you: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54) So “greater is He who is you than he that is in the world.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point, don’t you? The gift of the Spirit, the gift of peace, this comes to you concretely in the gift of words, of promises. Words that Jesus gave you to find a home in you, that you might live from them and that they might chase away every anxiety and fear from your heart, that you might know in the depths of your being the unshakable peace that is nothing less than the Gift of God Himself indwelling you.

Which is why after every sermon, when the Word of God has been planted anew, the preacher says: “The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

FINAL Graduation Service for the 2009 Year

was held at St. Paul's tonight - this time for our Early Childhood Learning Center. The kids did a great job. They recited John 3:16 and led the congregation in the Our Father and then sang for us, among other pieces, "We All Believe in One True God" and "Praise God from Whom." I think we had well over 100 folks in attendance.

It's Hard Now

to remember what life was like B.T.D.P. - Before the Treasury of Daily Prayer! This wondrous resource has become a staple of my own prayer life. It's my daily life-line to the Scriptures and it guides me in the Church's daily prayer throughout the Church Year. We're fast coming to the end of May and CPH's 1/2 price off offer comes to a close. If you have NOT ordered your Treasury yet, by all means JUST DO IT! You will be so blessed. Promise! Check it out here:


A Friend of Mine,

Pr. Karl Bachman, put together this nice intro to the Treasury of Daily Prayer. I note that Pr. Esget has something similar up:

Divine Office

I think you might enjoy it! It should download as a Word doc to wherever your downloads usually go. Thanks, Pr. Bachman, for letting me share this. Pr. Bachman presented it this past Sunday to the members of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Honolulu.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We best learn the art of begging from God, quite practically, by bringing ourselves and others, our needs and theirs, each week to Him in the Divine Service. That then colors our attitude to God and our witness to the people around us. In relation to God we become people of prayer. In our witness to our associates we do not come across as spiritual millionaires, but as beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 55

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As we were rescued out of the pit of tragedy and misery into which we had been shoved by sin, we must with the most intense effort guard ourselves that we do not again fall into it through conscious, deliberate sin; and, that we do not with cocky security, unrepentance, and godlessness saddle our shoulders with both temporal and eternal punishments. -- Johann Gerhard, *Schola Pietatis* p. 182

Patristic Quote of the Day

Therefore not this is the work of God, but rather that, that ye should believe on Him whom He sent. For of a truth better than the legal and typical worship is the salvation through faith and the grace that justifieth than the commandment that condemneth. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on John 6

25 May 2009

You know...

God has given me - totally undeserved - the best wife in all the world. We've been paling around since Junior High and she's still the person I'd rather spend time with than anyone else. I have no idea how she has put up with such an odd duck for a husband, but I'm glad she has. Thank you, God, for Cindi!

Anybody else

looking forward to getting back to the calendar year in Treasury? If I have one significant criticism for the period from Ash Wed to Trinity it is that the Treasury does not provide the prayers for commemoration of the saint days (though there are prayers provided for the overlapping days - see the prayer for Bede's day on p. 376). Anywho, Monday following Holy Trinity we return to the normal way.

A First

Cindi asked if I wanted to run with her today. I've not done running since starting to workout, but with the Y closed today, I figured: what the hay? And off we went, dodging rain and thunder just to our West. We ran down Church road to the bike trail and down the bike trail to Hamel and then back home again. I surprised myself: I ran the whole way; wasn't worn out when I got home (in fact, we just did some jumping with the jump rope) to "cool down" a bit. It was 3.8 miles, and if we'd just gone a wee bit further into Hamel, it would have been a nice even 4 miles, but the sky was looking particularly threatening at that point. Anywho, I really enjoyed it. Might have to start doing this on the days I don't workout at the Y.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Once the song of praise sings itself into our hearts and makes it home there, it turns our whole life, more and more, into an enactment of thanksgiving and praise to God the Father. Through the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us, we become givers of thanks. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 68

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[Regarding God's Word] If we allow it to light our path continually, we will not go astray. And if we have strayed from the path out of weakness, this light will always bring us back. Therefore, we must let the humble prayer of the faithful Samuel be our prayer as well: "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears." -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 440

Patristic Quote of the Day

For while it is men's duty to examine themselves, and to order their conduct according to God's will, they leave this alone to busy themselves with the affairs of others: and if they see any infirm, forgetting as it seems their own frailties, they make it an excuse for faultfinding, and a handle for calumny. For they condemn them, not knowing that being equally afflicted with the same infirmities as those whom they censure, they condemn themselves. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 6

Commemoration of the Venerable Bede

Today our Synod commemorates the Venerable Bede. Be sure to check out the Treasury on page 1299. Here's some info from Synod's website (also listed in Treasury):

Bede (673-735) was the last of the early church fathers and the first to compile the history of the English church. Born in Northumbria, Bede was given by his parents to a monastery in Northern England at the age of seven. The most learned man of his time, he was a prolific writer of history, whose careful use of sources provided a model for historians in the Middle Ages. Known best for his book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, he was also a profound interpreter of Scripture; his commentaries are still fresh today. His most famous disciple, Cuthbert, reported that Bede was working on a translation of John's Gospel into English when death came, and that he died with the words of the Gloria Patri on his lips. He received the title "Venerable" within two generations of his death and is buried in Durham Cathedral as one of England's greatest saints.

Almighty God, grant us to enjoy, even as St. Bede whom we rejoice to commemorate this day, a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, a cheerful hope in Your mercy, and a sincere love for You and for one another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

24 May 2009

Summer Catechesis

"Alive in Christ: Exploring the Lutheran Confession of the Christian Faith" - an abbreviated summer Catechesis - will be offered at St. Paul's on the following Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Note: The spoken Divine Service precedes (6:15) these sessions and Compline (8 p.m.) follows:

June 10 - Introduction - the Word and Faith: Called to Life
June 17 - The Ten Commandments: Called to Live in Love
June 24 - The Apostles' Creed: Called to Live in Faith
July 1 - The Our Father: Called to Live in Prayer
July 8 - No Class
July 15 - Holy Baptism: Called to Live in Grace
July 22 - No Class
July 29 - Holy Absolution: Called to Live in Forgiveness
August - 5 - Sacrament of the Altar: Called to Live in Christ
August 12 - No Class
August 19 - The Life of Prayer and Vocations: Called to Live in Service
Sunday, August 23 - Confirmations/Baptisms

If you St. Paul members know of anyone who would like to attend these sessions, be sure and get me their names as soon as possible. And, of course, we always welcome those who would like a refresher through the Catechism. Each time through, the Lord gives more gifts!

Exaudi - Farewell to Easter

This is the Last Sunday of Easter. The Easter greeting was used for the last time from the pulpit till next Easter. I took down the Easter banners after Church. We'll not use the extended (Celtic) Alleluia till next Easter, nor sing the Taize Kyrie till then. At St. Paul's we have the custom of standing for the Sacrament throughout the Easter days; with Pentecost the kneeling returns. The sense of joy that has characterized these solemn days will remain as we move ahead, but there is something of a wistful leave-taking - the joy moves inside and becomes a force in our lives and is not quite so obviously overwhelming in the Sunday services. We move from the days of "seeing" the Risen One to the days of our life "being hidden with Christ in God." The secret, hidden, inner life now is what the Church will nurture within us. Still the Risen life, but now like the yeast hidden in the bread, it will go to work "raising" our living and our dying up into Him who is the Head of the Body. And the Spirit is the great agent of this leavening: so from "Risen indeed!" we move into "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your divine love."

23 May 2009

More Graduation

Wow and Wow!

HT to Father Hollywood for this one:

Pr. Richard Wurmbrand

Listen and then pick up your Treasury and pray the prayer for Tuesday, p. 1307. Does anyone else hear in his words the voice of a Lutheran Fr. Arseny?

Lucy says...

...but I don't WANT to be stuck in the kitchen. I want into the study with you guys. PLEASE!

Bekah's Graduation

More to follow...

Cwirla, the Wood Worker

writes on another such. It reminded me of the many antique pieces we have in the house that my great-grandfather fashioned - not one of them perfect, but every one of them good. Well worth reading:


Okay, it was worth it.

Learning the Hymn of the Day for Exaudi, I mean. It's a beautiful text by St. Columba:

Christ is the world's Redeemer,
The Lover of the pure,
The font of heavenly wisdom,
Our trust and hope secure,
The armor of His soldiers,
The Lord of earth and sky,
Our health while we are living,
Our life when we shall die.

Christ has our hosts surrounded
With clouds of martyrs bright,
Who wave their palms in triumph
And fire us for the fight.
Then Christ the cross ascended
To save a world undone
And, suff'ring for the sinful,
Our full redemption won.

Down through the realms of darkness
He strode in victory,
And at the hour appointed
He rose triumphantly.
And now, to heav'n ascended,
He sits upon the throne
Whence He had ne'er departed,
His Father's and His own.

Glory to God the Father,
The unbegotten One,
And honor be to Jesus,
His sole-begotten Son,
And to the Holy Spirit -
The perfect Trinity.
Let all the worlds give answer:
Amen! So let it be.

The, tune, though haunting, is a bit daunting. If you want to practice the tune, it's here:


Cindi at the Race


I noticed the smell first - then I saw it blooming alongside the marsh on the bike trail. I think it means summer is here!!!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The secret for the regular exercise of spirituality, as with physical fitness, is to establish simple habits and practices that are embedded in our normal routines. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 54

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We thus consider Christ's ascension rightly when we regard it as the means by which all the enemies of our soul were taken prisoner by His victorious death and resurrection. Let us, then, give Christ thanks for the glorious completion of the world of our redemption. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 435

Patristic Quote of the Day

"Search the Scriptures: for in them you think that you have eternal life; and it is they that testify of Me. And you are not willing to come unto Me, that you may have life." For every word of divinely inspired Scripture looks unto Him, and refers to Him. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 11

Exaudi Homily

[Ezekiel 36:22-28 / 1 Peter 4:7-11 / John 15:26-16:4]

Today may be the seventh and last Sunday of Easter, but the readings and liturgy are already tilting wildly toward the Feast of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is everywhere!

In the first reading, Ezekiel foretold the heart-transplant that God would effect in his people. Out comes the heart of stone and in goes a heart of flesh. Which is to say, that the problem with us is that we are not fully human, not the way God intended for us to be. And the only way to become fully human is for God to effect a change at the very center of our willing, our desiring.

This change he promises to effect through sprinkling clean water upon us (think Baptism) which sets us free from our false trusts (our idols) and humanizes us by the gift of the Spirit - the Spirit who causes us to WANT to walk in God’s statues and be careful to obey His just decrees.

And the last bit is important too: “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers.” I think that’s bigger than the promise that Israel would dwell in Palestine again after her exile - the land given our fathers is this world as God originally gave it: our Paradise where we walked with God and He with us, where He was our God and we His people, and everything was gift from the hand of the Lord and rejoicing and praise and love. THIS is the Spirit’s work in us - He teaches us to live again even in this world as a bit of paradise restored. He even transforms its heartaches and sorrows into gifts as He humanizes us and helps us bear each other’s burdens. So a very tasty bit on the Spirit from that first reading.

And then onto the Gospel where again the Spirit gets top billing. Our Lord announces: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me.” The Spirit that comes from the Father and is sent by Jesus - that Spirit has one thing He wants to talk about and it’s not Himself: He wants to talk about Jesus! He wants to bear witness about Him and all that is ours in Him. He wants to open our eyes to see that there’s more in Jesus than in all the world outside of Him. St. Paul would put it like this in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But we have received not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, that we might know the things freely given us by God.”

The Spirit bears witness to the life and love and forgiveness and hope and salvation that is in the Son of God, the Man born of Mary, the man hung on the Tree and raised from the dead, the Man now ascended into heaven and even at this moment sitting - in our human flesh - at the right hand of the Father. The Spirit witnesses to the Man who is fully MAN, the Spirit shows us that to be HUMAN is to live under the forgiveness this Man brings and in communion with Him, He who alone IS fully human, fully alive.

“And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” The Spirit comes and starts witnessing about Jesus and those who receive the Spirit start witnessing about Jesus, about all they have seen and known in Him. The Spirit inside you wants to talk, but not about Himself or about you, but about your Jesus.

But our Lord tells them in advance that this world - which rejected Him, His life, His love - this world will not welcome their witness. Indeed, the days are coming when, He says, when whoever kills you will think he’s offering up worship to God! “They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” Anyone who comes to know the Father of our Lord Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit KNOWS that the Father is not served by making others miserable, by bringing hardship and grief to their lives. THAT’S the world’s way, the way of our hearts of stone that go their own way and not the Lord’s.

Rather, the Spirit’s way is what St. Peter pointed out in the Epistle for today. “The End of all things is at hand.” The End, here, means, the fulfillment, the culmination of all things, the perfect humanity that stood forth in the man Jesus Christ, who is also the Eternal Son of God. He is the End as He is the Beginning, Alpha and Omega. And since He is the end, the telos, the purpose of all things, the Apostle urges us to be self-controlled and soberminded for the sake of our prayers. For praying together in the Spirit and with Him, our Great High Priest, who sits at the right hand of the Father and never ceases to intercede for us - that is the very meaning and joy of life itself! And so in place of the hatred that would silence the witness to Christ, he urges “Above all, keep loving one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” If we live in union with Christ, then His life must be our life, and His life doesn’t expose and shame, but gracefully covers the wrongs done and pleads for forgiveness for the enemies.

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” If we live in union with Christ, who has opened up His Father’s home to us and made it our very own, we must open up these earthly homes we call our own to each other and extend the same sort of welcome to one another that our Father in Christ by the Spirit has given us. We’re practicing for eternity!

“As each has received a gift use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” The gifts are manifold, but they are all there for the others. The Spirit puts them into you for the benefit of all - and the mark of a heart of flesh and not of stone, the mark of heart touched by the Spirit of God, is a life lived for others and not merely focused inward upon yourself. This holds with those who speak and those who serve - both bear witness by the Spirit to the life that is joyfully lived in communion with Christ under the forgiveness that is in His blood.

“In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” THAT’S the driving force of the Spirit’s witness and work within us! That we are swept up into the doxology, the endless praise. That is the joy of God’s people. From this we fell in paradise. To this the Son came to restore us. For this the Spirit would now work within us so that we dwell in the land that God originally gave to our fathers - a paradise of plenty, where all is experienced as gift from the hand of the loving Trinity, where all is praise for His goodness, where all is love that covers and pardons.

So it’s no wonder that the collect of the day has us crying out to the Risen and Ascended Lord: “Send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father!” With the Spirit comes all the unpacking of all the gifts intended for us in the Son to the glory of the Father - and that is how we share in Christ’s own divine life. Amen.

22 May 2009

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the law, which the all-wise Moses ordained, was for the reproof of sin, and the condemnation of offences: but it justified absolutely no one. For the very wise Paul writes, "Whosoever rejected the law of Moses, was put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses." But our Lord Jesus Christ, having removed the curse of the law, and proved the commandment which condemns to be powerless and inoperative, became our merciful High Priest, according to the words of the blessed Paul. For He justifies the wicked by faith, and sets free those held captive by their sins. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 7

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the services of Matins and Vespers, the Kyrie comes before the Lord's Prayer. It therefore functions as a plea for Christ's assistance in praying that is answered by the gift of His own prayer to us. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 167

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

What greater honor could be paid us than this, that our faith in Christ entitles us to be called His brethren and coheirs, that our prayer is to be like His, that there is really no difference except that our prayers must originate in Him and be spoken in His name if they are to be acceptable and if He is to bestow this inheritance and glory on us. Aside from this, He makes us equals to Himself in all things; He and our prayer must be one, just as His body is ours and His members are ours. -- Martin Luther, AE 24:407

21 May 2009

I know that it is still THREE or so weeks away...

but this boy is READY for the Green season to begin! I love the festival half of the Church Year, the Semester Domini, but by the time Ascension has been celebrated (together with graduations and such) I'm always ready for a bit of break - for "ordinary time" as Rome calls it these days. At St. Paul's, the service reverts to Divine Service 3 exactly as in the hymnal with the closing verse being invariably "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow." When it comes back the first Sunday after Trinity there is something of a collective sigh as our parish settles down into what is our "normal" liturgy again for weeks upon weeks. Green, you're on the horizon now and we're eager to welcome you - but first Exaudi, Pentecost, and Holy Trinity!

Brief Clip

from First Vespers for the Ascension (with Baccalaureate for Metro East Lutheran High School). Psalm 110 and "A Hymn of Glory" with the brass and organ:

What a Wondrous World

we live in as guests of Our Father! Cindi and I took time right after lunch for a bike ride - taking advantage of the beautiful weather while it lasts. We headed up the newly surfaced (still not finished) trail that will connect Hamel to Worden and Staunton. It was a 14.25 mile trip that we made in an hour and half. The way up we were in the Irish blessing (the wind always at our back); the way home we were in a wind tunnel and couldn't really hear each other talk. But along the way: we heard a bob white singing, saw a dust devil cross an entire field, saw two trains, saw a hawk teaching its young to fly, and saw numerous flowers and fields of wheat - and all under a blue, blue sky with cotton-ball like clouds providing a bit of shade now and again. Indeed, as the Akathist of Thanksgiving has it, this world cries out: Let us go to the Father! If such beauty is His gift for our brief pilgrimage, what shall home be like?

It Was Upon Ascension Day

that the Venerable Bede reposed in Christ (we observe his day on May 25) in the year of our Lord 735. He wrote one of the most widely used hymns for the feast of the Ascension: "A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing." Testifying to the underlying unity of the Church despite all the sad external divisions, this hymn is sung by Western Rite Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Protestants of various stripes. We usually sing it these days to the tune Lasst Uns Erfreuen. But here is what it would likely have sounded like in Bede's own ear, as sung by Pastor Ben Mayes on the wonderful Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood site:

A Hymn of Glory


Pastor Holle's Homily to Graduates

At graduation ceremonies and baccalaureate services all across our nation, valedictorians, salutatorians, guest speakers and countless politicians will address thousands of new graduates and attempt to “inspire” them with their own wise & enlightened thoughts and ideas or with the words of philosophers, poets, pop artists, celebrities, and supposedly revered politicians. I suspect many will quote Gandhi & Socrates, Kennedy & Lincoln, Franklin & Twain, and a whole host of other “great” people or thinkers. They will challenge the graduates to “be true to themselves,” to “look within themselves” for greatness, to reach for their dreams. Speakers will attempt to shape and mold the idealism of young graduates to suit their own ideas and agendas. Self, human achievement and will, and mankind’s ability to shape and control the future will be touted as these thousands of young people mark a milestone in their lives and prepare for the next step in their earthly pilgrimage.

In various ways many will attempt to “pray” at some of these events; to “pray” to some generic or unnamed “god” in a manner that appeases everybody and their religious or spiritual sensibilities. In large part, the true God that your parents, teachers, and pastors have worked so hard to show you will be “hidden” or lost amidst all the false gods and religious notions of modern, so-called enlightened people. In man’s quest to be “good” or even great, he “naturally” attempts to make god into our image rather than the other way around.

But not tonight, and God willing never at MELHS. Tonight our celebration oozes the one and only true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We speak and sing and chant of His works and greatness. We celebrate the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We celebrate the Holy Spirit and His work … His bringing you to faith and giving you the eyes to see God for who and what He truly is; eyes to behold and believe in a crucified, risen and ascended Lord; One who will return one day for the final judgment. The One whose name we Christians bear.

And yes, we celebrate your completion of high school and the ongoing work of MELHS … but what of the future? How will you meet it? How will you prosper and impact the world? How will your ideas and ideals help shape the world in the future? How can or should you get what you want? What does the future hold?

Well, God only knows. Some of you may have great plans all mapped out in your heads. Others may not have much of an idea what direction their lives might take. Some of your parents may have your futures all mapped out … and some of them may have no clue what or where your lives may take you. And while you must know that I personally desire only the best for you, for each of you, in the future, I also know that that “best” will involve trials, disappointments, and trouble. In addition to the many joys which await each of you, there will be tough times. Hey, you’ve just graduated … you really still don’t know everything … and the world and sin, Satan, and even God Himself have ways of really upsetting even the best laid plans.

And the world, lead by Satan, temps people to cling to all sorts of false gods for their hope for the future. Some cling to promises of hope and change. Our culture seeks to teach us that “tolerance,” “acceptance, and compromise” (generally to their way of thinking) are the real keys to future success and peace and happiness. Man claims to have all sorts of answers, but the way of this world is not God’s way. And yet it is so appealing to our sinful nature; it is oh so tempting to our sinful flesh, and our sinful world is a dangerous place for God’s people.

I suppose in a way you are all a little bit like the apostles in our readings for this evening. Their roughly 3-year training/schooling was now complete. They were soon to be “on their own” sent out into the big, bad world to answer their calling. I suspect some were more prepared than others, and I would bet that some were looking forward to what lay ahead more than the others, but I doubt that any of them had any idea what the future actually held for each of them.

And yet, as they prepared for the rest of their lives there that day, and just before Jesus ascended back into heaven, He gave them, and in turn us, each an incredible promise: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the very end of the age.”

You see, He knew what lay ahead, and He knew that they, and we, would need to have such help and assurance. God Himself, promising to be with His people … this God who had suffered and died and rose was now ascending, departing for a time, if you will, but He was not leaving His people … for He had already promised the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who works tirelessly in the hearts of His people, and He had promised His body and blood in the Holy Supper of His Church. He may have departed, but He certainly had not “left” them … and He will not leave you ... and so He is the reason for our hope and confidence. Not you; not us; Him.

Now, can you chase Him away? I suppose, but it won’t be because He stopped seeking or calling you. He has promised to be there for you … with you … in His Word, in the Sacraments … listening, answering, comforting, guiding, forgiving, training, teaching, and preparing.

And He, my young friends, is the reason for my hope for you and for your futures. Will there be tears, disappointments, heartaches, worry, hurt? Yes … but He will not forsake you. Will plans get messed up, will people disappoint you, will your heart be broken? Yes … but He will always be there. Will you mess up, will you disappoint people, will you sin? Yes … but He stands there, scars on His hands and feet and side, ready to speak His words of forgiveness to you. So you can do whatever you want to do following your heart or your dreams or your wants or the things the world and Satan hold out as carrots before our earthly eyes? No, but so that you might endure in the faith to the end and so that on that last day, you along with the apostles might lift your eyes to the heavens again to behold Him when He returns … triumphant, accompanied by angels … glorious … coming to take you to be with Him forever.

That is how you begin your post-graduate life, with a promise from God to always be with you. All those others can have their poets and great historical figures … you get a guy (actually 4 guys) dressed in white, whom you’re looking up to this evening, telling you, reminding you that you are God’s dear children … and He’s not done with you yet. Your learning has not stopped, your education ended. You, like the apostles have so much still to learn and relearn and be reminded of … and He will teach you, He will show you, He will lead you, He will feed you.
You will be His witnesses … you, His dear and precious children.

Congratulations and God’s blessings to each of you.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We also stand in for others with Christ by our intercessions on their behalf when they have sinned. If they have done something wrong, we don't damn them, but we act as if their sins are ours. We ask God to have mercy on them and give them the opportunity to come to repentance. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 210

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As Aaron wore on his breastplate the names of the tribes of Israel when he entered the Holy of Holies, so Christ, appearing as the true High Priest before God in heaven, wears the names of all believers on His heart. There, He prays without ceasing for His own, and He rules them, cares for them, and protects them so the gates of hell cannot overpower them. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 430

Patristic Quote of the Day

Since, then, the ascension of Christ is also our exaltation, (for there is hope that the body will be summoned wither the Head has preceded in glory), let us, dearest brethren, give worthy expression to our exceedingly great joy and be glad in fervent thanksgiving. For today we have not only been confirmed as possessors of paradise, but in Christ we have scanned the very heights of heaven. Greater benefits have we obtained through the ineffable grace of Christ than we had last through the malice of Satan. -- Pope St. Leo the Great, *Homily on the Ascension*

Men of Galilee

why do you stand looking into heaven? Alleluia!
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven
Will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven. Alleluia!
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy... (LSB Introit)

...so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him... (LSB Collect)

...God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet... (LSB Verse)

...through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who after His resurrection appeared openly to all His disciples and in their sight was taken up into heaven that He might make us partakers of His divine life. Therefore with angels and archangels... (LSB Ascension Preface)

Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day to be hallowed forever;
Day when the risen Lord
Rose in the heavens to reign.

He who was nailed to the cross
Is the ruler and Lord of all people.
All things created on earth
Sing to the glory of God.

Daily the loveliness grows,
Adored with the glory of blossom;
Heaven her gateway unbars,
Flinging her increase of light! (LSB 489:2)

He has raised our human nature
On the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heavenly places,
There with Him in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne.
By our mighty Lord's ascension
We by faith behold our own! (LSB 494:5)

And finally, OP's incomparable meditation upon the day:

Now He was going home... In seven words the years of labor and sorrow end: "While they beheld, He was taken up."... There were no bells and banners on earth, but surely the trumpets on the other side sounded as they had never sounded before... Surely the chiming golden bells of heaven sang their welcome, and angel choirs intoned the song of the throne: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength." ... On the anvils of God the nails had been forged into the scepter of a king... "He was taken up." ... The angel hosts sweep to either side, leaving the way clear to the Eternal Light that no longer blinds the eyes of us who stand gazing after Him... He leads a procession which comes from the ends of time and space, all the harvest of all the white fields the world has even known, the pilgrims of the night who come at last to the dawn of an everlasting day... "He was taken up." ... The Child of the manger, the praying heart on the starlit lanes of Galilee, the hunger in the wilderness, the weariness of the Sychar Well, the tears of the Garden and the Hill, the thirst of the Cross - all over now... The robes of the Transfiguration once momentary, now clothe Him forever, and angels and archangels sound the great doxology of His waiting Church: "Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever."...

An old story - perhaps too old for us to do more than glimpse its glory... And yet - we ought to remember it more clearly... It was the solemn moment in the story of God and man when the visible Christ became the invisible Christ... From that hour everything concerning Him became visible only to the eyes of faith... The final line of demarcation in the world - between those who believe and those who refuse to believe - was now clear... Men can say that all this is not true and use the mind of man to reject the mind of God, or they can know that God once walked among them and that they now have a Friend in heaven who knows all that earth and time and pain can do to man...

The Ascension did not take Jesus away... It brought heaven near... In the realm in which He now reigns time and space have no meaning... There is no up and down, no near and far, nor darkness, and no distance in the world of faith... He is as near as yesterday's prayer, today's joy, and tomorrow's sorrow... His homecoming has made heaven a home for us who still walk far from home... Wherefore stand we gazing into heaven?... Our momentary task is here, but through the slow dimming of the years we see the evening lights of home tended by the pierced hands of Him who has gone to prepare a place for us... Is there a better way to life - or die?... All that we have to do now is to believe and follow:

The lapping sea of death before his feet
Crept near; the wind was wild;
But he, who knew the One he came to meet,
Saw it and smiled.

Stepping without a hesitating word
Into the icy tide,
As if he saw the footprints of his Lord
Gleam at his side,

Borne up by Love that gave as he had given,
He crossed the midnight foam
And laid his hand upon the door of heaven
Like one returning home.
[The Pilgrim, pp. 14-16]

20 May 2009


Monday was Frieda's funeral, and we laid her to rest in the sure hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

Last night was Trinity-St. Paul Kindergarten and 8th Grade Graduation at St. Paul's - it was a full house. We chanted Vespers and boy did the kids ever belt out the liturgy and hymns, especially The King of Love and At the Lamb's High Feast. We observed the readings for Rogationtide and Pr. Curtis preached upon the joy of prayer as a child of God - something we seek to foster in our churches, homes, and our joint-school.

Tonight was Metro East Lutheran High School Baccalaureate at St. Paul's - it was again a full house. We chanted Evening Prayer for the Feast of the Ascension and Brian Holle preached a most fitting homily and address to the graduates. One of the graduates, Joel Nehrt, played the liturgy for the service and did an outstanding job. A brass band also did some fine work.

Tomorrow night at 7:15 is the Ascension Day Divine Service. Don't let it slip by you! I challenge all the members of the parish who are reading this to attend and at least come CLOSE to the attendance we had at the services on Tuesday and Wednesday. Truly a great and joyous feast as in Christ our human nature is exalted to the right hand of God and rules over all things. Our Brother - the King of the universe!

A busy and yet joyous weak at St. Paul's as we take our Lord's invitation to heart and seek His blessing on all things - above all, this week, on the little ones, the youth, and the new adults in our parish families.

Dear Marianne,

You are still missed so much. If your eyes slipped down to the Baccalaureate tonight at St. Paul's, you saw your young friend with tears in her eyes because she still misses you so much. She told me afterwards that it wasn't right that you weren't there; I assured her that you WERE there. She loves you and always will - your friendship was a rock on which her life was built. Don't stop praying for her, dear. And for all of us who are still in practice mode preparing for the great feast.

Much love in Him in whom we are always one!

Open Letter to ELCA's Church-wide Assembly

Fr. Tibbetts has the text of this letter on his blog. It is well worth the reading. The Northern Illinois District at their convention spoke a word of fraternal warning to the ELCA on the same issue and assured them of our ongoing prayers for them.

First Vespers of the Ascension

is upon us! If you're using TDP, note that the responsory this evening is the one for Ascensiontide on page O-66 and that Ascensiontide propers are used from now until the Vigil of Pentecost.

New and Improved

Check out the updated Gottesdienst Online site for some interesting discussions and articles.

A Crazy Idea

maybe. We really enjoyed the Christian fellowship this weekend with Jen, Jason, and Natalie. I wondered if when we head down to San Antonio in July (evenings of the 6th-9th) if any blog readers down that way would be open to having three Weedons (Cindi, Bekah, and me) crash at their place at night. During the day, Cindi and Bekah will do a bit of touring about and I'll be busy with HT. Any takers???

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The devastation of sin is most evident in the difficulty that we have with prayer. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 156

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Just as a great haul of fish is caught here by the power of Christ's words is also how many different peoples are gathered into the Church by Christ's Word. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, Postilla II:64

Patristic Quote of the Day

And what was the nature of the invitation? "Come: for lo! all things are ready." For God the Father has prepared in Christ for the inhabitants of earth those gifts which are bestowed upon the world through Him, even the forgiveness of sins, the cleansing away of all defilement, the communion of the Holy Spirit, the glorious adoption as sons, and the kingdom of heaven. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies on Luke 14

19 May 2009

Anastasia Appeal

So what DO you do when a family of raccoons has adopted your garage? I don't want them destroyed, but would love to see them OUT OF HERE!

Lectio Divina

Couple thoughts that struck me from today's Office.

I've never contemplated the notion of light being sown. The LXX has "light dawns." But when we think of sowing a seed, and how our Lord likens His life to a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying, I wonder if we can see in our Lord's death and his Descent, the sowing of LIGHT into the realm and power of darkness. I am reminded of the ancient homily in the Roman office of readings for Holy Saturday where a light suddenly bursts upon those who were sitting in the nether gloom.

Completely unrelated: how do those who insist that "justify" always means "make righteous" possibly explain the use of the term in Luke 16:15: "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts"?

Nothing like...

...the smell of manure on the fields to, well, diminish a tad the enjoyment of a walk under a stunning blue sky without a cloud in it. It helps remind us, I suppose, that we're still part of the old heavens and earth, even when the earth is shining with heavenly splendor like it is here today.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As we mature in faith, we move away from pride in ourselves and our own achievements to a gradual awareness of our spiritual failure and Christ's work in us as we entrust ourselves to Him.

We move away from the conviction that we are self-sufficient to the repeated experience of spiritual bankruptcy.

We move on from delusions of our spiritual importance to a growing sense of our utter insignificance and the glory of God.

We move on from delight in our own power to the painful recognition of our spiritual weakness.

We move on from our self-righteousness to the increasing consciousness that we are sinful.

In each of these painful experiences, we recognize the glory of God.

Christ fills our emptiness and justifies us by grace.

In short, the power of Christ is made perfect in our weakness.

Abba Matoes, a teacher of spirituality in the Early Church, sums up our experience of progress simply and profoundly: "When I was young, I would say to myself: perhaps I shall do something good; but now that I am old I see that there is nothing good about me."

--John Kleinig, *Grace upon Grace* p. 33,34

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This truth remains: nothing evil comes from God. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 417

Patristic Quote of the Day

And the blessed Paul also shows that the service that is by the law is powerless to justification, thus saying; "For that no man is justified by the law before God is evident." The will therefore of God, that will which we pray may be done upon earth, is not that we should conform to the law, and live according to the grossness of its letter, but that we should endeavour to live by the gospel. And this is effected by a faith correct and free from error, and by a holy life, possessed of the sweet savour of every virtue, and proved by the testimony of good and noble conduct in every thing that is excellent.-- St. Cyril of Alexandria, *Homily on Luke 7*

18 May 2009

All Holy Lord

All holy Lord, in humble prayer,
We ask tonight Thy watchful care.
O grant us calm repose in Thee,
A quiet night, from perils free.

Our sleep be pure from sinful stain;
Let not the tempter vantage gain,
Our unguarded flesh surprise
And make us guilty in Thine eyes.

Asleep though wearied eyes may be,
Still keep the heart awake to Thee;
Let Thy right hand outstretched above
Guard those who serve the Lord they love.
LSB 882:2-4
Latin, 6th Century

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

With the incarnation of our Lord, the heavenly service begins, mysteriously and invisibly, here on earth in the Church. -- John Kleinig, *Grace upon Grace* p. 30

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

You see, this is the reason Christ so deeply urges mercy before all other good works. It is because the mother of mercy, the fundamental love for one's neighbor, is the sum of the Law and the bond of perfection. -- Johann Gerhard, Postilla II, p. 50

Patristic Quote of the Day

Now by His giving thanks, by which is meant His speaking to God the Father in the manner of prayer, He signified to us that He, so to speak, shares and takes part in His good pleasure in granting us the life-giving blessing which was then bestowed upon us: for every grace, and every perfect gift comes to us from the Father by the Son in the Holy Spirit. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 22

Great Weekend

Well, we had a great weekend. Jason, Jen, and Natalie were a hoot! Just hope Jen feels better soon. L2 went off without a hitch and I think a fun time was had by all. Funeral for Frieda was this morning - one more "planted" in the great hope of the Resurrection! After a no-show appointment, Cindi and I went for a bike ride in the sunshine to work out a bit and relax - we were both pretty wired from the hectic weekend. Still ahead: Voters, TSP Graduation, Baccalaureate, Ascension Day Service, Graduation from Metro for Bekah, weekend services, and SPECLC Preschool Graduation. I asked Cindi: "When does life return to calm and peaceful again?" She gave me the look and said: "It doesn't." I don't believe it. Not for a minute.

16 May 2009

Just So You Know...

...there are some ferociously good smells emanating from the Weedon kitchen at the moment: cinnamon bread just about done baking, cookies for the L2 party tomorrow, and some tasty almond thin crackers. I think there will also be almond cookies before too much longer. Yum, yum, and yum.

A Rogate Homily

Prayer. We all know we should pray. The problem is that we don’t tend to do it very often. And when we do pray, it is usually when our back is up against a wall, and we don’t know what else to do. Then, I suspect, we feel a little bit guilty. We come to God mostly when we’re in trouble, and we know that we should be praying all the time, every day.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples and to us about prayer. He is well aware of the problem, the reluctance we· have in praying. The problem is not one of technique. It will not be solved by the countless resolutions we have made to have that daily quiet time with God - resolutions we routinely break. Jesus’ words reveal the source of the problem with prayer to be a problem of relationship, a problem of faith, of trust. Prayer, you see, arises out of relationship of trust, out of knowing God as our Father and ourselves as his dearly loved children. When we live in that relationship, prayer blossoms of its own accord. We chatter on endlessly to God then, just as children run on when they are with their parents.

With their parents. We have a problem of not seeing that we are always with the Father. He is always with us. We forget that, and that is one reason why our prayer life falters. I don’t know how many times I have read the Scripture where Jesus says: “Even the hairs of your head are numbered.” I know that I used to think that meant God, way up in heaven, far away, knew in his divine knowing even the number of my hairs - like some distant computer bank simply chocked full of information about us down here on earth. I think I was missing the point. The point Jesus was trying to get across is that the Father is not far away. The Father walks with us and we walk with him. He is so close to us that He counts our hairs. He is that near!

Prayer is talking to God the way a little one talks to mother or father. Such prayer bubbles up of its own accord when we remember that we are always walking in His sight, that He never leaves us, never forsakes us. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that. Remember that the words that he speaks in today’s Gospel were spoken on the night of his betrayal. He is not going to be with the disciples in the same way that he had been with them before. The cross and the empty tomb, the death and resurrection of Jesus, will bring a change in the manner of His presence. He will no longer be with them in the same way. But the Father’s presence which Jesus had sought to show them, to teach them, that will not change. The Father will be by them, with them, even through the dark days and hours ahead, and He’s just waiting for them to realize it and talk to him.

You see, Jesus did many wonderful things in the presence of the disciples. Miracles. Teachings that astounded and awed them. But only one thing that Jesus did moved the disciples to ask: “Teach us to do that too. Like you do.” That one thing was prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus prayed like no one had ever prayed before. Jesus spoke to the Father in the complete assurance of the Father’s acceptance and love. Jesus spoke to the Father not as to some absent deity, but as to a lovingly present parent. “Teach us to do that too.”

Jesus spent three years teaching them. He spoke to the Father constantly. In the middle of a conversation with them, he would lift his eyes and speak to the Father and then turn right back and speak to the disciples. He took prayer out from the temple and onto the streets; out from the synagogues and into the homes. He showed them that prayer wasn’t religious - in the sense of being something that was confined only to certain areas of our life. Prayer was a conversation with the Father that goes on wherever you happen to be. It doesn’t need a special time or a special place. All times and all places are prayer times and prayer places because the Father walks with you wherever you may go.

Think of what that means for us! Prayer is talking to God as his much loved child in the middle of your work day, as you’re driving the car, as you’re washing the dishes, as you’re plowing your fields, as you’re eating your meals, and as you’re lying down to sleep at night or waking up in the morning. Prayer is such speaking to the Father when you realize He is with you wherever you go and whatever you are doing. Prayer is the confession that you live in the presence of the Father.

And Jesus says that all talk to the Father is made in Jesus’, name. “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.” The joy that is in the name of Jesus is that we have a confident access to His Father as our Father. He is the Only Begotten Son of the Father. He invites us into His relationship with the Father, calls us His brothers, His sisters. Makes us coheirs with Him - all that is His, He gives to us. His Father He makes our Father. His home He makes our home. His Kingdom, He makes our kingdom. That is what Baptism is all about.

When we make our prayer then, in the name of Jesus, we are acknowledging that we have a Father in heaven who loves us and who regards us as his very own children all for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus came forth from the Father a single Son, an only Child. He returns with joy to the Father, and through cross and resurrection brings with Him many sisters and brothers, a whole family.

When our prayer is anchored in the name of Jesus we speak to the Father with absolute confidence and boldness. We know that He loves us, that He hears us, that He answers us for sure. Our sureness is based solidly on the fact that Jesus has brought us into this relationship with His Father and has told us to make ourselves at home.

The Church as the children of the family is marked by her family rituals. We talk to our Father together at certain times and at certain times we talk to our Father alone. The catechism teaches us to remember that we are God’s children by reciting the name that made us God’s children in our Baptism and by retracing the sign of the holy cross by which we were redeemed and then to talk to Him when we get up in the morning and receive a new day of grace from His loving hand: to thank Him for keeping us safely through the night and to ask that He would keep us also through the day that our life may please Him. The catechism teaches us to remember that we are God’s beloved children and to talk to Him whenever we receive the gift of food and drink from his hand, when we sit at table and when we rise from the table, saying thank you! The catechism teaches us to remember that we are God’s beloved children by reciting the name that made us His children and by retracing the sign of the holy cross by which we were redeemed and to talk to Him at night, when we are ready to lay down our bodies and rest: then we ask for his forgiveness for all the times we have failed to live as His children during the day just past and we ask for His loving protection through the night.

That is the basic framework of each day. By framing the day with prayer and punctuating it with prayer at the moments when we receive God’s gifts, the Catechism would teach us to live our lives in the presence of a loving heavenly Father, confident of the Father’s love because of the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. Fullness of joy will be ours indeed when we remember who we are: children of the heavenly Father, who take God up on His invitation to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father. Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our work goes hand in hand with our praying, for we are daily called to work with God. When we pray for God's support and guidance in our work and the people we work with, we live by His grace and rely on Him to do His work through us. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 199

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The beginning of every spiritual good, as well as its continuation and completion, is utterly beyond our power. Everything good and perfect comes from God. And for this reason, we must give Him all glory! - C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 419

Patristic Quote of the Day

For to draw near, and make supplication on the people's behalf, is an act becoming to the saints, and the duty of spiritual fathers, and the proof of a mind that has regard not to selfish objects alone, but already considers as its own the interests of others. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 9

15 May 2009

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our solidarity with others determines the nature of our intercession. Early Christian worship differed from the rituals performed by their neighbors in the practice of common prayer. The critics of the Church were astonished that Christians prayed for people who were unrelated to them, foreigners, and even their enemies, rather than just for their own families, community and the adherents of their own religion. This was, and still is, a countercultural feature of Christian piety. In the Divine Service, all Christian pray together with Jesus and the whole Church on earth for the whole world and all its people. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 208

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Of course, the natural light of the sun or of fire cannot make dense bodies such as clothing, walls, rocks and the like, translucent; but the divine, uncreated, supernatural light is immeasurably more subtle, brilliant, and bright. It made Christ's raiment white as snow and shine brilliantly. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, Postilla II:278

Patristic Quote of the Day

He teaches us that we must diligently continue the practice, and in the form of a parable plainly shows that weariness in prayer is to our loss, while patience therein is greatly to our profit: for it is our duty to persevere, without giving way to indolence. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 11

14 May 2009

What a Crazy Week

this has been! All the travelling with Lauren's graduation over the weekend (8 hours out to Seward on Friday; 8 hours home on Saturday) and the usual round Sunday with Mother's Day thrown in there to boot. Monday was booked solid (teaching, daycare chapel, workout, finishing up presentation for TAM) and wrapped up with two meetings in the evening (Daycare board and elders). Tuesday was up at 4:30 and heading out for Kearney to present at the Augustana Ministerium - that was a five hour trip. Back home from that yesterday about five, and then a boatload of email to catch up on. This morning after Matins got Joanie set on bulletin for this weekend and finished up bulletin for Baccalaureate for the High School, off to exercise, home to finish up bulletin for Ascension Day, off to meet with Frieda's family, home to prepare funeral bulletin, Sunday's Bible Class, and the TSP Graduation bulletin and locate an organist for TSP's service and pray Vespers. Still on the docket either for tonight or tomorrow is Sunday's homily and the funeral homily. So it's only 5 p.m. and I already feel like heading to BED!!! Funny, though, how the Daily Office and the workout routine are havens of peace in the midst of all the running about.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For verily we must not say of one clothed with the Spirit, that he curseth those who are infirm and sinful:----for it is not fitting for the saints to curse any:----but rather that he prays this of God. For before the coming of the Saviour we all were in sin: there was no one who acknowledged Him Who by nature and verily is God. "There was no one doing good, no not one; but they all had turned aside together, and become reprobate." But because the Only-begotten submitted Himself to emptiness, and became flesh, and was made man, sinners have perished, and exist no longer. For the dwellers upon earth have been justified by faith, have washed away the pollution of sin by holy baptism, have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, have sprung out of the hand of the enemy; and having bidden as it were the hosts of devils to depart, dwell under the yoke of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 7

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The sins of our fellow Christians, their failures and their mistakes, are all opportunities and occasions for intercession. Let me put it quite concretely: when I fail as a pastor, I don’t need your condemnation or your indulgence. What I need is your support, and you give it best through your prayers. -- John Kleinig *Grace Upon Grace* p. 202

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For in all Christians He [the Holy Spirit] will effect and produce these two things: First, He will convince and assure their hearts that they have a compassionate God; secondly, He will enable them to help others by their supplication. The result of the first is that they are reconciled to God and have all they need for themselves. Then, when they have this, they will become gods and will be saviors of the world by their supplication. Through the spirit of compassion they themselves will become children of God; and then, as children of God, they will mediate between God and their neighbor, and will serve others and help them attain this estate too. AE 24:87

Must Read Post

by Dr. Stuckwisch:

The Heart of the Holy Scriptures

Sigh. Wouldn't it be awesome to me a member of Emmaus in South Bend and get these goodies dropped on you on a regular basis?

13 May 2009

Thoughts on Lutheran Unity

This is from Krauth, page 265 of *The Conservative Reformation*:

In showing that the Augsburg Confession is the Symbol of our time, the Formula of Concord rests its authority on its being "the unanimous consent and declaration of our faith." The private opinion of individuals, however influential, can in no sense establish or remove one word of the Creed of the Church. Any man who, on any pretence, gives ecclesiastical authority to private opinions, is robbing the Church of her freedom. She is to be held responsible for no doctrines which she has not officially declared to be her own.

Add to this, the wise words of Dr. Piepkorn:

The Book of Concord itself indicates that no further creedal statements are necessary. Three and three quarter centuries of Lutheran experience testify to the rightness of this position. (The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, p. 104)

If there is ANY hope for unity and concord within and between Lutheran jurisdictions, we simply MUST renounce the temptation to insist that others hold opinions that we hold that are that: theological opinions and not the dogmas of our Churches drawn from the Sacred Scriptures and confessed in our Symbols. There is not a single "modern" corruption of the faith against which our Symbols' Confession of the doctrine of Sacred Scripture does not fully resource us.

Half a century ago or so, Sasse pointed out that the problem with Missouri and all the Synods of the Synodical Conference was that they assumed the Symbols and hence unwittingly ignored them. I propose that if Lutherans are going to get their act together when it comes to the thorny questions that confront us, we can do no better than prayerfully calling upon the Holy Spirit to take the Sacred Scriptures to heart as our Rule of Faith and embrace once more the Confession of that Rule which we call the Augustana. Satis est. It really is.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Golden Rule wasn’t given by Jesus as a general ethical principle for all people, but as wise direction for God’s children who have access to their heavenly Father through faith in Him. Since I am a child of God, I know that the best things I could ever hope to receive from fellow Christians is their prayers. It’s the greatest favor and kindness that they could ever show me. But the opposite is also true. By praying for God to forgive them when they sin, I show my love for them and for God. I therefore fulfill the Law and the Prophets when I don’t pass judgment on others but pray for them instead. That is my mission in life as a holy person. I can ask our heavenly Father to supply others with what they lack. I can seek His grace for my sisters and brothers in Christ. I can knock at the door of my heavenly Father and bring them into His presence. So by the practice of intercession we fulfill the Golden Rule. - John Kleinig, *Grace upon Grace* p. 201

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition, which God cannot disdain.” Luther, AE 43:198

Patristic Quote of the Day

Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath. - Agathon, *Saying of the Desert Fathers* p. 21

12 May 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This one true God is merciful, for Christ says that God has given us His Son out of love. All of nature bears witness to God's benevolence, because He did not bring forth creation for His own sake, since within Himself He is perfect for all eternity, but He did this solely to share His benevolence with others. God's benevolence is a precious fountain that pours forth unceasing gifts and blessings, yet itself is never diminished. -- Johann Gerhard, *Postilla* II:15

11 May 2009

Is Leviticus Getting You Down?

My friend, Paul McCain, and I were yacking about the readings in Treasury from Leviticus. There are a few points in the recent readings that I think are well worth noting.

First, verse 8 in both yesterday's (Lev. 20) and today's (Lev. 21): "The Lord who sanctifies you; keep the commandments!" I note the same train of thought in Philippians 2: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Sanctification comes from living in the presence of the Holy One, but that leads to the keeping of His commandments, and always rejoicing in the blood of atonement for our sin.

Second, the intense interest in physicality in the holiness codes teaches us the importance that God attaches to our bodies. This theme runs from start to finish in Scripture. It fits so well with asking God for daily bread before we even ask for forgiveness in the Our Father.

Third, the whole matter of what is suitable for the priests comes to great "aha" when you remember that this is what the New Covenant lifts you into: you now are members of God's royal priesthood, who have access to the holy place, and offer the incense of prayer and eat the holy bread that God provides. When we never forget that God has given US this inner access to His presence, much of Leviticus lights up!

Can't Help But Note

the joyful coherence between continual justification (a la Edward Preuss) and Kleinig's oft stated "you can't possess it, but must constantly receive it" in *Grace Upon Grace.* YES! He draws the analogy with birth and starting to breathe; we literally go on living because we go on taking in the oxygen which is not our creation, but a free gift of God, and without which we would simply die. So our taking in of the Holy Spirit - ongoing, constant, never a possession, but always a Gift waiting to be in-breathed.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our basic spiritual problem is that we have bad hearing. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 126

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

There is only One out of all people, who was perfectly righteous before God by His own work: the Man, Jesus Christ. He was not righteous for Himself, for He is God and does not require His own righteousness. He gives it away, gives it to all who desire it and will receive. He gives it to all who believe in Him. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 407

Patristic Quote of the Day

Many have believed in Christ, and celebrate the holy festivals in His honour; and frequenting the churches they also hear the doctrines of the Gospel: but they lay up in their mind of the truths of Scripture absolutely nothing. And it is with difficulty that the practice of virtue is brought with them even to this extent, while of spiritual fruitfulness their heart is quite bare. These too shall weep bitterly, and gnash their teeth; for the Lord shall deny them also. For He has said, that "not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of My Father Who is in heaven." -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily on Luke 13

10 May 2009

Still Tired

from our long trip - 16 hours of driving between Friday morning and Saturday evening! Today, though, we were treated to hear Chris Loemker play for our services and Pr. Gleason offer the homily. I spent the early afternoon catching up on bulletins for Church and Baccalaureate, responding to email, and the late afternoon snoozing. Then we had Dave and Jo over (they just got in from Seward at 5 this evening) and we ate dinner and played some Liverpool. Yes, Cindi won again. Even on Mother's Day she doesn't let up! I'm utterly and completely wiped and am shortly heading to bed. Hopefully will have energy to get through tomorrow's round: Matins, two units in school, daycare chapel, workout, finish up presentation for Augustana Ministerium, Vespers, St. Paul's Early Childhood Learning Center Board meeting, and Elders meeting. Then off to Kearny, Missouri for the meeting of Ministerium. And all the while that Kleinig book is BEGGING to be devoured, and there is no time!!!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Because of her attention to her son, Mary has become the model for us in our practice of meditation. -- John Kleinig, *Grace Upon Grace* p. 118

A Few More Pics from Lauren's Graduation...