30 September 2009

Some Walther that the COP Really Should Take to Heart...

“We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

“Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.

“With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord's Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

“The objection: "What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?" was answered with the counter question, "What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: "It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments."”

From an editorial by Walther in Der Lutheraner, Vol. 9, No. 24, p. 163 (July 19, 1853)

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

[A parish...]

Here God deals with men through His ordained servants with the same validity and certainty as if He acted in His own person, when they exclude manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian community and absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend.

Here at the command of the world's Redeemer, His Body and Blood become the food of Christians for the forgiveness of their sins, for the gift of God's own divine life, for their everlasting salvation, for the increase of their faith and for the heightened fervency of their mutual love. -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 124

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The genius of Jerome was most outstanding. His unique work entitles him to eternal praise, because he translated the Bible from its original languages... And because he was also a man of much reading, many difficult questions had been learnedly explained by him. -- Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 53

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is a bad sign when those who mean the same thing use different words. Let us be satisfied with the form of creed which we have hitherto used. -- St. Jerome to Pope Damasus (Letter 15)

Homily for the Funeral of Janis Sue Vaughn

"If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself." 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Pauline, Jonathan, Jennifer, Jeremy and Jessica, family and friends of Janis Sue - today is such a sad day. True, throughout the Scriptures God tells us that we must be prepared to die any and every day for He’s given absolutely no guarantee about how long anyone’s earthly pilgrimage will last. And yet no parent expects to bury a child, and no child can easily say farewell to the mother through whom God brought him or her into being. And so the pain of today.

But if we loathe and despise death and how it tears apart the lives of those whom God has joined together, there is some comfort today in knowing that God hates it even more than we do. And unlike we who are powerless to do anything about it, but to suffer it; He was powerful to do something about it.

He came into this flesh of ours and He lived the perfect life that none of us has lived - His was a life of total unselfinterested love. His was a life over which death had no just claim. He lived that life fully and when the appointed time came, He gave Himself into death in order to destroy its power forever. After atoning for the sin of the whole world by shedding His blood, He went into death’s stinking gullet for Janis Sue and for you and me and He and He alone of all men, burst forth from it alive again, with a life that no death would ever be able to take away. That’s what we celebrate on Easter.

And it was into His undying life that you and Bob, Pauline, placed your Janis Sue on the day of her baptism. You knew even that day that this day would someday come. A day when Janis Sue’s pilgrimage would be over and she would have to stand before Him who judges the secrets of men’s hearts and before whom no one can stand apart from His forgiving grace. You knew even then that she was born a sinner in need of the mercy and forgiveness of the Son of God. So you gave her into His keeping and He entered into a covenant with her. He promised that He would always be her Brother and His Father her Father and that nothing but nothing would ever change His loving purposes for her.

The gifts of God are always gifts. They are rejectable. God never forces them upon us. But for His part, He stands firmly by His promise of grace and forgiveness. His heart ever yearned for the child He had named His own in the waters. And so does His heart now ever yearn for you too.

How much longer will your pilgrimage last? Or mine? We have no way of knowing. And so the great urgency of giving our ears to His Words, our mouths to receiving the life He would pour down them in His body and blood, and our hearts to holding fast the promises He has made which can see us through the bitter suffering of death and the terror of the day of judgment and bring us to a life with Him that is the destiny and true home of His baptized children.

Janis Sue’s pilgrimage is over. We commend her to the mercy of God. But our pilgrimage still goes forward. How shall we live in the remaining days before we too fall sleep in death? How shall we face our end? We need not ever do it alone. We may do it in the companionship of His Church, as the people of God gather about the Word and the Holy Sacraments and find in their Lord the strength to endure to the end and so be saved. May He grant that to you and to me, poor sinners that we are, by the mighty working of His Spirit, to whom with the Son and the Father be all glory and honor, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Janis Sue Vaughn, aged 48 years, died at Anderson Hospital on 27th of September 2009. She was born to Robert and Pauline Williamson on Dec. 15, 1960. She was raised in E. St. Louis. Moved to Edwardsville and graduated from Edwardsville High School in 1979. A resident of Hamel, she was a certified Nurses Aid.

She was preceded in death by her father. Surviving are her mother, Pauline, a son, Jonathan Ziegler of Hamel; a daughter Jennifer (and husband Frank) Wallace of Livingston; a son Jeremy Ziegler of Worden; and a daughter Jessica Vaughn of Edwardsville. She is also survived by a brother Ronald Williamson (wife Barbara) of Aviston, IL and a sister Joan (and husband Glenn) Hall of Frankfort Kentucky.

Commemoration of St. Jerome

Today our Synod commemorates and gives thanks to God for the life and work of St. Jerome. Counted as one of the four great doctors of the Western Church (with Augustine, Ambrose and Gregory), he was the only one of them who was not a bishop. From the Synod's website and the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around the year A.D. 345. At a young age he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament . After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church world for over 1,000 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem but his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

Today we pray:

O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. Make those who continue to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord...

The Lutheran Symbols cite Jerome in a number of places, but my favorite is this from his Dialog Against the Pelagians, I, 5:

"We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners, and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God's mercy."

29 September 2009

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

[First in a series of citations from Piepkorn on the nature of the parish]

A parish is a piece of land in which the ministers of Christ responsibly proclaim the Word of God and administer the Christian mysteries and in which by these means the Holy Spirit continues to govern and sanctify the church in that place.

Here in the washing of rebirth the Holy Spirit makes Christians out of pagans and makes God's chosen in every generation the contemporaries of the once for all act of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of the whole world. [A.C. Piepkorn, The Church, p. 123,4]

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The third miracle is that the Holy Spirit so illumines Elisabeth through the sound of Mary's greeting that, although no one had heard it nor had anyone learned of it by their eyes and ears announcing it, and although no signs of conception of Mary were able to be seen yet, she recognizes the voice and testifies loudly that Mary is the mother of God and that the fruit of her womb is that blessed Seed and her Lord, that is, Immanuel, God and man. -- Gerhard, *Harmony* p. 123

Patristic Quote of the Day

We affirm therefore that the fire which is sent forth by Christ is for men's salvation and profits': God grant that all our hearts may be full thereof. For the fire here is, I say, the saving message of the Gospel, and the power of its commandments; by which all of us upon earth, who were so to speak cold and dead because of sin, and in ignorance of Him Who by nature and truly is God, are kindled unto a life of piety, and made "fervent in spirit," according to the expression of the blessed Paul. And besides this we are also made partakers of the Holy Spirit, Who is as fire within us. For we have been baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit. And we have learnt the way thereto, by what Christ says to us: for listen to His words; "Verily I say unto you, that except a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God." -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Sermon 94 on St. Luke

St. Michael and All Angels

[From the Liturgy appointed for this day]

Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!

Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord...

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Alleluia! They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony , for they loved not their lives even unto death. Alleluia!

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Him Your majesty is praised by all the holy angels and celebrated with one accord by the heavens and all the powers therein. The cherubim and seraphim sing Your praise, and with them we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy...

Blessing of a Cross

This is the order we'll be using at the start of the Divine Service on Saturday night to bless St. Paul's new crucifix (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, p. 304, 305):

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beloved in the Lord, St. Paul speaks of the importance of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying: "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." By His death on the cross our Lord won salvation for us.

It is fitting that this cross be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer for our devotion and as a proclamation of His atoning work for us.

Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Who made heaven and earth.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Let us pray. Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all that He might our bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our eyes may ever behold our Savior and His cross, that we may not fear the power of any adversaries but rather rejoice in His victory for us; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Lord Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless this cross.

28 September 2009

Yet Another Funeral...

...and this one so sad. A 48 year old mother who had, for all that I can see (and I can't see everything, of course), walked away from the covenant of her baptism and apparently died "in the far country." How to preach and hold forth Christ to her family? She's not being buried from the Church, but I could not turn down the opportunity to bring a Word from God at the funeral home. Pray, friends, that the Lord gives wisdom and the right words to say and the grace to say them so that they might be heard. "O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise." And remember in mercy, Lord, Janis Sue whom You once named Your own in the waters of Holy Baptism. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

St. Paul's New Crucifix

given to the glory of God and for the edification of His people by Dr. William and Cheryl Gerber. This Crucifix was purchased through Concordia Publishing House. In many ways, this is the return of the Crucifix, since the original St. Paul's Church bore one upon its altar:

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The realization of the Kingdom of God is something that is only given us and yet at the same time it is a task that is assigned us; it is completely the fruit of the Spirit and yet cannot be realized without the spirit of fear. Neither, as we have seen, excludes the other, but each demands the opposite. -- Köberle, *Quest for Holiness* p. 179

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The relationship of Office to Congregation is seldom rightly perceived and yet more seldom rightly ordered. -- Wilhelm Löhe, *Aphorisms* p. 91

Patristic Quote of the Day

Certainly the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are a divine thing, through which we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to be. -- Pope Gelasius De duabis nature. In Chr. Adv. Eutych. Et Nestor. Patrology IV, 1:422

27 September 2009

Why is it...

...that winning the election for Pastoral Delegate for the circuit produces the sensation of having drawn the short straw? Houston, here we come. In July. Wonderful. Just wonderful. Restructuring. I feel the headache coming on already... Kyrie eleison!

26 September 2009

Kinda Wiped

Today brought a counselling appointment, 4 hours of recording for Issues, another counselling appointment, and preaching at and chanting the Divine Service tonight, and this boy's voice is SHOT. Totally.

Still it was a great joy to celebrate St. Michael's Divine Service this evening - I dearly love the feast of the holy angels. And wrapping it up with "Ye Watchers" always makes me want to go on singing and singing! Special treats tonight: seeing Anna and Lorman (Joanne B brought him, bless her heart!).

What makes me more wiped is thinking through tomorrow:

Two Divine Services with Bible Class in between; quick lunch; hospital visit; Circuit Forum; Catechism Vespers; and then Youth Group.

25 September 2009

It Has Been About a Year...

...since Treasury of Daily Prayer first made its debut. It's been a blessed and wonderful year for me in the Word of God. Daily prayer has never been so easily carried out and so wonderfully integrated with the commemoration of saints and other festival days. Already I can't imagine ever using another way of praying. I suspect Treasury will be at my bedside when I die. If you've been using it this year, I'd love to hear some of your reflections on it and how it has affected your life of prayer with God. How do you use it? What features have been the biggest blessing? And so on.

Lectio Divina

What a double treat! Malachi and Matthew together today. Malachi offers some soul-searching questions (he does throughout the work) - today's: do I give God the best or the left-overs? That has to do not only with our offerings; it has to do with our time and with our prioritizing of our lives. The first chapter speaks of that wonderful pure offering that will be brought and which we know to be the preaching of the Gospel (and particularly as it is proclaimed at the Lord's table) and the life that it evokes (living sacrifices!) and so the incense of prayer offered to God across the length and breadth of world in the name of Jesus, our Mediator and High Priest.

In Matthew, we had the joy of St. John's fiery preaching of repentance and the admonition to bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and then the great Theophany at the Baptism of our Lord: the mystery of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit clearly shining forth as all righteousness is fulfilled with our Lord accepting the Baptism of sinners.


Kyrie, God Father in heav'n above,
You abound in grace and love,
Of all things the Maker and Preserver.
Eleison! Eleison!

Kyrie, O Christ, our King,
Salvation for all You came to bring.
O Lord Jesus, God's own Son,
Our Mediator at the heavenly throne:
Hear our cry and grant our supplication.
Eleison! Eleison!

Kyrie, O God the Holy Ghost,
Guard our faith, the gift we need the most,
And bless our life's last hour,
That we leave this sinful world with gladness.
Eleison! Eleison!

--Kyrie from Divine Service 5 (LSB 942)

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Sacrament and sacrifice are not mutually exclusive. The same action can have several ends or purposes. The Holy Communion can free the conscience from its fears and create faith, its sacramental purpose, and then the celebration can be used for the praise of God, obediently to express gratitude and to witness that it magnifies the gifts of God. Thus the ceremony becomes a sacrifice of praise. -- A.C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 238

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

To this end all the Scriptures point and everything has to do with this Son of God, who for us was made Man and shed His blood, that He should tread the devil with all hellish army and weapons, sin, death, and hell under our feet, and through His joyful coming should bring us out of this war of faith into eternal safety and to the glory of the blessed vision. -- Blessed Martin Luther (Day by Day, p. 431 - Sermon from 1544)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Just as the body dies without earthly food, so the soul dies without the Word of God. -- St. Caesarius of Arles (Homily 1)

24 September 2009

Homily upon St. Michael's (observed)

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

How easy to look down upon the little ones! Noisy, smelly, needy, and way too energetic by half. And we grown-ups sigh and put up with them and think we’ve done a great thing. We like to think we’re the big cheese, what it’s all about, and they are but an addendum to our lives. Jesus shows us we have it all backwards.

Plants a dirty street urchin right smack dab in the middle of his quarreling disciples. “You want to be great,” he asks? "You gotta become like this!” Pointing to the little one whose attention has already drifted away and is eager to get back to his hard work of playing. “In fact,” says Jesus as He lets the lad run off again “that’s the only way into my Kingdom; to become a little one. That’s the path to greatness.”

You can see the utterly perplexed look on the disciples’ faces. We understand their perplexity because we too stumble over what Jesus is saying here. But He’s got more: “Anyone of you who causes one these little ones who believe in me to sin (literally, to stumble) - better to have the millstone wrapped around your neck and be cast into the sea.” The little ones are serious business to Him. Those who cause them to fall, to fall away from Him because of their sin - well, no one will want to face Him on that Day if a little one is lost to Him due to us, due to what we’ve done or failed to do.

Better to lose hand, feet, eye anything rather than face Him on that day when you’re the cause of a little one having left Him. So He warns, don’t despise one of these little ones, don’t look down on them and think them not important. They are MOST important. If you don’t think they’re worth bothering about, says He, I do. And I have given my angels charge over them. Their angels - the angels assigned them - always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. So you see, I care about them. I care about them a lot.

And so angels - angels sent forth by the Son of Man who came to save the lost. Angels who are concerned for the Lord’s little ones. If you want an angel to be concerned about you, you’d best be one of the Lord’s little ones too.

Daniel was a mighty prophet before men, but before God he was a trembling little one. He prayed and prayed. And when one day an angel bopped in to let him know that his prayer had been heard, poor Daniel had knocking knees and was filled with terror. Who was he that an angel should come from God with a special message just for him? He was frightened to death. But the angel set him at peace: “Daniel, man greatly loved…. Fear not!”

Mysterious words the Angel spoke. Michael doing battle to help the people of God. Michael, the great archangel and leader of the heavenly hosts. And then words about what’s coming - bad news. Things getting worse than they’ve ever been before. More news to tremble at? No! Michael’s on the scene. He conquers. And so God’s little ones, his people, they will all be delivered, everyone whose name is written in the book. Graves open, the faithful gathered home, shining like the lights in the sky above, and those who turned many to righteousness shining like the stars forever and ever. A vision for a little one to believe. Who but a little one could grasp that out of the disaster and mess of human history, God is forming Himself a people that He will never forsake and that He will bring to glory though He must open the graves to do it? A child’s fairy tale? No. But a story only a little one would credit.

But there’s more. St. John sees the battle. War in heaven. Michael and his angels versus the dragon and his angels. Michael - as he always does - wins and the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil, tossed out, thrown down to the earth with his angels with him.

Songs ring out in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God has come and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even to death.”

Lamb’s blood is no idea. It’s what will be in the chalice. It’s the blood that conquers the accuser, for it is the blood that blotted out your sin on Calvary and so it every testifies to sin’s forgiveness and death’s destruction. So rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. But woe to the earth, for the devil has come down in great wrath and he knows his time is short!

So he spends his efforts here on earth to grab as many as he can to share condemnation with him. He wants to snare you in the pride that puffed him up and that ended up casting him down. The pride that would have you think of yourself more highly than you ought. The pride that would have you look down upon the little ones as Satan looked down upon us frail creatures of flesh and blood and revolted at the thought that his angelic majesty should be servant to the likes of US!

The good angels share the humility of Heaven’s King. They know that He has honored our fallen race by taking on our flesh, by suffering and dying in that flesh to ransom us, and by rising again in that flesh to bring us an eternal salvation. So when a good angel sees one of us little ones, he doesn’t think: “Why should I serve that wretch?” He thinks instead: “Why, look! I am honored to serve this brother, this sister of Heaven’s King! What joy is mine!”

Look at the little ones with angel eyes and all your silly pride will evaporate. The little ones belong to Him who became a little One Himself for them. If we would be great, we’d best be seeing things the right way round and the right way round is that the little ones are our superiors, who teach us how to blessedly receive the Kingdom of God by being nothing but given to by heaven’s King.

Come to the Lord’s table today as a little one and open wide your mouth and receive the Body and Blood of the Lamb and you will overcome the evil one with his accusations - for tucked safely into Christ he cannot accuse you nor hold you. This is the joy of being a little one, and so a companion of the angels, guarded and protected, destined to shine like the stars. Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Supper spans the gap of over nineteen and a half centuries lying between Calvary and ourselves by giving us now, at this time and place, the body given into death and the blood shed then. And as for the future, the Supper is an anticipation of the heavenly banquet. -- Henry Hamann, *On Being a Christian* pp. 102,3

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

You must cast both your heart and your care upon God's back, for He has a strong neck and shoulders, and can well carry them. And, moreover, He bids us cast them upon Him, and the more we cast on Him, the more He is pleased, for He promises that He will bear your burden for you, and everything that concerns you. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *Day by Day* p. 340 (Sermon from 1544)

Patristic Quote of the Day

"It is," He says, "your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." And He Who gives things thus great and precious, and bestows the kingdom of heaven, what unwillingness can there be on His part to be kind towards us; or how will He not supply us with food and clothing? For what earthly good is equal to the kingdom of heaven? or what is worthy to be compared with those blessings, which God is about to bestow, and which neither the understanding can conceive, nor words describe? -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 91 on St. Luke

Funeral Homily for Albert Ernst

[Isaiah 35:3-10; Philippians 3:20-21; Luke 2:25-32]

Ruth, Roger and Millie, Heather & Kevin, Cassie, Roger and Dusty, family and friends of Albert Ernst - if I had to think of a single word to characterize Albert it would be INTENSE. Albert did nothing by halves. When something was eating at him, it wasn’t a little deal. It was BIG deal. And he made sure you knew it! When he was rejoicing, it wasn’t with a small joy but with big joy and laughter overflowing. He didn’t have a lot of patience with areas of gray - well, he didn’t have a lot of patience at all - he tended to think in terms of black or white. And what defined black and white for him was always nothing less than the Sacred Scriptures. He is the poster child for “God said it; I believe it; and that settles it.”

A veteran of the great war for the Bible in the Missouri Synod years ago, he wasn’t afraid of stepping on someone’s toes when it came to confessing the truth. He wanted everyone to know and love the Scriptures just as he did.

And how he clung to the hope those Scriptures gave him. It saddened him to think of those who pass their lives without that hope. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live in this world WITHOUT knowing that there’s a heavenly Father who loves us, who has given His only Son to be our Savior, who has forgiven us all our sins and prepared for us a home we will never lose. He just couldn’t fathom living without that hope.

God had given him a little glimpse of home that he never forgot. He had a near-death experience with that aneurysm that left him disappointed to be still on pilgrimage. Death was not something he trembled before or feared. He had had a teasing taste of what awaits and his heart was set on it. He had seen, well, HOME. What a difference it makes to live your life knowing THIS world isn’t home, but a journey toward home!

Today’s OT reading spoke of the homecoming of God’s people: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing shall flee away!” This on the day when the Lord opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf and makes the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue speak - the joyful day of Resurrection!

Albert lived that hope. He was a man on a journey, on a trip. Small wonder then he so loved to travel. As long as he was able - he and his beloved Ruth hit the road and visited all the highways and byways and saw things and visited people. And always found churches to attend and fellow pilgrims walking the way to get to meet, know and love.

Today’s epistle too strikes the same theme: our citizenship - our true home - is in heaven. And while we sojourn here on earth, we travel towards it, all the while awaiting the return of the Savior, the Lord Jesus, who at His glorious appearing will transform our lowly bodies to be like His own glorious body by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself. Albert lived in a body he knew was destined for eternity; and that’s a huge comfort as you watch your body grow ever more lowly - as you watch it cease to be what it was, so you can’t do what you want to do.

Oh, that was a trial for Al. He was a pilgrim, a man on the go, and to be stuck at home, to be sentenced to walking only from bed to chair to table to chair to bed? It was a hardship indeed. It made him long all the more for the heavenly home.

And in today’s Gospel, we can see something of a man who also grew impatient with the waiting. God had promised Simeon he’d not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ. He must have often wondered: when, Lord? When will it happen? But at last the day came and there was a young mother with her baby and the Holy Spirit said: “That’s him!”

Off to hold him, to look into his eyes, to touch his infant hands. Tears no doubt welled up as he looked his Lord in the face and began to pray: “It’s okay, Lord. I can die now. I’ve seen you, the light come to lighten the Gentiles. I’ve seen you, the glory of Israel. I have seen Death's destruction! I have seen the Forgiveness of sins in human flesh! I'm ready to die."

So Albert too. He loved the little ones so much. They were all important to him. He'd hold up the line walking out of Church because he always stopped to greet the little children - they each knew HE thought they were important. I don’t think anything brought a smile to his face faster than a child. Well there was one thing, maybe. And that would the Child Simeon held that day, Jesus Christ, His Savior. Ruth said it best the day he died. “I don’t worry about where he is. He knew he was a miserable sinner and he also knew he had been redeemed.” Albert rejoiced in what His Lord had accomplished for him and for all on Calvary’s tree. Sins forgiven, death destroyed, the heavenly kingdom made our home!

On the Thursday before he died, we celebrated the Supper together one last time. He was more alert than he’d been in a long while. He said the confession and admitted he was but a poor miserable sinner and that he’d deserved God’s temporal and eternal punishment, and yet he asked for mercy. The mercy was given in the absolution and then again mercy given in the Lord’s body and blood.

Into Albert’s dying flesh, the Child that Simeon held and welcomed and prayed to, the very same came with His undying flesh and blood, bring to Albert forgiveness of all sins and the promise of life everlasting.

After he received it, like Simeon, he was ready to go in peace. We talked briefly about how the fact that he was dying was nothing new - he’d known he was bound for the grave for years. There’s only one way out of this world, but that His Savior had made death a portal to life everlasting. And he said: “That’s right!” He knew where he was headed and he was not afraid to go there. He slowly began to tune out most of the world around him, until Sunday afternoon he took his last breath in this world and opened up his eyes to see the Angels and hosts of heaven welcoming him home. Journey over. Home at last.

How will you remember Albert? I shall remember him for the many intense conversations over theology - dogs in heaven? Can you say God died on the cross? Is it right to call Mary God’s Mother? Oh, countless others! I shall remember him eagerly opening his Scripture and studying it. I shall remember him always coming right to me when he had something he thought needed clearing up. I shall remember his many kind words and loving encouragement over these years. Intense, kind, stubborn, child-loving, impatient, friendly, your Albert and ours. Now home at last with the Redeemer whom he so deeply loved and whose Word was ever his delight, no doubt praying for us to remain in the faith until our departure that we might join him. And today he’d say to you: “Oh, if only you could see it! I can’t wait to show it to you! Home! Home at last!” Amen.

Albert G. Ernst, age 84, of Hamel, died at 3 p.m., on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009, at his residence.

He was born on Aug. 28, 1925, in Alhambra, the son of the late Albert G. and Mathilda A. Boehme Ernst.

He married Ruth M. Schumacher on Sept. 29, 1946, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. She survives.

Along with his wife, he is survived by a son, Roger L., and wife Millie, Ernst of Edwardsville; four grandchildren: Heather, and husband Kevin, Reiseck of East Alton, Cassie Ernst of Hamel, Roger Ernst II of Wood River and Dustin Ernst of Edwardsville; three sisters: Lonita Braundmeier of Highland, Iona, and husband Irvin, Kline of Franklin, Tenn. and Marie, and husband Dale, Buck of Wilsonville, Ore.; and a brother: John, and wife Juanita, Ernst of Alhambra.

Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister, Irma Clayton; and a brother: Vernon Ernst.

Albert was born and raised east of Alhambra, attending Pisgah Grade School and graduating from Mount Olive High School.

He joined the United States Army, after school. After his service, he worked for Western Cartridge in Alton. He later drove a transport for Cassens until 1950 when he started Ernst Heating and Cooling. He retired in 1987. He drove a limousine from Jen's Classic Limo Service in Hamel for five years.

He and his wife loved to travel.

His memberships included St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, St. Paul's Men's Club, former St. Paul elder, St. Paul Church Trustee, Hamel City Board Member for 25 years, Board of Directors with the Southern Illinois District of Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, Alhambra American Legion and Hamel Volunteer Fire Department.

23 September 2009


Tomorrow is the last day for the propers in the first column of the Treasury on page 0-69. Beginning on September 25 and running through October 29 the propers will include:

Invitatory: Glorious is God in His angels and saints: O come, let us worship Him!

Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack!
R: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. R.

Glory be to the Father... R.

On the Canon and Such

A post over on Gottesdienst Blog led to a discussion of the Canon, and it led me to remember the way that the King John III Red Book of Sweden had sought to offer a Lutheran version of the same as the Prayer of the Church. But it also led me to wonder about another way of approaching the same matter. What would you folks think of the pastor offering the following petitions as the congregation and choir were singing the Sanctus?

Silently (during the Sanctus):
Almighty eternal God, You have promised the Spirit of grace and prayer. We beseech You to grant Him to us, that we according to Your commandment and promise may call upon You in spirit and in truth: let Your Holy Spirit rule our hearts, for without Him we cannot be pleasing to You.

You, therefore, O most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, do we supplicants beg and entreat to regard our prayers as acceptable and that You would deign to hear them, in particular those which we offer on behalf of Your holy catholic Church: that may You deign to reconcile, protect, unite and guide her throughout the world: together with all government, of whatever dignity and name, and all the orthodox in belief and the cultivators of the catholic and apostolic faith.

O Lord God, You will that Your Son’s holy and most worthy Supper should be to us a pledge and assurance of Your mercy: awaken our heart, that we who celebrate His Supper may have a salutary remembrance of Your benefits, and humbly render true and due thanks, glory, honor, and praise for evermore. 

Help us Your servants and Your people that we may hereby remember the holy, pure, immaculate, and blessed offering of Your Son, which He made upon the cross for us, and worthily celebrate the mystery of His new testament and eternal covenant. 

Bless and sanctify with the power of Your Holy Spirit that which is prepared and set apart for this holy use, bread and wine, that rightly used it may be unto us the Body and Blood of Your Son, the food and drink of eternal life, which we may desire and seek with greatest longing. All this grant through the same Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Aloud): Our Father...

Somebody got a haircut...

...and I think it looks very nice indeed. And I for one even like the strands of silver among the gold.

Stand to Sing

Have to love the writing from St. Benedict of Nursia in today's appointed readings in Treasury:

"Therefore, let us consider how it benefits us to behave in the sight of God and His angels, and let us then STAND TO SING, that our minds may be in harmony with our voices."

We stand to sing because we know we are worshipping in the presence of God and are surrounded by His holy angels as we gather together in His name.

P.S. Okay, okay, I'll also fess up: I HATE to sing sitting down as a musician; you can't get the air properly into your chest that way, or at least it is harder to do. Standing and singing - well, they just go together.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Finally, churches must help Christians plumb the heights and depths of their lives in a world increasingly flattened into one dimension. It is essential that churches offer worship services that are a "foretaste of the feast to come." They must do all they can to provide a worship life that includes the transcendent. Fine music, liturgical excellence, robust singing, and beautiful sights, sounds, and even smells are essential to such worship. -- Robert Benne (Reasonable Ethics, cited on p. 2139 of TLSB)

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

How could not the contemplation of it [the final judgment] awaken us to a true fear of God? -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 250

Patristic Quote of the Day

And it is not merely so great honor, that we enjoy from the King of the universe. What master ever gave his own son for his servant? No one, but all would rather choose to give their servants for their sons. Here on the contrary, He spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, for His enemies who hated Him. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 16 on 1 Timothy

22 September 2009

Commemoration of Jonah

Today we commemorate Jonah the prophet. From our Synod's website and the Treasury:

A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour's walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:1). His reluctance to respond and God's insistence that his call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah's name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately sinners. Jonah's three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of his own death, burial, and resurrection (Mt. 12:39–41).

The beautiful collect for this day rejoices that through the prophet Jonah the heavenly Father "continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness." It further asks that the Church may behold in our Lord the final end-times prophet whose miracles continue in God's healing medicine of Word and Sacraments.

There is much to love in Jonah's story and book, but the final line invariably leaves me scratching my head. "And also much cattle"???

There are times...

...that "when in Rome do as the Romans do" is horrific advice. Good gravy, check this horrid little puppy out on Gottesdienst Online.

From the General Prayer

We prayed these words last night at the Divine Service for St. Matthew's day. They come at the very end of General Prayer 2 (Altar Book, p. 441). Each time I pray them, I am drawn to love them more and more:

As we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, help us by true faith and a godly life to prepare for the world to come, doing the work You have given us to do while it is day, before the night comes when no one can work. And when our last hour comes, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your heavenly Kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What particularly strikes me in this prayer is that we ask God's help by a true faith and a godly life to prepare for the world to come. Practice for Eternity - that's what our faith and our godly lives are to be about. Practice for that life where praise rings ceaselessly and where love is perfected and yet still grows. Help us practice, Lord, for what life finally shall be and not waste our time and efforts on what is only passing away! Such a beautiful and comforting prayer.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Somehow we need to say in a plain and intelligible way that every individual whom we meet in an existential contact is a redeemed and forgiven child of God. We need to make it clear that he is not one who is still be saved (except in the exclusively subjective sense of the term), but one who is saved. Somehow we need to say exactly what St. Paul sensed as his message: Be reconciled to God. Know that He has reconciled you to Himself as part of the world. Become what you are. -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 205

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For we can return nothing to God except the vows of praise and confession, for we have all things from Him and He needs nothing of our goods. -- Blessed Martin Luther (AE 11:404, cited in TLSB on Psalm 116:14)

Patristic Quote of the Day

The pain which the physician causes by his knife is not penal but salutary. -- St. Augustine (NPNF1 8:555), cited in TLSB on Psalm 116:6 "I was brought low..."

21 September 2009

Happy to Report

That St. Paul's Voters overwhelming decided to accept a gift from a member of a crucifix for the altar. This marks a return to the architecture of the original St. Paul's Church that similarly featured a crucifix. As our namesake, the blessed Apostle St. Paul, once said: "Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified" - now when we look to the altar we will see both the crucified Lord upon the altar and the risen and ascending Lord above it. Thanks be to God for the generosity of his people and for the gift of artists who preach the Gospel to us in their creations!

Additionally, the voters approved a new organist who will bring to our congregation the very rich repertoire of historic Lutheran (and other!) organ works: the carollinier, Mr. Carlo van Ulft.

I am truly overjoyed on both accounts. I'm looking forward to our worship this fall and winter!!!

One feature of Treasury

that I love are those saint day readings from Herberger. Here's the way today's writing ends:

"Some say that in the 479th year after Christ's birth, Matthew's body was found on Cyprus and on his chest was a copy of his Gospel, and that his body was transferred to Constantinople and buried in the Church of St. Stephen." (p. 743)

Matthew buried with his Gospel upon his chest. What a beautiful story! I hope that it is true.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Every one who eats the body and drinks the blood of Christ through whom and in whom and for whom all things were made can, according to his vocation and influence and resources, conscientiously seek to redeem his area of influenced for the Christ whose advent into this world has as its aim the destruction of the works of the adversary. -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 198

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For even though you know that He is God's Son, that He died and rose again, and that He sits at the right hand of the Father, you have not yet learned to know Christ aright... [until you also] believe that He did all this for your sake in order to help you. -- Blessed Martin Luther (AE 30:30, cited on Luke 13:26 in The Lutheran Study Bible)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Isaiah saw the coal. But coal is not plain wood but wood united with fire; in the like manner also the bread of communion is not plain bread but bread united with divinity. -- St. John of Damascus [NPNF2 9:83 - cited in The Lutheran Study Bible on Isaiah 6:7

The Day of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Join us if you can for Vespers at 5:45 and then Divine Service at 6:15. Vespers will be from Treasury (bring your copy along to pray the Psalms!). The Divine Service is spoken and generally lasts about 1/2 hour.

20 September 2009

+ Albert Ernst

Asleep in the Lord in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.

19 September 2009

Fr. Peters

Another one out of the ball park: A Crisis of Confidence.

Another 8.1 Miles

Ran from Church to Hamel and from Hamel to the far edge of Worden (Possum Hill) and then back to the Church. Woo-hoo! I know I can do it - the first time wasn't just a fluke!

Peanut Butter Cookies

HT to Barb Kavouras for this puppy, only slightly modified:

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup Splenda
1 egg
small splash vanilla

Mix together. Form into round balls and put on greased cookie sheet. Smoosh with bottom of a glass, imprint top with criss-crossed fork marks, and bake in preheated 350 oven for 8 minutes. Hard to believe such a tasty cookie can be so simple!!! Go on, try it out. Dare you.

Hymn of the Day for Trinity 15

760 What God Ordains Is Always Good

1 What God ordains is always good:
His will is just and holy.
As He directs my life for me,
I follow meek and lowly.
My God indeed
In ev’ry need
Knows well how He will shield me;
To Him, then, I will yield me.

2 What God ordains is always good:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me in His righteous way,
And never will He leave me.
I take content
What He has sent;
His hand that sends me sadness
Will turn my tears to gladness.

3 What God ordains is always good:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my physician sends me.
My God is true;
Each morning new
I trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

4 What God ordains is always good:
He is my friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm
Though many storms may gather.
Now I may know
Both joy and woe;
Someday I shall see clearly
That He has loved me dearly.

5 What God ordains is always good:
Though I the cup am drinking
Which savors now of bitterness,
I take it without shrinking.
For after grief
God gives relief,
My heart with comfort filling
And all my sorrow stilling.

6 What God ordains is always good:
This truth remains unshaken.
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
I shall not be forsaken.
I fear no harm,
For with His arm
He shall embrace and shield me;
So to my God I yield me.

Lutheran Study Bible Reflections

First, a sadness. My brother-in-law is visiting - he's attends an LCMS Church out east. I was very saddened to hear that he knew nothing of The Lutheran Study Bible. His pastor hadn't shared about it with the congregation apparently. That's a crying shame. Folks, let's get the word out on this! Don't assume that your relatives and friends in other congregations have heard about it yet.

Second, a goofiness. The only feature of TLSB I've found, well, odd, is the way that the introduction to every biblical book begins. I have no idea what these introductions were supposed to accomplish, but so far I've found the really good stuff to start with Luther's introductions and then the comments following. Pr. McCain assures me it is just me. Might well be. They just seem strange.

Third, unbelievably wonderful features:

* the placing of the date when the events described approximately occurred at the top of each column. Folks have trouble keeping what happened when in order because the Scriptures are anything but chronological in the way they are assembled; this goes a long, long way toward helping.

* The Law/Gospel application notes. These little notes run throughout each chapter of Scripture and invite to some deep reflection on the Word just read and invariably conclude with a prayer. Scripture as a prayer book! YES!!!

* Citations from the church fathers (early and reformation) and the Lutheran Symbols. Since the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, and enlightens the whole Christian Church on earth" we'd be foolish not to consider the wisdom of our forefathers as they meditated upon the Sacred Scriptures. TLSB notes that these citations are offered not to suggest that the Fathers or the Symbols are on a par with the Sacred Scriptures, but to listen to them as we might listen to a wise old pastor who's had years of living experience with the Word. (p. xii)

* Schnorr's engravings. I am partial to icons, I confess, but I must say that these engravings are quite beautiful. Classic Western artistic convention and they grace many pages.

* Articles reflecting on difficult areas in the intersection between the Scriptures and life in this crazy world we're currently living in. Wrath of God? Covered. Women in the Church? Covered. Homosexuality? Covered. What happens at death? Covered. Claims of faith healers that put an impossible burden on faith? Covered. These exceedingly well done articles pop up near the key Scripture passages that illumine these questions for us, and they let the light that is God's Word shine upon these question and guide our steps.

* The Christological focus. It's never lost! On every page, TLSB lets the Word of God do what our Lord says that it does: "testify of Me." Help in hearing that testimony as Scripture interprets Scripture (or, as I like to think of it, Scripture's enharmonics calling to each other) is invaluable.

* Geared toward confessing. The Word of God is meant to be spoken! Within the Christian Church we are to speak it to each other, and we are all called to speak it to the world. TLSB consistently reminds of this high calling and privilege to invite others to share with us the joy we have in the forgiveness of sins and adoption into God's family.

* An extensive set of cross-references. Nothing so illumines the Word of God as the Word of God. By following the cross-references similar words or themes come to clarity. So many of the cross-reference systems in English Bibles were prepared by Christians of the Reformed community and tend to miss Sacramental allusions; TLSB uses not only the best of the typical English cross-references, but includes ones from the traditional Luther Bible. Very rich indeed!

* Reference to LSB hymns and liturgy. I've been delighted and surprised to find a rather tight integration with Lutheran Service Book in the notes. The people's prayed and sung confession is further illumined by the Scripture passages that evoked these songs in the first place. An example. The notes on Psalm 51 observe: "David confesses his sin with Bathsheba in this intensely personal lament that has become significant in the Church's liturgy (vv. 10-12 in the Offertory, v 15 in the opening sentences of Matin and Vespers and as the Introit for Ash Wednesday)." (p. 896) Totally sweet!

* Word play explained. Lots of times there's a pun between similar sounding words in Hebrew or Greek that is simply lost in English translation. TLSB very helpfully notes these instances in the notes and will often produce a transliteration so that an English reader can hear the similarity in sound.

* Prayers for illumination. We've learned to look at the inside cover of the books for goodies tucked away by CPH. TLSB is no exception. There's an order for Bible reading, prayers for understanding and growing in the Word, lots more.

* Lectionaries. The two lectionary systems of LSB are at the front of the book. Easy to look up the readings for the coming Sunday and meditate upon them prior to attending Divine Service!

* Small Catechism. Having this handy within the bound Bible is a stroke of genius - CPH already did it some years back with an earlier edition of the ESV. In this Bible it is moved up to the front - fitting as for Lutherans the Small Catechism is a summary of the entire Scriptures.

That's about it for now, but I wanted to put these thoughts out for any who are interested. If you haven't bought it yet, I can't encourage you strongly enough to get it and feast richly upon the Word of God with the remarkable help it provides.

35 Theses on Liturgy and Adiaphora

Here are Pastor Stuckwisch's fine theses on liturgy and adiaphora. Good stuff worth pondering here!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As they eat the Body that is for them and drink the Blood of the Covenant poured out for the forgiveness of sins they are united with the Christ Who has suffered and died for their salvation and for that of all humankind. Their sympathies for every member of their own Christian community, for every member of the larger group community of which theirs is a part, for every other Christian, and for the pagans for whom Christ died no less than for them have been sharpened and broadened and deepened by the fact that they have in Christ entered into one another. -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* pp. 242,243

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As soon as an individual rightly knows himself, he becomes humble. He sees that he is nothing but dust and ash, a great sinner, a transgressor of all divine commandments, a rebel against God's kingdom, and an abomination before God. Oh, it is well for the person who recognizes this! When the Gospel of Christ is preached to him, he receives it with a thousand joys. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 726

Patristic Quote of the Day

That bodily breathing, proceeding from the body with the feeling of bodily touching, was not the substance of the Holy Spirit, but a declaration by a fitting sign, that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son. -- St. Augustine, NPNF1 3:84, [cited in The Lutheran Study Bible, St. Augustine's comment upon John 20:22]

Comment Moderation

Well, I've always tried to keep this blog quite open for discussion and have had a very liberal policy when it came to comment moderation. I'll still try to keep it relatively open, but here's fair warning. All comments now will be moderated before being posted and:

1. I will no longer allow comments that I consider rude or disrespectful.
2. I will no longer allow comments that attack the Lutheran Church or our Confession of the faith.

As a friend of mine is wont to say: satis est. Totally.

17 September 2009

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The whole work of the Church is eucharistic worship as long as Eucharistic worship remains an integral part of the work of the Church. By the same token the whole life of individual Christians in the world remains a continual eucharistia, or thanksgiving, as long as they have constant recourse, in the company of their fellow-members of the mystical Body of their Lord, to His Eucharistic Body and Blood. -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 239

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Because God is truly omnipotent, He will be able to snatch us out of every peril and adversity, protect us against any dangerous foes, hear our prayers, grant us the necessities of this life and of the life to come, equip us with virtues, snatch us away from death itself, and bring us into life, though all the devils will resist in vain. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, *On the Nature of God and the Trinity* p. 200

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thus it is blasphemy to search into divine things by our own reasonings. For what have human reasonings in common with them? -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on 1 Timothy

16 September 2009

On Lying

"All men are liars" cries out the Psalmist. And he's right - all except for One. There was One who spoke truth and spoke truth from the depths of His being, for He IS Truth. And when we enter into communion with Him, when He reaches us His life to be our life, then one of the things He relentlessly seeks to chase out of us is this propensity to lie. He takes away the perceived "need" to. I don't need to pretend to be better than I am; He has already kindly and freely regarded me as His child. Who do I have to impress? No one! I am baptized!

So the holy Apostle urges in Ephesians: "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." (4:25) And there we see the joy.

It is not just that the lying, spinning the tale to make ourselves look better than we darned well know we have the right to, is of the old self and needs to be left in Baptism's watery grave. The liar is letting something fill his mouth that displaces what God would have in that mouth: TRUTH. The truth about us is that we are liars. The truth about us is that God alone can free our tongues from the tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive. The truth is that God wants to fill our mouths with HIS Truth, with the praise and glorification of His Son, who is the Truth and who spoke only Truth and who would open our lips that our mouths might declare His praise. "Behold, You desire truth in the inward being." And so "Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."

Only in the cleansing of the Lord can we congenital liars experience our needed deliverance; and glory to God in that cleansing there is hope for a new way of living! A way of living that speaks truth. Private confession is all about speaking the truth. But even more so is the word of truth I hear from my Confessor's lips: "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit." That's a truth pressed down on my head with his hands. And for it: Glory to You, O Lord! Glory to You!

A Loehe Gem Via Fast

Fr. Fast has posted up on his facebook an insight from Loehe, that the Church is not liturgical because she possesses certain beautiful and ancient texts, but because she intercedes for the world. How utterly right on! One of my Treasury joys is the manner in which the daily prayers lead us weekly to pray for all sorts and conditions. Today, Wednesdays, we devote to praying for the dying. I'm so thankful when one of my parishioners dies that I've been asking these things for them together with countless others who are praying with me. Tuesday we remember prisoners of war and especially all who are persecuted for the faith. Thursday we remember the communicants and pray for a fruitful use of the Sacrament among us and in our own lives. On and on. Each day there is something we are particularly interceding about and by the time the week is done, we've done what Schmemann once described: taking the world in our hand as an apple and handing it to God. This is how we live the Christian life - we intercede - for our life is union with Him who lives to intercede for us, and as the Larger Catechism confesses: "All our shelter and protection rest in prayer alone."

More Teasing Tastes of Starck...

Believing Christians Ask God to Sanctify Their Hearts.


Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

When believing Christians view themselves in their natural depravity, they remember (1) that they cannot make themselves holy, but that this is a work of God. And so, (2) they use the means appointed by God for their sanctification. They remember their Holy Baptism, in which the Holy Spirit was poured out on them and took up His abode in their heart; and they honestly ask themselves whether they’ve driven the Holy Spirit away since then with intentional sins. They know that the Lord’s Supper is a food for sanctification. When they receive it, they ask that through it God would sanctify their soul, body, and all its members. They listen reverently to the Word of God, and treasure up in their hearts what they’ve heard, so that they can grow in holiness. (3) For the sanctification of their body and soul to be accomplished they know that this can only happen by God’s power and the working of the Holy Spirit. If the soul is sanctified, their entire life will be spent in true sanctification: all their thoughts, words, and deeds are to be shaped by the rule of holiness.
(4) This sanctification must take place in the present; it must not be deferred to old age or to the hour of death. It must be begun while a person is still able to pray and to use the means of sanctification intelligently. (5) This sanctification, in addition, is to be manifested at all times, on all occasions, even when a person happens to be among those whose hearts are set on this age. We are to show by our conduct, words, and deeds, that we have a sanctified heart and that the Holy Spirit governs our lips and our entire life. Such a sanctified soul will one day be admitted to the place where the saints dwell in light.


O Holy Spirit, I am seized with fear whenever these divine words strike my ears: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” and again “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” When I ponder these sayings and measure against them my unholy heart, my unholy thoughts, my unholy words, my unholy actions, I am often thrown into great anguish, and I become ashamed of the unbecoming and unholy life that I have led. For, sadly, obeying the promptings of my heart and the habits of the world, I have sinned and have offended You in word and action. Oh, if no one shall see Your face without holiness, how few will be saved and how many damned! Help, Lord! For the godly disappear!

And so, O holy God, make me understand all these things well that I may with sincere earnestness seek for true inward and outward holiness. O Jesus, sanctify me by Your righteousness, Your merit and Your blood. Give to me, who by nature am unholy, Your holiness, that clothed in it as my most beautiful robe, I may be able to appear and stand before Your heavenly Father. Sanctify my life by Your holy Word. Sanctify my heart that it may always be occupied with good thoughts. Sanctify my lips, that they may speak nothing that is unfitting, unchristian, and wicked. Sanctify my will that I may desire and do only what pleases You. O holy God, draw me away from the world and unite me to You, that through Your Holy Spirit I may have the witness in me that I am born again, that I am a child of God and in a state of grace.

But let this sanctification be real, that I may not be holy only outwardly, and seek holiness while at church, while attending the Lord’s Supper, or when I am engaged in other sacred actions; but let me be truly holy and follow after holiness in all places, at all times, on all occasions, even when I must live entirely in the company of godless people. Let me under such circumstances speak, live, and act as a child of God, and remain in such a blessed state until death, when You will bring me to the company of the saints and elect in the everlasting light of joy.


O Holy Spirit, grant us grace
That we our Lord and Savior
In faith and fervent love embrace
And truly serve Him ever.
The hour of death cannot bring loss
When we are sheltered by the cross
That cancelled our transgressions.

Help us that we Thy saving Word
In faithful hearts may treasure;
Let e’er that Bread of Life afford
New grace in richest measure.
O make us die to ev’ry sin,
Each day create new life within,
That fruits of faith may flourish.

And when our earthly race is run,
Death’s bitter hour impending,
Then let Thy work in us begun
Continue till life’s ending,
Until we gladly may commend
Our souls into our Savior’s hand,
The crown of life obtaining.
LSB 693:1-3


His prophesy was the additional reading today from Treasury. Now the trivia question: can anyone guess what verse I absolutely LOVE from this book and why?

An Evangelical Review

of The Lutheran Study Bible by the Internet Monk, and a fine job too. Amen on Lutherans needing to get out of their ghettos!

Opinio Legis

It is nothing short of amazing how the desire to fixate on "we did our part" - no matter how small - sticks glued to us. Only by the Holy Spirit are we given grace to cry out: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and faithfulness." (Psalm 115:1) And with Daniel the prophet: "For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy! O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive!"

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Whatever we do that is acceptable to God we do "in Christ." What we do by our own native powers is only to resist the impulse and to handicap the operation of the Holy Spirit - to quench the Spirit. Yet the good that we do, even though we do it in Christ, we do. It is our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, our oblation of service, our offering of faith. But because the impulse and the power comes from Christ, because He works both the will and the deed within us, it is still Christ who is the ultimate Priest, the One who is really offering the sacrifice of perfect obedience in deed and in suffering to heavenly Father. To deny this or to minimize this, is to deny the biblical doctrine of the unity of the Head and the Body, of the Bride and the Bridegroom. -- Arthur Carl Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 241, 242

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When Paul says that we are justified and saved without works, he is not excluding repentance and contrition as something which precedes, nor does he exclude the other virtues as things which must be present or follow. -- Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, II:544

Patristic Quote of the Day

Many and great, beloved brethren, are the divine benefits wherewith the large and abundant mercy of God the Father and Christ both has laboured and is always labouring for our salvation: that the Father sent the Son to preserve us and give us life, in order that He might restore us; and that the Son was willing to be sent and to become the Son of man, that He might make us sons of God; humbled Himself, that He might raise up the people who before were prostrate; was wounded that He might heal our wounds; served, that He might draw out to liberty those who were in bondage; underwent death, that He might set forth immortality to mortals. These are many and great boons of divine compassion. -- St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 8

Commemoration of Cyprian of Carthage, Pastor and Martyr

Today our Synod commemorates St. Cyprian. From the Treasury and our Synod's website:

Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248. During the persecution of the roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258.

Today's Collect notes that "You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and the courage to die for the faith he proclaimed" and asks that we also be given constant strength "to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Treasury, p. 728)

Today's Treasury writing is a beautiful meditation by St. Cyprian that includes these words: "If we are the sons of God; if we are already beginning to be His temples; if, having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ..." (Treasury, p. 728)

15 September 2009

From Sinai to Zion

There must be a continuous progression from Sinai to Zion, so that the object of justifying faith does not become Epicureanism or, as Peter says, "a cloak for maliciousness." (1 Pet 2:16) -- Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici II:501

Father Curtis offers thoughts...

...on the esse and bene esse of Christian unity. A solid reminder that what serves unity ought not be mistaken for that which constitutes unity BUT neither ought that which serves unity be mistaken for practices that do not further unity at all. A good proposal, written from a man who desires to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Father Hollywood

reflects on some unfortunate language. Enjoy!

Don't Neglect

the additional reading today from Nahum. What stunning poetry, gripping in its vividness! And the reminder not to forget the Lord's feasts runs right along with Colossians warning us that the feasts of the old Law were all shadows pointing toward the reality that shines forth in Christ. He IS our feast! "Christ, our Passover!" Oh, and for those for whom wrath is but a metaphor or some such (that silly horse explaining that Aslan is not a REAL lion...), um, not so much for those living under it... Ask the Assyrians!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Between a theology grounded on the facts of salvation and one that is founded on latent truths that are superior to the events of history yawns an abyss that we should never attempt to bridge by any sort of dialectic. -- Köberle, *Quest for Holiness* p. 56

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ is the joy and sweetness of a trembling and troubled heart. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Great Galatians 2:20

Patristic Quote of the Day

The martyr's life is transformed by this kind of death, it is not taken away by death. Rather, he was free from death, since he died so that he would live forever. -- St. Peter Chrysologus on the Beheading of the Baptist, Sermon 174:6

14 September 2009

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

When selfishness has died and love is released through the preaching of the Cross there is bound to be a growing desire to bring this message of reconciliation to the brethren and to share it with them. -- Köberle, *Quest for Holiness* p. 83

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Here we see that, in the battle of the flesh and spirit, in which true Christians stand, they do not only overcome sins, they carry off all kinds of precious virtues as the booty of their combat. The longer they battle, the more universal, comforting, and untiring their love becomes. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 716

Patristic Quote of the Day

We do not acknowledge you - O Cross - because of the cruelty that godless and foolish men prepared you to effect upon the most gentle Lord, but because of the wisdom and goodness of him who of his own free will took you up. For they could not have done anything unless his wisdom permitted it, and he could not suffer except that in his mercy he willed it.

They chose you that they might carry out their evil deeds; he chose you that he might fulfill the work of his goodness. They that by you they might hand the righteous over to death; he that through you he might save the sinners from death. They that they might kill life; he that he might destroy death. They that they might condemn the Savior; he that he might save the condemned. They that they might bring death to the living; he to bring life to the dead. They acted foolishly and cruelly; he wisely and mercifully.

Therefore, O Cross to be wondered at, we do not value you because of the intention of their cruel folly, but according to the working of mercy and wisdom.

By you hell is despoiled, by you its mouth is stopped up to all the redeemed. By you the demons are made afraid and restrained, conquered and trampled underfoot. By you the world is renewed and made beautiful with truth, governed by the light of righteousness. By you sinful humanity is justified, the condemned are saved, the servants of sin and hell are set free, the dead are raised to life.

--St. Anselm of Canterbury

Holy Cross Day

"We adore You, O Lord,
and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection,
for behold, by the wood of Your cross,
joy has come into all the world."
-- LSB Altar Book for Good Friday

From the Treasury: "One of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church, Holy Cross Day traditionally commemorated the discovery of the original cross of Jesus on September 14, 320 in Jerusalem. The cross was found by Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in AD 335. A devout Christian, Helena had helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout biblical lands. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use "Holy Cross" as the name of their congregation." pp. 721,2

The collect for the day, remembering that our Lord was lifted high upon the cross to bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself, asks "that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him."

The Verse for the day: "Far be it from me that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

On whose hard arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world's ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

O tree of beauty, tree most fair,
Ordained those holy limbs to bear:
God is thy shame, each crimsoned bough
Proclaims the King of Glory now.
LSB 455:4,5

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world's redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!
LSB 454:4

13 September 2009

A Well-Furnished Lutheran

I've pursued this thought before, but with the publication of The Lutheran Study Bible, I just need to say it again. It is nothing short of amazing what we now have in print!

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions - here is a fabulous treatment of the Lutheran Confessions replete with introductions, stunning artwork, and superior translation (sorry, Kolb-Wengert, this one beats you hands down).

The Lutheran Service Book and attendant volumes, especially Pastoral Care Companion - a modern Lutheran service book and hymnal that preserves the best of our heritage while also giving us a whole pile of new music and some stunning new text.

The Treasury - the prayer book I've waited for my whole life. Daily Scripture readings, readings from the fathers (including the Reformation fathers), hymn and prayers. Great stuff.

And now The Lutheran Study Bible - a Bible that has so many goodies stuffed in it that I get the feeling I'll still be learning from it when I'm old and gray (shut up, you! I am NOT!).

I mean, seriously, WHAT TOOLS have been placed in our hands to foster a life of prayer, a life of witness to Christ, a life of meditation upon the Scriptures. We've NEVER had it so good. NEVER. Not in English, at any rate.

And Starck's Prayer Book is coming soon to add to the riches. And I'm just talking CPH. What happens when we add on Repristination Press and the countless goodies from Gerhard and the other Lutheran fathers? Or Emmanuel Press with its astonishing Brotherhood Prayer Book and other resources? Or the Concordia Catechetical Academy's superb Lutheran Catechesis, Old Testament and New Testament Catechesis. Riches abound for us. And I want to thank everyone who has had any part in getting them to us, and to encourage us one and all to dig deep and enjoy.

Despite the ups and downs in our Synod, I can't imagine a better time to be a Lutheran Christian.

Homily upon Trinity 14

[Proverbs 4:10-23 / Galatians 5:16-24 / Luke 17:11-19]

The rain came down in the great sheets. The wind was gusting. It was hard to see where I was going as I drove down Interstate 85 in North Carolina. And just as the rain was at its hardest, I entered the construction zone. Now, this was tough going. I could just begin to make out the concrete wall in front of me as the road veered sharply to the right, when it happened. A big semi in the north bound lanes ran through some standing water on his side of the road and sent a great sheet of water over the concrete barrier and all over my windshield. Just as I was entering the curve. I couldn’t see. It all couldn’t have lasted for more than three or four seconds, but I thought: “This is it. I’m going to hit that wall. I can’t see where I’m going.” When my windshield cleared off, somehow I had made it through the curve. I remember trembling the rest of the way to church.

When I got there it took a while for me to calm down. When I finally did, I got on the phone and called Cindi and told her about it. She made the comment: “The Lord was really with you.” And do you know what? That was the first I’d thought about the Lord since it all happened. Shamefacedly I hung up the phone and prayed. I thanked the Lord for his protection, which I so often took and take for granted, and I asked forgiveness for my ingratitude and for help in remembering God’s mercies and being grateful for them.

That incident has stayed with me through the years. And time and again I find myself in the company of the nine in today’s Gospel. Having been blessed, greatly blessed by Jesus, and taking it for granted. Trouble comes and I call on Him for help - and when has He ever not given it? - and when the trouble’s over, then I wander on my own way again and never stop to thank Him. Can any of you relate to that?

You see, ingratitude is only the symptom of the real problem. The real problem is unbelief, refusing to receive all that God wants to give us. Like the nine, we like to pick and choose. Jesus Christ reaches out His hand to us and it is full of blessing and we carefully pick through what’s offered there and take this or that, and then head off. We fail to see that what He’s really after is not for us to take the stuff in His hand, but to take His hand and walk with Him.

The nine in today’s Gospel picked out the gift of physical healing. Having taken that, they were content. The Samaritan wasn’t content with the healing. The healing was great, but it wasn’t enough by itself. He wanted more. He wanted not the blessings, but the person. And so he had to come back, to come back to Jesus himself. To be in His presence. To fall down on his face at Jesus’ feet and give thanks to God. The Samaritan perceived that behind the gift of healing stood a greater gift - the gift of a relationship with God, the gift of love in Jesus Christ.

We’re so content with the blessings that we sometimes miss the point. Even with forgiveness of sins. Oh, there is not a greater gift Jesus has to give than that. The Gospel began with the words: “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem.” You know what that “going to Jerusalem” means, don’t you? Palm Sunday, the Holy Supper on Maundy Thursday, the betrayal, the arrest, the trial and the beating, and the suffering and the dying. The Lamb of God sacrificed to carry away the sin of the world. The Lamb of God who dies to make all people one. The Lamb of God whose death won forgiveness of sins for all who place their trust and confidence in His finished work. The Lamb of God whose resurrection showed that the Father had accepted the sacrifice and that the sins of the world really and truly are wiped out.

But look at what happens so often! Forgiveness is given and we say: “Neat! Great!” And then we walk away from Him - like the nine we go back to business as usual. We fail to see that the forgiveness was given to us so that we could then live in and through Jesus as a child of the heavenly Father. We fail to see that the forgiveness was not an end in itself, but was the means to an end. Through that forgiveness a life of fellowship, of communion with the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit was being opened up to us. A life that bears those fruit of the Spirit we heard about in our second reading and that solidly turns its back on the works of the works and desires of the flesh, works and desires that land us solidly in hell if we follow them. Instead, for those who walk with Christ, as the first reading said, the light grows brighter and brighter toward the full dawn.

“Were not all ten cleansed?” Jesus asks. “Where then are the nine?” Here stands the font, my friends, where Jesus today does His cleansing, His healing. Here He gives the forgiveness that He won on Calvary’s cross. But how many of those who are washed here wander away from Him? Miss out on the very purpose for which He washed them in the first place? Life with Him!

Oh, it’s always a temptation with this text to take aim at the folks who aren’t here, but let’s be honest. We too fall into the same trap. We who come to church on Sunday, even every Sunday. It’s far too easy for us to come merely for the grasping of the gift, and then to turn away from the life of communion with Christ that is the purpose and proper use of that gift. Do we walk away from this room and never thank Him for His gifts? Do we leave this assembly and live our lives as though He were not present every moment with us? Do we open His Word during the week? Do we pray to Him and live in communion with Him each day?

Look, my friends, today Jesus stands as in the Gospel reading. He is never stingy in His gift-giving. He stands and waits. He bestows on us riches beyond our imagining and deserving. And He asks: “Where are the nine?” Shall we not rise up and go to Him? Shall we not fall down at His feet and glorify God for the gifts He has given us? Shall we not then live with Him and through Him? Being His disciples indeed? He calls us. Let us rise, take His hand, and walk with Him in the power of His Spirit to whom be glory with the same Spirit and His all-holy Father, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Another Reminder

Because tomorrow is Holy Cross Day, this Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are the fall Ember days. You can read more about Ember days on page 21 in the Treasury. Note that in Lutheran use these fasting days were devoted also to the Catechism, so a great way to observe the Ember days is to review the entirely of the six chief parts from the Small Catechism as you fast*:

Wednesday: Ten Commandments and Creed
Friday: Lord's Prayer and Holy Baptism
Saturday: Confession and Sacrament of the Altar

There are also traditional readings associated with these days, provided by the Brotherhood Prayer Book:

Wednesday: Mark 9:16-28; Ezra 8:1-10
Friday: Luke 7:36-50; Hosea 14:2-10
Saturday: Luke 13:6-17; Hebrews 9:2-12

Also the traditional collects:

Wednesday: Vouchsafe, O Lord, we pray thee, to aid our infirmities with the healing of Thy loving-kindness: that we, which are made weak by the frailty of our nature, may be strengthened by the power of Thy mercy; through Jesus Christ...

Friday: Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that we, who put our trust in Thee, may serve Thee acceptably both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ...

Saturday: Almighty and everlasting God, who dost command bodily discipline and hast attached promises thereto: grant that we may constantly serve Thee in soul and body, that no temptation may cause us to stumble; through Jesus Christ...

[See Brotherhood Prayer Book, pp. 525, 526]

* For a fine article on fasting, see The Lutheran Study Bible on p. 189 "When You Fast." Note especially: "Yet our Lord's words clearly reveal that fasting should be part of a Christian's life. He said, 'When you fast,' not 'if you fast.' The early Christians fasted (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). Why shouldn't a twenty-first century Christian do likewise? As you fast, let the feelings of hunger you experience remind you to pray. Spend the time you would normally spend eating by reading God's Word and meditating on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through His Word the Lord will bless and nourish you."

A New Session

Today began our Catechism Vespers. We'll meet most every Sunday between now and Passion Sunday meditating upon the Catechism. I think we had 29 folks gathered this afternoon, and two were missing. Young and old and everything in between gathering to pray Vespers and to learn or review the basics of our holy faith. Is there a better way to spend an hour in the afternoon on Sunday? This week our "learn by heart" verse is Psalm 119:105 and we're reciting each day Commandments 1-3 with their explanations.