30 June 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Through Jesus, I can become like Him; through Him I am forgiven every sin; through Him I am made whole and can stand before God as His child. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 185.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He did not come to issue new laws, but to fulfill the Law for us, so that we may share in His fulfillment. -- C. F. W. Walther, Law & Gospel, p. 84.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The sting, however, is that by which death was made, and not that which death made, since it is by sin that we die, and not by death that we sin. It is therefore called the sting of death on the principle which originated the phrase the tree of life,— not because the life of man produced it, but because by it the life of man was made. -- St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, chapter 20.

Kuchta Weighs In

on Jesus First's infamous Letter 9:  read it here.

29 June 2010

Hymn of the Day for Festival of Sts. Peter and Paul

Lord Jesus Christ, the Church's head,
You are her one foundation.
In You she trusts, before You bows,
And waits Your great salvation.
Built on this rock secure,
Your Church shall endure
Though all the world decay
And all things pass away.
O hear, O hear us, Jesus!

O Lord, let this Your little flock,
Your name alone confessing,
Continue in Your loving care,
True unity possessing.
Your sacraments, O Lord,
And Your saving Word
To us, Lord, pure retain.
Grant that they may remain
Our only strength and comfort.

Help us to serve You evermore
With hearts both pure and lowly;
And may Your Word, that light divine,
Shine on in splendor holy
That we repentance show,
In faith ever grow;
The pow'r of sin destroy
And evils that annoy.
O make us faithful Christians!

And for Your Gospel let us dare
To sacrifice all treasure;
Teach us to bear Your blessed cross,
To find in You all pleasure.
O grant us steadfastness
In joy and distress,
Lest we, Lord, You forsake.
Let us by grace partake
Of endless joys and gladness.
LSB 647

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

But all such defenses are useless before God.  We cannot keep Him at a distance, negotiate with Him with a part of ourselves.  God pierces through to the center, to headquarters, to the control center, your heart, your soul.  He will not be impeded, fiddling about on the outskirts of your city.  A concession to Him here or there is not enough; God wants all or nothing.  To God, we are a unit, one whole thing.  God does not deal with pieces of us; we are all one bundle to Him.  That is the way He made us; that is the way He wants us; that is the way He deals with us. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, pp. 184,185.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

There will be moments when you will imagine that you are God's children.  Again, there will be times when you think your sins have not been forgiven.  If one such occasions you desire genuine peace, it can come to you if you can distinguish between Law and Gospel. -- C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospel, p. 72.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies the ungodly. -- St. Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, chapter 11.

Homily for the Day of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles

[Acts 15:1-12 / Galatians 2:1-10 / Matthew 16:13-19]

Peter had the right answer:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  That answer didn’t come from him – he didn’t give the right answer because he was bright and thunk it up all by his own alone self.  Jesus makes it clear that the only way anyone comes to that answer is when the Father reveals it to him.  So if you confess that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Son of the living God – this is not your doing, but God’s giving.  And not only the confession but also the faith that it is so, is God’s gift to you. 

There have always been those who were a uncomfortable with all this gift talk going on.  Jesus and all that, yes, BUT they insist, the Law is the Law and it must be obeyed.  Jesus plus.  Whenever you meet a Jesus plus, you’ve met a falsification of the Gospel that was entrusted to the Apostles. 

So Paul and Barnabas, when they encounter the Jesus plus of the circumcision party (yes, Jesus is fine and the Gentiles can be saved through Him, PROVIDED they are circumcised and keep the law of Moses), they totally disagree.  And the dispute that arose called forth the first Church Council in history.  Barnabas and Paul head up to Jerusalem to present the matter to the Church there.

And there too voices were raised to insist that the Gentiles must be beholden to the Law of Moses.  Against this, Peter himself stands forth and speaks utter truth.  He was the first to speak to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and look at what God did in response to that.  He gave to those Gentiles (Cornelius and his household) the very same gift of the Holy Spirit that He had given to the Apostles themselves, cleansing their hearts by faith.  So don’t do it, Peter pleaded.  Don’t lay on them that yoke that neither we nor our fathers could keep.  All the law does is condemn us and show us our great sin and make us tremble.  It does not and cannot save a soul, for it promises eternal life only to those who keep it wholly and none of us have or even can.  Rather, we believe that we will be saved by the grace – the unmerited gift – of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as they will.

Peter’s voice, with James’ added to it, carried the day and the Jesus plus was rejected from the Church.  Not Jesus and obedience, but Jesus alone, His grace alone, saves.  Period.

Here Peter and Paul are at one in their proclamation.  And Exhibit A was Titus who went along to that Church Council as proof of a Spirit-filled, baptized Christian, who was NOT circumcised.  And so Paul’s preaching of the Gospel as Jesus and Jesus alone and his total renunciation of Jesus plus was upheld.  And they went forth preaching this Apostolic Gospel confirmed by the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem.

What’s the plus you want to add to Jesus?  I doubt it’s circumcision anymore.  But loving the neighbor, doing good for others, these remain popular.  As long as we are in the flesh, we will always be tempted to want to stand before God not only on the basis of Jesus but on the basis of Jesus plus something we do, something in us.  It’s so damaging to human pride – in fact, deadly to human pride – to stand before God and have no plea except a cry for mercy on the basis of Jesus alone.  To cling only to His cross and know that He alone is our forgiveness and our salvation and our hope of eternal life.  To know that we not only begin as but remain all our lives beggars before God – that He cleanses our hearts through faith so that we repose our trust in absolutely nothing in us, but solely in His grace, His undeserved kindness toward us in the gift of the Savior. 

How wise Mother Church to remind us of this as we come to the Supper.  O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us, grant us peace.  We come offering nothing.  We come receiving all.  We remain nothing but beggars and God keeps on wiping out our trust in other things as we come to rely more and more on Jesus and on Jesus alone.  The longer we live with Jesus alone, the more we see how it had to be that way, for the sin in our lives is very persistent and despite our Spirit-led efforts to kill and destroy it, it keeps on keeping on.  Old Augustine had it right:  “If we did not remain under God’s pardon until the end, we would be tempted to attribute too much to ourselves.” 

Sts. Peter and Paul not only witnessed to Jesus alone in their lives, but in their deaths.  They both yielded their bodies and poured out their earthly lives in the glad confession that in Jesus and in Him alone was a life that no death could rob them of, forgiveness bigger than all the world’s sin, love stronger any hatred.  They went into death without the least trust in their keeping of the Law, but with total trust in the Savior of sinners.  May God grant us like trust and like bold confession and total renunciation in our lives of anything that is added to Jesus.  May we be a people who say with Sts. Peter and Paul:  Jesus alone.  Amen.   

The Festival of Sts. Peter and Paul

Today we commemorate the martyrdom of the holy apostles Sts. Peter and Paul in the city of Rome.  We pray on this day:

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son.  Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

A spoken Divine Service will be celebrated at St. Paul's this evening at 6 p.m.  Join us, if you can!

If the recent Jesus First Mailing

dismayed you in its attacks upon our fine LCMS World Relief/Human Care, I would urge you to take the time to read this.  So much for the gross distortion and misinformation provided, eh?  I'm thankful that the board chair requested this utterly clarifying response.

28 June 2010

Word for the Wise

If you are a delegate to the Synodical Convention, please do NOT assume that the schedule as it is has been published is set in concrete.  There is definite interest on the part of some in moving the vote for Synodical President to Sunday morning.  So, dear delegates, please do NOT plan on blowing off Sunday morning for a worship service at one of our wonderful Houston churches.  Make plans to be in attendance for ALL business sessions so that your vote counts!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

What would have destroyed us, is dealt with at Calvary by Jesus.  What comes now in laughter and in tears, we are in it together with Jesus. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 176.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

My goal is to convince all of you that a preacher can truly be equipped for his calling only by means of the Holy Spirit.  -- C. F. W. Walther, Law & Gospel, p. 63.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The Law, if it lay hold of a murderer, puts him to death.  The Gospel, if it lay hold of a murderer, enlightens and gives him life. - St. John Chrysostom, NPNF 12:307 - cited in Law and Gospel in the helpful "timeline" in the front of the work.

26 June 2010

David as Lt. Grog

in "The Lady Cried Murder" at SIUE.  He was a hoot!

Random Thought

During the eastern liturgy there comes a point where the priest says of the holy gifts:  "Thine of Thine own, we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all."

Recalling that for Lutherans "sacrifice" in the Eucharist is primarily noun, not verb, it occurred to me that a slight re-statement would get at what Lutherans believe:  "Thine own of Thine own, which He once offered on behalf of all and for all."  And we'd likely want to add:  "and which He now offers unto His own anew for forgiveness, life, and salvation."

Told you it was a random thought...

Yet More Wisdom from Father Peters

On the difference between welcoming and feeling at home:  right here.

I would add that the reason it is impossible for them to be "at home" is because the entirety of the Divine Service is built around what cannot be seen and they walk in believing in what they SEE as real.  It simply makes no sense and can make no sense to one whose eyes the Holy Spirit has not inwardly opened.  We cry out to One who is not seen, but whom we confess to be truly among us as we gather in His name.  We acknowledge the presence of unseen angels and saints with whom we are gathered.  We claim to be washed in water tinged with the divine blood of our Redeemer, but it is unseen.  We claim to eat and drink His Body and Blood for our forgiveness and eternal life, when all that appears is bread and wine.  None of this CAN make sense to one whose eyes have not yet been opened, nor can they grasp how the profound encounter with His utter Holiness leads us to cry out in awareness of our all-pervading sinfulness and fallenness.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Jesus bids us in these words to come to Him and bring our heavy load, to give over all that laboring to justify ourselves, all that yoke of the Law, to Him.  He relieves us of all that.  What we cannot bear, Jesus bears for us.  He carries that yoke for us, fulfills the Law for it.  Its condemnation on our sin He bears for us, for on Him is laid the burden of the iniquity of us all.  The death for sin Jesus dies in our place.  The forsakenness of God, which is for our sin, He takes in our place, for He is the sin-bearer for us all, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 175

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The more truly learned a person is, the humbler he will become, for he knows how much he is still lacking, within what narrow boundaries his knowledge is confined, and how much still remains to be explored. -- C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospel, pp. 47, 48.

Patristic Quote of the Day

"For wide is the door, and broad the way that brings down many to destruction." And what are we to understand by its broadness? It means an unrestrained tendency to carnal lust; a base and pleasure loving life; luxurious feastings, and revellings and banquetings, and unresisted inclinations unto every thing which is condemned by the law, and displeasing to God: a stiff-necked mind that will not bow to the yoke of the law: a life accursed, and relaxed in all dissoluteness, thrusting from it the divine law, and utterly unmindful of the sacred commandments: wealth and the vices that spring from it, scorn and pride, and the vain imagining of transitory boastings. From all such things must those withdraw who would enter in by the strait door, and be with Christ, and keep festival with Him. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies on St. Luke, XCIV.

25 June 2010

Mother and Daughter

got to sing a duet together at tonight's Patriotic Concert of the Collinsville Chorale - and they did a GREAT job.

Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

From the Treasury and our Synod's Website:

The Augsburg Confession, the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Phillip Melanchthon. At its heart it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580 the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord.

"I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings, O Lord, and shall not be put to shame."  - Psalm 119:46

"Our Churches do not dissent from any article held by the Church catholic.  They only omit some newer abuses."

Prayer:  Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg.  Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

24 June 2010


It's amazing how much time planning ahead saves, no matter tentative we need to be (D.V. and all that).  So far today got my schedule for teaching at TSP for the next year entered into the calendar; generally updated the calendar itself; sent updates of the TSP schedule to Prs. Curtis and Gleason and Principal Farrell; figured out when the last week of vacation would be taken; did bulletin for 8 August (secretary will be taking off that week, and so if she's to run it off ahead of time, it needs to be before I actually get back from vacation) and shipped to organist and secretary; prepared the stuff Pr. Gleason might need in my absence and shipped it his way; and set up the preaching schedule till Dec. 31.  Letter to parents of confirmands regarding next year's program went out already.  When I am back on dock in August, we'll have more planning for the fall with the musicians, and I really want to have the hymns set in stone through Trinity Sunday of next year (already done through December).

Delighting in the Augustana

In the Treasury, we've had our suggested reading for the last bit from the Augustana - most appropriate as we come up to June 25, the day that it was read before the Diet gathered in Augsburg.  It always amazes me how clear, irenic, and solid this foundational confession of Lutheran Christians is!  Word reaches me today that beginning tomorrow, you can HEAR the Augustana - one article read each day - on Pastor Philip Hoppe's blog:  Meditations of My Heart.  I'm bookmarking and planning to listen in!

A Thoroughly Delightful

way to enjoy some summer refreshment is to read each day one of Walther's lectures in Law and Gospel. 

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

If being a Christian is something that makes you groan, you have almost certainly got it wrong.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 175.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the same way a preacher must give to each hearer his due; he must see to it that secure, carefree, and willful sinners hear the thunderings of the Law, while contrite sinners need to hear the sweet voice of the Savior's grace. -- C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospel, p. 38

Patristic Quote of the Day

We must fall on our knees before the Master and implore Him with tears graciously to pardon us, and bring us back again into the honorable and virtuous way of brothers who love one another.  -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 48

Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

LSB lists this day as a "principal feast of Christ."  Since it was "in the sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy that the Angel Gabriel announced to the holy Virgin that she would become the God-bearer, and since we celebrate our Lord's birth on December 24-25, the birth of the Baptist falls exactly six months prior.  St. Bede the Venerable noted that this fulfilled (at least for us in the northern hemisphere) the saying of the Baptist himself:  "He must increase but I must decrease."  So after our Lord's birth we note the light growing stronger and after St. John's birth we note the light diminish.

From the liturgy:  "Behold, I will send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me."  "Through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation.  Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life."  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you.  I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.  Behold, I have put my words in your mouth."  "...whose way John the Baptist prepared, proclaiming Him the promised Messiah, the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and calling sinners to repentance that they might escape the wrath to be revealed when He comes again in glory."

Divine Service for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist will be celebrated at St. Paul's this evening at 6 p.m.  Join us if you can!

23 June 2010


You guys know that I'm fanatical about the Treasury.  I LOVE it!  It's so helpful for an ordered life of prayer and Bible reading.  If the Treasury had one draw back, it was size.  To make sure it was a complete volume, with everything needed for the Offices, it was made downright chunky.  Hauling it along for our trip to Mexico this spring was not fun.  I've been dreading hauling it along to Houston.  And now I don't have to.  The Treasury is so small it fits nicely in my pocket:  in my iPhone!

I downloaded it and starting fiddling with it today.  Granted, the whole of the Treasury is not in there, but everything I need for praying the daily office IS.  I've got Matins, Vespers, and Compline.  I've got the entire Psalter (and if you go to the settings, you can turn on the pointing for chanting!).  And best of all is how the daily propers just pop up.  SWEET.  Daily Prayers are all included and selected canticles.  And if I find something really neat I want to mark in the physical volume, it's easy enough to drop a book mark into PrayNow!  So I can pray the office anywhere, anytime, as I'll have my phone with me and Treasury as the PrayNow app right at hand.

CPH, this is definitely the coolest app on the phone!  Thanks a bundle for coming out with it!  You can read more about PrayNow right here.

Happy birthday, Joseph and Granddaddy Chance!

Miss you both!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We close our eyes to nothing.  Only faith can have the courage to face it all without blinking, without suppressing or inflating any of the evidence.  A spade is a spade and Jesus is a fig tree Jesus.  Hence, the watchfulness, the sober realism, the bottom-of-it-all confidence that it is the Son of Man before whom we stand, the Son of Man of whom Daniel speaks, the Son of Man who gave His life as a ransom for many, the Son of Man who was lifted up and who cried, 'It is accomplished.' That fact holds through it all. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 174.

Patristic Quote of the Day

When the Apostles had been given their instructions, and all their doubts had been set at rest by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, they set out in the full assurance of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the coming of God's kingdom.  -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 42.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threats.  Their worldly disgrace, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain.  People cursed them, but they continued to bear their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ, of all the angels and elect.  Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain. -- C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospel, p. 34.

22 June 2010

O Blessed Saints

O blessed saints, in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord,
Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring
Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God.
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice;
Let heav'n rejoice
In our Redeemer's song!
LSB 676:3

Another Outstanding Article from Pr. Asburry

on the joys of giving - reflecting the God who delights to give.  Wonderful stuff!  Check it out here.

A Thesis for Moving Beyond the Limitations of a Quia Argument

With assist from Prs. Boerger and Yakimow:

Those who jettison the Lutheran liturgy fall short of and are, in fact, at odds with the spirit of the Lutheran Confessions which evidence a delight in receiving the Church's heritage as gift, rejecting from it only what is sinful or obscuring of the Gospel, and freely shaping her use of that heritage as best suits the needs of the Church at present, always with a mind toward passing it on toward the next generation.  "The living heritage and something new." (Intro LW)

From a discussion on the ALPB boards.

The challenge is that Quia, as the LCMS has historically understood it, speaks to the doctrinal content of the Symbols.  But does this do justice to what the Symbols confess?  They weren't addressed to disembodied heads.  The focus on propositional doctrine leads to an ever diminished role for the Symbols as item after item gets swept from "doctrine" to "practice" category, where the practice is regarded as "descriptive" (and hence, dispensable)  while the doctrine (continually narrowed down) as "prescriptive."  But this deconstruction of the Symbols simply runs counter to their spirit - which is a joyful embrace of all the gifts the Lord has given through His Church through the ages (third article gifts, if you will).  It runs counter to say:  "I don't HAVE to do that" when the Symbols would lead our response to be:  "What a gift that is!  How that witnesses to the Lord's mercy and love!"  

The Symbols freely confess that private absolution, for example, is of human origin.  It is not commanded in the Sacred Scriptures.  It is a human ceremony for the application of the Gospel.  And yet, our Symbols are adamant that it would be a wicked thing for it to be taken from the Church; they state we retain and encourage its use.  Such a wonderful gift for living in the forgiveness of Christ!  Or take the observance of Sunday.  Luther states clearly enough in the Larger Catechism that it is not commanded to be kept as the "new" Sabbath day by the Apostles or our Lord.  Yet, in the same document, he celebrates and rejoices in it and says we ought to keep Sunday as the Lord's Day.  Doctrine or practice?  Misses the boat, doesn't it?  Rather, GIFT - gift born out of the course of the Gospel in the history of Christ's Church and so the response is never:  "You can't make me do that" but "even through human custom, the Lord is giving something to delight in!"

Fire away, lads and lassies.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

When the logs from our eyes have been removed through Calvary, we see.  We see Jesus on the cross supplied by us, for us.  We see ourselves as forgiven sinners.  Then, when we bump into another sinner, we are able to help, for love comes sideways.  We know the things that contradict Christ and the pain and ruin they work.  We want each person we meet to be freed of them, and we are there to help him or her.-- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 170.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Only those who absolutely refuse to be saved will perish, for God coerces no one in this matter. -- C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospel, p. 22.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us bow, then to that sovereign and glorious will [that we should repent].  Let us entreat His mercy and goodness, casting ourselves upon His compassion. -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 9.

It was upon this day

some 24 years ago that Pr. Richard Hinz laid hands on me as I knelt before the altar of my beloved Lutheran Church of St. Andrew and placed me into that Office that preaches the reconciliation in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Nagel had taught me the great joy of the name of the Lord.  That's the name into which I had been baptized earlier in the same Church; that's the name invoked as Cindi and I were married before that self-same altar; that's the name now into which I was ordained and sent forth to serve.

As I think of my life as a pastor in Christ's Church, I am overwhelmed by two things:  my huge personal inadequacy for this task and the Lord's superabundant grace that is more than sufficient.  There are times I think he made me a minister so that he might save my soul.

I cannot imagine ever being or doing anything else in my life, for this - despite the ups and downs - has been an utter joy, and I thank the Lord for the unspeakable and utterly undeserved honor, crying out with all the saints:

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever!  Amen.

21 June 2010

The Longest Day

I remember just thinking as a kid that summer days were all endless.  But as an adult, I watch the azimuth of the sun a bit fretfully, and I noted how high it was today.  Tomorrow it will be imperceptibly lower, and in a few weeks those attuned to such things (Cindi and I both are) will feel the darkness growing again - that the azimuth will not be quite as high nor the journey quite so long from sunrise to sunset.  I really do love each season in its turn, but it's an image of life in this fallen age to me that the very day that summer officially arrives marks the beginning of its deterioration, a descent into the cold and darkness.  Here all our joys are tinged with sorrows - but they point beyond themselves.

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

There IS a summer-time coming that will have no end - a true rebirth of the creation, a Palingensia, as our Lord referred to it in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 19.  Each swiftly passing earthly summer reminds us of the Day without Evening in the Kingdom of our Father.

When I Told My Pastor

that I wanted to study to be a Lutheran pastor, I'll never forget what he did.  He took his copy of Walther's Law and Gospel (Dau) and handed it to me.  He said:  "It's out of print now, but you need to read this.  I want it back, but if you get a copy you should read it every year."  It's that kind of a book.  Must read material.

Back in the day when we were still doing theological interviews to graduate from seminary, Dr. Nagel reportedly asked a fellow to summarize Walther's Law and Gospel for him.  Fellow confessed he hadn't read it.  He was sent packing to read it and then come back and talk to the committee.  It's that kind of a book.  Must read material.

Saturday I received a copy of the new edition of Law and Gospel and it is REALLY well done.  I want to finish working through it before I actually write it up, but count me mega-impressed at what looks to be another CPH home -run.  It's so pretty I don't want to mark in it - but I know I will.  Problem with my Dau copy is that it ended up being MOSTLY underlined and highlighted; wanna take bets on this copy meeting the same fate?  Only here I have LOTS of room in the margin for my notes.

My pastor and Dr. Nagel were right:  this book is a must read book, and not just for Lutheran pastors but for any layman who wants the sheer joy of sitting at Walther's feet.  It is a delight to see it offered in fresh English and in such a beautiful volume.  Thanks, CPH.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our log is not only so large but also so near to us that it blocks our vision and we do not even see it.  Jesus is the one who gives sight to the blind.  He reaches out His hand to our log and pulls it out.  "This must go.  I want you to see."  Jesus takes the logs out of our eyes.  He drags them to Calvary, and on the timber that blinds and kills, He is killed.  Jesus dies for our sins, and the wood we have supplied becomes, by His death, a declaration of that sin's forgiveness.  When the logs from our eyes have been through Calvary, we see.  -- Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, page 170.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Vexation teaches us to give heed to the Word. -- Eduard Preuss, The Justification of the Sinner before God, p. 30.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The right thing, then, is not to run away from His will (for rather than oppose God, we had much better oppose the folly and senselessness of these self-important men and the bluster of their arrogant speeches), but to reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us.  -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 21.

20 June 2010

1/2 way

through this crazy diet we're doing with Jo.  Golly gee wilikers, but I can't wait to get back to regular low carb eating.  Don't get me wrong - Cindi's cooked some amazing stuff for us.  Tonight we had canjun spiced tilapia on the grill, yellow squash on the grill, oven baked potatoes (major yum!), and asparagus soup - dessert for the kids was supplied by Lauren (angel food cake, whipped cream, strawberries) and dessert for Dave, Jo, Cindi and me was fried apples with cinnamon.  It was all fabulous - Dean's birthday dinner and father's day all together.  But I am really ready for some bacon and sausage and eggs and ham and a burger and Cindi's pizza and I better stop because my tummy is starting to grumble...

AND the kids gave me a beautiful outdoor bench (which Dean kindly assembled for me).  Haven't decided exactly where it will end up - likely on the back patio.  Pics when I figure it out!

Best Comment

from Craig on the new images of the Holy Evangelists:  "They look great in the sanctuary. What amazes me is that they look like they've been there for a while. You could walk into the sanctuary, look at the paintings, and think that they've been hanging up there all along. Great job by the artist!"  In fact, I think it was Trish, who said:  "I'm glad you explained about them, because I thought to myself:  How did I miss those before!"

Trinity 3 Joys

Aside from the joy of blessing the images of the Holy Evangelists and the presence of a large section of the Schumacher clan, joy in the hymns (Today Your Mercy Calls Us - "no question will be asked us how often we have come / although we oft have wandered, it is our Father's home" - Lord, To You I Make Confession - I Come, O Savior - God's Own Child - The King of Love), joy in the readings (You will drown all our sins in the depths of the sea - Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - lays it on his back, rejoicing...joy over a sinner who repents)...joy in the Eucharist (all times and all places...).  What a wonderful day in the Church Year - and I remember that 4 years ago, on this day, Dr. Norman Nagel surprised me by showing up to preach the homily at late service in honor of the 20th anniversary of my ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry - he preached the Epistle and I was so blessed by his proclamation.  You can read it here:  Homily for Trinity 3.

19 June 2010

A Rather Famous

look back into the past.  Read it and weep:  Time Magazine.

To the Glory of the Blessed Trinity

and in loving memory of Hilbert Schumacher, the Holy Evangelists - "My heart overflows with a pleasing theme, my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe":

All Four
St. Matthew
St. Mark
St. Luke
      St. John

Before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

Christians, come, in sweetest measures
Sing of those who spread the treasures
In the holy Gospels shrined;
Blessed tidings of salvation,
Peace on earth their proclamation,
Love from God to lost mankind.

See the rivers four that gladden
With their streams the better Eden,
Planted by our Savior dear.
Christ, the Fountain, these the waters!
Drink, O Zion's sons and daughters,
Drink and find salvation here.
TLH 282 - Hugh of St. Victor

Ah, Fisk has done it again,

boys and girls.  Feast and enjoy:  The Indomitable Frisky Fisk.

Trinity 3 Intercessions

Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son into this world to save sinners, having compassion on us and casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.  Grant to all Your baptized continual repentance and firm faith in Your steadfast love.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

King of the Ages, immortal and invisible, the only God, look in kindness upon all entrusted with public office in our land and grant them wisdom and courage to serve our people according to Your will.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

O Lord, whose grace overflows toward us, remember in Your compassion our Synod as we prepare to gather in convention, and grant to all delegates a share in Your divine wisdom that all we deliberate and decide may redound to the glory of Jesus Christ and the salvation of sinners.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Father, from whom all Fatherhood derives its name, receive our thanks and praise this day for earthly fathers who reflect to us something of Your love.  Strengthen them in their vocation as spiritual leaders in their families, and make them men of prayer.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

O our Rock, our Fortress and our Deliverer, remember in love all who cry to you in times of distress and trouble:  the lonely, the home-bound, the sick and the dying, the addicted and the unemployed.  To Your gracious hands we commend those who have desired our prayers: ... asking Your mercy for them all.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Giver of the Feast, You call Your angels to celebrate the sinner who repents and Your Son has prepared for Your children His Holy Supper.  Grant to all who approach the altar today a repentant heart and a firm trust in Your divine promises that they may feast with joy with the angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Father, Your Son is the Destroyer of death and the Victor over the grave.  Receive our thanks for all who have died in saving faith in Him, and bring us with them to those joys which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, in the light of Your endless Day.  Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen. 

Learning to Speak with the Catechism

Another stray thought that occurred to me during yesterday's run and bike-ride, was how the Catechism guides our speaking.  In today's parlance, it's grown rather typical to speak casually of the saints:  "Oh, wait till I get to heaven and ask Paul about THAT!" is not an uncommon comment.  Certainly the Scriptures themselves so refer to Paul or to Peter or the evangelists.  And yet, in the Catechism we find a very different spirit than today's casual treatment of the saints (which casual treatment is perhaps reflective of the casual treatment accorded our blessed Lord whose servants they are!).  Just note:

"As St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three" (Part IV, Baptism)

"St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six" (Part IV, Baptism)

"This is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty" (Part V, Office of the Keys)

"The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul write:" (Part VI, Sacrament of the Altar)

"For St. Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter six" (Christian Questions and their Answers)

How good it would be for us to return to the humility of recognizing these wondrous God-bearing men, through whom the Holy Spirit gave to us the Sacred Scriptures, and so take up again in our common speech their titles:  "Saint..." "Holy Evangelist, Saint..."  Then we'd be done with the nonsense of:  "Oh, they're just like us."  Um, no sir, they are NOT.  For the Holy Spirit did not inspire YOU to write down the words by which we are saved.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Why on earth did the Lord make something like you?  There is only one of you - ever has been, ever will be.  The Lord multiplies His delight.  He doesn't have the same delight in any hundred of the same.  He has a different delight in each unique one of us, and He invites us into delighting with Him in each one. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 161.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We cheerfully grant that full forgiveness is no license to sin, on the contrary, that it must be held fast by daily repentance and faith if it is not to slip away from us.  -- Eduard Preuss, The Justification of the Sinner before God, p. 61.

Patristic Quote of the Day

To look around is to see Thy goodness; to trust in Thee is to know Thy loving-kindness.  O most Merciful, O most Pitiful, absolve us from our sins and offenses, from our errors and shortcomings.  Lay not every sin of Thy servants and maidservants to their charge, but make us clean with the cleansing of Thy truth. -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 60.

My Goosey Sis

reminded me yesterday of this beautiful passage from Dr. Luther:

After Baptism there still remains much of the old Adam.  For, as we have often said, sin is forgiven in baptism, but we are not yet altogether clean, as is shown in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who carried the man wounded by robbers to an inn.  He did not take care of him in such a way that he healed him at once, but rather bound up his wounds and poured on oil.  The man who fell among robbers suffered two injuries.  First, everything that he had was taken from him, he was robbed; the second, he was wounded, so that he was half-dead and would have died, if the Samaritan had not come to him.  Adam fell among the robbers and implanted sin in us all.  If Christ, the Samaritan, had not come, we should all have had to die.  He it is who binds our wounds, carries us into the church, is now healing us.  So we are now fully under the Physician's care.  The sin, it is true, is wholly forgiven, but it has not been wholly purged.  If the Holy Spirit is not ruling men, they become corrupt again; but the Holy Spirit must cleanse the wounds daily.  Therefore this life is a hospital; the sin has really been forgiven, but it has not yet been healed.

That was from his last sermon preached in the town of Wittenberg in 1546.  You can read the whole of it in AE 51:375.

18 June 2010

Pics from Around the Yard...

Easter in July
Some of Cindi's plants
Where we love to spend a sunny day
Big Paw, one of our outdoor kitties
      Not quite as dark a bloom as we're looking for; we need some more rusty nails.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Lord loves a banquet.  He is happiest when His people are gathered at the table with Him.  The Lord delights in giving out good things - ordinary, everyday things, and things far beyond the ordinary.  It has always been that way.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 161

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The whole earth has been in possession of forgiveness since the death of Christ on the cross.  In the justification of the individual person the point is always the enjoyment, the fact that the righteousness of Christ saves me, is for my benefit, in enjoyed by me.  This is done through faith. Through faith we enter into the enjoyment of the good things which Christ has purchased for us. -- Eduard Preuss, On the Justification of the Sinner before God, pp. 58-59

Patristic Quote of the Day

Christ belongs to the lowly of heart, and not to those who would exalt themselves over the flock. -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 16.

Summer Thoughts

A beautiful summer's day - and a bonus that it was my day off.  Woke and had breakfast and prayed Matins while Cindi was out for her run and biking, then I headed out not long after she came back.  Very hot today and so I ended up only running 3 miles and then biking the seven up to the swamp and back.  As I was biking along and enjoying the sunshine, and later as I floated in the pool, my mind went back to childhood.

I remembered the wonderful summer visits to the country, when we'd stay at my Grandpa's (later belonging to my Aunt and Uncle).  Morning brought breakfast - country sausage or scrapple, thick slabs of bacon, fresh cantaloupes from the garden, cereals and fruits and so much more.  What did I eat?  I remember almost always choosing a piece of toast with that country butter - it had to be dotted on the bread and slipped into the oven of the wood stove to melt a little, and a strong cup of Aunt Emma's coffee.

Then George and I were out and about.  We loved to play in the branch.  Minnows darted to and fro in the water, crawdads hid under the rocks, water skippers skimmed the surface, and colorful dragonflies hovered here and there.  Sometimes we'd head into Buzzard's Roost and carve our names on the trees (as had generations before us), or we'd drink water from the springs that came out of the side of the hill - one came right from a tree's root.

I loved the time there best of all.  But I had my other grandparents to visit too - no children around there, though.  But wonderful memories of iced tea so sweet it hurt to drink it, the most delicious cornbread in all the world (wood stoves and their ovens cannot be beat for flavor).  Most of all I remember the birds.  When the meal was done, Grandma Bess would scatter some of the corn bread along some boards nailed to the top of a couple posts, and the birds flocked down to eat.  All kinds of beautiful birds - blue birds and cardinals and I can't remember what all.  Just that it was always wonderful to see.

Evenings were usually spent back at the other farm.  I can hear the slow creak of the front porch swing as dust began to settle and we listened to hear the first of the whippoorwill's song.  Sometimes a board game or two in the evening.  Then back with the crowd of adults on the screened in porch for laughter and talking and story telling.  And how many nights did Sue just about put me to sleep as she scratched my back?  Beautiful and wonderful memories.

Both houses sit empty now - my father's parent's home falling apart; my mother's parent's home in much better shape.  I'm glad for growing up with lots and lots of trips to the country.  It's why I think I never took to camping - why camp?  You can have all the benefits and none of the hassles by visiting the family and heading out to the fields, the woods, the branch or run, and the rivers.  I think I'm thinking about it a lot because my cousin's son was suddenly killed - an auto accident this week.  I'm sure I met him but it was long ago.  I wonder if he had the same joys about the old place that his mother's generation had?  I hope he did.  And may God rest his soul.

17 June 2010

Today's Issues Study of "Lord, Thee I Love"

Click here.

Wisdom from Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto

On Foreboding and Forgiveness.  I commend this sobering article to you for your reading.  HT:  Scott at Stand Firm

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Read further in Galatians, all the way through until everything you add to Christ to make Him sure has been stripped away and you have nothing left to be sure of but only our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us and to deliver us from the present evil age according to the will of God the Father to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.  -- Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 160.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If His unspeakable goodness were to go right to our hearts, nothing would be too vexing or too hard for us to suffer or to bear for His sake, that we only abide in His love. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 249

Patristic Quote of the Day

How blessed, how marvelous are the gifts of God, my friends!  Some of them, indeed, already lie within our comprehension - the life that knows no death, the shining splendor of righteousness, the truth that is frank and full, the faith that is perfect assurance, the holiness of chastity - but what of the things prepared for those who wait? Who but the Creator and Father of eternity, the Most Holy himself, knows the greatness and beauty of these? -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 35

16 June 2010

For the Lutheran Seeker...

...I had a lovely conversation today that led me to offer up a list of books that I think are musts for the Lutheran seeker or inquirer:

* Lutheran Service Book - everyone needs a hymnal.
* Treasury of Daily Prayer - find out about Lutherans by praying God's Word with us!
* Grace upon Grace (Kleinig) - get a handle on receptive spirituality!
* Lutheran Study Bible - generally good all around resource (not infallible, of course; the notes are NOT part of the inspired text).
* Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions - unlike so many churches, you can find what Lutherans believe in this single handy volume with a lot of helpful notes and even pictures!
* Walther's Law and Gospel - I've not seen the actual new release, but the promo material looked superb.

There you go!


that next week's Wednesday night Bible Class will start working through A Little Book on Joy by Pastor Harrison.  If we cover a chapter a session, I figure it will engage us till the first Wednesday in November.  Joy, indeed!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we are in the flock today, we must confess it is because Jesus has so often come after us and carried us back.  -- Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 168

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

All His doing, suffering, and dying was done in obedience to God the Father and was to be a vicarious fulfilling of the Law.  And this obedience flowed from love.  -- Eduard Preuss, On the Justification of the Sinner before God, p. 4.

Patristic Quote of the Day

All of you together, as though you were approaching the only existing temple of God, and the only altar, speed to the one and only Jesus Christ - who came down from the one and only Father, is eternally with that One, and to that One is now returned. -- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Magnesians, 7.

15 June 2010

A Beautiful Hymn and Prayer

Lord, to You I make confession;
I have sinned and gone astray,
I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way.
Led by You to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at Your terrors.

Yet, though conscience' voice appall me,
Father, I will seek Your face;
Though Your child I dare not call me,
Yet receive me in Your grace.
Do not for my sins forsake me;
Let Your wrath not overtake me.

For Your Son has suffered for me,
Giv'n Himself to rescue me,
Died to save me and restore me,
Reconciled and set me free.
Jesus' cross alone can vanquish
These dark fears and soothe this anguish.

Lord, on You I cast my burden --
Sink it in the deepest sea!
Let me know Your gracious pardon,
Cleanse me from iniquity.
Let Your Spirit leave me never;
Make me only Yours forever.

Hymn of the Day for Trinity 3 - LSB 608

I love

thunderstorms and the sound of the rain coming down....

just not every single day.  Glad Cin and I stole 35 or so minutes in the pool while the sun was still shining.

A thought that Pastor Gleason shared with me...

...and some further ruminations of my own.

Pastor Gleason pointed out:  It is possible to bend the knee of the body and not bend the knee of the heart; the converse, however, is not true.  The one who refuses (not those who cannot) to bend the knee of the body before the Lord does not bend the knee of the heart.

I've been thinking about that a bit lately.  About how I have a tendency to ignore the very physical prescriptions of our Catechism in teaching.  I mean, there are physical instructions given with morning and evening prayer.  To stand or kneel by your bed, to make the sign of the holy cross.  And with the meals, to come to the table and reverently fold the hands.  It would be utterly wrong to say that those who follow these outward marks of piety and reverence are automatically doing them inwardly; but it would be just as wrong to suggest that they are unimportant and dispensable (a la the WELS version of the Small Catechism).  They discipline our bodies in reverence.  Dr. Luther and the Lutheran Church with him thought that was important.

It particularly hits me when I'm laying in bed at night - for that's when I usually pray the evening prayers.  PRONE IN BED.   The more I think of it, the more my conscience tells me to get out of bed and kneel and make the sign of the cross physically upon myself and speak the words ALOUD.  There's wisdom in the Catechism, if I would just heed it.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

You can confess, saying all the right words, with a heart full of love for an alternative Christ and be the mouthpiece of Satan.  Seminary attempts to fill you with all the right words, and you are daily tempted to take them over, run them the way you figure they ought to run.  They aren't your words to run as you may wish to make them run.  They are Christ's words, and He runs them as the Christ, the Son of the living God, who goes to Calvary, identified as the Suffering Servant who makes Himself a sacrifice for sin.  Yours, too - all of them.  Even your satanic attempt to commandeer Him.  That, too, and especially that, He would bring you to repentance of. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 262.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ became the greatest of all sinners, for He took the place of all sinners and became guilty of all the sins of the whole world although He was holy and innocent. -- Eduard Preuss, Justification of the Sinner before God, p. 2

Patristic Quote of the Day

It was in love that the Lord drew us to Himself; because of the love He bore for us, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the will of God, gave His blood for us - His flesh for our flesh, His life for our life.  See, then, dear friends, what a great and wondrous thing love is! -- St. Clement of Rome, To the Corinthians, par. 49

14 June 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Every so often I hear someone say, "You believe in doctrine.  I believe in Jesus."  Such an expression may sound very pious, but the devil is behind it.  We cannot believe in Jesus unless we are taught the doctrine of Jesus.  You cannot separate Christ from the doctrine of Christ.  -- Klem Preus, The Fire and the Staff, p. 56.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is impossible for us to draw near the great fire of the love of God in Christ without becoming warmed by it in fervent mutual love.  Why do so few people love God?  It is because they have not tasted in their heart the love He has for them. -- C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 499

Patristic Quote of the Day

Close your ears, then, when anyone preaches to you without speaking of Jesus Christ! -- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, par 9.

13 June 2010

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Cindi singing and Carlo playing for the Distribution of the Holy Eucharist at the 7:45 Divine Service this morning:

12 June 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We cannot afford to make the mistake that is often made, that of imagining that we can somehow separate the Church at work in the world from the Church at worship about the altar of the Holy Communion.  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

Whoever leaves the world and clings to Christ with his whole heart finds a gracious and kind Father who does not remember His children's sin, who takes all worry from their hearts, and who lets them dwell in His house, eat at His table, and drink from His cup.  He provides fro them, daily and richly, restoring them in body and soul.  -- C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 503

Patristic Quote of the Day

A Christian, after all, is not his own master; he puts his time at God's disposal. --St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Polycarp, par. 7


The new diet regime we're on with Jo - the no coffee just about killed me, but I think I made it through the caffeine withdrawals!... Jo and I split the Liverpool wins last night... Remind me next time that when I'm having trouble with the pool leaking, it's likely because I put the salt-water system back together incorrectly after cleaning - it only took me a day to realize that (hey, I'm blaming the headache!)... Had good run yesterday and finished up with bike-ride, the last half of which was into a strong wind - yuck... Carlo sent over a piece for the quartet that has me rather excited; I sang it in 8th grade chorus and I've not heard it in years:  Cantate Domino by Pitoni... Despite the cruddy end to the week, I'm happy to report that I ended up crossing off everything on my to-do-list for the week (which makes for a very happy Saturday)... Blessed Lord's Day tomorrow to one and to all!

11 June 2010


This was first published in Forum Letter and posted up here with their permission.

Homily for St. Barnabas Day

[Texts:  Isaiah 42:5-12 / Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; Mark 6:7-13]

Homily on the festival of St. Barnabas, Apostle

In our first reading, the Lord is the one and only genuine article – and He will not give His glory to another or His praise to carved images.  “The Lord your God is a jealous God.”  Unlike the idols – that are doers of nothing – the Lord, the Creator, is about to do a new thing.  And when He does His new thing, Isaiah foretells, the Lord’s new song, praising His new deed, will spread over the whole earth.  The coastlands will hear of it and join in singing; the inhabitants of Sela will sing for joy and shout from the top of the mountains, giving glory to the Lord and declaring His praise all along the coasts.

After the Lord has done His new thing – Has taken on human flesh and blood from the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in it lived a perfect life of love, and in it offered up His own body and blood on the Cross in order to give humanity back to the Father, and after He has been raised from the dead and poured out His Spirit upon His disciples, He sends them out with the good news.

He sends them out to sing a new song that will start rejoicing the hearts of those who hear and believe it.  It sounds entirely too good to be true, but true it is.  God did for us in our flesh what we could never do for ourselves, and He gives it to us as gift of His love without any price attached.  It’s freely ours.  Forgiveness, salvation, eternal life.  Believe it, for it's true!

So as the persecution arises and spreads the word and the Lord’s new song, it reaches Antioch and there even embraces some of the gentiles, who hear and believe, and join the Jews in being called Christians.  The Jerusalem Church sends down to Barnabas to make sure that they’re singing in the right key – that the Lord’s song that they sing down on the coast is the same song they sing up in Jersualem – a song of praise to the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world.  Barnabas rejoices in their new song and sings right along with them – and he grabs Saul, soon to be known as Paul, to help them in singing their new grace notes.

But the song is too big to bottle up in Antioch, and so the Spirit moves the Church there to send Paul and Barnabas to the first great missionary journey, to take the song of Jesus and His forgiving love and His defeat of death and His unquenchable joy out to the coastlands - just as Isaiah foretold.  So off they go with the laying on of hands:  put into the office of missionary which might also be called recruiters for the Lord’s song.

And though Paul nor Barnabas were among the original twelve, we note that the Lord even then sent them out two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits and reminding them to not worry about clothes and food and such, for the people would feed them as they ministered and served out the Word, and if folks wouldn’t listen, they weren’t to argue but simply to shake the dust off and move on.  Even from the very beginning, joining in the Lord’s new song was invitation and gift, never coercion.  So they went out and proclaimed that people everywhere should repent, turn away from their sin and turn toward the Lord who was among them, and they drove out demons – for the demons can’t abide where the Lord’s song is being sung – and they anointed many with oil and healed them.

Barnabas and Saul went out like that – just like the first 12 – and the same Lord, living and risen from the dead, worked with them and confirmed every word they preached with the signs they did – remember how they came to Lystra and healed a man crippled from birth? The priest of Zeus was ready to offer sacrifice to them then and there, thinking the gods had come down as men, but Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes and show their bodies:  we are not gods; we are men like you!  We bring you good news – that you should turn from these worthless idols to the living God who made all things.  It was HIS hand that was at work in the Apostles.  From town to town the song moved on and left behind it new choristers.  

Barnabas continued his singing of the Lord’s song to the end of his life.  According to Church tradition, he labored long in Cyprus and there was stoned to death.  But His witness to Christ lives on.  We remember especially his generosity in parting with material things in order to further the spread of the gospel, his gentle soul and kindness in dealing with John Mark; His always being the first to reach out and welcome new singers of the Lord’s song, no matter how unlikely they were – like Saul.  And now he goes on singing the song of the Lamb before the throne of Him for whom he endured hardships and travelled and witnessed and died.  In Him, in the Lord Jesus, Barnabas lives forevermore, and the song still goes on and draws ever more to sing with joy of the victory that is ours in the new thing that the real God, the only living God, has done in raising Jesus Christ from the dead - to whom be glory be with His unoriginate Father and all-holy Spirit, now and to the ages of ages!  Amen.

10 June 2010

Homily for Trinity 2

Mommies understand the problem.  The kiddos sometimes don’t like what’s good for them.  If you gave them the choice, they’d pick the bag of M&Ms over the broccoli, the ice cream over the slice of whole wheat bread, and sleeping in till noon over getting up and helping with chores around the house.  They focus on the immediate pleasure and have little developed sense of the future – they don’t think about what a life time of pigging on the M&Ms and downing the ice creaming and shunning work will do to them.  But mommies know and so mommies insist:  “But this is good for you and you’ll thank me later. Do it!”

Problem is that that kiddo inside never really goes away.  We grow up and we continue to make a multitude of bad choices, mostly because we love instant gratification and think little of the final consequences.  No, this is not a lecture on diet.  It’s a sermon on today’s Gospel reading.

For there our Lord tells us that His heavenly Father has prepared for all people – and so for us - the most wonderful banquet.  It’s all gift!  All free!  You couldn’t pay for it if you tried.  AND it’s utterly wholesome.  This banquet, this feast, it isn’t designed to satisfy some temporary hunger or scratch some current itch; it’s designed to impart to those who will but allow themselves to be given to forgiveness for all their sins and a life that never ends – a life of communion in the Spirit with the Son and the Father.  It’s designed to give us what life itself was meant for:  communion with God in the company of the holy angels.  The feast takes the poor and makes them rich.  It takes the naked and filthy and clothes them in shining robes.  It takes the starved and hungry and fills them with an everlasting satisfaction.  The feast is what our gracious Giver God serves up in His Word and in His Sacraments – a veritable banquet of life.

And to make sure that no one misses this feast, He sends out His messengers with a word that is astonishing:  “Come, for everything is now ready.”  How big is that everything?  Bigger than you can imagine.  Everything means everything.  He has done it all.  His perfect life of obedience His unbroken "yes" to the Father, was for you.  The pouring out of His blood to blot out the sins of the whole world was for you.  His resurrection from the dead to leave death trounced on in the grave was for you.  His sending of the Spirit was for you.  And for you, He has prepared a table where you may sit with Him in His royal banqueting hall and feast as kings and priests with your brother, THE King and THE Priest, Jesus Christ, as He delivers to you all that His life, death, and resurrection secured for you!  When you arrive at this banquet, there is a crown for your head and a place of honor at the King’s own table.  And what is it that you have to do for such an honor?  Not one thing.  Except to come.  Except to allow yourself to be given to.  Except to receive from Him the gift that is wholly gift and which it is the burning desire of His immaculate heart to give to you.

But the response?  Excuses.  The invitation turned down.  “I have bought a field, five yoke of oxen, married a wife…whatever else.  I cannot come.  I have something else I must do.  Please have me excused.”   And so the choice is made, fatefully made.  To pursue some business or pleasure of this world that is passing away and to spurn the gift of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and that endures forever. 

Let me step on some toes.  You make that same choice every time you choose for any reason other than sickness or dire emergency to absent yourself from the Lord’s house when His Divine Service is being held.  You make that same choice when you think:  “Coming to church once or twice a month or four times a year surely should be enough.”  You make that same choice when you leave your Scriptures closed in your home and do not open them and read them to your children and yourself and you lie to yourself saying “you just don’t have the time” while you watch an hour or two of TV.  You make that same choice when you put recreational or sports activities ahead of attending to God and His word.  And it is a foolish choice.  Foolish, I tell you. Repent!

The M&Ms and ice cream of this age that you allow to distract you and pull you away from God and His Word and His Supper are not evil in themselves.  Buying stuff is not evil.  Marriage has God’s command and blessing.  BUT when you allow your legitimate use of those things to crowd out of your life – and I mean your daily time in Scripture and your weekly commitment to His Divine Service at minimum – you are hurting YOURSELF for you are neglecting to feed your immortal soul the very Word of God that it needs to survive, let alone to thrive, and which God would feed it richly and freely.

Mommies know best about these things.  Eat your broccoli, enjoy your whole wheat bread and set about your chores with a cheerful spirit.  Which being translated is:  Listen to Mother Church on this! Never let a Lord’s Day go by that does not find you hearing and heeding the Lord’s invitation to come to His Feast.  Never let a day go by that finds you too busy with the stuff of this world, to open the Sacred Scriptures and read a bit and hear and think about and practice what God says to you there.  Do this, lest you be among those of whom the Lord said in today’s Gospel:  “For I tell you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” 

The invitation does not ring out forever – not for individuals, not for congregations, not for nations.  A fearful judgment awaits those who spurn the Word of God.  Luther once described the way the Gospel works as a passing rain shower.  It doesn’t stay where there is no thankfulness for it; where people won’t listen and are too busy with their lives.  It moves on to those who WILL hear it and heed it; to those of the street and lanes of the city, the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame.  For the Master will have His house filled. 

So, people loved by God, you have a Lord who is rich in mercy and kindness.  Though you have spurned Him in the past, today He comes anew, seeking you, inviting you, cajoling you to come and feast with Him, to partake of the riches of His banquet.  To let yourself be crowned and robed and feasted royally.  He is not interested in receiving your excuses – he is interested in receiving you.  Come to Him in repentance today and pray for a clean heart and that His Spirit might renew you, and then feast on His pardon and be strengthened at His Table in your commitment to live your life at the receiving end of His gracious giving.  “Come, for all is now ready.”  Amen.