31 December 2011

So it's that day again...

...and folks the world over give some thought to things they'd like to change in their lives.  Here's a partial list of changes that I intend to make. I've got more of them, but I'll save writing about THOSE for another day.  Meanwhile:

* Spend time hiking each month - an hour or two at least
* Find or make decent walking sticks for Cindi and me
* Research and plant a square foot garden
* Plant several pots of herbs
* Limit computer time to no more than 1 hour per day (1/2 hour in morning; 1/2 in afternoon)
* Continue exercising and eating in a Primal/Paleo pattern
* Make it a point to visit a farmer's market each month from March to October
* In general, try to stick to a single pot of french press coffee per day - morning wake up - and do it without being anal about it
* Teach Cindi or David to play racquetball and really get back into that (stop laughing; I know enough to teach them where the ball should land!)
* Reshape the office so I can STAND to use the computer
* Learn how to grill better (stop laughing; all things are possible, and I have Tom's apron to prove that it can be done!)
* More time reading books; less time reading a screen
* Spend more time singing and playing the piano - definitely sing with the Chorale for Christmas next year; learn a new Bach two-part invention.
* Have folks over to the house more often
* Pay attention to each day's sunrise and sunset - and sing the Matins/Vesper hymns and canticles to them

That's a pile more than I'll likely get done, but those are some changes I'd like to make.  I look back over the years and see so many things that have made life simpler and more stress-free - from Ramsey's Financial Peace University, to the absolute GIFT that the Treasury is for one's daily prayer life (remember when prayer life used to be a struggle???), from the joys of the Lutheran Service Book and Builder (honestly, worship planning has never been so ridiculously easy and yet thorough) to the fabulous resources for the mind and devotional life that CPH continues to pop out.  Lots of things that keep life simple, focused, engaged.  And there's always more to unlearn or relearn or discover!  What a joy is this pilgrimage that the Lord calls us to!

30 December 2011

I Can't Argue

with the results of this new way of working out, but my goodness it feels strange.  Instead of doing the intense work I've done in the past, I'm working out way less.  Sisson's recommendation is very simply:

Move often - 3 times a week I do about an hour of light cardio.  Lately, I've just been walking - and enjoying listening to music as I do so.  Amazing how calming it is!  Can't wait for warmer weather and walking in the sun out on the bike trail (or riding!).

Twice a week - lift heavy things.  That is, mostly YOURSELF.  So I've been doing:  2 sets of 50 pushups; 2 sets of 50 squats (did with a 40 pound weight in addition today); 1 set of 12 pull ups (still using a 25 lb assist on that); 1 set of 12 chin-ups (likewise on assist); 2 sets of 20 of these weird shoulder pushups (don't know what else to call them); and then 2 2-minute planks.  Working through the routine twice takes not more than about 20 to 25 minutes.  Sisson says that when you can do this "basic workout" you're fit.  So I'm not quite there!  I can't wait to lose the assist on the pull-ups/chin-ups!  I figure I'm at least two weeks out from it.

Once a week - sprint!  This week I'm doing the sprints on a bike, I think.  2 minute warm up, then 20 minutes of intervals:  20 seconds all out, 40 seconds recoup and repeat.  Maybe a three minute cool down at end.  So 25 minutes tops.  That's it.

This simple routine combined with the primal diet (no grains, no legumes, no sugars - but lots of veggies and meat with some fruit and a smidge of dairy and handfuls of nuts) is definitely paying off.  Can't wait to see results six months out; right now, they're already pretty sweet. Any of you exercise hounds out there looking to shake up your routine for the start of the new year (and anyone serious about getting fit in the new year), google Primal Blueprint and Mark's Daily Apple.  You will NOT be sorry!

29 December 2011

Three CPH Goodies

Over the last few days, I've been reading in three goodies lately put out by CPH.  You all know that I LOVE the direction our Publishing House has embraced in the last several years, and they continue to offer us outstanding books.  The three latest I'm enjoying:

A Year with the Church Fathers - by Synodical vice-president Scott Murray.  Scott has done a beautiful job with this volume.  Keyed to the readings of the day from the LSB daily lectionary, he offers a brief introduction and then a few paragraphs from a Church Father for each day of the Church's year.  This is a SUPER companion to those who regularly use the daily lectionary (or follow the Treasury, which amounts to the same thing).  For example, the reading for today is from Luke 1 in which he states that the holy Evangelist, St. Luke, proclaims that he writes that Theophilus might have certainty about the events of our Lord's life.  So picking up on the theme of the certainty that comes from Sacred Scripture, Pr. Murray provides a few paragraphs from St. Augustine's On the Trinity (3.1), including the following:  "But as I do not wish my reader to be bound down to me, so I do not wish my critic to be bound to himself.  Let not the pious reader love me more than the catholic faith.  Let not the critic love himself more than the catholic truth.  I say to the pious reader, do not be willing to accept my writings as canonical Scriptures.  But when you have discovered in the Scriptures what you did not previously believe, believe it unhesitatingly.  While in my writings, unless you have understood certainly what you did not before hold as certain, be unwilling to hold it fast.  I say to the critic, do not be wiling to amen my writings by your own opinion or argument, but [amend them] from the divine text or by unanswerable reason.  If you apprehend anything of truth in them, its being there does not make it mine, but by understanding and loving it, let it be both yours and mine.  But if you detect any falsehood, though it had once been mine in that I was guilty of error, now by avoiding it let it be neither yours nor mine."  LOTS more good stuff - a person who wants a decent introduction to the Church fathers cannot do better, in my opinion, than by picking up this book and journeying with them through the daily lectionary.  [Should note that this is a companion volume *A Year in the New Testament* of which I served as co-author along with five other pastors].

The Church from Age to Age  - General Editor, Edward Engelbrecht.  I'm only through the first section of this, but I am MEGA impressed.  If you've wanted a single volume that could walk you through Church history in a most unbiased and informative manner, this one is it.  I've been utterly amazed at the absence of all polemic, the desire simply to report the state and thinking of the Church as it grew across the ages and around the world.  This volume is exceedingly well written, engaging, full of fascinating detail and reliance on primary sources.  If I were teaching Church History at either seminary or undergrad level, this book would be the text book, hands down.  I really wasn't expecting it to be as scholarly and engaging as I have found it to be - kudos, CPH (and thanks, Meaghan!).

The Great Works of God - III-IV - More delicious Herberger brought to us by our good Classicist scholar Matthew Carver.  Herberger simply delights on every page.  How do you read Genesis?  Well, if it is all about the great works of God in Christ, then you read is by having a conversation with our Lord about the text itself, with prayer and supplications, thanksgiving and intercessions scattered about it.  This gem from the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy gives the lie to those who imagine that the Lutheran Orthodox were dry, boring, and over dogmatic.  The warmth and piety of this volume will draw the reader in from the get go.

In short, folks, you cannot go wrong with ANY of these volumes.  And thank you, thank you, thank you to the good folks at CPH for continuing to feed our souls and minds with such rich and succulent fare!

27 December 2011

O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger is

O Jesus Christ,
Thy manger is
My paradise at which my soul reclineth.
For there, O Lord,
Doth lie the Word
Made flesh for us; herein Thy grace forth shineth.

He whom the sea
And wind obey
Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Thou, God's own Son,
With us art one,
Dost join us and our children in our weakness.

Thy light and grace
Our guilt efface,
Thy heav'nly riches all our loss retrieving.
Thy birth doth quell
The pow'r of hell and Satan's bold deceiving.

Thou Christian heart,
Whoe'er thou art,
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God's own Child,
In mercy mild,
Joins thee to Him; how greatly God must love thee!

Remember thou
What glory now
The Lord prepared thee for all earthly sadness.
The angel host
Can never boast
Of greater glory, greater bliss or gladness.

The world may hold
Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast
Until at last
A crown be thine and honor in full measure.
LSB 372

26 December 2011

So What's With the Video Promoting Evolution?

I've been asked about that - and by more than one person.  The Paleo/Primal diet is often accompanied by a whole pile of evolutionistic explanation about why that way of eating works so well for so many people.  Naturally, as an LCMS pastor I don't credit the evolutionary theory; and to anyone who does, I'd invite spending some time with Dr. David Menton - erstwhile biology prof at Washington University and a good Lutheran Christian.  I don't buy into Paleo because of folk's theories about evolution; rather because of the evidence THAT it works.  No need for me to buy into WHY it works.  I learned long ago in theology that "why's" are notoriously complicated and complex and usually remain utterly mysterious even when grasped as facts.  Anyone want to really attempt explaining the mechanics of the Virginal conception and birth?  Or the Eucharistic presence?  No, I didn't think so.  So feel free to explore all the Paleo eating stuff you'd like, and when it comes to their "guesses" at why it works the way it does, acknowledge them as guesses and recognize how utterly beside the point they truly are!

Well, I suppose the Holidays

are officially ended - at least as far as big meals go.  We had a big breakfast on the 24th for 12 of us (I know, I know - it's supposed to be a fast day...), and did the family Christmas gift exchange that morning.  That was a feast - Cindi prepared these little muffin thingies that are really just egg, cheese, spices and some meat (we had sausage ones, bacon ones, and ham ones).  Also a low-carb version of the traditional Kringler.  Numerous other pastries and breads we'd been given and assorted fruits.

Christmas Day we had the menu listed below and 11 of us gathered after the Divine Service for that delicious supper (missing David and Meaghan, who attending the Zoschke family dinner).

Today was the last day Kayla and Russ (Russ is Cindi's cousin, but also her godchild) were in town, so after getting in a workout at the Y we had them up for lunch (bacon-cheddar cheese soup and turkey soup and left over muffins, cheese and more fruits).  After that Dave, Jo, Sandi, Cindi and I played several rounds of Liverpool.  Jo isn't speaking to Cindi or Dave.  'Nuff said.  Then we had some left-overs - more of the tenderloin and turkey and whatever else we could find to throw on the table.  We wrapped up with another game.  Now Jo REALLY isn't speaking to Dave.  A bit more visiting and now it's just Cindi and I at home (David flew out with Meaghan's family to San Diego this morning for a week's vacation).

All's quiet.  LPR is playing softly in the background.  Candles are lighted, tree lighted, the fire place flickers, and a glass of wine is at hand.  Time to wind down.  And await tomorrow's news on my brother's biopsy.  Prayers appreciated.

For Jamie

Who missed our usual listing of Christmas menu:

Smoked turkey
Beef tenderloin
Salad with home made ranch dressing
Green beans sauted in garlic
Mashed taters
Cranberry almond muffins
Cherry pie
Chocolate pie
Low carb cheesecake

And it was tasty!

25 December 2011

Von Himmel Hoch

Words from the Christmas Day Mass

"O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant"... For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given... The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations... Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men... Almighty God, grant that the [new] birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the [old] bondage of sin... The Lord is God; He has made His light to shine upon us!... A holy day has dawned upon us.  Come, all You nations and worship the Lord!... The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us... Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and WAS MADE MAN... "All this for us our God has done"... For in the mystery of the Word made Flesh You have given us a new revelation of Your glory that, seeing You in the person of Your Son, we may know and love those things that are not seen... "And therefore be merry, set sorrow aside, for Jesus our Savior was born at this tide!"... "He is born, the Child divine"... "Of the Father's love begotten"... O God the Father, the fountain and source of all goodness, who in loving-kindness sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh, we thank You... And make His shine on you and give you peace... "Oh that we were there!  Oh that we were there!"

Some Stray Liturgy Thoughts on Christmas

There is such a totally different atmosphere between the first and (technically) the third liturgy of the Nativity - and each is absolutely wonderful and neither is the whole.  I can't imagine for the life of me attending only Midnight or only the Christmas Day service.  They each hold forth the Christmas gem in different ways; the one holds it up to candlelight and the marvel of shepherds and angels, singing above a manger.  But the Day liturgy?  It is the radiant Sun coming out of His chamber, rejoicing as a strong man to run His race - the glories of the Word Made Flesh, who came to give us new birth, imparting to us by grace all that is His by nature.

Now I have a confession to make:  I used to try to make the Christmas liturgies "special."  You know, substitute "Angels We Have Heard on High" for the Gloria in Excelsis (even though we haven't sung the Gloria all Advent, and are aching to let it ring out again!); moving the collect for the Midnight service to post-communion so it was prayed in the candle-light; things like that.  But many years ago now, I totally stopped trying to make anything "special" out of the liturgies and just let them be.  All creative juices, if you will, were to be poured forth into proclamation and into the musical presentation of the hymnody and such.  Wow.  What a difference it has made!  So very, very many folks commented on the beauty of the services (just as they frequently do each year), and yet the liturgy was simply straight out of the book.  The only "addition" if you will was reading the Kalends before the Divine Service actually began.  The liturgy doesn't need to be made special; it just begs to be prayed.

Don't misunderstand me - the festive tone rang out at every turn!  Thinking of this morning's liturgy, Carlo's stunning preludes and postlude, the sound of the full organ with timpani for "O Come All Ye Faithful," the use of the torches with the Cross, the choir singing the Introit and Gradual, the bells playing during the Offering, and the extra pieces during distribution - especially the choir's anthem "A Virgin Most Pure" and Rachel and Cindy Gleason's duet on "He is Born the Child Divine" and the last triumphant "Now Sing We, Now Rejoice!" But all that was accomplished with leaving the liturgy INTACT.

And while I'm mentioning it, consider it too for the funerals, dear pastors!  Your big job is the sermon there.  Pour your heart and soul into it, but let the funeral liturgy stand as it is - for every idiosyncratic change you make actually diminishes that masterpiece.  Do not take the prayers away from the people of God; them open their hymnals and follow right along.  After festival liturgies, the services that I receive most kind comments on are our funerals, of all things!  And we simply do them exactly as they are printed in our Hymnal.  Perfection shouldn't be monkeyed with!

A blessed and joyous first day of Christmas to you, one and all!


In the year 2015 from the birth of Abraham, in the year 1510 from the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egypt, in the year 1032 from the enthronement of David the Prophet and King, in the sixtieth "week" of the prophecy of Daniel, in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Augustus, in the thirty-third year of the reign of Herod, when the staff had gone from Judah has had been prophesied by Jacob the Patriarch, at a time when the whole world was at peace, it pleased God to send His only-begotten Son and Eternal Word to the world to become Man and to teach us God's love, to suffer, die, and rise from the dead for our salvation.

At that time, the Lord Jesus was born in a humble cave in Bethlehem of Judah, and no one knew of it but the immaculate Virgin Mary his Mother and Joseph her spouse. No one heard of this miracle surpassing all miracles but a few humble shepherds who had been told by angels in the sky that sang this hymn: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Then the Magi came from the East, led by a star in the heaven: they found their way to where the Divine Infant rested, and they adored Him, and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

To God Incarnate, to the suckling Infant who humbled Himself and took our form, becoming one of us to make us divine; to the One who later walked among us to teach us the way of salvation and who loved us so much as to give His life for it: to Him be glory, honor, and adoration forever and ever. Oh, come, let us adore Him! [At St. Paul's, we read this prior to the Processional Hymn on Christmas Day: "O Come, All Ye Faithful."]

24 December 2011

We Praise You, Jesus

We praise You, Jesus, at Your birth;
Clothed in flesh You came to earth.
The Virgin bears a sinless boy
And all the angels sing for joy.

Now in the manger we may see
God's Son from eternity,
The gift from God's eternal throne
Here clothed in our poor flesh and bone.

The Virgin Mary's lullaby
Calms the infant Lord Most High,
Upon her lap content is He
Who keeps the earth and sky and sea.

The Light Eternal breaking through
Made the world to gleam anew;
His beams have pierced the core of night,
He makes us children of the light.

The very Son of God sublime
Entered into earthly time
To lead us from this world of cares
To heaven's courts as blessed heirs.

In poverty He came to earth
Showing mercy by His birth;
He makes us rich in heavenly ways
As we, like angels, sing His praise.

All this for us our God has done
Grant love through His own Son.
Therefore, all Christendom, rejoice
And sing His praise with endless voice.

REMINDER: Holiday Schedule at St. Paul's

Eve of the Nativity:

6:30 Preservice Music
7:00 Children's Christmas Service
11:00 Candlelight Divine Service

Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ:

9:00 The Christ Mass

Eve of New Year's:

7:15  Divine Service

Circumcision of our Lord (New Year's Day)

9:00 Divine Service

Get your holiday music...

...right here!

23 December 2011

Holding the family together...


Sermons done.  Prayer of the Church readied.  The great Nativity feast is almost upon us!  The children arrive home at various times today and we'll have a full house.  I think some cookie baking, some hymn singing, and some games are in the offing.  We've promised a big breakfast served up this evening.  Then tomorrow more breakfast as we do our family Christmas - a pastor's family always has to make some adjustments about the celebration, and we've found it works well for us to celebrate the morning of the Eve.  We'll still have a big family dinner on Christmas noon, but that will be separate from presents and such.  We've minimized the present aspect this year as we save towards a family trip to Cancun this year (with a BIG boost from the very nice 25th anniversary of ordination gift that the congregation gave us).  Met with our travel agent yesterday and boy, am I psyched to get back to Mexico - and see the kids' faces when they see that beauty first hand.

Meanwhile, Groking on and enjoying the Primal living.  Can't even believe how fast the body changed eating and living and exercising this way!  I think my favorite time of the day has become the evening.  We shut down the computers, turn off all things electronic (save music sometimes), and sit in the candle-light/kerosene lamp light and visit, or read.

Last night I began reading a wonderful work that my dear friend, Paul McCain, had sent me:  Matt Carver's latest installment of *The Great Works of God.*  It almost makes me want to weep for joy as I read along in that book and let Herberger preach Jesus to me.  Great, great stuff.

Oh, and speaking of Paul and all things CPH, did you all see that PrayNow AND Pastoral Care are both available on Android?  Sweet.  I know that I've come to find them both wonderfully handy in that format.  If you've got an iPhone or an Android devise, check them out!

I'm really looking forward to taking my last week of vacation, beginning right after Christmas Day service.  I have a pile of writing to attend to and I want to make a serious dent in it.  I figure if I spend the mornings writing, I'll take off the rest of each day.  So, if the blogging is scarce after Christmas, you'll know why!

And that's about a wrap for the moment.  If I don't get back to the blog before the great Feast, I wish to every blog reader a most joyous celebration of the Nativity - and thank you for checking in here.

All my heart again rejoices...

21 December 2011

Last Advent Evening Prayer

tonight, observing the feast day of St. Thomas.  Absolutely beautiful, as usual.  There's something about that liturgy that cannot be bettered.

Here's the homily:

Today’s the darkest day of the year.  And on this darkest day, the church remembers the darkness of doubt - the darkness in which St. Thomas lived after the Resurrection.  Oh, he heard from the others that the Lord Jesus had kept His promise, that He had risen from the dead.  But Thomas’s darkness, doubt, fear could not be alleviated by mere words.  He wanted more.  He wanted proof.  Something he could touch with his hands.  Flesh he could dig his hands into.
“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place (or more literally, plunge!) my finger into the mark of the nails and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
I don’t think of those words as a cry of stubbornness.  I think they are a cry of honesty.  He simply can’t pretend to a belief he doesn’t have.  What it will take to convince him is what it took to convince the others:  an actual encounter with the Risen One Himself.  You can surely relate - when a promise seems too big, too good to be true, you want something solid before you venture out on it and make yourself a fool.
Gideon was at the same place.  God appointed him to save Israel, but he felt so alone, so inadequate, so impossibly useless for the task.  A farmer turned warrior?  He wanted proof that God was with him, that the living God would use him and achieve victory through him.  So the fleece.  First it was wet and all the ground dry.  But the problem with signs is that we always seem to need other signs to back them up.  So the second request and this time the fleece dry and all the ground wet.
The great Lutheran theologian and preacher, Johann Gerhard, begins his Christmas homily with Gideon’s fleece, in which he sees a sign bigger than what Gideon saw.  The fleece being wet with dew, he saw as the Virgin conceiving, as Isaiah described it:  “Drop down dew, O heavens, from above and let the skies rain down the Righteous One!”  And then, when Mary had given birth to “the Christ dew” she became, in Gerhard’s earthy words “a dry pelt.”  She had given the Christ dew to the world and now His blessings came upon all, but she herself remained a Virgin until death. 
But we’re wandering from St. Thomas.  Or maybe not.  He wanted a sign bigger than a bunch of his fellow disciples telling him that the Virgin’s Son had truly defeated death, had risen in incorruption, had been raised as the firstborn of a new creation.  He wanted to touch for himself.
Oh, how great is the tender compassion of Jesus!  After letting Thomas stew for a solid week (that will teach him to miss the Divine Service on Sunday - for faith comes only as gift, never as possession), on the Lord’s Day again Jesus shows up and this time Thomas is no truant.  He is there with the others.  And Jesus turns to Him after greeting them all with peace.  He turns to Thomas and He bids him touch:  Put your finger here, and see my hands; put out your hand and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe!
Did he do it?  Whether he did or not, the disbelief dissolved and he sank to his knees confessing:  “My Lord and my God.” When in the Divine Service, the Sacrament is elevated before your eyes, it is not held up towards God as if offered in sacrifice, but so you can see it.  Do you know what the traditional prayer at that moment is?  Thomas’s words:  “My Lord and my God.”  For there before you on the altar, in the pastor’s hands, and finally in your mouth is the self-same body and blood of Him whom Thomas was bidden to touch all those years ago.  Now come to you, to chase away your fears, your doubts, your darkness.  The Dayspring, the splendor of light everlasting, breaks on you there at the altar. 
But, you say, Thomas got to see.  We don’t.  True, for he HAD to see and touch and handle.  That’s what makes him an Apostle after all – one who is an eye witness to the resurrection.  But you just take to heart how your Jesus thought of you in that moment.  “Have you believed because you have seen me?” He said.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  That is the final beatitude to come from Jesus’ mouth.  And it’s for you.
Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed.  That is the very essence of the Church’s life from the moment of the Ascension until the moment of the Savior’s glorious return, when He who is both Lord and God shines a brightness on this earth that shatters the darkness of sin and death forever. 
Till that moment arrives, we live the blessed life of faith – of not seeing and yet believing.  The Apostles’ witness equips us for this, makes us mature as we hear and heed their words so that we’re not tossed about by every silly notion that men come up with (and which can figure prominently on TV - the "wise" sharing their folly!), but instead learn to speak the truth of God’s word to each other.  We know faith is born of the promises.  And so we speak the promises to each other and thus grow up into our Head, into Christ, who makes the whole body work together and grow, building itself up in love. 
People loved by God, Christmas is almost here!  It’s a feast for those who have not seen and yet have believed.  For even if you HAD seen the baby in the manger, you couldn’t have seen that He was the Heavenly Dew, the Righeous One rained down on earth into the pure Virgin.  Christmas is a feast not for the eyes, but for the ears.  An outcast couple, a poor child, a few rag-tag shepherds.  But they believing everything they heard from the Lord’s angels and so they are blessed indeed.   We can join them in their blessedness this holytide as we hear the story anew, and take to heart that to us as Child is born, to us a Son is given.  His name is Jesus, the Child of Mary, the Son of God.  From manger to cross, from cross to crown.  He has come to bring light into our darkness; to fill us with splendor of light everlasting.  By faith you behold it now; with your very own eyes you will see it on that joyous Day that has no evening in the Kingdom of the Father. 
It was not St. Thomas's prayer, but it might well have been:  Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.  Amen.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

20 December 2011

The beginning of the Bach Christmas Oratorio

simply nails what the Church invites us into on the threshold of the Christmas Feast:

Jauchzet, frohlocket! auf, preiset die Tage,Shout for joy, exult, rise up, glorify the day,
Rühmet, was heute der Höchste getan!
praise what today the Highest has done!
Lasset das Zagen, verbannet die Klage,
Leave timidity, banish complaining,
Stimmet voll Jauchzen und Fröhlichkeit an!
Sing out with rejoicing and exaltation!
Dienet dem Höchsten mit herrlichen Chören,
Serve the highest with glorious choirs,Laßt uns den Namen des Herrschers verehren!let us honour the name of our Ruler!

Time to leave behind all fear, all grousing, all our discontent and enter into the joy of our Lord's great deeds on our behalf, shouting for joy, singing with the choirs of heaven the honor of Him who took on flesh for us.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Why did God create men?  What was His motive?  Why -- love, and love cannot be anything else but itself.  God made us because He loved us.  What does God desire of us?  What does love always desire?  Love does not ask for gifts.  Love asks for love.  -- B. von Schenk, *The Presence* p. 45.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Today we are so highly exalted that God becomes like us, taking on flesh and blood... Even though I am a poor human being, nevertheless we are of the sane nature in which God shares.  -- Dr. Luther, Sermon for Christmas Vespers, 1544 (AE 58:192)

Patristic Quote of the Day

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. -- St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, par. 8

19 December 2011

Among the things that make you go: Hmm?

Receiving a free calendar from Concordia Seminary (801), featuring the Reformed theologian, Peter Martyr's, tome on the Defense of the Eucharist.  Really?

17 December 2011

Yeah, so...

...got in late from doing the wedding and noted that the church lights were not on. Odd. Carlo's usually there by then. 

When I get over, Scott is lighting up the building, but no Carlo. 

Then about 15 minutes before service, Pastor Gleason shows me that Carlo's listed as organist in bulletin for SUNDAY. I hadn't GOT anyone for Saturday. 

So...Pr. Gleason graciously consented to preside over the whole liturgy; I retreated to the balcony to play the service (except for running down to preach). GOOD GRIEF, Weedon. This is HIGH on my list of mega stupid moments.

Ah, these two go back

a long way with us.  As in back to KINDERGARTEN!!!  I was blessed today to preside at Ellen's wedding, and Leslie was one of the bridesmaids.  Aren't they both beautiful young ladies?  Ellen is wearing her mother's wedding dress.

Carter and Ellen - may your life together be truly blessed in Jesus, our Lord!

O Sapientia! (Rerun)

At Vespers tonight the Magnificat is framed by the first of the Great O Antiphons.

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating the whole creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence!

Our Lord is Logos - the very logic of the universe itself is disclosed in Him, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The key to life itself is not found anywhere else but in the Exemplar by whose wisdom we were made: the Eternal Word and Son of the Father. Why are you here? What is the purpose and meaning of life? What sort of life is really life and not just vanity? These all find their answers in Him alone, in our Lord Jesus. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all they that keep His commandments. His praise endures forever!

It is said that on this day in the monasteries, the librarian might have a special gift to give to the other brothers. He was recognized as the Keeper of Wisdom. He got to intone this first of the Great O Antiphons, which mark the final tilt of Advent toward the great joy of the Christmas Feast.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
Who ord'rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

16 December 2011

This is why you should

subscribe to the Synod's Lutheran Witness - you get to read goodies like this from President Harrison:  The Missouri Synod Needs Advent.

15 December 2011

Warning: Crazy Diet Stuff

Or not... For you, Jimbo L. and many others.  Think about it!

Luther on Advent IV

Before God we say:  Before you, Lord, I am lost on account of my holiness and works; because of them I long to be merely an old rag at the feet of Christ, my Lord, for because of my life I am worthy of nothing else but to be cast by him into hell; but since he has come to redeem from sin and death and to sanctify me, I desire his eternal holiness. This is how we come to heaven.  ... Let us look to the finger and mouth of John with which he bears witness and points, so that we do not close our eyes to or lose our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for to the present day John still very diligently, faithfully, and richly points and directs us here, in order that we might be saved.  May our dear Lord God and Father grant this to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  (HP I:90,91)

And to hear a totally different

sound from the same composer - here is his stunningly beautiful Psalm 19.  Follow along in the text and note the incredible word painting he is doing.  The "laufen" really does RUN!

Ah, the climax of the Psalter

from Schütz.  Lo, Lutheran Church Music as it was in its glorious zenith!  Be sure your speakers are UP.  Psalm 150:

And happy birthday, Daddy!

Sure do miss you.  Hard to believe that you'd be 91 this year, had you lived.  That's how old Granddaddy lived to be. Still, for the years that we had you with us, I'm grateful.  May you rest in peace.

14 December 2011

Happy birthday, Marianne...

...we still miss you more than words can ever say.  Thank you for all you did for our church, for our family.

I'll Sing On

13 December 2011

Blessed Feast of St. Lucy!

I was even visited today by a little St. Lucy bringing me the traditional treats, warm from the oven.  Now I ask you, how sweet is that?

The collect for the day:  O almighty God, by whose grace and power Your holy martyr Lucia triumphed over suffering and remained ever faithful unto death, grant us, who now remember her with thanksgiving, to be so true in our witness to You in this world that we may receive with her new eyes without tears and the crown of light and life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord... (Treasury, p. 1012)

12 December 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

And if your vision of faith is clear enough, you will see at the Altar not merely bread and wine, but the Christ-Child, the Word made flesh.  After Christmas?  You will do the same as did the Wise Men.  They went home by another way, not by way of Jerusalem.  You will go another way, the way of the new life.  And with the shepherds you will make known abroad all that you have seen and realized. -- B. von Schenk, The Presence, p. 55.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But you might say:  so where are these wide opened gates of heaven which we must enter?  That's easy.  Where Baptism is administered, where the preaching of the Gospel resounds, where sinners are absolved, where the holy meal of reconciliation is held - there, there heaven is opened and those, those are the altogether wide open gates of heaven. -- C. F. W. Walther, Treasury of C. F. W. Walther, Vol. 1, p. 59.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let's be joyful and celebrate the advent of our Salvation and Redemption!  Let's celebrate the feast day, the day on which the Great and Eternal Day made His appearance in our brief and passing day! -- St. Augustine, Sermons to the People, pp. 82,83.

10 December 2011

I have definitely decided

that Carlo playing Bach's Fugue in a minor is itself a sacrament - it simply conveys into your heart Bach's unspeakable joy in the Lord.  Thank you, Carlo!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we take offense at God's making this truth of Bethlehem real to us by His Real Presence at the Altar, then we must take offense also at the whole Christmas story.  If we stumble at the Altar, we shall also stumble at the threshold of the stable. -- B. von Schenk, The Presence, p. 51.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The joy of heaven is surely in one who believes, but here on earth it is like a mere drop, yet it refreshes and sweetens his heart already and in death it is transformed into a full river, a whole ocean of heavenly joy. -- C.F. W. Walther, Treasury of C. F. W. Walther, Vol. 1, p. 60.

Patristic Quote of the Day

To those saints then He has wonderfully fulfilled all My wishes in their advancement, whereby they have perceived, how both the humanity of My divinity has profited them that I might die, and the divinity of the humanity that I might rise again. -- St. Augustine on Psalm 16

08 December 2011

One less thing to keep track of, pastors...

...though I'm not exactly sure HOW various parishioners will appreciate it.  *I* appreciate it!

Pastoral Care for your iPhone/iPad.

Especially great, if you've ever fumbled (as I have) for exactly where that prayer or rite is located in the book.  Very fast and very fine.  Thanks, CPH once again!!!

(Yes, that means that my iPhone has the PrayNow - Treasury, if you will - app; the Pastoral Care Companion; AND the entire Logos system for Bible Study...amazing!)

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is true that Bethlehem, the Virgin Mother, and the angels are a reality to many little children.  They do not have to be convinced about the reality of Bethlehem.  But how hard it is for grownups to become as a little child.  How difficult it is for us to have and to hold the reality of Bethlehem by merely hearing about it.  However, it can be brought down to today, for it is focused beautifully for the believer at the Altar - in the Holy Communion.  The Holy Communion is the continuation of the Incarnation. -- B. von Schenk, The Presence, p. 43.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Before any man was created and before we could ask for him, in his freedom he decided already in eternity to dwell among us, to save us sinners.  -- C. F. W. Walther, Treasury of C. F. W. Walther, Volume 1, p. 28.

Patristic Quote of the Day

According to this opinion the moon in allegory signifies the Church, because in its spiritual part the Church is bright, but in its carnal part is dark: and sometimes the spiritual part is seen by good works, but sometimes it lies hid in the conscience, and is known to God alone, since in the body alone is it seen by men.-- St. Augustine, On Psalm 11

Dean was right...

...these new ones are even more comfortable than the old kind.  I don't suppose I can wear them on Sundays, though.  Drats.

07 December 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

At the altar we fling the challenge to the world.  We say:  Man has not been made for money, or wage-slavery, or mere pleasure or passion; man was not made to be a machine.  Man has been made to be God's own, made in the image of Eternity.  And this is not the vague dream of a mystic.  It sprang into realization at Bethlehem and is brought down to us today at the altar. -- B. von Schenk, The Presence, p. 55.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Surely, that God might show the incomprehensible riches of His grace He did not want humanity to remain bound by the chains of eternal destruction with which the first humans willingly entangled themselves and their descendants.  Therefore He sent His Son, the Redeemer, to the world and offers His benefits to humans through the preaching of the Gospel, through which He calls them into the kingdom of grace and the fellowship of the church.  If any yield to this holy call by the power of the Holy Spirit, He transfers them into the kingdom of grace, that in it they may rightly know Him, serve Him in holiness and righteousness, and show Him due obedience.  After this life, if they persevere in true faith and worship, He transfers them into the kingdom of glory, that in it they may be joined with the assembly of angels and sing eternal praises to Him. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 710.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For as often as we receive the Blood of the Lord, we proclaim the death of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 11:26 As, then, He was once slain for all, so whenever forgiveness of sins is granted, we receive the Sacrament of His Body, that through His Blood there may be remission of sins. - St. Ambrose of Milan, On Repentance

OH MY! What have we here?

Looks more than tasty!  Spread the word!!!

06 December 2011

Had fun doing

an Issues Etc. show today on St. Ambrose of Milan, whose feast day is tomorrow.  (Here's a pic - showing off my vibrams!)  Tomorrow night's service will commemorate St. Ambrose as one of the heralds of Christ.

05 December 2011

Happy birthday, Sis, etc.

Today is my only sister's birthday.  She's 65 years old, and she's still my favorite sister in all the world.  Wish we got to see her and Jimmy more.  May the Lord grant you many more and may they be filled with joy, Sis!

Taught Catechism today and did Daycare Chapel, home for Matins and then off to St. Louis to visit a member in Children's (well, visit her mom and grandma, more accurately).  Prayers arise!

Did a decent run at the Y today (15 minutes sprints) and then a nice 45 minute walk.  Cindi joined me for much of the walk.  She's still limping a bit after she walks for a while, but it's great to see her getting back into our routine.

Came home, grab a quick shower and prepped for radio show tomorrow and then Evening Prayer.

We had Dave and Jo up for dinner. Experimented tonight with a primal blueprint menu - and it was tasty.  We served a spaghetti sauce (beef and sausage) over some spaghetti squash, had a side of a refreshing and zippy pesto-cole slaw, and finished up with some walnut cinnamon crackers.  Dave and Jo largely approved, though the excess basil in the pesto made us all sit up and take notice!

AND in her INFINITE graciousness, she beat us all at Liverpool.  TWICE.  Rude thing!  But she needed the pick me up, I think, because she's feeling pretty miserable.  Keep her in your prayers.

Now it's bedtime again, and the pile of work gets ever higher.  Ah well.  Our Lord's wisdom is the best:  "don't be anxious for tomorrow; tomorrow will be anxious for itself."  So, time to hit the hay and see what surprises the morrow brings.  "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit..."

04 December 2011

01 December 2011

The most incredible transformation story...

...ever.  Period.  Check it OUT.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Holy Sacrament is the bulwark of our faith and doctrines, rather than any elaborate system of doctrine apart from it.... The Holy Sacrament is the battleground of our very belief in the Deity of Christ.  -- Berthold v. Schenk, The Presence, p. 53.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If the doctrine agrees with which has been revealed through Moses, the prophets, Christ, and the apostles, then the miracles also that are performed to confirm that doctrine must be considered divine.  But if that doctrine for whose confirmation miracles are performed, conflicts with the heavenly doctrine revealed to mankind through Moses, the prophets, Christ and the apostles, then we cannot and should not consider them as divine, as we conclude clearly from the statement of Moses (Deut. 13:1-4). -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 629.

Patristic Quote of the Day

"For Your arrows stick fast in me, and Your hand presses me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, from the face of Your anger" Psalm 37:2,3. He has now begun telling these evils, which he is suffering here: and yet even this already was from the wrath of the Lord, because it was of the vengeance of the Lord. Of what vengeance? That which He took upon Adam. For think not that punishment was not inflicted upon him, or that God had said to no purpose, You shall surely die; Genesis 2:17 or that we suffer anything in this life, except from that death which we earned by the original sin. - St. Augustine, On Psalm 38

Have really enjoyed

the stuff I've been learning from Mark Sisson (thanks, Sage, for blogging about him).  You can read his Mark's Daily Apple here.  Tons of useful info (and sometimes a little, um, off-color, shall we say?).  His Primal Blueprint is an excellent resource.  I downloaded it for my iPad, but soon realized it was the sort of resource that would be handy to have in hard copy, so also purchased the book.  Jo picked up his excellent cookbook, and we've been borrowing that and having fun.

What made me wrinkle my brow most was his approach to working out.  It didn't fit with "Conventional Wisdom" (he loves to mock CW!) at all.  But then again, his own body is his big argument - and those of tons of folks who have followed his suggestions.  He simply divides all workouts into 3 sorts:

Move a lot - 3-5 hours or so per week - not an intense cardio, but enough to elevate the heart-rate by 50-75% percent or so.  For me, that's a nice easy jog for 35 minutes at a shot; and then taking Lucy for a walk on the leash (which is an exercise in fighting her pulling this, that, and ever direction!).

Lift heavy things - and your body counts as a heavy thing!  His simplest workout routine is a set of 50 pushups, 50 squats, 12 chin ups, and a 2 minute plank.  I'm still using the counter-weight (25/40) on the chin-ups, but can do the rest quite easily.  So today, for example, I did 2  to 3 sets of each exercise.  He suggests this about 2-3 times a week.

Sprint - once every 7-10 days, do 20 minutes of sprints, alternating running all out with an easy jog to recover slightly and then all out again.  You can do this running, or on a stationary bike, or in a variety of other ways.  I like to run, so I actually prefer running really fast.

That's it.  He encourages you to be flexible and not obsess (youch - that's hard when you're just a TAD obsessive compulsive...).  If you're feeling tired, wait a day.  Listen to your body and go with it.  If you're feeling energized, don't stop at the usual but do some more.

So... I've set aside my little notebook with all the recorded dates and exercises.  I've tried to remember his dictum that when it comes to building muscle etc., 80% is accomplished by what you eat and 20% by your workouts.  I've not done very well yet on his make time to play each week.  I'm thinking it calls for reviving what very limited skills I had in racquetball because I did intensely enjoy that.  Anyway, a rather different approach not only to exercise, to eating, but to life.  Yet one that really resonates with me.

If you've been working out and are frustrated; if you've been dieting and are frustrated; if you've been meaning to do either and yet never can seem to find the energy to start - check his stuff out.  I think you'll find it encouraging and motivating.  Then go lift some heavy things!

Hmm. Even Rome

looks like she'll be going for the ESV.  That goes a long way toward it truly being the English STANDARD Version.  Read about it here.

I am assuming that's not just for down under???

30 November 2011

Some heavenly music

conducted by my old friend James Michael Thompson.  Enjoy!

Ah, to sing together

Evening Prayer:  to greet the evening light, to sing Psalms, to attend to God's Holy Word as we commemorated St. Andrew, to join in the Magnificat with the Blessed Virgin, to lift the anxieties of our hearts to the Lord ("to You, O Lord!"), and then to depart into the frosty air with the stars shining down on us after having sung "Creator of the Stars of Night."

Well...yeah.  That's the way to close a busy day.

No question.  No question at all.  I wish we could do it every evening!  Such peace, such beauty, such joy.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We must realize that Religion is not primarily a refuge, but a sacrifice.  That is the heart of the Christian Religion.  It was the heart of our Lord's life.  It must be ours.  Then the divine Love floods our souls and captivates our lives.  Are you saved the Cross?  Then your life with its struggles has been caught up with His strength, so that now you can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you.  It is no longer I , but Christ in me.  That is what is means to be saved by the cross.  -- Berthold v. Schenk, The Presence, p. 76.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Indeed, in temptation and in trials, when the mind is overwhelmed with fear and dread of the wrath of God, then certainly, in that consternation, faith does not conclude:  I have charity, virtues, and merits and on account of this worthiness God will receive me.  But faith points to and looks to the Son of God, who was made a sacrifice for us, now sitting at the right hand of the Father and making intercession for us.  To Him it flees, Him it seeks, in Him it believes, and it concludes that on account of this High Priest we are forgiveness and granted reconciliation, not because of our virtues and our worthiness.  And so faith sets against our sin and our damnation not our works and our own worthiness but the merit of Christ.  -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, Examen I:576.

Patristic Quote of the Day

And what shall we sing there, save His praises? What else shall we say there, save, You are my God, and I will confess unto You; You are my God, and I will praise You. I will confess unto You, for You have heard me, and art become my Salvation. We will not say these things in loud words; but the love that abides in Him of itself cries out in these words, and these words are love itself. Thus as he began with praise, so he ends: Confess unto the Lord, for He is gracious, and His mercy endures for ever. -- St. Augustine on Psalm 118

The Joy of Advent Hymnody

I truly pity those who are unfamiliar with the great hymns of this season.  They are so rich, so full.  Here are just a few of my all time favorite stanzas:

Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown:
God was there upon His throne.

Love caused Your incarnation,
Love brought You down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling
That led You to embrace
In love, all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race.

A humble beast He rides,
Yet as a king presides;
Though not arrayed in splendor,
He makes the grave surrender:
Hosanna, praise and glory!
Our King, we bow before Thee

Those dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers.
With what rapture,
With what rapture,
With what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars.

A righteous Helper comes to thee;
His chariot is humility,
His kingly crown is holiness,
His scepter, pity in distress.
The end of all our woes He brings;
Therefore the earth is glad and sing:
To Christ the Savior raise
Your grateful hymns of praise.

We hail Thee as our Savior, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without Thy grace we waste away
Like flow'rs that wither and decay.

See, the Lamb so long expected,
Come with pardon down from heav'n
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven.

Not as of old a little child
To bear and fight and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights that morning sky.

Enter now my waiting heart,
Glorious King, and Lord most holy.
Dwell in me and never leave,
Though I am but poor and lowly.
Ah, what riches will be mine
When Thou art my Guest Divine!

Thou camest the Bridegroom of the Bride
As drew the world to eventide,
The spotless Victim all divine
Proceeding from a Virgin shrine.

Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus,
Turn not from me aside,
And help me to receive You
This blessed Adventtide.
From stall and manger low
Come now to dwell within me;
I'll sing Your praises gladly
And forth Your glory show!

Then gentle Mary bowed her head:
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said.
"My soul shall laud and magnify God's holy name."
Most highly favored Lady, Gloria!

O come, thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Just drew up the Lessons and Carols bulletin

for December 14, and was surprised and delighted to put in the piece that the school children are singing (K-8):

Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,

1. Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus;
carmina laetitiae devote reddamus. Refrain

2. Deus homo factus est, natura mirante;
mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante. Refrain

3. Ezecaelis orta clausa per transistur;
unde lux est orta, salus invenitur. Refrain

4. Ergo nostra contio psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino; salus regi nostro. Refrain

This lovely Latin anthem appeared in the Piae Cantiones compiled by Lutheran student Theodosius Petri in 1582.  And now 429 years later Lutheran school children will sing it's beautiful words and powerful melody here in the American midwest.  I love it!

Here is a professional group rendering this lovely anthem:

You can view the original music here and here.


Anyone else delighted by the bits of Herberger that show up in the Treasury readings?  I LOVE reading his stuff.  Makes me want to go back and reread Carver's translation of the work on Genesis.  Good, good stuff!  Shows you HOW Lutherans read the Scriptures:  utterly Christologically (which some seem to confuse with allegorically...that's for you, Marcus).

from Starck's Advent Evening Prayer

We have nothing to give You; we are not able in the least to repay You for rescuing us from the lost condition in which we found ourselves by nature and for setting us free from the bonds of death that held us fast.  All these blessings came to us because Your Son became man.  Your love has no equal - it passes all understanding!  We can do nothing but humbly thank You, praise You, and magnify You.  This is the only tribute by which our hearts can express their affection for You.

29 November 2011

Homily for the Funeral of Arnold Hellmann

[Isaiah 25:6-9 / 1 Cor. 15:51-57 / John 10:27-30]

Brothers and sisters, family and friends of Arne Hellmann:  A coffin under a Christmas tree.  Fitting, for it reminds us why the Child came:  "From sin and death He saves us / and lightens every load."

Still waters run deep, so the saying goes.  And Arne was still waters.  I remember visiting the house when Harold was sick, and Harold and Elsie would chat up a storm about this, that, and the other thing.  We’d talk about things in Synod, latest tidbits in Christian News, things in the congregation, favorite hymns and Scriptures and whatnot.  But Arne would sit silent for the most part.  Every once in a while he’d throw in a comment or two.  He seemed most comfortable talking outside, looking across that beautiful lake and listening to the sound of wind in those pines.  Still waters run deep indeed.

And deep in that man had been planted the Word of God.  Oh, from that moment when your godly parents picked up their 12 day old boy and marched him off to receive Baptism in the old St. Paul’s.  Pr. Hansen poured the water over his little head and said:  “Ich taufe dich im namen des Vaters und des Sohns und des Heiligen Geiste.” And parents and sponsors answered:  “Amen!”  From that moment on, Arne belonged to another.  To Jesus, who is the Savior of sinners and the Destruction of death itself.

Raised in church and school, the Word of God was planted deep into Arne.  And it bore its fruit.  It gave him faith, faith which he freely confessed before this very altar on the day of his confirmation in 1940.  And still he listened to the great promises of God’s Word as he grew.  He came as a faithful communicant to the Supper of His Lord and into Him was given the undying body and blood of the Son of God as the guarantee that just as his sins had been wiped out so also his death would also be undone by His Savior.

Isaiah was celebrating that in our first reading – that the Lord was planning a feast for His people to celebrate death’s defeat; death’s own death.  For when death swallowed down the Lord Jesus, it swallowed a deadly poison to itself.  He came crashing out of death’s stinking maw on Easter Morning and left behind a path for His people to follow Him right out of it.  Such a promise gave Arne hope and joy.  It sustained him in his years of service in the military and through the long years when he saw so many that he loved taken away.  He could look up death and see it for what it is:  a defeated enemy.  It couldn’t hold His Savior; it can’t hold those who are the Savior’s; it can’t hold HIM.  Baptized into Christ, Arne knew he had a life death couldn’t take away.

Oh, it’s still the enemy.  Still something to be fought.  When he was diagnosed he was ready to fight it if were worthwhile.  But if not, he was at peace with that too.  He spoke to me freely of his death not as something to be feared or welcomed, but simply as whatever the Lord’s will was.  He was at peace with that.

And he was concerned about the way things were going in this society and country.  He shared with a book that he’d read by Pr. Wilkerson that spoke of our great country’s demise if we refuse to turn from our sin, confess it, seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Arne knew that the living God was not to be trifled with.  He wants His salvation for all; but He will bring judgment on all who continue to spurn His ways and walk on in their stubborn hearts.

We spoke that day of repentance.  Of what a joy it was to live hating sin and eagerly waiting to finally be rid of the menace.  The sting of death is sin; the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God.  HE gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That day we prayed the 23rd Psalm.  Planted deep into him, he prayed it with me and missed not one single word.  Still waters run deep – and deep into Arne had gone the comfort of having a Good Shepherd who would lead him through the valley of the shadow of death and into eternal life.

It was Sunday that Louis called to let me know Arne was back in the hospital.  I visited with him that night.  He was weak.  The breathing very labored and hard.  Again the promises of God’s Word were shared and once more the 23rd Psalm prayed.  This time he didn’t have the air to speak them aloud, but his lips moved with every single syllable.  When everything else was being taken from him, the Word of God remained with him and gave him comfort, hope, and strength.  Monday, Pastor Gleason also shared the Word and prayed with Arne.  We could see the end was coming close and so could he.  And he was ready.

I’m not sure, Louie and Carl, if he heard the prayers we prayed on Wednesday morning or not.  But that day I read to him the beautiful promise of today’s Gospel:  My sheep hear my voice.  And Arne did that his whole life long.  Not a big speaker, but a big listener.  If he didn't hear me that morning, he could have said the words any way.  He heard and held that word in his heart.  “And I know them and they follow me and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all.  And no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one.”

Eternal life.  A life that the Word of Jesus plant in a man or woman.  Words that give and sustain faith.  Words that a man can quietly live his whole life on and find them the joy of his heart, and in them, the hope of his whole life.

Still waters run deep.  Arne was still waters.  And in his heart and in his mind, he stood beside the still waters with His Shepherd.  Whether he was bowling with friends, or walking along with the little children he loved to have visit.  And His Shepherd on Wednesday reached out and took Arne into His arms and brought Him home just as He had promised to do from the moment of His baptism all those years before.  And now Arne waits with all the saints the joyful fulfillment of the REST of the Lord’s promise:  the resurrection of this body and the life everlasting in the Kingdom where he will ever sing praises to his Lord.  Let us learn from this silent, strong man of faith, to hold tightly to those words of Jesus that can give us a like victory, a like faith, a like unshakable peace.  Amen.

Arnold F Hellmann, 85, of Worden, Ill., died Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, Ill. He was born Oct. 5, 1926, in Hamel, Ill., the son of the late Adolph C. and Lillian W. M. (Reising) Hellmann.

Mr. Hellmann was born in Hamel and attended St. Paul Lutheran and Hamel Public Schools. He worked the family farm. He joined the U.S. Army and served from 1945 to 1947. He later attended Diesel Mechanic School and worked on some farms and later worked as a mechanic for Frank Lynn Ford Tractor in East Alton. 

He was a member of Saint Paul Lutheran Church. 

He is survived by three sisters, Esther Uphoff of Bedford, Texas, and Mildred Turley of Hurst, Texas and Lucille (Bill) Masters of St. Louis, Mo.; two brothers, Carl (Marlene) Hellmann of Worden, Ill. and Louis (Pat) Hellmann of Worden, Ill.; one sister-in-law, Nancy Hellmann of Glen Carbon, Ill. and many nieces and nephews.

Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by two sisters, Elsie Hellmann and Irma Wuehler; two brothers, Harold Hellmann and Edwin Hellmann; two brothers-in-law, Ralph Turley and Earl Wuehler; one nephew, Daniel Masters; and two nieces, Yvonne Uphoff and Vanessa Weis. 

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we wish to know how real the devil is, let us start conducting our church life and business along the plans of the great Master.  If the local parish, which should be the Church Catholic in miniature, is to fulfill its destiny as the chaste bride of Christ, then it will meet Satan.  How dastardly he works his undermining and aggressive attacks! - Berthold v. Schenk, The Presence, p. 75.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We teach the Law of God purely as the norm of all holiness and piety.  We instruct our hearers to do good works according to the norm of the Law, after they have been led to a knowledge of their sins and have embraced the blessings of Christ by faith.  We teach that true, saving faith is not idle but is effectual in the pursuit of good works. Thus where good works do not appear outside, there true faith is not inside.  We teach that through sins against conscience the Holy Spirit and saving faith are cut off from the reborn.  We set before our hearers very serious and urgent reasons why they have to do good works, namely, for God's sake, for our neighbor's sake, and for our own sake.  We encourage our hearers to mortify the flesh along with its lusts, to crucify the old Adam, and thus to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 607.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your Name give the praise Psalm 113:1. For that grace of the water that gushed from the rock (now that rock was Christ 1 Corinthians 10:4), was not given on the score of works that had gone before, but of His mercy that justifies the ungodly. Romans 4:5 For Christ died for sinners, that men might not seek any glory of their own, but in the Lord's Name. - St. Augustine on Psalm 115

28 November 2011

What we ask for...

...in Adventide!

"rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins and save us by Your mighty deliverance..." - Ad Te Levavi

"that by Your coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds..."  Populus Zion

"light the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation..." Gaudete

"come and help us by Your might, that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy..." Rorate Coeli

It strikes me

that against certain well-known Roman polemics against Lutheranism, Luther's words cited into today's Treasury reading (and cited also in the Book of Concord) are simply priceless:

Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us be born anew of God.  It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and power; it brings with it the Holy Spirit.  O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith.  It is impossible for it not be doing good works incessantly.... Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever... Thus, it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.  [Treasury, pp. 961,2]

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Peter also grasped the full content of the crucified and risen Jesus.  He say, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us back to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."  This is man's destiny:  Reconciliation.  "Be ye reconciled with God."  Therefore after the first Communion, Jesus prayed, "That they may be one with Us."  That has ever been the heavenly desire. -- B. v. Schenk, The Presence, p. 63.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Although in our prayers, alms, and fasts, we by no means follow that external pomp of ceremonies, and though we do not perform our works before people to gain their applause, yet in this area we follow Christ's prescription in Matthew 6:1ff.  From this, however, one can by no means attribute to us a neglect of the exercises of piety, for "the day of the Lord will reveal what was done in secret." -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 608.

Patristic Quote of the Day

They have deceived many with the holiness of their behavior. -- St. Jerome, Against the Pelagians, Book 3.

A Mozart Agnus Dei

sung by Cindi, accompanied by Carlo, this past Sunday during the Distribution of the Sacrament.  She's just singing in Latin the same words that we got done singing in English:  Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy, grant us peace.

Kyrie from this Sunday's Liturgy

This is a keeper

Dinner tonight for me was primal hot "cereal."  Unbelievably easy and tasty.  You take 1/2 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup of pecans, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/2 of a banana and 1/4 a cup of almond milk or coconut milk - dump the whole in your food processor and pulse several times.  Scoop out into a bowl and microwave till hot.  Stir in a teaspoon or so of flax seed, dot with some frozen blueberries and top with a bit more of the almond or coconut milk.  Dig in.  Sweet, tasty, stick to your ribs kind of "cereal" - and yet not the first grain or bit of sugar or artificial sweetener in sight!

And when it's been a busy and harried day...

...there is simply nothing so peaceful and calming as to light the candles on the family altar, burn some incense, take out your Treasury, sing the liturgy of Evening Prayer and let the peace of God fill your heart and drive away all the rush, all the anxiety, all the hurry-sickness.  God has a peace for us that the world cannot give...

Random Thoughts from Last Sunday's Bible Class

Sometime Seminarian, John Klinger (tech guru extraordinare) is leading our Bible Class through the Walther movie (of which he was producer).  It's been a fascinating study.

The question of "church" obviously weighed hugely on the early Saxon colony as things fell rapidly apart.  Which drove Walther to read the Scriptures and to read Luther and to the great and joyous "aha" about 2 or 3 who are gathered in the Lord's name having Jesus in their midst (Matthew 18) and with Him, all that is His.

Luther's insight into the priesthood of the baptized was precisely that:  EVERYTHING that the Father has given to the Son, the Son has in great love given to His Bride, the Church.  Which means that the treasures of the Holy Spirit, of the divine Word, of Baptism, of the Eucharist, of the Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life, the joys of intercession - all these belong to EACH baptized Christian.  They are theirs!

And yet because they are OURS, not MINE, it would be presumptuous for any single Christian to take upon himself to administer the common property of the Christian people without being asked to do so by the Christian people.  So in every congregation, in every 2 or 3 or 30 or 300 or 3000 gathered in the holy name, that is, baptized into Christ, the full authority to FILL the office of the ministry resides.

So when in following the directives of Scripture regarding who may and who may not be placed into that office, the congregation in prayer to God and in reliance on His promises, calls a man to fill that office, that is a divine, certain, rock solid act.  As Luther said "it is God who makes ministers."  It is God's act through the congregation that possesses by virtue of their Baptism into Christ all the riches of Christ Himself (as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians:  "All things are yours!").

The Word and Sacraments belong, then, to the entire people of God; they never have been and never will be the possessions of the pastors alone.  Pastors, in fact, possess them in no other way than anyone else:  only by Baptism into Christ.  It is a beautiful and joyous "aha" to remember that pastors handle the holy things in the midst of the holy ones as servants of God and stewards of the divine mysteries - that Christ has set them there to serve His people these priceless gifts that He has given to the whole baptized priesthood!

This was a great part of Walther's "aha" that enabled the Saxon colony to survive and more than survive - to thrive in the embrace of the Savior's love, living from the certainty of His giving.  A ministry set neither above nor beneath, but solidly within the Christian congregation.

26 November 2011

St. Paul's in Advent

Advent begins

with the setting of the sun this evening.  As one of the Church's penitential seasons, fasting is always appropriate during Advent.  Some suggestions:  remember Cassian's words that "the fathers have only one invariable rule of fasting:  stop eating before you are full;" think simple meals; since Wednesday and Friday are penitential days, maybe eat only a light breakfast and then skip lunch and after sunset have a simple, but normal sized dinner on those days; the Ember Days in Advent will fall on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Gaudete.

Lutherans, unlike other liturgically minded Christians, do not observe a distinction of meats - hence, there are no foods that we regard as "off-limits" during these days, as we joyfully confess that all things God created are good and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving.  Yet, moderation in food and drink - something we ought always to practice! - is certainly appropriately strengthened by seasons when we practice "cutting back" - i.e., going hungry for a bit.  Also, since the point of going hungry is not merely to train the body, but far more to provide extra time for prayer and money for alms (what you don't eat that day, you can give away!), a suggestion on any lunches or breakfasts you forgo is to spend the time in praying the Litany and some Psalms, and intentionally upping your charitable giving, particularly to those ministries that focus on feeding the hungry.

Again, unlike other liturgical traditions, Lutherans most certainly do not need to consult any "spiritual father" about such matters - rather, prayerfully, intentionally, and in your God-given Christian freedom embrace whatever practice you think would work well for you in these days.  Above all, clear the clutter - make some space in your life during these days of preparation for the Holy Spirit to do His joyful work through the Word and the Sacrament.  Make a special effort to attend the extra services.  To read in your Scriptures each day (USE that Treasury!), and enjoy the splendid feast that the Church in her love sets before you in these holy days.  You will come to the Christmas Feast with a peaceful and joyous heart.

Two caveats to certain readers:  Orthodox and RC, you do not need to tell me how the above is all wrong.  We know what you all think about such things.  God bless your own time of preparation; but don't hold us to your disciplines which we simply do not acknowledge.

Also, my beloved Past Elder, we do not need yet another lecture on your opinions about fasting... any reader of this blog already knows what you think of it.  Enjoy your Christian freedom and let the rest of us enjoy ours!