28 February 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

A yes to Christ's cross is always a yes to my cross.  If this is not so, we are only playing games.  -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 52.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

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

Patristic Quote of the Day

For neither did the treason of Judas work out salvation for us, but the wisdom of Christ, and the good contrivance of His fair skill, using the wickednesses of others for our advantage. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 81 on St. Matthew

Christliche oder Catholicam

It all depended - at least in the 16th and 17th century - on whether one was singing in German or in Latin.  If the Creed was sung in German - and that means, Luther's "Wir Glauben All" - then one confessed that the Holy Spirit "die ganz' Christenheit auf Erden hält in einen Sinn gar eben."  But if one sang the Latin Creed, then one confessed "unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam."  And Lutherans for a couple centuries were totally at ease with confessing it either way; in many services confessing it both ways as the German was often sung by the people after the Latin was led by the choir.  The notion that "christian" is preferred over "catholic" because that's how the Creeds were rendered in the German Book of Concord does not jive with the actual history of Lutheran liturgy.

27 February 2011

Zname To, Pane Boze Nas

Cantor:  O God, Father in heaven, have mercy upon us!

Your heart, O God, is grieved we know
By every evil, every woe;
Upon Your cross-forsaken Son
Our death is laid, and peace is won.

Cantor:  O Son of God, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us!

Your arms, extend, O Christ, to save
From sting of death and grasp of grave;
Your scars before the Father move
His heart to mercy at such love.

Cantor:  O God, Holy Spirit, have mercy upon us!

O lavish Giver, come to aid
The feeble child Your grace has made.
Now make us grow and help us pray:
Bring joy and comfort, come to stay!

LSB 945 [by Juraj Tranosvsky]

26 February 2011

The Interface of Man and Machine

Some drawings David did recently that (to me, at any rate) appear to be about that topic:

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As the Church of Christ is hidden, so also is the righteousness and holiness of the believers.  Hidden is the working of God in the means of grace.  Hidden under the human words of Scripture and its proclamation is the Word of God.  In the Lord's Supper the body and blood of Christ are hidden under the earthly elements.  Always, however, this hiddenness is the hiddenness of His actual presence.  The cross of Christ is not just a sign, but a reality, because the Crucified One is not just a picture of God, but God Himself, God incarnate, the revealed God in the hiddenness of true humanity.  -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 52.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

A pure dogma, therefore, combines two elements:  its material is from the Holy Scripture; its form has been determined by the Church's experience.  It has, therefore, both a Scriptural and an historical side. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 21.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But he [Judas] profited nothing. Yet not for that did the Lord cease to do His part.  Knowing this, then, let us also not intermit to do all things unto them that sin and are remiss, warning, teaching, exhorting, admonishing, advising, though we profit nothing. For Christ indeed foreknew that the traitor was incorrigible, yet nevertheless He ceased not to supply what could be done by Himself, as well admonishing as threatening and bewailing over him, and nowhere plainly, nor openly, but in a concealed way. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 80 on St. Matthew

24 February 2011

It has been entirely too long

since I shared the joys of living with David, our artist (let the reader understand) son.

So a couple days ago, his mom woke him early and mentioned that it was icy out, and he'd best start his car to let it warm up and de-ice.  He did so (after trying to palm the keys off on his mother; she wisely refused and suggested he get his rear out of bed).  A bit later he's not leaving on time.  We wonder at that, for he'd gotten up early after all.  Finally, he comes upstairs sheepfacedly and admits that he's been um, trying to find his car keys...

Tonight he comes flying in the house - he and Meaghan had something they were attending at SIUE and he realized he left his ticket at home.  He searches high and low and it's not there.  Then he remembers:  "It's in the car."  So he made the trip home to look for a ticket he had in his car the whole time.  He honked and drove off.

Ah, life with David is never dull.  And the fact that he MIGHT take after his father in these matters is to be entirely ignored, capiche?

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

What a man regards as good can be sin in the eyes of God, for instance an Aristotelian ethicist's striving for virtue.  What human wisdom considers good fortune and therefore strives for - health, success, affluence - these things God in His wisdom may see as harmful for a person's good and so deny them.  In God's judgment sickness, failure, and poverty may be far better.  And God's judgment is not mistaken, even when it contradicts all human reason. -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* pp. 50,51.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

All that is not contrary to Holy Scripture in the life of the Church, belongs to the Providential development of its capacities, as the witness of the truth and the bearer of salvation.  -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 20.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But to the others He says, Depart from me, you cursed, (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), into the everlasting fire, prepared, not for you, but for the devil and his angels. For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, Come, inherit the kingdom, He added, prepared for you before the foundation of the world; but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, prepared for the devil. I, says He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but for the devil and his angels; but since you cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 79 on St. Matthew

23 February 2011

Reminder: St. Matthias tomorrow

Tomorrow at St. Paul's we will commemorate the holy Apostle St. Matthias at the Divine Service at 6 p.m.  Join us if you can!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Obviously the "theology of the cross" does not mean that for a theologian the church year shrinks together into nothing but Good Friday.  Rather, it means that Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost cannot be understood without Good Friday. -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess: Jesus Christ* p. 39.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In Christ, man's longing for complete union and reconciliation with God, and with it, the satisfying of the desire for knowing God, was at last to be accomplished. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 18

Patristic Quote of the Day

And do not account the saying to be rash. For the Lord is loving to man, and the gift comes of His goodness. It is rash to have a mouth like the devil, to have a tongue resembling that of an evil demon, especially for him that partakes of such mysteries, and communicates of the very flesh of the Lord. Reflecting then on these things, become like Him, to the utmost of your power. No longer then will the devil be able so much as to look you in the face, when you have become such a one as this. For indeed he recognizes the image of the King, he knows the weapons of Christ, whereby he was worsted. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 78 on St. Matthew

22 February 2011


How many of you are in parishes that print out the service in its entirety?  How many of you print out the liturgy but not the hymns?  How many of you don't use bulletins or hymnals anymore?  How many of you use a bulletin that lists the order of service and hymns in outline form?  How many of you list that outline form on an irregularly folded shield of 14" paper so that it can stick out as a service guide when placed in the back of the hymnal?  And if not any of the above, please "'splain" as Ricky used to say!

Using Gesimatide to Prepare for Lent

Okay, the days of Gesimatide are upon us.  The Gospels for these Sundays teach us that our salvation is a gift, not the result of our efforts; that it is accomplished by the power of God's Word; that by faith in our Jesus, we will go up to Jerusalem with Him, having our eyes opened to see that He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  With this wonderful theological grounding, we also remember the wise words of Adolf Köberle:  "At all events even asceticism can be described by the paradoxical statement:  Its exercise can give salvation to no one but its neglect can corrupt anyone."

So as not to fall into that corruption, the Lenten disciplines are set before us.  Not as though they are tools we ought use only during the Lenten days, but as training for all our days of battling the old man in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the joyful concurrence of the new man.

* Prayer - can I spend more time intentionally in prayer this Lent?  Here's a prayer that might be of use:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy On Me a Sinner
Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Word of the Father,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Word through whom all things were made,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, foretold by the prophets in signs and words,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, in the fullness of time conceived by the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Holy Virgin,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, hymned by the angels,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, adored by the shepherds,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, worshipped by the Magi,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, held by St. Simeon,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praised by St. Anna,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, obedient to your parents,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to a sinner's baptism,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, fasting in the wilderness,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, driving out demons,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, cleansing the lepers,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, teaching the precepts of the kingdom,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, raising the dead,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, walking on water and changing water into wine,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praised by the little children,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, riding into Your city as the sacrifice appointed,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, giving your body and blood to be eaten and drunk,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, praying in the garden,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, bound and mocked,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, stripped and beaten,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, innocently condemned to death,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, opening Your hands upon the cross to embrace the world,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the loneliness of our exile and our sin,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, trampling down death by death,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, pouring forth water and blood to save the world,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, sanctifying our graves by lying in a tomb,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, harrowing hell and releasing the prisoners,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, rising in victory over death and corruption,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, appearing to the disciples in the broken bread,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, ascending in triumph,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, coming on the clouds of glory to renew all things,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, dread Judge at the Last Day,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

* Almsgiving - can I find ways to increase my giving to the poor and suffering in this world?  Can I grow in my experience of the profound truth of our Lord's words:  "It is more blessed to give than to receive"?  What can I do to concretely bless the poor this Lententide both in my own local community and in the world (LCMS World Relief is a good place to start for the world!)?

* Fasting - can I limit my intake of food during these days?  One tradition of the Western fast would encourage you to eat only 1/4 meal at breakfast, a regular lunch, and 1/4 meal in the evening.  No one who has a medical condition that would endanger their body (or is pregnant) should fast in this way; but others might find it a very fruitful and useful reminder that "man does not live by bread alone; but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

* Confession - before you head into Lent, why not schedule a time with your pastor to confess your sins and receive forgiveness?  This wonderful gift is far too underutilized in the Church - Luther professed that he was so blessed by it, that he'd never let anyone deprive him of it.  Sadly, we've been depriving ourselves far too often.

* Commitment to attend the extra services - make a commitment to be present when the Word of God is preached, His praises sung, His sacrament distributed during the Lenten days.  The Lenten midweeks are a great blessing as we follow our Lord's Passion.  The sermons at St. Paul's (and Hope in St. Louis - Pr. Asburry and I wrote our series together) for the Lenten Midweeks this year will focus on Confession and Absolution.  It is the Word of God that transforms us, and so the more richly we let the Word of Christ dwell in us, the more our joy in the Kingdom will increase.

Just a few thoughts as we prepare to launch into the great days of Fastenzeit - Holy Lent!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It must be clear to us that only a church that is free of illusions in what it proclaims can today speak the Gospel to a disillusioned world - the pure, that is, the real Gospel and not a gospel that men have fashioned for themselves. -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 38.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Man enters into communion with God by learning what God's love toward him is. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements* p. 14.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For to this servant are they like, who have money, and give not to the needy. For you too are steward of your own possessions, not less than he who dispenses the alms of the church. As then he has not a right to squander at random and at hazard the things given by you for the poor, since they were given for the maintenance of the poor; even so neither may you squander your own. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 77 on St. Matthew

Psalm 51

is appointed in the LSB Psalm chart for daily prayer during the General season twice in a month:  Friday morning of the first week; Monday morning of the third week.  Something about this Psalm that I'd not noticed before:  "then."

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.  *Then* I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Then?  The *then* of teaching transgressors the ways of the Lord, the *then* of their return to the Lord, hangs upon the restoration of joy in God's salvation which upholds the believer with a willing (free) spirit.  In other words, joy in salvation is the foundation from which proceeds "evangelism."  If we, if our people, are not teaching transgressors and if sinners are not returning to the Lord, perhaps it is not for lack of technique or marketing expertise on our part?  Perhaps it is always that we and our people need to be restored to the joy of God's salvation!

For what you ENJOY, that you natively PRAISE to others.  We do it all the time!  "You've GOT to read this book, see this movie, eat at this restaurant...."  So, the Psalmist would teach us that the key to witnessing to the Gospel is first to taste and see that the Lord is good, and that blessed are those who trust in Him!  The key is to drink deep until it fills us and we can't not be recommending to others the joy that we have found in God's salvation:  unspeakable grace, the forgiveness for sins, the promise of a life stronger than death, a heavenly Father's love, an eternal inheritance kept for us, the companionship of the holy angels, the unspeakable peace that comes from communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Then, then, then, I will teach transgressors your ways!  For David, that meant that even after the horror of his sins - his adultery, murder, and lies - after it all, God still didn't throw him away.  But loved him, forgave him, kept him as His own.  Grace unspeakable, joy abounding.  Then, then, then, I will teach transgressors your ways!  When you see that you haven't been tossed away either - but welcomed, loved, embraced - and above all provided with a Redeemer for your sins and a Comforter to constantly write the faith-giving promises in your heart.  Evangelism lives on the other side of that.  It's St. Paul's "if he could have mercy on the likes of ME, don't you be despairing!"

21 February 2011

Homily for Epiphany 7 A

[Leviticus 19:1-2; 9-18 / 1 Cor. 3:10-23 / Matt. 5:38-48 - preached at Trinity Lutheran Church, Sheboygan, WI]

So what’s your picture of the perfect life?  Me, I’m a beach bum.  I picture perfection as sitting on the beach in Mexico, sipping a piña colada, sitting next to my wife, watching the waves and thinking about nothing except how beautiful this world is.  My sister-in-law totally disagrees.  She’s not a beach bum at all.  Not a fan of sitting in the sun or on the hot sand.  Her perfect life is up in the mountains, the family gathered around a campfire in the darkening woods after a day of hiking, making smores, telling stories, laughing and singing.  Then again, when you’re going through a rotten time – the perfect life is when it’s all over.  For a cancer patient, the perfect life is being DONE with chemo, radiation, surgery; done with the sickness and weakness and all the interruptions and just beginning to feel “normal” again.  Perfecto!

Yes, we all have our ideas of what the perfect life is.  But our Lord thinks the perfect life is something majorly different.  If we take to heart today’s Gospel, then the perfect life is turning the other cheek to the person who slaps you.  The perfect life is making a gift of your coat to the person who just sued you for your clothes.  The perfect life is cheerfully going the extra mile for the soldier who forcibly imposed on you.  The perfect life is giving to whoever asks and not refusing to lend someone who wants to borrow.

And He’s just warming up.  It gets even crazier.  The perfect life?  The perfect life is this above all: loving the people who hate you, praying God’s richest blessings on those who make your life miserable.  Ordinary decent people totally get that you have an obligation to love those who love you – I mean, that’s only human.  To return hatred to those who love is demonic.  And if you greet – if you speak words of welcome and kindness – only to your own friends, your own family, your own people – isn’t that a totally ordinary human virtue too?  What’s so special about that?  Nothing.

The perfect life, you see, is perfect because it is filled up completely, to the brim, overflowing with love.  That life then can do the shocking and miraculous thing:  it can pour out love even on those who return that love with nothing but hatred.  And Jesus makes no bones about it:  that’s the perfect life and that’s the life He commands you to live:  “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  You must have that perfect love that will not be overcome by evil, but instead overcomes evil with good.  You must shine with that perfect love that casts out fear.  You.

That’s what your life must be, Jesus says.  And you know it isn’t.  You know how many times you have failed.  How when someone hurts you, you don’t want to turn the other cheek.  You want to hit back hard.  And when someone tries to take stuff, you don’t let it go.  Instead you hold onto it like dog playing tug of war.  And when folks impose on you and disrupt your schedule and expect you to serve them, you make sure that they and others know it IS an imposition and you want to be patted on the back for taking the time at all. And when people hate you and are vicious to you – you know how easy it is to hate them back in your heart and to call down curses on their heads, rather than blessing.  “God damn them” rises far more naturally than “God bless them.”  In short, who here today can hear those words of Jesus:  “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect; loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you, giving, greeting, letting go earthly possessions, turning the other cheek” and not hang your head for shame – or get angry with Him for such a ridiculous and idealistic way of looking at life.  Why, if you did what He said, people would step all over you, take you for granted, use you and leave you trampled in the dust.  Hmm.  That, or nailed to a tree.

Yeah.  Nailed to a tree.  That’s exactly where that kind of perfect life led, isn’t it?  And what was He doing as the nails were being driven in?  Hmm?  Praying:  “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they’re doing.”  What did He do when they hit him?  Stood still and let them him again from the other side. But nothing they did could shake His love.  Nope.  His entire Passion and Cross cry out to us:  I don’t care what you do to me, you can’t make me hate you.  I love you.  I love you with every ounce of my being.  I forgive you.  I give myself for you.  My very blood cries out not for vengeance and redress, but for pardon and mercy.  I give my life that you may have my life and live with me forever.

This was His utter confidence:  that a life that was 100% love was a life that no death, no hatred, no devil would ever be able to wipe out.  And His confidence was vindicated on the third day when His Father raised Him from the dead for your justification.  A perfect life.  A life that is forever beyond the grip of the grave.  A life that hatred couldn’t take down.  That’s Jesus.  He’s that perfect life.  He lived it and He lived it from conception to death and from death to resurrection so He lives it still.  Now that life shines in glory before the Father – a true human life that was offered in 100% unfailing love – and that life IS your righteousness.  He pleads for YOU, for your forgiveness.  His life is God’s gift to YOU.  What you could never achieve with all your striving and trying ever reach such a love, your Jesus delights just to give you for free.  He poured it out on you when you were baptized in His name.  Washing away every one of your sins.  And He works tirelessly through His Word, His absolution, and His Eucharist to strengthen you in that life.

In just a little bit, He’ll be coming to you again in His body and blood– they still are your forgiveness, they put into you His perfect life of love, and so death can never be the end of you and sin cannot hold you. Through their almighty power He would strengthen that life of His inside you, making it grow up and grow strong.  Filling you with His love so that the words of St. John will come true:  “We love because He first loved us.”  Loving those who hate us, praying for those who make our life miserable, joyfully serving even those who impose on us.

So, what’s your picture of the perfect life now?  Hopefully, not just the beach or the mountains or even that return to normal.  Hopefully it is the Man whose love for you brought Him from Virgin’s womb to Golgotha’s tree; from stone cold tomb to Easter morn; from ascended triumph, to constantly advocating for you at the Father’s right hand  and who will come again in glory on the last day when the fire of His presence will burn up once and for all everything that is not love, so that only His completed, perfect life can remain – the perfect life that everlasting joy of His people.  You want the perfect life?  You already got it.  In Him.  And for that all glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and unto the ages of ages!  Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Wherever the Gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments are rightly administered, that is, "according to the Gospel," there Christ the Lord is actually present.  There He Himself calls us to repentance and faith, forgives us our sins, and incorporates us into His church, the congregation of justified sinners.  Only from this point of view can the essence of the church be understood. -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess: Jesus Christ* pp. 33, 34.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God's revelation of Himself to man is for the purpose of implanting and developing within man a new life. -- H. E. Jacobs, *Elements*, p. 13.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Why do you commit your treasure to the earth? Give it into my hand, He says. Does not the earth's Lord seem to you more worthy of trust than the earth? This indeed restores that which you laid in it, though oftentimes not even this, but He gives you also recompense for His keeping of it? For indeed He does exceedingly love us. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 76 on St. Matthew

20 February 2011

And I never saw it before...

Until we're singing #533 today (Jesus has come) and we reached the third verse:

Jesus has come as the mighty Redeemer.
See now the threatening strong one disarmed.
Jesus breaks down all the walls of death's fortress,
Leads forth the prisoners triumphant, unharmed.
Satan, you wicked one, own now your Master!
Jesus has come, He the mighty Redeemer.

The harrowing of hell.  Right there.  In a Lutheran chorale.  LOVE IT!  Totally using the pictures and language of Luther's famous homily for Holy Saturday.


A whirl-wind wonderful weekend.  Cindi and I left Friday for the Higher Things Retreat:  With Angels and Archangels up in Sheboygan.  Had a beautiful day for driving - arrived without incident and we joined over 200 young folks from as far away as New York and Las Vegas.  I was privileged to be plenary speaker for the retreat.  I learned that while it works to cover the second half of Hebrews 12 in an hour presentation, covering the whole of Revelation in the same amount of time is a little bit impossible...but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  As usual for a Higher Things event - the worship was simply outstanding (Vespers, Evening Prayer, Matins, Corporate Confession and Absolution, Compline and Divine Service III this morning) made even more joyous by the wonderful acoustics of Trinity Lutheran Church - not to mention the feast for the eyes that that lovely building presents you.  I heard only two of the sectionals, but wow.  Prs. Ramirez and Borghardt knocked both out of the ball park.  Really, really good stuff.  This morning I preached both Sunday services today, but cut out right after the second sermon.  It had already started snowing - they were expecting MAJOR snow storm.  We travelled two hours through the snow until we reached the further side of Milwaukee, then it turned to rain and we travelled another three hours in that.  In all, it took 8.5 hours for us to get home (as opposed to shy of 7 hours to get there).  As we travelled through the snow we saw too many folks in the ditch to even keep track of.  At one point a person spun out and was facing the wrong way on our side, we all slowed to a stop, and he or she righted the vehicle and kept on.  Aside from the tension-filled ride home, it was truly a fabulous weekend.  Thanks to Prs. Mech and Berg for their hospitality and to the good folk of Trinity who were superb hosts!

An Email that brought great joy...

...I share it with permission:

I bought each of the kids their own Treasury.  They were so excited to get their own.  They immediately put in the ribbons where they were supposed to be and wanted to do the devotion.  So, I usually do the evening prayer with them at night, but in the past I had the book and passed it around.   We did the evening prayer and finished.  Then…this is the part you won’t believe…AJ asked if we could do Matins.  I said, sure, we can do that.  So he was the leader and took us through the whole service, singing and everything.  Tomorrow night we’re going to adapt Matins, Vespers and our readings to fit our style.  When we finished, he took his Treasury into his and Michaela’s room and made an altar and already asked if he could lead again tomorrow night in his room.  Amazing.  Oh, and I forgot, he asked me for his own hymnal.  Can you believe it?  I said I’d have to get one for each of them.

The lad referenced in the above is in fourth grade at our school.  What a testimony to our Treasury!  It should be marketed as:  "Not for adults only!"

19 February 2011

The Stunning Trinity Lutheran Church of Sheboygan

Where Higher Things is sponsoring the retreat: With the Angels and Archangels this weekend

17 February 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The New Testament's view of the Holy Spirit can be stated in one sentence:  Where Christ is, there is the Holy Spirit; where the Holy Spirit is, there is Christ.  Christ and the Holy Spirit belong together.  -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 31.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Whatever they [pastors] advise as they preach the Word, may they be diligent in this matter in their own lives, so that they do not labor in vain to arouse others.  Whatever good works Your ministers encourage in others, may they first be zealous in these works by the fervor of the Spirit.  May they first proclaim by their works whatever actions they exhort by their words. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, *Meditations on Divine Mercy* p. 136.

Patristic Quote of the Day

O strange and wonderful facts! Countless myriads of Jews did the Romans then subdue, and they did not prevail over twelve men fighting against them naked and unarmed. What language can set forth this miracle? -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 75 on St. Matthew

16 February 2011

A Conversation Today

reminded me of a conversation held many years ago with another friend.  He was opining that pastors really just gravitate to the sorts of services that they themselves prefer.  They shape their congregations that way, he thought.  I told him that I disagreed, and he was surprised.  He assumed that the way we worship at St. Paul's was the way *I* preferred to worship.  Actually, it is not.  If I had my druthers, we'd swing incense every week and all the music would be like Rachmaninov's heavenly stuff and believe it or not - no organ.

But as I told him, I'd choose over my preferences to worship instead according to any of the orders in our hymnal with their sweet incense of the Gospel shining through in the words of our liturgy.  It's a better choice to me to go with music I don't find nearly as appealing as Rachmaninov's All Night Vigil but which delivers the Gospel solidly to me than to ask Mary to save me, however sweetly it is sung.

You see, I follow the Liturgy of LSB not because it is my preference; it's not.  I follow it because I know now matter how badly I may screw up in the sermon, the liturgy will still clearly deliver to the congregation the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.  "For You alone are holy, You only are the Lord, Forever and forever be worshipped and adored!"

I can't trust my own preferences; I've found from experience I can trust the liturgies and hymns in our Hymnal to deliver the Gospel itself, the one thing needful.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Everything depends on the recognition that in Jesus Christ time and eternity have become one, that eternity enters time, that God's revelation takes place in the world, that God became man.  This is the miracle of God's revelation in Christ:  The finite is capable of receiving the infinite, time is capable of receiving eternity, this age is capable of receiving the age to come. -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 26.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Life dwells in this body, and this life restores me to eternal life and makes me alive.  Through the shedding of this blood, satisfaction for sins was obtained.  Thus drinking ratifies the remission of my sins.  -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, Meditations on Divine Mercy, p. 86.

Patristic Quote of the Day

And we therefore, if we should taste as we ought of spiritual fruits, shall thenceforth not even account the things present to be anything, being seized by the desire of the things to come as with some most noble intoxication.  Let us taste of them, therefore, that we may both be delivered from the turmoil of the things present, and may attain the good things to come. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 74 on St. Matthew

15 February 2011

Thinking about my children...

...Bekah:  dramatic, impetuous, curious, energetic, explosion of life, the current moment is everything, stunning and beautiful, kind, "wild as a mink and sweet as soda pop," a writer, always my little one.

...David: big, gentle, slow to anger (but then watch out - Maupin, anyone?!), creative and skilled, oh-so-laid-back, humorous, bold and adventurous, intuitive, peaceful, procrastinator, and he pulls the rabbit out of the hat yet again, always my middle one.

...Lauren: beautiful and kind, sparkling green eyes, fun-loving, child-loving, cat-loving, Dudly-loving, Dean-loving, singing, teaching, laughing, sorrows all private, joys all public, faithful friend and sibling, always my oldest.

You know...

...it was truly one of the saddest ideas to ever catch on.  Putting those hymnals in the church.  Because before, the hymnals belonged to you personally and you didn't leave your hymnal behind at church - you took it to your home.  There you prayed out of it and sang out of it during the week.  Everyone had one by the time they were confirmed - they made hugely popular confirmation gifts.  So the family could whip out the hymnals in the evening and sing together, or pray a psalm or offer the prayers.  When we started leaving the hymnal in the nave, we started leaving church in the church instead of bringing church into the home.  CPH is trying to fix the problem by suggesting that the hymnal belongs in every home.  I think that's too weak.  It doesn't belong in every home.  They belong in every home.  As many as the folks in the home, so let the number of the hymnals be (and maybe a couple extras for guests!); and let them not be dusty but let us learn again the art of our forefathers in the faith - finding in the hymnal, the Bible, and the Catechism the source for our daily prayers, singing and making a joyful noise to the Lord with all our heart.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It becomes clear what the resurrection of Christ means:  It is the turning of old world into new world, the end of the former age and the beginning of the new, the dawn of the new world of eternity and of the Spirit.  The resurrection of Christ can be understood only as the event that fulfills history, as future that has become present.  It begins God's new creation.  It ushers in the universal resurrection of the dead.  -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 21.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We cannot be in the slightest doubt about God's intention for, already in the Old Testament, He had sworn and sealed before the whole world an inviolable, precious oath, that no person is excluded from His eternal love. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 195

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us look steadfastly (at length though late) as we ought, unto the things to come, having put away the film on our eyes, that we may both pass the present life honestly, and with much reverence and godly fear, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory world without end. Amen. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 73 on St. Matthew

14 February 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

According to the doctrine of the resurrection, death is not simply the passing of the soul from one form of existence to another, as in India and among the Greeks (although it is that too), but death is the abhorrent disintegration of a human being.  This way of looking at things does not making dying easy, but hard.  The aim of the philosophical doctrine of the immortality is to make dying easy, but the doctrine of the resurrection takes death with complete seriousness.  -- Hermann Sasse, *We Confess:  Jesus Christ* p. 19.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But God cannot help the one who obstinately opposes the working of the Holy Ghost.  He cannot help because He does not force anyone to convert.  A forced conversion is no conversion. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 196

Patristic Quote of the Day

And yet one, He says, is your guide, even Christ. For like as Christ, being called the one guide, casts not out the Father from being guide; even so the Father, being called Master, does not cast out the Son from being Master. For the expression, one, one, is spoken in contradistinction to men, and the rest of the creation.-- St John Chrysostom, Homily 72 on St. Matthew

12 February 2011

A Homily upon the Transfiguration

What's this miracle of the Transfiguration all about?  When you think about Jesus and his miracles, you soon realize that he doesn't throw them about indiscriminately; he doesn't waste them; above all he doesn't do them to show off.  Time and again we hear Him saying after a miracle:  "Keep quiet about it.  Tell no one."  The miracle of the Transfiguration proves no exception to that rule.

Behind Jesus' miracles there's always love.  His heart reaches out, touched by some sorrow of the human race, some tragedy, and he addresses it.  You have only to think about the terror on the face of the men in a sinking fishing boat or the distress on the face of father who's lost his only child or the hoarse croaking of the lepers, begging for help.  His love is what shines behind His every miracle.

And so when we think of the Transfiguration, this miracle of Jesus shining on the mountain top, Moses and Elijah there, and the voice of the Father testifying that Jesus is His Son, we must above all consider what experiencing this miracle meant to the three men who were there to witness it.  What it means to us.

You see, this miracle didn't end simply with Jesus saying:  "Don't tell anyone."  He added:  "Don't tell anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Peter, James, and John saw Jesus shine on the mountain.  Not for his own sake, but for theirs and ours.  Get a handle on this and you will love Jesus forever for what He did for us on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The glory that lit up the sky that night is the glory that He came to impart to us.  The glory that shone from his body is the glory he will impart to you, to your body, at the Resurrection!  The glory of His body will that day be your own.

In order for that to transpire, Jesus comes down one mountain and begins to walk toward another.  From Transfiguration to Calvary.  From "This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well-pleased" to "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Because you see, that's how Jesus would bring glory to our bodies, rescuing us from death and the steely grip of sin - by trading places with us, by taking our shame, by dying lost and alone.  He dies our death to give us his life.  He bears our shame to give us his glory.  That's how much he loves us!

The three that witnessed the Transfiguration no doubt needed that vision just to get them through the horror of Good Friday.  But can you imagine their joy on Easter?  Their joy when they saw Jesus again, glorified, never to be touched by death again.  When they saw Him as He was then, but that way forever, and when He said:  "Because I live, you too shall live!"  Woah!  The glory they witnessed that night on the mountain was only a teasing taste of the glory that was to be his forever.  And his death and resurrection made that glory his gift to all believers!

That changes everything, my friends.  Above all, it changes how we face our own suffering and death.  Look, Baptism is like our own Transfiguration.  A very old custom of the church calls for the newly baptized to be clothed in garments of white as they come from the font.  That's a way of confessing that Baptism is our Transfiguration.  It's the moment when Jesus grabs hold of us and marks us as co-heirs with him of his glory.  He says:  "You're my family.  You're my sister.  You're my brother.  You will share my glory with me forever."

But after the passing moment of Transfiguration, came the suffering, came the dying.  That's true for Jesus and that's true for us.  The glory that Baptism promises us is a glory that we will not have as our own in this world, in this life.  No.  Our bodies grow old.  They creak.  They begin to wear out.  We face death itself; it looms before us.  And when the thought of death frightens us, and we don't know if we can bear the sufferings that may well precede and go with it, the humiliation and the sorrow, then we understand why Jesus gave us the miracle of the Transfiguration.  In love He shows us what we'll be in the end.  In love He shows us what glory awaits us on the other side of the sufferings and death - yes, even after our bodies have fallen apart and become food for worms, yes, after they've returned to the dust.  He shows us the glory that He has pledged Himself to give us on the day of His own appearing.

The vision of that glory gives us the courage to say to death, as it approaches:  "You pathetic and pitiful little thing.  You can growl and snarl all you want.  You can tear into me and make me cry.  But you can't win in the end, can you?  He lives.  You know who I mean.  And because He lives, I too shall live again.  You know it and it drives you wild with hatred, but there's no help for you.  He's the victor and He's marked me as His own in Baptism and so you can't hold me.  Even this bag of bones will stand before him, glorified and whole and will be singing his praises when you, death, are no more."

What better way for a Christian to face death than with that vision of Jesus, shining on the Mountain top, and knowing that we were looking at a glory that He died and rose again to give us and that most surely awaits us on the other side of the grave?  God give us such courage and such faithfulness!  Amen.

A Friend Inquired

about what drops when in the observance of Prelent and Lent.  So, here're the modifications to the Divine Service as given in Lutheran Service Book for the one year series:

From Septuagesima onward:  the Alleluia is replaced by the Tract.
From Ash Wednesday onward:  the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted.
From Judica onward:  the Gloria Patri is omitted from the Introit.

Additionally, LSB prescribes the Epiphany preface for Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima; and it assigns these Sundays the color green.  Ash Wednesday through Judica uses the Lenten Preface - and Ash Wednesday is either violet or black; the rest of Lent to Holy Week is violet.  Holy Week has its own preface (the old Lenten Preface, actually) and may either remain violet, or be scarlet throughout, although white may be used on Maundy Thursday and black (or nothing) on Good Friday.

Though not prescribed in LSB, St. Paul's has observed for a number of years the practice of using the Baptismal Creed - the Apostles' - during Advent and Lent.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The recognition that the revelation in Christ is not something inconclusive or relative stands and falls with the primacy of the apostolate over prophecy.  Wherever prophecy asserts its independence and power, it is a threat to the finality of the revelation that happened once in history, of which the apostolic office bears witness.  Christ's church is an apostolic, not a prophetic church.  This does not mean, as some today suppose, a quenching of the Spirit, a constriction of religion within an ossified institution.  Rather it expresses the conviction that revelation has taken place, that the word of God is no longer only given and assigned to a human being here and there, but that the Word has become flesh. -- Hermann Sasse, We Confess:  Jesus Christ, p. 17.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is through His human nature that Christ is our Paschal Lamb sacrificed; and therefore, it must be through His human nature that Christ, our Paschal Lamb, is eaten.  If it was not through His divinity, separated from His humanity, that He was sacrificed upon the cross, it cannot be that through His divine nature, separate from His humanity, He is given to us at His table.  -- C. P. Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 602.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For like as Adam, although he lived on the day that he ate of the tree, died in the sentence: even so also these [that is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], although they had died, lived in the promise of the resurrection. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 70 on St. Matthew

11 February 2011

A Comforting Thought

As I finished up praying Matins this a.m., I was comforted yet again by the thought that despite all the very sad and real divisions that run throughout the Church on pilgrimage in this age due to false teaching and sin, yet when we stand before our heavenly Father, we stand always as one family, and offer together the prayer that our one Lord has given to us and taught us.  The Christian who offers up the Our Father, offers it in union with the whole Church and with the Church's Head.  If there is so much we cannot and do not agree on it, we can agree on this:  we have a heavenly Father through Jesus, we need His name to be hallowed, His kingdom to come, His will to be done in our lives and in this world; we can beg from Him our daily bread, forgiveness of sins, protection in temptations and deliverance from every evil.  And we do this not merely asking for ourselves, but asking all of this joyfully for each other - every single baptized Christian is embraced in the "us" and "our" of the prayer.  Satan trembles when Christians join together in asking such mighty gifts!

09 February 2011

Two Pages

Not even, actually.  We didn't even get through TWO pages of the Order of Holy Baptism in LSB.  The thing is so dense, so rich in what it presents and celebrates of Holy Baptism.  Nothing short of amazing.  We just covered the opening liturgy through the charge to the sponsors.  Baptism itself is such a simple thing, but extolling the blessings that are imparted in that divine and heavenly bath...well, that's a job for a life time!



New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Means of Grace do it, ancillary to which is the Office of the Holy Ministry.  The Office does the Means of Grace not the man put into it for their use, which is clearly then the Lord's use.  In an emergency a layman cannot not act in this way also, the alternative is too frightful to contemplate and there's a word from the Lord to encourage him.  Tractatus 68 (referring to Matthew 18 - "where two or three").--Dr. Norman Nagel, All Theology is Christology, p. 248.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we, too, want someday to die the death of the blessed, it is essential that we exercise ourselves daily and even hourly, taking the Savior up in the arms of our faith, and placing all our comfort in Him alone. -- C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It, p. 192.

Patristic Quote of the Day

See then care utterable. He had planted a vineyard; He had done all things, and finished; when His servants had been put to death, He sent other servants; when those had been slain, He sent the son; and when He was put to death, He bids them to the marriage. They would not come. After this He sends other servants, and they slew these also. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 69 on St. Matthew

08 February 2011

David's Art Show

was "iced" out last Tuesday, but it is being held tonight from 5 to 7 at the SIUE Art Building.  Any artsy sorts, you're more than welcome.

07 February 2011

And does the fact...

...that it was all wiped out 15 or 16 years later - as the Imperial armies besieged and destroyed Magdeburg and slaughtered its citizenry - make it all a pointless endeavor?  Or was the effort poured out in those 15 years to supply the people of God in that place with the richness of God's Word so that they could meet the coming atrocity with faith in our Lord's unfailing promises to them what made it all worthwhile?  I'd say the later - and that this is always the strength of the liturgy:  it prepares us not for the good times, but for facing the day of the judgment in saving faith and for living already the joys of the resurrection.

More on Magdeburg

Two years after the cathedral's choirbook was published, an Agenda came out.  It provides even more details about the way the services were conducted.  The following is a summary from Dr. Herl's research, which he kindly shared with me some years ago:

The choir sings an Introit of the day, then the Kyrie; the Deacon intones the Gloria and the choir sings the Et in terra.  Then the Deacon sings a German Collect for the day, then the Lector sings the Epistle in Latin, then a choir member reads the same in German.  Then 2 boys from the choir sing the Alleluia, and the choir sings the verse, followed by the Sequence, Prose, or Tract.  Then the Lector sings the Gospel in Latin, and a choir member reads it in German to the people using the same melody.  Then the Nicene Creed is intoned by the Deacon and the choir sings the Patrem up to the words "Et incarnatus est de Spiritu sancto, ex Maria virgine, Et homo factus est."  These words are sung by 2 boys very slowly.  Then the choir completes the Creed, and the congregation sings "We All Believe in One True God."  The pulpit service is next, with the standard opening hymn, sermon and general prayer.  The elements are then processed to the altar with incense, during which two choir boys sing "Grant peace, we pray, in mercy, Lord."  The Latin preface and Sanctus by the choir, and then the Deacon sings the Lord's Prayer in German and then the Words of institution.  During the distribution, the choir sings "Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior" and if there is a longer communion also the Latin Agnus Dei or the German "Lamb of God, Pure and Holy."  The collect: "We thank you..." and the Aaronic benediction bring the service to a close, with the choir singing a stanza or two of "O Lord, We Praise Thee" after the communicants have departed the chancel.

A few points are striking:

1.  The use of a Lector to sing the readings in Latin (I am presuming a clergyman, but not that's not entirely clear).
2.  The use of a CHOIR MEMBER to chant the same readings in German to the people - clearly NOT a clergyman.
3.  The fact that "read" was not understood as anything other than "chant" - note "reads it in German using the same melody!"
4.  The title deacon for the chief cleric at the Cathedral - clearly an ordained pastor.
5.  The use of incense as the elements are brought in procession to the holy altar.  Processed from where?  The Credence?  From the back of the Church?
6.  As in Luther's German Mass, the only piece of music actually assigned to the congregation is the German "We All Believe" - the rest of the music is explicitly reserved to the Choir.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Prayer's confidence lives in the words of the Lord, which He cannot not do.  Detach the prayer from the words of the Lord and it can then only flap about.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, All Theology is Christology, p. 248.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We cannot allow the great treasure to be stolen from us which Christ bequeathed us in His Testament - His true body with which we were redeemed, and His precious blood with which we were washed from our sins - and put mere symbols in their place. -- Timotheous Kirchner (Treasury, p 1190)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Be not thoughtful then about your interests, but leave them to God. For if you are thoughtful about them, you are thoughtful as a man; but if God provide, He provides as God. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 68 on St. Matthew

06 February 2011

Winkel Presentation

Warning:  Boring Pastor Stuff.  Read on at your own risk!

Almost a hundred years out from the Reformation… Magdeburg, 1613

In 1613, the most amazing book was published.  It is the Magdeburg Cathedral book, replete with complete instructions and music for all the services of the Lutheran Cathedral there.  The only thing lacking is a complete Psalter, which was published two years later, 1615.

A century out from the Reformation, what does the worship of the Lutheran Church look like in this place?


The Magdeburg Psalter
Latin still reigns supreme.  The Psalter is still sung in the Vulgate; numerous of the hymns remain in Latin – in fact, the majority of the German hymns are simply those composed at or after the Reformation.  In the daily prayer services, the first reading in morning and evening is invariably read in Latin; the second reading is often the same reading read again in German.  The sheer volume of the Latin in the services is staggering and shows that the Reformation by no means abandoned the Latin language in favor of the Vernacular, rather it blended the two languages together, thereby preserving the musical heritage of the Latin and providing some solid food in German for those who could not understand the Latin.

Frequency of Eucharist

Eucharist still reigns supreme.  On an ordinary week, the Divine Service (stilled called Missa - the Mass) was celebrated every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  Thus, it was offered at LEAST three times a week.  However, since every festival had its own Mass, in actual point of fact it was offered even more.

Full Sanctoral Cycle

The Church Year was rather full.  Here I am not merely speaking of the regular and chief feasts and Sundays, but of the so-called minor festivals.  In Magdeburg they were called:  “Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary [large type] and other saints [very small type].  Here’s the list – all of which have double Vespers (Vespers on the Eve of the feast, Matins, Mass AND Vespers again on the day):

St. Andrew
St. Thomas
Conversion of St. Paul
Purification of the Virgin Mary
St. Matthias
Annunciation to the Virgin Mary
St. Mark
Sts. Philip and James
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Sts. Peter and Paul
Visitation of the Virgin Mary
The Division of the Apostles (15 July)
St. Mary Magdelene
St. James the Great, Apostle
Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August)
St. Bartholomew
Beheading of St. John the Baptist (29 August)
St. Matthew
St. Maurice (22 September)
St. Michael the Archangel
St. Luke
Sts. Simon and Jude
All Saints

Should also note that although Corpus Christi is not so named, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is devoted to the Holy Eucharist and St. Thomas Aquinas’ famous hymn:  Lauda Sion Salvatorum is sung, though with slight modification.  Instead of singing:  "bread he changes into body, wine he changes into blood," these Lutherans sang "with the bread His body giveth, and with the cup His blood."

Votive Masses:
Mass for Peace
Mass for Good Weather
Mass for Rain
Mass for Remission of Sins
Mass at Time of Pestilence

Structure of the Divine Service

The order of Divine Service in the MB for Advent I ran:

Introit (Latin)
Kyrie (Greek)
Gloria in Excelsis (Latin)  - used throughout Advent and Lent; apparently never omitted
Salutation and Collect (sometimes Latin, sometimes German)
Sequence Hymn (usually using Bonar’s corrected versions of these)
Holy Gospel
Creed (often the Nicene in Latin – followed by the singing of “We All Believe” in German)
Sermon and its prayers
Te Deum in German
Preface (the Advent preface refers "to this newly cleansed temple")
Proper Preface
Sanctus (all in Latin)
Lord’s Prayer in Latin
Words of Institution
Either Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior or Agnus Dei
German collect of thanksgiving
Aaronic Benediction

Not at all unusual for items such as the Litany to be inserted on given days.

Prayer Offices

The ordinary day at the cathedral invariably had Matins/Lauds and Vespers/Compline.  The services were mashed together.  Thus, looking again at the Matins/Lauds for Advent I we find:

Opening Versicles and Gloria
Invitatory:  Behold your King comes, bringing salvation to you.  Psalm 95
Antiphon, then Psalms 1-3
Isaiah 1:1-15 in Latin
Isaiah 1:16 to end in Latin
Matthew 21:1-10
Te Deum
Psalm 92
Psalm 89
Psalm 62
Canticle:  Benedicite
Laudate Psalms (145-150)
Hymn:  Hark!  A Thrilling Voice (Latin)
Antiphon and then Benedictus

It is absolutely striking how much attention is given to the music and text of the antiphons for the Psalms and Canticles and to Responsories.  These actually comprise the bulk of the book.

Other interesting features:

The Apocrypha was read regularly in the Daily Office and even occasionally as “epistle” readings in the Divine Service.  For example, this is the Epistle for the Beheading of St. John the Baptist:
Sirach 49
 1 The memory of Josiah is as sweet as the fragrance of expertly blended incense, sweet as honey to the taste, like music with wine at a banquet.2 He followed the correct policy of reforming the nation and removed the horrors of idolatry.3 He was completely loyal to the Lord and strengthened true religion in those wicked times.  4 All the kings, except David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, were terrible sinners, because they abandoned the Law of the Most High to the very end of the kingdom.[b]5 They surrendered their power and honor to foreigners,6 who set fire to the holy city and left its streets deserted, just as Jeremiah had predicted.7 Jeremiah had been badly treated, even though he was chosen as a prophet before he was born, 
         to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, but also 
         to build and to plant.
 8 It was Ezekiel who was shown the vision of the divine glory over the chariot and the living creatures.9 He also referred to the prophet Job, who always did the right thing. 10 May the bones of the twelve prophets rise to new life, because these men encouraged the people of Israel and saved them with confident hope. 11 How can we praise Zerubbabel? He was like a signet ring on the Lord's right hand,12 as was Joshua son of Jehozadak. They rebuilt the Lord's holy Temple, destined for eternal fame. 13The memory of Nehemiah is also great. He rebuilt the ruined walls of Jerusalem, installing the gates and bars. He rebuilt our homes. 14 No one else like Enoch has ever walked the face of the earth, for he was taken up from the earth.15 No one else like Joseph has ever been born; even his bones were honored.16 Shem, Seth, and Enosh were highly honored, but Adam's glory was above that of any other living being.
One last feature that bears mentioning:  Mary’s perpetual virginity is constantly alluded to and confessed on her feast days.  An example would be the Antiphon at Vespers for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin:

The old man carried the Infant, but the Infant governed the old man:  He whom a virgin bore and after bearing, remained virgin, the same was worshipped by her who bare Him.

This shows the catholic principle of the Lutheran Reformation, that they rejected in the tradition that which CONFLICTED with the Gospel, but accepted that which could be harmonized with it.


A century out from the Reformation, and we can clearly see that our spiritual forebears took seriously the epistle for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (historic):  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  There was not a single day when there were not services in the Cathedral in morning and evening, and often more times besides.  The Word was richly read - often in whole chapters.  The Eucharist was very much the center of their living:  as we saw, at minimum celebrated three times a week.  Studying this work truly brings home the seriousness with which the Church of the Augsburg Confession made Melanchthon’s famous words from the Apology her very own:  “We do not abolish the Mass, but religiously keep and defend it.  Masses are celebrated among us every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals.  The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved.  And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments and other such things.”  Apology XXIV:1

William Weedon,
Tuesday after the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, 2011

Parmesan Crusted

Tilapia, with broccoli, and a cheddar cheese sauce poured liberally over both.  Just perfect for dinner on a cold, gray, dreary winter's day.  I never really grew up eating fish except for canned salmon (has to be red sock-eye and fried!) or tuna.  Daddy like fried oysters, but seeing what they looked like before they were fried, I never got up the nerve to down one.  But regular fish filets?  We didn't eat them.  They've become one of my favorites, though, in recent years.  What I find odd about the fish is that it sure doesn't take much, and I feel full.  Course, that might be the cheese sauce, eh?

Next Sunday

those of us using the one year lectionary will celebrate the Transfiguration.  This Feast is observed by the lion's share of the Church on August 6th, but already at the time of the Reformation, some Lutherans began to move it to the last Sunday in Epiphany - thus the Epiphany season (a green season), is inaugurated with a white feast (Epiphany of our Lord) and crowned with a white feast at its conclusion (Transfiguration).  This is the time of year when things are most confusing to our lay folk visiting around in other churches, for in the parishes employing the one year lectionary, the Transfiguration falls three weeks earlier than it does in the three-year lectionary parishes, due to the loss of Pre-Lent (Gesimatide) in the three year revisions.

I always feel the loss of Pre-Lent is a sad thing.  The readings in the historic cycle are incomparably helpful in moving you toward intentionally embracing the Lenten disciplines in a right spirit.  Some have decried this little season as "more Lent" - but according to our rubrics in LSB, the only "Lenty" thing about it is the loss of the Alleluia and its replacement with the longer Tract.  Pre-Lent is to Lent what preparing for a journey is to the journey itself.  If Lent is the journey toward the Paschal Mystery - our Lord's passing through death into resurrection and the Age to come - then Pre-Lent is all about getting ready to make that journey.

The feast of the Transfiguration on the borderland between Epiphany and Lent reminds us that our Lord headed down the mountain toward that Exodus He would accomplish in Jerusalem.  We will travel with Him, but Transfiguration reminds us that no matter what we will behold happen to Him on that journey, He is the Father's beloved Son, to whom we must listen. This is true when His glory seems most hidden - yet it is in fact the moment when it is most revealed - as He hangs upon the cross in the utter darkness.  Into that darkness of death He is preparing to bring the light of Transfiguration, and when He shines it into death, death itself is shattered, destroyed, changed forever.

05 February 2011

The blow torch

So Scott asked me tonight who had the blow torch out, melting the ice.  I hadn't a clue.  It's one of the joys of living in the St. Paul family - a problem like snow and ice arrives and the whole community owns it.  The unknown blow torch man; Louis was up here with his snow blower; Cindi and I shoveled a bit; Dave was up with his tractor; Scott dumped a ton of salt; Doug shoveled; and Dan did too and I don't know who else . All worked together, each doing their part so that this house of God would be accessible for the Divine Service tonight and again tomorrow.  From the litany at Evening Prayer:  "for those who do good works in this congregation, for those who toil, for those who sing, and all for all the people here present...Lord, have mercy!"

And so Epiphany

begins to wend to its close.  I told the folks at Divine Service tonight to pay careful attention to the readings; for they'd not hear them again for another 27 years - by which time I'd likely be dead or put out to pasture.  It is a very long Epiphany season this year, Easter falling so very, very late - April 24th.  Ascension this year will not even arrive until June 2, which means Pentecost will fall on June 12!  But as we prepare to leave this long Epiphany (and seemingly interminable winter), and head into Prelent on February 20th, bidding our farewell to the Alleluia, something inside me cries:  "Yes, it's time."  Time to think of the Fast again.  Time to prepare for another assault on the flesh (which is still as pushy and ornery as ever).  Time to prepare for the journey toward the silence before the Cross and the explosion of joy before the empty tomb and the "Alleluias" of the Easter appearances.  Time to remember that beyond all the sorrows, the heartaches and even the joys of this life, there is a joy that is everlasting, shining in glory, and waiting for us to embrace it.  A completed righteousness.  A Father's "welcome home!" to his beloved children.  Resurrection beckons us!

You know...

...I think those silly Russians may have been onto something after all.  I've always struggled with praying Sunday Matins before the Divine Service (first Divine Service here is at 7:45 a.m.).  Many Sundays I succeeded in getting through the words, but hardly with the spirit of thoughtfulness and devotion they require.  Today I prayed Saturday's Evening Prayer at Church and went right into Sunday's Morning Prayer and prayed the whole thing (including the Paschal Blessing at the end) and when it was done, I realized:  that really works.  I have all the time in the world to finish the Psalms, no distractions in preparing for the next liturgy.  I think I may turn Slavic on Saturday afternoons/evenings and make it a habit for the future.  Anyone want to join me for an Evening Prayer/Morning Prayer?  Be at St. Paul's at 4 on Saturdays!

P.S.  A pity that the Starke Te Deum isn't offered in place of "You are God."  I suppose it could be substituted.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

What is done according to His mandate and institution is surely done by Him.  And what is done by Him is unshakably sure, and not only done by Him, but done in the way of the Gospel by Him, in the means of grace way of giving out His gifts, the gifts that the words say and impart:  holy baptism, holy absolution, holy communion, for whose service the Lord has put the mouth and hands of the holy ministry as His instrument for His doing of His Divine Service.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Logia VII:2, p. 26.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We do not claim that our Confessors were infallible.  We do not say they could not fail.  We only claim that they did not fail. -- C.P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 186

Patristic Quote of the Day

I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the literal sense. -- St. Basil the Great, Homily IX on the Hexameron

04 February 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

So it is not with similitudes or significance or symbolism or analogies.  They don't scare the devil.  What puts him to flight is our Lord's body and blood and the Name that has been put upon us in the water.  The devil can't overcome that. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Logia VII:2, p. 26.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The devil thus constantly tries to mimic God.  He cannot bear to hear God speak.  If he cannot prevent it, or forcefully obstruct God's Word, he counters with a beautiful presentation, using God's very words but twisting them to peddle his lies and poison. -- Blessed Martin Luther, Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany 1528 (House Postilla)

Patristic Quote of the Day

When we have come back unto the earnest love of God, He remembers not the former things. God is not as man, for He reproaches us not with the past, neither does He say, Why were you absent so long a time? When we repent; only let us approach Him as we ought. Let us cleave to Him earnestly, and rivet our hearts to His fear. -- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 67 on St. Matthew

03 February 2011

A friend of mine...

...commented on another forum about how our hymnal was filled with hymn that are hard to sing and quite depressing (referring to the tunes).  This honestly amazes me.  I have to ask if that is how others have experienced Lutheran Service Book?  It is categorically NOT how I've experienced it.  It is true that there are somber tunes in the book - and they often are attached to somber texts dealing with the day of judgment, the confession of sins, the suffering of afflictions and cross-bearing.  But there are also a multitude of hymns that dance for joy:  "God's Own Child" and "Thine the Amen" dance in both text and tune.  The thing that strikes me about our hymnal is that it encompasses the whole range of the Christian experience.  There are hymns for when the sun shines and things are going swimmingly in your life; hymns for the tragic and unutterably sad moments; hymns for when life's a drudgery; hymns that pull us out of ourselves (like Pr. Hess pointed out recently 880 does:  "and we this marvel seeing / forget our selfish being/ for joy of beauty not our own" as we behold the stars at night); hymns that celebrate every single facet of our Lord's life from conception through death; from resurrection through Ascension; from the session at the right hand to the Appearing in glory.  Hymns to celebrate the gifts of Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Eucharist.  Hymns for praising; hymns for thanking; hymns for morning and for evening.  Tunes tend to match the joy or sobriety that each of these call forth.  I love my friend, but I think he is dead wrong about his characterization of our hymnal.  It's a treasure trove of hymns that can be learned and loved and will see you through life and through death, singing as you go:  "In thee is gladness, amid all sadness, Jesus, sunshine of my heart!"

Homily upon Epiphany 5

[Genesis 18:20-33 / Col. 3:12-17 / Matthew 13:24-30 (36-43)]

I confess that I am no gardener.  Still every Spring, Cindi and I give a shot at straightening out the garden, such as it is, in the backyard.  After being trapped inside with the cold, it is always a delight – at the beginning anyway - to get out and fiddle in the yard.  I remember diligently pulling weeds and such one fine spring day, trying to clear it out some of the mess so that the flowers could grow unhindered.  I was feeling more zealous than usual and managed to clear a nice big spot.  I was rather proud of my work.  You know where this is heading, don’t you?  Unfortunately, it happened that one of the weeds that I got rid of turned out to be the hibiscus that we’d planted and which we both enjoyed so very much.  Ah, weeding can be dangerous business if you are not an expert in identifying the weed from the desired plant.  And I'm not.

And so today’s readings, in which the Lord informs us that none of us is in a position to judge with certainty whether a person is weed or wanted plant; in our Lord’s words, tares or wheat.  And even if you do know which is which, the danger the Lord speaks of us damaging and uprooting the wheat while you’re going after the tare.  That’s a job for the angels at the end of days and not for us.  Then, we’re told, they’ll gather the weeds first and burn them in bundles, while they’ll gather the wheat into the Lord’s barn, where our Lord says, the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.

And so we shouldn’t be surprised, perhaps, to find angels doing their gathering business in our first reading.  The Lord’s heard the cry that has come up against Sodom and Gomorrah, and so He sends His angels to do what?  They are sent to gather the wheat away from the tares.  To literally pull Lot and his family out of the burn pile before the fire is set.  But Abraham doesn’t know that.  All he knows is that judgment is set to fall on the cities and that his beloved nephew and family are there.  And so offers to us what is the first example of intercessory prayer in the Sacred Scriptures.  He pleads with Yahweh not to wipe out the righteous (that is, those who are righteous by their faith) with the wicked.  “Will not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” Abraham pleads.  For it would not be just for the righteous to be swept away in the judgment that befalls the wicked.

The Lord had already taken thought for this, of course.  We’ll find that’s always the way in our prayers.  He wants us to ask Him, and sooner or later we learn that we may ask Him in the complete confidence that He’s more on the ball than we are, that He’s provided already more than we’ve even dreamed of.   The angels, after all, were already on their way to rescue Lot and free him and his from the judgment about to strike before Abraham uttered a word.

And so in the community of the Church, this family of God, His baptized, that stretches around the globe and throughout the centuries.  As long as God has himself a Church in this world, you’ll find that among the people of God – those reborn by the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism and who cling with living faith to the Gospel promises – among them will invariably be mixed those who don’t truly belong; Christians in name only and not in fact.  Try to have yourself a Church where that doesn’t happen, and you end up deceiving yourself and doing all kinds of damage to God’s good wheat crop.  It finally is not our business to go through the Lord’s field and pull out the weeds from the wheat.  We can’t see into the heart to do that. The Lord Jesus tells us He’ll send His angels to do the job at the end of close of the Age.

That doesn’t mean that sin goes unrebuked in the Church; or that those who persist in open and blatant rebellion against God are not to be put out of the fellowship.  Both need to happen and the Lord expects both to happen.  It does mean, howeer, that we do not try to have ourselves a Church where there are no sinners.  The Lord only has a Church of sinners – forgiven under His blood, fighting against the sin in their lives by the power of the Holy Spirit each day, and so called to be forbearing toward one another.

Did you catch that in today’s Epistle?  “Bearing with one another, if any has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  Welcome to life in the Church – where there is always much that needs to be forgiven.  Instead of griping, you forgive!  You will find here people that irritate the daylights out of you; people so stubborn and ornery that you can scarcely put up with them; people foolishly toying with sin and expecting not to be burned; people full of themselves and happy to pass judgment on their neighbor for not being as spiritual as they are; people near to despair over the ongoing struggles against sin and wondering where is that power of the Spirit they’ve been promised.  Yes, there is MUCH up with which we must put to live in the Church – and most of all others have to put up with us.

So St. Paul’s solution was baptismal.  “Put on” – whenever you hear that lingo that’s Baptism talk - faith putting on its baptismal righteousness.  “Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy, and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”  All of this is how we do that bearing with each.  St. Paul is in effect saying:  Be who you are in Christ.  Live from Christ and not from your old Adam and his sinful ways.  And the big thing to put on is love that binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let Christ’s peace rule your hearts and be thankful.

How you will accomplish this he tells you when he says:  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your heart to God.”  The Word of Christ does the job – clothes you in the very attitude of Christ Himself. Our Lord is not hasty to judgment.  Our Lord bears with us - bears our sins to death on His tree.  And He awaits with remarkable patience our repentance so that we might enter into His life, and thus be precious wheat gathered for the Kingdom and not sad tares, destined only for the burning.

And He comes to you anew this day, planting in you good Kingdom seed, His Words, and by His Words, His very body and blood that on His cross wiped out all your sin, by which He would raise a crop of good works in your life, to bless this congregation, and to bless His world.  You worry about that crop in your life and you leave off judging your neighbor.  The Lord will take care of sorting out the real and the fake; that’s not your business.  Last I checked, none of you and certainly not I were angels qualified for the task.  We wouldn’t want to be cutting down and yanking up one of the Lord’s hibiscus plants, would we?

Your Lord has His Church in this world with all the mess that that entails, all the weakness.  But see, His strength is made perfect in such weakness, and thus He confounds the wise and gives grace to the humble, and for that we can all give glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit in his Church, now and ever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.