31 October 2011

Introit for Reformation Day

Consecration and Sanctus (Isaiah, Mighty Seer) from DS V

A Mighty Fortress

Entrance Hymn sung at the Early Service on Sunday, the Feast of the Reformation:


St. Paul's published its first directory since the 150th anniversary - in fact, five years later.  What strikes me is the ART.  Since the 150th directory came out, we have added:

Two huge images of Christ to the front walls of the Church.
The Crucifix upon the altar.
The images of the Four Evangelists on front of the balcony.
The large image of St. Paul, our patron saint, on the south wall.
New stained glass windows (8 panels!) celebrating each Person of the Blessed Trinity between the nave and narthex, crafted by Pr. Gleason.

THAT'S a lot of art!

Looking a bit further back, since I came we have added:

A processional cross and torches (hand-crafted by Wilbur Schmidt).
Paschal Candle stand (handcrafted by Wilbur Schmidt).
New altar rails (handcrafted by Carl Steinmann).
Tenebrae hearse (handcrafted by David DeVries).
Banners too many to count (by the banner ladies of St. Paul's).
Quilt of the history of St. Paul's (by the banner ladies of St. Paul's).

All of these works, lovingly crafted, glorifying God's great mercy and love, invite the worshipper when he or she enters the nave to a sense of quiet contemplation and prayer.  Everywhere the Gospel is proclaimed in image even as it is vocally in song, reading, and preaching - and everywhere it invites to joyous yet peaceful prayer.

Here's my intro to the newest directory:

155 Years

That’s how long the Lord Jesus has been having Himself a congregation at St. Paul’s – or as it used to be called New Gehlenbeck.  For 155 years He has had His Word preached, His Eucharist celebrated, His children baptized, taught, and confirmed, His sinners absolved.  Here man and women have been united in Holy Marriage and their weddings sanctified by Word and prayer.  Here mourners have gathered to carry their dead to their resting place in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.  Here to the glory of Jesus bells have been rung, songs sung, prayers raised, tears shed, and joys overflowed.

“I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”  (Psalm 122) And such gladness continues to characterize the worship and service of this community of Evangelical Lutherans.  We rejoice to come to God’s house – for here HE serves us with His good gifts, enlivens us, and gives us hope.  Here He strengthens us to be witnesses to the joy of sin’s forgiveness and death’s destruction.  Here He imparts a foretaste of the heavenly feast that gives us the comfort and strength we need to bear whatever troubles and trials come our way.

Some in this family of faith have roots that go back right to the founding of this holy house.  Others have only later discovered this joyful family.  All together we form but one family of faith and we are glad that the Lord Jesus has given us each other as we journey with Him toward the Day that has no evening in His Kingdom – and we pray that He would continue to use us as a family of faith that many others might be joined to Him through and with us, and that we might come together at last to those joys which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, the good things God has prepared for those who love Him.

In Jesus,

William Weedon, 14th Pastor of St. Paul’s

Pr. C.H.G. Schliepsick  May 1856 to April 1860
Pr. J.M.M. Moll  August 1860 to October 1865
Pr. W. Heinemann  January 1866 to November 1876
Pr. G. Schieferdecker  July 1877 to November 1891
Pr. F. S. Buenger  January 1892 to Mary 1899
Pr. E. Flach  July 1899 to October 1904
Pr. Wm. J. Schmidt  January 1905 to December 1909
Pr. H.H. Hansen  December 1909 to December 1934
Pr. J. W. Hennig  March 1935 to March 1948
Pr. A. Deichmann September 1948 to April 1961
Pr. R. Bolin  June 1961 to December 1968
Pr. W. F. Hischke  October 1969 to October 1982
Pr. W. Dressler  March 1983 to July 1991
Pr. W. C. Weedon  July 1992
Pr. W. Gleason  March 2011


I just discovered that my gmail account had stopped FORWARDING any mail I received there to my Mac address (which is the only one I regularly check).  Sweet.  So all you guys who are convinced I'm a jerk for not replying to you, please forgive me!!!  I didn't know you had written.  I've tried to respond to several of them, but it's a whole pile.  I'm not sure I'll get through the backlog.  I think it IS working now.  A thousand apologies.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our spiritual life is a hidden journey with the risen Lord Jesus.  As we travel with Him, we receive everything from Him.  We share in His divine life as the Son of God the Father; we stand in His shoes and identify ourselves with Him.  With Him we travel on a holy way in which He makes and keeps us holy. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 271.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Although we indeed are prepared to prove each and every one of our articles of faith that is in controversy with the Papists with the clear and lucid testimonies of the ancient fathers, and our people have done this very often, we nevertheless cannot and should not acknowledge the writings of the fathers as the norm of doctrine in the church.  -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 409

Patristic Quote of the Day

For instance, we all pray facing East, but few realize that we do this because we are seeking Paradise, our old fatherland, which God planted in the East, in Eden. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 66.

Kyrie and Gloria from Divine Service 5

30 October 2011

Wow, oh, wow!

Absolutely wonderful Divine Service today for Reformation.  We used Setting V.  The congregation belted out the songs; the Jubilate Deo group did outstanding under Carlo's leadership.  They sang stanza two of "A Mighty Fortress," Kyrie, God Father; the choir parts of Festive Gloria; and alternate verses in the Hymn of the Day which picked up again during the Distribution.  The whole thing was amazingly powerful and rich.  And Carlo finishing it with Toccata and Fugue in D minor, well, icing on the cake!  And next week it only notches up a little higher with All Saints!  Love this time of the year from now, say, through PENTECOST!

Pr. Gleason said after the first liturgy that we really need to do that particular setting of the Divine Service more often; and I totally agree.  But it's a LOT of singing for the congregation to carry on its own without relief from a choral group.  Still, I think we'll have to do so.  God willing, I'll get some of the video posted this week.

"Thanks be to God, thanks be to God, thanks be to God in the highest!"

29 October 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We resist the Evil One by praying the Lord's Prayer and using it as a pattern for our praying.  -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 268.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We do not remove the ranking among ministers of the church; rather, we retain the distinction between bishop, priest, and deacons.  By no means do we, however, establish the sort of difference of power and the sort of distinction the Papists want... The fact that bishops are set above presbyters in the church happens "out of a human institution after the times of the apostles to remove schisms" as Jerome teaches (Commentary on Titus 1). -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 407

Patristic Quote of the Day

If we attacked unwritten customs, claiming them to be of little importance, we would fatally mutilate the Gospel, no matter what our intentions - or rather, we would reduce the Gospel teaching to bare words. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 66

A Reformation Homily - 2011

[Romans 3:19-28 / John 8:31-36]

“If you abide in My Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  So our Lord promises in today’s Gospel.  And it was a very wise Vicar General of the Augustinian Order, Johann Von Staupitz, who decided that that verse held the key to what on earth to do with his troubled monk, Martin Luther.  1511 was the year.  Luther could find no peace.  He went into the confessional – he confessed his sins hours on end, he did every penance that was given to him, he fasted and tortured himself.  There was nothing he didn’t try of what the Church commanded and yet he could arrive at no peace in knowing that his sins were forgiven.  He was brutally honest.  He knew his heart of hearts that he did not love God with all his being and he certainly did not love his neighbor as himself.  In fact, the more he dealt with God the more he came to hate and despise Him for giving humanity laws that no human being born in sin would ever be able to keep.  How can a man be righteous before God when he couldn’t even BEGIN to keep the Law of God for a single day?  Luther had an acute ear to hear every bit of God’s law, but he was utterly tone-deaf to the sweet strains of the Gospel.

How to help the poor man?  Staupitz decided:  “Make him a doctor of Holy Scripture.  God’s Word will do what I have not been able to do.”

And so Luther, monk and priest, was dispatched to the newly founded University of Wittenberg to assume the chair of a lecturer in Sacred Scripture and to become a doctor of the Church.  Staupitz was wise.  “If you abide in My Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Abide in the Word Luther did.  And light began to dawn into his darkness.  But heaven broke upon his soul as he chased down ONE term.  He was seeking to understand the righteousness of God.  You see, he read in St. Paul in Romans chapter 1, that in the Gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed.  And he puzzled his puzzler over how that could be good news.  Moses was bad enough, but when Jesus started teaching about the Law, He made it a thousand times worse.  Moses said “Don't’ commit adultery.”  Jesus said:  “If you even look lustfully at another person, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.”  Moses said:  “Don’t murder.”  Jesus said:  “If you’ve been angry or said nasty words to your brother, you’ve killed him in your heart.”  The more Luther puzzled the less he understood how it could be GOOD news that the righteousness of God was revealed in the Gospel.

He prayed and read more.  He pondered and studied.  He continued to abide in the Words of Jesus, and suddenly he saw it.  It shown with shocking brilliance.  The righteousness of God that is revealed in the Gospel is not a righteousness that human beings bring to God; it is a righteousness that God freely gives to human beings.  Not a perfection you have to achieve – the Gospel is all about a perfection that Jesus achieved FOR YOU and delivers to you.  It’s not something you DO, it’s something you can only RECEIVE.

Oh, when he saw it, he said it was as though the very gates of paradise swung open before him.  He had continued in the Word of Jesus, and the Word of Jesus did exactly like Jesus promised:  it totally set him free.  Suddenly the faith was filled with joy.  The Gospel revealed not a God ready to crush him for his failures and sins; it revealed a God who LOVED him, sinner though he was, and who provided him a perfect righteousness.  And suddenly even love became possible:  for there is nothing loving about USING another person to exercise your good works on so that YOU can achieve some sort of standing before God.  Why, that’s the height of selfishness itself!  It leaves the human heart totally self-seeking in the doing of what it thinks is good.  Good works can become good when we do them cheerfully and to the benefit of our neighbor – not because WE accrue some benefit from them, just to be a blessing to another person.  They can’t even begin to add to your righteousness, because YOUR righteousness is whole and complete:  it’s Jesus and what He’s done for you.

Did you hear it ring through chapter 3 of Romans?  The law is there to shut up every mouth, to hold the whole world accountable to God, and by the works of the law – by doing your very best – no human being will ever be justified, that is, declared righteous before God.  BUT NOW the righteousness of God (there’s the term Luther was worrying at), now God’s righteousness has been manifested – it showed up – apart from the law!  Apart from your doing and not doing!  It showed up as God’s gift in Jesus to all who believe.  All have sinned, all fall short of God’s glory, and all are justified – declared righteous – by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption that’s in Jesus Christ.  God put Him forth before you as your propitiation – the sacrifice that wipes out of your sin and the world – His blood does that.  His cross was all about that.  And faith trusts that His blood has done the job.  Your sin on Him and so gone.  His righteousness then on you.  God is your justifier.  You don’t need to justify yourself.  You can’t.  But He can.  He did when He raised His Son from the dead.  It counts for you and for all who believe.  No boasting then, no pride.  Wiped out by the way faith works.  Instead, God declares you righteous – holy, perfect, without sin – by faith, apart from anything you do or don’t do.  What a gift!  For God’s heart to you!

Ah, the prison opened!  Instead of ceaselessly trying and failing to somehow do enough for God to love you, accept you, embrace you; the Gospel gives you free, unearned, even unsought that love, that acceptance, that embrace.  You’ve got all you need for time and for eternity from the hand of God.  And so, as I said earlier, you’re free then to love your neighbor without the backward glance of how many divine brownie points its earning you.  You do it with freedom and abandon so that you can even say:  “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?”  Faith only looks to Jesus and not to its own doings.

So today the great Feast of the Reformation.  Is it still good to celebrate, even after all these years?  You better believe it, people loved by God.  For there is simply nothing that is so freeing as the Gospel and when anything in the Church’s life comes to obscure or cover or God forbid deny that the good news of the free gift of God’s righteousness to the sinner, then it must be removed.  For the sake of the whole Church and for the sake of the world.  So that all people might be able to hear and by God’s Spirit rejoice in that righteousness freely given in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

“If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciple, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus’ promise came true for Martin Luther.  It will come true for each of you too!  And for that blessed freedom, the free gift of divine sonship and perfect righteousness, all glory to our Giver-God, to the  Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages!  Amen.

Or listen here.

28 October 2011

The Champs

I think it would be

true to note that in general, church bureaucrats distrust and dislike blogs and blogging.  And why?  Why the need to constantly run down bloggers as though they were some evil force in Christ's church?  I think it is simply because it drives them BATTY that they do not control the flow of information anymore.  And I say:  hurray for that!  Oh, ye bloggers, fight the good fight and do not give up!  Speak the truth and bear the calumny that is dished out in your direction.  It's worth it.

27 October 2011

Today's Reading - Deuteronomy 29

But to this day the Lord has not given you heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.

...sounds like Luther's Bondage of the Will.  Calls to mind Acts 16:14 about Lydia.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

...sounds like Luther's huge distinction between the hidden/revealed and how we don't go nosing around in the hidden things by trying to answer theological questions Scripture itself has not revealed the answer to with our own speculations.

26 October 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

He [the devil] does his best to sabotage or end our daily devotions.  That's why it's so difficult to sustain them. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 267.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ordination by three bishops is not simply and absolutely necessary, because it is not an apostolic sanction, but an ecclesiastical constitution.  It is enough that the presbytery lay their their hands upon the ordinand who has been legitimately called to the ecclesiastical ministry, for in this way presbyters were ordained in the apostolic church (Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14). -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 407

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is fitting that when we see Christ, the Image of the Father's glory, it is always through the illumination of the Spirit. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 64,

Some favorite stanzas from Gerhardt's hymns

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's excelling,
Our lost and fallen race.

Should we fear our God's displeasure,
Who, to save,
Freely gave
His most precious treasure?
To redeem us
He has given
His own Son
From the throne
Of His might in heaven.

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!

"Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I'll bear what You command me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I'll do what You have asked me."
O wondrous Love, what have you done!
The Father offers up His Son,
Desiring our salvation.
O Love, how strong You are to save!
You lay the One into the grave
Who built the earth's foundations.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinner's gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

This is a sight that gladdens -
What peace it doth impart!
Now nothing ever saddens
The joy within my heart.
No gloom shall ever shake,
No foe shall ever take
The hope which God's own Son
In love for me has won.

He cancelled my offenses,
Delivered me from death;
He is the Lord who cleanses
My soul from sin through faith.
In Him I can be cheerful,
Courageous on my way;
In Him I am not fearful
Of God's great judgment day.

For no one can condemn me
Or set my hope aside;
Now hell no more can claim me;
Its fury I deride.
No sentence now reproves me,
No guilt destroys my peace;
For Christ, my Savior, loves me
And shields me with His grace.

Ills that still grieve me
Soon are to leave me;
Though billows tower,
And winds gain power,
After the storm the fair sun shows its face.
Joys e'er increasing,
And peace never ceasing;
These shall I treasure
And share in full measure
When in His mansions God grants me a place.

He only will with patience chide,
His rod falls gently down;
And all your sins He casts aside
In ocean depths to drown.

Leave all to His direction;
His wisdom rules for you
In ways to rouse your wonder
At all His love can do.
Soon, He, His promise keeping,
With wonder-working pow'rs
Will banish from your spirit
What gave you troubled hours.

Now in Christ, death cannot slay me,
Though it might,
Day and night,
Trouble and dismay me.
Christ has made my death a portal
From the strife
Of this life
To His joy immortal.

Thanking God for the gift of Gerhardt

O sacred head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns Thine only crown.
O sacred head, what glory,
What bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
O leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own.

Be Thou my consolation,
My shield when I must die.
Remind me of Thy passion
When my last hour draws night.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus, dies well.

A blessed half hour...

...you won't regret spending it with Paul Gerhardt:

25 October 2011

1.5 oz

So, in preparation for the Higher Things conference this past summer, as the chaplain I was charged with getting the wine.  How much?  I was told (and I don't remember who told me either!) that the formula is 1.5 oz per person.  2000+ youth and two Eucharists.  I headed out with Pr. Chris Hull to purchase the wine.  We had to hit up three places before we found all we needed.  31 or 32 bottles...

ONLY, the formula was way, way off.  MAYBE .5 oz per person.  At the end of the conference there was quite a surplus of wine left over.  I had purchased it all on my card, so I asked Pr. Hull if he would mind taking the left overs back to the store.  The store doesn't TAKE BACK any alcoholic beverages.  So Pr. Hull stored my surplus supply until today, when he carried it down to Springfield for the CID pastors' conference, and I drove up there to pick it up.

So, voila!  Anyone want to drop by for a glass or twenty of burgundy or merlot?

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

St. James says:  "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (4:7).  That sums up the teaching of the New Testament on spiritual warfare.  It's as easy as that; it's as hard as that!  Spiritual warfare calls for perpetual resistance, withstanding the attack, standing our ground, refusing to retreat from our post or to surrender to the enemy.  It involves a kind of passive resistance, for it has more to do with suffering and receiving support than doing and exercising power.  Spiritual warfare is a battle of wills. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 266.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Luther and his associates did not advance a new doctrine, but rather placed the ancient, apostolic doctrine, which was once abundantly confirmed with miracles, and which they rescued from the filth of papal errors, into the bright light.  -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 402.

Patristic Quote of the Day

We learn that just as the Father is made visible in the Son, so also the Son is recognized in the Spirit. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 64.

24 October 2011


The Bishop of our sister Church, the SELK (in Germany), celebrates "the holy Mass" at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Berlin-Wilmersdorf.  Members of St. Paul should note that it looks strangely familiar in ceremonies.  The Bishop is vested in chasuble.  He uses the full Eucharistic Prayer, but note the chanting of preface, prayer, Words of Consecration, and also the Lord's Prayer.  Note as well the bells ringing during the consecration, the genuflection after elevating each element, and the same Agnus Dei we sing (you'll recognize the music).  Reverent from start to finish!:

Hat tip:  Loschwitz on ALPB.

23 October 2011

Karl Johnson+

Went to Kurt's brother's funeral today at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nokomis.  Pr. Eickhoff preached a wonderful homily (which he naturally had difficulty getting through - Karl was not only his parishioner but his friend).  Karl had attended Bible Class on Wednesday morning, and on his way home was stricken by an aneurism.  He just had time to pull his truck off the road, and his earthly pilgrimage came to an end.  I always enjoyed the little chances we had to chat over the years - Karl faithfully attended the District elder workshops (usually held at St. Paul's), and of course the various confirmations of his niece and nephews over the years.  Please keep his wife Sandy and his boys in your prayers - as well as his parents, Gene and Mary Ann, and his brother Kurt and his wife Julie.  I reminded Karl's parents this afternoon that because they knew this moment was coming, just not when, they had their little son baptized into Christ and given a life that death can never rob him of.

Death, you cannot end my gladness,
I am baptized into Christ.
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise.
Though I lie in dust and ashes,
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this life-long comfort sure.
Open-eyed my grave is staring,
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising.
I am baptized into Christ;
I'm a child of paradise.

As far as I'm concerned that hymn has become THE funeral hymn to beat all others.

Rest in peace, Karl, until the glorious appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

22 October 2011

A Rather Fine Article

by Pastor Wilken.  Check it out.

21 October 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As Christ leads us further on our journey through life, we come under sharper attack the closer we come to our destination. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 265.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Becanus tries to show that the succession of doctrine is not present in our church.  How useless that attempt is can be seen by anyone who removes the false accusations and is willing to compare the doctrine of our churches, as it is set forth in the Augsburg Confession, with the Holy Scriptures. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 401.

Patristic Quote of the Day

We live in the Spirit as individual members of a body, because we were all baptized into one Spirit, in one body. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 61.

Oh, and speaking of David...

... the lad got an envelope in the mail yesterday.  Some kind soul had sent him back his DRIVER'S LICENSE.  Heaven only knows where he left it.  He hadn't even realized he'd lost it yet.  Really, WHEN is this wedding????

Does it alternate generations?

My mom was never much of a house keeper.  Counters were for piling up with stuff.  Tables were covered with this and that.  And we won't mention the dust or the floor.  Her attitude about stuff tended to be:  Don't throw it away; you might need it.  A true child of the Great Depression.

I am the exact opposite.  It's the same obsession, I suppose, that makes me go nuts when parishioners don't put the hymnals back all facing the same direction AND with the ribbons inside, thank you very much.  Is that so hard to do??? Anywho, I DESPISE it when my desk gets cluttered; I LOATHE stuff sitting out on the Kitchen counter.  I absolutely enjoy walking through the house in the evening when every blasted thing has been put into its place, the kitchen is spic and span ready for the morrow, the coffee and tea all ready to brew.  To me it just makes life so much simpler to keep stuff clean and neat; and whenever possible in the kitchen, to clean as you go.  And if you don't need it, GET RID OF IT.  Why keep the junk?  Long ago Cindi and I were infected with the Don Aslett bug.

But my children... They are more like Mom's generation!  So Cindi and I come home from our workout at the Y, lunch, and bit of grocery shopping.  The kitchen is a mess.  David had made himself lunch.  David had not cleaned up lunch.  He told me later, in deference to my frowning brow, that he was GOING to clean up, but wanted to eat it while it was hot.  No problem with that - I like my food hot too.  The hotter the better.  So he proceeds to "clean up" after himself.  I shook my head once in dismay the first time he "finished up," so he came back and wiped the counter that he had spilled stuff on.  He did clean the stove top (just not the handle of the stove with a nice spot on it from whatever he made himself).  Sigh.  I hope Meaghan is a clean fanatic because otherwise I'm afraid to see what the inside of their house will look like after David's been turned loose on it for a bit.  It will no doubt be a microbe treasure trove.  Now, Bekah likes to clean, but doesn't seem to have a compulsion to have everything in its place.  Lauren, like my mom, seems to believe counters are for filling up.  Sigh.  Where did I go wrong?

Bekah laughed today:  "Usually it's the mom you worry about your house being clean for, but we're going to have to panic when dad comes over and starts cleaning."  Darned tooting.

20 October 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

By using the regular practice of intercessory prayer we keep Satan away from our churches and congregations and homes, and we support our pastors in their ministry of the Gospel to those who are still under his dominion. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 264.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But far be it from us to refuse to let a lawful judgment be passed about our doctrine on the basis of the Holy Scriptures... With the complete approval of the apostles, the Bereans judged their doctrine and "examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11).  -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Church, pp. 387,88.

Patristic Quote of the Day

We are only able to glorify them [the divine persons of the Trinity] by recounting their wonders to the best of our ability. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 54.

19 October 2011

A David Like Moment

So I have two pairs of black loafers - one pair older and more worn than the other.  This morning, I pack my bag for the gym and head out, putting in two loafers.  Only after I shower and go to put on my shoes do I realize that I have with me TWO right shoes.  Sigh.  So, I try it out. Can you walk with two right shoes?  I make it to the car and decide this is hopeless and silly.  Well, there was nothing for it.  I was dressed all in black, but out came the gray vibrams and I wore them today.  To many comments and quizzical looks, I might add.

18 October 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We pray in the Spirit when we trust in His Word and pray according to it.  -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 262.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our case is much different, however, from the opinion of the Donatists, for we do not say that the church has perished from all the earth nor that ours is a new church.  Furthermore, we are not censuring the corruptions of life and behavior in the Roman popes as much as the corruption of doctrine. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 385.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Through the Spirit we become intimate with God. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 49.

Thank you

He'd said it before, but it really struck me this time.  I was visiting Gus, taking him communion.  And we prayed the confession and I absolved him.  His "amen" to the absolution was to look me in the eye and say:  "Thank you."  It made me smile.  It still makes me smile.  A dear saint of the Lord who loves and values the absolution and sees it for what it is.  Made my day.

17 October 2011

CANNOT leave this languishing in a com box

so it's ANOTHER patristic quote of the day (found in trying to trace down the original that Gerhard cited):

"For He abides forever to offer gifts for us - after first offering Himself by the cross, to abolish every sacrifice of the old covenant by presenting the more perfect, living sacrifice for the whole world. He Himself is temple, sacrifice, priest, altar, God, man, king, high-priest, lamb, sacrificial victim - became all in all for us that life might be ours in every way, and to lay the changeless foundation of his priesthood forever, no longer allotting it by descent and succession, but granting that, in accordance with His ordinance, it may be preserved in the Holy Spirit." - Epiphanius, Panarion 55

Homily upon St. Luke's Day - 2011

Homily upon St. Luke’s Day (2011)

[Isaiah 35:5-8; 2 Timothy 4:5-18; Luke 10:1-9]

He sent them out two by two.  Sort of like the Ark in reverse.  They go out bringing the good news of the Kingdom that has dawned already in the flesh of their Jesus – God has visited His people in mercy.  And it is also a mercy that they go out two by two – not one alone.  The Christian faith is not meant to be lived by anyone alone.  Atheism can send you off alone to meet your fate, but not Christianity.  For the entire time we live and walk the highway of holiness, that Isaiah spoke of, we walk that road in company with others – as the prophet would say towards the end of that chapter, singing together as we come home to Zion.

Paul mentioned some of his dear companions: Luke who stuck with him; his wish to see John Mark again; his friend Tychicus dispatched to Ephesus.  Family members, brothers united by a bond stronger than earthly kinship – united together in the waters of baptism and given to each other for eternity.  Children of the age to come walking together toward the glorious renewal of this creation that would come about when their Brother, their Lord, their Master returns.

But sometimes in our walking the way of the Lord there is a lonely stretch or two.  Paul tasted it:  “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.”  All?  Even St. Luke?  

The Lord gives you companions on this way, but they are sinners.  Frail men and women of faith.  And sometimes they will let you down.  Sometimes one that you thought was a rock you could lean on for sure, will also fail.  

Does that mean you then are called to walk the way alone?  No!  Paul found that out too.  In that horrid moment when all his fellow pilgrims swerved from his side, THE faithful Pilgrim remained:  “but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.”

Even in the darkest moments of the journey, when you ache for a human companion to be with you, you will find that that is exactly what you have:  a good Shepherd who walks with you fearlessly into the valley of the shadow of death.  He knows the way in and He knows the way out.  He walked it already.  And He’s made a path for you to walk with Him.  

And you can know then that His companionship is actually everything.  In companionship with the One who prayed forgiveness for his tormenters, Paul also prays forgiveness for those who lacked the courage to stand with him at the trial.  “May it not be charged against them!”

Ah, this is the way of walking the path in companionship with Jesus.  When our human companions fall flat on their faces, when they disappoint us and let us down – then in the companionship of Him who knew the loneliness of Gethsemane and the abandonment of Golgotha, we pray with Him:  “Lord, forgive them.”  

But when so-called companions turn against the message and no longer walk in the way of our Lord Jesus, in the path of repentance and faith, then the prayer is of another sort – such as Alexander the Coppersmith received:  “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”  

Today we celebrate St. Luke.  He may not have stood with Paul at that first defense, but according to the church’s unanimous tradition, he actually did go on to give a defense of the faith himself.  Maybe all alone as far as visible companions went, but like Paul, there was One who stood by him, strengthened him, and gave him words of power and grace.  Thanks be to God, though, that before that happened, St. Luke did his research, wrote down his Gospel, recording for us so many wondrous things we’d have never known otherwise.  Like the two on the road to Emmaus.  Two and two again.  Only it wasn’t just two.  There was Another.  Another who came to cheer them along their road of sorrow and chase the anguish from their hearts with the gift of His preaching and presence – the bread broken upon the table and then they knew.

So you too, friends, as you walk this way – you have each other.  Each other will let you down over and over again as we stumble along in the way.  But there is One who walks with you and will never let you down.  He will break the bread for you anew today and you will know that He who is the Forgiveness of all Sins walks with you, gives you His own body and blood.  He gives Himself to be your travelling companion all the way - until the bright lights of home shine upon the path and you enter with Him to find the party.  Angels and archangels, yes, plus all the company of heaven.  St. Luke there, St. Paul there, St. Tychicus and St. Titus and St. Mark and all the saints.  The stumbling, bumbling ones along the Lord’s road who found that in their faithful Companion they had the one friend who would never leave them,  and who gave them the strength to go on, to whom be glory with His Father and His Holy Spirit, now and to the ages of ages.  

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We imagine that the people who do evil in the Church and in the world are our enemies.  But that is not so!  Spiritually speaking, we have no human enemies.  St. Paul stresses that fact.  Our struggle is not against human flesh and blood.  -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 260.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let the Romanists prove that they confess the same doctrine as the apostles, just as those early bishops of the Roman Church remained in it.  Only then will an argument drawn from succession be of some strength and weight. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, The Church, p. 383.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The succession of doctrine is to be sought, not the succession of persons. -- Epiphanius, Haeres. 55 (cited in Gerhard, The Church)

16 October 2011

Our Jubilate Deo choir

(which was our quartet but now with some extra voices) is preparing to assist with the liturgy on Reformation Sunday - Divine Service 5.  I got to listen to their practice a little bit last Sunday and I am mega excited to hear the final result on Reformation itself.

They'll be singing:

a stanza of "A Mighty Fortress,"
assisting with the Introit (chanting it in four part harmony);
doing all of the Kyrie, God Father (I heard Carlo work with them on this piece and it has potential to be absolutely amazing);
singing the introductory acclamations and a stanza of the Gloria (All Glory be to God on High) in the Festive Gloria setting.
singing alternate stanzas on the long Hymn of the Day (which we'll actually finish during the Distribution).

I hope that it records well and we can get some samples posted to the internet.  The rugged and yet majestic Divine Service, Setting Five is one of the true gems of the Lutheran Service Book.  With its roots solidly in Luther's Deutsche Messe tradition, it has a way sweeping everything tangential aside in order to hold up and extol the great gem of the Gospel, turning it this way and that, so that the light can shine through its many facets.  We don't do it often, but each time we DO, I'm left thinking we should sing that liturgy more often.

Sunday's This and That

Woke to a text that Rebekah Curtis had gone into labor and Pr. Gleason was off to serve the liturgy at Zion, Carpenter and at Trinity, Worden.  Heard later that she delivered little Eve Donita Mathilda Curtis safely - thanks be to God!  The children of TSP were singing at St. Paul's today, so I heard the good news directly from Mary Curtis.  The children did such a fabulous job on the Hymn of the Day!  "Seek where you may" is a song you've not really HEARD till little voices are belting it out in your ears.  The children sang all of the first three verses, just leaving the last verse for the congregation.  Beautiful job.  "Sent forth" was the last hymn, and I'm always surprised at how LOUDLY the congregation sings that one.  They must like the English pub music tune. After service I got myself wrapped into a pig-kissing contest...don't ask.  The school kids have to raise $10,000 for it to happen - no way, right?  Then had the joy of pledging new sponsors to Calvin.  Got home to hear that after her long struggle with cancer, Suzie Barone has passed away - our prayers are with Florene and her family.  Yet another parent burying a child - how wrong it is.  God give her strength!  Now a lunch with David and Cindi.  Workout with David.  Then Catechism at 4.  Then to get some bulletins drawn up and sent Joanie's way before tomorrow a.m.

15 October 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Lord's Prayer is Christ's gift to us and all God's children at Baptism as an essential part of our equipment for spiritual combat.  That's how it has been used since the apostolic age; we learn from the Didache, an ancient Christian manual for spirituality, that as early as the end of the first century A.D. all Christians were instructed pray the Lord's Prayer as their daily prayer.  It equips us for the daily combat together with Christ and His whole church.  -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 256.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In articles of faith, necessary conclusions are drawn only from the canonical Scriptures.  From the fathers, only probable conclusions are drawn, as Thomas Aquinas states correctly. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 382.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For creatures, holiness comes from without; for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature.  He is not sanctified, but sanctifies. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 48.

13 October 2011

Taking back the Pastoral Conference

I often hear from pastors from across the Synod about how disappointing their pastoral conferences are (or more often, professional church workers conferences).  I have a confession:  ours used to be pretty bad too.  BUT...

A few years ago, though, a number of men simply said that the silly season was over.  The pastoral conference committee became extremely proactive in guarding the conference.  The District President and District business was allotted a limited amount of time, but the focus was put upon providing excellent speakers AND making sure that we our worship was simply out of the hymnal.  No high church vs. low church shenanigans allowed.  Just do what's in the book.  As a certain famous Lutheran is wont to say:  "Just say the black and do the red."

Pr. Fritz Baue set us off in this direction as chairman of the conference.  We met together, we prayed and sang, we listened and pondered, we ate and drank and talked.  It was good and very good.  From being something I dreaded, the pastoral conference suddenly became something I absolutely enjoyed and looked forward to.

If you've had it up to here with rotten conferences, my brothers, see what you can do to reclaim the conference.  Take them back over from the District office and make them truly be the blessing they were intended!  It happened here.  It can happen there.

A Homily upon Trinity 17

[Texts:  Proverbs 25:6-14 / Ephesians 4:1-6 / Luke 14:1-11]

People loved by God, when we prayed in the collect for grace to withstand the temptations of the evil one and to follow with pure heart and mind our Lord Jesus, we were simply asking for the gift of humility.  Pride is what rules the devil’s heart - and there is nothing that shows how fallen we are as human beings like our pride - our arrogance, our willingness to look down on other people, to speak ill of them in order to make ourselves look better than we have a right to, but above all, our being so preoccupied with ourselves and our own life and its problems and challenges that we simply ignore others.  Pride.  It’s the cause of so much of the heart-ache in our lives, if only we had the eyes to see it.

And its opposite is humility.  Which begins with actually noticing other people, their sorrows, their hurts, their joys.  Humility isn’t just saying:  “I am a worm.”  No.  Humility is deeper.  It doesn't look inward, but outward.  It puts others front and center.  Humility is what we’ve been called to. Today’s Epistle:  “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”  That’s the calling we’ve received as children of God!  It’s the life our Lord lived.

Think of it from today’s Gospel.  Jesus is invited into a fellow’s home - a ruler of the Pharisee.  And they are watching him with hawk’s eyes, waiting for him to break the law so that they could accuse him.  But this man who is humility incarnate, he’s not focused on himself.  He comes into the feast and his eyes are drawn to a sick man who was also there.  He knew their thoughts.  He knew they were setting a trap for him.  He tries to reach them:  “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”  They won’t  give an answer.  The silence grows.  Jesus shows them the answer.  He took the man who was sick aside, healed him, and sent him away.  Then he turned back to his accusers:  “If you have son - or even an ox - that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, you gonna leave them there?  You wouldn’t immediately pull them out?”  Silence again.  The silence of pride.  They were focused on themselves and had no time to spare for a man in pain; he's only a trap for Jesus to them, nothing more.  Pride is at its root the obsessive looking inward.  It makes us bent.

And in pride they begin vying for seats of honor at the banquet.  Jesus watches it all with sadness.  He tells them:  “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more honorable than you show up, and your host have to scoot you out of the way to make room for the more honored guest.  Take the lowest spot.  Then your host may say to you:  ‘Friend, come up higher.’  Then you get glory, not shame in the presence of those at table with you.”

I know it sounds like Jesus is giving lessons on manipulation, but that’s to misunderstand Him.  The person who is humble looks out at others, wonders at the great gifts of God that they are, and so honors THEM by taking a lesser seat.  He WANTS the others to have the honor; a humble person delights in them getting glory.  And if glory comes his way, it comes from the Giver of the feast and not something he gives to himself.  As such a gift, it may be rejoiced in.

Jesus summarizes it exactly in that pithy word:  “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  The man or woman or child who looks out for other and wants for them the best and seeks that they may have glory - recognition, honor, fame - that’s a person on the pathway of Jesus.  For that is exactly what He did!

He came among us and He took the low spot - not just to set us an example.  Oh, it IS an example, but much more.  He did it because He wanted us to have glory.  He looked at you and thought:  this one is precious and it would be the joy of my heart to see the holy angels serving him, to see her sitting at the table in my Father’s kingdom as a beloved daughter, to see him filled with the joy of my Father’s love.  You see, He was humble because He didn’t look at Himself - He looked at YOU.  He did everything that He did so that YOU could be exalted and blessed and lifted up.  Is that amazing or what?  To give you the seat of honor at His Father’s table, He chose the seat of shame upon the cross.  To supply to you life-giving bread, He gave up His flesh to death.  To cleanse you with living water, He bled.  To pour out on you His Holy Spirit, He gave up His spirit on Calvary’s tree.  In everything, then, He humbled Himself so that you might be lifted high.  That’s the miracle our readings celebrate today:  you have a God who is humble!  Always looking out for you and not for Himself.  A God looking out for Himself would never have done the cross.

But do you see, then, He lifts you up - all the way up to His humility!  He invites you into the joy of His way of life where the focus isn’t on YOU, but on His Father and the people He has seen fit to surround you with.  He lifts you up so that you can be humble with Him, focused on others.  Noticing when someone’s hurting, grieving, heart-broken.  He frees you from the obsession with yourself and your own little world and He would make your heart a chalice to hold a few drops of this world’s blood and tears.  His Supper frees you for that:  He bodies and bloods you one to another, members of one body, sharing one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, with one God and Father of all, over all and through all and in all.  You don’t look at each other the same way again after sharing together in this Feast.  You walk away from it, delighting in the honor He has bestowed on your sisters and brothers and how He has given them a seat of glory in His presence - and He invited you along too.  Miracle of miracles!  But it doesn’t stop here.  Out you go into the world, freed to take the low place, that is, freed to focus on others.  To notice them in their hurts and to offer to them the joy of a place with you where a nail-scared hand wipes away the tears forever.

My friends, it is true:  if you exalt yourself, God in the last judgment if not before will humble you.  But if you, by the power and grace of God’s Holy Spirit, humble yourselves - lifting your eyes from yourself, not fearing that if you don’t watch out for you, no one else will; instead trusting that God will take care of you so you are freed to care for others - then you will see that God will not fail you.  Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  Exalted with Jesus, who after the humble cross was raised and exalted above all names and seated at His Father’s side in glory - where He waits for you and has a place prepared for you.  To Him, our humble Lord, who took the low spot, that you might be seated with Him in honor, to Him be all glory, dominion, and worship, now and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Church has always known about the importance of corporate prayer in spiritual warfare.  No one has been more acutely aware of its value than Luther.  He says:  Such prayer is a precious thing and a powerful defense against the devil and his assaults.  -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 255.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

When distributed, the text of Scripture, the Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the means by which the church is established and grows.  They neither cease being what they are nor do they cease being effectual when impure teachers, stained with the mud of heresies and superstitions, administer them.  Rather, they remain the instruments of salvation through which some people are converted and saved, the efficacy of the Holy Spirit being amid the corrupt state of the church. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 365

Patristic Quote of the Day

The way to divine knowledge ascends from one Spirit through the one Son to the one Father.  Likewise natural goodness, inherent holiness, and royal dignity reaches [us] from the Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit.  -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 47.

11 October 2011

Fall Vacation Over

And it was a nice vacation - a staycation with a bit of writing thrown in.  And some reading (still plugging my way through Gerhard's On the Church, which is so rich and dense in thought I can't do but a couple pages a day; and got started on Warrior Monk), a couple long bike rides, some cooking, cards with family, celebrating David and Meaghan's engagement, and getting in a fair amount of exercise.  Speaking of exercise, I decided to shake things up and switch routines - will be doing 20 minute high-intensity interval training for cardio five days a week; and then doing nautilus training on three of those days.  Want to try to keep that up from now until the wedding.  Oh, and speaking of the wedding, Cindi and I are working David over to get him back in shape.  It's FUN to torture your children with exercise - and get them up at 6 in the morning to go do the stepper with you. Cindi and I decided to give the Wheat Belly diet a try - except for the Sacrament, of course! - and so far have found it quite congenial to our regular low-carbing.  Trying to stick to red wines only for the time being, which means farewell to my beloved Pinot Grigio.  Sadness.  Still, I do love the reds also - Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Truthfully, I think the reds go better with a bite of cheese than do the whites.  On Wheat Belly Diet, cheese is perfectly fine and even can be eaten in unlimited quantities.  I probably shouldn't have read that.  I DO like cheese.  Way too much.  Anywho, tomorrow is back to regular routine:  Chapel for TSP (my first of the year), Pericopal Study (I'm presenting on Trinity 18), lunch with the pastors, a hospital visit, some more writing, a counseling appointment, and Bible Class on Jeremiah 6.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

While faith is our personal trust in Christ, it is also what we believe, a common faith (Titus 1:4) that is summarized and confessed in the Apostles' and Nicene Creed.  Therefore, Satan attacks our belief in the articles of faith as well as our confidence in Christ. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 252.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We have departed neither from the catholic faith nor the church catholic; rather, we have retained the catholic faith and have renounced the errors, idol-madness, and superstitions that have been brought into the church.  In fact, instead of having departed from the faith of the catholic church, much rather we have not even departed from the faith of the Roman church to the extent that it agrees with the old catholic and apostolic faith.  We admit that we have departed from not a few articles of the modern Roman faith.  But this is not a defection from the old catholic faith, but rather a return to the original catholic faith that has been deformed in many ways in the Roman church with new inventions, superstitions, and additions, and is a turning back to Christ as the only teacher of the faith. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 344.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The Holy Spirit is one, and we speak of Him as unique, since through the one Son He is joined to the Father. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, par. 45.

10 October 2011

O Lord Jesus Christ

O Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, in giving us Your body and blood to eat and to drink, You lead us to remember and confess Your holy cross and passion, Your blessed death, Your rest in the tomb, Your resurrection from the dead, Your ascension into heaven, and Your coming for the final judgment.  So remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:  Our Father... - DS I, II

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

His name makes and keeps us holy.  It is our safety and protection from the evil one.  It equips us for combat.  We wield His name as our weapon in battle. -- Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 251.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The divine promise is that the Church will endure forever.  However, this promise belongs properly not to this or that particular and visible church but to the catholic church of the elect, which has been founded on the rock, which is Christ, and will remain unmoved against all the gates of hell. -- Blessed Johann Gerhard, On the Church, p. 324.

Patristic Quote of the Day

As unique persons they are one and one; as sharing a common nature, both are one. -- St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, p. 72.

08 October 2011

I am VERY proud to announce

the ENGAGEMENT of David Stuart Weedon to the lovely Meaghan Barringer.

Deo gratias!

A Wonderful Homily by Pr. Sawyer for this Sunday

Here’s a catechetical question for you, dear Children of Light.
We hear of the resurrections of the sons of the Widow of Zarephath this morning and of the Widow of Nain.
The question is: Are these First Article Gifts or Third?
This isn’t an obscure question. It should be fundamental to us.
It should occupy our thoughts and speaking, that it may determine our choices and our living, especially for the sake of our children.
The Widow of Zarephath had a son. We heard how the Word of the Lord rescued them both.
But the really big deal about last Sunday’s Old Testament reading was not that the bread and oil did not run out and that her son and she did not kick the bucket when they thought they would.
That was a FIRST Article Gift. The THIRD Article Gift was the main thing, namely, that God gave her the Holy Spirit so that she believed His Word and lived according to it.
The FIRST Article Gifts of bread that kept feeding them and oil that didn’t run out, even those point us toward the SECOND Article Gifts of life and salvation in God’s Son, Christ Jesus, Who is our Daily and Eternal Bread of Life Come Down from Heaven, in Whom we have the Unending Oil of Gladness.
Why do I ask about and speak of this today? Because what the Lord GAVE the woman and her son last Sunday, we hear Him TAKE AWAY this morning!
After this, the son of the woman became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath in him.
If it was baffling that God should send the prophet to a poor woman to feed, who was about to die, how much more baffling that, having saved them, God would then permit her son to die!
It baffles the woman, and that breaking of sticks moment I mentioned last Sunday finally comes for her, doesn’t it?
“What have you against me, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son?”
It’s a bitter accusation from a woman grief-stricken.
She feels as if she’s being punished for her sin.
Ever feel that way? Why is this happening to me? What have I done? This isn’t fair! Why should I even bother coming to church or being a Christian, when THIS is how God treats me?!
What has changed for this woman? She still has the Word and Ministry of God in her midst. She has only lost her son!
Dear Christian, this is a hard question, but an important one.
Is that son a FIRST Article Gift or a Second or Third one?
Before I answer, let me be clear. First Article Gifts are gifts from GOD! They are GOOD Gifts, as are all gifts that come down from the Father of Lights. They enrich our lives and are meant for us to cherish. Body and soul, eyes, ears, and all of my members, my reason and all of my senses . . .Clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.
The widow’s son was a wonderful First Article Gift.
Would this woman have rather had the Word and Ministry of God or her son? You know the answer to that!
Our love of First Article Gifts is powerful. Look how we pursue them over the Word of God!
We are talking of the First Commandment, aren’t we? Having no other gods, and so we should fear, love and trust in GOD above all things!
But that’s hard when God is in the house and He lets your little boy die, isn’t it? It’s hard when being a Christian doesn’t mean that you have all your earthly needs taken care of as you want. You still have money problems, job problems, people problems. You still have health concerns. Nothing seems to be getting any better – and by that we mean FIRST Article things!
SECOND and THIRD Article things never fail us!
In Christ, you will always have a God Who loves you!
You have a God and Father Who gave you His Son!
You have that Son Who laid His life down for you!
You have the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus!
You have Him seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for you and the promise that He will come again to take you home!
You also have the Holy Spirit Who not only CALLED you by the Gospel and enlightened you with His Gifts of Water and Word, but Who constantly IS CALLING you – with the whole Church – through the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and KEEPING you with Jesus Christ in the One True Faith. By that Holy Spirit, you have the forgiveness of sins and the promise of the resurrection of the body when Christ comes again in glory!
So, are the resurrections we hear of this morning – the raising of the sons of the Widows of Zarephath and Nain – are they First Article Gifts or Third? They are First Article Gifts, aren’t they? God is caring for these women by returning their sons to them, but He doesn’t do that for everyone. He didn’t do that for every grieving mother even back then! Mary did not have HER Son returned to her to help around the house in Joseph’s absence, as the Widow of Nain got her son back. Mary would have her Son returned in the Resurrection of Easter! But not to help around the house, but to help HER in HIS House, through Word and Sacrament! Christ’s resurrection is Eternal!
The boys of Zarephath and Nain still await that resurrection, along with their widowed mothers, who had their boys returned for a little while, to comfort and care for them, before they were all laid down into the grave until Christ comes again. SECOND and THIRD Article Gifts sustain them even now!
Do you see? First Article Gifts wear out. Second and Third do not!
I say this, because of the danger we all face of letting go Second and Third Article Gifts for the sake of the First.
Maybe we have to work on Sundays. Maybe we tell the boss it’s OK. We don’t mind. We need money. We think we can do without the Word and Ministry of Christ. Nothing bad happens when we do without it, but when we have no money? No gas, no this or that, no fun with friends. No food! We’ll DIE without money!
Dear Christian, you’ll die even WITH money!
Steve Jobs had money. Lots of it! He still died. He also had a pastor once. A Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor, who taught him, confirmed him, communed him at God’s altar. What happened? Nothing earth-shaking. We see it all the time. His parents saw a First Article Gift in him, and they nurtured it. Maybe there were special camps they sent him to. The best schools. Whatever his First Article needs were, they provided. And that’s not bad! GOD’S the one who provided him his genius and raw talent, even his success! But not so that Second and Third Article Gifts are ignored! Not so that First Article Gifts leave us dying with money, fame, a world that heralds our passing, but with no pastor to bury us a Child of Light who lived – and died – in communion with Christ!
Dear parents, what are you willing to provide YOUR children at the expense of God’s Second and Third Article Gifts? What would you be willing the world have through YOUR child’s genius, talent, accomplishments, success – at the expense of having no pastor to bury him or her as a Child of Light?
Christ didn’t die and rise, baptize, absolve and feed us so that we are lost in our pursuit of First Article Gifts. He provides His Second and Third Article Gifts so we are preserved and provided for especially when First Article Gifts finally fail. They will.
SOME Things will never fail, dear Christian, and THESE God provides to keep you and yours in the One True Faith – unto life everlasting! And they will!
In Jesus’ Name, Amen

07 October 2011

Now that is some

very clear and honest speaking:  Pr. Pless on the ULC situation.

06 October 2011

Cwirla on Steve...good stuff

Read it here.

Wheat Belly

Cindi and I have been digging into Dr. William Davis' NY Times Best Seller.  A fascinating read.  Highly recommend it.


This article

which was linked on ALPB absolutely rings true to my Dave Ramsey-ized ears:  check it out.

05 October 2011


Jobs has died.  I think I'm one of the relatively few nuts who stuck with Apple through the bad years (when Steve was in exile).  I've never ever worked on any other type of computer.  I still remember Bob Clark unloading on my first Apple ][ and cutting my teeth on it back at Redeemer Lutheran in Burlington N.C..  Since then, I've enjoyed a ][C, a ][GS, a Mac SE 30, a Performa, the first iMac, the second generation iMac, two iBooks (yes, including the infamous toilet seat), a MacBook, an iPod mini, an iPhone (3 and 4) and an iPad 2.  I THINK that's all.  But I've been with Apple since 1986.  That's 25 years that the Apple way of doing things has shaped my interactions, my writing, even my way of thinking about this, that or the other.  I'm saddened that Steve is no longer at the helm; but I trust that Jonathan Ives will still be serving up really good stuff for us.  I'm praying that in his last hours, Jobs remembered his catechism, the stuff laid out in his Lutheran background, the hope of a Savior who answered for all his sins and who died to defeat death itself.

Of the Sacred Ministry

That is one of the Loci of Christian doctrine in classic Lutheran dogmatic treatment.  We are now on the cusp of being able to read in English the deep thought of one of our greatest Lutheran theologians on this vital (and intensely relevant) topic by Blessed Johann Gerhard.  Here are two pieces relating to this theological common place.  Looks mighty tasty, folks.  Mighty tasty indeed!

The promo:

Promo for Gerhard, On the Ministry Part One

This volume, the first part of Johann Gerhard’s commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry deals especially with ministers of the church: their necessity, call, ordination, transfer, removal, and the like. With detailed and penetrating examination and analysis, Gerhard first proves that there is an ecclesiastical ministry instituted by God, an affirmation disputed by contemporary Anabaptists and Unitarians. Next, Gerhard demonstrates from Scripture the necessity of a specific call to the ministry, a call given by God through the church, before one may carry out the pastoral functions and duties. Besides the qualifications for holding this office in the church, Gerhard discusses the call of Martin Luther, the degree of Doctor of Theology, and ordination through prayer and the imposition of hands, among many other topics that are of importance to the church still today.

The Theological Commonplaces series is the first-ever English translation of Johann Gerhard's monumental Loci Theologici. Gerhard was the premier Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century. Combining his profound understanding of evangelical Lutheran theology with a broad interest in ethics and culture, he produced significant works on biblical, doctrinal, pastoral, and devotional theology. Gerhard interacts with the writings of the church fathers, Luther and his contemporaries, and the Catholic and Calvinist theologians of his day. His 17-volume Loci is regarded as the standard compendium of Lutheran orthodoxy, with topics ranging from the proper understanding and interpretation of Scripture to eschatology.

Useful for research on Lutheran doctrine, Gerhard's accessible style makes this a must-have on the bookshelf of pastors and professional church workers.

Each embossed hardback volume includes

• the translation of Gerhard's Loci (originally published from 1610 to 1625)
• a glossary of key theological, rhetorical, and philosophical terms
• a name index
• a Scripture index
• a carefully researched works cited list that presents guidance for deciphering the numerous abbreviations of the other titles from which Gerhard quotes.

Call 1-800-325-3040 and become a subscriber to the series and save 30% off the retail price!


And, the editor's preface by Pastor Benjamin Mayes:

The sixth volume of Gerhard’s Loci Theologici, containing the commonplaces On the Ecclesiastical Ministry and On Political Magistracy, first appeared in print in 1619.  The years leading up to 1619 were Gerhard’s first years as a professor of theology at Jena, yet he had been active in the pastoral ministry for ten years before he came to Jena in 1616. On June 5, 1606, he was called to be pastor and superintendent of Heldburg by Duke Johann Casimir of Coburg.  Four years later, in December 1610, Gerhard had made his report of an inspection of the churches and schools of Heldburg and had come to conclusions about how they needed to be improved.  Having successfully carried out this task, he was given the duty of conducting a general inspection of all of Johann Casimir’s lands in Thuringia and Franconia in 1613.  By 1615, Gerhard had become general superintendent (the functional equivalent of a bishop) in Coburg and had written a church order, the “Church Order of Johann Casimir,” which was later published in 1626.  This church order included chapters on many of the same topics that appeared in Gerhard’s commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry, such as the call, examination, ordination, investiture, and pastoral duties. Of course, during his ministry he had already begun writing his Theological Commonplaces. A new volume of this grand work was published every few years, starting in 1610.

Aside from his pastoral work, Gerhard had dealt with the doctrine of the ministry in various disputations and shorter books prior to the appearance of his commonplace on the ministry.  The centennial of the Reformation gave Gerhard the opportunity to reflect on the call and ministry of Martin Luther in several writings,  just as he included a chapter on Luther’s call in his commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry (§§ 118–26).

The first part of Gerhard’s commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry (§§ 1–189) deals especially with the ministers: their necessity, call, ordination, transfer, removal, etc.  The second part (§§ 190–375) deals especially with the work of the ministry: differing duties and rankings within the office, preaching, administering the Sacraments, administering church discipline, caring for the poor, as well as the payment and marriage of ministers.

Just as Gerhard usually begins his commonplaces with a discussion of terminology, so also here a few of his terms require explanation for the English-speaking reader. For Gerhard, “public ministry” is a general term not just for churchly service but also for political office. It is called “public” because it benefits the people or the public. Gerhard does not use “public ministry” as a synonym for the “ecclesiastical ministry” (§ 8). “Pastor” in Latin is usually the head minister of a congregation or cluster of congregations. Sometimes the word means “bishop.” But assistant ministers often had other names. Among German-speaking Lutherans, the terms used were often Pfarrer (literally, “parson”) for the head minister, and Prediger (“preacher”) or Diakonos  (“deacon”) for an assistant minister. Another common word for a minister of the church is “presbyter,” which is often translated “elder” in English translations of the Bible. Gerhard uses the term to mean a minister who has pastoral care over a congregation but is not a supervisor of other ministers and congregations. An “elder” (Latin, senior) is a lay leader.

Two of Gerhard’s terms, however, are laden with ambiguity. Sometimes he uses the word “presbytery” (presbyterium) to mean the ministerium of the church, or a gathering of the church’s clergy (§ 156). But sometimes he uses it to mean a regional council consisting of ministers and lay leaders, a “consistory” (§ 87). The reader must be careful to see how Gerhard uses the term in each context.
The term doctor (“teacher”) is also somewhat ambiguous. In modern English the word “teacher” usually connotes a schoolteacher, especially at the pre-collegiate level. Gerhard does not deal with such teachers in this commonplace, and the term doctor does not refer specifically to them. He does speak about schools and schoolteachers in his church order, however, and there the main terms for a schoolteacher are praeceptor [“preceptor”] or docens [“docent”]; doctor is not used.  Usually Gerhard uses the term doctor to mean simply “one who teaches,” and in the context of this commonplace it is usually the same as a “presbyter” (that is, a minister of the church). However, in chapter III, section XI, it means a “doctor,” one who has the academic degree of doctor of theology. The distinction is seen in § 138 (4), where Gerhard distinguishes the promotion of doctors, which includes the power to teach anywhere, from the call of pastors and “teachers” [doctores], whose call is to a certain place.

An important chapter of this commonplace deals with the call to the ecclesiastical ministry. Gerhard argues against the Anabaptists and Photinians that, according to Scripture, a legitimate call is necessary before one may carry out the pastoral functions of preaching and administering Sacraments (§§ 54ff.). The “Photinians” were seventeenth-century Unitarians, sometimes called “Socinians” after their leader Fausto Sozinni (1539–1604). By calling them “Photinians,” Gerhard and others were drawing attention to the similarity of their teaching with that of the ancient heretic Photinus (d. 376), who viewed Christ as a mere man and denied the personality of the Holy Spirit.
Two aspects of Gerhard’s doctrine of the call have drawn criticism and caution. First, Gerhard emphasizes that the call to the ministry is a call restricted to a certain place. By emphasizing the uniqueness of the apostolic office, he does not seem to make room for any office of missionary or evangelist in the present church (§ 220).

Second, Gerhard redefines the doctrine of the three estates (church, state, and household) in a way that led to secular state control of the church (the so-called landesherrliche Kirchenregiment). The differences between Gerhard and the first generation of reformers are subtle. When Luther speaks of the “three estates” or “three hierarchies,” he means the three divinely established areas of human responsibility.  One of these estates is the church, in which one is either a preacher or a hearer, or assists the preachers in some way. The other two are the state and the household, where there are different positions. People can belong to multiple estates at the same time. For example, a man could be a husband and hold church office as well. Thus Luther’s doctrine of the three estates is a doctrine of social ethics. But sometimes Luther names more than three estates, and when he does so, he speaks of offices or positions of responsibility held by individuals, for example, the “estate of priests.”  So for Luther “estate” sometimes means the institution or area of responsibility (e.g., the church) and sometimes it means the office or officials within that area of responsibility (e.g., the pastors). What remained true for Luther and the other reformers is that the church itself is made up, in essence, of hearers and preachers of God’s Word.

Gerhard, on the other hand, takes the three estates and uses them not just as areas of social ethics, but as parts of the church. Instead of dividing the church just into preachers and hearers, Gerhard adds rulers (§§ 2, 85).  Gerhard’s argument is based on the Old Testament, where kings were established by God to guard the people and protect the temple and true worship of God. Despite the fact that kings and rulers played no role in the call process in the New Testament, the secular magistrate was due a role now that he had become Christian (§ 86). This mixing of church and state had tragic consequences after Gerhard’s time. Princes converted to other confessions and forced their churches to come along. When pastors preached against the vices of rulers, they could be dismissed from their church and sent into exile.
But is Gerhard to blame? Gerhard’s position on church governance is usually described as Protestant “episcopalism,” a manner of church government in which the secular ruler takes the place of the bishop and so governs the church. Yet this description is a simplification.  Although his modification of the doctrine of the three estates did legitimize the authority of the secular ruler within the church,  Gerhard intended to argue instead for a church governance balanced between the Christian magistrate, the clergy, and the laity. He argues for a consistorial church government, in which the clergy and lay representatives or “elders” exercised church discipline, served as a court of appeals, made call assignments, etc., on a regional basis (§ 87). Yet in reality, the secular ruler often appointed both the lay and the pastoral representatives to such consistories, and thus the laity’s voice in particular was suppressed by the voice of the secular rulers.
Is Gerhard to blame? Actually, Gerhard’s position on church government was an attempt to limit the influence of the secular rulers. Gerhard faced politicians who claimed the right to rule the church and remove ministers who displeased them at will. This claim was based on the legal transferal of episcopal rights from Roman Catholic bishops to the princes of the Augsburg Confession in the Treaty of Passau in 1552 (§ 108). Lutheran rulers had become emergency bishops.  Against absolutist claims, Gerhard emphasized the rights of the whole church, since the church is more than just the secular ruler (§§ 174, 369).

Along with the call, Gerhard also deals at length with ordination in this commonplace. Here he sometimes distinguishes ordination from the ceremony of the imposition of hands, but not always. On one side, Gerhard states that ordination was used by the Lord Jesus to put the apostles into office, though without the imposition of hands (§ 141), and it was used by Paul to put Timothy into the ministry (§ 62). In fact, Gerhard says, the imposition of hands bestows gifts of the Holy Spirit (§ 143) and commits the ministry to a man (§§ 62, 68). In these statements, Gerhard is considering ordination as part of the call process. On the other side, Gerhard denies that there is any divine command to use ordination, denies that the spiritual gifts given through the imposition of hands are necessary for the performance of pastoral functions, and denies that ordination is a sacrament in the strict sense (§ 139). In these statements, Gerhard is considering ordination as distinct from the call and emphasizing that it does not bestow a power to perform the ministry, as was claimed by his main opponent, the Jesuit Robert Bellarmine.

This first part of Gerhard’s commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry ends, fittingly, with a consideration of the people affected by the ministry, or the object of the ministry: “the Lord’s flock, entrusted to the care and protection of shepherds” (§ 189). This consideration of God’s people will lead Gerhard in the second part of this commonplace to discuss the means by which the sheep are fed and guarded.
Benjamin T. G. Mayes

04 October 2011

If you are NOT following...

...THIS, and you are a pastor or teacher or deaconess in the LCMS, you should be.

A Birthday Gift

Today I was presented with a wonderful birthday gift.  It was from the Leisticos.  My very own container of SUPER-GLUE!  Only...the top is superglued shut.  There's a story there....

Just returned

from our fall pastoral conference.  Once again, the planning committee is to be commended.  The worship was reverent, joyful, and beautiful - and the warp and woof of the conference.

We began with Matins (chanted three Psalms, besides Venite!) at which Pr. Clayton served as liturgist and Pr. Hemmer preached a fine homily.  Pr. Baue accompanied the Psalms on guitar in his usual classical way.  The reading was the assigned reading from Treasury.  The service took a long time, and it felt wonderful to be immersed in Psalm, hymnody, and prayer.

During the day we heard Dr. David Menton.  His expertise as a doctor and professor brought some fascinating insights into the creationist/evolution debate.  He totally nailed the unnaturally of the primacy of death.  He lost me on a bit of the biological stuff - that was never my strong suit - but I really thought over all he did some outstanding work.  Picked up one of his DVD's on "Lucy" and am eager for Bekah to view it.  She's been wrestling some with these issues.

We enjoyed two extended periods of Gemuetlichkeit - one in the afternoon; one at the close of the day.  Kettner was present and in rare form.  Need we say more on that?  Made the whole conference!

The day concluded officially with Evening Prayer.  Pr. Frtische served that peaceful and beautiful liturgy and let Luther do some preaching to us.  The singing of the great Litany with the harmonies all around and no accompaniment - it is the very taste of peace itself.  We laid everything in the hands of Him who loves us and who gives to us everything good, and so closed the day in peace.

Today began with the Divine Service.  We used the Second Setting - that is the first of the settings in the old LBW that I learned as a teen many years ago.  It will always have a soft-spot in my heart.  The pastors - as usual - sang it with gusto and vigor, but it was also wonderful to have many of the wives present, our faithful deaconess, and scads of little ones (including one of my godchildren, Nathaniel).  President Scharr showed himself a true bishop once again as he delivered both the hammer blows of the Law and the joys of the Gospel.  "With all patience" - the manner we are to serve being but the image and reflection of the way in which our heavenly Father continues to deal with us. Shockingly so!  Good stuff.  Pr. Laufer (dear friend and old classmate) was celebrant.

Dr. Menton again, then some District Business, and finally lunch.  The deaconess and I headed out at that point - I'd come down with a head cold and was tired of walking outside every five minutes to blow the old schnoz.  Thus, we missed Itinerarium, with which the conference closed.

In sum, reverent and joyful liturgy; ample time for visiting and enjoying each others company and companionship; and outstanding speaker. Thanks be to God for such a wonderful retreat in the Southern Illinois District - it makes you be a shining light among our pastoral conferences.

01 October 2011

Oh, I left out a little detail...

Many moons ago, I was fretting at work for having done something stupid - I don't even remember what it was - and my brother Joe (for whom I was working), told me:  "Billy, don't worry about that.  You don't need common sense.  Others will take care of stuff like that for you. You've got your own gift."  I was comforted by that, after getting over the insult.  I mean, it's true that I DON'T have common sense.  But every once in a while I forget and try to do something that I have no business doing.

So...my computer's battery is rather warped.  It makes the laptop wobble on the table.  So I was showing Cindi the other day, when lo and behold, the little turn thing that you have to put a coin in to turn and release the battery, well, it came unglued.  I had other things to do and so forgot about it.  Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and thought about my battery, swelling in my laptop at home (while I was in Chicago) and prayed the Lord that it wouldn't explode or something during the night.  I decided when I got home, I'd take care of it.

So I did.  I managed to get the thing turned, popped out the battery, and then to fix the little turn thingy.  No problem.  Super glue, right?  And more is better than less, right?  Oh, my.  I went to turn it and realized that I got it on my hands.  And if it were on my hands...then I put too much into the little plastic thingy and it was now CEMENTED into my laptop, with no chance of it turning.  No chance of putting a new battery back in.  David says:  "You do realize that's what holds airplanes together, don't you?"  Oops.

So, I now have a desktop that looks exactly like a laptop.  All it lacks is a BATTERY.  And I am still lacking in common sense.  Just like Joseph said.  And as long as I remember that, then I don't get into too much trouble.  It's when I forget and attempt to "fix" things that trouble arises.  I promise from now on, I'll rely solely on Cindi's wisdom.  She knows how to glue things.

Anyone know how to get it off my fingers???

P.S.  I did this before unpacking.  I carried all the stuff in and left it sitting in the living room.  Cindi said:  "I thought you'd realize it was something that could wait until we had time to really look at it.  You had other things to do."  Sigh.

P.S.S.  Yes, David is my son.  I didn't MEAN to bequeath this to him, but I apparently did.  Thank heavens, the girls take after their mommy.

OCTOBER? When did THAT get here?

It's been one of those "get to" weekends.  Friday, Cindi and I were up before the sun rose and headed to Concordia University - Chicago for a Board of Regents meeting.  It was a beautiful day to travel;  the weather was crisp and cold, the leaves turning everywhere we looked.  We always treasure our Friday evening dinner while there - we try to pick someplace (and cuisine) we've not eaten before.  Yesterday it was a Venezuelan restaurant.  We enjoyed making the acquaintance of a new regent, Angel (that's pronounced An-hell - he's Cuban in heritage) and look forward to him bringing his wife along next time so Cindi will have someone to get into trouble with during the day, shopping in Oak Park, and that way we can also play cards in the evening. After the morning meeting, we packed up and headed home (refueling at Starbucks, of course).   Trip is almost exactly  four and half hours..  We got home by 4, and then had Divine Service at 6.  I'm ready for bed - truthfully, I was ready for bed BEFORE the Service!

Tomorrow after late service we have a new members welcome luncheon sponsored by our LWML.  Then catechesis and following THAT a wiener roast, celebrating Meaghan and my birthdays (5 and 4 October respectively).  Monday morning have to be up bright and early so Sister Sandy Bowers and I can drive to Rend Lake in time for the opening liturgy at the SID Pastors' Conference.  At this rate, November will be here before I come up for air - well, not quite.  Because AFTER pastoral conference, I intend to take a "working vacation" doing some serious writing, and enjoying a bit of family time and the glories of nature.