15 December 2013

Why on earth

would anyone want to be a Lutheran?

Because we get to sing the most wonderful hymns ("Comfort, Comfort" "Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding" "On Jordan's Bank" and "Hark the Glad Sound!"), celebrate a joyous liturgy, and hear preaching like this.

Enjoy!!!

St. Paul Lutheran Church
The Third Sunday of Advent
December 14/15, 2013+
St. Matthew 11:2-10
The Rev. BT Ball

When things don’t go well it is then that the questions come.  The question asked by John disciples then makes sense - is Jesus the coming one or should they be looking for someone else?  When there is hardship, suffering, death – is He the one, should you look for another?  Should you be looking for someone else?  Who else could there possibly be?  Not John, things were not going well - for all his preaching resulted with him in prison and then with his head on a platter.  So he won’t do.  There are plenty of prophets out there today – but the shine comes off of them pretty quickly.  Around for a while, powerful sermons, but eventually scandal or some other foolishness brings them down.  Forget other prophets then, should you turn to yourself and your own devices?  Pull yourself up, be all you can be?   Subscribe to Self magazine, read self-help books?   Be self-sufficient?  Self is the problem to begin with, remember the hardship, the trouble, much of that is self-imposed.  No one makes you drink too much.  No one forces you to click to the websites that degrade you and your marriage.  No one compels you to speak in harsh words. No one is making you horde all your money.  And certainly no one is keeping you from hearing the Word of God.  Sin is the problem, and that is deep in the self.  It is the fallen nature of all children of Adam.  It is the sin-sick self that is the source of trouble: yours and others.  It is why they hurt you, it is why you hurt them.  It is really the source of all the trouble, the rebellious, idolatrous self.  It is the sinful self that is source of sickness and disease, of hardship and suffering and should then be recipient of the just reward - death.

And so what questioning disciples need is not self-help, but the help that only Jesus can provide.  What is needed is the works of Christ and to hear of them.  The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers and cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And there are more works to come.  John prepared the way, he pointed to the comfort that is given by them – the works, the self-sacrifice of Jesus.  The sinless Lamb of God gives himself into the hands of sinful men, who mock and beat and spit and scourge and crucify him. These are the works of Christ.  A spotless perfect death, the glorious resurrection from the dead, a triumphant return to his Father’s right hand, the sending of the Holy Spirit; all this for you and for your salvation from sin and death and from the self.  All this to create a new and right spirit within you by the forgiveness of your sins.  

It is the work of Christ that is needed that gives answer to the question of seeking.   All of Christ’s work is directed toward the forgiveness of  your sins.  This is what John led the way in preaching.  It was promised of him at his birth by his father Zechariah, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  St. Luke 1:76-79  

The way of peace is the way of Jesus.  His way is His suffering and death for you; giving His life for you.  There is no one else to go looking for.  There is no need to look within your heart to make things right.  No need to try and boost up self-esteem, or to try and gain self-sufficiency.  All that is needed  comes from Christ, who has made you His own, redeemed you by His blood, and by His spirit, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith.  You are not a reed swaying in the wind.  When the hardship, the trouble, the heartache, the sadness, the grief of this life come and even the guilt comes as you consider your sins, what you have are the works of Christ, and his Words, and His promises, His Body, His Blood, His death, His life.  Himself.  He is the Coming one, who has come to bring comfort to His people.  There is no one else to go looking for.  Amen

13 December 2013

Gaudete?

This is a homily from yesteryear. But I remember preaching it like yesterday. Mr. Kostencki (principal of our Lutheran High and departed to be with his Lord a year or two after this was preached) was in the congregation that morning...and that would be his first Christmas without his beloved Jean. He told me as he left with tears in his eyes: "you got me." I knew exactly what he meant, for I think it was to such sad and breaking hearts that the Church in wisdom aimed the readings AND the collect for this feast. This is a hard season to get through for so many. So here's a repeat:

Homily for Gaudete (Matthew 11)

“Lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.”  So we prayed in Gaudete’s collect.  For there is a darkness that settles upon the heart which only Christ’s visitation can chase away.

John’s disciples knew something of that darkness.  They had heard their Master point to Jesus and proclaim Him as the very Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  And when they complained to their Master that Jesus was drawing the bigger crowds and drawing ever more people to Himself, they had heard John proclaim:  “He must increase and I must decrease.”  When their Master stood up to Herod and confronted him publicly with his oh-so-public adultery with his brother’s wife, Herod had thrown John into prison and left him there.  And Jesus?  When He got wind of what had taken place, just left the area.  The disciples of John had darkened hearts indeed.  They didn’t understand what was happening or why it was happening.  If Jesus were the true Messiah, how could He leave His beloved forerunner rotting in jail?  They loved John and they didn’t understand.  Not at all.

John, though, hears of what our Lord is doing and an idea comes to him.  He sends to Jesus through these men that are clinging to him to a burr to a dog.  He sends them to ask:  “Are you the Coming One or do we look for another?”

No, John is not in doubt.  How could he be?  He who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and who confessed Christ while still in utero? He who knew from his godly parents all about the angel Gabriel and his visit to Mary and what that meant. He who in the muddy waters of Jordan saw the Spirit descend bodily upon Christ like a dove and heard with his own ears the Father’s voice announce:  “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”  No, John’s heart, if it was darkened at all, was darkened by the sadness upon his own disciples’ faces.  And I suspect he knew what was coming - I don’t think he ever expected to get out jail alive.  These men before him, so loyal to him, so loving of him.  What would become of them?  How could he make sure that they’d know what they needed to do?

And so he sends them.  Marches them off to Jesus so that Jesus, by His gracious visitation, might lighten the darkness of their hearts.  And we too.  When our hearts weighed down and we can’t understand what’s happening, when we think we can’t take anymore, when another sickness, another death just seems too heavy a load to bear anymore - we need the wisdom of St. John to send us to Jesus to find out if He is the coming one or not.

And what do the disciples of John, what do we, discover when we come to Jesus.  Here’s the summary:  “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them.”  This is the message Jesus sends back to John, making John’s own disciples the witnesses of what they had indeed heard and seen with their own eyes.

Do you think for a moment that the darkness was as heavy on them as they went back?  That their hearts were as low as when they came?  Not a chance.  They’d been with Jesus.  Visited with Him and He with them.  And that makes all the difference.  They’d seen Isaiah’s prophesies come to life in living color before their very eyes.  They’d seen that He is the Destruction of Death and that to poor sinners who fear before the judgment of God, He is the very Forgiveness of Sins.  This is the good news to the poor that is preached to them.  “Fear not!  God has not abandoned you to this darkness.  He has sent ME as a light to chase it from your heart forever.  In ME you have been loved with a love immeasurable, deep, divine.  Not the darkness of any sin of yours; not the darkness of your death will prove mightier than the Light I bring, the Light I AM.  Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

So they go back to tell John the Good News.  And John thus secured their future.  When the worst happened, they would know where to go.  Matthew records three chapters later that after John’s execution “his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.” (14:12)  They had discovered where the Light was whose visitation could drive every darkness from their heart.

And almost as though He were looking already at John’s death, our Lord speaks to the crowds as the disciples of John go away with lightened hearts.  “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  What did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft clothes?  Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in king’s houses (a slam at Herod).  What then did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and MORE than a prophet.  This is he of whom it is written:  “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.”

Prepare your way.  For Jesus would walk the same way that John was getting ready to walk.  Unjust arrest ending in violent death.  Jesus would walk the same way.  John would walk it ahead of Him.  Forerunner in life, forerunner in death.  But unlike John, Jesus would blast a hole right through death by enduring it.  Blessed man that John was, death had a claim on him.  He was a sinner in need of mercy and forgiveness.  But death had no claim on Jesus of Nazareth.  None.  For in Him there was no sin.  In Him was only holy obedience and eternal life.  Death thought it had swallowed Him down for good, only to find that His death slew death itself!  And this is the greatest light that He gives to our darkened hearts.  He went where John and all of us deserve to go in order to bring us out of there and bring us home with Him:  Victor over death and the grave, and rescuer of His people.

So, gaudete!  Rejoice, you who have been baptized into Him!  His death is your death to sin.  His life is your triumph over the grave.  His body and blood which He feeds into you IS your eternal righteousness.  His gracious visitation still is the sunshine that alone can vanquish all the darkness of our hearts.  Today John sends us to Jesus so that we might always know where to go when the darkness presses hard.  Amen.

12 December 2013

Pr. Curtis and I were talking...

...at the recent ONM retreat about the accuracy with which two tools seem to nail us. The Maier Briggs personality types (INFJ here) and our most recent experience: taking the test associated with Strengths Based Leadership. This thing was a little spooky. I thought the questions silly, the process a waste of time, and told my boss so in not quite so many words. Then I read the results....

I was the only one in our group who had strengths exclusively in a single category, that area being strategic thinking (intellection, input, strategic, learning and context). The descriptors that came my way:

You describe reading as a pleasure, not a chore...you gain insights and acquire information..you can talk about complicated topics by breaking down the important points...you may prefer to let someone else engage people in small talk...you routinely dog-ear pages, underline key ideas, scribble notes in the margin for easily locating them again (you should see the condition of my books!)...you offer unique perspectives on events, proposals, people..you tend to identify a goal and numerous ways of reaching it...you reconfigure factual information in ways that reveal trends (I'd say: discloses another way of looking at something that gives insight into the topic)...you always want to know more...you automatically commit certain words to memory...your curiosity is not easily satisfied...by nature you include some uncommon, technical words in your vocabulary...you tend to hold people's attention...you resist spending the majority of your time on topics that are not in line with your native abilities...you may be a solo performer...you love to gather all kinds of information...fascination with history and the past...you examine historical events and study the lives of people involved in them.

Well, um, yeah. As Pr. Curtis said: the test rather nails it. The challenge with the assessment is to understand the strengths of your over all team of co-workers and then how to not waste time "fixing" the weaknesses but leveraging the strengths and allowing other co-workers strengths to address areas where you are more challenged. Sandy and I actually had this worked out basically sometime ago. We joke about it, but it's true:  Bowers - anything to do with numbers; Weedon - anything to do with words. Works like a charm!

Anyway, the whole exercise really did prove interesting and helpful.

01 December 2013

The Hymns of Advent

Bring such great joy. Today we not only got to sing "Prepare the Royal Highway" but "O Lord, How Shall I Greet You" and the lovely Danish piece "O Bride of Christ, Rejoice." Two stanzas stand out to my mind:

Sin's debt, that fearful burden,
Cannot His love erase;
Your guilt The Lord will pardon
And cover by His grace.
He comes, for you procuring
The peace of sins forgiv'n,
His children thus securing
Eternal life in heav'n. (Stanza 5, O Lord, How Shall I Meet)

and this:

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

Blessed Advent-tide, people loved by God!

28 November 2013

Thanksgiving Day Matins

Thanksgiving is always a bit of a home-coming day at St. Paul's. To be sure, we have families missing who travel to be with those who live elsewhere, but so many others come home. Great to see the gym packed this morning for service. The bells played and the choir sang along with them a setting of Bach's "Now Thank We." Bekah and Elizabeth got the choir some hymnals from the 7th-8th grade classroom so we could sing the harmonies in Matins (Builder doesn't have that option...yet?). Pastor Ball preached a fabulous homily, mostly on the second reading. We sang the Starke Te Deum, much to David's chagrin. He really loves singing the Anglican setting from Matins. But from start to finish a joyous service. Oh and a funny: a mistake I think I made in the bulletin some four years ago was faithfully carried forth for another year. The people's part of the responsory isn't printed! The choir was ready and sang it for the congregation.

27 November 2013

The Calm Before the Feast

Well, Cindi's been a busy little beaver. Cranberry sauce is made. Crackers are made. Pecan, Pumpkin and Chocolate pies made (and Bekah made a Cherry one). Potatoes peeled and sitting in water. Turnips and parsnips already cooked and blended, only needing to reheat. Sweet potato soufflé assembled and ready for baking. Turkey (a rather spendy organically raised critter) has been thawing for days and will shortly end up in brine. Bacon already cooked and ready to sauté with the shredded brussel sprouts and onions. Dubliner, Brie and a garlic cheese ready to serve up with crackers and summer sausage as appetizers (not doing much with appetizers this year). David's bringing some rolls and I'm making up a double batch of paleo dinner rolls (tapioca is amazing stuff). The gravy will be fixed tomorrow and the taters mashed, the bird carved up and we'll be ready to feast indeed.

I vacuumed and dusted; drew up a thanksgiving litany (below); prepared some music for this coming Sunday; washed the car (which was covered in salt spray thanks to a truck on 1-44!); picked up some eggs from Shirley, and still have to sweep and mop in kitchen, but am waiting till we really are done for the day.

The activity has been good. Keeps the mind occupied. We're all missing Jo dreadfully at this time of year, and Cindi has been particularly grieving as we head through this first holiday without her. And, of course, it was the day after Thanksgiving that my own mother died nineteen years ago this year. Nineteen years...it doesn't seem possible. I remember it like it was yesterday - the phone call from the hospital. [I had originally written 20 years, thinking 2014 - but we're not there yet! All the stuff for work is focused on next year!]

So the sorrows cluster around the holidays. But also the joys. A new generation will sit at that old table this year (it was Cindi's grandmother's grandmother's originally). And little Lydia will be our joy and hopefully we'll have some face time with Lauren, Dean, Sawyer and Annabelle. And we will give thanks to the One who defeated death and has promised us a home we cannot lose. It will be hard and painful, but it will also be blessed.

A Litany and Grace for Thanksgiving Day

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

The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time;
You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

For the gift of this day and the opportunity to give You praise:
Glory to You, O Lord!

For the love and warmth of family and friends, both those gathered here and those gathered elsewhere, and most of all for those gathered to the Eternal Home:
Glory to You, O Lord!

For the good gift of children and grandchildren to nurture in Your love and fear; for the blessing of hearth and home:
Glory to You, O Lord!

For the joyful noise of infants cooing and children at play and for the honor of serving them, knowing they are beloved by You:
Glory to You, O Lord!

For the food You so graciously provide us and for the joy of feasting and playing together:
Glory to You, O Lord!

For the sufferings You are pleased to send us, for they purify us from selfishness and remind us of the one thing needful, Your eternal kingdom:
Glory to You, O Lord!

And finally for those things for which we are most thankful: the sweet comfort of Your Gospel, the forgiveness of all ours sins by the blood of our Lord Jesus, the promise of our resurrection to eternal life; for the joyful companionship afforded by the Church; for Your Word which is a lamp to our feet and light to our path; for the gifts of Baptism and the Eucharist; for our pastors and everyone who faithfully serve to us Your best and highest gifts:
Glory to You, O Lord!

All sing together:

Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, 
In whom His world rejoices.
Who from our mother’s arms
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today.

26 November 2013

It's so cold and windy tonight

I decided to look up my favorite Advent/Christmas poem - by John Betjeman:

CHRISTMAS 



The bells of waiting Advent ring, 
 
The Tortoise stove is lit again 

And lamp-oil light across the night 
 
Has caught the streaks of winter rain 

In many a stained-glass window sheen 

From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green. 



The holly in the windy hedge 
 
And round the Manor House the yew 

Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge, 
 
The altar, font and arch and pew, 

So that the villagers can say 

“The church looks nice” on Christmas Day. 



Provincial public houses blaze 
 
And Corporation tramcars clang, 

On lighted tenements I gaze 
 
Where paper decorations hang, 

And bunting in the red Town Hall 

Says “Merry Christmas to you all.” 



And London shops on Christmas Eve 
 
Are strung with silver bells and flowers 

As hurrying clerks the City leave 
 
To pigeon-haunted classic towers, 

And marbled clouds go scudding by 

The many-steepled London sky. 



And girls in slacks remember Dad, 
 
And oafish louts remember Mum, 

And sleepless children’s’ hearts are glad, 
 
And Christmas-morning bells say “Come!” 

Even to shining ones who dwell 

Safe in the Dorchester Hotel. 



And is it true? And is it true, 
 
This most tremendous tale of all, 

Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue, 
 
A Baby in an ox’s stall? 

The Maker of the stars and sea 

Become a Child on earth for me? 



And is it true? For if it is, 
 
No loving fingers tying strings 

Around those tissued fripperies, 
 
The sweet and silly Christmas things, 

Bath salts and inexpensive scent 

And hideous tie so kindly meant, 



No love that in a family dwells, 
 
Nor carolling in frosty air, 

Nor all the steeple-shaking bells 
 
Can with this single Truth compare-- 

That God was Man in Palestine 

And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

25 November 2013

Welcoming Advent in Magdeburg, 1617 or so...

...You arrive for the Divine Service, or as they still called it, for the Mass. Of course, the real welcome of the season began the day before with Vespers and already by the time you show up they've prayed through Matins and Lauds. Still, you want to attend the Divine Service. What do you find?

The liturgy would begin with the choir singing the Introit. But not the one you might expect. It's Rorate Coeli's introit (we think of as the 4th Sunday of Advent). And it's sung in Latin. Probably along these lines:

Rorate Coeli

For some unknown reason, the Ad Te Levavi propers have wandered over to Tuesday of Advent I. When the choir completed the Introit, a three-fold (rather than traditional nine-fold) Kyrie was intoned and the Gloria in Excelsis was sung - in Latin.

A German collect would follow along these lines. Let us pray. Dear Lord God, stir us up that we be prepared when Your Son comes to welcome Him with joy and to serve You with pure hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. [Note that this prayer is used throughout the season]

The Epistle is read (that is, chanted): Romans 13:11 through the end of the chapter.

The Alleluia was also in Latin - you can hear it here. Also from the Fourth Sunday for some reason.

The Alleluia is immediately followed by the Sequence: "Mittit ad Virgine." This also in Latin. Here is an English translation:

The lover of mankind sent to the Virgin
not just any angel, but his strength, his
archangel. May that angel declare for
us the mighty message, that he may
effect on nature God's foreordination of
birth to a virgin.

Let the King of Glory, being born,
overcome nature, let him reign and rule
and remove from our midst the weight
of the dross. Let him who is mighty in
battle frighten the proud on their
heights, treading in his might upon their
haughty necks.

Let him oust the worldly prince, and
make his mother a partner with him in
his Father's kingdom. Go forth, you
who spread these gifts, unveil the
ancient writings by the strength of your
message.

Give your tidings in person; say "Hail",
say "full of grace", say, "the Lord is
with you", and say "Fear not." O virgin
may you take up what God has entrusted
to you; thereby may you accomplish
your chaste intention and may you keep
your vow.

The maiden hears and accepts the
message; she believes and conceives
and bears a son, a wondrous one: the
counselor of the human race, and the
God of the strong, and father to future
generations, one firm in peace [rather than faith].

That He may give to us sinners remission of sins,
defense against guilt,
And a homeland in highest heaven.

I should note that the Latin was altered a bit at the end. It originally concluded:

Whose firmness makes us firm, lest our
earthly wandering impede us from being
sharers with him. May the granter of
pardon, in His superabundant mercy,
once we have obtained grace through
the Mother of Glory, dwell in us.

A most Lutheran adaptation there at the end, letting the chief thing be the chief thing.

You can hear the Latin sequence, not emended, here.

The Gospel, Matthew 21:1-10 was then chanted. This was followed by the Creed, first sung entirely in Latin and then followed by the "German Symbol" - that is, Luther's paraphrase such as you can hear here.

Then the "Concio" - the sermon commenced. When the preaching was finished, the congregation joined in Luther's Te Deum: "Herr Gott, Dich Loben Wir."

We know from another work (two years from the publication of this one) that the elements would be processed to the altar as choir boys sang: "Grant Peace, We Pray" and accompanied by incense.

The Preface followed, but with a twist at the Proper Preface. Here we read, still in Latin: "who on this day comes to us still as the meek Savior through the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments in this purified temple. Therefore with angels..."

The Sanctus is in Latin - tone IV from the Liber, I believe. This is followed by the minister singing the Lord's Prayer and the Words of Institution of the Supper. Afterwards, as the congregation communes, the Choir sings either "Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior" or the Latin or German Agnus Dei.

The distribution concluded, the final collect (from Luther's 1526 German Mass) is chanted in German and the people are blessed with the Aaronic benediction, also in German. The Mass concludes with the Choir singing the German "O Lord, We Praise Thee."

So a MASSIVE load of Latin up front; a switch to German for the readings, for the sermon, and for post-Sanctus liturgy, perhaps excepting the Agnus. Would love to have the whole thing recorded as the Praetorius Mass for Christmas Day was - from roughly about the same time.

21 November 2013

Advent and Christmas Goodies

up on Unwrapping the Gifts. Learn how to chant the Prefaces for Advent and Christmas. Hear Pr. Peter's ideas on observing Advent. Need a service of Lesson and Carols? Check out Pr. Gerike's post!

20 November 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The primary purpose of music in Lutheran worship is to proclaim the Word of God.—Daniel Zager, The Gospel Preached Through Music, p. 9.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For God has cheered our hearts and minds through His dear Son, whom He gave for us to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil. He who believes this earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others also may come and hear it. —Blessed Martin Luther, AE 53:333.

Patristic Quote of the Day

They were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit so that the three who are one in divinity might also be one in giving themselves.—St. Jerome (cited in Treasury, p. 931).

17 November 2013

Some Better Pics...







Pastor Ball's Comforting Homily

[the week after the fire in the church]

Saint Paul Lutheran Church
The 26th Sunday After Trinity
November 16/17, 2013+
2 Peter 3:3-14
The Rev. BT Ball

“But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

The Lord is patient toward you; he does not wish that you or anyone should perish.  The Lord is patient with us all.  We are the sheep of his fold, the righteous ones who will be on the right hand of the Son of man when he comes in His glory.  So then, he wants you and everyone to reach repentance.  Repent.  The fire last Sunday is but a reminder of this.   Everything will burn, flames upon flames. St. Peter wrote it by the Holy Spirit; it was by the Word of God that the earth was formed, and it was by the Word of God that the flood came on the earth as the Lord started again with water, because of the wickedness of men’s hearts, and it will be with fire that things will be made anew again.  By the same Word the heavens and the earth that now exists are stored up for fire until the Day of Judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.  The fire that has displaced us from our Church is to be a remembrance of what is already plain as day in the Word of God, all should reach repentance.”

Repentance for what?  Well not loving God of course, neglecting his Word, and neglecting His house and what happens there.  You can see how suddenly something can be taken away from you, something that is loved and hold memories of generations.  But the building is only as good as what happens inside of it and what comes out of it.  The Gospel is preached, the Body and Blood of Christ are administered,  what happens, hearts still are hard and cold, and have we not all taken the gifts of God for granted, that they will always be there?  They won’t, Christ is coming.  Repentance for what?  Cold and hard hearts do not love neighbor, there are those we have hurt and those we have failed to help, our thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.  Who by honest examination, we have not let God’s love have its way through His Word and so our love for others has failed.  There has not been enough feeding those who are hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming of the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, at least by us anyway.  But there is plenty of that done by Jesus, more than enough and much more to come.  

Seeing the smoke and ashes flying from out of the church brings to mind, sin, mortality, of our need to repent, of the looming judgment of this world, the day that will come like a thief.   What remains is Jesus, His Word, His Baptism, His Supper.  His patience. He wants you to repent, and see how when everything else can be taken away, even a church building, he remains.  And how does he want you to see him?  In the heat of His Father’s wrath against your sin being taken out on Him in His cross.  The love he has for you, for he calls you his blessed by His Father.  Jesus Father blesses you by giving you His Son, and for as much as our hearts were cold and hard to Him and His Word and to those around, even more so is the heart of Jesus warm and full of love and forgiveness for you.  He seeks to restore and rebuild, not a building, they can be torn down, burned to the ground and they all will on His day, but what cannot be torn down or burned are the righteous sheep of Jesus’ right hand.  This is what you are, sheep of Christ’s fold.  

The Father turns your heart over and restores you by the blood of His Son, that He may have you as His own.  Jesus is here even in this gym, doing what we have not done, could not do.  He feeds the hungry with good things, he gives drink to the thirsty, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He gives His Body to eat, His Blood to drink.  He welcomes you, a stranger to His Father’s House.  You are estranged no more from your Father, for Jesus has reconciled you to the Father.  He clothes you, once naked, with His own righteousness through faith alone.  How, you know. By Holy Baptism of course.   Do you want to see renewal and restoration of the Church?  Look no farther than to two little ones.  Lydia and Kylee, baptized, in a gym, but baptized all the same.  Water was used once to destroy the earth, now water is used to create life, water joined to the word of Jesus and filled with his death and resurrection.    And look again, through all these promises how Jesus comes to visit you in your own sickness and imprisonment to sin and death.  And the Son of God died and rose, visiting you not in judgment, but taking the judgment and setting you free from it.  Because as the Apostle wrote, He, “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Let us joyfully repent then.  The patience of God in Christ Jesus is yours.   Let us even joyfully give thanks for a fire that He sent, so that He might draw us ever nearer to Himself, by having us live only by the forgiveness of sins in the death of Jesus Christ, by teaching us to live only by His promises.  Let us joyfully give thanks for a fire that draws us ever nearer to each other that we might love one another – the sheep of Christ’s right hand.  The sheep of Christ’s fold cannot perish, fire is not their destination, it is not their end.  And you are a sheep of Christ’s fold.  He is always patient with you, His righteous ones.  He will always restore, always renew, always forgive until the day when all will be made new.  That day is coming where you will stand at His right hand.  So the most important question for us now is not, “When will we get back in the church?”  But rather, “O Lord Jesus, when will you return to make all things new?”  For “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.   Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”  2 Peter 3:13-14    So here there is no spot, no blemish, no soot, no smoke, no ash no fire, but peace.  And we are at peace in the patience of Jesus.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Today My Granddaughter, Lydia, Became My Sister in Christ

Baptized into Christ, sealed with the Spirit, an heir of the Kingdom!







15 November 2013

Would someone please explain to me

how it can POSSIBLY be November 15. This month just began!!!

14 November 2013

Sunday's Joys and Sorrows

Sunday began with great joy. Not only did I get to hear my son-in-law teach on Augsburg V and XIV, but also preach a fine homily and best of all: baptize my granddaughter, Annabelle Scarlett. As AC confesses, then, Pr. Herberts was the instrument through whom the new life of the kingdom was given! Here are some pics:






















Great joy indeed. We left shortly after the liturgy and began the long road home. We'd made it up into the mountains when Cindi got a text with a horrible picture. St. Paul's was on fire! Paula kept us updated. Here are some of the pics she shared with us:
























Thanks be to God, it was Sausage Supper and people were around and it was caught almost right away - yet even so, what a mess. I stuck my nose through the door before choir tonight and what a reek! Keep our dear Pastors Ball and Gleason in your prayers!!! I'm suspecting that we'll be worshipping in the school for a while as the cleanup commences. So instead of Lydia being baptized in our peaceful and beautiful sanctuary this Sunday, it will be a temporary set up in the gym. But even so, there's much to rejoice in, for baptism's great strength and power hang not at all on the outward trappings, no matter how fitting and lovely. The Word with the water will deliver the goods: forgiveness of sin, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation. And what is more beautiful than that, eh? And, if there is a blessing for us personally in this, Cindi and I get to sing a special Agnus Dei this Sunday and the gym is nice and echoey - which covers a multitude of boo-boos! But make no mistake, for all of us at St. Paul's, this is worse than a kick in the gut. We love this house, this place where the Lord's gifts are given out so faithfully, so reverently, so joyously. And we're going to be grieving until Pastor makes us glad by announcing to us once again: "Let us go into the house of the Lord!"


03 November 2013

All Saints (obs.) at St. Paul's

Pastor had a very comforting sermon. And I think we all needed it. Somehow being in that room where Jo used to worship, and from which she was buried. The great bell tolling during the commemoration jars you deep in your gut. But what a lovely reading: "God will wipe away the tears from every face." And tears the poor thing had a plenty. So much suffering. So much despair. And yet faith battled it to the end. Pastor reminded us again of how she and the others are still with us at the Supper and that was a comfort indeed. Kneeling beside Meaghan with Lydia in arms, David to her other side, and Bekah on my side. And the precious body and blood given to us and we are there, in the great scene from Revelation and Jo there too, seeing her fourth great-grandchild. "Steals on the ear the distant triumph song" indeed.

Loving on my Lydia...


02 November 2013

Saturday

Woke up at five, but refused to get out of bed till 5:45. Made breakfast and said prayers (not the same with Cindi gone). Set the clocks back. Did a workout with my new 30 lb kettle bell. Finished editing LetUsPray for December and submitted them to Doctrinal Review.  Lucy and I went for an early morning stroll. Then to town to pick up cat food and do some grocery shopping. Swept and mopped kitchen floor, dusted. Bekah headed into town to see the baby, but I opted to do a few more things around the house. Took a bit of break for Lucy to go on another walk - so about an hour's worth of walking so far today. Maybe we'll do another round later too. I sure didn't get much walking in this week. Now am listening to some Christmas music on iTunes radio. I like that it doesn't have the commercials Pandora does, but it is definitely not as smart as Pandora in matching the kind of music you requested - I sure don't think of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as a Christmas piece! Bekah's bowling for Cindi tonight. I might throw a couple logs in fireplace after sun goes down and enjoy my Norcal Margarita (or, as Wade at O'Charlie's calls them: a mexican martini!).

01 November 2013

So...

...with Cindi out of town, and haircut day being here, I had to make alternative plans. I knew David had gone to this joint near Dierberg's so I gave it a try. They did a fine job, and complimented my wife on how she'd done on cutting my hair. But the funny moment came when I mentioned that my son got his hair cut there. "Oh, you should bring him along and we'll give you a father and son cut; nice discount." I paused a second and then said: "Well, I suppose we could, but he's 25 years old. In fact, he's bringing his daughter home from the hospital this afternoon." Embarrassed moment of silence. "I guess that means that you won't be bringing him in for a haircut any time soon!" True, that.

30 October 2013

Double Joys

Well, it's been a crazy couple days. Back on Monday, Lauren (not due till later in November) went into labor in NC. Cindi was supposed to be with them to take care of Sawyer when Lauren had her scheduled c-section. Apparently little Annabelle Scarlet Herberts wanted nothing to do with a c-section. She decided to be born naturally! She's a sweet, little love:

We got Cindi out on a plane as soon as we could and she arrived in North Carolina on Monday evening. But the problem is...

Annabelle was actually born on Lydia's due-date - David and Meaghan's little girl. No action on the day of Annabelle's birth, but then we started to get some action.

Meaghan ended up giving birth to her little girl this morning. So I'm here with David and Meaghan in Illinois and Cindi is in NC with Lauren and Dean and Sawyer (and his other grandma, Lynn).  Which makes both Cindi and I both very happy and very sad. We so much would love to enjoy our new grand babies together, but it was not to be.

How I wish my mom and Jo could be here for these joys!

A few more pics:





28 October 2013

Man proposes...God disposes.

I think today Cindi will meet our oldest granddaughter. She was supposed to be Lydia, but I think she's going to be Annabelle instead. She's headed out to NC in a few hours.

25 October 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Our prayer is part of our work in Christ's heavenly administration of His Father's realm.—Dr. John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, p. 155.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

No, my dear man, do not recommend to me peace and unity when thereby God's Word is lost, for then eternal life and everything else would be lost. In this matter there can be no yielding nor giving way, no, not for love of you or any other person, but everything must yield to the Word, whether it be friend or foe.—Blessed Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 384

Patristic Quote of the Day

So great, then, is the difference between the law and grace, that although the law is undoubtedly of God, yet the righteousness which is of the law is not of God, but the righteousness which is consummated by grace is of God. The one is designated the righteousness of the law, because it is done through fear of the curse of the law; while the other is called the righteousness of God, because it is bestowed through the beneficence of His grace, so that it is not a terrible but a pleasant commandment, according to the prayer in the psalm: Good are You, O Lord, therefore in Your goodness teach me Your righteousness; that is, that I may not be compelled like a slave to live under the law with fear of punishment; but rather in the freedom of love may be delighted to live with law as my companion. When the freeman keeps a commandment, he does it readily. And whosoever learns his duty in this spirit, does everything that he has learned ought to be done.—St. Augustine, On the Grace of Christ and On Original Sin, Book I, Chapter 14

22 October 2013

I thought she was crazy...

...but it's not the first time I thought so. Deaconess Sandra Bowers thought we should help today at Zion Lutheran Church, North St. Louis. It was a servant event for those of us who work at the IC. I totally enjoyed myself and doing something physical to help a neighbor, well, it was good and very good.

I remember singing here when I was at seminary under Gerry Coleman's direction years upon years ago. A beautiful jewel of a sanctuary, standing as a beacon in the wasteland that is north St. Louis. What hope if the place could be renewed and regenerated. With Pr. Fritz Raedeke as pastor, I'm certain that the joyous Gospel sounds forth there week by week. To gather the citizens around it again is the task. We worked today on the church grounds and in the old school building. Slowly but surely. Something great is about to happen here. You can feel it in the very air.

21 October 2013

Excellent Article

by a heart surgeon. Please check out what he says here. Your heart will thank you.  HT: Trent Sebits

17 October 2013

Sis

My sister, Marie (whom we always called Sis or Sissy) and her husband Jimmy arrived today. Looking forward to several days of visiting. We get to spend far too little time together. Last time they were out in Illinois was, I believe, for Thanksgiving (the year David and Meaghan had just begun to date). They've always been a very special part of my life - Sis was like a second mom in so many ways, and Jimmy was amazingly patient and kind. He lived across the street when I was little and he used to be our mail man. I remember when he took Sissy to the prom and the long pale blue dress she wore (with cape). Jimmy had a red Impala. After they were married, they had pity on the poor younger brother and often took me on trips with them (I especially remember the beach, both at the Chesepeak and at Ocean City). Now we're all old. Sis and Jimmy even have a great grandchild, Brayden. But the memories are still wonderful to treasure. Glad they'll be here for a few days.

Time keeps getting away from me!

Been a long time since I posted. Had a wonderful trip out to Redeemer in Huntington Beach, where the joys of the living Liturgy were unpacked and I got to preach and teach Bible Class. Much joy getting to know the saints there. Much joy indeed.

Glad, though, that no more conferences or speaking engagements scheduled through year's end, so we can hopefully get lots of stuff done at the office. Plans are on for next year's Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music titled Comfort, Comfort Ye My People: Preaching, Singing, and Praying the Peace of Christ to the Troubled Conscience and the Broken Heart. It will be in Seward, July 28–31. Plan on joining us if you are interested in worship! Shaping up to be a great conference.

09 October 2013

Wisconsin

Had two beautiful days. Drove up to Milwaukee to do an address on confessing Christ to athiests at University of Wisconsin last night. Got to meet Vicar Rockrohr (I already knew his mom and dad, nice to meet this promising young man!). Caught up briefly with several acquaintances (Tirzah, Gary and Susan, Nathan, Katherine and Jerry's family). This morning before I left, was privileged to join in Matins, sung in the Baptismal Chapel at Luther Memorial. What a beautiful church! The nave is filled with stained glass proclaiming key events of OT history, the life of our Lord, and the history of the Church. I was suprised and delighted to see images of Sts. Boniface, Ansgar and Bernard. Vicar led a sung Matins (though only five of us were gathered) and led it very well. We sang the liturgy, chanted the Psalm, sang the hymn, and singing Benedictus was (as Sharilyn observed long ago) like welcoming an old friend. Vicar read to us from 1 Corinthians 11 and also a wonderful bit from the Larger Catechism. I headed home in good spirits and decided to give a full listen to Bach's Epiphany Day Mass (thank you, Pr. Jay Webber) and then to Schütz's Christmas Vespers. The sun streamed in the car - not a cloud in they sky. Woody Wisconsin gave way to the fields of Illinois, being harvested. It was truly a joyous trip!

07 October 2013

Homily at opening of LCMS Disaster Conference, 2013

Text: Lamentations 3:10–26

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

Jeremiah knew a thing or two about disaster. He'd been sent to prophesy it's immanent arrival, but when it struck it still hit him like a sucker punch in the gut. Walking about a city in smoldering ruins, houses burned, the population decimated, and unthinkably even the temple reduced to rubble and raided, emptied of all its holy things, cries of the survivors ringing in his ears, the old prophet does an odd thing.

He begins to sing. His song is a song of Lament, a song of sorrows: "How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!...Is is nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me, which The Lord inflicted on the day of His fierce wrath." He sings his song speaks from the perspective of the victims. And speaking from that perspective there is no wiggle room. He knows that the ultimate source of disaster is that it comes from the hand of The Lord. Neither he nor the people can pretend the luxury of theologizing in such a way as to keep The Lord's hands away from what has befallen them. The wrath is too near. They feel it in their bones. And they acknowledge that it is just: "The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering!"

When disaster strikes, let us learn from Jeremiah to sing with the people what it actually feels like. Let us not ignore the elephant in the room. From today's reading: "He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding, he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate, he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. He drove into my kidneys the arrow of his quiver.... He filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel and made me cower in ashes. My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is."

It doesn't get more honest than that. God the bear, God the lion, God the archer and you his target, God grinding your face in the gravel. 

And so despair. That too. "so I say, My endurance has perished (as in, I can't take it anymore!), so has my hope from The Lord (as in, who can fight against Him when He fights you?)."

So the prophet sang. Sang with the people. Sang with their misery. It was his misery too. And he faced up to the omnipotence of God and its clear implications. He didn't even try to let God off the hook or distance him from the horror he lived in each day. He walked the streets of a ruined city singing the dirge of death, the death of hope, the fierce anger of The Lord.

Yet his song didn't stop there, did it? He sang all of that. And it was all true. He knew from Torah the terror of the words: "For a fire is kindled by my anger and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. And I will heap disasters upon them and I will spend my arrows on them." (Deut. 32:22,23) But he knew that that song went on: "For The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone." (Deut. 32:36). He knew that that song ended with promise: "See now that I, even I, am he; and there is no god besides me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal." (32:39)

The end of the song can't be lamentation, because if He kills, He yet also makes alive. If He wounds, He yet also heals. And so Jeremiah's loud lament reaches it climax as he sings to the mourners in Jerusalem: "This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness."

Everything else comes to an end. Everything. Disasters merely force us to see in a moment what slow time somewhat disguises: everything else comes to an end. You and me, the houses and homes we dwell in, the cities and nations we build, the plans we make, the dreams we dream, they all vanish away, dissolving like a morning mist. 

And yet seeing this and seeing it clearly, Jeremiah's heart swelled with hope and he sought to sing his hope into the hearts of the survivors: for in the face of disaster, of the end to which all else must come, Jeremiah beheld the shining light of mercy. He knew that there is one thing which has no end: the steadfast love of The Lord. It never fails. It never ceases. It may be hidden from our eyes for a time, like the sun by the stormy sky and clouds, but it never ceases to shine. 

And we know that that shining is greatest from Christ's cross. There, in the midst of the worst disaster imaginable, the creature killing the Creator, Death swallowing up Life, the death of God Himself in the flesh, we behold the triumph of the one thing that never fails: mercy. The cross forever witnesses that the terror of God's wrath against all our sin, which is so near us in the day of disaster: "Man of God, have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son?" as the Widow of Zarephath cried out - that it also has an end. We see the wrath of God against sin upon the cross. And yet it shines before us the hope that filled Jeremiah's heart: God is near us not to destroy us finally, but bestow upon us what has no end, what can never be shaken or torn down: His steadfast love. The cross achieves and manifests this. It swallows up wrath as Jesus drains that cup down to its bitter dregs. Behold, upon the Cross Him who is Steadfast love, Him who is faithfulness, Him who kept His every promise and who will keep them. Behold, Mercy as He triumphs over judgment. Behold, Him who was killed and yet made alive. Behold, Him who was wounded and yet was healed. He joins us in our sorrows to give us what lasts beyond all sorrow: mercy. He joins us in our sin to give us what lasts beyond all sin: forgiveness.

So Jeremiah sings his song and we with him: "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of The Lord." Wait then and wait in hope, we sing in the midst of whatever the next disaster is. We give full voice to the lament of grief, the dirge of death, but we dare never stop there. We sing through them to the steadfast love that ceases not, we sing through them to Jesus, of His mercy, His life, His love that never ends. And so we bind up the wounds not just of body and mind, but above all of heart and soul, singing the truth of both Law and Gospel, of Wrath and Mercy, of Judgment and Grace, and proclaiming with boldness that among the things that has an end is the wrath of The Lord, but His mercies are new every morning. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

03 October 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

No, not everyone who dies goes to a better place. Some, sadly, unnecessarily, die and go to hell—but not you. Your Lord was crucified and raised for your justification. You bear the name of the Holy Trinity upon your forehead and heart. You eat the manna of Jesus' risen body and blood and commune with all the saints and holy angels. You die and go to your Lord Jesus Christ and His Father, because He did not love His life but laid it down for yours.—Pr. David Petersen, Thy Kingdom Come, p. 193.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Meditate, O devout soul, upon the awfulness of future punishment, and thou wilt easily overcome every base and sinful desire.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, XLIX.

Patristic Quote of the Day

There are many men, who form good hopes not by abstaining from their sins, but by thinking that hell is not so terrible as it is said to be, but milder than what is threatened, and temporary, not eternal; and about this they philosophize much. But I could show from many reasons, and conclude from the very expressions concerning hell, that it is not only not milder, but much more terrible than is threatened.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on 2 Thessalonians.

02 October 2013

Patristic Quote of the Day

He [the Antichrist] will abolish all the gods, and will order men to worship him instead of God, and he will be seated in the temple of God, not that in Jerusalem only, but also in every Church.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on 2 Thessalonians

01 October 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Let us not abandon the fellowship in our congregation and fail to come to worship services. Already at that time (writing of Hebrews) there were those who made a habit of that. That is and remains a betrayal not only to the congregation, but to Him who is the head, Christ.—Bishop Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ, p. 701.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The greater the suffering, the nearer is Christ.—Johann Gerhard, Postilla II:234.

Patristic Quote of the Day

If we always think of hell, we shall not soon fall into it.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on 2 Thessalonians

30 September 2013

I used to think she was kinda nuts...

...my mom, I mean. I'd get home to find her sitting up, but not a light on. Just sitting in the dark. She would always laugh and remind us "that men loved darkness more than light because their deeds were evil." I seriously never quite got it.

I do now. Cindi never welcome the coming of fall and winter, but I do love the darkening evening. And often I'll sit in the living room, listening to music, lighted maybe by a dim lamp or just candles. There is something so utterly peaceful about the darkness. Looking out at the stars shining over Hamel, reading a page or twenty in the dim light (a bit of Tolkein at present), sipping a glass of wine. Remembering. The past seems so much nearer in the darkness than in the light. And to mom conveying a sense of the past was an important part of life itself. Aunt Annie, Mam Bette, Grandpappy Joe...people who lived long ago. She gave me a vibrant sense of them all.

It's still too warm for a fire, but that will come soon and then no need for another light at all. The light of the wood burning will be enough.

Tolkein did I say? Yes. He had one poem that always, always reminded me of mom:

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

That captures it. The darkness, the memories crowding around, and the hopeful listening for returning feet.

My little guy

took off from his desk to the front door today. All by his own alone self. A new era is about to enter Lauren and Dean's life!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The pastor schools his people so that with the right kind of pious talk they will then be equipped to win other people for the church. In place of the office of preaching reconciliation comes the training of "soul winners," teaching them just the right way of talking with people, to make maximum use of the techniques of psychological manipulation. The system admittedly derives from the methods of American business. Thus people are to be brought into the church, made to feel at home there, led to make a decision, and then all together they are to carry on their building of the kingdom of God. What the Word of God is no longer trusted to do is achieved with the psychological techniques of such modern evangelization.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: The Church, pp. 22, 23.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For to eat and drink spiritually is to embrace Christ by faith, so that we draw life from Him and thereby become participants in Christ and in all His benefits, unto righteousness and salvation.—Blessed Martin Chemnitz, The Lord's Supper, p. 171.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The proud man always lives in troubles, is always angry, always unhappy. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 1 on 2 Thessalonians.

29 September 2013

Sunday this and that

Was surprised that St. Michael's wasn't observed at St. Paul's this morning, but since we began by singing "Lord, Thee I Love" it was all good. And pastor had a fine sermon (as usual). But at Trinity it was all stops out for St. Michael (except for the incense). Clad in damlatics, Pr. Cholak served as subdeacon; Pr. Lee as deacon. Pr. Curtis was both preacher and celebrant. I absolutely LOVED playing "Christ, the Lord of Hosts Unshaken" - great, great text to one of my favorite tunes. Because this is one of the "principal feasts of Christ" according to our LSB lectionary, I even used the zimbelstern on the organ for the Sanctus today. Pr. Curtis' homily was also outstanding.

After Church, I hightailed it down to the airport to pick up Dave (he'd been out east for his uncle's funeral in Maine), and we came back to a wonderful brunch with Cindi, Bekah, David and Meaghan. I really must also add with Lydia, for the wee thing is not so wee anymore and her presence is palpable at the table. Can't wait to hold her. Cindi made a paleo sweet potato casserole (every bit as tasty as Aunt Dee's!), some Zucchini bread, bacon, eggs, pancakes for the non-Paleo folk and some slices apples and pears. It was a feast and I ate way too much.

After a game of Liverpool (Dave won!) and little rest, we headed out for a walk. Think we ended up walking over an hour. All around the neighborhood and then up to Greenhedge and back. The weather is so beautiful and the sky such a deep blue (and the beans are turning golden in the fields), that I think we could have gone on walking for another hour. But Lucy was definitely worn out and ready to sack out on the couch: where she sits at this very minute.

I didn't get to pray Treasury till this afternoon, but it has a great bit from Gerhard on the topic of the angels. I don't know if Pr. Curtis had read it or not, but he and Gerhard were definitely tracking together (as they often do).

Anywho, a blessed and joyous St. Michael and All Angels to one and all!  "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and he delivers them."

27 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We can never surrender the promises that are bound up with the means of grace. A person can lose the blessing of Baptism by not again and again, yes daily, receiving the promise of Christ in faith. But the promise remains. Baptism remains the same.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: The Church, p. 46.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For the ship of Baptism never breaks, because (as we have said) it is God's ordinance and not our work.—Larger Catechism V:82

Patristic Quote of the Day


Do you see that this is what he means by, Prove all things? Because he had said, Despise not prophesyings, lest they should think that he opened the pulpit to all, he says, Prove all things, that is, such as are really prophecies; and hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil; not from this or that, but from all; that you may by proof distinguish both the true things and the false, and abstain from the latter, and hold fast the former. For thus both the hatred of the one will be vehement and the love of the other arises, when we do all things not carelessly, nor without examination, but with careful investigation.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily11 on 1 Thessalonians

Catechesis from a Week Ago Wednesday

(for Shane)


Reading: A reading from Matthew 28

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


Catechism, p. 325

What is baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

Which is this word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matt. 28:19

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

“But some doubted.” And these are the men on whom the Church should be built? These doubters? There are those who would suggest that. They put the persons of the apostles and their successors as the foundation. In a sense, this is what both Rome and the East do. First, they tell you to be sure of the Church, and then you can be sure that promises of God in the sacraments that such a church administers are effective and for real. So, many in Rome think Lutherans are “ecclesial” but whatever else we are we are NOT Church. Lutherans, however, turn this on its head. We read it exactly backwards: first, we say, you need to be sure of the Lord’s promise, mandate and giving in the Word and sacraments, and then you can be sure of the Church, for the Church is never at point number two. Always it is God-Baptism-Church, never God-Church-Baptism. For that would make our Lord's mandate wobble! Always it is the Lord Jesus who has been given ALL authority in heaven and on earth, all his, none ours, who then mandates the making of disciples by baptism and teaching. Disciples, church, if you will, is called into existence by Christ through the Word and Sacraments; the Church does not call the sacraments into existence. Thus, in our Catechism’s definition of baptism there is no church reference: It is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. God, our Lord Jesus, and His command and His Word are the entire foundation on which Baptism itself rests.

This is huge, because if your confidence rests in any part on the men themselves, your confidence rests on sinking sand. Even the great Apostles wobbled: before our Lord’s crucifixion, after His resurrection, and even after Pentecost! Peter who gets it right at Matthew 16:16 blows it a meager six verses later and goes from being called Peter, the Rock Man, to Satan who stands in the way of God’s purposes by opposing Christ’s road to the cross, where He would bear our sin to death. Same Peter whom Paul later had to rebuke publicly in Galatia when he let the fear of men’s disapproval get in the way of the Gospel’s full inclusion of the gentiles. And then there’s grumpy Paul not willing to forgive John Mark and so causing a major row with the kind and patient Barnabas. Or the Apostle John in Revelation, falling down in front of an angel to give worship and being told to get on his feet because the angel was just a fellow-servant and he must only worship the Lord. I could go on and on. Build your confidence on the persons of the apostles themselves and you build on shaky ground. Build your confidence on some pastor and it will be even shakier. Build your confidence, your certainty of salvation, instead, on the words and promises of Christ to you in Baptism and you have a foundation so solid that it cannot be shaken; a promise so secure that it can hold you firm through life and death and into resurrection.

So beloved, when scandals arise to shake the Church through the failings of her servants, as they always have and as they always will, and people say to you: “How can you possibly say that you believe in a holy church? Look at the lives of your leaders! Look at the lives of your people! Look at how you live yourself! And you call yourselves a holy church? Who do you think you are fooling?” When such is thrown at you, remember “but some doubted” and it was to the doubters that the Lord Jesus gave His mandate and sent them forth to hand over His promises. Remember that the Church that you know to be holy is the result always of Christ’s gift of Baptism, that is as sure and certain as His own word mandating it, bestowing it. Your Baptism holds when all else shakes around you. Your Baptism holds and hidden in it is the holiness of the Church, a holiness that belongs to Christ and is always only given to us, laid on the Church, made her own by faith, and so an object of faith and not of observation.

“But some doubted” and their doubt in no way impeded the Lord’s sure sending them out to give His gifts away, for it rests not on them as fallen men, but on the promise of Christ Himself. Keep the order straight: do not rest your certainty on men, not even apostolic men, or on the chance that you finally figured out the "real church" but upon the Christ alone to whom these failing, faltering men would bear witness and in Whom alone they and you and even I are holy through His gift of Baptism. Amen.

Catechism Hymn: 596 “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized”

26 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The recognition of this reality of the Word of God is the basis for recognizing the reality of the church.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess the Church, p. 50.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

"Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1) Therefore, it is the will of the Apostles that this freedom remain in the Church, that no services of the law or of traditions be considered necessary (just as ceremonies were necessary for a time in the Law), lest the righteousness of faith be clouded over.—Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XV:32

Patristic Quote of the Day

Have you suffered any evil? But if you will, it is no evil. Give thanks to God, and the evil is changed into good.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 10 on 1 Thessalonians.

25 September 2013

Christ, Mighty Savior

An interview I did on this wonderful hymn on Issues, Etc. can be heard right here.

P.S. Pr. Gerike told me today that he had indeed composed that stanza where the chorus sang unaccompanied.

Wednesday Catechesis: Baptism, Part II


A reading from Mark 16:  And [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned."

This is the Word of The Lord. R.

Second

What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are those words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

Hymn: 590 Baptized into Your Name Most Holy

Homily:

The present tense is most striking. The Catechism does not ask concerning what Baptism once gave you; it asks concerning what benefits Baptism goes on giving you. Thus note all the present tenses:

Not, it worked forgiveness of sins (long ago), but it works forgiveness of sins (as in every single day!).

Not, it rescued you from death and the devil (long ago), but right now, today, it rescues you from death and the devil.

Not, it (once upon a time) gave you salvation, but even at this moment it gives salvation to all who believe this.

And even the promises of God aren't put in the past. Not as "the words and promises of God declared" back then when the apostles wrote them down, but "as the words and promises of God declare" this very minute of this very day into your ears: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." All this is vouchsafed by the FUTURE of that promise. Baptism goes on saving you until the end!

Now, it's very worthwhile to pick up the verse before in Mark as we heard in our reading, for this is the Marcan version of the so-called Great Commission or the Institution of the Office of the Ministry. Jesus is sending His apostles out with His authority to do His work. And that work is first and foremost "proclaiming the Gospel to the whole creation."

But what does that mean? I used to think that Jesus meant: first, go preach the gospel and then he added an attachment to the gospel, if you will, "whoever believes and is baptized, etc."

It was in studying Acts 8 that I realized how wrong I was. Have you ever thought your way through the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch? You remember. Just heading back from Jerusalem with his brand spanking new copy of Isaiah and he's reading it aloud (as all the ancients used to do) and puzzling his puzzler over what on earth is going on. Isaiah 53, remember. The Lamb led to the slaughter, silent before its shearers. What does it mean?

The Lord scoots Philip alongside the chariot to ask: "Do you understand what you're reading?" And the fellow is apparently so engrossed in trying to get it that he doesn't he really stop to question why there's a runner next to his chariot! "How can I unless someone guides me?" So he stops and Philip joins him and then it gets very, very interesting.

"Beginning from that passage he preached to him the good news, the Gospel, about Jesus."

And rather than us imagining exactly what it was that Philip preached, look at what happens next. Why! As soon as the Eunuch catches sight of water he screams for the chariot to stop, turns to Philip and asks: "Here is water! Why can't I be baptized?"

What, then, was the good news that Philip then preached out of Isaiah 53 to this man? Was it not the very promise that we heard in the reading today: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." For surely our Lord suffered on His cross as the innocent sufferer and died and rose again so that there might be opened for the house of David and all the families of the nations a fountain of healing water, a fountain of baptismal grace, where all His cross won would be lavishly poured out on sinful men - gratis, freely, unasked, unsought, unearned, just gift of eternal life. So the Gospel isn't the Gospel until it's anchored baptismally, and here the anchor isn't just for the past.

It's not as though Baptism took care of the sin and struggle in your life up to the point that you received it. If so, then old Tertullian was right: why waste it on a babe? Be like Emperor Constantine instead and gamble that you can get it on your deathbed. What a sad mistake! For Baptism, people loved by God, isn't a static bit of water, but an everflowing fountain of grace. It doesn't cease to pour out its gifts for you. Not til the day of grace has come to an end. It's gifts remain and they carry you through to the Kingdom.

Baptism's forgiveness will continue to cleanse your sin today. Its power continues to rescue you from death and the devil's clutches. Its virtue pours into you the gift of salvation that is forever. All yours. Signed, sealed and delivered by the Triune God, and the Holy Spirit in your heart whispering: Tis true! Believe it! It's all yours.

Lutherans are a baptismal people, no two ways about it. We're such because we know that the very promise of the Gospel itself is tied directly to the baptismal waters, water and blood flow together, and because we know that the grace of those waters cannot be exhausted by either our sin or our death and certainly not by the mere passage of time.

People loved by God, people baptized into Christ Jesus, treasure this mighty promise of God over your lives and don't let anyone rob you of it! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.