31 January 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The first Christians also lived from nothing else than the daily forgiveness of their sins, as we confess in the Small Catechism... The holiness of the church is the holiness of Christ. We correctly understand what our text (Acts 2:41ff) tells us about what happened in the first church, the congregation of saints in Jerusalem, when we hear not the praise of men, but only "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord," the everlasting song of the church: "You only are holy; You only are Lord; You only...are most high."—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: the Church, p. 131.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

"Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord all the earth." 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 others also may come and hear it.—Blessed Martin Luther, Preface to Babst Hymnal, AE 53:333.

Patristic Quote of the Day

[Okay, okay, NOT a Father, but from the TIME of the Fathers]

They [the Christians] were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god. —Pliny the Younger to Trajan.

[Matt Carver, YOUR fault. Can't get the implications of that out of my mind now.]

Thoughts from a Hymnwriters Conference

On Monday morning we sang the appointed Psalm 145 and the verses struck me as very fitting:  "One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts!" Is not this the very essence of the Church's hymns, her sung confession? And how utterly impoverished is the generation that refuses to sing any song but their own, who will not listen to their fathers and mothers in the faith as they declare the wondrous works of God!

So we gathered. About 30 hymnwriters, the presenters, and a few guests. We gathered and we began with prayer and ended with prayer and the whole thing was wrapped in the Church's daily prayers. Evening Prayer started off (and why not, since the Church reckons the day from the evening!) and Compline at the close. And then Matins, Responsive Prayer at noon, Evening Prayer at sunset, and Compline to close out the day yet again. Then Matins and Itinerarium.  We made extensive use of the Church's first hymnbook, the Psalter. God's hymns are, after all, the very best. But we also walked through the centuries in the hymns we sang at Office. And incense arose with our prayers each evening.

The presentations were all above par in my estimation. Herl kicked us off with "What Works and What Doesn't" and that was a lot of fun. Most shocking was when he gave us the original of the prettified "Sweet Flowrets of the Martyr Band." Oh, my! Milky brains dashed on rock, drowning children and the soldier waiting for the bubbles to stop and then smiling. AND then the hymnist singing that so should we smile. Gasp! Not at the wreckage of human life, but at the gift of a life that death could not take from them.

Next day after Matins, Pastor Steve Starke (probably the most noted LCMS hymnist at the moment) gave us great joy in perspectives - interweaving visual art with the musical. He encouraged standing firm against trends in main-stream hymnody that gut the faith.

The morning wrapped up with Drs. David Schmitt and David Maxwell doing "the nuts and bolts." Schmitt had an outstanding analogy. He used to work at a french restaurant and he spoke of the importance of the background music for the experience and how getting the rhythm and rime right is like that perfect background music that you don't notice, but that's an integral component of the good meal.  Iambs and troches and spondees a plenty! Most fun was asking the folks to analyze "One things's needful." Give it a whirl and see what YOU come up with!

In the afternoon, Matthew Carver addressed the art and science of translation. He began with an allusion to Pliny the Younger's famous description of Christian worship as folks gathering before sunrise to "sing a hymn to Christ as to God." He invited any would-be translators to make sure they knew the original well and could sing it, to know Luther's Bible and the Confessions well so as not to miss any allusions, and most wonderfully he addressed the spiritual state. Not a place for pride. "Go see your pastor and make confession!" Wonderful stuff.

Then Fred Baue gave a most entertaining and thought-provoking presentation on hymns as lyric poetry, that is words written to be sung, and so the commonality with popular songs across the ages. Very practical and good insights throughout.

The close of Monday found us after a bit of gemütlichkeit gathered in the chapel for a hymn sing. We originally scheduled it for half an hour; thought better and made it 45 minutes; and then finally ended up with an hour's worth and still the folks were not tired of singing! We alternated from LSB and their own compositions. I wish we'd had had time to cover them all, but alas. I brought the hymn sing to a close after the hour and we prayed Compline. But afterwards folks were STILL not done singing. On a shockingly warm January night, under a beautiful full moon, a group stood outside singing together. "Nun ruhen" in German and English...Luther's metrical Psalms (12 and 13)...and many, many others. Well into the night. Amazing.

Tuesday we were blessed to hear Peter Reske present on "Hark! How all the Welken Rings: Thoughts from a Hymn Editor." That, of course, is the original of Wesley's line that some kind editor repaired to "Hark! The herald angels sing." His most wonderful section by all reports was on "how to murder your darlings!"

From start to finish it was an absolutely wonderful time together. Thank you to EVERYONE who helped to make it happen. And my greatest thanks to Joseph Herl who served as conference musician and blessed us well in whatever piece of music was thrown his way. Oh, speaking of him, during the hymn sing, he interrupted at one point and said with a twinkle in his eye (and he has that twinkle down pat): "I NEVER get asked to play pieces like this at a hymn sing. Don't you want to sing 'What a Friend'?" He was promptly booed and went back to "Lord, Thee I Love" and "To Jordan Came."

24 January 2013

The Barber Shop

Cindi and I were talking this morning. I told her: "It's almost Friday and you know what that means?" She got that look. "Your haircut." "Yes!" said I "Isn't that exciting?" She laughed and confessed that she does not find getting or giving a haircut exciting. I told her the problem was that she didn't find joy in the crazy little things of life. We were both laughing, because she knows her totally oddball husband does.

But aside from the fact that I really do love it when my hair is newly cut, it brought back memories. Every other Saturday, daddy would load me in the car and we'd drive to Wheaton on Saturday morning and we'd head to Dabney's Barber Shop. It was on the corner of some cross street I no longer remember and Georgia Avenue.

How different barber shops were back then! They were clearly a "men's" joint. They smelled of tobacco and shaving lotion and grease for your hair. There were maybe eight barber chairs in that shop and they were all manned and folks were sitting in a long row waiting for their cut, reading newspapers and chatting. I have no idea what he meant by it, but my dad always said: "standard boy's cut." That's what I got (until I grew my hair long in the seventh grade - yeah, I'm that old). The totally random thing is that I think I pretty much wear my hair now exactly like I wore it back in those days. I'm back to the old standard boy's cut.

Some folks were being shaved, absolutely NO ONE was getting their hair washed (how weirdly female THAT would be), and the razor was always used on you to trim around the edges. When you finished up, if you were good and sat very still and held your head up (a challenge for a wiggle worm), you got a lollypop to take out of the store with you. Positive reinforcement.

That's the way it was. Now (and for many, many years), Cindi cuts my hair. I don't pay anyone (but nor did I get a free lollypop). I don't go and wait in line. No Saturday outing every other week, no sitting with the men as they smoked and talked and said words that I'd get in trouble for repeating at home. But I still look forward to the day when it comes every two weeks and Cindi continues to roll her eyes and no doubt wonder why on earth she ever married such a kook. But I look forward to it a great deal and treasure the memories and the smells and the time with my daddy.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Doxology then can only be performed where the glory of God dwells. Since the resurrection and
ascension of the incarnate Son of God, the glory of God is located in the glorified body of Jesus
(Peterson, 21). There the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit reveal their glory both to the angels in
heaven and the saints on earth. There the angels and the saints gather in a single heavenly assembly,
the church of the living God. There they acknowledge and acclaim God’s glory as they perform a
common doxology. There they no longer speak of themselves or even address God as someone apart
from them, but speak adoringly of him who embraces them and includes them in himself (Schlink,
728). There God is acknowledged as the be-all and end-all of everyone and everything. In the light of
that presence all shine with borrowed light, a secondary radiance which they reflect and which glorifies
them with its own glory. They no longer speak of themselves but speak only of him in sheer
amazement.—Dr. John Kleinig, “The Mystery of Doxology.” In Paul T. McCain and John R. Stephenson, Mysteria Dei. Essays in Honor of Kurt Marquart. Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Fort Wayne, 129-47.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Just as Christ was sent by the Father and came into the world not by a change of place but by the assumption of the flesh and visible appearance in it, so also He departed to the Father and left the world not by a change of place but by putting aside the form of a servant and by the use of the complete majesty communicated to Him.—Blessed Johann Gerhard, On Christ, p. 271.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Such writings are read with the right of judgment, and without any obligation to believe. In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. ...But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion. -- St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, XI

23 January 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

But the vital question for a church is not so much whether it will continue to live, but whether it will remain that which it has been and which according to its innermost essence it ought to be... There exists also in church history that which in natural science is called pseudomorphosis. As molten rock which enters into available empty forms there crystallizes in a form which is not native to it, so also church forms that have become empty may have become filled with foreign content. It may happen that an un-Lutheran faith seizes control of the forms of the Lutheran church and that then this church is only externally the Lutheran church. This indicates the danger which threatens every Lutheran church at all times. Missouri is no exception to this rule.—Hermann Sasse, Scripture and the Church, p. 214.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God's wonderful works which happen daily are lightly esteemed, not because they are of no import, but because they happen so constantly and without interruption. Man is used to the miracle that God rules the world and upholds all creation, and because things daily run their appointed course, it seems insignificant, and no man thinks it worth his while to meditate upon it and regard it as God's wonderful work.—Blessed Martin Luther, Sermons from 1544, Day by Day, p. 81.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the Artificer of all things, Wisdom, i. e., the Son, made that which was a machination of devilish perversity, I mean His Death in the Flesh;----this He made a way of salvation to us and a door of life, and the devil's hopes were overturned, and he learned at last by experience, that hard is it for him to fight against God.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Book IV, Chapter 1

Today's Chapel Homily

on the fourth commandment, based on Luke 2:41ff.:

Mary in her love for Him had been terrified—what parent wouldn’t be? A teen vanished for days. Three days actually. Hmm. Jesus disappearing for three days and then showing up again. Interesting, no? But they looked high and low until at last they come upon him, sitting in the temple, listening, asking questions, discussing God’s holy Torah. And Mary is beside herself. Maybe that’s why she said it, but He doesn’t let it pass.

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”

Your father. But note His reply:  “Why were looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in MY Father’s house?” He was living the truth of the Psalm: "Better is a day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."

Ouch. Joseph, beloved man that he was to our Lord, was NOT His Father and our Lord had no intention of letting Mary or Joseph forget it. Where else would you think I would be? Jesus asks. My Father has a house. I’m here in it. And did Mary’s heart rise up in fear and foreboding as she thought of how her Son chose to abide in that place of sacrifice, that place of death.

And yet look! The Son of the Father, the Eternal Word who was before time began, He does His Father’s will and that will is that human beings honor their fathers and their mothers. So we are told: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.”

You think of that! You do not like for anyone to tell you what to do, or to be accountable or beholding to anyone. You to whom the word “submissive” is a dirty word, one that shows you’re not somebody, not important, and so you hate the word, the idea of being under and obedient to anyone else. Yet Jesus, your Lord, would open your eyes to see a whole new way of living and of being.

Being submissive to those in authority over you, your parents and even the people you work for here in this building, is precisely NOT something for you to resent or hate or dread. It is rather something for you to embrace with joy. Think of how this place would hum along if we entered into the mind of our Lord on this one and did not despise (think little) of our parents and other authorities, but instead honored them, served and obeyed them, yes even loved and cherished them. “Well, they don’t deserve that” you think in the corner of your mind. Hmm. Did Mary and Joseph deserve to have the Son of God submissive to them? I think not. But He wasn’t submissive because they deserved it, but because He knew the Torah, the revealed will and plan of God.

His obedience and love to His heavenly Father never ceased and so His honoring of his mother does not cease. Even as He is hanging on Calvary’s tree bearing the load of all our sin, including our despising of those in authority over us, He is providing for His mother a home with John, the beloved disciple. Even in his death’s agony He is obeying the fourth commandment, and doing so for you. For all the times you have failed. He is shedding His blood to cover them all over in the sight of His Father, and His very blood invites you too to join Him in the venture of submission. To recognize God Himself hidden in His majesty under the lowly appearance of those set over you to honor, serve, obey, love, and cherish. God grant it!

21 January 2013

What a great three-day weekend!

Friday night we ended up playing Pinochle. Don't ask. It was ugly. But we had lots of fun and laughter with Crys and Scott DESPITE the way things turned out.

Saturday was a lazy day. After a late breakfast, we played cards with Dave and Jo, then Jo, Cindi, Bek and I walked the dog in the afternoon. It was unseasonably warm!  In the afternoon, Cindi and I watched The Lincoln Lawyer (I'm a big Connelly fan) and then after dinner headed out to bowl. We won all three games. Don't ask me how! Was great to see Becky Holle.

Sunday we enjoyed the bright feast of the Transfiguration, singing with the choir at both liturgies, and came home and fulfilled the Sabbath - we did nada. A little snooze here or there. Some time loving on the cat and the dog. That was about it.

Cindi had to work this a.m., so I made breakfast and after she went to work decided to give the kitchen a thorough cleaning. I even tried cleaning the door to the deck, but found out that that doesn't work so well on the outer side when the temp is in the low 20s! Oops. Bekah asked me to make a fire, and so we had that ready by the time Cindi came home. I took the dog for a walk after Cindi helped Jo with a shower, and then we warmed up beside the fire with some primal cocoa (another Mark Sisson special!). Jo and Dave came over and we set up the card table in the living room right in front of the fireplace and played some liverpool. I'm happy to report that yours truly won. Then we had dinner together (and Bekah was home by then). Two more rounds of liverpool. One went to Cindi and one, can you even believe this, when to JO. Grr. She really should have let Dave win, don't you think?

The fire is still burning, but low and hot. Tomorrow another week begins and we're refreshed and ready for it. What a beautiful thing the Lord God thought up in the alternation of work and rest. Enough of one and you're eager to be off to the other. And excited to think of Hymnwriters this coming weekend and seeing old friend Joe Herl and John Fleischmann among many others...

20 January 2013

'Twas a Joyous Feast of the Transfiguration

today (falls today in the one-year series). I could sing "O Wondrous Type" every single day—a winner in both text and tune. Pastor Ball preached a most comforting homily on "Fear Not" (I'd have liked to pick up a copy but he said he experienced "technical difficulties" - HA! That machine KNOWS when it is a pastor standing in front of it instead of Joanie - Joanie it fears, the pastors it mocks). Carlo gave us a stunning Bach prelude and fugue in d minor. Choir got to sing a Ralph Schultz setting of "God of Grace." Sweetest of all, our Lord Jesus came to us and touched us in His body and blood with the words: "Fear not!" Gifts abounding for poor sinners and the pledge of our future glorification in Him!

16 January 2013

Does anyone else see the shocking irony

in our President's words today as we come to the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade?

"This is our first task as a society – keeping our children safe. It is how we will be judged."

True indeed.

My good friend,

Dr. John Stephenson, asked if the LCMS had prepared any resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a week many Christians observe between the Festival of the Confession of St. Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul. I told him we had not, but did point to what I believe should be the prayer of Christians during this week, from the Book of Common Prayer:

O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it it in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.

We would do well to pray thus for our Lord's holy church in these days.

13 January 2013

Happy Birthday, Jo!

After Church, eight of us (David, Meaghan, Shawn, Bekah, Dave, Jo, Cindi and I) sat down to dinner. Jo's 73rd, so she got to choose: spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and ice-cream for dessert. No, Cindi and I didn't eat the spaghetti, bread, or ice-cream, but we served our meat sauce over spaghetti squash and enjoyed some fried apples as dessert. Naturally Liverpool games broke out. David and Jo both won the first round; and then after David and Meaghan headed out, the rest of us played again and that time Bekah won. (Hmm...what's wrong with this picture?).  Now it's just the three of us at home, the house is quiet except for the crackle of the fire and the hum of the dishwasher.

08 January 2013

Interesting Winkel

I attended my old Winkel today. Pastor Heath Curtis led a beautiful Divine Service, anticipating the commemoration of the Cappadocians. After a fine lunch, he led through a discussion of the Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel Church Order (authored by Chemnitz and Andreae) as providing a bit of context for their words in the Formula, Article X, dealing with the freedom of the Church to regulate ceremonies (I noted that he skipped all the goodies about reforming the monasteries!).

This Church Order starts out with the typically Lutheran stress on the strict distinction between that which is of Divine mandate and origin and that which is human custom. Yet, it doesn't at all leave that which is human custom as merely being "well, it doesn't matter you do with that." Rather, with a keen eye toward what pastorally serves, with a concern to be in step with the churches of the same confession in neighboring territories, with an eye toward what is fitting with the holy gifts that the people of God assemble to receive, and with a concern for the specific context in which the gifts are to be administered (city at the time meant more resources musically than country; country was very limited in what it could accomplish musically; nowadays, that's almost reversed itself!), the Order offers specific regulations (gasp!) that the Visitors were to see were in use.

Was ist das? as the Catechism asks. Pastor Curtis helpfully traced through a bit of the history: Walther and company did not insist on the same Agenda (the Loehe Agenda was fine if you didn't want to use the Saxon one), but they did insist on "doctrinally pure Agenda and hymnbooks" and that's the language of our Constitution to this day. For a long time in the LCMS there was a bit of a "gentleman's agreement" (Pr. Curtis' words) that we use the orders in the hymnal. No one insisted that it MUST be so, but it generally was the case. The 1941 Hymnal triumphed and pretty much wherever you went in the LCMS you could expect the Divine Service (or the abbreviated "Morning Service") with the odd Vespers or Matins thrown in.

The reforms that had begun in Rome with Vatican II and all that that unleashed (that's a bit simplistic, since the reforms were agitated for before they were adopted), showed up in the LCMS with the 1969 Worship Supplement. Not one form of the Divine Service, but three distinct settings - with different texts in the settings. And from there the movement toward diverse practice grew and grew. He also noted the publication of Lueke's book as a bit of a watermark. And so we reach the situation we live in today: even within the Hymnal itself we have no less than FOUR distinct textually different Divine Services in five distinct musical settings. And there are many for whom even this is not enough! And so on to the countless tinkerings and toyings that result in many a bewildered parishioner not knowing exactly WHAT he's to be served up on a given Sunday.  We're a long, long way from the days of the Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel Church Order!

Is there a path back toward some semblance of liturgical unity? Pr. Curtis noted that every time he has carefully separated out the question of instrumentation and liturgical action and simply asked for agreement to use the TEXT of the liturgy as provided in one of our hymnals, he has been told "no, that's a violation of Christian freedom." As in FC X. As in from the same folks who wrote a binding church order and expected it to be used as printed. Hmm.

The sad truth that Lutherans must face is that there is a nasty little pope (aka, the old adam) inside each one of us. He'd like to do things HIS way. The liturgy is not in least part a gift given to curb that wretch. By not insisting on "my" way of doing things, but submitting to one another in the way "we" have approved and agreed, we actually help the fellow back to his baptismal grave where he belongs.

Our President has suggested the way back toward liturgical unity will be by way of agreeing to the use of the Church's ORDO. And this is bigger than text. This is the frame, the skeleton, of the Church's ordered action in the Divine Service which you recognize beneath the Lutheran Divine Service, the Roman Mass, the Book of Common Prayer liturgy and even the Eastern services. There is a structure there, a framing, on which the common action hangs.

The temptation is to grasp hold of that skeletal frame and say:  See, that's the lot! But it's not the lot, its the frame on which the lot hangs, the shape on which the living tissue rests. We don't want a liturgical skeleton, but a living body (i.e., ask:  "what's the least we HAVE to do for this to be a Lutheran liturgy?" and you're talking bones and not living flesh!). We need to grasp and understand the skeleton to be sure. But we also need to get the way that we have historically had that basic frame fleshed out and adorned. But we have to start somewhere and so bones it may have to be.

Preparation + Service of the Word (praise, hearing of God's Word read in an ordered and orderly fashion, Creed, Sermon, Offering, Intercession) + Service of the Sacrament (Thanksgiving - for which Preface and Sanctus serve admirably, Our Father, Verba, Distribution with hymns of praise, Thanksgiving and Blessing)

Random thoughts provoked by a good Winkel.

07 January 2013


I think that it is nigh onto robbery when pastors deprive their congregations of praying the Preface and singing the Sanctus. Here is the great thanksgiving in our liturgy. Sometimes it is omitted "to save time."

ACK!!! It doesn't get much more silly than that, folks. THIS is what time was created for! THIS is how the time itself is redeemed! Think of these words at the tail end of the Preface:  "evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy!"

Yes, EVERMORE. As in all time, all space, all of life itself. It was made and given to us that we might fill it with the praise of God in and through the gift of Jesus Christ. That we might join with angels and with archangels and with all the company of heaven. That we might praise "evermore and evermore."

And who on earth are we that we should be called to such a high and holy calling? Talk about grace! We poor sons of Adams and daughters of Eve, with mouths filled so often with griping, complaining, excuses, lies and you name it. We wretched ones. WE are summoned and called into a new way of living, of being. With our sins forgiven, robed in the very righteousness of Him who became a Child of Mary to make us all children of God, whose sacrifice has made us companions of the holy angels, we are given the unspeakable privilege of joining in their unending hymn!  And it's all acceptable to His Father through the Son and in the Spirit.

"That we might BE to the praise of His glory" is how St. Paul put it in Ephesians 1. The beauty of our liturgy is how it states this so simply, so concisely, and then summons us to enter into this joyous gift. Evermore. Take that word into your heart, into your mind. Repent of the rush and savor the wonder. YOU are called to praise.

05 January 2013

Patristic Quote of the Day

How can that which is bread be the Body of Christ? By consecration. Consecration by what words; by whose words? Those of the Lord Jesus. For all the other words which are said previous to this are said by the priest: the praises that are offered to God, the prayer that is offered for the congregation, for rulers, and for others. But when the moment comes to consecrate the venerable sacrament, the priest will no longer use his own words, but will use the words of Christ. It is therefore the Word of Christ that consecrates this sacrament. ––(attrib.) St. Ambrose, On the Sacraments

01 January 2013

This Week...

...tomorrow I'll lead the first of our Wednesday chapels devoted to the Catechism. Unlike the last two times round, there's no particular time frame to complete, so I intend to take it slowly and savor each little bit. So Prayer and Preaching at 10 tomorrow at the IC will just lift up the gem of the first commandment. It's inexhaustible!

THEN Thursday through Saturday LCMS campus workers and young people will gather at Saint Louis University for Unwrapped. We'll have daily Morning Praise (Lauds) and Evening Prayer in the stunning St. Xavier Church, with bidding prayer (Time of Prayer for Others) built in on Thursday and Friday. I'm especially honored to be serving with assistant chaplain, Pr. David Kind (I'd give my eye teeth to be able to chant as beautifully as he does!).  The conference, titled Unwrapped, will feature a plenaries by Dr. Craig Parton, and lots of sectionals. The theme for our worship will draw upon 1 John and we'll be rejoicing in the ways we confess (in word and deed) Him who became incarnate for us of the pure Virgin.

Nature Sounds

That's the name of this album. I downloaded it the other day and have been absolutely eating it up. It amazes me how just listening to the music of the sea brings a tangy taste and brisk sea air right to the lungs. The more I listen, the more I like it.

Pr. Ball's Homily

for the Sunday after Christmas. This is a taste of what the members of St. Paul have been royally feasting on this Christmas:

Saint Paul Lutheran Church
The Sunday After Christmas
December 30, 2012 a.d.
St. Luke 2:22-40
The Rev. BT Ball
In the Name of Jesus

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.”

The promises of God are always certain and sure and they always direct you to His Son Jesus Christ.  The Word of God is one great promise after another.  From the first one where the Lord said He would cause the woman’s seed to crush the serpent’s head all the way to the promise of the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come, the Father speaks them through His Son.  God the Father always keeps the promises He makes in His Son Jesus Christ, always.  He never fails.  He promised to send His Son, born of a virgin in Bethlehem to be the Christ.  He would be a shoot from Jesse, from the line of David.  His kingdom would have no end.   When the little baby laid in a manger grew a bit older He would be worshiped by the Gentiles as was promised, be taken to Egypt as was promised and then when He was older still He would be called a Nazarene as was promised.  All so that He would be stricken smitten and afflicted for you.

As your Lord and Christ promised, He would be crucified, men pierced his hands and his feet and then cast lots for His clothing.  And he died, pouring out His life as a ransom for many, because not only does your Father in heaven make promises to you, your Lord Jesus Christ makes promises too, and the Scriptures testify to this.  Our Lord said, “these are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24).  The Holy Spirit has recorded for you the promises of God in the Sacred Scriptures nothing has been left out, or forgotten.  What God has said He would do for you, then or now, he has done and still does .  Nothing forgotten.  Not one thing.  But how difficult, no impossible it is for you do believe these things, when you have to watch and wait.

That is exactly what Simeon had to do, watch and wait.  How long?  Holy Tradition says around 200 years!  You know how the God had spoken to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he saw the Lord’s Christ.  How long had he waited?  He had received a promise, but He had not seen it fulfilled.  He was hoping for a consolation, the comfort that God said He would give, not only for himself alone, but to His people Israel, and even light to the Gentiles.  But it was a comfort they had not yet received, because God had not yet sent His Son.  Simeon was told that he would not die until He saw such a promise fulfilled with his own eyes.  But eyes get dim and tired and what you have heard can fade.  That is the way it is with you anyway, watching and watching.

Simeon heard a promise but once, you who have been baptized have heard the promises so many times, but the frailty and weakness of the flesh work against you constantly.  The Old Adam does not wish to hold onto the promises of God rather, the Old Adam rejects them for other things entirely – what the blessed Apostle calls the elementary principles of this world – the created things, things seen, known by experience.  Trading in the promise of God for the pleasure of the flesh, for the security of things seen is exactly what Adam did  - the fruit was pleasing to the eye, and it is what you do too, all the time.  God has granted you every promise in His Son.  In Him Jesus Christ, they are all yes, but in and by the Old Adam, you say no.  I’ll trust in what I can see, what I know -  Myself, my ability, my ideas, my false gods that I hold onto on the side, or along with Jesus so that I’ll have some security in this world.  No you may not do that.  You shall have no other gods, and the folly of your sin is that you don’t see clearly how you have other gods right alongside the true one.

So you came to church on Christmas to worship a baby boy, and then you gave away as stocking stuffers lottery scratch cards.  You received the body and blood of Christ and then lusted after the body of someone who is not your spouse.  You were cleansed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness in your Holy Baptism, and you polluted your mind with the filth that HBO offers as fun and entertainment.  Why?  Because you think you can, you can get away with it and so much more.  Why?  Because you don’t really believe the promise of God that He will send His Son as your judge.  You think that the promise of the Gospel is a big ticket to freedom to sin not freedom from sin.

The promises to you don’t have any real punch when they are needed, because you haven’t seen anyone get up out of the grave, you haven’t seen God come down to deal with what you need dealing with on your time, at your beckoning,  when you say.  But thanks be to God that He deals with you not according to your whims or ways or time or neither does he deal with you according to the way you deserve, but deals with you according to His promise, in His Son.  For as you heard, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  The promise of God for you this day is that the consolation you need, everything you need was seen by Simeon, for he held every promise of God in His arms.  But it didn’t look like it.  No one could see that, Mary and Joseph marveled at what was said of Him.  He will only be received and seen now through faith in His promises.  To see the baby in the manger, then in the arms of Simeon, then  a man on a cross, would be to see what looked to be like every other baby born, a newborn in the temple, and every other wretched crucified man.  But the promise of God is that He is the Lord’s Christ!  In the fullness of time, when it was just right, according to the Father’s way of working by promise, He sent His dearly beloved Son to be treated not as an heir, or a son, but a sinner.  To be brutally killed for your sins, to be judged in the way you should be, that you would have His place, you are seen by the Father as being in the very place of His Son Jesus Christ, with the status and place as the heir of all things.  Every promise yours, and that is the real promise that the forgiveness of sins gives.  This is the real consolation you have.  That by the forgiveness of your sins, by the redemption of Israel and the light of the Gentiles you stand before God as if you were His Son, and you know – that is what you are,a Son of God through Jesus Christ your Lord and you are an heir of all things according to God’s promise.

And so you find that is no accident or artistic license of the church to sing what Simeon sang when He saw Jesus.  All the promises of God were wrapped up in the seeing by faith the Lord’s Christ, that baby for Simeon.  And for you all the promises God gives to you are wrapped up under bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ for you.  So you depart in peace, you could even die on the way home, for you have every promise given, every Word sure. Here you see the Lord’s Christ wrapped up in promises.  Every Word fulfilled-  Everlasting life, forgiveness of sins.  Consolation in sorry.  A light for the gentiles, the glory of Israel.  Jesus Christ.  The very promise of God.  Yours.  Amen.

In the Name of Jesus

Blessed Feast of the Lord's Circumcision!

And that also means, of course, a happy civil new year to one and all!  We are enjoying a joyous Christmas time. Some highlights:

* The RAMP. Right before Christmas, Cindi decided to order a portable ramp and it works like a charm. Now Jo can zoom right into the house on her hoveround! It's absolutely great.

* Our usual Christmas gathering between the Children's and the Midnight service on Christmas Eve.

* Christmas Brunch with Russell, Sandy, Jo and Dave, Bekah and Shawn, David and Meaghan - Cindi fried up some country ham and made a variety of other yummies for the occasion.

* Lauren, Dean and Sawyer pulled into the Herberts early on St. Stephen's Day. We got LOTS of good snuggling time in with the most handsome grandson in all the world, and as usual, Lauren brought us all lots of laughter and joy with her six year old mentality.

* Holy Innocents brought us our family Christmas dinner. It was almost perfect in every way. Only sad thing: Jo started to feel sick and had to leave before we sat down to eat. But we squeezed around the table and enjoyed a candle light meal with the snow gently falling right outside the sliding doors: Aunt Sandy and Opa, Dean and Lauren and Sawyer, David and Meaghan, Shawn and Rebekah, Cindi and me. Cindi served up a smoked turkey, rolls (Lauren begged and pleaded), baked taters (sweet or regular, your choice), broccoli and garlicky green beans, sweet potato brownies (unbelievable, but good!), apple crisp, and assorted home made chocolate truffles. We opened gifts and sang some carols, and yours truly fell asleep on the couch (and then the children did all kinds of facebook mischief with my phone!).

* Snow fell again on New Year's Eve. It was a busy day: got our water heater repaired, wood delivered, shopping done, and Cindi and I enjoyed a lunch out at 54th Street, home to fix things for the evening. The family trooped off to New Year's Eve Divine Service, and then folks began arriving for the New Year's Eve party. As is usual pinochle and liverpool broke out and lots of laughter. Only downer was our farewell to the Herberts. They headed out to get Sawyer to bed and to prepare for the long journey home this morning (God speed their way!).

* Looking ahead: Tomorrow we begin our Catechism series again at the Chapel; and then Thursday through Saturday the Campus Ministry Conference (Unwrapped) at the St. Xavier College Church of St. Louis University. The Daily Office in that beautiful space with those lively young people belting out the Church's song. Can't wait!

Some pics: