13 December 2014

Thoughts from a Funeral

Jon Vieker served as organist and gave us some lovely pre-service music. The Church was packed. The bell rung and the Prelude proper began: Wachet Auf. Matt Janssen played his trumpet as impeccably as ever. The entrance hymn was "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?" and I don't even know how many pastors processed in. Most vested, some not. Fritz Baue served as crucifer. Lee's coffin was covered in a beautiful pall. 

Instead of the short, spoken Kyrie, the congregation sang "Kyrie, God Father." Cindi and I sang between first and second readings Haugen's setting of Psalm 23 (I know, I know, I'll give Lee my apologies when we are feasting together again). After the second reading we stood for the Alleluia and sang it from Divine Service three, Cindi and I doing the proper verse for the funeral between the triple alleluias. The Gospel reading was the story of Simeon from Luke 2. 

Hymn of the Day was "Lord, Thee I Love." Jon and Matt did such an outstanding job with it. Jon began the third stanza and then the organ dropped out, til "AND THEN FROM DEATH AWAKEN ME!" and the singing in the room raised the rafters, with Matt's triumphant trumpet giving us a foretaste of the Lord's trumpet call. 

After the homily, we prayed together those perfect prayers from Lutheran Service Book. Jon had me intone the antiphon before and after the Nunc Dimmittis using the same tone as that canticle has in Divine Service III, and the congregation sang it to that setting. After the closing prayer and benediction we sang "Go, My Children."

The coffin was loaded into the hearse, and then Pr. Fritz Baue led the procession across the street and up into the cemetery. I'm thinking it was maybe a quarter mile. We all walked. The vested clergy led the way following the cross and the great bell of St. John's tolled as we walked along. Pastor Pavelsky prayed the committal and then we headed back to the Church. 

It was an honor beyond words to participate in his funeral, and he was a true friend. I told him once that there are only a handful of friends I have to whom I can tell absolutely anything, and he is one of them. Rest in peace, beloved of the Lord. I look forward to feasting with you again in the Day that knows no evening in the kingdom of our Father.

11 December 2014

Random thought for the day...

...the LCMS structure as conceived by the founders of Synod only works if the members of congregations and the pastors of parishes are self-consciously LUTHERAN, that is, if they are willing to be corrected by and held accountable to the Symbolical Books in doctrine and in practice. 

10 December 2014

Another Beautiful Advent Evening Prayer

We were a little late for the hymn sing, but got to enjoy most of it. Then the Candlelight Service of Light, incense at Psalm 141, St. Paul school children chanted Psalm 50, we sang "Lo, He Comes" and then Pastor Ball read us the prophesy from Malachi 4 and preached a very comforting sermon on the same (referencing the four children so brutally murdered for Christ by ISIS). We joined in Magnificat, then during the offering, the school children sang the Advent Hymn Conditor Alme Siderum (stanzas 1 and 6 both in Latin and English). After the Ektenne litany and closing prayers, Carlo gave us Pachelbel's "Nun Komm." Such peace, such joy, and even the darkness of the news in the world around us cannot take away the hope of the healing that the Parousia will bring. The little martyrs raised and honored, disease and death past, and sins gone, having been covered under the saving blood of our Lamb. Truly glorious.

09 December 2014

Info on Lee's Funeral

Rev. Lee Maxwell, 59, of Collinsville died Friday, December 5, 2014. Visitation 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday St. John Lutheran Church, Maryville. Funeral 11 a.m. at the church. Burial in St. John Lutheran Cemetery, Maryville. Barry Wilson Funeral Home, Maryville.

Read more here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/belleville/obituary.aspx?n=lee-maxwell&pid=173408362&fhid=16827#storylink=cpy

05 December 2014

+ Dr. Lee Maxwell

Asleep in Jesus. Rest in peace, dear and faithful friend. 

03 December 2014

Evening Prayer

What a joy Evening Prayer was tonight! After the usual hymnsing before the service, the large candle was processed in and we lit our tapers from it and then joined in Joyous Light and gave thanks for the light that NO darkness can overcome. During Psalm 141 the sweet incense rose, as pastor censed the altar, the candle, and the people. The school children chanted Psalm 24 and did such an outstanding job. You could understand every word. We sang together St. Ambrose's "Savior of the Nations." Pastor Gleason read the prophesy from Jeremiah 23 and preached upon it: "Behold, the days are coming..." We stood to join in Mary's Magnificat and then during the offering the school children sang again: "Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen." First stanza auf Deutsch, and the rest in English. Then we chanted together the Ektenne with its broad sweep of intercessions, the collect for peace, the Our Father, Benedicamus and Benediction. We left to Bach's joyous Prelude and Fugue in g minor. From start to finish, it was an service brimming with Advent joy and there was nothing like hearing the school children singing so confidently, joyfully, and sweetly to swell the heart.

A Place of the Real Presence of Christ in the Midst of a Boisterous and Unholy World...

"We can desire nothing more beautiful and greater for our houses of God than that they be places where the Holy Supper is celebrated according to the institution of Christ, and a believing congregation is gathered about the altar to receive the true body and the true blood of our Lord. Only then will the church of the Gospel, the church of the pure doctrine remain among us. Only then will it remain, but it will truly remain, 'and the gates of hell shall not overpower her' [Matt 16:18]. And everywhere a congregation is gathered about her altar in deep faith in the one who is her Lord and her Head because he is her Redeemer, where she sings the Kyrie and the Gloria and lifts her heart to heaven and with all angels and archangels and the entire company of heaven sings, 'Holy, holy, holy' to the Triune God--there will her church be a true house of God, a place of the real presence of Christ in the midst of a boisterous and unholy world. And this text will apply to her: 'The LORD is in his temple! Let all the world be silent before him!' [Hab 2:20]."

Hermann Sasse, "The Holy Supper and the Future of Our Church," in The Lonely Way, vol. 1, pp. 487-88.

[HT: Randy Asburry]

01 December 2014

St. Andrew

Yesterday we commemorated St. Andrew, the Apostle. The Treasury of Daily Prayer has a beautiful devotion on the day from a homily of Valerius Herberger. Just a snippet: "Then when he saw the cross, he [Andrew] spoke: 'Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.'" The collect for St. Andrew's asks: "grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus in heart and life" whom St. Andrew followed when he obeyed the Lord's call so long ago. The Sunday nearest St. Andrew's day always determines the start of Advent and alas since it fell ON the first Sunday of Advent this year, we commemorated him in the prayers without celebrating the Divine Service appointed for his day.

30 November 2014

Okay, I might be prejudiced, but...

...what a great looking family:

Now, Lauren and Dean, I need YOUR family pic for Christmas! Mom and Bek and I will get one posted here one of these days. 

Advent arrives

today with its ever joyful hope of repentance and renewal. The new man welcomes each of the penitential seasons as a fresh opportunity to assault the old man and his wretched ways that ever come creeping back in to corrupt our lives and destroy faith. The Epistle for this day sounds that note particularly. And this assault on the old man is possible because of the certain foundation in which the new man stands:

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 sin forgiv'n,
His children thus securing
Eternal life in heav'n. 
LSB 334:6

It was a blessing to hear the Gospel from the lips of our dear District President, Pr. Timothy Scharr, in both the Divine Service and Bible Class, and to receive the gift anew of the Savior's body and blood, praying and singing together:

Enter now my waiting heart,
Glorious King and Lord most holy.
Dwell in me and ne'er depart,
Though I am but poor and lowly.
Ah, what riches will be mine
When Thou art my guest divine!
LSB 350:2

29 November 2014

The Card Vacation

So, we started out with Pinochle, four handed, no passing, on Friday night. The men won. We moved to six handed Pinochle, with passing, on Sunday. The men won. We moved to liverpool on both Wednesday and Friday, and Cindi won once and Karen twice. Tonight we move to Pinochle with passing, and we'll see who will win. I'm betting it will be the men. So ten days off and five nights of cards. Sounds good to me!

28 November 2014

The Advent Fast

is almost upon us. I know that in the world around us, "the holidays" have begun. But in contast to the world, in the Church these are quiet and contemplative days. She provides a joyous haven from the insane gluttony and indulgence. In the Divine Service, the Greater Gloria is silenced and the Kyrie may be extended. Come this Saturday it will be time to light the first candle on the wreath. This year, our family will be reading in the evenings from God With Us: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Sermons by David H. Petersen. The traditional weekly Wednesday and Friday fasts might well be augmented with the Ember Saturday fast (this year, December 20). And best of all, in so many of our parishes Vespers or Evening Prayer will be offered on Wednesdays. These are truly my favorite Vespers of the year. Something about heading off to church with your breath puffing in the cold air and the twinkling lights shining out of the cold dark vault above, summoning us to join in praise of their Creator: Creator of the stars of night... At the IC in our chapels on Tuesdays and Thursdays we'll be meditating on the Great O Antiphons. We'll pray them in Treasury on December 16 thruough the 23. We decided this year to keep the fast by decorating much later in our home. A few "winter" things may appear, but the Christmas goodies will wait for at least the time of the Great O's and we'll keep the full twelve days.

A few thanksgiving pics...

Though I forgot to get some of the main table...

26 November 2014

News reached us tonight

of an old friend entering hospice care. Thinking of one of the hymns for the Last Sunday:

There shall we see in glory
Our dear Redeemer's face;
The long-awaited story
Of heavenly joy takes place.
The patriarchs shall meet us,
The prophets' holy band;
Apostles, martyrs, greet us
In that celestial land.

There God shall from all evil
Forever make us free,
From sin and from the devil,
From all adversity,
From sickness, pain and sadness,
From troubles, cares, and fears,
And grant us heavenly gladness
And wipe away our tears.

In that fair home shall never
Be silent music's voice;
With hearts and lips forever
We shall in God rejoice,
While angel hosts are raising
With saints from great to least
A mighty hymn for praising
The Giver of the feast.
LSB 514:2–4

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The light snowfall

had me remembering the day Daddy died and then I remembered. Yesterday marked the 20th year since Mom passed away. And this January 5th will mark the 35th since Daddy died. I always feel sadness with the holidays come and think of those who have gone and who never got to know their wonderful grandchildren (and great children) and nephew and nieces. And hard as it is to fathom this will be the second Thanksgiving and Christmas without our dear Jo. 


A pot of Irish Breakfast, a roaring fire, the dance of snowflakes outside the windows, and a sleeping baby...while Lutheran Public Radio plays quietly. Could one ask for a better afternoon?


Are well under way. Cranberry sauce and cornbread dressing were made up yesterday. Stuffed mushrooms prepared. Sweet tater soufflé done. Turkey thawing. Cherry and pecan pie smelling up the house. Chocolate and pumpkin still to go. Potatoes to peel, asparagus spears to wrap in bacon, veggies and summer sausage to cut up, cheeses to slice, tapioca flour rolls to ready. Dave is bringing ham and Aunt Sandy some wheat rolls. A holiday ale for those who would like it; wine or beer, coffee or water for the rest.

25 November 2014

Gifts from the Lord...

...my eldest daughter created this today to share her good news. She was quite amused with herself. 

I suppose you can sign me Old Fish. 

23 November 2014

Hymns of the Last Sunday

The last Sunday in the Church Year contains some of my favorite hymns. We sing not only Nicolai's great "Wake, Awake!" but "Christ Is Surely Coming" (newer, and very good), "The Day Is Surely Drawing Near" (a Reformation adaptation of the medieval Dies Irae), and the lovely scandinavian "Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers." In all of them rings out the somber warning of preparation for the Day of the Lord that is sounded in all the readings appointed for the day, and yet their tone is overwhelmingly one of joy. The believer in Christ welcomes and longs for the advent of that great Day precisely becaue the believer in Christ longs for the Savior and for the complete freedom from sin which He will bring with Him as His final gift to His bride before He ushers her into the joyous and unending feast.

Commemoration of Clement of Rome

From our Synod's website: Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church's worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr's death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God's redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone.

Treasury of Daily Prayer offers a beautiful collect for this commemoration, asking: "Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (p. 944)

My favorite quote from St. Clement of Rome is from his first letter to the Corinthians:

"Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen." - St. Clement of Rome (Letter to the Corinthians, par. 32)

21 November 2014

Another "aha"

from the Seed Grains. Long time readers of this blog might recall the firestorm unintentionally set off with this post on the emendation of texts that the Lutherans had practiced at the time of the Reformation. I find it interesting that Loehe carried one of these gems forward in Seed Grains, and it appears as prayer 205 (p. 118). All Hail:

All hail! King of mercy. Hail! Thou Who art the life, the joy, and the hope of our souls. We miserable children of Eve cry unto Thee. We long for Thee, sorrowing and weeping in this vale of tears. Hail, therefore, O Lord Christ! Thou Who dost intercede for us with God, turn Thine eyes, beaming with mercy, upon us, and show Thyself unto us, Thou blessed Son of God and of Mary, when the days of our misery shall have passed. O gracious, gentle, sweet and lovely Jesus Christ. Amen.

Similarly, he offers the Anima Christi (p. 118):

May the soul of Christ sanctify me. May the body of Christ preserve me. May the blood of Christ nourish me. The water that flowed from His riven side, may it cleanse me. In Thy holy wounds let me hide. O Lord, help me that I be never separated from Thee. Defend me against the evil one. In the hour of death set me down by Thee, that I may with all Thy holy angels evermore praise Thee. Amen.

That Ellipsis in the Friday Prayer

It's in our Treasury of Daily Prayer, on page 1313:

Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, we thank You... that You have redeemed us poor and condemned creatures.

The ellipsis has always bothered me. What was supposed to be there? But then I found the prayer in Loehe's Seed Grains of Prayer on page 125:

We give thanks unto Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, true God and Man, that by Thy holy sufferings, death and shedding of blood Thou hast redeemed us poor sinful and condemned beings.

So now that I know WHAT was missing, the question is why on earth would it have NOT been included?

20 November 2014

A Solemn Atmosphere

Today in our Churches we have an altar for the administration of the Eucharist, and we have platforms or pulpits for teaching the people. These objects were built not only to meet a need but also to create a solemn atmosphere.—Martin Luther on Genesis 2:9

Beautiful Luther Quote

We can state with certainty that where the Eucharist, Baptism, and the Word are, there are Christ, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.—Martin Luther on Genesis Commentary (4:3).

19 November 2014

If you would remember

my friend Jennifer (who designed the header of this blog) in your prayers, I'd be grateful. Jennifer recently received word of a major health issue. 

Climb every mountain...

...or desk or table:

Commemorating St. Elizabeth of Hungary

From our Synod's website (and the Treasury of Daily Prayer):

Born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given as a bride in an arranged political marriage, Elizabeth became the wife of Louis of Thuringia in Germany at the age of 14. She had a spirit of Christian generosity and charity, and the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was known for its hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy and even gave up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at the age of 20, she made provisions for her children and entered into an austere life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

The Treasury offers a beautiful prayer for the day, asking "Mighty King, whose inheritance is not of this world, inspire in us the humility and benevolent charity of Elizabeth of Hungary." (p. 929) She is a shining light for Christ's people, pointing the way to live welcoming every person as Christ, and every need and suffering as His own.

The Writing for today (from Dr. Luther) captures her spirit: "But if anyone earnestly believed that he is receiving the Lord Himself when he receives a poor brother, there would be no need for such anxious, zealous, and soliticous exhortations to do works of love...together with godly Abraham we would run to meet the wretched people, invite them into our homes, seize upon this honor and distinction ahead of others and say: 'O Lord Jesus, come to me; enjoy my bread, wine, silver and gold. How well it is has been invested by me when I invest it in You!'" (p. 928)

The Prayer of the Church

in the old Common Service is itself a powerful lesson in learning how to ask good things from God and to receive His varied benefactions with thanksgiving and praise. As I pondered that prayer this morning, I was particularly appreciative of this paragraph:

And although we have deserved Thy righteous wrath and manifold punishments, yet, we entreat Thee, O most merciful Father, remember not the sins of our youth nor our many transgressions; but out of Thine unspeakable goodness, grace, and mercy, defend us from all harm and danger of body and soul. Preserve us from false and pernicious doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and despair of Thy mercy, and from an evil death. And in every trouble, show Thyself a very present Help, the Savior of all men, and especially of them that believe.

Three things stood out to me in that petition. First, our ancestors in the faith held that doctrine was not by any means a neutral thing. When it was falsified, it was pernicious: a danger that they ranked ahead of any temporal disaster that could befall. Second, that petition for preservation from "despair of Thy mercy." The very real danger of sinners being so utterly overwhelmed in their own sinfulness that they imagine that it could extinguish the ocean of divine mercy. Third, how fitting this prayer is for us to offer in the St. Louis area as we await of whatever will follow in the wake of the Michael Brown Grand Jury announcement.

The little volume An Explanation of the Common Service (now reprinted by Emmanuel Press and worth owning by every Lutheran), notes that the General Prayer has been "in almost its present form in 1553." The Muehlenberg liturgy insisted that it not be altered. The question is put: "Are the prayers of the Common Service preferable to free prayers?" and the answer given: "Yes. Because they are not the prayers of the Minister, but of the Church; not of a single congregation, but of the whole Church; and because each person may readily take part in them. The needs of God's people are ever the same, and the beautiful forms, which the Church has developed in her experience through the ages, give full expression to the believer's wants at all times." (p. 47) 

There's wisdom there.

A Video Introduction to the Book of Concord

I honestly can't remember if I have posted this before, but it's a video introduction to the Book of Concord I was privileged to offer at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in LaGrange, Kentucky a while back. It took Pr. Fraiser a few minutes to get the mic on me since I wasn't holding still, so the audio improves after a bit:

Intro to the Book of Concord

18 November 2014

You know...

...I DO enjoy doing the radio shows. But I think between last week and this, I ended up recording or doing 15 different ones, most being Thy Strong Word, of course, but also three Issues and a guest spot on Family Shield with Kay Meyer. But I'm definitely ready for Friday to be here and not to think about radio at all for one solid week. Still, had a blast today with former fieldworker, vicar, and dear friend Pastor Brian Holle today on Thy Strong Word doing Mark 4. Thursday's Issues show on the term "Eucharist" for Lord's Supper should be a lot of fun too. When all is gift, all is given, then there is only thanksgiving!

17 November 2014

Much joy

in researching "Eucharist" for this week's Issues Etc. show. Some modern day Lutherans dislike the term, but it was widely used among Lutherans of yesteryear...

15 November 2014

On food

Great meals today! 

Breakfast: sausage, egg (we get the best eggs from Shirley!), potatoes (reheated and fried) and spinach and onions. And Cindi and I MIGHT have downed two pots of coffee between us. And that ws before I pulled out the french press.

Lunch: a big salad with some of our home grown tomatoes (a handful left, still ripening in the kitching window) with all kinds of veggies and topped with wild caught smoked sock-eye salmon and hardboiled egg. Very, very good.

After I got the fire going

this morning, I stepped out onto the deck. It was still quite cold. In the 20's, I'm guess. That chill air and smell of a wood fire? It carries me back to Aunt Emma's or Grandma Bess's in a heartbeat. They both cooked over stoves that were wood fueled, and made some of the tastiest food you'd ever put in your mouth. But mostly I think of tramping in the woods in the cold, and that smell of the wood burning greeted you as you headed toward the house as the sun was setting and you knew that inside was everything most precious: the family gathered around the table, laughter, and stories. Odd how just the whiff of the wood fire and the cold brings it all rushing back to mind.

13 November 2014

Much joy today

as Pastor Day and I discuss Mark 1 on Thy Strong Word:

12 November 2014

Today's Chapel Homily

On Colossians 2:11ff. and Augsburg Confession, Article IX.

It was surely one of the shockers of the Reformation when Lutherans found fellow Christians ready to dump the Baptism of infants and doing so because they decided that Baptism was, after all, something we do and it can only have value and worth if we do it with our noggins fully engaged. Once again, grownups getting in the way, blocking the little ones from coming to Jesus to receive His blessing. Telling them: Not yet. You can’t appreciate His embrace until you can think it through for yourself.

Paul in todays’ reading significantly likens Baptism in the New Covenant to circumcision in the Old. But as always the Old was piecemeal and the new is whole hog. So in circumicion a bit of your flesh was slice off and tossed away, but in Baptism, the whole body of flesh is done to death with Jesus and then raised with Him through faith. And this is the key phrase: “through the powerful working of God.”

Baptism isn’t your doing. Get your hands off the verbs! Baptism is where God does the powerful work. He takes those who are dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of their flesh and He buries them with Jesus and then proceeds to make them alive together with Christ. And He does this by way of forgiveness: “having forgiven us ALL our trespasses, cancelling the record of debt that stood against us.”

Little ones need it. Big ones need it. Age is irrelevant. Take the little ones and ask yourself: Did you ever have to teach them to be selfish? To say: “Mine!” It’s almost the first word they learn after mama and papa and NO. Thrwart their little plans and watch and see. Does the tiny baby in the cradle ever not scream bloody murder when it doesn’t get what it wants? See the shaking and the anger and the turning red in the face.

Which is just to note that the little ones need what Baptism gives. They need forgiveness. They need to be joined to Jesus in his death, burying that sinful impulse that animates us, and rising with Him to a new life.

But, the other folks said and say to the Lutherans, but what good is it if the babies can’t believe? And we answer: Oh, not a bit of good at all. Good thing that they can. Or rather, good thing that God can give the gift of faith to an infant. Faith is always impossible for human beings no matter their age. It only comes if it ever comes as a divine gift, freely given. So Psalm 22:9 “You took me from my mother’s womb, YOU MADE ME TRUST IN YOU on my mother’s breast.” In the OT through the gift of circumcision but in the NT through the gift of Baptism. What did Peter preach on Pentecost?

“Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the promise is for you and your children.” They are not to be excluded from the place where in the mighty working of God sin is forgiven: the waters of Baptism. That’s where the triumph of the cross is forked over first and foremost. Amen.

11 November 2014

A cold and grey November day...

...and a roaring fire in the fireplace, the dog asleep on the hearth mat, candles on the mantel, and soup for dinner. Life is good.

10 November 2014


I think Sandy Bowers is right. A baked tater is a darned near perfect lunch. With real butter and cheese and sour cream and bacon and chives. Oh yeah. 

08 November 2014


Bit of a longish day. Got up by six to get over to seminary to lead Matins for the opening of the Infertility Ethics Symposium. Pr. Pless preached the first service. Then Pastor Cwirla did the perfect opening presentation, wrapping us up in the Biblical narrative and so allowing the Spirit to open our eyes to new ways of seeing all things.

Right after he wrapped up, I headed back home and changed. Cindi and I headed into Edwardsville to pick up a few items and then head over to David and Meaghan's for Lydia's birthday party. She was back on October 30th, but this was when the family could gather to celebrate. She had a great time, though I think she was surprised by all these people invading her home. Got to see David's landscaping up close and the kitchen he's building for Lydia. How on earth did I ever end up with such a handy son? Amazing! After Lydia opened her presents, we headed back home. I changed and headed back to St. Louis.

Got there just in time to hear Pr. Esget's absolutely stunning presentation. So much to think about! And so utterly practical. Beautiful stuff.

I had to cut short the last presentation to get stuff ready for Vespers. Dork that I am, I FORGOT THE CANDLES. I noticed halfway through Vespers that they were not lit. Oh well. Dr. Gibbs gave us the goods in the sermon on Romans 8:26ff. Headed back home for a quiet evening of Schütz and a glass of wine. Cindi's off bowling and Bekah is watching something on her iPad in her room. And that's about a wrap.

04 November 2014

Luther on Ecclesiastes 6

He wants us to enjoy our pleasure, but in God, so that we do not abandon ourselves to pleasure when it is present, as the wicked do, nor grieve when it is absent but bear it with equanimity.

03 November 2014

Luther on Ecclesiastes 5

But one should travel on the royal road. Let us work hard and do whatever we can in accordance with the Word of God; let us not, however, measure the work on the basis of our efforts, but commit every effort and plan and outcome to the wisdom of God.

02 November 2014

Joyous All Saints Celebration

As is the custom in so many of our parishes, St. Paul's transferred All Saints to this Sunday (traditionally, All Souls), and commemorated especially the faithful departed of St. Paul's whose pilgrimage ended since the last All Saints celebration. Pr. Ball read not only the names but, I suspect, the confirmation verses of the deceased. Each was marked with the tolling of the great bell.

A great treat was hearing Pr. Sharp, Synod's new missionary to Uruguay, preach on the Beatitutudes (best sermon on them I've ever heard) and present in Bible Class on the nature of the mission. Did you know that Uruguay is overwhelmingly folks of European descent and that it is the only Latin American country where the majority of the country is not Roman Catholic?

01 November 2014

That middle of the night wakefulness

Like everyone else I thought it a problem. I called it my donut hole. I'd fall sound asleep and then wake up for no apparent reason and have trouble getting back to sleep until an hour or an hour and a half went by. But then I encountered this:

Check it out. Think of our Lord's pattern of prayer. His assumptions about "watchfulness" - that night was not just for sleep. Think of the monastic singing of the psalms at midnight. It all makes soooo much sense.

31 October 2014

Reformation Day

Fundamentally the plea for the Church to recognize, further, and live congruently with a life of receptivity, where all is gift from the Triune God, as the poet put it, "unasked, unsought, unearned." Gift from the heart of Him whose love for us knows no bounds and who summons us to be enlivened by simply receiving. "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!" Psalm 81. Blessed Festival, people loved by God!

Luther on Ecclesiastes 4

Therefore the best thing is to enjoy the things that you have in the present, to do everything in the present, and to let what is evil flow past you.

30 October 2014

Luther on Ecclesiastes 3

Therefore let us not torment ourselves about future things, but enjoy present things.

And Happy Birthday!

To Lydia Charlotte, my YOUNGEST granddaughter. Can't believe it was a year ago I first held you.

29 October 2014

Luther on Ecclesiastes 2 - at the Heart of the Receptive Life

This does not mean that happiness is condemned as something evil or vain. What is condemned is human striving and planning, when we ourselves want to try to create happiness without respect to the will of God. But as both come from God, let us use them. As it is a sin to invite anxiety and sorrow by our own counsels and also a sin to refuse to suffer them when they are imposed upon us by God, so it is also to be condemned if we run away from happiness and do not accept it when it is given by God.—Luther on Ecclesiastes 2

28 October 2014

Happy birthday!

Can hardly believe it was a year ago that Lauren went into labor nearly a month early and surprised us all (and most of all the hospital staff, who were expecting her a month later for a c-section!), and gave birth to Annabelle,  stealing her cousin's due-date! Though she is littler, she thus became our eldest granddaughter.

Happy birthday, Annabelle Scarlet! Grandpa and Nana love you!

26 October 2014

a Reformation Day Homily

Delivered at Martini Lutheran in Baltimore at Vespers today.

By 1520 the storm he’d stirred up was threatening to become a tsunami engulfing all the Western Church. He still didn’t seem to have the first clue about the threat he’d proven to be to Church officials and he thought that if the pope himself just heard of this joy that was now his, all would come out okay. So he pens a little book and dedicates it, of all things, to Pope Leo X from his dutiful servant, Martin Luther. And as thought how to encapsulate everything he’d been rejoicing in, it came down to two statements that sounded contradictory but were in fact completely complimentary. 

The Christian is perfectly free, lord of all, subject to none.
The Christian is perfectly dutiful, servant of all, subject to all.

The opening lines of Luther’s monumental The Freedom of the Christian. And that work remains to this day the classic statement of the joyful “aha” that resulted in the Lutheran Reformation and which, I would suggest to you, people loved by God, is the reason why being Lutheran still matters and why almost five centuries later, the Reformation remains vitally important for the whole Church of Christ.

It was and it is all about freedom. God doesn’t want slaves. He renounces the way of coercion. He seeks children who serve Him freely and in joy and not cringing in terror and fear. You hear it in today’s third reading. Our Lord says “If you continue or abide in my Word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom is what He came to bring! Freedom was His gift. Not like folks think of freedom these days, meaning: “I can do whatever I want whenever I want to.” Live like that and you’ll soon find out that it’s not freedom at all; it’s the way to end up a slave to your own passions, appetites and desires. Your Lord came to free you from that dead end way of living. 

But to promise and deliver freedom, that requires owning up to bondage, and this is exactly what the Jews in the Gospel or even the Church in Luther’s day, couldn’t stomach. “Free? What do you mean set us free? We aren’t slaves. We are children of Abraham and have never been anyone’s slaves. What do you mean we shall be set free?”

Similarly the hierarchy in those days: We are the holy Roman CHURCH! What do you mean blathering on about this freedom? What’s importance is that YOU knuckle under and do as you’re told. Who do you think you are?

Luther’s joyous answer, of course, was “Me? I’m a perfectly free, Lord of all; oh, and a perfectly dutiful servant of all. Sent to be a servant of other’s joyful freedom. In the service of the Master who came to make free children of God and no slaves.”

The Jews had their laws that they thought MUST be upheld, obeyed, and it was in the obedience to them that they focused their zeal and placed their hope of salvation. DOING the bidding of the God who had taken them as His own people through Abraham was their duty and their calling. 

But the God of Abraham is the God of freedom and the God who desires children, not slaves. That’s why He had TAKEN them out of slavery in Egypt and why He had given them the divine worship and promises. And the Law itself. A gift given. A gift given to show them their real slavery from which they could never themselves free no matter how hard they strove. 

They wouldn’t see it, though. And so Jesus speaks the hard word: “Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave doesn’t continue in the house forever.” Sin isn’t something you DO, Jesus says. It’s far, far more insidious than that. Sin is a force. A power. A domineering power. A power that enslaves. It owns you. Rules you. 

You know it’s path. You know how it goes. You know it entices you. Try it. It can’t hurt. Everyone’s doing it. No biggy. And how the very taste of it is seduction and the seduction becomes addiction. You fight. You pull back. But you also want. You want the experience again. And again. And even after it has long since ceased to satisfy. Still you go back. Like the dog to its vomit. The vomit it calls and you find yourself unable to turn away. 

Disgusting, yes. But isn’t it true, people loved by God? Isn’t that the path. The way it works. Sin snares you, and once it has you, you can’t break free by any effort of your will. You can try with might and main, but you know as surely as I’m standing here before you, it HAS you. You are slave.

And there is NOTHING so uncertain as the place of the slave. Sin wants to use you, to trample on you and torture you and then to hand you over to death. Eternal death. “The wage sin pays is death” says St. Paul. A taskmaster, no friend. A tyrant, no freedom. Do it again and again and again, as sin mocks your helplessness.

BUT into this world came the one in whom sin couldn’t get its claws, no matter how hard it tried. Into this world where everyone serves sin in some way or another, tortured and helpless, caught in the snares of their own desires, into this world came one who was truly FREE. And free because He was the Son. His place in His Father’s house didn’t depend for one second on what He did or didn’t do. His place was assured because of who He was. And because He was free and Son, what did He come to do?

He came to serve! No one is so free as the One who serves, whose delight and joy it is to be able to serve the captives by setting them free from their bondage, free from their chains, and inviting them into His relationship with the Father. So free that He could even take all the sins that master and torture and torment you and lift them off you and bear them in His own body. In His own FREE body where they could never bend Him to their will and so destroy them there forever. 

Behold, the cross! Behold the blood of the free Son, freely poured out so that sin would lose its mastery over you and you be forgiven, adopted, brought into the freedom of the children of God.

He came forth from the Father one free Son, but He goes back to the Father bringing with Him the fruits of His labor. Not a pile of slaves. Not a pile of cringing and fearful hirelings who have no clue how long they’ll be tolerated before God finally is fed up with them and tosses them out. No. He comes back with free children of God. Freed by the Words He spoke. Free indeed. Sins no longer able to accuse them, to master them, to make them come when called. Sins blood covered and so forgiven. Death no longer the fate to which their sin hands them over when its done with them. Death rather with a resurrection sized hole blown right through its stinking belly through which they will pass with Him. Free children. So completely free that all of the faith has come to them as GIFT. They see it all as GIFT. Nothing about what we earn or deserve. Only gifts given lavishly and freely. The Father gives the Son. The Son gives the Spirit. The Spirit gives you faith that binds you to the Son and the Son rejoices to present you to the Father. All gift.

And so Christianity to be seen in its true light must never be thought of as rules and laws and a frowning God just waiting for you to step out of line so He can wallop you one and torture you forever. Nor is it about the freedom to live in your broken shackles and sin’s crumbled prison holds. That’s not freedom! It’s the freedom to leave that prison forever and be a child. A child in the house of the Father. It is to realize that the standing you could never achieve for all your struggling against sin’s chains is the very gift God gives you in His Son that crushes those chains forever. 

Easter triumph! Easter joy!
This alone can sin destroy!
From sins’ power, Lord, set us free, 
Newborn souls in you to be.

HERE is the Reformation gift to the whole Church. This is why Lutheranism stands and will continue to stand. To remind the whole Church and to proclaim in all the world that the Son’s gift to us is freedom. And that our faith isn’t founded in, let alone shored up by, rules and regulations. Holy days of obligation and fasting from certain foods at prescribed times. Going to communion at least once a year and only after having made confession of your sins to the priest. Do you see what all of that is? Bondage! Not freedom!

BUT the Reformation was so free that it realized that what the law couldn’t guard or preserve, this was God’s free gift. “If you abide in my Word” our Lord said. Why Sunday? Why gather? Not to keep some law, but to receive the gift of freedom! Why receive the Sacrament? Not to fulfill a duty, but receive the gift of freedom! Why observe the Church calendar? Not to be religious, but to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as it gives its gifts of freedom and lifts you by the Spirit to the freedom of the children of God.

Reformation still matters because freedom still matters. It matters to God, and HE would have you not be a servile and fearful, simpering cowering slave, but would have you be a royal son or daughter, a true child of the King who fears nothing at all.

Late, late in his life, Luther reflected on this great joy. It was during an Advent sermon only a couple months before his death. He wrote: “It is well with a man who belongs to an eternal kingdom. He can dance through life forevermore!” You and me too. We can dance through life. For we are children of the King, and sisters and brothers of the Son of God, and to us all, and I mean all, is gift. We live in freedom and serve in freedom and we can even die in freedom because we have within a life that death cannot take from us, forgiveness poured on us bigger than all the world’s sin. So, Happy Reformation, people loved by God, happy feast of freedom! You have been set free; as you continue in the Word it will continue to set you free, to set your feet dancing and your heart singing that to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be all the glory now and ever and to the ages of ages! Amen.

24 October 2014

What a treat!

I have loved reading Pr. David Petersen's sermons for years. He's simply one of the best preachers you can hope to hear. And NOW Emmanuel Press has issued a new volume of his homilies: God With Us: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Sermons by David H. Petersen. Awesome! One for every single holy day in these great seasons. 

"Adam and Eve had wanted in their greed to become like God. So God became like them, was incarnate, was made man..."

"It's not just that you receive love. He has also redeemed you as a lover..."

"We all go the way that He has gone; the way also of St. Mary. These sorrows reveal our hearts. They reveal who we really are. They uncover us..."

"Faith causes you to feel sorrow and shame, not doubt or unbelief."

So many, many more. I fully intend to mark the holy days this year with a bit of Petersen each day. You can too. Visit Emmanuel Press and place your order. You'll be blessed!

23 October 2014


has definitely hit a home run with how all these things are working so beautifully together. I absolutely love my iPad mini and it is usually what I take on the road to present from or preach from. It's got incredibly great battery life and is a faithful workhorse. I have a keyboard and case I bought for it, and after a bit of getting used to the slightly odd layout, I can fly on it as fast as on my laptop (which usually stays at work and gets left behind...)

And the iPhone 6! It's amazing on so many levels. I love the new instant hotspot; the way the camera basically doesn't even know how to take a bad shot (big for me, because my hands shake a bit); and the night reading mode for iBooks...and....and a hundred other things. The thing is amazing, but I'm not sure why we call it a phone at all. That's the LEAST of its functions, but it does it that one handily as well. 

The other day, David asked me if I even imagined at his age that I'd be able to hold the collective wisdom of the human race in my hands and that such a slim thing could be all the devices it is (phone, video capture and play back, library, photo album, camera, game center, newspaper etc.). I readily confessed that I could not have imagined such a thing. David then asked: "But where will it be when I'M your age?" Mind blowing even to think of. One thing I'd be willing to bet on: Apple will be there, making it all not just work, but work insanely well and with beautiful simplicity.

22 October 2014

Chrysostom on Galatians 3

As by dying, He rescued from death those who were dying, so by taking upon Himself the curse, He delivered them from it.  

21 October 2014

Chrysostom on Galatians 2

For as regards the former Dispensation and Law, I had incurred the severest punishment, and had long ago perished, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. And we, who lay under sentence, have been liberated by Christ, for all of us are dead, if not in fact, at least by sentence; and He has delivered us from the expected blow. When the Law had accused and God had condemned us, Christ came, and by giving Himself up to death, rescued us all from death. So that the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith. Had not this been, nothing could have averted a destruction as general as that which took place at the flood, but His advent arrested the wrath of God and caused us to live by faith.—St. John Chrysostom, Galatians 2

19 October 2014

A Tribute

He was always so...polite, kind, intelligent. He had the gift of putting others at ease. I always wondered if the Lord who snatch him up for the office of the holy ministry. His eyes were quintessentially honest. They were an open door to a beautiful soul. He couldn't deceive if he tried. And now he's gone. Crossing a street and struck, a college freshman. And a family left in ruins behind him. And all the inevitable questioning: "why, Lord?" and the stony silence of heaven the only answer. Well, not the only answer. Connor knew that the final answer, and the only one that held, was from a Cross. It doesn't answer our "why?" but it does assure of the only thing we can know with certainty: behind all the mess and the disaster and the tears, stands a Love that is unshakeable, secure, and our only peace. Connor goes to his grave redeemed, loved, and REMEMBERED. The Savior who has named him His will raise him on the last day and we will be there, rejoicing with him again. In the meantime, rest in peace, young friend.

15 October 2014


again after a wonderful time in Texas at Built on the Rock: Christ, Culture and Sacred Music. Pr. Todd Wilken, Dr. Charles Ore and yours truly got to present and it was a lot of fun. I am very, very thankful, howevever, to be home again. Dorothy had it right. There's no place like it. I am sitting here on this cloudy, chilly day in my recliner with faithful Lucy dozing beside me, a glass of wine at my side and a good book on my iPad. Ah, if only it gets a little more chilly I may well throw a match on the fire (it's ready to go!)...just hope I remember to open the damper. 

Each Wednesday

in the Treasury's Daily Prayers, we pray for the dying. Thinking of the growing Ebola crisis, the prayers become ever more apt and fitting:

To comfort all the dying,
To forgive them all their sins,
To lead them out of this misery into eternal life:
We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

And for ourselves:

Holy Lord God, 
holy and mighty God, 
holy and most merciful Redeemer, 
allow us not to lose hope 
in the face of death and hell: 
Lord, have mercy.

14 October 2014

Listening to Pastor Wilken

at Built on the Rock: Christ, Culture, and Sacred Music at Lord of Life in Plano, Texas, and he mentioned the personal prayer of the communicant after receiving.

Christians pray different prayers at this point, of course. Many use the prayers in the front of the hymnal; others offer their own.

Here is a prayer that I prefer to pray after receiving the Savior's Body and Blood:

I thank You, O  Lord Jesus Christ, that You have granted me,  unworthy servant that I am, grace to receive this, Your most holy body and blood, and I pray that it would be to me for the forgiveness of all my sins, for strength in resisting temptations, for service in Your kingdom and finally for the glories of the life that never ends. Glory to You, Lord Jesus Christ, my King and my God!  Glory to You forever! Amen.

30 September 2014

On a roll

Usually things are so backed up at work that my to-do-list is quite depressing. Two relatively quiet and very productive days resulted in getting tons of projects finished and enabling that eminently satisfying moment of crossing them off my list. The big projects still to go:

Presentations for Plano conference
Homilies for tomorrow, next Monday, and next Wednesday
Drafting Prayers of the Church for one year series for December

There IS light at the end of that wretched tunnel...and here's to hoping it is not the proverbial train!

28 September 2014

A quiet breakfast

today. Just Cindi and Bekah and I. The memories of busy crazy breakfasts juxtaposed themselves. A crowded table after church on Sundays with all the kids home, sometimes their friends, Dave and Jo, and whoever might be visiting. Everyone talking louder and louder, the laughter, two cats wandering around and the dog begging scraps.

We usually have David, Meaghan and Lydia join us, but they attended her parents' church today. Dave was up in Michigan for a surprise birthday party for his nephew, Russ. So it was just us three. And Lucy. She's still around AND still begging.

Instead of just expecting a weekly crowd, we now look forward to visits when the house will be noisy with grandchildren and children and friends. And in between? Lots of quiet and silence. In which, like Bilbo,

"....I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door."

Very excited

to attend Church this morning because I get to sit in the nave instead of balcony. A true "back to normal" Sunday! Am eager to experience that lovely space from a different angle and perspective and to check out the sound.

27 September 2014


This week I was privileged to speak at the International Disaster Response Conference, held on the lovely campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I wish I could have attended a bit longer and learned more! I presented on Worship in a Time of Disaster: Semper et Ubique. The radical words of the Preface challenge us to see that the Church gives thanks to God through Jesus Christ at ALL times and in ALL places. 

In an idea I stole from Dr. Joseph Herl I suggested that all of liturgy and hymnody is practice for the worship that takes place in disaster...whether communal or personal. We practice to be able to fall down with Job and declare: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!" This is possible for us through Jesus Christ because we bow together before Him who knew life as a refuge, who knew what hunger is, who knew what it was to weep at the grave of a friend, and who experienced in his own flesh the violence of those who think they serve God by inflicting suffering and death on others. And He triumphed over them all, loving all the way! So His life never ends and so we are baptized into Him are called upon to offer in and through Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.

When my presentation was over, Ross Johnson, Director of Disaster Response, gave me this beautifully hand-painted original piece of art called "Doxology." The artist is Patti Miller.

We have it hanging now in our living room, a constant reminder that praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the calling of our lives, the great gift we are given through our Savior.