25 February 2015

Propers for the Persecuted Church

Can be downloaded here.

Passion, Part 1 - Today's Chapel Homily

There is something awesome in that last Passover celebrated by the Lord Jesus.  That night He was under no illusions.  He knew exactly what it was that awaited Him.  He also knew by whom it would come.  Reclining at the table in oriental fashion, he says quite plainly that one of the twelve will betray Him, and one after the other asks:  “Is it I?”  “Is it I?” “Is it I?”  Their hearts were breaking.  They’d been with Him long enough to know that whatever He said was truth.  He didn’t lie.  He didn’t exaggerate.  He didn’t deceive.  He just spoke what was and let the chips fall where they may.  The truth He spoke at the table that night was so painful that their hearts felt torn in two as He looked about them with such love. 

“The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him.” What was written?  To what was He referring?  Listen to what the prophets had said:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me?  So far from the words of my groaning....They have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.”  “His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.”  “He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”  “He was bruised for our iniquities.”  “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.”  “He bore the sins of many.”  “They will look on Me whom they have pierced, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a first-born.” 

Pain.  Suffering.  Crushing defeat.  Rejection.  Hatred.  Torture and death.  These stare Jesus in the face that night.  And He looks at them unflinchingly.  He knows that they will come to Him through Judas’ betrayal and he speaks of Judas’ future in terms very bleak indeed.  “Better for that man not to have been born.” 

But with all of that facing Him, Jesus looks at the Passover meal spread out before Him and what fills His heart?  Not despair.  Not anger.  With His suffering about to begin, Jesus’ heart is filled with joy and yearning.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus said to them:  “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” 

Throughout their years together they had seen it happen a hundred times.  Jesus, with food before Him, lifts His holy eyes to heaven and blesses God His Father, giving Him thanks and praise, and then they share the meal together.  He taught them at the meals.  He laughed with them at the meals.  He loved them at the meals.  Mealtime with Jesus was nothing less than heaven on earth.  And now He’s getting ready to leave them, to take away His visible presence from them.  This was to be the last meal that He would ever share with them in the old way.  In a sense it was all over, and yet in a way more wonderful than any of them could ever have imagined, it was still to go on and be better than it ever was before.

With joy in His heart, He took the break in His hands, hands soon to be pierced by nails, and lifted His eyes one more time to the skies and blessed the heavenly Father and then broke it and gave it to them and said the most awesome words:  “Take,; this is My body.”  With wonder in their eyes they took the bread and ate it.  Wondering, for Jesus, as we just said, was not given to lying or exaggerating or saying anything but the absolute truth.  “This is My body.”  In fear and trembling they received it, and they wondered.  And then He did the thing that was unthinkable for a Jew.  He took in his hand the cup, He lifted it up and gave thanks over it - and you just think what it means that that night and for that cup Jesus could give thanks - and He gave it to them and said:  “This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.” 

Now, no good Jew would ever drink blood, would ever even conceive of the idea.  God’s law given through Moses repeatedly stressed that never could God’s holy people drink blood or even eat meat with the blood in it.  God had said:  “The life is in the blood.”  And now Jesus reaches them the blood, the covenant blood, the blood of His new covenant, and bids them drink up.

Did He smile to see the perplexity on their faces as one after the other they drank?  He had just given them and through them given to His Church until the Last Day the manner and the means by which He would still have table fellowship with His own.  In the Body and in the Blood, His Body given for many, His Blood of the New and everlasting Covenant, He would still be with His disciples.  Giving them forgiveness.  Loving them.  Strengthening their faith. 

“Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  Yes, He looked the cross straight in the eye, but He saw that the cross wasn’t the end.  On the other side of the cross and darkness, there was the day of joy, the day when the Son of Man would lift the cup of wine at the Feast that does not end, the day when His family would be all gathered together, not just the 12 disciples but the 12 tribes of the New Israel, all His brothers and sisters. 

The writer to the Hebrews understood what was going on in the heart and mind of Jesus that night when he wrote:  “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is sat down at the right hand of God.”  So it was that the meal that night, which was to reach to the ends of time, bringing Jesus’ presence in His body and blood to his people, ended with a song.  Not a dirge, but a hymn of joy.  One of the Hallel Psalms, sung at the Passover.  A going home psalm.  The song of THE pilgrim on the way to THE holy city, bringing His family home with Him. Amen. 

18 February 2015

A Brief Homily for Ash Wednesday

Today at the chapel service at the International Center, Ash Wednesday will be observed in prayer, song, preaching, and the imposition of ashes. Here's the homily:

Two words for today. Remember. Return.

Remember first. These are the words that go with the ashes for which this day is named: “Remember, O man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Sad words from the saddest day of human history. The day Adam and Eve opened the door and invited in death to their bodies, to this world, into their children. And from that day to this, the grave has been our common destiny. And too often we have helped each other to it. We think of the martyrs now dying for Christ in north Africa, in Syria, in Nigeria. As Luther put it in is his hymn: “In the very midst of life death has us surrounded!” Accidents, disease, malice and murder. It’s all around. So, remember, O man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

So the ashes of this day have nothing to do with fasting. Our Lord warned against making a public show of your fasting with disfiguring your face, of your giving or your praying. No. The ashes of this day simply announce: “You're looking at a dying man living in the midst of dying men. We don’t know when, but do know that the grave is where we’re headed. Remember.”

And remember this too, that the ashes will go onto your head in the form of a cross. The cross of Him who became dust and ashes that He might lift from our race the sin that is the cause of our death and bear it Himself to destroy it and so to destroy death. That He might suffer and die on His cross as we all die, be buried as we will be buried, but then rise as we also shall rise, raised by His life-giving Spirit on the Last Day. Remember that too!

And remembering, heed the call from Joel that the choir sang us: Return! “Return to the Lord Your God for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Return because you remember that you are dying, and why you are dying. So return to Him who has more life to give you than you’ve got death, more forgiveness than you’ve got sin. Return to Him who eagerly waits for you to come to Him. Who never says: "What? You here again for forgiveness for THAT?" Rather, Him whose steadfast love always throws His arms around you and welcomes you home.

Let this whole season of Lent be for you a time of return to Him: each and every day coming to Him. Pick up your Treasury anew and meet Him there in His Words! Turn to Him every day in prayer—how well the litany would serve for this!  In the Sacrament, and in your neighbor in any need that you see. You will meet Him there too.

Remember…return. A blessed Lent to you all!

17 February 2015

A Lewis Treasure Trove

A dear listener wrote me the kindest letter, offering her collection of C. S. Lewis goodies (some quite rare) as she and her husband were downsizing. I thanked her with a "yes please" but told her I held her personally responsible for not getting any work done for the next couple months. I'm still licking my chops looking at the stack and wondering exactly where to begin...

16 February 2015

And the verdict is in...

...the snowblower is more than twice as fast as shoveling, but a pain in the butt when it comes to managing the cord. It also seems to struggle with more than six inches of the white powder. Still, all by myself I got both driveways open this morning in under two hours. Not bad at all.

09 February 2015

Chapel Service at IC on the day St. Paul Lutheran School sang

You can listen to the whole enchilada right here:

Turning Points

Have been meditating a bit on turning points; events or things that have lasting impact and shape you.

Here's a list of some biggies in my own life:

* Treasury

I had always struggled with my daily prayers. I used a variety of prayer books and Bible reading plans and so forth over the years. But when Treasury came out, that really changed for me. At first I was trying to use it like a Breviary, but that proved a bit frustrating. Two comments from friends help me sort this out. Bill Cwirla observed "I'm not a monk" and so he didn't try to pray the Daily Office in its full round. David Petersen observed "It's really a single office book" and so trying to divy it all up ends up making it a bit more complicated than it needs be. The result? Cindi and I have settled into using it all at one sitting. After breakfast we pull out our Treasury (when we're home) or our PrayNow app (when we're travelling), and we pray. Simple as can be and it takes us about fifteen or twenty minutes. I think we both have come to treasure (sic!) the time in God's Word and this resource has simply made our Bible reading and prayer together be easier than ever in our lives.

* Financial Peace University 

It was my friend Randy Asburry who introduced us to this gem. Our finances weren't awful, but neither Cindi nor I really "got" how money works and so we were always a tad short. FPU simply changed all that. For the first time in our lives, we weren't worrying about money. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Like nearly everyone who's ever attended, the big regret is that this turning point didn't come much, much earlier in our lives.

* Primal

I no longer even remember how we found Mark Sisson, but he's been a powerful influence in our lives when it comes to things like how we eat (think REAL whole food), how we sleep (trying to stay close to circadian rhythm), how we seek to spend time outside in the sunlight, how we exercise (goodbye chronic cardio!), and even how I work (standing station!). 

* Carlo

I've sung in many a choir over the years with some outstanding directors. Still, I've never had ANYONE come close to teaching me music so profoundly as our choirmaster and organist at St. Paul's. I find myself sightreading way beyond anything I used to be able to do. He has me working on Bach organ music, appreciating even the Romantics (that I used to think I disliked, nothing like singing them to change your mind). David and I were talking about this the other day and how we look forward to choir each week so much and how much a joy it is to sing for the congregation.

I could list out more turning points, but those are ones that really strike me in the last decade or so. What about you guys?

07 February 2015

What a great day!

Woke up early (for a Saturday!) and got some breakfast going. Cindi and I enjoyed some sausage, eggs, and taters with a pot of coffee. Prayers. Then a good workout. Walked for 1/2 hour at 10% incline at 4 miles per hour. Then sprints on the bike for a fifteen minutes.

Cindi and I headed to Edwardsville and she joined the iPhone 6 generation. David called while we were at the store, and wanted some help with his tree. I helped him load up three truckfulls of branches and drive them up to a friend's house for burning. So great to visit and talk with him. I don't get to see the lad nearly enough.

Cindi, meanwhile, was helping Bekah with painting the apartment she's planning on moving into. I was thinking we might NOT get our walk in together, but Cindi arrived home about quarter to four and we headed out and got another half hour's walk in (she'd gotten one in earlier in the day also). It was beautiful out, and still just above sixty.

Still working on getting her phone set up. Always a bit of a challenge to detangle her sub account from my own account. 

Since I got the new specs have been wearing them most every day. Today I went out with the contacts and was happy that it worked well. Still not as crisp as with the glasses. And when it comes to working on the iPhone or even the iPad mini, the glasses simply are the way to go. And after wearing the contacts for the better part of the day, when I switched to the glasses for the walk with Cindi, it was a delight to see everything so clearly again. 

Tonight Cin is heading off to bowl, Bek working on her place, and I'll enjoy some quiet time at home finishing up Martin's latest. 

Just found out

this is on the web: worship in times of disaster.

05 February 2015

Matthew Carver

drew my attention today to the little note that Lossius provides on the hymn for the Purification, Quod Chorus, on stanza two:

Haec Deum caeli Dominumque terrae
virgo concepit peperitque virgo,
atque post partum meruit manere

The meruit has this little note attached:

Meruit, id est, Consecuta est per Dei gratiam, seu apta et idonea facta est, qua significatione veteres scriptores saepe utuntur hoc verbo.

Sigh. Lossius was the standard Cantionale of the era and it shows the manner in which Lutherans freely appropriated the liturgical treasures of the preceding centuries. 

Them were the days, lads. Them were the days.

02 February 2015

From Today's Service...

Pastor Ball celebrated the Eucharist for us today

The Chapel Choir sang for us this lovely setting of Hillert's Psalm 84 with Pr. Michael Meyer serving as cantor and Roger Drinnon on the guitar. It served as the Entrance Psalm and Henry Gerike conducting (and also blessing us with Bach's prelude on Mit Fried und Freud).

Feast Day of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord

I'll let old Luther have the honor this day:

For the Law of Moses needed to be kept which required that a woman who had given birth to a son had to stay indoors forty-two days, that is, six weeks, and be considered unclean, meaning that she was to have no so social intercourse with anyone, nor could she go out in public; for everything she touched would be unclean. If a woman had given birth to a daughter, then according to the law she had to be sequestered 84 days, that is, twelve weeks, and be unclean. Now, although Mary was not required to do this—the Law of Moses having no claim over her, for she had given birth without pain and her virginity remained unsullied—nevertheless, she kept quiet, and submitted herself to the common law of all women and let herself be accounted unclean.

She was, without doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in the birth, and after the birth, and she was neither sick nor weakened from the birth and certainly could have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption under the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her Son did not detract from her virginity, but actually strengthened it; but, in spite of this, not only the mother but also the son, both allowed themselves to be considered unclean according to the Law. He is, we know, not under obligation, but does it readily and gladly, as St. Paul says in Gal. 4:4: "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son,  made of woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under law."

House Postils III:256 (Sermon from 1541)