31 March 2015

Thirty Years

When the phone rings that early on a Sunday morning, you know it's never a good thing. Mom on the line. Telling me my brother, Joseph, had been killed in a car accident early that morning. Lord, have mercy. I still remember saying: "You're kidding, right?" And her sharp rebuke: "Would I kid about something like that?"

I was a vicar at the time, serving in Garfield, New Jersey at Holy Trinity. I remember pulling myself together as much as I could and walking over to tell Pastor Plvan. I was scheduled to preach. "Do you think you can do it?" he asked. I said that I thought I could.

I asked him not to say anything. A friend once said of me: "He's the most intensely private person I know" and that's nowhere more evident than in dealing with grief. I just needed to process this on my own.

The liturgy was really hard. I've always loved the Palm Sunday hymns and I remember sobbing my way through the sermon hymn, and Bev (as acolyte that morning) looking across the chancel at me wondering what on earth was going on. I pulled myself together to get into the pulpit and a preach a homily on Zechariah 9. "Rejocie!" Made it through it and was fine for the rest of the liturgy.

During the Bible Class hour, I told my youth group and David (now long since gone too!), took charge as he always did. You see, we couldn't just pop in the car and head home because I was committed to playing at the Church's cantata that evening; Diane was singing "I know that my redeemer lives" and I was her accompanist. I needed to do that. So David arranged for us to get a flight. Right after I finished playing, he took Cindi and I to the airport and we flew one bumpy flight back to DC.

Cindi's grandparents met us at the airport and brought along their extra car for us to use while we were in town. Then the horror of facing my sister-in-law and those sweet little girls, and my mom. We all had gathered at their place and there were sobs a plenty.

It was thirty years ago, and yet I think I remember every single detail of that day and the days following, when so many other days have long since faded in memory. We had a connection, Joe and I, that was different. We loved arguing. Take any subject and we'd argue it. He was a thinker and he didn't allow for shoddy thinking to go unchallenged either!

I remember so well him attending my graduation from Bronxville, and some private conversations along the way. Nothing we couldn't say to each other, and that's a special gift for an older brother to give a younger one. Anyway, I miss you, Joseph. The years haven't made that any easier.

23 March 2015

Who am I to turn down

money from Be Well, Serve Well? So this year, I went to the Dr. again so I could fill out my health profile and also get credit for the exam.

Now, mind you, I've been strictly living my primal way of life since last Advent. Sadly, by Thanksgiving, I'd crept back up to 165 or so, allowing myself way too many exceptions and never (since starting at the IC) getting back to regular exercise. But since then, it's been a different story. Every day, come rain or shine, 1/2 hour walk or run (thank you, Cindi, for getting us the treadmill for home—$25 used!). I've dumped eating lunch at work and spend the time walking on the treadmill or running outside and lifting once or twice a week. Have also been faithful with the sprints each Saturday. 

With food, I've really lowered (thank you, Angelo Coppela) fat by simply not ADDING any fat to my cooked food. No butter for the taters, and they STILL taste great! Most weeks, Cindi and I don't eat till Supper on Wednesdays and Fridays, allowing our bodies a full 24 hours to digest what we've been eating.

Anywho, results from the doc:

Blood pressure was 100/68
PSA was 1.2 (exactly where it was years ago, last time I did this)
HDL was 103
LDL was 92
Weight was 144 (I've hit as low as 141 this week!), with a height of 70 inches, waist of 30.
Percentage of body fat was 16
BMI was 20
Age: 54 (55 in October)

I've never felt better in my life. The only medicine I take is my Maxalt for migraines and that is not a daily medication by any stretch. 

Anywho, please consider all the above a commercial for Mark's Daily Apple and Angelo's Humans are Not Broken. Check them out! "It's not easy, but it is simple."

A custom

long since fallen into desuetude among us is the announcing of betrothals at the altar in the Divine Service for prayer. The old 1881 Church Liturgy has three wonderful prayers that the congregation may offer upon betrothal. Here is the third:

Holy God, Thou art the author of the marriage covenant, and hence Thou wilt have it kept holy by us. Graciously accept, we pray Thee, the intent of these betrothed persons, to have their betrothment sanctified by Thy word, and to seek for their union the blessing Thou hast pronounced upon all them that are united by Thee. Consecrate and sanctify them Thyself, O God, that they may begin their estate with Thee, and grant them Thy grace so that in future time also they may ever joyfully remember their having been united by Thee. Enter with Thy fear into their hearts, and with Thy blessing into their house. Hear us for Jesus' sake. Amen.

I think we have lost something very precious.

18 March 2015

It's been several years

since I took that Meyers-Briggs test. Tonight I went back and reread the description of INFJ and once again I came away shocked at how it nailed me. I had missed before the comment about internalizing stress to the point of sickness. Migraines, anyone? I remember thinking when I first took the test: "Yeah, they're written like a horoscope so that everyone will see themselves in it." But that's really not true. I remember pondering Cindi's and Sandy Bower's descriptions and laughing at how right one they were (though Cin was borderline on a few), and how they are NOT me. But it irked (well, irks) me that answering some stupid questions can give that kind of insight into a person. Anyway, irked or not, it is good to look into the mirror every once in a while.

Treat yourself

to the joy of this Gospel proclamation. Note where the sermon begins. At least listen to that. But the rest is also beautiful and wonderful.

Dr. Feuerhahn's Funeral

Homily for Fourth Lenten Midweek

on the Passion according to St. Mark:

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you for by your holy cross you have redeemed all the world.  Amen.

Jesus, what was it like for you?  To be dragged in by your own people and renounced and rejected.  To be handed over to the Romans.  To stand before Pilate while your own hurled accusation after accusation upon you.  What was it like for you?

They accused you of being a King, dear Jesus, and a King you owned up to being.  But beyond that, you would not say a word at all.  Pilate was confused by you.  He knew very well that you were not guilty.  He knew very well that you had been delivered up to him out of envy.  He made an effort to let you go, to let you off.  But in the end, he’d rather see an innocent man die than have a riot break out in his province.  Peace at all costs.

What was it like for you, Jesus, to stand there, loving them, and hear them say:  “Crucify!  Crucify Him!  Away with Him!”?  What does it feel like to give your heart so wholly and to have you love rejected?  What was it like for you to hear them set Barabbas free by killing you?  But that was the point, wasn’t it?  You came to set the Barabbases of this world free.  Those who are guilty of murder and rebellion.  We are Barabbas, aren’t we, Jesus?  We are the ones who have rebelled against the Sovereign of this world, we are the ones who handed an innocent man over to be crucified.  We did it.  No other.  We.  And so for us your innocent life is traded.

To Pilate it makes no sense at all.  You don’t even make an attempt to defend or save yourself.  You stand before him in silence.  To the soldiers, you just don’t make any sense either.  They mock you.  They cloth you in royal purple.  They cram that crown of thorns down on your head until your blood flowed free.  They beat you with sticks and spit at you.  They were in a fury to get some rise, some response out of you.  Something.  They wanted to see some sign of hatred and anger.  Something to justify what they were about to do to you.  But you stood still and silent.  You loved them.  You loved us.  You wouldn’t stop loving no matter how terrible the treatment, no matter how undignified the disgrace.

Pilate and the soldiers couldn’t understand.  Neither can we.  How on earth can you go on loving, go on forgiving, go on reaching out to us.  Yet it seems the harder we push you away, the closer you draw to us.  The further we try to get away from you, the nearer you come.

O King and Lover of us all, O Bleeding and Dying Redeemer, O Silent and Suffering Lamb of God, have mercy on us who deserve no mercy.  Grant peace to us who would give you no peace.  Transform us by the vision of Your silent, suffering love, O King of kings!  Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.  Amen.

17 March 2015

15 March 2015

This weekend...

...was the first since August of 1987 that Cindi and I have been empty nesters. Yup, Bekah moved into her apartment and it's just Cindi, Lucy and I wondering around the house. Dave still joins us for dinner, of course, but most of the time it's eerily quiet (Bekah has always been an explosion of energy - walking through the door and talking a hundred miles an hour!). Lucy was visibly upset when we moved out Bekah's bed; to be fair, it was always Lucy's bed too! She seems lost and sad, but she'll get ued to it again. Bekah moved out once before (when she was in school), but then David was here to keep her entertained and play with. 

So a new chapter really does begin for Cindi and me. Each previous one has held untold blessings and joys; I expect this new one will too. Still I can't help be a bit wistful and think of the line of Tolkein:

...and listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

13 March 2015

The world will little note...

...the passing today of a great man: Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn. Never did Cape Girardeau, Missouri provide so great a gift to the Church. A Sasse scholar, a gentleman, a constant student and therefore an apt teacher, Dr. Feuerhahn was a blessing to so very many. I am blessed that he was a reader for my STM thesis, and I always enjoyed classes with him (which we jokingly called Sasse on... whatever the topic was!). May the comfort of Christ's resurrection fill his beloved wife and family with the peace that no sorrow can touch. Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen! And yes, though Lent, ALLELUIA!

Tremble now, O gates of hell, for his tremors are ended.
Christ has crowned His confessor with glory and honor
And brought him into His eternal splendor.
Though you sought, Satan, to ravage his body
you could not still his witness to the Savior's cross and triumph.
Faithful unto death he wears now the crown of life unending.
Glory to You, Lord Jesus, for Your unfailing love and kindness to Your servant, Ron!

12 March 2015

Missionary Orientation

week at the IC is more than insane, but it's also one of my favorite times. Why? Because I get to teach the CATECHISM. And there is simply not a whole lot on God's green earth that is better than teaching the Catechism.

Lenten Midweek Homily III

We have heard the Lenten call of the Church summoning us back to the font, reminding us as we confess in our Catechism that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die and that a new man daily should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  Which is another way of saying that something in us needs to die and something God gives us need to take its place.  Today we see this in the matter of Confession.

Not the Confession of sin, but the Confession of the holy faith, the Confession of who Jesus is and what our relationship is to Him.  Jesus is mostly silent during his mockery of a trial, but when the high priest asks him point blank:  "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"  Jesus confesses and does not deny:  "I am.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God's power and coming with the clouds of heaven."  Those were the words that sealed his fate.  "Do we still need any witnesses?" cried the High Priest.  "You have heard this blasphemy.  What is your opinion?"  And they all agreed He was deserving of death.  Deserving of death because He had told the truth about Himself - a truth they did not want to hear.

And then there's Peter.  He has the opportunity to confess Jesus too.  Remember, how boldly he had said:  "Lord, even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you."  There is no reason to doubt his sincerity.  He meant it.  But when the moment came, in the flicker of the light from the fire, he withdraws into the darkness and insists:  "I do not know what you mean."  And again:  "I do not know the man."  And again with a solemn oath, calling down curses upon himself, he lies and says:  "I do not know the man."

Why?  What was it that enabled our Lord to make the good confession to the High Priest, even though that Confession meant his death?  What was it that hindered Peter from confessing and owning up that yes, he knew Jesus and further was His disciple.  We understand Peter's response all too well.  We live by nature with what was eating at him:  fear.

When push came to shove, Peter's courage failed him because he was afraid.  Afraid of suffering and most of all, afraid of death.  And that made him a captive to the fear that he served.  That's exactly what the Apostle tells us in Hebrews:  that the devil, who has the power of death, keeps in life-long slavery those whom he locks up in the fear of death.

And here is the key to our Lord's boldness.  For though He hates death, despises it, scorns it, He does not fear it.  He came into this world to destroy it.  He came among us to let it devour Him so that by taking its stinking gullet Him over whom it had NO claim, it might be destroyed forever, and so His people set free from their slavery, free from their fear.

Jesus, standing before the High Priest, knows what is about to happen.  He knows that He will yield His life upon the cross - a fragrant offering and sacrifice to His Father, His blood blotting forever the guilt of our sin and the sin of the whole world.  And He also knows and rejoices that His Father will never abandon Him to the grave.  That though death takes Him, death's bands will be burst.  The way several early fathers put it, He was death's poison pill.  Having swallowed Him down - the utterly indigestible Divine - death began to wretch and ended up vomiting up all it had swallowed.  Jesus does not fear death, because Death will never be the end of Him - or of any who are joined in living faith to Him.

But Peter has only heard that Jesus will be raised from the dead; and now that he sees the Master in the hands of those who will turn Him over to crucifixion, his heart quails and he trembles and fears and rather than in peace confessing His Lord, in terror of death he denies Him.  Jesus calls Peter to repentance with a look, and Peter went out and wept bitterly.

He wept bitter tears for his own fear and sin and cowardice, but he did not despair.  Unlike Judas.  Did the look that Jesus gave him communicate to him:  Remember, I told you you would deny me, and I was right, so you have; but remember I also told you I would rise again, and I will be right about that too!  I have prayed for you, Peter, that you faith fail not!

Think of the man we meet here on the other side of the resurrection, on the day of Pentecost!  The man who cowered before the serving girl boldly tells the crowds that day:  "This Jesus whom YOU murdered by hanging on a tree God has raised from the dead and we are all His witnesses!"

What stands in between?  The resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Spirit.  And so with you and your Baptism.  For in the waters you are placed into the tomb with Christ and raised with Him as the guarantee of a life that will never end.  In the waters the Holy Spirit Himself descended upon you even as He descended on Peter and the other Apostles on Pentecost - transforming them from quavering cowards to bold confessors.  What changed was the conviction of faith that Jesus truly HAS destroyed death's power by enduring it.

Years later Peter was told:  Sacrifice to the Emperor and deny this Jesus or die!  And in the grace of God he refused.  He refused and he went the way of his Lord.  Even to being crucified, though upside down because he did not feel himself worthy to die the same as his Lord.  But in the end, Peter looked the fear of death in the face and laughed at it.  "You can't scare me this time!  I know Who lives forevermore and I know you have NO power over Him and I am in Him and His body and His blood are in me.  You lose, even as you take me.  I am not afraid of you."

Something has to die and something rises as a gift of God to us.  Slavery to fear of death gets left behind in the baptismal water, and courage to boldly confess the Master is poured out fresh each day.  Lent calls us to return to this gift of the water - to embrace the death of fear and the resurrection of bold confession in the Spirit's power.  O Lord, set us free and loose our tongues to confess!  Amen.

10 March 2015


It was a wonderful time with dear friends and enjoying the beauty of God's awesome creation. It was sunny (for the most part), warm, and the trade winds never stopped. Only ran a 5-K on board the boat, but that was a lot of fun. Ran barefoot. Sadly, forgot to look at the time. But I wasn't racing. I was basking. The sun and the wind were just what the doctor ordered. 

Came back to Missionary Orientation. Cannot even begin to describe how much energy it brings to the building to have these folks with us. The IC chapel filled with little ones. The singing loud and boisterous. And best of all (for me) teaching the catechism. My favorite! This Friday will be the sending service at 2 p.m. Join us, if you're in the area. Missionary kids will be singing, we'll have Kantor Gerike on the organ and trumpets and trombone, but best of all: we'll have our Lord's Body and Blood for the remission of our sins.

Also realized how very much I had missed the radio show while away. A treat to be back on air and with John Lukomski as the guest. We truly did romp through the goodies of Matthew 28. 

So, back in the saddle and raring to go. Good thing too, given the packed schedule for this week.