27 September 2015

Yes, they are absolutely adorable

and I might just be a LITTLE prejudiced. My four grandchildren enjoying a tea party.

Random thought from today's homily

Pastor was explaining a bit about dropsy, that it's what we call edema. It occurred to me that there is a massive unity then between the two parts of that Gospel in Luke 14:

There are those who experience a physical dropsy or edema, a swelling in the body of fluids.
There are those who experience a spiritual dropsy or edema, a swelling of the soul in pride.

He came that we might be healed from both, and to heal us from both He humbles Himself to the way of the Cross where His heart is pierced that water and blood might flow out, squelching in His humility our silly swellings of pride. And when He reaches us His body and His blood at the table, He guarantees already our future bodily healing and begins already the healing of the soul by the gift of His own humility.

Liturgical Thought for the Day

Crossposted from my Facebook page:

Said to a friend of mine: 'The problem with you liturgy guys is that you're stuck in the past.' 

Um, exactly wrong. The liturgy is all about the future: it's the celebration and very gift of the future age reached to us in the present for us to live from. It's not that the use of the historic liturgy binds you to the past. Oh, sure it joins you to the community of those who throughout the ages have lived, quite literally, from the age to come. But it is Contemporary Worship by its very definition that is intrinsically time-bound and possessed by a myopic approach that chains you to the sad world of the present, and suggests that the present suffices! 

26 September 2015

The New Rules

Folks, I simply don't have time or energy to engage in internet arguments, particularly those from folks who strike me as simply being contentious. So, if your response strikes me that way, it's going to just disappear. No explanations, no debate. It just goes "poof." I figure folks are more than welcome to set up their own sites and argue to their hearts' content. But not here. I'm happy to try to answer any honest inquiries as time allows, of course.


Big belly laughs... the way his eyes would vacate when his mind was processing data... ridiculous amounts of White Castles to get us through the annual school board budget fiasco... an unfailing gentleness... the post-school board meeting over beer in the garage... the day we ate together at the Mexican joint in Clayton and laughed our way through lunch... the horrid hole from the brown recluse bite... Bopper and Kevin deciding to give each other a bear hug with me in between at one of the girls' volleyball games... the sheepish look when he knew he was supposed to and he hadn't (usually CHURCH!)... My friend, you will be missed indeed. Rest in peace!

23 September 2015

Catechesis on AC XXIV

Selections from AC XXIV:

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. 2 Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved,.... 6 No one is admitted to the Sacrament without first being examined. 7 The people are also advised about the dignity and use of the Sacrament, about how it brings great consolation to anxious consciences, so that they too may learn to believe God and to expect and ask from Him all that is good. 8 This worship pleases God ...Paul severely threatens those who use the Eucharist in an unworthy manner, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).  Therefore, when our priests were warned about this sin, private Masses were discontinued among us, since hardly any private Masses were celebrated except for the sake of filthy gain....But Christ commands us, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Therefore, the Mass was instituted so that those who use the Sacrament should remember, in faith, the benefits they receive through Christ and how their anxious consciences are cheered and comforted. To remember Christ is to remember His benefits. It means to realize that they are truly offered to us.

In the name of the Father...

The accusation was: "You guys got rid of the Mass!" That is, the changes that the Lutherans had introduced into the liturgy were of such a kind and weight that their opponents actually thought they destroyed the liturgy itself. The Lutheran response was little short of "Hogwash. That is a lie. We've done nothing of the kind."

To prove their point, the Lutherans insisted that they KEPT the Mass and that they observed it with the highest reverence. They could even honestly protest that they still used most of the ceremonies, in other words, the human customs that have been added to the Supper's celebration across the centuries.

Of course, what Lutherans DID do was to dump the prayer that surrounded the Words of Institution. Not that most folks noticed, because it was, after all, prayed in silence by the priest as the choir was singing the Sanctus and Benedictus. The only point at which the people even connected with that silent prayer was when the bells were rung, signaling the consecration. And yet this was prayed in silence as well. They only knew it had happened by the priest elevating the consecrated host first and later the chalice. This prayer asked for things which failed the Scriptural litmus test. Asking God to be gracious to us because of the surplus merits of various saints (a massive pile of which were named out), asking God to accept the sacrifice that we were offering and make it availing for those for whom it was specially offered, and so on.

In a nutshell, the problem with the prayer was that it read the Words of Institution backwards. Not God saying to us: "Take, eat, drink, for you." But us saying to God: "Here, you take and then bless us on account of this." Do you see the massive difference? When God was trying to give us a priceless gift, we're shoving it back up to heaven!

Lutherans have NEVER disputed that the very sacrifice of Calvary (as a noun) is what is present in the Supper. What we dispute is that the pastor or the pastor and the people sacrifice (as a verb) this to God, even in some unbloody and mysterious way. Jesus didn’t say: “Take and offer!” He said: “Take and eat for here is the sacrifice I offered once and for all on Calvary’s tree, and now I give it to you for your forgiveness for you to receive, believe, and rejoice in.”

No, we could justly protest. We keep the Mass. We have no intention of letting go this ancient and lovely liturgy, even if we do dispense with a prayer that's been in it for a long time. We recognize that not everything that grew on that liturgy over the centuries is of equal value or worth. Some things ended up actually obscuring of the gift itself, and so  these have to go. Like doing the whole liturgy in a language no one understands. Or like treating the human ceremonies as if they were more important than the actual gifts of God. Or offering to God what He is trying to give to us. But anything that extolls and confesses what God is up to when He summons His people together to give them the memorial of the new and everlasting testament of their Divine Redeemer, all that we rejoice to keep.

Or at least we did and we still say we do. If we are not observing the customary ceremonies with the highest reverence, the solution is not to conjure up some ceremonies and reverence. The solution is to stop and take thought again of exactly WHAT and WHO is present in the consecrated elements and WHY He comes among us in that mysterious way. Then to weigh what best confesses His presence and the gifts He brings. That will always land you back in the liturgy again, because it's just hard to come up with a better way to confess this than all those previous generations of Christians have done. This is liturgy not as legislation or the Augsburg Confession as some canon law; this is liturgy as prayed version of the Church's confession of faith.

Look, if on the altar and in your hand and in your mouth is the very body and blood of the Eternal Son, through whom you and this entire creation came into existence, who in the fullness of time was born of the holy Virgin, taking on a human nature, that once hung upon Calvary's cross, suffering and bleeding, to wipe out your sins, that rose from the grave to free you from death, and even now sits at the right hand of the Father ruling all things, that will appear in glory at the Day of the recreation, if all that’s so, then highest reverence simply follows in all our receiving and handling of this astounding gift.

In the name of the Father…

18 September 2015


To wit, we all were under sin and punishment. He Himself, through suffering punishment, did away with both the sin and the punishment, and He was punished on the Cross.—Chrysostom on Colossians 2. 

I think someone forgot to tell him that the fathers don't teach the Western heresy of penal substitution....

16 September 2015

Today's Catechesis

On Augsburg Confession, Article XXIII:

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

An old joke. Two young catholic lads see a Lutheran pastor walking down the street in his clerical collar and one cheerfully calls out: “Good morning, Father!” But his friend whispers in his ear as they pass him: “That man’s no Father; he has three kids!”

Is that okay or not? Pastors being married and having families, I mean. Obviously it was in the New Testament. We heard it today from St. Paul. “Husband of one wife” (which also implies that he’s a man, not a woman; at least it would have implied that when it was written!). “managing his household well. With all dignity keeping his children submissive.” But at the time of the Reformation this was one hot issue. 

Rome had long enforced the discipline of their clergy not being married.  By the time of the Reformation that discipline had calcified through long custom to be regarded as sacrosanct, so that a pastor marrying and having sexual relations with his wife was regarded as a sin and scandal. 

And what did the Church get for setting aside the Word of God on this and trying to come up with a better way? What the Church always gets when it presumes to know better than the divine Word. Disaster and scandal. Our confessions allude to the scandals and make it clear that the recent child abuse and such have long, sad histories. In His Word, God reveals that He made us sexual beings. He made us to be drawn to the opposite sex and to long for the gift of children. Marriage, contrary to what people think today, is not a human construct, something we dreamed up. It’s a divine gift. And to squelch the gift as though we could do it better another way always invites all kinds of heart-ache and trouble. You know the truth of that. You know that every time you’ve tossed a clear word from God and turned to your own way, it only brought sorrow. The Reformers ditched this hurtful tradition.  They restored the ancient practice of allowing any who did not have the gift of celibacy to embrace the gift of marriage. 

The Reformers could do this with a clear conscience because they were blessed to have some very clear words of God to guide them on this matter. The big cheeses in the church, the Church hierarchy, could holler and scream and stomp their feet all they wanted, insisting that married priests weren’t allowed. The Sacred Scriptures trump any tradition of the Church every single time. And the Scriptures are clear that pastors may be married, that denying marriage is actually a doctrine of demons. 

And think of this: since the Pastor in his office represents not his own person but the Person of Christ, who is the Bridegroom of His Church, the married Pastor serves as an icon in his relationship to his wife, of what Christ is to His bride, the Church. You know how Paul unpacks the Gospel itself from the relationship of husband to wife in Ephesians 5. He loves her, He gives Himself up for her, He sanctifies her by cleansing her with the washing of water through the Word so that He can present the Church to Himself as His bride, flawless, no spot, no wrinkle, no blemish. Gloriously perfect in His eyes. And that’s how husbands are to love their wives. Even and especially husbands who are called as pastors. So a man leaves his Father (think incarnation) and His mother (think at the cross) and is joined to His wife. Think new Adam where His side is pierced and out flow the blood and the water, the Eucharist and Baptism, whereby the Lord’s bride is formed. A profound mystery, says St. Paul, and it refers to Christ and the Church.

So, people loved by God, no, marriage is not something sordid and sexual relations between husband and wife is not something dirty and defiling that we need to keep the clergy away from. No. Let them lead the way in showing that marriage is holy and splendid and a gift of God. Let them serve in their love of their wives as a mirror of the love of Christ for His Church. 

"That man isn’t a father. He has three kids." Maybe he’s no Roman Catholic priest, but he’s a man under obedience to the Word of God and freed by it to receive and rejoice in all the gifts that God has for His people, including the gift of marriage. 

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