31 July 2016

Another Luther Gem for Trinity X (Church Postils)

Because they are God's, I will entrust them all to his care, he will keep them from all harm. I must otherwise leave all at any rate, therefore I will bravely trust him with them, and for his sake give up all I have. If God wants me here, he will give me other treasures, for he has promised to give enough for this life and for the life to come. If he does not want me here, I owe him a death, which will bring me into eternal life; when he calls me, I will go trusting in his Word.

From Luther's Second Homily for Trinity X (1534)

Therefore, I am worried that Germany will also suffer a great calamity, whether at the hands of the Turks, or by some other war, hunger, or plague. When that occurs at some time in the future, then bear in mind what I have said. For God will come after Germany and us Germans just as he did after Jerusalem and the Jews. Therefore, take this example seriously to heart: Jerusalem was so terribly destroyed because it refused and despised God's Word. We must, therefore, learn to esteem and hearken to his Word, and, if we again fall into sin, to turn back and repent.

Let this be enough for today on this Gospel. And may God, the Father of all mercies, guard us against shameful and wicked despising of his Word, awakening fear of God in our hearts through his Holy Spirit, so that we abide by his Word and follow it. Amen.

(House Postils II:378, 379)

From TLH 419

O'er Jerusalem Thou weepest
In compassion, dearest Lord.
Love divine, of love the deepest,
O'er Thine erring Israel poured,
Crieth out with bitter moan:
"O loved city, hadst thou known
This thy day of visitation,
Thou wouldst not reject salvation."

By the love Thy tears are telling,
O Thou Lamb for sinners slain,
Make my heart Thy temple dwelling,
Purged from ev'ry guilty stain.
Oh, forgive, forgive my sin!
Cleanse me, cleanse me, Lord, within!
I am Thine since Thou has sought me,
Since Thy precious blood hath bought me.

O Thou Lord of my salvation,
Grant my soul Thy blood-bought peace.
By Thy tears of lamentation
Bid my faith and love increase.
Grant me grace to love Thy Word,
Grace to keep the message heard,
Grace to own Thee as my Treasure,
Grace to love Thee without measure. Amen.

30 July 2016

What a perfect day for late summer!

Temps topping out just above 80 with a nice mix of sunshine and clouds. After breakfast, extra coffee  and prayers, Bekah came over and joined us for nice long walk up to the farm. She made me laugh as she told us how she explained her parents' day to her friend Hannah. I confess, she nailed our usual routine to a T. We spent a good bit of the afternoon in the pool. Did some reading and writing. Dave joined us for dinner and a game of that STUPID Liverpool. Then Cin and I dusted off our bikes and rode up to Worden. We got back right as the sun was setting. Now we're sitting in our chairs and listening to music.

What a fine homily

Dr. Luther has in the House Postil for this Sunday (the first one; I'll save the second for tomorrow)! The Gospel for Trinity X is our Lord's tears over Jerusalem and his warning to her when she refuses to recognize the time of her visitation. Near the start: "To put it another way, Do not just listen to what God says and then fail to improve the way you live, sinning the same way you did before, regardless of what anyone says or does. The punishment for that sin will most certainly come, even if it may be a long time in coming. No one who despises God's Word will escape punishment." (II:366) Near the close: "But to those who accept God's Word and change their ways, this account is a source of comfort and learning. They learn that when God delays punishment, he does this for their benefit and peace, that God wants to graciously forgive their sins, if they just repent by changing their ways, if they just fear and love God. It is not surprise that we are sinners, but if we defend our sins, stubbornly continue in them without repenting, that is is something God will not allow." (II:374)

The traditional Introit for this day "As for me, I will call upon God; and He shall hear my voice: He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me" and then collect is one of my favorites: "O God, who declarest Thine almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity, mercifully grant unto us such a measure of Thy grace that we, running the way of Thy commandments, may obtain Thy gracious promises and be made partakers of Thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord."

I also note that in the wonderful Saints Maurice & Catherine Daily Lectionary (that Magdeburg daily Lectionary from early 17th century that Matthew Carver englished for us a while back), the Vespers reading on Trinity X is the Destruction of Jerusalem by Josephus. I intend to read that through tomorrow, sad as it is.

Last weekend we really thought

That our little Lucy, already 13 years old, was on her way out. She declined food several days, stayed in her bed, seemed uninterested in goings on. But I think she must be the dog with nine lives (fitting, since she always seemed more cat than dog, having been brought up with two felines)! Last year she had the stroke or whatever that resulted in being unable to walk well (she still struggles a bit). This year this "I'm not eating" bit. Yet today she ate her breakfast, Bekah came over and even took her on a walk, brushed and bathed her, and now she's running around like a crazy dog because she's wet, trying to rub the wet off on the carpet, and searching nonstop for her bed and blanket (which are in the wash!).

29 July 2016

Ah, Summer!

In case you were wondering, no I haven't dropped off the planet.

I mentioned on the radio how I still foolishly look forward to summer each year and always imagine and hope it will be like when I was a youngster, and those wonderful days stretched before you with nothing filling them except what you chose. Well, I know it won't QUITE be like that, but I am going to enjoy the next three weeks as my "summer." Lauren and Dean, Sawyer, Annabelle, and Flynn will be arriving in the area next week. That means we'll have lots of time with them, not to mention David and Meaghan, Lydia and Henry, Bekah and Andy and Opa. A house full (and hopefully many days a pool full)!

So, to enjoy these days to the max, I've logged out of FB, and will not be checking email often, and have my phone set to "do not disturb." I found if I don't construct a bit of a digital wall, there really IS no time off, and I am definitely ready for some real vacation. So I'm kind of going back to the way it was before we allowed the silliness of this "constant on" phase to invade and impoverish our lives. I'm going to have a good, old-fashioned summer for the next three weeks. I'll probably post some here, but not making any commitments to that either. Is that a sigh of contentment you hear? Why, yes. Yes, it is. It comes from me!

Enjoy the summer days, my friends!
From a walk along the bike trail

28 July 2016

That Page 15 Confession and Absolution

Doing a bit of research for a colleague on the Confession and Absolution that appears in TLH, p. 15 and consequently in LSB in DS 3. This is a peculiarly Saxon prayer. It was inserted into the Common Service for the first time in TLH. It came from the Saxon Agenda, where it fell after the sermon. Here it is in the form used in Synod's first English version of the liturgy (1881):

Having heard the Word of God, let us now humble ourselves before the supreme Majesty of God, and make a confession of our sins, saying:

O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserve Thy punishment in time and eternity; but I am heartily sorry for them and greatly repent of them, and I pray Thee, by Thy boundless mercy, and by the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being. Amen.

Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you who heartily repent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ, and sincerely and earnestly purpose by the assistance of God the Holy Ghost henceforth to amend your sinful lives, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of God + the Father, God + the Son, God + the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The provisions that are in that absolution are absent in TLH and in LW and in LSB. What is interesting is that the first use of this confession that I'm aware of, is given in Sehling I:557. It is from the use of the Church in Dresden in the 16th century. I assume that from that city it spread to others, but it may be that what is recorded in Sehling is just witness to a practice that arose elsewhere and spread to Dresden. In any case, it made its way into the Saxon liturgy already in the 16th century (Sehling lists it between items from 1578 and 1558).

Here we find:

82. Form der allgemeinen Beichte and Absolution.

Eine offene beichte und absolution auf der kanzel nach gethaner predigt. (A public confession and absolution from the pulpit after the conclusion of the sermon)

Ermahnung zum Volk. (Exhortation to the people)

Geliebte in Christo, dieweil wir allhie versammelt sind im namen des allmächtigen gottes und haben sein heiliges, seligmachendes wort gehöret, so wollen wir auch uns gegen seiner hohen göttlichen majestät demütligen, und ihm von herzen alle unsere sünde bekennen, beichten und mit einander also sprechen. (Beloved in Christ, since we have come together in the name of almighty God and have heard his holy, saving word, let us then humble ourselves before his high divine majesty and from the heart acknowledge our sins, confess and speak together:


O allmächtiger, gnädiger gott, barmherziger vater, ich armer, elender sünder bekenne dir alle meine sünden und missethat, damit ich dich jemals erzömet und deine strafe zeitlich und ewiglich verdienet. Sie sind mir alle herzlich leid und reuen mich sehr und bitte dich, durch dein grundlose barmherzigkeit und durch das heilige, unschuldige, bittere leiden und sterben deines lieben Sohnes Jesu Christi, du wollest mir armen sünder gnädig und barmherzig sein. Amen. (Confession as above).


Auf solch euer bekenntnus verkündige ich euch, kraft meines ampts, als ein berufener und verordneter diener des worts, die gnade gottes und vorgebe euch anstadt und aus befehl meines herrn Jesu Christi alle eure sünde im namen gottes des vaters, sohnes und heiligen geists. Amen.
(Upon this your confession I announce to you all by the power of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, the grace of God and forgive you all in the place and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ all your sins in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen)

Beschluss. (Conclusion)

Weil uns der gnädige, barmherzige gott unsere Sünde und missethat vorgeben, so wollen wir ihm auch nun ferner die not der ganzen Christenheit vortragen und mit einander also beten: allmächtiger etc. (Since the gracious and merciful God has forgiven us our sins and iniquities, let us also bring before him the needs of all Christendom and so pray together: Almighty... introducing the General prayer).

This free and joyous form of confession and absolution was not an invention of the 20th century. It was simply a piece of the Lutheran liturgical heritage in 16th century Saxony, modified in the age of pietism, but then restored to its original form (though not its original place) in The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941.

27 July 2016

From the old General Prayer in the TLH Divine Service

Grant also health and prosperity to all who are in authority, especially to the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this commonwealth, and to all our Judges and Magistrates, and endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness and to the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 

May it please Thee also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their enmity and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and in peace. 

I wonder if we ought ever to have stopped praying this...but now would be a good time to start praying it again!

26 July 2016

Wouldn't you know...

...we took it out of our hymnal even as God was answering the prayer:

Rise again, ye lion-hearted
Saints of early Christendom.
Wither is your strength departed,
Wither gone your martyrdom?
Lo, love's light is on them,
Glory's flame upon them,
And their will to die doth quell
Even the lord and prince of hell.

These are men by fear unshaken,
Facing danger dauntlessly;
These no witching lust hath taken,
Lust that lures to vanity.
Mid the roar and rattle
Of tumultuous battle
In desire they soar above
All that earth would have them love.

Great of heart, they know no turning,
Honor, gold, they laugh to scorn,
Quench desires within them burning,
By no earthly passions torn.
Mid the lions' roaring
Songs of praise outpouring,
Joyously they take their stand
On th' arena's bloody sand.

Would to God that I might even
As the martyred saints of old,
With the helping hand of Heaven,
Steadfast stand in battle bold!
O my God, I pray Thee,
In the combat stay me.
Grant that I may ever be
Loyal, staunch, and true to Thee. Amen.
TLH 470

And one that Mark Preus rightly laments we were utterly foolish to leave out of our hymnal: Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 12:

O Lord, look down from heav'n, behold
And let Thy pity waken;
How few are we within Thy fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on ev'ry hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o'ertaken.

With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error's maze astounded.

May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: "Now, where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master."

Therefore, saith God, "I must arise.
The poor My help are needing.
To Me ascend My people's cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending."

As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So thro' God's Wordshall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter thro' the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

Defend Thy truth, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of its way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our salvation.
TLH 260

25 July 2016

A Thought on Closed Communion

Sometimes the suggestion is made that we practice a closed table in order not to bring judgment on a person who might be communing unworthily. We admit that such a person is a believer, and we stress that we're not actually judging him or her. The Formula has always seemed to slam the door shut on that. It states without hesitation that no genuine believer, so long as he or she retains a living faith, CAN receive the Supper to their judgment.

So if that is ruled out as a reason not to commune someone who might want to receive at the altar in a Church of the Augsburg Confession while holding to a different confession any other week, what's left but to open the table?

What if, though, the reason you decline to commune such a person isn't because it would spiritually damage them, but because it would spiritually damage others? What others? All those who would then conclude that the error of the confession of that person's home church wasn't so big or important; and by implication that confession of the truth itself simply isn't a big deal.

Can one seriously read the pages of the NT and not realize the concern that rings through them to avoid error, to beware of it, to mark it and steer clear of it? No, I wouldn't commune someone who attends a church that teaches that Baptism is a human work, that a human decision saves, that what is received in the Supper is a remembrance of Christ's body and blood, or that the body and blood of Christ are sacrifice that can be applied by the priest to ease the sufferings of those in Purgatory! Yes, the person may say: "But I don't believe that; what I believe is that it really IS His body and blood!" That doesn't alter the damage done to the Body of Christ when I treat the individual as the be all and end all, and ignore the wider implications of where they regularly gather to be fed, taught, and corrected. Here's the shocker: IT JUST MAY NOT BE ALL ABOUT YOU.

Hard to fathom in this day and age, I know, but I have come to believe that people hate closed communion chiefly for this reason: it is a crystal clear confession that the faith simply isn't now and has never been an individual matter, you aren't the center of everything, and whether or not you will get your feathers ruffled and leave in a huff won't alter the facts one little bit. Is the Body and Blood that redeemed your sorry hide as well as mine upon the altar? Indeed it is. Was it given for you and for the forgiveness of sins? Indeed it was. Does the person receive it worthily who comes believing our Lord's words and promises? Indubitably.  Does that mean we are free to treat a person of another confession as free floating agent, an individual? Absolutely not. We have to love them enough to break the news: none of us stands apart from his public confession; all of us are part of a confession by virtue of where we gather to be fed, taught, and corrected. Koinonia. Christians never stand apart from, but within, the Church and so within the confession of a specific congregation.

The Festival of St. James the Elder, Apostle

O Lord, for James, we praise You, 

Who fell to Herod's sword; 

He drank Your cup of suff'ring 

And thus fulfilled Your word. 

Lord, curb our vain impatience 

For glory and for fame, 

Equip us for such sufferings 

As glorify Your name.

LSB 518:21

"For silent James, the holy martyr whose blood speaks boldly of the defeat of death, all glory to You, Lord Jesus!" (Celebrating the Saints).

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ.  Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

19 July 2016


This has been one very hectic time. In the last several weeks I've been to Nashville for Higher Things, Milwaukee for Synod Convention, and to New Orleans for National Youth Gathering. Sitting right now in the NOLA airport waiting to fly to Dallas and then home to St. Louis. I've had opportunity to do a bit of reflecting while I've been on the road and I came to a realization: just because one can do something reasonably well, doesn't mean that one needs to be doing it. I've decided I'm done with the travelling to speak at conferences. Saying "yes" to that was saying "no" to other things that I really want to do: putting time on "Thy Strong Word" on KFUO, working on Issues, and doing more writing. I'm going to be investing heavily in those things going forward and turn down the public speaking. I still have a conference that I promised to do out in New York in September, but I do believe that that finishes my commitments at present and I'm delighted to see the slate cleared and be able to focus on a number of projects close at hand. But first just to get home and put away the computer and just chill for a few days. I. Can't. Wait.

15 July 2016

The Convention Divine Service

The Divine Service itself begins around minute 31. This arrangement of Divine Service, Setting 4, was composed by James Biery.

14 July 2016

Truly an amazing convention...

...a bit insane with all that happened around the opening Eucharist, but hey: it was beautiful all the same. Biery setting of DS IV is amazingly lovely. I am encouraged by the solid votes (tended to be 70%+ even on controverted items), by the excellent folks who were elected, by the solid brotherly tone that prevailed.

How to describe what's happened in the LCMS? I put it like this: in 2010, the LCMS was toying with following American Evangelicalism over the precipice. With each passing year, she seems more strongly to say: Yeah, really glad we didn't go over THAT cliff. With each passing year she seems to say: Being Lutheran, after all, is what we do best because that's who we are. That's who we really must be for the sake of the world.

Last time round we heard a few voices afterwards complain about the worship (which overwhelmingly just used our hymnal) as being "too high church." Delightful that President Harrison actually put the question to the assembly: "If you have thoroughly enjoyed the convention worship, press 1. Not so much, press 2." 

And it was just Lutheran, you know. With outstanding music, to be sure, by Rosebrock, Freese, Magness, Janssen, May, Nunes, and others. But it was truly just Lutheran. And that pile of Lutherans loved it. Who knew?

06 July 2016

Celebrating the Saints

Though I've not yet seen a physical copy, rumor on FB is that it exists! I think I'll have to wait till Milwaukee to actually see it in person: Celebrating the Saints. I hope it builds on the work of Treasury/PrayNow/ LSB in bringing the joy of our fellow pilgrims across the ages back to contemporary Lutheran consciousness. You can order here:  Order.

04 July 2016

Little things

that remove ongoing irritants. I've been a fan of simplification for a long time. Just reflecting on some of the small things that have been a blessing and they are quite random:

1. Simplification in the digital area. Basically one company (Apple, of course) and everything tightly tied in. iPhone, AppleTV and iPad Pro. The iPad Pro has been the single most simplifying thing. No need for a laptop, seriously. Not for what I do (which is mainly write and edit). I have a simple, big and beautiful display to work on, to play on, to read on. And music, of course. We have an old iPad that is basically our musical system. No LPs, tapes, cds to keep track of. Apple Music and Pandora take care of our musical needs entirely. Oh, and that irritant of not being able to turn pages well when playing intense musical pieces? Gone. A simple bluetooth pedal beside the piano that with a tap turns the pages on my iPad. Amazing!

2. Bacon. This is super silly because I've heard about it for a long time, but finally decided to implement it. Just cook it on a pan in the oven, spread on parchment paper to soak up the grease, and at 375 for about half an hour (though use your nose to check on it). No mess, no standing over the pan, no greasy glasses, no grease spread throughout the house (open floor plan kitchen problem!), no burns from popping grease. And the bacon each time: PEFECTION!

3. Blocks. We have the most beautiful dining room table from Cindi's grandmother. Clawed feet, beautiful grain. But when you expand it, it wasn't reliable on the leaves. They would drop if you put pressure on them just a certain way and we've had messes at big dinners with this. To rememdy it, we've been putting books underneath to hold the leaves in place. It was a hassle! Hauling the books from the guest room, figuring out the right combo to insert them, and it was damaging the books. Yesterday, I mentioned to Dave the possibility of blocks. Last night I got them. They slide right in and hold it up perfectly and when not in use, slip into a drawer in the dining room's buffet. Hassle gone!

4. Doors. This house has settled and the doors have gone a tad awry. The master bedroom closet door always wanted to open on you (when you were in the closet), the master bedroom door itself had to lifted to latch shut, the front screen door didn't like to catch. We mentioned these to Dave and he fixed or showed how to fix every last one of them. A whole pile of stupid minor irritants, poof! Gone!

5. Gate. The gate to the pool had also become a sticky wicket. A hinge had apparently begun to pull away. Dave fixed this as well. It opens and closes smoothly!

6. Glasses. I really wish I didn't need them and could keep on with contacts. I try the contacts periodically and invariably regret the decision within a few hours. Most days it's simple. I just reach for the glasses and that's that. I can see and see clearly up close, far away, and everything in between. And they're much lower maintenance, though I find wearing them in rain to be still intensely irritating!

7. Alcohol. I like wine, but I'm now on my 42 day without alcohol at all and I have to confess: I love THAT even more. Feel far more energetic, saving money (alcohol is expensive; tea is not!), sleeping like a champ, and still having a blast. I learned that it was EASY for me to say: "I don't drink" just like "I don't eat wheat; I don't eat sugar." Once the decision was made, life was so much simpler. And I've learned to enjoy my "Nojitos" with just sparkling water, lime and mint leaves. Oh, and Cindi and I enjoy an afternoon smoothie most days too: various fruits and berries, a pile of spinach and other greens, and even some lemon (peel and all!). YUM.

8. Prayers. Weird to put that in here, I know, but Treasury has made our devotional life so simple. There was a time I tried using it like a breviary (and you can), but as Cwirla said: "I'm not a monk" and David Petersen observed, "It really is a single office book." So with our morning bullet-proof coffee, Cindi and I pray the Treasury every day. Simplicity itself. Daily kicking off the day with the Word and prayer. What's not to like?

9. Omnifocus. This is an amazing piece of software, that regularly used really does free the mind of clutter through the Getting Things Done paradigm. I'm so glad Michael Schuermann recommended this as a way to implement GTD! Still mastering it, but I have found it such a blessing. 

10. Exercise. Again, simplicity was the key. I basically just walk and do push-ups. Try to do a minimum of 10,000 steps a day (more is always better!), and 250 push-ups interspersed along that walk as a minimum. Sundays are rest day (gee, who thought of that one!). This is usually my lunch hour routine. When I feel like it, I add in more (rows, pull-ups, situps, or a run). But mostly I'm content to walk and do the push-ups. The old body responds well to it all and I can see doing this simple routine for the rest of my days. No need for a gym, no need for special equipment, and can be done anywhere at all.

Kind of ridiculous miscellany, but all of them have reduced minor irritants and major stresses and tended toward more a more simple and peaceful life!

02 July 2016


Lutheran Service Book lists the Visitation as one of the "principal feasts of Christ."  Like the Transfiguration, it falls differently depending upon the lectionary system one uses:  in the three year cycle, it is observed on May 31; in the one year cycle, it is observed today. It is a relatively late-comer to the feast days, but by the time of the Reformation it was rather set on July 2 and continued to be observed in most Lutheran Church Orders.  Luther has a fine homily on the feast in his House Postils (III:341ff.).  Here's an excerpt:

For us, indeed, it is an occasion to thank God for the glorious revelation which occurred on this day, that Elisabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; and although till now she knows nothing about Christ and his conception, she here declares and openly confesses that Mary is in truth the mother of her Lord and God.  And John leaps in his mother's womb in witness to his Lord, while Mary sings her beautiful song of praise, the Magnificat, showing most excellently the profundity of her understanding.  We still repeat it after her.  It expresses the reason for us to celebrate, to learn it, and thank God for it.  The purpose for the pope's celebration is to invoke Mary; but our purpose is to praise and thank God in accordance with the example of the beloved Virgin, so that we celebrate just as she did.

On this day, we pray in our churches: 

Almighty God, You chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised.  Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.