28 June 2017

I am ashamed to confess


That until this very day I've never listened all the way through Bach's Mass in b Minor, at least I have not meditated my way all through it. Today it consummed my commute both ways and my workout at noon. When I finished each section I just thought: and so the Divine Service in heaven must sound. The plaintive Kyrie at the start is wrung from a heart that is parched and pleading for mercy (with the lightness at the Christe, already recognizing that in Him we have been given the mercy for which we long). The two women's voices virtually dancing together at the start of the second article, two yet one, a beautiful picture of the two natures in one person. But the treatment of the Crucifixus...words fail. We stand before the miracle of the cross and its weight presses down and down upon us. This. For us. And then all heaven breaking loose at the resurrexit. Also, the joy at the remissionem peccatorum, you could almost see the waters springing up ever new and carrying forgiveness to the ends of the earth. It was truly balm for the soul, as it wraps us in something ever so much bigger than we dare to dream.

24 June 2017

Saturdays

Have become just about my favorite day of the week...on quiet weekends, at any rate. We got up this morning a tad before six, made bed, drank coffee as we prayed Treasury, went for a walk, facetimed with grandchildren in NC, exercised some, made breakfast and ate it on the deck (Saturday is about the only day that we DO eat breakfast in the early morning anymore), cleaned up dishes, brushed Lucy (how can one dog shed so much?) and threw her bedding in the wash (she's wandering around like a poor lost soul at the moment), vacuumed (again, how can one dog...), sprayed the Bermuda grass (hopeless task!), and made some iced tea. Cindi's tending to a few more outside chores. Still on the docket: more walks, time in the pool soaking up some rays, trying to burn up my stump in the back yard, and reading a bit more in a novel. The way our calendar has been lately, this is the first weekend in a long time that we've not been booked solid and I plan on enjoying every bit of it. Time to put on some tunes, I think and go look at that stump.

23 June 2017

Happy birthday, Joseph!

Today my brother, Joseph Field Weedon, would have turned 68 years old. He and I had quite similar voices. We played a trick once with Cindi when I worked for him one summer. She called the office and happily chatted on for a bit before she realized that it was Joe she was talking to, not me. He was always a bit of a free spirit and if there was a rule, he felt somehow obligated to break it! Miss him more than words can ever tell.

22 June 2017

31 Years

Like so many things in life, the perspective ripples. It seems both much longer ago than that and yet also it surely cannot have been so long. 1986 on June 22nd found us gathered in the nave of the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew in Wheaton MD as this most unworthy man was placed publicly into the office of the ministry with prayer and the laying on of hands, having been called the previous month to serve as pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Burlington, North Carolina. What stretches betwixt there and here? Dizzying to think of all that has unfolded across those thirty one years. The loss of dear ones (grandpa and grandma DeVries, Nana, Mom, Joanne), the gift of children and their spouses and their children, the gift of wonderful friends in every place we have ever called home, more card games than I can begin to count, tears and laughter, four dogs and I can't even remember how many cats (with but one dog still left!), and my Synod has changed a bit too. Smaller than before and destined to decline further, but I think more united than it was back then and sturdier in a number of ways too. What will the next 31 bring? May the Parousia prevent us from finding out!

20 June 2017

Gottesdienst Video

It is one thing to read about some of the traditional ceremonies associated with the celebration of the Divine Service, but it is quite another thing to observe them in action. Last year at the Spring Gottesdienst conference, a video of the Divine Service was made (with help from a grant from LCMS Worship) and Dr. Burnell Eckardt provided a running commentary. Pastors and seminarians who desire to explore a fuller use of these reverent and historic ceremonies of the Divine Service will find the video to be a help indeed. Check it out: Divine Service. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28, 29.

19 June 2017

Today's Chapel

Morning Prayer, p. 235

Psalm 130

Office Hymn: 553 “O Christ, Our Hope, Our Heart’s Desire”

Reading: John 7:53-8:11

They went each to his own house, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” 

O Lord, have mercy on us.
Silence
In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets.

Homily

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

Did ever He speak a more devastating word of law? “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Let’s face it. You love your stones, your gotchas, and the way you feel so utterly “right” when you get to hurl them and they land with a satisfying thunk. 

The problem, of course, is that the Law of God isn’t a list of disjointed items. It is a whole. A seamless will of God that our lives be love from the inside out and everywhere in between. Picture a beautiful and rare vase. And you drop it. It shatters. You can hardly pick up one of the shards and say: Well, see, I didn’t break it here! And when so and so dropped it, that’s exactly where they broke it. What a sinner they are! Um no.

So James 2: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but you do murder, you have become a transgressors of the law.” Or Romans 2 for that matter, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, everyone of you who judges. For in passing judgment you condemn yourself, because you the judge, practice the very same things.”

So they had her. Caught in the very act of adultery. And since it takes at least two to tango, where’s the fellow? Jesus doesn’t ask, but nor does he let them get away with it. They are trying to trap him, after all, because they’ve pieced together that he’s the mercy man. But they had her, dead to rights. And they had the law. “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do you say?”

He then does the oddest thing. Ignores the question. Stoops and writes. The only indication in Scripture by the way that Jesus ever wrote anything. He’s writing in the dust. But what? Some of the fathers speculated that he looked at folks in the crowd and on the ground wrote down the sin THEY were hoping others never knew about. One after the other. St. Augustine in his ingenious way thought he was digging in the earth to form a new heart a heart of flesh and not of stone for these stony hearted folks who could see the splinter in her eye but not the log in their own. We could speculate till the cows come home but we’ll have to wait to find out! Instead, just note that whatever he wrote didn’t make them back down. “Well? Well? Can we stone her? What do you say?”

He stands among and said to them: “Go ahead. Stone her, only let whichever one of you is without sin toss that first stone.”

He bent down and went on writing whatever he was writing with his finger in the dust. What a fascinating tidbit then: “Beginning with the older ones” the stones begin to drop across the courtyard. Yes, years can make you a bit more conscious of your sin than the hot-head of youth with their fervent idealism. We old ones know how often we have sold out ourselves, at least the guilt isn’t too far away ever. But the word of law didn’t just cause the oldest ones stones to drop. “Let him who is without sin among you” caused all the stones to eventually drop and then silence. Jesus stooping and writing and a woman standing, awaiting her fate. There WAS after all one who COULD throw that first stone. 

But He didn’t. He didn’t come to throw stones. “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” 

And here we see the tragedy in the story; a horrible tragedy. They were willing to drop their stones and slink away. And so they were just left with a word of law. The sting of being a hypocrite. The shame of being exposed for a self-righteous ass. But remember, He didn’t come into the world to condemn the world. What they ought to have done, what each of us ought to do, is drop our stones and go stand WITH the woman as one who also has dropped the vase and shattered it, who has betrayed love and fractured it in countless ways in our lives. For then, then the final word would not be: “Let him who is without sin…” Then the final word would be: “Woman, Man, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” With her, we could whisper together: “No one, Lord.” Then hear from His sweet lips: “Neither do I condemn you;  go, and from now on sin no more.”

Two final thoughts: first, what right did He have to do this? After all, it wasn’t Moses but Yahweh Himself who had laid down the stern demand of the Law. How could Jesus set it aside? The truth is that He didn’t. He transferred her stoning, her deserved death, to Himself. This he did for her and for us all. His cross is His owning our sin and taking its desserts as His very own.  Second, note that He did not tell her: “if you go and sin no more neither will I condemn you.” Too often THAT is what the world hears us church folks saying, and being rather keen to sniff the hypocrisy of our lives, they believe the whole thing is a sham. But note that Jesus said quite the opposite: He does not condemn her and with that forgiveness, that love, that covering of her shame, He sends her forth a free woman and tells her to live in that freedom. You too. 

People loved by God, drop the damnable stones already, but don’t walk away. Go stand with “them” - whoever the “them” are that you feel oh so righteous to look down your nose at. Go stand with them that the final word in your ear may be: “neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more!” 

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



Benedictus, p. 238ff.

Collect of the Day: O God, the strength of all who trust in You, mercifully accept our prayers; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing, grant us Your grace to kept Your commandments that we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Remember, O Lord, according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Your whole Church, all who join with us in prayer, all our sisters and brothers wherever they maybe in Your vast kingdom who stand in need of Your help and comfort: commending into Your hands today especially Alex, Amy, Allen and Jan, and asking Your blessing upon Pastor Michael Paul and all who labor for you far from their native lands. Pour out on them and on us all the riches of Your mercy, so that we, redeemed in body and soul, and steadfast in faith, may ever praise Your wonderful and holy name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. 

O Lord, our Heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day. Defend us in the same with Your mighty power and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Taught by our Lord and trusting His promises, we are bold to pray…

Let us bless the Lord.

The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit bless and preserve you. 

18 June 2017

Installation of Pastor Karl W. Gregory

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

People loved by God, saints of Messiah here in Lebanon, brother pastors, President Scharr, and especially Pastor Gregory and Nancy, today is a day of great joy! Another prayer answered. "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest fields" He had said. The saints here took Him up on that. And the Lord Jesus answered. And this afternoon they delight to receive the gift they asked for, a pastor, a minister of the Word, and we rejoice with them. A fellow laborer in the harvest of the Lord, called to serve out the gifts of God to the people of God: one Karl W. Gregory.

When the great Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard taught about the duties that belong to the office of the ministry, he came up with a rather tidy list. He wrote: "All told, therefore, there are seven duties of ministers of the church. We can relate all the rest to those seven: first, preaching the Word; second, dispensing the Sacraments; third, praying for the flock entrusted to them; fourth, controlling their own life and behavior; fifth, administering church discipline; sixth, preserving the rituals of the church; seventh, caring for and visiting the sick and distressed." Pastor Gregory, Jesus has put you here to attend to all this.

And as you can tell from the readings today, preaching the Word gets the top billing. Jeremiah warns the people not to put up with any preacher just jawing on about his own ideas and dreams and thoughts. And oddly enough, the preacher's own ideas and thoughts tend to work like this: telling people not to be afraid of despising God's Word and that all is going to be great with them no matter what they do or how they live. What St. Paul would later call scratching itching ears. "No disaster shall come upon you. Be at peace. Do what you will." That's to be a preacher of lies. The mark of the real-deal preacher is this: "if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way." They, not the preachers, the Words of God. Only the Words of God, the real words that come from God, have the power to turn people from their evil ways.

HIS Word alone the hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, the rocky hearts of unrepentant men and women.

But that means it is not YOUR words that have that power. Not your ingenuity that can figure out how to make God a bit more palatable. None of that for you, Pastor Gregory. No putting up with that, saints at Messiah or brothers in office, not that I think you have that to fear from this man, knowing him as I do. But still, it is never to be taken for granted. People of God, remember your catechism. Remember the important question it teaches you to ask: not just "what does this mean" but above all "where is this written?" I can tell you this man will never resent you coming to him with the request that he show you from the Scriptures the truth of what he is asserting. He will thank you for coming to him with that.

The words of God do the job, but the words are joined to the elements and so sacraments. That too is what Pastor Gregory is put here to attend to. The sacraments don't belong to him as a minister; they belong to you as the beloved Bride of Christ, but serving them to you is part of what Jesus puts him here to do. And he must do this faithfully: as one who must give account to Jesus for his handling of such awesome gifts. Here, it doesn't matter on whit whether you like or dislike what he's doing; what matters is how will he answer to the Lord for his administration of these life-giving sacraments. You help him most when you tell him: Pastor, we want you to do exactly what Jesus wants you to do, what He's said in His word. Do that and we will be ever so grateful to our good Lord for sending us a faithful shepherd.

But whether the saints here say that to you or not, it is still your duty to be on your knees interceding for them. That means you must open your heart to take their heartaches and sorrows, their joys and celebrations, into yourself and carry them before the throne of God. Not now and again. Daily. Daily praying for them. Without fail. Make Samuel's words your own: "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you."

And then the watching your own life and behavior to set an example. No, that doesn't mean making sure that they never learn to know you as a sinner. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Let them learn to know and love you for the man you are: a sinner whose every sin has been answered for by the blood of Jesus, even as all their own have been. Let them learn to know and love you in your struggles against your own sinful flesh that they might have the courage to struggle against their own and realize that they don't have to live a life of make-believe where they go from victory to victory. In the Church, we stumble along, fall flat our face and get back up again by the grace of God to stumble a few steps further. We do this, as the second reading taught us, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who also in their own day, stood and fell, crawled forward a bit and fell again, and then struggled on, and finally crossed that finish line. Now they cheer us on from the stands. Let the people here know you as a man of faith: a man who literally lives from the giving of God, His abyss of forgiveness and mercy. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, and you will help them to keep their eyes trained on him as well.

But that doesn't mean that you're free to ignore the sin either in your own life or in theirs. No, we are not ignorant of the devil's devices. We know that sin is never a neutral. It's like a cancer in the body. It will eat you up. God hates sin because of what sin does to us, the creatures that He loves. It must be fought and above all, we need to receive forgiveness and to turn from it. Forgiveness is never a get out of hell free card that allows a person to go on sinning with impunity. God loves to forgive. I love to sin. Such a deal! May it never be. That's what God was crying out against in Jeremiah. No, "repentance unto the forgiveness of sins" is how Christ quite literally put it in today's third reading. And so church discipline. Not from the posture of "I've got it all together and I want to help you become as put together as I am" but from the posture of a fellow sinner who has learned first hand the dangers of sin's allure and who loves his people enough to speak to them the truth. "Turn from this! It will destroy you. I love you. HE loves you. He doesn't want you destroyed. Repent!" You're put here for that task too and it is the most difficult and thankless.

Well, almost as thankless as the task of preserving church rites. What? Folks might think. What does that mean? You see, you have the task of helping this wonderful family of God realize that the rites and ceremonies of the church don't belong to this congregation or its individuals and certainly not to its pastor. They belong to the wider church and require care in their exercise. St. Paul said to do all things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14) and that presupposes there IS an order. We honor our fathers and mothers in the faith when we receive these rites as gifts from those who have walked this way before. We honor them when we let these rites and ceremonies shape how we receive the good gifts of God and live as His servants in this world. Here's good news: you don't need to create some nifty liturgy that will pack in the crowds and fill the offering plates to overflowing. You get to serve up the liturgy that the Church has handed to you and show your people the joy of the way that thing serves up the Word of God in all its richness and glory.

The last bit from Gerhard reminds you that you as the pastor of this flock have a special responsibility toward the disadvantaged here, those who are poor, who are sick, who are hurting and above all the dying. He puts you in His own spot where He saw the crowds and had compassion on them for they were harassed and troubled like sheep without a shepherd. That's the heart He would put inside you as His undershepherd in this place: a heart that yearns for those who are passing through difficult and trying times, and that goes to them, where they are, to accompany them through those times with the words of Him who will not fail them no matter what, with prayers and tears. If you are faithful in this, you'll know the nurses in the hospital by name in a few years time and you will realize that more ministry happens in waiting rooms and by the hospital beds than anywhere else.

That's a pile of responsibilities to lay on any man. Karl, I know that hearing all that, you will not hear it as crushing load because you know that the One who gives it to you gives Himself to you too without reservation. He will walk this road with you and through you will serve His beloved flock here. He delights to pour out His Spirit upon you that all this might be done. Then you with Paul can cry out that your sufficiency is from Him and that it is His strength that is perfected in your weakness. True, you bring great gifts He has given you. A good mind, wide-ranging experience in the military, a veteran already of the struggles in the church herself, one who has known suffering for speaking the truth and being willing to pay the price. Most of all, you bring the gift of song, you and Nancy together, hearts brimming with His joy and eager to sing His praise with the saints here. Lots of gifts. But to the people here, the greatest gift you will ever bring is simply to be that humble sinner among them who never ceases to point them to their Jesus, His cross, His triumph, His love for them, His forgiveness. It's the beating heart of all those seven duties. Take up your shepherd's staff with joy, my friend, you have a great Savior who loves you, and to Him be the glory with His Father and His all-holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages! Amen.

17 June 2017

Reflections on a Wedding

As we spoke of the wedding we'd just attended, I mentioned to Cindi that this is what happens when both the bride and groom and their respective families are staunch Lutherans. Quick rundown:

Beautiful preservice music utilizing the rich traditions of organ literature of the Lutheran Church, including for the procession of the bridal party and the bride.

The singing of Now Thank We All Our God.

Invocation and Introduction.

Readings: Genesis 2:15–25, Ephesians 5:1–2, 22–33, Mark 8:34–38.

The singing of The Church's One Foundation (three stanzas) to the tune for Jerusalem the Golden.

Wedding homily by the groom's father; quite excellent.

The singing of Lord, When You Came As Welcome Guest.

The marriage with consent and vows, exchange of rings, and declaration of marriage.

The singing of Abide, O Dearest Jesus.

Prayer for the wedding couple, and for the institution of marriage, and the Our Father, then the benediction.

The singing of Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, followed by an assortment of joyous music from the organ literature of our Church as the nave emptied out.

From start to finish, a service in which the main thing remained the main thing, not the bride (beautiful as she is, both inside and out, and looking radiant), not the groom (tall and handsome and looking utterly smitten by his beloved), but Jesus and His love for His bride the Church. It was everywhere and shaped everything and held it all together in a joy that was palpable.

Folks, this is how you do weddings. Great and overwhelming joy indeed. May our Savior bless both Jess and Johanna and grant them many, many years together, making their union fruitful and always an image of Him and His Church!

16 June 2017

Happy Day!

Woke up this morning about 3:30. Can't imagine why. Could it be that I'm a little bit excited that Cindi is coming back today? Could be! Just possible. 

We're absolutely weird how poorly we do apart from each other emotionally.  And each time we have an away time, I am absolutely blown away when I think about how singles and especially single parents handle it.

Was really wiped about doing the yards and fixing dinner last night, so didn't get to attend to the last minute stuff I wanted to. This morning, however, with some bullet-proof coffee in me and Treasury prayed, energy was not a problem. Wash thrown in; dusted; vacuumed; swept kitchen; even rearranged the fridge a bit (I'll probably get yelled at for that). Still need to do exercises, but there's plenty of time for that now.

Opened up a door or two for fresh air, but that fresh air is rather humid. Still, that way I can hear the birds sing their Matins, which I always love. Anyway, can't wait to see that smiling face again. May the Lord wing Cindi and Michaela safely and swiftly home!

Addendum: One of the DISADVANTAGES of being ahead of the game... I happily made up the coffee for tomorrow and set it ready to go. All taken care of. I didn't look at the time I did this. So, of course, it just ground some more and I'll have another fresh pot of coffee to finish, clean up and reset. Sigh. 


10 June 2017

Personal Updates

I've had folks inquire since Thy Strong Word mentioned some health stuff with the family. Here's the scoop: eldest daughter, Lauren, had some emergency surgery last Monday to deal with kidney stones AND some more scheduled for this coming Monday. She's home and doing fine at the moment. We flew Cindi out last Tuesday to help with the kids (and thank God for Michaela just "happening" to be visiting!).

Meanwhile, Cindi's dad (who lives next door) had scheduled surgery for his rotator cuff. He is now home and mending.

God willing, Cindi will head home next Friday. Meanwhile, Lucy and I are keeping the home fires burning.

Been a great opportunity to check off things from the to do list: I konmaried some meat in the fridge that didn't smell quite right (what does that mean? It means you put it in a zip lock freezer bag and freeze it until trash day). Have learned that since "water and grease are the enemy" I've started always to wipe down the sink after every use. In the last few, I've cut both lawns, done laundry, vacuumed upstairs and down, dusted up and down, sanitized the kitchen counters, cleaned the tile around the fire place, watered our garden, Cindi's inside plants and Dave's outside plants, vacuumed the pool and put in new chlorine tabs, cleaned the tracks on the sliding door, swept and washed the kitchen floor (Amy's right: nothing beats doing this on your hands and knees), polished wood floors up and down, cooked several meals for Dave and me, done some basic nursing stuff, run some errands, researched and led hymn sing at the Issues' Making the Case Conference, practiced music for tonight and tomorrow for church (also playing next week). Well, at least Cindi will come home to a clean house more or less.

The longer I live the more convinced I become of the truth of God's Word: "It is not good that the man should be alone." Cin does all that and more at the drop of a hat. What is ironic is that I'd just had a nice week's vacation but it was very busy with almost no "alone time." I told Cindi: I just need some time by myself. Ugh. If I could recall words... I take it all back.


07 June 2017

A Hectic Few

We got word on Monday that Lauren was going to be hospitalized for complications with kidney stones. She ended up having surgery on Monday night and so early Tuesday, we were scrambling to book a flight for Cindi to NC. We were able to get her on a midday flight and so she arrived in the evening. Thanks be to God that Michaela had been out for a visit. She has been a massive help to Lauren and Dean in this frantic time. We're hoping that Lauren will be able to come home tomorrow.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Dave had his scheduled surgery today, his second shoulder surgery. He’s also home now and doing well. Huge thank you to Bekah for fixing our traditional “Wednesday breakfast” (for supper), so we literally walked through the door and sat at table and ate. Got Dave back home and he was wiped and heading to bed.

What a joy to be able to work even in the hospital. Pulled out my trusty iPad Pro, linked through my phone, and we were off to the races. Chapel announcements for week of 6/19 were drafted. Fired up the Virtual Machine and saved them to the Synod’s drive. Fixed tomorrow’s chapel announcement that had become obsolete by recording a new and corrected one, dropping into a shared Dropbox and deleting the old one. Voila! Tomorrow's announcements will be correct. Caught up on a bit of email and even listened to a crazy podcast from Tim Ferriss. I also read a bit while I waited for Dave to get done on iOS 11 and let me tell, you from the standpoint of a productivity user on the iPad, that is going to be an amazing update. Can’t wait to play with Files. I wish it were all available as I am working on the bulletins for this summer’s Institute.

05 June 2017

It's hard to believe


That we've been married for 35 years, and pretty much been buddies since 1972 (when Cindi and her friend Debbie introduced me to the wonders of hot cinnamon toothpicks at Belt Junior High School). Yeah, that's like 45 of my 56 years, in other words, almost all of my life! Here we stand in the autumn of our life and look back and stand amazed. The wonderful children God gave us together; the wonderful children those children chose to marry and so gave us as our own children too; the gifts of grandchildren galore (Sawyer, Annabelle, Lydia, Flynn, Henry, Felicity, Oliver? James? Whatever his name will be, due in September); the places we've lived and the friends we've been blessed with along the way. Fun with Jim and Amy and kids in NC. Countless card games: Ruth Holler teaching us Liverpool and the fun evenings with Ruth and Don, Muriel and Ed, and Cindi and I in Mebane NC; playing cards with Dave and Joanne and doing every last thing I can to irritate the daylights out of her (Spades? Why here, have the 2 of clubs AND the ace of clubs); all our pinochle friends across the years with all the variations of that game (and we love each one), especially Scott and Crys, Dave and Sharon, Stu and Jenn, Peggy and Richard, John and Karen, Carlo and Steph, Randy and Rachel, and our newest buds, John and Kate (and I probably left someone off!). The road trips when the kids were small to Niagara Falls, to PEI, to Montana (and all points in between). The wonderful trip to NYC and the magical evening of Oklahoma on Broadway (what a gift - thank you, Jim!). Hours and hours spent imposing on Cindi's sister Deb and her hubby, Doug, (they had a nice pool and lots of cousins to play with!). Discovering Dave Ramsey. Discovering Vegetarianism/Low Carb/Paleo...and always wondering what's next! The trip to Mexico with Deb and Doug; with Dave and Sharon; with all the kids. Cruises with Steph and Carlo, John and Karen. Time spent at Bethany in the Blue Surf. Our wonderful parish families in NC and NJ and here. Holidays around the old table...images of Nana falling asleep after asking for the potatoes, and Sandy and everyone else always evaluating Cindi's cooking on the basis of Nana's and finding it quite a worthy successor. The freezing Thanksgiving in NC when all Bill's family came down; or the time Karl went out and came back with a much needed bundle of firewood, and regaled us with Rindercella; the Christmas with only french fries with our meat because the water pipe was frozen and we couldn't boil potatoes. Of course, it hasn't all been sunshine, but there's no question as we look back over our 35 years of married life that it has been overwhelmingly a time of joy as we walked together down this path. We thank the Lord for each and every day that we have had together and wonder what adventures await us in the future for as many days as the Lord gives us. Happy anniversary, Cindi! I love you!

04 June 2017

Pentecost Sunday!

Pics from the day, which being translated is: rode bike to church, arrived right after sunrise and played two services, and then had a great brunch and afternoon with our friends the David Y family:



30 May 2017

Thoughts on a Funeral

Pr. Schultz's funeral was, as expected, a standing room only event. This man had touched so very many lives in so many different capacities. And, as Cindi said to me this morning, always with a smile on his face. I have no idea how many were there, but St. Paul's, Wood River, was bursting at the seams. We stood in the Narthex for the liturgy.

This funeral could not be accomplished without much singing. For All the Saints (as the family and then dozens of pastors processed in), I Know that My Redeemer Lives, God's Own Child, Lord, Let at Last (played expertly with major confession of the resurrection on stanza 3) and Abide with Me. There was another song I didn't know, and except for that one, the people even in the narthex were belting out the words. Joy and sorrow mingled, but joy definitely took and kept the lead throughout the service.

And how could it not? After all, Jesus had given to Martin a life that has no end! His sins forgiven in Baptism! The life of the Spirit of God, aglow with love and joy, was his in abundance in life and we know even more through death into the life that never ends. Resurrection is the final word. And that makes all the difference.

We joyed to hear God promise this in Isaiah 25 and Romans 8 and John 10. President Scharr read the first two, and Pr. George Gude the last. Vice-President Mueller preached a beautiful and comforting homily that wove the joy of those readings together around the joy that was so evident Martin's life and ministry. Pastor John Shank was the liturgist.

The prayer of the Church has become one the most comforting parts of the funeral liturgy to me: "...grant to Your whole Church, in heaven and on earth, Your light and Your peace!" Amen. Amen. Amen. The funeral service itself is the gift of that light and peace in no little part.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

25 May 2017

Homily

from the International Center, our celebration of Ascension. Such a joyful liturgy. St. Paul's sponsored the Eucharist and we sang Divine Service 1, with the choir chiming in on two very beautiful pieces by Henry Gerike and one by J. S. Bach. We also got to sing Gerike's "Up Through Endless Ranks" and then Bede's "A Hymn of Glory."

Here is the homily.  Chapel Homily Ascension

If you'd like to hear the entire liturgy, KFUO.org is rebroadcasting it at 7 p.m. Central tonight (5/25). Though "entire" is not exactly correct. Prelude ended early and we began, so the recording picks up during the Confession of sins, I believe.

18 May 2017

Chapel Homily: A Cantate Catechesis


Prayer and Preaching, p. 260.

Reading: Colossians 3:16–17
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Catechism: from the Small Catechism, Close of the Morning Prayers
Then go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn, like that of the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.

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

So let's see who here is old and who here is not. Were I to sing: "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce…" who can finish it? "Special orders don't upset us!" That's right. I ran it by Kevin yesterday and, youngster that he is, he didn't have a clue. I ran it by Georgia who is my own age and she chimed in. She even looked it up for me. The year was 1974, as in 43 years ago. Forty three years ago, some advertiser for Burger King thought to put some words with music and voila, after all these years and probably without ever really thinking about it, those of you old enough to have heard it, remember the words. 

Music and words. They work like that. They reinforce each other. Text and tune. The tune seems to write the text somewhere deep in the memory. Sandy reminded me that it doesn't always work like that, of course. She's right. It doesn't always. But what is shocking is how often it does. Words to melody repeated often enough in your ears and the words seem to take up a home in you.

So today's reading from Colossians, particularly the 16th verse. I confess I'd translate it a bit differently from what we heard a moment ago. The Weedon Standard Translation would run: "Permit Christ's Word to richly inhabit you with all its wisdom, teaching and forming each other's minds in grace by means of psalms and hymns and odes of the Spirit, singing (on and on) in your hearts to God."

Christ's Word? The Word about Christ? The Words of Christ? Yes. Either and both. Maybe even Christ, the Word, to richly inhabit you, teaching and forming your mindset in joyful grace, speaking them to each other even as you sing them heartily to God. And here's a point where some pastors and parishes massively miss the mark. We have these long hymns in our book. Take "From Heaven Above." Pull out your hymnal and look at 358 with all 15 stanzas. And some pastors inflict that entire on a congregation to sing, yup all 15 stanzas straight through and by stanza 5, the people are exhausted and just want it to stop. And some, recognizing the problem of exhaustion, chop it up and sing a bit of it and leave the rest. UGH. Which of these words do you want to not hear? What both approaches miss out on is how hymns like this were designed to be done antiphonally, back and forth, wechselweis as Luther would say. So one little angelic voice from the balcony cries out: "From heaven above to earth I come…" They're preaching to you in song. Writing the word of Jesus into your mind. And then maybe the choir chimes in with its preaching: "To you this night is born a Child…" and then the congregation can't take it anymore and they break out: "This is the Christ, our God Most High!" And so back and forth singing, listening, singing, listening, and so teaching and forming each other's minds in grace as we speak to each other in the songs, the Spirit writing the words deep in us. And note that you actually have them written faster by just hearing than even by singing. None of you ever went around singing "Hold the pickles…"

And for these words to lodge in us, music serves a vital role. It carries them deep into us. But here is where things get a bit dicey. It's possible to take the Words and set them to music and for the musical language to actually communicate something OTHER than what the words themselves say! Music, my friends, is never a neutral. In his writing the Republic, the philosopher Plato regarded it as downright dangerous stuff, subversive even. Here's what I mean. Take one of the very best and most well-known hymns: "Amazing grace." What happens to it if I sing it like this: (to the tune of Gilligan's Island). You smile, you laugh, but you were thinking not of amazing grace but of Ginger and the Captain, the Professor and Marianne, the Howells and Gilligan. The music didn't actually work to carry the text into you because it was carrying a different message. 

The mark, the mark, I'd argue, of the music that works, that can write the words deep in your heart and mind is that it breathes the air of the home to which we're headed. Isaiah 30 is key. You remember, the exiles on their way back to Zion, on their way back home. "And the redeemed or ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, everlasting joy shall crown their heads." The music that serves the Words pulls the Words into you and plants them there and the words in turn pull you, tug you toward the Father's house, toward the joy of the home to which you are headed. Think of how "Lord, Thee I Love" does that! 

I do not believe for a second that this simply is pure subjectivity or a figment of my own imagination. The music that serves the words like has a sound to it that says: "Don't stop! Keep on marching! Focus on where we're going and the marvelous love that invites us into itself." To steal from Lewis, it cries "further up and further in!" You can HEAR the hope of homecoming ringing through them; the joy of the Father's house; the certainty of the Savior's open arms to welcome you; the constant dwelling upon the great things that He has done for us to secure that welcome by coming in our flesh to suffer and die in order to bring us home. The Church sings this song as an alien people journeying from exile back to where we belong. We sing it through the centuries where the evils mount up and hearts break and sins devastate. We sings it in the face of our own failure and sin. We sing it to shout down our fears. We sing the song of the words of Jesus, when times are good and when they are awful. But we never stops singing it. And this is how we let the Words of Christ, about Christ, Christ the Word inhabit us and make sure that we'll settle for nothing this world has to offer; we're seeking the Age that is to come, our home, where Love will have triumphed over all and where Forgiveness' great truth will bring rejoicing so huge to the hearts of all that an eternity can't begin to contain it.  Grace, joy, home, love, Spirit words giving Jesus, Jesus bringing us to the Father, and so the song rolls on and on. And how often it simply sweeps us up into the great activity of doxology: giving glory to Father and Son and Spirit. All those little triangles in the hymnal are not meant to give you practice doing your exercises; but are proleptic. They give you a teasing taste of how it all ends, or rather, how it will begin and never end,  It's all about home. The home Jesus came to give you and where you can dwell even now through his Words.

The hymn we're about to sing is one of the few in our book that reflects on the nature of the church's singing. See if you don't find it a powerful way for the words of Jesus to dwell in us as we teach and mold each other's minds in grace: "Then let us sing for whom He won the fight! Alleluia!"  

Hymn: #796 When In Our Music God is Glorified

16 May 2017

On the Reformation and Worship

an article that I wrote for our sister Church to the north: The Lutheran Church—Canada. You can read here.

11 May 2017

And Carver


Does it yet again...


Enjoy the feast for the eyes on Lutheran worship of yesteryear. 

Today's Homily


Chapel for Thursday of Easter IV:

Reading: 1 Peter 2:11, 12
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 

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

I didn't remember ever noticing it, but it noticed me. Poison ivy. Or poison oak. I never knew which. But there it was, red blistery and oh, so itchy. And you know the temptation: SCRATCH it. There in the middle night when you wake up and it is just calling out to you: A little light scratch is all. Please. Just scratch a wee bit and I'll leave you alone. I promise. Uh, huh. And you know how well that worked. An hour later I'd still e scratching and until I was raw and bleeding. And it still wouldn't stop itching.

Behold, the passions (cravings, desires) of the flesh. You'll never get why their itch is insatiable until you get what they are. Every last one of them begins as a good thing, a pleasure, which God formed and gave to be enjoyed that through its enjoyment you might perceive Him, the Giver and rest in His love for you, love shown by the gift itself. Each of them calls beyond itself to the Giver. BUT, the very nature of our fall from the getgo, is that we attempt to extract the pleasure or good from the very gift in which it lives and where the Creator imbedded it and to have it as a thing unto itself on our own terms. Treated so, these pleasures that God filled this creation with become little monsters inside of us. Back to the poison ivy and you'll behold, how they work!  

Just scratch the itch a little. It feels so good. Ah… But it never, ever stops with the little scratch. It always comes back stronger. More, give me more. Drink. Porn. Sweets. Opiates. They're the obvious ones. But also that chasing after others' approval. How many likes did my post get? Never enough. Living from the attention that others give you, but it's never enough. Chasing after the next pat on the back and "good job, well done!" But then always needing to hear it again and more. 

You see, it doesn't matter how much you throw at this little monster with its lusts, it opens its mouth ever wider to demand even more. And pretty soon, you realize you're inside of Little Shop of Horrors. Feed Me Seymour. Feed me all night long. Always more. That's the way the passions of the flesh work; the more you yield to them the more they demand of you.  

And they wage war against your soul, your psyche, your life in God which is your true self now. If you give them reign, they eat up the gift of a good conscience, you peace, the joy and the love in which God would have you rest and live and enjoy His good gifts as His beloved children.

So how do you handle them? Every last one of us knows this battle, even though the itch expresses itself in a diversity of cravings in our lives. St. Peter's exhortation is remarkable. He just says: "Abstain." We might render it "walk away from it." Ah, like the poison ivy. The only way to win against the itch, is to abstain from scratching it. Then peace and sleep and whew in the morning it may itch again, but you know what to do this time. You don't fight it. You just don't feed it. Slowly it begins to die. To fade.

You can only do that with the passions of the flesh when you remember whose you are and so who you are. "Beloved," Peter said. "Sojourners," Peter said. "Aliens," Peter said. Put them together and they add up to this: people loved by the Father who have a home with Him. And this life isn't the final stop. You're journeying through it toward the final stop. And as you journey, you do so, bathed in His unshakable love. 

And THAT is, the calamine lotion, the balm. There's only one thing really helps the itches, and that's to recognize that their very insatiability calls out to you no pleasure in this life was meant to be finally satisfying in itself. Think how St. Augustine put it: "You have made us for yourselves, and our souls are restless until they rest in you." Baptism gives you that rest. By resting in the Father's love that doesn't change and never fades and that shone forth most gloriously in the darkness of Calvary's tree, where He was determined to love you and have you forever that He gave His Son into all our death, all our itching of the various passions, only there can you find the relief. Jesus in Baptism literally gives you His life, His psyche, to be your very own, and His is a life of total receptivity. Where everything is gift, and gift from the hand of the Father who loves Him, who loves you. 

Peter says, you live like that with abstention from itch scratching, plastered over with the peace of the love of God in Christ, and people will begin to notice. In a world of people frustrated beyond belief by their inability to still the various itches of their lives, you will shine. They will take notice you and at first may even curse you, trash talk you, but when God comes to visit them with some particular sorrow that shows the dead end of all their attempts to still the itches that are driving them crazy, how every attempt to feed the beast only makes it more hungry, they will glorify God because of what they've seen in you. The way of Jesus. A way past the dead end. A way not of your making, but His giving. Not a people without itches, as you well know; a people who have been bathed in the water and smeared with the oil that gave you a love that soothes them every one. 
When you begin to allow every pleasure to remain where God put it, the pleasure leads you always to something more. To Someone more. You then discover that joy itself waits to surprise you. Psalm 16: "In Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand, pleasures forevermore." 

Peter, like John, writes these things that your joy may be full! That you may abstain from the vain attempt to extract pleasures as items for your use and manipulation and return in Christ to the life that is real life. The life of receiving gifts. This IS the life into which You were baptized and which He calls you to embrace anew today. For alleluia! Christ, is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! 

10 May 2017

My Father's House


I've been very much living in John's writings of late. The words that Jesus speaks to us, that He brings to us from the Father, He invites us to find a home in them ("If you abide in my word..." John 8) and for us to welcome them into us that they might find a home in us ("If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him..." John 14). And the Father is literally in those words. I think this means that as we sojourn in this world, we learn to make the Word of God our home, to dwell in His stories, and to let His stories dwell in us. This is how God dwells in us. The liturgy in its greatest depth is this house of God. We move into that house that that house may move into us.

Once, Dr. Nagel was challenged to define liturgy in a way that some students (who came from a different confession than the Lutheran) could grasp what he was talking about. He said the oddest thing: "The liturgy is wherein we live as the people of God." The liturgy holds forth the Word for us to be our home that we may live in it, children in the house of the Father.

Luther said that Augustine never said anything better than Verbum accedat ad elementum et fit sacramentum. I think we hear it too narrowly, though. This is first Incarnation. The Word comes to the element - and element here is the thing held as an object in itself - and suddenly the element is no longer in isolation, it is restored to what God would have creation be: sacrament, gift, alive with His presence. A man who was utterly and fully alive and connected to all. And the Verbum Dei comes in His incarnation to the whole of creation, to all our disjointed and singular "elements" by which we break down the inherent unity of creation's original gift and try to have each thing as its own. And this is death. So even into death, comes the Word of God, to fill it with Himself and suddenly even that last enemy becomes gift. The cup received from the hand of the Father who loves us.

And so all things cohere as liturgy. "All times and in all places" isn't a statement of moral duty, but a confession of eyes opened to the stunning lavishness of the Creator's gift that never ceases to rain down at every point in our lives. 

The passions of the flesh that Peter warns us against as warring on our souls, our very selves, are in each instance the attempt to extract a good, a pleasure, from the gift in which the Giver gave it and to enjoy it as a thing unto itself. And each instance fails. Cannot but fail. This attempt at extraction characterizes the whole of our modern lives. Don't give me the whole gift in the food; put it into a pill I can buy. Don't give me a marriage;  I'll just take the sex. Don't give me the friends gathered together enjoying each other's company, I'll just take the wine. Every time we yank the original pleasure from its gift context, it becomes "passion of the flesh" and by very definition insatiable. Doesn't matter what you throw at it, "too much is never enough." 

And we have no way out of this fragmentation that extends even to the way we treat our bodies and the bodies of others and all things as mere objects. We have no way out. But into this intense objectification stepped the Man for whom all was gift, even our sin, even our death, and who thus opened the way home to the Father, IS the way home to the Father. 

When His words dwell in us and we in them, then the Word that came to the element makes of the isolated stuff of life sacrament and the world becomes again a home. He gives us the words He carried from the heart of the Father that we might dwell in them and from them touching all the isolated "elements" of our lives, all might become sacrament, gift, the Presence of the Giver in the gifts uniting them all.

01 May 2017

Celebrating!


Sandy and the volunteers at the IC have been working on this project for a long time, but as of today the Worship Library is catalogued and shelved and my office is back to a pleasant workspace. Yay! Thanks, ladies. Kinda makes me eager to get to work tomorrow! Last week I'd already "Konmaried" my own stuff there and tossed tons. 


30 April 2017

Homily for Good Shepherd at St. Paul's


There's a lot of thinking out there that the Lord only has time for you when you, more or less, have your act together.  That God loves you when you are lovable.  Against such a notion comes this glorious Sunday with its readings.  Miscericordias Domini - the Loving-kindness of the Lord.  That's it's name in Latin, but we usually just call it "Good Shepherd Sunday."

The Lord Jesus lets us know that that's who He is.  "I am the Good Shepherd."  So in today's Gospel reading.  But in saying that He lays claim to be the one speaking in the Old Testament reading from Ezekiel:  "I myself" - that is Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel - "I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak." 

Bless Carl Steinmann's heart. Good thing he's not here to hear me say this. He shepherded those paintings through to make sure that the sheep turned out just right. They only thing I've never liked about that beautiful painting is how the little lamb and the others are all so clean and white and beautiful. In the reading from Ezekiel, they're a mess! The sheep that are dirty, wounded, torn up, damaged. They've wandered off, gotten lost, strayed into all the byways of sin and all its sorrows.  They've injured themselves, inflicted damaged on their own persons and those around them. Some are so weary, just plumb worn out, they don't know if they can go on.  The Lord is in the business of gathering them together and making them lie down while He tends them, heals them, loves them.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" - that is the cry of your Lord's heart to you.  You see He knows you.  He knows you in your sin.  The lies you've told.  The gossip you've passed on with glee.  The hatred you've harbored.  The bitter words you've let flow from your heart through your lips to sting and hurt the people you were supposed to love.  The betrayal of the promises you made your spouse.  He knows every click of the mouse and every video you've watched. He knows the distrust that overwhelms your heart at times when you wonder if there really even is a God who can bring good out of this mess.  The misuse of your body, treating it as though it were yours to do with as you please, forgetting that you were bought with a price.  The stinginess of your heart that  judges your brother and hypocritically holds him to a standard that you know perfectly well you do not keep yourself.  Oh, yes.  He knows you inside and out.  Me too.  In all the things I've ever done, thought, or said - and the countless good I have failed to do.  

But that's the miracle of grace we celebrate this Sunday.  The One who knows us inside and out like that, didn't come among us to destroy us.  For some utterly unfathomable reason that we'll never understand and will marvel at for all eternity, He loves us.  He came to heal us.  He came to set right the things broken.  He came to bind up the wounds and heal them.  He came above all, to protect us from the wolf.  

You see, to Him the wolf is personal.  To the hired hand, his own life is more valuable than the sheep.  He runs at the first sign of the trouble on four legs with a bush tail. Why?  Jesus puts it so simply:  "he doesn't own the sheep."

To Him, you are valuable.  Don't go scrounging around inside yourself to discover what it is that He finds valuable.  You can't find it that way.  Your value comes from the outside in: you have value because He values you; He doesn't value you because you have intrinsic value.  You're His.  No matter how damaged you are, not matter how beaten up and bruised and wandering.  Now matter how worn out and tired.  You're His.  He made you His own in the font of living water, plopped His name on you and said:  "Mine.  Mine forever."

So the wolf coming after you is very personal business to Him.  And He has no intention of allowing you to end up as a canine snack.  So He interposes His own life.  "The Good Shepherd lays down His LIFE for the sheep."  

"Here, little wolfie!  Come over here and eat me!  Let them go free!"  Of course, the little wolfie has no intention of letting anyone go free, but he freely gobbles down the snack offered.  Bait.  Poison.  You know the story.  The wolf couldn't keep that Good Shepherd in his stinking gullet.  The Good Shepherd burst right through.  Raised from the dead on the third day.  Leaving a hole behind in the wolf's belly that will never ever heal or mend.  And so when the wolf comes after you, you can go cheerfully down its stinking throat without a thought of fear - for you know that your Good Shepherd has already travelled this way, has gone down into the valley of shadow of death, and come up again, and He will bring you with Him.  When all is darkness, and it closes around you - you needn't fear.  His voice rings out:  "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live though he die and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."  Death had no right to Him because He had no sin; but it took Him; and so Death forfeited its right to hold you forever.  

Tending the wounds of your sins, giving you rich pasture in His word, refreshing you at His table with His own body and blood, forgiving you every sin - the table set in the very presence of your enemies as the sign and seal of your triumph over them - you begin to see how Good your Shepherd truly is.  Good beyond all deserving, good beyond anything we could even imagine. 

In all of this gift, St. Peter tells us, our Lord has left us also an example - so that we might follow in His steps.  The pattern He set is clear:  trust in the Father who loves you and who will vindicate you and then you have no need to extract vengeance and such on your own.  Rather, like the Lord, when He suffered, He did not threaten, when mocked and reviled He did not revile in return.  He bore our sins in His body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  

No, He's not the God and Lord of those who have their act together.  Those who imagine they do are, in fact, not His proper clientele and the only ones He really ever chews out.  He's the God and Lord of the sick, injured, and weak, the straying and foolish ones.  He will not turn you away.  He died to release you from sin's power.  He rose to proclaim to you that death itself would never be the end of you.  He invites you to come to Him today at His table and be refreshed and then leave this place to follow His example - to die to your sin and to live in the righteousness that is His gift to you, forgiving and loving those who mistreat you and cause you suffering as you yourself have been forgiven and loved by Him, by Jesus, your Good Shepherd.  Amen.  


16 April 2017

Now All the Vault

The final hymn of the Divine Service for the Resurrection at St. Paul's, Hamel today:

Now All the Vault

Lumen Christi!


As the darkness grew, the light grew more. It was wondrous feast for ear, for eye, for mouth and for heart. We began outside fighting the wind to keep our candles lit, but this is Illinois and the prairie. We relit upon entrance into the narthex. "Rejoice!" and "This is the night!" Then the readings. Pastor is no trimmer. We read all of them. Canticles after the crossing of the Red Sea, Jonah, and the Fiery Furnace. Two confirmations and remembrance of our baptism. The Litany of the Resurrection. Full light in the Church and the Easter announcement with the return of the Gloria in Excelsis, just like an old friend you've missed. The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, the triumphant Victimae Paschali with the "Christ Is Arisen" and a timpani played almost antiphonally. It was amazing. Then the joys of the Easter Eucharist and we went out with Wesley's "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today." No, it was not an all-night Vigil, but it was a great joy indeed. Bekah and David both commented at the end on why on earth would anyone miss that service and Bekah said, "I'm afraid tomorrow is going to be a bit of a disappointment after that." I think not, but that's how it felt: you couldn't imagine greater joy. And yet with the Lord there is always more. Matins shortly and then the Divine Service for the Resurrection. Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

15 April 2017

"And on the seventh day He rested..."


The hours of Holy Saturday creep past. Our faithful hound got us up at 4:30 to get her out and then again at 6:30 begging for food. Ugh. So we enjoyed our coffee and Treasury with that splendid writing from St. Ephrem the Syrian, the closed tomb and the closed womb. The Formula would add the bread and wine of the Eucharist! 

Then to the kitchen to work. Tomorrow we plan to celebrate not just the Easter feast, but Cindi's birthday a few days late. So I undertook to set up the menu and prepare the food. First, made a chocolate cheesecake (thank you, Abel James), then made two kinds of deviled eggs (one regular; one with bacon, avocado and hot sauce), made a big batch of coleslaw, put the porkbutt in the fridge after coating it with a boatload of spices and I'll slip that in the slow cooker right before we head out to Vigil tonight. Put together the homemade sauce for the pulled pork. David's bringing his now famous home-made light rolls; Bekah is bringing a pecan pie (we'll see if we get to eat it before Lucy this time!). Cindi chopped up some fresh and parboiled veggies and made the oh-so-popular Greek dip for those. She rolled up cheese and deli meats, which we'll enjoy after Vigil tonight, along with some brie and salmon. She also set up a tray of chocolates, to which we will add tomorrow the home-made fudge Stephanie gave us at Christmas. Paleo or not, Easter demands chocolate!

While I was occupied in the kitchen, Cindi did the Saturday cleaning.  We planted a lovely Azalea that Dave gave her for her birthday, and did a quick stroll around the neighborhood in the sun and wind. I thought we were done, but when we got home she set to work on a coffee cake for Easter breakfast tomorrow. 

Now, I think all that's left is to extend the table (there will be nine of us tomorrow) and wait for the fast to wend to its joyous end after sunset tonight as the Light of Christ illumines the darkness with a love that death could not hold.

14 April 2017

Good Start to Good Friday

So, we have this cool alarm. It's a light. About half an hour before you want to get up, it starts to glow dimly and then gets brighter and brighter. At the time you're supposed to be up, the light is at its brightest and a sound begins. One of the options for the sound was birds chirping. We did that for a long a time. Houston, we have a problem...

Now, when I hear the birds OUTSIDE start in at 4 a.m. or so, the old bod wakes up! So, yes, we were up bright and early on this fine spring day. We enjoyed our bulletproof coffee and said our prayers from Treasury, and did some planning for the day. Threw some eggs on to boil for Sunday's feast. Then did our workouts. Pushups and pullups done (well, may add a few more pullups as the day wears on) and sprints run. Cindi has started tackling planting her kitchen garden and I'm finishing up one more cup offrench press, straight java before heading out to mow our yard. Not too much dew last night, so the grass is actually quite cuttable, and they're forecasting rain.

Still ahead, Cindi is singing at a funeral, then we have the Chief Service at noon and Tenebrae this evening. The pool folks are coming to open the pool (optimistic we are!) before we're due back from chief service. Have some writing to do, one more run through the Passion to make sure of my lines and part, and then more food to prepare for the upcoming feast. 

Birds. You can't be mad at them; they're just singing their Matins to the Lord. 

13 April 2017

Triduum

And so the great three days begins. What a glorious Divine Service this evening at St. Paul's. Pretty much straight out of the Altar Book, except pastor used the traditional Lenten preface with the old wording (yeah!). Maundy Thursday is one of the days we can usually count on Divine Service, Setting Five, and I dearly love singing “Isaiah, Mighty Seer” and “Lamb of God.” The choir sang a lovely piece, another Agnus by Jeffrey Blersch as the offering was gathered. The solemn singing of Psalm 22 as the altar is stripped...it just does something to you. The bulletin always instructs us to leave in strict silence, but I don't think we really need the printed rubric. The Psalm and the stripping hushes you all the way down deep inside. The Chief Service continues our worship tomorrow at noon with the Passion of John, the Bidding Prayer, the Reproaches, the Adoration of the Crucified. Tomorrow evening's Tenebrae will use the lovely sung Passion of St. John by Hillert at 7 p.m. And then we wait for the Vigil to commence on Saturday at 8 p.m.

01 April 2017

Just have to love Saturdays

The dog actually slept in! Leisurely cups of bullet proof coffee, sipped as we prayed Treasury together. Then planning the day. Breakfast was sausage and eggs (with mushrooms, onions and spinach!). I did my exercise, while Cindi tackled some wash. Cindi dusted. I vacuumed. She headed outside to start on her dad's yard while I made some loaves of paleo french bread. When the bread came out, I did our yard. A break for a bite of lunch (left overs: buffalo chicken wings with some artichoke spinach dip for veggies). A lovely walk in the sunshine. Home to sit out on the deck and enjoy a green smoothie, and it felt so good out there we decided to eat dinner on the deck. April 1st and we ate outside! Simple fare: a bowl of asparagus soup and some of that bread with cheese. Then Cindi was off to bowl. I swept the driveways and road to get off the grass clippings and then a stroll around the neighborhood, did my day's writing at the dining room table watching the sunset, sipping oolong. Then tackled the rest of cleaning up the kitchen: dishwasher emptied, counters cleaned, table extended. All done, all set and ready for Sunday brunch. And I'm guessing Cindi will be home before too much longer. 

31 March 2017

Noted in the past

but it hit me again today, how profound the parallel thought tracks between the classic anaphorae and that all but vanished feature of Lutheran liturgy, the Admonition to Communicants. Looking at the Bugenhagen piece for Braunschweig:

Our plight + the sending of the Son culminating in cross and resurrection + (so that we may more confidently believe this and be strengthened in faith and holy living) the Institution Narrative + Anamnesis of His death and resurrection (do this for His remembrance, showing His death—that He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification) + Thanksgiving  + the unity of the Church through the Eucharist in love + a prayer that God may accomplish this (a faithful reception of the Sacrament and a life of love) for us by His Spirit.




26 March 2017

Tea

(Francis S. Saltus)

From what enchanted Eden came thy leaves 
That hide such subtle spirits of perfume?
Did eyes preadamite first see the bloom,
Luscious nepenthe of the soul that grieves? 

By thee the tired and torpid mind conceives 
Fairer than roses brightening life's gloom,
Thy protean charm can every form assume
And turn December nights to April eves.

Thy amber-tinted drops bring back to me 
Fantastic shapes of great Mongolian towers,
Emblazoned banners, and the booming gong;
I hear the sound of feast and revelry,
And smell, far sweeter than the sweetest flowers,
The kiosks of Pekin, fragrant of Oolong.

I remember once reading that poetry is essentially words put together in such a way that they are hard to forget. For many, many years I have had the last line of this sonnet my head as unforgettable. The kiosks of Pekin, fragrant of Oolong.

I'm sipping a cup now of it now.