15 August 2017

A Repeat from Yesteryear upon the Day of St. Mary

A Dormition Meditation

I remember when the angel came and told me, and my heart burst with joy and terror.

I remember when I came to the door of Zecharias' house and Elizabeth knew my secret and my heart melted and my eyes burned with tears and my mouth prophesied.

I remember when I felt your movement first inside my body, and I realized that I was the living ark of the living God.

I remember when first I saw your face, and touched your hands, and looked into my Joseph's eyes.

I remember when they came creeping in to see you, to worship you, the shepherds of the night, and told me songs of angels and glory in the highest and peace on earth. 

I remember when we brought you to the temple and the old man took you in his arms and blessed God, ready to die, and told me of pain yet to come.

I remember when they came from the East and bowed before you as I held you and gave their gifts - the gold, the incense and the myrrh, while the star's light shone upon us.

I remember when he woke me and we fled into the night ahead of the terror of Herod's sword.

I remember when we came home at last, and people looked and talked, but you were all our joy.

I remember when you stayed behind, when you left us, and we found you in the temple and my heart rose up in fear realizing that you chose to abide in the place of sacrifice and death.

I remember when you spoke to me in roughness and yet made the water into wine.

I remember when we came to make you take your rest and you taught me that all these in need were dear to you as your own family.

I remember when they took you, tortured you, and crucified you; and before my eyes rose up the old man in the temple – his words haunted me still – and a sword ran me through as I watched you dying.

I remember when you looked on me and the beloved one and gave us to each other for all our days. 

I remember when the light died in your eyes and my heart sank beyond tears and words.

I remember after the empty days when they came and told me that you lived again, and joy flooded my heart, and I knew then what I had always known - your every promise was true.

I remember when we prayed together after you had gone into heaven and the Spirit came in wind and flame.

I remember how they went and told the news to all the world. And I welcomed each new believer as my beloved child, a brother of my Son, the King of all.

I remember it all now as I die, as I lay my head down in death. 

My Son, I am not afraid. I go to you, to you who have conquered death, to you who are the Forgiveness of all sins. Receive me, child. Receive me. 

I remember. I remember. I remember.

12 August 2017

Saturday morning jaunt

Cindi sold some stuff on FB marketplace, so we had to wait for the person to come and pick up her item, but then we hit the trail together. Went down to Edwardsville, called Bekah to see if we could stop in. She was at Sacred Grounds enjoying a bit of breakfast so we headed over and got ourselves a cup of joe and visited with that GREEN haired girl briefly. Then we headed back up to Hamel. An altogether enjoyable 20 mile round trip.

11 August 2017

Thought for the day

The liturgy is the house that the Church has built (and still is building) for her children to live in and shelter under the Word of God.

10 August 2017


A quiet morning. Did my walk and pushups, but then spent quite a bit of time reading on the deck with some french press at hand (thank you, Matt Bowers). When Cindi got back from work, we took another walk, during which Cindi announced she was going to head for the pool in a few minutes. We got in the house and hadn't sat down for long before Bekah showed up and wanted Cindi to do some more Konmari with her during her lunch break.  They retreated to the basement. I figured they'd be at it for a while, so headed out on my bike and did a quick 2 miles around town. When I got back, Bekah's car was gone. I went and got into my bathing suit to join Cindi in the pool. Only she wasn't in the pool. Odd, I thought. But I enjoyed it for a while by myself. Then I thought: "I wonder if her car is here." Yup. I went downstairs and all was dark. I looked in the garage again and noticed that HER bike was gone. Ah, I thought. She's gone on a ride. I went back and began vacuuming the pool. I let it run a long time and finally came in. She's still not back. I figure, SHE must have gone to Edwardsville (like I did on Tuesday), but she didn't invite me to go with her. That's weird. And it left me a little irritated.

I start to mow the lawn, and notice halfway through that her bike's back. When I finish we find out that she thought that *I* had taken off for Edwardsville without saying a word and was a little irritated about that; she rode down to catch up or meet me on the way. A few sprinkles, but no downpours, and she went all the way to Chapman before turning back. Of course, she never did catch up with me because I was home. 

Here we were, both a little irritated with each other, and once the whole story was known, we could only laugh. My fault for not telling her where I went while she and Bekah were working.

So, after dinner we DID get a joint bike ride in. Rode around town and up to Green Hedge and back. 


Is kind of a Herberts month. Lauren and Dean were married on August 4th, TEN YEARS AGO. Wow. And Sawyer was born on August 8th, FIVE YEARS AGO. And of course, Lauren turns THIRTY tomorrow, August 11th (which was also Lynn's birthday). Can we really have been parents for thirty years and inlaws for ten and grandparents for five? It scarcely seems possible. Why, just yesterday Cindi was sitting in the trunk of her car outside Wheaton High School singing "Bo Jangles" to me, right?

08 August 2017

Now that’s what I’m talking about...

...drop dead gorgeous day. Sky the blue you usually only see in June or October. Temperature in low 80’s. Did my walk and workout this morning. But sit inside on such a day? No way. Pulled out the bike and rode to Edwardsville and turned around and came home. An 18+ mile round trip that saw a lizard scurry across the bike path (near you, Crystal Wagner), lots of birds, only three other bikers and a family walking in town with their pooch. In other words, just lots of beautiful green trees and undergrowth and bird song and a blue sky overhead. Lots of peace.

07 August 2017

Through a happy conjuncture

I got to teach on the first three chief parts today after we studied Matthew 10 in Bible Class at St. Paul's on Sunday. Has it ever bothered you in the explanation to the first article, when we teach our little ones: "He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil"? How can we teach our children such lies? Ah, but is it not like what our Lord told the 12 as He sent them out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He was quite blunt with them: "Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent of doves. Beware of men...they will flog you in their synagogues and drag you before governors and kings... Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake." (Matt 10:16ff).

Nevertheless, NEVERTHELESS, "So have no fear of them.... Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 10:26ff.)

Have no fear of them. Think of the men he addressed. They would go on with the single exception of St. John to be martyred for the good news they spread. And yet I believe everyone of them would have echoed the promise in Luther's Catechism: "He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil." You see, it's the perspective of the END. This is what Jesus invited the disciples into. Being wise as serpents and innocent as doves meant that they were to live from under an eschatological perspective. In the END, not a hair from their head would perish. They could not fall to those who hated them apart from the Father, and if they fell in the presence of the Father, what was there to fear? He would indeed raise them up. They will not be forgotten.

Your Father's got you covered, Jesus seems to be saying, so don't be afraid of them. They can't do one thing to you apart from Him who will in the end vindicate you with resurrection, raising you into the glory that was prepared for you before the world's foundations were laid. In that confidence, we teach our children that their Father will indeed defend them against all danger and guard and protect them from every evil. On the Last Day they will see and understand and rejoice. So, no, not a lie. Not at all.

O little flock, fear not the foe
Who madly seeks your overthrow;
Dread not his rage and power.
And though your courage sometimes faints
His seeming triumph o'er God's saints
Lasts but a little hour.

Be of good cheer; your cause belongs
To Him who can avenge your wrongs;
Leave it to Him, our Lord.
Though hidden yet from mortal eyes,
His Gideon shall for you arise,
Uphold you and His Word.

As true as God's own Word is true,
Not earth and hell's satanic crew
Against us shall prevail.
Their might? A joke, a mere facade!
God is with us and we with God—
Our vict'ry cannot fail.

Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare.
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise
Forevermore. Amen.
LSB 666

Thy martyrs. They raise a mighty chorus. They have not lost. They have won. They were not hurt and found Satan's might indeed to be that mere facade. So shall you.

06 August 2017

Just another

Ho hum Sunday at St. Paul's... NOT!!! 

Bach's Auf meinen lieben Gott for Prelude... the lovely Divine Service 3 reverently sung and prayed... during the offering, J. Walther's Ich sterbe täglich... postlude Erhalt uns Herr by D. Buxtehude... and then this STUNNING homily by Pr. Gleason:

Sermon for Trinity 8 2017
Matthew 7:15-23 • Rev. William Gleason
God's word to us this Sunday is filled with serious warnings. "Do not listen to self-proclaimed prophets," He cautions. "God's wrath and anger will go forth because of them." "Watch out for ravenous wolves who will not spare you," He warns. "Beware!" of all these deceivers. I think alarms and air horns should have gone off before each reading to wake us all up to our Lord's great concern in this matter of false teachings.
Not that such a clamor would affect most people in this sleeping world. It would be like car alarms going off in a parking lot. Who listens or cares about those anymore? We just keeping moving on, ignoring the noise. That's pretty much the way people hear God's word today. It's just more annoying prattle to put up with.
Besides, they'd ask, what's the big deal? If somebody has a new religion or way of life, who cares? Maybe it's a better way. Isn't "diversity our strength," including religious diversity? [No!] Besides, who are you Christians to say what religion or philosophy is true or false?
Of course, it isn't we poor sinners who make that judgment, but the Author of the one, true religion: Christ, our Lord. And what is the big deal our Lord is concerned about? Well, He tells us through His prophet Jeremiah, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes." Let the gravity of those words sink in. The problem with false prophets, of any stripe, is the futile hope they proffer in their words.
Doesn't that address so precisely the dreams of people throughout the ages, but maybe especially 21st century people? The desire for some kind of hope? Hope for such simple things as prosperity, or employment, or better health. Hope for loftier things, too, like freedom and world peace. Why, our last U.S. president campaigned on that one desire: HOPE.
There is certainly nothing wrong with hope. In 1 Corinthians 13, hope is listed as one of the abiding virtues of Christian life along with faith and love. St. Paul wrote that "hope does not put us to shame" (Rom. 5:5) and that we ought to "rejoice in hope" (Rom. 12:12). Hope is a vital part of our Christian religion.
The very serious problem God warns us about are vain hopes, and the words men use to fill our hearts with such hollow dreams. You've heard it many times. "This product guarantees you cleaner bathrooms, whiter teeth, slimmer figures, happier children, and guilt-free desserts." "If you will only believe, and support this healing ministry with a small donation of $1000, you can be well again." "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."
Those examples are ones that most people won't fall for, at least not all of the time. The empty promises of hucksters, faith-healers, and politicians are usually easily seen. The more difficult to identify, and the most tempting, are promises made by self-proclaimed prophets. Their words appeal to the soul's desire for God, and for justification of its mortal, desperate existence. The human soul seeks the divine. The human heart desires the eternal things are out of its reach. And the prophet that dangles before the eyes of longing, spiritually hungry people is sure to find someone to listen…and who will get caught up in his false dreams. Just like a wolf that skulks around the edge of the sheep fold waiting for a wandering lamb to come its way.
This is what Jeremiah, Paul, and our dear Lord Jesus are warning us about: vain hopes. And not just hopes that only disappoint us in this world, like fad diets and lottery tickets, which only rob us of our pride and a few bucks. God wants us to beware of the vain hopes that rob us of our soul and eternal life with Him.
The motive and the manner of these prophets are described clearly in our lessons. Paul warned against men "speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them." Jeremiah was stronger in his admonition. The false prophets not only filled people with "vain hopes," their lies were to make people "forget [God's] name by their dreams…even as their fathers forgot [His] name for Baal." And Jesus pointed out how deceptively convincing are these prophets; they will say, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" In other words, they will sound and look like pious, godly men; but, inwardly, they are ravenous wolves drawing people away from God's sheepfold.
And if the motive and manner of these liars doesn't cause you to fear, then the result of their preaching should: God's anger, wrath, and eternal rejection of these "workers of lawlessness" and those who follow them.
So, what is the difference between the vain hopes of the false prophets and the true hope that St. Paul wrote about? Very simply, it is the living hope we have in Christ Jesus, our incarnate, crucified, resurrected and ever-living Lord, God and Savior. Our gracious, heavenly Father who created us is also the merciful, loving Father who redeemed us through His Son.
What God knows, and the false prophets don't, is that man cannot redeem himself, no more than he can create himself. The hopeless vanity of man-made dreams and promises stems from our utter inability to justify ourselves and our actions before God. Man's desire for the divine, his hunger for a holiness alien to him, cannot and will not be satisfied by human works. And to hold out the hope that men and women can and may do so is, indeed, vain. It is, as the Spirit said through Jeremiah, wicked.
Furthermore, the anger and wrath that is the just reward of all sin and lawlessness is not part of the false prophet's preaching. Quite the contrary. The sanguine message of the phony prophet is as Jeremiah wrote: "They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'" And, of course, that is exactly what the self-justifying sinner wants to hear.
God's anger and wrath must and will be "burst upon the head of the wicked." But, that word of the Lord condemns every sinner that ever lived, lives now, and ever will be born. How can any man, woman, or child ever find hope to escape the "whirling tempest" of God's just wrath?
Well, our only hope is found in what both Jeremiah and Paul called the "council of God." Jeremiah foretold, "The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly." What are the "intents of [God's] heart" that we will understand in the "latter days"? It is, as Paul said, the "word of His grace." It is the "council of God" by which the Holy Spirit gathers God's Church, "which He obtained with His own blood." The "council of God" is the Gospel of forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.
The opening words from the book of Hebrews say, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." These are the "latter days" that Jeremiah referred to. And God's Son is the one that makes us understand the "intents of [God's] heart."
God's intent was to turn His anger toward His Son. To "burst upon His head" all of God's wrath toward the wicked. Jesus, the holy, pure, and innocent One became for us the most wicked and lawless One by taking on the sin of the whole world. He "was made sin" for our sake. And by this inscrutable wisdom of God, He redeemed His fallen creation. Only through the atoning death of God's Son, did God obtain His Church with His own blood. This is the message that gives true hope and eternal life. The cross of Christ is the "healthy tree" that bears the "good fruit" of forgiveness of sins, freedom from death, and the hope of salvation.
And, on the Last Day, Christ will judge the living and the dead. And, for those who "despise the word of the Lord," it will definitely not be well with you. And "everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart," great disaster will definitely come upon you. But for those who "do the will of [Jesus'] Father," there will be an eternal kingdom to enter in and be welcomed. And the will of the heavenly Father is simply this: to believe on His Son, whom He sent to atone for all of our sins, and to hear and abide in His word. Amen.
... so yeah, we are major blessed in both musician and pastors. Together they served us up some rich and wonderful fare this day. Thank you, kind Father!

A Psalm 128:6 Moment

03 August 2017

Because anyone can suck on a thumb...

Not yet 10

But already a great morning. Cindi and I enjoyed a few moments with grandkids before she went off to work, Lauren and crew went off to breakfast with Opa, and I went to workout. Almost 13K steps done, sprints run, 200 pushups, and 100 lunges. I'm sweating up a storm and does it ever feel great. A few minutes in the pool and hopefully grandkids and Cindi back soon.

01 August 2017

30 July 2017


Not once. Not twice. But THREE times this week had the joy of singing Divine Service V, with the great chorale versions of the Ordinary. We used the new Weber and Kohrs arrangements at the Institute, and when I opened the bulletin at St. Paul's today, Divine Service V it was yet again. Millie always comments when we get to sing Isaiah, Mighty Seer. She grew up with that at Olivet for every communion. Told her that if she had joined us for the Institute she could have sung it two more times this past week. 

29 July 2017

Just what the Dr. ordered...

Coffee and a quiet praying of Treasury together...leisurely catching up on email and writing out a thank you note...picked up mail...trip to town to buy some groceries...a bit of french press...a green smoothie (oh, how I missed my greens this week!)...pool time during which I fell asleep, not realizing I had, and then proceeded after who knows how long to have a conversation with my wife, who had long since left the pool...lawns cut...dinner smelling delicious (Greek chicken with Greek salad)...and then some LIVERPOOL...I really do think it is my turn to win. 

28 July 2017

Home again, home again

Jiggity-jig. It was a wonderful week at the Institute for Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music up at Concordia Chicago, and the Lord blessed us with amazingly cool weather for the last full week of July. You can check out some of the services and the hymn festival here. But this old body is totally and completely wiped. No alarm tomorrow, that's for sure. In the thank yous, I gave a special call out to Sandy Bowers and Jonathan Kohrs. Putting together the Institute is like assembling a massive jigsaw puzzle, and I cannot do jigsaw puzzles. It requires a patience yours truly possesses not at all. But  those two worked until the wee hours many a night just so that when the Institute arrived, nothing would detract from the beautiful face of our Lord Jesus that shone through liturgy, sermon, music, and teaching for those who attended. Thanks to everyone who made it such a grace-filled event!

23 July 2017


Swept through last night. Power out, trees down, no estimation of how long it will be out. This tipped me over the edge. Pulled out the generator that has sat unused since purchased years ago and figured out how to make it go...so that life's necessities could be met. Coffee!!! (Well, and freezer and fridge, but mostly coffee!!!)

21 July 2017

A new resource!

The Word in Song: Hymn of the Day Studies is beginning to roll out. This free resource is offered by LCMS Worship as PDFs that can be downloaded and used to study the Hymn of the Day (Hauptlied) for each Sunday. Advent for the Three and One Year Series is now up here. More to follow later! Spread the word.

17 July 2017

Today’s Matins

Chapel for 7.17.17

Matins, p. 219
Omit Invitatory and Venite
Pray Psalm 3
Hymn: 540 Christ the Word of God Incarnate
John 8:48–59

"The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. "

O Lord, have mercy on us…

Responsory, p. 221


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

You will recall John 8 began with folks dropping their stones and slinking away in shame: "Let him who who is without sin among you throw the first stone at her." John 8 ends with folks picking up stones to throw at the only One who IS without sin. And why? Because He told them the truth and the truth thoroughly ticked them off. 

What is the truth? He had just challenged them: Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

THIS is what provokes their outrage: "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" He denies having a demon. He doesn't deny being a Samaritan, which means, a Keeper. He IS a keeper of the Word, of Torah, the only one in fact. He keeps the Word of His Father, honors His Father, and does this even in the face of people dishonoring him. He doesn't need to watch out for His own glory. His Father will see to that. He is the judge. His job is to keep the Father's Word.

But just in case they weren't hot enough, he throws some gas onto the fire. "Amen, amen I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." 

And the explosion happens: "Now we know you are possessed, man! Abraham died. The prophets died, and yet you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death' (I suppose in their anger they couldn't get the quote exactly right). WHO DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF OUT TO BE?"

But that's the point. He's not making Himself out to be anyone. He's not into glorifying himself. What kind of glory would that be? The one they think of as their God, he is the one who glorifies Jesus. "I know Him; and if I said that I did not know Him, why, then I'd be a liar, just like you all. But I do know Him and I keep His Word. Samaritan. Keeper. Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad."

They go apoplectic. "Abraham saw YOUR day? Excuse me, buddy, but you are not yet 50 years old and you have seen Abraham (who lived about 2,000 years before!)." Notice again, they don't get the quote quite right.

And he pushes it further than ever and pushes them right over the edge: "Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. Ego eimi. Yahweh." After dropping that little bomb you can well imagine the silence before they scrounge around to grab the stones. And yet suddenly he's gone. Hidden, cloaked, invisible. He was there and then he wasn't. He left.

Oh, He had come to be condemned and to die, but the hour still had no come. It would. And He would die for blasphemy, for being a man who made himself equal to God. They didn't miss what He was claiming. Not at all. He was saying that HE was the one who spoke to Abraham, He promised His own birth, He named His ancestor Isaac, He supplied the ram, He is both the One who made the promise and the One who fulfilled the promise to bring blessing to all the families of the earth. Abraham rejoiced to see His day! The day of substitutionary sacrifice by a son from his own body. The day of the Cross. 

Your Jesus is either possessed of demons and a crazy man, or He is God in the flesh. There really is no other option; He gives you no other. And if He is God in the flesh then He is the one whose words CAN and WILL carry you through death. Not that you will not die, but that you will not SEE death. Death is swallowed up entirely in Him. It is Him you will see, not death. 

Join Jesus, the Good Samaritan, the Good Keeper of the Words of God. He carried them to you from the heart of the Father and He gives them to you for you to keep so that they can be your light through the dark valley of the shadow of death, by their light, the darkness disappears and you see the way through, the way that He is. And His great word to you is the same word that He gave at the start of this chapter: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Hang tight to it, beloved. He who alone cannot be convicted of sin, He who alone was condemned in place of us all, He whom His Father glorified by lifting up on a tree and lifting up from death, HE will see you through and see you all the way home, where you'll join Abraham in his rejoicing and all the saints and angels who surround the Lamb and sing His praise forever, the faithful One who kept the Father's words and keeps His every promise to us.  

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

Kyrie, p. 227
Our Father

The Lord be with you…

Let us pray. O God, You have prepared for those who love You good things that surpass all understanding. Pour into our hearts such love toward You that we, loving You above all things, may obtain Your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Almighty, everlasting God, the eternal Salvation of those who believe, hear our prayers for Your servants Dan, Alex, Amy, Allen and Jan and all who are sick, for whom we implore the aid of Your mercy, that, being restored to health they may render thanks to You in Your Church through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Merciful Lord, for the benefit of Your people you call faithful men and women to serve in a variety of offices in Your Church. Grant that Your Holy Spirit may lead and guide all those who are on the Mercy Medical Team headed to Madagascar to serve according to Your gracious will. Keep them safe, prosper their journey and bring them home with joy; in Your name we pray. 

O God, our Protector, behold, and look upon the face of Your Anointed who gave Himself for the redemption of all, and grant that from the rising of the sun to its setting Your name may be great among the nations and that in every place sacrifice and pure offering may be made to Your name; through Jesus Christ, 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.

Let us bless the Lord.
The grace of our Lord + Jesus Christ…

13 July 2017

Today’s Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260

Reading: Romans 8

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to [literally, in] us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Catechism: from the Third Article

On the last day he (the Holy Spirit) will raise all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

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

To have the firstfruits of the Spirit is to join in creation's groaning, but also to join in creation's way of groaning. There is a way of groaning that is not of creation; but comes from the evil one, the master of discontent and father of lies. There is a groaning that is soaked in gloom and drowns in despair. 

That is not the groaning of creation, nor the groaning of those who have the first fruits. 

Luther correctly noted that the devil is a sad and gloomy spirit. 

St. Peter says that he's always like a roaring lion looking for chow. And how does a gloomy spirit eat? By swallowing up all your joy, devouring all your hope, and filling YOU with his own gloominess, despair, sadness, emptiness. That's how he eats you up from the inside out until finally there's nothing left but bones, and he goes on gnawing on those for a while too.

Philips, in his remarkably insightful paraphrase of the NT, notes the difference with creation's groaning, and so ours: "The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own." 

It's the groaning of little children on Christmas morn: "Can we open the presents yet?" The groaning of the parents, walking back and forth to the door, to see if kids and grandkids have arrived yet. The groaning of the bride as she paces in the back with her father: Is it time to walk down the aisle yet? Or, more at the text, the groaning of the mother in childbirth: real groan, real pain, hurts horribly, and yet she is focused on what waits on the other side. The baby she will hold in her arms.

Creation like a mother, waiting to give birth to resurrection: waiting to see the glory of God's children on the other side of the sorrow and the pain and seemingly interminable slogging. Waiting to see you shining in the glory of adoption; the glory that is already hiding inside you by the Spirit then blazing forth through your very flesh. 

If your groaning has been on the Satanic side which always manifests itself in the invariable gloom to gripe move, St. Paul invites you to get some perspective this morning. 

Listen to how Philips renders Paul: "In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared to the glorious future God has planned for us." Whatever you have to go through now. Whatever. Less than nothing compared to where you are headed, to what God has planned and readied for you. 

The first-fruits of the Spirit sort of groaning thus manifests itself in the groan to praise move (remember this is Romans 8 and you remember how the whole chapter or better the whole first 8 chapters sweeps up into the grand doxology that nothing, absolutely nothing in the whole creation will ever be able to drive a wedge between God's love in Christ and you). Nothing. Nothing.

Perspective is something you can't gain, though, when your eyes are on you, which is where the devil likes you to keep them. Perspective is something you only gain when you look up and look out and look away. This is the path our Lord trod: "Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross." And that joy that was His that sustained Him and got Him through? Knowing that on the other side of this agony was bringing you out of death into life, out of exile home, out of alienation back to the sonship God planned for you from before creation began. Or more with today's text: out of the bondage of corruption and into the glorious freedom of God's children. 

As Philips again nailed it: "And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!" To accomplish that Jesus goes to His cross and to deliver that living hope into you Jesus sends You His Spirit, the firstfruits; that's how your Jesus takes that finger of His (remember Luke has finger where Matthew has Spirit; the Spirit as the Lord's finger) that drives out the demon with its inwards gaze and lifts your chin up and into His eyes. Eyes brimming with love, and the shame melts, but then He turns you around to see with Him what WILL be and you gasp at the beauty of it. Now? Now? Not yet. But soon.

And your very groaning, awwwwww, is then transformed as your eyes are peeled to the eastern skies and you see the first glimmers and realize that the day is about to dawn and the sun will rise with healing in His wings and you will go out leaping like calves from the stall: there'll be joy in the morning on that day. And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Look for, expect, ache for. Because it will be Jesus on that day and the triumph of love. And meanwhile you wait and watch and hope and and groan and you realize the whole creation is on tiptoe with you and all who have the first fruits of the spirit. Together we whisper an aching prayer by the Spirit: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!" Amen.

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

913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In


Alex, Amy, Allan and Jan

Short term missionary team, Living Faith Lutheran in Clive IA in Kenya

09 July 2017

Große, große Freude

Today we welcomed our new cantor, Janet Muth, to St. Paul's. It was sheer delight to feast on some Bach pre-service (Kommst du nun) and during the offering (Wenn in höchsten Noten sein), and then a postlude by Dunstable on the Agincourt Hymn (one of my favorites; and we'd sung "O Lord, How Deep" during Distribution). The congregation responded very well to all her leads. Can't wait till choir starts up again! We have been so very blessed in our musicians. I am particularly thankful for all the years with Carlo and for Kate stepping up to the plate during the interim and doing a fine job, and I'm very excited about what the future holds with Janet on the organ bench. 

07 July 2017

Happy birthday, Mom!

SHE'D likely say it like this: "I'm 49 for the 51st time" but however you say it, mom was born 100 years ago today. 

Mildred Hume (Née Mastin) Weedon was born in the front room of an old farmhouse that I remember visiting as a kid (in fact, my first dog came from that farm), at that time owned by Roland and Jean Yeager (and later by my brother's friend, Buck Rogers). 100 years before it was just one of several farms that my family had, all carved out of the original plantation land-grant from George III. 

As a wee thing, she was afflicted with polio. It left her crippled, one leg quite a bit shorter than the other. She needed special shoes to get around in; barefoot she could only hobble a few steps. Because she couldn't keep up with her multitude of sisters and her two brothers, she tended to spend a lot of time alone and reading. Her beloved Aunt Annie (Nannie), told her that with a book she could travel the world and never leave her rocking chair. And right there were two of her favorite things: a rocking chair and a book. 

She frequently reminded me that children could be quite cruel in the things they said; only later did I realize that she must have been teased a bit as a child with that horrible gait of hers. From her I get my own quite intense love of solitude, my love of tea (though I do NOT sweeten it as she used to, three heaping teaspoons per cup - YUCK!), my love of time with family prized above any other social interaction. 

She was a constant tease (a challenge for all the inlaws till they got to know her). Though the very last time I got to see her, she didn't have a clue about who I was (and glared at me as I tried to feed her), only a month or so before she died, my cousin Tommy came from Wyoming to visit her. Her sisters told her: "Mibby, Tommy's come all the way from Wyoming to visit you" and she responded with: "Well, aren't I worth coming a long way to see?" Now THAT was mom! Dementia or Alzheimer's robbed her of so much, above all her treasured memories. She would regale me for hours with stories of her childhood - and memories that the older ones handed on to her: A's memory of balls in the basement of the Great House before the war between the states began, the ballroom with its marble floor. She loved nothing so much as visiting her sisters at the old house where her father had grown up, and two of the sisters lived, swinging on the screened porch and talking as the gloaming faded and the whooperwills began their song.

Happy 100th birthday, dear momma. You are greatly missed:

06 July 2017

Some crazy ideas

That we gave a try and found not to be so crazy after all. I put them here in no particular order and with no links. Google is your friend. 

On finances: Dave Ramsey (for us money knuckleheads) for his Financial Peace University; and then for even more radical an approach, Mr. Money Mustache (he's a fun writer—a bit, well, colorful at times!). 

On diet and health in general, Fatburningman, Abel James and his great book The Wild Diet; Mark Sisson and Primal; Wim Hof and his funky breathing technique and cold exposure (or read Scott Carney's *What Doesn't Kill Us*). As usual, we just ignore any "evolutionary" comments!

On life in general (assuming, of course, the Sacred Scriptures!), check out William B. Irvine's *A Guide to the Good Life.* Great stuff on ancient stoic wisdom. I've been thinking a long time about his insight that the problem with unnatural desires is that they cannot be satisfied. Note that there's a bit of convergence between Mr. Money Mustache / Wild Diet / Stoicism; and that's not even going into the convergences you can recognize between stoicism and Christianity. 

On stuff, Konmari. Seriously. We did this (well, almost finished doing this) and have been amazed at the “sparks joy” concept. My two huge take aways for the kitchen: organize for ease of cleanup and water and grease are the enemies. Yes, water. Dry off that sink! I have been delighted at the peacefulness that arises from everything having a home in our home.

On computing, iPad Pro and iPhone. Done. Yes, I know, the whole “my laptop cannot be replaced by an iPad” debate. I’m here to tell you that it has completely replaced mine. I do everything on my iPad. It holds my hymnal, my Bible and notes, my sermons, page layout and editing, you name it. Via the magic of Horizon app, I have a complete PC that I can use as needed.

On all things weird and wacky, the Tim Ferriss podcast or his latest book *Tools of Titans.* I DID say weird and wacky. You have been warned.

And that's about it for the day. 

A Day Off

With absolutely nothing scheduled (at least for me). So, we got up and prayed our Treasury and enjoyed our fat coffee; Cindi headed out to work and I did a little email, then decided it was time for a workout. Got in the usual 200 pushups and added in 100 lunges and also decided on some sprints, and all wrapped around the morning's walk (already over 10K steps). 

Sprints is really why I'm writing this post. I usually do sprints by running, occasionally by burpees, and even more seldom by jumping rope. Today, I skipped. Skipped like I was a kid again. What a hoot. I was up on the bike trail and found that the skipping (focusing on high jumps with blended knees and soft landings) worked up the sweat faster than any other exercise I have ever tried. And besides: it's fun! I thought: the world would be a better place if we skipped more often. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, but I think only the horse at the farm noticed. 

Got home and did some breathing exercises (thank you, Wim Hof). Remembered that I had to miss a dental appointment a few months back and decided to reschedule. They could take me within the hour. Unbelievable. Jumped into a cold shower, changed and headed up the road. Got home about 11:30 and Cindi and I enjoyed a wee bit of pool time. Still ahead today, some french press, some lesiurely reading, and (I hope!) some liverpool. 

04 July 2017

Words worth rereading

Upon Independence Day here in the United States of America. Frost recited these lines at the inauguration of President Kennedy (who was born 100 years ago this year):

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

03 July 2017

A Wonderful Weekend

We got to celebrate Dave's 80th birthday (anticipating by a couple weeks) on Saturday. Cindi's sisters, Deb and Dee, flew out on Friday and we THINK we surprised him. Saturday was an open house at our place and we had a good crowd of folks in and out. We were so busy with the party that I didn't even think about Sunday being the Feast of the Visitation (One Year) and so what joy to get to sing all those great hymns and hear Pr. Gleason give us the goods on the Visitation gospel. Ten of us sat down to breakfast after church and then we managed to squeeze in half a game of Liverpool before we had to get Deb and Dee back to the airport. It was so good to spend time with them and to celebrate Dave's 80th. Here are a few pics from the weekend (the pic with Dave and the wee ones shows his nine great grandchildren, including the one that is not yet born!):

29 June 2017

Homily upon the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Chapel on June 29 The Festival of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260ff.

Reading: Matthew 16:13–19

1 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Catechism: (A line from the third article explanation): In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. 


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

On what does our Lord build His Church? Our Symbols quote numerous fathers from Origen to Bede to show that the answer is not on Peter's person. They conclude that it must be on the ministry of what Peter said: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 

Does Christ build His church on Peter getting the answer right? On us getting the answer right? People loved by God, that would be a most flimsy foundation, wouldn't it?

You KNOW what follows the text. You know how Jesus told them not to tell who he was and then began to explain what "being Christ" and being the faithful son actually would mean. The trip to Jerusalem. The suffering of many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests. Being killed and then being raised on the third day. And you remember how the fellow who got the answer right, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, proceeded to take Jesus aside and to rebuke him! "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you! Enough of this negative talk! Are you forgetting who you are? You have power to prevent any of that from happening!" Jesus, remember, has to rebuke Peter and tell the Satan who was speaking through his mouth to shut up and stop setting roadblocks in the way of His path to the cross. 

Peter may have got the answer right in the technical sense. Yes, Jesus was the Christ. Yes, Jesus was the Son of the living God. But did Peter grasp what that actually meant? No. Not the first clue. And so does Jesus build His church on such flim-flam? 

Might it be that the rockiness that was praised in Simon and so gave him the new name wasn't so much what little he got right, but this: that whatever he got right wasn't his doing, but a revelation and gift from the Father? "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church." Might this rock be our Lord's certainty that His Father in heaven would disclose the truth about who He was? 

If we shift over to St. John's gospel, recall that our Lord said: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that the one who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day…No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (probably too polite a translation, drags is more at it) drags him, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6)

Now the Father's dragging you to Jesus, that just might be a rock solid enough for Jesus to build a church on. A tad stronger than your right answers with their wrong understandings; and certainly a tad stronger than the person of that first century fisherman who was always rushing headlong into he knew not what. "Flesh and blood" not so much. 

And, of course, that sends us back to the delightful article 3 of our Catechism. "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the true faith." The Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends to you from the Father is the Father's dragger. He grabs hold of you and drags you to the Son and begins the enlightenment of who Jesus is and what He has done for you. And THAT is how Jesus does indeed build His church. He builds it on the promise of His Father, the will of His Father, that He lose nothing of what the Father gave Him, that the one who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and this is the Spirit's work alone.

And we can be blockheads like Peter and get the right answers and still be all wrong, and JESUS doesn't toss us away; He rebukes us and points us again and again to His cross. To what He came to do for us. And only by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends from the Father does the light that begins to dawn shine to full strength: You have a Savior who would let nothing get in the way of Him taking all your sins to His tree, bearing them there, pouring His blood over them there, and thus severing them from you forever as He owned them all as His. That's what it is to be the obedient Son and that's what it is to be Israel's Anointed One. And He knows that the only way anyone will ever believe or get it is when that belief comes as a rock solid gift: the Father's gift of the Spirit to give the gift of faith in the Son.

On this rock? How about on the Father's dragging you to Jesus by His Spirit and Jesus never letting go of what the Father has given him. That's a pretty sturdy rock indeed. 

In the name…

Hymn: 647 Lord Jesus Christ, the Church's Head

Collect of the Day: Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

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


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.
In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets.


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.