31 December 2017

On the seventh day of Christmas...

...the folks at St. Paul were treated to another outstanding sermon by one of our outstanding pastors. Thanks to Pr. Gleason for letting me post this!

Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas Luke 2:25-40

There is a certain cartoon printed each year at this time. It depicts the present year as a tired, old man trudging to the end of his course where he greets the new year pictured as an impish baby, usually with a top hat. It’s a somber moment as well as a light one. It’s an end and a beginning, a consummation as well as hope for tomorrow. That image is not unlike today’s Gospel—the meeting of the very old and very young, an end and a beginning, the fulfillment of a long-awaited hope. The Gospel lesson reminds us that our life in Christ is a journey from a new birth to a good death.
Certainly that was how Simeon and Anna looked upon the Christ Child. The scene is the temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was only 40 days old. Joseph and Mary had come to perform two Old Testament rites—purification (which was for women after giving birth), and the sacrifice required for all firstborn sons. To this family, the old man named Simeon walked, asking to hold the baby. What a touching scene that followed—the aged man cradling the newborn in his frail arms.
But there’s more to the picture. To the parents amazement, the old fellow broke forth in a song. It was a heartfelt hymn of thanks for this Child. Simeon was overcome with joy because his eyes beheld God’s “salvation,” that is, the Christ Child cradled in his arms.
Then there was the other old figure, an 84 year old widow named Anna. Like most widows of that day, Anna was quite poor. She depended on the alms and generosity of the temple for her livelihood. She came by at that moment and heard Simeon’s song. She, too, hurried to see the child. Why all the fuss? What excited these two aged saints? It’s really quite simple.
The hope and prospect of meeting this babe had been the focus of their entire lives. Simeon is described simply as a pious, God-fearing man. He was one of the few left who had read, understood, and believed the Old Testament promises concerning the Messiah. That day marked the zenith of his aged life. In some wondrous way, the Holy Spirit told him he would see the Messiah before his death. And then the Spirit moved him that day to go to the temple at the right moment. There he saw the glorious fulfillment of his hopes. Likewise, the elderly prophetess, Anna, was numbered with those still looking for “the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Now it had all come true. Simeon and Anna were old, yes, but their future beamed brightly. God had kept His holy Word; now this aged pair stood on death’s door fearless and confident. Simeon and Anna had as much joy as anyone could hope for—and more. I wonder how many people today, at the end of the year, only a few days after Christmas, can say that. 
The mood of these post-Christmas days is usually a bit depressing for many people. Many are blue simply because Christmas is over. Vacation is brief and soon will end. Christmas toys may be found already broken. Some gifts came as disappointments and were promptly returned. A lot of folks are already taking down their decorations. Another Christmas has come and gone, and for most people that means farewell to the joy of the season.
The reason for all this is because so many people celebrate Christmas only like a birthday party. Birthdays come once a year, a time for brief happiness—tempered by the fact we are another year older. There’s no real lasting significance, though, to the average birthday celebration. And year after year people treat Christmas like a once-a-year festival where, for a while, the past is forgotten and the future ignored. The big attractions are the presents to be opened and the feast to be devoured. Oh, many are touched by the quaint, old “legend” about a cuddly baby laid in a manger, but less than a week later the thrill is gone and the baby forgotten. The only interest and prospect now is the bottle of champagne to be opened at the New Year’s Eve bash. Let’s face it, many people treat God and His Son with little more than sweet affection and passing interest at Christmas. Afterwards they pack them away just like the figures in a nativity scene.
But, Christmas is not the story of innocent sweetness that has no bearing on “real life.” When you get right down to it, Christmas is a matter of life and death. Even in the midst of all his joy, Simeon realized this all too keenly. He prophesied that that baby would split the world, separating the people of God from all the rest, including the pretenders. Surely when King Herod sent his troops to slaughter the babes of Bethlehem, Simeon’s words were painfully evident. He also said Mary’s own heart would be pierced with sorrow over her Son and His mission. One wonders as she watched Jesus die on Good Friday, if Simeon’s words came painfully back to Mary’s mind.
It is joyful to sing a song of Christmas, to hold a candle in church on Christmas Eve, to exchange gifts, and to eat the feast. But, if that’s the only place Christmas has in your year, you’ve missed the point! We who are gathered here today apparently understand that; we are here to keep celebrating Christmas. What remains for us is to learn anew the lesson of Simeon and Anna.
The Nativity of our Lord is a matter of life and death—of new life in Him and a good death in Him. Simeon teaches us how vital it is to build life on Christ, the Rock of our Salvation. When our life’s foundation is built on Him, no storm or sorrow can rob us of our true joy. The Bible speaks of Christ as a Rock that will either save or destroy us. His death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday will either cause life for all who trust in Him and His promises, or they will cause the death of those who reject Him and His Word of life. To keep Him as a tiny babe with no real claim on life is a sure way to get crushed—a sure way of making every Christmas a disappointment. How sad! For Jesus was born in Bethelehem and died on Calvary to save us from our sins, paying the enormous debt of sin we all owed God. He came, not to condemn us, not to disappoint us; He came that we might have life in all its abundance.
With Simeon, we must learn that having Christ brings true peace. His words are a fitting confession for us, too: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” It’s not that we’re planning on dying soon—God willing. Rather, we mean “Here, O Lord, is my whole life. You gave it. You saved it. Now free me to be Your servant—free me from spiritual shallowness and guilt, and from past and future fears.”
And, from Anna, we learn the lasting joy of rendering service to God, of living in God’s temple and worshiping regularly. Here we feast on the Bread of Life—His Word and Sacrament. From them we receive the grace to join Anna in living the devout life, of telling and showing others, perhaps especially our children, that Jesus is for every day of the year. With her, we daily look for the redemption that is ours in Christ.
Well, soon that top-hatted, sashed baby boy named “2018” will crawl into our lives. Once again, it will be the passing away of the old and the beginning of the new, the consummation of one year and the hope of another. My prayer for all of us is that we, like Simeon and Anna, greet the future with the joy and hope of Christmas fixed firmly in our hearts. And, with that joy, to love and live with abandon for God, for surely our new birth in Christ will carry us to a good death in Christ!
Amen.

30 December 2017

A bit of a whirlwind trip...

...up to Sheldon, Wisconsin to spend a couple days with the Herberts, as Lauren was having a bit of minor surgery. I tried an expirament and left my iPad Pro at home and found out that the iPhone 8 Plus worked just super all by itself.

Cindi, of course, tried the inverse experiment. She brought her iPad mini AND LEFT IT UP THERE. Ugh. She’s debating leaving it until Lauren makes the trek down this way for Bekah’s shower. I’m skeptical, but she pointed out that none of our children use their iPads much at all anymore; they all rely on their phones almost exclusively. We’ll see.

It was, of course, bitter cold. The temperature this morning was -16 with a windchill of -34. But whenever I was tempted to complain, I thought of those poor Amish (they live in the midst of many of them!), driving with their horses and buggies! Brrrrrr.

Some pics...






28 December 2017

25 December 2017

A Few Advent / Christmas Reflections from a Fellow Pew Sitter

The relative oddity of Rorate Coeli in the morning and Christmas Eve at sunset... 

The collect for that fourth Sunday struck a chord: “that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy.” What lifts the weight of your sin from you when you think it is so heavy that you want to stop even trying to keep moving? The grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus. They lift the burden and not gradually and slowly, but surprisingly and suddenly. When you see them all on Him and that He is carrying them and you are free. Free to dance for joy on the way into the Kingdom. What we could not bear, He came among us to bear for us. So unfathomably great is His love... 

An early Christmas dinner for the family as the snow fell. It is true that “no warmth that in a family dwells” can compare with the shocking truth that “God was man in Palestine / And lives today in bread and wine;” still there was abundant warmth!... 

The most wondrous Christmas service for the children ever. For the children or by the children? Despite pastor in his beautiful cope leading the Lessons and Carols, the children were the lectors. They had learned the prophesies and passages by heart and recited them so beautifully. They sang and in parts. They played chimes. They played strings. Amazing joy. A solemn litany closed out the service that left your heart swelling in joy... 

Some time back at the house and carols with the family and friends... 

Back to the Church to sing for the first Divine Service or Mass of Christmas. Verbum caro factum est. David’s lovely job on “O Holy Night.” All the stanzas of Von Himmel Hoch during distribution with a great variety of vocal and instrumental accompaniment. A solemn and beautiful liturgy with the usual incense. Pastor used one of the old prayers from Lutheran Liturgy for Christmas Eve. Awe at all that Kantor Muth was able to pull together for this year... 

A short night’s sleep and back to church to run through the music for choir for the final Divine Service of Christmas (the traditional “third Mass” but we never do the dawn service, so the visit of the shepherds gets shortchanged!). Reading of the Kalends (our little bit of Matins appended to the start of the Divine Service); “O Come, All Ye Faithful” to “We Praise You Jesus at Your Birth” to a wonderful homily by Pr. Ball on the Word Made Flesh to Praetorius’ “To Us a Child” (choir) to “Of the Father’s Love” to “Hark! The Herald Angels” to “Now Sing We Now Rejoice” to “Joy to the World.” All of that laced around Divine Service 3, richly sung in parts. I confess that I do not approve of any Lutheran Christmas Service for the final service ending in anything but “Now Sing We” (Praetorius just kind of ruins any other ending, you know?), but at least we got to sing it ALMOST at the end... 

I did wonder during the collect of the day for Christmas (hits me every year) what on earth the committee was thinking to OMIT the “new” in the collect and just render it “the birth.” TLH: “...that the new birth of Thine only begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held in the old bondage under the yoke of sin.” This is utterly faithful to the original: “Concéde quæsumus omnípotens Deus: ut nos Unigéniti tui nova per carnem natívitas líberet, quos sub peccáti jugo vetústa sérvitus tenet.” I THINK people thought it sounded like Christ was born anew each year; but of course, that’s not what it said or what it meant. There was something utterly NEW about Christ’s birth in the flesh, for it was sinless. And we desperately need to be joined to this new birth, and that is the gift of Baptism. The loss of the “new” in reference to the birth loses the tight tie into the Baptismal epistle from Titus 3, and Luther’s sermon that we must exchange our old birth for His new one! When folks set out to improve the liturgy, I find almost invariably they end up doing something that the next generation will need hopefully carefully set back in place... 

Then home to feast a bit more: Praetorius’ Mass for Christmas Day and then the Christmas Oratorio by Bach... Thanks to the pastors and musicians at St. Paul’s who gave us such a joyous, rich, and dignified celebration of the nativity. 

A few pics:








20 December 2017

Best part of vacation?

Exercising to your heart's content. Today after a leisurely and tasty breakfast, I started to work:

10K steps done
Sprints run (using the stairs at home!)
200 pushups
107 chest presses
100 kettlebell swings

Currently feeling? FABULOUS. I love how when you're done sprints, you're always feeling great (after you stop feeling dead). 

17 December 2017

Such a joyous Gaudete!



"...and lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation..." Collect, Gaudete

Joys abounding. Bach's Was Frag Ich nach der Welt with John Thoelke on trumpet... "On Jordan's Bank"... Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice!... Comfort, comfort my people, says Your God... Stir up Your might and come to save us!... E'en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come... Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light... And the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them... "Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding"... Peace. He will speak peace to His people for the beautiful homily by Pr. Gleason... Gerhardt's "Love caused Your incarnation..." in Bach's setting, strings and organ and choir... "Comfort, Comfort Ye," "When All the World Was Cursed," "Arise, O Christian People"... The precious body and blood of Christ, our very peace with our Father... "O Savior, Rend the Heavens"... Walther's Freu dich sehr.

13 December 2017

A beautiful homily for St. Lucia’s day

By director of Campus Ministry and LCMS U, Marcus Zill:

IC CHAPEL (13 December 2017)

Commemoration of Lucia, Martyr


Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
    double for all her sins.

~ Isaiah 40:1-2

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

These days are the darkest times of the year. It is not an accident that St. Lucia, whose name derives from lux, light, is commemorated when the days are the shortest. Festivals of light became very popular in northern Europe during this time of the year, especially since today was once considered the shortest day of the year. Lucia, a 4th century saint of Christian light, became a natural choice for commemoration as popular art often depicts her with a crown of flickering candles adorning her head. (Pastor Weedon actually asked me to dress her part today, but I declined).

What is true according to the normal pattern of the seasons is also true when one considers the spiritual condition of these dark and latter days in which we live. It is certainly significant that the Christ was born when light is the least, when darkness is palpable.
There is not much that is known for certain about Lucia except that she was from Sicily (and not Scandinaia), that she devoted herself to the nurture and care of the poor, and she died in 304 A.D. as a Christian martyr under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletion.

Several legends have grown up around Lucia, enough that we don’t have time to go into all of them, but when given the opportunity to renounce her Christian faith, Lucia is reported to have simply smiled and said, “I wish to please Christ.”

Two separate legends, though not verified, do state that Lucia’s eyes were gouged out. With or without her earthly eyes, Lucia, the young maiden of light, certainly fixed her eyes upon Jesus. The Lord Himself taught “the eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

The Light of the world Himself has taught us also that “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” (Matthew 13:44) Lucia’s lifeless murdered body was placed in a grave, hidden in a field as it were, hardly the stuff of treasure in the eyes of the world – just one more dead girl, one more executed Christian, one more candle snuffed out, one more person who would not obey the state, one more speed bump in a cruel Caesar’s quest to become like God.

And yet it is St. Lucia who now “in glory shines” while “we feebly struggle” and while the unbelieving Caesars of every time and place wail and gnash their teeth in the darkness. Evil may have claimed Lucia’s eyes, Satan may have spilled her lifeblood, but today she, who was sanctified by the very blood of Christ, sees God face to face!  And what’s more, the light of Christ shone in her good works and good confession, reflecting this holy light upon those of us who yet “dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Darkness cannot diminish even one flickering candle even as a mighty Caesar cannot extinguish the witness of a young girl who confesses a king greater than he. Lucia’s eternal testimony, like that of many of the martyrs of her age, proclaimed to the world that we Christians have overcome death – by the death of Christ – and that through Christ, in Christ, by Christ, and yes even with Christ – we have eternal life.  We share in His light and we stand defiant against the darkness of the grave.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world, the light of life, the uncreated light who created light by means of His uncreated Word – shines among us, through us, and in us, dear friends.  Even when – and especially when – all we see around us with our failing eyes is the darkness of our sins, the inevitability of death, and the cruelty of this world’s Satanic tyranny – His Word remains a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path.”

Dear children of light, we do not cower in fear at these dark times. Rather, Holy Scripture which Isaiah reminds us remains forever, calls us to sobriety, that God-given ability to remain in complete control of our passions and thoughts without excess or confusion. The virtues of faith and love, those mighty breastplates of the Lord have not lost their strength and vitality. That virtue of hope grounded in the salvation promised to us in Christ Jesus remains as sturdy and sure a helmet as it did for Lucia and all the martyred saints who have gone before us.

The Light that illumined the heart and soul of a Sicilian maiden also shines within each of you, not by virtue of anything that is because of You, but by virtue of everything that is in Him. The powers of darkness thought they had blown out that light at Golgotha but they were wrong about Christ, and they can’t snuff out those who confess and bear witness to His light either.

Will you be called to speak your testimony before kings, magistrates, or those in high positions of authority? That is not for us to say. But like Lucia, if so, you shall not be put to shame either. On this St. Lucia’s day, be reminded, enlightened, and encouraged by “the God of peace who himself sanctifies you completely. And may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thess. 5:23)

Lucia is now comforted. Her warfare is ended, her inquity is pardoned and she has received from the Lord’s hand, double for all her sins.
As have each of you….
In the name of Jesus, the Light which darkness cannot overcome. Amen.

12 December 2017

A most kind review...

...by T. R. Halvorson:

Wonder at Christmas

10 December 2017

Populus Sion

It struck me as an excess of caution, but my son advised dear wife and me to stay home today from church just to make sure that we were not carrying any remnant of that nasty flu. We did so. Cindi’s still a bit weak, but doing much, much better. So we were exiled from our church family on the day of “Lo, He Comes.” Most sad. Still, we sat with our coffee and prayed Matins. That PrayNow app really is amazing for such an occasion. But then Cindi asked if those were the readings for Sunday and I explained that the daily lectionary goes its own unterrupted way. So, we also prayed the collect of the day, sang “The King Shall Come,” read the three readings from the Divine Service, sang “Lo, He Comes,” and then joined in the old general prayer from The Order of Morning Service (mostly known as p. 5). It wasn’t nearly as good as BEING in church, but we knew ourselves not to be alone, and that was quite a comfort. And a little bit of Lutheran Public Radio nicely rounded off the morning.

07 December 2017

Some delightful poetry


Thanks to dear friend Henry Gerike for this one:


Thanks to dear friend Rachel Bomberger for these:


04 December 2017

An Old Lutheran Quote

From Luther's Easter homily, 1540, in the Church Postils (VII:188, 189):
These passages, as is also stated elsewhere, teach that a Christian by faith lays hold upon the purity of Christ, for which reason he is also regarded pure and begins to make progress in purity; for faith brings the Holy Spirit, who works in man, enabling him to withstand and to subdue sin... Such, we must know, is the nature of Christ's office and dominion in his Church that though he really does instantaneously, through faith, confer upon us his purity, and by the Spirit transforms our hearts, yet the work of transformation and purification is not at once completed. Daily Christ works in us and purges us, to the end that we grow in purity daily. This work He carries on through the agency of the Word, admonishing, reproving, correcting and strengthening... Christ also uses crosses and afflictions in effecting this end.... The sins remaining in the saints after conversion are various evil inclinations, lusts, and desires natural to man and contrary to the law of God. The saints, as well as others, are conscious of these sins, but with this difference: they do not permit themselves to be overcome thereby so as to obey the sins, allowing them free reign; they do not yield to, but resist such sins, and, as Paul expresses it here, incessantly purge themselves therefrom. The sins of the saints, according to him, are the very ones which they purge out. Those who obey their lusts, however, do not do this, but give free reign to the flesh and sin against the protest of their own conscience...If you persist in that which is evil regardless of the voice of conscience, you cannot say, nor believe, that you have God's favor.

02 December 2017

Weedon Family News 2017




Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown
God was there upon His throne. 
LSB 332:3


Here's wishing you all a blessed Advent-tide and Christmas! 

 2017 was a year full of blessings from heaven, some tears, and some overflowing joys.

Some of the joys...

Birth of Felicity Lynn Herberts, grandchild six, granddaughter three... Birth of Oliver James Weedon, grandchild seven, grandson four... Rebekah and Andy's engagement... Lauren and Dean's move to Sheldon/Gilman WI, bringing them only 8 hours away... Reformation in Honolulu and a week on Oahu with Van Ulfts and Klingers and visiting with friend, Karl Bachman... Watching the eclipse in good company and enjoying the traffic jam of the century in good company... Welcoming Kantor Jan Muth to St. Paul's as organist, choir director and bell choir director, and all things music for school... Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music (a truly crazy and fun week with Sandy Bowers, Wagners, Thoelkes and Sharon Braasch)... Deb and Dee joining us for a joyous celebration of Dave’s 80th birthday... Bill's second book written and published (Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey, published by Concordia Publishing House)... Bill's trip to Idaho for congregational anniversary and to enjoy a wonderful visit with his oldest brother, Butch... Music, music, music: Cindi in Collinsville Chorale and St. Paul's Bells and loving her time with John Behnke at the Institute; and Cindi, Bill, and David in adult choir at St. Paul... Opa (Dave DeVries) fully retired and both shoulders DONE... Goddaughter's Lindsey's confirmation... Delightful week with Jim Krauser in town in August... Grandkids and kids all together for a wild and crazy visit... 

Some of the tears...

Lauren's battle with some chronic kidney stones... The farewell to the good folks at St. Paul's Norlina who have become very dear to our hearts and are like family to the Herberts... Beloved friend, Stephanie Van Ulft, diagnosed with aggressive thyroid cancer... Cindi breaking a toe and tearing meniscus while helping with the Herberts' move... 

Grandparents' obsession... 

Sawyer, our loud but shy introvert with an astounding imagination and sensitivity... Annabelle, our little mommy always looking out for her brothers and little sister and a gymnast with a flexibility that just doesn't seem possible... Lydia, our ever singing ballerina who throws out "whys" as fast as she whirls about, never misses a visual detail, and issues the near constant invitation: "play with me!"... Flynn, our wild and crazy daredevil and with a temper to match the reddish tint in his hair and a smile so sweet you can't really get angry with the imp... Henry, the most laid back, calm and self-entertained child ever, except when he spots food that he isn't being fed, because then he's insta-beast... Felicity, she likes apples and hugs and she smiles a heart-melting smile nearly nonstop... Oliver James awful young yet, but he has a bit of that red—like Flynn—and he's a child #3 too, so we'll see; right now he just coos his way into your heart.

We love and miss you all! Please remember our door is open and our guest room ready! 

Much love!

Bill and Cindi









Holy Advent


With the setting of the sun tonight, Advent will be upon us. It is a very short season for Western Christians this year. Just a smidge over three weeks, the shortest possible. What joy to welcome its arrival, though, with the wreath and the growing light and warmth, the many beautiful Advent carols, the extra services where we lighten the long and dark evenings with the Word and prayer, psalms and songs! 

The color of Advent is either blue (more modern, though based on older Swedish and Sarum precedents) or violet. Either way, it is good to remember that it is a season of penitence. John the Baptist figures large, with his constant warning and challenge to us not to settle down into the ways of this world, thus failing to be prepared to welcome God's surprise inbreaking, the joyous arrival of His Kingdom in the flesh of His Son and our Bridegroom. The collect we pray this week reminds us why we need Advent so very much: “rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins.” We have a hard time believing that our sins ARE threatening perils. Advent and St. John the Baptist remind us that they are. They always damage us and unchecked would utterly destroy us. Advent is a time of gracious intervention: God’s intervention. God’s breaking into our hell-bent, death-bent, self-bent lives and world with unfathomable mercy and grace.

Maybe this year in addition to lighting your Advent wreath and saying the prophecy table devotions (see below: Advent Table Devotions), consider adding the Advent litany to your prayers, at least on Wednesday and Friday (the two standing penitential days each week). We'll be using it daily in Chapel at the International Center:

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Jesus, name called Wonderful; Jesus, our great Counselor; Jesus, true and mighty God; Jesus, Father of the age to come; Jesus, Prince of Peace:
We praise and bless Your holy name.

Jesus, Son of David; Jesus, Branch of Jesse; Jesus, Rose of Sharon; Jesus, Lily of the Valleys; Jesus, Bright and Morning Star.
Deliver us from our sins, we pray You.

Jesus, Scepter of Israel; Jesus, Light of the Gentiles; Jesus, Desire of all nations; Jesus, Sun of Righteousness; Jesus, Lawgiver, Priest, Judge and King:
Help us and bless us.

O Jesus hear us,
And prepare us for Your coming.

Gather Your ancient people, the Jews, to Yourself; Cause all the Gentiles to come to Your light and truth; Convert all leaders and rulers of nations to fall down before You and to desire Your beauty:
Hear our prayer, O Lord, and let our cry come unto You.

Help Your messengers to prepare the way before You in every land; Let all the nations fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations; Endue Your ministers with righteousness and knowledge; Preserve all who put their trust in You; remember all who are afflicted or suffering in any way (especially…); and give peace to all Your people:
Hear our prayer, O Lord, and let our cry come unto You.

Prepare us for Your coming.
and save us from our sins.

Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray.
Our Father...





30 November 2017

It’s here!



This was a fun book to write, and I hope it proves to be a blessing to the folks who read it. You can order a copy right here.


28 November 2017

Rebekah

Is out east visiting with family. Aunt Sandy was showing her around the old stomping grounds today. She snapped this pic of the house I called home for the first 19 years of my life. Those two trees in front? I remember the day that my daddy and I planted them. Little maple seedlings. The window to the left of the front door was my bedroom. And that's the same chain link fence that was there when I was growing up. I recognize the grill on the top of the gates. 


26 November 2017

A Rough Sunday

In our parish. Our family in Christ lost two members last week: Gary and Adam. Both were dear to so many of us. Another member had a stroke and is hospitalized. Another member just got out of the hospital after a heart issue. Word reached this morning that former vacancy pastor, Pastor Gary Galen had also fallen asleep in Jesus.

And then God gives us the Last Sunday...with its comforting readings and the most astounding hymns.

Kantor and Pastor both preached this morning, both gave the comfort of the promised resurrection and our desired reunion with those we love. Wachet Auf from the Schübler chorales kicked off. Then we sang "The Bridegroom Soon Shall Call Us." This is the hymn pastor highlighted in Bible Class. It just doesn't get better or more comforting, and with tears in our eyes we can DANCE to that hymn. The hymn of the day, of course, the King of the Lutheran Chorales: "Wake, Awake." Pastor's sermon was spot on good news. Not destined to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. The closing hymn was "Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers!" Christian Meinzen added his trumpet to these great hymns (and a couple others) and "fueled up" by the sermon and the Supper we sang defiantly.

Death hasn't won. Not over Gary. Not over Adam. It will not win over us. The Bridegroom will come and call us to the wedding feast.

In that fair home shall never
Be silent music's voice.

Come, Lord Jesus! Come, quickly!

25 November 2017

Remembering Mom

She died upon this day in 1994. That year, it was the day after Thanksgiving. 23 years ago. Doesn't seem possible. This year on her birthday she'd have turned 100.

My brother Joe best captured her: "I know no matter what I ever do or don't do, she'll always love me." That sort of love provides an anchor for the soul. It's also way too easy to take it for granted. I know I did.

Her favorite Bible verse (which was also her dear Aunt Nannie's): "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15.

May God rest your soul, mom, and bring you to the joy of the resurrection morn, in the new heavens and the new earth, where bodies are whole and memories are healed and we will be reunited with those we have loved before the throne of the Lamb!

22 November 2017

Before Jamie Asks...

The Weedon Thanksgiving Feast this year...

Appetizers: Brie and extra sharp cheddar with crackers, Gouda, peppered salami, roasted nuts, wine

Main Course: The obligatory turkey and ham, roasted buttery mushrooms with bacon, roasted taters, paleo sweet tater soufflé, Aunt Dee’s soufflé, mashed taters, gravy, St.Paul's famous cranberry sauce, broccoli and David's now famous light rolls.

Desserts: David's salted Carmel pecan bars, pumpkin pie with homemade icecream, possibly cherry pie and coffee.








13 November 2017

Advent Table Devotions


Here are this year's Advent Table Devotions for any who are interested:

2017 Advent Table Devotions

P.S. And remember this link for your Thanksgiving Litany and Grace:

Thanksgiving

09 November 2017

Today’s Homily

At least at LCEF...

Chapel for 11.09.17

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

Psalm 30

Reading: Isaiah 51:9-16

 9  Awake, awake, put on strength, 
O arm of the Lord; 
  awake, as in days of old, 
the generations of long ago. 
  Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, 
who pierced the dragon? 
 10  Was it not you who dried up the sea, 
the waters of the great deep, 
  who made the depths of the sea a way 
for the redeemed to pass over? 
 11  And the ransomed of the Lord shall return 
and come to Zion with singing; 
  everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; 
they shall obtain gladness and joy, 
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 
 12  "I, I am he who comforts you; 
who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, 
of the son of man who is made like grass, 
 13  and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, 
who stretched out the heavens 
and laid the foundations of the earth, 
  and you fear continually all the day 
because of the wrath of the oppressor, 
  when he sets himself to destroy? 
And where is the wrath of the oppressor? 
 14  He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; 
he shall not die and go down to the pit, 
neither shall his bread be lacking. 
 15  I am the Lord your God, 
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— 
the Lord of hosts is his name. 
 16  And I have put my words in your mouth 
and covered you in the shadow of my hand, 
  establishing the heavens 
and laying the foundations of the earth, 
and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.' " 

This is the Word of the Lord. R.

Homily

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

What are you afraid of? It is often a difficult question to answer because like little children we tend to pull up the covers over our heads and hope whatever it is that is frightening us will just go away. But if you give a name to the fear, then you have begun to confront it. Failing body? Getting laid off? Spouse walking out on you? Kids getting into the wrong crowd? Grandkids falling away from the faith? Never finding love? Being alone? Being bored to death with your life? Never having time or space to relax and just be? Oh, the things we're afraid of are legion. "Who are you that are you afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord your maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth, and you fear continually all day long, because of the wrath of the oppressor when he sets himself to destroy?" Yahweh asks.

The wrath of the oppressor. In Isaiah's time, it was rising tide of Assyria followed hard by the rising tide of Babylon, one of whom swept away the north and the other the southern kingdom. In our time, click through your Facebook feed and glimpse the news people share and note how often underneath there runs the current of fear: fear of Trump, fear of the liberals, fear of economic collapse, fear of nuclear war, fear of racial tensions, fear, fear, fear. 

And this, beloved, is the truth of this world: it is largely a world of fear and the Oppressor would have it so. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" and he savors our fear, it is to him a sweet elixir, the best cordial. He sips it and smiles his evil smile. He doesn't much care WHAT you fear, so long as your life is miserably eaten up with fear, it's all good with him and he has you where he wants you.

But there is One whom he does NOT want you to fear. The one before whom the demons believe and tremble. For to fear that One is to cease being afraid of anyone and anything else. And the fear that is given Him is wholly different. There is no cringing in it for us, no waiting for the next blow. It is a fear that trembles before a Love so vast and so divine that you do not know how to process it. It is a clean fear, enduring forever. It is light, not darkness. Peace, not anxiety. It is odd even to call it fear, but we have no other word for it. It is the trembling before the One who comforts you. 

And this is His comfort: "He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit." This is freedom. When you know that though you are bowed down, you shall be speedily released and death will never be the end of you. Hell, the pit, will not be able to hold you. You have a God who comforts You, who forgives you all your sin, and who will raise You up from the grave. When you know that every sin has been answered for and that your future is secure in the hands of the God who comforts you: you will not be eaten up by the fears that the devil seeks to plant. You will instead have your feet on the road to Zion, ransomed, and singing, with everlasting joy crowning your head and sorrow and sighing turning tail and running away. Behold, His comfort.

God spoke of it through Isaiah's prophesy to a nation about to be destroyed in exile; and He spoke it to fill them with hope and set them free from all their worldly fears. What IS there to fear when Your God is determined to comfort you and bring you to Himself? And the One who spoke through Isaiah is the same One of whom Isaiah spoke and who was born of the Virgin and suffered and died and rose again to open up the way home for you. He said: Do not fear those who can destroy the body and do no more; fear Him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Fear HIM, but also know Him as the One who gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

There is passage in the Apocrypha that runs fear God and you need fear nothing else! That's at the heart of what Isaiah was saying. Fear God, believe Him, trust Him, wait for Him. He says: "You are my people" and to be His people is to be freed from fear of men, for they cannot harm you and all the evil that they may perpetrate against You He will turn into blessing for you. Fear not, He has redeemed you. He has called you by name. You are His. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Hymn: 666 "O little flock"

Prayers

Collect of the Day:
O Lord, kept Your household the Church in continual godliness that through Your protection she may be free from all adversities and devoutly given to serve You in good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. 


Father of all mercies, God of all comfort, look with compassion on Your servants Roger, Al, Amy, Joseph, Allan, Jan and all who cry to You in their time of need. Give Your holy angels charge over them to defend them against all the assaults of the evil one and grant them patience and faith to await their healing at the hour of Your choosing, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Kind and merciful Father, You would all people to be saved and to come to know the truth. Bless the work of Freeman and Susan Rohlfing, in Czech Republic, and of Lutheran Indian Ministries. Open hearts to hear and believe Your Word and to share with us in the joy of sin's forgiveness and death's defeat in Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Our Father

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

04 November 2017

Ah...

...you hear that wonderful sigh? That's this lad settling in for an extended time of just hanging around home (and work). No big travel engagements awaiting, and none welcome at the moment. It's been a fun fall with some amazing opportunities and crazy schedules. But from here on out the schedule settles back to normal, to a (hopefully) predictable routine, and I can't wait. Ready for a long stretch of normal time at home. Time to sing in the church choir. Time to focus on the radio show. Time to focus on attending my own church (Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas just around the corner). Time to start sketching the next book proposal. Time to sit in front of the fire with Cindi and enjoy the early evenings. Time to just breathe and be present in the moment and savor it to the fullest. Yeah, I'm looking forward to the next several months very much. 

26 October 2017

An Odd Change

My son is singing in one of the Reformation mass choirs here in southern Illinois. He called me up last night, slightly annoyed. "You can't belt those words out the way the music demands." He was referring to the (what? Gentler?) updated words that conclude "A Mighty Fortress." Of course, they used to read:

And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child, and wife,
Let these all be gone,
They yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

He had checked the German and this is a very good translation of the original:

Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib:
lass fahren dahin,
sie haben's kein' Gewinn,
das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.

But in the updated version, this has become not nearly so defiant:

And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child, and wife,
Though these all be gone,
Our vic'try has been won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

His frustration was that this loses the whole defiant tone: "YOU HAVEN'T WON!" Even when you deprive us of what is nearest and dearest in our lives. It's just a sad change that "tames" Luther's more gutsy and powerful original. There are a couple examples in our current of hymnal of this political toning down (in this instance, wouldn't want the wife and kids to think they don't matter, would we?) and the result is the hymn is a bit emasculated. I wish we COULD sing it the old way on this Reformation. Good observation, David.

Chapel on 10.26.17


Service for 10.26.17

Brief Service of the Word

Invocation

Psalm 43

Reading: 1 John 1:5–10

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
This is the Word of the Lord. R.

Homily

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

No, St. John was not a gnostic proclaiming the light and dark sides of the Force. There is no ying and yang here because in the God we meet in Jesus Christ there is no darkness at all. Only light. So in Revelation when John sees the fulfillment of all the promises of God shining before him in the new heavens and the new earth, he observes that there is no need for the light of sun or moon, for the glory of God gives the city its light, its lamp is the Lamb and "there will be no night there."

The message we have heard, John says, the message we were sent to proclaim to you is that simple: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. In saying that, he is not saying anything different than what he will write a few chapters later: "God IS love." He doesn't have love. He IS it. Love is the light and the glory that shines from Him being who He is, though He is beyond all being.

And there is no hearing the words of today's reading apart from the language of John's prolog: In Him, the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God and through whom all things were made and who was made flesh, in Him was light and that light was the life of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has neither overcome nor understood it.

The light shines in the darkness. And by doing so, exposes what hides there. When you were little you went out in the backyard and flipped over that rock and exposed to the light of day the things that live in the darkness. They gave you the shivers! But you saw what they did: they crawled away as fast as they could. Back to the dark. Away from the light. And you have creepy crawlies in you. The things that shy away from the light. Things you've done and thought or failed to do, and they bring you shame. Even deeper, the truth that your doing reveals to you about who you are and what you want and what you love and enjoy. The stuff that you'd simple die of shame if someone knew.

But a light shines. And it exposes them all. In vivid relief. Like a spotlight or even an X-ray or mri. Exposes you all the way down, down to the core. And it exposes to do the most amazing thing. Not to condemn and damn. But to love. In Him there IS no darkness at all. He loves you. The real you. The you you want to run from and the you you try to hide from others. You. His light shines in Jesus all the way down. He loves you.

And the light shines to give you fellowship, communion, koinonia (probably hopeless to try and translate it) with Him. A share in the light. In the light that is love. This is what the cross of Jesus reveals: He doesn't hate you. From His cross, in the darkness, shines a light of love that the darkness could not overcome. A love so vast that it sets you to have the courage to speak the truth about the darkness in yourself. To stop walking in it, that is, to stop lying to yourself about yourself. To walk in the light and that means to let the blood of Jesus cleanse you (it's a present tense, ongoing) from all sin. The blood that is in the chalice for sinners. For you.

Speak the truth, then, not the lie. Not the self deception. Speak the truth about the sinner you are. About the company of sinners you belong to. And He will be faithful and just, and this is His faithful justice: He forgives you your sin, He cleanses you from all unrighteousness.

Not to believe that is serious business. It's to call Him a liar, as though there were darkness in Him. As though He were playing with you. He's not. In Him there is no darkness at all. None. In Him is nothing but shining and beautiful love reaching out from His cross to embrace you in the whole truth about you and there to blot out your sin with His blood and to be your righteousness, to be perfect love for you. And that gives you the courage to confess and face truth.

People loved by God, time to be done with the deeds of darkness. Time to stop pretending that there is a dark side to the force. Time to be done with the half-truths and lies, above all the half-truths and lies. No darkness is a match for His light. So you don't need to be afraid. He calls you, the real you, to Himself, into His fellowship. He gives us to each other, so that together we can walk as children of the light.

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

Hymn: 411 I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

Prayers:

Living God, eternal Father in heaven, we give You thanks for the multitude of Your tender mercies and Your loving-kindness, which have been from of old. We bless You for creating us for everlasting life, redeeming us in Your Son, Jesus Christ, from all sin and destruction, and calling us by Your Spirit to the knowledge of Your glory. O Lord, we are not worthy of the least of all the mercies and truth which You daily show us. It is of Your mercy that we are consumed, because Your compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Give us day by day an increasing sense of Your bountiful goodness so that drawn in love to You we may surrender and consecrate to You our own selves and all that we possess, to the glory of Your holy name. And as no unclean person shall stand in Your sight, blot out our transgressions by the merits of Jesus Christ, the Righteous, and grant us Your grace that we may not deceive ourselves and excuse our sin, but confess them and be cleansed of them. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Do not allow Your Word to return to You empty. Instruct both young and old in the truths of Your Gospel. Enlighten and sanctify all ministers of Your Word. Cause all hearers to receive that Word not only in the ears but in their hearts. Surround Your whole Christian Church with Your unending mercy. Stretch forth Your right hand and Your holy arm to prevent the evil one from disturbing Your children by his wicked plans. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Look with favor on all civil rulers and those under their authority, that they may faithfully discharge their duties according to Your will. Direct by Your Holy Spirit all who are invested with authority in our national and state governments, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, for the punishment of wickedness and for the maintenance of righteousness and order. Grant us peace, our daily bread, and deliver us from evil all our days. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Have mercy on those still living in the darkness of unbelief, and bring them to know Your dear Son. You did not create man for vanity, so send faithful laborers into Your harvest and sustain those whom You have sent, particularly Pr. Fred Reinhardt serving in Burkina Faso, that they may proclaim Your truth with boldness. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

O faithful Father, we commend to Your care all Your children throughout the world who cry to You in suffering or illness, injury or injustice, especially Your servants Jean Carlos, Al, Amy, Joseph, Kylee, Allan and Jan. When You decide to try us in the furnace of affliction, comfort us anew, that we may behold Your glory and praise You. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

O Lord, we beg You, hear our prayer, and do not let our petition fail, for the sake of the perfect redemption and powerful intercession of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who also taught us to pray:

Our Father

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

25 October 2017

Last Thursday’s Homily


(Forgot to post!)

Chapel for 10.19.17

Brief Service of the Word

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

Psalm 133

Reading: 1 John 4:16–21
16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

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

It's easy to glide by those opening words: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. Believing that is by no means an easy thing. In fact it's not even a possible thing. Not without a miracle of the Holy Spirit. But that miracle IS the Church and her witness. She is here in this world to announce, to confess, to declare, to preach and pound into our hearts that God has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. He showed His love among us in sending His Son to be the propitiation, the wiping out of our sins. Which only happens if He loves you. Which only happens if He is love. And only the Spirit can convince you of this, that you are people loved by God.

And He does this convincing by persuading you to live inside of love. Abide in love. His love for you. That is make His love for you your abode, your house, the place where you live. Because then you've made God your abode, your house, and He makes you His house. And this is how love is perfected, how it reaches its goal, its end, and so you can have confidence for the day of judgment. That confidence comes from this: "As He is, so are you in this world." That's a promise. A statement of what IS, not something you have to do. He didn't say: "Become like I am."

Still. Day of judgment is frightening. All your thoughts, words, deeds, open and exposed. Ouch. Even the saints sweated it! St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote once:
I am very happy that I am going to heaven. But when I think of this word of the Lord, "I shall come soon and bring with me my recompense to give to each according to his works," I tell myself that this will be very embarrassing for me, because I have no works. … Very well! He will render to me according to His works for His own sake.

So after referencing confidence on the day of judgment John goes right on to say: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." Again, you mishear if you hear it as "if YOU must achieve perfect love then you have nothing to fear" – because you know as well as I do that you do not have perfect love any more than St. Theresa had it. But He does.

"Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." εἰς τέλος. Perfect love. ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη. His is the love that loves all the way. Love to the end, and so Love that is perfect, the only perfect love in the whole world. And it is the only love that can throw over fear, toss it out on its ear. In place of fear before the judgment comes confidence. And the confidence is because as HE is, so are we. That is, His perfect love, the love that went all the way to the end to the cross and resurrection has been made over to you as yours. "So are you" right now "in this world." And it is so much yours that it has become the very home you live in, where you hang out, and by you living in it, He lives in you too. He who is love. He who is Perfect Love, love all the way, without fail.

Our love does follow. Does flow from this. But it is never our confidence for the day of judgment. Our love is always piecemeal, fragmentary and partial. It's being healed but it is not love to the end like His. Our love always seems to find a stopping place. This far, no further, can't do. So we rest in the unstoppable love that reaches its end, that won't stop until it has us as His very own.

AND this does turn us into lovers ourselves. John won't let you lie to yourself. If you say: "I love God" and yet "but I sure hate him or her!" you're lying and only fooling yourself. No way you can love the God you cannot see if you do not love His brother, your brother, whom you can see. Love for God and love for the brethren, it runs hand in glove.

Because that's the love He gave us to live in: His love for us that went all the way was HOW He loved His Father all the way. He loved God with His all because He loved His neighbor as Himself. Total love. Perfect love. Love to the end.

"As He is, so you even in this world." Hold to that. His love yours on the day of judgment and even more His love yours this very day to be your home, a home where there's always room in your heart for the brother who stands before you in his need to join you in His love.

You love each other because He first loved you. His love has the priority. Always. And so: "If He is ours we fear no powers, not of earth nor hell nor death. He sees and blesses, in worst distresses, He can change them with a breath… We shout for gladness, triumph o'er sadness, love Him and praise Him and still shall raise Him glad hymns forever. Alleluia!"

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: 818 In Thee Is Gladness
Prayers:
Almighty and everlasting God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace. So plant Your Word in us that we may keep it in good and honest hearts and bring forth fruit by patiently continuing to do the good Your desire. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
We implore You to rule and govern Your Church Universal throughout all the world, with all its pastors and ministers, that we may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word, so that faith in You and love toward all people may be increased in us and Your kingdom expand. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Send laborers into Your harvest and sustain those whom You have sent, we especially commend to You Josh and Coco Lange ministering in China. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially Your servants Al, Allen and Jan, and all we name before You… Grant that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Your fatherly will. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Receive, O God, our bodies and souls and all our talents, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us that we may live under Him in His kingdom. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
These and whatever else You would have us ask of You, O God, grant for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, Your only 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:
Our Father…
The grace of our Lord Jesus T Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all! Amen.

12 October 2017

Today’s Chapel


Invocation

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

Psalm 51

Reading:

A reading from St. Matthew, the 15th chapter.

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" 13 He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." 15 But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." 

This is the Word of the Lord. R.  

Homily

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

Out of the heart. There's the rub. Your heart is your "wanter," in the Bible way of thinking. It's the seat of your desires, the originator of what you want. And it's where the problem arises. You got a heart problem. Me too. And Jesus is at pains to show the Pharisees and us that while we can control a lot of outward stuff, modify this or that behavior, learn to deal with this or that handicap, triumph over this or that bad habit, if there's one thing we cannot get a handle on or actually ever control or govern, it's what we want. 

So what is it that we want? Jesus looked into our wanters and what he saw wasn't very pretty. Out of our wanters came evil thoughts of all sorts, and murder, and adulteries and sexual immorality and stealing and false witness and slander. If you boil them all down they amount to this: I want what I want when I want it and I really don't care about you and what you might want; you just need to get out of my way, let me use you as I see fit and then you go by-bye. 

I remember getting into a discussion with my brother-in-law about Genesis 6 years ago. He thought it HAD to be an exaggeration, that the Lord looked at the wickedness of man and saw "that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Seriously? Only evil? Every intention? Continually? And I remember telling him I know. It seems so over the top, but I think he meant it. That we really are that evil in our hearts, and part of our evil we just can't believe we're as bad as He says we are. I want what I want and I can't fix wanting what I want.  

And God deals with us by what's in our hearts, by what we want. You can't see what I want, although sometimes you might get an idea of what's in it by what we say, what comes out of mouth. And then its usually pretty ugly. But God? You don't need to open your mouth. It's the most terrifying collect in the liturgy: "O almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid." Yeah, He reads your wanter like a book and that's where He wants to deal with us. Jesus tells us that no prettying up the outside, no washing hands, no cleaning the outside of the cup, can begin to address this hideous corruption in the center of our being. I want what I want and I can't fix that. And it's evil. 

He doesn't let his disciples in on the evil of the human heart to leave them in despair. He is the one talking after all. He is the one who has a true human heart just like us, and yet His heart was 100% aligned with the will of His Father. How did the Psalmist put it? "In the volume of the book it is written of me, I have come to do your will, O God." A human being who willed from His conception to His death the will of His Father. It wasn't a cake walk. Remember Gethsemane. Remember the struggle to receive the cup from the Father's hand. But remember the triumph of His human wanter: "Not my will, but thine be done!" And what was that will of the Father? But that a heart-remedy should be provided for all us hopeless wanters, who are so evil and corrupted we can't even believe we're as bad we are (though, if we took the time to ask the people we live with, they'd probably give us a brand new insight). And so to remedy your heart problem and mine, He walks away from the garden and hands himself over to suffering and death. He could have willed it to end at any moment, but He did not. He rested in His Father's will all the way, even until His body hung dead on the tree and Roman lance ran through His side and opened His sacred heart so that healing streams of blood and water could gush out; blood and water, Eucharist and Baptism, the Spirit's power carrying to you the gift to you of a new heart. A new wanter. His wanter within.

Ezekiel foretold what would happen but not how: I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean from all your uncleanesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 

Only we know that the way He choses to do this in us is not simply all at once yanking out the old heart and inserting the new, but we have as Christians this absolutely bizarre condition of two wanters battling inside of us. Through your Baptism into Jesus, you have the heart of Jesus within you that prays: "Thy will be done, Father! Thy will be done. Teach me to love, to not regard any person as an object for my manipulation and use, but as gifts from your loving hand to be honored and treasured and help me to trust Your merciful love in all things" and it desires that with its whole heart. And you have that old wanter still kicking, and I do mean kicking and screaming and protesting, "No, not that! What I want be done; I want what I want! I, I, I!"

St. Paul's agony in Romans 7: "The good that I want to do I don't do and the evil I don't want to do I end up doing. Oh, who will deliver me from this body of death?" or Galatians, the flesh battles against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh and these two are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do (on either side!).

In summary, to be a Christian is to be a mess. Two wanters in a death battle. But there is also this: God alone can do the surgery. God alone can take out the old wanter and He is in the process of doing it. He started the surgery with that sprinkling of clean water in your baptism but He only completes it when your baptism is done, when that old wanter dies with your flesh dying and then IT does not come back alive with you again. Ever. It will be gone. Your Baptism gives you into this life of conflicted wanters, but it also promises you that this is God's surgery and He's the one doing it and He we who began this good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.

Until then you wait. You wait and you deal with the mess. You can't fix your wanter. This you confess. But He can and this you also confess. He can give you a new heart and He has. And He is. And He will. And you will finally live with that heart beating in you wholly. Then you can sing "Lord thee I love with all my heart" and it won't be a lie. And so to be a Christian at all is to pray without ceasing for the sacred heart of Jesus to be formed in you. For God to create in you a clean heart and to renew you with His free Spirit. Amen.

Hymn: "Create in Me" #956

Collects

Of the Day: Lord, we implore You, grant Your people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow You, the only God; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Almighty and most merciful God, comfort with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are in suffering for the sake of Your name and Your truth. We commit into Your hands those we have been asked to remember before You: Al, Amy, Allen and Jan, Grant that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Your fatherly will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Most heartily do we ask You, kind Father, to rule and govern Your holy catholic church, with all its pastors and ministers, that we may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word by which faith toward You may be strengthened, love increased in us toward all people, and Your kingdom extended. Send forth laborers into Your harvest and sustain those whom You have sent, especially remembering today Pr. Gary and Steph Schulte serving in Burkina Faso. Grant that Your word of reconciliation may be proclaimed to all people and the Gospel preached in all the world; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Taught by our Lord and trusting His promises we are bold to pray: Our Father

Benediction

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.