16 April 2017

Now All the Vault

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

Now All the Vault

Lumen Christi!

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

15 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

14 April 2017

Good Start to Good Friday

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

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

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

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

13 April 2017


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

01 April 2017

Just have to love Saturdays

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

31 March 2017

Noted in the past

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

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

26 March 2017


(Francis S. Saltus)

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

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

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

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

I'm sipping a cup now of it now. 

21 March 2017

A very cool video

My son pointed this out to me some time ago. I find myself returning to it in amazement at its beauty. Aled Jones, thanks to the marvels of modern tech, does a duet with himself as a young boy.

Fitting for today, as we celebrate our youngest daughter's 26th birthday and yet the memories of her childhood still seem like yesterday in my mind. A time warp, just like this video:

Walking in the Air

06 March 2017

Some photos from Felicity's Baptism

God has His timing. Felicity Lynn Herberts was baptized into Christ's endless life one year to the day upon which her grandmother, Lynn Herberts, had her baptism completed and fell asleep in Jesus. The beautiful crucifix that adorns the altar in the background of these pictures was given in memory of Lynn. "With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven..." and I think everyone very clearly sensed ONE member of that company of heaven who was having special joy today! Indeed, "death you cannot end my gladness; I am baptized into Christ!" just as we all belted out at the start of the liturgy.

P.S. We were laughing so hard because Felicity was screaming for her food and Sawyer was upset with the picture arrangements and was fussing a bit too. Flynn and Annabelle were just happy as clams, though.

01 March 2017

Lift Every Voice

Victoria Taylor sings Lift Every Voice and Sing after Chapel this a.m. She actually sang it for yesterday's chapel, but we didn't get a full recording until today.

26 February 2017

A beautiful homily

upon Quinquagesima...by Pr. Ball:

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Quinquagesima – February 25/26, 2017 a.d.
St. Luke 18:31-43 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The Rev. BT Ball

"See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.  For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  After after flogging him, they will kill him and on the third day he will rise.  But they understood none of these things."

"So now faith, hope and love abide, these, three, but the greatest of them is love."

                   God loves you in Jesus Christ.  The Father has shown his love in sending his Son to accomplish everything written by the prophets.  He was delivered over to the Gentiles, mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged and killed on the third day he rose again   This is how God loves you.   In this way.   By nature we do not know love, not this Kind.  You can have all kinds of things, the ability to speak in a glorious way, understanding and knowledge and even faith strong enough to uproot a rocky mountain and move it around and without the love that is from Christ and is Christ, it is nothing.  Faith and hope are both passing away.  What lasts forever is love - God's love in Jesus Christ.  God the Father has always loved his Son and in him He always has been loving you.  Before the world was made, He loved you in His Son.  When the Blessed Trinity thought it right, this world was made, and the Three in One created an object of Divine affection.  From forever in the mind of God that object was this world, and more closely, the object of that affection was the Holy Church, and even still, the object of that love, the place right where it is focused -  is you.  And this is why love is the greatest.  It is before time and place, but in time and in place it is directed, all the way, completely to you in Christ.

Sinful man does not want the love in the way that it is given, sinful man seeks to destroy love and the one who loves.  A sinful heart does not want God loving by the cross.  Sinful hearts simply cannot understand or grasp God's love in Jesus Christ.   God sends his Son, and what does the world do in response, the scriptures show it - deliverance over to enemies, mockery, shameful treatment.  Sinful mankind spits on love.  Tries to destroy love by whipping it.  Sinful man would kill love by nailing him to a cross.   And this is true even for you as a Christian, for what do we do?  We crucify the Son of God again (Hebrews 6:6) in our sin as love is redefined to be about self and feelings, false definitions of love that provide only emptiness and shame.  Look how confused and fallen the love of mankind is.  God's law is a revelation of perfect love.  Love is the fulfilling of the law.  But we turn from that with our own sinful selfish desires.  Turning from both the Law of God and from the Gospel by seeking mercy and good and fulfillment from every place, from everything except the One who loves, the One who is love that never ends.

But yet God loves.  His love shown to you, given to you, in the word of the Gospel.  Jesus is headed up to Jerusalem to accomplish everything for you.  To love you, knowing your sin and taking it and its punishment.  That is the depth of his love.  He wants nothing else than to love you to death.   He fulfills His Father's will, He loves His Father and His Father loves you, so Jesus is willing to fulfill the Scriptures to be mocked, and be treated shamefully.  He does not turn from being spat upon and flogged.  He goes to be killed because in all of this He is loving you.  The Passion of Jesus.  His love.  All for you.  And you can see how the disciples couldn't understand it, how they couldn't grasp it.  How to their minds it was incomprehensible.  The foolishness of it all.  Right, only God could love in this way.  Only God does.  And freely, completely, He loves you and the Gospel is the revelation of such love, and the Spirit uses the words to create in you faith and hope in the love of God revealed. 

With God's love, you call out in hope and in faith, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."  You are the object of divine affection.  This is what the passion of Jesus reveals to you.  That the mercy of Jesus is yours.  That he will give you what you need, because he has given you himself.  God the Father has given you His Son, and with His Son, all love.  All this in the words and promises backed up by actions.  God said he loved his world, his people, you.  He does.  He showed it, He gave His Son that you, a sinner, would receive divine love, be the object of divine affection.  Now he says it and shows it again.  Love is patient, love is kind.  The cross of Jesus reveals the patience God has toward sinners, the kindness of divine mercy, and such loving kindness can be found.   It is at the altar for you today.  Here is great love of God, which was given and shed on the cross, given right to you.  Love for sure.  With no doubt.  And with this love, all sins taken away and faith and hope have their center, their foundation, their certainty.   And with this love all death  is destroyed.  And with this love – you have mercy, healing and peace.  Then in your life becomes and is one of praise, thanksgiving, following your Savior, keeping His law.  Loving God, loving those around you.  God loves you in Christ, the sinner, the weak, the sorrowing, the downcast, and the poor in spirit.  You love too, because  God first loved you in His Son.  He does right now.  He always will.  Amen.

Some Lenten Music?

I worked with Kevin Armbrust again to put together some Lenten music. I think of it as reflections on  a few of the great hymns of Lent and offer it for any who are interested:

Praise the Precious Blood

A big thank you to Steve Blakey for the use of the image. Too often the “precious blood” is thought of as something of the past, long ago, far away. No. As near as the holy chalice. “Take and drink; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”

09 February 2017

Today's Homily

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

Psalm 99

Reading: Exodus 34:29–35
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. "


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

So when he spent time in the presence of Yahweh, Moses was changed. And changed in a way that he himself didn't realize or know at first. But others noticed it about him. And it scared them. Maybe particularly those, like Aaron and Miriam who knew him best. And they were afraid to come near to him.

Fallen man senses that there's something, well, threatening a man who has spent time with Yahweh. It may be glory shining on the face like Moses. It may be a new limp like Jacob sported after the Jabbok wrestling match, up close and intimate, grabbed by Yahweh and grabbing him back. It's the odor of resurrection. It's the sense that Yahweh, good and glorious, is DEATH to things that we are not ready to have destroyed, but also compellingly that He is life and His presence, His grabbing hold of us and changing us, is what we were made for. So this glory that frightens us also at the same time, curiously draws us. It leaves one in that wondrous state called "awe." Frightened, intrigued, curious, but above all frightened. Freaked out.

And it's not just that something is "out of the ordinary," something that shakes up our world and turns upside down our sense of what is normal. It is that. But it is more. It is that haunting sense that we're looking at normal for the very time and realizing in its presence how abnormal, and dark, and dull, and twisted, and well, how hopelessly off base our usual thoughts about normal are, indeed, we ourselves are.

You see, don't you, that Moses here doesn't manifest a miraculous exception. Moses manifests what humanity was created to be, what indeed by God's grace it still may become, when it experiences the gracious presence of God: our bodies were made to be transfigured, we were meant to shine.

Jesus on the mountain top, then, gives the disciples a taste, but even bigger, of what Aaron and the Israelites had. Moses' glory wasn't permanent, as Paul does the midrash on this story in Second Corinthians. Moses' glory would fade. It was always a borrowed reality. A glory that came from being in the presence of Yahweh. Not something he had natively or that he could possess. Only always receive. You know, the way tans fade when you no longer spend time in the sun? So this glory faded. And because it was a borrowed light, kind of like the moon borrows light from the sun, it could be veiled over. Covered up. But in the Transfiguration there is no borrowing. The source of glory has come into human flesh. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among...and we have seen His glory, glory as the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" one of the eye witnesses would later write. And so even His clothes shine, His garments become light-bearing. The light isn't ON Him, but IN Him, from HIM. And in that glory Moses and Elijah appear. And the disciples freak out.

And this time the glory for Moses doesn't fade because He with unveiled face now beholds the glory of the Lord, beholds his Jesus. And this is what you were made for, and what you fell from: "all have fallen short of the glory of God." But this is precisely why Jesus has come to you. Come into your flesh to make YOUR flesh shine. And to do so He is headed to the Tree where instead of being wrapped in garments of glory he will bear the naked shame of the human race. Naked, not clothed in glory as humans were meant to be. Naked because He will own all our alien normality that is really foreign to the creatures He made us to be. He will own it all. All our inexplicable "no's" to divine love, all our fleeing and running away from glory and our embrace of shame and sorrow, cruelty and death. He will own it all. He will get into another wrestling match. This time with sin and death and He will hug them tight. So tight He'll squeeze the life out of them. All to effect the sweet swap, to hug YOU so tight that He can now give you the glory that Moses had but a taste of in his life, the glory that Aaron and the Israelites found so compelling and so terrifying, and the glory that Peter, James, and John saw that night on that mountain.

We wrap the newly baptized up in garments of white and cover coffins in white to hint at and suggest it: you've been embraced by Christ and now you are his and your destiny, son of Adam, daughter of Eve, is to shine with the glory of being a child of God! It's weird, scary, spooky, and all that. Yes. But it's where you're headed.

So grab it. Look at it. This stuff. This skin. Kin now to the Son of God, baptized into Him, fed with His immortal body and blood, it will shine! When He returns and you see Him as He is this will shine.  And sometimes even now, a hint of the light sneaks through and people sense it, they smell the odor of resurrection on you, intuit a glory hidden underneath the very present sin and struggles of your life that both draws and repels them. It's the mark that you've been in the presence of God and sometimes, you know, it just shows.

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

Hymn: "Jesus On The Mountain Peak" #415

RP 1 p. 282

Remember, kind Father, in Your infinite mercy all Your children who call out to You in time of need, especially Allen, Jan, Roger, Paula; Jonathan and his doctors and care givers; Joel and Krista; Randy and all who mourn the passing of his mother; Donna as she mourns the passing of her brother. Grant them a share in Your peace and the hope of Your promises. Remember also Vicar Paul Flo, serving in the Dominican Republic, and bless his time of service and learning in Your name. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

05 February 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

And the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David. I believe that the meaning of this passage is very simple, for in Christ's kingdom the merit of the faithful will no longer be looked at, but only the mercy, grace, and goodness of God, because of which Christ's kingdom is also called the kingdom of grace. In sum, the meaning is: All things work together for good for those who believe, because they are the children of grace. All things are forgiven them. They can't go wrong. Even if they have been foolish and weak at times, divine goodness shuts its eyes to that.—Luther on Zechariah 12, AE 20:137

Patristic Quote of the Day

For, when any one is brought to the font of baptism, not by the sweetness of preaching, but by compulsion, he returns to his former superstition, and dies the worse from having been born again. Let, therefore, your Fraternity stir up such men by frequent preaching, to the end that through the sweetness of their teacher they may desire the more to change their old life.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 47

30 January 2017

A fascinating, but little known

part of the history of the Eucharistic liturgy in Lutheranism is the King John Red Book of Sweden, and in particular its treatment of the canon. This liturgy was used in the Church of Sweden from 1577 to 1593.

[Prayer of the Church]

Let us pray. Almighty, eternal God, heavenly Father, Thou who hast promised us the Spirit of grace and prayer: We beseech Thee grant us grace that we, according to Thy commandment and promise, may call upon Thee in spirit and in truth. Let Thy Holy Spirit rule our hearts, for without Thee we cannot be pleasing to Thee. We therefore humbly pray Thee and desire most merciful Father, through Thy Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, that Thou wilt suffer our prayers to be pleasing to Thee and graciously hear that which we bring before Thee for Thy holy universal Christian church, that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant it peace, to preserve, unite, and govern it throughout the world, together with all government spiritual and worldly of whatsoever dignity loftiness and name it may be, so likewise all true Christians that love and confess the true universal and Apostolic faith.

O Lord God, who willest that Thy Son's holy and most worthy Supper should be unto us a pledge and assurance of Thy mercy awaken our heart that we who celebrate the same, His Supper, may have a salutary remembrance of Thy benefits and humbly give Thee true and bounden thanks, glory, honor and praise for evermore. Help us, Thy servants and Thy people, that we may herewith remember the holy, pure, immaculate, and blessed offering of Thy son which he made upon the cross for us and worthily celebrate the mystery of the new testament and eternal covenant. Bless and sanctify with the power of Thy Holy Spirit that which is prepared and set apart for this holy use, bread and wine, that rightly used it may be unto us the body and blood of Thy Son, the food of eternal life which we may desire and seek with greatest longing. Through the same, Thy Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with Thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth in one Godhead from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.

Preface / Consecration [Verba Testamenti] / Sanctus and Benedictus, then this:

Therefore, we also remember, O Lord God, this blessed command and the same Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ's holy passion and death, His resurrection and ascension. And this Thy son Thou hast in Thy boundless mercy sent and given unto us that he might be an offering for our sins and by his one offering on the cross pay the price of our redemption, fulfil Thy justice, and make perfect such an offering as might serve for the welfare of all the elect unto the end of the world. The same Thy Son, the same offering which is a pure holy and unblemished offering, set before us for our reconciliation, our shield, defense, and covering against Thy wrath, against the terror of sins and of death, we take and receive with faith and offer before thy glorious majesty with our humble supplications. For these Thy great benefits we give Thee fervent thanks with heart and mouth, yet not as our bounden duty is but according to our power. And we humbly beseech Thee, through the same, Thy Son, whom Thou in thy Godly and secret counsel hast set before us as our only mediator, that Thou wilt vouchsafe to look upon us and our prayers with mercy and pitying eye, suffer them to come to Thy heavenly altar before Thy Divine majesty, and be pleasing unto Thee, that all we who are partakers at this altar of the blessed and holy food and drink, the holy bread of eternal life and the cup of eternal salvation, which is the holy body and precious blood of Thy Son, may also be filled with all heavenly benediction and grace. We pray Thee likewise, O Lord God, that Thou wilt vouchsafe to grant us poor sinful men who trust in Thy manifold mercies that we may be received among Thy holy Apostles, Martyrs and all Thy saints, in the number of whom suffer us to be, not of our merit, but of Thy compassion, who forgivest our sins and failings. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom Thou, O Lord dost ever create, sanctify, quicken, bless, and grant us every good thing. Through Him, with Him, and in Him be all honour, glory and praise unto Thee, almighty God Father and to the Holy Spirit, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.

19 January 2017

Homily on Romans 12:6ff.

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

Have you ever pondered what drew people to Jesus? I mean, we know some folks tried to treat him as a divine vending machine in human flesh. Shoot, you've probably done that too. I know I have. But why would they want to be stay with him, to hang around with him, to listen to him?

I suspect it was as simple as this: because He really cared. His love was "genuine" (without hypocrisy, which is more at the Greek in Romans 12). He never put on a show. And He didn't just care or love in the sense of having some kind emotion toward others. He really did take their problems, their heartaches, their troubles, as His own. I mean, that IS one aspect of what His cross was all about. "He carried our sorrows...."

So this real investment in others, so selfless, never once asking what was in it for Him, but only seeing your need and mine, and yours, and yours...this is what draws. This is the light that shines in Him. And we discover that this is the light of God Himself shining in this man. "In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness."

And it spills out. It spills out from Him into you. Into His Church. That's what Paul was describing in that lovely reading from Romans. If you're like me, when the imperatives start piling up, you're tempted to start tuning out. Or you pull the old Lutheran "well, that's law and I haven't done it and it's a good thing my sins are forgiven." It IS a good thing your sins are forgiven, but you've got to hear those imperatives for what they really are: they are invitations to you to partake of Christ's life. Because if you are clear that they don't describe you, they sure as shooting describe Him. Bless those who persecute you: how about I let 'em kill Me to blot out their sins and give them the gift of home with me and my Father and to pour upon them my Spirit to believe that my love for them is real and unshakeable. Contributing to the needs of the saints? How about feeding the hungry with His body and the thirsty with His blood and wrapping the naked in His perfect righteousness, and inviting the homeless into His home, and the lonely into a friendship that never ends. Do you see? All Paul did was to describe the life of Jesus and let you see that's no achievement you come up with; that's a gracious gift He's reaching you in the church, in His body. 

It's the beating heart of worship. His love poured out on sinners. Him calling us to come into His embrace and taste a love that abides forever. And that light of love that shines from Him animates His community, His Church, His family. That's the light that calls the nations still to come and hangout with Jesus. Without that love, the world will always yawn at our words. Mission. Evangelism. Call it what you will, but without love, the world calls it bull. But when we're known as the people who bless those who persecute us and live in constant prayer, and freely give to any brother or sister we see in need, then the world will ask about this light shining through us and among us, and it will be our joy to declare that it's not US, but it is Him, and it's for them too. So we invite the nations to join us in our worship of this God who never ceases to bathe us in the unfathomable and joyous light of His divine love in Jesus, His Son.

Hymn: #396 Arise and Shine in Splendor

15 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

However, no human wisdom can understand the Creed. It must be taught by the Holy Spirit alone.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism II, Third Article, 67.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But with respect to trine immersion in baptism, no truer answer can be given than what you have yourself felt to be right; namely that, where there is one faith, a diversity of usage does no harm to holy Church.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 43

12 January 2017

Today's Chapel Homily

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

Let us pray. Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 85

A reading from 1Corinthians 1:26–31:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

This is the Word of the Lord. R.


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

St. Paul invites the Corinthians and us to reflect on our calling. How almost none of us would be counted as "the movers and shakers" of the world, then or now. Using worldly standards the overwhelming majority of Christians across history are sheer nobodies. And that makes us perfect stuff for our God to work with, because the God of the Sacred Scriptures seems to take a particular delight in making something out of nothing. He does it at creation, He does it with Abraham and Sarah, He does it little David whom nobody thought important enough to call to dinner where he ends up the anointed one, He does it with the way His Son slipped into the world at Bethlehem, and even the way He won our salvation on Calvary's cross. "He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world did not know Him."

Didn't know Him and so doesn't know you. Not for whom you really are. Children of God walking around, having a life that we're never going to lose, heirs of the entire planet, everything yours, all things working together, serving you for our good and blessing, reigning in life with Jesus.

The rich and powerful of the world raise a weary eye and say: "Yeah, you all going on telling yourselves that. See, Marx was right. This is the opiate these idiots inhale to keep 'em happy and hopeful as they stumble along as our slaves. Whatever works to keep 'em working and not thinking." And sometimes you wonder too, and doubt. But fear not!

The weak shame the strong, the low and despised and things that are not bring to nothing the things that are. And all to what end? To wipe out all human boasting in the presence of God. All our "look at me and what I did" with my own smarts, power, money, fame. Look and be glad that you have a servant like me, O God!

All that wiped out. Gone. Instead the Father looks at the man in the Jordan, His servant, His son (delightful how in the Greek of the Septuagint you can't tell which is which). Standing there in the water and the Father says: "This is my beloved Son. In Him I am well pleased." And this is IS your calling, people loved by God. To get in the water with Him, to stand where He stands and to hear the Father say the same of YOU. For it happened. When you got in the water with Jesus. Whether you remember it happening is irrelevant. Just remember that it happened. The Father looked at you and said: "This is my child, my daughter, my son, whom I love, with them I am well pleased."

Consider your calling. In your Baptism everything, absolutely everything, that is His is made over to you. His Father becomes your Father, His mother your mother, His home your home, His life becomes your life, His righteousness your righteousness, and then He becomes your sole boast. Your wisdom from God, your sanctification, righteousness, redemption. All Him. To be in Him, then, is to have absolutely everything; to be outside Him while having the best this world has to offer is to have only dust and ashes and to lose even that in the end.

The handful of water and the words He commanded deliver you into Him. Word and water seem so weak and lowly and despised. And yet, in them the power of God is at work. It is not the opiate the world imagines or that your worst doubts fear, but it is intoxicating! The LXX has Psalm 23 reads: Your cup of inebriation, how pleasant it is! Sweet. Yes, drunk with the Spirit and His sober joy we dance through life forevermore. The world will always think we're great fools, but better to be the Lord's fool than the world's wise or strong man! And so we invite the world to embrace the folly and join with us in the life that is in Jesus and in Him alone. Amen.

Hymn of the Day: #399 The Star Proclaims the King Is Here

Responsive Prayer I, p. 282 Morning Suffrages

11 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For (as explained above) we could never grasp the knowledge of the Father's grace and favor except through the Lord Christ. Jesus is a mirror of the fatherly heart.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, III, 65

Patristic Quote of the Day

For those who dissent from the Christian religion must needs be gathered together to unity of faith by gentleness, kindness, admonition, persuasion, lest those whom the sweetness of preaching and the anticipated terror of future judgment might have invited to believe should be repelled by threats and terrors. It is right, then, that they should come together kindly to hear the word of Godfrom you rather than that they should become afraid of overstrained austerity.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 35

09 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For here in all three articles God has revealed Himself and opened the deepest abyss of His fatherly heart and His pure, inexpressible love. He has created us for this very reason, that He might redeem and sanctify us. In addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has even given to us His Son and the Holy Spirit, who brings us to Himself —Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Third Article, par. 64

Patristic Quote of the Day

May almighty God make known to your heart with what love and with what charity my heart embraces you, though so far only as not to offend against divine grace. For I so attack your fault as to love your person; I so love your person as not to embrace the viciousness of your fault. —St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 34

08 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For now we are only half pure and holy. So the Holy Spirit always has some reason to continue His work in us through the Word. He must daily administer forgiveness until we reach the life to come. At that time there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people. We will be full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Third Article, par. 58

Patristic Quote of the Day

In proportion as the judgments of God are unsearchable ought they to be an object of fear to human apprehension; so that mortal reason, being unable to comprehend them, may of necessity bow under them the neck of a humble heart, to the end that it may follow with the mind's obedient steps where the will of the Ruler may lead.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 27

07 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

However, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness. Then we will come forth gloriously and arise in a new, eternal life of entire and perfect holines.—Luther, Large Catechism, Creed III:57

Patristic Quote of the Day

God seems to me to be continency, because He desires nothing, but has all things in Himself.—St. Basil the Great, Letter 366

05 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God’s grace is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the unity of the Christian Church.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Article III

Patristic Quote of the Day

And experience proves my words: those who lived many years before teach posterity by instruction preserved in their writings; and we, though so far separated in the body, are always near in thought, and converse together with ease.—St. Basil the Great, Letter 294

04 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

So that this treasure might not stay buried, but be received and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed. In the Word He has the Holy Spirit bring this treasure home and make it our own. Therefore, sanctifying is just bringing us to Christ so we receive this good, which we could not get ourselves.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Creed, 38, 39.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The upright man is touched by neither loss, nor sickness, nor the other ills of life; for he walks in heart with God, keeps his gaze fixed upon the future, and easily and lightly weathers the storms that rise from earth.—St. Basil the Great, Letter 293

03 January 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered toward this goal: we shall daily receive in the Church nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here.—Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Third Article

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thus God of His goodness has now alienated you from sin, united you to Himself, has opened the doors of Heaven, and pointed out the paths that lead to heavenly bliss. I entreat you therefore by that wisdom wherein you excel all other men, that you receive the divine favour circumspectly, proving a faithful guardian of this treasure, as the repository of this royal gift, keeping watch over it with all carefulness.—St. Basil the Great, Letter 292, to a newly baptized Christian