29 September 2017

Joy of St. Michael’s

Today, Trinity Lutheran Church in Millstadt, IL sponsored a Eucharist at the International Center for the employees (a number of whom attend Trinity!) and we were blessed to have Trinity's pastor, Pastor Ill, serve as celebrant, assisted by Pr. Jonathan Fisk. You can hear Pr. Ill's homily here as well as the chapel choir's rendition of the Sanctus, Isaiah, Mighty Seer under the direction of Kantor Henry Gerike.

A couple of Meaghan’s beautiful pics

And this is my collection of grandchildren at the moment: Annabelle, Lydia, Felicity, Henry, Flynn, Sawyer and Oliver.

28 September 2017

Today’s Homily

Chapel for Thursday, 9/28

Text: Matthew 6:25–33

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 
34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

Catechism, conclusion of First Article Explanation. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of Fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

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

I remember preaching a stupid sermon on this text years ago when I was a young pup out of the sem, and one of my members pointed out the obvious. But Pastor, sometimes there isn't food and the bird dies. And sometimes the bird is food for the cat. Too true. I had preached a Jesus akin to Annie and her cheerful the sun will come tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, come what may. But Jesus is no flower child of the 60's, don't worry, be happy. The key to getting what he says is not to ignore the last verse. He does not say: "Don't worry about tomorrow because it will all be okay." He says: "Don't worry about tomorrow because today's burden and troubles are quite enough for you. Each day's grief is enough on its own without you loading it up with fears about tomorrow."

So each day has its trouble, its own badness. Kaka. The Greek there. Don't go piling up more of the smelly stuff than you've already got on your plate for today. And that is the point about the birds and the flowers. Their tomorrow isn't what occupies them. They live in the moment. They are "present" as we say these days. Luther says that the little bird gets up and sings to the Father its matins without even a thought of where the food is coming from, and then goes off to find it (or to be found by the pious cat not doubt saying: "For what we are about to receive…"). Either way, no anxiety. No fear. Because it all comes from the hand of the one Jesus tells you is "your heavenly Father" who knows what you need. 

And there He stands. He who is really the only thing you need. You have Him, your Jesus, you have everything. You have peace. Not anxiety. St. Paul got the hang of it when he marvelled: "He who did not spare His only Son but have Him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32. Ponder that: not just that He gives you all the things you think you need, but that HE is the one who is graciously giving you all things. All things. Even the troubles. 

Job got it. When his wife suggested that it was rather worthless to serve a God who couldn't keep your kids alive and your money together, better just curse him and be done with him for good, Job told her to stop speaking like a foolish woman. "Shall we receive good (meaning things we like) from the hand of God and shall we not receive evil (ra in Hebrew, kaka in the LXX, the trouble, the grief)?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Jesus teaches you to receive all as gracious gift from the Father because you, after all, are worth more than the birds or the lilies. Your worth was shown in the gift of the Son into your flesh in order to be given into death. Like the grass tossed into the oven, He went into lonely place that we had chosen for ourselves on His cross. He received it as gift. Never lose that. "Shall I not drink the cup that MY FATHER HAS GIVEN ME?" His whole life was trust that His Father's will was gracious. And so, like the bird that becomes food for the cat, He became food for death. Went into it trusting His Father and so burst its stinking gullet wide open. Never had death swallowed something so splendidly indigestible. He went in knowing that even this was gracious gift to receive from the hand of the Father and His resurrection proved that His faith was not misplaced. He's raised from the dead to be food for you and to clothe you with His very own unfailing trust in the Father.

"Trust my Father," is His constant call to you and to me. "He graciously gives you all things, and you know this because He graciously gave you me. He's not holding back on you. When the day's troubles mount, they don't come to you from any hand but His. From the hand of the one whose love gave me to be Your Savior to forgive your anxieties, to destroy your death, to bring you with me into the joy of my way of living, my liturgy, where everything comes as gracious gift from the hand of my Father, and so received ends up being in the end nothing but blessing. Even the kaka. Especially the kaka." 

For all this is it indeed my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

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

Hymn: 760 What God Ordains is Always Good

26 September 2017

So today

A co-worker congratulated me on my new book. Didn't know how he even knew about it, so I googled and voila!

24 September 2017

Hymn of the Day for Trinity 15

In a contemporary arrangement. Enjoy! What God Ordains Is Always Good

And, of course, the classic Pachelbel organ setting for this day: Was Gott tut das is wohlgetan

23 September 2017

On the Tapestry

The liturgy calls life in this age "a vale of tears" and I confess, as one is usually ridiculously upbeat, that always struck me as just wrong. But then there are times...when the darkness woven into the tapestry seems far greater than the occasional threads of gold. Piepkorn spoke, I believe, of surd evil. The darkness that you can't wrap your mind around. We've enjoyed ourselves in Puerto Rico. We even toyed with what it would be like to live there. The poor people of that Island and of so many others devastated. We honeymooned on St. Thomas and Cindi's aunt and uncle had a lovely place there for years. Is it gone? One of our closest friends in all the world, stricken with cancer. Still waiting for a complete diagnosis. Hearts breaking. A coworker's nephew, dead. Our next-door neighbor battling some horrid condition that continually saps her strength and her ability to communicate and despite trips to Mayo, no answers. No clue. Lauren and Dean moving to Wisconsin, but that means saying goodbye to some wonderful saints that they (and we!) have come to love and treasure. And how it brings back all the pain of leaving NC ourselves to come to Hamel all those years ago. Yes, this is a vale of tears. Sadness more than our hearts can bear at times.

And yet against the darkness woven into our lives, there glitter the threads of gold. This week, for us, the gift of grandchild #7 and grandson #4: Oliver James. Spending time with my brother, whom I had not seen in the flesh for some 12 years, travelling up and down Idaho with him and marvelling together at the beauty of God's world. Thankfulness for all the love that the good folks have St. Paul have lavished on Lauren and Dean and the kids; how they stepped in for us when we could not be there. Thankfulness that Lauren and Dean will now be only 8 hours away and the hope and plan of seeing more of them. Long weekends become possibilities! The gift of friends who seem always to know when to reach out and brighten a day. And the greatest of all: when you step back and look at the tapestry, you see that the golden threads and the dark background are not random. They trace an image. An image of the Man of Sorrows and Acquainted with Grief, the Man who walked the path of love for us and would let nothing deter Him from His cross, and who promises that in the end, all the darkness will be swallowed up in the light of His love. 

If you're in the darkness, and it seems overwhelming, hang tight to Him. To the picture He is weaving. And enjoy those threads of gold to the fullest. They are only intermittent in this vale of tears, but so many times the joy that shines through them far outruns the sorrows.

21 September 2017

What a day!

Heard as I was leaving for work that grand-baby #7 was preparing to make his entrance into the world. Got to meet him this afternoon. His parents still have not decided on exactly what he will be named (or should I say, the order of his names). [Update: His name is Oliver James Weedon]

But also at work learned of the tragic death of co-worker's nephew... saw the Ruesch family, missionaries who had just been evacuated from Puerto Rico... And the sad news that continues to roll out of Mexico. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

As ever in life, the joys and sorrows mingle and yet we confess that joy will have the final word. "There'll be joy in the morning on that day!"

20 September 2017

A wonderful visit...

...with my oldest brother. Who always manages to live in gorgeous locales. Idaho. And a great visit with the saints of Zion Lutheran Church in Nampa for their 100th anniversary. 

11 September 2017

One beauty

Of the gift of prayer is that it admits of no distances. You can be miles and miles away from the one you love who is hurting, and yet when you pick them up in prayer and carry them to Jesus, you find yourself with them before Him. And with Him there is no distance. He fills heaven and earth. And this makes your prayer closet cozy indeed. When your heart aches for those who are miles away and hurting, there is nothing like prayer. Nothing at all. 

You really should give a listen

To this stunning keynote by Kantor Hildebrand that was the concluding plenary at this summer's Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music (sponsored by the Center for Church Music of Concordia University, Chicago):

 “The Just Live by Faith: Make It Plain in Song!”

You will be blessed. Promise!

Patristic Quote of the Day

A psalm is sung at home and repeated outdoors; it is learned without effort and retained with delight. A psalm joins those with differences, unites those at odds and reconciles those who have been offended, for who will not concede to him with whom one sings to God in one voice? It is after all a great bond of unity for a full number of people join in one chorus.—St. Ambrose, PL xiv, 925

10 September 2017

Kudos to our Brothers and Sisters in WELS

For their proposed revision of the Common Service. Quite nicely done. I especially appreciated their Prayer of Thanksgiving (post-Sanctus, pre-Our Father). But before we get to that, some notes in general. The Introit has gone AWOL, or rather has been replaced by the Hymn which begins the liturgy and by the fuller responsorial Psalm between first and second readings. Then Invocation, Confession of Sins, Absolution. Kyrie (the longer form we have in DS 1, 2) and Gloria in Excelsis. Then Salutation (not titled) and Prayer of the Day, First Reading, Psalm of the Day, Second Reading, Verse of the Day, Gospel, Hymn of the Day, Sermon, Nicene Creed (alas, still fully human), Prayer of the Church (SEATED???), Offering, Preface, Sanctus, Prayer of Thanksgiving (on which anon), Lord’s Prayer, Words of Institution and Peace (not titled), Lamb of God, Distribution with hymns, versicles (BOTH from the old Common Service), Post-Communion Collect and Benediction (called Blessing), and a final Hymn. I suspect it will be imminently accessible and the new music is pretty good. Here’s the text of that Prayer of Thanksgiving:

M: Blessed are you, Lord God, eternal King and gracious Father. In love you made us the crown of your creation. In mercy you planned our salvation. In grace you sent your Son to redeem us from sin.

We remember and give you thanks 
that your eternal Son, Jesus Christ, became flesh and made his dwelling among us, 
that he willingly placed himself under law to redeem those under law, 
that he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death on a cross, 
that he has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 

Bless us as we receive your Son's body and blood in this Sacrament. Forgive our sins, increase our faith, strengthen our fellowship, and deepen our longing for the day when Christ will welcome us to his eternal feast. Praise and thanks to you, O God our Father, and to your Son, and to the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C: Amen.

So there is recognition of creation, of salvation history culminating in the sending of the Son. An anamnesis composed of Scripture’s own words and a prayer for worthy reception and that the Sacrament may have its fruit in our lives AND a reference to the parousia. And all that in a shocking economy of words! I think this is quite well done.

07 September 2017

Two things

And they aren't related, except they are at the deepest level.

First, at my sister-in-law's recommendation, I've been listening to a series of lectures titled The Story of Human Language. It is an amazing presentation and invites us to step outside of the textbooks and look at and think about language as the living thing it is; ever changing; ever moving from this to that. It is absolutely riveting. I have been listening on Audible and the lecturer, Dr. John McWhorter throws out tangents like fireworks and without ever slowing his pace. The pace is ridiculously fast and that makes it all the more intriguing. Information flows at you from languages around the globe and yet it is quite accessible. Highly, highly recommended.

The other thing was tonight's choir rehearsal. Wow. We started with Bach and Jan said quite simply: "The Bach chorale is the backbone (or did she say foundation?) of the Lutheran Choir." YES. And then a lovely piece she composed, striking in its chord changes. Then to Pachelbel ("On God and Not On Human Trust") and finally to Buxtehude ("Lord, Keep Us Steadfast"). It was fun, challenging, amazing.

The deeper relation is that music is a language and language is "musical." They draw toward each other. Music has even been called "the universal language" and not without reason. But music begs for words. It just does. I suppose it makes me a defective human being, but I can suffer through a Beethoven Symphony. Shoot, I even rather enjoy the pastoral one before it goes on forever. BUT what I have always been drawn to is the magical dance of music and words. My German is just sufficient to enjoy the entirety of Pachelbel's Mass for Christmas Day, or Sch├╝tz' Christmas Vespers. I did take a couple semesters of Russian in College but somehow memorizing how to say: "Is Peter Ivanovich at home? No, he is at work. Where does he work? At the factory" never equipped me to understand the sublime words of Rachmaninov's All Night Vigil. And even though I don't know what they're saying (other than the odd "Slava" and "alleluia"), I could listen to it for hours on end. I don't know the words and yet at some level I'll never understand I know that they FIT the music.

And that is what I love about the music we sang in choir tonight. The words and the music really and truly DANCE together. It's hard to stand still. Just as with moments in the Rachmaninov you WANT to fall flat on your face before the beauty of such Divine Love, so in the Pachbel "On God and Not on Human Trust" you want to twirl about like David before the Ark. The words and the music are not in any tension, but the one illumines the other. Language is more than communication. Language is magical and the ability to tell stories to one another is probably the key thing that makes human being BE human beings, looked at anthropologically. And what people does not sing? But there can be no question that the singing took on a whole new direction and opened new vistas when music found its home in the Word of God. Oh, they're not equal. The music is there to serve the Word, not vice versa. And the Word is what calls forth the music (just think of how we can't stop making new hymns about Christmas, about Easter). But the music is true when it lets the Word lead the waltz, set the tone, and fill it to overflowing; then it is the sung story of Divine Love, shining forth from manger, from cross, from shattered tomb.

Patristic Quote of the Day

A psalm is the blessing of the people, the praise of God, the commendation of the multitude, the applause of all, the speech of every man, the voice of the Church, the sonorous profession of faith, devotion full of authority, the joy of liberty, the noise of good cheer, and the echo of gladness.—St. Ambrose PL xiv:924

06 September 2017

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Thus He teaches us to correct others more by the godly attitude of praying than by the troublesome impulse of speaking. --Martin Luther LW 11, p. 488.

05 September 2017

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thus let the servant of Christ sing, so that not the voice of the singer but the words that are read give pleasure; in order that the evil spirit which was in Saul be cast out from those similarly possessed by it, and not introduced into those who have made of God's house a popular theatre.—St. Jerome, PL 26:529

04 September 2017

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Cindi and I had a really great Labor Day weekend. She had had some work done on her bike, and they called on Friday to let us know it was ready for pick up. Perfect. The goal this weekend was to be 100% free of using gasoline. We biked everywhere. Saturday, we went exploring a bit and biked in the morning, and spent the afternoon in the pool and reading, and then went for an evening ride too. We laughed a bit because I said: "Let's turn at Millie's and then ride up to Ray and Arline's." Well, neither Millie nor Ray and Arline have lived in those houses for a very long time, but that's still how we think of them! Also all day Saturday, I observed an internet fast. That was refreshing and highly recommended.

Sunday we got up a little early and rode our bikes up to St. Paul's. I was cantor at early and once again we were blessed by outstanding organ music (I love it when we get Bach!) and a comforting homily by Pr. Ball. During Bible Class we found out for certain that Dean had announced to his beloved St. Paul's that he was taking the new calls up to Wisconsin. We came home and fixed our usual brunch, though it was a smaller crowd than usual. Opa and the David Weedon family joined us. Lois was away with her sister and Bekah and Andy were up in Minneapolis. After brunch, we began a 24 hour water only fast. We enjoyed some pool time, read, and I went for another walk. 

Monday, still into the water only fast, we got up a bit late, said prayers, and immediately hit the trail. This time we took Staunton Road down to the Nickel Plate Trail, and headed toward Alhambra. We only made it up to Marine Road, before it was time to turn back, but it was a great ride. See the pics below. Came home and vacuumed the pool and then took a snooze floating on the water. At 1 p.m. the 24 hour fast was over and we celebrated with some bullet-proof coffee. David and Meaghan arrived with the kids, then. David and Lydia enjoyed some pool time with Nana while Henry toddled around inside amusing Meaghan and his grandpa. Then the kids went down for naps and we got in a real game of Liverpool. Amazing. We got through the whole game, and the very, very pregnant momma ended up the winner for the day. Then it was time for the feast. Steaks on the grill (David has turned into quite the chef, like his mom!) and hotdogs (for us weirdos who prefer hotdogs to steak); leftover curried chicken; a delicious cucumber and tomato salad with feta and dill; fresh fruit (thanks, Opa) and Meaghan brought a delicious coconut-date-almond thingy that we devoured.

Then we noticed the storm rolling in. The David Weedons headed home and Opa too. We brought in the Lemon Tree and stacked up the chairs, and did it ever blow and pour! Cindi says it has topped 3 inches. Definitely still feeling tired from the long ride and the extensive time in the sun today; bedtime will be early. But thanks be to God for just a great and relaxing weekend. 

01 September 2017

Patristic Quote of the Day

Whoever reads there [the Psalter] has a special remedy whereby he can cure the wounds of selfish passion.—St. Ambrose of Milan, PL XIV.923