09 September 2018


Has it really been that long? This year, it falls on a Tuesday again. The attacks were on a Tuesday. The congregations of Trinity and St. Paul's gathered at St. Paul's on Wednesday evening for a brief service of prayer. Pr. Gross spoke and reminded us who it is who comes to steal, to kill and to destroy and that it was to destroy the devil's works that the Son of God appeared among us. Then I spoke briefly and led some prayers. Here are my brief words:

We're gathered tonight, people loved by God, in the spirit of Job. Our minds shrink from the staggering numbers of those who are dead; as well as from the horrible way so many of them died. Our hearts go out to the families who are now as torn apart and devastated as any of the buildings we saw in New York or Washington - families where a mother's voice will never be heard again or a father's face never seen or a child's hand never touched again. In the face of such terrible wreckage of human lives and the unimaginable tidal wave of human sorrow, we can only ask Job to move over for a bit so that we might sit with him for a while in the dust and ashes and learn from him to turn to God in worship, because there really is nowhere else to turn.

Today is not the time to theologize about good and evil in the world. It is too soon for such. Today is the time for us to get on our knees and pray. And to do so knowing that the One to whom we pray is no stranger to the terrible things that humans do to each other, to know that He to whom we pray became One with us in our tears and in our sorrows. He knows what it is to weep at death. He has felt in His own body the irrational hatred of those who think they serve God by dishing out violence and destruction. What a comfort that in our prayers tonight, we pray to the Crucified One. And above all to the Risen One.

For Job would go on to confess "I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth and that after my skin has been destroyed nevertheless in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and not another. How my heart yearns within me."

Our prayers rise tonight to Him who walked among us as the man of sorrows, who is acquainted with our grief, and who died to conquer and destroy death's power over his people forever. We pray tonight before the God who will make the ashes live again.

Prayer -

Hear us, dear heavenly Father, as we join our prayers to those of your children throughout the world in the face of the terrible events of yesterday.

For all the children who have lost parents, let us pray to the Lord. R.
For all the parents who have lost children, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all the husbands who have lost their wives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all the wives who have lost their husbands, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For all whose lives have been shattered and whose hopes and dreams have been destroyed, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the families of those brave souls who responded to others' needs only to lose their own lives, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For the firefighters and policemen, the doctors, nurses and EMTs and all those who participate in the relief effort, let us pray to the Lord, R.
For any who are still alive in the rubble, that aid may be brought to them speedily and that they not lose heart, let us pray to the Lord, R.

#9-11, #NeverForget

Giving Twitter a Try

At my son's suggestion, I'm moving to Twitter. I'll link from there to longer stuff on this blog. FB will largely become inactive; please don't try to contact me there. You can follow me here:


08 September 2018

What a great Staycation

So many things I wanted to attend to, and I think I crossed every single one of them off the list:

Oil change
Order wood, restack pile with older stuff toward the house.
Clean garage
Car wash and vacuum
Clean grout in kitchen floor and in front of fireplace
Setup appointment to have chimney sweep come
Keep up exercise routine
Go through clothes and weed again
Mow the yard (and incidentally replaced the mower - THAT was not on the list!)
Find new primary care physician and set up appointment (our old one retired; how rude!)
Vacuum the pool thoroughly
Do a couple of personal writing projects
Simplifying kitchen cabinets and fridge
Out for a nice lunch one day with Cindi
Thoroughly clean the family room and home office
Put stabilizer in gas for the Generator
Recharge battery backup for car

All done with plenty of time for sunning in the pool, walking and even a game or two of that stupid liverpool. I think we're ready for fall and what invariably follows...

05 September 2018

Requiem for a Lawnmower

We bought it the year we moved into this house: a Black and Decker battery powered lawn mower. And we loved it. Light, relatively quiet, and never needing to mess with gas. It was getting long in the tooth, though, and had been patched a time or two. Today, as I was trying to finish up the front yard it quite literally came to pieces on me. I figured I'd just run to town and pick up the same mower again, since I had two nice batteries that enabled us to do both our yard and Dave's on the same day if we want.

No go. No longer made. Of course. And the batteries are different. And then I read the reviews of the new Black and Deckers. ACK.

So I ended up with a Greenworks Pro 21 inch deck and 60v. Got it home and Cindi and I got it up and running. I set out to finish what I had started and immediately noted the huge difference. The bigger deck, the lighter battery, I was just zipping along and finishing up faster. I did have to stop as the partially charged battery had to be recharged; I'm eager to see how far it will go with a single full charge.

I still like the IDEA of the quiet reel mower; but when you're “blessed” with Bermuda grass all over the place... the Greenworks Pro is a lot less stressful. So farewell, Black and Decker. You served us well for nearly seven seasons.

03 September 2018

They call it labor day for a reason!

So we set off to work today. We got up our usual 6 and had coffee and prayers, did a stroll around the neighborhood, and then tackled the garage. Threw things away left and right. Swept and straightened and even washed down some doors. We came in and had a bit more coffee and then decided we needed a bike ride. Down to Maple and back, not too far. About 10 miles round trip from the house, and such a beautiful day. This is our favorite stretch: 

Put some stuff up for sale on FB. Enjoyed an hour siesta in the pool. Then I restacked the wood pile and recovered it (ready to stock up on extra wood this week or next), while Cindi tackled some pruninng on Dave's maple, other yard work and weeding. Some sorting out of clothes and drawers, simplifying bathroom closet and tossing stuff, rearranged fridge and simplified spice cabinet. Cindi did three loads of laundry. Then Cindi dusted bedrooms while I tackled the family room / home office, vacuuming, dusting, and doing wood floor. So it was a most productive day of labor. And no, we still didn't get it all crossed off our list... But tomorrow is another day.

01 September 2018

That irritating collect for Trinity 14

Each year it grates:

O Lord, keep Your Church with Your perpetual mercy; and because of our frailty we cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all things hurtful and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation...

The sentence hurts the ear. It needs at least a "since" - "since because of our frailty we cannot but fall." Better yet, return to the form that it had in old TLH:

"And because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall..."

The "without Thee" ("sine te") is very much present in the Latin original (Tridentine, Pentecost 14): 

"at quia sine te Iábitur humána mortálitas; tuis semper auxíliis et abstrahátur a nóxiis, et ad salutária dirigátur."

It's just a messed up collect in LSB and needs repair in someway. I'd fix it along these lines:

O Lord, keep Your Church with Your perpetual mercy; and because human frailty without You cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all things hurtful....

31 August 2018

Eye Noise

A couple years ago, Cindi and I jumped on the Konmari bandwagon, and it stuck. We love it! The result has been that we have very little "eye noise" in our home. Our home is rather spare, but everywhere we look is something that "sparks joy" for us. We ended up getting rid of tons and tons of stuff: clothes, etectronics, books, papers, even memorabilia that meant something to us, but won't to our children. We were thankful for the memories they brought, but know we'll have those for as long as we have our mental facility. Clothes were pared down dramatically (we share a closet and we have lots of room in it). It's been amazing to me how this really allows the home to be an anchor of calm, a haven of serenity. We got rid of records and cds and the surround sound stereo (now we use a homepod with Apple's vast library available with a command). We simplified the kitchen, and as our way of eating got ever more simple, so did the kitchen cupboards. We do have some family pictures up that the kids gave us, but mostly we just load pictures onto a digital picture frame and enjoy the slide show. 

Recently the itch was upon us again, and we went through many more things (and we're still tweaking). Cindi gathered up all the old iphones; I erased them;  Dave kindly agreed to drop them off for recycling. The perfectly good laser printer on the shelf bothered me a bit. I tried to sell it, but then Bekah and Andy came by to print something. Aha! Perfect. They took that and hopefully will enjoy it. Cindi went through old music we had and purged a lotof that. She's in process of getting rid of some cookware we don't use anymore. And I'm looking forward to just revisiting some of what sparked joy in the past to see if it still does, or if it's time to let it move on.

If you've never given it a try, the Konmari method works amazingly well; provided you stick to it and do it Marie's way. It's kind of like Financial Peace University: the folks who follow Dave's counsel to a T are the ones who have no debt; the ones who modify it because they're smarter than he, end up carrying debt still. Same with Konmari. The temptation is to "tidy" the old way by room, rather than across the board by category; the temptation is to think, "but I might need this someday" rather than to ask "does this spark joy?" 

My buddy Kevin thinks my love of order borders on the neurotic. I'll plead the fifth. But if you find order to be peaceful and reductive of stress, then literally going through your stuff and soberly evaluating each piece is the key to being able to maintain a cleaned, straight and peaceful environment at home or at work. Less, in this case, really is more. The less eye noise, the more space for calm, the more space for beauty, the more space for delight and gratitude. 

30 August 2018

Today’s Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260

Reading: Galatians 3:15-22 (J. B. Phillips)

15 Let me give you an everyday illustration, my brothers. Once a contract has been properly drawn up and signed, it is honoured by both parties, and can neither be disregarded nor modified by a third party.

16-18 Now a promise was made to Abraham and to his seed. (Note in passing that the scripture says not "and to seeds" but uses the singular 'and to your seed', meaning Christ.) I say then that the Law, which came into existence four hundred and thirty years later, cannot render null and void the original "contract" which God had made, and thus rob the promise of its value. For if the receiving of the promised blessing were now made to depend on the Law, that would amount to a cancellation of the original "contract" which God made with Abraham as a promise.

19-20 Where then lies the point of the Law? It was an addition made to underline the existence and extent of sin until the arrival of the "seed" to whom the promise referred. The Law was inaugurated in the presence of angels and by the hand of a human intermediary. The very fact that there was an intermediary is enough to show that this was not the fulfilling of the promise. For the promise of God needs neither angelic witness nor human intermediary but depends on him alone.

21-22 Is the Law then to be looked upon as a contradiction of the promise? Certainly not, for if there could have been a law which gave men spiritual life then law would have produced righteousness (which would have been, of course, in full harmony with the purpose of the promise). But, as things are, the scripture has all men "imprisoned", because they are found guilty by the Law, that to men in such condition the Promise might come to release all who believe in Jesus Christ.

This is the Word of the Lord, R.


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

It's just a tossed off comment, but it illumines everything about the way a humbled Saul (turned Apostle Paul) had learned to hear anew the sacred writings of his people. He says: "Note singular seed, not plural, meaning Christ." The promise that has the priority over anything that came later with the Law was made to Abraham and to Abraham's SEED. Not seed as in all the descendants of Abraham, and in particular the Jewish people. Rather, Seed as in a singular descendant of Abraham: our Lord, Jesus Christ. Now, grammarians will argue with Paul about the way language works and that collective singular nouns are a thing, but Paul's whole horizon has been filled with the Man crucified and yet alive forevermore, ruling all things and coming agin in glory as the judge of the living and the dead, and in light of HIM and His singularity, grammar be damned.

All this in the context of Paul pointing to a well understood social construct to help us get the unalterable nature of the promise. After you shake hands, you can't start monkeying with the terms. You can't take a signed contract and scribble in some provisos or conditions and think that's okay and binding. Not how things are done with us, and we're a bunch of sinners who lie to each other constantly. But even we get the binding nature of a contract.

So how much more, a fortiori, when God makes a promise and that has no conditions, how much more can you bank on it? You can bank on it 110%, Paul is saying. There are no conditions in the original Abrahamic covenant or contract. It's just: "This is what I'm going to do for you, in you, that is, in Your Seed, that is in Jesus, all the families of the earth will be blessed."

But then the Law? I mean, Israel didn't dream up the law. It's something God gave. The same God who signed, sealed and delivered the unilateral promise to Abraham and his Seed. Paul's big aha was this: you don't fit Abraham into Moses. That's not how the story goes. You have to fit whatever God was up to with Moses and Sinai into the bigger picture of what God is up to with Abraham and His Seed who blesses all the families of the earth. The law has a jurisdiction, to be sure, but its writ ceases at the boundary of the Seed shows. Yes, it shows in uncompromising clarity "the existence and extent of sin" and that above all when the Seed, Jesus, grabs hold of it and starts helping us hear what it really demands in all its rigor. He won't let you get away with outward restraint of the hand from murder, when murder is still raging in your heart and given voice on your lips. And so with all the commandments. This is, of course, the great task of the Sermon on the Mount. When you're done with it, if you really listened, you can only say: Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner. And that Mercy is the Seed who unites the demands of the Law with the blessing promised by fulfilling the law in His own flesh and doing so for you, to bring you blessing.

Paul, had to deal with the Galatians and their flirtation with new teachers who wanted to make Moses an ongoing lawgiver for everyone. The Apostle argues that this is to misunderstand Moses and in fact to sell out everything Moses himself taught us about Abraham and faith and how God counts us righteous.

God made Abraham the promise that in his Seed, which, remember, is Christ, all the families of the earth will be blessed. And there was no one between God and Abraham when that promise was made, unlike Sinai with angels giving and Moses receiving and passing on to the people. The One God, the God who is One, He makes the promise and delivers on the promise, which mysteriously He is not only the Promiser, but the Promised One. He is the blessing-bringing Seed of Abraham releasing from condemnation those who, hearing the law, knowing themselves imprisoned with all of mankind in doing exactly what God has told us not to do and not doing exactly what He has told us to do, and especially when we're trying super hard. To men locked up in their own sinfulness and blindness and unable to find a way out by their own moral efforts and struggles, comes blessed release in a Promise for all who believe in Jesus.

Law: you do this.
Promise: I will do this for you.
Law: love and love perfectly, not with some piece of you, but the whole of you, from the inside out, through and through.
Promise: I have loved you with a perfect love, that springs from the heart of God before time began, and that appears in time with the Seed of Abraham. And this perfect love, the only real righteousness in this world, is my gift to you; believe it! It's yours!

So Abraham, long before the law, was saved simply by believing a promise, impossible though it seemed. It was a promise that reached fulfillment through his Seed, through Jesus. You, long after the law's perfect fulfillment in Christ, are saved by believing a promise, that Jesus is Abraham's Seed; that His obedience to the Law is alone without flaw; that He even became a curse to free you from the cursed condition of not having kept the law in its wholeness; and all this God promises to simply credited to you as you believe it, as you are baptized into Christ and put on Christ, and so become Abraham's heir in Him. 

Luther was right: the proper distinction between Law and Gospel really is a bright light. Not that it shines UPON the Scriptures to illuminate them, but that it shines FROM the Scriptures to illuminate our lives. And it's the light that Paul was shining in today's reading to help you and me hear and understand: the Scriptures are all about Jesus, who is Abraham's Seed, and in whom God made a unilateral promise to bless you, to give salvation to the one who believes in Him, quite apart from any works of the law. Grant us, O Holy Spirit, such faith, such joy! 

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

Hymn: 567 "Not What These Hands Have Done"


Missionaries Krista Young, Pr. Shaun and Beth Daugherty and Mr. Carl and Karen Cecil for protection and to prosper their service; Ezariah, Amy, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan, Nirmala, and Ana for healing, peace and comfort. 

Thanks to Tim Frank, guest musician today. 

The Personal Text Only Edition Print Edition of LSB

I am getting old. So bear that in mind. I honestly could not comfortably read the text in the new text only edition. I mean, I could make it out if I took off my glasses and held it inches from my nose. The too small text (to these eyes) made me sad, because it is a remarkably beautiful book. “Packy” is how my buddy Kal Waetzig described such books to me years ago. They feel good in the hand, they flex beautifully AND they smell nice! This little guy does all of that. The entire Psalter is a win. The lack of the services (a necessity to keep the size down and match up with a tradition where the liturgy was only given in outline) is a loss. The thing I can't get over is how much BETTER the electronic version in my iBooks is. It’s even smaller, yet I can read it with ease (probably because I can make the text as big as I need!), it has all the liturgies, and well, it eliminates another book. I already do almost all my Bible work in my iPad or iPhone; and here is the complete hymnal there as well. Bonus? It keeps poetry lines!

I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around looking at another screen in church, even the one that's usually in my pocket. I mean, I generally loathe the fact that our lives are filled with these little screens. Just driving from LCEF to IC today I noticed every single person at the bus stop had their eyes fixed on a screen. To introduce that to the Church assembly too? I'd be far more comfortable if I had the personal text edition in hand and used that (and it would work, because next to no one at our church ever looks in the book for the liturgy - that's down in our hearts). Still, this past Sunday I gave the iBooks version a whirl, and I've been giving it a whirl at the IC in our daily chapels. I can definitely get used to it.

But that wonderful and cute little book is out of the running for these old eyes like me. Has anyone had a different experience with it? 

23 August 2018

Now THIS Is Something

Any LCMS user with an iPad or iPhone should have!

Lutheran Service Book, TEXT edition. And so the ability to up the print size until you can read it comfortably. I never thought I'd see the day, but truth is that when I lead worship or preach anymore, I almost always do so exclusively from the iPad. I have the larger iPad Pro, and so just open two side-by-side windows. One has the stuff you see in the previous posting—reading, sermon, hymn, and prayer intentions for the litany. One used to have open my iBooks copy of the hymnal with the services and music.

But when I'm conducting the liturgy, I certainly do not need the music in front of me. From now on, it will be my TEXT edition that will be open. 

Kudos, CPH! Kudos yet once again!!!

Homily from Today’s Service

Service of Prayer and Preaching, p. 260


Romans 10:9–17 (ESV): if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 


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

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

I wonder, sometimes, if we get what Paul meant when he said that Jesus is Lord. I think it's quite a bit more than Jesus is the one who gets the say-so in your life. That's true, or ought to be true, of course. I think it's even more than Luther's beautiful exposition of "Lord" in the Larger Catechism, where we'd best render it as He's your hero; the one who comes to rescue you out of the mess you find yourself in and which you could never have gotten out of on your own. No. It's bigger. Jesus is Lord really runs all the way to Jesus is LORD. That is, Jesus is Yahweh. The one who formed Adam from the dust, and then formed Eve from his rib? That's Jesus. The One who told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and then provided a substitute? That's Jesus. The One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush, the One who divided the sea, the One who led them with a fiery pillar and fed them manna and provided water in the desert and divided the Jordan and caused the walls of Jericho to crash down and gave promises to David and well, you get the idea. 

Paul is arguing and insisting to Jew and Gentile that the ONE we meet in all the stories of the Old Testament and whose Spirit spoke through the prophets: THAT ONE is actually Jesus. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is God.

And yet also to believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Wait a minute, I thought He was God? True, the Word is God, but He is also the Word with God. Which is to say Marcion is out to lunch with Arius. And so is anyone who tries to drive a wedge between the Testaments and the grouchy God of terrifying law and the loving sweet God of the New Testament. Lewis rightly observed that all the really frightening sayings of the New Testament actually are from the lips of Christ! He speaks as God and as the Son of God. 

But today's text isn't full of frightening news, but astounding news. Believe and be saved! Whoever believes in Him, God will never shame. There is no distinction, He's no respecter of persons, He dumps His gifts in Christ out lavishly on all who call on Him. All! He meant it when His prophet spoke: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus, Yahweh) will be saved!" Whoever!!!

Paul's great problem though is the same as yours. It makes it sound so easy. So wonderful. But faith, faith isn't easy. Our Catechism bluntly admits it's impossible. "I believe that I cannot believe." Truer words never written. So where does faith come from? How does it come about? 

Paul chases it back up the chain: if you haven't heard about Jesus being the Lord (the very key that unlocks the Scriptures), you can't call on Him (that is, realize that He's the God who can and will save you). And you can't hear about Jesus without someone telling you about Him. And that requires someone being SENT to tell you about Him. And sending is what God does with His Church! He sends us one and all to disclose this amazing mystery of the Old Covenant: that the One we're reading about with a creative word, and a flood of judgment and a persistent and almost crazy love for His people, this God showed up one day. Wore ancient diapers (aka swaddling clothes), grew up to walk in sandals, and showed in a hundred and one ways who He was. Just said it outright. And so we killed Him. "You a human dare to pretend that you are God! Come on, man. We know your mama, alright? We know your peeps. And we aren't impressed!" And when we killed Him for speaking the truth to us? God raises Him from the dead! And then sends Him back with this crazy message: "Ha! I love you! And you thought you were getting rid of me, but I've just saved the lot of you. Ha! How about that? My blood that you in your great sinfulness shed has now covered the whole globe! The whole deal! Every sin! You're forgiven! All of you! You're mine! And I love you! How's them's bananas, huh?"

And when you hear it, something happens. It's not really in your noggin. It's a work of the Holy Spirit way deep down. You hear it and you know: look, that's insane and crazy and, well, true. I think it's true. I know it's true in a way I can't ever prove to a soul. It has the ring of truth. I mean, I get it. Who can possibly believe this stuff? Who? Me and you, that's who. I don't know why or how. But I do and you do, and those men weren't lying to us about Him, about the wild and wooly things He did, and how everyone but especially the cross showed us what we'd never be able to reason our way to. That's faith.

The miracle of faith. Always a miracle. In the beginning the Spirit moved over the water and brought order out of chaos. In your being enfolded into this story, the Spirit moves over the chaos that is you and brings to birth this trust. And keeps birthing it. As you hear the stories of the Old Testament and you recognize again and again in them the Child born of the Virgin, nailed to the tree, raised from the dead, ruling right now in power, and coming in glory. The One who washes You and gives you new birth and who feeds You with His own body and blood and never tires of telling you that He has forgiven you and loves you and you are His. Faith is birthed when you know it's all true.

Faith comes from hearing. Hearing from the Word of Christ. 

And one more thing. Faith yaks. It can't shut up once its engendered by the Spirit and the Word. It immediately starts pouring out from the lips what's in the heart: Jesus really is Yahweh! The man hanging dead on the tree created the world. The baby in the Virgin's arms upholds the universe. And so the cycle goes on and on.

Sasse once observed the world is astounded that the Church CAN go on, just repeating as it does the same old story over and over again. The Church knows she only DOES go on, faith only does go on, because the story is told in her unceasingly, in the Scriptures we read and hear preached, in the liturgy and hymns we sing and even in the prayers we pray. In it all: faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ. 

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

Hymn: 587 I Know My Faith Is Founded

Prayers: Ezariah, Amy, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan; Deirdre Christiansen (Germany); and all facing the hurricane bearing down on Hawaii. 

20 August 2018


This summer began with daughter Bekah's wedding to Andy; we then went to niece Jessica's wedding to Curtis, which I performed, in Virginia; then 10 days later, my brother (father of that niece) died and so BACK to Virginia for his memorial service; THEN daughter Lauren gave birth to the lovely Evangeline Grace and Cindi made the 8+ hour trek to northern Wisconsin to help out for a bit until she was relieved by Bekah; then Cindi and I drove back for Evangeline's baptism and I finally got to meet my newest granddaughter; and last but not least out for nephew Peter's wedding to Naomi back in Maryland. We just got back home this afternoon. In the midst of all that I bought a new car, which consequently is already due for an oil change, having put more than 3,000 miles on it since picking it up. WHEW. Crazy, crazy, crazy. 

Here are a few pics from Peter's wedding and our trip. The first one is mega cool: the reception happened to be at an electronics museum just outside Baltimore. And we had with us none other than the inventor of DirecPC: the father of the groom, Doug Dillon.

13 August 2018

Breathtaking words

By a defender and friend of the current Bishop of Rome:

Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants, because he is "free from disordered attachments." Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture. 


I might note that the openly is quite honest. This is not hidden, but celebrated!

Time to teach those terrified in the Roman communion to sing with us:

The haughty spirits, Lord, restrain
Who o'er Thy Church with might would reign
And always set forth something new
Devised to change Thy doctrine true. TLH 292:6

Lord, have mercy!  (HT: Dr. Tighe)

Note: Apparently the backlash led to revising what was posted originally. Do check it out on internet archive!

Celebrating the Baptism of Evangeline Grace Herberts

07 August 2018

A first

I mentioned a couple weeks ago about getting my glasses from Warby Parker over the net. This week I took it a step further and found a new (to me) car on Facebook Marketplace. I shopped the options there, located the one I wanted, confirmed it was still at the dealership, and Cindi and I went over and picked it up a couple hours later exactly at the price I was willing to pay. So my old black Honda Civic from 2004 has now been retired and replaced by a bright red (!!!) Honda Civic Ex from 2011. It looks downright sporty...for a Civic. All the info I needed was right there on the web: single owner, no accidents, etc. The dealership still took way too long once we arrived, but last evening we were home with a new to us car in the garage. And hopefully I won't have to think about cars for the foreseeable future. It's nice to be able to make the commute with my phone plugged in and playing (rather than using earphones). 

02 August 2018

Luther’s Beautiful Prayer before Communing

Lord, it is true that I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but I need and desire Your grace to make me godly. I now come to You, trusting only in the wonderful words I just heard, with which You invite me to Your table and promise me, the unworthy one, forgiveness of all my sins through Your body and blood if I eat them and drink them in this sacrament. Amen. Dear Jesus, I do not doubt the truth of Your words. Trusting them, I eat and I drink with You. Do unto me according to Your words. Amen. (AE 41:174)

Today’s Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260

Reading: Luke 15:1–7

Luke 15:1–7 (ESV): 15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." 

3 So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 

Responsory, p. 263


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

He was crossing a line, and they didn't like it one little bit. They were pretty sure the God of Israel had made that line and left them on one side of it, and these others, these tax collectors and sinners on the other. So what was Jesus doing over there with them?

To be fair, the sinners really were those who just didn't bother with the law of God. They lived their life as they saw fit. And the tax collectors, of course, were the sell-outs. They'd made a lucrative peace with the hated oppressors. And there sits Jesus, welcoming such to table. Eating with them. Spending time with them. Maybe even laughing and hugging them. He wasn't just crossing the line; His very actions were erasing that line.

And so they complain about Him. He wants to help them understand, to see how it really is with this God of Israel that they have so misunderstood. So He tells three stories, three parables. Today we only hear the first one, but each of the three tells the exact same story from different vantage points. And the key to getting this one is to answer the question Jesus poses us. 

"What man of you? What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?" Don't gloss over that. Think about it. Answer it. Which one of us would? Honestly, not a single one of us would be so foolish as to LEAVE 99 sheep in the open country unprotected in order to go hunting for one that missing. Why, we'd rightly suspect that when we came back, we might have that only one left if we happened to find it all! And if we saw someone behave like that, we'd say he was cracked. 

And just to prove he's totally cracked, check out Jesus' next bit: putting the animal on his shoulders, carrying it home, and then throwing a party and inviting all the neighbors in to celebrate with you that your lost has been found. Seriously? The neighbors would have to be cracked too.

It makes zero sense to us, as little sense as God in the flesh choosing to hang out with the people who didn't give two hoots about His law instead of those who were trying so hard to keep it.

And in this is the whole mystery and joy of our salvation. The thing that makes no sense is that the Shepherd placed an infinite worth upon his lost sheep. To Him it was worth everything. And if you're sitting there thinking: "Wow, He thought I was worth everything"...well, that's true, but the whole miracle is that this is how He thinks about each one. Especially including those you might be tempted to think aren't so important after all. To Him, each is of infinite value. Priceless.

Years ago I read an interesting novel couched in Iran. One of the protagonists was struggling to understand the so called "Western" mindset. He finally got it, and it is exactly the point of Jesus here: these silly people believe that each human life is of infinite worth. Each created in God's image. Each redeemed at the staggering cost of the Shepherd's own blood. That wasn't the way his culture saw things. There were those who mattered and those who didn't, and those who didn't could be disposed of without a qualm. To the extent our culture loses the insight into the wonderful worth God has attributed to each human life from conception to natural death, we've lost the thing that actually made all the great advances that took place in the West possible in the first place from hospitals and orphanages to old folks’ homes. It's sad in our days to see that failing on so many fronts. 

And yet, this infinite worth of the human life revealed on the Tree of Calvary doesn't mean that the Shepherd simply rejoices in the one sheep that was lost. No. His joy is in returning it to the others. Jesus as your private or individual Lord and Savior isn't in the cards. It's not about you. It's about how He rescues you from your singularity and isolation and brings you back and then celebrates that you have been restored to your place as a person in relation to other persons. Or, as the Father's picture it, it is really the story of how the Second Adam goes in search of the first Adam to find him and bring him back to the company of the angels and archangels. 

Salvation never stops with you being put on the Shepherd's shoulders and carried. It's fulfillment is when you're back where you belong: in the fold, and there's the great heavenly party to celebrate your reassuming the place God intended for you, and the same for each one carried home.

And when the Scribes and Pharisees grumped about whom Jesus was welcoming, they never even pondered their state. That they were on one side of the line and the God of Israel whom they imagined they were serving was sitting on the other, with folks gathered around Him to hear His Word. 

People loved by God, people made in the image of God, people sought by the Shepherd and carried home by Him, people who belong to the fold of God, don't look askance at any whom Your Jesus welcomes, but cross the line with Him and share the joy of the angels and all the company of heaven over the one sinner who repents. One is worth everything. Enter into the joy of Your Lord and join the celebration. 

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

Hymn: 569 In Adam We Have All Been One

Prayers, p. 265

Amy, Hannah, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan, David and Barbara Bush, Missionaries in Hong Kong

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

That is the way in which this mother serves me and us all with her own body. Really we all ought to be ashamed with all our hearts. For what are all the maids, servants, masters, mistresses, princes, kings, and monarchs on earth compared with the Virgin Mary, who was born of royal lineage, and withal became the mother of God, the noblest woman on earth? After Christ, she is the most precious jewel in all Christendom. And this noblest woman on earth is to serve me and us all by bearing this child and giving him to be our own! 
—Martin Luther, Homily for the Festival of Christ's Nativity, 1532 (HP III:216)

29 July 2018

Today’s Homily by Pr. Ball

St Paul Lutheran Church

The 9th Sunday after Trinity  

July 28/29, 2018+

St. Luke 16:1-9

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

The way of Jesus is just plain different.  Jesus is shrewd.  Now normally you wouldn't think that what the man does in the Gospel is something that should be commended.   He is an operator, knowing how to work the angles and get ahead in life.  The man in the Gospel story that Jesus tells is definitely a shrewd operator.   If you are going to get fired from your job, like the guy in the parable, and fired for good reason, because you have been a lousy employee and if that you are too weak to work with your hands and too proud to beg, what you need to do is find all the people who owe your boss money and cancel out a bunch of their debt so that you will make friends with them and they will soften your fall after you get canned.  This is a very shrewd plan, it almost seems like sinful, cancelling debts that weren't his to cancel.   For Jesus cancellation of debts to make friends is commendable, as a matter of fact it is good, so good that in the story Jesus has the rich man who owned the business commend the guy who not only made up the plan but put it into action, at a loss to him.  

So the way of Jesus is different, not minding too much when his employees are wasteful, not minding when they cook the books to cancel debts that don't belong to them.  Waste, and the cancelation of debt by an employee that wasn't his to cancel – all commended.    Because forgiveness, that is, debt cancellation is exactly what he has come to do and any time it happens with his people he rejoices in it, and He wants you, his people to live that way, the forgiveness way.

The debt you owe to the Father simply cannot be repaid by you.  Not with gold or silver, dollars, offerings to church or God.  Of course you should be giving your offerings faithfully and sacrificially, but not to pay debts.  You can't make up what you owe with your smarts or your engaging personality.  You owe a debt you cannot pay.  Let anyone who stands take heed lest he fall.  Because of the debt of sin, the fall of eternal death would come to each one.  So Jesus pays it.  He has paid the debt, with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Jesus gets into the accounting of your life and picks up all with debt and cancels it all out before his Father by paying the price for it all, by shedding his blood, by dying.  He lives now to have you live in the cancellation of your debt, which is the preaching of the forgiveness of your sins.  All debts paid for at the cross, debt relief delivered to you now in this time, in this place, that is what happens when you, in repentant faith receive the Body and Blood of Christ here and now.  The debt was paid once on the cross, the relief of that debt being paid is given do you now.  Jesus way.  Forgiveness won and delivered.  

This is how the Lord chooses to deal with debts that are owed to him, with debtors that are on the hook to him – he forgives their debts.  It is a shrewd way the makes friends out of debtor  He who forgives the debt is God, and he who won the forgiveness is His only-begotten Son.

The Church lives and works in the  shrewd debt cancellation way of Jesus.  You as a member of the Christ's  deal shrewdly, when someone owes you something, you forgive it.  When someone has hurt you, you release them from their guilt.  You work and strive to lessen everyone else's debt, knowing that your Father in heaven has not only forgiven you, he will also forgive them.  If you tell someone that you forgive them, you are simply acting as one who has been forgiven first, and this is how Jesus has you believe and live.  St. Paul would warn us to live no other way than by the Jesus way, and certainly not the way of idolatry or sexual immorality.  The children of Israel did that, the people had their idols, they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play and they indulged in sexual immorality and on one day 23 thousand of them died.  We must not put Christ to the test, in the assumption or presumption of forgiveness.  God will not be mocked.  

Though temptations will come, they need not overtake you.  God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.  The way is not to give into the temptation, or to excuse sin or to imagine that it doesn't matter, or to presume that you can go ahead and put God to the test because "He will forgive me anyway" rather as you heard, "This God, his way is perfect, the Word of the Lord proves true he is a shield for all who trust in him..  For who is God but the Lord? And who is a rock except our God?  The Lord Jesus Christ, our of his eternal riches became the debt bearer and forgiver and is the one who stands alive as the man who is the refuge in temptation the way of escape. His way is the way of his Words and promises.  His way is perfect. That is Jesus way, the perfect way, giving you life by his Gospel, the proclamation of the cancellation of debt of sin by his blood.  That is Jesus' way; different, shrewd, and it is your way unto everlasting life.   Amen.

26 July 2018

Lovely evening

Biked down to Rebekah's for dinner with her, Andy, and Opa (which was delicious). Then a game of liverpool, and biking back home, treated to some beautiful cloud formations as the sun was setting.

Today’s Homily

Chapel for 7.26.18
P&P, p. 260
Reading: Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
  “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


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

Yesterday we celebrated the martyrdom of St. James the Elder. He was among those who heard Jesus say: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” (Matt 10:16) But also heard Him say: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)

Think about that just for the 12! Nothing shall by any means hurt you? I guess we don't count chopping off heads, getting crucified, being flayed alive, or any of the other horrible ways the 12 (except St. John) died as being hurt? Huh???

Ah, but this is why our text today MUST not come unglued. I don't know if you're like me, but I have long tended to put the promise at the start in a separate memory compartment from the promise at the end. The promise at the start is so well known: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good." That takes a Spirit-wrought faith to hold tight to in life. I always think of the Patriarch Joseph as he is rotting in his cell, unjustly imprisoned and totally forgotten by the one to whom he did nothing but good. God is working all things for good? But you know the ending of that story. You know how in the end Joseph himself would tell his brothers: “Look, you meant evil against me, true enough. But God meant it for good, for the saving of many lives alive!”

And so we bump into this great mystery of the ways of God: His goodness is so massive, so vibrant and song, that it literally takes the discordant music of sin and resolves it again and again into grace. Nowhere of course so clear as at the cross. He literally takes the very worst thing that could ever happen: His creatures telling the Creator, get lost buddy. We don't need you. We don't want you. Our lives are our own and you are dead meat. AND He flips that around to bring forgiveness pouring out from His heart on every last one of us.

God works all things for the good of those who love them is a very precious promise and holding onto it when Herod has ordered your head to be chopped off, or Nero has ordered you crucified, well, that's always a work of the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe, to trust precisely what we can't see.
And the promise that gets us through is the one at the end of the reading: that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION. Will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You see, James could place his head on the block KNOWING that death was not going to separate him from Jesus or for the fulfillment of every promise Jesus ever made him. Paul likewise! I love that according to tradition, Paul was also beheaded as a Roman citizen and so when he lists the stuff that's impotent against us, he says: “Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness OR SWORD?” Nope. We're more than conquerors in Him who loved us. Because absolutely nothing can separate you from His love in Christ, then absolutely everything you go through HE will turn to be a blessing.

No, we don't all get the Joseph moments of seeing the promise of everything working for our good come to fruition before our very eyes in this life. There are plenty of times when our moments are rather like James moments when we close our eyes here without seeing how all things are actually working out for our blessing. But that's okay! Not even death can separate you from His love and certainly not anything that befalls you on your journey to the grave.

“Nothing will by any means hurt you” He promised. And you see, He meant it. Nothing is going to finally hurt you if every blasted thing that comes your way you receive as coming from the hand of Him whose goodness is beyond measure, whose love for you is as sure and unconquerable as Jesus Christ Himself.
Why it frees you to sing: When with sorrow I am stricken Hope anew my heart will quicken All my longing shall be stilled. To His lovingkindness tender Soul and body I surrender, For on God alone I build. Well He knows what best to grant me, all the longing hopes that haunt me, Joy and sorrow, have their day. I shall doubt His wisdom never; As God wills so be it ever; I commit to Him my way.
Through the darkest moments, through times of absolute perplexity about what is going on with you, with your loved one, with your world, this can sustain you. All things for good; nothing can separate you from His love. You, more than conquerors in Jesus. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: 732 All Depends on Our Possessing
Missionary - Freeman and Susan Rohlfing (in chapel, concluding missionary service in the Czech republic)
Joel, Amy, Hannah, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan (healing)

25 July 2018

Meet Evangeline Grace Herberts

She's grandchild #8 for Cindi and me; granddaughter #4; and child #5 for Lauren and Dean. Thanks be to God for safe delivery and may God keep her safe until her rebirth in Christ.

24 July 2018

On the way home from the funeral

My glasses broke. This is the second time in only a couple months and they were not yet two years old. David told me to get my prescription and buy from Warby Parker over the net. Wow! I got my prescription from the eye doc and then placed my order from home on Monday afternoon. On Friday afternoon my glasses arrived, and I absolutely love them. Solid frames, and they're working great. AND for every pair they sell, they donate one to someone who can't afford glasses. How sweet is that? And, if you want, they'll send you several test pairs to check out. I knew what I wanted, so didn't go that route. I'm still getting used to this internet econmy, but I love it when something like this comes along. I am keeping their app on my phone. Next time you need glasses, check them out!

19 July 2018

Today’s Chapel - 7.19.18

Prayer and Preaching, p. 260ff.

Reading: from 1 Corinthians 16

Keep alert. Stand firm in the faith. Demonstrate manly courage. Be strong. Let everything you do be done in love. [EHV]


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

Back when I was a young man and a new Christian, a supplement had come out to the hymnal. The Worship Supplement (either red or blue; ours were blue).— There was one service in there that got used a bit, and I fell in love with the way it ended.

Having heard God's Word read and the Gospel of Jesus proclaimed, having lifted up the needs of the world in prayer, having received into our mouths the very body and blood of Christ and given Him our thanks, we stood and the pastor said to us: "Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold to what is good; return no man evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted; support the weak; help the suffering; honor all men; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And may almighty God, the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you." To which we all answered "Amen!"

It might sound kind of silly, but I appreciated so much hearing those marching orders. Not that I did them, but that they reminded me of where God was inviting me and the shape of the life of Christ wanted to live in me in this world. I think that's really what Paul is doing at the end of 1 Corinthians. He'd already served them up a whole heaping helping of doctrine and exhortation, rebuke and correction, along with a fair bit of sheer poetic beauty. And now he's wrapping things up and he just wants to remind them one more time where they're headed and how to get there.

So first, warrior language: be on your guard, stand your ground in the faith, live like men, be strong! You can almost hear the men banging their spears on the ground in rhythm, woo-woo (grunting). Bring it on! And then he blows them away with: Let everything you do be done in love. Kinda sounds discordant with the war drums, doesn't it? Let's get back to the battle, right?

Well, that is the battle: to let everything you do be done in love. If it's not in love, not to do it. This is, First Corinthians, after all, and they can't have so soon forgotten the words they'd heard from him only moments before in that hymn to love: love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy. It does not brag. It is not arrogant. It does not behave indecently. It is not selfish. It is not irritable. It does not keep a record of wrongs. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness but it does rejoice in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love doesn't come to an end.

And it's not very long into that song before you realize: He's not talking about us and our love; He's talking about Jesus and His love. The Love Paul is singing about isn't a quality of mine, but a Person, and that Person has always and only treated me in love. Not keeping a record of my wrongs; rejoicing over the truth of how much in Him God has loved me. "Let everything you do be done in love"—that's really not saying anything much different than let everything you do be done in Christ, to Christ, for Christ. Or even stronger, let Christ love through you.

Use all your army lingo to drive it into your head that THIS is what Satan assaults. This is what he wants to drive you away from. From the love that is Christ. From living in Him and Him living in you in love. Why, St. Paul would even point out that you could speak angelic tongues and have all the knowledge in the world and bravely give up your body to be burned, and if it all happened without love, it would be worth less than nothing.

So Christian soldiers, watch! Stand firm! Be men! Be bold! Guard your life that you might do everything in love. For that is to live in Christ whose love for you brought Him to the Cross where all the lovelessness of the human race, heaped in a pile and poured onto Him, simply could not quench the burning fire of His divine love for each one of us, for you.

To love will always mean to suffer in this fallen world. He shows the way, but even more, He invites you to live in union with Him who IS the way and to guard that way with vigilance and all the woo, woo, woo you can muster, until He finishes His new creation and you are changed from glory into glory by love Divine and your life becomes love. His work in you complete.

But until that Day, go out into the world in peace… You know where you're headed and what the battle is. Keep alert. Stand firm in the faith. Demonstrate manly courage. Be strong. Let everything you do be done in love. Everything. In. Love.

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

Hymn: 700 Love, Divine, All Loves Excelling

Prayers: Amy, Hannah, Paula, Roger, Ruth, Allan and Jan, Pr. Edward and Monica Naumann (in chapel) serving in sri lanka

12 July 2018

From Johann Walter’s great hymn

There God shall from all evil
Forever make us free,
From sin and from the devil,
From all adversity,
From sickness, pain, and sadness,
From troubles, cares and fears,
And grant us heavenly gladness
And wipe away our tears.

In that fair home shall never
Be silent music's voice.
With heart and lips forever
We shall in God rejoice,
While angel hosts are raising
With saints from great to least
A mighty hymn for praising
The Giver of the feast. 
LSB 514:3,4

05 July 2018

More Maupin Memories

In no special order... Stopping at Cattlet's Texaco on our way back to Maryland to get our Grape Nehis (or Cokes), into which Maupin inserted salted peanuts... The year the snow was so deep Penny couldn't get out, and Maup made a snow tunnel for her in the backyard... Chewing wads of Clark's cinnamon gum together... Winston cigarettes... The little Sunoco transistor radio he gave me... Him trying to be “Jim” when he worked at Esso... The jacket he brought me from Danang... His incredible eye for photos... Nancy picking a random hair off his pants to which he went OUCH (it was attached and had made its way through)... Munching our Wise Barbeque potato chips together... The secret of sprinkling garlic salt on bacon... The horrible night that Butch got shot and so glad Maup was with him... Him stepping between Daddy and Uncle Edgar in some tense moments after Granddaddy Chance passed... Me inviting Nancy to see our patio, to which she replied to Maup "I didn't know you had a patio" and Maup made a sign to show that I was a little cracked in the head (hey, imaginary patios can be very real)... Him chaffing at the powder blue tux he got to wear at my wedding... So many more.

04 July 2018

+ James Maupin Weedon (31 December 1951 to 3 July 2018)

Yesterday my brother died. Words fail me as I try to describe this man. The quintessential free spirit. He introduced me to all manner of naughtiness. He taught me to love Johnny Cash and the Eagles. He had a heart of gold, the kind of person that quite literally would give you the shirt off his back without even thinking about it. The kind of person who would play with a brother nine years younger and never even hint at the fact that he wasn't having the time of his life! I remember the time he thought to fill my pool up with Mr. Clean and we took a bubble bath outside; or him hammering into my head: "Never forget, Billy, anything you can do, I can do better. Repeat it." And I would and I believed it! His "Afternoon!" And "Howdeedo!" Were legendary with my kids. They all loved Uncle Maupin. In fact, all the kids did. He was like Uncle Jimmy Mastin in the next generation. I remember him deciding he'd had enough with stuffing ads into the papers he was delivering, so he decided to burn them. Right across from Glenmont Elementary one morning. And how he showed me that he was like a god by passing his hand through the flame. Yup, he was a god. I was in awe. And when he left for Vietnam, I remember being so sad. But the sadness faded into joy when he finally came home. He and Nancy and little Jimmy. And then Jeremy (leave the eletric cord alone, little one!) and finally Jessica. Maup and Crackers riding in his truck—he always seemed to have a vehicle on the edge of breaking down, but he kept them going. Maup and I working at Joe's warehouse. Two summers I got to work with both of these brothers, and only rarely did I get sent out with Maup to deliver paper, but that was always the best of days when I did. Because I could talk to him like I could talk to no one else. He never judged. He'd just laugh and give some off-color advice and I'd be laughing right along with him. I am so blessed that 10 days before he died I got to preside at his daughter's wedding and see him give away his daughter in marriage and dance with her. I'm going to miss him big time. We walked together over to the cemetery and visited our mom and dad's graves and also our brother Joe's. He showed me the memory garden, "so you can just sit and think...and remember." I'll use it to remember you, Maupin. To paraphrase my favorite children's book: "I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always; as long as I'm living my brother you'll be."

When I was born, I almost died with an intestinal blockage. Our neighbor across the way took Maupin to her church to light a candle and pray for me. Today I lit a candle and prayed for him: Rest eternal, grant your servant Maupin, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him!

26 June 2018

A fun evening

Been a very long time since just the six of us went out to eat. Last time was years ago in Annapolis (and we got to take a water taxi). This time nothing quite so exotic. Greek food. Kala!

25 June 2018

Time with Family

Wedding Homily

A Reading from Ecclesiastes, chapter 4

9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

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

Okay, you two. Confession time. For me, not you. I always got in trouble for telling my congregation that I much preferred preaching funerals to weddings. They'd get so agitated: “Pastor, that's just wrong!”

But think about this for a minute from a pastor's perspective, will you? At a funeral the problem is obvious. There's a box with a body in it, but the person who used to inhabit that body has gone awol and everyone feels it. It hurts. Hurts like hell. And people are ready and aching to hear a word that can address the pain. And I had that word.

Now, take the wedding. The problem itself is hidden beneath all the joy and celebration of the day. And the folks out there, and sometimes the folks right here, are all thinking: Come on, preacher man, make it short and sweet. We want to get to the main event of the day: the party! Truth? Truth.

But you ready to get your minds blown? God thinks we've got it all backwards, as usual. He wants us to celebrate every funeral as a wedding feast and every wedding feast? They actually celebrate two funerals. Say what?

Oh, yeah. God tells you that for your marriage to be what He wants it to be there's something right here in front of me that needs to die. Let's call it your ego. He does this in the weirdest way: by tying two lives together. You ever seen one or been in one of those three-legged races? They're a hoot. You get to use both your legs, but one of your legs is tied to another person's and you have to use em both together. And try running like that! At first, you stumble a lot. But the longer you keep at it, the more you begin to figure out how two people can actually run as one and then the fun really begins

There's Jesus' idea of how marriage can be a funeral. Because the impulse inside you Curtis and inside you, Jess, to run off and do your own thing is what gets to die. The impulse to always have it your way. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it and you get in my way, I'll make you sorry. THAT's the sucker that has to be killed in both of you. You're tied together from now on. For better and for worse. For richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health. Now, it is entirely possibly for you to just not get used to this being tied together. What happens then is one of two things: one of the other of you pulls out a knife and slices through that rope and says: “There. We're done with that. Let's just go each do our thing.” That's sad. Race over. Or, and this is just as sad, two people stay tied together, never learning how to run together, and just grump and grouse at each other and about each other all the way to the end of the race. Yikes. In that case, what Jesus wanted to die, never gets to die at all.

But the picture I've given you so far isn't the whole deal. You see, marriage is not like Jesus reaching down and tying a rope around both of your ankles so that you “get hitched.” It's way more fun than that! Jesus reaches down and ties your ankle, Curtis, to HIS and then He reaches over and ties Jessica's to HIS. Do marriage his way and it's not a three legged race, it's a three PERSON race. I used to totally miss this: You heard Jesus say it earlier: “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” GOD is what joins together. He's between the two of you. He's the glue!

Jess, I'm gonna pick on you because you're my own flesh and blood. Curtis, let me ask you: You ever try winning an argument with this woman? Of course you have. You've tried. But you've found out it doesn't work. Wanna know why? Because even though you're gonna change her last name today, she's still a WEEDON and Weedons all have this weird genetic defect that they always believe they're right. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone married to a Weedon in the room and they'll set you straight. We're a messed up bunch. But here's where it gets interesting! 

She's ready to argue you down on anything, and you might be tempted sometimes to grab that knife and just cut the rope and get free, or to argue right back at her, whatever. You pull out the knife and Jesus looks at you: “Throw that thing away. You won't be needing it.” “But,” you begin. “No buts,” he says. “Time for a funeral. Because this isn't about what Curtis wants. Don't argue with her. Go tell her who she is in me. Tell her whom I am making her to be. Go say: Jess, I love you. You are an amazing woman. I am so glad that God brought us together. Come on, let's get moving!” And she'll be looking at you like you look at someone come back from the dead, because in a way, someone has!

Jessica, you're going to do the same for him. When you're tempted to say: “You know, Curtis, the problem with you is...” Jesus gives you that look. And the words and the thought die on your lips. “Tell him who he is in me,” says Jesus, “tell him who he is becoming as his life becomes love. Curtis, you're my rock. I love you so much. God has changed me so much through you. Thank you. Say that instead.”

And when either of you is saying in your head: I can't do that, Jesus is saing: “I think they’re getting this!” Of course you can't. Don't you see THAT'S why Jesus ties you together by tying you to HIM. Because where you don't have the strength of will, HE does. It's absolutely true that neither of you have the ability to forgive as much as the other has the ability to hurt. Welcome to the fallen human race! But HE'S the one who has already bleed to forgive the sins of every last one of us and that's the forgiveness He puts at your disposal to share with each other and to begin speaking into each other. 

So you do your marriage this way, you've got this mega-strange relationship going on, where marriage is your ongoing funeral to the ego's drive to have it your way, and where you speak the truth to each other of who they are becoming in Jesus. You know what happens? Jessica's grandma always used to say: “Little pictures have big ears” by which she meant that the kids are always listening in. Shaela and Anthony and Brooklyn and if God grants you even more. And they see and hear this weird way you're learning to live together. Know what? They say to Jesus: “Dear Jesus, please give me someone like that too. Someone you tie me to with you in the middle, so that I can run that race. Cause I want my life to be like theirs.” And how sweet is that?

Marriage is an ongoing funeral, but such a marriage means, when the funeral comes that it has all the joy of the marriage. Just like Jesus is there to pick you both up when either stumble and the three of you are on the ground, so when you fall to the ground that last time in this life, you'll close your eyes and open them again and Jesus will be right there. He'll be saying: “Get up!” And this time you'll never go down again. Now you can run together in true freedom. “I always told you that I had more forgiveness than you had sin and more life than you have death and now you see it. Come on into the great marriage feast that never ends! It's the ultimate homecoming and my whole goal in putting you guys together was so that you could all show up here.” And then, God willing, the two of you will run to the feast together arm in arm with your kids, laughing for joy all the way. You see, the path is funeral to wedding feast, and it's exactly the reverse of the way we tend to think.

One last thing: if it sounds like child's play, that's because it is. Jesus said if we ever hope to enter his kingdom we have to become like kids! And what do kids do? They play! People don't stop playing because they got old; they got old because they stopped playing. Jesus is inviting you into this great game, this three-personed race, where you get to die to ego, to self every single day, and where the ending of the whole shebang is wedding and more joy than you can imagine. Your married life can BE an adventure. Something a lot more fun than any serious grumps (grownups) can imagine. So you guys ready? On your mark, get set, go! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.