26 April 2018

Today’s Homily

Service of Prayer and Preaching, p. 260ff.

Reading: 1 Cor. 15:12–28

1 Corinthians 15:12–28 (ESV): 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 

Responsory: p. 263

Homily

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

A couple months ago someone said it to me again. I'd heard it a thousand times before: "I just don't know how those without faith get through it." And I remember that it hit me rather like a ton of bricks that I don't believe what that implies. I don't believe that our faith makes facing death easier. In fact, I think our faith makes it harder. 

We are surrounded by people who are convinced that death is simply the last stage of life. That it may send you off on a journey or it just may be the end of you. Either way, it's fine. To have lived and loved and breathed and known others and been loved, hey, what more could you ask for? Like Socrates sipping the hemlock in complete equanimity, like those who have been catechized by John Lennon's song Imagine. Death happens. It's natural. It's all good. That's NOT hard. That's easy.

You want hard? You stand by the coffin of someone you love and you look long and hard at that body which no amount of makeup from the undertaker can disguise as being, to quote the Munchkins, not just really dead, but really most sincerely dead. To stand by that and say: Nevertheless this body will be raised again. And to believe that. That's not just hard. That's impossible. That's crazy. 

You want the proof? Read the New Testament. That entire collection of documents is about a bunch of guys having their minds blown by seeing a man they knew and loved die, really die, dead and buried dead, and then encountering him again. Not his spirit, not his mind, but his body. Yeah, doing weird stuff with that body that they couldn't begin to fathom, but THE fact that just seemed so impossible was that it was his real body, the one with the prints of the nails and the hole in the side. His body, not just animated like a zombie, but incorruptible. Alive forevermore. Yeah, they KNEW it sounded crazy. They KNEW it sounded impossible. They KNEW it was hard, not easy. And none better than the man who wrote the words of our reading today.

He was convinced it was all fraud. Pure and simple. A lie. But then he too had the experience. Saw him. Heard him. Alive, not dead. In that body. And everything he'd ever thought about God, himself, the world, it flew out the window in that instant when the formerly dead Jew, in shining glory, knocked him off his high horse and made him with the others a witness to the resurrection.

Okay, so Jesus is raised from the dead. But what does that mean? What are its implications? What it mean for the dead body of the one you love? What does it mean for you in your failing flesh? That's where the Corinthians were. Apparently the idea had even taken hold that those who died before the glorious Appearing of Christ again, they were just lost. Too bad, so sad. As though there were no resurrection of the rest of the dead. Paul's like: No, No, NO! Look, if there is no resurrection, then Jesus Himself is not raised and the witness we've been giving about God raising Him from death is a LIE and we are then of all men most to be pitied, going around lying about God. Heaven's sake! No resurrection of the dead, no resurrection of Jesus. That's Paul's point. 

And then BUT. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. So sins forgiven, death destroyed. And he's just the first fruits. The start, there's more to follow. Cause just like everyone died in Adam, everyone's going to live in Christ. But we won't see it until that appearing, and then we'll see. Christ, those who died in Him alive forevermore, and the generation alive at that moment changed, as the "last enemy" is destroyed forever.

Not easier. Harder. Crazy! Who can believe it? Even the Apostles struggled. Don't you love that bit in Matthew 28. When they saw Him, they worshipped, but some doubted, right before sending them out to make disciples of all nations with the news of His resurrection and all it brings? Wrapping your mind around the resurrection IS the New Testament. The Apostles and Evangelists, they are not writers of fairy tales. They didn't shed their blood for some silly story they concocted after too much wine. They shed their blood in the conviction that they had encountered the supreme instance where truth was stranger than fiction. Christ lives. In His body. Forever. You will live. In your body. Forever. Death has been destroyed; death will be destroyed. 

Their proclamation still resounds. No, our faith doesn't make death easier. Won't let you make it easier. Death is never your friend. Don't try to make peace with it. It's not natural and not a part of life. It's the invader, an enemy but an enemy that Christ has already destroyed in Himself and will destroy in you on the day of His appearing. The New Testament proclaims something like this: Christ's resurrection has chopped the head off Death and it's running around like it's still got a head, but you'll be there when it keels over. And you'll see it. With the eyes of your body. For yes, it is true: alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia. 


Hymn:486 "If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death"

Prayers: Ruth, Roger, Allen, Jan, Military Chaplain Paul Weber

19 April 2018

Today’s Chapel Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 265


Reading:


A reading from Hebrews 13:



20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 


Responsory


Hymn: #475 "Good Christian Friends"


Homily


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


In the ancient form of the words of institution used in the church at Rome, part of today's reading finds its way onto the lips of Jesus as He is giving His Supper to the disciples on Maundy Thursday. Listen: this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant. Have you ever pondered how absolutely odd it is to speak of the covenant as both NEW and ETERNAL? How can it be both? I think, the answer to that touches the very heart of the revelation of Christ. 


When Jesus speaks of the blood of the new covenant or testament, he's obviously announcing the fulfillment of that prophesy in Jeremiah 31. You remember it, right?


What's new in the new covenant is its unilateral nature. It's not iffy. It's not, IF you, then I, AND IF you don't, then you better watch out cause then I most certainly will... that's the Moses covenant. And it leaves hearts quaking because we know we haven't done.  


Instead, with the New Covenant all the action is mercy and it all ends up being God's.  But here's the whole joy: what showed up NEW in the history of God's people on that night when Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Jeremiah 31 by reaching his disciples the new covenant in His blood is the joyous "aha" that that's what had been on the heart of God from before He created a thing: eternally on His heart. In fact, eternally His heart. This is what I'll do for you, I'll write my law on your heart so that you want to do it and you will know me as I really am, your God and you my people, because, you see, I'll forgive all your iniquity and I will remember your sins no more. That's how you'll know me. That's how you'll know my heart. That's the gift of the new and eternal covenant in my blood.


So the Benediction that we heard as our reading kind of wraps up the whole book of Hebrews, which has all been about how the new thing that shows up in Jesus is so much BETTER than the old thing under the Mosaic covenant because the new thing in Jesus actually ends up being an ETERNAL thing. And so the whole of the old as it limped along and was passing away, prefigured and pointed toward the perfection of what God was up to in Jesus. Listen to it again:


20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 


The God of peace. Peace because of the blood of the eternal covenant. Peace comes from knowing He's not fickle in His commitment to you. That new covenant blood cries out: "You cannot make me hate you. I love you. I forgive you. You are mine. Eternally. Forever. You belong to me. It doesn't hang on you and your doing or not doing, your right speaking or thinking or anything. It hangs on me. And this blood seals the deal forever. As I raised the shepherd so I will raise the sheep from death, do not fear." Now that's peace. And it's out of that peace being planted right into your heart with His blood that God prepares for you every good thing. Every good thing is IN that blood. That new and eternal covenant blood of Jesus. And as it goes into you, it changes you. God works in you so that you WANT to do His will. Not grudgingly like a slave and not even poutily like a rebellious kid displaying the truth of original sin, but out of sheer joy as when you want to please the person whose love surprised and delighted you. 


And it all comes with the blood. Now when you hear blood, never hear an idea. It's not an idea or theory about blood that saves you. It's blood, real blood, blood from real veins, blood that came from a real body, His body, yet blood that carries with it a new and yet eternal covenant. And so His blood is not a dead thing. It's not like all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain. It's not even like the blood of Abel and all his kin whose blood cries to heaven for justice. No. The living blood of Jesus speaks a better word than that. His new and eternal covenant blood, cries out: forgiven wholly, forgiven entirely, forgiven forever, what sins? I remember them no more. You are mine now. You are mine always and forever. And I created you to pour this forgiving love over you and into you with my blood. 


And that's how you come to know Him as He really is. And it's a new revelation. But part of the new is the shocking realization that that's what has always been His heart. For you. 


Oh, people loved by God, when they rejected Him, the Jewish leaders cried out: His blood be on us and on our children. And His heart's desire was exactly that. That His new covenant blood would ever belong to them and to you and to us all. May you ever revel in the blood, blood of the new and eternal covenant, with all that it carries your way. 


Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!



Litany...


...especially for Roger, Ruth, Allen and Jan and Ezariah, and military chaplain Joseph Watson. 


NT Canticle


18 April 2018

Making the Case

Join us!



14 April 2018

It glimmered

But for a blink of an eye in time, yet this is the Eucharistia from Sweden under King John III (1576). Thanks to Dr. Tighe for sending along a copy of the Red Book. I would never have dreamed I would one day own a copy of this gem:

During Offering:


I wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, and go to Your altar, that I may declare with a voice of thanksgiving and tell of Your wondrous works.


After Offering:


Almighty, eternal God, Heavenly Father, You have promised us the Spirit of grace and intercession. We beg You, grant us grace, that according to Your commandment and promise, we may call upon You in spirit and in truth. Let Your Holy Spirit govern our hearts, for without You we cannot please You.


We humbly pray You and heartily desire, then, most merciful Father that through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, You would graciously accept our prayers and hear our petitions for Your holy universal Church, that You would grant it peace and govern it throughout the world, together with all government, spiritual or civil, or whatever sort or name it may be, and also all true Christians who love and confess the true catholic and Apostolic faith. 


O Lord God, who willed that Your Son's holy and most worthy Supper should be to us a pledge  and promise of Your mercy; awaken our heart, that we who celebrate His Supper may have a salutary remembrance of Your benefits and humbly give You our true and dutiful thanks, glory, and praise forever. Help us Your servants and Your people that we may in this Supper remember the holy, pure, immaculate and blessed sacrifice of Your Son, which He made upon the cross for us, and worthily celebrate the mystery of the New Testament and eternal covenant. Bless and sanctify with Your Holy Spirit's power that which is prepared and set apart for this holy use, bread and wine, that rightly used they may be for us the holy body and blood of Your Son, the food of eternal life, which we desire and yearn for with greatest longing. Through the same, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Preface and Canon:


The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.

Lift up your hearts to God. We lift them up.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right and fitting.


Truly it is right and fitting, appropriate and salutary that we should at all times give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God at all times, but especially and chiefly on this day on which our Paschal Lamb is offered. For He is the very Lamb who has taken away the sin of the world. By His death, death has been destroyed and by His resurrection life has returned. 


Who, that we might never forget His benefits, on the night that He was betrayed celebrated a supper during which He took bread into His holy and venerable hands, lifted His eyes to heaven, gave thanks to You, His holy Father, almighty and eternal God, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: "Take and eat; this is My body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me."


Likewise also after the Supper, He took the cup into His holy and venerable hands, looked up to heaven, gave thanks to You, His holy Father, almighty and eternal God, blessed and gave it to His disciples and said: "Take and drink you all of this. For this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. This do as often as you drink it in remembrance of me."


Therefore with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, with all the hosts of heaven, we sing the song of praise that has no end to Your honor, saying:


Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.


And so we remember, O Lord God, this blessed command of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, His holy passion and death, His resurrection and ascension. In Your boundless mercy You have sent and given Him to us that He might be an offering for our sins, and that He by His one sacrifice on the cross pay the price of our redemption, fulfill Your righteousness, and bring to perfection such an offering as might serve for the salvation of all Your chosen until the end of the world. The same, Your Son, the same offering which is a pure, holy, and immaculate sacrifice, we beg You to set before us for our reconciliation, shield, and defense and covering against Your wrath and against the terrors of our sin and of death. Grant that we may now receive it with faith and offer it before Your glorious majesty with our humble supplications. For these Your great benefits we give You fervent thanks with heart and mouth, yet not as we ought, but as we are able.


And we humbly beg You through Your Son whom You have in Your godly and secret counsel set before us as our sole Mediator, to look upon us and our prayers with Your mercy and pitying eye. Grant that they may come to Your heavenly altar before Your divine majesty and be pleasing to You, that all we who partake at this altar of the blessed and holy food and drink, the holy bread of eternal life and the cup of eternal salvation, which is the holy body and blood of your Son, may be filled with all heavenly benediction and grace.


We pray You likewise, O Lord, our God, that You would be pleased to grant us poor sinful people who trust in Your manifold mercies, that we may be received among Your holy apostles, martyrs, and all Your saints, among whom we beg You to welcome us, not due to our deserving, but due to Your compassion, for You are He who forgives our sins and failings; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. 


By whom, O Lord, You ever create, sanctify, quicken, bless and grant us every good thing. Through Him, with Him, and in Him be all honor and glory and praise to You, almighty God, Heavenly Father, with the Holy Spirit, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.


Taught by Your saving precepts and formed by divine institution, we cry to you and say: Our Father...deliver us from evil. Deliver us, O Lord, from all evil, both past, present and future. Grant us gracious peace in our days that beneath Your merciful protection and defense, we may be set free from sins and kept safe from all affliction, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

06 April 2018

Homily upon Colossians 3

Chapel 04.05.18

Invocation

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 16

Reading: Colossians 3:1–7

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

Hymn: 459/460

Homily

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

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." I think we sometimes have been tempted to hear that as always be thinking about angels and harps, streets of gold and the endless hymn of the redeemed, and not about planning what you need to pick up at Aldi's or how you're going to get the kids to their ball game and find supper for your family. Can you see trying it out on your boss? "I'm sorry I missed that deadline; you see, I was thinking about the things above."

And so you might be tempted to just dismiss St. Paul's injunction as just so much pious mumbo-jumbo. Things above indeed! When you can't even remember all the things below that you HAVE to attend to. 

I think, though, the angels with their harps and bowls of incense and the streets of gold and such, might not actually have been what St. Paul had in view. The great Revelation of St. John wouldn't have been written for some years till after St. Paul had penned today's words to the little flock of believers that gathered in Colossae, a little flock, but the way, whom he'd never even met in person. 

So what do you think he meant? To set your mind on the things above? I wonder if we'd get nearer to what he was inviting them into if we thought of "the things above" more along the lines of "from the perspective of Him who is above, Your Heavenly Father." He, after all, had just been writing to them about the danger of an earthly way of thinking. He reminded them of their baptism into Christ where they were buried to that whole old way and raised with Jesus through faith in God's powerful work. He reminded them that God made them, who were dead in their sins, alive together with Jesus by forgiving them all their trespasses. So they were forever beyond the religion of asceticism: don't touch this, don't eat that, and so on to try to make God love them. Instead, and this is right where our text picks up, you've been raised with Christ and so you seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. You seek His peace, His joy, His Spirit, His wisdom and His love. You seek what is His, because you seek HIM. 

Set your mind on the things above, then; learn to think with God's own perspective. His perspective of you and of others and of this world. Learn to see through the eyes of love. Learn to live out of the calm of His unshakable peace. Learn to delight in the secret and inner joy that in Christ your old life is dead and buried and in Him a brand new life is before you. His life. A life that will never end for you.

Paul was urging the Colossians and us with them to live toward the glory that will shine in us on that Day when Christ, our life, appears. And that means a life that is cut off from the old worldly way: the sexual immorality (if it itches, scratch it); the impurity and passion and evil desires and covetousness, which is tantamount to idolatry: seeking life in the persons or STUFF of this world and turning away from where real life is found: in Christ.

Set your mind on the things above; have the MIND that is from above and learn to see yourself, others, and all the stuff as God sees it; which is as it really is. You are people who have death behind them. You are people who enjoy a life that will never be taken from you. You are people who have been clothed in Christ. Eyes of love, then. People are not objects for you to use or abuse; your own body is not an object for you to use; the stuff of this world, every bit of it, seen for what it is: not the source of life or happiness or contentment, but a gift from the Heavenly Father, to sustain you as you journey to the full realization of the glory that is already hidden inside you and that is so much greater than the whole world itself! 

But what about the stuff I need to pick up at Aldi's and getting the kids to the game and the family fed and my work deadlines and all of that? Use your sanctified imagination for a minute. Breathe. Be still. Now shift the mindset. Shift to: I am in Christ. The old way is dead. I have been raised to a new life in Him. My sins are forgiven and they have no power over me. My performance or failure to perform cannot diminish the slightest bit the vast love that God has for me in His Son. The life of fretting and worry is buried; it's forever behind me. I am at peace. Time itself flows toward me as a gift from Him. I will attend to what or who it brings me, one at a time, in the peace that flows from Christ's love in the joy of His presence and I will seek to serve this day in the power of his love. And so with mind set on things above: you shop, you transport the kids, you cook, you work, you live. You literally live in Christ. And anything that doesn't fit in that peace, that joy or that love, well, it's not part of the life you've been placed into, is it? 

Now, one last thought: he'd hardly have been reminding them to do this if they weren't doing (or at least tempted to doing) its opposite. So yes, to people just like you and me: distracted and unfocused and fretful, to us, Paul props open a door from which streams a bright light of resurrection, serene, tender and loving beyond our wildest dreams. That's our real life. He invites us to practice living in it now, for it's where we will live for all eternity. And for that, all glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, at Aldi's and on the soccer field and in the kitchen and working on the project for your boss with the deadline, all glory to the Trinity now and ever and to the ages of ages. On things above. Love. Peace. Joy. Mind set. Amen.

And it is in that mindset that we join in prayer:

Prayers


In peace, let us pray to the Lord. R.

For the peace from above and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord. R. 

For the peace of the whole world, for the wellbeing of the church of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For Matthew, our Synod's President, for the Presidents of all our districts, for Pr. Richard Wokoma and all missionaries, for all our pastors in Christ, for all servants of the Church and for all the people, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For Donald, the President of our country, for all public servants, for the government and those who protect us, that they may be strengthened and upheld in every good deed, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For those who cry to God for healing and peace, especially those we have been asked to remember: Roger and Ruth, Allen and Jan, the family of Sam Cuputa, and those we name in our hearts…., let us pray to the Lord, R.

For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger and need, let us pray to the Lord, R.

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

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



02 April 2018

Bird says

NOT my picture of Easter Monday. 


01 April 2018

That Easter Dinner

Deserves a post of its own. We decided to do something quite different this year and settled on a Greek theme. So here's the rundown:

Appetizers

Goat cheese
Olives
Veggies
Hummus 
Tzatziki Sauce
Pitas

Main Course

Greek Salad
Saganaki (flaming cheese)
Lamb Balls with Tzatziki
Felafel
Spanikopita
Homemade Pitas
A fine red wine 

Dessert

Limoncello
Baklava 
Ice Cream

It was a team effort, so no one was too exhausted. As usual, though, David and Cindi were the star chefs. They truly outdid themselves. We decided from now on THIS is Easter. 

Easter this and that...

...as always, the Triduum and Paschal feast at St. Paul's were amazing and wonderful. Just some flash points of joy (hardly exhaustive): David's awesome job on the Schalk Passion of St. John as the evangelista... Cindi's "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" with organ and strings... Kantor's preludes and postludes and especially her Widor Toccata today... Luther's absolutely lovely "I Shall Not Die" motet (his only motet!)... Singing Palestrina's O Bone Jesu... Hallelujah Chorus with strings and organ... Singing LOTS of Luther like Maundy Thursday's "O Lord, We Praise Thee" and today "Christ Jesus Lay"... Singing LOTS of Gerhardt like "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" and "Awake My Heart with Gladness"... Singing BOTH Fortunatus pieces on Good Friday... Getting to hear BOTH our pastors preach excellent homilies on Good Friday and Easter at either service (and give us joyous homilies on the other days too)... The strings, the brass, the bells, the organ and the congregation belting out joy... And our wonderfully Greek themed Easter feast with Opa, David and Meaghan, Lydia, Henry, and Oliver, Rebekah and Andy:


Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Blessed Resurrection from the Weedons.