29 May 2018

Blessed


Any longtime readers of this blog know how very blessed Cindi and I have been in our children. We have stood in amazement and awe as their personalities unfolded; and they have usually kept us in stiches! The weird thing about our family is that we actually do really LIKE spending time together: us with them and they with us. But today I want to reflect on the blessing that their spouses have been to us, too.

Dean...we still remember when Lauren came home from college and told us about this "amazing" person! We knew it was over right then and there. She's been proven right, though: he is amazing. Read the great homily he preached at the wedding (and if only you all could get all the insider stuff he packed in there!). He's a loving husband, and a great dad to their (soon to be) five children. He hunts, he camps, he loves to visit his shutins AND he loves Apple products (need I say more?). Oh, and he has an equally "amazing" dad, who is Pappy to our grandchildren. His mom was one of the most loving and giving people I've ever had the joy to know. Dean's a great combo of both.

Meaghan...I remember when she and David were dating and preparing to walk out the door, and she went through the litany: "David, do you have your keys? Your cellphone? Your wallet?" Cindi and I turned to each other after they closed the door and exclaimed: "She HAS to marry him." Meaghan is David's true soul mate: a perfectionist like him, and a lover of beauty, but also someone to keep his artist's soul grounded. She is good at so many things: being a mommy, a doctor of physical therapy (aka professional torturer) and an astonishing photographer. It makes me happy that they surround my grandchildren with beauty and order. (Wait, how did she get David to be concerned about order?). And then there are Meaghan's parents and grandparents (she has a full set!) whom we treasure so much. Amazing, loving, and joyous people!

Andrew...They met via a mistake, that was absolutely no mistake. Their first date was at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Louis! I didn't think I'd ever meet someone who could dote on nephews and nieces quite so naturally as Bekah, but then Andy came along. Lauren was right: the kids think of him as a giant toy. All his nieces and nephews on both sides adore him. I think that speaks volumes. Like for Dean, I suspect the roucous nature of our family was a bit of an adjustment. I won't even go into what happened the first time he met his future sister-in-law! But he fit in with grace and was soon joining in the laughter and dishing it out as fast as it was served up to him! I hope Dr. and Mrs. Ibisch DO end up with a ton of kids, because these two would be so awesome as parents. Although we've only met Andy's parents and siblings briefly in the last month, we already treasure them and are thankful that he grew up in a God-fearing Lutheran household, and we look forward to getting to know them better in the future.

Which leads into my last point. These wonderful blessings, my three children by grace to compliment my three by nature, are all faithful Christians of the Lutheran persuasion. Church will be an important part of all my grandchildren's lives (the vital gathering where we week by week feast on the joys of the Age to come in Word and Eucharist) and they will grow up knowing the Scriptures and singing hymns, learning their catechism and praying with their families. Thank you, Lord, thank you so much for this greatest blessing of all! Thank you for our "other" children: Dean and Meaghan and Andy.




27 May 2018

Wedding Homily

by the Rev. Dean Herberts

Andy & Rebekah!  Don't look at me but look at each other and see the gift God is giving to each of you!


"The two shall become one flesh."  To all the animals God only says, "Be fruitful and multiply."  And how I do hope & expect if God wills it that you have as many children as you do in your wedding party, however, God's gift of marriage is unique to human kind.  God's gift of marriage is more than "being fruitful and multiplying."


As husband and wife, you compliment one another, find delight in each other and serve with love an honor.


Andy you may love golfing.

Rebekah you may love a silly beagle dog and hippogriffs but that isn't the love you share as husband and wife.


Andy and Andy's Rebekah you may love all the people in this room, your parents, your siblings, your nieces & nephews and obviously your brother-in-law, but that isn't the love you share as husband and wife as God says, "man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife."


What you share is a love which is head over heels for each other.  There is that silly statement, "What's yours is mine and what is mine is mine."  Well, forget that!  All that stuff.. the money, the hobbies, yes, even the family, none of that matters as long as Andy has Rebekah and Rebekah has Andy.  "And the two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What God has joined together let not man separate."


Of course your marriage cannot be as it is intended unless it is a part of another marriage.  That is the marriage of Christ and His bride The Church. 


Without Christ, your marriage is no different than the rest of creation hookups, "be fruitful and multiply." Without Christ Jesus you would be incapable of loving each other in any form of the word as scripture says, "We love because He first loved us."


Without Christ, His incarnation, His life, His death, His resurrection, marriage would be destined to fail.  For if He is not risen then we are not forgiven and we could not practice forgiveness with each other and with no forgiveness all relationships would fail, but CHRIST our bridegroom is Risen!  He laid down His life for you His bride washing away your sins and presenting you as His perfect bride.


Yes, true marriage love, loving you so much that He gave up his 'godly' comforts to dwell among us His creation and endure the curse of sin and giving His life for what He loves,,.. You, His bride, The Church.


Marriage love, head over heels in love for the other. 


Andy you will confess that you will live in the holy estate of matrimony as God ordained it.  That you will nourish and cherish Rebekah as Christ loved His body, the Church, giving Himself up for her.  That you will love, honor, and keep Rebekah in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, remain united to her alone, so long as you both shall live.


Rebekah similarly you will confess that you will live in the holy state of matrimony as God ordained it.  That you will submit to Andy as the Church submits to Christ.  That you will love, honor and keep him in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, remain united to him alone, so long as you both shall live.


Both of you have the joy of practicing loving, serving, and forgiving each other from this day until God calls one of you to rest from your labors.  So God willing you will have A LOT of practice loving, serving and forgiving just as Christ does for you.


How wonderful for you two that you share in confession like Ruth and Naomi, "where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." And as St. Peter states, that  you are heirs of the grace of life.


What joy it is for you Andy and Andy's Rebekah to share in faith that the gift of marriage you enter into today points you to an even greater marriage that not even death can separate.  


Andy & Rebekah, don't look at me.  Look at each other and Jesus.  See the gift that God has given you here today with each other and the marriage feast to come that has no end with your Savior Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Amen!


And one of my personal favorites...



The look that says: “You, sir, are responsible for this.” And the look back that says: “Yes, maam. I most certainly am.”

A couple more...

...with (I'm sure) many more to follow:

What great joy!

Yesterday I gave my youngest into the arms of her beloved, and so received the gift of another son. Pastor Ball presided, Pastor Herberts preached an awesome homily (I hope to post it later), and then we had a great time celebrating with Bekah and Andy and always remembering that their marriage is to be a reflection of the love between our Heavenly Bridegroom and the Church. Just a handful of pics:

21 May 2018

Getting Real

This weekend, God willing, my youngest will wed her beloved, Andrew Ibisch, at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Hamel. It's all getting real. Today they got keys to their new home and we helped them start moving stuff in. Andy will be staying there after Tuesday. Family begins arriving tomorrow: Lauren and children, first. Wednesday brings Dean and possibly Aunt Sandy. Friday Aunt Dee, Uncle Keith, Savannah and Aunt Debbie and Uncle Doug. Not sure when cousin Russ and his fiance arrive. 

This wedding will be different for me (and I'm loving it): I just get to be the dad! Son-in-law Dean will preach and Pastor Ball will be liturgist. Carlo will return to St. Paul's organ bench for the service (and there'll be a LOT of Bach and one Bish). David is singing Starke's lovely "Gracious Savior, Grant Your Blessing."

The wedding is rather small, as per Bekah's and Andy's preference. We'll only be about 75 all told. And for the reception? How fun is this: we'll be doing salad, pizza (Bekah: "Who doesn't love pizza?"), beer and wine and lemonade and water. There'll of course be cake and some personal pies. AND we'll have a whole parcel full of the bride and groom's nieces and nephews (eleven children six and under!) to keep things lively. 

18 May 2018

Chapel Homily (Exaudi Nos Gospel)

Chapel 5.18.18

Welcome to the Board of Directors.

The Order of Matins begins on p. 219ff. Please Stand.

Hymn of the Day: 539 Christ Is the World's Redeemer

Reading [EHV]

26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27And you also are going to testify, because you have been with me from the beginning."

16:1"I have told you these things so that you will not fall away. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who murders you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do these things because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have told you these things so that when their time comes, you may remember that I told them to you."

Easter Responsory, p. 222

Homily:

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

I think in our day it is easy to hear a reading like this and to think right away of the growing hostility that the world shows to our faith. But I don't think in that case we'd really be grasping what Jesus is getting at here. You see, the world never puts anyone out of the synagogue, the gathering of people to hear God's Word read and preached. The world may well murder Christians (and it has and does), but it doesn't think that doing so is in any way offering some sort of service, latria, liturgy, to God. The world doesn't care about offering anything to God. No, to take the words of today's Gospel and apply them to opposition from the world is to miss something vital.

From the get go, the hatred was on two fronts. The pressure of the world to conform to its ideas, to be governed by its values, to validate its lies. And yes, Caesar still can get testy on this point as we readily see and shouldn't be the least bit surprised about. But the other front is the one Jesus was dealing with in today's reading. The opposition that arises from within the assembly of those who gather to hear and ponder the Word. One name comes to mind right away, doesn't it? Saul of Tarsus.

Here's a man who put folks out of the synagogues, consented to the death of Christ's witness, His martyr, St. Stephen after Stephen courageously testified about Him, and who zealously absconded with Christians property, threw men and women into jail, and decided they deserved the death penalty. And he did it all for the glory of God. All in good conscience and with the conviction that God was pleased with Him and delighted in such zeal for His law, such repudiation of a manifest fraud.

"He came to His own and His own received Him not." And they THEY came to their own and their own received them not either.

But have you ever wondered what it was about Jesus and about the message He gave His apostles to carry that could produce such a visceral and vicious reaction from people who loved and listened all the time to God's Word? What is it about Jesus that ticked off those like Saul? What could possibly produce this murderous hatred?

I don't think we need to hunt further than the story Jesus told in Luke 15. "This man receives sinners and eats with them…" The love of the Father for the son who had gotten lost and so was dead, but who came back and was welcomed, embraced, and all without asking him to make reparations or do anything. Just welcomed back because he was his son and he loved him. And then the old brother. Here's the opposition in today's reading. The older brother who is ticked off. "Look, these many years I have served you and never disobeyed your command." He feels so angry, so taken for granted, so presumed on, when his life of trying to please his father and do his father's will is, apparently, no better than that of his father's other son who broke every commandment with impunity and crept back home with his tail between his legs only to be welcomed? Loved? Celebrated? Seriously? NO WAY.

Have you ever dwelt on the tenderness of the Father's response? He doesn't yell at the older son. He doesn't shame him any more than he shamed his younger brother. He speaks to him with such tenderness: "Son, you are with me always. All that is mine is yours. Share my joy. It was fitting for us to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found."

Just like he dealt in mercy with Saul in all his self-righteous blindness. Just like he deals with you and me. Jesus really does welcome sinners and eats with them. And he pats the seat beside himself and says: "You too. Come on, join in. Let it go. You qualify" And when you imagine: "But wait a cotton pickin minute. They need to repent. They need to at least try to turn their lives around. It's not fair." He responds with kindness and love: "No, not fair at all. Come and enter into my joy. Here's the gift of a brother or sister for you to come to know and to treasure. And I want you to be a free son and not a slave."

Maybe if the Church has stopped having opposition from the religious, from hearers of the Word, I wonder if its because we've stopped following our Lord and have sounded a false gospel; at least if people have heard from us a false gospel. "You have to at least try. You have to repent, you have to give it your best at going and sinning no more, then the Lord will forgive you." Whereas the gospel that upset Saul, together with all the lovers of the Law among the first century Jews, was rather: "Where are you accusers? Neither do I condemn you; now go and sin no more. Take heart, your sins are forgiven!" Do you hear the vital difference?

People loved by God, I dare say that if WE honestly proclaimed the Christ whose love upon His cross simply reaches out and continuously embraces each of us and absolutely everyone else, just as we and they actually are, and without any conditions or limits; if we learned from Him to embrace and welcome each fellow sinner and not imply to that person how they need to change or at least try, in order to be loved, but trust that the love of Christ in which we hold them tight is the power — the ONLY power that ever changes a person, then it wouldn't be long before the outcries would happen again: "What are you all up to!?! You're not taking sin seriously! You've got to fix people; you can't just love them. What are you thinking!" Wouldn't that be a blessed thing? Not merely to have the opposition from the world that arises when we proclaim God's Law, but to have the opposition from the religious that arises when we preach the authentic Gospel? May God grant us such troubles and may they come soon! Amen.



Please stand. We continue with the Kyrie on page 227

16 May 2018

An Interesting Piece on Gottesdiesnt

By Dr. Stephenson, addressing why Lutherans (who stand with our Confessions) ought to care and care a great deal about the trouble that is brewing among our Roman brothers and sisters. Give it a read and let Dr. Stephenson know your thoughts in the comments section:

13 May 2018

Action packed



That's how the weekend was around here. Friday afternoon, soon-to-be son-in-law, Andrew Ibisch became Dr. Andrew Ibisch. I missed the festivities with work, but Cindi and Bekah were there, as well as all Andy's family. That evening we headed up to Springfield Illinois for our usual pinochle evening and dinner with the Van Ulfts and Klingers. Saturday, David and kids arrived early, and work commenced on a dinner. All Andy's family (except for Becky) came over in the afternoon. I think we had 17 here that day for the meal. David worked on the meat (brats, burgers, hotdogs), Cindi and Bekah prepared several side dishes. Yours truly helped entertain grandchildren and was appropriately decorated:


After the meal, I ran to town to do some last minute shopping for Mother's Day. We finished the day with some Downton. Today we headed to Church for Exaudi (LOVE the hymns for this last Sunday of Easter). We got home and David set to work again, with Bekah helping. He made fish tacos. We were all skeptical, but he swore they were amazing and Meaghan backed him up. Long story short: amazing is too weak a word. We devoured them! Here's the feast set in honor of the mothers: Cindi, Meaghan, and Lois.


(And please, notice David's tongue. This is surely an odd genetic quirk. He is just like his great grandma, Nana, who always stuck her tongue out when she was concentrating on any work at hand!). 

Bekah worked hard at the cleanup and then we headed out to the pool


Oliver and Meaghan, Opa and Lois, opted to stay inside, but the pool was really great. A bit more quiet pool time for Cindi and I after everyone left (you know it's bad when you wake yourself up snoring in the pool), and then we watched a bit more Downton. Sadly, it is coming to the end again. 

So it was a busy, crazy, wonderful weekend. And I still can't believe we got to enjoy the pool the first and second weekends of May. And the craziness ratchets up as we head toward the weekend of the wedding and the arrival of out of town guests. So very much to thank God for!

11 May 2018

02 May 2018

Today’s Chapel Homily: Ephesians 5:15–21


Chapel 5.2.18
Commemoration of St. Athanasius, the man who stood against the world to proclaim that Jesus is one with the Father, of the same substance, God of God and Light of Light, who suffered much for that confession and refused to compromise it, thanks be to God! And today we have the joy of welcoming the participants in the LCEF High School Entrepreneur Competition. Welcome and best wishes to each of you as you persuasively share your bright ideas and good solutions!
Our liturgy today is the Service of Prayer and Preaching. Hymnals are under the chairs in front of you. We turn to page 260. Please stand.

Reading:
Ephesians 5:15–21 (ESV): 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Homily

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

I hope you will pardon a redo of the text, but if I were trying to get its meaning into English, it would run rather along these lines:
Watch out how you're walking, not like blind lost fools who don't know where they're headed, but as people with smarts who know exactly the destination of this trip called life. So don't get side-tracked in all the diversions, because these days the diversions are massively enticing and they meet you at every turn. So don't be dummies. Grasp what the Lord's will is. And it's not getting plastered with wine (or anything like that), because that never furthers the journey, that's just a waste and you know it. Instead, let God intoxicate you with His Spirit as He keeps pouring Him into you and as a result you open your mouths and talk to each other and all kinds of music erupts: psalms and hymns and spirit songs, singing with your mouths but above all tuned in to the vibe of the Lord in your heart, so that thanksgiving resonates, literally rings out from you all the time and for every last thing to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and remembering in the fear of Jesus, —because He's the Lord, not you—to be humble and so dump your own agenda for others and adopt His.
Okay, so that's not a good translation. It's not even a paraphrase, but it's my best shot at getting us into the mind of Paul this morning.

Watch how you walk. Don't know about you, but I love walking, and do it most every single day. And I have a goal. Gotta get meet my vitality numbers. If I don't hit 10K, the wife and I will walk around the inside of our house in circles. Yeah, we're that silly. And Paul's pointing out how easy it is to do that in life itself. We forget where we're headed and end up going nowhere. Isaiah 35 is one of my favorite passages. It talks about where we're headed as coming home to Zion. And that's sweet. But there's more. I think Paul wants you to see the open arms of your Jesus, waiting for you. Waiting to hold you. Waiting to show you all that He died and rose again to give you. He's your goal. Those open arms. Stay focused on them, Paul is saying. And he knows how easily it is to forget that. To get distracted, diverted by all the sideshows, and so to waste what life is here for. Life is not here for you to down the third martini or smoke the fourth bowl of weed. You ever watch a person who's high or drunk try to walk, let alone dance with rhythm and grace? Me either. The Father's got something bigger and better for you than that or any other diversion of this life. He's given you Jesus. And to get you to your Jesus, the Father pours out the Spirit. Get drunk on Him, Paul says, swallow Him down again and again.

Can't help but wonder if Paul was thinking about the story that John tells in chapter 7, when the great day of the feast arrives and Jesus disrupts the liturgy right as they're pouring out the water. Are you thirsty? Then you need to come to me and let the one who believes in me drink, for as the Scripture say, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water. John adds: This He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.

Drink down some Spirit then. In the LXX of the 23 Psalm, the text doesn't say that my cup overflows, it says, and His cup of inebriation, how sweet it is! That's the Spirit!

And the Spirit he gets us going, moving, walking in step with Jesus and toward Jesus with music. He wants us sing it to each other. So don't be one of those lame Christians who plants their posterior in a pew and scowls in silence at the hymn book as music is coaxing you to move. Music is a we thing, not a me thing. All the verbs here are running in the second person plural. Y'all open those mouths and use them to sing God's Word into each other. Yes, you. You know who you are. The Spirit's vibes attune us to the beating heart of God Himself. You know, I said I like to walk. I've lately discovered Lindsey Stirling and her magic violin and now she's what I walk to most days and have you ever noticed how when you're walking with music, the music changes how you walk. You move your body in synch with the vibes that are washing over you. Paul says that's how it is with the Spirit and it shows up not just in what we say to each other and sing to each other, but he mentions two things that mark the person who is grooving with the Spirit:

Thanksgiving. Everything is gift. All the time. Never stops. The person whose heart beats with God and in whom the Spirit sings, that's a life that's got eyes open to see the gift that is Jesus to whom we're headed AND how all encompassing He is. In the twin letter to the one we read from today, in Colossians, Paul says everything hangs together in Him and that He is everything and in everything. The point of it all. The heartbeat of Jesus is the music of the cosmos; it rings through it all and was opened right there on the tree when He poured out His blood: I love you. I forgive you. You are precious to me. You are mine. Forever. I will never let anything separate you from me. It's the most amazing love song ever sung, and when you hear it and your heart begins to beat with its rhythm, you realize that His gifts shower down on you nonstop. And your life fills up and overflows with gratitude. If He did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not along with Him freely give us all things? Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

So thanksgiving, but also humility. The vibe of Jesus is humble. It puts the kibosh on using others, manipulating them, insisting on your own will and getting it by hook or by crook. That gets to die in the fear of Christ (which for some unknown reason the ESV softens to reverence; it's not reverence, it's phobos; fear like a phobia), in the fear of Christ we put ourselves in service to others and ask them: Tell me what I can do to help you here, what would be a blessing to you now? There's no fear here of being turned into a doormat. There's only the fear of not pleasing the One who went to the Cross for us, the One who is the Lord and who invites our lives into doxology also in the way we treat each other.

I think in this passage from Ephesians 5, Paul was hearing the melody and beat of Isaiah 35. We're marching to Zion. Marching home. Home to Jesus with His wide open arms. So no getting distracted by what's going on beside the way, all that's beside the point. And for heaven's sake, help each other along as we walk arm in arm by singing the songs that vibrate with the heart-beat of God in human flesh. A heart that began beating in the Virgin's womb, felt silent on Golgotha, but that now beats forevermore, filled with a love that animates this universe, inspires our song and calls us home to endless thanksgiving and humble service.

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

Hymn: 669 "Come We That Love the Lord"

For all who cry out for the healing of Christ upon their bodies especially Roger, Ruth, Allen, Jan, and those we name in our hearts…. Let us pray to the Lord: R.
For Pr. Roger and Amy James in Sri Lanka and for all missionaries that Christ would sustain them in the difficulties they encounter, fill their hearts with His joy, and make them lively witnesses to His resurrection, let us pray to the Lord: R.
For the work of LCEF in fostering a spirit of innovative service among the young people of the church, let us pray to the Lord: R.