25 November 2018

Patristic Quote of the Day

When the Gospel spoke, think it was the cloud: from thence has the voice sounded out to us. Let us hear Him; that is, let us do what He says, let us hope for what He has promised.—Augustine, Serm. 29 on NT #FathersOfTheChurch

Luther Quote of the Day

Both Christians' sufferings and the world's wretchedness, tyranny, wrath, and persecution of the saints become a certain testimony of another life to come and of the last judgment of God, through which all men, good and evil, shall receive their due reward.Ser, 1544 #Lutherquotes

24 November 2018

Luther Quote of the Day

O death...O grave... This song we sing now in reference to the Person of Christ and of those who are risen with Christ from the dead, for they have passed through and won the victory over death. —Sermon, 1545 #LutherQuotes

Patristic Quote of the Day

Moses and the Prophets spoke, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.—Sermon 28 on the NT Augustine #FathersOfTheChurch

23 November 2018

Luther Quote of the Day

God suffers us to be buried in the earth and to decay in the winter, so that we may shoot forth in the summer brighter than the sun, as though the grave were not a grave but a lovely garden. Sermons, 1533 #LutherQuotes

Patristic Quote of the Day

The discourse in defense of the truth is inferior in nature and force, for the refutation of falsehood is less important than the establishment of truth. Athenagoras, On the Resurrection, #FathersOfTheChurch

22 November 2018

Blessed Thanksgiving, all!

Semper et ubique

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutáre, nos tibi semper et ubíque grátias ágere: Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus, per Christum Dóminum nostrum...

Patristic Quote of the Day

Always to give thanks, this is a mark of a philosophic soul. Have you suffered any evil? But if you will, it is no evil. Give thanks to God, and the evil is changed into good. Say thou also as Job said, Blessed be the name of the Lord forever. —Chrys 1 Thes. 5 #FathersOfTheChurch

Luther Quote of the Day

Give us this day our daily bread. In the word 'give' we confess that it is the gift of God, and not our own creation.—Exposition, Psalm cxlvii #LutherQuotes

21 November 2018

What’s for Thanksgiving This Year?

Well, since Cin and I have been eating carnivore, this year's feast will look a little different. David is in charge of preparing anything NOT in the category of meat, cheese, or drink.


Sausage-stuffed mushrooms, topped with five year aged cheddar
Prosciutto muenster roll ups
Wild-caught Red Sockeye Salmon, Smoked
Brie, Dubliner, a few more very sharp cheeses (served with pork rinds and crackers)

Main Course:

Smoked Turkey 
Sautéed Shrimp
Scallops (bacon wrapped, I think)
Mashed Potatoes
Cabernet or Sauvignon  Blanc 


Freshly ground, pour over Peruvian Coffee
Whatever pie or cheesecake or other dessert David decides to make

20 November 2018

Apostrophizing Mary and Other Saints

I still remember at seminary a professor (may he rest in peace!) criticizing “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” for addressing the Virgin Mary in its second stanza. And the implication was clearly that this hymn of Anglican origin (with that stanza based on an Eastern prayer), was really sub par for a Lutheran hymnal. Said stanza suffered omission in Lutheran Worship but was restored in Lutheran Service Book. And rightly so. Piepkorn pointed out many years before in a chapel homily that a hymn in Synod's first hymnal did exactly the same thing. It was #17, and in the marvelous little English version of the same (see Walther’s Hymnal) , you can read it right there in the first stanza:

O hail this brightest day of days,
All ye good Christian people!
For Christ hath come upon our ways,
So ring it from the steeple.
Of maiden pure is He the Son;
Thou, Mary, art the chosen one,
Him in thy womb to carry.
Ever was there news so great?
God's own Son from heav'n's high state
Is born the Son of Mary. 

This practice of speaking to saints and angels in the hymns and liturgy is actually characteristic of a worship where the heavenly host and the earthly chorus constitutes a single liturgical choir. Thus, in the Psalter, “Praise Him, all His hosts!” Thus, in the Benedicite Omnia Opera: “You spirits and souls of the righteous, bless the Lord!” (LSB 931:11).  Or the lovely Advent hymn on the Angelic Salutation: “The Angel Gabriel,” “Most highly favored lady, gloria!”

Note that in the hymn cited from Walther's hymnal ALL ye good Christian people are summoned to hail the arrival of God in the flesh - whether they are breathing still or not is irrelevant! If they are the Lord's people, they are living and praising Him still! See Psalm 115. The praise does not die on the lips of God’s people, and so in the liturgy the calling out to all creation to join together in the praise of Him whose love brought Him to Virgin womb, manger, cross, and crown!

19 November 2018

In the category of fascinating...

...in the medieval West, December 24th was kept as the commemoration of Sts. Adam and Eve. Loehe still observed it this day in his almanac. And often on this day in the years before the Reformation, there was a pageant that enacted the story of the fall. An evergreen would be decorated with apples to symbolize the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Later, white wafers were even hung upon the tree to symbolize the fruit of another Tree, the Tree of the Cross, on which Jesus would give Himself as the Bread of Life (origin of the Slovak oplatki?). What have we here?

Meet the ancestor of today’s Christmas tree.

St. Paul’s in years past, used to have two Christmas trees in front. One decorated in red, and one in white, both to symbolize the same reality, how the old Adam and Eve brought in death and how the new Adam and Eve (St. Paul, of course, confesses Christ as the new Adam; Irenaeus already saw Mary as a new Eve) restored and surpassed all that our first ancestors lost.

LSB moved the commemoration of Adam and Eve to the 19th of December (maybe under the influence of the Orthodox who observe the Ancestors of Christ on the Sunday before Christmas?), but the connection with Christmas is still close and remains.

18 November 2018

Luther Quote of the Day

For if you are a Christian you know that your Lord Christ has risen from the dead and cannot die again and death has no power over Him: and that is why it has no power over you.—Sermon on Trinity 6, 1544 #LutherQuotes

Patristic Quote of the Day

And for this cause by reason of one who fell and brought all into death, there was sent One without sin, Who should bring unto life, by delivering them from sin, all that believe in Him.—Augustine, To the Catechumens on the Creed, par. 2 #FathersOfTheChurch

17 November 2018

Patristic Quote of the Day

We were brought low, became mortal, were filled with fears, with errors: this by desert of sin: with which desert and guilt is every man born.—Augustine, To the Catechumens on the Creed, 2 #FathersOfTheChurch

Luther Quote of the Day

For it is the way of the devil, where he cannot overcome a heart with suffering and sorrow, to beset it continuously, and so that it is too much and too long for the patience and it appears as though it would never end, so that at last it makes the person weak and weary and robs him of courage, and the hope of overcoming the enemy.—Sermon on Trinity 24, 1544 #LutherQuotes

16 November 2018

The gods of the nations are...

1 Cor. 10:20 "what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons." 

Whence this idea, St. Paul? Consider:

LXX 95 (our 96):5 "ὅτι πάντες οἱ θεοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν δαιμόνια ὁ δὲ κύριος τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἐποίησεν" 

Tipped off to this from the Vulgate, which reproduces it faithfully: Quoniam omnes dii Genitum daemonia: Dominus autem coelos fecit." 

All the gods of the gentiles are demons (Gk, Lat.) but the Lord made the heavens. 

Luther Quote of the Day

Therefore death is a wholesome thing to all who believe in Christ, for all that is born of Adam death brings to decay and dust, that Christ alone may abide in us.—Seven Penitential Psalms, 1517 #LutherQuotes

Patristic Quote of the Day

This is the reason why the mind cannot be comprehended even by itself, because in it is the image of God.—To the Catechumens on the Creed, par. 2 #FathersOfTheChurch

A pic from Erin and Mike’s wedding...

...dancing. Whatever has gotten into us? Cindi’s no doubt laughing and saying: “Honey, you just stepped on my foot...again.”

Oldest English Version of the Prayer of the Church

Luther D. Reed points to this gem, hidden away in the Common Service (pp. 159, 160). Composed originally by Melanchthon and Bucer for the Reformation in Cologne, which order might have been rendered in English by none other than Cramner himself. It has clearly influenced the 1549 BCP:

Merciful God, Heavenly Father, Who hast commanded us to meet together in Thy name and in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, to ask of Thee what is requisite and profitable for us and for all men, and hast graciously promised to hear our prayers and grant our requests: We beseech Thee to pardon our sins and unrighteousness, and to quicken our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit that we may ask of Thee whatsoever things are needful to Thy Church and to all men.

For Thy Church and people, we pray: Save and defend them from the power of those whom Thou hast not sent, and send them  Pastors and teachers, who shall faithfully seek Thy scattered sheep, bring them to the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and diligently build them up in all Thy will and pleasure, that all ungodliness and wicked works, and all heresies, schisms, and false religion, may be done away; and that, in the unity of the true faith and the confession of Thy dear Son, we may be one in Him, and dwell together in love, to the honor of Thy name and the good of our fellowmen.

For all in authority, especially, for all who bear rule over us, we pray: Grant that they may be Thine indeed, put down all evil, and uphold and further all good, that we, being delivered from the fear of our enemies, may serve Thee in all holiness and righteousness.

And as it is Thy will to be a Saviour to the whole world, we also pray for all sorts and conditions of men: Draw to Thy dear Son those who are yet far from Him, and grant that those whom Thou hast drawn to Him may daily grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord. 

For all who are in any trouble or sorrow, we pray: Comfort them in their distresses and send them speedy deliverance out of all their afflictions; and help us to lay to heart Thy Fatherly chastenings, that we may judge ourselves and amend our ways, that we come not under Thy judgments.

Grant, also, that we, who are here assembled for Thy worship, may hold fast Thy Word, die unto our self, and be wholly given to Thy dear Son, our Saviour, Who by His bitter sufferings and condemnation, and by His glorious Resurrection and Ascension hath brought us to oneness with Himself and with His Church; Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.

15 November 2018

Patristic Quote of the Day

How many things that He cannot do, and yet is Almighty! Yea therefore is Almighty, because He cannot do these things.—Augustine, To the Catechumens on the Creed, par. 2 #FathersOfTheChurch

Luther Quote of the Day

"I am the Way." Only see that you come to Me, that is, hold on to Me with firm faith and complete confidence of heart. I will be the bridge and carry you across, so that in a moment you will pass out death and the fear of hell into everlasting life. For I am the One who Myself built the way or path, and I Myself have trodden it and passed across, so that I bright you and all who cling to Me across.—Exposition John xiv, xv #LutherQuotes


14 November 2018

Patristic Quote of the Day

For have ye now merely heard that God is Almighty? But ye begin to have him for your father, when you have been born by the church as your Mother.—On the Creed 1, St. Augustine #FathersOfTheChurch

Luther Quote of the Day

The sun, moon, stars, clouds, air, earth, and water are no longer so pure and beautiful and lovely as they were. But on that day all things will be made new and will once more become beautiful, as Paul says in Romans viii.—Sermons from 1537 #LutherQuotes

Time Change

Well, it's been well over a week and this old bod still doesn't like the time change. Woke up this a.m. just after 4. Snuggled in the warmth of the bed for an hour, but finally gave in and got up about 5. Checked the temp: gulp! And it’s only St. Justinian’s Day!!!

Still, the early rising allowed time for some pushups (done for the day!), shower, reading of the Psalms for the morning, sending tweets and email, and all before it was time to sit down with our coffee and Treasury!

And now it allows for another round of coffee before heading into work, which is pretty sweet.

I wonder, though, what time I'll be ready to hit the hay!

13 November 2018

Luther Quote of the Day

Thus our eyes are kept shut towards the earthly and visible things, and we hope rather for the things eternal and invisible. And all this is wrought by grace through the cross. This establishes the divine life in us, which is intolerable to the world. Xmas Eve 1522 #LutherQuotes

Patristic Quote of the Day

These words [Creed] which you have heard are in the Divine Scriptures scattered up and down: but thence gathered and reduced into one, ...that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes. Aug. Serm on Creed #FathersOfTheChurch

12 November 2018

Snowy Day

I wonder if it will be a harbinger of an early winter? Today, November 12th, we had real snow. It didn't amount to much on the ground, but it was slushy on the roadways as I headed home, and coming down fast and furious. Perfect day to finish up work with a fire in the fireplace, blazing warmly, listening to the grandkids play and writing some.

11 November 2018

Another Gem

One of the great contributions of Lutherans to the liturgy of the Mass is the notion of the "Hauptleid" or as we'd say "Hymn of the Day." This hymn sits in close proximity to the Gospel reading and the sermon generally and serves to give voice to the people's proclamation of the Word of God for that given Sunday, feast, or festival (many times with an assist on a stanza or two by the choir). It is striking how often the hymn comes from the pen of none other than Dr. Luther himself! Today's liturgy (Trinity 24) provided yet another instance of this. Ponder how many times we sing in words given us by Dr. Luther in the course of the year:

Advent I: "Savior of the Nations" (Luther's adaptation of St. Ambrose's classic text)
Christmas Eve: "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come"
Christmas Day: "We Praise, O Christ, Your Holy Name"
Baptism of Our Lord: "To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord"
Sexagesima: "May God Bestow on Us His Grace"
Ash Wednesday: "From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee"
Invocabit: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
Maundy Thursday: "O Lord, We Praise Thee"
Easter Day: "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands"
Cantate: "Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice"
Rogate: "Our Father, Who From Heav'n Above"
Pentecost: "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord"
Trinity 1: "To God the Holy Spirit, Let Us Pray"
Trinity 21: "From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee"
Trinity 24: "In the Very Midst of Life"
The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: "From East to West" (Luther's adaptation of classic hymn from Lauds)
Reformation: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
Mission Observance: "May God Bestow on Us His Grace"
Day of Supplication and Prayer: "Our Father, Who from Heav'n Above"

His hymns are never ditties. They never come just tripping off the tongue. There is a weight to them, and learning them is a lot of work and singing them is almost always also a lot of work. But oh, what blessed work! Today, as we had the raising of the ruler's daughter and the healing of the woman with the 12 year issue of blood, so we sang the very solemn "In the Very Midst of Life." 

Ponder the depth of these words, people loved by God:

In the very midst of life 
    Snares of death surround us;
Who shall help us in the strife
    Lest the foe confound us?
        Thou only, Lord, Thou only!
We mourn that we have greatly erred,
That our sins Thy wrath have stirred.
    Holy and righteous God!
    Holy and mighty God!
    Holy and all-merciful Savior!
    Eternal Lord God!
Save us lest we perish
In the bitter pangs of death.
    Have mercy, O Lord!

In the midst of death's dark vale
    Pow'rs of hell o'ertake us.
Who will help when they assail,
    Who secure will make us?
        Thou only, Lord, Thou only!
Thy heart is moved with tenderness,
Pities us in our distress.
    Holy and righteous God!
    Holy and mighty God!
    Holy and all-merciful Savior!
    Eternal Lord God!
Save us from the terror
Of the fiery pit of hell.
    Have mercy, O Lord!

In the midst of utter woe
    When our sins oppress us,
Where shall we for refuge go,
     Where for grace to bless us?
        To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!
Thy precious blood was shed to win
Full atonement for our sin.
    Holy and righteous God!
    Holy and mighty God!
    Holy and all-merciful Savior!
    Eternal Lord God!
Lord, preserve and keep us
In the peace that faith can give.
        Have mercy, O Lord! - LSB 755 

As we sang these awesome words today, Kantor helped us proclaim them with such meaning. Dropping to octaves whenever we came to: Thou only, Lord, Thou only / To Thee, Lord Jesus, only. There really is but one refuge, one place to go when death, when hell, when sins, when sorrows press in and the darkness grows. We flee to Him whose precious blood was shed to win full atonement for our sin. And what greater things can we ask than that He save us lest we perish in the bitter pangs of death, lest we despair before the fiery pit of hell? What greater gift than that He preserve and keep us in the peace that faith can give? 

Have mercy, O Lord! 
Have mercy, O Lord! 
Have mercy, O Lord!

Luther's hymns for the Sundays, feasts, and festivals have a way of reaching very deep down, and you can almost sense in them how the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing deep, deep into the depths of our being. They are a gift to the Church Universal and they are our own birthright and heritage as Lutheran Christians.

10 November 2018

So I went to snap a pic

Of the dusting of snow on the deck to contrast with my nice warm fire, and after I took it, I looked up and that bird was looking right at me. Hawk? Falcon? What? And the other day as Cin and I went for our walk, we're pretty sure we saw a bald eagle. We know they are by the river in the fall in the cliffs, but this big guy took off from the trees at the end of the block. 

09 November 2018

Interesting factoid...

...today Cindi and Deb went with Opa to visit the grave of Opa's father's mother, their great grandmother. Elizabeth DeVries was born in 1890. I thought about it and it drove home a truth I have long known, but never cease to marvel at. Even though Cindi is six months older than I am, I am a generation or more before her. MY great grandmother on my father's father's side was born in 1840 and on my father's mother's side was born in 1855. My own grandparents were all born years before the birth of Cindi's GREAT grandmother.

05 November 2018

Toward a Lutheran Theology of Prayer

A paper delivered at the Good Shepherd Institute, 2018'

Please pardon any typos and such. I've not really proofed it, but thought I'd offer it up for any who care to read it.

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

People loved by God, what an honor it is to gather with you and ponder a bit together about this great mystery of prayer. But whenever we presume to speak ABOUT prayer we place ourselves in a precarious position. John Kleinig (in Grace upon Grace, p. 215) observed: "By itself, theorizing about prayer is as useless as theorizing about love.  So teaching about prayer is only useful if it comes from praying and improves our prayers." To that end, Dominus vobiscum. (See, at least we know how to answer when someone says it in Latin, which is more than we can say in English!). Oremus: 

Kind and all-merciful Father, Your Scriptures reveal that Your Son never ceases interceding for us at Your right hand even as Your Spirit pleads within us with groans too deep for words. Open our hearts and minds anew to the wonder of Your invitation to walk before You always and to lift up our hearts to You, bringing to You every heartache, every joy, every fear, in the joyous freedom of dear children turning to a Father they know loves them; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I have long been intrigued about Galatians 2:20 and what it might actually mean. "I have been crucified with Christ and nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by..." By what? ESV offers: "by faith in the Son of God." Thus, deep sixing the definite article and interpreting away the genitive by inserting an "in." The KJV leaves both definite article and genitive intact: "And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." Luther does the same: "Denn was ich jetzt lebe im Fleisch, das lebe ich in dem Glauben DES Sohns Gottes." 

What does it matter? Well, what if what St. Paul is teaching here about Him who loved us and who gave Himself for us and who is Himself God's Son, is that the life we get to live by being joined to Him through baptism is a life of sharing in HIS faith in the Father, HIS trust that He is the beloved Son and that His Father will never abandon Him to the grave, and that His Father is good and kind and loving and sent Him into this world precisely so that He could be the firstborn of many brethren? What if Jesus' faith is given you in Baptism to be your very own faith, so that everything that is His by nature as the Eternal Son of the Father He come into the flesh to fork over to you by grace as the heavenly Father's adopted children? 

I know some Lutherans are allergic to Athanasius' bold "God became man that man might become God." And yet how simply stated, and if you throw in "child of" it all comes clear and you'll find yourself on your knees with Athanasius and all the fathers in awe and adoration. God became child of man that you might become the children of God. He came to give you everything that is His.

And in that everything, you find the prayer that arises from His faith. His weird kind of prayer. Indeed, His prayer. Prayer, then, not as some technique to be mastered, nor some dreary and random religious duty that God thinks you need to fulfill for your own good, nor three successful steps to butter up the King of heaven so that He reliably dispenses to you whatever you have decided you need from Him. Prayer instead as the simple asking of dear (that means loved) children, turning to a Father whom they love too. Along with Jesus. His prayer remains primary and it becomes yours as the faith of the Son of God becomes how you now live in the flesh.

We just past Reformation with that Gospel reading from John 8. Slaves have no permanent place in the house. Slaves always have to worry about getting the boot if they screw up too badly. Not so with the place of the Son. The Son's place in the house is assured. And when He sets you free, He does by giving you His place, His Son's place in the house. He effected the great switcheroo where He took your place under the Law's condemnation precisely in order to bestow on you His place in the Father's house. YOUR Father's house. And you'll never have the fear of being tossed out for not measuring up (slavish fear!); you have the astounding joy, the awe-inspiring shocker that you are loved as the very Son Himself is loved. And out of that, prayer. Talking to God like dear children talking to a dear Father. That's Christian prayer because that's Christ's prayer.

Now, if it's Jesus' prayer that we need to enter, then we have to realize that He takes the whole of the Scriptures as His word. The word about Him, who is the Word, and also the Word that He the eternal Word speaks. The Scriptures were His home. He simply lived in them and they lived in Him. When Bonhoeffer famously asserted that we must learn to pray out of the riches of God's Word and not the poverty of our own hearts, He was leading us to see that the Psalter (and with it all the Scripture of which it is but a summary) IS Jesus' own prayer. And I'm not going to trespass further on Dr. Pfatteicher's or Dr. Winger's territory, tempting as it is. But to pray with Jesus is so live in and from the Scriptures that you pray them with Him as those who in Him have been made beloved children of the heavenly Father by His Spirit. 

I would suggest then that our Catechism was not mistaken when it sought to invite us into the marvel and awe of such praying, not in the classroom, and even, in a way, not first in the Church, but first in the home. That's after all where dear children learn to ask their dear fathers. And then when we come together as Church, when we see it aright, we come together as family. As sisters and brothers in the Son and through Him we have our access to the Father and the Spirit pleads in us with His ceaseless "Abba! Abba! Abba!." When Jesus gives you His faith, then the very "family" of the Trinity becomes your home, as His Scripture teaches: "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world: even from everlasting Thou art God." Psalm 90

And THIS I would propose to you is what made the disciples ask. Bonhoeffer noted that they saw Jesus do a whole bunch of stuff. They saw Him raise the dead and make water into wine and calm the storm with His word and give sight to the blind, and you name it. Stuff that left their jaws on the ground. But there is recorded but ONE thing that they asked Him: "THAT! Teach us to do that! Teach us how YOU do that!" And that one thing, of course, is prayer. "Lord, teach us to pray." John had given his disciples a prayer and they just noted that with Jesus, well, His prayer was odd and different. Maybe if he taught them how to pray like Him, they might come to share His faith and this wild and amazing life that He lived, so full of joy in the Father and always living confidently at the receiving end of His giving and so utterly void of the fear of men. They wanted a piece of that action somehow. And the Lord Jesus complies, as you know.

He actually gives them a prayer: "When you pray, SAY." And say what? Have you ever compared the prayers of Jesus to the prayers of the Old Testament, which are His but was also David's and Moses' and the others'? There is something largely (but not entirely) missing in the Old Testament. What is it? What is so remarkable by its rareness in the Old Covenant and so abundant in the New that we tend not to let it shock us anymore? How the prayer is addressed. 

Oh, if you are careful you can hear it in Moses' song that we read only a few days ago in Treasury: "Is he not your father who created you? Who made you and established you?" Deu. 32:6. Isaiah got there in 64:8: "You, O Lord, are our Father, we are the clay." Malachi gets you there in 2:10: "Have we not all one Father?" But these glimmers are rare and I do not believe that the Psalter ever gets you there. It's got down that you are praying to the Almighty, El Elyon, El Shaddai, Yahweh, Adonai, Elohim and even Malchi but mostly it's court language or cultic language. It's NOT family language. Except for those odd places where you get to listen in to the heavenly dialog: "Thou art my Son; today have I begotten thee!" Now when the Son is sent from the Father (who remains King and God) and is sent on the mission of bringing the lost children of men into the family of God, then prayer is transformed. Not that the object of prayer changes; the same One, and in the mind of the Church primarily God the Father.  But when He reveals Himself, gives Himself to you as your Father?  The King of the Universe? The Creator of all? The One of infinite wisdom and understanding and measureless strength and power? And His Son says: "He's your daddy and He loves you" and the Spirit inside cries: "He's your daddy and He loves you"? And not just in the sense of "He's your origin, your source" but in the sense of He's adopted you, declared you His child. Pet peeve on Justification. Chrysostom was right that if you stick with what you're saved from, you're missing the marvel. It's not just that he says to those in prison, headed toward sure and certain damnation, "I declare you  not guilty." He not only throws open the prison doors, he leads us out and says: I declare you now mine, my adopted children, full legal heirs with my Son, my home is now your home! My everything is now as much YOURS as it is HIS. If you stop with "not guilty" you've missed the true and astounding wonder!!!

Now how to help form this conviction, this faith of Jesus, into the hearts and minds of little ones so that they may know that they have a Father and that there is nothing that will ever come their way that is too big or too difficult for Him; and that His love for them doesn't waiver with their behavior but is deeper and stronger than the depths of time ? How to learn to pray out from the peace of the Son's faith in His Father, particularly so we can face the moments when they may be praying with the Son our own "Eli, Eli" with the stress on the I!?

The Catechism, I believe, gives us solid answer to this and if we DO what it teaches, prayer ceases to be a religious exercise or a theoretical problem and becomes the warp and woof of our daily living with the Word of God as we learn to pray His Spirit's Word through our union with the Son of God. 

The rest of our time together I would like to focus on some theological reflection on the whys and wherefores of that horribly neglected part of the Catechism called Daily Prayers and subtitled "How the head of the family should teach his household to pray morning and evening" and "How the head of the family should teach his household to ask a blessing and return thanks." This in the spirit of Kleinig's the only theory of prayer that's of use is one that helps us to pray. I firmly believe that the Catechism does exactly that!

This section has been so horribly neglected, because we've tended to treat the poor Catechism in a naughty manner, stealing it away from its native home and trying to make it fit something it manifestly was never intended nor written to fit: a class room! Piety is meant for the home and the CATECHISM was written for the home. And NOT written for the children, of course, but for the parents! It was written so that dad or mom would know how to teach their children by practice, that is, by doing what it actually says. Which is a far cry better than memorizing words to recite in an oral exam or even worse to write down on some sheet of paper with the teacher's marker ready to pounce. Can we pretty, pretty please move the Catechism back to where it can breath again, and where it can BE a breath of fresh air again? If "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result from what you've always gotten" it is way past time in the Lutheran Church to get this little gem of a book away from being locked up in "Confirmation instruction" and into our homes! Rant over. Maybe.

And the daily prayers work at home in a way they'll never work in the classroom because home's where you sleep and home's where you eat. And the locale of either actually form your home altars. There is first the bed and then there is the table. And both bed and table have their own liturgies. Those liturgies involve, as all liturgy does, a combination of actions and words. 

So let's look at the liturgy of the bed first. To get this liturgy you need to pull in the whole Biblical joining together of the images of sleep and death. What did the choir sing last night? Wie Gott mir verheißen hat: Der Tod ist mein Schlaf geworden! Look at your bed and learn to think of your coffin so that you can look at your coffin and learn to think of it as your bed! What either has in common is this period of rest from which there is a a rising, a rousing, a resurrection. So, "in the morning, when you get up..."

The Catechism teaches us to see the entire pilgrimage of life in each day. Awake, O Sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will give you light! That is, out of your native darkness through the inheritance of original sin, Light in Jesus dawned on you at your Baptism in which you were raised with Him through faith in the mighty working of God who raised Him from the dead. And now you get to live a new life in companionship with Him on the journey home to the Father. And in this life He will strengthen you with food and prepare you all the way through till the work begun in your baptism is finally completed as you lay down for the last time in this age only to be raised from death and freed from corruption on the day of the general resurrection, the appearing of Christ.

So just getting up is already an amazing gift of grace! God kept you safe through the night, protected you from all harm, and has brought you to see the light of yet another day here in this world as His child. Just like you didn't choose to be born, but it came to your life to you as a gift from Him, just as you didn't choose to be born again, but it came as a gift, so the sustaining of your life is always gift. And that you can "get up" is already huge. And even huge-er (ha!) when it's picture of a bigger getting up that happened when you were baptized and raised with Christ and all of it but practice for that biggest getting up when you rise on the last day.

Each morning comes as your own little anticipation of the resurrection, when the Sun of Righteousness will shine with healing in His wings and we'll indeed "get up and take up our bed and go home" as those whom the Son of Man has forgiven. And so "when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross, and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

The conjunction of Baptism and the sign of the holy cross deserves some consideration too. I do not think it is JUST that in the rite of Baptism you've been signed with the cross on forehead and heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. That is, that you're HIS. It certainly is that. But it reminds you each day too that apart from the Cross of Jesus, you'd have no safe access into the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The only eternal life in all the world is Him, His life, but His very holiness is death to sinners when experienced "raw" if I may so put it. Apart from the work of Christ, the wrath of God abideth upon the sons of disobedience. You only have the Father AS your Father only because of the suffering and death of His Son on the cross for you. So those baptismal words are intimately connected with the passion of the Son of God and you show it when you rise up in the morning and say the words outloud that He used to claim you as His own and you sign your very body with the cross as a reminder of HOW He made you His own and made it possible for you to share in His own life.

So you've got a brand new day in front of you in Him and with Him and you start it with the reminder to yourself, to angels and to demons that You now are His. And then choices to make! "Then kneeling or standing..." So when you get up, you stand up, sign yourself with the cross and use your mouth to utter the first words of the day: "In the name of the Father..." and you can then either choose to fall down on your knees or to stand. What runs with either? Psalm 95, you know well. Venite. "Oh, come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." Before the Lord. You are in His presence. That is how you will live your life. You may fall down before Him. Or, conversely, Nehemiah 9:5 "Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be Your glorious name which is above all blessing and praise." Again, the mark of being in His presence. Either standing or kneeling. 

"Repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer."

Now, you really have to be a liturgical geek to see this, but what you have with that particular ordering, when paired with the invocation, is literally a walking your way backwards in the liturgy of Baptism. When you come to Baptism, it is first Lord's Prayer then Creed then baptism in the triune name. At the start (and at the end) of each day it is inverted order: out from the name to the Creed to the Our Father. "The Lord bless your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore" said the Pastor as he led you to the font. Your whole life becomes a journeying out from or back into your Baptism. And the Creed, of courses, confesses who this Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are.

To pray the Creed already sounds ODD to most folks, I think. Hence you'll notice some odd things going on in the Divine Service where a pastor will think he ought to turn and face the people or even the goofiness from the 60's where the people were encouraged to turn and say the Creed to each other. The Catechism is blessedly devoid of such nonsense. It's a prayer. But it's a prayer because it's the word of God. In the Creed we simply say back in very tight summary only what He's already said to us. Come to think of it, isn't that exactly what we did when we began with the words He said to us in our Baptism? His words on our lips back to Him.

So I've been enormously blessed with grandkids. Eight and still counting! But watching how the little ones begin to talk and master it. How it starts. Mom or dad or nana or pa saying over and over again the same thing, and the eyes attentive to the mouth and learning to form the sound. And how excited we get when it kinda sorta maybe sounds SOMETHING like what we were saying. Triumph! "As dear children...their dear Father."

So we begin to pray first of all, but just saying back, repeating what He has said. Name, Creed, Prayer. Name and Creed are all about HIM. Who He is. The Large Catechism put it like this: "For in these three articles God Himself has revealed and disclosed the deepest profundity of His fatherly heart. He created us for the very purpose that He might redeem us and make us holy. And besides giving and entrusting to us everything in heaven and on earth, he has given us His Son and His Holy Spirit in order to bring us to Himself through them. For as explained earlier, we were totally unable to come to a recognition of the Father's favor and grace except through the Lord Christ, who is the mirroring image of the Father's heart. Without Christ we see nothing in God but an angry and terrible Judge. But we could know nothing of Christ either, if it were not revealed to us by the Holy Spirit." Thus every day at the altar of the bedside: the confession that I walk this day or sleep this night before THIS God, the God who loved me so much as to create me and whose depths of love shown forth in the gift of His Son to redeem me and His Spirit to sanctify me. THIS we confess, this we pray, whenever we recite the Creed.

And from confessing the Creed, which is always an act of praise ("Thank the Lord and sing His praise, tell everyone what He has done"), we turn to the Our Father. We remember that we're in that "our" only because Christ has extended His Sonship to us by the Spirit. We remember that it's WE who are in that our. This we is not me and Jesus, but Jesus and all the Church. The Creed just reminded us of the holy Christian or catholic church in which there is forgiveness of sins and through which we come to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. It's a we thing, not a me thing. 

So when you are kneeling bedside or standing bedside and repeating your morning prayers, you realize that before you ever get to "I" you've been a bunch of we's. So Luther's great counsel to Peter the Barber (poor man), "Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain." Treasury, Jan. 4th.

So Our...give us...forgive us...lead us...deliver us... Christian prayer is personal, but never individual. It is always offered in union with Christ and the Spirit who prompts it joins it to that of the entire body. 

Luther added morning and evening the option of a little prayer that he composed that owes its origins to a bit of the monastic prayers he'd learned from his breviary. TLH, LW, LSB they all hijacked it for morning services, and that's okay, I guess. Though it sounds odd to pray when not actually prayed right where he intended: at the altar of the bed. "I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son..." for protection through the night (or through the day); for forgiveness at night; and how it commends "my body and soul and all things" into the Father's loving hand, begging the companionship and protection of the holy angels: "Let your angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me."

Morning then, off to work with a song like one of the Ten Commandments. Great hymn to remind us of our various duties toward God and neighbor and so open our eyes to the plethora of good works God's hidden throughout our lives for us to discover each day and enjoy in praise of Him and to the blessing of others. Or at evening, just going to sleep at peace. It might be our last night! And that's all good. Sins confessed, ready for the resurrection whenever it shall be.

Now, note that all of this which I've expounded in detail really only takes a matter of what? Two minutes maybe? Can doing something as small as that morning and evening really lead us into the mystery of prayer and strengthen us? I'd argue a thousand times YES. I'm going to go out on a limb here. I do not think that when the Lord urged that we should pray always and not give up; or St. Paul exhorted us to "pray without ceasing" he meant that they meant that we should always be running our mouth. I do NOT think that the fellow who wrote *The Way of the Pilgrim* actually nailed it that we need to have the Jesus prayer, marvelous as that is, running constantly in our hearts in order to pray without ceasing. Nor do I think that our Lord and St. Paul were actually, in a paradoy of Lutheran idiom, giving a commandment that they knew we could never fulfill precisely so that we could confess what poor, miserable sinners we are and flee for mercy and forgiveness to God. Ugh. No. I suspect it's as simple as what Brother Lawrence hit on when he thought about these matters as he faithfully washed yet another pile of dishes in the monastery scullery. It's what God said to Abraham, the man who is called the father of faith: "Walk before Me and be blameless!" WALK BEFORE ME. Lawrence called it "practicing the presence of God." I think that's exactly what the Catechism morning and evening prayers are seeking to inculcate: remember who has raised you from the death of sin and how He has set you on a venture and journey with Him this day. You live this day with Him. He is nearer to you than your breath. Never forget in whom you live and move and have your being. Ask big things of Him, cause He loves you, and go enjoy the whole day in His presence and with the companionship and protection of His angels. I hope that makes a modicum of sense. When you start the day off saying these words and doing these actions, you remember in whose sight you will be walking all day. And when you do those actions and say those words at night and look upon your bed, you will remember into whose care you can entrust your body and soul and all things. 

And then there is daily bread, the altar of the Table. First thing, though, is to note the cruel move that Luther made in the explanation of the fourth petition. He could just have said: "daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body." He could have put a period and been done. But oh, no. He goes on to give that bodaciously long list that is so confusing because of its similarity to the explanation of the first article. And did he do it to torture little Lutheran children and make their puzzlers sore? No! He did it to open our eyes to the bounty of gift that rains down on us from the Father unceasingly so that we might not unthinkingly walk by the gift, but learn to sense His Fatherly love behind each and every one of them. And a huge part of this are the gifts that come to us at the table.

If the bedside is intimately tied to the prayers to Baptism, the table at home also serves as a bit of a mirror of the table around which we gather in the Church. Sadly, if the morning and evening prayers have been somewhat neglected among us, I fear the Table prayers have all but vanished in the space given to the pithy (and apparently Moravian) "Come, Lord Jesus!" But let's take a step into the Catechism and ponder the blessing of the table and giving of thanks to see what treasures are opened to us here.   

Again, how the head of the family is to teach the household to ask a blessing and return thanks. Note the odd rubric at the start: The children and members of the household shall go to the table reverently, fold their hands, and say...

I used to think the folded hands were a clever way to keep the children from grabbing at the food before the blessing or to keep them from getting into mischief with each other. That misses the boat by a mile. You see the key is reverently. Why with reverence? We can get at this by answering the question: What IS your refrigerator? Do you know? It is actually a morgue. It's a place where you store recently dead things before corruption sits in (though of course there IS that nasty tupperware you forgot about with the bit of burger from last month or was it the month before? Better to throw it away than open it!). It holds dead things because this is rock bottom reality: you only go on living in this world because something else died and gave up its life and you put it into you to suck the last little bit of life out of it before it goes all bad. True for carrots, true for cattle. Something has to die that you may go on living. So yes, you come to the table with folded hands and reverence before the sacrifice.

And that something dies to give you life is not mere tragic necessity. It is in fact God Himself who sets our tables. We confess this with the words of the Psalm:

The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Psalm 145:15-16

And stop for a moment and glance toward the table in the Church, where Someone died that He might give Himself as food for you to life on, not for just a year or decade or so in this age, but to give you a food that endures. How did He put it? "Do not labor for the food that perishes (that is, rots), but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."

Every time you come to your earthly table and you gather with reverence, you remember we live because something died and even more you will live forever because someone died for you. Reverence before the mystery! A gift of unfathomable proportions.

And in Him, then, you lift your voice in prayer and the Our Father is prayed at the table in the home just as we pray it at the table in the Church, towards a worthy reception of the gifts. Here, we might call them first article gifts to sustain first article life. And then: Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

He is the Giver of bountiful goodness and we the grateful recipients and we acknowledge it all comes to us from a Father and that we have such a Father only in Jesus. 

Then comes what might be termed distribution and at the end, like in church, there is giving of thanks. The same rubric: "Also after eating, they shall, in like manner, reverently and with folded hands say: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love." Hammering home, love that endures forever. Hammering home, unfailing love. Then onto Our Father and the final thanksgiving: We thank You, Lord God, heavenly Father, for ALL Your benefits; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

And all of that liturgy at table each time you gather as a family for a meal (and note the assumption that meals are together - we intuitively sense that eating alone has something amiss about it. I wonder if that's why folks who live alone tend to turn on a TV?). But all this liturgy at table, I'm guessing it would still take no more than another three minutes of prayer for each meal? But if fathers and mothers DID that, and food ceased to be understood as "fuel put in the tank" but seen for what it is as "a loving gift of life given by your Father for the sake of His Son" do you see how it would open eyes to see and rejoice in all His benefits, to begin to notice them and take them for granted? To be moved to reverence and awe?

So imagine the set points of prayer: Bedside and Table as a kind of daily trellis on which the vine of prayer can grow and fill out the spaces in between, mirroring the way that Font and Table of the Church provide an overarching trellis for our whole lives. Reaching out from these points, we walk before God in the faith of Christ as dear children before a dear Father who loves them. And as we walk in His presence, and begin to be trained by the catechism to see the gifts showering down, we learn to exclaim and let prayer fill the day. Here's how Luther put it in the Larger Catechism:

It is also useful that we form the habit of daily commending ourselves to God, with soul and body, wife, children, servants, and all we have, against every need that may arise. So also the blessing and thanksgiving at meals and other prayers morning and evening, have begun and remained in use. Likewise children should continue to cross themselves when anything monstrous or terrible is seen or heard. They can shout: "Lord God, protect us!" "Help, dear Lord Jesus" and such. And if anyone meets with unexpected fortune, however trivial, he says, "God be praised and thanked" or "God bestowed this on me." LC I:70

It's because of who He is and, as we say in that lovely collect, because He is "always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than we either desire or deserve" that our prayers as His children don't trespass into the area of prescribing to Him time, manner, means, all that nonsense. We don't need to. It's enough to know His love and to put it in His hands.

Let Mary show you the way. You recall in that lovely Gospel for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, the wedding at Cana. What happens? The wine runs out. Mary notices. She perceives the need of her neighbors. She takes it into her heart and carries it to her Son. There she lays it at His feet. She doesn't say: "Son, there's some water jars. Do your mom a favor and make some wine please!" She trusts Him more than that. She simply says: "They have no wine." She leaves it there, except for telling the servants to do whatever Jesus said. 

Here's the sort of prayer that grows from the confidence of knowing that the One to whom we pray has loved us with a love immeasurable, deep, divine, and to whom nothing is impossible but whose understanding and ways of loving us are not for us to prescribe. 

Toward a Lutheran theology of prayer? A practical Lutheran theology of prayer? What is Christian prayer? Talking to God as dear children talk to their dear Father through Jesus Christ and in His Spirit. Why pray? Well, He has told us to, He has promised to hear us, and He has even loved us so much as to give the very words and pattern of prayer itself. When should pray? At all times and places, of course, but you have to start somewhere with habit. Our Catechism teaches: start at bedside and tableside and let it grow from there. Let it reach out to fill your life as the godly habits inculcated in the Catechism teach us to walk in His sight as children in whom He delights through His Son.

Dominus vobiscum. Oremus. 
Glory to You, our Father, for Your countless gifts to us in Your Son, but above all for the gift of calling upon You as our Father in His name, praying, praising and giving thanks! Glory to You, O Eternal Son, for the gift of Your Father to be as our Father and for the joy of being joint-heirs with You! Glory to You, Everlasting Spirit, for Your never ceasing cries within us to our "Abba!" And for bringing us into the faith of Jesus and keeping us with Him in His true faith. Glory to You, blessed Trinity, for all Your unfathomable love and the unspeakable joy of walking before You in faith! Glory to You forever. Amen!

01 November 2018

All Saints

With the commemoration of the Faithful Departed: