26 January 2019

Lutheran Prayer Companion

So I had to do a video at CPH on Thursday and while there, Pr. McCain gave me a copy of Lutheran Prayer Companion. I cannot stress how awesome this volume (translated by the remarkable Matthew Carver) is. I knew years ago when I first encountered the German that we had lost TONS by not having this puppy in English. Just think about the prayer for Saturday from the Catechism and the piety that would include such a petition:  “Be my strength in greatest weakness, that my last meal in this world may be the Holy Supper, my last thought to imagine Jesus crucified and dying, my last word may be to call out: Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit” (p. 32).  

The best way to conceptualize this volume is to think of it as the complete Lutheran Breviary, designed for use in the Lutheran monastery (and that would be THE HOME - I always said Luther never ceased being a monk, he just literally and I do mean literally moved the FAMILY into the monastery!). 

The hymn section is particularly wonderful and Olearius’ adaptation of the Breviary’s daily hymns (interfacing the days of creation with the events of Holy Week) was especially outstanding. 

Bonhoeffer famously taught us that we must learn to pray from the riches of God’s Word and not the poverty of our own hearts, but he neglected to remind us that this is EXACTLY how our spiritual ancestors prayed constantly. Drawing on the rich knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures that characterized our beloved theologians and pastors in the past centuries, this book uses their prayers as a means for us to allow the Word (which so shaped and formed them) to dwell inside of us too and do its mighty work.  

The volume is handsome on the outside, and the bold embossing only is the merest HINT at the gold that awaits within. Here’s a link. Order you. You won’t be sorry: 

20 January 2019

A different kind of number, or Rise, Peter, Kill and Eat

So Cin and I were wondering how fast we could power through Vitality (a supposed health program that our work insurance pushes, with financial incentives). I don’t remember for sure when we reached Platinum last year, but this year, it took all of 20 days. We ploughed through the assessments and the online learning, worked out every day, set our goals, submitted Bible studies, and did our health screenings.

The real irony is that we categorically dispute almost ALL the dietary advice the folks behind this program try to give. In my opinion, it’s nothing but a prescription for staying overweight munching on franken foods and ending up dependent upon big pharma. Think the hullabaloo about the latest Lancet EAT stuff and you’re pretty much right there.

In contrast, I’d invite anyone interested in results and not theory to check out: www.meatheals.com and start reading. Read about ordinary folk taking their health into their own hands and changing it remarkably for the better. Read about this, that, and the other problem ended up being resolved, including situations that the medicos called “chronic.” All without your daily dose of veg or fruit, nuts or grain!

So why do we bother with Vitality, then? Well, I did mention the financial incentives. It pays. Not much, but something. And I think Cindi and I have about $200 plus sitting as Amazon gift cards just waiting to be needed, now that we reached Platinum after some 20 days. It was a fun race to the end. Wonder what we’ll end up doing for an encore?

18 January 2019

Numbers, numbers, numbers

I'm not a big believer in numbers. I go far more by how my body actually feels and functions. But I did get the blood work done after six months of carnivorious eating. Here are the numbers for this 58 year old bod:

Blood Pressure: 113/75 (Optimal)
BMI 21.12 (Ideal)
Waist/height: .48  (Healthy)
Percentage bodyfat: 8.4 (from the InBody Test at work)

Blood work

"Bad news"
Total Cholesterol: 274 HIGH

Conflicting with:

"Good news"
Trig: 80 (solidly healthy)
Chol/HDL: 2.9 (Highly desireable) 
HDL: 94 (Optimal)

Fasting Glucose: 86 (Optimal)

What does all this mean?

Quest kindly provides a nice little note on how the Chol/HDL ratio is what really matters and how that actually offsets high LDL or high total; and triglycerides being solidly inline indicate that the body is handling any fat delivery just fine, thank you very much. 

So am I the least bit worried about a high LDL? Nope. Not in the least. There are ZERO statins in this lad's future. That theory has been debunked utterly and completely. What is fun is that having listened to David Feldman describe his triglyceride experiment, I did the same thing. I waited what must have been nearly 17 hours since food was last consumed AND I worked out (hard!) fasted just before the blood draw. Last time I had the test done, I had buttered coffee in the morning before the blood draw and sure enough, trigs were up at 111. If you want to get the best trig number, be sure and fast a minimum of 12 hours! Forget that "9-12" make it "12-16" hours.

14 January 2019

And it’s here!

My newest book, a little volume for children:  See My Savior’s Hands

13 January 2019

Baptism of Our Lord

Another Sunday, another FEAST! This time, the Baptism of Our Lord, on a snowy, wintry day. The bells sounded off our joy with a prelude on "God's Own Child" by DeLancy. The processional hymn was "To Jordan's River Came Our Lord." Again, the Antiphon we heard a week ago on Epiphany trumpeted forth ("Behold, the Lord, the Ruler has come, and the kingdom and the power and the glory are in his hand.") Pastor chose the Old Testament option of reading from Joshua 3—and it flashed through my head what Kevin Armbrust pointed out: in most of the OT types of Baptism, the people don't get wet. Ha! True. But with the Jordan piled up and the people crossing on dry land, what could we say but the words of the Gradual: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be His glorious name forever!" The Epistle from 1 Corinthians 1 invited us to ponder the Lord's decided preference for the lowly in how He works, what looks foolish to shame the wise, what looks weak to shame the strong. The alleluias rang out as we stood on the banks of Jordan in sacred story and saw heaven opened, the Spirit descend, the Father declare: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." In the Creed we confessed, as always, "one Baptism for the remission of sins." The sermon hymn was Luther's incomparable "To Jordan Came the Christ, our Lord." Awesome text and awesome tune. It still cracks me up that he inserted the words of the Transfiguration INTO the words at the Baptism: "Him you must hear and Him alone." And then it really made me smile to realize that Starke did the exact same in our recessional: "Jesus, Once with Sinners Numbered." Pastor's homily was pure joy and comfort: Jesus coming to us in our uncleaness in the Baptism He received to give us His perfect righteousness in the Baptism He commands. A perfect righteousness that Baptism imparts not once upon a time, but every day, a wonderful cleansing for our persistently sinful flesh. During the offering, Buxtehude's Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn anticipated a hymn we would sing in Distribution. I opened my hymnal and sang along with the communion liturgy, because for some reason my mind does not want to remember the bass line on the Doxology for the Lord's Prayer. I've got 95% down, but there is one point that always trips me up. A quick glance revealed a cheat to get to another note in the chord that would be easier and my mind stopped thinking about notes and turned back to the joy of glorying in the doxology (so similar, of course, to the Antiphon of the Introit on this day). Working on article for Lutheran Witness on the communion of saints in the Eucharist, and so as I knelt down today to receive the Lord's holy Body and Blood, I kept thinking of the countless saints in so many diverse circumstances across all the centuries and in every inhabited place who also knelt and opened their mouths and were bodied and blooded to the Lord. We are all one. Surely one of the joys of life in the Kingdom will be the privilege of coming to know the entire family, of whom we know such a miniscule slice at present. A people put into Christ in Baptism and into whom Christ puts Himself in His Body and Blood at the Eucharist. Due to the snow, it was a slimer crowd than usual at early church. We ended up needing but two hymns at distribution. As we left the strains of Kantor playing Pachelbel's Christ, Unser Herr brought a smile to my face and thanksgiving to God that we are blessed to worship in a parish where Bach and Buxtehude and Pachelbel sound forth so regularly. Blessed Feast Day, people loved by God!

10 January 2019

A thought on the Longer Ending of Mark

As we're studying St. Mark on Thy Strong Word, I referred the listeners to Acts 10 and Peter's sermon in the house of Cornelius. It is a remarkably fine summary of St. Mark, and fits very well with the solid tradition that though St. Mark wrote this Gospel, WHAT he wrote was the Gospel St. Peter preached. 

But then I noticed something that hadn't struck me before: it provides a fuller account of the events after the Crucifixion:

"....and made him to appear, not to all the people, but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that whoever believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

It hit me that THIS comports quite well with the longer ending. He appeared to the eleven reclining at table (who ate and drank with him). He commanded them to "Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel" (he commanded us to preach) and He promised that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (forgiveness of sins through his name - the name put on us in Baptism). So I do assume that we have lost the original ending that Mark wrote for his Gospel, but I wonder if some faithful person in the early Church just put in its place another record of St. Peter's preaching, so that the longer ending may not be by Mark, but it IS Petrine (just like the rest of Mark's Gospel). What does anyone think?

A most kind review

Of Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey by Deaconess Mary Moerbe:

08 January 2019

Deo gratias!

Got the stats today on the downloads for Thy Strong Word. By December 31 we had crossed over a million downloads since our inception in August of 2014 or, to be more precise, 1,008,748. And 402,279 of those came in just 2018 - an increase from the previous year of 44%. That amazes me. Praise be to God!

06 January 2019

Pondering the Joys of the Divine Service upon Epiphany

I noticed on the way to Church this morning that you can FEEL the sun making its comeback now. The light is growing. And so fitting to sense it on the Feast of the Epiphany. Overflowing joy from start to finish. Kantor began worship with that awesome "Wie Schön Leuchtet" by Kaufmann; it almost dances. Hard to sit still in the pew listening to it. Makes you want to move! Then to the more somber but lovely "As With Gladness Men of Old." Old Dix wrote some really excellent stuff: "As with joy they hailed its light, Leading onward, beaming bright, So, most gracious Lord, may we Evermore be led by Thee."

Amilia trumpeted with sturdy and lovely alto voice the Antiphon to the Introit that announces the joy of the feast: "Behold, the Lord, the ruler, has come, and the kingdom and the power and the glory are in his hand!" Before Him we ask for mercy (Kyrie) and sing His triune praise (Gloria in Excelsis)

As usual, I don't like how the collect was changed in our new rite; there was something so gutsy and daring about asking for "the fruition of Thy glorious Godhead", and "to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence" just doesn't cut it. The beautiful promises from Isaiah 60 "your heart shall thrill and exult" and "gold and frankincense." During the reading of the epistle, I remembered that the Isaiah reading WAS the Epistle historically on this day and contemplated how the very close juxtaposition of Isaiah's words with Matthew's would have formed a beautiful dance to Christians of yesteryear. I still struggle a bit with the ESV's "we saw his star when it rose;" I prefer the KJV "in the east."

Following the Gospel from Matthew 2, pastor (as he always does) read us the announcement of the holy days for this year. I love how Christmas, with the reading of the Kalends (which precedes the start of the Divine Service) situates us on the vertical plane (through the depths of time and the sacred writings) while on Epiphany, the calendar notices situates us on the horizontal plane of this current year of grace. They are like bookends. Here is the announcement: 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us and shall ever manifest itself among us until the day of His return. Through the rhythms and changes of time let us call to mind and live the mysteries of salvation.

The center of the whole liturgical year is the Paschal Triduum of the Lord, crucified, buried, and risen, which will culminate in the solemn Vigil of Easter during the holy night that will end with the dawn of the twenty-first day of April. Every Sunday, as in a weekly Easter, Christ's holy church around the world makes present that great and saving deed by which Christ has conquered sin and death.

From Easter there comes forth and are reckoned all the days we keep holy: Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten spring, the sixth day of March; the Ascension of our Lord, the thirtieth day of May; and Pentecost, the ninth day of June; the first Sunday of Advent, the first day of December.

Likewise in the feasts of Mary, of the Apostles, of all the Saints, and the commemoration of the faith departed, the pilgrim Church on earth proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

To Christ who was, who is, and who is to come, the Lord of time and history, be endless praise forever and ever! Amen.

After the Creed came the great "O Morning Star." I could sing that hymn every single Sunday! "Almighty Father, in Your Son, You loved us when not yet begun Was this old earth's foundation!" Amen!

Pastor's homily was so simple and comforting: an invitation to childlike faith to trust the Word of God spoken by the holy evangelist, that we too, like the Magi, may rejoice with exceeding great joy.

After the offerings were gathered and before the Prayer of the Church, the new officers were installed. Again, I miss the line that used to be in the Agenda, charging the officers not just to see "that the services of the Church are held at their proper time" but also "and in accordance with the order of our Church." I think that going AWOL highly suspicious. It's the ONLY criticism I have of our Lutheran Service Book Agenda, which is one of the crown gems of the LSB project.

Pastor had noted in the sermon how the wisemen saw nothing of obvious glory before they fell down in front of the Child on His mother's lap, how they believed the word of the prophet and rejoiced in the light of the star. So we fall down before Christ at the altar where He comes to us, with His glory hidden, and yet we know where to find Him. The Altar is our Bethlehem. "Brightest and Best" and "Of the Father's Love" and "Let All Mortal Flesh" served us to sing out our joy before Him as He fed us with His body and His blood, and with them Himself our Forgiveness and everlasting Joy.

Prayers with Simeon for a blessed departure and the Lord's blessing and then onto one of the great Reformation hymns that comes to us from a woman: Elizabeth Cruciger. My favorite stanza by far: "O time of God appointed, O bright and holy morn! He comes, the king anointed, The Christ, the virgin-born, Grim death to vanquish for us, To open heav'n before us And bring us life again!" LSB 402:2

And Kantor crowned our joy by giving us Bach's postlude on that chorale. Joy, joy, joy! Epiphany joy: God in man made manifest. Blessed Epiphany, one and all!

05 January 2019

Dec. 15, 1920-Jan. 5, 1980

Remembering my father upon his death day. He had just turned 59. This year I will turn 59. Can't believe it's been 39 years. And I can't believe that only three of us are left of the seven. "Time like an ever rolling stream soon bears us all away / We fly forgotten as a dream dies at the op'ning day."

Glorious day for hiking

At Pere Marquette State Park with Cindi and Bekah.