31 October 2019

WHAT do you mean you haven’t subscribed yet?

Go do it! The joy of John's Gospel in nice sized chunks for the day. 

THIS was so much fun...

...and it's only part one!

Check it out!!!

29 October 2019

The New Routine

I’ve been working for Lutheran Public Radio officially since the start of October. I figured it would take a while to settle into a new routine. If you know me at all, you know I’m most content when I’m IN a routine and things are humming along as expected.

My goal is to write seven shows a week. I try to do two each on Tuesday and Thursday; one each on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Also on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I head into the studio in the morning to record two shows each day. Thus, the most shows recorded in a given week is six, one more than the week needs. And with writing two more each week than a week needs, I’m actually comfortably ahead of the recording at the moment. I’ll finish up November 28th this afternoon and hopefully by week’s end will be writing shows for December 4th.

I was a little nervous about the amount of writing involved, but it’s been quite manageable thus far, thanks be to God! And what’s sweet? Well, of course, no daily commute. No sitting in traffic. The joy of writing in my own study. That’s all wonderful, to be sure. But it pales before the pure gold. You know what that is? Being able to focus so intensively and nearly exclusively on the Word. I’m reading, pondering and explaining God’s Word and checking out the great teachers of the Church on the texts for the day. And LPR is paying me to do this!

And it doesn’t stop with work for LPR. At St. Paul’s my duties as an assistant pastor are exclusively in the area of preaching and teaching the Word and celebrating the Eucharist.

The time I’ve recouped from commute, I’ve largely put into more intensive reading. I’m about 2/3 through *Two Natures in Christ* by Chemnitz (I’d spot read it before; but this is my first from the first page to the last). I’ve finished the first volume of Gerhard’s *Schola Pietatis* and am almost done with the second. The Chemnitz-Leyser-Gerhard Harmony of the Gospels has become a bit of a daily friend.

So, even though I’m still exploring and adjusting the best way to get everything done, it’s definitely beginning to gel and truthfully, I am having the time of my life! Here’s praying that the Lord will bless the sharing of the Word to the upbuilding of His Church in the faith and love and hope that are in Christ Jesus!

19 October 2019

True Empty Nesters

Well, we've honestly been empty nesters for a long time. Still, today it felt like it all over again. You see, we always have had Bekah (our youngest) "around." When she moved to Edwardsville, she still worked in Hamel and bopped in most days for lunch with Cindi. When she got married she actually moved into a duplex in Hamel, quite literally just down the street from us. So we were very used to her cheery company at almost any hour, and we truly savored the time we had with her and Andy.

Today, however, we moved Andy and Bekah down to Murphysboro, about an hour and forty minutes south of us. On Monday, Andy begins a new job as the optometrist for Sparta and Pickneyville, IL. Bekah's got another nannying job lined up.

We always have joked that Sunday morning brunch is much quieter when Bekah's not there, she's always been our live wire. I fear we're in for many a quieter brunch. Still, it looks like a lovely community they've moved to and I hope they will be blessed indeed. They’ve already connected with Immanuel Lutheran Church in town and think quite highly of Pr. Hoem. We will miss them very much, but an hour and forty minutes is MUCH better than eight hours (ahem!). I still dream of a day when all the family is relatively nearby and we get to enjoy our holidays together again. Maybe a pipe dream, but God may yet grant it. His will be done.

This picture is of Andy and Bekah's new place, and the a pic of the woods out the back door. It's really quite lovely.

16 October 2019

A Miscellany of Nagelisms

A friend asked me to share these with him today. I thought others might be blessed. I was, by merely typing them out:

"The good news of Easter isn't that a man rose from the dead, but that the man who had been crucified for our sin rose from the dead."

"Glorying in the element is sarkical. It is is glorying in the gift-all-the-way-down-ward."

"The big thing is not that the body and blood are there, but that the body and and blood of Christ which were given for you are there."

"Faith is nothing but what it is given. What faith is given is the Gift that lives. Living Gift! And so living, it enlivens. As enlivening gift of the Living Lord, it is not suceptible to our measurement or calculation."

"You mayn't have a Gospel justification and a semi-law sanctification."

"The person scornful of the Lord's Supper says: 'I don't need to be given to.'"

"Sasse asks the haunting question: Is our doctrine of inspiration based on Scripture alone or on tradition, tradition that Luther and Melanchthon swallowed whole?"

"All the Christ, Christ, Christ stuff flies in the air unless it is Christ for you. And He is for you where He promises to be."

"You cannot move by analogy—progression of our thinking, yearning—which can have as its outcome God."

"Glory in contingency and the dataness of it!"

"We are not roaming in the realm of ideas. He did it. The sheer He-did-it-ness for which we can lay on Him no compelling reasons; and the data-ness, THAT recognition evacuates any possibility of us laying something down ahead of God."

"Nothing could less like God than the man hanging dead on the cross. Only God could be so human and so weak. So opposite to every religious notion about God—religion being the result of our wishing, emotions, yearning, thinking."

"Of the sheer did-ness and data-ness you have the locatedness—the specificity of time and place. He did it. He provides for its delivery to you."

"Each part of the Gospels is to be read as the whole of the Gospels are to be read, the pushing or giving of the Jesus they bestow."

"The specific Jesus that is the specific gift of that pericope."

"God loves nothing better than dishing out the good stuff. Why else did he make this crazy world?" 

"That which is His great delight, He would bring to us too. So He gives us much more than we need so that we can have fun dishing it out too. In that there is the life of God which cannot be brought into any bondage of coercion."

"Faith is not the product of the exercise of God's power, but the consequence of His giving."

"A gift is rejectable; His power is not."

"Toenails grow. Is that under the power of law or gospel?"

"There is no action of the Holy Spirit outside the Church in the New Testament."

"Unbelief is the refusal of gift, the refusing to be given to."

"The grounds of damnation is the rejection of the gift."

"When the Lord said, 'Follow me,' to Matthew, Matthew was given to. He is made alive as a man that wasn't alive before. That 'Follow me' is Gospel."

"The wordless Law—what man knows in his bones. A wordless God is Deus Absconditus, before whom is only terror and dread. But Law, worded or wordless is the same, and worded is the more terrible and inescapable. Never by an exercise of inescapable power is faith produced. Any inescapable power is Law talk, not Gospel."

"There is an unwillingness in Jesus to be other than Gift. And He wants to be all the gift that He is. Those who just wanted a piece, He wouldn't let them have it, because He wanted to be the lot for them."

"God runs the whole show in two ways: Law and Gospel. Either life or death, it is gift which evokes the faith in the being received. If received as gift, it is received faithfully and gospelly. The man who receives the death by cancer as a gift from the Lord has faith."

"The AC's 'where and when He pleases' warns us off from lusting to get our hands on things and bring them into our control."

"The distinction between Law and Gospel has the ultimate reach in God. There is a God who damns and a God who saves. Only at the last minute do you say it to the same God—up to then it's like there are two gods going on."

"When you find reason taking God captive and laying prescriptions on Him, that's law talk."

"The Gospel runs the third use of the Law. We'd do better to talk about the Gospel's use of the Law."

"It is a measure of our freedom that the Law can be brought into our service as a gift. Then it is a guide. It's not what makes us what we are nor the prompting before Him."

"Love is evoked outside of you. You don't work up a bit of love and then give it away." 

"If ever we did a good work that didn't need forgiving, we'd never know about it."

"Where there's measuring, there's Law-talk going on."

"Rather than measuring good works, let us engender them. Only we can't. The Spirit does it by the Gospel. We do not know what damage is done to people that misshapes and shrivels and warps them. The way of the gifts of Christ in such a one will work in the way they will work and we are not in a position to keep a scoresheet."

"Whatever good thing happens, we can but say thanks!"

"The wholeness of the child! When a little child laughs, there is no part of him not laughing, and so when he weeps."

"The infant is as damnable as the rest of us."

"It is the way of being gifted that its never enough and there's always more."

"Unbelief is refusing to let God be gracious."

"Your forgiveness is as sure as Calvary is sure; the fluctuation is in us, not in Him."

"The Dominicality is the biggy. The first thing to confess about Baptism and the Supper is what HE said about them. After He has had His say, we can rejoice in the gift in our own words. It is the Lord's Supper, not our Supper."

"Confirmation is the public celebration of the fulfillment of our Lord's bidding: We've been baptized and we've been taught!"

"Our good works are only good works because they are forgiven."

"It is vital that we always be on the alert for spotting anthropological analogy in the matter of the Holy Spirit—that is always backwards."

"You cannot move from evidence in you to saying something about the Holy Spirit. That will always be dubious."

"Equating the Holy Spirit with love you end up with quantitative parcels."

"When the lot of good works are within His forgiveness, then we're not playing quantitative games with God."

"We rejoice to confess filioque because the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. That is the point."

"How does the Holy Spirit give the Jesus stuff?"

"We must not talk about faith in any way but a grace alone way." 

"Faith is the creation of the Holy Spirit and the receiving of the Jesus stuff."

"Love and necessity are mutually exclusive."

"Does God think you're worth bothering with? Look to Calvary!"

"Salvation may not be deduced from God's nature, but from what Christ has done." 

"The love of God that is shed abroad in our heart is Jesus' death and resurrection. That is how He loved us." 

"The best confession of the Trinity is that which tells the good news of our salvation that the Father sent the Son to die for us sinners and what Jesus did is given to us by the work of the Holy Spirit. The directionality inherent in this is the opposite of an inverted Trinity."

"Does God make you fit to be loved, and then love you? Or does He love all what's going on, sitting on your chair?"

"To pay attention to the Holy Spirit is to frustrate the Jesus work that He is seeking to do. The Spirit gets behind you and gets you to look at Calvary."

"Would this theology work without Calvary? Then it's not Christian theology."

"What Jesus loves is you, not what He ends up making of you."

"The Supper can never be our work. It is God's giving out what Calvary achieved."

"God is given you in the sarx, whose shins would bruise if you kicked them. To look for him anywhere outside the flesh is to look away from where He is for you."

"The most important question to ask of any pericope is what is the Jesus that this text gives me that is given nowhere else? What is its proprium?"

"The becoming man of God was the becoming man of man."

"The bestowal of salvation happens where we are at. That's the job of the Holy Spirit."

"Can't say unJesusy things about the Holy Spirit. The more Jesusy the Spirit, the more we can be sure we're getting it right!"

15 October 2019

Thoughts on Dr. Nagel’s Service

People loved by God, what overflowing joy (mingled with tears) as we celebrated the gift that is Dr. Norman Nagel. I was never comfortable referring to him as Norman. To me, he was always Dr. Nagel. And the gifts he gave us in his teaching, his emphases, his insights into Christ, they continue to feed me to this day.

Before the liturgy even began, my beloved Henry Gerike shared a priceless gift with me. A copy of a letter his dear father had written to him back when Henry was in college. I don't think he'd mind if I quoted my favorite lines: "The Christian faith deals in absolutes...the absolute truth. This is Jesus Christ and the inspired Word. Jesus Christ being the absolute truth then also becomes a discipline of life and thought as well as an assurance. The Christian admits to some mysteries and problems. By the discipline of the absolute truth in Jesus Christ, the believer is prevented from going overboard in a vain search for answers as well as being assured by that same Truth that the mysteries remain only for the time. The timelessness of eternity will find us knowing the mysteries as are now known by God." I never had the joy of meeting Henry's father, but right there I fell in love with this great pastor of the Church. Yes, and yes. Jesus is the truth that finally holds. Beautiful words of comfort on the day of Dr. Nagel's funeral.

Paul Grime started us off on the organ bench with music that invited meditation upon some of the truly great hymn texts of our faith. Particularly striking was the jaunty Michael Burkhardt setting of "Lord, Thee I Love" with some fine trumpet work by the Jon Vieker the younger. Paul's final piece in the set was particularly apt. "Before Thy throne I now appear... Grant that in peace I close mine eyes; But on the last day, bid me rise, And let me see Thy face fore'er—Amen, Amen, Lord, hear my prayer." This, according to tradition, is the final piece Bach worked on as he lay dying, dictating to his son-in-law some changes in what he had previously done on the tune. Yes, I almost lost it right there.

Jon Vieker was the liturgist and conducting the liturgy in his usual stately and reverent manner. And he threw the rubrics to the wind to throw in more music! How fitting! "Music, which enlarges and elevates the adoration of our gracious Giver God" (LW Intro). After a setting by Vieker of Psalm 122 and the opening remembrance of Baptism, the congregation belted out "Jesus Lives!" The choir answered with "Kyrie, God Father in Heaven Above." Philip Magness was our fine conductor who in his leading us embodied the music and helped us in one brief rehearsal to let the music serve, not overpower, the words.

After the collect, the choir was blessed to sing a Choral Anthem by Henry Gerike that he'd composed for Dr. Nagel's 90th, "Commit Thy Way Unto the Lord," when we presented him with a book of essays by his students. Isaiah 25 was answered with Mark Bender's fine setting of "Abide with Me." Revelation 7 answered with "Behold a Host." The Transfiguration Gospel from St. Matthew answered with the Creed and (what else???) "Lord, Thee I Love."

Pr. Bruzek gave us a most comforting homily on the Gospel that left us marveling with Moses and Elijah and Nagel at the Lord's exodus and how because of that He will say to us at the end: "Rise. Do not be afraid." To His servant Norman. To you. It was gold, and I'm short changing it. Do give it a read or listen if you get the chance.

Then prayer of the Church and Our Father and Nunc Dimittis onto the end. After the liturgy, we heard briefly from both District President Lee Hagan (a Nagel student) and Dr. Dale Meyer (a Nagel colleague and head of the institution where Dr. Nagel taught so long). Both succeeded in NOT giving eulogies, but in giving praise to God for the gift of Dr. Nagel. Lee gave us joy from the intro to LW. Dale made us smile with how Dr. Nagel always invited us to be a peculiar people in the Church!

Out with "For All the Saints" and when you thought the peace and joy could not mingle more sweetly with the sorrow, along comes Grime on the organ giving us "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" by Bach.

For Your servant, our dear Dr. Nagel, glory to You, Lord Jesus!
For the wisdom You gave him and which he labored to impart to others that they might rejoice in You and be awed at Your Calvary love, glory to You, Lord Jesus!
For renewing in Your church the doctrine of the office of the holy ministry, that we might remember what Christ set us here to do, glory to You, Lord Jesus!
For the childlike joy in the faith that Your servant set before us in countless way, calling us to join him in delighting in Your Words and promises and finding in them what cannot fail us, You, Jesus, Yourself, glory to You, Lord Jesus!

14 October 2019

Beyond Shadow of Doubt

The coolest feature of iPhone/iPad iOS 13 is how it simply sends EVERY phone call from anyone not in the Contacts (or found by Siri in Mail) straight to voicemail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Where has this been all my life?

12 October 2019

Thoroughly enjoyed

Last night's concert of the Collinsville Chorale treating us to an evening of Rogers and Hammerstein. And the Oklahoma medley brought back sweet memories not only of our Rebekah playing a starring role in it at Metro, but getting to watch a fabulous performance of the same on Broadway with Dave and Jo and our kids and us, courtesy of Pr. James Krauser.

The Playoffs Brought the Nationals to Town

And the Nationals brought my cousin, Jim Mastin, whose daughter works for the Nationals. He drove out to Hamel for a bit and we caught up with shared memories of dear folks who have gone from us. As you can see, his side of the family has all the tall genes. :) And this marked the very first time in our 37+ years of marriage that I've had a cousin visit in our home. A great joy! P.S. And Jimbo and his brother Ronnie are double cousins. His mom and my dad were cousins; his dad and my mom were brother and sister.

10 October 2019

What Is Most Sure

Dr. Nagel preaching the 20th anniversary of my ordination -
Quite a surprise arranged by then vicar, now Pastor Charles
There was no one like him. I had heard rumor of him before I ever met the great man. Kathy Weidmann told us of this wondrously eccentric and delightful Dean of the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University. I got to know daughter-in-law Mollie who worked at Bronxville while I was there. And yet nothing but nothing prepared me for the first class in Systematics (or as he would have preferred to call Dogmatics) with him. It was Systems II, Christology. His great love.

He rushed into the room a tad late and we were waiting for the usual handing out of syllabus and such. All the boring stuff that attends the first day of class. Seminary, I must confess, had largely been a huge yawn up to that point. But how everything changed in an instant!

“The Large Catechism says that it is the faith of the heart that makes both God and idol. So boys, let’s make some God. Tell me what you know about Him.”

We were more than a bit startled. Ever so painfully, like extracting teeth, he pulled information from us about God. We were used to professors talking, not asking! At last the usual attributes were scattered across the board. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Eternal and so on. And then he said the oddest thing: “You really haven’t told me anything about God, but about what you’re not and what you’d like to be.” And then someone raised their hand and said: “Oh, and He’s sinless.”

“Sinless” said he. “You want a God who is sinless. Well, you don’t get one. You get a God who is full of sin. All the world’s sin. All yours. All mine.” And then, though, it wasn’t time for the class to end, he packed up his bag and just walked out. And we were left wondering. In awe at a God who would do such a thing. Take all our sin into Himself. 

This is the God that Dr. Nagel never ceased inviting us to know and trust and love. The Crucified Lord Jesus. Everything else “wobbles” in one of Dr. Nagel’s famous, well, we called Nagelisms. What wobbles has reference in yourself. What holds is Jesus. His promise. His gifts. His death for you. His life for you. 

And because he would never have you be in doubt of His gifts and so all wobbly, the joy of the Sacraments. Most sure, His name. Put on you. Making you His. Marking you as His forever. His body and blood put into you. Binding you to Him in joy and forgiveness. 

How we shall miss you, our dear Dr. Nagel! But how your teaching, so faithfully and shockingly and uncompromisingly giving us Jesus, shall endure. I’m reading right now Chemnitz’ Two Natures in Christ, and unbidden to mind came your words this very morning. As Chemnitz cites Luther laboring to clarify the scholastic’s distinction between the abstract and the concrete terms, I thought how simply you once nailed this point: “In Christ, you can say things about God and about man that are nonsense outside of Christ. If any word is in Christ, it is a new creation!” Thank you, dear Teacher for it all. Thank you, heavenly Father, for raising up such a servant of Your Word and for the joys that his teaching continues to bring to Your Church!

A Milestone for Us

It was Cindi's 52nd birthday on which we took possession of 241 Hamel Avenue. We were more than a bit nervous. Having been blessed by going through Financial Peace University (with our great teachers Gary Mueth, may he rest in peace, and Brent Buckner), we'd saved up enough for a decent downpayment, but yikes! A 15 year mortgage seemed like a ball and chain around us again. Ugh.

Cindi is the more devoted follower of Dave Ramsey than I am. She loves listening to his podcast and she heard one day a debt free scream from a couple that were rather in the same boat we're in and who managed to pay off their 15 year mortgage in just 7.5 years. She thought: We can do this.

I got a little more inspiration from the notorious Mr. Money Mustache and the account on his site of a Canadian couple who did a similar thing. In short, both Cindi and I got on board to knock this thing out and NOT spend the fortune in interest that 15 years would entail.

And so despite our son's wedding a month or so after we got the house, and our youngest daughter's wedding last year, we starting throwing money at the mortgage like crazy. And yesterday, on October the ninth, two days shy of 7.5 years, we made our LAST mortgage payment. We are once again after those 7.5 years, 100% debt free, save, as the holy apostle enjoins us of the unending debt we have to love one another. And now we own not a part of, but the whole of, our rather modest little home. And it feels GREAT.

HUGE thank you to Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University, to my good buddy Randy Asburry who nudged and prodded us to get on board with FPU years before, and to my loving wife who kept the vision before us and took care of all the details of actually getting it done (yea, in Ramsey speak, she's nerd; I'm free spirit; I'd be toast without her).