29 April 2021

Well, glad THAT’S over…

that being a bilateral hernia repair. Two weeks of no exercise. I thought that would be really hard to cope with, but at least given how gingerly I am moving at the moment, I have no desire at all to exercise! But if you’re wondering why the blog went all quiet for a couple days, now you know. I’ll get back to regular posting here in the next day or so. 

27 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

Now, Christ has likewise prescribed for us in the Our Father that we should ask for the forgiveness of sins. That’s why we can be sure that God the Lord, by grace, wills and desires to forgive us our sins.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:217.

Holy joy is the picture of God, while worldly sorrow is the picture of Satan and the opposite of faith.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 394.  

Patristic Quote of the Day

We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen.—Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

Catechesis: Person of Christ

We believe, teach, and confess that there are now in this one, inseparable person of Christ two distinct natures, the divine, from eternity, and the human, which was assumed into the unity of the person of God’s Son in time. These two nature can nevermore be separated nor mixed together with each other, nor can one be transformed into the other. Rather, each remains in its own nature and essence within the Person of Christ for all eternity.—FC SD VIII:7

26 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

The blood that Christ shed from His body is God’s own blood, the blood of God’s Son. Therefore, it is a complete, perfect payment for the sin of the entire world.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:210.

Oh, blessed is he who is kept with Christ. By this he remains on the certain path to eternal joy. As Christ says: “so also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 392. 

Patristic Quote of the Day

Carnal concupiscence is remitted, indeed, in baptism; not so that it is put out of existence, but so that it is not to be imputed for sin.—St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book I, Chapter 28

Catechesis: Person of Christ

Christ Jesus was in one person at the same time true and eternal God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and a true human being, born of the most blessed Virgin Mary.—FC SD VIII:6

25 April 2021

When Jesus doesn’t say what you expect Him to...

...I was contemplating this from the Jubilate Gospel, and particularly John 16:22: “And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

The italicized words seem to be reversed from what I would expect: “but you will see Me again.” And that led me to some pondering. The source of a joy that fills the heart and that cannot be taken from us is not that we with our eyes get to see Jesus risen; that was something for the Apostles, but we are “those who have not seen” and those St. Peter spoke of: “whom having not seen, ye love.” We have not seen Jesus but we are not excluded thereby from the promise of a heart rejoicing and joy that no man can take from us. For THIS is the source of our joy: I will see you again. The eyes that had once closed in death see again; and those eyes belong to Him who is Forgiveness for all sin; Destruction of all death; Eternal life in human flesh. Those are the eyes that see again and this, beloved, is joy beyond all joy. He’s watching you with those forgiving and death destroying eyes; He’s got you in His sights and He will keep you there, from the first moments of your existence in your mother’s womb until the present, from the present until you (should He not return first) expire and begin your turn back to the dust, to that day He calls you from the dust to shine with Him in His glory.

HIS eyes see you. This is joy. And this is peace. I think the more we remember the eyes of Crucified and Risen Lord fixed upon us, the greater that peace and that joy will be in our lives. That is all.

24 April 2021

An Expression of Joy and Humility

(From The Daily Office, CPH, 1965, for the Week of Jubilate at Matins)

Let us praise God in gladness and humility for all great and simple joys and for the weak things of the earth which have confounded the strong.

For the gift of wonder and joy in discovery; for the everlasting freshness of experience; for the newness of life each day as we grow older: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For the fireside; for the intimacies of friendship; for the traditions and customs of the home; for meals eaten together in fellowship; and for all the sanctities of family life: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For games and holidays in the open air; for books and pictures and all our small possessions: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For forest trees in spring and for fruit blossoms; for the smell of the earth after the rain; for the green grass and the flowers; for cloud and sun, hills and mountain streams: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For birds; for children and the joys of innocency; for the satisfaction of work attempted and achieved; for the joy of harvest and the wedding feast: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For the happiness which is born of sympathy and sorrow; for the rapture of the lost soul finding love again; and for the joy of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For all purging comedy and laughter; and for the gift of humor and gaiety of heart: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For all the Lord’s merry men, who have consecrated mirth with the love of Christ: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For all singers and musicians and all who work in form or color to increase the joy of life: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For poets and craftsmen; for all who rejoice in their work and make things well: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For all who have loved the unfortunate and borne their sorrows in their hearts: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For all obscure and humble saints; for village pastors and ministering women, who have made life sweet and gentler: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For those disciples who have not fully understood all Christian doctrines and yet have lived in the companionship of Christ: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For the image of Christ in average people, their forbearance and generosity, their good temper in crowds, their courage and their kindness: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For the glory of God shining in unsung lives; for husband and wife devising ways to please each other, and for the sacrifices of both for their children: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

For all holy and humble men of heart, in whom the loveliness of our Savior Christ has been made manifest in the world: Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

Our Father....

23 April 2021

Catechesis: the Eucharist

Accordingly, we reject and condemn.... First, papistic transubstantiation, according to which it is taught that the bread and wine which have been consecrated or blessed in the Holy Supper lose their substance and essence completely and are transformed into the substance of Christ’s body and blood, so that only the mere form of bread and wine or the accedentia sine subjecto remain. They assert that under this form of the bread (which they allege is no longer bread but has lost its natural substance) the body of Christ remains present, even apart from the administration of the Supper (for example, when the bread is enclosed in a tabernacle or is carried around in a spectacle and adored). But as his been shown above, nothing can be a sacrament apart from God’s command and the practice that he has ordained, as instituted in God’s Word.—FC SD VII:108.

Gerhard and Walther

Through the light of the divine Word, God the Holy Spirit wants to ignite, sustain, and increase the light of faith in one’s heart.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:207

No one who wants to be saved is free to remain alone, to separate himself from the multitude of other confessors of the truth, and to keep the divine service only for himself. Instead, each person is bound to keep himself where the Word is preached in an open and orderly manner.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 385.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Certainly the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are a divine thing, through which we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to be. —Pope St. Gelasius, De duabis nature. In Chr. Adv. Eutych. Et Nestor. Patrology IV, 1:422

22 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

A person must not only just look at food and drink but must also receive and partake of it if it is to be of benefit to him, so also we must not only know the Word of the Gospel about Christ and give approval to it. Instead, we must by true faith seize and take unto ourselves Christ as our soul’s spiritual food and drink. Through faith we can put on Christ, so that His righteousness becomes our cloak and decoration by which we are able to stand before God and please Him.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:205. 

Fellowship between orthodox and heterodox produces the following result: the orthodox become more indifferent to the errors of the heterodox, and the heterodox become more indifferent to the truth of the orthodox. Error triumphs and the truth is lost.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 383.

Patristic Quote of the Day

There comes a heathen and says, “I wish to become a Christian, but I know not whom to join: there is much fighting and faction among you, much confusion: which doctrine am I to choose?” How shall we answer him? “Each of you” (says he) “asserts, ‘I speak the truth.’” No doubt: this is in our favor. For if we told you to be persuaded by arguments, you might well be perplexed: but if we bid you believe the Scriptures, and these are simple and true, the decision is easy for you. If any agree with the Scriptures, he is the Christian; if any fight against them, he is far from this rule.—St. John Chrysostom, (Homily 33 in Acts of the Apostles [NPNF1,11:210-11; PG 60.243-44])

Catechesis: the Eucharist

Therefore, our faith in this article regarding the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Supper is built upon the truth and omnipotence of the trustworthy and omnipotent God, our Lord Jesus Christ.—FC SD VII:106

21 April 2021

At the Mass this morning...

...Pastor used the LSB updated version of what used to be the General Prayer in TLH, p. 5 (i.e., the one from the Common Service). This prayer praises God “especially that Thou hast preserved unto us in their purity Thy saving Word and the sacred ordinances of Thy house.” But in the new version, that is changed to “Your saving Word and the holy sacraments.” It kind of arrested my attention this morning with a question:

Is it right to hear “the sacred ordinances of Thy house” as being “the holy sacraments”? Certainly, it is true that that is how the Reformed speak of what we call the Sacraments, and maybe it was resistance to that Reformed lingo that led to the change. But today, as Pastor prayed, it occurred to me that the term wasn’t being used by the Reformed, but by Lutherans, and in our ears it would almost certainly have had a broader application. 

We praise You, Lord, for preserving for us Your saving Word and the sacred ordinances of your house: certainly Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, but also the private or corporate Absolution, Holy Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Confirmation, and even the liturgies attending the burial of Christians, not to mention Matins and Vespers and the catechism liturgy. Maybe the stuff that the Book of Common Prayer calls “sacramentals.”

Are these not ALL sacred ordinances of God’s house, purified from all non-Scriptural or Gospel obscuring elements? I think limiting the term “ordinances” in Lutheran use to what we’d strictly call sacraments, while no doubt well-intentioned, was a mistake. 

Yes, that’s the odd sort of thought that passes through the brain for a minute during prayer, before I am recalled to the duty of actually attending to the intercession, so that I can speak faith’s “amen” at the conclusion. 

An LW Blog Post...

for St. Anselm’s Commemoration here.

Gerhard and Walther

An upright, repentant person must first of all look to God and, as a result, have remorse and sorrow that with his sin he has offended this most high Good. Also, he must not look at his outward sins, but also at his inward turning away and corruption of his heart and regret it.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:190.

Those who want to belong to the invisible Church have the holy duty to separate themselves from all who falsify God’s Word and obstinately remain in their errors.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 380.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.— St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

Catechesis: the Eucharist

[Luther is commenting upon the second, incomprehensible and spiritual mode of Christ’s presence] He employed this mode of presence when he left the closed grave and came through closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper, and, as people believe, when he was born of his mother.—FC SD VII:100

20 April 2021

Just something very unsettling...

...about looking out my study’s window on April 20th and watching the snow fall. And it reminds me a snowy April day 36 years ago when we buried my brother. I can still see his girls shivering in the cold beside their father’s grave, wearing their white easter dresses.

Gerhard and Walther

If an earnest disapproval and hatred against sin is to arise in the heart of a person, God the Holy Spirit has to work that in him.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:189.

Wherever God’s Word is still valued and reverenced, Christ has His believers, even if false teachers pervert and falsify it. Christ is not a poor king who reigns only in one city, province, or country. Wherever in all the world the Word of His grace sounds, there He makes subjects for Himself and establishes the holy kingdom of His Church in defiance of the gates of hell.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 379.

Patristic Quote of the Day

We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.— St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

Catechesis: the Eucharist

Indeed, in the administration of the Holy Supper the Words of Institution are to be clearly and plainly spoken or sung publicly in the congregation, and in no case to be omitted.... But this “blessing” or the recitation of the Words of Institution of Christ by itself does not make a valid sacrament if the entire action of the Supper, as Christ administered it, is not observed (as, for example, when the consecrated bread is not distributed, received, and eaten, but is locked up, made into a sacrifice, or carried around in procession). On the contrary, Christ’s command, “Do this,” must be observed without division or confusion.—FC SD VII:79, 83

19 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

Repentance is not a work of one’s own natural human power. Rather, it is a gracious work of God the Holy Spirit—as is proven by many passages of Scripture.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:173.

One thing is necessary to belong to the one flock that saved. A person must listen to the voice of Christ and recognize Him as the only Shepherd of his soul, accepting Him and remaining with Him.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 376.

Catechesis: the Eucharist

True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.—FC SD VII:69 

Patristic Quote of the Day

For when of ourselves we seek the things which are above us, nothing is more foolish, nothing weaker than we are. In such case, a tongue well whetted we may have; but stability of doctrine we cannot have. Rather, reasonings, being alone, are like the webs of spider.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on 1 Corinthians

18 April 2021

JUST what the Dr. ordered!

Today our parish had a picnic. Our Christian Life board served up some sloppy joes and cupcakes. People brought chairs and we enjoyed some beautiful 60° weather. It was so, so very good to see so many folks again! I’m your typical introvert and usually plan as rapid an escape from a group situation as possible and without being too rude. Not today. Mary said: “I’m surprised you’re still here.” I told her shows how deprived I’ve been, how much even I have missed the company of this bunch of saints that God has joined together into a family in this place. And not just the old faces, either. Our parish has welcomed 30+ folks in the past year, so there’s a bunch of new people to get to know right alongside lots of old faces to visit with, and in general, just a humungous joy in simply “being together.” 


...A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky...

These two lovely ladies...

...celebrated their birthdays together again, and this time on Crys’ birthday. Together they total 117!!! Scott and I have taken the ladies out on the occasion for donkey years now. And I’m happy to report that after a lovely dinner, the gentlemen soundly thrashed them at pinochle. It was a fine birthday present indeed. 😎

It is beyond doubt...

...one of my all time favorite collects of the entire year. The collect for this Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, Misericordias Domini:

God, who by the humiliation of Thy Son didst raise up the fallen world, grant unto Thy faithful ones perpetual gladness, and those whom Thou hast delivered from the danger of everlasting death do Thou make partakers of eternal joys; though Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord...

What a bold thing to ask of God: perpetual gladness and eternal joys! And yet these are what He is eager to give to us. Neither of those is “happiness” (so dependent upon “happenings”) but both are rooted far deeper: they flow from the Cross of Christ and what it has won for us. And that gives you reason to be perpetually glad and to hasten often to made a partaker of the eternal joys that flow from His presence.

“In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16 (Conserva Me, Domine)

What a beautiful Misericordias Domini Sunday!

David’s Tree: Tempus fugit!

David planted this little fir in the parsonage flower bed when he was a wee thing. I think maybe second or third grade? It had grown so much from that little stick in a few year’s time, that we got this pic of him (8th grade???) with his tree. We had a circuit pastors luncheon out in Pastor’s backyard, last week and I noticed the tree. So this morning, I took an updated picture of a much older and taller David next to his much, much taller tree. (P.S. He and Kantor also blessed us in Church this a.m. with “Sheep May Safely Graze.”)

16 April 2021

When lilacs last

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love....

Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
You only I hear—yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,)
Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me....

Walt Whitman

Gerhard and Walther

Likewise, the fall of Eve did not just merely consist of an outward bite from the apple, but rather the inward turning away of the heart from God and His command.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:171.

The sin of living for oneself is both the most common and the most hidden sin. By nature, all people live for themselves, but none recognizes that he is stuck in this sin and what a great abomination it is.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 369

Patristic Quote of the Day

Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.— St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

Catechesis: the Eucharist

The other kind of eating is oral and sacramental, when all who eat and drink the consecrated bread and wine in the Supper receive and partake of the true, essential body and blood of Christ orally. Believers receive it as a certain pledge and assurance that their sins are truly forgiven and that Christ dwells in them with his powers. Unbelievers receive it, too, but in their case as judgment and condemnation.—FC SD VII:63

15 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

An unrepentant person robs himself of the merit and power of Christ’s suffering and death. For where there is no true repentance, there Christ’s blood and death can not be efficacious for eternal life.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:166

But as St. Paul says in today’s text, the death of Christ is viewed by God as if all had died themselves. His death was substitutionary, a death in the place of, and instead of, all people. This death atones for and cancels their sins. It is like a payment of a debt, for when one person pays for all, no one remains a debtor.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, pp. 367, 368.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Concerning the hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them; and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided.—St. Basil the Great, The Morals

Catechesis: the Eucharist

So, there is a twofold eating of Christ’s flesh. First, there is a spiritual kind of eating, Christ treats above all in John 6. This occurs in no other way than with the Spirit and faith in the proclamation of and meditation on the gospel, as well as in the Supper. It is in and of itself useful, salutary, and necessary for all Christians at all times for their salvation. Without this spiritual reception, even the sacramental or oral eating in the Supper is not only not salutary, but also harmful and damning.—FC SD VII:61.

14 April 2021

Work Flow

It’s a term I learned from the corporate world, but it’s accurate. There’s a flow to work. How it normally is processed. My normal workflow includes:

Every week day: Blogging (weekends are bonus); exercising (these days, 1000 pushups a week with 100 pull ups, and some HIIT on Saturdays).

Mondays: Record Issues Show; write 1 podcast for The Word Endures.
Tuesday: Write two podcasts for The Word Endures; send off three podcast scripts; write up following week’s promo
Wednesday: Record three podcasts for The Word Endures; write one podcast for The Word Endures
Thursday: Write two podcasts for The Word Endures. Send off three podcast scripts.
Friday: Record three podcasts for The Word Endures; write script for next Issues show.
Saturday: (generally) assist at the Saturday liturgy
Sunday: (generally) assist at the early liturgy. 

Rinse and repeat! In general, this gives me six podcasts per week plus one Issues’ show. Sometimes there are additional things, such as articles for Issues Etc. Journal or prepping for sermons or various public speaking engagements, or videos to do when introducing a new Biblical book. Still, all in all, that is the work flow of my typical week. Across the weeks it allows a build up in shows (very gradually), that permits vacations and such, here and there, throughout the year. I always have grand dreams of building up to a month’s worth of podcasts; but it has never happened. Usually just enough are recorded to cover the next absence. Sigh. Maybe by Christmas?

Gerhard and Walther

Truly repentant people must humbly and completely leave it to God, if, when, and in what manner He might avert and mitigate temporal misfortunes.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:164.

For the sake of our sins, He once sighed, groaned, and struggled as One who had been conquered by the poisonous sting of the hellish snake in His heel. Today, however, we see Him triumphant while Satan writhes, powerless, his head crushed under the foot of the almighty Victor. For the sake of our sins, having once wrestled with death and having been swallowed up as death’s prey with open vengeance, He is now clothed with a glorious body and the sting of death has been broken.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, pp. 366, 367.

Patristic Quote of the Day

There is nothing worse than that man should measure and judge of divine things by human reasonings.—St. John Chrysostom, Hom 1 on 2 Tim

Catechesis: the Eucharist

He [St. Paul in 1 Cor. 10] was discouraging and warning those who ate from the sacrifices to the idols and who practiced fellowship with heathen worship of the devil and at the same time went to the table of the Lord and shared Christ’s body and blood. He warned them so that they would not receive his body and blood to their judgment and damnation.—FC SD VII:57

13 April 2021

What a Month Can Do

So yours truly had a blood draw a month ago. It was spectacularly BAD. My PA was definitely recommending a statin. I suggested, though, we wait a month and redo because those numbers were so out of line with what they usually are. I hadn’t been strictly fasted, because I’d enjoyed a cup or two of buttered coffee in the morning. This time, no buttered coffee till I got back from the blood draw, and the fast was about 16 hours long. Check this out. It is amazing:

March 2021:

Total: 495

HDL: 80

Trig: 189

LDL: 415 (Non HDL)

April 2021:

Total: 237

HDL: 99

Trig: 63

LDL: 138

Triglyceride swing of over 120. In one month! I’d be willing to bet in a few hours. Given the outstanding Triglyceride/HDL ratio, THIS month and the horrific figure last month, my suggestion, folks, is not to have COFFEE before you go get your tests done, particularly not unfiltered coffee (which is what we usually drink). 

Gerhard and Walther

Thus a person should not view his works as being for his own glory or benefit. Rather, they are to be viewed as being to God’s glory and for the benefit of the neighbor.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:143.

No preacher has the authority to deny absolution to a repentant Christian; instead, it is his duty to speak it to the Christian as his appointed servant.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 364. 

Patristic Quote of the Day

When God the Father commanded the holy apostles from the cloud overhead, saying, “Listen to Him,” Moses was far away. Elijah was no longer near. Christ was there alone. It was Christ, therefore, that God commanded them to obey. For Christ is the end of the Law and the Prophets.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Sermon LI on St. Luke

Catechesis: the Eucharist

Here, in the institution of his last will and testament and this enduring covenant and agreement, he did not use flowery language but rather the most appropriate, simple, unambiguous, and plain words.... Moreover, so that there can be absolutely no misunderstanding, he explained this more clearly with the word, “given for you, poured out for you.”—FC SD VII:50.

12 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

Whoever does not hear the Word of God, partake of the holy Sacrament, does not diligently pray, does not fight against the lusts of the flesh, shall not be able to obtain true godliness.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:142. 

The apostles expressly attributed to themselves the power to forgive sins, and they employed this power with explicit words.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 359.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Synods and Conventions I salute from afar, since I have experienced that most of them (to speak moderately) are but sorry affairs.—St. Gregory of Nazianzus (who presided over the second ecumenical council!!!), Letter 124. 

Catechesis: the Eucharist

He [our Lord Jesus] spoke these words deliberately and carefully at his Last Supper, as he began his bitter suffering and death for our sins, in that last, sad hour. Thereby he instituted this most holy sacrament, which is to be used until the end of the world with great reverence and in all obedience. It is to be a continual memorial of his bitter suffering and death and of all his benefits, a seal of the New Testament, a comfort for all troubled hearts, and a continual bond and union of Christ’s people with Christ their head and among themselves.—FC SD VII:44.

11 April 2021

Happy birthday!

Another Quasimodo thought...

...that occurred as Pastor preached upon the “Peace” Jesus greeted His own with this day. The Roman liturgy relatively early on moved the Pax from kicking off the service of the Sacrament to immediately prior to the distribution of the blessed Sacrament, i.e., after the Consecration. Here it acquires that new meaning that Luther delighted in (see Formula Missae). Pax domini sit semper vobiscum. He spoke His peace to their fear and then He showed them the wounds that had defeated all death and brought in life everlasting. And so turning to us with the body and blood of the self-same Savior in his hands, our Pastor speaks to us “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” We can only answer: “Amen!” Luther called it a public absolution, this peace. It surely must have seemed that way to the apostles behind the locked doors in the upper room. “Peace!” the Risen One cried, and then the sight of that which had gained our peace. And so this is a peace “semper,” alway. It’s not peace for a moment. Or even a few moments. This is a peace that endures, secured by His wounds. They testify forever to this peace being ours, with us forever, semper vobiscum.

P.S. And I have no idea if this is an accident or not, but it certainly looks to me like the crucifix on our main altar has the crucified Lord giving the “Latin” blessing with His right hand (left hand facing straight on) and the “Eastern” blessing with His left hand (right hand facing straight on). 

Quasimodogeniti Hymnody

When it starts with Charles Wesley (Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, Alleluia, though originally from the Latin in the 14th century), moves onto O Filii (O Sons and Daughters of the King, 15th century), has some Walther during the lavabo (He’s Risen! He’s Risen!, 19th century), some Gerhardt during the Distribution (Awake, My Heart, with Gladness, 17th century) and wraps up with some St. John of Damascus (The Day of Resurrection, 8th century)...you know a bit of heaven has been given you to feast on right here upon the earth! “Our joy that has no end” indeed!

Liturgical Strata

If you’ve ever visited the Grand Canyon (I have not yet), I’m told that there are explanations of the various strata on display in the layered effect of the rock. Each one, supposedly, bears record to a different era of the earth’s history.

At yesterday’s Divine Service I was reminded that this holds true even for the holy liturgy. The liturgical movement of the 20th century sought to renew in the Church an earlier patristic idea of Easter itself stretching through all 50 days up to Pentecost (I think even to this day the liturgical appointments for Easter season in the Eastern liturgical books are called the Pentecostarion). And this showed even in the way the Sundays might be referred to: is this Sunday the Second Sunday OF Easter or the First Sunday AFTER Easter?

The old collect (whose origins are Gregorian; see Reed’s The Lutheran Liturgy, p. 509) for the day began with this line: “Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who HAVE CELEBRATED the solemnities of the Lord’s resurrection....” Our new rite is (sadly, but predictably) allergic to anything approaching the glory of “solemnities” so it is reduced to: “Almighty God, grant that we who HAVE CELEBRATED the Lord’s resurrection.” What both confess, though, is that the origin of this collect was at a time when Easter already on Quasimodogeniti was regarded as a past celebration. Well, more accurately if you leave solemnities in there, past celebrations. For of course, there was at least Vigil and Easter Mass, and then the services upon Easter Monday and Tuesday. These were all “solemnities” in which the Church’s Easter joy stretched out beyond the single day. But by THIS Sunday, we’re looking backwards at Easter and praying either (in the old collect) that “by the help of Thy grace” we may “bring forth the fruits thereof in our life and conversation” or in the new collect (with a nod to St. Thomas) that we “may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God.” Backwards, not “ongoing” then. 

It’s not that the 50 days of Easter are wrong. But it’s that the liturgy has strata that arise at times when different understandings surface and lead to “adjustments.” We’ll notice the same thing come Ascension with the perennial question of what on earth to do with the Paschal Candle? Traditionally, snuffed out during the Ascension liturgy. But then there’s ANOTHER Sunday of the 50 days just waiting: the SEVENTH Sunday OF Easter, which in the old days (well, at least from middle ages onward) was just “Sunday after the Ascension” or Exaudi (from the Introit). 

Layers of liturgical strata: there are actually numerous instances, but this one was sort of in my face assisting in the Mass last evening. Still, I’m happily confessing: Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

10 April 2021

This morning’s Psalms...

...included “whoso offereth praise glorifieth me” (50:23). Of course the motto of Bach that he closed off every composition with was Soli Deo Gloria. It occurred to me as I prayed those words at Matins that our exclamations of praise are always the mark of ENJOYING God’s good creation and our pilgrimage in this world and His mighty saving acts in Christ Jesus. And with that, the remembrance of whence it all comes, and to Whom belongs the praise. This is already an act that glorifies the Giver of all good things. There’s a great line in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple about how the protagonist thinks it must frustrate (well, she said “pisses God off”) when folks walk by the color purple in nature and don’t even notice it! I’d add: Or pass by a hyacinth and not breathe deeply of its fragrance, or stand under an apple tree in full bloom and not rejoice to drink in the sweet odors. I think that’s profound and true. There’s so much beauty, so much goodness to celebrate and to refer all of it to the great Giver, and when we’re blind to whom we praise, that must be immensely “frustrating” to God. But when we remember that a big part of our vocation as Christians is to return the praise for ALL His goodness and so glorify Him on behalf of a blind world, as priests of God most high, the joy of life only increases more and more.

Well, tomorrow we’ll be celebrating...

...in the afternoon that Cindi will be turning 61 the next day. Last year, of course, was the year of HORRIBLE birthdays. Cindi’s 60th that year fell on Easter, and it only made the day more dismal. She did some video chat with our kids and her sisters, but it was just wrong. This year, we’re paying for babysitters to watch the grandkids and the older generations are headed out to celebrate in style at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. Soooo looking forward to it! So here’s any early “Happy birthday, Love of My Life!” 

09 April 2021

Heterotaxy Syndrome...

...I learned THAT’S what the mess on my insides is called. You see, went for Coronary Arterial Calcium Scan and got my score (which, by the bye, after 20 years of low carb and high fat eating is EXCELLENT!), but the scan showed up the other little mysteries of my insides. I remember mom telling me when I was a teen: “Your insides are reversed, so if you get a pain that you think CAN’T be appendicitis because it’s on the wrong side, well, it could be.” Well, okay. I have a long, ugly, nasty scar down my stomach. (I think I mentioned before my nephew called it “franken-stomach”). I knew that was from a surgery I had as a day’s old baby to fix an intestinal blockage. I never put the whole thing together. The blockage (caused by a twist in the intestine) is common in heterotaxy syndrome. As is the fact that my spleen has company (several splenules, little spleens accompanying the spleen!), the fact that my stomach is on the right, my heart is correctly placed, but hooks up in some weird ways to the rest of the bod, AND I think the old liver just lies right across the tummy. There’s signs of some long-healed granulomatous disease (whatever that means), but I take it that’s a genetic issue too. Put it all together and this accounts for why I gave up on my dream of a nice six pack some years ago. There’s nothing nice about THIS stomach and never will be, no matter how “fit” I get. With having heterotaxy with a heart on the left, you can have all kinds of dangerous heart complications, so I praise God that I did NOT have those, other than sporting my weird hookups for the blood plumbing. I had no idea that it was actually a genetic disease, but it was kind of neat to look it up and realize: “yup, yup, nope, yup.” More information than you ever wanted, I know. But I found being able to put a name to the phenomenon rather nice after all these years.

Walther and Gerhard

Rather, He [the Holy Spirit] actually works through the means of the hearing, reading, and contemplation of the divine Word and through the Holy Sacrament—just so long as a person does not willfully resist His most gracious workings.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:141. 

To be sure, believing Christians still find themselves in the Egypt of this world, where the hellish Pharaoh has erected his throne. But by the blood of their Easter Lamb, they are free, not from the devil’s temptations, but from his tyranny. Believing Christians also retain their disposition to sin, but the Lamb’s blood gives them the power to resist and overcome their sinful desires.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 355. 

Patristic Quote of the Day

And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole.—St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 49

Catechesis: the Eucharist

These are the words of the Large Catechism, which confirms, on the basis of God’s Word, the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Supper. This presence is to be understood as valid not only for those who believe and are worthy, but also for those who do not believe and are unworthy.—FC SD VII:27

08 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

A form of daily praying: Merciful, eternal God, Comforter of the distressed, Healer of the sick: let our prayer come before You with whatever anxieties and needs we cry to You, so that all mankind may rejoice in Your help and thank You. May you also graciously forgive Your Christian people their sins, and rescue them from all error and evil. Keep them in true faith and obedience. Give them faithful teachers. May all authorities lead and rule to Your glory and for the common peace. Protect all heads of households along with their wives, children, and household members. Cleanse the air of all pollution, pestilence, disaster, sickness, fires, and war. Graciously avert all the aforementioned, well-deserved punishments from us—or otherwise sustain us through them with Your mercy. Give us fruits of the field and protect us. Take care of the imprisoned. Help those who have been shipwrecked back to land. Comfort the distressed. Grant the expectant mother a happy view of new fruit from her body. Grant health to the sick. Grant grace to sinners to better their lives. And show mercy to all believers in Christ. Impart Your Holy Spirit and eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:132.

Because of the fall, we have come under the cruel tyranny of sin and we willingly obey it. Our desire, by nature, is to serve sin. Each of us serves certain sins that have full power over us.... Nevertheless there is salvation for poor, imprisoned humanity. God created a means to free us from the power of sin. That means is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 353. 

Catechesis: The Eucharist

Second, they hold that the institution of this sacrament, as it was performed by Christ, is effective throughout Christendom and that its power does not rest upon the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister who distributes the sacrament, nor upon the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who receives it because, as St. Paul says, even the unworthy receive the sacrament.—FC SD VII:16

Patristic Quote of the Day

This feast guides us through the trials that meet us in this world. God now gives us the joy of salvation that shines out from this feast, as he brings us together to form one assembly, uniting us all in spirit in every place, allowing us to pray together and to offer common thanksgiving, as is our duty on the feast. Such is the wonder of his love: he gathers to this feast those who are far apart, and brings together in unity of faith those who may be physically separated from each other.—St. Athanasius, Paschal Letter

07 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

God at times tests us for noble reasons with His response. That’s why we must wait on Him. If the desire of the heart of the petitioner is sincere, it will not immediately become lax if God does not immediately respond. Instead, it thereby will increase all the more.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:126.

Jesus’ testimony about Himself was divinely and irrefutably attested to by the glorious miracles He performed. As great as those signs and wonders were, however; God provided a much more glorious and shining proof in the resurrection of His only-begotten Son, a proof that was not offered even to the greatest Old Testament ambassadors and prophets of God.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 350.

Catechesis: The Eucharist

However, they [the “sacramentarians”] continue to curse and condemn as horrible blasphemy the teaching that Christ’s body in the Supper is essentially present here on earth, although in an invisible and incomprehensible way, and is orally received with the consecrated bread also by hypocrites and counterfeit Christians.—FC SD VII:8

Patristic Quote of the Day

Today is salvation come unto the world, to that which is visible, and to that which is invisible. Christ is risen from the dead, rise with Him. Christ is returned again to Himself, return ye. Christ is freed from the tomb, be freed from the bond of sin. The gates of hell are opened, and death is destroyed, and the old Adam is put aside, and the New is fulfilled; if any man be in Christ is a new creature; be renewed. Thus he speaks; and the rest sing out, as they did before when Christ manifested to us by His birth on earth, their glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace, goodwill among men. And with them I also utter the same words among you. And would that I might receive a voice that should rank with the Angel’s, and should sound through all the ends of the earth.—Paschal Oration of St. Gregory Nazianzus (Oration 45)

06 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

Prayer is not to work the lips of the mouth. Rather, it is a lifting up of the heart to God the Lord.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:123. 

If Christ is truly the Savior of the world, what help is He to a world that wants to know nothing about a Savior, that labors under the self-righteous delusion that it can redeem and reconcile itself?—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 349. 

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is I, says Christ, who destroyed death. It is I who triumphed over the enemy, and having trod down Hades, and bound the Strong Man, and have snatched mankind up to the heights of heaven. It is I, says Christ. So then, come here all you families of men, weighed down by your sins and recieve pardon for your misdeeds. For I am your pardon. I am the Passover which brings salvation. I am the Lamb slain for you. I am your lustral bath. I am your life. I am your resurrection. I am your light, I am your salvation, I am your King. It is I who brings you up to the heights of heaven. It is I who will give you the resurrection there. I will show you the Eternal Father. I will raise you up with my own right hand.—Melito of Sardis, Paschal Homily

Catechesis: The Third Use of the Law

For this reason, too, believers require the teaching of the law: so that they do not fall back on their own holiness and piety and under the appearance of God’s Spirit establish their own service to God on the basis of their own choice without God’s Word and command.—FC SD VI:20

However, the Law of God prescribes good works for believers, so that it may at the same time show and indicate, as if in a mirror, that they are still imperfect and impure in this life. For we must say with our dear Paul, “Even if I am not aware of anything against myself, I am not thereby justified.”—FC SD VI:21

05 April 2021

Gerhard and Walther

Faith is a spiritual fire that has to be burning in the heart if the incense of a God-pleasing prayer is to rise up.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:119.

Who can completely express what a great comfort lies in Christ’s resurrection? It is the most glorious absolution, spoken by God Himself to all the world. Here, the eternal love of God is revealed in its complete abundance, its overflowing fullness, and its highest splendor.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 347.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Hell took a body, and it discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!—St. John Chrysostom, Paschal Homily

Catechesis: Third Use of the Law

...it must be diligently noted that when we speak of good works that are in accord with the law of God (for otherwise they are not good works), the word “law” has one single meaning, namely, the unchanging will of God, according to which human beings are to conduct themselves in this life.—FC SD VI:15

...when people are born again through the Spirit of God and set free from the law (that is, liberated from its driving powers and driven by the Spirit of Christ), they live according to the unchanging will of God, as comprehended in the law, and do everything, insofar as they are reborn, from a free and merry and spirit.—FC SD VI:17

03 April 2021

Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Just got home from the best Vigil ever. A really great crowd, even with lots of children. Pastor Ball never trims ANYTHING, so it was a full two hours long and we enjoyed every minute of it. We began with the new fire in the courtyard of the school...processed into the Church... I got to sing the Exsultet... We had incense... a beautiful Paschal Candle... the singing was unbelievable (Kantor dropped out and the people just kept the four part harmony going strong)... all 12 Old Testament readings with two canticles interspersed... the Service of Baptism remembrance with the sprinkling of water... the Easter Litany... then the Mass itself began with the Easter announcement and the lights blazing and the Gloria in Excelsis, belted out, throughout which the Church bell peeled... the Easter Gospel from Mark 16... the Paschal Homily of my favorite, St. John Chrysostom... the Victimae Paschali celebration... the Preface and following, with incense again at the Sanctus... the gift of the Savior’s body and blood, wiping out all sin and with the promise of our death’s destruction went into our mouth... the Nunc Dimittis and a brief thanksgiving and blessing... we closed with Wesley’s “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and the room was ringing with it. Say, did I mention how awesome the singing was? Oh, yea. Well, it was. And we even had some trumpet on that last piece from John. Anywho, the paschal joy was fully tasted and enjoyed, and then we get to come back tomorrow and enjoy it afresh.

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

P.S. HERE is the best explanation of Easter Vigil ever written, by Pr. Brian Helge:

To those who are not of the household of faith, what we are about to do must look very peculiar. We are about to stand in the dark, carry candles about, sing lengthy and sublime religious tests, read stories from the Bible. What does this all mean? What is going on here in this community?

I think that I first came to understand what this was all about and why I came to think that this was the most important thing in my life when I read The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. In their wandering and meandering, two of the main characters, called hobbits, meet a talking tree, called an Ent, and they introduce themselves and the conversation proceeds:

"I'm a Brandybuck, Meriadoc Brandybuck, though most people call me just Merry."

"And I'm a Took, Peregin Took, but I'm generally called Pippin, or even Pip."

"Hm, but you are hasty folk, I see," said Treebeard. "I am honored by your confidence; but you should not be too free all at once. There are Ents and Ents, you know; or there are Ents and things that look like Ents but ain't, as you might say. I'll call you Merry and Pippin, if you please - nice names. For I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rat." A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. "For one thing it would take a very long while: my name is growing all the time, and I've lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking along time to say, and to listen to."

To use Treebeard's mode of expression, we are not going to be hasty folk tonight, satisfied with glibly saying the name "Christian." Tonight, you might say, is "Old Entish" night in the church. Tonight we are going to tell our name - to ourselves, by way of reminder, to those who will become part of us this night through baptism and confirmation, and to those of the world who will listen, who will take the time to hear what our name is.

And our name is a very long one, one that has been growing since the creation of the world. Our name is a very long story - of how we are made, of how God chose us from among all peoples, of how God liberated us from bondage, of how God planted us in the promised land, of how, in these last times, God has given a new twist, given our name meaning in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Because we have been here for so long, it takes a long time to tell who we are, to recount the story of our life as a people, and none of us would be here if we did not think that that name was worth telling and listening to. Now the trick to this kind of name telling is to relax. You cannot be hasty in this time ahead of us. Haste will stop up your ears finally, and then you will not hear this lovely language and our beautiful name.

Relax and make yourself comfortable in the darkness and don't even try to "make sense" of the name. Just hear it, let it roll over you in waves of meanings. Tonight we are going to listen to a series of episodes, not write a theological treatise on the resurrection. A practical word about relaxing: if you need to get up and move about, do so. If you need a breath of fresh air, go out to get it. We'll still be telling the story when you rejoin us. Whatever you need to do to stay comfortable, do it. All of this will enable you to hear the lovely language in which we can really name ourselves as God himself has named us. 

"Christian" is merely an inadequate abbreviation for what we are about to tell.

It is absolutely amazing...

...how the SUN transforms the stained glass of St. Paul’s. This was between the two Tenebraes yesterday. It looks rather plain and ordinary until the sun gets hold of it. Then it’s all fire! Pastor Gleason will have to explain how it works. I have no idea. And sadly, because our Church is oriented exactly backwards, only the pastors get to see this glorious sight coming through the Rose Window on Sunday mornings. How I wish that light washed all over the congregation!

02 April 2021

Good Friday Homily 2021

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. Amen.

Crucifixes make us uncomfortable. We squirm before them, and no, it has nothing to do with any anti-Catholic bias. Nor does “well, he’s not on the cross anymore” cut it. I mean, come on. He’s not in the manger anymore either, and yet you have no problem with seeing the Baby Jesus placed there. No. It is the crucifix that is the issue. It is simply painful to look upon your Lord suffering like that, and to know the reason. But we need to look, to look long and hard. “I was determined” St. Paul once told the congregation at Corinth “to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” And in Galatians: “Before your eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed (pictured!) as crucified.” 

Yes, the image of the Crucified One: We do well to tremble before it. We sing:

“Mine, mine was the transgression,

But Thine the deadly pain.”

In the darkness of that Good Friday the totality of human sin – from the first sin of our first parents to the last sin of the last human being alive – all of it was gathered up, pressed together, and then off-loaded onto this Man. He bore the whole weight of it and owned it His own, and with that He also bore its penalty – both temporal and eternal death, all sickness, all suffering.

So gaze steadfastly upon His cross, people loved by God. See His wounds, the nails fixing his hands and feet. Observe the blood running down his face from the thorns. Ponder the quivering mass of his mutilated back as he is forced to rub it against the tree, pushing up from the nails, just to catch one more breath. Look, stare, realize: this Wounded Man, dying in agony, is not suffering for a single wrong that He has done. His whole life was only love, the only human being who completely loved the Father with His all and His neighbor as Himself. And yet it is because He is love that He nailed to the Tree. Love will not leave the sinner in his sin. Love takes that sin upon Himself. Love is wounded to grant you and me healing. He is offering atonement for all the wrongs that WE have done. 

Yes, it’s hard to look a crucifix in the face, for it’s hard to accept the truth we sing:

“Lo, here I fall, my Savior!

Tis I deserve Thy place.”

Yet it is salutary to look. Salutary to drop to our knees before His bleeding image and to ponder it. To even beg Him to imprint that image on our hearts so that we can carry it with us wherever we go, and so that it can be before our eyes above all in the moment of death. You see, when death is near the devil shows up. He will seek right then to snatch you away from God forever; it’s his last chance, and he has a powerful weapon to use on you. The cunning serpent has a DVD player and make you watch. He will plop in the DVD of your life, and he will make you see the things you’ve done that you’re ashamed of, and even the many things you’ve all but forgotten all about. He will trot them all out and taunt you with them. Tell you that you are no Christian. He will declare you unfit for the kingdom of God. He will tell you are his and that you willed to be his with every sin, spurning God and His will. And all those sins will be playing all the while in vivid detail and color before your eyes as you are struggling in death. You will see your life as a whole. 

But that is why it is vital NOW to train yourself in life to look from your sins to the Crucifix, to behold your Savior’s wounds, and to hold them tight in your heart, and count them your dearest treasure. In the hour of your death, they are the only weapon that can conquer despair. 

Having gazed upon the Crucifix, you will be able to face down the truth of that DVD and you will be able to acknowledge its hideousness and its testimony to your countless rebellions. Yet you will not despair. You will set against it the other image: the image David set forth in Psalm 22 “they have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones.” The image that John held forth for you in the tonight’s Passion. “There, they crucified Him.” And so we sing, we pray earnestly:

Remind me of Thy passion

When my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee

Upon Thy face shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfold Thee,

Who dieth thus, dies well.

The image you want before your eyes as they are closing in death is the image of the Son of God in His last agonies, fully owning and answering for your every sin, and in love pouring out His blood to blot out every accusations the Evil One hurls your way. Awful as are your sins and mine, they have every one been accounted for, covered over with innocent blood, swallowed up by the blood of your Lamb. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” 

And here’s that testimony. In that hour, you will say with boldness: “You, my Lord Jesus, are my Righteousness; I am Your sin. You have taken from me what is mine and have given me what is Yours. You become what You were not and made me to be what I was not.” (Luther) 

That’s how you prepare for death with the image of the Crucified before your eyes and in your heart. His unfailing love, your righteousness. His death, your forgiveness. His wounds, your healing. His sufferings, your crown and glory. The sign of divine love. 

“It is finished” He cried. Atonement made. So don’t be afraid to look at that Atonement. Look intently upon the Crucifix; look boldly at it today. Do it tomorrow too. And every day thereafter. Learn to look and see God’s love for you. Learn to look and realize: “It is finished.” Really and truly. Forever.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. 

Gerhard and Walther

During the third part of the day, He hung upon the cross, prayed for those who had crucified Him, promised Paradise to the converted convict, commended His mother to the care of John, was forsaken by God, and complained that He was forsaken by God, and was thirsty. Also, as He gave witness that everything had now been finished and commanded His spirit into the hands of the heavenly Father, at that time He died upon the tree of the cross as the Man who offered Himself there as the true atoning sacrifice.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, II:87.

On Golgotha, we see sin in the greatest magnitude and with the most horrifying result. For what Christ suffered here, He did not suffer for the sake of His own sin. Instead, He suffered voluntarily for the sake of our sin. “Surely,” says the prophet Isaiah, “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows...He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities.”—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 340.

Patristic Quote of the Day

But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.—St. Ambrose, Letter 73.

Catechesis: Law and Gospel

Therefore the Law is proclaimed so that people might be comforted and strengthened through the proclamation of the holy gospel of our Lord Christ. This gospel proclaims that through Christ God forgives all the sins of those who believe the gospel, accept them for Christ’s sake as his dear children out of sheer grace without any merit of their own, and makes them righteous and saves them. However, this does not mean that they may abuse God’s grace and sin against it.—FC SD V:25, 256

A Good Friday Homily/Hymn from Romanos the Melodist

[I am thankful to Father Gregory Hogg for introducing me to this lovely meditation, which has massive echoes of the Preface for the Holy Cross: “who upon the cross didst give salvation unto mankind, that whence death arose, thence life also might rise again, and that he who by a tree once overcame might likewise by a tree be overcome through Jesus Christ our Lord.”]

Pilate fixed three crosses on Golgotha: two for the thieves, and one for the Giver of life. When Hell saw it, he said to those below, “My ministers and powers, who has fixed a nail in my heart? A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart! My insides are in pain, my belly in agony, my senses make my spirit tremble, and I am compelled to disgorge Adam and Adam’s race. All men were given to me by the Garden’s tree–but now a tree is bringing them back again to Paradise.”

When he heard this, Satan, the cunning serpent ran crawling and said, “What is it, hell? Why do you groan for no reason? Why produce these wailings? This Tree, at which you tremble, I carpentered up there for Mary’s Child. I suggested it to his enemies for our advantage, for it is a Cross, to which I have nailed Christ, wishing by a tree to do away with the second Adam, just as I did away with the first one. So do not be afraid. It is dry and barren. It will not harm you. Keep hold of those you have. Of those we rule, not one will escape again to Paradise.”

Hell replied to Satan, “You have lost your senses–you, the cunning snake of old! All your wisdom has been swallowed up by the cross, and you have been caught in your own snare. Lift up your eyes and see that you have fallen into the pit you dug! Behold that Tree, which you call dry and barren, bears fruit: a thief tasted it and has become heir to the good things of Eden. Moses’ rod led the people out of Egypt, but this tree brings mankind back again to Paradise.”

Satan answered, “Wretched hell–cease this cowardly talk! Your words reveal your thoughts. Are you afraid of a cross and of the Crucified? Not one of your words has shaken me, for these deeds are part of my plan. I will also open a grave and entomb Christ, so that you may enjoy your cowardice doubly–from his tomb as well as from his cross. When I see you, I will mock you. For when Christ is buried I will come to you and say, “Who now brings Adam back again to Paradise?”

Then hell spoke back, “Now is the moment for you to listen, Satan. Now you will see the power of the Cross and the great authority of the Crucified. For you, the cross is folly. But the world sees it as a throne, on which, as though seated, Jesus is nailed and hears the thief cry to him, ‘Lord, remember me in your kingdom.’ Listen now as he answers, kingly, ‘Today, poor beggar, you will reign with me. For with me, you will go in again to Paradise.”

At these words, Satan began to wilt, and what he heard he saw: a thief witnessing to Christ crucified. And so, amazed, he struck his breast and said, “Christ did not answer his accusers, and yet he speaks to a thief? To Pilate he never spoke a word; but now he addresses a murderer, saying, “Come, live in pleasure”? What is this? Who has seen words or deeds done by this thief, by means of which he goes again to Paradise?

Again the devil called out, “Receive me, Hell. I turn to you; I submit to your views, I, who did not believe them. I saw the Tree at which you shuddered, made red with blood and water. And I shuddered, not, I tell you, at the blood, but at the water. For the blood shows Jesus’ slaughter, but the water shows his life, for life has gushed from his side. For it was not the first but the second Adam who carried Eve, the mother of all the living, again to Paradise.”

Now Hell and Satan cried out together, “Let us lament as we see the Tree which we planted transformed into a holy trunk, beneath which thieves, murderers, tax collectors and harlots will find shelter, and reap sweet fruit from what seemed barren. For they cling to the Cross as the Tree of Life. Pressed against it and swimming, through it they escape, and come again as to a harbor, again to Paradise.”

Hell said to Satan, “Swear, tyrant, finally to crucify no one.” And Satan replied, “You take an oath to kill no one. We have had our experience, let us draw back our hand. Let neither of us ever again tyrannize the race of Adam, for it has been sealed by the Cross, it has been given life, like a treasure of a precious pearl in a fragile pot; life, which a thief, well-suited to his trade, took on the Cross. For stealing he was nailed up to die ; and having thieved he was called again to Paradise.”

O most high and glorious, God of fathers and of youths, your willing outrage has become our honor. For in your Cross, we all may boast. To it we have nailed our hearts, that on it we may hang our instruments and sing to you, the Lord of all, from the songs of Zion. The ship from Tarshish once brought gold to Solomon; but to us your Tree gives back, every day and every moment, wealth beyond price. For it brings us all again to Paradise.

01 April 2021

For Maundy Thursday

“How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” April fools! 

Not this Man, but those who dare to question what is beyond doubt the Word of that divine Majesty before whom every knee should bow and confess that it is exactly as He says. Jesus does not lie to you. “This is My body, given for you; This is the new testament in My blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.” 

His remembrance is that we eat His body and drink His blood and so proclaim His death until He comes. Which is a shorthand way of rejoicing: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! He died to win our salvation and He lives to deliver its saving benefit to us poor sinners and will do so until He appears in triumph on the Last Day. This the Christian congregation preaches every time it assembles before the altar.

During the consecration, prayers may be prayed. After attending to the divine Words over the bread that surely deliver exactly what they promise, as the host is elevated and we gaze upon it, with the awe of St. Thomas on that first Octave of Easter: “Thine of thine own, which Thou didst offer on behalf of all and for us all. Glory to Thee, Lord Jesus, my Lord and my God. Glory to Thee forever!” After attending to the divine Words over the cup that surely delivers what they promise, as the chalice is elevated and we gaze upon it: “Thine own of Thine own, which Thou didst offer on behalf of all and for us all. We, therefore, pray Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood; make them to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.” 

The April fool is the devil who thought that the suffering and death of the Son of God got Him out of the way; He who had the last laugh is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, and who when He had overcome the sharpness of death did open the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. 

On this holy day, this Maundy Thursday, we rejoice to receive from Him His sacred flesh and blood through His divine Words, and we know that He is feeding us “the medicine of immortality which a man may eat and not die, but live in Christ forevermore.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch) Verily, verily He remains the Servant who goes on washing our body and souls with His all-sufficient sacrifice. Glory to Him forever and ever!!!

Gerhard and Walther

Therefore if the reception of the holy Lord’s Supper is to promote godliness, it is not sufficient for a person to merely make use of the holy Lord’s Supper, and alongside others go to it out of sheer force of habit. Instead, it is necessary that one partake of the holy Lord’s Supper with an honest, salutary preparation; and as the holy Apostle says, examine oneself in advance, and then to eat and drink from this chalice.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis II:51.

The fire of faith cannot exist without lighting and burning. These come from love, with its hidden glow on the inside and the shining of good works on the outside. As soon as a person becomes joyfully certain of his salvation, he cannot do otherwise. The ice of his heart melts away, removing anger and irreconcilability and replacing them with deeds that follow the example of Christ Himself, seeking to embrace all in love.—C. F. W. Walther, God Grant It!, p. 337.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For if the type was a deliverance from such bondage, how much more will the truth set the world free and He will be delivered up for the benefit of our race. Wherefore, I would add, neither did He appoint the Sacrament before this, but only at the point at which the rites of the Law were to cease. Thus the very chief of the feasts, the Passover, He brings to an end. He removes the feasts to another most awe-inspiring table, and He says: “Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for many.”—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 82 on St. Matthew

Catechesis: Law and Gospel

As a result, the gospel in the strict sense teaches what people should believe, namely, that they receive from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through him alone we are restored to God’s grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith, and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally.

For everything that provides comfort—everything that offers the favor and grace of God to those who have transgressed the law—is and is called the gospel in the strict sense. It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ’s sake.—FC SD V:20, 21.