14 May 2022

Had a wonderful visit…

…with my friend, Pr. Jim Krauser, and we capped it off last evening with dinner at David and Meaghan’s place: 







13 May 2022

Catechesis: Person of Christ

The apostle Peter testifies in clear words that we also, in whom Christ dwells only by grace, on account of that great mystery [of the communion of the two natures], are "partakers of the divine nature" in Christ.—FC SD VIII:34

Luther

The marks, nails, crown of thorns, and scourgings I must bear, and so must all Christians, and not just painted on the wall, but stamped in our flesh and blood.—Sermon, 1535

Patristic Quote of the Day

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.—Council of Orange, 529, presided over by St. Caesarius

Good time with old friends...

...Michael, Jim and I went to Concordia, Bronxville together; and additionally Michael lived with Cindi and me for a while when we were at seminary (ironically, he slept on our couch again last night!). 





12 May 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).—Council of Orange, 529, presided over by St. Caesarius of Arles

Luther

By this we should learn that God does not want people to be sad and that He hates sad thoughts and sayings, and doctrines which oppress us. He makes our hearts joyful. For He did not send His son to make us sad, but to make us glad. That is why the prophets and apostles and the Lord Christ Himself admonishes us and even commands us at all times to be joyful and of good cheer.—Commentary on the Prophet Jonah

Catechesis: The Person of Christ

On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most bleed Virgin, did not bear a mere man. But, as the angel Gabriel testifies, she bore a man who is truly the Son of the most high God. He showed His divine majesty even in His mother's womb, because He was born of a virgin, without violating her virginity. Therefore, she is truly the mother of God and yet has remained a virgin.—FC SD VIII:24

11 May 2022

Yesterday...

...was my friend's 62nd birthday. Jim and I have known each other since Concordia, Bronxville (may she rest in peace!) days, and it is always a joy to catch up with him. He's a pastor in the ELCA and David's godfather. We travelled up to Springfield to check out the Lincoln home and tomb yesterday, and then came back to Edwardsville and had an early dinner.





07 May 2022

Our niece, Grace, was married yesterday...

 ...to John. Cindi made the wedding; I'm still at home. She sent along a few pics:






06 May 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).—Council of Orange 529, Presided over by St. Caesarius of Arles

Luther

And yet He says here: 'My Father knoweth me' (even in such shame, and suffering, and disgrace) as His beloved Son, sent forth by Him to be made the sacrifice and to surrender my soul to save and to redeem My sheep. And in the same way I know the Father and know that He will not forget Me or forsake Me, but that through shame, and cross, and death, He will lead me to life and to eternal glory.—Exposition of Jn 10

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

With heart and mouth we reject and condemn as false, erroneous, and misleading all errors that do not agree with but contradict and oppose the doctrine mentioned above and founded in God's Word, such as these: The papistic transubstantiation. It is taught that the consecrated or blessed bread and wine in the Holy Supper entirely lose their substance and essence. They are changed into the substance of Christ's body and blood in such a way that only the mere form of bread and wine is left, or the accidents without the object.—FC VII:107, 108

Cf. 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

One of the excellent...

...sermons I was blessed to hear at the South Wisconsin Pastors' Conference. Shared with permission of Pr. Chris Raffa:

Spring Pastor’s Conference Meditation: Sola Scriptura
May 2nd, 2022
St. Matthew 4:1-4

In Nomine Jesu

“It is written.” Sola Scriptura. Without fail the church is convulsed with various crisis that shape their whole subsequent existence. I think here of the Ecumenical Councils which hammered out sound credal confession. I think of the Christological controversies that carefully navigated the proper understanding and relationship of the two natures in Christ. I think of Seminex and those who fought tirelessly for the sole authority of the Scriptures over against any human authority. I think of the educational and confessional crises that we face in our higher institutions of learning. And as of late, I think back mostly to the Predestinarian controversy in the 1880’s over the doctrine of election, and I ponder the words that were exchanged between C.F.W Walther and one of his former students.

Walther: “I ask you upon your conscience, in the presence of God, do you not believe that this controversy on Election will shiver our dear Missouri Synod into fragments? Alas! What will become of us? How many will remain? The pastor replied: “Dear Doctor, I do not believe any will leave us, excepting perhaps seven or eight who are not and have not been Missourians at heart, such as heed the Word only, though it be contrary to all reason…But in every controversy only this, what has God said?” Or as Jesus said to the tempter, “It is written.” Or as the Reformers confessed, Sola Scriptura.

Right after His baptism, our Lord endure a most grievous crisis. Sent out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. Then proceeded all sorts of grandiose plans for a successful career. The decisions He faced were fundamental to His person and work as the Messiah. I suppose, some might flippantly say that it wasn’t that bad for Jesus. Yet at its core, they were as simple as they were crucial: faith or unbelief, obedience or disobedience, cross or no cross, “It is written” or, “Did God really say,” Sola Scriptura or Sola Ratio.

As pastors, you are on the frontlines and in the trenches of a cosmic war. You know intimately that Christ’s Church is assailed by Satan, by those who don’t want to live beneath Word of God but above it, by those whose confessional subscription would reflect more a quatenus (in so far as) than a quia (because), and by those who want to fashion the Church according to the alluring promises of Satan. You are aware of the theological hesitation and indecision over the years in our Missouri Synod that has simply accumulated to a point where we now have produced crises in our life as church that can no longer be evaded or ignored.

To break the hypnotic spell of the ecumenical mushiness and pagan progressive ideals that buffet the Church we must return to the “It is written,” to the Sola Scriptura. We must have a clear grasp of the true Biblical doctrine of what the Church really is, as it is so beautifully confess in AC 7 and 8, in the Smalcald Articles, and in the Large Catechism. A pile of stones is not yet the Church, thus a pile of churches is not the Church. Only that is the Church which is built on the foundation of the prophetic and apostolic Word, Jesus Christ Himself being its cornerstone. “It is written.” Sola Scriptura. In every controversy only this: “What has God said?”

St. Athanasius wrote after outlining the Old and New Testaments, “These are the fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me” (Festal Letter, 39:6-7). Jesus is clear, anything but Him as the key that unlocks the fountains of truth and grace from the well spring of Scripture is a demonic imitation. Sadly, many pastors and laity are tragically trapped within their own hubris, the false piety of the devil, or their conscience is ever vacillating between “Did God really say,” or the Sola Scriptura of “It is written.”

It is quite evident that the real Church, the mystical body of Christ, is and remains hidden to mortal eyes. It lives under the cross and suffers many weaknesses, sins, and offenses, within and without. We may see the Devil’s enticing promises of grandeur and magnificence, of “all the kingdoms of the world,” but we must believe and confess the Church—she is an article of faith. We find her not by sight but only by faith in her pure marks, in the purely preached Gospel, and the purely administered Sacraments. For as a creature of the Word of God, the Church always remains under the Word. She lives, not by the bread of men, but by the bread of God that comes down from heaven and gives life and salvation to the tempted, the fallen, and the broken. The Sola Scriptura of Christ’s Word comes first, and it alone determines what the Church is and what it is not.

The promise, “It is written,” alone keeps you, even as it keeps the One who spoke it into existence. This is the great confession of Jesus in desert amid the devil’s wiles: “It is God’s promise alone which keeps me. By it I live by faith, and not by gazing at bread. No, I see no bread and am starving; I see no water and I am dying of thirst; I see no men who believe in me, yet I am to bring them the kingdom.” Jesus does not believe in bread but in the promises; He believes in “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Sola Scriptura. And if the Word now gives Him bread in His great hunger, He will thank God. The connection to sola fide and sola gratia should be obvious to you here. And if that same Word refuses Him the loaf, he will go on hungering and believing in God’s promise that He is destined to a great work and will not die of hunger. The very Word of God is the Lord in this hour, and Jesus lives by it. And so do you as His undershepherds, men who feed and tend the lambs of the Good Shepherd’s flock even as you are tended and fed by same living voice, the same living waters of Baptism, and the same Table prepared in the midst of fierce and demonic enemies.

This is always the real crisis: that we are always in temptation, even as we pray not to be led into it. The tempter is always within our hearts. He comes not as foe, but as friend. He courteously said what we had always thought: “Did God really say this? Did He not mean it this way? Would it not suit Him if you now did this or that, instead of taking His Word, all too literally, of believing Sola Scriptura?

Even as the devil is deep within our hearts. Though our hearts condemn us, Christ Jesus justifies us in His blood-sealed promise, “It is written,” your sins are forgiven. Your death is destroyed. Your life is always with me, for I am in you and you are in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches.” Abiding in your Savior, you will join your voices to the confession of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine Words” (on the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327). “It is written.” Sola Scriptura.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son [+] and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Helmut Thielicke, Between God & Satan: The Temptation of Jesus (Michigan, Oil Lamp Press, 2010), 65-66.

 “The Election-by-Grace Doctrinal Controversy and Doctrine of Justification” in Propter Christum: Christ & the Center: Essays in Honor of Daniel Preus (Luther Academy, 2013), 400-401. 

 Truth, Salvatory and Churchly. Works of Kurt E. Marquart. Vol III Essays Historical and Historic (Luther Academy, 2018), 17, 22. 


05 May 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).—Council of Orange, 529, presided over by St. Caesarius of Arles

Luther

Behold, if we could so portray our Lord and imprint His heart [as the Good Shepherd] on our heart, with His overflowing longing, concern, and desire for us, it would be impossible for us to be afraid of Him. Rather we should joyfully run towards Him, and stay with Him and listen to no other word or master.—Sermon, 1532

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

Our faith in this article about the true presence of Christ's body and blood in the Holy Supper is based on the truth and omnipotence of the true, almighty God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This foundation is strong and firm enough to strengthen and establish our faith in all temptations about this article. They overthrow and refute all the Sacramentarians' counterarguments and objections, however agreeable and plausible they may be to our reason. A Christian heart can rest securely and rely firmly on these truths.—FC SD VII:106

04 May 2022

Whew!

We had our Weedon grandsons with us on Saturday night and Sunday night (David, Meaghan, and Lydia flew out to California for the Baptism of the youngest Yow), but then bright and early on Monday I drove up to Steven's Point, Wisconsin, for the South Wisconsin District Pastors' Conference. Was an absolute joy to be there with the brothers. Wonderful worship, richly using LSB. Great homilies. I presented on the topic: "The Solas and the Fathers, Etc." My last session finished up on Tuesday, we prayed an early Vespers and I hit the road again. Got home last night about 10:15. The most fascinating thing to be me about the long drive, and particularly the long drive when I was tired and it got dark: I was able to stay alert without coffee. No coffee since Easter. And it was actually EASIER than with the coffee. Not to mention, less stops! I would never have guessed that. Big job for today is cutting grass and maybe writing a podcast. But that's why I've been missing in action on the blog.

Tomorrow Cindi flies out to Maryland for niece Grace's wedding. She'll be gone till the following Wednesday. And in the evening I get to head back to the airport and pick up longtime friend Jim Krauser, who's heading out for a visit. I told his godson, David, that he had to fix Jim a birthday feast to celebrate his 62nd birthday. 

29 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" through the offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom. 6:126); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet. 2:19).—Council of Orange, Presided over by St. Caesarius of Arles

Luther

God's grace is a great, strong, mighty, and active thing. It upholds, leads, drives, draws, and works all things in a man and is really felt and experienced. It remains hidden, but its works are manifest. Works and words point to where it is, just as the fruit and the leaves show the kind and nature of the tree.—Sermons, 1522

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

It must also be carefully explained who the unworthy guests of this Supper are. They are those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives. By their unworthy oral eating of Christ's body, they load themselves with damnation (i.e., temporal and eternal punishments) and become guilty of profaning Christ's body and blood.—FC SD VII:68

April Workout Totals

Pushups: 3,425
Pull-ups: 365
45 lb. KB swings: 365
HIIT (10 minutes each): 8 
Averaged 13,916 steps per day. 

Grateful that this 61 ½ year old body still is holding up. Fueled by:



28 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

But the Lord sends a famine against the land on those who understand earthly things; and this is a famine not of bread and of the thirst for water, but one of hearing of the word of the Lord, when doctrine faints in the churches because of the sins of the people.—St. Jerome on Amos 8

Luther

Thus you are wholly transformed. All things from which you previously fled you now seek, and what you previously sought you now flee. For in this way you begin to be all on fire with godly love, and you become a different man, completely reborn, and everything that is you is changed. Now you are as eager to be chaste as you were before to be unchaste, and the same applies to all your desires and inclinations.—Sermon, 1522

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

It is not only godly, pious, and believing Christians who orally eat Christ's true body and blood in the Sacrament. So do unworthy, godless hypocrites, like Judas and his ilk, who have no spiritual communion with Christ, and who go to the Lord's Table without true repentance and conversion to God. St. Paul teaches clearly that by their unworthy eating and drinking they grievously sin against Christ's body and blood. (1 Cor. 11:27). —FC SD VII:60

27 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Do you wish to learn that we accomplish more before God when we pray through ourselves than when others pray for us? The Canaanite woman cried out, and the disciples came, and He said to them: “‘I have not been sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” However, when she herself approached, He helped her. You see how He held her off when others prayed, but when she herself cried out in prayer, He acceded. So although we are not ignorant that we are unworthy sinners, let us be by ourselves and without intercessors, still we should not lose heart.—St. John Chrysostom,  Homily, de profectu evangelii, vol. 5, fol. 428 (HT: Pr. Heath Curtis)

Luther

We should preach on these words [John 3:36] for a hundred thousand years, and proclaim them again and again. In fact, we can never preach enough about them, for Christ promises eternal life immediately to him who believes. He does not say, he who believes will receive eternal life, but immediately you believe in Me, you have eternal life already.—Sermons on John

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

From this [1 Cor. 10:16, 17] we clearly learn that not only the cup that Christ blessed at the first Supper, and not only the bread that Christ broke and distributed, but also the bread we bread and the cup we bless, is the communion of Christ's body and blood. So all who eat this bread and drink this cup truly receive, and are partakers of, Christ's true body and blood.—FC SD VII:54

26 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

While the priest of the idols was giving order that Amos not prophesy in Bethel, not only does Amos prophesy, but he also shows that he fears the God who sent him more than him who gives a prohibition.—Jerome on Amos 7

Luther

In virtue of this a Christian is called a new creature of God, which He Himself alone makes, above and besides all other creatures or works, yet in such a way that in this temporal life there is made but a beginning, and He works daily at it until it is perfected, when it will be a godly creature, pure and bright like the sun, without any sin and frailty, and all on fire with godly love.—Sermons, 1536

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

He does not speak about a sign for His body, or about a symbol or figurative body, or about the power of His body and the benefits that He has earned for us by the sacrifice of His body for us. Instead, He speaks about His true, essential body (which He delivered to death for us) and about His true, essential blood (which He shed for us on the tree of the cross for the forgiveness of sins).—FC SD VII:49

25 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Since all of us are in sin, and we are subject to the truth of judgment, the Lord will have compassion on us, and because we are little ones, he will raise us at the time of the resurrection, or he will raise us, who were lying in vices, through the virtues... "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on them who fear him."—St. Jerome on Amos 7

Luther

That is a strong and hard saying, that we must be born anew. It means we must come out of the birth of sin to the birth of justification; else we shall never enter the kingdom of heaven. Upon this birth or justification good works must follow.—Exposition, John 3.

Catechesis: Sacrament of the Altar

He is just beginning His bitter suffering and death for our sins. In those sad last moments, with great consideration and solemnity, He institutes this most venerable Sacrament. It was to be used until the end of the world with great reverence and humility. It was to be an abiding memorial of His bitter suffering and death and all His benefits. It was a sealing and confirmation of the New Testament, a consolation of all distressed hearts, and a firm bond of unity for Christians with Christ, their Head, and with one another.—FC SD VII:44.

24 April 2022

23 April 2022

One Week

Well, our experiment proceeds apace. After the Easter feast, we went full-bore Strict Carnivore as in: eating meat, salt, and water, inspired by Dr. Anthony Chaffee. The first few days without coffee were definitely a bit tough, but we were helped through with the supplement L-tyrosine. It prevents the caffeine withdrawal headache, but it doesn't do a thing for the brain-fog and the sluggish feeling. That had passed by Friday, though, and now we're both feeling great. Getting used to the new routine (of NOT fixing the coffee) has been hard. I've been a coffee drinker since childhood! Now I just come out and fill a couple glasses of water, and then we commence our prayers. Then after whatever workout we're doing for the day (M-F only) we then move onto rustling up some breakfast. Our new breakfast favorite is mince (ground beef cooked to a dark brown crisp), topped with easy over eggs, topped with pork belly. YUM. A close second is what's pictured: left-over steak cut to bite sized pieces (reheated in air fryer) and likewise topped with eggs and pork belly. 

P.S. Here's a great carnivore interview.

Spring has finally arrived...







21 April 2022

Last night we did our annual...

...gathering for the birthdays of these lovely ladies. Together they tally 119, though you'd never know it, right?










And as usual, after dinner we threw a few games of pinochle which the gentlemen, gallant as they are, permitted the ladies to win. I don't think they were even aware when we were doing it.



Patristic Quote of the Day

Nothing is more fleeting than the world and things of the world. When we hold onto the things of the world we lose them. We are changed through infancy, childhood, manhood, increasing and mature age, and the last years of old age... We run through these, and without knowing it we arrive at the borders of death.—St. Jerome on Amos 6

Luther

And if Christ is our brother, I should like to know what we lack?—On the Fruit and Power of the Resurrection of Christ

Catechesis: Lord's Supper

Second, they hold that the institution of this Sacrament made by Christ is effective in Christendom, and that it does not depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister who offers the Sacrament, or of the one who receives it. Since St. Paul says even the unworthy partake of the Sacrament, they hold that the body and blood of Christ are also truly offered to the unworthy, and the unworthy truly receive them.—FC SD VII:16

20 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

All creatures bear the marks of the wisdom of their Creator.—St. Basil the Great NPNF2 8:104

Luther

Whoever has no Good Friday and Easter Day, has no good day in the year, that is, whoever does not believe that Jesus suffered and rose for him is without hope.—Sermons, 1530

Catechesis: The Holy Supper

But they [the Sacramentarians] are used to cursing and condemning the following as a horrible blasphemy: Christ's body is essentially present here on earth in the Supper, although invisibly and in a way beyond understanding. It is received orally, with the consecrated bread, even by hypocrites or those who only appear to be Christians.—FC SD VII:8

19 April 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Love is a sweet word, but sweeter the deed. To be always speaking of it, is not in our power: for we have many things to do, and divers businesses draw us different ways, so that our tongue has not leisure to be always speaking of love: as indeed our tongue could have nothing better to do. But though we may not always be speaking of it, we may always keep it. Just as it is with the Alleluia which we sing at this present time, are we always doing this? Not one hour, I do not say for the whole space of it, do we sing Alleluia, but barely during a few moments of one hour, and then give ourselves to something else. Now Alleluia, as ye already know, means, Praise ye the Lord. He that praises God with his tongue, cannot be always doing this: he that by his life and conduct praises God, can be doing it always.—St. Augustine, Homily VIII

Luther

But now that Christ has laid upon Himself my sin, and has died for it, and been slain for it, they can do me no harm, for Christ is too strong for them. They cannot hold Him.—On the Fruit and Power of the Resurrection of Christ

Catechesis: Law and Gospel

The doctrine of the Law is also necessary in and with the use of believers' good works. Otherwise, a person can easily imagine that his work and life are entirely pure and perfect. But God's Law prescribes good works in this way: it shows and indicates at the same time, as in a mirror, that in this life works are still imperfect and impure in us.—FC SD VI:21

16 April 2022

Χριστός Ανέστη!

αληθώς ανέστη

The Great Vigil of Easter

Click here

He Descended into Hell

From Luther's famous Torgau Sermon:

"Christ has crushed hell, opened up heaven, bound and taken captive the devil, and delivered the prisoners." (HP I:482)

From the Catalog of Testimonies (citing St. Cyril):

The soul, having obtained union with the Word, descended into hell; but using its divine power and efficacy, it said to the ones in bondage: "Go forth!" (Concordia, p. 942)

From Lutheran Service Book

Jesus has come as the mighty Redeemer,
See now the threatening strong one disarmed!
Jesus breaks down all the walls of death's fortress,
Brings forth the prisoners triumphant, unharmed.
Satan, you wicked one, own now your master!
Jesus has dome! He the mighty Redeemer! (533:3)

Now hell, its prince, the devil, 
Of all their pow'r are shorn;
Now I am safe from evil,
And sin I laugh to scorn.
Grim death with all its might
Cannot my soul affright;
It is a pow'rless form,
Howe'er it rave and storm. (467:4)



A Prayer of Preparation for the Easter Feast

From Lutheran Prayer Companion, p. 46 (no. 85)

Lord God, we praise You; Lord God, we thank You that You have granted us this year to see the holy day of Easter in peace and good health. Most especially we glorify You for giving us the victory against all our enemies by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son. O Lord Jesus, we thank You for Your triumphant resurrection from death by which You opened heaven to us, destroyed death, and obtained for us the comfort that You are the resurrection and the life. O God the Holy Spirit, we thank You for Your paschal message, and we pray that You would plant the paschal joy in our hearts and increase and sustain it in us. And as by Your power the troubled hearts of the disciples were made glad on Easter, so comfort us with Christ's resurrection and that we have a gracious God, we shall live forever, hell and Satan have no power over us, and the world cannot hurt us. O Holy Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, sustain Your Church against all her enemies, spiritual and physical. Grant that after this life we may all keep the joyful feast of Easter in Your life of gladness, and with all angels, praise, extol, and glorify You, most blessed forever. Amen.

An Ancient Homily for This Day

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrows the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all." Christ answered him: "And with your spirit." He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

I am your God, who for your sake has become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on a cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by the cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

--An Ancient Homily, read at Matins of Holy Saturday, variously attributed: St. Epiphanius of Bishop of Cyprus (A.D. 403) or St. Melito of Sardis (A.D. 180), but truthfully just unknown.

15 April 2022

On Hearing the Passion According to St. John...

St. John tells the Passion of our Lord in his own unique way, and he provides little hints along the way as to what it was all about. Here are some of the hints: Mary and Jesus’ words to her; the fact that it is after he dies, that his side is pierced; and what comes out of his side: blood and water. By these hints John would have us learn to see in the Passion of Christ that Jesus is the new Adam and the Church is His Bride, his new Eve.

Let’s take the hints and unfold them: Mary first. You meet Mary only twice in St. John’s gospel. The first time is in chapter two, at a wedding feast. That is significant! There, you remember, Mary interceded for the young couple with Jesus, but he replied: “Woman, my hour is not yet.” Nevertheless, there He worked His first sign, turning water into wine. And His disciples believed in Him.

The next place you meet Mary is under the cross where she stands next to John, the beloved disciple. And Jesus speaks those tender words to her: “Woman, behold your son!” and to John “behold, your mother.” But what is it that is going on in those words? Quite simply, Jesus is bidding His mother good-bye. Now, ask yourself, when is it in Scripture that a man leaves his father and mother? Is it not when he is to be joined to his wife and become one flesh with her?

And when at the creation of the world, God created woman, did he not do so by first putting the man to sleep, and then taking from his side, a bride? So in John’s Passion, it is after our Lord has been put into the sleep of death that his side is opened by a spear.

And then there is the mystery of what flowed from His side: blood and water. The Church has long looked at this in awe and recognized here the very fountain from which the Sacraments spring. For this water is the water of Baptism, mingled with the blood of Christ. And this Blood is the Blood of the Eucharist, mingled with the water of life. And through these sacraments, Christ’s own life creates His Church, His beloved Bride. And why? That she and He might become one.

For that is what the cross of Jesus is all about. He becoming one with us in our sin, bearing it to death, that by being joined to us His death might be the death of our sin and that we by being joined to Him might be given His pure and sinless life. Think of it! When a couple marries and one of them is wealthy and having everything while the other is impoverished and having nothing, what happens? In their becoming one, the debt is assumed and answered for, and the wealth is given to the impoverished one. So it is between us our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what Good Friday is all about. It’s just one of the reasons we call this day alone in all the year “good” because on this day the greatest good, way beyond our imagining, befell us.

As you prepare to listen to the Passion, listen to it with ears of faith and hear in this wondrous story the account of how Your Lord Jesus is suffering and dying in order that He might be joined to you as a Bridegroom to a Bride, that His life might flow into you and overcome and destroy your death, that His forgiveness might come to you and wipe out the entirety of your sinful indebtedness. “Lo, stained with blood, the Lamb of God, The Bridegroom, lies before thee, Pouring out His life that He may to life restore thee.” Grant us such faith, O Holy Spirit! Amen.



13 April 2022

Let the Word of Christ Dwell In You Richly

The "you" there is plural, and so an alternate translation is "let the Word of Christ dwell among you richly." Today as I drove away from the Holy Wednesday Divine Service, I was pondering that, and how blessed beyond words I am to live in a parish (and have grandchildren in a school) that takes that seriously. On Palm Sunday, the children from the school sang in church and there they heard not only the Palm Sunday Gospel, but also the entire Passion of St. Matthew. Monday, we heard the bulk of John 12, with Vicar providing a thoughtful homily. Tuesday, I was privileged to preach and celebrate when the Passion from St. Mark is assigned. Then today, Pr. Gleason gave us a stunning homily on the Passion from St. Luke which we heard in full. Tomorrow, of course, we'll move on to John 13, with Divine Service both in the morning and the evening; and Good Friday will bring no less than the entire Passion according to St. John heard twice: Once at the Chief Divine Service and once at Tenebrae Vespers. Come Saturday evening the Great Vigil will be celebrated (with two confirmations; one Baptism) and its twelve Old Testament Readings. Then Easter Matins at 6:30 with its readings and the most joyous Divine Service of the year: The Feast of the Resurrection with yet more Scripture. 

This most intensive week of the Church's year, the Word has indeed dwelt among us in a gloriously rich manner. All the Passions will be heard and preached upon; the Sacrament offered no less than 11 times from the Saturday before Palm Sunday until Easter Festival. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful parish and its love and devotion to the Word!

Patristic Quote of the Day

You killed the servants whom I had sent to you. I will send to you in the end my Son, but you, according to your custom, by which you have always resisted the will of God, prepare yourself to speak against and to oppose your God. This is in accord with that which is written: "Behold, this one is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many, and for a sign that will be spoken agains."—St. Jerome on Amos 4

Luther

Therefore prayer is needed for both: first, that God through the Holy Ghost may touch our hearts, that He may make us loathe sin, may draw us away from it, and take away our trust in ourselves. Then, that He may kindle in our hearts His comfort in the midst of sin, and give us a firm confidence in our Lord's sacrifice and satisfaction.—Sermon, 1545

Catechesis: Law and Gospel

But in this passage (Mark 1:15) and elsewhere, when repentance and faith in Christ, or repentance and forgiveness of sins, are mentioned as distinct, to repent means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them.—FC SD V:8

12 April 2022

Holy Tuesday Homily

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

Well, people loved by God, you just heard the Passion according to St. Mark. Did it feel like a little bit of dejavu? Did you notice how similar it was to what you heard on Sunday from St. Matthew? Similar, but not quite the same and particularly at one point. After the prayer in the Garden and the arrest of Jesus, Matthew marches straight from “Then all the disciples left him and fled” to the trial. St. Mark, however, immediately following “And they all left him and fled” includes something extra. “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” (14:51, 52)

We, of course, want to know who it was, but the Holy Spirit did not inspire the Evangelist to spill the beans on that. We get a bit further, though, if we to stop to ask: why? Why did St. Mark include such an odd detail in his Passion?

Now before I attempt an answer, I need to tell you a couple of things. First, the term used for “young man” here occurs only one other time in Mark’s Gospel. You'll hear it again come Easter morning, when the women arrive at the tomb. “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe.” (16:5). Neaniskos. The same term in both spots.

And then there’s also this, the Greek term translated “linen cloth” that was about the young man’s naked body is actually sindona and this exact same term is used in Mark 15:46 “And Joseph bought a linen shroud, sindona, and taking Jesus down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.”

And then add one more tidbit from the Church’s history. Think back to the last Baptism you witnessed. How was the child dressed? Usually in a beautiful white garment, right? Well, anciently NO ONE came to baptism wearing a white garment. In fact, no one came to baptism wearing anything at all, whether they were child or adult. Here’s from an ancient baptism liturgy: “When they come to the water, let the water be pure and flowing. And they shall put off their clothes. And they shall baptize the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family. And next they shall baptize the grown men; and last the women who shall have loosed their hair and laid aside their gold ornaments. Let no one go down to the water having any alien object with them.” (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition, xxi.2-5) No clothes, no nothing on your body when people anciently went into the Baptismal water. As naked as the day you were born, so on the day you were born again.

And one last piece from St. Paul: Romans 6:4 (ESV) We were buried therefore with him [with Jesus] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Now, with all that laid out, let’s go back and think our way through this question of why such a detail was included in the account of our Lord’s Passion according to St. Mark. The young man “followed Him.” Not them. HIM. That is, the young man is quite literally a follower of Christ. And he did not want to leave his Jesus. But what Jesus was getting ready to do in His Passion was something He would have to do alone. He had told his followers this: John 13:33 (ESV) “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’”

The disciples cannot follow Him where He is going; this anonymous young man cannot follow Him where He is going; neither you nor I can follow Him where He is going. That which He now does, He will do all alone.

And the young man ran away naked. People loved by God, the passion of Christ does that to you. It stripes away all your fig leaves. It exposes all your fears. Everything you've ever been afraid of falls squarely on Jesus as you heard. Being betrayed by a close friend, sold for 30 pieces of silver? Having your other friend deny that he even knows you? Having all your buddies run away and leave you in the hands of your enemies who abuse you? You ever afraid of being beat up? What about being accused of something you didn't do? You ever wanted to cry out: "But it's not fair!" You want to talk about not fair? What about fear of physical torture, and of death itself? Or everyone making fun of you, when you become the public laughing stock? And hardest of all, what about being afraid that God has left you, washed his hands of you, abandoned you, just like all your so-called friends did? Oh, Jesus goes to His cross to endure the unthinkable long loneliness of sin and hell and everything you're terrified of. He takes it all into Himself in a way you cannot even begin to fathom. There's no getting INSIDE His: “Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani.” In the darkness, He bears it all alone. He bears it for you.

And yet He bears it without it breaking Him. It would break you or me. Hands down, we wouldn't survive. But He bears it without it destroying either His trust in His heavenly Father or His great love for you and me. And so it was forgiveness and life there on the Cross. As the Centurion saw and confessed: Truly, this was the Son of God. And that's what makes all His sufferings of all our fears and sins be SAVING sufferings. It's nothing less than the death of God for us.

So the young man loses his garment just as the ancient Church had all the candidates for Baptism do; they had to strip down stark naked. The young man’s clothing, it turned out, was only funeral duds, after all, just a burial shroud. But Jesus takes it, and all alone, He does what would wipe us out by bearing all our sins and fears. He wraps Himself up in them, so that by His suffering, death, burial and then resurrection, He could provides some new duds for His followers to wear that will chase away all fear forever! Jesus shoves us out of the way to take our place on Golgotha that we may take our place with Him at the Father's table in the Kingdom.

So today, at His Supper, He will come to you again to give you that very body and blood that once, naked, upon a cross answered for all your sin and fear and that now live, almighty and everlasting, to plead for you in love before His Father's throne, asking always that you might be clothed in the shining white garment of His perfect righteousness.

Why the young man running away naked? That you might learn that Jesus alone had to bear His passion but that He did it that you might be clothed in His resurrected life.

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

Happy birthday to this lovely lady!

Cindi, I am so thankful that God has allowed us to journey together through this life. We've come a long way from you sitting in the back of your car, outside Wheaton High School, strumming your guitar and singing Bojangles for me! Love you more than words could ever say.