27 November 2022
25 November 2022
Well, it’s been 28 years since your earthly sufferings came to an end. I still miss you more than words can say. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the details of that Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that year as it is this year. After I heard that they’d taken you to the hospital, I called and spoke to the doctor. He said that you were trying very hard to die, your poor heart just giving out. I remember telling him to please let you go. But I’m so thankful John and Tammy were there to see you that day!
I wonder if you remember how it was a Thanksgiving years before that we realized something was very wrong. You were staying with us, and Cindi and I had decided to teach you a new card game: sevens. After we explained the rules of the game, it became apparent to us that you didn’t remember numerical order any more. It took a while for that to sink in. How can someone forget the order of numbers? And then we thought back and realized that a year or two before you had given up doing your beloved crossword puzzles and your jigsaw puzzles. We should have known then, or at least gently asked what was up.
Most of the family joined us that Thanksgiving down in North Carolina and we talked about what on earth we were going to do as we gathered on the porch, while Dawn, I believe, occupied you inside the house. We decided to let things alone and just watch for a while longer. Sissy, you remember, was still working at the FBI, as was Jimmy. But it wasn’t long, mom, before we realized that you being alone during the day wasn’t going to work. You called 911 about things that were very real to you, but that just weren’t there. Uncle Edgar came over to help out more than once, as did Doug. Finally, Sis got a sitter to stay with you during the day. That helped for a little bit, but nothing was stopping the change in you.
Cindi and I tried to take you to our home in North Carolina. Do you remember your time there that last time? I think we started with a hospital trip and getting your gall bladder out, of all things! Then the terrible allergic reaction to the medicine (Cindi is a saint!). I remember when I finally had to put a lock on your bedroom door so you wouldn’t wander about at night. I hated doing it, mom. It felt like a betrayal, but it was the only way we could think of to keep you safe. And then when Cindi ended up on bedrest before Rebekah was born, I had to call Sis to come and get you. And she did in an instant. She was such a help! She came and took care of some laundry and other household things before she packed you up to head back to Virginia. I remember telling her that it was getting worse. Mom, your hallucinations were so sad and so persistent. You seemed to be living in a nightmare that never got any better. And you’d reached the point you couldn’t really be left alone.
Still, mom, my heart breaks when I remember that one day. You were crying there in your bedroom at our house. I asked what was making you so sad. You said: “You’d be sad to if you were losing your mind.” It was a moment of lucidity, but what a horrid thing to be clear about! You knew something was seriously wrong. We’d long since ceased trying to argue with you about the things you saw. I just tried to distract you with memories from the past (which were always somewhat clearer, at least for a time). And that moment of weeping and sadness for what you were losing, is the sole instance I ever recall of you ever complaining.
I just commented to Butch and Sis the other day, that the thing that always amazed me about you was that despite your physical ailments, the constant pain from the shortened leg, your headaches and whatnot, you just never complained. You never one time before that instance even referred to your suffering at all. And you certainly did not let it quench your spirit. You were always such a delightful tease!
The last time I saw you, sadly, you were pretty far gone in the loss of your memories. I am certain you had no idea who I was. I tried to feed you, mom, but you looked at me with nothing but suspicion and distrust. I remember I left that day in a very black mood; I stopped in Culpeper at Clore’s on the way home to Maryland and ordered a tombstone for Joe. I think Butch and Sissy helped me with the cost of that; it grieved me that his grave had never been marked; and now poor Maupin doesn’t even have a grave to mark! That was the summer before you died. I think Joe’s death probably did more to hasten your aging than even daddy’s. But a month or so before you breathed your last, do you remember who came to see you?
Yup, your beloved Tommy. He came with Aunt Emma. Emma told you: “Mibby (her special name for mom), Tommy’s come a long way to see you.“ (Tommy lived out in Cheyenne Wyoming.) Without missing a beat, you said: “Well, aren’t I worth coming a long way to see?”
I had taken the call to Illinois by then, the year after Bekah was born. Leaving you wasn’t easy, mom. I remember the fall before you passed away, I read the children “I’ll Love You Forever” and I just lost it. I couldn’t keep the sobs in. I just wanted to go home to see you. But when I stopped the tears, there was still work to do and I had used up my vacation that summer. So I stayed here. I prayed for you. And to this day I feel terrible that I didn’t just pick up and head home right then for a visit with you. I hope you’ve forgiven me for it. I would dearly loved to have hugged you and kissed you one last time.
The day after Thanksgiving 28 years ago, we were expecting our friends, the Whaleys, to drop in for a visit. You remember, Linda, mom? That day Cindi had to go to the hospital for bedrest, it was Linda who came and sat with you. I will always be grateful to her for that. Well, she came through again that day. After her long drive, Linda arrived and set to work packing our car with distractions so that the kids (they were little back then) would have games to play and books to read on the long ride to Virginia. Yes, Linda to the rescue yet again! And so we headed off.
I talked Sissy and Maup into getting you a cedar coffin. We all know how much you loved Cedar. And we did Christmas greenery for your funeral too. Do you remember how each year we’d go out into the woods behind Granddaddy’s and gather the running pine and running cedar and slice some of the holly off of the tree that Ann Field planted by the old house? I can still see you hobbling to the woods, determined to gather the greens to take home to Maryland, cheerful as can be. It seemed fitting your coffin should be decked with them too.
Mom, I remember too the horrible Christmas when you got shingles and you couldn’t wrap your packages the way you used to, always making your own beautiful bows. It was the start of a number of awful Christmases, wasn’t it? Then the year when Peggy almost died of that horrid virus, I think 1970. Then the Christmas daddy was dying, 1979. But you were always our rock. We knew we could count on you. You would laugh and swing your sweat towel and we knew the world was okay. Until it wasn’t. Until you began to be taken from us, memory by memory.
Well, this has gotten a bit out of hand, but I wanted to write to you. 28 years is a very long time to live without seeing you, and I just wanted to tell you how very, very much I have missed you. But your words of wisdom have been and continue to be my constant companions, especially your words from Aunt Annie.
Love you, mom. Can’t wait to see you again.
23 November 2022
21 November 2022
15 November 2022
14 November 2022
11 November 2022
10 November 2022
09 November 2022
31 October 2022
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Boys and girls, we’re going to think together on this Reformation Festival only about the opening verse of today’s Gospel reading. Remember, it went like this:
From the days of John the Baptist until now
the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence
and the violent take it by force.
I think that in order to understand why this text was chosen for Reformation Day, you need to remember a couple things we way too often forget about the Church: first, the Church is the militia Christi, we are Christ’s army! And so when you are baptized you are enlisted in the Lord’s army, and given your marching orders, which include holding that little piece of earth you call your body and soul as the Lord’s territory where Jesus is acknowledged as the true King to whom you yield your obedience and to whom you give your loyalty.
And here’s another thing we forget: that we’re not in peace time. There is a spiritual battle raging all the time, all around and it reaches even down inside you. And at the heart of that spiritual battle is the attempt of Satan, the Rebel, to retake the territory he’s lost. That means, to get you to switch sides back to him, to return to his revolt and rebellion against God. Instead of bowing your knee to King Jesus, Satan wants you bowing your knee to HIM, of to YOURSELF which amounts to the same thing. It’s all fine with him as long as you don’t serve King Jesus. Anyone or anything else will work just peachy as far as he’s concerned. It puts you back in his rebellion, whether you realize it or not.
Now battle, He gives you weaponry. But the weapons we use are all spiritual. Listen to St. Paul on this: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh, but the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience.” (2 Cor. 10) So Jesus gives you as a shield the gift of faith. He puts the promise of His salvation as a helmet over your head to protect it, and His righteousness as a breastplate to protect your heart. And He puts into your hands the most awesome weapon of all: the Sword of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God. You can see the depiction of it there with St. Paul. So being in Christ’s army doesn’t mean getting to take a wack at people like Peter did to poor Malchus in the garden, thinking he was protecting Jesus. No. It means armed with those weapons from Jesus, the attempt of the enemy to dethrone Him in our lives is bound to fail, even when it waxes violent. And it does wax violent.
The Kingdom has suffered violence from the days of St. John the Baptist. Wherever the message has spread, it has been opposed and people have tried to stop the Word about the true King, King Jesus, from spreading. Across the year’s they’ve locked up those who speak it and spread it, those who print Bibles and share them, and like with John, they’ve even chopped off heads to try to silence it. You know how they killed almost all the messengers Jesus sent, but how the message itself kept moving. The hatred couldn’t stop it. It kept advancing. Kept on capturing hearts for the King.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther experienced a joyous “aha” when he realized that the righteousness God demands from us in the Law is the righteousness He freely forks over to us in the Gospel. He gives us Jesus to be our righteousness, with His unbroken “yes” to His Father made our very own. That’s the big gift of Baptism. And when Luther tried to share this good news of King Jesus and how He spreads His reign through this good news that frees hearts from hating and fearing God and fills them with joy and peace and love, well, Luther found pretty quickly that it was still like Jesus said in the Gospel: from the days of John the Baptist until now…. That now reached all the way up to the 16th century. It reaches right up to today. The Kingdom still endures violence from those who hate the King and don’t want Him to be our Righteousness; and who above all don’t want us talking to others about Him, sharing His Word.
But even though the Kingdom suffers violence, WE, Christ’s army, WE are the violent who take it by force. That means, we ruthlessly put to death in ourselves anything and everything that opposes Jesus and His will and His reign. We seek to be loyal soldiers and hold this outpost for the Kingdom that is our life for Him. It’s an unending struggle to preserve this body and soul of ours as territory ruled by Jesus, since the attacks never stop. And we could never do it without the Spirit’s gifts in the Word and in the Sacraments, where He fires us for the fight, by constantly forgiving our sins.
Today when we celebrate His Supper, we come to receive Him who IS our righteousness. And we will kneel before our living and reigning King. And receive from His own lips, His forgiveness with His body and blood, and that’s how He strengthens us for the fight to keep our lives as His own territory, as His possession where what Jesus wills is the only thing that finally counts. To Him be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
30 October 2022
28 October 2022
27 October 2022
25 October 2022
24 October 2022
23 October 2022
20 October 2022
19 October 2022
18 October 2022
13 October 2022
11 October 2022
10 October 2022
Christ will appear at the consummation of the world. He will raise up all the dead and will give eternal life and eternal joys to the godly, but He will condemn the ungodly to endless punishments with the devils.—Ap XVII
08 October 2022
04 October 2022
03 October 2022
30 September 2022
29 September 2022
27 September 2022
26 September 2022
23 September 2022
Thank you Enid, and the Curry’s, for getting it to me. It will definitely be my “starting point” for all Biblical study henceforth. You can read about the creation of the work here if you do Deutsch: https://lutherische-studienbibel.de/weimarerbibel/
22 September 2022
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well, if only our pouty prophet had been a graduate of this august institution, he would have learned well before graduating and being sent out that God’s opus alienum is ever and always in the service of His opus proprium. He’d probably have had to write a paper on the fact that in wrath he remembers mercy, as Habakkuk sung (3:2). God’s heart is never in the wrath, though it is very real and terrifying. His employment of the wrath seeks, so long as the day of grace perdures, to move to penitence so that He may come to His proper work, to show mercy, kindness, steadfast love.
But before we go feeling all superior to Jonah, if we stop and consider his words that we heard this morning, we might realize with a shock that he knew perfectly well all about the opus alienum and opus proprium, even if he didn’t use those terms. Think of what he said: “I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster.” (4:2) And THAT was the problem in Jonah’s eyes. Jonah did not want God to be gracious and merciful to those nasty Assyrians. And by the way, the Ramseys of House Bolton had nothing on the Assyrians. If your city didn’t capitulate when they came knocking at the door, they’d happily flay your leaders once they took the place and hang their skin as a trophy and warning against not opening up when they first knock. They were awful, evil, wicked people. And Jonah wanted them to get their come-uppins; he was not doubt thinking “and it’s about time!” So he didn’t want to go on the mission because he was afraid that Yahweh would fall into His old habit of threatening wrath in order to move to repentance and then show mercy; and God forbid THAT happen, Jonah thought.
But, of course, it did. The Word of God is a hammer that can break the hardest of hearts. And when the hearts of the Ninevites were broken, Jonah was so angry he could spit nails. And so God does a children’s sermon with his grumpy prophet with the gift and then demise of that gourd. God asks: “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah is defiant: “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And so the Lord gently takes His pouty prophet in hand: “You pity the plant, for which you didn’t labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. Now should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more the 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Which is to say, God gave him something that he might have pity on (the plant), that he might learn a thing or two about the pity that goes in the heart of God for lost mankind. Pity from which Jonah actually lives, even when he forgets that he too is a poor sinner who is no better than the cruel and vicious Assyrians at heart. God’s mercy is what first sent him on his journey; God’s mercy saved him from the great fish; and all of this not just to save the Ninevites (though, that too) but most of all to save him. For salvation, my friends, is coming to know and believe and live from and share the mercy that beats in the very heart of God Himself.
Now our Jesus, famously lifts up Jonah as the great sign and type of himself. A friend of mine years ago floated to me the idea that it works all the better if Jonah actually died in that fish’s belly. For then Jonah becomes a powerful sign of the resurrection, which if you think about it, is exactly how Jesus used it. Raised from the dead and then sent out with an embassy of repentance and a gift of forgiveness even to the heathen, even to the worst of the lot of us. Glorious! But of course, because Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, and is born of the Father’s heart “ere the worlds began to be,” He doesn’t have a “go get ‘em” God disposition, but rather the Father’s opus proprium, mercy, that’s His heart beats too. James and John, sons of thunder, were ticked at the Samaritans for not welcoming Jesus on the journey to Jerusalem and Jonah-like, they ask Jesus if He wanted them to call fire down from heaven to consume the wretches? Remember how Jesus turned and rebuked them and said: Luke 9 “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.”
Jonah’s three day stay in the great fish’s belly was like unto Jesus’ sojourn in the heart of the earth, but the heart of Jesus is not like the heart of Jonah, for Jesus shares the heart of His Father. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” No, for His way is to cry: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55)
To lavish on mankind such abundant pardon Jesus followed the path of Jonah, but He did it with the heart of God. But did I really say mankind? What does one do with the almost Hindu ending? “And also much cattle?” His mercy on mankind spills out to embrace the critters that at the beginning God put under our dominion. And so even on the fasting cows of Ninveh, mercy pours from the heart of God. As St. Paul wrote: “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Look, we dragged creation down in the fall; but Christ will restore all that we have ruined. “Behold, I make all things new.” For from His heart flows pure mercy, mercy also for man’s animal companions; and much more so for any sinful man who will hear the threat of wrath, turn from sin in repentance, and turn back to Him in faith.
So, as we commemorate Jonah, people loved by God, we rejoice in a God whose overflowing compassion saves the nasty Ninevites, and even His own reluctant prophet. We glory in how Jesus’ death and resurrection reveals to us the staggering extent of mercy pouring out toward the most unexpected and unlikely of objects in the whole creation. From Nineveh’s cattle even to you, Even to me. Mercy, indeed, people loved by God, is our God’s very heart beat. And for that all glory, honor and praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever unto the ages of ages. Amen.
20 September 2022
19 September 2022
15 September 2022
14 September 2022
13 September 2022
12 September 2022
11 September 2022
09 September 2022
Belied the steel resolve that lay
Beneath her corgis, horses, play,
The hunt and taste for her wild game.
With Paddington and President,
She dined and gave the world a taste
Of grace and whimsy interlaced,
For she would go where duty sent
But freely served her commonwealth,
Until at last her own poor health
Her vital energy had drain’d.
Thus now we bid our* Queen adieu
‘Til He shall come who makes all new.
*Our Queen, for we loved her too!
01 September 2022
31 August 2022
30 August 2022
26 August 2022
25 August 2022
23 August 2022
22 August 2022
20 August 2022
Epistle: 1 Cor. 12:1-12
When Paul here speaks of calling Jesus accursed, he does not only have reference to openly blaspheming or cursing Christ’s name or person after the manner of heathen and of ungodly Jews; with them Paul has nothing to do here, nor are the Corinthians supposed to be of that character. Paul refers rather to the Christian who, though boasting of the Holy Spirit, does not preach Christ as the ground of our salvation as he should, but neglecting this truth, points the soul away to something else, pretending that this substitute is of the Holy Spirit and is something better and more essential than the common doctrine of the Gospel. CP VIII:207
The tongue of a minister of Christ—the language he employs—must be of that simplicity which preaches naught but Christ.—CP VIII:207
For instance, they exalt Mary as the mother of Jesus and Anna as his grandmother. But they have they thus torn men’s hearts away from Christ, turning over to Mary and the saints the honor due to him alone, and teaching the people to invoke these as mediators and intercessory having power to protect us in the hour of death. This is substituting dumb idols for Christ. No saint has ever taught such things; still less does the Word of God enjoin them.—CP VIII:208
Gospel: Luke 19:41-48
For we learn here of the very terrible wrath and judgment that befell Jerusalem. From it we must conclude that whoever persists securely in his wickedness and sins should never think that he can outrun the punishment. For as God did not excuse that proud and privileged city—because it had his Word and did not repent—so each individual should take note, leave off his sinning, and repent, for there’s no escaping God’s wrath and punishment if he doesn’t.—HP II:375
To put it another way, Do not just listen to what God says and then fail to improve the way you live, sinning the same way you did before, regardless of what anyone says or does. The punishment for that sin will most certainly come, even it may be a long time in coming. No one who despises God’s Word escapes punishment.—HP II:366
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God will overlook it if we continue to commit that same sin.—HP II:366
The sin which God considers the greatest sin of them all, the one that he condones or tolerates less than any other, is the sin of his people not acknowledging his Day of Judgment.—HP II:368
There is no advice or help for the person who refuses the forgiveness of sins and the grace of God.—HP II:370
But to those who accept God’s Word and change their ways, this account is a source of comfort and learning. They learn that when God delays punishment, he does this for their benefit and peace, that God wants to graciously forgive their sins, if they just repent by changing their ways, if they just fear and love God. It is not surprise that we are sinners, but if we defend our sins, stubbornly continue in them without repenting, that is something God will not allow. He would rather totally destroy such people, especially when he comes to them with the gracious warning of his Word, pleading for us to repent and we just stubbornly refuse to listen.—HP II:374
But if Christ be no longer with us, our hope will vanish; and wherever this beloved guest is rejected, and his Christians no longer tolerated, government, peace, and everything shall perish.—CP IV:330
And thus it will also go with the world; as its people despise and persecute God’s Word, and become so hardened and blinded, they will blame no one as the cause and merit of their destruction but the precious Gospel itself; which nevertheless alone preserves, thank God, what is still preserved; otherwise all things would long since lay in one common heap of ruins. And yet it must bear the blame for everything that the devil and his clans transact.—CP IV:334