31 October 2022

Reformation Day Homily for St. Paul Lutheran School

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

Joys of Reformation

“A Mighty Fortress”…Buxtehude’s Every Word and Thought…Bach stanza of “Salvation Unto Us”…John Behnke’s “Thy Strong Word” on the Bells… “We All Believe in One True God”… “Isaiah, Mighty Seer”… “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy”… “O Lord, Look Down from Heaven Behold”… “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word

28 October 2022

Have you ever had one of those kids…

…who just never outgrew playing dress-up? That would be my David. To the delight of his children!

Mom’s family place

My brother Butch was back in Richardsville recently. He sent me this pic of our grandparent’s old house. My mom’s grandparents (see below) expanded it considerably right after the Civil War. The oldest (central) part of the house we think predates the Revolutionary War. It was originally the miller’s home on the plantation.

27 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Being at once God and man, he both gives the Spirit to the creation in his divine nature and receives it from God the Father in his human nature. It is he who sanctifies the whole creation, both by shining forth from the Holy Father and by bestowing the Spirit.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 12 on St. Luke

Catechesis: Sixth Petition

Although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet our life is of such a nature that we stand today, and tomorrow we fall.—LC III:100


Out of love, Christ, with all His saints, takes on our form and fights with us against sin, death, and all evil, so that we, being kindled with love, take His form, trust ourselves to His righteousness, His life and blessedness, and so through the fellowship of the good that belongs to Him and the wretchedness that belongs to us, we become one loaf, one bread, one body, one drink, and all is common.—Sermon on the Sacrament of the Body of Christ, 1519

25 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

What clearer evidence is there of divine generation than that before speaking of Jesus’ generation, Luke has the Father himself saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”?—St. Ambrose, Exposition of Luke

Catechesis: Fifth Petition

In short, if God does not forgive without stopping, we are lost.—LC III:91


To them [the Christian people] is given the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament to convert the people, to win souls from the devil, to snatch them out of hell and death, and take them up to heaven; and again to strengthen, comfort, and uphold the poor and instruct and advise afflicted consciences in their sore temptations; and again to teach all people in all occupations how to do their work as good Christians.—Exposition Jn xiv, xv

24 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Adam brought death through the tree. Christ brought life through the cross.—St. Ambrose, Exposition of Luke 4.7

Catechesis: Marriage

Yet we do not make virginity and marriage equal. For just as one gift excels another…so virginity is a more excellent gift than marriage.—Ap. XXIII:38


The mysteries of God are those hidden things which God gives and which dwell in God.—Gaudete, 1522

23 October 2022

I love Sundays…

…and I’m only missing like nine others…
Lunch was bacon, sausage on the smoker, scramble eggs, minced ground beef, carrots and ranch dip, grapes, and an apple-peanutbutter-oats bake. 

20 October 2022

Weimarishsche Bibel-Werk, Matthew 11:13-15

Because all the prophets and the law have prophesied (that Christ should come) until John (who declared Christ to be present).

And if you can receive (and believe) it, he (that is, John the Baptist) is Elijah who is to come (he it is of whom Malachi prophesied that he should come in the spirit and power of Elijah, before the great and terrible day of the Lord—Mal. 4:5; Matt 17:12; Mark 9:13; Luke 1:17)

He who has ears to hear, let him hear (that is, note and hold it in his heart and so not wait like the Pharisees for Elijah the Tishbite to return in his own person to the earth or for the Kingdom of heaven to show up with worldly glory—Luke 17:20)

Patristic Quote of the Day

The fruit of repentance is, in the highest degree, faith in Christ. Next to it is the evangelic mode of life, and in general terms the works of righteousness as opposed to sin, which the penitent must bring forth as fruits worthy of repentance.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 7

Catechesis: Two Kinds

It should not be immediately judged that the Church decides or approves whatever the pontiffs decide, especially since Scripture prophesies about the bishops and pastors in this regard, as Ezekiel 7:26 says, ‘The law perishes from the mouth of the priest.’—Ap XXII:17


And thus the Christian Church has held her own from the beginning until now among innumerable false spirits which have been from the beginning and may still come. And yet she goes on standing firmly by her Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Gospel, Christ, and Ten Commandments, and true and pure prayer, and thus she judges and separates herself from all false teaching which is opposed to her—yes, even though the devil should become an angel of light and as a beautiful and radiant figure should present himself as God.—Exposition of Jn xiv, xv

19 October 2022

Matthew 11:12 from Weimarische Bibel-Werk

But from the days of John the Baptist (from the time when he began to fulfill his office) until now the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence (the Kingdom of God will be preached through the Gospel and everyone attempt to force an entry to it, Luke 16:16. Men seize the Gospel with determination like men taking a city. Luther: The consciences which have taken the Gospel to heart will allow no one to wrest it from them!) and the violent (the repentant sinners who in true faith stand against temptations by the power of the Spirit, and crucify and bring to nothing the evil desires of their sinful flesh) take it by force (press into the kingdom of heaven, from which it is apparent that John’s teaching and baptism have had a great effect).

Patristic Quote of the Day

It is apparent to all who read that John not only preached a baptism of repentance but also bestowed it on some. Yet he was not able to bestow forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins is granted us only in the baptism of Christ. We must note the words that he “preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He preached a baptism that would take away sins, but he was not able to give it by himself.—Pope St. Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies 6.

Catechesis: Both Kinds

There is no doubt that using both parts of the Lord’s Supper is godly and in agreement with Christ’s institution and Paul’s words. For Christ instituted both parts, not for a portion of the Church, but for the whole Church. Not only the presbyters, but the entire Church uses the Sacrament by Christ’s authority, not by human authority.—Ap XXII:1


God speaks through the holy prophets and men of God, as St. Peter says in his Epistle: ‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’. God and man must not be separated and severed from each other according to understanding and judgment of human reason; but we must immediately say, ‘Whatever this man, Prophet, Apostles, or sound preacher and teachers says and does by the command and Word of God, God Himself says and does, for he is God’s mouthpiece and instrument.’—Table-talk

18 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

And without a doubt we believe and hope that the one who saves us from sins is not failing to save us also from the corruptions which happen because of sins, and from death itself, as the psalmist testifies when he says, ‘Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.’ Indeed, with the pardoning of all our iniquities, all our diseases will be completely healed when, with the appearance of the glory of the resurrection, our last enemy, death, will be destroyed.—The Venerable Bede, Homily on the Gospels

Catechesis: On the Scholastics

We ourselves have heard that excellent theologians desire moderation in the scholastic teaching. It contains much more for philosophical quarrels than for piety. Nevertheless, the older theologians are generally closer to Scripture than more recent theologians. Their theology has worsened more and more.—Ap XXI:41


The battle begins when men must decide which is the true Church. As long as we judge according to human words and understanding we cannot settle this quarrel, nor can we find the true Church, but we can reach certainty in the matter if we hear how Christ our Lord describes and portrays the Church. Here He christens and depicts her as the little company which loves Christ and keeps His Word (for thus is such love known and felt).—Sermon on Whitsunday, 1544

*The Holy Gospel for Whitsunday is John 14:23ff. Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…”

13 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

In like manner also the Word is God and not flesh, though for the dispensation’s sake he made the flesh his own. But although the natures which came together to form the union are both different and unequal to one another, yet he who is formed from them both is only one. We may not separate the one Lord Jesus Christ into man and God, but we affirm that Christ Jesus is one and the same, acknowledging the distinction of the natures, and preserving them from confusion with one another.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke

Catechesis: Good Works

Faith does not remain in those who lose the Holy Spirit and reject repentance. As we have said before (Article XII 1) faith exists in repentance.—Ap XX:90


Where there is not the people of God, there are not the keys either. For Christ has left them behind so that there shall be a public symbol and sanctuary where the Holy Spirit can sanctify sinners and where Christians can bear witness that they are one holy people under Christ in this world. And those who will not turn away from their sins and be sanctified must be expelled from this holy people—that is, bound and locked out by the keys.—On the Councils and the Churches, 1539

11 October 2022

From the Weimarische Bibel-Werk on Luke 2:7

And she brought forth her firstborn Son (Christ, before whom and after whom she bore no child) und wrapped him (as well as she could in that strange place) in swaddling bands and laid him in a manger (in the stable); because they could not find any room in the hostel (in the apartments of the house where they had arrived due to the number of strangers present). 

(Republished in 1877 with a forward by Walther; originally published in 1640, under the auspices of Duke Ernst the Pious of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg, under the theological leadership of Johann Gerhard; this amazing book never ceases to bless me, as I keep looking up new passages.)

Patristic Quote of the Day

Christ is mercy and justice. We have obtained mercy through him and been justified, having washed away the stains of wickedness through faith that is in him.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke

Catechesis: Free Will

We do not deny freedom of the human will. The human will has freedom in the choice of works and things that reason understands by itself.—Ap XVIII:70


The Word is not the Word of God because the Church says it, but the fact that the Word is preached constitutes the Church. The Word is not created by the Church, but the Church is created by the Word*.—On the Misuse of the Mass, 1521

*Those two sentences, in my opinion, constitute the unique ecclesiology of the Lutheran Church vis-a-vis Rome or the East.

10 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Know that Christ is the Most High… What do those who neglect his divinity have to say? And why will they not understand that when Zechariah said, “And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,” he means “of God,” of whom the rest of the prophets also belonged.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke

Catechesis: Christ’s Return for Judgment

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


How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him?—Sermons on Jn xvi-xx, 1528

08 October 2022

Check it out!

Great video about St. Paul’s school right here

04 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

He [Gabriel] appeared [to Zechariah] at the time when the priest was making an offering to express the fact that he was proclaiming the coming of the true and eternal high priest, who would be the true sacrificial offering for the salvation of the world.—The Venerable Bede, Homilies on the Gospels

Catechesis: Traditions

We should not add to God’s covenant, for God promises that He will be merciful to us for Christ’s sake. Nor should we add that we must first get such merit in order to be regarded as accepted and righteous through these [humanly instituted] observances.—Ap XV:12


Christ who is your righteousness is greater than your sin and all the world’s sin. His life and comfort are stronger and mightier than your death and hell.—Exposition of John xiv, xv

03 October 2022

Patristic Quote of the Day

Whenever the soul continues to be fearful, it is the enemy who is present. The evil spirits do not dispel the fear of their presence, as the great archangel Gabriel did for Mary and Zechariah.—St. Athanasius, Life of St. Anthony

Catechesis: Canonical Government

The cruelty of bishops is the reason why the canonical government, which we greatly desired to keep, is dissolved in some places. Let them see how they will answer to God for tearing apart the Church.—Ap XIV:25


How often the Apostle uses the Greek word ‘plerophoria’*, which means such a certainty and fullness of faith that our hearts never waver but are full of certainty at all times. As I said before, Christians must know for certain what they believe, and must witness to their belief. Therefore, if you take away certain affirmation so that Christians are no longer sure what they believe, they have ceased to be Christians, and you have taken away their faith.—The Enslaved Will

*Note that St. Luke uses this also in Luke 1:1, but the KJV version only seems to pull the nuance that Luther is highlighting here. 

St. Paul’s Wartburg, TN

Well, this weekend Cindi and I were so very blessed to be part of the 175th anniversary of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wartburg, Tennessee. I got to preach at the outdoor Saturday Vespers (and we even had incense, yeah!!!!!), and then be celebrant at the 11:00 Divine Service the following day, for which Bishop Paavola preached, exhorting us to receive from our mother, the Church, the great treasure of the Word of God. Pr. David Graves and his congregation treated us like royalty! We will always treasure the gifts they gave us in memory of that joyous day (including the lovely ikon and cross you can see below). Hidden in those hills outside of Knoxville there’s a sturdy and staunch Lutheran parish, filled with saints that we came to treasure even in so short a time (including you, Deacon Dustin!)—and for which we give praise and thanks to the blessed Trinity. A few pics: