29 April 2024

Homily for Cantate Monday at Matins (Isaiah 12)

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

Boys and girls, yesterday was Cantate Sunday in the Church, named from the introit of the day that started out with the words: Cantate Domino cancticum novum: O sing to the Lord a new song. 

Our reading from Isaiah was specifically chosen to match the theme of that day, and especially its final words: 5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

YOU and all the baptized are the inhabitants of Zion and the Holy One of Israel is truly great and in your midst, and so your calling is to sing His praises and make His great deeds known to the ends of the earth. 

Never in the whole history of the human race has there been anything close to the explosion of joyful singing that erupted in Christ’s Church after His resurrection from the dead. Wisely did St. Augustine observe: “We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song!” 

The very earliest description we have of Christian worship by a pagan is a letter which the Roman Governor Pliny the Younger sent to Emperor Trajan. He had been investigating Christians and hadn’t found anything particularly treasonous about them. He did note, however, on a stated day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak and to sing a hymn among themselves to Christ, as God. 

Christians from the get go gathered to sing the praises of Jesus: they did so in what we call Matins and Vespers and also in the Divine Service.. Some of those earliest and most ancient of hymns have come down to us and are being sung even today: the Phos Hilaron of Evening Prayer (Joyous Light of Glory)—so ancient that at the time of St. Basil the Great (who died in the fourth century) he said that this piece was so old in his day no one knew who wrote it!  Same with the Gloria in Excelsis of the Divine Service, or the Te Deum Laudamus of Matins. In all of them, we  indeed address Christ as God while proclaiming His praises by announcing the great deeds of His salvation: “You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever, O Son of God, O Giver of life, the Universe proclaims Your glory.” “O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us; Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer; Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father almighty, have mercy upon us. For Thou only art holy, Thou only art the Lord, Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father.. Amen.” “When You took upon Yourself to deliver Man, You humbled Yourself to be born of Virgin, when You had overcome the sharpness of death, You opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. You sit at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father, we believe that You will come to be our judge.” 

And when the great Reformation of the Church took place in the 16th century, the song of the Church was renewed again. And the joy of Jesus’ salvation was put into hymns and anthems, like Luther’s great hymn we just sang: “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice.” You, children, are part of the Lutheran Church and our Church has been known since the Reformation as “the singing Church.” Sometimes we have guests join us who are Roman Catholic, and it’s always fun to see the look on their faces when we pull out one of our 10 stanza hymns to sing! To them, three stanzas is ideal; four is pushing it and five is intolerable. But we don’t care. We LIKE to sing! The joy we have that on His cross Jesus poured His blood and covered the sin of the world, the joy we have that by His resurrection He has punched a hole through death and will lead us through, the joy we have in the gift of His Holy Spirit and His Spirit’s Word imparting to us faith and filling us with love and hope: these joys simply HAVE to be sung. You can’t just speak them. Impossible.

So, as we gather around the “wells of salvation”—the means of grace, the Word and the Holy Sacraments— we belt out the Lord’s praise with the help of our musicians. We preach the Lord’s Gospel in our song and we pray that our song will carry that Gospel to the ends of the earth that others too may join us in the joy of singing to the Lord a new song, a hymn of resurrection victory in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Homily for Cantate - 2024

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

We are so much like the disciples, aren’t we?  We always think we know what’s best, and if only God would just get with the program and do what we tell him to, we’d be filled with joy and gladness. God begs to differ with us, however.  He insists that He is the one who knows what is best for us, and so instead of giving us what we want, He insists on giving us what we need.  


The disciples thought that what was best was for Jesus to remain with them in the same way He had lived with them for three years.  When Jesus tells them that this is not going to happen, their faces fall and their hearts hurt.  But Jesus doesn’t let the fact that He is disappointing them get in the way of giving them a great gift.  He tells them flat out:  “It is to your advantage that I go away, because if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.”  By the Helper, of course, He meant the Holy Spirit.


And I suppose they might have wondered:  Well, what’s so great about the Holy Spirit?  He seems a poor second to having what we want – and what we want is to go on having you with us the way you’ve been with us up till now.  We fall into the same foolish thinking every time we think:  “oh, if only we could have seen our Lord Jesus and have walked with Him – wouldn’t that be wonderful?  And what a stronger Christian I would have been if only I had had such an experience!”


Yes, good thing for us too that God gives us what we need and not what we want.  What we need is the gift of the Holy Spirit Himself, and Jesus tells us why we need Him.  “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  Now what on earth does Jesus mean by that?  I mean, don’t we all know what sin is?  Sin is when we do what God forbids or fail to do what He commands, right?  And as for righteousness, well we all know that righteousness is simply living the kind of life that is upright, that is obedient to God.  And judgment?  Well, we all know that God will judge us in the end for how we have lived.  What do we need the Holy Spirit for to understand such simple things?


Ah, but it is just such thinking which shows how far we stray when we use our natural religious self to try to make sense out of God and the Bible, instead of listening to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin, Jesus says, “because they do not believe in me.”  That is, only the Holy Spirit can open eyes to see that the sin of all sin, the root sin of our very nature, is that we don’t trust in Jesus, that we don’t rely on what He has done for us and promises to us, that instead we try to rely on ourselves.  That this is what sin is in its very essence.  It’s distrust before it is disobedience.  Without the Holy Spirit a person never comes to see this, because the natural man does not discern the things of the Spirit.


The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of righteousness, says Jesus, “because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.”  That is, only the Holy Spirit can open your eyes to see that righteousness is not to be found in what you do or refrain from doing.  That righteousness is only found in this:  that through Jesus’s suffering, death, resurrection and ascension, He goes to the Father on behalf of the human race and stands before His Father as the Sole Righteous One, so that all who are in Him by Baptism and faith, are seen by the Father as righteous.  Neither the disciples nor we could ever have grasped this without the Holy Spirit – but the Spirit is sent to us precisely so that we might know the things freely given us by God – that Christ is made our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.


The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of judgment, says Jesus, “because the ruler of this world is judged.”  That is, only the Holy Spirit can open your eyes to see that God’s wrath over your sin cannot harm you when you are tucked safely into Christ by Baptism, for Christ has weathered the storm of that wrath for you on the Cross.  So, when the ruler of this world, Satan, whose very name means the accuser, comes to lay his charges against you and condemn you before the bar of God and demand your life-blood as his own, his case against you is summarily tossed out of  court – he has no standing, because the penalty for your sin has already been paid and paid in full.  And so the ruler of this world is judged – judged as having no claim anymore upon you.  Not now, not ever.


People loved by God, without the light of the Holy Spirit you and I would understand none of these things.  And so, our Jesus sends us what we need, not what we want.  He sends us the Holy Spirit who alone can lead us into all truth, as He takes the things of Jesus and declares them to us as our very own.  As He glorifies Jesus, by turning our focus away from us and our plans and dreams and worries and fears, and points us squarely to the Savior and His gifts for us in Baptism, in Absolution, in Eucharist, and in the preaching of the Gospel.  As He says:  “for you, child!  All for love of you, that your Savior did this. Glory be to Him forever for such great love.”


THAT is why we need so desperately the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who never speaks on His own authority, but simply seeks to bring glory to Jesus by declaring to us all the free gifts which God has given to us in our Lord Jesus.  What can we say in response to all that but:  “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”  Amen.


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

26 April 2024

Kind of shocking to realize…

…confirmation was 50 years ago this Pentecost. Can you find me? LOL!

21 April 2024

Well, that was crazy!

I know there are people who do this all the time, but this was my first time: I got up yesterday at 3:20 to catch a flight to Minneapolis in the morning, was the speaker for Confessio—Piety and the Lutheran Confessions—sponsored by Concordia University St. Paul, and then flew back home and arrived in Hamel just after 10:30 p.m. I am still wiped this morning! Oh, and I was greeted in Minneapolis by this icky white stuff that I thought we were done with!

It was a great day, though. Got to visit with so many folks, signed more books than I can remember, and sing Matins and Vespers and lots of great hymnody in a very live room. I told Pastor David Kind I’d like to lock him up and make him sing the Daily Office for me nonstop. Such a lovely instrument. Was great to catch up with Kay Kreklau, Dr. David Mennicke, Dr. Josh Hollmann, Dr. Brian Friederich, Dr. Michael Dorner, Pr. Jim Bannek, Nathan Rinne, Dr. Reed Lessing, and Pr. Dan Voth. Time was too short for more than quick visits, but I treasure each little interaction.  However, I MISSED my old friend, Pr. Don Kirchner (who was there). BUMMER. We connected by email after I left. Breakdown was about 1/3 students from CSP, 1/3 pastors and 1/3 lay folks. One thing I definitely learned: I’m too old to do this again! No more single day trips with flights on either end. Somewhat more than 150 folks attended.This morning I still feel totally wazzed. 

But speaking of being too old… The oddest thing happened as I waiting in line at the Starbucks at the airport for a cup of coffee. This old man came and stood behind me. He was clearly struggling a bit. Ended up needing to sit on a nearby stool. I held his place in line and we chatted a bit. Told me getting old isn’t for sissies. I smiled and then he told me he was 61. That’s several years younger than myself! I told Cindi I wished I had suggested carnivore to him, but I was so shocked I didn’t open my mouth about it. So sad to see folks in shape like that. I wish there were a way to send them all to Kerry (Homestead How Carnivore) on Youtube, or Dr. Ken Berry, or Dr. Anthony Chaffee. 

16 April 2024

I was blessed to receive…

…this wonderful little prayer book at The Law of God Is Good and Wise conference. It’s compiled and edited by Joseph Klotz, a faithful layman of the LCMS from Hodgkins, IL. The book, as its preface states, “was produced to provide the layman with a resource, in one volume, which will enable him to engage in regular, systematic prayer, which is in line with the liturgical traditions and rhythms of the Church.” p. ix.

Said another way, this little volume can indeed serve as a simplified breviary or office book. It contains the entire NKJV psalter, pointed for chanting and with music, and spread across the month for those who wish to pray the Psalter each month (using the TLH pattern 31 day pattern, not the one from Common Prayer). It provides seasonal hymns (with traditional tones). The daily prayers include orders for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Trinity. The historic lectionary is provided and then the table of daily readings from the old The Lutheran Hymnal. You’ll find the Litany, the Bidding Prayer, the General Suffrages and those for Morning and Evening; the Prayer of the Church from TLH p. 13 and p. 110; the Creeds; various additional prayers; a selection of Scripture passages assigned to various seasons to supplement the daily readings; the History of the Passion; and the Small Catechism (including the Christian Questions with their Answers). 

In short, this is an extraordinarily rich resource and might indeed commend itself not only for interested laity, but for pastors too. Thank you, Mr. Klotz for giving me this delightful volume. You can order one, if you’re so inclined, right here.

14 April 2024

Homily delivered at “The Law of God Is Good and Wise” Conference

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

Well, I guess I’m supposed to have a thesis statement. It is this: Included in the gift of Christ as sacramentum is always the gift of Christ as exemplum. He both gives Himself to us and then invites us into communion with His life, doing things His way. A little known feature of the old The Lutheran Liturgy (Altar Book for TLH) is that it provided a collect for each epistle and gospel reading. So I went to the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity and found this prayer for the Good Samaritan gospel which I invite you to join me in praying: 

O Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Samaritan and only Mediator, who, seeing us in our guilt and blood, didst have pity upon us and of Thine infinite mercy didst give Thine innocent blood in payment for our sins that we might live, we humbly thank and praise Thee that Thou hast saved us from destruction and by Thy holy Word hast brought us to the saving knowledge of Thee, our Redeemer: and beseech Thee, enable us by Thy Holy Spirit to love Thee, the true God, with our whole heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves, that we may show mercy on all men in their need, bind up their wounds with tender care, and ever in this evil world follow Thine example of love and service, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

Don’t neglect our father’s and grandfather’s prayers when you are seeking to understand their faith! On into the text:

Luke 10:25-37 (KJV) 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 

Interesting question the man asks. I think he and his fellow lawyers were more than a little suspicious about Jesus and His propensity to welcome sinners (publicans, prostitutes, Samaritans, Gentiles) and even to hang out with them. He is really asking Jesus whether or not He believes that you have to keep the Law in order to please God and be saved. So the test. What will Jesus say? Curiously, he turn the tables on the lawyer and asks for his opinion. The lawyer was out to catch Jesus in heresy, but Jesus wanted to catch the lawyer with divine love. So, He asks, what’s written? What’s your reading of it.

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Right answer, of course. Jesus had given that answer himself earlier. The fellow knew his catechism, alright. And Jesus approves of his answer. 

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. Was it in the way Jesus said it, that the challenge came across? Was it how He said: “this do”? You see, it’s not KNOWING what the Law demanded, but DOING it that counted. How easily we mix that up. As though the entrance into the kingdom required but getting the answer right, knowing rather than doing. 

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? He didn’t miss the challenge in Jesus’ words. He caught the implication: that he hadn’t been loving. Striking that he jumps over the first table of the law as if he’d done all that perfectly, and seizes upon the second table by asking “who is my neighbor?” That is, and who do you think I really need to be bothering myself about loving as myself? He wanted to justify himself; but it never works. Jesus wanted to justify not himself, but this man, and you and me. So in good Jewish fashion He answers with a story.

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain [man] went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded [him], and departed, leaving [him] half dead. Active breaking of the fifth commandment: the thieves hurt or harm their neighbor in his body. Pretty clear stuff. They take what they want from him and leave the fellow half dead (in other words, destined to die if no one came along to help). The fathers see in this the way the demons have waylaid Adam and in him all our race.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked [on him], and passed by on the other side. Passive breaking of the fifth commandment. It’s rather like the striking example Luther gives in the Large Catechism of the drowning man, with you standing on the shore, doing nothing as he sinks beneath the waves. Bye-bey. By NOT helping, you HAVE harmed. But neither the ancient fathers nor the fathers of the Reformation were wrong when they saw in the priest and the levite the law of Moses and especially its many ordinances and regulations. The Law didn’t help. It could only reveal the damage, but it has no power to mend what ails us. It merely looks  and then passes on, leaving Adam and us in him in as bad a shape as he was when it first encountered him.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion [on him], 34 And went to [him], and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Jesus loved to stir the pot. He could have chosen a pious Jew to make his point, but he instead lifts up a Samaritan, a pariah. You remember that in John 8, Jesus is accused by his enemies of being a Samaritan and having a demon. He tells them He doesn’t have a demon; and curiously says nothing about not being a Samaritan. Almost as though He had this parable in mind. For surely Jesus IS the Samaritan. The One that His own people regarded as a pariah, and yet who has compassion on His own. “He came to His own” St. John wrote. And so this Samaritan doesn’t pass by. He comes to the wounded man, to humanity fallen in Adam, and He begins to tend the man’s wounds, getting bloody and dirty as he does so. His compassion is the key. Every other place in the NT it is Jesus who has compassion, so also here. They may regard him as a pariah, but he will not let that get in the way of His mercy, and so He carries the man to the Inn and provides for His care and restoration. 

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave [them] to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. When I come again. Heavy, choice words in the mouth of Christ. He promises that whatever we spend on the healing of those committed to our care is something He will tend to. It’s just like He said in Proverbs 19:17 (ESV) Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. Jesus will talk about that in a few chapters: Matthew 25:40 (ESV) And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? Which is to shift the man’s deflecting question from “Who is my neighbor?” To the far more pertinent and vital question of “Am I a neighbor? Have I been a neighbor?” 

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. The lawyer cannot bring himself to say the hated word “the Samaritan.” But Jesus has gotten him to the very word at the heart of the Law, to what God’s after with it: mercy. And so: “He that showed mercy on him” is the very definition of neighborliness. Of not passing by, but of going to the neighbor in his time of need. People loved by God, there is no doubt that Jesus sees Himself as the Good Samaritan and that He wants you to recognize Him in that guise. But you cannot, you must not lose the force of the final words He spake: “Go, and do thou likewise.” Jesus, you see, has no problem with ending a sermon on the law. So this whole parable about love and the fulfillment of the law which happens fully and finally only in Jesus and in His obedience to His Father, obedience which leads Him to lay down His life for us and to provide all we need for our healing in the arms of His Church through His word and sacraments, this is but an illustration and invitation to what He would tell His disciples on the night of His betrayal: John 13:34 (KJV) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. Go and do thou likewise, then, means “go love as I have loved you. Go show mercy as lavishly and freely as I, your Good Samaritan, have showed you. Come, be a Pariah with me: don’t be put off by fear of association. Be neighborly to one and to all. No, you will not do it  perfectly,  purely, or as ardently as I have done. Your love is going to always need my forgiveness and my perfection to cover all the imperfections of Your love. But you have that as my gift to cover you and you have My Spirit as My gift to work this love more and more inside you. And on the last day, the day when I come back, I will bring that love to perfection within you. For you see, I can do what the law by itself couldn’t do, but what the law faithfully points you to. Love. Mercy. Life. All in me.”

People loved by God, let us then love then as we have been loved: not in mere word or talk, but in deed and in truth. Jesus, your good samaritan, bids you too: “Go and do thou likewise.” 

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

10 April 2024

“Honey, this IS normal!”

That’s what my RUDE wife always tells me when I complain about a packed schedule, saying: “I just want to return to normal.” So last week we had some excitement with Dave winding up in the hospital for a couple days with chest pain. It turned out NOT to be a heart-attack, and we got him home on Thursday. Friday, we flew over to Denver where we met up with Lucy and Laura, and headed up to Estes Park for a wonderful few days together in the Word with Norene Linke’s wonderful Northern Colorado Women’s Retreat. And there I got my marching orders from Rosa! (Ha! See, I haven’t forgotten!). We got back to the Denver airport earlier than expected, and almost got on an earlier flight. The person manning the Southwest booth assured us we were on it, but… they finally told us they had room only for 1. Le sigh. Laura DID manage to get an earlier and direct flight to San Diego, but we went with the scheduled flight that left at nearly 7:45 p.m. We got home about 11:30 p.m. and then headed to bed. You see, the next day we were up early for Eclipse Day. Cindi’s aunt, her sister and her sister’s husband joined us for the trip out to the Herberts and we got to see the beauty of the eclipse surrounded by our nearest and dearest. Bekah and family had spent the night so were there when we arrived; David’s family went down to Jacob to watch. Then Tuesday was Annunciation and writing three podcasts and an Issues Show. The family will be leaving tomorrow morning and it’s been a wonderful time with them. Tomorrow will be three more podcasts to write, plus the sermon for the conference I’ll be attending this weekend. Such is life… A few pics: