30 September 2013

I used to think she was kinda nuts...

...my mom, I mean. I'd get home to find her sitting up, but not a light on. Just sitting in the dark. She would always laugh and remind us "that men loved darkness more than light because their deeds were evil." I seriously never quite got it.

I do now. Cindi never welcome the coming of fall and winter, but I do love the darkening evening. And often I'll sit in the living room, listening to music, lighted maybe by a dim lamp or just candles. There is something so utterly peaceful about the darkness. Looking out at the stars shining over Hamel, reading a page or twenty in the dim light (a bit of Tolkein at present), sipping a glass of wine. Remembering. The past seems so much nearer in the darkness than in the light. And to mom conveying a sense of the past was an important part of life itself. Aunt Annie, Mam Bette, Grandpappy Joe...people who lived long ago. She gave me a vibrant sense of them all.

It's still too warm for a fire, but that will come soon and then no need for another light at all. The light of the wood burning will be enough.

Tolkein did I say? Yes. He had one poem that always, always reminded me of mom:

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

That captures it. The darkness, the memories crowding around, and the hopeful listening for returning feet.

My little guy

took off from his desk to the front door today. All by his own alone self. A new era is about to enter Lauren and Dean's life!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The pastor schools his people so that with the right kind of pious talk they will then be equipped to win other people for the church. In place of the office of preaching reconciliation comes the training of "soul winners," teaching them just the right way of talking with people, to make maximum use of the techniques of psychological manipulation. The system admittedly derives from the methods of American business. Thus people are to be brought into the church, made to feel at home there, led to make a decision, and then all together they are to carry on their building of the kingdom of God. What the Word of God is no longer trusted to do is achieved with the psychological techniques of such modern evangelization.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: The Church, pp. 22, 23.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For to eat and drink spiritually is to embrace Christ by faith, so that we draw life from Him and thereby become participants in Christ and in all His benefits, unto righteousness and salvation.—Blessed Martin Chemnitz, The Lord's Supper, p. 171.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The proud man always lives in troubles, is always angry, always unhappy. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 1 on 2 Thessalonians.

29 September 2013

Sunday this and that

Was surprised that St. Michael's wasn't observed at St. Paul's this morning, but since we began by singing "Lord, Thee I Love" it was all good. And pastor had a fine sermon (as usual). But at Trinity it was all stops out for St. Michael (except for the incense). Clad in damlatics, Pr. Cholak served as subdeacon; Pr. Lee as deacon. Pr. Curtis was both preacher and celebrant. I absolutely LOVED playing "Christ, the Lord of Hosts Unshaken" - great, great text to one of my favorite tunes. Because this is one of the "principal feasts of Christ" according to our LSB lectionary, I even used the zimbelstern on the organ for the Sanctus today. Pr. Curtis' homily was also outstanding.

After Church, I hightailed it down to the airport to pick up Dave (he'd been out east for his uncle's funeral in Maine), and we came back to a wonderful brunch with Cindi, Bekah, David and Meaghan. I really must also add with Lydia, for the wee thing is not so wee anymore and her presence is palpable at the table. Can't wait to hold her. Cindi made a paleo sweet potato casserole (every bit as tasty as Aunt Dee's!), some Zucchini bread, bacon, eggs, pancakes for the non-Paleo folk and some slices apples and pears. It was a feast and I ate way too much.

After a game of Liverpool (Dave won!) and little rest, we headed out for a walk. Think we ended up walking over an hour. All around the neighborhood and then up to Greenhedge and back. The weather is so beautiful and the sky such a deep blue (and the beans are turning golden in the fields), that I think we could have gone on walking for another hour. But Lucy was definitely worn out and ready to sack out on the couch: where she sits at this very minute.

I didn't get to pray Treasury till this afternoon, but it has a great bit from Gerhard on the topic of the angels. I don't know if Pr. Curtis had read it or not, but he and Gerhard were definitely tracking together (as they often do).

Anywho, a blessed and joyous St. Michael and All Angels to one and all!  "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and he delivers them."

27 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

We can never surrender the promises that are bound up with the means of grace. A person can lose the blessing of Baptism by not again and again, yes daily, receiving the promise of Christ in faith. But the promise remains. Baptism remains the same.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: The Church, p. 46.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For the ship of Baptism never breaks, because (as we have said) it is God's ordinance and not our work.—Larger Catechism V:82

Patristic Quote of the Day

Do you see that this is what he means by, Prove all things? Because he had said, Despise not prophesyings, lest they should think that he opened the pulpit to all, he says, Prove all things, that is, such as are really prophecies; and hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil; not from this or that, but from all; that you may by proof distinguish both the true things and the false, and abstain from the latter, and hold fast the former. For thus both the hatred of the one will be vehement and the love of the other arises, when we do all things not carelessly, nor without examination, but with careful investigation.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily11 on 1 Thessalonians

Catechesis from a Week Ago Wednesday

(for Shane)

Reading: A reading from Matthew 28

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Catechism, p. 325

What is baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

Which is this word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matt. 28:19

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“But some doubted.” And these are the men on whom the Church should be built? These doubters? There are those who would suggest that. They put the persons of the apostles and their successors as the foundation. In a sense, this is what both Rome and the East do. First, they tell you to be sure of the Church, and then you can be sure that promises of God in the sacraments that such a church administers are effective and for real. So, many in Rome think Lutherans are “ecclesial” but whatever else we are we are NOT Church. Lutherans, however, turn this on its head. We read it exactly backwards: first, we say, you need to be sure of the Lord’s promise, mandate and giving in the Word and sacraments, and then you can be sure of the Church, for the Church is never at point number two. Always it is God-Baptism-Church, never God-Church-Baptism. For that would make our Lord's mandate wobble! Always it is the Lord Jesus who has been given ALL authority in heaven and on earth, all his, none ours, who then mandates the making of disciples by baptism and teaching. Disciples, church, if you will, is called into existence by Christ through the Word and Sacraments; the Church does not call the sacraments into existence. Thus, in our Catechism’s definition of baptism there is no church reference: It is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. God, our Lord Jesus, and His command and His Word are the entire foundation on which Baptism itself rests.

This is huge, because if your confidence rests in any part on the men themselves, your confidence rests on sinking sand. Even the great Apostles wobbled: before our Lord’s crucifixion, after His resurrection, and even after Pentecost! Peter who gets it right at Matthew 16:16 blows it a meager six verses later and goes from being called Peter, the Rock Man, to Satan who stands in the way of God’s purposes by opposing Christ’s road to the cross, where He would bear our sin to death. Same Peter whom Paul later had to rebuke publicly in Galatia when he let the fear of men’s disapproval get in the way of the Gospel’s full inclusion of the gentiles. And then there’s grumpy Paul not willing to forgive John Mark and so causing a major row with the kind and patient Barnabas. Or the Apostle John in Revelation, falling down in front of an angel to give worship and being told to get on his feet because the angel was just a fellow-servant and he must only worship the Lord. I could go on and on. Build your confidence on the persons of the apostles themselves and you build on shaky ground. Build your confidence on some pastor and it will be even shakier. Build your confidence, your certainty of salvation, instead, on the words and promises of Christ to you in Baptism and you have a foundation so solid that it cannot be shaken; a promise so secure that it can hold you firm through life and death and into resurrection.

So beloved, when scandals arise to shake the Church through the failings of her servants, as they always have and as they always will, and people say to you: “How can you possibly say that you believe in a holy church? Look at the lives of your leaders! Look at the lives of your people! Look at how you live yourself! And you call yourselves a holy church? Who do you think you are fooling?” When such is thrown at you, remember “but some doubted” and it was to the doubters that the Lord Jesus gave His mandate and sent them forth to hand over His promises. Remember that the Church that you know to be holy is the result always of Christ’s gift of Baptism, that is as sure and certain as His own word mandating it, bestowing it. Your Baptism holds when all else shakes around you. Your Baptism holds and hidden in it is the holiness of the Church, a holiness that belongs to Christ and is always only given to us, laid on the Church, made her own by faith, and so an object of faith and not of observation.

“But some doubted” and their doubt in no way impeded the Lord’s sure sending them out to give His gifts away, for it rests not on them as fallen men, but on the promise of Christ Himself. Keep the order straight: do not rest your certainty on men, not even apostolic men, or on the chance that you finally figured out the "real church" but upon the Christ alone to whom these failing, faltering men would bear witness and in Whom alone they and you and even I are holy through His gift of Baptism. Amen.

Catechism Hymn: 596 “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized”

26 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The recognition of this reality of the Word of God is the basis for recognizing the reality of the church.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess the Church, p. 50.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

"Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1) Therefore, it is the will of the Apostles that this freedom remain in the Church, that no services of the law or of traditions be considered necessary (just as ceremonies were necessary for a time in the Law), lest the righteousness of faith be clouded over.—Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XV:32

Patristic Quote of the Day

Have you suffered any evil? But if you will, it is no evil. Give thanks to God, and the evil is changed into good.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 10 on 1 Thessalonians.

25 September 2013

Christ, Mighty Savior

An interview I did on this wonderful hymn on Issues, Etc. can be heard right here.

P.S. Pr. Gerike told me today that he had indeed composed that stanza where the chorus sang unaccompanied.

Wednesday Catechesis: Baptism, Part II

A reading from Mark 16:  And [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned."

This is the Word of The Lord. R.


What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are those words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

Hymn: 590 Baptized into Your Name Most Holy


The present tense is most striking. The Catechism does not ask concerning what Baptism once gave you; it asks concerning what benefits Baptism goes on giving you. Thus note all the present tenses:

Not, it worked forgiveness of sins (long ago), but it works forgiveness of sins (as in every single day!).

Not, it rescued you from death and the devil (long ago), but right now, today, it rescues you from death and the devil.

Not, it (once upon a time) gave you salvation, but even at this moment it gives salvation to all who believe this.

And even the promises of God aren't put in the past. Not as "the words and promises of God declared" back then when the apostles wrote them down, but "as the words and promises of God declare" this very minute of this very day into your ears: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." All this is vouchsafed by the FUTURE of that promise. Baptism goes on saving you until the end!

Now, it's very worthwhile to pick up the verse before in Mark as we heard in our reading, for this is the Marcan version of the so-called Great Commission or the Institution of the Office of the Ministry. Jesus is sending His apostles out with His authority to do His work. And that work is first and foremost "proclaiming the Gospel to the whole creation."

But what does that mean? I used to think that Jesus meant: first, go preach the gospel and then he added an attachment to the gospel, if you will, "whoever believes and is baptized, etc."

It was in studying Acts 8 that I realized how wrong I was. Have you ever thought your way through the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch? You remember. Just heading back from Jerusalem with his brand spanking new copy of Isaiah and he's reading it aloud (as all the ancients used to do) and puzzling his puzzler over what on earth is going on. Isaiah 53, remember. The Lamb led to the slaughter, silent before its shearers. What does it mean?

The Lord scoots Philip alongside the chariot to ask: "Do you understand what you're reading?" And the fellow is apparently so engrossed in trying to get it that he doesn't he really stop to question why there's a runner next to his chariot! "How can I unless someone guides me?" So he stops and Philip joins him and then it gets very, very interesting.

"Beginning from that passage he preached to him the good news, the Gospel, about Jesus."

And rather than us imagining exactly what it was that Philip preached, look at what happens next. Why! As soon as the Eunuch catches sight of water he screams for the chariot to stop, turns to Philip and asks: "Here is water! Why can't I be baptized?"

What, then, was the good news that Philip then preached out of Isaiah 53 to this man? Was it not the very promise that we heard in the reading today: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." For surely our Lord suffered on His cross as the innocent sufferer and died and rose again so that there might be opened for the house of David and all the families of the nations a fountain of healing water, a fountain of baptismal grace, where all His cross won would be lavishly poured out on sinful men - gratis, freely, unasked, unsought, unearned, just gift of eternal life. So the Gospel isn't the Gospel until it's anchored baptismally, and here the anchor isn't just for the past.

It's not as though Baptism took care of the sin and struggle in your life up to the point that you received it. If so, then old Tertullian was right: why waste it on a babe? Be like Emperor Constantine instead and gamble that you can get it on your deathbed. What a sad mistake! For Baptism, people loved by God, isn't a static bit of water, but an everflowing fountain of grace. It doesn't cease to pour out its gifts for you. Not til the day of grace has come to an end. It's gifts remain and they carry you through to the Kingdom.

Baptism's forgiveness will continue to cleanse your sin today. Its power continues to rescue you from death and the devil's clutches. Its virtue pours into you the gift of salvation that is forever. All yours. Signed, sealed and delivered by the Triune God, and the Holy Spirit in your heart whispering: Tis true! Believe it! It's all yours.

Lutherans are a baptismal people, no two ways about it. We're such because we know that the very promise of the Gospel itself is tied directly to the baptismal waters, water and blood flow together, and because we know that the grace of those waters cannot be exhausted by either our sin or our death and certainly not by the mere passage of time.

People loved by God, people baptized into Christ Jesus, treasure this mighty promise of God over your lives and don't let anyone rob you of it! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Wherever the means of grace are rightly administered, there God fulfills His promise that the Word will not return empty, there faith is created, there is the church, the congregation of saints, of justified sinners.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: The Church, p. 71.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

A conscience full of fear has need of much consolation. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are signs that continually remind, cheer, and encourage despairing minds to believe more firmly that their sins are forgiven.—Apology IV:155

Patristic Quote of the Day

For if when we were so abandoned, as to require to be born again, to be saved by grace, to have no good in us, if then He saved us, much more will He save us in the world to come.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on Titus.

24 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

When the holy ministry is received and instituted as given by the Lord, not over the congregation but in the congregation, then it becomes very large and can be received and rejoiced in as the great gift it is. Then the question of how it is bestowed gives place to what is bestowed. The more or less dubious theories of its apostolic origin give place to its apostolic content. This is nothing other than what was committed to the apostles, that they should be proclaimers of the pure Gospel and servants of the sacraments instituted by Christ—this and nothing more. Herein is the apostolicity of the office of the holy ministry.—Hermann Sasse, We Confess: The Church, pp. 81, 82.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Graciously provide for all sick, poor, widows, and orphans; keep all who are with child, all children, and nursing mothers; be the guide of all who travel by land or by water in the way of their calling; have mercy upon all who are in temptations, and on those who suffer persecution for Thy name's sake. Comfort them, O God, with Thy favor and finally relieve them according to Thy fatherly pleasure.—from the General Intercessions in Walther's Hymnal, p. 392.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Strange! How were we drowned in wickedness, so that we could not be purified, but needed a new birth? For this is implied by Regeneration. For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it, nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations, and rebuilds it anew; so in our case, God has not repaired us, but has made us anew.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Titus 3

23 September 2013


...is pool shut down for the season. Ralph came out and closed everything up today. Glad to have it attended to, but already missing it

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Word falls equally on every ear, but the lives of those who flourish in faith and good works make the labors of their preachers so much lighter and so much more pleasurable.—Dr. Scott Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, p. 304.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

So they hide Christ's glory and rob consciences of firm consolation. They abolish true divine services (i.e., the exercises of faith struggling with despair).—Philip Melanchthon, Tractatus 44

Patristic Quote of the Day

Thus God has not inclined to this, that He might destroy us, but that He might save us. And whence is it manifest that this is His will? He has given His own Son for us. So does He desire that we should be saved, that He has given His Son, and not merely given, but given Him to death. From these considerations hope is produced. For do not despair of yourself, O man, in going to God, who has not spared even His Son for you. Faint not at present evils. He who gave His Only-Begotten, that He might save you and deliver you from hell, what will He spare henceforth for your salvation? So that you ought to hope for all things kind. For neither should we fear, if we were going to a judge who was about to judge us, and who had shown so much love for us, as to have sacrificed his son. Let us hope therefore for kind and great things, for we have received the principal thing; let us believe, for we have seen an example; let us love, for it is the extreme of madness for one not to love who has been so treated.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 9 on 1 Thessalonians.

11 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Christ's self-sacrifice upon the cross is the sacrificial element in the sacrament. Thus to "do" the sacrament is simply to participate in Christ's sacrifice, and this participation occurs in the eating of His body and blood in the Sacrament.—Daniel J. Brege, Eating God's Sacrifice, pp. 189, 190.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Faith sees through what to our feelings and understanding is the expression of His anger and holds a sure confidence in His good purpose.—Dr. Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 341.

Patristic Quote of the Day

No one can feel hatred towards those for whom he prays.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 6 on 1 Timothy


Lover of the human race, kind heavenly Father, on this anniversary of the tragedy that befell our nation 12 years ago, we pause under Your embrace to remember.

We remember those whose lives were lost that fateful day.

We remember the compassion and courage of our first responders.

We remember the families that were torn apart, never to be united again in this fallen age.

We remember all who ministered to broken hearts and sought to bring them Your comfort.

We remember the way our nation changed that day.

And as we remember, we beg Your mercy on all who carry wounds of heart, body or mind.

We ask Your mercy on all who continue to serve in our armed forces, strengthening and upholding them in every good deed.

We ask Your mercy upon all our first responders who so frequently put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.

We ask Your mercy for our public servants that they be given wisdom as they continue the struggle against terror and violence in our world.

We ask Your mercy also on those who meant us harm, begging You to give them the gift of repentance, changed hearts and new minds. 

And we ask all these things in the name of Him who knew in His own body the pain inflicted by unreasoning hatred and religious violence, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose love triumphs over all, whose forgiveness holds us fast, and who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


10 September 2013

All gathered together in one place...

...several Issues shows, that is. You can listen to the series I did on Holy Baptism or the series on the Daily Prayer Offices by clicking here.

09 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The privileged entrance into the Holy of Holies is indeed that which is at the heart of Christian worship: the celebration of the Lord's Supper.—Daniel J. Brege, Eating God's Sacrifice, p. 402.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The work we do and the pains we take are not contrary to faith, but are useful for the training of the flesh; but anxiety is contrary to God.—Dr. Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 338.

Patristic Quote of the Day

And some turn aside from the faith, who seek out everything by reasoning; for reasoning produces shipwreck, while faith is as a safe ship.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on First Timothy

07 September 2013

Patristic Quote of the Day

This is what Paul says, that God, willing to give men full assurance that He pardons all their transgressions, chose, as the object of His mercy, him who was more a sinner than any; for when I obtained mercy, he argues, there could be no doubt of others: as familiarly speaking we might say, If God pardons such an one, he will never punish anybody; and thus he shows that he himself, though unworthy of pardon, for the sake of others' salvation, first obtained that pardon. Therefore, he says, since I am saved, let no one doubt of salvation. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 4 on 1 Timothy

06 September 2013

Reflecting on Revitalization

Spring cleaning. No, not THAT kind of spring. The other kind. The kind both of my grandparents had at their farms. The springs that welled up from the ground and brought us the sweetest, most wonderful water. THAT kind of spring cleaning. They need it. They get clogged up over time, and the water stops flowing free and sweet. It stagnates. It needs some cleaning up of whatever is blocking that sweet water flow.

The Church, you see, is literally gathered around the places where the sweet springs of resurrection water spring up and overflow in this fallen age. Revitalizing begins first and foremost congregations examining the state of the spring, and working to remove whatever is blocking the sweet waters of the divine Promises from flowing without let or hinderance in its midst. It's all a matter of spring cleaning.

"I'm going out to clean the pasture spring..."

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

It is logically possible to think of the church as it is in an infinitesimally small moment of time. Theologically and actually it is not possible to do so. For in the church we live, we are part of a process, we are being justified before God by God; there is a constant forgiveness of sins that we - who are simultaneously sinners and holy people - are constantly committing, and we who are being constantly declared holy by God's grace for Christ's sake are constantly becoming holier by God's grace for Christ's sake through faith.—Dr. Arthur Carl Piepkorn, The Church, p. 25

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In the Supper of the new covenant the same victim which was sacrificed to God for our sins is also given to us in the Lord's Supper and shared in by the communicants, so that through this participation in this same victim we are joined to Christ and made partakers of all His merits.—Blessed Martin Chemnitz, The Lord's Supper, p. 146.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The favors of God so far exceed human hope and expectation, that often they are not believed. For God has bestowed upon us such things as the mind of man never looked for, never thought of. It is for this reason that the Apostles spend much discourse in securing a belief of the gifts that are granted us of God. For as men, upon receiving some great good, ask themselves if it is not a dream, as not believing it; so it is with respect to the gifts of God. What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. This is a faithful saying, he says, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 4 on First Timothy

05 September 2013

Yeah! Choir!

Can't wait for choir tonight. Such a blessing to sing with Carlo. As with last week, so this week I expect will be a nice blend of Bach, Pachelbel and Rutter. Maybe a new piece thrown in as well too.

Commemoration of Sts. Zecharias and Elizabeth

A meditation from some year's back as we commemorate the day of these precious saints of God:

Ours was always a quiet home. God had not blessed us with children, and after many years together, a husband and wife learn to carry on conversations without words. A look and a look back can speak volumes. Yet we did talk. Sometime at night, after the lamps were put out, I’d stretch out beside my old Zechariah and say: “tell me the promises again.”

You see, he was a priest. He knew the Sacred writings of Torah and the Prophets. And he loved to recite the promises about the Coming One, the One who would make all things right again for a world where so much has gone wrong. He’d begin whispering them to me: “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder…” “And you, Bethlehem Ephratha, are by no means least among the tribes of Judah, for out of you will come a Ruler who will govern my people Israel.” “His dominion will be from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.” “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb.” Oh, he could go on forever; he knew them all. He’d long ago stored them away in his heart, and he loved nothing more than to repeat them. They were his prayer, his hope. He was one of the Zedek - the righteous - who looked for the salvation of Israel.

When he came home from doing his priestly duty that year, he didn’t need to tell me he couldn’t talk. One look told me something had happened. His eyes were full of excitement and hope like I’d not seen in him since he was a young man. I thought he might have a fever. It took a while to get the whole story out of him. I think he was a little ashamed. It was not like him - questioning the word of one of the Lord’s angels? That was not like my husband at all. But still, the promise was staggering. We were to have a child? Now? And our child was to be the one that the prophets had foretold? The one to prepare the way for the Lord, the Messenger sent before the Lord’s face? The fulfillment of all things was now? In our lives?

When I first felt the little one move in my womb I could do nothing. I stood still and tears streamed down my face. Then laughter and joy. Our God? He comes up with the craziest ideas! Old ladies carrying little babies. Our God, the God of the universe, He promises the impossible and then He makes it happen. No good trying to wrap your mind around His ways. His goodness is beyond our thinking, His love beyond our dreams.

Five months our house was mostly silent. Zechariah watched impatiently as my womb began to swell. And there were days he’d lay his hand upon it and we’d look into each others eyes and one would start laughing and the other crying. Five months of silence in the house and then one day, a miracle greater than our little boy’s conception came running up to the door.

I heard her voice. She was calling a greeting: Shalom, Cousin Elizabeth! And that is when it happened. My little one was doing summersaults in my womb - summersaults of joy. And the Holy Spirit came upon me and I saw the whole thing. My eyes were opened like they’d never been opened before. All the past seemed like a dream and in shock and awe at what I had seen I stood to my feet.

She came to me, a look on her face, a questioning look. She thought no one knew. I let her know different right away. “Blessed!” I cried. “Blessed are you among women!” And blessed indeed, for no other woman would be both Virgin and Mother, and not just the mother of a miracle baby like my own.
The mother of… The mother of so much more. I can barely bring myself to say it even after all these years. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Ah, that was the heart of it. She walked into my house and it was though the Ark of Covenant had arrived, and hidden in the Ark, the beating heart of my God taken flesh. The Messiah, the One about whom all the promises centered. The One God told Abraham would bring blessing to all the families of the earth. The Serpent Crusher. The One to lead us back to Paradise. He was in my house. In her womb. His infant heart beating beneath her heart. “And why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” The look on her face. The child melted. I held her as she wept. It was a fearful secret she had been hiding. But here it was safe.

I pulled back from her and gave my old goat sitting in the corner a proper look. I pointed to her and said: “Blessed is she who BELIEVED that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” My old goat, my Zechariah, he laughed and laughed his silent laugh, agreeing with me. She had believed, and she was blessed.

And then she opened her mouth again and spoke - a hymn of praise to the One who had chosen her in love, and she foretold how every generation from that day to the end of time would remember and join in calling her blessed. Ah, the poetry of her song and the fire of her words that day!

She stayed with us for the next three months. How we talked much during those days - our house was silent no more. The last months are never easy, certainly not for old women. And she was there to help me through those hard days and to share our joy when the little lad revealed his face. She saw her divine Son’s fore-bearer, our John. And then she left, she went home to meet her Joseph and to face whatever it was that God willed for her.

There are those who think she is a almost a goddess - but they are being foolish. There are those who think that she is just an ordinary person like themselves - they are just as foolish. You must think of her as the Holy Spirit taught me that day she came to me: Blessed among women, Blessed in the fruit of her womb, and blessed above all in believing the Words of her Lord.

You can’t go wrong if you follow her example, you people who live in the time of the great fulfillment. You can’t go wrong if you also learn to say to God: “Let it be to me according to your Word” and if you learn to trust every promise God makes you, no matter how impossible, how shocking, how unreasonable. You can’t go wrong if you open up your heart and your life and give space for the Child of Mary to come and live in you, bringing you the joy of presence. It won’t mean an easy time in this world - how she found that out! - but it will mean the joy of a life that death cannot bring to an end. For it will be God’s life, the life He reaches us all in His Son, the Child of Mary, the Mother of God. Blessed be He! Blessed be He forever! Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For not only has God released us from the impending punishment, but He has made us righteous too, and sons, and brethren, and heirs, and joint-heirs. Therefore it is he says, that grace was exceeding abundant. For the gifts bestowed were beyond mercy, since they are not such as would come of mercy only, but of affection and excessive love.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on 1 Timothy

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

With God's glory glowing behind the Old Testament sacrifices, they cast a shadow in the shape of a cross.—Daniel Brege, Eating God's Sacrifice, p. 193.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Love fulfills the law in the sense that it is itself the fulfilling of the law, but faith fulfills it in the sense that it supplies the doer and love remains the deed.—Blessed Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 334.

04 September 2013

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

As one considers the Lord's Supper and its ingredients, one should realize that Christ's will and testament is to be treated as precise and irrevocable. Even as one would never consider modifying a mere human's will and testament, neither should one consider tampering with the words or elements of the Son of God's testament.—Daniel J. Brege, Eating God's Sacrifice, p. 305.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Therefore, if we grow saintly or wicked, it does not begin with works, but with faith, as the wise man says (Ecclesiasticus X.12): "The beginning of all sin is the turning away from God and not trusting in Him."—Blessed Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 333.

Wednesday's Catechesis: "Deliver us from evil"

Scripture Reading:
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 2:4-10 ESV)

Catechism p. 324 :  Deliver us from evil. What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Deliver us from evil. Luther more accurately got it in the Larger Catechism where he reminds us that the Greek implies rather “deliver us from the evil one,” the devil.

You see, you have an enemy. An enemy who likes to appear as your friend. An enemy who suggests to you so many things that seem so reasonable, so desirable. A enemy who, let me be clear on this, does not love you. Nor he is simply neutral toward you. An enemy who covets you, who wants you for his own. Not to bless you, not to give you gifts and shower you with love. No. An enemy who wants you for his own that he may torture you forever with his own empty bitterness and malice. And this enemy parades around as an angel of light, hiding his true colors from you, hiding from you the intense hatred that fills his heart when he thinks of you.

Deliver us from the evil one, our Lord taught us to pray. And how we need that prayer. Because, of course, the evil one has a wretched ally inside of you and me: our fallen nature, our flesh. And what the devil would suggest to you – and he never runs out of suggestions for you, bombarding your mind and heart and night and day – what he suggests can seem so choice, so wonderful and enjoyable. And you know how he operates. You are not ignorant of his devices. You know how he gets you first just to consider, then to think hard about something, then to obsess on it and to desire it and then to reach out your hand and take what God has not given and to do this with ever diminishing returns until you realize in the end that instead of being free and having fun, you’ve landed yourself into chains and a trap. There’s a reason that we call these sinful habits that get a grip on you “vices.” Satan lures you in, locks you up and smiles at your misery when you realize, how he seduced you using your very own desires against yourself.

You know this battle. You’ve lived it. You’ve tasted the bitter defeat and felt the smirk of the enemy who finally was disclosed to you as no friend. A spirit of malice and hatred. And yet he had you. Your experience in this is no different than that of all the rest of the human race. All except for One, and so the One who IS Deliverance from the Evil One.

There was One for whom the Enemy reserved his greatest hatred and the more he failed to snare that One, the more infuriated with Him he became. You will not understand the mystery of the cross until you also see it as this: the full hatred of the enemy of the human race exposed for all to see. This is what he would do to you if he could. He hates you, as he hated him, as he hated Job, but his anger over the One in whom he could gain no foothold, that exceeds all bounds. The Lord knew that this is what he was headed for. He told them, remember? “The Ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father commanded me that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14)

Look to the Cross then, people loved by God, and you will have unmasked for you the malice of the evil one. Look to the Cross, then, and you will see the demonic at work: “For if the rulers of this age had understood this, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory!” (1 Cor. 2) But look to the Cross and see Him triumph over them. See Him deliver you from evil. See Him give you everything for which you plead in the Our Father. He unmasks that supposed friend; exposes his hatred and violence toward you. And He overcomes him, not by a show of might, but by a humble, obedient sacrifice, an unbroken faith that trusts His Father for deliverance from evil, and that is vindicated. His resurrection was His deliverance from the Evil One’s assault that could take his life, but not destroy his soul. And so His resurrection is the guarantee for you that He will deliver you in the same way. Oh, the enemy may tear you to pieces as he wishes, but he can’t win. Your soul gathered safely into His hands and His resurrection the guarantee that in the end, when the final granting of “deliver us from the evil one” is given, your body too shall be raised and you will be free forever from the Evil One’s schemes. This is the joyful conviction of the holy martyrs.

In the end: “Deliver us from evil, from the evil one” is the same as the prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus!” And it is a prayer that our Lord gives to be on our lips every day: Show me my enemy for who he is, let me not align myself with him, rescue me from my own sinful nature’s desires, and bring me at last to Your kingdom, forever safe from this hideous and hateful one, the devil and his minions. Come, yes, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The law, if you use it aright, sends you to Christ. For since its aim is to justify man, and it fails to effect this, it remits us to Him who can do so. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on First Timothy.

03 September 2013

The Our Father

a superlative article in the latest Gottesdienst by Fr. Peter M. Berg on the Our Father and the Eucharist. If you don't subscribe, you ought to...juicy!

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

The covenant blood is indeed now the blood of the Living One; greater than the OT sprinkled blood, it is to be consumed! Though Christ is the Living One, yet it at His crucifixion where the power of such blood is unleashed, for there it was shed for man's salvation. After His resurrection, God's people—like the Jews of old—join in divine worship to celebrate the renewed application of God's covenant to His people, and here they regularly receive of the Lord's Supper—the grandest of covenant meals.—Daniel J. Brege, Eating God's Sacrifice, p. 301.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For my holiness, righteousness and purity do not grow from myself, nor do they rest upon myself, but are in Christ alone and come from Him, into whom I am rooted through faith, as the sap passes into the grapes, and I have been made like Him, that He and I are not of one nature and substance, and through Him I bear fruit, which is not mine, but the vine's. Thus Christ and the Christian become one loaf, and one body, and the Christians bear the proper fruit, not Adam's and not their own, but Christ's!—Blessed Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 330.

Patristic Quote of the Day

The end of medicine is health, but where there is health, there is no need to make much ado; so where there is love, there is no need of much commanding.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on 1 Timothy