19 April 2018

Today’s Chapel Homily

Prayer and Preaching, p. 265


Reading:


A reading from Hebrews 13:



20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 


Responsory


Hymn: #475 "Good Christian Friends"


Homily


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


In the ancient form of the words of institution used in the church at Rome, part of today's reading finds its way onto the lips of Jesus as He is giving His Supper to the disciples on Maundy Thursday. Listen: this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant. Have you ever pondered how absolutely odd it is to speak of the covenant as both NEW and ETERNAL? How can it be both? I think, the answer to that touches the very heart of the revelation of Christ. 


When Jesus speaks of the blood of the new covenant or testament, he's obviously announcing the fulfillment of that prophesy in Jeremiah 31. You remember it, right?


What's new in the new covenant is its unilateral nature. It's not iffy. It's not, IF you, then I, AND IF you don't, then you better watch out cause then I most certainly will... that's the Moses covenant. And it leaves hearts quaking because we know we haven't done.  


Instead, with the New Covenant all the action is mercy and it all ends up being God's.  But here's the whole joy: what showed up NEW in the history of God's people on that night when Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Jeremiah 31 by reaching his disciples the new covenant in His blood is the joyous "aha" that that's what had been on the heart of God from before He created a thing: eternally on His heart. In fact, eternally His heart. This is what I'll do for you, I'll write my law on your heart so that you want to do it and you will know me as I really am, your God and you my people, because, you see, I'll forgive all your iniquity and I will remember your sins no more. That's how you'll know me. That's how you'll know my heart. That's the gift of the new and eternal covenant in my blood.


So the Benediction that we heard as our reading kind of wraps up the whole book of Hebrews, which has all been about how the new thing that shows up in Jesus is so much BETTER than the old thing under the Mosaic covenant because the new thing in Jesus actually ends up being an ETERNAL thing. And so the whole of the old as it limped along and was passing away, prefigured and pointed toward the perfection of what God was up to in Jesus. Listen to it again:


20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 


The God of peace. Peace because of the blood of the eternal covenant. Peace comes from knowing He's not fickle in His commitment to you. That new covenant blood cries out: "You cannot make me hate you. I love you. I forgive you. You are mine. Eternally. Forever. You belong to me. It doesn't hang on you and your doing or not doing, your right speaking or thinking or anything. It hangs on me. And this blood seals the deal forever. As I raised the shepherd so I will raise the sheep from death, do not fear." Now that's peace. And it's out of that peace being planted right into your heart with His blood that God prepares for you every good thing. Every good thing is IN that blood. That new and eternal covenant blood of Jesus. And as it goes into you, it changes you. God works in you so that you WANT to do His will. Not grudgingly like a slave and not even poutily like a rebellious kid displaying the truth of original sin, but out of sheer joy as when you want to please the person whose love surprised and delighted you. 


And it all comes with the blood. Now when you hear blood, never hear an idea. It's not an idea or theory about blood that saves you. It's blood, real blood, blood from real veins, blood that came from a real body, His body, yet blood that carries with it a new and yet eternal covenant. And so His blood is not a dead thing. It's not like all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain. It's not even like the blood of Abel and all his kin whose blood cries to heaven for justice. No. The living blood of Jesus speaks a better word than that. His new and eternal covenant blood, cries out: forgiven wholly, forgiven entirely, forgiven forever, what sins? I remember them no more. You are mine now. You are mine always and forever. And I created you to pour this forgiving love over you and into you with my blood. 


And that's how you come to know Him as He really is. And it's a new revelation. But part of the new is the shocking realization that that's what has always been His heart. For you. 


Oh, people loved by God, when they rejected Him, the Jewish leaders cried out: His blood be on us and on our children. And His heart's desire was exactly that. That His new covenant blood would ever belong to them and to you and to us all. May you ever revel in the blood, blood of the new and eternal covenant, with all that it carries your way. 


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



Litany...


...especially for Roger, Ruth, Allen and Jan and Ezariah, and military chaplain Joseph Watson. 


NT Canticle


18 April 2018

Making the Case

Join us!



14 April 2018

It glimmered

But for a blink of an eye in time, yet this is the Eucharistia from Sweden under King John III (1576). Thanks to Dr. Tighe for sending along a copy of the Red Book. I would never have dreamed I would one day own a copy of this gem:

During Offering:


I wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, and go to Your altar, that I may declare with a voice of thanksgiving and tell of Your wondrous works.


After Offering:


Almighty, eternal God, Heavenly Father, You have promised us the Spirit of grace and intercession. We beg You, grant us grace, that according to Your commandment and promise, we may call upon You in spirit and in truth. Let Your Holy Spirit govern our hearts, for without You we cannot please You.


We humbly pray You and heartily desire, then, most merciful Father that through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, You would graciously accept our prayers and hear our petitions for Your holy universal Church, that You would grant it peace and govern it throughout the world, together with all government, spiritual or civil, or whatever sort or name it may be, and also all true Christians who love and confess the true catholic and Apostolic faith. 


O Lord God, who willed that Your Son's holy and most worthy Supper should be to us a pledge  and promise of Your mercy; awaken our heart, that we who celebrate His Supper may have a salutary remembrance of Your benefits and humbly give You our true and dutiful thanks, glory, and praise forever. Help us Your servants and Your people that we may in this Supper remember the holy, pure, immaculate and blessed sacrifice of Your Son, which He made upon the cross for us, and worthily celebrate the mystery of the New Testament and eternal covenant. Bless and sanctify with Your Holy Spirit's power that which is prepared and set apart for this holy use, bread and wine, that rightly used they may be for us the holy body and blood of Your Son, the food of eternal life, which we desire and yearn for with greatest longing. Through the same, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Preface and Canon:


The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.

Lift up your hearts to God. We lift them up.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right and fitting.


Truly it is right and fitting, appropriate and salutary that we should at all times give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God at all times, but especially and chiefly on this day on which our Paschal Lamb is offered. For He is the very Lamb who has taken away the sin of the world. By His death, death has been destroyed and by His resurrection life has returned. 


Who, that we might never forget His benefits, on the night that He was betrayed celebrated a supper during which He took bread into His holy and venerable hands, lifted His eyes to heaven, gave thanks to You, His holy Father, almighty and eternal God, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples and said: "Take and eat; this is My body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me."


Likewise also after the Supper, He took the cup into His holy and venerable hands, looked up to heaven, gave thanks to You, His holy Father, almighty and eternal God, blessed and gave it to His disciples and said: "Take and drink you all of this. For this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. This do as often as you drink it in remembrance of me."


Therefore with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, with all the hosts of heaven, we sing the song of praise that has no end to Your honor, saying:


Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.


And so we remember, O Lord God, this blessed command of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, His holy passion and death, His resurrection and ascension. In Your boundless mercy You have sent and given Him to us that He might be an offering for our sins, and that He by His one sacrifice on the cross pay the price of our redemption, fulfill Your righteousness, and bring to perfection such an offering as might serve for the salvation of all Your chosen until the end of the world. The same, Your Son, the same offering which is a pure, holy, and immaculate sacrifice, we beg You to set before us for our reconciliation, shield, and defense and covering against Your wrath and against the terrors of our sin and of death. Grant that we may now receive it with faith and offer it before Your glorious majesty with our humble supplications. For these Your great benefits we give You fervent thanks with heart and mouth, yet not as we ought, but as we are able.


And we humbly beg You through Your Son whom You have in Your godly and secret counsel set before us as our sole Mediator, to look upon us and our prayers with Your mercy and pitying eye. Grant that they may come to Your heavenly altar before Your divine majesty and be pleasing to You, that all we who partake at this altar of the blessed and holy food and drink, the holy bread of eternal life and the cup of eternal salvation, which is the holy body and blood of your Son, may be filled with all heavenly benediction and grace.


We pray You likewise, O Lord, our God, that You would be pleased to grant us poor sinful people who trust in Your manifold mercies, that we may be received among Your holy apostles, martyrs, and all Your saints, among whom we beg You to welcome us, not due to our deserving, but due to Your compassion, for You are He who forgives our sins and failings; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. 


By whom, O Lord, You ever create, sanctify, quicken, bless and grant us every good thing. Through Him, with Him, and in Him be all honor and glory and praise to You, almighty God, Heavenly Father, with the Holy Spirit, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.


Taught by Your saving precepts and formed by divine institution, we cry to you and say: Our Father...deliver us from evil. Deliver us, O Lord, from all evil, both past, present and future. Grant us gracious peace in our days that beneath Your merciful protection and defense, we may be set free from sins and kept safe from all affliction, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

06 April 2018

Homily upon Colossians 3

Chapel 04.05.18

Invocation

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 16

Reading: Colossians 3:1–7

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

Hymn: 459/460

Homily

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

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." I think we sometimes have been tempted to hear that as always be thinking about angels and harps, streets of gold and the endless hymn of the redeemed, and not about planning what you need to pick up at Aldi's or how you're going to get the kids to their ball game and find supper for your family. Can you see trying it out on your boss? "I'm sorry I missed that deadline; you see, I was thinking about the things above."

And so you might be tempted to just dismiss St. Paul's injunction as just so much pious mumbo-jumbo. Things above indeed! When you can't even remember all the things below that you HAVE to attend to. 

I think, though, the angels with their harps and bowls of incense and the streets of gold and such, might not actually have been what St. Paul had in view. The great Revelation of St. John wouldn't have been written for some years till after St. Paul had penned today's words to the little flock of believers that gathered in Colossae, a little flock, but the way, whom he'd never even met in person. 

So what do you think he meant? To set your mind on the things above? I wonder if we'd get nearer to what he was inviting them into if we thought of "the things above" more along the lines of "from the perspective of Him who is above, Your Heavenly Father." He, after all, had just been writing to them about the danger of an earthly way of thinking. He reminded them of their baptism into Christ where they were buried to that whole old way and raised with Jesus through faith in God's powerful work. He reminded them that God made them, who were dead in their sins, alive together with Jesus by forgiving them all their trespasses. So they were forever beyond the religion of asceticism: don't touch this, don't eat that, and so on to try to make God love them. Instead, and this is right where our text picks up, you've been raised with Christ and so you seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. You seek His peace, His joy, His Spirit, His wisdom and His love. You seek what is His, because you seek HIM. 

Set your mind on the things above, then; learn to think with God's own perspective. His perspective of you and of others and of this world. Learn to see through the eyes of love. Learn to live out of the calm of His unshakable peace. Learn to delight in the secret and inner joy that in Christ your old life is dead and buried and in Him a brand new life is before you. His life. A life that will never end for you.

Paul was urging the Colossians and us with them to live toward the glory that will shine in us on that Day when Christ, our life, appears. And that means a life that is cut off from the old worldly way: the sexual immorality (if it itches, scratch it); the impurity and passion and evil desires and covetousness, which is tantamount to idolatry: seeking life in the persons or STUFF of this world and turning away from where real life is found: in Christ.

Set your mind on the things above; have the MIND that is from above and learn to see yourself, others, and all the stuff as God sees it; which is as it really is. You are people who have death behind them. You are people who enjoy a life that will never be taken from you. You are people who have been clothed in Christ. Eyes of love, then. People are not objects for you to use or abuse; your own body is not an object for you to use; the stuff of this world, every bit of it, seen for what it is: not the source of life or happiness or contentment, but a gift from the Heavenly Father, to sustain you as you journey to the full realization of the glory that is already hidden inside you and that is so much greater than the whole world itself! 

But what about the stuff I need to pick up at Aldi's and getting the kids to the game and the family fed and my work deadlines and all of that? Use your sanctified imagination for a minute. Breathe. Be still. Now shift the mindset. Shift to: I am in Christ. The old way is dead. I have been raised to a new life in Him. My sins are forgiven and they have no power over me. My performance or failure to perform cannot diminish the slightest bit the vast love that God has for me in His Son. The life of fretting and worry is buried; it's forever behind me. I am at peace. Time itself flows toward me as a gift from Him. I will attend to what or who it brings me, one at a time, in the peace that flows from Christ's love in the joy of His presence and I will seek to serve this day in the power of his love. And so with mind set on things above: you shop, you transport the kids, you cook, you work, you live. You literally live in Christ. And anything that doesn't fit in that peace, that joy or that love, well, it's not part of the life you've been placed into, is it? 

Now, one last thought: he'd hardly have been reminding them to do this if they weren't doing (or at least tempted to doing) its opposite. So yes, to people just like you and me: distracted and unfocused and fretful, to us, Paul props open a door from which streams a bright light of resurrection, serene, tender and loving beyond our wildest dreams. That's our real life. He invites us to practice living in it now, for it's where we will live for all eternity. And for that, all glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, at Aldi's and on the soccer field and in the kitchen and working on the project for your boss with the deadline, all glory to the Trinity now and ever and to the ages of ages. On things above. Love. Peace. Joy. Mind set. Amen.

And it is in that mindset that we join in prayer:

Prayers


In peace, let us pray to the Lord. R.

For the peace from above and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord. R. 

For the peace of the whole world, for the wellbeing of the church of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For Matthew, our Synod's President, for the Presidents of all our districts, for Pr. Richard Wokoma and all missionaries, for all our pastors in Christ, for all servants of the Church and for all the people, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For Donald, the President of our country, for all public servants, for the government and those who protect us, that they may be strengthened and upheld in every good deed, let us pray to the Lord, R.

For those who cry to God for healing and peace, especially those we have been asked to remember: Roger and Ruth, Allen and Jan, the family of Sam Cuputa, and those we name in our hearts…., let us pray to the Lord, R.

For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger and need, let us pray to the Lord, R.

Taught by our Lord and trusting His promises, we are bold to pray: Our Father…

The grace of our Lord Jesus + Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all! Amen.



02 April 2018

Bird says

NOT my picture of Easter Monday. 


01 April 2018

That Easter Dinner

Deserves a post of its own. We decided to do something quite different this year and settled on a Greek theme. So here's the rundown:

Appetizers

Goat cheese
Olives
Veggies
Hummus 
Tzatziki Sauce
Pitas

Main Course

Greek Salad
Saganaki (flaming cheese)
Lamb Balls with Tzatziki
Felafel
Spanikopita
Homemade Pitas
A fine red wine 

Dessert

Limoncello
Baklava 
Ice Cream

It was a team effort, so no one was too exhausted. As usual, though, David and Cindi were the star chefs. They truly outdid themselves. We decided from now on THIS is Easter. 

Easter this and that...

...as always, the Triduum and Paschal feast at St. Paul's were amazing and wonderful. Just some flash points of joy (hardly exhaustive): David's awesome job on the Schalk Passion of St. John as the evangelista... Cindi's "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" with organ and strings... Kantor's preludes and postludes and especially her Widor Toccata today... Luther's absolutely lovely "I Shall Not Die" motet (his only motet!)... Singing Palestrina's O Bone Jesu... Hallelujah Chorus with strings and organ... Singing LOTS of Luther like Maundy Thursday's "O Lord, We Praise Thee" and today "Christ Jesus Lay"... Singing LOTS of Gerhardt like "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" and "Awake My Heart with Gladness"... Singing BOTH Fortunatus pieces on Good Friday... Getting to hear BOTH our pastors preach excellent homilies on Good Friday and Easter at either service (and give us joyous homilies on the other days too)... The strings, the brass, the bells, the organ and the congregation belting out joy... And our wonderfully Greek themed Easter feast with Opa, David and Meaghan, Lydia, Henry, and Oliver, Rebekah and Andy:


Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Blessed Resurrection from the Weedons. 




31 March 2018

Thirty-three years ago...


... so long ago now. May you rest in peace, dear brother!

Joseph Field Weedon 
23 June 1949 to 31 March 1985

“The Lord is good to all and His mercy is over all that He has made...” Ps. 145:9

From the Treasury for Holy Saturday

You were pure in the womb that was sealed and alive in the tomb that was sealed. The womb and the tomb, being sealed, were witnesses to You [and to Your divinity].—St. Ephraim Syrus

Good Friday


Walking out of church last night, we were greeted with the Easter moon. The choir was blest to sing the Schalk Saint John Passion, not perfectly, but with reverence and joy. David was the Evangelist. You can give a listen at this link (you have to copy and paste; computer is acting up!):

https://youtu.be/5rLqvri7cE0





29 March 2018

Ubi caritas et amor...

...Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love, there God is.

A blessed Triduum, people loved by God!

27 March 2018

On John 13 and 19 and LSB 452


"It is finished." What, though? Well, we sing it: "O perfect life of love, all, all is finished now." The English disguises it a tad, but it's what John said in chapter 13, the Maundy Thursday Gospel: "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them *to the end.*" (εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς). Love that goes the course, all the way, to the end. And so, of course, love that has no end, love stronger by far than sin or death. O perfect life of love, all all is finished. For once in human flesh and blood there was a life that was love 100% through and through, outside, inside, and everywhere in between. This is as human life was meant to be.  Unbroken love from cradle to grave, from manger to cross to tomb. And THAT is what burst the hole straight through death and set us free. A perfect life of love. A finished life of love. He reaches it to us to share. "Yet work, O Lord, in me / As thou for me hast wrought; / And let my love the answer to be / To grace Thy love has brought."

26 March 2018

I think they might have done it again

And by “they,” I mean Apple. When we moved into our current home, we inherited a surround sound system in the living room. It was entrancing for me. I’d listen for hours, until my long-suffering wife would kindly ask: “Would you mind if we turned off the music for a while?” But there were a few draw backs. We had no furniture in which to store the stereo component, so I set it on a black plastic crate, and the set up was, well, quite ugly. That and we had speakers sitting hither and yon in the room with wires connecting them. I hate seeing tangles of cords. No, scratch that. I hate even KNOWING that there were tangles of cords even hidden in that crate.

When the Homepod was advertised, I was intrigued. My son was skeptical if the physics of sound could allow it to be even as good as the system we had. Could a single little gadget like that actually replace the stereo system, get rid of the need for a complex set of speakers, operate wirelessly and still sound great?

I decided to pick one up and give it a try this past weekend. It started out promising and it has only grown better day by day. The sound seems to “grow” in complexity as the device continues to gauge the room over several days. And it truly doesn’t matter where I stand, the sound is the same. How is this even possible? And all from this little thingy that sits on my piano! The bass is rich and you can FEEL it. Each layer of sound is very distinct and the whole is super crisp and just overall pleasant.

So yeah, I think they did it again.


22 March 2018

Chapel Homily: the Conclusion of the Passion According to St. Mark

Hymn 452: O Perfect Life of Love

Mark 15:21–47

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

O Lord, have mercy on us. R.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.

You’ve been there. Christ’s tomb. Not some visit to a holy site in Jerusalem either. He wasn’t there alone. He took you there with Him when He died and was buried. You were there when you were baptized. Romans 6: “You have been taught that when we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death; in other words, when we were baptised, we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.”

The death in front of us in today’s Passion reading is actually given to you as your very own. Imagine that, being a people with death already behind them, already a thing of the past. And not so that you can devote yourself to all the silly occupations that we tend to give ourselves to before death captures our attention, either our own impending death or the death of someone we love. Have you ever noticed how death is the ultimate Occam’s razor. It makes everything very simple and for the first time lets you see what is, and yet what we’re blind to most of the time.

And so Christ’s death is given you now, you joining in the tomb now, so that you can live as people who have the tomb behind them. Imagine it: a life where you realize with the clarity that only death can give how precious are the persons around you, how utterly unrepeatable they are, not cogs in some giant system, but each a unique gift to be loved and celebrated and welcomed. Imagine it: a life where fear is shrivelling up and dying because it has no death to avoid. Planted into Jesus tomb and sprouting up with him into a life that has no boundary, no limit, no end. You are free like you’ve never been free before.

This is the gift of His passion, His death, His burial. It’s the gift of what you can leave behind in that tomb. He carried in His own body on the tree all your betrayals of love, all your unkind thoughts and words, all your frettings and fumings and fear of the future. He carried it all to death as His. And it stays behind, locked in the tomb. On the other side of the tomb there is Garden, Eden restored, a Brother risen, Father waiting, a welcome, a new life. Jesus your brother who shared your death reaches you now His life to be your own. You are a people who live on the other side of that tomb. Never forget it. The water that puts you into the tomb is also the water raises you with Him into that life forever beyond death itself. Fear not, people loved by God. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. You have already died in Him. You have already been raised in Him. You will meet Him with joy when He comes again. Feast, not fear. Hope, not despair. Light, not darkness. You will find it is all yours because as you shared in His death, so He will share in yours. In your tomb, He will be there, the One beyond death forever to pour over you forgiveness and love, which is life unending.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.






21 March 2018

Today’s Chapel Homily

By East Africa Regional Director, Pr. Shauen Trump:

Daily Prayer: Morning (LSB p. 295)
Heb. 9:11-15
LSB 529 “Since Our Great High Priest, Christ Jesus”


11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.


The blood of goats, calves, and bulls. Two weeks ago I was in northwest Kenya, up in Turkana where the people are pastoralists – they keep goats and cattle as a livelihood. I was traveling with Benjamin Lemosi, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya – he’s a pastoralist too but from the Samburu tribe. Benjamin was telling me about his youth, when he was responsible for herding the cows and the goats. Many of these pastoralist communities survive day-to-day on the milk and the blood of the animals they herd. They do a live blood-letting, collecting the blood in gourds which they then frequently mix with milk and drink. Apparently, according to Benjamin, a goat is bled from here, and a cow or camel from here. Now I’m one of those guys who was not called to medicine – I was called to church work. My wife was called to medicine – she’s a labor and delivery nurse – and I would pick her up from work here at Barnes Jewish so many years ago and she would start to tell me about her day. Which is wonderful – she’s amazing – but the more she told me about emergency c-sections and whatever fascinating thing had happened to her, the more pale I would get and finally, you know? I’m driving! You gotta stop before I pass out! So you can imagine how I’m doing while Benjamin is telling me about how when you do a live bleeding of a cow you can feed four or six people but when you do a live bleeding of a camel you can feed a whole village – oh, brother, please stop!

We have this thing about blood. We Americans – most of us – don’t eat blood sausage. We don’t like the thought of touching blood – not the blood of animals, not the blood of people. We are so scared of blood-born disease, of e-coli, of hepatitis, of HIV. We overcook meats, we have these latex gloves and needle-prick protocols and we learn about protecting ourselves from blood. We fear blood as much as we fear touching something that’s dead, dead things that are unclean, that are defiled, that defile us! We don’t want to be defiled.

But we are. We are defiled. We have not only come into contact with dead people – we are dead ourselves. You and me – on our own we do dead works, we sin in the very act of doing what we call good. We revel in gossip. We do not put the best construction on everything. We slander. You and me – we are pathetic, caught up in our self-righteous justification of our actions. We are so far beyond redemption by the ashes of a heifer or the blood of a goat. We are completely without life.

And yet. Even though we are completely depraved, there is a way for us. The very rituals referred to in this passage are prescribed for those made defiled by contact with the dead. There is a purification protocol – it purifies the flesh – “…the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh.” That was the heifer who was sacrificed for a burnt offering outside of the city and the ashes preserved to be used for purification. …that blood of goats and bulls – you remember those times in the Old Testament where that blood from the sacrifice is cast against the sides of the altar and thrown and sprinkled on God’s people – to sanctify and purify. And still, the idea of goat blood being thrown on us sets us on edge – we just can’t handle this!

To us, just about the only time we don’t freak out when there’s blood involved is when it’s our family, someone known to us – our children with the skinned knee, our parent with the cut on their finger. Those whom we love, those we are convinced are safe – those we don’t seem to mind, we accept contact with their blood without fear. Even for me – here I find reprieve. While I have passed out at the sight of my own blood, I wash my child’s wounds without a second thought. It’s different within the family.

This for me is the key. Because this Jesus Christ – He has made us members of His own family in the faith worked in baptism. He is known to us, His Spirit works trust within us, there is no fear in His blood. His blood is safe. And so far beyond simply safe – his blood heals, restores, purifies. His blood is effective.  Beyond purifying the flesh, far beyond, as our text says, “…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, [how much more will His blood] purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

That blood – the blood of Christ, which flows down upon you as you cling to the foot of the cross – that blood brings forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration. That blood which pours out not only from the wounds of the cross but also pours out from the altar, that blood which fills the chalice, that blood, which flows like a live blood-letting from the living God, that blood sustains and nourishes those who believe. That blood, which is freely yours, brings new life, redemption, and the promised eternal inheritance. This is the glorious miracle of His love for us – our God’s blood, shed for you. Amen.


Prayers:

O Lord, almighty God, as You have always granted special gifts of the Holy Spirit to Your Church on earth, grant Your continual blessing to all who minister in Your name in the armed forces, especially chaplain Timothy Rosenthal, that by Your gracious working they may honor Christ and advance the good of those committed to their care; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need, look with favor upon Your servants Joseph, Roger, Ruth, Allan, and Jan. Assure them of your mercy, deliver them from the temptations of the evil one, and give them patience and comfort in their illnesses. If it please You, restore them to health, or give them grace to accept this tribulation with courage and hope; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Gracious Father, Your Son grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and all people. Lead those who this week plan together for the Youth Gathering. Bless, guide, and govern both those who plan and those young people of Your Church by Your Holy Spirit, that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Your Word. Grant that they may serve You well and usefully, developing their talents not for their own sakes but to Your glory and for the welfare of their neighbor. Protect and defend them from all danger and harm, giving Your holy angels charge over them; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


08 March 2018

Homily upon the Passion, Part 3

Chapel 03.08.18

Mark 14:53-72

"And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. "
O Lord, have mercy on us. R.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.

As they part for the last time on the shores of Middle Earth, Gandalf turns to the hobbits who remain and says: “I will not say, Do not weep, for not all tears are evil.” You have perhaps cried those tears when you have had to say farewell to someone you deeply loved. Tears can testify to the depth of love.

Today’s Passion reading ends in tears. Peter’s tears. And what exactly prompted them? It was not his denial of Jesus. It was not his failure, to which he seems almost bewilderingly blind. What prompted them was the sound of the rooster, welcoming a dawn that had not yet begun to break, and with that sound a memory. Words that stirred in his heart and that he could hear in his mind and recall with clarity. Words we read together last week. His master saying: Amen, I tell you, Peter, this very night before the rooster crows twice you will deny me.

It was the words of Jesus operative still in his heart and mind that brought him to tears. Tears over how he had fallen and done exactly what he said he would never do, even if all the others did. Tears of shame. Tears of godly grief. Tears of repentance. These tears are not evil either.

In the Church’s prayers and hymns, they are mentioned so very often. O mensch bewein dein Sünde groß, O man cry over your great sin, as at the end of the St. Matthew Passion of Bach. Or from our Synod’s first hymnal: “Oh, that I might sufficient tears be shedding! O ye mine eyes, your bitter floods be spreading, And thou mine heart, no longer stone resemble. Oh, weep and tremble” Walther’s Hymnal 82. Or in the lovely hymn for Good Friday: O darkest woe, Ye tears forth flow! Hath earth so sad a wonder? God the Father’s only Son Now is buried yonder. LSB 448 And these tears are never something that we have to work up on our own like an actor on a stage. They come always as a gift. And quite often they come unexpectedly. I don’t think Peter thought he was going to burst into tears. It was a gracious gift that flowed to him from the word of Jesus that the rooster called to his mind. And because he heard those words with his own ears, maybe he remembered also something in the way Jesus said them.

I know it’s rather naughty to switch Gospels, but something I think we often overlook. Those beautiful words from John 14? “Let not your hearts be troubled…” Do you realize what immediately preceded them? Jesus said to him, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times… (And then immediately) Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in God and trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14

And Peter remembered the word that Jesus spoke to him. And it brought him to tears. I wonder if he remembered also the words that only John has recorded for us. Then Peter’s tears of regret, are also tears of shame that he had denied the one who would not deny him, who was suffering precisely to prepare a place for him and them all and us too. Who loved him. Whose love was stronger than Peter’s denial and Peter’s sin and stronger than any denial or sin of yours too. He is at work in His Passion to provide a place for us: a place in His heart where we can live in Him forevermore.

Not all tears are evil. O Jesus, kind master, grant us all the gift of tears that we may weep over our great sin and weep even more over Your unfathomable and unchanging love.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.





06 March 2018

A Meditation upon the Commemoration of Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas

Jesus said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus. C. S. Lewis observed that He who is love incarnate by commanding us to hate is not actually telling us to harbor resentment and loathing toward those we refer to as our loved ones; rather, he is telling us that our loyalty and obedience to Him comes before any loyalty and obedience to them. And that when we make this choice, they do experience it as hate.

So with the two martyrs from the early 200s that are commemorated on March 7th. Perpetua’s wealthy father was no dummy. He knew the massive danger that attended his daughter joining herself to Christ in Baptism, or as he’d likely have thought, joining this mad sect. He loved his daughter very much and even when she was arrested and placed into jail, he visited her and begged her not to do this. Not to allow Christ to come between them and to deprive his granddaughter of a mother. Why did she hate him so? How could she treat him like this? Why did she love this Jesus more than she loved him?

But of course, Perpetua did not despise her father and no doubt took no pleasure whatsoever in causing him pain. But she could not choose please him above pleasing the One who had laid down His life for her and for us all on Calvary’s tree.

I’m sure the same scenario played out with Felicitas, her servant, who also was a mother and left her children in the care of relatives, to face with her beloved mistress the martyr’s death. They were according to ancient records scourged first by gladiators, then savaged by wild beasts. Finally they were finished off with the sword. Bleeding, dying, they shared the kiss of peace. The peace that they had come to know in Jesus and his victory over the grave, His blood that in love blotted out their every sin, and made them so much more than mistress and servant, made them sisters in Christ and of Christ.

Their unswerving devotion to Christ above the claims of family and blood, the joy of their companionship together in Christ, and their scorn of death and pain has lived on in the memory of the Church for century upon century. Their example and witness has served to bless and strengthen so very many others who followed them in persecution, suffering and death. Think of these two the next time you’re at a Confirmation and hear the question raised: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Wouldn’t that question have read better as “rather than fall away from Him?”

We actually have a hymn in our hymnal that sings about them. It’s LSB 661: The Son of God Goes Forth to War. “A noble army, men and boys, *The Matron and the Maid*, around the Savior’s throne rejoice In robes of light arrayed. They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n through peril, toil, and pain. O God to us may grace be given to follow in their train.”

And for such grace we pray in the collect for this commemoration: O God and Ruler over all our foes of body and soul, You strengthened Your servants Perpetua and Felicitas, giving them a confident and clear confession in the face of roaring beasts. Grant that we who remember their faithful martyrdom may share in their blessed assurance of victory over all earthly and spiritual enemies and hold fast to the promise of everlasting life, secured for us through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

04 March 2018

A Pity It Was Altered

A decent translation of the traditional collect for Oculi (the Third Sunday in Lent) is found in The Lutheran Hymnal:

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of Thy humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ, our Lord...

There is something of a delightful contrast with the Introit, which is “Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord” and the petition that His eyes might look upon our heart’s desires. Our eyes on Him and His eyes upon us. As our eyes “see” the Unseen, so His eyes behold the unseen recesses of our hearts and what they desire. This can be a terrifying thought, of course, when we think of some of the things we desire! Lord, have mercy. But the tone of the prayer is rather along the lines of Psalm 37, “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of Your heart.” He sees and knows the longing of our new hearts which the Spirit has created within us.

This being so, we pray: “stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defense.” This calls toward the Gospel reading with its reference to the finger of God by which Jesus drives forth the enemy. “If I by the finger of God drive them out, then the kingdom of God has come among you.”

Thus the traditional collect reaches back to Introit and forward to Gospel and ties them together rather beautifully. The one that has been substituted for it in our current book, sadly, does neither.

01 March 2018

Homily on St. Mark’s Passion, Part II

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for by the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, as John reminds us, knows what is in man. He knows how far our intentions carry us. How quickly our resolve dissolves in the acid of our fears. He knows how hard we find it to turn from our creature comforts to spiritual work; the nap always entices more than prayers because though the spirit is willing (at least sometimes), the flesh is weak (always). He knows how misguided we can be and how easily we misunderstand His ways, and how tempted we are to resort to violence and force when we feel backed into a corner.

So if you look at the Passion story we heard today with attention to the followers of Jesus what you find failure. Big time failure. Peter boasting that he’d die with Him, but then running away with the rest. Peter and James and John, his dearest earthly friends, unable to prop their eyelids open as the full weight of what He was preparing to do began to press on Him with all its terror and He just didn’t want to be alone, but alone they left Him; and He knew how much they needed prayer to get through what was about to happen, yet they kept falling asleep. Judas leading those who would arrest him and then betraying with that kiss, Peter striking out with the sword (oh, Mark is kind and skims over who it was but John spills the beans). And the mysterious neaniskos, the young man, who follows only wrapped in linen and yet also runs away at the end.

Yes the Passion mirrors our lives. We state our intentions. We make our vows. We intend to do better this time. We get the importance of the spiritual warfare now. We are ready. And yet fall we do. Once and again. With Peter and all the others, with Judas, with the nameless young man running away naked, possibly St. Mark. The Passion shows us our nakedness; it strips us of our fig leaves. We recognize the story that happened once in Judea under Pontius Pilate as a story that has not come to an end. The failures that it shows us in the 12 and the naked man are our failures. At least they are mine, and I assume they are yours. If it hangs on our hold on Jesus, we are toast. Just toast.

And we could wallow in that for the whole of chapel, but how pointless that would be. Let us instead turn our attention to what it does hang on. Not OUR faithlessness, but HIS faithfulness. He goes into His passion singing. Images of Jehoshaphat sending the army out with the choir in front. He goes to His passion with a song on His lips. There is a sacrifice to be offered in thanksgiving, after all, but He has no illusions.

He knows what awaits Him, and He receives it as from the hand of His Father. He misquotes the verse from Zechariah to make it plain how He understands it: not some disembodied sword, but a sword in His Father’s hand striking the shepherd. And as He ponders it in prayer, he is sorrowful even to death. This cup. He knows what is in it. He is afraid of it as you and I ought be and yet never are. He knows. And He trembles to sip from it. He asks, He begs, for another way. But His trust in His Father does not fail. “Yet, not what I will but what you will.” And His Father’s will is for Him to drink it. This cup of wrath. Down to the dregs. Every last bitter drop finished as He swallows it down in His Passion. He suffers Himself to be betrayed; He will not allow His friends to defend Him and so they run away themselves. He will do this that the Scripture might be fulfilled. He will go all the way as a willing sacrifice. A Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth, trusting that His Father’s will is right and just and good and holy. And so the Lamb becomes our very salvation.

And He does all of this for those who will fail Him, not just those who have done so, but who will do so. And fail again and again. He does it for those who will go on getting it backwards and wrong and slipping into worldly thinking. He does it for Peter with his sword and Judas with his money bag, and for the nameless one who ran away naked. He does it for love for them all, for love of you and love of me as we find ourselves mirrored in their fear and their sin.

Your sin cannot destroy His love. Let me say that again. Your sin cannot destroy His love. He knows your sin better than you ever will, because He took it into Himself. And just as He knew Peter’s future sin so He knows yours. And your sin – past, present or future – cannot destroy His love. It is exactly reverse. His love destroys your sin. That’s what the cross IS. And that is why you can have the courage of a Peter to come back to the Crucified and Risen One again. And again. And again. And to be restored. You can come back because His Cross really was for sinners, for love of sinners. Like Peter and like you and like me. A love that no sin can ever destroy. And so we fall down before Him and cry: We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for by the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.

25 February 2018

On the Collect for Lent 2

By a happy coincidence, I was reading again yesterday in The Noonday Devil. Evagrius warns of the dangers of the logosmoi, the demonic thoughts which assault us. And here today we prayed:

O God, who seest that of ourselves we have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended against all adversities which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, our Lord... (TLH)

This is something that we post-moderns have a hard time with, believing that thoughts themselves can assault and damage our inner life. We rather like the observation of Aristotle that the mark of an educated person is to be able to consider a thought without accepting it. But are there thoughts that are too hot to handle? Whose consideration cannot take place without damage being inflicted on us? We know in fact that there are.

Proverbs 6:27: Can a man take fire into his bosom and his clothes not be burned?

Yes, no matter how much we may not like it, we have to admit that there is such a thing as playing with fire. Allowing certain thoughts to take up residence within us can, in point of fact, damage us in our hidden, inner life, for these thoughts by their very nature war against divine love.

And so the prayer. It is a cry for help and in many ways an expansion of the prayer that the early Christians had on their lips constantly from Psalm 70:1. There’s a reason that the daily offices seem to include this all over the place as they begin.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord!

This is the prayer raised in the face of the assaulting thought that seeks to gain entrance and do its damage. God knows WE have no strength to fight this. But the strength He provides us is in His Word. When His Word inhabits us and we inhabit it, then the evil thoughts from the demons cannot gain their entrance. Oh, as we learned last week, Satan knows how to twist even the divine words to his own purposes, but we learned as well that answering him back with the divine words was the method of spiritual warfare in which our Lord triumphed. Against a Satanic twisting of Scripture, He simply cited Scripture. We are weak, but He is mighty. His words are strong.

When St. Paul urged us what to think about in Philippians 4, that’s above all an invitation to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. It’s not much different from what he was getting at in Colossians 3. And so the most deadly of the thoughts that assault us: acedia. This nasty bugger that wants to close our hearts and ears to the divine Word. This sloth and indolence in hearing the Word. This attack upon the very foundation of all godliness in our lives. This itch to do or move or think or check your phone or do anything but actually listen and pray. It is a thought. It assaults. It seeks to harm. We are weak. We are helpless. He is strong and His Word is mightier than their words.

To continue in the Word is the only thing that can expose the assault that we’re not even aware of; to continue in the Word will disclose the damage already done; to continue in the Word where we are exposed in all our fears and ugliness and yet where He graciously reveals Himself as more kind and loving than we ever dared to dream, and kind and loving to US, to ME. This is the battle against acedia, and only in the Son of God is it overcome. “Abide in me and I in you.” Then the evil thought cannot win the day.

“Give us help, O Lord, for vain is the help of man.” Psalm 108:12

An outstanding article

by Dr. Maas. Read it. You will be glad you did.

Law, Liberalism, and Luther: Beyond the Myths

10 February 2018

Homily on James 1

Chapel 2.8.18

Invocation

Collect
Let us pray. Blessed Lord, since You have caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which You have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 1

Reading – James 1:19–25

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Homily

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

You can’t help but wonder if James had heard Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount. It seems to lurk in the background a lot in his epistle. Jesus had spoken of those who hear his words and do them. He called them like wise men who build their house on a rock. Winds, storms, rain lashed it, but it stood. It stood through it all. It lasted. And the contrast, please note, is not with those who don’t hear his words. The contrast is exactly the one James makes: those who hear the words of Jesus but do not do what they hear. Just info. Just data stored in the memory or not, at least it passes through the mind for a while. Jesus says that hearing but not doing results in houses that come crashing down when the storms come; they’ve been built on sand. So this is a word NOT to those who never bother to darken the door of the church and hear the word, but to those who are always sitting in pews listening. It’s aimed at you. At me. 

Striking, then, that the first thing our reading today wants us to do is to be quick to listen and conversely slow to speak. Two ears. One mouth. There’s a reason. And the warning against the rush to anger which is the rush to judgment. Our getting angry, all worked up, never produces the righteousness that God is after, either in us or in others. So if we are to “do” the Word we hear there, we’ll slow down. We’ll pray God as we do in Evening Prayer: “Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips.” Instead of being hasty with our mouths, we’ll stop and consider. Think how often in Proverbs God warns us against haste in our talking! Maybe James also remembered hearing Jesus say that for every idle word we utter we will have to give an account. 

Our words, our anger, they can’t do much. But God’s words are different. They can do a lot. So James urges you to be done with all filthiness and rampant wickedness and in its place receive with meekness the implanted Word and he tells you that this Word is able to save, to heal your souls. It CAN produce the righteousness God requires. Implanted. Coming from the outside in. Someone putting it there. So many ways it can happen. You here listening. Opening your Bible at home. One way I love to receive the implanted word is to listen to the Scriptures on audible come prelent or Lent each year. From start to finish, the words pour in and wash over you. I listen not just because it’s absolutely fascinating (it certainly can be!) or boring (if I hear about the long lob of the liver one more time in Leviticus, really?!), but because God’s made this promise about His Word. It can save me. It can save my soul. Yours too. It’s the actor and the doer first. And you only come to act after you have let it come to live inside me and do its job of giving you faith and trust. It plants divine life in you like a seed.That’s what it means to save you and heal you: to cause faith to grow up in you that you have been loved in Christ with a love that is vast and immeasurable. Through what you hear, by the Spirit’s might, you then hold tight to your Jesus. 

But, as He would say: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not DO what I say?” So imagine a conversation with my son back when he was a teen and planted in front of the computer playing games. “David, take out the trash.” And he says: “Got it, Dad. You want me to take out the trash!” And a half hour later, I notice David hasn’t moved and the trash is still sitting there. I say: “David, take OUT the trash.” If he were to pull the very sinful move Lutherans are prone to, he’d reply: “Ah, Dad. You’re right. I’m a dog. You told me to do it and I haven’t done it. I’m sorry.” Meanwhile, his eyes would be fixed on his computer game and he’d keep playing. “DAVID! TAKE out the trash now.” Finally, I might get through to him. You see, he was hearing, but he wasn’t doing. God wants you to do both. Hear and in the strength of what you hear, to do.

To have Jesus as your Lord is to let His Word shape and impel actions. Faith does that. Is affects how you live. Glues together what you hear with what you do. Example If I know that Jesus tells me “judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned”, and I dismiss His words with a “oh, well, everyone judges; you have to”, what good does that do? If I know that Jesus wants me to forgive those who hate me, to pray for them and bless them, and instead all I do is harbor grudges and anger in my heart, what good does that knowledge, that hearing, actually do?

James says when we hear, but don’t do, we’re like people with alzheimer’s glancing in a mirror and then immediately forgets what we saw, maybe even who we are. He contrasts it with the person who stares steadily into what he calls the perfect law of liberty, the finished law of freedom, and I’d argue that is JESUS, and that transforms the person from forgetful hearer to a doer who acts. 

So here’s my challenge to you as we prepare to enter this Lent. It’s a challenge to myself as well. What if we weren’t David. What if we gave up the excuses. What if we listened and took to heart everything Jesus says to us in His Word. And what if instead of treating that as mere information, we received it as marching orders from Him to whom we bow the knee as our Lord? What if we began to do what we hear. To stop talking about prayer and instead to pray. To stop talking about love, and instead love. To stop making excuses about fasting or giving, and instead to fast and to give. 

What if? I’ll tell what what if: we will end up being blessed. Blessed in our doing. Venturing out on the words of Jesus you won’t come out the losers. He ventured everything and trusted His Father and He is no loser. He triumphed from garden to cross to empty tomb. He triumphed because He heard and He obeyed. “Sacrifice and burnt offering you have not desired, but you have given me an open ear...  Lo, it is written of me in the book, I have come to do Thy will, O God.” That perfect keeping of the Father’s will He accomplished, that is your perfect righteousness AND it is also His standing invitation for you to join Him in His life. A life where you HEAR, receive the implanted word, and in its light DO. You will be blessed with Jesus. 

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


Hymn: #577 Almighty God, Your Word is Cast

Prayers: 

Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.

For meekness to receive the implanted Word that is able to save our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
For grace to do the Word that we have heard, let us pray to the Lord.
For hearts that long to gaze into the perfect law of liberty, let us pray to the Lord.
For forgiveness for every time we have treated God’s Word as information and not as the instructions and promises of our King, let us pray to the Lord.
For all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, especially for Norman, Susan, Roger, Ruth, Allan, Jan and those we name in our hearts this day…., let us pray to the Lord.
For all who serve as military chaplains, and especially Joseph Watson, that they may sow the comfort of the precious Word into the hearts of our armed forces, let us pray to the Lord.
For every good and perfect gift which comes down from the Father of lights, who never changes, let us ask in the words that Christ Himself taught us, saying:

Our Father…


Benediction