quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, December 21, 2007

Saint Thomas, Apostle

Thomas is an Apostle of the Lord who reminds us of the reality of doubt and of the reality of the Lord's Resurrection. The Lord states something equally unbelievable. He speaks of the blessedness of "those who have not seen and yet have believed." So we are taught that faith believes whether or not there are signs, and that faith does not always have to gaze on that which is invisible.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advent & Christ-Mass 2007

The following is from the introduction to the family Advent & Christ-Mass letter this year which is shared here as a brief Advent & Christ-Mass greeting to you, the reader, and yours:

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame:
"All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady." Gloria.

"For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee;
Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady." Gloria.

Lutheran Service Book, 356, Stanzas 1,2 (Advent)

The Creed echoes the reason for the honor given Mary by the generations, ". . . who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man . . ." God's salvation comes to earth with the Word made flesh. The nations are truly blessed in Christ, who is Emmanuel-God with us, Mary's son.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

One of the victims of the great persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Lucia met her death at Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the year A.D. 304 because of her Christian faith. Known for her charity, "Santa Lucia" (as she is called in Italy) gave away her dowry and remained a virgin until her execution by the sword. The name Lucia means "light," and because of that, festivals of light commemorating her became popular throughout Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. There her feast day corresponds with the time of year when there is the least amount of daylight. In artistic expression she is often portrayed in a white baptismal gown, wearing a wreath of candles on her head.

[From "Commemorations Biographies," Lutheran Service Book, LCMS Commission on Worship]


Here is a brief historical sketch of Vespers: What is Vespers?


On December 8 the weatherman said that we had surpassed the average snowfall for the month of December. Currently, there is a lull and the sidewalks are clear at home and church.

Still not sure if this is a geographical phenomena or if this is nation-wide - Advent midweek services are not well-attended. Maybe it is that the themes of Advent stand in such stark contrast to what our eyes and ears are accustomed to, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year. Yes, it is a busy time of year. However, entertainment rules and governs much of our free time. Put this in contrast with what the Lord says in discussing being prepared for His second coming, "Pray always." It is not a matter of exchanging prayer for entertainment as some might have it (and maybe even with some temporary external success). Rather, last night at church Vespers was held entirely in Spanish. And the young violinists, who do not know Spanish, patiently sat through the service!

The latest issue of First Things has an instructive article on Nietzche (for those of us who do not quite know him) and a review of a translation of the final volume of Dante's Divine Comedy, among other things.

Currently reading: The Feast of Faith by Joseph Ratzinger

Friday, December 07, 2007

Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose (c.340-397 A.D.), Bishop and Doctor of the Church; Ordained on December 7

"We see, then, that grace has a wider scope than nature, and even so we place a limit on the grace of the prophetic blessing. If a human blessing was so powerful that it could alter nature, what shall we say of that divine consecration in which the very words of the Lord, the Savior, are at work? For the sacrament that you receive is brought about by the word of Christ. If the word of Elijah was so powerful that it could bring down fire from heaven (1 Kgs 18:38), will the word of Christ not be able to alter the appearance of the elements? You have read of the whole world's works that He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created. (Ps. 33:9). Since the word of Christ, then, was able to make out of nothing what had not existed, can it not change what already existed into what it had not been? For it is not a lesser matter to give new natures to things than to change nature.

"But why do we make use of arguments? let us use {Christ's} own examples and establish the truth of this mystery by the mysteries of His incarnation. Had nature prepared the way when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? In the normal course of events, generation occurs after a woman has had relations with a man. It is obvious, then, that the Virgin conceived outside the normal course of nature. And this body that we bring into being is from the Virgin. Why do you look for the normal course of nature in the case of Christ's body when the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a virgin and apart from nature? Most certainly, therefore, the true flesh of Christ which was crucified and which was buried, is truly the sacrament of His flesh."

(Source: This quote was found on a Roman Catholic website -, although the exact source of the quote is not provided.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Liturgy links update

The link to a resource for the historic lectionary, "Lectionary Central," has been removed because it no longer seems to be accessible at

A new resource, "Lutheran Liturgy Links - Audio," has been added. These are audio links to radio interviews of pastors and professors.

To find "LITURGY" links scroll down the blog and watch the right-hand column.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

St. John Damascene

“Show me the icons that you venerate, that I may be able to understand your faith."

“The saints must be honored as friends of Christ and children and heirs of God…observe the manner of life of all the apostles, martyrs, ascetics and just men who announced the coming of the Lord…and emulate their faith, charity, hope, zeal, life, patience under suffering, and perseverance unto death, so that we may also share their crowns of glory.”

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holding high the Sacrament

For your reading, there is a post by Pastor Weedon entitled "On the Elevation" that provides a Lutheran understanding and history of the practice of elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ in the liturgy of the Eucharist.

(Special thanks to "RAsburry's Res" for drawing attention to this.)

St. Andrew the Apostle

Of Bethsaida; Fisherman; disciple of the Baptizer; First called with his brother Simon Peter to follow the Lord; one of the Twelve; Martyr

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." (John 12)

It is Andrew who said to Peter “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). (John 1)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Religious news from across the pond

November 25, 2007
The World
The Church in England: Downright Un-American
BATH, England

LAST week, Tony Blair outlined his plans for easing the economic crisis in Gaza, in his role as a Middle East facilitator. And that's all he is these days, a long step down from the prime minister's office, which he resigned last summer. The point was made bluntly then by a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey: "There's certainly no envisioning that this individual would be a negotiator between the Israelis and Palestinians."

Learning to accept such slights with humility is said to be one of the consolations of religion, and Mr. Blair is evidently about to take an important step on his personal path, which he discussed with Pope Benedict XVI, it was reported, on his last visit to Rome as prime minister.

The authoritative Catholic paper The Tablet of London now writes that, some time before Christmas, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair will at last be received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The historical resonances and political overtones of this are as significant as the event itself — which also illustrates again the great trans-Atlantic gulf. Not only are the English now a notably irreligious people; in striking contrast to America, religion plays no part in British political life.

For years it has been rumored that Blair would one day convert, the culmination of a journey that began when he discovered religion at Oxford. An Australian clergymen named Peter Thomson introduced him to the work of another writer. "If you really want to understand what I'm all about, you have to take a look at a guy called John Macmurray," Mr. Blair has said. "It's all there."

Little read now, Macmurray was an academic theologian and proponent of "communitarianism" who died at 85 in 1976. Not everyone was as enthusiastic as Mr. Blair. George Orwell, for one, was suspicious of Macmurray as a "decayed liberal" who was even susceptible to totalitarian rhetoric.

However that may be, Mr. Blair joined the High or "Anglo-Catholic" wing of the Church of England, whose adherents, from John Henry Newman on, have been inclined "to pope" (as they used to say) and go the whole way. His wife, Cherie Booth, is a Catholic, and for years he went to Mass with her and their children, even taking holy communion, irregularly and sacrilegiously in Catholic eyes.

All of which sets him far apart from his compatriots. When an interviewer once tried to raise the question of faith, Mr. Blair's press officer, Alastair Campbell, snapped, "We don't do God," and on that occasion at least he was quite right.

By contrast with the United States, whose First Amendment prohibits any establishment of religion, there is a Church of England "by law established," with the queen as its supreme governor. And yet, while polls indicate that nearly half of Americans go to church each week, services of this established church are now regularly attended by fewer than 2 per cent of the English population, while the total for all Christian churches is around 7 per cent. (Islam is another matter: Muslims attending Friday prayers in Great Britain may soon outnumber all churchgoing Christians.)

We British not only don't do God, we are effectively a pagan nation — and that goes for our politicians. Even when England was truly Protestant, that was more in terms of hostility to Catholicism than theological precision or zeal, and to this day the public displays of piety that are normal enough in America would be embarrassing here.

No British prime minister has been a Catholic, and it would have been politically very difficult for Mr. Blair to convert when he was in office (think of Northern Ireland, apart from anything else). A neglected footnote to our history is that a majority of prime ministers for the past century were by origin Protestant Dissenters, in the old term, from outside the Church of England: H. H. Asquith
grew up as a Congregationalist; David Lloyd George a Baptist; Neville Chamberlain a Unitarian; Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher Methodists.

More to the point, only a minority of 20th-century prime ministers were Christians as adults, having any serious personal religion. The impious majority includes Winston Churchill. His "Macmurray" was Winwood Reade, who wrote a once-famous book published in 1872. "The Martyrdom of Man" was called "a bible for secularists," though Nietzsche-and-water might be better: Churchill learned from Reade that God is dead and that man is master of his own destiny in a cruel world.

Of course, Churchill paid lip service to the outward forms — christenings, weddings and funerals in church — and he would invoke the Almighty rhetorically. But neither he nor other British pols ever made an open parade of faith, certainly not in the way that United States presidential candidates are obliged to. And it's very hard to imagine an American equivalent of Norman Tebbit.

As cabinet minister and Conservative party chairman in the 1980s, Mr. Tebbit was one of Mrs. Thatcher's most effective lieutenants, a tough, populist right-winger — and a self-proclaimed atheist. Even the believing prime ministers kept politics and religion separate: Harold Macmillan was a pious High Churchman, and he used to say that if the people want moral guidance they should get it from their bishops, not their politicians.

For centuries, England was certainly infused with political Protestantism, in the sense of antipathy to the Roman Church. In 1780, London was swept by the "No-Popery" Gordon Riots (see Dickens's "Barnaby Rudge"), and in 1850 Lord John Russell tried to prevent the re-establishment of a Catholic hierarchy in England. That tradition lingered longer than you might think.

In 1945, Labor won a landslide election (to the astonishment of the defeated Churchill), sweeping every industrial district and large town, with one exception. Labor had acquired a large Irish-Catholic vote, while the Conservatives held on to the ultra-Protestant constituency. And so it was that in that year of Labor's triumph the Tories still won a majority of seats in Liverpool (Cherie Booth Blair's native city), thanks to the anti-Catholic "Orange vote" there.

Today, that kind of sentiment is quite vanished outside Ulster, and there will be no vehement demonstrations against Rome's latest illustrious convert. Still, what Tony Blair has said is his strength has also been seen as a weakness.

"Far from lacking conviction," said the late Roy Jenkins — the Labor politician who became a founder of the Social Democrats, and who originally admired Mr. Blair — "he has almost too much." Mr. Blair has nearly admitted as much: "I only know what I believe." And those words may indeed explain a great deal about him, well beyond his new ecclesiastical affiliation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

eat something

Moreover, for us to understand that the entire mystery of our salvation is prefigured in this girl [Jairus' daughter]; after she was raised from the dead, as Luke reports, the Lord directs her to eat something. Evidently the order of our faith and salvation is here shown. For when each believer among us is freed in baptism from perpetual death and comes back to life upon acceptance of the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary that the person also be directed to eat that heavenly bread about which the Lord says, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
(Chromatius [4th c.], ACCS Ia, p. 185)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Catholics, Lutherans and devotion to Mary

Pastors in the parish cannot always keep up with all of the happenings that affect their respective church bodies and how these affect the perceptions of members and non-members alike. By their call they are placed locally so local, and often personal, concerns predominate their time and efforts. A challenge and joy that happens locally comes from conversation and discussion with people, inside and outside the Church, and the subsequent learning that takes place between pastor and people.

Pastors often learn what is happening from afar, as it were, about current events. Something is gleaned from a newspaper, magazine or journal article. Something is heard in passing on the radio or seen on the television. The internet allows for quick learning. Blogs provide quick commentary. Still, pastors must often rely on others for learning and keeping up on those matters that affect the Church and those topics and issues that are of interest to them on either or both the professional and personal levels.

As a seminary student in the mid-to-late 1980s I was honored to have an article published in the student journal concerning the 450th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (1980) and what that anniversary meant in terms of Lutheran-Roman Catholic relations. This article was one article in the journal that was wholly dedicated to the topic of the relationship between Lutheranism and the Catholic Church. My article focused mainly on the roles of both the Augsburg Confession and then the Book of Concord as a whole although it made some mention of a number of many of the topics that dominate such discussions. Another article, written by a fellow student, discussed the question of Mary. I mention this because now, looking back as a parish pastor, I marvel that I wrote the article and then saw it published. Moreso, I appreciate today how great an effect questions of devotion and practice have on how Christians look at each other. The question of devotion to Mary is one that can too easily be seen as one where the line is drawn in the sand.

All of this is simply meant to introduce the reader to an article entitled True Devotion to Mary that has appeared in the latest issue of the journal First Things. The article is undoubtedly written on the occasion of the issuing of The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary which is the eighth volume from a dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics.

The author of the article is Catholic but don't let that keep you from reading on. The topics of Mary and Marian devotion are too big to cover in this post but these excerpts from the article provide a great introduction for the sceptic:

For example, this "maxim" regarding "rightly ordered faith and rightly ordered devotion" - "If you would draw close to Jesus, draw close to Mary; if you would draw close to Mary, draw close to Jesus." The author continues, "Anything that pits Jesus against Mary or that depicts them as rivals for devotion is disordered. The entirety of Mary's role is encapsulated in her injunction at the wedding of Cana, 'Do whatever he tells you.' These are the final words of Mary in the New Testament and, in substance, the final words of Mary forever." (p. 49)


"Disordered Marian devotion has been with us since the beginning of the Christian story . . . John Paul II vigorously called for 'the evangelization of popular piety.' And, of course, this is a theme powerfully underscored in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. John Paul said that devotion to Mary and other saints as expressed in patronal feasts, pilgrimages, and other forms of piety, 'should not sink to the level of a mere search for protection or for material goods or for bodily health. Rather the saints should be presented to the faithful as models of life in imitation of Christ as the sure way that leads to him.' The criterion set forth in the Catechism for rightly and wrongly ordered devotion is unequivocal: 'What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines, in turn, its faith in Christ.' Discerning what is true and what is false devotion to Mary and the other saints engages truths that are trinitarian, Christological, pneumatological, and ecclesial. Any devotion that displaces, overshadows, or obscures the triune God, that impugns the mercy of the one mediator Jesus Christ, that neglects the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, or that tends to separate a particular saint from the whole body of Christ is a disordered devotion." (p. 49)

Thursday, November 15, 2007


from the Latin adventus

For Christians, the anticipation and joy of Christmas are undisputed. The intensity of the weeks leading up to Christmas, is also something incomparable in terms of commercial activity, busy-ness and stress. Halloween leads to Thanksgiving which leads to Christmas which seems connected to New Year’s Day, a festivity on the tail’s end. In between are countless shopping trips, social outings, football games, and the like.

In the Eastern Church, Advent begins today. In the Western Church Advent begins this year on December 2, the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends before the evening of Christmas Eve.

From the 4th century this was a period of fasting which was held strictly like that of Lent. The strict observance of fasting was later relaxed in Lutheran practice. The period began in some places on November 11 (St. Martin of Tours) and so was known as “St. Martin’s Fast,” “St. Martin’s Lent,” or “the forty days of St. Martin.” Reed writes,

Advent as a season of preparation for the Nativity originated in France. Its observance was general by the time of the second Council of Tours, 567. . . It was probably not until the thirteenth century that Advent was universally recognized as beginning the Christian year, which up to that time had begun with the Festival of the Annunciation in March or, in some places, with Christmas.
(The Lutheran Liturgy, pp. 465-6)

Although strict fasting is no longer the rule and although Advent does not compare with Lent in terms of its strict emphasis on repentance, Advent remains a solemn period of repentance and purification in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Some practices during Advent include the Advent Wreath, daily readings in Scripture with prayer, the singing of the Great Antiphons (Dec. 17-24) and the use of the liturgical colors of purple, violet or blue (Sarum Rite).

With the secular pressures and the growing impact of Christmas on the heels of Thanksgiving, the season of Advent is often overlooked and neglected, if not forgotten. There seems to be no greater contrast during the year than to solemnly observe Advent when everything around us is pulling us in different directions. Through the observance of Advent the Church not only lives in contrast to the world around her, even more important, she herself is being prepared for the way of the Lord.

A Special Day

This past Sunday, November 11, 2007, our youngest daughter, together with other children of the congregation, received the Body and Blood of our Lord for the first time. This means that she now joins her older sister in receiving the Holy Supper at the altar.

At the altar they join their parents and fellow baptized believers in communion with Christ and His Church throughout the world. They are now strengthened in communion with Christ together with Mary and all of the saints, martyrs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, angels and archangels in heaven. With this brief foretaste of heaven we are united once again with God and are strengthened by His forgiveness and life and salvation. As Christ participates here in our human nature, in Christ we participate in His divine nature.

God willing, there will be many special days ahead for our children like graduation and marriage and many other occasions. Of course, she will remember how strange the wine tasted. For me, this quiet day is one to remember.

God remember His covenant to all as they receive Christ's Body and Blood for the forgiveness of their sins and so proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

begging a moment of your time . . .

Some well-known words from a well-known dead man:

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

one holy church

Some more on holiness in connection with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church . . .

"Forgiveness is needed constantly, for although God's grace has been won by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God's Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet because we are encumbered with our flesh we are never without sin.

"Therefore everything in the Christian church is so ordered that we may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and through signs appointed to comfort and revive our consciences as long as we live. Although we have sin, the Holy Spirit sees to it that it does not harm us because we are in the Christian church, where there is full forgiveness of sin. God forgives us, and we forgive, bear with, and aid one another.

"But outside the Christian church (that is, where the Gospel is not) there is no forgiveness, and hence no holiness."

(Large Catechism, The Third Article, 54-56)

"Our churches also teach that one holy church is to continue forever."

(Confessio Augustana, Article VII)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Holiness - divine creation and gift

"As in the case of all the apostles except for Peter, James, and John, we are faced with men [Simon and Jude] who are really unknown, and we are struck by the fact that their holiness is simply taken to be a gift of Christ . . . It is a reminder that we cannot receive too often. Holiness does not depend on human merit, culture, personality, effort, or achievement. It is entirely God's creation and gift . . . only God can create his divine life in human beings."

Monday, October 29, 2007

St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

28 October

This year the Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles falls on Sunday. In the Lutheran tradition it is common to transfer the observance of Reformation Day (Oct. 31) to this Sunday. Thus many churches will not even hear or know of the festival that is set aside for these two apostles.

Little is known about St. Simon and St. Jude except that they are listed in the gospels and Acts together with the other apostles, including the greater known Peter, James, and John. In contrast, there is more written about Martin Luther than any other individual after Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The transferring of the observance of Reformation to October 28 seems to underline the reality that Simon and Jude are not well known. One thing that is known about them. The Lord chose them to be His apostles and they followed Him. So even though it is unfortunate that their festival is set aside more often than not, and that little is known about them as individuals, they are indeed well-known.

. . . who in the multitude of Your saints did surround us with so great a cloud of witnesses that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us and, together with them, may receive the crown of glory that does not fade away
- Proper Preface - All Saints

Thursday, October 25, 2007

books in the mail

von Schenk
is ordered and should arrive in the mail soon. The CTQ book review arrived today. Read on . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Holy Works

Good works should be done because God has commanded them in order to exercise our faith, to give testimony, and to render thanks. For these reasons good works must necessarily be done . . . Because of faith they are nevertheless holy and divine works, sacrifices, and the reign of Christ, whereby he shows his rule before the world. For in these works he sanctifies hearts and suppresses the devil. And in order to keep the Gospel among men, he visibly pits the witness of the saints against the rule of the devil; in our weakness he displays his strength. The dangers, labors, and sermons of the apostle Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, and other teachers of the church are holy works, true sacrifices acceptable to God . . .

We feel the same way about every work done in the most humble occupation and in private life. Through these works Christ shows his victory over the devil, just as the distribution of alms by the Corinthians was a holy work (1 Cor. 16:1), a sacrifice, and a battle of Christ against the devil, who is determined that nothing happens to the praise of God. To disparage works like the confession of doctrine, afflictions, works of charity, and the mortifications of the flesh would be to disparage the outward administration of Christ's rule among men . . . We teach that good works are meritorious--not for the forgiveness of sins, grace, or justification (for we obtain these only by faith) but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and in that which is to come, as Paul says (1 Cor. 3:8), "Each shall receive his wages according to his labor." Therefore there will be different rewards for different labors.

But the forgiveness of sins is the same and equal to all, as Christ is one, and it is offered freely to all who believe that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. The forgiveness of sins and justification are received only by faith, not because of any works . . . Eternal life belongs to the justified, according to the saying, "Those whom he justified he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

- Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. IV, pars.189-196

Daily Office

Pope Benedict XVI discusses the practice of "lectio divina" and its relation to listening to the Word of God. He also talks about what it means to teach the faith.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I have been "tagged" by Pastor Asburry. This seems to be some kind of tradition that includes something like succession. It appears that I am to tell 7 true items about myself so here they are:

1) While my family lived in Leadville, Colorado, I was born at a hospital in Denver. With all due respect to Oregon natives, including my beloved wife, there seems to be a misunderstanding in the blogosphere as to where "God's country" actually exists. We enjoyed a visit there this past summer after a few years absence. Colorado, that is ...

2) Third of seven children (oldest and youngest are girls with five of us boys in between). This makes me kind of a middle child, a peace maker, one that gets bored when everyone else is getting their dander up. This also can give me the appearance of being rather boring - a tool that is quite effective. (After all, one can't compete with the 1st child and the younger children always get away with more than their older siblings ever did :)

3) We lived in many, many places growing up but most of my childhood years were in the Philippines and New Hampshire. I graduated from high school in Arizona (while living in New Mexico), college in Nebraska and seminary in St. Louis. Vicarage was in Miami with three months of language training in Mexico.

4) I met my beloved wife in Milwaukee and our two daughters were born here. They are ages 12 and 7 and are musically involved (like Mom!). We make the pilgrimage to St. Louis on an annual basis to visit her family. My parents live in New Mexico.

5) My hobbies include reading books (an understatement) studying Latin, and keeping "to-do" lists. Theology and Church History books are my favorites. Studying Latin is both a review and an attempt to learn more (I had 3 years in High School). I told you I was boring. . .

6) My favorite baseball teams are the Milwaukee Brewers and the Boston Red Sox (from the days growing up in New Hampshire; I have been to Fenway Park!). My favorite football team is the Green Bay Packers.

7) Finally, I enjoy classical music, which recently went "underground" in Milwaukee. The only classical music station in town changed its format suddenly and became a jazz station. Now, finding and listening to classical music is something one does by surfing the net or listening to CDs.

Now that I think I understand this "tagging" thing I will tag Pastor Weedon.

gratia universalis

For a number of years my father, Rev. Doug May of Socorro, NM has provided reading excerpts from the Lutheran Confessions that correspond to the church year like the one posted below. This and other readings are available here.

The following reading, which is chosen for the Last Sunday of the Church Year (3 Year Series), is timely in that it also applies to the Gospel reading for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity in the Historic Lectionary (Matthew 22:1-14).


"Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). This does not mean that God is unwilling to save everybody. But the reason some are not saved is as follows: They do not listen to God's Word at all, but willfully despise it, plug their ears, and harden their hearts. In this way they block the ordinary way (Luke 16:29-31) for the Holy Spirit so He cannot perform His work in them. Or, when they have heard God's Word, they make light of it and ignore it. Their wickedness is responsible for this, not God or His election (2 Peter 2:1-3; Luke 11:49-52; Heb.12:25-26).

A Christian should concern himself with the article about God's eternal election only as far as it has been revealed in God's Word. His Word presents Christ to us as the Book of Life, which He opens and reveals to us by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, as it is written in Romans 8:30, "Those whom He predestined He also called." The Father has determined (Eph.1:11-12) that He would save no one except those who know His Son Christ and truly believe in Him. Other thoughts are to be banished; they do not come from God, but from the evil foe. Out of pure grace, without any merit of our own, we have been elected in Christ to eternal life. No one can pluck us out of His hand (John 10:29). He has promised this election with words, has certified it with an oath and sealed it with the holy Sacraments.
(paragraphs 12-13)

Condensed quotations from the Lutheran Confessions from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

union, fleshly and spiritual

Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all things, whatsoever you do, may prosper both in the flesh and spirit; in faith and love; in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit; in the beginning and in the end; with your most admirable bishop, and the well-compacted spiritual crown of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to God. Be subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual.
- St. Ignatius of Antioch (Epistle to the Magnesians, Ch. 13; source:

Sunday, October 14, 2007

help in prayer of others

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” (Matt. 9:2, emphasis added)

“But first of all let us say again what we have said before: That anyone who is sick should seek the help in prayer of others, that they may be restored to health; that through their intercession, the enfeebled frame of our body, the wavering footsteps of our deeds, may be restored to health by the remedy of the heavenly word . . . Great is the Lord, Who pardons some because of the merits of others; and while subjecting some to trials, He forgives others their sins. Why should not the prayer of your fellow-man avail with you, when a servant had both the merit of pleading for another before God and the privilege of obtaining what he prayed for? Learn you who judge, to forgive. Learn you who are sick, to gain health through prayer. Should you be diffident because of your grave sins, seek the prayers of others, call upon the Church to pray for you, and in His regard for her, the Lord will give what He could refuse to you.” - Ambrose (Toal, IV, 182-3)

Homily - Trinity 19

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

Unfortunately, many people seem to believe that when they have been catechized, or confirmed, that they have graduated like they are in school. For pastors it is strange to see people who they have taught from divine revelation about the merciful gifts of God to neglect the very things that they have been taught as if they have
outgrown Christ and His Church. How does one outgrow Christ and His gifts? How does one outgrow the holy faith? How does one who is taught of the mysteries of salvation not value the worship of God and the communion of the saints? Is it true, as I was told on one occasion, that we might be saved if we live as we see fit and then repent of all our sins just before we die? No, the Christian does not wait for death to repent. Nor does the Christian see the faith as child’s play. Catechesis, if it is what it is – instruction in the faith – is really a lifelong process. That is, faith always seeks God and what He has to teach us. Catechesis then includes everything that is involved in that teaching and learning. The classes before Holy Baptism, the classes before First Communion and Confirmation, sessions before Holy Matrimony, Sunday School and Adult Classes are only part of a larger whole that includes the Church gathered together in worship. The faith is taught, proclaimed, heard and learned in the Scriptures, the liturgy and the hymnody. Since the faith is the work of God through His Word and means of grace there is no limits of age or understanding. All are gathered together and drawn to Christ and His cross through His Word and the holy Sacraments and are built up in the one true and holy faith. This is why parents and godparents make a public promise to bring their children to the Lord’s house after baptism, why we are taught the value of hearing the Word of God and receiving frequently the blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Learning the Scriptures and the Catechism are only the beginning of delving into the mysteries of things we will not fully understand until the Last Day.

This faith leads us to seek the face of God in Jesus Christ while He may be found. The Catechism summarizes the benefits of eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ in a way that demands faith to understand, “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” In these few words we are given a picture of the abundant blessing that the believer receives in the Sacrament through the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is not something we outgrow. The Lord includes it as a main petition in the prayer He taught us. The forgiveness of sins is central to our life with God in Christ and so too our lives with one another. Together with forgiveness there is life and salvation. This is not something we wait for until our deathbed. These blessings are ours beginning in Baptism and are cherished daily in our life in Christ. Forgiveness of sins is found in the proclamation of the Gospel, in the washing of regeneration and in the words of our Lord at the altar. Holy Absolution is applied to believers at the beginning of the liturgy when sins are confessed and when the individual makes confession to the pastor in private. Faith is a daily matter and eternal life is not something we have to wait for. Christ and His gifts are present with His Church. He is in our midst.

Forgiveness flows from God’s mercy in Christ to His Church and then into the world. The Risen Lord breathed His Spirit on Peter and the Apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The Apostle Paul instructed the young pastor

. . . be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
(1 Timothy 4:12-16)

At the Confession of sins of Christ’s baptized people the pastor announces the grace of God and “in the stead and by the command of [his] Lord Jesus Christ” forgives them “in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are amazed that God has given such authority to men. Then we are like the paralytic who has been raised. Jesus says, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Because Jesus is the Son of Man who redeems us we are forgiven indeed and called “sons of God.” Having received God’s forgiveness in Christ we arise and go with His peace into the world. There we are called upon to live in His peace in our vocations, forgiving as He has forgiven us.

Forgiveness is a difficult thing to do. Jesus knew that the scribes doubted Him and accused Him of blasphemy for forgiving the paralytic. He knew what was going on in their hearts. He said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” They knew that only God could forgive sins and yet they did not see that God was there forgiving sins in front of them. Therefore Jesus gives them a sign that His forgiveness is God’s forgiveness. He tells the paralytic, “Arise,” and the man is healed. The miracle is being able to see Christ when He is in the midst of His people. This is possible only by God’s grace in Christ through the eyes of faith. “. . . There is a bodily sign in order to demonstrate a spiritual sign, though its impact is to curb the imperfections of body and soul.” (Jerome, ACCS, 175) When the multitudes saw this they glorified God “who had given such power to men.” The man is able to walk and return to his own house, healed in both body and soul.

It is frightful to face death without having one’s sins forgiven by Christ, for no one returns to the eternal home unless forgiveness of sins has been granted . . . But the reason here for honor offered to God is this: Power was given through God’s Word to humanity for the remission of sins, the resurrection of bodies and the return to heaven. (Hilary, ACCS, 176) Because the Lord is Himself the Resurrection (Ambrose, Toal, IV, 182)

We do not see anything spectacular when a baby is baptized, when a pastor absolves the congregation, when we receive Christ’s Body and Blood at the altar in the bread and wine yet we are invited to trust, as He promises us, that His forgiveness is so real that we can even see and taste it. The crucified and Risen Lord is in our midst and He makes it possible for us to return to our heavenly home. Just as He is risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven so He leads those drawn to Him at the cross to heavenly glory with the Father.

This divine work continues in the Church until the Last Day. We do not graduate from the holy faith in this lifetime. Rather catechesis teaches us to see and receive the blessings that are ours today and every day in Christ Jesus. Christ has placed you and me here in His Church where He chooses to be with us and bless us. He gives His Church both a command and a promise that brings forgiveness of sins and healing of body and soul to those who believe. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In the holy Church, Christ gives us rest and prepares us for the eternal Sabbath rest that is to come. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess our faith in “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” These blessings all go together and they are all ours in Christ Jesus who is in our midst. This is true again as we gather at the altar in holy Communion with Him. Through the Church the Lord calls all to communion with Him and the Father and keeps us together with Him in the one true faith. Forgiveness is a difficult thing to do. Yet

In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the
sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead,
and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. (SC, Art. III)

Christ has called you and me to be here in this time and place in the one holy Church. Here He comes to us and freely forgives us with all the mercy that flows from His cross as He promised. He does for us what we neither deserve nor are able to do for ourselves. To Him Who heals us in body and soul and Who enables us to arise and return Home be all glory, now and forever. Amen.

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

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

make them to be numbered with Your saints

"For to everyone who believes through the word of the Apostles, the
promise is given for Christ's sake and by the power of this prayer,
that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that
what happens to him as a member for good or ill, shall happen to
the whole body for good or ill, and not only one or two saints, but
all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth
and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall
fight for him, help, protect, and save him and shall undertake
for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his
sufferings, want, and afflictions and he partake of all their
blessings, comfort, and joy.... For who can harm or injure a man
who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all
the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest
suffering befalls him?" (M. Luther, Sermons on John 16-20, 1528)

" not doubt that it will be done unto you as the Sacrament
declares, that Christ and all His saints will draw near to you with
all their virtues, sufferings, and graces, to live, work, rest,
suffer, and die with you, and be so fully yours that they have all
things in common with you. If you are willing to practice this
belief and confirm it, you will experience what a rich and joyful
wedding-meal your God has prepared for you on the altar."
(M. Luther, On the Councils and Churches, 1539)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

service of angels

St. Michael and All Angels

These are Your ministers,
these are Your own,
Lord God of Sabaoth,
nearest Your throne;
These are Your messengers,
these whom You send,
Helping Your helpless ones,
Helper and Friend.

- Joseph the Hymnographer,
tr. John Mason Neale

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Your heavenly Father

"Note the acceleration of images: just when the lilies are decked out, he no longer calls them lilies but 'grass of the field.' He then points further to their vulnerable condition by saying 'which are here today.' Then he does not merely say 'and not tomorrow' but rather more callously 'cast into the oven.' These creatures are not merely 'clothed' but 'so clothed" in this way as to be later brought to nothing. Do you see how Jesus everywhere abounds in amplifications and intensifications? And he does so in order to press his points home. So then he adds, 'Will he not much more clothe you?' The force of the emphasis is on 'you' to indicate covertly how great is the value set upon your personal existence and the concern God shows for you in particular. It is as though he were saying, 'You, to whom he gave a soul, for whom he fashioned a body, for whose sake he made everything in creation, for whose sake he sent prophets, and gave the law, and wrought those innumerable good works, and for whose sake he gave up his only begotten Son."

- Chrysostom, Matthew, Homily 22.1 (Cited in ACCS 1a, Matthew 1-13, 145)

Ember Days

In the Western tradition today along with Friday and Saturday of this week are Ember Days following the Feast of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14). The Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the Feast of St. Lucia (Dec. 13), Ash Wednesday, Whitsunday and the Feast of the Holy Cross.

These days have roots in Roman agricultural tradition and were later adapted for use in the Church. There is record of their observance in the Church in Rome in the 5th century. From there the observance spread to England, Gaul, Germany, Spain and beyond. The Eastern Church does not observe these days.

In early tradition the ordination of priests and deacons took place at Easter. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius permitted such ordinations to also take place on the Saturdays of Ember week.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy."

Although I am not familiar with the nature of, or to what degree, the observances of Ember Days are practiced today, it is not hard to see that these observances are beneficial reminders of God's mercy in providing for the body. In the Lutheran tradition we repeat, "All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him." (SC, Art. I)

And then there are God's abundantly merciful gifts confessed in the Second and Third Articles of the Apostles' Creed . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Marriage, not "now"?

Marriage is "old-fashioned," it's all about "now" not "until death do us part." This is, in so many words, the answer given by an actress when asked on an entertainment show why she and her live-in husband(?) of seven years have not tied the knot.

Nothing surprising in attitude and practice here. But why must we be so dogmatic about what's "now?" Is the past really passé? And, what about the future? Let's not talk about marriage or commitment . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Augustine of Hippo

We believe that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary because it is written thus in the Gospel; we believe that he was crucified and died, because it is written thus in the Gospel; and we believe that he was truly born and truly died because the Gospel is the truth. Just why he willed to subject himself to all the weaknesses of the flesh he assumed in the womb of a woman is a hidden design, known to him alone.
(cited in Gambero, 220)

Friday, August 24, 2007

faith and worship

Fides autem catholica haec est:
ut unum Deum in Trinitate,
et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur.

And the catholic faith is this,
that we worship one God in Trinity
and Trinity in unity.

- from The Athanasian Creed

Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Holiness and Righteousness

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist 24 June 2007
In Holiness and Righteousness Before Him Luke 1:57-80

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

From birth we are lost in our sin. We spend our days fleeing from God and His mercy. Except for the grace of God we would not even be here this morning. He protects us with His holy angel and guides us by His Spirit and we are gathered on this day in Holy Communion with Him and with all the saints in heaven. This is possible in that here we are blessed with His presence and forgiveness. This is why the Church does not take a vacation during the summer and why the early Church was open for the hearing of the Word and prayer on a daily basis. The Divine Office of Matins, which is a daily prayer of the Church, includes the song of Zechariah that we heard this morning in the Gospel reading. Everything is dependent on God's grace and promise. As He commanded His people to keep the Sabbath holy so He also keeps His promise to us. Zechariah's mouth was opened to speak of God's visitation and promise that He could see coming following the birth of John. So He speaks of salvation being fulfilled that was spoken of from the beginning by the holy prophets:
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

When John was still in the womb he leapt for joy upon hearing of the Lord's visitation to the blessed virgin Mary. Now John is in the temple and it is the eighth day, the day after the Sabbath (Bede), a sign of God's covenant promise that comes to fruit in the resurrection of Jesus. This is our Baptism - our washing away of sins and our resurrection from the dead. He is called John because this means "the grace of God" or "in whom there is grace." (Bede) By grace Elizabeth gave birth to John and his parents brought him to be circumcised. By grace Zechariah sees what is happening and is able to speak of the blessings of the Lord who guides our feet into the way of peace. John is the prophet of the Highest, the one who prepares the way of the Lord. These too are the men called and ordained to speak the Lord's Word as pastors so that His people may know their salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.

On the Nativity of St. John the Baptist we are reminded of the Lord's mercy promised to our fathers and the oath God made to our father Abraham. John's birth preceded that of our Lord. He prepared the way of the Lord by preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. John had to decrease so that the Lord would increase. At John's baptism of Jesus, God, the Holy Trinity, was revealed. Jesus has visited and redeemed us, paying the cost of our sins and of the sins of the whole world with his blood shed on the cross. He is risen and ascended and sits on high just as He continues to meet us here on earth where He reigns in grace. By His grace our feet are guided to His house once again this morning. Before John and before Abraham, He Is and He now visits us here to guide our feet to the altar to receive His redemption and peace.
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The "c" word

Recently, a Lutheran pastor received an anonymous phone call from out of state from someone asking, "Are you a 'contemporary' church?" When the pastor began to explain the liturgical practice at his church the person on the other end of the line hung up. Obviously, the pastor had offended the anonymous caller by not simply saying "yes" or "no".

On a trip south through Illinois I noticed some new "churches" in sight of the freeway. These buildings were not called churches, cathedrals, basilicas, temples, synagogues or other words that reflect the theological and historical nature of the religion's belief but simply "Worship Centers."

One could probably bring up many examples of similar experiences of one's own that reflect what is happening in terms of worship in the protestant tradition, not excluding what is happening in Lutheranism.

In fact for some Lutheran congregations this is the Future, the very thing that makes them one and at home in the Christian faith. "Contemporary" is a good word and not something to be questioned.

Normally, "contemporary" means something totally different, something new and vibrant. Contemporary is here and now. It is in. It is cool. There is plenty of hype about this word to go around. Having been introduced on the basis of adiaphora it is now left to stand without question as the norm for all future liturgical endeavors.

Whether or not this focus and insistence on "contemporary" is a fad or is here to stay it is certainly distinct from that which stands in the historic catholic tradition. In view of the height, depth and width of the historic liturgy and the church's hymnody "contemporary" seems to fall better under some "e" categories: "experimental", "experiential" and "entertaining." When I am there I know it is all about me and my feelings about God.

The catholic faith and liturgy stand in contrast to the trends of the day. The catholicity of the church holds on to that which is true for people in all ages and in all places. This faith and liturgy are clearly focused on the Triune God and His love and salvation in Christ Jesus for us. The holy faith is prayed in the liturgy and the "now" does not stand in stark contrast to all that has gone before us nor all that is to come. Contemporary is but a part, and not the central part, of the Church's ongoing faith and liturgical practice.

To know Luther, Chemnitz, et al, is to know the church fathers and the historic traditions. They were not looking to a future without a past but a future that is one with the past and the present and that is fulfilled in Christ. They handed over what they received in line with the Holy Scriptures.

From the Augsburg Confession and Apology:

"What need is there of a long discussion? The holy Fathers did not institute any traditions for the purpose of meriting the forgiveness of sins or righteousness. They instituted them for the sake of good order and tranquillity in the church." (AC Ap XV:13)

"We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquillity, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify." (AC Ap XV:38)

"Nothing should be changed in the accustomed rites without good reason, and to foster harmony those ancient customs should be kept which can be kept without sin or without great disadvantage." (AC Ap XV:51)

"In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals,when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc." (AC Ap XXIV:1)

"The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray." (AC Ap XXIV:3)

"As can be seen, there is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the church of Rome, in so far as the ancient church is known to us from its writers." (AC XXI:1)

"Only those things have been recounted which it seemed necessary to say in order that it may be understood that nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or to the church catholic." (AC Conclusion 5)

"There is nothing contrary to the church catholic in our having only the public or common Mass." (AC Ap XXIV:6)

"So in our churches we willingly observe the order of the Mass, the Lord's Day, and the other more important feast days. With a very thankful spirit we cherish the useful and ancient ordinances, especially when they contain a discipline that serves to educate and instruct the people and the inexperienced." (AC Ap VII,VIII:33)

Maybe a more appropriate "c" word for the Lutheran Church and her worship is catholic.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Homily - Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity 3 June 2007
Jesus teaches Heavenly Things John 3:1-15

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

Though a mystery, the Triune God comes to dwell with His Church this morning in the divine liturgy. This is why the liturgy is called “Divine Service” and “Holy Mass.” God is here with His people that we may receive His forgiveness, strengthened in the holy faith and go into the world which He created as holy people, born of water and the Spirit, knowing and trusting that He is our Father in heaven and we are His beloved children here on earth. In earthly means, He creates faith and justifies us, making us holy. Faith then is not just an individual pursuit, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that pours out grace in Baptism, the preaching and hearing of the Word and in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar. All of these things Jesus taught, instituted and gave His Apostles teaching them to do as He commanded. All of these things bring His promise to those who receive them. For Christ Jesus shows us the things that we need to look beyond the earthly things and see the heavenly things that He was sent to give His Church on earth, and in this teaching of our Lord we come to know the heavenly Father who loves us so. For whoever believes in the Son knows the Father and the Son of Man is lifted up so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

In the Gospel lesson for the Day of Pentecost we see that the Holy Spirit teaches His Church all things. He teaches the Church the words of the Lord who calls on us to keep His Word in the face of all opposition – from inside and outside of the Church. When the Church loses sight of the heavenly things, she becomes enslaved to earthly things. We are indeed flesh born of flesh. Yet Jesus teaches us that that which is born of Spirit is spirit. He guides us with His Spirit, which we received in Holy Baptism, to hear, learn, and keep His Word, to gather with His saints in heavenly worship, and to live godly lives here. In the Spirit, we are born anew with the hope of eternal life and we can see and enter the kingdom of God. We can see that Jesus came down from heaven, though being from all eternity with the Father and the Spirit. We can see that He taught with authority as one who even the unbelievers said that God was with Him. He brought teaching of the kingdom of God and showed this kingdom to them in Himself – teaching the Gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead. He was lifted up on the cross for us and our salvation and crushed the power of the serpent over us, making atonement for all sin, and making possible for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He ascended into heaven. Christ still teaches His Church in the holy writings, the law, prophets and psalms, in the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, keeping us in this holy faith. Only in Christ are we born again, our eyes opened to the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. Like Nicodemus, we ask, “How can these things be?” Jesus answers,”We speak what We know and testify what We have seen.” If we are to believe the heavenly things that Jesus teaches then we must also believe the earthly things He teaches. In Jesus we receive the witness of the heavenly Father by the Spirit. As He knows and testifies to us so we hear and receive His witness and, though sinners, we see the kingdom of God. As He has come down from heaven so He will bring us up to heaven. Once again we taste of these heavenly things at the altar. He is given all authority in heaven and on earth, and reigns together with the Father and the Spirit, one God, forever blessed. Amen.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

more on theology

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word." (Jn. 14) The Gospel for Pentecost is full of theology. The Holy Spirit creates the holy Church and teaches her all things. The Holy Trinity dwells in His Church breathing the words of her Lord in the liturgy.
Theology and the liturgy are good things.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

the value of (theological) books

"Differences in expression or expansion or analysis of ideas are judged ipso facto as doctrinally deviant. In an artificially controlled atmosphere, theology dies."

The above quote by a theologian, who was addressing a different matter, appears to apply also quite well to the discussion of theology on e-mail lists and blogs.

Online discussion is quite interesting. For example, in discussing the liturgy one may be considered an anti-nomian and a legalist - at the same time. Hmmm.

On the other hand, when online discussion leads to confusion, or just confusion, there are always books. Books force you to listen, without talking back to you. Maybe theology still has a chance . . .

Thursday, May 17, 2007

the scriptural tradition

As one who is neither Catholic nor Evangelical, or maybe one who is Both/And, these comments on sola scriptura are worth the read. (You'll need to scroll down the link a bit.)

Apart from the intriguing account of the conversion of a prominent Evangelical, Fr. Neuhaus points out that it was St. Athanasius in 367 A.D. who "was the first to name the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as canonical."

In other words, the Scriptures are never alone. They are preached, heard and prayed in the midst of God's people in the Church. They are recognized as inspired and authoritative by the Church for her guidance in a common tradition by the Holy Spirit since they are revelation of God Himself in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Homily - Easter 3

Misericordias Domini - Easter 3
John 10:11-16 22 April 2006

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

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

Jesus says that He will make one flock and one shepherd of those who hear His voice. Pastors in the one holy Church are sent throughout the world to preach Christ and Him crucified and repentance and forgiveness in His name. Those sheep who hear His voice and follow Him are gathered into one flock under one Shepherd. This one flock is made up of believers, both Jews and Gentiles. A congregation like ours is a picture of this flock which consists of people who hear the Word of God and believe. They are people of different nationalities, races and walks of life who receive and trust in God's forgiveness in Christ and in His salvation for them. Christ Himself gathers them through His Word and makes of them one flock, one Church, washed in Holy Baptism and fed in the one true faith in His Body and Blood. This week another class of seminarians will receive their calls to be pastors, or shepherds of God's people, in various places around the world. They will be called to serve the people by faithful proclamation of the holy Word and right administration of the sacraments that God's holy people may be strengthened in the faith, that is that people hear and receive through these pastors the voice of Christ Himself. He is the good Shepherd and the Door through which we come to the Father. As Saint Augustine writes, "Both Peter and Paul and all the other apostles were shepherds: all good bishops are shepherds. But none of us calls himself the door." (ACCS, 4a, 345) The Lord knows our need and provides pastors for the Church and through their faithful preaching we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and come to know Him and taste of His abundant mercy.

Hearing the Good Shepherd's voice is what it is all about. Unfortunately, some do not want to hear His voice, nor listen to His Word. Some pastors will not be received as being those sent by Christ and His Church. It should come as no surprise that there are those within the Church whose hearts and minds are far from the Word of God. Their minds are on earthly things. Pastors are tempted in this way and must always be on alert. So must God's people be alert so that they do not, knowingly or un-knowingly separate pastors from the very Word of God they are sent and called to proclaim. Still, it is realistic to say that, in this day and age, that even within the churches there are those who see the pastor and his office not in terms of proclaiming the voice of the Shepherd but rather as someone who is here simply to fulfill certain functions for the sake of advancing the institution. Where this is the case, then already the voice of the good Shepherd is not being heard.

The truth of the matter is that while one flock is created of those who hear the voice of the Shepherd this same voice causes division. After Jesus said that He was the Good Shepherd who would give up His life for His sheep the holy Scripture states, "Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (vv. 19-21) Also today Jesus' voice causes division between those who hear and those who shut their ears, both inside and outside the Church. But we would not know this voice, nor our salvation, nor our Father in heaven were it not for those Apostles who heard His voice and who, having witnessed His resurrection in the flesh, were also sent out by Him to proclaim the Gospel to souls struggling with sin. Through the preaching of Peter and Paul and the rest many heard the voice of the Good Shepherd and believed. Others did not. The fate of most all of the Apostles is that they became martyrs, that is, they faced opposition unto death, for the sake of Christ and His sheep. Thus, while the message they preached was supernatural, salvation by God's grace through faith in Christ, the consequences for the Apostles was quite real. They gave their lives and shed their blood for the sake of Christ and His Gospel and so demonstrated the depth of their faith in carrying their crosses and following Him. The Church is built on the apostles and the evangelists, Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone. So the early church "remained steadfast in the apostles' doctrine." (Acts 2)

The Apostles gave testimony of what they had seen and heard, that Jesus had suffered and died and was raised to life on the third day. The Gospel is that, in spite of our opposition and our focus on earthly things, in spite of our sin and impatience with God and His Word, that the Good Shepherd gave His life for us as He said He would. "He endured the cross for our sakes that by death He might destroy death. He was condemned for our sakes that He might deliver all of us from condemnation for sin, abolishing the tyranny of sin by means of faith and 'nailing to His cross the bond that was against us' . . ." (Cyril of Alexandria, ACCS, 4a, 347) Indeed, He is the Good Shepherd for His death takes away the sin of the world. This is not a hireling, who cares nothing for the sheep and who seeks only to shepherd for personal gain. This is not a shepherd who abandons the sheep when the wolf comes. "In this way, when the good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep, He did not lose it. In this way He held His sheep; He did not abandon them. Indeed, He did not forsake them but invited them. He called and led them through fields full of death and a road of death to life-giving pastures." (Peter Chrysologus, ACCS, 4a, 350)

He is the good Shepherd. The sheep will not scatter when they hear His voice for this is the One who gave Himself up for them on the cross. This Shepherd not only cares, way beyond that of any pastor, He is full of God's mercy and this mercy is His gift to us. He dies and we have life. He lives and we have eternal dwelling with Him in heavenly glory. As He draws all men to Himself on the cross so they hear His voice and are baptized into Him and His death and resurrection, the daily life of the baptized. They hear His voice in the pastor's announcement of absolution and his preaching of the Gospel. They come to the altar and hear His voice again when He says "This Is My Body", "This Is My Blood", "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." He knows us and through His voice we know Him. In knowing Him and His voice we know His Father the One who, in love, sent Jesus to us. This Shepherd, though we go astray, makes of us one flock. And though, because of sin, we depart from His voice that is spoken to us, we "have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of [our] souls." (1 Peter 2:25) This congregation and the one holy Church of which she is a part does not exist nor will it continue or thrive if we are going to place our focus on our plans, nor on our efforts, nor even on the efforts of the pastor. Neither he nor the members can make of one flock the scattered sheep. Only He who gives His life for the sheep can make of all one flock. Only Jesus can say to us, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Lk. 12:32, cited by Cyril of Alexandria, ACCS, 4a, 347)

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

Sunday, April 08, 2007


. . . You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here . . . there you will see Him, as He said to you.

He is risen! Alleluia!

The young man clothed in a long white robe announces the news to the witnesses, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the Mother of James, and Salome, that He is no longer in the tomb where they laid Him. As Jesus said to them, He would suffer and die and on the third day be raised from the dead. Now, what seemed to be merely wishful thinking is confirmed. They come to seek Jesus of Nazareth. He goes before them to Galilee and the young man is there to point them to where they may find Him. They are to go and tell His disciples - and Peter. In the Church today the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and all the rest point to Jesus risen from the dead in the flesh. The Apostles would themselves suffer and die for teaching and preaching Jesus Christ crucified and Him risen, as the young man announces to the women before the empty tomb on that first Easter Day.

The angels had also announced Jesus' birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth to men! The coming of Jesus in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth is the beginning of a life doing the work of the Father, fulfilling His Word and His Law, and bringing His peace to men that they may participate in the new life of salvation that He comes to bring. So Jesus suffered and died. On the cross He finished the work of the Father to make forgiveness possible and reconcile us once and forever to our heavenly Father. So, in pain, He gasps, "It is finished!"

"You seek Jesus of Nazareth." He is risen! Our sins are forgiven. The body is resurrected and we look ahead to His Ascension into glory. And ours! As He goes before us so we will go to be with those who have gone before us. As God is immortal so He makes that which is perishable into that which is imperishable. He will raise our bodies on the Last Day. The water and blood that flows from Jesus' side in His Church give witness of this and not only do they witness, but they bear the truth of the Spirit, that we are baptized into Christ's Death and Resurrection. We are raised to new life in Christ. We are participants of His Risen Body and Blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, just as we hear that same forgiveness proclaimed to us by those young men sent to us in white robes. Sin, death and the gates of Hell will not prevail. Look at Jesus of Nazareth! He is risen as He said!

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


Iesum quaeritis Nazarenum crucifixum surrexit non est hic ecce locus ubi posuerunt eum sed ite et dicite discipulis eius et Petro
- Marcum 16:6,7

Christos anesti! Alleluia!
Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Receiving Humanity

“Through Mary he received his humanity, and in receiving his humanity received humanity itself. Which is to say, through Mary he received us. In response to the angel’s strange announcement, Mary said yes. But only God knew that it would end up here at Golgotha, that it had to end up here. For here, in darkness and in death, were to be found the prodigal children who had said no, the prodigal children whom Jesus came to take home to the Father . . . To prodigal children lost in a distant land, to disciples who forsook him and fled, to a thief who believed or maybe took pity and pretended to believe, to those who did not know that what they did they did to God, to the whole bedraggled company of humankind he had abandoned heaven to join, he says: ‘Come. Everything is ready now. In your fears and your laughter, in your friendships and farewells, in your loves and losses, in what you have been able to do and in what you know you will never get done, come, follow me. We are going home to the waiting Father.’" - from Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus

Good Friday Homily

John 19 - 6 April 2007

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

In recording the events of the Passion of Our Lord, St. John repeats the Scripture that says, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." This One the soldier pierced with a sword in the side because He was already dead and there was no need to break His legs. "Immediately blood and water came out." Like the other Evangelists, John writes these events of the death of Christ Jesus even in their gruesome detail adding, "And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe." The faith which is handed down and received by divine revelation is that Jesus died on the cross. This faith handed down and received in the Church is also the fulfillment of Scripture which states that this One, Jesus of Nazareth, "is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." (Is. 53) This afternoon we sang,

"How pale Thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy face now languish
That once was bright as morn!
Grim death with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife." (LSB 450:2)

Certainly, this is the case, for He is, on the one hand, "King of the Jews" and on the other hand, innocent of all sin, and yet He is sentenced to death and crucified. This is what we cannot bear to see of a King, such suffering and death. So we hide our faces from Him as Adam and Eve hid naked in the garden from the eyes of God. God saw them in their sinfulness and sent His Son. Now His Son's glory is hidden from us and covered with our sin, "for He shall bear their iniquities" and "by His stripes we are healed."

As Jesus predicted, "The Son of Man must be lifted up." (Jn. 12) The death of Christ among robbers is at the center of man's relationship with God, "who has reconciled us to Himself." (2 Cor. 5) If He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. So this is the hour of glory that Jesus predicted and it means that "they shall look on Him whom they pierced." If this event did not take place then nothing is finished and we are still without saving knowledge of God. Jesus on the cross shows us the very mercy and goodness of God toward us. He bears our sin and we are declared clean. The water and blood make this so. The water and blood from His side continue to wash people of their sins as they flow from the cross. Without them there is only death, not His, but ours. Yet He died so that we may live and have life to the full. Though rich He became poor for our sakes that we may become rich in Him. Thomas puts his finger in Jesus' side and believes.

"They shall look on Him whom they pierced." Although Jesus' hour of glory is not seen by the world, this does not mean He has not come down and given us witness of the truth. "This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one." (1 John 5). "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints." ("In Christ", p. 6)

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vespers Homily - Week of Lent 3

Oculi (Lent 3) - Vespers Homily 14 March 2007

Ephesians 5:1-9
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).

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

"Now you are light in the Lord." These words to the church at Ephesus are why Paul makes such a big deal about issues like "fornication" and "uncleanness" and "covetousness." There are two realities going on at the same time. One is that you are beloved children of God because Christ loved you and gave Himself for you as "an offering and a sacrifice to God." The cross is His sacrifice for you. Here is the "sweet-smelling aroma" that your heavenly Father smells when He sees you His children, who He calls "saints." The other reality is that you still have your human nature, that, without the benefit of God's Spirit, can and will lead you to desire and do the same things that are seen in those who do not know God. Therefore, the Apostle writes these words so that you who "are light in the Lord" will not come under the wrath of God and fall away from the inheritance that is yours in the kingdom of Christ and God.

It is not something you did that made you "light in the Lord." Rather, by God's grace you were taken out of darkness. "Darkness" is another way of saying that one does not know God or what is pleasing to God. "Darkness" is the blindness of seeking one's own way without God, of doing what is pleasing only to one's self. In other words, without God we cannot understand or do what He commands. Rather than fear, love and trust in Him above all things we are inclined to put our full trust in our desires and in things. The Apostle repeats what he wrote in the previous chapter, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." (Eph. 4:17-19) You have heard this before. In his Gospel, John the Evangelist writes this about the "Word" - "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (Jn. 1:4,5) Being in the darkness means that one is "alienated from the life of God" and unable to "comprehend" the "light." This leads to blind and hardened hearts and sinful deeds and idolatry. Yet, in Christ "was life, and the life was the light of men."

"Now you are light in the Lord." This means that you are "in Christ." In place of the deeds of darkness you are given over to good works. These works reflect the mercy of God and the "life and light" of God which is yours in Christ Jesus. Those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death and resurrection. They are a "sweet-smelling aroma" to God. By faith they know God and know what is pleasing to Him. As the Apostle writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." "Now you are light" means the situation has changed. You still have to fight the sin of your nature, temptations and attempts of the devil to lead you away from God. During Lent we remember how Jesus battled the temptations of the devil in the wilderness. We do not have the same success; this is a daily fight. This is a matter of confession and absolution. This is the reality of the forgiveness of your sins. If "you are light in the Lord" this means that, though you sin, you are no longer under the control of the power of sin and death because sin and death no longer control Him. We now live in the reality which is the gift of life as "light in the Lord." We are "children of light." By faith we do good works. God supports us as He supports the wicked with the things that we need to live here on earth. He supports us in this life of light with the holy food of His Word and the Sacrament of the Altar. "In addition to showering upon us both temporal and eternal blessings He has given His own self; He has completely poured out Himself for us, with all He is, with all He has, with all He does . . ." [Luther, Lenker VII:151] By faith we say with the psalmist, "My eyes are ever toward the Lord." (Ps. 25) Amen.

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

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lent 2 - Homily

Homily for Vespers - Week of Lent 2
Perpetua and Felicitas, Martyrs - 7 March 2007
1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

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

On this day, the Church commemorates Perpetua and Felicitas, who with their companions, were martyred under the rule of Severus early in the 3rd century. The faith of these women is demonstrated in that they died rather than renounce God in order to worship the pagan gods and goddesses of the empire. Although today the Church does not face persecution in the same way we have the example of the faith of these martyrs as they made their confession of the Lord Jesus. In remembering them and their faith we are strengthened so that we may face our own trials and temptations with the same faith and confession. Perpetua is especially remembered for having clarity of mind, faith and confession that she would not renounce her faith in the Lord even when her own father pleaded with her to do so and even though she would be leaving her new-born child behind. Her confession of the faith of the Church lives on to this day. Like the other women of faith - the Canaanite woman who persisted with great faith and said to Jesus, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table,” (Mt. 15) and the Blessed Virgin, who said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1)

We are exhorted by God's Word to lives of holiness. There are two sins mentioned in this passage. The first sin is that of not living sexually moral lives within the holy estate of marriage and the other sin is that of defrauding one's brother. When we sin in these ways we sin against ourselves and our own bodies and we sin against our neighbor. So we sin against God who calls us not to uncleanness but to holiness or sanctification. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we are called to live in righteousness. As the Scriptures teach, our freedom is not given us to follow our sinful desires or to cover up our sinfulness. Rather, we are given freedom to be slaves of God and follow what He desires and commands. When we fall into these sins and others we are controlled by sin and are no longer free. When we die to our sinful desires and repent of them then this is the same Spirit at work, Whom we received in Baptism, and Who washes away our sins and raises us together with Christ in the life of righteousness that is ours in Him. For all of our sins Christ suffered and died and in His resurrection we are raised to live in Him and grow in His righteousness. This new life is not that of fornication and fraud but one of faith and charity. It is not a life that is forced upon us. As one church father writes, "Whatever Christians do, it should be willing service, not compulsory; but when a command is given, it should be in the form of exhortation or entreaty. Those who have received the Spirit are they from whom obedience is due; but those not inclined to a willing performance, we should leave to themselves." (Luther's Epistle Sermons, Vol. VII, 145) Twice Paul writes that we are "to love one another", once before and once after the exhortation to holiness given in this evening's text. For loving one another is living in God's Spirit and according to His will in faith and charity. Love does no harm to one's neighbor.

This means that we are no longer like those who live according to their passions and lusts; "like the Gentiles who do not know God." They will be handled according to God's punishment and in His time. We actually know how we ought to walk and how to please God. This knowledge has been given to us. We know the commandments that have been given to us and which we have received "through the Lord Jesus." These are not steps to Christian living nor Christian steps to success nor "how to" descriptions of the Christian life. Rather these are words from the mouth of the Lord, His commands, that call us to holiness. "For this is the will of God, your sanctification." In Christ, God takes us away from uncleanness, impurity and sin. In Christ we have God's mercy and forgiveness. We are given faith and charity to live holy lives before God and others, confessing with those lives the same faith and confession of Perpetua, that of the Canaanite woman, and that of the Blessed Mother of God. But all of this is not finally about them nor about us. Rather this is all about lives of holiness here on earth that reflect Christ's own righteousness that we have been freely given and receive in His Holy Word and at His Holy Supper. As the Apostle writes, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2)

Therefore, the Word of God does not simply call us to live holy lives but to live the life we have in the Son of God. Through this life in Christ's holy Church, the faith and confession of the Savior lives on in this world. By God's grace, may those who do not know God see in our lives the faith and charity which we have received. May they see the face of God in Christ so that they too know how they ought to walk and how to please God.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fasting and Lent

The Lord says, "When you fast . . ." (Mt. 6)

Fasting is a practice in the Church not isolated from prayer and almsgiving. All of these practices are signs of our mortality and of our need to die to sinful desires, that is, our need to repent. Fasting is a self-discipline that helps to keep our focus on our need for God's forgiveness. Repentance and forgiveness are daily in the baptismal life, though Lent offers us the opportunity to be reminded of and be catechized in disciplines that we are usually too busy to even contemplate. Usually, it is our own busy-ness that becomes the excuse and for which we also need to repent.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are not practices that one does to get the attention of God and others. They are done as a means of preparing for receiving the Eucharist, preparing for the paschal Feast, preparing for the Life to come. Praying the daily office, individual confession and absolution and helping the needy are all disciplines of the Christian faith, places where mercy and daily life connect.

These disciplines are good works wrought out of the forgiveness that we are given and receive in Christ. His own Incarnation, humility, service to God and others and death on the Cross bear us in all of our infirmities and weaknesses. Even as the Son of Man humbles Himself so He lifts us up. When we are weak, then we are strong.

Just as repentance is not complete without forgiveness, so the life of discipline is not complete without God's grace and mercy in Christ. The benefits of the Cross - Christ Himself - is our reward in His Body and Blood. The fast is made complete in the Feast which He prepares for us and through which He gives us strength and through which we have Life.