Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Better late than never" and a Lesson from the Magnificat



I just got caught up on posting my Advent sermons - from 2011.  As of now, I have 531 sermons posted here on FH.  I am actually only lacking my earliest sermons from vicarage - and I'll get those caught up when I get the proverbial "round tuit."  But I'm really pleased to be caught up to this point.

This is one of those lingering "to dos" that I can now scratch off on the old Moleskine!

Anyway, in last year's Rorate Coeli (Advent 4) sermon, I made an observation about the Blessed Virgin Mary and how Protestants and Catholics squabble over her significance to the Christian faith.  I believe that this matter ought to be put to rest by the Blessed Virgin's own words in the Magnificat - which are God's Words as recorded by the holy evangelist St. Luke (1:46-55).

Here is an except...

There is a belief about Christianity among the unbelievers in Christianity that the first Christian was St. Paul.  What they mean by this is that Paul invented the Christian religion, that the Jesus he preached was not the “historical” Jesus, and that we are really more followers of Paul than of Christ.
This is an interesting theory that awkwardly tries to explain the origin of Christianity.  But if we believe Christianity is true, the question of who is the first Christian becomes interesting.  Some might argue that the first disciple, St. Andrew, was the first Christian.  Others might say that Abraham, as the first man called by God under the old covenant would be the first Christian.  We could even argue that Adam was the first Christian, the first to see God face to face.
It all depends on how you want to define “Christian.” 
The Blessed Virgin Mary was the first human being to be in the physical presence of the fleshly incarnate Jesus, and immediately, she confesses Him as both God and Savior.  In that sense, Mary is the first Christian.  She is not only the beloved mother of Jesus, but also the beloved elder sister of every Christian.  And this young girl, a lay person: not a rabbi or a priest, not an apostle or a pastor, not a deaconess or a professional church worker – blazes a trail for all Christians in confessing the Christ within her very body: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” 
“God my Savior.” 
Dear friends, this confession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God, is the beating heart of the Christian faith.  For the Christ child within her is not only a savior, a prophet, a deliverer like Moses – but He is also God.  And equally important, she is not merely worshiping a God who is afar off, but a God who has come into space and time, becoming an embryo within the womb of His mother – even as have been every one of billions of human beings ever born (with the exceptions of Adam and Eve). 
And notice also that the Blessed Virgin confesses Jesus as not only “God” and as “Savior” – but also as “My.”  For even the devil has to confess the truth that Jesus is God and that He is a Savior.  But Christians also confess the “my” part.  Mary’s threefold confession is a complete confession of Christ: Almighty God, humble human being, our Savior. 
This “first Christian” is utterly unique in all of human history.  For she is indeed as we confess in our Lutheran confessions and with the Church of every age: “holy” and “pure.”  She is the mother of God.  And yet she too needs a “Savior” – a rescuer from sin.  Mary is pure because Jesus has made her so.  Jesus is born because He came to our world through His mother.  God created Mary, the God the Father called Mary, God the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary with His presence, and Mary conceived God the Son within her womb.  And from this created creature emerges the uncreated Creator.  From one descended from sin comes One who is sinless.  The tiny embryonic Christ child conceived miraculously within the virgin is also the Savior of the Virgin who created for Himself a pure portal into our impure world. 
Christians sometimes squabble over how this can be.  Such arguments happen when fallen man attempts to impose reason on a miracle.  Was Mary conceived without sin?  God did not reveal this to us to be either true or false.  He did something to protect His Son from inherited sin – beyond that, God is silent.  But we know this much: Mary calls her Son her Savior, and Jesus was born of a pure womb.  Rather than argue over dogma, we Christians, like the first Christian herself, would do well to fight less and rejoice more!

"Fight less, rejoice more."  That might be a good New Year's Resolution for each and every member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as a witness to this conflicted world.

!שלום   Pax!   !سلام  ειρήνη!  Frieden!  Paix!  ¡Paz!  Мир!  Peace!

Sermon: Christmas 1 – 2012


29 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 2:22-40 (Isa 11:1-5, Gal 4:1-7)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We are on the cusp of the year of our Lord 2013 – but 2012 still has a couple more days to go.  Around the world, we will see the symbolism of the new year as a baby in a diaper, and the passing year as an old man with a beard.  This is an almost universal way of depicting the passing of time.  And without meaning in life, that is all time does: pass.  The numbers change, the calendar pages flip, and we all get one year older.

But, dear friends, to us Christians, the passage of time is not just a matter of getting older, rather we are one more day, one more month, one more year closer to the consummation of creation: the final coming of our Lord, the end of time itself, and the completed restoration of paradise without sin, death, and the devil, without contention, strife, and conflict, without hatred, fear, and want, without pain, sadness, and death.

That is why we Christians can identify with the smiling, hopeful baby in the new year cartoons.  We are a people of hope because we are the people of God!  We are people of the promise because we are the people of the Word.  And the Word was made flesh, and His face, the face of the smiling hopeful Baby, is also the face of a kind and merciful God whose countenance shines upon us!

And yet, the old man of the world’s symbolism is also a symbol of hope for us Christians.  What more beautiful illustrations are there, living historical flesh-and-blood icons of faithfulness and patience, of tenacity to the Word and promise of God, of the sanctity of time itself spent in waiting patiently on the Lord and in the Lord’s presence?  What greater illustration do we have, dear friends, than the elderly saints Simeon and Anna?

For old Simeon waited patiently “for the consolation of Israel,” a man upon whom the Holy Spirit visited, and upon who rested the Spirit’s revelation.  He was promised that he “would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”  And like Abraham of old, he was nearing the end of his course of life on this side of the grave, and yet he still waited patiently and faithfully for the Lord’s promise.

And like the Old Man of 2012, Simeon meets the young mother Mary, her husband Joseph, and the baby Jesus, the Son of God, the Lord’s Christ.  The blessed Virgin and her husband had come to the temple – another symbol of the old passing away (for the True Temple was in the womb that Jesus opened, and the true presence of the Holy Spirit was in the Holy Child in her arms).

Thousands of times before, temple sacrifices were made in honor of the firstborn son, a foreshadowing of that one final sacrifice of the firstborn Son – after which there would be no more need for animal sacrifices, nor for a temple made with human hands.  For the Lord Himself not only opened the womb of His virginal mother, but also opened the tombs of all His adopted brothers and sisters!  The Lord opened the heart of the Father to be moved with pity and mercy and forgiveness for all of us poor, miserable sinners who have been rescued by this one final sacrifice.

And St. Simeon was given a revelation of God in the flesh.  Simeon took the child Jesus “up in His arms” and spoke the holy words that are the Word of God, words used in the Church’s liturgy: “Lord, now you are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

And like the Old Man of the Old Year, Simeon is ready to pass from the old to the new, to see the Old Testament drawn to a tired close, and to witness the New Testament emerge with vigor and youthful energy.  And what’s more, in Christ, Simeon will not merely slink off to die, rather he will find renewed vigor and life – eternal life, in fact, by virtue of the Christ Child, the sacrifice presented in the temple, the atonement offered upon Golgatha, the Victor who will emerge from the grave, the One who is coming again “with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

Simeon, in his ripe old age, “when the fullness of time had come,” had seen the “shoot from the stump of Jesse,” witnessing with his own aged and expectant eyes the “branch from his roots” that shall “bear fruit” – and this is the very fruit of the womb of Mary, the true “male who first opens the womb” and who “shall be called holy to the Lord.”

Simeon’s eyes have “seen [the] salvation that [God has] prepared in the presence of all peoples.”  And as the prophet wrote seven centuries prior concerning the Lord’s Christ, “He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide disputes by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor.”  The Lord’s Christ does not judge us according to what the eyes and ears see and hear, but rather by the gracious righteousness He has come to give us, through washing and regeneration, through the Word, through forgiveness, and through the administration of His true body and blood that was sacrificed on the cross.  St. Simeon receives a revelation of just who this Lord’s Christ is!  He is ready to “depart in peace.”

There is another elderly saint to complete the picture of the old giving way to the new, of hopefulness and steadfastness, of a lifetime of service to the Lord that culminates in giving “thanks to God and [speaking] of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption.”  St. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, the longtime widow who enjoyed the blessings and comfort of holy marriage for only seven years, and yet who at age 84 “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”

Like St. Simeon, St. Anna has seen that which was revealed to her by the Holy Spirit.  Her patient service was not in vain!  Her prayers and tears did not go unheard and unheeded!  She is not just a symbol of a passing year, a relic of days gone by, an old lady to be put away and ignored.  She too has new life because of the shining countenance of the Lord’s Christ, the Holy Child who has been brought to the temple to become the temple, who has been carried to the sacrifice to be the sacrifice, who is truly the “male who first opens the womb,” the “holy to the Lord.”

For the Old Testament, the revelation to the children of Israel, the testimony of the Law and the Prophets are not being outmoded, thrown away, and kicked to the curb.  Rather they are being brought to fruition, being fulfilled, being renewed in vigor in the presence of the faithful, young and old alike!  For “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Dear friends, St. Simeon and St. Anna were redeemed from death, released from the burden of the law, and received into the fullness of righteousness through this same Christ Child, through this same flesh and blood, through this same incarnate Word who is present for us here in this time and in this place, the same Lord who makes our very bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit, the same One for whom we wait patiently to come again, waiting as redeemed and forgiven sinners, waiting as worshipers in God’s House, waiting as those who put their faith and their hope in the Words and promises of God!

And like Simeon and Anna, “you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  And so let us, along with Mary and Joseph, with Simeon and Anna, with the saints and witnesses of every time and place, living and dead, known and unknown, men and women of every tribe and tongue, “[bless] God, our “Abba, Father,” and sing, “Lord, now you are letting Your servant depart in peace,” as we “give thanks to God and speak of Him to all who [are] waiting for the redemption.”

And when we see the symbolism these next few days of the Old Man 2012, let our thoughts and meditations turn to elderly saints Simeon and Anna, and when we see the smiling baby in the diaper representing 2013, let us remember the true Child of Hope, the one wrapped in swaddling cloths, who blesses us and keeps us, whose face shines upon us even as His countenance is lifted up upon us from the cross.  Let us ponder this new year 2013 Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord, in the Simeon-and-Anna-like hope and expectation of seeing the Lord’s salvation in the flesh, Him whose “righteousness shall be the belt of His waist, and faithfulness the belt of His loins.”

A blessed new year in our Lord to you, dear friends, to the whole Church on earth, and to the entire world, “in the presence of all peoples.”  Amen!

His
on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Happy New Year (1984?)



Some honesty from the Big Hollywood left wing: president Obama (Bush III?) is pushing a tyrannical Big Brother state on Americans who seem increasingly okay with the destruction of their own liberties.

Orwell shrugged?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meet my New "Old Friend"

Some books are destined to become dog-eared "old friends" very quickly.

I suspect this is going to be the case between me and my new "old friend" Thy Kingdom Come: Lent and Easter Sermons by David H. Petersen (Emmanuel Press, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2012, 215 pages, paperback, $20.00).

I just received the book today, and in fairness, I have not yet read the book in its entirety.  However, 67 sermons are included in only 211 pages (not including the Forward by Rev. Todd Wilken, the Introduction by Rev. Michael Frese, the Table of Contents, and the Scripture Index), and it won't take long to read the book in its entirety.  However, as is the case of devotional books, it is best not to rush reading it, but rather take one's time and savor it, ponder it, apply it, and allow God's Word to do its work through unhurried meditation and prayerful study.

So far, I have carefully read the Introduction, the Forward, and the Holy Week and Easter sermons.  I have skimmed through some of the other sermons.  I can honestly say that so far, with very high expectations of the book (based on my own experiences as a hearer of Pr. Petersen's proclamation), I have not only been delighted, but edified as a fellow pastor and preacher, and as a Christian sinner-saint in need of the Good News.  This book is so far exceeding my expectations!

As Pastor Todd Wilken says in his Forward, "But whether you are a hearer or a preacher, I pray this book does for you what it has done for me.  For there is far more here than mere textual insights and sermon ideas; here is the Gospel for sinners.  This book delivers Christ crucified for sinners.  And we all need that" (page xi).

I heartily agree with Pastor Wilken, and would like to add a few thoughts of my own.

Like many men educated at Concordia Theological Seminary - Fort Wayne in the past few years, I was shaped as a preacher by many men, including Pastor Petersen.  Upon starting seminary, it doesn't take long for liturgically-minded seminarians to learn which congregations in the area are faithful to the liturgical and historical traditions of "Evangelical Catholic" Lutheranism.  Redeemer Lutheran Church is always one of the names at the top of that list - if not the apex.  Bright-eyed seminarians are typically wowed by Redeemer's architecture, reverence, the incense and bells, the magnificent vestments, the genuflecting and bowing and the unabashed sign of the cross, the High Mass (with celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon), the degree of reverence in the Divine Service, the polished acolyte corps, the musical dignity and beauty of Kantor Reuning and the choirs, the many conferences hosted by the congregation, as well as daily prayer offices and even daily Low Masses during the penitential seasons.  On those occasions when Pastor Petersen was the guest celebrant at Kramer Chapel at the seminary, "high church" seminarians would excitedly pack the pews to see and hear Pastor Petersen the celebrant.

But we students quickly learned something else: Pastor Petersen is also a preacher.  And how!

One found out pretty quickly about the law's ability to sting, to bludgeon, and yes to kill.  The entire sanctuary would be filled with silent men and woman staring at their shoes as Pastor Petersen condemned our Old Adams without allowing a loophole or even any wiggle room.  With his intonation of one word: "Repent!" he would have his hearers almost in tears.  And just when you think you could not take any more, you didn't have to, as Pastor Petersen proclaimed the cross, the forgiveness of sins, the sweet and refreshing Good News that Jesus, the Crucified One, is our Savior and our Redeemer.  If I could sum up David Petersen as preacher and as celebrant in one word, I would say: intense.

In his interactions with students, I found him to be truly "apt to teach," possessing a sense of humor and a candor that was formative to the many men who count it a privilege to have been formed - at least in part - by his work and ministry in Fort Wayne.  Obviously, men who served as field workers and/or vicars at Redeemer (I was not) have been the most influenced by him and credit him for making them the preachers they are today.

Thy Kingdom Come is a book that is not only wonderfully deep devotional material for any Christian, it is also a mini-homiletics course for pastors.  Just as I counted Pastor Petersen to be a great teacher to me before I was a pastor, I count him an even greater teacher now that I am considered to be his colleague - both in the ministerium of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and as a fellow editor at Gottesdienst.  Although I am the sermons editor, I continue to look to my brother-in-arms in the Lord's service as an instructor and mentor.

In no particular order, I would like to point out things that jump out at me from the book and from Pastor Petersen's preaching contained inside:

As I said, Pastor Petersen is a teacher.  Preaching is not primarily teaching, but teaching goes on in the process of proclaiming the Good News.  Pastor Petersen has a way of cutting to the chase quickly in explaining biblical symbolism, such as the meaning of the palm tree in Hebrew poetry as an insight into Palm Sunday (page 127).  He is able to succinctly explain literary devices (e.g. the kiss as relating to Mary of Bethany and to Judas, page 130) without pedantry or pomposity.  He gives historical explanations, again often in a sentence or two (such as his explanation of the Roman whip used on our Lord, page 132).  He preaches with an eye on the text's literary devices, such as tying the forbidden fruit hanging in the Garden to our Lord's body hanging at Golgotha (page 139) - imagery that is not only vivid and striking, but theologically connecting Eden to the cross, and further making the connection between the cross and the Lord's Supper (page 140).  He has the gift to speak with accessible profundity without falling into academic jargon.

Pastor Petersen also brings in etymology and translation issues from the original languages, at times preaching in poetic patterns and lushly picturesque turns of phrase, thereby searing biblical imagery into the mind.  He is never flippant in the pulpit, but there is at times what I would call a "reverent playfulness" in his preaching, sometimes quoting movies, novels, or even pop songs, not in a way that is fishing for entertainment, but in a genuine way that focuses on his point.  As we students were counselled by the late Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart (who served at Redeemer with Pastor Petersen), our preaching must not become formulaic and predictable in its rhetorical style.  Pastor Petersen lives up to this advice, giving his sermons a freshness and certain unpredictability as to how he might treat any given text.

There is an eschatological element to many of these sermons, a constant reminder of the Big Cosmological Picture of Christ the Victor and our march through time toward the end of time, even unto eternity itself.  There is a constant reminder of the warfare between good and evil, of the fallenness and corruption of this world, and of the real meaning of Christ as the world's Redeemer who is setting creation anew and aright.

Pastor Petersen teaches how to properly borrow, modify, and include outside references - be they theological, historical, or homilectical.  The footnotes throughout the book freely attribute those places where Pastor Petersen has adapted ideas of other preachers and authors and applied them to his own hearers.  Pastor Petersen is not shy in using biblical turns of phrase, even though they may not be in the particular text assigned by the lectionary.  There are also times in Pastor Petersen's preaching where a big emotional uppercut is delivered in almost shocking language and metaphor.  Pastor Petersen is a wordsmith, and he applies the language necessary to get the job done - and he understands what that job is: to deliver Christ!

Just a few remarks on the book itself: it is paperback, reasonably priced, sports a simple and yet beautiful cover depicting our Lord's crucifixion.  Pastor Wilken's Forward is delightful and an accurate description of what you will find in this book.  The Introduction by the publisher Rev. Michael Frese (also serving as a pastor at Redeemer) has helpful explanations of not only the title and the relationship between preaching and God's kingdom, but also provides an explanation of how the book came to be and the background of how Pastor Petersen goes about crafting his sermons.

The book is tight and well-edited.  I have not encountered any typos or mistakes in formatting.  As a minor nit-pick, the book does not typically capitalize the divine pronouns as is normally done in modern English.  Given the ESV (the primary translation used in the book) does not capitalize these pronouns, there is bound to be a difficult editorial decision one way or the other - which Pastor Frese addresses in his Introduction (page xvi).  If I could have a wish-list, I would like to see a complete index in addition to the Scripture Index - but this would be a luxury and it would also inevitably add time and expense to the project.  The font and layout are easy on the eye, and there is ample margin space to jot notes.

I think Emmanuel Press has not only done a professional and high quality job as a publishing house, I believe Pastor Frese has given the Church a great gift in making Pastor Petersen's preaching available and accessible to everyone!  Thank you to Pastor Frese and of course to Pastor Petersen.

I am really looking forward to getting to know my new "old friend" even better!

This Just In from the Holy COW (Commission on Worship)

Extra satire when you understand the Latin chant: "Dona eis requiem" ("Grant us peace").

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Great Gift for a Man

A big "merci" to Mrs. H. for the wonderful Christmas gift of an Anson Belt & Buckle gift set (two belts and three buckles).

They are outstanding!

This is a great gift idea, as every man wears belts. I'm pretty rough on belts, and they don't generally last too long for me. Also, I like being able to have black or brown with either a silver or gold buckle. Generally, I'm stuck with the black-silver or brown-gold combination. But not any more! The Anson belt is a technological innovation that works like the plastic zip-ties (cable ties). Thus, the leather (and they are nice leather) straps have no holes in them. The buckles are like high-tech works of art. The system allows for any belt to be worn with any buckle. Everything snaps on and off in seconds. The belts fit like a glove, and they look magnificent. You can wear these belts with a suit or with a pair of jeans - and they look just as great.

The above video - actually a review of the product - is right on the money. And speaking of money, the price is very reasonable - especially for something of this quality! The packaging is very classy - so this is an ideal gift. I look forward to hearing more great things from this father-son American company!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Novosibirsk!

Christmas Eve at St. Andrew's Parish, the cathedral church of the SELC in Novosibirsk, Siberia

[Note: Just passing along Professor Ludwig's greetings - Ed.]

Christmas Greetings from Siberia 2012

Christ is born! May His light be your joy and salvation.

Peace in Him,
Rev. Alan Ludwig
LCMS Missionary to Siberia

Sermon: Christmas – 2012


25 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 1:1-14 (Ex 40:17-21, 34-38; Titus 3:4-7)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“In the beginning was the Word….  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  On this day, the entire world celebrates the Word becoming flesh.  History was never to be the same.  Eternity itself is what it is because of what God did “in the beginning.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  And at that time, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”  There was only darkness, because the Word had not yet commanded light into being.  But when the Word spoke the words: “Let there be light,” there was light.

And the universe has never been the same.  For darkness is a lack of light.  One tiny flickering candle, one small spark, just a few streaming microscopic electrons serve to remind us that darkness – though at times scary and intimidating – is nothing.  It is literally nothing, for the substance of light eliminates the non-substance of darkness – even the small candles held by Christians on Christmas Eve serve to eliminate the cold of darkness by replacing the void with substance of warmth and brightness. 

Before human history, one of God’s creatures, an angel of light, decided that he would rather live in darkness than in the light created by God through the Word.  This creature preferred his own ugliness to the Creator’s beauty, seeking his own chaos rather than the Creator’s order.  And since this time, he has been trying to undo the work of creation – including us, the handiwork of God, creatures made in the divine image.  For mankind is repugnant to the devil, we creatures who remind him of His True Master.

As a result of this war between darkness and light, the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God, was sent here to earth to bring light to us who, as a result of Satan’s tyranny, sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Indeed, as the prophet spoke: “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone….  For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given.”

The fulfillment of this prophecy, the beating back against the darkness of sin and death by the light of righteousness and life took place when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  To manifest this reality that the Lord Jesus Christ had been born, the wise men followed the star, whose light led them to the True Light, as we sing in the Evening Prayer liturgy: “Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.”  The light of the star led them to the Christ Child, the Word made flesh, the light shining in the darkness, the one born into our world to save our world, as St. Paul wrote to St. Titus, by virtue of the “goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior,” who “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.”

And as the testimony of St. John in Holy Scripture confesses and reveals about this Christ Child: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.”

This Uncreated Light shining in the darkness of our corrupted world came as a humble child, He by whom all things were made, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,” born with the forces of darkness trying to extinguish the young flame of His fleshly existence, “came to His own,” taking flesh and blood in a world populated by the very people created in His image and through Him.

And even though “His own people did not receive Him,” we know this: “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”

Dear friends, this is the true significance of Christmas: in Christ, the light has dispelled the darkness.  Good has come to extinguish evil.  The gift of the Christ Child is offered to each of us, making us also children of God, forgiven of our sins, given the gift of eternal life, blessed to be a blessing in this world.  For we Christians, we followers of this Christ Child, are to let the light of our good works shine before the world that the Father may be glorified.  We are to leave the darkness and walk in the light of Christ.  For darkness is the absence of light.  Light is a positive reality that causes darkness to flee.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

Think and meditate on this reality, dear brothers and sisters, even as we see the flames dancing at the altar in celebration of our Lord’s birth, even as Christians around the world closed out the eve of the Christ’s Mass last night in singing Christ’s glory while brandishing small candles in their hands.  Think and meditate on this reality, dear friends, when you see the colored lights of the season adorning our trees and our homes, as we see light, great and small, joyfully set the darkness and all of its dark forces fleeing from the True Light of Christ! 

Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome!” 

And let us pray with the entire Church on earth the words of the ancient prayer:

“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who led Your people Israel by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Enlighten our darkness by the light of Your Christ; may His Word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path; for You are merciful, and You love Your whole creation, and we, Your creatures, glorify You, Father Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

His
on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church


[Note: this is a missive from the SELC's "Faith and Hope" newsletter series, which includes Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin's Christmas Address - Ed.]

Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters,
       
May we bring to your attention the words of greetings from the Christmas Address of our Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin that will be read in the parishes of SELC during the Christmas liturgy.
  
Brothers and Sisters:

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Today the most important words for our faith were spoken in the church. And it seems that there is certain incompleteness in them as they appear in our [Russian]translation. 

Christ, the Son of God, eternal Word of the Father, came down to earth, was born among us, dwelt with us, but what came after that? What a joy that the Word has never stopped dwelling. We could have translated it in this way: “The Word ... has begun to dwell” or “The Word has made dwelling with us.” The Lord has come to earth not to leave us afterwards.

And so it becomes perfectly clear why we need Church so much. For if the Word became flesh and began to dwell among us, then the main question we should come up with is the following: where shall we find this Word?
  
Where are we to find Christ? The answer is simple: there where He awaits us at every liturgy, where the Eucharist is celebrated at the altar, the major sacrament of God's presence on earth.

It is impossible to be saved without Christ. It is impossible to find Christ bypassing the Church. We come here as the Christmas shepherds to the Bethlehem manger, and here we find Christ. He is so close to us in the Eucharist that it’s impossible to be any closer. We partake of Him, and His life becomes our life.

My beloved parishioners, I wish you a merry Christmas and happy New Year. Let this new year bring you happiness and may your dreams come true. And the most important thing is that you would strive to that place where Christ is and be with Him always

We wish you all God’s blessings during this holy time of Christmas!
   
“Faith and Hope”

Of the Father's Love Begotten!


In response to my earlier post about Christmas and the Kantorei, I got the glorious news from my colleague in the Holy Ministry and fellow Kantorei alumnus the Rev. Aaron Kangas that he has just made "Of the Father's Love Begotten" available on his YouTube channel!

Deo gratias!

In 1998, after I met with CTS Fort Wayne recruiter the Rev. Scott Klemsz (who after patiently listening to me complain about the sorry state of the churches in our area and how hard it was to find a liturgical LCMS congregation, dropped the line, "We don't have praise bands at CTS - Fort Wayne," looking like the cat who ate the canary), I went home and played the Kantorei CD he gave me (With Angels and Archangels). 

This ("Of the Father's Love Begotten") was the first cut on the CD, and that pretty much closed the deal for me. In just a couple years, I was a seminarian at CTS - Fort Wayne, and a year later, I found myself part of the Kantorei itself - and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Thank you, Father Aaron, for sharing our treasure with the world through YouTube!

Merry Christmas, y'all, "evermore and evermore."  Amen.

Sermon: Christmas Eve – 2012



24 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 1:1-14 (Isa 7:10-14, Mic 5:2-4, Isa 9:2-7, Matt 1:18-25, Matt 2:1-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“In the beginning was the Word….  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  On this day, the entire world celebrates the Word becoming flesh.  History was never to be the same.  Eternity itself is what it is because of what God did “in the beginning.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  And at that time, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”  There was only darkness, because the Word had not yet commanded light into being.  But when the Word spoke the words: “Let there be light,” there was light.

And the universe has never been the same.  For darkness is a lack of light.  One tiny flickering candle, one small spark, just a few streaming microscopic electrons serve to remind us that darkness – though at times scary and intimidating – is nothing.  It is literally nothing, for the substance of light eliminates the non-substance of darkness – even the small candles held by Christians on Christmas Eve serve to eliminate the cold of darkness by replacing the void with substance of warmth and brightness. 

Before human history, one of God’s creatures, an angel of light, decided that he would rather live in darkness than in the light created by God through the Word.  This creature preferred his own ugliness to the Creator’s beauty, seeking his own chaos rather than the Creator’s order.  And since this time, he has been trying to undo the work of creation – including us, the handiwork of God, creatures made in the divine image.  For mankind is repugnant to the devil, we creatures who remind him of His True Master.

As a result of this war between darkness and light, the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God, was sent here to earth to bring light to us who, as a result of Satan’s tyranny, sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

At the fullness of time, the ancient prophecy was to be fulfilled, “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.”

When the time had come for the Light to finally dispatch the darkness, the ancient prophecy was to be fulfilled: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth to me one who is to be ruler in Israel.”

Indeed, as the prophet spoke: “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone….  For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given.”

The fulfillment of these prophecies, the beating back against the darkness of sin and death by the light of righteousness and life took place when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  To manifest this reality that the Lord Jesus Christ had been born, the wise men followed the star, whose light led them to the True Light, as we sing in the Evening Prayer liturgy: “Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.”  The light of the star led them to the Christ Child, the Word made flesh, the light shining in the darkness, the one born into our world to save our world, the King of kings and Lord of lords!

And as the testimony of St. John in Holy Scripture confesses and reveals about this Christ Child: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.”

This Uncreated Light shining in the darkness of our corrupted world came as a humble child, He by whom all things were made, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,” born with the forces of darkness trying to extinguish the young flame of His fleshly existence, “came to His own,” taking flesh and blood in a world populated by the very people created in His image and through Him.

And even though “His own people did not receive Him,” we know this: “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”

Dear friends, this is the true significance of Christmas: in Christ, the light has dispelled the darkness.  Good has come to extinguish evil.  The gift of the Christ Child is offered to each of us, making us also children of God, forgiven of our sins, given the gift of eternal life, blessed to be a blessing in this world.  For we Christians, we followers of this Christ Child, are to let the light of our good works shine before the world that the Father may be glorified.  We are to leave the darkness and walk in the light of Christ.  For darkness is the absence of light.  Light is a positive reality that causes darkness to flee.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

Think and meditate on this reality, dear brothers and sisters, even as we see the flames dancing at the altar in celebration of our Lord’s birth, even as we close out this Christ’s Mass in singing Christ’s glory while we hold small candles in our  hands.  Think and meditate on this reality, dear friends, when you see the colored lights of the season adorning our trees and our homes, as we see light, great and small, joyfully set the darkness and all of its dark forces fleeing from the True Light of Christ! 

And let us pray with the entire Church on earth the words of the ancient prayer:

“Enlighten our darkness by the light of Your Christ; may His Word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path….  Let Your light scatter the darkness, and illumine Your Church….  Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome!”

A blessed and joyful Christmas to each of you, to our community, to the Church in every place, and to our entire world!  May the light of Christ shine on all of you!  Amen.

His
on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Merry Christmas with the Kantorei!

Not all of these pieces are Christmas hymns, but most of them are. I had the privilege to sing with the Kantorei for two years while at seminary. And it was every bit as sublime and glorious as I imagined it would be! I wish there were a YouTube of my favorite piece that we sang: Of The Father's Love Begotten. Maybe there will be in the future! Merry Christ's Mass to one and all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sermon: Rorate Coeli (Advent 4) – 2012


23 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 1:19-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Who are you?”

The question is not one of identification.  They know who John is.  The ones asking the question are priests and Levites from Jerusalem.  And John is one of them, one of the family.  John is the son of Zechariah, a Levitical priest himself.  What’s more, Zechariah was the old priest whose barren wife miraculously gave birth to Zechariah’s son thirty years before – after Zechariah saw the angel of the Lord while ministering in the temple, after which Zechariah was struck mute by the angel, whose voice later came back after naming his boy the unusual name “John.”

Yes, that John.  This baptizer in the desert is that John.  They know full well who he is, and they know full well that God is doing something unique with John.  But they are itching to know more.  And so John’s own priestly tribesmen come to interrogate him: “Who are you?”

St. John the Baptist knows the real motivation behind their question, and he answers them by making a confession, in the words of our text, confessing: “I am not the Christ.”  For the priests and the Levites, and King Herod for that matter,were terrified that the Christ would come and take away their power.  They did not want the true Prophet, the true Priest, and the true King to challenge their positions and status, their wealth and their rule.  And so they ask John with suspicion: “Who are you?”

Even though John has denied being the Christ, they hear John’s preaching.  It is like no preaching they have ever heard, being so much like the prophets of four centuries ago.  In fact, John preaches the very words of Isaiah to answer their question: “Who are you?” 

He replies in the words of the prophet: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’”  Last week’s Old Testament lesson was this very text, that selfsame “voice crying out in the wilderness,” which goes on to say: “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.”

That is who John is.  He is the voice.  He is the voice of God calling the lost children of Israel out of the wilderness of sin to the promised land of freedom and redemption.  John is that voice that raises valleys, plows down mountains, levels the land, and evens out the rough spots.  John is the voice that retools the contours of the world. 

That’s who John is.

John preaches God’s Word.  He knocks the proud from their thrones, and raises the lowly.  And he does this not because he is the Christ, but because he preaches, proclaims, and prophesizes the Christ.  That’s who John is.

And notice how John carries out this ministry of being the voice: by baptizing and preaching.  John is not only the forerunner of the Christ, but he is the forerunner to Christ’s office of the holy ministry.  John does not point men to himself, but rather points men to “the One who comes after” him, to Him whose sandal strap John is unworthy to untie. 

That’s who John is.

How troubling and puzzling all this must be for the priests and the Levites and the palace of the so-called king Herod.  This is not what they expected.  And this is not what they want.  How much easier it would have been to shut John down if he had been yet one more lunatic claiming to be the Messiah.  He makes no such claim.  And yet there he is, fearlessly calling the people, great and small, to repent of their sins, for God’s kingdom is near!  Here is that great prophetic voice, moving mountains and turning the world upside down with preaching and baptism and with the pointing of the people to the Christ!

Here is the voice crying, “Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down the Righteous One; let the earth open her womb, and bring forth salvation.”

For John’s mother’s barren womb was opened by a miracle involving John’s elderly father.  But John’s cousin Jesus is a greater miracle, for His mother’s virginal womb was opened by God the eternal Father Himself.  John is a prophet sent by God to proclaim righteousness and call the people to repentance, but John’s cousin Jesus is the Prophet who is God sent to be righteousness given as a free gift to those called to repentance.  John points the people to the way of salvation, whereas John’s cousin Jesus is the Way of salvation.

The question addressed to John is “Who are you?” but the greater question is: “Who is the Christ?”  For this is ultimately the reason for John’s voice to cry out in the wilderness: to point to the Christ, to initiate Him into His ministry, and then to fade into the background as the Lord Jesus Christ proclaims the good news of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

And preachers like John have been called into service around the world, “their voice is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”  Preaching and baptizing, they continue to point the world to the Christ, whose sandals they too are unworthy to untie.  The prophetic voice of calling sinners to repentance continues, along with the divine blessing of proclaiming the good news of forgiveness – in God’s Word and in Holy Baptism. 

And like John, all Christians confess not only that we are not the Christ – in fact, we confess that we are “poor, miserable sinners,” but like John we also confess the One who is the Christ.  When we are asked by a skeptical and hostile world: “Who are you?”, the greatest answer we can give is to do like John and explain ourselves in relation to Jesus. 

So, who are you?  Who are you, dear friends?  Who are you?

You are a sinner.  But you are a redeemed sinner.  You are a forgiven sinner.  You are a sinner transformed into a saint by the voice of God, by preaching and baptism, by word and sacrament.  You are a confessor of the Christ, who, though we are unworthy to untie His sandal, He unties us from bondage to sin, death, and the devil.  You are baptized.  You are declared worthy by the prophetic voice.

Who are you?  You are a Christian! 

Amen.

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another Primal Triumph!


Once more, a delightful primal repast from the Paleo Slow Cooking book (see here).  Tonight's recipe: Fiesta Lime Chicken.  Note the "rice."  Any guesses as to its true identity?

Yum!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Liberté, Liberté, Liberté

Tired of paying 85% (!) of his income in taxes, French actor and restaurateur Gerard Depardieu prepares to move to Belgium 800 yards across the border and give up his French citizenship.  This is a classic example of loving one's country while not loving its government.  Sometimes true patriotism consists in refusing to acknowledge and coddle the tyrant that believes "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine."

Or as M. Depardieu (whose restaurant, incidentally, employs 80 people) puts it in an open letter to Parasite-Minister Jean-Marc Ayroult (who predictably accused Depardieu of being "unpatriotic" for not being grateful to have 85% of his money taken from him by people who produce nothing): "Who are you?....  I am a free man."

If the state can seize 85% of your income, why not 95%?  And if 95%, why not 100%?  That's the very definition of slavery.

And M. Depardieu's true French patriotism and defense of freedom is surprisingly popular among many French.

Vive la résistance!

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Fireman's Ringtone Experience?


For the fireman whose phone rang during the David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1 ("the oldest continually active volunteer fire company in the United States") monthly meeting, and it was this ringtone: you are the best, my friend and brother!

 It is an honor to serve you and the men who serve their community by laying their lives on the line "all along the watchtower."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Primal Spaghetti!


Mrs. H. hit one out of the park for dinner today!  Behold, "Spaghetti with Meat Sauce."   But there are a couple of extraordinary things about it:

1) The sauce is prepared in a crockpot after only about 15 minutes of prep time, and
2) The spaghetti is not pasta, but rather spaghetti squash.

So it is easy and convenient (cooking 4-6 hours on low), and it's PRIMAL!  No pasta, no starch - just pure meat-vegetables-spices-and oil paleo-goodness.  For those with diabetes or gluten allergies, this is a way for you to indulge in a hearty and healthy spaghetti.  Besides spaghetti squash, you can also use zucchini noodles or even sauteed spinach in the place of noodles.

This is Miss Grace's first time at bat with her new cookbook: Paleo Slow Cooking: Gluten Free Recipes Made Simple by Chrissy Gower.  The book is large, gloriously illustrated, laid-out in a practical, almost website-like way, with color-coded sections and easy-to-follow instructions.  So far, so good.  With an emphasis on good!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sermon: Gaudete (Advent 3) – 2012


16 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 11:2-11

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Gaudete!  “Rejoice!” says our Lord.  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again will I say, rejoice.”

This is the season of rejoicing – especially for retailers looking to finally run from red to back.  This is the season for rejoicing – especially for pharmaceutical companies who sell antidepressants.  This is the season for rejoicing – especially for liquor stores cashing in on both the joyful and the profoundly sad.

We are indeed to rejoice always.  These are the very words of St. Paul recorded in His letter to the Philippians that is not only the words of Scripture but also the opening of today’s liturgy that gives this Third Sunday in Lent its name.  The rose-colored “shepherd’s candle” lit this week is a visual reminder of the joy bursting at the seams just under the surface of this season of purple penitence. 

Jesus had wonderful news for John the Baptist.  He told John’s messengers, with great joy and perhaps even excitement in His voice: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”

Jesus is indeed telling John to “rejoice” for the Kingdom of heaven is truly at hand.  “Rejoice” for the Messiah foretold by the prophets for thousands of years has arrived.  “Rejoice,” for you, John, have come as the last prophet, and “more than a prophet” – the “messenger” foretold by Isaiah, sent to prepare the Lord’s way before him.

“Rejoice,” St. John the Baptist, for truly Jesus says to us concerning His own cousin John: “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” 

And yet it is hard to imagine John rejoicing.  For he is suffering.  He is in a prison, a dungeon, a cold, gloomy place of isolation, cut off from those he loves and from the ministry the Lord called him to do.  He knows that at any moment, he could be seized by vicious goons and dragged away to a chopping block to be executed.  He is miserable and lonely and hungry.  He seems to be having doubts about His own proclamation that Jesus is the Christ: “Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

One can only imagine the low point in John’s life as everything he has known has been taken from him.  Even his trust in God seems to have gotten him nowhere.  He is mourning in lonely exile, seemingly defeated, as happened so often in his nation’s history, crushed yet again by a mightier people aided by the scoundrels and traitors in the puppet-government who collaborate with the tyrants. 

And in this situation, Jesus gives Him this “good news.”  Rejoice in the Lord always?

In the midst of our own celebrations and family gatherings, our gift-giving and good cheer, this is for many a time of loneliness, an exile of haunting memories and regrets about the past.  Our country mourns the senseless and evil loss of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, suffering the effects of evil, imprisoned by the notion that these children are not to be seen again on this side of the grave – so close to Christmas.  Think of the lifelong scar this will sear into those families.

In the midst of our own mournful exile here, we may be tempted to join with John in asking our Lord, “Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another.”  And our Lord tells us: “Rejoice!  Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again will I say, rejoice.”

Even when children are being slaughtered.  Even when the innocent languish in prison.  Even when evil seems to have the upper hand.  Even when we suffer physically, psychologically, and spiritually.  Even when we “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

For that is the point, dear friends.  Our Lord has come to ransom captive Israel from this, to save us out of this, to liberate us from this captivity, this prison, and to empower us to rejoice in the face of this, this fallen world of sin, this seeming sovereignty of death, this apparent invincible empire of the devil.  No, brothers and sisters, this is all temporary.  It is already undone.  It has been overcome by our Emmanuel! For “Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.”  And like one stubborn candle burning defiantly in the middle of the night, our Lord comes to disperse “death’s dark shadows” and to dispatch the devil, to conquer death by dying and to raise us to new life by giving us victory “o’er the grave.”

For as vicious as Satan is this time of year, and as seemingly powerful evil is in snuffing out the lives of children (much as Herod did in a futile attempt to murder the young Jesus), as mighty as the devil appears in destroying the unity of families, shredding communities and churches and even the peace of the entire world itself, remember, Satan is a paper tiger that has already been defeated by the Babe of Bethlehem, by the one announced by John the Baptist, by the one crucified whose mortal wound mortally wounded the serpent, and whose resurrection from the dead confirms for us the promises and the fulfillment of Holy Baptism, the one who bids “our sad divisions cease.”  For John was not merely the preacher of righteousness, he was the baptizer of the Only One Who Is Righteous. 

So take heart, dear brothers and sisters, take heart!  Even when your health is in decline or even distress, know that your eternal life has been declared.  Rejoice!  Even when family disharmony and strife divides and seemingly conquers all that is good and right and holy, know that your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world continue to confess Him who is the one true Good, Right, and Holy.  Rejoice!  Even when subjected to prison, to false accusations, to physical depredation, to mental anguish, to the stress and strains of life in this fallen and diabolical world – continue to cling to Him whose “gentleness” is “known to all men” for “the Lord is at hand.”  Rejoice!

This is how we Christians can rejoice even in sorrow, how we can find courage and strength to go on even when confronted with a slaughter of innocents in our own day, when it seems every joyful Christmas carol and Advent hymn proclaiming victory and hope ring hollow: remember the words of the ancient hymn:

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice!  Rejoice! 
Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the coming Messiah, the Babe of Bethlehem, the Merciful One: Gaudete!  “Rejoice!” says our Lord.  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again will I say, rejoice.”

Amen.

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sermon: Populus Zion (Advent 2) – 2012



9 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 21:25-36 (Mal 4:1-6, Rom 15:4-13)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“And there will be… people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.  For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Some people are indeed fainting with fear as we get near the notorious supposed prediction of the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.  Actually, it doesn’t predict the end of the world, but it makes for something to talk about, I suppose.

When people ask me if I think the world will end this month, I always tell them “I hope so.”  And they give me that quizzical look – which is how the world always views Christianity.  While the world runs to-and-fro in fear and loathing, we Christians know that we have nothing to fear. 

In the morning and evening prayers commonly prayed by Lutherans around the world every day, we appeal to our heavenly Father to “let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”  We also pray in the Lord’s prayer: “deliver us from evil.”  We know that the world is under the sway of the devil, and we know that evil is rampant in our fallen and corrupted world.  So, why should we be surprised at what we see on the news and read in the papers?  Why should we be shocked at the behavior of those around us, and even of ourselves?  But most important of all, dear friends, why would we fear the end of this fallen world?

Listen to what our Lord advises us concerning the end of the age: “Now when you see these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

In the face of the end of the world, our King doesn’t advise us to “keep calm and carry on,” rather He bids us: “Praise the Lord… and let all the peoples extol Him.”  This is no time for a stiff upper lip, rather it is a time for smiling and rejoicing!  “Straighten up and raise your heads.”

Jesus is coming again!  Our Lord who loves us is coming to redeem us!  Our Savior who came to purchase our freedom with His blood is coming to rescue us!  Our Champion who comes to defeat sin, death, and the devil once and for all is returning to rid the world of all evil, so that we shall live forever in eternal happiness!

This is why we Christians pray along with St. John the writer of the Book of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus!”  “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” we sometimes pray before meals.  “Come, Lord Jesus!”  We yearn for Him to: “come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”  We have nothing to fear.  Our “redemption is drawing near.”

For as the prophet Malachi reveals, those who reject the Lord will be burned like stubble, but according to the Lord’s promise, “for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.  And you shall tread down the wicked.”

The Father has it all under control, dear brothers and sisters.  The Son has taken God’s wrath and redirected it away from us.  The Holy Spirit hovers over us to guide us into all holiness and all truth, directing us to the Son, who shepherds us back to the Father.  And we have been baptized into that most holy Triune name, marked by the blood of the Lamb, and, dear friends, the angel of death will pass over us.  We have the promise of the Word “by the water and the blood.”

How sad it is to read about this latest panic gripping the world!  And how sad it will be if the Lord does not return to bring the world to an end before December 22, how quickly the world will lapse back into its smug, self-assured disbelief.  How sad it is every time the world reverts back to “dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life” when these manmade predictions don’t come true.  For we have been warned: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down… and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.  For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”

The Lord has told us how to prepare for the end of the world, the real end of the world, the date and time of which we do not know, the coming of the Lord Jesus back to this earth to expel Satan and to claim His eternal throne.  He has given us explicit instructions that do not involve stockpiling batteries or building an underground bunker.  Rather, dear friends, “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Stay awake!  Pray!  And be ready to stand before Him who stood before the Father on our behalf.  Jesus also stood before Pilate and Herod and the High Priest and Satan, and interposed Himself in between the father of lies, the bringer of death, and us, His bride, whom he protects with His very life, even unto the end of the age.

It is good news, dear friends, not bad news, that we are in the last days.  It is a joyful thing to see for ourselves “that the summer is already near,” and that “the kingdom of God is near.”  Just how near in time, we don’t know.  But as to how near in space, the Lord has told us that the kingdom of God is already among us.  He has also promised us that He is with us, right up until the end of the world.  He comes to us in His Word and in His Sacraments.  He comes to us in the mighty triple-named waters of Holy Baptism, and in the cross-empowered words of Holy Absolution.  He comes to us in the mystical meal of the Holy Communion.  He comes to us in the good works that flow from our faith, in the mercy of those who bear the name “Christian,” and in the hope we have as children of God, beloved of the Lord, redeemed by grace, saved by baptism, and protected by the ministry of the holy angels that the Lord sends to watch over us.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Hope, dear friends!  That is what we have that the world lacks.  The fallen world sees the threat of the world’s end and expresses panic.  The Church hears the promise of the fallen world’s end and confesses hope in Christ!

St. Paul blesses us across the great chasm of space and time with these words, which are really God’s words: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our God is the God of endurance and encouragement because He is our redemption, our salvation, and our hope.  He is love!

So, will the world end this month?  I hope so.  But even if it doesn’t, we have hope because we have the Lord’s own endurance and encouragement.  “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” – now, and even unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Birthday of Randy Rhodes, Lutheran Guitarist


HT: Rev. Tony Bolen, my seminary classmate, brother in the ministry, rock guitarist, and defender of liberty, for pointing out that today, December 6, is the birthday of the late Randy Rhodes, LCMS Lutheran and guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, who died tragically at the age of 25 on March 19, 1982 in a plane crash.

Note how this little video begins...

Requiescat in Pace Christi!

Karen De Coster on Christmas Music and the American Airwaves



Please enjoy the above traditional carol "The Angel Gabriel" as recorded by the Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne) Kantorei.

And here is what the mighty Karen De Coster has to say about the state of Christmas music in America.

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Monday, December 03, 2012

Father H. Has Issues!


I was part of a Pastor's Roundtable on the world's greatest Lutheran radio show, Issues, Etc. on November 29.  You can listen to the program here.

And here is an archive of Issues, Etc. programs that I have been on in the past.

Thanks once more to Rev. Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwarz for having me on the program, and to Rev. Kirk Clayton who provided great pastoral dialogue!