Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Grammarian, XIV

Here's another grammatical point for all of you who like to sing Christmas carols (and who wouldn't?). In particular, this carol:

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

Now, class, who can tell me why it says gentlemen here? Is this sexist? Is it discriminating against women?

The answer, of course, is no. The gentlemen, boys and girls, are the shepherds. This carol is based on the angel's announcement to them in Bethlehem when Christ was born. It has the angel calling them gentlemen.

Here, then, is the grammatical point to be made: they are not being addressed as "merry gentlemen" here, but merely as "gentlemen." The word "merry" goes with "God rest ye," an old English way of saying, fear not! That's what "God rest ye merry" means.

The "ye" is not King James English, but old English; otherwise it would be poor grammar, since "ye" in KJV English is nominative plural, but in old English is used in the accusative case.

Hence, there should be a comma in the opening line, thus:

"God rest ye merry, gentlemen; let nothing you dismay . . ."

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Grammarian, XIII

Since the time approaches when many preachers will be turning their attention to the Lucan account of the angel message to the shepherds, it seems an appropriate time to consider it carefully from a grammatical point of view. There are two possible renderings, according to the data given by the ancient manuscripts.

The earlier manuscripts, of which there are fewer (on which, e.g., the RSV is based), which would render the English thus:

Peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased.

But the received text, and the great majority of mss (the basis for the KJV) gives the following:

Peace on earth, good will toward men.

The difference has to do with the word given by the earlier texts as "eudokias" (goodwill or well-pleasing-ness) but which the received text renders without the sigma (Greek s): "eudokia." The former reading has it modifying "men" while the latter has it in the nominative, as the subject: Good will toward . . ."

The trouble with the former reading is that there are quite a few folks who misunderstand it to be a qualifier, saying in effect that there are only some among all men--very few, actually--with whom God is pleased. Some translations have even gone so far as to render it "Peace on earth among those who have His favor" or "Peace on earth among men of goodwill."

Incorrect, boys and girls.

The proper way to interpret the "eudokias" readings is essentially the same as one would interpret the "eudokia" readings, thus:

Peace on earth among men, with whom (i.e., all of whom) now have His good pleasure.

Or, to go back to the RSV rendering, to make careful emphases in reading, thus:

Peace on earth among men! with whom He is pleased.

Take a look at the context: it says peace on earth, i.e., there is now peace on earth, because the Savior of the earth has arrived. What would be the point of saying this first, only to qualify it by saying, "oh, by the way, that peace is only intended for those who please God"?

Secondly, the Greek construction puts the word order this way:

Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace among men pleasing.

That makes the "and" epexegetical, i.e., to be interpreted as "namely," or "that is to say." Glory to God is found not in the nature of men, but in the Savior of men, i.e., of all the human race.

Third, the Greek adjective eudokias, while modifying "men" is nevertheless meant imply the pronoun "His" making the subject of goodwill God, and not men, which is in fact that way the RSV translaters rightly put it: "with whom He is pleased." "Men of goodwill" is right out.

Finally, the fact that the word comes last in this proclamation tends to puts the greatest emphasis on it, as the capstone of the entire proclamation, viz.,

"The greatest glory given to God is accomplished in His incarnation, which brings peace to earth, dear shepherds, because the warfare between heaven and earth is now ended, the case of God against the human race is set aside, and the heavenly demeanor of God toward the human race is now revealed! Behold, He loves the world! And let the hearts of all men, who so furiously rage against the Lord and against His anointed, instead take note of this astounding truth: their sins are put away, atoned, and covered. Their flesh has been joined to God; heaven and earth are slammed together; humanity is taken up into divinity; He is well pleased."

In short, if you're going to go with the RSV, be sure you don't misunderstand it. Or, to make things simple, just go with the KJV, which, while containing the translation of a slightly different word, actually comes out with the right interpretetion no matter which word you use:

Peace on earth, good will toward men.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On Naming Your Baby

OK, so the legal system of Italy is clearly a bit unfamiliar to us Americans. A case in point is the most recent court order not only denying a family the right to name their child "Friday" but requiring that he be renamed "Gregory" (to read the article, click here).

But I was struck by the Reuters piece which explained, that "many priests insist that first names be of Christian origin."

As I said, such a court ruling would be unthinkable in America--at least as we know it now; but who knows how far political correctness will go? I could well imagine American courts a hundred years from now disallowing the names of saints, because, say, the court might think government would thereby be giving credence to the Christian religion, blah blah blah, and therefore "we insist that your child be renamed Mahmoud."

But I digress.

Part of me is actually a bit pleased with those Italian priests. And I think American clergymen would serve our people well by at least suggesting proper Christian names for their children.

The rage these days is to name your child something that sounds good; that has become the chief, and in some cases, only, criterion. So we have names like "Atari," "Kreeshawn," "Charrday," and other ghetto names, as some are wont to call them. Actually we shouldn't really be calling them ghetto names, because the truth is that if you'd like to do a search for a name like this for your little darling, you could just check out the roster of your favorite National Football League team. Those kids certainly don't live in the ghetto.

Whatever happened to names like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah, Samuel, Paul, David, or Lois? Or even some post-biblical saint, like Gregory? The Italian court's choice wasn't bad, even if we'd say they went too far in requiring it. Or what about Leo, Anne, Lucy, Nicholas, or Martin? There's a reason, I say, that these kinds of names bespeak strength. They are the names of men and women of faith and character, something we will all do well to emulate.

And here's another old suggestion nobody thinks about any more: consider the date of your child's birth for a good suggestion as to his name. Expecting a child on December 26th? How about Stephen, or Stephanie? July 22nd? Mary, Magdalena, or Mario. April 21? Anselm.

Well, OK, that last one might also be considered taking things a bit far, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

St. Lucia

On December the 13th we remember the early fourth-century saint who in her persecution was raped, lost her eyes, and was put to death with the sword, all for her steadfast faith. According to the legend, she requested that her eyes be put out, to take from her assailants the benefit of lusting after her poor body. She is remembered as a virgin martyr, even doubly a virgin, since the violation of her body was due to the constancy of her faith.

Her day is associated with the Festival of Lights, and is celebrated in the darkness of winter, so near to the shortest day, because the light of Christ by which she lived was an inner light, not seen with the eyes.

Her faith was akin to that of the Blessed Mother of God, who upon hearing the annunciation, not only believed that she, a virgin, would conceive and bear a Child, but that this Child would be called the Son of God. In the tiny space of the Virgin's womb was contained the Maker of heaven and earth.

Eye cannot see what faith believes, and what faith believes is the truth. The blessedness of St. Lucia is that of every Christian heart.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Nicholas, December 6

Devotion to St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, arose so quickly and universally in Christendom, that we are bound to see it as testimony to the man's indomitable courage and faith. Even in the fourth century itself, after his death in a.d. 343, veneration of this saint became common in the East and the West.

The fact that everyone in the world knows about St. Nick, at least in the legendary form in which his memory comes to most people, is testimony to the great character of this saint.

There are many more legends and stories surrounding him than simply the most common, that he gave gifts (dowries, actually) to children (three maidens who might otherwise have been forced into prostitution). To mention only some, legend has it that as an infant he fasted from his mother's milk on Wednesdays and Fridays. He is reputed even to have miraculously reconstituted and brought back to life three young men who had been butchered and thrown in a brine vat. Another story has him appearing posthumously to a kidnapped boy and returning him to his parents.

One thing that can be said about all these stories, whether or not they are true, is that they testify to the universal acclaim accorded this saint. He is said to have used his inheritance to feed the sick, the poor, and the needy. And above all, he is known to have been a man of great faith.

He was imprisoned during the reign of Diocletian, in a prison where, we are told, there were so many bishops, priests, and deacons, that there was no room for the real criminals.

He is known to have been present at the first ecumenical council, of Nicaea, in a.d. 325, where he contended mightily against Arius for the full divinity of Jesus Christ. The Creed we say today is to some degree the result of the labors of St. Nicholas.

It is wonderful, I think, that St. Nicholas is revered by all, even if most today have no understanding of who this man really was, or whether, for that matter, they know that he really existed.

I'm still moved by the famous 1897 New York Sun editorial reply to that little girl who wanted to know the truth about Santa Claus, but I might have been inclined to add this: "And Virginia, here's another thing: there was also a St. Nicholas, a very real and mighty fourth century Christian Holy Man whose faith and life you will do well to imitate and remember, especially on the sixth of December!"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Santa Claus Discrimination

You may have heard the recent attacks on Santa Claus. Some in Europe have been ragging on him because they think he needs to lose some weight, since, the reasoning goes, he could be an enabler to those among them who have tendencies toward becoming obese. They say his own weight problem is setting a bad example. Meanwhile Australia has gone and banned the trademark “Ho Ho Ho,” saying this could be offensive to women. Since some people hear the word “ho” and hear that as ghetto slang for “whore,” therefore they are proposing that Santa start saying “Ha Ha Ha” instead.

All because they want Santa to be helpful and not offend.

Well hold on just a minute. I mean, I think we need to get a little political correctness involved here! This whole thing is being raised in the name of being politically correct, after all, so my question is, what about those who are overweight? I think this is clearly discriminating against them! What, now none of them can apply to be Santa in a shopping mall, because of being a little chubby? “Sorry, fella, you can’t be a Santa in our store. You’re too fat!” Wow, if ever there was a case against discrimination! Why does everyone have to look like a Ken doll, hmmm? We’re told that 66% of all Americans are overweight. Well, then, this is discrimination against most Americans!

And as for this Ha Ha Ha thing, that’s offensive too! Like, just who are you laughing at, Santa? The last thing I want to hear when I go Christmas shopping is some emaciated Santa Claus laughing at me! Why is he laughing? Does he think I’m too fat, like he himself used to be? (The hypocrite!) Or maybe he’s laughing at my kids because they’re too fat! How dare he! I smell a lawsuit, I can tell you.

To all those 66% of Americans and all those who love them (which pretty much ought to make up the whole country) I say, Rise up! Defend your Santa Claus! He has every right not to be jeered just because he’s fat! Ha ha ha indeed! I’ll give them ha ha ha . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Grammarian, XII

By the way, the priesthood of all believers is not in the Bible.

The passage everyone loves to quote is this, from I Peter 2.9:

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."

Now it's evident that the "ye" here refers to the faithful of God, and that therefore they are "a royal priesthood." But the term "priesthood" here is collective, and it goes together with "royal" and also with "holy nation."

What you Synodical types have gone and done is to try to tap into this in such a way as to give a divine imprimatur to everything a congregational voters' assembly does. I think you need a lesson in grammar, to say nothing of your theology.

The Apostle is clearly exalting the status of the Church, as opposed to "them which stumble at the word, being disobedient," listed just prior to this verse. Contextually, he pours on these descriptions of the Church, to indicate thereby just what a great gift the grace of God has made her: a chosen generation, that is elect in Christ; royalty, that is, bound to the King of Kings; and a priesthood, that is, bound to Him who is our High Priest before God. This is why the Church is also an holy nation: holy in Christ; a peculiar people, separate from all people on earth, again, in Christ.

The entire context here is that of magnifying the grace of God which makes the Church the royal, priestly Queen of all Creation. And each descriptor is collective, that is, in the singular.

So, boys and girls, don't go blathering on about the priesthood of all believers as a license to make divine decrees by reason of your voters' assemblies, as though the majority in them somehow constituted the living voice of God. (In case you're wondering, the living voice of God is what comes out of Jesus' mouth, and out of the mouths of "holy men of God moved by the Holy Ghost," etc.)

The phrase you love to use, "all believers," is not there. The term "believers" would be plural, and would divide and individualize the Church; but it isn't there. Although the plural pronoun "ye" is used, it is at once related to a long string of collective terms. It is abundantly evident that this is a reference to a unified whole, the body of Christ; and Christ is also one.

There's no counting going on here, no rule by majority. The Church is one, because Christ is one. He rules His Church, by His grace.

So don't go misusing the Bible, and remember your grammar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Fan of Improv

Why is it, I wonder, that we have so many well meaning people who think that prayer is about having a casual conversation with God? As though He were your Big Buddy in the sky. I used to pray this way when I was a child, and I didn't know any better. I distinctly remember the kind of opening line I used to have in my bedtime prayer. It would go something like this: "Well, God, here I am again . . ."

When I was a child, I thought as a child . . .

But we have grownups praying this way. I can understand it if some layman has never been instructed, but a pastor? Yet we find clergy types all over the globe who pray in just this way: "Dear God, we just want to thank you for the beautiful day you have given us, and for our time together, and, just, really, for being there for us. Bless our time together . . ."

I'm not saying there's anything specifically false or heretical about such a prayer, mind you. Yet there is a problem here.

Too many people think prayer is mainly about feeling comfortable talking with the invisible God. It is not. If it were, then why would the disciples have asked Jesus to teach them to pray? Did He tell them that they should just converse with God on an impromptu level? He did not. Did He encourage them to learn some improv with God? No.

To be sure, He bid them to call God "Father," but that was not as an invitation to think of Him as a heavenly pal. (Actually, it was an implicit invitation to regard themselves as having access through Jesus the Only Son, but that's another matter.)

I submit that it is not helpful to think that you have a healthy spirituality (whatever that is) if you have learned to think of God in such informal and ordinary terms.

Listen: God is Father indeed, and Almighty; He is also Son, and Incarnate; and He is Spirit, who has breathed into our nostrils the breath of eternal life through the Word of the Gospel.

Should we not, therefore, learn to speak to Him by the breath and words He has given us?

Something, I say, is very wrong with the loose informality that has come to be the norm for prayer. We are beggars before Royalty, paupers before a Judge. To be sure, He is a gracious one, but that is all the more reason for us to address Him with the gravity and respect that acknowledges who He is.

Behave yourself when you talk to Him. And learn some better prayers, you who mutter bland banalities before the Lord of Hosts.

Consider the Psalms: they are never informal and chummy improvisations! The Psalmist would not dream of making prayer a matter of simply remembering that, after all, God is always in the room. Rather, he said this: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, o Lord."

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Here's the latest nonsense from the LCMS. First VP Bill Diekelman sent us all an email describing the progress of the Ablaze! initiative. Much has been written about the theological weaknesses of the program. But here's something which caught my eye in the latest missive. He says this:

"Ablaze! was endorsed by the 2004 Synod convention in two parts. One part, the witnessing part, is a movement. It is messy, it is un-programmed, it is Spirit driven. The other part is programmatic. While we pray it may also be Spirit led and blessed, it is much more structured."

And I said to my self, "Messy?" Something driven by the Spirit is messy? I don't know what spirit this man is talking about, but there's one thing I know the Holy Spirit is not, and that's messy. Has he not read that our God is a God of order?

We've always known that the Synodical leadership has charismatic tendencies. Well, here's what we might call the root problem. The Spirit preaches Christ, as Christ Himself said, "He shall testify of me." And the Spirit is not messy about it. In fact His way of doing it is in the context of the structured liturgy of the church.

You might call this a slip of pen, but I think it's a little insight into the fallacies at the heart of the whole movement.

You show me a movement that is messy and I'll show you a place where the Holy Spirit is not.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Climate of Fear

I have not read Michael Crichton's new book, but I've looked into the debate a bit over global warming. On the one side we have Al Gore and his IPCC scientists taking the view that there is irrefutable evidence of global warming, and that human activity is causing it, necessitating possibly draconian measures to scale back some of that human activity. A reputable advocate for this position is David Sandalow of the Brookings Institute, whose opinion may be found here. On the other side is the view of Mr. Crichton and others who say either that there is global warming all right, but that it is dubious at best to say that human activity is causing it, or that there is really not significant global warming going on at all. A reasonable endorsement of Mr. Crichton's point of view has been provided by Joseph L. Bast of the Heartland Institute (read it here). The Heartland Institute also has a little video rebuttal of Al Gore himself (watch it here).

I tend to side with Mr. Crichton, but I think it's more because of my skepticism of humanity than because of anyone's science. Ironically, the global-warming-ists would have us believe that it's their skepticism of humanity that takes them to their position: we must initiate protocols to shackle the excessive industrializaton of our world, etc.

But should we not be skeptical of them too? Certainly if we entertain skepticism of mankind, it ought to include them. Mr. Sandalow's own observation on this score is most worthy of note: "There are indeed fewer people who have sorted through the minutiae of climate change science than have opinions on the topic. In this regard, global warming is like Social Security reform, health care finance, the military budget and many other complex public policy issues. As Nelson Polsby and Aaron Wildavsky once wrote, 'Most people don’t think about most issues most of the time.' When forming opinions on such matters, we all apply certain predispositions or instincts and rely on others whose judgment or expertise we trust."

Precisely. We all do this. Even panelists at the IPCC.

Together, however, with my skepticism of humanity comes a dose of faith. Not faith in anyone's duelling analyses or graphs, but faith in the Providence of God.

And speaking of God, this may come as a surprise to some, but there was never a divine commandment forbidding the overuse of fossil fuels. The divine commandments are actually harder to follow than that: "Love thy neighbor as thyself" prescribes no protocols or UN resolutions.

Some would argue that "love thy neighbor" requires good stewardship of the planet. I remain for the most part unconvinced of that logic; and I think a far more regrettable inference is drawn when people who think they are being "green" have done their part. Hardly. The law of God says, If thy neighbor is hungry, feed him. And that just may require the burning of some fossil fuels.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Gottesdienst Returns to the Marriott for Fort Wayne Symposia; Sabre of Boldness Nominees Sought

To reserve a room with the Gottesdienst gang at the Marriott for the Symposia at the discounted rate of $94 per room per night, call the Marriott at 1-800-228-9290 and be sure to tell them that you are with Gottesdienst, because this will help us get the meeting room without cost to us. It would also help if you let us know if you're planning to do this, so we can keep a tally (just comment on this blog, or reply here)

The high point of this January’s Symposium week at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne (judging from the unbiased perspective of the editors of Gottesdienst) will undoubtedly be something that is to happen not at the seminary, but at the Marriott, to wit, the announcement of this year’s recipient of the Sabre of Boldness award. This prestigious award has come to be awaited in our circles with as much anticipation as, in other circles, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, or the Oscars (though someone might be inclined quip, in Clint Eastwood fashion, that we are legends in our own minds).

The ceremony is now in its thirteenth year, and has returned to the Marriott Hotel because of its superior accommodations in close proximity to the seminary. The event is set for Thursday, January 17th, at 8:30 p.m.

Nominations for the 2008 Sabre Bearer are again invited. Please submit a nomination to Fr. Eckardt by just commenting on this blog (no anonymous nominations please), or by sending an email to Simply state the name, address, and telephone number of the nominee and the reasons why he or she is a fitting choice for Sabre Bearer. The words engraved on the plaque upon which the Sabre is mounted give the selection criteria: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ while engaged in the confession of His pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces and at the greatest personal risk.” The degree of the adversity, a demonstration of steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise the truth, heedlessness of threatened personal consequences, and a clear confession of the truth at stake are considered. The slate of nominees will close on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008. Then the editors of Gottesdienst will meet privately to make their selection.

The editors of Gottesdienst invite all seminary guests to come on over to the Marriott, right after the Symposium banquet, for this gala event.

Sabre of Boldness Recipients:

2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1996 The Reverend Peter C. Bender

Friday, November 02, 2007

All the Company of Heaven

Today (November 2) is All Souls Day (for those of you who prefer parochial designations, that would be "The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed"), and I note with some disappointment that the LCMS has chosen not to include this Feast in LSB, the new hymnal, reverting to the unfortunate omission in TLH which was for a time finally corrected, when LW restored it to its place. But alas now it's gone again.

Evidently the committee made the mistake which is so often made, of thinking that All Saints Day is the day to remember all the faithful departed. But historically All Saints Day is for commemorating those saints of old who made the good confession even unto death, especially those who do not have particular days for their commemoration. That is why we follow the rubric of employing red (the color of blood), not white, for All Saints.

That's the first thing wrong with not observing All Souls Day: generally it means you forgot about All Saints in the historic sense.

The second thing wrong with it is that when we fail to distinguish between the heroic "extraordinary" saints of the Church's history and the more "ordinary" faithful departed we do justice to neither. All Souls Day is the day for remembering all the "ordinary" among the faithful departed: your departed relatives and friends, as well as simple, humble Christians who died in the faith without having done anything that really stands out. But their works (works of faith all) stand out to God, and He vindicates their ordinary lives with crowns of glory, and they shall rise to everlasting life.

They are even now among "all the company of heaven," yes, as it were right beside, and counted together with the more heroic of the saints. They all rejoice with us at Mass, even when there are only a few of us observing the day in any particular location. In fact, the altar is always a very crowded place.

Both All Saints and All Souls are and remain Feasts of the First Class, notwithstanding LSB's dropping of the second altogether. Next year, incidentally, All Souls falls on a Sunday. Mark your calendars: it takes precedence over that Second Class Sunday and is observed instead. But All Saints is still the day before.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, IV

This is the last part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in late September. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

IV. Practical Consideratons

When conducting the service,

stand Erect
don’t sway or slouch
fold hands properly
whenever possible, do not hold your own book.
do not get personal
be iconic (think of yourself as an icon)
avoid giving directions, page numbers, etc.
do not smile (ever seen a smiling icon?)
do not seek to endear yourself to the people; seek, rather, to emulate Christ. That is to say, get out of His way.

When preaching,

do not be bound to the page, but do not look people in the eye
avoid rocking
do not emote
do not shout
do not whisper
do not mumble
do not stammer
avoid “ah,” “um,” etc. Cf. Ronald Reagan, who was a master at this
do not be afraid to use pause
speak slowly
be iconic (be Christ for the people)

+ BF Eckardt Jr.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
24 September 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Difference between Islamists and Christian Extremists

I’ve been teaching an online course in world religions, and we’ve reached the unit on Islam. Some interesting discussions have been going on. In the course of the discussions some students made a comparison between Islamic extremism and Christian extremism, as, for instance, in the Crusades. Here is a digest of some of the comments I have made.

Islamic rejection of the West began well before the Crusades, as they began immediately moving across northern Africa, up through Spain, only to be stopped by Charles Martel. At the other end of the Mediterranean, the Muslims were pressing hard upon Constantinople, which was what ultimately led the patriarch to call upon the Pope for help against their agression. The Crusades began as a reaction against Muslim aggression.

Offhand I cannot think of another religion that used the military to begin the spread of their faith. To the radical Islamists, it is a conviction that the world must be purged of "blasphemous" elements as a way of praising Allah that drives their violent acts. It would seem that the suicide bombers are acting entirely in the name of their religion, or at least in the name of their perception of what their religion teaches.

For them it is about the purity and absolute monarchy of God. The "infidels" (that's us) must be brought to their knees. By this reckoning, terrorizing us becomes a noble thing.

The Islamist radicals do not seek to use religion to justify their acts; rather, they believe that their religion causes them to act. That is, they believe themselves to be true to their religion for acting. Indeed they are sincere about what they believe. So sincere, in fact, that they will resort to mass murder or suicide.

(Incidentally, so much for the notion that, as was popular for awhile in the late 20th century, "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere"!)

There are definite strains of belief contained in the Qur'an which can be reasonably understood to say that terrorism is required of its adherents. Although there is serious debate about whether this is the correct understanding of the Qur'an, one thing is clear: those who resort to Islamist fundamentalism are not simply looking for a justification for it. Rather, they believe that their acts are justified, even required, by their religion.

The Crusades, on the other hand, did not specifically call for violence against innocents; things got out of hand, to be sure, but there was not a call to arms that could be compared to the jihadist violence of the Muslims. The Church's call to the Crusaders was simply to make a pilgrimmage to Jerusalem. It was implied, of course, that Jerusalem would need to be taken. But this would mean fighting against soldiers, not innocents.

The god of Islam is fundamentally a god who demands pure allegience; in the end, any means of achieving this could theoretically be justified. Although he is called "Allah the merciful" there is little evidence that he is actually merciful at all. This may be what leads the Islamists to their extreme position.

Another thing that bears consideration in this discussion is this: I find it remarkable that there are very few Muslim leaders who can be heard in strong opposition to the violence, though there are some. Imagine what leaders of Christian churches would say if there suddenly a slew of "Christian" suicide bombers. Of course, even that would be hard to imagine: Christian extremists of that ilk are very hard to find. One exception would be people who blow up abortion clinics, but even in that case, which is exceedingly rare, they try to do it when no one is in the clinic.

Reason alone tells us that there must be something endemic in a religion that breeds so many violent fundamentalists. A careful examination of the Qur'an tells us the same thing.

“Islam” means "submission." But here is the problem: the god to whom they are to submit is himself not really manifestly merciful and kind, though one can find references to his requiring that of his people. But Allah himself demands submission, and there is an eschatological dimension to this demand. That is to say, terrorists infer that they are carrying out his judgment against those who refuse to submit.

Now contrast this to Christianity: those who refuse to submit to God are warned, called to repentance, and invited to believe in One whose mercy was manifested in the atonement.

Though Christianity also has a strong eschatological element, it is applied in an entirely different way. In the case of Christianity, missionaries go forth to call people to repentance and faith; in the case of Islam, jihadists go forth instead.

In short, I'd have a much easier time believing that Islam is a religion of peace if there weren't so many of them going around killing people all the time. If the majority of Muslims oppose this, then where is the outrage? Frankly I have little use for such a religion of "peace" (do you see my bias showing?).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Grammarian, XI

What's up with all the use of literally on the news?

This is literally driving me crazy. There are literally hundreds of times I hear every week in which newscasters abuse this word. It's literally everywhere. I am literally lying awake nights wondering if they have anyone screening their broadcasts for them, and saying that they use the word literally literally more than any other word. It's literally insane. Go ahead, turn on the news tonight, and I literally guarantee you that if you find some "breaking news" event on the national scene, you'll find some reporters or reporterettes literally breathless from having literally arrived at the scene seconds ago, saying something like "there are literally of people who have lost their homes here in southern California." Somebody tell them. I'm literally about to burst . . .

Seriously, boys and girls, let's remember that the proper use of language is a very good thing, because language is a gift from Almighty God. Now, let's always be careful that we don't condemn people for using bad grammar, of course, or even think poorly of them for doing so, as that would be bad manners (and a worse offense than bad grammar). But we ourselves should always strive for excellence in speech.

And I think we can be allowed to expect it of our newscasters too. People listen to them every night. Literally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, III

This is the third part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

III. Thesis: Preaching is a New Testament phenomenon.

It is hard to find references to preaching at all in the Old Testament. One notable exception is Jonah, who is told to “go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2).

This is an interesting exception to the general rule that the Old Testament does not emphasize preaching, in that it is preaching to Gentiles, and that furthermore St. Peter is specifically called the “son of Jonah” when he is given the Keys (St. Matthew 16). Jonah’s preaching is a preview of the preaching of the New Testament, and the preaching of Peter.

It is my contention that the preaching of the Gospel is the primary mark of the age of the coming of the Messiah. Consider the final mark of the coming of God listed in Isaiah 35: "the poor have the Gospel preached unto them." In fact, when Jesus says, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah," I think it entirely admissible that, as some commentators have suggested, He was not referring to Jonah's "burial" in the belly of the fish for three days before being vomited out alive on the shore, but to Jonah's preaching.

Preaching is meant to reveal what has for ages been hidden: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col. 1:26). As such it serves the same purpose as the New Testament itself.

Indeed the Mass is the New Testament, as the Words of Christ indicate (this is the new testament in my blood), so therefore it belongs with the Mass as a critical ingredient. So the sermon should never be free from what is transpiring in the Mass.

Moreover, when one preaches, he will do well to have in mind this understanding of the phenomenon of preaching itself: he is partaking in a monumental event which was hidden for ages, but is now being carried out as a New Testament event.

Recall how Jesus said, on an occasion when the apostles came back from their preaching, "I saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven."

This knowledge of what preaching is should help dictate how the preacher behaves in the pulpit.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What Is Truth?

This is a reprint from the online Journal The Shire, written on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 2000.

Pilate's rhetorical question was left unanswered by the Evangelist, no doubt as an intentional device on the part of the latter to elicit musing on the question. Christ is Truth, as He said, I am the Truth. There must be a qualitative difference, then, between the revelation of God in the Gospel, and every other written or spoken word. What is it? No one has seen God at any time . The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. What does this mean?

Questions of this nature arise when we consider the various legends associated with martyrs. Martyrologies are generally held to be a mixture of fact and fiction. Who can say whether it is all in the realm of actual historical reality that St. Bartholomew stalwartly maintained his confession while being clubbed by pagan priests, flayed alive, and crucified upside down? Or whether St. Laurence truly mocked his tormenters during his roasting on a gridiron? Or that the flames of the pyre surrounding St. Polycarp refused to touch him, whereupon he was thrust in the side, and blood and water issued forth which quenched the flames? Historians like to pick at such stories and reckon that there is some fantasy there. Yet they must also acknowledge that there is some basis in fact. What is truth?

St. Anselm of Canterbury was said to have made the sign of the cross on a burning building and doused the flame thereby. Some historians have considered this a reference to his success in obtaining peace with the King of England over the question of investiture, after a protracted struggle between the crown and the Church. The reference to the struggle, to Anselm's exiles, and to the resulting peace, is thus all made enigmatically through the depiction of the archbishop's sign of the cross on the flame. Did he actually douse a flame on a true church he was passing by making the sign on it? Probably not. Is this not only, then, a figurative means of expression? What is truth?

Now we consider the Gospels. They too contain many wondrous accounts. Jesus walks on water. Jesus feeds a multitude with a few loaves. Jesus heals the blind. Jesus rises from the dead. One can begin to see where certain scholars have questioned the veracity of these events as well. What if they, too, are embellishments? What if Jesus= stroll on the lake merely indicates His authority over Baptism? What if His multiplication of loaves merely points to His sacramental feeding of all nations? What is truth?

The answer to these questions must be found in the Gospels themselves. It is upon hearing them, reading, marking, and inwardly digesting them, that one finds in them a genre like unto itself, one which is unquestionably meant to be completely historical while at the same time being figurative, instructive, and catechetical. St. John insists, for example, that he truly saw blood and water issue forth from Jesus' side: "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." Yet this insistence gives the very clear impression that he wishes the hearer to ponder the catechetical meaning latent in the event: The Blood of the Holy Supper and the water of Holy Baptism issue forth from Christ. Indeed it is only St. John who records that rhetorical question of Pilate, What is truth? (St. John 18.38)

Thus we find that in the Gospels there is a unique blending of history and instruction. Maybe the difference between the Gospels and various martyrologies is that inasmuch as the latter do not provide the foundations of faith, and are not in themselves words of God, they have over the years become freer to depart from the historical facts. Not as much depends on them, certainly, and thus their use as catechetical tools begins to outweigh the necessity that they be entirely accurate as to their historicity. This is not the case, however, with the Gospels, which themselves make this very point. It is especially St. John who insists: "This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did . . ." (St. John 21.24-25). We simply do not find this kind of testifying in martyrologies.

The critical scholars' mischievous questions about the veracity of the events of the Gospels do nothing but tend toward shipwreck of the faith, and they must therefore be firmly answered. Of course Jesus actually walked on the water; of course He fed the five thousand; of course He gave sight to the blind, etc. And of course He truly rose from the dead. But that is not all! These events have been turned by the providence of Almighty God into catechetical tools, given meaning by the Gospel, to provide real-life illustrations of what He wishes us to know. Yes indeed, His walk on the sea illustrates his authority in Baptism; surely He feeds multitudes today, in the Holy Supper; and in the Gospel He gives faith, that is, sight to the spiritually blind. And His resurrection not only signifies, but actually provides living evidence to the faithful that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

What is truth? Truth is history and catechesis divinely wrapped into one magnificent Word of God: Christ for us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, II

This is the second part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

II. Thesis: The Word of God is the power of God. This is not a mere cliché. It is something which, if truly believed, will free the celebrant/ preacher from the temptation to warm things up, or provide some element of his own personality as though to help the hearer. To seek to add your own personality is actually the height of arrogance. If you believe you must “love people to Jesus” by using gestures and carrying yourself in a way which has you coming off more like Uncle Remus than as a herald of Christ, your body language will betray what you really believe.

On the other hand, there is the temptation to think that the divine service is not really the heart of divine activity, and those who fall victim to it will spend less time on the things that pertain to it. There ought to be a sense of awareness that while at worship we are in the presence of the Most High God. The lintels are shaking, smoke fills the room, and the hot coal of God’s Word is on our tongue. It is by the posture that corresponds to this thinking that we come to attention, as it were, and are readied to hear the words of divine mercy in Christ.

The celebrant need not think he has to turn and face the people every time he says something to them. This is probably the most common breach of the rubrics. For instance, at the Thanksgiving, the celebrant’s versicle “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good” is said while facing the altar. This attention to detail gives the impression to the hearers that the celebrant is attending to something other and greater than himself.

St. Paul to Titus (chapter 2):
"In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. . . . For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."

What does this mean? It is reminiscient, I believe, of what was said about Jesus at the end of the sermon on the mount: Jesus taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes (St. Matthew 7.21).

But again, what does this mean? We know a little about how the scribes taught. The synagogues had as the equivalent of sermons what was called “midrash”; this term was also used for the marginal commentaries running alongside the texts. These midrash ‘sermons’ were likely explanations of the passages. A possible interpretation of Jesus’ teaching “not as the scribes” is that Jesus’ preaching was not like this. That is, He did not simply provide explanations of the Bible. This is a remarkable twist: The scribes taught as ones not having authority, because the authority to which they referred was the Scripture. For Jesus to teach unlike them may then have meant that He was himself the authority. He certainly referred to the authority of Scripture often, and refuted His opponents thereby, as for instance when He referred to Psalm 110 “The Lord said unto my Lord” in referring to Himself, etc. But He did not use the Scriptures primarily to prove His point; rather, to provide support for it, or to illustrate it.

The same may be said of St. Paul. Consider Galatians 4, that enigmatic section about Sarah and Hagar:

"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free."

The last reference is the most remarkable, because if you look at the Scripture being referenced there, it is actually something coming from the mouth of Sarah, who is simply complaining to her husband about Hagar. Wherever does St. Paul get the audacity to say that this is the Scripture saying it? Note: He is not proof-texting; he is referencing the passage, in order to illustrate rather than prove his point.

To be sure, the Scriptures can and sometimes are adduced to prove something, but the ultimate apostolic authority is Christ Himself, who ordained them to repeat and teach His own words. Consider St. Luke 24:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

The power from on high is not a reference to some new understanding which their ordination gave them; for that came from Jesus Himself in His personal teaching of them. Rather it must be a reference to the accompanying signs that authenticate their authority (dynamin); cf. the last verse of St. Mark (16:20): And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

There is, of course, a difference between an apostle and an ordinary preacher. The apostle has the imprimatur of Jesus, e.g., from His high priestly prayer, that his preaching could not be in error (St. John 17:17-18: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.)

But there is also a common thread of authority between them. The apostolic opening of understanding is also available to us who believe through their word (St. John 17: 20: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word).

Thus we have St. Peter exhorting the preachers thus (I Peter 4.11): “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God,” i.e., as though God Himself were speaking.

When St. Paul speaks of his own preaching, he speaks also of the apostolic preaching by any pastor: “So We Preached, and So Ye Believed.” - I Co 15.11. Preaching is the proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma, from kerysso, preach). It is declarative. It is ultimately Gospel, not law. It is the announcement that Christ has come, and fulfilled the Scriptures, bringing eternal salvation.

The sermon is the Word of God not man. It must be preached as such.

Not only the hearers, but the preachers themselves should not despise preaching. The hearers should gladly hear and learn it, but the preachers should also gladly learn to do it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, I

This is the first part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

THE USE OF VOICE AND POSTURE IN WORSHIP: An explanation and demonstration of the use of speaking, reading, and chanting, and of body language in the Holy Liturgy.

Thesis: deliberate and conscious efforts in leading worship serve to remove the man from the preaching of the Gospel. There will also be some discussion of sources and rubrics.

The preaching of the Gospel and the conduct of the liturgy are of a piece. The old Scaer adage “preach like a Baptist” was, I think, meant more as a joke than as an actual aphorism. My evidence for this is that David Scaer himself does not preach like a Baptist. Except if he meant preach with authority. But the antics and emoting for which Baptists are known are certainly as out of place in the pulpit as they would be at the altar. Not only do we not share pulpit and altar fellowship with Baptists, but our pulpits and our altars must have fellowship with each other. How you behave at the altar should be essentially the same as how you behave at the pulpit.

The celebrant should be deliberate in his stance and actions. Sometimes I'm led to think there must be a mysterious Missouri Synod book of rubrics floating around somewhere that says that to be truly Synodical one must behave as though the vestments he is wearing are uncomfortable, he ought at all times to rest his weight on one foot more than the other, and he ought never wear a chasuble, so that we can see the casual manner with which he is to bear himself. Too many who conduct the service do so in a way which says, “I’d really rather be somewhere else.” On the contrary, the celebrant must conduct himself in a way which is in keeping with our confession:

Nothing is rushed, but nothing is casual. Everything is deliberate. Indeed even if something accidental or unexpected occurs, the celebrant should, as best he is able, maintain the decorum of the setting, and, as Piepkorn says, “The unforeseen, the accidental, the disturbing must not be permitted to distract us. We are God’s ambassadors and God’s servants. We are speaking for and to God. Our entire lives ought to be, and our public minister must be en Christo – in Christ! So must the calm peace of the changeless Christ in our souls be reflected in our outward demeanor” (The Conduct of the Service, iii.)

There is, of course, a significant difference between the pulpit and the altar. The pulpit is the place for communication, in your own words, of what the liturgy expresses in the words of the Mass. It is the place for your personal application of the Gospel to the present situation. Yet this difference does not permit a difference in demeanor for the one preaching. The gravity of the situation is no less during the sermon.

The pulpit is not the place for personal antics, any more than the altar is. The decorum which ought to attend the celebrant at the altar is the very same as that which ought to attend his preaching. It is a formal event, however personal the application gets.

There is another difference between the pulpit and the altar. The altar has specific attending rubrics to help the celebrant know exactly how he should stand, gesture, and speak. There are, of course, no corresponding rubrics which apply to the pulpit. Nevertheless the gestures and voice that the preacher uses should only be distinct from his gestures and voice at the altar to the extent that the particular purpose of the pulpit differs from that of the altar, namely, in the latitude and extent of the personal nature of the communication that is allowed in the pulpit. It is the fundamental similarity of the pulpit to the altar, and the fundamental difference between them, which dictate the fundamental behavior of the preacher.

Cute expressions designed to impress the hearers come at the expense of impressing upon them the Word itself. People may say they like to have something to take home with them, which is mostly bogus. What they end up taking home is some trite slogan, in place of the Gospel. The pulpit is also not the place for telling jokes. Preaching is not stand-up comedy, or something you learn to do in speech class to get and hold people’s attention. Gags and gimmicks are out of place, because they belie the power of the Gospel; they presuppose that the preacher is giving nothing better than midrash, and probably something worse. Indeed this also means the telling of endless vignettes and stories is most assuredly not preaching. Some preachers can be found who only do such things, from beginning to end of the sermon. This is not preaching. This is boredom incarnate.


Liturgical worship recognizes that the posture and behavior of the participants is a reflection of what they profess. To cite the extreme case, if someone enters the church with a pink spike hairdo, rings of one kind or another piercing his body in various places, a swagger in his gait, a smirk on his face, and perhaps a chortle at every reference to Jesus that he hears, it becomes apparent that he does not really wish to be present, or associated with the Christian Church. Therefore, on the contrary we find it fitting to dress properly for church, to carry ourselves with decency, to make the sign of the cross, to fold the hands, to stand erect, to bow the head, or—notwithstanding its increasing unpopularity—to bend the knee.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Grammarian, X

The heart of Chaplain Jonathan Shaw's presentation at our Octoberfest seminar on Monday was the suggestion of a radical realignment of thinking regarding the meaning of "This do in remembrance of me." His research has shown that the common sense of the meaning as "do this in order to remember me" is fundamentally not sufficient. Rather, remembering in this grammatical construction is something which is primarily seen in the Scriptures as having to do with God. God remembers His covenant, His promise, His people, etc. Hence, "This do in remembrance of me," may also properly be translated "this do in my remembrance" or "this do for my remembrance" may be understood therefore as meaning something like "this do so that I will remember you," or "this do so that God will remember you," or (here's my vote) "this do so that God will remember me."

During the discussion, I found myself thinking primarily of the Passover, and of the link to it provided in the Words of Institution, "this is the New Testament in my blood. The term "my," as Chaplain Shaw pointed out convincingly, is emphatic here. That is, therefore, to paraphrase, "this is no longer the [Passover meal] of the Old Testament; rather it is the Meal of the New Testament; it is not in the blood of the Passover lamb, but it is in my own blood. In essence, He is saying here, "I am the Passover's fullfillment. The Passover blood is my own. It marks your door. The angel of death will pass over your house in the eschaton, the Last Day.

Hence, my own take on "this do in remembrance of me" is something like this: "This do so that in the Final Judgment the Avenging Angel will see my blood marking your door (the door of your lips, cf. Psalm 141), remember my sacrifice, and pass over your house."

Do not celebrate seder meals at your church. Celebrate the Mass instead. The seder is done. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Octoberfest expecting a high turnout

OK folks, Octoberfest is tomorrow, and the reservations are coming in at a record rate. Just thought you might want to know, if you're having a hard time deciding if you want to come. The brats are ready, the hardrolls are here, the place is all decorated, and we're ready. Are you ready? We're expecting a good crowd, and our Octoberfest crowds have never been disappointed.

(I know there are some folks want me to start spelling it Oktoberfest, but then Petersen will accuse me of being anti-American.)

Anyhow, sign up by posting a comment right here; just tell us you're coming. For details, click here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Waning of Patriotism

There was a fine opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Robert D. Kaplan ("Modern Heroes") decrying the gradual devaluation of nationalism in our country. He says that the events of 9/11 did not fundamentally change our nation, but "merely interrupted an ongoing trend toward the decay of nationalism and the devaluation of heroism" in our country.

It got me thinking that this might similar to the events preceding the fall of Rome.

It also got me thinking about the most prominent remnant of patriotism in our culture, the national anthem. But even that, sadly, has been twisted into a quaint and virtually meaningless ceremony whenever time is taken for it. They still play the national anthem before sporting events, of course, but when the band plays at our high school football games I think sometimes my wife and I are the only people singing. A few other faint voices can sometimes be heard. The crowd would generally prefer some soloist crooning it out with enough embellishments to make it more of a personal performance than an anthem, in which case they could more comfortably reply to the act with delirious cheers. When there's just a band playing, they aren't encouraged to sing, and they probably don't even know all the words.

Those words are lost on the young, no doubt. They likely have never heard the story of Francis Scott Key peering out the window of a ship some eight miles away from a British shelling of Fort McHenry during the war of 1812, and how, each time a bomb went off, it "gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there," and how, in the morning, when Key saw that the U.S. flag was still flying at the fort, he was inspired to scribble down a few poetic lines, "Oh say, can you see by the dawn's early light . . . ," which he would later finish into a poem.

I think of that when I sing the National Anthem, and I think of how my father instilled this in me, how countless men have fought and died defending the republic for which that flag stands. So who cares if a few people turn their heads in our direction at a football game?

Kaplan says it will take another event on the order of 9/11 or greater to change the direction we are headed. There are still glimmers of hope here and there that patriotism could somehow revive itself among us. Hopefully it won't take a nuclear holocaust, and hopefully the end of us is not in sight as we slouch toward the way of old Rome. We must pray for our nation.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Liturgy Seminar getting started

I note that a few comment have finally been posted over at my Liturgy Seminar, which is just in time for our Tuesday event which is tacked on to this year's Octoberfest. The Tuesday seminar will be a wide-open, roundtable discussion of the kinds of things that are on that blog.

In particular, there's already some discussion of

1 - the Greater Gloria (the Gloria in Excelsis), and when it should be used or when omitted

2 - what to do with This Is the Feast (answer: treat it as you would a hymn)

3 - the practice of introducing the Gospel reading with "the continuation of the Holy Gospel . . ." except for Christmas Day, which has "the beginning of the Holy Gospel" and Easter, when it is introduced by "the conclusion of the Holy Gospel."

4 - when the Creed is said

There was some trouble with the "feed" (whatever that is) for awhile, which kept some from commenting. Hopefully that's fixed now. If not, please let me know. To check out the site, click here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Octoberfest Just Around the Corner

Tell you what: I'm going to make it really easy for you to register for Octoberfest. Really easy. Just post a comment right here on this blog with your name, etc., and we'll do the rest. You can pay when you arrive. We just need to know who's coming.

It's $25 per person (students $15) $40 per couple--includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents. The Tuesday seminar alone is free (but a donation would be nice).

Seminarians, if you need a place to stay let me know, and we'll even try to find a place to put you up. If you have to miss a class or two, it's OK. I hereby give you permission. Just tell your prof (with a smile on your face and an apple in your hand). Tell him afterwards.

And, incidentally, in response to the recent hullabaloo about confession over at Fr Petersen's blog (click here to check it out), I've decided to schedule in an hour Monday morning between 8 and 9 for private confession.

Here's a repeat of all you need to know about Octoberfest:

Announcing the Twelfth Annual Octoberfest Seminar and Liturgical Conference at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois, beginning Sunday, October 7th at 5 pm until midafternoon on Monday. The Conference theme is “In Remembrance of Me: Who's Doing the Remembering?” This year we are pleased to welcome as our guest the Reverend Chaplain Jonathan E. Shaw, S.T.M., a highly decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, having served in theaters and posts around the world; including Korea, Nicaragua, Iraq, Germany, and other places. He is currently stationed at the Chief of Chaplains’ office in Washington, D.C. He has also served as chairman of the Board for Congregational Services of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Chaplain Shaw has been an associate editor of Gottesdienst since its inception in 1992. His popular Sabre of Boldness column is featured in every issue.

Chaplain Shaw will examine the words of Institution, looking especially at the background of the Hebrew Scriptures and the concept of remembrance.

New this year: on the following day (Tuesday), a liturgical seminar is planned for anyone interested in participating in a roundtable discussion seeking uniformity in our worship practices. Informed Lutheran clergy are particularly invited to provide input and exchange of ideas.

For more information or to register for either or both events, log on at or send us a note in the enclosed envelope.

Schedule of events

Sunday, October 7

5 pm Autumn Choral vespers, anticipating the Festival of Harvest

6 pm Annual bratwurst banquet

Monday, October 8 (Octoberfest Seminar)

8:00-9:00 a.m. Private Confession available at the church, in the vestry.

9:00-9:30 a.m. Registration

9:30 a.m. Holy Mass: Festival of Harvest

11:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Seminar

Tuesday, October 9 (Liturgical Seminar)

9:00-9:30 a.m. Registration

9:30 a.m. Holy Mass

11:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Seminar

Friday, September 28, 2007

King John I

. . . of the 2007 Kewanee Boilers Homecoming Court, bearing a strong resemblance, I might add, to the 1974 Homecoming Queen of Appleton East High School. Royal blood, I guess . . .

Thursday, September 27, 2007

So a seagull walks into a store . . .

In case you missed it, there's a video caroming around cyberspace showing a seagull in Scotland which has developed the habit of stealing chips from a neighborhood shop.

The seagull seems to be slinking up when the shopkeeper isn’t looking, walking into the store, snatching a bag of cheese Doritos, and making a run for it.

Once outside, he rips the bag open and shares it with other birds.

The seagull’s shoplifting started early this month when he first swooped into the store in Aberdeen, Scotland, and helped himself to a bag of chips. Since then, he’s become a regular. He always takes the same type of chips.

Customers have begun paying for the seagull’s stolen bags of chips because they think it’s so funny. Watch the video here.

Hat tip: Kathryn Hill

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Grammarian, IX

Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. - St. Matthew 23:12

We note, class, that there is no exception to the rule here: Whosoever means anyone, everyone, all who exalt themselves -- these shall be abased. Even those who thought they did pretty well at humbling themselves in response to this little logion. Hah! Condemned and guilty are we all.

But now look carefully at the second part, which does not say "whosoever shall humble himself . . ."

What does it say, boys and girls? "He that . . ." See? It's a simple singular pronoun. There is only One who has truly humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And by His stripes we are healed.

Hat tip: Pr. H. R. Curtis (Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, IL; Zion Lutheran Church, Carpenter, IL

Friday, September 21, 2007

Confession Makes a Comeback

Do I get some sort of credit for being the first among us Lutherans to notice that this article in today's Wall Street Journal entitled "Confession Makes a Comeback" makes reference to a marvelous resolution we passed at the LCMS national convention in Houston last July?

The article is written by Alexandra Alter, and includes this tidbit: "This summer, the second-largest North American branch of the Lutheran Church passed a resolution supporting the rite, which it had all but ignored for more than 100 years." That was in fact the last resolution passed by the convention, and although a number of delegates had already left, it passed by an overwhelming majority. It provided in fact a very fine conclusion to the convention.

Further on in the WSJ article, there's this piece about our very own Central Illinois District's Pastor Bruce Keseman (kudos, Bruce!):

"This past summer, the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, a 2.5 million-member branch whose members are spread across North America, voted to revive private confession with a priest. Some theologians have pointed to the writings of Martin Luther and argued that the Protestant reformer, while criticizing the way the rite was administered, never advocated abolishing it. 'Some of us were saying, "Why in the world did we let that die out?"' says the Rev. Bruce Keseman, a Lutheran pastor in Freeburg, Ill.

"The Rev. Keseman has sought to revive confession in his congregation by bringing it into pastoral counseling, giving demonstrations to youth groups and preaching about its benefits. Leslie Sramek, 48, a lifelong Lutheran and financial manager who lives near St. Louis, says she never heard about private confession and absolution in church when she was growing up. But two years ago, when the Rev. Keseman announced he would be taking confession privately, she decided to give it a try. At these sessions, the pastor wears vestments and stands near the altar while she kneels and recounts her sins. 'I won't say that looking at my sins is pleasant, but they have to be dealt with,' says Mrs. Sramek."

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Grammarian, VIII

I've always wanted to ask this: Just what is a Concordia Self-Study Bible, anyway? Yeah, I know it's a Bible with study notes in it so that you can study the Bible on your own, by yourself. But wouldn't such a Bible be better called a Concordia Bible with Notes? or with Study Guide?

OK, class, let us look at the grammar here: self-study can mean, according to the dictionary, either the study of something by oneself or the study of oneself. Granted, the former is likely meant by the designation, but now, who can tell me what we know about phases which can have two meanings? . . .

That it's all right as long as there is no ambiguity presented by the context. What about the Concordia Self-Study Bible, then? No problem, you say? Well actually, the first person I asked to tell me what he thought it meant said something about using the Bible to study oneself! Aha! Ambiguity!

Therefore, I wonder: perhaps the the Concordia Self-Study Bible was so designated to indicate any of the following:

1) that with it you can study the Bible by yourself
2) (corollary) that without it you could not study the Bible by yourself
3) (another corollary) that it is the notes which are the big thing in this Bible
4) that with it you can learn to study yourself, and find out about yourself
5) that it is Bible meant especially for people engaged in the practice of "self-study"
5) that it is an amazing book which actually studies itself, and doesn't need to be opened
6) that it is a Bible which contains studies of the word "self"
Let's see, have we left any meanings out? . . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mordecai the Liturgical Nazi

We've been going over the book of Esther in Sunday morning class, and there's something I find extremely refreshing about Mordecai. He simply (and all the Jews with him) refused to bow to Haman. Now ask yourself: why does he have to be so stubborn? He could have just bowed a nice little bow, made everyone happy, and said, Oh, it's just a cultural thing. It doesn't change the way we believe. We still have the Gospel. I can go ahead and bow on cue, and not say anything, knowing in my heart that all that matters is the Word.

But he didn't. He refused to do that simple silent thing, which of course made Haman mad, and got Mordecai and his people into one truckload of trouble.

In fact it was a cultural thing. Had he bowed to Haman, his bow would have acknowledged Haman as divine. Here we see that this little liturgical thing, this silent bowing, communicates something. And what it communicated was anathema to Mordecai, so he refused.

This book is written, among other reasons, to exemplify the behavior of Mordecai. We have in the book of Esther a clear and uncompromising exemplification of a simple truth:

When under the title and pretext of external adiaphora such things are proposed as are in principle contrary to God's Word (although painted another color), these are not to be regarded as adiaphora, in which one is free to act as he will, but must be avoided as things prohibited by God. (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, X, 5)

See there? How you worship does matter. It did to Mordecai, certainly.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

John Eckardt Kewanee Athlete of the Week

Eckardt’s confidence high, golf scores low

Excerpts from an Article in the Kewanee Star Courier Last Week by Mike Landis, editor of the Sports page. Way to to, John (son #4)!

Kewanee’s John Eckardt chips on the 10th hole Wednesday at Canton Country Club. His round of 32 on Baker Park’s front nine last week earned the KHS senior the Athlete of the Week nod from the Star Courier.

Baker Park brings out the best in John Eckardt.

The four-year varsity Kewanee golfer fired a career-low 32 last Thursday on the front nine at Baker Park to lead the Boilers to a triangular win over Geneseo and Hall. Eckardt’s 3-under effort on the flats earned the KHS No. 1 player the Star Courier’s Athlete of the Week honor.

“That’s my best,” said Eckardt, noting his previous low nine was 34 on Baker’s back side.

. . .

“The first time I thought about it was my second shot on No. 3 when I was 2-under,” said Eckardt of shooting a low number. “I came up short on that shot, but I wasn’t nervous for the chip. I just had to get it close and I did.”

He closed the round with a two-putt birdie on the par-five fourth for 32. The performance spurred conversation of the all-time low nine-hole round in KHS golf history. In talking with previous coach Chris Gustafson, Eckardt said the two decided it was likely the best round in 25 years by a KHS golfer.

Current coach Kirk Fristad says Eckardt’s dedication to the game in the summer pays huge dividends during the high school season.

“He’s on the golf course all the time. If he’s not at summer basketball, he and his brothers are out there all the time,” said Fristad. “One time I saw him this summer, he was out on the driving range in the rain. You don’t see many other kids doing that.”

The close of Eckardt’s junior season let him know that he could play with the top high school golfers in the area and across the state. After advancing at the regional tournament, Eckardt was part of a three-way tie for first at the Monmouth-Roseville Sectional with 76 at Gibson Woods. While he lost the playoff to Peoria Christian’s Jonathan Hauter, the round let Eckardt know he could play with the big boys.

“I think it gave him a lot of confidence, more than anything else, that he could play with those kids,” said Fristad.

At state, Eckardt fired matching rounds of 85 to finish in the middle of the Class A pack at Prairie Vista in Bloomington. He hit 12 greens in regulation the opening day at state, but a balky putter kept him from jumping into contention.

“At state, I felt like this is where I should be at because I thought I could play that well,” said Eckardt. “That helped with my confidence for this season.”

. . .

While he’s the No. 1 player for the Boilers, on some days he’s not the best player in his family. He’s joined on the KHS team by two brothers, Joey and Michael.

John credits his brother Andy for circulating the golf bug through the Eckardt family — five of the six boys played golf at Kewanee, with eldest Burnie opting to run cross country.

“Neither of my parents have played very much,” he said. “They’re not very good at all. My mom never plays and my dad has played his whole life, but not a lot and not very well.”

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Grass of the Field

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

In my musing on St. Matthew 6 for this next sermon (Trinity XV), it occurred to me that this is a strange thing for Jesus to say, that the grass of the field is thrown into the oven. How many times of glossing over that little phrase does it take before we truly consider these lilies of the field? What lilies, what grass, is thrown in to the oven? Wheat! For wheat is toiled over, harvested, ground, sifted, watered, leavened, kneaded, and cast into the oven; all so that it might become bread. Today's grass is tomorrow's bread.

And Jesus says, "Tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself." Therefore today let us consider the lilies which are harvested for baking, and learn the meaning of repentance. For all flesh is grass, but by the toil of Christ has redemption come to it. So also does He water, sift, and knead it, to become His loaf, His Church.

Moreover, He is Himself the leaven which leavens the whole lump: for by our reception of His Body we become His Body. And we are raised, as leaven.

That resurrection takes place tomorrow; today let us pay heed to His labors by which we shall be raised tomorrow. And therein lies the secret of contentment.

Out of the Barn

My email server is giving me fits, there's bad weather in the south, the money's running out, the political scene in the nation is getting really nasty, the churches continue to struggle with the ravages of a pagan culture, death and destruction leave their mark in all places; yea, the world, the devil, and the flesh have done their worst, but in spite of it all (Deo gracias), good things still happen in this world. The Church lives on, the lilies are clothed, the birds of the air are fed, and, once again,

Gottesdienst is out of the barn.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Extemporaneous Preaching

I gave a seminar at Champaign, Illinois yesterday on preaching without a manuscript or notes (That is, I spoke, using notes, about how it is that I preach without notes). The notes I used to speak about preaching without notes are here following.

Preliminary matters deal with preaching theory and content, and then comes the section on technique and preaching without a manuscript.

I. Preaching theory

A. Preaching as authoritative speech.

1. Not only the hearers, but the preachers themselves should not despise preaching. The hearers should gladly hear and learn it, but the preachers should also gladly learn to do it.

2. “So We Preached, and So Ye Believed.” - I Co 15.11 Preaching is the proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma, from kerysso, preach). It is declarative. It is ultimately Gospel, not law. It is the announcement that Christ has come, and fulfilled the Scriptures, bringing eternal salvation.

3. Jesus taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes (St. Matthew 7.21). What does this mean? We know a little about how the scribes taught. The synagogues had as the equivalent of sermons what was called “midrash”; this term was also used for the marginal commentaries running alongside the texts. These midrash ‘sermons’ were likely explanations of the passages. A possible interpretation of Jesus’ teaching “not as the scribes” is that Jesus’ preaching was not like this. That is, He did not simply provide explanations of the Bible. This is a remarkable twist: The scribes taught as ones not having authority, because the authority to which they referred was the Scripture. For Jesus to teach unlike them may then have meant that He was himself the authority. He certainly referred to the authority of Scripture often, and refuted His opponents thereby, as for instance when He referred to Psalm 110 “The Lord said unto my Lord” in referring to Himself, etc.

4. The preacher should speak as the oracles of God. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Peter 4.11). I.e., as though God Himself were speaking. The sermon is the Word of God not man. It must be preached as such.

5. Preaching is mostly a New Testament phenomenon. It is hard to find references to it at all in the Old Testament. One notable place is Jonah, who is told to “go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2). This is an interesting exception to the general rule that the Old Testament does not emphasize preaching, in that it is preaching to Gentiles, and that furthermore St. Peter is specifically called the “son of Jonah” when he is given the Keys (St. Matthew 16). Jonah’s preaching is a preview of the preaching of the New Testament, and the preaching of Peter.

6. Preaching is meant to reveal what has for ages been hidden: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col. 1:26). As such it serves the same purpose as the New Testament itself. Indeed the Mass is the New Testament, as the Words of Christ indicate (this is the new testament in my blood), so therefore it belongs with the Mass as a critical ingredient. So the sermon should never be free from what is transpiring in the Mass.

B. Preaching content

1. The Gospel; what it is: the New Testament. The Mass. The law must still be used, but not as an end in itself; this would not be proclamation.

2. The pulpit is not the place for sloganeering or making up ‘cute’ expressions designed to impress the hearers (at the expense of impressing upon them the Word itself). People say they like to have something to take home with them, which is mostly bogus. What they end up taking home is some trite slogan, in place of the Gospel.

3. The pulpit is also not the place for telling jokes. Preaching is not stand-up comedy, or something you learn to do in speech class to get and hold people’s attention.

4. Gags and gimmicks are out of place, because they belie the power of the Gospel; they presuppose that the preacher is giving nothing better than midrash, and probably something worse.

5. Indeed this also means the telling of endless vignettes and stories is most assuredly not preaching. Some preachers can be found who only do such things, from beginning to end of the sermon. This is not preaching. This is boredom incarnate.

6. It is not necessary to start the sermon with a personal story of vignette, or even with any kind of introduction at all. Neither the Fathers nor Luther did this. It is a modern thing. Do not waste precious preaching moments on a story (unless perhaps it’s a Biblical one)!

II. Preaching Technique

A. Preaching without a manuscript: Only in recent years has preaching from a manuscript come into vogue. The great preachers of history, from the early fathers to Luther, did not preach from manuscripts. The first step in learning how to preach without a manuscript is to believe that it would be a good thing to do, and to desire to do it.

B. Language of faith, that is, the language which employs Biblical turns of phrases, Biblical terms, and Biblical grammar. This was common among the Fathers of the Faith, and it is rare in our day. Preaching as the language of faith; The word of God in action, on the lips of the preacher . . . Preaching should not rely upon the tricks of the public-speaking trade to keep the hearers’ attention; although certain devices may be helpful, some can be detrimental. Preaching the language of faith presupposes a thorough familiarity with the Scriptures, and the language of the Psalter. Pray the Psalter, begin to commit the Psalm to memory, and you will soon find yourself thinking in that language.

C. Know the rules of grammar. This is an absolute prerequisite to good preaching style. Read good writers, examining their word patterns; perhaps even get a grammar book.

D. Seek to imitate the patterns of fine style. Reading from the KJV helps! Other English translations, while grammatically acceptable, have not taken the pains to maintain the style of the Biblical manuscripts, from the poetry of the Psalms to the unforgettable prose of St. Luke. The reason people want the Christmas story in the KJV is because of its unsurpassed beauty. But this beauty is seen first in the Hebrew and Greek.

E. Rhetorical devices.
do not mumble
do not stutter, or say “um,” “ah,” etc. Cf. Ronald Reagan
repetition of a salient point
use of pause, and of taking your time – this is necessary and helpful to the preacher who preaches without a manuscript, and to the hearers. You are thinking as you are preaching, framing your own thoughts and putting them into words as you speak. Thinking out loud, and others are listening in.

F. Biblical devices and phrases
1. Rhetorical thrust or “punch”: Repent!
2. Use of second-person: rather than exclusively saying “we” or “us” don’t be afraid to use “you.” This is a bit trickier when proclaiming the condemnations of the law. Never say “you and I.” The preacher should not place himself personally among the hearers here, but stand as the prophetic voice. If you wish to soften the browbeating effect of “you have sinned” etc., then perhaps follow up with “all mankind” in some way, e.g., to sum up a pricking of the conscience: “You have failed. All mankind has failed . . .”

3. Use of rhetorical questions:
Is God unrighteous for taking vengeance? (Rom 3:5)
Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. (Rom 6:1-2)
Is Christ divided? (I Co 1:13)

4. Use of Biblical phrases:
1. "It is written," or "As it is written" . . .
St. Matt. 3:4, 7 (by Jesus), Rom 3.10; I Cor 1:19
2. . . . or "That it might be fulfilled" . . . St. Matthew 2:15; 4:14
3. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad" . . . St. Matthew 5:12; Phil. 4:4
4. . . . "who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." I Peter 2:9

5. Sentences that run on: A common device of St. Paul, which is only effective if it is done slowly. Thoughts are attached to prior thoughts as they are expressed. A firm grasp of grammar is needed.

G. Things to avoid
Worn-out phrases:
“Our text for today”
“in our daily lives”
Greek words
“you know” “um” “ah”; stuttering
Excessive illustrations

H. Other considerations
The Gospel is not a “text,” and it is certainly not “our text.” Rather, call it “this Gospel”; or say, “Jesus says here,” “this event” etc.

No need to cite references. Just use them. Weave them in. Two ways to do this:
1. Quote from Scripture without indicating you are doing so. E.g., on the First Commandment: “Do not think that faith is simply a matter of believing that God exists. The demons also believe and they tremble. Faith, rather, is trust . . .”

2. Simply refer to Scriptural passages briefly. E.g. from a Luther sermon warning against pride, says this: “Behold, how Saul fell! How God permitted David to fall! How Peter had to fall! How some disciples of Paul fell!'” (AP 2, 110f; StL 11, 513).

Sometimes, if the Gospel contains activity, I will place the hearers into it. Activity is an easier thing to preach. So make it present tense. [I believe this may be why the Gospels often mingle the present tense into their reporting of events.] For example:
“As Jesus was merciful to the man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, so is he merciful to you. He has taken you aside from the multitude in Baptism. He has put His fingers, that is, His Spirit, into your ears. He has preached to you. He has spit and touched your tongue, that is, the holy waters of His Baptism have enabled you to confess the Christian faith. He has looked up to heaven and sighed over you, for His Spirit and Breath have made intercession for you before heaven’s throne. And he has opened your lips, that your mouth may show forth His praise.”
Sometimes you will want to place an argument into your sermon, as St. Paul does. Luther does this too. Argue with the gainsayers as if they were in the room.
“Who are you who deny that the Sacrament is truly Christ? See, he says, This is my body! Now what can you say? That He didn’t mean it? That He was speaking figuratively? Judge for yourselves: Is this the way to speak figuratively? To take bread, and to bless it, and break it, and say of it, This is my Body?” You may trust Jesus on this, beloved; He will not lie to you.” That last part is from Luther, who says on occasion, “You may trust the Scriptures: they will not lie to you.”
Preach as though to yourself. What do you need to hear? Preach this to the hearers.

II. Preaching preparation
The first ingredient of preparation must be a continual diet on the prayers of the Church, and particularly the Psalms. Daily praying matins and/or vespers will put Psalms and Canticles in mind so routinely that they become easy to access when preaching.
The practice of St. Augustine, as I recall, was typically to meditate on his appointed Gospel three or four times before preaching it. There’s one famous occasion on which he had prepared to preach on a certain psalm, but by a mixup, the reader read another. So he started his sermon by indicating that he hadn’t expected to preach on this psalm, but then proceeded to do so anyway.
The more one preaches without a manuscript, the easier it gets. My own practice is to look at a Gospel two or three times before I preach it, and decide what my major points will be. I often take the order I find in the Gospel itself and use it as my own.
Occasionally I will take some notes with me into the pulpit, if I have a list of some sort; but rarely. My outline is typically the Gospel itself.
There are pitfalls to this approach, but they are outweighed by the benefits, I believe. Sometimes I will forget to mention something I wanted to say; but other times I will see something I hadn’t prepared in advance. Sometimes I will preach a sermon which I’m not entirely pleased with; but this can happen whether or not one uses a manuscript; and when preaching is done without a manuscript, the preaching event becomes an opportunity to muse aloud on the Gospel. It is rather like going into a room of the mind and pulling off the shelves what you find worth saying at the moment. The greatest benefit of preaching this way is that you are actually communicating your thoughts with your hearers as you are thinking them. This is a powerful rhetorical tool, and most useful if done well. I am almost willing to say that this is in fact what preaching is: using the Word of God aloud in the present tense, rather than reading or reciting something you had previously written.
Things to use to comment on a particular Gospel:
Old Testament stories that relate to it, or are fulfilled in it.
Bible characters who experience the same thing.
Use of Genesis 1-2. N.B. The preaching task is easier if the Biblical interpretation task is rightly understood. The Scriptures testify of Christ (St. John 5); He is the substance and fulfillment of all the Scriptures (St. Luke 24).

Burnell F. Eckardt Jr.
Kewanee, Illinois
11 September 2007