Sunday, December 26, 2010

St Stephen


The Feast of Stephen comes right after Christmas, and so spoils the festivities with the martyr's blood. Why? The sermon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Three Christ Masses


On Christmas Eve, the First Christ Mass included the choir, a portion of which can be heard between the (chanted) Gospel and sermon, in this recording. The Second Christ Mass, at midnight, is my favorite, and the recording of its sermon is here. The Third Christ Mass, in the middle of Christmas morning, is here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

St Thomas

Here's a sermon from just the other day, on St Thomas and how helpful it is that his day is observed so close to Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent IV

John the Baptist does not take the bait. He refuses to accept the accolades of the Pharisees' messengers. He confesses "I am not the Christ." And so must we, learning the true meaning of repentance. The sermon for Advent IV, St. John 1:19-28 is here.

Advent III Midweek

Advent III Midweek mass, Gospel from St. Luke 1:39-46, sermon here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent III Tues

Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Another sermon on Advent III Gospel (St. Matthew 11:2-10) here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

St. Nicholas

Sermon for St. Nicholas is here.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

St. Andrew

This is the apostle who exclaimed, "We have found the Messiah!" The sermon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent I

Advent I, St. Matthew 21:1-9, the triumphal entry. Today's sermon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Inheritance is a Gift and Is Not Merited

Sunday's Gospel of the separating of the sheep from the goats, upon the ascertaining of whether they had fed Christ when He was hungry, gave Him drink when He was thirsty, etc., cannot be said to be an affirmation of the merits of work. Were it so, then He would not have said, "Inherit the kingdom . . ." Works are a demonstration of faith in Him, rather than an effort to buff one's own worth. Look to yourself and you will find reason to doubt; look to Him and you find reason to be comforted. The sermon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Kingdom of God Cometh Not with Observation

In St. Luke 17:18-33 Jesus gives us good reason to believe that the kingdom of heaven is hidden beneath its marks. Since it is hidden, all efforts to suggest it may be seen here or there, whether by pedigree, or by "glorious" manifestations of the Spirit, are misguided. Just as the glory of Jesus Himself was hidden when he suffered, so also the church's glory is hidden. The sermon.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Sabre of Boldness nominees?

Nominations for the 2011 Sabre Bearer are also invited. Please submit your nomination to Fr. Eckardt with "Sabre of Boldness" in the subject line.

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 degree of the adversity faced by the nominee, a demonstration of steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise the truth of the Gospel, 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 19th, 2011. 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 La Quinta, right after the Symposium banquet, for this gala event.

Sabre of Boldness Recipients
1996 The Reverend Peter C. Bender
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2008 The Reverend Aaron Moldenhauer
2009 The Reverend Juhana Pohjola
2010 Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn

Sunday, November 07, 2010

There the Eagles Will Gather

Today's Gospel depicts the fall of Jerusalem, and so it remains appropriate to read the historical account of that fall, taken primarily from the historian Josephus. Jesus' enigmatic saying at the end of the Gospel, "Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together," appears on the surface to be a reference to the impending doom coming to Jerusalem, whose apostate residents have become as a dead body. But there may be a deeper, hidden meaning in His words, in view of the fact that He speaks of "eagles," not "vultures." St. Mark's version has "where the body is," a further indication of what may be a hidden reference to the gathering of Christ's people (the eagles) to feast on the body of Him who was dead but now lives and reigns forever.

And as His careful hearers were all spared the destruction of ad 70 because they heeded His warning then, so also today, His careful hearers who gather in faith to receive His body will be spared the eternal destruction of the Day of days.

The sermon
.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Christmastide Retreat


A Christmastide Retreat in Kewanee

St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Illinois, is again preparing for two Days of Theological Reflection, starting with her annual Christmas Choral Vespers on the evening of Sunday, January 2, 2011.

On Monday and Tuesday, January 3 and 4, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., our Days of Theological Reflection, the thirteenth retreat in the series, will focus on the prophets Elijah and Elisha. This retreat’s theme is “Let a Double Portion of Thy Spirit Be upon Me,” led by Fr. Burnell Eckardt, pastor at St. Paul’s, who holds a PhD in historical theology.

The seminar will examine I Kings 17 – II Kings 13, with an eye to finding Christ there, as He Himself said of the Scriptures, “They testify of me.”

The annual Christmas Choral Vespers at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 2, features our Mixed Choir singing an array of traditional Christmas carols. With the splendid acoustical setting under the Gothic arches at St. Paul’s, people have often commented that the choir sounds two or three times larger than it is. These are quality singers as well. Having sung together for many years, they are able to provide those in attendance with a real musical treat. The choir is under the direction of Pastor Eckardt, who has over twenty-seven years of experience as a choirmaster and composer.

The evening’s music is augmented by the parish’s wine and cheese reception in the school cafeteria, another annual tradition.

If there is inclement weather, a snow date is scheduled for Monday, January 3, at 7 p.m.

Admission for the retreat is free; a freewill offering will be taken. Lodging options for out-of-town guests are listed below.

AmericInn, 4823 US Hwy. 34 800-634-3444
Super 8 Motel, 901 S. Tenney (Rt. 78) 309-853-8800
Aunt Daisy’s B&B, 223 W. Central Blvd. 888-422-4148
Kewanee Motor Lodge, 400 S. Main St. 309-853-4000
Days Inn, I-80 & Rt. 40, Sheffield 815-454-2361
Holiday Inn Express, I-80 & Rt. 78, Annawan 309-935-6565

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

All Souls

Here are two sermons. The first, preached on Tuesday morning, is a simple word of comfort concerning loved ones who have departed in the Lord. In the second, preached tonight (as most people are unable to attend on Tuesday mornings), I chose for some reason to launch into a diatribe against purgatory. Aware that none of the hearers believe in it, I nevertheless found in this another way to talk about merit: the merit of Christ, received by faith.

It turns out that for Rome, the distinction between All Saints (Nov. 1) and All Souls (Nov. 2) is primarily that the former are in heaven, but the latter, still in purgatory. Thus it is fitting for us, contrary to this falsehood, to revert to the prior distinction between All Saints--recognition of all martyrs--and All Souls--recognition of all the faithful departed--who, according to the collect, abide "in joy and felicity" and not in purgatory.

For how could God refuse to welcome us--and our departed loved ones--at once into Paradise (as He did the thief on the cross), when we have received Christ's body and blood at the altar, and with that, His eternal merit as well?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation


The reformations under Hezekiah and Josiah foretold Jesus' cleansing of the temple. Jesus' cleansing foretold his ultimate cleansing by his own death and resurrection. But the kingdom of heaven still finds itself situated in a fallen world, and so the encroachments of evil still require periodic reformations. The tumultuous fourth century's reformations gave us the Nicene Creed; the seven ecumenical councils each could be seen as a kind of spring cleaning.

The sixteenth century reformation was another, in a long string of them.

So the Lutherans who came to America to avoid a forced union and compromise under the Prussian king found themselves in the midst of another reformation.

And what of today? Churches that call themselves Lutheran are ordaining homosexuals. How in the world could we join with them?

And even among us: can we call ourselves churches of the reformation if we still have those among us who don't know what sits on the altar? The sacrament was at the heart of the teachings of our Lutheran fathers. And this is one reason we have a tabernacle built here: we want everyone to know what we believe. Or again, can we call ourselves children of the reformation if we have rock bands and entertainment going on in our places that are supposed to be holy? Or again, what are we to make of the fact that some 300 of our own churches are vacant, but not calling a pastor? The church needs another reformation.

But how to begin? Our newly elected Synodical president has pointed out that no great movement in the church has ever begun without repentance. We need the reformation to begin with ourselves, our hearts. Indeed the first of the 95 theses is this: When our Lord said 'repent', he meant that the entire life of the Christian must be one of repentance.

We must rededicate ourselves to turning from our own sins, to the Lord Jesus and his mercy, and to resolving that he is all we need: take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the kingdom ours remaineth.

Here's the audio of the sermon.

And here's the audio of our 25 minute radio program, on the reformation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two sermons on the Image of Caesar and the image of God

Two sermons this week, on St. Matthew 22:15-22, one from Sunday, and the other from Tuesday morning. (I never preach the same sermon twice. How could I? I don't write them down.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Of Mary Was Our Lord and God

New hymn introduced at Oktoberfest Mass:

The audio is here.

The text is here:
Of Mary Was Our Lord and God

Stanzas 1-6 Burnell F Eckardt, 2010
Stanza 7 John A. L. Riley, 1906

1 Of Mary was our Lord and God
Conceived, from woman’s flesh and blood,
Who knew no man, a virgin pure:
The second Eve bears Eden’s Cure.

2 As woman once brought forth from man
Was first to sin, and so was banned,
Now Man is born from her, and He
Restores her lost integrity.

3 She cradles her beloved Son—
The Son of God, thrice holy One.
So small is He, so low His birth
Who cradles all in heav’n and earth.

4 Serene He lies at Mary’s breast.
Who is Himself eternal Rest
O holy blest nativity,
How wondrous is this mystery!

5 And in her motherhood we find
A pattern tranquil, meek, and kind
Reflected in her sorr’wing eyes,
The hope of heav’nly Paradise.

6 To woman now is giv’n a place
Of honor, dignity and grace
She bears the Lord, so shall she be
Blest lady for eternity.

7 O higher than the cherubim
More glorious than the seraphim
Thou bearer of th’eternal Word
Most gracious, magnify the Lord.

8 All glory to the Father be
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore. Amen.

Distribution chorale

This brief audio file is of the choir singing "Blessed Be That Maid Mary" during the distribution at Mass for Oktoberfest. You can hear the distribution going on while the choir sings, "born was he of her body . . ." Nice.

Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe

Here's another sermon, from Sunday night at Oktoberfest, on Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe.

The Image of God

Today's sermon, on St. Matthew 22:15-22 in which Jesus points out that the tribute money bears the image and superscription of Caesar, muses on the meaning of the superscription and image of God which Jesus restores to humanity. To listen, click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scaer at Oktoberfest

Finally getting around to uploading some stuff from Oktoberfest. Here's the Gospel and Dr. David P. Scaer's sermon for the Motherhood B.V.M.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

Michaelmas

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels was Wednesday. The sermon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oktoberfest!

Cross-posted from Gottesdienst Online

by Fr Heath Curtis

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Why you need to come to Oktoberfest in Kewanee (Oct 10-12)
* The chance to receive Holy Absolution before Mass.

* A reverent celebration of the Mass with solid preaching.

* The top notch German potato salad at St. Paul's Octoberfest supper.

* Prof. Scaer

* The best evening of drinking and theological discussion in the Missouri Synod.

* That point in the evening when Fritz puts on Hotel California and asks, "Now, what does this hymn mean?"

* Solemn Vespers to close your Sunday.

* A most gracious hostess in Mrs. Eckardt.

* Good company - a wonderful group of faithful pastors to bounce ideas off of, commiserate, and debate.

I could go on and on. Octoberfest in Kewanee is simply what a general pastors' conference should be but what many, sadly, are not. It will refresh you for your busy fall and winter and send you home with some new theological thought to chew on - it always does!

REGISTRATION: $25 per person (students $20) $40 per couple — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents.

To register, please call 309-852-2461 and leave your registration information (name[s] and address) or register by email with the the option of using PayPal with an account or a major credit card, by clicking here. Or you may pay the registration fee when you arrive. Please register ahead, even if you choose to pay when you arrive.

See you in Kewanee, Dv!

+HRC

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Widow of Nain


Today's Gospel (St. Luke 7:11-17) is one of my favorites. It epitomizes the entire mission of Christ: first, to come to us in compassion. We note that there were no preparations on the part of the widow of people of Nain for his coming; a strike against all who suppose that they have a gracious God on account of their own preparations or works. His presence that day was for one reason only: his own compassion. Second, we note how God has dealt with this woman. For a brief moment (which seemed like an eternity to her) he withdrew from her, leaving her bereft of husband and son, and shrouded in darkness; but then he returned to give her such abiding joy that she forgot her sorrow, as an ember is quenched when cast in the sea. Finally, we may see ourselves not only in the woman, but in her son. He is dead, and is being carried to his grave. So were we dead in trespasses and sins, and our pallbearers are the law, our nature, the devil, and the world. We are as helpless as the dead man here, until Christ comes and speaks. His holy Gospel causes us to sit up and speak, and show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. The sermon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Holy Cross Day

Here are two sermons for Holy Cross Day. I like the second one better personally.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Oktoberfest!


Announcing the Fifteenth Annual
Oktoberfest and Gottesdienst Central
at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church
Kewanee, Illinois
October 10-12, 2010 (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday)

Featuring Dr. David P. Scaer

Conference theme: Liturgy, Church, Ministry: Some Afterthoughts

This year we are pleased to welcome as our guest the Rev. Dr. David P. Scaer, Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dr. Scaer has made his mark among the foremost confessional Lutheran scholars of the 20th and 21st century, and has taught and mentored a generation of pastors. A prolific writer, he has been in the vanguard for confessional thinking on the topics he will be addressing for us. We are honored to have him return to St. Paul’s to address our conference.

Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. is our Autumn Choral Vespers, followed by our annual bratwurst banquet (if you haven’t had our award-winning Sheboygan brats, it’s high time you did!). On Monday morning, following Holy Mass at 9:30, the Gottesdienst Central seminar will feature Dr. Scaer and run until 3:15 p.m.

On Tuesday, St. Paul’s Pastor Burnell Eckardt will lead a discussion and hands-on workshop on matters pertaining to the ceremonies of the Lutheran Mass, and will highlight the content of his new book, The New Testament in His Blood: A Study of the Holy Liturgy of the Christian Church, which will be available for purchase at the conference.

Join us for “Gottesdienst Central,” our annual liturgical and theological seminar.

Lodging:

AmericInn, 4823 US Hwy 34. 800-634-3444 (rooms set aside: let them know it is for Oktoberfest)

Super 8 Motel, 901 S Tenney (Rt 78). 309-853-8800

Aunt Daisy’s B&B, 223 W Central Blvd. 888-422-4148

Kewanee Motor Lodge, 400 S Main St. 309-853-4000

Days Inn, I-80 & Rt 40, Sheffield. 815-454-2361

Holiday Inn Express, I-80 & Rt 78, Annawan. 309-935-6565

REGISTRATION: $25 per person (students $20) $40 per couple — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents.

To register, please call 309-852-2461 and leave your registration information (name[s] and address) or register by email with the the option of using PayPal with an account or a major credit card, by clicking here. Or you may pay the registration fee when you arrive. Please register ahead, even if you choose to pay when you arrive.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Ten Lepers

Today's Gospel shows us faith against sin that is natural and common in all. The nine lepers, the priests, and all the leaders would not thank Jesus; only the one, against them all, came back. And Jesus, though the healing was clearly from Him, attributes it to the man's faith. Faith is born of God. The sermon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Son of Man Came to Serve

Sermon on St. Matthew 20:20-28 for midweek: here.

First Endorsement Already

I'm pleased as can be to have received, in just one day since publication, this ringing endorsement for my book, from no less than Pastor William Weedon:

"I must confess, that since Dr. Eckardt let me read through his pre-publication manuscript, I've been very excited about this publication. It is simply one of the best treatments of the Mass as Lutherans understand it that one could ever hope to read."

Thanks, Bill. Much appreciated!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Published: The New Testament in His Blood

A Gottesdienst book. 118 pages, paperback. Available at www.lulu.com for $18.00.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Good Samaritan

The wounded man is Adam and all his children. The thieves are devils. The priest and the Levite (like the lawyer himself) do not help. The Good Samaritan is Jesus, who came where we were and showed mercy. The sermon.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Seventh Sunday after Trinity


The multiplication of the loaves in St. Mark 8:1-9 provides a reason for the Church to trust as sheep that the Shepherd will provide. Not only materially, but especially for eternity. He is Himself the Bread of Life, and therefore no matter how far He leads us into the wilderness, we may be confident that He we will at length be brought to our eternal home. The sermon.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

The fish were drawn to the boat, just as the crowds pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God, in today's Gospel. Such, in both cases, is the power of the Word. The sermon.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Visitation

That was a pretty good sermon on the Visitation, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles

Here's another sermon (next day, when more people have opportunity to attend)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday Morning is for Church

How times have changed. There was a day not so long ago when everyone understood that Sunday mornings were reserved for church, even if not everyone went to church. Nothing else was scheduled, least of all sporting events.

No longer.

Now we are seeing the despicable practice of the scheduling of tournaments for children--children--on Sunday mornings. Basketball, baseball, tennis.

What I find really disgusting about this is that those who invest time and energy in such programs generally do so, they say, for the benefit of the children: it's good, wholesome activity that builds character and integrity.

What hypocrisy!

To schedule these things on Sunday mornings is blatantly to discourage the one activity which has been known to tower over all the others as a builder of character and integrity: church.

Even if the churches to which the children go are weak or troubled, or even if the children don't go to church, at least there used to be the implicit societal imperative to go, embedded in the fact that there was nothing else on the schedule on Sunday mornings.

Even professionals sports still observe this custom, not scheduling games until the afternoon on Sundays.

It boils my blood. Surely there will be found in the very lowest places of Dante's Inferno the kind of people who had the audacity to begin scheduling these children's events on Sunday mornings.

Would that at least Christian parents might wake up, and refuse to send their children. Make a statement. Say, "We cannot serve God and mammon." Or say, "We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it."

Sunday mornings are for church.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Be merciful as your Father is merciful

The heart of Jesus' instruction to be merciful (the opening words of today's Gospel)is in the last part of the sentence: your Father is merciful. This gives comfort and power to Christians to learn mercy toward their neighbors. The sermon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Nativity of John the Baptist

At the Nativity of John the Baptist, we look forward to Christmas which is exactly one year away. So the feast anticipates Christmas just as John himself is the forerunner of Christ. Light always comes out of darkness, as it did in the beginning. This we must always hold dear, when tempted to despair or melancholy over the darknesses and troubles of life. John's birth portends the coming of the Light of the world. The sermon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jesus Eats with Sinners

Sunday's Gospel (St. Luke 15:1-10) provides the Gospel in simplicity, ironically out of the mouths of Jesus' enemies: This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them. The sermon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

In St. Luke 14:25-35 Jesus explains the surpassing value and necessity of following Him. The sermon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Great Supper

The parable in the Gospel for the Second Sunday after Trinty (St. Luke 14:16-24) gives three kinds of people: those who reject Christ (Pharisees and Scribes), those who are themselves outcasts, who received Him (the disciples, the shriven woman, the tax collectors, etc>), and those to whom the Gospel came last (the Gentiles). We belong to that third class, and so have reason to be thankful.

The Gospel itself is clear as can be in the invitation that goes out: come, for all things are now ready."

The sermon.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Rich Man and Lazarus part II

Tuesday's sermon was on the same Gospel as on Sunday, this time emphasizing the fact that "Moses and the Prophets" (i.e., the Word of God) are, by implication, that which Lazarus had and trusted, and the reason he entered the kingdom of heaven. The sermon.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Rich Man and Lazarus


There are many things about today's Gospel that are fascinating: Lazarus is named, the rich man is not (and God knows our names because we are baptized in His name); the rich man's riches cannot help him because Lazarus has something he does not have; the tables are turned after this life, as the rich man desires Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue. The finger of a king or god is likewise sought for benefit at little cost to the monarch, and it would have been little to the rich man in this life to help our poor Lazarus. Now see who is rich, and who is poor. More than Lazarus, our Lord Jesus was poor and is now seated at the right hand of Power. If He dips His finger in our baptismal water to cool our tongues, we are refreshed with heavenly baptismal blessings in the Gospel and Sacrament. The sermon.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Holy Trinity

The Feast of the Holy Trinity grew out of a custom of using the Sunday after Pentecost for the "reconciliation of heretics." Hence Trinity Sunday is, in a way, an opportunity to point out false teachings against the Christian truth, in order to bring the world to the truth. The sermon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

God So Loved the World

The Gospel I preached this morning is actually appointed for Monday of Whitsun Week, but inasmuch as we didn't have mass then, I preached it today: (St. John 3:16-21), which includes the well-known "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

My guess is that most people don't know that this passage doesn't mean to say that God loved the world so much that he gave his Son, but rather that God loved the world thus and so, that is, God loved the world in this way.

His love is tangible and physical. It is not merely a feeling in his heart, but the expression of his willingness to give us everything that was his, and hold nothing back, all for us and for our salvation. For in giving his Son, who is in his bosom, this is what he did for the world.

The sermon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost

The Spirit which hovered upon the face of the waters in the beginning, which God breathed into the nostrils of man that he become a living being, that caused the lintels to shake when the angels in Isaiah's vision cried Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, that issued forth from Jesus' mouth to call Lazarus from the grave, by which also Jesus spoke to still the sea and the waves, and that will cause the world to end with intense heat at the last day -- that same Spirit is given to the people of God in Holy Baptism, and is within you (in spite of yourselves). Surely you have nothing to fear. The audio of the sermon is here,as well as a musical treat spliced in, a German solo stanza of the Pentecost hymn sung by Peter Eckardt, and also as a voluntary, a beautiful rendition on organ of the same hymn, by the same Peter Eckardt.

The Vigil of Pentecost

Sermon for the vigil of Pentecost is here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Glory of God in the Son and in His Disciples

In St. John 17:20-16 is this line: "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." What does this mean? Today's sermon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

He Shall Testify of Me

The Spirit does not testify of us, but rather of Jesus; which is why so many do not want the Gospel, and some in fact persecute and would destroy. But to those who believe, the Spirit's testimony of Christ is the only thing we need. The sermon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rogation Tuesday

The Gospel for today (St. Luke 11:5-13) follows immediately after Jesus' giving of the Our Father. Thus the three loaves take on special significance, coming as they do right after 'daily bread', and remind us that in the Holy Supper we receive the Triune God. And the children in bed with the friend at midnight remind us of "all the company of heaven" who join us at the altar. And he who said he "cannot rise" and give, nevertheless did rise and give. So also Christ, who was dead, is risen, and now gives to his church as much as they need. The sermon.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rogate, the Fifth Sunday after Easter

The Gospel for today contains this: His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

What does this mean?

The Lord's speaking in proverbs, riddles, mystery, and the like was his wont since the beginning of the world, and throughout the Old Testament. Now that he is come in the flesh and has accomplished his work, his revelation is complete. Therefore also his name is complete, and we learn of him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And we learn of his love: the Son loves the Father as is evident on Good Friday; the Father loves the Son as is evident on Easter; and this love is the Holy Ghost, who is the one who brings us into unity with the Godhead through the Gospel. To think on these things is our defense against a troubled mind.

The sermon.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Truth Shall Make You Free

Today's Gospel contains the saying, "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," which is so often misunderstood. It has to do with sin, as Jesus himself says here. But the Jews misunderstood, and misspoke according to their own understanding of it, saying that they had never been in bondage. Had they forgotten Egypt? Or Babylon? Or even in their present, their subservience to Rome? How could they call themselves free in any sense? But such is the nature of rationalization. Neither do we want to hear of our slavery to sin, and rationalize it away. Repentance must lead to the word of Christ, whose redeeming sacrifice alone makes us free. The sermon.

Whatsoever He Shall Hear, That Shall He Speak

More on the Cantate Gospel, on which yesterday morning's sermon was preached again. Jesus' words "the Spirit . . . shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" refer to the hearing and speaking of the apostolic ministers. In St. John's Gospel, the Spirit is used interchangeably with the apostles. He is sent, they are sent, etc. And Jesus breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Ghost. So these words, "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" mean that when Christ is preached, the Spirit is at work glorifying Him. The sermon.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Cantate Sunday


In today's Gospel we hear Jesus describing what is the task of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the Gospel: reproving the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. First comes the conviction of sin by the preaching of the law: the world--and we ourselves--need its correction and accusations, to be convinced that we are indeed sinful and unclean. Second, the righteousness of Christ is put forth, by sharp contrast. For he was without sin in every respect. But third, the judgment is not upon us who are worthy of condemnation, but upon the devil; for the righteousness of Christ is his gift to his people. Thus they are washed in his laver of Baptism, their sins are drowned in his blood which they receive at the altar, and they are pronounced innocent by this holy Gospel. The sermon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name

The enigmatic saying of St. John 16:23: ("And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.") refers, I believe, to the Holy Office into which these disciples are to be placed. St. Augustine believed that the words of this Gospel were actually spoken after the resurrection. He may be onto something, since Jesus said, "because I go to the Father," a reference, it would seem, to His ascension. After this, when the Holy Apostolic Office is inaugurated, these men will stand in Jesus' stead (a strong theme for this evangelist) and ask in His name, most especially, for the Holy Bread from heaven, the blessed Sacrament. The sermon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jubilate Sunday


In today's Gospel (St. John 16:16-23) the phrase "a little while" is repeated seven times. So perhaps its faint echo was embedded in the recesses of the grieving disciples' hearts after Jesus died, keeping them from falling into utter despair until His appearance before them. So also do His people today sometimes find that He is absent or dead, and they grieve and sorrow and feel melancholy and depression, even though they should know better. But in His mercy He comes to us even as He returned to them, and says "Peace be unto you," most especially in the Holy Supper. He comforts His own; He does not leave them to their own devices; He returns after a little while. For He is truly risen from the dead, and comes to dwell with us in His Gospel and blessed Sacrament. The sermon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Annunciation

Mary was full of grace, which means she was not full of personal merit. She was chosen because she was nobody.

So also have we been chosen and given grace, not in view of our merit and worthiness, but because of the love of God.

And as in the tiny space of Mary's womb a wondrous union with God occurred, so in also in us who receive the Holy Sacrament does this union occur.

The sermon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Humanity of Sympathy


The death of a dear loved one often leads people to ask why, especially when it is one so young and sweet, as was our dear Megan. Her picture-perfect marriage to our son was such a glad occasion only three months before she was diagnosed with cancer. Little did I know, when warning them in the wedding sermon that they would undoubtedly be facing challenges together in Christ, just how great and how near these challenges would loom. And so it is natural to ask why.

And yet, strange as it may seem, in the aftermath of funeral and burial, the question does not haunt us as it does those who have no hope.

The question in fact has many answers, first of which perhaps is this: all is vanity, saith the Lord. Weddings, as beautiful and happy as they are, can easily make us forgetful of this fact, and mislead us into thinking that it is in this life that we have hope in Christ. Certainly Megan did not think so. We look for the life of the world to come.

Further, when tragedy and death visit, I have no second thoughts about why I entered this holy calling; I have no doubt that this will also be embedded in the mind of my son when he receives his Holy Orders. For in the end, what can be more valuable for the world than the preaching of the Gospel? All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.

And there's another thing. So many have expressed their heartfelt sympathy to us in recent days, leading me to think on the matter of sympathy. From the Greek syn + pathos, it means to suffer together, to share in the sorrow. And somehow, mysteriously, the sharing of sorrows makes them a bit easier to bear than for one who must sorrow alone.

Sympathy is also a very human thing. All kinds of people can sympathize. People who didn't even know you can sympathize. Sometimes even enemies have been known to set their enmity aside, if only for a time. Yet beasts do not sympathize. It is, I think, a residual part of man's creation in the image of God, who is Himself compassionate and kind to His people. Sympathy in itself, even if it isn't specifically Christian sympathy, is a good thing. It helps define us as the princes of God's creation.

Our thanks to all who have sympathized, and with that the reassurance that, as I intimated above, we do not sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!

Follow me

In St. John 21:15-19 Jesus asks Simon Peter three times if he loves Him, reminiscent of Peter's three denials and thus grieving and embarrassing him. So should we all be grieved and embarrassed at our failures to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, or, as Jesus puts it here, "more than these." And yet Peter is right in replying that Jesus knows of his love for Him, for He knows all things. He knows that Peter's faith is born of the Holy Ghost and is therefore greater than his failures. It is a faith born of the triune God, which says thrice that it loves Him.

Therefore it never leads, but always follows Him. Much ado has arisen these days over "leadership" in the Church. The Church does not need leaders, she needs followers; men whose ministry will be beholden only to Him; and faithful who likewise will be willing to submit even to death while following Him. Like Peter, who at his own crucifixion requested that it be inverted, lest it be perceived as too bold a likeness to the Lord he loved.

The sermon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thomas Sunday

The Sunday after Easter is Quasimodo Geniti, more popularly known as Thomas Sunday. How very like Thomas are we: we weren't there; we should have known; we require proof; Jesus in mercy provides us with all that we need. The sermon.

Easter Day

Here's the Easter sermon.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Vigil of Easter


From darkness to light, we welcome the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord at the Holy Easter Vigil. The sermon.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday


Of the seven last words from the cross, only the first, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" is recorded twice--both in Matthew and Mark. The significance of it cannot be overstated. He was earnest in asking, though it also fulfilled Scripture to ask. Why? is the righteous man's plea, and is part of his righteousness: is perfect faith. By this mystery we are granted a God who will never forsake us, though we deserve it. For he gained every right to pray, "Father, forgive them" for all, and "Today thou shalt be with me in paradise" to an individual. His "into thy hands I commit my spirit" shows perfect faith, and his "Behold thy son . . . behold thy mother" shows perfect dedication to duty even unto death. His "I thirst" pertains to his perfect fulfillment of the Scriptures, and his "It is finished" pertains to the perfect sacrifice. The sermon.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Maundy Thursday


The Passover meal reaches its fulfillment in the Holy Sacrament: as the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites when he saw the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, so does God's condemnation pass us by and leave us untouched, for the blood of the Lamb of God marking the doors of our lips. This is why the Holy Supper is the heart and center of everything that is Christian, and our entry into a land flowing eternally with milk and honey. The sermon.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Wednesday


The Passion according to St. Luke shows us that nobody did what was right: neither Judas nor Peter, neither Pilate nor Herod, nor of course the Jews nor their leaders; nobody did right, except for one. Only Jesus followed His Father's will, even to death. And therefore He earned the right to ask forgiveness for all: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Such good news this is, because when we read the Passion Gospels, and participate, reading the parts of the crowd, or of those who did wrong, we can well relate to their wrongs, for we have sins of our own. And yet, since Jesus had earned the right to ask for this mercy, it has been granted, and your forgiveness has been obtained. The sermon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Tuesday


Today's Gospel finds Jesus talking about light and darkness: Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." To understand His meaning we will do well to remember the creation, when God made the heavens and the earth, and the earth was formless and void, and dark. And nothing good was said about it, although God is good. But it was not until He spoke that the light was created, and it was good. And God separated it from the darkness. So did He embed in the fabric of creation this illustration of good and evil.

For the true light is Christ, and in His crucifixion He is like a candle placed on a lampstand, that He may enlighten all who look upon Him in faith, and save them.

The vigil of Easter, which is only a few days away, illustrates this well: from the one Paschal candle all the hand-candles are lit, even as Christ the Light of the world enlightens our hearts.

The sermon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Monday


Two important figures appear in today's Gospel: Judas and Mary of Bethany. The first is a traitor, whose heart uses an appearance of holiness to cover deceit, and who in the process seeks to destroy the reputation of someone doing good, Mary. The second is this Mary, who is so overcome to be with Jesus that she gives no thought to the cost of the ointment, and is evidently weeping, since it is with her hair that she wipes Jesus' feet. How she loves Him!

So in which of these two figures can you see yourself? In honesty, each Christian should say, in both. For the heart of Judas is of the same sin that has invaded our hearts, and causes us also to contend with selfishness within, with feigned holiness, with lies, treachery, thievery, and the like. But there is also within each Christian the heart of Mary, who knows Jesus' mercy and compassion, and therefore loves to be with Him.

So at this closing part of Lent, we seek through contrite hearts to put to death the sins of Judas within us, and through faith to find ourselves rising to the love manifested in Mary. Does not your heart thrill to think of being in her place, so near to Him? For He is merciful and kind, and His holy Passion reconciles us to the Father.

The sermon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday


Today Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Children rejoice while the scribes and elders plot to destroy Him. The good that is embedded in the fabric of nature (which in our hearts is called conscience) is insufficient to stop this evil. Judas' conscience finally moves him to seek to return his money; too late. Pilate's wife urges him to do the right thing; she does not prevail. And the scribes and Pharisees are already hardened (see what ignoring the conscience finally does!) so that they are filled with glee when He is arrested and arraigned. Evil has its way with Him.

Yet by the mystery of His holy Passion, this will be the very way in which they are undone, as it is written, "In the net which they hid is their own foot taken." For Jesus' Passion is our redemption and victory.

So today is for us a day of joy, a prelude to Easter, a day of victory. We remember this holy joy even in the midst of life's troubles and sorrows. The victory is ours, and life and everlasting salvation.

The sermon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jesus Must Suffer Alone

St. John 13:31-38 contains Jesus' words to his disciples that he must go where they cannot come. Twice he says this, the second time saying (to Peter), "thou shalt follow me afterwards." Though initially this is seen as a reference to Peter's coming crucifixion, we may take it also to indicate two things: first, that Jesus must make atonement alone. We cannot do this with him, we cannot placate God nor make up for our sins; he must do this for us. Second, we follow him after he has done this, by loving one another. Hearts melted by his love learn to love in return. The sermon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Light in Darkness

In St. John 12:31-36, Jesus says "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." But "now" is the time of His Passion and crucifixion. See how faith and sight are at odds with each other. The light of Christ shines in the darkness, which seems contradictory: for if light shines, how can it be in darkness? Here he speaks of light of a different kind, the light of the word, as the Psalmist calls it, "a light unto my path." So must we live by faith in the darkness of troubled and fallen life on earth. The sermon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Wicked Hearts of Men

Today's Gospel (St. Luke 12:1-11) makes manifest the folly and wickedness in the heart of man: Judas, under a pretense of piety--does he really care for the poor?--he only cares about money, and is a thief, he chides Mary as an evildoer, when in fact she has done a good work. And consider Jesus' enemies: now they want to put Lazarus to death also, for no other reason than that Jesus raised him. Jesus raised him! The evidence of His glory is right before the eyes of these wicked men, yet they are blind. So the wickedness in your heart is manifest as well! Repent, with weeping and sorrow; and find now in Christ the redemption your soul needs. Learn with Mary the blessedness of His body given into death, and rejoice at the invitation to feast with Him. The sermon.

Faith and Sight

The difference between faith and sight is manifested in this Gospel (St. Matthew 26:57-68) as Jesus is spat upon, beaten, slapped, and mocked. Yet He says that the Son of Man shall come in glory. The sermon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jesus' Cry of Dereliction

Today's Gospel (St. Mark 15:33-39) contains the mystery of Jesus' cry: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Like the mystery of Gethsemane, in which Jesus' will is seen in a sense to be different from His Father's (not as I will, but as Thou wilt), this mystery contains the complaint of the Righteous One: He must expect full deliverance, in accordance with the promise. This expectation is itself in keeping with His righteousness. Yet the Father abandons Him. Why? We know why (for the redemption of the world), yet there is here a divine conundrum of sorts, the heart of all that is mysterious.

But His abandonment is not eternal; He is not forsaken forever; weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning, the morning of His glad resurrection.

So must we remember in the hour of our darkness that though His abandonment of us likewise brings grievous cries of "why?" yet He will resolve this and come back to deliver us. He must, for He conquered our enemies precisely in the cross. So His "loud voice" at His death was the roar or Judah's Lion. He gave the Spirit, which led the centurion and us to declare Him to be the Son of God.

The sermon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jesus in Gethsemane while the Disciples Sleep

Today's Passion Reading (St. Mark 14:32-42) contains some mysteries: why does Jesus pray alone, and leave his disciples to pray alone? Why does he first chide them for sleeping, then say, "Sleep on now, and take your rest," and then immediately, "Rise up, let us be going, behold, my betrayer is at hand"? And finally, how can Jesus' will be at odds with his Father's will? Even as man, his will is in perfect alignment with his Father's. So how can there be a "not as I will, but as thou wilt" in his prayer?

The answer to the third mystery may provide the other answers as well. Jesus is in a deep quandry: his Father's will as that he take the "cup" which the Father has prepared for him, but that cup is a cup of wrath (cf. Psalm 75). In order to do his Father's will he must become odious to his Father, for in this he takes upon himself what our sins have incurred. And thus his passion enables us to rest: he prays, his disciples rest; finally, he tells them to sleep on now, and then to rise up; a token of the blessed sleep of death in Christ, followed by resurrection.

The sermon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Passiontide Begins


Today's Gospel (St John 8:46-59) sees Jesus and his enemies in fierce contest, in which Jesus finally tells them he is the I AM, God Almighty, in response to which they take up stones to cast at him, to kill him right then and there; and he hides himself from them.

So we also hide the images of him from today until Easter, remembering that we live by faith, not by sight, and that ours is a theology of the cross.

The sermon
.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Is Most Valuable

The Gospel of the woman who anointed Jesus with ointment from the alabaster box sets before us a woman well worthy of emulation. She had this box in the first place probably in reserve for a special occasion or person, and by this act shows that she thought this occasion and this person to be most worthy, for this is Christ about to do the work of our salvation. So let us remember, at the threshold of Passiontide, to count consideration and meditation on Christ and His passion to be the most valuable of all our meditations, for His is our salvation, and His death is our life. The sermon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph, March 19

Today we turn aside for a moment from the Lenten trek to remember St. Joseph, Guardian of our Lord and Spouse of the B.V.M.

The sermon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

He Was Innocent

Today's Gospel (St. Matthew 27:11-26), a portion of the St. Matthew passion, highlights Jesus' innocence and the fact that he, in spite of this, did not complain about the unfair accusations against him. This puts us to shame, who complain so easily about injustices committed against us, whether they come through error or malice.

Yet Jesus' passion out also fill our hearts with joy, since we know that he endured these things for our salvation. He was bruised for our iniquities, and his innocence covers our sin and shame.

The sermon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Am the Bread of Life

St. John 6 contemplates three miracles, of which the third is the greatest. The multitudes in the wilderness following Jesus call to mind the multitudes that followed Moses and were fed manna from heaven. This is the first miracle, a daily event for the Israelites. The second is greater, for here it is a Man who provides bread in the wilderness to 5,000, a multiplication of loaves. It shows this Man to be God.

The third is the greatest, toward which he wishes to prepare the hearts of his disciples when he says, "I am the Bread of Life." For this is not some mere figurative language, else why would the Jews be scandalized by it? "My flesh is bread indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." In this we are brought to see that the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest of miracles, for here is Christ, the Bread from heaven, given to us as bread to eat, in order to unite us with his divinity.

Wednesday's sermon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rejoice!


Laetare Sunday is our oasis in the midst of Lent, even as Jesus fed the 5000 in the wilderness, in today's Gospel.

Jesus' gentle treatment of his slow-to-learn disciples is on display here; he does not chide or rebuke them for failing his little test; he just shows them again, by feeding the multitude in the multiplication of loaves. So does he treat us in our weakness; he bears with us and helps us in our need.

He shepherds us even as he shepherded the multitudes, saying "Make the men sit down," for "there was much grass in that place," as it is written, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." As he sustained them all, so does he sustain us in our trek through the wilderness of life on earth.

But abiding joy governs the hearts of the faithful, even in the midst of this life, as in the midst of Lent stands Laetare Sunday.

It has also been called Rose Sunday, and in some churches there are rose colored paraments today. And just as a rose, the queen of all flowers, has thorns, so do joy and sorrow find themselves close together. But joy prevails, as does our anticipation of Easter during the midst of Lent; and ultimately our anticipation of the Day of days, when all sorrow shall fly away.

The sermon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Two Swords

The enigmatic saying of Jesus (in St. Luke 22:31-38) concerning two swords has been interpreted variously through the ages, most famously by the papacy during its ascendancy to support the idea that the pope grants the emperor the right to use his (the pope's) sword to govern, thus placing the church over the state.

Contextually we may see the existence of two swords here as a show of strength, certainly, but that strength is not to be used. When the high priest's servant's ear is cut off, Jesus rebukes the show of power, and goes humbly to his arrest, holding back the power at his disposal. So also, all the way to his death.

The two swords might therefore be seen to signify his two natures, and here, the fact that his divine attributes, though available, are not used: he goes to crucifixion because he wants to.

So also, he could help us at once in all our troubles, but instead uses them to strengthen us, as he did Peter: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

The sermon.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Zaccheus

The tree which Zaccheus climbed (St. Luke 19:1-10) may be likened to the crosses we must bear in following Christ. But we ultimately come down with Zaccheus from those trees, and behold Christ in His tree, which is the cross. The sermon.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Become Like Little Children

In St. Luke 18:15-17, Jesus not only forbids His disciples from forbidding little children to come to Him; He insists that they must become like little children. So must we, and recognize out utter helplessness and dependency upon Him. Today's sermon.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Strong Man Overpowered


Today's Gospel (St. Luke 11:14-28) continues the prominent Lenten theme of Jesus against the devil, which was introduced at Lent I, Jesus in the wilderness. Today he casts out a devil, and intimates that He is Himself the Man stronger than the devil, who overpowers him and takes his armor and divides his spoil. This is the reason Jesus came to us: to defeat the devil our adversary.

And all evils we must endure--all troubles, sorrows, wickedness, and injustice--are things in which the devil's hand can be found, for he purposes always to do only evil and to make us miserable. And we find ourselves powerless against his wiles. But the good news is that Jesus is stronger, and although we remain powerless, we are rescued by Him and find ourselves through Baptism in His domain and under His protection; and therefore we need not despair in the face of any evil. His cross and resurrection means that He has given us the victory.

The sermon.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Widow and the Judge

Today's Gospel finds Jesus' parable of the widow's persistent pleas for a judge to avenge her; so the Church must ever pray in her afflictions, leaving vengeance to God. For to strike one who strikes you is to betray your own faith; to seek to get even is to deny that God is the Judge. So let us learn to be merciful and in so doing see that when the Son of Man comes, He shall find faith in the earth.

The sermon.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Casting a Sycamore Tree into the Sea

Jesus' words in St. Luke 17:1-10 present us with two religions. One is a religion of laws and rewards, the false religion of the Pharisees who were expecting rewards for their deeds. The other is the religion of mercy, by which we learn to forgive someone who sins against us even up to seven times in a day. The apostles said, "Increase our faith," and Jesus' reply was this: "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you."

What does this mean? Perhaps this is a reference to the false religion, coming up from generation to generation (like the roots of a tree), which leads all the way back to Eden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From this tree springs the religion of laws and works, and its end is death. It must be planted in the sea, that is, drowned in Holy Baptism, that a new tree (a new religion) of mercy might arise, the tree of life and salvation.

The sermon is here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Unseen Things of God

Today's Gospel (St. Luke 16:10-19) encourages us to remember that the unseen things of God are of infinitely higher value than those which are seen, things which are regarded highly in the sight of men. Moreover, Jesus gives this enigmatic logion: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?" What does this mean? An unseen truth is that all that we are and have is a loan, something which really belongs to God. How we employ our gifts determines whether or not we are truly faithful (since faith is never alone without its works). Therefore this faith, in which we see a faithful use of our gifts, results finally in our participation in the glory of the Godhead, and in and through Christ it becomes our own. The sermon is here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Primer on Devils

In this evening's Gospel (St. Mark 9:17-29) Jesus gives us some rare insight into the world of devils and of faith; and we see the fine example set by the poor man who pleads with him with tears, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!" The sermon is here.

The Prodigal Son


The kind heart of the father in this parable is directed both toward the returning prodigal and toward his brother; for both have strayed from their father. The prodigal went to a far country, but was received when he was yet on hill crest, long before setting foot on the front porch; and the brother, indignant over this, was also far from the thoughts of his father's heart, but the father went out to him and entreated him too. See how necessary it is to learn of our Father's heart toward us and our neighbors.

The holy liturgy helps us to do this, even as we see in this parable liturgical repetitions: first there is the prodigal's rehearsed confession, and then there is the father's repetition to his brother of the word, He was lost and is found, he was dead and is alive.

The sermon is here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why Bad Things Happen

Today's Gospel (St. Luke 13:1-5) provides us with Jesus' definitive answer to the question so many ask so often: why do bad things, disasters, horrors, sorrows happen? Why does God permit them? Are the people to whom they happen worse sinners? Jesus answers: no. But, he continues, unless you repent you shall likewise perish. So the tragedies of a fallen world are signposts from God that it is a fallen world, and we its fallen citizens. So we must all repent, to avoid an eternal plague. Today's sermon is here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unconditional Faith


The Canaanite Woman (St. Matthew 14:22-28, the Gospel for Reminiscere, the Second Sunday in Lent) gave evidence of a faith which would not shrink in the wilderness of life, no matter how desolate, no matter how dark. She was constrained, as it were, to look only on the back side of God, as Moses had, rather than to see His glory. She saw no evidence that Jesus wanted to help her. He ignored her, He put her off, and He even insulted her. Yet she would not leave. This finally caused even Jesus to exult and call her faith "great."

This is the faith we need, a faith born of the Word of God and the Spirit, which likewise is unconditional.

The sermon is here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Sin of Hypocrisy II

In today's Gospel (St. Luke 12:1-10), Jesus continues His discourse on hypocrisy, likening it to leaven, when He sees the mass of people trampling each other, like a mass of bread dough into which the yeast is kneaded. As yeast is so very small, yet leavens a whole loaf, so a bit of hypocrisy seems a minor thing, yet it is deadly. The piety of Christian people ought never be used as a pretense or a cloak to cover wickedness. True piety is born of a desire to see and be with Christ, the Author of mercy. The sermon is here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sin of Hypocrisy

Today's Gospel, St. Luke 11:37-54, shows that Jesus fiercest invective is reserved not for murderers, thieves, adulterers, or traitors, but for hypocrites. Hypocrisy if the worst of sins, for it masks a wicked and judging heart under the appearance of piety; yet what is required of the heart is love, the very opposite.

God be praised that His heart, on the other hand, is loving and merciful toward us wretched sinners. The sermon is here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Greater than Jonah

Jesus is greater than Jonah the prophet who meekly endured three days in the belly of the whale, and greater than Solomon the king who was greater than all other kings. So in these two types we have humiliation and majesty, even as Jesus was humbled but is the incarnate God. Today's sermon, on St. Luke 11:29-36, is here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Was Matthias a Mistake?


The selection of St. Matthias (Acts 1:15-26) by the Apostles was made out of their desire to fill up the number twelve, but it seems possible they jumped the gun. Had they been patient and waited just a while, they would have seen the conversion of St. Paul and that he would have been a perfect replacement for Judas, rounding out the number twelve. Paul, taken from the leadership of those opposing the Church, is a fit replacement for Judas, who fell from the heights of Jesus' own disciples. But it was not to be. Matthias was chosen. Was it a hasty mistake?

It's possible that the early Church may have been somewhat aware of this, for in the canon, Matthias is relegated to the second list of saints rather than the first where the other Apostles are. In fact it seems to have taken several centuries for the full apostleship of Matthias to be recognized.

On the other hand, it seems wrong to label this apostolic act, of choosing another, as a mistake. After all, Jesus had given them authority to act. Jesus doesn't make mistakes; how could they?

We have in the Apostles men who were in themselves fallible, and yet who because of the Spirit in them spoke divine truth infallibly. Their words of proclamation were God's own words. This we affirm without reservation. In the carrying out of their office they were flawless. On the other hand we recognize that in themselves they were still capable of error, as indeed we see in St. Peter's siding with the Judaizers, earning him the rebuke of St. Paul, according to Galatians.

So we have in the selection of Matthias something which might have been done better, had they waited just a bit; and yet, they did it, so it becomes part of the divine economy: like it or not, now Matthias is an apostle.

Like one assigned to take up the last open seat on a bus, Matthias sits, and then in comes Paul. Oops. Now we must squeeze him in to make room. Oh well; that's the way it is.

There is comfort in this, actually: for God assumes these things and moves forward just as He had ever done with Israel. To take much more drastic examples, Samson slept with a harlot, God used it for good; Moses struck the rock, God used it for good. Israel grumbled; God used it for good. Et cetera.

What's the good in thirteen primary apostles, then? Perhaps only this: that we too may learn to live without regret. If we might have made decisions that in retrospect could be called ill-advised, we may take confidence in this, that God assumes them into the course of our grace-laden lives, and moves forward with us in His unspeakable mercy.

Here's the sermon for St. Matthias' Day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lent I Tuesday

Today's Gospel, St. Luke 10:1-20, finds Jesus sending out the seventy in pairs into every city to which He Himself would come, even as Joshua sent a pair of spies to Jericho in advance of his own coming with an army. Rahab received the spies and was spared; the king sought to kill them and was destroyed. So also, Jesus says that whoever receives His disciples receives Him, and whoever does not receive them rejects Him and His Father. So also He warns of the coming of judgment to those who reject His messengers.

So today, the preachers of the Gospel bring Christ Himself, and He will Himself come again in glory as Judge: who has received His Gospel and messengers?

The sermon.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rubrics and Their Reasons


A cross-post, also at Gottesdienst Online, to which site comments are directed:


Quiet around here. Hmmm.

It isn't quiet out there, on the other hand. In Lutheran cyber space there's plenty of banter, more than usual, it seems. The lastest is the flap over whether or not omitting alleluia during Lent is stupid. Here's where it began. Rev. Paul McCain called the omission of Lenten alleluias "stupid," with an evident awareness that it would generate a negative response among us. "Apoplexy" was the kind word he used. And then he went on to say that for the sake of unity he follows the rubric anyhow, a remarkable admission in itself.

At first I paid no more attention than to shrug. What else is new? But today I read a brilliant response to Rev. McCain by Dcn Latif Gaba, which is a very worthy read. It positively skewers Rev. McCain. Go ahead, see for yourself, here. I'll wait.

In addition, there is a thoughtful defense of omitting the Alleluias in Fr. William Weeden's blog, a quotation from the sainted O.P. Kretzman (here), which even McCain acknowledges to be a point well made, though he dismisses it without further comment.

He might have observed that the Western Church's emphasis on penitence during Lent is a salient attribute of it over against the East, though this observation is not made to denigrate the East (which has its own salient and laudable features). Yet particular Western penitential Lenten practices are worthy of defending, such as the omission of Alleluias, or, during Passiontide, the veiling of images and the omission of the Gloria Patri. It's actually amusing to hear McCain lambasting the Western omission of the alleluias. Next thing you know, he'll be sporting a beard.

But what really merits further scrutiny is the idea of doing certain liturgical things merely for the sake of unity. Rev. McCain's chief argument is that "since it is adiaphora, I am happy to give up a bit of my freedom and personal opinion for the sake of unity. We’d all be better off if we did that."

There is some merit to this, as anyone who is liturgically minded not only can but routinely does attest. That is a major reason for being liturgical: we do what the Christian Church has always done. But let's not commit dicto simpliciter and take a good thing too far. The point of rubrics, after all, is also to teach with respect to the very things they do. Not only, that is, do liturgical actions portray a uniformity with others who do them the same way; there happens to be a reason we do them which relates specifically to the matters concerning which they are done. We kneel at the altar not just to be doing the same thing together, but because Christ's Body is really there. We make the sign of the cross as Christians have done it for centuries, but the chief reason we do it is because it is the mark of the baptized. We certainly do not maintain practices we know to be stupid. As Dcn Gaba said it, "the worship of Christ our Immanuel deserves more than the merely stupid."

Moreover the rubrics, while expecting a general uniformity, have also acknowledged local circumstances, at least in a rather limited way. One of my favorite such historical circumstances is the origin, in Paris, of the elevation of the Host, in the mid-thirteenth century. The elevation arose out of the piety of the people, or of the bishops, or both, in response to the wild ruminations of one Peter the Stammerer, who (no doubt while rubbing his chin) confidently averred that the elements did not become the Body and Blood of Christ until all the words of institution were completed. In response to this the practice arose of elevating the Host immediately after the words pertaining specifically to it, as a confession against unsavory philosophical meanderings. Soon it took hold across the entire Western Church.

This brings us to certain other matters over which Rev. McCain is evidently still enduring some thrombosis of his own:

"For instance, some might think throwing themselves on the chancel floor is a great way to observe Good Friday, but we don’t do it, that is, if we care about unity. Some think putting the Lord’s Supper away in a Tabernacle on the altar and claiming it is perpetually the Lord’s body and blood and adoring it is a good thing, but we don’t do that. We know better."

Yes, it is true. Some do think putting the Sacramental reliquae in a Tabernacle on the altar is a good thing. I don't know exactly how the practice of reserving the reliquae in a tabernacle arose, but I do know it is ancient, and virtually universal in the older history of both the East and the West; so therefore there is, after all, an ingredient of unity in its retention (oddly, Rev. McCain might be obliged to agree with me on this, by his own reckoning!). But some think that in itself is still not really a good enough reason for having a tabernacle. Some think it its use is a laudable practice precisely because they claim--over against those who deny that it remains the Lord's Body and Blood--that the Sacrament is what Jesus said it was. Some think it foolhardy to say you "know better" than what Jesus said. And some find that having a tabernacle makes it easier to discover those who say they believe what Christ said about those elements, but who, when put to the test, seem more apt to believe that He only meant it temporarily at best.

See? Rubrics do have more meaning than 'unity' after all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Invocabit, Lent I (Jesus in the Wilderness)


Jesus goes into the wilderness (St. Matthew 4:1-11) to do for Israel what Israel had failed to do. He is the perfect man, who obeys His Father's will from the heart, saying exactly what the Father had wanted to hear from Israel (see Deut. 8:3), and worshiping the Lord His God only. So He pleases the Father in Israel's stead.

And in yours: you who are baptized into Him receive this gift, that the favor of God has been bestowed upon you for His sake.

And now, following Him, you find yourself in the wilderness; but He is there, and has driven the devil away.

The sermon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Jesus' admonition to His disciples in today's Gospel, to take up their crosses and follow Him is a stark corrective to any notions they might have gained from the realization the His is the Christ, or the vision of the transfiguration. The glorification we are to experience comes later; the sorrows, tribulations, and cross must come first. The sermon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today's Gospel (St. Luke 8:26-39) finds a multitude of demons confronting Jesus. Demons were not evident in OT times, except very rarely. They know their adversary, so they appear in abundance when He does. The men are afraid their power, but more so of Jesus' power, so they beg Him to leave. But the man out of whom Jesus had driven the demons begs to stay with Him. So do we desire to stay with Him, knowing that He is gracious and kind, and fully able to drive away demons also from us. The sermon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Today's Gospel, St. Luke 7:36-50, presents two entirely different people: Simon the Pharisee, and the shriven woman. He follows the way of the first tablets of stone, which Moses broke in token that the people had committed idolatry. The way of the law ends in the wrath of God. But the shriven woman follows the way of the new tablets of stone, which Moses hewed out 'like unto the first', a new covenant, the way of mercy. She loved much because she was forgiven much. The sermon.

More Ash Wednesday

Wednesday evening, a second Ash Wednesday mass, had as its Gospel St. Matthew 6:16-21. How is Jesus' admonition to wash your face consistent with the imposition of ashes? The sermon explains.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

The Lenten fast brings us to a deeper realization that Christ endured bodily humiliation in order to gain our salvation. It also adds a weight of sincerity to our penitential cries for mercy. And it teaches us to embrace the evils that are laid upon us in the course of life, with a confidence that in all things we are victors, through the resurrection of our Lord. The sermon's audio is here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quinquagesima Sunday - the Blind Beggar Healed


Jesus' disciples surely had a sense of dread and foreboding as they approached Jerusalem, for He had told them (in today's Quinquagesima Gospel) that in Jerusalem the son of man must be delivered unto the Gentiles, mocked, spitefully entreated, spitted on, scourged, and put him to death. And, we are told, they understood none of these things. So they undoubtedly didn't comprehend the last part He had said, that "the third day he shall rise again from the dead." They needed englightenment; they needed to see and understand. So He gave sight to this blind beggar, to give them encouragement and as they looked toward the dark future: there will be resurrection, victory, and life there; do not despair!

We do not fear Lent, which is about to begin, for we know what follows: Easter. We know that in all Jesus endures, He gains victory for us; so do not fear the future, or let dread trouble your heart; rather, sit with the blind man by the way side (for He who is the Way is near!) and beg Him for mercy, and be confident that you shall have it.

For the audio of today's Gospel and sermon click here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Miss Me Yet?




So there's this billboard popping up in various places which makes a pretty good point, after the endless cacophony of Bush-hating diatribes which bombarded us for eight years. I'm amused to hear that the first place it was seen is the People's Republic of Minnesota. Rumor has it there's another that popped up out East somewhere too.

But frankly, since you asked, here's who I miss:


HT: Shining City