Sunday, January 31, 2010

By Grace

The parable in the Gospel for Septuagesima Sunday makes it clear that the kingdom of heaven is not given as a reward for works, but as a gift of grace. The first laborers to be sent into the vineyard were disappointed when they received their penny because they were working according to a contract, a law, an obligation. Not so the remaining laborers. The landowner merely said that he would give them "whatsoever is right." Therefore they, unlike the first, had to trust the landowner in going forth. So must we Christians live by faith and not by works. Especially the last of the laborers received the reward for a day's labor they had not accomplished. It was accomplished by another, the holy Ox of our salvation, whose plow already completed the work, and bids us now to take His yoke--freed from the plow--upon us, for it is easy and light. The penny of the kingdom of heaven appears small and to be despised, but behold, it is the mark of heaven, and therefore contains eternal riches for the faithful. Here is today's sermon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Conversion of St. Paul

Saul becomes St. Paul, a leader of the persecution becomes least of the apostles, the first becomes last, the wolf becomes a lamb. Did not Jacob bless Benjamin calling him a ravening wolf? And is not St. Paul a son of Benjamin? So is the prophecy fulfilled: the wolf devours in the morning, and in evening divides the spoil. Saul devours the disciples of Christ in the morning, and in the evening is given grace to become a disciple himself. And his conversion happens on Straight Street, as the crooked is made straight.

So also must all disciples of Jesus turn from the evil of misguided zeal and idolatry, and in the spirit of their Baptism become buried, inundated, immersed, and covered with Christ; and let the scales fall from their eyes that they too may see clearly the Light of the world, as did Saul who saw Him on the Damascus road. The sermon is here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Baby

David Andrew Eckardt was born today at 12:44 pm, a healthy 8.0 lbs, 20.5 inches. Parents Andrew and Kristy Eckardt of Oregon, Illinois. Grandchild number two. Deo gloria.

Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn Receives Sabre of Boldness

Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, President of the Lutheran Church of Ghana, has been elected by the editors of Gottesdienst to receive the 2010 Sabre of Boldness award. Dr. Fynn, upon gaining theological training and steadfast dedication to confessional Lutheran theology in the United States, gave up a lucrative job with the Chicago Tribune and returned to his native land to help and shepherd the church there. In a severely resource-constrained environment, and at great personal cost and risk, he has consistently found ways to provide for the sound preaching of the Gospel and the faithful administration of the Sacraments. Often under duress and without sufficient support, he has disciplined those unfaithful to Lutheran practice and has actively supported the exercise of genuine pastoral care.

He was chosen from among four nominees, all of whom were considered "stellar." The other three:

Monique Miller, wife of the Reverend Philip Miller, a pastor in New Orleans. The Miller family lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, but elected to stay with their devastated parish. More significantly, Mrs. Miller is the mother of six young children, and has suffered four miscarriages. Her pregnancies, while not life-threatening, have nonetheless been difficult and debilitating, sometimes requiring hospitalization. Last year, in spite of this, she quietly and humbly disregarded the world’s usual and predictable advice, and instead received the blessed cross of another pregnancy, in the bold hope of presenting her husband, the Holy Church of Christ, and her God with a candidate for Holy Baptism and heir of life eternal.

Rev. Linden Wendzell, of Sabeka, Minnesota, who was forced out of his parish in Royalton, Minnesota, when conspirators in the parish succeeded in gaining enough support for his removal, after seven years of discontent resulting from such things as his consistent and dutiful refusal to allow open communion, and his pastoral admonitions to unmarried couples living in sin. Rev. Wendzell was no stranger to such perfidy, as it had forced him out of his previous parish after he had served faithfully for twelve years there.

Rev. Joseph Randrianasolo, PhD, professor at the Lutheran Graduate School of Theology in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar, who was removed from his position as academic dean by administrators who preferred the funding of the Lutheran World Federation to the bold theological stance he took for Confessional Lutheranism and against the ordination of women. Dr. Randrianasolo and his wife have also been involved in the Good Samaritan project which feeds 200 hungry children with rice every week. Though a small minority voice on the faculty, he continues unwaveringly to uphold confessional Lutheran theology in a hostile setting, and in a land beset by the challenges of an indigenous paganism.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Baptism of our Lord

The heavens are opened unto Jesus at His Baptism: this is the reopening of Paradise, ever since it had been closed to man at his expulsion from the garden (as St. Gregory of Naziansus has also said); the Second Adam here sees that Paradise and opens it to all mankind again, that they may find their way back, through Him. The feast day was January 13th, the Octave of Epiphany. The sermon is here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

The significance of the temple is often overlooked, but not by Jesus, nor by the Evangelist St. Luke. The temple itself signifies the flesh of the Messiah, as clearly revealed in His mouth by the Evangelist St. John ("he spake of the temple of his body"); therefore those who partake in Him also become the temple, the body of Christ.
The audio of the sermon is here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sabre of Boldness nominations sought

The nominations for the Sabre of Boldness are still open. Send your nomination in right away, though, since there's only about a week to go.

For the fifteenth year, the editors of Gottesdienst will meet in Fort Wayne on Thursday night of Symposium week (January 21st, 2010), to choose and announce the recipient of the annual Sabre of Boldness award. To nominate, state the name, address, telephone number, and email address, if you have it, 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 20th, 2010. Then the editors of Gottesdienst will meet privately to make their selection, and the announcement will be made after the Symposia banquet.

THIS YEAR the location of this event is the La Quinta Hotel, which is near the seminary campus (from the Seminary, take Clinton Street north a half mile to Auburn on the left; take Auburn about two miles to Du Pont Road, turn right and go less than half a mile. La Quinta is on the right (south) side of Du Pont Road, near the I-69 interchange. Here's a map).

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Music and Meditation: Retreat in Kewanee Begins Sunday

As published in the most recent issue of Gottesdienst, St. Paul's' annual Christmas Choral Vespers is Sunday night at 7:00. Weather is supposed to be fine, so everything's on track. All we need is people to come. So make your plans today, and give yourself a treat. This has been a major cultural event for our parish as well as an uplifting edifying experience. Our neo-gothic style church enables our small and talented choir to sound as if it has more voices. This is our fourteenth annual January choral vespers.

The event is always followed with a wine and cheese reception.

The next two days we'll be having a seminar of Theological Reflection, which begins with Holy Mass at 9 am on both days, and concludes on each day about 3:15. The Theme for the retreat is “He Shall Sit upon My Throne in My Stead”: The Christology of Solomon. It's a consideration of I Kings 1-11 in the Patristic/Medieval manner which involves seeking Christ in all the Scriptures, as the old rhyme puts it: "In the Old is concealed what the New has revealed."

Join us! Here's your map, here's your hotel, and here's your invitation!

The Circumcision and Name of Jesus

Three mysteries present themselves in the New Year's Gospel (St. Luke 2:21): the meaning of Jesus' circumcision, the meaning of His name, and the meaning of Holy Baptism in His name. Here is the sermon.