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O merciful Jesus, You have come to seek and to save what was lost. I thank You that through Your protection and Your grace I have been permitted once more to reach this holy season. Grant me the strength of Your Holy Spirit that I may spend this time in Your fear, in holy meditations, and to the edifying of my soul. Everlasting Son of God, who was before the foundations of the world were laid, You came in the flesh and were made a true man, in order to make us happy and to save us. On account of our grievous fall into sin we could not come to You in heaven, so You came to us on earth to lead us all to life everlasting. Through sin we had become aliens, yes, prisoners of Satan and enemies of God. But by Your most holy Advent all our losses are made good. O grace abounding! Love unspeakable! For Your sake, O Jesus, the strangers are made friends, the prisoners set free, the enemies of God are made His beloved, sinners become His children, and the fallen are raised. O holy Advent, by which we who were condemned to death obtain life, by which we who were fallen from grace are clothed with glory and honor on Your account. For this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.—Starck’s Prayer Book, p. 50

May your Advent-tide be blessed indeed, people loved by God!

Love caused Your incarnation;
Love brought You down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling
That led You to embrace
In love, all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race. LSB 334:4

Your Turn / My new favorite passage from Sirach
« on: October 29, 2020, 08:03:19 AM »
Sirach 8:3: Strive not with a man that is full of tongue, and heap not wood upon his fire.

Let the reader understand...

Your Turn / Reformation Joys
« on: October 25, 2020, 10:42:16 AM »
Blessed Reformation (obs.)! Today was great joy for us. Things slowly but surely inch back to pre-COVID. Today, after Walther’s beautiful prelude on “A Mighty Fortress” by the Katnor, we had Procession into the Church with Cross and Gospel Book, during which the congregation sang “A Mighty Fortress.” The choir today was formed of a handful of school students (including two of my grandchildren!), plus my wife. They handled the responsive singing of Introit, and also the singing of Gradual and Alleluia Verse. No Gospel procession yet. But we did sing all ten stanzas of “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” (men and boys on some stanzas, women and girls on others - love it when we do our hymns that way and half the congregation is preaching to the other half!). Pastor Ball preached a fine homily that wove together the second and third readings. During the extended lavabo (we actually leave the altar, retreat to the sacristy and really wash our hands), my wife blessed us with Mozart’s “Ave Verum” (English words printed in bulletin). Distribution was still the COVID way (no altar rail; purificators dipped in ever-clear; and saddest of all, no distribution hymns). The last hymn was “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast” during the last stanza of which we processed out. One of our members said afterwards: “That was almost a real church service!”

Your Turn / The Fall of Adam
« on: October 19, 2020, 04:14:19 PM »
It struck me today in reading Wisdom 10:1, that this might be the earliest reference to Adam’s sin as “his fall.” Would anyone know for sure?  I don’t think it is ever called that explicitly in either the OT or NT.

She [Wisdom] preserved the first formed father of the world, that was created alone, and brought him out of his fall.

That’s the KJV; I note that the Greek is literally παραπτώματος, but that Vulgate took it as delicto suo (his sin).

Your Turn / Sound familiar?
« on: July 28, 2020, 09:17:51 PM »
When, therefore, we say: “Hallowed be Thy name,” we admonish ourselves to desire that His name, which is always holy, may be also among men esteemed holy, that is to say, not despised; which is an advantage not to God, but to men. When we say: “Thy kingdom come,” which shall certainly come whether we wish it or not, we do by these words stir up our own desires for that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may be found worthy to reign in it. When we say: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we pray for ourselves that He would give us the grace of obedience, that His will may be done by us in the same way as it is done in heavenly places by His angels. When we say: “Give us this day our daily bread,” the word “this day” signifies for the present time, in which we ask either for that competency of temporal blessings which I have spoken of before (“bread” being used to designate the whole of those blessings, because of its constituting so important a part of them), or the sacrament of believers, which is in this present time necessary, but necessary in order to obtain the felicity not of the present time, but of eternity. When we say: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” we remind ourselves both what we should ask, and what we should do in order that we may be worthy to receive what we ask. When we say: “Lead us not into temptation,” we admonish ourselves to seek that we may not, through being deprived of God’s help, be either ensnared to consent or compelled to yield to temptation. When we say: “Deliver us from evil,” we admonish ourselves to consider that we are not yet enjoying that good estate in which we shall experience no evil. And this petition, which stands last in the Lord’s Prayer, is so comprehensive that a Christian, in whatsoever affliction he be placed, may in using it give utterance to his groans and find vent for his tears—may begin with this petition, go on with it, and with it conclude his prayer. For it was necessary that by the use of these words the things which they signify should be kept before our memory.—St. Augustine, Letter cxxx. I think Luther figured, why reinvent the wheel!

Your Turn / In Memoriam HCM+
« on: March 22, 2020, 05:08:11 PM »

Your Turn / Father Peters Weighs In
« on: January 04, 2019, 04:16:02 PM »
I must confess that I found myself reading Father Peter’s piece in Forum Letter from start to finish. It was a powerful call to arms to Lutherans to return to, well, BEING Lutheran, that is, teaching and practicing in conformity with our Symbols. Allow the Book of Concord to actually norm our teaching, preaching, and administration of the sacraments, to suggest the Biblical shape of our life together in Christ? Now THAT’S my definition of real radical Lutheranism. Well done, Fr. Peters! Well done indeed. What do the other members of the Forum think?

Your Turn / Now Thank We All Our God for the blessings of 2018
« on: December 31, 2018, 11:44:38 AM »
[An opportunity to reflect upon the blessings you have received from the merciful hand of God in the year concluding today; slightly different, I think, from the invitation to reflect on the highlights]

...for allowing me to spend time with my brother at his daughter’s wedding just weeks before his unexpected death.
...for the joy of Rebekah (our youngest) married to Andy.
...for the birth of youngest grandchild (#8), Evangeline Grace.
...for pastors whose preaching invites us into the marvel and joy of the Word of God.
...for wonderful times with friends and family
...for the blessings of health and work

Your Turn / Personal Reflections on the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas
« on: December 30, 2018, 04:11:27 PM »
Our pastor's son experienced an accident yesterday that necessitated some emergency treatment and even as I write he's back at the hospital and preparing for a second surgical procedure on his mouth. Keep Elijah in your prayers, please.

I filled in for pastor at the early liturgy, and served as deacon to pastor at the second (our second pastor, Pr. Gleason, is serving a vacancy at a neighboring parish). I thought as I prayed my way through the liturgy what an utter blessing to worship in this place, where the old liturgy remains in its sturdy strength and the gospel joy permeates the whole of our worship.

Before the liturgy began I gathered in the Narthex with the acolytes and prepared for the opening hymn. Above the doors stands the passage from Genesis 28: “This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven." How utterly true. We entered to the strains of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The traditional introit for the Sunday in the octave was transferred to Midnight Mass for us on Christmas from Lutheran Worship onward. Makes sense, of course, given the words, but I miss it on this Sunday, where it was at least an option in TLH. Still, Psalm 93 made a fine Introit with its focus on God's house.

Another change is the new collect for the day. I miss the crisp and quintessentially unsentimental old collect: “Almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure, that in the name of Thy beloved Son, we may be made to abound in good works; through the same...” This is rather faithful to the Latin (though the Latin is a tad starker: that we may merit to abound in good works). The new collect reflects the unity between creation and redemption, confessing that as God has wonderfully created us, He has even more wondrously restored human nature through the incarnation.

Isaiah 11 and the words of love from Psalm 45 in the Gradual and then onto the Epistle (I always remember the summary of the rector's homily on the same in The Nine Tailors by Sayers) from Galatians four with its great confession: “But in the fullness of time...” The Alleluia with more from Psalm 93 and the contrast between the Lord’s majesty and the humble appearance of the babe in the Holy Virgin’s arms. The beautiful Gospel from Luke 2, the Presentation and the witness of Sts. Simeon and Anna to the child.

And why does the genuflection during the Creed always touch so deeply during this time of the year? It can never be perfunctory when we think of kneeling before the Child. Onto “Let All together Praise Our God,” which Dr. Stephenson has forever ruined for me by pointing out the anaemic translation of stanza 4 in LSB. No, it's not His realm, His glory and His name He gives auf Deutsch, but the luminous Godhead that he has come to bestow upon us. Awesome. “God became man that man might become god” as the Fathers are all wont to confess.

A visit with Simeon, Mary, Joseph, and Anna and how the Child prepares us one and all to depart in peace. “Create in Me” and then the offering gathered, the table prepared. The intercessions for the church, her pastors, the government and the nations, those in afflictions, all those gathered together for that service, the honoring of the saints who have gone before (especially the Virgin Mother, St. Joseph, St. Simeon and St. Anna) and the prayer for the worthy reception of the the miracle about to unfold before us in the most holy Eucharist.

The lines of chant whose tune is so ancient, untouched through these long centuries: The Lord be with you...Lift up your hearts... Let us give thanks to the Lord our God... And the preface for Christmastide, the invitation to marvel at how through the Word made flesh God would draw our hearts to love that which is not seen, the Father. Joining with angels and archangels in adoration as the endless cry rings out: Holy, holy, holy...blessed is He that cometh...

The solemn time of consecration: the Our Father with its joyous Doxology and then the very Words of Christ that give to us, deliver to us, exactly what He promises. His body, given for you. His blood shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Peace and then adoration of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The partaking of the Most Holy amid the raucous singing of hymns: St. Germanus' “A Great and Mighty Wonder,” shades of Good King Wenceslas in “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” and then the shepherds’ joy in “Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising.” We have seen, tasted, touched the very body and blood of the Son of God, hidden beneath the form of the mean earthly elements, and so with Simeon we are bold to pray Nunc Dimittis. A final thanksgiving to the Father for the gift of His Son and prayer to be governed always by His Spirit. Salutation, Benedicamus, and Benediction. And when your heart is so full you wonder if it could possibly hold anymore, along comes Luther's incomparable “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart.”

We leave knowing we could die. Right now, we could die and it would be just fine. We've been given in Christ a life that is stronger than any death we will ever face, a forgiveness greater than all the sin of the world, a place, a home, made heirs, joint-heirs, and so in Him and with Him and by Him we can cry: Abba, Father! And we know He will say to us: “Welcome home, child. Welcome home at last.”

Your Turn / Nice piece on the ministry of Gottfried Martens
« on: December 29, 2018, 11:21:14 AM »

Aber es ist auf Deutsch... It’s quite the story what is happening in that parish. So beautiful.

Your Turn / For Advent Devotions: Luke 1
« on: December 13, 2018, 06:50:50 PM »
I had been raised well.  My parents, bless their souls, had taught us to fear the Lord and to walk in his ways.  They told us the story of God’s dealings with us, His people, the Jews.  They told us of Abraham and Sarah.  They told us of Moses and Elijah.  They told us most of all about the coming of the Promised One who would bring an end to sorrow and death and restore all things to what they were created to be at the beginning.  They told us.  And we believed.  I believed.  I, Zechariah, of the house of Abijah, a priest from a family of priests.  I believed and so I waited. 
But waiting is wearying and I had grown old as I waited.  I began to suspect that I would go down to the grave still waiting - no promised one in sight.  Little did I know.  Little did I know.
The day arrived when it was my turn to do the priest’s duty in the great temple of my people in Jerusalem.  I had done it before and it was always an honor, but only once in a priest’s life did the opportunity come to go beyond the big altar in the courtyard and actually enter the sanctuary, the holy place and there offer the sacred incense - sign of the prayers of the people of God ascending to the throne of God.  It was my turn and I was filled with joy and holy fear.  Soon, soon, I would be standing only feet away from the most holy place, the holy of holies.  Soon, soon, I would be spreading the coals and then sprinkling the incense upon them, watching it rise even as the prayers of God’s people rise to the throne of heaven.
And my prayer?  I did not speak my prayer.  It is a terrible thing to have your only prayer be a regret.  But that was my prayer:  “I am sad, God, that you have given me no child, no son.”  That was the prayer that was in my heart as I stood before the altar and spread the coals with the shovel and then sprinkled the incense.  That was my prayer.   It was hidden in my heart.  Or so I thought.
Then he stood beside me, a great Angel of the Lord, a messenger from God most high and I was terrified.  I had heard of these messengers all my life.  I think that I had believed in them all my life, but I was not prepared to meet one.  Stepping out of the sacred stories and crossing right into my life.  I was not prepared for that at all.  But there he stood nonetheless.
And such words he spoke.  He told me that God had heard my prayer and that it was granted.  I was going to have a son - a son who would bring me joy and gladness.  And not only me, but many people.  A son who would be like the Nazarites of old, consecrated to God from the womb.  A child filled with the Spirit of the Most High even in his mother’s womb. 
Can you understand what it was like for me to hear that?  I was suddenly confronted with God moving out of the story and into my life and giving me what I didn’t even dare to hope for anymore.  I doubted.  I couldn’t believe it.  I questioned.  My trust wavered and I began to wonder if I had ever really believed at all before.  I said:  “How will I know this?  I am an old man.  My wife is old - beyond the years of child-bearing.   It’s impossible.  It just can’t be.”
Have you ever seen an angel get riled, get mad?  Let me tell you, it is not a comfortable sight.  Seems that nothing angers them so swiftly as our not believing.  They just don’t understand it.  They have been with God for so long and they have never known a word He spoke not to come true.  To them He is utterly and completely reliable and so they grow impatient with our foolish distrust. 
He riled himself up; He grew in power and might before me and I covered my eyes in fear as his might was unveiled.  I think for a moment I must have seen him, this mighty angel, as he appears before the throne of God.  A being of beauty that hurts our eyes to look at, a being of goodness so great that we suddenly feel ashamed.  He said:  “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God.  I was sent to bring you these glad tidings!  Behold, you do not believe!  You want a sign.  A sign you shall have.  You shall be mute, unable to speak, not even a word, until these things take place, for you did not believe my words which most certainly will be fulfilled at their time.”
And then he was gone.  The smoke of the incense that hand hung heavy in the air had long since lifted, but the sweet smell lingered in the room.  I don’t know how long it took, but it must have taken awhile.  I went out from the sanctuary and looked at the puzzled, upturned faces.  They didn’t know why I had been delayed and now they couldn’t understand why I didn’t given them the blessing.  And I couldn’t tell them.  I made signs and finally they began to understand that something awesome had happened to me in that room.
I went home, a man silent and yet my heart was bursting for joy.  And it happened, just like God had said through the angel.  It happened.  Impossibly.  Miraculously.  God had stepped out of the story and into my life and suddenly my life was like the story.  It was Abraham and Sarah all over again.  It was Elkanah and Hannah all over again.  God was doing it again.   An old couple, unable to have children, suddenly giving birth.
You who live in the time of the great fulfillment, you who live in the aftermath of those days, will you trust an old man who says to you to watch out!  The story is more alive than you imagine.  Don’t ever underestimate the power of God to step right out of the story into your life and then pull your life right back into the story.  I know whereof I speak.  For my child, wondrous as he was, was but the Fore-runner.  The Greater One came a few months later.  I first met Him when His mother walked into my house and my Elizabeth shouted for joy. The waiting was then at an end.  He came into my world and He comes into your world.  He comes to bring the joy and destroy the sadness, just as the prophets said he would.  He shuts the mouth of unbelief!
Watch out for Him, my friends!  Watch out for Him!  This God who comes to be one flesh with you and to suffer and die and to rise and bring life indestructible and joy eternal to you and to all people.  Watch for Him, for He comes.  He comes - and your lives will never be the same again.


And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The Virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel...”

I stand amazed before the Maiden, and she looks in amazement at me. But my amazement is greater than hers. She is amazed at my appearing to her but I am amazed at the tidings I bring her. For she shall be a mother, though she knows not a man. She shall conceive in her womb and bring forth a son, though a virgin she shall be and remain. But it is who her son will be that fills me with greatest awe. For this Child that shall be born of her shall truly be hers. A human being exactly as she is a human being. A creature of flesh and blood. A creature that grows from childhood to adulthood. A creature that eats and sleeps and breathes and all that attends being human. Such a creature will her son be.

And that is why I stare at her in awe. For the little child that shall soon be conceived in her womb and that she shall feed at her breast is none other than the Son of the Highest, God the Son, the Eternal Word of the Father through whom I was made, through whom she was made, through whom all things are made. She shall be mother of the Maker. She shall be mother of the Eternal One who was before the stars began their shining or the planets began their great dance. She shall be mother of Him whom it is our delight to serve and worship and praise world without end.

The Child she bears shall reign over David’s house forever. The promise of the Kingdom that has no end is fulfilled in Him. A forever Kingdom! O Lady, do you know what that means? He will reign through endless days and those over whom He reigns will live in endless life. Lady, do you know that you will carry in your womb Him through whom death itself will be destroyed? Lady, do you know that through the deeds of your Son the sin that separates the human race from the all-holy Father will be covered, atoned, pardoned? Lady, do you know how He will do it? No. I can see that you do not know. That is best for now. The day will come when you stand on a darkened hill and see a sight of love so grievous that it will tear your soul in two. But it will be His love for you and for your fallen race that drives Him to it, Lady. So rejoice!

And do not worry yourself over how this promise I bring you will be fulfilled. God knows that you are a virgin. But His Holy Spirit will overshadow you and fill you and change you and inside of you Life Himself will begin to grow and so the Holy One born of you will indeed be my Master, my Lord, my God. It is impossible for any word of God to fail. His promises are more certain than heaven and earth. He said it and so, Lady, rejoice and be glad. It shall be so.

Meekly do I see you bow your head. Meekly do I hear you utter the words: “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord.” Meekly do I hear you say: “Let it be to me as you have said.” And so the moment has come and the great time of God’s keeping all his promises has begun. Begun in you, Lady. Begun in your womb, which He shall make His holy temple and His home for the next nine months during which His tiny infant heart will beat beneath your own, till that moment when the Lord blesses you and keeps you and makes His face shine upon you and gives you peace; that moment when your baby looks at you and nestles at your breast and closes his eyes in the peace and the warmth of your embrace. As you will hold him, so even now, does He hold you and all welcome Him.

Farewell, then, Lady until we meet once more, until together we bow before the Child you will bear and worship at His feet and give Him eternal praise in the Kingdom He comes to prepare, in the presence of all who have trusted in Your Son for forgiveness and salvation, in the life that has no end, where the joys are eternal and where the sorrows are forgotten. Farewell, Vessel of His grace! Farewell, Temple of the Presence! Farewell, Mary, child of David, child of Abraham, Mother of God! Farewell.

“And the angel departed from her.”


Ours was always a quiet home.  God had not blessed us with children, and after many years together, a husband and wife learn to carry on conversations without words.  A look and a look back can speak volumes.  Yet we did talk.  Sometime at night, after the lamps were put out, I’d stretch out beside my old Zechariah and say:  “tell me the promises again.” 
You see, he was a priest.  He knew the Sacred writings of Torah and the Prophets.  And he loved to recite the promises about the Coming One, the One who would make all things right again for a world where so much has gone wrong.  He’d begin whispering them to me:  “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder…”  “And you, Bethlehem Ephratha, are by no means least among the tribes of Judah, for out of you will come a Ruler who will govern my people Israel.”  “His dominion will be from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.”  “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb.”  Oh, he could go on forever; he knew them all.  He’d long ago stored them away in his heart, and he loved nothing more than to repeat them.  They were his prayer, his hope.  He was one of the Zedek - the righteous - who looked for the salvation of Israel.
When he came home from doing his priestly duty that year, he didn’t need to tell me he couldn’t talk.  One look told me something had happened.  His eyes were full of excitement and hope like I’d not seen in him since he was a young man.  I thought he might have a fever.  It took a while to get the whole story out of him.  I think he was a little ashamed.  It was not like him - questioning the word of one of the Lord’s angels?  That was not like my husband at all.  But still, the promise was staggering.  We were to have a child?  Now?  And our child was to be the one that the prophets had foretold?  The one to prepare the way for the Lord, the Messenger sent before the Lord’s face?  The fulfillment of all things was now?  In our lives?
When I first felt the little one move in my womb I could do nothing.  I stood still and tears streamed down my face.  Then laughter and joy.  Our God?  He comes up with the craziest ideas!  Old ladies carrying little babies.  Our God, the God of the universe, He promises the impossible and then He makes it happen.  No good trying to wrap your mind around His ways.  His goodness is beyond our thinking, His love beyond our dreams.
Five months our house was mostly silent.  Zechariah watched impatiently as my womb began to swell.  And there were days he’d lay his hand upon it and we’d look into each others eyes and one would start laughing and the other crying.  Five months of silence in the house and then one day, a miracle greater than our little boy’s conception came running up to the door.
I heard her voice.  She was calling a greeting:  Shalom, Cousin Elizabeth!  And that is when it happened.   My little one was doing summersaults in my womb - summersaults of joy.  And the Holy Spirit came upon me and I saw the whole thing.  My eyes were opened like they’d never been opened before.  All the past seemed like a dream and in shock and awe at what I had seen I stood to my feet. 
She came to me, a look on her face, a questioning look.  She thought no one knew.  I let her know different right away.  “Blessed!” I cried.  “Blessed are you among women!”  And blessed indeed, for no other woman would be both Virgin and Mother, and not just the mother of a miracle baby like my own.  The mother of… The mother of so much more.  I can barely bring myself to say it even after all these years.  “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  Ah, that was the heart of it.  She walked into my house and it was though the Ark of Covenant had arrived, and hidden in the Ark, the beating heart of my God taken flesh.  The Messiah, the One about whom all the promises centered. The One God told Abraham would bring blessing to all the families of the earth.  The Serpent Crusher.  The One to lead us back to Paradise.  He was in my house.  In her womb.  His infant heart beating beneath her heart.  “And why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”  The look on her face.  The child melted.  I held her as she wept.  It was a fearful secret she had been hiding.  But here it was safe. 
I pulled back from her and gave my old goat sitting in the corner a proper look.  I pointed to her and said:  “Blessed is she who BELIEVED that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”  My old goat, my Zechariah, he laughed and laughed his silent laugh, agreeing with me.  She had believed, and she was blessed.
And then she opened mouth again and spoke - a hymn of praise to the One who chosen her in love, and she foretold how every generation from that day to the end of time would remember and join in calling her blessed.  Ah, the poetry of her song and the fire of her words that day!
She stayed with us for the next three months.  How we talked much during those days - our house was silent no more. The last months are never easy, certainly not for old women.  And she was there to help me through those hard days and to share our joy when the little lad revealed his face.  She saw her divine Son’s fore-bearer, our John.  And then she left, she went home to meet her Joseph and to face whatever it was that God willed for her. 
There are those who think she is a almost a goddess - but they are being foolish.  There are those who think that she is just an ordinary person like themselves - they are just as foolish.  You must think of her as the Holy Spirit taught me that day she came to me:  Blessed among women, Blessed in the fruit of her womb, and blessed above all in believing the Words of her Lord.
You can’t go wrong if you follow her example, you people who live in the time of the great fulfillment.  You can’t go wrong if you also learn to say to God:  “Let it be to me according to your Word” and if you learn to trust every promise God makes you, no matter how impossible, how shocking, how unreasonable. You can’t go wrong if you open up your heart and your life and give space for the Child of Mary to come and live in you, bringing you the joy of presence.  It won’t mean an easy time in this world - how she found that out! - but it will mean the joy of a life that death cannot bring to an end.  For it will be God’s life, the life He reaches us all in His Son, the Child of Mary, the Mother of God.  Blessed be He!  Blessed be He forever!  Amen.

Your Turn / The gods of the nations
« on: November 16, 2018, 09:22:50 PM »
St. Paul famously asserts in 1 Cor. 10:20 that what pagans sacrifice they sacrifice to demons. Whence this notion?

Tonight I stumbled across first the Vulgate and then the LXX of Psalm 95 (our 96), verse 5: “Quoniam omnes dii Genitum daemonia: Dominus autem coelos fecit.” “ὅτι πάντες οἱ θεοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν δαιμόνια ὁ δὲ κύριος τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἐποίησεν” That all the gods of the nations / gentiles are demons (MT has אֱלִילִים, usually rendered idols, by implication, but technically “worthless.”). I think I know where Paul got it from...

Your Turn / A Very Old Prayer of the Church
« on: November 16, 2018, 06:14:58 PM »
From the Reformation in Cologne, in which Melanchthon had a hand, and with influence upon the first Edwardian Prayer Book. I’ve updated the language slightly. It was in the Common Service Book. I was struck by a number of points in this prayer, particularly its repeated reference to unio mystica. I was blessed by it today; figured others might be as well. A beautiful prayer.

Merciful God, heavenly Father, You have commanded us to meet together in Your name and in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, to ask of You what is needful and profitable for us and for all people, and have graciously promised to hear our prayers and grant our requests. We implore You to pardon all our sins and unrighteousness, and to enliven our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may ask You for whatever things are needful for Your Church and for all the world. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For Your Church and people, we pray: Save and defend them from the power of those whom You have not sent. Send them Pastors and teachers, who will faithfully seek Your scattered sheep, bring them to the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and diligently build them up in all Your will and pleasure. Grant that all ungodliness and wicked works, and all heresies, schisms, and false religion, may be done away with. In the unity of the true faith and the confession of Your dear Son, grant that we may be one in Him, and dwell together in love, to the honor of Your name and the good of all people. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For all in authority, especially, for all who bear rule over us, we pray: Grant that they may be Yours indeed, put down all evil, and uphold and further all good, that we, being delivered from the fear of our enemies, may serve You in all holiness and righteousness. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

And as it is Your will to be a Savior to the whole world, we also pray for all sorts and conditions of men: Draw to Your dear Son those who are yet far from Him, and grant that those whom You have drawn to Him may daily grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For all who are in any trouble or sorrow [and especially __________________], we pray: Comfort them in their distress and send them speedy deliverance out of all their afflictions. Help us to lay to heart Your fatherly discipline, that we may judge ourselves and amend our ways, that we come not under Your judgments. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Grant, also, that we, who are here assembled for Your worship, may hold fast Your Word, die to self, and be wholly given to Your dear Son, our Savior, Who by His bitter sufferings and condemnation, and by His glorious Resurrection and Ascension has brought us to unity with Himself and with His whole Church; Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Your Turn / Variety in Service Settings
« on: September 26, 2018, 06:20:05 PM »
Here is an article my pastor posted on Gottesdiesnt:

I find the whole subject fascinating. I do get those who complained of how they lived through endless childhoods of p. 5 alternating with p. 15. But I wonder HOW those services were done? I mean, at St. Paul’s, the rite is rich in visual appeal in a room filled with art that confesses with the rite and with numerous actions that confess. The chanting of the Introit and Gradual and Verse; the choir (kids or adults) jumping in to alternate on the hymns in some of the great classic settings of the chorales; the changing readings — i.e., the full use of the propers — allows for variety every week in the midst of the usual framework of the same liturgy. I never think: “Ugh. Old p. 15 again.” It strikes me as joy each time we sing it. I sneak a peek and notice how next to no one is opening their hymnals to sing the liturgy. They know it, and many sing it in parts (when my whole family’s there, our pew covers all the parts!).

The ceremonies are rich. You’ll see many crossing themselves at all sorts of times in the Divine Service (and many who don’t). Some of us dip our fingers in the font on the way to our pews or on the way out. You’ll see the pastors and altar boys genuflect upon approaching the altar in the Introit and at “and was made man” in the confession of the Creed. You’ll see the Gospel read in the midst of the assembly, attended by the cross (and on days when there are enough servers, the torches). As it is being read, I have a view of the four evangelists looking down from the balcony. You’ll see the celebrant wash his hands, silently praying lavabo. You’ll hear the chimes ring during the singing of the Consecration, and many sign themselves as the words of Christ are sung out: “This is my Body... This is My Blood...” Vestments are always rich and colorful (always with chasuble and stole and often with maniple and sometimes with dalmatics for assistants).

Because it’s got that trusty framework, you’ll note kids singing right along with the adults. There’s nothing “for the kids” because it is all for all of us. Well, except when they’re the choir reponsible for the day. Then they lead from the balcony and preach to us in song. And we’re busting at the seams with kids. Service is almost always nice and noisy! They’re playing violins and other string instruments, chimes, and singing away (even in Latin at times!).

Which is a very long way of inviting thoughts on whether the problem really was with the service setting in the first place (too boring to sing the same setting all the time) or whether the problem really was a less than rich appropriation of that liturgy and the ceremonies that confess along with the words in the “old days”?

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