Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I don't know why (perhaps the Holy Spirit prompted me), but I found myself this morning thinking about all the former members of my parish. In just my eight years here, it seems as if we have had a remarkable number of people both come and go. Some folks moved away, some left for other confessions, some left for other LCMS fellowships more suitable to them, and some received their transfer into the peace and rest of heaven. It is always sad for a pastor when any member of his flock leaves, for whatever reason. But I wish them well. And I thought I should pray for them today.
Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of the Church, by Your Holy Spirit You call, gather, enlighten, sanctify, and build Your Church. Thank You for all the saints You have led to Saint Athanasius over the years. Thank You for the blessing they were to us and for the Word they feasted on while here. Bless and keep them now, wherever they may be, and send Your holy angels to watch over and protect them from the evil one. Strengthen them in Your Word and faith, grant that they ever abound in love and good works, and may we one day be reunited around Your glorious throne in heaven in the feast which has no end. Amen.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Here is a blog I go look at from time to time - by a conservative Catholic priest. What I like is when he puts up the Latin of their collects and then translates them; he is helping me learn Latin (and helping me figure out how to translate these things to pass my Latin exam for school!)
Today, however, he posted a question from someone about re-instituting traditional practices in the parish. These questions (and problems) run through every denomination. I thought he gave a good answer.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
This is a tough parable to preach - at least in my opinion. For the traditional preachment that I've heard and read is short on Law and Gospel and long on history. "The wicked tenants are the scribes and chief priest, the servants are the prophets, blah, blah, blah." I hate preaching like that - puts people right to sleep or communicates: this isn't about you or for you. I'm not denying its truth, just that its often preached poorly. Again, in my humble opinion.
So what to do? Preach on one of the other texts? That feels like a cop out.
So after much angst and head banging, I thought a bit deeper: what is it that the prophets proclaimed? Repentance, of course. But repentance for what? For not producing the fruits of faith (toward God) and love (toward the neighbor). For the scribes and chief priests, that would be caring for the people of Israel - that was their vocation. But what about my people? What are their vocations? And who are the servants that God sends to them to get them to produce the fruits of faith and love? And when we do not help and serve those around us in their need, are we not beating and even murdering them with our inaction or anger or harsh words?
So that is the angle I took today - which produced some pretty tough Law! (But it is a parable of judgment, after all.) And then I was able to apply the Gospel of Christ the cornerstone, and how He breaks us (in repentance) in order to heal us (in forgiveness). I think it worked. I hope so. Visit our church blog to read it for yourself, or go to our church web site to take a listen.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
My next quote from Harrison's book:
"What is it that makes Christian joy, and the joy of worship, so profound, so expansive, so freeing, so . . . well, joyful? For me it's the continued surprise and wonder of not being rejected by Christ. It's the delight of being invited into his presence - not to perform or recount my deeds, but to be forgiven and accepted precisely as a sinner, to hear of the deeds of Christ recounted for me and be the recipient of those deeds here and now. My heart and mind are struck ever new, and constructed anew, in ways I cannot predict. I come burdened, I leave in joy. Greatest wonder of wonders, the Lord rejoices precisely over sinners! "He will rejoice over thee with joy!" (Zephaniah 3:17)"
One of the things that struck me about this quote was this: "My heart and mind are struck ever anew, and constructed anew, in ways I cannot predict." I wonder if one of the problems with much new and modern worship is that in all its efforts to be unpredictable and ever new, it works awful hard to work toward a predictable outcome - of emotion, of response, of being "spirit-filled," or so forth. Yet the liturgy, with its comfortable predictability, produces unpredictable results, as the Word and Spirit of God do the work, and we are "constructed anew" in the way He knows we need. And the result is joy. Joy in His work. Joy in the life He gives. Joy in His forgiveness.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I have begun reading Matt Harrison's "A Little Book on Joy." Many other blogs have posted about this book. I am going slowly through it. Last night in chapter 4, I appreciated the following thoughts:
"Joy . . . has its seasons. It should give you the greatest comfort and joy that the Bible is filled not only with evidence of joy, but also times of no joy. And that does not mean the Holy Spirit is absent. For everything there is a season . . . Jesus looked to the Word of God regarding the future, and it sustained him in the joyless present. . . . Moments such as the Transfiguration and his baptism - "This is my beloved Son!" - were joyous past events, were remembered by Jesus (and actually grabbed hold of him!) during the joyless times. And these events are the same for us because in our baptism the Lord speaks the same Word to us: Beloved!" (pp. 29, 31)
Seasons for joy - how true! No one is joyous all the time, though perhaps we think we ought to be. Harrison notes that joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), and then uses the example of an apple tree that - guess what? Doesn't produce apples all year round, but in its season. I never made that connection before. There are times when the tree is bare of leaves and sitting in the cold of winter. There are times when the tree is growing, its leaves are sprouting, and its flowers budding - but no fruit yet. And then there is time for fruiting.
But Harrison doesn't leave the example there, he teaches us how to go through the seasons when the fruit is not being produced. Looking forward to the promises of God, and looking to past joys and promises fulfilled (especially our baptism), we are sustained in the present. And so all is based on the Word and work of God. Joy cannot not manufactured, only grown. It is the work of God in us, and always at the right time.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Ah! what a beautiful day we had today. Temperature in the 50s with the sun high in the sky. Most of the snow is now gone, so after church got outside and did a couple hours of yard work. Boy did it feel good to be out in the sun. Cleaned up a lot of debris from our big snows. It is amazing how much carnage there is around the neighborhood - broken trees, smashed bushes, broken gutters, stuff like that. It took a toll. Got most of the yard cleaned up - looks 100% better. I'm ready for Spring! :-)
Monday, March 1, 2010
Well, the Olympics are over. I enjoy watching them. What I most enjoy is watching sports I only get to see once every four years. On that list that I enjoy is biathlon - the Cross Country Skiing and Shooting combination. I just don't know how those guys do it! I know how tired I get after running hard - but to instantly calm your heart rate enough to shoot the length of a football field to a target the size of a silver dollar! Amazing.
I also was struck by the fact that the same Cross Country skiers seemed to enter all the races, no matter what the distances, from sprints to the skiing marathon. In running, you have specialists - sprinter, middle distance, long distance - but not in skiing. Interesting. I wonder why not, and if the sport will evolve to begin to do that. Maybe there's not enough money in it to specialize.
I think its great that Canada won the most golds. I also like the fact that we did so well in some of the older, more traditional sports - like the Nordic skiing events and the bobsled. It never quite seemed right that we won the medal count because they added those extreme sports. One even that I really don't care for: short track speed skating. A bit too hectic and crowded for me!