The Pastor Challenge

The Pastor Challenge

The Assist Pregnancy Center's Walk-Run-Ride for Life is coming up in May and this year I am challenging myself in order to challenge all of you! I am challenging myself to ride a "Metric Century" (100 kilometers) in four hours, and if I can ride farther than I ever have at one time before, I challenge all of you to support me more than ever before. I set my goal this year at $5,000, and our team (Lutherans for Life) at $7,500! If I can do it, you can do it. Assist helps so many mothers and babies, and they are expanding their facility to help even more - and so need our help more than ever, especially coming out of this pandemic. So please help! CLICK HERE to go to my sponsor page to sponsor me, or you can sponsor anyone else who joins the team, or the team as a whole.

Will you step up to the challenge??

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Recital

My last post mentioned the fact that my daughter's senior recital (violin performance major at VCU) had been cancelled by the school. She was required to video her pieces instead. She couldn't use them all because some were quartets and her fellow students are now scattered. So she had to make some substitutions. She also used some pretty creative techniques to compensate for the absence of accompanists. I won't spill the beans here - you'll have to watch for yourself!

Here is the link to her recorded senior recital. It debuted for us on Monday night, but is now available for viewing.

About half way through is her duet with her younger sister.

After that is some of her quite creative adaptations.

Make sure you notice the dedications. :-)

Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

What Could Have Been

We were looking forward to this the day after Easter - the culmination of my daughter's Violin Performance major studies at VCU. We had lots of folks planning to come. But alas, it was a casualty of the pandemic. There was even going to be a "sister's" piece where my two daughters played a duet. This is a tough time for all graduating seniors, but especially, I think, performance majors. A lot of hard work was going into this. There was going to be a quartet performing some of my daughter's original work as well. Perhaps when this is all over, we can arrange for something else to celebrate her . . .

Saturday, April 11, 2020

At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing

At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing
LSB #633

v. 3: Where the Paschal blood is poured,
Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.

v. Mighty Victim from the sky,
Hell’s fierce power’s beneath You lie;
You have conquered in the fight,
You have brought us life and light.

We’ve reached Holy Saturday. The day begins with Jesus’ rest in the tomb, we remember His descent into hell, and at the Vigil in the evening, get a taste of the Easter joy that will be ours in the morning. It has all come to this. This is why Jesus came. To conquer in the fight we couldn’t win. To bring us the life and light we lost in sin. To be the true and eternal Passover Lamb that causes death’s dread angel to sheathe its sword. That was true in Egypt at the first passover, and still true for us today. For we have gone through the wave that drowns the foe - not the Red Sea, but Holy Baptism. The sin and death that pursue us and hound us are drown there, so that though we are sinners, we are forgiven; though we will die, yet shall we live. And now there awaits for us a feast - the Lamb’s High Feast, the Paschal Feast, the Easter feast which breaks our Lenten fasting, and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end. Soon, the Bridegroom will return for his Bride, the Church, and that Feast will begin. No wonder that Bride breaks forth with her Alleluias! tomorrow. Our Lamb has conquered in the fight! The victory is ours.

Friday, April 10, 2020

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
LSB #450

v. 1: O sacred Head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded With thorns Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory, What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

v. 7: Be Thou my consolation, My shield, when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

The focus of most people in our world is to live a good life. That means as many things as there are people, I suppose. But that is not what God wants most for you. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a good life. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But far more important to God than you living a good life is that you die a good death - or as the hymnwriter put it, who dieth thus dies well. A good death is to die with faith in Christ and thus live well not just for 80 or 90 years here on this earth, but to live well forever. It is Jesus’ sacred head, now wounded, that provides that life for us. So when your last hour draws nigh - be it from coronavirus, old age, accident, or whatever - it is Jesus’ passion that will console and comfort you. He died your death to give you life. He paid for your sins so you are forgiven. He rose from the dead and will pull you up from the grave, too. With that faith, you can both live and die now in peace and joy. And with that faith, you will both die well and then live well. Well, and forever. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Jesus, Greatest at the Table

Jesus, Greatest at the Table
LSB #446

v. 4: Can we fathom such deep mercy?
Do we see what God has done?
Who can grasp this great reversal:
Love that gives His only Son?
Christ, the sinless for the sinners,
For the many dies the One.

Today the Church enters the Sacred Triduum - the final three days of the Lenten season, the days of Jesus’ crucifixion and rest in the tomb. On these days, can we fathom such deep mercy? Truth be told, no. This mercy and love is greater than we can ever imagine. That God would offer up His Son for you and me - for the whole world! That the Son of God would willingly come and lay down His life for us. This is the great reversal: the Son of God becomes the sinner so that we sinners might be sons of God. Yet this is who God is. Always! Always giving, always loving, always serving. Not just these three days, but ever since the beginning and until the end. He supplies all our needs and then some. He is gracious and merciful. And especially as we remember on this day, He gives us His very own Body and Blood to eat and drink. Do we see what God has done? Yes, we see, we confess, and we thank and praise Him for such unfathomable love.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Royal Banners Forward Go

The Royal Banners Forward Go
LSB #455

v. 4: On whose hard arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

v. 5: O tree of beauty, tree most fair,
Ordained those holy limbs to bear:
Gone is thy shame, each crimsoned bough
Proclaims the King of Glory now.

Some find it quite odd that an instrument of Roman torture and death - the cross - should adorn the sanctuaries of so many churches and the walls of so many Christian homes. The early church and early Christians, which lived through that time or very close to it, understandably did not do so. It took some time until the church realized that gone is the shame of the cross when the Son of God hangs on it! Then it becomes a tree of beauty which proclaims the King of Glory. For there we see the ransom paid for our sin. There you see how much God loves you. And through this sacrifice, the spoiler is spoiled of his prey! Jesus turns satan’s tool against him and uses what he used to destroy to destory him. So while the empty tomb proclaims Jesus’ victory, the cross proclaims His love and forgiveness. So yes! What a beautiful tree when it is Jesus’ tree. The sixth century hymnwriter Venantius Fortunatus was teaching the church this valuable truth with this hymn.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
LSB #451

v. 3: Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

The season of Lent is a season of repentance. A season to take a true and honest look at our lives measured against the Ten Commandments and see how far we have fallen short of what God desires. We should do that regularly, but maybe we don’t quite get around to it? The season of Lent, therefore, is needed for us to do so each year, and, as the hymnwriter puts it, view its nature rightly. We often think of sin but lightly and do not suppose the evil great. But this season of Lent says to us: Look! At the cross! Is that light? Is that not a great evil? The Son of God hanging there because of your sin? And we are brought to our knees. Yes, I am a poor miserable sinner. But Lent also says this: Look! See who bears that awful load for you! It is the Son of God in His love for you. For this He was appointed and anointed, that your sins be forgiven. Lent shows us that truth, too. This truth that makes all the difference in the world. That Jesus wanted to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted - to save you and me!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Ride On, Ride On in Majesty

Ride On, Ride On in Majesty
LSB #441

v. 2: Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.

v. 5: Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, Thy pow’r and reign.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in lowly pomp, lowly ceremony. Just pilgrims, children, and ordinary folk welcoming Him, and with just some tree branches and clothes to hail Him. A scene not really befitting His majesty as Israel’s true King. His real pomp will be when He comes again in glory. But that’s not why He’s here now. Now, He rides on to die. But as the hymnwriter puts it, He rides to His death in order to begin His triumphs! He bows His meek head to mortal pain so that He can take His power and reign. These would be contradictions for anyone but Jesus. For the thousands of persons crucified before Jesus, death was just death. The end. But when Jesus dies, He conquers sin and takes death captive. And so death is not the end for Jesus. He will rise and reign for you and me, so that death will not be the end for us, but in Him, the gate to everlasting life. So yes! dear Jesus. Ride on, ride on and die for me! So that I can live in You.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Infant Priest Was Holy Born

The Infant Priest Was Holy Born
LSB #624

v. 1: The infant Priest was holy born
For us unholy and forlorn;
From fleshly temple forth came He,
Anointed from eternity.

v. 6: The body of God’s Lamb we eat,
A priestly food and priestly meat;
On sin-parched lips the chalice pours
His quenching blood that life restores.

The holy for the unholy. That’s Jesus. He is the holy one from eternity, the one to whom the angels continually cry “Holy, holy holy Lord!” Yet He came into our world for us who are unholy, to make us holy again through the forgiveness of our sins. One of the ways we receive that forgiveness is through the Lord’s Supper - Jesus’ Supper. The Supper in which He gives us His body and blood to restore the life we lost in sin. In this Supper we receive not mere bread and wine, and not just any body and blood - but God’s own body and blood. For the body and blood of Jesus is God’s body and blood, for Jesus is both true God and true man in one person. In giving us Himself, He is not only giving us part of Himself but all of Himself. What a gift this is! That us who are unholy and forlorn, without hope, be declared holy and therefore be filled with hope and joy. That is the gift Jesus died for, and the gift that we receive at the altar as His children.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying

Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying
LSB #597

v. 2: In a wat’ry grave are buried
All our sins that Jesus carried;
Christ, the Ark of Life, has ferried
Us across death’s raging flood.

Sometimes in the military sailors are “buried at sea” instead of in a grave of dirt. That’s what baptism is for the Christian. A watery grave for our sins. But not only that. For in baptism we are joined not only to Christ in His death but also in His resurrection. So in baptism there is both the death and burial of our sins and old man, and the raising and life of a new man. A new man for whom the fear and threat of death is a thing of the past. Imagine that! Not having to fear death. That is our reality. For in Christ, we know that since He has passed through death to life again, so will we. He is our Ark, our ferry, across and through death’s raging flood to life eternal. So while this virus that we are living through right now has killed many people, it cannot take the life of a Christian. Christians die, yes. But their life continues on the other side of the grave. For Christ is our life, and in Him, we are safe and secure.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

How Firm a Foundation

How Firm a Foundation
LSB #728

v. 1: How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He has said
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

A firm foundation. That’s what we need. When everything around you is changing, shifting, and uncertain, to have a firm place to stand is essential. What’s the opposite? Well, I think of a ship on the sea, being pitched to and fro by the waves. There is no firm place to stand. That’s very difficult! But once you get to shore and place your feet on firm, stable ground, there’s a world of difference. As Christians, we have the firm foundation we need in a world that especially these days seems very uncertain and unstable - the Word of God. Whether we face good days or bad, highs or lows, struggles or joys, no matter what the winds of change blow by us, no matter how much around us shifts, we have the stability of God and His Word. His Word which never changes. His care, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His promises are the most certain thing we have in this world and life. What great comfort that is, to have a God you can count on! Who will be there for you now as He was in the past and will be in the future. Yes, He is the firm foundation we need.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Drawn to the Cross, Which Thou Hast Blessed

Drawn to the Cross, Which Thou Hast Blessed
LSB #560

v. 1: Drawn to the cross, which Thou hast blessed
With healing gifts for souls distressed,
To find in Thee my life, my rest,
Christ crucified, I come.

v. 2: Thou knowest all my griefs and fears,
Thy grace abused, my misspent years;
Yet now to Thee with contrite tears,
Christ crucified, I come.

How do we find our life, our rest, in Christ crucified? For if there’s something a lot of people need right now, it’s life and rest! Well, there are three ways. First, Jesus knows what I’m going through when I face death. He’s been there. He suffered, He bled, He died. He understands our fear and anxiety. He doesn’t tell us to “get over it!” but, “I’m with you.” Second, Jesus was crucified for all my sins. All that I’ve done wrong. My misspent years and all the gifts from Him that I’ve abused and taken for granted, including the gift of life. Many people condemn us for our sins, but Jesus does not! He was condemned for them in our place, that we have forgiveness. And third, Jesus’ death was followed by His resurrection from the dead, which means He can see me through my own death. He conquered it for me! So in these days when death and the threat of death is all around us, what shall we do? Christ crucified, I come! I go to the one who came for me that I might live. He is my life, my rest, my peace.