Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thoughts on Trinity 4

We can only give what we have first received. As radios and television sets can only broadcast new, music, and movies because they have first received a signal, so also we can only give what we have first received.

We can only live because we have first been given life. For which of you has chosen to be born? We can only love because we first have been loved. We can only forgive because we have first been forgiven. We can only give because we have first been given to. We are spiritual radios, spiritual television sets. Really spirituality is all about receiving and receiving the right things.

And so our Lord promises: "Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful." For he has been merciful. He has forgiven. He has loved. He has judged and condemned. He has done all this in the person and work of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. In Jesus and His cross: sin, death, and the devil are judged and condemned. In Jesus and His cross: the mercy and love of your heavenly Father is made evident. And Jesus gives it all for you to receive in Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism, and the Lord's Supper--in Word and in Sacrament. And by it you are forgiven. You have life. You are saved. For you can only give what you have first received. You can only teach what you have first learned. No student is above his teacher. The blind can't lead the blind. The empty can't fill up the empty. You can only give what you have received. And you have received and still receive much, haven't you?

But what have you given? Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Why do you point out all their faults, all their foibles, all their blemishes? Why do you pick and poke and prod all the little things about everyone else, but refuse you look at yourself, refuse to consider your blemishes, your faults? Why do you hold everyone else to a higher standard than you hold yourself? When they are in the wrong, you demand apologies and penance. But when you are in the wrong, the best confession you can give is "Well we're only human? Everyone makes mistakes."

And actually it's worse than that isn't? The foibles and faults, the specks that we see in others, aren't they done at our . We know other's weaknesses. And so we set out to see them fall into temptation at our bidding, at our prodding. We bait them. We go looking for a way to make them look bad so that we will look good. We know just what to say, just what to write, just what look to give so to bring out the worst in others. And not just others, are they, these are people we love. People we care about. We provoke them to anger, to jealousy, to fear. We provoke them to sin.

"You hypocrite," you actor, for that is what hypocrite means, "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye." Consider your life--your words, your deeds--and confess. Repent. Be like your teacher. Receive the cross, be crucified, be killed, with all sin and evil desire. For in death you receive life. And in confession, you receive forgiveness. In emptying yourself you shall be filled.

You are filled with the Holy Spirit, through the Word, through the sacraments. You have received all the gifts of the Spirit, patience, kindness, self-control, etc.

And having received, so now give. Give as you have received. For no student is above his teacher, but just like him once fully trained. Let the holy things of God that fill your cup, run over upon all those around you. Subordinate yourself and your needs to theirs. Place them above you. Pray for them. Offer help and guidance. Visit them when they are sick. Feed them when they are hungry. Show hospitality. In short, Love them. For love covers a multitude of sin. It is what covered yours.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Liturgical Go Fish

Here's one for those who have a lot of contact with children. Whether your own, or Summer Sunday school, VBS, or preschools, here is a simple way to teach children the things of the church with names. Plus the name is fun: Liturgical Go Fish

I might suggest making your own with pictures from your churches vessels, sanctuary, and nave. What other things could you include? What other games have you come up with on your own?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Papists behaving like Lutherans

Old school Lutherans, that is. Like Chemnitz and Andrae who wrote Church Orders that mandated fixed liturgical forms, prayers, readings, vestments, times of service, etc. If you refused to follow the Church Order, then you were ousted from your parish. This is how Lutheranism worked at the time of the Reformation and in the generations afterward. This is the kind of authority that is discussed in AC XXVIII and FC X - the latter does not refer to each and every parish minister getting to write his own liturgy, but rather to the various Church Orders in the various territorial churches in the lands which received the Lutheran Reformation. Do all those various Church Orders need to be the same? Of course not. In the Church there have always been different rites - Gallican, Roman, Ukranian, etc. And in Lutheranism, too, there were different Church Orders, different rites. But within each Church Order, everyone was expected and required to keep the Order.

At any rate, we don't do this any more. We live in chaos and without liturgical authority. If you were wondering how Lutherans used to live, see here.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Postils

by Burnell F. Eckardt

Not wishing to be presumptuous, I am nevertheless providing this for consumption, as a resource if for no other reason.  At my web site you can now find a great number of audio files, neatly categorized according to season, Sunday, and Feast, containing sermons I have preached over the past several years.  They are not transcriptions, of course, and no text version of them exists (except in a few rare cases in which I have produced transcriptions that are lying around somewhere).  That is because I generally do not preach from a manuscript, but as a result of careful musing on the Gospel reading appointed, prior to the time of preaching.  Hence what you hear in the audio file is a sermon more or less in the patristic style of musing on the Gospel and proclaiming it.  The link, once again, is here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Portals of Gottesdienst: Thoughts on Nativity of John the Baptist

Comfort, comfort, my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. And so John the Baptist shows up and what does he proclaim? "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand." Comfort? Tender speech? What gives? Yes, all those. For he comes to prepare the way of the Lord. He preaches the Truth to make Way for Life. He preaches the Truth, which bears the Holy Spirit, to cause true worship. He preaches the Truth so that all who hear his sermon will receive salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.

The truth hurts. The truth exposes us for who we really are inside and out. Mirrors don't lie. Neither does the Truth. It cuts, it bashes, it lays to waste every carefully devised falsehood. Every lie we tell ourselves to help us feel better about ourselves. My kids aren't crazy, they're just active. I'm not overweight, I'm just big-boned. That's not a baby, a human being, but a fetus, a zygote, a bunch of cells. I'm really good most of the time except when I'm not. The Truth hurts. Repent for the Kingdom of God it at hand. He is standing right in front of you. He is Jesus, the perfect, sinless, son of the Most High God. How do you measure up? You don't. You can't. And if you're honest, you don't always want to. So Repent.

And the Truth will set you free. It will free you from your need to make your own way. Free you from attempting the futile, free you from banging your head up against the wall of God's perfect, immutable will, against His Law. Free you from having to fulfill it to escape His wrath. Freed because the truth is someone has fulfilled it for you. And his name is Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He has done all that it required and endured the punishment it requires for all who have transgressed it. 

Thus freed, the Truth now comforts. It's the tender speech of a lover taking care of his beloved. It is a salve that binds up the wounded after the war is over. It's the good news that tells them that the war is over. That everything is done, completed. That all is safe.  Because the war is over. It has been won. It is finished in Jesus, who has saved you. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Ecclesia semper reformanda est - I don't know who coined that phrase, but it's ever so true. And always has been - see Galatians. In this sense, there has never been a golden age and we should not be disheartened by the mess our little patch of the una sancta finds herself in. The Missouri Synod is indeed by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed: the worship wars, Seminary Lite (SMP), a few charismatics here, a few would be women-ordainers there, usw.

So where to begin? What should Confessional Lutherans be focusing on in Missouri? I appreciate the work that folks like the ACELC are doing - but we need focus. You can't move on all fronts at once. We need an issue that captures the attention of all Confessional Lutherans and one that is theological (not political), clearly based in the Scriptures and the Confessions, and as objective and black and white as possible.

It just so happens that we have this issue: Missouri's 1989 revision of the Augsburg Confession sans Article XIV (it is the shortest article, so it's a small revision, right?). "Lay ministry" - the intentional, "licensed," and ongoing practice of having men who have not been called to and placed in the Office of the Ministry administer the Sacraments and preach the Word in our parishes. This is simply contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to the Confessions, and contrary to all the practice of historic Christianity.

If Confessionals cannot unite to undo this wrong, then what is the point of being Confessional? Let us make 2013 the Year of AC XIV.

Gottesdienst is getting the ball rolling with a one day conference on AC XIV and Lay Ministry in Kearney, Nebraska, on July 25th. While the whole Synod is affected by this problem, the Great Plains and the Northwest are the epicenters. Pastors, lay people, district officials, and the lay ministers themselves are invited and encouraged to attend.

Especially if you are in Nebraska or Kansas, please make plans to attend. If you know folks in those areas, tell them to attend. If you are for or against the Missouri Synod's present practice, come and join us to study this issue. Here is the full conference information:

AC XIV and Lay Ministry
Zion Lutheran Church, Kearney, NE

9:00 - Registration (Coffee and rolls)

9:30 - Matins
10:00 - Presentation and breaks
12-1:30 - Lunch (at local establishments of your choice)
1:45 - 3:00 - Panel Discussion
3:00 - Gemuetlichkeit

Registration fee: None. The offering at Matins will defray Zion's costs. 
To register email Fr. Micah Gaunt mgaunt2000 at yahoo dot com.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

East and West

In the Tabernacle the Holy of Holies with the Ark was in the western part of the building. The altar of sacrifice was outside the Holy of Holies in the eastern part of the courtyard. In the NT, our Churches have, as it were, moved the Holy of Holies to the East and enveloped the Altar. 

I don't know what to make of this. But I think there is more there than I'm picking up right way. Does anyone know of some patristic discussion of this?


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meet Göttëscät!

He wears a cassock.  People call him "Father."  He is a Gottesdienst subscriber.  He purrs for the liturgy and coughs up hairballs for contemporary worship.  He also scares the cat litter out of Synodocat.

And you can vote for him here.

Today (June 13, 2012), Issues, Etc. featured a Gottesdienst hat trick:

  1. An interview with Fr. Petersen (concerning an article in the current issue)
  2. An interview with Fr. Beane (concerning an article in the current issue)
  3. The book of the month by Fr. Curtis

Here are links to past appearances by Gottesdienst editors from the Issues, Etc. Archives:

Fr. Burnell Eckardt
Fr. Larry Beane
Fr. Peter Berg
Fr. Heath Curtis
Fr. Karl Fabrizius
Fr. David Petersen
Fr. Jonathan Shaw
Fr. Richard Stuckwisch

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thoughts on Trinity 1

What is the difference between the rich man and Lazarus? Appearances are deceiving. And so besides the rich man being rich and the beggar not, what is the distinction between them? Humility, perhaps? But consider the vast majority of beggars you run across. Does the picture of Lazarus change at all when you consider that he sits at the man's gate with a bottle sticking out of a crumpled paper bag? The clear difference is that the rich man is cursed, and Lazarus is blessed. But that distinction, too, must be explored. We typically associate being blessed with prosperity, with success. Is that what our Lord is getting at here? What does it mean to be blessed? What does it mean to be cursed?

When we hear this parable, we all don't want to go to hell, we all don't want to be the rich man. But, at the same time, we don't much want to be Lazarus either. We don't want to be beggars. We don't want to be bums. And so we stand in the middle, or we ignore it.

This is because we see ourselves as those who can define ourselves. We think of ourselves as autonomous, as rugged individuals, as those who can make our own way. We define ourselves by what we do. Who are you? I'm a pastor, I work for the church. I'm a farmer, I work the land. I'm a Rotarian, I work to help others. And down the line. We have an identity problem. We don't recognize who we are because don't recognize whose we are.

Here we should take a cue from Luther. We are all beggars. It was the last thing he wrote. We are all beggars. This is true. That is, we receive. Nothing we have is because we have made it ourselves. We simply receive. And so God gives some to be rich and some to be poor. Blessed be the name of the Lord. For we are all beggars. But we are the Lord's beggars. We all sit at the receiving end of what He gives. And so we are who God makes us to be, who God gives us to be. Consider your life according to the Ten Commandments. Consider your life according to Moses and the Prophets, according to the Word of God. Who are you? I am who God has made me to be according to His Word and His giving.

And so some he makes to be rich. And he gives them five fingers on each hand so that what they receive from God can fall through his fingers into the hands of others who need it. And some he makes to be beggars so that the rich have someone to give their wealth to.

And so consider your life according to the Ten Commandments, according to Moses and the Prophets, according to the Word of God. For you are whom He has made you to be. And He has made you to be Christians, given the name of your heavenly Father with the sign of the cross, by means of water and the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. He has made you to be His bride, immaculate, and holy. He has made you to be His brothers, co-heirs of His Kingdom. You belong to Him. You are not your own for you were bought with a price, bought, sanctified, and justified with the blood of Jesus, poured out for you from His cross onto your heads and into your mouths. Consider your life according to the Ten Commandments, according to Moses and the Prophets, according to the Word of God. For you are who it says you are. And you are forgiven.

This is what it means to be blessed to receive everything from the hand of the Lord and recognize it. To have it any other way is a curse.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Lord's Supper as Foretaste

I've been mulling over the text for New Year's Eve ever since preaching on it then. The text is Luke 12:35-40, the Parable of the Serving Master. And it's had me thinking about the Lord's Supper and about the nature of it as a foretaste of the heavenly feast.
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
The servants know that He's coming back, but they don't know when. They are to be ready to receive Him when He comes back. The master withdraws from the wedding banquet. The wedding banquet isn't over. It's still going on. But He withdraws from it. He takes a short leave. Why? He withdraws in order to come and serve us.

From what we know, the expectation is that when the master returns, taking leave, he comes with a doggie bag. He comes having sneaked out some of the goodies from the feast for His faithful servants to munch on while they wait for the Wedding Banquet to end and Him to return for good. And so the parable of the master serving His servants brings into focus the nature of our waiting for Him. That He takes leave from the Wedding Banquet to serve us while we wait for Him to return for good. In other words, He returns to give us something from the Feast to tide us over.

And so our Lord comes in the Divine Service. He takes leave, he withdraws from the Wedding Banquet, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom that will have not end, to return with some of the goodies of that feast to tide us over until He shall come at last to take us to Himself in heaven. And so He comes to in His Body and Blood to serve us with His Body and Blood. And while we do not know the day or the hour of His final return. We do know the day and the hour of His coming to serve us. Be ready to receive Him when He comes in this way so that you may be served. That by it your hunger will be sated, that you'll be nourished while you wait. But like all good appetizers and hors d'oeuvres, that which staves off our hunger also creates an appetite for more. It stimulates and whets your appetite while at the same time arresting the growls of your bellies and light-headedness so that your wait is not burdensome but enjoyed.

This is, I think, is what the church means by foretaste. He brings us the hors d'oeuvres of the heavenly banquet, and He serves us while we wait. Perhaps, too, this is the manna in the wilderness. That which was flakey white, corse like coriander seed, and tasted sweet like honey was for the Israelite wandering in the wilderness a foretaste of the Promised Land that would flow with milk and honey (Exod 3:8; 16:31). They despised that as worthless food. And thus also did they eventually despise the Promised Land. May it not be so among us also. Lord save and deliver us.