Monday, April 27, 2009

Pulpit Rider

I don't get to preach every Sunday, but this month and the next few months I'll be pretty busy with pulpit supply. It's not the same thing as being a parish pastor, of course, but it's always a privilege and a pleasure to preach the Word to God's people. Yesterday I preached at Grace Lutheran Church in Houma, Louisiana. I'm a member at this church, and the members know me and generally respect me. I helped serve the vacancy they experienced after the previous pastor left, and now that they have their own pastor, they welcome me joyfully when Pastor Rudnik goes on vacation.

One of the things the people of the congregation especially like about the days when I preach is that I chant. In all modesty, leading the liturgy is one of the things I do best as a pastor, and that includes chanting. I believe it adds to the solemnity and the joy of the divine service, and it serves to dileneate between what we do during the week out in the world and what happens on Sunday morning in the divine service. I don't know if the congregation sees it that way, but I do. Anyway, we used the First Setting of the Divine Service from the Lutheran Service Book, and I don't get to use that very often.

Perhaps the best part of the morning for me, outside of receiving absolution and the body and blood of Jesus, was that I was able to give the Eucharist to my wife for the first time! This is the first time Faith has been able to come to a church where I've been preaching since she became a Lutheran, and it was an occasion of special joy for me. May it always be so.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sermon for 4/26/09 - Third Sunday in Easter (LSB-B)

Peace to You
Luke 24:36-49

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

There’s a song that was written in the year 1955, one with which you might be familiar. The first line of the song says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." That’s quite a noble sentiment. After all, we all want to experience peace, and we wouldn’t even complain too much if we helped make that peace happen. After all, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." And who wouldn’t want to be called a peacemaker or a son of God? But whether or not we care to be an instrument of peace, we are more than happy to be the beneficiaries of peace.

In our text, the eleven disciples and others were gathered on the Sunday evening of the resurrection. They were seeking comfort and peace from each other. But the events of that morning and the previous few days had shaken them. The arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus had them scared for their lives. Then the "Mary's" and the other women that very morning had been to the empty tomb, and they had been told that Jesus had risen. Peter had also gone to the tomb and had found it empty. This should have brought joy and peace to the faithful, but this was anything but a peaceful gathering. Oh, the believers probably weren’t fighting amongst themselves, but the room was full of the conflictions of fear and doubt. This was not alleviated by the fact that two of the faithful who had been traveling to Emmaus were telling the gathered believers about how Jesus had appeared to them: how He had walked along the road with them and explained the Scriptures to them, and how He had revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread.

While these two were still speaking, Jesus appeared in the midst of them and said to them, "Peace to you." Luke tells us that the believers were terrified and frightened, as though they were seeing a ghost. You can imagine their eyes bugging out of their heads! If anything, the appearance of Jesus among them seems only to have made the situation worse! It didn’t look like the believers were going to be able to find that longed-for peace anywhere.

But then Jesus begins to calm their fears. He says to them, "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see." He takes up and eats a piece of fish, proving that He is flesh and blood and bone, that He is, indeed, the same Jesus with whom they spent the last three years, the same Jesus whom they saw crucified just three days earlier. And then, just as He had done with the two believers on the road to Emmaus, He opened the Scriptures to them, explaining how everything that happened was to fulfill the words of the Old Testament, allowing them to see that He was the very Messiah who had been promised to them from the day of the fall into sin. He patiently led them out of their doubt and fear and uncertainty, giving them the peace which only His presence could give them.

Like the believers in our text, we look for peace all over the place. We look to our politicians to legislate some sort of moral peace and to keep physical peace. We look to our parents to negotiate some sort of family peace. We look may even look to the various religions of the world and glean "the best" of what they have to offer in an attempt to find some sort of inner peace. For a time it these things may, indeed, bring us some form of comfort. But true peace? Nothing we can legislate, nothing we can negotiate, nothing we can piece together from the various religions of the world, nothing we can do at all can bring us true, lasting peace.

But rather than finding peace, peace is something we receive. As He did with the disciples that Easter evening, so He does for us this morning and every Lord’s Day. He blesses us with His presence among us, and He gives us peace. He gives us the peace of the forgiveness of sins in the water of Holy Baptism, in the words of Holy Absolution which are spoken by the pastor as from Christ Himself, in His own body and blood in the Holy Supper. This is true peace, peace which, as Jesus tells us in John 14, which the world cannot give. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus brings peace between heaven and earth. God and sinners are reconciled. Sin is forgiven, death is overcome, and we have the peace of God which passes all understanding.

That is one of the great joys of the liturgy which we pray this morning. Peace is all over the place. We repeatedly pray in and for peace in the Kyrie. We recognize the truth that peace is something we receive in the Gloria in Excelsis. In the Agnus Dei, we confess the truth that in the body and blood of Jesus we will be receiving that peace yet again. And of course, the last word which you hear from the pastor in the Divine Service is the Benediction, where the Lord blesses and keeps you, makes His face to shine upon you, and gives you peace. This peace which we then receive allows us to go out into the world and face our daily lives, our trials and temptations, even as that same peace allowed the disciples to go out into the world, making disciples and baptizing all nations as they went, sharing the message that Christ is risen, that sin is forgiven, that death is overcome. You see, that’s the other blessing of our Gospel reading. The Lord made the disciples witnesses to these things. Having been eyewitnesses, they brought a faithful accounting of them to everyone they came across. And we have that faithful accounting even today, because the Apostles left for us in the words of Holy Scripture the account of how Christ has made peace for us with God. This peace even strengthened the martyrs to face their own brutal murders at the hands of those who sought to silence that peace. Should the time come when you are called upon to renounce your faith or be put to death, the peace of God which the world cannot—and which it has no desire to give—will strengthen you to be faithful, even unto death.

This is a greater peace than we can find from our government, a greater peace than parents can enforce with wayward children, a greater peace than we can cobble together from all the false religions of this world. Our Lord did more than just speak the word of peace. He Himself is peace. It is my privilege today to share that peace of God with you, the peace which the world cannot give, the peace which passes all human understanding. So . . . blessed is the Peacemaker. Yes, let there be peace on earth. But let it begin with Jesus, for He makes peace, and He is peace. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Free Speech Questioned in Canada

Remember those Danish cartoons which depicted Mohammed which caused such a furor? It seems a Canadian magazine editor has gone through an interrogation from a Canadian human rights commission for reprinting those cartoons. I know I have spoken with some frustration and even disgust regarding the media, but this man makes me proud to be a citizen of the world and thankful that there are journalists and editors who take their responsibilities seriously.

Below are YouTube videos of the opening and closing statements Mr. Ezra Levant made before the commission, as well as his answer to the question, "What was your intent?"

Opening Statement

"What was your intent?"

Closing Argument

May I be so bold when put to the test, as I'm sure the day is coming even in "the land of the free" when freedoms will be denied and rights be questioned. God willing, I will be one who continues to speak the truth.

Thanks to the Reverend Mike Keith, the Scottish Lutheran, for the heads-up.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

The danger of loving the traditional liturgy and hymnody of the Church is that we experience therein a great deal of repetition. The church year is cyclical, and the subjects we talk about at any time of year become appropriate for the daily lives of God's people. This is especially true of the liturgy and hymnody of the Easter season. The hymnody of Easter is also most appropriately the hymnody of funerals and gravesides. Two of the hymns we sang today at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Metairie, Louisiana, were hymns that I've sung at funerals. (One of those two hymns was also sung at my Ordination, but that's another story.)

Singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" has deep meaning for me, but not only because it's a beautiful Easter hymn. Another reason is that we sang that hymn at my grandfather's funeral. But even more so than that, the hymn is a tremendous reminder of the blessings that the Lord of Life--the Lord of the living--provides for his people.

1. I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living Head.

2. He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all-glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.

I know that my Redeemer lives, the firstborn from the grave. He lives triumphant from the grave, triumphant over the grave, over death, over sin. He lives so that I need no longer fear these things, even though they assail me in my daily life. He lives to make His triumph into my triumph in Holy Baptism. He lives, exalted in the heavens and on earth; He lives where heaven meets earth in His Holy Supper, and in Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper I, too, am given faith that I may praise Him in His exaltation.

3. He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives to bless me with a love that is patient and kind, that is not harsh, that does not envy, that rejoices in the truth, that endures all things, that never ends, a love that intercedes for me before the Father, bringing reconciliation to wayward children and their just God. He lives so that His body and blood, given and shed for me, are a meal that feeds me, body and soul, with the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, thus fulfilling my greatest need.

4. He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.

He lives to give me all that I need to support this body and life. He lives to make me to lie down in green pastures, to lead me beside the still waters, to restore my soul, to lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. He lives to bring to bear His rod and staff to comfort me. And when the gifts that He gives me are foolishly and sinfully judged to be inadequate, He even lives to hear me complain about it.

5. He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives so that my laundry list of anxieties about this life and the life of the world to come won't bury me under their weight. He lives so that, every time I sing this hymn and am reminded of all those fears and feel myself becoming overwhelmed in my faithlessness, my tears will not flow without comfort. He lives to bless me in ways that I cannot even begin to ask or imagine--and that in addition to answering each item on that laundry list of anxieties--blessing me with every blessing God has for me.

6. He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives to be the foolishness that is wiser than my wisdom, a blessing I need and too often fail to acknowledge. He lives and loves me without end. He lives, and because He lives to give me faith, He makes me bold and gives me the words to sing His praise. He lives to proclaim His great love to me, to provide and to be the Paschal lamb, to sit on the throne above all thrones, to be the One before Whom all knees shall bow and tongues confess.

7. He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He Iives to bring me safely there.

He lives so that I have life--not only eternal life, but the blessings of a life on the earth for which He was the Word of creation. He lives, and because He has conquered death, so shall I. He lives, and thus He has fulfilled His promise to prepare a place for me. He lives to stay by my cradle til morning is nigh; and when morning has come nigh, He will take me to heaven to live with Him there.

8. He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

He lives, and He has given me the faith to believe and the tongue to confess His great glory. He lives, the Lord who does not change, who remains eternally constant in all things. He lives, and the knowledge that He lives is my greatest blessing, my greatest joy, my only true comfort. He lives . . . and that's all that matters.

"For I know that my Redeemer lives,and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A bit of humor for my knitting friends

I Knit and Purl
(to the tune of "I Kissed a Girl" by Kate Perry)

I used to mock my mother’s hands.
Her hobby bugged me.
She said her needles stopped time’s sands
And kept her mind free.
She told me her method—
“Why don’t you try it out?”
I did it like she did,
And now I can shout—

I knit and purl and I like it.
I even use a yarn swift.
Knitted and purled just to try it,
And now I don’t want to quit.
Guess I was wrong.
My mom was right.
Finished my blanket tonight.
I knit and purl and I like it.
I like it.

The first step is called “casting on”.
It’s the beginning.
And by the time your yarn is gone
It’s like you’re winning
It’s not just some fool’s game—
It’s very practical.
I made you a sweater.
I’m one domestic gal.

I knit and purl and I like it.
I even use a yarn swift.
Knitted and purled just to try it,
And now I don’t want to quit.
Guess I was wrong.
My mom was right.
Finished my blanket tonight.
I knit and purl and I like it.
I like it.

We knitters learn the garter stitch
And while we’re knitting we can bitch.
I think my fingers have the itch.
Too good to deny it.
And I am glad I tried it.

I knit and purl and I like it.
I even use a yarn swift.
Knitted and purled just to try it,
And now I don’t want to quit.
Guess I was wrong.
My mom was right.
Finished my blanket tonight.
I knit and purl and I like it.
I like it.