Monday, December 24, 2007

A Blessed Feast of the Nativity to You!

We are indeed blessed to celebrate the incarnation of the Eternal Word at Good Shepherd three times! Christmas Eve Candlelight Vespers, Christmas Midnight Divine Service and Christmas Morning Divine Service. May all of my readers and all Christians everywhere faithfully gather at the wonder of Immanuel, God with us, in Word and Sacrament tonight and tomorrow.

Christmas Meditations from the Fathers

Bethlehem has opened Eden: Come, let us see! We have found joy hidden! Come, let us take possession of the paradise within the cave. There the unwatered stem has appeared, from which forgiveness blossoms forth! There the undug well is found from which David longed to drink of old! There the Virgin has borne a child, and at once the thirst of Adam and David is made to cease. Therefore let us hasten to this place where for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child!
Ikos of the Nativity of the Lord.

He was a baby and a child, so that you may be a perfect human. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you may be freed from the snares of death. He was in a manger, so that you may be in the altar. He was on earth that you may be in the stars. He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens. He, being rich, became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich. Therefore His poverty is our inheritance, and the Lord’s weakness is our virtue. He chose to lack for Himself, that He may abound for all. The sobs of that appaling infancy cleanse me, those tears wash away my sins. Therefore, Lord Jesus, I owe more to your sufferings because I was redeemed than I do to works for which I was created.
Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 2:41-42.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Home Blessed

Well, we had 31 people at our home yesterday for the open house and home blessing. It was very nice and several people commented on what a nice rite it is. Thanks to Pr. Jon Krenz for officiating. This rite has a lot of great potential for sharing the faith and the Word with friends, neighbors and family who may not go to church. As Scripture says, God's Word does not return void, but accomplishes the purposes for which He sent it. Pastors, encourage your people to use this rite. Teach about it and use it yourself as an example for them to see it in practice. Laypeople, ask your pastors about it, and for heaven's sake, don't let them tell you its too Catholic! Its in our Lutheran Service Book and valuable for the edification and sanctification of the Christian life.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Home Blessing

Tomorrow we will celebrate St. Nicholas Day and the many blessings God has bestowed on us with an open house and home blessing. Our good friend, Pr. Jon Krenz from Epiphany Lutheran Church in Dorr, Michigan, will be conducting the rite from the Pastoral Care Companion. I think this will be a great way to introduce people to the ancient rite of blessing the home with the Word and prayer as well as a great time to open our home in fellowship to our wonderful parish family!

It looks like we could get a bit of nasty weather, but I'm sure we'll still have a wonderful time gathered in prayer around the Word and lifting voices in song and thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Everything I need to know about Life in Christ, I learned in the Divine Service

1. There is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and He has marked me as His own by the Cross of Christ. (Invocation)

2. I am sinful and deserve nothing from God except His wrath and punishment. If I don't believe and confess this I am a liar. (Confession)

3. Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for me and for Christ's sake, He forgives me all of my sins. So that I would believe that more completely, God has called and ordained certain men to assure me of my temporal and eternal forgiveness. (Absolution)

4. As a forgiven child of God, I am invited and commanded to offer Him my prayer and praise. I may come into His divine and glorious presence for He has had mercy on me.(Service of the Word: Psalm/Introit, Kyrie, Hymn of Praise, Salutation and Collect of the Day)

5. Holy Scripture is the Word of the Lord, it does not contain some of the Word of the Lord, but is wholly, without doubt the complete Word of God, for this reason, I give God thanks. (Readings and their responses)

6. The Holy Gospel is Christ speaking. Where else can I go to find eternal life? Because of this the Church raises up her alleluias of praise. (Alleluia and Verse)

7. I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in One Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. My faith is my own but it is the same as the Church throughout time. I cannot rely on anyone else's faith for my eternal salvation. (The Creed)

8. God's love for me is so great that He has given me a trained and ordained pastor and preacher, that His Word may be delivered to me in its truth and purity, that I may be convicted by God's Law and learn to live under it and that I may see with new sweetness and thanksgiving the life-giving and freeing Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Sermon)

9. Again, God calls me to come directly to Him in prayer. There is one Mediator between God and man, the one man, Jesus Christ. In His name I join with the Church, offering up prayers and petitions and thanksgiving for all things. (Prayer of the Church)

10. I am blessed to give God's Church a part of the blessings God has given me so that the work of the Gospel, namely the ministry of Word and Sacrament, may continue through His called and ordained servants. (Offering and Offertory)

11. The Lord is with us so we lift our hearts and give thanks, singing Him songs of praise, the very angelic hymn, which confesses our Holy Triune God to be almighty and having salvation in His wings. (Preface, Sanctus and Proper Preface)

12. God loves me so much that He has graciously taught me to pray. (Lord's Prayer)

13. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, has given me His own body and blood as He says in His Gospel which is the true and complete Word of God. The bread and wine that we receive as a testament of the Lord's death are truly what He says they are, that is Body and Blood given for our forgiveness. (Words of Institution)

14. The Peace of the Lord is found in His Eucharist which gives us Christ and the forgiveness of sins. (Pax Domini)

15. I recognize Christ in the Sacrament by the words of St. John the Baptizer and Forerunner: Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world. (Agnus Dei)

16. Again, God in His all-availing love, has not left me to my own reason and experience to know that He comes to us in the body and blood, but has called and ordained certain men to give us and assure us that we receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. (Distribution)

17. My response to God's mercy and kindness is a canticle of praise, either thanking our Lord and singing His praise, or asking Him to bless us with peace for the gift of His salvation, and coming before Him in prayer. (Post-Communion Canticle and Collect)

18. I leave this beautiful presence of the Lord, again reminded that it is in the name of the Triune God that I received and continue to receive all blessings, namely the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. (Benediction)

19. Amen, that is, it shall be done.

Let People Confess

I have a big pet peeve. Why do pastors refuse to let their people confess their sins? I'm not talking about not having times for private confession and absolution. I'm talking about those times when God's people faithfully harken to the call to repent and the pastor does, what in my opinion, is the stupidest, most faithless thing he could do..."That's not really a sin," or "That's not that bad."

If people come to you with something to confess, let them! Give them the sweet gift of Holy Absolution. I don't care if its something as seemingly trivial as going 1 mile over the speed limit, if that has caused a dear saint in Christ to despair so much so that they would come to you privately seeking the Gospel, GIVE IT TO THEM!!!

I had a pastor to whom I made confession once, many years ago. It was a big sin that I struggled with for years. He looked at me and said, "It's not that big of a deal, many people do that." Why did he do it? Why does any pastor turn away a penitent sinner? Perhaps its because they struggle with the same sin but have not or refuse to acknowledge it as sinfulness. Perhaps its because they despise their office and the Gospel, refusing to give that which was given freely, it to a beggar. Whatever the reason, if you are a pastor and have done this, REPENT! If you are a lay-person and have done what few Lutherans are willing to do by going to private confession, make your pastor forgive you. It's his job! Don't ever let him off with "that's ok, it's not a big deal!" The atonement of Christ is a big deal and He has given it to you at a high cost.