Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My prayer closet

I have debated for a long time whether or not to share this with others on my blog, but I have decided it may be a good thing. When we bought our home in November of 2007, one stipulation that I had was that the home would have a place devoted to prayer and devotion. I believe it is vitally important for Christians to actually devote such spaces in their homes for this one and only purpose for many reasons, but mainly because it stands as a witness that we need to pray. Just as the kitchen and dining room stand witness that we need to eat, the bedroom stands witness that we need to sleep, the living room stands witness that we need to rest and spend time with our family, and the bathroom stands witness to the fact that we need to do other things (let the reader understand!), so too a space in the home devoted to prayer and meditation on Sacred Scripture stands witness to our need as Christians to pray, praise and give thanks.

So, in our home office there is a small (3'X3') closet that my wife and I both decided would be a good place for a prayer space. Now, the pictures that follow are what I have done and I do like icons and candles. It is not necessary to have these things, but it helps me and is a faithful confession of the Evangelical Lutheran faith. I do not post these pictures to brag or to show how "holier than thou" I am, but the use of a prayer closet or devoted prayer space has been a great source of blessing to me as a Christian and as a pastor and I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to devote their own spaces to prayer and meditation.

This prayer altar is a cabinet I got at a garage sale and painted. The icons on the three sides are (from left to right), The Blessed Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, Our Lord's Crucifixion, the Archangel St. Michael. One of the most important things about my closet is that it must be centered on Christ and Him crucified.
These pictures should give you the main idea of what I have done with my prayer closet. If you have any questions of concerns about it, please don't hesitate to ask either in the comments, via e-mail or in person. Everything in this prayer space was carefully thought out that it may confess Christ and Him crucified. Please keep in mind that the use of Eastern icons is my own personal preference, it in no way is meant to suggest that I am swimming any rivers. I am Lutheran and I give thanks to our evangelical freedom that allows any art that faithfully confesses the truth of Holy Scripture.
I also use prayer beads (aka, a rosary) but I do not pray to Mary or the saints. There is one Mediator between God and man, the one man Jesus Christ. They simply help me to focus my attention on the Psalms (and I also use them to pray the Small Catechism).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us!

Very near to the top of Mount Calvary in our Lenten journey, we weary travelers are given a reminder and joyful feast to fill our hearts and souls.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, or, perhaps more appropriately, the Feast of the Incarnation. For that is surely what it is, the incarnation of our good Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of His holy mother.

It is that incarnation, that putting on of our flesh, that allowed our dear Savior to bear our sins bodily on the cross. It is that same flesh that rose again on that still more glorious Feast of the Resurrection. It is that flesh, glorified and whole, that sits at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us even now. It is that Feast of the Incarnation that we celebrate every time we take the incarnate Word of God into our mouths at the Holy Supper and into our ears and hearts at the hearing of the beautiful Gospel message.

Also at this under celebrated feast we give thanks for that faith of the Virgin Mother. That faith which says in the midst of uncertainty, improbability and foolishness "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." That faith first uttered on the lips of Eve when she was given a son, that faith acted upon by Abraham with his Son. That faith that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the faith that we give thanks for and the faith that, through our baptism, we share. Such amazing faith!
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Lord, give us such faith as we look upon the awful cross of Christ, that we may not turn in fear from the gifts You give us, but, with Your good gift of faith, embrace that gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation found in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame;
“All hail, to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

“For know a bless├Ęd mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify God’s holy name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say—
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
* The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

A Blessed Feast of the Holy Fetus

Isn't this what we should start calling Annunciation? Those who are pro-death use words like "fetus," and "embryo" to dehumanize the babies they say it is ok to kill. But Christ makes no distinction. He came to save those whom He lived for. He lived as a fetus and and embryo in the blessed womb of the Virgin Mother. Christ died for those He lived for, and today the Church celebrates His life as a fetus and gives thanks that those whose lives are so tragically and brutally taken have a Redeemer who lives for them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whoa! What a break!

To those of you who may have feared that I had given up the ghost, I am still alive, still preaching and teaching, still thinking about things, but I have not had much desire to blog for quite some time.
We are in the midst of the Lenten season, as are all Western Christians. At Good Shepherd this Lent we are looking at the faithful example of the saints who have gone before us: Ash Wednesdaywas faithful Polycarp who boldly and faithfully served his Lord until his grizzly and blessed death. Next was Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas, young mothers who gave up everything rather than deny their Lord and Savior, St. Patrick with his missionary zeal and faithfulness to the orthodox teaching of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, may we all bind unto ourselves Christ and Him crucified! Tonight we looked at St. Joseph, the chaste and faithful guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ. He teaches us to guard that good and godly treasure of Christ crucified, the only begotten Son of the eternal Father.

We look forward with repentant joy and contrite anticipation to the dramatic events of Holy Week. Good Shepherd will gather to pray a cappella Matins Holy Monday through Holy Wednesday at 8 am. Maundy Thursday at 7 pm we celebrate our Lord's Institution of the Holy Eucharist and His command to love one another (we also will have individual Holy Absolution the the somber Stripping of the Altar). Good Friday we celebrate the Cheif Service with the complete Passion account and the Holy Eucharist at 12 noon and Tennebrae Vespers with the seven final words of Christ from the Cross at 8 pm. Holy Saturday a cappella Matins at 9:30 am, Easer Vigil at 8:10 pm (sunset, weather permitting we will begin outside of the church and process in with candlelight). Easter sunrise Matins (again, beginning outside, weather permitting) at 6:55 am, we break our Lenten fast with Easter breakfast at 8 am. We then feast the Resurrection with the risen Body and Blood of Christ with the Divine Service at 9:30 am.

If you are in the area, join us! A blessed Lenten, may your hearts be prepared to celebrate the Paschal feast.