"If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed" (Romans 8:36)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world

In John chapter 8, Jesus Christ our Lord teaches us about Himself, saying: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

To my mind, finer words, truer words have never been spoken. Through the Spirit-blessed Word and Sacraments of the Church, the light of Christ shines on and on... On our hearts, on our lives, and in the world. Christ Jesus our Savior is a greater light than the moon and the stars. He is a shining beacon of life for a dark and darkening world. Without Christ Jesus come to us through the Gospel we would have no hope of a tomorrow, no hope of light, no hope of joy. But with Christ, we have every hope, we have only light and an eternity of joy. Shine on, O Light! For to know You is to know life. For You are truly the way, the truth, and the life.

   Shine on the darkened and the cold;
   Recall the wand'rers to Your fold.
   Unite all those who walk apart;
   Confirm the weak and doubting heart,

   That they with us may evermore
   Such grace with wond'ring thanks adore
   And endless praise to You be giv'n
   By all Your church in earth and heav'n.

       -"O Christ, Our True and Only Light" Lutheran Service Book 839:4-5 (public domain).

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's as if Luther is speaking directly to the Church today

Today is February 18th, the day in which God our Father called His servant Martin Luther home to Paradise in heaven. Luther was one of the greatest teachers in the history of the Church, one who boldly and courageously took a stand for the Gospel despite great danger.

Here's a little bit from his final sermon, preached at St. Andreas in Eisleben, on February 15, 1546. The text is Matthew 11:25-30, and as always, Luther explicates the text with faithfulness and forthrightness and applies God's Word to the situation of his day. Luther would die three days later on February 18th.
This is a fine Gospel and it has a lot in it. Let us talk about part of it now, covering as much as we can and as God gives us grace.
The Lord here praises and extols his heavenly Father for having hidden these things from the wise and understanding. That is, he did not make his gospel known to the wise and understanding, but to infants and children who cannot speak and preach and are not knowing and wise. Thus he indicates that he is opposed to the wise and understanding and dearly loves those who are not wise and understanding but are rather like young children.
But to the world it is very foolish and offensive that God should be opposed to the wise and condemn them, when, after all, we have the idea that God could not reign if he did not have wise and understanding people to help him. But the meaning of the saying is this: the wise and understanding in the world so contrive things that God cannot be favorable and good to them. For they are always exerting themselves; they do things in the Christian church the way they want to themselves. Everything that God does they must improve, so that there is no poorer, more insignificant and despised disciple on earth than God; he must be everybody’s pupil, everybody wants to be his teacher and preceptor. This may be seen in all heretics from the beginning of the world, in Arius and Pelagius, and now in our time the Anabaptists and antisacramentarians, and all fanatics and rebels; they are not satisfied with what God has done and instituted, they cannot let things be as they were ordained to be. They think they have to do something too, in order that they may be a bit better than other people and be able to boast: This is what I have done; what God has done is too poor and insignificant, even childish and foolish; I must add something to it. This is the nature of the shameful wisdom of the world, especially in the Christian church, where one bishop and one pastor hacks and snaps at another and one obstructs and shoves the other, as we have seen at all times in the government of the church to its great detriment. These are the real wiseacres, of whom Christ is speaking here, who put the cart before the horse and will not stay on the road which God himself has shown us, but always have to have and do something special in order that the people may say: Ah, our pastor or preacher is nothing; there’s the real man, he’ll get things done!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Learning through the Sacraments

A fascinating blogger named Molly Sabourin who describes herself as an "orthodox Christian" writes a brief, but impassioned article entitled "And Yet Love Happens." She explains how she no longer feels obliged to be an apologist for her Christian faith... especially in the face of terrible tragedies, suffering, and grief. At the heart of her withdrawal from apologetics, she notes that she is instead centered in the Sacraments of the Church, which I would agree with of course- for truly the community of faith is marked by these means of grace. The mysteries of the faith after all-the Sacraments-are the means of grace by which faith is born. Through means such as Baptism, Absolution, and the Eucharist, the people of God die and rise with Christ, receive the full and free forgiveness of their sins by Christ Himself, hearts and minds are nurtured for the kingdom of God, and the children of God are fed and nourished by the body and blood Christ in with and under the bread and the wine.

Anyway, this is what Ms. Sabourin has to say in this brief, but beautiful article:
I feel no obligation anymore to explain God, or why I believe in the Resurrection of Christ despite the universality of death and suffering. I won't pretend that suicide bombers, plane crashes and children with cancer don't make my insides crawl with horror. The truth is I have no real answers to give, and that any I concocted would be speculative at best. Being confronted by tragedy is like a bucket of ice water to the head. Death and suffering, the way they breathe all hot and heavy down my neck, won't let me sleep, or forget that I am vulnerable - just as vulnerable as any and everyone else - to having my comfortable little existence shred to pieces in a heartbeat.
I feel no responsibility to whitewash the pain of being broken with glossy euphemisms proposing that sense can be made of injustice. Thirteen years ago I surrendered my opinions and dependence on reason to the ancient teachings of the Church - I retired my time consuming (wasting?) quest to figure things out (Who, what, where, when, why is God, exactly?) and learned through the sacraments to make peace with the Mystery that is God and His mercy, the Holy Trinity, salvation. And now I'm no longer in the mood for a debate about the peripherals, not when the end is all around me and my only real source of courage is, mysteriously enough, self-denial. No, I will not try and appease your anger, your disillusionment, your doubts; but God help me weep with you when you weep and love you, serve you, just exactly as you are, lest the monsters, pride and despair, sink their teeth into my soul.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Four-fold Service of the Christ-Mass

A very merry Christmas to you, dear reader, on this Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord, this Christmas Eve.
It is the Eve of Christmas, the Eve, the Eve of the Christ-Mass. A high feast in the Church's Calendar and of great significance for our Christian faith. Lost amid all the fights about when Christmas starts (today) and the increasing secular celebrations surrounding it is the fact that Christmas is an incredibly rich feast. It is so rich in significance for our faith that over time the church has evolved three distinct masses (at three distinct times of the day) to contain it all. 
Although these three masses are often contracted into two, these are three celebrations. Here in our LC–MS, there is even a fourth celebration added, for earlier in the day on Christmas Eve (p.s. some might argue there are still just three celebrations, with the so-called "first" taking place early on Christmas Eve, before the sundown start of the feast... but let's not quibble. I'm calling it four). The services, which together comprise a distinct whole, are as follows:

The First Mass of the Christ-Mass, Christmas Eve
  The Announcement to Joseph of the Birth of Christ
Introit: Psalm 24:1, 3-5; antiphon: Psalm 2:6-7
Verse: Alleluia. The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you." Alleluia.
Collect: O God, You make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Grant that as we joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to be our Judge.
Old Testament: Isaiah 7:10-14.
Epistle: 1 John 4:7-16.
Holy Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25.

The Second Mass of the Christ-Mass, at midnight
  The Historical Birth in Bethlehem
Introit Psalm 2:1-2, 4-6; antiphon: Liturgical Text.
Verse: Alleluia. Oh come, let us sing to the Lord. Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Alleluia.
Collect: O God, You make this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that as we have known the mysteries of that Light on earth we may also come to the fullness of His joys in heaven.
Old Testament: Isaiah 9:2-7.
Epistle: Titus 2:11-15.
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14.

The Third Mass of the Christ-Mass, at dawn
  The Spiritual Birth in the Believer
Introit: Psalm 93:102,5; antiphon Isaiah 9:2a, 6a, 6c.
Verse: Alleluia. The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Alleluia.
Collect: Most merciful God, You gave Your eternal Word to become incarnate of the pure Virgin. Grant Your people grace to put away fleshly lusts, that they may be ready for Your visitation.
Old Testament: Micah 5:2-5a.
Epistle: Titus 3:4-7.
Gospel: Luke 2:15-20.

The Fourth Mass o the Christ-Mass, during the day
  The Eternal Generation in the Trinity
Introit: Psalm 98:1-4; antiphon: Isaiah 9:6.
Alleluia. A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, all you nations, and worship the Lord. Alleluia.
Collect: Almighty god, grant that the birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the bondage of sin.
Old Testament: Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38.
Epistle: Titus 3:4-7.
Gospel: John 1:1-14.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Weekly Bible Readings

My daily Bible readings for this week, Sunday, December 5th through Saturday the 12th. The pericopes for Sunday morning were: Malachi 4:1-6, Romans 15:4-13, and Luke 21:25-36.

+ Pax +

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

HT: Let's Hold Back the Christmas Cheer:

From Losana Boyd on the First Things (Roman Catholic) Blog:
Advent is the great season of preparation for the greatest of all gifts: Christ Himself. But as our culture makes all too obvious, this is also a season of high commercialism. As Fr. George Rutler from Our Saviour Parish in New York City reminds us:
The season of Advent is lyrically beautiful if one is willing to engage the realities it teaches: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. The alternative is to create a parallel universe partying in a faux Christmas confection of jingle bells, dancing elves, and self-conscious bonhomie, avoiding the Incarnation of God.
Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell—the themes of the four Sundays in Advent don’t exactly seemed filled with Christmas cheer. Instead, they are sobering, encouraging a state of wakefulness from the distractions of frivolity. Advent has become something truly countercultural–at a time when holiday parties and merry making are at a fever pitch, Advent calls us to remember the passing nature of this world and the eternity that awaits.
Be sure to read the rest of Fr. Rutler’s column here.