A myHT Fortress

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Show Us the Father

What a week! Saturday night (really Sunday morning, Beijing time) ended a week of often staying up until 1:30 a.m. watching our incredible swim team – and particularly Michael Phelps. Nightly we would see his sisters and mother, faithfully and devotedly in the stands, cheering and savoring his amazing feat! But one thing—one person—was noticeably absent: Michael’s father.

After commenting on this throughout the week, I googled “Michael Phelps father” and discovered the story. Have I been under a rock while everyone else talked about it? Perhaps. Yet I discovered for the first time that Michael’s parents divorced when he was a child. According to the Baltimore Sun, “Fred Phelps wasn't an everyday figure in his children's lives for much of Phelps' adolescence.” The Sun went on to say that he and his children reconciled several years ago, but have drifted apart again.

Even in this moment of historic athletic achievement, the shadow of sin and broken relationships rears its ugly head. Once again we are reminded that no matter how great or perfect something or someone can seem in this world, the Fall in the Garden has lasting consequences that place us in desperate need of our Savior.

Relationships with other people may sour, fade, or come to disastrous blows. You may even have a falling out with the very two people God used to create you. While this is heartbreaking, our Lord Jesus steps in and makes all things new.

Philip said to [Jesus], "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9 ESV.)

Christ our Champion reminds you today that He is One with His Father. What’s more: because of His suffering, death, and resurrection, our Victorious Savior has redeemed you and made you children of the same Father.

Now, for every tear shed or hurtful word uttered, Jesus has forgiven and restored you. No matter how many times you have broken up with friends, been devastated by loved ones, or crushed by divorce or separation, our loving Lord heals and renews you, giving the calm assurance that He and His Father are with you. Not that He is with you in some magical, intangible way. He unites Himself to you in His Holy Gifts as He promises: Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, the proclamation of His Holy Gospel, and in His Holy Supper! So when you see Jesus in these Holy Gifts, you see the Father as well!

Now we have a joyous celebration—one which doesn’t have a four-year wait. Every Lord’s Day we are gathered around His Gospel proclaimed and consumed. Neither Michael nor you need to be fearful, scanning the stands to see if your mother or father is anywhere in sight. I will not leave you as orphans (John 14:18 ESV) He promises. You are given a perfect, holy assurance that you will never be forsaken by the Father – because you will never be forsaken by Jesus!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First Pack Meeting for 2008-2009

This evening we will have our first pack meeting for the school year. Our Lanesville Pack is pretty inactive for summers (an unusual thing in scouts!) So it will be nice to get back together with everyone.

We had "Round Up" last Thursday. Around 15 new boys are coming in!

I have started a new blog for the pack, as well. It is by invitation only, to protect the boys from any online predators. (We can feel safe in posting phone numbers, dates and places, and photos of pack and den events.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Clone Wars!

Friday night -- opening night -- Ben and I went to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Way cool! This story takes place between Episodes II and III, as the Clone Wars are at their peak. I remember 30 years ago, having no clue what the Clone Wars were about, but they sounded so mysterious and intriguing!

I loved it. Great adventure. You actually get drawn into liking Anakin a bit more, so that you care for this poor soul who would end up so "twisted and evil."

Ben and I enjoyed our night out with some friends. (Kristi went with the wives/moms to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.)

Rachael Soyk Erdman has a review that will be posted on Higher Things tonight or tomorrow. Look for it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Treasure Indeed!

It's coming! I'm very excited, indeed! Yes, I enjoy praying the Daily Office (Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline) from LSB. (And the Brotherhood Prayer Book is a fabulous resource as well.)

Yet even with such great books, there is the need of one's Bible for the readings, and any other sources such as church fathers, Luther's Works, etc., for further devotional readings.

But now, in one volume, we have a true treasure in the final stages of publishing. The order of service, prayers, Scripture readings, all 150 psalms, and various passages from Luther & other sainted fathers in the faith will be at your fingertips!

The Treasury of Daily Prayer will be offered by CPH in October. For $34.99, a book "just a tad thicker than
Lutheran Service Book, with the same exterior dimensions of the Concordia edition of the Book of Concord" will have all of your prayer needs at hand!

The local LWML zone (for which I am pastoral counselor) had officers who actually thought I was on one of the committees for LSB, since I talked it up so much. Well, now I have yet another book from CPH that I'm praising and urging: TDP!

Look in your parish for sign-up sheets to appear in October for distribution around Reformation.

Rev. Paul McCain has a PDF of the introduction (a working draft) for a sneak preview.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You Know You're Pushing 40 When...

...too much deep fried food stays with you all night long.

We fried zucchini last evening. Kristi uses a hint from Rachael Ray to slice them in long strips, with one side of each piece keeping the skin. They look like steak fries. Then you dip them in flour, and then in a beer batter (which is simply beer and flour, mixed to pancake-batter-consistency.) Deep fry them at about 350 degrees until golden and crispy.

(With the bleached flour and the beer, it doesn't fit in all that well with Pastor Weedon's Atkins Diet, does it!)

Still, we love them. I ate way too many, and after the better part of the evening, took a Pepcid. I remained uncomfortable all night!

Monday, August 4, 2008

All Christians Who Have Been Baptized

There is a Latin saying in the Church: Lex orandi, lex credendi – literally, the law of prayer is the law of belief. In plain English, this means that what we pray and how we pray contributes to the form and practice of our faith. Likewise, our faith shapes the content and pattern of our prayers.

Hymnody is also prayer. What we sing contributes to the formation of our doctrine and practice – our faith – and our faith directs our selections in song. As we sing to the Lord, He is speaking to us – teaching, proclaiming, and declaring Christ to us! That is one of the marks of a truly Lutheran hymn; it is not simply singing about Christ – it proclaims Christ and His saving work for you!

One such song that is returning to us is Paul Gerhardt’s “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized” (#596 in Lutheran Service Book.) This treasure of a hymn was written by one of Lutheranism’s—indeed, one of the Western catholic Church’s—greatest hymn writers. Sadly, most English language hymnals seem to have set it aside, and not translated it. However, thanks to the scholarly efforts of the Rev. Jon D. Vieker, it returns to us as a fresh and lively teaching on our new life, cleansed in Christ.

“All Christians who have been baptized,

Who know the God of heaven,

And in whose daily life is prized

The name of Christ once given:

Consider now what God has done,

The gifts He gives to ev’ryone

Baptized into Christ Jesus!”

Stanza 1 is an invitation. The first half of the stanza tells us who we are, the baptized Christians that the hymn writer is addressing. Then he urges us to consider the works of God – the gifts He gives through our Baptism into Christ. In the following five stanzas he then proclaims those gifts!

Stanza 2 speaks clearly on the scriptural truth of original sin:

“You were before your day of birth,

Indeed, from your conception,

Condemned and lost with all the earth,

None good, without exception.

For like your parents’ flesh and blood,

Turned inward from the highest good,

You constantly denied Him.”

Here is echoed King David’s preaching that we are conceived in sin – flawed from the moment our first two cells united. At the same time, this is a reminder of our Lord’s biblical teaching on the gift of life from conception, and a reinforcement of the teaching of original sin. Flesh and bone descendants of Adam, we inherit his rebelliousness. Left to our own works and words, we are self-centered, inward-turned, doomed creatures.

On the other hand, we dare not despair! Stanza 4 proclaims our joy of putting on Christ!

“In Baptism we now put on Christ –

Our shame is fully covered

With all that He once sacrificed

And freely for us suffered.

For here the flood of His own blood

Now makes us holy, right, and good

Before our heav’nly Father.”

The Lord has not left us dead in our trespasses. He has given new birth – new life, made right and holy and good with God! We rejoice and love others and we live out our faith in our vocation.

Stanza 5 goes on to encourage Christians: “firmly hold this gift.” Why? “When nothing else revives your soul, your Baptism stands and makes you whole, and then in death completes you." In this world there is no creature or thing can truly give and refresh life. Life is given by God alone, and He alone sustains it. He blesses and revives our lives beyond imagination, with this sacred New Birth. The Eternal Word who spoke all things into existence, gives true life as He attaches His Name to the water. We are gifted to fully enjoy this forgiven, renewed life here and now. However, the best is yet to come—He will fulfill and complete it all when we fall asleep in Jesus and He gathers us to Himself.

“All Christians Who Have Been Baptized” is a joyous gift from God, teaching us about original sin and our depravity. Yet it also teaches the absolute joys of living as New Creatures, baptized into Christ! At the same time, because we believe these truths of Holy Scripture, we joy in singing such a hymn.

What a joy, dear saints of God, that the Lord has taken this old song, and given it new life among us! A dear blessing has been given to us with a larger section of baptismal hymns in Lutheran Service Book. Our Savior is giving sweet comforting Gospel, assuring you of the treasure of this sacred washing with lasting effects!

Jesus now blesses you as His new creation. He places you in your various vocations to live in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another. As you do, rejoicing in your Baptism, He leads you to anticipate

“that day when you possess

His glorious robe of righteousness

Bestowed on you forever!”

The above may also be viewed at Higher Things.