Sunday, July 17, 2011
Several years ago, I had major surgery followed by several months convalescence. Since I was close to retirement, I decided to go ahead and do so. Now, I find myself just barely making it financially and am casting about for employment. The intensity of the job search has increased over the past three months to a fever pitch, matched only by my anxiety over not having found anything. When I think of some entrepreneurial income generators, I am buffaloed by not having the few hundred dollars to do the start up. My goals are small and it all seems doable, but that is obviously not the case. I know that I am starting to panic, at least internally. Where is my trust in God? Why can't I beleve what He so clearly states in scripture. I'm to take no thought for the morrow, so tomorrow is here and nothing has changed. What gives? My head is full of "what ifs", what if my car breaks down?, what if I need this or that?, you can really just fill in the blank after "what if". My Calvinistic friends would say God is trying to teach me something. Maybe, but it sure isn't living cheaply, I'm an expert in that. I haven't bought anything but thrift shop clothes in 15 years, and most everything I have was had by someone before. I think the "God is teaching you..." misses the point. I think the point is me trying to shrink god down into something manageable. I often really want Him to be a genie, granting my wishes without hesitation. And there's something of a challenge present also. I want God to be an equal player in some sort of social contract. The hateful truth is I'm selfish, I want what I want and I want it now. I want God to become smaller and more manageable, more sensible, and ultimatly more controllable. And yet, I don't, do I. I say that God is all powerful, but hate the fact that he is. I say that he is all knowing and curse his lack of sharing that knowledge in a way I understand. In the end, I've got to remember with Luther, that I am baptized. I must take what he says at face value and not try to read my concerns into it. Some days it is such a struggle to do that. Satan's grinning.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
For some time now I have joining several others at 7:10 in Lauds, the first of the daily prayers offices. This is also known as Morning Prayer and Matins. Most Lutherans call the first prayer office Matins, but for some reason the ancient term Lauds appeals to me. It is called Lauds because is it a laudatory liturgy of praise in the early morning light. There is a great discussion of this at: http://www.2ds.ca/Prayer/hours.html It is praise to God for the the light of creation and for Christ, the Light of the World. The service consists of prayers, canticles, scripture readings, psalms, and often a reading from one of the Patristic fathers or Luther, following the order in the Lutheran Brotherhood Book of Prayer. Although the Brotherhood Book of Prayer includes many Gregorian chant tunes for the Psalms, the Antiphons, the Canticles, in fact you could chant the entire service as was done in past centuries,we do not. We simply responsively read these. It takes us a little over a month to get through the Psalms, about five a day. For some reason unknown to me, we have rarely been graced with female presence, so it all feels very monastic. That being said, it is a wonderful way to begin the day and a discipline I would recommend to anyone.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The picture above is from our three hour observance of Good Friday, Tre Or. The pastor and two assistants lie prostate before the stripped alter. The crucifix has been lowered down and will soon leave the sanctuary. This is an ancient ritual, one that is powerful, humbling, thought provoking, and reminds me why I love my church so much.
I grew up in this town, actually I grew up in church, not this one, but St. Paul's. It is the Lutheran mother church of Fort Wayne and one of the charter churches of the synod. St. Paul's is a huge edifice in the city's downtown. It's grade school is the oldest continually operating grade school in the state. I was there six days a week from age four to twelve. Then, entering Concordia Lutheran High School, I would only be around St. Paul's two or three days a week. So much heritage for a young man to take for granted. During my high school years, I visited another Lutheran church, Redeemer, largely because I was dating the current pastor's daughter. It was eye opening, nothing like staid St. Paul's. They had kneelers, people crossed themselves and genuflected. It was not even part of the Indiana District of LCMS, but the non-geographical English District. It's pastor was a tennis playing liberal who went on Freedom Marches. I loved everything about it, it just felt right, but I had no idea why.
I left Fort Wayne in 1965, not to return for forty-five years, that was last year. Somehow along the way, I started to put legs under the first feelings I had at Redeemer many years ago. I discovered my love for things liturgical. I came to understand the Bride of Christ as all the Saints who had ever lived. When I lifted my heart up unto the Lord, I was joining those earliest of Christians in the Sursum Corda bearing witness with them and those around me in worshipping our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.
But as I got deeper and deeper into this, others around me didn't share my enthusiams. I was on the West Coast by now where Lutherans are somewhat of a novelty. I was a novelty among them: I crossed myself, I talked about the historical practices of the Christian Church, I studied St. Jerome, I read the Didache and I generated incredible eye-rolling. But, I would insist, Luther didn't want to abolish the Mass, only reform it. And, when I read more of Luther, he only seemed, as my critics would say, "sehr Katholische". Pastor's counseled me that worship style wasn't that important, just adiophera. I kept thinking that your physical behaviors also informed what you believed. That if your worship was casual wasn't your theology also. I even met a Lutheran pastor who talked about making a decision for Christ.
Fast forward to June, 2010: I had returned to Fort Wayne almost forty-five years to the day when I had left. I began the search for a church. Of course, first I returned to St. Paul's, little had changed, but it was haunted for me. Where were the Knoblauch's, the Schaak's, the Schoenherr's, and other families from my youth. Everything was the same, but nothing was the same. Then I thought, let's check out Redeemer and I did. I feel in love. It observed the historic practices of the church, it was full of seminarians enthusiastically exigeting scripture, there were families with small children, it had a great young pastor, and an extremely talented kantor; it was everything I had been looking for. So, as Thoreau observed, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." My castle now had a real foundation.
In truth, this has been a long, around the barn way of saying, "It's good to be home."
Sunday, April 17, 2011
It's Palm Sunday, not only here but around the world, this year the Orthodox are celebrating on the same day as the Western Church. Here at the epicenter of the Rudisillian Empire, Redeemer Lutheran Church, we received our palms in the narthex, listened to the readings, and then, following a phalanx of acolytes, crucifirs, and officiants processed into the sanctuary. We were remembering our Lord's entry into Jerusalem the Sunday of Passover Week. He came gently, riding the colt of a donkey, a symbol of peace, yet the crowds were hoping for a great hero to deliver them from the yoke of Imperial Rome. Their cries were "Hosanna", "save me", not from sin, but oppression. All too often, I am at that very same place. I want a hero to save me, to make everything in my life wonderful, to somehow cause me to sin no more. What I get instead through no effort on my part is His promise that I am redeemed, that my sins are forgiven, that I will join Him in eternal life in Heaven. In spite of myself, He has saved me.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
This mornning we celebrated Judica Sunday, all the crucifixes and crosses were vieled, but with a sheer material, so you could get a shadowy sense of the covered. In Corinthians 13:12, St. Paul wrote, "For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Judica reminds me that, in truth, I can hardly bear to look at the crucifix, to be reminded of my Lord's suffereing for me. I don't deserve it, but yet it has been freely given. From the very beginnings in the garden when God fashioned a covering for Adam and Eve's nakedness, we learn there is no redemption without scrifice, but this is such a sacrifice. It makes no sense to my sinful mind. I must constantly remind myself to heed Luther's advice and take God at his word. This is very hard sometimes and, once again, I am more than blessed to have been placed in a congregation where I can receive the Lord's Body and Blood seven days a week. Soli Deo Gloria.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Back home from our celebration of Laetare and I realized I have never said a word about our wonderful Kantor, The Reverend Dr. Daniel Reuning. He is a wonderful musician, Bach scholar, leader of The Bach Collegium, and guardian of the faith. In that later role this morning, he changed a word in the hymn "Jesus, Priceless Treasure" to express proper Lutheran theology. The line in the fourth stanza read "Jesus is my pleasure/Jesus is my choice". Lutherans will be among the first to tell you that God does the choosing, so he simply changed the line to "Jesus is my joy". And so He is, as is this church, which nurtures me in so many ways. Additionally, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" was our prelude this morning. I am a happy man.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Tomorrow is Laetare Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent. "Rejoice, oh Jerusalem...rejoice with joy!" The purple vestments and paraments have been replaced with rose as we look ahead to glorious Easter. I will welcome it. I battle with depression and have been going through a rough patch. It actually began when I had my kidney removed and subsequently retired. I don't deal with idleness and tend to become agoraphobic, not even getting to church. Ouch! The last few days though, God has blessed me more than usual and I have been able to make the morning Eucharist services and Thursday evening's Mass. All wonderful. God has blessed me richly by bringing me to Redeemer, it is my new family. Father Petersen and the rest of the Rudisillians have adopted and accepted me, warts and all. We are a rag tag bunch: gun toting conservatives, radical homeschoolers, Bach scholars, seminarians, converted Jews, all coming together in our love for the Lord and of worship. And worship we do, seven days a week! Our services are reverant, glorious, and historically Lutheran, I am thrilled. It is what I have been looking for a long, long time. I so tired of having to explain myself and defend my beliefs in the Theology of the Cross. So, take a short break from Lent and REJOICE JERUSALEM!