27 April 2011

Matthew 28:16-20 on "Studio A"

Once again I had the joy and privilege yesterday of being guest on KFUO's "Studio A," hosted by Roland Lettner, this time to discuss Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to His eleven disciples in Matthew 28:16-20. Here's the link to the audio file for the show's first hour. The segment with me begins about half way through.

The first half hour is also well worth a listen. Pr. Dan Torkelson discussed the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the Emmaus disciples in Luke 24:13-35.

24 April 2011

Homily for Easter Day

As we celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord today, I decided to use John Updike's poem "Seven Stanzas at Easter" as the homily's structure for proclaiming the Easter Gospel. In the poem Updike pushes us beyond any sentimental and metaphorical understandings of Jesus' resurrection to give what I've called this homily: an "Easter Reality Check." That is, let's celebrate the very real resurrection of our Lord in the body with all of the reality that implies - even with His molecules reknit and His amino acids rekindled. Updike's poetry here fits quite nicely with our truly human Savior's real resurrection in the body!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

To listen to today's homily for Easter Day, click here and download the audio file.

Blessed Easter - from President Matthew Harrison

Easter Homily - St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom lived and preached in the 4th century. He is considered one of the greatest preachers in the history of the Christian Church. His Easter Homily is well known and has been used for many centuries to proclaim the great Good News of our Lord’s Resurrection from the grave.

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

22 April 2011

Homily for Good Friday

For this year's Good Friday homily we heard from St. Romanos (6th cent.) as he proclaims the meaning of Christ's crucifixion by means of a conversation between Hell and Satan. (Okay, the voice is mine, but the words are those of Romanos.) As they witness that a thief, of all people, can be welcomed again to paradise, they realize that the Cross is not so barren after all, but actually bears the fruit of life - and their plans are thwarted. I gave this homily the title "Again to Paradise" based on the line repeated through the dialogue.

Click on this link, download the audio file, and hear the poetic proclamation of our crucified Lord bringing all of us "Again to Paradise."

21 April 2011

Homily for Holy Thursday

Tonight's homily, "Meal of Divine Love," sought to weave together our Lord's institution of the Eucharist with His command to "love one another." As we are fed by our Lord's Meal of love, receiving His forgiveness, life, and salvation, we are strengthened to love one another as our Lord has loved us.

To listen, click here and download the audio file.

Holy Thursday's Joy!

The happy commemoration of today's feast with its immense concourse of people invites us to prolong fervently our praises of the Most Holy Body of Christ. What could be sweeter, what more pleasing to the heart of the faithful than to exalt the abyss of his divine charity, and to glorify the overflowing torrent of his love! At the table of the new grace the hand of the priest distributes ceaselessly his Flesh as food and his precious Blood as drink, to those who are his children and heirs of the kingdom promised by God to those who love him.

O endless Emanation of the goodness of God and of his immense love for us, admirable and worthy of all praise! In this sacrament, where all former sacrifices are done away with, he remains with us to the end of the world; he feeds the children of adoption with the bread of angels and inebriates them with filial love.

(Thomas Aquinas, Lectionary and Martyrology, ed. Encalcat 1956, 288; as cited in J. Robert Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, 171.)

19 April 2011

Video Catechesis on Confession

"Our churches teach that private Absolution should be retained in the churches, although listing all sins is not necessary for Confession. For, according to the Psalm, it is impossible. 'Who can discern his errors?' (Psalm 19:12)." (Augsburg Confession, XI)

"...the Power of the Keys administers and presents the Gospel through Absolution, which is the true voice of the Gospel." (Apology of the Augsburg, XII:39)

"So we teach what a splendid, precious, and comforting thing Confession is.... If you were a Christian, then you ought to be happy to run more than a hundred miles to Confession and not let yourself be urged to come. You should rather come and compel us [pastors] to give you the opportunity.... When I urge you to go to Confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian." (Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Exhortation to Confession, 26, 28, 30, 32)

Or, to teach it visually:

17 April 2011

Homily for Palm/Passion Sunday

Today began with Jesus' procession into Jerusalem as the crowd sang, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." Then it quickly moved to and ended with the King taking His throne on the cross, wearing a crown of thorns and covered in His own blood - blood that He sheds to cleanse and make us holy. Thus, we have the Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday tension. 

The homily focused on Jesus' Passion and Crucifixion as told in St. Matthew 27:11-54. Resisting the temptation to settle for a mere, literal three word sermon - "For you! Amen!" - the homily seeks to bring out the "Great Exchange," that is, how Jesus, in His suffering and dying, is "Trading Places" with us to bring us back to peace with God.

To listen to today's Passion Sunday homily, click here and download the audio file.

Oh, and the Cranach altarpiece referred to at the beginning of the homily is the one shown here.

16 April 2011

The Cross

Here's gem from St. John Chrysostom as we enter Holy Week and ponder the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and what it means for all of us:

The cross used to denote punishment but it has now become a focus of glory. It was formerly a symbol of condemnation but it is now seen as a principle of salvation. For it has now become the source of innumerable blessings: it has delivered us from error, enlightened our darkness, and reconciled us to God; we had become God's enemies and were foreigners afar off, and it has given us his friendship and brought us close to him. For us it has become the destruction of enmity, the token of peace, the treasury of a thousand blessings.

Thanks to the cross we are no longer wandering in the wilderness, because we know the right road; we are no longer outside the royal palace, because we have found the way in; we are not afraid of the devil's fiery darts, because we have discovered the fountain. Thanks to the cross we are no longer in a state of widowhood, for we are reunited to the Bridegroom; we are not afraid of the wolf, because we have the good shepherd: "I am the good shepherd," he said. Thanks to the cross we dread no usurper, since we are sitting beside the King.

That is why we keep festival as we celebrate the memory of the cross. St. Paul himself invites us to this festival in honor of the cross: "Let us celebrate the feast not with the old leaven, that of corruption and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." And he tells us why, saying, "Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed."

Now do you see why he appoints a festival in honor of the cross? It is because Christ was immolated on the cross. And where he was sacrificed, there is found abolition of sins and reconciliation with the Lord; and there, too, festivity and happiness are found: "Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed."

Where was he sacrificed? On a gibbet. The altar of this sacrifice is a new one because the sacrifice himself is new and extraordinary. For he is at one and the same time both victim and priest; victim according to the flesh and priest according to the spirit.

This sacrifice was offered outside the camp to teach us that it is a universal sacrifice, for the offering was made for the whole world; and to teach us that it effected a general purification and not just that of the Jews. God commanded the Jews to leave the rest of the world and to offer their prayers and sacrifices in one particular place; because all the rest of the world was soiled by the smoke and smell of all the impurities of pagan sacrifices. But for us, since Christ has now come and purified the whole world, every place has become an oratory.

(St. John Chrysostom, Homily 1 on the Cross and the Thief 1: PG 49, 399-401; as cited in J. Robert Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, 163-164)

15 April 2011

Jesus' Triumphal Entry - on Issues, Etc.

Here is yesterday's Issues, Etc. "Pastors' Roundtable" on John 12:12-19, Jesus' Procession into Jerusalem. It was a privilege to discuss the beginning of Holy Week with Pr. Wilken and Pr. Tim Rossow, from Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL.

Holy Week Message from President Harrison

Here's a great message from LCMS President Matthew Harrison for this greatest of weeks:

Welcome to "The RAsburry Patch"!

Welcome, readers, followers, and curious onlookers, to "The RAsburry Patch." This blog is not really new, but rather a continuation of my blog of the past four years, "RAsburry's Res," only with a new name, new address, and new look.

Why have I moved from the old blog site to this new one?

  • I just plain wanted to.
  • It's time for a newer, crisper, more colorful look.
  • I'm ready for a new name that's more easily accessible. 
  • (Yeah, four years ago I thought I'd be smart with the Latin word "res" and its alliteration with "RAsburry," but it's time for less explanation and easier access.)
  • The notion of a raspberry patch and random pickings from it fits quite nicely with my "online presence" (RAsburry).

I hope you'll enjoy and return to the new name and address (remember, much easier access!), with the newer, cleaner, more colorful look, yet also with the same interests and posts that I've posted and will continue to post. Here you'll find all of the posts and comments from my previous blog as well as future posts.

Oh, and while were introducing, please say "Hi" in the comments and introduce yourself, here, for me, and for posterity.

13 April 2011

Homily for Evening Prayer of Lent 5

Covered by Innocent Death
2 Samuel 11:1-12:14 & Matthew 27:32-66 (Passion Reading V)   

How we love to cover up our sins! David sets the example, and we gladly follow in his footsteps. He was Israel’s greatest king, after all, a man after God’s own heart, a good role model, to be sure. But notice how he, a man who could sing God’s praises like no one else, could also cover up his sins like no one else.

It began before the cover-up, before the murder, before the adultery, even before the coveting of another man’s beautiful bride. It began as David neglected his vocation, his God-given calling. It was “the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle.” It’s what kings do. It’s in their “job description” under the heading “Defend and protect the citizens of your nation.” But that one time David neglected that duty. He presumed he had better things to do, more important things to accomplish – like play peeping tom and ogle the topless beauty next door. “Who is she? Oh, Bathsheba. Bring her to me. But keep it hush, hush. No one needs to know.”

God knew, though.

Then David, the suave, debonair, romantic lover, easily concealed his sin of neglecting his vocation. And one sin led to another quite naturally and all too easily. A little sweet talk. A lot of passion. Don’t worry about the guilt or others finding out. After all, he’s the king. Surely he knows how to keep such things under wraps. They don’t call it “Secret Service” for nothing.

Then the big “Uh-oh!” She’s what? Pregnant? Oh, my! Everyone will know soon enough, especially when she starts showing. Hmm. How to fix this? How to clean up this unfortunate mess? Ah-ha! Bring hubby home. Get him to sleep with his wife. Everyone will think it’s Uriah’s child. No one will be the wiser.

Except God.

It turns out that Uriah the Hittite, the foreigner, the little man from an unbelieving people, had more honor and integrity than powerful, respected King David. Enjoy the comforts of home while his army buddies were still out suffering the heat of battle and the fog of war? Perish the thought! And perish David’s cover-up plan too, as it turned out. Even stone-cold drunk, Uriah had and displayed more honor and integrity than King David, intent on covering up his sins. So when Uriah would not participate and cooperate, David would eliminate, in the battle, where it would be sad, to be sure, but only natural. Who would suspect a thing?

God would. And God did.

Notice the pattern. David’s first unnoticeable sin—neglecting his vocation—led to another—coveting—and then another—adultery—and then another—murder—and all under his man-made cloak of secrecy. But God’s X-ray vision sees right through the sheer and flimsy strategies we use to cover up our many transgressions.

God sent Pastor Nathan to confront and rebuke King David. Not only was he risking his very life—because the King could easily say, “Out of my sight and off with his head”—but he was about to do the more dangerous task of exposing sin. So Nathan shrouds his rebuke in an innocent story: a poor man cheated out of his only lamb by a rich man who should have taken from his own God-given wealth. When David heard the innocent-sounding story, his passion for justice burned hot. You see, covering up your own sins often makes you quite self-righteous, hotly indignant, and overly judgmental about the sins of other people. All of that pent up energy from keeping your own sins under wraps explodes and erupts at the least little transgression … of someone else.

Nathan’s rebuke of David comes in the simplest of words: “You are the man!” He might as well point the finger and say those same words to each of us: “You are the man! You are the woman! You are the boy! You are the girl! Yes, you are the one who has sinned. Cover it up all you like; you cannot hide it from God. Conceal it under your every excuse and rationalization; hide it with deeds that appear honorable and even devout; but you still cannot fool God. As He says elsewhere: “Whoever conceals his transgression will not prosper.” Man-devised cover-ups never work. No way, no how!

But here is where David becomes a salutary role model once again. He simply confessed his sin and sins—no excuses, no justifications, no more covering up. “I have sinned against the LORD.” They are words for you too—and words to utter with no excuses, no justification, no more covering up. “[I] have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what [I] have done and by what [I] have left undone.” “Lord, to You I make confession: / I have sinned and gone astray, / I have multiplied transgression, / Chosen for myself my way. / Led by You to see my errors, / Lord, I tremble at Your terrors” (LSB, 608:1).

Then, for David and for you, God’s words delivered through the pastor’s mouth come rushing in to heal, to restore, and to give life. “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Sins exposed, forgiveness uttered, life bestowed! What a sweet and glorious moment! What a life-changing and liberating message! God’s own forgiveness comes through the voice of a man, a fellow sinner. As God says in the Proverb: “but he who confesses and forsakes [his transgressions] will obtain mercy.”

There’s a curious little conclusion to David’s confession and absolution, however. Yes, David confessed, but that’s not why he was forgiven. Merely confessing and forsaking our transgressions does not earn or achieve God’s life-giving forgiveness. Listen to God’s words uttered through Pastor Nathan’s mouth: “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”

At first we might hear these words as God unfairly withdrawing His absolution, or suddenly hiding His mercy behind a cloak of retribution. But let’s take these words as glorious and comforting Gospel instead! The LORD put away David’s sins; he would not die. But the Child born to David—the Son of David yet to come, ten centuries down the road—He would die, and He would die carrying David’s specific, concrete, and now-exposed sins. The Absolution was certainly free for David, just as it’s free for you and me. But it is very costly for the Child of David named Jesus. No, you will not die for your sins, God says, but the Son of David will. The Son of David has. As we sing: “For Your Son has suffered for me, / Giv’n Himself to rescue me, / Died to save me and restore me. / Reconciled and set me free. / Jesus’ cross alone can vanquish / These dark fears and soothe this anguish” (LSB 608:3)

And we – like role-model David before us – are now covered by an innocent death. Instead of feebly covering our sins, and multiplying them exponentially in the process, we can take comfort in the innocent death of the sinless Son of God and Son of David. When Jesus died on that cross, the centurion marveled saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” He could have said just as truly, “This was the Son of David—the innocent Child whose death covers our sin.” And when the greater Child of David covers the sins that we expose in Confession, they remain truly covered—covered by His innocent blood, covered from God, covered from us, covered and never to be exposed again. The Lord who has suffered and died for you has put away your sin; you shall not die. Amen.

Now this is funny!

Vice-President Joe Biden apparently did not find his boss' recent speech on budgets, debt, and finances (i.e. raising taxes and punishing the wealthy, let the reader understand!) too terribly riveting.

Check it out yourself here.

06 April 2011

Homily for Evening Prayer of Lent 4

No Cover for Cover-ups
Joshua 7:16-26 & Matthew 27:1-31 (Passion Reading IV: The Praetorium)

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) Achan sure excelled at concealing his transgressions. Truth is: so do we. But there’s no cover for cover-ups. You see, when we try to cover up our sins, God will make sure that they, and we, are exposed. That’s what we cover-ups have to look forward to on the Last Day.

Achan’s greedy sin and cover up actually began with the Lord’s glorious victory over the city of Jericho. They marched around the city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. They blew their trumpets, the walls came tumbling down, and Israel rushed in to conquer, just as God had promised. It was a glorious victory and a joyous day. But God had also given two clear mandates—first: “keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction”; and second: “all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.”(Josh. 6:18-19)

Then Israel turned to its next target for conquest, the city of Ai. Things went much differently. Intoxicated by the victory at Jericho, they assumed they would conquer yet again. But no! They received the thumping of a lifetime; they got their clocks royally cleaned; and God Himself made sure of it. Despair descended on all Israel. Joshua tore his clothes in humble lamentation. “What happened, Lord? Have you rescued us from Egypt just to turn us over to the godless pagans of Canaan-land?” And how did God respond to being put on trial by his puny, defeated general? “Come on, Joshua! Get up! Man up! ‘Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.’” (Josh. 7:12)

Can’t you just see Joshua dropping his jaw and scratching his head in confusion? “We, Israel, have sinned? We have taken Your possessions, the spoils from Jericho? No way! We heard Your instruction. We followed Your commands. What on earth is going on?”

The Lord, though, told Joshua how to root out the lone culprit of the people’s demise. The whole people of Israel consecrated themselves and presented themselves before Joshua and before God. Then came the process of elimination: the tribe of Judah was singled out, from them the clan of Zerah, from them the household of Zabdi, and finally Achan, the son of Carmi, the suspect and culprit. The sin of this one man, from this one household in this one clan of the one tribe had spoiled things for all Israel, the whole nation, all the people. Other people died because of Achan’s sin!

“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” One man’s sin of greed and theft had handicapped the whole people of God. Joshua implored Achan to give glory to God by confessing his specific, concrete sins of greed and theft to him, a fellow sinner.

You see, we all sin because we’re all sinners. And when we sin as individual sinners, we affect and trouble the people around us, especially the whole people of God called the Church. It’s like throwing a single stone into a large pond. It’s only a small piece of rock, but the moment it splashes into the still water, the ripples emanate outward and affect the whole body of water. When one of us commits sin—the single stone tossed into the water—the whole body of Christ is disturbed by the affects that ripple outward. And so, we confess.

“Achan answered Joshua, ‘Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (Josh. 7:20-21) See how Achan gave glory to God: by getting specific in confessing his sins. Not just: “I coveted and stole something,” but: “I coveted and stole that beautiful cloak, that silver and that gold. And I’ve hidden them in my tent.”

Will we confess our specific sins? In agonizing detail? To a fellow sinner, usually our pastor? Will we confess at the altar rail before the pastor that we get just as greedy as Achan did? Will we expose our sinful stealing such as cheating on those income taxes, or keeping the extra change we mistakenly received, or getting paid for goofing off at work? Will we admit that we actually do steal from God Himself by thinking and claiming that our money and goods belong to us, not to Him, and by living that lie when we give cheaply in the offering or neglect to help our needy neighbor?

I know: Scandalous! But Joshua did call it giving glory to God, even when confessing to a fellow sinner. After all, why should we be nervous about confessing the dirty details of our rotten sins to a fellow sinner who has his own dirty, rotten specific sins? That sinner cannot do anything to us. In fact, he may even be able to relate to us, in that twisted misery-loves-company sort of way. We really should tremble, though, to confess our sins “directly to God,” as we just love to say. Why? Because He can – and He does – do something about them! Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28) Confessing sins to a fellow sinner certainly does not kill the body, but what about the rest of that verse? Well, it still applies. Bury your sin, and God will bury you!

Joshua sent his messengers to find and verify Achan’s stash of stolen goods, and it was there. Then Achan received his just desserts for his sin that troubled all of Israel: he and his family were stoned with stones and burned with fire. What?! No absolution? No forgiveness? No second chance? No…? No. Should we think that Achan’s confession somehow deserved God’s response of absolution? God’s mercy is not founded on Achan’s confession – nor yours, nor mine. No, your confession is where the Achan in you must simply die. No putting the coin of your confession in the heavenly vending machine for absolution to pop out on queue. Just stark, repentant confession that says, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God.” Then leave it there, and realize the Lord can, does, and will have His way. No cover up for us cover-ups, not even in our confessing.

When we confess, we do pray with Psalm 38(:21-22): “Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.” And with the Lord Jesus who suffered mock trial, unjust verdict, cruel mockery, and torturous crucifixion, our God does hasten to help. No, He did not help Achan, but He does promise to help you, to be your salvation. When you bury your sins, God will bury you. But when you expose your sins in confession, God will bury them with His Son hanging from a cross and buried in a tomb. You see, that’s where His true love for sinners is truly exposed—not in the anguish of confessing, not in suffering the just desserts of our sins, but in the glory of Christ crucified, buried and risen. And when He absolves in His mercy, he does not bring the Achan in you back to life. No, He gives you His life, His contentment, His trust in the God who is your salvation.

So we do not cover up, but we confess. And we sing with the hymn: “O Jesus, let Thy precious blood / Be to my soul a cleansing flood. / Turn not, O Lord, Thy guest away, / But grant that justified I may / Go to my house at peace with Thee: / O God, be merciful to me.” (LSB 613:3) His blood does cover. His peace does go with you. Yes, He is merciful to you. Amen.

05 April 2011

Homily for Lent 4

The fourth Sunday in Lent - Laetare - brings a little rejoicing and refreshment during the long journey of penitent discipline through these 40 days leading up to Easter. The day's Gospel reading, John 6:1-15, certainly strikes this theme as our Lord graciously feeds the 5000. Not only does He provide daily bread for the body, but He also shows Himself to be the true daily Bread of Life for our souls. Thus Sunday's homily found us "Rejoicing in the Lord's Refreshment."

To listen to the audio file of "Rejoicing in the Lord's Refreshment," click here, then download the audio file and then listen.