30 November 2011

A Bit on House Blessings

The following article on the Lutheran Service Book rite of "Blessing of a Home" will appear in the December 2011-January 2012 issue of our congregation's newsletter, The Hope Lutheran.

Would You Like a “House Blessing”?
(A What?)

Usually we think of Lutheran Service Book as simply the maroon book we use during worship services. However, there’s more to Lutheran Service Book than just our regular services, and even more than just what we find in the pew edition.

We also find many “Occasional Services” in the Lutheran Service Book: Agenda and its smaller version, Pastoral Care Companion (PCC). They’re the books that pastors use for services such as weddings, funerals, hospital calls, shut-in calls, receiving new members, installing servants or officers of the congregation, and so on. These “Occasional Services” also include rites of blessing.

Yes, you read that correctly. We actually can, and do, perform rites of blessing for various things. Rites of blessing flow from St. Paul’s words to young Pastor Timothy: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5). We saw one such rite of blessing on the First Sunday in Advent (November 27) when we did the “Blessing of the Advent Wreath.” We “set aside” the Advent wreath “by the word of God and prayer” for use in the Divine Services and Evening Prayer services through Advent.

Another rite of blessing is the “Blessing of a Home.” It does just what the name says: it’s a formal rite for blessing our homes—that is, thanking God for them and sanctifying them “by the word of God and prayer.” The introductory notes for this rite state: “It is appropriate that homes of Christians be blessed by the Word of God and prayer” (PCC, 148).

These same introductory notes also indicate when such a rite of blessing is appropriate:

“This rite may be used when a new home is occupied, when a family moves to another home, or at other appropriate times (e.g., following a robbery or vandalizing of a home, following an assault or murder in the home, following fire or other destruction, following renovation of a home)” (PCC, 148).

Christian homes—your home!—may be blessed and sanctified at different times and for various purposes. Setting apart your home when you move in is quite appropriate for getting off on the right foot, so to speak. It’s also appropriate to bring God’s blessing to your home if something bad or evil happens there. In this way God’s blessing through His cleansing, life-giving Word overcomes the fallout of sin even in our homes. It’s all part of living as God’s people and being sustained by His holy Word.

There is another salutary practice and occasion for blessing your home. The PCC introductory notes continue:

“Homes may be blessed annually. Usually this is done during the season of the Epiphany due to the connection of the visitation of the Magi to the home of the infant Christ (Matt. 2:1-11; John 1:14)” (PCC, 148, emphasis added).

You don’t have to wait for the major and/or distressing times to have your house blessed. You can certainly do it at will and plan for it. In recent years I have performed the “Blessing of a Home” for two of our households here at Hope. For one household, it happened when the family moved into their new home. For another household, it’s been an annual event. Again, it’s all part of living by God’s holy, life-giving Word. It’s also a great opportunity to build our Christian life together at Hope congregation.

First, you invite one of your pastors to perform the “Blessing of a Home” rite, and you schedule it for a mutually agreeable time, especially when all members of the family can be present. You may also invite friends to join the special occasion.

The house blessing rite can be performed in a simple, stand-alone manner, or, as some do, with a meal or refreshments provided. (No, I’m not hinting! Just informing and teaching. :))

The rite itself begins in the living room with a greeting and the reading (or singing) of a Psalm. The Magnificat (Mary’s Song from Luke 1:46-55) is also appropriate during the Epiphany season. Then Scripture readings are read. The hymn “Oh, Blest the House, Whate’er Befall” (LSB 862) is sung.

Then individual rooms of the house may be blessed—living room, entrance to the home, bedroom, study, family room, and kitchen/dining room. Those present go from room to room for this part of the rite. For each room an appropriate Scripture passage is read and an appropriate prayer is prayed. Family members or guests may serve as assistant readers.

The “Blessing of a Home” rite then concludes with the Lord’s Prayer, a general prayer to bless and sanctify the home and its occupants, the benediction, and singing (or speaking) the first verse of “Now Thank We All Our God” (LSB 895).

It’s really that simple and yet quite beautiful and meaningful—especially since we live from the Word of God as well as foster our life together as God’s people.

With the Christmas and Epiphany seasons just around the corner, I invite you to consider having the rite of “Blessing of a Home” performed at your home. (In fact, one is scheduled already!) I am making myself available for this joyous bit of pastoral care in January and February. If you would like to have your home blessed using this rite, please let me know. Tuesday and Thursday evenings will work very well. Some Mondays will work, when there aren’t meetings. And Sunday afternoons and evenings are also possible. If you are interested, you may call me at the church office or email me (email address below) to set up a date and time.

(By the way, I am confident that Kantor Rosebrock is also agreeable to performing the “Blessing of a Home” rite, but you’ll have to contact him for his availability.)

May our Lord Jesus Christ—the Word of God who became flesh to dwell among us, redeem us from sin and death, and make us holy by His forgiveness—richly bless you through Advent and into Christmas and Epiphany!

Pastor Randy Asburry

29 November 2011

Homily for Advent 1 - Ad Te Levavi

We begin the season of Advent, and the whole Church Year, with a pretty stark picture. As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Savior, the first picture we see is that of a humble, poor, donkey-riding King! Really? Yes, really. "Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9). The genius of the First Sunday in Advent is that we get to focus on the ultimate purpose for our Lord's coming--to humble Himself in order to save us. It's "How God Wants to be Seen." He wants to be seen in humble guise. He wants to be seen descending into the depths of our poverty and sin, because, after all, that's where He finds us to rescue and deliver us.

To listen to "How God Wants to be Seen," click here and download the audio file.

Homily for Thanksgiving Day

From "Creation Fresco" at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, MN, USA
While not technically a Church festival, the Day of Thanksgiving gives us a great opportunity not only to thank God for His many temporal blessings, but also to remember and rehearse the teaching of the First Article of the Creed. With the title "God Supplies Every Need," this year's Thanksgiving Day homily focused on Philippians 4:19: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Click here to down load the audio file and listen to "God Supplies Every Need."

20 November 2011

Homily for the Last Sunday in the Church Year

We round out the Church Year by hearing Jesus' Parable of the Ten Virgins (Bridesmaids) from Matthew 25:1-13. There's so much in this wonderful Gospel reading on which to preach! Should the preacher focus on the wisdom vs. the folly? The lamps and the oil? Why do the wise bridesmaids not share? (And if they had, would any of them have been ready for the Bridegroom's return?)

Today's homily focus on the door - yes, the door itself. "Which Side of the Door" will you be on, when all is said and done? That theme does weave its way through the Scriptures. Our Lord Jesus certainly has opened the door of everlasting life for us, and yet that door will be closed - for some - on the Last Day.

To listen to "Which Side of the Door," just click here and download the audio file.

13 November 2011

Homily for Trinity 26

Will Jesus really base His final judgment on the good works done or not done by people? At first glance, that's what Matthew 25:31-46 seems to be saying. But then what about being saved by His grace and not by good works?

Today's homily for Trinity 26 - "You Did It to Me" - tackles this very conundrum.

Click here to download the audio file and then listen to "You Did It to Me."

06 November 2011

The Lord's "Festive Board"

"Here Jesus is present for us bodily, as He is in the Liturgy of the Word, but now He is present in, with, and under bread and wine. To come to the altar and receive these gifts is to enter the Holy of Holies. Here at the altar we come to the new Jerusalem, to the mountain of His holiness: 'On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined' (Isaiah 25:6). Here we feast with Christ and all the saints at a banquet He has prepared for us."

Arthur A. Just, Heaven on Earth, 210-11

Homily for All Saints' Day (Observed)

What a joy to celebrate All Saints' Day! Not only do we thank God for the witness of Christian saints and martyrs of all times and places, but we also remember the faithful departed from the congregation who have taken home during this past year. In the midst of it all, we also hear and receive the blessings of our Lord for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, etc. (Matthew 5:1-12).

Today's homily for All Saints' Day focused on what it means to "be blessed," not has we may normally think of it in our modern materialistic mindset, but rather as our Lord speaks of it. What does it mean to "be blessed"? It means to receive what our Lord Jesus has done and promises to do for His faithful people. Hear more as you consider "Blessed Are You!"

Click here to download the audio and listen to "Blessed Are You!"

02 November 2011

"Sola Gratia" Audio - from "Studio A"

Here's the audio of Monday's discussion on the Reformation slogan "Sola Gratia" on KFUO's "Studio A" with host Roland Lettner.

Mortal and Venial Sins on "Studio A"

Two weeks ago today, 19 October, I had the privilege of discussing "Mortal and Venial Sins" on KFUO's "Studio A." Here's the audio of that show.