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Archive for April, 2011

Quite a few years ago, when the world was all abuzz about another royal wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury made this observation, if memory serves:  other nations celebrate their national identity with a display of arms and weaponry but here we are celebrating a marriage between a man and a woman and the possibility of life.  I think he was referring to the practice of the then Soviet Union every May Day parading their military might in Red Square, as it was called then in Russia.  I think the Anglican Pastor was on to something.  The Soviets celebrated death, England life. The Soviets were ostensibly atheists and England ostensibly Christian.  It  still showed.

The world is again all gaga over a royal  wedding, this time Prince William, one of the beloved sons of the previous royal wedding and as we know, failed marriage,  and a commoner, Kate Middleton with all the accoutrements of a wedding, especially a royal wedding.  But it is excited over a wedding, a marriage and the life of a man and a woman becoming one which is always for life.  Truly we are seeing the  “focus on the family”.

In our culture saturated with lust and sexuality outside of marriage, I do not think this focus tomorrow, with all it’s glitz and media trivialization,  can be so slightly dismissed by Christians and with us the adherents of many other religions.  After all, marriage is truly the ecumenical institution of all mankind.  Remember:  marriage was given by the Lord before the Fall into sin.  Marriage is truly a catholic, that is the universal institution,  the estate “ordained by God”.   And the word, catholic is from two Greek words, kata holos, that is “according to the whole”.  Marriage between a man and a woman and the possibility of life and family is according to the whole and the whole is of God.  I know that  I maybe grasping at straws in these dark days.  But it has to be said:  I can only imagine with horror the ‘nuptials’ so celebrated between Prince William and say, a ‘Prince Stephen’.  Such can not work. In that there is nothing “according to the whole”.  Yes, the previous royal wedding ended in tragedy: divorce.  But even then, that royal couple had two sons, as do many other couples have children after the sorrow of the ending of a marriage.  We might mean it for evil, but God intends it for good… yes, in spite of us.  The marriage tomorrow is fraught with all the dangers inherent in marriage today, as it always has been:  see for instance Abraham and Sarah. And yet,  marriage between  man and woman is abundantly blessed by God.

The media has reported all the justification for the continuation of England’s monarchy:  tradition, it brings in tourist dollars, etc. If there was a raison e’tre for the monarchy and the 1,000 year plus tradition it embodies, it maybe is for in our day what will happen tomorrow:  a very public  celebration of nuptial love. Yes, the royal wedding tomorrow is accompanied by such media hype:  but here for once I can say, maybe it should be and that’s great!  Christians are adherents of the Lord who begins His narrative with marriage in a Garden and says that in His Beloved Son all history will be consummated in a wedding with all the glory of Heaven which can only be revealed in the joy of wedding and marriage which will really be over the top:

 “Hallelujah!For the Lord our God
   the Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and exult
   and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
   and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
   with fine linen, bright and pure”—

(Revelation 19:  6-8)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

(Revelation 21: 2)


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NEWS

Best columns:Europe

The following article is from The Week, May 1:

Why are we dumbing down the Bible? asked Jakob Holm. The Danish Bible Society has just published a revised translation that it says renders the holy book into “modern Danish” to make it easier for children to understand. If it were just a matter of changing a few terms that have become archaic, that would be perfectly fine. But the group made more than 1,500 edits, and most of them not only detract from the beauty of the text but also rob it of its religiousness. The “key biblical word ‘blessed,”‘ for instance, is now rendered as “lucky”—”a singularly unblessed translation, one is tempted to say.” Similarly, “meek” has been replaced with “shy,” a word that lacks the undertones of melancholy. And “blissful” has become the tepid “happy.” Are the biblical terms really so grueling? Surely children “who can grasp difficult concepts like those in the Harry Potter books” will be able “to understand a word like ‘blissful’ if it is explained to them.” Understanding Christian terms, after all, is how one comes to understand Christianity. “Belief and religion are something that people must learn,” through applied study. “Not everything must be easily understandable.”

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Intro:  In Lent, the Sundays are in Lent, not of Lent.  Lent is a somber, penitential time.  Sundays IN Lent are always the Day of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and so are not of Lent:  the Sundays are never counted in the 40 days of Lent.  In fact, Sundays are never considered penitential and  a  time of fasting.   In contrast, the Sundays at this time of the Church Year are always OF Easter, of His Resurrection as He appeared for 40 days on earth, then on the 40th Day ascended and the disciples waited 10 days for Pentecost, the 50th Day after Passover and the Resurrection:  the Bright Season.  According to long-time practice, each Sunday of Easter has a name, in Latin(of course!) from the Scripture passage traditionally assigned for that Sunday.  It seems only The 4th Sunday of Easter is of newer vintage:  Good Shepherd Sunday and the Gospel reading is always from John 10.   Here are the names of

 the Sundays of Easter, then a comment on this coming Sunday’s theme, Quasimodogeniti Sunday:

May 1, Easter 2, Quasi Modo Geniti

May 8, Easter 3, Misericordias Domini

May 15, Easter 4, Good Shepherd

May 22, Easter 5, Cantate

May 29, Easter 6, Rogate

June 5,  Easter 7, Exaudi

May 1, Easter 2, Quasi Modo Geniti

Note:  Quasimodo is the name of the deformed bell-ringer in Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame–Pr. Schroeder

Yesterday. the first Sunday after Easter, is traditionally known, primarily in France and other parts of Europe, as “Quasimodo Sunday” because of the beginning words of the Introit which come from 1 Peter 2:2,3: Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus, which in English is: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2: 1-3:  From the Epistle Lesson for Lutherans, 5th Sunday of Easter–Pr. Schroeder) It is used in the context of this particular Sunday to refer to the newly baptized at Easter as well as applying generally to all of us.  

I  first read Hunchback in the 10th grade, and it has always been one of my favorite books, and now that I understand the Easter connection better, I can understand the figure of the Hunchback, named after the Sunday on which he was found, much better than I did then. Victor Hugo’s story is a tale of redemption in the face of corruption, the sublime versus the grotesque. While the world prided itself on being beautiful on the outside, yet was bitter and ugly on the inside, only Quasimodo, the disfigured hunchback in Hugo’s story, understood the value, and the pain, of being inwardly transformed in the innocent loving of others. (From: Ad Altare Dei)

Once again, the Lord describes His Word through his prophets and apostles as physical and spiritual sustenance (in 1 Peter, the Word as milk) to keep alive in the Holy Spirit our lives risen and hid in Christ Jesus (see 1st Lesson for Easter: The Resurrection of our Lord, see  Colossians 3:1-3  and in addition, Colossians 2:11-13).  We eat and imbibe so much of the junk food of the world, that fills but never satisfies.  His Word alone sustains us in this world to live as He has called us.

The movie clip below is from the classic, Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Maureen O’Hara as Esmeralda and the great Charles Laughton as Quasimodo.  Just watch the first three minutes or so (FWIW:  I was hooked for the whole segment):  What are the differences between the gypsy, Esmeralda and all the other prayers being spoken?  How is Esmeralda like Quasimodo?

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In my first parish on Long Island, NY, on my day off I was perusing the stores in East Northport.   There was a sign for an art studio sale.  The artist, Stanley Twardowicz, (Bio) was selling off his all his studio supplies, works of art etc.  I came across a series of black and white photos of which you see two.  These series of photos are entitled, “France-1952 (Christ)”.  The artist  came across one of many road-side shrines in the French country-side.  At this particular one, the workers had taken down the corpus (the representation of the body of our Lord) from the cross and inside was a bee-hive.  Those workers be a bee line away from it!  Mr. Twardowicz then took a series of photos of the corpus on the ground.

Though I have never seen one,  I like the idea of road-side shrines of our Lord’s Crucifixion.  Life in Christ is a journey.  G. K. Chesterton said of the Cross that it is the sign-post for free travelers.  I would tweak his statement and say, freed travelers.  Following Him we are freed. These photos striking and stark as stark as sin and the One Who bore our sin in His Body so that we are freed in faith to love and serve.  Our will always leads to death and damnation.  His will leads to life and salvation:  always, as He is risen! On Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath, He took all our death and sin into Himself to the grave.  He rested and now we can both rest in Him so He works in us.  Yet, even in death, as the photo below portrays:  He is the Victor.  His arm raised in victory for us.

“It was a strange and dreadful strife
When Life and Death contended;
The victory remained with Life,
The reign of Death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That Death is swallowed up by Death,
His sting is lost forever.
Hallelujah!”

(“Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546)

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I was told growing-up the importance of good posture.  Now there are varieties of good postures in the Scriptures. In Christ Jesus we see the various postures.  Tonight’s sermon and tomorrow night’s 3 Good Friday meditations are entitled:  Postures of the Passion. Tonight we reflect on kneeling.

In the Bible kneeling can be for these reasons:  1. Confession of sin, as Peter kneeling before the Lord after the miraculous catch of fish and confessing, Depart from me O Lord, for I am a sinful man.  (BTW:  the Lord did not depart).  2. Confession of praise, as in the first Psalm of Matins, 95:  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!  But on this Holy Evening, in the night in which He was betrayed, two other types of kneeling are indicated for our focus on His Word:

3. Kneeling to serve;  4.  Kneeling to receive His Body and Blood

This night is entitled Maundy Thursday.  Maundy derived from the Latin, mandatum, mandate or commandment.  We did not read the other appointed Gospel for this first day of the Triduum, the Three Days, John 13, Jesus gave us a new mandatum, commandment, to love one another as He loved us by washing the disciples’ feet.   Then in the same evening the Lord’s blessed command:  Take and eat, This is My Body.  Take and drink, This is My Blood of the new Testament.  Now kneeling is not prescribed in the Scriptures to receive Communion yet as a godly custom it is meet, right and so to do:  see kneeling in confession of praise and adoration for the Gospel’s joyful sound:  you are forgiven.

These two reasons for kneeling are inter-related. The Lord of heaven and earth knelt to wash His disciples’ feet.  He was doing the work of a slave.  He is the Master who is servant and slave for His people.  If He did this, should we not so love?  Just think:  Jesus this evening also washed Judas’ feet and the Lord knew what was transpiring in the dark recesses of Judas’ heart and inJerusalem.  We do not know if Jesus felt like doing this.  If we had to wait for the mood to strike us so to serve and love, then nothing would ever be done. Jesus did not feel like suffering and dying.  He asked this evening of the Father, take this cup away from Me. If He had waited till He felt like it, we would still be in our sins.  To serve in love is not primarily a feeling but a doing. Though it is not by doing are we saved for then we should be so doing non-stop.  But this kneeling flows out of the first:  He knelt to give us His Body and His Blood tomorrow on the Cross. As Mary sat at His feet to be taught by the Lord in His Word, the good portion He said that will not be taken away.

‘My God is too big to fit into any one religion.’ The true God was so big He fit into the very religion through which He loved His people from Abraham to Joseph to Moses to Joshua to Deborah to David and till this day:  His beloved Son was born a Jew to kneel in prayer and service for the life of His people and in love of the fallen world.  ‘My God is too big to fit into a box’.  The Lord is so big, big in heart, in anger and grief toward His wayward children in going after false gods that He came to find them. Even serving without His forgiveness is for sinners to use even service to control others.  My God is too big…yes,  He was placed at birth in a box, in a manger. He never went abroad.  He hardly journeyed more than a 100 miles from His place of birth.  He was boxed in by the sin of the world and was handcuffed this evening after He knelt to wash His disciples’ feet and commune them. He said this evening over simple bread and wine, This is My body and blood, so we are freed, not boxed in by our trespasses and live to serve and kneel in confession of sin, confession of faith, confession of praise to kneel to serve, IN the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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The video is from an entry in a Roman Catholic contest for portraying Confession.  A reminder:  in the Lutheran Church, for a long time, the only way one confessed his/her sins was to the Pastor in utter confidentiality in order to hear the Lord’s forgiveness.  The Roman Catholic video below also demonstrates that confession and forgiveness, and the need for it, is truly catholic, that is universal, as is Christ Jesus’ command to so forgive.–Pr. Schroeder

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  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32

INTROIT         Ps. 42:3, 9-10 (antiphon: Ps. 42:5-66)

Why are you cast down,O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?*

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation I and my God.

My tears have been my food I day and night,*while they say to me continually, “Where I is your God?”I say to God, my rock: “Why have you for- I gotten me?*Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the I enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries I taunt me,*while they say to me continually, “Where I is your God?”

 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

*Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation I and my God.

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John12:23-50

GRADUAL:

     Heb. 9:120,  Ps. 111:9a:

[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, by means of I his own blood,* thus securing an eternal redemption.  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,*  so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. He sent redemption to his people;*  he has commanded his covenant forever.

Meditation and Memorization VERSES:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”-John 12:23b, for Holy Monday

  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32, for Holy Tuesday

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I  ask that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life:  ALONE.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness.  And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls.  He is the Draw.

“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds.  However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts.  For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?”   (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)

“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”

(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)

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