I Know You

On January 16, 1605, Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote the Man from La Mancha, considered to be the first modern novel.  It’s been several years since I read the novel, but we usually sum up Quixote’s life as one of uselessly tilting at windmills to restore life as he thought it should be.  Quixote can have relevance today as we see society if not the whole world going awry and any attempts to turn things in a better direction as so much tilting at windmills.

However, the Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 43:1-7) for last Sunday pulls us back to reality.  “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you…he who formed you…do not be afraid, because I have reclaimed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.”  We are more than a collection of DNAs born to live out our life in the chaos of an out of control world.  God created us in our mother’s womb.  God knows us.  We belong to him two ways.   As our creator and through Jesus he has reclaimed us for himself.  With that claim go numerous promises.

Are we awash on a stormed tossed sea?  Are we afraid? “I am with you. I am Immanuel.”  Are we lost in our life?  “I am the Lord your God…your Savior.”  Do we feel worthless and useless? “You are precious to me, you are honored, and I love you.”  Do we feel scattered and alone in a world which seems to be godless? “I will gather you” from the east, west, north and south.  Does our life lack a real purpose?  “You are my witnesses…I have chosen you as my servant in order that you know and believe in me and understand that I am the One.”

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Jesus Baptism

With many other churches Resurrection cancelled all the services this weekend.  When Becky drove by, she noticed the parking lot wasn’t plowed out.  Someone messed up.  What does one do when church is cancelled?  You go to the grocery store or St. Louis Bread Company (Panera).

Jesus has grown up fast since December 25th.  He’s two years old on January 6 and on January 13 he’s thirty and goes to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John.  Luke 3:21, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was also baptized.  While He was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit came down on Him in bodily form as a dove.  And a voice from heaven said, ‘You are my Son, whom I love, I am delighted with You.’”   

The Prayer for the Day (Collect) is addressed to our “Father in heaven…You proclaimed Him (Jesus) Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.”  The prayer immediately moves on to our baptism.  “Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life.”

Immediately after his baptism, Jesus “full of the Holy Spirit…was led by the Spirit in the wilderness…to be tempted by the devil.”  We may be inheritors with Christ of everlasting life; however, we live in this world for decades before that inheritance of everlasting life is realized.  After our baptism we may have been taken home to a gathering of our family.  But we are also thrust into a world which challenges our trust in our heavenly Father and in Jesus’ death and resurrection guaranteeing our inheritance of everlasting life.  We are tempted to go astray, as Jesus was.  We need the Holy Spirit’s aid to remain faithful to our calling as children of the heavenly Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus, the master of our salvation.

The Day Morning Moved

January 11, this is the day I’ve waited for.  On the day of the winter solstice we are told that it is the shortest “day” of the year.  That’s only partly true.  Indeed, within a couple of days sunset starts going to bed later, so that by today it will stay up about fifteen minutes later.  The trouble is getting sunrise to rise and shine earlier. You see, after solstice day sunrise pulls the covers up over its head and stays put in bed for four minutes longer until 7:20.  Until today.  At last it’s started to get its lazy bones out of bed to make its breakfast appearance at 7:19. Now we can officially look forward to daffodil days.

All this on a day when we have our first real snowstorm in five years.  Even now, though the sun has gone to bed an hour and a half ago, outside the darkness is unable to overcome the light.  Even now, the snow has crept halfway up the rear tire of my Kia Forte.  The pine tree in the back yard is flocked in white.  Weeds, an old machinery wheel and the top of a wood wind mill my brother made me some years ago are wearing fanciful top hats in a variety of designs.  Its supposed to snow all night.  I wonder what new shapes will appear when the sun rises at 7:18.    

The Cappadocian Fathers

I’ve noticed over the years of studying history, that there are certain families, locations, and periods of time when particularly influential people emerge and still other times when there is a lack of talented leaders. 

 In the 4th century an area known as Cappadocia in what is now central Turkey produced a family and a friend who became the most influential teachers and theologians of their time. The church remembers today three brothers, Basil (330-379) and Gregory (335-395), their sister Macrina (324-379), and Peter (340-391) along with a friend Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389). If we confess our faith this Sunday using the words of the Nicene Creed, the Cappadocian Fathers became defenders of that faith.

 Basil, on Holy Communion: “For myself, I communicate four times a week…In Alexandria and Egypt it is the general rule for each member of the laity to keep communion at his own house. “He…is bound to believe that he rightly partakes of it and receives it from him who gave it.”

Gregory of Nyssa wrote concerning baptism: “Since the death of him who leads us to life involved burial under the earth.  So, everyone who is linked to him and fixes his eyes on the same victory has water poured on him, instead of earth, and thus represents the grace of resurrection attained after three days.”

 Macrina:  After her fiancée died, she devoted herself to leading a community dedicated to ascetic meditation and prayer.

 Gregory of Nazianzus became bishop of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire.  Regarding infant baptism: “Let him be sanctified from babyhood, and consecrated by the Spirit in his tender years.  You have no need of charms or spells.  Give your child the powerful and lovely amulet of the Trinity,”

The Other Christmas Story

 

No Shepherds, angels, or manger in this story.  Rather we have non- Jewish astrologer/magicians from perhaps the Tigris Euphrates area who follow a gps star but veer off the route and end up in Jerusalem.  They ask a ruthless paranoid king who does whatever it takes to hold onto the power, about a new king of the Jews.  When Herod was “troubled” so was everyone else in the capital.  He summoned the authorities of the Jews and they found in the ancient book of Micah a clue.  A ruler would come out of Bethlehem.  Bad news for Bethlehem.  Herod enlists the naïve foreigners in a plan to find this perceived threat to himself.  He claims he wants to worship the new king too.

The Magi were happy to be back on track with the gps star and ended up at a house in Bethlehem, where they did indeed worship the new king, Jesus.   They offered him gold, frankincense and myrhh, gifts befitting royalty.

In the gospel reading for Epiphany the story ends too soon.   Warned in a dream the Magi head home avoiding Jerusalem.  The angel of the Lord also gives a heads up to Joseph, and the couple with their son Jesus, creator and savior of the universe, become refugees finding safety in Egypt a foreign land.

Then comes the horror.  Herod orders troops to search and kill all male children in Bethlehem and environs from 2 years of age and under.

There are plenty of refugees, and murderous paranoid despots throughout history who will do whatever it takes to hold onto power.  But this story is not intended to be read as an allegory.  The other Christmas story simply takes place in the real world and carries with it the message that God is Immanuel, always with us, not only in a romantic candle lit silent night, but God came to save through His Son amidst the screams, bloodshed and darkness.

It’s into such darkness that the prophet Isaiah called “Arise shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”  We, upon whom light of Christ has shined, are called to get up and reflect that light into the world in which darkness seems to hold sway.  We are not to be part of the darkness, but a light which attracts those who sit in the darkness but mistakenly think that they are light.

There maybe a cost to being that light reflector, for the one who is light also paid the cost on a cross in the darkness of a Friday afternoon.

A Twenty-Mile-Long Snowman

 

How far would a twenty-mile long snowman stretch from your house?  That would be enormous.  However, if that snowman were 4 billion miles away that would be another matter.  That is the size and distance of Ultima Thule.  And on New Year’s Day the folks at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab celebrated hitting it with a snowball.  Well, maybe not a snowball, but a small space craft flew by within 2,200 miles, close enough.  This was after skimming by poor down sized Pluto (I’m still bummed out about that) in 2015.  Ultima Thule is 1 billion miles beyond Pluto.  Now the spacecraft is over a million miles farther into the Kuiper Belt, and we still aren’t out of our own solar system, we still haven’t left the neighborhood.

Sunday many of us will confess in the words of Nicene Creed, “I (we) believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.”  This not only includes what we read in Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” but also John’s Christmas account, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” as well as Jesus’ words before Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The discovery and fly-by of a 20-mile-long snowman 4 billion miles away is beyond amazing.  Yet, it has hardly scratched the surface of what is in other neighborhoods.

 

 

Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe

It was common in Germany in the 19th century to give people two or three Christian names but to call them by their 2nd or 3rd names. Thus, we have Wilhelm Loehe.  Why?  I’m not sure.  I know it made researching the history of Holy Cross, Collinsville more difficult.  One had to carefully look at baptism, confirmation, marriage and death lists to match up names.  And women were rarely called by their first names, even in the minutes of the women’s groups, but by Mrs. —-.  Notice the stain glass windows of the church.

Wilhelm Loehe proves that a person can have profound effect on the world even from a very small location.  Once he became pastor in Neuendettelsau he never moved.  It a long time to get through the established system of pastoral training in Germany.  He saw the critical need for workers in the new world and did his own training.

Loehe founded the Neuendettelsau Foreign Mission Society where he trained and sent pastors, to North America, Australia, Brazil, New Guinea and the Ukraine. He founded a deaconess training house and homes for the aged.  He helped establish a seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana and a teacher’s college in Saginaw, Michigan.

The first four pastors at Holy Cross, Collinsville, Il, from 1848 to 1900, were trained by Loehe.  The chapel at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa is named in his honor.  His name is on the wall of the library of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, along with one of his students, Frederick Lochner, first pastor at Holy Cross.

He developed a service in which catechumens were questioned weekly on Luther’s Small Catechism. Holy Cross, Collinsville used the service until the early 20th century.  The service of Prayer and Preaching in LSB, pp. 260-267, follows the same pattern.

He died in 1872, having had a significant impact on the church worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday mornings

 

Becky and I have developed nice Saturday morning habit the last couple of weeks.  We first drive over to see Adam in Northview village.  As we passed Barnes-Jewish – Children’s hospital, Becky commented, “This is like a race track.”  Three lanes of traffic in a seeming drag race hoping to hit green lights. Then past some old stately homes, numerous large churches and the out- of -our -price -range Chase Park Plaza.   Crossing Delmar, we enter another world of boarded up buildings, no banks, but cash checking businesses nor much for grocery stores, the only restaurants are Popeyes and Church’s; there are plenty of beauty supply stores, auto parts stores and AME churches.  North of Martin Luther King Dr., Kingshighway becomes a grass and tree filled divided boulevard.  A few more blocks and we pull into the parking lot, of a former hospital, we sign in and then wait for the creaking elevator to arrive.  We punch in the code for the 3rd floor and go to visit Adam.   And there we find our son, well cared for and safe in an unexpected place.

And then we retrace our route, take Hwy 40 over the River, stopping at the Golden Corral at Collinsville for brunch, we eat high on the hog. With stomachs filled we travel up 157 to Meridian Village to visit Jeanette in her waning days.  What a surprise when we see Karen Shimkus visiting her mother.  It’s been too long since we’ve seen her.

Saturday mornings, traveling through multiple worlds and finding surprises.

 

The Secret of Beautiful Feet

 

I don’t suppose the secret of beautiful feet is much on our minds this Christmas night, but it was on the mind of Isaiah in the Old Testament lesson for Christmas morning.   It has nothing to do with pedicures or lotions to heal dried and cracked skin.

Isaiah tells us in 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news.  Who brings the good news announcing salvation, and tells Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

Those shepherds who left their flocks that night and went to Bethlehem to check out what the Lord was doing had beautiful feet.  They told Mary and Joseph about their experience with the angels and all who heard the shepherd’s news were amazed.  Callouses and all those shepherds had beautiful feet.

When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple when He was about six weeks old, 84-year-old Anna appeared.  She showed she had beautiful feet as she spoke about Jesus to all waiting for Jerusalem to be set free.

Play pediatrist this evening.  How do your feet look? Are they beautiful?

Thank God for sending the barefoot king in the manger.  His feet are beautiful, and he will make ours to be like his.

Quatrains for Advent four

 

There was a young maiden named Mary

Who was readying her trousseau to marry

But an angel said, “The Gospel you’ll carry”

Who will deliver from sin and make us merry.

 

This young maiden had no time to waste

She packed her bag and left in all haste

Setting out walking at a furious pace

Her womb ever stretching with God’s Grace.

 

When old Elizabeth opened her front door

She welcomed and blessed her blessed visitors

For young maiden Mary was to be progenitor

Of the One who would be our Savior.

 

Then young maiden Mary sang extolly

Of God, who lifts the low and lowly

And through their Son Jesus solely

remakes us whole and holy.