For Robin

When I heard of Gary’s death this morning, I wanted to be up in the Three Lakes area.  Perhaps, I am not the only one who finds distant words inadequate, no matter how heartfelt.  I began to think about the vows we take on our wedding day.

We spent many years alone and then we found someone with whom we would like to spend a lifetime, and someone pronounces us husband and wife. But we really have little idea of what that will mean.

The officiant asks, “Will you have this woman/man, to be your wife/husband, to live with that person in marriage according to the Word of God?”  But what does that really mean?  Could we define it if someone asked us as we stood in our wedding dress and tuxedo?  Does it mean we live under the headship of Christ?  But every couple will need to work out for themselves their relationship under Christ’s headship.

The vows continue, “Will you love, comfort, honor and keep in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?”  Loving, comforting, honoring, each other is challenging enough.  But who is ready for sickness?  Who anticipates sitting in the surgery waiting room?  Who anticipates “for worse?” “poorer” and to love and cherish through it all.

And then “until death parts us.”  We aren’t ready to resume being alone again.  What then when death does part us?  When one of the rings we exchanged as a reminder of our love and faithfulness is buried beneath the earth in the hope of the resurrection. 

Yet one of us must go on.  But how? Yet, one thing has not changed. On the day we stood before the officiant that person began our togetherness, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We were sent on our way with the blessing that, “The eternal God, the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, grant you His Holy, be with you, and richly bless you now and forever.”  So, we go on our way from the cemetery still surrounded by the eternal God, the holy three in one.  

In the Garden

In the Garden

“No earthly garden ever is just an earthly garden, for God is in the Garden.  Every garden is an image and a sacrament of the one Garden, our lost home of innocence, henceforth our inheritance.” Vigen Guroian, “The Fragrance of God.”

This afternoon I picked the three varieties of tomatoes from various areas of my garden.  All of them are cherry types.  I say various places because the red cherries have self-seeded themselves, sometimes with the help of other creatures beside myself.  They are found in both the back and front yard flower gardens.  This spring I planted one yellow cherry and one yellow pear shaped.  Becky says they look like light bulbs.  A cereal bowl of the three varieties sits on the kitchen counter a mixture of red and yellow and “light bulbs.”  The sight of them is worthy of a still life painting by a 17th century French or Dutch artist.  The tomatoes sent me to my library to hunt up two small books by Vigen Guroian.  One is cited above and the other is “Inheriting Paradise.”

One of my goals in gardening is to have something blooming during the entire growing season.  Now don’t ask me to name the flowers that dot the four sides of the yard.  Forgetting in this case isn’t a matter of age, it’s a matter that I’m not a detail-oriented person.  Oh, I can remember the hibiscus, and the pink surprise lilies who poked their stems out of the ground like upside down flamingoes.  I also have a funky looking Mullin that traveled with me from Wisconsin.  We called it Indian Tobacco.  In its second year it shoots a stem five feet into the air with a series of small yellow blossoms along its head.  It grows wild along the sides of roads in Wisconsin.  I only let a couple grow each year, lest it take over.

I like the Guroian’s idea that every garden is an image and sacrament of Eden. It reminds us of where we came from and where we are going.

Chi Rho Ring

In June 1967, I think the 11th, I was ordained at Christ Lutheran Church, Pipe Lake, the little country church where I was baptized and confirmed as were my parents and my brothers.  The church where in 1947 an age six “Ronny” recited his Christmas piece about Santa Claus etc., from the Happy Corners School program at the Christmas Eve children’s program at the church.

For the ordination, Becky and I had just returned from our “Honeymoon” trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  But on the evening of my ordination, when I heard St. Paul’s word concerning preaching the word in season and out of season and have tried to keep Paul’s advice through the years, even now on Facebook, sometimes with trepidation, I received two gifts that I remember.

The first was a home communion kit from my cousins.  I have used that for the last 52 years and I am happy to report, oldest son Nathan hasn’t eaten my communion wafers since about 1969 when my office was in our home in Winona, Mn. and he was not quite two years of age.

The other gift was a Chi Rho ring from the congregation.  Chi Rho, XP, are the first two letters in Christ.  Together they form both a manger and a crucifix (Christ on the cross) though one leg of the X has been lost.  The ring as gained attention from time to time at gas stations etc.  But none so strange as the time when we were camping in Door County for a couple of days and before leaving went to an orchard to pick cherries.  The lady who greeted us looked and said, “Are you a Missouri Synod Pastor?”  I was stunned since I was looking as little like a pastor as I could look.  It turned out her son attended the sem. and had similar ring.

This morning the Physicians Asst for my primary care doctor asked about the ring.  She had seen it the last time I was in and thought it quite unusual.  So, I had an opportunity talk about Christ, while describing the Chi Rho ring.  It’s been my best witnessing tool for 52 years.

My Daily Scripture Reading

I have often been in wonder how daily or Sunday scripture readings fit the current day.  So, it is for the assigned readings for this day in the program I am following.

Matt. 24: 5, For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ (Chosen One, Messiah), and they will lead many away…’ V. 23, Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.

 Psalm 51 is also assigned for today in which we read, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.

There is only one who is the Chosen One even Jesus Christ our Lord.  He is the God of my salvation and to him “my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”  To Jesus Christ we pray, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Psalms For When Things aren’t Going Well

The two Psalms, 55, and 119:81-88, assigned for last Sunday speak to us when things aren’t going well.

Psalm 55 ends, “Turn your burdens over to the Lord, and he will take care of you.”  But the psalmist takes a while getting to that declaration of trust.  He begins with a plea, “Open your ears to my prayer, O Yahweh.  Do not hide from my plea for mercy… My thoughts are restless, and I am confused.”

Psalm 119:81, also paints a bleak outlook, “My soul is weak from waiting for you to save me.  My hope is based on your word.  My eyes have become strained from looking for your promise…When will you comfort me…I have become like a shriveled and dried out wineskin.  What is left of my life?”

What has brought them to place in their life?  In Psalm 119, the poet uses the common image of people digging pits into which they hope he falls. People are trying to trap him with lies, trying to wipe him off the face of the earth.  In Psalm 55, it’s his best friend, “one I knew so well.”  He recalls, “We used to talk to each other in complete confidence and walk into God’s house with the festival crowds.”  But now, “His speech is smoother than butter, but there is war in his heart.  His words are more soothing than oil, but they are like swords ready to attack.”

But then against all appearances he declares to us, “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and he will take care of you.  He will never let the righteous person stumble.”  That’s what faith is, not only for the good times, but also for the time when our world is collapsing.  In the same vein, psalm 119:88, concludes, “Give me new life through your mercy.” So that I can keep on obeying the word which comes from your mouth.

When things are going badly, the psalms are there for us.


I had a cousin named Bernard Hansen.  He was born two days before my mother, his aunt, in 1912.  He married my aunt Mildred my father’s sister.  One day when I went to visit their son, Monte, who was both a first and second cousin, my aunt Mildred said, “Monte, I hope you grow up sometime, because your father never will.”  That well described Bernard or “Cy,” as he was known.

He was a milk hauler in the days when milk was picked up on the farms in cans and hauled to the creamery or cheese factory.  In winter the trucks were equipped with a snowplow.  The milk haulers were usually the first to plow open the town roads and farm driveways.

The Bernard the church remembers today was born to an affluent Burgundy family in 1090. He died in 1153.  He was Abbot of Clairvaux.  At age 22 he entered the monastery at Citeaux and two years later started a new monastery at Clairvaux.  He was known for his charity work and political ability.  But his preaching and hymn writing are what make him particularly memorable. 

Two hymns in LSB are attributed to him, “O Jesus King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”   

Of course, he wrote in Latin.  We sing “O Sacred Head” on Good Friday to a setting by J.S. Bach of a 16th century tune.

O sacred Head, now wounded,

With grief and shame weighed down

Now scornfully surrounded

With thorns, Thine only crown

O sacred Head, what glory,

What bliss, till now was Thine!

Yet, though despised and glory,

I joy to call Thee mine. 

Finding the Gospel

Finding the Gospel

Tomorrow in Luke 12:49-53, we encounter a gospel lesson without any apparent gospel.  Jesus says, “I bring fire…I have a baptism to undergo…I am in distress…I do not bring peace…I bring judgment.”  Needing to follow St. Paul’s advice “to preach the word in season and out of season” and to preach both Law (this is what you have done) and Gospel (This is what God has done) the preacher goes in search of some good news (gospel).

Here is an outline for finding the Gospel.


The Fire of God’s wrath judgment against sin (missing God’s target for our lives). God redirect’s his wrath to Jesus, His Son, who bears it to the cross. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit sparked a wildfire of the Gospel which engulfed the world.


His ministry was completed in his baptism of blood on the cross when the soldier pierced his side and blood and water flowed out.

We are united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection when we are plunged into the waters of baptism. (Rom. 6:1-4)

Peace and Division

Jesus brings peace on earth and heaven as announced at his birth and proclaimed at his entry into Jerusalem.

Jesus brings division when as Simeon said, “He is appointed for the rising and falling of many.”  One’s trust or lack of trust in Jesus and his salvation is the dividing fact in the world.  Not politics, nor social issues nor what church one belongs to.

Garth Brooke’s song is a good commentary on the text.

            Standing outside the fire

            Standing outside the fire

            Life is not tried it is survived

If you are standing outside the fire.



I couldn’t think of anything wise or otherwise today. According to Lutheran Service Book, today is Isaac’s day.  We don’t pay much attention to Isaac, the son born to Abraham and Sarah when they were 100 and 90 respectively.  He had the unfortunate name, “Laughter” because both his parents laughed at God that they still could have a child.  However, he doesn’t seem to have much to laugh about in his life.  His older half-brother, Ishmael, bullied him.  At God’s direction, Abraham took him to Mt. Moriah in order to sacrifice him as a test of Abraham’s willing to give up the son.  It’s a troubling story.   Abraham took care of his marrying by sending his servant back to the old country to fetch Isaac a wife.  The servant brought back a beautiful girl named Rebekah.  Isaac who was forty years old, immediately married her.  He loved Rebekah.

 For nearly 20 years Rebekah couldn’t get pregnant. Isaac prayed and finally Rebekah got pregnant.  But then she was pregnant with twins who thrashed around in her womb, driving her to wonder what was going to happen to her.  Even their birth was strange.  Esau emerged covered in red hair, hence his name and Jacob came out clutching his twin’s heel, hence his name.  Esau loved the outdoors and hunting.  Jacob is presented as quiet and hung around the tents.  Then there came the time the time that Esau impetuously gave away his birthright as the oldest son for a blow of red soup.  Finally, the “Heel” Jacob tricked his blind father into blessing him.  With the help of his mother he dressed in goats’ skins and they cooked some goat meat to taste like wild game.  Now there is open division in the family.

Besides all that he had to become a well digger as his rivals tended to go around and fill in his wells to make him move on.  He did receive the same promises that his Father Abraham received about being a great nation.  This began to happen through his less than trustworthy son, Jacob, the heel who gave him 12 grandsons.  Sometimes God does strange things.

Mary, the Girl from Nazareth, Mother of Jesus

            On August 15, the church remembers Mary, mother of Jesus.  St. Paul writes in, Gal. 4:4-7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.”

            “The fullness of time,” was the time in the history of the world and the history of God’s plan for redeeming the world that He said to the Son, “Okay, now go!”

            For Mary, “the fullness of time” came nine months after the angel Gabriel told her that she had found favor with God.   She would conceive in her womb and bear a son whom she would name Jesus.  In “the fullness of time” when her womb was filled with God, she sent forth from her womb her son and God’s Son.  God, born into human flesh was completely obedient to God’s demands in His commands.  He suffered death on the cross as the price for buying us back from captivity to our disobedience of the demands of His commands.

            We remember Mary, the girl from Nazareth, who had the singular privilege of giving birth to God’s Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  No wonder Elizabeth loudly exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

Because of that “blessed event” we too are among the blessed.

We sing of Mary, mother,

Fair maiden, full of grace.

She bore the Christ, our brother,

Who came to save our race.

May we, with her, surrender

Ourselves to Your command

And lay upon Your altar

Our gifts of heart and hand.

                                                LSB 855 st.8 For all the Faithful Women 

Some Tuesday thoughts

Some Tuesday Thoughts

I gather from Mary Hamrick, who completed her 51st first day of school teaching kindergarten at Unity School, East St. louis, Il, that a successful first day was getting peed on only once.  I must say I was never peed on by a kindergartener or a confirmation student, though the time I tried to emulate Jesus and hoisted a new born calf on my shoulders to carry it across Apple River,  I did feel some warm liquid flowing down my back, ungrateful little beast.

In the Gospel lesson for this past Sunday, Jesus says not to worry, God feeds the birds, and clothes flowers with beauty.  I’m glad some Goldfinches are feeding on the seeds of a clump of beautiful purple Coneflowers, but I hope they leave a few seeds to grow next spring.

I’ve been tussling with the Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday in which a not so sweet and mild Jesus speaks of hoping the fire will be kindled soon, undergoing a baptism, and has not come to bring peace, but division.  I have gone from “What in the world am I going to do with this?” to “Well I may come out with something beneficial for the congregations straddling the Kaskaskia River in Ruma and Evansville, Il.”  It reminds me of Jacob wrestling with God by the Jabbok creek all night and by dawn coming out with a limp and a blessing.

We got good news regarding a sewer pipe on our property.  The insurance will pay for it.  A week or so ago, a plumber discovered that someone in the distant past had chiseled into the clay pipe and shoved a pvc pipe to carry rainwater off the house roof.  Its just one of the many puzzling things we have discovered about this house, beginning with tiles falling into the bathwater shortly after Becky took a bath when we first moved in, 16 years ago.

We missed the big rains from yesterday, but had a good down pour this morning which tested our newly redug Jansen Creek and the bags of pea gravel Aaron and crew put in last week.

Life continues to be interesting and its best to view it through humorous glasses.  Though it saddens me that yesterday at 5:00 o’clock 8-year-old Xavier Usanga became the 11th child killed by gunshot since June.  It puzzles and saddens me when I see “Jokes” reposted from gun associations as if these killings had nothing to do with us.