Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

28 January 2006
  Lutheran Carnival XVI

The Terrible Swede hosts the latest carnival with special props to Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel.
 
27 January 2006
  A Moratorium on Tags

Indiana Jane and The Terrible Swede tagged me over the past couple weeks. I'll respond to these two, but will then pretty much cease responding unless it's a "pick your own" meme. It isn't that I don't enjoy doing them from time to time, but I don't have the time right now. Synodical, district, and circuit business, Lenten preparation, and work with the new Luther Library — plus, of course my pastoral and familial responsibilites and my regular blogging all come calling.
 
  Carnival Deadline Hours Away

Submissions are due this (Friday) evening at 7:00 p.m. CST for the Lutheran Carnival. Make sure you have the proper format before sending to lutherancarnival AT gmail DOT com.

The Terrible Swede hosts.
 
  + John Chrysostom +
27 January AD 407

Saint John Chrysostom, Preacher, Bishop, and Theologian, was called Chrysostom (Greek for"golden-mouthed") by his hearers. He was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church.

Saint John ChrysostomBorn in Antioch around AD 347, John was instructed in the Faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. His title came from his legendary preaching abilities. An unsubstantiated by widely circulated tale is that pickpockets and cutpurses would flock to services because he held his audience so spellbound that they could easily rob Saint John's hearers.

In 398, John was made Patriarch of Constantinople, where His determination to reform the church, court, and city brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: "Glory be to God for all things. Amen."

Saint John was one of four Eastern theologians among the eight Doctors of the undivided Church. The other three were Athanasius, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus. The four great early Western (or Latin) doctors were Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great, and Ambrose of Milan.

Lection
Psalm 49:1-8 or 34:15-22
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Luke 21:12-15

Collect
O God, who gave Your servant John Chrysostom the grace to proclaim eloquently Your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of Your Name, mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word, that Your people shall be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Quote
The following excerpt is based on the passage, "[T]he letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)" It comes from his Sixth Homily On 2 Corinthians.
Yet he says these things not in one sense only, but in reference to those who prided themselves on the things of Judaism. By the "letter" here he means the Law which punishes those who transgress; but by the "spirit" he means the grace which through Baptism gives life to those who by sins were made dead.

In the Law he that has sin is punished. Here, he that has sins comes and is baptized and is made righteous, and being made righteous, he lives, being delivered from the death of sin. The Law, if it lay hold on a murderer, puts him to death. The Gospel, if it lay hold on a murderer, enlightens, and gives him life.
Quoted from The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism © 2004 by Concordia Publishing House.
 
26 January 2006
  + Titus, Pastor and Confessor +
26 January, New Testament

Saint TitusSaint Titus, Pastor and Confessor was sent by Paul as bishop and pastor to Crete. Along with his other duties, he was also to "appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5)" — in other words, he chose and consecrated the first generation of Cretan pastors and appears to have been the island's de facto bishop. While there, he was to himself be a faithful shepherd for Christ's flock as he trained and placed others into the Office of the Holy Ministry.

Titus is mentioned as Paul's companion in some of the epistles: 2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6, 13-14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18; Galatians 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:10.

The letters Paul wrote to Titus and Timothy are collectively known as the Pastoral Epistles. Much of Christianity's understanding and practice of the pastorate comes from these three relatively brief letters.

Lection
Psalm 84
Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35
1 Peter 5:1-4 or Titus 1:1-5
John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

Collect
O almighty God, by Your Son, our Savior, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds to guide and feed Your flock. Therefore we pray, make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and minsiter Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
25 January 2006
  Of Making Many Blogs

The Preacher nailed it: "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV)"

So you aren't over-burdened by choosing among the "many books" vying for your attention and discretionary income, we've added to the "many blogs" now littering cyberspace — the Luther Library, dedicated to reviewing and recommending reading and study material from a confessional Lutheran viewpoint, has opened its doors and is now involved with Staff Recruitment. Drop by to see how you can help or bookmark the library so you're ready for the coming reviews.
 
  The Conversion of Saint Paul
25 January, New Testament

Spiritus GladiusToday celebrates the Conversion of Saint Paul through the revelation of the risen Christ to him on the road to Damascus. The zealous Pharisee Saul was traveling to arrest followers of Jesus. Instead of capturing Christians, Paul found Himself made captive by his Savior's boundless grace and became Christ's primary apostle to the Gentiles. Accounts of the event are in Acts 9:1-22; Acts 26:9-21; and Galatians 1:11-24.

Paul's normal symbol in ecclesiastical art is a shield with sword and open Bible. The Latin words Spiritus Gladius (sword of the Spirit) come from the apostle's words about the armor of God, where he urges believers to take up "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)"

Lection
Psalm 67
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Acts 9:1-22
Galatians 1:11-24
Matthew 19:27-30 or Luke 21:10-19

Collect
Almighty God, as You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world, grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and to spread it to the uttermost parts of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
24 January 2006
  + Timothy, Pastor and Confessor +
24 January, New Testament

Saint TimothyToday we commemorate Saint Timothy, Pastor and Confessor. The festival days for Pastors Timothy and Titus are set on either side of the day marking Saint Paul's conversion. This proximity reminds us of their connection with the apostle, including his establishing them in office and the letters he wrote to them.

Timothy grew up in the faith as taught by his mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois. He was a companion of Paul for many of the apostle's travels and spent much of his own pastorate in Ephesus.

Timothy is mentioned in Acts 16-20, and appears in 9 epistles either as joining in Paul's greetings or as a messenger. Additionally, two of Paul's three "pastoral epistles" — 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy — were addressed to him and his congregation.

Lection
Psalm 84
Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35
Ephesians 3:14-21 or 2 Timothy 1:1-8
John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

Collect
O almighty God, by Your Son, our Savior, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds to guide and feed Your flock. Therefore we pray, make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and minsiter Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
23 January 2006
  Life Marches On

Aborted BabyYesterday marked Roe vs. Wade's 33rd anniversary. Today, we begin year thirty-four of legalized abortion in the United States.

Our society not only bought into the faulty arguments confirmed by the Supreme Court — it has extended the faulty reasoning to its entire understanding of life and death. In thirty-three more years, how will we be looking back at the recent Supreme Court decision regarding assisted suicide? I don't have an answer: My crystal ball can only be used for purposes of humor and satire. True prognostication is a gift not given me.

However, I can examine trends, evidence, and writings on the wall. I can also search the Scriptures. There have been setbacks in the ongoing struggle with the death-dealers. However, victories also add up. Mississippi now has one abortion clinic and similar downturns in death-dealing are happening elsewhere. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fewer Americans, especially women of child-bearing age, have a generally favorable attitude toward abortion on demand.

How we continue remains — if you'll pardon the pun — a matter of choice. All believers have access to God's throne of grace through prayer. Some might be most comfortable writing congress while others join together in blogging. One may desire to join an organization such as Lutherans for Life while another prefers to work alone.

Through our vocations, God gives all people their daily bread. So, also, He gives voice to the voiceless, strength to the weak, shelter for the exposed, and good to those living under oppressive evil. How we engage ourselves in the cause of life varies according to talent and circumstance; that we rise up against a pro-death culture goes without saying. If we confess the Lord of life in His Church, how can we not do the same without?

Don't forget the Blogs for Life conference!
 
22 January 2006
  A Separate Introduction

After a separation of many years, I found at Symposia one I last saw as a young boy now grown man-sized. Memories of a pre-confirmation lad singing with his family transformed into the reality of a man on the cusp of completing his 3rd decade, gainfully employed, engaged to be married, a Cantor in his congregation, and possessed of keen wit and a joyful spirit. I've known and loved his dad for many years; now I've another in the family to hold dear.

After breaking bread and drinking beer with Jason the Young Theologian, I learned that he's also a beginning blogger. So drop by Cantor's Padded Balcony and remind him to contribute to the Church with his writing as well as his music and all the others gifts entrusted him by God.
 
  More Enrollments
Wherein We Introduce the Newest Blogroll Inductees

Among the confessional Lutheran sites, these five now take their places:
Ericka's Vida Loca!
First Person Life
Law & Gospel with Tom Baker
Uwe Siemon-Netto with the Concordia Seminary Institute on Lay Vocation
Our Little House on the Prairie

I've also added an interesting blog from a conservative Catholic:
Part-Time Pundit

Shamelessly reproduced from the pages of my doppelgänger.
 
21 January 2006
  Vocation and Penance
Living Right and Making Right

Sean just posted some Thoughts on Penance stemming from a "fun" class he's taking on "Medieval Saints and Sinners." He notices that there are instances where penance seems salutary (such as the armor-bearing priest in The Mission).

After some good observations about Confession and Absolution being superior to Penance, he still wonders if there isn't some salutary use of the practice. My short response would be, "No." My slightly longer response is that good Law-Gospel preaching leads to things better than Penance, including a full understanding and practice of one's Vocation.

The problem with Penance is that it assumes a guilt that Absolution cannot remove. It denies what Christ offers in Word and Sacrament. This is patent false doctrine. However, the Christian desires to love his neighbor as himself to the full extent of his God-given abilities. This includes an urge to make restitution whenever possible. However, restitution to individuals, groups, or all of society have no bearing on the full and free remission of sins one receives through Christ's words. The repentant Christian "pays back" those he offends not because he must but because Christ frees him so to do.

At other times, knowing his chronic weaknesses, the Christian might purposely take burdens upon himself, not as Penance, but for self-discipline and strengthening. Fasting, almsgiving, and additional prayers, all commended by Christ, are among the means of practicing this new resolve. This is all part of life under the cross: We mortify our own sinful flesh in response to Christ mortifying His sinless flesh on our behalf.

The Holy Spirit, working through Word and Sacrament, strengthens our resolve, guides our steps, and leads us on righteous paths as we respond in love to our Savior's love for us. The great thing about this kind of "non-Penance" is that we are free to practice it even when we haven't sinned!
 
  + Sarah +
20 January, Old Testament

Sarah, whose name means "princess," was wife (and half-sister) of Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29; 20:12). In obedience to divine command (Genesis 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan.

She was originally named Sarai but the Lord commanded her change in name (Genesis 17:15). At the same time, He changed Abram's name to Abraham (from "exalted father" to "father of a people"; Genesis 17:5).

Sarah LaughedShe remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God's long-standing promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Genesis 21:1-3). When first promising Abraham and Sarah a son of their own, He told Abraham, "You shall call his name Isaac [he laughs]. (Genesis 17:19)" Evidently, the Lord anticipated both Sarah's celebration at his birth (Genesis 21:6) and her previous disbelieving laughter when she first heard she would become pregnant (Genesis 18:12-15). Thus, God reminds subsequent generations that He always "gets the last laugh."

We remember and honor Sarah as faithful wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three great patriarchs. Thus, she became biological mother to the people of Israel and spiritual mother to all who believe in Jesus Christ, her greatest descendent. We also acknowledge her gracious hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18:1-8).

Following her death at the age of 127, Abraham laid her to rest in the Cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23), where he was later buried (Genesis 25:7-10).

Saint Paul used the example of Sarah bearing Isaac according to divine promise to illustrate the relationship Christians have with God through the Gospel's promise. Galatians 4:21-31 contrasts Ishmael, the child of the slave woman Hagar, with Isaac, the promised child of the free woman Sarah.

Note: Commemoration is a day late due to my travels.

Scripture quoted from the ESV.
 
  On the Bribing Lobbying of Congress

N.Z. Bear of The Truth Laid Bear invites you to join An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers, supporting meaningful reform in lobbying rules and calling for an end to "congressional excess and privilege." His Appeal also serves to "welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader." Follow the link to read the post and join the Appeal.

Imagine that: An Aardvark joining with a Bear.
 
20 January 2006
  More on the Sabre of Boldness

SabreAs promised, I have a bit more on the awarding of the Sabre of Boldness. The summary from the award's sponsor, Gottesdienst magazine, is now online. Chaplain Jonathan Shaw and the Rev'd Dr. Burnell Eckardt presented the award on behalf of the Gottesdienst Editorial Board.

A previous honoree, the Rev. Charles Henrickson gave me the names (and correct spellings) of the Swedish ministers of the Gospel at the ceremony. Pastor Olle Fogelkvist of the Swedish Mission Province accepted on behalf of Bishop Obare. Also on hand was Pastor Olle Hjortzberg-Nordlund.
 
19 January 2006
  Happy Birthday, Jacqui

Pastor Petersen of Cyberstones arrived late for the Sabre of Boldness ceremony, but he had good reason — he was dining and dancing with his lovely bride Jacqui as they celebrated her fortieth birthday. As is so often the case with pastors I know (including yours truly), Brother David is truly blessed with a gracious and lovely bride of whom he is probably completely unworthy and without whom he would be of little consequence.

Perhaps I exaggerate a little. However, he is blessed to have Jacqui as his wife and I wish her a blessed birthday and the Petersen family many more years of marital communion and bliss.
 
  The Sabre of Boldness
Thursday 19 January 2006

The Rev. Walter Obare, Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, was bestowed the Sabre of Boldness in absentia in a ceremony in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Accepting for the bishop were two Swedish pastors of the Mission Province, whose own bishop, Rev. Arne Olsson was consecrated by Obare because the Church of Sweden, the official state church, would not consecrate him due to his confessional fidelity.

Thus, the Sabre honors Bishop Obare, Bishop Olsson, and all the faithful Lutheran pastors in Sweden who will not bow their knee to Baal, feminism, political correctness, or any other false gods.

I will post or link to more information as it becomes available.
 
18 January 2006
  A Brief Update from the Fort

The Theological Symposia continue here in Fort Wayne, so I continue to be here. While I admit to having caught a few Z's during a couple less than dynamically delivered presentations, I've learned a fair bit and have, on the main, enjoyed so doing.

Professors Dan Gard and Larry Rast gave what have been my two favorite presentations thus far. Choral Vespers was beautiful and rich with grace. However, the officially scheduled highlight to date was sitting in the chapel for a Bach recital by organist John D. Schwandt of Indiana University. Maybe in a subsequent post I'll let you know how an organist can make a pastor cry — and how a pastor can return the favor. I've also enjoyed catching up with old friends, including half of the family quartet who sang for the Aardvark nuptials many moons ago.

My conversations here compel me to look for a "next level" of confessional blogging. Ideas are only beginning to crystalize, but look soon for some sort of "league" or "association" or "organization" of Lutheran bloggers with a feed aggregator and a greater degree of interaction than we've so far achieved.

Look also for some proposed multi-staffed specialty blogs devoted to specific topics. The first I'd like to see take off will focus on recommending and reviewing good books for clergy, other church workers, and laity to build their libraries. God willing, this will get off the ground after I get back home.

Finally, although it's not directly blog related, people are in place to begin growing an online confessional Lutheran reference library. That, too, should get going in the next couple weeks although it may be a few months before the fruits of our labors start seeing the light of day.
 
  The Confession of Saint Peter
18 January, New Testament

Today we celebrate God's blessed revelation to the disciples that Jesus was more than a good man, a holy man, an outstanding teacher, or an awesome miracle worker: Thus, we also celebrate that through the Apostles and Evangelists, we also know and believe that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)"

Flesh and blood still don't reveal this to us; faith is still a gift of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. However, with the primary means of the Gospel Word, God uses the secondary means of flesh and blood to proclaim and teach each new generation this central confession of the Christian Faith.

Keys of the KingdomThus, once the Father, working through the Holy Spirit, created faith in Peter and the others that Jesus was the Anointed One promised by the prophets, Jesus commissioned them to minister in His Name. Yet they weren't to begin immediately. Peter's great Christological "aha!" would sit in silence until after the Son of Man went to Jerusalem to "suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)"

After the Resurrection, the Apostles received the fullness of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and immediately put this confession into the world. Preaching, teaching, baptizing, and absolving sinners, the original disciples discipled others. The Good News of the suffering, dying, and risen Messiah led thousands, then millions to the Faith.

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven — the binding of unrepentant sinners' trangressions to them and the remission of sins for those who believe in Jesus as their Savior — remains the Church's mission. Their exercise is through the divinely created Office of the Holy Ministry, wherein Christ's called pastors continue to forgive sins on behalf of their Lord.

Through the pastoral office, Jesus continues to breathe His Spirit upon His appointed messengers. They continue the apostolic practice of forgiving sins in His stead and by His command while still firmly declaring the unremitting wrath of God against those who will not repent and believe: "If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld. (John 20:23)"

The Lutheran Confessions are replete with many instances and expressions of this gracious office. One brief and clear section is in the Small Catechism in the writing on Confession.

Lection
Psalm 18:1-7, 16-19
Acts 4:8-13
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Matthew 16:13-19

Collect
Dear Father in heaven, as You revealed to the apostle Saint Peter the blessed truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, strengthen us in that same faith in our Savior that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
17 January 2006
  Pro-Death Culture Continues Killing
Supreme Court Backs Oregon Law

syringeOnly Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts saw enough wrong in Oregon's assisted suicide law to vote against it; the other six joined to remove (at least under the terms introduced by John Ashcroft) federal interference with helping Oregon residents off themselves with federally controlled substances.

It looks like we may need to start working on our senators and representatives. Perhaps Congress can pass a workable ban that will pass judicial muster. Or, perhaps, there are other judicial means involving other statutes and portions of the Constitution.

At the same time, we also need to find ways of (re-)educating those physicians who don't know or have forgotten that healing should never involve killing. What in the world should we think of doctors who willingly hold open death's door — and walk their patients victims through? Indeed, given the state of mind and — more importantly — the state of faith of those seeking to end their lives, what do we do with those who are opening not only the grave's gate but also that of eternal damnation?
 
16 January 2006
  Happy Birthday to Me


Before I go to bed, I'll take a brief moment to thank my gracious Lord for 49 years (plus 9 months) of life. I'm sitting in the lobby of the Hampton Inn in Fort Wayne, Indiana, waiting for the Theological Symposia to begin after participating in the blog conference. Since Mrs. Vark had to stay home with the kids while I ran off to school, I went out after the conference with some of my "extended" family — with Dr. Ed "Cranach" Veith, Jason "Theology Geek" Evans, and Eric "Catmom" Stefanski for dinner and a beer. We talked shop, ate hot wings and steak, and solved most of the world's (and a few of Christendom's) problems over a couple cold beers. If only one of us had been taking notes ...

I've already seen a number of other members of my blogroll, including some I'd never before met in the flesh. I'm truly blessed to have a God who lets me talk about His grace, a family who let me run off in the middle of winter to learn more about the Lord, and friends to greet me when I get here.
 
14 January 2006
  Blogging for the Babies

Pro-life blogging is picking up the tempo with this year's Blogs for Life Conference on Monday morning 23 January, before the march. Whether in Washington or in your own home, you can be a part of the day's events.

HT: Pro-Life Blogs via Ask the Pastor
 
  Lutheran Carnival XV

Vicar Charles Lehmann hosts Lutheran Carnival XV with help from Leo the Great.
 
13 January 2006
  Bloggers Conference Redux
Last Call for Participants

There's still opportunity to join other Lutheran bloggers and blog readers as part of the Confessional Lutheran Bloggers Conference, held at the beginning of Symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

If planning to come to Symposia, why not spend Monday evening with some of the people for whom you've been writing or whose posting you've gotten to know? For more information, visit or join the CLBC's Google Group. Among those planning to be there are organizers the Burr in the Burgh and the Theology Geek. Presenters include Dr. Ed Veith and Pastor Walt Snyder.

The CLBC convenes in Luther Hall at 7:30 pm on Monday 16 January.

Google GroupsSubscribe to Confessional Lutheran Bloggers Conference
Email:
Browse Archives at groups.google.com


 
  I Almost Forgot
But I Don't Want to Disappoint Chaz

Submissions are due this (Friday) evening for the Lutheran Carnival. The aforementioned Chaz — along with this Ol' Aardvark and many others — is heading to Fort Wayne, Indiana for Symposia. The same distractions that almost made me forget may also be getting in Charlie's way for getting out of town and on the road himself.
 
10 January 2006
  + Basil the Great of Caesarea +
1 January AD 379

with Gregory of Nazianzus, 9 May AD 389
and Gregory of Nyssa, 9 March AD 395

Basil the GreatSaints Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Their defense of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, together with their contributions to the liturgy of the Eastern Church, make them among the most influential Christian teachers and theologians of their time. Their knowledge and wisdom continues to be heard and known in the Christian Church today.

Please note that this day of celebration was chosen by The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod for its list of commemorations. Basil is remembered in the East on his heavenly birthday (death date) while the West traditionally celebrated him on 14 June, the anniversary of his consecration. Recently, Roman Catholicism has adopted 2 January. However, the LCMS has chosen to remember Wilhelm Loehe on that date and translated Basil to an open day, while also combining the observation with those of the two with whom he worked so closely.

Lection
Psalm 139:1-9 or 34:1-8
Wisdom 7:7-14
1 Corinthians 2:6-13
Luke 10:21-24

Collect
Almighty God, who revealed to Your Church Your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons, give us grace that, like Your servants Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; who live and reign now and forever.
 
08 January 2006
  Of Mice and Mayhem

Rodents roasting on an open fire —
Flames a-leaping from my roof —
Although you might think that you've done in that mouse,
Be so certain, oh, so certain he's dead.

With apologies to Bob Wells and the The Velvet Fog.

Flaming MouseHomeowner Luciano Mares of Fort Sumner, New Mexico forgot the cardinal rule of cremation: Make sure the deceased is deceased before placing him in the flames.

According to the BBC story, Mares caught a mouse inside his home. For whatever reason, he didn't kill the creature before tossing in on a pile of burning leaves.

The mouse didn't get out of the blaze before its own fur caught fire, but when it did escape, it ran to its previous place of refuge — Mares' house. Perhaps the extreme drought and arid conditions contributed to the resulting conflagration: The house and all contents burned up in the resulting fire, although no one was hurt.
 
  When They Came for the Aardvarks

When they came for the goats,
I remained silent;
I was not a goat.

When they locked up the sheep,
I remained silent;
I was not a sheep.

When they came for the rabbits,
I did not speak out;
I was not a rabbit.

When they came for the chickens,
I did not speak out;
I was not a chicken.

When they came for the aardvarks,
there was no one left to speak out.

This post from Polly at Mossback Meadow reminded me of the poem First They Came, attributed to Martin Niemöller.

Looks to me like big money agribusiness is trying to influence Big Government to make small-scale raising of livestock completely beyond the financial means of average Americans. If you're concerned about the rights of small family farmers, back-yard raisers of poultry or rabbits, or recreational critter-keeping, please read the whole article Polly posted and follow the link to the petition.
 
  The Baptism of Our Lord
The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Baptism of JesusThe Baptism of our Lord (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:4-11; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) is celebrated the first Sunday after the Epiphany. Christians remember how John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit assumed the form of a dove and came down to rest on Jesus' head while a voice spoke from heaven, saying, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. (Mark 1:11)"

This is the first adult appearance of our Lord recorded in Holy Scripture. Prior to His baptism, the last we hear of Him was following His return from the temple as a twelve year old boy. Luke records, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (2:52)"

Following His baptism, "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12)" There He remained for forty days of fasting and temptation by Satan. Once the time of temptation was over, Jesus entered into His public ministry as He called the disciples, worked miracles, preached and taught, forgave sins, and prepared Himself for the suffering and death awaiting Him.

With John, we might wonder why Jesus came to be baptized (Matthew 3:14). However, Jesus told him, "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15)" Jesus' baptism publicly marked Him as God's Anointed One (Messiah or Christ). While He had no sins of which to repent, He identified Himself as one of us by being baptized.

Lection
Psalm 45:7-9
Isaiah 42:1-7
Acts 10:34-38
Mark 1:4-11

Collect
Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
06 January 2006
  I Couldn't not Pass It On

Although the Alley is more about facts, opinion, and general good humor, I feel compelled to give you The Best Blonde Joke Ever.
 
  A Day of Gift-Giving

In much of the world, Epiphany, not Christmas, is a day for giving gifts to family and friends. Rather than using the day in which the Father gave His Son to a sin-darkened and unxepecting world, many nations choose the day celebrating the gifts the Wise Men brought the Christ Child as a day of giving gifts to their own children (and to others). This Wikipedia article details some of the religious and cultural practices of the day. Of course, some countries are done with the presents before Christmas; they choose Saint Nicholas Day on 6 December as the time of giving gifts.

This year, Mrs. Vark decided to hold back on giving everything to the varklings at Christmas time. They were going to see what it's like to get Epiphany presents.

JayhawkThe kids here at home support at least some of the Ol' Aardvark's favorite sports teams. Because Little Aard and the Grandvark both love to cheer for the Jayhawks of the University of Kansas, Mrs. Vark bought fleece material in two different KU patterns. From these pieces of cloth, she made a set of blankets.

Once the kids were asleep, we slipped in on them and literally covered them with gifts. The smaller one with the large Jayhawk logo in the center now rests over the sleeping Grandvark while Little Aard will awaken to find herself covered by a bigger blanket adorned with a plethora of brightly beaked birds and other KU insignia.

This should have them both chanting or singing, "Rock, chalk, Jayhawk, KU!"

Source pages: Chant | Song
 
  The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord
6 January, New Testament

Epiphany StarThe Epiphany season begins today, with the Feast of the Epiphany. This day celebrates the the Wise Men bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child.

Ask the Pastor has a series of posts pertaining to the Epiphany. One tells about the day and the season. Another deals with the age of Jesus at the Wise Men's visit. A third post involves popular beliefs concerning their number and their names. Finally, Pastor Snyder shares an Epiphany hymn that he wrote which includes some of the theology of the day and the prophetic foreshadowing of the gifts of the Magi.

Lection
Psalm 72
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Collect
O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
05 January 2006
  Whistling While He Worked
When I Knew That Texas Would Win

Vince YoungIt wasn't one of his many completions. Nor did one of his dazzling runs convince me that the University of Texas Longhorns were going to win the Rose Bowl. It wasn't a picture of him rallying the troops or getting in someone's face. No, something else made me sure.

On the last Texas possession, Vince Young stood in the team huddle with at third down and five inside the Trojan ten yard line and smiled. He wasn't looking at anyone in particular. It wasn't the smirk of a knowing show-off, nor was it forced and artificial. Vince Young just looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Even when that third-down play went for naught, I had no doubt. Vince would get at least the first down and if the Horns didn't score then, they would.

Few people live in the moment as Vince did that night. That ABC camera brought the moment into my house and into my mind. It brought back memories of Larry Bird or Michael Jordan in their primes: Like an elite basketball player knowing he would take and make the game-winning shot, Vince just knew he would get the job done.

Totaly amazing, the power of that smile.
 
04 January 2006
  Hook 'em, Horns!
University of Texas Wins National Championship 41-38

Longhorn Aardvark
Ok, so my prediction was off; the Men of Troy scored more than I thought. But I was only one point off on the score for the Longhorns — and I did have them winning the Rose Bowl and the BCS Championship. Nothing against Heisman winner Reggie Bush, but I've never seen a college player like Vince Young.
 
  Extra Thanks in My Bedtime Prayers
A Sadly Re-Edited Post from the Early A.M.

When I went to bed, network and wire news reports spoke of 12 survivors following the West Virginia coal mine disaster. Unfortunately, seeming misunderstanding of internal communications and subsequent unofficial leaks led to a reversal of information. Instead of one dead and twelve rescued, I discovered (thanks to radio news and a quick coment from Dan@NR) that twelve died and only one was rescued.

While we mourn over the dozen deaths, we still thank God for the one who survived. Even more so, we welcome knowing that Christ's triumph over death belongs to all who die in the Faith and we pray that this was the case for these twelve.
 
03 January 2006
  More Newbies to the Blogroll

I'm adding a mix of new blogs and a couple established sites I just discovered to join the recently announced Das Schreiben von Schreiber:

Quia Lutherans

Blood and Water joins a growing community sponsored by Higher Things. Green Underground and Putting Out the Fire both look like they'll walk the walk and talk the talk.

Others

Dawn Eden writes The Dawn Patrol. She's a strongly pro-life writer for the New York Daily News. I followed a link from her page to the source of her comment policy and found what may be one of the most erudite teen-authored blogs going, The Rebelution. Dawn wrote of Alex and Brett, "Most high-schoolers' blogs are the online equivalent of perfumed diaries or locker-room walls ... But a pair of 16-year-old homeschooled twins from Oregon ... are out to change that."
 
02 January 2006
  Carnival Moves On

I bid my two weeks' hosting duties a fond farewell and invite you to travel on to Intolerant Elle, hostess with the mostest for Lutheran Carnival XIV.
 
  + Wilhelm Loehe +
2 January AD 1872

Wilhelm LoeheChristened Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe, he established a reputation already as a young pastor for being "too" theologically conservative and "too" politically progressive. This led to his being moved to at least twelve positions until he received his own parish in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria in 1837. Beginning his career with difficulty, he accomplished much from such a small place. Even though he had aspirations of a more prominent position in a major city, church and government officials never allowed that to pass.

The Catholic king of Bavaria was de facto leader of the Lutheran Church. His main desire was to keep the churches from becoming places of political unrest. Thus arose strict restrictions, such as an assembly of more than five people needing a police permit. He prohibited mission circles and other "subversive enterprises," thus relegating church activities to not much more than Sunday services only.

In 1840, Loehe read a newspaper account from America by Pastor Friedrich Wyneken. It told of German emigrants not having church or pastoral care &mdash nobody could baptize their children, teach, visit the sick, or bury the dead. Pastor Loehe felt compelled to aid the German Lutherans in America and published an article in a church periodical asking for help. Beginning in the spring of 1841, several young men responded to Loehe's letter, expressing the desire help the settlers with their own skills and occupations. In the summer of 1842 he sent them to America at his own expense. He called them Nothelfer ("helpers in need") or "auxiliary saints", and trained them to be "emergency pastors."

Even while he had no theologians to assist his plans, Loehe published a map entitled "Overview for the German Lutheran Mission Work in the United States." It illustrated a system he developed for advancing pastoral care and outreach among German speakers in the United States. More young men followed and by his death, at least 185 came to America. Loehe paid for many of them himself and was always trying to raise money.

After only six years of marriage, Loehe's wife died, leaving him to raise their four children alone. Even among such hardships, his dreams remained clear and his desire to serve the Lord strong. Indeed, recent years have brought recognition for his farsightedness. This contrasts sharply with the handed-down opinions of many contemporaries who, while recognizing him as a founder of social institutions and mission education in Neuendettelsau, regarded him as divisive, narrow-minded, or combative. Changes in attitude began taking place especially after 1985, when several thousand of his letters were published, many previously unknown to scholars in Germany.

Seeking to support and strengthen missions and pastoral ministry in the United States, Loehe established a large parish cooperative throughout Germany. As support grew, he could publish his 1845 "Letter from the Home Country to the German Lutheran Emigrants" which 946 people, including 350 theologians, signed.

With the home churches finally behind him, he could at last send pastors! Loehe saw to the training of twenty-two pastors for work in America. Due in large part to his direct influence a seminary was established in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1846 as well as a teachers' institute in Saginaw, Michigan. Some of the men he sent to the U.S. helped to establish The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. Today, two LCMS seminaries, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri continue equipping and forming men to send out into the Savior's harvest fields.

Besides his interest in the United States, Loehe also assisted in training and sending pastors to care for emigrants in Brazil and Australia, both of which still have relatively small but vital Lutheran populations. He will continue to be remembered for his confessional integrity and his interest in liturgy and catechetics. He also never forgot the physical needs of those less fortunate and his works of Christian charity include the establishment of a deaconess training house, homes for the aged, an asylum for the mentally ill, and other caring institutions.

Please see Loehe etexts translated through Project Wittenberg for his Sonntagsblatt Appeal, his 1842 Instructions of Adam Ernst and Georg Burger, letters between Loehe and C.F.W. Walther About the Fort Wayne Seminary, and Loehe's Report of Walther's and Wyneken's Visit.
 
01 January 2006
  2006 Predictions
Swaami Aardi Knows All, Tells All

Swaami AardiInspired by the supermarket tabloids' psychic predictions and incited by the goading of Ed Veith's Looking Ahead at Cranach, Swaami Aardi fearlessly forecasts the following follies for the year of Aught Six.

January
During the Rose Bowl, new University of Southern California mascot Trojan Man stars in commercials focusing on "safe footballing." Unfortunately for the Southern Cal squad, he gives out lubricated samples to the home team prior to the game with the University of Texas. The slick-handed Men of Troy are unable to hang on to the ball. The Longhorns rupture the Trojans as UT beats USC 42-17.

Elsewhere, Epiphany services throughout much of mainstream Christianity are cancelled. Chagrined Church officials explain, "We couldn't find any wise men."

February
The Super Bowl halftime show experiences a massive "wardrobe malfunction." Due to a typo in a memo given the Broadway production company responsible for the festivities, the song and dance routine devoted to the NFC champions becomes a Full Monty salute to the Chicago Bares.

Days later, controversy shrouds Turin's Winter Olympics. Pope Benedict XVI pronounces anathema against those involved in the opening program because, following recent trends, the producers introduce elements of ancient paganism into the ceremonies. This includes salutes to the old Roman gods. Through his translator, His Popishness remarks, "This country ain't big enough for Jupiter and me."

March
On Ash Wednesday, America's official Church Growth Guru™ unveils a new alliance with Sea World. The feature-length film Lent Aquatic with Rick Warren launches their joint venture book and video series, 40 Days of Porpoise.

Homosexual-themed oater Brokeback Mountain wins 8 Academy Awards. The cash value of the statuettes almost doubles the film's gross receipts to date.

April
Inspired by their successfully avoiding services on Christmas Day 2005, some of America's largest congregations once again close their doors for the Feast of the Resurrection, saying, "Easter is, after all, a time for family." Unfortunately for these megachurches, hardly anyone returns the following week because they've learned from staying home and listening to the 16 April Lutheran Hour broadcast that every Sunday is Easter.

The City of New Orleans experiences a massive building boom by purchasing billions of dollars worth of construction supplies and billing itself as Spring Break Central 2006. Thousands of college students take advantage of the "Big Easy Build Your Own Beach House" promotion, finishing just in time to return to classes as displaced residents move into their newly constructed homes.

May
Conspiracy theorists delight as a secret society claims responsibility for blowing up the offices of Imagine Entertainment a week before the company releases The Da Vinci Code to general distribution. However, copies of the movie have already shipped and are greeted by protestors from the religious right ("This film is unchristian") and the radical left ("This film completely glosses over the contributions of Leonardo's homosexuality to his creative genius").

June
Everyone seems to be on vacation, including those supposed to be working, so why don't we skip to ...

July
With the implementation of its new drug testing and suspension policies, Major League Baseball limps into the All Star break. Steroid withdrawal has most teams' leading home run hitters barely into double-digit dingers. Meanwhile, the games themselves are becoming real snoozers, not for the fans, but for amphetamine-deprived players. While fewer teammates have injured themselves running into each other, new records are being set for outfielders hit on the head while falling asleep under high fly balls.

August
In NASCAR news, the crew for the Viagra® car is puzzled as to why the vehicle's suspension refuses to soften after the completion of its races.

September
As the college football season begins, officials for the Bowl Championship Series promise that this year, "We've finally got all the bugs ironed out." However, the coaches' poll continues voting for the usual suspects while the computers conspire to split all their votes between Cal Poly and MIT.

At about the same time, the 2005 NHL season finally ends and Lord Stanley's Cup is awarded to a bunch of guys who've forgotten how to fight or play defense.

Seeking to reverse its steady decline in the ratings, NBC revamps its fall schedule. The Peacock Network announces such sure-fire winners as Son of Seinfeld, Joey's Friends, and two newbies added to existing franchises, Law and Order: The Meter Maids and Apprentice: Geek, with Apple founder Steve Jobs. Unfortunately for Jobs, while the network likes the show's numbers, his chosen apprentice later ousts him in a hostile takeover and sets his sights on the Microsoft empire.

October
Seeking an open debate over the direction in which The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod is heading, reform-minded individuals attempt to nail 95 theses for debate to the doors of synodical headquarters in Kirkwood, Missouri. Their desire to emulate Martin Luther leads to their undoing, since they approach the building after dark and don't notice that the doors are constructed of glass until after the first hammer blow.

November
Despite clear skies elsewhere, "weather problems at O'Hare" doom every single person choosing to fly before Thanksgiving Day to spend two days grounded in local airports.

December
Supplies of holiday "must-have" toy Green-Fingered Elmo remain scarce. Meanwhile, television commercials featuring his catchy new paean to nose picking play constantly*, leading to levels of parental angst not seen since the Cabbage Patch craze.

Later in the month, the momentous decision to hold services both on Sunday 24 December and Christmas Day is made by COMA, the Consortium of Megachurches Allied. As is common among these supersized purveyors of spirituality, pragmatism fueled their thinking: Polling of hardcore members and "seekers" alike showed near-unanimous desire to be able to find an open Starbucks over the holiday.

*You put your finger in, you pull your finger out,
You put your finger in and you move it all about.
You pick yourself a winner and you show it as you shout,
"Look what was in my snout!"
 
  New Year, New Blogger

Another of my long-standing net friends has held his nose and taken the plunge into blogging. Please welcome Scott, who offers Das Schreiben von Schreiber.
 
  The Circumcision and Name of Jesus
1 January, New Testament

The Circumcision of Our Lord
This major feast day of the Christian Church marks the infant Jesus' eighth day of life, when the Law required all boys of Israel to be circumcised. On this day, our Savior also received the name (Luke 2:21). This fulfilled the command given to both Mary (Luke 1:31) and Joseph (Matthew 1:21) during their angelic visitations.

Christ's circumcision placed Him fully under God's Law. His name, Jesus, from the Hebrew "Joshua" (meaning "Yahweh saves" or "He saves"), bespeaks the purpose for which He assumed human flesh and came to live among us.

See Ask the Pastor for a column detailing why the Christian Church celebrates On the Eighth Day of Christmas.

IHSLection
Psalm 8
Numbers 6:22-27
Romans 1:1-7 or Philippians 2:9-13
Luke 2:21

Collect
Lord God, You made Your blessed Son, our Savior, subject to the Law to shed His blood on our behalf. Grant us the true circumcision of the spirit that our hearts may be made pure from all sin; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
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