Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Us Lions

   I remember a conversation between me and one of my pastor friends (yes, they do exist) in the bookstore on the CTS seminary a decade or so ago.  I had been looking at some book, and I said something (I can't remember what exactly) about how our parishioners had such a reticence and repulsion to, not only the Saints, but the very idea that their own pastors stood in the exact footsteps, and held the identical OFFICE, of Saint Peter, Saint James, Saint Matthew et al.  My friend agreed and then opined and said: "and yet they hear us week after week saying: ' virtue of my the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ...'"  Indeed, we Icon Christ but have a difficult time convincing others that we are in the Apostolic band (where are our Bishops when we need them  :)  ).

   I love C.S. Lewis and re-read much of his canon periodically.  In my heart I am an honorary member of the Penvensie family.  One of my favorite scenes in his sublime THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, comes near the end right before the final battle between Aslan and the forces of the White Witch. And I quote:

   "Of course," said Aslan, "And now! Those who can't keep up--that is, children, dwarfs, and small animals--must ride on the backs of those who can--that is, lions, centaurs,unicorns, horses, giants and eagles.  Those who are good with their noses must come in the front with us lions to smell out where the battle is.  Look lively and sort yourselves.
    And with a great deal of bustle and cheering they did.  The most pleased of the lot was the other lion, who kept running about everywhere pretending to be very busy but really in order to say to everyone he met, "Did you hear what he said? US lions.  That meant him and me. US lions.  That's what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-off-ishness. Us lions. That meant him and me."

   To be sure there has been nothing in my life that has given me the peace and satisfaction that I derive from attempting to be my Lord's under shepherd on Sunday Mornings (on all mornings) during the conduct of the Mass (the Divine Service).  But, I readily admit that I am also like that "other lion" whenever I have the opportunity and joy to congregate with my brother pastors.  As I have recently returned from the SSP's annual Kansas Chapter Retreat (Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wichita, KS)  I am filled with both humility (well, a little humility) and sanctified pride, that I am in the same "Office" with my hero brethren.  Yes, I stand in the footsteps of Petros, Paulus, Timotheus, and Thomas...but they can't drink a beer with me or share a cigar, or ... look me in the eye quite the same way as my 'brothers-in-arms.'  I start to get excited and jump around just like that "other" lion in Narnia that I get to be with men that I admire  and aspire to imitate.   No, I will never preach as well as Frs. Brockman, Lovett, and Peck; teach as well as Frs. Boyle and Stark; or influence the hearts and minds of my peers as well as Fr. McDermott, but darn it.... I baptize as well as they do; I pronounce the absolution with the same authority and reality, and I give out the identical True Body and True Blood of Our God/Man Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.   
   It doesn't get much better than that.   Let them be the Aslans...I GET TO BE the other lion...and together we are:


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Here is the homily preached at Vespers, Tuesday March 26, for the Fourth Annual Retreat of the Kansas Chapter of the SSP.  - - JW

Exodus 12. 1-14; Saint Matthew 26. 17-30
26 March Anno + Domini 2019
Tuesday Vespers: Chapter Retreat
Fr Jay Watson, SSP

In The + Name of Jesus

   Or, in The Name of The Blood of Jesus.
As The King is His Kingdom and The Kingdom is The King, so too The Blood is Christ and Christ is The Blood.
   Pastors at District conferences, Conventions, winkels, and SSP retreats may initially feel the human urge to preach in a more dynamic, meaningful, and insightful way than normal. Eagerness is good (I suppose) but creativity is vain. When receiving The Words of Holy Scripture and the gifts of Messias, the 12th Sunday after Trinity or the Tuesday of Oculi are as blessed and graced as The Nativity or Whitsunday.
   God gave light, life, joy, peace, and paradise. Re-read Genesis 1 and John 1.
   God gave blood (and the entire circulatory system).  Man took blood.  The blood from the two dead animals God skinned to cover your reprobate relatives. The blood hemorrhaging of out the dead shepherd Abel…coating the murder weapon and hands of the killer…blood soaking into the earth—the earth which Adam had been made from in His creator’s image.  Now that image would be stained by the war paint, the rebellious stamp of murderous blood. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  No.  You’re resentful backsliding thugs with murder in your heart, far to often.  Jesus is the protecting and always caring brother.
   Your Kittel, Nestle-Aland, and Septuagint exegesis notwithstanding; your Patristic gems and Reformation-era preaching passion notwithstanding, every text, miracle, parable, or doctrinal teaching of God in the Evangels, is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Blood. Blood everywhere. There is a fountain filled + with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.
   There is no forgiveness without blood sacrifice. For the blood is the life.  Your people, and you, need believe that even the good and salutary Lenten disciplines, the daily prayers, meditations, and good works are only Holy Ghosted in you by The Blood. The Blood of The Lamb.
   The Paschal Lamb of the Exodus left a lot of dead sheep and produced a lot of bloody houses. It saved God’s children. The destroyer passed over them—forgave them their trespasses.  Real lamb, not trope. Real blood not memorial.
   You’ve preached many times on The Lord’s Institution of The Sacrament. You’ve echoed Christ’s verba thousands of times into your own flock’s ears and then poured His, actual, true, real, and bodily BLOOD into their mouths and down their throats.  The same blood that was in the babe born in Bethlehem. The same blood shed at His 8th day. The blood from His holy wounds staining the tree.  There the real hyssop of God’s finger tracing and staining the “house of rebellion” with the bloody branding of sacred justice +
   That Blood—The Blood of God—The Blood and sweat, and spittle, and breath, and ALL that is The God/Man, was struck not just on the side posts and upper door posts of Calvary’s Ensign, but also on your own infant self in the bloody, yet crystal clear, waters + of regeneration—marking your “house” your “temple of The Spirit!”
   Ichthuoi, loosed from the nets of sin, swimming freely in the waters of Baptism flowing from His speared punctured chest. Yes.  Oxygenated Christ-corpuscles washed clean by the Blood gushing from His pierced side and now, IN HIM, swimming in His Sacred Heart. Yes.
   Judgement has been executed. The Lamb has been slain.  The Blood is your forgiveness and life. The Blood is your food.  The Bleeder is your God and Lord. 

In The Name of The Father and of + The Son and of The Holy Ghost

March 2019 Kansas Chapter Retreat

Two photos from the 4th Annual Society of Saint Polycarp, Kansas Chapter, Retreat.
Every year on the evening of OCULI, all Polycarpians (and others interested) are invited
to Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wichita, KS for a three-day/three night retreat of Praying
the Offices, Study, Silence, Fellowship, and Gemutlichkeit.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Life on the Edge

One of the more interesting things about Jn 8:1-11, is the fact that the vox populi ... conveniently armed as it was with stones ... didn't turn its blood-thirsty targetings away from the adulteress and begin to assail the ever-annoying Christ. It's not like the public was absent such hair-trigger tendencies (cf. Jn 8:59; Jn 10:31).   But I suspect this prospect would have terrified the fingered (and conspicuously solitary) woman even more.  One false “companion” had left her to hang by herself, earlier.  To have a male Champion face the prospect of being cut down before her eyes, would have proved utterly devastating to the sorely wounded psyche.   Our Lord surely would never have countenanced such additional trauma, and it simply did not happen.  The woman’s adversaries abandoned the field, their raging passions not satiated yet fully silenced, themselves being shamed by God’s light cast on the soul (and maybe even some odd sand-doodlings, revealing much).

The scenes of Jesus deftly side-stepping the dangers to His physical life, again and again, furnish the Gospel account of the “beloved disciple” with a "hold-on-to-your-seat" grittiness and narrative nuance that is almost unparalleled in its companion books (outside the Passion story, of course).  Often we hear of back-room mutterings and political plottings to kill God’s Anointed; intentions, yes, but not specifics. There are a few exceptions.  In Lk 4, the Lord’s fellow Nazarenes at synagogue seize Him, and bring him to a precipice.  He chooses to shrug off and walk through the murderous crowd, untouched and with foot undashed against a stone.   Matthew’s stark revelation of the Herodian holocaust visited upon Bethlehem, and the Holy Family’s heart-breaking (and heart-racing) flight into Egypt, may to many minds approach the intensity of the acute crises detailed in John.  What I especially take away from St. John, however, is the knowledge of the Man, who truly could lay down His life whenever and however He deemed as being fit, and to divine plan.

See, stones could break a man, but were not especially cursed.  In fact, stones with Writings were sheltered safely inside the Holy Ark of the Covenant.  Their writings did not break Christ; on the contrary, He kept them safe and sacred.   Stones were not the plan, nor a headlong fall over a cliff.  No, a tree with a curse would be man's primordial demise; and a cursed tree for hanging was destined to be man's salvation. 

Illustration Jesus and the Sinner Woman  Vasily Polenov.  Oil on canvas, 1886-1887.  Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Thursday, March 5, 2015

“Departing Before the Mysteries … “ Ap XII.12

This is a great turn of phrase, used to high effect in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (AC). There are at least three ways to do it (i.e., depart), since the orthodox Lutheran party openly and fully acknowledges 2-4 Sacraments. One occurs with the dismissal’s blessing at the Altar, during the Holy Supper, which extends the very Peace of God to the penitent. Another “departing,” of a more sordid character, takes place with ANY abuse of the Mysteries, or Sacraments, of God.

Some context here, before continuing further. The ApXII.12 citation is directed at the Roman Confutation of ACXII, the article dealing with repentance. Melancthon argues that the Confutation’s rebuttal treats absolution “very coldly,” and bitterly complains that in the Roman church’s demands of external “satisfactions” for sin, “there is no mention of faith that grasps absolution and consoles the conscience.” This, declares the fuming professor, is “truly” a “departing from the mysteries.” According to Kolb and Wengert’s footnote, this expression is intended as an ironic jab (one phrased in Greek, naturally, by the brilliant Melancthon); one which references the ancient Church’s dismissal of catechumens from the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. Note, in passing, that the ancient Church always had a Eucharist in its Serviced-and-worshiping fellowship gatherings. Not all were allowed to fully participate in such fellowship. Things at the Altar were, well, they were closed … harsh as that sounds to modern ears, which paradoxically are thoroughly waxed to the examples of the true saints of the Church, anyways. So we pray to the Great Physician, that His otolarnygoscopic Spirit can fully pry these stubborn organs open, to embrace His will. Amen.

Yet another “departing” is the perverse AVOIDANCE of the Mysteries, those wonders with which the Lutheran has been abundantly blessed. Some self-described Lutherans have advocated the dropping of the Holy Supper from celebratory Services conducted on Christmas Eve and Easter, as a means of enhancing “outreach” on those presumably “high-volume," pew-filled days. Apparently, the blessed Sacrament is seen by these rascals as making hard work for the man guarding the paten's gate; or as a shaming device for the 21st century, caring-and-sensitive non-churched person. The truth is, the Church of the Scriptures was graced by the Body and Blood of her Lord EVERY Lord’s day, come what may, and GREW famously. I am guessing that a reverent and believing behavior towards the Mystery of God’s Presence would send a strong evangelical message to the non-churched that something wonderful is being witnessed at the Altar, quite beyond the mega-church’s understanding. But this is evidently beyond the comprehension of the so-called Lutheran, too; they are pitiable creatures demonstrably more into internal emotions and Church Growth scams, than Lord Christ’s insistent “DO this” anamnesis. But shame, of the seeker, is a great concern and worry to them. Perhaps the best available prescription to treat such malady, is to advise the so-called Lutherans to stop projecting their shame regarding the Sacrament, onto others.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bait-and-Switch "Lutherans" VS. the Unmerited Switch of God

The "sin-and-who's-the-sinner" aspect of Luther’s Great Exchange is rarely emphasized by gutted (and gutless) evangelical "outreach" campaigns.  Christ saw human sin as a given, an disputable fact of the species, and didn't shy from risking an offense to the seeker-ego.   Indeed, among the very first words of the evangelical and preaching thrust of the Lord Jesus, to a lost and bumbling people, was "Repent ye" (Mt 4:17). It wasn't "The Kingdom of God is at hand! So use this, to touch and fellowship your inner-child.  Feel good!"

But ... following the actual example of our Prophet, Priest and King ... there is encouragement to talk of sin, and to do it boldly:  "Forsake the Lord Jesus, and you die in your sins. Accept Him, through the unmerited  grace and power of the Holy Ghost alone [1,2] ...  and our Lord becomes a despicable sinner for life -- your life."

There are some synodical “counselors,” who steadfastly refuse to explicitly talk of sin somewhere on their parish websites; which devices are putatively an introduction to the parish's heart-felt beliefs, and really, what they're all about. Evidently the "counselors" are of the business-driven opinion that "sin" scares people. It should.

Credits and Citations

1.  Carol Rutz (21 Jan 2015; Wednesday, via a Facebook comment), recognizing a potential ambiguity in the text, and encouraging a Lutheran clarification to the heretofore unadorned "Accept Him."  Credit where credit is due, then:  to Ms. Rutz, certainly and thankfully, but firstly also to the Holy Ghost.
2.  The Lord Will Answer:  A Daily Prayer Catechism, Concordia Publishing House (St. Louis MO), 2004; p. 97 (reading for Wednesday 2015, of Epiphany II; at the Office of Vespers):  "WE BELIEVE that, since Christ was our substitute before God, our Savior's perfect keeping of the Law is part of His saving work for us. and because of Him we are considered righteous before God.  In the Ten Commandments God shows us what His will is.  Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are eager to do God's will."  Emphases mine.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On Praying for the Dead, Triumphant

I've suddenly come to realize, upon the occasion of the death of a Christian loved one, the paucity of formal resources for the poor layman, wishing to pray on behalf of the saint; the saint who now (by grace) is wondrously afforded a direct access to God and His Church Triumphant.  Secure in Jesus he or she may be. But that individual is still our brother and sister, still our neighbor.  He or she still exists by the mercy of God and is dependent on Him alone, if being altogether safe from the evil and temptations of this world.

The intercessions provided by the Lutheran hymnals (I've checked the pages of two so far, and have detected what could be a trend for all) and my prized Lutheran Prayer Book (LPB; Concordia Publishing House, 2003/2005; a maroon cover, yes, but still amazingly serviceable)  are frankly inadequate and tongue-tied in this matter of the dead who yet live.  The prayers  we are provided, as examples and for ready use, are lovely and spiritually nourishing for the ill, the convalescing and the dying to be sure.   LPB's "Devotion at the Approach of Death" (p.  239-243) is outstanding in confronting the realities which accompany dying, and furnishing a Christ-based comfort in the face of such.

But as to teaching the newly-grieving how to pray, Christfully,  when a loved-one is summoned to meet God's Face at last... here we are left adrift. 

Yet the Evangelical-Catholic confessors are unequivocal on the matter. The ramblings of Aelius are rejected, and the praying FOR those fallen asleep in Lord Christ's bosom is endorsed. See Ap AC XXIV.94-96.   Epiphanius (in his book detailing doctrinal malpractice, the Panarion Haereses) informs us that Aelius maintained that prayers for the dead were useless.  The papist adversaries slandered the Evangelical-Catholic party, accusing it of agreeing with the heretic.  In the Apology, Melancthon dismisses the calumny, saying flatly "we do not support Aelius [regarding such prayers]."  So then, the public acts or omissions, of "friendly" printing presses may call into question Melancthon's orthodox assertions, as to real-time Lutheran beliefs and resulting behavior ... yet again.

But I think we do have a sterling example to follow, in the Divine's own petition "Give us this day, our daily bread." You see, the dead's day may have been stretched into an eternity, yes; but they are like us in being still very much dependent on the full grace and Fatherly goodness of our King, even as they too wait for the Great and Glorious Culmination of all things.  And even with that Culmination and the emergence of a new heaven and a new earth, God alone will be our Font of all Goodness.  Right now we can cheerfully remind and thank Him for His promises of being all-sufficient forever, for ourselves and the departed. Those residing peacefully in God's bosom, I say again, are still very much our neighbor. Let us then remember and pray for those who have fought the good fight, and won, and are waiting at rest any true Lutheran confessor would.

A Prayer to Jesus, for the Dead in Christ (Modified after St. Ambrose)

You were medicine to Your servant, when she was sick;
You were her strength, when she needed help;
You were life itself, when she feared death;
You were the Way, when she longed for heaven;
You are her Light,
You in Your wisdom having banished all her earthly gloom forever.
Thank you, dear Lord Jesus.