welcome. why "weak on sanctification"?

this accusation is often made about lutheran christians. because we focus so strongly on god's justifying grace in christ, and our continual need, as "sinner-saints," to receive god's gifts of grace through word and sacrament, people say we are "weak on sanctification." i prefer to say we are strong on jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. i would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything i might do.

the weekly discussion

each week I set forth a topic to promote discourse about some aspect of Christianity, the church, or the spiritual life. i would love to hear your perspective and thoughts on each week's subject. these discussions are usually posted on mondays, so if you missed this week's post and would like to catch up on the conversation, just scroll down and join us.

December 25, 2009

merry christmas!

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

i am thankful for all of you, family and friends and readers i have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. may god bless you with his very best gift—himself—during this Christmas season.

merry christmas.

today's church year art

giotto di bondone, nativity, 1310s, san francesco, assisi

December 20, 2009

advent IV—dec 20, 2009

fourth sunday in advent (year c)
resources for this day

today's readings
Micah 5:2-5a
Luke 1:46b-55
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

today's bach cantatas
bwv 132, "prepare the course, prepare the way"
bwv 147a, "heart and mind and deed and life"
bach's magnificat

collect for the day (bcp)
we beseech thee, almighty god, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation,
that when thy son jesus christ cometh he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;
through the same jesus christ our lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the holy spirit, one god, now and for ever. amen.

December 12, 2009

advent III—dec 13, 2009

third sunday in advent (year c)
resources for this day

today's readings
zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
philippians 4:4-7
luke 3:7-18

today's bach cantatas
bwv 186a, "fret not, o soul"
bwv 141, "this is now the gospel truth"

collect for the day (
stir up thy power, o lord, and with great might come among us;
and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,

let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
through jesus christ our lord, to whom,
with thee and
the holy ghost, be honor and glory,
world without end. amen.

journey to the cradle, III
question: why is the third candle on the advent wreath pink or rose-colored?

answer: in the liturgical tradition, today is known as "gaudete sunday". gaudete is a latin word that means rejoice, and the third candle on the advent wreath is rose to mark this sunday as a special day of rejoicing.

like lent, the 40 days of fasting and preparation for holy week and easter, advent is primarily a penitential season of readying the heart through repentance and self-denial. midway through lent is a day known as "laetare sunday" (o be joyful) or "refreshment sunday". worship on this day provides a respite from the somber, penitential character of lenten discipline, giving a sense of hope to god's people that the day of celebration is coming. likewise, midway through advent gaudete sunday encourages us that god's coming is near, and calls us to shout for joy in glad anticipation.

the three texts from zephaniah, isaiah, and philippians proclaim this theme exuberantly.

the gospel passage (luke 3:7-18), describing john the baptizer's preaching, is not so transparently about joy. it begins by describing john's preaching and giving an example of what some might call a "fire and brimstone" sermon of judgment and repentance. however, even this strong message seems to awaken a desire for god in the hearts of his hearers, and they eagerly ask john how they can conform their lives to what he is calling them to do.

then, this word: "...the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the messiah..." (luke 3.15). john points them to jesus, and luke's narrative ends with the baptizer faithfully continuing his proclamation of the good news.

gaudete sunday is designed to heighten our sense of expectation, and thus increase our joy. like children who find it hard to sleep on christmas eve, we yearn with exquisite longing for the coming of our savior, the revealing of his eternal gifts, and the satisfaction of an endless holy day with god's forever family.

today's church year art
birth and naming of john the baptist

giotto di bondone, Peruzzi Chapel, Church of Santa Croce. 1313/14

December 10, 2009

advent prayers for our families

during the holiday season "family" is especially on our mind. since advent is the season of lamenting our darkness and asking god to shine his light on us, we pray that he will cast out the shadows of sin that hinder our dearest relationships and fill our hearts and homes with the light of his holy love.

we pray three things for our children and grandchildren regularly—
#1: that they will get established in life with good healthy family relationships and meaningful vocations that provide for their needs and make the world a better place.

#2: that they will become established in their faith so that trust in God will be the true foundation for their perspectives and choices.

#3: that they will love what is good and find joy and pleasure in things that will not only bring genuine satisfaction in this life, but also eternal rewards.

how are you praying for your family these days?

today's van gogh
cluster of old houses with the new church in the hague, 1882

December 6, 2009

for awhile...visit internet monk

i'm trying to help my friend, michael spencer, aka the internet monk, as he goes through some health problems and consequent adjustments in his work.

so, i won't be posting as much here on "weak on sanctification" for awhile.

i will continue the sunday posts so that we can all keep up with the church year together, but will not add much more until it becomes clear that michael is back for good.

thanks for your interest in the blog. you can still read what i write...you'll just have to go to the internet monk site to find it.

see you there!

December 5, 2009

advent II—dec 6, 2009

second sunday in advent (year c)
resources for this day

today's readings
Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

today's bach cantatas
bwv 70a, "watch! pray! pray! watch!"

collect for the day (
merciful god, who sent thy messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of jesus christ our
redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the holy
spirit, one god, now and for ever. amen.

journey to the cradle, II
zechariah's benedictus is one of the great songs of scripture. its themes are captured by two lines, one at its beginning and the other at the end. both speak of god "visiting his people" to provide redemption and peace for them (luke 1:68, 78). (unfortunately, the nrsv translation misses this key word, substituting other terms.)

god visits us. he does not wait for us to come to him. he does not require that we meet him on his ground, rather, he knocks on our door and comes personally to see us. he enters our world—the word becomes flesh and dwells among us" (john 1:18). jesus does not remain far off in heaven but humbles himself, and takes the form of a servant in human flesh (philippians 2:5-11).

the first appropriate response to the initiative he has taken in coming to us is to offer him hospitality, to welcome him, to embrace him and invite him into our lives. "o come to us, abide with us, our lord emmanuel." receive the good news! god has come to visit us!

the second appropriate response is to go with him as he visits others. this is an especially apt word on this day, which marks the feast of st. nicholas. nicholas, the bishop of myra in the fourth century, was noted for his generosity to the poor and needy, and especially to children. like st. nicholas, god calls all of his people in christ to visit our neighbors and bless them with humble, loving acts of service. share the good news! join jesus in his mission to visit the world!

In his seventeenth century manual on pastoral ministry, george herbert said that the true minister of christ does not "disdain to enter into the poorest cottage, though he even creep into it, and though it smell ever so loathsomely. For both God is there, and also those for whom God died."

during this holy season, may we both receive the divine visitation and, in turn, visit those in need to share the love he has given us.

today's church year art
annunciation to zacharias

giotto di bondone, Peruzzi Chapel, Church of Santa Croce. 1313/14

December 3, 2009

an airline you might want to check out...

you betcha...

saw this on scot mcknight's jesus creed blog today and just had to share it.

December 2, 2009

praying for friends who are sick...

for those of you who might be interested...

i am guest-blogging at internetmonk while my friend michael spencer deals with some personal health concerns.

i know he and his loved ones would appreciate it if you would mention his name in prayer to our lord for help in his time of need.

here is a wonderful petition from the book of common prayer that we can pray for those who are suffering sickness:
O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your servant ______ , that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)
today's van gogh
the garden of saint-paul hospital, 1889

have a culture-war christmas!

ponder anew has a post worth reading, called, "a season of wonder, a season of silliness". here's an excerpt:
The whole Advent season leading to Christmas is all gospel, tinged with wonder.

For the past few years, the beginning of the Advent season has also marked the beginning of the battle cry from Christian culture warriors.

You know the drill. Somebody gets all in a lather over store clerks wishing people “happy holidays” or as in Kentucky, calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree.” Buttons are worn and bumper stickers are placed and “sign this and pass it on if you believe in Christmas” petitions are circulated on the internet.

And now, Focus on the Family has actually developed a web site called Stand for Christmas. The basic idea is that costumers can log on and rank various businesses as “Christmas-friendly”, Christmas-negligent” or “Christmas-offensive”. There’s a constantly updated percentage for each category listed for dozens of businesses, and as soon as someone sends their comments, an e-mail is automatically generated to the business itself.

...OK. But…really? Is this the primary thing that those of us who have received the gospel gift want to broadcast during this season?

count me out. how about you?

today's van gogh
half figure of an angel (after rembrandt), 1889