When the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

IMG_2669

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.  The ones that really mattered.  Full of darkness and danger, they were.  And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.  Because how could the end be happy?  How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?  But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass.  A new day will come.  And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.  Those were the stories that stayed with you.  That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t.  They kept going.  Because they were holding on to something.

— Samwise Gamgee
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,
(movie version).

IMG_2668

Our lives can only have meaning if we are a part of something larger than ourselves.  Jesus of Nazareth said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  (John 14:6-7, ESV).

The pictures are of the same scene along the Bierstadt Lake trail in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Be at peace.

IMG_7223

Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going…  I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

— Jesus of Nazareth
(John 14:1-6, ESV).

By his death and resurrection, Christ proved that he is Lord of all.  He kept his promise, and will keep every promise.  He works to prepare a place for us where all that is wrong will be made right.  And he will come again.

Be at peace.  The Lord is risen!

Resurrection Sunday 2016

wild flowers

Mary of Magdala was the first, but not the last, to report, “I have seen the Lord!”  (John 20:18, ESV).

He is risen!

“Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw when wayfaring.”

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
My Lord, my hope, is arisen;
To Galilee He goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen,
Our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen.  Alleluia.

— “Christians, to the Paschal Victim,” LSB, 460:2-3.

He is risen, indeed!

Good Friday 2016

IMG_1966

It is finished!

Χριστός,

Α Ω.

Maundy Thursday 2016

IMG_6333 cscc

God’s presence filled the temple in Jerusalem.  The Lord entered the temple when the

priests brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the most holy place, beneath the wings of the cherubim…  The temple, the LORD’s temple, was filled with a cloud.  And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the LORD filled God’s temple.

— 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, HCSB.

The curtain of the temple separated the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the people.  Only the high priest entered that most holy place, and only on the day of atonement.

But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

— Hebrews 9:7, HCSB.

On Good Friday, God ripped that temple curtain in two.

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary, was split in two from top to bottom…

— Matthew 27:50-51, HCSB.

God removed the barrier.  God removed the barrier of sin between us with blood.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

— Mark 14:22-24, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He gives us his spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  He also gives us his very body and blood.  This is his real presence.  The “body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.” (AC, article X).  (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is important to recognize the real presence of God.  Those who do not recognize the holy presence suffer judgement.  The “Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  (Exodus 34:14, ESV).

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

— 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, ESV.

The Lord is merciful.

Kyrie eleison.

Palm Sunday 2016

IMG_4945

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

— Luke 19:37-40, ESV.

Every Spring, the new growth does proclaim the glory of God.  Jesus is God.  The rocks do proclaim his glory.  How much more so should we proclaim his glory for he redeemed us with his own blood?

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

Martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya One Year Ago

12717472_10153351151718144_1384525524307004071_nFor over a thousand years, followers of Islam have been waging genocide against anyone who disagrees with them.  A little over a year ago, some of these followers murdered twenty-one Coptic Christians in Libya on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  We remember these particular victims because their murderers made a video.

They died with the name of Jesus on their lips.  Because of the video, they were able to confess Christ to the world.  Christ will remember them.  (Luke 23:42-43).  Christ will remember us all.  (John 6:37-40).

Some give their lives to Christ in one bold act of confessing his name at the edge of a sword, while others give their lives through countless acts of service to others.  All Christians must give their lives because Christ gave his.  Christ gave his life, and we must follow him.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

— Luke 9:23-25, ESV.

President Harrison of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod made a short video commemorating the anniversary of the martyrdom of the twenty-one Coptic Christians:

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.

But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day:
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way.

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

— “For All the Saints,” LSB 677:1-2, 7-8.

Notes:

American Birkebeiner

The American Birkebeiner is one of the largest cross-country ski races in the world.  It is held every year in northern Wisconsin between Cable and Hayward.

Each February an estimated 40,000 skiers and spectators gather in Cable and Hayward, Wisconsin to take part in North America’s largest and greatest ski race, the American Birkebeiner.  In homage to the races roots, every year the American Birkebeiner reenacts the historic flight of the Birkebeiner warriors, Torstein and Skervald, when two skiers in full traditional costume and on wooden skis reenact the escape along the entire 55K classic cross-country race course, surrounded by over 10,000 other determined skiers.  Along the race course, the warriors are joined by Prince Haakon’s mother, Inga.  The Birkebeiner warriors carry a baby doll throughout the journey and pick up an infant child to ski with them over the International Bridge, toward the finish line, and the thousands of cheering fans on Hayward’s snow-covered Main Street.  It is a true celebration of the roots, legacy and traditions of the race.

****

An iconic world-class, International, sporting event, for over 40-years the American Birkebeiner has helped shape the lives of tens of thousands of participants from elite athletes to recreational citizen skiers.  To date, over 250,000 skiers have finished American Birkebeiner ski events.

— Birkebeinerne.

Saint Valentine’s Day 2016

IMG_8172

I chose this muted picture of a purple wildflower because this year Valentine’s Day falls in Lent, and I thought the darker rich tone best fit the penitential nature of the season.

Who was Valentine?

A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of Emperor Claudius, Valentine became one of the noted martyrs of the third century.  The commemoration of his death, which occurred in AD 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the Early Church of the West.  Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, Valentine left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly shaped piece of paper.  This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.

Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, page 1209.

IMG_8170

O God of mercy, God of might,
In love and pity infinite,
Teach us, as ever in Thy sight,
To live our lives in Thee.

And may Thy Holy Spirit move
All those who live to live in love
Till Thou shalt greet in heaven above
All those who live in Thee.

— “O God of Mercy, God of Might,” LSB 852:1, 6.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day.

Ash Wednesday 2016

IMG_2776

“God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …”  (Genesis 2:7 KJV).  However, man fell into sin, and God cursed him saying, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:19 ESV).  We all share the same fate as the first man.  In Adam all die.

In Adam we have all been one,
One huge rebellious man;
We all have fled that evening voice
That sought us as we ran.

“God created man in his own image …”  (Genesis 1:27 ESV).  But after sin, Adam’s children were born, not in the image of God, but in the image of Adam.  (Genesis 5:3).  Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel.

We fled Thee, and in losing Thee
We lost our brother too;
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.

Jesus Christ came in our flesh.  (Hebrews 2:14).  He was our brother, but we crucified him.  Like Cain, we killed our brother.

But Thy strong love, it sought us still
And sent Thine only Son
That we might hear His Shepherd’s voice
And, hearing Him, be one.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians receive ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross as a visual reminder of the consequences of sin.  From the ground we were created, and to the ground we will return: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  (Book of Common Prayer, burial).

O Thou who, when we loved Thee not,
Didst love and save us all,
Thou great Good Shepherd of mankind,
O hear us when we call.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  (1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV).  The Christian Church is the Body of Christ.  As he rose from the dead and conquered sin and death, in him so shall we.

Send us Thy Spirit, teach us truth;
Thou Son, O set us free
From fancied wisdom, self-sought ways,
To make us one in Thee.

— “In Adam We Have All Been One,” LSB, 569:1-5.