ON TONGUES OF FIRE
What is the meaning of those cloven tongues of fire resting on the heads of the apostles on Pentecost Day? It would be easy to give a quick, knee-jerk answer and think nothing more: Well, it just shows that they were on fire for the Lord! -or some such unthinking commentary. But the Scriptures do not lend themselves to such a notion. Indeed the Scriptures warn against unbridled emotionalism, saying, He that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly (Prov. 14.29).
So what can we say about these divided, fiery tongues? The Scriptures consistently show us that fire is found in connection with judgment. Many pagan cities whom Joshua's army overran were to be burned with fire; Sodom was destroyed with fire; John the Baptist speaks of fire in connection with the imagery of the Son of Man coming to judge the earth (Matthew 3); and finally, fire shall destroy the earth at the Last Day. Therefore it would be better for us to think of the tongues of fire to be, first of all, a picture of judgment.
Yet this is also the coming of the Holy Ghost, as John had said, He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire. So also John had been baptizing all Jerusalem who came to him repenting of their sins, and John refused to baptize the Pharisees in their hardness of heart; he denied them this means to flee from the coming wrath (St. Matthew 3).
Now, on Pentecost, the Spirit comes to the Apostles, and they begin from that day to preach and to baptize. Here, then, is the significance of the fact that the tongues were cloven, that is, split in two. As the tongues were in two parts, so the apostolic preaching would have two parts: first, of law and judgment; second, of Gospel and the grace of God. Since the Judgment is coming, therefore everyone must acknowledge and repent of his sinfulness; those who do will then be ready to hear of Christ, and of Baptism in His name, as a means of fleeing from the coming wrath, into the arms of mercy.
So Pentecost marks not only the birth of the Church, but the birth of the preaching of the Gospel, for this preaching is God's means of bringing life to the Church. This very thought is reflected well in the Fifth Article of the Augsburg Confession: That we may obtain this faith, God has instituted the Preaching-Office to give us the Gospel and the Sacraments. Moreover, all Christian preaching must be cloven, that is, divided between law and Gospel. For the law must be preached to show us our sins and the wrath of God; then the Gospel must be preached to show us our Savior and the grace of God. By this preaching the Church is born and lives, for, as the Apostle declares, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.
+ Pastor Eckardt
TRINITY IN UNITY AND UNITY IN TRINITY
The Church has since its early centuries known and confessed three ecumenical creeds. To call a creed ecumenical is to say it has always belonged to the whole church, and has always been recognized by the whole church as belonging to the whole church. Oekomene is a Greek word meaning the whole inhabited earth. So the ecumenical creeds are creeds which the whole church has recognized since the early centuries. These three creeds are the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Of these three, the Athanasian Creed is the least well-known, probably because it is the youngest and the longest. It is a long-held tradition that the Church will reserve Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost) to confess the Athanasian Creed, since it is such a full and careful confession of the Triune God.
It is named after the early father Athanasius, though it was not actually written by him. Yet is said to be fittingly named for him, since he was a stalwart defender of the doctrine of the Trinity. For there have been numerous trinitarian controversies in the history of the Church. There were some who denied that God is one, saying, rather, that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three distinct deities. Others denied that God is three Persons, likewise failing to understand who Jesus is, for they said he was not one with the Father, that he was not the same God, not the one by whom the heavens and earth were made. As a result of these errors, one could be found thinking that the Son, Jesus, is less than the Father, and that therefore his humiliation was not as profound as it was. In short, the Gospel itself is at stake whenever there is a false confession of the Godhead.
Therefore the Church confesses that the whole three persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. And since this is the faith of the whole Christian Church, that is, of all times, therefore it is rightly called catholic, a word which means "according to the whole." So we confess that this is the catholic faith which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
+ Pastor Eckardt
Food for Thought from Cyril of Alexandria (5th Century)
“[C]ertain monks were propagating [the theory] to the effect that the eucharistic elements lost their efficacy if they were reserved in the churches after the liturgy had finished, and in response Cyril restated his lifelong concern for the importance of orthodox eucharistic theology: ‘They are insane who say these things. Christ is not altered, nor is the holy body changed, but the power of this consecration, his life-giving grace, is perpetual in his body.’ ” (“Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy” by John McGuckin (SVS, 2004), 121-122).
Welcome Back Jim Watson
On Rogate Sunday, 27 April, we were pleased to receive back into membership by transfer our old friend Jim Watson. Jim, who is married and lives on Zang Avenue in town, has been attending regularly on Wednesdays for some time. Welcome back, Jim!
Work Day Saturday, May 10th; Mowing Volunteers Sought
Cleaning and repairs inside and out; please let your trustees know you are coming and what you want to do so we can have items ready that you will need. Items that could use some care: Outside – painting trim, bushes trimmed, yard raked, windows washed. Inside – replace some tile in gym; spring cleaning in church balcony, and in church basement. If you see something that needs to be done and you want to do it just let us know.
Also we need to set up people to do mowing. We’d like people to sign up for a month at a time, or maybe two people could work together; should take less than an hour. We would like to thank everyone who helped with the last clean up day.
– Your Trustees.
Mark your calendars!
The Church Picnic is coming soon!
Come one! Come all!
When? Sunday, the 29th of June, right after church (Unity Sunday: one service, at 9:00CSt. Peter and St. Paul the Apostles= Day), about 11:30 a.m., until whenever.
Where? At the Northeast Park Shelterhouse
What to bring? Your own table service,
A dish to pass,
Any bats and balls you want to bring,
Frisbees, etc., and, most importantly,
Swimsuit if you want to swim
Tennis racquet if you want to play tennis
Deck of cards, etc.
A happy face.
What to expect? Games and fun.
Drinks will be provided.
Otis Anderson Scott Clapper, John Ricknell, Bill Thompson
5/17/1959 Allan and Barbra Kraklow
5/19/1979 Chuck and Jean Russell
5/22/1976 Ed and Lynn Woller
5/27/1961 Duane and Carole Sanders
5/28/1982 Christine and Garry Erickson
5/28/1977 John and Charlene Sovanski
5/2 Sheri Kraklow
5/6 Emilie Ricknell
5/10 William Thompson
5/16 John Eckardt
5/17 Jeffery Boswell
5/27 Donald Clapper
5/31 Justin Van Stechelman
Private Confession is always available to anyone between 6 and 6:30 pm on these Wednesdays (and also, as always, by appointment).
Sunday, May 11th, 9:00 a.m.
Vigil of Pentecost Saturday, May 10th, at 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th (The Pentecost Octave is of the First Class)
Sunday, May 18th., 9:00 a.m. (and prior Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
First Monday Vespers
This service, held on the first Monday of every month, includes as a special focal emphasis prayers for this parish and her members. Anyone may attend this service, which normally lasts about 20 minutes.
May 5th Monday evening meetings are cancelled, as Pastor will be out of town.
Carole Sanders and Mary Hamilton at home; Jack Stewart, and Evelyn Heinrich at Kewanee Care; Mirilda Greiert, at Courtyard Estates; Elva Garrison at Avon Nursing Home; Ruth Melchin at Hillcrest Home; Betty Heaton at Toulon Care Center; Jane Melchin at Lutheran Home, Peoria., Mark Baker at home, and Anna Baker (temporarily) also at home. Monroe Kemerling is laid up at Henry-Hammond Hospital in Geneseo, as he recovers from hip surgery.
At our Voters’ Assembly, Adopt-a-Bill was discussed as a small way to help out the finances. Envelopes will be posted in the narthex and in the hallway.
Members may take a look at them, and determine to remove a “bill” (the amount and purpose is listed on an envelope) to “adopt.” For instance, someone might see that the candles cost so much to replenish; that person could adopt the bill, agreeing to pay the amount by inserting payment into the envelope and the envelope into the next offering plate. One may also simply turn it in to the secretary.
Members who do this are kindly requested not to reduce their regular offerings to offset this, however, since that would defeat the purpose.
The Lighter Side
At the Wedding
Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, "Why is the bride dressed in white?"
"Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life."
The child thought about this for a moment, then said "So why is the groom wearing black?"
Late for Bible Class
A little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Bible class. As she ran she prayed, "Dear Lord, please don't let me be late! Dear Lord, please don't let me be late!"
While she was running and praying, she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again. As she ran she once again began to pray, "Dear Lord, please don't let me be late...But please don't shove me either!"
New in Church
After the service a young couple talked to a church member about joining the church. He hadn't met the husband before, and he asked what church he was transferring from.
After a short hesitation, he replied,"I am transferring from the Municipal Golf Course."
A little girl became restless as the preacher's sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, "Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?"
The Boasting Boys
Three boys are in the schoolyard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, "My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50."
The second boy says, "That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100."
The third boy says, "I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon. And it takes eight people to collect all the money!"
An elderly woman died last month. Having never married, she requested no male pallbearers. In her handwritten instructions for her memorial service, she wrote, "They wouldn't take me out while I was alive, I don't want them to take me out when I'm dead."
Keeping the Feast: A Study of the Holy Liturgy (continued)
It is appropriate that the altar be left neat and in order following the distribution of the Sacrament, and that attention to ceremonial detail be kept throughout the Mass, in keeping with the fact that this is the highest of all kinds of feasts. The Apostolic admonition that all things be done decently and in order (I Corinthians 14:40) should certainly apply first to all things pertaining to the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament.
Yet the post-communion (also called the Thanksgiving) has always been brief, as is fitting, since any extended liturgical ceremonies after the reception of the Sacrament would have the effect of making it anticlimactic. The tenor of thankfulness for the rich and free Gifts received is evident here, yet the emphasis remains on the Gifts themselves.
The post-communion generally includes the canticle Nunc Dimittis, a versicle and closing collect, the Benedicamus, and the Benediction.
The most salient part of the post-communion is seen in its references to peace. Peace was encountered first in the Gloria in Excelsis (which some traditions have unfortunately moved to this last part, thus affecting adversely the balance latent in the tradition); this anticipated the great Pax (Latin for Peace), during which Host and Cup were held forth while the celebrant announced, “The Peace of the Lord be with you alway,” in likeness to Jesus’ words in the upper room on Easter. Now peace reappears in the Nunc Dimittis (“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace . . .”), and is referenced last of all in the Benediction (whose last word is “peace”).
The Nunc Dimittis was not originally part of the Mass, but is properly a canticle first seen liturgically in the Office of Compline (prayers at the close of the day), from which it was imported into Vespers in the Lutheran rite. It began to appear in certain German orders of the sixteenth century, following the precedent set by the ancient Mozarbic Liturgy (Reed, 379).
Its appropriateness as a post-communion canticle is easily discerned, as it is of course the song of Simeon, who held the Child Jesus in his arms and declared then his complete readiness to die in peace. This is most helpful for communicants to sing, therefore, inasmuch as now that we have likewise receive Christ at the altar, in every sense as real a manner, we too are privileged to make the same declaration: we too can die in peace, for our Salvation is with us. Whereas Simeon declared that his “eyes” have seen God’s Salvation, in fact it was the Gospel which informed his eyes that this Child they beheld was the Incarnate God. So too, the Gospel informs our eyes and senses that the Sacrament they see and perceive is indeed the same Christ, the Salvation of God.
The versicle, “Oh give thanks unto the LORD for he is good, and his mercy endureth forever,” though found in several Psalms, is taken contextually from I Chronicles 16, where it is seen to be part of a festive response to the placing of the ark of the covenant in the tent. Since likewise now Christ has sacramentally established His dwelling among His people, the singing of this versicle is most appropriate. Its use at this point in the Service comes from a Coburg order of 1626 (ibid., 383).
The use of a standard and invariable collect here, the most common being that composed by Martin Luther, is a kind of Lutheran revision to the custom of the early Eastern liturgies as distinct from Rome, which has at this point a variable collect, proper to the day. Luther’s “We give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, that Thou hast refreshed us . . .” is from his German Mass of 1526, employing similar expressions from earlier texts.
The Benedicamus (“V: Bless we the Lord. R: Thanks be to God.”) recaps the same idea, and the use of the passive “thanks be” rather than the active “we give thanks” serves to emphasize the entirely gracious nature of God’s gift, as the first person is removed altogether from the utterance, and consequently more glory implicitly expressed to God who is being thanked.
The Benediction, which in Lutheran usage is the Aaronic Blessing (“The LORD bless thee and keep thee . . . ,” Numbers 6:24-26”), is reserved for Mass alone; it is not used at any of the prayer offices. It is the final sacramental feature of the Mass. This Old Testament passage has a distinctly Trinitarian flavor, being a threefold blessing from “the LORD” who is, nevertheless, one Lord, one God. Moreover it has the effect of imparting this unity to the hearers, and making them one in the one God, by referring to them (who are plural, the people of God) in the collective singular person (“Thee”). This provides a subtle reminder to the people that they are also one, the body of Christ, thought this finer point of the liturgy is only heard where the King James English, with its distinction between the singular and the plural second person is maintained.
Although there is a strong tradition which holds that the arms of the celebrant are not extended for the benediction, but rather that only the right hand is
extended to make the sign of the cross, it is also helpful to remember the more venerable tradition, dating to Moses himself, of extending both arms in the blessing of the people. The manner in which they are extended ought to cruciform, therefore, and not directly out toward the people. This is in imitation of Moses himself, as we know from the fact that when his arms became heavy, Aaron and Hur supported them on either side (Exodus 17:12). That is, Moses’ arms were cruciform, in anticipation of the extension of Christ’s (“heavy”) arms on the cross, and the celebrant’s arms are likewise cruciform, in rememberence of the same.
When the benediction is nearly complete, the celebrant lowers his left arm, and with the right makes the sign of the cross, at the very conclusion holding his pose for just a moment, a subtle reminder to the people of what he is in this function, namely a living icon of Christ Himself.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443