ON MAKING THE GOSPEL INTO ANOTHER LAW
The devil will never stop trying new tricks, new ways to snare people for his domain, as it is written, The serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field. And again, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
In order to do this, he must remove the Gospel from the hearts of the hearers. If the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord can be snatched away, the devil will succeed, as Jesus said, the devil snatches away that which was sown (Mt 13.19).
Now it is also written that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light. So what is to be expected, but that he will be very attracted to the ploy of making the Gospel into another Law? This he does very well, and craftily, as can easily be seen.
Take, for example, Advent. During Advent’s days, the theme is penitence and expectation of the coming of Christ. We hear readings which prepare us both for Christmas and for the return of Christ in glory. That is, we hear the Gospel, which declares, in the words of St. John the Baptist, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. So the appropriate response to this is repentance, as he said, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. To repent is to confess one’s sins and to believe in the announcement of absolution and forgiveness. In this way our hearts learn to be staid on Christ and His abundant mercy.
But what has the devil done with this? How crafty he is, who now pretends to agree, saying, O Yes, surely you will want to be Christ-centered, but what about the importance of sharing this Gospel? Don’t you want it shared with others? And of course, we do, for the Gospel is for all the world. So next he suggests that the real heart of the Gospel is to go out and share this news. And who can argue against the sharing of the Good News?
But what has really happened? By a subtle sleight-of-hand, now the Gospel has become something you must do, namely, share the Good News. And alas, for how will we ever be able to say that we have done this (or anything) as well as we ought? As soon as it is something I do which is central to the Gospel, then the Gospel becomes infected. Now I must wonder whether the necessary work of God is being or has been accomplished, for I can never be sure whether I have done it well. Heaven save us from this treachery! For the Gospel must always be Jesus Christ, but now trickery has made it ultimately about me, for it is I who must go out and tell the Gospel to other people, in order for it to be effective. Thanks be to God, this is not so!
It’s really a version of the old catch-22 at work: People come to churches and hear this message: Go out and tell people about Jesus, and bring them in! —which in itself is a worthwhile enough thing to do, but since this command has so saturated everything in these churches, what one actually hears about Jesus ends up being very little, for the knowledge of Jesus has been shoved aside by the constant drumming of tell, tell, tell! Moreover, whenever someone is successful in bringing some newcomer, what does the newcomer hear? More drumming: Tell, tell, tell! And thus the devil succeeds, for Jesus Christ imself is shoved out of view.
Rather, let us learn of Him, for He is gentle and lowly of heart, and we shall find rest for our souls. Let us learn of His mercy, how He clothes us poor sinners in His righteousness and purity, making us fully acceptable to God without our having done anything well. It is he who has done all things well, and who then gives to his people the credit for this, which is received by faith alone.
And when this Gospel is taken in and takes deep root, all the works of faith will follow.
For the Gospel is not tell, tell, tell, but Christ, Christ, and only Christ.
Far better, this Christmas, would it be for you simply to ponder the Christ-child Himself, than to hear some pep-talk about how the shepherds went out and shared with people, so now you should go and do likewise. Better to hear “To you is born this day a Savior,” than to hear “Tell, tell, tell!” For even the shepherds who went out and told what they had heard and seen needed no one to harangue them, saying, tell, tell, tell! All they needed was Christ in His manger.
Reprinted from December 1997
St. Andrews Mass Dec. 2
St. Andrew’s Day is actually November 30th, but to enable more members to attend mass, we will observe it on the following Wednesday, at our regular 7 p.m time. Join us!
12/13 Michael Eckardt
12/13 Lynn Woller
12/15 Andrew Carlson
12/16 Lillian Freeburg
12/20 Peter Eckardt
12/20 Rachel Rowe
12/22 William Dolieslager
12/25 Robert Melchin
12/30 Matthew Woller
12/31 Scott Schoen
Allan Kraklow, Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells, Bob Bock
Mary Hamilton, Carole Sanders, Mark Baker, and Anna Baker at home; Mirilda Greiert at Kewanee Care; Ila Scaife at Courtyard Estates; Ruth Melchin at Hillcrest Home; Don Clapper and Ruth Snider at Royal Oaks; Elva Garrison at Avon Nursing Home.
Choir Rehearsals during December
ur Wednesday choir rehearsals during December are especially important as we prepare for our annual Christmas Choral Vespers, which is to be held the Sunday after Christmas, January 2nd. Choir members make every effort to attend them all. On Wednesday, December 30th, there is no mass scheduled, so choir rehearsal will begin at 7 pm. If our rehearsals run well through the month we will not need an extra one on Saturday the 2nd.
First Monday Dec. 7
On Monday, December 7th, Altar Guild meets as usual at 6 p.m., and Elders at 7:15 p.m. Between them is First Monday Vespers, conveniently placed so both groups can attend. All members are invited to attend.
For daily prayer in the homes of members, the following helps are offered:
Use your hymnal. The order of matins (morning) or vespers (evening) is easily adoptable for personal use.
A more brief form of prayer, as given in the catechism, is to say the Invocation, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and as a closing option Luther’s morning or evening prayer.
The hymnal is also a good resource for a schedule of daily readings. See page 161. These readings correspond with the material in Every Day Will I Bless Thee: Meditations for the Daily Office, my book of meditations for daily use.
+ Pastor Eckardt
Altar Guild Notes
Advent begins the last Sunday in November. The four Advent Sundays’ color is violet. If roses are obtained, they may be placed on the Third Sunday in Advent, December 13th.
The three Christ Masses will be held as usual, 7 pm Christmas Eve, 12 midnight, and 10 am Christmas Day.
St. Andrew’s Day will be observed Wednesday, December 2. Color is red. St. Stephen’s Day will be observed Saturday evening, December 26th. Color is red.
The Circumcision and Name of Jesus will be observed on New Year’s Eve, Thursday the 31st, at 7 pm. Color is White.
There is no mass scheduled for Tuesday morning December 29th or Wednesday evening December 30th.
Private Confession is always available to anyone between 6 and 6:30 pm on these Wednesdays, and also, as always, by appointment.
Advent for the church is a time of penitential preparation for the coming of Christ. It’s helpful to remember this as we also prepare our households for Christmas. Unlike the commercial and secular world, the Church’s celebration of Christmas begins with Christmas, and runs the twelve days of Christmas, until Epiphany (note, for instance, that our Christmas Choral Vespers is after Christmas). Advent has historically been a season of fasting, though not as profound a fast as in Lent. Some have fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays during Advent, others in other ways. The finest way to prepare for the coming of Christ is by contrition and confession (see the paragraph above this one).
Mark your calendars!
Christmas Choral Vespers
An Epiphany retreat:
two Days of Theological Reflection
3-5 January 2010
Our annual and festive Christmas Choral Vespers will be held on Sunday night, the 3rd of January, which is the Sunday after Christmas. Mark your calendar right away so you don’t forget it. Come out to support your choir and hear some lovely Christmas music.
The next two days we will be having another Days of Theological Reflection. On Monday and Tuesday, the 4th and 5th of January, from 8:30 – 3:30, our twelfth retreat in the series will focus on King Solomon. This retreat’s theme is
“He Shall Sit upon My Throne in My Stead.”
We’ll examine the first eleven chapters of the book of 1 Kings, with an eye to finding Christ there, as He himself said of the Scriptures, “They testify of me.”
Sunday evening’s Choral Vespers, at 7 p.m., is always followed by our wine and cheese reception in the school cafeteria, another annual tradition. If there is inclement weather, a snow date is scheduled for Monday, January 4th, at 7 p.m.
Jazz on the Side to play December 19th
Come see your pastor and subdeacon and a motley group of jazz aficionados perform at a community Christmas Party on Saturday night, December 19th, at the Flemish-American Club, for three hours from 7 till 10 pm. Pastor Eckardt is the pianist, and Steve Harris brings his tenor sax. There’s a cover charge, but it should be worth the fun!
Feel free to join us every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. for low mass. The service runs a little over a half hour.
Feel free to join us most Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. for mid-day prayers, followed by our radio recording session at 2:30.
Catechesis now offered twice a week
Scheduling conflicts have led to the temporary provision of two opportunities to attend weekly catechesis. During the month of December, it will be offered both on Wednesdays at 4:30 pm and Saturdays at 9 am. Catechumens are required to attend one or the other, but anyone can come (and some others do). Feel free to join us.
Keeping the Feast: A Study of the Holy Liturgy (continued)
The History of the Liturgy, cont.
Gregory the Great
St. Gregory was the Bishop of Rome from AD 590-604, and is remembered most of all for his codifying and reform of the Roman Mass. His Mass stayed constant for Rome until Vatican II in the 20th century, a truly remarkable thing. Much controversy still exists as to the exact extent of Gregory’s reforms of the Roman Liturgy, but all admit to certain changes he ordered (for instance, he ordered that the Our Father be recited before the breaking of the bread rather than afterwards). A millennium later, the sixteenth-century Council of Trent affirmed Gregory’s Mass, which has given to it the name “Tridentine,” literally, “pertaining to Trent.” The Roman Tridentine Mass, also called the “Latin Mass,” is really Gregory’s. Although Vatican II made some rather wholesale changes, there remains a healthy regard and desire among many of the people for a revival of the Tridentine Mass, for which Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 began to make provisions.
The Lutheran rite, as it is found in The Lutheran Hymnal and in Lutheran Service Book, is based on the Tridentine Mass, though of course not in Latin. That is not to say it is identical. Luther’s own conservative reforms are incorporated. Yet it is helpful to know the basis upon which our masses rests, since it is often that our own rubrics and altar books do not provide details we would like to see when planning the service or learning our own conduct of the liturgy. For these we look beyond them to the tradition, and that we find in the Tridentine Mass of Gregory.
This is an important thing to know, for if we relied solely on what is specifically “Lutheran” in name, we would not only be true to what is Lutheran in spirit (since our Lutheran forefathers made it their point to keep what was laudable and edifying wherever they could), but would be left with a less than complete understanding of the conduct of the liturgy. True Lutherans seek to be catholic in outlook, that is, having an eye to the universal conduct of the Church of all time.