Fear Not, Mary, for Thou Hast Found Favor with God
A Meditation for Advent and Christmas
We are better off repenting ahead of the Day of Judgment than at it when it shall be too late. So repent today, while it is still called today. This is the heart of Advent.
And let your repentance be filled with hope and expectation of the One whose first coming we commemorate every year. For He came in the flesh, our flesh; and this ought to give us abiding hope even in spite of us, and the sins we have committed in the flesh. For the coming One is the one who first became the Son of Mary.
This is a wondrous thing, that the Son of God and the Son of Mary are one and the same Person: Jesus: God saving. And His way of saving is by binding heaven to earth, by making of the substance of God and the substance of His mother one indivisible substance, both divine nature and human nature being bound into one personal union. Not that the divinity should be compromised thereby, or that the humanity should be changed into anything other than pure humanity, but that God and man should become one Person.
Ponder this mystery, for in this mystery is our salvation: the Son of God and the Son of Mary are one Person. The Son of the Highest gives unto us by virtue of His holy incarnation a place beside Himself at the throne of His father David, which means that the message of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin is as much a message for you as it was for her, to still her quivering heart: Fear not. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And we ourselves who are in this same flesh as Mary our sister and our mother. It is the same flesh in which all humanity is wrapped—this flesh, Mary’s flesh—that finds favor with God.
And this wondrous union takes place within the quiet place of Mary’s womb. She rejoices finally in this knowledge, aware that with God nothing shall be impossible, taking this mystery into her soul. So take it quietly into your soul, and be confident in this Jesus Christ that you have nothing to fear. For He has put away your sins, and in Him you shall find favor with God, just as Mary did. For the favor we find with God is not the kind of favor that results from our putting away of our own sins, but from looking to Him with repentant hearts, and in faith seeing that Jesus by this mystery has put away our sins for us. We therefore in Him, and never in ourselves, with Mary, find favor with God. So be found in Him. Receive Him again. Take into your mouth and into your soul His holy Body and Blood with abiding confidence that His flesh and your flesh are become one and the same again, as they have ever been, and that He who has come in the flesh is the same as He who from eternity is the Son of God. For in this mystery is your everlasting salvation.
+ Pastor Eckardt
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A Sesquicentennial Commemorative History (1862-2012)
Get your copy in the back of church. Only $10.00, cash or a check made out to St. Paul’s. This is the history presented in the series of newsletters through the first half of this year, with a special appendix: “Memos to Pastors and Parishes in Trouble,” containing some personal reflections published in 2006 in Gottesdienst.
Get your copy today: a great memento of our sesquicentennial celebration and year!
Epiphany Vespers on Sunday Night, January 6th; Retreat the Next Day
Our annual winter Choral Vespers is scheduled for Sunday night, January 6th, 2013, at 7 pm. This is the night of Epiphany Day.
It will be followed by our traditional wine-and-cheese reception, another annual tradition. Then on Monday January 7th, we’ll have a Day of Theological Reflection, from 8:30 – 3:30.
The next day’s fifteenth retreat in the Theological Reflection series is entitled,
“THE nativity canticles of st. luke”
This retreat (January 7th) will focus on the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, and in particular the canticles of Simeon and the Blessed Virgin Mary, both of whom exulted in the coming of the Blessed Nativity of our Lord.
If there is inclement weather, a snow date for Choral Vespers is scheduled for Monday night (January 7th) at 7 pm.
Decorating During Advent
As is our custom, we decorate the church little by little during Advent, until finally all is complete for Christmas. The day on which volunteers are needed help put up the tree is Saturday, December 8th, beginning at 9 am. Please help!
Special Masses Wednesdays
St. Andrew’s Day is will be observed Wednesday, November 28th (transf., Nov. 30) at our 7 p.m. mass.
St. Nicholas’ Day is will be observed Wednesday, December 5th (transf., Dec. 6) at our 7 p.m. mass.
St. Lucia’s Day is will be observed Wednesday, December 12th (transf., Dec. 13) at our 7 p.m. mass.
St. Thomas’ Day is will be observed Wednesday, November 19th (transf., Nov. 21) at our 7 p.m. mass.
12/13 Michael Eckardt
12/13 Lynn Woller
12/20 Peter Eckardt
12/20 Rachel Rowe
12/25 Robert Melchin
December Anniversaries None
Allan Kraklow, Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells, Bob Bock
First Tuesday Meetings Dec. 4
On Tuesday, December 4th, Altar Guild meets as usual at 6 pm, and Elders at 7:30 pm. Between them we will hold vespers at 6:45 pm. All members are invited to attend.
JOTS to play for the Chamber
The Kewanee Chamber of Commerce is holding a “Business after Hours” event on Wednesday, December 12, from 5:30-6:30. Jazz on the Side, a local ‘big band’ that includes Pastor Eckardt and Steve Harris, will be playing Christmas music for the event.
In Our Prayers
In addition to our shut-ins, our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the lest by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
Sick or infirm:
David Dakin [re Harris]
Anna Rutowicz [re Harris]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter, cancer]
Caleb Cleaver [Ricknell]
Pam Mansnarus [Ricknell]
Christian Johnson [re Kemerlings]
Madison Lindsay [re Andersons]
Tom Fornoff [Jean Russell’s brother-in-law]
Susan Wahlmann [re Harris]
Nina Hartz [Sharon’s mother]
Ginny Humble [Harris]
Wren Hampton [re Murphy]
Unborn twins of Robert and Becky Schoen
Christopher Lewis, nephew of Carol Eckardt
Rev. Don Chambers [Manito]
Rev. Glenn Niemann
Rev. Brian Feicho
Owen Slock [5 yr-old with Muscular Dystrophy [Harlow]
Lisa Gustafson [re Harlow]
Crystal Stoll [former member here]
Linda Peterson [re Kemerlings]
In the military:
Brent Matthews [re Fisher]
Michael and Melinda Fisa [re Kemerling]
Michelle Steuber [re Fisher]
Donny Appleman [re Ricknell]
Mary Hamilton at home; Mark Baker at home; Anna Baker at home; Mirilda Greiert at Kewanee Care; Ruth Snider at Hillcrest Home in Geneseo; Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Home in Williamsfield.
Choir Rehearsals in December
Our Wednesday choir rehearsals during December are especially important as we prepare for Christmas, and for our Epiphany Vespers on January 6th. Choir members please make every effort to attend them all.
Let’s go caroling on Wednesday, December 19th, after mass. We’ll plan to go to some members’ homes, and/or nursing homes, as time permits. This will replace choir rehearsal that night (Choir members, we’ll practice while caroling, but others, join us!)
Advent begins the first Sunday in December. The four Advent Sundays’ color is violet. If roses are obtained, they may be placed on the Third Sunday in Advent, December 16th.
St. Andrew’s Day will be observed Wednesday evening, November 28th, at 7. Color is red.
St. Nicholas’ Day will be observed Wednesday evening, November 5th, at 7. Color remains violet (Third Class Feast).
St. Lucy’s Day will be observed on Wednesday, December 12th, at 7. Color is violet.
St. Thomas’ Day will be observed on Wednesday, December 19th, at 7. Color is red.
The three Christ Masses will be held as usual, 7 pm Christmas Eve, 12 midnight, and 10 am Christmas Day. Color is white.
St. Stephen’s Day will be observed Wednesday, December 26th, at 7 pm. Color is red.
The Circumcision and Name of Jesus will be observed on New Year’s Eve, the 31st, at 7 pm. Color is White.
The Lighter Side
According to his mother, what our 2-year-old grandson wants for Christmas is everything offered in every TV ad he hears. Cleaning products: “I want that.” New BMW: “I want that.” Nike tennis shoes: “I want that.” Campbell’s soup: “I want that.” Geico insurance: “I want that” . . .
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).
The New Testament in His Blood
This series contains brief liturgical explanations which appear in Pastor Eckardt’s book The New Testament in His Blood (Gottesdienst, 2010).
The sermon, continued
In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus for His sermon on the Mount “opened His mouth and taught them.” The Evangelist is doing more than stating the obvious here. The opening of His mouth indicates the inauguration of preaching. This is confirmed when we are told at the end of the sermon that “he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (St. Matthew 7:29).
This is another primary indicator that the substance of Jesus’ preaching was qualitatively different from what they were accustomed to. This was to be a primary characteristic of the New Testament: preaching, which centered on Jesus’ fulfillment of the Scriptures. The sermons in Acts bear this out. In Acts 2 (14-36), Peter announces
that what is occurring on Pentecost fulfills the prophecy of Joel, and that the resurrection fulfills the words of David. So also Philip “opened his mouth” (as Jesus was said to have done) and preached Jesus (Acts 8:35), and Peter also “opened his mouth” (10:34).
Likewise Paul in Thessalonica “reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto
you, is Christ” (17:2-3, emphasis mine).
This, in short, is the nature of all true Christian preaching, namely to “open” the Scriptures: to show that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfillment of all the Scriptures, who suffered and rose from the dead, so that the hearers might believe and be saved.
It ought to go without saying that the sermon is no place for storytelling, or small-talk, or bantering, or stand-up comedy. But sadly, this is all-too-often the fare in churches. Seen from the perspective of the
sermon’s high place in the liturgy, this phenomenon is especially troubling. There is no evidence of it in any generation except the current one. The sermon has reached new a new low, against all the history of Christendom.
The early church’s preachers, by contrast, routinely sought to incorporate the language and grammar of the Scriptures into their own words; this was likely more instinctive than intentional on their part, inasmuch as their profusely Biblical prayers and meditations would have informed their own speech. But this manner of speaking was not new in them; they mimicked the approach of the apostles themselves.
The epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter are found likewise incorporating the words and word patterns of the Scriptures in the apostolic communications.
There were no quotation marks, and verbatim references were unnecessary. The apostles virtually breathed the Scriptures, making the Biblical message fresh to the hearers by transforming it into a
message tailored to their own generation. For instance, St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, refers to Isaiah 49:8, citing the Septuagint version, “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of
salvation have I succored thee,” and goes on immediately to declare, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The discourse does not even contain a reference to the specific prophet cited, much less chapter and verse. For the Apostle it is sufficient simply to lead into the citation with the words “For he saith,” where “he” is all that he uses in referring to
This is the equivalent of apostolic preaching. (continued, back page)
(continued from page 4)
In many respects, the New Testament epistles are of
the same genre as the sermon. They are commentaries
on the life of Christ, as are sermons; they are
explications of the (Old Testament) Scriptures, as are sermons; and they proclaim the Gospel, as do sermons. This is the meaning of St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “By revelation he made known unto
me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5). Since this revelation has occurred, therefore, St. Paul continues, “I was made a minister . . . that I should preach among
the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (7-8).
There is a qualitative difference between the Apostolic Epistles and the sermon. An Epistle is the Word of God by virtue of its apostolicity as well as by its content. A sermon, on the other hand, is rightly called the Word of God if its content is consistent with the written revelation of God. The sermon is called the Word of God in a derived sense, whereas an Epistle is the Word in a primary sense.
Yet even in spite of this difference, there is an essential unity with the apostolic mind-set that the preacher should seek. To be sure, no preacher can claim apostolicity for himself, yet he is to see that his
sermon preparation follows the same pattern of preparation we can ascertain the apostles followed in the writing of their Epistles.
The apostles did not gain their knowledge of the Gospel from direct or immediate revelation any more than the preacher does today. The revelation which they gained was taught them by Christ Himself, who actually spoke to them when He was with them. Even St. Paul’s reference in Ephesians (quoted above) to “revelation,” by which was made known unto him the mystery, ought not be understood as a direct or unspoken revelation; for we have record of this revelation: it occurred on the road to Damascus, and was witnessed by others who were present with Paul. The fact that Paul was already quite familiar with the Scriptures played a key role in the knowledge he gained by that vision, that Jesus is the Christ. Now, having gained the Key to the Scriptures, he was newly able to interpret them according to their fulfillment in and by Christ.
What was evidently undertaken in the crafting of an apostolic Epistle was a passing on of understanding that in Jesus all the Scriptures find their fulfillment, as Jesus Himself taught these men. When He then made them apostles, by His own authority He gave them preeminent authority as guardians of the Word of revelation, as He said, “All
power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (St. Matthew 28:18-19).
Similarly, what ought to happen in the crafting of a sermon is the continued passing on of this understanding, following the pattern set by the apostles, as well as a necessary verification that the sermon is fully in accord with the apostolic record. In this way we call the sermon the preached Word of God.
It is fitting that the sermon’s introduction and conclusion therefore be given the reply of “Amen,” which is the assertion of the hearers that they recognize the sermon for what it is.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443