St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm, Kewanee, Illinois 61443
Volume 25 January 2013 No. 1
THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD
From a Christmas Sermon of St. Gregory the Great (A.D. c. 600)
Why was it that at the time when the Lord was to be born, the whole world was enrolled, unless that it so might openly be declared, that He had appeared in the flesh Who would enroll His elect for all eternity? Against which is the sentence spoken by the prophet concerning the wicked: Let them be blotted out of the book of the living ; and with the just let them not be written.
Also was he, fittingly, born in Bethlehem ; since Bethlehem is interpreted as the House of Bread. For this is He Who says :I am the Living Bread, which came down from Heaven. The place therefore in which the Lord was born was formerly called the House of Bread, because there it was to be that He would appear in future times, in the substance of our flesh, Who would fill the hearts of the faithful with inward abundance.
And He was born, not in the house of His parents, but upon a journey that He might truly show, that because of the humanity He had taken to Himself, He was born as it were among strangers. Strange, I say, not to His Power, but to His Nature. For of His Power it is written.: He came into His own. In His own Nature He was born before all time ; in ours He came to us in time. To Him therefore Who while remaining Eternal hath appeared in time, strange must the place be where He has descended.
And because the prophet says: All flesh is grass, becoming man He has changed this our grass into wheat Who has declared of Himself: Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. Hence when he was born He was laid in a manger so that He might nourish with the Wheat of His flesh the beasts that He sanctifies, that is, all the faithful so that they may not be left hungry for the food of eternal knowledge.
And what does it mean that an angel appears to the watching shepherds, and that the Brightness of God shone round about them, if not mystically signifying that they, more than others, shall merit the vision of heavenly things, who have learned to rule carefully over their faithful flocks? For while they are devoutly keeping watch over them, the divine favor shines abundantly upon them.
The Angel announces that a King is born, and the choirs of angels unite their voice with his, and rejoicing all together they sing: Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.
Before the Redeemer was born in the flesh, there was discord between us and the angels, from whose brightness and holy perfection we stood afar, in punishment first of original sin, and then because of our daily offenses. Because through sin we had become strangers to God, the angels as God’s subjects cut us off from their fellowship. But since we have now acknowledged our King, the angels receive us as fellow citizens.
Because the King of heaven has taken unto Himself the flesh of our earth, the angels from their heavenly heights no longer look down upon our infirmity. Now they are at peace with us, putting away the remembrance of the ancient discord ; now they honor us as friends, whom before they beheld weak and despised below them.
Hence was it that both Lot and Joshua adored the angels, and were not forbidden to adore. But when John, in his Apocalypse, wished to adore the angel, this same angel forbade him to adore, saying: See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren. What is the significance of this, that before the coming of the Redeemer angels were adored by men, and the angels were silent ; and after, they turned away from being adored ; unless that our nature which they before despised, they see now is raised above themselves, and fear exceedingly to see it prostrated before them? Nor dared they now look down on that as beneath them, which they venerate as far above them, in the King of Heaven. Nor do they refuse to accept us as equals, who now adore God made man.
Let us then be careful, dearest Brethren, that no uncleanness shall defile us, who, in the divine foreknowledge, are destined to be the subjects of God’s heavenly Kingdom, and the equal of His angels.
Let us prove our worthiness by the manner of our lives. Let no sensuality soil us, no evil purpose come to accuse us ; let malice not devour your hearts, nor pride exalt it, nor the desire of worldly gain blow it about in every direction, nor anger inflame it. For men are called to be as God.
Defend then the honor of God within you, O Man, against these vices, since it was because of you that God became man, who liveth and reigneth for ever. Amen.
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.
1/1 Chris Erickson
1/4 Lucille Kemerling
1/13 James Hornback
Steve Peart, Grant Andresen, Larry Campbell
Mary Hamilton at home; Ruth Snider at Hillcrest; Mark Baker at home, and Anna Baker at home. Mirilda Greiert at Kewanee Care
January Anniversaries None
Annual Voters’ Meeting
Our Annual Voters’ Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 6th, at 10:30 a.m. (in the time slot normally reserved for Bible Class).
The offering envelopes should be delivered to the mailboxes by January 1.
Altar Guild Notes
PLEASE NOTE: The Council meeting that was cancelled in December has been scheduled for Wednesday, January 2, at 5:30 pm (this is the Wednesday prior to voters.
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 list by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
in our parish:
and all of our shut-ins
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]
Nina Hartz [Sharon’s mother]
Ginny Humble [Harris]
Rev. Don Chambers [Manito]
Rev. Glenn Niemann
Rev. Brian Feicho
Owen Slock [5 yr-old – re Harlow]
Lisa Gustafson [with Thyroid cancer – re Harlow]
Linda Peterson [re Kemerlings]
Michelle Steuber [re Fischer]
Elaine Cambrin [Donna Harlow’s mother, broken hip]
Nancy Eckardt [Pastor’s mother]
and those we name in our hearts.
In the military:
John Eckardt, Michael and Melinda Fisa [re Kemerling], Donny Appleman [re Ricknell], Thomas Kim [re Shreck], Jaclyn Harden Alvarez, Michael Creech, Donny Appleman [req by Ricknell], Thomas Kim [req by Shreck],Jaclyn Harden Alvarez
Those who mourn in Connecticut, following the mass murderings of children and others.
Those who are in trouble:
Unborn children in danger of abortion, the people of Haiti in the midst of a cholera outbreak, Those suffering from persecution, genocide, and imprisonment in Burma, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, China, and elsewhere.
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).
Following the sermon the celebrant moves to the altar for the chanting of the offertory, which historically was (and still is today in the Roman Rite) one of the Propers of the Service, that is, having a text that changes with the other Propers. In our liturgy it is always is a portion of the 51st Psalm, which, significantly, is a pronounced prayer of preparation: “Create in me a clean heart, o God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”
This is an entirely appropriate prayer, because this moment is historically the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful, and at this point acknowledgment is rightly made that we are, to use an Old Testament analogy, about to enter the Holy of Holies.
As the Offertory is sung, the offering plates are distributed and the collection of the offerings commences. Also during the collection of the offerings, the celebrant prepares the altar, preferably with the help of a server or assistant. The concurrence of these three things (the Offertory, the offering collection, and the altar preparation) is not by accident. It arises from ancient practice: the preparation of the altar itself once included the ceremonial carrying of the bread and wine forward for the Sacrament in a solemn procession called the Great Entrance. At one time this was ceremonially the most impressive feature of the whole service. In some cases in the early church the faithful brought offerings of bread and wine for use in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as other food for the relief of the poor and the support of the clergy.
It is therefore a matter of no small significance to attend with high ceremony to the preparation of the altar at this point, and to use if possible a server, subdeacon, or vested assistant or some kind. If the server actually carries the elements to the altar from a credence, so much the better, as a remnant of the old procession. Careful attendance to matters of preparation at this point lends a sense of great importance to what is about to take place. Conversely, careless or imprecise attention to ceremony makes a forceful declaration, in spite of any words to the contrary, that there is nothing at all worth paying attention to here. But the celebrant who takes pains, convinced in his own mind that what he is engaged in is the most important activity on earth, helps to make this evident in the way he conducts the ceremonies of the Mass.
The Offertory, understood as a great entrance point, is thus marked by a sense of expectation of what is to come. Thus the words of the 51st Psalm direct the minds of all present to spiritual preparation for it. In some references historically there is at this point what has been called a curious anticipation, even to the point of suggesting some vagueness as to the exact moment of the consecration of the elements. For instance, the Byzantine Cherubic hymn, sung at the Great Entrance, calls the gifts ‘the king of all things’. The corresponding Antiochene sigesato hymn says ‘the king of kings, Christ our God comes’. (See Fortescue, 298-305). In our own liturgy, remnants of this vagueness may be seen in the Sanctus, in which we cry “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” before the words of consecration occur. This is best understood as an anticipation of what is to come.
To be sure, some mischief has arisen historically when the ingredient of our offerings takes on too great a significance, and thus the offering which Christ made for us is obscured. Hence a reduction in ceremonial extravagance at this point is prudent, and we have retained only the collection of money, while the altar is being prepared. A connection is thus subtly made that our offerings are of course employed in the preparation of the altar for our participation in the Sacrament, yet without falling victim to the abominable notion that our preparations and works are what bring Christ to us.
The Offertory is in itself a moment of great anticipation for what follows, in the Holy Supper.
There once was a fam’ly in colors,
For each couple a color that matched,
So together they stood
And the picture was good.
Not one from the other detached.
The dad’s getting weary of poems,
And so, we are told, are his friends;
So he’s making it short
So that none will retort
That the poems don’t seem to have ends.
So here is your greeting for this year:
Let your hearts be aglow with the news
Of the Christ and his birth,
And of gladness and mirth
And the mercy and life that ensues.
You see? that was short, unencumbered,
And simple, and right to the point.
If you want to know more,
Go to church (it’s next door)
And holler us out, at our joint!
Blue – Burnie and Amanda (and baby on the way!) (far right in the black and white photo)
Red – Andy and Kristy, Sarah and David (top-center, and center-left; and sitting on the deer)
Tan – Peter (top right, to the left of Amanda)
Maroon – John and Alissa (top left, second and third from the end)
Also maroon – Joey (with the beard) (top center, to the right of Kristy)
Grey – Michael (top far left)
Green – mom and dad (sitting in the middle)
this Christmas 2012 and always –
the Eckardt family
Brown – Reggie
Roe v. Wade: What Every Christian Needs to Know
January 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the fateful Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. For this reason it seems fitting to review the Church’s stance and confession.
The matter of abortion is not merely a political question.
Although many Christians happen to be politically conservative with respect to other issues, this question must stand out in distinction against those issues, whatever they may be, as having special and distinctive importance for all Christians. That is to say, we may freely disagree with one another on the question of what sort of economic policy is best for our nation, or on what sort of foreign policy our nation might be best suited to have; indeed we may find ourselves on opposing sides of a host of political debates, and even vote for different political candidates in an election. All of this is properly understood as falling within the realm of Christian freedom.
But as Christians we are not free to support the taking of innocent life in the womb. This is not open to debate.
Contrary to what many may think, the reason is not merely that we happen to believe certain things, as though this were simply something we wanted to impose on others. The reason is, rather, that these pre-natal infants happen to be real people just like us.
The pro-abortion side always wants to change the subject. They want to make it into a women’s rights issue, or some kind of social issue. If you pay close attention when listening to the debate, you can hear this. It’s rare to hear them talk at all about what the fetus is. Indeed, for them the very use of the term “fetus” is preferable to “baby,” for this very reason. For them it’s not really about the child; they are intent on changing the subject, whether knowingly or not.
But this is not a question about whether a woman should have the right to do what she wants with her own body. Nor is it a question about a potential life within her body. As even science makes abundantly clear, the only potentiality about the life within her is a potential for growth. The fetus—the child— is already alive. It’s already a baby, even before it’s born.
Medically speaking, within 28 days (generally by about the time a woman first learns she is pregnant) the fetus already has a heart, heartbeat, and blood type, and the first traits of the brain, lungs, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spinal cord, spleen, and facial parts. In essence all that remains is development, which is happening at a very rapid pace.
Therefore all questions people may ponder about the advisability of bringing a child into the world in troubling circumstances are irrelevant. The child is already in the world! That’s the point that must never be forgotten. In the debate over abortion, we are always talking about a living human baby, no less a baby than a baby that has already been born.
The nation mourned the horrific loss of twenty little children in Connecticut in the shootings last month. The truth about abortion is no less horrific. In fact it is more so: there are nearly 4,000 abortions per day in our nation alone. The fact that the Supreme Court has permitted this does not make it more acceptable. The ghastly truth is that infants are being destroyed under the edict of a government’s decree more wicked than that of King Herod in the days of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents (St. Matthew 2).
(Continued, back page)
(Continued from page 6)
For this reason, our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has always taken a pro-life stance, along with the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (in fact, the major religions of the world have historically tended to agree that abortion is evil).
It is our duty to speak out in defense of our neighbor, as the fifth commandment also teaches (You shall not murder. What does this mean? Answer: We should fear and love God that we may not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.) We will do well to remember this if the occasion should arise in which we have opportunity to speak up. What you say may convince someone else, and may save the life of a child.
We don’t want to force our beliefs on anyone; but we also don’t want to stand by idly when innocent babies are being put to death, if we have the chance to say something about it.
Put it this way: how would we feel if suddenly the Supreme Court decreed that people had the right to put their one-year-old children to death if they desired? Would we not be horrified if people started putting their one-year-olds to death? Certainly it would make absolutely no difference to us if that were legal or not! No one could convince us that a woman should have the right to decide whether she wants this one-year-old in her family or not, or that if this child were allowed to grow up it would have a miserable life! No arguments about bringing such a child into the world would be worth hearing: the child is already here! The matter of abortion is exactly the same. The only differences between a one-year-old and a prenatal child are that one is on the inside of the womb and the other is on the outside; the one breathes through the umbilical cord and the other through the nose; the one is always attached to the mother, the other, only occasionally, as when holding her hand. But let’s be brutally clear about this: it’s a child, either way.
Finally let this also be said: sometimes these truths are so difficult for people to face, if they have already had or consented to abortions, that it keeps them from thinking rationally. Such people need to be reminded that there is always forgiveness through Christ our Lord: Yes, even if you’ve killed your own child! King David was a murderer, and was forgiven; so also, the Apostle Paul had been responsible for killing many Christians. Our faith is confidence in God’s mercy for sinners, and there is no sin too great for forgiveness, when we turn to God asking mercy for Christ’s sake.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443