O Antiphons: An Introduction

The O Antiphons of Advent are antiphonal refrains that make use of seven Old Testament names given to Christ. These antiphons/prayers have been used by the church since the 8th Century. In many larger parishes worship services were (and still are) offered on a daily basis. These O Antiphons were highlighted during the daily evening service of Vespers on the last seven days of Advent (December 17th through December 23rd). The popular Advent hymn “Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel” is based off of these prayers. We will carry on this tradition here at Let the Bird Fly! with short devotional thoughts leading up to Christmas.

Continue reading “O Antiphons: An Introduction”

Romans 6:12-14

St. Paul has proclaimed sin’s tyrannical rule in our bodies overthrown. The body of sin and death has been destroyed. Now what? Was destruction the end result? No, “let not sin reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.” Before we were like a donkey, driven this way and that by the will of Satan and the passions of the flesh. Now, however, our cruel rider has been cast off, and a new Master, Jesus Christ, leads us. Not only have we been freed from sin and its horrible reign, but we have also been freed to serve, given a new will in moral matters, so that, through faith in Christ and empowered by Christ and in Christ we can now serve and love Christ in and through our neighbor. In this way, we can cease doing what is contrary to our renewal and begin doing what is in keeping with it.

St. Paul does not say this is easy. Oftentimes rebuilding after removing a tyrant takes as much or more time than removing him. Our mortal bodies have been ravaged by sin, our members knowing sin’s pleasures, our minds knowing sin’s thought processes. Thus, tearing down, building again, and then, and only then, providing service is no easy task. St. Paul tells us to present our “mortal” bodies. Our bodies are still subject to the passions of the flesh, and for this reason our resistance must be vigilant, constant, prayerful, and well fed. No one would hire a starving man to guard a priceless treasure, and Christ does not expect a starving man or woman to protect his priceless treasure, his instruments of righteousness, his living sacrifices. He feeds us with Word and sacrament, encouraging and instructing us for battle.

St. Paul gives us commands today in the first two verses of our lesson, but like a good preacher, like Christ himself, St. Paul doesn’t end without a promise. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are under grace. We are forgiven, and, when we are forgiven we are empowered. Sin win its battles, but it has no dominion, it has no reign, it has been thrown off the donkey. All we need to fear is that we—not God, but we—choose to let him get back in the saddle. In Christ, through Christ, with Christ we surely never will. “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Christ has presented us as righteous to the Father, taking our sin and giving us his righteousness through his death and resurrection. Let us present ourselves as righteous as well, doing what the righteous do, going where our Master leads us. 

Romans 6:1-11

And the font sits in the corner. And the certificate is somewhere in the attic. And the date goes unremembered and uncelebrated. And the concept as a whole is just plain lost even though we claim to be Lutherans who cling to Word and sacrament. And what is it but word and water, the sacrament of baptism?

Why would God give us such a sacrament, one that kills and makes alive, drowns and saves at the same time? Why would God give us such a sacrament, one that is relived daily through the confession of our sins and God’s forgiveness? Why? Because what wretched men and women we are! How quickly don’t we run back to sin and death, like a dog to its vomit and a sow to wallow in the mire! Why do we shower every day, or several times a day even? Because we get so dirty. Why must we return to our Baptism every day, pleading our union with Christ and his death through it, begging God’s mercy? Because we get so dirty. Because we are in constant need of newness of life. Because, by grace, God gives it again, just as he first did in baptism, by grace and grace alone, God brought many of you to the font in the arms of parents, without asking you beforehand, without giving you any opportunity to run away, and he made you his just like that, and he has kept you that way to this day, even though, as your legs have gotten stronger they have so often raced you away from the cross, the font, the altar, the pulpit, the Bible.

Now what? Live in newness of life. Do not sin that grace may abound, but also do not become so foolish so as to despair as if grace did not abound, because it does. The gospel is not an excuse for sin; the gospel is the forgiveness of sins. The gospel does not merely pronounce a freedom from bondage, but a new freedom to serve as a slave to the Savior and not only to the Judge. Why serve? “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”  

You have been crucified with Christ. You have died with Christ, and the death Christ died was a death to sin. Consider yourselves dead to sin. It is no longer your master. It is no longer the measure of your happiness. It is no longer the object of your addiction. It is no longer the center of your universe. It no longer sets your equilibrium; rather, it disturbs your balance and walk with Christ. Have you sinned? Be baptized. Drown your sin in those waters of salvation, confessing them to God, confessing them to your pastor, who speaks in God’s stead, if they particularly trouble you. Drown your sin, but don’t just drown your sin. Drown yourself as well, because that is what happens when the absolution is proclaimed: death. No, not a death like Adam’s death, but a death with Christ to sin, and a death that, as we heard yesterday, brings life.

The font should never sit in the corner. In fact, you should never see or pass this fountain of grace thoughtlessly. The certificate should not be packed away in the attic; it should be more prominent than some trinket you bought at a garage sail or a painting of a barn. The date shouldn’t go unremembered or uncelebrated, because it is your better birthday, the date you were born with Christ to new life rather than born with Adam to die. No, it should never be just a concept you learned in catechism class or heard pastor wax eloquently about in bible class. Concepts are abstract. Water is concrete, and water with the Word hits the old Adam and the hardened sinner like concrete, knocking the old way of thinking out of their ears and proclaiming a new Life, a new Way, a real Truth. In short, it shouldn’t be any of these things listed in the first paragraph, because it should be baptism, and baptism is never just a place or certificate or date or concept, baptism is death with Christ and life in his resurrection. Baptism is freedom from slavery and freedom to serve. Baptism is the voice that every morning cries into your ear: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Tune down all the distractions and hear it, because baptism is Christ and Christ is in your baptism.