“For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry” by Christopher Smart (1722-1771)

“For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry” is an excerpted poem from Smart’s much longer (though now sadly existing in only fragments) poem cycle, Jubilate Agno. It is a wonderful poem, at first glance a naive consideration of the poet’s cat, but upon deeper inspection, a joyous reveling in his cat’s creatureliness and a meditation on how a creature lives out its vocation before God. Jeoffry is a cat, made by God to be a cat, and so he lives out his calling by being the best cat he can be, by doing all that cats do, and thus, God tells him he is a “good cat.” There are echoes of Psalm 148 in this poem, and considering that yesterday was Earth Day, it serves as a good occasion to contemplate the various creatures God has given us as neighbors upon this earth, those “other nations,” as Henry Beston called them in The Outermost House, “caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually—Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Benjamin Britten set Jubliate Agno to music in 1943, and included “For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry” in the settings, albeit vastly truncated.

New Project Worth Watching: The Lutheran And Religious Art Artist Database

Click the image to access the database!

My friend, Georgie Dee, has put together an online database for Lutheran and religious artists around the world. If you are involved in making ecclesiastical art, or know someone who is, please add yourself to the database or pass it along to your artist friend. It would be great to build a comprehensive database of artists as a service to the global church!

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about this project and some great artwork, or want to talk to some great artists, check out the Lutheran and Religious Art Facebook Group (I’m a moderator, for what it’s worth).

The Sermon Archive is up-to-date!

Hi all!

This is how I’ve looked for the last three days.
From Twitter

I have finally gotten through the backlog of sermons I hadn’t uploaded here and now everything is up on the blog! Feel free to peruse them here. Do note that most of these also have links to video of the live, preached sermon, which sometimes differs a bit from the manuscript–I will sometimes add extra illustrations on the fly or choose to reword something in my manuscript, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t really intend to go back through the videos and rewrite my manuscripts to match the final product. As an old pastor of mine, Gerry Kuhn, used to say, “There’s the sermon I wrote, the sermon I gave, and the sermon you heard.” Sometimes having the disparity between the written sermon and the one given can be a useful homiletical tool when looking back at a text.

If you like anything you read, please comment! I’d love to know what stuck out to you, what you thought was an effective homiletical move, and what you think could have been different. (Nota bene: This is an invitation for constructive criticism, not trolling; not that I would expect anyone to do that here, but hey, this is the internet, and people are sinful.) Thirty sermons don’t make a person an expert on preaching by any means, and so I am still growing and hoping to learn more. The reason why this site exists as it does is to create a portfolio of public work that not only records what I have done in my preaching over my vicarage, but also to be a record of my work for my seminary professors and for future congregations that I may serve. It also exists so that the people who originally heard these sermons can hear them again and contemplate them if something in them stood out during the delivery.

Thank you for reading/listening/watching, and enjoy!

Soli Deo gloria!


+ St. Peter ad vincula, August 1, 2019 +

“Strong on Doctrinal Topics but Weak on the Books of the Bible” by Dr. Paul Raabe (Grand Canyon University)

Dr. Paul Raabe

I had the pleasure of having Dr. Raabe for Isaiah at Concordia Seminary the semester prior to his retirement and move to Grand Canyon. One of the things Dr. Raabe always entreated us to do was to become intimately familiar with the Biblical text and to always come back to it, chew on it, and work through it when preaching and doing pastoral work. His analysis of the familiarity of people with Scripture in my own church body of the Missouri Synod is both a wake-up call and a call-to-arms to dig back into the text, and it’s something I know that I, myself, can always strive to improve on in my own life. His advice here is a good reminder for any vicar or pastor (or layperson!).

I have reproduced Dr. Raabe’s article from Concordia Theology here in full. Check out the other articles and podcasts there for more good thoughts from the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary St. Louis.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) is strong on doctrinal topics but weak on the books of the Bible. After teaching at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis for 35 years I’ve come to that conclusion. In the Synod those trained theologically can typically articulate our orthodox doctrinal position and can work with Lutheran concepts. They can explain, for example, the differences between deus revelatus and deus absconditus. But they can’t tell you the first thing about Haggai or Chronicles or 1 John.  The situation is not a case of false doctrine. It’s just weird.

The theological debates that take place in Synod typically deal with Luther and Luther’s theological position. We debate Luther. “What was Luther’s position on the ministry? Did he have a high view or a low view or in-between? Did the later Luther change his position? Did Luther teach the third use of the law? Well, the expression ‘third use of the law’ never appears in Luther’s works. Yeah, but what about the concept? Yeah, but you have to distinguish between the early Luther and the later Luther. What was Luther’s view on the liturgy? Did he advocate high liturgy or low liturgy? What were his liturgical practices? Yeah, but what about the later Luther?” After a while I want to respond: “What does the Bible teach? You know, the Bible, that book collecting dust on the bookshelf.” By listening to our debates one would get the impression that we are a Society for Luther Studies.

I have taught the books of the Bible to laypeople for decades, and I can speak from personal experience. Our laypeople typically do not know the books of the Bible. I remember once when I taught a series on the Minor Prophets. A solid Missouri Synod Lutheran layman, about 85 years old, sat in the front row every week. At the end of the series he told me that his pastors had faithfully taught him Lutheran doctrine many times over, but no pastor had ever taught him the Minor Prophets. I wondered to myself, “How can this be, a solid, life-long Lutheran was never taught all the books of the Bible?”

Occasionally I visit other churches to hear a variety of pastors preach. Sometimes I am thrilled to hear a solid, textual sermon. But I am surprised how often I hear topical sermons without a specific text in a specific book of the Bible. The sermons are doctrinally sound. I am not hearing LCMS preachers preach false doctrine. But often there is no functioning biblical text from a biblical book in the pulpit.

It seems to me that in the Missouri Synod the 66 books of the Bible take a backseat. Yet, we need to remind ourselves of the obvious. First and foremost, the Bible is a collection of books, not a collection of favorite verses or doctrinal topics but a library of books. And each book needs to be treated as a book, read in a holistic way by attending to how it flows from the opening verse to the closing verse. That is simply respecting the shape of the inspired Scriptures themselves. The Sacred Scriptures come to us in the form of books.

If Martin Luther were here today, my hunch is that he would agree. After all, he wanted the people to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures themselves and not only learn summary statements of what the entire Bible teaches. That is why he translated the Scriptures into the language of the people.  That is why he preached and lectured through books of the Bible.

The books of the Bible are primary literature, while summaries of their doctrinal teaching are secondary literature. Yes, people have to be taught what all of Scripture teaches, the articles of Faith, the corpus doctrinae, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Faith. The Confessors of the Augsburg Confession realized that. But that desideratum should not overshadow or eclipse the biblical books themselves. The written Word of God comes in the shape of books, and we should honor and love that shape and teach the Word according to that shape.

Have no fear. The exegetes are coming to the rescue! Pardon me for a shameless commercial. The Concordia Commentary series has been putting out excellent Bible commentaries for over 20 years now.  We are grateful to Jeff Gibbs for his third volume on Matthew just out. Twenty nine biblical books have been covered already plus parts of four others (see them all at cph.org). It is a great series for every seminarian, pastor and congregational library to own.

Our motto of sola scriptura sets up the expectation that our churches and ministers actually theologize that way, that in these churches the pastor is all about the Ministry of the Word, not “social justice” or “inclusivity” or feel-good psychology, but the Ministry of the Word (Acts 6). That requires devotion to both the orthodox corpus doctrinae and the books of the Bible.

Patrick Hamilton’s Excursus on Faith, Hope, and Charity from “Patrick’s Places” (1527)

The only known portrait of Patrick Hamilton, painted by John Scougal (1645-1730).

The following is excerpted from the great little treatise on Law and Gospel published by Patrick Hamilton, the first Scottish Lutheran martyr, in 1527 as Patrick’s Places. The treatise was republished in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1751), and recently published for the Kindle by Pastor Don Matzat with a foreword by Pastor Jordan McKinley.

A short biography of Hamilton from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:

“HAMILTON, PATRICK (1504–1528), Scottish divine, second son of Sir Patrick Hamilton, well known in Scottish chivalry, and of Catherine Stewart, daughter of Alexander, duke of Albany, second son of James II. of Scotland, was born in the diocese of Glasgow, probably at his father’s estate of Stanehouse in Lanarkshire. He was educated probably at Linlithgow. In 1517 he was appointed titular abbot of Ferne, Ross-shire; and it was probably about the same year that he went to study at Paris, for his name is found in an ancient list of those who graduated there in 1520. It was doubtless in Paris, where Luther’s writings were already exciting much discussion, that he received the germs of the doctrines he was afterwards to uphold. From Alexander Ales we learn that Hamilton subsequently went to Louvain, attracted probably by the fame of Erasmus, who in 1521 had his headquarters there. Returning to Scotland, the young scholar naturally selected St Andrews, the capital of the church and of learning, as his residence. On the 9th of June 1523 he became a member of the university of St Andrews, and on the 3rd of October 1524 he was admitted to its faculty of arts. There Hamilton attained such influence that he was permitted to conduct as preceptor a musical mass of his own composition in the cathedral. But the reformed doctrines had now obtained a firm hold on the young abbot, and he was eager to communicate them to his fellow-countrymen. Early in 1527 the attention of James Beaton, archbishop of St Andrews, was directed to the heretical preaching of the young priest, whereupon he ordered that Hamilton should be formally summoned and accused. Hamilton fled to Germany, first visiting Luther at Wittenberg, and afterwards enrolling himself as a student, under Franz Lambert of Avignon, in the new university of Marburg, opened on the 30th of May 1527 by Philip, land grave of Hesse. Hermann von dem Busche, one of the contributors to the Epistolae obscurorum virorum, John Frith and Tyndale were among those whom he met there. Late in the autumn of 1527 Hamilton returned to Scotland, bold in the conviction of the truth of his principles. He went first to his brother’s house at Kincavel, near Linlithgow, in which town he preached frequently, and soon afterwards he married a young lady of noble rank, whose name has not come down to us. Beaton, avoiding open violence through fear of Hamilton’s high connexions, invited him to a conference at St Andrews. The reformer, predicting that he was going to confirm the pious in the true doctrine by his death, resolutely accepted the invitation, and for nearly a month was permitted to preach and dispute, perhaps in order to provide material for accusation. At length, however, he was summoned before a council of bishops and clergy presided over by the archbishop; there were thirteen charges, seven of which were based on the doctrines affirmed in the Loci communes. On examination Hamilton maintained that these were undoubtedly true. The council condemned him as a heretic on the whole thirteen charges. Hamilton was seized, and, it is said, surrendered to the soldiery on an assurance that he would be restored to his friends without injury. The council convicted him, after a sham disputation with Friar Campbell, and handed him over to the secular power. The sentence was carried out on the same day (February 29, 1528) lest he should be rescued by his friends, and he was burned at the stake as a heretic. His courageous bearing attracted more attention than ever to the doctrines for which he suffered, and greatly helped to spread the Reformation in Scotland. The “reek of Patrick Hamilton infected all it blew on.” His martyrdom is singular in this respect, that he represented in Scotland almost alone the Lutheran stage of the Reformation. His only book was entitled Loci communes, known as “Patrick’s Places.” It set forth the doctrine of justification by faith and the contrast between the gospel and the law in a series of clear-cut propositions. It is to be found in Foxs’s Acts and Monuments.

A Comparison Between Faith and Unbelief

  • Faith is the root of all good: unbelief is the root of all evil.
  • Faith makes God and man good friends: unbelief makes them foes.
  • Faith brings God and man together: unbelief separates them.
  • All that faith does, pleases God: all that unbelief doth, displeases God.
  • Faith only makes a man good and righteous: unbelief only makes him unjust and evil.
  • Faith makes a man a member of Christ: unbelief makes him a member of the devil.
  • Faith makes a man the inheritor of heaven: unbelief makes him inheritor of hell.
  • Faith makes a man the servant of God: unbelief makes him the servant of the devil.
  • Faith shows us God to be a sweet Father: unbelief shows him a terrible Judge.
  • Faith holds firm to the word of God: unbelief wavers here and there.”
  • Faith counts and holds God to be true: unbelief holds him false and a liar.
  • Faith knows God: unbelief knows him not.
  • Faith loves both God and his neighbor: unbelief loves neither of them.
  • Faith only saves us: unbelief only condemns us.
  • Faith extolls God and his deeds: unbelief extolls herself and her own deeds.”

Of Hope

  • Hope is a trusty looking after the thing that is promised us to come, as we hope after the everlasting joy, which Christ has promised unto all that believe in him.
  • We should put our hope and trust in God alone, and in no other thing. “It is better to trust in God and not in man.” Psalm 118:8.
  • He that trusts in his own heart is a fool, Proverbs 28:26.
  • It is good to trust in God, and not in princes, Psalm 118:9.
  • They shall be like unto the images which they make, and all that trust in them, Psalm. 65:8.
  • He that trusts in his own heart is a fool, Proverbs.28:26.
  • Cursed be the man that trusts in man, Jeremiah 17:5.
  • “Bid the rich men of this world, that they trust not in their unstable riches; but that they trust in the living God.” I Timothy 6:17.
  • It is hard for them that trust in money, to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Luke 18:25.
  • Well are they that trust in God, and woe to them that trust not in him.
  • “Well is that man that trusts in God, for God shall be his trust.”
  • They shall rejoice that trust in you; they shall ever be glad, and you will defend them.”

Of Charity

Charity is the love of your neighbor. The rule of charity is this: Do as you wouldst be done to: for Christ regards all alike, the rich, the poor, the friend and the foe, the thankful and unthankful, the kinsman and stranger.

A Comparison between Faith, Hope, and Charity.

  • Faith cometh of the word of God; hope cometh of faith; and charity springs from them both.
  • Faith believes the word; hope trusts after that which is promised by the word; charity doth good unto her neighbor, through the love that she has to God, and gladness that is within herself.
  • Faith looks to God and his word; Hope looks to His gift and reward; charity looks on her neighbor’s profit.
  • Faith receives God; hope receives His reward; charity loves her neighbor with a glad heart, and that without any respect of reward.
  • Faith pertains to God only; hope to His reward; and charity to her neighbor.

Hamilton, Patrick. Patrick’s Places: Patrick Hamilton’s Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Faith and Works. Ed. Don Matzat. 2019. Kindle Edition.