Monday, October 31, 2011

Report from the field

This comes from a newly ordained pastor somewhere in the Midwest. Many times before I've passed on the advice I got from the inestimable Fr. Ralph Tausz when it comes to introducing Lutheran ceremonies and liturgy to congregations with less than ideal histories in that regard. As with anything in the pastoral ministry: your mileage may vary. But here is one more man's experience.

"Things are going very well! Thanks for asking. I see positive strides in both the congregation as a whole, and especially in individual souls. For what it's worth, you were right about a congregation's tolerance for a pastor making immediate changes when they are accompanied by patient teaching, at least in my situation. We still have a ways to go, but I'm very optimistic."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Talking about the Liturgy

Here's a guest post from Fr. Mark Surburg, a colleague of mine here in the SID, though he serves a bit south of me, firmly in the Baptist Belt a good two hour drive outside of the St. Louis Metro Lutheran Zone. I think his words here are very beneficial - and I'll let them speak for themselves.


I am always interested to see how other pastors summarize the character and value of the liturgy as I look for new and better ways to present it to people. I have attached my own version of doing this in which I have attempted to draw upon what I have seen others done, while adding my own wrinkle here and there. - Fr. Mark Surburg

The Divine Service - God's gifts for us

Every Sunday we gather at church for the Divine Service. As we consider what happens on
Sunday morning, it is important that think about the service in the way of the Gospel. The focus
of Sunday morning is not on what we do (Law). Instead, the focus is on what God is doing
for us (Gospel). God comes to us with His gifts of the Means of Grace by which He delivers
forgiveness and strengthens us in the faith. The first move is from God to us. Then in turn,
as we receive God’s gifts, we respond with praise and thanksgiving. As the Apology of the
Augsburg Confession states: “Thus the service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good
things from God, while the worship of the law is to offer and present our goods to God … The
greatest possible comfort comes from this doctrine that the highest worship in the Gospel is the
desire to receive forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness” (IV.310). In order to recognize
this fact, Lutherans have called the Sunday service Gottesdienst, which means “Divine Service.”
This name reminds us that on Sunday, God serves us with His gifts.

The Liturgy of the Divine Service: God’s Word built around the Means of Grace

In ancient Greece, the word “liturgy” meant “public service.” The early church took this word
and used it to describe the fixed orders of service in which God comes to us and serves us with
His gifts. The liturgy of the Divine Service is made up of verses and phrases taken from Holy
Scripture. The liturgy is made up of Scripture and it has been built around the reading and
proclamation of God’s Word, and the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar. It highlights
and emphasizes the sacramental ways in which God comes to us and is therefore the best and
most natural setting for these gifts. The liturgy stresses the sacramental ways that God works,
and therefore it also emphasizes the incarnation because the sacraments find their origin in the
incarnate One, Jesus Christ.

The liturgy teaches the correct faith

What we believe, shapes and forms the way we worship. For example, churches who believe
that Christ gives us His very body and blood in Lord’s Supper place the Sacrament of the Altar
at the center of their worship service every Sunday, while churches who believe that it is only a
symbol do not usually celebrate the Lord’s Supper very often. The liturgy of the Divine Service
reflects exactly the faith of the catholic and apostolic Church that we believe.

At the same time, the opposite is also true. The way we worship shapes and forms what we
believe. The things we do, say and hear every Sunday determine what we believe. What a
church really believes can be learned from how they worship on Sunday morning. The weekly
use of the liturgy helps to form and shape us in the one true catholic and apostolic faith.

The Bible done right: again and again

The liturgy of the Divine Service is drawn from the Bible. However, it is possible to
misunderstand the Bible. Because the liturgy reflects the faith of the catholic and apostolic
Church, it is the Bible believed and understood correctly. In the liturgy, Law and Gospel are
properly distinguished as we admit our sins and receive Christ’s forgiveness in the Means

of Grace. The liturgy places Jesus Christ at the center and in doing so teaches it us that the
Christian faith is Christocentric – it is focused on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The liturgy
repeatedly points us towards the return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day (it is eschatological),
even as it assures us that we already now begin to experience a foretaste of God’s final salvation.

The liturgy teaches us these things, and it does so by exposing us to these truths every week.
There is an old saying that “repetition is the mother of learning.” The repetition of hearing and
singing the words of the liturgy each week teaches us the catholic and apostolic faith, and shapes
and forms the way we think about the faith. This is a process that begins with the smallest child
and continues all throughout our life. It is not a process that ever ends or is finished because the
words and phrases, movements and actions invite ever deeper understanding as we grow and
mature as Christians.

The liturgy: prayers that teach

The liturgy contains prayers that teach. In the liturgy we use the inspired prayers of the Psalms.
We also encounter prayers that use the language of the Bible and have been crafted by two
thousand years of Christian experience living the faith. These prayers teach us the Christian
faith. They also teach us how to pray by leading us beyond those things that we would say and
focus upon. They lead us beyond ourselves and support our prayer when don’t want to pray or
don’t know what to pray.

The liturgy preserves the faith (it keeps us catholic)

The liturgy teaches the correct faith. It also preserves the catholic and apostolic faith as it
is handed on from one generation to the next. The eternal and timeless truth of God’s Word
is preserved in the liturgy and this helps the Church to resist the spirit of the world in each
time period (the tyranny of “today”). As such, the liturgy of the Divine Service unites us with
the saints of the centuries before us who have sung and spoken the words of the liturgy (the
communion of saints). The liturgy binds us together with one another, and with the Christians
who have gone before us.

Lutherans are evangelical catholics. Lutherans are centered on the Gospel as we share in what
the universal church has believed and practiced. The liturgy confesses the truth of the Gospel
as it teaches and preserves the catholic faith. For this reason, the Lutheran church is a liturgical
church – it uses the liturgy of the Divine Service. As the Apology of the Augsburg Confession
states: “So in our churches we willingly observe the order of the Mass [the medieval name
for the Divine Service], the Lord’s day, and the other more important feast days. With a very
thankful spirit we cherish the useful and ancient ordinances, especially when they contain a
discipline that serves to educate and instruct the people and the inexperienced” (VII/VIII.33-34).

The reverence of the liturgy as we stand before God

The liturgy shapes worship with a profound reverence as we stand in God’s presence. The
biblical texts used; the use of song and chant; the fixed movements by pastor and congregation
(such as standing and bowing) help us to enter into God’s presence with reverence. They remind
us that in the Divine Service we stand before the holy God.

In the liturgy we experience the real world: the new creation

We live as Christians in the “now and the not yet.” While we look forward to Christ’s return on
the Last Day, we already now have received God’s reign in Christ and have received salvation.

In the liturgy we experience something different from the rest of the week. Yet as God comes to
us in His Means of Grace, what we are experiencing is the world as it really is. We encounter
God’s reign that has made us to be a new creation in Christ. We are joined together with all
the saints and the heavenly host as we experience heaven on earth. The liturgy emphasizes
the “now” of salvation, even as it points us forward to the return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day.

The liturgy is part of the Church’s culture that sets her apart from the world

Christ has called the Church out of the world and made her His own. The Church is present
where the Means of Grace are being administered. The Church is most herself when she is in
worship, and therefore she looks very different from the world when this is occurring.

The Church has her own culture – her own ways of speaking and acting – that separates the
Church from the world and marks her off as God’s people. The liturgy of the Divine Service
is a very important part of this culture that marks off the Church as God’s own people who
have been called out of the world. As visitors encounter the liturgy, they will often experience
something that they find to be different and foreign to them. This is not surprising because they
are encountering a different way of doing the world – God’s way. However in this recognition
there is an invitation to learn more about God’s way of doing the world and to join the culture of
God’s people.

The ceremony of the liturgy communicates in many ways

The ceremony of the liturgy – the movements by the pastor, the way the communionware is
handled, the vestments, paraments, candles, etc. – is part of the church’s culture. The ceremony
of the liturgy adorns the Means of Grace and sets them before us. It communicates the truth of
God’s Word to us in a variety of ways and embraces our bodily, physical existence in this time
and place.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lenten Sermon Series by Rev. Dan Dahling

By Larry Beane

No, Gottesdienst has not gone the way of the world where Christmas decorations appear before Reformation Day and by the beginning of Advent, the St. Valentine's Day paraphernalia makes its way to the shelves.

However, as we are approaching Advent and a new church year, some of y'all may be in planning mode.

One of the great benefits I enjoy as the Sermons Editor of the print edition is that I am exposed to quite a variety of sermons and preachers, approaches to texts, and different styles of proclaiming the Good News.  I have the honor to select a sermon or two for each quarterly issue.

Of course, there is a lot of great preaching out there.  I can't possibly include everything worth reading, studying, or meditating upon in only eight or so sermons a year.

So, I'm going to use Gottesdienst Online to present a Lenten sermon series (in outline form) graciously offered to us for publication by the Rev. Daniel Dahling of Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church in Decatur, Indiana.  In Pastor Dahling's own words:

I have a unique Lenten series that I wrote a few years back entitled “Jesus I will ponder now”. It is a series based on eight chorales written by Sigismund v. Birken & Johan Sebastian Bach. The sermon is structured around a hymn stanza or a chorale as the lines of the hymn become the outline of the sermon. The congregation sang the hymn verse as the sermon hymn and on occasion, the choir sang the verse. In this way the congregants were able to read the verse, sing it, and meditate on it during the service. The series was preached at Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church in 2006 and at St. John, Bingen during a vacancy in 2008. Would you be interested in reviewing or using this series?

So, with Pastor Dahling's blessing, I'm presenting below the overview and the sermons (six midweek, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday) as he preached them at Zion Friedheim in 2006.

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Celebrating our 168th Year

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

“Jesus I will Ponder Now”
A Lenten series based on six Chorales written by Sigismund v. Birken & Johan Sebastian Bach

March 1, 2006 - Ash Wednesday - Luke 18:31-34

Stanza #5       If my sins give me alarm
TLH #140       And my conscience grieve me
Birken             Let Thy cross my fear disarm
                        Peace of conscience give me
                        Grant that I may trust in Thee
                        And Thy holy Passion
                        If His Son so loveth me
                        God must have compassion

March 8, 2006 – Mid-week #2 – John 18:12-14

Stanza #3       Yet, O Lord, not thus alone
TLH #140       Make me see Thy Passion
Birken             But its cause to me make known
                        And its termination
                        Ah! I also and my sin
                        Wrought Thy deep affliction
                        This indeed the cause hath been
                        Of Thy crucifixion.

March 15, 2006 – Mid-week #3 – John 18: 15-27

From Bach’s         Peter gave it scarce a thought
St. John Passion    When he God rejected;
                        At Christ’s look, he fled, distraught,
                        Weeping and dejected.
                        Jesus fix Thy gaze on me,
                        True repentance teach me,
                        When Thou evil there doth see,
                        Through my conscience reach me.

March 22, 2006 – Mid-week #4 – John 19:5

From Bach’s         Jesu, who for me didst die,
St. John Passion    Livest now forever.
                        When my hour of death draws nigh,
                        Let me waver never.
                        May I e’er to Thee be turned,
                        O my faithful Savior!
                        Give me but what Thou hast earned,
                        More I do not pray for.

March 29, 2006 – Mid-week #5 – John 19:23-27

From Bach’s         He of everything took heed
St. John Passion    In his hour of dying
                        Caring for His mother’s need,
                        On His friend relying.
                        O man, do all things aright
                        Love God and thy neighbor,
                        Die then without pain and fright
                        Rest from care and labor.

April 5, 2006 – Mid-week #6 - John 19:31-37

From Bach’s         Help, O Christ, Thou God’s own Son,
St. John Passion    Through Thy bittern anguish.
                        That our wills with Thine be one,
                        Zeal for evil vanquish.
                        On Thy death and its true cause
                        Contrite thoughts will render,
                        And Though weak and full of flaws,
                        Thee our thanks will tender.

NB: M. Thursday 4/13/’06; G. Friday 4/14/’06; Easter 4/16/’06elp He

Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2006
Jesus I Will Ponder Now
Luke 18:31-34

Introduction: Today we begin a six week process of observing our Savior’s Passion, suffering and death during the discipline of Lent. Under the theme: “Jesus I will Ponder Now” we will focus on six aspects of the Savior’s Passion as rendered and presented in six beautiful Chorales – four of which were penned by Johan Sebastian Bach. It is my prayer that as we focus on Jesus’ suffering through Scripture and song we will grow in a deeper appreciation of what Jesus has won for us on the bloody and cruel cross of Calvary.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, Jesus explains to His disciples, “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” {V.31}
As we consider Jesus’ Passion we observe His work in terms of sin and grace.

I. If my sins give me alarm and My conscience grieve me.

A. It is sin which causes us to be alarmed

1. Sin of commission –committed and done by

a. Thoughts

b. Words

c. Actions

2. Sins of omission

a. When we had opportunity to do good but failed.

b. When we could have prevented sin but failed to act or didn’t want to get involved, or the time was not convenient.

B. Our conscience is troubled when we consider past wrongs, failures, and the nagging question, “What will God do to me at the end of my days?”

Transition: How do we receive a clean conscience and peace of mind? Our hymn verse gives us a clear answer.

II. Let Thy cross, my fear disarm peace of conscience give me.

A. The cross of Christ disarms our fears.

1. At The cross the wrath of an offended God was poured out on Jesus Christ God’s own Son.

2. Paul puts it this way; “God was in Christ reconciling us to the Father not counting our sins against us…” 2 Corinthians 5:19

3. As Christ has taken our sin there is nothing for us to fear.

B. Peace of conscience is what Christ alone can give.

1. He gives us His peace – “Peace I leave thee, My peace I give thee…” -John 14:27

2. This is the only peace which will sustain us – all other forms or attempts at peace - pale in comparison.

Transition: Christ suffered for us once for all. Yet the Devil will attempt to trip us up reminding us again and again of past failings. He will quote for us chapter and verse where we have sinned. That’s why we need a continued reminder of Christ’s work.

III. Grant that I may trust in Thee and Thy holy Passion.

A. All Jesus asks of us is to trust Him.

1. Trust is nothing more then another word for faith.

2. Faith is nothing more then taking God at His word.

B. We trust that what Christ accomplished at the cross is all that is needed to win for us salvation.

1. Jesus’ words: “It is finished!” says it all!

a. There is nothing left to be done. Jesus did it all at the cross.

b. Trusting in Jesus’ work and merit is what our faith must focus.

Transition: As we focus on what Jesus has done we learn an eternal truth – the love and compassion of Christ.

IV. If His Son so loveth me God must have compassion.

A. Smile - God loves you! Best summed up by Christ Himself in John 3:16-18

B. He has had compassion. The Passion of the Christ is motivated by the Father’s compassion for a fallen world. When He gave up His own Son He did the very best. The Father shows that;

1. He cares for us

2. He loves us

3. He sent us His own Son who redeemed this world to save us.

Conclusion: As we begin the discipline of Lent we focus on Jesus’ Passion. He has redeemed us lost and condemned creatures and has purchased and won us from sin, from death and from the power of the devil. A great and mighty wonder is to unfold during this Lenten season we watch in awe and wonderment.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Jesus I will Ponder Now
March 8, 2006
Mid-week #2
John 18:15
“Simon Peter also followed in Jesus’ path and another disciple”

Introduction: Following Jesus’ arrest in the garden Peter and John follow behind the soldiers as Jesus is lead to Annas. Annas just so happened to be the father-in-law of Caiaphas – who had been appointed to serve as high priest.

It wasn’t left to chance that Jesus was sent to have an audience with Annas. Annas was the principle player within the Jewish Council. He made sure to keep a power hold within the court, keeping tight control within his family power base.

History tells us that four of Annas's sons were among those who succeeded him. His son-in-law, Caiaphas, held office from A.D. 18 until 36, during the time of Jesus' active ministry.
Although others held the priestly office, Annas seems to have been the elder statesman and the power behind the throne.

Together these two men; Annas and Caiaphas, brokered much influence within the temple and the court - It was Caiaphas who had given counsel and warning to the Sanhedrin that it was expedient that one man should die for the sake of the people. -John 18:14

Peter and John follow behind – they desire to see what will occur next.

I. With Peter and John we view Christ’s Passion.

A. “Yet, O Lord, not thus alone make me see Thy Passion.”

1. During this holy season we meditate on what Christ did and endured to earn our salvation.

2. We mark His arrest, trial, suffering and crucifixion.

B. “But its cause to me make known and its termination.”

1. The cause for which Christ was arrested, tried, scourged and crucified was to win for me salvation.

2. When Christ died – all of our sin died. Our sins, with all evil lusts were all drowned and killed.

Transition: But we do more then merely observe Christ’s action. We recall, affirm and believe what Christ has done. He suffered and died that I may receive salvation and life.

II. We also recall the impact of Christ’s suffering.

A. “Ah! I also and my sin wrought Thy deep affliction.”

1. It was my sin and mine alone which caused Jesus to suffer and die.

2. It is my sin which caused me to be separated from the Father, from Christ, and my neighbor.

B. “This indeed the cause has been of Thy crucifixion.”

1. Christ suffered for me because I can do nothing to earn my salvation. My sin robs me of fellowship with God or with my neighbor. “Lord if You should mark iniquity who shall stand…” -Psalm 130:3

2. Because Christ has suffered for me and on my behalf I now enjoy the blessings that come from Christ’s bloody cross; salvation, forgiveness, life eternal.

Conclusion: Peter and John remain in the wings to see what will transpire next. What happens is that Jesus is abandoned by God and by men to take on our sin to Himself and thus win for us salvation. “Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood be for my soul the highest good.”*

- I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table” from The Lutheran Hymnal © 1940 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

March 15, 2006
Jesus I will Ponder Now
Mid-week #3
John 18:15-27

Introduction: The story of Peter is your story. It is also my story. Peter is so strong; so sure of himself, so bold – yet so often he stumbles, fumbles, flops and falls. Johan Sebastian Bach in a beautiful chorale tells a powerful account concerning Peter’s failure. Let’s see how the story unfolds.

I. “Peter gave it scarce a thought when he God rejected.”

A. Peter was so sure of himself. He felt secure in his faith.

1. After all, he was one of the twelve and of the twelve, one of the three whom Jesus gathered together to be part of His inner circle.

2. He was fixed firmly in his own ability to stand confidently with the Savior. Just hours before Jesus’ arrest in the garden Peter had pledged his loyalty to the Savior. “And [Simon Peter] said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death. But Jesus said, I tell you, Peter, before a [single] cock shall crow this day, you will three times [utterly] deny that you know Me.” - Luke 22:33-34

B. When he would eventually deny the Savior he thought he was only finding a limb on which to climb. It was for him a way of “saving face.” “I wasn’t really denying my Lord,” he could argue, “It was merely a case of “mistaken identity.” Peter said to the crowd, “You’re talking to the wrong man!”

1. What happens in our life? – Do we give a “false witness” when we, for example, compromise clear Biblical principles in order to fit in at work, or at school? What price will we pay to acquire acceptance, approval, acquiescence?

2. Every time we sin willfully we are doing nothing short of what Peter did on that fateful night.

3. Like Peter we often “give it scarce a thought” when we compromise principle for convenience or for what is expedient at the time.

C. We too are tempted.

1. In the beginning we are tempted [by the Devil] - to think - “it’s nothing.”

2. In the end we are told [again, by the Devil] - “it can’t be forgiven.”

Transition: It was bad enough for Peter to deny his Lord. But upon looking into the eyes of the Savior Peter was seized with guilt. Luke reminds us: “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord how He had said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.” (Luke 22:61) With one look Peter’s world crumbled!

II. “At Christ’s look he fled distraught, weeping and dejected.”

A. Confronted by his denial Peter was crushed.

1. This is what the Law does to us.

2. It is a necessary ingredient in preaching!

B. We too are crushed when confronted with the Law.

1. Nathan said to David “Thou art the man” - 2 Samuel 12:7

2. Contrition and repentance are necessary for restoration and forgiveness.

Transition: As Jesus fixed His gaze on Peter thus He must look on us.

III. We ask Jesus to “look on me” – “Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” – Psalm 51:11

A. “Jesus fix Thy gaze on me”

1. Press me, pursue me.

2. Never let me go! “I will never leave Thee nor forsake Thee” -Hebrews 13:5

B. “True repentance teach me” Remember the 5 “R’s” of repentance…

1. Responsibility – we own up to our sin.

2. Remorse – we are heart sorry.

3. Repair – we attempt to fix what we’ve broken - inasmuch as we are able.

4. Repeat not! – We don’t return to visit!

Note: These four steps; leading to repentance, come from Dr. Laura Schlesinger, she’s a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. She suggests; quite convincingly, that this is all we need to right a wrong. Yet, one component is missing. A 5th step is necessary; the final step, which separates Christians from the rest of the world; a step, which turns from following rules to establishing a relationship with God Himself. The 5th step necessary:

5. Reconciliation - through Christ alone!

Transition: Repentance is not merely a one time act – it must be a daily process. Thus we pray…

IV. “When Thou evil there doest see through my conscience reach me.”

1. Jiminy Cricket from Disney’s ‘Pinocchio’ would suggest to us; “let your conscience be your guide”

2. Our text would suggest even stronger let your conscience and the cruel and bloody cross of Calvary be your guide!

Conclusion: After the resurrection Peter and Jesus had another heart to heart meeting. Three times Jesus would ask Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” John would remind us in his gospel account, “Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him for a third time do you love Me?” – John 21:17

Roman Catholics maintain that Peter was the first Pope. To this day Protestant parishes in Europe will place a rooster instead of a cross on the top of their spires as a not so friendly reminder of Peter’s seedy past. Not much has changed over the years. Have there been instances in our lives when we have not acted as becomes a child of God? Have you had to be reminded of that moment only to relive it once again?

Each of us can recall those moments in our lives in which we are not proud! Peter’s’ denial crushed him – but what he found was restoration by the Savior!

Peter’s freedom came at a price – the price of Jesus’ life. To be crushed by conscience and the Law is never a pleasant thing. But Christ’s redemption leads to recovery – to be reconciled to the Father and also to each other – all has been made possible by the Savior’s amazing grace!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Jesus I will Ponder Now
March 22, 2006
Mid-week #4
John 19:5
When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, Behold the man!

Introduction: “Behold the man!” That’s what Pilate said. Who is this Jesus? How will you perceive Him? How will you react to Him? What has He done to deserve all this? Our chorale for this evening penned by Johan Sebastian Bach gives us much to contemplate.

I. Behold, the Savior of the world. Jesu, who for me didst die, Livest now forever.

A. Christ died –

1. He died for every sinner.

2. He died for me!

B. But now He lives –

1. Death could not hold Him.

2. He now lives and reigns through all eternity.

II. Behold Him who will hold us in death. When my hour of death draws nigh, Let me waver never.

A. Each must face death.

1. It is appointed for man once to die and after that face judgment. -Hebrews 9:72

2. Death is a curse which sinful humans have brought upon themselves. “The soul that sins it shall die.” - Ezekiel 18;4,20

B. Yet we can face death confidently in Jesus.

1. Because Christ defeated death by His own death we can now see death as a gate which leads to eternal life.

2. When facing our own demise terrors of conscience may seize us. Only Christ can keep us faithful. “Be Thou faithful until death and I will give Thee the crown of life.” - Revelation 2:10
III. Behold Him who will keep us. May I e’er to Thee be turned, O my faithful Savior.

A. By our own reason or strength we can not come to Him.

1. We are blind, dead and enemies of God.

2. Our sin prevents us.

B. Thus He sends us His Holy Spirit who…

1. Calls us - by the Gospel

2. Gathers us – into His body the Church

3. Enlightens us – with His gifts

4. Sanctifies us – keeps us holy

5. Keeps us – in the one true faith

IV. Behold him who will receive us into His glory. Give me but what Thou has earned, More I do not pray for.

A. What has Christ earned?

1. We now have peace with God.

2. We are given access to the Father’s throne - room of grace.

3. We have received forgiveness from all sin.

4. We’ve been given the hope of heaven with mansions glorious.

B. With all these gifts what more do we need?

1. The Christian can now be content.

2. There is nothing lacking for Christ has the sufficiency to supply us with all that we may ever need.


I am content my Jesus liveth still
In whom my heart is pleased.
He hath fulfilled the Law of God for me,
God’s Wrath He hath appeased.
Since He in death could perish never
I also shall not die forever.
I am content! I am content!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

I Am Content from The Lutheran Hymnal Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO © 1940

Jesus I will Ponder Now
March 29, 2006
Mid-week #5
John 19:23-27

Introduction: Hanging on a cross suspended between earth and heaven Jesus bore our sins in His body. In the midst of His cruel agony He provided for His mother’s care. John records for us the Savior’s word of dying concern. “When Jesus saw His mother, there and the disciple whom He loved, standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on this disciple took her into his home.” How beautifully Bach relates these events.

I. The death of Jesus was complete. “He of everything took heed In His hour of dying.”

A. All sin was paid for by Jesus’ vicious death.

1. There is not one sin left unaccounted.

2. The payment is marked: “paid in full!”

B. The proclamation of the cross is what frees us.

1. It is good news.

2. It is the power of God.

II. On the cross Jesus singles Mary out for attention. “Caring for His mother’s needs on His friend relying.”

A. He calls her “woman”.

1. A desire to spare her the hurt of “mother.”

2. He imparts a proper perspective – Mary will have to be saved like anyone else. She receives no dispensation!

B. He turns her over to John.

1. From that time on he became her son.

2. He provides for her taking her into his own house.

a. By way of history John will be the only disciple not to be martyred.

b. He will be exiled to the island of Patmos. – Revelation 1:9

III. By this act of love Jesus demonstrates the proper regard for family. “O man, do all things aright love God and thy neighbor.”

A. Jesus summed up the life of the Christian when He taught us;

1. “Love the Lord Thy God with all your heart, soul and all your might This is the first and greatest commandment.” - Matthew 22:37

2. “And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:38-39 There is no commandment greater than these.

B. “To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” - Mark 12:33

IV. Through Jesus’ example expressed to His mother He demonstrates a deep concern for others. Thus Bach concludes tonight’s hymn verse with these words; “Die then without pain and fright rest from care and labor.”

A. We can leave this world in death without pain or fright.

1. Christ bore our sins in His own body on the cross so that we will not have to suffer the terrors of a guilty conscience.

2. We receive Christ’s peace as He has secured for us peace with God.

B. Thus we rest from care and labor.

1. Luther possibly put is best when, in the conclusion to his morning and evening prayers he wrote: “Into Thy hands I commend myself [placing] my body and soul and all thing [into Thy care]. May Your Holy Angel [Spirit] be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.”

2. This moved Luther to conclude in the morning the Christian should: “then go joyfully to your work” and in the evening we rest confidently: “then go to sleep at once and in good cheer.”

3. Here is evidence of a clear conscience; not based on what we do but rather on what Christ has finished. Our salvation is complete. We can rest in peace because our Father is at peace with Jesus’ work. At the cross and empty tomb Christ’s mission was accomplished!

Conclusion: Jesus showing compassion and care for His mother and His dear disciple has shown us how we too must act. Of the seven words Jesus spoke from the cross half of His last words are concerned with others. May His words and actions so move us to will and to do His good pleasure.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Jesus I will Ponder Now
April 5, 2006
Mid-week #6
John 19:37
They will look on the one they have pierced


When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died
My riches gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

The Passion of the Christ has been our focus through the sacred music of Johan Sebastian Bach these past three Wednesdays. We turn now to our final chorale – it is simply a prayer - that we may be one in Christ.

Help O Christ Thou God’s own Son
Through Thy bitter anguish
That our wills with Thee be one
Zeal for evil vanquish

I. We pray that our Will - may be one in the same as Christ’s. This we pray every time we pray the 3rd petition of the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy will be done” – Lord!

A. How is this done?

1. God’s good and gracious will is done among us by Himself – not us!

2. Specifically, when God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s name nor let His Kingdom come.

3. Those forces we contend with are the will of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.

B. God’s Good and gracious will is...

1. To strengthen and preserve us steadfast.

2. Keeping us faithful to His Word and faith unto our end. “Fear not, little flock, for it is Your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” -Luke 12:32

Transition: We pray that the Father’s will might be done in us. Viewing Christ’s Passion we render Him our thanks and praise.

II. Our focus thus is on Christ and His Cross

On Thy death and its true cause
Contrite thoughts will render

A. When we consider all that Jesus endured - His suffering, agony and bloody sweet we cry out for the Father to have mercy upon us.

1. With the beggar we cry, “Jesus, Master have mercy on me!”-Mark 10:47

2. Or, as the Kyrie would remind us; “Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord, have mercy.”

3. And, in the words of the Agnus Dei; “O Christ Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world have mercy upon us and grant us Thy peace.”

B. And we thank Him!

And though weak and full of flaws
Thee our thanks will render

1. Thank You Jesus, that you have taken
away my guilt and my sin.

2. Thank you Jesus, that You prayed;
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” -Luke 23:34

3. Thank You Jesus, who gave Stephen the
strength to pray; “Lord do not hold this sin against them!” –Acts 7:60 For this is how we ought to pray.

Conclusion: As we have pondered Christ’s holy Passion during this Lenten journey may we be moved to pray;

Grant that I may willingly
Bear with Thee my crosses,
Learning humbleness of Thee,
Peace mid pain and losses.
May I give thee love for love!
Hear me, O my Savior,
That I may in heaven above
Sing Thy praise forever.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

 When I survey the wondrous cross from The Lutheran Hymnal Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO © 1940

 Jesus I will Ponder Now from The Lutheran Hymnal Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO © 1940

M. Thursday
As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. –John 13:30

Introduction: In his St. John Passion J. S. Bach paints for us a picture of the arrest of Jesus which will trigger a series of events. These events will bring about the greatest travesty of justice – yet, at the same time will usher in the greatest demonstration of the Father’s love and faithfulness; faithfulness to His promise, faithfulness to His fallen children. For us; to receive the Father’s pardon, the Son of Man would have to be arrested, tried, crucified and killed.

Following the Passover celebration Jesus’ disciples sang a hymn. As they departed from the upper room - it was night. Christ the sinless Son of God is about to suffer for the crimes and sins of men.

I. “Christ through whom we now are blessed - knew no evil doing.”

A. In Christ we truly are blessed.
1. Blessed to know Him, blessed to be known by Him.

2. Blessed to have a relationship with Him.

3. Blessed to be brought into His family – the Church.

B. We are blessed because of Christ the sinless Son of God.
1. He knew no sin. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2. Yet He became sin for us. “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

3. He became a curse for us. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "--

4. That we might become the righteousness of God through Him. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord’.”

Transition: Christ the perfect holy Son of God blesses us. Our blessing came at the time of Jesus’ arrest when it was night.

II. “Him at night they did arrest - like a thief pursuing.”

A. His arrest happened at night. “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”
1. His arrest happened at night when the crowds who had come for the Passover festival would not so easily witness His arrest.

2. They arrested Jesus at night so they could hold a quick and speedy trial.

B. Like a thief they pursued Him.
1. How ironic – He who had committed no treachery becomes a wanted man; a thief, a criminal, a villain, a man they must pursue.

2. The enemies of the Christ will stop at nothing at having Him eliminated. It was necessary for this to happen they would argue. It was necessary for one man to die for the nation. “Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people. The leadership had had their fill – He must be eliminated.

Transition: Having made His arrest His trial is set.

III. “Led before the godless throng - falsely was convicted.”

A. Christ was convicted falsely.
1. Two witnesses came forward. “Many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”

2. Finally, the High Priest came forward and charged Him.
“The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.”

B. These leaders stirred up the crowd for a conviction of convenience. It served their end.

1. “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”

2. “So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” Pilate said “I find no fault in this man.”

3. But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

Transition: Having achieved their goal of a conviction the council will send Jesus to His death – But first He must be handed to the guard.

IV. “Laughed at, scoffed at, spat upon, - as the Word predicted.”

A. The guard will make sport of Him.
1. They want to publicly humiliate Him. “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.”

2. They want so show their utter contempt for Him. “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

B. This was all predicted for us in Sacred Scripture.
1. “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

2. “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth…”

3. “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself”.

Conclusion: After the Last Supper, events in our Lord’s life moved rapidly-- His prayer in Gethsemane, betrayal by Judas, arrest, mock trial, painful beating, the trudge to Golgotha and execution. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.” The events of Golgotha snuffed out the human life of Jesus, the Light of the World, as even creation was dark when He suffered.

Jesus, the innocent victim is sentenced to death – a death He did not deserve – yet a death He will bear for your salvation. In this most blessed Sacrament which He instituted before His arrest you receive the tokens of His sacrifice – His body, broken - His blood, shed - that you might receive absolution and clemency for your offenses. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us and grant us Your peace.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Good Friday
Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified – John 19:16

Introduction: Hanging on a cross - suspended between earth and heaven - the Son of man suffers – as no one has ever suffered – before or since. Stricken, smitten and afflicted see Him hanging on that tree – He hangs there - for you and for me.

We have come to the end of our series – Jesus I will ponder Now. Today we witness Jesus as He offers Himself as a sacrifice for the life of the world. The old song sings:

1. Make me see thy great distress,
Anguish and affliction,

A. The distress of Jesus is one no one has ever experienced. The physical torture was tremendous. But even greater was the spiritual torments He received. On that bloody and cruel cross Jesus was abandoned by God and by men.

B. Thus the Savior’s affliction and anguish was the highest cruelty. The wrath of an angry and offended God was poured out on the Son of man on a hill called Calvary. Heaped upon Him was a double load.

1. He suffered as no man should.

2. He suffered innocently the righteous for the

Transition: Jesus suffered great distress, anguish, and affliction. He suffered in time so we could be in bliss with God eternally.

2. Bonds and stripes and wretchedness
And Thy crucifixion;

A. Mel Gibson’s movie the “Passion of the Christ” is a vivid portrayal of the Roman style of execution called crucifixion. It is a rendering of what took place in Jerusalem during those short three hours on Good Friday. This movie is an apt depiction of what crucifixion was really like. No wonder the world feared the Romans! No wonder some still today can not bear to see it. No wonder the Romans had a law which read: Roman citizens may not be crucified. The scourging, whippings and beatings Christ endured was pure violence.

B. And yet, Gibson’s film is not “gratuitous violence.” To the contrary - there is a higher good which comes from the sufferings and the passion of the Christ.

1. Your sins, oh man, are gone. Your sins are buried in the tomb of Christ never to be seen again.

2. He separates them as far as the east is from the west and He remembers your sin no more.

3. There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ who was crucified. This is why we call this day Good Friday, for on a Friday - in time - the Son of God suffered to set you free.

Transition: Why mark these sacred hours when Jesus the Christ suffered? Why does every faithful Christian church station a cross prominently? What it the significance of the cross?

3. Make me see how scourge and rod,
Spear and nails did wound Thee,

A. It was a human who transgressed God’s law. When the Father said, “Of all the trees you may eat. But of the tree in the midst of the garden you will not eat, lest you die.”

B. It was a human who believed the lie when the tempter said, “you will not die, for the Lord knows in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing the difference between good and evil.”

C. It was a human who disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit.

D. Therefore it had to be a human who would suffer in your stead. Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a human mother became the Father’s only attempt and the only hope for the human race to be free from sin. There is no other plan. There is no other way. There is no other hope except through Christ. This is what prompted St. Paul to write, “I determine to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Transition: What is the significance of the cross? The hymn writer sums it up in thirteen powerful words.

4. How for man Thou diedst O God,
Who with thorns had crowned Thee.

A. Sacred Scripture is quite clear. “There is salvation in no
one else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

B. Here we see that great exchange God’s mercy and forgiveness purchased at the cross of His own Son! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

C. “No other child, no other Savior, Can ever help this sinful earth. Then take the Gift the Father sent us And spread the Story of His Birth.” That’s what our children said to us this past Christmas Eve. Good Friday assures us of a Merry Christmas! The birth of a baby means the death of a man – and that miserable death has saved us!

Conclusion: Come now, come weary sinner, come to the foot of the cross for all things are now ready!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dog pastor?

From the Now-I've-Seen-Everything department comes this story published in the Herald-Enterprise out of Goldonda, Illinois, October 12, 2011. The first line of the story under the photo, in case you can't quite make it out, says, "Loveland Elise Wilkerson [that's the dog in the picture] is a Certified Therapy Dog and also assists as a youth pastor at the Golconda United Methodist Church. She also recently presented lap blankets and a walker bag to the Pope County Care Center . . ."

Hm, "she"?

HT: Rev. Michael Henson.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Luther and Chemnitz vs. Walther and Pieper: Sorry, but, no contest

In preparing to speak on "Consecrationism vs. Receptionism" at the recent Indiana District Church Workers' Conference (17-18 October), various points became increasingly obvious, some of them new and surprising to me, and others already familiar, confirming and clarifying what I already knew and understood from past reading.

It is certainly clear enough, and really beyond any reasonable doubt, that Luther and Chemnitz were "consecrationists." That is to say, they consistently taught and confessed that, by and with and at the speaking of the Verba, the bread becomes and is the Body of Christ, and the wine becomes and is the Blood of Christ. It is the Word and work of the Lord Jesus that does this and gives this. As Herman Sasse, Tom Hardt, Bjarne Teigen, Scott Murray, John Stephenson, et al. have pointed out, this "consecrationist" theology of Luther and Chemnitz flows from and with the doctrine of justification and the authority of the Word of God. It is not only what I was taught, or at least understood, from my seminary professors, but what I have always understood and believed from the Words of Christ Jesus, my Lord. And, as it is the clear teaching of Luther and Chemnitz, it is likewise clear that "consecrationism" is the teaching of the Formula of Concord, which was authored chiefly by Martin Chemnitz (echoing much of what he wrote in his Examination of the Council of Trent), and which explicitly cites Dr. Luther as the foremost interpreter of the Augsburg Confession.

It is also clear and straightforwardly obvious, that Walther and Pieper, following the 17th-century Lutheran scholastics, were "receptionists." That is to say, they taught that the Body and Blood of Christ were present only in and with the actual eating and drinking, and neither before nor after nor apart from that eating and drinking. This "receptionist" teaching follows from the emphases of Melanchthon, which stood in tension with Luther's emphases while both men were still alive, but which developed and sharpened in Melanchthon, in his students and beyond, in the years following Luther's death. Resulting controversies over a right understanding of the axiom, that "nothing has the character of a Sacrament outside of its intended use," were addressed by the Formula of Concord. However, in spite of the Formula's clarification, and in spite of Luther's and Chemnitz's understanding and explanation of the axiom in question, subsequent generations of Lutheran scholars adopted and taught a "receptionist" interpretation of the axiom, and, therefore, of the Sacrament. This view was fostered and solidified by a reliance on Aristotelian philosophy, or, rather, on a misunderstanding and misuse of Aristotle's "four causes." Walther and Pieper followed the Lutheran scholastics in this vein, and read back into Luther and Chemnitz and the Formula of Concord that "receptionist" view, which came to predominate.

It is a daunting thing to be in the position of saying that Walther and Pieper (and the 17th-century Lutheran scholastics) were wrong, but, on this point, they were. I'll stand with Luther and Chemnitz vis-a-vis Walther and Pieper, eight days a week. Even more important and to the point, I'll stand with the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ against anything and everything else in heaven and on earth. What He speaks, is so. It is, at once, the most profound Mystery and the simplest thing imaginable.

To answer the question that was put to me at the end of my presentation: No, I don't think that Walther and Pieper were Zwinglians, and I have no desire or intention of making any such claim. They certainly taught and confessed that the true Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ were received and eaten with the bodily mouths of the communicants, and in this faithful confession they were as far from Zwingli as the heavens from the earth. But in their "receptionist" position, they weakened and undermined the fundamental power and definitive authority of the Word of Christ, and allowed human philosophy and participation to intrude upon the Mysteries of God. It was one of Pieper's famous "felicitous inconsistencies" that preserved their faithful confession of the "Real Presence" alongside their "receptionism." Perhaps in largest part because their practice preserved a care and reverence for the consecrated elements that belied their theoretical teaching on the presence. Carefully consecrating only as many elements as would be needed for the Holy Communion, but also using a second consecration whenever additional elements were required to complete the distribution, and then consuming any and all remaining consecrated elements, rather than ever mixing consecrated with unconsecrated elements, made a strong ceremonial confession of the central and definitive significance of the Verba-consecration.

In subsequent generations, a breakdown in practice, supported and defended by an appeal to "receptionism," has eroded confidence in and reverence for the Verba and the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus, the historic Lutheran doctrine and practice spiral downward together.

In saying that Walther and Pieper were wrong on this point, in deference to Luther and Chemnitz and our Lutheran Confessions, and above all in deference to the clear Words of Christ, I do not dishonor those faithful men, who were far stronger and much better theologians than I am. But those who would appeal to Walther and Pieper (over against Luther and Chemnitz) in defense of a careless, sloppy, or otherwise irreverent practice, do those men a grave injustice. Worse is the dishonor that is perpetrated against the Word and Sacrament of Christ, our Lord.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Deeds lead to Thoughts -or- No, you really can't worship like a Baptist and expect to stay Lutheran

An Alert Reader has sent us a clipping from Concordia-Seward's student newspaper. This is my alma mater and my own dear wife used to edit this paper, The Sower. Alas, how things have changed. I will reproduce the entire article and comment on just the bit I will put in bold, which is the key to understanding more than just the "disco ball" (as our Alert Reader put it). I have deleted any student names because, hey, if somebody went looking in past issues of The Sower they'd probably find a lot of stupid things I said when I was 19 as well.

Lighting and software makes a multi-sensory experience

by [Student A] Staff Writer

Praise on Wednesday evenings and chapel on weekday mornings offer opportunities for students to worship outside of the typical Sunday morning tradition. With the beginning of a new school year, the way Concordia is worshiping is changing with the introduction of new lighting.

"Lighting is a gift from God, and in this community, he's given us lighting to manipulate," said Assistant Professor of Music Peter Prochnow.

According to Prochnow, there are many components that make up the new system. These include the lighting, sound [Ach! where's the Oxford comma? Is there no decency, sanity, and clarity left in the world? - +HRC] and production software called ProPresenter. ProPresenter allows the images to move on screen behind the lyrics for songs.

In order to get the system started, Concordia partnered with Inspirmedia, located in Lincoln. The company has helped with the 2010 National Youth Gathering and with the Room 211 worship services offered at Christ Lutheran Church in Lincoln.

According to Junior [Student B], before the first night of Praise the student-led Praise team was worried the lighting would seem more like a performance of be a distraction.

He said the team was nervous that the new technology might not work the way they needed it to. According to [Student B], during sound check something was loud and seemed "off."

"God showed Himself on the first night," said [Student B]. "People are still focused on worship and who we're worshiping. In that respect, it's been a success."

One aspect of this success, according to [Student B], comes from the amount of energy he saw in the first two Praise services. he felt that there was more focus on worship and learning from the speakers. He also said there was more participation in worship, rather than just sitting back.

"People were more interested in being a part of worship rather than letting worship happen to them," said [Student B].

According to Prochnow, these types of changes are happening in LCMS churches across the country.

"I haven't run into a church that isn't doing or trying to do this," he said. [Sic! Some Assistant Professors just don't get out much! - +HRC]

Prochnow said the system creates more of a concert atmosphere in worship services, but instead of being excited about the performance, the excitement is about the message of what God is telling the student body.

Campus Pastor Ryan Matthias said [that when] he first began working at Concordia three years ago, Weller auditorium [NB: Seward has never had a dedicated chapel. - +HRC] was almost "devoid of sensory experience." [Almost - before, there was only hearing the Word, seeing the ordained servant of God carry out his duties, and smelling, touching, and tasting the Holy Communion. - +HRC]

"What we do with the lighting is to enhance the beauty of what God does with light," said Matthias.

Matthias compared the smoke machine used in Praise to God appearing to the Israelites as a cloud of smoke. He said the fog gives the light something to reflect off of.

"Our God is a creative God. He does things in an elaborate way," said Matthias. "The beauty in worship is a constant reminder that this is the God we worship."

[Picture of three students, one with a guitar, one at a trap set, and one holding a mic. Caption: As one of the Praise team leaders, junior [Student B] introduces and closes each Wednesday evening worship gathering.]

The most important bit in this article is the first line that I put in bold. "God showed Himself on the first night," says Student B. Where did he learn to talk like that? The same place where he learned to worship, to sing, and to think about how men interact with God (i.e., worship): not from Lutherans. Lutherans are rather sticklers for how we talk about theophany. This quotation is simply off the Lutheran farm. It's how Pentecostals and Evangelicals talk and think about God. How does God show Himself for these folks? In the "amount of energy" that one "feels" in the crowd.

And, as Dr. Nagel might say, who is running the verbs? This young man at Seward has learned - no doubt from his home parish - that we are not to "sit back" in worship and "let worship happen to us" but instead be full of "energy" and "participate." What does he mean by this? What is not participatory in DS III? What is more participatory about a "concert atmosphere"? What is worship for? Sitting back and receiving, or "feeling" "energy"? In what proportion to each other, etc?

The Campus Pastor seems no help as he feels that worship before the stage lighting and fog machine was "almost devoid of sensory experience." And the Assistant Professor of Music can't say that he knows even one parish that isn't striving for lights, camera, smoke machine, action. The mind boggles.

My kids are a long way off from college, but here's my thinking at this point. Small private liberal arts school are really expensive and based on my life experience since I graduated, I don't think they educate any better than cheaper schools. It might be worth shelling out the bucks for a truly rigorous Lutheran education - bu, well, you read the article. Is this the sort of education about worship you want for your kids? At 20 grand a year? But it might still be worth it - remember how I started this post, about meeting my own dear wife at Seward. Hard to put a price on that. But in these latter days of Higher Things campus ministries and online match making - perhaps there are more efficient ways for Lutherans to find each other.

I dearly love my alma mater and know that it prepared me very well indeed for seminary and a life of service to the Church. But it is also clear that today it is not the place I graduated from just over a decade ago. And then there is this argument: if students from strong, Confessional parishes and families stop going to the Concordias they will only get worse.

Well, as I said, I've got quite a while to think about it yet. But for those readers who currently in the college market, what have been your thoughts? Where are your kids going or looking to go to school? How did you go about evaluating each choice when it came to the spiritual prospects of each school?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Regarding October 23...

When I put together Daily Divine Service Book my goal was to include a full, and truly Lutheran sanctoral calendar. The basis for this was Loehe's Martyrologium, but I also wanted to include the days and commemorations from LSB. An Alert Reader pointed out that I had yet to explain the exception to this rule: DDSB has no feast of "St. James, Brother of the Lord" on October 23rd where LSB does. So here's why not.

This feast came new to Lutheranism in Lutheran Book of Worship as "St. James, Martyr" but was rejected by Lutheran Worship. I think LBW got it from the American revision of the Book of Common Prayer. The feast is again left out of the ELCA's newest hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. If it has any history in modern German Lutheran hymnals, I am unaware of it but would happy to be corrected.

Lutheranism is, of course, part of the Western Church - indeed, in accordance with our own self-understanding, we should really say that Lutheranism is the continuance of the Western Church cleaned up from certain errors (the three P's: Purgatory, Prayer to saints, and the Pope's lavish claims), by the grace of God. In the West, the James who is denominated as "the brother of the Lord" has usually been considered as identical to "James the son of Alpheus." Read all about it. Consequently, in the West, "James, the brother of the Lord" is celebrated on May 1, the Feast of St. Philip and St. James (the Less, the Just, son of Alpheus). In the West, there is no feast of any St. James on October 23.

In the Eastern Church, however, the judgment has been different. They identify "James, the brother of the Lord" as someone other than one of the apostles. Namely, as one of four children of Joseph of Nazareth from his first marriage. The evidence for this comes from the Protoevangelium of James. Read all about it. His day in the East is, indeed, October 23.

Including this feast day in a Lutheran calendar is, therefore, a bit polemical. It makes a definite statement about which James is which, and it is a statement contrary to the West's tradition.

Secondly, to modern American ears the name of the feast is a bit polemical in another way. When the East calls James "the brother of the Lord" they mean one thing and modern Protestants, like the Anglo-American Common Prayer mean quite another.

[Here in passing we might note another title in LSB that was not adopted in DDSB: St. Mary, "Mother of our Lord." This was, in my opinion, a most unfortunate choice. In the Ecumenical Creeds and our Lutheran Confessions, and in all the old Lutheran calendars, she is "Mary the Bearer of God (Θεοτόκος, Gottesgebaererin)" or "the Virgin Mary" or "the Blessed Virgin Mary." To those with any church history, the title "Mother of Our Lord" is fraught with meaning as it was the title that Nestorius insisted upon using, and no other. If using the Confessions' title of "Bearer of God" was thought to be too difficult or confusing for today's laity, then why not just "The Virgin Mary" as she is called in the Creed? Or just "St. Mary"?]

Well. Isn't it all adiaphora? Who cares whether one thinks that the West or East is right about which James is which? Indeed, they might both be wrong and we could add a couple other James' Days to the calendar. But it's precisely the fact that this is a judgment call that made me most hesitant to add the feast. When in doubt: dance with who brung ya. We're a Western Church. Likewise with titles given to Mary - let's stick with our own tradition. Same thing when it comes to Mary and "the brothers of the Lord." If you really think the meaning of that term is adiaphora, then why would you go out of your way to proclaim an opinion contrary to the whole history of the Church? It it doesn't matter then honor your fathers in the faith by accepting their opinion.

So I suppose this is a matter of general outlook. And my outlook is this: let's not reinvent the wheel and let's be content with what our own fathers have handed us.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

November Feasts

By Larry Beane

It is nearly November, the time of year when folks in Chicago enjoy falling leaves and the folks in New Orleans enjoy the departure of hurricane season!  The Church begins November with All Saints Day and concludes the month with the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.  In November, we end the previous church year with the last weeks of the year reminding us of the End of the Age, and with the beginning of the church year again calling to mind the beginning of the Last Days through the mystery of our Lord's incarnation.  For Americans, November is also a time of thanksgiving - which in ecclesiastical terms, makes us think of the Eucharistic Feast.

November is indeed a special time of the Church's calendar.

A magnificent choir known as the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle (formerly the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter's in the Loop) has given the Church a wonderful musical gift for this sacred time of transition in  the her calendar.

This album, Music for the November Feasts, is one of my favorite musical albums of all time - in any category.  This is definitely a "desert island" CD.  It is an ecumenical collection of sacred music covering centuries in a diverse mix of ecclesiastical musical styles: hymn and chant, English and Latin, old and new, a choir of men and women singing both a capella and with musical accompaniment.

I cannot recommend it enough!

Here is the Amazon link to download the album ($8.99) or any of its twenty-two tracks ($.99/each).  Lutherans will especially enjoy seeing many favorites from their hymnals: such as By All Your Saints in Warfare (LSB 517, 518), Jerusalem My Happy Home (LSB 673), In the Midst of Earthly Life (LSB 755), Come Ye Thankful People, Come (LSB 892), Hail to the Lord's Anointed (LSB 398), Crown Him With Many Crowns (LSB 525), and the sainted professor Rev. Dr. Martin Franzmann's masterpiece O Kingly Love, which was not included in Lutheran Service Book, but was in Lutheran Worship (LW 346).  Also, though not technically a Lutheran hymn, the great Anglican composer and chorister Dr. Healy Willan's majestic setting of the Te Deum Laudamus as sung in many Lutheran schools and churches - including the Kramer Chapel of Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne) - is part of this wonderful collection!

And if you appreciate Gregorian Chant and Latin, there are some haunting and inspiring tracks that proclaim the catholic timelessness and comforting transcendence of the Church of Jesus Christ and His Word.

And here is more from the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter's in the Loop (known today as the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle).

As a postscript, I was honored to have the Schola's conductor, J. Michael Thompson, drop by and leave a kind comment on an old FH posting about Dr. Franzmann.  Mr. Thompson, blessings on your work in the Lord's kingdom!  You have a gift that is also a treasure!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

As Reformation Day approaches: Luther's question

It has become a sort of cliché to say that the question that Luther asked, "How can I, a sinner, be saved in the face of an angry, righteous God?" is not the question of today - that the Reformation is hopelessly time bound. Luther's question, folks say, is a question for a Christian culture, not a reverted pagan culture. So, the theory goes, to reach out to today's culture, our message should be changed/nuanced/finessed. Instead of justification, we should speak of (you pick) healing, victory, God-loves-you-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life, etc.

This is, once again, a basically Arminian analysis of the Reformation. The idea is that the Reformation doctrine of sin, grace, and justification just can't speak to people today. We need to speak the language of our day to get people to convert. The underlying assumption here is that people are on neutral ground and must be convinced to convert - that the sort of people who might convert change over time.

But I don't believe that there is a people of God today that is in any qualitative way different from the people of God of 1520 or 520 or 587 BC. The people of God are always the people of God. They are always fearful of God's just wrath against sin because the fear of the Lord is the beginning wisdom. They are always comforted only by the thought of salvation by grace alone and all that that entails, i.e., The Bondage of the Will.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not one of those Lutherans who hang on Luther's every word and revere him as a Hero with a Capital H. Rather, I accept the author's own opinion of his life's work:

Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it because, roused by a Saturnian hunger, I would rather see them all devoured. For I acknowledge none of them to be really a book of mine, except perhaps the one On the Bound Will and the Catechism. [LW 50:172-73]

That's spot on. Luther is the "foremost teacher of the Augsburg Confession" because he got this central, vital, timeless truth right: justification by grace alone through faith alone and the doctrines that necessarily follow from this: the bound will and unconditional election. His question, and his importance, will never fade, will never be out of style or irrelevant to God's elect. As he himself knew, there was plenty of dross among his wheat. But for the great worth of that wheat he is rightly honored among us as a Doctor of the Church.

I don't know why so many Lutherans are afraid of this sort of statement. We regularly recognize these facts when it comes to men like Gregory, Augustine, Irenaeus, etc. Luther himself recognized it especially about Bernard and Aquinas. There is no shame in pointing out that Augustine was wrong in his valuation of monasticism or that Gregory was wrong about purgatory. Nor should there be any fear among us to say that Luther dropped the ball with Philip of Hesse's bigamy, or his meddling in government affairs (e.g., recommendations to burn synagogues to the ground), or his high-handed approach to the canon of the New Testament, or his monomaniacal tirades against the congregation in Wittenberg (see LW vol 58). Nor do I have any interest in rereading the various excuses offered for Luther's opinions and actions in these and other equally egregious cases; so they will be kindly ignored in the comments.

All the Doctors of the Church are sinners redeemed by grace. They also all had the humility to say something along the lines of what Luther said about his own work as quoted above. That is not false humility. It is just true. We honor these saints of God best when we acknowledge that truth and speak forthrightly of it.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

So, could I just...

By Larry Beane

I'm getting a lot of requests for baptisms lately.

But it's not necessarily good news.

Just today, I got a call from a guy who lives about an hour away and would like his children "christened" at Salem Lutheran Church  "Christened."  That's always the first clue.  He said the name of his home church quickly, and then explained that his parents live in the area and that it would be most convenient to "just do it there."  So, could I just do the baptism?

I slowed him down and found out that he belongs to a Presbyterian church.  I told him that we do have Presbyterian churches in the area and that it would be best to find out which one is in fellowship with his church.  He insisted that Salem Lutheran would be more convenient, and that Lutheran and Presbyterian is really the same thing anyway.  So, could I just do the baptism?

I explained to him that Lutherans and Presbyterians do have some fundamental differences.  I briefly explained, for example, the difference between our views on the Eucharist.  He said that he was christened a Catholic and had no problem with our view of the Sacrament.  So, could I just do the baptism?

I recommended that he find a church that believes the way he believes.  I asked him which denomination of Presbyterian his church belonged to.  He didn't know.  He explained that did not pick that church based on belief, but based on the fact that they are convenient and have a really good school.  Belief really isn't the issue.  So, could I just do the baptism?

I explained that if I were to baptize his children, they would be under my pastoral care.  They would be Lutherans.  He replied that this would be fine with him.  He would have no problem being a Lutheran.  He didn't know what Lutherans believe, but he was certain that he would be fine with it.  But he really likes to go to the Presbyterian church because it's so convenient. And they have a really good school.  So, could I just do the baptism?

I felt like I was stuck in one of those Rev. Hans Fiene Lutheran Satire cartoons complete with the monotone computer voices, circular reasoning, the astonished silent blinking pastor, and Offenbach's Can Can music.

So, could I just do the baptism?