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Archive for December, 2005

What’s Wrong With Listening to Lewd Lyrics?

December 29th, 2005 Comments off

Dove_tiffany_holy_spirit
Martin Luther hits the nail squarely on the head, in his commentary on the Sixth Commandment in the Large Catechism. Oh, by the way, that new edition of the Book of Concord so many of you like…we didn’t produce it for people to use it as a trophy on the shelf, or a club to beat others over the head with in a game of, "I’m more confessional than you." We produced it so that we all more easily would be able to use it and personally take it to heart. So…take this to heart.

Link: The Large Catechism — The Ten Commandments.

But because among us there is such a shameful mess and the very dregs of all vice and lewdness, this commandment is directed also against all manner of unchastity, whatever it may be called; and not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, incitement, and means, so that the heart, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and afford no opportunity, help, or persuasion to inchastity. And not only this, but that we also make resistance, afford protection and rescue wherever there is danger and need; and again, that we give help and counsel, so as to maintain our neighbor’s honor. For whenever you omit this when you could make resistance, or connive at it as if it did not concern you, you are as truly guilty as the one perpetrating the deed. Thus, to state it in the briefest manner, there is required this much, that every one both live chastely himself and help his neighbor do the same, so that God by this commandment wishes to hedge round about and protect [as with a rampart] every spouse that no one trespass against them.

Hear the Word of God, 1 Corinthians 6:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Categories: Christian Life

Walk in Love, as Christ Loved Us

December 29th, 2005 Comments off

33crucifixion
We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death, and raised to new life in Him. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, purchased and won from sin, death and hell by the precious blood of Christ. How then are we to deal with popular culture that surrounds us with vile and degrading speech, sexual impurity and all manner of sinful behaviors, which are rewarded, praised and idolized by so many?

Sadly, there are some who believe that they are free to consume the sinful pollution pumping out of the sewers of popular culture. Some Christians are so confused about what lives of sanctification are all about that they mistakenly think that concern about such things is somehow "pietism" or that striving to lead holy and pure lives marks one as a Pietist. This is wrong. This is error. This is sin.

The Gospel is never an excuse. Justification is about justifying sinners, not sin. The Gospel is about forgiveness of sin, not license to sin. We are set free to live new lives in Christ, not remain in the muck and mire of sin. We are not to think that we can do whatever we want just because we can run to church on Sunday to be forgiven.

We all need to keep a close guard over what comes our out of our mouths, and what we permit to fill our eyes, and our ears. We are to be serious about lives of Christian sanctification. No excuses. No avoiding the subject. We say, "No" to anything that is contrary to God’s will in our lives, and say "Yes" to the upward calling of God that is ours in Christ Jesus. Lord, have mercy on me for those times I’ve forgotten, and neglected, my calling in Christ!

I remain concerned that in our efforts to make sure people realize they are not saved by their works, we have allowed some to believe that their behaviors and works make no difference, that they are perfectly free to wallow in the mire and muck of this world, and that they should not give their attention to striving mightily to resist temptation, to flee all forms of immorality and, by God’s grace, and with His help, to be imitators of God, even as God Word says we should. Read this, from Ephesians 5, carefully:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For
you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or
impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance
in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

   "Awake, O sleeper,
   and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

There is only one way here. It is the way of repentance. For the sins of thought, word and deed we flee for refuge to the infinite mercy of God in Christ Jesus. We pray for strength to resist temptation, to flee immorality, to not even let the works of darkness be named among us.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever
things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are
just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if
there be any praise, think on these things.
Philppians 3:8

May God grant it, for Jesus sake.

 

Categories: Christian Life

Aversion to Sanctification

December 28th, 2005 Comments off

I was just in a conversation with two younger men who were seriously saying that listening to the audio pornography and vile filfth of Eminem is appropriate for Christians. One suggested that because only what comes out of a man is what makes him sinful that it matters not what he sees, or hears, as a Christian. These two young men are sadly typical of a poorly formed understanding of the life of good works to which we are called as Christians that seems pandemic in the Christian  Church, where apparently some can wax eloquent about how they are striving to be faithful to God’s Word, but then turn right around and wallow in the mire and squalor of sin. This all the more underscores for me the point that we have a serious lack of emphasis on sanctification in our beloved Lutheran church. There is much teaching that is not being done, that must done. Simply repeating formulas and phrases about justification is not teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. Comforting people with the Gospel when there is no genuine repentance for sin is doing them a disservice. There is a serious "short circuit" here that we need to be mindful of. Let this be clear. Listening to the "music" of swine such as Eminem is
sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out
the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.

Pastors who wash their hands of this responsibility claiming that they want to avoid interjecting law into their sermons when they have preached the Gospel are simply shirking their duty as preachers and are being unfaithful to God’s Word.

We have done such a fine job explaining that we are not saved by works that we have, I fear, neglected to urge the faithful to lives of good works as faithfully and clearly as we should. This should not be so among us brethren.

I’m growing increasingly concerned that with the necessary distinction between faith and works that we must always maintain, we Lutherans are tempted to speak of good works and the life of sanctification in such a way as to either minimize it, or worse yet, neglect it. I read sermons and hear comments that give me the impression that some Lutherans think that good works are something that "just happen" on some sort of a spiritual auto-pilot. Concern over a person believing their works are meritorious has led to what borders on paranoia to the point that good works are simply not taught or discussed as they should be. It seems some have forgotten that in fact we do confess three uses of the law, not just a first or second use.

The Apostle, St. Paul, never ceases to urge good works on his listeners nad readers. I recall a conversation once with a person who should know better telling me that the exhortations to good works and lengthy discussions of sanctification we find in the New Testament are not a model at all for preaching, since Paul is not "preaching" but rather writing a letter. This is not a good thing.

Two years ago an article appeared that put matters well and sounded a very important word of warning and caution. It is by Professor Kurt E. Marquart of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I strongly encourage you to give it your most serious attention.

Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?

An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and "seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law." The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of "Seminex"! He asks, "How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?"

I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to "Evangelicalism": since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, "when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told" (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428).

The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). The "living sacrifice" of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s "reasonable service" or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans "by the mercies of God" (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters! Or, as St. James puts it: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives one the other, but the Lord would have us do both!

Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes:

"That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee s if t were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, "Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!" Instead they say, "Listen! Though you are an adultery, a wordmonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… "about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit," but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, "the gift of the Holy Spirit," so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain fro sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, "Christ! Christ!" He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).

Where are the "practical and clear sermons," which according to the Apology "hold an audience" (XXIV, 50, p. 267). Apology XV, 42-44 (p. 229) explains:

"The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love."

"Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that I steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen."

Kurt Marquart

Concordia Theological Quarterly

July/October 2003
Pages 379-381

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Hooray! Another Nazi Bites the Dust

December 28th, 2005 Comments off

So good to see another Nazi receiving the justice he richly deserves.

Link: Judge Orders Accused Nazi Guard Deported – Yahoo! News.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bach for Dummies

December 28th, 2005 1 comment

Bach2003
A friend contacted me in reference to my recent Bach post. Perhaps others might like to chime in and make recommendations.

Paul, I grew up listening to the Beatles and continue to be a huge Paul McCartney fan.  But in reading your posts and others, I’ve decided that in 06 I’d like to add some Bach to my CD library.  The problem is this – where to begin?  I visited my local Borders the other day and they carry quite a selection of Bach’s music.  Too many selections.  I had no idea where to begin.  Is there a "Bach for Dummies" book I can read for ideas.  A "Bach for Beginners" post on your weblog would be helpful for a guy like me.  Any suggestions?  Thanks and God’s best to you and yours. Thanks, George.

Great question George. I’m not aware of a "Bach for Dummies" type of book, but it sounds like a good idea. I’d appreciate it. There is a helpful Classical Music for Dummies that offers a nice overview.

Bach is known today chiefly by his instrumental works.
His choral works are less well known.
And, least known of all are his church cantatas.

As for recordings…there is a debate that rages among Bach lovers. It has to do with whether or not to listen to Bach recording on original instruments in what are known as HIP, historically informed performances, that is, performances that
attempt to come as close as possible to what Bach intended when he originally wrote the pieces. Obviously, that is a subjective effort, since we simply can not say for 100% what Bach intended when he wrote his music, but….honestly….most any and every good recording will provide the newcomer to Bach with beautiful music. The more advanced Bach listener will develop a library of recordings by certain conductors and performers, etc. I appreciate the work of Gardiner and Koopman. I’m collecting each of their complete recordings of Bach’s Cantatas.

Perhaps the best way to begin listening to Bach is…to begin listening to Bach. If you want a single CD that offers you a nice overview of Bach, here is the one I would recommend.

When, or if, you want to listen to entire pieces, perhaps you might want to check with your local library and check things out before you commit to buying them. Where to begin? That’s a  tough one. Here is what I would suggest.

Instrumental Works

Brandenburg Concertos
Orchestral Suites
Cello Suites

Choral Works

Mass in B Minor [often said to be the greatest piece of music ever written]
The St. John Passion
The St. Matthew Passion

Cantatas

You can find various collections of Cantatas. There are several complete collections. The newest collection is still in production, by Gardiner.

I would suggest you check this web site. It is part of the Bach Cantata group. Here you will find a lot of secularists who listen to the Cantatas mostly for the music, when of course, the words, which Bach obtained from various sources, are crucial as well. You can pay as much, or as little, attention to their debates and squabbles over how precisely to sing the Cantatas. Huge arguments will break out over whether or not one voice, or several, should be used for the various parts of the Cantatas. [I tend to believe single voices was the way Bach had it in his day, using only a group of voices for the chorale parts].

Then, pick out the Cantatas you are interested in hearing…for instance, BWV 80 for Reformation Day, and then find a collection of Cantatas with it on it.

I do prefer original instrument recordings that are historically informed. I do not prefer a "big orchestra" sound to Bach’s works, for he never wrote for large orchestras, which came after his time. Look for recordings that are all digital DDD for the best sound quality.

A word of caution. You can go as far, and as deep, as you want into this. But the further you get you will find that, as in all fields, there are fierce debates raging among the experts. Debates that are oh-so-important to them, but strike many of us as silly.

One thing to be careful about is to realize that many Bach lovers today want to enjoy Bach separate from the faith that drBachsignatureove him to do what he did. They want to listen to Bach purely as music devoid of any connection to his Orthodox Lutheran commitments. And, of course, that is possible. But to know Back best, and to enjoy him most, is to do so from the point of view of the faith he confessed, and that of course, was a hearty Orthodox Lutheranism.

Please let me say a word about musicians and music.

I’ve found that sometimes, unfortunately, musicians can really take the joy out of music. There are sensitive egos involved, and they are very easily bruised. I’ve learned that every musician knows, deep inside, that he truly does know the "right way" to perform any given piece of music and so you have to be careful when evaluating what musicians have to say about music. There is much to learn and I admire those who truly understand the wonderful intricacies, but don’t let them intimidate you.

This is somewhat akin to tasting wine. Just start tasting. When you find something you like, you’ll know it. You should not have to have a 500 page book or a Ph.D. in wine to know a good wine when you taste it. Similarly, with Bach and his music. Just listen. Read the liner notes for historical background and interesting information, but listen for a good long while before you start consulting too many experts. They have a way of sucking the wonder of it all right out of it. Somewhat like studying poetry too closely. So, study with discernment.

I hope this helps George. God bless your enjoyment of J.S. Bach.

Paul

 

Categories: Bach

More on why Mac is best . . .

December 28th, 2005 Comments off

Link: Geek News Central Revealing Technical News and useful links.

Fully patched Windows XP SP2 machines are vulnerable to a new attack under way and there’s no known fix as yet. If you are a Internet Explorer user you will be infected by simply viewing a page that contains an image with this new exploit. If your a Firefox user you will be infected if you download the image. It is not clear whether viewing the picture in firefox constitutes downloading it.

This is very serious bug, and consumers are urged to not view websites that they do not trust completly. It is not known whether the exploit can attack a computer via e-mail. [www.theinquirer.net] More Info [sunbeltblog.blogspot.com]

Categories: Macintosh

Why Mac is Best….

December 28th, 2005 Comments off
Categories: Macintosh

Pope: Embryos Fully Human

December 28th, 2005 Comments off

The Pope is doing more than giving pre-implanted embryonic life the benefit of the doubt.

Link: World News Article | Reuters.co.uk.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bach’s Cantatas and the Lutheran Church Year

December 28th, 2005 Comments off

Jsbach
The Bach Cantata web site collection of resources includes this helpful listing of the cantatas and the Lutheran Church year. I welcome the input/reaction of those more adept at the minutiae of such things than I am [Petersen!].

Link: Lutheran Church Year.

Categories: Uncategorized

December 28: Holy Innocents

December 28th, 2005 Comments off

Ruebens_massacre
Almost entirely unknown today, in the church, not to mention the world, is this day, set aside in the historic church year to honor the memory of the baby boys slaughtered at the hand of Herod’s troops in the town of Bethlehem. If you recall, when Herod heard from the wise men that one had been born King of the Jews in Bethlehem, he commanded troops to enter the town and kill every male child. The slaughter of children deemed inconvenient or an obstacle to the fulfillment of personal ambitions or plans continues today, of course, in the slaughter that is abortion.

A prayer for this day:

Lord Jesus Christ, in your humility you have stooped to share our human life with the most defenseless of your children: may we who have received these gifts of your passion rejoice in celebrating the witness of the Holy Innocents to the purity of your sacrifice made once for all upon the cross; for you are alive and reign, now and for ever.

Here are some other thoughts from another source.

Pfatteicher (Festivals and Commemorations) associates
these three "heavenly birthday" celebrations with the birthday of
Christ: "as he was born into this world from that, so they were born into
that world from this" [p. 464].

These three festivals are also sometimes distinguished by:

 

St. Stephen — a martyr in will and deed

 

St. John — a martyr in will, but not in deed (the only
    apostle not to have been martyred)

 

The Holy Innocents — martyrs in deed, but not in will.
    "Although the Holy Children … were not believers and were unaware of
    the reason for their fate, they were killed for the sake of Christ, and in a
    sense in place of him, and the church by the beginning of the third century
    recognized them as martyrs" (Pfatteicher, p. 470).

 

If these festivals are celebrated, they help us quickly move
from the sentimentality of Christmas and a "cute" baby, to the dire
costs of discipleship.

As a general theme, life after Christmas is not all that
sweet. Following the birth of Jesus there is anger and murder, weeping and
wailing, moving and resettling. After our wonderful Christmas celebrations we
are again confronted with the fact that the kingdom has not fully arrived. The
"peace on earth" sung by the angels (in Luke) is followed by death and
destruction, suffering and evil. Salvation for Joseph and his family meant
hearing and believing the word from God and then doing them.

There is also great irony in this section. Chapter 1
proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God — Emmanuel — God with us, but now we
see "God with us" fleeing for his life. We see the "savior"
needing to be saved from Herod’s anger. Two thoughts from this
"reversal": (1) It is an indication of the "emptying" of
Jesus who comes as a suffering servant, rather than a powerful god. (2) For
Matthew, Jesus "needed" to do these things to fulfill OT prophecies.
Jesus comes "to fulfill all righteousness" (3:15). He comes to do what
God requires of him and not to fulfill his own desires.

Matthew 2 indicates two responses to the revelation about
Jesus — Gentile Magi come to worship the child. The Jewish king, Herod, seeks
to destroy the child. It is important, especially in Matthew, to recognize that
it is not all "the Jews" who reject Jesus. It is likely that in
Matthew’s Christian community, there were many Jewish converts. At Jesus’ birth,
it is King Herod who seeks to destroy Jesus. At his crucifixion, other Jewish
authorities seek to destroy Jesus. In both cases, they are unsuccessful. Jesus
is taken away for a time, then is brought back.

A connection between our text and the passion is made with
the word apollumi, which is used of Herod’s desire to
"destroy/kill" the child in 2:13; and chief priests’ and elders’
desire to "have Jesus killed" in 27:20. Another connection could be
with empaizo. This word is used to refer to what the Magi do to Herod in
2:16 ("tricked" in NRSV); but its four other uses refer to Jesus being
"mocked" by others (20:19; 27:29, 31, 41) at his crucifixion. This
text pre-figures the crucifixion/resurrection event.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Limited Gospel: The Error of Calvinism

December 26th, 2005 1 comment

On the night of Christ’s birth the angel said, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people." Contrast this Biblical truth with what James White has to say about the Gospel. According to this "Reformed Baptist" theological cruise host and pundit,  if Christ would have died for all, that would have tied God’s hands and left him no way to show forth all his attributes. Actually, if Christ died for all it puts a big old kink in the Calvinist system. And therein lies the problem. In White’s system, the angels should have said, "Fear not, well, unless you are worried about not being among the elect, in that case, be afraid, be very afraid, for behold I bring you, well, actually, maybe not you, but good news for some, and great joy for some, that will be for some people." This is not the Gospel of Jesus, but it is the "Gospel" of Calvinists like White. That is to say, no Gospel at all. Here is what White has to say. The poor guy can’t distinguish universal atonement from universal salvation.

Secondly, He will save a particular people. He will not save every single person on the planet. Yes, He could have, had that been the choice of the Triune God. But universal salvation would have left God with no choices, no demonstration of the breadth of His attributes. His grace would have been a given, hence, not free, not sovereign. Instead, He saves His people from their sins. He is Savior. A given, you may think? Not in today’s theological landscape. Few truly believe it anymore, to be honest. Source.

Categories: Uncategorized

Blue Letter Bible

December 26th, 2005 Comments off

Another cool Bible site…perhaps not quite as dangerous for Greek and Hebrew students, but still not adviseable. Biblical language students should be forced to suffer like the rest of us, sans electronic aids.

Link: Blue Letter Bible.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Blessed St. Stephen’s Day

December 26th, 2005 Comments off

Stoning
Today in the historic church year, the stoning of St. Stephen is commemorated. Christmas, you see, is serious business, a very deadly business. God sent into this world His Son, who, like Stephen, was killed at the hands of sinful men. Our Lord Christ was the true and faithful Witness from the Father, but the world received Him not. But this did not stop our Lord. He knew why He had come. He knew what He had to do. He did not turn back. He did not run. He set His face like flint, and scorning the cross’ shame, He endured it for our life and salvation. Life died. The dead live. What a blessed mystery and joy.

And so, on the day after Christ’s birth, there is commemorated the first martyr in the church, St. Stephen, who died as a faithful confessor and witness of His Lord. The word "martyr," a Greek word, means, "witness." The confession of Christ as the only way, the only truth, and the only life is not a message any more popular today. A cute baby in a manger seems harmless enough to many, but when that baby’s mission is proclaimed and insisted upon, in various ways our culture starts gathering its stones to stop this proclamation.

On a day when shopping mall parking lots are stuffed full of people trying to return gifts, there is a certain dreadful and wonderful irony that the church this day remembers Stephen, killed by those who did not want the Lord’s gift of a Christ. And so, they took up stones to murder one of the Christ child’s faithful disciples, St. Stephen, who went to his death confessing the gift of the Savior Jesus.

Ponder and meditate on the reality of death as the ultimate cost of discipleship. Recall our Lord’s words, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall
lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it" [Mark 8:35]. Consider your own calling in life. When, and where, are the opportunities in your life to confess your Savior? What do you sacrifice in order to bear witness to your Lord? When have you remained silent? When have you compromised your confession in order to avoid the "stones" of those who would persecute the Faith? Confess those sins and repent of them. Thank God for faithful Stephen and His confession of the One whose blood cleanses us from all sins, and sets us free to confess Him with joy and confidence. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ give you great strength and joy in confessing His Son, as you follow the example of Blessed St. Stephen. God grant it, for Jesus sake.

You may find it a real blessing to meditate prayerfully on the libretta of Bach’s Cantata 57, prepared specifically for St. Stephen’s day. Note the sturdy realism of this text.

Categories: Uncategorized

Praise God, the Lord

December 25th, 2005 1 comment

Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men
by Nikolaus Herman
Translated by August Crull, 1845-1923
Text from The Lutheran Hymnal,1941

        1. Praise God the Lord, ye sons of men,

        Before His highest throne;

        Today He opens heaven again

        And gives us His own Son.

        2. He leaves His heavenly Father’s throne,

        Is born an infant small,

        And in a manger, poor and lone,

        Lies in a humble stall.

        3. He veils in flesh His power divine

        A servant’s form to take;

        In want and lowliness must pine

        Who heaven and earth did make.

        4. He nestles at His mother’s breast,

        Receives her tender care,

        Whom angels hail with joy most blest,

        King David’s royal heir.

        5. ‘Tis He who in these latter days

        From Judah’s tribe should come,

        By whom the Father would upraise

        The Church, His Christendom.

        6. A wondrous change which He doth make!

        He takes our flesh and blood,

        And He conceals for sinners’ sake

        His majesty of God.

        7. He serves that I a lord may be;

        A great exchange indeed!

        Could Jesus’ love do more for me

        To help me in my need?

        8. He opens us again the door

        Of Paradise today;

        The angel guards the gate no more,

        To God our thanks we pay.

       

        Notes:

        Hymn #105 from The Lutheran Hymnal

        Text: Luke 2: 1-14

        Author: Nikolaus Herman, 1560

        Translated by: August Crull, 1923, alt.

        Titled: Lobt Gott, ihr Christen all zugleich

        Composer: Nikolaus Herman, 1554

        Tune: Lobt Gott, ihr Christen

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Happy Christmas!

December 25th, 2005 Comments off
Nativity_scene3The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us

Come, our Lord, the Christ be praising,,
Christ the Lord with gladness praising;
Loudly sing His love amazing, Worthy folk of Christendom.

Sin and death may well be groaning,
Satan now may well be moaning;
We, our full salvation owning,
Cast our every care away.

See how God, for us providing,
Gave His Son and life abiding;
He our weary steps is guiding
From earth’s woe to heavenly joy.

Christ, from heaven to us descending
And in love our race befriending,
In our need His help extending,
Saved us from the wily Foe.

Jacob’s Star in all its splendor
Beams with comfort sweet and tender,
Forcing Satan to surrender,
Breaking all the powers of hell.

From the bondage that oppressed us,
From sin’s fetters that possessed us,
From the grief that sore distressed us,
We, the captives, now are free.

Oh, the joy beyond expressing
When by faith we grasp this blessing
And to Thee we come confessing,
That our freedom thou hast wrought!

Gracious Child, we pray Thee, hear us,
From Thy lowly manger cheer us,
Gently lead us and be near us
Till we join the angelic choir.

Rev. Paul Gerhardt’s Translation of
Quem Pastores Laudavere
Authorship Unknown, 14th century
Translation To English composite, alt.
for The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941

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