Archive for April, 2006

His Words and His Wounds

April 23rd, 2006 Comments off

A sermon from Pastor William Cwirla for the Second Sunday of Easter.

Jesus’ words and His wounds make every Sunday a little Easter.  With
His words and His wounds, Jesus brings peace to His fearful disciples.
With His words and His wounds He sends them to speak forgiveness with
His own breath and Spirit.  And with His words and His wounds, He
reaches out to a disbelieving disciple, and to each of us gathered here
this morning.

It was late afternoon of that first day of the
week, the first day of the new creation when death was swallowed up in
the victory of Jesus.  The disciples were huddled behind locked doors,
afraid, fearing that they might be next in line for crucifixion,
perhaps.  Or simply afraid.  It had been quite a weekend.  Jesus’
crucifixion on Friday, a hasty burial, a somber Sabbath, followed by
daybreak rumors of the tomb being empty and Jesus’ having been seen by
the women.  It was enough even to make the fishermen hide behind closed
doors.  What next?

What’s next, of course, is Jesus, who comes
and stands among them.  How did He get in?  Do we really need to ask
such questions?  There He is in all the splendor of His resurrection,
and the first words from His mouth are “Peace be with you.”  Do you see
why I prefer that as a greeting around here?  So much more than “Good
morning or good evening.”  “Peace be with you.”  And when it’s the Lord
who’s speaking peace then peace there is.

With His words, He
shows them His wounds.  The visible sign, the proof.  His hands and
feet and side.  Here is the source of the peace.  “By His wounds we are
healed,” Isaiah said.  Fear melts away; sorrow turns to joy.  “The
disciples rejoiced, seeing the Lord.”  There is no reason to be afraid,
not with the Lord in your midst.  He’s the one who just conquered sin,
death, devil, and the Law.  What’s left to be afraid of?

same words, Jesus speaks to you here today.  “Peace be with you.”  And
with His words, His wounds.  Not hands, feet, and side, but His Body
and His Blood, the gifts of His cross.  Here is your peace and the end
of all fear.  He enters our locked little rooms, those places where we
hide from others in fear.  Our sin does that – it isolates, estranges,
divides, sets us against one another.  We throw the deadbolt on our
lives, keeping the world away, keeping God away too.  It’s Adam all
over again, cowering in naked fear in the bushes, hiding.

won’t step out, but Jesus steps in.  He comes to us, as He came to
those frightened disciples.  He speaks His peace and shows the wounds
that are our healing.  That’s where the joy is – the words and wounds
of Jesus.  That’s where the peace that passes our understanding is – in
the words and wounds of Jesus, all here for you.

And more.
Again, Jesus says it, “Peace be with you.”  Wasn’t once enough?  Why
receive forgiveness when you’ve already been forgiven?  Why speak peace
a second time when you’ve already said it?  That’s not the faith
speaks.  Faith simply delights in receiving whatever the Lord has to
give, and if He’s giving out double peace on Easter Sunday, that’s
where I want to be.

He breathes on them, as He once breathed
over the waters of creation in the beginning, as He once breathed into
the nostrils of Adam turning his lifeless clay into a living being.
Breath and spirit are the same word in Greek.  So is wind, in case
you’re thinking ahead to Pentecost.  With Jesus’ breath and words comes
the Holy Spirit.  It’s a little Pentecost, a preview of what is coming
fifty days later.

He sends them.  “As the Father has sent me, so
I am sending you.”  Jesus is the Apostle of the Father.  Apostle means
one who is sent.  Jesus is making His disciples into apostles, “sent
ones” sent with His word and breath and Spirit.  He binds His mouth to
their mouths, His breath to their breath, His words to their words.
“The sins you forgive are forgiven.”  Absolution.

The text
history of this verse is revealing.  They can’t seem to agree on the
tense of the verb.  Is it perfect, present or future?  “The sins you
forgive have been forgiven, are forgiven, will be forgiven.”  So which
is it?  Which would you rather have?  Forgiveness past, present, or
future?  How about all three?  That’s the way faith would have it -
every way the Lord has to give it.

Perfect:  “The sins you
forgive have been forgiven,” done to death on Calvary’s cross, a done
deal, nothing more to add to Jesus “it is finished.” 

The sins you forgive are forgiven, right here in your hearing, as we
say in the Catechism, “from the pastor as from God Himself, not
doubting but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven.”

The sins you forgive will be forgiven, on the Last Day, “judgment day,”
when the Lord appears to judge the living and the dead.  So the word of
forgiveness from the cross holds yesterday, today, and forever.

if the gift of forgiveness is refused, then “whatever you retain is
retained.”  Forgiveness is always rejectable, as Jesus is always
rejectable.  You do so at your own peril.

Out of Jesus’ death
and resurrection flow apostolic ministry and apostolic church.  Jesus
sends His disciples as His apostles, sent for the purpose of making
forgiveness audible to those who have not seen.  This is why God sends
pastors to His church, this is why God has a church in the first place,
that forgiveness of sins would be preached and heard and believed and
lived.  God doesn’t care if we are entertained on Sunday, or even if we
feel “spiritually uplifted” (whatever on earth that means).  He wants
you to hear the forgiveness of your sins in the name of Jesus and trust
it and live in fearless freedom.  He wants to give you something
concrete and tangible to believe, something outside of your selves,
namely, that Jesus died for your sins and that He was raised for your
justification.  He wants to speak His peace into you and to display the
wounds by which you are healed.

Thomas, the “Twin” wasn’t there
that first Easter Sunday.  We don’t know why he wasn’t there.  Maybe he
was sulking, or hiding out somewhere else, locked up in his own upper
room.  The disciples told Thomas what they had seen and heard, but he
refused to believe them.  It’s not so much that he doubted.  He’s very
plain about it, “Unless I see the nail marks and put my hand in His
side, I will not believe it.”  That’s not doubt, that’s unbelief.

so a week later, the next Sunday, the disciples are again locked up in
their little room.  Freedom is hard to get used to, isn’t it?  They
still don’t quite get it, still hiding, fearful, tentative.  Like newly
paroled prisoners, they’re not quite sure what to do.  It’s safer to be
locked up. 

This time Thomas is with them.  Jesus again
appears out of nowhere, speaking His peace and showing them His
wounds.  He zeroes in on Thomas.  “Go ahead, Thomas, put your finger
here; see my hands.  Stick out your hand and place it in my side.”
(Jesus had overheard Thomas’ every unbelieving word!)  Do not be
unbelieving but believing.  Trust me, Thomas.  Trust my words to you.”

don’t know if Thomas ever actually touched Jesus.  The words of Jesus
have their way.  The next thing we hear is Thomas’ confession of
faith.  “My Lord and my God.”  Much more than his eyes could have told
him about Jesus. 

Faith is trust in the word, not in what you
see.  Faith comes by hearing not by seeing.  We walk by faith and not
by sight.  What Thomas saw was the same Jesus who had been nailed to a
cross now tangibly, touchably risen from the dead.  What Thomas
believed was that this man named Jesus was His Lord and His God, His
Creator and His Savior, the Christ and the Son of God.  In a way, you
and I have an advantage over Thomas and the other disciples.  We have
nothing to see, nothing to distract our ears.  “Faith comes by
hearing.”  That’s why the church and her ministry have never been much
to look at.

This crucified and risen Jesus, the One with the
wounds, is your Lord and God too.  You have not seen, and yet by the
Word and Holy Spirit working through your Baptism you believe.  Jesus
has a word for you:  “Blessed.”  “Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet believe.” 

You are blessed with a peace that can be
found nowhere else but the words and the wounds of Him who sent to the
cross to save you. 

You are blessed with Jesus’ forgiveness,
absolution spoken directly to you, in the stead and by the command of
Jesus, His Spirit-ed words breathing life and forgiveness and peace and
joy into you in your death. 

You are blessed with something
far, far greater than the sight or even the touch of Jesus’ hands and
feet and side.  His Body and His Blood.  Not to investigate, like an
unbelieving Thomas, but to eat and to drink trusting these are “for

You are blessed with a freedom to step out of locked rooms
and fearful lives and dismal unbelief to go out into the world and tell
the good news of sins forgiven in the name of crucified and risenJesus,
to invite all the unbelieving Thomases to come and hear for themselves.

Jesus’ words and His wounds.  His forgiveness and His peace.  You are blessed.

In the name of Jesus,

A sermon by Pastor William Cwirla

Categories: Uncategorized

Philip Melanchthon

April 21st, 2006 1 comment
This message comes a day late, but I wanted to include an
excellent summary prepared by J.A.O. Preus on Melanchthon. I offer this to you to honor and commemorate the
"heaven-going" of Philip Melanchthon who died yesterday, in
1560. What a fascinating and complex man was Master Philip. We who
confess the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg
Confession and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope will
remain eternally grateful for the great and wonderful gifts given by
God, to the entire world, and especially to our beloved Lutheran Zion,
through the life and work of Philip Melanchthon. He gave so much and
he was used by God as a powerful witness to the Reformation recovery
of the Gospel, and yet, particularly after Luther’s death, Melanchthon
compromised too much and placed the Reformation in jeopardy. To honor this great man of God and his work, I’m pleased to offer
the preface prepared by Rev. Dr. Jacob A. O. Preus for his translation
of Melanchthon’s 1543 edition of Loci Communes,
the work that laid the foundation for all future dogmatics in the
Lutheran Church. Concordia Publishing House also publishes a commentary on Romans by Melanchthon.

Download Melanchthon.doc

Categories: Lutheranism

Hand-Scripted Bible: The First Since the 15th Century

April 21st, 2006 1 comment

Handwritten Bible scripted in Wales returns to ancient tradition

By Martin Revis   

London, 21 April (ENI)–One of the foremost Western calligraphers
is producing a complete handwritten, illuminated Bible for the
first time since the invention of the printing press in Europe in
the 15th century from his studio in Wales. 

Donald Jackson, scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown
Office at the House of Lords, is five years through the
seven-year US$3.4 million project commissioned by the Benedictine
Saint John’s Abbey and the Saint John’s University in the US
state of Minnesota. 

From his scriptorium in Wales, Jackson oversees scribes, artists,
and craftsmen who work with him on the handwriting and
illumination of the seven-volume, 1150-page Bible. 

"I usually start by taking a large brush and putting it in ink
and begin," he explained. "From these marks will grow a feeling
for the mood of the piece and the elemental theme. From this I
weave in the detail." 

He receives instructions on the passages chosen for illustration
by goose quill on vellum, from a committee of scholars,
historians, and artists. Inks derived from hand-ground silver,
copper gold and other precious minerals are employed. 

For the first time since the start of the project, pages from the
St John’s Bible went on display outside the United States, at
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition runs until 1
May and features selections from "Prophets", the fourth volume of
the Bible. 

The completed work, bound in Welsh oak, will be housed in
Collegeville, Minnesota at the Museum and Manuscript Library of
Saint John’s University. When open, it will measure two feet in
height  (60 centimetres) and three feet (90 centimetres) in

The hand-drawn illuminations depict scripture from an ancient and
modern perspective, including concepts of science, space and

"Illuminated manuscripts have always marked the time and place in
which they were created, and The Saint John’s Bible will reflect
our world at the beginning of the twenty-first century for future
generations," said Brother Dietrich Reinhart, president of Saint
John’s University. [342 words] 

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
21 April 2006 


Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 

Categories: Books

Well Said! Coulter on the Duke Situation

April 20th, 2006 2 comments

I was really impressed by this column by Ann Coulter, conservative provocateur par excellence and hyperbolist extraordinaire, but … this really hit the nail on the head and ends with a powerful witness to Christ. Check it out. Here’s a quote:

"Not very long ago, all the precursor behavior in these cases would have
been recognized as vulgar — whether or not anyone ended up dead, raped
or falsely accused of rape. But in a nation of people in constant
terror of being perceived as "judgmental," I’m not sure most people do
recognize that anymore.
It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that girls shouldn’t be
bar-hopping alone or taking their clothes off in front of strangers,
and that young men shouldn’t be hiring strippers. But we live in a
world of Bill Clinton, Paris Hilton, Howard Stern, Julia Roberts in
"Pretty Woman," Democratic fund-raisers at the Playboy Mansion and tax
deductions for entertaining clients at strip clubs.
This is an age in which the expression "girls gone wild" is
becoming a redundancy. So even as the bodies pile up, I don’t think the
message about integrity is getting through.
The liberal charge of "hypocrisy" has so permeated the public
consciousness that no one is willing to condemn any behavior anymore,
no matter how seedy. The unstated rule is: If you’ve done it, you can’t
ever criticize it — a standard that would seem to repudiate the good
works of the Rev. Franklin Graham, Malcolm X, Whittaker Chambers and
St. Paul, among others."

Categories: Uncategorized

“Atheist” Cosmonaut, or Was He?

April 20th, 2006 1 comment

‘Atheist’ Soviet cosmonaut Gagarin supported Church says

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
20 April 2006   

By Jonathan Luxmoore 
Warsaw, 20 April (ENI)–The world’s first person in space, Soviet
cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, publicly advocated rebuilding Moscow’s
destroyed Christ the Saviour basilica despite being depicted as a
committed atheist by the Soviet regime, a former friend has

"Like every Russian, Gagarin was baptised – and, as far as I
know, he was a believer," said Colonel Valentin Petrov, an
associate professor at Russia’s Gagarin Air Force Academy.
"Gagarin’s motive was very simple: patriotism cannot be promoted
without knowledge of one’s roots."   

In an interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency on 12 April,
Colonel Petrov said he became aware of Gagarin’s interest in the
Christian faith while visiting Moscow’s St Sergius Laura
monastery and Church Archaeology Museum on the cosmonaut’s 30th
birthday in 1964, four years before he died.   

"When we came to the model of the Christ the Saviour church, Yuri
looked inside it and then said to me, ‘Valentin, look what a
lovely thing they’ve destroyed!’ He kept looking at it for a long
time," Petrov added. "Some time after our trip, speaking at the
[Communist Party's] Central Committee plenary session on youth
education, Gagarin openly suggested the church of Christ the
Saviour should be restored as a monument of military glory and
outstanding Orthodox work." 

The church was opened in 1883 as a memorial to the defeat of
Napoleon in 1812 by the Russian Army. It was blown up in 1931 on
the orders of Soviet leader Josef Stalin. 

Born at Klushino, near Moscow, Gagarin trained at Saratov and
Orenburg, and became the first human being in space on 12 April
1961 aboard his Vostok 3KA-2 spacecraft. 

The cosmonaut was often quoted as stating "I don’t see any God up
here" after exiting the earth’s orbit, although the remark did
not appear in verbatim transcripts of his flight. 

In his interview with Interfax, Colonel Petrov said the statement
was made, not by Gagarin, but by the then Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev, during a Communist Party meeting on anti-religious
propaganda. "Khrushchev gave the party and Komsomol [the
Communist youth organization] the task of engaging in this
propaganda and said, ‘Why should you clutch at God? Here is
Gagarin who flew into space but saw no God there’," Petrov said.

"Some time later, these words began to be presented in a
different aspect. References were made not to Khrushchev, but to
Gagarin, who was, indeed, the people’s favourite. Such a
statement from his lips could be of tremendous importance. They
said few would believe Khrushchev, but everybody would certainly
believe Gagarin. But Gagarin never said that – he just couldn’t
utter such words." 

Gagarin, who made a statement in space praising the Soviet
Communist Party as "organiser of all our victories", later toured
as a celebrity. He returned to the Soviet space programme after a
brief spell as a Supreme Soviet deputy, but was killed when his
MIG-15 aircraft crashed near Kirzhach on 27 March 1968. [500

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 

Categories: Uncategorized

Doctrine vs. God’s Word

April 20th, 2006 Comments off

A thoughtful and helpful reminder from Pastor Stiegemeyer. Perhaps he can extend the thought and comment on the terribly dangerous and entirely false distinction some wish to make between "mission" and "doctrine." I sum it up simply: No message, no mission.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Small-er Catechism…(of the Roman Catholic Church)

April 20th, 2006 Comments off

There is being released a small-er version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Risks of Participating in State-Sponsored Charity Programs

April 19th, 2006 Comments off

A Missouri Synod congregation in St. Francis, MN has been cut off from future funding for its participation in an adult-day care operation administered by the state. It has to do with the congregation’s refusal to accept a so-called "transgendered" individual into their program.

Categories: Uncategorized

Interesting Responses

April 18th, 2006 Comments off

Now even though external rites and orders … add nothing to salvation, yet it
is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and thereby to confuse the
common people. We should consider the edification of the lay folk more
important than our own ideas and opinions … Let each one surrender
his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a
common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one
uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder

For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are
free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at anytime, yet from
the viewpoint of love you are not free to use this freedom but are
bound to consider the edification of the common people…

–Martin Luther, The American Edition of Luther’s Works, Volume 53:47

The responses and discussion generated by my recent post on worship and liturgy matters have been interesting. Some have responded by saying, "Yes and amen." Others have said  I’m being slavishly legalistic and trying to "do liturgy by rubrics" or "impose" traditional high-church liturgy on the church. Others have informed me I hold a romantic view of the liturgy and seem to regard 1941 as a "golden era" for the church’s worship life. Others have bristled at my suggestion that doing your own thing, high-church style, is really, on this matter of uniformity, not different in kind than doing your own thing, low-church style. Still others have said that if not for them and a few handful of other parishes The LCMS would never have made any liturgical progress. One person said that LSB offers up only bland Missouri synod liturgy and so he can’t use it. Another friend told me that LSB is too restrictive. Interesting responses. I encourage this discussion. Others have simply chosen to dismiss this discussion by saying all I’m really doing is just pushing sales of the new hymnal. What is most intriguing to me is that many responses, unwittingly, have proven my point dramatically: we all have a very, very hard time "surrendering our own opinions" for the greater good of the church in matters of adiaphora. Some seem to regard the use of an electric guitar or a chausable as nearly a sine qua non for faithful ministry. I’m not convinced.

Wright not Right: On the Dangers of Getting Too Cozy with False Teachers

April 17th, 2006 1 comment

Brothers Bayly sound a most approrpriate note of caution about Bishop Wright:

Evangelicals tend to go all woozy when they hear a British accent,
especially in the pulpit. No doubt it’s part of the inferiority complex
country cousins face when they meet their city cousin.

This goes a long way to explaining the lack of critical capacity
demonstrated by Bishop N. T. Wright’s fans. Overawed by the Bishop’s
learning and vocabulary, the accent pushes it over the top and all
things Wright are right.

Well, I envy the British accent as much as the next guy, but I still
think we should keep our heads screwed on squarely when it comes to men
like Stott, Wenham, Packer, and Wright. Stott’s an annihilationist (or
universalist depending upon whose testimony you accept); Packer long
ago proved he’s a better theologican than churchman, opposing Martyn
Lloyd-Jones precisely at the point of Lloyd-Jones greatest
wisdom—namely his warning of the coming train wreck in the Anglican
communion; and Wenham’s also gone loosey-goosey on the doctrine of the
last things, particularly the doctrine of hell.

Bishop Wright? Well, among other things, Wright’s a feminist
advocate of women holding office in the church, despite Scripture’s
clear command that they not do so; he’s an equivocator on the
consecration of sodomitic bishops in the Anglican communion; and much
of his biblical and theological writing builds the case for
rapprochement with Rome.

Now we read
that Bishop Wright’s opposed to the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ
being a defining doctrine of Christian faith. Wright says…


reading "Bishop N. T. Wright: good Christians can deny Christ’s resurrection…"

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Chronicles of Narnia: Why There Will Be Sequels

April 17th, 2006 1 comment

I just checked to see what the worldwide revenue from Chronicles of Narnia has been. How does $733,000,000 plus sound? The production cost of the movie was $180,000,000. All of which is to say, "Yes, there will be sequels" and if they are as good as the first one, I can’t wait. We watched it on DVD. It truly is a great movie and again I found the Christian symbolism breathtaking.

Categories: Uncategorized


April 17th, 2006 7 comments

A fan of this site informed me this morning that there is a Lutheran blog site in England that featured a post in which there was a comment made criticizing Cyberbrethren for its lack of a blogroll. I must confess it was a fair point, even if offered in a bit of a less than charitable manner. And I frankly regret that a friend of Cyberbrethren seems to have been a bit too zealous in his commenting there.

I decided to roll up my cyber-sleeves and try to figure out how to get a blogroll up on this site. And I did it. Now, I must hasten to say that if your blog site is *not* on this blogroll, I do apologize. If you wish to nominate your blog site for inclusion, please feel free to do so. As you can see, I favor, nearly exclusively, Lutheran-specific blog sites. Alas, so many blogs, so little time.

Categories: Uncategorized

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

April 16th, 2006 2 comments


A Blessed and Happy Easter to you all. Here is Martin Luther’s magnificent Easter hymn: Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands.

Thanks to Pastor Steve Starke for sending me the text of this hymn as it is going to appear in Lutheran Service Book, which has done a very fine job restoring the "missing" verses that were, for whatever reason, not included in the Luthean Worship version of the hymn. They are once more included and the translation improved.

Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands
    For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands
    And brings us life from heaven.
Therefore let us joyful be
And sing to God right thankfully
    Loud songs of alleluia!

No son of man could conquer death,
    Such ruin sin had wrought us.
No innocence was found on earth,
    And therefore death had brought us
Into bondage from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
    And held us as its captive.

Christ Jesus, God’s own Son, came down,
    His people to deliver;
Destroying sin, He took the crown
    From Death’s pale brow forever:
Stripped of pow’r, no more he reigns;
An empty form alone remains;
    His sting is lost forever.

It was a strange and dreadful strife
    When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life,
    The reign of death was ended.
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That death is swallowed up by death,
    Its sting is lost forever.

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
    Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursèd tree—
    So strong His love—to save us.
See, His blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
    And Satan cannot harm us.

So let us keep the festival
    To which the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
    The sun that warms and light us.
Now His grace to us imparts
Eternal sunshine to our hearts;
    The night of sin is ended.

Then let us feast this Easter Day
    On Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace has purged away
    The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our meat and drink indeed;
    Faith lives upon no other!

“You Are Not Free to Use This Liberty” — Thoughts on Liturgical Uniformity

April 15th, 2006 29 comments

Name the person who wrote the following statement about liturgical uniformity. Who was it that dared to restrict the use of Christian liberty in matters pertaining to worship?

Now even though external rites and orders … add nothing to salvation, it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the laity more important than our own ideas and opinions … Let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder … For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at anytime, yet from the viewpoint of love you are not free to use this liberty…

Or how about this one?

It is the cause of much incorrectness… when the external church ordinances, divine service and ceremonies are not held with reverence, or in orderly fashion, or in like manner. Also certain pastors purpose to act in these matters without uniformity. They shall carefully see to it that the ceremonies which have to do with hymns, clothing of the priests, administration of the sacrament … as well as the festivals, be maintained in an orderly and uniform fashion, at one place as at another, uniform and in accord with such as occur at Wittenberg and Torgau, in accord with the Holy Scriptures…*

One more quote:Birdchristcrucifiedsmall

Ceremonies [should be instituted] which give the external indication that in the congregation 
great, high, serious dealings are present, so that the ceremonies lead, stimulate, admonish and move the people to join together their thoughts, lift up their hearts in all humility. That there be in the congregation heartfelt devotion to the word, the Sacrament and prayer … Christian freedom has its place in this matter, as the ancients said, “Disagreement in rites does not take away agreement in faith.” It still brings all sorts of benefit that in ceremonies, so much as it is possible, a uniformity be maintained, and that such uniformity serve to maintain unity in doctrine, and that common, simple, weak consciences be all the less troubled, rather strengthened. It is therefore viewed as good that, as much as possible, a uniformity in ceremonies with neighboring reformed churches be affected and maintained. And for this reason, henceforth all pastors in the churches of our realm, shall emphatically follow this written church order, and not depart from the same without specific, grave cause. *

GottesdienstTo suggest that the better way for the church to order herself is for there to be the greatest amount of liturgical uniformity as possible strikes some ears as a call for a slavish formalism, some even go so far as to use the word "legalistic" whenver this comes up. That never has made sense to me. I’ve never heard anyone in favor of traditional Lutheran worship say that its use is required for salvation. It seems that some in the Lutheran Church have dismissed discussion of the dangers of liturgical diversity and the blessings of the great possible liturgical uniformity. Why? Sadly, in an era that has witnessed a trend toward doing whatever is right in the eyes of an individual pastor, or congregation, the blessings of liturgical uniformity are being woefully neglected. We have lost our understanding of the blessing and advantage of striving to have as common a liturgical practice as possible.Preaching

The thought that a pastor would, from Sunday to Sunday, reinvent the church’s worship service
was an alien thought to the Lutheran Confessors, and hence the Lutheran Confessions. Rev. Matthew Harrison, some years ago, did a study on the practice of the Lutheran Church in the sixteenth century. In it he uses the "church orders" of the time to demonstrate how one should, and likewise should not, interpret the comments on adiaphora in the Lutheran Confessions. It is quite fascinating and very revealing. You can read a copy here: Download liturgical_uniformity.pdf

Some might assume that my remarks are directed only toward those who have chosen to embrace "contemporary worship" or "blended worship" with its Sunday-to-Sunday "newness." But that would be a mistake. I would also direct these remarks to those who choose to "do their own thing" in a more traditionally liturgical direction: that is, those whoDance choose to embellish and otherwise change the church’s received liturgies in a direction that they regard as "better" or "more faithful" or "more liturgical."

I have been concerned for years that some of those most stridently speaking against the
liturgical diversity in our Synod turn right around and in their parish create their own little variation on the Lutheran liturgy, claiming that they are doing it better, or more historically, or more traditionally. I’ve seen horrendous mixta composita of liturgical services slapped together from multiple sources, all of course perceived as being "historically Lutheran" and these undertakings have always struck me as problematic in the same way the cut and paste "services" in contemporary worship contexts are.

I do not see any difference between this and those who chose to go another direction in terms of a sensitivity for the good order of the church. It may be that a
liturgy is more similar to a particular 16th century German Divine Service than others, perhaps even more similar than anything in any present hymnal, but I find no justification for deciding, as an individual pastor or parish, to "go it alone" in this direction, any more than I find justification or benefit in creating new liturgies from Sunday to Sunday. The goal of liturgical uniformity is not repristination of what happened in the Sixteenth Century, any more than it is should be the goal to toss our the liturgy.

Lsb_pewbook_1My opinion is that it would be a tremendous blessing to our church body if we would all set aside
our pet theories, our cherished preferences, and even our favorite hymnals, and embrace the use of one hymnal: Lutheran Service Book

I believe it is essential for all of us to set aside a fixation on"contemporary worship" [as if there is any worship that is not contemporary"] and stop dividing up our Sunday mornings between "traditional" and "classical grace" or "contemporary" or "blended" and just start having "church," period. It means that we need to stop turning the church into a popular opinion poll from Sunday to Sunday. It means that we use the church’s hymnal. Use the church’s liturgies as they are printed in the church’s new hymnal and use the many opportunities for variety within that structure. I see as little wisdom in trying to mimic some specific territorial German church order, as I do in trying to take our cues from the non-denominational "Evangelical" worship forms prevalent in our nation among many Protestants.

There are some who would like to use the Tenth Article in the Formula of Concord to justify a practice by which each individual congregation in our Church can just go ahead and "do its own thing" when it comes to worship practices. But this is truly a misuse of this article, and was not, by any stretch of the imagination, what the Lutheran Confessors had in mind when they prepared the Formula of Concord. Here is a very helpful insight into the attitude toward liturgical uniformity that was in the minds of those who prepared, and subscribed, to the Formula of Concord from 1577-1580.
As Rev. Harrison notes in his paper: "The final Church Order here  referred to is one of the most significantSpell001002
for interpreting FC SD 10, 9. Duke August I of Electoral Saxony was the driving force behind the Electoral Saxon Church Order of 1580, and Andreae its author. The order came out after the adoption of the Book of Concord. In fact, it calls for ministers to subscribe to the Book of Concord. What FC SD 10 means when it states, ‘no church shall condemn another’, is crystal clear in ‘IX. Regarding Ceremonies in the Churches’."

Pastors and ministers, on the basis of God’s Word, and at the instigation of the declaration published this year (1580), and incorporated in this book [The Book of Concord], shall diligently instruct their flock and hearers in their sermons,2002savbaptism as often as the opportunity avails itself, that such external ordinances and ceremonies are in and of themselves no divine service, nor a part of the same. They are rather only ordained for this reason, that the divine service, which is not within the power of human beings to change, may be held at various times and
places, and without offense or terrible disorder. Accordingly, they should not at all be troubled when they see dissimilar ceremonies and usages in external things among the churches. They should much rather be reminded herein of their Christian freedom, and in order to maintain this freedom, make profitable use of this dissimilarity of ceremonies… Nevertheless, so unity may be maintained in the churches of our land…the following ceremonies shall be conducted according to our order or incorporated church agenda, until there is a general uniformity of all churches of the Augsburg Confession … And it will be granted to no minister to act contrary to the same [agenda] to introduce some revision, no matter under what pretext
. *

Liturgical uniformity and the good it brings to the church’s life is more important than any personal interest in doing it "better" or "different," and that cuts both ways.19071132766480mcd3dlozenge

If I may use a crass analogy, imagine if you would that McDonalds decided tomorrow that they
no longer cared what any of its restaurants looked like. No more standardization of the logo, or clothing, or ways of doing things. Every McDonalds would be told, "Do whatever you feel is best and whatever feels right to you." That would make little sense, would it? How much more than does it make sense for every Lutheran congregation to be running off in its own direction, doing what feels right to it? Now, granted, every McDonalds has some minor differences, but there never is any doubt that you are at a McDonalds. See the point?

That’s my .02 cents worth. As always, your mileage may vary.

By the way, the person who said the first quote, that we are not free to use our liberty in matters pertaining to liturgical uniformity was…Martin Luther. And the second quote? It is from the Wittenberg Church Order of 1542, prepared by Jonas, Cruciger, Bugenhagen, Melachthon, Luther, and others; Sehling, I:202. The third quote? It is from the 1569 Church Order of Brauncshweig-Wolfenbuettel and was prepared by none other than Martin Chemnitz and Jacob Andreae, the chief authors and architects of the Formula of Concord. [Sehling VI.1, 139, 40]. The final quote is from: AL Richter ed, Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des
sechszehn ten Jahrhunderts. Urkunden und Regesten zur Geschichte des Rechts and
der Verfassung der evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland
, Leipzig, 1871, vol II:, p. 440.


Beautiful Stained Glass and a Beautiful Church

April 15th, 2006 Comments off

In the post that appears above this one, there is a beautiful piece of stained glass featured. A pastor reading the post told me that it is to be found in the congregation where he serves. You might like to look at the other windows in their newer sanctuary. This would seem to be a congregation that did not believe the only way to grow and expand was by walking away from a clear and unmistakable Lutheran identity, in both style and substance. Here is how the congregation explains its commitments:

Grace Lutheran Church is a congregation with a conservative theology and a creative ministry.  We take
seriously our heritage as Lutheran Christians and believe that our
Lutheran identity is a positive asset for outreach.  We joyfully use to
the fullest the worship resources of our hymnal and liturgical
tradition as Lutheran Christians.  We are committed to a weekly
celebration of Holy Communion.  We offer regular opportunities for
reflection and individual confession and absolution.  We encourage each
family to invite, welcome, and encourage new people to join us in
worship and learn what it means to be a Lutheran Christian.  We
consider the distinctive nature of our Lutheran identity to be a
commitment to the Word of God, a vital and dynamic sacramental life, a
vibrant musical life in the liturgy, a concern for the welfare and
well-being of the whole person, and a shared accountability to the
Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
We have a mix of people, ages, and many young families with small
children.  This diverse group helps us to maintain a full liturgical
setting for worship which is vibrant without being stiff or rigid.   We
have gifted staff people to help us welcome so many new folks and care
for the special needs of youth and children as well as adults.  We are
confident that you will find a welcome home among the people of Grace
Lutheran Church.
Gospel centered in preaching and teaching, catholic (small c) in
worship, conservative and Biblical in doctrine, and creative ministry
– that is how we see ourselves at Grace Lutheran Church.  We hope that
you will give us the chance of getting to know you better!


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