I am increasingly concerned about preaching that does not deliver properly either Law or Gospel, that in an effort, well-meaning no doubt, to put forward the "proper distinction" between the two, ends up falling into antinomian notions about the Christian Faith, thus finally delivering neither Law nor Gospel. The formulaic sermons I often read go something like this: you are of course a sinner. You do bad things. You feel bad about it. You are sinful! But…Jesus loves you and saves you. Come take Holy Communion. Amen. What about sanctification? What about good works? When we neglect sanctification are we preaching the true and real Christ? What do you say? I would respectfully suggest that we simply must free ourselves of the idea that specifically urging our people to good works is inappropriate, or that if we point out how sinful people are and how they do not keep God’s Law that is sufficient for a proper exhortation to good works. Read on for what one Lutheran had to say about it:
The pope’s visit to Turkey is quite interesting, and to whatever extent it can serve the purpose of aiding Christians who are in the persecuted minority in that country and help heal [meaningfully] the split between East and West we can certainly be grateful for that; however …
My son is marching in the Macy’s Day Parade tomorrow. Four High School students from each state are chosen to be part of Macy’s all-high school student band every year. They lead the parade. They will be playing Susa’s "Stars and Stripes Forever" through the entire parade route and then perform several other pieces and a Susa medley when they read the VIP viewing stand at the end of the route.
Paul will be up at 1:00 tomorrow morning and do a full dress rehearsal at 2:30, then hit the parade route at 8:00 a.m. for a roughly two hour march. They say upwards of 3. 5 million people line the parade route. If you catch the parade tomorrow, my son, Paul, is playing first trumpet and is the fourth one from the right in the first row of the trumpets and in the first row in front of the viewing stand. He is lead drum major of his high school marching band here in Saint Louis. Cool, huh?
It’s a pretty impressive organization and program. Paul flew out to New York on Sunday and was fittted for his Macy’s uniform. They supply everything except for unmentionables, which have to be white! They supply the instruments as well, matching Yamaha brass, all silver. They are put up a really fine hotel and tour the city, catch the Radio City Music Hall Christmas special, see the city and go on a harbor Thanksgiving dinner cruise, etc. We wish we could have gone, but…beyond our budget.
Did you know that the majority of English Bibles we have now do not contain all the books that historically all Lutheran Bibles always had? That is, did you know that Martin Luther included the Old Testament apocryphal books in every edition of his translation that he worked on, beginning with the first complete edition released in 1534? Where did they go? What happened to them? If we find them, should we put them back in the Bibles that we would use in our churches? Lots to ponder here. I welcome your [thoughtful] reflections. Here’s more information and more questions.
The Apocrypha is the term used to denote the fifteen books included in the Septuagint (the first Greek translation of the Bible) and the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible),
which were incorporated in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Bible editions These books are believed to
have been composed from about 300 BC. to AD 70. Most were written in
either Hebrew or Aramaic and contain Intertestamental historical works,
additions to various canonical books, devotions, and apocalypses.
A pastor friend of mine sent me this absolutely spot-on article on the banality and lack of reverence that seems to be the "style" these days in many congregations. I find myself wondering why it is that parents permit their children to show up at church dressed like they just woke up and threw on whatever they could grab. In the case of many teenagers coming looking like slobs. I know that is blunt, but it is true. Imagine if they were to attend a solemn court of law proceeding, or a funeral of a loved one, or even their High School Prom or Homecoming dances dressed in such sloppy fashion? Would they show up dressed like such bums? Perhaps they are encouraged toward such "informality" by the pastor who runs through the liturgy looking at his watch, fearful that the service will go past 60 minutes, or who drones through the words of the Lord’s Supper as if he is reading yesterday’s news. I suspect, they are not receiving the kind of parental guidance they need in such matters. Am I suggesting that they should wear dresses and coats and ties? If they are old enough, why not? If the family is financially able to afford one formal set of clothes, why not?
And consider the conduct of the liturgy in many of our congregations, or the constructions of our houses of worship. Some look more like non-denom barns, or concert halls, than holy houses where the Blessed Trinity is worshipped and where He tabernacles among His people under the bread and wine of the Holy Supper. Where is the sense of awe, reference, holiness that God intends for His people when they come before Him?
The article was written by Father Scalia, son of the Supreme Court justice, which explains the very well done courtroom analogy.
On the heels of several polemical posts about Eastern Orthodoxy, this post may appear as yet one more. Well, yes and no. Yes, these comments speak very directly to recent converts from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodoxy, but no, in that if you read the whole post it gives all of us who strive to remain small-o orthodox with much food for thought. This post is from Rod Dreher, himself a recent convert to Orthodoxy.
Alexander Schmemann, the renowned Orthodox priest, discerned a problem with what he called
"Romantic Orthodoxy," which can be distinguished by the following
characteristics, as he listed them in one of his journal entries from 1980:
+ nominalism (e.g., non-existing Patriarchates)
+ blind liturgical conservatism
+ cult of the past
+ theological preoccupation almost exclusively with the Fathers
+ hatred for the contemporary world (not for this world in general)
+ cult of externals (beard, cassocks, prayer ropes, style)
"The Macintosh is more than a computer, it’s a way of life. This
book is about what it is to be a Macintosh person. It gives insight
into the greatest love and loyalties of any product of our era."
–Steve Wozniak, Apple Cofounder — All Hail the Great and Mighty Woz!
The Lutheran blogosphere can be a rough and tumble place. Debates break out. Comments are tossed about. Lively and stimulating discussion
has been taking place here and there recently over all manner of
interesting topics such as: justification, sanctification, sacraments,
Scripture, Eastern Orthodoxy, worship, church politics, vocation and
dozens of other topics. Fairly important, I’d say. But…Petersen at Cyberstones has really gone and done it.
He has dared to raise the issue of Macintosh v. Windows v. Linux v. whatever else is out there.
He has dared to hint that perhaps Macintosh is not the most wonderful,
perfect and truly Lutheran computer on the planet. Now this is truly
something worth talking about! What is Petersen’s problem? Doesn’t the
poor man know that the introduction of Macintosh to Planet Earth is
every bit as important as First Contact? What is that you say? You say
you don’t know what "First Contact" is? Good grief, do you people know
Excursus: First Contact — for those who don’t know the future of our world
First Contact took place on the evening of April 5, 2063, when a Vulcan
survey ship, the T’Plana-Hath, having detected the warp signature of
the Phoenix, touched down in Bozeman, central Montana, where they met
with the Phoenix’s designer and pilot, Zefram Cochrane. This event is
generally referred to as the defining moment in human history,
eventually paving the way for a unified world government and, later,
the United Federation of Planets.
The First One Sent to Earth
Macintosh users of the Lutheran blogosphere, loyal members of the Cult of Macintosh,
I call on you to rise up and make known your devotion to the Macintosh.
Prepare to repel boarders. Stop the barbarians at the gate. Apple
expects every man to do his duty. For the love of Macintosh, to arms!
To arms! Oh, the humanity! Post a comment at Petersen’s site. As I read
the sad comments disparaging our beloved Macintosh, the words of Marc Antony in Shakespeare‘s Julius Caesar came to mind.
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,-
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips,
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue-
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy ;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
[P.S. If you see little or no humor in this, you are obviously a PC/Windows person].
I receive a lot of Internet rumors, myths, legends and what-not. One reason I moderate comments on Cyberbrethren is to prevent the site from being overwhelmed by an unbelievable amount of junk. The more hits a site get, the more it become a target for spam.
Sadly, many Christians who use the Internet fall for just about any heart-tugging story that comes down the pike. Most recently, there has been one about a soldier in Iraq. These are called "urban legends." Urban legends are rumors, either entirely untrue, or based on a few facts, but otherwise hokum. How many years have we had to endure the urban legend that a band of atheists is on the brink of winning a Supreme Court decision banning all religious program from the airwaves? etc.
Please do yourself, and all those to whom you send e-mail a favor, never, ever…ever…send forwarded "sob stories" along to others unless you first check them out at snopes.com
I’ve been using "Snopes" for years. It is the best defense against Internet myths.
When in doubt check Snopes. Hint: always be in doubt!
Wesley Smith puts matters, as usual, quite well in a recent article:
Infanticide, alas, has become a respectable notion, at least among some
elite opinion makers. History shows that this is how baby killing
begins — by convincing ourselves that there is such a thing as a human
life not worth living, and hence, not worth protecting. By calling for
a serious debate about infanticide, the [Royal College of Obstetricians
and Gynaecologists] has badly subverted the foundational moral
principle that each and every human being has equal moral value simply
and merely because he or she is human.
Swap around a few words in this post and we have here a thoroughly Biblical retort also to Eastern Orthodoxy’s effort to make certainty of the Holy Spirit’s work coterminus with their communion And these comments lay to rest any notion that we Lutherans claim to be the alone-saving Church! A point apparently which even some Lutheran pastors seem a bit confused about, for when they hear that the Lutheran Church alone teaches the Gospel in its truth and purity [which is true!] they assume this must also mean that a person is declaring the Lutheran Chuch to be the alone-saving Church [which is not true!]. Thanks to Pastor Weedon for encouraging me to post this on my blog site.
To this day the papists seek to keep the people with their Church by telling them: “You know that we are the true Church. No matter what the Church teaches, if you want to be a true disciple of Christ, you must hear the Church. If the Pope decrees that he is infallible, or that Mary was conceived without sin, or that the saints must be adored, you must accept these dogmas. The true Church has set up these dogmas, and it cannot err. If you fall away from the Roman Catholic Church, you fall away from the true Church.” This is the bait with which they hook the people.
New Delhi, 16 November (ENI)–A 60-year-old Roman Catholic
Pakistani, Ranjha Masih, has been acquitted after being held in
for eight and a half years in isolation at a prison awaiting
trial on fabricated blasphemy charges.
"The situation of the 16th century no longer applies in the 21st century" says Randall Lee, head of the ELCA’s
Note: this is not simply about repudiating actions by governments to persecute Anabaptists. And, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Anabaptist movment in the 16th century knows it was not simply a case of "persecution" of "passive" Anabaptists, but of putting down civil revolt and rebellion against governing authorities.
Will confessional Lutheran church leaders repudiate this repudiation? Or will "we" simply remain passively silent? Silence is consent, as they say.
ELCA Council Expresses Regret, Repudiates Anabaptist Condemnations
CHICAGO (ELCA) — The Church Council of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) took an action rejecting past
statements attributed to early Lutheran church reformers and
expressed "its deep and abiding sorrow and regret for the
persecution and suffering visited upon the Anabaptists during the
religious disputes of the past."
Westminster/John Knox Press, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, has published a new book, just in time for Christmas, savaging the truth of the Faith! [Am I allowed to mention the fact that Augsburg-Fortress Publishing House is now partnered with W/JK to produce the "Lutheran Handbook," and the ELCA's new Sunday School curriculum and also their Vacation Bible School?]. Here’s more on the book:
Christianity’s Origins Questioned by Sociologist
by David Klinghoffer
John Knox Press, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), kicked
up a controversy this summer when it published a book alleging that
9/11 resulted from a Bush Administration plot. Critics, including
Presbyterians, wondered what the press was doing promoting a conspiracy
theory like the one in David Ray Griffin’s Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11. Now WJKP is back with another title that may again leave the faithful scratching their heads in wonderment.
The book, out this month, is Why Christianity Happened: A Sociological Account of Christian Origins (26-50 C.E.)
by James G. Crossley. It argues that a key feature of Christian
doctrine was merely a response to social conditions. Specifically, the
apostle Paul rejected observance of Jewish law as a requirement for new
Christians, thus turning one of Jesus’ original teachings on its head,
simply because there were so many new gentile converts to the Jesus
movement. It thus became implausible to require them all to follow Old
Testament laws like circumcision and eating only kosher food.
Great comfort, heavenly refreshment, living hope, and rock-solid certainty–the great treasure of the Reformation!
“It would be a great error to maintain that Luther was pulled into the work of the Reformation because he yearned for freedom from the oppressive yoke of papal dominion and all that was connected with it. No, the true motive was this: Luther wanted to be certain of the grace of God and salvation but he did not know how to obtain them. After he had tormented himself for a long time by his own works, a strict monastic life, and constant prayer, fasting, vigils, and other mortifications, he found that he still had no peace. In deed, he was lead to the brink of despair by his failure. Then, by the reading of the Bible, which had come into his hands by God’s miraculous providence, it gradually became clear to him that a person, according to the Gospel, should be righteous before God and saved, not by his own works, but by the faith given him by God. His righteousness and salvation depended not on his worthiness, but only on grace; not on his own righteousness, but on an alien righteousness; not by his work and suffering, by the work and suffering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of sinners. This discovery not only brightened Luther’s outlook toward God (he wrote that he was like a hopeless person for whom the gates of paradise were suddenly opened), but it also made him happier and bolder toward all people, so that he felt a compelling need to proclaim the saving Gospel to the whole world. After all, it had given him such great comfort, heavenly refreshment, living hope, and rock-solid certainty that he simply had to share this good news. He would not be deterred, even if, as a defenseless monk, he was opposed by pope and emperor and threatened with excommunication, fire, and sword. The right understanding of the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ was the true treasure of the Reformation brought to Christendom.”
C.F.W. Walther, God Grant It: Daily Devotions (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), p. 843-844.
My friend, Pastor William Weedon, invited me to hop across the river this morning to attend Bible Class and Divine Service at his parish, oh, yea…as a little incentive, St. Paul’s annual sausage dinner! It worked out well so that my two sons and I, with son #1′s girlfriend, were able to go over, while wife #1 and my only daughter, were off across the state at a piano competition.
The Bible Class was great. If you’ve ever heard Pastor W. on the radio, you know what kind of a dynamic teacher he is. Great class, great thoughts.
The Divine Service was a real joy.