I’ve recently been involved in an instructive discussion and debate on the subject of an earlier age for first communion and the subject of infant communion; that is, the practice of giving Holy Communion to infants in arms, i.e. babies. This is distinct from the issue of an earlier age for first communion, which I wholeheartedly support. Here are some of the conclusions I reached in this discussion.
If you have a Bichon Frise dog, as we happen to have, do not take him to a dog groomer who promises you they know how to cut a Bichon’s hair or else you will end up with something that looks like a large white rat having a very bad hair day. That’s all I have to say about that.
I decided it was time for a makeover. The old design was looking a bit dated. We’ll give this one a whirl for a while. Same blog. New look.
Have you ever heard the charge that Martin Luther was not "mission-minded"
or did not have much of a theology of evangelism and outreach? Sadly, I’ve even heard so-called Lutheran "experts" on mission make this claim. A new book, now
available from Concordia Publishing House, titled Luther and World
Mission utterly destroys this myth. It is a magisterial work of
research and analysis by Luther Norwegian Luther scholar Ingemar Oberg showing
how deeply ingrained in Luther’s writings are themes of mission and outreach
with the Gospel. It is a large,
detailed, well researched and thoroughly footnoted book. Dr. Robert Kolb of
Concordia Seminary has provided an excellent foreword for the book.See the
comments of Dr. Detlev Schulz, Concordia Theological Seminary, below. We have an excerpt for you to
20% professional discount for pastors and other rostered church workers. You may
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masterful piece of study. Here is a thorough review by Gregory Lockwood published in Concordia Theological Quarterly. It is a PDF file.
provides a new interpretation of Luther and mission and serves to "rehabilitate"
the reformer in modern missiological studies. Öberg argues that Luther fully
embraced the missionary task to the world. Because Luther was foremost a teacher
and pastor, his writings interact with Scripture and address current, local
situations. Yet in Luther’s Bible exposition, pamphlets, and treatises, a clear
and passionate commitment to the Gospel and world mission emerges. Shaped by a
critical attitude toward Luther, past scholars have misinterpreted the reformer.
An honest portrait recognizes Luther’s subtle but solid contribution to
evangelical missiology. In Luther and World Mission, Luther emerges as
a mission-minded servant of the Gospel who laid the foundation for a Lutheran
theology of mission.
What Others Are
"The belief that Luther had nothing to do with mission is completely erased
upon reading Luther and World Mission. Oberg’s careful research
uncovers the richness, beauty, and depth of Luther’s insights on the topic as
expressed in his commentaries, lectures, and sermons. Not merely a theological
treatment, Luther and World Mission also offers practical insights from
Luther into the execution of mission. This superb study for theologians,
pastors, students, and church members will make an important contribution to
Lutheran theology and mission in North America. We are indebted to Dean Apel for
his enormous service in translating this book."
— Klaus Detlev
Associate Professor and Chairman – Department of Pastoral
Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne,
Still Time to Register for the First LCMS Conference on Mercy
Each week, we pray for the whole church and for all people according to
their needs, confident that Christ works through His holy people to answer
those prayers and to meet the needs of people everywhere.
You might want to consider attending an upcoming LCMS Conference on Mercy,
April 30-May 2, in St. Louis, both to learn and to share ways of serving
people in need.
Speakers and presenters include: Timothy Goeglein, White House advisor to
President Bush; Dr. Leo Mackay, former deputy secretary of the Department of
Veterans¹ Affairs; and Dr. Kurt Senske, Chairman of the LCMS Board for World
Relief and Human Care. These and many others will provide practical ideas
and examples for reaching out to the needy at the gates of your congregation
and throughout the world.
Church workers from the field will also offer a variety of sectionals on a
number of grassroots efforts to share mercy in Jesus’ name.
To see full details and to register online, go to:
Deep in the midst of Lent this year we are blessed to have the Annunciation of our Lord fall right on the fifth Sunday of Lent: March 25. What a joyful/joyous festival it is. We rejoice in the angel’s announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of God, and she, the dear and most highly favored Lady, responds in God-given humility, full of God’s grace: "Let it be done to me, even as you have said." And with this announcement the Holy Spirit conceived a son, the Son, within her womb and truly then the Second Adam looked at us and said, "I am flesh of your flesh and bone of your bones." A great and awesome mystery here, before which finally words end and all we can do is bend our faces to the ground and adore the thrice-holy One who sends Himself to be with us, among us, and one of us us, in order, for us and for our salvation, to go to the cross and there purchase and win us from sin, death and the devil with His holy and innocent and precious blood. I can think of no better way to meditate and ponder on the Annunciation than by meditating on the historic readings for the day and then by listening to J.S. Bach’s joyful cantata, BWV 1: "O Morning Star." It is based on Nicholai’s chorale.
Here are some resources for your consideration of the texts of Scripture and the Cantata.
More sad news of the false doctrine embraced by many churches who are part of the LWF. The Latvian Archbishop was the only voice from European Lutheran churches who spoke out opposing the liberal church’s views of homosexuality.
By Peter Kenny
Lund, Sweden, 23 March (ENI)–Blessings for people living in
same-sex relationships triggered heated debate at a meeting of
the main governing body of the Lutheran World Federation in the
southern Swedish city of Lund, this week.
I love classic Lutheran hymns. They are an acquired taste, particularly for folks who come to Lutheranism from a non-Lutheran background. Lutheran hymnody is one of those things that is a challenge "to get" for non-Lutherans. The hymns they are more accustomed to tend to be a bit more emotionally oriented, the music a bit more rhythmic, in the sense of a standard 4/4 time signature, etc. [musicians here is your cue to jump all over me and correct me on this point], but you know what I mean, I hope. Classic Lutheran hymnody tends to be more doctrinal in content and it is not at all uncommon to find them set in a minor key. [By the way, I recently read that when Bach presents you something in D Minor, well, strap yourself in, you are in for quite a ride].
That alone often causes non-Lutherans to recoil. Minor key? That’s just "too depressing" some say. Case in point: the amazingly good Easter hymn by Luther: Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands].
Here’s one way of looking at the situation. Lutheran hymns are to Christian hymnody what Espresso is to coffee. When you have y our first cup of really good Espresso you probably aren’t going to like it, but then you realize: wow, this is a lot better than ordinary coffee. And then, once you’ve acquired a taste for espresso, well, ordinary cups of java just aren’t quite as satisfying.
This is most definitely not to say hymns written by non-Lutherans are "bad" but….well, they are often not espresso. There are some great hymns written by non-Lutherans, no doubt bout it!
But, many times, when you compare non-Lutheran hymnody to classic Lutheran hymnody their is a noticeable difference. Some are like cheap cups of coffee you get from the Shell gas station when you are in a hurry. Others are like a better cup of fast coffee. Others are like a good cup of Starbucks, but …. Lutheran hymns…ah, well, they are like that cup of coffee you make yourself, at home, carefully choosing fresh beans, recently roasted, carefully ground in a burr grinder and then made precisely in a French press. If you are familiar with fine coffee freshly ground and made in a French press, well, you know precisely what I’m talking about. If you do not know how good coffee was meant to be: well, go check out a French press. Or, even better, just enjoy a fine Espresso. But I digress. [I suspect my digression has something to do with the fact that I'm trying very hard to give up caffeine!]
Here is what a friend just sent me last night, some reflections of his on the hymnody of Paul Gerhardt and the music of J.S. Bach and Lutheranism.
which didn’t make it into LSB 453 are worth noting. It’s imagery is
striking. It’s theology of the cross is clear. Its witness to the
implications of the cross for daily living is moving, especially in
light of Gerhardt’s biography.
I was looking around on the Internet the other day for paintings by Lutherans showing Lutheran worship and after I entered "Lutherische messe" in the Google image search engine [a wonderful resource if you are not familiar with it!], I found this picture of a relatively early Lutheran painting. I asked a new friend of mine, Michael Zamzow, if he would favor us with a translation. His translation is literalistic, in order to allow you to receive the full sense of the original. Here is what he sent and I think you will find it interesting. If you click on the picture you will see the photo in its original size on the Internet. I’ve also included a painting by Dürer, upon which this painting appears to be based, for the sake of comparison. Thanks Michael, for sending this along to me as well.
I had a very interesting conversation with some new friends Sunday morning. They are a couple who recently joined our congregation and found their way to our congregation after listening to Lutheran radio. They both come from a non-church background. In conversation one of them asked me why it is that Lutherans are so insular and stick so much to themselves and never really do much to tell non-Lutherans much about Lutheranism. Good questions! Then we talked about how odd it is that when Lutherans do try to get aggressive about reaching out they often just present themselves as no different from the E-Free or non-denom. down the road. I told her how I told the woman in the
couple that it has always been my observation that conservative
Lutherans suffer from an inferiority complex. I told her
that many of us are convinced that nobody would, or could, really be
interested in classic historic Lutheranism and so we fall all over
ourselves excusing it and even apologizing for it, and then try to
present ourselves as generic protestants when we
have such an awesome treasure of truth to offer.
You wouldn’t ordinarily want to do anything in a cloud. Ever drive through thick fog? It’s not fun. I spent nearly five years driving every day to the seminary and back home again in Defiance, Ohio where my wife taught in a Lutheran school. If you are familiar with Northwest Ohio you know that it was once a large swatch of swamp land and then was settled, swamps drained, and fertile farmland was the result. But one legacy of the swampy days is fog so thick in the Fall and Spring that schools in the area would frequently have fog delays in the morning. But we drove on anyway. At times the fog was so thick you literally could not see more than two feet in front of the car. So we drove slowly. Driving in a cloud is not something most would do, if they don’t have to. But the Bible tells us we are in fact spending our whole Christian life, running, with a "great cloud" around us all the time.
Hebrews 12:1 urges us to run with endurance the race that is set before us. It is as if we are in a huge stadium and we are running with the crowds all around cheering us on. Those crowds — the great cloud of witnesses — are the men and women of Christian faith who have gone before us. Which raises the question about saints and the dead in Christ. Are we to pray to them for help as we run our race? Absolutely not. There is not a single command, promise or example in all of Sacred Scripture to justify prayer to the dead. I was reading a blog site recently and sadly noticed a person claim that anyone who denies prayer to the dead is thereby denying the doctrine of the Resurrection. That is nonsense, of course.
What then is the solution to such error? Do we simply ignore the dead in Christ, the saints of all the ages? No. We remember them, but we do not pray to them. Jesus has taught us to pray, and so we say, "Our father, who art in heaven." We pray to the Lord, we remember His saints. Why? I like to think of it this way.
Getting to know our forefathers and foremothers in the faith is like
sitting down and looking through a big family album tucked away in an
attic. You get to know members of your family you never knew you had, or
never knew anything about. When we look at family albums we learn a lot
about our family and about ourselves. We remember and thank God for all
His blessings and the things our family members did. We remember and
learn about the good things and bad things in their lives. And as we
learn more about them we think of the ways we can emulate them and put
some of their virtues and strengths into practice in our lives. That’s
what the saints are like for us. We do not pray to them. We do not
venerate them. We learn from their lives and we thank God for the grace He gave them. Even as we want to know about our earthly families,
all the more should we want to get to know our family in Christ, all our
brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, in the faith, who have gone
before us, that great cloud of witnesses that even now is cheering us
on as we run with perseverance the race marked out for us. After all, we are going to join them some day, so we may as well get to know as many of them now as we can, in anticipation of a joyful reunion in heaven.
If you have not taken the time to visit the Book of Concord blog site, I certainly invite you to do so. We are having a good conversation about the Book of Concord. We have "Roundtables" where a certain portion of the Book of Concord is considered both by our blog’s authors and by our readers. We are presently on Article VIII of the Augsburg Confession. Then we also have "Reflections" which are offered by our authors as the mood strikes them. Here is the latest "Reflection" on our BOC blog site.
What impresses me most as I read the Lutheran Confessions is how pastoral, practical and personal they are.
They are pastoral. The constant drum beat throughout them is the goal of comforting and
caring for souls. The Lutheran Confessions are not theological
speculations or abstractions. The times in which it was written called
for pastoral care on a scale that could only be compared to a national
emergency. Souls bruised and bullied by legalisms and demands placed on
them outside of and beyond the Sacred Scriptures were healed by the
healing and life-giving Gospel. Persons who were not healing the
comforting promises of the Holy Gospel, the free and full forgiveness
of all salvation through Christ, received the love of God as they heard
of the Savior who loved them and died and rose for them. The Lutheran
Confessions speak to us today because they speak of the most important
issues any of us ever face in our life. Who am I? What is life’s
meaning? Who do I know God? Am I loved? How can I be sure? What am I do
to with my life?
They are practical.
They go right to the heart of the key issues and, even in spite of the
length of some articlees in them, never wander off on side paths. It is
a book on a mission and that is to deliver the Gospel: purely, cleanly,
correctly and practically, again, for the care of souls. They are not
journal articles indulging in scholarly pursuits, or the pet interests
of their authors in the pursuit of credibility and respect in the
academic community. The Confessions are practical resources for
people’s faith and life, as they live and especially, as they die. Why?
Because the golden thread running throughout them is the chief and most
important teaching of the Christian faith: justification by God’s grace
alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, the teaching
drawn from Scripture, alone: the Gospel.
They are personal.
The Book of Concord was written by people who had deep and long
first-hand experience with the various theological ills they are
decrying and had first-hand knowledge of just how powerfully comforting
and consoling the Gospel is. Therefore, for example, when you read
about monasticism in this book, always behind these discussions stands
the man who spent well over a decade of his life in this lifestyle,
tortured and tormented no end by the lack of Gospel: Martin Luther. The
book could almost be said to be a spiritual autobiography of all those
who contributed to it. They are not dispassionate scientific essays.
They are not mystical and obscure texts. They are personal statements
of faith expressed on behalf of the Church, and for the Church, in
order to gather more and more into the Church.
Those are three
reasons why I am so passionate about the Book of Concord.
Your turn: Why do you
like the Book of Concord? What about it causes you to keep coming back to it?
One of Cyberbrethren’s readers sends in this fascinating account offering more detail of just what Paul Gerhardt was up against. These details are very often downplayed or ignored. All those Lutherans out there pining about what’s so "wrong" about orthodox Lutheranism’s supposed stubborn and unloving attitude toward non-Lutheran churches need to keep in mind that finally there is no possibility of agreement between those who deny the chief parts of the Small Catechism and those who confess them. Efforts today to move away from the classic expressions of genuine Lutheranism and ape the worship styles and forms of non-denominationalism while claiming that in so doing we can retain the substance of Lutheranism are equally unwise and dangerous. Will we ignore the lessons that history teach us? Thanks to Michael Zamzow for these comments and his translation. By the way, I’ve placed copies of paintings of the Lutheran Divine service in the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy in various places in Germany, throughout this post, so you can have some sense of what Lutheran worship services were like in the days of Paul Gerhardt. Some might say, "No, those can’t be Lutheran services, they look Roman Catholic." Look again. Notice how they feature the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar in
both kinds! A dead give-away that you are looking at a Lutheran Divine Service. Also, in my studies, the manner in which the Sacrament is depicted follows the similar pattern of depiction common in every painting of Lutheran worship from the 16th century forward, persons in the same general configuration, etc. Interesting, no? [Disclaimer: No, I'm not suggesting every pastor run out and thrown on a chausable and start doing it this way. Changes in matters like this take a long time and a lot of teaching. The reason I show these paintings is to dispel the mythology that Lutheranism in its golden years was basically "low church" and "little liturgy." The move toward playing down liturgy and ceremony and beautiful ornamentation came in as a result of Pietism, not as a result of the Reformation.]
Mike writes "The website of Luther in Braunschweig has a great short biography of Gerhardt. The
description of what Gerhardt was up against is described in a way that shakes us out of our Rodney King illusions. Here is a hasty translation. Can one really appreciate Gerhardt if one plays down his orthodox
Lutheran commitment. Do his hymns speak from the depths if they are
made shallow expressions of a generic Protestantism?" Here is his translation:
"The Calvinists at that time behaved toward Lutherans with the same arrogance with which the representatives of "modern", so-called historical-critical Biblical interpretation behave toward those Christians who "still" consider the Bible to be God’s Word. Calvin had asserted for himself the claim that he actually understood Luther better than Luther understood himself. In the catechism of the Calvinists (<i>Heidleberg Catechism</i> the question (78) is posed: "Do bread and wine become the real Body and the Blood of Christ?" The answer is a clear "no" with the additional comment: "so the holy bread in the supper does not become the Body of Christ itself, even if the sacrament is traditionally called the body of Christ." And the Holy Mass is shortly thereafter termed "blasted idolotry." With these statements the Calvinists targeted not just the Roman, but equally the Lutheran Mass.
For decades Calvinist minded preachers tried to gain influence in Berlin. In 1613 Elector John Sigismund fell away from the Lutheran confession and converted to the Reformed faith. There
was an uproar in Berlin in 1615. The trigger was iconoclasm which took place in the Berlin cathedral. The year before the church had been confiscated from the Lutherans and turned over to the Calvinists even though there was only a handful of them in Berlin. They consisted for the most part of courtiers and the court preacher who were of Reformed background.
The Calvinists removed all the precious art from the ancient cathedral. They tore the crucifixes out and shattered the pictures whose rubble the threw in the river. They smashed the baptismal font and
eliminated the altars. The left the house of God barren and empty except for a simple table in the chancel. After that the majority of Berliners, who were of a Lutheran persuasion,–the Berliners were still pious back then!–defended themselves with public uproar.
Over the years the Calvinists tried again and again to assert themselves and were supported in their efforts by the Elector. Thus the conflicts escalated –exacerbated by the Great Elector abolishing the subscription of pastors to the Formula of Concord. With the renewal of an edict from 1614 he forbade clergy to speak about the matter from the pulpit. He forbade his subjects to study theology and philosophy in Wittenberg."