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Archive for April, 2007

Some of My Favorite Blogs

April 25th, 2007 Comments off

It was nice recently to be honored by Dr. Gene Edward Veith as being among the top five or so blogs he does read regularly and that makes him think. Everyone I talk to who has a blog site agrees that Gene Edward Veith’s blog is truly one of the best out there, if not the best, for delivering timely and thought-provoking content. I am very hesitant about naming blog sites I read regularly for fear that I will offend folks, so I generally don’t do that, but I’m often asked by readers which blogs I like and my answer is always, "Oh, lots." But, for what it is worth, here are the blog sites I read most often.

1) Cranach.

2) Get Religion.

3) Mere Comments.

4) Evangelical Outpost.

5) Internet Monk.

6) Weedon’s blog.

7) Cwirla’s blog.

8) Incarnatus est.

9) Cyberstones.

10) Northwoods Seelsorger.

11) Aardvark (I award Pastor Walt Snyder the "Cyberbrethren Master of Shameless Self-Promotion Award." Seriously though, Pastor Snyder has worked tirelessly to promote Lutheran blogging and bloggers. He maintains, to my knowledge, the most comprehensive listing of Lutheran blog sites and tries to keep it up to date. So, if you want to read other Lutheran blogs, or blogs that claim to be Lutheran, and a good selection of other fun and interesting blog sites that are not Lutheran, nor claim to be Lutheran, then you will want to check Aardvark’s site for the "uber-list.")

12) Luther at the Movies.

13) Respublica (lots of St. Louis area commentary)

14) Watersblogged.

15) World Magazine blog.

16) Jolly Blogger.

17) Crunchy Con.

Disclaimer: I use Google reader to monitor many, many more, so if your blog site is not listed here, don’t feel bad. It’s just that these are consistently the ones I seem to come back to reading, instead of merely scanning. So, if you are not listed here, please do not feel slighted. If you have a Lutheran blog site and are listed on Aardvark’s master list, I read all your headlines via Google reader. There are a lots of great blog sites out there, these are just the ones I keep coming back to and find particularly thought-provoking and interesting on a consistent basis.

Further disclaimer: I do not "endorse" the contents of any blog site. Reading blog sites is always a "swim at your own risk" situation. Bloggers speak only for themselves, and like me, bloggers are blogging as a stream of consciousness exercise and may change their opinions, from time to time, or day to day, or hour to hour. So, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, as always, your mileage may vary.

Categories: Blogging

More Thoughts on Speaking the Gospel Boldly and Clearly

April 23rd, 2007 2 comments

I do not believe it is unreasonable, unkind, or inappropriate to expect
a Christian pastor to speak clearly about Christ and the hope we have in
Him at an event with thousands of grieving people. I believe failure to
articulate the Gospel, boldly, at a time like this is simply without excuse and
no matter what was on the man’s heart, it is what was not on his lips
that is the issue. It is more than
reasonable and appropriate to expect pastors to stand and deliver
Jesus: boldly, clearly, passionately, without hesitation and with no
vague platitutudes or "code speak." Failure to do so is not to be
dismissed, overlooked or ignored, no matter what the situation. A grave crisis is all the more reason to proclaim without equivocation or hesitation the One Who has conquered sin, death and the grave. Moments of national crisis bring out from the very depth of a person’s heart and soul what he most
passionately believes, what is of highest priority to him, and what is the very
ground of one’s being. And therein lies the problem in a situation
where the Gospel is not spoken with absolute clarity, and with a church that would simply "shrug off" such failures to
articulate the Gospel. It is only compounding the tragedy of an already
tragic situation. We are forced to ask, "Do we actually believe that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation?" Or have we replaced the Gospel with therapeutic jargon and elevated human emotion above the truth of God’s Holy Word? Have we put fear of offending human feelings above the offense of the scandal of particularity that is the Gospel itself? Have we reached a point that we believe the Gospel is merely for those who already believe it, or know it? It is time to stop making excuses and start analyzing
root causes for such failures to confess the Gospel with such clarity
that there is no mistaking it or ignoring it or overlooking it.

Categories: Christian Life

Ashamed of the Gospel? Missed Opportunity at Virginia Tech

April 22nd, 2007 14 comments

I’ve not said anything about the murders at Virginia Tech simply because so many others have, and no doubt will continue to in the months ahead. The depth of sin once more was revealed in all its horrible brutality. A deeply mentally ill young man was passed around, in and out of "counseling" situations, but never stopped and institutionalized. Why? I do not know. I’m disgusted by the blog posts, by pastors no less, who have decided to turn this situation into a forum on gun control, either pro or con.

I’m deeply troubled by one aspect of this situation: the abject failure of the Lutheran pastor on the scene there to say a clear word about our Lord Christ during the special service held on the campus and broadcast nationwide.

I’ll put it plainly: If you are going to participate in an overtly syncretistic service like this, a bad situation to begin with, then for the love of Christ [literally!], speak of Christ and the power of His resurrection! Here is an excellent commentary on the situation that I entirely agree with.

Ashamed of the Gospel?  Missed Opportunity at Virginia Tech
By Frank Pastore
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Let’s
test your knowledge of world religions. Below is the entire message
delivered by one of the four religious leaders at last week’s
convocation at Virginia Tech, in the aftermath of the horrible mass
murders that left 32 dead and 21 injured.

The test is simple: determine the religion being represented.

We gather this afternoon for many purposes. To weep for lost
friends and family, to mourn our lost innocence, to walk forward in the
wake of unspeakable tragedy, to embrace hope in the shadow of despair,
to join our voices in a longing for peace, and healing, and
understanding which is much greater than any single faith community. To
embrace that which unifies, and to reject the seductive temptation to
hate. We gather to share our hurts and our hopes, our petitions and our
prayers.

We gather also to drink deeply of the religious streams
which have refreshed parched peoples for many generations. We gather
together, weeping. Yes, we weep with an agony too deep for words and
sighs that are inexpressible. But also we gather affirming the
sovereignty of life over death.

At a time such as this, the darkness of evil seems powerful
indeed. It casts a pall over our simple joys, joys as simple as playing
Frisbee on the drill field. We struggle to imagine a future beyond this
agony. If we ever harbored any illusions that our campus is an idyllic
refuge from the violence of the rest of the world, they are gone
forever. And yet, we come to this place to testify that the light of
love cannot be defeated.

Amid all our pain, we confess that the light shines in the
darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. We cannot do everything,
but we can do something. We cannot banish all darkness, but we can by
joining together, push it back. We can not undue yesterday’s tragic
events, but we can sit in patient silence with those who mourn as they
seek for a way forward.

As we share light, one with another, we reclaim our campus,
let us deny death’s power to rob us of all that we have loved about
Virginia Tech, this our community. Let us cast our lot with hope in
defiance of despair. I invite you to observe a moment of silence.

Difficult, isn’t it?

The message was delivered by Reverend William H. King, Director
of Lutheran Campus Ministries at Virginia Tech, and a member of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The video of the message
is available online.

Each of the four speakers were there to represent their
religion, to bring the message of comfort and hope rooted in their
faith tradition. The Muslim speaker read passages from the Koran in
Arabic and appealed to Allah, the Jewish speaker read from Ecclesiastes
3 while an assistant repeated the passages in Hebrew, the Buddhist
quoted the Dalai Lama, while the Christian did not even quote from the
Bible, nor mention the name of Jesus – the namesake of his religion.

What Mr. King said should be studied in every seminary in
America. It is precisely what not to do when given the opportunity to
bring the message of the Gospel of Jesus to those grieving the loss of
loved ones and struggling to make sense of the evil visited upon them.

The nearest thing to Christianity anyone heard at the
Convocation was the playing of Amazing Grace and the unison recitation
of The Lord’s Prayer. There was far more Bible coming from the pews
than being preached from the pulpit.

No wonder Christianity is so easily and regularly attacked on
college campuses. With advocates like this, who needs opposition? We’ve
got guys in our uniform playing for the other team.

Mr. King could have spoken the truth. He could have explained
why Christians are confident in divine justice, why we believe that
good will ultimately triumph over evil, why we know that there is life
after death for those that trust Christ. He could have explained that
Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins on the Cross that Friday long
ago, and rose bodily from the dead on Sunday to prove His sovereignty
over evil, sin and death.

In short, he could have preached the Gospel. After all, the murders were only a week removed from Easter.

But, Mr. King decided to do something apparently more important
in his mind. He decided to be politically correct and not offend the
members of his interfaith community by offering hollow words of
humanistic philosophy lacking any real substance, and by appealing to
various “religious streams” and by validating the search “for a way
forward,” he insulted those of us who actually believe Christianity is
true and other religions false.

In so doing, he denied his faith.

He offered those mourning no hope for the present nor any hope for the future.

He left the hearers dead in their sins.

A minister ashamed of the Gospel should not have been on that podium.

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Preaching Good Works

April 22nd, 2007 3 comments

Reflecting on the conversations that this blog site and others have engaged in on the subject of whether or not, or to what extent, or how, preachers are to preach to Christians about good works, I ran across this sermon by Martin Luther, a sermon that is not at all atypical of Luther’s preaching, nor the preaching of those who came after Luther, down to the 20th century. What do you think? Did Luther get it right, or wrong? I’ve read posts from several Lutheran pastors who assert that the preacher must not spend time in his sermon talking about the Christian’s life of good works, and must certainly never mention good works after he has preached the Gospel in His sermon. I can find no evidence in Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions or historic Lutheran preaching to support this position. I’ve put the sermon in the extended entry.

Read more…

Categories: Christian Life

Bach in St. Nikolai Church

April 20th, 2007 Comments off

St. Nikolai Church is beautiful, quite a different structure on the inside than the Thomaskirche. In the back of the church there is a beautiful bust of Bach, elegantly simple. In the St. Nikolai many of the works Bach is most well known for were performed for the first time.

Bach

Categories: Uncategorized

Some signatures

April 20th, 2007 Comments off

I think you may recognize these signatures.

Luther_signature

Melancthon_bugenhagen

Categories: Uncategorized

Rome is Rome is Rome…on Merit, Grace and Salvation

April 20th, 2007 6 comments

I just popped over to the Vatican’s web site and noticed that nearly two years ago the Roman Church issues a "compendium" to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The compendium is a condensed version of the much, much larger Catechism proper. I never noticed it before. I went to see how they summarize Justification and was particularly struck by how Rome has not changed a bit, when it comes down to it, that man does, and must, merit for himself grace in order to be saved. Oh, sure, it is couched in gentler terminology, etc. but Rome is Rome is Rome is Rome. I’m no sure how best to put this, but…anyone who actually believes that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was any sort of compromise or change on Rome’s part is simply out of touch with reality. All the same Roman definitions and understandings are fully intact! Where is the "great breakthrough"?

426. What is merit?

 

2006-2010
2025-2026

 

In general merit refers to the right to recompense for a good deed. With regard
to God, we of ourselves are not able to merit anything, having received
everything freely from him. However, God gives us the possibility of acquiring
merit through union with the love of Christ, who is the source of our merits
before God. The merits for good works, therefore must be attributed in the first
place to the grace of God and then to the free will of man.

 

427. What are the goods that we can merit?

 

2010-2011
2027

 

Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others the graces
needed for our sanctification and for the attainment of eternal life
. Even
temporal goods, suitable for us, can be merited in accordance with the plan of
God. No one, however, can merit the initial grace which is at the origin
of conversion and justification.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Now This is a Lutheran Altar!

April 19th, 2007 3 comments

This is the altar that was placed by Lutherans in St. Martini Church in Braunschweig, Germany: Martin Chemnitz’ church. It was installed during the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version. It is beautifully rich and filled with symbolism. Why do some Lutherans today think that church buildings that look like big non-denominational barns are more "spiritual"? Why do some Lutherans today shudder at the thought of a crucifix? Why are some Lutherans so uptight about being uniquely and distinctively Lutheran? I don’t get it.

Braunschweigaltar

Categories: Uncategorized

Happy Reformation Day! The day Luther said, “No.” A photo essay.

April 18th, 2007 4 comments

Luther_at_worms_2Happy Reformation Day! I know we refer to October 31, 1517 as Reformation day, but to me this day is actually of much greater meaning. On this day, in 1521, Luther stood before Church and Empire at the Imperial Meeting in Worms and spoke a decisive "no" to the demand that he recant his teachings and writings. If Luther had recanted at this point, I do not see how the Reformation of the Church would have come about, from a human perspective. We are so used to these events that it is far too easy for us to underestimate the enormous pressure to recant that Luther was under and the incredibly intimidating situation he faced when he appeared before Emperor Charles V.

These events took place in the bishop’s palace attached to St. Peter’s cathedral in the city of Worms. The palace no longer stands but the cathedral is as imposing as ever. What follows in the extended entry below is a little photo tour of the cathedral and its grounds. There are many photos below so your download time may be somewhat long, depending on your connection.

Read more…

Categories: Lutheranism

Lutheran Service Book FAQ

April 13th, 2007 12 comments

Lutheran_service_book_1
Question: How are sales of the Lutheran Service Book going? My congregation is in the process of deciding if we are going to buy it and want to know how well received it has been.

Answer: The hymnal has been available for just a bit over six months and there are already well in excess of 550,000 copies in circulation. The orders keep pouring in. We will be close to one million copies in print by the end of this year. The demand for the hymnal has exceeded our expectation.

Question: How long is the introductory price of $18.50 good for?
Answer: Concordia Publishing House recently announced that we are extending the special price through Pentecost of 2008 in light of the huge demand for the hymnal and to give congregations more time to make their purchase. We were going to stop the special price at the end of this summer, but felt it would be a better service to the Synod to continue the special pricing.

Question: Is there a better time to order it to make sure we get it right away?
Answer: No, we are unable to say for sure when we will have copies in stock for immediate shipping and when we will be in a backorder situation. The printer is working continuously to fill our reprint orders and delivering them as quickly to us as possible. The best thing to do is simply place your order and get in line for copies as they become available and when they become available. First come, first served. Our distribution center is working at full capacity to fill orders just as quickly as we can.

Question: How has the software Lutheran Service Builder been received?
Answer: Let me put it this way. We expected to sell a few hundred copies in the first year the program was released. The program has been available for only a few months and we have sold over 1,350 copies.

Question: When is the Pastoral Care Companion coming out?
Answer: We expect it to be here by July. You will be extremely impressed by the tremendous amount of resources it contains.

Question: What have you been hearing about the hymnal?
We have heard continuously from congregations and pastors who are extremely pleased with the hymnal. They are very impressed at how easy it is to introduce the hymnal to the parish. "TLH only" congregations that have switched to LSB have been particularly pleased at how well the transition has gone. We are hearing good things about the quality of the hymnal, the design of the hymnal and how easy the new hymnal is to use. Very few negative remarks have been received. Frankly, I’ve been amazed at how few negative remarks we have received. Overwhelmingly positive response from all across the Synod, from congregations of every size.

Question: What about the hymnal: Lutheran Worship?
Answer: We have not received a single request to keep Lutheran Worship in print. In fact, the Concordia Publishing House board of directors took it out of print at its last meeting. We have limited quantities remaining and when these are gone there will no future printings. No LW companion volumes are reprinted. Neither LW, nor any of its companion volumes, will be released into the public doman. CPH still holds all copyright to all LW resources.

Question: What about The Lutheran Hymnal?
Answer: We will keep one edition of TLH in print at least in the short-term, the red pew edition. No TLH support volumes will be reprinted. Neither, TLH  nor any of its supporting volumes, will be released into the public domain. CPH still holds copyright to all TLH resources.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Torgau Castle

April 13th, 2007 7 comments

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This photo was taken from the seats that the Elector and his family occupied during the daily church services at the Torgau Castle. Elector John Frederick the Magnanimous, one of the great heroes of the Reformation era, had the chapel constructed. He was a lifelong student of Luther, regarding Luther as his spiritual father. When he was taken into captivity in 1547 and imprisoned he was offered the return of properties like his Torgau Castle complex in exchange for renouncing his Lutheran faith and confession. He steadfastly refused. When you visit the Torgau Castle and read about its history and consider the enormous wealth it represented, and then realize that this was but one of many castles and properties John Frederick owned, all which he lost, you begin to appreciate more fully just how courageous he was and how costly his confession was.

When the Elector was in residence there were daily services, attended in the morning by all the persons in the castle compound who could attend, followed by the main meal of the day, served to all the Castle residents and staff: over 400 people when the Elector was in residence. The electoral family seats in the chapel were accessible by a private entrance into the chapel from the Elector’s living quarters in the castle. The pulpit you see, on the right, would have put the preacher at eye level with the Elector. This church was one of the first designed by Lutherans for the Lutheran Divine Service. Martin Luther preached the dedicatory sermon, in the pulpit you see. The next photo is of the Elector’s seating area. You can see the doorway they used behind the seats. The photo of the church interior was taken, standing, in the middle of the seating area for the Elector.

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Here are photos of the carvings on the Castle Church pulpit. They depict: Christ cleansing the temple, Christ in the temple as a child, and Christ washing his disciples feet. All vivid reminders of the duties and obligations of the Elector as a pious Christian ruler.

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Here is a shot of the pulpit, looking toward the elector’s seating area.

IMG_2604.jpg

Here is a photo of the Torgau Castle complex from the exterior, followed by one taken from a window in the Castle Church, of the interior of the castle.

Here is a closer view of the unique spiral staircase, said to be the most magnificent achievement of Northern German Renaissance architecture. It is built without any supporting structures.

IMG_2690.jpg

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A final view of the Torgau Castle Church, ground floor, looking toward the “altar” which is in fact a free standing table, as Luther had indicated should be used in Christian services of the Lord’s Supper.

IMG_2578.jpg

Categories: Uncategorized

Have a Nice Day – Coburg Style

April 13th, 2007 2 comments

Photo15 - AntiPapal Lutheran Carving at Coburg.jpg
I’m working through my photos that I took last June in Germany and bumped into this one. It is a photo of a wood carving that hangs in the chambers Luther occupied while he was at the Coburg Castle during the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. It portrays the Pope being thrown into the mouth of hell. This was an age not given to irenic subtlety, to say the least.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Titanic “discovery” is taking on water rapidly

April 12th, 2007 Comments off

Recall the Discovery channel documentary that claimed that the tomb of Jesus and his family had been discovered in Jerusalem? Well, it looks like there is a whole lot of backtracking going on now. In other words, it would seem that this alleged titanic discovery has hit a snag and is taking on water rapidly, so to speak. Note to James Cameron: stick with your sappy chick-flicks and make-believe world. Leave archeology and theology to the experts, ok?

Categories: Uncategorized

Winkworth Hymn Translations

April 11th, 2007 Comments off

Resurrection
The Internet never ceases to amaze me, in two ways. First, I am amazed continually at the amount of garbage, junk, smut and useless information available from it. Second, I am amazed continually at the amount of valuable information that is freely available. I came across a wonderful resource that provides a myriad of translations of hymns from the age of the Reformation and Lutheran Orthodoxy that is available nowhere else. Check it out for yourself. Here is one of Heerman’s hymns with which I was unfamiliar:

Ere yet the dawn hath fill’d the skies

Behold my Saviour Christ arise,

He chaseth from us sin and night,

And brings us joy and life and light.

Hallelujah.

O stronger Thou than Death and Hell,

Where is the foe Thou canst not quell?

What heavy stone Thou canst not roll

From off the prison’d anguish’d soul?

Hallelujah.

If Jesus lives, can I be sad?

I know He loves me, and am glad;

Though all the world were dead to me,

Enough, O Christ, if I have Thee!

Hallelujah.

He feeds me, comforts and defends,

And when I die His angel sends

To bear me whither He is gone,

For of His own He loseth none.

Hallelujah.

No more to fear or grief I bow,

God and the angels love me now;

The joys prepared for me to-day

Drive fear and mourning far away;

Hallelujah.

Strong Champion! For this comfort see

The whole world brings her thanks to Thee;

And once we too shall raise above

More sweet and loud the song we love;

Hallelujah.

Categories: Uncategorized

Awake My Heart, with Gladness

April 10th, 2007 2 comments
Awake, my heart, with gladness,
See what today is done,
Now after gloom and sadness
Comes forth the glorious Sun!
My Savior there was laid
Where our bed must be made
When to the realms of light
Our spirit wings its flight.

2. The Foe in triumph shouted
When Christ lay in the tomb,
But, lo, he now is routed,
His boast is turned to gloom.
For Christ again is free;
In glorious victory
He who is strong to save
Has triumphed o’er the grave.

3. Upon the grave is standing
The Hero, looking ’round;
The Foe, no more withstanding,
His weapons on the ground
Throws down, his hellish power
To Christ he must give o’er
And to the Victor’s bands
Must yield his feet and hands.

4. This is a sight that gladdens;
What peace it doth impart!
Now nothing ever saddens
The joy within my heart;
No gloom shall ever shake,
No foe shall ever take,
The hope which God’s own Son
In love for me hath won.

5. Now hell, its prince, the devil,
Of all their power are shorn;
Now I am safe from evil,
And sin I laugh to scorn.
Grim death with all his might
Cannot my soul affright;
He is a powerless form,
Howe’er he rave and storm.

6. The world against me rageth,
Its fury I disdain;
Though bitter war it wageth,
Its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free,
No trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play,
And night is bright as day.

7. Now I will cling forever
To Christ, my Savior true;
My Lord will leave me never,
Whate’er He passes through.
He rends Death’s iron chain,
He breaks through sin and pain,
He shatters hell’s dark thrall,
I follow through it all.

8. To halls of heavenly splendor
With Him I penetrate;
And trouble ne’er may hinder
Nor make me hesitate.
Let tempests rage at will,
My Savior shields me still;
He grants abiding peace
And bids all tumult cease.

9. He brings me to the portal
That leads to bliss untold
Whereon this rime immortal
Is found in script of gold:
"Who there My cross hath shared
Finds here a crown prepared;
Who there with Me has died
Shall here be glorified."

Categories: Uncategorized