Archive for June, 2007

Dual-Core Macintosh: So Choice

June 18th, 2007 11 comments

Apple24inchimacI’ve heard from many of you who have taken the plunge and switched to Apple Macintosh. It’s been a long while since I’ve posted on Macintosh, but…let me just say that longer I have my iMac the more I love it. Parallels just came out with an upgrade to their software and all the excuses for not getting a Macintosh are gone, virtually (pun intended) gone. With Parallels you can run all the PC programs you want. I’m running all my Mac native software and my Windows software transparently. There is complete interchangeability. I can open Windows files with Mac programs, and similarly Mac files in Windows. I even have a feature that makes the Windows program files running appear simply as open Windows in my Mac. The copy/paste commandsBeuller_4 on my Mac keyboard work perfectly in the Windows applications, etc.  And, if any of you want to say, "Bu
t I can get a PC for a lot less than the Mac and it will perform just as well."
I will say,
"With that statement you have proven you have not actually compared any Apples to apples, so to speak." Oh, and I just took a sneak peek at the next Macintosh OS coming. Windows Vista users…you ain’t seen nothing yet. In other words, as Ferris Bueller once said: It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Categories: Uncategorized

“You Are Not Free to Use This Liberty” –Martin Luther

June 14th, 2007 6 comments

At another Lutheran blog there was, as is to be expected, a lively exchange when a fine Lutheran pastor, whom I count as a friend, suggested it would be appropriate for Lutheran congregations to have a Corpus Christi festival, sans the "bad stuff" associated with it. Aside from any conversation about whether there is possible a "Corpus Christi" festival sans the "bad stuff" given its murky origin in the vision of a Roman Catholic nun seeing spots on the moon, I raised the issue of how none us of, no matter our intention, is really free to haul off and go our own way liturgically, be it to the "high" or "low" side of the equation, but that it would be so much better for us all, to the greatest extent possible, to agree to use our church’s approved agendas, hymnals and catechisms. A person commenting on the subject indicated while he regarded existing resources as containing much good he also believed them to be "deficient" in several respects. I wondered just who it is that determines what is "deficient"? Him? Some self-appointed group or society of like-minded individuals? American Lutherans, be they high-church or low-church, all share one thing in common: a love of independence. So, when are we not free to use our liberty? Here are some additional thoughts on these issues.

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. *

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

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 d
iligently 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.

Categories: Uncategorized

Desperately Seeking Absolution

June 14th, 2007 2 comments

My friend Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, a Missouri Synod Lutheran laywoman, has a wonderful column on First Things’ web page. How cool is it that a writer has a last name like "Hemingway"? She has her husband to thank for that. Kudos Mollie!

thirty-six-year-old man from Sunrise, Florida, had years’ worth of sin
to unload. As he prepared to make confession, he wondered where to
begin. Finally, he just let it all out:

“I have been with women who were married. . . . I have done enough
drugs to make Keith Richards envious!!!!! I have been extremely hot
tempered and violent for the majority of my life. I have stolen things
for drugs and money. I have disrespected my both my parents. I have
disrespected my marriage by being unfaithful. Truth is I have just
about done it all wrong.”

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

The Small Catechism: A Great Tradition

June 13th, 2007 6 comments

Kudos to John Pawlitz for this excellent brief reflection on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Check out his blog site and the other Higher Things blog sites, always much food for thought there.

The Small Catechism lends a focus and credibility to
Lutheranism that other denominations do not possess and opens doors for
a far greater intellectual tradition.

The greatest thing about the Small Catechism is . . . it’s small.
If brevity is the soul of wit, brevity also prevents misunderstanding.
That is the poise and focus that Luther bestowed to the church.  We
need more of this approach to theology.  An approach that acknowledges
the power of God requires us to avoid attempts at comprehensive
explanations of everything (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:2 "God is in heaven and
you are on earth, therefore let your words be few.") without taking the
relativistic response of nihilism and nothing-can-be-known-for-sure.
One of the things that is great about the small catechism is that, in
its succinctness, it only says what is necessary and it says it
clearly.  In other words, it doesn’t try to do too much, but what is
done is done well.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Comment Policy

June 7th, 2007 Comments off

Because I value your thoughtful opinions, I encourage you to add a comment to the posts and discussions on this blog site. Persons posting comments are expected to be courteous, civil, respectful and polite. Don’t be offended if I edit your comments for clarity or to keep out questionable matters. I will delete off-topic or inappropriate comments. Cyberbrethren uses the IntenseDebate commenting system with all its moderating features and functions.

Please send personal questions or inquiries directly to the blog owner at:

Categories: Blogging

And even more pastoral care resources! Pastors, please pass the word on this

June 7th, 2007 1 comment

The Pastoral Care Companion
has been very strongly received and enthusiastic reviews from pastors have been very encouraging. A frequent comment is: I wish we had a copy of the service of communion of the homebound to use when we make our calls. Good news! We have precisely this. Rev. Scot Kinnaman, my colleague here, designed this precisely with a view toward having something to provide to the communicants so they can follow along and participate in the communion service. It is a perfect match to what you will be using from the Pastoral Care Companion. It is a nicely laminated tract sized document that is durable and may even be cleansed with antiseptic wipes when the need/condition arises for that. They are .50 each. Here is where you can find this on our web site. Homebound_communion_7
And, while you are there, please notice also that we have a very handy "kit" of appropriate tracts for a pastor to have with him at all times to leave with folks, another of Scot’s ideas. I highly recommend it. It provides you a nice carrying case that fits into a jacket/suit pocket with a starter supply of tracts. The kit is $9.99. Here is the full product description of this kit. I think you’ll find it extremely useful. Please do spread the word about this, pastors, to your fellow circuit pastors. This is a real gem that is available. This kit is contained in an imprinted vinyl cover with 2 pockets. Material includes 2 each of 8 tracts and 2 laminated, reusable order-of-service cards. The tracts in the kit are:

    * Coping with Cancer
    * Individual Confession/Absolution
    * A Lift for Today
    * Lord, I Hurt
    * Making Sense Out of Suffering
    * Prayers for the Sick
    * They Say I’m Dying
    * Words of Comfort for You

The order of service cards are

    * Communion of the Sick and Homebound
    * Visiting the Sick and Distressed

Order of service cards are from the Lutheran Service Book Pastoral Companion.

Imprinted on the pockets of the covers are suggested prayers for

    * Before surgery
    * After surgery
    * Before Confession and Absolution
    * Before Communion
    * After Communion

Printed on the back cover are biblical references for general sick calls and selected psalms

The tracts and order of service cards are available for purchase separately.

Or if you prefer to order over the phone, you may call 800-325-3040 and ask for:

Communion of the Homebound tract: Item number 101785


Resources for Hospital and Sick Calls: Item number 101778

Categories: Uncategorized

Pastor Adam Cooper Response to Koons Conversion

June 6th, 2007 Comments off

I thought this piece by Pastor Adam Cooper was very well done indeed. Much food for thought and reflection. I have been, as every reader of this blog knows, been growing increasingly concerned that in well-intentioned efforts to distance "us" from God’s justification of us, some Lutherans have wandered into antinominianism. Cooper’s comments about Gnosticism are another way of talking about this concern.

Another Big Fish

By Adam G. Cooper

Monday, June 4, 2007,  8:37 AM

we go again. Yet another promising Lutheran has just gone over to Rome.
Robert C. Koons is professor of philosophy at the University of Texas.
His department is the home of such distinguished scholars as Richard
Sorabji and J. Budziszewski, company no doubt conducive to a
stimulating intellectual climate. Koons’ numerous publications on
logic, causation, science, and metaphysics have earned deserved
recognition, including the Arlt Prize from the Council of Graduate
Schools for his 1992 book, Paradoxes of Belief and Strategic Rationality.

While strictly a philosopher by profession, Koons is no slouch when
it comes to theology. Just under a year ago, he published on his
website a ninety-page personal study
he had undertaken to work through the doctrinal differences between
Lutherans and Roman Catholics. The study is refreshing for its clarity,
charity, and good sense. Having been raised a good Missouri Synod
Lutheran, Koons is well situated to articulate sound confessional
teaching in congruity with the self-understanding of the Lutheran
confessions. At the same time, Koons avoids the false characterizations
that commonly typify many representations of Roman teaching.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Layman to Layman: A Response to Rob Koons Conversion to Romanism

June 6th, 2007 3 comments

Dr. Erich Heidenreich provides this very cogent and well informed response to Rob Koons, a professor of philosophy, and a LCMS professor, who recently converted to Romanism. Koons has made available his explanation of his conversion. Erich asked me to "tackle" this issue on Cyberbrethren, but frankly, after reading his critique and response to a number of Koon’s point, I feel he has done a very fine job indeed. By the way, here is another good response to Koons. Dr. Heidenreich’s comments pertain to an earlier version of Koons paper which he had circulated to some mutual friends, and Erich was asked to respond to it. But the points Erich makes are all quite valid and very well done. He write:

Koons’ points in caps, to which I respond:


- We all agree that the Gospel exists in all Christian denominations.
Otherwise they would not be Christian.
- But the Gospel is contaminated and contradicted by secondary
doctrines in other churches.
- Only one confession can have the pure doctrine (since they all
differ), and this doctrine must be unadulterated in its official
- The doctrine of Justification cannot be separated from the whole of
doctrine, including those considered "secondary."

Read more…

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Pope? “Nyet!,” says Russian Patriarch. And there you go.

June 6th, 2007 1 comment

Rome continues to claim that the Pope is the universal head of the Church, except of course that he actually is such only according to Roman theories on Petrine primacy. The Russian Orthodox Church has announced that there can be no compromise with Rome on this point. And if Russia says this, the other so-called "Patriarchs" in Eastern Orthodoxy will of course have to agree, or there would go the consensus that Eastern Orthodoxy. So, unless Rome relinquishes its claims about the Pope, there will be no reunification of East and West. And, of course, if Rome backs away from the claim that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the universal head of the entire Church and, by extension, of all Christians, whether they recognize him as such or not, well, that would mean the end of Roman Catholicism which derives its authority and unity not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but from Papal primacy (a major reason we had the little incident in the 16th century called the Reformation of the Church). And there you go. And so you see, this is not really, in the end, an argument about the Gospel, but who is the greatest and who is the boss.

Russian Orthodox bishop rules out ‘compromise’ on papacy

By Sophia Kishkovsky
Moscow, 6 June (ENI)–A representative of the Russian Orthodox Church has ruled out any "compromise" with the Roman Catholic Church over the status of the papacy, which is one of the issues that continues to divide the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Being a Muslim and a Christian

June 5th, 2007 12 comments

The Episcopalian Church USA has a priest who is also a Muslim.

On being Christian and Muslim
an interview with the Rev. Dr.
Ann Holmes Redding

By Norah M. Joslyn

A little more than a year
ago, the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding found herself
at the doorway of a new
world, Islam, and wasn’t quite sure how she got there.
As she reflected on
her journey, she realized Jesus was her guide. Now both a
practicing Muslim
and an Episcopal priest, Redding shares her thoughts on how the
two faiths
inform each other.
“The way I understand Jesus is compatible with Islam,”
Redding explains, “and
although there are Christians and Muslims who think I
must convert from one to
the other, the more I go down this path the
excited I am about both Christianity
and Islam.”
Redding credits her
upbringing for early
exposure to interfaith relationships. She
baptized by an African Methodist Episcopal
minister but the only
Sunday school she
attended was Episcopal. She attended a
Unitarian youth
group in high school when
the Episcopal group disbanded. She
influenced by a cooperative community near
where she grew up that was
comprised of
mostly Quakers, Unitarians and Jews. Her
father was a
prominent civil rights lawyer
whose work brought him and the family into
contact with people of many faith
After an introduction to a
Muslim prayer practice in early 2006, Redding knew
she had been wrestling
with a call to Islam. She approached a Muslim woman and
told her so, and the
woman replied, “Christianity has been good to you and you to
it, and you
don’t have to choose.” That made all the difference in Redding’s choice
practice Islam.
“What Islam has done for me is shed this light on
Christianity and shown for me
anew what a glorious way Christianity is,” she
“We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of
Jesus and the
pattern of life he offers, describe him as the ‘only begotten
son of God.’ That’s how
wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal,” she
continues. “When we say Jesus is
the only begotten one, we are saying he’s
unique in some way. Islam says the same
thing. He’s the only human aside from
Adam who is directly created by God, and
he’s different from Adam because he
has a human mother. So there’s agreement—this
person is unique in his
relationship to God.” Christianity also says that we are all part
of the
household of God and in essence brothers and sisters of Jesus. Muslims
the figurative language of “only begotten,” make it concrete and
contradict it: God
“neither begets nor is begotten.”
“I agree with both
because I do want to say that Jesus is unique, and for me, Jesus
is my
spiritual master,” Redding says. “Muslims say Mohammed is the most
Well, it depends on who you fall in love with. I fell in love with
Jesus a long time ago
and I’m still in love with Jesus but I’d like to think
my relationship with Jesus has
She added that what Islam does is
take Jesus out of the way of her relationship
with God, “but it doesn’t drop
Jesus. I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam,
and he didn’t drop me
off at the door. He’s there, too.”
“It’s a family situation,” Redding says.
“When you put the three Abrahamic faiths
(Christianity, Islam and Judaism)
together, you see so clearly that they work together
and belong next to each
other because they shine lights on each other all the time.”
Redding explains
that Abraham is the father figure who holds the three faiths
together. In the
Hebrew bible is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. In Islam, the story
the same but it is Ishmael, not Isaac. In the Hebrew bible, Hagar, an Egyptian
gives birth to a son before Sarah does but Ishmael is written out of
the story. Christianity
has genealogies of Jesus that also try to redefine
the family. Islam reminds us that it
was Ishmael who was the firstborn and
restores that branch of the family.
“For me it’s so gloriously, wonderfully
paradoxical and very real,” Redding exclaims.
“The most powerful and moving
part of my life is moving back and forth between
worshiping with Christians
and Muslims. I am now connected to a group of people
who have always been
part of my family but whom I didn’t know.”
What about profession of faith?
How can the two coexist? Redding says if you
take your shahaddah (official
entrance into Islam), saying “there is no God but God
and Mohammed is the
prophet of God,” with the intention of becoming a Muslim,
accurately and
before at least one witness, you’re a Muslim. That does not
anything in Christianity. She says the reverse is true for her;
the renunciations and
affirmations Christians make at their baptism do not
contradict anything in Islam.
“The renunciations [of Satan, evil powers and
sinful desires] any Muslim can say,”
Redding says. “The affirmations are
tough for any Christian who is at all progressive
because there are certain
of us [Christians] who have taken these and made them in
to something like
fraternity hazing—you have to say these words in order to be part
of the
club. I see them as taking Jesus as the human example to follow toward
Most Muslims see Mohammed rather than Jesus as the pattern of life to
follow, and
I do not see him as the only example. I just am not willing to
put ‘onlys’ in front of all
those affirmations about Jesus.
People have
seen a transformation in Redding. The words she has heard are,
“you just
glow.” She says it’s as if someone took the shade off her and everything
“We are called to be childlike and yet become adults and
fully human beings,”
Redding says. “For me to become a human being
to identify solely with the will of God.
Islam gives me the tools to do that.
Some of us
just need more tools.”
“Interfaith work is not just sitting in
a room
with a group of people and acknowledging our
similarities and
differences. For me, interfaith
work happens when I respect others and
enough to reexamine my own beliefs.” Redding
explains. “It means
saying to God, ‘I love and
trust you enough to see what happens when
put these pieces together.’ Let’s see how big
God really

Redding worships with the Al Islam Center of Seattle and at St.
Clement’s, Seattle. She
has a Ph.D. in New Testament and recently accepted a
position to teach graduate courses in
theology at Seattle University. She
wants to start an institute for the study of the Abrahamic
faith traditions,
a supportive environment where people can look at Judaism, Islam
Christianity together and see how they reflect on each other, where they
can explore their
own tradition and others without an agenda to convert.

Categories: Uncategorized

Business as Usual in Romanism: Part II — Mary’s Dress and Christ’s Swaddling Cloths

June 3rd, 2007 6 comments

Last week we saw that it is still very much business as usual in the Roman Church when it comes to paying to have masses said and paying to have a share in priests’ good works. Now comes this story from Germany on: relics. Yes, relics. You know the superstitious bits and pieces of saints bones and hair and blood and objects. Well, these relics are particularly interesting, for it is claimed that they are the dress Mary wore when giving birth to our Lord, and some of the swaddling cloths he was wrapped in. I have a hunch that there are enough dresses of Mary and swaddling cloths of Jesus in Medieval lore and legend to cloth a legion of young women and wrap an equal number of newborns. One person commenting here has noted that the dress appears to be quite large. Either the Mother of our Lord was a *very* large woman, or those are two very short priests. Here is the story:

Trinity Hartman | | © Deutsche Welle.

Holy Skepticism: Christian Relics Face a Modern Audience

Virgin Mary's dress is a treasured relic. But is it real?Virgin Mary’s dress is a treasured relic. But is it real?

European Catholics arrive in Aachen this week to see a 2,000-year-old
dress reputedly worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. Christian
relics continue to draw crowds, but for most people seeing isn’t


The bones and
belongings of holy people remain a big tourist draw in Europe. For most
modern day pilgrims, whether the ancient Christian relics are real or
not is beside the point.


Aachen's cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage siteBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Aachen’s cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site

Aachen expects 100,000 pilgrims and tourists during its 2007 pilgrimage, which started Friday and goes until June 10.


Among the visitors
will be plenty of skeptics. That’s okay, Aachen’s Roman Catholic Bishop
Heinrich Mussinghoff said at the Friday service to open the shrine
containing the relics. One doesn’t need to do pilgrimages or venerate
relics to be a good Catholic, he said.


Most modern day Catholics emphasize relics’ importance as symbols rather than their belief in supernatural powers.


Mussinghoff likened
relics to a family heirloom which is treasured for providing a link
to the past. Relics "speak of the difference these people made, of what
they accomplished for the future, of their thoughts, actions and
beliefs which are still so valuable and precious today," he said.


Avoiding superstition


Relics draw crowdsBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Relics draw crowds

But Christian
Weisner, a spokesman for We Are Church, a group advocating for reform
of the Roman Catholic Church, said he sees relics as a form of


"I have some
reluctance about praying to relics or expecting healing from relics,"
he said. "We have to be careful not to become superstitious."


Weisner does applaud
some of the modern day activities that often go along with relics such
as making pilgrimages, praying and meeting other believers, he said.
All those are important parts of the catholic faith, Weisner said.


"Belief needs emotional things," he said. "At the same time we have to use our brain, we need reason."


A matter of faith


Aachen expects 100,000 pilgrimsBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Aachen expects 100,000 pilgrims

The popularity of relics surged during the Middle Ages and ended with the Protestant Reformation.


During the Middle
Ages, relics were thought to provide a direct link to the saint. Going
on pilgrimage provided a way to have sins forgiven and shorten the time
in purgatory. For many pilgrims, coming face to face with relics was
the most terrifying and awesome experience of their lives.


Pilgrims to Aachen faced some of the most important characters in Christianity: Jesus, his mother Mary and John the Baptist.


As the center of
Charlemagne’s empire, Aachen was Europe’s most important pilgrimage
destination during the Middle Ages after Rome and Santiago de
Compostela in Spain. Charlemagne’s role in acquiring the relics in 799
is "only a legend," said relic expert Christof Diedrichs, a researcher
at the Humboldt University in Berlin.


Besides Mary’s dress,
Aachen has three other major relics: Jesus’ swaddling clothes, a cloth
used during John the Baptist’s beheading, and the waistcloth Jesus wore
during his crucifixion. Aachen has brought the relics out for a public
viewing once every seven years since 1394.


What has been
scientifically proven is that the textiles which make up the four
Aachen relics has been shown to date back to the first or second
century after Christ, Diedrichs said.


Seeing is believing


This package contains cloth believed to be Jesus' swaddling clothesBildunterschrift: This package contains cloth believed to be Jesus’ swaddling clothes

Even during the
Middle Ages, pilgrims mixed holiness with tourism. Today, people travel
to see relics out of piety, curiosity, skepticism, or an interest in


"All these different
people come for all these different reasons," said US sociologist
William Swatos, who published a book last year about pilgrimages and
tourism. "It’s a multilayered phenomenon."

The supernatural has
also regained popularity, Swatos said. Modern day pilgrims are willing
to believe the bones of a saint really could be magical.


"It’s all right once
again to have feelings and to imagine the unimaginable," said Swatos,
who is also the executive officer for the Association for the Sociology
of Religion. "You can transcend the rationality of modernity. The old
can also become new and true again."

Going on pilgrimage


Famous Germans, such as entertainer Hape Kerkeling, have gone on pilgrimageBildunterschrift: Famous Germans, such as entertainer Hape Kerkeling, have gone on pilgrimage

Religious pilgrimages
and tourism have increasingly become intertwined. Going on pilgrimage
has become fashionable not only for the devout but for hikers and


American actress
Shirley MacLaine’s interest in New Age spirituality led her to walk
(and write a book about) the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) in

Last year, Hape Kerkeling, a well-known German comedian
and television personality, published a bestselling book about his
650-kilometer (400-mile) Spanish pilgrimage.


According to media
reports, Kerkeling is digging out his hiking boots again this week.
He’ll walk with 3,550 school children to visit the relics in Aachen.

Trinity Hartman

Categories: Uncategorized

A Painting that Preaches Christ

June 2nd, 2007 1 comment

Painting that Preaches Christ

Altar painting by Lucas Cranach,
the Elder and Younger, St. Peter and Paul Church, Weimar, Germany.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is certainly
true of the centre panel of the altar painting in the church of Sts Peters and
Paul, Weimar, Germany. It was begun by
Lucas Cranach (1472-1553) and was completed by his son, also of the same name,
in 1555. (To distinguish them, they are
called Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger.)

The heart of the 16th century Reformation and
indeed of the Christian faith, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone
in Christ. This is how Luther expresses
it in part 2 of the Smalcald Articles.

“The first and chief article is
this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, “was put to death for our trespasses
and raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). He alone is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the
world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon
him the iniquities of us all” (Isa.53:6). Moreover, “all have sinned,” and “they
are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ
Jesus, by his blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).

Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be
obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain
that such faith alone justifies us, as St Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold
that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28), and
again, “that he [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has
faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).”

If the doctrine of
justification is to be properly taught, law and gospel must be properly
distinguished. The Formula of Concord
of 1577 says (Article 5),

“We must … observe this distinction with particular
diligence lest we confuse the two doctrines and change the Gospel into
law. This would darken the merit of
Christ and rob disturbed consciences of the comfort which they would otherwise
have in the holy Gospel …”

That Lucas Cranach clearly
understood the central teaching of the Lutheran reformation and the proper
distinction between Law and Gospel is illustrated by his altar painting at Weimar.

In the centre background,
Moses is shown teaching the ten commandments to the Old Testament
prophets. They are standing on a circle
of barren path, along with a figure representative of all human beings who are
under the law’s condemnation. Man is
shown here being chased into the fires of hell by death (pictured as a skeleton
holding a spear) and the devil (in the form of a monster wielding a club). The prophets taught, as did Moses, “Cursed
be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them”
(Deut. 27:26 ESV, compare Jer. 11:13). Yet it’s not only our actual sins that
condemn us, but also the prior sin that we inherit from our parents (original
sin). To quote the Smalcald Articles
once again,

“Here we must confess what St Paul says in Rom.
5:12, namely, that sin had its origin in one man, Adam, through whose
disobedience all men were made sinners and became subject to death and the
devil. … The fruits of this sin are all the subsequent evil deeds which are
forbidden in the Ten Commandments …”

The good news is that God in mercy and compassion
saves all
who put their trust in His Son. When
the people of Israel in the wilderness sinned and were bitten by
snakes, God
provided a way of escape that prefigured His Son’s death on a cross.
All the Israelites had to do to be saved was
look at the snake mounted on a pole (Num. 21:4-9). In Cranach’s
painting, this
is shown in the background on the painting’s right. To the immediate
left of the snake on the pole, is the angel announcing to the shepherds
the birth of the one who defeated death, hell and satan for us, for our

Directly in front, Martin Luther is
standing with open Bible
in hand. His feet and hands are
positioned like those of Moses. His
message, however, is one of gospel, not law. On his face is a look of
steadfastness and serene confidence. He stands on lush grass in which
grow, unlike the bare, stony ground on which Moses stands. Of three
passages written in German on the
open Bible, the third one reads, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
desert, so also must the Son of man be lifted up, so that all [who believe] in
[him may have
eternal life]” (Jn 3:14).

Dominating the painting is Christ on a cross. The amazing message of the Gospel is that by
his death, Christ takes away the world’s sin. The message written in Latin on the transparent banner held by the lamb
in the centre foreground declares that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes
away the sin of the world

(Jn 1:29). His outstretched arms and generous loincloth are also
reminders that He
is the world’s Saviour. This was John the Baptist’s message, and John
is shown
standing underneath the crucified Christ on His left side. With right
hand pointing up at Christ on the
cross and left hand pointing at the lamb, John is shown proclaiming the
of Jesus’ death to Lucas Cranach, the painter. Cranach represents all
who believe. A stream of blood from Christ’s pierced side splashes on
to this
head. It is as the first verse on
Luther’s Bible says, “The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin
(1 Jn 1:7). Therefore like Luther, Cranach also stands confidently.

There is another verse on the open Bible, to which Luther’s
finger points directly. It reads, “Therefore
let us approach the seat of grace with joyousness, so that we may receive mercy
within and find grace in the time when help is needed
” (Heb. 4:16). Such approach is possible because Jesus is
our victorious high priest. Having paid
for sin, He has defeated death and the devil and now lives to intercede for
us. Jesus is shown on the painting’s
right as the risen One, youthful and full of life, standing on death and the
devil, with the staff of his victory flag pushed in the devil’s throat. His gold-edged cloak flows toward the lamb’s
banner and the cross. As a result it’s
actually both banner and cloak that bear the words, “the lamb of God who
takes away the sin of the world

Believe in God; believe also in me,” the Lord says
(Jn 14:1). From this painting His eyes
meet ours, inviting us to believe in Him. The other set of eyes that meet ours
belong to Cranach, the painter. His
feet face in the direction of Christ. But he has turned from his adoration of Christ to look at us also,
inviting us to believe and be saved along with him.

Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession expresses the heart of Lutheran
teaching this way:

“[W]e receive forgiveness of sin and become
righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we
believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven
and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.”

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God
is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
” (Rom. 6:23). This, in summary, is the message of the
Lutheran reformation and of its foremost artists, Lucas Cranach the Elder and
the Younger.

–Pastor David Buck

are two photographs taken in St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimar, on
Pentecost Sunday, during a performance of one of Bach’s Pentecost
cantatas. My apology for the lower quality of the image, I grabbed the
shot during the performance and didn’t have time to compose it well.
You can see the painting in the background above the altar, and
following is a photo of the church’s interior. It gives you a sense of
how large this painting is.



Here is the painting with the two side panels. On the left are Johann Frederick and his wife Sybella, above them i is a banner with the initials of the motto of the Reformation: "The Word of the Lord Endures Forever" or, in the Latin, Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum. On the right panel are their three sons.


Categories: Lutheranism

The Luther Bible Online

June 2nd, 2007 2 comments

My colleague, Rev. Benjamin Mayes, pointed this fascinating web site out to me. He wrote, "Here’s the entire 1545 Luther-Bibel online, with Luther’s marginal
notes and the original illustrations. But wait, there’s more! The text
is in clean Roman typeface."

What is this? Beginning with the publication of his so-called "September Testament" in 1522, the translation of the New Testament that Luther prepared while at the Wartburg Castle in "exile," he spent the rest of his career working on the translation of the Bible. The last edition to be printed in Luther’s lifetime was in 1545. This web site provides the entire text in Roman letters, the type of characters we are used to in our day.

Categories: Uncategorized

One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66, or “All’s Well that Ends Well”

June 1st, 2007 1 comment

As many of you might remember, the translation of a sentence in the Large Catechism, in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions was the cause of no little conversation and discussion in The LCMS. I’m pleased to report that we have now published a book on the translation of this sentence titled: One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66. It is a magnificent study, by Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, of this passage. There is a free study guide available for download. A free copy of this little book was sent to ever LCMS congregation. It is now available for sale from CPH.

Here is the first edition’s version:
"These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people on earth. Even if we were to concede that everyone outside Christianity–whether heathen, Turks, jews, or false Christians and hypocrites–believe in and worship the one, true God, it would still be true that they do not know what His mind toward them is and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him."

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized