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Jesus Optional or Musings on the Conspicuous Absence of Christ in Pop-Christianity

April 12th, 2008 4 comments

Christ_2
Christ should be the main point of Christianity. Is He?

I recently attended an event involving a number of key leaders of Protestant church organizations, all established to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ: to proclaim and publish His good news. Speaker after speaker gave lectures and workshops with a lot of "God talk," as I’ve come to call it, much talk about love, peace, justice  and God. But, I noticed a conspicuous absence of one word: Christ.

Now, I’m quite certain that most of the speakers had Christ in mind as they talked about God and the Bible and the Church, but…no Jesus. It is not a fluke. Anyone who spends much time examining popular Protestant literature and listening to popular so-called "Evangelical" preaching, quickly realizes that, apparently, in much of Protestantism, the Name above every Name, Jesus, is optional: the specific articulation of the Gospel appears to be optional in much Protestant church culture, unless it is some kind of evangelistic rally. I know that generalizations always fail, but, it is something I continue to notice across all sorts of media: books, magazines, videos, blog sites: Jesus optional. Christ should be the main point of Christianity. Is He?

And lest we Lutherans begin to pat ourselves on the back, let us instead confess our own sins of omission and commission on this point: is Christ the center and focus of al that we say and do? Let us take warning from this and strive all the more to proclaim the Gospel and to preach and teach and confess, in all our vocations in life, the Name above every Name: Christ.

And let us also pray that the Lord would bless and protect all our faithful shepherds in Christ who are leading us to the green pastures of Christ’s holy Word and Sacrament. God bless these faithful men.

 

Here is an interesting blog post by Michael Spencer, an Evangelical blogger, who always gives me something to think about:

Recently I listened to a sermon. Preached by a Christian, a Baptist,
a minister at a church, a graduate of a Christian school training
ministers to serve and communicate Jesus.

This preacher gave a message that he had worked hard to prepare; a
message he had presented before. A message he deeply believed in.

It was a message well organized, passionately delivered and
completely sincere. It was a message with an application about having a
purpose in living that many people need to hear.

So why am I writing about that sermon? Did it change my life?

I’m writing about that sermon because it was a perfect illustration of Christless preaching.

There was not a single mention of Jesus. Not once. Not in any way. Nowhere.

It was as if Jesus had never been born. It was as if Jesus never existed.

Jesus made no difference, made no contribution, determined no truth,
solved no problem, offered no hope, performed no miracle, never
interceded, never atoned, never taught, never lived the truth. Jesus
made no claims, offered no invitations, defined no choices.

In fairness, the sermon was on an older testament story, but I am
holding the preacher responsible for somehow preaching a Christian
sermon, not a motivational talk. Christian preaching, no matter where
it comes from, is necessarily oriented to the person, work and gospel
of Jesus Christ in some way.

This was a talk about human motivation, with no more salvation than
knowing God wanted you to change your own life, find a purpose and
accomplish more in the future than you did in the past.

In short, here’s what we heard:

Your big problem is that you are tired, stressed and not doing much with your life.

What you need is a passion for the dream of what you can do with your life.

God wants you to trust him so that you’ll have a dream and a purpose.

The story of Joshua illustrates this.

And the premise: I’m going to tell you how to have a great life.

“Great life?” Sound familiar, anyone? Think “blinking teeth.” Think “Best Life Now.” Think “Becoming a Better You.”

People ask me all the time why I call myself post-evangelical.
Reformed watchbloggers routinely refer to the term “post evangelical”
with contempt. Many others seem to prefer some other term to more
accurately map themselves on the journey of faith. Are critics of the
term “post-evangelical” paying any attention to evangelicals?

Let me suggest that if the sermon I heard represents what we have to
look forward to in evangelicalism, then being post-evangelical means
that Jesus matters, the Gospel is the Biblical good news and
faithfulness to either requires an intentional removal from what is
happening in evangelicalism. Post-evangelicalism is a place to stand in
the midsts of a tide that has washed everything out and left the
flotsam and jetsam of a crumbling, degraded culture on the beaches of a
vacillating, deluded church.

When a preacher can stand in the pulpit, hold the Bible, represent a
significant church and the training of a major school, claim to expound
the meaning of the Bible and never even once mention Jesus or the Christian good news at all, there’s something monumentally wrong at work.

“Houston, we have a problem….Jesus has left the sermon.”

Were this the latest version of the new age or even the leftist
fringe of the mainlines, I’d not waste five seconds of my life pointing
out such a sermon. But this preacher stands in the heritage of
centuries of Baptist and Protestant preaching, a heritage that has been
relentlessly Christ-centered and zealous for the Gospel. This was
supposed to be Christ-centered Protestant preaching, preaching that
answered the sign I have up in the back of our chapel: “Sirs, We would
see Jesus.”

Yet that heritage was nowhere to be found in either style or
content. The influences here were entirely stand up comedians and
motivational speakers. The audience’s love of entertainment and felt
need of amusement and motivation were sovereign. The motivation was
self-improvement with God’s help.

What kind of Christian life was this speaking to? What kind of need
for evangelism? Nothing I recognized. This was human effort to solve
human problems, all done as a way of saying “I’m trusting God for a
great life.”

Was Jesus less than clear on what he thought was a “great life?” Is
the New Testament obscure on the “life” we’re talking about. It IS a
sin to waste your life, but for Christians the value that’s added to
life is JESUS and JESUS alone. There’s no way to relegate Jesus to the
category of “no need of further mention” so we can get on with the
motivational talks.

Where is the Kingdom of God and its crucified, risen and exalted
King? Where is the centrality of Jesus Christ and his distinctive call
to discipleship? Where was the uniqueness, the beauty, the worthiness
and the radical revolution of Jesus? Where is the community Jesus is
building and the New Creation Jesus is bringing?

I can no longer protest, or even properly lament, when those set
aside by the “church” with the intention of proclaiming the Word so
easily abandon and exchange it for a completely Christless motivational
talk.

At the moment that preacher stood up, one person in that room needed
desperately to hear the hope that is mine in Jesus. Despair stalks me.
Satan and life dominating sins war against my soul. Religion,
motivation, church, music, the pretense of piety, the rituals of
synergistic schemes of salvation- all offer me nothing. Christians have
failed me. Institutional religion mocks me. Friends do not know me.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus, one soul cries.

Can someone sing “In The Cross of Christ I Glory” as I turn my back
and walk away from this kind of religion? I’m looking for the one who,
when asked for a great life, said sell all you have and come follow me
to the cross.

Lutheran Wiki

April 11th, 2008 2 comments

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I found this on the Internet and it looks interesting, a Lutheran Wiki. Already there are some very handy charts, timelines and collections of on-line resources. Check it out when you have a chance. While there are certain dangers to be aware of with a Wiki, I think this does look promising.

But, I leave you with Michael Scott’s comments on Wikipedia, as fair warning:

Categories: Internet Resource

A Paralysis of Analysis: Google Analytics

April 11th, 2008 1 comment

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night wondering which
version of Flash your visitors use? Or Java? Or how many screen colors
they can display? No? Good, if you did you would be a very odd
person.

I’ve used various statistical tracking services on my blog sites over
the years. But then, I discovered Google Analytics the other day. Game over. ‘Nuff
said. That’s all she wrote. The end. Hasta, la vista, baby. Once again,
Google rules. All hail Mighty Google! Seriously, folks, if you have not
heard about Google Analytics, you are in for a stunning surprise. To get started, go here and set your blog up in it and you
are off and running. If you are using StatCounter, or SiteMeter, or any other service for that matter, Google Analytics blows them all away and, the best part? It’s free.

I am particularly intrigued by the world map it shows, which you can zoom in on down to the level of individual cities. Here, for example, is where people came from who visited the Cyberbrethren blog site during the past four days:

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Categories: Blogging

Support Lutheranism: Buy These Envelopes

April 10th, 2008 Comments off

Envelope
You know that I tend not to mince words or speak in vague generalities. So, I need to talk to you about something that’s on my heart and mind. It has to do with Concordia Publishing House. I think (I hope!) that the publishing task CPH is given to do on behalf of your ministry and your congregation’s ministry is important to you. We pray we are of service to you.

Over the years I have received a question that I’m always a bit shy to answer, but no more. Here is the question. “Paul, how can we help support you and the work of CPH?”

How? Simple. Use CPH resources. Now, before you say, “Oh, we are!” Please let me ask you to wait a moment before responding. I need to share some information with you that you may not know. There is an enormous misconception out there that CPH makes all its money by selling the wonderful theological books you know and love. We love all our books too! But, we rarely actually make money at the very bottom line on these books. So why do we do them? Because we are Concordia Publishing House. We publish books and resources uniquely and distinctly Lutheran. We publish books you can not find anywhere else. And I know you have a lot of choices.

So, how can we afford to publish these kinds of books? We are able to publish these sorts of books because of…are you ready for this….because we we sell offering envelopes! Yes, you read that correctly: offering envelopes. And every-Sunday bulletin covers and day school curricula. And Sunday School materials and Vacation Bible School. That’s how it works. Because we sell offering envelopes, Sunday School, VBS, and other curricular materials, we are able to afford to continue to deliver to the entire Lutheran Church, worldwide, and particularly The LCMS, sound, faithful treasures of Lutheran theology: either classics or new works.

Let me also clear up another misunderstanding. CPH is not subsidized by The LCMS. We receive no Synodical funding to do our work. We are required to be entirely self-funding and self-sufficient.

Therefore, may I respectfully make a request of you, and here I’m speaking most directly to you pastors: Please always consider making CPH your first, and only, choice when you purchase offering envelopes, and Sunday School materials, and VBS, etc.

I invite you to call our offering envelope department, if you are not already using us, and talk to them about the range of options we offer you. And there is an impressive range of services. And, if you are saying, “But we get our offering envelopes less expensively from Company X-Y-Z” I want to say this to you: We will work with you and do whatever it takes to earn, and to keep, your offering envelope business.

So, if you are not using CPH offering envelopes, please consider that, strange as it may sound, this is actually one of the very best ways you can support faithful Lutheran publishing. Please call our offering envelope team and talk to them. They are eager to serve you! Call 800-325-3040. I ask you to pass this message around, and among, your fellow pastors and wherever you can. I thank you for your help and support!!

Categories: Uncategorized

Walther on Johann Gerhard

April 9th, 2008 1 comment

531144_2 You might remember that a number of years ago I sent out a question to various e-mail lists asking if you would be willing, ready and able to purchase the English translation of the magnum opus by the famous Lutheran orthdox dogmatician, Johann Gerhard, his Loci Theologici. The response was very positive. I wanted to update you on the project and where things are. Two volumes have been released, the first On the Nature of Theology and Scripture and the second On the Nature of God and the Trinity. The third volume in the works now is On Christ.

I can not emphasize enough how significant this publication project is. It is the first time that this monumental work of Lutheran theology has ever been translated into English. Rev. Benjamin Mayes, the editor for the series has done simply an outstanding job on this translation, supplementing it with many useful resources. Here is how he describes his work:

We have carefully compared the English translation to the original Latin and added annotations, a glossary, indices, a list of the works cited, and other typographical improvements. In addition, Gerhard’s two dedicatory epistles, included in the first volume of Preuss’s edition of the Loci Theologici, have been translated by the Rev. Heath R. Curtis and included here.

With this message, I’m reminding you once again about this series and encouraging you to purchase these volumes, or, have the congrgation you serve purchase these books for you, as part of your continuing education. No, they are not inexpensive. They are priced at $54.99. Professional church workers receive a 20% discount from this price, roughly $11 or so off each volume. I believe it is a sound investment in your theological growth and education. Not light reading, to be sure, but a treasure-trove indeed, incomparable in its scope and depth.

Here are the volumes in production and in the works. We are releasing one a year and will be increasing that to two a year when this is possible. This is, and will be, the most thorough Lutheran dogmatics in the English language:

On the Nature of Theology and Scripture 
On the Nature of God and on the Trinity 
On Christ 
On Creation, Predestination, and Sin 
On the Law and the Gospel 
On Justification 
On Good Works and the Sacraments 
On Holy Baptism 
On the Holy Supper 
On the Church 
On the Ecclesiastical Ministry 
On Political Magistracy 
On Marriage and Celibacy 
On Death 
On the Resurrection and Judgment 
On Eternal Death and Eternal Life

Let me conclude with the words of Dr. C.F.W. Walther as he describes the importance of Johann Gerhard’s Loci Theologici:

GerhardAmong the works that deal with dogmatics in detail, one can ask which one is first and foremost just as little as one can ask which star outshines all the others. Just as in the latter question one can only speak of the sun, so in the former question one can only speak of Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces. . . . The proofs from Scripture are everywhere clear and exhaustive. The refutation of opponents is pervaded and pulses just as much with the spirit of love toward them as with the love of the truth; it seeks out the opponents in all their hiding places and always robs them of their last supports, so that no further contradiction seems possible. The application of the whole as well as of the particular is simple, illuminating, clearly arranged. Free from destructive fragmentation—at times an error of the later dogmaticians—the entire development of the doctrine flows along briskly with its linguistic, historical, and antithetical excursus like one great stream that describes pleasant bends in the river. Everything is all of a piece. Ethics here are not yet separated from dogmatics; the former appear here like grapes growing from a ripe vine. Biblical isagogics, hermeneutics, exegesis, history of dogmas, patristics, and polemics are added here not like a merely worthwhile appendage, but are organically woven into the whole like necessary beams, like adornments in this architectural marvel. The expression and style are so certain and thereby so simple and brisk; the development of topics, even with its exhaustive precision, goes forward without burdensome repetition so swiftly; even the most dry and subtle subjects are discussed with such exceptional freshness and facility; everything is handled with such holy seriousness; and the words are soaked with such devout meaning that the reader, being taken away by the speech of this precious man, does not know whether he has before him a work for the promotion of Christian erudition or a devotional book. One does not tire of it as long as he reads it and notes how light and warmth go forth from this speech of noble simplicity and true depth of spirit. In sum, in our opinion this work of dogmatics is, in content and form, the most glorious, most complete work in this field that has ever been achieved within Christendom, and until the Last Day it will probably remain the model for all who labor in this field.

Source for Walther quote:

C. F. W. Walther, “Lutherisch-theologische Pfarrers-Bibliothek,” Lehre und Wehre 1 (1855): 300–301. Translation by Benjamin Mayes.

Categories: Books

Reader: Who Art Thou? Introduce Yourself and Say Hello

April 7th, 2008 74 comments

OK, so Pastor Weedon started this. He occasionally will ask for a "radio check" to see who is listening/reading out there. I thought it would be fun to do the same. Looking at the last 365 days, I see that Cyberbrethren had 605,000 page loads and 362,000 unique visitors. So, if you are a reader of this blog site, it is time to come out of lurk mode for a moment and say hello. Where are you? Who are you? What do you do? Let’s hear a bit from the Cyberbrethren reading community. Thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to hearing from readers and getting to know you.

Categories: Blogging

Our Emmaus Road with Christ

April 7th, 2008 Comments off

Supper_at_emmaus
A sermon by Pastor William Cwirla:

It was a long, slow seven miles from
Jerusalem to Emmaus for two disciples on that first day of the
resurrection.   Cleopas, whom some believe to be the brother of Joseph,
Jesus’ uncle so to speak, and another disciple are walking back to
their homes.  As they walked, they talked about all that had happened
the past week.  The arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, the burial, the
odd news from the women of the open, empty tomb, angels (were there one
or two?), the report of Peter and John.  But no sight of Jesus.

They
had staked their lives on this Jesus from Nazareth.  Everything they
had.  They thought He was the one.  A Prophet powerful in word and
deed.  He made blind men see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear.  He
raised the dead.  They hoped He was the messiah, the promised One who
would redeem Israel.  And then in one short week their hopes seemed to
come to ruin.  Jesus was dead, buried, and now nowhere to be seen.

Disappointment,
disillusion, grief, bewilderment, confusion, sadness.  What words can
describe what goes through your mind as you walk that lonely Emmaus
Road?  You trusted Jesus and now He seems to have disappeared without a
trace.  You feel betrayed, used maybe, certainly sad.  Rumors don’t
provide any comfort.  Even reports of a vision of angels rings hollow.
It all seems to hang on that little sentence, “But Him they did not
see.”

They had to see Jesus.  Unless they saw Him, they would
not believe.  Unless they saw Him, there would be no point in going
on.  Unless they say Him, all they could do is walk the seven miles
back from Jerusalem to Emmaus as the late afternoon sun was setting.

A
stranger caught up with them.  It was Jesus, but their eyes were kept
from recognizing Him.  Note that.  It wasn’t that they were so caught
up in their grief that they didn’t recognize Him.  It wasn’t a case of
the “eyes made blind by sin.”  They were not permitted from recognizing
Him.  Jesus concealed His identity.

Why?  Why play this little
game with two grieving disciples?  Why not just show yourself, as Jesus
did to Mary Magdalene?  Jesus is still the Teacher.  First, He wants to
hear from their own lips what they believe about Him.  It’s something
like walking into a room where people are talking about you and don’t
know that you’re there.  What they say to Jesus about Jesus betrays the
fact that they do not yet take Him at His word.  He said He would die
and in three days rise.  They’ve been counting the days.  They knew it
was the third day, and getting late.  Yet they did not believe the good
news from the women.

Jesus chides Cleopas and the other
disciple.  “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets have spoken!”  The reason they were sad and moping was that
they were being foolish, that is, faithless, with heart slow to
believe.  It wasn’t their eyes, it was their hearts that were messed
up.  Hearts weighed down by sin, alienated from God are slow to
believe, even when they beat in the chest of a near relative and
another close disciple.  Our hearts are slow about the things of God,
alienated from God, turned away from God and turned inward on self.
Our hearts do not naturally believe the promises of God.  They must be
made new, softened by the Word, enlivened by the Spirit.

“Beginning
with Moses and the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the
scriptures the things concerning himself.”  He taught them the proper
way to interpret the Scriptures.  Not as a book of rules or an owner’s
manual for life.  But as God’s revelation of His Son.  It doesn’t say
exactly what Jesus talked about, but I imagine He talked about the
Passover, the Exodus, the sacrifices, Isaiah’s suffering servant, and
all the images behind which He had been hiding.  It must have been
quite the Bible class on that Emmaus Road.  The two disciples reported
that their hearts were burning, which means they were taking it all in
and everything was clicking at lightning speed.

Have you ever
had a case of Scripture heartburn?  I call it “seeing in primary
colors,” everything is so crystal clear, all the pieces come together,
you think you’re head is about to explode for joy.  That’s the power of
the Scriptures when they are read through the death and resurrection of
Christ.  Jesus had said that the Scriptures were speaking about Him.
He speaks through the Scriptures.  As the OT dots are connected, and
Jesus is revealed as the Lamb of God chosen from eternity to bear the
world’s sin in His dying and rising, slow hearts become believing
burning hearts.

They still don’t recognize Jesus.  Their eyes
are still kept from recognizing Him.  He wants to teach them so they in
turn can teach others.  He would not be seen for too much longer.
Forty days, to be exact, and then He would ascend in glory and be
hidden from their eyes until the Last Day.  How would they hear from
Him?  Where would they go when their hearts were slow and sad?  To the
Scriptures.  To the Word of God.

There’s a popular old Easter
hymn by C. Austin Miles back in 1912 that you don’t sing around here
for good reason.  It’s called “In the Garden.”  It has a refrain that
goes,And

He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Now
I know this isn’t on the cutting edge of contemporary Christian music,
but the sentiment is still popular that Jesus walks with us and talks
with us as He did with Mary Magdalene in the garden.  But the Emmaus
road teaches something different.  He walks with us and talks with us
in the Scriptures.  Do you want to have an Emmaus walk with Jesus?
Then take and read.  Come to the church and hear. Take a stroll through
the Scriptures searching for Jesus’ death and resurrection, and your
slow, sad hearts will burn too.  Save the garden for bird watching.

They
came a fork in the road, and Jesus pretended to go in the other
direction.  Still hiding Himself, still more to give.  The two
disciples urged Jesus, “Stay with us, it’s almost sundown.”  So Jesus
went to their house.  At supper, He seems to take over the house and
make it His own.  He takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and
begins to distribute it to them.  Sound familiar?  It should!  Echoes
of the upper room the week before, the Passover table, the breaking of
the bread.  “This is my body.”

And then, at that very moment,
with the bread, their eyes were finally opened and they recognized
Jesus.  Just as suddenly, Jesus disappeared from their sight.  Poof!
He was gone.  Curiously, they didn’t ask, “Where did He go?”  They
didn’t have to ask.  They knew where they could find Jesus.  It was
where He promised to be for them – in the Scriptures and in the
Breaking of the Bread.  Word and Sacrament, as we Lutherans like to say
it.

I hope you can see how the Emmaus Road shaped Christian
worship from the earliest centuries.  We hear from Christ in the
Scriptures; He reveals Himself to us in the Supper.  And that’s the
point of the Emmaus Road.  This in-between time, between Jesus’
resurrection and our resurrection, is not a time for seeing with our
eyes but of hearing with our ears the Word and receiving with our
mouths the Body and Blood.  This is how Jesus walks with us and talks
with us and tells us we are his own.  The liturgy is our Emmaus Road
from death to life, from sorrow to joy, beginning with our death and
burial in Baptism, walking the Scripture road with hearts aflame with
faith, leading to the table where Jesus is made known to us in the
Breaking of the Bread.

There is a beautiful prayer for Easter evening when our journey on the Emmaus Road comes to its ending:

Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.
Abide with us and with Your whole Church.
Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world.
Abide with us with Your grace and goodness, with your holy Word and Sacrament, with         Your strength and blessing.
Abide
with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the
night of         fear and despair, the night when death draws near.
Abide with us and with all the faithful, now and forever.

In the name of Jesus, 
Amen

Categories: Sermons

“Not Faithless, but Faithful”

April 7th, 2008 Comments off

Doubting_thomas
Rev. Jon Vieker led Matins at Concordia Publishing House last week and delivered a very powerful and meaningful homily. I thought you would appreciate a chance to read it.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands,
and take your hand and place it in my side. Be not faithless but faithful.”
And Thomas answered: “My Lord and my God.”

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus:

Several years ago, the cover story of U.S. News and World Report was
titled: “In Search of Jesus: Who Was He?” The article highlighted a
number of Bible “scholars” and their approach to understanding Jesus,
among them: Robert Funk, the leader of the notorious Jesus Seminar,
which annually votes on whether or not the words of Jesus as recorded in
the Bible were ever really spoken by Jesus; Marcus Borg, a former
Lutheran who after studying the mystic novelist Carlos Castañeda,
philosopher William James, and Buddha, concluded that there were “two
Jesuses”—a “pre-Easter Jesus” and a “post-Easter Jesus”; and John
Crossan, who rejects most of the Gospel records as inaccurate, including
the accounts of the Last Supper and the appearances of the risen Jesus
(U.S. News, April 8, 1996, pp. 46-53).

With all of these so-called “scholars,” we see the same kind of
skepticism as St. Thomas’ in our text. He simply would not believe until
he could see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands.
And yet, our resurrected Lord declared: “Blessed are those who have
not seen, yet believe.” Jesus is speaking of you and me and every other
Christian before us who has lived by faith—who has believed in his
resurrection, has trusted in him as Lord and Savior, and who confesses,
“Yes, Jesus loves me . . . the Bible tells me so.” For the words and
promises of Jesus Christ, recorded in Holy Scripture, are what make it
possible for you and me to be “Not Faithless, But Faithful.”

I.
And yet we live in such a subjective and faithless era—a time and a
place where the category of “truth” has been all but completely discarded.
No longer do we debate whether or not something is true on the basis of
its reality or lack of reality. Rather, truth today is defined according to
whether or not we like the reality which is presented to us. In other words,
we believe what we want to believe.

And yet, when you think about it, just because we may like something
or dislike it does not determine whether or not it is real and true. For
example, in less than two weeks, it will be April 15th. Whether you like it
or not, taxes will be due, and your preference for or against taxes will not
change the truth of their existence or the deadline which that day will
bring. If you choose to deny the reality of that deadline, sooner or later, it
will catch up with you. One simply cannot deny what is real and true
simply because he or she does not like it.

II.
And so it was with Thomas. We read in our text that on that first
Easter evening, the disciples were together behind locked doors for fear of
the Jews. And there Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be
with you.” After this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the
disciples were glad when the saw the Lord. When they saw the marks of
his crucifixion, then they knew that this was really and truly the same
Jesus who lived with them and who had suffered and died on that Roman
cross just two days before.

But Thomas hadn’t been there on that first encounter with the risen
Christ. And when the others told him, “We have seen the Lord,” he said:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails
were, and unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Well, one week later, he got that opportunity. For Jesus came again to
his disciples behind locked doors and stood among them and said, “Peace
be with you.” Then he said to Thomas specifically: “Put your finger here,
and see my hands, and take your hand and place it in my side. Be not
unbelieving but believing.”

When Jesus came to Thomas, Thomas believed. No matter what his
own desires and opinions might have told him before, now his faith cried
out, “My Lord and my God.” You see, Jesus had come to Thomas in a
way far bigger and grander than he could ever have imagined.

III.
The story is told of a young man who was attending a Lutheran college.
When he began his studies there, he wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted
to be a pastor, but just in case he did, he decided to take Greek, just to see
what it would be like. He liked it. The Greek classes were good for him,
and he enjoyed learning this language written in funny letters.
Now the Lutheran college this man was attending was not a Missouri
Synod college, and so the required religion courses weren’t exactly the
greatest. For instance, in one of the courses he took, the professor taught the
class that Adam and Eve, and Noah, and Abraham, and probably even Moses
never really existed in history—that they were actually just literary characters
that someone along the way had invented to tell a story about God.
Well, all of this would have been one thing, except that this young
man I’m telling you about gradually began to believe what his professors
were teaching. They did it so persuasively, and it seemed to make so much
sense that he was pretty much convinced. After all, couldn’t all those old
Bible stories still be good stories and teach us something about God even
if they’d never really happened?

Meanwhile, back in Greek class, the professor made an assignment for
the end of the school year. Each student was to pick a Gospel reading from
one of the Sundays coming up. Then they were to copy the whole thing
out in Greek, word for word, leaving about two inches of space beneath
each line so that they could “parse” or detail what each and every word
was—whether it was a verb, a noun, an adjective, and what kind of verb,
noun, or adjective it was. Then they were supposed to research all that
they could about the text—who wrote it, when it was written, why it was
written, to whom it was written, and so forth.

Well, needless to say, this was a lot of work, but it was worth it because
our friend really learned his Greek that way. But he also learned something
else. You see, the passage he picked was the Gospel reading for this
morning, and the part that really hit home to him in his study of the text
were the words: “But these things are written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God . . .” You see, he still believed that Jesus
was his Savior, the Son of God, and if Jesus could still be believed in—that
he lived, and died, and rose again for us, in history, and not as some mere
literary character—then the rest of the words written in Holy Scripture—
from Adam and Eve to Moses, to John and the Book of Revelation—could
also be believed. All of it was true. All of it really happened. And all of it
could be believed, because all of it pointed to Jesus.

The words changed his life. It was the beginning of this young man’s
turning back to the scriptural and apostolic faith—all of it, and not just the
parts that seemed reasonable to a young college student. I know it was,
because I was that young man. That was some 25 years ago almost to the
day. This was the Greek New Testament I copied those words out of. And
yes . . . I did eventually, by God’s grace, become a Lutheran pastor.
We live in a faithless world, dear friends. Yet, Jesus comes among us
even today—in his Word, in his Sacrament, for real—that you might
believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might
have life in his name.

I.N.I. Amen.

Source:
“Not Faithless, But Faithful”
John 20:19-31
Week of Quasimodogeniti, A.D. 2008
Sermon by Rev. Jon Vieker
Delivered at Concordia Publishing House
April 2, 2008

Categories: Sermons

The Electronic Edition Has Arrived — Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

April 7th, 2008 4 comments

531163
I’m very pleased to inform you that the electronic edition of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is now in stock and ready for immediate delivery. It is a stand alone product, not requiring additional software to run on computers that fall within the specs listed below. It uses the Logos Digital Library System (Libronix). If you already have this software on your computer, this will be added to your Libronix library. If you don’t have it, it will install the Logos Digital Library System. The price is: $29.99. The 20% professional church worker discount applies. Place your order on line or, call: 800-325-3040 and request item number 53-1163. It will work on any PC or any Mac using the Windows XP operating system, in either Bootcamp or under Parallels.

Here are the specs:

Minimum PC requirements:
500MHZ Pentium III
(1 GHZ Pentium III recommended)
CD/DVD-ROM drive
Windows 98 or later.
Will run on 98/98SE/Me/NT 4.0 (SP 6a)/2000/Windows XP/Vista
192 MB Ram minimum
512 recommended
Hard drive space: 550 MB
Screen resolution: 800×600 (1024×768 recommended)

Obviously…the faster your processor and the more memory you have installed the better. Remember: in life there are some things that one should never say: "I have too much memory in my computer. My hard drive is too large. I have too much bookshelf space."

Macintosh
Using any Mac with the Intel dual core processor and running Windows XP natively in Bootcamp, or via virtualization software like Parallels, it works great (This is what I’m using).

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

The Beers of Martin Luther

April 5th, 2008 2 comments

Beer

I received this the other day and thought you might find it interesting.

Agricultural revolution and the
domestication of cereal grains occurred around 6000 BC. Between 3000
and 2000 BC in Mesopotamia, malting and fermentation were understood
and practiced. Barley and wheat were common, and 40%
of all cereal grain was used for brewing. Knowledge of brewing spread
to Babylon and Egypt, and by a northward route to Europe, not via the
Romans or Greeks, who didn’t care all that much about beer.

 
        From written history, we know that Germanic
tribes were brewing in the first century BC. And that brewing went from
the home, to the monastery, and then to commercial breweries, which
started out as ale houses and grew into large-scale
operations with guilds, systems of apprenticeship and knowledge held in
secret.
 
                German Beers of the Middle Ages
 
                In Germany during the Middle Ages,
barley, wheat and oats were all used to make malt, although in some
cities, Munich and Nürnberg for example, the authorities decreed that
only barley malt, hops and water could be used by
commercial brewers. Depending upon which history you read, this purity
edict was to maintain the quality of the beer, keep the people from
starving lest they use all their grain for beer, protect the people
from poisoning by hop-substitutes, and/or to protect
royal monopolies on the production of wheat beer. But I digress.

Read more…

Categories: Martin Luther Quotes

Truth for Thinking Christians

April 4th, 2008 Comments off

Lionrome_2
Hard-edged truth is a tough pill for some to swallow. Some don’t even want to look at the bottle. Instead, they would rather hear about baseball, movies, or flowers coming up in the spring, and wrap it all up in giggles and light music. Keep it all positive. Keep it all sweetness and light. Can’t be too negative. That will only turn people off. And, for heaven’s sake, no polemics! Here is one old pastor’s sermon on the Church. Definitely not a very "seeker sensitive" approach, to be sure.  I’ll give you an excerpt, then you can read the whole thing in the extended entry.

If the Christian Church was founded during the bloody persecutions by the Jews and heathen, these persecutions really first began after it had
been founded; the more numerous Christians became, the more the worldly
rulers feared that the Christians could become dangerous. Hence, they
and particularly the Roman emperor decided to wipe out the Christian
Church. The Roman emperors and their officials used every imaginable
device to torture the Christians, in order to cause them to deny Christ
and thus exterminate the Christian Church.

They did not only behead, drown, strangle, and burn Christians but
also dreamed up every possible way to make their death especially
frightful and painful. Christians became food for wild animals; they
were roasted slowly over a fire, smothered in sewers, crucified head
down and ravening animals were allowed to gnaw at them, killed by
thirst; the heathen tore off little by little every piece of flesh from
their bones with shells or white hot tongs; they poured boiling oil and
pitch into their mouths; they tied their naked bodies to corpses, threw
both into dark and stinking pits, and let them die of hunger and rot
with the corpses. In the first three centuries many hundreds of
thousands of Christians were killed. When the persecution of Emperor
Diocletian and his coregents ended in the year 310, they issued as a
remembrance of their victory over the Christians edicts with the
superscription, "After wiping out the name Christians who wanted to
overthrow the kingdom," or, "After the complete extermination of the
Christian heresy everywhere."

But was this proud superscription really true? No! Just before a
Church father had written, "The more you cut us down the more we
increase. The blood of the Christian is a seed." Yes, the church
historian Eusebius writes, "The very swords at last became dull and
broke in pieces as though worn out; the hangmen became tired and had to
relieve one another; but the Christians began to sing songs of praise
and thanks until their last breath to the honor of almighty God."

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Distinctly Un-Lutheran Campaign Season?

April 3rd, 2008 1 comment

An interesting and thought-provoking article by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto.

Categories: Uncategorized

Libronix for Lutherans

April 1st, 2008 1 comment

Logo_2 Logos Bible Software just posted this to their blog: a list of resources in the Libronix software for Lutherans. If you are aware of other Lutheran resources in Libronix, feel free to add them via comment to this post. And, of course, coming in a couple of weeks: Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

Categories: Uncategorized