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Archive for July, 2008

Messy Desk

July 31st, 2008 5 comments

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I’m harassed mercilessly by colleagues here and there about my obsession with keeping a clean and orderly desktop. Cwirla takes glee in boasting of his horrendously messy desk. Well, not to be outdone, I would like to prove, for the record, that my desk does in fact become cluttered when I’m in the midst of several tasks. No, it doesn’t stay this way for long. But, yes, it is a mess now. What you see in the photo, the stacks of paper, are the various components of Treasury of Daily Prayer and a cover proof of a forthcoming resource: He Was Crucified, along with various and sundry things, a job jacket or two, a box (to hold the pages from the Treasury). So there. Sorry about the mirror image, that’s just how the built-in camera does it. No idea why.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Video Introduction to Lutheran Service Builder

July 31st, 2008 2 comments


Note: this video shows the power and functionality of Lutheran Service Builder, a remarkable resource for worship planning, regardless of whether or not you print out the service in the bulletin. A new video will be produced when Builder 2.0 debuts later this year. To learn more about Lutheran Service Builder, visit the Builder web site.

Categories: CPH Resources

A Deep and Certain Joy

July 30th, 2008 1 comment

While we struggle, as indeed we do, with errors and challenges of all kinds, let’s not get ourselves so wrapped up in our problems that we lose sight of the deep and certain joy that is ours in Christ. Thanks to Pastor Alex Klages for posting this great comment from Dr. Werner Elert:

He who is no longer deeply sensible of the joy in Luther’s Christmas hymns, of the jubilation in our Easter hymns, of Paul Gerhardt’s “God for us” and “Christ for me,” should examine himself to see whether his theology is not more closely related to the Koran than to the Gospel.

(Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, 70)

Categories: Uncategorized

On the sensible and nonsensical use of incense

July 29th, 2008 12 comments

“Let my prayers rise before you as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” is what we sing in the order of Evening Prayer, and Lutheran Service Book indicates that the use of incense is appropriate. It is a beautiful thing indeed.
But, I’m thinking now that there is sense and nonsense when it comes to the use of incense, after watching this video.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Apocrypha — Missing in Action in the Lutheran Church

July 27th, 2008 11 comments

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In the past several decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in the so-called “missing books” of the Bible. The work of persons such as Elaine Pagels has made a career of trying to popularize the Gnostic Gospels and other Gnostic literature. The most dramatic discovery of Gnostic texts occurred in the upper Egyptian city of Nag Hammadi. The Gospel of Thomas was found as a complete text. These Gnostic texts are often referred to in populist works and the major media as the “missing books of the Bible.” Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. They were never regarded as being part of Christian Scripture. Gnosticism, in its variety of forms, was a mixture of pagan philosophy and Christian stories.

A whole cottage industry has developed around these “missing books,” pumping out volumes of misleading books and information, leading people to believe that somehow there has been a grand conspiracy to cover up and hide the “real facts” about Christ and Christianity. All one has to do to quickly demonstrate the difference between canonical Scripture and these false Gnostic Gospels is read them. Frankly, the Gnostic Gospels sound like something produced by a person writing under the influence of LSD or other such hallucinogens. So, set the Gnostic literature aside and let’s talk about some books that have always been in our Bibles, until the Lutheran Church moved into the English language.

There are, in fact, “missing books” of Scripture: the Apocrypha. For too many years Lutherans, like Protestant denominations everywhere, have thought that these books are only part of the “Roman Catholic Bible.” Let’s sort out the facts here, and conclude these brief remarks with an excellent introduction to the Apocryphal books by Pastor Richard Sawyer, which I’ll provide below.

But let’s first talk about how, when and why the Apocryphal books became relatively unknown to English speaking Lutherans.
When the first complete edition of the Bible by the Wittenberg Reformers was published, in 1534, Luther and his colleagues included the Apocryphal books, though distinguished from the more universally accepted books, by setting them apart in their own appendix to the Old Testament. Luther’s Bible was the first major edition to have a separate
section called Apocrypha. Books and portions of books not found in the Hebrew Old Testament were moved out of the body of the Old Testament to this section. The books of 1 and 2 Esdras were omitted entirely. Luther placed these books between the. For this reason, these works are sometimes known as inter-testamental books. The point is that Apocryphal books were never rejected by orthodox Lutherans, but always included in every edition of the Luther Bible and in many German editions of the Bible as well, for instance all German Bibles published by Concordia Publishing House as long as German bibles were publishedl. The Roman Catholic, at the Council of Trent, did something never before done in the history of the church: it put the Apocryphal books on the same level of authority as the rest of the books of the Bible. Why? Because it is in the Apocryphal books that Rome claims to find justification for several of its false doctrines: chiefly, the doctrine of purgatory. But this fact never dissuaded Lutheran Christians from using these books or including them in their Bibles.

In the early years of the 20th century, as Lutherans in the USA began replacing German with English in their churches, and in their Bible translations, the Apocryphal books simply went missing, indeed “missing in action” is pretty much what happened to them.
In recent years, interest is increasing in these books, as Lutherans look to reclaim more of their heritage. There is no reason to allow Rome to claim these books as their own, for indeed, they are not the sole possession of Rome, or Eastern Orthodoxy. It will take a lot of careful pastoral instruction to help the members of English speaking Lutheran congregations distinguish the Apocryphal books from the Gnostic non-Biblical books, and to help explain what the Apocryphal books are, and what their traditional place in the Bible has always been in the Lutheran Church. For that matter, the Apocryphal books are featured throughout Western European culture.
Perhaps the best way to help Lutherans who are unfamiliar with these books understand their place in the Lutheran Church’s own culture and hymnody is to point them to a well-known hymn from the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy: Now Thank We All Our God, written by Martin Rinkart circa 1636 when the devastating Thirty Years War was nearing its end. It depends very much on Luther’s translation of the Apocryphal book of Sirach, Chapter 50.

My own personal experience with the Apocryphal books is typical of most other Lutherans in English speaking churches. I was raised to understand that the Roman Catholics had their own Bible, and that their Bible had more books than “our” Bible. I learned that the doctrine of purgatory was drawn chiefly from one of the Apocryphal books, and therefore those books were bad. But then I as I learned more about the historic teachers of the Lutheran Church, I began to see that the Apocryphal books were freely cited and used by them, never on the same level of authority as the other books of the Old Testament or the New Testament, but nonetheless, there was no hesitancy to use these books by Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz, Johann Gerhard and others. Perhaps the most amusing and enlightening example of the extent to which there is little awareness of the Apocrypha in our Lutheran Church’s history, even in The LCMS’s history, was when we produced a book of Walther’s devotions, based on his sermons. There are several references in C.F.W. Walther’s sermons to Apocryphal books, but not realizing that, our editors cited the Song of Songs, when in fact the reference was to the Wisdom of Solomon. And in the case of the Concordia Edition of the Book of Concord, we found a series of woodcut illustrations of the Small Catechism, published toward the end of Luther’s lifetime in Leipzig. And what do you know, the illustration provided for the 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness” is from the Apocrypha: the story of Susanna. The same image was used in the first illustrated edition of the Small Catechism, already in 1531.

It was interesting simply to include it in the Book of Concord and watch to see how many people noticed it. There were quite a few questions about it, leading to some good opportunities to explain the Apocrypha. Simply put, the Apocrypha is every bit as much “Lutheran” than it is “Roman Catholic.” It is the common possession of the Christian Church.
I’m encouraged by this growing, and renewed, interest in the Apocrypha and am pleased to note that next year Oxford University Press will be releasing an edition of the English Standard Version of the Bible that contains the Apocrypha.

We wrestled with the question of whether or not to include the Apocryphal books in The Lutheran Study Bible. For three reasons, we finally decided not to. First, the Apocypha is so little known among Lutherans today that simply to include it in TLSB would have caused a ruckus and consternation among most of our fellow English speaking Lutherans who know nothing at all about the Apocrypha. We felt we would be putting something in front of people who have had little, to no, opportunity to learn and understand what these books are, from their pastors. It woudl cause potentially very serious offense and confusion, at this point in time. Second, there was no published translation of the Apocrypha available in English, in the ESV translation when we had to make a decision about this. Unfortunately, the Oxford edition comes too late for our Bible. Third, there are next to no resource materials available on the Apocryphal books from which we can draw notes and commentary. Simply put, English speaking Lutheran pastors, professors and theologians have not done any work on these books. So, for these three reasons they will not be in TLSB. But perhaps a future edition will be able to include them.

Here is Pastor Sawyer’s article:

The Apocrypha is a collection of books, generally dated before the first advent of Christ, and included in the bibles of many Christians. They are not included in the Hebrew collection of Old Testament Scripture, but they are included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Bible, called the Septuagint. It is uncertain exactly when the Apocryphal books were included in the Septuagint, but since the Septuagint is clearly the translation from which many of the New Testament’s quotations of the Old Testament are taken, we can consider the Septuagint the Bible used by the Holy Evangelists and Apostles. It’s not unlike saying that the King James Version was the translation prevalently used by Christians until only recently. If you read an old book or watch an old movie, chances are, if Holy Scripture is quoted, you’ll find the citation taken from the King James Version. Well, read the New Testament, and chances are, you’ll find that when the Old Testament is quoted, the translation used is the Septuagint.
That makes the Septuagint’s inclusion of the Apocrypha a fairly compelling argument for seriously considering these books. It is true that they are not found among the Hebrew texts. That was a distinction not missed by St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin. It was also a distinction noted by Martin Luther when he made his translation of the Bible into German. In fact, it’s simply historical fact that the Church has noted that there are certain books that were universally recognized as belonging to the canon of Holy Scripture, and then there were others that lacked that universal recognition. While some books lacked universal acceptance, they were still often read – even within the services of the Church – and while not as sure a basis for forming doctrine as the Canonical Scriptures, they were considered pious, laudable writings, useful for encouraging and training Christians in their walk of Faith.
Luther certainly held that opinion regarding the Apocrypha. He wasn’t the first to distinguish them from those books universally accepted as the Word of God, but in doing so, neither was he alone in recognizing their benefit and recommending their usage by Christians. Luther not only translated the books of the Apocrypha into German, he also included them in his German Bible. He included them in an appendix so that they were distinguished from those books universally attested as the Word of God but not removed from the piety and faith of Christians. Luther has very favorable things to say about the Apocrypha. The fact that German Christians in his day could open their Bible and read the Apocrypha is testimony to that. The Lutheran Confessions cite the Apocrypha, as do Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, Gerhard, and other fathers in our Lutheran tradition.

Many Christians in America will be surprised to hear that the King James Version, that most beloved of English translations, also included the Apocrypha. As Luther had, the King James Version distinguished the Apocrypha from the universally attested canonical texts by including it in an appendix. Over time, especially after copyright restrictions were broken by the American Revolution, publishers ceased to include the Apocrypha in editions of the KJV. Still, like the Septuagint, the first translation of the Bible into Greek, and Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, and Luther’s German Bible, the Apocrypha was included in the original King James Version.

The Apocrypha is a collection of sacred texts for Christians to rediscover. How much better that Christians – who regularly make use of devotional material, visit Christian bookstores, listen to Christian music, watch movies with Christian themes – how much better that Christians today familiarize themselves with the devout and pious writings which are part of our heritage, which Luther and so many others recommend for our edification!
It is safe to say that Christians – up until the past few hundred years – have been quite familiar with the Apocrypha. The Apocryphal texts have influenced religious art and music, hymnody and even names. The name Judy derives from the name of a Hebrew heroine in the Apocryphal book, Judith. Toby derives from the Apocryphal book, Tobit. Susan is derived from the Apocryphal book, Susanna.

It is said that the account of 2 Esdras 6:42 gave Columbus the necessary “evidence” that the waters of the Atlantic were not so wide that the East Indies couldn’t be reached by sailing west. If it weren’t for the Apocrypha, would Columbus have made his voyage?
Wisdom 18:14-15 provide the testimony on which Christians understood Christ’s birth to have occurred when night was “half-spent,” thus giving us the carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.”

Lutherans are familiar with the hymn, “Now, Thank We All Our God,” which is based on Luther’s translation of Sirach 50:22-24.
And any Lutheran who has attended the Easter Vigil and sung the Benedicte, Omnia Opera, that is, “All You Works of the Lord” (LSB # 931; LW # 9;TLH p. 120) will note that it is the Song of the Three Young Men (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) who were thrown into the fiery furnace and kept safe by the pre-incarnate Christ. However, that song is not in the Hebrew text of Daniel, and so is not known to most Christians, since their English translations are taken from the Hebrew. It is, however, included in the Apocryphal additions that have come to us through the Septuagint. Thus, this beautiful and laudable song of praise has graced the lips of many Lutherans, without their realizing that they are singing a Biblical canticle from the Apocrypha.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Papacy—Why The Lutheran Confessions Assert it is Antichrist

July 27th, 2008 2 comments

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A new post on the Blog of Concord offers a chance to consider and to discuss the continuing necessity and validity of the Lutheran Confessions’ assertion that the Papacy is the Antichrist. Because of the vital issues this topic covers, I’m going to go ahead and post the BOC blog post here. Be sure to click through to read the whole entry.

“The Reformation’s greatest weapon against Rome, was not Rome’s errors, but Rome’s truths” said John Nevin, a prominent American Lutheran theologian in the 19th century. It is precisely because of this reality that confessional Lutherans continue to assert the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions that the Papacy is the Antichrist. And it is precisely for the sake of the truths of Rome that we vigorously reject and condemn the errors of Rome. Further, Nevin’s statement is a caveat to heed carefully that we never throw the baby out with the bathwater even as we point out the grave errors inherent in the Papacy.

The most vigorous rejection of the office of the papacy in the Book of Concord is found in this portion of the Smalcald Articles.
Luther asserts that the Papacy is the Antichrist. This is a statement
that shocks most modern Christian ears, striking many as an outrageous
excess of rhetoric. Confessional Lutherans must be sensitive to the
degree to which this assertion in our Book of Concord is deeply
offensive to other Christians when they learn of this teaching. Care
must be taken not to imitate the high-volume polemics of the
Reformation era in a context where, regardless of what we think of it,
high value is placed on civility, politeness and courtesy—qualities
obviously not understand in the same way in Luther’s day where there
was a much greater degree of “rough and tumble” in the way Christians
addressed issues and those with whom they disagreed. This is not to
suggest, even for a moment, that we are to back away from this teaching
in the Lutheran Confessions, no, not at all. But it is to say that we
must be careful to be very clear on what we mean, and what we do not
mean, when we continue to assert that the Papacy in Rome is the
Antichrist.

This post will be longer than others so far published on this blog, because, in my opinion, this is such a sensitive issue,
yet such a very vital one. I’ve noticed even among confessional
Lutherans a tendency to want to dismiss the assertion Luther makes here
as historically conditioned. While it is most certainly true that the
assertions in this article are historically conditioned and some do not
even pertain anymore, at the heart of Luther’s argument is an issue
that is still very much alive and well and of essential, vital
importance: the issue is the Gospel of Christ and how that Gospel is
confessed, and to what degree the Gospel is properly understood and
believed. That is the heart of Luther’s argument here and it is why, to
this day, we must continue to confess the antichristian nature of the
office of the Papacy.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Coming soon to a Libronix installation near you: The LSB Lectionaries!

July 23rd, 2008 8 comments

Yes, that’s right. In a couple weeks we should be able to “go live” with a free add-on for your Libronix installations, courtesy of your friends at Logos and CPH.

What does this mean? It means you will have ready access to the Lutheran Service Book lectionary of your choice, including all the feasts, festivals, major and minor, etc. We are still doing a bit of tweaking to it, but …. here are some screen shots. Yes, you’ll have to own a copy of Libronix, in some way, shape or form, but if you only have, for instance, the Concordia edition, you’ll be all set, since it comes with the ESV Bible and this functionality is part of the Libronix core program, which installs itself on to your computer whenever you buy a Libronix based product.

I have several pictures below of my computer running this.

The first shot is of the system showing a Sunday in the Three Year lectionary, I just grabbed Aug. 15. The second shot is of the next coming Sunday in the historic lectionary, July 27, then the third shows what came up automatically today for me. More later on that.

The cool thing is that using the search functionality built into the software you are able to scan and search in all your open/unlocked resources for the text you wish to study and you’ll get a complete search list of everywhere the verse range is dealt with in your Libronix library.

The way it works is that when you bring up “Lectionary Viewer” and have LSB lectionaries as your lectionary of choice, of course, it will automatically display the next date for which there is an set of Bible readings. So, for example, if you go to the last image, this is the one I’m viewing today, since the next set of readings appear for July 25: St. James’ Day. Understand?

Using the up/down arrows you can move to other dates. Using “properties” you set the Bible translation you wish to see by default, or…if you have it…you can have it show you the NT readings in Greek, etc.

Pretty nifty, no?

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Categories: Libronix

Logos for Macintosh! “Concordia” Native on the Mac! Yes!

July 22nd, 2008 4 comments

You Macintosh fans have been waiting with bated breath for the advent of the Macintosh native version of the Libronix Digital Library System. Well, they are still in Alpha testing, and you may participate. But as of the latest release of the Alpha version, Ver. 10, newer resources like Concordia are working just fine! When you download the Alpha you can not get tech. support for it, but there is a very useful forum set up which you can follow, post questions, etc. I recommend you use Thunderbird to access the newsgroup support forum. You can also use Opera to access it.

So, at last, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is now fully Macintosh native! Oh, happy days.

Hooray!

Here is a screen shot of my Mac running Libronix, with Concordia up and running. Click on it for a full view.

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Categories: Macintosh

John Piper – How Evangelical is His Evangelicalism?

July 21st, 2008 13 comments

I know I should pay more attention to these things, but, I don’t. John Piper. Conservative evangelical. That’s about all I know of him. Recently folks commenting here have indicated that they were once big Piper fans, but then they realized that the Gospel he is preaching is not the pure Biblical Gospel, but one distorted with misunderstandings of grace, etc. Readers: care to elaborate? I have noticed a huge Piper fan base out there amongst conservative evangelicals. So, who is he? What’s his message? What do converts from Evangelicalism have to say about him?

Gaelic: My Ancestors’ Native Tongue

July 21st, 2008 1 comment

Gaelic-l
I’ve struck up a nice friendship with some Christians involved in teaching and publishing in Ireland, in Gaelic, working to preserve the ancient language of the Emerald Isle and advancing Christianity. I asked them what my name would be in Gaelic. Interestingly, they verified what I’ve read elsewhere about my ancestoral Clan name: MacEain.

So, here is my name in Gaelic.

Pól Mac Eáin (Paul McCain)

This is a photo of the Lord’s Prayer in beautiful Gaelic calligraphy.

Dia leat!  (God be with you).

Categories: Uncategorized

Sweet and Necessary Comfort: The Lord’s Supper

July 21st, 2008 Comments off

The proper, simple, and natural meaning of the words of institution teaches that Christ Himself is present with us in the celebration of the Supper with both His deity and His flesh, and that He comes to us in order to lay hold on us (Phil. 3:12) and join us to Himself as intimately as possible. This brings sweetest comfort. For Christ, both God and man, must lay hold on us in order that there may be a union between Him and us. But we, weighed down by the burden of sin and pressed under the weight of our infirmity, are not yet able to enter the secret places of heaven (Col. 2:18) and penetrate to Him in glory. He Himself therefore comes to us in order to lay hold upon us with that nature by which He is our Brother. And because our weakness in this life cannot bear the glory of His majesty (Matt. 7:12ff .; Acts 9:3ff .), therefore His body and blood are present, distributed, and received under the bread and wine. Nor does He will that we wander around the gates of heaven uncertain in which area of heaven we ought to look for Christ in His human nature or whether we can find Him; but in the Supper He Himself is present in the external celebration and shows by visible signs where He wills to be present with His body and blood, and there we may safely seek Him and surely find Him, for there He Himself through the ministry distributes His body and blood to the communicants. These most sweet and necessary comforts will be completely snatched away from us if the substantial presence, distribution, and reception of Christ’s body and blood are removed from the Supper. —Martin Chemnitz

Where is the “Evangel” in Modern Evangelicalism? A Comparison of a Piper and a Lutheran Sermon

July 13th, 2008 12 comments

What strikes many converts from Evangelicalism to Lutheranism is how much Lutherans talk about Jesus Christ. No, scratch that. Not “about” Jesus Christ. They proclaim Christ. They talk Christ. They preach Christ and Him crucified. Many Evangelicals think they are proclaiming, talking and preaching Christ, but upon closer analysis, there is a whole lot of “God-talk” and not nearly enough “Christ-talk.” For much of Evangelicalism the “Gospel” is good news, but good news for a specific, “decision” or moment of conversion after which point the focus shifts from Christ to us; whereas, in Lutheranism, it’s always all about Jesus and everything He has done, and is doing, in our lives.
Let me offer another comparison. Here is a word cloud for John Piper, one of the most well known conservative Evangelical preachers working today, and one generally regarded as being more aware of the centrality of the Gospel. But look at this analysis of one of his sermons preached in the past year or so, on “overcoming the world.”

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Now, look at a sermon preached by a Lutheran pastor on good works. You would think that if there ever would be a place where even Lutherans would dive well into a focus more on me, myself, I and we and us, and a focus on the law, it might be here. But, even in a sermon that was highly “practical” in its proclamation of the life of the Christian being marked by good works, notice the prominence of Christ. The sermon was on Eph. 2, “God’s workmanship.”

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Categories: Uncategorized

The Lord’s Supper Word Cloud

July 13th, 2008 2 comments

I’m utterly fascinated by “word clouds.” I’m enjoying creating them as a way to analyze and study a text and what it emphasizes. Here is a “word cloud” created from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord’s article on the Lord’s Supper. You can generate your own by using Wordle.
Be looking for more. If you find this all utterly boring, just move along. Look at the cloud below and notice what is most emphatic in the Formula’s discussion of the Lord’s Supper: Christ, and interestingly, the nearly equal weight given to bread/wine and body/blood, and the word “holy.” What catches your eye in the cloud below?

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Pastors Love Talking About Jesus with People

July 12th, 2008 3 comments

People ask me why pastors love being pastors. You’ll get a lot of answers to that question, but at the heart of it all is this simple truth: they like talking, to people, about Jesus. You do not have to be a pastor to do that, of course, but if you want this thought to consume every possible waking moment of your life, in a variety of ways that you can not even begin possibly to imagine, then being a pastor is for you.

Please notice carefully what I said: pastors love talking, to people, about Jesus. I was telling a friend this morning about my professor, Robert Preus, and the infectious joy he took in theology. I asked him once, “Dr. Preus, why do you love theology so much?” And he gave me the answer he gave to anyone who asked him that question, “I just love talking about God.”

Here is a beautiful story told by one of our pastors. Everything we do in the Church must be aimed at conversations like this: telling the good news about Jesus. Everything. That means, we study God’s Word, hard and long. We rejoice in doctrine. We love the Lord’s truth. We love His sacraments. We love His Church. The more of that we soak that all up, the more we love telling the good news about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. Thank you, Pastor Iovine.

Early this morning, I went hospital-hopping.

I came upon a man who was crying outside of the hospital.

His wife died this morning after a two year bout with ovarian cancer

Doctors tried everything, he said, but the cancer was just too aggressive.

Even though she was given the “3 month” death sentence, she fought like a trooper.

She went to work and jogged as much as she could, but when the cancer made her too weak, she stopped.

This past week, she was in bad pain. Doctors tried to fight the pain
the best way they could, but she just kept getting worse. Doctors gave
her a couple of days on Thursday.

She held on until this morning.

This young man, only 29, had met his wife seven years ago after
returning from college. He said that they were as complete opposites as
two people could be. She was athletic, loved to bike ride, hike, ski,
and snowboard. She was very outgoing and could spend hours out with
friends bar hopping and having fun. She loved basketball — not to play
it, but to watch it. She loved the Nets and “had a crush” on Vince
Carter. He was her polar opposite — overweight, shy, loved video games,
had a daily date to watch the Mets on TV, enjoyed a good bottle of
Chardonnay, couldn’t stand staying out late and loved to work on cars.

He said the weird thing was when they introduced the other to
friends and family — he said they all had the same expression on their
faces: “What does she see in him?”

I asked him about their attraction. He said it was simple:

They loved to just talk.

Whether they had a good day or a bad day, they talked for hours.
They’d meet in an out of the way place to just talk. Hours would go by
and they would not be tired of spending this quality time with the
other person.

He said they both realized there was something between them when
they were at Playland in Rye, New York (one of my old haunts) getting
ready to go on the Dragon Coaster. She was slightly taller than him and
she made a joke that he should check to see if he was tall enough go on
the ride. He responded by telling her that she had to put on a hardhat
because tall people had a greater chance of hitting one of the beams
that pieced together the roller coaster. They laughed and they just
knew.

A year later, they were married.

And they were happy.

I could see in his eyes that talking about his wife helped him. For
the next twenty or so minutes, we just talked about their lives
together. And we talked about the “what’s next” when we die. I spoke of
Christ and the salvation we have through Him.

After we talked, his tears stopped. I told him that I would pray for him.

As I got close to the front door, he called to me and asked me if I
would perform his wife’s funeral ceremony. While they were both
Christian — he is Methodist, she was Roman Catholic — they both hadn’t
attended church for many years. I told him that I would. He said that
if she had known me, she would approve.

He turned and went to the parking lot to go home and meet family. I just stood there.

Tears welled up in my eyes.

Categories: Uncategorized

“Sweeping out the Papal Dung” — The Second Reformation in Brandenburg

July 12th, 2008 2 comments

Bodo Nischan. Prince, People and Confession: The Second Reformation in Brandenburg. Philadelphia: University of Pennysylvania Press, 1994. Hardback. 6×9. 366 pages.

Bodo Nischan provides a fascinating study of the attempts made by the rulers of the territories of Brandenburg, Germany to move from Lutheranism to Calvinist theology and practice, and the resistance with which these efforts were met by the clergy, lay leaders and citizens. The effort to introduce Reformed worship and beliefs into the territories was termed the “Second Reformation” and was said to be the “completion” of what Martin Luther had started, but had not been able to complete. Brandenburg’s form of Lutheranism was notably much more conservative in its retention of various rites and ceremonies from Roman Catholicism, and as the threats from Reformed theology increased, these practices and customs were seen as essential in warding off Calvinistic influences.

From 1535-1598, Joachim II and Johann Georg were ardent defenders of Lutheranism in Brandenburg, but this all changed with Joachim Friedrich’s reign who leaned more toward Calvinism. The great crisis however occurred after his death, when his son, and heir, Johann Sigismund converted to Calvinism in 1606. This set in motion the “Second Reformation” in which there were repeated attempts to move Brandenburg away from Lutheranism to Calvinism. Art was removed from the great Dom in Berlin and a Calvinist Eucharist was celebrated there. The people of Brandenburg protested vigorously the introduction of Calvinist doctrine and worship practices, with protests leading even to riots and physical confrontations with the Calvinist advisers and clergy brought into Brandenburg.

The Calvinists claimed that they were sweeping the “papal dung” out of the Christ’s stable. The Lutherans resisted these efforts. The controversies raged over the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, most chiefly, but other Calvinist doctrines as well. Efforts to move Brandenburg to Reformed theology ultimately were not successful. The Thirty Years War however finally resulted in a movement away from confessional conviction being the basis for political alliances, and it was only after that separation was made the unionizing efforts of Calvinists were successful under the influence of the Lutheran Pietism in the mid-18th century.

This book is well written, painstakingly documented, and comes with detailed notes, indices and bibliographical materials.  The connection between style and substance is dramatically documented by this book. Bodo Nischan appears to have a bias against what he frequently terms: “fanatical” or “rigid” or “zealous” Lutheranism, and so his descriptions of the doctrinal controversies and positions of both parties can not be said to be biased toward Lutheranism, thus making his descriptions of orthodox, “Concordian” Lutheranism, as he calls it, all the more authentic and interesting. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, the book is no longer in print, but can be purchased as a used book. It is essential reading for a deep look into the interplay between doctrine and practice and how closely linked the elements of “style” in Lutheran worship are to the substance of Lutheran doctrine and confession, and thus provides much food for thought in our present ongoing debates and discussions about worship forms and practices today.

Categories: Book Reviews